Saturday, July 31, 2010

Next Week: Fave Authors! Who's youse?

Lots going on and you don't know the half of it, honey.

Sending cheer to our RWA friends gathering in Orlando this week for national conference!
Enjoy your last day, the amazing awards night and a great flight home--or a great family vacation at Disney, to follow!

Happy August, People! Yup that's right. Starts tomorrow. Ragweed season is almost here. Pity Party over at Deb's house!

If you missed Jennifer AlLee's book review earlier today . . .
Almost Forever by Deborah Raney,
Scroll on down and check it out!

This coming week, Inktropolis celebrates "Fave Author" week.
Our guest blogger is Beth Shriver!

First, a little announcement: SUPER AWESOME BOOK GIVEAWAY! Inkwell Inspirations is hosting Abingdon Fiction's Blog Tour on Monday August 9th. Our own Abingdon Author, Jennifer AlLee, will review Judy Christie's Goodness Gracious Green and . . .
we are thrilled to distribute FIVE FREEBIE COPIES to FIVE INKWELL FRIENDS who leave a comment!

Sunday Devotional: Gina Welborn

Monday: Niki Turner


Wednesday: Wenda Dottridge

Thursday: Anita Mae Draper

Friday: Lisa Karon Richardson

Saturday Book Review: Who knows?

Did I mention we are giving away five copies of GOODNESS GRACIOUS GREEN thanks to Abingdon Fiction Blog Tour?

ALMOST FOREVER by Deborah Raney

reviewed by Jennifer AlLee

Deborah Raney

Bryn Hennessey went against her husband's wishes when she continued to volunteer at a local homeless shelter. So Bryn is consumed with guilt when the shelter burns to the ground with her firefighter husband and four of his comrades inside

Garrett Edmonds is the husband of Molly, one of the firefighters who died that night. He deals with his own feelings of guilt for not being the man his wife needed him to be, and for not protecting her when she needed him most.

When two homeless dogs bring Bryn and Garrett together, they find comfort in their new friendship. It feels so good to spend time with someone who understands how it feels to lose a spouse. As time goes on, their friendship deepens, and it seems they may be able to say goodbye to sorrow and move on together. But as the mystery of how the shelter fire started begins to unfold, their fragile happiness may be in jeopardy.

Deborah Raney is well-known for spinning tales that go to the core of the human heart. Almost Forever is no exception. Not only does it contain a stirring romance, but it asks a question fundamental to the Christian faith: How does one forgive the unforgivable? We know that God forgives us, even though none of us deserve it. But how often do we forget that when dealing with each other? Raney addresses this issue in a gentle, yet powerful way.

Almost Forever is the first of Raney's new Hanover Falls series. It's a great way to start, and makes me anxious for the next installment. More, please, and soon!

About the Author

DEBORAH RANEY is at work on her 20th novel. Her books have won the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Almost Forever, first in her new Hanover Falls Novels series, released in May from Howard/Simon & Schuster. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in Kansas. They are new empty nesters with four grown children and two precious grandsons, who all live much too far away.

Friday, July 30, 2010

How We Weather the Storms

by Dina Sleiman
I hate talking about the weather!

Why? Because more often than not, the topic of weather serves as a substitute for more meaningful conversations. Unless of course, the discussion about weather leads us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. Ah! Now there is a conversation I would like to have. The way we weather life’s storms actually reveals much about our character, be those storms metaphorical or literal.

I live along the Eastern coast in Virginia Beach. Prime hurricane part of the earth, I bet you’re thinking. True and not true. Evidently ever since 1985 when Pat Robertson and a group of believers stood on the shores of Virginia Beach and rebuked the deadly Hurrican Gloria, our area has been oddly impervious to hurricanes. I guess you could describe that as a gift of miracles. My mother reports that the Weather Channel has actually called this phenomenon the “Robertson Twist.” Hurricanes tend to hit just above or just below our Hampton Roads area.

