CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Debbie Clatterbuck who won a "Spa Moment with The Reluctant Guardian!"



Saturday, October 31, 2009

Making our Mark Through History





We've looked at love from all sides now!

Join us next week
for more fun, prizes, and posts


Sunday
Putting an Ink on Scripture
D'Ann

Monday - Friday
Female Inkspots through History
The women who inspire us
Monday - Jen - Florence Nightingale
Tuesday - Niki - Queen Mab
Wednesday - Debra - Deborah the Hebrew judge
Thursday - Wenda - Princess Leia
Friday - A special surprise guest!

Saturday
An Inkalicious Book Review
Patti
 
The latest individual prize winners are

Carol
for commenting on Anita's post (10/20/09)
Prize: 2 special rocks and
Courting Miss Adelaide by Janet Dean
 
Adge
for commenting on Connie's post (10/23/09)
Prize: Hometown Tales by Philip Gulley

CR
for commenting on Jen's post (10/25/09)
Prize: Amy Grant: Time Again concert DVD
 
Patricia W.
for commenting on Debra's post (10/26/09)
Prize: 199 Promises of God from Barbour Publishing
 
April
for commenting on Dina's post (10/27/09)
Prize: The Measure of a Lady by Deeanne Gist
 
Rose M.
for commenting on Wenda's post (10/29/09)
Prize: $10 Amazon gift voucher



Hope to see you all around the Inkwell!

Travel Into the Arena if You Dare



Today I would like to review an older book that you probably haven't read, but you should have: Arena by Karen Hancock. Take a dash of Pilgrim’s Progress, toss in a good helping of The Matrix, and you get 2003 Christy Award-winning Arena. Talk about a book I couldn’t put down. My teenaged daughter highly recommended Arena to me, and it turned out to be one of the most fascinating and unique novels I have ever read.

Callie Hayes thinks she is signing up for a psychology experiment, but finds herself whisked away to…well, she isn’t quite sure. Is it a holographic fantasy, an alien world, or an alternate reality? All she knows for sure is that she, like everyone else lost in this strange place, is desperate to get back home safely. Along the way she will meet a host of strange creatures, incredible challenges, and bizarre mysteries. This book offers more than just adventure, however. Callie forges many deep relationships with the other victims of this experiment, and learns much about her own desires, about life, and about what is truly important. There's even a little something for romance fans, as she discovers a unique connection with a special man, but can it survive the Arena?

The Arena serves as a backdrop for some of life’s most pressing questions and realities. As Callie and her friends move through different levels and phases of this unusual realm, the relationship to our own spiritual growth and development becomes clear. I particularly liked the concept of “the link,” a way to touch and communicate with “Elhanu” who served as God within the story. The armor given to those who passed through “the Gate” was quickly deactivated by fear and could only be reactivated by reaching within and finding “the link” again. This is so true in our own lives. The parallels to spiritual warfare in this book were exquisite, and clearly demonstrated the power and responsibility of the Christian believer in battling and gaining victory over the enemy.

No less stunning was Hancock’s presentation of how one must first come to God and salvation and the varying struggles people go through in order to find Him. No matter where you are in your walk with God, you will find something within the pages of Arena that will minister to you, enlighten you, and draw you closer to Him.

Although this post was a bit last minute to fill in for a glitch at the Inkwell, I do have a copy of Arena tucked away upstairs as a prize. Leave a comment and your email address in a safe format to enter.

Today's the Day!

Stacks located in the Basement of Michigan Sta...Image via Wikipedia


Good Morning Visitors!

Don't forget that today is the last day of the GRAND OPENING giveaway. To be in the drawing, you need to leave your email address (safely); this lets us know you want your name in the hat.

Each time you make a comment and leave your address, your name goes in the virtual hat.
As you can see, our Prize Czar is busy!


A big Inky THANK YOU to all of our followers, our guest bloggers and most importantly to those of you who take the time to comment. We have loved to get to know you!

What have you enjoyed about our blog? What would you like to see more of? We love our interaction with you!

Today, I say HANG IN THERE!
God has a plan for your life and He'll take you where you never thought you could go!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Alight in the Dance


Hi, Dina here today. I realize it's nearly October 31st, but instead of trick-or-treating my family will attend the Holy Ghost Weiner Roast. In that spirit, I offer a poem about the Holy Ghost.

Alight in the DanceMatthew 3:11-17 Acts 2:1-3 Revelation 22:17



My soul waits on the wind. Sweep down from on high,
f
rom mountain peaks descend and through me—flow—
and I will watch the leaves enthralled in dance.
Inspired by your breath they’ll lightly swirlthrough motions, smooth and soft, yet full of life,
enchanted by a spirit so divine.

Oh wind, lend me now your spirit so divine.
Alight me with your dance to soar on high.
Come pour in me your vast consuming life
and let my body now begin to flow
in your hands, on your breath, begin to swirl
and move. Delight, my soul, in the dance.


Like flames that glow and flicker I will dance

within a warming light that feels divine.
Those undulant, soft tongues, I’ve seen them swirl
as they are fanned, within the wind grow high,
and in the coals I’ve watched the molten flow
‘til I’m entranced by such intense and fiery life.

Oh fire, burn me now and fill me with your life
that so intensely moves into the dance.
Melt me until my body pours and flows
in rhythms at once earthy and divine,
and then my soul will fan and flame so high
that I’ll be lost within your rhythmic swirl.


Like rivers strong and coursing we will swirl:
t
hose rivers that give power and bring life,
 then vaporize and floating up so high 
begin again—the clouds—the raindrop dance 
to wash my upturned face. A gift divine, 
so cool, so sweet, those rivulets will flow.

