Friday, October 30, 2009


After a week of feeling pretty blah physically (headaches that may have bordered on migraines, given the way sound grated on my nerves and my stomach was upset), I didn't want to put the effort into the My Friend stuff, which takes longer than my other posts of the week. Especially since I'm trying to put myself into a prayerful mindset.

Tomorrow, my church is having a morning prayer vigil. We're a small congregation, and while we keep getting new members, then other ones leave for one reason or another. Never that they want to leave our church, but it's too far away or their work schedule changes or . . . you know. But it occurred to us that we need to have something better than ideas if we want to reach people. We need vision. So tomorrow, we're going to be on our knees waiting for it.

I'm one of those people that needs to learn to listen better. Usually when I get something from God, it isn't actually during my prayer time. Often following it, but it generally hits when I'm in the middle of a conversation or a task, one of those epiphanic moments that brings me to a halt. Tomorrow, I really want my heart and mind to be prepared to stop and listen to the Lord, not just talk to him.

We'll be praying specifically for our church, for the local and national governments, and for other issues that weigh on our hearts. If anyone has ever held a prayer vigil like this and has some tips for things to do (i.e., make a list before you go, make a list of impressions after you leave, that sort of thing), I'd love to hear them. And if you just want to take a moment now to say a prayer for me and my church family to really commune with God, I'd appreciate it.

I don't find it a coincidence that in the week leading up to this, I've been borderline ill, bad tempered, and unable to concentrate on anything. I want to slap my own wrist for getting caught up in the physical when I wanted to be preparing all week for this. So today, I'm hoping my friends will join their prayers to mine to help me get out of my headache-induced rut and focus on Him.

Love you guys!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Growing Up

It's a phrase we've heard, and which I've tossed around a few times: "Oh, grow up." And lately, I've had a few moments of "Wow. I feel like an adult all of a sudden." Like when we finally bit the bullet and bought insurance. Do you have any idea how grown-up it feels to have a BlueCross card in your wallet for the first time?

But yesterday I wondered a little about the process. See, my kids are a lot like I was when I was small. Competitive, loud, and they throw temper tantrums whenever they don't get their way. Every time my mom sees it, she laughs and says, "Gee, I wonder where they get that from." To which I reply, "I have absolutely no idea. I certainly never acted that way."

Now, it's a bit of a joke because I'm so even-tempered now that one of my college professors actually said, "I'm concerned that such temperance is unhealthy in one so young." Last night my husband asked, "So . . . what happened to that temper?"

My answer? When I was about ten, I started getting on my own nerves. It took a lot of energy to get upset over nothing, and it didn't seem to accomplish much. So I made a concerted effort to grow up--in that respect, anyway.

Not so oddly, it's been through having kids that are so stinkin' much like I used to be that has sparked my temper again. I growl daily, and often think that this 2-4 age may just kick my butt--but then they cuddle up against me . . . I'm still amazed at deeply the mother-instinct runs. I mean, I remember being like my daughter, and screaming every single time I stubbed my toe. (Every. Single. Time.) But now when I thwack my elbow off the corner of a cabinet (like I did last night. Ow.), my first thought is, "Don't scream. Don't wake the kids. Suck it up."

I still have those moments when I feel like a kid myself, I'm still amazed when I feel like an adult in a certain respect for the first time. And I'm finally realizing that this "growing up" thing probably never ends. There are always going to be new steps in the process . . . and as long as I realize that, I keep myself malleable for the Lord to keep on a-workin' on me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Remember When . . . Women Were Possessions?

The title doesn't exactly narrow down what time period I'm talking about today, does it? Not this century, but otherwise . . . =)

Since I've spent the last few weeks whipping A Stray Drop of Blood into shape and getting it off to my endorsers, then working on my Companion Guide (aka Encyclopedia Roseann-ica), I've got ancient history on the brain. And one of the topics in said guide, because of its relevance, to the story, is the Mosaic law on what happens when a man forces himself on a woman.

According to Deuteronomy 22, here's how it works. If a woman is betrothed, and a man rapes her, he is to be killed. If she's not betrothed, then he has to marry her, with no possibility for divorce. Great, huh?

Now, for the most part I'm totally on board with the Law of Moses. I think they make sense, that they create a stable and healthy society. But there are definitely times when I'm glad the social conscience has evolved, and this is one of those times.

As I read it, what these particular instructions come down to is that women are possessions. Rape is not an offense against them, but against the man who possesses them. If a man rapes a woman whose body belongs to another man, it is a crime against that man. Hence the punishment of death. And if the woman doesn't cry out, she'll be killed too.

This really grabbed my imagination, as I considered the different situations and ramifications that could result from this. I always ask, "What if?" What if a girl knows that if she cries out against a man, someone will come and try to save her? But what if that someone is a slave, and if he raises his hand against his master, he'll be killed? What then? Would she keep silent to save her friend?

