Monday, April 29, 2013

Word of the Week - Scandal

I think we all know what a scandal is, and it's been in the English language pretty much forever. But there's a subtly to it I had never picked up on, and which one of our friends was talking about this weekend.

When one goes back to the original Greek skandalizein, the meaning isn't just "bad behavior, cause for offense," it's "to make one stumble." So a scandal isn't when one person goes's when a person leads someone else astray. Though right there in the definition, I've never paused to realize that before. But it makes total sense, doesn't it? Private sin can be terrible--but how much worse it gets when it becomes a public sin that leads others into it!

Hope everyone has a wonderful week! =)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thoughtful About . . . Thanks

Tuesday night/Wednesday was, let's say, not great. When I went to bed at 11, I'd meant to set my alarm for 5:30 but forgot. I wanted to get up early to write, but I'd been waking up early on my own, so I figured I'd be fine.

At 1 a.m., a very distressed "Mommy!" woke me up. Poor Xoe (7) was sick. And proceeded to be sick every half hour, meaning that neither of us had the chance to go back to sleep. At about 3, I had the thought that, unlike the last time we had a sick kid in the middle of the night, there was nothing going on this Wednesday that I would have to plan around. We could just rest.

Thank you, Lord.

The pattern continued until, oh, 5:00. I fell back into bed that time staring at the clock and wondering if, unlike every other time, either of us would manage to get back to sleep before the nausea struck again. Oh, I prayed so. I prayed so with every fiber of my being, as I had been praying for the last two hours.
Women Doing Laundry by Jahn Ekenaes
(Oh yes, thank you for washing machines!)

Downstairs I heard the whir of the dryer. The chug of the washer. And it occurred to me that plenty of times over the past two years, one or the other of those machines had been not working improperly, either plain not going or not draining right. But tonight, both were behaving beautifully as they washed the sheets and towels and clothes soiled from upset bellies.

Thank you, Lord.

At 6:00 when I heard the bathroom door creak again, I realized I had actually slept for the first time since those two hours at the beginning of the night, and that Xoe had too.

Thank you, Lord.

Though my poor little dumpling understandably asked when she was going to stop and feel better, she smiled as I tucked her, yet again, into bed.

Thank you, Lord.

A mere half hour later, Rowyn woke up. Too chipper for his exhausted mama, waaaaaaaaay too bouncy. But chipper and happy and healthy.

Thank you, Lord.

By no means was this a great day. Certainly not the day I'd planned when I meant to set my alarm and wake up early to write. We weren't out basking in the beautiful 75-degree sunshine like I would normally have wanted.

But you know, it's just the flu. It passes quickly. We can deal with it. We have the blessing of being able to redo our schedule at the drop of a hat, thanks to homeschooling. I work from home, so I can just declare it a sick day if I have to. We can rest, we can recuperate, and we can so what needs doing. And oh, how much doable it all seems when I remember to take those moments between the yucks and exhaustion to

Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Remember When . . . George's Manners were on the CQ?

I'd intended to do an original post today, but my poor little girl has been up all night sick, and so I've been up with her.

So for your reading pleasure, acquaint yourself with the manners that ruled the folk of George Washington's day--the post I put up today on Colonial Quills. You might be surprised as some of the things that were considered rude!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Word of the Week - Tycoon

In Circle of Spies, my villain is a railroad tycoon. Slightly tricky because I don't want to imply that any of the actual railroad men were anything like him, LOL, but I digress. As I was blasting through the scenes last week, I very nearly had my hero contrasting himself with good ol' Dev and calling the man a tycoon. Then I thought I'd better, you know, actually look it up...

And I'm glad I did. Because though I would swear I've watched documentaries that use the word for men of that era, it's anachronistic to do so. The word originated in 1857, very specifically--it was used by foreigners to the shogun of Japan. Directly from the Japanese word taikun, "great lord or prince," it was used by the shogun's supporters to indicate that he was more important than the emperor.

In 1861 the word crossed to America and was used, again specifically, in reference to Abraham Lincoln. But it wasn't applied to successful business in general until after World War I!

