Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Remember When . . . She Played the Violin?

I thought it would be fun to take a quick look today at Willa's violin...or, rather, violins in general, and some info that appears in A Song Unheard about this beautiful stringed instrument.

Violins and other stringed instruments like them began appearing in the 1500s. They were invented in Italy, and some of the first evidence we have of their existence is from paintings by Gaudenzio Ferrari.

Glory of Angels by Gaudenzio Ferrari.
Not to be confused with Enzo Ferrari.
Or, you know, other painters with the same surname.

There also exists a treatise written in 1556 that details the string family as we know it now.

Stradivari Violin
Willa, of course, didn't know all this history. What she did know was that Stradivari was always heralded as THE luthier whose instruments everyone wanted to own. That's certainly true today just as it was a hundred years ago.

It's only been recently, however, that scientists have discovered why Strads sound better than other violins. I happened to catch a documentary on this just before I began writing A Song Unheard (thank you for that, Lord! LOL), which obviously proved useful. ;-)

So the secret to the amazing sound of these instruments? The Little Ice Age.

Yep. See, these drastically colder temps resulted in trees' growth drastically slowing. If you recall your middle school botany, you know that each year trees add a ring of growth, hence how we can count a tree's age with a cross-section. Well if you've ever seen the stump of a really, really old tree, you'll have noticed that some rings are very wide and others very narrow. The wide rings are the years that were perfect growing years--nice temps, good rain, lots of sun--and the narrow rings are harsher years.

During the Little Ice Age, trees couldn't grow very much. So the rings were narrow, and the wood, therefore, was very dense. The forest from which Stradivari sourced his wood was full of Little Ice Age trees, whose wood was heavy and dense. Meaning the instruments, while the same size as others made from different wood, would be a bit heavier and denser, and that of course effected the sound.

Now, this is a relatively new discovery--certainly not something they knew in 1914. But I wanted to hint at it, so I had Willa observe several times that Lukas's Strad felt heavier and more substantial than the battered, cheap instrument she'd rescued from a rubbish bin.

She got up again and strode to the wardrobe. Not set on grabbing a hat for the trek she had to make, but to pull out that battered violin case. She set it on the bed and extracted the equally-battered violin.
Poor thing. It looked like a rag next to the memory of the Stradivarius she’d held last night. Dull and scarred and . . . lighter, even, as if the wood were too thin. Perhaps it was. Still, it was one of her oldest friends, and her fingers caressed the familiar curves and corners, ran along the strings.
                                  ~ A Song Unheard, Chapter 6
Do you play an instrument? Or is there one you particularly enjoy listening to? One you've always dreamed of owning?

I'm a piano player, so I may occasionally drool over baby grands...though not the newfangled electronic ones. Those are just WRONG. ;-)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Word of the Week - Nurse

Today's Word of the Week is a special request from Lynne F. (and as a reminder, if ever you have a word you'd like me to look into, please feel free to let me know and I'll add it to my list!).

Nurse is rather interesting, in that the noun and verb forms evolved a bit differently. The oldest form of this word is nurrice, which dates from the 1100s, meaning a "wet-nurse or foster mother to a young child." This word was borrowed directly from the French, which came in turn from the Latin nutricia (wet nurse) which in turn is a variation of the Latin word for "suckle." Look familiar? This is the same root from which we get nourish and nutrician.

The extended meaning of "one who cares for a sick person" evolved rather naturally from the idea of "one who cares for a child," but it took quite a long while to do so! That noun didn't enter English until 1580. And the verb form, "to care for the sick" is from 1736! (I had no idea that was so late!!)

As for the verb meaning "to suckle an infant," that's surprisingly late to the game as well, though not as much as the one mentioned above. This dates from the 1530s and is a Middle English alteration of a similar word, nurshen, which is taken from the same root but had previously been pronounced differently.

So there we have it. Our modern member of the medical community derives its name from women caring for children. =)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thoughtful About - A New Adventure

I totally stole the title inspiration for this blog...from the other person embarking on this adventure with me. ;-) I think she'll forgive me. (Check out her post here

So, a few weeks ago my husband said, as he has said many a time before, "You need an assistant. You should really consider hiring someone." In the past, I always just waved off that suggestion because...well...I don't know. Because figuring out how to delegate work is work in and of itself, I guess.

