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!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Setting of Love in Three-Quarter Time

 by Dina Sleiman

Stories come to authors in all different forms. The impetus for my new novel first came from my agent who asked me to write a historical romance novel set in America during the 19th century. From there we narrowed down the setting to Virginia or Pennsylvania, the two states I know the most about. Then after several weeks of prayer, the initial idea came to me in the form of the title, Love in Three-Quarter Time. So I knew it would have something to do with the waltz.

Regency Era Waltz
I wanted it to take place when the waltz first came to America. However, I could only find absolute documentation that the waltz was officially accepted in England in 1816, when it was included in a ball given by the Prince Regent, and that it was well established in America by 1830. From there I chose 1817, figuring some daring Americans probably tried shortly after their British counterparts. And by choosing this time, I was able to give my book that popular Regency flavor.

Next I needed a place for my story. It seemed that it should start in Richmond and move to a gorgeous Southern plantation home nearer the frontier. So I created the fictional White Willow Hall just off the famous Three Notch'd Road which ran through Charlottesville, Virginia. I decided my plantation would be set in rolling hills with a weeping willow, lots of flowers, and a small pond out front. For the architecture, I thought my Beaumont family might have chosen something similar to the nearby Monticello. Oh! And I would include a few scenes at Monticello for an added historical touch.

Monticello
So I went about writing my book, mostly from my imagination and my memories of Charlottesville. I did some online research. But it wasn't until I had already completed the first draft that I had an opportunity to visit Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book. It was quite a feat to figure out where Three Notch'd Road ran today, but with the help of the ladies at the Monticello gift shop, I finally did. Then of course it was farther than expected, and I was running out of gas, and my GPS kept taking me to old country gas stations that weren't open.... Suffice to say, it was the next afternoon before I skipped out on the festival and managed to explore Three Notch'd Road west of the town.

Dina at Birdwood Pavilion (Now a Conference Center) on Three Notch'd Road
And it was so worth it!!!! I found a plantation about 3 miles west of town, right where it needed to be, that fit my description almost precisely. The willow and pond were more to the right side than in front. The house did not have a rotunda, but the size, red brick, white pillars, and verandas all matched! You can't tell in the picture, but there are about two sets of rolling hills between me and the house. The plantation would have existed at the time of my story, although the house was built a few years later. I was so excited that I went back after the festival with my travel companion, author Christy Barritt, to snap some pictures.

Garden Pavilion at Monticello
But don't forget those few scenes at Monticello as well. I had actually found great online tours, photos, and videos. So there weren't too many surprises for me. I was, however, oddly shocked that it sat on top of the only mountain in the area. Duh! Thus the name. But I didn't realize there were any mountains that far east. My favorite place at Monticello was a spot where I had already set a pivotal scene. This lovely little garden pavilion where Constance and Robbie shared a passionate kiss for the first time in five years.

I had so much fun with the setting of this story. I hope you'll enjoy it too! Look for Love in Three-Quarter Time coming with Zondervan First October 23rd 2012.

What's your favorite historical time and place? Do you enjoy Southern plantations and old mansions? If you could set a book anywhere, where would you choose?




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
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 debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, is now available at amazon and other online and ebook distributors. Her latest novel, Love in Three Quarter Time, will be the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. Dina is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. 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/

Monday, July 30, 2012

It's the Olympics!


By Lisa Karon Richardson

The Brits are having quite the year. Not only is it the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, but they are also hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics. Being both an anglophile and an Olympics geek I am loving it.

The events kicked off Friday night with an opening ceremony that really showcased the British personality. I LOVED that they included humor. I've never seen that done in an opening ceremony before. But from the Queen's spectacular arrival at the stadium via a parachute jump from a helicopter, to Mr. Bean's memorable participation in the London Symphony Orchestra's performance of Chariots of Fire, the classic British sense of humor was definitely on display. The drama of England's transformation from agrarian to industrial society had an almost steampunk flavor to it. Director Danny Boyle then captured the move to a digital world through the music of the last four decades. And of course, what bibliophile wouldn't love the tribute to great British literature. It was definitely a smaller production than the Beijing olympics. But I thoroughly enjoyed the London opening ceremony.