Naturally, I complicate things a lot beyond this simple Law in Stray Drop. It's all mixed up because of my heroine's status, the complicated line between bondservant and slave, her feelings, the outlooks of the various men, and the clash between Roman law and Hebrew law. For more info on all these things, check out that Companion Guide!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Story Time . . . FOOLS RUSH IN by Janice Thompson

I'd been wanting to read one of Janice Thompson's novels (I read one she co-authored a few years ago), so when Revell sent me a review copy of Fools Rush In it promptly went to my to-be-read stack instead of my give-it-to-another-reviewer stack. The blurb made it sound hilarious, and I couldn't wait to dig into this story about a Tex-Italian wedding planner who's in over her head with a boot-scootin' wedding, given that she knows nothing about country-western stuff.

What I've found is a book that gets me where I least expect it. There are a few lines that had me chuckling, but also a few gags that I rolled my eyes over. Until something super-funny came of them later in the story, which then had me breathing a laugh. My husband asked me what was so funny, so I started to explain the whole gag to him, which took it from eye-rolling to hilarious. Ever have that happen? When you're suspending disbelief while in the pages of a book, something's silly or a little funny, but then when you try to put it into verbal words, you see how truly hilarious (and ridiculous) it is? We spent quite a few minutes rolling over one of these.

The premise is that Bella Rossi, whose family is a transplant from first Italy, then New Jersey, just took over the reins of a wedding planning business in Galveston, Texas, and she has the brilliant idea to offer themed weddings. But the first theme is Boot-Scootin', and she's got no clue. And music? Her brother, the usual deejay, is off to Houston, in love, and knows nothing about country music anyway. Thankfully, the Lord drops a cowboy-deejay in her lap . . . only, he drops a knock-her-down-in-a-dead-faint (literally) surprise along with him.

This is a great story, full of fun and love and faith. I have a couple chapters left (had to go to bed rather than finishing it off last night, thanks to a little tummy bug), but will gleefully finish it today. There are a few places where it feels like the author lapses into telling, rather than showing me what's going on, but it's usually when a character is rambling, so that may be kindness on Janice's part, LOL. Overall, I'm really enjoying this read. My favorite part is the family dynamics (and feuds). There's nothing like a great Italian clan, and this bunch will keep you grinning.

Now if only I can figure out how I ended up with THREE copies of this book . . . =)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Modern . . . Super Yachts

Thanks to a hubby who's remote-happy, we watch a lot of random stuff on TV. This guy cannot leave a channel alone unless he's watching hockey. But since scripted shows don't make a ton of sense in small snippets, during commercials of our "real" shows, we tend to watch a lot of Travel Channel, History Channel, Discovery, etc.

During one cruise through the Travel Channel, we came across a show on super yachts. Never heard of them? They're what they sound like: yachts, but super-sized and super-fancy. This things are awe-inspiring. The woods . . . the art . . . the design . . . the amenities! Amazing, I'm telling you. So luxurious you sigh in pleasure just watching about them. I'd love to just take a tour through one someday so that I can gawk for an hour.

The first time we saw this special, I started thinking, "How can I someday use one of these in a plot?" Having a main character own one seemed a little over the top. I mean, I don't usually do the whole gazillionaire thing. But maybe I could have a character who worked on one? Maybe? But that just seemed way too . . . simple. Still, it had possibilities. The owners of these beasts are notoriously picky, so if someone worked on one as the chief stew, they'd be in charge of all these details--from pillow placement to the flowers in particular vases to making sure the guests had their every whim met.

We caught another part of the same show a couple months later, when I was thinking up a series that would be a spin off of my Outer Banks Trilogy. Suddenly it clicked. I could have my heroine working there, yes, but she isn't what she seems. Throughout it, we'd see her doing furtive things, and given the series she's in, we'd know who she should be, but it's a few chapters before we're absolutely sure. And of course she totally falls for the yacht owner's little brother, who can't quite believe he's falling for her, the Plain Jane chief stew who should just be another employee . . .

I'm now really excited every time I think about this story, even though it'll be years before I get to write it. It's one of those things that popped into my head so perfectly that I know the story will work well. And it's cool enough an idea that it'll make a great finale to this second trilogy I have in mind.

And maybe by then I'll be able to afford a little tour on one of these fantabulous ships. Be still, my heart!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reflecting on Mommyhood

I didn't have a My Friend Friday post already planned, and today's my baby's 4th birthday, so I'm gonna take a break from the regularly-scheduled programming and chat about my awesome little girl and all she's taught me.

First, it must be said: I can't believe she's 4 already! It seems like a week ago that I sat in the hospital, jumping every time she made a noise and thinking, "Is she okay, is she okay?" Now she stubs a toe or bumps a knee about 20 times a day, screams, and I'm like, "Eh, yeah. You're fine, kid. Shake it off." ;-)

Those first two months with her, she got fondly dubbed The Little Monster by my husband. She was one of those babies that screamed from dinner time until, oh, about 2 in the morning. No reason. Just screamed. Then voila! She found her thumb and two months and became an angel. (Now we gotta work on UN-finding that thumb.)

