Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Remember When . . . Tea Came in Bricks

Though I did originally post this here, it's been 5 years. So today, for my turn on Colonial Quills, I revisit the day a brick of tea arrived in my mail. If you haven't been around this blog that long (or don't remember the original post), hop over the CQ for a quick history of Brick Tea.

Brick Tea

Monday, July 25, 2016

Word of the Week - Kulturkampf

Yes, that's right, today's word of the week is German. ;-)

In my edits for A Name Unknown, my editor had asked me to check the history of the phrase "culture war," as it felt modern. I'd used this phrase to describe events in Germany at the end of the 19th century, because, well, that's what my history book had called it, LOL. But history books do tend to use language from the time they're writing in rather than the time they're writing about, ahem. So I took the advice and looked it up.

What I found was that the German word for culture war, kulturkampf, was actually coined at the time specifically to describe these events. The German chancellor Von Bismark (described by other politicians of his day as "a demon") launched this war in Germany against the Catholic church specifically, but most other Christian churches took it as a sign to beware as well. For perhaps the first time in centuries, since the Church had fractured, Protestants and Catholics joined together to fight political forces that would wipe them out.

Of course, learning that this word would have been in legitimate use at the time doesn't make it sound less out of place in my manuscript. ;-) So my challenge was trying to figure out how to use it well. And my answer was to start with the German word.

Hope everyone has a great week! I had a fabulous time at Montrose Christian Writers Conference and am now looking forwarding to getting back into my writing groove after being in teacher/editor mode all week. =)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Giver of Wonders Launch Team!

While I'm at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference this week and away from normal blogging, I thought it would be the perfect time to let the blog do some work on its own. ;-)

And so, it's time to build the Launch Team for Giver of Wonders!

Giver of Wonders is a couple things--it's my first Christmas story. It's a biblical novel. It involved the same Visibullis family readers have come to love through A Stray Drop of Blood and A Soft Breath of Wind, but 150 years later--so none of the same characters, no related plots. Instead, we see what one branch of the family has turned into as Christianity has spread throughout the Roman Empire. Cyprus and her sisters end up in Patara, Lycia (present-day Turkey) when a Wonder Worker lives there . . . a Wonder Worker the world now knows as St. Nicholas.

Official blurb:

A miracle once saved her life ~ will another give her a future?

Cyprus was little more than a child when a fall left her paralyzed...and when the boy known as the Wonder Worker healed her. Ever since, she has wondered why the Lord spared her, what he has in store for her. But her pagan father thinks she was spared solely so she could be introduced to the wealthy Wonder Worker, Nikolaos.

Nikolaos has never questioned that his call in life is to dedicate himself to the church and to God. Never, that is, until he and his cousin Petros meet the compelling Cyprus Visibullis. For years he struggles with the feelings she inspires...and with the sure knowledge that Petros loves her too.

Petros knows he will never be good enough for Cyprus's father to consider him as a match for his favorite daughter ~ not as long as Nikolaos is there. But when tragedy strikes the Visibullis family, he will do anything to save his beloved. Unfortunately, his beloved is determined to do anything to save her sisters ~ even at the cost of herself.

As the festival of lights bathes their Greek city in beauty, Cyprus, Petros, and Nikolaos celebrate the miracle of their Savior s birth together one last time. And in remembrance of their Lord's greatest gift, one of them will make the ultimate sacrifice for the others...and a centuries-long tradition will be born.

L A U N C H      T E A M     B A S I C S

For those who have been on previous launch teams, you probably already have an idea of how this will work. I will:

  • Create a private Facebook group for all launch team members to join
  • Send you complimentary copies of the book prior to its release
  • Have a special giveaway for you guys only
  • Share lots of behind-the-scenes info and come to you first for opinions and with ideas

Members of the team will:

  • Write reviews to post to social media/online retailers
  • Consider asking local libraries/bookstores to stock the book
  • Share ideas with each other on ways to promote
  • Promise to help spread the word through word of mouth, online postings, etc.

There will be two different options you'll be able to sign up for. These are:

  • BETA READER - beta readers will receive a digital file in September, two months before the book releases. They will have the opportunity to share their opinions and anything they catch in the manuscript with me. When the book releases, they can then post a review and do other usual launch team/influencer stuff, but they'll have had a sneak peek. Beta readers will have one month to read the manuscript before I need their feedback, but they can write a review at any point.
  • INFLUENCER - An influencer is a launch team member who receives a final copy of the book around the release date. I will only have 20 paperback copies (to US addresses only), but more digital copies. I can send your preference of digital version--mobi file for your Kindle, epub for other devices, or PDF for your computer. As an influencer, you agree to help promote the book by posting photos to social media, writing reviews, and just generally helping to spread the word.

    If more readers sign up than I have specified copies for, I'll be selecting my team based on what ideas you put in the form/your social reach/review history/level of enthusiasm. Same for choosing recipients of paperbacks versus digital copies. So get creative! ;-)

Thank you all SO MUCH for you interest in helping me spread the word about Giver of Wonders! I couldn't do it without you amazing readers!!!

