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!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Take A Load Off: Resting the Brain has big Rewards!


Debra E. Marvin (who really has a hard time with this...)

If you don't believe me, and your doctor, and your body, Scientific American has the proof. Taking a mental health holiday, whether it's two or three hours, or a month away, is good for you. Not only will your body rejoice, but your brain and those all-important creative juices will reward you for it.

While prolonged idleness (I'll let you determine what prolonged means to you) may be frowned upon, down time is essential to your health. Duh, you're saying.

"Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life."

"Eventually this mysterious and complex circuit that stirred to life when people were daydreaming became known as the  default mode network."

I love knowing that even the non-essential parts of my brain have a default. Sure, the brain never rests (we're talking life vs. death for one thing...) and even sleeping doesn't significantly reduce its need for energy, but giving it a conscious break from our 'normal' work, allows the brain to toss ideas around. 

I imagine we've all had the 'answer to a question' come after we've ignored it for awhile. Often, great ideas come to us when we do manual, labor, idle nothings, or activities with little conscious thought: gardening, doing the dishes, taking a shower.  Bam. We're a stinking genius, just because we let the old brain off the leash.

Scientific American suggests that the default mode network is more active in very creative people who use daydreaming to solve problems.  "Epiphanies may seem to come out of nowhere, but they are often the product of unconscious mental activity during downtime." For the full article from author Ferris Jabr, see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/

Personally, napping would be a dreamy way to replenish my brain, but it's more likely I'd use the "one hour of TV" or the "Pinterest Pinning zone-out" method. For optimal results...I find that making things with my hands is the best way I replenish my writer brain!

What about you? How do you refuel?


Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. She’d like to live just a wee bit closer to her grandchildren, but is thankful that God is in control, that He chooses to bless us despite ourselves and that He has a sense of humor.

Other than writing light-hearted romances and gritty gothics, she has pretty normal obsessions: fabric, peanut butter, vacations, British dramas and whatever mystery series she’s currently reading. Visit her at debraemarvin.com, @debraemarvin on twitter and Debra E Marvin on Facebook and Pinterest, but not her house because she usually has dirty dishes.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Too Busy Writing NOT to Read


by Susanne Dietze

Ever hear of a book by Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not to Pray?

It's been around for a while. It observes that when we're in a season of intense busyness, we tend to focus on the task at hand and let everything else go. The housework. Cooking. And yes, even praying.

Hybels suggests the busier we are, the more we need to pray. It's contrary to our natures, but it makes sense. When we trust God to handle all the details, He proves His ability, care, and grace. When we hoard our fears, stresses and details (and perhaps even idolize our busyness), we get less done in more time, at greater cost.

Lately I've been under several writing deadlines -- awesome! But I've had the attitude that other things need to go on hold so I can meet these deadlines. While it's ok to serve simple crockpot meals and put off a teeth cleaning, however, it's not wise to cut prayer from my life.

Or maybe even reading.

Although, I admit, I was tempted. Before some deadline opportunities came up, I said I'd judge the ACFW Carols. Then I received some writing opportunities...and a lovely stack of books that require careful reading and thoughtful evaluation, all at the same time. I admit, once I got busy with deadlines, I didn't want to read the books. At least, not at the moment. Later, sure. But that's not how it works with contests.

These authors worked for months, sometimes years, on these novels. Their literal blood, sweat and tears went into them, along with their hopes. As a judge, I owe their novels the attention and consideration such efforts deserved.

So I started reading.
Books, Read, Book Pages, Literature, Learn, Relax
Curl up with an afghan and read!
Turned out reading these books has been a blessing to me. More than I can imagine. Here's why:

