CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Jenny LM who won Susanne Dietze's My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho Prize pack!



Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welcome Revell Author Julie Lessman!

by Julie Lessman


When Gina invited me to guest blog today, I was thrilled, not only because I love Gina and the Inkies, but because I love this blog and its focus on writing and God. She told me I could write about "anything related to faith," so I was excited because I LOVE talking about my faith and the amazing things God has taught over my many, MANY years.

But, life happens, as we all know, and I ran out of time. That’s when something in my spirit whispered the words, "Windowsill Jesus." Now if you have read my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure, you may remember the acknowledgment at the back of the book to Windowsill Jesus, a true character from my childhood about Whom I wrote a story for a fiction class ten years ago. This is both His story and mine, and as far as I am concerned, there is nothing more "related to faith" (mine, anyway) than what Windowsill Jesus did for me—a young woman desperately groping in the dark before He brought her into His glorious light. And so, without further ado, I give you Windowsill Jesus—the best friend this girl has ever had.



~*~

The Plight of Windowsill Jesus

Mama always said I had an imagination like a runaway train. Wild, out of control and guaranteed to get somebody hurt. She never smiled when she said it. Just shook her head in resignation, her tone flat and lifeless. Not unlike, I often thought, her feelings for me.

She was right, of course. I still remember the night of ‘the call’. To this day I swear I wasn't asleep, only drifting on my bed somewhere between contemplation and slumber. The rain pelted against the window like angry tears while I lay in the dark. Somewhere in my head, a phone rang. I never moved a muscle, except in my mind's eye, where I calmly lifted the receiver to my ear.

"Hello Julie, this is the Devil. I'll be there in five minutes." Click.

I jolted up in bed. My ragged breathing slashed the silence while my heart pumped in terror. What should I do? I couldn't call Daddy—I’d get the belt for waking him in the middle of the night. After all, a doctor had to be well-rested to care for his patients. And I knew better than to call for Mama, a woman with little patience for the 3:00 a.m. hysterics of an eight-year-old drama queen. Besides, all of her comfort and care was reserved for the little girl sound asleep in the bed next to mine, the one Mama was sure was an angel sent from above.

Mama was right again. Who wouldn't love a dimple-cheeked cherub like Katie? Stack one sweet-natured, flaxen-haired five-year-old against a spindly, mousy-haired ‘angle-shooter’, and the contest was over. All hail, Queen Katie. Long live the Queen!

I wanted to hate her, but I couldn't. I wanted her gone, but she was all I had. Katie, a blue-eyed moppet with a sweet smile. She could chase the Devil away with grins and giggles and games of Fish until the pale light of dawn crept through our bedroom window. Only then would we fade into sleep, safe and secure in the cocoon of each other's arms.

Of course, Mama always yelled when she found me asleep in Katie's bed. "You could have smothered her," she’d accuse in a stern voice reserved especially for me.

"But, Mama, Julie had a bad dream," Katie defended, an urgency in her little-girl voice.

It always amazed me how quickly Mama's eyes could shift from steel gray to the softest blue when addressing her youngest daughter. "But Mama doesn't want anything to happen to her little chicken," she would whisper, scooping Katie up in her arms. They’d leave the room then, and all I could see was Katie’s sorrowful eyes, watching me over Mama’s shoulder.

Moments like that drove me—not to my knees, but to my windowsill. Nose pressed hard against the screen, I’d squint out of the corner of my eye, imagining Jesus sitting on the outside ledge of my parent’s room. All I could see were His sandaled feet dangling and the hem of His white robe fluttering in the breeze, but it was enough. We'd talk for a while; mostly me, of course. I’d tell Him how much I needed Mama to love me. Since Sister Cecilia always said God was love, I sort of figured He was in the business, anyway. Why couldn't He make Mama love me, after all? I asked Him to talk to His Dad and the Ghost, you know, just to see if there was anything They could do. He never answered, but I figured He must have heard, because somehow I always felt better for the asking.

Once, when Mama came home from a day of shopping, she piled a tower of boxes on the kitchen table. We squealed with delight as she opened each to reveal its contents. A dress for Katie, a sweater for me, another dress, skirt and blouse for Katie, a hat for me, the latest fad for Katie, nothing for me.

"Mama," Katie said, eyeing my token pile, "I have more than Julie."

"Well, Julie's so hard to fit—I never know what to get her.” Mama absently patted my head. “You'll just have to go with me next time, so you can try things on." She turned away, unscrewing her clip earrings as she left the room. I blinked away the blur in my eyes and felt Katie's hand on mine as she looked at me with soulful eyes.

That night, Windowsill Jesus got an earful. He took it rather well, although the sandals seemed to droop more than usual. For a guy in control, He sure didn't talk much. No matter. I had more than enough to say for us both.

I knew it wasn't Katie's fault, but sometimes I made her pay for Mama's love. Like the time we fought over who got the bed on the inside wall next to Mama’s room. No way did I want the bed by the door where I was certain monsters loomed at night. But all Katie had to do was shed a few tears, and Mama would descend on me like a Missouri thunderstorm.

"She's just a baby,” Mama would say, “Stop being selfish and take the bed by the door." Katie sniffled as Mama gave her a squeeze. "It's okay, little chicken, you can have the bed next to Mama's wall. I want my little girl close."

Before she left the room, Mama would give me the eagle eye, defying me to argue.

"You heard what Mama said … I get the bed by her wall,” Katie said.

"No problem," I’d say, smiling and plopping on the bed by the door, legs casually crossed. "I don't want to sleep by Frank, anyway."

Katie blinked. "Who's Frank?" she asked, her voice wavering.

"You know, Frank—as in Dr. Frankenstein? He sleeps in that closet by your bed."

Her eyes widened in terror as she crouched against the headboard. "He does not," she whispered, her face as pale as porcelain.

"Sure he does. Ever notice that big, square trap door at the top of the closet? That's the attic. Frank lives up there. I thought you knew that. But don't worry, he only comes out at night."

"I don't want this bed," she wailed, "I want the bed by the door.”

"But Mama said you had to –"

"No! I want the bed by the door."

And so I won, as always with Katie. It was only fair, I reasoned. After all, Katie may have had Mama's heart, but I had the bed by her wall.

Over the years, my visits with Windowsill Jesus became as infrequent as my attempts to win Mama's love. And then one day, both stopped altogether, deliberately tucked away at the age of fourteen into the dark recesses of my ‘orphan's’ heart. I replaced them with makeup and movies and the all-important quest for a boyfriend.

What I lacked in love, I made up in creativity. My gangly body, just beginning to bud, burgeoned into buxomness when enhanced by bobby socks sewn in where needed. Heavy eyeliner, guaranteed to produce the come-hither look, ribboned my eyes. Through it all, Katie would sit for hours, Indian-style on her bed, watching while I teased my hair and slinked into tight sweaters. Oh, how she would giggle when I’d pucker up, applying enough pale lipstick to produce perfectly pouting lips. I could tell she was fascinated by the evolution of her older sister. A stark contrast to Mama, whose casual indifference was only occasionally punctuated by comments like ‘boys don't marry tramps’. A sentiment always echoed by Daddy. When he was around.

