Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
A couple weeks ago I pulled the saffron-padded, from-Bethany-House envelope out of my mailbox and thought, "Ooooh, Karen Witemeyer's book 2!" Well, maybe I didn't think the exclamation point. Still, I giddly opened the package because I was excited to read Karen's book.
Only it wasn't her book.
It was Jody's.
THE PREACHER'S BRIDE.
I'd totally forgotten I offered to endorse A PREACHER'S BRIDE. Here's probably the moment to confess that I made the offer to Jody without even knowing what her book was about. I liked Jody so I concluded I'd like her book. Here's also probably the moment to confess that while I thought "lovely cover," I had a jolt. Amish?! Granted, I enjoyed Vannetta Chapman's A SIMPLE AMISH CHRISTMAS and was happy to endorse it, but I feared...well, *sigh.* I'll happily read another of Vannetta's Amish books but don't count me Amish-loving-converted yet.
Fortunately for me (and Jody), I turned the book over.
In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher—whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John’s protests of her aid. She’s even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family. Yet Elizabeth’s new role as housekeeper takes a dangerous turn when John’s boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher’s enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she’s more determined than ever to save the child—and man—she’s come to love.
Ooooh. Not only wasn't it Amish, but it was a European-set historical. Eeeks!!! I love Euopean-set historicals. *sigh*
Okay, so since I'm on a roll with the moments of confession, once I had that epiphany of what genre the book really was, I went "duh. Jody's in His Writers, the writing group of gals with a passion to read and write European-set historicals."
I'm blaming my duh-ness on having five children. And since Jody has five children too, I know she'll totally empathize. I know many will say "There's a big difference between Amish attire and Puritan attire." I, sadly, am not one of those clothing experts. Now enough about my lack of expertise.
I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK.
In fact, I wish I had bought the novel myself instead of getting an endorser copy.
While I've read more than a handful or two romances this year--and basically enjoyed most of them, especially Julie Lessman's A HOPE UNDAUNTED, Laurie Alice Eakes's WHEN THE SNOW FLIES, Mary Coneally's MONTANA ROSE, Melanie Dickerson's THE HEALER'S APPRENTICE, Vannetta Chapman's A SIMPLE AMISH CHRISTMAS, and...uggh, I know I'm forgetting several goodies (sorry to those I drew a blank on)....anyhoo
One of my favorite scenes is around the 42-page mark. Our heroine Puritan Elizabeth Whitbread is housekeeping/babysitting (not to his pleasure) for our hero Preacher John Costin. She's interferring with his status-quo, which, while not being the best of status quos, is endurable to John becuase he knows he has to endure because that's what a person of faith does. At this point in the novel, John is convinced Elizabeth--and her selfless willingness to help his family--only add to his life's stress. Well, she does.
Now in this scene John's four kids are doing what kids do best: be loud and disruptive when the parent(s) want quiet. (I'm happy to report my kids are nicely and quietly secluded away. Probably giving the dog's tail a haircut again.) One thing after another happens and a kid--or four--are crying.
The door to the study banged open, and Brother Costin stumbled out, rubbing his eyes.
Elizabeth caught only a glimpse of him before shreiking and yanking her apron over her face to shield her vision. Heat rushed to her cheeks. Brother Costin was immodestly attired--from his breeches upward, his chest was bare and broad shoulders exposed.
'Twas embarrassing to happen across the immodestly of another woman, as she had with Lucy from time to time, but to see a man unclothed, even if only partially, was altogether horrifying. 'Twas not decent nor appropriate for her, a young unmarried woman, to be anywhere near such a man.
What happens next made me laugh. Poor Elizabeth is utterly mortified, and John has no awareness of her embarrassment. Thus, their dialogue exchange amid four squalling children of various ages...all the while Elizabeth has an apron over her head and John is oblivious as to why...okay, I'm skimming the page again and chuckling. Here's a shortened exchange:
John: What are you hiding?
Elizabeth: Only my eyes.
John: What's wrong with your eyes that you must hide them from me?
Elizabeth: Nothing is wrong with my eyes. Indeed, they are working all too well this day.
LOL. If I hadn't have liked Elizabeth already, I would have decided she was an utterly worthy heroine by how she handled John and his denseness. You go, girl! She had confidence in her words and with speaking her mind without being disrespecting or demeaning. Oh, to be more like Elizabeth Whitbread.
Which leads me to say that throughout this book, Jody did a fabulous job using dialogue to define her characters. As a writer, I want to do that, but the key is knowing one's characters well enough to know what they would and wouldn't say. Years ago I was a fanatical reader of a certain ABA romance author. Then as I was reading (at that time) her newest release, I realized all her characters had witty, snarky, clever responses...all the time. No one always says witty, clever, snarky responses all the time. And even if they do, what are the odds that all their friends and acquaintences will do too? Which is why I say writers need to be careful about not having all their characters sound alike. Kudos, Jody!
So back to the book....
The timeline of the novel was about two years (which Jody makes a note about at the end of the novel). I appreciated that John and Elizabeth didn't begin their relationship with immediate physical awareness/attraction. Instead, Jody took time to show their growing physical, spiritual, and emotional connection.
