Friday, February 29, 2008

The Friday Fact

Hairpin Lace.

I had planned to do a lace series before I saw this week's episode of Project Runway. Chris's use of hairpin lace in one of his looks only made me to decide to move hairpin up the list. I imagine there are an awful lot of Project Runway fans who haven't got the faintest idea what hairpin lace is. I shall attempt to remedy that.

Hairpin lace isn't an old form of lace, relatively speaking. It's done with a crochet hook, so it's only been around since the early 19th century. It gets the name "hairpin" from the loom that's used to make the strips. It looks like a hairpin, only the sides are straight and both ends are closed. Here's a picture of a lovely walnut loom. This form of lace was extremely popular in the late Victorian period.

The lace is woven in strips on the loom with the use of a crochet hook, and then the strips are crocheted together to form scarves, shawls and edgings. And here is a tutorial with pictures, written by Sandra Petit, ACFW member, published author and my brother's mother-in-law. Just for the heck of it, a lovely hairpin lace shawl. You can really see the strips and the weaving in that picture.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spotlight on Europe

This week's feature is a little different, not something I would usually feature. But it's such an amazing concept that I have to tell about it!

The book is titled A Curse Dark As Gold, and it's a YA historical fantasy. This novel is the debut novel of Elizabeth C. Bunce. I met her over a year ago on one of my cross stitch message boards, and go to watch her go through the final edits of the book, get it turned in and then start on all of the promo stuff. The book is getting amazing reviews, and I know for a fact that it's already sold out twice on Amazon.

It's a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, set in the old mill towns of England. I had found the year a few days ago, but now I don't remember what it was...

From Elizabeth's web site:
As Charlotte struggles to manage the difficulties she inherits along with Stirwaters Woollen Mill, she discovers a shadow world at the fringes of the familiar: Dark magic, restless spirits, a mysterious Helper. A wicked uncle, an age-old curse.... How can Charlotte prevail with such forces allied against her? In this novel inspired by “Rumpelstiltskin,” the miller’s daughter of the fairy tale comes to life as a young woman determined to save her family and her mill--whatever the cost.

Just as an FYI, this is NOT a Christian novel, so the fantasy elements are probably not light fantasy. I haven't read it yet, but I plan to. It's based on a fairy tale, how can I not?

Elizabeth also does Renessaince Faires and is an amazing seamstress.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Munchkin is sick

The Munchkin has a cold. Her eyes are watery, she's sneezing her little head off and she can't breathe through her nose. So her mommy has to call the vet in the morning and get her some drugs.

It really is funny to listen to a cat sneeze though. Especially the way Zoe sneezes. On and on and on....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Romance.... or Love Story?

Like most females, I love a good romance. Boy Meets Girl. Girl Hates Boy. Boy Hates Girl. Girl Falls in Love With Boy. They Fight. They get married. Good romance follows a formula. Writing to a formula does not make something inherently bad. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are based on a formula, and a very successful formula at that. How many other teen detectives are still sleuthing after nearly 80+ years? None!

But I've never been comfortable applying the romance label to my own stuff. For one thing, I rarely start at the beginning of the relationship with Boy Meets Girl. More often than not, the story begins in the middle of the relationship and is usually centered on some sort of tragic event that drives a wedge between them, and they have to work through the tragedy in order to stay together. Even though my life has had very little tragedy in it, that's just the way my brain works.

Yesterday, I read that Nicholas Sparks' refers to his romances as Love Stories. The reason for this is that he doesn't end with a Happily Ever After. The HEA is crucial to a successful romance formula. His books end happily, usually with some sort of tragic element that leaves you happy and satisfied, but reaching for the Kleenexes. The end of The Notebook gets me every time.

So that got me to thinking, and I've pretty much come to the conclusion that this particular romance sub-genre is what fits a lot of my romance. Contemporary and historical. I usually have some sort of tragic element, and I rarely have a HEA. They're happy at the end of the story, but you get the feeling the troubles aren't over. But you do know that the couple can survive whatever life may throw at them, because they have God and each other.

So that's what I write. Historical and contemporary love stories. And the more tragic the setting, the better I like it!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Friday Fact

All Tied Up

This week I'm going to tell you about tatting. It's a form of lace that is made with knots. It's also one of the oldest known ways of making lace.

The most important part of tatting is the shuttle. They're about 3 inches long with a hook on one end, and a bobbin in the middle. The bobbin usually pops out and this is what you wind your thread on. Then the bobbin goes back in.

Tatting can only be done in circular motifs. These motifs can then be stretched out in a single line, or formed into other shapes. But it's all based on a circle. With knots. Kind of like macrame.

Tatting was at its height of popularity during the Elizabethan period. It was very fashionable for ladies of the court to wear a tatting shuttle on their belts. Some of these were very ornate and made out of things like ivory, mother of pearl, silver and pewter.

