Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Expectations

High Expectations by Arthur John Elsley

Tricky things, aren't they? Expectations. On the one hand, we're told to expect great things, especially from God. On the other hand, they can lead to disappointment. Take, for example, these two opposite quotes:

I don't have expectations. Expectations in your life just lead to giant disappointments.
~Michael Landon
 High expectations are the key to everything.
~Sam Walton

An obvious split opinion on this topic. =) And I'm not sure where I come down on it, so I figured I'd think my way through it in a post. Because wherever I'll end up on it ten minutes from now, it's a topic on my mind after conference.

On the one hand, I will state definitively that it is good and right and necessary to expect great things from the Lord. Honestly, I don't know that it's even expectation so much as faith. Trust that He will deliver what He has promised. Which isn't usually (sometimes, but not usually) specifics--a nice house or fabulous car or fame--its overarching stuff. He promises that He will be sufficient. He promises that He will sustain us. He promises us that no matter how alone we feel, He is beside us. And because of that, we can expect Him to show up when we come to Him with open arms. We can expect to feel Him move in church. We can expect blessing when we follow Him.

But that doesn't mean the blessing will look like we expect it to, right?

Because conference is on the brain, I'll use that as an example. There have been years when I felt there was no need to go, and years I felt I should. Did I always see results? Um . . . maybe, eventually. But rarely like I thought I would. From my first conference, I did indeed sign with my top pick agent. From my second, I got a lot of manuscript requests--didn't sell to anyone I met there though. At least not that book. ;-) Last year I went and came away with a feeling of "What was the point of that?? I don't regret going, but..."

See, I think when we get a promise from God, a directive that we obey, we form specific expectations. Like if God says, "Go to the conference," we expect to come home with a feeling of euphoria from having made that awesome connection or even to get a "Yes!" from an editor there. (It's happened! I've seen people leave with contracts!) 

But isn't that kind of putting God in a box? Saying, "You promised You'd move, so obviously it must be this way." I know that's what I've done. But it just doesn't work that way.

We have such finite perspectives. We can only see so far ahead. And usually only straight ahead. Our view is colored by our feelings. And while we can't get away from that, from the way we're made, God's asking us to trust Him. Not to give up our expectations . . . but to never give up on our expectations. Does that make sense? To hold tight to them even when we feel disappointed. To hold to Him. To keep knocking, keep beseeching, keep pounding the gates of heaven. And to do that trusting that the promises are still there. That He's leading us toward a shining mountaintop, even when all we see is the shadow of the valley.

And we also have to realize that sometimes we never see the true effect, though often enough people hear of it years later. So, so often God calls us to a specific place to meet one specific need of someone else. We obey a directive expecting a tangible result for ourselves. And so can be baffled when we see nothing. But who's to say we didn't do exactly what He wanted us to do?

We all deal with expectations every single day. Our own, and others' on us. It's the way we're made, and I think it's a good way. We ought to expect. We ought to desire. We ought to stand up, reach out, and strive for our goals. But we also must let go of specifics, we must relinquish the idea that we know what God intends. We don't. We can't.

But we can know, trust, expect that He's got a better view of our lives from up there than we do down here. And that if we just listen, He'll lead us through this maze without running into the dead-ends we tend to ram headlong into. And we can also know that if He leads us into one, it's to meet somebody there. Or, maybe, to get out of the way of something steaming up behind.
Yes, we're going to be disappointed when we have expectations. But we're also going to keep following, wondering where the fruition will come. So expect. Believe. And don't give up.