I’ve ridden out numerous hurricanes. Other than making sure we have a little extra food and water and checking the flashlights for batteries, we generally enjoy these storms as a peaceful interlude from life, kind of like a snow day up north.

But in 2003 it seemed a different sort of storm was headed our way. Hurricane Isabel. My husband was hired by a national network to do some freelance reporting down in North Carolina where the storm would initially make landfall. And when we heard that the hurricane could reach up to a category five, I had no desire to stay home alone. My mom had just moved to the area at the time, and my dad was still working in our hometown of Pittsburgh until his official retirement came through. He called and recommended that we all travel north to escape the storm.

Now my mother has a real gift of faith. She figured no matter how hard the winds might blow around her, God would keep her and her home safe. “A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you,”* and all that.

I, on the other hand, have a gift of wisdom. And for the first time in eleven years of life in Virginia Beach, my wisdom gifting was telling me to hightail it north to Pittsburgh. Mom consented to the trip, although confident her home would weather the storm just fine.

So we piled my three kids and her dog into my van and headed north to Pittsburgh for a pleasant little vacation. While touring the Pittsburgh Zoo with the children, I got a call on my cell phone from a neighbor. “Dina, there’s a giant tree on your house. Are you okay?”

I laughed. “I’m fine. Enjoying a nice day at the zoo. We’ll deal with it when we get back.” Boy was I glad I hadn’t been at home with the kids when that tree came thudding overhead.

A few days later, we returned home. As it turned out, the tree that fell on our house had been attached by sturdy ropes to two stronger trees in our back yard when my husband created a challenge course for our kids a few months earlier. The ropes took most of the weight of the tree and protected our house. Coincidence? I think not. Dani's gift lies more in the area of prophecy. The only real damage our house sustained was a broken window that occurred when Dani removed the tree. We went a day or two without electricity, and everything was back to normal.

Oh, and Mom’s house? Not a scratch. Her electricity never even went out, although Hurricane Isabel remains on record as the costliest and deadliest of the 2003 season. And about that "Robertson Twist"? The hurricane hit land in our area at a category two just north of Virginia Beach, pummeling other parts of Hampton Roads and Richmond instead.

Sorry, Gina.

So how do you weather the storms of life? How do your God-given gifts shine at those moments?

*From Psalm 91:7

Thursday, July 29, 2010

THE TERRIBLE TWISTER THAT TANKED THE THEATRE (or one of Gina's slightly embellished weather stories)

by Gina Welborn

You know you're from Oklahoma when the meterologist (Gary England) announces a Tornado Watch...and you and all your chitlin go outside to admire the rotation.

You know you're from Okahoma when a 'fraidie hole is at the top of your list for new home requirements...only because you want a spare room for parties.

You know you're from Okahoma when you watch TWISTER...and fastforward though all the boring non-tornado scenes.


If my husband weren't a pastor to students, he'd either be a stock market bajillionare or a dirt-poor, ball-cap-wearing weather spotter for the local news. Only he is a pastor, so we're blessed with his obsession for accurately measuring snow accumulation, taking eighteen pictures of a piece of hail (the shading was off), and going all giddy on us when a storm--ANY type of storm--hits the radar over where we live.

My 12-year-old daughter likes to tell people that she slept through the dreadful May 3rd tornado that ravaged Oklahoma City in 1999. She did. I had fun talking with the other folks with us in Bob and Vera Craig's storm shelter.

Nothing like bad weather for an excuse to party.

The beauty of Okahoma's varied weather can literally take one's breath away.

The roar of a tornado is auditory bacon to one's ear. That should say much coming from this non-legalistic vegetarian.

Moving to Virginia we knew our dreadful weather options would be more limited. Oh contraire.

Tornado? Check. Occured one month after we moved here. Everything in a five-county perimeter surrounding where the itty bitty F-1 tornado touched down was closed or cancelled. That should have been a clue to me at how, God bless 'em, unappreciative central Virginians are of destructive weather.