John's first real impression of Elizabeth was that she was "bold--rebuking him this way" yet also "quite ordinary" in appearance (both on page 73). Almost 200 pages later, his impression changed not because Elizabeth really had changed, but because John himself saw her differently because of her character. "Her smile was fresh and guiless and reminded him of the godly woman she truly was....She was completely unaware of the freshness and vitality of her womanliness, and that only added to her allure."
Reminds me of the sermon on dating that my husband preached a month or so back during high school worship. He said that whatever a girl/woman uses to hook a man is what she has to use to keep him.
I could say more about chapter 23, but it would give away too much of the plot. Jody has a discussion guide that readers and book clubs can download. Alas, she doesn't have a question related to this chapter and John's struggle with what he wanted and what he obligated to do. Might be something good to add to your book club's discussion.
My favorite line in the book actually wasn't part of the novel itself. In the author's note at the end, Jody wrote, "God used [John and Elizabeth's] hardships to strengthen their love for Him and their love for each other."
As a preacher's wife, I hope someday people will say that about hubby and me.
Read an Excerpt of THE PREACHER'S BRIDE here.
Find out more about Jody and her novel by going to http://jodyhedlund.com/.
THE PREACHER'S BRIDE can be purchased online or at your local Christian bookseller.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Keeping Things In Perspective by Jody Hedlund
The laughter of a dozen children splashing in the water was like background music to my mother soul. As I sat on the back deck that overlooked the lake, I could keep an eye on my kids and talk with the other parents—a perfect way to relax on a humid summer evening.
The shout of “Marco” and the responding “Polo” wafted over the water. And I smiled as my four year old daughter attempted to join the big kids in their game.
Suddenly quiet descended over the group of children and their water tag came to a halt.
My body tensed and I did a quick head count, making sure I could see all five of my children. One of my 11 year old twins stood with a hand over her mouth. The other kids quickly surrounded her. When she pushed her way through them and waded to the shore, my heart stuttered with a silent uh-oh.
I jumped up and raced to her, cringing with each step. Did she have a busted lip? A cut? A bruise?
Her big brown eyes gazed at me with confusion and horror.
“What happened?” I asked, not sure I really wanted to know.
She took her hand away and that’s when I saw it.
Half of her top front tooth was missing.
I could only stare, speechless. Her permanent tooth. Cracked. Missing.
One thought reverberated through my head, “She’ll have to live the rest of her life, all 80 plus years, with a broken tooth. The rest of her life. The rest of her life.” My beautiful daughter, on the brink of her insecure teenage years, would have a glaring black gap in her pretty smile.
I was devastated. Later at home, after the kids were in bed, I sat with my husband in stunned silence and wanted to cry. Why her? And why a tooth? Why couldn’t it have been a split lip instead? At least that would have healed.
Gravely, my husband finally said, “At least the dentist will be able to fix it. And we can be grateful it wasn’t anything worse.”
And that’s when I realized how easy it is to lose perspective. Through a tight throat I said, “If I’m a basket-case with a broken tooth, I’d hate to see myself if something worse happened to one of the kids.”
We’re bound to have those broken-tooth moments in life and in writing—those times when it feels like the world is ending, but in reality we’ve just hit a bump in the road. Usually, after we’ve had the chance to put the situation in perspective, we realize that the problem isn’t so big, that maybe it’s fixable, and that it could have been so much worse . . . after all what’s a broken tooth compared to a drowning?
I’m a passionate person. I feel things deeply. It’s a great quality to have as a writer because I can transfuse those emotions into my stories. It’s only healthy and right for all of us to experience our emotions, not to ignore them or gloss over them. We can embrace our disappointments, fears, and frustrations.
But . . . I’m learning that it’s also healthy to keep things in perspective. When we face another rejection, harsh criticism, or difficult situation, we can allow ourselves to feel the pain. But then we should eventually tell ourselves, “I can be grateful it wasn’t anything worse.”
Perspective. When we keep things in perspective, we learn to be more grateful for what we’re given, instead of focusing on what we’re missing.
How about you? Have you had any broken-tooth moments, when at the situation looked horrible, but in hindsight it wasn’t so bad? How do you learn to keep things in perspective?
Jody Hedlund is a debut historical romance novelist who was a double finalist in the 2009 ACFW Genesis Contest. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.
She’s represented by agent Rachelle Gardner and her debut book, The Preacher’s Bride, released in Oct. 2010 and is available online and in most bookstores. Stop by her blog, Author, Jody Hedlund, where she chronicles her journey to publication and dispenses more of her two-cent writing wisdom.
Jody has graciously offered to give away a copy of her brand new release, The Preacher's Bride, to one of our readers, so don't forget to enter the drawing. (I -- Susanne -- am loving this book!)Just leave your email address in the comment section of this post by nine pm, Sunday, October 31 to be entered into the drawing, and we'll contact the lucky winner.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
by Susanne Dietze
Have you ever noticed it's the little things in life that can make -- or break -- your day?
