Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Remember When . . . History Was Inconvenient?

For those of you who write historicals, you're going to know exactly what I'm talking about in this post. And for anyone who doesn't, you're about to learn one of the things that most frustrates the historical fiction writer. ;-) It's really kinda funny--that thing that is our best friend, that thing around which we shape our stories, can sometimes turn into our adversary.

I'm talking about those facts that just get in your way. While writing Jewel of Persia I had quite a number of them--mostly the monstrosity of the man supposed to be my hero. In my current work-in-progress, the very timeline is the problem. Okay, not a problem, but . . . well, I'm writing a story with a lot of suspense. But you know, it's hard to sustain the suspense through 11 months of story. But that's when things happened in history, so . . .

I mentioned this to my agent in Oregon, and she said, "Luckily, it's fiction. You can bend things where needed."

Well, those of us who are die-hard historical lovers don't like to bend it too much, lest die-hard history lovers throw our books against a wall, LOL. To my agent I laughed and said, "Some of the little things that no one else knows, sure--but my next big event is the defection of Benedict Arnold. Can't really mess with the timing of that." (Which she readily granted, of course.)

For me, I have rules about what I'll let myself change and what I won't. Motivation I usually don't mind messing with--it's rarely recorded anyway, just speculated on. And when it is recorded, who's to say it's totally honest? ;-) So motivation I will change at will for the purposes of my stories.

Historical facts are a different story. Obviously the big things I'm not going to mess with. So even though it would have been much more convenient for Arnold to defect in July, it happened in late September in my book, just like it did for real. Similarly with most of the small things--if it's recorded, I honor it. Now, with some obscure historical figures whose actions are only recorded in one source, I take some liberties when it comes to when letters are sent, etc. But only where absolutely necessary, and I try not to contradict much.

The fun, of course, comes in filling in the blanks. The frustration, of course, comes when there are blanks that you wish weren't blanks, or times you wish it were blank and it's not. ;-) For instance, I can't always discover where a particular major was at a particular juncture, because the lives of majors aren't generally recorded day by day in sources available outside private collections. I'm willing to dig to get my facts--but I'm still on a time schedule myself here, so can only dig so long. So if I have you in New York when you were in Philly, Major, I'm really sorry! ;-)

I think it's a matter of engendering trust with my readers, so I'll work hard to stick to fact wherever I can. But there are sometimes when I really, really wish I could revise history a bit. How rude of it not to have happened exactly how I need it to for my novels! LOL

Hope everyone's having a happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Story Time . . . YAHSHUA'S BRIDGE by Sandi Rog

A couple weeks ago I gave y'all a sneak peek of Sandi Rog's upcoming release, Yahshua's Bridge. I finished reading it while in Oregon, so now you get a full review. =) I'll start by giving you the back cover copy.

An amethyst stone draws him to his past. An elusive maiden draws him to his future.

Alexander is born into slavery under an abusive master: a master of his own  flesh and blood . . . a man he will never call father. Determined to break away from his master's hold, Alexander devises a plan to purchase his freedom. but what's he to do when he finds himself shipped off in shackles to Egypt, disappearing from the of lives of everyone he knows and loves?

My official endorsement:

"Stupefying, stunning, and stirring--Yahshua's Bridge is a tale that takes the reader from the darkest valley to the highest pinnacle of hope. For anyone yearning to go deeper, this story of hearts broken and promises kept will take you there, and leave you astounded by the beauty of our Savior."

I don't give words like "stupefying, stunning and stirring" lightly. It takes real skill as a writer and superb story to earn those words from me--and Sandi deserves them all. This was a story unafraid to show us the ugliness of the world, the injustices that can destroy our lives, the cruelties that might plague us. All these are written with what I can only term bravery. It would have been so much easier to tell a story with simpler conflict and a happily-ever-after for everyone involved--but as Sandi said to me, that would have been unfair to all the early Christians and what they went through for their faith.

But she did a truly amazing thing with this story--she showed all that ugliness and depravity, made me growl and cry at what befell her characters . . . and then used it to direct both the characters and the reader to the awe-inspiring glory of God. For every point of pain, there is one of hope. For every stroke of ugliness, there is eclipsing beauty.

Alexander and Elianna have a story of losing all you have at the hands of the world . . . and finding all you need through the provision of the Lord. In this breathtaking sequel to The Master's Wall you will learn how great is the power of forgiveness, how over-reaching is the hand of our Lord, how unshakable is the bond of true love, and how magnificent are the arms of our Savior.

Weeks after I've finished reading, this is the thing that sticks with me most: that whatever happens to me here, my ultimate goal is to cross over that beautiful bridge of light, to escape the shackles of my earthly bondage, and to finally glimpse the face that has twisted in agony for me, to finally put my hand in the ones pierced for my sake. 

Wow, this makes it sound like the story is all message, LOL. The message is there, delivered in a masterful way--through a compelling story. The places Alexander and Elianna take us . . . the fun they have, the adventure they find, the direction their lives take . . . WOW. It's a journey you don't want to miss. A book you don't want to miss.

Yahshua's Bridge releases is a couple months, and as soon as I notice it's available either for pre-order or order, I'll be giving a link. Because seriously--you don't want to miss it!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Word of the Week - Shack

I know, I know--you probably see my word of the week and wonder, "Why in the world is she talking about shacks?" Well see . . . um . . . LOL. Mostly because I needed to describe some ramshackle dwellings in my book a few weeks ago and was surprised to learn how very new the word shack is. And upon looking a little further, the newness gets even more interesting.

