Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Well, here we are--the last day of 2012. My year ended with quite a few inches of snow this past week, and with the promise of a very busy 2013. So as is my custom, I wanted to take today to look back over the year with only a few short hours left in it.

At the end of 2011, I'd just gotten a three-book deal with Harvest House, but I hadn't signed the contracts yet so hadn't been able to announce it. Now, of course, we all know that it's the Culper Ring Series, and Ring of Secrets is only two months out!
Working on this series has been an amazing blessing to me. While I miss having the time to spend on my biblicals (and while I intend to squeeze out the time for another one of those this next year), the Culpers have taught me lessons I didn't realize I needed to learn. Lessons about waking up each day and asking the Lord, "What can I do for You, for what You've called me to, today? How can I help others?"

I've so enjoyed working with the team at Harvest House, too. Each and every one of them I've talked with is simply amazing, and they've thrown their faith onto me, which is both humbling and exhilarating. They've uttered phrases about my career with them that I've dreamed of for decades. And we have more in the works together that I can't announce quite yet...but which will keep us working together on other projects after the Culpers are finished. So thrilled about that!

But there were some disappointments in 2012 too, career-wise. I vaguely hinted in my 2011 wrap-up that I'd had other offers too. Which I did...but which fell through. And oh, but those hurt. Stories I had poured sweat and tears into, stories that I so fell in love them languishing in my computer caused me some time of mourning. Three of them--three novels, one finished, one a third finished, one still a beautiful proposal--lay waiting for their turn. And while it isn't as though I don't have a ton of books waiting in my computer, these three were special. More, they had been wanted, had been given offers...and then that hope had fallen through.

This being me, though, I raise my chin and say, "Okay, so it wasn't the time for them. Yet. But I know they'll have their day." And in the meantime, I stay so busy with the definite projects that the ache fades. Doesn't disappear, but it fades.

In 2012, WhiteFire also contracted a banner number of books for us. In 2013 we'll have a title releasing every month, which is pretty darn amazing for this small press with the big dreams. We have some fabulous authors working with us now, and these That's about all I can say. WOW. I've taken over the cover design as well as editing, which has been a ton of fun. And now I'm wondering how to balance all the editing with all my writing, with all our home schooling, LOL. Should be an adventure!
There are a few others still awaiting covers, too. =)
Home schooling has been going really well this year. We've found our groove, are loving Sonlight, and Xoe's getting more independent with a lot of her work. She's doing amazingly, and regularly amazes me with her questions, insights, and creativity. Gotta say, though, I'm intimidated at adding Rowyn to the schedule in the next year, LOL.

Xoe in the party scene of The Nutcracker
Rowyn on my lap, waiting for The Nutcracker to start
Overall, it was a good year. I took two trips to Texas (within a month--yeah. Wow.), had a great conference, am privileged to work with so many awesome people, and know I'm on the career path the Lord's been planning for me for years.

It's been a good, busy year. And as I look toward 2013, I know that I have a lot of work coming my way. Tomorrow I'll be focusing on the looking-ahead.

So how about you? What have you learned this year? What joys have taken you by surprise? What disappointments did you have to conquer? And what are you looking forward to in 2013?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Influencers Needed!

It's that time! I'm only two months away from the release of Ring of Secrets, and the marketing team at Harvest House has asked me to compile my list of influencers.

What, you ask, is an influencer? Quite simply, it's someone who agrees that, in exchange for the publisher sending them a free copy of a book, they will (assuming they like it) do some or all of the following:
  • Post reviews on retailer sites
  • Buy a copy for everyone they see in the grocery line
  • Blog about it (assuming they have a blog)
  • Have the cover tattooed across their forehead
  • Talk it up to all their friends
  • Take out an airplane banner ad for it
  • Request their library stock it
  • Invest in a giant blinking sign for their roof that says "Buy Ring of Secrets!"
  • Request their bookstores stock it
  • Leave some bookmarks/postcards with libraries or stores or in waiting rooms
;-) Okay, so I doubt anyone would do all of those, LOL. But if you're interested in taking on some influencer tasks, email me at roseanna at roseannawhite dot com with your address and what you'll be able to do to help with the influencing. (I have a limited number of spots left, so hurry!)

And, and in case you've missed the blurb...

Love Has No Place in a World of Spies

 1779—Winter Reeves is an aristocratic American Patriot forced to hide
 her heart amid the British Loyalists of the city of New York. She has
 learned to keep her ears open so she can pass information on British
 movements to Robbie Townsend, her childhood friend, and his spy ring. If
 she's caught, she will be executed for espionage, but she prays the
 Lord’s protection will sustain her, and Robbie has taught her the tools
 of the trade—the wonders of invisible ink, secret drop locations and,
 most importantly, a good cover.

 Bennet Lane returns to New York from his Yale professorship with one
 goal: to find General Washington’s spy hidden among the ranks of the
 city’s elite. Searching for a wife was supposed to be nothing more than
 a convenient cover story for his mission, but when he meets Winter, with
 her too-intelligent eyes in her too-blank face, he finds a mystery that
 can’t be ignored.

 Both are determined to prevail at any cost…and each is committed to a
 separate cause. Will God lead them to a shared destiny or lives lived


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I've been down with a cold for two days, plus am gearing up to turn in Whispers from the Shadows tomorrow--which means one last go-through. Yay!

And, of course, we've been hip-deep in Christmas prep around here. Including gingerbread cookies and ballerina pickles. ;-)

After tomorrow, Christmas break officially starts over here. Which means I'm going to take a much-needed break too, and will be taking next week off blogging. Hopefully coming back with a plate clear of some of my piled-up tasks and just bursting with inspiration.

