Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Bad Guys

One of the lessons I heard taught in one of the first writing classes I took at my very first conference touched on bad guys--and how a writer's job is to look inside them and find a redeeming quality to make them three-dimensional.

Good advice. Except sometimes, in a book, I get pretty sick of bad guys with redeeming qualities that come off as excuses. He was abused, he thinks this will get him love, he's motivated by the death of his true love, yada yada yada. I guess in my head there are two different kinds of bad guys--the antagonist, who's just working against the hero but may not be bad, and the villain. The villain has evil in his heart. The villain desires destruction. The villain has systematically squashed all the good in himself.

Personally, I like a story with both.

As I'm digging (slowly) into my second Edwardian book, I realized that I have quite the team of baddies in this one. I've got my ultimate villain, who's still playing it cool and quiet, who no one will realize yet was the mastermind behind the whole series (mwa ha ha ha). I've got my secondary baddie who everyone will think is the ultimate one, who continues through the whole series. I've got my seriously-hurt-my-heroine, for-this-book-only dude, who's violent and a liar and yet thinks he's acting out of love (see, redeeming quality! LOL).

Then I've got my heroine's father. It would be easy to make him a cookie-cutter abusive dad. He beats her. Not blinded-by-rage-and-nearly-kills-her kind of beating, but the methodical, make-sure-it-doesn't-show kind. The won't-you-ever-learn-this-lesson? kind. Wrong, yes. But does he hate her? Is he just cruel? Is there more to him?

I'm rather sick of excuses for sin and evil in our world. Sure, people get carried away. Sure, people are affected by earlier traumas. Sure, we all have reasons for our mistakes--but they should never be a crutch. They should remain reasons, not excuses. We can't excuse sin. So I don't ever want to pardon what my characters do. I don't want to justify it. I don't want to make it right.

But I do want to dig deep enough into their fictional psyches to make them make sense. And sometimes that's hard.

Digging into Douglas (the abusive father) the other night, I realized that he isn't trying to make his daughter weak, to get his own way. He's trying to make her strong. His abuse began when her mother fell out of his favor, and the thing he came to despise about his wife was that she was weak. Not strong enough to deserve his name. Not strong enough to deserve their heritage. And Gusty is his only child, heir to his estate and title (this is Scotland of 1912, remember). The last thing he wants is to pass everything to a weakling who will lose it. So when he sees Gusty acting like her mother, he punishes her. He sees it as hardening steel in a fire.

She sees it as hatred, cruelty, a tyrant trying to break her. So of course, she reacts by trying to avoid the punishment. Trying to please him--or more, stay out of his way. She draws in instead of acting out. And so appears ever weaker to his eyes. When the book opens, though, she's reached her breaking point--she's about to explode, and she's finally about to take a stand. She expects his all-out rage.

Instead, she's going to earn his respect for the first time.

Now I would never, ever, ever excuse such violence. It's not right, and it's never going to come across as right in the book. But it's also going to turn out to be pretty important that her father doesn't hate her. (Don't know that I would say he knows how to love her, but...) It's going to be important to realize that these people misunderstood each other for a decade. It's going to be important to see that, when it comes down to it, her father chooses the path that will protect her--more, that will enable her to protect herself.

And hopefully, it's going to make us all stop and wonder what's really driving that person in reality whom we just don't get. The one who never seems to react like we think they should. The one who gets angry too quickly, who holds grudges too long, who can never see the "reasonable" (aka our) side of an argument. 

It's going to make us pause, I hope, and ask ourselves if we are that confusing person to someone else. If what we think we're doing to help someone is actually driving them away.

In my life, I take after my dad. I lapse into silence when I'm not sure what to think, or when I fear saying something that I'll regret. In an argument, I'm not the shouter--I'm the brooder. To my mind, that's the wise way to be. Better to think about it and come back later with a well-thought-out response than to say something that could hurt someone I love, right? Right?

My husband is a shouter. A throw-something-er. I always say "He's Italian. Need I say more?" He's demonstrative, and that goes for anger as well as love. And I'm still learning that in those rare times we fight, my silence doesn't help him. My silence makes it worse. He doesn't really care what I say, he just wants me to say it. To engage. To his mind, when I bite my tongue I'm shutting down. Turning off. Keeping him out--and all he wants is to know what I'm thinking. Whether he agrees or not doesn't really matter to him. What matters is that we're communicating.
See, the thing is, there's rarely a right way to be in life. We're all different--and that's good. We don't have to all react the same way. Yes, we need to keep our reactions holy, but there are even different kinds of holy. There's the measured and calm responses of Ezra, there are the violent and quick reactions of Nehemiah. Both were right in the eyes of God. But man, I imagine they may have had a few clashes when facing each other!

This is just one more lesson I've learned through story. That when I'm dealing with the "characters" who populate my life, I'd better be willing to dig deeper. To understand why they do the things they do. To accept them for that. And to never assume that I'm the protagonist in their story--it could very well be that, in that moment, I'm antagonizing matter how much "better" I think my way is.

Queen of Hearts photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Remember When . . . King Edward Reigned?