Oh rain, come now and wash me with your flow. 
And under soothing showers, I will swirl, 
and I will stretch my arms to your divine
 touch upon my turned-up palms, feeling life,
 feeling you, in a wild and watery dance. 
What a rush. What transcendence. What a high!

So spirit, come and flow and grant me life 
that sends my body swirling in the dance
f
illed with your divine presence from on high.


I hope you enjoyed these portraits of the Holy Spirit as wind, fire, and water. The above poem is a Sestina, a highly structured style of formulaic poetry invented in the 12th century, involving meter and refrain of six carefully chosen words in a preset pattern. You might think a poem is short and easy to write, but in fact, to write a well-crafted poem, it should take weeks. Although I am a great advocate of crafting and revising, I wrote this poem in under one hour and left it as is, unedited for over ten years. The poem has even been published in its virgin state.
So what is my recipe for poetic success, you may ask. First, immerse your self in iambic pentameter, in my case Paradise Lost. Second, bump your head really hard, possibly causing a mild concussion, in the middle of a Superbowl game. Now the Superbowl part is key, since nobody will think to take you to the doctor. Third, retreat to your bedroom and work on a class assignment for Form and Theory of Poetry. Et voila! A winning combination every time :)
My guess is that the bump on the head knocked something loose, leaving me more open to my subconscious, dare I say spirit, than I normally would be. I wanted to share this little story because I think it’s a great example of Christ’s strength being made perfect in my weakness. It's also an example of the beautiful flow of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the poem.
Questions for today: Which symbol of the Holy Spirit do you most appreciate and why?Do you have any funny or serious stories of Christ’s strength being made perfect in your weakness?
Today I am giving away a potpourri scented journal, which you may want to keep handy in case you bang your head and genius strikes. Please leave a comment and your email with spaces around the @ for your protection in order to be entered in the drawing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Art Imitates Life – My Black Moment Revealed

Most writers of romance fiction will acknowledge there is a formula to our stories. Different writers define their formula in different ways, but almost every story teller, whether sharing a romance, a mystery, a literary work, or any of the hundreds of sub-genres within those basic plots, follows a similar structure. Here is one I am currently using in my fiction (Compliments of Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck, Inside Out):

Life: The ordinary lives of the characters.

Inciting Incident: Something that forces the characters to act, to choose
a path that sets them on an adventure.

Noble Quest: That special something the main character is compelled to
seek.

Disappointment: Most of a story is made up of a series of setbacks…

Y in the Road: …and the decisions the characters make in response to
those setbacks.

Help! (Black Moment): Until the character(s) reaches a point at which all
appears to be lost.

Overhaul: So the character(s) must alter their perception, change their
goal to what matters most.

Perfect Ending: And thereby live Happily Ever Happen.

Here is the story of my true life romance:

That November day in 1991 started out like any other in the previous four months. I’d wake up, look over at my new husband, and wonder what on earth I’d done.
I loved him. I thought I did. I knew I did. After all we’d been through to be together, I’d better love him. Right? And then I’d contemplate the next forty or fifty years living with this stranger next to me and the breath would leave my lungs. I felt like someone had dropped a cement block in the middle of my chest.

What I didn’t know then, but would come to realize when I started writing fiction, is that on our wedding day my husband and I had not yet reached the end of the story. The Happily Ever After required of romance novels was not yet ours. We had only reached Help! And on that November day, my personal Black Moment was about to invade my life.

Let’s back up a bit, so you get a bit of context.

Life: I prepared dinner in the duplex apartment I shared with three other university students when the doorbell rang.

Inciting Incident: One roommate dashed to the door. “I forgot to tell you I invited this poor guy to stay. He’s stuck working out in Podunk for four months, so I offered him our spare room any time he wanted to come to the city.”

A few minutes later a tall, lean man with round glasses introduced himself as Andrew. He was shy, cute in a nerdy way, and not at all my usual type. But something happened when my gaze met his and he politely shook my hand. I wanted him to be my type!

Nobel Quest: Three months later Andrew was about to leave Canada to return to his home in South Africa. He’d been conscripted into the South Africa Defense Force and could not avoid the call unless he was willing to say goodbye to South Africa for good. We sat up talking, and talking, and talking. By morning both of us were stunned. Not only did we share a lapsed faith, we shared common desires for our lives. He left and the letters (no email back then) started. Was our relationship ordained to be?

Disappointments: Over the next eighteen months, we corresponded almost daily. While I was working in London, England, I took a month to travel to South Africa (one of those Y’s—I gave up biking Australia). We fell in love. But I had to complete two more classes to finish my degree and had a job commitment in Canada’s arctic from May to August. Andrew was stuck in the army, facing service at the Angolan border. I returned home, finished my classes, and went to a remote community at the Arctic Circle.

I had numerous opportunities in the Arctic in my field (Political Studies) and while there someone else who was wooing me with determination. And I had no commitment from Andrew. Just a request issued months before that I move to South Africa to see if our relationship had a future. Remembering our shared Noble Quest, I booked tickets for a six-month stay in South Africa. My parents and brother used every argument in their power to dissuade me from going.


With the unraveling of Apartheid, Andrew had his National Service shortened to 18 months. By the time I arrived, Andrew was out of the army and had set up a digs (a shared house) with one other female and two other guys. I was welcomed into the fold.

I had no trouble securing a work permit, and despite my lack of Afrikaans, had a dream job at an Art Museum. We began to plan our wedding, to take place in Canada in July, almost a year after my arrival in South Africa. We were young, in love, and confident. We shared our faith and common goals. We knew love was a decision, and were both committed to living that out in our married life.

