Friday, September 29, 2017

Faith from Fiction

I'm happy to announce, if you haven't seen it yet, that I've participated in a collection of devotionals that bring out the faith messages in our fiction. Each of the 10 bestselling authors in this little e-book have chosen two of their stories and begin their selection with a short quote from them, then expound on the faith message behind it, summing it up with the Scripture that inspired it.

Faith from Fiction is now available for $0.99, so go grab your copy and dive into reflection on the Word to be found in our stories--because we all know fiction is the best way to learn. ;-) All profits will be donated to Samaritan's Purse!

The authors in the collection include:

Melanie Dickerson
Janice Hanna Thompson
Leah Atwood
Christy Barritt
Heather Blanton
Lynnette Bonner
L. N. Cronk
DiAne Gates
Jenn Faulk
Roseanna M. White (hey, I know her!)

You can find it at (I'll post the other links as they go live):

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes

And if you think you recognize the hand of the cover design, you're right. ;-) I volunteered my services for the cover and had fun creating it. We decided on autumn colors because, well, it's autumn, LOL. Here's a larger version...

We hope our inspiration blesses you!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thoughtful About . . . The Journey to Mom

Over the last few months, a landmark change has come upon me. It started gradually--now and then, out in public. And then it became more common even at home. And now I know it's here to stay.

My daughter has stopped calling me Mommy and now calls me Mom.

It's a strange thing in a way, isn't it? I mean, we all know our grown-up kids aren't going to keep calling us Mommy. (Though I know plenty of girls who keep calling their father Daddy, the Mommy thing inevitably goes away. Hmmm.) So obviously there will be a transition. But as we change diapers and navigate toddlerhood, as we prepare them for their first days of school, this isn't really a question any of us ponder too much, right? 

But my daughter, being a mini-me in some ways, actually seems to have put some thought into it. I'd noticed quite a while ago that when she was talking to her friends--especially her older friends--she'd refer to me as "her mom." Which was obviously fine. But then a few months ago she said something to me...I don't even remember the conversation. But it was something that, in retrospect, felt as though she was asking permission to change what she called me. I honestly don't recall the words. Maybe she had asked me if I used to call my mother Mommy, and that led to when I stopped? I don't know. I guess at the time, it didn't seem important to remember the exact conversation. But I recall kinda smiling as she walked away. Realizing that my girl is growing up. And loving that she was taking care with this.

And so, Mommy has vanished. And quite often, when I hear her call out, "Mom!" it feels so...deliberate. Almost proud. As though she realizes she'd taken a step toward adulthood, one that she could choose when to take.

There are moments when I feel as though it should make me sad, or at least emotional--a chapter is over, finished. But instead, I feel proud too. I'm not sure I can explain why. Perhaps because in Mom, for us, there's a new depth to our relationship that couldn't quite be when she was younger. I love that she sits down and just chats with me. That we rejoice together over stupid things like pumpkin spice coffee creamer and cream cheese. I love that we talk about stories and that as soon as she finishes a book she loved, she shoves it at me and tells me I have to read it too, so we can talk about it and rent the movie.

I love that though there are mom-moments aplenty--the ones where I'm saying, "Go take a shower. Do your math. No, I mean it, do your math. Stop yelling at your brother. Just dry the dishes and stop moaning about it!" there are other moments too. Friend moments. Moments when we laugh together, when we talk about honest-to-goodness things that matter, when I realize that my little girl is growing up into a young woman that I love getting to know.

I guess part of me always wondered, as I wrangled these kids of mine through screaming fits and sleepless nights, what kind of relationship we'd have as they grew up. Well, we're discovering that now. And though she's only almost-12 and we've still got those teen years ahead of us, I pray that what we're building now will only get stronger. That these little people I love so much will become big people I respect. That each year, though it brings changes and challenges, will bring a new layer of depth too. Beautiful depth.

