Monday, August 20, 2018

Word of the Week - Copperhead

It has been a rainy, rainy summer here in West Virginia. The result? Critters everywhere they shouldn't be. We live in the woods, and the rodents and spiders inside this year have been terrible.

Then...then...there's the copperheads. These venomous snakes usually prefer the tops of the mountains, not down where we are. But rainy seasons tend to wash them down (or so is the prevailing theory). My mother-in-law, who lives up the driveway, has been on this property for 30 years, and she's spotted copperheads maybe 3 times in years prior. But last week we saw our second of the season (and quickly dispatched it with a shovel). (And no, that photo is not mine!)

I shudder at the proximity of that most recent one to our house (it was right behind our car) and thank God above that my daughter spotted it while out of striking range. But this being me, I'm also thinking, "I know the term was used during the Civil War for those with secret allegiances...I wonder why they chose that snake in particular?"

In Circle of Spies, final book in the Culper Ring Series, I focus on secret groups--in addition to my Culpers, we have the undercover Pinkerton agents, and the Knights of the Golden Circle, which are the ones called Copperheads.
You can always order signed copies of my books in my store, don't forget!

Upon looking it up, I found an interesting explanation! In the parts of the South where the groups originated (including where I live), there are 2 main types of venomous snakes: rattlesnakes and copperheads. Rattlesnakes are easily spotted and warn you from a fair distance away that they're there. With the shake of their tail, they're saying, "Get back, now. I don't want to have to hurt you." This, according to an 1854 historian, is what an honorable Southern man would do most of the time. He would lay out his complaint against you in a forthright manner.

But unlike the rattler, the copperhead is sneaky. Stealthy. And aggressive, often biting before people even realize they're there. This is what the secret societies began to do. They abandoned the overt and went for the silent strikes. Well before war broke out, these societies had been dubbed "Copperheads."

By the time the war was in full swing, the term had come to be applied especially to Northerners with Southern sympathies. That terrifying "fourth column" that Lincoln himself mentioned, and which comes up in my book. =)

So there we go. A quick lesson in terms inspired by a too-close call with a nasty little snake in my driveway!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thoughtful About . . . Lessons from Peter

We've been reading through Matthew lately, and really digging deep, as we tend to do in our Bible studies. This weekend, we were in Matthew 14--quite a chapter! We learn about the beheading of John, and how Jesus sought some solitude after getting the news, He tried to go off by Himself...only to be followed by quite a crowd that He ended up feeding. After that miraculous meal, He sends the disciples off on the boat, goes to get that prayer time that was interrupted before, and then catches up with the middle of the storm-tossed lake. On foot.
These familiar stories that we know oh-so-well can sometimes be hard to dig deeper into. We've heard them so many times, we just assume we know what they're saying, and what they mean, and what their import really is.

This time, something new jumped out at me.

As Jesus is walking to the disciples on the water, they see Him and think it's an apparition. The Greek work used is phantasma, from which we get phantom--used to mean vision more than disembodied spirit, for which they frequently used angelos (angel). Regardless, the disciples are a little freaked out, to say the least.

And Jesus is quick to say, "Hey, chill out! It's just me!" (Totally his words. Very literally translated. Ahem.)

We all know what Peter said in response. But have you ever really thought about it? Look at this.

"Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

Um...what? Who here has ever reacted that way? "Lord, if that's You nudging me to do something, command me to perform a miracle"... "Lord, if that's you tugging on my heart, tell me to jump out of the airplane"..."Lord, if that's You beside me in my troubled times, tell me to do the impossible."

That isn't the human response. We never ask for anyone, even God to prove Himself by having us do something risky and awe-inspiring. We ask Him to do it, maybe...but in this passage, He already was. He was walking on the water already. (I mean really, who else could it have been??)

That takes a particular kind of faith, that Peter invokes. And as my husband said, "I wonder if this is the moment where it became so clear that Peter was the Rock on which the church should be built." Because he's the only one who greeted terror with, "Lord, let's do something miraculous together." Yes, he took his eyes off Jesus, and when he did so, he began to sink. But still--let's not forget that first he not only asked to join Him, he demanded it as proof.

Do we do that? Do we demand, as proof of our Lord's identity, that He do something amazing through us?

Should we?

When Peter and Jesus make it back to the boat, the storm ceases, the wind dies down. And the disciples all say--for the FIRST TIME in this Gospel--"Wow. This dude's the Son of God."

Why? Why then do they proclaim it? Just a few chapters before, Jesus calmed another storm on a tumultuous sea, and it made them ask. Made them wonder who this guy was. Why, this time, did it become clear?

My first thought was that it was because He did that little walking on water bit.

But many prophets had subdued nature and the laws of physics before. We have Elijah praying for no rain, then for rain. Making an ax-head float. Making oil never run out. We have a dead man springing to life by merely touching his bones.

Miracles, all. So Jesus calming storms made them certain He was, at least, a prophet.

