CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Pam K., winner of Julianna Deering's new release, Murder on the Moor!

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

Congratulations to Deanna Stevens, Annie of Just Commonly and Trixi O...new owners of The American Heiress Brides Collection!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Springtime in the Conservatory


by Jennifer AlLee

Before moving to Las Vegas, my only interaction with a conservatory had been when Professor Plum did it in the Conservatory with the lead pipe. (Clue, anyone?) But now, a twenty minute drive gets me to the lovely conservatory at the Bellagio. Famous for its dancing fountains, the Bellagio also has an ever-changing seasonal display of floral delights. Today, just for fun, I'd like to give you a tour of the latest Springtime sensation. This way, please...

Wooden shoes the size of a Mini-Cooper!

What a lovely windmill

Pretty sure this mama swan is about five feet tall.

No riding this carousel... it's just for looking at.

I do not like bees.... but I'll make an exception this once.

I really should have noted what kind of flowers these are.
Aren't they pretty?
  
Tulips in the back, hyacinth in the front.

More pretty tulips... makes me want to go out and buy some bulbs.
 I hope you enjoyed our mini-tour through the conservatory. It's a place I love to take my friends. How about you? Are there any special places you like to go to celebrate Spring?


JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her novels include The Love of His Brother (Five Star, 11/07), The Pastor’s Wife (Abingdon Press, 2/10), The Mother Road (Abingdon Press, 4/12) and the upcoming A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (Abingdon Press, 11/12). She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.
Visit Jennifer's website at www.jenniferallee.com/

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lessons in a Messy Garage



by Barbara Early

Every now and then, life sends us the perfect illustration for a Scripture verse.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Mat 6:19-21

What event amplified this verse to me? Our much needed cleaning of the garage.

It felt good to be outside--for part of the time--making progress on this long-neglected task. We made many trips to the road and met a few people who stopped by and claimed some of the more salvageable material we threw out. And it certainly feels good to have a clean garage, sore muscles aside.

One thing that was rather sad, though, is the loss of some things that were at one time valuable--things that had been set aside in the garage for a time, and then forgotten.

There was a blanket that a friend crocheted for me, that had been put into the car for a picnic, and then set on a shelf. The mice had found it (we live in the country), and turned it into nesting material. There were a number of old toys--Frisbees, deflated balls, etc-- the mice also found their way into. (I hope the enterprising folk who picked them up clean them well.) My grandfather’s old croquet set…sigh. It had spent time under a leaky roof, and the wooden mallets were warped. They don’t make them that way anymore. Not that I can recall the last time we played croquet. And a few gardening tools that had been left on the concrete floor had rusted.

I’d hate to put a cash value to the “treasures” we hauled out to the road, things that were no longer useful to us, or through neglect were no longer serviceable. And trust me, there’s more where that came from. (This was only one step in our plan to declutter our house and lives. Wait until we get to the basement.)

Like many Americans, we just have too many things.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have and enjoy possessions--and to thank God for them. He’s the giver of all good things, after all. But heaping up so much unneeded stuff that it rusts, corrodes, and falls apart?

Or even if you do keep all the “stuff” maintained, there’s something sad when you’re too tired to enjoy it. (This, by the way, keeps me from drooling over real estate with more than two bathrooms.)

But more importantly, keeping our eyes on temporal things will keep us from focusing on eternal things--on laying up treasures in heaven.

A few years back, when I was teaching Christian school, I often had the reverse problem. I spent so much time each day away from my home in service. And on bad days, when I questioned if it were all worth it, I often cranked an old cassette (yes, ok, it was more than a few years back), and listened to this song on the tape player.

Store It Up Above

Jesus told about a man whose barns were full as they could be
He planned to tear them down and build some more
Oh he laughed unto himself and thought he’d live a life of ease
But he died and left what he was working for.

Chorus:
I’m gonna to store it up above
In the glory of His love
Where the troubles of this world
Will fade away.
I’m gonna keep it up with Him
Till I reach my journey’s end.
I’m gonna store my wealth with Jesus
Till that day.

So don’t store your richness here on earth where moth and rust decay,
Where thieves break and steal them for their own.
For true wealth is not made up of things whatever men man say.
Store your richness up in God’s eternal home.

It helped to think--even when things didn’t turn out the way I hoped--that God had my work and kept it safe with Him.

Q. What can you store in heaven this week?


Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book format from White Rose Publishing in December 2011. You can learn more about her writing on her personal blog: http://barbearly.blogspot.com/ or see what's for dinner on her recipe blog: http://bflogal.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

October Baby Review

 by Dina Sleiman

I don't think I've written a movie review before. Anywhere. Ever.

In fact, now would probably be a good time to confess that I'm not the biggest movie fan. I rarely feel like there's enough time to connect with the characters and so prefer TV series and novels.