Christmas plans in my world are pretty typical. I still need to do all my wrapping (yikes!), but the festivities will begin this weekend. A party at my fabulous sister's, a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, where the kids will be singing "Go, Tell It on the Mountain" in their adorable little-kid voices. So cute! My niece has an absolutely amazing voice and will be wowing us with two selections, and I'll be (throat willing) breaking out one of my absolute favorites, "Mary, Did You Know?" I've been practicing that one, and Rowyn has declared it one of his favorites and likes to sing it with me. Can I just tell you how sweet it is to hear a 4-year-old voice singing that song? Awwww.
How about everyone else? Big, fun Christmas plans?

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Prayer as We Mourn

Friday afternoon I saw only the briefest clip of the news. A reporter outside a school, and the caption under them. That was it--about five seconds. I caught "CT school shooting" and nothing more--I had two kids waiting in the living room with a bare Christmas tree. The reality of what must have just happened hit me, but I deliberately put it aside. Focused on the decorating with only a few prayers about what must have been.

I tended my kids, our dinner, our decorating. I caught another few minutes of the news while they were playing a few hours later. And as I was putting them to bed and we were saying prayers, my tongue stumbled. Usually, we pray together for those we see on the news. We pray for hurricane victims, we pray for ill relatives, we pray for any number of normal but tragic events.

But this? I whispered a prayer silently, wondered what I should say...and made the quick decision not to burden my little ones with this. Because it's too awful, to big, too terrifying. Because they can't live if they're afraid to walk outside, if they're afraid to be in a crowd. I can't do that to them, not when they're so young. And so I insulate. Not from everything. Not from most. But from this? Yes. Yes, I will keep their sensitive ears and hearts from this. Because it's too much, and nothing they can do can keep them safe from this kind of violence.

I'll be honest. I can't process this atrocity. I can't, I just can't fathom that someone would do this. And you know, I don't think we should be able to process it. I don't think we should be able to imagine how those families feel. No one should, them included. So I will pray. I will pour out my soul to my God and know that He is big enough, strong enough, Lord enough to process what I can't. I will pray and cry and mourn and know that He weeps with us.

In church, our bishop said he had asked the Lord, "Why didn't you stop it?" And he heard God's answer whisper in his spirit. Saying, "I tried. So many times I tried."

But. But maybe the warriors refused to pause their lives and pray. Maybe someone ignored the nudge to talk to this troubled man. Maybe someone did, and the evil in the world distracted him. I don't know. I can't know.

But what I do know is this--we live in a world with evil. We always have. Each time something so terrible as this happens, we wonder what is becoming of our world. Well, I'll tell you--we haven't changed it. That's what. Since the dawn of history people have been committing atrocities. People have been slaughtering innocents. People have been murdering children. Such cruelty isn't new, not even close. It's as old as man himself. It's old and it's horrible and it's unthinkable--yet it's happened countless times.

And it won't stop until we reclaim our world. It's not about politics, it's not about gun control, it's not about medication or mental health or security protocols. It's about us. You and me and every other believer out there. It's about what we don't do. It's about the prayers we don't say. It's about the knees we don't fall to until it's too late. It's about the hearts too busy to be bothered.

Oh, Lord, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry I didn't pray. I'm so sorry I didn't have a heart open to your whisper on Friday. I'm so, so sorry I didn't ask you to send your angels. I'm sorry that now there are family with presents wrapped and ready and no precious hands to open them. I'm sorry that there is an entire town reeling from loss. I'm sorry that I don't know what to do.

Show me, Father God. Show me how to change myself, my family, my church, my town, my state, my nation. Show me how to hear you and heed you. Show me how to pray. Show me how to fight what I cannot see. Show me how to love those who need you most. Show me how to be your warrior.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Eagerness

This time of year, if you want a study in eagerness, all you have to do is take a look at children. Okay, if mine are the example, then looking at them anytime will give you a study in eagerness. =) At times, all that anticipatory energy can be exhausting. But sometimes, it can be so very inspiring, can't it?

I love that kids can be just as excited about a day of service as they are about a birthday party. That reading a book to their younger sibling is as much a cause for celebration as a trip to the ice cream shop. I love that making their father a Christmas present is as awesome for them as opening one of their own.

I love that they take such joy from life--not just from the big things, but from the little. I love how they look forward to watching that new movie just as much the fifth time as the first. I love that they are always so eager for the things they love, no matter the work involved in getting them.

And I love that Jesus uses them as the example of how our faith should be.

I sometimes wonder when we lose that eagerness, that full-out joy. I'm sure I've wondered it here before. But as an adult, it's so easy to worry too much to enjoy things. To look at things like Christmas cookie baking as a time-consuming must instead of anticipated fun. It's easy to look at all the holiday activities and see only the minutes and hours adding up--and counting down--and get stressed wondering how to fit it all in. It's easy to look at that gift you want to get someone but can't afford and feel disappointed.

And it's so, so easy to forget to be eager about our faith. Sure, we talk about the Reason this time of year. But are we excited about it? Are we eager for Him every day of the year? Do we jump up and down for him morning after morning, like a four-year-old asking for his favorite breakfast?

This year, though I'm under deadline and anticipating a move and overall busier than usual this Christmas, I keep getting hit with this enormous gratitude for the enthusiasm of my children. It leaves me exhausted, but it reminds me of what matters. Of how I should be greeting the world. Of how I should be living my faith. 

It reminds me of how my heart should be before the Lord--all-out, bubbling-over, squealing with delight joyful.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Remember When . . . You Hid the Pickle?

I thought I'd share a short little Christmas tradition today. =)

Every year, my mother-in-law takes my kids shopping for a Christmas ornament. And for the first couple years of this tradition, she would always get them one of the glass pickles you've no doubt seen. I'd never seen really paid attention to these before, but the kids thought they were awesome and of course asked for the why of it. My MIL explained that you kind of hide the ornament on the tree, and whoever spots it gets to open the first gift.

Some sites I'm scrolling through this morning claim that the tradition started with a real pickle. Kinda believable, since back in the early days of Christmas trees, food was used as decoration. Fruits and candies especially, but why not a shiny green pickle? (Okay, I hate pickles, so that wouldn't be a treat for me, LOL.) Interesting possibility though, eh?

