Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Summer Goals

As summer approaches and is in effect here for many of us in terms of school and whatnot, I've noticed something. Most writers with kids assume they'll get less done during the summer, with their bundles of energy underfoot. And I can see where this would be the case.

But I home school--so for me, summer is a break from the grind just like it is for the kids. And man, am I hoping to get MORE done!

Since the school year began, I've wrapped up one novel that was 75% done when the year started. I've written another novel. I've edited that first one. I've written a novella. I've put together something like four different proposals. And I've also done quite a bit of editing for WhiteFire titles.

But oh, the work I have piled up that I'd like to tackle this summer! I've gotten sidetracked by an unexpected but promising project that's allowing me to rewrite (again, LOL) my first-ever novel. I worked on that proposal a month ago and now need to work a bit more on it. But I also need to dive into my second Culper Ring book for Harvest House; it's not due until January, but I want it mostly done by the time the school year rolls back around again.

I'll also have to edit my Civil War-era book at some point, and that might have to be this summer too. Plus editing for WhiteFire, of course--got some fun projects there. =)

When am I going to do all this? Yeah, um...I don't know, LOL. And have I mentioned I'm probably moving at the end of summer? Not far, just back to the WV side of the river, but I'm sure that's going to throw a wrench into my schedule at some point too.

But for today, I have a few hours of quiet, and all I have to do (ahem) is three loads of laundry, clean my house top to bottom, and write. Piece of cake, right? ;-) Seriously, we just finished up our school year yesterday, so this feels like complete freedom. And tomorrow, my fellow-WhiteFire editor and author, critique partner and friend Dina Sleiman is coming up for a visit, so I'm really excited to get to hang out with her. =) (Although that is why I have to clean my house...) And tonight is dress rehearsal for my daughter's first ballet, which will be performed Saturday and Sunday.

Yeah, busy weekend. And sure to be a busy summer. What big goals do you have?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Remember When . . . The People Rallied?

Real quick--today I've posted on Go Teen Writers about  what an editor at a publishing house really does. Check it out if you're curious!


 I'm nearing the end of my War of 1812 research, and several times I've been amazed at how the British commanders totally misunderstood the American spirit. They thought from the start that if they could just convince the Americans to turn on each other, if they could discourage us, then we would turn on our own cause and join theirs instead.

Boy, were they wrong.

I got my first chuckle when I saw how a good ol' Maryland summer wreaked its havoc on the out-of-condition British troops, who had spent far too long on board their ships and hadn't made an attempt to get back in shape upon landing, thinking it not worth the effort, more or less. The march toward Washington, made in 95 degree August heat--which means humidity that would have made it well over a hundred--felled more men than our troops did. Seasoned British veterans later said this march was the single worst time in their careers. (Oh yeah--go Maryland summers!)

We all know, of course, that they made it to Washington. To be sure, the British were a little baffled as to why it was left all but defenseless. But for our part, we couldn't understand why they would make the effort to take a city of absolutely no strategic importance.

The answer? The British command wanted to hit us where it hurt. Burning Washington was meant to be a sucker-punch, meant to break our fighting spirit. But even their own people back home shook their heads when they got the news of the attack, one member of Parliament saying Britain "had done what the Goths refused to do at Rome." He was echoing a London paper that had written, "Even the Cossacks spared Paris, but Englishmen spared not the capital of America."

The British commander--hating America because his father had died at Yorktown in the Revolution--had crossed a line. And rather than break us, it made every individual American realize this war wasn't against a nebulous idea of country--it was against them. For the first time, many citizens understood that our government couldn't succeed without their support.

The burning of Washington achieved what no amount of pleas from our military commanders had been able to--it made the war hit home, and made it personal. In the week following, men volunteered by the thousand, and people finally determined that they would not suffer the British actions.

The British were in for another lesson too--that our government doesn't rely on one location. Within two days of Washington's burning, Congress and the Cabinet were back together and in action. 