But this movie is an exception on so many levels, and I really want to help spread the word. Not only did I quickly connect with these characters and want to join them for the ride, I enjoyed every minute of it. This movie touched me deeply. I cried throughout. It moved me, and it made me think. With the possible exception of the big Hollywood movies like The Blind Side and The Chronicles of Narnia, I've never seen such a fine Christian film. The cinematography was stunning. The acting was great. And the story was powerful. Add in an awesome sound track by some of my favorite bands, and I was one satisfied customer. 

About a year ago, a friend of mine, Cecil Stokes, told me that he was going to be a producer for a movie that would tell the story of an abortion survivor. This is not really mentioned in the previews, but I think that detail is one that Christians will want to know about. For the daring subject matter alone, this movie is worth seeing. When the heroine is undergoing unexplained physical and psychological symptoms, her parents are forced to finally admit to her that she was adopted after surviving a failed abortion. Along with her hunky co-star, she takes off on a journey of discovery to try to make sense of her life. The intense issue is dealt with in a sensitive matter without falling into preaching or didacticism. Which is pretty amazing. The message is carried through the emotion of the actors more so than through any indicting speech against abortion. In addition to the pro-life emphasis, the movie also portrays a lovely story of healing, forgiveness and hope. A subplot of the movie addresses control, which is an important issue I find often overlooked in Christian circles where "submission" of children, wives, and parishoners is often stressed without any balancing teaching on the dangers of a controlling and domineering leader.

To me everything about this movie was just lovely and perfect. Surprisingly (or maybe not), it didn't fare well with some of the big national reviewers, and so I would like to address this as well. While everyone said the cinematography, lead actress, and supporting actress Jasmine Guy were amazing, and even admitted that the movie avoided being preachy, it seemed that overall these reviewers didn't "get it." The primary complaint was that the script wasn't strong and fell apart in the middle. I disagree. And so do the millions of Christians who put it in the top ten during it's first week in the box office. The reviewers said there were too many "coincidences." But of course, they don't understand that in the lives of praying believers such "coincidences," also known as miracles, are normal, even expected. God at work in the lives of man is reality to us.

In this story, God didn't just fix everything, the heroine had her own tough decisions to face, but God did guide her along her path to the people and information she needed. Another complaint was that the comic characters on the road trip were unneccessary. I would say unneccessary or not, they were funny and endearing and brought an extra sparkle to the film. Many Christian movies are too issue driven and on the nose. I felt the road trip scenes gave a great coming of age feel to this story, which were very believable in the life of a homeschooled Christian girl. In fact, I loved the way Christians were portrayed in the movie in general. Broken, flawed, and utterly human, yet filled with a hope in something greater than themselves.


This film has an awesome ending, that will not only leave you encouraged and satisfied, but sighing as well.
And when you go see it (and you need to) be sure to stick around for the closing credits. You will get an "extra" that you won't soon forget in the form of an amazingly touching testimony by one of the actresses. After watching this movie I remembered that I've cried my way through pretty much every well-made Christian film that I've seen. Because they have something secular reviewers don't understand. The anointing of the Holy Spirit.

In closing, I also mentioned that this movie made me think, which I wouldn't have guessed possible since it concerns a subject I've already given a tremendous amount of thought to. The part that struck me, though, was when the director shares in the closing credits that they wanted to be sensetive and bring healing to the "post-abortive mother." Those are strong words. Again, without being preachy, those simple words reminded me that an abortion does not stop you from being a mother. It only changes whether you are the mother to someone who is dead or alive.

A big congratulations to Cecil and everyone involved in this movie for bringing God's beauty to the earth and advancing His kingdom through this powerful film.

Have you seen October Baby? What thoughts and feelings did it leave you with? What Christian films have touched you the most and why? What Christian films have not worked for you and why?

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


Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing has just released. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/
 




Friday, April 27, 2012

Just Add Drama

by DeAnna Julie Dodson

I know. I know. Our lives are complicated enough as it is!

Who needs more conflict? Who needs more trouble?

But what is life without its ups and downs? How bored would we all be if things were always exactly the same day in and day out.

I'm a very no-drama kind of person. Don't try to push me out of my comfort zone. Don't ask me to do anything I haven't done before (and liked). Don't expect me to change my hairstyle.

But sometimes I like to be brave and do something wild and crazy (as long as it's legal and moral). We need a little drama in our lives. It's good for us.

As much as I love cool weather and hate summer, I know the changes in the seasons are necessary. Not only so plants and animals can go through their growth cycles, but because as humans we need the variety.  God knew that when He made us and when He made the world.

So maybe it's time to look at the drama in our lives in a different way.  Yes, we need calm.  We need stability and comfort.  We need rest.

