Monday, April 30, 2012

Word of the Week - Condo (plus my Croquet outfit)

This is a bit silly and short a word, but I was totally surprised to learn it was so new! Well, the word condominium is from 1714, but it carried the meaning of "joint rule or sovereignty" and was word used in politics and international law. Until, that is, in the 1960s it got used to mean a "privately owned apartment" (people would be jointly ruling the building...), at which point that obliterated the original use. I had no clue it was so new in that sense!

Now, as promised last week--a picture of me in my Croquet getup, featuring hat and dress both from Victorian Trading Company. =)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gone Croqueting

I really meant to schedule posts for this week, while I'm visiting friends in the name of "Croquet!" But alas, I spent my early-week hard at work on a proposal and didn't get to this.


But have no fear, I'll be back on Monday with my wit and brilliance and insight and hysterical laughter at the thought of someone taking me seriously when I claim to have wit and brilliance and insight. ;-)

Have a good one, one and all!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Word of the Week - Ice

An unexpected cold front and winter storm system is moving through the mid-atlantic--we're only getting rain here, but a few miles to the north and up a few mountains, they're supposed to get a foot of snow. Yikes! 

But of course, that means it's the perfect day to talk about the word ice. =) I had to look this one up yesterday to see when one of it's uses came into play, and I was a bit surprised by some of the entries.

Ice in its main meaning has been in the English language forever--no big surprise. As a verb, still speaking of to cover with ice, is from the 1400s. But the confectionery sense arrived in the early 1700s, along with the derivative icing.

Ice Age has been used since 1832, ice cube from 1904. But here's the one I was looking up--ice has been slang for "diamonds" since 1906. I would have thought it even later than that, but there you go. =) And the most shocking of all--break the ice. I was expecting this to be a more modern addition, but in actuality, the figurative "opening of any attempt" comes from the literal breaking of an ice to free up a passage and has been around since the 1580s! Who knew?

Hope everyone has a wonderful final week of April!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Those Twisty Paths

Last night the semi-finalists of the Genesis Contest (for unpublished authors) were announced. On Monday, the nominees for the Christy (Christian Fiction's most prestigious award) went public. And as award season gets into full swing, I imagine we'll see many more lists of potential winners and the results themselves.

I know quite a few of my readers are writers, so I wanted to talk about this today. And if you're not a writer, you've presumably been in competition over something at some point or another, so it should still be relevant for you. ;-)

I've been blessed with the fulfillment of my dream--I get to write for a living. I'm certainly not bringing in enough to support a family right now, but as a part-time job for a stay at home mom who's home schooling, it's a pretty sweet deal. =) So I have what I'd deem success--success defined as doing what I love. And hey, even getting paid for it! LOL

But I've never in my life won a writing contest. Never. Never even finaled in one. Even back in the day of short story contests against other middle schoolers, the best I ever did was Honorable Mention. Yet it was my thing. And I was the unquestioned Best at everything in school; valedictorian, first chair clarinetist, drum major . . . and I knew I was a good writer. I knew it, and my teachers all made a point of telling me so.

And yet . . .

A couple years ago I entered the Genesis contest. It was the only unpublished contest I'd ever entered (or have ever), and I entered with very high hopes. They didn't publicize semi-finalists that year, just finalists, and I saw all the emails from my friends who finaled appeared on my historical list when they got their Call. I sat there, with the phone by my computer. I hoped, and I prayed, and I told myself it was okay, no matter what. That it didn't determine anything about who I was.

Then when the list went up (absent my name), I went outside and let myself cry for five minutes.

I wanted there to be some reason to it. So when my agent, a week later, submitted the book I'd entered to an editor who really liked it, I got hopeful. See, we couldn't have submitted had it still been in the contest. But that would have been perfect poetic justice! I could see myself now, winning the published contest instead of the unpublished, going up to make my speech . . .

The book was too like another the line had already contracted, so the editor passed.

I never had another chance at Genesis, because A Stray Drop of Blood came out, and Jewel of Persia after that. Right around then I emailed that editor who liked that book I'd entered, to follow up with a question I'd asked a while before, and she said, "Have you checked in with our other editor? She has Annapolis penciled in."


