A Handmade Gift

What do you give your family for their birthdays?

Alysen’s Quilt

A few years ago, my husband and I attended the funeral for the mother of a good friend of his. He had spent a lot of time in their home, and she had made him feel a part of their family. The funeral was a sweet tribute to her and a celebration of her life.

Gideon’s Quilt

I was touched me by the stories that her grandchildren told of letters she sent to them on their birthdays every year. In those once a year birthday letters she would reminisce about what she did and how she felt when she was their age. What a precious gift this woman left to her children and grandchildren.

I would like to say that I started right then to write birthday letters to my grandchildren. I didn’t. First, I’m not sure I could remember enough about my childhood to accurately describe what I did and how I felt. And I felt a little like I was starting too late (which looking back I realize is ridiculous). Regardless, I didn’t do it.

What special, personal, intimate gifts you give to your loved ones-your family, your dear friends? I’d love to hear from you.

Luciana’s Quilt

One thing I have done is make a quilt for each of my grandbabies. I haven’t always been timely with this gift, but before they turn two, they have a quilt from Mimi.

Taze’s Quilt
Juniper’s Quilt

In my family, this has been an exercise in quilt binging because the babies seem to come in batches. So a few years ago and again this last two months, I made five baby quilts.

I hope you enjoy seeing what I do when I’m not writing, researching, or reading.

What topics do you research?

Spying: Part One of a Three Part Series

Research is the one avoidance behavior I don’t feel too guilty about. I find the most interesting information while researching for my books. While my time spent delving into Regency England informs my writing, I can’t put everything I find in the stories. For fun, I want to take a few weeks and share some stories I’ve found about spying during the Napoleonic war.

Both England and France collected information, discredited their enemy’s diplomats, and even planned assassinations. I hope you enjoy reading about a few Napoleonic era spies.

This week, meet Karl (Charles) Ludwig Schulmeister, Austrian double agent for France.

Karl Ludwig Schulmeister  Unknown artist – www.servimg.com

Charles was one of Napoleon’s most successful secret agents. His father was at various times a metalworker, grocer, shopkeeper, smuggler, and a Lutheran minister in Baden. Charles was raised as a shepherd, 3 but later became a smuggler in Strasbourg. One of the things he traded was information. 2

Charles gathered contacts among the French. One of his contacts, General Anne-Jean-Marie-Rene Savary, was aide-de-camp to Napoleon and recruited him to work for Napoleon. He was sent to Vienna to find out the plans of General Mack, the commander of the Austrian Army.4

Once in Austria, he claimed he was a Hungarian noble who had been exiled from France. He began to move in aristocratic circles and soon met General Baron Karl Mack von Leiberich. 4 He persuaded Mack that he represented royalist opposition to Napoleon and gave him secret data about the French army (Given to him by under Napoleon’s orders).

Now trusted by General Mack, Schulmeister was made chief of intelligence in Mack’s army.

Taking information from Schulmeister, Napoleon printed false newspapers and letters reporting unrest in the French army. Mack believed that the British were landing a force and that France was close to an uprising and were retreating. When Mack pursued the French, he was surrounded by their “retreating army.” He had no choice but to surrender. Napoleon won one of his most famous victories at the battle of Austerlitz. He captured Vienna and Schulmeister became chief of police. 1

At various times during the war, Schulmeister acted as a General in Napoleon’s army, was active in espionage in England and Ireland, and was director of the French Secret Service. 2

Schulmeister set up an effective cluster of spies from Napoleon’s enemies in the East. After Napoleon’s success at Austerlitz, he told his officers “Gentlemen, all respect to Charles, who I estimate highly, because he was worth an army corps of 40,000 men to me.”3  Schulmeister wanted to be awarded the Legion of Honor, but Napoleon later said that “gold is the only suitable reward for spies.” 1

After Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and exiled, Schulmeister was arrested. He bought his freedom with his fortune. Nearly penniless, he received a a tobacco stand from an old friend in Strasbourg. He was able to earn a small income until he died of heart failure. 3

I thought it interesting that Napoleon used Schulmeister for his information but didn’t trust him or respect him. His death in poverty seems a just end.

Sources:

  1.  https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/napoleonic-wars-espionage-during
  2.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Schulmeister
  3. https://www.frenchempire.net/biographies/schulmeister/
  4. http://www.historynaked.com/karl-schulmeister-napoleons-dog/

Questions for Discussion: The Lies We Tell

I thought I would be able to practice courage in a few small things first, just to get in the way of it. Fate and my stepbrother Hugh had different ideas.

We had only lived in Bexhill a few months when Hugh was shot dead by a smuggler, ironically in a peaceful wooded field situated between the shops on Hastings Road and St. Peter’s church, right in the center of town.

Then everything changed, and there was no time to dabble in courage. I must spring right in, or perhaps I should say, be plunged in, whether I would or not.

Questions:

1. Amelia claims she wants to learn how to be courageous, but she doesn’t feel that she chooses her brave actions. What impels her to do such unprecedented and daring things?

2. Mr. Jones was very different from Amelia. His life was completely outside her experience. Why did that make her so nervous?

3. When you meet someone whose life, culture, experience, or outlook are different than yours, does it make you nervous? What do you do?

4. Amelia cannot ignore or walk away from the young women who are being abused. Have you ever witnessed something you couldn’t walk away from?

5. Have you ever seen something and felt powerless to help? What do you do?

6. What did your family do to encourage social justice and awareness in you?

7. Amelia is accustomed to being seen and treated in a certain way. She expects and even encourages that response, yet suddenly she is frustrated with how she is viewed. Have you ever felt limited by others’ assumptions/views of you? What did you or do, or what do you think you would do?

8. What is it about Mr. Jones that appeals to Amelia?

9. In what ways does Amelia change over the novel?

Are You a Plotter or a Pantser?

Some writers begin a new project by creating an in-depth outline, a detailed plan of what will happen in each chapter. They may start and keep a Character Bible right from the outset, where they record all the details about each character, including background, preferences, fears, and quirks. With this information at hand, the conflict and dialogue can be personal and consistent. Some writers are what we call Plotters.

Photo by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash
Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Other writers begin a new book with a blank page and a few ideas floating around in their brains. (Or perhaps a deadline and anxiety). Maybe they’ve seen something or someone who has sparked one idea. They may have dreamed up one scene or imagined one character. These writers dive right in, not necessarily knowing what is going to happen next. They often don’t know all of the characters who will populate their story. Some writers are Pantsers.

Guess which I am.

It wasn’t even difficult, was it?

Every time I begin a new story, I think, “I will plan this one out.” Sometimes I even make a loose outline. And then I actually start putting words on paper. And every single time, the characters literally take over.

I’m still surprised about things that happened in my latest novel, The Lies We Tell. The main character, Amelia already had the seed of a romantic interest planted in the previous book (The Secrets We Keep). I had a vague plan to develop that relationship in Lies. Nope! Perry Gerow just wasn’t doing his job. She needed someone who would challenge her, someone who saw her more clearly. Poor Perry. He got relegated to the friend zone. (Just a little bit of a spoiler).

And where did the Hydra House girls come from? I’m sure I was more shocked than anyone at that twist. It was definitely not in the outline! Honestly, I did not make that stuff up. My mind doesn’t work that way. Part way through the novel writing, I thought to myself, who is Amelia? What is she doing? And Why? Who will she become? I could hardly wait to find out.

I’m wondering if there are Plotters and Pantsers in life as well as in writing. Do you wake up in the morning (or the night before) and make a plan, write a list, have a schedule? Are you able to stay on your set course?

Or do you climb out of bed to see what the day will bring? Maybe you start with one general idea of what you’d like to do or one person you think you should see. Do you often find your life has other ideas. (It has a life of its own?)

Which are you, Plotter or Pantser?

Would you like to experiment with time?

Photo by Chris Liu-Beers on Unsplash

Recently Fiddler on the Roof came up in a conversation with my granddaughter. The chorus of this song has been running through my mind ever since:

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laiden with happiness and tears

SUNRISE, SUNSET Composed By Jerry Bock, Lyrics By Sheldon Harnick

As the evening air begins to cool and the trees change colors in the mountains, I’ve been looking back. It’s been a full summer. Many of you have posted your hikes, vacations, family reunions, milestones. Some have shared struggles or illness, sadness or doubts. I’ve had a little of both happiness and tears this summer too.

As the season changes, take a moment with me and measure how far you’ve come. Did you try something new this summer or take a next step on our planned journey? Or have you experienced one of those surprising twists that changed your direction and forced you to make new plans? What have you learned? How have you changed? I’d love to hear about it. Comment below.

And I invite you to write about it. Amazing insights and even more growth happen when I write my thoughts and experiences.

Now look forward with me. More than January, September always feels like the beginning of a new year. What do you want to happen this Fall/Winter? What do you want to learn? What habits to establish? What relationships to build, heal, or improve? What do you want to accomplish spiritually, socially, physically, intellectually/mentally? I’d love to hear about this too.

Swiftly flow the days
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laiden with happiness and tears

SUNRISE, SUNSET By Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick

Maybe–I hope–if we take a few moments to think about, write about, talk about the past season and the one coming, the passage of time won’t seem such a blur. We can make time slow down. We can twist it and turn it, look at it from all sides and from the inside out.

It might only be for a few moments and then time will speed up again and we’ll be right in the middle of the movement and sound and demands of our lives, but maybe it will all look just a little different after our step out of time.

Take a breath. Maybe another.

Okay. Back to life. I look forward to a new season of growth with you.