But that only partly explained the why, right? I just looked up where this came from and found that it was a Victorian tradition. The story goes that back in the medieval days, a dastardly innkeeper trapped two poor (an apparently bothersome) children in a pickle barrel on Christmas Eve. St. Nick came along and heard them in there so set them free. They ran home and arrived just in time to share their family's feast. Perhaps with a pickle or two?

Regardless, my daughter's favorite ornament is her ballerina pickle. =) She loves it so much that it hangs in her room all year round.

What's your favorite Christmas ornament?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Word of the Week - X-mas

1922 ad in Ladies' Home Journal

I remember, as a child, writing stories and assignments for school around this time of year and occasionally using the abbreviation "X-mas" for Christmas. I remember teachers telling me not to use abbreviations in my assignments, and I remember someone else (can't recall who) telling me not to use that one for Christmas because it just wasn't right to take Christ out of Christmas (or something to that effect) and replace it with an X.

So in my middling years, I refused to use it, thinking it somehow mean to Jesus...then later I actually learned where it came from. 

Pretty simple, really. The Greek word for Christ is Χριστός. You might notice that first letter. Our X, though it's the Greek "chi." No paganism here, no dark, dastardly scheming to remove Jesus from his birthday. Scholars started this as a form of shorthand. The first English use dates to 1755 in Bernard Ward's History of St. Edmund's College, Old Hall. Woodward, Byron, and Coleridge, to name a few, have used it to. And interestingly, similar abbreviations date way back. As early as 1100, the form "Xp̄es mæsse" for Christmas was used in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

So. It's still an abbreviation and oughtn't be used in formal writing and more than w/ or b/c, but it's also perfectly legitimate as what it is. Always nice to discover something like that. =) And I hope as everyone gears up, they have a truly wonderful one! I'm happy to say we survived the crazy Nutcracker weekend around here. ;-)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Gifts

I'm happy to say that this year (as opposed to most years), I'm nearly done my Christmas shopping already. I have a few things yet to pick up, but all the tricky ones are handled. I'm feeling on top of things there. Mostly. ;-) And as I talk with my kiddos about the real meaning of Christmas and all that fun stuff, I can't help but think about the gifts I'm most grateful for.

I totally neglected to post on Thanksgiving (though I'd meant to, LOL), so I figured I'd take a few minutes now, halfway between the holidays, to give thanks for those gifts that make my life worth living.

Sometimes it just hits me anew how blessed I've been in my family life. God put me in a loving, amazing family growing up. One that protected without being overbearing. One that nurtured without stifling. One that provided fun as well as life-lessons to remember. My parents taught me to love God and follow Jesus, to chase after my dreams, and to always be myself. They somehow raised me to be secure in exactly who I was, so long as I was following the path the Lord wanted me on. I am so, so grateful for my family.

Then I happened to meet the man of my dreams at a very young age. Oh, that caused some nay-saying back then, to be sure. In this day and age, it just isn't expected that you meet your soul mate at 15 and get married at 18 (by choice, not by shotgun, LOL). But David and I knew what we wanted and needed, and I don't regret a moment of the last eleven and a half years of marriage. I am so, so blessed to have a husband who not only loves me but understands me. Who supports my every dream and encourages my every goal. No matter what comes and goes in this life, I know he'll be beside me every moment he can be. And I am so grateful for that rare and precious gift.

And then the children God has given me! Goodness, I know most parents think the exact same thing, but these little people are just amazing. Sure, I get frustrated with them. But when I take a step back and really look at who they are, I can't believe the sweet hearts they have, the joy, the delight. They really are the lights in our lives, and I'm so, so proud of them. And grateful for every hug and cuddle, for every grin and giggle.

Then I look back over the years I've traveled to get to where I am, over the tears and letdowns in an attempt to build a career, and then at the place I've ended up. Not that I'm now a best-selling, raving success or anything, but I'm here. Where I've always wanted to be. I'm working with an editor who believes in me, with a house that believes in me, on projects that excite us all. I'm working as an editor with amazing authors whose stories leave me breathless. And I'm finally "supporting my habit," as I call it. ;-)

I have so much. So much to be grateful for, so many gifts that I've received, gifts that I never would have put on my list for Santa, but which far surpass that bike I had to have or the doll that was utterly necessary at age 7.

Don't get me wrong, I love that new Dyson vacuum cleaner that just arrived yesterday, and all the other gifts my family blesses me with each year. ;-) But at the end of the day, when the new pots are in the cabinet and the new shirt is stained and worn, I can settle on my couch with the man I love and think, "Wow, Lord. You've given me love. You've given me family. You've given me my dreams. Please show me what I can give back to You to show You that Your love is what I prize above all."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Remember When . . . Christmas Was A-Comin'?

I'm under serious deadline right now, so I thought I'd fill the blog today with some fun Christmas images. =) Enjoy! (And FYI, these are all free images, so you're welcome to borrow!)

Victorian Christmas Card, 1885

Victorian Christmas Card, 1870
Christmas Comes But Once a Year by Charles Green

Monday, December 3, 2012

Word of the Week - Park

Estes Park, Colorado, Whyte's Lake by Albert Bierstadt, 1877

Happy December, everyone! I don't know about you, but with small kids in the house, the Christmas spirit has descended around here. Yesterday was spent making salt-dough ornaments, and this coming weekend my little girl will be in The Nutcracker. Gotta love it. =)

For today's Word of the Week, I bring you another one that surprised me in some respects when I, for some reason or another, thought to look it up. Park, as a noun, has been around pretty much forever, at first meaning an enclosed area for hunting. There's some speculation that its root comes from the word for the fencing, rather than the land enclosed. But by the 1600s, it had taken on its now-traditional meaning of a place in a town or city for public recreation.

What got me was the verb. It derived from a particular form of the noun that was reserved for military vehicles, and so became "to arrange military vehicles in a park" in 1812. So late! I kinda thought that as long as there were vehicles, there would be a word for parking them. But apparently it wasn't park for quite a while, LOL. And it didn't get extended to non-military vehicles until 1844.

