Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . Honest Faith


Have you ever noticed how often children appear in the Gospels?

Have you ever wondered why?

Time and again, Jesus not only encourages children to come to Him, He holds them up as the examples of true faith.

In Matthew 21, after He's just cleared the temple, the religious leaders chastise Him because the children were crying out, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" after they saw Him healing the blind and lame, and He did nothing to silence them.

We just read this passage in our Bible study, and it was so interesting to take it out of that "Of course this is what happened" way of thinking and instead pose questions to ourselves.

If, in your church, some guy came in and touched someone who'd been ill a long time and they were suddenly better...if your kids or grandkids or nieces or students starting shouting, "Save us, Son of David!" (the literal meaning of Hosannah), what would you do?

Quite likely, you'd hush the kids, right? Probably with something along the lines of "Only God can save us, not this guy." Even if he was a genuine healer filled with the Holy Spirit, we would not want our kids to cry to him for salvation.

Looking at it that way, you can see where these leaders are coming from. This was a disturbing thing to hear.

But even so, the kids cried out because of what they'd just seen Him do. And if we, too, saw miracles...wouldn't it make you wonder about who this fellow was?

As we talked about kids and how quick they are to believe, we also realized that in part this belief comes from what they've been taught. And what do we teach our kids? Do we teach them our principles...or our doubts?

The Jewish families in Jerusalem at that time would have been instructing their little ones in the Law and the Prophets. They would have been singing psalms with them daily; including Psalm 118, from which "Save us, Son of David!" comes. Quite possibly, these kids even would have heard their parents muttering the phrase every time more news came about the oppressive Roman regime. It would have been a cry on their lips frequently, I think.

A cry the children wouldn't know not to take literally. Because that's not the way a child's belief works. They hear our words, not our internal monologue about how God sure hadn't saved us before, so who's say if He ever would again. They learn our lessons, even when we don't necessarily believe them anymore ourselves. 

These children who called out in praise to Jesus in the temple weren't encumbered by their parents' expectations of what a Savior should look like. All they knew was that Jesus healed. Jesus did the impossible. And they believed it because they saw it. Maybe they believed it just because something showed on his face that they weren't cynical enough to doubt yet.

Children don't just have a strong faith--they have an honest faith. They believe what they're taught in a way the teacher rarely does anymore.

As I let these thoughts churn during our church service, I remembered that this was something I'd thought before, actually. Something I explored in A Soft Breath of Wind. My heroine, Zipporah, is touched with a spiritual gift that her family can scarcely take in. Because she was young, and she believed. It was at the core as simple as that. She believed what they'd taught her...far more than they themselves did.

Kids aren't jaded yet. Kids aren't cynical. Kids don't have expectations for the way the world--and God--works. They quite simply believe what they say they do.

There's such beauty in that, isn't there? And such a lesson. How often do we say the words that are expected, but inside we don't really expect anything to come of them? How often do we teach things without examining their truth for ourselves? How have we let our honest, childlike faith become cluttered and dulled by a lifetime of questions and doubts and misunderstanding?

Those children in the temple didn't expect Jesus to save them from Rome, as their parents did. They just expected Him to do the impossible. And He did.

We have expectations when we pray. But like those parents in Jesus's day, they're tied up in our wants rather than the Lord's. But how often is Jesus standing right there before us, already doing something far more miraculous, if only we have the eyes to see...and the heart to believe?


Monday, February 25, 2019

Word of the Week - Campaign


The word campaign has been in English since the 1600s, arriving in our tongue from Latin, by way of French. In its early days, campaign was reserved for military courses of action. Why?

Well, it's actually from the Latin word campus, which means "an open field." Soldiers on active duty were often out "in the field"--something we still say today. This, then, became extended to include the course of action the military would undergo in a particular area, especially because these actions were generally planned during the winters (when they were literally just camped in a field) before the action in the spring.

In the 1790s, campaign was extended to mean any planned course of action. And in 1809 it took on the political meaning we use so often today.





And also, an announcement! I'll be doing a LIVE cover reveal tonight (Monday 25 February) at 7:00 p.m. Eastern in Roseanna White Live! You'll be able to watch both on Facebook and on my website, live or on-demand.