Help!: We returned to South Africa and my doubts crept in. I don’t know if it was Andrew, or the enormity of our commitment, or being so alone and so far from home again, but I was in a low grade crisis.

And then, that day. My Black Moment.

I came home from work to find my husband there ahead of me. Not unusual in itself, except he sat on the couch, his expression bleak. He pulled me to his side, swallowed so hard I saw his Adams apple work while he gathered the courage to tell me what happened.

That day at the township hospital where he worked as a staff physician in the pediatric ward, he had a needle stick injury. The baby was HIV positive.

This was 1991. At the time, HIV infection was an automatic death sentence. Treatments were in their infancy and data on transmission in a healthcare setting was limited.

Not only was my life potentially at stake, so many of my dreams were too. Could we have a family if Andrew contracted AIDS? Could I support us both if he became sick? Would it be possible for him to immigrate to Canada? I faced these questions: Do I stay in this marriage that is so new, and I’m so unsure about? Or do I go, now?
Overhaul: The decision I made that day has impacted every part of our lives since. There have been lots of times when marriage hasn’t been easy. We’ve had plenty of setbacks along the way. But because of my black moment, I KNOW what matters in this life. I KNOW that no matter what the risk or the cost, I love my husband. And I trust God with my future.

Perfect Ending: Andrew took a course of AZT, a new treatment then, and was ill every day for the next four weeks. We decided to start a family right away, we immigrated to Canada, and embarked on a challenging and rewarding life together. Two years after the initial injury we knew Andrew wasn’t HIV positive, and were relieved and thankful. (For South Africa, HIV and AIDS continues its devastating rampage.)

Many people assume that the Happily Ever After in a romance is unrealistic, but what critics often miss is that a HEA is only possible if the heroine and hero first experience their Help! Black Moment. The best stories imitate life. The best stories recognize that Happily Ever After isn’t a final event, like Cinderella’s wedding, it is a decision that is won by trial by fire. And I also want to acknowledge that in life, not every HELP! Black Moment leads to a fairy tale romantic ending.

The formula in a modern romance can be a mirror in which we glance to make sense of the patterns in our lives. We read fiction not just to escape, but to see characters wrestle with life and win their reward.

I encourage you to look at your own life and apply the above fiction formula to it. Can you see how art imitates life? If so, or if not, drop a comment and share your thoughts on the “formula.”

Any comment, related to the topic or not, will be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift voucher if you leave your email address. Use a format that won’t invite spammers i.e. name [at] domain [dot] com.




Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Welcome Steeple Hill author Missy Tippens!


Formula One Romance—Coloring Inside the Lines
By Missy Tippens


I’ve been a reader just about forever. When I started writing, I think I instinctively knew what to put in the story. But on each book I’ve written, I feel as if I’ve learned a bit more about writing category romance. I thought I’d share with you some of what I’ve learned about reader (and editor) expectations. And of course you readers are welcome to chime in!

But first…some terminology.


When I talk about category romance, I’m talking about shorter books that come out monthly from a publisher like Steeple Hill. (Other examples that aren’t inspirational would be Harlequin Super Romance or Silhouette Special Edition.) The talk on Inkwell Inspirations this week has been about the formula for romance. But saying they’re formulaic isn’t quite how I see it. Rather than A+B+C=D, I think of it more as writing within certain boundaries (or coloring inside the lines!). And those boundaries are the reader expectations.

If I were to pick up a romance novel where the heroine is a crook and cusses a blue streak and is on drugs (I judged something similar in a contest years ago!), and if the "hero" beat up on her, and if they hated each other until they suddenly decided to marry at the end, only to discover that it was a mistake…then I would be one very disappointed reader!

In fact, I probably wouldn’t make it past page 1. This most certainly would not fit the romance genre.

So what do readers expect from a category inspirational romance? What are the fair boundaries? I’ll share what I consider as I write my stories. And though some will be particular to category, a lot will be the same for most romance novels.

1. Flawed characters who have some type of spiritual journey or spiritual growth through the story. You don’t necessarily need a conversion scene, but there should be growth on both characters’ parts.

2. An internal struggle (aka internal conflict) that keeps the hero and heroine from falling in love on page one.

3. Some type of external conflict that forces these two to interact while they’re trying NOT to fall in love. :)

4. A sweet romance—not too steamy with the physical attraction. No love scenes. Kissing is okay, but they can’t be thinking so much about the physical as they think about the emotional.

5. A setting that’s relatable. Most seem to like small towns. They don’t really go for exotic settings.

6. The romance is central. There are usually secondary characters and family relationships, and also the faith journeys, but they can’t overshadow the romance.

7. The story and characters can’t be preachy. They can’t be used to deliver a message about an issue. Refer back to number 6.

Personally, I think of category stories (as well as most books I read) as escapism. They transport me away from everyday life into the world of someone else, someone I can relate to, someone I can root for and worry about until…

The happy ending!

So what do you think? I’m sure there are romance expectations I didn’t think of! Readers (and writers), do you have anything you’d like to add regarding your expectations of inspirational romance? If you’ll leave me your input (and include contact info), I’ll be giving away a copy of my November 1st release, A Forever Christmas, in a drawing from among commenters! So help me out and let me know what you look for in a romance novel.

**********


If you haven’t read a category romance lately, Missy’s third, A Forever Christmas, is available online now! Visit http://www.missytippens.com/ for more information or see the links below.