Xoe amazes me in so many ways. She was pretty average developmentally as a baby; didn't talk early or walk early or anything . . . but now? The kid shocks my socks off daily with the things she comes up with. You ought to have heard the backhanded insult she gave her grandmother yesterday, LOL. She was wearing a t-shirt her Nonna had gotten her, and when Nonna said, "Oh, I love your shirt," Xoe replied with, "Oh, I'm only wearing this because I was playing in the mud." I rolled. My girl is not a t-shirt wearer--she's a fancy-dress, tights, hair up, jewelry, and maybe a crown for good measure wearer.

She made my friend Stephanie's day by pointing to the model on the cover of her book and saying, "Oh, Skylar's pretty. I wish she lived in our world so I could be her friend." ("Our world"=our town.)

She won't go ANYWHERE without her brother, unless it's with me--and even then, she usually wants him to go too. Not that they don't fight constantly when they're together, but for some reason he equals security for her. Ever since he was born and we snuck her into the NICU to see him (because "My little brudder's crying. He needs me. He needs me! Let me in!") she has been protective and totally gone over the little guy.

Though she can pull an attitude that drives me halfway to insanity, she also has the sweetest disposition and the gentlest heart. When we go to see my grandmother, who's recovering from back surgery, she refuses to leave the house until she's made her a card. When we go to a birthday party for her cousin, she insists on picking out a toy from her shelf and putting it in a gift bag to take to her (in spite of the present we spent money on, LOL). When the day's too boring, she'll gather up some leaves outside, through them over your head, and yell, "Surprise! It's your birthday today, Papa! You didn't know that, did you?"

As any mother with a toddler or preschooler, I could go on and on about the adorable things she says, but I'll save those for Facebook updates;-) For now, I'll just say that I constantly learn so much from this precious little creature the Lord gave me. Yes, I lose my patience on a daily basis with one or the other of my kids, and often I wish for just one hour of quiet. But they enrich every aspect of my life. They've taught me how to see the world differently, how to appreciate things I never noticed before. And to better use my time, oddly, since I don't have nearly so much of it free.

So Happy Birthday, Xoë-girl! I love you way up to the moon and back again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Extra Stuff

I confess. I'm one of those writers that just wants to write. When I was first informed that I'd have to market, I said something like, "Grooooooaaaaaan." I've mostly gotten over that, but I still had a few pockets of Hold-Out in my little brain.

For some reason, one of them was discussion questions. I moaned at the very thought of someday maybe needing to write them. Then at the conference in September, someone said something about feeling similarly . . . until they got a piece of reader mail saying that one of those questions changed the reader's life. Now I'm saying, "Well, huh."

Given that I've already had people express interest in using A Stray Drop of Blood for bookclubs, It occurred to me that discussion questions might be a good thing. I said as much to my husband, who replied, "Better still, put together a bunch of the stuff that you drew on to write it. You know, behind the scenes stuff or information they can read to understand the culture of the day better. Encyclopedia Roseann-ica."

This sounded cool, so I started taking notes on ideas. And thanks to my obsessive nature, it's approaching completion on my website. I've now got both the Companion Guide and the Discussion Questions online (yes, the questions are also in the back of the book). If you're curious but haven't read Stray Drop, you'll want to avoid the discussion questions (which might tip you off on some plot points) but you still might find the Companion Guide interesting. I'll hopefully be finishing off my sections today. There'll still be a few topics without links, though, which will be written by guest-experts. Just go to, click on the Books tab, and voila. Companion Guide and Discussion Question links are front and center.

And since this is on my mind because I need to go do it, I guess I better, you know . . . go do it. =)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Remember When . . . Marriage Was Sacred?

Did I get your attention with that subject line? LOL. You'll see what I mean by it in a second. =)

When I was doing some research for another book to follow Mafia Princess, I was looking up marriage laws in Maryland in the '20s. I had no clue about things like waiting periods, requirements for licensing, etc. And couldn't find it, of course, until I put out a "Help!" message to the HisWriter's loop. The fabulous Laurie Alice Eakes asked her law-school-going hubby about it, and he not only directed me to the online archives of MD state, he also browsed them for me and gave me the link to the one I need. Is that not the nicest thing??

Anyway. What I found was pretty interesting. These days there's considerable red tape surrounding a marriage. Licenses and certificates and fees and this and that. Given that it's a legal contract, that's to be expected. And as everyone knows, you can always just go to the courthouse and let a judge perform the ceremony, right? Much easier.

Not so in the '20s. There was a law that said (in legalese) that if one were to get married with a license but not by a member of the clergy, the marriage was not considered legal. However, if you got married by a member of the clergy without a license, the marriage was valid (though the clergyman could be fined for performing it without the legal documentation in place).

Isn't that interesting? As recently as the '20s, Maryland recognized marriage as a primarily religious, holy, and sacred union--as opposed to a strictly legal one.