This year we spent our summer vacation visiting family in the Pacific Northwest, and the best parts of it were the little things – watching our kids play with their cousins, stopping at a roadside stand for Umpqua ice cream, and marveling in the exquisite hydrangeas growing throughout Victoria, Canada. Sure, there were big things we enjoyed too, but it seems like the memories my family still talks about are the little things that blessed us on our trip.
It was a little thing that plunged us into trouble, too.
Along a quiet two-lane road between yellow grasses and thick pines, I heard a banshee-like screech, a nails-on-the-chalkboard sort of sound that made the kids cover their ears with their hands and set my heart racing. The groaning noise came from the vicinity of the right rear tire, and hearing it, I knew what it meant.
We were doomed.
Ok, not doomed. But I am writer, after all. I have a pretty good imagination and my mind jumps to dramatic, worst-case scenarios just about every day. Before my husband could pull the car to the side of the road, I envisioned us living out of a hotel for three days while a zillion-dollar part was ordered for our car.
Of course I overreacted, but at that moment, we lacked a few resources necessary to deal with a broken-down car, like, say, a single bar of cell phone reception. We were on the Quileute Reservation a few miles outside of Forks, WA (yes, that Quileute Reservation and that Forks – the setting of the bestselling young adult series, Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer) with no clue how we were going to get out of our mess.
I may be an over-imaginative writer, but I’m also a Christian, and the best resource available to me is the Lord. Remembering His promise to never leave or forsake us, my family prayed for His help. And then we got out of the car.
To our amazement, we couldn’t see any damage, but boy, could we hear it as we made our screechy way back to Forks. We weren’t surprised that a local mechanic heard us coming, too, and he met us in front of his shop. When he heard we’d been to First Beach on the Quileute Reservation, he nodded, removed the tire, and fished out a small rock that had lodged itself between the dust shield and the back of the rotor. And with that, we were good to go.
A rock? Seriously? Yep. This measly little pebble – smaller than the penny in my daughter’s hand here – was responsible for all of that racket, all of that panic, all of that craziness.
We have no control over some of the small things that affect us, whether they’re stones in our dust shields or cancer cells. They have the potential to grow into huge problems.
Other times, we create the little things that cause trouble and sometimes, we we even nurture them into full-fledged disasters. A word harshly spoken, a wee bit of gossip, a kernel of resentment we allow to take root in our hearts. Easily dismissed, because they’re small things. Right?
Yet Jesus says that small things matter, whether they’re our attitudes, words, or even our faith. Just as he sees the smallest of things that trouble us, He also values the tiniest of good things -- widow's mites, zygotes, and kisses. I love it when He tells us that He knows every sparrow and has counted each of the hairs on our heads (Mt. 10:29-31).
Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed is another small but mighty reminder that, well, things that start small can be mighty: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches” (Mt. 13:31-32). Just as little problems have the potential to impact us in big ways, even the smallest bit of faith in our great and powerful God is more than enough to change everything.
That realization challenged how I handle the little things – the good and the bad – and I wonder what my reactions may say about my faith and trust in God. My faith was miniscule when I freaked out over the car trouble, but thankfully, it's not the "size" of my faith that matters . . . what matters is how big God is. Even when my faith, my gifts, my might, are teeny.
When Jesus told the parable of the talents, the master says, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Mt. 25:21)
And if there's anything I want in life, it's to share in my Master's happiness.
I’m attempting to increase my faithfulness, tending to the small things that God has entrusted to me. Sometimes, all I have to offer is something small, but sometimes small is enough. A smile, a kind phrase, or a nod can welcome the lonely, ease a suffering, help heal the wounded. But I can put all I have into those smiles, nods, or words.
And I’ll be more grateful for the smallest of blessings, too, like one of the best moments of my vacation -- really, of my entire year. Before the pebble stuck in our tire, I perched on a bleached-out piece of driftwood, marveling at my surroundings on First Beach at La Push. This photo I took doesn't do it justice in the least.
I grew up on the ocean, boogie-boarding my way through childhood, but First Beach was no bodysurfing beach. It was cold and raw and swirling in shades of gray, from the coarse sand under my sneakers to the low-hanging clouds. I could have stayed all day, watching my kids hop over driftwood and shriek at the crabs. Sitting there, I saw the majesty of God’s creation all around me: in the jagged outcroppings off shore, in the tiny blue shells washed on the sand, and in the white-capped waves. I felt so blessed and peaceful that it was hard to leave.
And when we did drive away, our dust shield trapped a rock. In an instant, I forgot the joy I’d just received, I forgot about God's grace, and I panicked.
Which is one reason why I still have the rock here on my desk with me. Yes, that little pebble was almost enough to "doom" my day and challenge my faith, but that rock also reminds me that while little things can cause big problems, God's great grace is in everything, no matter how big or little. And He's faithful through it all.
I want to be, too.
What small thing are you grateful for today? How can thanking God for the small things increase our faith?