When Katie hit her teens, her relationship with Mama hit the skids. Overnight, she transformed from Mama's sweet-faced angel into a celestial beauty anxious to try out her wings. No longer content to be Mama's ‘little chicken’, Katie dreamed of freedom to follow in my footsteps. I shouldn’t have, but I reveled that her dreams became Mama's nightmares.

More and more, Mama seemed to float in and out of depression. On days when she had the energy, she would blame her ‘little chicken's’ demise on my bad influence. If Katie sassed her, it was my fault. If Katie rose to my defense, Mama accused me of stealing her baby. Mama's attacks still managed to produce a mournful look on Katie's face, but their sting no longer penetrated the steel casing around my heart. Her words would fly, and I would simply turn and leave while Mama squandered her final reserve of energy on silent screams.

The day Mama died began like any other. Daddy left for work early, as usual, and Katie and I slept late. As late as Mama would allow. It was summer, after all. That didn't seem to mean a lot to Mama, who always appeared at our bedroom door promptly at 10:30 a.m. In her mind, we were nothing but ‘bed jockeys’ who wanted to sleep the day away. In our minds, we were far away in our own personal dreams, romanced and sought after by boys who couldn't live without us.

I awoke that morning to Katie's frantic cries, her arms flailing at my bed covers. "Julie, wake up, wake up—Mama's not breathing! God, what are we going to do?" She stood there, her face contorted in panic, dragging her fingers through the blonde ringlets as if she were going to rip them out by the roots. I lay there in a stupor until the meaning of her words invaded my conscious. I could taste the fear in my mouth as I shot off the bed, pushing past her to Mama's room down the hall.

She looked so peaceful. Not at all like the depressed woman who had taken to crying jags and pacing aimlessly through the house. Just peaceful. In a surreal blur of sirens and doctors and mournful crying, Mama was taken away. An aneurysm in her heart, the doctors decided. A heart that would never know how much I longed to be within it. For the first time in a long time, I thought about Windowsill Jesus. So much for prayers answered. Close the casket on this one, boys, 'cause the God of Love blew it big time. Pack up your prayers, little girl, and move on.

And move on I did. Onto broken curfews, bottles of booze and the notorious free-love era of the 70s. The Devil didn't call me on the phone anymore. No, he just pulled right up to my front door and took me riding. Most nights I'd come home and collapse on my bed, the taste of vomit ripe in my mouth. I remember the room spinning out of control, like my life. Someone was always there, though, holding my hand and wiping my lips with a cool cloth, whispering everything would be all right. Even through a haze of Jack Daniels, I swear Katie looked like an angel. "I love ya, Kate," I would slur before the haze began to dim.

"I know you do, Julie," she would say, "and I love you, too. More than anything in the world. Always have, always will."

I closed my eyes and smiled. Windowsill Jesus smiled back. "Always have, always will," He whispered.

***

I rolled the window down, and the cold, autumn air misted my face like a dream. I stared at the house I once called home and watched the shadows of dusk cloak it in darkness. Blinking back the tears, I leaned out my car window. I could almost smell the cloves and cinnamon from the bourbon pumpkin pies Mama used to bake at Thanksgiving. Almost. Grabbing a Kleenex, I wiped the wetness from my eyes. True, I hadn't felt loved or protected in this home, but it had given me something. Rolling the window up, I turned the key in the ignition and buckled my seatbelt, ready to head home.

Home. Where toddlers clamored for my attention and a husband's eyes lit up when I entered the room. Where perennials bloomed and Katie and I enjoyed prayer luncheons on my cedar deck. Where memories of Mama had softened and deepened and forgiven, just like me. And—most importantly of all—where Windowsill Jesus still kept vigil.

~*~

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction” at http://www.borders.com/online/store/ListView_best2009favefiction. She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and is the author of “The Daughters of Boston” series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied, as well as the recently released A Hope Undaunted, book 1 of her brand-new “Winds of Change” series. You can contact Julie through her website at http://www.julielessman.com/.

A HOPE UNDAUNTED
 
The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O'Connor is the epitome of the new woman--smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband--good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and head-over-heels in love with her. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Cluny McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face to face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?
 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Story is Born


By Lisa Karon Richardson

One of the most frequent questions a writer gets is: “Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s not an easy question to answer because ideas come from everywhere. Half-remembered conversations, TV news, research, people watching.

There’s almost always some nugget that provides the impetus for a story. But it takes a lot of work to melt down the nugget, refine it and spin it into gold. Unfortunately I can’t think of any stories that sprang full born into the mind of a writer, like some sort of reverse Minerva.

The most common way a story is worked into shape is by asking questions. I discover who my characters are by asking why. Why does she respond like this? Why does she desire that? Seriously, writers are like toddlers. Ever answer provokes another why!

Plots are developed by asking, what if. What if the letter is never delivered? What if the ship sinks? What if the murderer figures out she’s on to him?

Getting the answers to the questions is a thrill. It’s the sort of rush that makes pitching the story to an industry professional worth the effort.

So here I am. I’m editing my last story and getting ready to submit it to agents and editors. It seems like at this point in the process my mind always turns to thoughts of the next story. I’m not unfaithful to the story I’m working on now mind you, but my attention does start to wander.

In this case I’ve got my nugget for my next story. It’s a character. (Thanks, for letting me have him Jen!) His name is Carter Forbes and he’s a Pinkerton agent in the 1890’s. Here’s his picture.

He’s tough and smart, but also has his eccentricities. For example, he’s loved dime store novels since he was a kid. Besides the fact that the detective’s seemed so heroic in the stories he’s read, he came to investigation because his little sister was severely injured in a robbery gone bad. She’s now paralyzed. And Carter is determined to make the world safe for her.

Only now she’s fallen prey to a quack who promises healing. Enter the heroine, a different kind of charlatan. She’s a fake medium who Carter catches because of another investigation and then forces to help him prove the truth about the quack.

I think it’s a solid premise with characters very different from the average Christian fare. There’s potential for plenty of conflict, but also room for attraction to grow and romance to blossom. The problem is to take that 123 word description and turn it into 340 pages of story.

OK, so if you’re up for it, let’s play bookmaker. (Some of you will be taking bets on the story’s odds of publication, for the rest of you there are lots of questions to ask and try to answer.) Many I haven’t even thought of yet. Some of the ones I have thought of concern the heroine. She has to be likable, even if she’s flawed. So why is she a fake psychic? What does she want more than anything else in the world? How does she grow through the story?

Since it’s my story, there’s also going to be some element of mystery or intrigue. Besides bringing down the quack, what central mystery could complicate and entwine with the other story?

How do hero and heroine first come into contact?

Where should I set the story? San Francisco, New York? Somewhere else?

Anyone want to offer title ideas? I stink at titles.

Yeah… there’s lots of work to do on this one, and that’s before I start writing!

Disclaimer: I won’t be able to use every awesome idea offered up, but if I can use your idea, I fully intend to! Don’t offer it up if you don’t want me to swipe it for the story.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Welcome Zondervan author Melanie Dickerson!


