Monday, March 31, 2014

It's Circle of Spies Week!

Tomorrow is the official release of Circle of Spies!
The paperback has actually been available online for a while now, but the digital will now, finally be out too! Woot!

So this week, in lieu of normal posts, it's going to be a Circle of Spies Fest. =) With some attention, too, going to the also-just-released book by one of my good friends, Naomi Rawlings, whose book also has a spy element! How fun it that?

I'll have a few guest posts up throughout the week that I'll provide links to as they appear, culminating in one of Colonial Quills' famous online tea parties--where it'll share the stage with AMC's new TV show, Turn. So, so kind of one of my favorite channels to release their Culper Ring series the same week my final book in my Culper Ring Series releases, isn't it? Readers of Ring of Secrets will see a few similarities between the show and my book, I expect. 

And if anyone would like to help me promote this happy coincident, I would greatly appreciate any post on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or blogs that have my book titles and their show title in the same post! Putting viral marketing to work! ;-)

And of course, we're celebrating with a giveaway! There are 2 prizes - just comment telling me which one (or both) you'd like to be entered for. This giveaway will also be running at the Tea Party on Friday.

3-Pearl Neckalce
similar to the one featured in the Culper Ring Series

The complete, signed Culper Ring Series 

Don't forget that Mother's Day is fast approaching, 
and either of these prizes would make excellent gifts, 
even if you already have some of the books!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 27, 2014

5 Winners of Circle of Spies!

Well, the contest for the 5 signed copies of Circle of Spies is finished, and I just selected my winners! (Or rather, did it for me.) Big congrats to:

Amy Putney
Caitlyn Santi
Andrea Cox

I'll be sending y'all emails in just a few minutes!

And in case anyone's curious as to what I decided to use when I sign these isn't exactly what anyone suggested, largely because I have very, very little space to sign in this one, so had to keep it very short. But it's similar to a few suggestions. These 5 winners will be reading

May you never forget His promises
inside their books. =) Thanks so much to all who offered suggestions and entered to win! I really love this story, and I hope you all do too!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

AMC's Turn and Ring of Secrets

I've been getting a lot of messages from excited folks who want to make sure I know that AMC is launching a series about the Culper Ring. So I thought I'd take a day to say:

Oh yes. I know. Didn't you hear me squealing?? =)

Launching Sunday, April 6 on AMC, Turn looks like it will be a dramatic, action-packed peek into the Revolution and American's first spy ring. And yes, I'm thrilled. I love that I get to watch the Culpers come to life. I love that they're starting with Abraham Woodhull's story. I love that it's based on Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose, the same book I used as my primary source for Ring of Secrets. I love that the Culper Ring is getting attention. And you know, if folks happen to go Amazon and do a search for it, that would be okay too, LOL. Cuz get what will pop up? ;-)

From all the trailers I so eagerly watch, Turn begins where the Culper Ring began--with Tallmadge recruiting Abraham Woodhull, on Long Island. It looks like this first season, anyway, will focus on his story. It's fitting, because that's really how the Culpers got their start. Woodhull is arrested by the Patriots for smuggling produce into New York City--but one of the officers is Benjamin Tallmadge, who grew up with Woodhull and who's looking for a dependable source of information for General Washington. So the question put to Woodhull is simple, but anything but easy: in exchange for his freedom, will he become a spy?

In Ring of Secrets, I begin my story later in the war, a couple years after these first events that Turn will cover this season. And though Woodhull is mentioned, he was actually sick through the months I cover, and basically out of commission. By that point in time, much of the weight of the Ring rested on the rather-unstable shoulders of Robert Townsend. I assume Rob will come into the TV series in later seasons, but he wasn't even known to the people at that early date. So it'll be fun to see how they move the plot along until where "my" characters enter. I can't wait!

I, of course, write a different kind of historical. My method has always been to use fictional characters to fill in the blanks of history, to interact with those historical figures. So while I do indeed have the same people Turn will have--Woodhull and Tallmadge and Townsend and Brewster and Roe--my focus is on people I made up. Isaac Fairchild, a British officer. Bennet Lane, a Yale professor out to find the Patriot spy in the City of New York.

