Monday, November 28, 2016

Word of the Week - Posh

A quick but fun one, especially in context. =)

So, y'all probably know my current series is about thieves. I'm have SO much fun with this. And working pretty hard to make sure each main-character-thief views the world differently than her/his "sister" did in the previous one. But one thing they're all destined to have in common is noting the rather huge difference in 1914 between the upper class and the common worker. As I was searching for the right words to describe something, I wanted to use posh.

Upon looking it up to make sure it was old enough, I discovered that, in fact, its first appearance in print was actually in 1914! Here's the fun part, though. Despite claims from the 50s that the word is actually an acronym for "port outward, starboard home" (to describe accommodations on luxury steamers), it's not--it is, in fact, taken from thieves' jargon!

Posh actually dates from the 1830s as a word for "money," particularly a coin of small value (thought to come from the Romany posh, which means "half"). By the 1850s, it was also being applied to people--the so-called dandies. From there, it was another 60 years or so before it became an adjective, though in 1903 we see an occurrence or two of the variation push.

So that of course seals it, that it came from thieves. I had to use it. ;-)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Word of the Week - Turkey

A couple weeks ago, my daughter asked why the animal is called a turkey and if it had anything to do with the country. I, naturally, said, "I don't think so . . . I'll look it up."

Look it up I did--and quickly discovered that I was quite wrong with that "I don't think so."

So historically, there are two different birds identified as both guinea fowl and turkey, both from the mid-1500s. The guinea fowl was introduced to Europe from Madagascar via Turkey; the second, the larger North American bird, was domesticated by the Atzecs, introduced to Spain by the conquistadors, and then spread to wider Europe. The two animals were mistakenly thought to be related, and so both were called by both names.

Eventually they realized they were not related . . . and they mistakenly kept the name turkey for the one from North America rather than the one from Africa!

Ever wonder what they call the animal in Turkey? Hindi, which literally means "India"--based on the common-at-the-time misconception that the new world was India.

Poor mis-named critter. ;-) Gobble, gobble!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Cover Design - Forgiven by Carol Ashby

It's been a while since I've gone behind the design, and this week one of my designs just released, so it seems like a great time to feature it. =)

Forgiven is author Carol Ashby's debut novel--an impeccably researched tale of love in first century Judea. Obviously I was excited to work with Carol, this being one of my favorite genres and settings. And as I worked with her, I quickly discovered that Carol knows her history very well. If you check out her website, you'll find a TON of extras on the history.

For the cover of this first book in her Light in the Empire Series, she wanted something that showed her Messianic Jewish heroine, her Roman centurion hero, and the distance/tension between the two.

Now, there aren't a ton of stock photos out there with women in biblical era dress. Trust me. I've searched and searched for it. And I wanted to give Carol something very unique for her cover. So rather than go with one of the photos of a woman in a head scarf that I'm seeing on covers everywhere, I actually started here.

Now, there are a lot of things wrong with this photo. Her jewelry. Her makeup. The fact that the sash crosses over her chest. The shoes. The dress has no sleeves. And she's not wearing a head covering at all.

But thanks to the wonders of Photoshop, I could turn her into this:

How? Honestly, it took a lot of work. I started by cleaning the makeup off her face and duplicating some of the folds of the dress to create a v-neck. In this version, I'd also used the fabulous clone-stamp and smudge tools to eliminate the jewelry.

Changing the sash to red, per the author's instructions, was actually quite easy--red is one of those colors that you can add with a few clicks in Photoshop, but which it's a pain to try to get rid of.

Of course, our Rachel here needed sleeves too. So I added those by copying and reshaping parts of the dress, and then changing their transparency.

And then the veil. For this, I actually borrowed a veil from a lovely Indian model...

Did a bit of adjusting, of course, and got this:

The only thing left to change was her shoe. It was a pretty simple matter of switching out the original toe --

with one in a sandal.

At this point I was happy with Rachel, and it was time to turn to the hero, Lucius.

Oh. My. Gracious. He was complicated. Why? Because no stock photos have centurion garb right, and the author is a stickler for authenticity (understandably!), so I had to do a LOT of manipulation and combining of photos.

So I started with this guy...

Used the leather bottom part of this guy...

The face of this guy...

And then had to give him a scar from this lovely fellow.

The author actually has a collection of swords and daggers (or her son does, anyway), so she provided the photo of the appropriate weaponry to have at his side.

