CONGRATULATIONS

To CINDY W for winning the drawing for Beverly Allen's BLOOM AND DOOM!

Lisa, Gina, Jen and Carla Gade. MISTLETOE MEMORIES at #10 on the ECPA bestsellers list for fiction!

To DebH for winning the copy of Suzie Johnson's book Sweet Mountain Music!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Thoughts on the Divergent Series


by Dina Sleiman

This summer my daughter and I have been devouring YA fiction, and at the top of my list is the Divergent Series. These books by new, young author Veronica Roth have become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, and no doubt many of you have seen (or soon will see) the first movie.
Divergent is driven by a unique and powerful premise. The story takes place in a dystopian world that has been divided into “factions” based on a person’s dominant personality trait and way of viewing the world: Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, and Candor. As someone who loves to study culture, psychology, and especially personality, I found the concept fascinating. The main character, Tris, leaves her Abnegation family behind to enter the brave, wild, and most importantly, free world of the Dauntless. There is plenty of material for an awesome book right there as Tris struggles in a new society to find her source of courage and inner strength, but as the plot develops, the story takes some awesome and unexpected twists. The result is action packed, romantic, poignant, and thought-provoking. (And the fact that my upcoming YA novel is titled Dauntless is only a small part of why I enjoyed it so much :)
The movie changes some details of the story, but keeps to the same theme and major plot points. I found the choices to be effective for the visual format, and equally enjoyed the book and the movie. However, both the book and the movie are fairly violent and contain some emotionally upsetting material, so I personally would not recommend either for children or preteens. They are also fairly sensual, although not inappropriate for the intended teen audience.
Books two and three take their own unique twists and turns as we delve further into this society, why it is breaking apart, and how it came to exist. And I loved every step of the way. Veronica Roth is a confessing Christian, and although the books are not Christian per se, I saw much more light, hope, and redemption than in other dystopian novels I have read. The main character makes one choice in book three that many Christians will not feel comfortable with, but it is handled delicately. Although I would have made a different choice as an author, the decision did seem to fit the plot, and I understood why Roth went in that direction.
I’ve heard people say these books aren’t well written, and to that I say: give me a break! I can only assume they mean something about these books did not live up to their preconceived notions of good writing, or perhaps that they are writers who are upset that this woman didn’t follow all the rules that they so meticulously adhere to and she succeeded anyway. No, Roth did not follow every “rule” of writing. She was a little heavy handed with the narrative summary, did not always place readers firmly in the scene, and sometimes drifted in and out of scenes without scene breaks. And you know what—who cares?!?! The books are mesmerizing. People love them, buy them, and tell their friends to buy them. In my opinion that is what makes a book great--the ability to move the reader--not an arbitrary set of rules.
That being said, I thought book three was the weakest. Books one and two have a single first person narrator. Book three has two first person narrators, and while I didn’t mind this choice, it was not handled as well as it could have been. I often forgot whose point of view I was in, which says to me that the point of views should have been more distinctive. That small distraction aside, I still thought it was a great book.
Minor spoiler alert – but keep reading anyway. A lot of people hate the ending of this trilogy, but they are usually the ones who didn’t know in advance that it would be sad. So I’m telling you straight out, the ending is sad. I went into the book aware of that fact, and was able to enjoy and appreciate the redemptive resolution, which I found quite powerful and satisfactory. In fact, my very favorite quote of the entire trilogy is found at the end.
Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can't escape that damage. But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other.

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Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter time. And please join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Scripture Pic: Deut 3:24b





Photo taken on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains near Calgary, Alberta.



Friday, July 25, 2014

DIFFERENT


DIFFERENT
By E.A. West

Anything can happen when the rules change.

Jezebel Smith is different. She can’t talk, she doesn’t look like anyone in her family, and no matter what she does it’s always the wrong thing. God accepts her for who she is, but He’s the only one who does. Then she finds an unconscious man in her favorite cave, and her life is turned upside down. New people and new rules collide with the old, leaving Jezebel unsure of which set of rules apply to her life. When the strangers in town attempt to help her out of the nightmare she’s grown up in, it promises to change her life forever.

Excerpt #1:
The distant drip of water echoed off the rocky walls as Jezebel Smith wandered through her cave. Pungent fumes from her kerosene lantern stung her nose, and she wished for a flashlight. But her family would miss a flashlight. They never noticed when she took the old lantern from the barn.

