Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thoughtful About . . . New Projects & Retreats

Well, it is nearly time for the event I've been counting down to since last June--a writing retreat with my best friend/critique partner! We're renting a cabin, settling down with our laptops, and taking three whole days (and two partial ones) to do nothing but WRITE! Heaven!!

That's tomorrow. Today I need to get everything ready, LOL. Kinda short on time!
Peek of just a corner of the
cover for the free novella!

Which, of course, is when a new project comes along. =) A fun one, but one that can't be put off. I'm working with Harvest House on a free novella that takes place between Ring of Secrets and Whispers from the Shadows. We're all very excited about it, and it needs to be turned in (cover, edits, etc) by tomorrow--and included in it we need a title for a second free story that was just brought up yesterday. So I'm scrambling to come up with a plot so that I can title it, LOL.

Any ideas? Anyone? ;-) I know the setting is 1835 and who the characters are, a basic plot. Title still eluding me...

So I'd better spend my few free minutes working on that. I know you'll understand. ;-)

But don't forget to check out the Colonial Quill, where I took my spy-name game yesterday! And also up today is a post I put together for Go Teen Writers asking some of the CBA's top editors how they got into their jobs and what they love/hate about it. It's a fun one!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Remember When . . . Men's Fashion Got Diverse?

My totally awesome fashion book sadly doesn't have much on men for the 1860s, so I've been trolling the internet while writing Circle of Spies. And you know what I've found? That the variety of fashions for men in 1865 gives me some awesome freedom. =)

My first choice was in figuring out what kind of hat my hero wears. I know this seems small, but his opening scene is him getting off the train and waiting for the villain to arrive, and he's all brooding and silent and stuff, and I didn't to visualize him just so. So what hat did he wear? Top hat? Bowler? Straw boater thingy? Just look at these choices!

I decided that Slade Osborne wears a bowler. I at first had him in a top hat, but...nope. Just can't do it. He's a bowler man, for sure and certain.

Men's coats came in a variety of lengths and styles too, with differing collar widths. Sometimes gents would only button the top button of their coat, so as to show off their waistcoat (vest). Cravats had some variation too. Notice in the picture below the man is wearing trousers, shirt, vest, frock coat, and over coat. The outermost coat would come off inside, leaving frock coat on.

Slade wears a knee-length frock coat, quite fashionable, but only because someone else commissioned his clothes for him. I kind of wonder what he would have chosen for himself... ;-)

Then, goodness, I had to decide on facial hair! I've never really had many heroines with facial hair at all (except for Xerxes, who had a full beard because, well, he did, LOL. Historically, that is. But for Slade, the image of Collin Ferrell I'd based him on featured a goatee. So in my mind, that's what he had. In trying to ascertain if this was time-accurate, I looked up the word--check. Fine for the time. But did that mean it was popular? Well, what I love about 1865 is that there are pictures everywhere! I just opened one of my books on Baltimore during the Civil War, found a photo of a huge group of men, and studied their moustaches and beards, LOL. And, yep, I found several goatees! 
Not that this is precisely a goatee, but I'm looking online now instead of in my book, LOL
 So there we have it. Slade Osborne wears a bowler, a knee-length frock coat, carries a pocket watch, has a goatee. But my favorite part about him is his demeanor. Where Bennet in Ring of Secrets is a social bumbler who far prefers his chemistry laboratory...where Thad in Whispers from the Shadows is amiable, personable, and adventurous, with a keen intuition about what people most need...well, Slade is brooding, silent, and has learned firsthand the price of betrayal. But oh, the things he can say with his mouth firmly shut! Yep, he's a fun one. =)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Word of the Week - Virus

Virus is another word that really surprised me. I guess because I know that viruses are so itsy-bitsy they require a high-powered microscope to see them...I just assumed they were a modern realization. And hence a modern word.

Um, no.

Virus has been around since the late 1300s as a word, its original meaning being "venomous substance." It's in fact straight from the Latin virus that means "poisonous liquid." So, okay...really old meaning. But that's not what a virus is today exactly, right? So how about the modern meaning?

Even that surprised me! It's from 1728. If someone had asked me, I would have guessed sometime in the 1800s at the earliest. But nope. 1728. Obviously "computer virus" didn't come around until the 20th century though. ;-) And viral is from 1948.