What are you expecting today? And what should you be?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My ACFW Recap

As promised--my take on the conference. =)

First of all, allow me to say how eternally grateful I am that, though I flew American, my two flights were completely unaffected by all the hullabaloo going on with that company right now. Phew! And to make matters all the more fun, I even ran into two other ACFW-bound ladies waiting at the gate. One of whom had just had a friend of mine design her website for her, and said friend kindly hosted me and my hubby Wednesday night, since they live really close to the airport. He said, "Hey, keep an eye out for Leslie Pain." And I said, "Riiiiight. Amid the 700 attendees." So that was pretty hilarious. =)
Me, Kim, and Katie at the gala

My conference started off awesomely with a lunch get-together with my editor Kim and her best friend Katie, who is in the marketing department at Harvest House. We had a great time talking about cats and kids and books and what-comes-next and where their design company finds their costumes and living in city versus country and...anything else that sprang to mind. =) These lovely ladies are so much fun just to talk to! And I of course warned them that I'd be arriving to their table at the gala Saturday night in my super fantabulous historical garb. Which they loved. =) And Kim has a really fun idea for a line of books, so I'm having fun noodling that. Not that I shall breathe a word of what it may be... ;-)
Not long after that, my best friend and critter Stephanie arrived, and oh! was it nice to give her a hug for the first time in a year. We had a little time to visit before the conference was officially underway, then off we went to general session. I had to duck out as soon as Michael Hyatt had finished speaking to meet with my rock star of an agent, Karen Ball. Which means that I missed the start of the slide show thingy they put up on the big screens during meals, so was totally oblivious to the fact that Harvest House had created slides for all their new authors, and my face had blasted everyone in super-huge, back-lit splendor. Aaggghh! Naturally, we had to take a picture of it to prove to the folks back home that I wasn't making it up. ;-) 
It was great to get to sit down with  my agent for a little while too, since Karen is one of the most hilarious people I have ever met in my life. And the other two agents in the Laube agency happened by, so I got the chance to meet them again too and get the oh-so-wise Steve Laube's take on a few things. (Then on Saturday I got to hear his firsthand account of the big Anchorage earthquake of 1964, which was just crazy!)

Notice the lack of coffee stains on her cute jacket ;-)
Me and Diane at the gala, sans coffee stains ;-)
At this point in my life with ACFW, I know enough people that coming to these conferences is like a great big family reunion. It is such a blessing to get to hug and exclaim and laugh with all these friends I usually only see through email. Friday was a day of great classes, great friends, and then a great dinner with the Harvest House crew, where I also got to meet the creative genius of the CBD fiction section, Diane. My HH ladies had said to be sure to chat with her so she would remember who I was when it came time for Ring of Secrets to release, so I graciously offered to spill coffee on her lap so she'd never forget me, but for some reason they vetoed that idea. ;-) Seriously, that was one of the unexpected blessings I got to experience. Diane was a hoot, and apparently it's adorable to see how excited I get about my story, because all the others at the table were giving me that, "Aw, aren't you a cute little thing!" look at that point, LOL.
Me, Amanda, and Stephanie

I was thrilled to run into my amazingly awesome teen critique partner, Amanda Barritt, in the bookstore on Friday, and so proud to hear that she got three manuscript requests while there! Go, Amanda!

Friday night I also got to have dessert with the Summerside ladies, and I ended up talking most of the time to Melanie Dobson. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Melanie before, so I had no idea how much we have in common! From historical interests to home schooling, we had a great hour chatting about those and many things in between. So new friends definitely = unexpected blessings too.

An accidental picture, LOL--this screen followed mine
But the greatest one came from my hour in the prayer room. I knew when I volunteered for it that it had the potential to be the best hour at conference. See, I've been seriously touched, my life altered, by my visits to the prayer room. It was Mary DeMuth's prayer for me before my meeting with Kim in 2009 that made that appointment go so smoothly. I know that. And that meeting is what led to the relationship that allowed me to pitch Ring of Secrets to Kim a year and a half later. Mary likely has no idea the blessing she was to me--but I so wanted the chance to pay it forward. But I have to say that of all the hours of conference, this was the one that made me nervous. I've never done this kind of prayer before, and I was afraid of getting in God's way, if you know what I mean, LOL. But I put a lot of prayer into it before I stepped foot in that quiet room, and wow. So awesome to feel Him moving there! It was a true joy to get to share in others hopes and fears and blessings and disappointments. To open my mouth and wait to hear what might come out. Talk about humbling. Again I was changed by time in the prayer room--even more than before.