Putting him all together (and off-setting for correct positioning on the cover), we get this.

Now we had our characters, so it was time to turn to the background. I wanted to keep part of the stone archway Rachel is leaning on--I loved how it framed the cover, and it gave a nice old-world vibe. But to have stone completely behind her as in the original photo was too dark and boring. So I took out that back wall and replaced it with a view of the Galilean countryside.

So here's our complete picture, minus the words.

For the title, I combined two fonts (Cinzel Decorative and Maphylla) and used a cool design to set it off.

I echoed the design behind the series title up top, added the author name in one of my go-to, favorite fonts (Linux Libertine) and voila!

When it came time to do the full cover, I went RED. It echoed both his cape and her sash, which I loved. I did a fairly simple combination of red with that archway, and framed the text within it.

So here's the official blurb!

Are  some  wounds
too  deep  to  forgive?

With a ruthless father who murdered for the family inheritance, Marcus Drusus plans to do the same. In AD 122, Marcus follows his brother Lucius to Judaea and plots to frame a zealot for his older brother’s death. But the plan goes awry, and Lucius is rescued by a Messianic Jewish woman. Her oldest brother is a zealot and a Roman soldier killed her twin, but Rachel still persuades her father Joseph to put his love for Jesus above his anger with Rome and hide Lucius until he heals.

Rachel cares for the enemy, and more than broken bones heal as duty turns to love. Lucius embraces Joseph’s faith in Jesus, but sharing a faith doesn’t heal all wounds. Even before revealed secrets slice open old scars, Joseph wants no Roman son-in-law. With Rachel’s zealot brother suspecting he’s a Roman officer and his own brother planning to kill him when he returns, can Lucius survive long enough to change Joseph’s mind?

Sounds great, doesn't it? I read little bits and pieces while I was laying out the interior, and let's just say it's a book I'm looking forward to purchasing and reading when I have some time!

You can find the digital on Amazon now, and the paperback will be available November 20.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Huge Multi-Author Giveaway!

Wanted to share some fun, and a chance to win some A-MAZING books.

I've teamed up with 55 other authors this month to bring you a pretty fantabulous  giveaway featuring inspirational historical fiction. You have the chance to enter to win all of the books PLUS a Kindle Fire!

This means a chance to read my latest, Giver of Wonders, plus books from amazing authors like Elizabeth Camden, Tracy Higley, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Mary Connealy, Leslie Gould, and so many more I can't begin to name them all!

Enter the giveaway by clicking here:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Word of the Week - Upbeat

Quick word of the week today, and musical, since I just finished writing A Song Unheard. ;-)

In today's vernacular, upbeat means "with a positive mood"--but this is a rather modern connotation, only dating back to about 1947. It's thought to have come from the phrase on the upbeat, which meant "improving, getting better."

This does indeed come from the musical idea that a conductor's baton is raised during a given beat in a measure (the denotation which is also rather modern, dating only to 1869)--however this beat in a measure isn't particularly positive by nature or anything. It gained a "happy" connotation simply because it sounded optimistic. My kind of reasoning, LOL.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thoughtful About . . . God and Democracy

Well, here we are, on the other side of the election. The results are in, the new president is declared, and some less-than-peaceful protests are under way. I have friends who are gloating, friends who are weeping, and friends (the vast majority) who say something along the lines of, "God is in control. He put who He wanted in the White House."

Um . . . er . . .

This has been rubbing me wrong for months, every time that's someone's reaction to the election. I've been letting it churn around inside my little head, trying to pinpoint why. But I think it comes down to this:

Free will.

God is in control, yes. God is capable of doing anything, yes. But God also gave us that beautiful free will thing, right? We can't say, "Well obviously God wanted me to steal that necklace, because He didn't stop me." or "Obviously God wanted me to sleep with that guy," or "Obviously God doesn't care if I cheat my customers. He's in control. But I still did it."

That's just silly, and everyone knows it. So why do we extend it to the national level?

Most of the quotes I see go back to Romans 13, where Paul tells us that we're under the authority of our leaders, because all authority comes from God. Well, yes. That means I must honor and respect my president, whoever he or she is. That does not mean that every person who holds an office is the best person to hold an office, or that if I voted them there, I'm not responsible in part for their actions while in said office. Moreover, those who want to read this so strictly ought to have a problem with the very existence of the United States. Those in the Revolution certainly didn't think they had to kneel before the authority of King George just because he was their God-appointed king.