We also need change. We need a little drama. It's good for us.

If nothing else, it makes us appreciate the peace when we have it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Perfect Woman -- Not!

by C.J. Chase


I’ve been having a crazy week. Or maybe I should say, a crazy month. And it’s not going to end for another two weeks, at which point I will be madly trying to make up for lost time on my writing schedule since I have a book under contract. Book? But I’ve been too busy being an author this month to be a writer! Don't worry. I can do it all. Really. 

Ah, life in 21st century America. It was this very busyness that got me to thinking about the Bible’s two women I most love to hate.

The first is an easy choice: Jezebel. She was pretty much pure, unrepentant evil. Who cannot find her actions—the murder of hundreds (that we know of, perhaps many more we don’t)—abhorrent? Jezebel wrote the royal rules of acquisition: what is mine is mine and what is yours is mine.

Actually, if I’m honest, I might have to admit that maybe I secretly like Jezebel. When I consider Jezebel, my sins just pale next to hers and my self-esteem increases by a factor of three. Hey, I may make my “mistakes,” but at least I’m not malevolent like her. I mean well. Mostly. I guess I’m a pretty good person after all, right?

While pride led to the downfall of Bette Davis' character in the 1938 movie, unlike her Biblical namesake, this Jezebel repented of her ways
Of course, comparisons are exactly what I avoid with that pesky perfect woman from Proverbs 31. You remember the one. She’s the perfect wife to her husband (31:12). She’s the homeschooling mom (31: 26) with multiple businesses—farmer (31:16), merchant (31:18), seamstress (31:24). Oh, and don’t forget her works of charity (31:20). And that doesn’t even include the things she does around the house like her home cooked meals (31:15) and hand-crafted home fashions (31:22).

You know, I really don’t like that woman. Not because she does evil, but because she makes me feel inadequate.

We just celebrated Easter two weeks ago. It’s so easy to vilify the priests, elders, and teachers who wanted to see Jesus killed at any cost. And yet, aren’t they so easy to understand, even to relate to? I might find the ideal of Proverbs 31 too much to live up to, but imagine actually seeing and hearing the real live Jesus walking among you. Yikes! Try comparing yourself to that. Talk about a blow to your ego.

And so instead of seeing God’s grace in Jesus, they saw the threat to their pride.

Pride is sometimes called “the mother of all sins” because it leads us to commit so many others. We disobey God’s commands because we know better. We covet because we want to have better “stuff” than anyone else. We lie to make ourselves look better in the eyes of others. Yep, most of God’s top 10 list has a root in pride.

Take Adam and Eve. They wanted to be like God. Pride. Or Cain, so offended because God didn’t accept his offering that he killed his brother. Pride. The builders of the Tower of Babel wanted to “make a name” for themselves. Pride. And I’m only to Genesis chapter 11.

God has some strong words about pride. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace,” (Proverbs 11:2). “He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34). “And those who walk in pride, he is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37).

Pride lets me feel self-righteous when I compare myself to a Jezebel—or pretty much anyone I consider a greater “sinner” than I. Pride makes me resentful when I compare myself to those women who seem to have it all and do it all, without even breaking a sweat—as if there are any “perfect” women out there. (Irony of irony, the same pride that makes me want to convince everyone I am that ideal woman makes me ugly, inside and out.) No matter what you do, you're going to be on the wrong side of my pride because pride is all about keeping me at the center of the universe.

Worst of all, it puts up a barrier between God and me, just like all those examples from the Bible. How many times do I, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, miss God’s blessings—blessings he puts right in front of me—because of pride?

Ouch.
 

You know, maybe being at the center of the universe isn't worth all that.

Does your pride sometimes lead you to try to be the "perfect" woman? 



After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be out in early 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at cjchasebooks.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Surprised My Dream Came True



Hello, my name is Deb and I am an animator.

Which means I don't really have to grow up – ever.

Well, attitude-wise anyway; I've found keeping a child-like mentality helps maintain the creative animation process (I can translate toddler-ese pretty well too). Welcome to my world.



Perhaps I should define what I do, so, according to Mr. Webster -

an-i-mate (verb):
1. to give spirit and support to; encourage
2. a) to give life to
b) to give vigor and zest to
3. to move to action
4. to make or design in such a way as to create apparently spontaneous lifelike movement

Number four must be a more recent addition from Mr. Webster, because it sure wasn't there when I wrote my first school paper about what I wanted to be when I grew up (I DID want to be an astronaut too, but I wasn't science savvy enough *sigh*).

Bunny trail: definitions one and three seem to define the ladies here at the Inkwell as de facto animators - just sayin'…

…and back to the subject at hand:

Life is too short to have a job you hate.


