Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Retreat and SALE!

In 24 hours' time, I'll be en route to Kansas City for my annual writing retreat with my best friend/critique partner, the awesome Stephanie Morrill. Which means I have approximately two thousand four hundred twelve things to accomplish in the next 24 hours.

So naturally, I decided to add a little more work to my list and just created a Mother's Day SALE on my website shop!

There are currently 2.5 weeks until Mother's Day, which is the perfect time to get those gifts ordered--and what makes a better gift than a signed book, right? So from now until 5/6, everything in my store is 20% off with coupon code: MOTHERSDAY17

This can apply to A Name Unknown as well, but please do keep in mind that that book is currently on pre-order, so it will NOT SHIP until I have copies in hand in July.

And that's all the brain I have for a blog post, because there are still dishes to do and cats to take to the vet and refrigerators to clean out and packing and recording music for church and . . . ;-)

If you're curious about my writing retreat progress this year, I'll be posting on Facebook each day--and there may even be a random Facebook Live video to show you what it looks like when two writers lock themselves in a room with nothing but coffee, chocolate, and their laptops! (Okay, slight exaggeration. There will also be muffins. And donuts...)

Otherwise, I'll see you back here next Wednesday!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Word of the Week - Kaput

Not happy inspiration here, as I thought to wonder about the word as I was typing it into a description of what happened to my computer for the second time in a week--thoroughly and completely went kaput on me [grumble, grumble, growl, growl].

But the word itself is rather interesting!

It traces its first appearance in English back to the 1890s but really entered common usage during WWI--it being taken from the German kaputt. (I had no idea it was that old.) It means "to utterly ruin or destroy," and it's said that in the early days of the war and German victories, "everything enemy was kaput."

The German word, however, is actually presumed to be borrowed from the French. As early as the 1640s, the Germans took the French phrase faire capot--taking all the tricks in a card game--and flipped it, so that it reflected the negative rather than the positive side of winning/losing so completely.

So all in all, a very interesting word. And a terrible thing to happen to one's computer. ;-)

Don't forget that tonight is my last Facebook chat on the Ladies of the Manor Series! I'll be taking next week off while on my writing retreat, then pick up again May 8.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thoughtful About . . . Assumptions

So I've been working through some things this week--and anyone who knows me knows that my "working through" usually involves writing. Where better to compose my thoughts, then, than for you all, right? ;-)

I think the kernel of what's been bothering me is assumptions.

Now, again, anyone who knows me knows that not only am I an optimist, I'm a "give them the benefit of the doubt" sort of person. My husband is regularly amused at how I'll bend over backward to try to find a logical reason why that driver might have cut us off--"It's a minivan, maybe she's got six kids in there and one of them just threw a toy at her head!"--or why someone is totally rude in a store--"I guess we don't know what bad news they may have just gotten."

Then there are the times when humanity just disappoints or frustrates me, when I can't explain away bigotry or cynicism or prejudice or . . .

It's especially upsetting to me when it happens within the church. When people who are supposed to be my brothers and sisters in Christ dismiss other brothers and sisters in Christ as heretics and condemn them to hell just because they don't believe exactly the same as they do on a few matters. When they try to claim they understand the other side and proceed to state the opposition's beliefs as if with authority . . . and when they've got those beliefs wrong. When they're clearly just parroting what they've been told without ever actually talking to someone of those beliefs and asking for an explanation. Oh, they talk to them--to try to convert them to their way of thinking. But when you start a conversation with the assumption that the other person is wrong, what are the chances that you'll see any truth they have to share?

Why is it easier to condemn than to wonder if maybe we don't understand something correctly?

Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's part of my rather unique education. Maybe it's because I've been taught to ask questions rather than assume answers . . . but why do people behave this way? It hurts my soul when I see someone who's supposed to be representing my faith snarling at other Christians like that. When I realize that this is why so many people today think Christianity is a joke. Because some people can't fathom that God is bigger than our finite understanding. They are so convinced that they have every detail right that they'll condemn or dismiss anyone who doesn't agree on every point.

It hurts me when the people of God act like the world--no, worse, when they act like the very hypocrites Jesus argued with in His day.

This isn't the way we're supposed to be. We're supposed to be united with other believers, no matter if they're Baptist or Methodist, Lutheran or Episcopalian, Catholic or Greek Orthodox. There are differences, yes--but if perhaps we stop coming at those differences from the assumption that "I'm right and they're wrong," we might actually learn something from one another. And we might actually learn something about God. We might realize that they believe what they do for reasons, and that we were taught it's wrong belief because our ancestors rejected either the verses or interpretation; reasons for them to think we're wrong. We might actually read something through new eyes and realize that we're not as far apart on an issue as some people on both sides want us to think we are.

I told my husband the other day that I'd come to a rather odd conclusion: that I could live out my faith in any number of church congregations. I could live out my faith in a Catholic church, or a Greek Orthodox, or a Methodist, or a Lutheran. I could live out my faith pretty much anywhere. But I couldn't live out my faith in that church that ought to be similar to my own,  under the direction of someone who would label me a heretic because I don't label other people such.

But you can't learn if you start from the assumption that you are right.

You can't teach if you start from the assumption that the other person has nothing to teach you, or is a lost cause.

You can't reach the lost if you start from the assumption that they're worse than you.

I'd rather assume people are better than they are, that they're capable of goodness and learning and fairness and love, and be taken advantage of or disappointed, than to live my life waiting for people to fail, expecting them to sin, searching for reasons to dismiss them or sneer at them or condemn them. I'd rather turn the other cheek and give my shirt as well when someone demands my coat than be combative and victimized and capable of seeing only my own cause.

I'd rather eat with sinners than with religious hypocrites. And I think I'm in good company there.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Word of the Week - Forsake and Sake

Perhaps it's no surprise on the Monday following Holy Week that forsake has come up--I daresay many of us heard again in the last few days Jesus' lament upon the cross. It was some silly wordplay, however, that made me wonder as to the word's etymology. Yesterday in the car, I said something about "For your sake" to my husband, and he replied with "You're forsaking me?" with an exaggerated pout.