What www.etymonline.com knows is that the word "shack" appeared in American and Canadian English in 1878. But its origins are mysterious. One quoted possibility is that it's an Americanization of the Mexican-Spanish jacal, from Nahuatl xacall. But that's pretty much just a guess. Another possibility is that it's one of those fun back-formations, either of "shackly" (shaky, rickety-1843) or of "ramshackle," which is from 1830.

I'm always intrigued by words that are back-formations. So often language starts with the words for things, with nouns, and then adjectives come of them. I love finding words that began as adjectives and then got turned into nouns.

And for reference, the only word accurate to 1780 I could find for the idea of "shack" is hovel. Which got a little redundant when describing a whole village of them, LOL. So if anyone knows of any words of similar meaning, let me know! ;-)

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Friends Need Prayer

Today for my My Friend Friday feature, I want to draw your attention to a serviceman in desperate need of your prayers. This case was brought to my attention by one of my nearest-by writing friends, the lovely Rita Gerlach. Rita's niece is the wife of Derrick Miller, a brave Army Guardsman who has been unfairly made an example of by the government.

I'm not usually an anti-government person, and I take pride in our military. Which is why when Rita first told me about the situation her nephew-in-law was in, I had full faith that justice would be served. Unfortunately, recent judgment has disappointed us all. Rather than trying to sum up the situation and getting it wrong, I'm pasting below from www.DefendDerrick.blogspot.com. Please read through what this courageous young man is going through and spend a few minutes in prayer for him and his family, and that the appeal is successful. At the very bottom, you'll find my usual instructions for the giveaway, but I don't want to take away from this story by posting it here.

***

Army Guardsman, Sergeant Derrick Miller has been sentenced to life in prison with the chance of parole by the United States Military.

During a combat mission in a hostile area an Afghan man was walking inside their defense perimeter and was brought to Derrick's attention. He was recognized by several men of being the driver of a truck the day before that was taking insurgents to a nearby village. Intel confirmed the convoy but told US soldiers to let them pass.


Derrick detained the man to ask questions because being inside the defense perimeter he knew this man had reconed the whole area. Testimony and evidence established in the trial that the man, in fact, had walked the entire perimeter according to eye witnesses.

Derrick felt an attack was imminent and detained him for questioning. During the questioning the man reached out and grabbed Derrick's weapon..there was a struggle for the weapon and then Derrick shot him in self defense.

Within an hour they were attacked on all 4 sides in an extreme complex attacked, which was also testified by many soldiers at the trial. The attack was not a result of the Afghan national being shot. The enemy knew where everything was set up inside the defense perimeter because everything was hit dead on. Where the commander was sitting and having chow moments before was hit by mortars. The only reason he had gotten up was because of the shot fired by Derrick.

Derrick having alerted the men to an imminent attack saved many US soldiers lives that day..to which many testified at the trial.

The prosecution said soldiers are overseas to "win the hearts and minds" of the Afghan people and that Derrick should never have detained the man for questions. Our government expects our soldiers to go overseas to a hostile place to just win the hearts and minds. They would have preferred Derrick allow the man to take his weapon and shoot him rather than Derrick defend himself. The military felt that self defense should not have been used because Derrick was putting his life above that man's and did not win his heart and mind. So now he's dishonorably discharged and serving life in prison.

There are media articles but they don' t do any justice in telling what happened. They even name an Afghan man, and during the whole entire trial he was never mentioned. The trial was held in July, 2011.

MORE:
From the article 'Eating Our Own' by Dianna West

http://bigpeace.com/dwest/2011/08/02/another-soldier-convicted-for-actions-in-afghanistan-eating-our-own-some-more/

In a contested jury trial at Fort Campbell KY, SGT Miller was sentenced to life in prison with the opportunity for parole (in 10 years) for killing an Afghan civilian when the civilian grabbed his weapon during harsh questioning.  The civilian was identified as a possible insurgent who had been walking through SGT Miller’s platoon defensive perimeter observing their defensive positions.  After the shooting the unit was attacked in a complex attack and the ANA soldiers assigned to the platoon pulled back prior to the start of the shooting and hid behind a building.


The witnesses against SGT Miller were a soldier who originally supported SGT Miller’s version of events, but changed his story when he was threatened with being named an accessory and being placed on legal hold so he could not demobilized.  The other witness was an Afghan translator who was promised US Citizenship in exchange for his testimony.  He was brought to the US in January and has been living at Fort Campbell in a base hotel at $630 per month with a dedicated van to take him wherever he wants to go, and has been fed at taxpayer expense.

Basically, the two witnesses had every incentive to testify the way the Government wanted them to — consistent with guilt rather than SGT Miller’s claim of innocence.  SGT Miller cooperated in every way from the date of the shooting, but his command lacked the moral courage to stand behind him.

The Afghans run that area of the country.  This guy [the victim] was an insurgent but no one in the freaking military is willing to say so to the two-faced Afghans.  They had a firefight that night that was designed to kill Americans — all the while the ANA soldiers were nowhere to be seen. They disappeared just before the shooting started and the fire on American positions was such that the guys targeted were sure that they [the insurgents] had recon of American positions due to this guy and his two military-aged males accompanying him reporting on the positions.

That we waste ONE American life in defense of that country is anathema. The country is completely corrupt; they are cowards unwilling to defend their own country, and we have gotten so deep in defending an indefensibly corrupt regime we cannot extricate our military in a way that allows us to maintain our honor.

