Monday, November 25, 2013

Special Thanksgiving Giveaway!

In lieu of my usual postings this week, I'm going to instead focus on one of the things I'm most thankful for--my best friend, and her newest book. In this time where we count our blessings, I have the pleasure of looking down at a newly-arrived paperback and feeling an immense burst of pride. Not quite what I feel when I look at my own newly-arrived books, but pretty close. Because it's by my best friend.

Any avid readers of my blog will have heard a lot about Stephanie Morrill over the years. I'm always quick to chat up her books, and to mention her in posts. The first book in her Ellie Sweet series was, at its publication, my absolute favorite of all her books--and that includes the unpublished ones I've gotten read as her critique partner, plus the ones out in the world. So when she said she was writing a sequel, I got pretty excited.

One of the biggest blessings of my year was getting to take a writing retreat with Stephanie. We locked ourselves in a cabin in my mountains for four days, emerging only for food, LOL, and just wrote. We both logged over 30,000 words in that weekend. And lots of laughter. We live a thousand miles apart, so face-to-face time is rare for us--usually only at writers conferences. Which means that though we deem ourselves unable to make a lot of simple decisions without the other's input, I have no idea what color shirts Stephanie wears most often. And she had never seen me in jeans before this March retreat. ;-)

During this retreat, I was writing Circle of Spies, and Stephanie was working on this much-anticipated sequel, The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet. Now, as one of Ellie's biggest fans, I have to confess--she was making me nervous, LOL. The things she tossed out for brainstorming had me seriously worried that everything I loved about the first book was just gonna get trampled all over in this second one. There was one point when she asked, "What would you do if...?" and I replied with something like, "Well, this. BUT CHASE CAN'T DO THAT! Do you understand me?? Nooooo!" ;-)

Well, not surprisingly, Stephanie wrote the book how it needed to be written. And equally not surprisingly, she outdid herself. I fell in love with the wit and sass of Ellie Sweet, teen novelist, in The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet. But in this one, Stephanie managed what so few writers ever can. She took those things I most loved and made me question why I loved them. She took what I thought was the truth and made me dig deeper, to a truer truth. She took what I thought was an epiphany and made it pale in the light of the real epiphany Ellie has in this one. 

Stephanie, you're amazing. And one of my biggest blessings. When I count the things I'm thankful for, you're high up on that list.

And so, this Thanksgiving week, I want to offer a signed copy of The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet to one lucky winner. I know it'll end up on your thankful-for list too! Here's the blurb--and don't miss my question of the week at the end before the giveaway. =)

For once, Ellie Sweet has it all together. Her hair now curls instead of fuzzes, she’s tamed the former bad-boy, Chase Cervantes (she has, right?), and her debut novel will hit shelves in less than a year. Even her ex-friends are leaving her alone. Well, except for Palmer Davis, but it can’t be helped that he works at her grandmother’s nursing home.

Life should feel perfect. And yet, it’s not that easy. Ellie’s editor loves her, but the rest of the publishing biz? Not so much. And they’re not shy about sharing their distrust over Ellie’s unlikely debut.

Ellie has always been able to escape reality in the pages of her novel, but with the stress of major edits and rocky relationships, her words dry up. In fiction, everything always comes together, but in real life, it seems to Ellie that hard work isn’t always enough, the people you love can’t always be trusted, and the dream-come-true of publishing her book could be the biggest mistake she’s made yet.
This giveaway will run through FRIDAY at MIDNIGHT--so don't miss out!
Now for my question, geared, as you might expect, toward thankfulness. What is the most unexpected thing for which you're grateful this year? That could mean either a blessing you didn't expect, or something you didn't expect to be able to see the blessing in.
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thoughtful About . . . Legacies

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending my great-grandmother's 100th birthday party. Most of the family was there, including some of her great-nieces and nephews that I've never even met. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to come and celebrate this amazing milestone.

I admit it--I didn't want to leave home so early that day. I was in a writing groove, and Rowyn had been under the weather the day before, and I was afraid he'd crash back into exhausted at the party. I didn't want to prepare a dish, I didn't want to stop writing. But of course, I did. And oh, how glad I was.

Because as I sat in a metal folding chair beside my mother and sister, my kids right in front of me playing with the gourds used as decoration, I listened to the stories everyone told of this woman I've known all my life. And I realized I'm a part of a legacy.

Over and again people told the same stories. The stories of how she loved--and how she loved all, without distinction, without bias, without favoritism.

(Grandma says, "Well, you're all just swell!")

Stories of how Grandma's old house was always an oasis of safety, a place everyone loved so much that we didn't mind imitating sardines on Christmas Eve to get to spend time there.

(Grandma says, "It isn't as big as I remember, is it?")

Stories of how she always, always welcomed each addition to the family, whether through marriage or birth or adoption, with the exact same love and embrace as she had her own children, always remembered each one, always took care that they all received the same consideration.

(Grandma says, tearfully, "Thank you all so much for all your beautiful kids. Welcome to the family.")

And my dad, tears in his eyes, reminded us all of the passage in one of Paul's letters where he says, "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ." To us, Dad said, "We can say 'imitate Grandma, as she imitates Christ.' She has always been a shining example of Jesus's love for us."

I don't know what my legacy will be. I don't know what people will remember me for. I don't know how many would gather to celebrate a milestone with me. I certainly don't know what milestones I'll reach in this life.

But whatever age, whatever place in life, whatever people cross my path, I pray I can share in my grandmother's legacy. I pray that they see even a morsel of her strength and goodness and kindness in me.

