I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, May 30, 2016

It's a Milestone Week!

Happy Memorial Day!

Today, I'm honored and privileged to be featured on Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write blog. Please come by and say hi and read about how I got the call that I'd sold to Love Inspired Historical!

It's also Graduation week at my house!

Vintage graduation card:

We've been celebrating for over a week already with awards ceremonies, a luncheon, band banquet, Baccalaureate, and class parties. Final exams are finished (for my graduating senior, anyway). Books are turned in, accounts cleared, and the locker is empty. All that's left for her this week is fun: breakfasts and grad nites and yearbook signing parties.

But, between her activities, my younger child still in school, and family arriving for graduation, it's a busy week around here. Bittersweet, too. I'm sad because my daughter is growing up, but joyful that she's ready for what God has in store for her. This is what we raised her for, after all: to follow God's call, to go where He sends her.

If you have any advice for me, however, I'd love to hear it! I'm trying to keep the tears in check!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Historical Romance...or Just Historical?

I'm reading a book right now that was marketed as a Historical Romance (from an inspy publisher). The book is good, no question, but reading it has triggered a one-person conversation in my brain that I'm still working out:

What makes a Historical Romance different from a Historical?

Because in my opinion, this book isn't a romance at all.

Here's how I define the two genres:

Historical Romances are romance novels set prior to WWII, or for some publishers, to the Vietnam era. The story-line focuses on the hero and heroine (H/H) and the journey of their relationship. Without this romantic relationship, there is no story. Every conflict affects the romance.

A Historical novel is set prior to WWII (or, again, Vietnam). Romance can be and often is included in the story, but it is not the main focus of the story. Conflicts don't necessarily affect the romance.

So what makes a romance a romance, aside from the main thread of it being a love story?

I can think of two "rules" (and by "rule" I mean it isn't written in some handbook somewhere, but it is something that seems to happen in the majority of romances I've read, and/or an editor or multi-published author has stated it in an interview or in blog posts etc).

One "rule" is that the hero and heroine are well-defined. The reader shouldn't have to guess who's getting married at the end. (Yes, there are love triangle stories, but the reader should be able to figure out who ends up with whom.)

Another "rule" is that the hero and heroine shouldn't be apart for long. Editors vary on the length of time. One suggests the characters should never be apart for more than the span of ten pages. Another prefers that the scenes where they aren't together be kept to a minimum, and ten pages would be waaaaay too long. Either way, the hero and heroine are together. A lot. The reason for this is simple:

Romance can't bloom if the couple isn't together.

Yes, there are exceptions--a villain kidnaps the heroine, or they're in a war, or there's an illness, but in those scenarios, the couple is at least thinking of one another when they're not together. They're working to get back together.

And yes, rules are made to be broken. Stories can work very well breaking these two pseudo-rules (that are not, after all, on anybody's rule list but mine).

But the truth of the matter is, genres come with certain expectations. If I pick up a cozy mystery, I expect a clean read featuring an amateur sleuth who solves murders. If I pick up a suspense from the book tables at Costco, I expect murder, a race against a clock, and an alpha protagonist.

Same goes with Historicals and Historical Romances. I expect different things when I read them.

Which is why I'm of the opinion that this book I'm reading is a Historical, not a Historical Romance. I wouldn't have guessed the hero is the hero unless it was stated on the book cover, because another guy gets most of the page time. The hero and heroine rarely appear in scenes together. If they have a relationship cooking, it is way, way, way on the back burner.

Which is fine, but not the romance I expected.

Is it time for me to loosen my rules, or are they reflective of your experience, too?

Which do you prefer, Historicals or Historical Romance?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Carrie Fancett Pagels and a Giveaway

Carrie Fancett Pagels
Head over to Inkwell Inspirations today (click here), where I'm hosting Carrie Fancett Pagels as she tells the story of her writing journey! She's also giving away an e-copy of one of her wonderful books--winner's choice.

Here's her upcoming release. Isn't the cover pretty?
Found here
The drawing for one of Carrie's books is open until May 19, 2016, 11:59 EDT.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Just Keep Moving!

May is such a busy month for many of us...the end-of-school activities alone are enough to exhaust a parent!

I'm also working on three deadlines right now. My house is a mess. Can any of you relate?

When life gets like this, the most important thing to do is breathe. Rest in God's arms. Trust Him. And keep on keepin' on. Just keep swimming, as Dory says in Finding Nemo.

If you feel like you're trying to take off into the wind, take heart. You will soon be soaring in the air, but only if you keep pushing.