Medieval Myth-Busting
by Melanie Dickerson
What comes to mind when you think of the Middle Ages? Knights in armor rescuing beautiful damsels in distress—damsels with those pointy hats and long flowing dresses? Or maybe you think of monks with funny bowl-cut haircuts, chanting in their huge monasteries and developing new hybrid strains of string beans?

Me, I think of a colorful, romantic, exotic time when people were able to build massive cathedrals reaching into the heavens, with gorgeous stained glass windows that told stories from the Bible for all to see, when good men adhered to a code of chivalry and justice, and women had new horizons opening up to them—not to mention brave, noble heroes to take care of them. At least, I like to think so, although I know that isn’t completely realistic.

But there are other myths, too, about medieval times. From some of the medieval novels I’ve read and movies I’ve watched, I think people perceive the middle ages as a time of great oppression, when people had very little food, were worked half to death by cruel lords, went around dirty and diseased, and with their teeth falling out from poor nutrition and lack of toothbrushes.

Okay, so it’s true they probably couldn’t go to the store and buy an Oral B electronic toothbrush with dual pulsating heads and multi-level bristles, but not everybody’s teeth were falling out, either. They practiced better hygiene than you might imagine. In fact, books have been discovered from medieval times that instructed people in good manners, including how to clean their teeth. They even had a type of tooth powder made from herbs, and had their own toothbrushes, though different from ours.

Sometimes I think we assume the medieval people were more primitive than they actually were. Consider how civilized we deem the people of the first century, of Jesus’ time. They sailed on ships, they had courts of law, they read books, or scrolls, written in several languages. But I think we have a misconception that the people of the middle ages, of more than one thousand years later, were more barbaric and “behind” than of any time before or since. I won’t argue that they weren’t, (there’ll be someone much more qualified than me to do that) but I would like to put before you some facts.

Did medieval people take baths? In movies they go around with streaks of dirt on their faces. I would like to suggest that they often enjoyed a good bath. In fact, they loved baths so much, bathing was a social activity. The townspeople would actually meet at the town bath house, built by the Romans who invaded in the so-called “Dark Ages” and later abandoned England.

In the bath house the women bathed and gossiped. The bath house was the place to be on a Saturday night. Men bathed too, and no one’s quite sure if the men and women were always separate on these social occasions. Some paintings depict them bathing together, but personally, I just think that’s wishful thinking on the part of the (male) artist.

We also think of medieval people as serfs, cruelly worked by the “lord of the manor” and mistreated. This could be true, but who knows, really? We assume this is true, but very little written material or evidence has survived from the middle ages, especially from the point of view of the serfs. They worked the lord’s land, growing their own food in their own gardens, and sometimes their own pigs or sheep or goats in pens. The lord offered them protection, much as our own government does, and provided law and order. The lord was responsible for making sure justice was served in small as well as great matters, and an elaborate court system was in place. And in exchange, the people worked for their lord a certain number of days in the year. They also had to pay some small fees.

As Terry Jones pointed out in his documentary “Medieval Lives,” the serfs were “taxed” by working this certain number of days for the lord. If you compare this number of days with our modern tax rates, we in the modern world are actually taxed at a significantly higher rate than the medieval serfs were. Surprised? I was!

And now for my personal pet peeve. It seems every medieval novel I read involves an unbelievably sadistic wife beater. This is so common, it makes me wonder if people believe most medieval men were brutish and cruel to women. I personally think it’s likely there was less domestic violence going on then than there is now.

Consider that people didn’t live in their sound-proof houses, far from neighbors. They lived together, in villages, near each other and in wattle-and-daub houses with rather poor insulation. If a woman—or anyone, for that matter—screamed, it was called “raising the hue-and-cry.” Every person in England was required by law to come to the aid of anyone who screamed or called for help. If a man took a notion to hit his wife, he would have thought twice about it. If she screamed, he’d have the whole village down on his head, beating HIM up. Which makes for a pretty funny picture, now that I think about it.

So there you have it, my tongue-in-cheek medieval myth-busting for the day. Now I better go duck for cover in case someone disagrees with me!

I am reminded of the saying, “You can please some of the medievalists some of the time, but you will never please all of the medievalists all of the time.”

Or something like that.

~*~
Melanie Dickerson is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Her novels have finaled seven times in RWA-sponsored contests, including winning the 2007 Fiction from the Heartland Contest over all categories. Melanie earned a bachelor’s degree in special education of the hearing impaired from The University of Alabama and has worked as a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.

Visit her on the web at http://www.melaniedickerson.com/ or her joint blog with other Young Adult authors, http://www.novelteen.com/ or on facebook listed as Melanie Dickerson.





THE HEALER'S APPRENTICE

In this historical romance loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, a woodcutter's daughter becomes the town healer's apprentice. Rose's job is to care for the sick and injured in Hagenheim Castle. But she gets sick at the sight of blood and is more suited to making up stories than sewing up wounds. She is determined to overcome her weakness and prove herself a competent healer, or she faces marrying a disgusting old merchant her mother has picked out for her. Lord Hamlin, the future ruler of the region, is injured and Rose must overcome her squeamishness to save him. He is everything that is noble and good, but loving him is forbidden. He is already betrothed to a mysterious woman in hiding. With two noble-born brothers vying for her affections, Rose learns that the people of Hagenheim are not always who they seem.

Buy a copy today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, CBD, Family Christian, IndieBound, Lifeway, Mardel's, or Zondervan.

Read Dina Sleiman's raving review of The Healer's Apprentice

Gina's 12-yr-old daughter was quoted last weekend as saying (while she sparkled with giddiness), "Mom, your friend's book is reeeeeally good. I'm glad you made me read it." She told all her friends at church to read it too.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Postmodernism--the Good, the Bad, and the Hopeful

by Dina Sleiman


A few weeks ago I was looking over my tenth grade daughter’s syllabus for her high school modern dance class. I noticed one of the subjects they would be covering was postmodern culture. If someone in your life was studying postmodernism, would you know what that meant? Would you know what inherent dangers exist in postmodernism, or what the benefits of such thinking might be? I confess, until about ten years ago, I had no idea that postmodernism was the prevalent culture in our Western world today. I assumed it was a reaction to the modernist period in some way, but I didn’t understand its scope or importance.

Let’s start with a bit of Western history going back to the Holy Roman Empire. From a few hundred years after Christ until at least the Renaissance can be called the “Pre-modern Era.” During that period the general world view was “theistic”, meaning God-centered. Scripture and the church were final authorities. While this mindset might sound wonderful to Christians, it created its own sort of problems. Scientific discovery was seen as heretical because it challenged church tradition. The church had too much political power and became corrupt. It often took away the freedom of choice that God gave mankind from creation. In fact, many incredible Christian believers were martyred during this time by the church.

Enter the “Modern Era.” Some trace the roots of this era back as far as the Renaissance, however it strengthened during the “Enlightenment Period” of the late 1700s and hit its peak in the late 1800s which is known as the “Modernist Period” in literature and art. The secular worldview of this era is based on science and reason, and it trusts only what can be evaluated by the five senses. Life was governed by logical principles and ethics. God was seen as distant or absent, and man became the final authority. Authority structures were clear. It’s obvious that the inherent atheism and secular humanism were diametrically opposed to a Christian worldview. But, what is not clear is how elements of this mindset seeped into Christianity as well. If you look at traditional churches even today, you might find the same modernist attention to hierarchical structures, emphasis on law, and rejection of the supernatural to a degree that is not Biblical.