So while I couldn't use it to speak of Devereaux Hughes, I did find the history intriguing. =) From the shogun to the president, and then nearly fifty years before it gained it modern meaning. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thoughtful About . . . Neat and Tidy

Anyone who knows me knows this title is not about my house. ;-)

As I stood in front of my stove cooking dinner (mark it on your calendar!) the other night, with my head still in my novel (not rare enough to be noted, LOL), I got to thinking. I'd just written an out-of-the-blue line about my hero returning a borrowed fob. No big deal. Except that until that moment I didn't know he had borrowed the fob...though I mentioned his pocket watch and its attaching chain in chapter 2. So back I went to the beginning, did a little tweak to the line, and voila. He pulled out his borrowed fob.

See? Neat and tidy.

This is the sort of thing I take great care with in my books. I don't like any reference to be in vain, so I always make sure everything is woven all the way throughout. But, let's face it, these small details will probably go unnoticed more often than not. Right? The cynical side of me might say, in moments of exhaustion, that they go unappreciated. But when someone does catch these little carried-through threads, I hope it makes them go, "Aha! Nice!" Occasionally I'll get a note from a critique partner or editor or reader letting me know they noticed something like this, and it makes me grin.

Yes, in fiction, all loose ends must be tied. All dangling threads snapped and pulled out. All lines and scenes and plots neatly ordered.

But in life?

Maybe because I focus so much on this sort of thing in my stories, I find myself looking for it in the real world too. Looking for those "Aha!" moments. Those times when it becomes glaringly clear why that thing happened a month or year or decade ago. I daresay I'm not alone in that--we all like to find reason in the seemingly-random, right? I usually call it looking for God's hand. Which it is.

But as I stood there stirring my ground beef and thinking about watch fobs, it occurred to me that sometimes those threads are crucial...but so very small they really will likely go unnoticed. And if that happens in my books, which are crafted by small-visioned me, how often is that the case in life, where the omniscient God is the author? How many times do things never make sense to us, never even gain our notice...yet were crafted with such perfect care by Him?

Life, to our human eyes, is messy. Often ugly. Always beyond our total comprehension. But you know, I think if we could look at it through the Author's eyes, we'd see where every thread is pulled through. Where every loose end is tied off. Where every tear we shed, where every dream we dream matters in our life story. I think, if we could see it in the right light, life would look a lot neater.

The reality is, we're incapable of that. And that's okay too. Because just like most people will never pause to think, "Wow, she wove the watch fob back in two hundred pages later!", it's not necessary that we notice every time God makes sense of things. It's enough to know He does. To be able to see the big ones. It's okay to wonder about the ones we never see reemerge.

Because He's got it all under control. And sometimes I can just hear Him whisper, "Just hold on. You'll understand in another few chapters..."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Circle of Spies Cover!

Last Wednesday I talked about it . . . today I'm showing it to you! =)

I've since learned some fun background on it too. First, the designer is the same one who designed Love Finds You in Annapolis, MD. =) This is Garborg Design--and I got a message saying the model is the designer's cousin. Fun! I love learning that the models I gasp over are related to someone or another. Makes it so much more personal. I usually assume cover models are just hired models, so learning they're friends and relatives of the designers or members of a publishing house always makes me grin in delight. And this beautiful Ms. Garborg (or whatever her name may be, LOL) is so lovely, and such a good Marietta. I couldn't be happier. =)

I also got a note from the costume designer, saying how glad she was I liked the ensemble. Naturally, I had to gush in response, because ohmygoodness. The more I stare at this dress (which is a lot, LOL), the more I love it in all its details.

And so we can see all the covers of the series together... (there will be a second novella between 2 and 3 too, though we have no cover yet *grins*)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Word of the Week - Debutante

Agnes Melanie Dickson as a debutante, 1890
Anyone who reads historicals, even 20th century historicals...or watches TV...knows what a debutante is. But as I started writing Colonial-set books, I was a bit surprised to learn the word wasn't around in the 1700s. And a bit at a loss as to what to replace it with when talking about a young woman entering society.