Turning her face away from the lantern, she caught a whiff of the familiar scent of the rocks around her. She loved the fresh, earthy smell of her cave. Through countless hours of careful practice, her hiking boots barely produced a whisper on the bumpy path leading to her special cavern. If she swung the lantern on its creaky handle, however, she could fill the cave with a creepy echo that reminded her of Halloween.

She passed through an opening in the wall and entered a large cavern with several ledges in one end. As she approached the lowest ledge, the glow from her lantern touched an unfamiliar lump on the floor below the rocky shelf and she froze. She knew every inch of this cavern — every rock, ledge, and bump in the floor. No one ever came here. Nothing ever changed unless she changed it. The cave was the only thing she could count on to always stay the same.

This time, however, there was something new. The cave had broken its own rules, adding a boulder where one didn’t belong. She crept toward it, fighting tears of hurt that the cave would trick her like everyone else, and the golden light of her lantern revealed it wasn’t a boulder after all — it was the still form of a man. Her pulse pounded in her ears, so loud it threatened to drown out her own thoughts. Where had he come from? Why wasn’t he moving? Her heart skipped a beat. Was he dead?


Excerpt #2:
Fear shivered through her that he was sleeping so much. One of her brothers had fallen out of a tree once and hit his head, and the doctor said they had to keep him from falling asleep for a while. Jezebel didn’t know if falling off a ledge and hitting his head made the man have to stay awake or not.

After worrying for a while longer, she finally decided she’d have to risk a beating from her parents and go get the doctor. She didn’t know if he’d come, but she had to try. Daniel was the only person to ever treat her kindly, and he needed help.

She put a couple more sticks on the fire so it would keep burning while she was gone, and then she lit the lantern and headed out of the cavern. As she neared the cave entrance, the flame went out. She slowed her steps and followed the faint glow of daylight. Hopefully the doctor had a flashlight. When she stepped into the woods, she set the lantern by the cave entrance and ran toward town. She practiced saying Daniel’s name while she ran, praying the doctor would come if she told him the injured man’s name.

As she neared the edge of town, she slowed down to catch her breath. She hesitantly stepped onto the main road, terrified at the thought of trying to convince the doctor to go with her. She’d learned a long time ago that no one believed her about anything, and since she couldn’t talk, people didn’t understand what she tried to tell them anyway.

A lot of strange cars and people clogged the main street through town, and Jezebel wondered who they were. Unless Reverend Brown was holding one of his many revivals,  the town rarely had many visitors. As she continued toward the doctor’s office, a woman carrying a stack of papers walked toward her with a smile. Jezebel stopped, her mind whirling with uncertainty, and the woman handed her a paper.

“We’re looking for this man. He went hiking in this area a couple of days ago and didn’t come back.”

Jezebel studied the sheet in her hands, and her heart skipped a beat. A picture of Daniel stared back, and some words had been printed across the bottom in black ink. She pointed to the photo. “D-Dan... Daniel.”

“That’s right, his name is Daniel,” the woman said, her tone changing a little. “Have you seen him?”

Jezebel nodded and looked back the way she’d come. “C-c-cave.”

“You saw him in a cave?”

She nodded again, excitement rushing through her. For the first time in her life, someone understood what she tried to say. She touched the photograph on the paper, indicating where the cut on Daniel’s head was. Before she could see if the woman understood, she heard her older brother spit out her name. She cringed and felt herself shriveling inside.

DIFFERENT is available at these locations:

Abouth the author:
E.A. West, award-winning author of sweet and inspirational romance, is a lifelong lover of books and storytelling. In high school, she picked up her pen in a creative writing class and hasn’t laid it down yet. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, knitting, and crocheting. She lives in Indiana with her family and a small zoo of pets.

E.A. West can be found at the following:


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Antique Cookbooks Part 2 1900 - 1916


by Anita Mae Draper


If you saw my last post, Antique Cookbooks Part 1 1890 - 1906, about old cookbooks I bought at a museum auction, you'll find this is a continuation although the first cookbook overlaps by 5 years.