But I'm staring down the barrel of quite a lot of deadlines, and this time the advice really hit home. I do need an assistant. Someone to handle some of the minutia of book releases and promotions, to help keep me on schedule and do some of my scheduling. Someone who can handle the non-creative parts of my job, so that I can focus on the creative parts.

The next morning, I shocked my husband by putting together a list of things I could have an assistant do, and posting to my launch team that I was looking for someone. To my mind, who better to go to first than the readers who are already my cheerleaders and promoters?? I was shocked to get a big response from my post. I thought I might get one or two interested people, who may or may not be serious. Instead, I was flooded with emails from a collection of wonderful, gracious people with experience and a passion for helping authors.

After a whole lot of prayer and quite a lot of emails, I've hired Rachel Dixon as my virtual assistant, and I'm so excited to begin this new chapter with her! Maybe most people wouldn't feel the need to post about hiring someone, LOL, but I do. Because the way I view it (and the way Rachel views it, hence why she was a good match for me) is that what we're doing is building a team. We're working together toward a common goal. Serving authors as an assistant is Rachel's calling, and serving readers as a writer is my calling. So the fact that we can work side by side for the Lord...well, that's pretty awesome.

So to Rachel, welcome to the team--your heart for this work really touched me, and I'm super excited to be working with you!

To my readers, I know this move is going to help me get more, better stories to you, and also allow me to be more interactive.

I can't wait to see where the adventure takes us. Here's hoping and praying it's to new heights in faith, friendship, and productivity. 😉

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Cover Design ~ Love in Three Quarter Time

Time for another peek behind the cover design process! This time, I'm featuring one that won't be all that involved. As designs go, it was pretty simple. Which is why I'm featuring it today, as I'm short on time. ;-)

Rachel McMillan is best known for her historicals, but she occasionally puts on a contemporary novella, and I'm always thrilled when she comes to me for the cover. =) Last year I designed a cover for a Christmas novella duo in which she and Allison Pittman each wrote a story.

This year, Rachel has Love in Three Quarter Time releasing on Valentine's Day.

Her wants were pretty simple. The heroine, face not visible, and Vienna in the background. She gave me some great photos for inspiration and even the name of a few buildings she'd like to see on the cover. And as a comparable cover, she recommended this (and other covers for Carla Laureano):

 Armed with nice, decisive information like this, I hit Shutterstock with confidence. It's always so much easier to design a cover when the author knows exactly what they want!

My first hunt was for a model that fit the description of Rachel's main character. Rachel described her as having shoulder length dark hair, cut in a curly bob. She tends to wear turtleneck sweaters, knee high boots, tweed, cardigans..."classic librarian." I went searching for such lovely ladies with their faces averted and happened pretty quickly upon this one.

 Not bad! Happy with that as a starting place for Evelyn, I next turned to images of Vienna. Anything from historical Vienna would do, but I began by looking for images of the Staatsoper (opera house), upon Rachel's recommendation. And there were some GORGEOUS photos of this building at sunset. This is the one that caught my eye.

Putting the two together was pretty simple. The only real tweaks I had to make were to delete a few flyaway hairs and add some lighting to the model, which gave me this.

I wanted to punch the lighting up a little bit though, so I added the Hudson filter...

Satisfied that this was a good base, I added some faded color layers to give me a good place for the words...

And then added the title and author. Now, I'd just purchased this super-gorgeous font called Monstera that I was dying to use...especially since I'd FINALLY figured out how to access all the pretty alternates (I'm embarrassed by how long it took me to actually read the how-to included with all these fonts I've downloaded. For reference, on a PC, hit the Start button and type "Character Map." Click on that, and up will pop a screen like this...
Just click on the version of the letter you like, click Select, and then Copy, and paste directly into where you want to use it--in my case, the text layer in Photoshop. Ridiculously simple.)

So as you can see in the image above, I played around with the various forms of each letter until I landed on this.

This was almost, almost there. But I wanted a little something more. A flourish. Something to pull the music theme of the title (Vienna is where the waltz originated) into the cover. So I found this pretty little musical flourish...

