Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanks George Bailey!

Christmas season is extra “wonderful” in the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY. The idyllic town of Skaneateles hosts Dickens Weekends in December, with costumed participants roaming the streets while shopkeepers and strolling carolers welcome shoppers and big fluffy snowflakes too. If you love a Victorian Christmas, watch for my post Prince Albert is to Blame coming Dec 21. But enough advertising . . .

Today's HISTORY post is all about The Real Bedford Falls.

Do you love "It's A Wonderful Life"? The movie is based on “The Greatest Gift,” Cover of "The Greatest Gift: The Original...Cover via Amazonwritten by Civil War historian Philip Van Doren Stern. The story goes that Stern got the idea while shaving one morning in 1938, shopped it around with no bites, and later decided to just send the story out with his next Christmas card mailing. Somehow the story ended up before movie producer Frank Capra.

It was the story I had been looking for all my life! A good man, ambitious. But so busy helping others, life seems to pass him by. Despondent. He wishes he had never been born. He gets his wish. Through the eyes of a guardian angel he sees the world as it would have been had he not been born. Wow! What an idea. The kind of idea that when I get old and sick and scared and ready to die -- they'll say, 'He made The Greatest Gift.' -Frank Capra

Capra jumped on the idea for a movie and was in New York City in November 1945 trying to talk Jean Arthur into the female lead. From there he supposedly left to visit his aunt in Auburn, NY, and likely would have traveled up through Ithaca and Seneca Falls. A barber in town, Mr. Bellisima, recalled a discussion about family roots in Italy, with a man named Capra and didn’t realize a ‘celebrity’ was in his shop until the movie came out.

This isn't a scene from the movie, this is Seneca Falls N.Y. What do you think?

It’s quite possible Capra crossed the steel bridge and caught sight of a plaque honoring Seneca Falls resident Antonio Varacalli. In April 1917, this hero dove into the icy canal waters to rescue a girl attempting suicide. Varacalli saved her but he was overcome by fatigue from the rescue and drowned. If the town fit the setting Capra had in mind, then the bridge and this story would have sealed the deal.
So little Seneca Falls NY claims the title “The Real Bedford Falls” based on a lot of ‘evidence’—debatable, sure, but who wants to argue with so much good feeling?

Karolyn Grimes, the movie’s ZuZu comes each year to lead the festivities when Seneca Falls hosts the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival. "Zuzu" has her own amazing story and spreads cheer and encouragement year round, and I’ve enjoyed meeting her in person.
Last year I went to the cinnamon-bun eating contest hosted by the Spencer and Galloway familes at ZuZu's Cafe. Please check out links below for all the activities available. This year's celebration is Dec 10-12, but Seneca Falls welcomes visitors all year as it's also the home to the National Park Service as the Birthplace of Women's Rights. Come and visit the Finger Lakes. We love tourist dollars!

For more, click on these links:

The Real Bedford Falls

ZuZu’s café

This year’s schedule of events It’s a Wonderful Life Festival Dec 10-12

Frank Capra

Karolyn Grimes, "ZuZu"

Above, "It's A Wonderful 4k Run" breaks across what has become known as the George Bailey Bridge. Also, a view down Main Street . . .

Thanks for sharing some of the history of It's a Wonderful Life!

Monday, November 29, 2010

When Harry (Potter) met Lucy (Pevensie)

by Gina Welborn

Niki's post on Saturday about Harry Potter books and the Lord of the Rings got me thinking.

See, there was this Facebook status thread last week about BBC's 100 Books You Ought to Read. (I've read--or partially--read 22 of the 100.)  Included in that list were the Harry Potter series and LotR. Now I read Harry Book 1 years ago. Loved it. But didn't read any others because hubby asked me not to because he didn't want the kids reading them. I was fine with that.

Then sometime after Harry began LotR movie 1 was released. My oldest son eventually decided to read the LotR series. He'd left book 3 at home one day so I decided to read it. Well, I *tried* reading Return of the King. Eventually I skipped the pages and pages of narrative to find dialogue scenes.
Yes, I'll freely confess: For me, the LotR movies are far better than the books. 

As far as Chronicles of Narnia (also on the 100 books list), I haven't read any of them either. Maybe I will since I'm determined now to read more of those books on that list. Except Anna Karania. I have it on my book shelf not because I want to read it, but because I want people to see it on my shelf and *think* I read it. Maybe someday I'll read it. Maybe.

Probably not.
Anyhoo, about a week and a half ago, hubby and I drove up to Washington, D.C., for a free advanced screening of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. Since the movie wasn't a finished version, I can't give a review (as legally stated by the VP of Walden Media). They were still finishing the CGI work. Pretty sure it was on the Sea Monster battle at the end of the movie. Then again, I'm not positive that they were finished with the mermaids, which were cool looking even if they were finished.

Still, I enjoyed the movie and am greatly looking forward to taking four of my five kids to see it during the Christmas break, unless we can't wait for later in the month. It opens December 10th.

After the movie was over, the representatives from Walden Media gave us a questionairre about the movie to help them with final edits and whatnot. One of the questions was "Did the movie answer all your questions, or if not, what didn't it answer?"

My answer: "Did King Caspian ever find a queen?"

I then shared my question with my hubby and explained my reasoning as "I just asked what everyone else was wondering but felt stupid asking."

The lady sitting next to me said, "I was wondering the same thing!"

The lady sitting in front of me turned around. "I wasn't because that information wasn't in the book."

Her hubby added (rather snidely, IMHO): "C.S. Lewis didn't care about that stuff."

Didn't care about romance?!?!

Now a wiser person would have smiled and said nothing. Before hubby could clamp his hand over my mouth, I looked at the couple sitting in front  of me, smiled, and said, "Well, this just proves that C.S. Lewis wasn't the perfect writer."

They were speechless.

I don't think I made a new set of friends. Still, hubby walked next to me as we left the theatre.