*Totally off-topic, but hey. It's my blog. ;-) I'm putting together a Companion Guide for A Stray Drop of Blood. Come check out what David calls Encyclopedia Roseann-ica at *

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Story Time . . . SEASIDE LETTERS by Denise Hunter

A week or so ago I was opening the mail and got to a package from a publicist. I opened it, glanced at the book, and thought, "Hmm. 'Kay." Flipped it over, read the back, and further thought, "Ahh . . . now this sounds like a really nice love story!" I was reading another book already but was only in the first chapter, so I didn't feel too awful guilty crackin' this baby open.

Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter is a Nantucket Love Story that sets a gorgeous stage and drags you deep into the characters' hearts from the first page. It had me asking questions right away, like "How does she know that? What's going on?"

For me, though, one of the best things was that a book with this premise could have been frustrating. It's all about the guy looking for this girl he found online, Sweetpea, who won't tell him who she really is. He hired the heroine to help him find her. It could have gone a few ways: he could have fallen in love with Sabrina without ever knowing she was Sweetpea. She could have not been Sweetpea. I was fully prepared for the frustration of "Just open your eyes, dude!"

I was pleasantly surprised to see really early on that the author avoided this. Go, Denise! Instead, we're pulled into a deeply emotional pull-and-tug as the characters work to reconcile what their heart says with what their heads say.

I'm not finished yet, but I'm really looking forward to diving back into Seaside Letters tonight and letting this awesome love story wash over me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Modern . . . Descriptions

Since last week we talked about beautiful characters, I figured I'd continue in a similar vein and talk about the particulars of a character's looks. I remember someone once complaining about all these gorgeous blond heroines. Then someone more recently added feisty redheads to their list of overdone descriptions. I figure next they'll take issue with the brunettes, right? LOL.

The problem is that there are only so many options, and that we have to use the same words to describe innumerable people. We're all either blond, brunette, or redhead. Sure, there are a gazillion shades, but if an author describes them too much, it gets into purple prose--or else we revert to words that people might not even know. Tell me, what's the difference between someone with chestnut hair and someone with auburn? Or raven versus ebony? Where's the line between golden blond and platinum?

I ran into an interesting problem with this recently. Years and years ago I wrote a contemporary aimed at the secular market which I knew when I finished it would probably never be published. It was too long, not a strict romance . . . but I liked my characters. The heroine was kinda Snow White-ish--black hair, fairest skin, rosy lips, and gray eyes. Right after finishing it, I started another book, this one aimed at CBA. For some reason I cannot now recall, I decided to make this heroine also have darkest-brown hair and silver eyes. Now, that is where the similarities end. The first was petite and curvy, the second tall and willowy, one and artist, the other a scientist. One talkative, the other all but a mute. I never expected this to be an issue, because I knew I'd never do anything with the first book.

Then last year I had the brilliant idea to snitch the characters from it and plop them down in a totally different plot with a Christian theme. The characters took to it well. No problems. And since I was now not doing anything with the other book with a similar heroine, it didn't much matter.

Except that a few weeks ago I decided to revive it. One of the first groans I encountered was that this heroine has the same description as the other. Which may not have been a huge problem had I not been targeting the same publisher. LOL. I tweaked her appearance so she didn't sound so stinkin' close to the other, but still it gave me pause.

Descriptions are tough things, and we writers give them a ridiculous amount of thought. Have I already had a blond heroine in this trilogy? Are my brunettes too similar? Should I give him brown eyes or blue? This one was tall and this one short, so should she be of middling height?

Does anyone really care? LOL. We go to great lengths to paint our readers a picture of our characters, but what it comes down to is imagination. My husband once argued with me about what one of my characters looked like. "She's brunette," I told him, pointing at the page. "See? Sarah's the blond one."

He just shook his head and said, "You might have written it that way, but you got it all wrong. Sarah's a redhead. Cadence is blond."

At some point, I just rolled my eyes and let him think that. =)

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Friend . . . Trish Perry

There are a lot of books that give me a chuckle. Sometimes a good chuckle. It's a rare piece of fiction that makes me literally laugh out loud enough to get my husband's attention. But when I first got Trish Perry's The Guy I'm Not Dating in the mail, I was laughing so much with the first four pages that my husband demanded, "What is so funny?"

I totally fell in love with Trish's first book, and when I emailed her with my review, I quickly saw that the fabulous book's author was just as fabulous as her book. We emailed a few times, she participated in a few promotional games that I ran, and she was one of the first authors I worked closely with through the Christian Review of Books. The result? An author I get a real kick out of calling my friend.

Trish has a sense of humor that will keep you in stitches, and it's combined with a giving spirit and a healthy dose of sweetness. We've emailed quite a bit over the years, and I always get a big smile on my face when I get a message from her.

When her second book came out, Too Good to Be True, I was ecstatic because (a) I couldn't wait to read it and (b) my review of her first book was on the "praise page." I had been so looking forward to the arrival of this book (just ask the publicist at Harvest House, who got a couple emails from me checking on its progress) that when it arrived, my indulgent hubby burst into the bathroom to show it to me while I was in the shower. I let out a squeal that came dangerously close to waking up the sleeping baby.