Now let's pray everyone can stay immune to all those nasty viruses floating around out there this time of year!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thoughtful About . . . Computers

My computer is going blind. Which is to say, its video card is failing. It's annoying on a good day--it won't play video, crashes any time flash comes up--and kinda terrifying on a bad day when the screen just blinks out and then doesn't recover quite as it should.

I still think of this thing as "my new laptop." But really it's four years old, which is about the life expectancy of a computer these days (let's not get into why...). And as I sit here and contemplate getting a new one, I remember a conversation I had with my best friend five years ago. She was getting a new desktop computer, and while she was happy, she was also sorry to let her old one go. Because, she said, she thought that would be the computer she was using when she got published.

I'd never paused to think about the machines that might be tied to certain periods in my life, but it came back to me yesterday while I stared at my crazy-big-looking, wonky screen. And thought to think back on what I'd been through with this one.

I had a laptop in college, but it went kaput shortly after Rowyn was born, so just about five years ago. I wanted to get another right away, but finances didn't permit. So I used an ancient, wheezing desktop for my projects then. That's where I wrote a contemporary romance I pitched to Summerside, another contemporary romance that I thought would be a fun followup to it with another house. Yeah...both of those are just sitting in my Completed MSS folder now.

Then I finally got the laptop I wanted in the summer of 2009. Right before the ACFW conference. I picked based on battery life, and man was I impressed! I didn't have to plug the thing in at all while I was away. Then I came home and got down to work on another historical, also destined to sit on the my harddrive for a while. Then, then I wrote Jewel of Persia on this lovely little Acer. I carried it around with me, writing in every room of the house, often making a desk of the end table in my living room. From there, I went to Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland. Which lead to Ring of Secrets.

Yeah--this is the computer I used to write these books that got me published. This is the computer that will be forever tied to my big break, to those thrill-inducing emails. The computer that has seen born and has saved for me the first books of mine to really get into readers' hands.

Sniff, sniff. I love this little laptop!

So while this isn't exactly a post that waxes philosophical on things of faith, it seemed appropriate to take a minute to be thankful for this gift. It's just a computer. Just a collection of parts that can fail and get sick and find any number of ways to infuriate us daily. But it's also a little machine that has made my life easier. That has seen me through a lot of manuscripts, a lot of dreams, a lot of disappointments. I've cried with it and laughed with it and learned how to work around its quirks. And I'm going to miss it when it's gone.


I'm a guest again today on the Borrowed Book, where I'm talking about a day in my life--don't miss your chance to enter to win a signed copy of Ring of Secrets (one just for the commenters there) and also get more entries into my Box of Secrets giveaway!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


We have some winner! From the giveaway for Susie Finkbeiner's Paint Chips and a necklace from her store, that is. =) First, the book goes too...

 Annette {This Simple Home}!

And the jewelry of her choice goes to...

Leila (

I'll be contacting you both. Remember, one week to claim the prize!

Remember When . . . Horses Drove the Trains?

Camden Station in 1865
One of the interesting tidbits I've learned as I'm researching Circle of Spies (the official name of Culper Ring Series, Book 3!!!!) has to do with Baltimore and the trains.

Now, Baltimore was a fairly important railroading town, as one might be able to guess from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's name, LOL. There were several major lines running through the city. And yet, you wouldn't hear those locomotives if you were in the city during the Civil War era--oh no. They were considered noise pollution (not that that was the name for that at the time), and running a train through the city proper was against the law.

Kinda interesting, then, since the lines had to go straight through Baltimore to get to, say, Washington D.C. 

So there were two major stations. There was the President Street Station that came into Baltimore on one side of town, and the Camden Station on the opposite side, heading to D.C. In order to get to one from another, passengers either had to debark, take a coach through the city, and catch a different train, or else the cars had to be decoupled from the locomotive, hitched to horses one by one, and pulled through the town to the other station, where a new engine would be coupled up.

Inconvenient for travelers, to be sure, though I suppose the residents appreciated it, LOL. But what I find interesting is how many times this was used for nefarious purposes! This process was around what the first attempt to kidnap or kill Abraham Lincoln was based, when he was on his way to Washington for his Inauguration. And when the war was just heating up and Union soldiers were en route to D.C., Confederate sympathizers dumped sane, bricks, and other debris on the tracks between the two stations to prevent the cars from being pulled along by the horses. 