One of my favorite aspects of the holiday season (Thanksgiving thru New Year's Day) is the arrival of blockbuster movies. Event movies. Family movies. Or, as I read in this week's Entertainment Weekly, "an extraordinary out-of-home experience."

Movie attendance so far this year is down 2.1 percent from last year. How many times this year have you said, "______ looks like a good movie, but I'll wait until it comes out on DVD"? Umm, I've said it a good number of times...although my movie theatre viewing this summer was at a record high since we have a drive-in-theatre where an adult can see two new (or mostly new) releases for $7.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Part 1 has now earned $220.4 million in 10 days, which is the tenth-best 10-day tally on record. Guess not too many people decided they'd wait until it comes out on DVD.

What 2010 holiday-season movie are you most anticipating seeing and why? And if it's not on this list, what is it? (Click on the title for a link to a trailer and more information about the movie.)
The Nutcracker in 3D (Elle Fanning)
Tangled (Mandy Moore)
The King's Speech (Colin Firth)
Black Swan (Natalie Portman)
The Fighter (Mark Walberg/Christian Bale)
The Tourist (Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp)
The Tempest (Helen Mirren)
How Do You Know? (Reese Witherspoon)
Little Fockers (Ben Stiller)
Guillver's Travels (Jack Black/Emily Blunt)
Country Strong (Gwyneth Paltrow)
True Grit (Jeff Bridges)

Up next for me is going with oldest son to see TRON: Legacy. However, my "Will Wait for DVD" list definitely includes The King's Speech,The Tourist, The Tempest, The Nutcracker, and True Grit. Nice variety there!

So what about you? Have you seen Harry Potter yet? Or Tangled? Liked it? Loved it? Wished you'd waited for the DVD?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Making Jesus the Main Course

by Susanne Dietze

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Php 4:19

Photo showing some of the aspects of a traditi...Image via Wikipedia
I’ve got food on the brain this weekend. It seems appropriate, given that this is Thanksgiving weekend for those of us in the US. Our gathering Thursday was met with more hunger than usual, considering that a few of us gathered around the table had either recently fasted for medical tests, just recovered from the flu, or are growing like proverbial weeds and have outgrown all the jeans I bought for back-to-school. My family consumed the traditional turkey dinner with gusto, and we’re now making good use of the leftovers. (Lunch today: the last of the white meat, mixed with red onion, dill weed, cucumber and mayo, nestled in pita bread.)

When you walk hungry into a feast, however, it’s easy to inhale the food without tasting it, easy to forget the “why” of the gathering as well as the “Who” from where the food came.

In her book Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, Lauren F. Winner writes of her conversion to Christianity from Judaism. As a Jew, she observed kashrut – keeping kosher – by following the food-related rules found in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Among them, no shellfish, no mixing meat and milk products, and no pork. As a Christian, Winner no longer observes kashrut, but she writes, “Keeping kosher transforms eating from a mere nutritional necessity into an act of faithfulness. If you keep kosher, the protagonist of your meal is not you; it is God.”

The sense of intentionality present in keeping kosher is something many of us don’t think about. Freed from dietary restrictions since Peter’s vision of the sheet in the book of Acts (and yes, this passage does refer to God’s inclusion of Gentiles in the Kingdom, as well as to what we may eat), Christians don’t have to consider God’s laws when making out grocery lists or worry about God’s opinions on cheeseburgers or shrimp scampi. But maybe we should, if only to include our maker, redeemer and savior in every aspect of our lives.

The Bible is full of descriptions of food. From the fruit in the Garden of Eden to Esau’s lentil stew, to the Passover lambs to the most precious supper in the upper room including bread and wine, God has provided for His people and taken an interest in their meals! As the creator of our taste buds and the One who made us require daily bread, He delights in the pleasure and sustenance food gives us. As the One who placed us in families and gave us the gift of a personal savior, He loves when we gather around a table together. Whether we acknowledge it or not, He is in the midst of our food, from its inception to its digestion.
Chocolate Cupcakes

Intentionally keeping God at the center of our meals – and our lives – changes how we relate to our food. When I remember that God cares about what I eat and how often, and that He provided the food in my fridge, I remember His character: He is a loving, personal God who is interested in the small and big parts of my life. He cares for my basic needs. He wants the temple of His Holy Spirit, my body, to be healthy. He deserves my thanks for His provision and my praise for the exquisite taste of my favorite foods, like avocados and chocolate and California Pizza Kitchen’s grilled vegetable salad.

So this past Thursday, I wasn’t just feasting with my stomach. My heart was pretty full, too. I appreciated the work that went into every square of diced onion in the stuffing and made note of my daughter’s pride in making her first pumpkin pie. I tried to include God as the heart of our meal and take note of His many gifts to me. That’s a resolution I hope to keep, not just at Thanksgiving, but every day of the year. Intentionally including God in what I eat is, perhaps, the perfect ingredient in any meal.

Have you ever found that attentiveness to our food can be a spiritual discipline?
Did you try any new recipes for Thanksgiving this year? What turned out best?

Mudhouse Sabbath: copyright 2003 by Paraclete Press

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

To Potter or Not to Potter?

by Niki Turner

I don't have a book recommendation for you this week, but I do have a question:
Have you read J.K. Rowling's books, or shunned them as anti-Christian?

I'm a bit behind when it comes to pop culture (the seventh Harry Potter movie opened in theaters this week). For most of you, Harry Potter is pretty old news.

I've never read any of J.K. Rowling's books. I did watch her on Oprah recently and was intrigued by her explanation of writing the Harry Potter series as a sort of therapy as she came through a severe bout of depression. Hmm. THAT sounded familiar.

My kids were small when Harry first appeared on the fiction scene. I was still very much in control of what they watched, read, and listened to. Frightful warnings issued on Christian television convinced me that Harry (and Pokemon) were enemies to be avoided.