And boy, were we ready for action! =)


On a totally unrelated note, my watermelon cake. It was in some respects a total fail--the back completely fell apart as I iced it. But I hid the damage in a clever display (somewhat anyway) and got a couple decent pictures. And my grandmother, whose birthday we were celebrating on Memorial Day, got a kick out of it. (My grandparents own a produce farm, so...)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Word of the Week - Veteran

Since it's Memorial Day, I thought I'd take a look at some appropriate words. =) I know I did "memorial" last year, though, so today we're going with "veteran."

I was a bit surprised by how old this one was for some reason. Since 1500 it has carried the meaning "old experienced soldier." It's taken from the French vétéran, which is in turn from the Latin "veteranus," which means, simply, old. (Sorry, all you vets out there! LOL) Of course, "veteranus" is from "vetus" which also means old, derived from a bunch of really ancient languages in which similar words mean "year."

That kind of surprised me, since its only history is attached to age and not to service. But there you have it. By the 1590s it had taken on the meaning of anyone experienced with any position, moving from noun to adjective by 1610.

But no matter where the word comes from, I certainly want to take today to thank all those men and women who have served our country, who have fought for our freedom. All those who have given of themselves for a noble cause.

And now, go enjoy your holiday. ;-) I'm off to bake a watermelon-shaped cake...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thoughtful About...For Them

On Sunday, several families in our home school group got together to celebrate our wee ones' graduation from kindergarten. My friend Paige put together an amazing ceremony and party, and it was a wonderful, heart-warming time. (Though Xoë was doing a combination of 1st and 2nd grade material this year, so we had rarely thought of her being technically in kindergarten, LOL.)

When we arrived, Paige asked if I'd like to say anything during the ceremony about the school year--I hadn't considered this so kinda shrugged. Giving a speech wasn't really on my "Yes, I must do this!" list. ;-) But when it came that time of the ceremony and all the other moms started saying a little something, when I saw the bashful grins on the cute little faces in the front of the room, I knew that wasn't going to fly. I knew if I kept quiet, in my comfort zone, then Xoë would be upset. She would wonder why her mommy hadn't said anything about how great she was. She would feel...less.

Obviously, Mama couldn't have that. ;-) But it was an interesting realization, and one that reminded me again of why so often God uses the analogy of parenthood to help us understand Him and faith. It's the kind of selfless love, the kind of just-for-you thinking that the Lord demonstrates so perfectly and that we can only occasionally live up to. The kind of love that makes one do what one wouldn't necessarily want to do, if it were a matter of wanting.

But it isn't, is it? With love, it's something way bigger than mere wants. It's when ultimate will for the good of the one you love takes precedent over smaller desires. That's the kind of love that led God to grant prayer after prayer for mercy when justice demanded action. The kind of love that makes Him remember His promises even when man doesn't. And ultimately, it's the kind of love that resulted in Him sending Jesus to Earth for us, isn't it?

As I sat there and watched my precious little girl enjoy this milestone with her friends, when I saw her beautiful smile as I told everyone about the things I so appreciate about being her teacher--hearing the insightful questions she asks, the beautiful stories and pictures she comes up with, and the incredible honor of being the one who gets to talk to about all these things with her--I had to thank the Lord for the amazing gift of family, of kids. And of His love, that teaches us how to appreciate them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Remember When . . . the Images Were Cool?

Remember when Roseanna got fun new software? I'm too excited about it not to share the fun images I've been creating the last two days. =) So today we're just having a nice little gallery show... (and hey, they're all historicals, so I'm still technically keeping to my "remember when" theme, LOL)


Monday, May 21, 2012

Word of the Week - Plant

Every time we go to my mom's we see the power plant across the river--and every time, my kids ask, "Why's it called a 'plant'?" And every time, I go, "Uh . . . " At one point I made up an answer--and what do you know, I was right! LOL
Plant is from the Latin planta, meaning "sprout, shoot, cutting" which may be from plantare, "to drive in with the feet, push into the ground with the feet." Which is in turn from planta, "sole of the foot." By 1550 it moved from its first English meaning of "shrub or newly-planted herb" to any vegetation. The verb "to plant" has been around since Old English, just like the noun.