I put my choice of this set behind the title, and it added just the touch I was looking for! I showed it to Rachel, and she declared it exactly what she was looking for. Yay! So here's the final:

So here's some more about the story.

A romantic waltz through a city filled with music, passion and coffee.

Evelyn Watt fell in love with Austrian marketing director Rudy Moser the moment he stepped into their Boston firm. With his ice blue eyes and chocolate-melting accent, he is as refined as she imagines his home country to be. When Evelyn finds herself unexpectedly unemployed right before Christmas, she is left with an unknown future until Rudy steps in with a job appraising, assessing and cataloging heirlooms, lending her American vernacular to the translated descriptions to give each item international appeal. Evelyn will live in Vienna for the months leading up to a grand auction at a party held in conjunction with the Opera Ball—on Valentine’s Day.

Vienna is a magical blend of waltzing, antiques, and bottomless cups of Einspanner coffee at the Café Mozart. When a secret from Rudy's family's past blows in with the winter chill, Evelyn is forced to confront how well she knows the object of her affection. Her café tablemate, the gruff and enigmatic Klaus Bauner might be the only person who holds the key to Rudy’s past. But could that key also unlock her future? In the days leading up to the Opera Ball, Evelyn finds herself in the middle of the greatest romance of her life…as long as she doesn’t trip over her two left feet.

You can pre-order this from Amazon now, and it'll download to your Kindle on 2/14!

What do you think of the cover? Do you like the feel? The setting, the face-averted heroine?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Word of the Week - Recipe and Receipt

I'd noticed when reading historical work--either original or fiction--that recipe and receipt were often used in ways that we today would deem, well, flipped. But I'd never really paused to look it up.

I'm glad I just did, because I learned something!

We'll start with recipe. Coming from the Latin word of the same spelling, which means "Take!" (a command), it came into English in 1580 as the word for "a medical prescription." Literally, what the doctor was ordering you to take. (Who knew?!) This is (what I learned today) where the abbreviation Rx comes from. It took on a figurative sense ("recipe for disaster" etc) round about 1640. So when, you may be asking, did it come to mean "instructions for preparing food"? Not until 1743! I had no idea our primary meaning of the word is so relatively new!

So what did people call those instructions for food prep before they called it a recipe? Receipt. This word, borrowed from Old North French, has been in use in this way since the 1300s. It's literally "a statement of ingredients in a potion or medicine." As "a written acknowledgment of goods received," it dates from 1600ish.

Any recipes you've been dying to try, or a favorite you'd like to share? I'm going to be hunting up the ingredients to make this chili con carne one of these days... And if you're in the mood for some utterly scrumptious, light and fluffy and a-mazing homemade dinner rolls, this is the only recipe you'll ever need...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thoughtful About . . . Heroes

Whenever I have a new book release, there's always that anxiety about how readers will connect with my characters. Oh, I've had some input by this time. Critique partners, beta readers, editors. And they all have their unique opinions. Their perspectives.

As I've been enjoying the feedback of my early readers of A Song Unheard, I've found it especially fun to see how readers are responding to my hero--especially as contrasted with the first hero in the series, Peter. Peter was awkward socially, Lukas is at home in society and a bit of a rake. Peter stammers. Lukas is silver-tongued. Peter is a man of prayer and consideration. Lukas is a man just beginning to realize that his mother was right, and seeking nothing but his own pleasure will leave him empty.

I loved creating both of these heroes. All of my heroes. They're each unique, different. And yes, I love it when people call them swoon-worthy. I've given that title to some heroes in my favorite books as well.

I've noticed lately that the term "book boyfriend" has been floating around, and that always makes me giggle. I personally won't ever call a hero that--I'm married, thank you very much, and won't have any boyfriends, be they real or imaginary. ;-) But that, in turn, has made me ponder what it is we love so much about a good hero. And why we sometimes wish they were real.

I'm going to start by saying that bits and pieces of my husband work their way into each and every hero I write. Maybe it's his wit in one. His eyes in another. Maybe it's his way of questioning everything. Or of loving me so wholly. Maybe the way he looks at me. Or the way he supports my every dream.

