CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Alison (agboss) who won Susanne Dietze's The Reluctant Guardian!


Congratulations to Elise Jehan who won a copy of The Secret Admirer Romance Collection!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Plastic Romance Resurrected

by Niki Turner

Current events can be depressing. We've got "Snowmageddon 2011" on the east coast, continued economic difficulties and high unemployment, a war that drags on and on, reports of an impending horrific volcanic eruption in Yellowstone expected to destroy the US as we know it, a nation deeply divided politically, and more. But I ran across some happy news this week, Ken is wooing Barbie again, and hopes to win her back by Valentine's Day.

Ken and Barbie split up in 2004, 43 years after their first television commercial together in 1961.
Those who considered them the epitome of the ideal couple in all their blond, blue-eyed perfection were traumatized by the news of their break-up. While Barbie continued to increase in popularity as an independent career woman, Ken faded quietly into the background.
The NEW Ken

But he's back now, sporting a new look (with real hair again!), a new tagline (Sweet Talkin' Ken), and a plan to win back the woman he loves complete with public declarations of love on LA billboards, Facebook flirting, and special orders from elite NYC cupcake bakeries.

Western Ken
My first Ken doll was "Western Ken"
Will Barbie reconcile with Ken? What triggered their breakup to begin with? Will being able to run her plastic fingers through his newly-rooted hair reignite Barbie's original love?

How about you? Do you love or hate the idea? Do you think Barbie should have moved on to a new fella?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Welcome, Guest Blogger Author Golden Keyes Parsons!

WELL WORTH THE EFFORT
by Golden Keyes Parsons


Recipe for Coconut Cream pie
Homemade pie is my favorite dessert. You can have your cakes. Give me a homemade pie of any kind, any day. Now I’m not talking about a pie with a frozen, pre-made crust that one purchases at the grocery store, filled with instant pudding and topped with artificial whipped topping. I’m talking the genuine article—homemade flaky crust, filled with made-from-scratch filling flavored with coconut, or cocoa, or lemon, and topped with mile high meringue, or real whipped cream. Or a deep dish crust filled with fresh cut apples or peaches, sweetened with sugar and cinnamon, topped with a lattice work of crust, served hot a la mode. It took work, time, good ingredients and someone who cared enough to do it right. My mouth is watering!

When our twin grandsons were born, I stayed with my daughter for six weeks. One afternoon I declared, “I think I’ll make a chocolate pie.”

She said, “You’ll have to go to the store. I don’t have any chocolate pudding mix.”

“You don’t have to have instant pudding to make chocolate pie.”

“You don’t?”

I served a homemade chocolate for dessert that evening.

“Mom! I had forgotten how good homemade pie tasted. This is worth the effort.” My child had grown so accustomed to a shortcut, pleasant tasting substitute for chocolate pie that she had forgotten what the genuine article tasted like.

Sometimes I fear many of us may have settled for a mildly pleasant, flat tasting substitute, as our diet of faith … bland ten minute devotionals with no genuine communication with the Father. We’ve abandoned our former rich times with the Lord and settled for a more predictable, easier walk, because of the routine and busyness of daily life, and it became simply too hard, too much trouble, or took too much time.

It is hard work, and it does take time, but let’s taste of the Lord, and see that He is good. Maybe we have forgotten how good being in His presence can be. Just like that homemade pie, it’s well worth the effort!

“O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

~*~
Dare to take God seriously!

Golden Keyes Parsons is a popular retreat and conference speaker, author of historical novels and an ordained pastor. Her book, In The Shadow Of The Sun King, (Thomas Nelson Publishing), first in a four-book series based on her family genealogy, released Fall 2008, and was named a finalist in the ACFW’s Book of the Year Debut Author category. The book chronicles the saga of the Clavell family in 17th century France, where, as French Huguenots, they suffer persecution at the hands of Louis XIV’s Catholic government. The second book, A Prisoner Of Versailles, was a 2010 RWA Daphne inspirational romantic mystery/suspense finalist. Her latest release, Where Hearts are Free, and her other books can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or CBD.

http://www.goldenkeyesparsons.com/.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Time to Dance

by Dina Sleiman

Did you ever get just the right novel at just the right time? God seems to work that way a lot with me. This fall my husband went on a trip to Nashville and brought me a book for my “souvenir.” He figured with a name like A Time to Dance it would be a sure hit. I wasn’t quite convinced I would enjoy a Karen Kingsbury novel, but I kept that little tidbit to myself. I did, in fact, love the title as well. So into my TBR stack it went, and I promised myself I would get to it soon.

Once I finished my stint with reading sisterhood novels for my own research, I pulled out the Karen Kingsbury book. As some of you know, I have been going through some really tough times in my marriage, and around that precise moment I was closer to giving up than ever before.

So can you guess what A Time to Dance is about?
I’ll give you the brief rundown. After over twenty years of marriage, Abby and John are about to announce their impending divorce to their children. They’ve tried everything and have nothing left to give. But at the family meeting before they can share the news, their twenty-year-old daughter has her own surprise announcement to make. She’s engaged and getting married in the summer. Being the dedicated Christian parents that they are, Abby and John decide they will somehow figure out a way to paste on fake smiles and make it through six more months so their daughter’s day can be perfect.

The book is all about marriages. How do they fall apart? What makes them work? What happens when they end? Abby and John are surrounded by a lively cast of secondary characters who each reflect this issue in some way. And, as I’m sure you figured out by now, this novel touched me in a significant way. I can’t promise that you will respond to it as strongly, but I think anyone will find elements in this book to change them and help them grow.