Why? Witchcraft, magic, warlocks, trolls, ogres, spells... not exactly solid Christian fare, you know? We opted to avoid Harry, Ron, and Hermione. When the movies started coming out, we didn't watch them. When the films were aired on television, we changed the channel.

Then, to resounding cheers from Christian culture, J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings opened in theaters. My boys were hooked. We've watched those three painfully LOOOOO-NGGGGG movies so many times that even an inadvertent reference to the adjective "precious" invokes automatic Gollum imitations. (shiver)

The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer triggered a more recent debate. How can -- or should -- we enjoy stories about vampires and werewolves? THEY aren't Christian, either! Or are they? Could they be? Oh, wait... imaginary creatures can't BE saved, anyway. Oh dear.

Nowadays, with my children more or less out from under my maternal filter, I'm faced with a number of questions.
  1. If Harry Potter is bad because he's a witch-in-training, does that make Gandalf, an extremely powerful wizard, even worse?
  2. If we shy away from non-human characters like vampires and werewolves because they are unnatural, why are elves (I still think Orlando Bloom is much cuter as a blond) and hobbits acceptable entertainment fare?
  3. Do we gauge the worth of a fictional work based on the message of the story, the actions of its characters, or on the author's professed spirituality (or lack thereof)?
Do you read exclusively CBA books? What about movies, television, and music?
How do you decide for yourself and/or for your family which literary and film experiences are acceptable and which ones aren't? Thoughts?

(BTW: Did anyone else notice the eerie similarity between Tolkien's wraiths and Rowling's Dementors?)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Are You a BFS?

by Jen AlLee

Today is self help day, and I really want to help you. But I'm afraid it's too late. You see, by the time you read this, you may already have sent yourself out on that most frightful of days...

Black Friday.

Now, I'm not belittling anyone who ventured out in search of sales today. Far from it. I just think it takes a very specific type of person to be a Black Friday Shopper (BFS). The typical BFS is...
  • Adventurous - You never know who you're going to run into in the Best Buy parking lot (or how much coffee they've been drinking)
  • A Plotter - Black Friday is no place for seat-of-the-pants thinking. A successful BFS comes armed with ads, lists, and a map of the store's floor plan.
  • Athletic - The BFS must be able to dodge slow pokes, hurdle merchandise displays, and squeeze through narrow aisles in search of the ultimate deal.
  • Nature Loving - There's nothing like sleeping in a lawn chair under the stars, singing show tunes with total strangers, then bribing them with coffee and brownies to save your place in line while you fight for your turn in the port-a-potty. That's roughing it!
  • Impervious to severe weather - It never fails... some of the worst weather of the year comes in the brand-new hours of the Friday after Thanksgiving. I personally believe it's the tears of myriad guardian angels wondering why their charges are up so dog-gone early. But that's just me.
In case you're wondering, I possess none of the above traits. While many folks were out this morning scoring great deals on electronics and polar fleece, I was snuggled warm in my bed with visions of the SG-1 team dancing in my head. (Actually, I had a dream last night that I was part of the Stargate team. It was fun, so I'm hoping I get to dream it again. I'll let you know how that works out.)

Here's wishing everyone a terrific Friday. And if you are one of those brave BFS's, share your secrets with us :+}

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mary Magdalene Got a Bad Rap

By Lisa Karon Richardson

Around 1320 AD the Catholic Church labeled Mary Magdalene a prostitute and that's what most people think of when they hear her name today. In reality there's no proof in the Bible that she was a prostitute.

The only things we know for sure of her early life is that she was from the city of Magdala and that she was possessed by seven demons. We can guess at a little bit more. Since she was free to travel with Jesus and the disciples she was probably unmarried. Possibly because her parents were unable to find her a husband due to that pesky demon possession. Nothing like a spinning head to put off potential suitors.

Her family was probably prosperous because she was able to help support Jesus’ ministry with her “substance,” in other words her finances. Despite being financially secure she had a tragic background. I can’t imagine the darkness and torment of demonic possession. While it prevented her from ever having a “normal” life, in the end, I think the things she went through gave her a unique perspective.

The most amazing thing about Mary Magdalene is not her past. It’s how she responded to Jesus when He delivered her from bondage to her demons. She was one of those rare people who know true gratitude.

Most people have not yet learned how to be truly grateful. We either downplay what has been done for us by justifying, excusing or down playing our prior actions and plight. Or we say thank you with our mouths, while we distance ourselves from the person who helped us. In our heart of hearts, we resent their knowledge of our weakness.

Did you ever hear the expression: “They bit the hand that fed them.”

We don’t like to feel indebted.

It’s a normal response to dislike it when other people know our weaknesses. It’s why many people won’t apologize to others, it would mean admitting that they might have been wrong about something in the first place.

Mary Magdalene was different. Her need for a savior didn’t inspire embarrassment or shyness. Jesus’ delivering her inspired in her devotion, loyalty and service.

From the day of her deliverance she sought only to please Jesus and to serve Him in any way she could. Jesus gave her back the life that had been stolen, and from her heart of thankfulness she turned that same life back over to Jesus.

She became one of the women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples and helped to meet their needs. She was there during that last tense week of Jesus’ physical ministry on earth She knew that the Pharisees were plotting and that those who followed Jesus were in danger. When the soldiers came and took Jesus the apostles ran away and hid

But Mary ran to where they were keeping Him

She was there at the Cross.

She was there when Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus took Jesus’ body, and she followed them to the tomb.

She was the first to return with spices to anoint Him for proper burial.

And she was the first to realize that He was gone from the tomb.

She ran for the apostles and they came to see for themselves.

In despair, the apostles returned to their homes, convinced soldiers had taken his body and hidden it. But Mary stayed at the tomb weeping. She didn’t understand exactly what had happened. All she knew was that someone had deprived her of being able to offer that one last service to her Master

When two angels, disguised as men, asked her why she was crying, she said, “Because they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him.”

