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... ;-)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Remember When . . . The Dance Was Forbidden (Guest Post!)

Today a good friend of mine, Dina Sleiman, is celebrating the release of her latest novel, the debut title for Zondervan's new Zondervan First digital line. She wrote this fabulous guest post for us over at the Colonial Quill, and I thought it would be a treat for you guys too. =) As one may be able to tell from the title, Love in Three-Quarter Time, a certain dance is featured in Dina's novel. And she's here to tell us a little bit about it. I'll tease you here (mwa ha ha ha) and then direct you to the CQ for the rest of it. Take it away, Dina!


The Forbidden Dance

No, I’m not talking about the tango. In the late 1700s and early 1800s the waltz was considered quite a scandalous dance. It gained popularity on the European continent by around 1780, but was still scorned in respectable circles in England and the United States. It wasn’t until the Prince Regent introduced the waltz at a ball in 1816 that it was accepted in England. As for the newly formed US, all we can say for certain is that it was a standard dance by 1830. 
For my new novel, Love in Three-Quarter Time, I assumed that as in all things fashionable, Americans would have followed close on the heels of their British cousins. I showed the waltz being introduced to Charlottesville, Virginia, by a trend-setting plantation matron in 1817. But the waltz of the Regency (or in this case late Federalist) era was quite different than the waltz we know today. It was closely related to the cotillion, and it incorporated a variety of handholds that could, in fact, turn a bit risqué in the wrong company.

Here are just a few lines from a very lengthy poem called “The Waltz,” written by Lord Byron in 1813.
Endearing Waltz! -- to thy more melting tune
Bow Irish jig and ancient rigadoon.
Scotch reels, avaunt! and country-dance, forego
Your future claims to each fantastic toe!
Waltz -- Waltz alone -- both legs and arms demands,
Liberal of feet, and lavish of her hands;
Hands which may freely range in public sight
Where ne'er before --- but --- pray "put out the light."
Methinks the glare of yonder chandelier
Shines much too far --- or I am much too near;
And true, though strange --- Waltz whispers this remark,
"My slippery steps are safest in the dark!"
To read the rest, go to Colonial Quills!

In the style of Deeanne Gist, Dina Sleiman explores the world of 1817 Virginia in her novel Love in Three-Quarter Time. When the belle of the ball falls into genteel poverty, the fiery Constance Cavendish must teach the dances she once loved in order to help her family survive. The opportunity of a lifetime might await her in the frontier town of Charlottesville, but the position will require her to instruct the sisters of the plantation owner who jilted her when she needed him most. As Robert Montgomery and Constance make discoveries about one another, will their renewed faith in God help them to face their past and the guilt that threatens to destroy them in time to waltz to a fresh start?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Word of the Week - Dream

A Dream of a Girl Before Sunrise by Karl Briullov, 1830

This is a word that I had no idea had anything interesting to it so was very shocked to find such a long entry! And at this point, can't even remember why I bothered looking it up, LOL.

Dream in the literal sense--a sleeping vision--dates from the 13th century and is related to a number of similar words in other Germanic languages, including a few with a meaning of "merriment or noise," "illusion, deception, or phantasm," and from there "ghost, apparition." Our dream though, the Old English word carried only the literal meaning and those of joy, mirth, and (for some reason...) music.

There were, however, two identically spelled Old English words. The one that meant a literal dream and the one that meant "revelry." Folks have tried to prove that the modern dream came from the revelry one instead of the expected one, but to no avail. As it turns out, Old English literature often avoided using the word for the primary purpose to avoid confusion and would use swefn (sleep) in its place.

Who knew?

But here's the thing that really surprised me. It wasn't until 1931 (1931!?) that dream gained the meaning of "ideal of aspiration." Can you believe that?? I had no clue it was so new. And now so need to rewrite a line of my manuscript...and wonder how many times I've used it wrong in other books. Argh! Seriously. Never thought to look this one up. But apparently this modern meaning came from an 1888 sense of "something of dream-like beauty of charm."

Yeah, definitely one of those words I never thought to question and now will never look at the same again. ;-)

Have a dream of a day, y'all! And remember--if you haven't entered the giveaway for Jewel of Persia yet, you only have one more day!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Nothing Less

Par-tay! (Also known as Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir, of course)

Last week in church, in the course of our conversation in class time, one fella said something that struck me as so very true: God doesn't want to bless us a little--He wants to bless us completely. He doesn't want to give us some--He wants to give us everything. But we so often can't accept it. Won't accept it. Then sit around wondering why we always seem to lack.