If you're a Twilight fan, you can see a few more (thoroughly unprofessional) pics and read about the rest of my visit to Forks here.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
In my life, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. And 80% of my reading appetite has been filled with romance. Sometimes I can’t tell why I loved a certain book, but I can usually tell you why I didn’t. To help you weed through all the available books, you can look almost anywhere on the internet and read reviews. Sometimes they’ll tell you the good and the bad. And sometimes just the good. Or just the bad. It depends on how the reader perceived the story.
But what makes a good story? Or better yet . . . what makes a great story? This has been on my mind this past year as I’ve done almost a total overhaul of Emma’s story. You see, I liked it well enough before, but others didn’t so I had to employ elements to make it more entertaining. I didn’t want to make the same mistake with this upcoming novel.
In my research to find the facts of a great story, I pulled out the Bible and re-read some of the stories I’ve loved forever. And amongst the stories of heroic valour and deep faith, the romantic ones topped my list.
In particular is the story of King David and Bathsheba. Complete books of the Bible focus on David and his life. Not so much Bathsheba, but I’ll talk about this later.
Dictionary.com defines a hero as ‘a man (or woman) of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities’. Well, that certainly describes David, both as a youngster and as a king.
A hero is also someone who does what needs to be done even when he or she doesn’t want to do it. Biblical heroes who fall into this category are:
- Mary – who accepted carrying the Christ child although she knew it meant shame
- Joseph – who didn’t want to take Mary as his wife once he found out she was pregnant, but married her on faith
- Moses who didn’t want to leave his life of a shepherd in Midian to become a public speaker went to Egypt and demanded Pharaoh let the Hebrews leave.
- Gideon is found hiding in a wine press and keeps making excuses and testing God before accepting the task. (Judges 6)
- Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac as proof of his obedience to God. In Gen 22:2 states Abraham loved Isaac. And yet, he willingly prepared to obey God.
No, they don’t. It also makes an emotional story when they stumble. Let’s go back to the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 & 12 . . .
The Bible says David was tempted the moment he first saw Bathsheba bathing. That in itself was enough to put me in a tizzy when I first read it at the age of 12. Compound that with adultery and the story had my full attention. Add in the rest – the pregnancy, the murder and the lying – and it’s a bestseller in my eyes. We even have a happy ending because David marries her after she’s properly mourned the death of her husband. Awh, it’s so romantic.
Is it? David doesn't even admit he's sinned until the prophet Nathan stands before him in accusation. That's not very hero-like.
And the story isn’t complete at this point, because David’s sin wasn’t something personal between him, Bathsheba, Uriah and God. As a king, David’s people and his enemies knew about it. And although God is merciful and forgiving, He’s also a disciplinarian. The punishment meted out to David was that the son born of his affair with Bathsheba should die.
We can’t feel sorry for the child, because the Bible says children are in the kingdom of heaven. (Mark 10:14 NIV).
But, 2 Sam 12:24 says Bathsheba suffered. So what did David do? He comforted her by taking her to bed. *sigh* Which, of course, is practically where the story started. Bathsheba gets pregnant again – although this time it’s sanctified by God in holy wedlock. Their union is blessed and the child is Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. And yes, that’s the end of David and Bathsheba’s story as given in the Bible.
As a hero, David stumbles. Big time. I've heard that a hero isn't a hero because he doesn't get tempted, but because he overcomes temptation. I'd say David failed in that regard - at least this once. Other times, he passed the test. He was only human, after all.
If I was writing a book review on the story of David, Bathsheba and Uriah, I'd say it’s kind of one-sided. It reminds me of those old Harlequins where you only read the point of view (POV) of the heroine. You never knew what the hero was thinking and you'd have to guess from his expressions and tone of voice. And even then, the author would usually try to throw you off - at least that's the way I saw it.
Getting back to the Bible, here’s some things I’d like to know about this story :
What was Bathsheba's emotional state when she first realized why David requested her presence?
And what about love:
- Had she a crush on him from afar before he ever saw her?
- Did she fall in love with him the moment she appeared before him?
- Did she learn to love him over time?
During their night together, did Bathsheba mention:
- Anything about her feelings toward her husband?
- Uriah feelings for her?
Did Bathsheba love Uriah? We know she was upset when he died, but was it because:
- She’d lost the love of her life?
- She no longer had a protector? (Tantamount to a death certificate back then)
- Her children lost their father. (Did she even have children from Uriah?)
What was Bathsheba’s background?
- Was she lower, middle, upper class? Was she born that way or only since marrying Uriah?
- Was she a Hittite like Uriah? Where was she born?
How did Bathsheba feel when she realized she was carrying David’s child?
- Shame and regret?
- Sorrow that it wasn’t Uriah’s?
- Happy that she carried the king’s child in her womb?
We know what David did, but we don’t know what he thought. (His POV):
- Did he fall in love with Bathsheba or just lust after her?
- After their one-night-stand, did he pine for her?
- Would he have tried to kill Uriah if Bathsheba hadn’t been pregnant?
And what about David’s pre-meditated murder:
- Did he agonize over his plan to kill Uriah?