First time I'd ever really paid attention to the two parts of that word! So this being me, I immediately wondered if they're from the same root.

The amazing part being that I remembered to look it up this morning. ;-)

So first off, forsake and sake are indeed from the same word. Both are present in Old English, and probably came from Norse, as there are similar words in other Nordic languages. Sake has always meant "purpose," the original form being sacu. It was actually originally applied to a legal cause or case. So to say "for someone's sake" would mean for their cause, for their case. (Interestingly that phrase is pretty much the only one in which the word has been preserved.) But it would also take on the other side of the legal coin and mean "accusation, blame, dispute."

Forsake then combines that opposition sense of sake with Old English for-, which meant "completely." Forsacan, the Old English word, literally meant "to object to, deny, refuse, give up, renounce." At some point in time it came to be used not just in a legal sense, but in relation to those who have turned their back on something to which they ought to be loyal.


Don't forget that tonight is my second Facebook Live event, at 7 p.m. eastern! I'll be chatting about The Reluctant Duchess, answering your questions, and reading a snippet. I'll be starting with one of last week's questions about my favorite authors too. =) Hope to see you there, either live or afterward!

Friday, April 14, 2017

I Corinthians 11-16

I'm not sure where this week went--I knew yesterday was Thursday, because I had prep work to do for our Thursday-before-Resurrection-Day dinner...but that it should have been a blogging day totally escaped me.

It's been that kind of week. ;-)

Anyway! As we're here in the midst of Holy Week, that means I'm wrapping up the 40 Days of Jesus reading challenge and will be back to normal blogging next week. This week's readings took us through how we're to behave in church, communion, spiritual gifts, the famous Love Chapter, speaking in tongues, and the resurrection. All such important things!

This year I've been reading from The Message and then pulling out my trusty NKJV just to compare. I used to be wary of The Message--I like literal translations--until I read the intro and realized that the translator's goal was not to create a new, exclusive version, but for it to be a companion to other, literal translations--that he merely wanted his version to breathe new life into passages that may have grown stale over the years, to show something in a new way.

In passages as familiar as these, that was a real blessing to me, and I found myself quoting bits and pieces of it to the Facebook group on several days. But I was especially grateful for the fresh perspective in chapter 13, which I have read so many times in so many places that sometimes my eyes glaze over when I see it on yet another wedding program, and I mutter something along the lines of, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." (When I catch myself doing this with any passage, I try really hard to find something new in it!)

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

First off, it's worth noting what word is used for love here. It's not eros--the romantic, sensual love. It's not philos--deep friendship that is used many times in the new testament. It's not ludos--the playful or even flirtatious affection between children or in a new relationship. It's not even pragma--the longstanding and lasting love associated with established married couples, which involves sacrifice and reason (same root as pragmatic). It's certainly not philautia--self-love. (There's a really good article on the types of love here.)

This love is, of course, agape--a radical kind of love to talk about at the time. And still radical today, despite our familiarity with the word. This is selfless, unconditional love. The kind of love God has for us, yes, but the kind we're also called to have for everyone else.

Now I'm pausing to ask myself--do I have a "me first" attitude? Do I care for myself more than others? Am I pushy? Do I trust God always? 

If my answers aren't right, then I'm bankrupt.

And what happens when we relate it back to the spiritual gifts, which is where the conversation comes from? We can seek all those gifts--both the flashy and the quiet. We can speak in the tongues of men and angels. We can prophesy. We can heal. We can do miracles. But those are all subject to this one base command: love. Without reserve. Without judgment. Without you and what you get from it being factored in. 

But we live in a society of me. Right? I read a really intriguing article recently about how society--and especially faith and the church--has changed as mirrors grew better. When Paul wrote this letter, mirrors were made of polished bronze and could give only a hazy reflection--the result being that people didn't really know what they looked like. What they knew was what everyone else looked like, and so their focus tended to remain on others--what they could see clearly--and on community. Self-identity in the early church was built around community-identity, which is why being excommunicated was the worst thing imaginable. But as mirrors became clearer, as people saw themselves clearly for the first time in history, there was a directly parallel change to where their emphasis turned--on themselves. 

Imagine what Paul would say now, when we not only look in a mirror and see ourselves clearly, we have phones where we can spend half our day taking selfies. Our emphasis has turned fully on ourselves, and with it, agape love has suffered a severe decline in the society as a whole. Community doesn't matter, in that if we get kicked out of one church, we can just go find another. The Church doesn't have one body (in Protestantism anyway) it has thousands. And how do we pick the one we belong to? The one that suits us. Where we feel we belong.

It always goes back to us. Me.

But that's all wrong. I also love how The Message translates verse 13, the last verse of this chapter. It says:

We have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Why? Because that's who God is. And it's who He calls us to be--all of us, whether we're a pastor or a teacher or an evangelist; whether we have wise counsel or can heal or distinguish between spirits. No matter our gift, no matter our function in the church body, this is--or should be--the undergirding.

We should be putting others before ourselves, and loving them with an all-out, selfless, indefatigable love. Because in that love, we find union with each other, and with God. And through that, we build a Church. We claim a resurrection body. And our faith has found completion.

I hope everyone has a blessed Resurrection Day, and that God whispers love into your hearts as you reflect on the ultimate expression of it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Join Me Live Tonight!

Just a quick reminder that tonight at 7 p.m. eastern, I'm going to be live on Facebook from my author page to chat about The Lost Heiress!

I'll be:
  • talking about the inspiration and history of the book and sharing some behind the scenes info
  • answering any questions that come in live during the chat
  • reading a snippet from the book

If you can't watch live but catch it later once it's posted to the page, don't worry! You can still ask questions, and I'll answer them next Monday, when I'll be chatting about The Reluctant Duchess.