Now, the building--it is fact from the same idea, meaning a building planted in a particular area for industrial purposes. That usage came into meaning in 1789. And interestingly, the meaning of "a spy" is from 1812. =)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Seeking Us

Ever pause to think about how God goes out of His way for us? It's really kind of baffling--and something I think a lot of us tend to ignore.

I've been reading Acts (in two different ways--both in my daily reading and in my daughter's school reading), and that's been jumping out at me. In the Gospels, people sought out Jesus. But in Acts, Jesus seeks out them.

Seriously--Saul on the Damascus Road. Ananias and Saul. The eunuch and Philip. Peter and the Roman. The list goes on and on. People whose hearts were primed and ready . . . and a message from the Lord telling someone "Go, talk to this guy. He needs to know about Jesus."

Wow, just got goosebumps. I mean, I tend to think in terms of the Lord leading us where we need to go, yes, but in more subtle ways. Ways more easily written off as coincidence by those who don't believe. But there's nothing subtle about this. Time and time and time again in these founding days of the church, God speaks audibly. Visions happen regularly. Jesus himself gives instruction. Angels visit. And why?

Because people were ready and needed to know about Jesus. Because the guards of the prison needed to believe. Because it wasn't time yet for the great preachers to be silenced. And so God went out of His way---He sought those who were seeking Him.

People today tend to teach about this with a disclaimer usually phrased as wishful thinking. Who hasn't heard, "Wouldn't it have been amazing to see those miracles? I sure wish they happened in the modern church...." "Wouldn't it be awe-inspiring to see an angel? Not that I ever expect to...." "Well, the Lord doesn't usually speak that clearly, but you can learn to understand Him...."

True, we can. But I've undoubtedly said before that we only see what we believe is possible, that our doubt limits the workings of the Spirit. And why should we doubt that the Lord still cares that much about each addition to His church? He hasn't changed. Just because it's spread and grown doesn't mean it matters less. Why should we never believe that dreams can be visions? After all, when can God speak to us better? And why in the world should angels visit all through history then stop now?

My words for the year were "Thirst and Savor," but I'm beginning to think that a big part of that process is "Be Amazed," LOL. Because time and time again, with everything I've been reading, God's been tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "Look. See how much I love you? See how much I care about the little things? See how far I'll go to touch the hearts that yearn for me?"

Are we yearning? If so, then don't be surprised when He meets us. In ways we might expect, and in ways that make us, like Peter, think it only a dream until we come-to in the streets outside our prison. 

And let's listen. Let's listen for that voice saying, "Rise up, beloved, and go out--I've sent someone to you. They're expecting to hear about Me from your lips." Let's be like Ananias, who may be thinking, "What, him? That guy that has hurt so many of us?" But who says, "Here am I, Lord."

Here am I. Here are you. And here, praise be to Heaven, is He.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Remember When . . . We Crashed into the French?

I mentioned in a post last month that I was excited to be given permission to write a novella that will be used as a promotional freebie between Ring of Secrets and its sequel, tentatively titled Mask of Truth. This one is set in the days leading directly to the French Revolution, and now that I've given myself a crash-course in research for it, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the differences I've discovered between the French system of the day and the English (which I know a whole lot better!) =)

For starters, the whole class system is set up a bit differently. In England we have the Peerage, which consists of all folks titled, below which is the slew of gentlefolk who trace their linage back to the Peerage but have themselves no title. Titles in English are bound up by strict law--family estates are usually tied to them, and there's no wiggle room without an act of Parliament. It goes to the eldest male in the paternal line, and that's that.

In France, however, we have Estates. The First Estate is the king and the church. The Second Estate is the host of nobles--and this, unlike England's, isn't a closed system. Rich folks could occasionally buy their way into the noble class, and if you were born into it, you stayed in it, whether you yourself had a title or not. I even read that quite a lot of people pretended to have a title, going by "comte" (count/earl) whether they deserves it or not, LOL. Then there was the Third Estate, made up of the commoners who were, throughout history up to this point, terribly neglected and oppressed by the nobles who controlled almost all aspects of their lives.