Today is my mother-in-law's birthday, Sunday is my Xoe's 7th birthday party, Tuesday her actual day. And as I prepare myself for dinners and cake and fondant and present-wrapping, I have to pause and consider the blessing they are to me.

And as one part of my mind considers those dinners and cakes and fondants and presents, there's that other part of my mind looking at the outline for my work-in-progress and realizing I'm so, so close to the climax. That if I just had a few solid hours, I could get there. Get 'er done. Wrap it up.

Some days (many days, LOL), those two sides have some friction. They rub against each other, they cause conflict. Some days (most days), I wish I had nice, neat compartments for them. That Family Time would be an uninterrupted chunk, and that Writing Time would have its own. I find myself wishing for something different, and usually when we wish for something different, it takes the tone of wanting more.

But you know what just hit me? This is the more.

When I was a girl, there were two things I wanted above all: to fall head over heels in love with my Prince Charming and have a family with him, and to write novels. I had no intentions of settling for anything else, and in the clarity of a child's mind, I never even considered that I may have to do so. And I didn't. I wrote my books, and I found my love. (Not that I can take credit for that part, mind you. That was all God, bringing me and David together so early in life!)

God has given me my heart's desires. God, in His love for us, always does. But we have to take them. Accept them. Cherish them. Take care of them. We have to work for them.

Here I sit with my awesome, adorable, crazy-wonderful family---but how easy would it be to lose my focus on what a gift they are and instead complain about how much work they bring me? Here I sit with a growing career, a fabulous agent, an amazing editor, a ton of prospects, and an awesome editing calling with WhiteFire too--but how easy would it be to take a prideful misstep and end up back at square one?

Here I sit with it all--but how often do I complain about being overwhelmed? Short on time, short on energy, short on focus? How many times do we have it all and think we need more--yet neglect or misuse or even just plain not-appreciate what we have?

God wants to give us that crazy-big, over-the-top, filled-to-overflowing blessing. He does. He wants us to be complete, to want for nothing, to be blissfully happy. But He wants us to be all that in Him. He wants us to take joy from the things He gives, not complain when He sends manna that He didn't also send meat.

We often chant about how God won't give us more (in terms of challenges or burdens) than we can handle. But you know, that goes for blessings too. He won't give us more than we can appreciate. He won't give us more than we can accept from His hands with the right attitude.

So as I go through these last couple weeks of my Busy Month and tackle countless projects, as I dash about, miss some sleep, and occasionally whimper that I need a clone, I'm going to have a new motto.

I have Nothing Less.

Nothing Less than what I need. Nothing Less that what I've earned. Nothing Less than what I can handle. Nothing Less than what God has given.

I have Nothing Less than everything. I have Nothing Less than the More I always wanted. I have Nothing Less than a reason to smile, laugh, shout, and be over-the-top, crazy-big, filled-to-overflowing happy.

I have Nothing Less than Him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Special Giveaway for Jewel of Persia!

I am pleased as can be to announce that Jewel of Persia is the pick for an online book club for the month of November! It's at Reading to Know, and everyone is welcome to check it out and join in. =)

So to celebrate, my friend Annette (who is responsible for JoP being the November pick--thanks, Annette!) and I decided to offer a joint giveaway and chat about the book. So here on my blog, I am giving away TWO (2) digital copies of Jewel of Persia. To be entered, just leave a comment below.

To be entered for the one (1) print version being given away, enter on Annette's blog, This Simple Home.

Got that? Commenting here = entries ONLY for the digitals, and commenting there gets an entry ONLY for the print. You're welcome to enter for both, but cannot win both, LOL. We will have a total of 3 separate winners; international entries are eligible only for the digitals. All winners will be drawn on Tuesday, October 23. (My little girl's birthday, as it happens *grins*.)

Okay, technical stuff is complete. =) Now onto the fun!

As my loyal readers undoubtedly know already (all five of you, LOL), I wrote Jewel of Persia for a few reasons. First, my agent at the time recommended I follow up my first biblical, A Stray Drop of Blood, with another of the same genre. So as I was contemplating biblical stories I love, I kept coming back to Esther. Esther has always been my absolute favorite Bible story. But let's face it--it's been done. And done again. And done some more. And...