Back cover blurb for A Forever Christmas:

Sarah Radcliffe’s quiet Christmas back in her hometown will be lost if she agrees to direct the church’s Christmas pageant. But when she meets two little boys determined to gain their father’s attention, Sarah agrees to help. Then she discovers that the dad in question is Gregory Jones, the man she loved and lost.

The single dad is working himself to the bone to give his boys the Christmas of their dreams, when all they want is some family time. Time that includes a new mommy. If Sarah can learn to open her heart, she may receive the most wonderful present of all—a family of her own.

 
Bio: Missy Tippens is an award-winning writer and was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest. She has a story included in Blessings of Mossy Creek, published by BelleBooks. After ten years of pursuing her dream, she made her first sale of a full-length novel to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Her debut novel, Her Unlikely Family, was a 2009 ACFW Book of the Year finalist. Her next, His Forever Love, was a June release. And A Forever Christmas is available now at Amazon.com and e-harlequin.com (where you can read an excerpt)!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Trouble with Romance

by Dina Sleiman
I Corinthians 13
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.


That’s God’s definition of love, but where does romance fit? Doesn’t sound much like feelings and passion to me, not that there’s anything wrong with feelings and passion. I would have to say that I for one am a great fan of feelings and passion, but at the end of the day, they don’t make for love that never fails.

As a young lady, I had unrealistic expectations about marriage, and I think reading too much romance was one factor. Now, I realize personality and personal weaknesses must also factor into the equation, but here are my thoughts on problems with the typical romance scenario.

1) Romances take place over a short period of time. So feelings develop quickly and don't have much opportunity to mellow into something lasting.
2) There is a sense of the hero "sweeping the heroine off her feet," which is also based on feelings.
3) Much of the story centers around physical attraction.
4) A lot of fighting takes place between the hero and heroine, but alas, (sigh and put back of hand to head) love conquers all.
5) Heroes are almost superhuman. Although they may not see eye to eye with the heroine, or have some very specific flaw, overall they are way better than real life men.
6) Even the “happily ever after” itself is a farce. It should be “basically content although they'll still face real life problems ever after.”
7) Finally, romance novels end with the wedding. Real marriages begin with the wedding. So romances leave the reader in the midst of a high, which in actual life is short lived.

For me, here were some of the results. I met my husband and was overwhelmed by his alpha male personality and good looks and married him less than three months later. Makes perfect sense in a romance novel. He swept me off my feet and made me feel like a princess. We seemed so sure of ourselves that our pastor and parents supported the decision. I believed the fact that my husband was in such a hurry to get married proved how much he loved me.

Actually, my husband was impetuous and impatient about everything back in those days, and ended up making many horrible decisions because of it. He’s Lebanese, sexy accent and all, (Catholic background, not Muslim--people always want to know) but we had huge cultural differences, which we were in no way prepared to deal with. We were painfully poor. However, with his alpha male personality he thought he'd have a big business break any moment and went further and further into debt trying to accomplish just that.

Worst of all, the “take charge” attitude I loved so much, translated into an oppressive male who tried to control everything I did and squelch my personality.

I know that sounds awful, but the first five years of my marriage were awful. And by the time they were done, despite my strong Christian upbringing, I was convinced I made a terrible mistake and feeling desperate to escape and find someone else. The right kind of guy. "True Love." Like in the novels. I never did physically betray or leave my husband, but in my heart, I was long gone.

I could go on trying to justify my poor behavior, but let me wrap up this portion by saying what I learned. God is not interested in putting us with someone who will make things easy on us. He is interested in accomplishing His purposes in our lives and the lives of our spouses.

My marriage has been hard, but we've survived. The result of all those hard years is that my husband is now a great guy who is leading a major ministry. I don't think he would have ever gotten there without an American wife who stood up and forced him to change. And for me, well, clearly my "god" of romance has been smashed on the altar.

I asked my husband to read this post, and when he got to this part he said, “But your readers won’t be satisfied with the lessons you learned. They’ll want to know how the story ends.”

The truth is, I don’t know. This story isn’t over yet. When I told that to my husband he said, “I’m sorry. I know it was hard. I love you,” and gave me some gentle kisses. I guess that bodes well for the ending.

To wrap it up, here are some things that I think make for awesome inspirational romances with the right kind of message.

1) Making the relationship more about why God would want the couple together, especially if it doesn’t fit their plans.
2) Hearing God's voice about getting together.
3) Having to overcome old hurts, prejudices, and weaknesses in order to fulfill God's plan for hero and heroine to be together.
4) Heroes with plenty of real life variety flaws, but heroines that love them anyway. (Has anyone ever had a hero pass gas or burp in a book? Now that would be realistic.)
5) Show physical attraction and feelings coming and going, but ultimately it is a choice to love and fulfill God's plan.
6) Make sure that the hero and heroine really know and love each other, flaws and all.

So these are my thoughts. Again, I love romance, and I think there are very good ways to write romances. I’ve read some great ones by authors like Francine Rivers, Mary Lu Tyndall, Julie Klassen, Deeanne Gist, and Ruth Axtel Morren. I like when despite the strong feelings between the hero and heroine, a lot of prayer and even God's supernatural intervention are required to get them together. I also love the silly chick lit novels that have romance but on a much more realistic level. Okay, and I like it when the hero is totally hot, as long as the right message comes through :)

What’s your favorite romance?

Today I’m giving away a favorite historical romance of mine, Measure of a Lady by Deeanee Gist. To enter leave a comment with your email address and spaces around the @ for your protection .