Confession: I knew the Edwardian era followed the Victorian, and that it was because King Edward VII followed Queen Victoria on the throne of England. But it took me a ridiculous amount of time to realize that King Edward = Prince Albert, known as "Bertie" in the reign of his mother. I'd researched Victorian England. I knew about the prince. But I didn't realize he'd changed his name upon taking the throne, LOL.

That was a pretty easy lesson to learn about the Edwardian days, though. But even that had some details I didn't realize!

In my research for Scotland, I found this awesome book: Edwardian Scotland by C. W. Hill. It's proving to be invaluable! And one of the first fun facts I learned was that, not only did Queen Victoria specifically request that her son not change his name, but Scotland as a whole objected to the one he chose and refused to acknowledge the "VII"! They claimed that the first three King Edwards of England were not monarchs of Scotland, and in June of 1901 they began collecting signatures for a petition against the name--which eventually filled five volumes.

Who knew you could object to such a thing?? Not that King Edward gave a whit what anyone else thought of his choice, LOL. He's called "the merry monarch," and much of the British empire was a bit torn about him. On the one hand, he eschewed the morals his mother had drilled into them--he was a gambler, a womanizer, and showed blatant disregard for many of the principles they held dear. But on the other hand, he was affable, amiable, and made no major blunders as a ruler. So all in all, he was well-loved...but not a role model.

Of course, one of the best-known traits of the era named after him is the extravagance that the nobility enjoyed. Edwardian Scotland helped put that in perspective for me. When the gentlemen went grouse hunting, they regularly bagged thousands of pheasants. Thousands, in one weekend! And the king's meals went like this:

Breakfast - haddock, poached eggs, bacon, sausages and kidneys, chicken.

Morning snack - lobster salad and cold game or chicken

Luncheon - eight or ten courses (more if there were guests); the king's favorite foods were game, so one would often see duck, chicken, York ham, chops or steaks...or for a humbler option, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Tea - scones, crumpets, muffins, tarts, cakes, gateaux

Dinner - twelve to fourteen courses (!!!), with more game. This was they broke out things like the "turducken" of their day, like a pheasant stuffed with a snipe stuffed with truffles and garnished with sauce. What did they call that, I wonder? Pheasniples?

And apparently the Kardashians are far from the first celebrities to lend their image to products. ;-) Okay, so we knew that. But I had no idea that the nobility in the Edwardian era--and even the king himself!--were featured in ads. He famously posed for this one for Horniman's Pure Tea.

Of course, as the title of the book suggests, Edward didn't confine his time to England--he vacationed every winter in the Highlands, where he kept company with Andrew Carnegie and British nobles in Scotland. He was unfortunately deceased by the time my book starts, so no mentioning the king in the neighborhood for me (pout, pout), but I'm interested in seeing what the royal family was up to by the time my story begins, once I get further in Edwardian Scotland. In the meantime, I'm soaking up all the awesome minutia!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Readers Needed

We're less than four months from the release of A Soft Breath of Wind. Aaaaaggghhh! Exciting, but also a little panic-inducing. See, it's been a long time since WhiteFire has put out one of my books. And as I'm one of WhiteFire's editors, I'm a little paranoid about the editing on this one, LOL. Because we all know authors can't find all the mistakes in their own books. And while I trust our other editors implicitly, having many sets of eyes on a book is still vital.

So I decided that this book needs some beta readers. Beta readers are folks who agree to read a digital version of the book and note any mistakes they find. I'm also, of course, going to need some endorsers and influencers.

Are you interested in reading an advance copy of A Soft Breath of Wind (you can find a blurb of the book at the bottom of this post)? If so, email me at roseanna at roseannawhite dot com and let me know which role you'd like to fill. The breakdown and time requirements are as follows:

August - Endorsers

In just a few weeks, I'll send out copies in your choice of format (digital or paperback), for you to read (either partially or in full) and consider for endorsement. To endorse, you must be:
  • A published author with a decent following (preferably in historical fiction)
  • A high-profile reviewer
Endorsements will be due back by September 1. There will be space for one or two on the cover of the paperback version, and the rest will go on an interior fly page. If you also wanted to post a review to websites and blogs after release, you wouldn't hear me argue. ;-)

September - Beta Readers

These spots are filled - unless you're such a fabulous editor that I just can't pass you up. ;-)

In early September, I'll send out digital copies of the book (your choice of format) and you will:
  • Find typos
  • Let me know any places that aren't clear
  • Mark any other mistakes you see
  • Give me your overall impressions
  • (Optional) agree to post a review once the book releases, if your opinion is favorable
Beta readers must agree to have a list of things to be fixed emailed to me within two weeks of receiving the book, to give me time to input these final changes before finalizing the manuscript.

October - Influencers

Spot left only for digital copies!

