Remember When . . .Christmas Was in the Air?

Remember When . . .Christmas Was in the Air?

Since I did a bit of a round-up in this week’s Word of the Week post, I thought I’d continue that trend today. ๐Ÿ˜€ Here you’ll find a list of all my past Christmas-themed posts throughout the years (or all the ones my search turned up, anyway, LOL). Have you missed one? Now’s the perfect time to catch up!

Christmas should be about Who is in our hearts, not about what’s under the tree…or even what family is around us.
We hear so much about the spirit of Christmas…but what about the Spirit this Christmas season?
A quick look at the very different appearances of Christmas on the pages of A Heart’s Revolution (formerly Love Finds You in Annapolis) and Ring of Secrets
How the Pilgrims and their descendants viewed Christmas
The reasons behind the red and green tradition
The real St. Nick and what he stood for(the inspiration for Giver of Wonders)
Commercial hoax or a real story?
Reflecting on the best gifts God has given 
A guest post on Colonial Quills about the Yule Log tradition
The histories of some of our favorite Christmas songs
A bit about the traditional 12 Days of Christmas, and the history of the Christmas Star
It wasn’t Constantine! LOL Christians had a real, beautiful (if odd by today’s thoughts) reason for naming December 25 as Christmas!
Why are we so upset when the non-Christian world doesn’t understand Christmas?
Behind the scenes as I designed the cover for my one and only Christmas novel

Remember When . . . He Made Us His Own

Remember When . . . He Made Us His Own

I have been adopted by a king. And so have you.

I remember when I was in high school, on one of my piano recital days, I was battling nerves by praying and just dwelling on Him. I can still see the church sanctuary in my mind’s eye, with the baby grand piano that I’d soon play for the collection of family and friends gathered there. I can still see the sunlight streaming through the window. I can still feel the creased, worn pages of the music book in my hands. I was maybe fourteen or fifteen…that detail escapes me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But that day, as I dwelt on all He’s done for me, I realized something pretty cool. That He was the King of kings…and I am His daughter, His heir. I am a princess of the Kingdom of God.

Now, this was before the days of memes and social media. These days, I see beautiful images and catchy phrases that share this idea left and right. But at the time, it was a revelation. And it was one that has always stuck with me.
My God sent His Son–the true heavenly Prince–to this earth to die for me. To die for you. And so to provide a means for us to become joint-heirs with him. How amazing is that?

I loved learning that in the day and age when Jesus walked the earth, adoption was something very serious. Under Roman law, when a child was adopted into a family, they were entitled to the family name, legacy, and inheritance. They could inherit titles. Thrones. Everything a natural child could. This hasn’t been the case throughout all of history–but it was then. Which makes it all the more important that it was that moment of history that hosted the arrival of our Savior. Because when He then offered adoption into His family, it meant something complete. Something profound. Something irreversible. We will inherit the kingdom of God.

A fitting contemplation now that we’re into November ~ Adoption Awareness Month.
For those of you who have read my Shadows Over England series, you know how much I loved crafting a family of adopted-by-each-other orphans as my heroes and heroines. This family understands that it’s love that binds us together, not blood. Love that makes a brother or a sister, a parent or a child.

I love that God gave us such an always-present illustration of what He’s done for us. And as we thank Him over and again for all He’s done for us in that respect, it seems like a great time to contemplate how we in this world do the same. I have some friends who went through the fire to be able to adopt children in need; I have family who has acted as foster parents to countless boys and adopted several of them over the years; and I had the privilege of helping edit a book about a birth mother who chose to give up her child, and who was finally reunited with her many years later. This tender memoir has snippets from the birth mother, the child, the adopted mother, and a few glimpses into other families’ adoptions as well.
Paperback | Kindle (on sale for November!)
This November, let’s make it a point to remember, as we gear our minds toward thankfulness, what our heavenly Father has done for us. And also to dwell on how His children follow His example even today.
Thank you, Father, for making us your own. And thank you for equipping us with hearts to mirror you and bring others into our families as well.

Remember When . . . The World Between Books

Remember When . . . The World Between Books

It’s kinda strange sometimes. I’m still celebrating the release of An Hour Unspent, book 3 in the Shadows Over England Series. But I’m in the editorial process for The Number of Love, book 1 of the next series and halfway finished writing the second one, tentatively titled The Wings of Devotion. These won’t release until 2019 and 2020. So while the general reading public is in one place, I’m working 18 months ahead. I thought I’d give you just a bit of silly behind-the-scenes of how this sometimes works for an author. =)

