Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Remember When . . . Brits Rules the World?

I haven't come across any new, interesting tidbits to pass along from Stray Drop, so I figure I'll jump back to the 20s. I'm there again in my writing, much to my surprise. The short version of "why?" is that an editor who will probably have to turn down Mafia Princess because it's too close to another story they just contracted asked if I had anything else to fit their line. Naturally, my response is to wrack my brain until I do. =)

Those of you who have read my stack of finished manuscripts may remember The Stars and the Sands, about archaeologists in Egypt on the path of something that may or may not be Atlantis. Originally, this was a contemporary novel, half of which was set in Princeton. But I have learned since writing it that it just doesn't work as a contemporary because there's only, like, one guy allowed to excavate in Egypt these days. But in the 20s . . . well, in the 20s, Great Britain had control of Egypt after WWI, and they weren't too picky about who dug it up. Works great for me!

I've done some research and talked to an archaeologist with some experience in that neck of the woods, and it's so cool to see everything click into place. When facts actually match my plot, I know I'm onto something good. Something God-inspired.

So anyway, back to my subject (yes, I have one). Starting in the late 1800s, Egypt became a popular tourist destination for wealthy British and Americans. Gentlemen thought it fun to go poke around in the dirt and see what they could find--then take their loot home with them.

When the gold-laden tomb of King Tut was discovered in 1922, this became more popular than ever. Everyone wanted something Egyptian, Egyptian styled jewelry became all the rage . . . and can you imagine the frustration of the few actual scientists trying to excavate? All these tourists poking around, asking to take their most important finds home with them.

Perfect insight into my hero, eh? I'm having a blast with all these new facts!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Story Time Twists

My reading time has all but disappeared in the last couple weeks, so rather than delve into the shelves of books I've already read for a blog topic, I figure I'll talk about stories in general today.

I'll credit my husband for inspiring this particular topic. Last night we were watching House and he said something like, "Okay, so it's not disease A. What presents as disease A but isn't?" Then he growled and said, "See, this is the thing about this show. I have no clue about this stuff, so I can't answer the questions, but it's still fun."

You must keep in mind that this is the same man who will watch NCIS with his eye on the clock. By 8:30 he will take account of all the characters we've seen thus far and come up with his whodunit. Let it be noted that 95% of the time he's right . . . even if he's not sure why until a twist bring it all to light.

See, for my honey, it's all about the problem solving. Figuring it out. Me, I just like to watch and wonder and wait. That's the fun of a good TV show for me--sitting back and letting it come.

I'm slightly more proactive when reading, though I think it's not necessarily that I try to figure it out--more that I understand book plots enough to be able to. But boy do I love those unexpected twists. I just had one of those in The Familiar Stranger last night (which I hadn't quite finished when I blogged about it last week). One of those "Wow. Didn't see that one coming" thing. I love those. I love that shock, that gasp, and then the following "Oh . . . that's why that thing was in there earlier!"

I think we all love a good twist. I also think our personalities emerge as we see them, just as they do when we get one in life. My hubby's the type to want to figure out whatever gets thrown at him, to make sense of it and use it. I'm the type to wait and see what happens.

Gotta love when our dealings with fiction teaches us about ourselves!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Modern . . . College

I went to a tiny little college in Annapolis, MD, where we studied original texts by the great thinkers of Western civilization (St. John's College--the picture above is one of the classrooms there). Everything from Homer and Plato and Aristotle up through Marx and Neitche and Austen (a strange collection to group together in that list, eh?). I love my college. I loved the experience. I loved the reading. But I gotta say . . . I also feel that the fact that college has become all but required of people strikes me as a bad thing.

My best friend Stephanie opted to focus on her writing career instead of heading to college, and I'm really impressed with her for that. It allowed her to spend time with her craft, to help out her dad at his company, and to really focus her life. (I mean, let's face it. How many study toward a degree in a field that end up not entering??) I think she made a great decision, and I applaud her for that.

In Yesterday's Tides, which my agent just sent out on Friday (prayers, please!), my main character got pregnant at 16 and made the choice to get her GED and then give up on dreams of college to raise the twins. This happened 9 years before the first page of the book. So while we don't see that decision, we see the results of it. To the world, she probably looks like a failure. She does handiwork, she cleans the church.

And she's there every day to get her kids off the bus.

This decision she made is a crucial part of her character, and we see its many manifestations as the story unfolds. She could have done it all--raised the kids, finished school, gone on to higher education. There are those women who do, and who manage it all well. They're an inspiration, because they have a dream they fight for.

And isn't that what college should be? The means to a dream? A dream itself? Why has it become obligatory? My character made a different decision, and she has never regretted it. Because her dream was for family. Why does the world judge that as less important?