***

Roseanna again--please, spare a few prayers for Derrick and his family, and leave a note of encouragement for them on the website above--I doubt they will check this one. But because I have an ongoing Friday-post giveaway, feel free to comment here as well for your entry for this package of books, or on any other Friday post in July or August.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Encouragement and Humility

As I wrote up the posts about the fun time I had in Oregon, picking and choosing what I ought to share and what I ought not, it got me thinking about a few things of the utmost importance to all of us--and how to balance them.

The first, as my post's title would indicate, is encouragement. Encouragement is one of the most important parts of faith--the thing that edifies us, that builds us up. Encouragement is born of love and respect, either in a general form or a more familiar one. And I gotta say, it's one of the biggest blessings on my life.

Writing can be a very solitary endeavor, and after years and years of it, you start to wonder about your own work. I once thought myself an amazing writer--then I learned all I'd done wrong. So I set about relearning, honing the craft, and in a lot of ways starting over. I've never quite been able to shake the uncertainty that came with that epiphany. Which is good--I needed a good dose of humility (more on that in a bit, LOL). But it also means that whenever I know someone is reading one of my books, I'm nervous. Wondering if they'll love it, hate it, or give it a resounding "meh." (Which may be the worst of the three.)

Because I'm so acutely aware of my own need for encouragement, I will always, always try to offer some to other writers, even if I don't necessarily like their work. They still put a lot of time and effort into it, and my tastes are hardly the end-all, be-all. In Oregon, one of the ladies who had an appointment with me sat down looking totally dejected. Overwhelmed. Close to tears. So rather than just invite her to launch into her pitch, I talked to her first. Asked her some questions about her experience thus far. Then listened to her tell me about her book. And before I looked at a word she'd written, before I knew if she was the next big thing or destined to shove the manuscript in a drawer forever more, I gave her the words the Lord had placed in my heart before this conference--that He does not discourage, ever. He corrects, He reshapes, and sometimes that's painful. But He never, ever discourages. I really, truly hope that I gave her a measure of the encouragement that I received from others last week.

And encouragement I received by the bucketful. From the other authors who had read A Stray Drop of Blood or Jewel of Persia and took the time to tell me how much they liked it to feedback from agents and editors who had read my work-in-progress--I was floating through much of the conference. Yet with every praise, I felt a pang of caution. It would be easy to let the good stuff go to my head, and brag about it all over creation. But I still remember where that lack-of-humility landed me.

Nowhere.

It's a strange balance we have to strike. Encouraging others is entirely necessary, and receiving it ourselves can do the work of the Lord. But we then have to careful that we don't use it to do our own work instead. Encouragement builds us up--but the building must belong to Him.

I think it's important to have those moments of excitement, and to have those people we can share them with. But I never want to forget that when encouragement rests on someone's opinion, you can bet the opposite opinion is out there too. I cling to positive feedback, and I incorporate it prayerfully into my life. But I have to incorporate the negative too.

So as we all journey from our valleys to our mountaintops and back again, let's keep the balance in mind. Let's find ways to pull up our brothers and sisters when they're headed downward. And when we're on the top, riding high, feeling great, full of encouragement, maybe that's when we've got so much to spare that we ought to share it with those around us. Spill it onto them, as I've mentioned before. 

It'll do good for those around us, then. And also keep us from focusing too much on ourselves.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Final Thoughts on Oregon

Wednesday at the OCW conference, I took a look at my schedule and realized I barely had time to breathe, LOL. After the editor panel the day before, my appointment slots not only filled up, they got overbooked (slight confusion due to a change, LOL).

My morning was yet again filled with the coaching session class by Karen Ball, and she had us do a really great experiment. Dividing us into groups, we had to act out an argument and record it. Then play it back and transcribe not only what we said, but what we did while saying it. If you're a writer and find that your characters do nothing but nod, smile, and pace, this is a great exercise to try! (Waving at Ann Shorey who stepped way outside her sweet self to play the part of a slum-lady, after irresponsible-me to collect my past-due rent. So fun!)

I met with a lot of great authors that afternoon and came home with some precious impressions of some of the nicest folks and their passion for their projects. Wondering about why appointments are important when it's your writing that should get the focus? That's why. A project that may have otherwise not caught my attention I will now read through with excitement, because I saw their excitement for it. Don't underestimate how much your passion means to an editor!

Wednesday afternoon I also taught a class that I called "The Marketing Monster." There are sooooo many marketing classes out there that I didn't really want to compete with them. I didn't want to cover the same thing they did. So rather than focus on the steps you can take when marketing, I dealt with the attitude writers often have toward it, the fears and insecurity, the resentment we often have of this thing that takes away from our writing time. Had I not titled it "The Marketing Monster," I would have called it "Spirit-Led Marketing." My whole focus was on crafting the right heart within ourselves so that then we can follow all those steps in the right way. It was a fairly small class, but the ladies who came responded well, and one really summed it up at the end by saying, "The other marketing classes are about our actions. This was great--it was about our heart." If you'd like my notes and handout from this class, shoot me an email at roseanna at roseannawhite dot com, or you can order the CD for $6 from OCW.

Directly after my class came the autograph party. I had a fabulous time with some of my awesome author friends and also sold a fair number of books, which is always fun. ;-) Overall, my time in Oregon was wonderful and packed full of learning, networking, and meeting with some truly promising authors.