In late October, I'll send out your choice of format (digital or paperback) of final copies of the book. In return for this free book, you agree to read it and do at least a couple of the following:
  • Post reviews on retailer and review sites (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc.)
  • Buy a copy for everyone you see in the grocery line
  • Blog about it (assuming you have a blog)
  • Have the cover tattooed across your forehead
  • Talk it up to all your friends (and book clubs!)
  • Take out an airplane banner ad for it
  • Request your library stock it
  • Invest in a giant blinking sign for your roof that says "Buy A Soft Breath of Wind!"
  • Request your bookstores stock it
  • Leave some bookmarks/postcards with libraries or stores or in waiting rooms
Now, all those influencing suggestions (ahem) hinge on you liking the book. As a reviewer who gets copies through the publishing house, you are welcome to post a negative review. But an influencer is not meant to be unbiased--an influencer is meant to be Team Roseanna. So if you read the book and hate it, just don't ever breathe a word, LOL. If you like/love it, please spread the word!

While it's obviously best if you can do some of these (the reviewing at least) as close to the November 15 release date as possible, there's no time limit on this one--a positive review and word-of-mouth is helpful at any time! So while I appreciate you getting right on this, I'm not going to get mad if life gets in the way and you don't get a review up for a couple months. =)

Are you interesting in taking on one of these roles? Or a couple (you could both beta and influence, for example)? Please let me know ASAP! (Influencer space is limited) Again, my email address is roseanna at roseannawhite dot com, or you can leave a comment below with your email address and I'll contact you. =)

About A Soft Breath of Wind

A gift that has branded her for life.

Zipporah is thirteen when the Spirit descends upon her, opening her eyes to a world beyond the physical goings-on of the villa outside Rome she has always called home. Within hours, she learns what serving the Lord can cost. Forever scarred after a vicious attack, she knows her call is to use this discernment to protect the Way. She knows she must serve the rest of her life at Tutelos, where the growing Roman church has congregated. She knows her lot is set.

Yet is it so wrong to wish that her master, the kind and handsome young Benjamin Visibullis, will eventually see her as something more than a sister in Christ?

Samuel Asinius, adoptive son of a wealthy Roman, has always called Benjamin brother. When their travels take them to Jerusalem for Passover, the last thing he expects is to cross paths with the woman who sold him into slavery as a child the mother he long ago purged from his heart. His sister, Dara, quickly catches Benjamin s eye, but Samuel suspects there is something dark at work.

When Dara, a fortune-teller seeking the will of a shadowy master determined to undermine the Way, comes into the path of Zipporah, a whirlwind descends upon them all.

Only the soft wind of the Spirit can heal their scars...with a love neither divination nor discernment could foresee.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Word of the Week - Backfire

Don't you hate it when plans backfire?

Ever stop to wonder how long they've been doing it--with that exact word, anyway? No? Well, pause to wonder. ;-)

One of the first meanings of backfire to find its way into English was a literal fire--one lit on a prairie to stop the advance of a wildfire and deprive it of fuel. This backfire joined the language in 1839, as a noun, with the verb of this meaning following in the 1880s.

But that's certainly not what we mean by it in casual conversation today, right?

The next familiar meaning is fro 1897, that of "premature ignition of an internal combustion engine." So the car that backfires. Sure.

What I find interesting is that the figurative meaning of "to affect the initiator rather than the intended object," from 1912, is the newest meaning...from the oldest one. This of course alludes to the back-firing of a fire arm, when there's an explosion from the breech of a gun--which dates from 1775-1780 in America. Backfire is, then, it seems, a word from the American Revolution. Who knew? (And okay, so I'm extrapolating that from the dates, but it seems logical, LOL.)

(The photo above is a normally operating flintlock rifle, not a backfiring one. Just FYI)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . A Year

Well, I've done it. I finished my read-the-Bible-in-a-year program. A smidgeon late, I grant you--those weeks of working on the old house happened to fall during a stretch with looooong assignments that I could never finish, so I got behind.  But I finished my Chronological Bible in a year and 3 weeks.

When I undertook this last year, it was because I knew my daily reading had slacked off, and I knew I wanted to spend more time with Him. As I sat in a service at my church's association meetings and listened to the conversation on how we should set aside time for Him, the conviction settled in that this was something I could and should do. So I went home, got out my Bible, and edited the schedule in the back of it to begin in July rather than January.

I've read all the way through my Bible several times before, but it's pretty amazing to realize how much of it I'd totally forgotten. Or just never registered perhaps. I've learned a lot. About history, about God, about faith. I can't hope to put it all in one blog post, but I want to dwell on some of those lessons, if only a few right now.

God is Deliberate
He doesn't direct us randomly. He doesn't say "Yeah, do whatever. I'll make it work." He has a very particular plan, and when you don't obey it, then you can't expect His blessing. We might not always understand why says "do this" one day and "don't do this" same thing the next day. But there's a reason. And we need to seek Him first, not after we've already made our decisions.

Details Matter
That's the thing I took most from all the descriptions of the ark (Noah's), the ark (of the Covenant), and the temple. Each detail was given with precision. Each detail was carried out with precision. Each detail was worth recording with precision. We as readers millennia removed might find some of those details boring. But they matter. Every detail of our lives matter. And we, as living temples of the Lord in this day of the Spirit, need to remember that. If God was so particular about the articles brought into the temple and how each was to be used, don't you think it matters what we fill our hearts and minds with?