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Friend . . . Christina Berry

During my first writers conference back in '07, I was standing around waiting for class to start one day and struck up a conversation with a mother/daughter writing team in front of me--Christina Berry and Sherry Ashcroft. Though I met a lot of people there, these ladies stuck in my mind. I was pregnant, and Christina shared her pregnancy stories too, so maybe that's why I remembered her face and name. Or maybe it's because her joy in the Lord practically radiates from her.

For whatever reason, I've kept Christina in my htoughts and prayers over the years, so I was eager to help when she announced her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, was coming out from Moody Press in September of 2009. Go, Christina! She was the second place winner with this story in the Genesis contest, a testament to the attention the contest can bring you. And when I started reading her book, I didn't have to wonder why she did so well.

I didn't get to start The Familiar Stranger until conference this year. I opened the first page, made a few observations. The first word? His. Chapter heading sort of thing to tell you whose point of view you're in. Naturally, the other option is Hers. I loved this from the get-go. Then I read the first page and said something like, "Wooooowwwww." She totally captured the male mindset, right down to the sarcasm. I could totally hear it, totally put myself into the mind of her hero. And as I turned the page . . .

My roommate came in. LOL. Stephanie looked at what I was reading and said, "Oo, I can't wait to read that. Is it good?"

I often hate it when people ask that question when I've been reading for all of thirty seconds, but this time I didn't mind at all. "The first page is awesome!" I told her.

It wasn't until later that night that I got to read more, but my exclamation after the first chapter was pretty amazed too. "Oh my gosh!" I announced to Stephanie. "I think this guy's going to try to fake his own death!"

Kept reading . . . got to the stuff on the back cover. Craig (hero) is in a debilitating car accident that leaves him seriously injured and with retrograde amnesia. His wife, who has been wondering if their marriage is in serious danger, rushes to his side and prays that somehow this will draw them closer. And it does--except for all those unanswered questions. Obviously there are lies between them. But can they overcome them?

You don't think I'm going to tell you, do you? Ha! No, you're just going to have to open up this awesome book yourself and see. I promise you won't regret it. Christina is a talented writer, and she confesses that she pulled a lot of the feeling from her own life--a marriage on the rocks that got better only to end without warning.

Yet still Christina radiates the joy of the Lord, and it's so clear from a minute of talking to her that this is one woman excited about what God might have in store for her. Her tagline, Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagently sums it up rather well, doesn't it? I was so glad to get to talk to her and hug her again in Denver, and it's my prayer that this book takes off and establishes a reputation she totally deserves as a writer and a person.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . My Family

Yesterday a couple things happened. Though I spent my free-time de-adverbing Yesterday's Tides so that it can go out to the editors who requested it today (I'm addicted to adverbs, I swear), I spent the rest of my day with family.

For starters, my awesome and gorgeous cousin Andrea came to visit in the morning. We were always close as kids, though we saw each other only twice a year or so, but it's been approximately forever since we've seen each other. So it was very cool to hug her again, and she now has a daughter who's two, so the kids could all play together. Or play in the same room anyway, lol.

I also received the first solid proof that Rowyn, a.k.a. Mr. Independence, did indeed miss me while I was gone. He didn't seem fazed when I left him at my mom's for an hour on Tuesday to take Xoe to Story Time, and he hasn't been extra-clingy or anything since I got back. But yesterday afternoon I needed to run to the market and he was still napping. So David stayed home with him, and I took Xoe with me. When we got home, he was up and looked thrilled to see me walk through the door. He sat on my lap for, like, an hour. Followed me everywhere I went. Kept giving me hugs and kisses.

Not. Normal. Wonderful, but not normal. And it occurred to me that the last time he woke up and Mama wasn't here, I'd been gone for days. So it was great to see his gladness that this was NOT the case this time.

And for the record, after about a millennium of editing, I did indeed get the adverbs cut down in my manuscript, and it should be winging its way across email to various editors' inboxes today. So anyone with a prayer to spare, feel free to apply it to that! And now, let the waiting begin . . .

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Remember When . . . Everyone flocked to the rooftops?

In Stray Drop, the house plays a pretty critical role in the story, it being where most of the action takes place. Adventurous, I know, but my heroine's a house slave, so . . . you know. I've spent a lot of time studying houses of the day. Thank you to all those diligent archeologists out there who have uncovered some for me!

What did I learn? That in Israel in Jesus' day, much of the household was run on the roof. The rooftop was usually on multiple levels, each section of the house being a varying height, and it's where people did the weaving, the cooking, the everything. For some reason, I hadn't envisioned this. I had assumed there would be something like a porch or portico, something that would provide shade. But apparently they went outside for the light, so . . . this is why I shouldn't assume. The actual kitchen was very small, and most of the cooking was done out there where the heat wouldn't build up. Makes sense, huh?