And boy, was I glad to get back to my hubby and kiddos! =)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Impressions of Oregon Part II

Towering pines, heavy with green, a cool breeze blowing, brilliant sun shining--that's what I woke up to every morning in Oregon. I come from a very green area, but as my hubby drove me home, I paid attention to the difference in trees. I always thought we had a lot of pine around here, but the vast number of deciduous struck me on Thursday--as opposed to the area I was in in Oregon, with its tall spires of evergreen dominating the landscape. And I got to see Mount Hood as we flew in, a snow-covered cone poking out of the cloud-cover as the sun set in the west. Snow in August--my mind knew this happened, but it was the first I got to see it, and it made me grin.

Tuesday was the first full day of the conference, and a busy one. I decided to sit in on a coaching session class in the morning since otherwise it was free time, and I needed to keep busy to keep from missing my babies. ;-) So I attended a class taught by my own agent, the fabulous Karen Ball. Anything taught by Karen is going to be hilarious, that's just a given. It was also informative, helpful, and just a great time of fellowship with other published authors.

In the afternoon I had appointments and had the privilege of meeting with some great authors. I also got the chance to chat with other editors and agents, which is a side of things I'd never experienced but really loved. It was great to hear from the agents what they were shopping for their clients, and to share WhiteFire's vision. It was also fun to laugh with the editors--and didn't hurt that one was reading one of my manuscripts and kept finding me to tell me what part she was in and how much she was enjoying it. =) I had a meeting with said editor and my agent, which left me floating away on a cloud of hopeful peace.

I think one of my favorite parts of conference were the panels. On Tuesday came the book-editor panel, on which I got to sit. Sandwiched between two editors I really admire, it was fun to hear their answers to the questions the authors asked, and offer my own take on things.

Tuesday I also had the pleasure of checking my email and finding a request to develop a new idea for a story--something that kept me entertained all weekend. =) I won't get into details just yet, but let's just say it would be a really fun project, and I love that I was asked to come up with a pitch! The idea I've developed has some intriguing history I can work in, plus a few things that should just be pure fun.

Then came one of my other favorite parts of OCW--after the second awesome keynote address by Mindy Starns Clark on "The Reality" of publishing--versus "The Dream"--there was an author reading. Other activities shared the same time slot, so only a handful of people attended, but it was so much fun. Again, I was sandwiched between truly amazing people. Award-winning, best-selling people. Humbling, and also such an honor to be included. Afterward, I was given the highest compliment possible, as someone came up and told me the snippet I'd read brought them to tears.

I went to bed Tuesday exhausted but left feeling that the day had been one for the record books. And very, very eager for Wednesday. =)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Impressions of Oregon

After spending most of last week in Oregon at the wonderful Oregon Christian Writers Conference, it seems fitting to suspend normal posts for a few days here on the blog and instead share the blessing this conference was for me. =)

I left here with my hubby (after dropping the kids off at my parents') at about noon last Sunday, on my birthday. I was armed with my two carry-on bags, all my information and boarding passes printed out, and belly full of nerves. Now, I am in general a laid-back, easy-going gal. But this past year I've started a list of things that will get me anxious. Tornadoes made the list this spring--and I had to add extended travel to the list this week.

Now, I'm not afraid of flying--I was cool as a cucumber on the plane. It's the preparation. The nerves of getting to the airport on time, and then through security. I couldn't eat much for days beforehand, and my stomach was just all twisted up. But the moment I arrived at my gate, I was fine. And soon better than fine, as I looked down at my phone and realized my best friend had called to wish me a happy birthday while I was in the little shuttle train. I called her back, and we had an awesome time chatting until boarding began.

Oh yeah, had I mentioned this was on my birthday? Not exactly my favorite way to spend the day, but all went well. =) I touched down at 9:04ish local time and then called home and read while waiting for the next shuttle at 10:45. Now, I'm not a night owl, and I expected to be beyond exhausted, since this was midnight already my time. But I wasn't, surprisingly. I held out just fine until I got on the shuttle, then slept through the hour of transport to Salem, Oregon. I got into my room a little after midnight local time, 3 a.m. according to my internal clock. Which worked out perfectly, since I was so exhausted that I slept until 6 PST, which effectively put me in the right time zone. =)

I was extremely blessed to have been paired with a fabulous roommate. Joanna works with one of Focus on the Family's kids' magazines and is only a couple years older than me. We're both morning people, have similar senses of humor, and basically just got along swimmingly. At breakfast Monday morning (a time reserved for faculty and staff orientation), I got to sit with a fun bunch of folks that ranged from some ladies I know pretty well from previous conferences and the blogosphere to a couple hilarious editors.

My next stop was saying hello to my agent, the awesome Karen Ball. And I gotta tell you, I had a real wow moment when she slung an arm around my shoulders, turned me to an editor, and said, "This is Roseanna. She's mine." I knew God had blessed me in amazing ways by leading me to sign with Karen--but meeting her in person, at a conference, hammered it home. She is a truly amazing woman, and a real force in the Christian publishing industry. I am blessed beyond words to have the privilege of working with her.

There were a few other moments in the day that made it awesome on a personal scale--words of encouragement for my writing. I also got to hear my first pitch of the conference, from a lovely woman who was so very excited about her story that I couldn't help but get excited too.

The only conferences I've been to before are ACFW conferences, which are wonderful. But I quickly discovered that OCW is something different--it's more relaxed, much smaller, and has a laid-back feel. But what was the same was the feeling of community, and the Spirit that came each time we all gathered together.

