Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thoughtful About . . . New Wine in Old Wineskins

There's a passage in Matthew. We all know it. But I admit it always baffled me a little. It's from chapter 9, verses 14-17.

14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”
15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

I've read this countless times. But not until recently, when we got to it in our Bible study, did it finally click. And I think in part it's because our culture doesn't make wine like they used to.

In Jesus's day, wineskins were made of leather. Now, leather has a bit of give to it--it can grow, and it can shrink as it cures. Back in Ye Olden Days, when you wanted a leather garment--gloves, pants, etc--to fit you perfectly, you would buy it a bit large and then soak it in warm water on your hand, etc., until it had shrunk to fit you. Then when you let it dry, voila! Perfect fit.

The leather used for wineskins would expand with the wine. As grapes ferment, they release gases, and the leather would grow with it because it was supple and new and hadn't been cured yet. So you could fill it up, and the container would grow as the contents demanded. Pretty cool, huh? But that only works with new leather. If you put the wine into an old wineskin that had already been stretched out . . . well, that's not going to go so well. The gases are going to be released, but the leather isn't going to have any more give. So it will break. Burst. And all the wine is lost.

That part I've known for a while . . . but I still wasn't sure how it applied to the question that John's disciples were asking Jesus. What does that have to do with mourning? For me, the key to understanding why this an appropriate reaction from Jesus required going back to the key point of the wine in wineskins. What was the basic problem? The wine doesn't fit.

That's what Jesus is getting at here. There are times in life when mourning doesn't fit. His disciples were still in celebration mode--their Savior was there! Among them! Teaching and performing signs and wonders. Preaching the gospel and healing the sick. This thing that humanity had been waiting for millennia--it was happening!

That, my friends, is cause for joy. So how could His disciples have partaken in the things of mourning, like fasting? Had they tried it, it would have burst its confines . . . and then what would have happened? The wine would have been lost.

But Jesus knew well a time was coming when they would mourn. The new cloth would age. The wineskin would grow to its limit. The relationships He cultured so carefully would mature, and then the disciples would be sent out on their own to become the teachers in His absence.

This is life. This is the way of things. Celebration eventually gives way to mourning. Life contains, always, both good and bad.

But here's what I really loved about this analogy as I paused to contemplate it. In His analogy, mourning is represented by the wine. The disciples are the wineskin. If you tried to force mourning into something unstretched, it would break. But wine itself wasn't a drink of mourning. It was a drink of celebration. And the oldest wine is the better wine, traditionally.

So what is best for the celebration? That which has grown and stretched, that which has mourned. That which is tested and tried.

Mourning is a part of our celebration . . . and celebration is a part of our mourning. The two are meant to go hand in hand. Celebration will eventually give way to sorrow, yes . . . and sorrow will give way again to joy. There's a cycle to it.

And the wise man is the one who knows which time is which and can see the presence of each in the other.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Remember When . . . The Ballet Was Cutting-Edge?

The cast of ABT's Coppelia, a classical comic ballet
Last weekend, my daughter danced in the final ballet for Appalachian Ballet Theater. After 23 years, the only classical ballet studio in our area decided to shut down...their building is being sold, Beth, the founder, is ready to retire, and Leah, who choreographs all the shows, is expecting baby #2 any day now. This mother-daughter duo built an amazing studio and instilled passion and discipline in a generation of local dancers. It's bittersweet to say farewell to the dance family that has nurtured my daughter since she was 5. 

Our last rehearsal in the studio on Tuesday!

Anyone who's read my Ladies of the Manor Series knows that ballet plays a part in my stories...largely inspired by the classes I took my daughter to twice a week for the last seven years. In The Lost Heiress, Brook has been practicing with Ballet Russe--a group of dancers trained in St. Petersburg at the Imperial school. So I thought I'd take a few minutes to look back at this ground-breaking, iconic ballet group, in honor of ours.