Whether you have let yourself get caught up in the busyness of life and grow hard-hearted like Abby, escaped into an relaxing relationship with a supportive and flirtatious “buddy” like John, have given up on marriage like their future in-laws, or are looking forward to a perfect marriage like their daughter, no doubt you will find someone in this book to relate to.

I related most to John. Although he never had an affair, over time his escapism with his “buddy” Charlene Denton did serious damage to his marriage. The other woman in the book, Charlene, was quite a character indeed with her subtle and patient seduction of John. She will serve as a cautionary tale for me for a long time. But John played along all too easily and contributed in his own way.

Ultimately, the most important thing I learned from the book was this: it takes two people to destroy a marriage and two people to repair one. This novel encouraged me to do something God had asked me to do several weeks earlier, and that I had been wrestling with him over.

To take a leap of faith hand in hand with my husband.

So in a bold and unified move, my husband let go of some of his hurts and fears, and I let go of some of mine. We’re taking a leap of faith. I don’t know the end of the story, but I can tell you that things turned out well for Abby and John, and I’m hopeful that they’ll turn out well for us.

This book was originally written ten years ago, but has recently been rereleased, just in time for me. What books have come to you just in time? What fiction books have changed your life? What messages have touched you?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Daily Detox


by Susanne Dietze

Did you know that the Hebrew word for God’s glory is kavod, the same word the Hebrews used for liver? You’d think if God’s glory were described as an organ, the heart or brain would be somewhat more appropriate. But not to the Hebrews. Kavod is also translated as “heavy,” and the liver is the heaviest organ in our bodies -- if one of the least glamorous.
Tea (1)Image via Wikipedia
The other day in the store, I passed a display of medicinal teas and I noted a “Daily Detox” blend which supposedly helps one’s liver purge contaminants from the body. Now, I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on this blog, and I am in no way endorsing or promoting this product. But considering that one of the liver's main occupations is to break down toxins, I was intrigued by the idea of getting rid of the garbage that might be lurking inside of me.

Not that it’s only physical pollutants festering under my ribcage right now. My life has been in an “interesting” season (for lack of a nicer term). Sometimes we can choose what we let into our lives, but sometimes bad stuff just comes our way and we have to deal with it. Whether it's by my own fault or circumstance, as I sit here, I'm buried under stuff. I’ve realized that I need to get rid of some of the sin, fear, disappointment, and frustration that have lodged in me for too long.

Burdens, whether they’re physical or spiritual, are best dealt with as they come, however, before they grow so large that they take a toll on our health and relationships. A spiritual, physical, and emotional “Daily Detox” seems a wise way to get rid of the bad stuff in a healthy way, to me. Here’s what I came up with, no medicinal tea required.

Psalm 51Image by kellycrull via Flickr--Make God part of your daily habits. Spend quiet time with Him and give Him your burdens. Whatever life throws at you, He wants to help you handle it. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

--Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me… (Psalm 51). Confession, as they say, is good for the soul. And the body too. Living with unconfessed sin is not only burdensome, but it’s against God’s will. He wants us to be set free from the darkness that binds us. Ask Him to reveal the areas of your life needing cleansing, and then seek forgiveness. He’s promised to wash us whiter than snow.

--Get a Life – A social life, that is. One study shows that being with friends can help reduce our bodies’ productions of cortisol, a stress hormone. Stress weakens our systems and weighs down our spirits. God doesn’t want us to handle stress alone: we’re supposed to carry each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2).

--Watch what you eat. We all know certain foods are healthy choices, but a few vegetables may be of particular help to the detoxification of the liver. (I’m not promoting any home remedies, but these foods are wholesome, no matter how they help us.) Beets clean the blood and absorb heavy metals. Garlic may do the same with mercury. Artichokes increase bile production, an important liver function, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower help produce enzymes and flush our systems.

--Exercise! This seems obvious, but when I’m down in the dumps, the last thing I want to do is take a walk around the block. In addition to getting your heart rate up, stretch. Try trunk twists to squeeze out your organs a bit (as one exercise instructor told me). Then drink water.

--A cheerful heart is good medicine (Pr. 17:22). Laughter increases our endorphins and lowers blood pressure, and nothing helps my family decompress better than indulging in our favorite comedies. Find whatever it is that tickles your funny bone, and make it a deliberate part of your day.

--Praise God. He intimately knows us, body and soul, and He knows the difficulties we face daily. He alone is big enough – heavy, kavod enough – to bear our sin and make us clean. He deserves our praise, no matter our circumstances. Looking to Him first puts the rest of our lives in perspective.


Serious Question: Do you have any tricks for getting garbage out of your life?

Silly Question: Beets are not my favorite food, but I'm trying to eat more of them. Especially with blue cheese, which makes everything better. If you like beets, do you have any suggestions for recipes?


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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Welcome Barbour YA author Roger Bruner

Gina here: Roger is one of my ACFW-Richmond friends...and a fellow Barbour author. I'm delighted and honored to share his faith moment and his new YA release with you today.

WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES

by Barbour YA Author Roger Bruner

Abraham is such a faith hero of mine that—in 1994—I started writing a musical drama about his sacrifice of Isaac. Although I never finished Covenant Child—perhaps I lacked the faith that I could do his story justice—I did write quite a bit of dialog and some of the music (listen to Prelude). Probably the most significant piece was The Faith Song.