I hope you can join me, either live or later!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sale and stuff!

First of all, I wanted to let everyone know that The Lost Heiress e-book is on sale from all major retailers! The sale will only run from April 6th through 8th, so if you haven't picked this up yet and want to, now's your chance!

You can find links to all the major retailers on my website:



I'm excited to be launching a new way of talking to you guys! This week I'm going to be going Live on my Facebook author page with details, but here's the gist. On Monday evenings (when I'm not out of town or life has the audacity to interrupt), I'm going to be going Live to chat about one of my books (book will change each time), read you a selection, talk about the inspiration behind it, and answer any of your questions (about that title or anything else).

Which book would you like me to start with on Monday April 10? Comment here or fill out this one-question survey! 

I Corinthians 6-10

There were some hard-hitting chapters this week! And, can I just say, some that are rather, er, difficult to read to your kids during homeschool? There were a few sections I just skimmed right over with them, I admit it. Because while I'm all for training a child up right from the get-go, I'm also not for introducing subjects to my little ones when they really don't need to know about them quite yet. Another couple years...

Anyway. Chapter 7 in particular is one of those that is difficult to tackle in this day and age, isn't it? Granted, most of it Paul particularly says is his wisdom, not a direct command from God. Except this part:

10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. (NKJV)

This is hard to even talk about in the church today, where the divorce rate is just as high as it is in the world. Why? That, I think, should be our first question. What has gone wrong in the modern understanding of what marriage is, that it's so easily broken by believers?

Not easily for all, I know. I'm not saying that. But is it the case most of the time that one of the spouses isn't true in their faith? Maybe. But where does that leave the other, who has been left? Well, according to this scripture it's pretty clear.

But in practice? Does it remain so clear? I know very, very few people who have gone through a divorce and opted to remain single thereafter, focusing solely on God. I've heard, from people I love and trust, that God has told them it's okay to remarry--that he doesn't want us to be alone.

What do you think of that? Is this a case of a best and better way? A case where God would love it if He were enough for us, but that He's willing to grant us human companionship if we require it to stay above sin? Where do you come down on the whole issue? And more to the point, how do you translate ideology into practice? I know what I would do--but how should I treat those who believe differently? Do we shake our heads at people who choose to remain unmarried, telling them they're not moving on? If we believe remarriage is wrong, do we use it as a means of bludgeoning and scorning those who disagree with us?

I think what it ultimately comes down to is this: if we seek God first, do all we do for Him and not ourselves, His Spirit will make the way clear. But not if we're trying to twist God and Christ into our own image.

The verse that jumped out at me quite strongly in chapter 10 is verse 9. The Message version states it this way:

We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes.

NKJV translates it as "never tempt Christ," which is no doubt a more literal word-for-word translation, but I think The Message sheds light on what that might mean. Paul is likening it to the Israelites in the wilderness, who were trying to force God to act as they wanted Him to do. I love how he uses this example, since it's the very one Christ used to explain his purpose--that he's the salvation that comes in the aftermath of that epidemic of poison.

It's still true today. We live in a world that's writhing with poisoning snakes--sin. Too many people today in the church are twisting their ideas of God around until He looks like they want Him to--a nice, loving, forgiving god who doesn't hold them to too high a standard.

But God's pretty clear on what happens when we do that. We've turned Him into an idol when we do--we've made a golden calf. When the truth is that He demands far more of us. He calls us to difficult life. A high standard. It is, and is supposed to be, hard. Because the best things in life are worth the effort.

So what standard are we living by?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Remember When . . . We Toured Through London?

Confession: when we went to England in September and spent a night in London, I wasn't happy about it. I'm not a city girl. I don't enjoy the hustle. Or the bustle. Or the traffic. Or the tall buildings. Or the pace. Or . . . pretty much anything about city life. So my goal was rather to avoid London during the trip, and we did a rather good job of it, but for when an early train to Paris required an overnight stay beforehand.

Which was fine, because I intended to avoid London in my books as much as possible too.

You can imagine my surprise when I realized that my third Shadows Over London book, An Hour Unspent, would not be set anywhere else.

Me: What do you mean, book? I'm your creator! I call the shots!
Book: Mwa ha ha ha.

First I thought, "Oh, I'll just start it in London like the other two books, then go somewhere else. Somewhere I've been. Somewhere beautiful and rural and slower paced."

My plot disagreed.

So I thought, "Well, I'll at least take my crew out of London for a while. A nice trip to, say, Devonshire. We passed a lovely day in Devonshire on our way to Cornwall."

My plot rolled its eyes at me. And just waited for me to realize that this determination to leave London was totally unnecessary and wouldn't work at all. It would feel tacked-on.


So here I am, a mere 10,000 words into my book, and ready to admit defeat on that score. London is my hero's world, and my heroine's too. It's where they belong. Where all the action needs to take place (well, aside from the end, which will travel to the western front of the war, into France).

Which left me with the problem of learning London. A rather large city to just become familiar with through books, etc. I'm sure I'm nowhere near fluent in its intricacies and details, especially for 1915. But when I realized I had to actually pin down details now about, say, what section of town my characters live in, I quickly thanked the Lord that I'd had the foresight (let's call it that, shall we, rather than "whim," which might be more accurate, LOL) to order a couple books on London in general and Edwardian London through photographs.

This one seriously saved my bacon.

This lovely book goes through the city section by section, following the Thames--which means that not only do I learn the quirks and interesting tidbits about each part, I also get a nice idea of which are close to which. It includes fun details like which writers and artists of centuries past made their homes in which part of the city; which neighborhoods Conan Doyle visited as research for Sherlock Holmes's network of homeless spies; which areas evolved over the decades and became trendy but used to be far different.