But in its first appearance, debutante actually meant an actress making her stage debut. This word arrived in English round about 1801, coming (no surprise) from the French. It wasn't applied to society ladies making their debut until 1817. So for me, that means no using it until my Civil War books.

Which I'm now going to hasten back to. ;-) If you haven't seen the cover of said book, Circle of Spies, yet on Facebook, be sure to come back on Wednesday for a peek, and some fun behind-the-scenes I've learned about it since describing it to y'all last week!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Guest Post by Julie Coleman - Persuaded

by Julie Coleman

The supply of wine had been depleted. Not one drop left. And the party was still going strong.

Mary shuddered at the embarrassment the oversight would bring on the hosts. She instinctively turned to her son to relate the news. He would know what to do. But Jesus seemed impervious to the problem. “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” he queried. “My hour has not yet come.”

Unfazed, Mary turned to the servants. “Do whatever he says,” she simply told them. And Jesus turned the water into wine.

This story has its puzzling moments. But one big question towers over the rest: why would Jesus refuse to help, even going so far as to state his reason for not helping, then turn around and do the miracle anyway?

There were other times Jesus refused to perform miracles. We are told in Mark 6 that in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus “could do no miracle there except that he lay his hands on a few sick people and healed them.” Why? “He wondered at their unbelief.” Several times, religious leaders and then Pilate asked him to perform. Jesus flatly refused, for they were merely “seeking a sign from heaven to test him” (Mark 8:12). They had not asked in faith. The miracles were not meant to create faith; they served merely to confirm it.

Faith is a necessary component to any request we make of God. Jesus would not perform a miracle without it.

When two blind men asked for healing, Jesus asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” When they affirmed their trust, Jesus gave them their sight (Matthew 9:29). He asked a father to confirm his belief before ousting a demon that controlled his son. Why? “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). In these and many other cases, belief in Jesus’ mercy and power was required before Jesus would help them.

When faith is expressed, God responds.

Mary’s instructions to the servants at the wedding of Cana were brim-full of faith. Whatever he says, do it. She trusted Jesus would do the right thing. Jesus responded by turning water into the finest of wines.

The Greek verb pisteuo, translated as believe, trust, or to have faith often carries the qualifying connotation of being persuaded or convinced. The Greek lexicon defines it as “to cause to come to a particular point of view or course of action.” Trust results from what one has found to be true. Mary knew Jesus as only a mother can know her child. He lived in unfailing obedience to his heavenly Father. What she had observed of him in the past persuaded her to trust him now.

When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he demonstrated his power and faithfulness to them over and over, first with the plagues, then the crossing of the Red Sea, provision of water and manna, and the dramatic giving of the Law. In short, he was teaching them to trust him. But the months they spent in the desert experiencing his faithfulness apparently weren’t enough for the message to sink into this “stiff-necked” people. They balked at entering the Promised Land, refusing to trust God for his provision.

God ironically gave them what they wanted. They would never go in. But their children would. So God spent the next 40 years proving to the new generation just how trust-worthy he was, teaching them the truth of his goodness and power. And when it came time to go into the land, they were ready to follow him anywhere. Truth is foundational to trust.

Trust doesn’t come naturally to us. So God brings along hardship, times when we struggle to perceive his presence or guidance, times when everything seems hopeless or overwhelming. We hate those times and dread their appearance into our lives. But he will use them to give us a deeper understanding of just how faithful he is. We will emerge from the darkness with a better capacity to trust him. And the conduit of trust opens the way for his blessing and mercy.

“I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I’d never had a problem,
I wouldn’t know God could solve them,
I’d never know what faith in God could do.”   –Andrae Crouch

Julie Coleman is an author and speaker who focuses on Biblical study and women's ministries. Julie’s new book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed in Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was recently released by Thomas Nelson Publishers. You can learn more about Julie at

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Remember When . . . The Show Went On?