And Winter Reeves. Winter is my Culper. We know they had operatives they never named, sources who remained completely anonymous. And though there has been a fair amount of buzz over the years about a female operative, the historical one wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted someone completely unknown. Not speculated about. With no facts to tie me down, LOL. So I created Winter. A childhood friend of Robert Townsend, thrust into the elite society of Loyalist New York. A Patriot who no one knows is a Patriot.

You can bet I'm going to be tuning into Turn--and I'll probably talk about it again after I've got an episode or three under my belt. I'll share my opinions, my expertise (ahem, LOL), and my thoughts on where the series might be going. And I'll be glad that my series ties in but is unique. That my focus was on a different aspect of the Ring, and on my own imagination. And hey, when their series ends at the close of the War and everyone wonders what might have become of the Culpers afterward...well, they can just pick up my books. ;-)

History says they probably disbanded. But you never know, right? They could have kept the group together. They could have kept working to hold their country together. And they might just have looked like this.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Word of the Week - Toilet

Last night I ate an orange. (I know--groundbreaking news, right? LOL) At which point Xoe came in and exclaimed over how lovely my hands smelled. Which prompted her cheeky question of, "Mommy, did you get new cologne?"

I, naturally, said, "Now, now. These days cologne is reserved for what men wear, and women wear perfume." And thought, Mostly. Although it used to be...

While I was thinking thus (ahem, LOL), my hubby thought it would be funny to say I was wearing "eau de toilette."

Need it even be mentioned that our darling daughter dissolved into laughter and, upon getting the translation of "toilet water," asked why in the world perfume was ever called that?

I then had the pleasure of educating husband and daughter both. ;-) Granted, I was halfway making it up. But I was right. So there.
Toilet of Venus (no, not THAT kind!) by Simon Vouet
circa 1628-1639

The English toilet has pretty much followed the evolution of the French toilette through the ages. First, it meant "cover or bag for clothes." So, a garment bag. This first meaning, which made its way to English in the 1530s, was from the French toil--cloth. In the late 1600s, it took on the meaning of "the act or process of dressing." Another 120 years passed, and it became the word for the room in which you do that dressing, especially one with a lavatory attached. Then, and only then--70 some years later, in 1895--did it get attached to the lavatory and its fixtures instead of the dressing room. And yes, that euphemism is also an Americanism.

So really, it's a very lovely word that we first used to pretty-up a not-so-lovely room...and by which we managed to make into an ugly word. Sigh. Sorry, toilette!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Our Best

Yesterday I read the book of Malachi. Right off the bat, I learned that historians aren't sure if Malachi is a name, or the equivalent of signing something "Anonymous"--it means "the messenger of God." So it could have been a pen name--pretty interesting for this author!

It isn't a long book. It isn't one I often hear quoted. But this verse really jumped out at me, when he's responding to the poor sacrifices the people have been making:

8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick,
Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”
Says the Lord of hosts.

I've thought a lot about sacrifice over the years--and though we don't do the traditional Hebrew sacrifices as modern Christians, how it applies to us. But this really put it in perspective for me. Here, God is saying, "Would you present this to your earthly ruler? If not, then why do you try to offer it to me? Am I not a King above all kings?"

That really makes me take a look at my life. To whom am I giving my sacrifice? Is it to God? Or is to my husband, my kids, my editors, my authors? Who gets the firstfruits of my labors? Of my time? Of my earnings?

Who gets my best?

If I were having a royal family over for dinner, you can bet I wouldn't be offering them leftovers--unless that was all I could offer. When I give a gift to someone I love, I don't fish trash out of the can and wrap it up. When I hug my children, it isn't half-hearted, I don't then push them away.

So why do I think I can get away with treating God like He's second-rate? Because let's face it, that's what we sometimes do. We think, "I'll squeeze in some time for prayers later...unless I forget. I'll read my Bible tomorrow. I'll take a few bucks out of savings for the offering, maybe. I'll give up something I don't really care about."

