Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Remember When . . . The Kids Learned?

It was with great shock that I realized a few days ago that we have only a month of summer break left before school starts up again. I'm not ready to be done with my summer...but I gotta say, I'm looking forward to this next school year. We're studying early American history, and the books are just awesome. When I unpacked the box when they arrived a month ago, I kept going, "Oh, wow! We're reading this? Yay!"

So for my post on Colonial Quills today, I decided to answer that "So what about early American books for kids?" question once and for all. ;-) I've posted our entire reading list, complete with links and pictures.

We're also hoping to visit some east coast landmarks and historic homes, so if you have any favorites do let me know!

Early American Reading for Kids

by Roseanna M. White
I'm a homeschooling mom. That means that, while we're still basking in the joys of summer, I'm also planning out the next school year (less than a month until it begins!). While my family is planning vacations purely for fun, I'm trying to figure out how to turn them into field trips. And I admit it--I'm excited about next year. Why? Because we're starting 2 years of American History. =D

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Word of the Week - Hillbilly

I had no internet yesterday, so the Word of the Week is coming to us a day late. But I found a fun one, quite by accident. =)

Growing up in West Virginia, I've heard the term "hillbilly" plenty of times. And of course, there are the famous ones from Beverly Hills. ;-) But I really had no idea where the term came from. Turns out it's pretty straight forward--"hill" (the southern Appalachians, to be precise) plus the proper name "Billy." But the fun part comes from some of the earliest quotes using the term.

First is the original one, from 1892:

Then again, I do not think It will do so well. I would hate to see some old railroad man come here and take my job, and then, I don t think It is right to hire some Hill Billy and give him the same right as I just because he was hired the same time I was. ["The Railroad Trainmen's Journal," vol. IX, July 1892] 

And this one from 1900 is even more interesting:

In short, a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires of his revolver as the fancy takes him. ["New York Journal," April 23, 1900]

If that is, indeed, the definition, then I gotta say I don't know a single hillbilly, LOL.

Hope everyone's having a good week!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Right and Wrong

There is absolute Right. There is absolute Wrong.

I believe this, absolutely.

There are things we should never, ever do, and things we always should. There is sin. There are consequences. There is righteousness.

Then there's the gray. Sometimes it blurs up against the edges of Right and Wrong, but most of its existence lies spanning the fuzzy gap in between. The gray doesn't deal with sin, just With our own decisions. Our relationships. Our countless day-to-day, minute-to-minute being.

I shouldn't have changed my cat's food--now she has a UTI. I shouldn't have yelled at my kids before I realized what the problem was. I should do the dishes. I should make that phone call.

Things, good and bad, but not Right and Wrong.

Years ago, when Rowyn was nearing a year old and still waking up every couple hours through the night, I was nearing wits' end. I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and had no energy left. I felt snappish and cranky through much of the day. There were times when the constant little hands grabbing at me made me want just five minutes without being touched. I was burned out. And in my mind, someone should have seen it and helped me. My husband should have gotten up more with the kids. He should have given me a morning now and then to sleep in. A grandmother should have seen how I struggled and volunteered to take the kids for an hour--without me asking.

My head was full of should-haves and should-not-haves. And eventually, I accused. I don't honestly remember how the argument started, but it was linked somehow or another to my exhaustion. To my frustration with no one helping. With my total and complete conviction that I was right to want what I wanted, and the rest of the world was wrong not to give it to me.

My husband disagreed, LOL.

I don't remember what he said, or what I said in response. I just remember seeking solitude in the night-darkened living room and deciding I would pray. Desperate for peace, I started out kneeling by the chair and ended up stretched across the floor, with my face to the rug. I cried--rare for me. And I begged God to show him, them, anyone. To show them where they were wrong.

That's when the whisper came, in the recessed of my being. The one that said, And what about where you're wrong?

I went still. The tears slowed. My breath eased out. And that's when the epiphany came. That in much of life, it doesn't matter who's right-er or wrong-er. It doesn't matter which side of the argument is most compelling.

What matters is that I cannot make another person's decisions. God does not choose to make another person's decisions. They are free to do what they will. They are free to be who they are. I can't change it.

All I can change is me. My reactions. My responses. My heart.

My heart.

My heart wasn't pretty at that point in time. It was tired and stressed and felt so alone in my exhaustion. But God showed me that night that He was there. That my family was there. That just because no one was doing what I thought they should, it didn't mean they weren't doing what they needed to. They had their own reasons, their own frustrations, their own exhaustions.

I could choose to be resentful--or I could choose to be thankful.

I made a conscious decision that night to choose gratitude. To choose not to be resentful when I didn't get what I thought I should. I chose to find peace in the quiet mornings with my ever-wakeful little guy. I chose to find joy in granting my night-owl hubby those morning hours to rest before a stressful day at work. I chose to do what I could in where I was rather than always wishing for something more, or less, or different.

I chose surrender.