- Or was he stricken with panic?
- Did he kill Uriah because he wanted Bathsheba for himself?
After they married, was she just another wife in his harem?
I realize these answers are speculated upon elsewhere on the web, but like reviews, I'd like to read the story firsthand myself.
If you've noticed, I haven't judged David or Bathsheba's actions because that's not the point of this post. There are oodles of places on the web where that's already been done. This post is merely research into the entertainment value of a well-known story. And no, I don't believe every story should have adultery, cheating, lying and murder. But it sure spiced it up.
If you'd like to read more about Bathsheba, check out Inkwell's Dina Sleiman's post from last Dec on An Unusual Heroine: Bathsheba.
Do you think I'm asking too much to want to know more about David and Bathsheba's story? Instead of telling all the carnal details of this type of story, would my time be better spent dwelling on the repentance aspect of it?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I’ve been writing/publishing for more than two decades now and only recently published my first historical novel. Though my thirty-plus books are fairly evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction, all my novels have been contemporary—until Valeria’s Cross.
|Buy a copy HERE.|
But none of the stories impacted me more than that of the Theban Legion—6600 men, valiant warriors who served the Roman Empire in the third century, a time when persecution of Christians was intense. When the Theban Legion, along with the rest of the Roman army, was commanded to make sacrifices to the Roman gods, this amazing group of men respectfully and humbly declined, explaining that though they were loyal to Rome, their first loyalty was to Christ. They could not compromise that primary allegiance to serve one of the lesser ones.
As a result, the legion was decimated—one-tenth of the 6600 men were martyred for their faith. The rest were then offered a chance to reconsider, but they too declined. This process was repeated several times until the last man went to his death rather than deny his first allegiance to Christ.
I was stunned by the story. Though some historians question its veracity, there is a monument to the legion in France, and many historians are convinced that it is true. Whether it is or isn’t, it is certainly a clear portrait of what it means to give our first allegiance to Christ.
With that in mind, I was convinced that the story of the Theban Legion needed to be told in fiction form. I was, in fact, shocked that someone hadn’t already done so. When I mentioned the idea to my friend Susan Wales, wife of movie producer Ken Wales (Amazing Grace, Revenge of the Pink Panther, etc.), she agreed that it was a novel waiting to happen. In addition, she told me that she had done her college thesis on that very time period and therefore knew it well. She said the third-century Roman Emperor Diocletian was notorious for his persecution of Christians, but it was also rumored that Diocletian’s wife, Prisca, and daughter, Valeria (their only child) had converted to Christianity. What better love interest for the leader of the Theban legion than the very daughter of his persecutor!
And so a co-authored novel was in the works, and a historical romance was born. Of course, that part of the story is indeed fictionalized, but what a wonderful twist to the existing facts! We soon had our love triangle: the beautiful Princess Valeria; the handsome Theban leader, Mauritius; and the evil Roman General Galerius, who fueled Diocletian’s fear and hatred of Christians, including the Theban Legion, and wanted Valeria for himself.
With that particular exception and a few other minor tweaks that we had to make to bring these events together, Valeria’s Cross stays relatively true to history as we know it. This made for a different challenge than the purely historical novel based in a particular era and setting but without any of the major players having been real. We didn’t have the luxury of making the story turn out the way we might want it to, but rather had to end it as history is written. But oh, what fun we had in the interim! Fleshing out the characters who, in many cases, were mere mentions on the pages of history and introducing them to one another was such a joy! There were times we had to remind ourselves that Mauritius and Valeria truly hadn’t known one another and therefore weren’t in love at all. In our hearts and minds, they certainly were!
There have been quite a few novels written about the time of Christ and the century immediately following, but not many that we’ve found set in the third century. Susan and I pray that Valeria’s Cross will not only ignite an interest in that fascinating time period but will also ignite a fire in the hearts of believers today—a fire that will cause them to re-examine their first allegiance and to make the commitment to cling fast to it at all costs!
Kathi Macias is an “occasional radio show host” (www.blogtalkradio.com/communicatethevision) and an award-winning author of more than 30 books. A wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Kathi lives in Southern California with her husband, Al, where together they spend their spare time riding Al’s Harley—hence, Kathi’s “road name” of Easy Writer!
Valeria's Cross can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, CBD, Lifeway, Family Christian, and Indie Bound.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Let’s look at a few hallmarks of contemporary literature.
Experimental – The current postmodern worldview rejects the concept of absolute truth. Therefore, people of this generation are always searching to create meaning. They reject the authorities of the past and look for new structures and models for viewing the world. This can be seen in literature in a number of areas such as nonlinear plots, stream of consciousness writing, deconstructionist criticism, experimentation with grammar, loss of dialogue tags, plots that do not resolve, ect… While Christians maintain that the word of God is absolute truth, that does not mean that we necessarily accept the Webster’s Dictionary, the Oxford standards of grammar and punctuation, or a specific five point plot structure as absolute truth.