Not surprisingly, the application to cars is more modern still. As a transmission gear, park made its debut in 1949. (Anyone know what they called it before that? Anyone? I have no clue...) And park-and-ride joined the scene in 1966.

And now that I'm firmly parked in front of my computer, it's time to get back to trimming Whispers from the Shadows. Hope everyone has a lovely week!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Looking

The Prayer by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

 Two weeks ago I brought up callings. And in the responses I got, I realized that I probably should have used different terminology, because while what I've been thinking about does encompass that lofty idea of "my Calling," it's not just about that. It's about wherever we are right now.

I've been thinking a lot about the kind of society we've become. Everything is so instant these days, isn't it? From mashed potatoes to messaging. We expect answers fast, we expect results fast. And so when things take time--as in, pray for years and years kind of time--we often give up. A disconnect has formed between our input and our output--we see things all the time on the news that makes us go, "Wow, something should be done!" ... But we don't really know what to do about it. 

As I've pondered this and looked to history (as we all know I always do, LOL) for answers, I really think the key is to change our perspective. It needs to start with our prayers--and I'll be honest, this is a tough one for me. I say prayers on the fly as needs are presented, but so rarely do I find a quiet time to seek the Lord before I hear the needs, independently of specific requests. Which I need to fix. Because let's face it, who wants to be in a relationship where you only talk when you need something? Sigh. Not me.

So I'm making an effort. And as I do, I'm adding a new prayer. It's pretty simple. It just says, "Show me how to serve today, Lord."

Now, this hasn't resulted in any crystalline echoes of "Go here and do this life-altering thing." To be expected. Because if I want to help a change come, in my life or my church or my community, I have to start with the little things, the inside things. I have to listen to those whispers that show me first how to be a good wife, a good mom, a good me.

And then...then I have to look. Look for the path He wants me trodding. Look for ways to help. Look for ways to serve. I can't expect to just go on with my everyday life until some perfect opportunity to show the love of the Lord appears before me. Oh, those will come every now and then. But if I go out seeking? If I go through each day looking for ways to help others? If I think about that before I think about me? If we all do? 

Hmm. Doesn't it just make you wonder what might happen?

I'm going to be thinking a lot about this over the next few months, and I'm going to be talking to people far better at it than I, people who have made a real, quiet difference in the lives of others. I'm going to be sharing these stories in a monthly column in Book Fun Magazine, and I'm going to be praying. Praying that we all push the "pause" button. Praying that we blink away the haze of instant-this and immediate-that. Praying that we finally look. Not just at what needs done. But at what we can do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Remember When . . . The Culper Ring Hit the Small Screen?

Okay, this was not what I intended to blog about today, but a friend shared the link, and now I'm too excited to write about anything else. =)

In a recent press release, AMC (as in, awesome channel that has Mad Men and The Walking Dead and those other hit shows...) has ordered the pilot of a new series called Turn...based on the exploits of the Culper Ring as told in Alexander Rose's Washington Spies.

Now, if you've been reading my blog for a while, then you know that Washington's Spies is the book I used as my primary research for Ring of Secrets. So the fact that a TV show will be based on the same...well, that's pretty cool!

It looks like production of Turn will start in 2013, which means Ring of Secrets will be out well before the show. My gut-reaction to that is that this is good--it'll be clear that my book isn't a spin-off of the show, but if Turn takes off (as AMC's series have done lately), then anyone looking up similar books will find mine. Sweet! 

Curious as to my take on this book that has inspired a series? Well, I posted a review last year, which I'm happy to share again.


Originally posted on 5/17/11

Would you believe I haven't read any fiction in the last week-plus? Primarily because I've spent my free time doing research for a story idea. So I figure, eh, might as well talk to you about that! =)

I'll confess it from the start--I don't read much non-fiction. Why? Because I read so much of it during college that I just got burned out on it. But apparently it's now been long enough since then (where did that time go, anyway?) that I can read it again without feeling at all put out about it. Handy, since in looking up info about the subject of my newest idea, I came across a very interesting-sounding book that I knew would be helpful: Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose.

My library didn't have this one, but thanks to the wonders of ILL, they had it for me in three days, and I cracked it open with genuine enthusiasm. I haven't read any non-fiction on the Revolutionary War since college (and then it was more political treatises of the era, not history of the war), so I found this to be a wonderful refresher on the history in general. Better still, it focused entirely on the use of espionage in the war, by both sides. And really, what could be more fun than that? ;-)

Rose doesn't follow a strict chronology in this--he follows stories, usually about the particular people, and uses those to take him from point to point. Which means you know exactly where to flip back to if you need to remind yourself about where someone was born, or who his father was, but locating a date for a particular action of his requires the help of the index.

The writing of this book was never dry and at times downright witty. I actually chuckled at several places. And at several others I found it necessary to interrupt my reading to share a particularly interesting factoid with my hubby. Mr. Rose found many ways to integrate little-known facts from the day that only had the smallest thing to do with the main subject; and he integrated them in such a way that you knew without doubt he had submersed himself fully in this era as he wrote the book. Something I, as I writer, certainly appreciate.

I did find a few typos in the dates given, like saying something happened in 1778 that happened in 1780. Typos which I understand, but which confused me endlessly, LOL.

Overall, if you're a history buff who loves reading about lesser-known portions of well-loved times, this is a fabulous book. It presents a fair, honest picture of what life was like from 1776-1784, not embellished by glamorous ideas or romance.