Obedience is a Sign of Our Hearts
Sometimes we might be confused by why Cain's offering was refused. Or why the sons of Aaron were struck dead for getting a few details wrong in the sacrifice. Why touching the Ark of the Covenant to steady it killed a guy. But it's like this--God tells us very particularly what to do and what not to do. If we disobey knowingly, it means we think our way is better than God's way. Talk about pride! I've gotten over thinking God was cruel to do what he said he's do--I'm more amazed that it doesn't happen more often.

God Cares About our Little Things
Like the ax head, for which He rewrote the laws of physics. The missing coin of the woman at the well. The short man who just wants to see over the heads of the crowd. He cares. He meets those needs. Sometimes in simple ways--"Come down, Zachias, I will dine with you today."--and sometimes in miraculous ones. But no matter how, He answers.

God Is Everywhere
We learn about His omnipresence as kids, right? God can be everywhere in the universe at once. Sure. But what really matters is that He's where we are. In exile in Babylon. In the depths of our sorrow. In the bottom of a lion-filled pit. In a fiery furnace. In a depleted storeroom. In a drought-choked field. In a flooded valley. God is there, in whatever problem we're facing. He's there, in the shouts of victory. He's there, waiting for us to reach out, to call, to cry for Him. He's there, waiting to tell us when and how and where to move.

God Knows Us by Name
Maybe that sounds silly. But this read-through also reminded me of the power in names. Exactly twice in the Bible we hear that God told His true name to someone. First an angle who was given leave to slaughter the disobedient in the camps of Israel, and a few chapters later, to Moses. His name gave those two creatures power to do what no one else in history has done. The name of Jesus will make knees bow in all the universe. The names He gives to his servants signify their hearts and their purpose. And He knows us by name. Not just the name our parents chose for us, but the name that encapsulates all we are. All we can be. All we will ever do. He knows that name. He whispers it to us when we need it most. He calls us Rock when we feel pretty tempestuous. He calls us Deliverer when we feel like a coward who has run away. He calls us Wise Teacher when we feel like an outcast in a strange land.

Sometimes I wonder what my true name is...or where He's leading me next...or if the small details of my life are pleasing to Him. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever conquer my weaknesses...or learn to fully, truly, always obey. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever be what I know I should be.

But you know, reading through those old stories...I learn anew that whatever I am, if I lay it at the feet of God, if I cling to the hand of the Savior, then it's enough. Whatever I have, it's enough--so long as I give it back to Him. Not just my extra, but my best. All for Him...because He is all to us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Remember When . . . The Kids Learned?

It was with great shock that I realized a few days ago that we have only a month of summer break left before school starts up again. I'm not ready to be done with my summer...but I gotta say, I'm looking forward to this next school year. We're studying early American history, and the books are just awesome. When I unpacked the box when they arrived a month ago, I kept going, "Oh, wow! We're reading this? Yay!"

So for my post on Colonial Quills today, I decided to answer that "So what about early American books for kids?" question once and for all. ;-) I've posted our entire reading list, complete with links and pictures.

We're also hoping to visit some east coast landmarks and historic homes, so if you have any favorites do let me know!

Early American Reading for Kids

by Roseanna M. White
I'm a homeschooling mom. That means that, while we're still basking in the joys of summer, I'm also planning out the next school year (less than a month until it begins!). While my family is planning vacations purely for fun, I'm trying to figure out how to turn them into field trips. And I admit it--I'm excited about next year. Why? Because we're starting 2 years of American History. =D

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Word of the Week - Hillbilly

I had no internet yesterday, so the Word of the Week is coming to us a day late. But I found a fun one, quite by accident. =)

Growing up in West Virginia, I've heard the term "hillbilly" plenty of times. And of course, there are the famous ones from Beverly Hills. ;-) But I really had no idea where the term came from. Turns out it's pretty straight forward--"hill" (the southern Appalachians, to be precise) plus the proper name "Billy." But the fun part comes from some of the earliest quotes using the term.

First is the original one, from 1892:

Then again, I do not think It will do so well. I would hate to see some old railroad man come here and take my job, and then, I don t think It is right to hire some Hill Billy and give him the same right as I just because he was hired the same time I was. ["The Railroad Trainmen's Journal," vol. IX, July 1892] 

And this one from 1900 is even more interesting:

In short, a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires of his revolver as the fancy takes him. ["New York Journal," April 23, 1900]

If that is, indeed, the definition, then I gotta say I don't know a single hillbilly, LOL.

Hope everyone's having a good week!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Right and Wrong

There is absolute Right. There is absolute Wrong.

I believe this, absolutely.

There are things we should never, ever do, and things we always should. There is sin. There are consequences. There is righteousness.

Then there's the gray. Sometimes it blurs up against the edges of Right and Wrong, but most of its existence lies spanning the fuzzy gap in between. The gray doesn't deal with sin, just With our own decisions. Our relationships. Our countless day-to-day, minute-to-minute being.

I shouldn't have changed my cat's food--now she has a UTI. I shouldn't have yelled at my kids before I realized what the problem was. I should do the dishes. I should make that phone call.