Blizzard? Check. Occured the second winter. Of course, this was when we learned two snowflakes means School's Cancelled. *sigh*

Deluge? Check. Overflow from the James River descimated Shockhoe Bottom. The worst part of it? Bottom's Up Pizza was closed for months. Months!!! It's not called Gourmet Pizza at it's Best for nothing. I want to go to there. Now.

Drought? Check. Not even the weeds in our yard grew that summer.

Fire? Check. Okay, so it wasn't a natural disaster, but a building or two near Virginia Commonwealth University burned.

Hurricane? Check. Isabel '05. She slammed into the Outer Banks then worked her havoc all the way up to Richmond. Lovely storm. She arrived the day Uncle Julio's opened in Stoney Point Fashion Park. Now after driving an hour and a half up to DC just to have some scrumptious Tex-Mex cuisine, hubby and I weren't about to let the encroaching tiger, not-overly-hidden hurricane come between us and cheese enchiladas.

Being the Oklahoma natives we were, we loaded up our four  (at the time) chitlins and headed to the 10-minutes-from-home restaurant. Yes, we were the only people there besides the employees. But since we had a server and a chef, we happily placed our order...and listened to the roar of the wind pounding the windows. Pure Bach....with a dash of cilantro.

By morning trees were down all over Richmond-opolis (due to the deluge we'd had that spring and most of summer). Six days of no electicity. It was freakin' AWESOME!!! We learned how to grill a can of biscuits. NOTE TO READERS: Open can, place dough in butter-drenched cast iron skillet and put on grill, and toss can into trash.  I actually could have gone outside to watch the sunrise because we learned to rise and slumber with the sun.  Not that I did. But I could have. What pioneers we were!

Child #2 who was five that summer even wrote a poem:
When the sky goes bloom
And the clouds go away,
And the people go hunting for seashells.
When the birds start to sing—they sing everyday—
The butterflies go to flowers, and they make the flowers grow.
I think they’re pretty, really, really pretty,
And I love you very much.

Nothing like a storm to bring a family together.

At the end of last month, during Vacation Bible School week, my kids...well, as to not embarrass them, I'll just say they were bad (at home). To each other. To me. To the dog. So I initiated the summer's "no TV/no video games/no computer" policy. They figured it'd last a week. Nope.

I figured they'd learn their lesson and be more loving toward one another. What I didn't figure is what I learned about them. They got along. They played together. They laughed, read, built forts, took the dog on walks, drew comic books, and didn't seem to miss what they were punished from. They cleaned their rooms. Mostly.

Prior to this summer, I would have never said TV added stress to my life. But it does. To my kids' lives too.

I really realize now how television, social networking, texting, etc., can become addictions. Stress inducers. So I challenge you, go a week without TV. Or if you've done that, go a month...say, August before the fall lineups begin. See what things you now have time to do.
  • Chase a dragonfly in the backyard.
  • Teach your daughter and a friend how to make cinnamon rolls or bake a pie.
  • Discover who's the best UNO player in your house.
  • Read a book written 15 years ago or more.
  • Write a book.
  • Take your family out to watch a movie under the stars...kinda like at Goochland Drive-In Theater where you can buy snow-cones for a $1 and get a Goochdog and indigestion for $2.
Life is meant to be lived. So live it. Only avoid drive-in theaters when a tornado watch/warning has been sounded. COW!


Ever watched a movie at a drive-in? What's your fondest memory? Oh, we don't care about fondness...tell us your most embarrassing story. We want dirt.

If you've never had a drive-in movie experience, then how do you manage you and your family's TV viewing schedule. Ever had a moment when you said, "Enough, go outside and jump off the roof. Or whatever you do, do it safely outside. For the rest of the day. Don't kill the dog. The cat I don't care so much about."

(No cows were harmed in the writing of this blog.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Weather Lore

by Gwen Stewart

Farmers’ lore runs deep in my gene pool. Born and raised in some of the most abundant farmland in the United States, I grew up knowing how to judge the seasons by the height of the corn, the sound of the locust, the bend of the leaves. While weather folks—these fancy scientists called “meteorologists”—pontificate on cold fronts, jet streams, and barometric pressure, northwest Ohioans simply watch, listen and feel.