Xoe, left, with friends Saylor, Heaven, Phoebe, and Marina, before their final show

Russian ballet impresario and founder
of the Ballets Russes Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929)
The Ballet Russe was formed in 1909 by Sergei Diaghilev. In 1908 he had presented a season of Russian art, music, and opera in Paris, with great success. The upper class of Europe quickly became enamored with all things Russian, and so Diaghilev was invited back the next year to share more of Russia's culture. He responded with the Ballet Russe (the Russian Ballet), a dance troupe made up entirely of dancers schooled in the finest of Russia's schools. These dancers brought something to Europe that no other ballet had ever offered--passionate, energetic dancing that pushed the boundaries of what had always been accepted. Their dancing was considered avant-garde and contemporary in the extreme.

For 20 years, the Ballet Russe toured the major cities of Europe and even America. I, of course, had fun with this--they were stationed a good while in Monaco, which is how Brook came to know them. And also in Paris, which is where they are when we meet Kira, the injured prima ballerina who plays a vital role in the third book in the series, A Lady Unrivaled. I had so much fun digging deeper into ballet and Russian culture with this character, who had been friends with Brook during her months of practicing with the group.

Bain News Service, publisher. Ballet Russe practicing
[between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920]
As most of you probably know, anything that involved the stage in the early 1900s was considered scandalous--the elite loved to be entertained by them...but it was well known that most women who made their living upon the stage had, er, looser morals than "ladies." Now, obviously, this isn't always true. But it was assumed. Which is why a young woman born to a respectable family would never consider a career upon the stage...which made things interesting for Brook, who was raised by an opera singer. She'd lived the first half of her life in a very different world from where she ended up--an heiress, a baroness, the daughter of an earl.

Today, ballet isn't the edgy stuff--it's the "tame" stuff. We chose classical ballet rather than modern dance because it isn't risque...rather hilarious when one considers that it used to be THE risque dance. But in this world of hip-hop and gyrating moves taught to our primary schoolers, give me ballet's moves any day! Because it isn't just a passion--it's a discipline. One I've loved watching my daughter learn and embrace.

Learning more about the history of ballet and its ground-breaking years during when my books have been set was so much fun. And looking back from our current viewpoint and seeing how it's turned into the classical, respectable institution as opposed to the scandalous one is always interesting. I loved writing about it, with Brook and then with Kira. And I look forward to taking Xoe to a new studio next year and seeing where she goes with this dance from here.

Have you or your kids done any kind of dance?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Word of the Week - Cookie

Time for a sweet treat of a word!

Cookie. In American English, we all know what this means. Yummy...


Delicious sweet treats...

My favorites are soft and chewy. Some prefer crisp and buttery. But in my opinion, all cookies are awesome. What they aren't, however, is called the same thing everywhere, or in all of history.

I noticed when finding Colonial-era recipes that cookies were at the time called "little cakes." What I didn't realize was that the word cookie, which infiltrated American English by 1808, is from the Dutch koekje, which literally means "little cake." Interestingly, while the Dutch had koekje, the Scottish also had cookie, as early as 1730, meaning "small, flat, sweet cake." It's thought that the American came from the Dutch, but it must surely have been influenced by the Scottish word of the same sound and meaning.

In the 1920s, the word was occasionally applied to people, especially women. The phrase "that's the way the cookie crumbles" is from around 1955.

I admit, cookies are one of my favorite desserts. I can pass up cake, but not a cookie. What's your favorite sweet treat? 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Fridays from the Archives - Waiting on Promises

It is quite amazing the things that we learn, discover, when we teach our children. This is one that struck me back in 2012 and which I've thought of frequently since.

It's hard to wait, when we can't see our prayers being answered. Even when we're fresh from a spiritual victory, our memories are short in the face of our doubts. But this story of Elijah constantly reminds me that we can't give up.

What truths have been spoken to you this week?

Originally Published 1/19/2012

Yesterday in our homeschool Bible reading, we got to one of the best-known stories of Elijah--where he challenged the 450 priests of Baal to an altar competition. (Okay, my words, not theirs, LOL.) You remember it, I'm sure. The priests of Baal build their altar, put on their bullock, pray and pray and pray to Baal for fire to come down from heaven and light the altar.