Did you realize my debut novel, A Stray Drop of Blood, is turning 10 this year?! I can't believe it's been so long...and I wanted to celebrate by giving Stray Drop a new cover! (Classic edition will still be available in paperback too, as long as my stock holds out...which should be a while, LOL.) This new cover will be on the ebook, a new paperback with bonus content, AND a hardback with dust jacket!

PLUS (wow, I feel like a pitchman, LOL), because A Soft Breath of Wind's cover had been designed to coordinate with Stray Drop's, I redesigned that one as well and will be revealing it at the same time! It's going to be super fun, y'all!!! Please drop by live so we can chat about it in real time! 😀


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Roseanna White Live Begins on Monday!


Don't forget that Season 4 of Roseanna White Live will get underway on

Monday
February 25
at 7 p.m. eastern!


We've spent weeks retooling our set (because not having books in the background just wasn't working for me...), lining up guests and topics, and figuring out the technical details.

So here's the general Season 4 lineup! (Guests are still being set in stone)

25 February 2019
AT THE DESK
The Number of Love, a Sherlock story, and On Wings of Devotion

4 March 2019
FACE TO FACE
“With Kate Breslin, on Far Side of the Sea


11 March 2019
FROM THE BOOKSHELVES
“A Selection from Weddings, Willows, and Revised Expectations


18 March 2019
STATE OF THE BOOKSTERVERSE
“What Is Christian Fiction, Anyway?”
Guests:Angela Henderson

25 March 2019
AT THE DESK
“READ – A new website”

1 April 2019
FACE TO FACE
“With Stephanie Morrill, on Within These Lines
(Live from Kansas City with Stephanie!)


8 April 2019
FROM THE BOOKSHELVES
“A Selection from Shine the Light by April McGowan”

15 April 2019
STATE OF THE BOOKSTERVERSE
“Where should Happily-Ever-After give way to reality in fiction?”
Guests:

22 April 2019
AT THE DESK

29 April 2019
WILDCARD WEEK
Viewers’ Choice!

6 May 2019
FACE TO FACE
“With Johnny Alexander”

13 May 2019
FROM THE BOOKSHELVES
“A Selection from my All the Inn’s a Stage

20 May 2019
STATE OF THE BOOKSTERVERSE
“Cultural Diversity in Christian Fiction”
Guests: Jamie Lapeyrolerie and Toni Shiloh

27 May 2019
AT THE DESK
“Inside the Release of The Number of Love

3 June 2019
FACE TO FACE
“With Lauraine Snelling”

10 June 2019
FROM THE BOOKSHELVES
“A Selection from my The Number of Love




Monday, February 18, 2019

Word of the Week - Disaster


This is one of those that I probably could have figured out if I ever happened to pause and think about it...but which I'd never paused to think of until I saw it in my son's vocabulary book. 😉

So, we're probably all familiar with the root of disaster. Namely, aster, the Latin word for "star." We see this root in many words. Asterisk, astronomy, astrology, etc.

And of course, dis- as a prefix means "against." So disaster is literally "against the stars." This will either make a light bulb go on over your head or make you scratch said head, LOL. It's pretty clear when you remember that in ancient days, the stars were considered to be guiding forces--or if not guiding, they made things clear. A star heralded the births of important men, for instance (Christ being the ultimate example of this). In many cases, it wasn't that people thought the stars dictated what happened so much as that they explained what happened.

Regardless, disaster would mean that the stars were against you--which meant trouble and bad things would happen to you.

Even though most of us today don't believe that, it's still so interesting to realize that our vocabulary reflects those ancient beliefs!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . Romance


When I looked down and realized that my normal Thoughtful post this week would be on Valentine's Day...well, it didn't take a genius to realize what my topic ought to be. 😉 But deciding what particular slant I wanted to take on a very general topic proved much more of a challenge.

As I let the subjects of love and romance and marriage etc. all swirl around in my head, a few things came to the surface. Some of which I intend to talk about in more detail (and with other authors) during some of my Roseanna White Live events this spring. But writing it all out here is a great place to start. 😀

I am a romance writer. In particular, a Christian romance writer. Even more particularly, I tend to focus on historical romance. Which I think has given me an interesting perspective, because, for most of history, a woman's primary purpose was to find a good match, get married, and raise a family. There were always exceptions, but that was the rule.