Things, good and bad, but not Right and Wrong.

Years ago, when Rowyn was nearing a year old and still waking up every couple hours through the night, I was nearing wits' end. I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and had no energy left. I felt snappish and cranky through much of the day. There were times when the constant little hands grabbing at me made me want just five minutes without being touched. I was burned out. And in my mind, someone should have seen it and helped me. My husband should have gotten up more with the kids. He should have given me a morning now and then to sleep in. A grandmother should have seen how I struggled and volunteered to take the kids for an hour--without me asking.

My head was full of should-haves and should-not-haves. And eventually, I accused. I don't honestly remember how the argument started, but it was linked somehow or another to my exhaustion. To my frustration with no one helping. With my total and complete conviction that I was right to want what I wanted, and the rest of the world was wrong not to give it to me.

My husband disagreed, LOL.

I don't remember what he said, or what I said in response. I just remember seeking solitude in the night-darkened living room and deciding I would pray. Desperate for peace, I started out kneeling by the chair and ended up stretched across the floor, with my face to the rug. I cried--rare for me. And I begged God to show him, them, anyone. To show them where they were wrong.

That's when the whisper came, in the recessed of my being. The one that said, And what about where you're wrong?

I went still. The tears slowed. My breath eased out. And that's when the epiphany came. That in much of life, it doesn't matter who's right-er or wrong-er. It doesn't matter which side of the argument is most compelling.

What matters is that I cannot make another person's decisions. God does not choose to make another person's decisions. They are free to do what they will. They are free to be who they are. I can't change it.

All I can change is me. My reactions. My responses. My heart.

My heart.

My heart wasn't pretty at that point in time. It was tired and stressed and felt so alone in my exhaustion. But God showed me that night that He was there. That my family was there. That just because no one was doing what I thought they should, it didn't mean they weren't doing what they needed to. They had their own reasons, their own frustrations, their own exhaustions.

I could choose to be resentful--or I could choose to be thankful.

I made a conscious decision that night to choose gratitude. To choose not to be resentful when I didn't get what I thought I should. I chose to find peace in the quiet mornings with my ever-wakeful little guy. I chose to find joy in granting my night-owl hubby those morning hours to rest before a stressful day at work. I chose to do what I could in where I was rather than always wishing for something more, or less, or different.

I chose surrender.

There are so many days when I still think of that shadowed living room floor and the realizations that filtered in that night. So many days when I choose not to argue because I know it's not worth it. That even if I think my opinions the better ones, that doesn't mean I'm Right. It doesn't mean the other party is Wrong.

I don't have to be the victor in the argument. Most times, I don't even have to argue. I just have to stop. Take a breath. Ignore the glaring, blaring insistence inside that says BUT I'M RIGHT! and ask, "But where am I wrong? Where am I hurting them by insisting? What will I actually lose if I put aside my pride and stop arguing?"

The answer is usually "nothing." Maybe a bit of comfort now and them, and a sliver of that pride--but I have more than enough of that to sustain me, LOL.

But what I stand to gain...that's something different altogether. I'm not a pushover, but I'm often silent in a conflict--because I'd rather not fight than hurt someone I love. My husband often pushes me to talk through things when I'd rather not--because he knows relationships stall in silence. God often whispers in those recesses when I'm being stubborn--because He knows that there are things that matter a whole lot more than clinging to my own determination.

I'm not perfect. I'm still tired sometimes. Still stressed, still exhausted. I still have occasional moments where I just want a bubble around me for an hour or two, with no demands on my person to feed someone or clothe someone or teach someone or even talk to someone.

But never, since that night, have I ever felt that despair again. Because I let go of a stumbling block when I said, "You're right, God. Please, show me where I'm wrong."

I never like the answers when I ask that question. But oh, how I cherish the results.

photo credit: gato-gato-gato via photopin

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Remember When . . . We Went to Scotland?

Loch Morar, Highlands, Scotland

It's been a long, long time since I've had to research something totally new. The Lost Heiress may be my first Edwardian English book, but I've done the England research about a gazillion times for the previous versions. All I had to do was refresh, and do some year-specific reading.

But then I thought I'd better start the research for its sequel. And oh. Oh gracious. I felt in way over my head for a day or two!

Back seven or so years ago when I was working on the Victorian-set version of this series, I wrote the second book. My original idea came from when I was a teen, and the original title was Blue Skies in the Morning. But when the first book, originally Golden Sunset, Silver Tear became Fire Eyes round about that time, the sequel had to match. So I called it Wind Aflame.

My heroine, I decided then, would still be from Scotland, as I'd always wanted her to be. She would be an heiress, not just to land but to a title--because in Scotland, girls could inherit a title from their father. Her name would be Constance Augusta (as I planned at 14), but she would go by Gusty (same).

At the time, I'd given my hero, Brice, a title that was real but extinct. That was how I came to set that version of the book at Inverness--it was part of his title. This time around, I've completely fictionalized all titles, so he no longer has that connection. Which is the point of tossing my hands in the air.