Faith’s acceding to God’s leading,
And it’s going without knowing;
Faith’s revering and adhering to God’s Word.
Faith is moving without proving

And agreeing without seeing;
Faith’s abiding in—not hiding from—the Lord.


Some really good thoughts, it seemed at the time. Maybe even inspired and inspiring.

And, oh so descriptive of Abraham’s situation. . .

Acceding: not arguing with God or making excuses to stay home; letting God be in charge about moving and about sacrificing Isaac

Going: heading off to a foreign land without knowing what he’d find there; also taking Isaac to be sacrificed without knowing how God would carry out His promises

Revering: letting God be God and not trying to take God’s place

Adhering: sticking to God’s plan, no matter how strange or disturbing

Moving: packing up and leaving the stability and comforts of home to go to a strange, new place

Agreeing: being willing to accept the new land as home—sight unseen; preparing to sacrifice the miracle child God said would father millions without seeing any other alternative

Abiding: living in God’s will, no matter what

But I wasn’t Abraham facing a sudden move or a disturbing sacrifice. Nothing out of the ordinary was happening in my life at that time. No special needs. No cares or problems that were out of the ordinary.

When things are going acceptably, I don’t have anything to challenge my faith. So The Faith Song became just one more song in my repertoire.

But circumstances changed drastically in 2002. Although things at work had begun going downhill—I was having trouble keeping up with, much less conquering a new assignment—I believed they would turn around. Yet I suddenly found myself downsized—laid off after almost nineteen years at the place where I’d always thought God wanted me to spend the rest of my life working. Had my work really deteriorated that much—to the point it was easy for them to decide who to lay off?

What was I supposed to do? I wasn’t old enough to retire—I was only fifty-six at the time—but I was far too worn out from trying to keep up with changes in Information Technology to remain in that field.

I had no idea what I wanted to do—much less what God wanted me to do. In the midst of my struggles, I found my faith growing—oh! is growth a painful process!—and I wrote a new faith song. One that was intensely personal.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s helping me in ways I can’t see.
God understands all my problems;
He knows my best efforts
Are not enough to solve them.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s retouching my faded hopes and dreams.
God always provides the things He knows I need.
I believe God’s holding me in His hands,
Assuring me I’m safe in His plans.
He banishes fear and confusion.
I know that His way is
My only true solution.
I believe God’s working behind the scenes,
Drawing from His unlimited means.
God always provides the things He knows I need.

The truths of that song helped sustain me through a long period of uncertainty, including a year of working at home for a management consultant and three years at the register of a Target store.

I didn’t know at the time of my layoff—I never would have suspected—that behind the scenes God was in the process of turning me into a published Christian novelist. A profession where all of my skills and life experiences would count. Without them—the bad as well as the good—I wouldn’t have had the background—the outlook and the insights—to do the kind of writing I do now.

Faith sustained me through the questioning times, but God—the object of my faith—was the One who brought me safely to shore at a destination I hadn’t even thought of steering towards. I’ll have to save the details of that cruise for another time.

~*~

Roger Bruner worked as a teacher, job counselor, and programmer analyst before retiring to pursue his dream of writing Christian fiction full-time. Kristi Rae Bruner lives in the Orlando area and enjoys reading, hanging out with friends, and cooking. During her teen years, she went on a life-changing mission trip to Mexico.

Website: RogerBruner.com
Facebook: Facebook.com/roger.bruner
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3JXf5WUSCA



Found in Translation

Faith, obedience, and forgiveness intersect in a remote Mexican village.

When Kim Hartlinger—eighteen and spoiled—arrives on a mission trip to Mexico and discovers, to her chagrin, that she’ll be doing construction in a remote village without plumbing and electricity, rather than evangelism in a medium-sized town with a fast food joint . . . she has only two choices. “Rough it” (which isn’t exactly what Kim had in mind when she signed up for this trip) or turn around and head home.

Will Kim be able to touch the villagers’ hearts with the Gospel? Or will her time in Mexico be up before she gets the chance?

FOUND IN TRANSLATION can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,
Blessed and Beyond Booksellers, Books-a-Million, Borders, Christianbook.com,
Lifeway Christian Stores, Family Christian, and Mardel's.

~*~
Serious Question of the Day: Ever had an Abraham-Faith moment? How did God grow you through it?

Non-Serious Question of the Day: What song routinely gets in your ear and takes residence? (You can't answer "This is the Song that Never Ends, It goes on and on my Friend, You started singing it not knowing what it was, and now you're singing it forever just because...It's the Song that Never Ends, It goes on and on my Friend...")

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jane Incorporated

by Debra E. Marvin

"Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor. Which is one very strong argument in favor of matrimony." Jane Austen

Jane had four books published during her life, with two more published posthumously. She sold her first manuscript Northanger Abbey for £10 (£670 today, or ~$1060.00). The three subsequent novels did well but Jane lived in fear of not being able to provide for herself and her mother and sister. She had trouble finding publishers, for heaven’s sake.Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...Image via Wikipedia (a painting of Jane by her sister Cassandra)






















I would have to be possessed of a clever brain indeed to determine her accumulated wealth since that day.

“A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.
Jane Austen.”

In 2003, a first edition of 'Pride and Prejudice' sold for ~$63,000. The latest film version of Pride and Prejudice made over £60/$95 million worldwide. Jane’s mother is spinning! And Jane appears quite vexed.

The subsequent printing of her novels alone would make her a wealthy woman.