And I love that. I have other passions, yes, and I think most people do. But as goals go, building a family is one of the most important ones I've ever been able to imagine for myself.

Some of the critics of Christian romance as a genre--and historicals in particular--rant about how these books teach girls to focus on the wrong things: that without a man they can't be complete, that marriage is all they should be thinking about, and that focusing on such things might "awaken passion before it's time." That they portray unrealistic heroes and give us an unrealistic view of what a relationship will look like.

And this is where I always want to argue. Because no, most stories I read aren't saying that at all. But they are saying that when we find that special someone, we are better together than we are apart. Stronger with each other than without. 

Let's be honest: most of us end up falling in love and getting married. This is how God made us, to crave companionship. It's going to come up. And it's IMPORTANT. One of the biggest decisions we ever make in our life. So shouldn't we be taught how to differentiate between emotion and something deeper? Shouldn't we identify what makes someone a good versus a bad partner? Shouldn't we have an idea of what a relationship with a godly man should look like? This is actually what I love about Christian romance--it's not all about finding the alpha male who's super sexy. It's about finding someone who makes the heroine better. Through whom they grow closer to God. It's about showing us all that we are worthy of love.

This is why the bride and bridegroom feature in SO MANY of Jesus's examples and parables. It's why we, the Church, are even called His bride.

Because it's basic, common, something easily understood. But that's not the only reason. It's also because the love we feel for that special someone is such a perfect analogy for our relationship with Him.

He pursues us. We wait for Him. We can get along on our own, yes, but we are oh so much better once we put our hand in His. We're stronger together. And once we've found Him, we know we always have someone to turn to. Someone to comfort us in our tears and laugh with us in our joys. Someone to work through the problems with us and whisper encouragement in our ear when we think we can't take one more step.

As for the "before it's time" complaint...this has long been something I take issue with. I had the blessing of meeting my future husband in middle school and dating him through high school. We went to the same college and got married after our freshman year when we were both still 18. Did I get married young because I'd read romance novels? Um...no. I got married young because God had already put in my life the man He wanted me to marry, and I recognized that and embraced it. I didn't see the point in waiting just because today's culture looked at me askance. I rather looked at them askance when they said things like, "Why don't you just live together?" And now, 17.5 years later, I can still say I'm certain we made the right decision. We've never had a moment's regret over marrying young. We've grown together and changed together and sought God more deeply together. We've built each other up, helped each other chase dreams, and are raising a family.

My story obviously isn't everyone's. No one's story is everyone's. But that, too, is what I love about Christian romance novels. They give a glimpse into different stories, one of which might just strike a chord with you. One of those heroines is going to have the same insecurities that plague you. One of those heroes is going to remind you of him. And as they struggle and grow together, it's going to remind you of the journey you're on--and how crucial it is to keep on growing closer to each other and to God.

Whatever your romance looks like, whether you have a special someone in your life to celebrate with or not, I pray that today you feel love--the love of a Savior who loves you so much that He moved heaven and earth to meet you. A Man who gave up His kingdom for you. A Lord who stretches out his hand and says, "Come to me, my bride."

Now that is a love story worthy of the ages...





Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Cover Design - True Nobility by Lori Bates Wright


Time for another Behind the Design of the book cover process! This time, I'm backing up a few months to a cover that remains one of my favorites: True Nobility by Lori Bates Wright.When I read the answers Lori filled out in the questionnaire, I knew I was going to love doing this one. She wanted the cover to feature her heroine--face not fully visible--in a beautiful blue hoop dress. Now, I confess: I love historical covers with gorgeous dresses. I think they grab the eye immediately. I love them as a reader, I love them as a writer, and I love them as a designer, LOL.

As a designer, these are far easier to find images for than everyday historical garb. Go figure, I guess they're more fun for models to take pictures in. ;-)

In this case, I began with the dress. I wanted to find something accurate to the era, and I was thrilled when I stumbled across public domain images from the Met galleries. When I saw this one, I knew I'd hit upon a winner.



In general, this fit the description Lori gave me very well. My only concern was that this fabric had a pattern, and I wasn't sure that was exactly what she had in mind. But I figured it was worth a try, so this was what I started with.