Then Jesus, himself approached her and he also asks her why she is weeping. Thinking that he must be the gardener she begs him to tell her what they’ve done with Jesus’ body. If he will just tell her she will come and take the body and care for it properly.

It’s not until he says her name that she recognizes her Savior, resurrected and transformed.

She falls at his feet calling him “Rabboni,” which means Master or teacher but expresses the highest level of reverence.

Jesus then sent her to tell the apostles what she had seen and heard. Do you see what that means?

Mary Magdalene was the first to spread the Gospel--the good news that Jesus had risen from the grave.

What a privilege.

What sort of gratitude do we possess?

Is it the kind that says a polite thank-you, but refuses to acknowledge that we have any kind of obligation in return? Maybe we recognize the obligation but resent it?

Or do embrace the Savior and seek to serve Him in every aspect of our lives?

What better time than Thanksgiving to examine our hearts.

Is our gratitude lip service or does it spring from deep within. To the point that it shapes who we are?

In the Old Testament they had special procedures and times for people to give a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Under the new covenant we no longer offer animal sacrifices. The way we show our thankfulness is through our giving: finances, time and effort. Through our attitude, in the way we reverence the things of God and the people of God, and in our praise and worship.

In what way do you most show your thankfulness?

Happy Thanksgiving from all of the Inkies to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Riders of the Purple Prose

by Debra E. Marvin

What’s so bad about purple prose? I ruined my eyesight on it in the seventies. Of course, I still miss my olive-green, paisley newsboy cap too. (We're talking the sixties there) I hung on to the hat for twenty years before it went to Goodwill. They came back in style the following fall.

Back then, I read a lot of Barbara Cartlands. Who doesn’t love a ‘rake and a rogue’? When I’m a multi-published author, I’m going to start wearing a tiara too, but I’ll probably hold off on the feather boa. My cat would shred it.

Wikipedia explains: Purple prose is a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader's response.

I think Wikipedia is approaching purple right there.

Description is best when using the Goldilocks Method. (Oooh, this description is too much . . . this is too little . . . but this . . . this is just right!) Description pulls you into the story world, into the point of view character’s experience. But, beware! Details affect pacing and vise-versa.

Problem is, everyone has a different purple prose limit. Depends on the genre, or our attention span at that moment, and probably on our gender and age.
One person’s purple prose is another person’s . . . well . . .

His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday's hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. His glistening, pale lavender lids were shut, though of course he didn't sleep. A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.

Sometimes we writers pour out creativity, go to sleep satisfied, and then we read it over the next day and want to vomit. Other times we wake up, shall we say, after twilight, and are worth a trillion dollars despite spewing purple on the page.
Bulwer-Lytton in later lifeBulwer-Littyn Image via Wikipedia
The Patron of Purple Prose is Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who began his 1830 novel Paul Clifford with this sentence:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents -- except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

(Always reminds me of Snoopy from Charlie Brown. Do you know what I'm talking about?)

While browsing and snooping for this post, I found this on Romancing the Blog:
"Some readers, of course, are perfectly happy to read lines like The sea stirred and move on. Not I. I want some meat on my bones, some bang for my buck, not single words masquerading as sentences and single sentences masquerading as paragraphs." She gives us:

There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath, like those fabled undulations of the Ephesian sod over the buried Evangelist St. John. And meet it is, that over these sea pastures, wide-rolling watery prairies and Potters Fields of all four continents, the waves should rise and fall, and ebb and flow unceasingly; for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds, the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.

Romancing the Blog writer, Rebecca Brandewyne, continues: "Overwritten? What do you think? Send your critiques to Herman Melville, in care of Moby Dick". For more, see: http://www.romancingtheblog.com/blog/2005/04/20/purple-prose-a-bum-rap/

In some ways I agree. Sometimes I don't mind being pulled out of the story if the phrase is so delicious that it makes me want to re read it. Sometimes I want my brain to hurt from sensory overload. But that should happen only once in awhile, or the overall impact becomes mushy, or worse, laughable.

What do you think of this one?:
He is handsome and healthy, the most outstanding among ten thousand.
His head is purest gold; his hair is wavy, black as a raven. His eyes are a pair of doves bathing in a stream flowing with milk. His face is a garden of sweet-smelling spices; his lips are lilies dripping with perfume.

I’d think twice before blasting that little paragraph, if I were you. This guy Solomon and I have the same writing mentor, who happens to be a best-selling author.

I tend to go minimal and work up slowly, using the most boring, cliché-ridden, flat, elementary, adverb-laden, pedestrian, redundant . . . need I go on? Call it blech.

(Here’s the set up – this is historical romantic suspense, 1837 Scotland.)

I start with:
Ewan left and walked down a few streets on his way to the University.


Hundreds of hours and brain cell implosions later I had this:

Ewan strode down Rottenrow toward Balmanno Street, watching for, and occasionally glimpsing sight of the university's clock tower. The Highlands had long since softened into rolling hills to the north. Here under Glasgow, they rumpled in rises and falls, lying hidden under its stone buildings, cobbled closes, and the rare patch of green--on their way to disappear beneath the curving, deep-watered River Clyde.

This is purply prosey for me, and I'm disliking 'strode' at the moment. But I’m okay with the overall paragraph and the picture it paints. It is one of only a few narrative paragraphs and arrives just as the reader needs to take a breath, because it is the opening of a scene and comes after an intense dialogue exchange. I always try to avoid using any form of lie/lay but haven’t replaced that yet. You want to fix that for me? I’d appreciate it. I'm sure I'll be changing the whole paragraph again, anyway. I keep taking one comma out and putting it back in. Hmmm.

For readers: do you recall a time when description pulled you out of the story, or made you sigh with pleasure?

For writers: how purple is your prose?