There are so many days when I still think of that shadowed living room floor and the realizations that filtered in that night. So many days when I choose not to argue because I know it's not worth it. That even if I think my opinions the better ones, that doesn't mean I'm Right. It doesn't mean the other party is Wrong.

I don't have to be the victor in the argument. Most times, I don't even have to argue. I just have to stop. Take a breath. Ignore the glaring, blaring insistence inside that says BUT I'M RIGHT! and ask, "But where am I wrong? Where am I hurting them by insisting? What will I actually lose if I put aside my pride and stop arguing?"

The answer is usually "nothing." Maybe a bit of comfort now and them, and a sliver of that pride--but I have more than enough of that to sustain me, LOL.

But what I stand to gain...that's something different altogether. I'm not a pushover, but I'm often silent in a conflict--because I'd rather not fight than hurt someone I love. My husband often pushes me to talk through things when I'd rather not--because he knows relationships stall in silence. God often whispers in those recesses when I'm being stubborn--because He knows that there are things that matter a whole lot more than clinging to my own determination.

I'm not perfect. I'm still tired sometimes. Still stressed, still exhausted. I still have occasional moments where I just want a bubble around me for an hour or two, with no demands on my person to feed someone or clothe someone or teach someone or even talk to someone.

But never, since that night, have I ever felt that despair again. Because I let go of a stumbling block when I said, "You're right, God. Please, show me where I'm wrong."

I never like the answers when I ask that question. But oh, how I cherish the results.

photo credit: gato-gato-gato via photopin

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Remember When . . . We Went to Scotland?

Loch Morar, Highlands, Scotland

It's been a long, long time since I've had to research something totally new. The Lost Heiress may be my first Edwardian English book, but I've done the England research about a gazillion times for the previous versions. All I had to do was refresh, and do some year-specific reading.

But then I thought I'd better start the research for its sequel. And oh. Oh gracious. I felt in way over my head for a day or two!

Back seven or so years ago when I was working on the Victorian-set version of this series, I wrote the second book. My original idea came from when I was a teen, and the original title was Blue Skies in the Morning. But when the first book, originally Golden Sunset, Silver Tear became Fire Eyes round about that time, the sequel had to match. So I called it Wind Aflame.

My heroine, I decided then, would still be from Scotland, as I'd always wanted her to be. She would be an heiress, not just to land but to a title--because in Scotland, girls could inherit a title from their father. Her name would be Constance Augusta (as I planned at 14), but she would go by Gusty (same).

At the time, I'd given my hero, Brice, a title that was real but extinct. That was how I came to set that version of the book at Inverness--it was part of his title. This time around, I've completely fictionalized all titles, so he no longer has that connection. Which is the point of tossing my hands in the air.

Where in the world was I to start? How was I to know where to set this new version (tentatively titled The Outcast Duchess, though we'll see what it ends up as, LOL)? And why in the world did I only take half a page of notes when I was researching for Wind Aflame??? (Bad, Past-Roseanna! So not helpful to Future-Roseanna!) I reread that old, Victorian-set version and wrinkled my nose. I grant that only a few chapters are set in Scotland, but still. Those chapters did nothing to capture it, and I didn't get so much as a whiff of the Scots in Gusty, aside from a character occasionally commenting on the accent that was by no means evident in how I wrote her speech.

So then. I got down to business. My internet history is now full of everything from Gaelic words to what girls' schools in Edinburgh looked like. I've begun a new (secret, for now) Pinterest board filled with photos of lochs and castles and stark, staggeringly-beautiful mountains. I've looked up tartans and crofts and old steam railways. I've watched YouTube videos of hikes and train rides, of kayaks paddling from one loch to another. I've stumbled across tales of the greens kept at lairds' houses and castles for rousing games of football (soccer), of the woes accompanying the great Clearances that displaced so many Highland families in the 18th and 19th centuries, and of how the herring industry went from booming to non-existent.
Eilean Donan Castle - where three lochs meet
My prototype for the fictional Castle Kynn, on a similar (fictional) island
in Loch Morar. Can you imagine growing up there?

I've had books shipped in from other libraries, I've read novels, I've listened to audiobooks. And slowly, ever so slowly (okay, it feels slow, though I guess a week isn't, really, LOL), I've figured out where to set it--Loch Morar, I think. I've figured out who this Gusty girl is. She isn't, as Wind Aflame made her out to be, weak. She's got that stubborn Scots blood, after all (let it be noted, I have some of it too! My McDonald side left Scotland during one of those clearances and settled in Ireland, it seems, before making their way across the pond.). She'll have the burr in her speech, but be able to tone it down thanks to those years away from the Highlands at school. She has, now, a rather complicated family history that involves a mother from a Highland family who had emigrated to America and done well for themselves. A father who inherited a title from his mother's English side but a chiefdom from his father's, and puts all his heart in the then-outdated clan side rather than the far-more-popular peerage title.