I don't know when this became a credo of mine, but I do know that my pursuit of becoming an animator stems from how the Lord led my mom to raise her children. She always emphasized that God created us for a specific purpose and endowed us with specific skills to accomplish said purpose. Mom also encouraged us to seek out how God wired us and then follow the Path for which that wiring was set. I guess that credo is my paraphrasing of Mom's instruction.

I always knew what I wanted to do as a grown-up. All through childhood (and still now) I drew my own characters and wrote stories about them. I drew so many greeting cards for Mom, (she didn't purchase a card for a good eighteen years) I joked that my middle name was Hallmark. I read what I could about becoming an animator. Most of the time I felt that it was a far off, impossible goal. I didn't take an art class until I started college because the Christian school I attended didn't have any.

Talk about feeling inept. It didn't help that the Dean of the Art School looked upon the commercial artist students as lesser artists (he was a Fine Arts person - very talented but a tad snobbish). I don't have good depth perception - great for cartooning, bad for "real" art. It took a very long time to get past my inferiority complex.

Bunny trail: I do draw well, it just takes a bit longer than my first inclination to cartoonize everything. The lasting effect of that first Dean is I attempt to make sure none of the students who take a class of mine will ever feel like they are lesser artists. End bunny trail.

The thought of "Hey, I CAN be an animator!" occurred when I visited a friend in LA who worked for Disney. She was a clean-up artist on the film The Rescuers Down Under at the time. (yeah, I'm old) She took me around, introduced me to some animators, and showed me what she did. Something in my mind clicked.

As evil genius Gru of Despicable Me is prone to say - "Liiiiight bullllb…" (oh, to have his Minions...)

Bunny trail: the trip to LA also showed me where I NEVER wanted to live. This meant animated feature films would not be in my future, but smaller scale production was a definite possibility. End bunny trail.

Unfortunately, it took another decade before I actually became an animator. Spring of 2000. Graduating with a Masters Degree and working as the planet's most educated Wal-Mart toy department Associate before becoming gainfully employed. I also did freelance animation before the full time gig - nothing huge - small stuff - some that never did see the light of public consumption. Even now, most of the work I do won't ever be seen by the public eye (I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.*heh* Kidding... sort of).

I find great joy in my work, even in animating the seemingly mundane. Why? Genesis 1:26-27: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them..."

Deb's Boys

I like to tell my students that when we animate, we get pretty close to being like God – being in His Image, so to speak. An animator gives seemingly inanimate objects the illusion of life (thus, we can never really be like God, just a good imitator). It's a pretty cool thing - being an echo of God and breathing "life" into something inanimate.


Bunny trail: My favorite animator is Chuck Jones who was known for quoting one of his instructors "All of you here have one hundred thousand bad drawings in you. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone." I've applied that to my learning the craft of writing as well (attempting to tie animation to writing here, work with me). So, I keep writing those "bad drawings", the sooner I get rid of them… End bunny trail.

Speaking of students - I taught a fundamentals of 2D animation class this past semester. Students were assigned a nursery rhyme to animate (a side effect of my having a toddler in my household). It had to be 30 seconds long/short. Thirty seconds doesn't sound like much until you realize that it is 900 frames - 450 images if you animate on twos - that is, one image for every two frames (video runs at 30 frames per second, film runs at 24 frames per second). I asked a few of them if I could “show” their work of here and they were kind enough to say yes. Feel free to click the links and see the talent I was blessed to guide. I'm proud of them and their fledgling efforts (much better than my first meager attempts...).


IanTennis: For Want of A Nail  http://vimeo.com/40872004  

KristinMehaffey: Hey Diddle Diddle  http://youtu.be/ffTz6FzscVc 

EmilyErichsen: Mary and Lamb  http://youtu.be/zuR2vb9cMUs     

TomBrodowski: Sing A Song of Sixpence  http://youtu.be/cASi7x5Pzew

Devin Peck: The Sandman  http://youtu.be/CBFJc6HH9n4


I happened to animate a nursery alongside them, mostly because it was a fun exercise for me and partly to give them something to see that I've done. Students don't always get to see their teacher's work. If I were one of my students, I'd probably give myself a 'B' on this project.




I've also provided a link to my Graduate project that got a three day theater run (the University film festival so the town could see its student's work). I even got a decent review from the local Film critic. It's my one complete romance “book” (five minutes animation = 7200 frames, animated on twos, so 3600 drawings. If a picture is worth a thousand words... um, I'll let you do the math *heh*).

Talking about it would require a whole other post – but hopefully you will enjoy and perhaps get some insight into how my mind works. It's a story about what happens to socks that get lost in the laundry.

Title: Sox n Vio-lintz.