But you know what? God says He'd rather have nothing than our leftovers. Because a halfhearted offering is an insult. No, worse. It's evil. That's the word He uses there in Malachi, and I can't think of a stronger one.

So when I give Him my worst instead of my best, I'm being evil. When I give Him my moldy leftovers instead of my feast, I'm being evil. When I pray as an absent afterthought instead of first, I'm being evil.

And that hurts. Because I so often get too busy. Too caught up. Too distracted. My heart's in the right place, but the rest of me doesn't always follow. And I think, "It's okay. God knows my intentions. God loves me. God knows I'm trying."

Yeah. He does. But He also knows when I'm not. He knows when I push thoughts of Him down. When I think, "Yes, I should do that, but I can't. It's too hard."

And He knows that I wouldn't make those excuses for a king who stood before me. And He mourns that I'm trying to do it with Him.

I think a lot about how my Lord is like my father. How He loves, forgives, chastises, embraces, guides. And all that is true. 

But He's also my Savior, my King, my Lord, my God. And that means He deserves my praise. My worship. My awe. 

My all.

He deserves my best.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Remember When . . . I Signed Circle of Spies?

As some of you may recall from my 30 Days of Giveaways over the summer, I come up with a unique message to use in signing each of my books--and as I now have cases of Circle of Spies in a corner of my bedroom, it's time to decide what to write in those! I like it to be a sort of prayer or benediction for my readers, relevant to the book. Here are the ones I've been using for my other books:

A Stray Drop of Blood
May His touch leave you forever changed.

Jewel of Persia
May the Lord be your Light.

Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland
May you find true Liberty in Him.

Ring of Secrets
May you hear Him in the echoes of silence.

Whispers from the Shadows
May His whisper guide your steps.
(This one was recommended by one of YOU!)

So here we are again, ready to come up with a new one! And I'm pairing it with a giveaway. Make a recommendation and be entered to win one of FIVE signed copies of Circle of Spies (the first of these I've given away!!). Make one that I end up choosing verbatim, and you'll win a signed copy PLUS one of my other books. Or if you have my other books already, you'll win a copy of the book of prayers that is featured throughout the series. And if you already have that, too...then we'll get creative, LOL.

Now, to help you in your recommending, here are some key aspects and themes of the book:

Memory (Marietta has a perfect one--and no, I do not, LOL.)
Prodigal sons/daughters
Freedom (both of the soul and physical freedom from slavery)
Family legacy
Family (as in, finding one)
Embracing the gifts God has given you

Enough to get you started? I hope so! And please spread the word! (Paperback books eligible only to US mailing addresses--however, internationals are welcome to enter for a digital prize!)
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 17, 2014

Word of the Week - Retreat

A Cool Retreat by John William Godward, 1910

I have a writing retreat quickly approaching, and I am getting a little giddier at the thought with each passing day. =) But of course, I then have to pause and consider the word, because I'm just that kind of nerd, LOL.

I wasn't surprised to learn that the typical definition of retreat is very old. The noun, meaning "act or retiring from action," dates to the 13th century. The verb, oddly, took another 200 years to join English. But what I found really interesting is that my kind--"a place of seclusion"--dates from the 15th century! I had no idea it was that old. It had gained religious connotation by the 1750s.

To change the subject, I spent my weekend in VA Beach, celebrating with my critique partner, Dina Sleiman, her 3-book deal with Bethany House. And when hubby and I got home (after driving through a blizzard), I found these waiting for me!
The Dutch version of Ring of Secrets! This is my first Dutch-translated book, though many, many of my friends' books have been translated, so it's pretty cool. =) The title in Dutch translates as Mask of Innocence. I was hoping for a "mask" title in the series, so that's awesome!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Trials and Temptations

I figure I'll just keep posting thoughts from my Bible study. ;-) Worked well for me last week, LOL.

This week, the study of James led us into a discussion on temptation. It's worth noting up front that the root of temptation is tempt, and the root of attempt is also tempt. So there's already a link between tempting and trying. And the dual meanings of try--both to try to do something and when something tries (vexes) you--are in the original Greek.