The Wild Women of WhiteFire
I enjoyed a chance meeting at lunch with a young writer who was just so much fun (hi, Emileigh!!), who obviously has awesome taste in clothes, as she was wearing the jacket that matched the pants I was wearing, LOL. Emileigh is vibrant and fun and obviously so excited about writing. It was fun to play mentor for a few minutes and share what I'd learned from conferences and the fact that, no, I have no writing system that can be taught in a class, and that's fine. We don't all need one. ;-) And then on Saturday afternoon, I also had the opportunity to take my WhiteFire authors for coffee! And let me just tell you, this is one fabulous batch of ladies. We sorely missed those who couldn't be there, but had a great time with those who were. We're thinking that if ever the whole group can get together, we'll need to warn the bystanders that they may just be blinded by the brilliance of all our awesomeness combined. ;-) Seriously, isn't this a gorgeous bunch of women?
Me and my gal Rachel Smith

Directly after that coffee meeting was the gala, which I'd been waiting for because I love my Edwardian garb. =) So to sum up, a few more fun pictures from that. And the happy thought that though I went to the conference with no big goals other than to fellowship and have fun, I came away with new ideas, reassurances, new friends, a spirit touched by the hearts of others, happy times with my buds and critters, and many chances for fun sarcasm after two dozen people came up to me at the gala and asked, "Are you a historical writer?" What's a girl to do but answer, "No, futuristic sci-fi/fantasty--can't you tell?" ;-)

And of course, I came home to very excited kids who threw me a little welcome home party. So sweet! So a few more pictures just to round it all out...

Me and my amazing agent, Karen Ball

Me and my best friend Stephanie, who had the cutest little purse!!
The first thing I saw upon walking in the door - the Mommy banner =)
Xoe knows Pooh is my favorite, so they found a frame and she drew a picture for me for in it. =)
Yes, most people remember to take pictures before cutting the cake...but you know there's supposed to be an 'm' there, right?

Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm Back!

Yay! So great to be home!

I had a fabulous time at the ACFW conference in Dallas, but oh was I glad to come home! I sure missed my hubby and little guys, and it sure was sweet to walk in the door and see that my kids had set up a surprise Welcome Home party. =) They had made a banner that says "Mommy," made dinner (with the help of my MIL, LOL), bought a cake, and even found a Winnie the Pooh picture frame (he's my favorite) into which Xoe put a cute little picture she drew. So, so sweet!

I'll have lots of photos to share as soon as I get the camera I borrowed from my mom back to her house where I can get said photos off said camera, ha ha. Got some of my critters, of the other folks who decided to wear historical awesomeness to the gala, and even of the slide that Harvest House put into the meal-time slide show on the giant screen of my author photo with a "Welcome to the family!" message. Boy was that a shocker the first time I saw myself giant and backlit! LOL

Overall, it was a weekend of amazing fellowship and some unexpected blessings. I'll tell more about it tomorrow when I can hopefully punctuate with some pictures, and I'll get back to the regular schedule of events on Wednesday. =) Not quite settled back into routine around here yet, LOL.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gone Conferencing

Renoir - Two Girls Reading in the Garden
It's September 19, 2012. That means that today's the day I start my trek to the annual ACFW Conference. This year it's in Dallas. And my flight leaves at 8-something on Thursday morning. Which means I have to get to the airport by 6-something. And since the closest airport is 2.5 hours away...that means we're heading down the road tonight and staying with friends who live closer to it. ;-)

It also, of course, means that usual blogging is put on hold because, while I'm scheduling this early so could, logically, schedule normal programming...well, I'm busy, LOL. I have a lot of things to get squared away before I can go.

And wanted to pause to think about conference. =) It was at my first-ever ACFW Conference in 2007 that I met Stephanie Morrill, who soon joined my critique group and not long after that eased from mere acquaintance to best friend. At that same conference, I met my first agent, who signed me that following December.