Hopefully, with the aid of my, er, well-planned purchases, I'll pull this off. Even if I am thinking with longing about all those other lovely stories I've written, set in Yorkshire and Scotland and Sussex and Cornwall and Wales. And narrowing my eyes at the stubborn Barclay Pearce, who refused to leave the city for more than a few days at the end.


Speaking of which, I need to go write the scene in which his little sister accuses him of being the same. ;-) I hope everyone's having a lovely week!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I Corinthians 1-5

This week's readings contain what is one of my favorite illustrations from the epistles, in chapter 3. Paul is talking about the foundation of our faith--and what we build upon it. I'm fascinated by the fact that even though this was the early early church and we're nearly 2,000 years later, we all deal with the same problems.

One of them is division. And once you have division, you have false claims and foolish work and people who no doubt think they're getting along just fine, but they're really building their faith-house with rubble rather than the materials that last. But when the fires come--trials, God's judgment, whatever that might be--anything inferior's going to be found out. Burned up. We'll be saved, but as if through the fire. And all that labor--gone.

What does this look like in life? I think in part it's when we deliberately cheap out in our faith-walk. Who hasn't been a spot at one point or another where we know what we should do, but we're just too busy or tired or [fill in the blank]? And so we do less. We only give a little. We don't get involved in a project or cause even though we feel that tug on our spirits. Or we do spearhead a project or cause, even though God didn't tell us to and had something else He wanted us doing instead.

I think it's also when we cling to a sin. How can that help but put the whole building in danger? The foundation is still steady, but if we use a warped girder, it puts in danger everything around it. This goes along, I think, with chapter 5 as well, where Paul is calling out sexual sin in the church.

How many Christians today ought to be saying ouch to that one? Not with the particular example he gives, but with the heart of the matter: that there's sexual impurity in the church, being practiced by the believers who claim to be of Him, and no one cares.

How many ought to be saying it . . . and how many really are?

We are a society these days that not only tolerates sex out of marriage, we embrace it. We rejoice in it. We expect it--and that all too often is true within the church, not just in the world. I was recently talking to a friend about this, and about how it's caused a cynicism in the millennial generation--too many of us aren't willing to buy the concept of "true love" anymore. Our fairy tales have begun to be more funny and sarcastic and less sweet and romantic. We call it "realistic," but it's largely a reflection of what a generation's view of sex has done to their concept of marriage and love. It's cheapened it. It's substituted sub-standard materials for what ought to be strong ones. And we're left with a shaky faith that doesn't quite know what to do. On the one hand, it does still have that foundation of Christ, and some solid boards have been used in other places. But then there's that rotten part. The millennial Christian might have a hard time reconciling what they know deep in their spirit--what His Spirit has breathed into them--with the actions they see all around them, and so which they mirror.

The people will be saved. But barely.

Is that what we want to see happen to our brothers and sisters? Of course not. But do we call them out? That's Paul's admonition in chapter 5. Don't just accept it! Save them from the judgment--that's our job. Call them out, hold them accountable, and don't let it spread within the church. That's what love does. It doesn't turn a blind eye--love heals.

What parts of I Corinthians 1-5 jump out at you?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Word of the Week - Cursive

As a mom of primary/middle schoolers, cursive writing is a part of our day. But as my kiddos were being their usual snarky selves last week (I've raised them well, what can I say), the question arose of why certain letters look the way they do in cursive. Because yes, my kids question everything. Even things as innocuous as a Z. I choose to view that as a good thing, LOL. ;-)

But Xoe then insisted that I look it up today for my word of the week. So here we go!

The word itself, cursive, comes from the Italian corsivo, which means "running." The entire purpose of it is to allow speed in writing, especially in the days of quill pens, which are fragile and finicky compared to the pens we use today. With that in mind, it's no surprise that cursive writing has been around for thousands of years. The word, however, has only been in English since 1784. Previously it had been called "joining-hand."

Though most languages and alphabets have a form of cursive, I'll focus on the English version. Apparently there was no standardization in the early days, with two predominant styles: what we'd call italic, with no loops for ascenders and descenders, and looped, where things like p and d have a loop to allow for easy flow into the next letter. By the 16th century cursive had come to look more or less like what we recognize today. Styles still varied here and there, and everyone didn't always connect every letter, but standardization was probably helped along by businesses employing trained clerks to write in "fair hand" (easily readable script) for all their correspondence.

In more recent years, a few different techniques have arisen, which vary the method of learning to write the letters, but the letters themselves still end up looking largely the same. And of course, then we all leave school and write however we please anyway. ;-)

Do you have opinions on cursive handwriting? Do you use it in your own handwriting?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

John 16-21

This week's readings in the 40 Days of Jesus devotional were certainly action-packed! As I read these words that I've read so many times before, a few things struck me.

First, that though I've heard many a Christian say something to the effect of, "Don't you wish you'd been there? That you'd gotten to sit at His feet and hear Him speak?" I found it so interesting that Jesus indicates we're the lucky ones--because we have the Spirit to guide us through our faith.

Ever pause to think about that? That we're blessed because we haven't seen Him face to face, yet we believe. And despite never seeing Him with our eyes, we have from the start the indwelling of the Spirit to guide us, to make His teachings clear and understandable--how many times in the Gospels do the disciples not understand a lesson that's perfectly plain to us, right? That's why. Which is pretty cool when you think about it.

Then Jesus goes on to pray for us. Us. The believers who come after. The night before His death, when He knows very well what's coming in the next few hours, the Son of God takes the time to pray for you and me.

But not just some abstract prayer. What He prays for is UNITY in the church.

Ouch, right?

Because how unified are we today? We bicker and we snap at each other and we disagree on everything under the sun. And while differences in style and interpretation are in a way unavoidable--even those early apostles had them!--when it interferes with the message of Jesus going out into the world...when it hinders our witness to that world...then we're doing it wrong.