  1. Reading makes me a better writer. I love it when I'm stuck on something in my story, and then I see how another author handles those challenges. Weaving scenery into action, or making a character likable, or...the list goes on. Reading teaches us out to write. 
  2. Reading recently-released novels teaches me what publishers are buying and helps me follow trends. This helps mold my ideas for future stories and shows me what's popular.
  3. Reading fellow authors and reviewing helps me give back to the writing community which has helped me so greatly in my journey. I wouldn't be where I am without about a hundred people. Probably more. The other bloggers here at Inkwell, critique partners, fellow authors on the loops I belong to, nameless contest judges, my agent, my editors...all of them have given to me to help make me a better writer. I need and want to give back, too. One of the many ways to do this is to read and promote others' fiction!
  4. Reading introduces me to new authors. They may become favorites. They may become friends. When I'm not so busy, I can read more of their books.
  5. Perhaps one of the biggest blessings...Reading takes me out of the Universe of my story and gives me escape into another universe where I am not responsible for the characters; I do not plot, I do not plan. I just enjoy. This is important for my mental health. It relaxes my brain and my body.
So there are five reasons why I'm pausing to read, even when I feel too busy to do so. True, there are times when we enter what I call "Crisis mode" and we have to set aside any and every extraneous activity, like reading. Those weeks, I type every minute of the day that I can. But these should be seasons--preferably short ones--because it isn't good to live in high stress.

What are you reading right now?

**

Susanne Dietze is the author of over half-dozen new and coming historical romances. Her most recent is the novella For a Song in EPCA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller The Cowboy's Bride Collection. Visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Reasons to Celebrate April 15





So, it’s April 15, and it’s my turn to blog. Tax Day. Is there any more hated day on the calendar than Tax Day?

For our non-US readers, a quick explanation might be in order. April 15 (Tax Day) is the last possible day to pay your income taxes from the prior year without incurring a penalty. As one might imagine, it’s not an a day most Americans look forward to. Which goes to show, tax collectors haven't gained any popularity since Jesus' day.

I thought it might be fun to look at other ways to remember April 15, so I compiled a list of real, but mostly nonsensical, April 15 "holidays" this year.


For Americans, today you can also celebrate:


National Glazed Spiral Ham Day

Rubber Eraser Day

McDonalds Day (First McDonalds franchise opened in 1955)

Jackie Robinson Day (Jackie Robinson started in his first MLB game for the Dodgers in 1947)

National Take a Wild Guess Day (Hot tip: don’t do this with your taxes)


If that list seems too limited, we can take a trip around the world to celebrate:


World Art Day

World Day of Culture

New Years (Laos, Cambodia and Thailand)

Day of Love (Georgia – the country, not the state)

Lover’s Day (Kazakhstan)


And finally, we have an anomaly. This year, April 15 is Emancipation Day (Observed). Emancipation Day, a local holiday in Washington DC, is actually April 16, but since April 16 is a Saturday, DC government offices will close today. But wait! There’s a catch. If April 15 falls on a weekend or a Federal or DC holiday, the income tax due date moves to the next business day—which is Monday, April 18 this year.


Which means, Tax Day is actually Monday, April 18. Procrastinators, you get an extra weekend.

Sounds like we have another reason to celebrate April 15 this year.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Crane Spotting

by Anita Mae Draper


This week after uploading a new header to my Facebook page, I waited for comments of recognition, or at the very least questions of the bird species, without displaying the information in the image like I've done below.




I received some comments and likes, but I'm not sure anyone recognized my image of whooping cranes, an endangered species.


Identify a Crane. Courtesy of the International Crane Foundation

Actually, when we first saw them on our evening walk, we weren't even sure if they were whooping cranes. We had just passed the shelterbelt and our farm sign and were faced with a wide open eastern view of the prairie when movement across the road in a marshy area caught our eyes. We spotted the 3 cranes and I was ecstatic. And then, in our excitement, we moved too close and they took flight.


Whooping Cranes Taking Flight, April 2015. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

Seeing them fly was beautiful, but I felt guilty that I chased away these beautiful creatures who had stopped to rest on their 2,500 mile migration from Aransas, Texas to Wood Buffalo National Park which straddles the border between Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

You can understand how special we felt when you realize whooping cranes were placed on the endangered species list back in the mid 1940's when biologists placed their population at 21, although National Geographic puts the number as low as 16. And no, there are no zeroes behind that number.


Whooping Crane Migration Path. Courtesy of the International Crane Foundation

I've marked the location of our Montmartre, SK farm on the above map (Map courtesy of the International Crane Foundation). The cranes in my images are among the last of the naturally occurring whooping crane stock. Biologists suspect there were over one thousand whooping cranes in the 1800's, but their demise is believed to be due to hunting and egg collection as well as the influx of settlers who plowed the native prairie after draining the wetlands to make them arable.