So where does that leave us? Most academics would say smack in the middle of the “Postmodern Era,” which began around the early 1970s originating from the hippie movement. Rather than theistic or secular, the worldview of this era is "pluralistic", or in other words, an acceptance of all worldviews. Life is governed by personal choice rather than theology or ethics. While atheism has declined, the concept of one God has been replaced by a variety of spiritualities. The postmodern thinker rejects the concept of absolute truth. They believe we each create our own personal truths based on experience. They see the world as chaotic and random and seek to find their own meaning within it. The positive side of postmodernism is that these people are hungry for spirituality and the supernatural, searching for meaning, and open to new experience.

Clearly there are many elements of postmodernism that clash with our Christian beliefs, but as I hope I have established, the same can be said of the Pre-modern and Modern eras. On the other hand, the positive aspects of postmodernism open avenues for evangelism and outreach. The church needs to understand postmodernism and reevaluate the cultural elements of Christianity in order to reach a new generation that has grown up with this mindset. I was born in 1970, which leaves me right on the outside edge of this generation, but since my parents are young, and I grew up in a Jesus movement hippie church where the pastor often wore jeans and sandals to preach, I identify with this generation and feel called to minister to them with the absolute truth that can only be found within the word of God.

But in order to do that, we need to understand how these people think. We need to learn to speak their language. We need to know what they are looking for. Because, and here’s what I want you to take away from this post:

Authentic Biblical Christianity can meet the needs of our postmodern generation, but outdated religious Christianity cannot!

We need to rediscover Biblical truths in light of the areas that hold sway with this generation: image, experience, relationship, and intuition. We need to reach them with Christianity that focuses on relationship and experience with God. Christianity that is authentic and real. We must go through the heart, not merely the logical mind. We must let them find God for themselves, not point to authorities they don’t yet believe in. We must become open to the supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our churches. We must meet their cultural needs with music, art, drama, and dance that speak to their hearts. We must accept that they might dress, look, and act differently than Christians from the mid 1900s. We can even incorporate the technology and visual images they have grown up with into our church services.

None of these things go against the absolute truth found in God’s word. In fact, I would be happy to supply scriptural proof that all of these are encouraged in God’s word. Only tradition and religiosity stand in their way. There’s nothing “wrong” with doing things the old way, but there’s nothing “wrong” with embracing a new way either. We must understand the difference between culture and Christianity. While we never sacrifice the absolute truth of the scripture, we should be willing like Paul to become “all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” I Corinthians 9:22

And here’s the exciting part for those of us who love literature. We must reach the postmodern generation through story! Through story, the postmodern thinker can find relationship with a character and share experiences with them. They can use their intuition and imagination to discover God. They can begin to see how their “personal narratives” fit into the grand “meta-narrative” of God’s story upon the earth.

Yes, there’s much about postmodernism that can seem bad, ugly, even downright scary to the Christian believer. But I choose to look with hope at the beauty in this mindset. A generation that is open to God and hungry for supernatural experiences. And I can’t wait to reach this generation through the stories, dances, and dramas that God lays on my heart.

What sort of church culture do you enjoy personally? What are you or your church doing to reach out to this postmodern generation? Do you totally disagree with everything I've just written? It's okay, you can tell me the truth, I'm all about being authentic :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Welcome, Guest Blogger Agent Kelly Mortimer!

Move Past Your Past
By Kelly Gottuso Mortimer

If you've never made a mistake, raise your hand. Okay, so I can’t see you, but I bet your hands are at your sides. [If not, raise your other hand, as ya just lied.]

The Bible tells us Jesus, although without blemish [in other words, He’s perfect], died on the Cross so us sinner-folk [Well, at least I'm one.] could gain eternal life, even though we make mistakes. Ridiculous! What a deal! Sound too good to be true? Mayhap. But it is true.

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

So, if we ask for forgiveness, we have it. And we should ask for forgiveness. [Well, at least I should.] When we do, God cleans our slates--draws a line in the sand—forgives and forgets. So why can’t WE forgive ourselves? God has no trouble forgiving us; we have trouble forgiving us. [Well, at least I do.]

We insist on dragging our weighty baggage everywhere we go, believing ourselves unworthy. [Well, at least I do.] Are we worthy? No. Does God forgive us anyway? Yes. And when God grants forgiveness and we don’t accept it, we’re slappin’ God in the face. Bet you never thought of it that way. [Well, at least I did.]

Okay, try this. You ask your spouse, parents, whomever, for the most expensive gift in the world. They give you the gift [and it’s even beautifully wrapped], and you say thanks, but no thanks. I bet someone’s gonna get mad at you. [Well, at least I would.]

God gave you the most precious gift He could. Don’t throw the gift back at Him. Check your baggage in a locker and toss the key. Move past your past, and don’t look back. God isn’t behind you; He’s in front of you. Forgive yourself, and join Him.

Questions:
1) Why do you think we find if so difficult to forgive ourselves?

2) Do you think living with guilt is healthy?

Challenge:
Grab a piece of paper [I needed an entire tablet] and a pen. Write down the sins you can’t seem to forgive yourself for. Read each item one-at-a-time. After each, thank God for forgiving that sin, and tell Him you accept His forgiveness. Then tear that part of the paper off, and throw it away. Continue until your hands are empty, which symbolizes the sins you hold against yourself. [None.]

~*~
Kelly Gottuso Mortimer of Mortimer Literary Agency represents clients in both the secular and inspirational markets for fiction and nonfiction works. She's A Top-5 Publisher's Marketplace Top 100 Dealmakers – Romance Category, an American Christian Fiction Writers “Literary Agent of the Year,” and a recipient of Romance Writers of America, Orange County Chapter’s “Volunteer of the Year” award. She’s the president and CEO of Underdog Press, "The Transparent Publisher," and in her spare time, she designs one-of-a-kind handbags for her business, Four Gals Designs. Kelly will never get the writer out of her. She loves to share her madcap adventures as "The Lucy Ricardo of the 21st Century" on her blog, and is currently writing the biography, Paula Jones: Making History, for Paula Jones.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ozark Weddings

by Anita Mae Draper

Ozark Weddings by Anita Higman & Janice Thompson (Barbour Publishing 2010) contains 3 stories set in the Ozark Mountains.

Larkspur Dreams
Everett Holden is a loner and he likes it that way. An accountant who works out of his home, he has no time for friends or leisure. Imagine his shock when he realizes his new house comes with an eccentric extrovert neighbor with a delinquent duck.
Locally famous children’s book illustrator, Larkspur Wendell, loves life. When she sees a lonely introvert move in next door, she takes it upon herself to ensure he experiences life to the fullest . . . whether he wants to or not.


The Love Song
After an emotionally painful childhood, Clair O’Neal feels like she’s invisible to the rest of the world. Quiet and unassuming, she hides away in a bookstore with her only friend, the senior lady who owns the store. Then one special night, as she attends a party on behalf of her boss, Clair catches the eye of not one, but two attractive men.
Ever since musician Hudson Mandel first laid eyes on Clair, she’s been on his mind. She even inspired him to create a song just for her. But, he needs to get his personal life in order before he can actively pursue Clair. While he’ doing that, he sees her spending time with image consultant Glenn Yves and it seems to be more than just a professional relationship.