Nowadays there's a form called needle tatting. I'm determined to conquer shuttle tatting though. Especially after I found out that one of my great-grandmothers used to do it all the time. I would love to have her shuttle, but one of my great-uncle's ended up with it and there's no telling what happened to it.

In Michael Phillips' "Secrets of Heathersleigh Hall" series, all of the ladies tat.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Interview with Lynette Eason

Today I have a short interview with Lynette Eason, author of the LI Suspense novel Lethal Deception.

Where did the initial idea for Lethal Deception come from?
I was sitting the Department of Motor Vehicles thinking I would NEVER get out of that "jungle" when I just started brainstorming the first chapter of Lethal Deception. I had a screaming two year old in front of me who became the daughter of missionary friends who needed a guardian. I threw in a few bad guys, a hero to the rescue and a loving God and voila! I know, that's a really weird way to get a story idea, huh?

Not as weird as where some of mine have come from!

Did you choose the human trafficking issue on purpose, or did it just happen? (this issue is something I follow very closely and address in my own stuff, so you could say it's very close to my heart)

I had seen something in the news or in the paper, I can't remember which, about this issue and it's just horrifying. Then the light went on, and I thought that would be a GREAT platform for my heroine. So, I worked it in the story. Plus, it's a major issue in Brazil and Venezuela and other countries and I feel like people need to be aware of it. Great question! Thanks for asking it.

I'm a total sucker for guys in a uniform, especially if they have the Navy SEAL trident pinned on it. Where did Gabe come from?
Oh, I'm like you. I love SEAL stories, RANGER stories, etc. I picked Navy SEAL for Gabe because it just fit him. And I'd already done some research on SEALs so everything seemed to work together in the story for him to be a SEAL...with a troubled past!

Will we ever find out exactly what happened to Micah? I don't believe for a minute that he's really dead...

YES! You will find out in book two. RIVER OF SECRETS is coming out in August of 2008 and you'll know exactly what happened to him... I LOVED writing that story.

Thanks, Lynette! I for one am very much looking forward to RIVER OF SECRETS.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Spotlight on Europe

Today we're going to take a look at a Ruth Axtell Morren's Winter Is Past. It's the first book in her Regency series, and was also her debut novel in 2003.

From Amazon:

A rising star in Parliament, widower Simon Aguilar needs a reliable woman to care for his gravely ill daughter, Rebecca. He finds an exemplary nurse -- and much more -- in the indomitable Althea Breton.

Raised amid privilege, Althea renounced wealth and social position to serve God, and is reluctant to work for a man who became a Christian only to further his political career. But realizing that all things are possible with God's love, she accepts the position in the Aguilar household.

Despite Simon's skepticism, Althea comforts Rebecca by teaching her about God and salvation. Meanwhile, an attraction grows between the darkly handsome MP and the understated beauty whose integrity and competence win over his entire household. Althea admires Simon's devotion as a father, his sense of justice as a politician and his tenderness as a man, but his antipathy toward her faith divides them. When Simon's world suddenly falls apart, can Althea convince him to open his heart to God's love -- and her own?

The series is up to 4 books now, with the most recent addition being The Rogue's Redemption.

Ruth will also have a couple books coming out later this year in the LI Historical line.

In other Spotlight On Europe news, I have The Briton in my hands and have thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter. I'll post a review once I've finished it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

And now...

Welcome to! My blogger address will still work, as does

I'm not ready to have actual content on my website, but I am ready to start building name recognition. I did make the banner, and it'll do for now. Historical fiction is my first love, and I've already established a history presence on this blog, so I think the new banner captures that. It also uses the image that I want associated with my name. Whenever people hear "Russia", one of the first images their mind presents is St. Basil's Cathedral. Someday I hope to be able to use my own photograph of St. Basil's on my website. But for now, I'll make do with clip art.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Friday Fact

Napoleon is most remembered as a military genius. If you ignore Waterloo... He had a far more lasting effect on the world of fashion.

The French Revolution decimated all levels of French society. People were starving and the economy tanked. That's part of how Napoleon was able to come to power with very little opposition. One of the first things that he did, and one of the least known things, was to set about reviving the French fashion industry. This included making of fabric and the lace industry. Before the Revolution, French lace was the best lace in the world.

He did this by issuing very strict court apparel guidelines. Every single time a woman appeared in court, she had to wear a different dress. Even if she appeared 3 times in the same day, she couldn't wear the same dress. This led to an unnaturally high demand for fine fabrics and lace, thereby giving the stagnant lace industry the exact boost it needed to come back to life. Sometimes the dresses could be remade, but most ladies chose to just get another one.