Labeling the whooping crane as an Endangered Species instigated captive breeding programs over the years, in several states. Chicks are raised by humans wearing costumes that imitate their natural mothers, as shown in the following video:




Once they are old enough, they are trained to fly by following an ultra light plane, much like Canada geese did in the movie, Fly Away Home.

Whooping cranes don't begin to breed until they are 3-4 years old, and then it is only to a mate whom they've bonded with which can take another 3-4 years. Like humans, cranes like or disllike other cranes on sight and the female won't breed unless she feels an affinity to and has bonded with a certain male. Once bonded, they mate for life which can be 22-28 years.

Whooping cranes have 3 different sounds depending on their activity and you can listen to them all at the savingcranes.org site, or you can play my video and hear what sends me running outside with my camera. I can hear cranes coming from about half a mile away if the wind is right, and although they are usually the smaller sandhill cranes, they make the same sound as the whooping cranes. Sometimes they come in a V formation and I have to zoom in close to be sure they're not geese, but once they start circling, I know they're cranes. They go around and around many times and I lose sight of them, but then their pre-historic crawking sound draws my eye once again.

This video shows about 3 dozen sandhill cranes circling which I suspect is their way of conserving energy. They certainly cover a lot of ground doing it..




In this next video if you ignore the wind and the blurry flock, you can hear the sound they make while flying. My camera refused to focus on the fast cranes.




Whooping cranes remain on the endangered species list although their population is slowly increasing through these breeding programs.


2015 Whooping Crane World Population. Courtesy of the International Crane Foundation

You can help make a difference. This Saturday, on April 16th, is Crane Spotting Day of Sandhill and Whooping Cranes in over 90 counties in six states of the upper Midwest (Wisconsin and portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota).

If you'd like to help out with this Crane Spotting survey, here's what the International Crane Foundation advises... New volunteers interested in taking part in the survey should first contact their local County Coordinator for instructions. Click here for a listing of 2016 County Coordinators, or contact Sara Gavney Moore, Communications Specialist, 608-356-9462, x155.



Whooping Crane or Sandhill Crane? Photo by Anita Mae Draper


Even though there isn't a Crane Spotting Day up here in Canada, you can be sure I'll be sitting at my bistro table on my south-facing patio all day Saturday to join in the count. My only problem is being able to identify a whooping crane from a sandhill crane while they're flying!

Did you hear about the whooping crane pair that was shot recently? The pair had bonded and would begin breeding in the next year or two. Such a heart-wrenching waste.

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

Anita Mae Draper's stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. When she's not writing, Anita enjoys photography, research, and travel, and is especially happy when she can combine the three in one trip. Anita's current release is Romantic Refinements, a novella in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing, January 2016.  Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at  www.anitamaedraper.com



Monday, April 11, 2016

Savior... and Lord

By Niki Turner

There's a line of thought in current Christian circles that says accepting Jesus as your personal Savior is not quite enough to access all the benefits of salvation. You must also make Him the Lord of your life on this earth.

First, in my opinion, religious folk have spent the last 2000 years coming up with addenda to the requirements for salvation the way our current Congressmen spend most of their limited weeks of work adding extra details that benefit their personal agenda to every legislation they enact.

Second, I'm weird about "requirements." I like to dot my i's and cross my t's. Don't you?

We know what it means to call on Jesus as Savior (if you don't, please ask, because it's very simple and life-transforming!). But what does it mean to call on Him as LORD?

Well, what point of reference do we have for "lord"?
The Hebrew and Greek translations mean "someone who has complete ownership."

I'm OK with the idea of Jesus "owning" me. Someone needs to be responsible for me! But that puts all the responsibility on Jesus, and that doesn't work well with our modern DIY evangelical protestant perspective. What's OUR part? What are we supposed to DO? (This is, of course, AFTER we believe, after we accept, after we acknowledge our need for salvation.)

For myself, my point of reference for "Lordship" comes from medieval English history. The Lord of the manor, the Lord of the castle, the LORD was responsible for the health, the safety, the provision, the well-being of all who called on him as Lord. Some Lords were benevolent and gracious and good. Some were wicked.

Thankfully, Jesus is in the former group. He has our best interests at heart, is ever-ready to listen to our complaints, and has our best and highest good in mind. He wants what is best for us.