Monday included an agent and magazine/article editor panel, which was fun to listen to, the first keynote address by the fun and funny Mindy Starns Clark, who spoke about "The Dream" of publishing and her path to publication, and then a Night Owl session by Karen Ball on how to make a good first impression with your manuscript. 

Take-away from Karen's session: you only have 10-15 seconds to grab an agent or editor's attention--make it count! And 95% of proposals they receive shouldn't have been sent out yet and need more work.Don't send a manuscript out before its time!!

Monday I also video-called home with Skype, which was a big mistake. Made my baby cry. =( Apparently seeing Mama but being unable to be with me was just too much for Xoe. (Rowyn didn't seem to mind, LOL.) So we didn't try that again!

I had a really great start to the conference. Met some great people and knew that the next day would be even better. Which I shall tell you about tomorrow. =)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oregon Christian Writers Conference

I'm currently waaaaaaaay out in Oregon, at the Aldersgate Lodge, for the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. I'm here as an editor representing WhiteFire Publishing, and really looking forward to meeting all the wonderful writers, readers, agents, and editors that I know will be here.

But alas, I doubt I'll have time to blog regularly while here, so tune back in next week for stories and tales from the conference!


Friday, August 12, 2011

My Friend Patty - Encouraging in the Everyday

"Just like I had to purposefully go out and walk to put myself in a position to see and experience the beauty of the morning and the flowers, I need to put myself in a position where I can see the things God has for me to see."

I've visiting Patty Wysong's blogs before. I have, in fact, done some really fun interviews on, first her personal blog, and then the Barn Door Book Loft. I've scrolled through a few of her regular posts, read a few of her devotionals. But it wasn't until I really started clicking through her website for this feature, recommended by a friend of hers, that I realized how much this lovely woman does.

Her website is called "Ordinary Lives" with a kinda floating subtitle (hey look, I'm coining a phrase! LOL) of "Finding the Extraordinary God in Our Ordinary Lives." And as you click through it (which I highly encourage you to do!), you will indeed find evidence of an ordinary, busy life. Her Community links proves she has friends equally as involved in blogging. Her About Me shows us her sense of humor. Her Fiction tab reveals the kinds of stories that grip her heart and the agent who shares her vision. Taken piece by piece, you see the ordinary.

Taken as a whole, you see the extraordinary.

I won't try to say I know Patty really well--but we've emailed a few times, and her notes have always, always made me smile.

That's pretty extraordinary.

My very first interview on my very first blog tour was on Patty's blog, and I remember thinking after several more that she, more than most, really had this down. Her site is gorgeous, her followers are dedicated . . . and I loved that every post ended with her signature of "Seeking Him."

Looking through it all now, it's so clear she does. Like her blog? Then you'll want to click on the Blogging Stuff tab, where she has turned her successful blogging experience into tutorials and workshops and design.

Now, let me just say that I've been in similar positions before--where you have something mastered pretty well, and you start thinking, "If only I could make a little money at this." Saying it's the easy part--doing it . . . well that takes way more effort. A handy helping of dedication. Some undeniable vision. And trusting in the Lord. So Patty, I really admire that you've taken the "if only I could" and turned it into, "Here I am."

And of course, as a writer trying to put myself out there, I appreciate all she and her blogging partners do to help promote authors. More, I appreciate that her site is definitely not only for writers. She offers devotionals and insights, fun and fellowship for all.

I encourage you to drop by one (or more!) of Patty's sites and leave her a note of encouragement. You're also welcome to leave her a comment here, of course, and by doing so, you'll be entered into my August giveaway. For each of her sites you follow, you'll get an extra entry (please leave me a comment telling me that you do indeed follow them so I know to give you the entries)

In case you haven't yet seen my August giveaway, here it is: Heiress by Susan May Warren, To Die For by Sandra Byrd, Surrender the Dawn by MaryLu Tyndall, and the obligatory Jewel of Persia by this author I know really super well and so am storing boxes of books for. Ahem. She won't mind if I give one away. ;-) You can also enter this giveaway here, here, and here. Each comment equals one entry, but you're welcome to rack 'em up!

And while I've got your attention, I'll be flying to Oregon for the OCW Conference on Sunday, so if you wanted to say a prayer for me and travel, that would be soooooo awesome! =)


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Savoring the Moments

Though I don't have organizational skills that would wow anyone, I'm a planner. A goal-setter. And someone who doesn't often budge on those goals. When I say I'll have a book to the 75% mark by August 14, for instance, I do whatever it takes to hit that point in the manuscript. (I've only got 4K more to write by Sunday to be there, which is totally doable, LOL.) When I say I'll be somewhere at a certain time, I refuse to be late. When I say I'll help someone with something, that then goes ahead of my other tasks on the to-do list.

In general, I think this is a fine character trait. ;-) But this week I've also been very aware of its drawbacks. See, sometimes I'm so set on meeting my goals and getting to that oh-so-important future point that I forget to enjoy where I am.

With only a few days left until I leave for the OCW Conference in Oregon, for which I'll be gone through Thursdsay, I'm keenly aware of how long I'll be away from my kids and hubby. And I'm already geared up to miss them. So I've been gathering extra hugs and kisses, extra cuddles and quality time.

It's been a balancing act, even more than usual. Usually I have my set work times, and I expect my kids to respect them. They don't, LOL, but I let myself insist on that half hour in the morning and those two hours during naptime. Other times of day I certainly try to squeeze in five minutes at my computer here and there, but it's totally common for a kiddo (or two) to be on my lap or asking for help, or requesting I come outside "because you gotta SEE this!" But this week, much as I want (okay, I think it actually classifies as a "need" for my personality type) to get to that 75% mark in my manuscript, I really want (and definitely need) to stock up on the kiddo-time.