Where in the world was I to start? How was I to know where to set this new version (tentatively titled The Outcast Duchess, though we'll see what it ends up as, LOL)? And why in the world did I only take half a page of notes when I was researching for Wind Aflame??? (Bad, Past-Roseanna! So not helpful to Future-Roseanna!) I reread that old, Victorian-set version and wrinkled my nose. I grant that only a few chapters are set in Scotland, but still. Those chapters did nothing to capture it, and I didn't get so much as a whiff of the Scots in Gusty, aside from a character occasionally commenting on the accent that was by no means evident in how I wrote her speech.

So then. I got down to business. My internet history is now full of everything from Gaelic words to what girls' schools in Edinburgh looked like. I've begun a new (secret, for now) Pinterest board filled with photos of lochs and castles and stark, staggeringly-beautiful mountains. I've looked up tartans and crofts and old steam railways. I've watched YouTube videos of hikes and train rides, of kayaks paddling from one loch to another. I've stumbled across tales of the greens kept at lairds' houses and castles for rousing games of football (soccer), of the woes accompanying the great Clearances that displaced so many Highland families in the 18th and 19th centuries, and of how the herring industry went from booming to non-existent.
Eilean Donan Castle - where three lochs meet
My prototype for the fictional Castle Kynn, on a similar (fictional) island
in Loch Morar. Can you imagine growing up there?

I've had books shipped in from other libraries, I've read novels, I've listened to audiobooks. And slowly, ever so slowly (okay, it feels slow, though I guess a week isn't, really, LOL), I've figured out where to set it--Loch Morar, I think. I've figured out who this Gusty girl is. She isn't, as Wind Aflame made her out to be, weak. She's got that stubborn Scots blood, after all (let it be noted, I have some of it too! My McDonald side left Scotland during one of those clearances and settled in Ireland, it seems, before making their way across the pond.). She'll have the burr in her speech, but be able to tone it down thanks to those years away from the Highlands at school. She has, now, a rather complicated family history that involves a mother from a Highland family who had emigrated to America and done well for themselves. A father who inherited a title from his mother's English side but a chiefdom from his father's, and puts all his heart in the then-outdated clan side rather than the far-more-popular peerage title.

Yesterday, as I was reading the oh-so-rich Edwardian Scotland that smells of old paper and disuse, shipped in from a library down-state for me, I paused and realized that I'm putting all this research into this, when I still won't have more than a handful of chapters set in the Highlands before my characters head south to Yorkshire, to London, to Sussex. That's probably why I took only half a page of notes before--because really, Scotland is a small part of the book.

But Scotland is a big part of the characters. And so I'll deem the weeks spent researching it worthwhile. Because we're all shaped, not just by where we wend up, but by where we come from. When I was living near the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland, it was growing up in the mountains of West Virginia that set me apart. Back in West Virginia, it's those years in Maryland's quaint, cultured capital that do the same. Each stop along our life's journey help fashion us into who we ultimately will be.

And that, I think, is what makes a character as rich as a person. That twist-and-turn, up-and-down, in-and-out of life.

And oh--what fun it is to discover it.

Loch Morar - Photo credit: photojenni via photopin cc
Eilean Donan Castle -  photo credit: byb64 (en voyage jusqu'en août :-)) via photopin cc

Monday, July 14, 2014

Word of the Week - Soccer

With all the World Cup stuff going on right now, this one seemed appropriate. And is why my kids asked, "Why do we call it soccer and everyone else call it football?"

So naturally, I looked it up. =)

As it turns out, soccer comes directly from football...sort of. It started as an abbreviation of Football Association. For reasons fairly obvious, rather than abbreviate with the first three letters of association, university kids would abbreviate it socc instead. Sometimes socca. In the 1890s, it was pretty common for university slang to apply an -er ending to just about anything. Rugby players were called ruggers, for example, so by 1891, soccer had joined the language. Probably first applied to the players, but it apparently stuck and became applied to the game itself.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Ah, Memories

First of all, don't forget that there's a giveaway going on for a copy of Circle of Spies! Hop over to Colonial Quills and enter!


One of my grinning-est moments while cleaning out the closets and whatnot at our old house was when I stumbled across a file folder box. It was duct-taped, flimsy, and I had some vague recollection of shoving into it something I wanted to keep. So I opened it up. And I saw this.

 This, my dear friends, is the cover I drew for my first novel, at age 12. Back when The Lost Heiress was Golden Sunset, Silver Tear. And back when I was Roseanna M. Higson, LOL. You know how sometimes you see a baby picture of yourself or you kids and go "Awwwwww!" Yeah. That's what I did here.

But I've always been the type to turn to drawing (or now, digital design) when I don't have the writing groove going on. So this 12-year-old's version of my cover isn't the only I did. over the next couple years, as I rewrote and edited and learned more about drawing, I did these too.

Not all covers, of course, but I loved trying to draw Brook. Who was, at the time Brook Moon. Now she's Brook Eden. But she still has blond curls and green eyes. Though that bead necklace featured in all the above drawings has become one with dangling pearls...

