Monday, September 30, 2019

Word of the Week - Pale

At church last week I was joking with my son about something and declared it "Beyond the pale." At which point he, of course, asked what in the world that meant.

Hmm. Good question. This being me, I immediately pulled up (so not cool, Mom) and looked up what archaic meaning of pale had led to that saying--because obviously, it doesn't mean "beyond fair-skinned." Though my husband jokingly insisted it did.

Turns out that back in ye olden days, in the 13th century, a pale was a stake or pole used to create boundaries between things. By the 14th century, it had taken on the figurative meaning of "any boundary or restriction." I love that the website says this meaning is "barely surviving" in phrases like "beyond the pale." So true! Something we still say, but without really knowing why we say it! So "beyond the pale" would literally mean that something pushed beyond the limits.

Are there any other phrases you use whose actual meaning you're uncertain of? I'd love to look into them!

Friday, September 27, 2019

What We've Been Reading - September

Roseanna's Reads

In My Devotions

A Grief Observed
by C. S. Lewis
Yes, I'm still on my C. S. Lewis kick. 😉 This is a very short little book(let). It's Lewis's personal journaling after the death of his wife, with a preface by Madeline L'Engle and also a foreword by Lewis's step-son. Both point out that this is one man's journey through these hardest of days and not meant to represent everyone's grief. Everyone goes on their own journey. But it was definitely interesting to read his. To see how first he questioned God and then realized that it was himself he was questioning--that he couldn't see beyond himself in those first throes. I loved his observations later on about how holding to the sorrow didn't keep her more present, but rather the opposite. That it was in the moments he felt more like himself again, closer to God again, that she was the clearest to him too.


The Great Divorce
by C. S. Lewis

Since the first book was so short, I was soon moving on to the next in the collection I'd bought. The Great Divorce is a sort of fable or allegory akin to Dante, where a character journeys through the different parts of the afterlife. A little odd, LOL, but it does allow for some really interesting reflections that worked their way into his other books too. Much of what I've seen in this one showed up in Narnia--and are in fact the parts of The Last Battle that stuck with me so fully decades after first reading it, so this one has been fun.


For My Bookclub

Within These Lines
by Stephanie Morrill

Okay, so I've read this one before, it being by my best friend/critique partner. But I read it two years ago, so I needed a refresher before chatting about it with my book club yesterday. =) I've found that it's just as brilliantly done as I remembered! Stephanie does a fabulous job of writing a story of love and loss, boldness and honor, of a great injustice met with grace by many of those who suffered it and ignored--and often forgotten--by those who watched it happen. This book tells the story of the Japanese Americans who were relocated and sent to camps during WWII here in America, capturing all the horrifying details--like the fact that the camps weren't finished and had no working toilets, no walls in the dorms, and the paper exterior walls (literally!) did little to keep out the desert sand--through the eyes of our hero, Taichi. Meanwhile Evalina, the girl who loves him, is determined to fight against this injustice back home in San Francisco. I love how she paints one thumbnail red--leaving the other nails bare--to remind herself that life isn't normal anymore, even though everyone else in the city goes on with life as if their neighbors hadn't just been imprisoned simply because of their heritage. Highly recommended!!! It's a young adult but great for any age group, from middle schoolers on up to my grandmother!


For the Edit

Heart of a Royal
by Hannah Currie

Okay, who doesn't like a princess book?? I know my daughter and I are both crazy for them, and we were super excited at WhiteFire to welcome Heart of a Royal into our young adult line, WhiteSpark! Hannah Currie (an Aussie author) has done a fabulous job in this first book in her Daughter of Peverell series--a fictional kingdom in modern times. Mackenna Sparrow is a commoner by birth, but when the queen dies giving birth to a daughter the same day Mackenna is born, her mother is brought to the palace to nurse the infant princess, and the king promises Mackenna a home there as long as Princess Alina is there. So she's grown up with the life of a princess...which is now crumbling around her. The king hates her and, now that Alina is engaged, kicks her out, forbidding her from ever speaking to his son, Prince Thoraben again. It seems the people have gotten it into their heads that she ought to marry Ben and be their next queen, and while Ben has always been her best friend, she can't imagine why they feel this way. As her life shifts around her and a horrible storm disrupts everything in the kingdom, Mackenna finds herself having to face not only the people's expectations, but her own heart--and the truth behind the Rebels she's been taught are her greatest enemy.


  With the Kids

The Sign of the Beaver
by Elizabeth George Speare

Our school year is in full swing, and we've already read quite a few books! The other day we finished The Sign of the Beaver, a great middle grade book about a boy whose father leaves him to watch the homestead in Maine one summer while he goes back to Massachusetts to fetch Matt's mother and sister. Matt's summer nearly ends in ruin until some local Indians step in. He ends up thrown together with a native boy a year older than him--he's supposed to be teaching Attean to read, but more often Attean is teaching him how to survive in the wilderness. They definitely don't strike up an instant friendship, but it was a wonderful thing to watch develop!

Lawn Boy
by Gary Paulsen

I love this short little book. It's hilarious and fascinating--the most fun you'll ever have when it comes to economics lessons. ;-) The idea is that a boy is given a lawn mower for his twelfth birthday and soon he finds himself with more jobs in the neighborhood than he can keep up with. But no worries--a local stockbroker knows some guys who'd be happy to help with the work for a portion of the pay...and does he mind if he pays him in stock? He's a little cash-poor right now. Pretty soon, this kid is the head of an enterprise he can't even fathom. Each chapter has very technical titles, and then the story itself is nothing but fun.


Rachel's Reads

I'm so excited that FALL is officially here! YAY! Time for Here are some of the books I've been reading this month. You can watch for my reviews over on my blog, Bookworm Mama.


by Charolette Bronte

I'm currently listening to this as part of a Read-a-Long with author, Rachel McMillan. It is basically a virtual book club that we get to read through together section by section and discuss together. I have the version read by Mandy Weston from SCRIBD and I'm really enjoying it.


For Fun/Review

by Jody Hedlund

I am so so SO in love with this series!!! Foremost is book 2 in the series and you really need to start with Always (a Novella) to get the full scope of the story.


Finding Lady Enderly
by Jonna Davidson Politano

You guys, Joanna is SUCH an amazing author! I was thrilled to see her book, A Rumored Fortune, was nominated for The Christy Award. This one has me so captivated it is hard to put down!


With the Kids

Red Sails to Capri
by Ann Weil

With school back in full swing, this is the first title we are reading this year for literature/history/all the good stuff...My 2nd grader has been loving it. A fun story with a hint of mystery.


For the Book Club

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente

This month's theme was fairytale/folklore etc. And this is the title we voted on. Currently, I am only about 2 pages into it...Shhhh....don't tell them I'm behind....But I am super intrigued by it. Technically a YA book, I am curious to see what we all thought of it.


Happy Fall!!!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Announcing: The Nature of a Lady!

Though there are still two books yet to come out in the Codebreakers Series, they're both already written and turned in...which means it was time for me to begin thinking of what's coming next. =) After conferring with my editors (i.e. sending in a list of a dozen ideas and seeing which one they liked best), we decided it would be fun to leave behind the world of the Great War and go back to the earlier 1900s. Return to the world of aristocracy and the upstairs/downstairs feel. But of course, deliver some super fun romance and mystery.

I absolutely love that the team went for this idea. And I'll tell you why.

When The Number of Love came out, my first order of business was packing up the pre-orders that had come in through my store. I had a ton of them, and as I signed books and affixed labels, I was entertaining myself by counting the number of people who had the same name. I had no fewer than four variations on Emily and something like six Elizabeths. At one point as I tackled one of those, I said to myself, "Oh, look. Another Elizabeth."

Another Elizabeth.

The words stuck in my head all day. I knew there was a story there, but I wasn't sure what it was. It would make a fun title, I thought. But I didn't know what the concept would first. A day or two later, however, I was out on our giant swing set, and the story began to trickle into my head. 

A girl shows up at a new apartment. When she signs the lease, the landlady greets her with, "Oh, another Elizabeth, is it? Hope you're more dependable than the last one. She left me high and dry..." Our Elizabeth thinks nothing of it, at first. But then she begins to find things in her new home, left there by the previous owner. Mysterious things. Made all the more mysterious when people keep knocking on her door, saying, "Elizabeth?" and then foisting more mysterious articles into her hands when she confirms that she is indeed Elizabeth. Baffling...until the first Elizabeth's brother shows up, concerned for his sister and shocked when she doesn't open the door. This would be our hero, of course.

That was the basic concept that I pitched to Bethany House. They were very enthusiastic--though they did instruct me to come up with a title that conveyed the nobility angle more. For about a week I cast around, looking for good locations, different titles, and specific plots and characters, before sending them an official proposal. I decided on the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall as a setting, and as I dug into the history of this island chain, other plot elements just fell right into place--you know, legends, pirates' treasure, and an abundance of unique flora and fauna. So I'm now thrilled to announce the first book:

The Nature of a Lady

1908 – Lady Elizabeth "Libby" Sinclair, with her love of microscopes and nature, isn’t exactly a hit in society. She flees to the beautiful Isles of Scilly for the summer...and stumbles into the dangerous secrets left behind by her holiday cottage’s former occupant, also called Elizabeth, who mysteriously vanished.

Oliver Tremayne—gentleman and clergyman—is determined to discover what happened to his sister, and he’s happy to accept the help of the girl now living in what should have been Beth’s summer cottage…especially when he realizes it’s the curious young lady he met briefly two years ago, who shares his love of botany and biology. But the hunt for his sister involves far more than nature walks, and he can’t quite believe all the secrets Beth had been keeping from him.

As the two work together, along with Libby’s maid, they find ancient legends, pirate wrecks, betrayal, and the most mysterious phenomenon of all: love.

I'm currently armed with these two fun research books, and I can't wait to dive in and bring Libby and Oliver's story to life! I have some time to really get to know them before I start writing, so I've been daydreaming about who they are and what will make them special. I'm going to be including some fun local legends from the islands, there's going to be an antiquities smuggling scandal in the series, and undergirding it all will be the true history of one of England's most terrible pirates, who made the Isles of Scilly his base of operations...and whose treasure still hasn't been found.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Word of the Week - Apple

Since last week we looked into peach, I thought it would be fun to move to an autumn fruit this week and explore the history of the word apple.

Apple is from Old English, which means it's been around pretty much forever. But it didn't always mean that specific fruit we identify as an apple today. Nope, is used to mean "any kind of fruit." (Excluding berries, but including nuts, interestingly.) And English isn't the only language that can claim that. The same was true of the similar words in French, German, Dutch, Norse, Irish, and even Slavonic. That would be why we then get words like pomme de terre in French--"apple of the earth" for potato.

It also explains why the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden has come to be thought of as an apple. Because it was called an apple for hundreds of years--not because people meant that specific rosy-skinned, white-fleshed fruit, but because it simply meant FRUIT!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . Soul-Tidying

I'm not the world's best housekeeper. This is no secret--I mean, I put it right in my official bio. 😉 Yes, "pretending my house will clean itself" is part of my charming naivete. Ahem. Or at the very least, keeping everything put in its proper place isn't my priority. That goes to educating my kids, writing books, designing covers, feeding the family, exercising, reading...pretty much anything else, LOL. I do keep up with the dishes and laundry. Just not with putting everything away.

Over the weekend, even I had had enough of the clutter, so I spent a few hours reorganizing the utility closet, breaking down boxes that were trash, and clearing off counters. And, as usual, as I did so, I kept coming across things I'd forgotten were there. "Oh, so that's where that was." Or "Why in the world didn't I throw this away yet?"

Even the neatest people probably have little corners or drawers that gather clutter, right? We've all experienced this. And as someone who has experienced it more than, say, my sister (LOL), allow me to explain how it happens:

When something's been there for a while, we cease to see it. It becomes part of the background. Normal. Our eyes adjust to it being there, and it no longer strikes us as wrong, as worth fixing...until eventually, the mess gets too big to be ignored.

When it comes to the empty boxes that pile up in my kitchen, this seriously isn't that big a deal.

But what about when it comes to our souls?

Sin, my friends, works a lot like clutter. It sneaks its way in, and maybe when we see it the first time or two, we think, "Oh, that won't do. I'd better take care of that..." But then we don't. Why? Because it's easier to ignore it. We're busy. Because, frankly, clearing out sin is no fun and usually involves a bit of humility (much like cleaning out my junked-up counters does). It's easier to say we'll take care of it soon. Tomorrow. Sunday. Next week. Sometime when we're not running out the door or overwhelmed by "more pressing" matters.

But then we cease to see it. It becomes part of the background. Normal. Our spiritual eyes adjust to it being there, and it no longer strikes us as wrong, as worth fixing...until eventually, the sin gets too big to be ignored.

And then where are we? Exactly where I am when my house has gotten to that point--in for a long clean-up effort.

Because let me just tell you, it's a whole lot easier to nip jealousy in the bud the first moment it rears its ugly green head than after we've let it fester into resentment and hatred. It's easier to apologize for that nasty thing we said right away than after we've walked away and let it keep on battering the recipient.

It's easier to choose to love and forgive the moment we're hurt than to have to wrestle with it years later.
Hmm...not sure of that one? I wasn't either when the example popped into my head. And I'm not going to say it's humanly easier. But isn't that exactly the example Christ gives us? While He's still hanging on the cross, He's forgiving those who put Him there. What would our lives look like if we forgave those who hurt us while we were still suffering the first throes of consequences?

I try to find little ways to train myself into better housekeeping habits--things like watching something fun while folding laundry, and vacuuming the floors before I sit down on them to do that. Things like certain days being Bathroom Cleaning days. 

But far more important is tidying my soul. What are we doing to make sure we stay clear of the clutter of sin? Are we vacuuming up the filth of this world from our selves, keeping our spirits white as snow?

We know we need to tidy our houses...but let's not forget to tidy our souls with far more care and attention.

Don't forget to enter White Fire's contest!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Word of the Week - Peach

So, funny story. When we moved from our old house to one on my mother-in-law's property, my daughter was distraught over leaving the beautiful old weeping cherry tree we had at the other house. So her grandmother promised to plant her one here. And so she did...or so she thought, anyway. We waited years for it to grow, and it soon became clear it wasn't a weeping anything. But that was okay.

Then this year, Cherry (why, yes, we name our trees) began to bear fruit. And I gotta tell you, those, ahem, cherries, were the biggest, fuzziest, yellowest cherries we ever did see. ;-) either Nonna got the trees she'd ordered mixed up, or they sent her the wrong one, LOL. Because Cherry is most assuredly a peach tree. And at the moment, I have a giant bowl full of small but lovely peaches on my counter, waiting to be cut up and frozen. So of course--word of the week!

While the English word peach comes straight from the French word pesche of the same meaning, if you trace it back to the Latin, it actually gets interesting. The Latin word actually means "Persian apple." Peach trees originated in China, apparently, but they came to Europe by way of Persia. In fact, in Ancient Greek, the word persikos could mean EITHER Persian or peach! They were that interchangeable! I had no idea. But the Persians must have really loved their peaches if it was the fruit other nations associated so fully with them.

Peach began to be applied to people in the 1700s. First to mean "attractive woman" in the 1750s and then "a good person" around 1900.

And they've been my son's favorite fruit since around 2010, when he first bit into one. ;-) I swear that boy could eat a whole basket of them in a day if we let him... How about you? Are you a peach fan?