An example of experimental literary fiction can be seen in one of this year’s Christy Award winners, The Passion of Mary-Margaret. This book is written as if you are reading Mary Margaret’s personal journal. It is a sort of fictional memoir. She jumps back and forth in time between the present and random moments in her past. She has rambling reflective segments of “telling” that normally are not allowed in fiction. However, the whole book works together to create a very moving and meaningful work of art.
Mixed Genres – As a natural result of this experimentation, mixed genre writing has increased in popularity. For example, National Public Radio employs “literary journalism,” which removes the cold objectivity of standard journalism and allows us to enter an experience with the journalist using fictional techniques and poetic language. In the Christian arena, several books which have hit the New York Times best-seller list have been mixed genre books. Blue Like Jazz is a poetic memoir full of personal stories, which includes a series of comics. The Shack is a sort of fictional memoir which combines suspense and allegory.
I wrote my first narrative nonfiction book last year. It is basically a series of thematic lyric essays. The idea of the lyric essay is that it explores a theme in a somewhat poetic, disjointed, scene by scene fashion, braiding or weaving all of the ideas together, and tying them up tight at the end. So I was able to include poetry, personal stories, short stories, essays, devotionals, and scriptures, weaving them all together into a unified collection.
Distrust of Authoritative Voice – Since the postmodern reader rejects traditional authority and absolute truth, they tend to distrust an authoritative voice as well. In nonfiction, because we no longer believe that true objectivity is possible, this leads to books full of anecdotes and personal example stories to illustrate the logical points. In historical books and biographies, this leads to the author treating themselves as a character as they search for meaning in the various accounts of history. In fiction, the omniscient narrator has fallen out of favor. The most popular point of view is now multiple third person. This allows us to see the world up close and personal from a number of perspectives and lets us to draw our own meaning from the experiences of the characters.
In my newest novel, I feature three main characters from very different backgrounds: a Christian, a Muslim, and a New Age postmodern thinker. By using multiple points of view, the reader can see how each character reacts to the world and to each other. The reader gets an in-depth look at each mindset without being told what to believe. Since this is a Christian book, I did place my Christian character as the primary protagonist, and one of the other characters will undergo a significant change. However, my Christian will also learn and grow from the views of the other two women.
Multi-sensory – Now we get to the aspects of contemporary literature affected by both postmodern philosophy and our film and television oriented culture. We need a lot of sensory stimulation in our books to compete with visual media. So more than ever our words have to draw our reader into the story, bringing them all the way into the heads and bodies of our point of view characters so that they can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell what our characters are experiencing. However, you can still see the effect of postmodernism, because we want to have a relationship with a character and draw meaning from their experiences rather than just have those experiences reported to us.
Use of Scenes – The last area I would like to cover is the use of scenes. Of course this relates to television and film and our attention deficit culture. We’ve become used to scenes set in one time and place. A quick switch of the camera, and we accept that we’re in a new time and place, which is the next significant time and place in the storyline. We don’t need an explanation about how we got there or what happened in the interim. We don’t question if the writers and directors have left out some significant information that we need to know. But again, this also relates to the postmodern mindset because we want to draw our own conclusions and don’t want everything explained to us from an authoritative point of view.
In trying to be brief for this blog post, I probably broke a lot of the rules of postmodern literature by explaining the subject in an authoritative voice ;) So what are your experiences with contemporary reading and writing? What trends have you seen? How do you notice our culture affecting today’s literature and media?
Sunday, October 24, 2010
No, these furry others gather faithfully around my chair in a polite semi-circle. With five pink tongues lolling from toothy grins, big brown eyes gazing up with trust and confidence; they wait patiently for a nibble of crust. A crumb for each dog. Sometimes two.
|(l to r) Hershey, Blackjack, Archie and Bean|
|Buddy, blurry dog at left, wouldn't fit in first pic.|
Only one of these dogs is actually mine, Archie the Westie. The other four belong to my kids and son-in-law. Archie is the only one I'm responsible for officially. He's the only one I'm obliged to share my toast with (I know, that statement is worthy of a psychological examination), but I can't give Archie a crumb and ignore the rest of the pack. Every dog gets a tidbit of toast.
What, you ask, does this have to do with Putting an Ink on Scripture?
A woman from Canaan who was living there came to him, pleading, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, King David's Son! For my daughter has a demon within her, and it torments her constantly."To be called a "dog" in Israel was not a compliment. We might compare it to calling someone a "pig" today. Or a cockroach. Or a plasmodial slime mold. You get the idea. But instead of getting offended, she saw beyond her position to the mercy of God.
But Jesus gave her no reply—not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. "Tell her to get going," they said, "for she is bothering us with all her begging."
Then he said to the woman, "I was sent to help the Jews—the lost sheep of Israel—not the Gentiles."
But she came and worshiped him and pled again, "Sir, help me!"
"It doesn't seem right to take bread from the children and throw it to the dogs," he said.
"Yes, it is!" she replied, "for even the puppies beneath the table are permitted to eat the crumbs that fall."
"Woman," Jesus told her, "your faith is large, and your request is granted." And her daughter was healed right then.