I knew that if I was going to write a novel based on Esther, it would have to be different. Very different from what was already out there. So I got to thinking about my way of writing historicals--namely, to have my heroine be fictional, but interacting with historical figures. Why not do the same here? But who else could it be about?

I was in the shower pondering this, thinking back on the Esther story, when a line from a Vacation Bible School skit about Esther that I'd written sprang to mind--about how if she hadn't gained the favor of the king after her first night with him, she would have gone to the harem as just another wife.

Just . . . another . . . wife. Hmm. That was it! One of the other wives! And so Kasia was born, and her story as Esther's best friend and Xerxes' favorite before Esther joined the harem churned its way to life in my brain. Then in a whirlwind two days, I pounded out the first five chapters. And I knew I was in love--but needed to refresh myself on some research.

One of my favorite things about Jewel of Persia is that it allowed me to join together two awesome things--the book of Esther from the Bible, and one of the Greek histories that I had to read in college but never dreamed I'd put to use afterward, Histories by Herodotus. Herodotus details the Greco-Persian war as waged by Xerxes, who most scholars agree is same king known as Ahaseurus in the Bible. I wasn't entirely convinced they were one and the same going in, but as I did my research, it really started to make sense. The timelines clicked together perfectly, and so did the personalities described in both Esther and Histories. Both kings even had this habit of offering cities to those who pleased him, "up to half my kingdom." Perfect!

Jewel of Persia is by no means a simple story, nor is it the Esther story you think you know. For any who haven't read it yet, I'll warn you of that up front--Esther is an important character, she is a lovable character, she is an upright and inspiring character. But she is not the main character, and most of the negative reviews I've gotten have been from people who didn't want an Esther story where Esther wasn't in the spotlight. Which I can respect. But that's just not what this book is. So be forewarned. ;-)

And because JoP has so much history woven in, I have put together a Companion Guide to detail where fact ends and fiction begins, delve more into the cultural tidbits, the histories of the factual characters, and as an excuse to post more of the awesome pictures of the cover model in costume. ;-)

I was going to list the blog entries where I talk about this stuff too, but it occurs to me that they're almost identical to the Companion Guide, so I'll save us all some time. ;-) And instead, share some of the reader feedback that has made many a day for me.

Kathy Lund says:
Thank you so much for writing “Jewel of Persia”! My women’s Bible study group just finished Beth Moore’s study on Esther and I found your book such a wonderful companion read. The ties to historical events added even more depth to the Biblical account, especially as to how events may have lead to Esther’s rise to the palace – in such a time as this. The ending was true to what we learned during our in-depth study and I am finding it hard to concentrate on real life around me now!

Heather says:
Hi Roseanna,
I just wanted to tell you how much your books have blessed me. I just discovered you as an author and I think these are among the best books I have ever read! (and I read a lot) I just wish there were more of them. I read A Stray Drop of Blood and the Jewel of Persia, and now I am telling all of my friends and family about these books and you as an author. I cannot wait to go buy your newest book. Thank you so much for listening to the voice of the Lord as He obviously inspires your writing. You are a blessing, thank you!!

Rosie says:
Greetings Roseanna!! I just finished reading A Stray Drop of Blood and I have to tell you that I loved it so much that I was sad when it was over! I so enjoyed being transported back in time for that wonderful story. It almost felt as if the characters were a part of my life for the 3 days it took me to read it! I am now halfway through Jewel of Persia and completely loving it as well!! Blessings to you and your God-given talent for writing. I told all of my friends about your extraordinary fiction! PLEASE WRITE MORE BOOKS!!!

 So remember, leave a comment HERE to be entered to win a digital, at This Simple Home to be entered to win a print, and check out Reading to Know in November to join in the discussion!

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 10/23/12. Winner will have one week to claim prize. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Word of the Week - Nauseous

Christ Healing the Sick by Washington Allston, 1813

Oh yeah, going for controversy this week. ;-)

So here's the deal. I've heard from quite a few sources that we moderns are misusing the word nauseous. That it ought not mean "to feel sick or queasy" but that it rather means "to cause a feeling of nausea."

Now, I've heard this from sources I trust, but they never quote their sources, and I'm now on a quest to figure out why in the world this is touted as grammatical fact and, more, as a "modern mistake" when every dictionary I look it up in says that nauseous has carried both means ("to feel sick" and "to make sick") since 1600-1610.