And of course, it's totally different in Rome. I doubled my work by moving the plot of Stray Drop to Rome for the second half of the book. Because while some things are the same, others are definitely NOT. Their house is built around the courtyard, with a back garden. And the interior is far different, too, each room having one purpose only.

Speaking of one purpose, my son seems to think his right now ought to be running into his sister's room and waking her up, so I had better get off the computer. Hope everyone has a great Wednesday!

(for a sketch of this, go to this site and scroll down to the housing section)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Story Time . . . Finished A PRISONER OF VERSAILLES

On the way to Denver I had many, many hours with nothing to do but read. So I logged some serious book-time and was delighted to finish Golden's A Prisoner of Versailles. Especially because I got to give her a hug the next morning! So though I've posted two things on it before, this will be my official review, which will also appear on the Christian Review of Books website in the next week or so.

A Prisoner of Versailles
By Golden Keyes Parsons
Review by Roseanna White

In her quest to keep her family safe in their Huguenot faith, Madeleine has a formidable foe: King Louis XIV. The Sun King is determined to bring her back to his side, and when he tears her from her family yet again, she must learn how--and when--to fight. In a world where even love could destroy her, how can her God save her?

Though her husband miraculously escaped the galleys in In the Shadow of the Sun King, Parson's first book in the From Darkness to Light trilogy, the horrors have taken their toll. After clinging desperately to life as long as he could, he passes away in the opening of the book, leaving Madeleine with one final wish: take the family and flee to the New World. She doesn't know how to achieve this task--or if she has the heart to leave Europe--but she knows she must try.

Proving his far-stretching power, King Louis finds her even in Switzerland and has her and her eldest son brought back to Versailles. Held there as a pampered prisoner, Madeleine's faith faces its ultimate test. What price will she pay to protect her family? And what price must Pierre, the man who sacrificed so much to help them, pay for his role?

A Prisoner of Versailles is a fabulous continuation of the Darkness to Light saga, and I loved it even more than the first book. I'm a sucker for romance, so I really appreciated that this one had more of a love story. And I hear that the third book will have even more romance, so I'm really looking forward to that!

Prisoner was packed with adventure, intrigue, and a faith thread to touch your deepest heart. Most of us have never faced an authority that forbids us to worship as our heart tells us to, but Parsons brings to life the cry of the heart that the Huguenots must have felt. This a rich tapestry of a book, one that will paint a vivid picture of the past and bury itself into your heart. I definitely recommend A Prisoner of Versailles--it will capture you, and you'll be happy to be caught.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back from Conference

I'm going to ease back into my real life today, so my blog will be pretty informal. (As opposed to how strict I usually am, right? Hardy har har.)

Had a great time in Denver. I think by far the best part was getting to spend face time with my critique group. I had some very encouraging editor meetings, too. The best would be the one where I got a very nice proposal request, then she asked if I had a writing sample. So I pulled out the manuscript I'd just pitched her (see, this is why I always bring a proposal with me!) and she gushed over the writing. Her request turned into a "Yes, I definitely want to read this. Send this right away." Woo hoo!

So now I'm back home and thinking, "Do I really have to do laundry today? Really? I'm thinking it can wait until tomorrow. ;-) I've got a cousin in town I hope to connect with over the next couple of days, and over a thousand emails that have built up. Wanna take bets on how many are real?

For all you ACFWers at the conference, I enjoyed seeing you!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Remember When . . . Bathrobes Were All the Rage?

This is going to be my last blog of the week, since tomorrow morning I'll be winging my way to Denver for the ACFW conference--woo hoo!!

We'll credit Stephanie for this entry, since she asked "What's a stola?" last week. Thanks for the inspiration, Stephanie! We're going to travel back 2,000 years and take a look at fashion today.

It's kind of funny, because we've all done those low (or NO) budget plays in church, right? Where we want to look biblical, so we don an old bathrobe, throw a towel over our head, and voila! If we want to be really authentic, maybe we'll get a long length of cloth to drape over our shoulders or something, right?

It's an image that's hard to shake, so I had to do some research when working on Stray Drop. I mean, some things I know about the time makes me think, "Okay, maybe it's not so far off, especially for women. They were second-class citizens at the time, so maybe they did wear formless, bland stuff." But . . . no. I mean, come on. When in history have women ever been happy to let their figures go totally unnoticed??

Women's fashions started out much like the men's, in that they wore a tunic--long, robe-like thing, two seams up the sides, neck hole. Men would then cover it with a toga (if Roman) or (if Hebrew) a cloak or mantle. This isn't the cape/coat type of cloak so much as an over-jacket, decorated and adorned. The toga, of course, is a whole lot of cloth draped and tucked into the classic lines we all recognize.