But there's a big difference between a prophet and the Son of God.

A prophet could have calmed the storm. Maybe a prophet could have even walked on water (after all, if an ax-head can be made to rise to the top of the water, why not a person?).

As I debated this question in our study, there was only one thing I could come up with that really set this incident apart as Son-of-God-unique. And that was Peter. That Jesus could command Peter to come to Him. So far as I can recall, no other prophet could confer the miracle like that. Yes, they had people act in faith--go dip in the Jordan five times; pour out the oil and make a cake. But the miracle wasn't performed by them.

Peter partook in the miracle, though. Peter was the doer of it. Much like the disciples went out and did the work in Jesus' name. That means that Jesus had to have the authority, to grant it to them. Only an heir could do that. Only a Son of the Most High.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Peter...and in this passage, he really taught me something about what my faith should be. It shouldn't just ask for God to should demand He do it through me. It should demand to partake of the miracle. Not just to watch, but to do. To be a co-heir. To have some of that authority.

Whenever I'm in doubt, I shouldn't just say, "Lord, show me the way I should go." I should be saying, "Lord, do the impossible through me."

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It's My Birthday!

As you may know, my next novel, An Hour Unspent, releases in just THREE weeks! I can not wait for you all to meet Barclay and Evelina. In fact, I am so excited about this story, that I wanted to give you a sneak peek. So, MY gift to YOU today is the PDF for the first chapter of An Hour Unspent!!! Yay! And in case you were wondering, YES! It is, in fact, my 29th birthday...again...

Keep your eyes on alert for my next newsletter. I have an exciting contest and giveaways coming to your inbox on September 4th (release day). There will be giveaways for my US AND International Readers.

Companion Guide Coming Soon

Watches Part 1

Don't forget to check out my BLOG on Wednesdays for the historical background of the story. After release day, these posts will be compiled into a companion guide in an easily-downloaded PDF. Perfect for readers groups or your own curiosity.

An Hour Unspent

An Hour Unspent Sneak Peek

This sneak peek is exclusively for my newsletter group! If you want to access this sneak peek, sign up for my newsletter and you will receive the link in your welcome email!
You can pre-order a signed copy of An Hour Unspent on my website HERE.


If you missed it, I also have a book coming out in September through Guidepost. This is a book that you can ONLY purchase from Guidepost. BUT, I am going to give away THREE copies to my newsletter subscribers! Sign up for my newsletter and the entry form will be in your welcome email! Fill out the form and I will draw 3 winners on August 21st. Giveaway open to US addresses only. Void where prohibited.

Now, go eat some cake!


Monday, August 13, 2018

Word of the Week - Beware

Last Wednesday, I was invited to speak at retailers event near Lancaster, PA. As my husband and I were driving through Pennsylvania, also known in our family as "the land of oh-so-helpful road signs," we saw first the "Don't Tailgate" sign. And then one that said "Beware of Aggressive Drivers."

My husband, who had only caught of glimpse of that one, said, "Did that say 'beware aggressive drivers' or 'beware of aggressive drivers'? Because it would be funnier if there were no of. Then we wouldn't know if it was warning us to beware of them, or just warning them."

Naturally, this led to the next question of, "So is beware just be + aware?"

"Probably," I said. "Or be + wary. In fact, I bet aware and wary are variations of the same word."

And so, it turns out, they are.

Beware is from around 1200, a contraction of "be wary" or "be on one's guard." It's from the Old English wær, which means "prudent, wary, aware, alert." Aware is also directly from the Old English, from gawær, which is obviously just a slight variation, meaning "wary, cautious."

So there we go. Our musings were correct. And Pennsylvania will forever remain the Land of Oh-So-Helpful Road Signs. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Remember When . . . The War Brought Darkness

War changes things. We all know that, but most of today haven't lived through a "total war" that really impacts everyone at home, whether we or our family are directly involved in the fighting or not. Most people are very aware of how WWII did this...but most of us don't realize that the things we're so familiar with from that war, had their roots in the First World War.

But London, for instance, experienced huge changed when war was declared, and it was interesting to show these through my characters in An Hour Unspent.

London Blackout - Wiki Commons
One of the first changes to be put into place was a blackout in coastal towns and London. As early as 1913, Churchill, as the First Lord of the Admiralty, drew up a plan for a blackout in the event of war. For the first time in history, people had to fear enemies coming not just from land or sea, but from the air. Many still primarily feared rockets or missiles that could be launched from naval vessels, but there was (rightfully) a growing fear that aircraft could be weaponized. At the start of the war, airplanes weren't the biggest threat--they had a difficult time crossing the channel and couldn't carry much by way of bombs or guns. But zeppelins were a different story.

As a result, eight days after England declared war on Germany, blackout restrictions were put in place. In London, this meant no electric lights were permitted outside. Street lamps were painted over to dim them. Most houses at this time still had the old gas lights installed as well as the new electric ones, and they had to use those after dark, or use curtains to keep the light from shining.