Did that Genesis-rejected submission bear fruit after all, by winning over another editor at this house, one who could champion me as a writer when Editor 2 brought Annapolis to committee? Maybe . . . maybe . . . who knows? But what I can tell you is that Annapolis was published soon after that.

Of course, now I'm in the realm of published contests. I now know nothing of mine that came out in 2011 was nominated for a Christy, which was no big surprise (though it would have been nice!). There are only two other contests I'd entered, and we'll see how those go. Am I hopeful? Well yes, a bit.

But you know what? I'm also finally getting to the point where I just don't care about wins. In part because I learned that one of my all-time favorite authors, Francine Rivers, will not enter a contest and requests her publishers not enter any on her behalf. She'd walked that road while in the ABA and refused to walk it again when she moved to CBA. And I really admire that.

I haven't gotten any clear direction to avoid contests, and having an "award-winning" before my name would certainly be nice (although I'd be just as happy--even happier!--with "best-selling" LOL), but as I look back on this stuff this week, I have to wonder if I ever will win. Not because of what I write, but because of who I am. Because I'm a competitive person, and staying humble is something I have to focus on to achieve. Because God knows way better than I how I might handle a big win . . . and maybe He doesn't want that for me.

Is this a lesson in humility for me? Could be, wouldn't be surprised. But more, there's a lesson for me about focus and determination. My goal cannot be to write a book that wins awards--it must be to write a book that wins hearts. My determination must be to keep on the path I've been set upon no matter how many twists of disappointment, not to keep walking only when flower petals are showering down upon me.

When I was in high school, my cross-country coach had a saying: If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.

Mr. Brown's wisdom can apply to pretty much anything worth working at, can't it? It isn't easy, this thing you've been called to do. It has its moments of triumph when you finally cross that finish line, but it also has a lot of moments along the way when you step in a dip and twist your ankle, when a stray tree branch smacks you in the arm, when you can't seem to draw in enough air to keep those sides from stitching.

No, it isn't easy. But something else Mr. Brown passed along that will always stick with me is that verse that perfectly sums up both my writing story and this running analogy--we have an Author. We have a Finisher, a Perfecter--and it isn't us, you know. I might write a book, but I don't write my own story.

That's for Him.

I might enter a few contests, but I don't determine where I finish.

That's for Him.

And I don't look at those awards as any kind of goal to reach, not anymore.

That's for Him.

But I don't give up. I will run with endurance. And just like with cross country (at which I was never any good, let it be noted, LOL), those races won't be about winning. They'll be about growing.

Let us run with endurance this race that is set before us; looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
If you entered the Genesis and indulged in a few moments of tears last night, chin up. And look at me--I didn't final and was published before quite a few folks who did. And if you did end up on that semi-finalist list, big congratulations! I have friends whose publishing doors were opened by that. 

Just know that, no matter where you end up this contest season, your story is your own, between you and God. Win or lose, He knows how to get you where you're going. And He knows what you need--and what you don't--along the way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Remember When . . . It Was Croquet Time?

Every year we journey to Annapolis for the annual St. John's College v. Naval Academy Croquet Tournament. It's the event of the year--not because of the game, which I frankly still don't know enough about to actually watch with any interest, LOL, but because of the event itself.

I've no doubt explained it before--everyone dresses in their finest, the ladies don hats, and if you took a slice of the crowd, you could easily mistake it for an Edwardian gathering.

Years ago I asked for this hat for Christmas, and it remains the quintessential croquet hat. ;-) Sadly, I haven't worn it for years because the dress I'd gotten to go with it did a serious fading on me (Grrrrr) and looks seriously terrible. But I've never been able to find a replacement.

This year I got aggressive and started looking online. I eventually decided to make an investment in this lovely raspberry vintage gown, with the thought that I can not only wear it to croquet for years to come, I can also, if I decide to be brave, wear it to the ACFW awards gala. Watcha think? Ought I be so brave?? Not that the dress itself would be brave, but I'm thinking I could pair it with the hat for conference too, if I'm feeling inspired. ;-) We shall see.

Now the final step is finding some truly fantastic Edwardian-style jewelry . . . but I think I might have the perfect thing, just need to get it restrung. Oh, the joy of dressing up! Now here's hoping it'll fit my sister too so she can wear it to my book signing in Hagerstown, MD on May 5!