This edict had many other side effects. Seamstresses never ran out of business, lace exports went back up and dress shops abounded. It put France back on the forefront of European fashion. During the Revolution years, that honor belonged solely to England. The Spencer jacket is English in origin, and is the one clothing item most associated with the Regency/Empire period.

From my perspective, the best side effect was the vast number of beautiful dresses that were left behind by all these court ladies. Since they could only wear the dress once, the fabric wasn't repeatedly exposed to body oils and sweat. Fabric lasts longer that way. There are literally hundreds of surviving Empire gowns for costume historians to go nuts over. No other pre-20th century fashion era has more surviving clothing than the French Empire.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spotlight on Europe

Recently released is the third book in Tricia Goyer's Spanish Civil War series. You may have noticed the book mentioned Monday when I posted about the scavenger hunt game that's going on.

From CBD:
The fighting between the Nationalists and the Republicans grinds on across Spain, threatening to destroy everything and everyone in its path. International volunteers Sophie, Philip, and Deion are slowly coming to grips with the fact that if they are going to survive to help the people of Spain, they must escape this foreign land soon. But the line between friends and enemies is increasingly blurred, and the journey out of the country is fraught with danger. And then there's the gold. Walt has a plan for the treasure that he promises will help the people of Spain if Sophie will help him get it out of the country. But Michael is hot on their trail with plans of his own for the precious metal. The Whisper of Freedom reminds readers that victory is often unsure in times of war. Danger and darkness can threaten to silence all courage and faith. But as this committed band of volunteers and Spanish patriots learns-hope is more precious than gold.

This series has been getting a lot of buzz because of the time period. The 1930's. Tricia's been getting a lot of flak for having characters who are Communist. In my mind this is how it should be. Back then Communism was very appealing. People all over the US and Europe were starving and Communism promised food for everyone. Lenin's Bolshevik rallying cry was "End the War and bread for everyone!". The cry worked, even though the bread for everyone part never came true. But Americans didn't know that part then.

To me, this is another classic example of people trying to judge history according to what we know today. It doesn't work that way. What we know now about Communism, we didn't know back then. Nobody knew that Stalin was a despot dictator who killed more Jews than Hitler. Nobody knew he was paranoid or that the Russian people were starving to death.


I've been a really really bad blogger the last couple weeks. My excuse is that I've been caught up in training for my new job and I've been totally focused on that. To the exclusion of everything else, lol. But training is just about done so I hopefully shall be returning to the land of regularity very soon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's a Historical Scavenger Hunt!!!

It’s a Historical Scavenger Hunt!

Playing is easy. Get the list of clues at Then visit the links below to learn about the authors and their books—you’ll find the answers to the clues in the Q&A posted there! Once you have all 18 answers, send an email to to be entered to win:

Six autographed books!

A Whisper of Freedom by Tricia Goyer

The Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

The Sovereign’s Daughter by Susan K. Downs & Susan May Warren

The Rogue’s Redemption by Ruth Axtell Morren

On Sparrow Hill by Maureen Lang

Visit these sites for the clues!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I love characters. That's part of why I love reading series. I get to watch the characters grow and mature. As a writer, I'm all about the character arc.

It's very important to have well-rounded characters that you might meet on the street or in line at the grocery store. Yesterday I talked about my football player. His name is Seth. Yeah, he's a professional athlete and he loves football. Lives and breathes it sometimes. But there's more to him than just football. There has to be, otherwise he is nothing more than cardboard. And cardboard characters are dull, boring, bland and nobody wants to read about them.

Seth lives in Colorado. He has a basement. Louisiana doesn't have basements, so I'm rather fascinated with the idea of basements. The tempermental hot water heater is in the basement. So is his Spiderman collection. Yeah, he likes Spidey. When you think about a college grad signing a contract with the NFL or the NBA, you might imagine that he would spend part of the signing bonus money on a fancy new car, or a Rolex watch. Not Seth. He went and tracked down a copy of the first issue of Spiderman and was able to finally buy it without feeling guilty about spending that much money on a comic book with 20 pages in it.

Is any of this information important to the part of his story I've chosen to tell? Not really. But it makes him real. Gives you a way to identify with him as someone besides a celebrity.

The Epic has dual heroes. Two brothers, 5 years apart in age but still the best of friends because of how they were raised. They have what would appear to most people to be a very silly ritual. When it's storming outside, they like to read scary stories out loud to each other. In the dark of course with just one candle to illuminate the pages. I'm talking Poe, Dracula, etc. The Telltale Heart and The Cask of Amantillado are two of their favorites.

This little thing isn't terribly important to the plot, and I may not even use it. But it's still there and it makes them real.