At my next conference in 2009, I met my editor at Harvest House. And pitched her a contemporary, LOL. Needless to say, that particular manuscript was not accepted by Harvest House, but nevertheless I hit it off with the editor, and checking in on the contemporary allowed me to ask what they might be looking for by way of historical, which eventually lead to Ring of Secrets. Two years later, yes, but it all came from that first meeting. =)

Last year I got to hang with my then-new agent (first one retired) Karen Ball, meet with my editor at Summerside, hear my soon-to-be-official editor from Harvest gush about the 75% she'd read of Ring of Secrets and tell me when it would be going to committee. Karen had advised I come prepared to pitch everything I had, LOL, so I met with my requisite two editors that I'd never met before...and kinda had a feeling those meetings weren't where my next step lay. Which was proven when a month later I got the news about Harvest buying the three-book Culper Ring Series.

This year, my goals are simple. For the first time of my now-four ACFW conferences, I'm not pitching anything. I'm not up for any awards (not that that is a first, LOL). And so I am looking forward to doing all I can to be a blessing to others this year. I'm volunteering more, I'm going to three different publisher get-togethers (including the one I'm hosting for WhiteFire *grins*), I'm hanging out, I'm having coffee, and I'm rooming with that best bud I met in 2007. I'm going for the fellowship. And I'm praying for opportunities to give to others the blessings folks at conferences past have given to me.

And I'm looking forward to sharing with everyone when I get back how God moved this year. Because what I know for a fact is that He will.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Word of the Week - Sketchy

I was actually reading this weekend (oooo...ahhhh), and oh-so-enjoying losing myself in the pages of a fine historical. A fine historical that at one point made me pause when these 1866 characters used the word sketchy.

Insert Roseanna narrowing her eyes and scratching her head. And being word-nerd enough to pause and go, "Really? I trust this author and publisher, but...really?"

Da Vinci, Head of a Woman sketch
So naturally I had to look it up. =) 

And indeed, sketchy was a word by then. By, in fact, 1805. At which point it had a literal meaning of "sketch + y" says Which made me scratch my head again, because I've honestly never heard it used in a literal sense. So I hop over to to see what that is and discover it means (duh) "like a sketch, giving only outlines or essentials." Which...yeah, okay. From which came the meaning of "imperfect or incomplete." But that sense didn't emerge until 1878.

Not sure when the informal, slang meaning of "disreputable / shady" joined the family, but that one, I'm pretty sure is more modern. And how I usually hear it used. ;-)

Hope everyone had a great weekend! I'm happy to report that I've finished going over my galleys for Ring of Secrets and am ready to send the manuscript home to Harvest House today. =) Quite a relief, as now I can focus on preparing for conference. Woot!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Serving Others

At the beginning of August, I blogged about the trip we took to Texas and how it opened the door for us to start teaching our kids about volunteering and helping others wherever they see a need. Well, when we got home we talked to our church about starting a monthly day of service in our area, and now we're happy to see that coming to fruition.

We're going to start small, with trash pick-up at a local park. Also planned are things like caroling at the local assisted living facilities in December and helping at the food pantry in November. All things we can bring the kids along for, and hopefully brighten a few days.

To make it all official, my hubby dearest is making t-shirts for the occasion, and so we started trolling the web for some great quotes on helping others. We ended up with this one:

Quote, obviously, from Einstein. Design by Roseanna. Blinding t-shirt color that I didn't quite capture here chosen by my hubby ;-)

But we found so many great quotes, that I just wanted to share the ones that most struck me. My favorite was the MLK one, but it was just too long:

“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. ” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

And some other great ones . . .