There are countless other things to talk about in these rich chapters. If you've been reading along--or just love the book of John and want to share your favorite insight or thought before the study moves into I Corinthians next week, do share!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Guest Post Up Today on Writing

Because I only have the capacity for one blog post a day (ahem), since I'm a guest today on Go Teen Writers, I figured I'd just link you over there.

So any of you writers out there, hop on over to read my take on the Intuitive--versus the mathematical--mind. In fact, even if you're not a writer, this could apply. I delve into the two types of minds that Pascal lays out, and how they affect our approach to pretty much anything.

See you back here tomorrow!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Word of the Week - Kidnap

This might seem like an odd word of the week until you consider I'm a writer, LOL. One who, as it happens, is indeed brainstorming a plot that involves a kidnapping.

And yet, I actually read about this word from pure happenstance. ;-) Go figure!

Anyway. It's kinda of interesting, so let's take a look.

First of all, though sometimes moderns think kid, as applied to a child, is terrible slang that was never used in historical days, that's simply not true. The word for "a young goat" since 1200, it was extended to children in the 1500s--first written record is the 1590s, but no doubt it was used it speech before that. It was slang at first, yes, but had lost that "slang" stigma by the 1840s (though it was still considered an informal word).

So then kidnap comes to us by the 1680s--part of thieves' language. It was originally used for when they stole children to ship them to the American colonies as servants or laborers! Who knew? The kid part is therefore obvious. Nap is a variant of nab. But interesting is that kidnapper was in use at least a decade before kidnap, leading experts to believe the verb is a back-formation of the noun.

Now off I go plot out a story in which my hero kidnaps my heroine and gets way more than he bargained for, LOL.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Remember When . . . We Went back to 1776? (Our Trip to Colonial Williamsburg)

Finally, two weeks late, here it is. A bit about my trip to Colonial Williamsburg!

So, Roseanna is an eager beaver when it comes to history. And given that it was Homeschool Days at CW, I figured the place would swarming with other eager families. So me and mine were there when the gates opened (metaphorically), a few minutes after 8 a.m. Got our passes, headed out . . . and quickly saw that while the Group Sales office opened at 8, the rest of the place--er, not so much, LOL. So we wandered around for a good long while until other shops and buildings began to catch up with our day. ;-) Still, that provided a good chance to walk the length of the town and decide what we wanted to fit in.

I decided in short order that I felt very out of place in modern dress and that next time, I wanted to be wearing period garb. And got the distinct impression that next time, I may be coming alone if I insisted on that, LOL. (Well, I could probably convince Xoe to dress up with me. The boys,, no.)

First we toured the gaol (very interesting!) and the capitol. By which point the kids were hungry, so while we waited to the restaurants to open, we also stopped in to see the wigmaker, which was great. The lady working in there knows how to bring the process alive, asking us who would like their head shaved first and trying to sell us on the purchase of one of the more expensive wigs--which cost as much as a team of oxen, FYI.

Our next stop was the milliner and mantua maker (read: dress shop). This was another fun one, where we go to handle fabric and watch as they make hats and dresses and talk about shoes--wondering whether the company that once made shoes for both the king of England and George Washington is still in business (hey, you never know!). Getting in the spirit of things, we inquired about apprenticing our daughter there once she's twelve.

Insert said eleven-year-old scowling at us like we are not--funny.

We visited the apothecary and had a rousing discussion on the evolution (and not) of the medical field, the uses of certain items back then, and how people today tend to turn their noses up at the old treatments that did little or had terrible side effects (mercury, anyone?), in all actuality, people today still gladly take remedies with terrifying lists of side effects.

Our favorite stops came after lunch. We went to the cabinetmaker's shop, where the wood worker makes furniture of all kinds. The two boys in the family were highly enthralled--even the nine-year-old who also didn't want us apprenticing him out yet (sheesh, unambitious children, I'm telling you...). But what he did want was to be able to try this sort of work, so Mama's now putting out feelers on how to get a kid started in wood working...
A harpsichord from the museum, which they did NOT let me play. ;-)

While the guys were chatting awls and lathes, I went into the outer shop to play the harpsichord with the cabinetmaker's permission. I'd never actually played one, so that was a real treat! (My husband is now checking out how much these things cost, LOL. Answer: quite a bit. It's like they're rare or something these days...) Naturally, I earned the applause of those who came in after us, ahem. ;-) And the kids found the hidden compartments in the desk beside where I played. A marvelous time was had by all.

From there we went to the brickyard, where no one was making bricks because, alas, it's a summer-only thing. Still, my hubby, from a family of stone masons, had tons of questions for him, and we learned a lot about what brickmaking was back then, and what it is today. They do indeed make all the bricks they use in CW, which is pretty darn cool. And so, as we walked to the Governor's Palace for our last tour of the day, we were spotting the glazed bricks placed artistically within it and reminding ourselves that those were the sides facing the heat directly when the bricks were fired.

Now, I have a cousin who's a docent at CW, so she's the one who gave me a plan of attack for the town, and she offered to meet us for a few minutes when we were done the tour of the palace (thanks, Sierra!). She gave us the tip of the day: go and see the maze.

I'm a history buff. I love wandering around a place like Colonial Williamsburg and learning with every step. My children, however, like just wandering--preferably through something green. So once we found the shrubbery maze (it's not on the maps!), they really started having fun. Laughter was ringing through the afternoon, and my tired kiddos suddenly had energy. So glad we got that tip!

I got to meet with a writer friend of mine for dinner at a local restaurant (yay for Carrie Fancett Pagels!), and then we all soaked our aching feet in the pool at the hotel.

On day 2, we didn't head over quite so early--lesson learned--but were still among the first there. We talked for probably half an hour to a groundsman about the state of the modern country (where my kids proved true to form yet again and had a great time doodling in the dirt with a stick...). We walked to the print shop, learned a lot about how that's done which could be a post in itself (note to self...) and then headed for the museum. We had to get back to WV, preferably before dark, so then called it quits and packed up.