As always, I started by selecting just the dress from an image in the collection that I liked best. I enlarged it until it filled the frame pretty much entirely.


Next was finding a model to put in it. When putting together images like this, the primary concern, of course, is matching angles. I tried several, eventually deciding that this young woman would work quite well. Her hair style was perfect, the body angle was right, and I liked the emotion and movement in her body position.


So just putting this girl's face behind the dress, I got this.


Now, obviously we're missing something here, LOL. And there was some other tweaking to be done too. First, I found some arms--from a different model--that I could put over top of the dress.


It was surprisingly challenging to find those! And then, of course, I had to make them look like they were natural, so I added some shadows.


And then, the hair. I had to move it so that it wasn't tucked into the dress, and I also had to darken it just a bit.


Now, the other thing Lori had specified was that the character had a blue and silver brooch that she wore on the dress. She told me what it needed to look like, so off I went in search. I found plenty that were close...but never quite it. I also needed something at an angle, to match the body position, not straight-on. Finally, I found this one.






It was almost perfect, except that it needed to be silver instead of gold. But that was a simple matter of de-saturating that part of the design. I then positioned it onto the bodice of the dress, and voila!


I was loving how this was looking! But next came the background. I tried quite a few, trying to find something that would identify the Southern setting...but when I plugged this one in, I fell in love.


Even that much is great, right? It was really starting to come together. But of course, I had to fuss with the lighting a bit. I made it warmer and added some sunburst effects to soften the line between dress and background.



And then I added a Sutro filter and some shading to the bottom so the title would stand out.


Which means it was time for the title! For fonts, I wanted something with just a bit of flourish to it, but largely a nice, bold serif. So I used Requiem Display for True and then one called The Last Font I'm Wasting on You (LOL) for Nobility.


Then, of course, the author name, and a divider to frame the title and separate it from the author.


Almost done! It was only missing the series badge, which I added into the upper right corner, choosing one that matched the style of those dividers. And so here it is--the finished cover!



I was SO pleased with this, and when I sent it to Lori, she loved it too! We did try a few more backgrounds...



The sailboat is important to the story, so we liked the idea of those...but ultimately, we agreed that the original background was the best, and we decided to just incorporate the ship element onto the full cover.


I think one of the highest compliments I got on this one was from my husband who, when Lori sent me a copy, mistook it for one of the books I'd just ordered from Bethany House, LOL.

About the Book


Alone in an unfamiliar country where her noble title is useless. Everything she believes in is shattered. Driven by desperation, she risks it all to return to the one man whose love promises to be true.

Lady Victoria Haverwood, beloved daughter of a widowed Earl, has spent years at a fashionable boarding school longing for the day she can come home to finally take her place as mistress of Wrenbrooke. But when she becomes the target of a murderous plot, her idyllic plan is swiftly turned upside down.

Nicholas Saberton, an accomplished American Naval Captain, is commissioned to escort the earl and his daughter safely across the ocean to the lively shores of Savannah, Georgia. Pledged to protect her with his life, Nicholas is determined to remain immune to Victoria’s innocent charm. Focused on building his shipping empire, the Haverwood heiress and her quirky relatives become an irresistible diversion.

Danger shadows them. Soon the repercussions of her father’s past ensnare Victoria in a web of deception that threatens to consume her. Only her love for Nicholas will give her strength to discover the truth. But will it be too late?

Purchase Links

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

What do you think of the cover? What's your favorite aspect of it?

Do you have any technical questions about how a particular step is done? I'm always happy to share, though I try not to get too technical in the posts as a whole, lest I bore the majority. ;-)



Monday, February 11, 2019

Word of the Week - Slug

In my house, we often ask which words come first--the animals, or the people who share their traits. Like slug/sluggish, sloth/slothful etc.

Well, in the case of slug, the trait definitely came before the critter! It comes from the Scandinavian word slugje, which means "a slow, heavy person." It's been in English since the early 15th century. Interestingly, it wasn't given as a name to a shell-less snail until 1704!