Now, interesting will be to see if/when my son makes this change, given that he rarely ever calls me Mommy anyway--he calls me Mama. Will that stick around? Who knows. But I'm sure loving the discovery with these two silly kiddos of mine.

It's a journey, always, this parenting thing. Nothing ever stays the same for long. But it's one that I love more, the longer we travel it together. 

Here's to the road. And to the people who travel it with me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cover Design ~ String of Pearls by Melody Carlson

It's been a while since I've gone behind the design of a book cover...and since someone asked me about it last week, I figure it's time for another example. But what cover should I feature?? Always a question--and since I can't always release a cover publicly when I design it (gotta wait for the author to do so, after all), I'm not always sure when I can feature a cover.

But in this case, there's no question as (a) it's a WhiteFire book and (b) it releases October 15! So today we're going to take a look at Melody Carlson's String of Pearls, the third book in the Mulligan Sisters Series.

Let's start by looking at the first two books in the series.

As you can see, we have a theme established for the series. In the foreground we have one of the sisters--starting with Bridget, who joins the Army Nursing Service at the beginning of WWII, and then moving to Colleen in book 2, whose dreams get all tangled up in heartache as she pursues a Hollywood career. In the background of each book, I used a public domain era photograph which I colorized.

On book 3, we knew we wanted Molly, the youngest of the 4 Mulligan sisters. Molly looks a lot like Colleen, so my first challenge was going to be finding a model who could look like the sister of #2. I tried a few different girls but ended up using this one.

Of course, the body wasn't right--but I liked the face. She bears a nice resemblance to the model for Colleen, coloring's right, and I loved her smile. And I had already scoped out an image of a 40s style woman with a camera--and Molly loved photography.

I started by just putting the blond's head as-is on the brunette's body, but Melody requested some more 40s style hair. So I took this lovely lady's curls...

Lightened and brightened them, put them on the first blonde's head, and plunked them both on the brunette's body, to get this.

But I didn't want to keep the same coloring on the clothes--especially since I'd recently used another shot of the brunette in a different cover and preserved that red sweater in that one. Here, I decided to go with blue. So I copied the sweater and the skirt, made them new layers, and used the Hue/Saturation option to change them to blue.

But what to use as a backdrop? I tried a few modern photographs behind her--shots of San Francisco streets. But modern photographs just don't look the same as 1940s photographs, and it gave the cover a whole different feel from the first two books. So I went hunting for photos I could use from the 1940s and eventually found this one.

The only problem with this is that it was going the wrong direction--I needed my lines pointing at my model, not away from her, in order to balance the image correctly. Now, flipping an image is easy-peasy...until you realize that there are signs which are then backwards. *Sigh*. But I just flipped and resized all of those as well.

Then the tricky part--colorizing it. This isn't my forte, but I've been learning how to do it. In general, the method is to create a new layer, set said new layer to a different blending mode--often Overlay, though occasionally a different option works better, just depending on the color being used.

Now, I didn't bother colorizing the whole photo, just the part visible behind Molly. So it looks a little funny like this, LOL.

I referred to the modern photos of this street to get some color inspiration for the houses, and chose red for the car because it would show up nicely against the dark tones of the black and white photo, and also provide a little pop of color.

Of course, we needed a beautiful sky. Each of the first two books had very bold, rich skies. So I searched for a photo of San Francisco with a gorgeous sunset sky and found this one.

So putting that behind the blank sky of the city, and it all behind Molly, we arrive at our basic design.

The title and series were already designed, so it was a pretty simple matter of plugging those in and adding some shading behind them to make everything stand out. I chose red for the title, echoing that pop of it from the car and the sign. My final step was to add a photo filter action to draw it all together and add a bit more depth to the colors. In this one, I used X-Pro (a filter Instagramers will recognize.) And there we have the finished cover!

So what do you think? Do you like the style that mixes old photos with new? Do you have a favorite from the series?

And if you're a Melody Carlson fan, definitely go snatch these up! They're a really interesting look at WWII through a family on the home front.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Word of the Week - Pizza

Sometimes we have to examine those favorite words. Like pizza. Right? I don't know about your house, but in mine, pizza is a staple. My children adore it. Almost as much as I do. (Hey, I've had more years to grow the love...)

So it's no surprise that the other day, as I informed my boy-o that pizza has two Zs in it, he asked, "But why? I thought it was spelled like Piza. Like maybe that's where it's from."

As it turns out...nope! The origin of the word pizza is a bit of a mystery, but I'll tell you what I've learned.

First off, it can be a bit confusing to check the etymology and see that it's listed as first recorded in 1934. Odd, considering I've seen scans of menus dating from the early 1900s that have pizza on them. What's up with that??

Well, this is when it entered the English language--as in, was adopted as an English word, not just borrowed. Before that, it was just considered Italian. Kind of like how merci is a word everyone knows, but when we speak it, we know it's French. The 1934 date isn't when the deliciousness was created, but rather when English speakers decided it should be a permanent part of our vocabulary (hear, hear!).

But where did it come from? This is where the word-historians aren't quite sure. Could be, they say, from the dialectal pinza, which is from the Latin "pound, stamp." (That's what a 1907 Italian dictionary claims.) Could be of Germanic influence and related to pittz--"cake, pie." Or another German-borrowed option is pizzo, "morsel, bite."

Who's to say which one is right? Regardless, I maintain it's a perfect food. ;-)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thoughtful About . . . A God Who Loves

As so typically happens, I've been letting ideas simmer in the back of my mind that combine my current Bible reading, things I've been reading to my kids, and conversations and sermons from church. I love when all these lines cross and combine to lead me to a knew understanding of our Lord.

So at the beginning of summer, I decided I'd break out a new Bible I've had sitting there for a couple years--one I requested for my birthday along with another. And I've requested another since. (What, some people only have one??) This one is called the So That's Why! Bible, and it's a chronological (which is how I found it, when searching for those) Bible that is full of cultural and historical notes--my kind of footnote!

I'm nearly finished Exodus in this Bible now, and going through those early history sections has been so educational, with all the cross-cultural highlights and notes the book provides. Genesis especially is rich in stories from other cultures that bear a resemblance to the ones shared in that first book of the Bible, and it's hammered home something so important to me.

In all these other stories, you have the same basic kernels--the ones that long ago convinced me they're telling the same stories, just that they'd been twisted over the centuries. That they took that basic understanding of what happened and then changed things here and there. But no matter how similar some of these stories--the many flood tales, Gilgamesh, etc.--are on the surface, there's one very key difference between how others cultures told the tales and how the Bible does. And the difference is this:

God loves us.

In all the other ancient societies, the gods are to be feared. They are to be placated. They are not understood. They crave human blood and sacrifice, and they delight in tormenting mere mortals, or playing with them for their own entertainment.

Our God is so very different. Our God shows his love to humanity. He seeks to show us the pure way, the righteous way, the best way. Our God demonstrates mercy, and even punishment is handed down not because He takes joy in our suffering, but because discipline is a necessary part of discipleship--a part of teaching and learning.

As I read through Genesis this time, I had just recently read some arguments by Christians who are of the mind that this book of the Bible isn't supposed to be treated as fact, necessarily, but rather as a redefinition for the ancient world of how God really worked through these well-known tales. Now, I'm not making the above argument. I'm merely saying that as I went through Genesis this time, it was with the question of, "How is God teaching His people about Himself through these stories?"

And the answer is what I said above: God loves us.

In church, we've been reading Matthew, and my husband asked the question last weekend of "What 'gospel' was Jesus preaching? Today, our 'gospel' includes the news of His death and resurrection, but that wasn't a part of his actual teachings to the masses yet, right? So what was this good news? And why was it always accompanied by healing and miracles?"

My answer: God loves us.

This was the awe-inspiring, amazing, unheard-of message that Jesus was preaching. That He was inviting everyone to see anew in the Scriptures of old. This is the whole reason He came, and the reason He spent so much of his time demonstrating God's love rather than His authority or dominion. Our Messiah didn't come to conquer nations--He came to show the heart of the Father to the people.

In our homeschool, I've been reading a little book to the kids called But Don't All Religions Lead to God? by Dr. Michael Green. It's a short book, but it's packed full with wonderful information on what sets Christianity apart from all the other religions in the world. And the main thing?

God loves us.

No other religion, no other faith, seeks to demonstrate this. None other offers a means for closing the gap between man and God. No other says, "It's not what you do--it's what God's done."

God loves us.

We know it, and we say it so many times. But how often do we really pause to examine the miracle in the statement? That unlike every other god worshiped in ancient days, unlike every other lifestyle or religion prevalent today, ours has not only a Creator, but a Father.

Thank you, Lord, for loving us so much. It makes all the difference.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Imprint Name Contest!

I announced a while ago that WhiteFire Publishing is launching a line for the under 18 crowd. Well, we're considering having an imprint name for these books--picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult.

So the challenge, if you choose to accept it:

Come up with a name for the imprint!

Things to keep in mind:

  • It would be great if it appealed to some part of the WhiteFire name, but it's not required
  • It should call to mind an image that we can use as a logo
  • If we can find one that would work for the entire line, that would be best; though if we end up deciding on a different one for the YA line, that's okay too

Can I submit more than one?
Yes! Submit as many as you like!

When does the contest end?
It will run for 2 weeks, from 9/20/17 - 10/4/17

Who's the contest open to?
Everyone! All ages and countries welcome, though physical prizes will only be mailed to the US or Canada. Digital prizes are available for all, though!

Will you definitely choose one of the submitted names for your imprint?
No, this contest is not guaranteed. The ultimate decision will be made by the WhiteFire staff.

What happens if the same name is submitted by multiple people and is the one chosen?
See the prize section below.

If you choose mine (or a name directly derived from my submission) what do I win?
Well, fabulous question. Let's talk about that.

If a name you recommend (or a direct derivation) is chosen for the imprint, you'll receive

$100 worth of WhiteFire Titles

You can choose which titles you'd like and the format; US or Canadian winners are eligible for either paperback or digital books, or any combination thereof. Non US or Canadian addresses are eligible for digital books.

If by some coincidence multiple people submit the same name and it's the one chosen, then each winner will receive $75 worth in prizes.

Where to Enter:

You can either enter on the Google form page or right here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Celebrate Fall with Historical Fiction!

Quick post today to tell you all to check out an amazing giveaway hosted on Suzanne Woods Fisher's blog, celebrating historical fiction. She has 10 authors on for 10 days! I'll be up on Friday. In the meantime, be sure to check out these other awesome authors!

Hop on over!

Also, Relz Reviews has a giveaway of A Name Unknown going on right now, along with a fun character spotlight of both Rosemary and Peter (by popular demand, LOL).

Visit Relz Reviews

Monday, September 18, 2017

Word of the Week - Bamboozle

My dearest daughter suggested this word of the week, because she thought it was such a fun word to say. ;-)

So, bamboozle.

This will be rather quick, because etymologists aren't entirely sure where it came from, LOL. What they can tell you for certain is that it's been both a noun and a verb first recorded in 1703, bearing the same meaning that it does today.

But where did it come from? That's a bit of a mystery. It could be from the Scottish bombaze, which means "confound or perplex." But it could also be from the French embabouiner, which means "to make a fool of." (Literally, "baboon.")

Either way, this "cheat, swindle" word is a lot of fun to say. ;-)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thoughtful About . . . Found in Surrender

Last week we passed an idyllic seven days at the beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I expected to have a great time--and I did. I had a fabulous time. We generally do. But as a mama, I've also known my fair share of vacation frustrations.