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Welcome Amanda Deed, author of The Game

GINA HERE :: When I was complining my list of Christian fiction with international settings, author Jo-Anne Berthelsen introduced me to Ark House Press. Boy oh boy, do they publish some fascinating books. One really caught my historical-romance-loving eye: THE GAME by Amanda Deed. Well, I figured why not introduce this fabulous book and Australian author to y'all. Thus I asked Amanda if she'd be interested in guest blogging. Here she is....

La Australia del Espíritu Santo
by Amanda Deed

So, Amanda, we understand why you might want to write romance, but why historical romance? Isn’t that a lot of work with all the research you have to do?

Yes, but I love to escape into the ‘olden days’ when propriety and gallantry were still important. And, once I get into the research, the things I learn just make me love it that much more. Especially when it comes to Australian history.

Originally called “Terra Australis” (the unknown land of the South), Australia was only mapped by guesswork until Captain Pedros Fernandes de Queirós sailed our coasts in 1606. He renamed the land “La Australia del Espíritu Santo” (the southern land of the Holy Spirit). To those of us with a Christian faith this is more than significant as it tells us the foundations of our nation were dedicated to God in what some call a prophetic name.

Almost two hundred years later, Australia was settled by the English. Although we had a rough start as a dumping ground for England’s overcrowded prisons, there is much in our heritage we can be proud of. That kind of heritage is what I am passionate about bringing out in my novels.

There is Mrs Caroline Chisholm, a woman who devoted her talents to God and became an advocate for women’s rights and an aid to immigrants in the 1800s. She was no less than an inspiration!

Another favourite is Rev John Watsford, a Weslyan minister and popular among the churches around Sydney. His personal memoirs, Glorious Gospel Triumphs: as seen in my life and work in Fiji and Australasia, are both stirring and humorous. Here is a snippet for you: "I prayed, and then my two friends prayed, and oh! the power of God that came upon the people, who were overwhelmed by it in every part of the room! And what a cry for mercy! It was heard by the passers-by in the street, some of whom came running in to see what was the matter, and were smitten down at the door in great distress. The clock of a neighbouring church struck twelve before we could leave the meeting. How many were saved I cannot tell. Day after day and week after week the work went on, and many were converted."

And of course we have the 800 Light Horsemen, who took the wells of Beersheba in a desperate charge during WWI in 1917. God gave them a miraculous victory against all odds. It opened the way for the liberation of Jerusalem a short time later.

The list of Aussie heroes is long, varied and is food for many great stories to be told or novels to be built upon. That is an adventure I am looking forward to!

My next historical romance, tentatively titled Jacksons Creek is set around the Victorian gold-rush and an event called The Eureka Stockade. At the time it was seen as a rebellious uprising of diggers (miners), but is now viewed as an important development in Victoria’s governmental history. I have learned some fascinating history and of course had immense fun weaving a romance around that setting. Keep an eye out for it in late 2011!

Amanda Deed grew up in Melbourne in a Christian home, where she found faith at an early age. At fifteen, she became involved in the church worship team, which lead to a desire to serve the Lord through music and worship. At twenty-three, she had the opportunity to tour Australia with a worship band—an unforgettable experience.

In 2000, Amanda and her young family moved to Darwin for five years, where she served further in music ministry. This sometimes took her into beautiful and remote areas of Australia, and opened her eyes to the miraculous ways God can move.

It was during this period that Amanda began to seriously pursue a passion for writing. In 2009, her first novel The Game was published, and in 2010 it won the Omega Writers CALEB Prize for fiction.

http://www.amandadeed.com.au/ – website
http://amanderings.wordpress.com/ – blog
www.facebook.com/pages/Amanda-Deed/109713289081860 - Facebook page

Mr Jonathon Fordham, the most eligible bachelor in Sydney and heir to a noble title in England, treats matters of the heart like a game. Living in the newly forged Australian Colony in 1844, Jack Fordham buries his past beneath an indifferent facade. In spite of his rakish reputation, Jack’s dashing smile and suave flattery would melt any woman’s heart. Any that is, it seems, except for Miss Margaret Wingrove.

The beautiful governess is strangely unmoved by the nonpareil’s many attractions, nor his beguiling charm. When Meg does not fall into his arms as he presumes she will, his game of pursuit begins in earnest.

As Meg continues to resist his advances, Jack’s determination to win her intensifies. But can he risk exposing his true heart to find the love he desires before his game unravels? And can he embrace, or will he simply deny the obstacle which stands between them…her faith?

http://www.arkhousepress.com/ – purchase a copy of The Game.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christian Fashion Trends

by Dina Sleiman

With Christmas shopping just around the corner, let’s talk about Christian fashion trends. Look back just fifty years and the Christian church attire was pretty standard. Long dresses with heels and hose for women. Suits, preferably three piece, and ties for men. But we’ve come a long way baby. It’s not that young people today desire to be sloppy or lazy about church. It’s just that they desire authenticity in their Christianity. They don’t want to feel like they’re putting on a costume for church when they dress differently 6 ½ days of the week. In fact, even the concept of “dressing up” has changed with this generation. Business casual of nice jeans and collared shirts has replaced the suit and tie. Women often wear jeans with blouses and fancy shoes to “dress up.”

So what does Christian attire look like these days? I’m going to take you for a peek at a Christian Clothing retailer called C28 in order to answer this question. You might not have a C28 in your area, but anyone can order online at http://www.c28.com/ .

First of all, contemporary Christian fashion seeks to be a light in a dark world. The clothing features Christian messages, scriptures, and scripture references. This is a great way to reach out to non-Christian friends. Whether you choose a t-shirt with a bold message, a dress shirt with subtle Christian symbolism, or jeans with a scripture reference on the waistband, you will be making a statement about what you feel is important in life. Their store brand, “NOTW,” stands for “Not of this world,” and proclaims that there is something more important than what we can perceive with our five senses. This sort of message is important to our culture seeking supernatural experiences and spiritual realities.