All in all, we had a lovely time, came home with sore feet and legs, learned a lot, and realized that the kids still enjoy the wild exploration above the planned--a note I shall incorporate into future field trips, since they're supposed to be for them and not for me. ;-)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

John 5-9

In this week's readings, I've been doing a lot of pondering about the things Jesus said. Not so much the philosophical parts, but the nitty gritty, let's call it.

The fact that in chapter 6 he spent a lot of time demanding cannibalism, though the Christian church has interpreted it metaphorically. Why did he insist to this crowd that, yes, they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood, if he really meant bread and wine?

The fact that, in chapter 7, he told his brothers he wouldn't go to the feast, that it wasn't his time, but then he went. I find it hard to believe he changed his mind . . . but is the alternative that he lied to his brothers and told them he wasn't going when he knew all along he would?

And several times (chapter 8 is one example) when he heals or forgives he tells the recipient to "go and sin no more." But isn't that impossible?

If I'm operating on the assumption first and foremost that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life--and therefore not deliberately deceiving people--then that leaves me with one thing to do with these passages: assume I'm missing something, LOL. That my "easy" understanding is, apparently, wrong.

The eat his flesh and drink his blood part, for example. Saying he's talking here about his later institution of communion is easy. But over and again in chapter 6, he quite deliberately makes this hard. So hard that most of the people following him leave, because it's too difficult for them to accept.

And let's face it. If some teacher we'd been following started insisting that we had to literally eat him . . . hmm. Would you stick around, or would you declare him a wacko? I can kinda see where the crowds were coming from when they shook their heads and wandered off.

But even if we do assume a metaphorical meaning--it's honestly even harder then, isn't it? Because that would (and I believe does) mean that we're to consume him and his teachings. He's to be our life, our sustenance, our craving. Everything that we take into ourselves should be him. Not just when we take communion (and let's not get into transubstantiation right now), but always. He stresses the eternal quality of this Bread and Blood.

This, too, makes people wander away. Because while most of us like a little bit of faith, that all-consuming, every-moment, nothing-but-Him kind, where we spend all day every day at his feet, learning . . . that's difficult.

Kind of like being perfect and sinning no more. But if we're again operating on the assumption that Jesus means what he says, how can we dismiss this command as impossible?

I think this ties in with Paul's teachings in the epistles, that once we have put our faith in Him, and as long as we're walking in it, the law and sin no longer have dominion over us. We can and should and are called to live in perfection.

A friend of mine once pointed out that Jesus's forgiveness exists outside of the constraints of time. If that one action of his could forgive every person who came after him, then it also applies to every sin in that person's life, even the ones that come after the initial acceptance of his forgiveness. So if I'm walking in my faith, though I may stumble, it's already forgiven. Now, it becomes different when people CHOOSE to disobey him. There's plenty of talk in the epistles about how bad that is for the person too. But if our hearts remain his, our sins are all forgiven.

I've long felt it's dangerous to give ourselves an excuse right out of the gate--to claim that we can't cease to sin. Isn't that just the easy way? I choose to believe here that Jesus means what he says. That he's telling us not to sin in the same breath that he declares us healed and forgiven. And Jesus doesn't tell us to do what he doesn't want us to do.

It's difficult. But you know . . . I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Word of the Week - Upper Case

Another lesson learned at Colonial Williamsburg. =) Well, I'm pretty sure I'd learned this before, but not with a nice visual handy...

So since the mid 1800s, people have referred to capital letters as upper case and small letters as lower case. This is a direct borrow from printers' type cases, where they keep the metal letters with which they build their work. Since small letters are used far more often than capitals, these were stored more handily in the lower case. Capitals, which are used rather sparingly in comparison, were kept in the harder-to-reach upper case.

The simple names (upper and lower) for the type case have been used since the 1500s. I'm a bit surprised it took 300 years for the names to be transferred to the letters kept in the cases!

Interestingly, setting type was the job of the lowest (and generally shortest, ha ha) apprentice, so younger boys learning to be a printer might have a hard time reaching those capitals at all. (Now what's the excuse of my 9-year-old for hating to use them when writing with a pencil? That's another question altogether...)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thoughtful About . . . John 1-4

As I've begun this year's 40 Days of Jesus reading for Lent, it's been fun to begin with some of the most famous passages in the New Testament. The Gospel of John begins with that well known "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..." and moved right forward to the first verse many of us memorized: "For God so loved the word that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Sometimes it's a challenge to see new things in a book you've read so many times. But especially surrounding that well-known verse in chapter 3, I love sitting back and reminding myself of what it really means in context.

A few years ago we read John in church and went back and read the account of Moses and the Israelites that chapter 3 is referring to. The story is from when God had sent poisonous snakes into the camp as punishment, and the people were dying. They cried out to Moses for deliverance, and he put a bronze snake on a staff. "God will save you," he told the people, "if you just look upon this staff and believe it."
From Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel, we see a scene with the brazen serpent or Nehushtan

As many as looked, were saved.

But not all looked. Many would rather die in their bitterness and anger toward God, or calling out to false idols, than to trust Him. To humble themselves before Him.

This is what Jesus said He was. Salvation to all who look and believe. So simple--so difficult for stubborn humanity to accept.

But we're already bitten by that snake of sin. We're already dying. It isn't that He's condemning us if we don't accept Him--it's that nature will simply take it's course. The ball's in our court. He already came and died and rose again for us. All we need to do is believe . . . but if we don't, then that poison of sin will overtake us. We'll die.

This is the simplicity and the complexity of the salvation story. Striking, every time we read it.

If you've been reading along, has anything from the first four chapters of John jumped out at you?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What Day Is It? And for the love of BOOKS!