Okay, I'm too excited not to mention it, though I'm not sure if I can share the image yet--I was surprised by my cover for Circle of Spies yesterday afternoon! I wasn't expecting this for another few months, so it was pretty cool to get it early, while I'm still writing it. I'll share the image when I get the go-ahead, but for now, I'll just talk a bit about why I absolutely love it. =)

First, the model is 100% perfect. Closest match to Emma Stone as a redhead that I've seen, LOL. The costuming is excellent--they put her in half-mourning as I requested, an elegant gray day dress with black piping. Love it! My critique partner declared the gloves she's wearing totally awesome. =) The colors are muted, which the designer got spot-on without any input from me. All through the book I'm describing the world as gray and colorless, the vibrancy having been leached out by the war. He didn't know that, but he sure got it right! (Which draws the eye straight to her beautiful red hair. Just like happened with my hero, LOL. PERFECT!!)

And in the background is Ford's Theater!

Ford's Theater

This is pretty exciting in and of itself, because the next scene I'm writing with Marietta will be at the theater. =) I listed it as a possible background image months ago, but at the time wasn't sure how I would get her there. Then when I had the epiphany of how, when, and why she was at Ford's Theater, I had no clue if they'd want to go that way for the cover. So this is just amazingly fun! 

Actress Laura Keene,
star of Our American Cousin
She won't be there the night Lincoln is assassinated--she's in some hot water of her own then--but she goes a month before, when the same play is being performed. Which, for those of you like me who don't have all this history memorized randomly, was Our American Cousin. It was a comedy about a British dowager who thought a visiting bumpkin was an American millionaire. The star of the performance was Laura Keene. On that fateful night in April, Booth chose the laughter following one of her most famous lines in the play to cover the sound of his gunshot.

So yep, this cover came at a perfect time for me and will be up on my screen providing inspiration as I write the scene--hopefully today, but maybe tomorrow, as I have two scenes to get through before she gets there. =) This will be Marietta's first social appearance since emerging from second-mourning, and it's a big one for her, because she makes it without a certain someone by her side...and I daresay he'll be none too pleased about that when he gets back from his conspiratorial trip to Cumberland. ;-)

Ah, I love this stuff. Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Word of the Week - Charade

Another one I looked up in the course of writing. =) I knew that charades was a pretty old game, but I was interested in the metaphorical sense. And learned some fun things.

Charade entered the English language round about 1776, obviously from French. The interesting bit is that it's from a word that means chatter, talk. Interesting because of where our version of the game has ended up--silent. LOL. The original version of the game relied on enigmatic descriptions to try to get the players to guess the word.

The silent form variation was originally referred to as dumb charades. This is what led to "acting charades," which is what our metaphorical (i.e. Could she keep up this charade forever?) sense is taken from.

I hope everyone has a lovely Monday! I'll be enjoying the National Aquarium with my kiddos and a group of other homeschoolers. =)

Oh! And one of WhiteFire's titles is on super-sale! Check out this biblical novella for only $.99! Trapped: The Adulterous Woman by Golden Keyes Parsons.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thoughtful About . . . Readers, Writers, & Reviews

My parents always read to me as a kid. I started writing when I was, oh, six or seven. It took another year or two for me to love reading (myself) other stories as much as I loved creating my own, but I definitely came down with that bug something fierce. And after college, I decided I should take up writing reviews. At the time there was a lack of reviews from the Christian perspective, and I wanted to fill the gap.

It wasn't long until I was a member of ACFW and reviewing the books of a lot of other authors from the organization. And because of that, I had faces to put to the names and titles. I knew there were people behind the books, I knew the people, sometimes (a little). And I knew too that I was a writer, and that was always in the back of the my mind. I wanted my reviews to be honest, but I also wanted them to be fair and Godly. I wanted to never, ever write a review that was not one I would be hurt to receive.

When I first had books out there in the world to be reviewed, I was pretty blessed. All my first reviews were positive. And often not just positive but glowing. Left and right I had folks saying how my biblicals changed their lives, their understanding, I heard "best book" or "favorite book" a few times. Which gave me the confidence to say that I was actually looking forward to my first negative review, because it would make me more a "real" writer.