I checked in with Trish after reading it and asked about her future projects. I was thrilled for her when she told me that the publisher asked her to write books for their popular Beach House series. Her second two books took place at this quirky and fun location, the first with characters from the chick lit Guy and True, the second with a whole new cast. I loved how she transitioned from one genre to the other, preserving her voice while offering the reader something new.

I can't wait to see what Trish Perry has in store for us next. After meeting her at the '07 ACFW conference and e-laughing with her for years now, I know she's an author with a lot of great stories to keep me roaring in the future.

As usual, click on the book pics for my reviews. (I received all of these as complementary review copies from the publisher.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Things Autumnal

Ever since I can remember, I loved fall. I love the colors on the trees, I love the bite in the air, I love the smell. I love that last hoorah of harvest before the doldrums of winter sets in. Here in the mountains of Maryland, we don't get a ton of snow, so winter is pretty bleak and dreary. Autumn though . . . we do autumn up right.

When I was a little girl, my love for this season was pure and untainted. As was my love for winter with its surprise snow days, summer with its lazy hours by the pool and world of adventure in my imagination, and my absolute favorite spring, with all that new life poking through and washing the world in bright new green. Then I grew up. Things--and opinions--began to change.

My mother-in-law is an outdoors person, one with Mediterranean blood. She hates winter. I'm talking with-a-passion. My husband does too, though not as bad as his mom. So for them, fall is just a precursor. In every brisk breeze, they see the endless winter looming. In every falling leaf, they see the end of their favorite summer. I once observed how I loved the smell of a forest in the fall, and my scientifically minded honey replied, "You know that's just rot, right?"

Thanks, dear. Really.

I confess I'm not such a big fan of winter now that there's no such thing as a day off because of snow. So I now tend to say things like, "I really love fall . . . if only it didn't end in winter."

But part of me wishes I could forget the negativity. I could . . . but someone would point it out. And that's fine, because that's their opinion. Inside me, though, is that little girl who loves every season the Lord paints on my world. I love watching time roll over the mountains. I love the colors on the trees, even if it does mean they're dying. I love the smell of that autumnal forest, even if it is rot. I love that cool air, even if it does mean nasty winter gusts are on their way.

It's just another example of who I am, I guess. I'll acknowledge your downsides. No point in denying them when they're true. Just don't expect me to dwell on it. So long as autumn is blazing across the trees, I'm going to enjoying every breeze.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Remember When . . . There Was No Shampoo?

I find this subject intriguing and terrifying: hair care. I was one of those teenagers who had to wash her hair everyday, and by evening it was yucky again. Not anymore, thankfully, but still. The horror! And given that at the time I read more historicals than anything, I was always interested in what in the world people did with their hair before the marvelous invention of shampoo.

There's apparently some disagreement about this. When I was researching an idea for a Revolutionary War story, I came across a reenactor website that had a seriously in depth section about the hair. There was, of course, the debate about powdering real hair versus a wig, etc., but what I found most interesting was the talk about washing hair in general.

As everyone probably knows, using soap on hair just doesn't work. It strips it down, removes essential oils. Wash your hair with traditional skin soap and you end up with dry, breaking, nasty hair. So one of the theories is that people would do this, then oil their hair. There are some recipes for hair oil out there to support this.

But this particular reenactor had read something that said people simply washed their hair in water, so her group conducted an experiment. (These people are dedicated!) A handful of people began washing their hair with only water and kept doing it for six months or something. They found that after a week or two, their hair adjusted. It wasn't oily. It wasn't dry. It was actually perfectly balanced, glossy, and soft. You know, like we strive to achieve with expensive shampoos, lol. The fact that natural works so well leads me to believe that for most of history, this is probably exactly what people did.

The claim really, really intrigues me . . . though not enough to try it for myself. I'm not that dedicated to history. ;-) But I thought some of you might find that little tidbit interesting too, so I thought I'd pass it along. Now your hair can be one less thing to worry about if you're ever stranded in the wilderness with water but no shampoo for an extended period of time. =)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Study Time . . . I Corinthians

Mixing things up today because I haven't read any books this week other than my own, and I'm not narcissistic enough to talk about my own story on Tuesdays, when I'm supposed to talk about other people's. =) So . . . today we're going to take a look at some verses that my hubby had us read in church this weekend.

I Corinthians 3:12-15
Now if anyone builds on this foundation [of Christ] with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.

If anyone's work which he had built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; he he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Our church is preparing for a prayer vigil to ask for direction for the church as a whole, as well as bring our individual petitions before the Lord. This struck us as an amazing section for the church . . . and I keep thinking about it for me too.

All of us are building upon our faith with every action. Most of the time, our intentions are good. But if we're following our plan instead of the Lord's, chances are we're layering on our faith with straw, wood, or hay. When the fires come, all that hard work is going to vanish. On the other hand, if we do God's will for us, build according to His instruction, then the fire will temper us, harden us, remove our impurities and make us better.

I also love that final verse--if we've built according to our own desires instead of God's, if our works don't properly show our faith or are just misguided, it doesn't mean God casts us out. It doesn't mean we lose our salvation. Because that is Christ, and Christ can't be destroyed by our piddly efforts. We're still saved . . . we just probably feel pretty frustrated that we wasted all that effort.