Still. Going through that box was a trip down memory lane. I distinctly remember sitting at my desk in my old bedroom--the one with the peach carpet and the lavender walls--and doing these drawings. I remember holding them up to my mirror to see if they were proportioned right (you can see flaws in the mirror image that you can't detect normally). I remember working so hard on them and knowing they weren't quite it.

Some of the teens on Go Teen Writers frequently share their art on the Facebook group, and I'm usually left in utter awe at their talent. Definitely better than my teen doodling! But I always love seeing them and knowing that, yep, that's what I did too. Not so well, LOL, but still. It gives me a visual documentation of the path the book has taken. I love that. =)

And then, of course, I turned the page and saw this--the title page I created at age 12 too.

It's the first of 388 handwritten (in pencil) pages. *Sniff, sniff.*

Now my first pages are computerized, and I didn't bother designing a title page that would get deleted anyway. Now, my document starts like this.

Far more efficient. And I wouldn't hand-write a book now unless I had absolutely no other choice. But it's not quite as warm and cuddly, and I'm so, so glad I saved that very first draft of my very first book.

Ah, memories.

(And yeah, I kinda combined yesterday's forgotten Remember When with today's Thoughtful Thursday. Because I completely spaced it was Wednesday yesterday until mid-morning, LOL.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Word of the Week - Celebrity

In the closing scene of The Lost Heiress, my hero is observing that someone has become a bit of a naturally, I had to look it up to make sure that it was in use like that in 1911.

I discovered that celebrity comes directly from the Old French and Latin word that means "a celebration." Not surprising when you look at the words, right? So from 1400 to about 1600, it means "a solemn rite or ceremony." Then it shifted to mean "condition of being famous." Not the person, mind you, but the condition. So a person would have celebrity, they would not be a celebrity.

That "be" meaning didn't come along until 1849--when it came to mean "a famous person." So safe for my 1911 speaker, to be sure. Phew! ;-)


On Colonial Quills today, you'll find a guest review of Circle of Spies and a giveaway with it! The review is written by a reader from Goodreads, and if you enjoyed the book, I'd love it if you'd drop by and chime in! Read the Review & enter to win!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Lightning

A couple weeks ago, my hubby showed me a video of a truck driving along a street. From the open fields on the other side of it, I'd guess it to be in the Midwest. Truck's just driving along, when wham! A fork of lightning comes searing down and hits the truck. Not the telephone poles, not the building that the security cam is attached to. Not the highest point in the area. The truck.

The people were fine. The truck...not so much.

As I watched that video, it hit a nerve. I used to be terrified of lightning, of storms. So sure that it was going to strike my house, catch it on fire (the real phobia), and devour me. I was known a time or two to go hide under the blankets when a thunderstorm rolled through. I knew that those blankets wouldn't keep me safe. But they provided a barrier. Insulation. Comfort.

Even today, when the phobia has been forgotten and I enjoy a good rousing summer storm, some of the old instincts are still there. A couple times recently I've been driving home during a storm severe enough to send my phone chirping with tornado or flash flood warnings. A couple times, I've been watching the clouds for swirling motion or lightning when I pass through the forests along my road and hit the open stretch where the farm fields take over.

And each time, I can't help the feeling of vulnerability that hits me when I'm out in the open like that, in a metal cage of a car, with the storm clouds overhead. I'd blame it on the video, but the experience actually came first, LOL. I feel exposed. In danger. I press a little firmer on the gas pedal and head for the tree line. It feels safer there.

But it isn't. I know that. Well I remember the lessons as a child that say that in a thunderstorm, do not take shelter under a tree--trees are the things most often struck by lightning, and you could be putting yourself in danger by being under them when branches snap off from the surge of electricity. I know it--but it's counter-intuitive.

It feels safe. It feels better.

But that feeling is a lie. And the truth is, we can't totally predict what lightning will do, where it will strike. It's a force of nature. Not always the highest point. Not always the metal.

It's got a life of its own, it seems. One a lot like life. Troubles don't strike where we expect them to either. Stress and controversy and attacks don't always come from the likely source. But come they do. And they leave us smoking and sizzling a lot of times, wondering where that came from.

It's human nature to seek shelter in the things that feel safe. In our friends. In our family. In a good book. A warm blanket. In food. In a crowd. In our anger.

But those are just the trees. They provide a feeling of shelter...but they're not.

Shelter is in the shadow of His wings. But here's the thing--it might not always feel like it. Because to go before God, we have to lay our souls bare. We have to make ourselves vulnerable. We have to go before Him on the plain, where there's nothing else to overshadow us and distract from us...and that's scary. We're afraid it'll hurt. We're afraid of what it will cost us.

We're afraid His lightning will strike us...or at least that His light will make us too aware of our failings.

We serve a God who sends the wind forth from His treasuries. Who makes lightning for the rain. Who makes the earth tremble and the seas to swell. We serve a God who puts His finger on the smallest amoeba. Who strokes the wing of a butterfly. Who cares about our every little worry.

His infinity stretches both to the vast and the infinitesimal. To the storm and the slightest breeze. The lightning and the lightning bug.

