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!