Don’t get me wrong. Farmers love their science just as much as the next guy or gal. My grandparents were weather hounds: watching weathercasts three times a day, recording temperature and precipitation in their daily journals. My parents are equally interested, and often know the forecast three or more days into the future.

We like technology, and trust it—generally. But we also trust our folklore.

Did you know, for example, that the sign of mid-summer is not the calendar or the weather, but the height of the corn? Knee high by the Fourth of July. You may generally rely on that--or something has gone woefully wrong in the crop department.

Do you know how to predict the onset of autumn? It’s not by cooler mornings, earlier sunsets, or golden foliage. In the hottest days of midsummer, the locust sings autumn's arrival. When the first locust chirps, note the date and count six weeks into the future. That date marks summer's demise.

Will it rain tomorrow? If it’s raining today, and the drops make bubbles in the puddles, that means rain tomorrow, too.

In the summer, do the leaves bend in the wind, revealing their underside? A front’s coming through. That means storms coming, and rain on the morrow as well.

Will tomorrow be hot? Watch for “heat lightening” on the southern horizon. If it appears at sunset, count on another hot day.

Now that I’m a suburbanite, I don’t encounter weather folklore. When I hear the first locust in the Target parking lot and whisper, “There it is”, I often receive curious stares.

“There’s what?” my friends say.

“The first locust--hear it? Six weeks of summer left.”

They pull out their iPhones and check weather sites. They frown. “It says here that the first day of fall is September twentieth.” The fiddle some more. “And this site says to expect a warm couple of months.”

I smile. Maybe those meteorologists are onto something with their math and science. Then again, maybe God's creatures--even the lowly locusts--can tell us just as much as Doppler Radar.

Question for you: What weather folklore did you hear growing up?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Ultimate Weatherman

By Anne Mateer

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I spent most of my life in bondage to fear. So given my propensity to shake and shiver, it shouldn’t be any wonder that a clap of thunder could send me hiding under the covers or a gust of wind hurl me into the bathtub, radio in hand. 

Of course it’s good to have a healthy fear of weather. After all, weather is a powerful force. In high school, I babysat through one of the worst hailstorms in our city’s history in blessed ignorance. But when I returned home, the baseball-sized holes in windows were visible even through the pitch black of the power outage.

As the Lord set me free from my various fears, I still found myself panicked over weather. It was unpredictable. Uncontrollable. I’d seen too much, read too much history, not to understand that its effects could devastate a life, a community, even a country! Yet just as I could turn to the Word of God to allay my fears about other things, I found comfort in the fact that the God is never out of control.

“What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm . . . Does the rain have a father? . . . From whose womb comes the ice?  Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?” God said these words to Job. (Job 38:24-30) 

No wonder Jesus could calm the storm with just a word! And since He is the ultimate weatherman, I should fear Him over His creation. Just like the disciples, I can trust Him to care for me even through the fiercest wind and rain. Not that I don’t still get nervous when the skies grow black and lightning zips a fiery line from heaven to earth. And if the sky turns green, you can bet I’m headed for the bathtub or the hallway! But my first thought now is for the One who controls the weather and not for the weather itself.

So what kind of weather makes you most nervous? Have you ever been caught in a terrifying weather situation? How did God meet you there?  

All photos courtesy of

Monday, July 26, 2010

Just One More Day Without Snow

The History Channel, AMC, BBC America, The Weather Channel, PBS, Food Network, The Travel Channel. That’s all. Can I get just the cable channels I want?

I do have basic: 19 channels plus #23. The Weather Channel sneaks its way into my house, clear-imaged but with an annoying static fuzz. So I watch silent radar images, arching fronts, on-scene reporters. Transfixed. I’m a weather geek. I even remember when Jim Cantori had hair.
So this post is how a history nut works her weather passion into this week's theme:
an epic event known simply as “the Donner Party”.