On a different subject, if anyone would like to hear more about the inspiration behind the book I wrote in six days, check out my new "Awesome Inspirationals" post. You can link to it from our sidebar.

Dina Sleiman

Monday, October 26, 2009

Romance Novels? How Embarrassing.


Formula One is not just for good looking European race car drivers anymore. Welcome to Inktropolis’s foray into the high drama truth behind writing a romance. Yes, there’s a formula. Isn't that what makes them so 'easy' to write'?
I suppose that’s raised some hackles. Good. Hackle-raising burns calories and gets the blood flowing. Good. Now, see the side bar please and note the disclaimer that the opinions of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of all the citizens of Inktropolis. Please read through to the end before jumping to romance’s defense. . . And by the way, I write romance. (Historical Romantic Suspense for the Inspirational Market--try fitting that on your business card.)
Literary fiction (you know, the REAL writing, the kind that writers would like to write but can’t so they write genre?) may not have a formula other than to make you think real hard and end up confused and depressed. KIDDING! Well, not completely. I can think of a couple books that stuck with me for weeks after I'd finished. I like that but I can't say they were uplifting either.
Anyway, when I pick up a Tony Hillerman mystery, I know what I’m getting. Mystery has a formula. If a mystery doesn’t have a crime and a body right up front for the “sleuth”, in this case Detective Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee, to investigate and solve, then I want my money back. Thankfully, mystery "formula" and great writing ruled and I always had an enjoyable read. (Thank you Mr. Hillerman, with love, for years of entertainment. You'll be missed.)
I hope I’m not bursting any reader’s balloons. If you read romance, mystery, thrillers or fantasy, please realize that the writer has to fulfill certain expectations or they will hear their agent and editor laugh out loud. In other words, try selling a romance without following the formula. Formula, Formula, Formula. There, I said it.
The Emperor doesn’t have any clothes on, folks.
Skip this next paragraph if you don’t want to shocked by the emperor’s man boobs.
Simplified: Boy Meets Girl, Boy likes girl, Boy loses girl, Boy gets girl back. Expanded: they should have superior motivation to achieve clashing goals and have a worthy conflict or opposition. Next is the black moment when all appears lost, and then (hear the chorus of angels?) all will work out and they’ll live HAPPILY EVER AFTER.
Or HEA in writer-speak.
Now take that formula and “Make it fresh”. Okay. Sure. Right. If you’re not writing, you don’t know how difficult this is. Note: I said difficult, not impossible.
Why is it that romance novels are the largest portion of all published books each year, and yet they are still looked down? Is it because they follow a GASP! formula? What's wrong with a formula. Duh. I think they work. Do you see any authors on the NYT list that have a good thing going and stick with it? I think so.
I blame all the anti-romance snobbery on those book covers. You know. Fabio. Ripped bodices on women whose hair is tossed by wind and their model-perfect makeup is on, even if its 1583 and they've been under attack by the border lords since MayDay and haven't had hot water for a bath in a month? Okay, that I can't argue with. But inside there better be a good story above all else.
Inspirational fiction has to take all the ‘must haves’ of good writing and add the dimension of spirituality. We are real jugglers. Christian Romance is not an oxymoron, either and if you think so, you're not reading today's market. Christian Romance celebrates the heart and the passion that draw two people together and keeps them together, sexy AND cerebral and held together by modeling the kind of love God has shown us. Selfless, strong, everlasting. Doesn't that get your motor running?
So, that’s my little rant on romance. Come back tomorrow and we’ll discuss how unrealistic or realistic it is. Oh dear. You won't all go away mad, will you?
Oops, before I go, I have to bring up Waller and Sparks. You know. The men who ‘write romance’. Well, honey, they may make you cry and say, “oh, how romantic”, but that’s not a romance novel. (See above on HEA.) I think they make a dollar for every tear that's shed. As I told my daughter, women write romances with happy endings, men write them with heartbreaker endings. I’m not such a cold old thing that I don’t cry my way through Message in a Bottle every time I see it, but my gosh, someone has to have a good relationship that works out. They can’t all die.
(And my apologies to the REAL men who write romance in the shadows of a women dominated field.) We have some great grand prize drawing gifties that will be awarded at the end of October. We have two super packages to draw for. But you must leave your EMAIL address to go into our Prize Czar's bucket. And please remember to leave your address safely, so the antagonists out there can't make things worse for you, our protagonists. We want a HEA.
Thanks for stopping in,
Debra (or if you don't like this post, my name is Gina)
Thank you to Flikr and DML East Branch for the Tony Hillerman tribute banner.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Giving Thanks No Matter What




Sometimes, God speaks to you in the most unlikely of places. For me, it was at a stock-up trip to The Dollar Tree.

When I walked in the door, the sound of Aha singing their '80s hit "Take on Me" bled weakly from the store's sound system. Off to my left, squatting on the floor and stocking a rack with packs of gum, was a young man. He was singing along, thoroughly enjoying himself.

As I walked by, he looked up, smiled, and said, "Good morning!" He'd already had me smiling at his personal concert of one, but now, I felt the smile.

I did my shopping and went to the check out. What do you know... the singer was now at the register, as polite and happy as ever. I told him how much I enjoyed his singing, and that I wished I would have been close enough to hear if he hit the high note at the end. He laughed and said thanks, he really enjoyed his job.

Since I was the only one in line, we chatted a bit. I found out he'd recently moved to Vegas from Detroit. He'd had a good job there in a sheet metal plant. But like so many others he lost his job when the plant closed and he couldn't find a new position. So now, this young man (probably in his late twenties) was living with his grandparents and working at The Dollar Tree. And so happy about it that he was singing.