Castles in the Air
Nori Kelly is thirty years old and wants to get married and start a family. She needs a beau for her plan to succeed, but there doesn’t seem to be one in her vicinity. Can a book on how to catch a ‘dreamboat’ really be the answer to her prayers?
Zachary Martin is the epitome of a geek, right down to the thick glasses, white socks and brilliant mind. A successful geophysicist, he has all the money he needs. What he wants, though, is for the woman-next-door to look at him with the same love he feels for her. Fat chance that will happen when she can’t seem to abide his presence. But what will she do if he loses the ‘geek’ image and presents himself as just a friend?


This book is a fun read with quirky characters. The authors have chosen completely different and complex characters to lead the stories and it seems they’ll never scale the high wall which divides them.

Can people really change? If they do, can you trust that the change was what they wanted, or merely a reflection of what someone wanted for them? These questions came to mind as I read these stories, because each of these characters change in a profound way.

May I tell you my favorite of the 3 tales? At first it was the first story, then the second, but while reading the third, I decided that yes, that was my ultimate favorite. You see, I saw a bit of me in each of the heroines and yet my faith journey paralleled Nori’s in the final story. She shows a child-like faith to follow God and yet when tragedy almost unrails her dreams, she realizes she hasn’t been following God’s chosen path at all. And then she must face her fear . . . are her dreams what God has planned for her life?

If you get a chance, read this book. At the very least, you'll enjoy the colorful characters. And at the most, you might see how your life can change for the better.


www.anitamaedraper.com

Friday, September 24, 2010

Can The Ant Move That Rubber Tree Plant?




by Susanne Dietze

I have a confession to make.StopwatchImage by wwarby via Flickr


My closet is a disaster.

Well, ok, maybe there’s more mess in my house than just my closet. Since becoming a mother, my housekeeping skills dissipated along with my memory of a good night’s sleep. (Somewhere, one of my friends is probably saying, “what housekeeping skills?” Yeah, yeah, yeah.).

Anyway, back when I first had a baby, I realized right away that I couldn’t do everything. While I had to clean bathrooms, the kitchen, and other stuff that visitors actually see, no one ever saw the cluttered recesses of my closet. It and a few other hidden places – the drawers, the pantry, the cupboards – weren’t public domain, so it was much easier to hide their messes behind a closed door.

Of course I promised myself I’d tidy those places later, but I’ll be honest with you. I’ve moved since then and my bedroom closet is still a wreck. It seems like I just transferred boxes of junk from one place to another. In the quiet moments when I’m actually home, there are always meals to prepare, piles of laundry to fold, Bible studies to finish, sinks to scour and stuff to dust. Cleaning out the places nobody sees is still pretty low on the list of priorities.

I know better, though. I know what magic can be accomplished by the Fifteen Minute Principle.

The Fifteen Minute Principle, or what I lovingly refer to as “The Ant Principle,” is nothing fancy. You may already practice it yourself. We don’t have to move mountains (or clean closets) all in one day. Sometimes, small acts can be as effective in reaching a large goal as hefty ones, just as Proverbs 30:23-24 reminds us:

Carpenter ant, Camponotus sp.Image via Wikipedia“(A few) things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: ants are creatures of little strength yet they store up their food in the summer….” Proverbs 30:23-24

Ants are known for being small but mighty. I learned this truth (sadly) not from the Bible, nor from my own childhood deduction, but from that 1950s Frank Sinatra song, “High Hopes.” It’s been stuck in my head since I started writing this post! “Whoever said that ant can’t mo-ooove a rubber tree plant? ‘Cause he’s got High Hopes, he’s got High Hopes…”

The truth is, ants are small, yes, but they’re diligent. “Wise” and “strong,” even, according to the verse. I’d like to be both of those things. While ants can lift more than ten times their body weight, they still have to struggle one little bit at a time. Maybe they can’t really move a rubber tree plant, but a grain of sand or a bit of lunch is still a lot to them. They carry the speck, deposit it at home, and head back out for more. In this way, ants manage to store a generous supply of food and move mountains of dirt. Their example taught me that a little bit of labor, consistently done, can accomplish something big.

Fifteen minutes may just be a speck of time to us, hardly worth noticing, but it can be enough to tackle a manageable chunk of something. Like my messy kitchen drawers, for instance.

Last week, I spent fifteen minutes cleaning out one drawer. Just one. I recycled the take-out menus we never use, tossed broken crayons, and gathered the paperclips I found. Then I stopped and moved on to something else. The next day, I attacked drawer #2 and organized all the little Box Tops for Education I’d shoved inside for our school collection. After a week of cleaning one drawer per day, I had the kitchen drawers somewhat neat and organized.

Now I’m moving on to other projects: organizing the kids’ outgrown clothes, straightening the linen closet, and pulling weeds. Even if a project looms too large – like my closet, for instance – I still break it into chunks of fifteen minutes’ worth of work. I haven’t started that chore yet, but I know what it’ll look like. Mend a sweater: fifteen minutes on Monday. Organize the wrapping paper that’s fallen all over the place, another fifteen on Tuesday. In a week, it’s done, or at least better. I hope.

The Fifteen Minute Principle doesn’t work for everything, but it offers me a daily, reasonable goal with tangible results. I’m all for tangible results.

I pray for all of us today to not grow weary or overwhelmed by our tasks, but to learn to better manage them.

Do you have a system for tackling looming chores? What's the messiest part of your house?

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Faith: Inside, Outside, Upside Down Christianity

by Dina Sleiman

In college I remember writing a poem that began with those words from the famous children's book. “Inside, outside, the whole world is upside down.” At the time I was attending a Christian university in the middle of the Bible belt South, and more often than not, what I saw was Christianity focused on outward issues.

In a way it made sense, I guess. The Christian university would have had a hard time dictating that we all put others first, have loving, intimate relationships with Christ, hear his voice and walk according to the moment by moment leading of the Holy Spirit.

It was much easier to say you had to wear skirts everyday that came to the tops of your knees (that would be for the girls of course, and I must confess, I’m cool with guys not being allowed to wear skirts.) For the guys it was daily ties, short hair, and no earrings or beards. There were rules about swearing and alcohol and mandatory church attendance. We had a student honor code and dress code and dorm rules (did I mention if you were under 22 and unmarried you had to live in the dorms). The rules went on and on and they were all focused on who we were on the outside and the sort of impression we gave the community and the all important donors.

Now there’s not anything wrong with any of those rules in and of themselves, although few had anything to do with actual Biblical principles. I’m sure they were all designed to make us disciplined individuals and productive people, but rules were not going to lead us one iota closer to Christ. In fact, in a lot of cases, the severity of the rules caused people to rebel.