When I pitched my new series, The Codebreakers, to Bethany House, I was writing An Hour Unspent and editing A Song Unheard. And I was SO GLAD we got the go-ahead when we did, because of how closely the stories are related.
See, at first, I had Margot being 11 or 12 in A Song Unheard. I wanted her to be still fully a child so that her precocious brilliance was even more striking. Did I still intend her to be a heroine in the next series?
Yes. But my initial thought was to make her the last heroine in the series. My thought, at the time, was to call the series The Men of Room 40 and then make it rather cheeky that the last “man” was, in fact, a girl. My plan was, in fact, to have her story set after the war, during an interesting turn of events in Russia.
My editor said, “Yeah, no. How about instead you make her the first heroine to bridge the two series and set it during the war? Of course, then you have to change the series title. It’s not clever if it’s the first one.”
So, being a brainstormer, I got to work on that and soon devised a story for Margot that would be set in the war. But, well…I can’t exactly have a heroine who’s only 15 or 16 in an adult romance. I decided that if I put her adventure toward the end of the war–I went with 1917-18 so that I still had room for the other two books to be set in the end days of the war too–and had her be just barely 18, that could work. Doing the math, I came to the conclusion that she would then be 14 during A Song Unheard.
Luckily, we were still in edits on that one, so I could go in pretty easily and change her age and actions where necessary to make her more age-appropriate. 
That’s not the first time I’ve had to make tweaks to a previous book to allow for what I want to happen in later ones, and I’m so glad the editorial process is long enough, and spaced appropriately, to allow this!

Remember When . . . The Schools Were at War Too

Remember When . . . The Schools Were at War Too

Well, that time of year has come again. My family has officially started the 2018-19 school year. Part of me hates the loss of free time…and part of me is excited about all those awesome books we get to read together this year!

For those of you who have been reading the Shadows Over England series, you know that one of the most important things for the family of thieves-turned-agents is that with the advent of steady income they can, for the first time, afford to send the little ones to school. While “public schools” had long been available in England, they weren’t what we think of them as today. They weren’t free for the public–they were just available for anyone from the public to pay to attend. Free, compulsory schools were set up in the 1890s, at which attendance was required…until the age of 10. My family, however, didn’t send the little ones to those for a few very good reasons–they weren’t a legal family, and if the children were known by the system, they’d be taken away. So Barclay educated the children at home until such a time as he could pay to put them in a better school.

In An Hour Unspent, we get a glimpse of the kids finally taking on the roles of traditional children. They’re attending school, fighting over books, struggling with Algebra. All things familiar to children today. But for them, this was huge. This was an opportunity. This was a new life unfolding before them.

But the war changed the school system just as it changed everything in England. Many of the teachers were gone, having enlisted. Meals, which had only been served in schools for 8 years at that point in history and were far from inspiring, became sparse and even less inspiring as shortages took effect. Older children often left school as soon as they legally could, usually between 10 and 12 years old, to get a job and help their families survive.
In some ways, the war hit colleges hardest. In my research, I found several mentions of professors leaving colleges when they closed in 1914–presumably because of lack of students. But then those same professors returned to their colleges in the later years of the war–presumably when more students came in.

As the war dragged on and shortages increased, the need for food was on everyone’s mind. “Grow your own” became a necessity, and many schools created gardens and instructed their students in how to grow vegetables. Schoolchildren were also called upon to knit scarves and socks for servicemen, write letters to soldiers, and raise funds for the war, often by selling small flags and pins to be worn on special Flag Days.

Though hard days for everyone, the First World War did, in fact, lead to educational reform in England. In 1918 the school leaving age was raised to 14, with more options available for children 14 to 18, to train them for better paying, skilled labor. This was one of the huge things that led to the stop of child labor. Which meant it was opposed by factory owners, landowners, and even the Church. But it also paved the way for what we know today–mandatory education for children up to 18 years of age (which came into effect after WW2 in England).
Did you enjoy school or dread it? Would you have left school to get a job as a young teen had it been an option?