He is our shelter, and it isn't deceptive like that forest I want to hurry to in a storm. He's true. And though our feelings might make us hesitate, though that shadowy whisper might say it will be too hard, too painful, we're called to trust in Him. Yes, He might ask something hard of us. But we can trust it will be for our good.

We can trust that He is in control. That he knows where every bolt of lightning will land. And that He can tell us when to seek the fields and when the trees. When to stop and when to go. He has it all in His hand.

And He has us there too. Whether we feel it or not.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why TURN Turned Sour for Me

I'm baaaaaaaaack! And oh, how awesome it is to have The Lost Heiress turned in and be free to catch up on other things. =)

One of which is my opinion on the wrap-up of AMC's first season of Turn. I was a couple weeks behind on watching due to the hockey finals and traveling...and for a few weeks there I really wasn't sure what I could say anyway. I didn't know how to put my finger on why the show was bugging me, other than the rather blatant ignoring of actual history (which I recognize most viewers wouldn't even recognize, having not studied it as I did for Ring of Secrets).

Then they helped me out by making it very clear--adultery ain't cool, man. Especially when it's (a) not accurate to history, (b) unnecessary, and (c) used to try to appeal to the viewers.

In a previous post after the first episode, I'd noted (with no complaints) some of the ways the show was fictionalizing history. And I'm quite obviously FINE with fictionalizing history, LOL. At first, I thought they were doing a grand job of doing so, too. They were putting key players together who really weren't in reality, but that was okay. It was the for the sake of tension, and I really liked how they played off each other.

But here's where they failed. They took the historical figure of Abraham Woodhull, who was in reality a farmer with firm Patriot roots who took great joy in pulling the wool over the British's eyes, and turned him into a character who wasn't sure what he believed, who was constantly changing his mind, and who had to be bullied into his role in the Culper Ring. Worse, they took a man of strong faith and made him a murderer, an adulterer, and absent any moral compass.

The Abraham Woodhull I read about in Washington's Spies was a wee bit skittish, had opinions he shared too freely in his letters to Washington, but was a good man. A likeable man. One I cheered for when reading history.

I don't want to cheer for Turn's Abe anymore. 

Largely because of the adultery. In reality, Abe wasn't married at the time. In reality, Anna Strong was a decade older than him, never a love interest. And while fiction-writer-Roseanna is all for introducing a made-up romance (ahem), why why WHY did they have to make it result in adultery??

Anna, at least, thought her husband dead. But Abe. Why give him a wife, just to have him cheat on her? And why did the show assume that would make viewers like them? I guess their thought was to appeal to our desire for love. Yes, we can feel sorry for a character who married a girl he didn't even know for noble reasons and then was still pulled toward his childhood sweetheart. But appealing to our base instincts--the ones that say Feeling is more important than commitment. What you want is more important than what's right. The pleasurable is more important than the noble.--doesn't work. A good TV show will portray a character's failings in a way that makes us want them to be better. In a way that makes us ask ourselves what we'd do if put in such an impossible situation. In a way that makes us see the noble in the ignoble.

I didn't see that here. Instead, I saw the noble be eclipsed by the ignoble.

And they missed a key ingredient--guilt. People falter, people make mistakes, and I'm all for using that in a fictionalized story (even if it's a mistake the historical figures didn't make). But the story would have been richer if Anna and Abe felt some remorse for what they'd done instead of basically flaunting it for all to see. Can you imagine the outrage in a small New England town if he really dueled for her? If she really jumped out of her husband's boat and ran straight back into his arms?

In my opinion, that plot thread would have served the story much better had they left it at sexual tension. Have the Christmas scene where they almost falter, where Mr. Baker (best character they wrote!) interrupts. Leave that simmering between them, but give Abe a bit of a backbone. Have him care at least a little bit what he does to his family.

And that is, in my humble opinion, the other failure of the show. Abe isn't driven. Abe has no backbone. Oh, he takes a few risks...but they're not rooted in conviction.

What I love about the real historical Culper Ring is that they're all about conviction. They lack skill, they lack professionalism, they lack training--but they definitely, 100% have a deep-down, scared-but-willing belief in what they're doing. That, even before the adultery schtick, was what I was missing from the show. By all means, have them run scared now and then (the real people did). Have them second-guess whether they should pass something along for fear of getting caught (the real people did). Have them drive Washington slightly mad with their caution (the real people did). But give them the right heart.

The heart was what turned the real people into real, ordinary heroes.

The heart was what made me ask myself Would I be strong enough to do the same? 

The heart is what has the potential to make viewers cheer through failures and setbacks and threat and victories.

Don't strip the characters of it.

Will I watch next season? Probably. Because I really, really, really want them to redeem this story. I want to like the characters, and I want them to eventually tell the story of the Culpers I love. But I gotta say, I'm disappointed. I had high hopes, I was ready to love this show and shout about it to the world. And instead, I spent a lot of episodes sighing and shaking my head. 

And now I'm down to a hope for improvement next season. 

Fingers crossed that Abe gets a backbone, conviction comes to call, and they find a new character to give a bit of morality to now that they killed off the one who had it before.