Remember When . . . The Gang Was All Together?

Remember When . . . The Gang Was All Together?

Okay, I just spent a ridiculous amount of time doctoring that photo that you can barely see in the title image, trying to make this Edwardian family at least pretend to match mine, LOL. Anyway…

In a month, you’ll get to meet The Family. The group of orphans and outcasts and misfits that have decided to stick together at all costs. To love each other. To sacrifice for each other. To beg, borrow, and steal to take care of each other. You’re about to meet a gang of thieves with a strange code of honor. The family of the Shadows Over England Series.

I hope you like them as much as I do.

In a perfect world, y’all will love this series so much that books will fly off the shelves and my publisher will be begging me to extend the series (ahem). In all likelihood, we’ll have only the three I’ve already sold to them, focusing on the eldest of the twelve children in this family–Rosemary Gresham, Willa Forsythe, and Barclay Pearce. But I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to the rest of the gang and tell you a bit about them, since the books, in an effort not to overwhelm you with names and identities, keep those details sparse.

For the purposes of this list, ages given are as they are in A Name Unknown.


The leader of this patchwork clan and hero of book 3, Barclay is the quintessential “big brother.” Overprotective and often accused (lovingly) of being a tyrant, he’s the one who set out the rules–never steal from those worse off, never give a gift that was stolen, etc–and enforces them. Though the other “siblings” occasionally resent him, they also adore him. He’s the one who teaches them all how to blend in with society, though no one’s quite sure how he learned. He’s remained decidedly mum about his early history; he met Rosemary and Willa when he was about 11.

Our heroine in book 1, Rosemary is a Cockney girl whose parents died of fever when she was 8. Barkeeper Pauly found her rooting through his garbage and introduced her to Barclay and Willa. She’s a whiz with a needle and can create clothing for them all to ensure they blend in when they sneak into galas in search of pretty baubles. And she’s also a whiz with languages. It’s the fact that she taught herself German for the British Museum heist that gets her the attention of Mr. V…which sets the whole series in motion.
WILLA (23)
Heroine in book 2, Willa is a cynical, untrusting young woman . . . and a Violin prodigy. Abandoned by her parents when she was 6, Willa carried emotional baggage far heavier than her Violin case–and is quite happy to stay forever with the family that chose her, and who she chose. So long as she has her beat-up instrument and the little stump of a stage that Pauly built for her in his pub, she’ll be just fine.
RETTA (21)
 There’s always a lover of beauty to be found in the dirtiest streets, and that’s Retta. Art is her passion…and copying it her gift. Which translates to very helpful skills like forging invitations to events…or documents, passports, and the like. Orphaned in a fire when she was 5, the original trio took her in that night, and she’s never looked back.
One of the oldest of the siblings but one of the newer additions to the family, Georgie hasn’t ever quite submitted to Barclay‘s authority–but he’s so stinking endearing about it that they all just roll their eyes and give him a hug. Georgie is one of the first to sign up when war is declared–can’t beat 3 square meals a day, right?–and the family can’t stop missing him, disobedience and all.
Ellie, it must be said, is getting far too pretty. And pretty doesn’t blend in well, so they have to be very careful which jobs they give her these days–restrictions she chafes under. And of course, the less the family lets her do, the more determined she is to prove herself. Elinor generally puts on her very-pretty smile, but it’s sometimes by sheer determination–she’s the only member of the family who was a part of, and then escaped, the orphanage and work house system.
LUCY (16)
 Lucy was only a baby the night that same fire that orphaned Retta left her homeless as well. She remembers nothing but the family that took her in. They can tell by looking at her, of course, that she has a bit of India flowing in her veins, and the assumptions people in London make when they see her means that she can blend in perfectly with the servant class whenever she needs to find something out about a house or family. She’s also just discovering a true passion for baking and cooking.