The games themselves are always full of memorable moments. Triumphs and tragedies, victories and defeats. American Kim Rhode has captured her 5th medal in a row, taking gold in skeet shooting. She shot 99/100, the highest score in Olympic history. But who could help feeling for Michael Phelps after his disappointing 4th place finish in the mens 400m while at the same time celebrating with Ryan Lochte. And our women's synchronized divers took silver, the first medal for an American diver since Australia. But then favorite in women's gymnastics, Jordyn Wieber, the reigning world champ, failed to qualify for the individual competitions.

Do you love the Olympics? What did you think of the opening ceremony and the games so far?


Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in October, 2012 followed shortly thereafter by The Magistrate’s Folly in November.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Made for One Another


By Lisa Karon Richardson

One of the things that I've been exploring lately is the concept of being conformed. The Bible talks about believers being transformed. But the transformation isn't into some sort of random "differentness." When we are transformed it is into a particular image. We are given a new man so that we can become Christ like. We can take on more of His characteristics and strengths.

But so often we get it all backwards. We try to conform Him to us. We attribute to him our motivations. We try to force our agenda on him.

In our secret underground headquarters here in Inktropolis we've been having a rousing conversation about characters.

What makes us care for them?

What makes us believe that they are meant for each other?

One of the points that came up was that, like Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, or Rochester and Jane in Jane Eyre, a really great couple make one another better. We authors create our heroes with the heroine in mind, and vice versa. They’re literally made for each other. But then we spend most of the book trying to keep them apart.

Why? Because at the start they aren’t even aware of their need. They may be unhappy but they don’t know what can fill the void. It’s not until they get a glimpse of what might be through the other person that they can grow and change.

By the same token, we all, (heroines of our own story,) have been created with a single hero in mind. But it’s not until we get a glimpse of what we might become if we let Him in our lives that we begin the journey toward true love. Relationship with Him molds us into a better version of ourselves. He is crafting His perfect bride.

It’s because a Christian novel can include both threads, spiritual love and physical love that I find them so attractive. Do you find a character complete if they are missing a spiritual dimension? Do you ever find that real people who ignore their spiritual selves seem to have a rather flat affect as well?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in October, 2012 followed shortly thereafter by The Magistrate’s Folly in November.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Great Books of 2012

If the Inkies know one thing, it's how fickle and whimsical contests can be. And that's coming from a group of women who've won a truckload of contests. However, contests are wonderful resources for pointing us towards some truly great books that at least one pool of judges consider to be the best out there.

In that spirit, here are the 2012 Christy Award Winners. I've read many of these authors and a number of these books. Let's share our thoughts about our favorites in the bunch.

Contemporary Romance

Wolfsbane by Ronie Kendig (Barbour Publishing)

Contemporary Series

The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould (Harvest House Publishers)

Contemporary Standalone

Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

First Novel

Words by Ginny Yttrup (B&H Publishing Group)

Historical

Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Historical Romance

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Suspense

The Queen by Steven James (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Visionary

Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Young Adult

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren (David C Cook)

Also feel free to give us your 2012 picks

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What's Next, Papa? ~ Romans 8 Part 4


 by Dina Sleiman

 15-17This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!  18-21That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. 

I’m continuing my study of Romans 8, an amazing chapter which has thoroughly impacted my life. Today we get to my very favorite verse—in fact, the verse that started my intense meditation on this passage.

17This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?"

I just love that! Our life is not a timid, grave-tending life. I wonder how many people picture Christianity that way? Timid. Dead. I wonder even if there’s some implication in this verse that while we must be aware of eternity, we shouldn’t be so eternally focused that we’re no earthly good? Makes sense. Many religious Christians are so busy waiting for “the sweet by and by” that they aren’t enjoying the priceless here and now. We need to enjoy life. Embrace it in all it’s emotions and colors and facets. Dance, play, sing! God is with us here and now, not just after we die. We should be elated by his presence. Celebrate it. Delight in the world he created for us.