And while we're on the subject of titles, I found it totally bizarre that the title itself isn't capitalized in French, just the "where" part of it--so it isn't le Comte d'Ushant, it's comte d'Ushant. And rather than answering to "my lord" or "my lady," these nobles were just monsieur and madame and mademoiselle--which is why even those titles were banned during the Revolution and everyone was just "citizen."

But the funniest thing is the fashion. Up until this point, French fashion was all the rage all the world over, and Marie Antoinette was a fashion icon. But as the queen spent more time with her children and less in the public eye, fashion shifted. Out were the exaggerated plumes and beads and gems and curls, and in came the simple styles a l'Anglais--in the English fashion! There's even a report of a woman attending a ball in a manly riding habit *gasp!*

I'm not quite as immersed in the setting as I would be for a full-length book, but I'm certainly having fun with my clashing English and French. =) Of course, all this is just the backdrop for my charming young French noblewoman, my handsome and noble-spirited English military officer, and my dastardly French duc. Mwa ha ha ha! ;-)

Now back to them I go!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Special Guest! Nikki Arana (and free downloads!)

Today I'm excited to bring you some news from an old friend and a truly fabulous writer, Nikki Arana. Nikki and I met years ago when I was only an aspiring novelist and an avid reviewer. I read her then-latest women's fiction novel, A I Have Loved You, and was so very moved by it that I contacted her for an interview and proceeded to gobble up her Regalo Grande Series. And now her new one . . . haven't read it yet, but oh, I can't wait!!!

And without further ado, heeeeeeeeeeere's Nikki! ;-)


Thanks for giving me an opportunity to tell your followers about my novel that’s releasing on June 1. You and I first met when you read As I Have Loved You, and then The Winds of Sonoma, which was part of my Regalo Grande Series. Those books were women’s fiction. This time I’m writing suspense! My next novel, The Next Target, releases June 1.

Many people have asked me why I switched to suspense. It wasn’t something I planned! The story was inspired by my ministry, A Voice for the Persecuted. I help persecuted Christians who are under the threat of death . . . here in America! That is code for Muslims who convert to Christianity. I help them find safety. You can learn more about my ministry at . There’s a Cause page on FB too.

I felt God was calling me to raise awareness about two issues. One is the need for Christians to reach out to the Muslims who live and work among us, model the love of Christ to them, and then with the leading of the Holy Spirit, give them what Islam can never give. And the second is about the huge price Muslims pay to know Christ. Most I’ve talked to live under persecution by their former friends and family. Most have no jobs because they live in a Muslim community and are shunned. And of course there are those who have been deported and/or killed.

Here’s what the book is about: Austia Donatelli, a young widow with an underground evangelistic ministry to Muslims, discovers a friend, someone close to her heart whom she recently led to Christ, has been murdered. She realizes immediately it was an honor killing. The brutal practice of families killing one of their own for converting to Christianity. Suddenly, Austia, her ministry, and everyone she cares about are thrust in the crosshairs of a terrorist organization. As the extremists zero in, she must unravel the deception surrounding her and protect innocent lives, including her own.

The reviews of this novel have been very strong. I was especially happy to get a rave review from Publishers Weekly which is not a Christian organization. "Arana's vivid imagery is imbued with spiritual force and her pacing is fiercely powerful." I’m pretty confident that if you like suspense, you’ll really enjoy this book. You might want to put on your seatbelt while reading.

But for the more faint of heart I have some good news. The first book in the series that brought Roseanna and I together is going to be available free on Kindle from May 16 to May 20. Just click here. And I'll also be giving away a FREE Kindle! Go to the News! Page on my website for instructions about how to enter to win it!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Word of the Week - Mayday

My kiddos asked me the other week where "mayday" came from, and I finally remembered to look. I ought to have posted this one on May 1st, May Day (ha  . . . ha . . . ha . . .) but didn't think to.

Mayday, according to "The Wireless Age" from June 1923, is an aviator distress call. It was agreed that just saying the letters SOS wouldn't do--that was the agreed upon message for telegraph, but it didn't translate so well to spoken words. The powers that be also decided a simple "Help!" wouldn't do. So they chose "May Day," thinking it particularly fitting because it sounds so similar to the French m'aidez (help me).