The 1840s. Ahh, such a sweet decade in English literature! On this side of the pond, a booming, mass migration of U.S. Easterners swarmed along trails like ants to the wide open lands of the west. California and its rolling, golden hills waited, just out of reach in each night’s alluring sunset.

The unknown man behind the Donner Party disaster was Lansford Hastings. He’d gone west and come back with the idea of writing a guide book to lead parties westward. A great American success story—if it had worked. Mr. Hastings had never really taken the route he suggested.

April 1846, Springfield Illinois. The Reed and Donner families, among others, head west in multiple wagons, on separate departures, traveling on rain soaked, muddy trails.

Mr. Hastings, always just ahead on the trail, left word he'd wait for any interested parties to join him at Fort Bridger. Hundreds of pioneer families had to make the choice: follow the old tried and true trail, or take a chance on Hastings’ new shortcut. Most took the advice of an old mountain man and took the established route. On July 31st, now nearly half way to California, nine families and sixteen single men split off to follow Hastings.

The new route was brutal. They had to double team their wagons to get them up mountains and through canyons. It took them a month to get where they’d expected to be in a week. Their next message from Hastings encouraged those who’d followed to forge on and prepare for a two day "dry" crossing of the great salt desert. At this point, the end of August, they still had 600 miles to go before winter closed the Sierras.

On the third day of crossing the desert, their water ran out. Oxen died, cattle ran off, never to be seen again. Everyone suffered from exhaustion, dehydration and the extremes of heat during the day and freezing temperatures at night. Much of their belongings were left behind. By the time they made it out of the desert--a five day ordeal, not two days as they'd been told--all the other immigrants from Springfield had arrived in California except for the group known as the Donner party.

Bitterness fed by exhaustion burned through the group. Mr Reed was put out of the camp after killing his teamster for beating an ox. He went on alone, while his family continued with the party, many of whom were now walking to lessen the oxen’s work. A sick old man was left behind to die before a Paute raid took many of their remaining oxen and cattle.

The party reached Nevada's Truckee River on October 18th. One of the men who’d gone ahead for supplies returned with food, two guides, and a new deadline. They had to get through the mountain pass within a month to beat the winter snows.

George Donner cut his hand while fixing a wagon axle and sent the rest ahead. The majority made it to just below the summit and decided to wait for the Donner family. A few days later the entire party reunited near the highest pass. after a brutal uphill battle over muddy, frosty and very steep inclines. They had crossed 2400 miles in seven months. But they missed getting to their destination 150 miles away by one day. That night a blizzard filled the pass with five feet of snow.

They turned back to build a winter camp on Truckee Lake.

The details here are long and arduous, too many and too chilling to recount. Very few will ever know the extremes of weather and hunger the Donner party went through. There wasn’t just snow for one night but days of snow at a time, often blanketing their makeshift lean-tos and huts until they disappeared under the accumulation. By Thanksgiving, twenty foot drifts were common. Some of the party left, desperate to find food and rescue.

Mr. Reed, banned from the party weeks earlier, arrived at their destination in California only to learn the rest of his group had never made it. For five more months, the stranded immigrants fought to survive and rescuers, including Reed, risked all to locate those survivors. You must know by now that some of them did survive.

The details found in first person accounts, diaries and interviews give grueling testament to the power of the human desire to live. Some deny and some admit to resorting to cannibalism. Very few stories can meet this one as a compelling ‘human interest’ story.

On April 21st, 1847, almost one year from the date they left Springfield, the last of the Donner party left Truckee Lake (now Donner Lake) to start their new lives in California.

87 started: 41 died, 46 survived.
2/3 of the women and children made it.
2/3 of the men did not.

While the morbid and gruesome nature of this story may stir your interest or disgust you, I find the personal details of their struggle to survive in such extreme conditions fascinating. I complain when it takes too long (more than five minutes) for my truck to heat up in January. I get irritable if I'm unable to meet my appointed meal time and feel hunger for that extra hour. I complain when my cross-country flight is delayed and I have to sit in the airport for an extra 45 minutes.