Jonny Sleiman rock climbing without equipment
Our lives should be adventurously expectant. I love that too. Lately I’ve noticed that I haven’t been as bold and brave as I used to be. I used to love an adventure. Yes, adventures can be scary, but they are exciting too. No risk, no reward. I have one adrenaline junky child, and he serves as a good reminder to me that risk can be an amazing thing. And yes, odd timing for the post considering the fact that I crashed my bike for the first time in over 25 years last week. Yes, I was going too fast for a beach cruiser on neighborhood roads. Yes, I’m still cut, and bruised, and slightly discombobulated from smacking my face on the concrete. But you know what? I survived. More than that, I discovered that I’m stronger, tougher, and more resilient than I ever would have guessed. And you know what else? Going fast is fun. While our adventures must be tempered with wisdom, overall, they are good things.

And that’s just the word adventurous. What about expectant? Another amazing word. We should have hope—faith. We should dream big dreams. Imagine an awesome future. Don’t live in fear. Don’t waste your time worrying. It’s a pointless emotion anyway. Look forward to the future with expectation.

Greet God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?” Maybe I love that most of all. How’s that for simple trust? My daddy has something great planned for me. I don’t know what it is, but I’m not worried. I don’t even care! Because I know my daddy, and I know it will be good. So I run to him and throw myself in his arms. I let him spin me in a wild circle with my feet sailing free in the breeze. I giggle in delight as he tosses me over his head. That’s my papa—my daddy after all.

I know who I am. I’m a child of the king. And no, not everything will be perfect. Not everything will be easy. But I can look forward with expectation, knowing who I belong to. Knowing I have a glorious inheritance waiting for me. I will go through the hard times with Christ, knowing that good times await me.
Meanwhile, my joyful anticipation deepens. Ahh. Thank you Jesus! Next time we’ll talk even more about the joy in the waiting.

Are you trying to control your life, or are you willing to say, “What’s next, Papa?” Are you timid or are you brave? How can you grow to be more adventurously expectant?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
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 debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, is now available at amazon and other online and ebook distributors. Her latest novel, Love in Three Quarter Time, will be the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. Dina is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. 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/

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Belief

by C.J. Chase

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the “wound”—an injury the major character suffered in the past. I had been studying a Michael Hauge recording about character arcs, how characters grow and change over the course of a story, in preparation for final revisions to my contracted book. (Side note and shameless plug: my studying paid off. My editor loved the book, so be sure to get your copy in February.)

Wounds cause pain, and we humans don’t like pain. We develop ways to avoid pain: don’t touch hot stoves, stretch before you workout, be careful with knives. One way characters (and humans) avoid the recurrence of pain is to develop a “belief” about the cause. This “belief” is the way a character copes with the emotional and/or physical pain of the wound.

Let’s return to Simba, the young cub from Disney’s The Lion King. Simba suffered a wound when his father died and his evil uncle convinced the cub it was all Simba’s fault. How did he cope with this pain? He adopted the belief of “Hakuna Matata” (no worries). He believed that if he refused to take responsibility for anything again, nothing bad could ever be his fault. The new Simba becomes a very carefree—and careless—young lion. Got a problem? Too bad. Don’t ask Simba for help because he’s not your guy.

The problem is that a mistaken belief doesn’t actually heal the wound, but leaves it festering like an infection under the skin. It might look okay from the outside, but it’s poison inside. Simba’s refusal to accept responsibility didn’t alleviate the pain he felt from his father’s death.

Think of the wounded people you know. Did any of them develop a “belief” that let them bury the pain? Perhaps a family member rejected God after a particularly traumatic experience. After all, no loving God would have allowed such pain, so therefore, he has come to a belief there is no God. Or perhaps your friend has cynically rejected all men as selfish dolts after the heartache of a marriage gone sour.