I've thought about that fellow a lot. He could have been a real sourpuss. He could have been rude and surly, taking his problems out on the world, making life miserable for everybody around him. But instead, he chose to sing. And because of that, not only did he feel good, but he made me feel good, as well.

While shopping for bargain household items, the Lord let me experience a powerful spiritual truth: Joy is much more powerful than despair.

"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise." (Psalm 98:4 - King James Version)
I love that we're exorted to make a joyful noise. Not being able to carry a tune is no excuse! Singing praise is about the joy in the experience, not the pureness of the sound.

"Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  (Ephesians 5:18-20 - New Living Translation)
Give thanks for everything. I'll be the first to admit, that's hard to do. But it's also why God encourages us to gather together and praise Him. There's so much power when one person lifts her voice in worship to the Lord, but when a community of believers worship together, it's a miraculous, bondage-breaking experience.

What about you? How has praising the Lord affected your life?

To enter today's giveaway...
To encourage you to make a joyful noise, today I'm giving away a very cool worship CD. To be entered, just leave a comment on this blog. Please leave an email address so we can contact you if you're the winner (include spaces or brackets around the "@" sign so Net spiders, etc, can't phish your address). I'll pick a winner at random on October 28th. Remember, all comments left today will also be entered in our grand prize drawing on November 1st.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Start Your Engines and Check Out Next Week!






From sandy beaches
to the wonder of rocks
to the places a book can take you...
We went around the world in five days!

Join us next week
for more fun, prizes, and posts


Sunday
Putting an Ink on Scripture
Jennifer

Monday - Friday
Formula One Romancing
Monday - Debra
Tuesday - Dina
Wednesday - Welcome guest blogger Missy Tippens!
Thursday - Wenda
Friday - Poetry with Dina

Saturday
An Inkalicious Book Review
Jennifer
 
The latest individual prize winners are

Virginia C.
for commenting on Patti's post (10/15/09)
Prize: A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman
 
Edna T.
for commenting on Wenda's post (10/16/09)
Prize: $10 Amazon.com gift card

Cherie J.
for commenting on Suzie's post (10/17/09)
Prize: Breathe by Lisa T. Bergren
 
Sharon C.
for commenting on Lisa's post (10/21/09)
Prize: a cute Scripture mug
 
Tamika E.
for commenting on Debra's post (10/22/09)
Prize: 199 Promises of God from Barbour Publishing



Hope to see you all around the Inkwell!

Double Take by Jenness Walker



I wonder what sort of tale we've fallen into?"
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Cole Leighton can barely believe his eyes. A woman on his bus has just been abducted—in an exact reflection of a scene from the bestselling novel he's reading. Someone is bringing the book to life…and isn't above forcing an innocent woman to follow the story to its tragic end. Using the novel as his playbook, Cole catches up with the beautiful victim—but rescuing Kenzie Jacobs doesn't keep her safe for long. The killer is writing his own ending, and none of the twists and turns lead to happily ever after.

On October 13th, Jenness Walker's first Love Inspired Suspense, Double Take, hit the bookshelves. If you can't find it at Wal-Mart, then click here for a shortcut to Amazon.

This novel (formerly known as Déjà Vu) won first place in the 2008 ACFW Genesis contest, before one of the wise editors at Steeple Hill snatched it for their line. Most of the time first-round contest judges never see one of their judged entries turn into an actual published book. This is one of those rare moments. Consequently, I knew I had to review this book for y'all, despite the fact I really don't like writing book reviews. Why spend a thousand or so words telling you "I really really loved Jenness Walker's Double Take. Go buy it!" when I could do it in eleven?

We've oft heard the saying, "Truth is stranger than fiction."

The premise of Double Take is that a created storyline is strangely happening for real. Like Same and Frodo, Cole and Kenzie knew something larger was going on, yet they weren't exactly sure what tale they'd fallen into. That they WERE in one was the only surety.

Author Madeleine L'Engle insisted, "All of life is a story."

Makes sense. The basics of life has a beginning (birth), middle (stuff between), and end (death). I feel safe to say we're all in the middle, and for some of us the sagging is a bit unbearable at times. Please check Inkwell at a later date for a blog post on plastic surgery; for now, I'll not chase that gray hare. I'm coloring it tomorrow a nice medium ash brown.

Everyone loves a story. Beyond that, there's a deeper truth: Everyone wants to be part of a story. Thanks to our public school science teachers, we have a silent, underlying fear that life is only a tale "told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." From dust we came, from dust we return. The end.

In the end, science does not provide the answers most of us require. Its story of our origins and our end is, to say the least, unsatisfactory. To the question, "How did it all begin?", science answers, "Probably by accident." And to many people, the accidental life is not worth living. ~Neil Postman, Science and the Story That We Need

Ever felt that way?

Yet, I wonder what if...

What if there's more. Like Jenness created Cole and Kenzie's story, what if someone has created a world--a story--for us to live in. An adventure. A drama and a comedy. A love story.

He [God] has planted eternity in the human heart. ~Ecclesiastes 3:11

The reason we can watch a movie like The Matrix or Titanic, or a television show like Battlestar Galatica, and see elements of the gospel even when the writers aren't Christians is because The Story--God's story--is written in the human heart.

The heart is key. Emperor Palpatine knew if he could control Anakin's heart, then he could control Anakin.

In the middle of Eden enters the Villain. Darth Vader. Saurman. Commodus. Hitler. Stalin. Mao. Lucifer.

Save the cheerleader, save the world.

Destroy man's heart, destroy the world.