It's made me think a lot about how I approach each moment. Yes, I want to walk for exercise. But you know, it's so fun to stop every three feet to jump rope with my daughter. Yes, I wanted to answer that email. But there's nothing quite like cuddling my son for those first 20 minutes after he gets up from his nap, when all he wants to do is sit on my lap and suck his thumb.

Sometimes I'm so focused on what must be done next (bath time, book time, bed time) that I forget to fully enjoy what is. Sometimes I'm so distracted by what I didn't get finished that I can be grumpy during my family time. But this week, I've been very aware of how much fun my kids are, and how much I'll miss their silliness next week. This week, I've been working hard during work time and savoring each moment of play.

I'm going to do my best to extend that aspect of this week into the future.

Today I have my mother-in-law taking the kids to the park for a few hours so I can pack some solid work into the morning. Part of me feels guilty about losing those couple hours with them--but then, I think it's better to send them out to have fun than to have to plop them in front of the TV while I prepare my suitcase. And as always, it's part of the balancing game. I know well that I'll savor the other moments more once I've gotten some of my other looming tasks out of the way.

There are never any easy answers for balancing a home-based career with your kids (or ANY career with your kids). But I'm trying to be aware, not just of the amount of time I'm with them, but with the quality of the time. And I'm laughing a lot, smiling a lot, and cuddling a lot.

Goals are great. Keeping them is important. But sometimes you've just gotta live in the moment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Remember When . . . Marshmallows Came from a Marsh?

Well, I learned something last night. =) I was researching what candies were available in the Colonial era and come across this fun site that gave me exactly the information I needed. I clicked onto the marshmallow link and proceeded to be awed, LOL.

So apparently, marshmallows originally came from--get this--a plant called the mallow. That grew in marshes. Logical, but something I never knew. But as far back as ancient Egyptian days, folks would take the roots of the marsh mallow, boil them down, squish 'em up, and then combine them with honey. This confection was so prized that it was reserved for royalty and offerings to the gods.

The mallow plant had medicinal uses, primarily for treating wounds and alleviating hunger. Common in Europe, they began mixing the gummy root matter with white sugar and an egg white for fluff, boiling it until it thickened, and then letting it cool into something that was both medicine and confection.

In the 1850s, gum arabic began replacing the marsh mallow root, and the modern treat emerged. Featuring simple ingredients like the gum, cornstarch, egg white, and sugar, it has been largely unchanged for the last hundred fifty years. At that point they were made by hand in confectioner's shops.

By the early 1900s they were being mass-produced and were considered a treat for children., sold as penny candy Today, of course, they're in everything from sweet potato recipes to Jell-O salads to campfire favorites. =)

So there you go--a brief history of a treat we all probably take for granted, but which has its roots (pun intended) in ancient history. Who knew? Marshmallows from a marsh. Go figure. ;-)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Story Time . . . My To-Read Pile

I have had so little time to read lately . . . yet the awesome books keep arriving. =) Yesterday 9 showed up in the mail, for instance. Most of these will go be put on the list of books available for the Christian Review of Books reviewers, but whenever one comes in that I want to read, I snatch it. ;-)

So I thought today I'd just share my immediate to-be-read pile.

First we've got From Ashes to Honor by Loree Lough, the first book in her First Responders Series. (Okay, too many "first"s in one sentence, LOL.) This series is in honor of the heroes who rode in to the rescue on 9/11 and debuts now in time for the 10th anniversary of that horrific day. 


Next up is To Die For by Sandra Byrd. This is a story of Anne Boleyn, but from the perspective of a lady-in-waiting. Gotta love Tudor books!!! And come on, that cover . . . oh yeah. I want those dresses. ;-)



Also earning a spot in my pile is Jamie Carie's Pirate of My Heart. I mean, come on--doesn't the title itself just say, "Read me! I'm packed with adventure and romance!!" A young noblewoman flees her overbearing guardian, determined to make it to America and some distant relatives. But is American Captain Dorian Colburn capable of saving her from the darkness around her?



The Colonel's Lady by Laura Franz is one I just can't wait to dig into. I recently read Courting Morrow Little by Laura, and WOW. Yep. So I know this one will be awesome. In it, genteel Virginian Roxanna Rowan travels to a Kentucky fort to reunite with her father, only to discover he's been killed. Without the means to go home again, she is forced to stay at the fort . . . under the protection of the fiery Colonel McLinn.



I've read the first two books in Sarah Sundin's Wings of Glory series, so I'm excited about the final installment, Blue Skies Tomorrow. This one follows the other Novak brother, Raymond, and heart-soar widow Helen Carlisle. When they discover a fragile love between them, can they still step out in faith and up to a challenge, willing to wait until blue skies return? 




And for a little something different, I snagged mainstream thrilled The Genesis Key from the pile of incoming books. This just sounds soooooo good. Dr. Kathleen Sainsbury's on the verge of breakthrough--the discovery of a gene that could extend human life by centuries. But suddenly Kathleen is a target of covert government operatives, and she's forced onto a quest to uncover the real reason behind her parents' deaths, the mysteries of the human genome, and the secrets long held in the Book of Genesis.