One dictionary I found says "careful writers will use nauseated for the feeling of queasiness and reserve nauseous for "sickening to contemplate." I'm okay with being careful, really I am, but I'm still unsure why grammarians are saying that using its original meaning is "a mistake of the moderns." It is, in fact, the first definition of the word in the OED.

So. Calling all grammarians! ;-) If you learned it this way and could point me to a source (not just an expert like the wonderful Grammar Girl, mind you) that states this as fact (maybe CMS has settled the question at some point??), I would be very grateful. I don't mind changing my ways to be a "careful" writer--but I'm a Johnnie. I don't ever accept an expert's opinion without checking out their sources. ;-)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . The Busy Month

You know how some people never set goals for December because it's so busy with Christmas stuff? That's how my October has become. First weekend is Octoberfest at my family's farm, second weekend is our awesome family reunion, third weekend is my girl-o's birthday, and the last weekend is always some form of trick-or-treating. And of course, prep for all these things during the week.
Punkin' Chunkin' at Higsons Farm Octoberfest

I always know better than to plan anything else on the weekends in this lovely, pumpkin-scented month. But somehow I always manage to fill up the weeks. This year we started Xoe in the Girl Scouts' Science Discovery Club, we committed to two different Bible studies, and Xoe always goes from ballet one night a week to two in preparation for The Nutcracker this December.

And did I mention I'm trying to finish up a book?

Seems like a lot, but seriously, this is how every October turns out. I distinctly recall last year, we were painting our new/old church's basement (which naturally fell in October...) and I was ready to pull out my hair. Home school was wearing me down, the book I was trying to write wouldn't come out right, and I  was just feeling overwhelmed and incompetent.
Rowyn and my dad giving hayrides at Octoberfest

This year I'm hanging in there pretty well. I get stressed day-to-day when busyness interferes with my daily goals, but I've squeezed it all in somehow. Not saying I deserve a big golden "S" on my chest or anything (I tried to tell Rowyn the other day I was SuperMom, and he looked at me with that "get real" look and said, "No you're not. You do not have superpowers, Mom." LOL. Reality check from a 4-year-old!), but I'm feeling more grounded. I'm taking time each day for my devotionals, I'm in a prayer group that helps me keep my focus where it belongs.

My girl Xoe (left) and my nieces at Octoberfest
And I'm having fun. I think that's a big key. All these many activities going on are all ones I'm excited to take part in. My kids had a blast at Science Discovery, the Bible studies are great groups, and Xoe's birthday party is going to be a costume party, and she's super-excited to have a lot of friends coming this year.

And my book is going great, praise be to the Lord. Yes, at this point I'm panicking that I won't be able to keep it in the right word count, but there's always trimming. =)

So no startling insights today, but after a sick-day with the boy-o yesterday, and a morning of errands awaiting this morning (must get the ingredients to make my famous Pumpkin Gobs with orange-cream cheese filling!), busyness is on my brain...

What's your Busy Time? Christmas? Summer? Some random month where everyone in your family decided to be born or get married? ;-) How do you cope with it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Remember When . . . They Went to Bermuda?

As the weather gets cool and wet and oh-so-autumnal around here, it's always fun to escape to the tropics--even if only for a few minutes, and even if only for research. ;-)

Last week I realized with some surprise that my hero had to sail to Bermuda to get a count of the British fleet amassing there, so I had to scrabble to get some handy-dandy research. (Shucks.) See, Bermuda became a very strategic port for the British during the War of 1812. Its position off the coast of the U.S. made it a perfect rallying spot for the fleet coming from Europe, and it's where Vice Admiral Cochrane kept his flagship and headquarters through much of the war.

I imagine it was a terrible thing, commanding all your troops from Bermuda, especially in the winter months. Eh? ;-)
Bermuda from space

Now, my primary research book talked a lot about who arrived in Bermuda when, with how many ships that had how many guns, who was on what transport, who argued with whom...but it left out a little detail like, oh, the name of the port. So some quick internet research came to the rescue, and I discovered that the British fleet had anchored in Bailey's Bay.

On the hill above the bay was Mount Wyndham, a picturesque home that became the Admiralty House during the war.

And in the turquoise waters, if you squint just right, you can imagine my hero's ship, Masquerade, at anchor in the bay, a goodly distance from Cochrane's flagship, Tonnant (which means "thundering).