The fun little tidbits I just love learning. =)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Word of the Week - Ooze

Have you entered the giveaway yet for Susie Finkbeiner's Paint Chips and a piece of jewelry of your choice from her Etsy shop? If not, hurry! One more day!

This one will be quick, but that's okay. I have galleys of Whispers from the Shadows arriving today, so no time to lose! =)
Resin oozing from a stump

Ooze was one of those words like "wow" that really surprised me in how old it was--as in, as old as English. I thought it was a new word . . . perhaps I thought so because of its use in Ghost Busters and Nickelodeon slime stuff. ;-)

But nope. Ooze dates, both as a verb and a noun, from the 1300s, and had its modern spelling as early as the 1500s. And the meaning hasn't changed either. From its origins, it carried the same denotation of juicy, gooy, miry stuff.

Interestingly, its root is the same as the one from which we get virus, which we'll take a look at next week. ;-)

Now, today is the official launch of the Ring of Secrets promo tour! So to kick things off, I'm over at Go Teen Writers sharing the story of the book's road to publication. Leave a comment there for a chance to win a signed copy of the book AND a chance to name a character in Circle of Spies, book 3 in the Culper Ring Series!

Plus it marks the launch of my Box of Secrets giveaway! For the next month-ish, during the blog tour, you can enter to win these 10 fun prizes, including a complete set of signed books-by-me. (If you already have some of these, think of it as a nice gift for a family member or friend, LOL.) Plus some awesome custom-made items.

And as you'll see on Rafflecopter, one of the ways to enter is to play my Create Your Own Spy Name game!

Let the intrigue begin. =)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thoughtful About . . . Love

I know, a predictable topic for Valentine's Day. ;-) But you gotta love the classics, right?

I'm amazingly blessed when it comes to love. I found my true love in high school, got married at 18, and haven't regretted a minute of it. In this day and age, I know that's rare. We live in a kind of strange society where it's accepted that teenagers are going to be sexually active, but not that they're capable of making long-term decisions on romance. A world where they're told to pick a career focus at age 13, but then that college students change majors on average 5 times (or something like that).

But I was never typical--I say that in all honestly, LOL. I knew from primary school onward that I wanted to be a writer. And I knew in high school that if I were smart, I'd marry someone who was happy to support me in that goal until the dough came rolling in. ;-) At that age, I had my list of what the Perfect Guy would be. He would be older than me. He would be taller than me. He would have shorter hair than me. Those were my criteria. 

Then I met David. And, well...he was taller. =) Ten months younger, he had a ponytail while at that age I had a bob, but oh the dimples. The green eyes. And most of all, the soul that mine understood so perfectly. He too was atypical. More focused on life-after-high-school than most. Another rare teen who not only understood consequences but contemplated them. A guy who immediately put his total support behind my writing dream...and made it his dream too, deciding then and there that maybe he'd like to get into publishing someday.

Be still my heart!

We went to college together, from our West Virginia town to St. John's in Annapolis. Yes, at first my parents worried that I wanted to go there just because he was leaving high school a year early to do so. But I explained that we both wanted it because it was an awesome school, and the fact that we both thought so was, you know, kinda one of those things we had in common that made us such a great couple to begin with... And after visiting the college, my parents knew it was the place for me as surely as I did.

Still, ours wasn't the typical teenage romance. We were engaged our last year of high school. Not exactly a popular decision among teens today, but we knew what we wanted. During our first year of college, we started planning a beach wedding for that next summer. Good decision, gotta say. ;-)

We got married after Freshman year. Found a ridiculously expensive postage stamp of an apartment. Finished college together, David went out and got a job with his family's company. We decided to start a family, and afterward to move back home. And now, eleven years after those beachfront I-dos, I can say with the perspective of age that, yep, we knew what we were doing. We knew what we wanted. 

Because we knew who we were.

In a lot of ways, David and I are so very different. Where I'm temperate, he's passionate. Where I'm quiet, he's talkative. Where I'm reserved, he's demonstrative. Which is perfect. We balance each other out in those respects. He knows how to draw me out, and I know how to listen. And we have the same sarcastic sense of humor. The same dreams. And of course, two of the most adorable kids on the planet. ;-)

Some couples have "their song," usually something they danced to once. We have our song too--from the fabulous kids' show Phineas and Ferb. =) Yep, we found our Evil Love. (Told you we share a sarcastic sense of humor, LOL.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cover for Whispers from the Shadows!

I got my cover for Whispers from the Shadows! It arrived in my inbox on Monday. A lovely present for my son's birthday. =)

I'm so excited! I love the colors, I love the ship, the model's lovely, the dress I would love to add to my wardrobe (eh? eh??), obviously love seeing "Author of Ring of Secrets" under my name, and I just love the feeling of mystery they captured!

My favorite part, though, is the necklace. See, the necklace is pretty important. It's from the end of Ring of Secrets and is passed down to the next generation in Whispers. I mentioned that in my cover questionnaire, but I also knew it would be difficult to find the perfect one. So when I saw this, it made me giddy. At which point my editor shared that the designer and his wife MADE this for the model to wear! He found the gold chain, and his wife found some pearls that would slip on over the end. Just like in the books. Isn't that just awesome??

So there we have it! Whispers from the Shadows, available now for pre-order!

Pre-order from Amazon!
Pre-order from ChristianBook!

I'll post the official back cover copy when I have it, but for now, I put up a little description of my own making on my website.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Special Guest Susie Finkbeiner & a Giveaway!

I'm doing a rare Tuesday post today to talk about a truly amazing book. Yes, it's a WhiteFire book, so you might think I'm biased. But hold that thought. ;-)

Last year, our other acquisitions editor, Dina, sent me a first chapter to look over. It was for a book she was considering, and she wanted to get my take on the tone. I could see why she'd want that--just looking at the summary, it's a book that could be too dark. That could be too heavy. That could be too...hard. Not hard to read, but hard to take. And while WhiteFire tackles subjects others won't, we're not a big fan of dark-for-the-sake-of-dark.

But Paint Chips...even in that first chapter, it was different. It spoke of sad things, but there was hope even in those first pages. Light. I liked that, so I gave a thumb's up and went about my business. Dina kept reading...and then David read...and then we had a committee meeting. They both voted yes, and I still hadn't read it, but I liked what I'd heard, so I voted yes too. For reference, that was the first book WhiteFire bought that I hadn't read most-if-not-all-of. But hey, that's what a committee's for.

We welcomed Susie enthusiastically to the family, and I laughed when I realized upon typing the contract that she was a Facebook friend I interacted with almost daily. Duh, LOL. But that made me even happier to welcome her to the family! ;-) I got to work right away on her cover, sending her the above as a test-run. After all, I'd never read this book, I didn't think I'd really be able to grasp it just from her questionnaire...but she quickly replied with "That's it! That's my cover!!"

Over the next couple of months, Dina worked her magic with her edits (Dina is a master of plot and scene structure, gotta say--and she does freelance work with that now, so if you're a writer and need some help in that area, check her out!!), Susie worked her magic in incorporating them, and the manuscript came to me, ready for line edits.

Imagine Roseanna sitting at her desk, glued to her laptop as Hurricane Sandy went through, muttering phrases like, "If we lose power, I still have five hours of battery. I might be able to finish this on five hours of battery..." I just couldn't put it down. I didn't want to stop reading this story, because if I did, I'd leave one or both of the characters in a tough spot...and I couldn't do that to poor Dot or Cora. I couldn't. Besides, I wanted to keep laughing. And crying! I actually cried reading this book, and those of you who know me know that I don't cry over stories. Not books, not TV, not movies...I cry, like, once a year. Maybe twice. It's not my thing, so if this did it--that should be proof right there that you had better go buy it! ;-)

Paint Chips is a book about family. About the ravages of a broken one and the healing touch of a mended one. It's a story about the power of redemption...a power that shines the brightest into the darkest crevices. It's a story that broke my heart. And then put it back together. Because it shows the ugly parts of our world. Human trafficking, abuse, the hard streets. But it shows even more starkly the beauty. What love can do. What faith can change.

When I finished reading this book, my first thought was, "Wow. I'm so glad this is ours! I want to publish this!!" (A good thought, yes, since it was only two months from release at that point, LOL.) So...seriously. This book is an experience you don't want to miss. It'll change you. Change how you look at the world, at those who love you unconditionally, at the Father who sees so much more than we do. Read it. You'll see.

Here's the back cover blurb, to give you an idea of, you know...what it's actually about. ;-)

What lies beneath the layers of hurt?
Though haunted by her troubled past, Dot has found a safe haven. She has a fierce protector and a colorful collection of friends...but sometimes she wonders if her life will ever be normal again. Though college and romance await her, embracing them requires a new kind of strength--one she isn't sure she has.

Emerging from years of confusion, Cora struggles to latch hold of the sanity she needs to return to the real world. She yearns to find a place of peace...but first she must deal with the ghosts of her past.

Can this mother and daughter overcome abuse, betrayal, abandonment, and the horrors of sexual trafficking, and make it back into each others arms?

Facing the past is never easy. But as they chip away the layers, they might just find something beautiful beneath the mess.
And if you haven't watched Susie's book trailer yet, WATCH IT!! Seriously awesome--live action, and the best book trailer I've ever seen. (We're not comparing it to mine because, well, that's like saying "Which baby is cuter? Yours or your sister's? Uh....LOL)

Now for the giveaway! 

First of all, y'all should just go buy the book, because at $3.99 for digitals, why not? ;-) (Buy from Amazon...Buy from B&N...Buy from our distributor) But I'll offer one free digital to a commenter. To make it more interesting, though, to a second winner, I'll purchase for you your choice of items from Susie's jewelry store, Inspired Novelties. Half her proceeds are donated to worthy causes (different one each month), and all are inspired by literature--and beautiful! I have several of her pieces, and they're awesome. =)

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which is your favorite piece from Susie's shop, and an email where you can be reached. Want an extra entry? Share the giveaway! Tweet it, blog about it, email it to a friend...have at it. =)

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 2/19/13. Winner will have one week to claim prize.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Word of the Week - Up

First, I'd just like to say that it's my baby boy's birthday, and he's FIVE! How did that happen? LOL.

But anyway. On to the word of the week. =) I chose up not because of its literal meaning, of course, which has been in English forever, but because of some of the fun idioms.

Up as "exhilarated, happy" is first attested in 1815. Up-and-coming, "promising," is from 1848. The phrase on the up-(and-up) joined the party in 1863, though only in American English. Up the river, meaning "in jail," was first recorded in 1891, originally in reference to Sing Sing, which is up the Hudson from New York City. To drive someone up the wall (1951) is from the notion of the behavior of lunatics or caged animals. The insulting retort up yours is attested by the late 19th century, which I found a bit surprising. I'd have thought it more modern that that.

But my primary interest was in the phrase "something must be up" or "what's up?" which I couldn't find, LOL. Well, I couldn't find the etymology of the first. In looking up "what" I found that that one is from 1881, and I'm assuming the "something" way of stating it instead of asking it is from a similar time.

As for what's up around happy little boy! =) Hope everyone has a great one!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thoughtful About . . . Potatoes

The Little Potato Peeler
by Albert Anker, 1886
I want to be like a potato. Aside from the fact that they don't have hourglass figures, that is. ;-) But every time I reach for one in dinner prep, it hits me anew.

I want to be able to sprout no matter where I am. No matter how unsuitable the "where" is to sprouting. That right there would be enough. If we could put out roots like a potato, then just think how secure we'd be in our lives, wherever we are. Whatever we're doing.

I want to be long-lasting. No week-away expiration date. I want to be able to still go strong after weeks and months left sitting. Because sometimes there are periods of inaction in life. Of rest. If I were as long-lasting as a potato, those wouldn't bother me a bit.

I want to be hearty. I want my work to stick to your bones, yes. But more, I want to know that I'm made of sterner stuff than fluff and nonsense. That I've got some starch to me. Maybe that gets potatoes a bad rap in this age of dieting, and maybe it gets people bad raps too sometimes. But that's the stuff that energy is made of.

I want to be a chameleon, handy for any number of oh-so-different goals. Is there anything you can't do with a potato? Slice them, fry them, boil them, bake them, mash them, make them a base for a soup...for a candy...for a bread. If I could just be half so useful in half so many ways...

I want to be full of good things. Starch aside, potatoes have nothing but goodness. Anything bad has to be put into them. Lord, make me so pure!

I want to be a staple. Cultures rise and fall around potatoes. I don't profess that kind of hubris, LOL, but I want to be the kind of wife my husband builds his life around. The kind of mom that provides a life of stability and love for my kiddos. The kind of friend that can be depended on for anything. The kind of writer, the kind of editor, the kind of mentor that people come back to over and over.

I want to be a potato. Not that kind that sits on a couch and does nothing, but the kind that can do it all. The kind that's just fine with waiting and doing nothing when it's called for. The kind that can then be picked up and put to any number of uses. 