You may have a hard time believing this from your friendly neighborhood free-spirited, heavy-metal-loving Inky, but I was raised to have great respect for rules and authority, and I do (God wired me as an INFJ, but that's a self-help post for another day.) There were basically three responses to these excessive rules in college: students who didn’t mind them and followed them, students who ignored them and didn’t care, and students who were in constant angst, feeling that the rules were ridiculous and unfair, but who wanted to honor God by following the rules. In other words students who wanted to live from the inside out. In other words, me.

Okay, I feel like I’m caught in the college years, kind of like when I have nightmares about wandering through campus without my schedule or being forced to live in the dorms with three kids. Let’s fast forward to today. Today, I’m raising my own teenagers. And I’m not raising them in dormitories or with upside-down Christianity that focuses on outward standards. I’m raising them to live as I long to live, from the inside out.

Outside-in Christianity is a result of focusing on law. In the Old Testament God gave us law because Christ had not yet died on the cross for us. The Ten Commandments are great and all, but did you ever stop to consider that there weren’t just ten, there were hundreds? If you want to live by the law, shouldn’t you follow them all? The law brings death. Jesus brings life. We are now living under a new covenant. A covenant with principles, not law. A covenant where God calls us to a higher standard and demands our very hearts.

* Note: I wanted to insert a scripture here, but I pretty much needed to quote at least one gospel and most of Paul’s epistles. So, you know what, just re-read the whole New Testament. It certainly won’t hurt you.

Did you ever stop to consider that for several thousand years of mankind’s history there was no law? God judged by the heart for at least 2,500 years (let’s not get into a debate over the creation date here, cause I really don’t care). Only for the last 1500 or so years before Jesus did we have the law. The law was revealed so that man would understand how far we lived from God’s standard of holiness, and that we could never, ever, meet God’s expectations on our own. We needed a savior.

And he sent one, who died on the cross to redeem us from our sin and reconcile us to himself. He now wants us to live by basic principles. The law of love. The fruit of the spirit. We need to know his word, yes. Absolutely. Not because we need to reach our daily quota of Bible reading, but because God renews our mind through his word. Because God reveals his character in his word, and we need to know him as a best friend. We need to pray, yes. Because how can you be intimate with someone you don't communicate with? We need to be in church, yes. Because we need the fellowship of other believers to help us grow in our walk with the lord. Because we are one body in Christ, and we need to function together to reach out to a hurt and dying world. We need to live a holy life, yes. Because it pleases God and keeps Satan from getting entrance into our lives.

But living a holy life goes much further than keeping the Ten Commandments. (Read those epistles one more time please. Seriously, it will be good for you.) It involves dying to self, putting others first, extending love to the world around us. No more gossip or gluttony or lust. No more worry or condemnation, bitterness, despair, or low self-esteem. We are God’s children. His heirs. A royal priesthood. His ambassadors to the world.

But we’ll never get there on our own.

We’re going to fall short. God is well aware of that. That was his whole point in sending a savior. It’s almost as if the outside-in people act like Christ saved them once, and it’s been their job to save themselves everyday since.

This simply is not what the Bible says. Anywhere. God wants our hearts. A much higher standard than the law. He is not out to zap us. He has paid the price to secure our eternal destiny. He wants relationship with us that flows from the inside out.

Just think about it, Christianity that flows from the outside in (if such a thing can even truly exist) would get stuck there. On the inside. No wonder these upside-down outside-in Christians have such little impact on the world. Christianity from the inside out flows, well, outward. Like a river of living water to quench the needs of a hurt and dying generation. Christianity from the inside out releases God’s kingdom from deep within our hearts to everyone we encounter.

So no more upside down Christianity. Let’s all live from the inside out!

Have you been living from the outside in or from the inside out? Was there ever a time in your life when you lived from the outside in? What results have you seen from outside-in Christianity?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


A New Kind of Publishing
by Grace Bridges

Hello from New Zealand!

A short while ago Gina and I got talking, and I mentioned that my books aren't CBA. "We promote some ABA authors too," she said, and I had to break the news that I'm not ABA either, but one of a new and possibly strange breed known by its proponents as independent publishing. So she's asked me to come and explain a bit about what that is and how it works.

view from Grace's office window

Technology is racing onwards at explosive speeds, as my colleague P.A. Baines wrote here on Monday. And that technology is in the process of turning the publishing world upside down. No longer is there only one way to get published: the search for an agent and publisher, paved with rejections and often ending in failure.

E-readers such as the Kindle, Nook and iPad, along with many smartphones, allow for the storage of huge numbers of books within one small device. Each type of machine typically has its own file format, though some can read multiple formats including PDF. Creating these files requires only average technical skills, and no ISBN is required – so anyone can publish a book, and there doesn't have to be a print version.

Self-publishers aside, there are a lot of small independent publishers doing just that. The key to success is having titles available in all the different formats so that any given buyer can get the file type necessary for their e-reading device.

But that's only a small part of the independent publishing model.

Heard of POD?

Print on Demand (POD) has unfortunately often been associated with vanity publishing, when in fact it is nothing more than a method for printing and ordering that is both economically sound and environmentally friendly. The publisher uploads the cover and text as files to a printer, who makes the information available to distributors – such as Ingrams – and retailers, such as Amazon, B&N, and the Book Depository, to name just a few.

You know the really amazing part?

NO stock is printed.

As orders come in from the retailer via the distributor to the printer, only then is a book printed. A single copy at a time. Digital printing presses have become so efficient that the unit cost per book, singly produced, is now no different than for traditional print runs that go into the thousands and end up being destroyed if they don't all sell.

I had it in my mind for some time to set up such an operation – all by myself, yes sir. Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press got started before me and is doing a magnificent job with this same type of publishing model. I share his appreciation for speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, and supernatural. And that's what I publish. With time, other team members have come on board to assist with editing, design, and even soundtracks (!) so that I'm not doing everything alone these days.

Publishing is an exhaustive passion, consistently taking more time than expected. I've sat proofreading in the wee small hours, I've wrestled with last-minute cover tweaks, and wrangled with authors and editors. But each time a project is wrapped up and a brand-new author's dream comes true – that's a feeling like nothing in the world.

You can check out our titles at http://www.splashdownbooks.com/ – and if you want to know more about my writing, there's a summary page at http://gracebridges.blogspot.com/p/grace-author.html which lists my short story publications (most available online), my ongoing superhero serial, and my books so far.

Ever bought a POD book? If so, which one? What POD book are you looking forward to buying next? If you buy e-books, what's your favorite e-reader and why?
~*~
 
 
Grace Bridges is a sci-fi author (Faith Awakened, 2007, and Legendary Space Pilgrims, 2010) and owner of Splashdown Books, an independent publisher of inspirational sci-fi and fantasy at http://www.splashdownbooks.com/. She's a Kiwi of Irish descent living in beautiful New Zealand, and a chocaholic cat-lovin' Trekkie, Jesus freak, repeat globetrotter, hack web designer, and all-round DIY gal who also takes care of the Lost Genre Guild blog.

www.gracebridges.blogspot.comFAITH AWAKENED
www.gracebridges.com/facebook
www.gracebridges.com/twitter


 
Have you ever wondered... if your life is designed? Coincidences, déjà vu, fate, God... what does it all mean? Have you ever wished you could go back and do things differently? Maybe you can. Maybe you did already. If you could design your own virtual world to live in, what would it look like? Is God a computer programmer? And can he take you to heaven... before you die?
 