So I've got some great reading ahead of me, if ever I have the time. ;-)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Word of the Week - Pawn

My hubby and I get a kick out of watching the History Channel's Pawn Stars. They have some truly awesome stuff come in there that does a history-lover's heart good. =) So as I was browsing through interesting words today, I thought we'd talk about pawning and hocking as we look forward to watching Rick and Chumlee tonight. ;-)

Pawn is an old word, first used a noun (something left as security) in the late 15th century. It came from the Old French pan, pant, which meant "pledge, security" or "booty, plunder." Interestingly, the same word also means "cloth" in Old French, raising the question of whether cloth was used in exchange. The word became a verb round about 1560, and pawnbroker sprang up in 1680.

American English added hock into the mix in 1859, and it meant both "in debt" and "in prison," interestingly enough. It was specific toward gamblers being in debt to one another in its early days. Again, the word began its life as a noun and didn't become a verb until about 20 years later.

So if anyone else likes to watch the guys in Vegas wheel and deal on interesting pieces of history, tonight you can watch it knowing they're in a profession whose words date back as far as modern English goes . . . which means they've probably been around pretty much forever. =)

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Friend Tiffany - Hometown Gal with an Online Heart

As I was debating who to feature for today's My Friend Friday, my friend Tiffany Harkleroad sprang to mind. And I'll tell ya why. =)


Back when A Stray Drop of Blood first released, I was really into my blog tour. After each guest spot ended, I would email each person who had commented, just to respond to whatever comment had been left (knowing they don't always return to the blogs to read replies to their comments), to thank them for taking the time to visit, and to offer a coupon code for those who didn't win.


Tiffany was one of the folks who had commented on a blog, and who I subsequently struck up an email conversation with. She was tickled by my offer of a discount and proceeded to by Stray Drop. She loved it, which is nice for me, LOL. But more than that, we got to talking about our love of books, what we expected from them, our Christian backgrounds, our goals. Tiffany had just begun blogging and wanted to make a real mark with it, wanted to do book reviews as a way of expanding her career. She joined the Christian Review of Books (is even co-moderator with me on our Facebook page), signed up to receive books directly from publishers who offer programs, and basically dove in head first.


In the year and a half since then, I've watched her online presence explode, and it's been so much fun. Her book review blog, Tiffany's Bookshelf, now has over 500 followers. She has two other blogs for other aspects of her life, Tall Tales from a Small Town, and The Tales of Dexter, Nora, and Chloe. The last is about her pets, and the Tall Tales is about the things she discovers in everyday life in a suburb of Pittsburgh.


Here's what I really admire about Tiffany. She's reasoned through her faith, has a heart for the Lord, and lives it in the real world. She looks for books with meat to them, but that can offer the same reasoned view of Christianity that she discovered--one that doesn't sugarcoat but comes back to Jesus as the answer to the woes we encounter in life. And when she reviews, she reviews honestly. Totally honestly. She reads books from across the spectrum, Christian and mainstream, and can give feedback on them exactly like what I always wanted the Christian Review of Books to offer: what is good in them, what might offend, to whom she would recommend it.


I also love reading about her hometown discoveries. I rarely encounter someone who connects so incredibly to wherever they live, who goes out exploring, determined to find those gems that sets one neighborhood apart from the rest. To me, this speaks of a heart that is set on loving people and places as they are, where they are.


I've yet to meet Tiffany in person--we had a visit planned last year, but silly me got the flu and spent the day puking instead of driving up to the lake where she was vacationing. =( And the busier she's gotten online, the less we've just chatted. But whenever we do, I have to smile, especially when I see how she's accomplishing her goals. She's making a presence, in her real world and her online one. She's being exactly who she is. She's taking the opportunities the Lord gives her.


Today I'd like to invite you to drop by Tiffany's world of blogs. Read through a few of her reviews (she has a great one on Jewel of Persia, LOL), see her world through her eyes, chuckle over her cute pets. And drop her a word of encouragement, here or on her blogs, to let her know that she's doing a great job in striding forward to her dreams.


If you leave a comment here (or here or here), you'll be entered to win my August giveaway, which consists of Heiress by Susan May Warren, To Die For by Sandra Byrd, Surrender the Dawn by MaryLu Tyndall, and the obligatory Jewel of Persia by yours truly. For an extra entry, follow the blogs of any of the folks I've featured. And please spread the word, and, if you have someone you'd love to see featured here, link me to their website/blog!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . The Driver's Seat

I have a family of drivers. My husband goes for drives to clear his head. My sister was one of those kids who begged her way behind the wheel on our farm vehicles as soon as she could see over it. My mother-in-law has a list of dream-cars. My dad is the proud owner of a truck, an SUV (okay, this one's my mom's), a Harley, and a four-wheeler. All these folks will jockey for a chance to drive whatever new vehicle joins the family. They love it.

Me? I'd rather being in the passenger's seat, or on the back of the four-wheeler. At the end of the boat (not that we have a boat, but when we've been on others') staring into the wake. Feeling the wind on my face but able to look off into nowhere for my enjoyment. Watching the scenery go by. Ignoring the traffic.

I drive--when I must. I love the freedom of being able to, don't get me wrong. I appreciate and am thankful for my car, so much so that every car in my family gets a name. Our car now is Xander, our Jeep is Bartok. I've also had a Sparky and a Snowball. And yeah, I have a list of dream-cars too. But when we go out as a family, there's never any question of who will drive. The keys go to David. The daydreaming goes to me.

The other night I hopped on the back of my dad's four-wheeler to go over to the farm, and said, "Wow, this is my first ride on this." I used to ride on my neighbor's all the time, but I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

Dad replied, "It's really easy. Look--drive, reverse. Gas, brake."

