Monday, November 23, 2015

We're taking the week off for Thanksgiving, 
so I'm also going to take the week off blogging--
and focus on getting back to my St. Nicholas story, 
which will come out next fall
 (I know I'd originally said this fall, but alas. It's not finished, LOL).

I wish everyone a blessed week, full of realizations. 
I pray that we all look on things in new ways this Thanksgiving time,
and that our gratitude is deep, pervasive, 
and for things we cannot touch or hold in our hands,
that we cannot see with our eyes or buy with a credit card. 
I pray that this year, our hearts find the ultimate thankfulness 
for the gifts He gives us that transcend the physical.

Because even when we lose it all, He is still there. 
Still loving us. 
Still giving to us.

Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . Hatred, Fear, Terror, and How to Defeat Them

It's been an ugly week. A terrible week. My heart and prayers have dwelt much with the people of Paris after the horrible attacks. My heart is heavy that so many have tried to use it as a platform for their own agenda. I won't be one of those. I just want to talk today about all that evil in the world.

And how we can fight it.

Terrorism is evil. I'm positing that as an axiom, so if you disagree with that general statement, then don't bother reading on.

Terrorism is evil, and those who commit it have let that evil dwell in them, which makes them by extension evil as well. Not beyond redemption, but so committed to their cause that they are unlikely to hear opposing views.

Terrorists, then, are evil. And they are committed. And as people committed to evil, they will work hard to achieve their goals. They will find ways in. They will plot. They will plan.

But their plan isn't just to kill--it's to terrorize. That's part of the definition, right? That they are trying to instill terror into a people group. Not just to hurt and kill them, but to make those who are unharmed fearful. To make them quake. To make them hate them back.

Wait, what?

No, I didn't mistype. Think about it. If these people are working for evil, let's examine what we know about the ultimate Evil. It too has a goal--to steal, to kill, to destroy. And to turn hearts away from God. What turns hearts away from God?

Hatred. Unforgiveness. Bitterness. Fear.

If terrorists can make good people hate Muslims, then they're happy--because they're polarizing the world. They're ending peace, even where war hasn't been officially declared. They're convincing endless nations to greet with hate anyone from the Middle East, which will only help them in their efforts to radicalize more young people. "Look," they'll say, "how the West treats us. Look how they hate us."

I will not hate them.

I will not fear them.

Are the radicals out there, planning ways to sneak into Europe and America? Absolutely. Will they take advantage of the flood of refugees? Absolutely. If the refugees are forbidden entrance to a country, will the radicals find another way in? Absolutely.

So how do we react? Do we lock down our borders? Do we pick up our weapons? Do we declare every Muslim the enemy?

I pray, with everything within me, that we do not.

Eighty years or so ago, there was an evil regime in control of a country. It perpetrated unspeakable evil. It terrorized an entire continent into subjugation. It killed. It raped. It mutilated. It convinced its youth that it was right to do so. And anyone who didn't agree was either killed or forced out.

I have some German blood in me. Does that mean I'm evil by association? Does it mean people were right to distrust any German Americans during WWII? Were we right to force Japanese Americans into internment camps during the war?

I hope you think the answer is "no." But just think, for a moment, how afraid that generation was. How they said, "We're just protecting our country."

Now fast-forward to this regime in Syria who is killing or forcing out millions of its own citizens who don't agree with its beliefs or politics. These people are already victims--and now they're facing a world who will blanket them with hatred, because they fear that one of those evil people--the very people who beheaded their friends and blew up their neighbor's car and burned down their house--might be hidden among them.

This is what our generation will be judged for. How do we respond to this crisis? This tragedy?

We don't defeat terror by reacting from fear or anger or hatred. That is how they win. They steal our peace, they steal our security . . . and they steal the love from our very hearts.

We have to be wise. Absolutely. While we're praying, we would do well to pray that those in authority have discernment. We don't want to be responsible for bringing in those few evil ones. But we also don't want to be responsible for destroying the innocent. We don't want to be responsible for hating an entire group of people because of what a mutual enemy has done. We don't want to step on a slippery-slope of blanket judgment that leads us to become the villain in our effort to protect ourselves. But that is a possibility. We have decisions before us, and some of them would lead us to committing terrible sins in the name of security.

But other paths lead to millions of people hearing the truth about God. Seeing how He loves them. Seeing what it really means to be a Christian. To be part of a faith that isn't founded on killing, like parts of Islam are, but on sacrificing for the salvation of others.

My Jesus didn't kill his enemies. He died for them.

He didn't hate them. He loved them.