I pray, with tears in my eyes, that I can be like Grandma.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Remember When . . . We Hit the Turning Point?

Okay, so A Soft Breath of Wind is taking me longer to write than usual. Life right now is just not allowing much writing time. But I'm so, so excited to be at my big middle turning point right now. Might not be quite as interesting to you, who don't know what's going on in the story here (yet, LOL), but it's all that's on my mind, so...

So. For the first half of the book, my main characters are working toward and then in a four-year separation. The guys, Benjamin (the baby in Stray Drop) and Samuel (the slave boy who becomes a son), go off adventuring, one of them to recover from a loss and the other to slake his wanderlust. They're visiting the churches. Main character, female lead Zipporah has always yearned to travel too--but that's denied her. Instead, she get to stay at the villa outside Rome.

As in, at the villa. Within the walls. She's forbidden to leave.

So now, finally, I got to bring my guys home. Which is joyful news...but as they bring with them the other female lead, Dara, who's pitted against Zipporah, it's getting real interesting. And a bit intense. =)

Yes, Roseanna is having fun. I finally get to start diving into the love story I've been itching to tell. I get to start exploring the difference between loving someone despite their faults and loving someone faults and all. And what happens when you marry the wrong person, disobeying what the Lord has told you.

And as a member of a family divided, how do you know what side to take? And how do you knit it back together in the wake of that rift?

In the part I just wrote, the whole church is basically given the same challenge: who do you believe, when two trusted sources tell you something different? When only one can be right and compromise isn't an option?

Have you ever been in a position where family, either blood or church, is divided? Was it what you deemed a big issue, or were you baffled at why it became so important? Looking back, do you think you made the right chance in which side you took?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Word of the Week - Dash - and a Winner!

First of all, I did do the drawing last week for the winner of the digital of one of the Ellie Sweet books, and the lucky duck was

Kirstin Whitener!

Congrats, Kirstin! I know you'll love them!!

This week I'll be starting a giveaway for a signed paperback of The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, so if you were holding out for the hard copy, stop back by later!

And now on to our word of the week. =)

Any historical writer knows that a big challenge in writing authentic dialogue is trying to find era-appropriate exclamations...especially when writing for the Christian market and wanting to avoid any that venture toward cursing. And one can only use "blast it" so many times, LOL. I've looked up a lot of these over the years, and figuring out their etymology is always fun.
The Broken Vase by Harry Watrous, circa 1900

Today, we're taking a look at dash, which I have used a time or two. The verb dash dates from about 1300 and comes from a Danish word that means "to beat, to strike." And so, the oldest English sense is of something getting "dashed to pieces"...including the metaphorical "dashed hopes." Around the same time, it also took on the transitive sense of "to move quickly," which lead to the noun by the late 1300s.

Round about 1726, it began being applied to hurried writing (to dash a letter to someone...), but it took until 1881 for it to be applied to a race, originally one run in one heat.

And now back I go to dash a few more words into A Soft Breath of Wind before it's time to start school. ;-)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Guest Post by Andrea Cox - Thoughtful About . . . Ring of Secrets

It's always a blessing to get to know my readers, of both blog and books. If I remember correctly, Andrea and I began chatting over the summer. She was a frequent visitor during the big month of giveaways, and she's been stopping by regularly ever since. She recently read Ring of Secrets and asked me if I would consider letting her do a guest post on some things she considered while reading. I'm always happy for an easy blogging day, LOL, so readily agreed. ;-) So now, without further ado, Andrea.


Previously published on My Book Therapy’s Weekly Spark, Andrea Renee Cox ( cherishes God, family and writing with a song in heart and a story in mind. This Texan girl enjoys road trip vacations with her family and trying different dessert recipes, looking for “keepers.”


Sometimes another author’s book sparks an idea for a novel of my own. Other times it hatches a plan for a blog article. Still other times there’s a line on the pages that can be applied to other parts of my life besides just writing.

Roseanna White’s Ring of Secrets was no exception.

This novel of espionage in the late 1700s captured my interest from the get-go. What really connected with me, though, was Bennet Lane’s thoughts from chapter three: “Explore, discover, document.” He used these three steps to root out a spy hidden among New York City’s elite aristocratic class.

I use them in my writing.

The first step to writing a novel is to explore. The setting, time period, what people were like in the time chosen for my story—all must be uncovered in order for me to fully understand the time and place and characters of my novel. It’s a fun process that leads from one resource to another to yet another. From books to the internet to music and movies, the places to search and explore are practically endless.

Next comes discovery. This one always surprises me. You never know what neat, off-the-wall tidbits of information you’ll discover while you’re exploring. Little treasure troves of trivia wait to be uncovered and put to good use. These things take my stories to a deeper, more realistic level because the tidbit was a kernel of truth placed artfully within my work of fiction. Every fiction piece has some truth to it, and it’s little wonder when these realities are found during discovery.

Finally, we document everything. This starts with making notes from our resources. It moves into an outline and other brainstorming techniques. Eventually, our documentation flows out into the full-length novel we hope will be published to reach readers’ hands. That’s the day all aspiring authors dream about. Once it happens, the readers sometimes document their thoughts and send them to us via Facebook, Twitter and email.

Maybe writers aren’t the only ones to use Bennet Lane’s “explore, discover, document” method!

 What line from your favorite book can be applied to another part of your life beyond reading? How do you use the “explore, discover, document” method?