Matt 15:22-28 TLB
This Canaanite woman was not a Jew. She had no covenant with God, no right to ask anything of Him. She couldn't call on God's faithfulness to Israel, nor on the promises given to believers in the Word. She had no righteousness based on faith, no holiness bought by the shedding of blood, nothing to offer in exchange for answered prayer. (How often do we go before the Father with a prayer request and offer up our good works, or a vow, or some other form of spiritual collateral in exchange for His answer?)
Instead of basing her request on herself, her position, her works, her lineage, or anything else, she based her petition solely on the mercy and compassion of God.
Every morning God uses my pack of pups to remind me of His compassion and mercy and love, not just for those who "belong" to Him, but for all the world. For me. I won't turn away from dogs, how could I ever think God would turn away from me because I'm not "good enough" or "worthy" of His attention and provision. Bread is a metaphor in the Bible for many things we need: life, healing, provision, sustenance, confirmation of covenant promises, and more.
God's love is greater than we can imagine, bigger than we can conceive, broader than anything our narrow minds can define. And He considers it a display of great faith when we recognize His unfailing love and endless supply of mercy and come to Him with our requests, large or small.
Feed a dog. Feed your faith.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Gina (aka Cleopatra) asked us each to do at least one book review per quarter. Here’s where I had to step up and try something I had no interest in, or, experience doing. I’m not saying I’m afraid of Gina, but I know when to take advantage of the Oklahoma Girl's "cattle prod" encouragement.
The first order of business was some serious browsing for a new-release. I've got plenty of books to read but I'm about two years behind on my TBR pile. Oh, and be warned. This is no ‘real’ book review.
Late Breaking News: Word of Mouth Sells Books.
I chose Courting Morrow Little and actually bought it new. Woohoo, big spender! It’s the second book by award-winning novelist Laura Frantz and I'd heard plenty about her first book, The Frontiersman's Daughter. Who hasn’t?
Pretty Miss Morrow Little came in her nice cardboard box from my ‘enablers’ at Amazon on the same day I picked up the first book via my library system. Love the Library!
I’m really doing a poor job of reviewing Laura’s second book so far, aren’t I?
The Frontiersman’s Daughter is set in late 1700s Kentucky. I devoured it. I lost sleep. I put off my own writing and anything else I could shirk, to read this book. For me, it was simply ‘unputdownable’.
I'd consider this historical fiction with strong romantic elements versus calling it a traditional historical romance. But don’t think this book did not sing with romance and emotion, while it kept me hostage to the world of Lael Click. When I finished I went directly to my email and told my reader friends to Get This Book. That only happens about once every 3-6 years.
I’m not here with any news. In fact I’m very late to the party. The Frontiersman’s Daughter has recently added a nomination to The INSPY AWARDs to its credits.
On to the book of the moment:
No disappointment here. Courting Morrow Little had me holding my breath and staying up just as late. Are you loving these photos of Kentucky, by the way?
Laura Frantz draws an amazingly detailed world so compelling I think I’d eat possum soup, and be glad of it, if only to spend time in Morrow’s kitchen. Can you tell I’m hopeless at book reviews? I’m just here to say, I loved this book. Real reviewers have done a much better job, but I can at least give you the ‘back cover blurb’ from the Amazon site:
Image via WikipediaMorrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love? This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop readers as it takes them from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness to the west in search of true love.
Morrow's story is definitely a story of forgiveness and the cost of love, told flawlessly in the rich setting of revolutionary America. You might just reexamine your ideas of textbook history. I always try to imagine all sides of the story and Morrow's tale is one fascinating way to do it.
If you’ve read these two gems, tell me what other books you’d suggest while we wait for “The Colonel’s Lady” coming in 2011. (I’ve already read all the James Alexander Thom books years ago and have never forgotten them either.)
I will be on the road today and won’t be able to respond in a responsible blogger manner to your comments. (I’ll be in a truck, moving eastbound on I90, not actually laying on the road, and yes I’m usually this literal.) God willin’ and the creek don’t rise—and I find WIFI—I’ll catch up later.
Here's a link to Laura Frantz' website. http://www.laurafrantz.net
I thank her for two of the best 'heroes' I've read in awhile (sigh) and commend her on our shared 'good taste' as she's an avid North and South (BBC) fan, too!
Have a great week, everybody!
Friday, October 22, 2010
I’m decent great cook, though. In my 16 years of being a mom, I’ve discovered that one doesn't t have to follow a recipe exactly. And if one doesn’t have baking powder, one can substitute baking soda mixed with cream of tartar. (Or is that the other way around?)
I made a coffeecake once using a yellow cake mix (mixed according to box instructions), butter, and crushed Oreo cookies. And it tasted scrumpulicious. Of course, no one wanted to eat it until my hubby guinea-pigged through the first piece, but that's neither here nor there. My 9x13 pan came home empty.
What's helped my cooking skills over the last few years has been watching The Food Network. Alton Brown talks toasters...which leads to French toast...which leads to me realizing I hadn't been letting my bread dry out the night before. Duh.
Listen and learn, girlfriend. Listen and learn.
