CONGRATULATIONS

Two Inkwell Inspirations contributors finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol contest this year. Jennifer AlLee's Vinnie's Diner is in the Speculative category, and Dina Sleiman's Dauntless is in the Young Adult category.

Congratulations, ladies! We will be rooting for you in August.

Congrats to Elaine King and Karen Klepsteen for winning Starlight Serenade!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Squirrel!



Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in the making of this post.

I hope these bring a smile to your face.

My vegetable gardening skills are somewhat lacking, but I enjoy growing fruit. Our best crops are peaches, blueberries, and raspberries. That said, getting them onto the table can be a challenge. (Thank you, Adam, for not resisting that forbidden fruit.)

This year, a late spring frost depressed the peach crop. And then there's the annual fight against fungus, insects and squirrels. The squirrels are one of the most annoying. They wait until the crop is ripe, then strip trees and bushes bare.

This week, after picking blueberries regularly for the past month, I noticed a sudden cessation in ripe ones. Every day, there were only unripe ones. That's usually a sign of a squirrel assault, so my husband took action with a humane trap.

Success.

Winston (our 8 1/2 month old Australian Shepherd) wasn't sure what to make of this at first.


video

But hey, it looked suspiciously like a favorite playmate who squeaks when you squeeze him:



Puppies just wanna have fun.



I think he decided we'd gotten him a new toy.

video


Poor puppy. He just couldn't get the squirrel to play.

video

I rescued the squirrel by loading him in the van and taking him to a park about 5 miles away (on the other side of the river so he won't easily come back). Afterward, I discovered he'd left me a few "gifts" (if you know what I mean) in the back of the van.

Methinks I should let Winston have the next one.




Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fort Vermilion Then & Now


by Anita Mae Draper


I love comparing pictures and seeing how a place changes over the years, and last year when I drove Highway 17 in Northwestern Ontario I had a chance to photograph changes to a structure I've watched progress over the past forty years. 

While growing up we used to pass this huge fort structure in Vermilion Bay, yet it wasn't until October 1976 when Nelson and I drove from North Bay, Ontario (north of Toronto), to the prairies to tell our folks of our engagement, that we stopped for gas across the highway and then decided to take time to check out what appeared to be the shell of a fort or fur trading post. 

Map of Ontario, Canada courtesy of Wikipedia

There were no gates, so we walked through the gate opening to find that the interior was being used as a picnic and playground area. The fort consisted of 13-foot stockade walls with parapets, or walkways, running along the inside wall and connecting two of the four block houses at the upper level. 

Here's what Fort Vermilion looked like in 1976...


Nelson Draper, Fort Vermilion, Vermilion Bay, Ontario 1976


Fort Vermilion, Vermilion Bay, Ontario 1976

Nelson and I returned to our postings at Canadian Forces Base North Bay where we married a couple months later -- yes that will be 40 yrs this December. :)

Sixteen years and several moves later, we stopped in Vermilion Bay on our move from Ottawa, Ontario, to Cold Lake, Alberta. It was July 1992 and this time we were traveling with 13 yr old Crystal and 18 month old Jessie and the fort would be the perfect place for us to rest and the girls to play. 


Crystal & Jessie Draper, Fort Vermilion, Vermilion Bay, Ontario 1992

That was the last time we stopped at the fort. Then last summer, my sister, Bonnie, accompanied me for part of my trip east and we stopped at Vermilion Bay for gas and to grab something to eat on the way. But across the street, the old fort beckoned with inviting signs like this...


Fort Vermilion, Vermilion Bay, Ontario 2015

Bonnie doesn't drive, and so by that time, I had been driving for 12 hours and needed to rest my eyes a bit, so we decided to see what The Tree House Cafe had to offer.


Main Gate, Fort Vermilion, Vermilion Bay, Ontario 2015

What a treat! Sitting on a patio in the shade with a cool drink and delectable wrap was just the thing for the hot day. Most of the trees in the fort had been cleared away and in their place the playground had expanded with safe and modern equipment. In the center was a pavilion with picnic tables and BBQ pit with an authentic birch bark canoe hanging from the ceiling. A path through the back gate led to hiking trails, a side gate to an 18-hole mini-golf course, and other attractions were all within reach. 


Pavilion, Fort Vermilion, Vermilion Bay, Ontario 2015

I thought I'd taken a photo of the menu because I really wanted to post about it, but the only thing I can find other than the outdoor photos is this post card I snagged on my way out...