"Service is the rent we pay for being." ~ Marian Wright Edelman

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

“Do all the good you can, and make as little fuss about it as possible.” ~ Dickens

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ~ Dickens

“Many small people, in many small places, do many small things, that can alter the face of the world.” ~ Anonymous

“To do more for the world than the world does for you - that is success.” ~ Henry Ford

Personally, I think these are some great things to be keeping in mind as I prepare for the ACFW conference next week. This year, my prayer for the conference is that I might be a blessing. I don't know how better to start on that goal than to put aside thoughts of me. And think of you instead.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Remember When . . . The Names Weren't Around Yet?

The Apothecary by Pietro Longhi, 1752
One of the things I've always enjoyed reading in historical novels, and now weaving into my own, is when the author describes a condition that we know the name for, but which hadn't been a recognized diagnosis at the time.

For example, in the awesomely fantabulous and breathtaking Love's Reckoning by Laura Franz that I just finished, one of the characters falls and smacks her head and is then plagued by debilitating headaches for months afterward. We know that she had a concussion. They just knew she was pained again and needed headache powders.

Similarly, I have a character in Ring of Secrets who history describes as having "black moods" and "bouts of anxiousness." He was aware of this within himself and tried to offset it, but he couldn't control it. Today, we know this would be some form of depression, perhaps even bipolar disease. I obviously took a few liberties with describing these bouts of this historical figure, since he didn't exactly document his day-by-day life with his condition--and as I read through my galleys of Ring of Secrets for the first time the last two days, I had to smile at this guy. My best friend/critique partner commented when she first read his chapters, "Wow. That kind of nerves seem like a bad idea for a spy..."

So very true. And therefore a trait I wouldn't have thought to give him, I think. But that one was all truth, and it was just up to me to explore how he may have balanced that with the espionage "business" to which he was called.

And, go figure, I'm doing something similar in Whispers from the Shadows. I've talked before, I think, about how my heroine is experiencing extreme sleep deprivation in the first half of the book. Studies have been done on insomnia now, of course, but the extremes are still shrouded in mystery because it's too dangerous to mess around with. Still, we have words like "panic attack" and "night terror" to describe some of the side effects. Words not around in 1814. So obviously, I get to find other words to expound on her experiences.

But you know, though the vocabulary hadn't been developed yet, the observations were still there. Plenty of people had talked about "black moods," though they had no treatment for it. And my hero in book 2, a brig's captain, thinks how he's seen plenty of terrible consequences of sleeplessness during his days on the open water, has heard tales of the trauma it can produce.

And always, discovering what they knew at certain points of the past, how they would have treated it, and what they would have called what are everyday conditions now remains a challenge to learn and a lot of fun to include. =)

Now back I go to galleys! I need to try to squeeze two more reads in before I send this baby back. =)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Word of the Week - Synonyms for Crazy

I'm mixing things up today! Don't worry, there'll still be a wee bit of etymology here. But I also want YOUR thoughts.

So this past week there were two different times when I wanted an old-fashioned word for crazy. I found one I was looking for, which is:
by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

Crack. As in crack-brain fellow--this means, quite simply, crazy. Voila. To spice it up a bit more, you can even say something like cracked in the nob. (Nob being "head"...) This has been a meaning of crack since the 17th century, and the equivalent word was even used in Ancient Greek by Aristophanes! (Who, for the record, is not my favorite Greek playwright. He was a little, how shall we say, vulgar. Just so ya know...)

The thought there is pretty obvious--that your head/brain got cracked and all the sanity leaked out. (Oh, there are days...)

But I'd like to collect a few more. See, my heroine has been suffering severe sleep deprivation, which can result in some crack-brain symptoms like hallucinations and major mood swings. So twice I have someone wondering about her sanity. But I really shouldn't use the same word both times, and "mad" and "crazy" and "insane" just get so boring, don't they?

So who else can come up with a fun expression that would have been around in 1814? (I just found one other popular one that was, in fact from 1810. Let's see if you can.) ;-)

Ready...set...GO CRAZY!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Take the Writing Challenge - 100 for 100!

I wanted to share with y'all a fun writing challenge hosted by my best friend over on Go Teen Writers. But unlike all her other contests, this one is open for all ages! Yay!

