Friday, June 29, 2018

Fridays from the Archives - Our Place



As I madly work on my next story, I am taking a look back on thoughts about The Lost Heiress today.



Children on a Path Outside a Thatched Cottageby Helen Allingham, late 19th century

With the first round of edits wrapped up on A Soft Breath of Wind, I moved on this week to my first round of edits on The Lost Heiress. (Lots of editing going on around here!) There are some changes I know I'm going to make, some inconsistencies I'm finding. An old (for me) story taking on new life.

But one of the major themes in this book has been there since I was 12, when I first started writing it--the one that involves Brook, this noblewoman raised in a country not her own, finding her rightful place. Finding her home. Finding her family.

When I was writing this in seventh and eighth grades, it was easy for her. She lifted her chin, screwed her stubbornness and faith into place, and took England by storm. Her family all adored her, London adored her, life adored her. The only people who didn't were the bad guys, because they were evil and therefore couldn't love.

When I was writing this in seventh and eighth grades, I was trying to find my place. Trying to adjust to friends who were suddenly interested in boys instead of Barbies, in being popular instead of being genuine. I was trying to figure out how to be who I knew I was in a world that demanded I be who they wanted to make me.

I was an outspoken 13-year-old. The kind that refused to be led by other kids my age because, frankly, I found them obnoxious. I was the one who thought about consequences. About right and wrong. I was the one who told the other girls at the sleepover that if they were serious about trying a seance, I was going to call my mom and go home. The one who said if they were seriously going to try to sneak out, I would lock the windows and stand guard. The kind who greeted gossip with, "Are your lives so boring that you have nothing better to talk about than me? Seriously? Sorry to hear it."

Yes, I was an outspoken 13-year-old. But I also wanted those I liked to like me back. I didn't want arguments for no reason. I wanted to please people, when I deemed them worth pleasing.

I remember one time in the cafeteria, talking about spaghetti, of all things. I proclaimed my mom's homemade sauce the best (which it is. Just sayin'.). A friend asked, "Does it have chunks of tomatoes?" in a voice that I interpreted as meaning "because if it's the best, it will."

Now, my mom's sauce is ground totally smooth. But I hedged and said something along the lines of, "I don't know, maybe a few."

My friend then said, "I hate chunks of tomatoes."

And there I had a conundrum that brought me to an epiphany. My desire to make this friend agree with me made me lie--and now the truth, which would have been pleasing, couldn't be spoken. That was the day when I realized that my yes must be yes and my no be no. That was the day when I realized that having someone's good opinion didn't mean squat if it wasn't the right opinion.

That was the day when I realized that my place in life couldn't always be easy--but that it was only worth having if it was really mine.

I've never been one of those people to be found in a gaggle. I have some awesome friends, but the best ones are few. I have an amazing family, but I'm not the one always throwing parties, or going to them. I'm not the popular one. Sometimes I wish I were, sometimes I wish people showed up to things when I host them, that I knew how to draw a crowd. Sometimes I wish my place was what Brook's used to be in my story--beloved by all, effortlessly.

But it's not who I am. And it's not my place. It's never been my place, not when I was a kid penning her first novel in class, and not now when I'm rewriting it.

Brook's place has changed now too. Because even though 13-year-old-me wanted to believe someone could have it all, 31-year-old-me knows better. Because while there may have been, in some point in history, one young woman who was beautiful and rich and popular and of strong faith and different from everyone else...that's not the story most of us know.

And it's not the story I needed to write this time around. This time around, I needed a story of someone who had to fight for her home. Someone who had to decide whether she was going to be molded or if she would do the molding. Someone who had to choose what path she would tread and then face the consequences.

Someone who is less who I wished I were back then...and more who I grew to be.

Someone whose place wasn't just waiting for her--someone who had to find it. And when she does, she finds there are those in it who oppose her. And those who would do anything for her.

Because that is life. We can never have it all.