(And for you Edwardian fans, I just started watching Downton Abbey on Netflix. Just a random aside . . .)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Story Time! Sanctuary for a Lady by Naomi Rawlings

Newsflash! I actually bought a book for myself that had nothing to do with research. This doesn't happen often! LOL. The book that got that honor was Sanctuary for a Lady by my good friend Naomi Rawlings. Naomi may just be one of the most hilarious-yet-sweet young women I've ever met. She's encouraging, loving, enthusiastic--and one talented author! I seriously enjoyed her debut novel, so of course you will too. ;-)

This is an April title for the Love Inspired Historical line, which means it's inexpensive--always a plus. I was really surprised by the depth and punch she squeezed into it though, as that isn't always Love Inspired's MO. It read like a full-length book--and a fabulous one, at that.

Amazon Link for Paperback
Amazon Link for Kindle

My official review:

WOW. I don't know how else to begin this review. Sanctuary for a Lady combined all the elements I love most in a story--high stakes, fascinating history, sincere faith, and such intense sparks flying between the main characters that I thought they might ignite the rain-sodden countryside of Revolutionary France!

Isabelle, a duc's daughter, and Michel, a farmer with a dream of furniture making, are incredibly compelling characters dropped into a time where the whole world seems to be stacked against them. Both may be dealing with guilt and stalled goals, but what else could the two have in common? In a time when the Terror could snatch both their lives--Isabelle's for being born an aristocrat and Michel for harboring her instead of handing her over to the soldiers--how could this star-crossed love possibly find a path through the dangers surrounding them?

I confess, I had no idea how the author would overcome the odds, and I flipped those pages fast as I could to figure it out! This book packs a lot of punch in its pages--you don't want to miss the suspense, faith, and heart-racing romance of Sanctuary for a Lady

Official blurb:

Running to freedom, she finds love.

The injured young woman Michel Belanger finds in the woods is certainly an aristocrat. And in the midst of France's bloody revolution, sheltering nobility merits a trip to the guillotine. Yet despite the risk, Michel knows he must bring the wounded girl to his cottage to heal.

Attacked by soldiers and left for dead, Isabelle de La Rouchecauld has lost everything. A duke's daughter cannot hope for mercy in France, so escaping to England is her best chance of survival. The only thing more dangerous than staying would be falling in love with this gruff yet tender man of the land. Even if she sees, for the first time, how truly noble a heart can be….

Monday, April 16, 2012

Word of the Week - Hand

There are so many fun phrases involving the word "hand" that I decided it was time to share some. =) I remember several years ago looking up "to know something like the back of one's hand." I had a hard time finding it but eventually discovered that it's from the 1900s, which surprised me. So I had to take that out of the Victorian story . . .

But there are lots of "hand" phrases from way back in the day. It's had the meaning of "worker" (as in, someone who uses their hands) since the 1580s, and a hired worker since the 1630s. The clock and watch sense is from 1570s.

Yet we didn't give someone a hand, as in a a round of applause, until 1838.

It was used for the playing cards one person held, and a round in a card game, since 1620.

First hand and second hand information is from the 15th century, following the idea of literally handing information over. On the one hand . . . on the other hand followed by the 1600s, with a notion of weighing something in your hand, or holding two separate things.

Winning something hands down, though, is from the 1830s and is thanks to horse racing--jockeys would release the reins after an easy victory, you see.

Yep, you've got to hand it to the word hand (c. 1906 on that one, LOL)--it sure gets around!

On a side note, my first newsletter went out on Friday. If you missed it, you can view it here. And to be sure not to miss it in the future, sign up on my website!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Design

As long as I've been writing, I've been drawing. Back in primary school, whenever I wrote a story I'd illustrate it. Princesses and bunnies and unicorns, singing flowers . . . yep. The norm. ;-) When I started on novels in middle school, I always tried to draw my characters and would play around with sketching book cover designs.

I'm not the artist my sister is, but it wasn't about that--it was about making a visual for myself. Something to look at, something to inspire me. It's why I'm liking Pinterest, and it's also why I've been playing a lot over the last year or two with digital design. Am I a rock star at it? No. But I'm learning. And I'm having so much fun!