The tag line is: Every sock dries... Not every sock really lives.
Hook you yet?

http://www.reelgood.tv/filminfo.php?film=100SOXVIO


Thanks to the Inkies for the invite to write and thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.

Questions: What did you want to be when you “grew up”? Did you always know, or discover it late? What is your favorite animated film?

Giveaway: Did you like the 2 small avatar samples in Deb's post? Deb is giving away a custom-made animated GIF avatar to one person who comments on this post by Sunday midnight, April 29th. All she requires are the winner's blog rules and parameters so she can do it properly. She's still learning, but she'll give it her best shot.


PS from Anita Mae - I'm so thankful Deb finally decided to post with us.  If you want to see the delightful scuba wedding cake toppers and invitations that Deb created for her own wedding, check out another post on her - Branded.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Deb Harkness is a full-time animator and occasionally is priviledged to pass on her graphic skills/knowledge as an Adjunct Professor at Regent University in Virginia Beach. She is wife to a retired Botswains Mate and mother to an adorable toddler who answers more often to Guppy than his given name. She and hubby met while scuba diving (thus the unfortunate moniker for their child unit) and hope to pass on a love for all things nautical (and nature) to their son. Deb also dreams to one day join the ranks of published authors, either in the Children's market (she draws/animates stories for Guppy) or Romance - she's listening to guidance from God on that. Either way, she plans to follow said guidance since He's done such a great job guiding her life thus far.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

100 Years of Oreos

 
The Oreo cookie is celebrating its centennial this year, along with the sinking of the Titanic and the establishment of the Girl Scouts of America. The Oreo cookie was introduced on March 6, 1912, by the Nabisco company. Nabisco, by the way, is short for National Biscuit Company... NaBisCo.  Since its introduction, the Oreo has become the nation's best-selling cookie.

Honestly, I've yet to meet the person who doesn't appreciate an Oreo cookie now and then. (The main character in Jennifer AlLee's recent release "The Mother Road" binges on Oreos after her husband asks for a divorce. Oreos, after all, are a natural painkiller. Right?)

Those crunchy, dark-chocolate wafer cookies sandwiched around a creamy white filling that cannot be replicated are simply delicious.
The changing face of the Oreo, from 1912 to present, via The New York Times
Personally, I'm a Double Stuf fan (introduced in 1975), but Oreo fundamentalists (they're out there, trust me) swear by the original version and declare all recent additions to the cookie family heretical and blasphemous.
Whatever you think about the latest versions of the Oreo (I like to think of them as different denominations), I believe the following statement can be applied to them all:
The grace of God is like an Oreo cookie,
sandwiched between layers of gratitude. 
Yes, I have discovered spiritual truth in a cookie.

Hey, God talked to Moses from a bush and spoke to Balaam through a donkey ... if He wants to reveal Himself through a cookie, I'm not gonna argue with Him.

We NEED God's grace. Grace is power. It's God's "almighty" added to our "I think I can."
It's how we overcome obstacles, how we conquer temptation, how we accomplish what appears to be impossible in obedience to God's direction. Grace is God's power, His goodness, His ability, all wrapped up in one wonderful package.

Gratitude — simply being thankful for all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus — is like those chocolatey layers of crunchy goodness on either side of the stuffing. Gratitude for the air you breathe, for the relationships you have, for the place you live and the body in which you exist.

As a child I wished I could avoid those cookie layers and stack up the yummy white stuff. As an adult, I've learned to appreciate the cookie part of the Oreo­, much like the grown up ability to enjoy onions and garlic and other flavors children turn up their noses at. 
We'll call it maturity, and with maturity comes gratitude. Not just a greedy grasping for the grace of God, but an appreciation and awareness of the price that was paid to make that grace accessible to us.

Need God's grace for something in particular today? Try starting with the cookie layer of gratitude!

Are you a dunker? Or do you split the cookie from the stuffing? Do you nibble around the edges and then bite off the cookie part? How many stuffing portions have you stacked together before you yielded to yumminess and ate your cookie? (I think my record is four stuffings to one pair of cookies.)
 
About the Author: Niki writes fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Tragedy or Triumph?

 by Dina Sleiman

On April 6th, 2012 an F 18 fighter jet careened into an apartment complex shortly after takeoff in my hometown of Virginia Beach.

For hours no one knew what to expect. I felt sick to my stomach and sat on pins and needles, like I'm sure everyone else in the area did, as we awaited the body count. Beyond that, as a survivor of bombing attacks in Lebanon, the situation triggered some very real fear for me. And my husband's nonchalant attitude toward the danger of potentially toxic fumes in the atmosphere further upset me and brought back bad memories and physical sensations from the most traumatic incident in my life to date.