But we can have what matters most.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Remember When . . . Big Ben Joined the Skyline



When the design for A Name Unknown, book 1 in the Shadows Over England Series, was shone to me and I saw the spine for the first time, I was so excited to see the series logo they'd come up with. Big Ben's clock tower.

Big Ben says London. Which is what the designers were no doubt trying to invoke, as my family of thieves are firmly Londoners. But for me, it was more than that. Because in the third book of the series, An Hour Unspent, that iconic clock actually plays a role in the story.

For starters, a bit of naming. Most of us think of "Big Ben" as the clock, but it's technically not. Big Ben is actually the bell. The clock is the Great Westminster Clock, though over the years the name Big Ben has come to be associated with the entire structure. So now that we've got that straight... 😉

The clock tower was designed by Augustus Pugin and completed in 1859. Pugin was an architect, one who is most remembered for redesigning the interior of Westminster Palace and the tower in question, which has become one of the most iconic symbols of England. Though he also designed the face of the clock, the mechanics of the thing he wisely handed over to someone else.

But interestingly, the movement--the gears and weights that make a clock work, and in this case, work with amazing reliability--was actually designed by two amateurs to the field. Edmund Denison, a lawyer, and mathematician George Airy. The construction was the only part undertaken by an actual clockmaker, Edward Dent.

The Great Clock's inner workings are so precise that a penny sitting on the pendulum is all it takes to make slight alterations to the time. That one little coin will make an adjustment of nearly half a second a day. That doesn't sound like much, but it allows for small incremental adjustments to keep the clock accurate year after year. The pendulum still has a stack of old coins on it, and the clock is still hand-wound three times a week.

In my story, I gave the job of upkeep of the Great Clock to my heroine's father, a clock maker. This part is purely fictional, of course, but it would have been considered a great honor to be tasked with such a responsibility, and in my story that's the proof of Cecil Manning's proficiency in his trade, even though he's by no means made himself rich.

That honor goes to another historical figure that my fictional Manning claims as a friend, who revolutionized the timekeeping world. But you'll have to come by next Wednesday to learn about that...

Monday, June 25, 2018

Word of the Week - Circus


I love that www.etymonline.com has a list of trending words. Sometimes I click on them solely out of curiosity...like when I saw circus on there today.

Last May my family journeyed to Charleston, WV to attend one of the final shows of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and it was frankly amazing. So amazing that we really wished we'd given it a try way earlier so we could have attended more and caught all their different shows. Up until then, I'd never gone to a circus, be it large or small, though a tiny little one set up once on my high school's grounds. I saw the elephants from the road, but we had something else going on that weekend and I couldn't go. Kinda wish I had. 

But anyway! Did you ever notice that circus looks an awful lot like circle? And circumference? And all those other circ- words that denote something round? This isn't a coincidence. The word comes directly from Latin, where it meant "a ring, a circular line." It was used in Ancient Rome for the open-roofed enclosures used for races and so on. The Latin word had been borrowed from the Ancient Greek kirkos, which meant the same thing.

In the early 1700s, the word was applied in English to buildings arranged in a circular pattern, hence Picadilly Circus, and also to a ring road. By the end of the 1700s, it had also been applied to the arenas used to showcase feats of horsemanship, acrobatics, etc.--but at first, it was just for the tent. It took about 40 years for it to come to mean the company or traveling show itself by 1838 or so. Another twenty years, and it had taken on the metaphorical sense of "a lively uproar, a hubbub." And finally, during WWI, it was used to describe a squadron of aircraft.

Have you ever gone to a circus? What did you think of it?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thoughtful About . . . Friends


Over the weekend, my husband and I took a drive to meet up with some good friends for a dinner, halfway between where we live. We've been trying to do this somewhat regularly, and it's inevitably a wonderful evening.