Buy a copy today at Amazon or Book Depository!
 
"Just how badly would we wreck things if global society is governed as though humans were the highest power? Can technology apprehend the Divine? Bridges is a literary artist, who paints her dystopian future setting with a vibrant narrative-style brush. FAITH AWAKENED is a Biblical Sci-Fi classic, and I look forward to viewing more of Grace Bridges' futuristic works in my mind's eye." --Frank Creed, author of FLASHPOINT

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hijacked by History


by Debra E. Marvin

Where did history meet you?
Where did it wink, turn, urge you to follow?

Was it in a schoolroom nudging the back of your brain through the words of a teacher?
Perhaps a lesson given via a stuttering filmstrip? (didn’t the filmstrip always have a problem necessitating the help of a boy from the Audio Visual club? Well, at least back in the sixties and seventies. By the way, those nerdy boys are all making big bucks now.)

Was it on a trip to a small, musty museum or the filing past of a fife and drum corps in a parade? Or hearing stories told by your parents, your grandparents, a reenactor or docent?

Or did you first leave your present, everyday world through the pages of fiction?
Replica tall-ship "Enterprize" in Me...Image via Wikipedia
Maybe history never teased you. Maybe you’ve never really stepped through its doors.

That would sadden me. History is a real place—a place of imagination, possibilities, joys and sorrows. You’ll find skirmishes, chisels working at stone, horses pawing at dusty trails and snorting with impatience, and the sound of workaday chatter between neighbors, merchants, servants and lairds.
I smell it. I hear it. I feel it.

Can you smell the meal in a colonial hearth? Hear the snap of a schooner’s canvas? Feel the anxiety of a family saying goodbye to a loved one off to a new land, perhaps never to return?

I’ve always liked history. Something along the way got into my head and became my world of play. I don’t remember when but it continues to be kindled by books, movies, travels. It’s still my world of play and I admit I’m often annoyed when it’s time to leave and come back to the present. I’m not alone. Anyone who writes historicals can tell you we love our modern medicine, but…





Maybe being a dreamer, a wanderer in another century is, to you, a waste of time. That’s okay. Think what you will. It won’t bother me because, frankly, I might be sitting here, but I’m looking at you from another time and place.





Are you able to choose one favorite historical period and setting?

Where would you spend a day if we could get our Inktropolis Time Machine up and running?


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Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Author P.A. Baines!

Gina here :: As I was researching Christian fiction with international settings, Splashdown publisher and sci-fi author Grace Bridges and I struck up a conversation. P.A. Baines is one of her authors. The premise of his book fascinates me. So much, I've order a copy of P.A.'s book, for me, as well as my teen-age son, to read.

by P.A. Baines

Have you heard the story about the brave hero who saves a kingdom from destruction and, as a reward, is told he may have anything his heart desires? I am sure there are a few such stories, but have you heard the one where the hero asks for a chess board full of rice?

He asks that a single grain of rice be placed on one corner square, and that double the number of grains be placed on each adjacent square, until all the squares have been used. The king scoffs at this request, assuming that it will be a paltry amount, and agrees. And yet there was not enough rice in the whole kingdom to pay the young man.
The reason there was not enough rice is because the increase was exponential.

At the end of the first row there were 128 grains of rice. By the end of the second row, the square held 32,768 grains (about the number in a 1kg bag). At the end of the third row, our hero was looking at over 8 million.

So how many grains were on the last square? Over 9 million, million, million grains of rice. In total, the boy wonder was owed approximately 500 million, million kilograms (or 500 thousand million metric tons) of rice! That is 50,000 times the amount of rice exported by Thailand in the whole of 2008. Needless to say, that is a lot of rice.

About forty years ago, Gordon Moore at Intel was quoted as stating that the number of transistors on a computer circuit would double every year. This became known as Moore's Law and has been pretty accurate for almost half a century.

So what does this have to do with grains of rice?

Nothing, except that the same principle of exponential growth is at play. Technology is not just growing in complexity at a steady pace.

It is exploding.

Science is enjoying a heyday, and they are bent on persuading people that God does not exist. Just this week, the man considered by many to be the successor to Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, declared in his new book The Grand Design: "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist."

So, according to one of the greatest minds in the world, the universe did not need God to come into existence. You can almost hear the New Atheists cheering.

Personally, I have nothing against science. I admire the tireless work done by scientists to make this world a better and safer place. There is a problem however, when scientists work in a moral vacuum or on the shaky foundations of a moral system that can change based upon the whims of a world lost to sin.

Many years ago, the aim of science was to learn more about God's creation. These days, the aim seems to be to destroy God. Scientists, now free from the absolute boundaries of moral responsibility, move forward without stopping to see if they really should. Not so long ago , there was talk of trying to clone a human. The world said "no", but the world's moral system can and will change. One day that "no" may become "perhaps" and then eventually "yes".

The same can be said for Artificial Intelligence (or A.I.). Scientists are rushing to see who can be the first to create a computer that can think for itself. Science fiction tends to paint a grim picture of A.I., from the heart-wrenching David in the film "Artificial Intelligence: AI", to the sinister Hal in "2001: A Space Odyssey", to the downright maniacal murderousness of the Skynet in the "Terminator" series.

But has anyone stopped to ask what happens if we succeed in creating such an intelligence? What happens if we create a mind that not only thinks for itself, but also becomes aware of itself? Do we just turn something like that off?

A few years back I saw a television show in which a programmer had created a colony of virtual "ants". They were just dots on a screen, programmed to obey a few simple rules. The programmer discovered that, from time to time, the chaotic movements would suddenly become ordered, as if some sort of hive intelligence were at work. He said that he hesitated to turn off the program. Can you imagine how he would feel if that program had the same self-awareness as a human?

In my book, Alpha Redemption, I explore this issue through a spaceship's computer (Jay) who starts out simply being able to learn which, over time, leads to him developing a sense of self-awareness. With an insatiable appetite for knowledge, Jay consumes information wherever he finds it. Soon, however, scientific facts are not enough and he wants to learn more about love from the ship's sole astronaut (Brett). Before too long, Jay wants to know about God and Brett suggests he read the Bible. Jay then wants to know if he has a soul and what will happen to soul when he "dies".

My story is pure science fiction but, like so much in the genre, it is only just so. The time may come when our exponential search for scientific advancement presents us with a being that we have created who wants to know if it has a soul.

What will we tell such a creature?

Perhaps more importantly: should we even be going down that road in the first place? We need to answer these questions now because if we wait much longer it may be too late.
~*~

P.A.Baines is the author of Alpha Redemption, a Christian speculative fiction novel that asks the question: “If a man-made artificial intelligence became self-aware and developed a belief in God, would God recognize it as having a soul?”.
Educated in Africa, he works as an analyst/programmer and is studying towards a degree in Creative Writing through the Open College of the Arts in England. He currently lives in a small corner of the Netherlands with his wife and two children and various wildlife.

http://www.pabaines.com/
http://newauthors.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/#!/P.A.Baines

ALPHA REDEMPTION
From despair he fled, through tragedy he lived on, and journeyed to innocence. His trajectory: the stars. His companion: a computer poised at the brink of sentience. An unlikely friendship on a prototype spaceship at lightspeed towards Alpha Centauri, and redemption.