I've started handling the covers for WhiteFire titles, and it's been like a treat. Gives a break to the word-crafting part of my brain but still lets me be creative. Everyone by now probably knows I designed Sandi Rog's Walks Alone. I'm also doing Christine Lindsay's second British Raj (can't show ya yet because we haven't done the photo shoot, but plugging in the perfect model shot will be a breeze). And I just tossed together one for our first contemporary that turned out really well. (Haven't bought the images yet, so no sharing that one either, LOL.)

So last week when Harvest House sent me a cover questionnaire for Ring of Secrets, I was pretty giddy. I love this stuff! I got to answer questions about what my characters look like and provide links to images that match what I had in mind. I got to explain the fashion of the day, the setting, the time period. I even got to give them ideas for cover design!! Will they use those ideas? Eh, who knows. But I certainly had fun sharing my thoughts, and my editor had fun reading them and browsing the fashion sites I'd linked to. =)

Yep, in my mind this cover stuff, the images, the sketches are as enjoyable as writing. Well, for the hour or two they take, LOL. I wouldn't want to do it all day, but I've discovered that it fulfills a need for me. Lets me flex my little brain in new ways and create something that I can see, right away. So much fun. And it leads to a book cover. Which is, hands down, one of the best moments of publishing. Opening up that file for the first time and going, "Wow. There she is. My baby. And oh, isn't she lovely!"

Eagerly awaiting that moment with Ring of Secrets. Must be patient, must be patient, must be patient . . . =)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Remember When . . . More Characters Got Faces?

Last week I was chatting with a mother and daughter who had read and loved Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, and they mentioned how much they love Wiley. Which, of course, made me realize I'd better finish up that proposal for a sequel wherein he'd be the hero so my agent can get it out to my editor. See if we can get the publisher to agree that a story about Wiley would just be perfect. ;-)

Thinking about that so soon after trying to figure out an actor to represent Thad, hero from my second Culper Ring book, made me realize that one of my potential Thads would in fact be the perfect Wiley. So sorry, all you fans of James Paul Marsden--he's out of the running for Thad and gets the distinction of being my fun-loving, fiercely loving Wiley Benton. =)

For those of you who have read Annapolis, you know Wiley pretty well. On the whole, he's a fun fellow. He himself says in Lark's story that he detests being in a foul mood--it doesn't suit him. Wiley would much rather be laughing, teasing, joking . . . but when someone he loves is threatened or hurt, then you'd better watch out. Because underneath the smiles, Wiley is a warrior who knows how to fight to win.

Also in Annapolis, Emerson accuses Lark of being like her brother, ready to charge into battle like a hothead, not caring about the consequences. Well obviously, I couldn't let that go ignored when plotting out Wiley's story. We're going to see plenty of his fun-loving, gentle side. And we're also going to see Lieutenant Benton charge into action--and nearly lose all he was fighting for because of it.

The funny thing is that while I was searching for some historical events to anchor this story around, I realized that nothing . . . happened in the year 1784, after the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Nothing happened in 1785. Or in '86. Or . . . you get the idea, LOL. There were things, of course, just not that could reasonably have a part in a story set in Williamsburg. And given how history played a HUGE role in Annapolis, that was kinda frustrating.

But then I stumbled across some fun little tidbits. Like, did you know that Virginia passed an act in '83 freeing any slaves who had served in the Revolution on their masters' behalf? But some were denied because they were in intelligence and not just regular soldiers. Hmm . . . I can work with that. Not that Wiley's slaves could have gone in his place, as he was there himself, but still . . . I can work with that.

And also interesting was when I looked up the College of William and Mary, which is in Williamsburg. It has some fun traditions dating back to before the Revolution, including the very first Greek-letter fraternity, a secret society that wanted to take fraternities back to their roots of academic excellence and away from revelry. (Yeah, um . . . whatever happened to that? LOL) Naturally, Wiley has to have been one of the founding members back in '76, before the war took him away. Fun, eh? Secret handshakes and all that jazz.