The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. ~Genesis 6:5

I read earlier this week that "rescuing the human heart is the hardest mission in the world." I'm not surprised. Mankind is addicted to self, to man-made idols, to a deep distrust of God. Mankind consists of a multitude of individual sinners. In bondage. Enslaved. Not free.

If you visit Washington D.C and the Korean War Memorial, you'll see a a black granite wall that extends into the reflecting pool area of the Korean War Veterans Memorial. In the stone is etched "Freedom Is Not Free."

In how many of the great stories does the hero have to died to win someone's freedom? William Wallace. Maximus. Aslan.

He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~Colossians 1:13-14

At the end of Titanic, as Rose completes the tale of her life, she says, "He saved me in every way a person can be saved."

The Life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth answer once and for all the question, "What is God's heart toward me?" At the point of our deepest betrayal, when we had run our farthest from him and gotten so lost we could never find our way home, God came and died to rescue us. You have never been loved like this. He has come to save you in every way a person can be saved. That is God's heart toward you." ~John Eldredge, Epic

Next week in Inktropolis, our theme will be Formula One Romancing. I'm convinced the reason romance novels are the top selling genre is because the yearning for a Happily Ever After ending is native to the human heart.

Scripture says Satan--our enemy--is a thief who strives to steal, kill and destroy. If he can't steal our hearts, he'll do all he can to destroy our joy of a happily ever after future. Too many of us live without hope. We're convinced this life we're living is as good as it gets. Heaven help us, but don't you all know a Christian or twenty who are convinced our eternity consists of us standing in a heavenly choir for FOREVER. Oh my aching feet.

I have news for you. That is NOT God's happily ever after ending for this story he's written.

Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. ~Isaiah 65:17

Think of all the things we'll be able to do in the glorious freedom of a world without death and decay? Explore. Discover. Create.

I'm thinking I'll go swimming in a lake or two. After all, there won't be a single human-eating bass lurking in the depths.

Oh, and since this is a book review post, let me end with saying, "I really really loved Jenness Walker's Double Take. Go buy it!"

I’ll be giving away a copy of Double Take signed by Jenness, so please leave your e-mail address if you’d like to be in the drawing. I’ll randomly choose a name at midnight eastern time October 24th. Remember to include spaces or brackets around the "@" sign so Net spiders, etc, can't phish your address.
~*~

A little bit about Double Take's author: Jenness Walker fell in love with books before she could even read them. Growing up, she read while she walked in line, ate lunch, played the clarinet, showered and brushed her teeth. Unfortunately she still hasn’t figured out how to clean the house with a book in hand. Blessed with a vivid imagination—sometimes too vivid—Jenness loves to create her own stories as well. Her writing journey has spanned over twenty years so far, from the contest she lost in first grade to the creative writing correspondence course she took through high school and the first novel she penned in college. Now Jenness lives in Florida with her beloved Web site–designer husband and almost-equally-beloved laptop. Read more about Jenness at her website: http://www.jennesswalker.com/.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Is it the Destination . . . Or the Journey?


Connie, here. Please,
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me.

The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (609 BC – 531 BC) said,
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

That is true. Usually.

Two of my favorite modes of travel are via books and movies. Of course, I do have to take that initial step to my couch or recliner to curl up with one or the other. I’ve traveled the world with all kinds of characters – to Rome with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the 1953 classic Roman Holiday; to Africa with Hepburn and Bogart in African Queen as well as with Forest Whitaker in the Last King of Scotland. Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency gives great insight to the African people as well as the land. Mrs. Mike, the compelling story of a Boston girl who marries a rugged Canadian Mountie has stayed with me for years.

I’ve blasted off into outer space with Tom Hanks and the crew of Apollo 13 and plunged to the dismal recesses of the sea with The Abyss. I’ve been at war against the evil Empire at the side of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, and have traipsed across the Irish countryside with Nora Roberts and Maeve Binchy. I’ve spun backwards in time and have been catapulted into the future. And, of course, through many an adventure with J. K. Rowling and Harry. There’s nothing quite like glimpsing the people and places of the world with character guides.

Unless you have the chance to see it for yourself. This world our Lord created for you and me is an incredible place. Recently, I was blessed to see a little more of it. The destination of our fifteen day cruise was the awesome Panama Canal. I did my homework before I left and learned it is a lock-type canal approximately 80 kilometers long that unites the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at one of the narrowest points of both the Isthmus of Panama and the American Continent. The waterway’s official inauguration took place on August 15, 1914 with the transit of the SS Ancon.

Zzzzzz. Ho, hum. Did those tedious facts about a fascinating modern miracle put you to sleep?

They did me. But being there, passing under the Bridge of Americas, watching the ships in front of us traverse into the lock, then as magnificently as a bird of prey soaring on the updrafts, rise to the top of the lock on a backwash of water – well, words have failed this writer.





When the water was lowered and the gates lumbered open,it was our turn.






Thick steel cables were attached to the ship by two guys in a tiny outboard. And then we were pulled into the locks by ‘mules’ (train-like cars).


Our ship took up the entire lock. I had no sensation of rising the 85’ that the books said we did as we transited the three locks, nor of us being lowered once again to sea level. But I did see the shore rise and fall beside us. It was ten hours of awe and discovery.

Ah, yes, the Canal – our destination - was educational and enlightening. What man can accomplish through God-given gifts.

But, oh, the journey. The journeys to and from our destination . . .they were priceless.