It really hammers home for me the importance of seeking God's will before I do anything--and then LISTENING. That's the hard part, eh? Stopping to actually get that guidance we request.

When it comes to my writing, God directs me with clicks. When an idea doesn't click for me, I give up on it or push it aside for a while. When I'm praying about what story to write, or how to write it, I know I've found God's will for it when inspiration that can only be divine starts pouring into my mind. But it's also really comforting to know that if I keep pushing through the wrong work, God might shake His head (metaphorically speaking of course) and might send a little fire to show me the truth, but He still loves me. He still holds me in His hand.

Sometimes though, He has to clear away the rabble to reveal that strong foundation. How else are we to build the building that He ordains?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Modern . . . Beauty

Beauty's a transitory, subjective thing. It's true. We all know it. I remember once being totally surprised when I finally saw a guy a friend had referred to as "one of the best looking men" she'd ever seen. I met him and thought, "Huh? Seriously? I don't think he's even cute." And yet, there are definite opinions on whether characters ought to be beautiful.

I've heard both sides. That people want to a book to be an escapist fantasy, they want the characters to be what they dream of being. The other side has said, "I get so sick of reading about these perfect, gorgeous, nubile heroines meeting these perfect, muscular, alpha-male guys."

Can I agree with both? LOL. I have my share of awe-inspiringly-beautiful heroines. It inevitably causes them problems. I also have my share of not-traditionally-beautiful heroines who are nonetheless thought to be gorgeous by the heroes. I've gone for the "too"s on occasion--too tall, too heavy, too bold, too plain, too understated (too loud, too talkative, too quiet--to get into some other traits that can affect beauty in a heartbeat).

I've heard (or maybe thought) it's kind of a cop-out to have this "normal" looking woman and then have the hero end up thinking she's the most beautiful thing in the world. But . . . well, I'm a normal looking woman. And my husband has been telling me for going on twelve years now (ever since we started dating) that I'm the most beautiful woman in the world. Do I think he's full of it? Well, sure. But "it" is love, so I also believe him.

The debate of beauty is a topic that has raged in authors' circles for years and undoubtedly will keep doing so. But for me, it always comes down to this: take a walk down a busy street. Look at the people you pass. Sure, most of them have some physical flaws. And most of them work pretty hard to look their best in spite of them. I remember a particular day in Annapolis, walking around during lunch and thinking, "Wow. Everyone's so beautiful." Beautiful people are everywhere, taking all shapes, all colors, all sizes. So how can we not call a character beautiful when most of the women out there are?

Generally, my heroines will be called beautiful, though not generally the perfect variety. But then, I also have one in particular who the hero describes as "better than beautiful: her features are interesting."

And now to grab my son from his highchair before he climbs out and becomes cute-in-a-chipped-tooth sort of way.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Friend . . . Sara Mills

Back at the '07 conference, I met an author named Sara Mills. I vaguely recall hearing her tell us about her books, though I confess I didn't pay a whole lot of attention. To the point where, when her debut novel arrived in my mailbox from her publisher, I didn't realize I'd met the author. But the book looked cool, very film noir, so I settled down with Miss Fortune and proceeded to be wowed.

I wrote a review, sent it to the publisher, and emailed Sara with it too. I actually had the thought of Did I volunteer to read this? Is she in ACFW? Completely spaced I'd MET the woman. But at any rate, Sara emailed me back, very excited. Mine was the first review to come in, and it helped hammer home the reality of being published.

I asked to be put on the list to receive her second book, Miss Match. I was in the middle of something else when it arrived, but at the first possible moment, I picked it up, carried it upstairs, and got to reading. I was only a chapter or two in when it hit me. I had MET Sara! Suddenly I remembered her, remembered sitting with her and her agent at the award's banquet in 2007!

When things like this hit me out of the blue, I've taken to turning my thoughts to the Lord. I learned this lesson many times over, and not too long before in relation to authors (I'd been thinking about my favorite childhood author one week and then learned she had died that week). So I prayed for Sara and her family. Then kept reading.

The next morning I learned that at the exact time the Lord had impressed her on my heart, she was suffering a debilitating death in the family. When I saw that email asking for prayers as her family reeled with the loss, I sat back and just stared. I barely knew this woman. I didn't even recall meeting her until the moment I started praying. Why had the Lord called on me for this?

I don't pretend to understand the way our amazing God works, but you can bet that whenever someone pops to mind with that startling clarity now, I'm putting aside all else and saying a prayer.

Not knowing what else to do, I finished Miss Match--which was a great book with an awe-inspiring ending--wrote my review, and told everyone I knew to buy her books. My grandmother petitioned the library to order them. My best friend ordered them for her mom. I don't know that my efforts did much in the overall attempt to help her family, but I had to do what I could.

At the conference last month, I was walking blissfully away from lunch one day when I heard, "Roseanna!" I turned, having no clue who was hailing me. And saw a smiling Sara Mills sitting on the bench, waving. "You wrote my very first review," she said--looking, I might add, gorgeous and sophisticated. "I wanted to thank you."