Don't give up. I'm cheering for you!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Jenny Lind ~ The Swedish Nightingale

I'm so excited to share that The Cowboy's Bride (March, Barbour Publishing) is a ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller!

The heroine of my Cowboy novella (For a Song) wants to be the next Jenny Lind, so I thought I'd share just who Jenny Lind was!

 Jenny Lind, 1850. Public domain.
In 1849, few Americans knew who Johanna Maria Lind was, but in 1850 when showman P.T. Barnum launched her on an American tour, the nation was swept by “Lindomania”—a craze for the Swedish opera singer known as Jenny Lind. Her success was naturally due to her voice, so sweet she was deemed “The Swedish Nightingale.”

Barnum also promoted her proper, generous character, which made her all the more irresistible. Overall she created such an impression that to many, Lind became what Barnum biographer Bluford Adams called "the standard for measuring not just sopranos, or even women artists, but women" throughout the 1850s.

Lind (Oct. 1820-Nov. 1887) was born in Sweden, the illegitimate daughter of a bookkeeper and a divorced schoolteacher whose religious beliefs didn’t permit her to remarry until her first husband died (it eventually happened, and Jenny’s parents wed when she was 14). At age 9, Jenny was enrolled in Sweden’s Royal Opera Program. By 20, she was the prima donna at the Royal Opera in Stockholm and a court singer for the King of Sweden and Norway.

Within a few years, she was in great demand throughout Sweden and northern Europe. She auditioned at the Opera in Paris, but their rejection stung her so much that once she became an international celebrity, she refused all invitations to perform there.
Lind as Amina in La Sonnambula. Public Domain
In 1843, she toured Denmark and met author Hans Christian Andersen. He fell in love with her, but she didn’t return his affections. It’s thought three of his fairy tales were inspired by her: The Nightingale, The Angel, and Beneath the Pillar. Others suggest Lind also inspired the cold-hearted title character in The Snow Queen after she rejected him.

watercolour portrait against blank background of a young man with dark, curly hair, facing the spectator: dressed in fashionable clothes of the 1830s, dark jacket with velvet collar, black silk cravat, high collar, white waistcoat
Mendelssohn, by Childe. Public domain.
Andersen wasn’t her only admirer, famous or otherwise. She was briefly engaged to a tenor named Julius Günther, and composer Felix Mendelssohn was madly in love with her. Apparently, the married father of five was desperate for Lind to be his mistress and threatened suicide in an attempt to get his way with her.

She didn't give in. Nevertheless, they continued to work together and he began an opera, Lorelei, for her. Mendelssohn’s sudden death at age 38, in 1847, devastated her, and she founded the Mendelssohn Scholarship Foundation in his memory.

Lind retired from professional singing soon after, at age 29.

In 1849, P.T. Barnum approached her with the invitation to tour America. Deciding it would be a good way to earn money for her favorite charities, Lind agreed. Barnum got busy advertising, when she arrived in New York City's harbor in September of 1850, 40,000 people awaited her ship.

A Jenny Lind souvenir token, 1850
She sang at 93 venues, from concert halls to train stations, in America,  Canada, and Cuba. Tickets for some of her concerts were in such demand that Barnum sold them by auction. Barnum also marketed Lind-inspired products, like clothes, pianos, tokens, and chairs.

Lind earned $350,000, and Barnum’s wealth grew by $500,000 (in 2016 dollars, that’s around $10 million and $14.2 million).

By 1851, however, Lind had grown weary of Barnum's methods and severed ties with him. She continued to tour on her own for a year with conductor and pianist Otto Goldschmidt. Unlike her previous suitors, Goldschmidt won Lind’s heart, and they were married in Boston in 1852, at the end of her tour.

Lind and Goldschmidt returned to Europe in May 1852, settling first in Germany, then in England, where they lived out the rest of their lives. They had three children, and Lind continued to sing, teach and support numerous charities, including the children’s hospital in Norwich, England.
Jenny Lind by Eduard Magnus, 1862, public domain
Meanwhile, she made such a strong impression wherever she went that her name was given to a chapel, hotel, park, psychiatric ward, and pub in England. An Australian schooner named for her was wrecked on a creek on the Queensland cost…and the creek’s name was changed to Jenny Lind Creek.

A Jenny Lind Crib, available on Amazon
In America, a California gold rush town was named for her, as was an elementary school in Minnesota. Streets in Arkansas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California bear her name. She’s been honored since 1948 by the Barnum Festival, a national competition that crowns a soprano in her honor, held every summer in Connecticut. And of course, her name is still used to describe a popular style of baby crib.

This blog originally appeared on Heroes, Heroines & History.