And so my Wiley has a face and a story. Not that we have any idea if that story will be snatched up by my publisher, but let's hope so. Because oh, this guy deserves his love story. And boy, is he going to get one, with the most unlikely of heroines . . . ;-)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Word of the Week - Hot Dog!

Last Friday I journeyed with the kids, my sister's family, and my parents to the Pittsburgh zoo. We had a great time seeing all the animals, and even the car ride was fun (over two hours away). On the way home, somehow or another we got talking about food, and Xoe asked me, not for the first time, why hot dogs are called hot dogs.

Hmmm... I promised to look it up, and promptly did so. =)

Firstly, a hot dog is defined as a particular type of sausage, usually served on a split bun. Check. And in the 1890s, sausages were sometimes referred to as "dogs." Why? Well, ahem, there was apparently a suspicion that some sausages contained dog meat. And while I didn't see any documentation on it, the articles said this suspicion was "occasionally justified."

Ewww. Awww. =( I didn't tell Xoe that justified part. Just that some people accused sausage makers of it.

Anyway. So earning the name "dog" was just because it was in the sausage family. The fact that they were served on buns made them a quick and easy meal when on the go, and apparently a little boy in the 1890s rushed up to a vendor and said, "Give me a hot dog! Quick!" and it stuck. (Yeah, sounds like lure, doesn't it? LOL) It was popularized by a cartoon that really got the name stuck.

What's even more interesting is that it only took 6 years from "hot dog" to go from the accepted name of that particular sausage to a verb used when someone's showing off. By 1906, "Hot dog!" as an expression of approval had gained its place too.

So now that we're moving toward the season of picnics and cookouts, you'll know why you're tossing hot dogs on the grill and not frankfurters or weiners or plain ol' sausages. ;-)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Dread of the Cross

We're doing a study of the cross at church, and last week as we discussed how Jesus knew all his life where he was headed, knew that he was to be the Servant talked about in Isaiah 53, the one that would justify the world.

He knew, always knew, that he would have to die. And not just die, but die for out sins.

Today is Maundy Thursday (just looked up Maundy, which means "Last Supper," go figure), the day Jesus and his disciples gathered in that upper room for the Passover meal. My church will be having a messianic seder this evening, as a matter of fact. Jesus shed new meaning on the old ritual that night, didn't he? He offered new interpretations of what they'd all done every year forever. He opened their eyes to the fact that he was fulfilling parts of the ceremony that were prophecy.

He washed their feet, showing what a Servant should do. He gave them a new commission, a new commandment.

Then he went out to the garden to pray.

That prayer--wow. It's the most heart-wrenching, gut-twisting prayer in the gospels to me. He knows exactly what's coming. He knows why it's coming. And he dreads it. So much that he asks the Father to take this cup from him, if it's possible. But above all, he wants the will of God.

Though I've dwelt on this prayer a lot, I'd never before questioned why he wanted the cup taken from him. It makes perfect sense, after all. Right? Who would want to go to the cross? Who wouldn't pray to be saved from such an agonizing death, if there were another way to achieve the same ends?

But a new thought occurred to me this weekend. Was it the death Jesus dreaded so? The physical pain, those terrible hours?

Or was it the sin he dreaded?

See, it wasn't just that Jesus knew the "what" of what was coming--it had a purpose. And pain with purpose is easier to face. We can go through birth because we know it's how a baby enters the world. People jump in front of moving cars if it saves the child they push out of the way. So the pain . . . yes, I'm sure it gave Jesus pause.

But what really causes Jesus pain? What makes his heart twist throughout the gospels? What always seems to get to him most?

Sin. Separation from the Father. 

Think about it. All his life, Jesus has been blameless. Sinless. Perfect. And that is a big part of why he's one with God. There's nothing to separate them. He can approach the throne even from earth, because he has done no wrong to keep him away.

But the cross, to Jesus, wouldn't just represent false punishment or torture. He knew well that when he took that punishment, he was the sacrificial lamb. He was taking the sins. 

And oh, the sins. Can you imagine looking, in a few short hours, at every single sin in history? Every...single...sin. The lies and betrayals, the murders and rapes--piled on his shoulders. The infidelities and idolatries, the outright worship of Satan and demons--all on him. He, who had never once sinned, whose heart grieved whenever he saw a sin in us, would be under that weight. All that weight. Guilty, in that moment, of the most heinous crimes. Guilty of blaspheming the Father he loved above all. Guilty of everything. Everything.