But no worries--I plan to embellish with plenty of romance when I write a novel set in the time. ;-)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Word of the Week - Snack

I hope everyone (at least those of you in the U.S.) had a lovely Thanksgiving! Ours was great and led into a wonderful weekend. The best part of which was that I didn't have to cook since Wednesday, what with all the invitations to share leftovers. ;-)

L'enfant avec les raisins, Antonio Rotta, 1884
So in honor of the feast of leftover food, this week's word is snack. It sounds a bit modern, right? But in fact it traces its roots back to the 1300s, when snack was solely a verb which described a dog biting or snapping. It took it 400 years, but by 1757, it had become the noun we know, meaning "a bite or morsel to eat." Fifty years later the verb followed suit and meant "to have a small amount to eat," in 1807 (in case you haven't had your coffee yet and don't wanna do the math). Snack bar came about in 1930.

And there we have it!

For those of you who are really observant, you might notice that I updated my blog over the weekend. It now matches my website, and also has new tabs and pages, the old ones for the Annapolis blog tour finally going bye-bye. Do please check out the page for Ordinary Heroes, a series I'll be starting in 2013. I need stories! =)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Remember When . . . The Prayer Was of Thanks?

The First Thanksgiving by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1912

It's my day on Colonial Quills, and in this busy week of pie-baking and turkey-thawing and dressing-making, I thought I would give everyone, both here and there, a quick, beautiful prayer from our forefathers to help us all reflect on the holiday.

This prayer comes from a volume of Puritan prayers entitled The Valley of Vision, compiled by Arthur Bennett, which I quote several times in Ring of Secrets. He doesn't say who wrote each one, but I am always struck by the sincere, heart-wrenching faith of those who penned these words. I pray this one speaks to you today.

Praise and Thanksgiving

O my God,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admired, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee
in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding,
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language
to express,
for what thou art to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time
and eternity.


May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving tomorrow!

(And look, look, I redesigned my website! Whatcha think?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Word of the Week - Water

Water as a--ahem--living force ;-)
Getting down the basics, aren't I? ;-) 

I had actually looked up water to determine when "water closet" came to be used for a bathroom, but there were some other interesting entries too.

And it starts with the beginning. Did you know that there used to be two words for water? One began with ap- and the other with wed-. The first was for water as a living thing, meaning "animate." A force of life. (And fire most likely had the same thing, though they haven't traced it so clearly.) The second was for the inanimate, regular ol' version.

Then we get into the fun phrases. =) "To keep one's head above water" in the figurative sense surprised me by being from 1742. I would have thought it slightly newer than that. Also surprising is the one I looked the word up for--"water closet" is from 1755.

In 1818 they were introduced to "water-ice," a a snow cone, I should think, right? "Water cooler" joined the club in 1846, and "water polo" in 1884.

And as we're entering Thanksgiving week, allow me to wish everyone a wonderful holiday. I know I'm super-thankful for each and every one of you!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Our Callings

Christus bei Maria und Martha by Allessandro Allori, 1605

What's your calling?

A few simple words, but a whole world of meaning, isn't it? To what has the Lord called you? It doesn't have to be something grand. He could have called you to accounting. To farming. He could have called you to raising kids. Maybe He called you clean your church once a week. It doesn't have to some awesome-sounding ministry, but I feel strongly that we all have something the Lord has called us to.

Mine's easy--I've known I was called to write pretty much all my life. So . . . then what? What do I do with that knowledge? Well, I write. In my case, I write books and I blog. But what kind of books? What kind of blogs?

My husband and I were talking about callings last night, and in the course of our discussion it occurred to me that having a calling you recognize doesn't mean you do it as you should. I could be writing books that are simple and easy. I could be churning out stories that fit what I was told years ago were marketable. I could be writing stories that make no attempt to glorify the Lord. I could be writing only what I want instead of what I should be.

In a few months, I'm going to doing a blog series that ties in with Ring of Secrets on ordinary heroes. See, that was what set the Culper Ring apart--they were just everyday people serving where they had been called. In their store, on their farm, in the military. But they were serving there with a heart open to what the Lord might ask of them. And so these folks ended up taking risks that could have gotten them lynched--not by dropping everything and running off to some big task, but by serving where they'd been placed.

So how do we translate that to today? How do we, now, serve where we've been placed in a way that can make a difference? Not a rhetorical question here--it's one I'm going to be thinking a lot about over the next few months.

And I want to start with gathering some answers to that first question. What's your calling? In its most simple form, what has the Lord asked you to do? Please share!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Remember When . . . The King Was Forgotten?

A painting of Abraham's departure
by József Molnár
I've always been intrigued by Egyptology, so including Egypt in my new biblical idea I'm toying with is a lot of fun. Of course, trying to pinpoint an exact year to set this thing in is more complicated than it sounds. I want my characters to interact with Abram and Sarai, but scholars can't agree on when, exactly they lived. There's quite a range of possible years given, as much as a thousand years apart depending on which school you belong to.

Picking one randomly didn't seem fun, so I instead decided to pick my date based on the history of the pharaohs. And when I was reminded of the missing pharaoh, I decided that would be oh-so-much-fun to explore!

Mentuhotep III, father of the missing pharaoh
See, in the Middle Kingdom, there's this seven year stretch when records of the pharaoh have been obliterated, giving rise to the idea that he was assassinated, overthrown, and his predecessor had his records removed to make himself more legitimate. Archaeologists did eventually find mention of a Mentuhotep IV that seems to fit in that seven-year period...especially when they realized that his vizier (second in command) had a name only one vowel off from the next pharaoh. Obviously, the theory is that the vizier overthrew his pharaoh, seized the crown, and so began the twelfth dynasty.

I love this! Not just because of the intrigue, but because that lack of record gives me freedom to create this pharaoh however I please. =) The other theory (about the change of dynasty) is that Mentuhotep just died without heirs, but I don't know why he would have been erased from the records in that I decided he has daughters. That'll work. And a sister. A sister named Aziza...

And working from this theory also gives me a great character in the vizier, Amenemhet. (I'm calling him Nem. I can only go so far with this unpronouncable-to-English-speaker names, LOL.) What kind of guy would be a king's dedicated right hand, only to kill him and take his crown after seven years? The same kind I need for my story, mwa ha ha ha. And of course, I always explain the motivation through my totally-fictional characters.