Rather than a see-how-many-words-you-can-write challenge, or a finish-a-book-in-a-month deal, this one's goal is simply to get your rear in your writing chair EVERY day. The goal? 100 words. For how long? 100 days. Hence...

It doesn't sound like much--you can write 100 words in about 10 minutes. But at the end of the 100 days, that's a guaranteed 10,000 words in the manuscript you're working on! Plus, that rear-in-chair thing can just get you rolling toward more.

For the full set of rules, visit Go Teen Writers. I'll just take the time here to let you in on the prizes you're entered to win if you complete the challenge.

First, a 10,000 critique of your manuscript. And second, this awesome necklace from Inspired Novelties, made especially for writers--the "What's Your Story" necklace. (Critique is open to any English-writing author. Necklace to US addresses only.)

Most importantly, you have to sign up my Monday, September 10--so no dawdling! Hie thee over to Go Teen Writers and fill out the form!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Not Ourselves

But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
~ I Thessalonians 2:7-8

I read these verses the other day as part of my daily reading, and they hit me pretty forcefully. Paul here is talking about how they as sharers of the gospel behaved among the Thessalonians. And as a young mom, this analogy rings so, so true.

"As a nursing mother cherishes her own children." I nursed two kids in the past almost-seven years, and let me just tell you that when you're doing so, absolutely everything you do revolves around that. I chose my clothes based on my kids. Dresses? Too difficult to manage. Delicate necklaces? Ha! No way, no how. Chunky belts? Forget it--they would dig into the little one. I chose my food based on my kids. Too much caffeine? No, that could make its way into the milk supply. Certain foods that I ate could give them gas. Go out to lunch without the baby? It had better be carefully scheduled in those 2-3 hours I had between feedings.

But you know, it wasn't a difficulty. It was just the way things were. It was what I did because I love my kids and had made that decision for them. Because I love them so much I would give them my life if they needed it, so what was a dress or a favorite necklace or a third cup of coffee? 

What nursing a child comes down to is your life not being your own. It revolves around them. We think not for ourselves, but for our baby. And that's the way we're supposed to behave toward those we're nurturing in the Lord too? 


I do try to consider such things as my witness, my appearance, whether my faith is shining through my words and deeds. But to that extent? I don't know that I have. And that really makes me pause and consider.

You know when my hubby and I get into fights? When we're both focused on our own wants and desires rather than the other's. You know when the kiddos frustrate me most? When they wrap both hands around their wills and cling. You know when I bet the Lord shakes his head at us? Yep. When our thoughts are filled with me, me, me instead of Him.

Instead of them.

He calls us to a beautiful thing. He calls us to nurturing His other children. He calls us to a love that is selfless and pure. More, a love that is natural. All He's asking us is to let our transformed hearts guide us in our ministerial relationships. To not let that be overpowered by our selfish sides.

But you know, it can also be painful. It can tax the body, the mind. And if they push you away? Oh yeah, the pain can get pretty bad. We see that in some of Paul's letters, don't we? His agony when these young Christians he helped convert, who he is trying so hard to nurture in faith, reject his teaching.

That's the way we ought to feel. Not just shrugging it off, but seeking after them. Drawing them close again.

I always love when I discover a facet of God revealed through the way He built families, and this is definitely one of those. He loves us...and calls us to love in return. Such a simple command in its essence--but far too often overlooked in this world that tells us to focus on ourselves.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Remember When . . . We Sought a Name?

Last week my editor emailed me to say, "Don't scream, but we need a description for Book 3 of your Culper Ring series. Nothing that will be set in stone, just for planning purposes. I know it's really early, but can you get that to us in the next month?"

Well, as it happens, I had Book 3 tentatively planned out before I had Book 2. ;-) And now that I've nailed it down a little more, I've turned to giving some thought to names. As always, I need help! LOL.

So here's my hero. My original thought was Shade, which is, believe it or not, a perfectly normal name for a guy during the Civil War era (when the book takes place). But I got a lot of comments on Facebook about how people would question that, sooo... I'm considering other possibilities, and I would love more input.