It has since translated to any radio communication of help, be it in airplanes or boats or whatever.

I hope all you mothers out there enjoyed a wonderful Mother's Day yesterday, and that those of you who aren't mothers had a great day with yours. =) We had a really awesome day around here--breakfast in bed, a Xoe-made story, and even a tea party. Better yet, no fighting between the kids--woot! LOL

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Where Are We Now?

Yesterday as my best friend Stephanie Morrill and I were chatting about my schedule, I earned a "Whoa! You're making my head spin. Can you believe it wasn't that long ago that you were like, 'I need direction! I have no idea what to work on next!'?"

Definitely not a problem right now, LOL. My schedule is full (over-full, some might say), and though there's room for some moving-around and improvising, for the first time in my life I'm writing books sold on proposal, under deadline.

Thank you, Lord, that it's almost summer! That will at least take home school off my daily schedule. Around here we're very much looking forward to finishing up those last couple weeks of school. =) We have an end-of-the-year party coming up with some of the other little ones from Xoe's home school group, to make it an extra-special end.

Also this summer, we'll be getting ready for a move. Not far, just back to the West Virginia side of our area, nearer our parents. Pretty exciting. =) And of course, I've got a lot of writing on my summer's plate.

Where are you right now, as we near the end of the school year? Hard at work? Ready for a summer rest? Are you writers already planning which, if any, conferences you'll be going to. Are you readers making a list of books to wile away the summer with? I'd love to hear what you're getting into now!

(Sorry I'm not offering any brilliance or insight today, LOL--I'm still fighting off the cold I got almost two weeks ago, and right now my eyes are puffy and my head aching. This is about all I could manage!)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Remember When . . . The Classics Were Classic?

I'm cheating today and posting the same thing I put up at the Colonial Quills blog last Friday. =) And don't forget to hop over there for the Anniversary celebration! Lots of  great giveaways going on!!

One of the first lessons students are taught at St. John's College (a.k.a The Great Books School) is that there's nothing like an original text--and that we ought not refer to anything but the texts we've read together when in class. And so begins an education steeped in all things classic--an education that works its way not only into my writing, but into my outlook on how to research.

I've been thinking about this in recent weeks because each review I've gotten lately on Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland mentions my use of language and how it feels historical--something I achieved solely through reading texts from my time period. And a fellow St. John's graduate who'd just finished it emailed me the other day to say "I have to say, when you pulled out Pascal, I thought, 'Roseanna is such a Johnnie!'" 'Tis true, 'tis true. =) And in my next book, Ring of Secrets, I draw even more on my classical education thanks to a hero who's a professor at Yale (in 1780) in the subjects of philosophy and chemistry.

What I love about the Colonial, Revolutionary, and early Federalist periods is the rich literary culture. They not only had the ancient texts to draw on, they had more modern philosophers, political theorists, and some oh-so-fun scientific discovery happening under their very noses. 

And yet, I confess, whenever I have a character reaching for a book, I have to stop and think, "What would she be reading?" I often have to do some searches to remind myself of when certain books were published, or which authors were more popular at a given time. And though I often use ones I've read, occasionally my characters' literary taste diverges from my experience. No matter what I write, my characters will always find an occasion to delve into the classics--and since most people don't have a shelf full of the books from St. John's reading list (ahem--I know I wouldn't had I not gone there, LOL!) I figured it would be fun to draw together a small smackerel for anyone interested. =)

Fiction Popular in the 18th Century

Don Quixote by Cervantes - a bit of a parody of the chivalric tales popular way-back-when

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift - another parody, of course

Iliad by Homer (especially the Alexander Pope translation)

Odyssey by Homer (also the Pope translation)

Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais (not for ladies of delicate sensibilities! Far too much talk of cod-pieces for the gentler sex)

Anything Shakespeare, of course

The Aeneid by Virgil - did you know Caesar Augustus ordered the writing of The Aeneid solely to give the Greek version (Iliad) some competition?