(You can also fill out the form here.)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Lady Unrivaled ~ Influencer Sign-Up

Thank you for your interest in helping me promote A Lady Unrivaled! I'm so excited for this book to release, and so blessed to have readers like you who want to help me spread the word. =)

At this time I only have 15-20 slots open for paperback reviewers, so I'll have to make a decision based on who I feel will best help with the promotion efforts. How you plan to help will play a role in deciding this, so get creative. ;-)

For those who prefer digital copies, or if you don't have a U.S. address, you can sign up to receive a digital ARC (advance reader's copy) via Netgalley; my publisher will send you a widget. Fill out this form instead.

And don't forget that I'll be building my influencer team for Giver of Wonders next week!

Ready? Set . . . Fill!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Remember When . . . A Quick Lesson in Coinage

Sometimes the questions a novelist asks leads to answers a novelist didn't anticipate.

Today, I had the thought that a character should be flipping a coin into the air. So I headed to Google to determine with British coin my character should be flip in 1914. And ended up with an interesting lesson in coinage.

Being not British, I didn't realize that there was a fairly huge change to the currency in 1968. These days, they use "decimalization" much like we Americans do, with 100 pence to the pound. But prior to that--so certainly in 1914--there were actually 240 pence to the pound. Twelve pence to a shilling, and 20 shilling to a pound.

I'm not sure how I've managed to write so many book with English or British characters and settings without looking this up before! Sheesh!

These are the current coins, of which I imagine I'll collect a few while in England this fall to add to my foreign currency collection (by which I mean the bowl we've tossed Euros, Pesos, Canadian coins, and Bulgarian coins into).

These are not, of course, what my mysterious villain would have been tossing into the air in 1914. No, I think he'd be tossing up a George V florin, worth 2 shillings and nearly an inch in diameter.

Interesting note for Americans who are as ignorant of all this as I was, LOL--each monarch had the coins redesigned with their profile upon ascension. So while Victorian coins would all have had the Queen upon them, all new coins during King George V's reign, for instance, would have had him. A bit different from our Jefferson nickles and Washington quarters and Lincoln pennies that never change. =)

That concludes your very short lesson in historical British coinage. Now back to the man flipping a florin... ;-)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Influencer Sign-Ups Coming!

It's that time again! I'm filling out my influencer list for A Lady Unrivaled! I will be posting a public link to the sign-up form on THURSDAY, 14 July at 2 p.m. EDT. There will only be 15-20 slots available for paperbacks, so in the interest of giving everyone a fair shot at them, you're getting advance warning. ;-)

I'll also be doing a Celebrate Lit tour for this book, so if you're part of that blog team, you don't need to try to get a copy via this list. =)


Next week, I'll also have a sign-up form for my very first Christmas story, Giver of Wonders, launch team! I'll only have 15-20 paperbacks available for this one too, but will have various digital options for interested readers, including beta readers who will get to read the book in August or September instead of November. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Thoughtful About . . . Faith Like a Tumbleweed

A few weeks ago, I heard an analogy about the kind of life we should live; that we should be an oak tree, solid and tall, a pillar of the community, the kind of person people respect and will miss when we're gone, etc. That we shouldn't be a tumbleweed, aimless and despised and dismissed by everyone.

I got the point of the story. And I certainly love oak trees as much as the next person. But this analogy also bothered me. Maybe that's a fine image for the world, but for a Christian? I'm not so sure. Not that there's nothing to learn from an oak, but that we should dismiss tumbleweeds so quickly. I think . . .

I think that we need to be tumbleweeds when it comes to our faith.

In our homeschool science, we read about these plants, and they're pretty amazing. The tumbleweed bush can grow with very little water. The seeds can lie dormant until moisture comes, then bang! Up the plant sprouts. Quick, but also firmly rooted. The wind doesn't rip it from the ground. Oh, no. When it's time to reproduce, the tumbleweed, its seeds ripe and ready, breaks off from its roots. It's so light that the wind can take it anywhere. Everywhere. And it rolls around--but not aimlessly. It's spreading its seeds. Seeds which can lie dormant until that little bit of moisture touches it. Then bam. A new bush springs up.

How perfect an illustration is that of what Christians should be? Yes, we need to be firmly rooted in God--but not in one particular place. Our faith isn't tied to our geographical location, like a tree. Our goal shouldn't be just to reach ourselves toward heaven, right? Our purpose here isn't to stand strong and tall and thick, to drop our seeds right by our feet, where maybe one or two eventually grow a bit . . . if they're not gobbled up by the world or denied water and light by our shadows and thirsty roots.

Our purpose is to spread the Word. Spread those seeds of faith. Far and wide. Our goal is to go and make disciples. Our faith should be fast to spring up in Him, should be able to survive even the driest spells. And oh, if those seeds we planted could spring up so readily!

Now, I'm not saying there aren't lessons to be learned from an oak tree. Their nuts feed the forest creatures--that's important. And the cycle of acorn crops is pretty amazing too, the way they go through lean cycles to actually decrease the animal population that feeds on it, then produces a bumper crop that's way more than the animals can eat, so that some acorns have the chance to grow.