My husband isn't perfect. He's the first to admit it. We have our moments of frustration, of course, but when I look at this man living life with me, I know God blessed me beyond measure. And I consider it an honor to demonstrate in my books that a real hero isn't necessarily a muscle-bound hunk that can make women fall at his feet with a mere flex of his biceps. (Not that I have anything against muscles, mind you.)

A real hero is a man who knows, or discovers, that love makes him stronger.

A real hero is a man who listens to and leans on the Lord.

A real hero is a man who will make a sacrifice, not to gain glory, but to protect those he loves.

A real hero is a man who pairs duty with honor, diligence, and passion.

A real hero is a man who can be vulnerable.

I've written a lot of heroes who aren't the typical hero. Some who might even be called anti-heroes. I've had a few action-type ones, a few too-handsome ones, plenty of should-be-average ones. But they each become more than ordinary in the pages of a book, and that's because...

A real hero answers the call of the Lord.

That's usually what we see them doing in one of my novels, and in the Christian romances I so adore. They're just ordinary men, living often ordinary lives, but living them in an extraordinary way.

And that, in my opinion, is what makes us love them...just as it's what makes us love these wonderful, flawed men in our lives.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Remember When . . . We Traveled?

We live in a pretty amazing time, don't we? When traveling has become fairly easy and affordable. One can get from the east coast of America to Europe for just a couple hundred bucks (if one is willing to travel light and compromise on leg room...). We can travel from state to state by highway, train, or plane. The world is there, waiting to be experienced, and few people today will face the reality of most people two hundred years ago--to never go more than 20 miles from home.

Over the weekend, my family and I sat down and wrote out a list of places we'd like to go and things we'd like to see. Some of them are pretty simple and easily done--the Smithsonian, the Pittsburgh zoo again, that sort of thing.

Then there are those entries that say things like the Maldives. Or Padagonia. Not quite so easily accomplished, hence the need for a list and planning to see which we might actually get to some day.

I have characters, of course, who have traveled farther than I ever have. And others who have never really strayed from their own neighborhood. Travel, and its progress, has played a part in many of my stories, and I remember the elation of realizing in Circle of Spies that there were trains now! And telegraphs! People and news could move so much faster! LOL

As my family dreams about our someday-travels, I'd love to know what's on YOUR list! Where have you gone that you loved, either domestically or abroad? What's on your list of places you would love to see someday? Please share!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Word of the Week - Drapes

Yet another Word of the Week inspired by my weekend activities. ;-) I confess: I'm not a decorator. Most of the decorations in my house are books, LOL. (The best decorations, if I do say so myself.) Things like curtains...meh. I've put them up in most rooms, simply to block the light when necessary, but I'd never bothered in my kitchen. I don't know. I just...didn't.

But upon taking down the lovely garland I'd strung over my windows at Christmas, they looked so bare. So I decided, "It's time to get curtains." Or, upon looking up what I actually wanted, make them.

Of course, making curtains reminds me of one of the frequent goofs I've made in my British-set books: referring to those window-hangings as drapes. Apparently they don't ever call them that in the UK. So it's high time I look it up, right!

While doesn't denote drapes as being an American usage, it is rather recent. Though the verb, "to hang with fabric," is from the 1400s, it didn't turn into a noun at all until  the 1660s, and it didn't at that point have the particular meaning of "curtain." That didn't come about--pluralized, drapes, not just drape--until 1895. It's a direct derivation--the draping of fabric over windows, and drapery is a similar derivation--so logical. But apparently not universal. ;-)

I just finished sewing my cheerful calico curtains, now draped over my windows. How about you? What kind of drapery do you fancy as window treatments, or do you like bare panes of glass?

And since everyone keeps asking in the comments, I'm adding a photo of my newly-stitched curtains...

Monday, January 8, 2018

Word of the Week - Those Hats...

Last week, my friend Rachel McMillan (of Toronto) asked on Facebook what the different American regions called a certain type of hat. You know, that basic knit hat for the winter. There, she said, they universally called it a toque. Other answers included "winter hat, knit cap, ski hat, beanie, tam, stocking hat..." The list went on and on.