And now my little boy-o, who isn't feeling very well today, needs some attention, so I'll just leave you here in the warm, sultry sunshine of Bermuda...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Word of the Week - Depression

Lesbia Weeping over a Sparrow by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1866

Depression. Which is what I would be in right now after the failure of my primary coffee pot if I did not have a French press to serve as backup . . . ;-)

Naw, seriously, this is another word I had to look up for my work-in-progress. See, I've learned to be careful about any word or phrase that is used in modern psychology, because many of them are either plain ol' new or with new meaning since Freud and company came along, but so much in today's common vernacular that we often don't even pause to consider them... So I thought depression had better be investigated.

Apparently the first appearance of the word was in the 14th century, as a term in astronomy.  I admit I had to look this one up, because I couldn't fathom, on this Monday morning with belated coffee, why in the universe astronomy would employ this word. Until I saw the phrase "the sun at an angle of depression..." Ah. Angles. Right. Moving on.

Pretty much all connotations of depression stem from the literal "pressing down" of something, though that above sense pre-dates the literal meaning by 300 years. Go figure! For that matter, even the most familiar "dejection" is from the 15th century, so pre-dates the literal.

Of course, do keep in mind that when older texts (or historical fiction, LOL) refer to someone experiencing depression, this is merely a description of low spirits, not a clinical term. The clinical term didn't come about until 1905.

But we also have a few more meanings that come from those in-between years. In 1826, depression was applied to "a reduction in economic activity." And then in 1881 the meteorological meaning joined the team in reference to barometric pressure. Talk about a word with meanings in every sphere! The celestial one, the atmospheric one, through our wallets and all the way to our spirits. 

Interesting indeed!

Hope everyone has a lovely October week full of no depression other than the atmospheric and celestial types. ;-)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Blessings

Degas's The Millinery Shop - don't ask me what this has to do with my topic today, LOL. I guess hats are a blessing?

Yesterday as I emailed my best friend, I shared with her a little sermon I've been preaching to myself all week. The subject? Blessings--and how we're not entitled to them. Naturally, I figure if it's been occupying my thoughts, I must therefore share it with everyone today, LOL.

Here's how (my home page, I might add, ha ha) defines "blessing":


1. the act or words of a person who blesses.
2. a special favor, mercy, or benefit: the blessings of liberty.
3. a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.
4. the invoking of God's favor upon a person: The son was denied his father's blessing.
5. praise; devotion; worship, especially grace said before a meal: The children took turns reciting the blessing.
In my mind, do you know what this makes a blessing? A gift. One given to the person being blessed at no charge, freely. One that ought to be received with grace and gratitude. Certainly when we receive blessings from the Lord, we thank Him for them (or should, right?) and praise Him for His loving kindness and faithfulness.

And when we receive a blessing from another person, we often tell them so, tell them what their gift means to us.

But how often are we like the Israelites in the wilderness? How often do we receive that manna, those blessings, day after day and begin to forget that they're gifts? That we need to be thankful? That instead of whining for more, we ought to be shouting anew every day, "Wow, amazing! Thank you!"

We get desensitized to the good just as we do to the bad. We start to take long-standing blessings for granted. We go from being amazed by them to expecting them. Then to demanding them. And then to thinking we're entitled to them, that we deserve them, that, if they stop for a time, we are being neglected or ill-treated or punished.

But we're not. Seriously, stop and think about it. Were we being punished before those blessings started to flow? No. So if they stop, are we punished then? No. We are simply returning to the status quo. It's only our perspective that has changed.

Which always reminds me of this part in 1984 where the government has to cut the chocolate ration by, like, two ounces a day or something. (Rationing chocolate! YIKES!) They know the people are going to be upset, so do you remember what they do? First they announce that the ration will be cut by six ounces (okay, I forget the numbers, but you get the idea). The people protest. So they graciously raise it again by four ounces--resulting in the two they needed to cut. And the people rejoice, because they feel like they won back something they had lost, rather than realizing they still came up short.

We do this sort of thing all the time, and in both directions. We can be so far ahead of where we were a short time earlier, but if there's anything at all we deem negative, backward, then we think we've fallen, even if we're still levels above where we used to be.

But you know what? I think sometimes we need to "lose" something, so that we remember it wasn't ours to begin with. That it was a gift. That it was a blessing, not an entitlement. We need to remember that sometimes when something is withheld, it isn't an attack on us. That is isn't a punishment. That, often, it has nothing to do with us at all. We're just the hand outheld, waiting for our ration. 

