Author Roundtable: Garden Favorites

Did you know that the lovely bouquet you’re eying in the florist shop could actually contain a secret message?

Well, not today, maybe. These days, a rose is just a rose. But in the Victorian era, young people would use the commonly accepted meanings of flowers to express their feelings for each other. (Pity the poor suitor who didn’t know that yellow tulips meant “hopeless love” or that snapdragons meant “deception or presumption”!)

Here are a few of our authors’ favorite flowers and their corresponding Victorian symbolism.

Becky Wade: Geraniums

GeraniumMeaning: True friendship

Kimberley Woodhouse: Tulips

TulipsMeaning: Declaration of love

Jen Turano and Elizabeth Camden: Sunflowers

SunflowersMeaning: Loyalty

Ann Tatlock: Violets

VioletsMeaning: Faithfulness

Melissa Tagg:  Daisies

DaisiesMeaning: Innocence, hope

Nancy Mehl: Irises

IrisMeaning: Faith, wisdom

Ann Mateer: Gardenias

GardeniasMeaning: You’re lovely, secret love

Regina Jennings: Zinnias

zinniasMeaning: Thoughts of absent friends

Dee Henderson, Leslie Gould, Kate Breslin: Roses

RosesMeaning: Love

Mary Connealy: Daffodils

DaffodilsMeaning: Respect

Here’s a fun idea: Look at the meanings of certain flowers and think of friends who fit that description perfectly. Then buy seed packets of those flowers and mail them to your friends with a note about why this particular flower and meaning made you think of them. (Zinnias are always good for a “Thinking of You” card!)

What’s your favorite flower, and what does it mean? (There are some variations in meaning from place to place, but most of these I found here and here.)

What’s In a Name?

Sometimes our authors will post questions on Facebook asking fans to help them name a particular character. These are really fun discussions to follow, and they always make me wonder: what’s in a name? Not in the way Shakespeare meant it, but how does the sound and meaning of a name fit a character?

Parents might have many reasons to pass on a name to a newborn—acknowledging a tradition or national heritage, honoring someone special, or simply liking the sound of a name.

Authors, though, know their characters’ personalities before ever naming them, something hard to determine in a hospital with a screaming infant. I decided to take a look at the names of the leading ladies in our April releases and see how they fit the characters.

Name Book

All of the meanings and spiritual connotations were taken from The Name Book. Continue reading

Love Never Fails: Romance in the Early 1900s

(Congratulations to our winner from last week’s post, Brentlee Shoemaker! Brentlee, please email your mailing address to me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com so I can send you a copy of Against the Tide.)

The 1900s brought some dramatic changes: from fashion to world events to courtship. Three of our authors responded with thoughts on the historical events of their books’ settings, and how the traditions of romance have changed from back then to where they are now.

First, Janette Oke shares more about the shift in attitude that came in the 1920s, and how that change impacted the heroine of her new release.

Where Courage Calls

Title and Setting: Where Courage Calls, 1920s Canada

My Question:
What was the attitude of the time period toward romance and courtship?

Janette’s Answer:
The story of Beth Thatcher took place during the Roaring Twenties—a time when the world was quickly changing in so many ways, after the First World War. Coming from a very wealthy, conservative home and daring to venture out on her own seemed scary enough—but forming new worldviews, new perimeters, new social standards, and new relationships was totally mind-boggling. Especially for a young girl who was not looking for a life partner . . . yet.

At the time, there was a measure of transition happening. In the past, the parents of the upper class were very involved in the process of match-making. Young ladies debuted into society. Proper young men were welcomed as suitors, others quietly rejected.

In the time period for our story, more young women were seeking a new independence. Many were furthering their education and thus choosing their future career. They were being much more exposed to the world and all of its possibilities and pitfalls. For many it was a totally new world that frightened parents and excited youth. In a way, they were joining the society around them, where the lower classes had already been making such decisions on their own.

Oke_JanetteChat with Janette on a March 4th Facebook Party!

Siri Mitchell‘s upcoming release, Love Comes Calling, also takes place in the 1920s…but in the bustling city of Boston instead of a remote mining town. Her main character, Ellis, encounters all the commotion and chaos of the Prohibition era.

LoveComesCalling_mck.indd

Title and Setting: Love Comes Calling, 1920s Boston

My Question:
What did you personally find interesting about your main characters’ relationship?

Siri’s Answer:
It’s a romance between two people in the upper strata of Boston society who are burdened by the expectations of their family and friends¬. They both see (and love) each other for the people they are, not the people others want them to be.

My Question:
What was an interesting dating tradition of this time?

Siri’s Answer:
The Roaring Twenties was known for its fads. These were the years in which the dance marathon was born. This is also when “dating” truly began. The term “blind date” first appeared in 1921.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your book was typical of the time period and what was not typical?

Siri’s Answer:
Part of the story takes place on a college campus. As a writer of historicals, it was a treat to place a book in an era when women were attending college. One of the plot points involves the heroine, Ellis, trying to avoid being “pinned” by the fraternity boy hero, Griffin. Pinning is long-time tradition in the Greek System in which the fraternity boy offers his fraternity pin to his sweetheart. As a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, it was fun to be able to share that tradition with my readers.