So. There were a few things in the verses we studied that jumped out at me. First is that trials, troubles, tribulations are not themselves any indicator of sin...but they often lead to it. Why? Because when things are going well, it's easy to keep our focus (sometimes) where it needs to be. A healthy marriage doesn't often lead one to an affair. When there's nothing to get mad about, we don't often fly off the handle and hurt somebody. When we're not sick or injured, we're not inclined to drown ourselves in self-pity and curse God (as Job's wife told him to do).

But when the bad things come--that's when that invisible finger curls, beckoning us. Telling us to come this way, it'll be easier. It'll be satisfying. It'll give us what we lack. Sometimes even promising us that Noble Thing we've so long striven for, but in a way that goes against what God instructed.

You can be like God...if you just eat this fruit.

Ever pause to think how clever that enticement really was? Satan didn't promise them riches. He didn't promise them fleshly pleasure. How could he? Adam and Eve already had a perfect life. The one thing they wanted was to be ever more like the Father who walked with them. So that was the one temptation the adversary could offer. You can be like God, just like Him. A good thing--but to do so, they'd have to disobey. So he twisted the words, made them question their understanding. Are you sure he said that? Just like that? I don't think so. And you'll understand as soon as you eat...

But here's the other thing that struck me. When we think of temptations, we think of something external, like that beckoning finger. We are tempted by something. By someone. By some force. And sometimes, yeah, that's true. It's an outside person or being luring us. But in James it says we are led by "our own desires" into temptation.
Not always by Satan. Not always by other people. By ourselves. Because we want the fleshly thing. We want the donut. We want the alcohol. We want the sex. All things that are good in the right time, in moderation, so why not more?

A lot of translators even put "evil" into the verse--that we are led astray by our own evil desires. But that's not in the Greek. The Greek word just means "natural desires." The desire for food, for drink, for warmth, for comfort, for love, for arms around us. Natural. Not bad in and of themselves. But they can lead us toward sin when we put those desires above our desire for God. When we let those desires rule us instead of the other way around.

This is why denying ourselves is a pretty big theme in the Bible. Because we need to get those urges under control. We need to not be enslaved by them. Because if we have to have them, and struggle with it when all is well, what's going to happen when the trials come?

They're going to test us, that's what. Tempt us. Is it God? Well, James says God doesn't tempt. But sometimes God tests--He doesn't lead us to the temptation, but he allows the trials. Why?

This is another lovely realization that came through our study. Because we need to know we're stronger. God already knows--these trials aren't for His benefit. But seriously. How do you know how strong your faith is, until you have to use it? How do you know how much you love Him until you see that love under threat?

I remember back when Xoe was about 11 months old. She was cruising but not walking on her own yet, and in her usual way was going around the living room by holding on to this and that. We had a pedestal end table she'd just grabbed. I was across the room, on the couch. I saw it happen--her hand slip, her knees buckle. I knew she was going down. But before I could get there, she'd already fallen, hitting her head on the table edge on the way down. At 11 months, this was her first bloody injury. And it wasn't bad. A Band-Aid made all well again. But it was the first time I'd seen my baby bleed. The first time she'd been in real pain.

And it made me sick. Dizzy. I had to hand her to David and sink down to the floor until my head and stomach righted themselves, and I have never gotten weird at the sight of blood.

But it was different when it was hers. 

I'd obviously known I adored my little girl. I loved her to pieces. But not until that moment did it become perfectly clear to me how much. The pain--terrible as it was--acted like a lens. With Rowyn, that lens came at birth, when he couldn't catch a full breath and had to spend his first two days under an oxygen hood. Newborn, and my baby had a problem. My heart hurt beyond what I thought it could. And my love just gushed from me.

No one wants trials. No one wants to be tempted. But it's through these tests that we understand how much stronger God is than our weaknesses. How the longing for Him can outdo the longing for anything else.