At that age when she’s not quite a child and not quite a grown-up, Cress is still sheltered from the family “business”…and eager to become a part of it and truly be one of them.
Possessed with a sharp mind–and an equally sharp tongue–ginger-haired Fergus never minds telling people how it is, or how he wants it to be. And how can anyone turn down his freckle-faced charm? He’s perfectly at home in the family that took him in six years ago and can’t imagine life without them.

JORY (8)
Little Marjory has known nothing but the family either–and is a sister after Barclay‘s own heart, always having a book in hand. You won’t ever hear her say much, but she quietly wraps the older ones around her finger and holds them there with a grin.
Nigel might have physically blended in better with another gang, being of African descent, but his heart is all the family’s. He was another of Pauly’s rescues, and never regrets for a minute choosing to put his hand in Barclay‘s and make their home his three years before.
The youngest of the crew, Olivia was just a tot when Rosemary and Willa found her in the arms of her dying mother, who begged them to see her to safety. They, of course, obliged and took her in. They don’t even know her last name, but that’s all right–when she’s old enough, she can choose one of theirs.
Quite the gang, eh? I’m still getting to know some of them myself, but it’s a Joy to do so. They each have their quirks and charms, and I can’t wait to introduce you all more thoroughly in the pages of the books! 
Remember When . . . Characters Appeared

Remember When . . . Characters Appeared

I’m having a blast digging into the writing of A Soft Breath of Wind. Right now, on chapter 2, I’m still getting to know my characters. And so, I’m building Pinterest boards and playing with Photoshop and coming up with images to inspire me.

I thought it would be fun today to introduce the characters that will be ruling my brain for the next little while. =)

Let’s start with my heroine, Zipporah.

My cover model is so delightfully Zipporah
that I’m describing my character to match her, right down to
the clothes and accessories. =)

Zipporah was always the not-so-pretty one. Anna, her older sister, was the type of gorgeous that men fight wars over, and Zipporah always knew she was just a shadow in comparison. But she was okay with that. She loved her sister, and she was happy enough with her good qualities. But when a gift of the Spirit opens her eyes to the angels and demons swarming around her, she faces down the enemy and comes away scarred.

As she grows from that thirteen year old into a young woman, Zipporah sometimes has a hard time balancing her internal and external lives. She desperately needed to learn how to restrain her emotions when her spiritual eyes were opened…but as a result has closed them up a bit too much. She can be witty, she has deep abiding friendships–but in a group setting she tends to stick to the walls and leave the socialization to others.

Zipporah is confident in who she is, likes to say that the Lord in His wisdom chose not to burden with beauty, as He well knew she couldn’t have handled it. She carries herself well and serves her masters with love.

But she has long ago resigned herself to never experiencing any other kind of love. For years now she has watched her master, Benjamin, with adoration. But he, much as he values her as a friend and sister in Christ, has never seen her as anything more.

Which is just as well. She is all but sure that someday, she will have to lay her life down for her faith, and the last thing she wants is to leave a husband mourning for her, like Samuel when Anna died in childbirth.

A stylized Zac Efron (with the costume of Billy Zane’s character from Cleopatra)
as Benjamin Visibullis

Benjamin Visibullis is in some ways the most important person to the growing Roman church. He’s the legal owner of the Visibullis estate outside Rome where Jews and Christians congregate. Tutelos is more than a villa now, more than home–it’s a small town full of many families, all of whom rely on him.

Benjamin takes his responsibilities seriously and wants nothing more than to serve the Brethren…but he cannot shake the feeling that the Lord is calling him away from Tutelos, off to see the rest of the churches and, perhaps, spread the good news to places who have yet to hear about the Messiah. His mother insists he cannot put his life at such risk until he has married and established an heir, and that is logic he understands. But no woman in Rome fits his idea of the bride Jehovah has in store. And so, after years of prayer, he finally sets sail to visit the growing churches, Samuel with him to keep him safe.