My Question:
How was romance/courtship different from what it looks like today?

Siri’s Answer:
Actually, it was during this period that romance and courtship began to take on the look and feel of our modern era as the concept of dating became established. The 1920s are also notorious for their ‘anything goes’ mentality. The slide in morality among the decade’s youth can be blamed on two things: movies and the automobile. Many young men of the era freely volunteered that everything they knew about kissing, necking, and petting they learned from the movies. And the car changed everything. No longer did a boy have to spend his time courting a girl within the confines of her family home at the invitation of her wary parents. If you were going to let a boy buy you a drink or take you out to dinner, then you owed him something. This shift of control in the dating arena from the female to the male forever altered relations between the genders.

Mitchell_SiriConnect with Siri on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Finally, Kate Breslin writes about the turmoil of the early half of the century from an ocean away in the midst of World War Two. Here, she shares how such a conflict might shape the lives and hearts of those in the middle of it all.

For Such a Time

Title and Setting: For Such a Time, 1944 Czechoslovakia

My Question:
What did you personally find interesting about your main characters’ relationship?

Kate’s Answer:
The fact that they have one. My hero, Aric von Schmidt, is a SS-Nazi Kommandant in charge of the camp; my heroine, Hadassah Benjamin, is a blond, blue-eyed Jewess who poses as his Aryan secretary, Stella Muller. Stella has every reason to despise Aric as she watches her own people struggle against Nazi brutality and the constant threat of Auschwitz. Aric, a man of hidden depths, finds himself drawn to “Stella,” knowing only that she was raised by Jews and fearing her hatred of him once he’s executed his part in the Nazi’s Final Solution—the total annihilation of Jews inside his camp.

Auschwitz

A view of Auschwitz, from Kate’s Pinterest board.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your novel was typical of the time period and what was atypical?

Kate’s Answer:
During my research, I found the occasional instance of Jewish women marrying Nazi officers, but it certainly wasn’t the norm. Nazi romance and courtship was a very “white bread” ideal. Each man of good German stock was to marry a blond, fair-featured Aryan female to bear him many children for the Nazi state. She would be a model mother and homemaker, unobtrusive in her manner and dress, and keep for him a happy home and hearth. The Nazis expended much propaganda to this end. The U.S. had their own share of propaganda, but aimed it more toward encouraging women to take on roles previously held by men.

As far as romance and marriage, while expectations here were not rigidly idealized as in Germany, many young women felt pressured to meet and marry a serviceman before he departed for the war. I’ll also note here that German women were prohibited from a professional career during wartime or from joining the armed service, while our women became more independent, filling in for our men in all facets of work as well as serving as nurses and other occupations in the armed forces.

I believe that romance, when it did occur during this time, must have felt more amplified than it does today. The world was at war, and men everywhere were being pressed or drafted into service to fight and perhaps die. The European Jewry had been rounded up by Hitler and was being slowly exterminated. Life in every aspect became precious, the future fragile and uncertain. For many, a sense of urgency to form lasting bonds drove them beyond conventional rites of romance and courtship. Marriages took place in all venues—perhaps a weekend’s liberty in some foreign country or in the middle of a concentration camp.

Breslin_Kate1Connect with Kate on Facebook and her website.

When Calls the HeartThis time our giveaway prize is a little different: two winners will receive DVDs of When Calls the Heart, based on the novel by Janette Oke. To enter, comment on this blog post with an answer to this question: if you could travel back in time to any period in history, which would you pick and why? Winners will be posted on a new blog post on Thursday, March 6th.

Our Authors’ New Year’s Resolutions

Happy 2014, everyone! In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I sent to following question to several of our fiction authors:

If you had to pick one fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) to work on in 2014, which would it be?

tablespoon.com fruit

For me, of course, the answer was simple. I mean there’s . . . but also . . . and what about . . . hmm. Maybe all of them?

To help me narrow down my choices, I read what our authors had to say. Here is how they responded:

Janette Oke

Oke_Janette

All needed. All should be developing daily. I would love to see each one of them in my own life: plump, and rich in color, and ripened to the tastiness they were meant to be. To pick one—it would be love. Because love is needed for each of the others to develop to full potential. Delicious possibilities!

Siri Mitchell

Mitchell_Siri

Patience. I think that as a fruit of the Spirit, it’s highly underrated. Mostly people just kind of skip over it for the more “righteous” gifts, but we live in such an impatient world. It’s easy to get caught up in the “right-now” culture, but really, impatience is making yourself and your needs more important than everyone else’s. So patience is what I’ll be working on this year.

Lisa Wingate

Wingate_Lisa

This being the empty nest year of my life, I think mine would be joy. As a mom who always loved being a mom and loved all the routines that go with being a mom, I’m working on finding joy as life turns a corner. When one (dorm room) door closes, another door opens.

Kathryn Cushman

Cushman_Katie1

Self-control. It’s a constant struggle in almost every area of my life. It’s the main reason my favorite verse is Psalm 9:10, “And those who know Your name put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have not abandoned those who seek You.”