Fortunately for fiction, story characters re-examine their beliefs during the course of their journeys, and we see a transformation in the character by the end of the story.

You see, beliefs—like attitudes—are a choice we make.

Let me illustrate this point with one of the Bible’s most famous believers. (You saw what I did there, right?) Remember Joseph, the second youngest son of Jacob? Being Daddy’s favorite wasn’t all roses and unicorns for young Joe. His jealous brothers plotted first to kill him, then settled for selling him into slavery instead. Nice guys, those brothers.

Joseph sold into slavery

Now if Joe were the hero of a fictional novel, we’d probably open our story with him as a cynical loner type of character, a man incapable of believing good about his fellow man. But Joseph remained faithful to God despite hardships and temptations. God had provided him a glimpse of his future in childhood dreams, and Joseph chose to believe that prophesy would someday come true.

Though wounded, Joseph wasn’t cynical or bitter. When at last he met his brothers again, he offered them forgiveness, and he provided his entire family with land and food and protection in Egypt. After his father’s death, when his brother’s feared he would at last extract his vengeance on them, Joseph revealed his belief: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)

Belief is the heart of a relationship with God, and changing one's beliefs is a spiritual experience. The joy of Christian fiction is that we add a spiritual dimension to the character’s arc -- just like so many of the wounded people around us require a spiritual dimension to their healing. 

What are some of the common beliefs you see that people develop to deal with the pain of wounds? Do you see common wound-belief tropes in your fiction reading? Do the two "match" -- that is, are authors examining real world pain and responses or do they fall back on easier-to-solve issues?





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 available in February of 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at  www.cjchasebooks.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Just a little local color



In school we spend a lot of time studying the big picture of history... the explorers and the wars and those big cultural movements we consider important enough to capitalize (the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, Reformation, etc.). We study our national history (apparently not enough, given the amount of confusion over the Constitution), and usually soak up at least a little state history. But, perhaps because our teachers are tired and curriculum is unavailable, local history tends to be silent, guarded by a few museum keepers and old-timers.

One of the two original houses on my family's ranch boasts a big kitchen and three additional rooms, each with its own exterior door, or two.

For writers and history buffs, that means there may well be a treasure trove of facts and stories from which to glean inspiration, to add color and depth to eras of time otherwise overlooked in the history books, and that treasure might be closer than you think!
Another of the original houses, currently in use as a "band shed" by hubby and sons.
One of the bedroom walls, still clad in its floral wallpaper, has a bullet hole near the ceiling.
For example...

The stove in the "little red house."
1. Family history — You don't have to become a genealogist to delve into your family history these days. Websites like ancestry.com have made researching our family trees easier than ever. I learned that my great-grandfather was married to another woman before he married my great-grandmother. No one knows what happened to her, and no one in the family had ever heard of her before, but they signed a census list as husband and wife...

The barn, which is still in use for hay storage.
The bunkhouse. The original owners apparently put their
 teenage boys in it. Smart.
2. Property history — Sure, many of us live in modern houses, surrounded by even more modern houses. But what was there before? What did your street look like a hundred, or two-hundred years ago? Having moved to property that was homesteaded in the late 1800s/early 1900s, with original buildings and artifacts galore, I feel like I've walked into a living museum. 


Inside the bunkhouse, built-in table and benches.
Cast iron skillets and utensils are original.


3. Community history — Unless you live in your hometown, you might be unaware of the history your community is hiding. We are equidistant from three small towns. One suffered a dramatic train crash in the early 1900s, followed by a mine explosion that left the coal seam in the mountain burning for decades. Another sprang up around a railroad depot. A third was named for a rusty rifle found in a creek by mid-19th century explorers. Those kinds of tales are story fodder!

Anybody live in a house with a past? Or in a town that has some intriguing secrets? Have you considered using the tales of your more colorful family members in a story? Why or why not? 