Ovid's Metamorphosis (not to be confused with Kafka's)

The Misanthrope and other works by Moliere

Paradise Lost etc. by Milton

Dante's Divine Comedy - most of us found the Inferno to be far more interesting than Paradisio, LOL

Non-Fiction Popular in the 18th Century

(Since most of these fellows wrote a number of treatises, I'll list authors and subject matter rather than particular titles.)

Pascal - this guy was a certifiable genius whose salvation led him to turn his considerable brain-power to convincing others of the logic and reason behind Christianity. Fun stuff!

Descartes - though best known for his philosophical works (such as the one with the famous "I think, therefore I am") he also wrote scientific works that are, um, less credible when one actually experiments upon the objects he discusses.

Hobbes - a political theorist whose works played a major role in the shaping of America's political system

Adam Smith - an economic theorist who may put you to sleep but who, again, greatly shaped America's early systems

Montesquieu - a political theorist who first devised the separation of powers now taken for granted.

Francis Bacon - political and scientific theorist most remembered for creating the scientific method

Locke - political theorist

Hume - political theorist and skeptic

Spinoza - essays laid the foundation for the Enlightenment; a biblical critic

Rousseau - political theorist

Newton - scientific and mathematical genius

Huygens - scientist who made breakthroughs especially in the behavior of light

Lavoisier - scientist of the 1770-90s who introduced the idea of elements into chemistry which led to the periodic table

There are many more, and I didn't even touch on the sermons and poetry that were popular, but for those curious about where the Founding Fathers got their ideas, that'll give you a great starting place!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Praying for Sandi Rog

A little over a year ago, you may recall a post I had on here called "Have You Heard About Sandi Rog?" detailing how my good friend Sandi was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, T-cell lymphoma, on the very day her debut book released. I am truly awed and amazed by the support that rose up for her and her family from the online community of writers and readers.

Today I'd like to give you a little update and ask for more prayer for her. After a year of huge struggle, exhaustion, and treatment upon treatment, after wondering if the Lord might call her home through this and then determining to fight on with Him, Sandi was pronounced "in remission" a few months ago. But last month she went in for a full-body MRI and they discovered more cancer. Again. She now has a new spot on her pelvis, and yet again she's undergoing targeted radiation. The doctors consider this "not big," but it's big for Sandi. She's still so exhausted. So weak.

This new round of radiation is taking its toll, and she still has another week of it. So once again, her online family is rallying. We're declaring this week, from now until next Tuesday, to be a week of fasting and praying for our beloved sister. In one of my groups, we each signed up for a day when we would cover her and her family in prayer. If you feel so led, please consider joining us. Sandi has specifically asked for prayer for her healing (of course), strength, and pain at the site where she's receiving radiation, which makes walking difficult. I would add to that list encouragement, peace, and fortification for her whole family. Sandi is seriously one of the sweetest women I have the pleasure of knowing, and my heart continually breaks for her and all she's going through.

The best support we could ever ask for her is your prayers--but of course, if you want to support her family in all the costs they've accrued for her treatment, I do also invite you to take a look at her truly amazing, wonderful novels, if you haven't already.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Word of the Week - Weekend

Don't you just love the weekend? That beautiful, sanity-saving time from Friday night until we wake up for work or school on Monday. It's lovely. It's brilliant. It's necessary.

Yet really, it's kind of new!

The word "weekend" dates back to the 1600s, but it meant, literally, the end of the week--as in, from after church on Sunday until Monday morning. Which was the only time most people took off from their labors back then. According to, it took on "general" meaning in 1878. But I've looked this up for a story so happen to know that at that point "general" just mean all of Sunday. Folks didn't yet consider Saturday part of the weekend.

In Downton Abbey (circa 1912) Matthew Crawley says, "And of course we always have the weekends." To which the dowager Lady Crawley says, aghast, "Whatever is a weekend?" This is a pretty good demonstration of the time, LOL. By the early 20th century, there was more of a traditional weekend--by which I mean, professional businesses closed after half a day on Saturday, and schools had a 5-day week, I believe. But those in lower class jobs would still have only gotten one day off. It wasn't until the mid-20th century that it took on a two-day meaning for everyone.