But as the day stretched on and the rescue workers doused the flames in the building, to everyone's shock and disbelief, no bodies were found--even though the plane crashed on Good Friday morning when school was off and many people had holidays from work--even though 40 apartments were damaged or destroyed. The pilot and co-pilot were both rescued--despite the fact they waited to eject from the plane until about 2 or 3 seconds before it crashed in hopes of getting it under control and preventing a disaster.

Surely there must be some mistake. Surely by morning they would dig bodies out of the rubble.

And that's where the true extent of the miracle was revealed. An F 18 struck an entire apartment complex and no one, I repeat, NO ONE, died. Even the press called in an Easter miracle. Instead of stories of tragedy unfolding, tales of triumph emerged. The way neighbors worked together to save each other. People out of their homes unexpectedly. Daring rescues of the pilots. Pilots who were too busy worrying about others to give a thought to themselves.

A community at it's very best.

We have all too many stories of tragedy in our world today, so I think this moment of triumph needs to be savored. As it turned out it was a malfunction in the plane, and the apartment community was in a "crash zone" near the naval base. But to think that everyone survived unscathed is incredible. I wonder how many prayers went up that day. If the pilot or co-pilot cried out to God, "Please Lord, don't let me kill anyone today." I wonder how many residents listened to that still, small voice in their hearts and got out of the way just in time.

Back to me. Although my triggered feelings of fear were valid, they were also misplaced. Both in Lebanon and in Virginia Beach. The scripture I've been meditating on recently is "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind." Our illustrious Gina Welborn has a new saying, "Panic is a wasted emotion."

It's so true. 

Can you think of any stories of tragedies turned to triumphs? Do you enjoy stories of tragedies turned to triumph? What fears do you desire to overcome?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing has just released. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/
 


Sunday, April 22, 2012

You Can't Get Rid of Roses that Easily



by Jennifer AlLee

About a year and a half ago, my family bought a house. It's not the first house we've owned, but the hope is that it will be our last. That makes me particularly invested in upkeep and beautification. So it was with uncharacteristic vigor that I decided to overhaul the front yard.

It's not a big yard, but it turned out to be a big job. Thank heaven for good friends who came over and helped me remove old plants and put in new ones. Among the removed items were two rosebushes in the front planter. Due to the fact that I'm scared spitless of bees, I'm not a big rose fan. So it wasn't difficult to decide that those bushes had to go.

They were dug up and tossed out. New plants went in where they had been. Wood chips covered everything. End of story, right? No more roses.

Wrong.

Last summer, I noticed that green shoots were coming up through the wood chips... shoots that looked suspiciously like rose stems. I almost pulled them, but then I thought better of it. I was curious to see just what was growing. Were they weeds? Some other rogue plant? Or had the roses somehow found a way to rise from the dead?

When I pointed them out to my green-thumb friends, they said it was entirely possible these new plants grew from the remnants of the old roses, but they probably wouldn't produce blooms. Even more curious, I left them alone and let them grow.

Winter came, and I essentially ignored that front flower bed. The only water it got was when the sprinkler went off once a week, or when God saw fit to send rain. Finally, Spring sprung. The weather warmed. And I decided it was time to start augmenting my plants' water supply.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the planter and saw that, not only were the remnant-rose stems taller, they were full of buds. Deep red roses cover those dark green branches. Even though they were dug up, removed from their secure home, and tossed in the trash, those rose bushes survived. Part of them lived and bloomed.

Seeing those roses made me think about the resilience of the human spirit. Some of us have been uprooted from our secure, comfortable lives. We've been tossed aside by the very people we thought would take care of us. But God hasn't forgotten us. He's nurtured us. Sent us the warmth of the sun, the nourishment of the rain. And under his watchful eye, we find a way to survive. Eventually, we find a way to flourish.
And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? (Matthew 6:28-30, NLT)
How about you? Have you experienced a time when you felt pulled up by the roots? How did God meet your needs?


JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her novels include The Love of His Brother (Five Star, 11/07), The Pastor’s Wife (Abingdon Press, 2/10), The Mother Road (Abingdon Press, 4/12) and the upcoming A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (Abingdon Press, 11/12). She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.
Visit Jennifer's website at www.jenniferallee.com/

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Irish Healer

by C.J. Chase

A poor shopkeeper's daughter, newly arrived in London and facing prejudice and discrimination because of her nationality.

A man of the upper classes unable to forgive himself.

Class differences, street urchins, scheming servants...

British settings have never been as popular in the Christian fiction market as North American locales, so you can understand why this devoted Anglophile jumped at the offer of a review copy of Nancy Herriman's debut novel The Irish Healer.