Austen’s fiction can be considered difficult to navigate for the modern reader, while others find only its clever charm. Above all, Jane Austen was a master of dialogue and portraying relationships. If anything her popularity continues to grow, mostly through movies. If you're hesitant to pick up a novel, try one as an audio-book.

On Saturday February 5th Susanne Dietz, our reigning tea and crumpets cognoscente will be receiving guests as she presents a backlist of Austen-inspired fiction. You can bet your barouche she will be able to cover only a small percentage of novels written as fan-fiction (using characters from her novels, or even on Jane herself). Don't miss it!

Until then, I shall like to make you aware of the rest of the Jane Empire:

--The Jane Austen Societies of UK, North America, Australia--these folks don’t mess around. They are an organized force of Janites.

--Jane Austen tours--you can find one to every place Jane lived, traveled and put quill to ink. I believe this also covers any setting in one of her books as
well as the locations used in the Austen movies. Oh, I’m practically packed.

"Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings." Jane Austen

--Websites—Where to begin? The Republic of Pemberley (and shame on you if don’t know Pemberley), is one of the most well-known. www.austen.com is also worth a visit.

--Blogs—Who can fathom? You could spend a day blog hopping across the Austen world and all things Regency. An endless babble longer than one of Miss Bates’ monologues.
(Check out this one, Jane Austen's World, for some examples of relative value of Mr. Darcy's income today)

--Movies—sigh. Here’s how I best support Jane.

Pride and Prejudice: 1949, 1958,1967, 1980, 1995*Colin Firth, 2005*Matthew MacFadyen

Sense and Sensibility: 1950 (Cloris Leachman as Marianne Dashwood?), 1971,1981,1995* Emma Thompson, 2008* Hattie Morahan

Emma: 1948, 1954, `972, 1996*Gwyneth Paltrow, 1996*Kate Beckinsale, 2009*Romola Garai

Northanger Abbey: 1986, 2007

Persuasion: 1960, 1971, 1995*Ciaran Hinds, 2007*Rupert Penry-Jones

Mansfield Park: 1983, 1999, 1999*Frances O’Connor, 2007*Billie Piper

Then there's movies like Bride and Prejudice 2004, Clueless 1995,
Lost in Austen, The Jane Austen Book Club

Sorta Biographicals—Becoming Jane, Miss Austen Regrets

--Annual festivals, College Courses, Merchandise? Oh yes, you betcha.
Check out the Jane Austen Action Figure. Love the Spencer. It's just my color!

Jane Austen Tea! (Yes, I stole this from Susie as well)

As I sit here writing this, I am watching Miss Austen Regrets and drinking green tea out of my Jane Austen mug.
What would Jane do? Well, she
wouldn't drink out of a mug.


Tell me, if you're an Austen fan, what was your last contribution to the empire?


One more thing to warm up readers (female readers) for Susie’s post next week.
I leave you with Mr. Darcy. Or, as Jane herself put it:

"One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other."
Jane Austen

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Historical Gems...Or Should I Say Jewels

by Guest Author Roseanna White

I love history. For as long as I can remember, I would sink my teeth into each detail I learned, and usually gnaw on it until it turned into a story in my mind. One of the things I love most about the Old Testament is the history it brings to us. Better still? When third-party history and archaeological evidence backs up the Bible stories I've heard since I was a child.

One of my favorites was always Esther. Last winter I was thinking about how I'd love to write a novel about Esther—yet my style isn't to use real people as my main character, it's to explain real events through fictional characters. Now how, I wondered, could I do that with the story of Esther? I was standing in the shower when it came to me—Esther was one of many young women brought to the king. What about the other wives?

As the idea brewed, I got out my study Bible and got a few facts straight. Like, you know, which king of Persia this was. I found that historians can't quite agree on this. Some insist it's Xerxes, others Artaxerxes, some pose others altogether. I like the arguments put forth for it being Xerxes, so I ran with that one with quite a bit of excitement—see, I already knew something about Xerxes. In college we had to read Herodotus's Histories, which details the Greco-Persian war and so the king who waged it.

Over the course of a few weeks, I reread Esther for the umpteenth time and reread the Histories, taking notes like crazy. Brought in some other historical data too, of course, and watched some documentaries on Persia. And you know what? The way it all clicked made me giddy.

In the book of Esther, the king is absent from the main story much of the time and seems fairly distant when he is there. We get only a few glimpses into his character—he had a temper on him, he was a fan of beautiful women (shocking, right?), and he was generous with those in his favor and impatient with those who weren't. Can the same be said of every king? Er, no, not actually.

In Herodotus, we get to know Xerxes pretty well. He's beloved by his people to the point of being revered as a god, though they were in a fact a monotheistic society. He was a man of passion and temper, who ordered people executed left and right when he was in a rage and offered them cities as rewards left and right when he was happy. And some of the things he's most remembered for are his affairs, one of which led to the deaths of a few of his closest family members.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so too.

A few other facts snapped into place so beautifully that I became really convinced it was Xerxes in Esther. First of all, the timing. If you line up the events of Esther with the events of Xerxes' reign recorded by Herodotus and Persian historians, you get a few really cool clicks. First, that 180-day-long feast, where Vashti of the Bible refuses to come before his guests in her crown? That would have been when all the nobles were gathered to plan out the war. And the queen would have been about 8 months pregnant with her final child—pretty good excuse not to want to go before all the men in the empire and be judged for your beauty, eh?