Yeah. Silly me, LOL.

In the years since then, I've gotten my fair share of bad reviews. I've let them bog me down sometimes, and other times I've shaken them off. When they're really well thought-out negative reviews, I learn and grow from them. I thought I'd gotten pretty good at dealing with the negative, focusing on the positive. But recently, I've come to a decision that, for me, is pretty big.

I'm done reading reviews of my books. Finished. Ciao, bye-bye. Other writers I love and respect have arrived at this place long before me, and I never quite got it. But with the release of Ring of Secrets, I do. All of a sudden, reviews are depressing me, even the good ones. I can't really explain the reason, just the result. I want readers to find and read and love my book, I want to be approachable, I welcome and love notes from them. But I'm to the point where I'm leaving that up to them. If they want me to know their thoughts, they can email or find me on Facebook--and I LOVE THAT!--but leaving a review on Amazon is for the other readers. Not for me anymore. If someone sends me their review, I'll read it, because they want to share. If my editor forwards me one, awesome. I'll assume it's something she wants me to read. But I'm done with seeking them out.

For me, this is a matter of putting aside pride and refocusing. After years and years of reading my reviews, this is a new decision, one I'm still thinking through. I don't want to be hung up, anymore, on what people are saying about me. I don't want to be writing just for praise. I'm writing to praise. I'm writing to share the stories the Lord has put on my heart. I'm writing to minister.

I'm certainly not saying authors who read their reviews are not doing this--not at all!! Just speaking for my own tendencies. As my heart and mind continue this journey of publication, it's easy to for me to get too competitive, too glory-hungry, too focused on me. It's easy to take offense. And I need to guard my heart against that. I need to stay focused on God, on the readers, on the stories. Not on the praise or the criticism.

Where do you come down on reviews? As readers? As writers? What do you think their purpose is, and how do they effect you personally?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Remember When . . . Fashion Study Paid Off?

I am by no means an expert of historical fashion--I leave that to wonderful folks like Rachel Wilder, who my family fondly refers to as "Louisiana Rachel," and who I have recruited to read my manuscripts and find any errors in how I refer to cravats vs. ties, waistcoats and vests and chemises and panniers and hoops and crinolines and...and..and...

I can't tell you where the seams were in sleeves in a random year in the 19th century. I can't tell you exactly when hoops turned to bell-shapes and what fabrics were most common when, and what colors were popular--not without looking it up, anyway. But at this point I've researched the fashion of enough eras, from 1770s through the 1920s, that I'm beginning to recognize things before I see a year attached to them. And that's pretty cool. =)

One of my recent realizations of this was with a book I was reading for WhiteFire. There was no date at the beginning of the book to tell us when it was taking place, and our other editor asked. I said something like, "Based on the fashion described, it has to be 1890s." I went and checked in the proposal she'd sent earlier, and voila! 1890! I felt so proud, LOL.

This is a pretty handy (and necessary) skill for a historical writer to have attained, and it's a fun one to learn! It's also the point where I can recognize a few designers, believe it or not. Every time I see a late 19th-century gown that I just adore, I know it's from the House of Worth. Haven't been wrong yet, LOL.

So while we've looked at a lot of fashion here as I'm in one era or another, today we're going to just take a quick tour through the ages that I've studied. =)

Early 1860s
Late 1860s (House of Worth!!)
1890s (also Worth - drool)
And you know what all these beautiful dresses make me wish? That we still wore such lovely creations on a day-to-day basis! I daresay Charles Frederick Worth would be none too impressed with the trend of yoga pants, LOL. ;-)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Box of Secrets Winner!

First, sorry there was no post yesterday--had a sick boy-o up all night Sunday/Monday, and it didn't occur to me until last night that I should have posted something, LOL.

But a special Tuesday evening post to share the winner of the Box of Secrets Giveaway! Yay!

Rafflecopter and chose lucky #55, posted by . . .

Pamela Hargraves!

Congrats, Pamela! I just sent you an email. =)