Nothing. I love this story partially because of how Elijah taunts them. Can't you just see that wily smile as he says, "Maybe your god's asleep. Or on vacation. Cry louder."

And they do, LOL. Then, of course, after that fails, Elijah builds his alter on the exact spot it should have been all these years, puts on his bullock, and has TWELVE barrels of water dumped onto the altar. Now, it hasn't rained for years and years at this point, so that was probably some precious stuff. Elijah prayed, and fire swooshed down from heaven, devoured the offering, the water, and the very stones.


But something new jumped out at me yesterday. After the priests of Baal were killed, after everyone fled, Elijah and his servant prayed again. See, it was time for the promised rain to come. Time for the drought to end. Time to bring relief for the people.

So Elijah fell to his knees and beseeched God. God, the Lord, who had just an hour earlier sent heavenly fire for him. God, the Lord, who had led him here. God, the Lord, who had promised, "And then you'll pray again, and I'll send the rains."

Elijah prayed. And his servant looked out over the sea and said, "Nothing. Not a cloud on the horizon."

So Elijah prayed again. Still, there was nothing. So he prayed again. And again. And again. And again. Each time, his servant went to check the horizon. Each time, he saw  . . . absolutely . . . nothing.

This is what hit me. Seven times Elijah had to pray before that mist began to rise out of the sea. Seven times! Do you think he was wondering what was taking so long? I mean, the fire had been immediate. So why the wait now? Why was God not listening? Had He changed His mind and not told Elijah? Can you imagine that prophet looking over his shoulder and thinking, "Wow, glad all those priests aren't watching this now."

Okay, so Elijah may not have had those thoughts, LOL, but I probably would have. I probably would have thought round about prayer number four, "God, You promised! You promised!! 'Pray for rain,' You said, 'and I'll make it rain.' Well, I'm praying--so where's the rain?!"

But Elijah was faithful. We don't know how long each of these prayers was, but I have a feeling it was a little more in-depth than, "Oh, Lord, please let it rain!" 😉 This man was prostrate before the Lord, begging. Begging for the rains to come. 

What if he had given up? What if he said, "Sigh. Maybe the Lord doesn't want me to be a prophet anymore."? Had he only prayed, say, five times, what would have become of Israel?

Doubt, discouragement is natural--the very next day, when Elijah hears that Jezebel is out to kill him, he forgets to pray and just runs. Runs. Even though God sent the fire, sent the rain, Elijah doesn't even think to ask him to save his life. But God catches up with him on the mountain he runs to, after sustaining him during the run.

God's always there while we're running. He's there while we're hiding in the cave. He's there while we're praying, stirring up the mists, even though we can't see them yet. He's there. Not in the whirlwind, not in the earthquake . . . in the whisper. In the whisper is the voice of the Lord, just waiting for us to quiet up enough to hear Him. Waiting for us to listen. Waiting for us to wait upon Him.

How many times have we prayed for the same thing? How many times do we not see it happen and get discouraged?

But the Lord is stirring up the mists in the sea while we pray. He's working in the mysteries we can't understand, working within our world, our time, our reality so that everything will line up just so for us. We can't see all that--our eyes are only human. 

But He's there. Preparing the rain. 

Our part is to stay on our knees until we see it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Highlights from the Gaithersburg Book Festival

Last Saturday, my family drove a few hours down the road for the Gaithersburg Book Festival, where I would be presenting a panel with two other amazing Christian historical fiction authors, Cathy Gohlke and Carrie Turanksy. Having never attended this festival before, I wasn't sure what to expect. But it was so much fun!

First, it was raining. I'm talking, we've had 2 solid weeks of rain in the mid-Atlantic. Trees are coming down just because the ground is so soggy it can't hold them up. To say it was a bit wet for this outdoor festival is an understatement.