Monday, July 23, 2012

Trains, Trolleys, and Great Expectations

by Suzie Johnson, with photos by Anita Mae Draper 

Greetings from sunny California!

Anita Mae Draper and I are in Anaheim, California, to attend the Romance Writers of America conference later this week. We’re also getting ready to meet Susie Dietz (this afternoon!) and have a little fun time in my favorite place – Disneyland and California Adventure. But before we get there, we had to make it here.

We both started out on Thursday with Anita headed for Vancouver, British Columbia and me to Seattle. Our plan was to meet at Seattle’s King Street Station on Friday morning where we would board the Coast Starlight and head to sunny California. Thursday was an unusually beautiful day in my part of Washington and since we usually share our weather with Vancouver, I sent Anita a text telling her I ordered the weather just for her. I went to bed in a Seattle hotel expecting to wake up to sunshine. Instead I woke to one of the heaviest downpours I can remember. To make things even more interesting the six mile trip from the hotel to the train station took almost forty-five minutes, shattering my plan of arriving at the station before Anita.

Amtrak has employees called Red Caps who transport passengers from the station to their rail car and vice versa. While I was checking in at the ticket counter my husband found a Red Cap to take us to the platform so I wouldn’t miss the train. Everywhere I turned, I scoped out the passengers trying to find Anita but she was nowhere to be seen. We left the station and headed toward the platform (back out in the rain) and as we drew close to car 1130, there stood Anita on the platform. Since she arrived before me and it was time to board she headed toward the platform hoping to find me, only to be told she couldn’t board because my name was on the room reservation – even though she had her ticket in hand.

As you all know, Anita is wonderful at documenting with the camera. Below are some highlights from our two days on the train and our first day in Anaheim. 

A nice wet view of Steilacoom, Washington
about an hour after our departure from Seattle

The next morning - we've made it to the Bay Area in California...
but it's still raining 

The Pacific Parlour Car on Amtrak's Coast Starlight
Anita is taking pictures while being rained on
because there's a leak in the Parlour Car

Finally, late Saturday afternoon after about 32 hours of rain -
 blue skies, sandy beaches and about an hour and a half of sunshine!

After spending Sunday morning touring Beverly Hills
under the bright California sun,
we spent Sunday afternoon touring Warner Brothers Studios.

Does this place seem familiar?

"I'll be there for you, cause you're there for me too"
Hmmm... If you think this looks like a trolley car, think again. With only two passengers , the driver decided it might be fun to fly down the Los Angeles freeway leaving us with rattled jaws and the need for a chiropractor. 

I don’t know about Anita, but since I hadn’t met her in person I didn’t know what to expect and I might have been a wee bit nervous. Would we get along? Would we be able to laugh together? Did we have anything in common besides our faith, our love for writing, and our Inky blog?

That was Friday morning and it’s now Sunday night. After three days of rather, um, interesting experiences (some fun, some not so fun, and some downright weird) we’re still laughing and smiling and looking forward to our next adventure. Tomorrow (oh, wait - it's today - in just a few hours!) we hit the beach in an old "Woody" bus with the Beach Boys playing on the radio. Then we'll meet up with Susie Dietze and her family in the Disney park. 

There’s an old joke that people in Washington don’t tan, they rust. It’s not true of course, but Anita and I did experience a lot of rain before we hit Santa Barbara. I always joke that I’m going to scare people in California with my extra pale skin. This time, however, the joke is on me. I may have been a blinding shade of white when I woke up on my first morning in Anaheim, but after our day of touring Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Warner Brothers Studios – my skin is now twelve different shades of red.


**Disclaimer: Please excuse any typos because Anita Mae and Suzie Jo are extremely tired and quite possibly delirious. After being bounced around on a train and juggled, shaken and stirred on the trolley, as well as being severely sleep deprived, this post may not make any sense. However we will try to embellish share more of our adventures one day soon. 