Post Card, Fort Vermilion, Vermilion Bay, Ontario 

The post card really says it all because for years we had passed the fort while wondering what was behind the walls and then when we finally stopped we were so glad we did.

Although Fort Vermilion in Vermilion Bay, Ontario isn't an authentic fur trading post, the Hudson's Bay Company files refer to an 1881 Vermilion Station on the shores of Eagle Lake which was used to house crews constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway. (Source: Wikipedia)

Your turn - Have you ever passed something several times before checking it out, and then wished you'd checked it out earlier?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anita Mae Draper's stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Volume 4, Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, Guideposts Books, October 2014, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her first novella, Romantic Refinements is found in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing, Jan 2016. Discover more at  www.anitamaedraper.com


Monday, August 15, 2016

Gold Medal Ready For Our Customer Base



Enjoying the Olympics? I sure am. Despite the issues surrounding these Olympic games, I am swept away by Olympic fever. The competition, the sense of goodwill among countries, learning about other cultures...

And of course, all the unscripted moments that offer us life lessons, like grace under pressure, grace when we lose, and grace when we win.

The other night when the US Olympic Women's team won a gold in gymnastics (it was amazing!), our team stood on the podium, medals around their necks, while the national anthem played. The next morning, the world saw this photo:

gabby, douglas, star, spangled, podium, decorum, debate
(Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images)

Before I start, I want to say that I do not agree with the backlash Gabby Douglas, second from the left, received as a result of how some perceived her behavior during the ceremony. She immediately became the subject of tweets ranging from disappointed to downright angry because she stood with her arms at her sides, and her face bore a neutral expression, rather than displaying overt signs of joy or holding her hand over her heart.

It should be said that plenty of people thought there was nothing to get excited about at all, too.

Enough people were talking about it, though, that The LA Times weighed in, with the article Gymnast Gabby Douglas resurrects the debate over how to act during the national anthem by Bill Plaschke (bill.plaschke@latimes.com).*

“'When it comes to Olympics athlete celebrities, a word to the wise — be careful what you do on the medal stand, you can alienate a lot of your customer base,' said Mark Dyreson, Penn State professor and Olympic scholar."

I am not qualified to comment on Olympians' customer bases, IOC regulations, or anything having to do with athletics (I am NOT a jock). But this quote got me thinking about how my customer base, and how I look when I am on display.

Ultimately as Christians, we strive to please an Audience of One--our Lord and Creator--but we still strive to make favorable impressions on others and receive positive evaluations. We all have a customer base, to one degree or another, whether it's obvious (you own a store or are an author) or not (a student working toward a job goal).

Top
Gabby Douglas won Gold in 2012 in London, Reuters
Each of us have moments when the eyes of others are on us, even if we're not on a podium in an event being broadcast to millions of people. We make presentations, receive gifts, and win games and contests. On social media, those of us who are writers announce big news and hope to woo readers to us. Even when we don't post on our books, we convey an image.

In those moments, we display a level of grace that resonates with a customer base ...or we don't.

Remember McKayla Maroney, who won Olympic Gold as part of the women's gymnastics team and a Silver for the vault event in London, 2012, and her "not impressed" face?

Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images
Maroney was a good sport about it later, but the the fact still stands that many of us remember her by that "not impressed" face. Right or wrong, that's how I remember her. (I'm sure she's a lovely person and deserves better, just like Gabby Douglas does.)

Michael Phelps rankled a few people last week when he laughed through the second half of the national anthem when he won the 200-meter butterfly.
Michael Phelps, a proud Baltimorean, had just notched his 20th Olympic gold medal with a narrow win in the 200-meter butterfly. He appeared emotional on the subsequent medal stand, which shouldn't have been surprising, and this dramatic victory seemed an appropriate moment for deep thoughts. But then he started laughing. [Photo from video]
Phelps after the "Oh!", Washington Post. Photo taken from NBC video. Found here.
Phelps later said he was laughing at his friends who shouted the word "O!" in the national anthem, a tribute to his home team, the Baltimore Orioles. For the most part, folks accepted his explanation and it didn't hurt his favorability with his customer base. It probably helped that he had his hand over his heart the entire time, and that he was clearly choked up by his win before his friends shouted "Oh!"
Phelps, before the "Oh!", taken from NBC Sports Twitter, found here
I feel pretty safe suggesting that no one who reads this post is as famous as these athletes, but when we are observed by others as looking ungrateful or sullen when we are in a position honor, it can make a negative impression. We can be grateful without it showing on our faces. We can be humble without looking like it. But with customer bases, sometimes the appearance helps.