Me: "Mmm hmmm. . . " Ah, wind in my face! And look how green the fields are, stretching out until they meet the river, the mountains rising up . . . What a beautiful place I grew up in. What an amazing world God has crafted.

On the way back, Dad asked, "Wanna drive?"

Now, if you asked my 3-year-old this, he would probably say yes, LOL. But me, I just climbed on the back again and said, "Nope."

And I spent the two-minute ride back trying to figure out why. It's not that I dislike driving, per se. I certainly am not afraid to try it, I know it would be easy. And I can understand why folks get a thrill out of being in control of the motor that's taking them from here to there.

But more important to me is seeing what I can see while going someplace. Having the freedom to ignore the musts of gas and break and traffic, of potholes and bumps, and focus on the ifs.

I think it comes down to being a dreamer. I'd rather experience from the backseat and try to imagine what the driver's feeling than actually do the driving--because then I'm too busy doing to absorb. I'd rather sit on the sidelines and watch the game than play, because I can both see the moves and the expressions on the faces, I can learn the rules and create a story around them.

Obviously there are exceptions to this, things I'd rather do than watch. But I sometimes find it funny when everyone keeps pushing me to try something, and I just have to smile and say, "No, really. I don't want to. I like it here." I do wonder, occasionally, if this is a failing of mine . . . but you know, so far I don't think I've really missed out by staying in the passenger's seat most of the time.

I still go all the places the driver does . . . but I see a lot more along the way. =)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Remember When . . . We Shopped for Discounts?

I admit it--I have shopping on the brain. For the first time in six months, I'm actually going shopping. As in, look around, not just go in for one thing in particular. With my mom and mom-in-law. And my kids. All morning. Can't wait. =)

So the other day when I was reading through my current work-in-progress and came across a fun factoid about 18th century shopping, it jumped out at me. And I thought, "Hey, I've yet to tell them about vendues!"

Ever hear of these? I hadn't, until reading Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose. One of the historical figures he talks about (and who also appears in my book) apprenticed in a store called Templeton & Stewart in the City of New York. T&S had two divisions--an upscale one in the fashionable district of the city, and then a vendue across from the city's red light district, Holy Ground. 

I would have scratched my head upon reading that, had Mr. Rose not gone on to explain what this "vendue" thing was, LOL. Apparently it's much like a discount store today. When there was either overstock or damaged goods in a regular store, they would send it to a vendue, where the goods were either auctioned off or marked down.

Apparently there was some grumbling when Templeton & Stewart opened a vendue, from owners of other retailers. But they were soon happy to see that it didn't detract from their clientele--that two different sets of people shopped in these two different kinds of stores.

I just loved learning that this whole idea is so well established. In my hometown we have a discount store that always got overstock and damaged stuff--once upon a time this meant most things had marks or holes, but if you looked hard you could find overstock. These days it's mostly overstock, and awesome overstock at that. Which would be why I'm heading that way in an hour. So have a great day, folks! Off I go! ;-)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cover for Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland!!

I've had this for a month and a half already, but I didn't want to share publicly until Summerside had it up. And since I and Annapolis am officially on Summerside's website (woo hoooooooooo!), I can now share my beautiful cover for Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland!

Isn't it beautiful?? I love the colors in the sky . . . and the model is just stunning (though fun fact--I had to go back into the story and change Lark's hair color to match the cover. She was originally a dark blond/light brown, LOL). And I asked if I got to keep that amazing dress, but gee, they just laughed at me. ;-) The building you see in the background is the State House, which plays a pretty critical role in the story.

So, yeah, happy sigh. I'm really excited to finally get to share this gorgeous cover with you all, and add it to my sidebar here. You can pre-order it already, you know. ;-) And we're officially four months out from its release! Wowzers!!

And that's my exciting book news for the week. Thanks for indulging me. =)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Word of the Week - Ain't

I grew up in West Virginia. My house was on a hill above a farm, the Potomac River surrounding it on three sides--which means Maryland on three sides, for all you folks who aren't intimately acquainted with mid-Atlantic geography. ;-) For the most part, people from my school, my town, had a pretty standard American accent and sound grammar. But we had our share of country accents around, too.

So I heard a lot of ain't over the years. And because I was apparently born with the grammar gene, acutely aware of what I did not want to sound like, and because my teachers taught me ain't was incorrect, I never used it. Well, except when making a point. Or trying to sound a certain way. But then it was a purposeful use of what I deemed something incorrect, so . . . ;-)

But ain't was used a lot back in ye olden days, so in my current work in progress, I had a few characters use it. Then I thought I'd better look it up to make sure it was in fact a contraction in use at the time. And I was pretty surprised with what I found.

Namely, that ain't began as a correct contraction for "am not" back in 1706. So it was perfectly fine to say "I ain't going." Use of it abounded, and all was well for a century or so.

Then people started using it for "are not" and "is not" . . . which was wrong. "You ain't what you seem" just didn't fly. This mis-use apparently started in London as part of the cockney accent, which Charles Dickens picked up on and immortalized. All of a sudden it's a mistake the English-speaking world over. One used so very mistakenly, and in ways that it's pretty hard to say "No, no, that one's wrong but this one's right," that it was banned from correct grammar altogether.

A rather funny life of a word, isn't it? I still ain't likely to use it much, even knowing its etymology and correct usage now--but you can bet if I do, I ain't going to use it the wrong way. ;-)