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lonely Bird? Join the Flock


by Susanne Dietze

I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a housetop. Psalm 102:7

For the first time since we planted it three years ago, we are enjoying baskets upon baskets of fresh-picked nectarines from our backyard tree. It’s taken long enough, eh? The problem isn’t that the tree didn’t produce, but there were always issues. Did you know snails love nectarines? I didn’t. They slimed their way up the trunk and took out the small crop the first year.

Birds love fruit—yeah, that I did know. So we netted the tree. Netting isn’t precise, though. Since the tree has changed shape since it began bearing fruit—the branches are heavier—there are gaps in the net. Lately, I get up in the morning, and before I even make a cup of tea, I shoo a flock of thrushes away from the tree before I readjust the net. If I’m lucky, I can get to a ripe nectarine before they had a chance to nibble the best parts.

Little wonder there are so many parables about bearing fruit. And robbers.
Swainson's Thrush, a possible culprit! From wikipedia.com

But when it comes to spiritual matters, emotional matters, these little birds have captured my attention. They do everything together. They zip around the tree together. Flee together. Watch me with their beady little eyes together. They’re buddies. A team.

But not all birds of a feather stick together. People sure don’t. If you’ve ever parented a pre-teenager, or been one yourself, you’ll remember how difficult it can be to find a team, a buddy, a gang, a group. And it doesn’t always get easier when we grow up. We start new jobs, take classes, move to new areas, and visit churches. All places that are full of people. And surrounded by folks, we can feel utterly alone.

The author of Psalm 102 could relate, to say the least. Dejection and agony run through the verses, in addition to feeling like a lonely bird. He writes:

For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. (3-5)

We all have ways of coping with loneliness. We stay in, to nurse the pain or to avoid going out by ourselves. We go out, hoping to make new friends, and sometimes it works.

We are blessed to have a Lord who Himself felt rejected, misunderstood and despised. When we feel alone, we can come to Him and share our feelings. He doesn’t want us to be lonely.

But while God cares a lot about our feelings, I think He would also have us do more about the lonely birds He’s placed around us.

How so? Well, when we have good friends, we don’t feel the need to make new ones. We enjoy our bubble of fellowship … and there’s nothing wrong with comfortable friendships. Thank God for true friends who know us and love us anyway!

But does that mean we should stop seeking new friendships or stop being available to others?

One woman I spoke to recently is new in her community and church. She has become acquainted with several women whose children are of similar ages to hers. Last week, she shared with the women how she’d like to be more involved and deepen relationships, and she invited them to an activity. The group told her if she wanted to make new friends, she should visit a networking website. What this woman really wanted, however, was to to get to know them! Instead, she felt  as if she was unworthy of her Christian sisters’ time.

I would argue that being closed to friendships is unhelpful in making others feel welcome—and it might even be anti-evangelical or self-centered.

The Bible is full of verses regarding fellowship. God created us to need fellowship. He wants us to share our lives with Him and one another.

"...I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me." John 17:23

"That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love..." Colossians 2:2

"Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith."  Galatians 6:2,10
When we lack the fellowship, pain ensues.The Psalmist’s symptoms of loneliness described in Psalm 102 are physical as well as emotional: insomnia, tears, loss of appetite. True suffering.

Watch for someone who might be suffering from the loneliness that you sometimes feel. You never know. At worst, you’ll be doing something grand in easing someone’s burden –with a smile or a lunch out or a quick note.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll become two birds of a feather.

***

 originally appeared on Tea and a Good Book

 Susanne Dietze has written love stories since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book, http://www.susannedietze.blogspot.com/

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Death of a Highland Heavyweight by Jayne Self

by Barbara Early

I must admit, I don’t agree to do many reviews. But when Jayne Self asked me to take a look at the second in her Seaglass Series of cozy mysteries, I said yes immediately. I’d read the first in the series, Murder in Hum Harbour, and enjoyed it. Read my review of her first book here. 