But to jump back to women. Even back then, they were all about emphasizing assets. Tunics were belted, knotted, draped to show off curves. (The picture is actually of an Egyptian priestess, but Israelites often borrowed styles from their larger neighbor.)

Roman women often even fancied up the tunic, opting for the Greek-style chiton, which has the fastened sleeves we often call "Roman fashion" when we do it today. Roman women were entitled to wear a stola when they got married, but not all did--it wasn't particularly stylish or practical. The belted or draped their clothing to make it figure-flattering.

For variety (since the stola was probably undyed wool), they went super-fancy in hair, headdresses, and jewelry. Hebrew women, on the other hand, usually tied their hair back with a piece of cloth, and would cover their heads for protection from the sun.

Now, if you think makeup is a modern invention, you're waaaaaay off. Women back then would pain their faces too. It's obvious from Egyptian paintings that they especially favored eye makeup, and as already stated, neighboring countries loved to borrow their colorful style.

I think what it comes down to is a pretty unchanging human nature--and female nature, lol. We like to look good. Maybe it's part of the curse from the Garden: that we will we desire our husbands and work to please them. Maybe that's why women throughout history have spent hours figuring out how to make their clothes flattering, their makeup attractive, their hair so pretty.

Now don't think I'm above it just because I point that out! I tell my hubby all the time, "I'm vain. I can't help it. If I'm going out in public, you better bet I want to look good." Hence why I spent hours picking out the perfect outfits for conference, got the perfect haircut, just sifted through my makeup bag yesterday to make sure I had all that I needed without taking too much. I know, I know, appearances aren't the most important thing. But at the same time, that's what makes a first impression, and I believe in making the best of what the good Lord gave me. You'll never find me spending money I don't have on it (I'm notorious in my family for being the one who goes shopping and puts everything back, saying, "I really don't need that. I don't want to spend the money on it."), but I choose carefully, making sure what I do buy or wear flatters me.

Nice to know we've been doing that since of the dawn of time, eh?

Now . . . see some of you in Denver! Can't wait!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Story Time . . . PRISONER, take two

For those who don't know, I'm now a member of HEWN Marketing, which focuses on promoting the European historicals of our members. Our first book is Golden Keyes Parsons' A Prisoner of Versailles. I know I've already mentioned it once on here, but I'd barely started it at the time, lol. So I'm going to follow the lead of the amazing Laurie Alice Eakes and keep posting about it until I finish! (Which will hopefully be in the next day or two, before conference.)

Now that I'm a decent way into Prisoner, I'm happily caught up in the lives of the characters and walking the gardens of Versailles along with them. I can't quite offer a full review yet (other than, "This is great! Go buy it!" lol), so today I'm going to focus on something Madeleine, the heroine, keeps reminding herself:

"Be wise as a serpent, but innocent as a dove."

This is a lesson very important in the duplicitous courts of the Sun King, but no less relevant today. As Christians, we need to be aware of those who would oppose us, know the dangers surrounding us, understand this world we live in--but remain untouched by it. A difficult task for anyone. Can you imagine how hard it would be if you'd been torn from your family, and your one hope for reunion lay in besting a king?

Madeleine is a pampered prisoner at the palace, one who needs to play the games of court without letting her heart or soul fall prey to its charms. This heroine, one with a hope for the future but a powerful past threatening to consume her, must rely on her faith to see her through. A fabulous reminder to us all!

I've been really caught up in my own projects as I prepare for conference (two days!) and edit A Stray Drop of Blood for its upcoming re-release, but I'm determined to chisel out a few hours to finish this awesome book. There's something about court intrigue that, er, intrigues me. =)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Modern . . . CIA

When I started writing Yesterday's Tides, which I'll be pitching at conference IN FOUR DAYS!!!!, I wanted a cool job for my hero. So naturally, being obsessed with Alias at the time, I thought, "Oo, CIA!" But not an operative. Way too cliche (or something, lol). So instead, I thought I'd make him a computer geek.

In typical me-fashion back then, I didn't actually, you know, look anything up. I relied on TV and logic and maybe a brief glance at the CIA website. Having just graduated from St. John's, I had a few interesting tidbits of knowledge--like the fact that a lot of Johnnies got recruited for the analytical prowess. (Not that any suits every approached me . . .) So I figured that was good enough for a rough draft;-)

When I was rewriting last year, I decided I'd better check my logic against facts. I'm glad I did. While not totally off-base in some things, I was dead wrong in others. TV has soooooo led me astray! For starters--Langley, Virginia. You know how when you watch a CIA movie, the little ticker across the bottom always tells you you're in Langley, VA? WRONG! There is such a town, yes. It's home to such government agencies as a NASA installation. But the CIA? Nope. The CIA headquarters is right outside D.C. The compound is called Langley. It is not in the town that is a few hours south. Which really threw a kink in my plot!