There's a three-year gap between when Vashti is dethroned and when new young women are brought to the palace. Did it really take the king that long to cool off and think, “Gee, I better name a new queen?” Well, sure—because that's when he was at war! Pretty neat, huh? Herodotus has him arriving back in Susa (Shushan) within months of when the new virgins were scouted.

Maybe to some these things are small, but to the historical novelist, they're like candy. I had so, so much fun combining two history sources into one story—and yes, explaining it all through a fictional character. See, in my version, Kasia is the real reason the queen is deposed (let it be noted that Esther never says she's put to death, though that's the common notion). She's the reason for much of what happens during the war. And she's the unifying force behind the scandalous affair mentioned above and the arrival of new potential queens at the House of Women.

Because, you see, she was the one who held Xerxes' heart all along. And when a king with countless wives places his heart into the hands of a poor Jewish girl, trouble is bound to brew.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
How can she love the king of kings without forsaking her Lord of lords?

Kasia grew up in a poor Jewish home with more siblings than luxuries. But when a chance encounter forces her to the palace of Xerxes, she becomes a concubine to the richest man in the world. She alone, of all Xerxes' wives, loves the man beneath the crown. She alone, of all his wives, holds the heart of the king of kings. Traveling with Xerxes through Europe as he mounts a war against Greece, Kasia knows enemies surround her, but they’re not the Spartans or Athenians. The threat lies with those close to the king who hate her people. She determines to put her trust in Jehovah–even if it costs her her marriage.

Years of prayers are answered when Kasia's childhood friend arrives at the palace after the war, but even as she determines to see Esther crowned in place of the bloodthirsty former queen, she knows the true battle is far from over. How far will her enemies go to see her undone?

Combining the biblical account of Esther with Herodotus's Histories, Jewel of Persia is the story of a love that nearly destroys an empire . . . and the friendship that saves a nation.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Roseanna M. White, author of A Stray Drop of Blood and Jewel of Persia, makes her home in the mountains of Western Maryland with her husband, two small children, and the colony of dust bunnies living under her couch. After graduating from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, she and her husband founded the Christian Review of Books, where she is the editor. She is a member of ACFW, HisWriters, and HEWN Marketing.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Roseanna is also a good friend, a regular guest here on Inkwell, and my critique partner. I'm very excited to say that I got to read this book far in advance and also help with the photo shoot for the cover. Oh, and that line about loving the king of kings without forsaking her lord or lords... Okay, obviously I'm a little excited. Jewel of Persia is already on my personal favorite list. It's currently available as an ebook on amazon.com, and will be coming out in paperback this summer. You don't want to miss this one. What historical gems have sparked your imagination? Who is your favorite Bible character. ~ Dina


Monday, January 24, 2011

Chatting Around the Virtual Table


by Jennifer AlLee

On this, our Current Events Monday, I thought it might be fun to see what all of you have on your minds. What's new in your neck of the woods? What's been the topic of conversation in your household lately? Grab a cup of coffee (whatever floats your boat) and pull up a chair at the virtual table. I'll throw out a few things to get us started...

Weather - It may surprise you to learn that I spent a good part of last week working in my yard. Not shoveling snow, but pulling weeds, clearing flower beds, and planting flowering kale and bushes. This is one of the nifty things about living in the desert... 65 degree days in winter. What about you? Have you been weathering winter storms, or basking in the sun?

The Economy - As I heard yet another editorial about how the government isn't doing enough about unemployment, it struck me... what do people expect the "government" to do? With the exception of hiring folks in their own offices, politicians can't create jobs. What the government can do is create an atmosphere that encourages and stimulates business growth, thereby affecting hiring practices. So what's the solution? Heck if I know. I do know that people in all careers are going to have to broaden their scope of what a typical job looks like. Have you noticed how many jobs have become automated? If you're like me, you're old enough to remember a time when human beings pumped your gas for you. Then, the stations gave you a choice of self-serve or full-service. It wasn't long before there was no choice... self-service became king. All those jobs went away and they're not coming back. Look for the same thing to happen in grocery stores. This doesn't mean there won't be jobs in the future, they'll just be different jobs. What about you? Have you had to re-evaluate your career path, or are you holding firm?

Entertainment - Today, I came across the remake of the movie The Parent Trap on TV. As I watched the credits, this caught my eye: Introducing Lindsay Lohan. It was so odd to see a fresh-faced Lindsay in her first role. She was so sweet, so innocent. So talented. And now, she's in such a bad place. I'd love to see her turn things around and reclaim that early promise. Let's all pray for Lindsay! What about you? What entertainer are you rooting for?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Prone To Wander




A devotional by Debra E. Marvin


O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.


I had a recurring nightmare when I was younger (no this is not the Anaconda nightmare but a different one). I was in a large room with giant columns and the room was full of things that seemed to be in my way, making it difficult to get to where I wanted to be: safety.


Sometime near the end of those nightmares, when I was probably a pre-teen or teenager, my mother admitted to me that she’d once let me get “lost” in a store, while she watched me, reasoning that this was a good lesson to learn and I would not be so apt to wander again. The setting was a department store basement . . . large columns and crowded racks of clothing. You be the judge.NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 28: a sale sign stands on ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife


Now, I don’t blame my mother for that. I admit, I think coddling a child can go too far. I tried not to set my children up for disappointment but let them know that life could be unfair, frightening, and difficult. They had to take responsibility for their actions. They had a mom who loved them unconditionally and would stand up for them—but they needed to stand on their own two feet as well. I encouraged them to be curious, caring, independent and to know how to have fun and be a good friend. They turned out okay. I think.