Nick knits socks. Tanner harbors a secret love of Disney animation and has a weakness for WDCC pieces--particularly Finding Nemo pieces. David's favorite book is Jane Eyre. Reese is absolutely fascinated with ancient Egypt and he once sculpted the entire Valley of the Kings out of sand. Connor's kitchen, car and bedroom are red because that's his favorite color. Michelle makes tatted lace and uses it to trim the Civil War gowns that she makes. Michael owns every song that Bing Crosby ever recorded and Irving Berlin ever wrote. Duncan plays Rachmaninov.

None of these things are important in the grand scheme of plot, but they are all important in characterization. It's the little things like this can breathe life into an otherwise stale character. Do your heroes/heroines have hobbies or collections or fascinations?

Monday, February 4, 2008


(no, Elizabeth, I haven't turned to the dark side...)

I did not watch the Super Bowl yesterday. But I still watched a football game. More than one actually. In That's My Boy starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. It was not one of their better movies, and it was very obvious that it was one of their early ones. The classic Martin & Lewis formula wasn't there. They're also a little too old in 1951 to be playing college athletes.

I've never given one whit about football really. Except for the annual Tigers-Hogs game the day after Thanksgiving. I don't understand the rules, I have no idea what's going on and don't even understand the scoring system. If you ask me what a first-down is I'll just give you a blank look. I don't even have a real desire to learn more about the game.

So why on earth do I have an NFL player in my head? At some point I will have to learn more about football. I will have to try and understand the rules because it's so important to Seth. Why did he have to be 6 foot 3 and not 5 foot 3? If he was a jockey I wouldn't have to learn a new game...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

More Russian fiction

I discovered another set of Russian fiction set during WW1 and the Revolution. Amazon has the series listed as the Crossings of Promise. It's three books: Calm Before The Storm, Eye of the Storm and Out of the Storm. The author is a new ACFW member, Janice Dick.

Naturally the setting grabs my attention. Quickly followed by the time period. If there's one trilogy in this time period out there already, then there's got to be room for one more that takes a different narrative point of view.

The characters in Janice's books are Mennonites. Russia had a very large Mennonite community in the late 19th century and many of them emigrated to the US and Germany during the Revolution and ensuing civil war.

As my perusal of Russian set Christian fiction continues, I am more and more convinced that my characters are very unique. They're not Mennonite, they're not Jewish, they're not Baptist. They're Orthodox. Faithwise they represent the majority of Russians for that time. I'm not afraid to make my characters Orthodox. Heck, I'm not even afraid to let a character be Catholic if that's what suits the character.

Yes my characters are wealthy and own land. But my heroes also have peasant roots so they see both sides of the society they live in. The issues that Michael will be struggling with as he is fighting with the Whites are issues that many of the revolutionaries dealt with too. Another thing that sets me apart is that I don't have a main character who is a revolutionary. I have a couple of very minor ones, but they don't play a huge part in the plot.

The Bolsheviks view of what all was going in gets a lot of screen time in novels and movies. What you don't hear about is the Whites side of things. Their lives changed too. Many of them were sent to prison or executed simply for owning land or having a lot of money. Overnight an entire class of people became criminals. That's what I've chosen to focus on and that's what continues to make my writing different from the other Russian set fiction that's out there.

Changes coming soon!!!!
The URL of this blog will be changing VERY soon. This weekend if I can get it out figured out. It's time to move past the casual writing stage and into the author-pursuing-publication stage. To that end, the blog will be getting a bit of a makeover, a new URL and a shifting focus. The Friday Fact and Spotlight on Europe will remain the same.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Friday Fact

Some Adoption Facts

As usual, I have Russia on the brain. I'd had a great thought to do for today, but somewhere along the way I've lost it and I can't find it. My mind used to be a steel trap, now it's a sieve! So I'm falling back on something else.

Russia first opened for international adoption in 1993. I forget where I saw that though, I've been to so many Russian adoption sites in the last year. No, I'm not planning to adopt a child anytime soon. I'm just doing research. When you have multiple Russian orphans living in your head you need to know everything that you can possibly find out about them. At least that's my excuse, lol.

The number of children adopted in that first year was somewhere around 325. I had the number written down somewhere, but I've lost it...

China and Russia are now the #1 and #2 countries that American families adopt from. Guatemala is the #1 South/Central America country. In 2000, 64% of foreign adoptees were girls and 36% were boys. These numbers reflect China's #1 status. I expect these numbers will start to change though because China is now realizing all its men don't have anybody to marry so they've just started limiting the number of adoptions that they'll approve. Almost 90% of all internationally adopted children are under the age of 5.

My adopted characters are older than the average. Quite a bit older in fact. But I've always enjoyed a challenge and I wanted them to be old enough to retain the Russian language and be able to enjoy being Russian and being American. If I believed in re-incarnation, I would think that I'd been a Russian in a past life.