I also discovered that the CIA isn't really the glam agency we all think of. Maybe it used to be (maybe), but these days the agency has been pillaged, according to Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner. Most senior officers were fired in 2004, and the rest of the best talent was lured away by the Pentagon's intelligence division.

Wreaks havoc on my plot--my hero was supposed to be in a Company family, one where his parents had both been in it before him, where they're the best, well established . . . I could salvage that, but I had to account for it. Make them loyal and lucky both.

I discovered another book especially helpful for my hero's computer geek savvy, but I'll save that for next week. Gotta get to work memorizing my pitch, you know! While I totally sold my socks on it yesterday when I was hanging out laundry, I think the shorts were unconvinced. Better keep practicing;-)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

As I was thinking about which friend to brag on today, I stopped to consider the date and then was amazed to realize it would be 9/11. Amazed, because somehow the date has become like any other over the eight years since our world changed.

It made me think. Got me remembering. I was in class when the planes struck the World Trade Center and had no clue what was going on. As we drove home for lunch, we saw a very strange sight for Annapolis though--two white hazmat vans (strange looking things) rushing onto Rt 50 right in front of us. A curiosity that we ignored until we got home and my MIL called us to tell us to turn on the news.

As we drove back for afternoon classes an hour later, it seemed like a different world. Annapolis was deserted, all the government offices vacated and the Naval Academy on lockdown. Because my college is sandwiched between those two things, police stood at the corners of the college, checking IDs before allowing us to enter. It was a terrifying time. It rewrote reality.

I remember having the thought, "What is relevant now? What matters? These stories I'm working on seem so trivial, but what stories wouldn't?"

We drove home that weekend, and across every bridge homemade banners stretched declaring "God Bless America." People had stuck Styrofoam cups into chain link fences to scroll out messages of their patriotism. American flags had sold out.

And now, eight years later, I think most of us have forgotten that again, or have at least shoved it to a convenient place in our minds, one that we don't have to look at but when we realize the anniversary is upon us.

So every year, I make it a point to pull out the essay I wrote on 9/11, which was published in my hometown paper a week later. It helps me remember--perhaps it will help you, too.

To My Brother, the Stranger

I did not know you. I never met you. If I had seen you, you would have been simply a face in the crowd. My thoughts never touched upon the possibility of your existence.

And yet. . .

And yet when I heard of the tragedy of losing you, you were suddenly my brother, my sister, my best friend. You were the comrade I never had the opportunity to meet, the face I could sketch simply because of how many faces you are. And every time I open my mind, it is to realize anew that you were a person, you were loved, and now you’re gone.

It’s a shock I never expected to feel , a pain no man, woman, or child should ever have to endure. And I did not know you. How much worse must it be for the widows, the orphans, the childless parents, the brotherless sisters that were made on that day? How much worse again for those who yet know nothing about the fate of those dearest to them?

It is a pain no one should have to gaze on, much less be consumed by. It is a piercing that should quickly tear down all barriers until there is nothing left but a shaken humanity, a resolved people, a united nation. It should induce the best in man when he looks at evil, when he sees the dancing in his enemy’s camps. It should make him realize that the sickness he feels, the death he sees is a presence to be ignored no longer.

I pray that somehow this change in our lives will be used in a way to make us better. I pray that as I walk down the streets of my untouched city I never forget that it could be gone in a moment. I pray that as I pass a stranger I remember to remember that he is not a stranger to someone. I pray that soon all our fears are exhausted and we are left instead with hope. And I pray that we never take for granted the greatness of our nation, lest through our disregard it lose that thing that sets us apart.

I can never say the right words to those who are grieving, because there are no words to be said. I did not know you. I never met you. All I can offer you is the love of a face you have never seen and the prayers of a heart that is reaching across the miles to the strangers it now calls brothers.

May God enfold us in His arms until the terror goes away. May He settle his peace over us until the rivers of tears run dry. May He comfort us until we become victorious. And may we never forget that it is He who will lift us from the mire. Today America has united in common anguish. Tomorrow we will rejoice in justice. And all the world will know that this is a nation that God has blessed and will never forsake. Let us be the first to proclaim that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Finding Your Place

With the ACFW Conference in Denver only a week away (woo hoo!), my thoughts have inevitably turned to the dual hope/fear of finding that perfect editor (or not) for the book I'll be pitching.