And then I look at the world around me, and I have to wonder. Because "temptation" has become a sexy word. An alluring word. Not a word of warning, but a word of enticement. Come, be tempted. Give in, the world says.

Hearing the call isn't a sin. Feeling the longing is only natural. But giving in to it--deciding to give in to it--that's where the danger lies. 

But it's not going to give you what you hope it will. It won't. Don't be deceived, James warns in the next verse. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. God. Not the world. The world can make you happy...for a while. But it can't make you joyful. It can meet the needs of your flesh...but not the needs of your soul.

That's why God is always there. Always waiting. He always has His hand outstretched, so that when those trials come, when we feel the temptation, we can turn to Him instead. And we can know that He already gave up so much for us. He already paid the price that sin would exact. He already defeated the temptation.

We just have to remember it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Remember When . . . She Forgot Nothing?

Well, here we are. March 12. That means 19 days until the official, in-stores-everywhere release of Circle of Spies. My copies arrived on Monday. And when I looked it up, I saw it was in stock already at (woot!!!!).


A book release is always fun--and funny. Because though this is the latest book the public sees, the author hasn't been working on it for months. The last I saw of it was Thanksgiving, when I did my galley edits. I turned it in back in July. My mind has spent months in first-century Rome, and now it's moving on to 1910 England. That's where my thoughts are...but then these beautiful books show up, all the promo stuff starts appearing, and I get to shift gears.

Which is cool. Because I love Marietta and Slade. Love them. It was so much fun to write about a these two far-from-perfect characters. Even after agonizing over edits that required I cut 20K from the manuscript, even after reading through it three times in the course of two weeks back in November, I love this book. Sometimes I get sick of my books, LOL, but not with this one. I'm so, so happy to welcome Circle of Spies to the world.

So I thought today I'd talk a bit about one of my favorite aspects of the book. If you look at that back cover, the blurb beings with A glimpse was all she had. A glimpse was all she needed.

The line is taken almost verbatim from the book and is a key point. Marietta, which we learn in the first chapter (click here to read the first chapter!), has a perfect memory. As in, perfect. She can recall everything she has ever read. Everything she has ever seen. Everything she has ever heard. Every minute of every day. Every joy.

Every pain.

Every laugh.

Every scolding.

Can you imagine? There are documented cases of people with these unbelievable memories, but their stories vary. Some are great academics, capable of so very much because of this remarkable gift. Some of them are so overwhelmed by it that they in effect do nothing.

As I developed Marietta in my mind, I already had some of her figured out by necessity. I knew her role in the story--she was a widow, one who has to covertly help an undercover agent without him knowing. At first I thought she would rather hermit-like, but as the plot came to me, I saw that wouldn't work. No, Marietta Hughes had to be a southern belle to put southern belles to shame. She had to know how to flirt. She had to know how to manipulate. That was how she would pull off the task assigned to her.

Those of you who read Whispers from the Shadows will no doubt remember that Gwyneth had a pretty amazing memory too. She could recreate with pencil or brush anything she had seen. A glimpse was all she needed. That's what started me on the thought of memory. That's what made me remember the stories a coworker at my college used to tell.

See, St. John's College is a place where you read. All classes are conversation-based, on the assigned texts. Twice a week are the big classes, the seminars as we call them. Where we discuss philosophy. To every class, the students and professors (whom we call tutors) come in not with text books but with original books. Conversations about the texts obviously require a lot of flipping through pages to hunt up that section you just have to quote to refute someone's point...even though half the time, by the time you find it, the talk has moved on to another topic.

I worked in the Admissions Office, and one of the counselors was named Dave Cherry. Dave was a talker. He loved to tell us all about...everything, LOL. One of his favorite stories was of his days as a student at St. John's, and of another student in his class. I don't remember the guy's name, but he had perfect recall. This was how he read a book: he opened it up, he flipped through the pages one by one, just glancing at each page. Then he'd put the book away, lay back on his bed, close his eyes, and read. Read, from the images of the pages in his mind.


How cool is THAT??

I never forgot those stories. Never forgot about how he never once took a book to class but could quote from anywhere in the book, perfectly, at will. How he wowed all his classmates with his ability to do this on command.