In their stores, C28 goes even farther in ministering to the world. They reach out to teens and young adults in malls across the nation through Christian music, prayer, and in store evangelism. Over 16,000 people have come to faith in Jesus in C28 stores, and a portion of all their proceeds go to ministry.

Second, contemporary Christian clothing is modest, within our cultural context. It is important to remember that while modesty is a Biblical concept, modesty is largely defined by culture. Trust me, as someone who has traveled to the Middle East multiple times, I am well aware of this fact. At it’s heart, modesty is not about covering up or hiding. If it was, we would all be wearing long blue burqas with mesh eye holes like Afghani women. Modesty means not drawing undue attention to yourself. Personally, I am not a fan of certain Mennonite and Amish dress that causes everyone to stop and stare.

I've noticed that women of my mother's generation often consider skirts modest because they hide the leg line. However, my generation and my daughter's generation feel more modest in pants because the legs are covered and the fabric won't blow in the wind. In my personal opinion, modest clothing should not be skin tight, reveal cleavage of the northern or southern variety, or expose areas that are best kept private. As you can see in this tank top, C28 offers clothing that covers all the important areas while not drawing undue attention.

But that’s still hard to define and depends on culture and setting. If a girl wore a tankini to the beach, she would look modest in that context. But, if she wore the same tankini to the mall, church, or the office, she would be perceived as immodest, even downright scandalous. I encourage my children to take an additional step towards modesty for church, not because I want them to be phony, but because I want them to be extra careful not to distract anyone from God.

Finally, as I mentioned in the beginning, contemporary Christian fashion is authentic, just as contemporary Christians are. Don’t be surprised if you walk into C28 and have a body-pierced or tattooed sales clerk come and tell you about Jesus and offer to pray for you. The clothing at C28 is culturally relevant so that others will find Christians approachable, and so that young people can feel comfortable and real. This store carries clothing that is geared toward a number of youth subcultures including skater/surfer, hip hop, and preppy.

And yes, the clothing is “cool.”


What a great idea. All that we say and do should glorify God, including our clothing. And the great news is that this does not have to mean dressing in outdated fashions, covering to our wrists and ankles, or “dressing up” in skirts and suits.

Let’s stop dividing the secular and sacred. Life should be worship and worship should be life. Instead of putting on a costume to visit God once a week, how about we invite him into every single second of our lives!

There's still plenty of time to order your Christmas presents from C28 this year. Check their clearance page for great deals. If the clothing seems a little expensive, just remember in addition to being clothing, it is also an investment into minsitry and evangelism. Could there be a more worthy cause? And visit your local Christian bookstore or shop online for great Kerusso t-shirts as well.

How do you think Christians should dress? How do you define modesty? Have you seen any great Christian t-shirts that tickled or blessed you? What's your current favorite outfit?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Welcome, Guest Blogger Author Ruth Logan Herne!

Mary, Martha...and Ruth!
by Ruth Logan Herne

41And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things2But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

I’m a Martha. I don’t deny it. Generally I celebrate the fact because I love being a doer, a take-charge person like Rachel Lynde in the Anne of Green Gables books, a little bossy, somewhat opinionated, but boy am I helpful when heading a church committee, especially concerning food.

I do food well. And where would Jesus and his buds be if no one ever did food? This is what I ask myself every year as this passage of Luke comes up. I mean seriously, I can throw a football party at a moment’s notice, decorate an amazing birthday cake at the drop of a hat, plan a wedding or baby shower in short minutes as long as I have phone and computer access.

I am, self-avowed, amazing.

Because, where, I ask you, would Thanksgiving dinner be without the Marthas of the world? Yup, exactly what I thought.

No pie. Not a smidge.

No apple, no pumpkin, no cherry, no lemon meringue, mincemeat, buttermilk, chocolate chiffon… Nothing. Nada.

Because no matter what anyone tells you, pie takes time. You can buy stuffing in a box and have it passable. Not great, but doable. Everything else, as separate entities, isn’t such a big deal. But Thanksgiving pies???? Are ya’ kiddin’ me? That’s the American dream right there, fresh-baked, tender crust studded with fruits and creams, decadence in a bite. Oh, yes, pies make the meal.

But every Thanksgiving I have to put Martha on hold. Box her up. And to do that I draw to mind all the people celebrating Thanksgiving in other venues. Soldiers in trenches. Prisoners of war. Prisoners of mind. The homeless, the helpless. Thinking of them, dwelling on their lot, their plight reminds me that while pie is good, pie is not the heart of anything. Not the holiday or the holy day.

So when my pastor waxes on about Martha and Mary, I try to remember that pie isn’t the answer to everything. To take my pies less seriously. To calm down, take a breath. Oh, I still bake pies. And I still make a mean Thanksgiving dinner. But I Mary-up my Martha tendencies because it isn’t all about the food, or the pumpkins and straw bales on the porch. It’s about thanking God. Loving God. Giving thanks.

If you find it as easy as I do to get caught up in the trappings of celebrations, what steps do you take to re-center yourself?

In a land of plenty, it’s easy to become complacent. Why do we forget how to keep things simple?

Ruth Logan Herne is a slightly crazed, God-loving, gotta-have-some-fun kind of author. With a husband, six kids and a history of great dysfunctional extended family relationships, Ruth delights in telling stories that tweak heart and soul.

Her books can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and CBD.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Recommendation-All the Tea in China

By Lisa Karon Richardson

Tucked away in Oxford, England, Isabella Goodrich has led a sheltered life. An orphan, she lives with her kindly uncle, an Oxford don. Her life is quiet and comfortable, with all the sharp edges padded, except one. She’s allowed to study sword fighting for exercise.

And then an enigmatic stranger, Phineas Snowe, pays her uncle a call. He is a missionary to China, and try as she might Isabella can’t seem to impress him. And yet his tales of that far off land and the need for more laborers spark a fire within her. The sudden exposure to the world beyond her cozy social circle jars her. And she decides to join the missionary endeavor.