This time, we realized that it's been 18 years since we all met and became friends--our first week of college. That's half our lives. And after being a bit staggered at that, we took a few minutes to laugh and just be glad that we're still friends. That even though sometimes a year has gone by without us getting together, as soon as we're back in each other's company, it's like it's only been a few weeks.

I know most of us have friends like that. The kind that can just pick up where we left off. The kind with a firm, solid foundation that time can only temper, not crack.

It's especially wonderful to know that these friends are those kinds of friends, because we'd talked about it in our college days. In those first few years, as we began losing touch with high school friends and realized that, sadly, some were just "high school friends," we expressed our desire to be more than just "college friends." And we are.

Certainly, I still have friends I love from my earlier days, from childhood. We too can get together and it feels like it hasn't been as long as it's been. But let's face it: we all also have friends for a season. Or friends in particular circumstances. We have work friends that don't translate into best friends. Or maybe we have church friends that we never see out of church. I have writing friends that I only ever talk to online now and then, occasionally meet at a conference--we get along, we have a great time, but that's all it is.

But then there are the ones that transcend the type or circumstance, right? Stephanie began as a writing friend, a critique partner, but we certainly talk about more than writing now. We talk about everything. It was strange, eight or nine years ago, to realize that this young woman I'd only ever met once, who I emailed every day, had become my best friend. And yet now, all these years later, it's a given part of our lives--that our best friend lives a thousand miles away, we only see each other in person once a year, but we can still be there, daily most of the time, through the wonders of the internet.

There are still Martin and Kimberly, with whom we can have conversations filled with depth and laughter and insight, the silly and the profound. We can know that whether it's been a month or a year, we'll pick up where we left off.

I'm so grateful that God brings people into our lives as we need them. Some for a season. Some for a particular reason. Some forever. I pray that I can be the kind of friend each of my friends need--again, sometimes just in glimpses, sometimes steadily and forever.

Do you have any friendships that you were surprised to find had deepened beyond the season or type? Or one that has persevered for decades? How did you and your best friend come to be best friends?


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Cover Design - Façade by Pepper Basham



Sometimes authors come to me with very little idea of what they envision for their cover...and other times, they know exactly what they want. Now, knowing exactly what they want can occasionally be difficult, if that "what" is complicated. ;-) But other times, it makes it oh so easy to deliver a cover they love, quickly.

Pepper Basham has come to me several times with a very clear, very doable idea of what her next cover should be--she's done several herself, and she has a great eye for what works. Occasionally she just needs me to handle some of the details.

Such was the case for her WWII novella, Facade.

She knew exactly what she wanted. This model...


...over this background.






Pretty simple. So arranging that and sizing it correctly, we have this.




Not bad from the get-go, right? But Pepper hired me to punch it up a notch, so I figured I'd get punching. 😉 A quick one-two. First, I traded out that blue sky for something a little more interesting--a bit of sunset, golden flare.




Then, of course, I had to tweak the model's coloring and brightness to match.




There was also a little bit of fine-tuning in there. The background image is an original WWII image, so it's a bit grainy. I put a surface blur on it to smooth it out and then fooled with the highlights a bit to reflect my new sun as well.

One more small touch--an airplane. We added one of those to the top corner, tweaking lighting to make it reflect that sunset.



A little bit of work, but honestly, not a whole lot. This one came together very quickly. I was happy with the overall image, so it was time to turn my attention to the fonts. I figured something art deco would look great, so I chose Fragile, which I'd purchased in a package of fun fonts. I decided to keep it simple and put both the title and author name in the same font, separating them with an art deco bar. Then I just added a bit of a filter to the bottom to make those words pop.

And there's our front!


 For the full cover, I used the same background image as the front, with a paper texture overlay. Added on all the type and logos and author info, and voila! Full cover.


What do you think?


About the Book


A reclusive academic
who would do anything to save her brother.


A reluctant spy
willing to risk his life to save the woman who broke his heart.