Here's the thing: we live in a democratic republic. We vote. That means we, the people, are responsible for the politicians elected to our offices. Us. Not God, any more than He's responsible for any of our other choices. Inherited monarchies, like those we see in the Bible, are different. And also irrelevant to us today. Because our officials are chosen by our free will.

Does God know who will win? Of course! And sure, everything's part of His plan. But so, then, is our sin--that doesn't mean it's good, doesn't mean it's the right way, doesn't mean it's what He wants us to do. It's what He lets us do.

Now, I'm not saying one way or another that this election's results pleased or displeased God. What I'm saying is that it's theologically dangerous to assume it pleases Him just because it happened that way.

I'm saying God didn't put Donald Trump or Barack Obama or George Bush or Bill Clinton in the White House--we did. We, with our free will and our choices. We get the president we ask for.

I'm saying that this win for the Republicans isn't God giving the country one more chance. And if we think it is, we might just be resting in the wrong authority--we might just be trusting our president-elect to fix things, when he can't.

We might be shrugging responsibility for change onto his shoulders when it's ours. WE need to fix this country, from the bottom-up, on our knees, reaching out to our neighbors, teaching our children, redefining the national morality to line up again with the biblical. No president can do that. WE must.

We can't rest easy now, my friends. We have not won a spiritual victory with this election--we wouldn't have, either way it had gone. We've just exercised the democratic process. The spiritual battle is still raging, as it was before and as it will do after and as it would have done had Mrs. Clinton won as well.

Yesterday someone shared a prophecy a young pastor had made, which basically said that God told him He was going to use Trump as a trumpet to sound forth and point out evil and corruption. I won't disagree . . . but we also have to remember that God rarely works as we expect Him to. He has certainly used Trump this election cycle to point out evil and corruption--but not just in the opposition. His behavior has also pointed out corruption within the church, some leaders of which have bent over backwards to defend some pretty indefensible actions this fall. Because of him, I now know that racism and sexism are much more prevalent than I thought. But he wasn't the one shouting against it.

He's being a trumpet . . . but are God's people hearing the right message? Or are we dancing to the battle cry?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Remember When . . . Children Were Expendable?

As a promised, a bit more about Giver of Wonders today. ;-)

At the start of the story, my heroine Cyprus is twelve years old. In the very first scene, she experiences an accident that leaves her paralyzed--and the thoughts and fears are quick to bombard her. Her father--Roman by heritage but Greek by upbringing--will have no patience for her in such a condition, she knows.

She knows he loves her. But she's just a child--and a girl, at that. In that society at that point in history, female children weren't viewed as precious--not when they had a disability, certainly. They were possessions of the father, and their purpose was to bring him honor through their marriages. According to Roman law, a father can kill his daughter at any point in her life without consequence. It's his right.

So Cyprus, suddenly unable to move, sees her life flash before her eyes--but not the life she's lived thus far. The short, brutal life she knows is about to come.

She'll die. Not from the fall that severed her spinal cord (not that I name it as such, LOL), but from what she views as the decision her father will have no choice but to make. It's unthinkable that he'll saddle himself and his wife with such a child for innumerable years. He'll do what his Greek neighbors would expect him to do:

Kill her.

Because he loves her, she doubts he'll be able to do it by his own hand, so he'll do what most parents do in the face of an obviously imperfect child: leave her on a hilltop for the weather and wild animals to snarl over.

To modern, Western philosophy, this mindset is simply unthinkable. Because children are precious. They are a gift from God. We give them, in general, more consideration than adults--but this is a relatively new idea. As recently as a hundred years ago, families with any means still believed children were meant to be tucked away and cared for out of sight--and earshot--by hired help. Christmas celebrations were for the adults, not primarily the children. They would have considered this ancient mindset extreme, but they without the benefit of modern medicine and therapy and equipment probably would have also shrugged and said, "But I understand. What can they do? Wouldn't it have been more merciful to end her suffering?"

Throughout the book, Cyprus's father represents that Greek/Roman way of thinking--first for himself and only after that for his daughters.

So how are daughters to respond, especially in a world that thinks like he does?

How do you honor a parent who is not honoring God?

These are a few questions I dig into--quesitons I had no answer to going in, but which came to light as I wrote. And I do it by remembering something that would have been new and revolutionary at the time:

God values children, even daughters. He pours love and affection out upon them. The early Christian church did something unprecedented in history by taking in orphans and unwanted children and loving them. Teaching them that God loved them. That they were precious.