But given that I'm currently knitting one for my husband (the pattern is called, "A Very Plain Hat," LOL), I was thinking of it again and thought it would be fun to feature.

In my area, I grew up hearing them called toboggans. Like the sled. Upon looking it up, I learned that the word dates from 1829, meaning a flat-bottomed sled. Around 100 years later, in the late 1920s, it began being applied (regionally in America) to the knit hats one wore when tobogganing. (I guess that region includes my own...)

Toque, coming from French, is not surprisingly common in Canada. As a word for "a round hat," it dates to the 1500s. It comes from the Spanish word for "a woman's headdress," which may have in turn come from the Arabic word for "shawl."

Beanie dates from the 1940s and might be the funniest of the words--it's from the slang sense of bean, meaning "head." (For some reason, I always think of a beanie as one of the bowl-shaped hats with a little propeller on top. I wonder what TV show I have to thank for that? LOL)

Tam is short for tam-o'-shanter, a type of hat from the 1840s used by Scottish plowmen. The name comes from the hero of Robert Burns poem (Tom of Shanter) of the same name, published in 1790. This type of woolen hat became fashionable for women in the 1880s as well.

So there we go. Whatever we call it, I know many of them have been worn during this awful arctic blast! If you're anything like me, you're pretty excited to see warmer temps in this week's forecast!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Lost Heiress is FREE!

Well here's some exciting news! For the first time in history, one of my full-length novels is available for FREE! The Lost Heiress e-book can be downloaded at no cost from any of your favorite retailers that carry it. This deal will last through January and February, so grab it for yourself and please share!

If you haven't read The Lost Heiress yet, it's a book that's very special to me. When I was 12, I decided I would complete a novel. I finished my manuscript a year later, and that story (after many revisions, LOL) eventually became The Lost Heiress. The kernel of the idea is the same, as are the two main characters. Other than few things got changed over the years, LOL. But this story--oh, gracious, this story. Brook and Justin traveled with me for 20 years before it was finally accepted for publication, and I love that this is the book that Bethany House pours their promotional efforts into!

Official description and links:

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. Though raised in the palace of Monaco, she's British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. When Brook's friend Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea to the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother's death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook's life is threatened do they draw close--but their loyalty may come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother.

As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that what began as friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

And then, for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of
the very rare treasure in her possession--and this time only the servants of Whitby can save her.

D O W N L O A D   L I N K S

S E R I E S    S A L E 

And my other Bethany House titles' digital books are on sale too!
Grab them each for $6.99 or less!
(Sale prices take longer to process on some sites so may not be reflected yet)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Willa's Song Giveaway

J a n u a r y   2  -  J a n u a r y   1 6

It's release day for A Song Unheard! And we all know what that means around here. Time for a giveaway!

I had fun pondering what gifts to offer with this one, and I hope you guys enjoy what I found! So without further ado, allow me to present Willa's Song Giveaway, including:

  • A signed copy of A Song Unheard, for obvious reasons ;-)
  • A paperback copy of Agatha Christie's first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring her detective who is a Belgian refugee--one of the only lasting reminders that England had once been filled with them.
  • Magnetic book marks with music notes and clefs, for marking your pages in those books
  • A violin puzzle box, with a small opening for your treasures (be they a cypher key or, you know, something more ordinary like...
  • A sterling silver treble clef necklace, for you or another music lover in your life
  • A music-themed journal so can write down all your symphonic thoughts (pages have a faint treble clef as well as standard lines)
  • A music-themed ceramic travel mug

One grand prize winner with a U.S. address will receive all those prizes! But wait (ahem), there's more! ;-)

For one Second Place winner (open to international residents as well!), I'm also giving away a $25 gift card to iTunes or Amazon, so you can stock up on the music of your choice! (Okay, so there's no way to designate them for music, but you know. For the purposes of this giveaway, that's what I'm going to say you should spend it on. Though if you'd rather buy books, who am I to complain? LOL)

Have you seen the book trailer yet?

You can watch this beautiful (1 minute long) glimpse into the story, narrated by my English friend Elizabeth and featuring the original composition "Willa's Song" written by Jessica Brand and performed on the violin by Taylor Bennett right here! (It'll get you an extra entry into the giveaway too!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway