CONGRATULATIONS

Winner of Anita Mae Draper's A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3&4 Release Party is... Elaine K!

Congratulations to Niki Turner on the release of her first novella, Sadie's Gift!!! Check it out here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

We Gather Together

by C.J. Chase

Three years ago, I wrote a post discussing the background of the Thanksgiving hymn “Now Thank We All Our God.” If you don’t know that convicting story about giving God thanks in the good, the bad, and the very bad, you should take a moment to check out the link. With Canadian Thanksgiving just recently passed and American Thanksgiving less than a week away, I thought it might be interesting to take this time of year to look at the origins of another hymn frequently associated with the season, “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing.”

The melody of “We Gather Together” predates the words, having originally been a 16th century Dutch folk song, “Ey, Wilder dan Wilt,” (“Hey, wilder than wild” in English), a ballad of 24 verses about a condemned man whose lover betrayed him—a most unlikely beginning for a popular hymn celebrating God's faithfulness. Fortunately, more enduring lyrics allowed this wonderful tune to survive to our time.

The lyrics of “We Gather Together” are a few decades older than “Now Thank We All Our God,” but they harken back to the same era of Europe’s religious conflicts. As the Reformation gathered steam, the northern and western provinces of what is now the Netherlands embraced the Protestant movement. However, there was a problem: the Dutch were ruled by King Philip II of Spain, a devout man who believed Protestants were heretics and should be made to return to Catholicism or die. Protestants risked their lives whenever they “gathered together” for worship. By the late 16th century, the Dutch were engaged in a war for their independence, in large part so they could worship freely.

Adriaen Valerius usually gets the credit for penning the Dutch lyrics of "We Gather Together." Valerius (c. 1575-1625) was a government official with a hobby of writing music and poetry. Some of his work was first published as part of a collection of Dutch poetry in 1623, but his magnum opus, a collection of folk tunes and poems  he gathered/wrote over a 30-year period during the Dutch War of Independence, wasn’t published until 1626, a year after his death. We will probably never know how many pieces in Nederlandtsche gedenck-clanck were original works and how many Valerius collected from other sources, but there is no doubt as to their historical significance. "Het Wilhelmus," the Dutch national anthem, appears for the first time in this work, as does “Wilt Heden Nu Treden,” written in 1597 to celebrate the Dutch victory over the Spanish at Turnhout. 


Here is a video of “Wilt Heden Nu Treden” as performed by a Dutch choir and orchestra. If you know the English hymn "We Gather Together" well, you might notice subtle differences in the rhythm. 



The song traveled a rather circuitous route to popularity as an English-language hymn in America.  Though well loved in the Netherlands for centuries, the song was all but unknown in America except among a few Dutch settlers and their descendants. Then in the late 19th century, Viennese choirmaster Eduard Kremser (1838-1914) composed an arrangement on the tune. United with Josef Weyl’s German translation of the lyrics, the song "Wir treten zum Bites for Gott" became a hit in Germany, especially with Keizer Wilhelm II. (Side note: if I’m reading the Dutch sources correctly, the Nazis later adopted the hymn. Because of that association, the song has fallen out of favor in modern Germany.)

American organist Theodore Baker (1851-1934) was studying music in Germany at the time.  Shortly after his return to America (and his new position as editor for music publisher G. Schirmer), he translated the German words into the English “We Gather Together” in 1894. Even two degrees removed from the original language, the words still tell the story of a people worshipping in spite of persecution:

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
he chastens and hastens his will to make known;
the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name; he forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
so from the beginning the fight we were winning;
thou, Lord, wast at our side; all glory be thine!

We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
and pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation;
thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

It took a lot of searching on Youtube for me to find the perfect version to play here. Okay, I never did find exactly what I wanted (choir and organ -- just the way I remember it from my youth), but this slow, a cappella version is lovely. And the Pilgrims, who lived in the Netherlands 11 years before emigrating for America in 1620, may well have been familiar with the Dutch version of the song. 





More and more, Thanksgiving is becoming overshadowed by Christmas, which is a pity because we need time for praise and reflection and gratitude. So tell me, what are some of your favorite songs and traditions of thanksgiving?



After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at www.cjchasebooks.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's A-Wassailing not A-Waffling

by Anita Mae Draper

Let's watch videos today! Since I'm still promoting my A Cup of Christmas Cheer story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, I figured we may as well have fun with it in all it's musical varieties. Before I start though, I wanted to bring your attention to a special post written by our very own, Susanne Dietze who guest posted for me on the Heroes, Heroines, & History blog on November 5th with a post on the origins of Wassailing, including photos and a wassail recipe. Thank you, Susie, your post contains a wealth of great historical detail.

The wassailing in my story isn't a true version of wassailing, but a way to explain my heroine picking up people along the way home where a large bowl or steaming mug of wassail may--or may not be--waiting. Somehow, wassailing just fits.

Back in October when I was searching for videos about Here We Come A-Wassailing to add to my story board on Pinterest, I found an exquisite version from the 1949 movie, Little Women. My only complaint is that it is too short! What makes this version adorable to me is the off-key singing of Wassailing We Will Go. I laugh every time I hear it. Check it out and see what emotion it strikes in you...




I wondered what wassailing might mean to other people and so went searching the net.


Christmas with the Chipmunks Vol. 2, album cover, 1963
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Would you believe the Chipmunks recorded a version back in 1963? It was hard to track down, but I believe I've successfully got it going below, otherwise click here to go to the site.
 Here We Come A-Caroling by The Chipmunks on Grooveshark

Now if you're familiar with the early Nintendo and Atari games, you might find this next video fun. Otherwise, you'll find it childish, boring, and wonder what I see in it. Well, it made me laugh... what about you?

 


I have to admit I do not know the characters in this next video, but I eat waffles, and the way they sing Here We Come A-Waffling sounds like a fence-sitting party to me. Take a look and let me know if I'm missing anything by not knowing who they are or what they represent...

 


While we're on the subject of unknown characters, I wouldn't admit to knowing anyone in this next video even I did know them...well, that's not true because then it would be a lie... but you get the picture. I stand firmly here before you and say I do not condone the action on this video at all. Well, I guess since God made us all, I have to admit it's a natural function, but nothing to laugh at. Having said that, run and get your kids for this one, especially if you have boys, because they're the sole reason I'm posting it here. I love hearing children laugh. However, if you think this video is in poor taste, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

 


And speaking of children, this next one came about when grandparents took 5 grandkids out caroling. Here's how it went down...
"We took five of the grandkids out caroling in the neighborhood last night. They were a little nervous at first but after getting lots of applause and thanks and even cookies at one place, they were pretty happy about it. They started hamming it up. :) I love them. There. They have experienced an old-fashioned Christmas tradition."





And forward we go. This next one is Here We Come A-Wassailing synced with 75,000 lights. It's nice, but looking from the close-up to the wide version below it had my eyes bouncing,


.


 As you can see, there are all sorts of ways to go Wassailing, but the main ingredient is PEOPLE. It doesn't matter if you're going door-to-door caroling, laughing at someone's silly vintage video, or putting 75,000 Christmas bulbs on your house to entertain your neighbors... it's the reaching out to someone else and making a connection. And that's what my wassailing story is about.

My story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, is available in  A Cup of Christmas Cheer Vol 4 Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present through Guideposts Books. If you read my story, drop me a line and tell me how my version of wassailing made you feel.

What are your thoughts on these videos? Any particular one touch you? If you share them with someone, tell us who you chose and what their reaction was. I'd love to know. :)

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

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 West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer Tales of Faith and Family, Guideposts Books, October 2013, and a 2nd short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing,  is published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, Guideposts Books, October 2014.   Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita at   http://www.anitamaedraper.com/

Monday, November 17, 2014

Delirious for Downton


 
by Susanne "Dowager Duchess is #1" Dietze

My friends across the pond are enjoying another season of Downton Abbey (as are some of my American friends, thanks to the internet). The British television series about the fictional Crawley family (the Earl of Grantham, his wife and daughters) and their servants in the early decades of the 20th century is an international hit...and quite addicting. While I'm very, very curious about my friends Bates, Edith, Tom (stay away from that pushy schoolteacher, Tom!), and the rest of the upstairs/downstairs gang, I've held out from peeking online to see episodes.

Still questioning the wisdom of this. I could have answers!

But I wouldn't necessarily be able to speak about them, which is half the fun.

It's already available for preorder on Amazon! Look how big the babies are now!

Meanwhile, I have my Downton Abbey possessions to comfort me (yes, this is a sad joke).

Last year I scored for Christmas. Mom gave my daughter and me D.A. necklaces that are super fancy. Here's my daughter's necklace. (You can buy them on Amazon, Macy's, The PBS Store, or even on the R.M.S. Titanic--they're everywhere!).
$25 can make you look like a million bucks! Now...let's have a ball so we can wear them.

I was also given Downton wine last year (according to the label, it was chosen by butler Carson). I photographed it next to Downton Abbey wrapping paper, which I found at World Market right after Christmas (they also sold D.A. china, white with little gold and black flourishes).
Ooh la la! I'm just like the Crawleys!

Christmas dessert was taken care of, too, since I was given a D.A. plum pudding. It was dense, sweet, and chock full of raisins.
Of course we set it on fire! If you look closely, you can see the blue flames.

And this year my friend gave me some D.A. tea. It's delicious!
Yum! Other flavors are available, too, but this is mine!
Looks like there are lots of new D.A treats for 2014, too.

Scouring Amazon, I found new goodies for this year. Behold, a cd of Lord Grantham's favorite Christmas tunes! Elizabeth McGovern (Cora) sings! The classical pieces look fabulous. Of course, this isn't the first D.A. cd. There's a soundtrack out, too. (I've heard it, and it's great.)
Available here
I think this cookbook may end up on my Christmas list, because I want to eat just like Lady Mary does (assuming she eats chocolate, tea sandwiches, and opera cake).
Yum again!
 
Want another book with pretty pictures? It includes photos, anecdotes, and recipes for "kedgeree, orange marmalade, asparagus tarts, cream of watercress soup, Irish stew, lemon barley water, meringues with red berries, parmesan straws, Christmas pudding with brandy butter and more." I'm not sure how I feel about lemon barley water, but if Carson serves it, I'll go for it!
Want it under your Christmas tree? Click here.
Looks fun to me. But if your budget is a little tight (and $11 for an ornament isn't ridiculous sounding, which it is to me) why not bring a little D.A. to your tree with this bell pull?
Ring ring!
If only I could ring for Carson.

Speaking of Carson, he's written a book on staff management. It'll be out Nov. 25.

If you're having problems with your footmen, click here.
Is there nothing that man can't do?

Last but not least--because I could go on forever, trust me--is the official board game. This is something I may have to buy so I can play with my local D.A.-fan friends, and haul in a suitcase to next year's ACFW for some cutthroat competition with a few Inkies.
Oh mercy. Guess what I want for Christmas.
Whom shall I be? Why am I even asking this when Tom is an option? If Deb Marvin beats me to that punch, I'll call the Dowager.
Hmm.
Oh wait, looks like our options are Faceless Anna and Faceless Barrow (aka Thomas, not to be confused with Tom, thank you very much). I'll pick the red Anna.

It looks a bit like Clue, but the directions describe tasks to complete.
Squee! Roll the dice and have a sip of D.A. tea while the Christmas cd plays in the background. We're on!

Who's with me?

**

Susanne Dietze writes historical romance and has a bit of a Downton Abbey addiction. Just a bit. You can visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com



Friday, November 14, 2014

Rules with a Reason # 2 - No Head Hopping

by Dina Sleiman

Most authors get tired of hearing about “the rules” of good fiction writing. In my role as a content editor for WhiteFire Publishing, I've had to learn to get to the heart of these rules. Now I am not a person to observe rules for the sake of rules. And I'll be quick to say that some writers cling to them too closely. But most of these rules serve a greater purpose. (Check out my Rules with a Reason #1 post here)

The rule I would like to discuss today is "no head hopping." For the uninitiated who might be reading this post, that means no switching from one point of view to another mid-scene without warning. This rule has a very good reason: you don't want to confuse your reader. In my last post I mentioned that we want our readers to feel like they are living out a fictional dream. In order to do that, they need to understand whose head, and even body, they should be experiencing a scene from.

Back in the 1800s, a lot of authors used a true omniscient narrator. Think Jane Austen. The book opens with a narrator, a sort of character in their own right, telling us a story. They magically wander from one person's thoughts to another, and to some degree this works. But omniscient narrators create a few problems. 1) They are not currently trendy in Christian fiction. 2) Some genres do not allow for them. 3) They can create a greater distance between the reader and the story and make it harder to create a fictional dream world. 4) They are more likely to fall into telling rather than showing. (See rule #1) So I don't personally advise that new writers use omniscient, as it seems to be the hardest to master.

But head hopping is a little different. It is when the author jumps from head to head within a third person multiple point of view novel. Of course you can switch points of view (thus the "multiple" part of the name), but you should do so clearly by utilizing a scene or chapter break and then setting the reader firmly in the perspective of the new point of view character. If you don't do this, here's what will happen. You are reading along thinking you are in John's point of view. Then John has a thought that the guy across the room is super hot. Wait! Is the romantic hero in my Christian novel gay? What just happened? So the reader flips back several pages and realizes at some point the scene switched to Marsha's thoughts. Okay, fine, Marsha would totally think that. Except that the reader is now completely out of the story and the fictional dream and wasting time by rereading.

Some writers just skip a space instead of inserting a chapter or scene break. The main problem with this method is that ereaders often delete the space, thus creating a head hopping type experience. Also, some authors think that if they clearly delineate the hand-off from one character's head to another's, that all is well. Two problems with that. 1) What is clear to them might not be clear to the reader. 2) A one sentence hand off is easy for a lazy reader to miss, but a scene break is hard to miss.

Let me mention that you can have point of view confusion without head hopping. First of all, to stay firmly planted in a point of view, in that scene you can only think and sense from the point of view character's perspective, so be very careful about that. Mistakes in this area will often be termed as head hopping also.

Second of all, if your point of view character is not named often and/or does not have a distinctive voice from other point of view characters, confusion can still occur as the scene progresses. During a long passage of dialogue, you should continually remind your reader of whose point of view you are in by offering observations from their perspective.

Confusion of this sort often happens in multiple first person point of view. Sometimes you can be a page or two into reading a scene before you finally figure out whose point of view you are actually in. Even if you put names in italics at the beginning of a chapter or scene to delineate the point of view character, if the point of view voices aren't significantly different, your reader might get lost and forget whose point of view they are in midway through the scene.

So "no head hopping" is all about avoiding reader confusion and helping them to better enter the fictional dream world, both worthy goals. For an interesting article in defense of head hopping, check out this post by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. (click here) I think you'll find that she voices the same concerns, but from the opposite viewpoint.

What is the worst example you've seen of head hopping? Are there any points of view you especially love or avoid?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. 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. She also serves as an acquisitions and content editor for WhiteFire Publishing. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter Time, and look for her Valiant Hearts series coming with Bethany House Publishers in 2015 For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

More Nutcracker Fun

In continued celebration of Jennifer AlLee's Nutcracker Christmas, enjoy the iconic dance of the sugar plum fairy, and be sure to read the post below for info on Jen's wonderful book, which I definitely plan on reading this Christmas season.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Release Party: Nutcracker Christmas by Jennifer AlLee

By Niki Turner

One of my fondest Christmas memories was the year my family made the trek over the Continental Divide to Denver to see the Colorado Ballet perform The Nutcracker. 


As a budding ballerina (at that time I was just a few years away from going en pointe) it was a magical experience. When I saw that Jennifer AlLee's Christmas Traditions novella was titled Nutcracker Christmas I was instantly intrigued. Today I am honored to introduce Jen's latest release here at Inkwell! 

Pour yourself a few fingers of eggnog (or just add a dollop to your coffee... it's surprisingly effective), pull up a tufted cushion, and join us for a conversation with Jen about Nutcracker Christmas, the sixth in the Christmas Traditions series. 

Jen, what was your inspiration for this story?

The character of Isabella was inspired by my grandmother, Marie, who was a ballet dancer and actually met my grandfather—a Hungarian violinist—on the road. Isabella was also an integral part of my novel, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas, even though the character had passed away at the beginning of the story. I thought this was a perfect way to dig deeper into Isabella's past.

That's the legacy of an influential character, IMO... when the writer needs to expand on his or her story beyond a single title. Now I need to read A Wild Goose Chase Christmas to see Isabella's role! 

Nutcracker Christmas is set in 1945, which is a relatively recent time period. Do you think it’s easier to write about a more recent time in history, or harder, and why?

For me, it's easier. Everything from the clothes to the way people talked, even though it's specific to the time period, it's not as far removed. Also, I've heard family stories about that time and looked through my grandmother's photo albums, so I have a firmer grasp on the period.

Good point, and what a blessing! The WWII generation—the "Greatest Generation"—is leaving us, and it's important that we save, record, and cherish their stories. Very few of us have had the opportunity to hear those family stories direct from the source. I have my grandmother's photo albums and scrapbooks, but they don't always answer all my questions. 

With that said, you address several social issues relevant to the period in Nutcracker Christmas. How do those issues still apply to us today?


One thing is prejudice. This is right after WWII, and because Victor has a Hungarian accent, some people immediately think him to be German, and therefore, the enemy. It's one of those snap judgments that's made before people have all the facts. It's always an issue, because we tend to be predisposed to believe certain things. 

As I live in an area where we are inundated with Hispanic immigrants, I understand that tendency to make snap judgments, about people and the importance of listening to what the Lord has to say about our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

There's another issue, too, but if I go into it now, it will be a spoiler. Guess folks will have to make up their own minds about that! 

Ooh! Always good to give us something to go digging for. I *think* I know what it is, but I'm not going to say anything... God can handle that! 

The Nutcracker is a time-honored Christmas tradition for many people, either seeing the ballet live, watching one of the movies, or just listening to the music. What’s one of your favorite Christmas traditions?

 I have a Christmas stocking that my mom crocheted when I was about a year old. And she made one for my son when he was born. They've been hung up every year since the day she made them. 

Aw! My mother-in-law made stockings for each of her three kids when they were little. The one she made for my hubby has carpenter tools appliqued on it. He grew up to be (after his pastoral role) a carpenter. He's 44 now and she still hangs his stocking every year... makes me weepy.


What Christmas traditions are important to your family, and why?

We're having a giveaway of a Kindle copy of Nutcracker Christmas. Leave your name(dot)email in the comments to enter.

Isabella Brandt lives to dance, but she's spent the last four years in obscurity as part of the corps. Now, she's finally landed a principal role in The Nutcracker. But a handsome Hungarian violinist and a shocking visit from her past may knock this ballerina off her feet and ruin Christmas.


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. 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 Wife, The Mother Road, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas, Last Family Standing, and the upcoming Vinnie’s Diner (4/15) 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.