Colin Farrell is pretty close to how I'm envisioning this guy
First, a little about this guy. He's a tough dude. Where my first hero in the Culper Series is socially awkward and best known for his intelligence, where the second hero is a people person in the extreme with an innate ability to know what people most need, this third hero is going to be my brooder. He'll be able to put on an affable face--which he'll have to do a lot--in company, but he's a man haunted by all that went wrong in life. A twin, he was always the bad brother. The one in trouble, the mean one. The one that superstitious folk would have dubbed "the evil twin" in previous generations. But right around the time the South starts succeeding, he comes to the Lord and turns his life around. Joins the Pinkertons as a tribute to the man who mentored him (yeah, just totally pulled that part out of my hat this very moment), and makes his family proud. His brother, however, infuriates them by claiming the South had every reason to do what they had done. Always at odds, these two are now outright hostile...which eventually, toward the end of the war, culminates in the "good" brother trying to assume our hero's personality and join a secret Southern society, the Knights of the Golden Circle. (Brother thinks that the bad boy persona of his twin will better suit his purposes...and he hopes that if there's any fallout, it lands squarely on hero's shoulder.)
What he'd be wearing

Long story short, the brother ends up dead somehow or another before the book starts, and the hero, as part of a Pinkerton investigation, picks up where bro left off with the KGC. Which means he's assuming his brother's assumed identity--his own name. (Confusing enough? LOL. And that's all the backstory, the stuff we'll learn in chapter 1!) Now to figure out what that name should be. I want something a little hard, with a bit of a bite to it. Hence why I liked that long "a" and hard "d" in Shade. But other options:


(All those are pulled from 1860 Maryland Census records, so no fears of accuracy) From that list, I think my favorite is Slade, which obviously has a similar sound to my original name, but is an old old English surname that could logically be given to a son whose mother had been a Slade.

Preferences? Other suggestions?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Word of the Week - Sit, Twiddle, and Twirl

Idle Hours by Henry Siddons Mowbray
Today I'm going to examine the origin of a particular phrase rather than a particular word. ;-) Friday, as I was working on Whispers from the Shadows, my hero was exclaiming something about how it was time to take action himself, since those who ought to be continued to...

Sit on their hands?
Twiddle their thumbs?

Do nothing, but that was far too boring an option for his current state of mind. So Roseanna headed to =)

I was somewhat surprised to find sit on one's hands in the listing, because, well, I figured "sit" would have about a thousand idioms associated with it and didn't know if that would make the cut. But in fact, it was one of the few they included.

And certainly not around in 1814, when Whispers takes place. No, to sit on one's hands comes from the notion of doing so to withhold applause and originated in 1926. Not until the '50s did it get extended to "do nothing; be idle." 

So Thad certainly couldn't be accusing the politicians of sitting on their hands. What, then?

The next phrase to leap into mind was twiddling their thumbs. Here I got closer. Twiddle is from the 1540s, when it meant "to trifle." But the notion of twiddling one's thumbs, i.e., having nothing to do, didn't emerge until the 1840s. Closer, closer. But not quite there.

But in the entry for twiddle was the earlier phrase that twiddle one's thumbs replaced--to twirl one's thumbs. Ah! Fun. Enough of a variation to sound old-fashioned to us, but still recognizable. And from . . . 1816.

At first sight, argh. Because that's two years past my date. But then I remembered that etymonline uses the first written appearance (because what else could they possibly go on?) and in those days, a phrase usually appeared in writing several years after it had entered the common spoken vernacular. So I decided that was close enough, and my up-to-the-minute hero could well be using a newfangled,  popular phrase that his father would be less likely to try out. ;-)

And so a few key politicians in Washington City are twirling their thumbs. And Thad has decided it's time to do himself what they refuse to...

Happy Labor Day, all! Enjoy some idle time today. Sit on your hands for a while, guilt free. Or better still, pick up a good book. ;-)