There’s only one problem. The offer of her services is rebuffed. Phineas is certain she is simply carried away by romanticism. He wants nothing to do with a naïve young miss who’s never had to do a lick of work in her life.

Impetuous Isabella can’t believe he really meant to tell her no. Nobody has ever told her no. She takes her maid with her down to the quay, determined that if she can to persuade him to let her join the expedition. Only the ship is weighing anchor. Isabella slips away from her escort and stows away on the ship.

What happens is a rousing tale of adventure and faith. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and particularly liked that the story shifted from England, to life aboard ship, to China. I love an exotic setting when it’s done well. The details of Chinese life and culture were fascinating. I felt utterly transported.

This Regency offering from Jane Orcutt was just what I have been looking for. A Regency that isn’t totally consumed with balls and the haute ton. This novel truly deserved its billing as a Rollicking Regency. I thoroughly applaud it and its author. Sadly, Jane has passed away and there are no more stories coming to make this a series. But other stories in this style are coming soon. Just keep an eye out for Laurie Alice Eakes’s Lady in the Mist, coming in January. I can’t wait to get my grubby paws on this one. And after that she has several other stories coming from Revell with all the dash and intrigue of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What a Difference a Personality Makes

by Dina Sleiman

News flash. God has wired each of us with a unique personality!!!

Okay, maybe that’s not news to anyone. Yet isn’t it true that we often struggle to understand the differences between ourselves and others. We tend to think that our way of viewing the world, making decisions, or dealing with life is the right way, and everyone else’s is wrong. But the truth is, God has given us different sorts of wiring. Different motivations in life. In the Bible we see a variety of motivational gifts that God has given to people. He wants each of us to serve a different function in the body of Christ, and each of us is needed. If we try to squelch or change our internal wiring, we are doing a disservice to God, to ourselves, and to others. Therefore it is helpful to learn about what makes people tick in order to understand and appreciate these differences.

My undergraduate degree is actually in a little known field called Interpersonal Communications. Probably the most valuable tool I took from that education is a personality indicator used by psychologists called the Meyers Briggs assessment. I love this test for a number of reasons. In general, personality tests help us better understand ourselves and our unusual little quirks. They also assist us in understanding others who have vastly different personalities than our own.

I prefer the Myers Briggs test because it breaks down to sixteen different personality types and is more targeted and specific than any other test I have found. Another reason I prefer it, is because it is well known and you can find a number of excellent websites and books that talk in detail about these personality types.

The Myers Briggs assessment looks at four aspects of human characteristics. Keep in mind that everyone has all of these traits to some degree, and it’s good to be balanced, but that we lean more heavily towards one or the other.

Introvert vs. Extrovert – This has to do with how you are energized. It is not about how shy or social you are. An extrovert is energized by the outward world of people and things. An introvert is energized by their inner world. An extrovert is always up for a party and comes home excited and full of energy. An introvert may enjoy the party, may even be the life of the party while there, but will be exhausted by the end and need to go home and regroup. Extroverts need to process things with others. Introverts need to process things alone. Extroverts quickly grow lonely and have a stronger need for others. Introverts are content with their own company.

Sensory vs. INtuitive – This has to do with what you pay attention to. Sensors focus on the five senses and on facts. Intuits focus on what might be called a sixth sense. Sensors are very aware of their surroundings whereas intuits might drift off into their own head. Sensors tend to seem more grounded in realism than intuits. Sensors deal with basic information and intuits tend to take in information, but interpret and add their own meaning to it.

Thinkers vs. Feelers – This has to do with how you make decisions. A thinker takes into consideration logic and reason only. A feeler takes into consideration people and their emotions. Feelers incorporate values and beliefs into their decisions. If you change how a thinker thinks about a subject, their feelings will naturally follow. If you change how a feeler feels about a subject, their thoughts will naturally follow. I have found you can best tell your preference in this category by asking yourself, “If logic and feeling are in opposition to each other, which would I regret not following?”

Judgmental vs. Perceptual – This has to do with how you live and work. A judger prefers to be planned and organized. A perceiver prefers to be spontaneous and flexible. Judgers are strict on themselves about keeping commitments and following rules. Perceivers view commitments as something they will probably do and view rules as suggested guidelines. Judgers tend to be on time and be early for deadlines. Perceivers tend to be late and procrastinate. Judgers like to know where they are going and how to get there. Perceivers like to go with the flow and respond to where life might take them.

By finding your letter preference in these four categories, you discover your four letter personality type. For example, I am an INFJ (which is both the rarest personality type in normal people and the most common personality type in novelists by the way). I can go online and find career advice, relationship advice, my strengths and weaknesses, etc…by looking up these four letters. Different books and websites have varying views, so I recommend you look at several. This website is a good place to start. It is full of exhaustive information. Be sure to scroll over the little icons for the links and also to look at the bottom of each page for sublinks. http://www.personalitypage.com/html/info.html

If you would like to take the Myers Briggs test for free, here is a good version http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

* Now, an extra note for all the writers in the audience. As writers, these tests can help us to write consistent characters with distinct personalities and clear motivations. My new contemporary novel is a sisterhood type of book with three main female characters. These three women needed to have enough in common to be drawn to one another, yet still have distinct personalities. So I chose a Myers Briggs type for each of them and used that to help with their characterizations. When I wanted to know what would be a good career for one of my girls, I could easily look it up online. When I wanted to know what type of man would be a match for them or how they would respond to stress I could look it up. Pretty cool, huh. And for a bonus lesson on how your personality type affects you as a writer, read the last portion of this similar post from my personal blog. http://awesomeinspirationals.blogspot.com/2010/09/personality-types-writing-class-series.html

So whether you are a writer or not, I strongly recommend that you learn more about the unique wiring that God has given to you and those around you. Learn how to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Learn how to communicate better. Learn about the special characteristics in your friends, families, and co-workers, and allow each of them to shine as the unique individuals God has created them to be as well.