This isn't a question of how the nation will respond. It's a question of how you will. Will you hate, or will you love? Will you fear . . . or will you trust in Him?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Remember When . . . Some Historical Book Covers

I'm feeling unaccountably tired (and, ahem, lazy) this morning. So I thought I'd just share some of the historical covers I've done recently. Not going to do a behind the scenes post right now (cause that takes energy, LOL), but if any catch your eye and you want to know more about the process, just let me know!

A couple months ago I was designing covers for WhiteFire and came up with these for a really fun novella collection (in two parts) that we're publishing in 2016.
Here are closer images of the two volumes.

As you can see, they both feature the same model, but in different positions, and in the background is a picture of historical Austin, Texas. Awesomely, the city skyline is from an old postcard we've been given permission to use! So these two are clearly part of the same set, and yet different enough to be memorable. The authors are setting these 8 novellas based on Jane Austen's novels in historical Austin and have included in them all a school called "Austen Academy." They based the descriptions of the academy on a certain old house, which you see in the series badge. Fun, huh? =)

I also designed covers for the individual novellas, which will be on sale individually in digital formats (compilations will be available both digitally and in print). Well, the first four are ready. The others will come later, since Vol 2 doesn't release until next September. ;-)

Again, I wanted a design that spoke to the series aspect--and the fact that they belong in that first volume--but had something individual. So they're all on the background of their volume, but with an image of their heroine. And of course, the novella title is large rather than the series title.

Not long after these covers went live, I got two inquiries on cover design from writers of Jane Austen fan fiction. =) That resulted in two covers for each.

Those first two are full-length novels by Brenda Webb.

Next up were two collections of P&P-based short stories by Renee Beyea.

As a side note, I found it so much fun to work with these authors and see the different ways they viewed Elizabeth and Darcy!

Then it was time for another fun one that required some characters with attitude.
(How fun is that??)

And I'll leave you today with some Christmas covers!

This first one sounds super-interesting, following the cloth eventually used to swaddle the newborn Christ on its long journey through the house of David.

Then we have a fun Western novella that's part of a bundle you can get. I've worked with Heather Blanton before and loved taking the "Heather" design styling into the holidays. And then she also recommended me to another author in the same collection. A Mountain Man's Redemption was one of those covers that I put together not AT ALL following her questionnaire, simply because that photo wouldn't let me go. I sent it to her rather wincingly, fully expecting to have to go back to the drawing board and make one like she said she wanted, LOL. Instead, she loved this one as much as I did!

So there we have it. My lazy morning, but following months of productivity. (And those are just the historical covers! I've been a busy girl, LOL.)

Do you have a favorite? Any you want to see the design process on? Let me know!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Word of the Week - Anyway

This one is quick--but interesting!

Anyway dates from 1560, though it was traditionally two words until the 1830s. And up until modern history, it was quite literally "any way." As in, Is there any way I can help you? I'll get there any way I can. It quite literally meant "in any manner."

It wasn't until 1859 that it took on the sense of "regardless" that it now often has. So, historically, no "I'm going anyway!" unless you mean "by any path."

Yeah, pretty sure I may have used that one incorrectly at some point or another, LOL. But now we know!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . Things

I have two shoeboxes sitting in my living room, waiting for next week when I'll drop them off at a local church, and they'll begin their long journey to children in need. Children who, so the websites say, may never have gotten a gift before. Children who have never celebrated Christmas, not in a way we'd recognize.

All the advice I read said to gear those boxes toward specific things. Things like flashlights and batteries. A shirt. Candy (that won't melt). A toy--but no stuffed animals, as those terrify young children in many of the countries the shoeboxes go to, and are boring to the kids old enough not to be scared. Things like toothbrushes and combs and ponytail holders.

These are the things that will delight these children.

I look around my house, and I see so many things. And I realize anew how blessed we are in this country . . . and how the blessing has turned to the norm. And how the norm is not only taken for granted, but turned into something that can be used against us. Because we get so hung up on things. We spend so much time, effort, and money on them. We think that's what makes holidays bright, what makes our kids happy, what we have to give to each other to prove our affection.

I look at all the things . . . and I wonder. I wonder at this world we live in.

My kids don't have to fear wild animals--so they can call them cute and ask for toys that show them with big eyes and baby faces.

My kids don't know what it means to go hungry--so candy is no rare thing.

My kids have so many toys they can lose one and not even notice.

My kids have so many clothes that one shirt means next to nothing to them.

My kids have never had to brush their teeth or wash their hair at a river.

My kids may have wants, but they have no real needs.

We're blessed. Yes. Absolutely. And we're also, in so many ways, blinded to some key truths. I'm not sure any of us really understand what things mean anymore. They're not often special. They're easily replaced.

Yet they're still our language.

I look at the things in my house, and I think about the difference between survival and luxury. And suddenly I can understand a little better the clerics of old who took a vow of poverty.

Because things are so loud. And the voice of God is so soft.