In my opinion, this is incredibly freeing. Our connection with God, what we believe He is doing for us, is not about what we do or how well we perform, it's about who HE is to us. He's our Lord. We can rely on Him. We can yield to Him. We can trust Him.

Have you ever considered what it means to make Jesus your Lord?
What does it mean to YOU


Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the production manager for the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper, one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in Colorado. Her first completed manuscript earned second place in the Touched By Love 2009 contemporary category romance contest. She also blogs at www.nikiturner.net.
Niki is a Colorado native who grew up in Glenwood Springs—home of the world’s largest hot springs pool. She married her high school sweetheart 26 years ago. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two West Highland White Terriers.



In 2014, she published “Sadie’s Gift” as one of the Christmas Traditions novella collection with eight other authors.  The Skiing Suitor, one of the Love’s Sporting Chance series published by Forget-Me-Not Romances, released in August 2015. Her most recent project, “Santiago Sol,” was published by Pelican Book Group as part of the Passport to Romance novella collection. She’s currently working on a new novella for Whitefire Publishing, one for Barbour House, and four for Forget-Me-Not Romances.






 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Girls with Swords!!!

by Dina Sleiman

I recently discovered a new author, Lisa Bevere. Wow! Her books are the perfect complement to my Valiant Hearts Series. If you've felt inspired to become strong and courageous, to grow into a valiant heroine who is up for the fight, you might want to check out her books too. I just purchased Girls with Swords, Lioness Arising, and Fight Like a Girl. Pretty awesome titles, right? I'll share more after I've finished reading them. But for now, here's the video that encouraged me to order the books. I hope it will encourage you too.






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

Dina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. 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. She also serves as an acquisitions and content editor for WhiteFire Publishing. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter Time, and look for her Valiant Hearts adventure/romance series  with Bethany House PublishersFor more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

Thursday, April 7, 2016

An Interview with Kimberly A. Rogers: Wolf's Path



I'd like to welcome Christian fantasy author, Kimberly A. Rogers, to the Inkwell. Kimberly writes urban fantasy from a Christian worldview, and if you haven't met her hero and heroine, Baran and Raina, you are definitely missing out!

So you're an independent writer. How did you get into writing? 
 
I first got into writing when I was very young but I didn’t begin seriously writing until I was in my teens. I started my first fantasy novel when I was sixteen, which is now in the editing doldrums awaiting revision. After an unsuccessful attempt to find an agent for that first novel, I spent time writing for myself and perfecting the craft. Then, I found a writing contest that I decided to enter. I didn’t place among the chosen winners, but that contest was the birthplace for my present series, The Therian Way.


What are the benefits of being your own publisher? 

A definite benefit to being an indie author is that I set my own schedule. It’s great that I don’t have to wait six months to a year between each stage of the process. I can be more flexible with building in time for each stage. I also love having full control of the covers for my books. My cover artist, Rachel Rossano of Rossano Designs, has done an excellent job of capturing both the series feel and the mood for each book in the covers. Ultimately, my favorite thing about being indie is I don’t have someone higher up interfering with my story development. I like the freedom of incorporating my faith into my work without having to fight for it or fight to keep from including gratuitous sensuality or language.


A fantasy writer usually has favorite fantasy-writing authors. Who are yours?

My hands-down favorite fantasy authors are J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They were my favorite authors when I was a kid and I still love their work. Tolkien for his excellent and extremely thorough worldbuilding. Lewis for the way he incorporated his faith into his stories (love Aslan!).

Oh, those are my hands-down favorites, too. Love them both! You're working on a seven-book series that also has a prequel and several auxiliary stories. How do you plan for that? What's your schedule like?

Yes, I am. It sounds more complicated than it is, I think. I have a working idea for the entire series and each of the stories have working bare bones blurbs. When I’m prepping the next novel, I create a chapter by chapter outline with the highpoints and any particular ideas for the scenes that strike me during the brainstorming. Because I have the chapter outlines and the highpoints, I’m able to keep on top of my multiple projects without losing my mind. With the auxiliary stories, it’s a little easier because they tend to be shorter novellas so the draft and editing stages don’t require as much time as the full-length novels.

Right now I have four projects in progress. One novel in the final proofing stages, a short story in final proofing stages, another short story in the writing stage, and my next novel in the outlining stage. So my schedule is cyclic. I’m waiting on the first two, so I’m focusing on writing the next short story and outlining Book Three of the series.