Up until two days ago, I didn't even know what I would pitch. I have a few books that were possibilities, but my agent systematically eliminated them all. "No historicals this year," followed by "too sophisticated to break in with" followed by "needs work." I sent her my ocean book, now titled Yesterday's Tides thanks to y'all, with a cringe. As close as I feel to this book, I groaned at the very thought of getting another "Not the thing" on it. Not to mention it would leave me with nothing to try to sell. So you can imagine my relief and joy when my agent sent me a series of emails with "One sheet is good. Interesting idea," "Synopsis is good. I really like how you handle this story," and "Yes, pitch this one. I'll have it read by the time you get back, and we'll make any tweaks necessary before sending it to the editors who request it." Whew! Step one down.

Now for Step Two: finding an editor who loves this book as much as I (and my critique partners) do. Never a guarantee, obviously. In the two years since my last conference, I have sighed many a time over the fact that the editors out there haven't jumped at the Victorian series that captured my agent's attention. You just never know.

But said critique partners have done so much for me. Not just in critiquing my work, but in building me up. Stephanie said once, "You know why you'll succeed? Because you keep writing new things, looking for that one that'll break you in. You don't sit back and wait. You keep coming up with new stuff, better stuff." The twenty manuscripts on my computer prove the "you keep writing" part, lol. Then Mary said of Yesterday's Tides that she had a threefold prayer for it: that it would sell soon, that it would be a bestseller, and that it would win a Christy. A dream for everyone, for sure. And it really touched me that Mary believed in this story enough to beseech the Lord for it in such a big way. And then Carole made me preen by saying I was becoming one of her favorite authors--a label she doesn't give out easily. Could a writer have a better group of friends and encouragers?

On one of my loops, we've been talking about that place we all visit sometimes where the not-knowing-where-we're-going gets so overwhelming. Where the fear outweighs the hope. Where you question your calling, your ability, your everything. Roseanna the Optimist doesn't often dwell on that, but I wonder. I wonder if the encouraging news I got on two different projects last week will come to anything--and if it'll come in time for conference. I wonder if all the work I've put into other projects will ever amount to anything or if they'll molder on my computer for all time. I wonder if, when I finally do get published on a national level, I'll have any readers. I wonder if the re-release of A Stray Drop of Blood will actually sell.

All things I can't know. Things that could lead to those "Is this where you want me, Lord?" questions. But as I'm getting ready to head to Denver and pitch a project I love and believe in, I'm instead getting excited about what He might have in store. The fact that I will even be pitching this story, when I had assumed it off the table, is enough to excite me. I finished its rewrites a year ago, but everyone kept losing it, forgetting about it . . . it wasn't it's time. Now it seems to be. Will that result in the "perfect editor"? I don't know. But it gives me hope.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Remember When . . . You Wouldn't Say "Wouldn't"?

English is so weird. Ever notice that? I mean, I love the language--ask anyone. I take such great joy from the intricacies and foibles of mechanics and syntax that my critique partners fondly refer to me as the Grammar Nazi. (At least, I assume it's fondly . . . ;-)

One of the things I love about English is our ability to affect the formality of our speech by using contractions. So far as I can tell, we've been so pretty much since English became English. So if you're writing a historical novel, contract away! Fear them not! Shakespeare did it, so you can too.

Other languages, though, don't often do this. They elide, but only when two vowels would otherwise be side by side, making pronunciation difficult. That's never optional--it's just done. So how, you gotta wonder, do speakers of other languages adjust formality?

I discovered the answer to this when I was writing my Biblical fiction, A Stray Drop of Blood. (See, historical. I'm getting around to it, I promise!) Since my characters would have been speaking Ancient Greek, which I happen to have studied for two years (yes, I'm a nerd--but a COOL one!), I wanted to reflect the beauty of that language with my English. Talk about a challenge!

In Greek, word order doesn't matter a whit for the most part. It's all about the endings of words and the words themselves. Obviously, I can't do that in English. But what I can do is arrange my words, choose my words, in a way that forces me to convey my meaning in a Greek way. I chose to do this by using NO contractions in my novel. Definitely a challenge. It's not the kind of thing anyone notices until I tell them, but it sets a mood, paints a picture of the place and time. I'm having a lot of fun rereading the original and seeing how I pulled this off. I'm still remarkably pleased with the results (to toot my own horn;-)

Of course, the writing of it was sometimes comical. I had to get into a Greek Zone. I'd edit my own thoughts when writing. You know, like, "He said he'd--no he would--go." But then I'd forget to leave that zone and would try to edit thoughts for regular conversation too. I'd be sitting in class, trying to formulate an answer to the conversation, and think, "He'd--no, he would--no, HE'D!" My friends all thought this very amusing.