That, I think, is what made him sweat blood in the garden. That is what made him say, "Father, must I? Is there no other way?" That, far more than physical agony, is the pain that Jesus feared. After all, it could have been any kind of death, right? And it would have sufficed. The sacrifice didn't require a cross.

But I daresay Jesus still would have prayed that prayer, even if facing a lethal injection. Not because of the physical, not because of the death.

Because of the sin. 

Thank you, Jesus, for facing that unfathomable, crushing mountain of weight upon your shoulders for me. Thank you for taking my sins on yourself that day so long ago. Thank you for loving me so much that you faced it, even knowing it would mean the agony of separation from your Father. You did it so that I might draw near to Him.

Never can I thank you enough for that. But I'll spend the rest of my life trying.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Remember When . . . You Searched for Revolution?

I usually post a Remember When more appropriate to the Resurrection season this week, but every thought I have about it today I discover I've already posted about, LOL. So I'll get reflective tomorrow, but today we'll keep talking about whatever I've been researching.

A small excitement I had recently was getting the enthusiastic go-ahead from Harvest House to plan a novella to use for promotional purposes between the releases of Ring of Secrets and its sequel, tentatively titled Mask of Truth. This story will be the happily-ever-after of a character from Ring of Secrets, the second book being about his daughter.

So as I started thinking about what could happen in this snippet of a story, I realized I still needed to have the tension of war--given that it's in all the other stories. And I knew approximately when I'd need this book to be set. So an idea niggled, I did a wee bit of research, and I commenced grinning. 

The French Revolution. Perfect.

Most of the Revolution was a bit too late for me, but those first days of it would be just perfect. My hero, though British, could make his way into France as a favor to a friend. The favor being to find this friend's estranged wife and daughter and bring them back to England before the violence he suspected was brewing could erupt.

So of course, my hero does. And of course, he finds the daughter, my heroine. And of course, they're going to fall in love. But, of course, that brewing violence is going to spew over just in time to cause some difficulty. Climax around the storming of the Bastille, anyone?? ;-)

I'm going to have to do some whirlwind research about the French Revolution for this one, but I'm looking forward to writing this character's romance. =) He deserves his happily ever after. Of course, after fighting in the American Revolution, his first thought upon ending up in France during theirs is going to something along the lines of, "Another revolution? Really? Grrroooooooaaaaaaannnnn." LOL

Monday, April 2, 2012

Word of the Week - Easter

Since it's Holy Week, I thought I'd try to find a word that looked forward to the path that Jesus walked in these next few days--and I knew "Easter" had some background, so it was the winner. ;-)

When Anglo-Saxon Christians first started celebrating the Mass of Christ's Resurrection, they gave it the name Easter, after Eastre, the goddess of fertility and spring, whose holiday was likely the vernal equinox. All neighboring languages use a word derived from Latin pasche, or passover. (Which makes a while lot more sense.) 

Easter eggs are attested from 1824, the Easter Bunny from 1909. And as a matter of fact, Easter Island is so named because the discoverer did so on Easter Monday! (Actually, he was the second to discover it, but the first didn't bother naming it.)

And though Christianity has a long history of "taking over" pagan holidays and traditions and using them to get new converts to observe Christianity instead, I have to say I don't like the English word. I'd never paused to consider it until my piano teacher back in the day refused to use the word "Easter" and instead called it "Resurrection Day." (Of which I fully approve!) She would even retitle songs for our recitals when necessary. One year I was playing "Easter Song" on the organ, and it because "Resurrection Song."

But no matter what we call it, this time of year remains my favorite. I love this week leading up to that most glorious day. This Thursday we'll be observing Maundy Thursday with a messianic seder feast, which I'm really looking forward to. Our usual church service will be on Saturday, and Sunday morning we'll have an outdoor sunrise service focusing on the resurrection, followed by a breakfast.

And of course, we're cramming our school week into 3 days so that we can begin our Spring Break in time for the holiday. I hope everyone has a blessed, blessed Holy Week!