Laurel Oke Logan

OKE_LaurelAndJanette1

I tend to be a passion-driven person, so I would like to balance that with more self-control.

Melissa Tagg

Tagg_Melissa1

I think faithfulness—although, let’s be honest, I really could stand to use some work on patience and self-control, too. But I feel like in the past year or so, God has constantly been reminding me of His faithfulness . . . there is something so amazing about that constancy. It makes him dependable and trustworthy. I would like to be that way as much as possible in my own life: faithful, dependable, constant.

Leslie Gould

GOULD_Leslie1crop

I’d pick joy! We live in a broken world, but God’s redemption is evident everywhere. In nature. In humans. In art. In stories. I want to be aware of that redemptive work and rejoice in that beauty. I want to delight in creation and relationships and knowing God is ultimately in control.

Victoria Bylin

Bylin_Victoria1

Kindness, definitely. I work part-time in a doctor’s office. Every day I see people going through hard times. A little extra consideration—opening a door, getting someone a tissue—goes a long way to brightening that person’s day. It brightens my day too! We all need help now and then. It’s a fact of life.

Karen Witemeyer

Witemeyer_Karen1

Self-control. That sweet tooth of mine just keeps insisting on having its own way, and I give in far too often.

Kate Breslin

Breslin_Kate1

I could certainly work on them all, but I’ll choose faithfulness. As a new author, I’ve experienced a lot of “firsts” in publishing, both exciting and challenging; to keep my faith constant that all will work according to God’s plan is a blessing to strive for!

Lynn Austin

Austin_Lynn1

Peace. I would like to get to the place where all of the disturbances in life, major and minor, don’t ruffle my composure or make me lose sleep.

Dani Pettrey

Pettrey_Dani

Joy. It’s been a difficult couple of years with a lot of loss, but also with a ton of good. Isn’t it funny how God brings joy in the midst of heartache? This year, I’d love to dwell on the joy and praising God for it.

Melissa Jagears

Jagears_Melissa1

Love—I’m really busy at the moment and my kids and husband and other loved ones need to know that I love them. God too. And so I need to make sure I carve out enough time to show them in 2014.

Patrick Carr

Carr_Patrick

I’d choose them all! If I could only choose one, it would be self-control. This last year with work (I’m a teacher) has been such an eye-opener, and the change in perspective has been difficult but very worthwhile.

Anne Mateer

Mateer_DAnn

Definitely joy. I have a tendency to get bogged down in all I have to do or things that are going on in my life and forget that the joy of the Lord isn’t dependent on my circumstances but on what He has done for and in me.

R. J. Larson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I would choose love. I hope to reflect true and boundless love for everyone in this fallen world, even when some people challenge ideals I cherish, or threaten those who are vulnerable. Practicing and reflecting love also helps me as I pursue the other fruits of the Spirit.

Elizabeth Ludwig

Ludwig_Elizabeth1

Patience. No doubt. I am not a patient person, and reminding me of that only makes me more impatient. Thank goodness the Lord does not grow weary with me. He’s got to shake his head every time I forget to put on the fruits of the Spirit.

How about you? Pick a fruit, and tell us a little bit about why you chose it.

A Room at the Inn: Kate Breslin

For me, as a Christian, December 25th holds a profound sense of joy; attending midnight Mass, viewing the infant Jesus in his crèche, and singing “Silent Night” with tears of wonder.

Yet it wasn’t always so. I would get swept up in that holiday frenzy after Black Friday: the madness of buying too many gifts, racing to mail Christmas cards, baking enough cookies, decorating the tree, the house, the cat . . . you get the idea. One year all that changed. I was running around like a reindeer with my antlers cut off when it dawned on me that my Christmas to-do list was finished. House cleaned, presents bought and wrapped, tree tinseled and lit, Advent wreath and Nativity taking their rightful places in my living room. I was done! With three days to go, my spiced zucchini bread in the oven, mulled cider simmering on the stove, and Mannheim Steamroller “decking my halls” on the CD player, I could relax and revel in the season.

So . . . where was my Christmas spirit?

My expectations came crashing down around my ears. Having that extra time only made me wonder: Is this all there is? Like Charlie Brown, I didn’t know what Christmas was all about. And though I prayed on it, it escaped me as to how I’d become “Grinched” almost overnight.

My husband suggested we take a drive to drop off gifts and tour the neighborhood Christmas lights. I agreed, but even that didn’t lift my dismal state or fill the place inside me where “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men” should have rested.

Then on the way home we stopped at the grocery store to grab a carton of eggnog.

She stood just inside the door, trying to stay warm. Painfully thin, toothless, and with stringy gray hair beneath an old knitted cap, she wore dirty blue slippers in thirty-degree weather. She had a coat, but little else. She appeared elderly at first, but at closer range it was clear that hard living had aged her so drastically. I’d seen her before, walking her “beat” around town. Our city fosters a vast mental-health network, so it’s not uncommon to see those who are “different” ambling here and there as they carve out a life. Continue reading