What could I survive if I had to? What would I do to make sure my children survived?
What about you?

What stories of human struggle for survival have captivated your imagination? Have you ever had to deal with extreme heat, cold, snow or even hunger and thought how absolutely easy our lives are compared to so many others, past or present? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The Donner Pass photo just above shows cars climbing the same route under the same conditions, well, except for snow plows and the combustion engine. Courtesy of BrianButko. Colorado snows (Header Photo) courtesy of Gregory_y/Flickr.

For more, check out these sites:
Enhanced by Zemanta

Stephanie Newton's Book Winner

The winner of Stephanie Newton’s Love Inspired Suspense, Flashpoint, is…

Olivia J Herrell.

Congrats, Olivia and thanks to you and everyone who stopped by to visit with Stephanie.

And thank you Stephanie for blogging with us. I’m looking forward to reading Flashpoint.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How Deep Are Your Roots?

by Jennifer AlLee

When my husband and I decided to move our family to Las Vegas, we knew a lot of things about the weather. We knew it was pretty hot in the summer (112, anyone?) We knew it got pretty cool in the winter (we've had snow twice since we moved here). But what we didn't know was how incredibly windy it can get.

Maybe it's because Vegas is essentially one big valley, but the wind can swoop through with surprising velocity. Earlier this year, we had one of our wild and crazy storms. The kind with winds up to sixty miles an hour. The kind that makes the window blinds shake and shimmy, even though none of the windows are open. That's the kind of wind that almost always does damage. 

Because of the lack of water in the desert, tree roots remain fairly shallow. So when a wind comes up, there's not a whole lot to hang on to. Of course, the news reports that night were full of images of downed trees. Imagine my surprise when I walked out of my apartment the next morning to find a huge tree uprooted right outside my window. Thankfully, it fell in an open space and missed the building (angels working overtime, perhaps). But when I saw the roots, I ran back inside and grabbed my camera. This was just too good to miss.

As you can see, there's some kind of landscape material draped over the roots. That started out under the gravel as a weed deterrent. But now, take a look at the roots themselves. Those are pretty shallow roots for a tree that tall.

Remember that song, "Deep and Wide"? It's about a river, but the phrase applies to roots, too. When roots run deep and wide, the tree is anchored. When storms come, as storms always do, the tree has a foundation to stand against them.

With all this talk about roots and water and storms, I'm sure you can see where I'm going. We feed our spirits when we dig deep into God's Word, spend time with Him in prayer, and join in community worship. All these things extend our root system. They ground us, give us stability. And when the storms of life come, we may be battered and bruised, but by golly, we still stand.

When I was in my early twenties, I went through a nasty period of backsliding. Seriously bad stuff. But even when I was at my lowest, I knew God was there. (I kept pushing Him away, you see, and you can't push away somebody who doesn't exist.) Despite the way I was living at the time, years of praying and studying the Bible and singing in the church choir just wouldn't go away. My foundation was solid, even though I was building a house of cards on top of it. And when the house fell down, the foundation remained, ready and waiting for the Master Builder to put up something solid and lasting. Which He has.

Okay, I am now officially guilty of that writerly sin of mixing metaphors. But you get the point. And just in case, here's a word from Jesus to cement the whole thing:
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)
How about you? Is your foundation strong? Are your roots deep? Have you gone through a time in your life when storms battered you, but you came out the other side? I think we all have. God bless you today as you live for Him and stand tall!

Photo credits:
Fallen tree - Jennifer AlLee
Palm tree - Morguefile -

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Next Week: Weather or Not

Small Talk. Safe topic. Nothing gets talked about more with people we know less. But by now you've realized that the Inkies have no need for safe topics, and are rarely at a loss for words.

What's YOUR weather story?