Olivia Rakes has the unique gift of observation, which suits her well since she prefers her books over the general populace, but when her brother goes MIA over France, Livy’s unique skills and her determination to save her brother force her into a world of espionage, deceit, danger…and the most frightening of all–romance.



Agent Christopher Dawson has never forgotten his childhood friend, and first love, Livy Rakes, but since she broke his heart, he’s avoided seeing her for years…until the search for his best friend brings them both together in the most unlikely of ways.



In a world where war changes the rules of life and love, can Christopher and Livy work together work together to unveil the mascarade before the enemy catches them?


You can also find Façade in the Timeless Love Novella Collection NOW AVAILABLE! (And whose cover I also designed, LOL)


Monday, June 18, 2018

Word of the Week - Wed & Marry


Yesterday was my wedding anniversary--17 years since I first said "I do" to the love of my life. 😀 So naturally, today I thought I'd take a look at the words!

Wed is from Old English weddian, which means "to pledge oneself, vow; to betroth, to marry." This is similar to other Germanic languages' words, and while those other languages still reflect the original in their words today, English is a bit unique. While we retained wed in wedding, most often people today don't say they hope to wed so-and-so--it sounds archaic.

English has instead adopted the French marier as well, giving us two options where other languages have stuck with one. Marry has pretty much the same meaning as wed, and it joined the English language in the 1300s, so it's certainly been around a while.

Kind of interesting to think, though, of how the two have been assigned certain typical functions, right? Like we never ask for a piece of marriage cake. Nor do we look for our marriage gown. And yet we don't exchange wedding vows on the day. We've come to view wedding as the specific event in which we bind ourselves, and marriage as the ongoing state (there's the old-fashioned sounded wedlock for that too, but we don't hear that much anymore, do we?). Which is rather interesting, since its early uses were also just for the ceremony, the initial pledging.


Regardless, I'm looking forward to another year with my husband. If you're married, in what month is your anniversary? I'd never imagined I would be a June bride--I always wanted a December wedding, but the allure of a beach wedding instead drew me away from all my childhood plans, LOL, and I have no regrets! How about you?


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thoughtful About . . . There


We set goals.
We work hard.
We sweat.
We cry.
We bleed.
We tumble down exhausted.
We stretch out our hands, willing our fingers to reach that last . . . single . . . inch.

Did we get there?

There. The end goal. The place we want to be.
There. The thing always just out of reach.
There. The place that, when we think we are there, can slip away the moment we're not looking.

Have you been in that position? Where you think you've gained ground, only to lose it? Or where you feel like you've fallen just short of your goal?

Have you, on the other hand, been resting long and safe in this There, not stretching for another goal when maybe you should be?

I've been giving a lot of thought this last week to my there. My here. Where goals and realities meet and where they clash. What I count a failure and what I count a success, and what's really within my power to change.

And I keep coming back to one simple truth.

There can be anywhere--but it's only a success if I'm in the There where He wants me to be, fully reliant on Him. Sometimes, at least for me, success means taking things for granted. Success means slipping into pride. Success means that I begin to think I can instead of He can. In those moments, success in the world can mean failure in the soul.

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me always that while I'm called to do Your work, I'm not called to do it on my own strength, but through Yours. ONLY through Yours.

What is the There that you're reaching for right now? Is it close? Too far? Are your in a period of straining or a period of rest?

Are you stretching far enough?

And most importantly, are we stretching our hands out only with His?


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Summer Reading - AudioBooks!


A couple of weeks ago, I posted a question on Facebook, asking for audiobook recommendations. I thought it would be handy to compile the list I received before they get swallowed by Facebook history and impossible to find. ;-)

I've never been a big audiobook listener. Up until now, I've listened to exactly two full works, and one partial. The two successful ones I listened to while knitting. The partial, I was just trying to get a handle on an accent and the accompanying spelling, so I just needed to compare the two for a few chapters. Which was all I could handle. Because I read fast, and the narrator, while very talented, read s-l-o-w, and I couldn't handle it for long. I am not patient with such things, LOL.