And as an adjective meaning "on the weekends only" (a weekend retreat, for instance, or a weekend read), dates from 1935.

To change the subject, today the Colonial Quills are celebrating our 1 year anniversary! And of course, we're celebrating in style, and with some fun giveaways. Please join us in raising a glass (of chocolate, LOL) to our contributors and celebrating their accomplishments this year!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Using the Classics and Tomorrow's Signing!

First, just wanted to let everyone know that today at the Colonial Quill, I'm blogging on using the Classics in my writing, and I've put up a fun little list of some of the literature that I've drawn on in my Colonial books.

And next, for anyone within driving distance of Hagerstown, MD, remember I'll be at the Valley Mall tomorrow from 10 - 1 with other Christian novelists Rita Gerlach, Loree Lough, Dani Pettrey, Jeannette Windle, and Eileen Rife! We'll each have gift baskets we're raffling off at noon, just for an added bonus. ;-)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Blinders

Blinders--we all wear them. Those things that keep us from seeing things, or at least from seeing them clearly. With horses, they're used to keep the animals on track, to keep them from getting distracted. But for us? Hmm . . .

I often find myself with blinders in relation to my writing, especially when I've been working hard on a project. In those times, we tend to get too close, too involved. We go cross-eyed. What do you expect when you read through the same three chapters eight times in two days, right? I was just there last week with a proposal I was readying for my agent. "It's probably rough," I told her, though I honestly couldn't be sure. "I can't really see it at this point."

Then there's my house. I can honestly say that after something has been in the same place for a week or so, I just don't see it anymore--even if that means it never gets puts away, LOL. This is why the mess remains so long here. Mommy just doesn't pay attention. And the others in my family are even worse about this so . . .

The cure for blinders, in my experience, is distance. After a week or two or away from a project (a month is even better), I can evaluate weak spots and strong spots. I can see where work needs to be done. (In the case of this particular proposal, my agent acted as the distance, showing me where to tweak and otherwise assuring me that, whether I could see it or not, it was ready to be sent.) 

The same goes for my house. After a few days away, I come in and go, "Hey, why is that still sitting there? I should put that away . . ." I can see what I haven't been able to see. Where I need to work. What I need to do.

But what about me? See, I can never get distance from myself, LOL. I can't take any time away from me. So how do I clear my vision and know where I stand? How can I know where to improve?

It's tough--and not a new problem. I've been reading through the Gospels (just finished the fourth one last week), so I've seen over and again all those occasions where Jesus has to call somebody out. Ever stop and really think about the Pharisees? Wonder why they couldn't just see what He was trying to tell them?

I've got to think it might have something to do with this same phenomena. They'd been doing things the same way forever. Had things in the same places. And even if those places were wrong, they were too involved, too much inside it to notice. It took Someone new coming along to point it out.

We can't get distance from ourselves, no--but we can find some quiet. Some distance from the rest of the world that might be influencing or overwhelming us. We can have some communion with our Lord and say, "Show me, Father. Show me where I am and what I need."

I can see, right now, what I need in terms of work, in terms of housekeeping (a maid would be nice, LOL)--but as for me? Well, there are the obvious places where I have, ahem, room for improvement. But my prayer today is that Lord shows us each what we really need. That He shows us where we're strong and where we're weak. That He whispers His truth in our ear and gives us the ears to hear it. And that doesn't just mean pointing out where we need to change--sometimes it also means having our eyes opened to where we're really doing well.

See, blinders don't just keep us from seeing the truth of what's bad. Sometimes they can keep us from seeing what we're doing right too.

Where are yours today?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Remember When . . . The Automobiles Arrived?

It's been a looooooooong time since I've gotten to give a character a car. A horse, yes. Picking out a type of carriage, sure. But a car? I haven't written a story with a car in years. So when I began to ponder turning my Victorian trilogy into an Edwardian one, one of my first thoughts was, "Oh wow--I need to pick out a car for Justin!"