When we were first married, my hubby decided to make some chocolate chip cookies all on his own. I heard him banging around in the kitchen for days upon days (actual time: 6 minutes).
Finally, he yelled, “Gina, if your cookies are kinda runny, what do would you do?”
I said, “Add more flour.”
Minutes later he said, “More flour isn’t working.”
“How much extra did you add?”
With my Julia Child-shocked-expression, I headed to the kitchen. I picked up a container. “You added this to the dough?”
“Yes,” he said, glaring at me as if I were not Julia Child.
Controlling my laughter, I said, “This is powdered sugar, not flour. Couldn’t you smell the difference, see the difference, taste the difference?”
Let’s just say he wasn’t too pleased with my comment.
No matter how much we listen and learn, we aren't gonna be good at everything. That's okay. We aren't supposed to. Dare I even say God didn't created us to be.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
One of my critique partners, when talking about our group, once said, “We each bring something different to the table.” Another way of saying that is “We each have a part, a job, a skill, a strength that benefits someone else.” (I can easily say that about my fellow Inkwell ladies.)
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit....God has put each part just where he wants it. ~1 Corinthians 12: 12-13, 18 (NLT)
What your foot said, “I’m tired of only being a foot. I want to be a hand so I can touch things or an eye so I can see Bobby Flay cook.”
Or liver: “I’m sick of processing toxins. Lemme be the tongue so I can taste the food before it takes a bath in stomach acid."
Or ear: “Two’s a crowd. I’m leaving so I can be the only ear.”
Or bottom: “I’m tired of being sat on and unappreciated. I want to be a mouth so I can enjoy Paula Dean's fried chicken.”
God placed each part of our bodies in the prime spot for them to do the exact things for which they were created to do. Even the parts of the body that seem weakest aren’t purposeless. Imagine not having a thumb. Or no hair in your nose. That hair has a purpose. Not a purpose I really want to think about at the moment, but a purpose nonetheless.
Fortunately, in a human body, each part does its job and only its job. A heart can only pump blood and not chew Twizzlers. And if the heart doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, you need a new heart...or you’re dead.
In a family, a friendship, a writing group, etc., sometimes the wrong part is doing the wrong job, which causes stress and discouragement because the part isn’t doing what it was created to do. Square peg in a round hole.
Other times a part is too busy focusing on what the other part is doing/has that the original part forgets to do its job or appreciate what the job and skills it has.
Dina's new brand is "Dance with Passion." I utterly love her brand because it sums up any and all of her writing, as well as her as a person. Yet no matter how much I love Dina's brand, I could never get away with using it as my own. It's not me. I can't be Dina, despite how easy it would be to switch the G in my name to D. God doesn't want me to be Dina. He created me to be me...so that I can grow to be more like Him.
As followers of Jesus, we are to take on and live out the heart, attitude, and mindset of Jesus.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. ~Phillippians 2: 5-8
Serious Question of the Day :: Can you name someone you know who lives out the attitude and mindset of Jesus? Or has there been a time when you were doing a job you weren't supposed to do or a time when God told you to step up and take that job?
Non-Serious Question of the Day :: What job would you could do but never want to have to do?
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
So years later, I have a great book and discover that there’s not such a great market for it. Yet when you look at the Christian book awards, you find many international settings. Could the tide be turning? Or is it just that those who don't write bonnet books have to work twice as hard to get their books published and therefore turn out exceptional products?
I am actually acquainted with a number of the best European historical authors through the “Hiswriters” email loop. Hiswriters is a group of authors who write inspirational European historical fiction. Over a year ago, a number of the Hiswriters banned together and formed HEWN, Historical European Writers Network. We have committed to getting out the word about European historical novels. The market does seem to be opening to books set in the 1500’s-1800’s. Regency England is a new hot commodity. The medieval period is still hard to sell, but perhaps people are slowly working their way out of their comfort zones to times and places farther and farther from their own. Could medieval be the next big wave?
Our world is becoming more and more of a global community. Teenagers can sit down and play video games with online friends in Japan or Africa. I can only assume that such a global mindset will continue to feed our desire for international settings, if not in the current CBA market, then surely in the emerging one.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Dateline: December 25, 1795
Jane Austen married Tom Lefroy
Dateline: March 1, 1932
The Lindbergh Baby Saved from Kidnapper
Dateline: December 7, 1941
U.S. Acts on Advance Notice of Pearl Harbor
Dateline: July 20, 1944
Hitler Assassinated by His Generals
Dateline: May 6,1937
The Hindenberg Makes a Perfect Landing
Dateline: April 15, 1912
The Titanic Reaches New York
Dateline: October 21, 1805
Admiral Lord Nelson survives Trafalgar
Dateline: April 14, 1865
Abraham Lincoln Saved when John Wilkes Booth Falls Over Balcony
Teddy Roosevelt Runs for President Again
The Producers of Gigli Bankrupted Before Movie Completed
I’ll have to wait until my time machine in the basement is finished before I can do anything about my list. But what about you, are there any historical events you would change if you could?