I may not have remembered our first chance meeting. But you can bet I'll never forget that one.

To read my reviews of the fabulous film noir-inspired mysteries by Sara Mills, click on the book covers--they'll take you to the links at the CRoB.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . A Toddler's Focus

The deeper I get into the toddler years with my second child, the more I gotta wonder. I mean, really. How is it that this kid can't sit still for a diaper change, but he can spend an HOUR playing in my silverware drawer? Why will he not let me eat my dinner without a scream to get out of his highchair halfway through, but he'll diligently try to put a key into a (wrong) keyhole for twenty minutes? And how about the fact that he can never find his cup, but he'll locate every penny for a mile around?

In some ways, the focus of a toddler really amazes me. What is so intriguing about the sound of spoons clanking together? What is the allure of taking every can out of my cupboard? How can he get so many wipes out of the pack in the three seconds I turn my back?

On the whole, I'm really impressed with these little people I have. My daughter has an inspiring imagination and takes really good care of her brother (when she isn't bopping him on the head), and the little guy's getting to that age where he progresses in leaps and bounds. For instance, he hadn't put two words together (not counting phrases that he probably mistakes for a one word, like "good job" and "thank you") until yesterday. Then he followed up "Hi, Papa" with "brush teeth" and "no cookie." (Although that last one . . . hm. Maybe this boy needs help. Turning down a cookie??)

I really like how they show us things about ourselves. I may growl at the dual-focus thing since he never seems to focus on what needs to be done, but am I any different? I could spend hours in front of my computer writing or editing or checking email, but my attention span is amazingly short when it comes time to clean, cook, or listen to my husband talk about cars. Or insurance. Or the economy. LOL.

Pretty smart of God to provide us with cute little mirrors, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Remember When . . . There Were No Women for Miles Around?

In relocating my book about archaeology in Egypt to the '20s, I did run up against one dilemma. In the original, there are quite a few women out there in the Egyptian wilderness, this being a large, high-profile dig. Fine in contemporary settings. But when I moved it back in time 80 years, I had this moment of panic. Oh no, I thought. Were there even female archaeologists back then??

I looked it up and quickly breathed a sigh of relief. Women have indeed been in archaeology since the mid 1800s, but they were few, far between, and had to fight for every ounce of respect they earned. Which means that my heroine could certainly be there, but she now needs the personality to demand it. In the original, Allie was not a demanding person. She was quiet, non-confrontational, but had a spine of steel. New-Allie (or perhaps Old-Allie?? I did, after all, just age her quite a lot, lol) is still quiet, but the stubbornness had to be upped.

It definitely changes my cast of characters, though. Gone are all the other women but one--I kept an older mother-figure, who is now married to another archaeologist on the dig and handles food and nursing. Not exactly her role in the original, but we have to improvise as the facts dictate. ;-)

I'm having fun getting to know these characters that are much the same but also different in such crucial ways. Where before she just wouldn't argue about something because of her bent toward silence, now she uses that silence to prove a point. Like when the hero demands, "Do you really want to argue this point?" she'll reply, "Yes," and then just glare at him. Makes for some interesting one-sided dialogue! But hopefully it'll shake my unshakable heroine into the kind of woman who actually made it in that life. One whose dream, whose vision was so strong that she was willing to take on the whole male-dominant world to achieve it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Story Time . . . JUST BETWEEN YOU AND ME by Jenny B. Jones

My reading habits these last two months have not been very habitual. I’ve gone weeks at a time with barely reading, which is rather embarrassing, given that I have a day of the week dedicated to it on my blog. I finally finished a book I started at conference in September, and since I was in the mood, promptly picked up another: Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones. I started it on Saturday night and finished it on Sunday night. Need I say more?

Well, I will anyway;-) I’ve long been waiting to read a Jenny B. Jones book, since she’s one of my best friend’s favorite YA authors. I was pretty excited to see a contemporary by her that was aimed at adults. And my instincts were right. I could not put this book down.

The book is in the head of Maggie Montgomery, a daredevil cinematographer who readily admits she has a few issues. Like that crippling fear of water–even if no deeper than a fountain–and tendency to spontaneously combust when a romantic relationship edges toward serious. But she’s got it all under control . . . until her father calls her home to Ivy, Texas to help take care of her wild-child niece.

Jenny uses hilarity and deep insight to take this story way beyond the norm. As Maggie faces her fears and tries to figure out what in the world God wants her to do, delving generously into the junk food stores as she bumbles along, I got totally caught up in her world. I loved the voice, I loved the quirks, I loved the snarky dialogue . . . Yeah, pretty much loved everything about this book. And best of all, though it may not fit the strictest definition of "romance," having no hero's POV, it had a romance in it to make a girl swoon.

Here's hoping this isn't Jenny's last contemporary! Keep 'em coming!