Perhaps I should give you a little history first. Way back when I was twelve, I had this idea for a book. Which, I said, I would write until I finished it! A little over a year later, I scratched the words "The End" enthusiastically across the last of my hundreds of pages of notebook paper. The book was called Golden Sunset, Silver Tear. It was about Brook, who was raised as a princess in the fictional country of Bratinburg before discovering through the help of her best friend Justin, future English duke, that she was really British. Her bead necklace contained clues to what led to her parents' deaths and her own fate.

Two years after that, I discovered Monaco. So Brook became an adopted Grimaldi. Another three years, and I gave the book a major overhaul to update the writing but kept the plot in place. Another three years and I was out of college, had my first baby, and was determined to make this book as good as the others I'd written in the intervening years. So I chucked pretty much every scene, kept the premise, changed names where necessary, and retitled the book Fire Eyes.

In 2007, the book landed me an agent. But alas, though a few publishers took it to committee, it always struck out. So fast forward back to two weeks ago, when my (second) agent said, "Do you have anything Edwardian?" and I said, "No. But I could." =)

This is so much fun because I know these characters inside out and upside down. So tossing them into a world 50 years after where I first envisioned them leads me to all sorts of fun decisions. Would Brook still have been content with stolen solitary horse rides, or would the changing times have upped her rebellion? Would she now be borrowing cars for her stunts? Oh, you bet she would. So I open now with her sliding a gloved hand along the side of a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. And, when its owner (Justin) catches her in the act of taking the wheel, she demands a driving lesson of her longtime friend.

Thankfully, I'm married to a man who can answer all my stupid questions about first-generation cars. Like, "Okay, so you crank it to start it . . . how do you turn it off?"

Hubby: "You switch off the magneto."

Me: "The mag-what-o?" Oh yes. It required a bit of an education, LOL.

Thus far the automobile has found many fun places in the three chapters I've rewritten of Fire Eyes (which has been retitled yet again). Justin has just received his Silver Ghost from his father--who bought for himself one designed by "that Bugatti chap" as my Earl of Abingdon says. Justin's best friend, once a rogue aristocrat who chose to sail the high seas instead of attend his estates back home, is now a race car driver in the first Grand Prix and rallies. The debut Indianapolis 500 will be coming up within the pages of my book, and you can bet Lord Thate will be there. =)

For historical writers, there's nothing truer than "If you change the setting, you change the whole book--characters included." It's very true. And this change of setting will cause many, many a change to this first-ever novel I wrote. But oh, isn't it fun to see how my characters adapt to the times!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Story Time - Heart's Safe Passage by Laurie Alice Eakes

Swoon-Worthy Historical Romantic Suspense!

I admit it--I love a reprobate of a hero whose journey includes redeeming him. I love a heroine who falls for him knowing it'll lead to heartbreak. I love a couple at cross-purposes who must find the will of the Lord in the tangle of their own webs. And I love, love, love stories with a backdrop of intrigue and adventure. So it's no great surprise that Heart's Safe Passage took my breath away.

Phoebe may have been a pampered gentlewoman earlier in life, but after tragedy, scandal, and disappointment, she's determined to forge her own independence through midwifery. But when her sister-in-law has a crew of British privateers kidnap her so she'll travel with the pregnant woman to England to rescue her captured husband, Phoebe finds her determination matched--by the heartless yet compelling captain Raphael Doherty, who has far more secrets than any Virginian lady could possibly understand. Drawn to her though he may be, he cannot give up his quest for vengeance, even if it means refusing an all-consuming love. How, after all, could he live with himself if he lets go of the one thing that has given him purpose? Both Phoebe and Rafe must face their demons . . . or be consumed by them.

Heart's Safe Passage has an amazing setting, with non-stop action on the high seas. It has a fantastic premise of betrayal and treachery and redemption with a backdrop of the War of 1812. But what I absolutely adored about it was the compelling, believable love story. I'm not always convinced by stories of love that take place in a short amount of time, but I found this one not only believable but heart-wrenching. Eakes does a superb job of painting characters so very troubled, so very flawed, but so very needful of what the other can offer. Their love is quick, bright, but known by both to be less than enough to overcome all that is against them. Only love of the Lord can achieve healing like that.
This one goes on my favorites shelf with Laurie Alice Eakes's other books!