Sunday Devotional: Jennifer AlLee

Monday: Debra E. Marvin

Tuesday: D'Ann Mateer

Wednesday: Gwen Stewart

Thursday: Gina Welborn

Friday: Dina Sleiman

Saturday Book Review: Jennifer AlLee

Here's a little something to cool you off on a hot July weekend. I guess it's true that blue is a "cool" color:

Friday, July 23, 2010

How We Speak....English

by Wenda Dottridge

My children always laugh at me when they hear me on the phone speaking to a South African. My accent changes, instantly, from flat North American to the clipped twang I picked up in the two years I lived in South Africa in the early 1990s. Instead of saying "uh-huh" and "okay" I switch to "yahs" and "yiss-es." "No way" becomes "ag (pronounced with a little flem on the 'g') shame." "How sweet" = "ag shame," "That's too bad" = "ag shame." If you haven't guessed, "ag shame" serves as a suitable response to just about anything.

It's not that when I speak to South Africans I choose to change my accent. In fact, I don't think I change my accent per se, I just shift my vocabulary and speech cadence. This is a skill I had to learn when I lived and worked in England and then in South Africa and my husband, likewise, had to do when he came to Canada. Adopting the rhythm and vocabulary of the people you work and live with isn't an affectation, it's a matter of maintaining clear communication.

Consider my early experiences working in England as a temporary secretary. My first assignment was to man the switchboard at a law office near the magistrate's (criminal) court (I think, the details are hazy as I was only there for one day). After numerous snarl ups attempting to decipher a caller's name through thick east-end accents of the firm's clientelle I lit on a plan. Instead of asking subsequent callers to repeat their name, over and over and over again, I would ask the caller to spell their name. Brilliant! The next caller's exasperation practically turned my handset to lead as he dutifully spelled his name for me - S-M-I-T-H.

Or in my next job (that lasted months, not days) the very gorgeous, very hunky new Aussie exec who approached me on his second day and, with utter sincerity, asked if I might provide him with a rubber. Gulp.

Or during a week long tour of Ireland with some Irish friends. At the first B&B Seamus asked if I'd like to be knocked up in the morning. Ummm. No. Thanks. (I hadn't been to South Africa yet or I would have said "ag shame, but no.")

Or, when booking a flight to Australia for my boss (no, sadly not the eraser-deficient hunk) I was reciting the ticket number to the agent and said, "oh-eight-four-six-Q-W-slash-two-three-four," and was met with utter silence. The agent said, "What did you say?" So I repeated it, and in a very stiff voice she told me I probably meant to say "dash."  Okay. Whatever. It took a quick consult with the Kiwi in the next cubicle to figure out that "slash" is not a polite word in England, its meaning less to do with a keystroke on a computer and more to do with bodily functions. Oops.

 Renee Zellweger was wonderful in Bridget Jones's Diary because she didn't just put on an English accent, she nailed the character. She got the mannerisms, the hefty pauses, and the London slang. You see, even though we share a mother tongue with English speakers in other places doesn't mean we share the same nuances. Accent is about more than simple tomaaatos and tomahtos. So, you can see that adopting a new way of speaking, a new vocab and new intonation when in a new culture, can not only be important, it can be essential.

Our regional version of English is uniquely flavoured by our area's history, other linguitic influences (i.e. eh? from the French and noo doowbt aboowt it from the Scots who settled much of Canada), and well, lots of stuff. (For a slightly more thorough treatment of the subject I highly recommend Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue.) In South Africa, the English language is a hybrid of Oxbridge weighted English flavoured with Afrikaans (a Dutch derivative). The vocabulary is, in some regions, almost creole-like, so strong is the influence of Afrikanns and indiginous languages.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guest Stephanie Newton: Parlez-vous francais?

by Stephanie Newton

This picture is me in Paris with my husband, Spring 2008.

When I was younger, I studied French for six years and spent a semester in college there, so I used to speak French really well. My experience with the language on our last trip went something like this: I would begin speaking. The person I was speaking to would stare and her eyebrows would draw together in confusion. Within a few seconds, he or she would either laugh and kindly switch to English, or gently correct my French until I was saying the right thing. Generally our conversation was accompanied by blushing (me), lots of hand gesturing (the French), and a few chuckles (my husband).