Okay, getting home from a 2-day field trip to Colonial Williamsburg on a Monday evening has totally thrown off my week's schedule. (It's only Tuesday right? What? Wednesday?? No, that can't be right...) I'm doing my best to get back into the correct swing, but it's taking me a few days, LOL. Next Wednesday, I'll share some of the fun stuff I learned at Williamsburg, and the photos I took. For today, I can't put off edits that need done any longer. Sorry. ;-)

But as it's Wednesday (?!?), I figured I'll instead invite you to join me tomorrow night for an evening of BOOKS! Ah, one of my favorite things. ;-) A friend of mine has recently begun to sell Usborne books, and we're having a Facebook party!

If you're not familiar with Usborne, they're a huge publisher of children's books, with titles appropriate for babies up through teens. We've used some of their science and history books in our homeschool curriculum each and every year, and they've always been among our favorites. I didn't realize, though, that they had so many books just for fun--activity books, novels, art books, you name it!

If you've got kids or grandkids or children otherwise in your life and are always on the lookout for a good book for them, I'd love for you to swing by the Facebook party tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. EST. If you check in right at the start, you'll be entered to win door prizes and giveaways! (Who doesn't love free books, right?) And they'll be showing us all about the new additions to the catalog and what Usborne has to offer.

If you're interested in attending, you can try to view the event directly here--some folks have reported issues with that though, so the best bet might be to leave me a message either here or on Facebook, and I'll send you an invitation.

Looking forward to hanging out and chatting BOOKS!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Word of the Week - Diaper

Happy Monday from Colonial Williamsburg! It's Homeschool Days down in CW, so my family and I are here on a 2-day pass. Yesterday we had great fun visiting many of the trade shops and enjoying the early spring weather and flowers (daffodils! In February!).

And it's from one of these trade shops that I got the inspiration for this week's word.

We visited the milliner and mantua maker just before lunch yesterday and had a lovely time chatting with the ladies who make the dresses and hats (I know just enough to know what questions to ask, as my hubby pointed out). One of things they showed us was an 18th century clout--the word at the time for a diaper.

As she showed us the clout, she pointed out that diaper was in fact the name for the sturdy weave of cloth they used in the clout (under the cover) originally (similar to the image I use above, though that's just a digital pattern). Diaper signified a very tight, patterned weave that is far more absorbent, as it happens, then a normal weave. The word itself comes from Latin originally--dia meaning "thoroughly" and aspros eventually meaning "white" but first meaning something more like "textured" or "rough."

The word began to be used to for the clout itself, rather than the pattern, by the 1830s.

I know, I know--I spent two days in Colonial Williamsburg and talk to you about diapers, LOL. Just goes to show that you never know what might impress me when it comes to words. ;-)


Don't forget that today begins the 40 Days of Jesus Bible study! If you're going to be reading along, start today with the first chapter of the Gospel of John.

Friday, February 24, 2017

40 Days of Jesus ~ Bible Study Beginning on Monday!

Last year, my church instituted a Lenten Bible study program that involved reading a chapter a day of a Gospel, from Ash Wednesday to Easter.

We're doing it again this year, with a slight variation on days and readings. This time we'll be starting on Monday rather than Wednesday, but only reading on week days, not the weekends. Our books will be John and 1 Corinithians (35 chapters for the 35 weekdays leading up to Resurrection Day).

I'll be doing one post a week on the blog with my thoughts from that week's readings (Thursdays). If you'd like to read along, you're welcome to chime in then. Or you can join the Facebook Group and participate daily! We'll be posting a discussion question each day from the chapter.

Last year we had a wonderful group with lots of great conversation, and we're looking forward to our study again this year!

Again, this will begin on Monday 27 February with the Gospel of John, chapter 1, and reading one chapter a day Mondays through Fridays. Hope to see you here and in the Facebook group!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Tribute to a Historical Writer and a Friend

Last Friday, my morning was interrupted by some terrible news. Golden Keyes Parsons had been killed the evening before in a tragic traffic accident. My heart still aches at this news. It would have regardless, but especially because I'd just exchanged emails with Golden a couple hours before the accident. I had a Skype call scheduled with her book club for this past Monday. The same day I was sending her edits on her book, The Gift of the Inn, that WhiteFire is scheduled to publish this autumn, in time for Christmas.

Sudden loss is always hard. I can only imagine how her family is feeling right now--Golden was a woman of deep beauty, inside and out, who loved nothing as much as her family. This was clear within minutes of talking to her. She was a woman who loved her Lord and believed first and foremost in doing the work He called her to do--also clear in a single conversation with this amazing lady. She leaves behind her a true legacy of love and light and service. It was an honor to know her.

I met Golden online many years ago. We were both members of an off-shoot of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) called HisWriters, that was for writers of European-set historicals. I had my biblicals set in Rome and was working on the series that eventually became Ladies of the Manor. Golden had just contracted her Darkness to Light Series with Thomas Nelson, about the Huguenots of 17th century France, following a family through trials and tribulations that eventually led them to America.

Waaaaaaay back in 2009, when I was re-releasing A Stray Drop of Blood as a paperback, I asked Golden if she would read the book for me, to endorse it. She agreed and provided an encouraging quote for me to use--and then asked a question. She asked if WhiteFire was accepting submissions from other writers. She had a series of Biblical novellas she'd always wanted to write, and Stray Drop made her think it would pair well with WhiteFire.

She was the first author friend to ask this question. In the last 8 years, WhiteFire has signed nearly 30 authors, and she was one of the first few. We published her Hidden Faces series, those four biblical novellas about the unnamed women of the Gospels. So not only did I get to know Golden as a fellow writer, as a friend, but she became one of my authors, and I her editor. Which was so hilarious to me at the time, as I still felt like a kid in comparison to her. 

As the WhiteFire list grew, our authors became a bit of a family themselves. And Golden always called herself "the grandmother of the WhiteFire crew." She was always there to pray with us, to encourage us. She always, always proved herself a woman of grace and wisdom.