A free ration--so who are we to complain if it isn't delivered one day?

Because when it comes down to it, what am I really entitled to in this world? What do I deserve? What do I have a right to get angry about if it's withheld? If we're to trust the framers of the Constitution, it's pretty basic. Life. Check. Liberty. Check. The pursuit of happiness. 
Catch that one? We have the right to the pursuit. Not to the result. That, my friends, often has to be earned. And if it's given without our earning it...well then, that's the gift. That's the free bonus. That's what ought to make us raise our hands to heaven and shout our thanksgiving.

There are so many things I'm thankful for. And in a normal day, so many things that frustrate me. But this week, I'm working hard to keep them all in perspective. Because God is so, so good to me. I deserve nothing and He gives me everything. I deserve pain and He gives me healing. I deserve to be cast out from Him and He pulls me close.

I'm not entitled to His love or to His blessing. But He gives it. And so do His children. And when they can't...well then, maybe that's when I ought to be trying to bless them instead.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Remember When . . . We Mixed the Paints?

Self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh

My heroine in Whispers from the Shadows (The Culper Ring Series, book 2) is an artist. In 1814. Now, I've written about artists before in other, unpublished manuscripts--but they were always modern ones. So all I had to do for research was look up art supplies and current techniques. Piece of cake.

For Gwyneth's art, it wasn't quite so simple. I knew that some parts of art have changed drastically over the years as synthetic this-and-that was introduced. But finding how it was then . . . I was prepared for a headache.

And so, very pleasantly surprised when I found the perfect old book and could download it for free. The Handmaid to the Arts is exactly what I needed--a comprehensive book written in the 1700s that was meant to be a reference guide for artists. In it I found a ton of information on how to make paints, what they're made from, which ones are tricky at best to get to set right, which shades come from which materials.


I now have my heroine wavering between which shade of brown to use, my chemistry-minded host (and hero from book 1) assisting her in achieving that perfect red through various heating and mixing techniques, and a few oh-so-delectable details on how they got these colors. 

Ground beetles, anyone? Soaked in urine, perhaps? Or minerals packed round with dung? No??? Come on! Let's be authentic! ;-)

Thus far, these painting scenes have been my favorites of the book. Not because of the technical details I got to sneak in (though y'all know I'm a sucker for getting those historical tidbits in), but because Gwyneth is as absorbed by her painting as I tend to be by my writing. The rest of the world fades away and, when she's really in a groove, becomes nothing but background noise. Inspiration pulses and flows, and life emerges. For me, onto my screen. For her, onto her canvas.

I won't inundate you with too many of the lists I made, but just to give you a sampling of how complex it was for them to mix that perfect shade back in the day, here are just the reds available. (Gwyneth is on a quest for the perfect, true shade...)

Red, tending to orange

Native cinnabar
Red lead
Scarlet oker
Common Indian red
Spanish brown
Terra de sienna burnt

Red, tending to purple

Rose pink
Red oker
Venetian red

And just for reference, it's one of those reds that we still get from ground-up beetles. Mm hm. Nice. This is why Roseanna is happy to buy her paints in handy-dandy little tubes and not to have to make them herself...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Word of the Week - Network

Palermo: Fishing Net in Mondello by Dedda71

When one is writing a series about a secret espionage organization, one frequently finds oneself using modern words to describe this group. And then one must constantly check oneself and go, "Aw, man! That wasn't around yet!"

One such word is network. Though historians will use the word network to describe the widespread Culper Ring, they certainly wouldn't have used it themselves. It's been a word since the 1500s, don't get me wrong--a word that meant "net-like arrangement of thread or wires." So you could have a network of string tangled around your feet. A network of rope with which to catch fish. And . . . yeah, that was pretty much it. ;-)

By 1839, the word saw it's first expansion and was applied to any inter-locking system. Like railways, canals, roads. From there the word traveled with us into the radio age and got applied to "a broadcasting system of multiple transmitters." And then, finally, in 1947 that was taken a step further to a group of people who are connected.

Yeah, definitely not using that one in The Culper Series.

I hope everyone enjoys their first day of October! This signals the busiest month of my year . . . and of course, it's the month I intend to finish Whispers from the Shadows, which will require another 40-50,000 words written. So feel free to say a prayer for me as I balance writing time with family fun every weekend.