My husband and I love to travel but we travel very differently. He likes an itinerary mapped out minute by minute. I like to wander down side streets and into shops and bakeries (lots of bakeries). After twenty years of marriage, we’ve finally figured out that for a successful vacation, we need to build time into the schedule for both of us. That way he doesn’t panic when I start down a hill because I see a cute window-box and I don’t get stressed because my free-wheeling personality is being curtailed when every minute is planned. But it took some serious talking to get to this point.

Language is important for one reason. Communication.

But sometimes words just aren’t enough for good communication. So here are a few things I learned from my trip to France:

• Know what you want to say--this is especially important when you’re speaking a foreign language like man-speak (if you’re female) or female-speak (if you’re male).

• Listen carefully--no matter how temptingly distracting those chocolate croissants are, nothing can replace good listening as a communication skill.

• If you’re not sure you understand, ask for clarification. Répétez s’il vous plaît became my favorite words in France, but in day to day life, asking for more information also helps make misunderstandings avoidable

• Pay attention to nonverbal cues--words may be different around the world but facial expression and body language isn’t.

• Mind your manners--being polite is always in good taste.

• Be patient--in fiction, characters say whatever the author wants them to. They always understand what the other is trying to say (or not, if that’s the way the author wants it). Characters can sometimes even read facial expressions as if they were paragraphs. But let’s face it, in real life, situations often call for more patience

With some communication, we figured out the secret for a successful vacation. Our trip to France was the best.

I did great with the language, by the way. I only ended up with raw fish on my salad once.

I’d love to hear your stories about miscommunication or overcoming miscommunication!

Stephanie is giving away a copy of her current release, Flashpoint to one person who comments before Sunday midnight, July 25th. Please include your email address using (dot) and [at] so the net spiders don't nab you.

You can read an excerpt here.
Award-winning author Stephanie Newton lives in Florida with her husband and two teenagers. She regularly practices her language skills on unsuspecting foreign exchange students and tourists. Flashpoint, the latest book in her Emerald Coast 911 series, is available now.

You can find Stephanie at

Thank you for spending the day with us, Steph.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Words Cannot Express

By Lisa Karon Richardson

Don’t get me wrong. I love words. Words are to me what dance is to Dina. I need them. But experts say that as much as eighty-five percent of face-to-face human communication is done by body language. Are you with me on that? That means that only fifteen percent of our communication is accomplished by the words we’re saying. Even the sea witch, Ursula from The Little Mermaid recognized that body language can do what voice sometimes cannot. And who can forget her little shimmy with that poor benighted eel?
While preparing for a hefty rewrite of one of my first manuscripts, I’ve been doing a bit of research into personality types and the way we relate to one another. I found it fascinating that each of the personality categories also have characteristic gestures that they make when talking. And each of these gestures seem to pinpoint who they are at the core. For example, rationals tend to draw their fingers together as if they’re making the very finest point on their discussion that they can. While guardians might make a sharp chopping motion, indicating that a conversation is over.
All this got me to thinking about books. What are some of the commonest gestures we find in books? How do we interpret (or misinterpret) them?

The raised eyebrow-cynicism, a question or an embarrassing facial tic.
Tucking hair behind an ear-indicates that the person is just a little disheveled, i.e. endearingly human.
Nibbling a lower lip-the character is nervous, or incredibly hungry.
Folding hands in lap-points to the character being serene or demure.
Snapping fingers-shows impatience or possibly that they just can’t stop the beat.
Tapping foot-more impatience or maybe annoyance
Gritted teeth-great anguish of spirit

Pursed lips-prissiness
Stroking a moustache-evil intentions
Rubbing temples-a difficult decision to be made or a headache
Cracking knuckles-the fun and games are over and the beat down is about to begin.
I know there must be many more of the common physical reactions that I haven’t covered. What are your favorites and how do you interpret them?

Share This Post

How Our Giveaways Work: The Official Rules

We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.