While we shouldn't focus on appearances, acclaim, or acceptance, showing gratitude goes a long way with our customer bases.

I'll leave you with a picture of someone who is the exception to everything I said above. He can look cranky, and people still love him: one of the cutest supporters of Team USA, Boomer Phelps, son of Michael Phelps. No matter his mood, he always makes a favorable impression on me.
Boomer Phelps
David Ramos/Getty Images

YOUR TURN: What's your favorite Olympic Event?

***

Susanne Dietze's favorite Summer Olympic events are ... pretty much everything. She watches sports she'd never watch on regular TV and cheers loudly.

She's loved watching equestrian events since seeing the movie "International Velvet" when she was a little girl playing with plastic horses. Coming soon: The Rails to Love Collection from Barbour and The Reluctant Guardian from Love Inspired Historical.



*Article and quotes found here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/olympics/la-sp-oly-national-anthem-plaschke-20160810-snap-story.html#nt=oft12aH-1la1

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Organization: Ridiculously Easy

(Note from Jen: Although this article comes form Randy's Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine
 his advice on creating good habits can be applied to any area of life. Enjoy!)

Organization: Ridiculously Easy
by Randy Ingermanson - reprinted with permission

We all know people who seem to sail through life. They always have it together. When things go right (which is most of the time), they’re always working productively or playing hard or flossing their teeth. When things go wrong (which seems to be rare), they surf right over those glitches and carry on.

I think we all secretly despise those people. They seem to have their lives on autopilot, never struggling. That’s not fair. 

My hunch is that these people actually do struggle, but we just don’t see it. They put in serious effort, but they put in their effort in a different way than most of us do.

These annoying people put their effort into creating good habits. I wrote about the habit of making habits in this column in January. Since then, I’ve had some new thoughts on it. If you missed that column, you might want to read it now. If you’ve forgotten it, you might want to review it on this page

It takes some serious effort to build a habit. Once you’ve got a good solid habit going, you don’t have to put in much will-power to keep it going. The habit keeps going under its own steam. You just maintain it. You appear to be coasting.

The conventional wisdom is that it takes 21 days to get a habit running under its own steam. But that only works if you can actually get through those 21 days. And it’s easy to sabotage that startup effort by trying too hard.

Let’s look at an example to see what can go wrong.

You decide you’re going to get back in shape. Back when you were younger, you used to run five miles per day. You can do that again, right? Sure you can. So you get your exercise gear all together, you set your alarm, and you wake up tomorrow all charged and ready to go.

On Day 1, you leap out of bed the instant the alarm goes off. You suit up, you warm up, and you get rolling. The first mile is a little slow. The second mile is a little slower. Somewhere in the third mile, something pops in your knee. 

You limp back home, thinking that you’re not 18 anymore. You ice your knee. You get cleaned up. And you dial back your expectations to 2 miles per day for tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off, every muscle in your body is sore. Your knee still hurts. And you decide you’d better give yourself a recovery day.

You wind up in recovery for three weeks, and finally your knee feels better. Then you either repeat the whole thing, or else you give up.

What went wrong?

What went wrong was that you put two hard things together in the same place. It’s hard to instantly raise your daily mileage by five miles. It’s also hard to form a habit.

If you want to form a habit of daily exercise, DON’T start out with a hard workout. Start out with one that’s ridiculously easy. Maybe you decide you’re going to walk half a mile every day. You can do that in ten minutes. You can do that every day. You could do way more than that, OF COURSE, because it’s ridiculously easy.

But don’t. Do a ridiculously easy workout until your habit is firmly in place. Why? Because you’re doing something else that’s already hard—you’re using your will-power to build a habit.

That’s very hard. Don’t make it harder on yourself. Make it ridiculously easy to do it every day.

When you do that, you WILL do it every day. You may feel stupid for “only” doing such a little bit. Don’t. You’re not being stupid. You’re being smart. You’re exercising your will-power to get yourself in the groove.

After a few weeks (hopefully 21 days, but this is probably highly variable), you’ll find that you’ve built a habit. It’s a habit you enjoy because, after all, it’s ridiculously easy. You do it every single day because, really and truly, it’s ridiculously easy.

Once that habit’s solidly in place, ramp it up. Not a lot. Ramp it up a little. If you were walking half a mile a day, boost that to walking three quarters of a mile. Or jog the last eighth of a mile at an easy pace. Or whatever. And stick to that new regime for a ridiculously long time. Maybe a week. Maybe two.

Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Habits that you build now that you keep in place for the next thirty or forty years will give you ridiculously great benefits.