World-weary widower Dr. James Edmunds wants nothing more than to give up medicine and retire to the life of country squire. After the death of a child in her care--and a murder charge for which she was acquitted--Irish healer Rachel Dunne has already abandoned both her homeland and her profession in a bid to start a new life. But how long can these two people, so similarly disillusioned with life and God, deny their God-given callings as London comes under the grip of a deadly cholera epidemic?

From the back cover:
Accused of murdering a child under her care, Irish healer Rachel Dunne flees the ensuing scandal while vowing to never sit at another sickbed. She no longer trusts in her abilities—or God’s mercy. When a cholera epidemic sweeps through London, she feels compelled to nurse the dying daughter of the enigmatic physician she has come to love. James Edmunds, wearied by the deaths of too many patients, has his own doubts about God’s grace. Can they face their darkest fears? Or is it too late to learn that trust and love just might heal their hearts?

An historical romance set in 1832 London, The Irish healer explores the themes of failure, forgiveness, family, and God's faithfulness. But it's not all dark and serious and spiritual. Herriman adds touches of humor to humanize her characters. Here is my favorite line from the book:

"I accept your apology for wanting to kiss me, Dr. Edmunds," she replied at last ...
"I apologize for trying to kiss you, not for wanting to kiss you," he clarified.

A loyal housekeeper, a maid whose machinations would make Downton Abbey's nefarious Thomas proud, a jealous sister-in-law, and a lonely child round out the cast. But my favorite secondary character hands down is Rachel's cousin Claire, a young woman of deep faith who wants to end the estrangement between her side of the family and Rachel's.

"I do not care what you did in Carlow, Rachel. All that matters is that you are here now, and I can help you find a new future. God didn't provide me with this opportunity to heal old wounds simply to have me walk away."

In fact, it is with Claire's character I have my largest quibble with The Irish Healer. I simply wish she had appeared on more pages. I hope it's not too early to advocate that Herriman provide Claire with her own book so she can continue her quest to restore the family.

Anglophiles and Downton Abbey fans will find much to enjoy in The Irish Healer--and we don't even have to wait until next season.



After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be out in early 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at cjchasebooks.com


Friday, April 20, 2012

Climbing Out of a Rut



by Debra E. Marvin (who has no business writing a Self Help post)

This past winter was pretty pleasant, weather wise. But it's still the season of being house-bound for many of us, and this year, being without a job, I easily slipped into hermit mode.
Other than letting my dog out, my 'little old lady who only drives to Church on Sunday' lifestyle lets me linger long hours of moving nothing but my fingers on the keyboard and chopping vegetables for soup.
Believe me, watching streaming videos on my lap while in a recliner burns very little calories.

But weeks of such inactivity,  lack of sunshine (Vitamin D) and too many starchy, sugary carbs is not good for anyone. Add the glaring fact I'm on the rolls of the unemployed, in a slumped economy as an aging baby boomer in a rural area. Gosh I'm depressing myself here...somebody slap me.

Ha ha. Fake Laugh. It is depressing actually. I pray about it and keep hearing this little voice that says:

"here's the cure, girlfriend..." or rather 'think on these things, my blessed daughter...'

TAKE TIME WITH FRIENDS
GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND GET ACTIVE
FOLLOW YOUR PASSION

I think I've eeked out of another season of the blues by employing the cure! Phew!

1. TIME WITH FRIENDS

C.J Chase, moi, and Gina Welborn... Inkies on a Carriage Ride in Williamsburg VA,  thanks to our lovely COLONIAL QUILLS sister, Carrie Fancett Pages  If you are a fan of  the Colonial period and great fiction, you should be visiting this blog!
Carrie Pagels is "Miss Colonial Williamsburg"!  Her knowledge and enthusiasm made for such a wonderful day. Thank you again Carrie for all your generosity~ Here's Carrie and Dina on the town.


My traveling and LIFE friends, Katie, Wendy and Sharon...and Gnorman the gnome. I was sandwiched between my school buddy friends and my writer friends. Wonderful! We all ate lunch together at the fabulous King's Arms Tavern.

Gina and Dina discussing the politics of the day in the (historical) coffee shop (we are drinking warm, thick, dark chocolate here)

"Milk does a body good"... sure, but hanging out with your buddies is better (if you're taking calcium supplements...)

2. GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND DO SOMETHING
Spring is a great opportunity to spring clean your house and yard. Sure it's a dirty, dusty business, but who doesn't love the 'after glow'.  I 'used' to have a clean house when I was three times as busy.  Last year I decided I had to either keep my house clean or finish my novel.  What Would Gina Do?


3. FIND YOUR PASSION AGAIN
With the loss of my computer to a timely death (wow, I can swear that was just the newest hippest computer ever... has it really been THAT LONG?) I was unable to write for almost a month. It's almost like going on a diet. Only worse.