First up is a frail pamphlet made of newsprint that's missing its cover and copyright page, although page one states the title as Aunt Kate's Cakes and Candies Book, and at the very bottom of the last page Dundee and London: John Leng & Co., Ltd, is stated. 

Aunt Kate's Cakes and Candies Book,
Dundee and London: John Leng & Co., Ltd

With the title and publisher I was able to ignore the dozens of cookbooks attributed to three or more dozen aunts and unwrap the layers to reveal that Aunt Kate is the pseudonym for Helen Greig Souter, an author who wrote several books on household subjects, aided by her popularity as the writer of Aunt Kate's Page in The People's Journal

According to the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, the cover of Aunt Kate's Cakes and Candies Book is "blue paper with image on front of woman at stove watched by 3 girls and a boy" (verbatim). The original cost was 1d (1 penny). I couldn't find an image of the exact cover, but here are 2 versions to give you an idea - on the left is a One Penny issue, and on the right another edition of my book, but years later as it shows the price as 2 pence. 



Aunt Kate's 48-page booklet had 3 pages which caught my eye including this one on candy recipes:

Aunt Kate's Cakes and Candies Book,
Dundee and London: John Leng & Co., Ltd
I won't show the other 2 pages that caught my attention here because they're really hard to read, but they were recipes and instructions for making ale, beer, and wine. As I read over them, the song with lyrics of strawberry wine floated through my thoughts, but my eyes latched onto the elderberry wine. Not that I've tasted elderberry wine, but my family values elderberry for its healthful properties in fighting throat and lung infections. Would elderberry wine have the same benefits? I guess it's a moot point though because we left our elderberry tree in the yard of a previous home. 


The next cook book I'd like to show is not only missing a cover, it's also missing the first and last couple pages. However, because it was put out by the Zam-buk people who sell the medicinal salve/balm for every mishap, there is a Zam-buk full page ad on every second page and the title, Cookery Recipes at the top of every page. So that's what I googled. 

The result was that I discovered the pamphlet, The Zam-Buk Book of Cookery Recipes, was printed in 191-. Nothing else on the internet gave a clue as to the actual year, but upon reading the fragile pages, I discovered an ad on pg 11 which gave a testimony dated 8th January 1912.

The Zam-Buk Book of Cookery Recipes

Considering all the ads, there are a surprising number of recipes which include the ingredients and instructions in a brief 4 or 5 lines in this little pamphlet. And I wasn't kidding when I said the pages were fragile, because as I unbent the folded corners prior to photocopying, small pieces of paper started falling off which stopped me right quick. I suppose 100 yr old newsprint deserves the dignity of being left alone. 

The Zam-Buk Book of Cookery Recipes


Bringing some color to this post is the Five Roses Cookbook Bread Pastry Etc, 1915, by Lake of the Woods Milling Company Limited, Canada. Note the oilcloth cover, but ignore the white tape holding the covers together. 

Five Roses Cookbook Bread Pastry Etc, 1915,
Lake of the Woods Milling Company Limited, Canada
Although this 136 page book is put out by the Five Roses Flour Company, I only counted 5 or so pages of advertising including the 2 pages below which show the available sizes of flour for sale. 

Five Roses Cookbook Bread Pastry Etc, 1915,
Lake of the Woods Milling Company Limited, Canada

There were several pages of color photos of bread products, but instead of showing those - which look the same as today's versions - I thought I'd show you some of the recipes instead.

This page is eye-catching because of the spelling of cooky in the header, but cookies in the recipe titles. Also note the recipe for Ammonia Cookies which would be a great alternative for today's cough syrups.

Five Roses Cookbook Bread Pastry Etc, 1915,
Lake of the Woods Milling Company Limited, Canada

A couple things on this next page caught my eye, namely the Yankee and Spanish Buns. The advert at the bottom is interesting because it states the use of Not-Bleached ~ Not-Blended flour, two things to show the purity of the grade. But I always thought non-bleached was modern and that everyone embraced bleached flour back then when it was introduced. Who knew it was a historic selling point?

Five Roses Cookbook Bread Pastry Etc, 1915,
Lake of the Woods Milling Company Limited, Canada


The last cookbook for this post is The Best Way Book No. 3: 1200 Household Himts & Recipes, 1916, Amalgamated Press Printing Works, Southwark, London, U.K, with an original price of 6 pence. 