Buy a copy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, and Splashdown, .


"In Alpha Redemption, a story both fascinating and unique, P.A. Baines wonderfully marries two of my favorite themes: the danger and isolation of space exploration and the idea of man's creation giving him greater insight into his own Creator. If you like your science fiction on the introspective side -- on the order of Clarke's 2001 or Pohl's Gateway -- then this is a must read."


~ Kerry Nietz, author of A Star Curiously Singing, 2010 Indie Book Awards Finalist in Science Fiction and Religious Fiction categories

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Wobbles


a devotional by Debra E. Marvin

Mourning Dove perched on a wire.Image via WikipediaWhat do birds and house painters have in common? Your first thought might be “big white splotches”.
Doesn’t sound like a nice way to start a devotional does it?

Well, what I was going for was “balance.”

Birds line up along my utility wires, socializing, and I thought little about that skill until the day I noticed a young mourning dove’s repeated struggle to get it “just right”. Wobble, wobble. I was compelled to watch, like a crowd witnessing a high wire acrobat with comments of ‘whoa, ooh, watch it, oh no’ as the performer defies gravity.





Think of it. How do some of those big birds perch there without just spinning forward or backward on that tiny wire, and find themselves hanging upside down? I’ve lost balance and found myself spinning. Barely hanging on. What about you?

Our lives get upside down in the blink of an eye, don't they?

My mention of the house painter’s balance came not from the work of stretching to paint the eaves, but from the day I moved my longest extension ladder. Sixteen feet. It’s a bit heavy. Dragging it would be very awkward. But if I find the exact middle of the ladder? Voila! I can pick it up easily. Balance.

Balance, it seems, depends upon knowing where to hang on, what to grasp hold of . . . knowing how you center your burden, or how you center "yourself".

God promises to be with us through the valleys and the mountaintop. His word tells us
how to be concerned but not worry,
how to follow our goals without being driven by success.

We need to be content with where we are in the things we can't do anything about, but unsatisfied in those things we can. Free will, remember? Looking down at the path disappearing just ahead of our feet, but remembering to raise our head and move forward, sometimes in the dark, toward what God has for us. It’s not easy.

It's a balancing act! But it can be done.

When you get the wobbles, reach for your Bible and hang on.

Philippians 4:12-13
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

Psalm 91:1-2
He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.

Would you share a verse that helped you during your last case of the wobbles?
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman

by Gina Welborn

Several months back on FHL's Finish the Book writing list, Vannetta asked for influencers for her first Amish romance. I sent her a note congratulating her, while adding "not me!"

Being the optimistic gal she is, Vannetta said, "Take a chance and read it."

Several exchanges ensued vaguely similar to "no," "yes, trust me, you'll like it," "I won't, and you're insane," "seriously, you will," "uggh, what part of 'I don't like Amish stories don't you understand,'" "just read it," and "grr, okay, but I won't like it."

Vannetta did the crazy thing and sent this Amish-book-disliker a copy.

My first thought, "Cute cover, but I still won't like it."

My second thought, "Egad! I'm gonna have to find something nice to say about it because I agreed to endorse it (despite Vannetta's e-arm-twisting)."

Well, I read page one. Hmm. Not bad. But I didn't have time to read the book at that moment; thus, I set it aside.

Cherry Crest Farms
click HERE to visit
For our family vacation this year, we took the kids to Lancaster, PN, to visit our non-Amish friends, the Connells. (Actually, all are friends are non-Amish, or as my oldest son says "nomish." Not that we aren't open to having Amish friends.)  On day one of vacation, we went to Cherry Crest Farms...while, along the way, hubby sated his fascination with taking pictures of all the Amish folk.

"They're not animals in the zoo," I said in hopes he'd stop. He didn't.

Despite my uneasiness with his picture-taking, here's one that I'm glad he took:

Yes, that Amish chicka is wearing transition lenses. And she doesn't look too happy with the dude driving the buggy. Hubby and I then had a debate about their "story."

Courting? Or irritated siblings?

Hubby finally said, "They're probably supposed to look somber all the time. An Amish thing."

What?! Oh please.

No, I insisted the girl was vexed at the guy...and he's not too happy about it. Or her.

Next came several buggies with couples laughing or just looking like they're having a lovely time being together. One buggy had a chicka sitting in the doorlesss opening...and resting her leg--HER BARE LEG BECAUSE SHE'D HIKED UP HER SKIRT--on the front wheel beam.

"Did I just see that Amish chicka's naked leg?" I asked hubby.

"Yep."

I wish he'd have taken a picture. Get this. The next day, we saw an Amish chicka (maybe late teens, early 20s) smoking a cigarette. Oh yes, we did!

I felt like God said, "Gina, you've had this narrowed-view of the Amish. Lemme shatter it." Ouch! I'm glad He did because I'd brought Vannetta's book with me to read on the way home from Lancaster.

Annie Weaver always planned to return home, but the 20-year old RN has lived in Philadelphia for three years now. As her time of rumschpringe is about to come to an abrupt end, bringing for Annie an overwhelming sense of loneliness. She returns home and finds herself face-to-face with a budding romance with an Amish farmer and Annie has several important choices to make.

Took me barely two hours to read the book. And I didn't skim a single page. That's a big deal right there because I freely admit I'm a skimmer. I figure it's an author's responsibility to include passages to sate my bad habit.

Only Vannetta didn't get the memo. (Neither did Laurie Alice Eakes in her Avalon historical, When the Snow Flies, but that's a review for another day.)

I liked A Simple Amish Christmas.
Didn't think I would back before Vannetta sent it to me.
Don't have to find something nice to say.

Because it was a sweet, satisfying romance.

One of the things Vannetta does well as an writer is layering in emotion of all her characters, not just her leads. That's key because in other Amish romances I've read, I never sensed much physical attraction (okay, emotion) between the hero and heroine. Annie and Samuel had a physical, emotional, and spiritual connection. Nice! That's what I want to read in an inspirational romance. In fact, I'd like to read a non-Amish romance by Vannetta to see how she handles the sexual tension without the uber-conservative Amish parameters.

I've been reading The Moral Premise by Dr. Stanley Williams. Great book for novelists and screenwriters. Has Vannetta read it? I don't know, but in her story is a line that sums up the moral premise of A Simple Amish Christmas.

"Love doesn't take time, dear. It takes giving of yourself."

Of course, the novel is a wonderful demonstration of living a life of grace.

I encourage you to read Vannetta's debut release and see how she applies the moral premise throughtout her stories and through her leads and several secondries.

A Simple Amish Christmas is an October 2010 Abingdon Press release. The more Abingdon novels I read, the more impressed I am with the variety (and quality) of novels they're putting out. To learn more about Abingdon, click HERE.

A Simple Amish Christmas
by Vannetta Chapman
ISBN-13: 978-1-4267-1066-7
Softcover
Copyright 2010
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Releases in October, 2010
Visit your local bookstore...or find it at AmazonBarnes and Noble, Borders, Christian Book, and Lifeway.