Do you recognize yourself or someone you know in any of these preference types? Do you know your four letter type and would you share it with us? What unique gifts and wiring has God given you?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Welcome Sandi Rog, author of The Master's Wall

by Sandi Rog

I’m a horrible blogger. I didn’t understand why I could write tons of fiction but be so lousy at blogging. Well, this isn’t anything new, really. When I was in high school, I could sing quite well when I pretended to be someone else. You know, like when I played the character Ado Annie in the musical Oklahoma. I did great then! But if the choir director asked me to sing something as little-ole-me, well, my confidence went in the toilet.

It was easy to pretend I was a fabulous singer when I was playing a part, pretending to be someone I wasn’t. But when I couldn’t pretend and I had to be “me,” I suddenly became terrified. What if they hated me? What if I couldn’t find the right note? What if . . . well, you get the picture.

I recently discovered, I have this same phobia when it comes to writing. If I’m hiding behind a character, I’m more confident. I can write as long as I’m pretending I’m a certain character. As long as I’m not “me,” I’m fine.

But lately, I’ve found “me” slipping onto the page. Not that I interfere with my characters and who they really are (although, there are times I’ve done that and had to clean up the mess I made). The truth is, I’m finding that my lack of confidence is seeping into my work. So often I find myself doubting. Who said I could write? I have no business rubbing shoulders with other authors who’ve been published over and over again. Who do I think I am?

That’s when I accepted the fact that I simply couldn’t do this alone. There was no way I could write the stories I want to write without a helping Hand.

You see, when I was in seventh grade, I was tested at a third-grade reading comprehension level. They eventually got me up to speed at a tenth-grade reading level, but with that kind of history, I really don’t feel like I belong in this world of writing! Again, the question plagues: Sandi, who do you think you are?

Well, now I have an answer! I AM NOTHING. I AM NOBODY! That’s who I am! So there!

Really. Without God, I am nothing. That is why I pray over everything I write. I ask God to make my stories pleasing to Him. I ask Him to help me when I can’t figure out how to word a sentence. I pray over every paragraph, every scene, and every chapter in my work. I ask Him if it’s pleasing to Him, and if it’s not, will He please show me how to fix it before it’s too late. I ask Him how I can make something sound “better.” I ask Him to guide me in every way in the hopes that my work will lead people to Him.

While I write, I imagine Him behind me, guiding my clumsy fingers over the keyboard. When I get excited about something, I thank Him for what we accomplished. He is my mentor. My teacher. My strength.

I’d like to be able to say I do it all on my own, to strut around and claim every accomplishment was reached because of my great skill and talent, but the reality is . . .

HE has made me what I am: a professional editor and an award-winning author.

Through my weaknesses, He has always been strong. And I can guarantee you, if I get a haughty attitude, I’ll end up flat on my face. Ouch! I’m constantly growing, improving as a writer and storyteller, and I’ll continue to grow as long as He leads me.

There’s a reason I write Soli Deo Gloria (To God’s Glory) after my stories. I pray my stories will glorify His Name and encourage people to look for Him and to Him for the answers. In what better Hands can I put my work, my life?

Thank You God for being my confidence and for making me ME!

Sandi Rog is an award-winning author. Her work has appeared in Christian Woman Magazine, Affaire de Coeur, Sister Triangle and Writer's Digest. Several of her short stories have won prizes, and her historical romance novel Morning Sun won first place in the 2005 West Virginia Writers Annual Novel Competition (under the title Walks Alone). More recently, her historical novel, The Master’s Wall, was a finalist in the Genesis 2009. She has also written several children's stories and has given writing workshops at schools. She's a professional writer and editor and has spoken at a number of Christian ladies retreats both in the United States and Europe. She now lives in her home state of Colorado with her husband and four children after spending several years in the Netherlands. She is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Colorado Romance Writers (CRW), American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and their local chapter His Writers.

The Master’s Wall, book one in her Iron and the Stone series

He fights for his freedom. She fights for her life. Together, they fight for each other.

After watching Roman soldiers drag his parents away to their death, David, a young Hebrew, is sold and enslaved to serve at a villa outside of Rome. As David trains to become a skilled fighter, he works hard to please his master and hopes to earn his freedom. However, an opportunity to escape tempts him with its whispering call. Freedom beckons, but invisible chains hold him captive to the master's granddaughter, an innocent girl with a fiery spirit. David vows to protect Alethea from his master, the murderous patriarch, and contrives a daring plan—sacrifice his own life to save hers.

DINA HERE :: On the same day this book released, Sandi, a young mother of four, was diagnosed with an agressive form of brain and blood cancer called T-cell Lymphoma. She had already been battling MS for many years. I imagine a part of her must have been so exhausted and just ready to give up.

I believe God wants only the best for his children, and yet knowing the future, I'm sure he saw this coming. How like our marvelous, loving father to coincide these two important events in Sandi's life to give her encouragement and support during this time. It makes me believe that he must have exceptional plans for her book and for her life.

Because of this coincidence in timing, Sandi is receiving more prayer support than she ever would have otherwise. At the same time, her book is getting the full attention that it well deserves. In addition, her publisher is donating an extra $1 per book to her family over her normal royalties to support them during this difficult time.

The best way to support Sandi is to pray for her and to purchase her book. Multiple copies for gifts if you can. Not only will it support her family, but it will boost her spirits tremendously. Nothing blesses an author as much as knowing others have read their work and been touched by the message God has laid on their hearts.

My prayer for Sandi is this: that this situation turn into an amazing testimony of God's healing power and his love for his children. I long to see her ministry as a writer go on for many, many years to come.

Feel free to share thoughts and prayers for Sandi in the comment section. Hopefully Sandi will check in and read your encouragement.

And please consider purchasing her book today at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or DeWard Publishing

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