But oak saplings are easily choked out by other species.
May our faith not be like that.

Oak trees can't move.
May our faith not be like that.

It takes an oak 20 years to mature enough to produce acorns.
May our faith not be like that.

I say, let's give those things called weeds their due. Why are they called a weed?

Because they grow everywhere.
May our faith be like that.

Mankind can never get rid of them, because the seeds are so numerous and spring up so readily.
May our faith be like that.

Tumbleweeds break off from their roots to spread their seeds.
May our faith be like that.

They roll far and wide, spreading those seeds.
May our faith be like that.

They can flourish with the smallest bit of nourishment.
May our faith be like that.

It takes a single season for a tumbleweed plant to grow, reach maturity, and produce.
May our faith be like that.

Animals feed on tumbleweeds where no other plant can grow.
May our faith be like that.

When a tumbleweed breaks off, the dying of the original plant is the fuel for new life.
Our faith is founded on that.

I really pray that Christianity be what the world terms a weed--that we spring up everywhere. Quickly, incessantly. That we constantly get in the way of the ideals the world is trying to sew. That we are so numerous we cannot be counted. That we spread our seeds of faith far and wide, caring not about our selves, but about the message we're spreading. That we care little for where we are, so long as we're where He planted us.

There's beauty, yes, in that grand oak tree planted and fed by the water. There's beauty in the strong and sure, in the fact that such a huge tree can grow from a little seed. There's beauty in the scads of animals that eat of it and rest in its shade.

But don't dismiss the weed. The weed is vital to nature--it's just to man and his desire to control his environment that it's a nuisance. Exactly what Christianity should be.  Make me a dandelion, Lord. Make me milkweed. Made me a tumbleweed. I don't need man's praise and glory--I need only to spread Your word.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Remember When . . . People Saw the World?

Okay, this isn't so much a history-themed post as a modern-day rant, LOL.

So, five years ago David and I went to Niagara Falls for our 10th anniversary. It was gorgeous, we had a lovely time, and we said then that we'd take the kids when Rowyn (who was only 3 at the time) was bigger and better able to actually, you know, remember it.

Well, the kids now have their passports, so we decided to take a spontaneous trip to Niagara for the 4th. (Because, you know, nothing says American Independence Day like traveling into Canada, LOL. Seriously, their fireworks over the falls are fantastic! So yes, we and thousands of others went to Canada for the Fourth, LOL.) The kids had a blast and want to make it an annual tradition.

So there we were, absorbing this grandeur. As we stood there on the Canadian side and looked out over the Horseshoe Falls, David said, "Can you imagine being the first European to see this?"

I, of course, put on an over-the-top accent and said, "I say! What a smashing good waterfall!"
David added, "Back up, back up! I think maybe we shouldn't send the boats down that!"

We being us, this went on for a while, the kids ignoring us while we pretended we were explorers of old seeing this for the first time, with no one else around.

But oh, there were other people around. And on this trip, they were both driving me nuts and making me sad.

Selfies. Selfies were the bane of the trip. Not for us--we didn't even get out our cell phones. But oh. My. Gracious.

People were so busy trying to get a selfie of themselves in front of the Falls that they weren't actually looking at the falls! This was especially noticeable on the Maid of the Mist boat ride that takes you up to it. Where, you know, if you don't actually look when the boat is going by, you miss it. But instead of seeing this amazing scene, at least half of the people on this boat had their backs to it. Their arms out. Often extended with a selfie-stick. Shoving the rest of us against the wall so that they could smile at their smart phone.

They would rather have taken a picture of themselves in front of something beautiful than to see something beautiful.

Eventually, of course, they turned around . . . with their phones still up. So they could video it. Which meant that they were staring at their four-inch screens rather than the actual sight.

I'm not saying "Don't take pictures." Not at all! I obviously adore a good photograph--hence my use of one up top. But for goodness sake, don't miss the thing you came to see so that your phone can see it! Get a picture, then put the dang thing away, will you, world? Have a little courtesy for the thousands of people around you instead of shoving your way by them so you're in prime selfie-taking position. Take the time to soak it all in. Ask questions. Be silly. Make way for the little kid straining up on tiptoe to try to see.

See. See this beauty of God's creation instead of the screen of your cell phone. Actually enjoy the place you are. Be the place you are. You don't live in your phone (though many of you seem to. Ahem). You live here. With those people you just shoved aside. You want to remember it? It won't be by adding another photo to the thousands-huge camera roll. It'll be by being fully in that moment while you're there.

Back in the day before cameras, much less cell phones, people could still make memories. They made them by being. By living. By experiencing.

What did those explorers think when they first saw them? Or the people who traveled to it in the Colonial days, when it was already a destination? What would it have been like for them?

Interestingly, largely the same as it is for us. This sight you have the opportunity to behold is a sight enjoyed by people for centuries. There's a kind of magic in that, isn't there? Let's live that. Let's absorb it. Let's be part of the wonder. Cuz our cell phones really don't care. But the people around us? They do. Let's be people, instead of just selfie sticks, eh?

End rant. ;-)