That, I decided, was a trait worthy of a heroine. But it could easily make a character too perfect, right? Too amazing. Too unbelievable.

So I decided it would be pretty darn fun to give it to a girl who just wanted to have a good time. Who wouldn't appreciate the gift for many years. Who, in fact, viewed it as a burden.

Which it would be, if it were as extended as I made it. If she could forget nothing, including the bad things. If, as Marietta puts it, her mind were always filled with the march of meaningless facts, always so overwhelmed with the past, how could she help but want to just live in the moment? She cannot forget--so she ignores. And she has become a master of it by the time the book opens. Until Granddad Thad gives her a shake to her foundation and says it is time to use this gift of God for His purposes rather than her own.

Yes, I had a lot of fun working this gift into the story, and recreating those stories I heard. I always love to hear of the amazing, miraculous giftings the Lord sometimes gives.

Have you heard of any awe-inspiring stories of the human mind?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Word of the Week - Geek & Nerd

It's always fun to trace these words that have become names kids call one another...and eventually a banner of pride, LOL.
Photo by Tommy Hancher

Geek traces its origins back to 1510, surprisingly--and was even used by Shakespeare! The meaning has changed over time, though. Originally it meant "a fool, a simpleton." Within twenty years, it was applied to contemptible people in general. In the early 1900s the circus folk adopted it to mean "a sideshow freak." Still, it took quite a while longer to be applied to that particular brand of person awkward in the social graces but up on computers--our geek didn't gain the name until 1983. So this is a word both very old and very new!

Nerd is even funnier. It's thought to be a variation of nert, which was 1940s slang for "stupid or crazy person," but it didn't really gain in popular use until Dr. Seuss used it in "If I Ran the Zoo." Seuss's nerd was a small, unkempt animal, and that, interestingly, is where the modern take comes from.

And now they both have such particular definitions that each will proudly claim his own title but be very offended if you call him the wrong one. ;-)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . the Joy

Last week the small Bible study group I belong to began a study focused around James. I've always loved this little book of the Bible, so I was pretty happy to learn that's what we would be studying. My hubby's leading us this time, and I know he has always loved James too. We had a great discussion centering around this:

"Consider it joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."

I memorized this verse as a teenager. I've known it for years. I think about it fairly often. But I'd never examined it like we did on Friday. Consider it comes from a verb that carries a lot of weight. It doesn't just mean "name it." It doesn't just mean "say it is, whether you think it or not." It means to dwell on it, to journey through it, to arrive at it, to bring it to joy. It's a process, one that involves our minds.

Another key word there is when. Not if. When we fall into trials. We're going to, that's not a question. In this world, trouble and sorrow find us no matter whether we're wicked or righteous. (On a side note, I've also been reading the book of Job, and the commentators have been stressing how Job's assertion that a good man could suffer like he is flew in the face of the Wisdom doctrine of the day.)

Which led to another good point in our discussion, when one of our friends related how someone had just that day asked, basically, "But why? Why do bad things happen to good people?"

It's an age-old question. Such an age-old question that I'd pretty much stopped considering it and figured everyone else in the world had too, LOL. But obviously it still bothers people. It was pretty silly of me to think otherwise. Because yes, we always ask why. We always ask what we did to deserve a bad turn. We always get angry when someone we love is hurt or dies, or when we do everything right and still seem to be punished. When we lose our jobs. When we suffer injury or illness. When, when, when...

But something hit me while we were talking about that. Not a new thought, I'm sure, but a striking one.

How are we defined, if not by how we react to those trials? What makes us who we are if not whether we stand or fail in the face of adversity?

It isn't about bad things happening to good people. Bad things happen to everyone. It's how we respond to them that makes us good or bad.
("Good" and "Bad" probably aren't the right words there, actually...)

See, life isn't about being happy. That's part of it, and obviously a part we love. But joy is something more. Joy isn't about circumstances. If it was, then how could James have possibly told us to consider trouble and trials a joy? It would be insensible.