Our first port was Cabo San Lucas, which was no more than a sleepy fishing village when we first visited eons ago. Not wanting to tarnish our idyllic memories, we instead toured a small oasis village that sits peacefully next to the Pacific, Todos Santos (All Saints). This region is striking in appearance, from arid desert and white sand coves, to swaying palms and the blue of the sea. It’s also home to The Hotel California, inspiration for the Eagles’ song back in 1969.

Our next port on the journey to the Canal was Acapulco and the Tehuacalco Ruins. Our tour guide/historian Ruven transported us back in time. It’s amazing to see, to touch, the pyramids and temples (the stairs so narrow, you’re forced to climb sideways because, you see, one does not turn one's back on one's king),
the sacrificial alters where small children were sacrificed to appease the gods (chills ran up my arm as I laid my hand upon the stone), and the arenas of the ancients. One story was they played a soccer-type game with five players, one being the ‘goalie’. The winning goalie was considered great, powerful, in the prime of his life where he could get no better. His reward? He was sacrificed. I can’t imagine that being an honor, but perhaps one day our ways will be looked upon as savage. I’m thankful customs have changed. My granddaughter is quite a good goalie!

Their technology was amazing. Their ‘time calendar’, a large perpendicular stone is said to be only a fraction of a fraction off what we call ‘real’ time.

Have I mentioned the (shudder) snake that slithered past us at the ruins? By the time we reached the ship, the 24” coral reptile had grown as large as a fisherman’s catch on the tenth telling!

Next we sailed into Huatulco (pronounced Wa-tul-ko), Mexico. Forget pronunciation. We just called it Paradise. This is the next Cabo, but right now it’s the sleepy village on the verge of waking. The crystalline aquamarine waters, white sand beaches and lush landscape are just more proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
The next four countries we docked at were Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and Columbia. They were never on my bucket list, but I quickly added them so I could check them off. They are beautiful countries, similar yet each oh, so different. We drove past sugar cane fields in the lowlands that gave way to coffee plantations in the highlands. They are proud of their coffee. Volcanoes were shrouded by clouds made of their own steam. These countries are filled with history and sadly are without the funds to excavate ruins or preserve the ancient sites. The average income in Guatemala is 150 a month; Nicaragua, Panama and Columbia only slightly higher.

Locals wash their colorful clothing in the streams that trickle through the villages. Many of their ‘homes’ are corrugated metal sidings with black plastic bags for roofs. The women still carry goods in baskets atop their heads and many men still travel on horseback. Mules packed to the hilt replace trucks. The old narrow cobblestone streets were a challenge to ankles and knees. They are a beautiful people, many of Mayan descent. Their features are distinct – wide and expressive and welcoming.

In El Viejo (translated means "the old one"), Nicaragua, we visited the Menor Basilica, a colonial church constructed in the early 17th century. Within, there is a small statuette of the Virgin Mary. In 1562 the Spanish conquistadors used the little Mary statue for safe passage through the native villages. Inhabitants were so fascinated by this stunning image, they came from far and wide to view it. It's said when thieves ransacked the church and stole the Virgin, their horses, no matter how much they were prodded or beaten, would not cross the river. The thieves lightened the load time after time, but it was not until the statuette was removed that the horses resumed their journey. There is an aura of holiness surrounding her that my camera couldn't capture.

Next stop was the tiny island of Carti, of the San Blas (St. Blaze) Archipelago, home to one of the nation’s most populous remaining Cuna (or Kuna) tribes. Talk about time grinding to a stop. These are the people who greeted Columbus. And now me. They still have an essentially self-ruling society, live in thatched-roof huts with dirt floors and their public transit is dugout canoes. The women’s handiwork is known worldwide. While we speculated that perhaps, after we left, the ‘native’ people disrobe, change into jeans and catch the next flight back to the capital, we were assured that this is their chosen everyday clothing and life.

And it hit me. All my prized possessions, everything I work for and covet – in the end, none of it matters. It will be my actions, not my accumulations, by which I will be judged.

And, so, while the sights were spectacular, it was the people, brothers and sisters in Christ’s love, who made this trip special - those on the ship (waving to all we met, especially our Team Trivia partners) and those on shore. A smile, a nod, and a kind word transcend all barriers. Despite the differences in looks, culture and custom, we are all so alike – in our dreams, our love for family, our desire for peace. We have such a small amount of time allotted to us here on God’s perfect creation. Instead of fighting over a piece of land or demeaning one another for ideals not shared, perhaps today we could share a smile, a nod or an encouraging word with all those we encounter. Perhaps today we can be truly worthy of God’s love.

On Tuesday as I pondered how to convey this message, God sent me the following verses via email. He truly does listen and answer.

.=: S C R I P T U R E S F O R T H E D A Y :=But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” ~Luke 12:13-21.

.=: M E D I T A T I O N F O R T H E D A Y :=.It's tempting for us to accumulate many "things." Houses, cars, boats, pension funds, etc. seem to be our security. If we have enough, we won't have to worry. Then we come to see that none of these things come with us when we die. Funeral coaches don't have luggage racks. So we need to treasure the things that will last forever.

.=: P R A Y E R F O R T H E D A Y :=.I pray that I may not seek security in material things. I pray that I may work for the things that last forever.

Reprinted with permission from Father Pat's Place - www.frpat.com

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Next time you're ready to leave home, remember to pack God. He's an awesome traveling companion.

If you’re interested in being placed in the drawing for Philip Gulley’s Hometown Tales (beautiful recollections of kindness, peace and joy) please leave a comment with your email address. Be sure to put parentheses around the @ (@) and the dot (.) to foil phishers. I’ll draw a winner on Monday, the 26th.

Thanks for sailing with me.