I'm really enjoying getting back into the Greek Zone as I'm working on this. And I hope y'all do too, because over the next little while, as I gear up for the release of the new and improved paperback A Stray Drop of Blood, I'm going to be sharing all the fun stuff about Ancient Jerusalem and Rome.

So slip into a comfy tunic, grab your favorite stola (you married women out there), find a scroll and a handy quill, and settle in. It's gonna be fun!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Story Time . . . with Dr. Seuss

I know, I know, this isn't my usual idea of "story time." But as I've been reading different books to my daughter and noting which get my 18-month-old son's attention, it's got me on yet another Dr. Seuss kick. So why not share? LOL.

Last summer I bought Xoe a huge "collection" book of Dr. Seuss stories, and she immediately latched onto "What Was I Scared Of?" Although she calls it "Green Pants." For good reason, but it's still cute. While we were going through the great travail of potty training, we read this story so many times that I STILL have it memorized.

As a writer, I find children's books very interesting. They don't follow the rules we're encouraged to observe in fiction-for-adults, and wouldn't work if they did. The writing is often what would be deemed terrible by adult standards. But they work because they appeal to their readership and, in the case of Dr. Seuss, capture the imagination with fabulous rhyme and rhythm.

In my opinion, the mark of a good rhyming poem of story is the one that gets stuck in your head not in words, but in cadence. When you go around going "Du du du du du DUM; dunna dun uh, du dum du dah." (Okay, really pathetic attempt there, LOL, but you get the idea.) The kids pick up on it just like we do, and it helps them remember the words, learn about rhyming, and improve their vocabulary. Last summer we were reciting "Green Pants" in the car, and when I forgot the next line, Xoe would give me a prompt. It was great.

I love Dr. Seuss books because the grab my kids' attention and hold on. They entertain, they educate, and they spur their imagination. When my youngest, who will not sit still for ANY book, stops to listen to the fun sound of a Dr. Seuss, when my daughter recites it with me, when I pause after a line to say, "Wow, that's brilliant," then you know you have a winner. Dr. Seuss will forever remain one of my favorites, and I'm loving the excuse to rediscover his work with my kids.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Modern . . . Title Followup

I was going to post the Title Contest results in a weekend blog, then I thought, "Nah. Monday's a holiday, I can be lazy and do that in place of my normal post." Mwa ha ha ha.

So pooling all the votes from the different sites my blog posts too (ShoutLife and Facebook, by the way), Yesterday's Tides won by two votes, with The Storm Still Raging coming in second and Deeper than the Sea getting third.

The winning title was inspired by Sandi Rog, so I will be emailing her shortly with a choice of three out of the four books, and send the other to our third place winner, Mary Proctor. (Second place is my mom, and she said "No books, please." Perhaps because she has little shelving. Perhaps because she'd already read most of them, lol.) So congrats to these two lovely ladies who will soon be enjoying some fine reading!

I had a lot of fun with this and am going to keep it in mind for future brainstorming needs. You all rock! Now, off to enjoy my lazy holiday. Hope everyone has a good one!

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Friends Choose Awesome Titles!

Instead of spotlighting an author friend today, I'm spotlighting my awesome readers, who have rocked out the title contest. I was truly amazed at the creativity y'all showed, and the lists a few of you came up with.

Several people said they had no interest in the free books, just wanted to play, and some of their suggestions were oh-so-good. So here's what we're gonna do. I'm going to pick some finalists. You all are going to vote. The books will either go to the winner or, if the winner was one who didn't want the books, I'll divvy them up between the other finalists.

Ready? Drumroll please! . . . .

The Storm Still Raging (my mom)
Awaken the Dawn (Kristen)
Deeper than the Sea (Mary)
Yesterday's Tides (a rewording of one of Sandi's)
Tempest of the Heart (Debbie Lynn, though I took out a word;-)

So get voting! And lemme just say . . . you guys warmed my heart with your enthusiasm for the story as well as the contest. This is totally how I'm going to decide on titles from now on, lol.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Rewrites

Many, many moons ago I started writing a book. Well, it started as a short story, which pivoted around the crucifixion. As I went through college, I kept bringing it out over holidays and summer breaks, writing, writing, writing. I had a hard time writing it when class was in session, because both school and the story were so intense that I couldn't hold both in my little brain;-) But because the first two years of my college focused on the era, I absorbed. Sponged. Took notes. I finally finished the book within a week of my college graduation.