You may know writers who put in eight or ten or twelve hours of writing, seven days per week. You may feel horrible because that’s not you.

It’s not me, either. It’s not most writers.

But there’s got to be some level of writing that’s ridiculously easy for you. Maybe it’s ten minutes a day (if you like a time quota). Maybe it’s 100 words a day (if you like a word quota). 

Find your level that’s ridiculously easy. 

Make it a habit to do that on a set schedule—five or six or seven days a week. Without fail. No excuses. (And why would you make an excuse to skip a ridiculously easy thing that you enjoy doing?)

When the habit’s solidly in place, ramp it up just a bit, but still keep it ridiculously easy. Then ramp it up again. And again. As time goes on, your definition of “ridiculously easy” will increase.

Thirty or forty years from now, you’ll look back on a long career in which you produced an amazing amount.

You may never be one of those obnoxious people who sail through life without a struggle. So if you’re going to struggle, put your effort into the things that matter.

Building a daily writing habit is a thing that matters.

Even if it’s ridiculously easy. 

***********
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 14,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visitwww.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

***********

JENNIFER ALLEE was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. To find out more about her novels, visit her website at http://www.jenniferallee.com

Monday, August 8, 2016

Look back at what you've accomplished!


By Niki Turner

Growing up in Colorado you're kind of expected to learn how to ski. We actually got to choose downhill skiing or swimming (in the world's largest outdoor hot springs pool) as part of our P.E. requirement. My mother insisted I choose downhill skiing one year because I already knew how to swim.

It was, in the scope of all things junior high, as traumatic and humiliating as it might sound (imagine Mean Girls on the ski slopes). The "cool" kids already knew how to ski. The rest of us were left to fend for ourselves.

But I did learn something...

I learned that after a particularly grueling, terrifying run, you stop, turn, and look back at what you've conquered without dying, breaking any significant bones, or shredding the inner seam of your ski pants on a mogul and finishing the run with one inner thigh exposed from knee to crotch (true story).
And so, after meeting back to back deadlines, and with two big new releases coming up, I'm taking a moment to look back up at the hill. Not just for myself but for all of the Inkies (check out our Pinterst page with all of our books: Our Books!).

When Gina Welborn inspired Inkwell Inspirations more than a million pageviews ago, only one of us was a published author (if I remember correctly.... I could be wrong, I've slept since then, at least twice). Today, we're all published authors. Back when we started (as contest finalists, not even necessarily winners, just finalists) that seemed like a lofty goal.

So when we look back, what have we learned?

  • None of us have gotten rich. (Sorry, don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but it's true.) 
  • All of us have learned a lot. (About ourselves, about writing, about publishing, about life.)
  • Seeing potential in others and taking a risk on them is one of the highest kinds of faith there is. (Thank you, Gina.)
  • Building a community of believers who encourage one another is an important factor in success. (Everyone goes through dry spells, difficult seasons, and struggles. Friends keep you going.)
  • Don't give up on your dreams.
  • Don't minimize the importance of friends who pray, who love, who build up and encourage no matter what's going on in your life.  
  • Be flexible. Success might come in ways you never expected. Be open to opportunities that cross your path... just because you didn't come up with the idea doesn't mean it isn't God-inspired.
  • Find joy in the process, not in the numbers. Writers write because they can't help themselves. It's easy to lose sight of that with the pressures of marketing, Amazon sales rankings, and royalty checks that barely cover the cost of a tank of gas. Write anyway. Ignore the sales, ignore the numbers, ignore marketing. Write because it's what you love and it's what keeps you sane... well, as sane as writers are, which is questionable on a good day. 

Stop and look back at what you've accomplished today, whether it's starting your first story, finishing your first manuscript, finaling in a contest, self-publishing, finding an agent, or signing your first contract... you've make it this far! Now point your skis down the mountain and finish the run! And when you get done, head back to the lift (that support group you've established) and ride back to the top of the mountain for the next story.

Blessings!

Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the production manager for the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper, one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in Colorado.She is a co-blogger at www.inkwellinspirations.com, is the ACFW Colorado coordinator. Niki is a Colorado native who grew up in Glenwood Springs—home of the world’s largest hot springs pool. She married her high school sweetheart 26 years ago. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two West Highland White Terriers who are kind enough to take them for long walks together.You can find all her new releases at www.nikiturner.net under BOOKS.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Note to All Cyborgs: DO NOT CALL ME




Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a grouch these days. I’m on a very tight deadline for not one but two books. I’m about to have to work on edits for a third. My father recently sold his home and moved into mine. (Since he’s 91, he really couldn’t do any of the packing and cleaning and everything else involved in moving.) Since he moved into the room that was once my library, I have books and bookcases stacked in my dining room until I get the rest of my house de-cluttered and rearranged to accommodate them. I’m also having my bathroom remodeled.