A few months ago, her agent contacted us about another book Golden wanted to place with us--this one set in Colorado during World War II. We ended up contracting The Gift of the Inn, a Christmas story about reunion and love. Given that edits were underway, I'd been talking to Golden a good bit about her book, her website, her vision. So looking forward to bringing life to another of her dreams.

Tragedy will always leave holes in our lives; that's part of existing here on Earth. Everyone who loved Golden can take solace in the sure knowledge that she's with her Father in heaven. But we'll miss her. And we'll remember. And we'll do all we can to honor the name and memory of a woman who epitomized a good Christian, a good person, a good writer.

I am proud to have counted myself her friend.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Word of the Week - The Dickens

Another special request today, though there isn't quite as much information on it as there was on last week's . . .

The questions was where the expression "the dickens" comes from.

Well, the answer's a bit unclear. What we know is that it's an English last name, taken from Richard. We're not sure which Richard, or why the name became an exclamation; Skakespeare used the expression "I cannot tell what the dickens his name is." ("Merry Wives of Windsor" Act 3, Scene 2), in which it's clear that it's a substitute for "the devil." As for why? [Insert shrug here] Best guess by the Oxford English Dictionary is that it's simply because it sounds similar.

There's another bit of history surrounding it too, to account for some of its early uses. Apparently in the 1500s there was a maker of wooden bowls who was rather infamous for losing money, to the degree that much literature of the 1500s would refer to bad investments as "bad as Dickens."

Whatever the why, modern readers can be assured it has nothing to do with the Dickens with whom we are most familiar--Charles--as it predates him by several hundred years. ;-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Remember When . . . I Began An Hour Unspent?

This week marked my self-appointed deadline for beginning my next book. I just realized that An Hour Unpsent is not only the third book in the Shadows Over England Series (which begins July 2017), but it will also be my 16th published novel...and my 34th finished novel (we'll just assume I'll complete it, LOL). Which means that, assuming I finish writing it before my birthday, it'll have the distinction of making it so that I've written a book for every year I've lived. Looking forward to outdoing that number. ;-)

But as I began writing, I quickly realized that while I have my plot largely figured out, I had only a vague impression of my characters. Very vague, which is unusual for me lately. Especially given that the hero, Barclay Pearce, has been in both of the first two books of the series. But my only physical descriptions of him are that he's average looking until he smiles, at which point he's nearly too-handsome to blend in--and blending in is always his goal.

So last night, I recruited my husband, who pays more attention than I do to all things TV, to help me find the perfect actors to play my characters. Sometimes it's fun to pretend like I'm a casting director. So here we are. Casting for An Hour Unspent.

First up was finding an actor to play Barclay. After much thumbing through IMDB on his phone and hemming and hawing and joking, he pulled up the Downton cast and said, "What about him?" to Dan Stevens.

Now, I'd watched the first season at Downton, so I knew him as Matthew Crawley...and he wasn't quite it. But when I looked up his images on his own and saw the photos from the new Beauty and the Beast, I changed my tune.

Yep. This is how I'd been picturing Barclay. Thin face, sandy blond-brown hair. Not given to smiling, though he's a joker. I hadn't yet nailed down his eye color, so we'll just go with Dan's blue. ;-)

But I had even less of a clue about my heroine Evelina, who's new to the series. I know she's rather pretty. That she's a suffragette. Sweet, but also with a backbone of steal and a fierce independent streak. After a bout of polio as a child left her with a limp, she's had to fight tooth and nail for that independence, too.

So what would she look like? No. Clue. I'm still not 100% sure I've nailed it, but . . . well, this morning I was browsing images of English actresses. I honestly hadn't even chosen a hair color for her, so I had nothing to go on. I was just looking for images that caught my eye and found one of Jane Levy that said, "I am the daughter of clockmaker who's always running late." ;-)

Something in her expression caught me, so at the moment I'm casting Jane as my Evelina Manning.

Auburn hair and blue eyes? Sure. Why not. ;-) (Interestingly, this will mark my first series where I didn't have a blond, a brunette, and a redhead as my 3 heroines, LOL.)

So what do you think? Any other suggestions for Barclay, my thief extraordinaire who has patched together a dozen orphans over the years to call his family? For Evelina, my suffragette who sees herself as the only out-of-balance gear in the perfect clockwork of the Manning household?

Regardless, stay tuned for more hints about the story as I get deeper into it!

The challenge:
to steal an hour from Big Ben's clock

The means:
a distracted clockmaker with a fascination with weaponry

The complication:
the perpetually-late clockmaker's daughter
who isn't about to let a little thing like war get in the way of her cause

Monday, February 13, 2017

Word of the Week - Frank

Another Word of the Week request! (Love those--keep 'em coming!) This week for frank as an adjective--made by someone of that name. ;-)

Frank is taken directly from the people group, the Franks, who took over Gaul in the Middle Ages and named it for themselves (hence, France). At this time in history, you were either free, captive, or slave--so in this area, the only free people were the invaders, the conquerors. The Franks. Therefore, frank came to mean free.

By about 1300, the word had entered English, still carrying the meaning given it by the tribal group in Europe--"free, liberal, generous."

So if you want to be frank with someone, or to speak frankly, it's all because a group of people who called themselves the Franks invaded Gaul in the 400s, defeating the Huns and taking over part of what had recently been the Roman empire.

Side note on Paris--in the Roman days, there was a fort along the Seine called Lutetia Parisiorium. When one of the Frankish kings, Clovis, decided he would unite all the tribes into one nation, this is where he set up his capitol in 481. He simply shortened the Roman name of the fort to Paris and called it his city--and it's been the capital of France ever since!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Hunt: Clue #25

Welcome to the Lost Girl of Astor Street Scavenger Hunt! 

We're here today to celebrate the release of the most awesome young adult novel I've read in years: The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

What makes the book so awesome? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Your clue for Stop #25: motives.

If you've gone through the entire Hunt, 
then this is the last clue, 
and you ought to have created a sentence. 
Enter it here 
for your chance at the prize!