In addition to my impatience, I also am rarely alone in a quiet environment. As in, one without interruptions. It never seemed feasible to really get any good listening in, when interruptions meant having to press a button and then find my place again, rather than just looking up from a page.

But here's the thing. I told myself I was going to exercise more regularly this summer and (hopefully) create a good habit. But I hate exercise. I mean, seriously. It always feels like a time drain, drudgery, useless. I can enjoy walking, but I don't have many places I can walk where I live. So I decided I would have to treat it like folding laundry, one of my other dreaded tasks--give myself something to look forward to. For laundry, that meant a TV show on Netflix or Prime that I picked out, just for me. (Unprecedented in my house, LOL. Usually, if someone hands me the remote, I just turn the set off.)

It worked for laundry. I now actually look forward to folding. I've watched the complete series of White Collar and Gilmore Girls like this, and now I'm just having fun with Say Yes to the Dress. So I've been experimentally using audio books as the same sort of incentive for exercise. And thus far, for the past two weeks, it's been working like a charm!

My first book selection was based mainly on my library's limited Overdrive selection of Christian fiction. They had exactly 11 that were labeled such. Seven of which were Amish fiction, which isn't my preference. Two others of which I've read. That sure narrowed down the choices! So I ended up selecting one I've long wanted to read--have on my shelf, as a matter of fact, in paperback, but never got around to. Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar. I've chatted with Tessa and greatly admire her, but I'd yet to pick up one of her books! Bad, Roseanna!

And it's been amazing. Love it, and I can definitely see why she's such a popular Bib-fic author! But I'll be finishing it up in the next day or two, so it's time to select my next read, hence revisiting the list of recommendations.

Here's what's come in already. I'd love to hear your rec's, if they're not already on there, and just to share these with you in case you're also on the hunt!

I've divided these into genres...though I was working quickly, so if anything is mis-filed, don't sue me. 😉 I didn't divide out YA, and these are a mix of Christian and mainstream titles. I know that listening methods vary, so the links below will take you the book's Goodreads page.




NON-FICTION

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson
Everybody Always by Bob Goff
The Survivor’s Club by Michael Bornstein
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
What If? By Randall Munroe
Josiah’s Fire by Tahni Cullen
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


CONTEMPORARY

Some Wildflower in My Heart by Jamie Langston
A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse
Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter
Elm Creek books by Jennifer Chiaverini
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal
The White House Chef series (mystery)  by Julie Hyzy
First Responder Series by Loree Lough
Beneath the Surface by Lynn H. Blackburn
The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauk
Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper
Long Way Gone by Charles Martin
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
Her One and Only by Becky Wade


HISTORICAL

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Bleak Landing by Terrie Todd
Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Hidden Affection by Delia Parr
A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Rocky Mountain Oasis by Lynnette Bonner
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand
The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green
Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs
Mine Is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs
Walt Longmire (beware language) by Craig Johnson
The Virtues and Vices of the Old West series by Maggie Brendan
Edenbrooke and Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Hawthorne House series by Kristi Hunter
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate


SPECULATIVE/SUPERNATURAL/SCI-FI/FANTASY

Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
End of Watch by Stephen King
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Cloak of Light
City Watch series by Terry Pratchett
The Finishing School series (steampunk) by Gail Carriger
Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


CHILDREN/FAMILY

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling


ANYTHING BY...

Dee Henderson
Julie Klassen
Laura Frantz
Tamera Alexander
Mary Conneally
MaryLu Tyndall
Frank Peretti
Jessica Dotta
Sarah Sundin
Dani Pettrey
Joel C. Rosenburg
Valerie Comer
Francine Rivers
Jen Turano
Susan Meissner
Jenn McKinlay
Lynn Cahoon
Becky Wade
Karen Witemeyer
Debra Clopton
Lisa Wingate
Denise Hunter
Rachel Hauk
Kristin Hannah

What is your favorite Audiobook?