Don’t get me wrong. All of these things are good things. I’m thrilled that I continue to have contracts for my books. I’m very happy to have my dad live with me so I can look after him better. I need to get rid of a bunch of stuff I don’t ever use and basically make my house make more sense. The bathroom is gorgeous and much more functional for my dad. Still, what I don’t need in the midst of all this chaos is computers calling me.

I know they’re computers because there are little buzzes and whirs between the time I speak and when they finally answer. I know they’re computers because I get the same impossibly perfect, unaccented American-heartland voices saying the same spiel. “You’re harder to get ahold of than the last cookie in the cookie jar!” or “I know you’re busy, so I won’t take up much of your time.” And then, when I say, “Are you a computer?” I get the buzz and whir and then, “Ha ha, do I sound that bad?” or “I’m a live person using scripted responses.”

No, that’s not true.

According to this article in the Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/12/almost-human-the-surreal-cyborg-future-of-telemarketing/282537/, there may be a live person running the computer for two or three calls at a time, but I am not speaking to a live person. That live person is in the Philippines or some other place with cheap labor trying to fool me into believing I’m speaking to a human. There is a vast difference between a human reading a script and a computer playing a .wav file.

According to the article, this type of system helps people who work for telemarketing companies not want to gnaw one of their own legs off after two or three days on the job. Granted, it’s a terrible job making calls all day to people who find your intrusion on their time insufferably annoying. I sympathize with the telemarketers. I do. But my solution to that problem is for them to NOT CALL ME. If I want a service, I will seek out someone who can provide it. You don’t have to tell me when I need what you’re selling.

If you’re looking for charitable donations, DO NOT CALL ME. I don’t donate over the telephone. There are too many scam artists out there, and I’m just not doing it. I donate to reputable charities like Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse who are well known and who do not spend most of my donations on “administrative expenses” like some charities I won’t mention (cough, Red Cross, United Way, cough, cough).

If I’m busy, I resent the interruption these calls make in my train of thought. Sometimes getting just the right turn of phrase is a delicate and elusive thing, and when one comes to me, I don’t need a computer interrupting me before I can even write it down. If I’m sleeping, and yes, I’m a night person and I keep odd hours, then I’m doubly annoyed by these calls.  Most of the time I just hang up. Sometimes I ask if the caller is a computer and, invariably, it tries to deny it is. Sometimes, following that, I ask for a supervisor and request that my number (already on the do not call list, which seems to be universally ignored by these machines) be removed from their list.

But, if I happen to be in a playful mood, I do enjoy messing with them. If I ask if it’s a computer and am told it’s not, then I ask random questions like “How’s the weather where you are?” “What did you have for lunch?” or “How ‘bout those Dallas Cowboys?” That usually earns me a lot of clicks and buzzes and whirs and then something like, “I can tell this isn’t a good time for you. We’ll call back later.” Click.

Ummm, please, don’t.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Writing Diversity

by Barbara Early

In the news last week as a sad story about three long-time Sesame Street actors being let go as the transition moved to HBO. I wrote a Facebook comment that took on wings of its own. Here is the original article:


And here is what I’d said:
This makes me sad, not just for the actors removed, but for what it takes out of the show and our society, really, namely three father figures. Lots of kids who watched Sesame Street didn't have fathers. I was one of them.
Sesame Street was my primer on what a father should be, what a man should be. People of different ethnicity got along and worked together and cared about each other. Different ages too. I remember crying when I learned that Mr. Hooper had passed away.
Gordon was the first black man I "met," and Luis was the first Latino--not that I noticed it at the time. They were people, in all shades, but just people. Even though the news was filled with stories of racial discrimination and violence, on Sesame Street, people of all skin tones were just being kind to each other and treating each other with respect.
This is apparently a lesson we still need to teach our children.



And it got me thinking about writing diversity and the power fiction writers have in making real change in our society. We don’t have to get on a soapbox. And we do not have to write racially charged books. We simply need to write people of all skin shades and ethnic backgrounds, living and working together, like they already do in much of society. After all, despite what we see in the media—and what it must feel like when you’ve been the target of hate—I'd like to think most people aren’t bigots.


Maybe because we learned it on Sesame Street.