And, yes, I needled my mom for those nightmares and her little ‘lesson’ about wandering.


She tells me I did far less of it after that.


I guess it worked.

Until I got older. Safe in the knowledge that God loved me, but not really too concerned about my actions in return, I did some wandering again. I learned some painful lessons and I scared myself. My Father God the disciplinarian, allowed me to wander. He knew where it would lead and the lessons I’d learn. And eventually, the wandering stopped. Well, mostly.


Now my wanderings are about focus. Now it hurts when I’m praying and find that my mind has wandered to my grocery list, or my bible study time has slipped to thinking about a plot issue in my book. I take some comfort in knowing I’m not alone.


I’m glad I have a Father who knows my desire is not to wander but to draw close.


The first paragraph above is from the beautiful old hymn, Come Now Fount of Every Blessing. If you’d like a reminder, I’ve linked Chris Rice's version here.



Today, my prayer is not new . . . Lord God, draw me in and keep me close.


"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above."

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Movie Recommendation-The King's Speech

By Lisa Karon Richardson

Okay, so it’s got Colin Firth, I don’t have to tell you to go see it. But I have a blog post to do, and by golly, I’m going to do my duty.

The Duke of York, affectionately known as Bertie, stuttered, and for a man constantly in the public eye it was an agony. He tried several doctors until in 1926 he began seeing a speech therapist named Lionel Logue. On the surface it doesn’t seem like the premise for a gripping movie.

But I found the movie compelling. Bertie is portrayed as self-conscious and diffident, but also passionate and witty, loyal and brave. His battle is internal as he is faced with devastating circumstances, beginning with the death of his father. We can see the war within him as he tries to balance his loyalty to his brother’s reign, with his sense of duty to the country. And finally as he assumes the role of king, which he never wanted, and must face the Nazi threat.

Colin Firth is superb in his role as the tormented Bertie, and Geoffrey Rush also does a fantastic job as the speech therapist, and would-be actor, Lionel Logue. His irreverence is a perfect contrast to the buttoned-up duke. It’s his informality and friendliness that slowly drag the duke from his shell and force him to see his potential.

One word of caution. There is some bad language, which earned the movie an R rating. The context of the cursing rendered it totally inoffensive and frankly really funny, and I’m usually sensitive to cussing. Others may not share my sense of humor though.

Overall, the dialogue snaps along, even with the stuttering, and the settings are gorgeous. Character development in this intimate story is fantastic. I highly recommend it. I even sacrificed in preparation for this post and forced myself to see it twice.

Oh, and make sure you catch the previews. Looks like the new Jane Eyre is going to be good!

Anyone else see The King’s Speech yet? What did you think?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Are you headed the right way?

by Niki Turner

"If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." ~Yogi Berra
Even with the advent of GPS, my husband and I have an almost supernatural knack for getting lost when we travel together. On our way home from our anniversary trip to Las Vegas we missed a turn. Okay, we missed THE turn. About a half hour later hubby glanced at the GPS and noticed the blinking dot that represented our position was no longer aligned with our projected route home. Oops.

We laughed it off. After 20 years of marriage, we've been lost more times than I care to recall. It's something of a family joke. My husband has a flawed sense of direction and refuses to listen to me when I navigate for him, so I don't play navigator anymore. It's funny in those family vacation situations. Not so funny when we're talking about the course our lives take.  
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. ~Henry David Thoreau
 What direction are you going? Is your life heading toward the future you envision, toward what you really want for yourself and your family? I keep trying to get this message across to my kids: The choices they make set the direction for their futures. When they make dumb decisions, I'm compelled to point out that they might not like the destination for which they are aiming. 

But I'm no different...
God has been bugging me about how I spend my time. (Does God ever "bug" you? I'm glad He does, it reminds me He loves me enough to correct me!) I might be "wise" enough to be cautious in my choice of companions these days, and smart enough to shy away from activities that could have legal repercussions, but I'm not always wise in my use of time—the most valuable commodity I possess.

Every minute, every hour, every day and week and month are like miles under our tires when we're on a journey. Am I making decisions that propel me in the direction I desire to go? Or am I just idling away the hours in the driveway, going nowhere fast? 

As we spend our time we need to ask ourselves (and the Lord): Is this activity taking me in the direction I desire to go? Don't limit your examination to physical activity, either. Emotional and mental activities are as powerful (if not more powerful) than physical behaviors in determining our course. Just as failing to exercise and eat right have negative health consequences, bitterness and unforgiveness will take you to a lonely destination you don't want to visit. Worry and fretting are guaranteed to pull you away from your God-ordained course for an extraordinary life. 
The sailors of old, the pilots of today, and the wise travelers among us chart their course ahead of time. It's not too late. You can get anywhere from where you are right now. If you aren't heading in the right direction, it's time to change direction. Just because you missed a turn, went the wrong way, or got lost is no reason to give up and go on autopilot! Set your course today! Are you headed in the right direction?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mental Makeover? Yes, Please.


by Ava Sturgeon
People with their minds set on You, You keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit (Isaiah 26:3, The Message).

It was a typical Tuesday evening at our house, meaning that although I was exhausted from a long day at work, hungry mouths were chirping, “What’s for dinner?” Sigh. As I slung the meat into a pan, my thoughts began racing, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty: Not only was the pity party alive and well, but those heart palpitations were also back as I mentally juggled Wednesday’s schedule. Then, as my family inhaled the spaghetti and abandoned a kitchen full of dirty dishes, the tears came. Once again, life’s day-to-day chaos had disrupted my dreams, depleted my energy, and discouraged my faith.

Why do Christian women with great intentions become overwhelmed? During times like these, where is the fruit of the Spirit—you know, those heaping doses of joy and peace that even dirty dishes can’t quench? For me, the root was undoubtedly the neglect of my Heavenly Father. Oh, I listened to Christian music. And heard Sunday’s sermons. I also prayed daily, quickly begging for strength and patience. But regular, anticipatory, one-on-one intimacy? During those days, hardly ever. Who had time?

The shift for me—and by shift, I mean fresh perspective, new purpose and authentic passion—developed gradually but noticeably as I tried something new: Waking a little earlier each morning to meet with God. I wasn’t sure what to do, exactly, with all those minutes of silence. At first, there was a devotional book and fairly routine prayer. Then one morning I got creative and hummed some praise songs, just thinking about the words. Another day the urge struck to write God a love letter. There were no hard-fast rules, other than He and I had a standing appointment that was quickly becoming meaningful.

Before long, my thoughts—God’s thoughts, actually, resonating in my spirit—transformed in pretty drastic ways. For starters, it became clear that I’d committed to obligations God never intended, at least for now. (Yes, I gradually and victoriously learned the wisdom of “no.”)

Second, those pity parties at meal time morphed into prayers like, “Father, you’ve blessed me with food that fills my fridge, and I’m grateful for healthy mouths to devour this meal. Thank you for dishwashers and microwaves and spaghetti sauce in a jar.” Third, my meetings with Him began to run long. Yep, the woman who barely had time to shower was now sitting and enjoying His presence.

Ten years later, as I reflect on the beginning of a consistent, intimate relationship with God, my eyes fill with tears—this time, happy ones. Oh, how He has taught me to rest, to simplify, and to listen! And those prior feelings of crippling overload? Sometimes they still tug, but the thoughts now have no lasting power. You see, each morning a sweet, two-way conversation with my Father adjusts my perspective, replenishes my energy, and puts a new song in my heart.

Prayer:

My Father, My Healer, My Sustainer,

Help me see that circumstance is unrelated to the joy and peace you promise. Strengthen my continuing, growing relationship with you. Show me that knowing you makes all the difference, not only in my thoughts, but also in the lives of those around me. More than anything, I want to know you, enjoy you, and thrive in your abundant plan for me.


~*~
AVA STURGEN taught high school English before retiring in 2009 to work with teen girls. Since the release of A Daughter’s Worth in 2006, she has written for various publications and spoken at faith-based events. Her second book, A Daughter’s Heart, is set for release in 2011. To read her blog for teen girls, visit http://worthydaughters.wordpress.com/. To contact Ava directly, visit http://www.avasturgeon.com/.

A DAUGHTER'S WORTH
What do high school girls, modern-day problems, and the Bible have in common? Everything, as A Daughter's Worth reveals in this interactive, practical Bible study for teenagers. Ava H. Sturgeon, a longtime teacher, understands the unique challenges that young ladies face and gently guides them to Biblical truth through personal examples, humor, and journaling. This twelve-week study is ideal for church discipleship programs but could easily fit into private school curriculums or individual quiet times. For every girl seeking value in today's world, A Daughter's Worth is required reading!

Buy a copy today through Amazon or CBD!
~*~
Gina here: I met Ava through Facebook and knew within moments of friending her that I wanted to share her book with y'all. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Ava's devotional. Let's see...
Question of the Day: When was the last time you needed a "mental makeover" because you were having a pity party?
Non-Serious Question of the Day: If you weren't there to make dinner for your family, what would they end up eating? (Ordering out doesn't count.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Novels to Celebrate Sisterhood

by Dina Sleiman

There's something very special about the power of sisterhood. As much as we might love a good romance, it's those wonderful relationships with female friends that really get us through the day. And those relationships most certainly deserve to be celebrated in fiction.

I spent most of December reading sisterhood novels. Last year I sort of stumbled into writing my own sisterhood book: the story of three young women from vary backgrounds who search together for meaning and truth. And although the book is complete, I wanted to go back and spend time studying the genre. See how the experts do it in hopes of improving my own book.
Here’s what I discovered. Sisterhood books are not about the classic “hero’s journey.” They are not about a protagonist going out into the world and overcoming an escalating set of obstacles to reach a specific goal. Sisterhood books are about relationships, pure and simple. They are a microcosm of society. Characters come together and react against one another. They learn and grow and change through the group dynamics. Usually, the book explores a theme as each of the “sisters” faces related challenges and struggles.

More importantly, there is not one clearly defined “protagonist.” There are multiple protagonists. The groups itself becomes a character, a protagonist in the book. Both the group and each of the main characters have a full story arc.

I'll stop now before I completely bore our reader friends with writer talk. But I think you get the point. There is something different and special about these books. They are not fast-paced, seat-of-your-pants type books. They may toss in some romance, but the true purpose of these books is to celebrate our female friends. Whether the friends share an apartment, a vacation, a prayer group, or a pair of traveling pants, the synergy between them is the true story. So let me tell you about some of the gems I uncovered.

The Yada Yada Sisterhood with its delightful cover no doubt gets much credit for bringing the sisterhood motiff to the Christian world. While I did not personally connect with this book, it had many great moments and spiritual lessons. I think women over 50 would really enjoy it. My favorite of the bunch was Faithful, a new novel by Kim Cash Tate. I related to all of the characters and their conflicts, and the theme truly spoke to where I am in my life right now. Similar to the Yada Yada's and the women in my own book, her characters came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, which always makes for a fun read. I would give The Potluck Club special recognition for being the funniest and having the zaniest characters. And I give Robin Jones Gunn extra points for writing her Sisterchicks series that provided her a travel budget to some of the coolest locations in the world. Smart lady :) The books that best related to my own were those of the Bloomberg series by Melody Carlson with its twenty something characters. These books are great for the younger set.

So that’s my quick assessment of Christian sisterhood novels. And my conclusion about my own? Well, I’m still learning and growing as a writer, and I can’t promise that I’ve gotten everything precisely right yet, but I am more excited about the genre than ever. All I can do now is keep working and praying and hope for the best.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Step into the Gap: The story behind the Brooklyn Bridge

by Debra E. Marvin

It is not by accident we find ourselves stepping into a role we would never dream for ourselves, yet, by so doing, we create a legacy far beyond those dreams.

One of my favorite movies, Kate and Leopold, includes this early scene between Kate (Meg Ryan) and her ex-boyfriend Stuart (Liev Schriber)

Stuart: I found it.
Kate: What did you find?
Stuart: The portal. A crack in the fabric of time. It was over the East River, Kate, just where I said it would be.
Kate: You found the portal?
Stuart: A portal into April 28th, 1876. I jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and took a walk in 1876 today. I followed the Duke of Albany around old New York. Are you listening?
Kate: Avidly.
Stuart: This here's the twist, Kate. Here's the kicker.
Kate: What's the kicker?
Stuart: [whispering] He followed me home.

I’m not quite sure what I’d do if the Duke of Albany (Hugh Jackman) followed me around. That is, however, not why I’m fascinated with the Brooklyn Bridge.

I love its beauty, strength and history, and I made a point to visit it on my last day trip to Manhattan. Is that awesome, or what? I could have stood there all day just to look at it.

This post is about someone who stepped into the gap, not a time portal, and became
The Silent Builder of the Brooklyn Bridge.

This beautiful icon of New York City and nineteenth century engineering, may never have been built in its current design if not for Emily Warren Roebling. The bridge stands now as “…an everlasting monument to the sacrificing devotion of a woman and her capacity for that higher education from which she has been too long disbarred.”

While surveying the site in 1869, bridge designer John Roebling’s foot was crushed between a piling and ferry. Tetanus killed him some days later and his thirty two year old son Washington was put in charge. A year later, construction was stalled again when Washington developed severe Caisson Disease, aka The Bends, and became permanently disabled. His wife, Emily, mother of a two-year-old, took over direction of the project.

Emily had met Washington Roebling while attending a military ball during the Civil War. Marriage was a smart move for Washington--Emily’s ease at leadership and mediation, her confidence and creativity enabled her to direct the entire construction product and work through every setback that came along.
Brooklyn Bridge - detailImage via Wikipedia
The design by Emily’s father-in-law, provided three safeguard systems and made it “six times stronger” than it needed to be. To do this, Washington and Emily had to come up with the huge cables needed for a suspension bridge twice the length of any other. They created their own by formulating a process of wrapping steel wire into steel ropes and twisting them into cables over fifteen inches thick.

Emily was not just a pretty face. She understood “calculations of catenary curves, the strength of materials, bridge specifications and the intricacies of cable construction.” Common enough dinner conversation at my house.

Construction lasted over thirteen years.

The bridge opened in 1883. Emily attended the ceremonies, and became the first person to "officially" walk across the bridge. Her husband, who’d come to be known as “the man in the window” waited at home to host dignitaries such as President Chester A. Arthur.

Emily did not rest. She went on to receive a law degree from New York University, and write a non-fiction book based on the revolutionary war journals of her ancestor, Reverend Silas Constant. Emily traveled to Europe and was presented to Queen Victoria in 1896. (Check out her dress for the occasion, displayed in the Brooklyn Museum.)

















Cool Brooklyn Bridge Facts (Sorry. I love facts)

*The main span is 1596.5 feet long
*It cost 15.5 million dollars to build ~1870-1883
*1884 PT Barnum paraded 21 elephants across the bridge to prove its ‘strength’
*The pedestrian walkway is elevated above the center lanes (the bridge is six lanes wide)
*It took two years to create the suspension cables


Mrs. Roebling’s tombstone in Putnam County, NY is inscribed: Gifted, Noble, True.

Emily Roebling probably did not plan for greatness, but she prepared for it. She stepped into the gap and literally provided the bridge from 'design' through 'completion'.


I recommend Ken Burns' 1982 documentary based on the book by David McCullough (Washington Roebling's character is spoken by actor Paul Roebling, his great grandson. Cool, huh?)








For some icing on this cake...two fun videos:

Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge

Sting – “Until” theme song from Kate and Leopold

Both songs have been stuck in my head while I prepared for this blog.

What are you prepared to do? This could be your year!

What interesting or inspiring facts have you found hidden behind a piece of history?

The quote regarding Mrs. Roebling comes from Abram S Hewitt, who oversaw construction of New York's Subway system.

I'm over at Keli Gwyn's blog Romance Writers on the Journey, today 1/18, with a giveaway. I'd be happy to see you stop by. Keli always does an awesome job interviewing writers and I like seeing the word novelist in front of my name!

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