That mindset we take for granted today? That's all thanks to God and Jesus. Which is why it's pretty funny when the secular feminist today spouts nonsense about the Bible being anti-woman. Because honey, without the Bible and its mores, you wouldn't have any rights to complain at all. ;-)

Of course, the book would be pretty short if Cyprus's father really killed her after chapter one. She ends up miraculously healed . . . but her father won't accept that either. Because why would God waste a miracle on a third daughter? And so, in the years to come, Cyprus asks a new question:

Why did God heal her?

I think this is a question many of us relate to. Why did God move in that way in our lives? What was the plan, the purpose? How are we supposed to remember the feeling of peace and joy when the world around us crumbles?

Good questions. It takes Cyprus many, many pages to arrive at an answer. And it's one I pray will shed some new light on what love--selfless, God-given love--is really all about.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop #4

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop #4

Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! If you’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to start at Stop #1, and collect the clues through all 31 stops, in order, so you can enter to win one of our top 3 grand prizes!

The hunt BEGINS with Stop #1 at Lisa Bergren’s site.
Hunt through our loop using Chrome or Firefox as your browser (not Explorer).
There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt—you have all weekend (until Sunday, 11/6)! So take your time, reading the unique posts along the way; our hope is that you discover new authors/new books.
Submit your entry for the grand prizes by collecting the clue on each author’s scavenger hunt post and submitting your answer in the Rafflecopter form at Stop #31. Many authors are offering additional prizes along the way!

I'm thrilled to welcome the amazing Cindy Woodsmall to my blog! Cindy has been writing bestselling Amish fiction for years and wowing readers for good reason. If you haven't checked out her books before now, don't waste any other time doing so! (Confession: I'm not a huge fan of Amish fiction, but I've loved everything I've read of Cindy's!!)

Cindy is here with The Angel of Forest Hill, an amazing journey toward love and belonging, filled with the wonder of the season of Christ’s birth. Because of Joel’s impossible situation, twenty-one-year-old Rose must sacrifice everything. As days pass into years in the midst of the beautiful hills, the laughter of children, and God’s providence—is it too much for Rose to hope for love in return?

And now without further ado, here's Cindy!

Seven Ways I Escape into an Amish Setting
by Cindy Woodsmall

 I love writing, and I love exploring the Amish culture and the challenges and romance that are a part of that lifestyle. Since my home as an adult is far removed from the Plain world, I rely on certain methods to help me escape into the Amish world
1.         Some mornings, I rise early, the way I do when staying with Amish friends, and then sit on the porch with my coffee. While darkness surrounds me, I listen as nature wakes. Keeping the windows open once I’m in my home office helps too.

2.         I may put bread onto bake. (In the bread machine, of course!) The aroma of bread baking really helps transport me.

3.         Years ago, as an Old Order Amish friend and I were going to the dry goods store by horse and buggy, I took a video clip of it as the horse clippety-clopped along, and watching that is often helpful. (Click to see the video!)

4.         Throughout the last two decades, I’ve taken many pictures (by permission) of Amish friends. Those can visually transport me from my home in Georgia into their homes and lives once again.

5.         Spreading an Amish-made quilt over me works well. If it’s winter and my windows are open, this is a nice treat. If it’s summer, it’s a good reminder of how hot a day gets for the Amish since they don’t have air-conditioning.

6.         Brewing coffee in a percolator on my gas stove the way the Amish do surrounds me with the feel and aroma of being in an Amish home.

7.         Going to the local farmer’s market is very helpful. The one nearest me has ten to fifteen booths that line one side street of a small, historic town. Sometimes going to an antique store is helpful too.


Cindy Woodsmall is an award-winning New York Times and CBA best-selling author who has written nineteen works of fiction. Her connection with the Amish community has been widely featured in national media outlets, including being featured on ABC Nightline. The Wall Street Journal listed Cindy as one of the top three most popular authors of Amish fiction.

Here’s the Stop #4 Skinny:
You can order Cindy's book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CBD or at your local bookstore!

Clue to Write Down: this year's

Link to Stop #5, the Next Stop on the Loop: CindyWoodsmall's site, where she has a giveaway waiting for you!