Which one are we listening to throughout our day?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remember When . . . We Met the Characters?

Sometimes it's a little weird to be on a writing schedule a full year ahead of publication--while I'm brainstorming ideas for a whole new series and wrapping up edits on the final book in the current series, readers are still waiting for book 2's release in a few months.

But since The Lost Heiress is at least out now, LOL, and I've been getting lots of questions about whether book 2, The Reluctant Duchess, is about Brice, I thought I'd take a few minutes to talk about these next hero and heroine.

In short, YES. It's Brice's story. ;-) (Wow, that was a short blog. Back to work now...LOL)

In case you haven't seen the cover yet, here it is, with my heroine, Rowena.

I am so in love with that red dress...*blissful sigh* And the model is a great Rowena. I describe her as having honey brown hair and silver-grey eyes. She's the heir to a Highland earl (women could inherit titles in Scotland if there were no sons). She's also in desperate need of a hero to rescue her from a bad situation.

Cue Brice.

When one writes a "perfect" character, one gets a little nervous that reader feedback will be "He's too perfect! Totally unrealistic!" But given that Brice, called Lord Worthing in The Lost Heiress, was just a secondary character, I guess I got away with it. ;-) Heir to the Duke of Nottingham, some of his confidence no doubt comes from his position in society. And the fact that he's handsome. (I picture him rather like Justin Gaston...)

But Brice is certainly more than charming. He's a man of deep faith, and that faith informs everything he does. That faith has given him a knack for seeing things most people don't, and for knowing when and what to pray that people are always surprised by.

Obviously, Brice needed a fabulous love story. But what kind of love story does the silver-tongued charmer get??

An unexpected one. I had to pair him with someone totally unlike him. Someone who distrusts charmers. Someone who has absolutely no interest in becoming a duchess (Brice has inherited the duchy before the opening of book 2, so that I didn't have to worry with shifting title names within the book. #YoureWelcome). Someone who at once needs the help he can offer and feels it's worthless if she can't help herself.

And Brice, who is always right . . . well, Brice gets a taste of what happens when he assumes he's right and isn't. (Cue the maniacal laughter.)

So while Brice isn't quite "perfect" in this book, he's still a man of compassion and faith and honor, and I hope the readers who fell in love with him in The Lost Heiress will love him even more in The Reluctant Duchess.

Meanwhile, I need to get back to editing his sister's story in A Lady Unrivaled. So if y'all will excuse me now . . .

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . Active Faith

My husband came home one evening a while back with quite a story to tell. He'd met a friend of ours at a local Christian restaurant--a blatantly Christian restaurant, mind you, with a Christian name and which is decorated with nothing but Christian art. They were sitting there having some iced tea on one end of the restaurant, when from the other end came a scream, and an older gentleman began convulsing, falling from his chair. His daughter was crying, "Daddy, don't leave me! Don't leave me!"

David and our friend jumped out of their chairs and rushed over to help.

They were the first ones there. From the complete opposite end of the restaurant, with a couple dozen others between them and this man, and they were the first ones there.

Were they trained in how to help in a medical emergency? Um, no. But they did the best the could, easing him down so he didn't hit his head, making sure his airway was clear. Our friend called for the owner to call 911. David tried to keep the daughter calm, then went out to meet the EMTs. Our friend stayed with the man. Prayed for the man.

One other person in the restaurant came over to help. One.


No one else asked if he was okay. If they could help. No one got up to pray with our friend. David's words were, "They just kept buttering their bread."

How many times have we all heard the story of The Good Samaritan? How many times have we thought, "Well obviously I'd help"?

Yet here was a restaurant full of presumed Christians, and only 3 got off their rears to do something when someone was collapsing on the floor. Part of me thinks I should be angry about this. But mostly, I'm sad.

We're not like some of the people we've seen in those terrible police-shooting videos, where they just stand there filming while someone's shot or beaten, even cheering them on. But even if we want to help, too often we don't. Why?

Because the church is so afraid. And the people are rendered paralyzed. Maybe people think they'll get in trouble if they try to help but don't know how--if that's so, let me assure you that there are Good Samaritan laws protecting you. Maybe those people had thought, "Well someone's already up..." But haven't they also heard "Where two or three are gathered in My name...?"

No, we're not comfortable with the idea of helping in a situation where we're not qualified. But so often in a situation like that, no one is qualified. What then? Does God expect us to just sit back? No. I daresay the Good Samaritan wasn't a board-certified physician. But the Lord still expects us to do what we can. And to bombard heaven with our prayers. To put down our bread and butter and storm the gates of heaven on behalf of our brethren.

Sooner or later we'll all probably find ourselves in a situation similar to this one. Not exact, probably, but similar.

A situation where we can either help or not.

Get up or not.

So the question is...what do you do?