But you just can't dampen the spirits of book nerds. They still showed up by the thousands.

The GBF is a really great, really big event. There were hundreds of authors present in every conceivable genre for every conceivable age group. My family and I sat in on a panel with writers and illustrators of the Science Comic series and learned how they turned topics like The Plague and Sharks into fun, accessible stories for kids, and then we got to watch them draw for us on the spot. We caught the tail end of a non-fiction talk on the founding and building of Los Angeles. And then I joined Cathy and Carrie for our panel on weaving history into fiction.

It rained off and on all day, and the ground was a muddy mess. I had mud splatters all up my legs, and at the time I'm writing this, I haven't even summoned the bravery to check out the shoes that we just shoved in a plastic bag after the event was over, before we drove home. [Update: they all cleaned up just fine, LOL.] We juggled umbrellas and raincoats and had to try to figure out how to keep our bags off the sopping ground. The bookstore had a lot of books with slight curls to their pages.

And it was SO AWESOME. 

Because we got to see hundreds and thousands of other book lovers, coming together in a community. I got to meet two members of my launch team (hello, Kat and Kathy!!!) and finally meet two authors I've long respected but have never actually gotten to see in person. And of course, I got to talk about books! These sorts of panel conversations are always so much fun for me. A chance to talk about writing in general, the stories I love in particular and share a glimpse into the crazy life of a homeschooling writer.

And it's so cool to then walk to the book signing area and get to meet some of the people who sat in on the panel. To meet people I've talked to online. To hear new readers say they so enjoyed my talk they had to run and buy my book. To hear another young woman say I'm one of her favorite authors and she had to come to the GBF to meet me (she said that to the NEWS camera!). To sign one book for a sweet lady's friend and then see her back in the line with her family, because her husband bought her a copy.

Me, Cathy, and Carrie...and a bit of the mud.

The folks who put on the festival gave the authors a regal welcome and thanked us for coming, thanked us for writing. But I think I speak for most of the other authors when I just smile and laugh and turn that right back around--because I've written for years in a vacuum, without my words ever going anywhere beyond my computer. Writing itself doesn't accomplish much. It's the interaction of writing with readers that matters. It's the readers who make it all worthwhile, and seeing all those dedicated readers braving the mud and rain to come and listen to a bunch of authors talk, to stand in line in the rain to get a book signed...they're the ones who deserve the thanks.

(Video from the local news station--you can see me a fair bit in the background as they interviewed Michelle, the young lady who was so excited that I was going to be there!)

It was a wonderful day, and I'm so grateful to everyone who turned out to say hello! I had a great time, and I hope to see the diehard readers of Montgomery County, Maryland back at the GBF in years to come!

(Sorry I didn't take more pictures--my hands were filled with umbrellas and books I was trying to keep dry, LOL!)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Word of the Week - Nice

Nice. Such a simple word, so well known...and so surprising! I happened to click onto it on because it was a trending word, and I was so shocked to see its evolution!

Did you know that nice used to mean "foolish, stupid, senseless"? Apparently it's from the Latin nescius, which is literally "not-knowing." (Same root as science.) 

Etymologists are struck by the development of this word. From that "foolish" use in the 1200s, the earliest days of English, it progressed to "timid" round about 1300, to "fussy, fastidious" by the end of the century, then to "dainty, delicate" around 1400. By 1500 it had moved into a meaning of "precise, careful" and stayed with that until the mid 1700s, when it came to mean "agreeable, delightful."  By the early-to-mid 1800s it could also be applied to people in a sense of "kind, thoughtful"--of course, those last two meanings are still in use today...but who knew that it started out meaning something so different?

The transformation is so big that many times when we read writings from the 1500s and 1600s, it's impossible to tell which meaning the author intended!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Fridays from the Archives - Rejections

God's blessings never cease to amaze and inspire me. Looking back over the last 8 years, and seeing where each step has brought me. Of course, it wasn't all easy breezy, but knowing that the Lord brought me to the right place in HIS time, nothing gets better than that.