And Jayne outdid herself. Not only are her characters back and better than ever, but now, with the added confidence and flow of a more seasoned writer, her second, Death of a Highland Heavyweight, simply sparkles. Nova Scotia and the quirky community of Hum Harbour are brought to life as she weaves in interesting events and characters and plots a mystery that should keep people guessing.

First, the protagonist. Gailynn MacDonald is a part-time medical receptionist (to her fiancĂ©, handsome doctor and former missionary Geoff) and owner of Dunmaglass, the store where she sells, among other locally produced glasswork, her own crafted seaglass jewelry. She’s also trying to plan her wedding. And help with the Hum Harbour Daze, a local festival. A dead body is the last thing she needs.

Which brings up the victim, a local sportsman. Claude Oui is a champion in caber toss, a sport Gailynn describes as throwing a telephone pole. Even more impressive since it’s done in a kilt.



The local hero’s reign is over when he’s found dead at the bottom of the stairs, but we know it can’t be an accident. And Gailynn is sure it’s not. But who would take down the gentle giant who recently became a Christian, denounced his lucrative ale endorsement, and planned a missions trip to Ghana? For that matter, who could?

Nova Scotia, Canada
And the setting. I seriously have to get to Nova Scotia. I could smell the salt water and see the rising sun shimmer from the water.

Blurb: Murder, chaos, teen angst, missing frog figurines, wedding preparations. What do these things have in common? Gailynn MacDonald. When Highland Games Heavyweight Champion Claude Oui is found dead at the bottom of the stairs, his wife is overcome with grief. As head of the town's annual Hum Harbour Daze festival, she cannot plan a funeral and keep up with her responsibilities to the town, so Gailynn dutifully steps in.

Amidst choosing bridesmaids dresses, assembling a big top tent, and advising teenagers in love—one of whom just might be a murderer—Gailynn is once again caught up in the town’s hidden secrets as she races to solve Hum Harbour's latest crime spree

Disclaimer: I should note that Pelican Book Group is also the publisher for my Gold, Frankincense and Murder (Dec 2011), and I currently work there as an editor. I have, however, received no compensation for this review, which represents my personal opinion.



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/.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tell Me About Myself

by C.J. Chase



Any mother with more than one child can tell you she saw differences among her children from the earliest ages. Some babies are easy-going, happy to watch a mobile while Mom attends to other things. Others are more intense and demand more of Mom’s time from the very beginning, never happy unless they are with someone. Some contentedly play with toys while others are driven to move and explore.

Temperament is the innate behavioral style we inherited. Personality is how our temperament develops over time based on environmental factors such as education and family structure.

The ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates first advanced the idea of different temperaments. He named four: sanguine (extroverted and sociable), choleric (ambitious and decisive), melancholic (introverted and thoughtful), and phlegmatic (easy going). Modern psychologist David Keirsey refined these to four major types with 16 variants—the now-famous Myers-Briggs.

Last month, I had brunch with Dina and a few other local writers. Dina led a short discussion about using personality “types” to develop fictional characters. Her mention about how our personality affects our relationship with God got me to thinking about the personalities of some Biblical people.

Let’s start with Peter. I’m sure we’ve all met people like Peter—outspoken, impetuous, and always in the thick of things. When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, Peter jumped out of the boat to try it too. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter whipped out his sword and hacked off an ear. And he always had something to say even if it was the wrong thing, like the time he contradicted Jesus. I'm sure he was a lot of fun to be around—when you weren't on the receiving end of his tongue. Peter frequently shot off his mouth, and often ended up with a sandal firmly inside.

The Denial of St. Peter by Gerard van Honthorst, circa 1623


Contrast that with the disciple Matthew. We don’t know a lot about Matthew’s pre-Jesus years, beyond his profession: tax collector. Most Jews hated tax collectors, whom they viewed as crooks and sell-outs to their Roman overlords. Matthew must have been a bit of an Ebenezer Scrooge type—too busy totally his profit and loss statement to concern himself with the opinions of others. Accountant, loner, mercenary. He didn't say anything particularly memorable (until later). But he was practical, preferring to work with the Romans than to dream that one day the Messiah would free the Jews from subjugation.