The Best Way Book No. 3: 1200 Household Hints & Recipes, 1916


As you might guess from the title, there was a series of Best Way books in the early decades of the 20th century and while I can't guarantee there are 1200 household hints in this book, its 146 pages are chock-full of recipes and ideas for healthy living. 

This 5"x7" hardcover cookbook has been well used and several recipes have been written into blank spaces, a treasure for sure, but what stands out are the pages of Vegetarian Recipes because I hadn't realized the term was used back in 1916. 

The Best Way Book No. 3: 1200 Household Hints & Recipes, 1916

Other pages that drew me in were the ones on feeding children and infants and it was here that I found a full-page ad for store-bought canned baby formula. 
The Best Way Book No. 3: 1200 Household Hits & Recipes, 1916

The book includes pages on feeding invalids, laundry, housekeeping, and as shown below, money-saving tips and wartime economy. 

The Best Way Book No. 3: 1200 Household Hints & Recipes, 1916

This would have been a very valuable book of information at the time, and even today as it gives us a glimpse into early 20th century life.


Has anything surprised you in this post? 


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


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013. She is honored that Guideposts Books have chosen a second short story, Here We Go A-wassailing,  for inclusion in the 2014 Christmas Cheer II book set.   Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at   http://www.anitamaedraper.com/


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Art of the Parody

by Jennifer AlLee

I love a good parody, and in my opinion, the king of the pop music parody is Weird Al Yankovic. Al got his start back when he was a teenager, recording song parodies on cassette tapes and sending them to the Doctor Demento radio show. By 1982, he'd graduated college and had a recording contract. He's been going strong ever since.

One of the things I admire about Al is his integrity. Even though it's perfectly legal to parody a song without the writer's or performer's permission, Al never does that. He always makes sure to get the original performer's blessing before releasing a new song parody.

He's just dropped another album (aside: it's funny to me how we still call them albums, even though most music today is either digital or on CD) titled Mandatory Fun, and from what I've heard so far, it's all that and more. My favorite song is Word Crimes, which makes total sense as an author.

Here's the video. Enjoy! And remember, I'll C U l8ter is SUCH a crime!




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. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Her novels include The Pastor’s WifeThe Mother Road, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas and the upcoming Last Family Standing (9/15) from Abingdon Press; Diamond in the Rough, Vanishing Act, and Curtain Call from Whitaker House and co-written with Lisa Karon Richardson; and the novella Comfort and Joy in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories from Barbour.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

A year ago (almost this week) hubby and I saw WICKED on Broadway. We bought the cast recording and listened to it over and over again during the drive from New York to Oklahoma. On the first listen, our kids were "huh?" By the time we reached home, they were begging to see the musical. They did. In OKC a couple months later. In June we took them to see it again in Tulsa. We are WICKED fanatics.

I keep waiting for someone to ask, "But did you read the book?" Umm, no, but my oldest daughter has. "Have you read the original, the one that stated it all?" Umm, well, I read the first four chapters when I was writing my next Heartsong release, THE MARSHAL'S PURSUIT.

Last month I put other things aside and finally read L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (written in 1900). Don't think you know the story. Read it.
  
AN INVITATION TO LEAVE THE KNOWN

As she travels to Oz, Dorothy meets three others who are also desperate to find the "one thing" they think they need so very badly. 

"Did you speak?" asked the girl, in wonder.

"Certainly," answered the Scarecrow. "How do you do?"

"I'm pretty well, thank you," replied Dorothy politely. "How do you do?"

"I'm not feeling well," said the Scarecrow, with a smile, "for it is very tedious being perched up here night and day to scare away crows."

"Can't you get down?" asked Dorothy.

"No, for this pole is stuck up my back. If you will please take away the pole I shall be greatly obliged to you."

Dorothy reached up both arms and lifted the figure off the pole, for, being stuffed with straw, it was quite light.

After Dorothy attended to the Scarecrow's external bondage, she invited him on her journey to the person who had the answer to his internal need. She did the same with the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. Each had the choice to accept Dorothy's offer of a the possibility of a better life, or to reject it. 

THE JOURNEY IS NOT EASY.

A friend once said to me: "I think I'm just feeling out of sorts, out of control. Things are not peaceful in my heart or my soul right now. I think God wants to work something in me, and I need to allow Him to, but it has been difficult. When the Bible calls it refiner's FIRE, it isn't whistling dixie."