(In accordance with the new FTC regs, I guess I need to mention that this [along with every other book I read] was sent to me free by the publisher. Though it was an ARC, which technically has no value, so I'm not sure what the FTC actually thinks about this . . .)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Modern . . . Dating of a Book

I almost just titled this "dating," then thought, "Everyone will think I mean going out on a date." Which may be more interesting, but alas. Not my thoughts. =)

Something we writers have to consider when we write is dating our manuscript with reference to popular things that may not be so popular in another few years. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the things I wrote about in college contained references to Napster, for instance--which would now be a big stamp on it that might as well read "Outdated!"

I'm thinking about this because of how prevalent a part of our lives some of these popular things are, and because I just read a totally awesome book (will talk about it tomorrow) that throws around these things like my family does their socks. Everywhere! But unlike the socks, these references really worked for me with the story.

Still, I always wonder in my own stuff. I have this fear of mentioning something that ceases to exist. I've already run into it in a few things. For instance, in a book I wrote in '04, I mention the real estate market in which a house sells in three days. Doesn't happen anymore. My main character gets her first cell phone in the story--yes she's a holdout, but seriously. Five years ago I knew people who didn't have cells. Now I don't. Everyone I know over 10 has a cell phone. Everyone. (So I just took that part out of the book altogether and give her one from the start, LOL.)

We have decisions to make about this, I guess, and you'll get as many opinions as people you ask. For my part, I try to cement my story into a contemporary time with mention of the things probably here to stay, and steer clear of anything too year-specific. I want stories that are rooted but timeless. So that, you know, when I'm someday selling so many books that they go into reprint after reprint for a decade, no one's left curling up their lip at how out of touch I am with modern life;-)

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Friend . . . Golden Keyes Parsons

I'm a member of a historical writers group (focusing on European historicals) called HisWriters. Many of us who are members joined as soon as the fabulous Therese Stenzel started it, and then we had the joy of watching others discover us and come along for the fun.

I still remember when Golden Keyes Parsons joined the ranks because we had quite the conversation on her name. "Golden Keyes" . . . isn't that the coolest thing ever? Then of course we were really impressed with the book that was about to hit the shelves, In the Shadow of the Sun King. There she was, a first time author with a story about Huguenots in France in the 1600s (when we had all been told that stories set in Europe weren't selling) and she had a contract with Thomas Nelson. I found that incredibly inspiring and encouraging.

In my usual way, I volunteered to review her book for her, and I loved it. We're now both members of HEWN, a network of authors dedicated to promoting those Euro-historicals, so I also had the pleasure of reading the sequel to Sun King, A Prisoner of Versailles.

But you know what I love most about this awesome writer? She's an awesome person. I know, I know, every author I feature is. But seriously. A year and a half ago revival swept through my hometown, and I was so excited that I emailed the loop to ask for prayers for it. Golden emailed me back to ask for details and share her prayers and expectations for something similar to hit where she lives. Does anything make a friend faster than sharing a joy in the moving of the Lord?

She emailed me again out of the blue several times to check on the revival and on me in general. And every time I saw her name appear in my inbox, I felt a warm rush of friendship for this sweet lady who cares so much.

At the conference last month, HisWriters met for breakfast on Friday. The first person I saw was Golden, who came over to me the moment I entered and gave me a hug. I can definitely say I'm proud to claim this elegant, talented author as my friend.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Progress

How do you measure your progress? It depends a lot on the project, obviously, on the type of work. But it's something I think we all do. Who doesn't end their day with the thought of, "What did I get done today?"

My husband has a job that can be measured in monetary gains. He can look over the loads he got in and dispatched through his logistics company and say, "I made X amount today, and I'll take home Y myself." Sometimes I wish writing did that. I wish I knew what my day's work earned me.

But then, on other days he says he wishes he had MY count. That at the end of the day, he could see pages added, chapters finished. The bookmark move.

Yesterday, I felt like I got a lot done. I wrote 1600 words in my new book, and I edited and rewrote 7200 in Stray Drop. I could see what I'd done. I had the sore neck to prove I'd been working hard. Then my son woke up super-cranky, and all my sense of accomplishment flew out the window as I struggled to find something to keep him from screaming.

Isn't that life to a T sometimes? We want ways to measure our progress in everything. In our relationships, in our jobs, in our faith. We want to be able to say, "Well, last week I prayed for a total of four hours, and God answered this prayer with a yes and that one with a no. This week, if I pray for five hours, maybe he'll grant me this."

Doesn't work that way. I think we all know that. We can work at everything, at building our families and our faith, and we can feel like we're really getting somewhere. Then someone screams at us, lashes out for a reason we can't discern, and that good feeling vanishes. Evaporates. Poof.

Feelings are such transient things, but they're sometimes all we have to go on. And even when we try to separate ourselves from them by using numbers--like when we want to enumerate our accomplishments--that leads to either pride or disappointment. Yes, it's the way God made us.

But he also made us to rely on him. I still need to work at giving him every moment. Those moments when my chest surges at seeing all I've gotten done, and the ones where it feels like my world's caving in with each reverberating scream of a teething toddler. My Lord is in control, when I think I am and when I know I'm not.

That's something I can always feel good about.