Remember When . . . The War Brought Darkness

Remember When . . . The War Brought Darkness

War changes things. We all know that, but most of today haven’t lived through a “total war” that really impacts everyone at home, whether we or our family are directly involved in the fighting or not. Most people are very aware of how WWII did this…but most of us don’t realize that the things we’re so familiar with from that war, had their roots in the First World War.
But London, for instance, experienced huge changed when war was declared, and it was interesting to show these through my characters in An Hour Unspent.
London Blackout – Wiki Commons
One of the first changes to be put into place was a blackout in coastal towns and London. As early as 1913, Churchill, as the First Lord of the Admiralty, drew up a plan for a blackout in the event of war. For the first time in history, people had to fear enemies coming not just from land or sea, but from the air. Many still primarily feared rockets or missiles that could be launched from naval vessels, but there was (rightfully) a growing fear that aircraft could be weaponized. At the start of the war, airplanes weren’t the biggest threat–they had a difficult time crossing the channel and couldn’t carry much by way of bombs or guns. But zeppelins were a different story.
As a result, eight days after England declared war on Germany, blackout restrictions were put in place. In London, this meant no electric lights were permitted outside. Street lamps were painted over to dim them. Most houses at this time still had the old gas lights installed as well as the new electric ones, and they had to use those after dark, or use curtains to keep the light from shining.
The streets became hazardous after dark. Before, when gas street lamps were the norm, there weren’t automobiles zipping around. The combination of faster vehicles and less light was, let’s say, not a good combination.
So in an effort to keep people off the streets after dark, many traditional nighttime events like operas and plays and concerts were moved up to earlier hours or canceled entirely.
First Zepplin sighting 1915 – Wiki Commons
But dimming the lights wasn’t the only step London took to confuse an aerial attack. They knew that a night attack was most likely for zeppelins, and they knew that if they were to come across the Channel, it would have to be on a clear night.
A clear night meant moonlight. And moonlight would reflect most off…water.
Everybody of water in London would become a homing beacon. So they drained the lakes and ponds in the parks, leaving nothing but muddy expanses where once there had been beautiful vistas.
What they couldn’t drain, however, was the Thames. And in the first zeppelin raids, the river was indeed what the airships followed.
By the end of the war, all this was no doubt old hat. But can you imagine seeing one of those drained lakes at the start? How sobering a reminder it would have been that the world had gone mad and that the very skies should be feared? Quite a scary thing. And one my characters had to encounter and combat.
Remember When . . . Watches Appeared on the Wrist – Part II

Remember When . . . Watches Appeared on the Wrist – Part II

Last week I started telling you about Hans Wilsdorf and the founding of Rolex. It was getting a bit long, so I figured I’d better break it up into two posts. ๐Ÿ˜‰ As a quick reminder, I’d told you a bit about Hans’s early days and his determination to create a great wrist watch (called “wristlets” at the time) and then make his company name, Rolex, be the one people came to associate with the quality watches he produced.
But if you were paying attention to the years I mentioned, you’ll have known that things were about to change for Hans. The Great War was coming. And though he’d become an English citizen when he married his wife, Florence, no one really cared about that.
He was German. He spoke with an accent. He had a clearly German last name.
Life became not so easy for the Wilsdorfs in London. He and Florence were both harassed whenever they went out in public. And to make matters worse, a new customs duty was put into place–33.5%. And for a business that was almost exclusively exported, this could easily spell The End.
The Wilsdorfs didn’t have much choice. They packed up and moved to Bienne, Switzerland, for the duration of the war. Rolex already had a branch there, so they moved all operations out of England and continued to produce the watches quickly gaining a reputation for excellence.
But though the war forced them from their home, it also helped create a market for the wristlet. Timing was crucial in military operations, and having a reliable timepiece was essential. The few soldiers who went to war with wristlets soon proved how practical they were. Pocket watches were generally worn in a jacket pocket, which was then under an overcoat in the winter months. To check the time, soldiers would have to take off their gloves, open their overcoat, and dig it out of their undercoat. Compare that to just raising your wrist, and you can see why the men who had wristlets found them so much better an option. After the war ended, the popularity of the wrist watch surged.
And at the front of the wave was Rolex.
But Wilsdorf wasn’t about riding a wave. He was about innovation–and marketing savvy. His next goal was to create a waterproof watch, which he achieved in 1926. The Oyster. But water had long been known as the enemy of a watch, so he had his work cut out for him, convincing the public that his Oyster really could keep running, even when wet. One boon came when a swimmer swam the English Channel, wearing one. They were already getting publicity for their feat, and Rolex got a bit too.
But that wasn’t quite enough. So Wilsdorf came up with an ongoing publicity stunt. Shops that sold Rolexes were outfitted with aquariums, in which hung an Oyster, keeping perfect time despite being continually submerged.
It worked. By the time World War II rolled around, Rolex was well known around the world as being the best watch to be had. The most reliable. A byword for quality and luxury.
Now, though he was German by birth, Hans was firmly on the Allied side of both World Wars. And when he heard that Allied soldiers in the Second World War were stripped of their Rolexes when they were taken prisoner, he publicly swore that Rolex would replace any Allied soldier’s watch that was stolen. And he kept his word. This story exemplifies just one of the many ways that Hans made Rolex a company with heart, not just monetary success.
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So how does all this work its way into my book? Well, all of it obviously doesn’t. But I’d looked up the history of Rolex out of curiosity when I realized I would have a clockmaker for a central character in An Hour Unspent, figuring the company was forming around the same time as my story. When I realized how well it actually lined up with my timeline, I decided to give Hans Wilsdorf a cameo appearance. He actually ended up presenting a plot point that was rather crucial…but of course, I’m not going to tell you what that was. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just that I had oh so much fun writing it!
And I also just want to say that the more I learned about Wilsdorf and the company he built, the more I admired him and Rolex. They aren’t just glitzy watches for the rich, status symbols. They’re undeniable quality built on innovation and popularity gained through determination and marketing brilliance. You just have to admire that.