Their travels take them eventually to Jerusalem for the Passover, but returning to the land of his birth only shows him that it’s time to go home to Rome. When a trip through the city leads them unexpectedly to Samuel’s birth-family–including the mother who sold him as a slave to Benjamin’s father 25 years before–he has to admit his eye is caught by his step-brother’s beautiful sister. Dara’s face, Dara’s words say she is what he has been waiting for.

But something within Benjamin knows she’s trouble–and he finds out the hard way that he should have heeded the whisper. But by then, the enemy is already entrenched at Tutelos…and he fears he may have undone all he was ever called to do.

A stylized Jason Lewis as Samuel Asinius

Samuel kinda took me by surprise in A Stray Drop of Blood. While I had planned the BIG plot twists from the get-go, I didn’t see the little slave boy coming, and so I certainly didn’t know the pivotal role he would end up playing in the second half of the book. But I fell in love with that beautiful little boy with a nurturing touch, and oh, how I’m already enjoying seeing the man he’s become!

At the end of Stray Drop, Samuel was legally adopted by Titus Asinius, so he’s the joint-heir of a pretty impressive Roman estate. This for a boy born a poor Hebrew, sold into slavery to a Roman, and moved to Rome when only 6. Now 31, Samuel is still a nurturer, a healer. Though not officially a physician, he’s been trained by one and is the man to whom everyone at Tutelos turns when they need medical help.

He’s also still the self-appointed protector of Benjamin, brother in heart if not by blood. After his wife and their child die in childbirth, Samuel mourns long and hard…and finally welcomes the excuse to escape her memory and travel with Benjamin. When he meets his “real” family in Jerusalem, his heart doesn’t even stir, though. These people are less than strangers to him. He had long ago erased his mother from his heart, and the sister who seems bent on coming with him back to Rome…he knows there’s something wrong with her claims. But who is he to turn away someone who claims she wants to learn more about Christ?

But when they take her home to Tutelos and Zipporah immediately recognizes the evil within her, he knows they’ve made a grave error. Perhaps the rest of the church would prefer to chalk Zipporah’s strong reaction up to jealousy–it’s no secret she’s always loved Benjamin, who Dara now dares to claim–Samuel has always trusted his wife’s little sister when it comes to matters of the Spirit. And he’ll stand with her now and fight for the Way.

A stylized Sophia Myles as Dara

Dara is beautiful–and she uses it as a weapon. Endowed with a spirit of fortune telling, she serves a master in Jerusalem who has taught her how to hone her skills, both as a beauty and an oracle. Those who know what she is serve or fear her…and those who don’t still stand in awe of her unusual looks. She doesn’t just always get her way–she makes her way when the world might try to stand against her. She wants nothing more than to belong fully to her master, but he has said since she was little more than a child that she can serve him best through her marriage. That only by waiting for the right man can she serve their cause–and bring an end to the sacrilege of Christianity worming its way throughout the world.

When she realizes she has an older brother–and sees the one he calls “brother” by adoption–she knows her master was right. Her fate lies with Benjamin Visibullis. He is the fulcrum of one of the most important sects of the blasphemers. And it will be no great hardship to pass her days–and nights–beside the handsome Benjamin.

Who is Dara beyond the tool of this “master”? Well that’s just the thing–she doesn’t know. She has served him so long, so fully, always in secret that she cannot separate anymore who-he-made-her from who-she-was-born-to-be. Her whole purpose in living, in her eyes, is to serve him. To make his causer her own. To undermine their sworn enemy–Christians. Can she be cruel? Without question. Can she be kind? When it suits her. Has she a heart underneath the hatred? She’s none too sure.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a bad girl who doesn’t reform right away, so this is going to be fun. 😉 Of course, I have some plans in store for our nasty little Dara. First though, we pit discernment against fortune telling. One Spirit against another spirit. Darkness against light.

And the real fun? Light doesn’t just defeat the darkness, right? It banishes it, and the things once dark become light.

Yep. Gonna have a blast with this one. =)