Why urban fantasy?

I chose urban fantasy because it has the unique blend of ‘What If?’ The mix of familiar and unfamiliar technology with the fantastic races fascinates me. I like the challenge of incorporating one known fantastic race (Elves) and one unknown race (Therians) into a world of humans. Sometimes urban fantasy will be more familiar than unfamiliar with very little changes to the world we know. However, I decided to make my series more of a true alternate universe, so there’s familiar history figures but I also changed history and changed the present landscape.

 Tell our readers what your WIP is about. When will it be available?

My current WIP is Wolf’s Path: Book Two of The Therian Way. I’m so excited about this one because I was able to include one of my favorite cryptid legends, The Beast of Bray Road, in the plot. The American werewolf of Wisconsin was a perfect character to add to my series full of shapeshifters. Of course, the other reason I was excited to work on this one is Baran and Raina are in a very interesting and fun place with their relationship.

Wolf’s Path: Book Two of The Therian Way will be available next month.

Tell us about your hero and heroine. Why do they work so well together?

Baran and Raina are the glue for the series. I don’t think the adventures would work half as well without these two in the lead. They work so well together because they are SO different! Baran is a very serious, honorable military man who likes to do things by the book. Raina, on the other hand, is almost his complete opposite. She is a funny, sarcastic, and rather devil-may-care Tracker (an elite organization of Therians who find Elves and Therians be they criminals or simply missing persons…and are far more lax in regulations than the military). She’s more impulsive than he is, in general. They have the opposite attracts vibe between them and when they aren’t quarreling, their different strengths make them a formidable team.

What I really love about Wolf’s Path is Raina and Baran are at a point in their relationship with each other where we finally get to see the fun side of them as a couple. This is especially big for Baran (aka TDS or Tall, Dark, and oh so Serious) since there were hints before to his soft side but he wasn’t willing to show a lot. In this book, however, he doesn’t get as many chances to hide his soft side this time since they’re hunting the Beast of Bray Road under the guise of honeymooners. ;)

They are just wonderful together. Their scenes are so alive and real. So, besides this series, what else do you write?

I have several plans in place for epic fantasies, romantic medieval-esque fantasies, and, of course, more stories set in the world of The Therian Way series.

Why do you write?

I write because I cannot not write. I write because there are stories begging to be told and characters whose voices need to be heard. And, every time I try to stop writing, the characters won’t leave me alone.

What do you have available for readers now?

Right now, I have the first two entries in The Therian Way available on Amazon: Tiger’s Paw (the prequel)
www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZDDQIYG and Leopard’s Heart www.amazon.com/dp/B0175P0WFA.

In May, readers can expect to find two new stories from me: Leopard’s Find, a short story about Raina before her appearance in Tiger’s Paw that will be included in Where the Light may Lead (Reflections of Faith Anthology #1), and Wolf’s Path: Book Two of The Therian Way.

What do you do when you aren't writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m usually working on my Master of Religious Education degree. Otherwise, I am reading, researching the next story, or working on a cross-stitch project.

Where can readers find out more about you or contact you?

Wolf’s Path: Book Two of The Therian Way

Honeymoons are supposed to be relaxing, right?
Not when the honeymoon is just a cover for a hunt. Shapeshifters Baran and Raina are tasked with one of the most unusual hunts of either of their careers — capture the infamous Beast of Bray Road. The monster humans assume is just a legend has grown more aggressive, threatening to expose the Therian race if he is not stopped. A struggle to find the truth and to stop the aggressive loner before he kills awaits Baran and Raina as they follow the Wolf's path.

Coming May 2016

Thanks for visiting the Inkwell, Kimberly!  I'm enjoying reading Wolf's Path right now, and I'm sure your readers will love it! 


Kimberly A. Rogers writes in-depth reviews of Christian and secular fantasy as well as articles for Christian fantasy writers at her blog So You Want to Write Christian Fantasy? Of course, only when not in the midst of writing papers and taking exams in the pursuit of her Masters in Religious Education. Kimberly lives in Virginia where the Blue Ridge Mountains add inspiration to an over-active imagination originally fueled by fantasy classics such as the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.