Original post published on 2/4/2010

Yesterday morning, I received what every author dreads: a rejection. And this isn't your run-of-the-mill, "Thanks, but after reading the proposal, it's not what we're looking for." This comes after a year of encouragement, of high praise, and of a statement that they wanted it and would have a letter of intent to me "soon."

"Soon" somehow became, "sorry." Which makes Roseanna go "sigh" and "sniffle" and even a short "sob" before I get a grip on myself.

I'm an old friend with rejection. I've been submitting manuscripts since I was fourteen years old, so I've obviously gotten my fair share. Everything from the boiler-plate "thanks but no thanks" letters to some very personal, very encouraging apologies. That's what this one was. The editor loved the story and wants to work with me, but their line's going in a different direction. I understand that. Really I do. And I appreciate that she offered to talk with me about coming up with another idea.

But that doesn't make it any easier, you know? For a year, my hopes have been so high on this project. I really, truly believed that this was my "given," that the encouragement meant I could count on it. But when an optimist like me gets news like this . . . well, there's some deflation. There's a headache. There's some glumness in a royal shade of blue.

And there's a question of, "What was the point of this, Lord? I know You have a purpose for me, for every bump, for every bruise. I know there's a reason this was dragged out so long only to end in a disheartening 'no.' So if You could just let me know what that is . . . ?"

There's no magic cure for disappointment, no Band-aid you can put on it, no steps you can follow to put it neatly behind you and keep plugging away. But still, I woke up today feeling okay. Happy, even. Because yesterday I saw the true mettle of the people I love. My friends not only rallied around me with cheer and encouragement and lots of, "You're too talented not to get picked up soon by a big house!" they had me laughing. They had the optimist in me quickly resurging.

My hubby and I ended up going out for a much-needed date last night, too, and talking to him is always a balm on my soul. I ended my day yesterday knowing that even if life makes us cry now and then, we serve a God who dries our tears. So thank you, Lord, for wrapping your arms around me. And thank you, my awesome friends, for being those arms.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Book Cover Design - Harbor Secrets by Melody Carlson

At this point in time, I have designed more covers for Melody Carlson than any other author--something I certainly wouldn't have imagined I could claim a few years ago, LOL. But given that she now has sixteen books out with WhiteFire and more in the works...yep. That's a lot of covers. 😀

Her upcoming series with us is set in 1915 Oregon, so I rubbed my hands together in anticipation over this one. It's an era I obviously know well in terms of fashion, having researched it for years. Which of course means I also knew how hard it was to find stock images that get it right.

But I had a secret weapon up my sleeve when I sat down to tackle the series concept for this one--Matti's Millinery. I'd contacted this wonderful seamstress's site before about the possibility of using their images, and I knew they were willing to chat, were reasonably priced, and had some great Edwardian selections. So after some conversations with them and Melody, I did indeed find a model who would work perfectly for Anna, the heroine of Melody's new Legacy of Sunset Cove series. Yay!

The first book in the series is Harbor Secrets. Newspaperwoman Anna McDowell finally goes home to Sunset Cove with her teenage daughter after running off to get married as a young woman--but only because she receives word that her father has suffered a stroke. Desperate to make things right with him before its too late, Anna goes back to the idyllic coastal town only to discover it's not so idyllic anymore. Oregon's statewide prohibition has brought trouble to the town in the form of rum runners. Can Anna, with her investigative reporter's instincts, keep her father's newspaper afloat and help weed out the troublemakers from Sunset Cove?

For this first cover in the series, Melody said she'd like to see the character from behind, small and distant rather than in the foreground. That means I'd need full-length images of the model, which Matti's Millinery did thankfully have.

This was our favorite for this first book.

It's really perfect. Anna, a no-nonsense businesswoman in many ways, frequently wears suits that are nearly masculine in style, so this jacket is perfect. And even the hair color is right! Pleased that I had the oh-so-important model figured out, I turned to backgrounds.

Each book in the series will feature a beautiful Oregon coast scene. For Harbor Secrets, I really liked this one.