Relief of Amenemhet from his mortuary temple
This is going to be fun! Disappearing kings, usurping viziers, undiscovered history...oh yeah. Just my speed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Word of the Week - What

Whistler's Harmony of Pink and Gray - 1881
Yes, I chose it because of the year and its prettiness,
not because of any other relevance. ;-)

I know, right? You're thinking "Her word of the week is what? Seriously? This chick is losing it..." ;-) But hopefully you'll read on to see what in the world inspired me to write about what, LOL.

Last week as I was editing an upcoming WhiteFire title, I read a line where one of the characters says "What's up?" The year is 1921, the phrase sounds modern to me, so I thought I had better look it up (even though I trust this author implicitly, things slip by us all, right?) So I tapped what into the etymology dictionary and found quite a few idioms that were older than I'd thought!

The word as a question, as a "What did you say?" dates all the way back to 1300. That doesn't really surprise me. But I was quite surprised to see that "what's-his-name" dates from 1690! I would have thought that a more modern phrase, personally. (The variant "what's-his-face," though, is from the 1960s, LOL.)

The phrase "what for," as in "give him the what-for" is from 1873, which apparently, interestingly, came about as a smart reply to people asking the question "What for?" 

And finally, the one I was looking up. "What's up?" made its debut right around 1881. Which did surprise me a bit, I confess. It didn't give me any idea where it came from (like that handy explanation of the what-for...) but it's always so much fun to discover a use is older than I anticipated!

I hope everyone has a lovely week!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Taking Responsibility

Ironing Women by Ivana Kobilca
It's so easy to point fingers, isn't it? From something as small as "Look what you made me do!" to the bigger "Don't blame me--I voted for the other guy."

This is a problem I've recognized in myself for years--not so much in politics, LOL, but in little things. It's not my fault for neglecting things, it's the fault of whoever distracted me. It's not my fault we didn't have that conversation, I tried but you put me off. It's not my fault this venture isn't growing; I'm doing my part, now you need to pick up the slack.

It's so, so easy to fall into this trap. And something I've been thinking about again after reading a really aggravating kids book. I picked it up at the library expecting it to be whimsical and fun, since it had a cute little picture of dragons on the cover. But it wasn't--it was an environmentalist sermon that basically told kids, "Do you know any dragons who are destroying our world by not recycling? Sic 'em!"

Yeah, um--not what I'm trying to teach my little ones, thank you very much. I want to teach them to be responsible, but not to play the blame game. Not to point fingers. I have a hard enough time convincing them not to blame each other for every little thing, I don't need picture books telling them it's okay to do that so long as you slap a cute picture on it first.

And of course, elections bring it up too. It seems like so often the two sides of the aisle do nothing but blame the other for what they see as the woes we're facing. They get angry, they get upset, and they can't (or perhaps don't try?) to understand that opposite point of view. The result? A nation divided.

It makes me so sad. I hate when I see this tendency in myself, I try so very hard to teach my kids not to fall into that same destructive way of thinking, because let's face it--all that ever does is destroy relationships and keep your focus, always, on yourself. As long as it's someone else's fault, then I don't have to fix anything.

But that approach doesn't work. It doesn't work in our nation, in our states, in our communities, in our churches, in our families, or in our marriages. It does--not--work. We cannot ever think "If only I could change him/her/them..." No. We can only change ourselves. And until everyone sees that they need to change themselves, until we all take responsibility for our own actions and lack of actions, then this disease is going to keep on spreading.

We have to stop thinking "If only they would..." and start praying "Lord, help me to..." We have to stand up. We have to then fall to our knees. And we have to start changing from the inside (ourselves) out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Remember When . . . It Was Biblical?

I've got a little cushion of time before I need to start work in earnest on my third Culper Ring book--and need to take another week or so before diving into edits on Whispers from the Shadows--so I thought I'd enjoy using my writing time to revisit the biblical world. =)

Though neither Jewel of Persia nor A Stray Drop of Blood are exactly new anymore, I still get a lot of reader feedback about them, and I've heard quite a few times that my readers are waiting for another biblical fiction from me. Well, I've got some ideas!

Of the four or five jotted down in my Ideas folder, I decided to dedicate some time to the one most fully developed in my little ol' brain. Want a sneak peek? Eh? What was that? Well, okay then. A quick look at what I'm playing with. ;-)

The idea started, as my bib-fic ideas often do, with a sermon my dad preached. Actually, in this case, with two. He did a sermon on Melchizedek which I found oh-so-interesting, but it didn't make any ideas really pop in terms of story. But then a couple weeks later he preached on one of Jesus's parables. And that got the juices rolling. What if, I thought, the story were true? What if it were set in Old Testament days? What if (a light goes off) it were in the times of Melchizedek? Oo! Oo! Oo!

And LOL--I've never written anything that takes place quite that early in the Old Testament, and let me just tell you, I'm already learning, only 10 pages in, that it's a whole different world than Persia or Jerusalem of Jesus's day. Oh, the research I have to do! But I'm having fun. And my hubby is rubbing his hands together at the thought of another biblical for WhiteFire someday. ;-)

I'm still debating titles and would love some feedback! My heroine, Aziza, is Egyptian, from the house of Pharaoh. My hero is the son of Melchizedek, who most OT scholars believe to be Shem, son of Noah (which is so interesting in and of itself!). And thus far (again, only 10 pages in here), I can tell you that a song is very important to the story--it seems Aziza hears a mysterious melody half the time, calling her away from Egypt. Symbolic, of course, of the Lord calling her. So. My title ideas thus far.

Leading the votes...

The Song of Midnight
Midnight Song

I really like these, but WhiteFire will have Veiled at Midnight by Christine Lindsay in the next year or so, so I want to have some other options in case they end up sounding too similar. So...

The Princess of Salem (bleh)
The Pharaoh's Sister
Daughter of Egypt
Egypt's Daughter
Song of the Night
Song of the Sands
Song of the Stars

Any other brilliance? Well, to inspire you, I'll share the cover I created to inspire me. ;-) Whenever I finish this baby, she shall look like so. Well, the title will obviously read whatever I decide. But you know. The design will be this, LOL. Isn't it fun? I had a blast going all Ancient Egypt on it. ;-)

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Word of Prayer

A Prayer for Those at Sea by Frederick Daniel Hardy, 1879
With Election Day being tomorrow and so many already having voted early, I felt the need to spend today's post in a word of prayer rather than a word's etymology. I try to steer clear of politics in my online presence, and so I don't intend to talk about candidates or my opinions--but please do join me in praying for our country and her direction.

Dear Lord, we fall to our knees before You, in awe of Your beauty and reverence. In amazement at Your love for us. When I think of Your glory, of Your wonder, of all the intricate paths You set before us, tears come to my eyes. You are true. You are holy. You are worthy of every whisper of love our lips can utter. And we worship You knowing that You are the Lord of our beginnings and the God of our ends.

Father, I know you have placed us all where we need to be, for a purpose. You have put our feet on the earth at this exact point in history because this is where we belong. And so we are intimately tied to all that happens in this world around us, even if we are apart from it as our focus is on You. You have called us to live in peace, as much as we are able, and to always, always choose righteousness. If we suffer for Your sake, it is glory. But how much better to live selflessly and so influence other for You so that our enemies become Your children!

So here we sit in this nation You have made ours, this nation founded with such lofty principles, all based on the idea of freedom. Here we sit, people on both sides of the aisle claiming that to elect the other guy would mean fewer freedoms. But Lord, we know that true freedom rests not in the decrees of man, but in the freeing liberty of salvation. We know that there is no man who can become president and set the world to rights--that such change must come from within the hearts of the people.

But we also know, Lord, that only one can win. And we pray now, on our faces prostrate before Your throne, that the man will win who will follow Your path. We pray that your angels be stationed around each polling place, that with their swords outstretched they will keep the enemy away. We pray that the ears of our neighbors be stopped against any whispers from the evil one, that their hearts be guarded against that influence. Because we know, Father God, that whatever You want, he wants the opposite, and he will manipulate mankind to achieve it. Guard us against his wiles, O Lord my God. Guard us and protect us.

Father, we pray Your will be done. In every person's day, in every person's decision, in every vote, in every result, in every office. Let Your will be done. Let Truth prevail and overcome any fraud or deceit. Let Wisdom dictate our decisions. Let Love cover campaigns so often focused on the negative. Let Your will be done. And let it be, please dear Lord, for our redemption and not for our destruction. Help us, through our decision, to redeem the times as You instruct us in Ephesians. Help us to be the light in this darkness. And to shine that light through our voices and votes.

We commit our nation, our states, our communities into Your hands. We commit our hearts, our lives, and our spirits unto You. Take us back, God of All, hear our cries. And silence our enemies to that we may hear Your voice directing us. In the name of Your precious son Jesus we pray. Amen.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Covered by Love

Whisperings of Love by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1889
And above all things have fervent love for one another,
for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

~I Peter 4:8

I just read these words in my daily reading time and they struck quite a chord.  Perhaps because I'd been pondering that exact thing just yesterday in regards to my kids.

Don't you just love those things in life that have no clear "this way" or "that way"? That have, in fact, so many varying opinions on which way you should do a thing that you usually just shake your head and go with your gut? Raising kids is definitely one of those things. And in this society where all adult problems are blamed on whether mommy did this when you were little or dad did that...yeah, it can be stressful.

And I confess it. I yell more than I should. I get frustrated. My kids usually have to repeat something four times before I actually get up from my computer to help them with it (hence why they now just stand at my elbow going, "Mommy, I need a drink. Mommy. Mommy. Hey, Mommy, will you get me a drink please?" The magic word always gets my attention, LOL). There are things I wish I did differently, things I no doubt get wrong.

But you know what? At the end of the day, my kids are happy. They're secure. They understand the values I'm trying to instill, and they know they can stretch their wings and grow in our house. At the end of the day, they know they're loved. And that, I think, is the most important thing I can give them--because love covers a multitude of sins.

Which is true of any other relationship too, isn't it? Which may be more profound--because it's easy to love our kids. It's easy to love our spouses, our siblings, our parents (sometimes, LOL--easy for me to, because I have awesome ones). But what about the acquaintances? The strangers? The people we don't like? Our outright enemies?

Loving them isn't always so easy. Not just when we really don't like them, but even when we just barely know someone. It's hard to be moved by a story you've never heard. Hard to pray for people you've never met. But sometimes that's exactly what the Lord calls us to do. In this section of I Peter, he says we must be serious and watchful in our prayer. We must love one another, being generous and hospitable with out homes, but most of all with our gifts. We must, always, minister.

A reminder I need. Though I know there are so many out there suffering, I might forget that. I might ignore it. I might whisper a prayer now and then but otherwise go on with my life. The Lord, though, calls me to something more here. He calls me to pray, He calls me to give, He calls me to stretch myself out and share what gifts He has given me with others.

He calls me to love.

And if I do that, the rest will follow. If I do that, then the things I fail at will be covered.

I will never be the perfect daughter, sister, wife, or mother, the best teacher or writer or friend. I will never react as I should all the time. I will never always have the perfect response to life's trials. But I will love. And that will be my covering.


Good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo! I just wrote 65K in October, finishing up my manuscript as I was, so will not be joining y'all this year. ;-)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Remember When . . . The Date Jumped?

One thing that I have found to be super fun in my current series-in-progress is my epilogue. Ring of Secrets was set during the Revolution, with Winter and Bennet as heroine and hero. But my epilogue jumps 31 years to 1811, when war with England threatens again. That's where I establish that the historical spies which call themselves the Culper Ring may just have taken up the mantle again in the War of 1812, when the man who had once been their leader sat in Congress. (I mean, hello! Right?)
The fashion of
Whispers from the Shadows

As everyone no doubt knows by now, last Thursday I wrapped up Whispers from the Shadows, book 2 in the Culper Ring Series. And as I drew near to The End, I began rubbing my hands together, realizing I got to do the same thing again--write an epilogue that jumped through time to introduce the next book, as yet unnamed.

I'm not sure if I can adequately explain how or why this is so much fun for me, LOL. But I think it has to do with the fact that while I'm writing one book, I'm already plotting out the next. I already have an idea of who my new characters will be, what sets them apart, what makes their story tick. Yet in this case, I'm introducing it from the point of view of my existing characters. At the end of Ring of Secrets, they're talking about their kids and how their son, Thad, has brought them this news that makes them sure war is on the horizon again. Whispers from the Shadows takes place another three years after this epilogue, so it was like a little snatched moment--chronologically part of neither story, yet also part of both. It's the trade-off of the baton.

My epilogue for Whispers jumps even more than that of RoS. Forty-six years later, when South Carolina secedes from the Union that Thad and his family have fought their whole lives to protect...but what to do in this one? How to introduce my next Culper? See, since this isn't really part of either story, I hadn't already had it planned out. Nothing hinged on it. Yet it must hit just the right note to provide both closure to one tale and introduction to the next. It must intrigue, it must charm, yet it must also show the happily-ever-after.

Emma Stone, my model for Marietta
photo by Georges Biard, 2011
So in this one, I decided to use as a setting the wedding of my heroine from book 3, Marietta. By the time the next book opens, she'll be widowed and on the brink of coming out of mourning, the Civil War raging. She's the granddaughter of Thad, his favorite because she's so unlike the rest of the family--with such potential, yet refusing to embrace it. She's the difficult one, the one who probably turned her parents' hair gray. Book 3 will begin with him forcing her eyes open to what she brought into their family, and the book will be largely about her struggle to change, to learn to trust herself and her God, in an extremely high-pressure situation in which not only her life is on the line, but the life of the President. 

But here? She's just a pretty redhead he's watching through the doorway as she twirls around the dance floor in her white silk hoop dress. She's laughing, being charming. Totally oblivious to all the secrets. Fun, fun, fun.

Of course, since these snippet epilogues jump so much, I always find myself ready to write them and then having to pause to go, "Wait! I have no clue about the research for this. When should this be? What would they be wearing? What day of the week was it??"
Page from Godey's featuring 1860s wedding dresses

I obviously knew some of it--hoop dresses, whoo! But it's a fun change to consider. That my characters would have changed over those 30-40 years too, their dress and mannerisms, their interactions with each other. What was once new and exciting is now comfortable and expected. The love that had been an explosion is now a carefully maintained flame.

Yep. Fun.

And now, between books as I am momentarily, I get to brainstorm--one of my most favorite parts of writing. So don't be surprised if for the next month or so, you get some tidbits from me on other eras! And then, soon enough, I'll be immersed again in that dreadful War between the States.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Word of the Week - Card

First of all, I would like to report that I finished up Whispers from the Shadows on Thursday! Woot! It checked in way too long (130,000 words instead of the 116,000 I was to shoot for), but everyone agrees that it's better to have too much than to run out of story with 20K to go. ;-) Now it's time to shift my focus to editing--and hunker down as Sandy swings up this way. She's supposed to hit us tomorrow morning, with tropical storm force winds hitting us here in the mountains. Should be interesting.

Anyway. Rereading one of my chapters yesterday, I was inspired to look up the word card to see when the phrase "playing the ______ card" came into being.  So I thought I'd share my findings. =)
Playing card from the 1895 Vanity Fair deck

The word card itself is really old--the English word dates from 1400. It's taken from the Latin charta, which means "leaf of paper," which in turn comes from the Greek khartes, "layers of papyrus." Which, in its turn, is probably derived straight from the Egyptian word.

The most familiar meaning of "playing cards" dates in English and French from the 1590s. The listing didn't tell me about calling cards, but I happen to know those were around for a long while, especially popular in the 19th century. Greeting cards came about in 1869, and people who are original earned the name card in 1836 but usually had "smart" in front of it back then and came from the playing card sense.

"Card table" dates from 1713 and "house of cards" in the figurative sense is from 1640s--supposedly from Milton. To have a card up one's sleeve is 1898; and, finally, the one I was actually looking for! LOL. To play the _______ card is from 1886, originally the Orange card, meaning "appeal to Northern Irish Protestant sentiment (for political advantage)." Who knew?

So yeah, my hero's best friend couldn't accuse him of playing the _____ card, which is fine. But I sure learned something in the looking up of it!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Birthdays and Last Chapters

My little girl just turned 7 on Tuesday, and we had her party on Sunday. Both were pretty awesome days, even if it is a little hard to believe that my baby is SEVEN. How did that happen??? ;-)

And so, because today I'm hoping to finish up Whispers from the Shadows so am a bit lacking in time, I thought today I'd just show you some of the highlights from the party. Starting, of course, with what took up my entire morning. The cake.

Xoe is dressing up as Frankie Stein from Monster High for Halloween, and the party was a costume party, so for that too. When I asked her what kind of cake she wanted, she said, "Frankie!" And I said, "Really? Are you sure? You don't want one, like, shaped like a mask or something...?" LOL. But no. She wanted Frankie, so she got Frankie.

Ever painted plaid onto fondant with colored icing? Yeah, fun. A new experience, that one, LOL. As was carving bolts out of marshmallows... But overall, it was a fun cake, and Xoe was tickled, which is what matters.

Decorations combined my idea of "Let's decorate with costumes!" with my mom's "Do you want me to bring some pumpkins?" So the answer was obvious--let's dress the pumpkins up in costume! I don't have any pictures, it seems, but I did get some of the pumpkins the kids painted. =)

Everyone had a great time--I mean, what kid doesn't like dressing up in costume?? So it was a great day. And now my last two chapters are calling, so if you'll excuse me... ;-)