And of course, I have one for you as well. =)

At stop #3 I told you a little bit about Ella--well, here's your chance to win her story! Or if you're in the mood for some holiday reads, you could opt for Giver of Wonders instead, a story featuring the young man the world now knows as St. Nicholas and exploring the origin of Christian traditions we still uphold today.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Giver of Wonders ~ Release Day!

It's November 1st! That means that at long last, my first Christmas novel is LIVE!

I intended to have this ready to go last year, but, um . . . I didn't. ;-) Given that the book was only half written last November, I instead took the holiday season to finish it up and then had this year for editing and feedback and that sort of excitement. ;-)

But I'm so excited to share the story of Cyprus and Nikolaos and Petros. And seeing it reviewed in RT Reviews two weeks ago with a 4.5 Star Top Pick rating was pretty darn awesome too. This is what RT had to say:

Perfect for the Christmas season, White’s latest is a story that begs to become a tradition. The setting comes alive in sights, sounds and smells, but it’s the people in this book that make it so memorable. Despite the general solemnity to the plot, vivid characters and their strong and unswerving faith frame the tale in life and warmth and love. This story of love and faith belongs on every holiday reading list, it’s a beautifully crafted reminder of the true purpose of giving.


So I figure I'll share a bit of behind-the-scenes on this book today and tomorrow--and then later in the week is the Fall 2016 Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt, where I'll be hosting Stop #4--so be sure to swing by then for a chance at the epic grand prize and for a giveaway just from me too, where you can choose from either of my recent releases.

Now . . . Cyprus.

When I decided to write this story, I figured it would be fun to get a peek at the Visibullis family that I've written about in A Stray Drop of Blood and A Soft Breath of Wind--two hundred fifty years after those stories. Though readers certainly don't see any of those previous characters on the page, we do see their legacy. At one point, Dorus Visibullis, father of my heroine, receives a shipment of scrolls and codices (think early books) from his uncle, part of his inheritance. And on each scroll and codex is part of his Christian heritage--including an eye-witness account of the resurrection by Abigail, which Benjamin transcribed in her later years.

I hope readers enjoy this sort of nod at the early books--and that they fall in love with these characters too. Cyprus has in a way been a long time coming for me. I was in college when I decided I wanted to use the name for a heroine someday. Not sure why, but I just love the way it sounds. So I had Dorus and his wife Artemis name their girls after cities where they'd lived. Alexandria, Rhoda (after Rhodes), and Cyprus.

When I was brainstorming what I would make happen in this book, I knew it was crucial that Cyprus not look like the typical Greek/Roman girl. I wanted it to be dangerous for her to venture out alone in a world where it wasn't unusual for children to be kidnapped and sold as slaves. And the rarer the coloring the better. At first I'd thought blond would work, but then I remembered reading that no slave in Rome fetched a higher price than a redhead. So that's what Cyprus needed to be.

I searched for images forever. Seriously. Looking for some appropriate stock photo that I could use for Cyprus. But I couldn't find one. Anywhere. So I took to DeviantArt and eventually stumbled upon Kirilee, who had this amazing series of "Greek Queen" photographs.

I contacted her about using one in accordance with her permissions, which stipulated that we couldn't do anything like change out her face for someone else's, but she had no problem with me reddening her hair. So the kind Kirilee became my Cyprus.

Cyprus is a girl who receives a miraculous healing in the opening chapter . . . and who then spends the next years of her life wondering why God would save her. She has always believed in Him . . . but she is just a girl, as her father keeps reminding her. A girl has no purpose but to marry advantageously. Can that really be all the Lord wants from her? Or will she doubt too much and have that paralysis overtake her again?

When tragedy strikes her family, the questions only get worse. Why save her for this? But love for her sisters spurs her onward, into a fight against the culture, the expectations, and into the realization of what God really asks--for everything, sacrificed freely to Him. So that He can work His wonders.

It's a story of love at its foundation. Love for our parents, our siblings, our children. Love for our friends, love for the one who becomes our spouse. But ultimately, love for God.

This is a story about the man we now call St. Nicholas. But in my typical fashion, it's not the sort of story you might expect when you hear that. Because it's not just about the man who created traditions we still keep today. It's about the God-given love, the God-given gift of healing that spurred him to take extreme actions to save his friends. And it's about those whose lives were forever changed by it.

Also, quick note!
I have four other books on sale this month!

The Lost Heiress - $2.99

Ring of Secrets - $2.99

Whispers from the Shadows - $1.99

Circle of Spies - $0.99