Etymologists aren't quite sure where the next meaning of slug--a lead bit--came from. Perhaps because of how heavy lead is? No one's quite sure. But it's from this secondary meaning that we get the "bullet" meaning. This may have led directly to the meaning of "a hard blow or punch." The meaning of "swallow" is likely influenced by the Irish slog, which means swallow.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . A Different Response to Abortion Questions


The events of the last couple weeks, as NY passed the bill legalizing late-term abortion, have resulted in some high emotions. I don't watch much news, but even I have seen reactions everywhere. I was horrified when I heard the VA governor, in talking about how "late" late-term could mean, basically advocate exposing unwanted children--choosing to kill them after birth if they were unwanted because of physical issues.

We have an emotional response to that. We're supposed to have an emotional response to that.

But what is the emotional response supposed to be?

My husband and I were talking about this on the way home from church. Those of us who believe that life begins at conception must, therefore, believe that abortion is killing. And since it's purposeful killing, premeditated, against someone not engaged in war, or who is not threatening the life of another...yes, I believe it does meet the definition of murder. BUT.

But.

If we truly believe life is sacred...that has to apply to the mother too, right? We have to look at those who are debating and decide on abortion and love them just as much as we love the idea of their child. We have to be horrified, not just at the thought of ending a baby's life, but at the thought of a mother feeling so hopeless that she would consider it. We need to learn how to open our arms wide and support those who find themselves in such a situation rather than just shaking a fist and calling anyone who would do so a murderer.

Many people do this. And many people think that, through their heated words, everyone just knows that they're outraged at the act, not that they hate the person committing it.

But friends--those people can't tell the difference. Because when someone is screaming at us in rage, all we know is that we have two choices: we can fight them back, or we can run away.

Neither of these is the response the Church wants people to have. So why do we continue shouting?

The emotion though...we can't--and shouldn't--just shut it down. So what do we do? What is the correct emotional response?

As I contemplated this, I remembered in the Gospels where Jesus, not long before his trial, pauses outside the city and weeps over Jerusalem. Weeps for the people who refuse to believe. Weeps for the prophets they've killed. Weeps for what He knows is to come.

Ah. Yes. That is the response that is appropriate. Not outrage--sorrow.

Anger, my friends, will do nothing for the causes we believe in. But sorrow...sorrow is something most of those mothers feel too. They feel it when they realize they're pregnant. They feel it when they decide to go to that clinic. They feel it later when they look back on what they've done. Calling them a murderer is not going to bring them to the arms of our Savior, friends. But crying with them--wrapping them in our arms and mourning--that's a different story.

I remember in college one day, looking around at all those people who didn't believe like I did, who thought sex was just for fun and nothing to take seriously, I was moved to tears (which is very unusual for me) because they didn't understand. They didn't understand the beauty of what God created. They didn't understand how sacred their bodies were supposed to be. They didn't understand the value and worth they have, which ought to be protected. 

And it's the same thing here. They don't understand. They don't understand how these decisions will affect them for the rest of their lives. They don't understand that the panic, the pain, the fear is so small compared to the regret and mourning that consumes most of the women who go through with an abortion.

They don't understand. And this is NOT cause for outrage--this is cause for sorrow. Full, profound, soul-deep sorrow.

Now legislators might deserve some of the outrage, as might the Church for making so many women think they sit in judgment over them, making them think a private, secret appointment is better than living with people looking down their noses for the next two decades. But the women? I think Jesus had something to say about how to treat them. And I believe it began with, "He who is without sin..." 

So often in church, we speak out against the sin without thinking about the heart of the sinner. We're just so outraged, so horrified, that we don't pause to think about who might be sitting there, bearing our accusation, feeling hated and reviled and condemned because of a choice made decades, years, months, or just weeks ago. People who don't feel loved. People who don't feel there's a difference between what they did and who they are. Certainly not in our eyes.

The world has enough outrage, my friends. We who follow Christ need to choose something different. We need to #BeBetter. We need to show His love and support them, bear their burdens, and make it clear that we love them, not just the child in their womb. Cry with them. Embrace them. Don't cast stones at the choices they've made or are considering. Instead, mourn with them for what they lost because they didn't understand. Be there. Support. Encourage. 

Outrage divides--but sorrow...shared sorrow will knit us together.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Romans 12:9-15 (NIV)