Jesus calls Matthew
What I especially love about these two examples is that three years with Jesus turned the weaknesses in their personalities to strengths.

Outspoken Peter went on to preach before thousands. Two thousand souls were saved in just one day, when Peter spoke the words God gave him.

Matthew turned his analytical mind to making the case for Jesus. He gave up everything but his pen, with which he wrote the Gospel of Matthew. This particular gospel presents a logical argument for Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Matthew's gospel includes more quotes from the Old Testament than any of the others.

God uses all kinds of people: Ruth, David, Jacob, Mary, Moses, Daniel, Joseph, Sarah, Paul… But sometimes we look at others, particularly those so very different from us, and wonder if perhaps we shouldn’t change to be more like ___. Or even worse, we try to change others (particularly family members) to be more like us.

Fortunately, we have a God who meets us where we are. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t want us to “improve" (i.e., become more like Him), but that he can use us warts and all—and turn those weaknesses into strengths. 

Have you ever taken a Myers-Briggs or similar personality assessment? Did you feel it adequately described your strengths and weaknesses? Here’s a quick free test if you've never tried one before. And here’s another. (I had slightly different results between the two in an area where I don’t lean strongly in either direction—the result, I suppose, of questions being worded in slightly different ways.)

Challenge for the weekend: Is God calling you to a ministry that utilizes your unique personality? Perhaps you're an artist called to create for His glory and kingdom. Or perhaps you are an exuberant "people person" called to an evangelism ministry. Or perhaps you have an analytical mind that would thrive on teaching an in-depth Bible study.

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 available in February of 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at  www.cjchasebooks.com


Thursday, July 19, 2012

I'm Late, I'm Late! Or Am I?

 by Niki Turner

The author of Ecclesiastes writes (if you've ever seen "Footloose" this will sound familiar):
There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

(Eccl 3:1-8 MSG)
Country music (and a classic cliche) put it this way: "Timing is everything."
If the timing is off in my car, nothing runs quite the way it's supposed to.
If the timing is off between a couple on Dancing With the Stars, they aren't voted on to the next week of competition

Timing (and missing it) are scary prospects.

What if we "miss" the plan? What if our internal clock is skewed by a slow battery or a sun flare or a prankster in the household? What if we don't "hear" from heaven and respond accordingly in time? Are we then lost to the ultimate power and control of that incessant ticking called TIME?
I don't think so.
In my opinion, God is bigger than our mere human understanding of time in the form of years and centuries and millenia. Forgive my comparison, please, but like Doctor Who of BBC fame, God is the ultimate "TIME LORD."

And because His expressed will for us is for our GOOD, not for our failure, defeat, or destruction, He is well able (and perhaps more importantly, willing) to correct our human failures in timing in order that His perfect plan for our well-being is ultimately fulfilled.

The Patrick and I are notorious for getting lost on road trips. On the way home from Las Vegas we missed the only exit we needed to take on the interstate (and that with GPS) and ended up more than an hour off course somewhere in Utah. We were lost because we hadn't been paying attention to the blinking dot on the iPhone that marked our course, but that didn't mean we were forsaken! (Although the dot on the map we found ourselves at might have been sucked right out of a "Deliverance" or "Race With the Devil" movie set.
gods timing Pictures, Images and Photos
Too many people get off course, fall out of God's plan for some reason, find themselves on an unexpected detour, or are convinced they are lost forever. Not. True. Can you imagine how crazy insane it would have been if we'd called up the kids and said, "We missed an exit, got lost, and are gonna  settle down in this tiny little burg in the boonies of Utah." Um, no. No one does that. (Do they?)

Sure, missed turns and opportunities cost us something, but they aren't the end of the road! Our God is able to redeem the time, able to give us new opportunities. Stop looking backward at what you may have missed and start looking forward!

About   the Author: Niki writes fiction, nonfiction, blog posts, newspaper articles, 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.