But joy is that something-deeper we can arrive it. It's that knowing that, even when we don't feel it, God is good. That even when we're in the valley, the mountain top is waiting. That even through the pain, there's Someone holding us and loving us.

Joy is finding the beauty in the clouds of the approaching storm (inspired by that photo above I took at the beach last summer). Joy is knowing that when something is yanked out from under you, it's because God has a different plan. Joy is in the journey of trusting Him, that long road where you learn so much. Joy is in looking back and realizing that if that terrible thing hadn't happened, you wouldn't be who you are today.

Joy is in trusting that day will come even when you're still in the terrible thing.

Joy isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be. But the things worth fighting for are just that--worth fighting for. We need to fight for our joy. We need to stop focusing on the things this instant-gratification world tell us will make us happy and start focusing on what will make us better. On what will make us stronger. On what will make us raise our hands and praise Him through the storm.

You know that phrase we sing to that hand-clapping, upbeat melody? We bring the sacrifice of praise...

It's a sacrifice. That means it's hard. It's rough. It's supposed to hurt. That's what praise is. Praise is giving Him that shout when we don't feel it. When we can't understand it. When the questions are bigger than the answers.

Praise is considering the joy. Considering it--that trial, that trouble--a joy.

Nope, it's not easy. But that's what makes it beautiful.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

First Chapter of Circle of Spies!

I can't quite believe it, but we're less than a month from the release of Circle of Spies! How exciting is that?? I really love this book, and while I'm sad to see the series come to an end, I'm really excited to welcome Marietta and Slade into the world.

On Monday, I just saw the first editorial review, which is pretty exciting (since it's good, LOL). RT Book Reviews gave it a 4 1/2 Star TOP PICK! rating, saying:
White’s Culper Ring historical spy series keeps getting better. This installment’s intricate plot, terrific twists and heart-stopping intrigue, as well as the heroine’s deeply moving journey of faith, grace, and redemption, create a memorable book to be devoured and cherished.
AND the book trailer just went live!

Yes, I'm hoping to whet your appetite. ;-) So to keep that going, I'm sharing the first chapter! 

(Click on link to view the PDF)

A Glimpse Was All She Had…
A Glimpse Was All She Needed

1865—Marietta Hughes never wanted to be a spy, but the family legacy of espionage is thrust upon her as the War Between the States rolls on. Unknown to her, the Knights of the Golden Circle—a Confederate secret society bent on destroying the Union her brother died for—has been meeting in a hidden lair beneath her home. Faced with the secrets of her late husband and his brother, who she thought she could trust with anything, Marietta’s world tilts out of control. Can she right it by accepting the call of the Culpers and protecting a Union agent infiltrating the KGC?

Slade Osborne, an undercover Pinkerton agent, is determined to do whatever is necessary to help end the conflict between the North and the South and restore his reputation. When he infiltrates this secret cell, it isn’t just their inner workings that baffle him—it’s the beautiful woman who seems to be a puppet for the new leader and yet…so much more.

Do they dare trust each other in this circle of intrigue? Will their shared faith sustain them? And can Mari and Slade stymie the enemy long enough to see their beloved country reunited?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Word of the Week - Perfectionist

Practice Makes Perfect
from a "Haft Paikar" of Nizamic. 1530
I'm surprised I haven't thought to look up the history of this word before, given that I come from a family of perfectionists. ;-) I personally display such tendencies with some of my work, but not all...certainly not my housework, LOL.

But it's a pretty interesting word!

Perfectionist has been around since the 1650s, but it had only a moral connotation. It was very much a theological stance, proclaiming that one believed that moral perfection is attainable in this life. So this isn't something that anyone would use for anything other than this theological question. It was rather one that would be applied to certain preachers or theologians.

So this is really another one for the trivialization file. In the 1930s--so very recently!--it took on the meaning we know of one satisfied only by the highest standards. And that's when perfectionism came around too.

And for anyone looking forward to Circle of Spies, you're going to want to make sure you stop by on Wednesday--I'll be posting the first chapter!!