Because you don't get a break from mommy responsibilities, right? Even now, when my kids are older, it isn't as though they're adults, out doing their own thing. They want me to build a sandcastle. And dig a moat. And dig a hole. And build a wall. Swim again, whether I'm ready to move or not. They still need to eat (the nerve!) and have someone to remind them to do those oh-so-crazy things like shower and brush their teeth.

I admit it. There have been times--many of them--on vacation or holidays when I had in mind what I wanted to do, and I got a bit frustrated when that went by the wayside in favor of what they wanted me to do.

I was determined to do it differently this time. And so I told myself from the start that if the kids wanted to build, we'd build. If they wanted to hunt for shells, off we'd go. I'd set aside my desires for this vacation and instead focus on theirs.

Crazy thing. Wanna take a guess how that went?

I had an absolute blast. And--and--I ended up with more time to do what I wanted (which is to say, read, LOL) than I ever have before on a vacation since those kiddos came along.

As I was contemplating this toward the end of the week, I realized it was a surrender, that decision. Not a surrender to them, but a surrender of me. I was still Mama, still the one with veto power, and yes, I still said things like, "Sure, sweetie, but can you give five minutes to warm up first?" But I'd already put that I-want on hold in my mind. It wasn't there, it wasn't allowed. And because I'd already dealt with it, it left me with this beautiful, sweet thing: peace.

I rather wish it hadn't taken me so many years to figure this out--but isn't that just like us, in life and in faith? How often do we cling to what we want to do, what we want to accomplish, what we want to be, when the treasure lies in letting it go? Giving it up and instead listening for what God will whisper?

Because when the Lord holds out His hand to me and says, "Let's build something," I don't want to sigh and scowl at Him. I don't want to be thinking, Really? Now? Don't you know I'm busy with this other work?

I want to put my hand in His and see what we can create together. I want to let go of all the frustrations from interruptions and disappointments and give myself over to the joy He prepares in every moment. I want to find that treasure hidden under the sand.

I want to store away hours of laughter with my family. I want to build memories for them like I have of my own childhood. I want to follow the Lord wherever He leads me. I want to stop and look at seashells, so carefully fashioned by His hand. I want to hear His whisper in the rush of the surf, or the breath of the wind, or in the silence of the night. And I want to remember that when I put aside me, I gain something oh-so-much better.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Word of the Week - Schedule

I've just returned from a week of vacation in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina . . . which means my schedule is bursting with things that need done.

Now, as it happens, I knew from some of my writing projects that schedule would not have been a word used in such a way until fairly recent history. So I thought I'd share some of that today, while I'm battling to get mine into order. ;-)

Schedule comes to English via French ("strip of paper with writing on it"), Latin ("strip of paper"), and originally Greek ("splinter or strip"). So even in those moves from language to language we see a progression of the idea, right? When it joined the English tongue in the 14th century, it meant "a ticket, label, or slip of paper with writing on it." This sense is still preserved in our tax system--the "schedule" being a piece of paper attached to the main document, an appendix.

So how did it come to mean "a plan of procedure"? Well we have the railroads to thank for that. They would employ schedules--slips of paper--with their timetables written on them. Hence, everyone soon called the timetable schedule rather than the paper it was on.

Interestingly, even the pronunciation has changed a lot over the centuries! For hundreds of years, everyone pronounced it "sed-yul." But the British modified it to "shed-yul" in imitation of the French at some point, while Americans--at the insistence of Webster and his dictionary--reverted to the Greek pronunciation of "sked-yul."

Now back I go to mine. ;-)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Word of the Week - Amused

Short and sweet--and funny!--word today. =)

Amused. We all know what it means, right? "Entertained. Aroused to mirth." And today, that's true. But did you know that the word originally meant "distracted, diverted, cheated"??? Truth!

When amused entered the language around 1600, that was its meaning, and it continued as such until around 1727, when that sense of "distracting someone, playing a trick on them, cheating them," took on a more positive connotation--that we were instead "pleasantly diverted."

Amusing to see how words change over time, isn't it. ;-)