The refiner's fire is hot and unpleasant. Forget going home to Kansas if it means enduring poppy fields, wicked witches, winged monkeys, fighting trees, hammer-heads, or giant spiders. Put me back on that pole. Yes, it scratched, but I was used to it. I knew what to expect. Hide my oil can. Doesn't help my complexion anyway. Let me posture in denial of my fears. Being a scardy cat keeps me out of the ER. Because even though I survived this calamity, I know--I KNOW--something bad will happen again.

Get me off this yellow brick road, Lord. I am tired of running this race. I am tired of fighting the good fight.

In Strong Women, Soft Hearts, Paula Rinehart puts it this way: "People often complain of such things during the season of life--like someone drilled a hole through their souls. While everything looks the same on the outside, they feel hollow and restless, bored in ways that make no sense."

"But that isn't right. The King of Beasts shouldn't be a coward," said the Scarecrow.

I know it," returned the Lion, wiping a tear from his eye with the tip of his tail. "It is my great sorrow, and makes my life very unhappy. But whenever there is danger, my heart begins to beat fast."

"Perhaps you have heart disease," said the Tin Woodman.

"It may be," said the Lion.

"If you have," continued the Tin Woodman, "you ought to be glad, for it proves you have a heart. For my part, I have no heart; so I cannot have heart disease."

"Perhaps," said the Lion thoughtfully, "if I had no heart I should not be a coward."

"Have you brains?" asked the Scarecrow.

"I suppose so. I've never looked to see," replied the Lion.

"I am going to the Great Oz to ask him to give me some," remarked the Scarecrow, "for my head is stuffed with straw."

"And I am going to ask him to give me a heart," said the Woodman.

"And I am going to ask him to send Toto and me back to Kansas," added Dorothy.

"Do you think Oz could give me courage?" asked the Cowardly Lion.

"Just as easily as he could give me brains," said the Scarecrow.

"Or give me a heart," said the Tin Woodman.

"Or send me back to Kansas," said Dorothy.

"Then, if you don't mind, I'll go with you," said the Lion, "for my life is simply unbearable without a bit of courage."

"You will be very welcome," answered Dorothy, "for you will help to keep away the other wild beasts. It seems to me they must be more cowardly than you are if they allow you to scare them so easily."

"They really are," said the Lion, "but that doesn't make me any braver, and as long as I know myself to be a coward I shall be unhappy."

Some of us need to reclaim our bodies, others need to reclaim their minds, and many more need to reclaim their hearts so that they may really live. In their book Sacred Romance, Brent Curtis and John Eldredge share: 

"In the end, it doesn't matter how well we have performed or what we have accomplished--a life without heart is not worth living. For out of this wellspring of our soul flow all true caring and all meaningful work, all real worship and all sacrifice."

God does not desire any of us to live in any form of bondage.

Jesus said, "The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give [you] a rich and satisfying life."

"Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good....Listen, that you may live." Isaiah 55:2, 3 (NAS)

I love how Rinehart writes, "What God asks of us is both simpler and more profound than adherence to a system of beliefs or following a set of rules. He asks us to walk in an honest pilgrimage where we let Him show us what real strength, and real love, are all about." That's one yellow brick road I want to travel. 

Dorothy stood up and found she was in her stocking-feet. For the Silver Shoes had fallen off in her flight through the air, and were lost forever in the desert.

Aunt Em had just come out of the house to water the cabbages when she looked up and saw Dorothy running toward her.

"My darling child!" she cried, folding the little girl in her arms and covering her face with kisses. "Where in the world did you come from?"

Well, Aunt Em, I was on this awful, amazing, scary hard adventure to find a way back home. Along the way I met some friends who, like me, decided we were tired of the life we had and knew we wanted to really live, so we followed a golden path to Someone who showed us how to reclaim our minds, hearts, bodies, and find our way home. 

I don't know what holds you in bondage, but I want you to know that you are not alone. A trained professional can be reached here or here or here.

Serious Question of the Day: Is there any one area of your life where you feel God is stirring in your heart to move you out of the stands and onto the playing field?

Non-Serious Question of the Day: Which character in The Wizard of Oz do you most relate to.