Sizing it for the book cover--which involved stretching the sky a bit--gives us this.

Then we add the model. Eagle eyes may notice that I flipped her around so she's facing the water and the largest portion of the cover, and also that I deleted the hand that had been positioned on the column, cutting it instead at the elbow, so it looks like both of her arms are in front of her.

This is a fine foundation, but I wasn't wild about having the dress be brown, so I decided to make it a teal/blue to better coordinate with the water color.

So this is good...but I wanted the cover to be a bit moody, to better hint at the mystery Anna is out to solve. Step one was to add the Sutro filter.

And then I also added some fog and haze, using the Pretty Photoshop Actions fog applicator.

I was loving that, so it was time to turn to the title. I wanted to go art deco, to really solidify the era feel, and I tried out So. Many. Fonts. Eventually I decided on Carlton. Here it is with just the title...

Obviously needs something more, so I decided to add some art deco elements to frame it.

That's better! Plus it gave me a good place to put the series name and number, just on the top and bottom...

Nearly there! The only thing left to do was add Melody's name. And voila! The finished cover!

So there we have it! A cover that hints at mystery, establishes the era, and features a small-sized heroine from behind, as Melody requested. She loved how it turned out, and so did I! What do you think?

A B O U T   T H E   B O O K

A Peaceful Coastal Town...Threatened by a Storm of Secrets

It's 1916 when newspaper woman Anna McDowell learns her estranged father has suffered a stroke. Deciding it's time to repair bridges, Anna packs up her precocious adolescent daughter and heads for her hometown in Sunset Cove, Oregon.

Although much has changed since the turn of the century, some things haven't. Anna finds the staff of her father's paper not exactly eager to welcome a woman into the editor-in-chief role, but her father insists he wants her at the helm. Anna is quickly pulled into the charming town and her new position...but just as quickly learns this seaside getaway harbors some dark and dangerous secrets.

With Oregon's new statewide prohibition in effect, crime has crept along the seacoast and invaded even idyllic Sunset Cove. Anna only meant to get to know her father again over the summer, but instead she finds herself rooting out the biggest story the town has ever seen and trying to keep her daughter safe from it all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Updated Privacy Policy and Disclosures

Hello Reader Friends!

I just wanted to write a little note to update you all on the Privacy Policy and Disclosures for this website. You can find the policy HERE. For future reference, this page is located at the bottom of the blog page (just scroll all the way down). If you have ANY questions regarding this information, I would be more than happy to chat with you. 

Please know that I take your privacy rights very seriously. I never share information with anyone without prior consent. And if at any time, you wish to remove your information from the list, all you have to do is unsubscribe. 

May you be blessed,

Monday, May 14, 2018

Word of the Week - Pedestrian

If you've been hanging around my blog since 2011 (there are a few of you--you know who you are, LOL), then you may remember that I've featured this word before. And you may remember it solely because it was first ever Word of the Week.

But since so many of my readers have changed, I thought it would be fun to travel back in time 7.5 years and share again the word that started it all on my blog! I'd looked it up partly out of curiosity, to see which of the two meanings had come first, and was so surprised by what I'd learned that I shared it on Facebook. Where my friends were also so surprised that they suggested I start a blog with such things. Who knew it would still be going strong now?

So, pedestrian.

We all know its two meanings: "dull, prosaic," and "someone who travels by foot."

My patented Roseanna-logic insisted that the "walker" definition ought to have come first, given that it has ped (=foot) in the root.

But no! Its first recorded use is in 1716, where it meant "dull, prosaic," in reference to literature. Why? Because if a piece of writing was "of the foot" then it was clearly as opposite as it could be of what it ought to have been--"of the mind."

It wasn't until the 1790s that it took on its more literal meaning of someone traveling by foot. Largely because by this time the primary adjective was already well in use and it just made sense. Also, because it did contrast nicely with equestrian.

So there you go, a look back for all you newcomers of where the blog series began. ;-)