Now, my hubby had spent the past for years working in printing and felt led to start a print shop of his own. Only, he didn't want to print business cards. He wanted to published books. So naturally, we decided that I was the only possible person to use as a guinea pig, lol. Hence why A Stray Drop of Blood was the launching title of WhiteFire Publishing. He has since added other titles to the WFP lineup, learned a lot . . . and I've learned a lot about writing. So. My publisher and I (ahem) have decided it's time to do Stray Drop justice and start over. (Okay, partly because we're running out of hardbacks [woo hoo!] and don't want it to go out of print, so have decided to release a paperback. And since that requires a new ISBN anyway, I might as well improve the book too!)

For my husband, this decision is a lot of logistics, most of them nightmarish. For me, it means going back through a book I love and hacking it to pieces. I love it the way it is. I do. And if the only people to read it were readers, I'd leave it as it is. But I have a lot of writing friends now, and I'm totally embarrassed to let them read my headhopping and adverbs and . . . lol. So I'm going to take a few weeks and "correct" my manuscript. Trim it down. Make it tighter. And, please Lord, improve the story I still adore, which I believe in to the core of my being.

That said, I'm going to need endorsers (already have a few) and influencers (ditto), a new cover design (have a few ideas but lack the skill to do them), and time to work (don't know where I'm gonna pull that from). If anyone is interested in taking on one of the first three slots (or play babysitter, lol), let me know! Cover designer will obviously be paid. Influencers and endorsers will receive a copy of the book and my eternal gratitude. ;-)

You can see info on the book at my website to get an idea of what it's about and if you'd find it interesting.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Remember When . . . Sears Sold Houses?

First, don't forget the TITLE CONTEST, detailed on Monday! Now, onto the real post . . .

In my '20s research for Mafia Princess, I checked a book out of the library that got into very detailed descriptions about the time. One of the most interesting things I came across was drawings for houses that you could order from the Sears catalogue. I mean, lol. Housewares, sure. But houses?

The layout of houses changed greatly around that time. Back in the day, rooms were small and many because of the heating source--keeping them small cut down on the transfer of smoke and dust from one room to another. But as cleaner fuels and electric heating gained prominence, rooms opened up. Got bigger, but fewer in number. Interesting, huh? I didn't realize until then that that's why really old houses have so many teensy tiny rooms.

In the same (or nearby, anyway) section of the book, it talked about the extreme dichotomy between rural and urban life. In the country (read: where I live), it looked like it had for the last century. Horses, buggies, no electricity . . . indoor plumbing wasn't a must. (I shudder at the thought.) In the cities, everyone had electricity, cars were more numerous than horses, and I daresay the advent of bathrooms that included toilets were welcomed with open arms.

When I eventually sit down to write the sequel to Mafia Princess, which will be titled Gangster's Girl, part of the book will travel to my hometown of Cumberland, Maryland. I'm looking forward to this--I get to go to all the historical stuff around here and try to get an idea of what this place looked like in the '20s, when it was a booming railroad city instead of one barely larger than a town. Back then, we'd earned our nickname of Queen City, being the second largest in the state. And I can just see my bobbed blonde sauntering down the brick streets!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Story Time . . . BEYOND THE NIGHT by Marlo Schalesky

First, don't forget to enter my TITLE CONTEST! See Monday's entry for details and a chance to win some awesome books. Now, on to new thing.

My week has been full of new things, actually. . . and hence getting the hang of them. Particularly the laptop, which can go to the couch with me in the evenings--my usual reading time. So I'm still reading the (very good!) Prisoner of Versailles I wrote about last week, and I haven't gotten far enough to offer more on it.

So this week I'm going back to an awesome book I read a couple months ago. Marlo Schalesky's Beyond the Night is a fabulous love story, evocative and heart-wrenching. This is one of those rare books that brings tears to my eyes, and when I turned the last page, I immediately went and told everyone I know that they HAD to read it.

The story begins with a car crash, and the rest of it is a combination of a hospital scene and memories of the couple's love story. Madison Foster knew she was going blind, but dealing with it was another matter. She above all didn't want her mother to find out--and she didn't want the pity of her best friend, Paul. Maybe romance had been about to bloom, but now they'd never know. Because she wasn't going to do that to him. And he didn't know how to fight her about it.

I love the way the past was interwoven with the present in this book, and especially the huge twist that I obviously won't give away--the one that had me crying.

I didn't know when I picked it up what I'd think about it. Stories set in the '70s don't usually do it for me, since it's from that era just before I existed--not long enough past to seem mysterious or whimsical, not familiar enough to feel like "home"--but from the first pages, I couldn't put it down.

Beyond the Night is one of those stories that deserves every bit of acclaim it can get, (like the Christy award it just won--woo hoo! Congrats, Marlo!) and then some. This is a fabulous book, well told and beautiful. It'll leave you with tears in your eyes and a band around your chest that makes you think, "Wow. That is love."