Yesterday, as I was reading the oh-so-rich Edwardian Scotland that smells of old paper and disuse, shipped in from a library down-state for me, I paused and realized that I'm putting all this research into this, when I still won't have more than a handful of chapters set in the Highlands before my characters head south to Yorkshire, to London, to Sussex. That's probably why I took only half a page of notes before--because really, Scotland is a small part of the book.

But Scotland is a big part of the characters. And so I'll deem the weeks spent researching it worthwhile. Because we're all shaped, not just by where we wend up, but by where we come from. When I was living near the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland, it was growing up in the mountains of West Virginia that set me apart. Back in West Virginia, it's those years in Maryland's quaint, cultured capital that do the same. Each stop along our life's journey help fashion us into who we ultimately will be.

And that, I think, is what makes a character as rich as a person. That twist-and-turn, up-and-down, in-and-out of life.

And oh--what fun it is to discover it.

Loch Morar - Photo credit: photojenni via photopin cc
Eilean Donan Castle -  photo credit: byb64 (en voyage jusqu'en août :-)) via photopin cc

Monday, July 14, 2014

Word of the Week - Soccer

With all the World Cup stuff going on right now, this one seemed appropriate. And is why my kids asked, "Why do we call it soccer and everyone else call it football?"

So naturally, I looked it up. =)

As it turns out, soccer comes directly from football...sort of. It started as an abbreviation of Football Association. For reasons fairly obvious, rather than abbreviate with the first three letters of association, university kids would abbreviate it socc instead. Sometimes socca. In the 1890s, it was pretty common for university slang to apply an -er ending to just about anything. Rugby players were called ruggers, for example, so by 1891, soccer had joined the language. Probably first applied to the players, but it apparently stuck and became applied to the game itself.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Ah, Memories

First of all, don't forget that there's a giveaway going on for a copy of Circle of Spies! Hop over to Colonial Quills and enter!


One of my grinning-est moments while cleaning out the closets and whatnot at our old house was when I stumbled across a file folder box. It was duct-taped, flimsy, and I had some vague recollection of shoving into it something I wanted to keep. So I opened it up. And I saw this.

 This, my dear friends, is the cover I drew for my first novel, at age 12. Back when The Lost Heiress was Golden Sunset, Silver Tear. And back when I was Roseanna M. Higson, LOL. You know how sometimes you see a baby picture of yourself or you kids and go "Awwwwww!" Yeah. That's what I did here.

But I've always been the type to turn to drawing (or now, digital design) when I don't have the writing groove going on. So this 12-year-old's version of my cover isn't the only I did. over the next couple years, as I rewrote and edited and learned more about drawing, I did these too.

Not all covers, of course, but I loved trying to draw Brook. Who was, at the time Brook Moon. Now she's Brook Eden. But she still has blond curls and green eyes. Though that bead necklace featured in all the above drawings has become one with dangling pearls...

Still. Going through that box was a trip down memory lane. I distinctly remember sitting at my desk in my old bedroom--the one with the peach carpet and the lavender walls--and doing these drawings. I remember holding them up to my mirror to see if they were proportioned right (you can see flaws in the mirror image that you can't detect normally). I remember working so hard on them and knowing they weren't quite it.

Some of the teens on Go Teen Writers frequently share their art on the Facebook group, and I'm usually left in utter awe at their talent. Definitely better than my teen doodling! But I always love seeing them and knowing that, yep, that's what I did too. Not so well, LOL, but still. It gives me a visual documentation of the path the book has taken. I love that. =)

And then, of course, I turned the page and saw this--the title page I created at age 12 too.

It's the first of 388 handwritten (in pencil) pages. *Sniff, sniff.*

Now my first pages are computerized, and I didn't bother designing a title page that would get deleted anyway. Now, my document starts like this.

Far more efficient. And I wouldn't hand-write a book now unless I had absolutely no other choice. But it's not quite as warm and cuddly, and I'm so, so glad I saved that very first draft of my very first book.

Ah, memories.

(And yeah, I kinda combined yesterday's forgotten Remember When with today's Thoughtful Thursday. Because I completely spaced it was Wednesday yesterday until mid-morning, LOL.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Word of the Week - Celebrity

In the closing scene of The Lost Heiress, my hero is observing that someone has become a bit of a naturally, I had to look it up to make sure that it was in use like that in 1911.

I discovered that celebrity comes directly from the Old French and Latin word that means "a celebration." Not surprising when you look at the words, right? So from 1400 to about 1600, it means "a solemn rite or ceremony." Then it shifted to mean "condition of being famous." Not the person, mind you, but the condition. So a person would have celebrity, they would not be a celebrity.

That "be" meaning didn't come along until 1849--when it came to mean "a famous person." So safe for my 1911 speaker, to be sure. Phew! ;-)


On Colonial Quills today, you'll find a guest review of Circle of Spies and a giveaway with it! The review is written by a reader from Goodreads, and if you enjoyed the book, I'd love it if you'd drop by and chime in! Read the Review & enter to win!