The streets became hazardous after dark. Before, when gas street lamps were the norm, there weren't automobiles zipping around. The combination of faster vehicles and less light was, let's say, not a good combination.

So in an effort to keep people off the streets after dark, many traditional nighttime events like operas and plays and concerts were moved up to earlier hours or canceled entirely.

First Zepplin sighting 1915 - Wiki Commons
But dimming the lights wasn't the only step London took to confuse an aerial attack. They knew that a night attack was most likely for zeppelins, and they knew that if they were to come across the Channel, it would have to be on a clear night.

A clear night meant moonlight. And moonlight would reflect most off...water.

Everybody of water in London would become a homing beacon. So they drained the lakes and ponds in the parks, leaving nothing but muddy expanses where once there had been beautiful vistas.

What they couldn't drain, however, was the Thames. And in the first zeppelin raids, the river was indeed what the airships followed.

By the end of the war, all this was no doubt old hat. But can you imagine seeing one of those drained lakes at the start? How sobering a reminder it would have been that the world had gone mad and that the very skies should be feared? Quite a scary thing. And one my characters had to encounter and combat.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Word of the Week - Whisker

I live in a house with both a man and cats. So naturally, the debate about which came first, whisker for a man's facial hair or whisker for the long, sensitive hairs on a cat's face, has come up. (Yeah, okay, so my family's all weird, LOL. Or my word-nerd ways have rubbed off on them. We do seriously have these sorts of conversations on a daily basis.)

First, a bit about where they came from in general. Whisker comes directly from whisk--"to move with a sweeping motion." Interesting, the noun whisk is from the late 1300s, while the verb is from the late 1400s. It wasn't until around 1600 that whisker came into being, as a playful form of whisk--a thing that sweeps. And it was attributed first to...

Ready for the answer? ;-)

Men's facial hair! It took another 70 years or so for it to be applied to animals.

Which does make me wonder what it was called on animals before that? Anyone know?

Friday, August 3, 2018

Fridays from the Archives ~ The Right Thing

When we get discouraged, it can be hard to remember if we are, in fact, doing the right thing. Were we supposed to take this path? Were we supposed to turn right instead of left back there? I am here to tell you that you are not alone on this journey! 
Original post published 5/2010

This may be rambling, so we'll have to see where I go with it--at the moment, I'm not quite sure.

There are times in life when we know absolutely what we have to do. Times when the Lord speaks so clearly, guides so strongly that we have no doubts. We recognize His hand, His touch, and when we obey, we feel His blessing.

Until we don't. What do we do then?

I've come across a lot of devotions and really beautiful essays by some kick-butt believers on this subject--and none of it really helps when you're actually in the doldrums. Without wind in your sails, you're just paddling along, and having someone spout some lovely lyrics doesn't always help and certainly doesn't keep your muscles from screaming. Right? So what do we do?

Right at this particular moment, I'm not there. But one of my dearest friends just talked to me last night about how her doctor diagnosed her with moderate depression. This didn't totally surprise me; just made a few things click, like, "Oh, guess that's why you said you weren't eating . . . or ever leaving your house . . . or . . ." Still, I'm one of those that think often times "depression" is over-diagnosed. Not that people don't have issues, just that drugs aren't the cure-all for them. And this friend feels the same way. She told her doctor, "Thanks. Now that I know this isn't something to brush off, I won't brush it off anymore. I'll pull myself together."

She also realizes she can't do it alone. She was telling me this at Bible study, which marks one of the first times she's gotten out to a church function in months, even though every time I talk to her, she says how she needs it. She's been going out every day and making sure she's eating a balanced diet. She's praying and talking to her friends.

Will it "fix" her? I don't know. But I know she's doing the right thing.

But what about the problems I and my writing friends face so often? When we have one success followed by score after score of disappointments? When we know God called us to this career, when we followed His open doors, and somehow ended up here--with abysmal sales numbers and no direction for the future?

In those moments, it's hard to believe that we were ever right to begin with. Maybe we shouldn't have followed this path, maybe we made a wrong choice somewhere along the line. We've got these plans that seemed inspired, but is anything really going to help?

I don't know. I really don't. I think maybe sometimes God leads us to these barren places because we're not ready for the bounty. I think sometimes it's to teach us to rely on Him. I think sometimes it just happens because that's the way of the world--and in those times, it's not our part to question his leading to begin with, but to put our hand in His, close our eyes, and say, "If it's your will, let this cup pass from me. I really don't know how to deal with it. But still--not my will, but yours be done."

I'm not sure about the Right way to handle these times. But I know that every time I'm in them and cry out, "God, please! Send me something!" He does. Has it been huge contracts and best-selling numbers? Um, no. But it's been something just as good, if not better. It's been people who let me know I matter, that my words matter.

Time and again we're told that publishing is, when it comes down to it, a business. True. But writing is not. Writing is between the author and God, between the reader and God.

Remembering it--that's the Right Thing.