Lord, make me a potato. Sometimes I'm not so sure I have what it takes to be one of those lumpy brown legumes. But I pray I do. Help me to live up to their example. Help me to be a potato too.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Remember When . . . The Culpers Were Here?

You know what I love most about the Culper Ring? That I set about to learn about them a year and a half ago expecting high adventure, cloak and dagger, James Bond meets Jason Bourne kind of action. But what I found weren't specially trained super-spies. They were people. Shopkeepers and farmers, fishermen and soldiers.

They were you. They were me.

They didn't have special training. Heck, the code they developed was amateur at best and could have been cracked in about an hour had it ever been intercepted. But they had the safety of invisible ink...which one of the brothers Jay developed solely for fun before the Revolution began. While in England, no less. He wasn't some chemist working at a top-secret facility, he was a basement scientist.
Haymaking by Winslow Homer, 1864

That's what I love. That these were just people who didn't believe in embracing limits. Who lived in a time when discovery meant going out and doing instead of sitting and typing in a command in Google. (Not to knock Google--I love me my search engines! LOL). That these folks got up each day, not with a mission from headquarters, but with a down-to-their-bones need to help their country. To serve their brothers. To obey their God.

Sometimes, I look around this world with its this-crisis and that-crisis...with its millions of people who say, "I deserve this"...with its millions more who shrug and say, "Nothing I can do." I see the dangers, the crime, the hatred, the total lack of understanding between opposing views. And I think, We need the Culpers. We need someone willing to take a few risks to do what needs done.

And then I realize...they're out there. The people who don't just go out of their way to do the right thing, but who make it their way. Maybe they don't know they're a Culper. Maybe they don't encode their work and send it to anyone in charge. But they're there. People who get up every day and say, "Show me what to do today, God. Show me how to help."

And to whom He replies, "Keep your eyes open. Someone's going to cross your path soon..."

These are the people--like you, like me--who change lives. And who can, I truly believe, change the world.

Let's change it with them. Let's honor them for their quiet labor and start something together. Let's form a not-so-secret society of do-gooders. Let's make it our way.
Do you know someone worthy of being a Culper? Tell me their story, and I'll send them one of these custom-made challenge coins. No, actually, I'll send them two. One to keep as a token and reminder, and one to pass along to someone they know who fits the bill.

The story of the coin: The path is straight, and it's narrow. But sometimes, looking at it as it leads toward the city on the hill, we see the undulation of the landscape and think it's pretty twisty. Pretty difficult. But oh, how beautiful shines that place of rest! There's only one way to get there, though.

Nostra via est facere bona” ... “Our Way is To Do Good.”

How? Well, that's where the reverse of the coin comes in. Let's embrace the spirit of the ash tree--a symbol of sacrifice, sensitivity, and higher awareness.

Let's be Culpers.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Word of the Week - Ragtag

Peasants Brawling by Abraham Diepraam
(A ragtag collection, to be sure) ;-)
I had the pleasure of going over edits on Whispers from the Shadows last week, and my editor and I got to laugh about some of the not-in-use-yet words that slipped through. =) A few were difficult...I still don't know what I'm going to replace them with! But this was kinda funny.

I had my British character sneering at the very thought of a ragtag collection of farmers defeating the British (again, ahem) with their pitchforks and shovels. Only, as Kim pointed out, "ragtag" was still a decade away from use. Le sigh. Apparently this phrase in reverse, "tag-rag and bobtail" has been in use since 1650, but not switched around. That didn't make its appearance (and again, paired with "bobtail") until 1820. 

I would have been left scratching my head over that "bobtail" part, gotta say, if the etymology dictionary didn't specify that bobtail meant "cur." Apparently tag and rag was also a popular phrase in the 16-17th centuries.

When we first went over these edits, I had no handy substitution for ragtag. But later that afternoon, if you heard me randomly shout out, "Motley!" that would be why. ;-) When next I spoke with my editor, I happily told her my epiphany, and she made the substitution. And motley has been around since the 14th century, with even its newest meaning of "fool" from 1600.

But in looking up motley to check it, I saw another "rag" entry! Apparently at the same time that ragtag was coming into use, rag-bag made its debut too--though apparently literally, at first. It took on the figurative meaning, however, by 1864.

And now I get to shift my thinking up to that very time period. =) All set, I am, for the world of 1865. Where ragtag is acceptable, if I have an occasion to use it, LOL.