Then, the best thing happened. My 'virtual' nephew Alex Levine, (Sharon's son) took pity on me and donated an awesome better than I could ever imagine used laptop! I'm back in business!

So, just this week, after spending some time talking up writing with some novice writers, my excitement returned and I can't wait to get back to my manuscript! (okay, I still have that major spring cleaning to complete but I'm buzzing through)

A year ago, it became terribly clear to me that I was a writer. When you can sit and work on something for hours without noticing the time and hate having to stop, then you know you are doing something you love.

Can you prescribe a cure?


What's the last time you laughed so hard you cried? (and if there was any other spillage elsewhere, we don't want to know...)
A couple weeks ago, my friends and I went to dinner at a fabulous Dominican restaurant. Our table had so much food on it we couldn't fit all the plates. The more we looked at the table, the more we laughed. How blessed we are to have such abundance in food and friendship! Thanks Katie, Sharon and Lori

And the best reason of all to smile...
A Weekend of Grandchildren (Birthday and Easter) -Grant, Alanna and Grace. (Son Kyle is that mystery man). We are so grateful for your prayers last year for Alanna's health, and now she's exceptionally healthy, active and happy!


Did winter do a number on you this year? What do you do to climb out of your rut?
I'm giving away two novels to a random commenter. These will be two of my Inspirational  Fiction collection. You must promise to pass them on when you're done and I'll let you pick your choice off my list. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Welcome Debut Author Jessica Nelson!



Today we welcome Jessica Nelson to the Inkwell! Her debut novel, Love on the Range, is available now from Love Inspired Historicals.


Deserving the F-Word; It Just Can’t Be Done
 
Forgiveness….it’s a big thing. Easy to say, hard to do. Maybe we think we’ve forgiven someone and then ugly feelings rise when we least expect it and we’re back at square one, asking God to help us again.


Sometimes I think it’s easier though to forgive someone than to feel forgiven. To forgive someone is an act of will. We’re doing something. But when we feel guilty, how do we get someone else to forgive us? And what if they can’t? What if they’re in a different country or we don’t know where they live—or maybe they’re dead?

The hero in Love On The Range, Trevor Cruz, carries a bunch of guilt. He has a job that emotionally took more from him than he expected and while doing that job, an accident happened. Something he can never, ever undo. So he is burdened, his heart heavy beneath the weight of his guilt.

As I wrote a scene near the end of the book, a realization poured through me and I put the words right into my heroine’s mouth. She and Trevor are discussing a villain and the topic of forgiveness comes up. He wants to kill the villain, believing the action to be just and what he deserves. But Gracie (the heroine) stops him, telling him that even killers need forgiveness. At which point Trevor asks bluntly if she thinks a killer deserves forgiveness.

When I was writing this, it was like a light bulb popped on in my head. Or maybe it just grew brighter, since I’ve all ready known this, but forgiveness, by definition, is undeserved. Pardon is neither earned nor merited.
 
That was a sweet moment for me and for my rugged yet tender-hearted hero. He needed to know that even though there was nothing he could do to change the past, absolution could still be his. He couldn’t pay for it, work for it or earn it, but he could still have it, and the peace that comes with it.

And that to me is the beauty of Forgiveness.

***
Have you ever extended forgiveness (for a debt, a wrong, etc) knowing the other person could never repay or fix what they’d done? How do you handle being on the receiving end of unforgiveness? Have you ever felt that something you’ve done is too horrible for even God to forgive?


***
Want a peek at Love on the Range?

 Any other socialite would view being packed off to a remote Oregon ranch as a punishment. But Gracelyn Riley knows that this is her opportunity to become a real reporter. If she can make her name through an interview with the elusive hero known as Striker, then she'll never have to depend on anyone ever again.

Rancher Trevor Cruz can't believe his secret identity is being endangered by an overly chatty city girl. But if there's one thing he knows, it's that Gracie's pretty little snooping nose is bound to get her in trouble. So he'll use her determination to find "Striker" to keep an eye on her…and stick close by her side.

 ***
Jessica Nelson, in keeping with her romantic inclinations, married two days after she graduated high school. She believes romance happens every day, and thinks the greatest, most intense romance comes from a God who woos people to himself with passionate tenderness. When Jessica is not chasing her three beautiful, wild little boys around the living room, she can be found staring into space as she plots her next story. Or she might be daydreaming about a raspberry mocha from Starbucks. Or thinking about what kind of chocolate she should have for dinner that night. She could be thinking of any number of things, really. One thing is for certain, she is blessed with a wonderful family and a lovely life.
***

Jessica has gracious offered a copy of Love on the Range to one lucky commenter today. If you'd like to be entered into the drawing, please leave a comment with your name and email addy (safely, to avoid spammers.)

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Visit Jessica!
 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJessicaNelson