Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'll Take Awesome Group Blogs for 1000, Alex

by Jennifer AlLee

Our illustrious leader, Gina, asked me not to make anyone cry today. So, rather than wax nostalgic, I want to ask you a simple question: How well do you know the Inkies? In the spirit of one of my fave shows, Jeopardy, I'll give you the answer and you may respond in the form of a question. Everyone who leaves answers in the comments will be entered for a chance to win a copy of my novel, The Pastor's Wife. (Wish the prize could be bigger, but we don't have a Jeopardy size budget.)
  1. This Inky loves fancy-schmancy tea parties.
  2. This Inky is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces.
  3. This Inky lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest.
  4. This Inky holds a degree in Electrical Engineering.
  5. This Inky is a fifth generation Texan.
  6. This Inky has a degree in Statistics.
  7. This Inky was born in Hollywood and now lives in Las Vegas.
  8. This Inky loves dancing and hanging out at the ocean.
  9. This Inky worked in news radio writing copy.
  10. This Inky lives in a part of Colorado where the deer and elk outnumber people.
  11. This Inky has been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon.
  12. This Inky hears voices in her head and writes a mash up of Gospel and Gothic.
Are you ready with your clickers? Name those Inkies!

(Here's a hint... you can find all the answers on our "Who We Are" page.  Have fun!)

 JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her first novel, The Love of His Brother, was released by Five Star Publishers in November 2007. Her latest novel, The Pastor’s Wife, was released by Abingdon Press in February 2010. Her upcoming novel, The Mother Road, will be released by Abingdon Press in April 2012. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. - Jennifer's website - A safe haven for women living on the front lines of ministry.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Historic Event and Giveaway!!!

by Dina Sleiman 

Two years ago this week, a most monumental event occurred. Inkwell Inspirations was launched, and so the journey began. To celebrate this historic occasion in all of our lives, I offer a (slightly ridiculous) commemorative poem and a giveaway.

Ode to Inktropolis

There once was a place little known
Where ink inspirations called home
A wellspring of thought
The readers they sought
While searching the web they did roam

Til Gina took charge of the helm
Cleopatra the queen of the realm
She sailed on her barge
Queen Gina at large
While servants did fan with a palm

Then writers she drew to the place
Scribblers who penned words of grace
The best in the land
They formed in a band
To share thoughts throughout cyberspace

These women of varying sorts,
The winners of writing type sports,
Wives, moms, and the like
Gals who work, cook, and bike
These Inkies within Inkwell's forts

For two years their stories they spun
While Inkettes joined in on the fun
Some said fond goodbyes
And new ones did try
To add to their numbers again

Now several have novels to sell
The blog has most surely done well
Soon others will too
Perhaps even you
For Inkies have come here to dwell.

Yes, a lot has happened in the last two years. CJ's first book has come out. Mine is available in ebook and will release in print next month, followed by Barb's, Gina's, and Lisa's novellas late this year and early next year. We celebrated Jen's The Pastor's Wife a while back, and will enjoy another of her novels soon as well. See the "our books" page for more details. We've also raked in lots more contest wins. Visit the "announcements" page for a full list. And we've welcomed new Inkies. See the "who we are" page if you haven't yet met our newest members, Barbara Early and DeAnna Julie Dodson. Most importantly we've formed a community, supported one another, and had a ton of fun.

Giveaway: Share a favorite Inkwell memory or post from the past two years for a chance to win three Love Inspired Historical novels. Leave a comment with your email address in a secure form (ex. - yourname at gmail dot com) anytime this week for a chance to win. And speaking of giveaways, there are less than two days left for my goodreads giveaway of my novel. If anyone is interested click here.


 Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, will release with Whitefire Publishing in 2011. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at

Monday, August 29, 2011

In Which We Are TWO!

by Niki Turner

It's hard to believe Inkwell Inspirations is celebrating its second anniversary. So much has happened in the past two years!

On Mondays we peek into current events. I took a little trip into our dusty archives to review the Current Events posts from 2011. We've covered everything from superheroes to Charlie Sheen; from the royal wedding to missionaries in the Amazon jungle. When it comes to current events, there's no shortage of potential topics!

In the last month we've had unusual earthquakes in Colorado and Virginia, and Hurricane Irene threatening to drown Manhattan and distribute calamity from North Carolina to Maine. In the last year we've seen tornadoes wipe out entire American cities. This summer threatens to rival the Dust Bowl for high temperatures and lack of precipitation in the south-central U.S., and last spring we witnessed the erasure of an entire section of Japanese coastline by an epic tsunami.

The natural disasters barely outweigh the crazy political goings-on. From the overthrow of long-time Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, to children rioting and looting in the streets of London, to members of the U.S. Congress behaving like ill-mannered children choosing sides for the dodgeball team in P.E. And now we have Libyan leader Gaddafi's creepy scrapbook filled with pictures of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

(Seriously? Gaddafi is a scrapbooker?)

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, people are making connections, building relationships, praying for one another, and trusting God to be true to His word, regardless of what's going on in the world at large. Nowhere has that been more true than here at Inkwell Inspirations, even though most of us have never met "in the flesh."

In the last year, the Inkies have experienced the heights of success, from new publishing contracts, to contest finals, to acquiring new agents, to first releases; to the valleys of health problems, family issues, changes in employment, financial distress, and more. We've been blessed with the addition of new Inkies and said farewell to some old Inkies.

Via email, we've prayed one another through the birth of new novels and new (sometimes TOO new) grandbabies; through requests for full manuscripts and requests for additional medical tests; through novel edits and surgeries; through the pain of maturation and confusing contest results; and through rejection letters and the passing away of friends and family members.

Again and again throughout the year, we've praised God for the value of community, for the privilege of being part of a collaboration of writers who, although we come from different regions and denominations and backgrounds, have Jesus Christ in the center of our lives.
"Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as [sisters], be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing." 1 Peter 3:8-9
As I read through the New Testament, I'm convinced the Apostle Paul would have been encouraged by the depth of Christian love and concern in so many of our online communities.

I firmly believe it is God's desire that each one of us has a community of believers (the 3D kind and the online kind) with whom we are free to share our hopes and dreams, faults and failures. Plugging in to those God-ordained connections may require something as simple as leaving a comment on a blog post, or something as complicated as attending a small group or orchestrating a meeting for coffee with a "3D friend" during the week (complicated for all of us introverts, anyway).

So as we jump into our blogoversary week, I'd like to say THANK YOU to Inkwell Inspirations – members, readers, guest bloggers, etc. – for enriching my life in so many ways!

 Niki Turner is feeling her way through a new season of living. She turned 40 last year, became a grandma in April 2011, and at the end of June, she and her husband turned over the pastorate of the church they planted 13 years ago and are now "recovering from the effects of heat" while God prepares them for their next assignment.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Psst! The Secret of Being Content

by Susanne Dietze

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11b-13

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Bloom Where You’re Planted?”

I’ll be honest; I’ve never been a fan of it. Probably because it’s been used on me from time to time when I haven’t liked my surroundings (physical, emotional, or spiritual).

I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve resisted blooming. I’m not talking about those instances when we’re in awful situations and we need to run, not walk, away. (I’ve done that, too.) But there are other times when God may have placed us in a particular place and time, city or neighborhood, difficulty or trial, because He has a greater purpose, and it’s our job to discern that call and obey it. Like it or not.

So it turns out “Bloom Where You’re Planted” may be good—even godly—advice after all.

In Hannah Hurnard’s classic allegory, Hinds Feet on High Places, little Much-Afraid embarks on a spiritual journey to reach the High Places described in Habakkuk 3:19, where she can be with her loving Shepherd. Amid her companions, Sorrow and Suffering, Much-Afraid passes through dangerous territory and hardship, meeting others along the way, including one little flower blooming all by itself in the heat of the desert.

Alone in a desolate land, the flower manages to be beautiful, even though it lacks company, abundant water, or hope for a change in scenery. Much-Afraid is amazed by the flower's beauty, and inquires the flower’s name.

“The tiny plant answered at once in a tone as golden as itself, ‘Behold me! My name is Acceptance-with-Joy.’”

Much-Afraid is moved. “Somehow the answer of the little golden flower which grew all alone in the waste of the desert stole into her heart and echoed there faintly but sweetly, filling her with comfort. She said to herself, 'He has brought me here when I did not want to come for His own purpose. I, too, will look up into his face and say, "Behold me! I am thy little handmaiden Acceptance-with-Joy."’

Judean Desert
Resistance-With-Grumbling would be a better-suited name for me. There hasn’t been a lot of joy on my lips when I’m in a situation I dislike, times I’ve felt utterly alone, without relief or the pity of sympathetic friends. I’ve asked my Shepherd, “Why did you put me here? Can’t I be somewhere else?”

But of course, I’m asking the wrong questions. It is far better to ask, “How can You use me here? What do You want me to do?” And praying, “If it’s Your will, I’d love some fellowship in this desert. But if You want me to be alone with You, so that I depend on You more deeply and trust You more, help me to become Acceptance-with-Joy.”

Contentment is a process of cultivation. It’s not a character trait or the result of circumstance. Our journeys will take us through a lot of places we don’t like: illness, financial strain, cliquish neighbors, dry friendships. But the secret of contentment doesn’t have anything to do with what we go through or where we are.

It has more to do with who we are and Whose we are. If we persevere in His strength, in union with our loving Lord and Shepherd, accepting His will with joy, we can cultivate contentment, too.

That’s a secret worth passing on.

Susanne Dietze has written love stories set in the nineteenth century since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. Her work has finaled in the 2010 Genesis Contest, the 2009 Gotcha! Contest, and the Touched By Love Contest, 2008 and 2009. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book,

Photos courtesy of, except for Hinds Feet on High Places, courtesy of

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Human Touch

by Jennifer AlLee

Human contact. It’s one of those essentials of life that we often overlook. Oh sure, we have contact with our immediate families, but that’s not always enough for every situation. 

Take the writer, for example.

Writer’s think differently than normal people. We see what ifs everywhere. We hear the voices of our characters talking to us… and we talk back. We also deal with more assaults to our self-esteem and emotions than you’d think. Often, they come from outside sources, but just as often, they come from ourselves. Talking to a spouse might help, depending on the severity of the situation. Nine times out of ten, the non-writing spouse won’t understand why it’s a big deal.

So what’s a writer to do when she feels particularly vulnerable, her armor more dented than the surface of the moon? Reach out to the only people who truly understand her: writing friends.

You can take the word “writer” and substitute any other you choose: Secretary, CEO, pastor, teacher, stay-at-home mom, dental hygienist, and on and on and on. Sometimes, the only way to get out of the doldrums is to have your friends pull you out. And the best friends for the job are the ones who know what you’re going through.

Of course, God knows this.

And let us consider one another in order 
to stir up love and good works, 
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, 
as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, 
and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 
(Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT) 

He’s talking to members of the early Christian church. There was a bunch who really needed to band together. They were persecuted. They faced attacks on a daily basis. Who else but another Christian would understand? Notice, He doesn't tell them to get together and pretend that nothing bad has happened. He doesn't tell them to ignore each other’s pain. He tells them to exhort each other, lift each other up.

In our modern world of emails, Facebook, and such, there’s no excuse for being alone. A timely email message from a friend across the country means just as much as going out for coffee and a chat with your friend from across town. Take some time to reach out today, whether you need to be uplifted, or you think of someone else who could use an emotional boost.

 We’re all in this together.

 JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her first novel, The Love of His Brother, was released by Five Star Publishers in November 2007. Her latest novel, The Pastor’s Wife, was released by Abingdon Press in February 2010. Her upcoming novel, The Mother Road, will be released by Abingdon Press in April 2012. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. - Jennifer's website - A safe haven for women living on the front lines of ministry.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Deep and Wide

 by Dina Sleiman

Deep and wide, deep and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

Throughout this prayer series, I’ve been talking about how to tap into that flow of the Holy Spirit, and how to develop an intimate relationship with God. Thinking about that river of life, that fountain of living water, calls to mind the traditional Sunday school song above. It reminds me that in addition to going deep into God’s word and prayer as I’ve been encouraging us to do, it’s also important to go wide. So let’s look at deep and wide in reference to our prayer and devotion time in several areas.

Personal Communication with God
Most of the topics I’ve been writing about for the past few months have encouraged you to go deep into your prayer life, spending quality intimate time with God. Check my bi-weekly Thursday posts or my personal blog for more info in this area.

However, it’s also important to go wide in our communication with God. To always have him in our hearts. To direct our thoughts to him throughout our day. In this way a concern becomes a petition. Joyful moments become a time of praise. Thankful moments an act of worship. Painful moments a sacred encounter. Remember to keep your thoughts continually tuned to God, but to take that deep time to really focus on him and listen for direction as well.

Another area we should remember to go deep is in spiritual warfare. When under attack from the enemy, it is important to take out that shield of faith and that sword of the spirit of the word of God and to go on the offensive to do battle in spiritual realm, giving quality time and attention to the issue. 

Intercession for Others
Similar to personal communication with God, we should be regularly sending petitions to him for those we encounter throughout the day. When we hear an ambulance siren or see a crashed car, take a moment to whisper up a prayer. When we hear about a sick child on facebook or see someone looking sad in the grocery line, offer up a petition.

But we should also take time to go deep into prayer for other people, offering them before the Lord. Holding them in the light of his glorious presence. Speaking scripture promises and blessings over their lives, and going to battle in the spirit for them as well.

Bible Reading
In one of my posts I talked about an ancient Bible reading technique called lectio divina. This calls us to read small sections of scripture, taking time to mediate and picture specific words or phrases that stand out and shimmer to us. Incorporating prayer and listening into our Bible reading time. I love this technique. It truly brings God’s word alive. Another great way to go deep into God’s word is by memorizing scripture. Finally, copying it in your own handwriting is great for getting God’s word deep into your heart.

But it is also important to go wide in God’s word. To make sure that you’ve read the whole Bible, hopefully several times. We should know the voice of the good shepherd and not follow that of a stranger. The best way to learn God’s voice is by reading his word in large chunks. All of the techniques I’ve mentioned for hearing God’s personal voice and direction work best when you are well-acquainted with God’s written word.

And these days there are so many opportunities to go wide in God’s word. You can listen to scripture on CD while driving or exercising. You can read the Bible in multiple translations online. My church has held Bible reading marathons where people take turns reading the scriptures out loud. If I remember right, you can read through the entire Bible in a 24 hour marathon.

Praise and Worship
We can also go both deep and wide in praise and worship. I think most Christians know about focused praise and worship through music on Sunday mornings. However, it is also a huge blessing to your mind and your spirit to keep praise and worship playing in the background throughout the day whenever possible.

You know, this whole topic of deep and wide is similar to what we call quality time versus quantity time. And since experts have argued over which is more important in relationships, I think it’s safe to assume that both are essential. We need to know God on a deep level, but we need that quantity time spent with him and his word as well for familiarity and a sense of closeness.

So remember to go both deep and wide with your prayer and devotion.

Which are you better at spending in relationships, quality time or quantity time? Which do you find more important? What are the benefits of each? Please share any of your personal tips for going deep and/or wide with God.


 Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, will release with Whitefire Publishing in 2011. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Public Reading Primer

by Anita Mae Draper

I live on a Saskatchewan farm 15 minutes from a small community of 500, and to get anywhere important – like the nearest fast food joint – is an hour’s drive to the city of Regina, with a population of 200,000, 1 huge central/main library and 8 smaller community libraries.

Lillian Ripplinger, my librarian in Montmartre, has supported me as a writer since she read my first blogpost, but until I have a book published, it’s not feasible to hold a book reading in our library. In the 11 years we’ve lived in this area, I can only remember 2 author readings and I wasn’t able to make either. The authors stopped here on their Saskatchewan tours and received a very good response with most of the chairs in the library being filled. That would give an audience of about two dozen if you include the chairs from the council chamber across the hall.

So I was very excited last year when my writing group, the Saskatchewan Romance Writers (SRW), was invited to participate in a public reading at the main branch of the Regina Public Library (RPL). The reading would be entitled, Romancing the Word: An Evening with Saskatchewan Romance Writers and the SRW was looking for volunteers to read.

Safety in Numbers

Four of us volunteered to read and yet only Annette Bower had experience reading. I don’t think I would have agreed to do it on my own, but being part of a group, especially with women I deeply respect, took a lot of the pressure off. And since Annette had experience with the RPL and lived in Regina, she volunteered to be our liaison, or contact person. Not only did she do a terrific job keeping us informed by email, she arranged a meeting at a coffee shop where we got together to discuss the finer details such as promotion, timing, order of read, arrangement, décor and refreshments.


The RPL created posters and gave us some to take back to our own communities. Annette encouraged us to bring as many friends and family as we could to the reading. It was very strange to see my name on posters hanging in city bookstore windows and on bulletin boards, but conscious of my unpublished state, I was too shy to give them to my local librarian, Lillian, until the day before the event (at which time I received an earful).

Practice and Timing

Since we would each read for 15 mins – which I understand is normal for the industry – we agreed to meet an hour and a half prior to the posted time to practice. This gave us a chance to stand at the podium and actually read. We could fiddle with the microphone placement, see how our papers would sit and just get used to the idea of standing there.

When it was my turn to practice reading from the beginning of Emma's Outlaw, I looked up at the imagined crowd every so often, and I decided to quietly slide my paper to the left as I finished each page instead of flipping it over. This smooth action allowed me to read without pausing and without the audience being distracted by the crackling and rustling of paper. Another benefit of practicing was that in one paragraph of introspection, I noticed the girls getting this dazed look on their faces. When they asked me to try it again at a slower pace, I skipped that paragraph. They didn't notice the difference and they didn't seem to lose interest. And because I was speaking slower, I would've gone over the time limit except it worked out by eliminating the one paragraph.

Anita Mae Draper, Feb 2010

Arrangement and Decor

The venue was a small theatre with a 3’ high stage and about 8’ of floor space in front of it. Annette told us some readers use the podium on the floor instead of on the stage. We agreed to do the same to make it more cozy.

The weather in February on the prairies is very unpredictable and that night, the drive was horrid with blowing snow creating whiteouts on the highway. I arrived 15 mins later than our agreed upon time and the others had already set up the room with the podium on the floor. Beside it were two tables, each with two chairs and a microphone. I thought we were only going to sit there for the question period afterwards but we sat at the front throughout the reading. Karyn brought white tablecloths for the tables and even added a small bowl of roses to set the romance ambiance.

Karyn Good and Susan Easton, Feb 2010

Order of Read

Since the audience would need to differentiate between the 4 romance stories, we arranged it so there would be a good mix of genres. Susan lead off with her contemporary, Karyn followed with her contemporary suspense, I read from my historical inspirational and Annette ended with her women’s fiction. And although the first two were contemporary, there was no mistaking the flowing romance of Susan’s, to the edge-of- the-seat suspense of Karyn’s. (Karyn has since signed a publishing contract with The Wild Rose Press for the novel she read that night. Yay, Karyn!)

Annette, Susan, Anita Mae, Karyn, Feb 2010


The RPL provided refreshments of coffee, juice and water on a table by the door, but it was Annette’s tray of heart-shaped sugar cookies with pale pink icing that helped set the mood as soon as you entered the room.

The Reading

At 7 pm the RPL staff introduced the SRW and we began. Because we’d practiced, our timing was perfect. I had brought my son, JJ who took the photos of the evening. As well, my sister-in-law and mother-in-law showed up for support. They know I'm a writer, but it was the first time they heard what I write. From their comments, they liked my story. What I remember most about reading my portion is that the room was very quiet and everyone was looking at me with interest. What I mean by that is I didn't see any bored faces, no one dozed off, and they chuckled and gasped in the appropriate places.

After allowing a few minutes for the audience to grab refreshments, the question period began. It’s been rumored that some of the initial questions were ‘planted friendlies’ to get the ball rolling. If indeed they were, it worked, because once those initial questions were out of the way, they kept coming.
At 8:30, a staff member approached the front and thanked everyone for attending. A couple ladies lined up to speak to me after (which really impressed my family). And by 9 pm, the room had cleared. The official count was 40 attendees.

The roads were still bad on the drive home, but we pulled into the yard around 11 pm.

What made this reading enjoyable was the RPL staff, our (mostly Annette’s) planning, and the support of my fellow writers. Would I read again? Yes.

Have you ever read or attended a public reading? How many readers? What would you read? Would you host one if you didn’t have to read?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. She writes stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests.
Enter the Welcome Prize Giveaway at

Photo Credits: JJ Draper

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Behind the Wheel with Alice Ramsey: The First All-Female Road Trip

 by Susanne Dietze

Alice Huyler Ramsey drove for miles, searching for the yellow barn without success. The  barn served as a landmark in an American Automobile Association’s guidebook, which motorists relied on for navigation back in 1909, but the brightly-painted building, which indicated she should make a turn, was not where the guidebook said it should be.

Little did Ramsey know that the pro-horse farmer who owned the barn painted it green in order to foil her attempt to be the first woman to drive an automobile across country.

Assuming she'd miscalculated, Ramsey continued onward, went the wrong way, and got lost.

But not for long. As she would throughout the journey when she hit dead ends or rough terrain, Ramsey backtracked, corrected, and continued westward on an adventure of a lifetime.

Ramsey wasn’t out to prove anything. Making the 3,600 mile drive from New York City to San Francisco wasn’t even her idea. But it was one she embraced—and executed—with gusto, seizing the opportunity and letting it take her where it would.

In 1908, Ramsey’s husband John bought her an automobile.  Just 22-years old, she took driving lessons at the local Maxwell-Briscoe dealership in Hackensack, New Jersey and spent the summer putting 6,000 miles on her new car. After she participated in a 200-mile endurance drive, a Maxwell-Briscoe sales manager with the too-fabulous name of Cadwallader Washburn Kelsey saw an advertising opportunity in her, and he proposed the cross-country trip (all expenses paid, of course) to prove that a Maxwell was so safe and reliable, even a woman driver (!) could drive one across America.

Ramsey said “yes” and invited a few friends along: her sisters-in-law Nettie Powell and Margaret Atwood, and 16-year-old Hermine Jahns, none of whom could drive. On June 9, 1909, Ramsey kissed John goodbye, cranked the Maxwell’s engine, and set off from New York City.
On the road, Ramsey and her companions showed flexibility and resourcefulness. They slept under the stars some nights, and spent others in grand hotels when they paused for publicity stops (one hotel in Wyoming gave Ramsey a present to take with her: bedbugs). When restaurants or locally-offered home-cooked meals weren’t available, the ladies procured tins from general stores and picnicked alongside the road.

Ramsey changed a dozen flat tires, cleaned spark plugs, and ran out of gas—little wonder considering that checking the fuel tank required the removal of the entire front seat cushion. Another day, Powell and Atwood carried ditchwater to the radiator using their silver toiletries holders.

Needless to say, progress was slow. The car’s speed topped at 42 mph on the Cleveland Highway, but most of the roads Ramsey traveled were unpaved and landmarks weren't always reliable. Hired drivers and supporters guided Ramsey when possible, but she was often on her own regarding directions. A few protesters popped up along the way, but they were not against female drivers, as far as I can tell. Most of them, like the farmer with the yellow barn, were pro-horse.

Aside from dealing with the car, Ramsey had almost-daily meetings with the press and found herself in danger more than once. Her path crossed a manhunt searching for a killer in Nebraska, and in Nevada she and her friends were surrounded by a Native American hunting party.

Ramsey and her companions arrived in San Francisco on August 10, 1909—59 days after they set out. Both driver and sponsor seemed pleased with the result of the trip. Maxwell-Briscoe saw an increase in car sales, and Ramsey (who got to keep the car) and her friends returned home, proud of their accomplishment. Ramsey settled back into her life, bore two children, and in 1917 her husband John was elected to Congress. He never learned to drive, relying on his wife, who continued driving until her death in 1983.

In 1961 she published the story of her journey, Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron, one year after she was named AAA’s “Woman Motorist of the Century.”

I like to think of her as much more than a motorist, however. Alice Ramsey was presented an opportunity for adventure doing something she enjoyed, and she embraced it. She persevered, even when others tried to make things difficult.  Her husband’s support, the fellowship of friends, and the reminder of her goal no doubt made the difficult times more tolerable. She kept on driving, sometimes off course, but she kept moving.

And she didn’t turn back.

Serious Question: The story about the farmer painting his barn green to thwart Alice made me think about her mettle. When someone disapproves of you or makes accomplishing your goals difficult, are you disheartened or energized to prove them wrong?

Fun Question: Have you taken a memorable road trip? Where did you go and what did you see?

 Susanne Dietze has written love stories set in the nineteenth century since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. Her work has finaled in the 2010 Genesis Contest, the 2009 Gotcha! Contest, and the Touched By Love Contest, 2008 and 2009. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book,

All photos public domain.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Harvest of Hope

by C.J. Chase
In keeping with the theme of the busyness that consumes our lives, I almost forgot I had signed up for today's devotional. I was so busy, you see...

For anyone who has slept through the past month, I have a book out right now. (Redeeming the Rogue. Available at Walmart, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., etc.) Remind me to schedule my books for release in the winter from now on. August, you see, is harvest season.

No, I'm not a farmer, but I'm not far removed from my farming roots. I have a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and berry bushes. I frequent U-pick orchards for those things I don't have. And then I fill my pantry and freezer.

The ancient Israelites were an agrarian culture. Unlike their nomadic ancestor Abraham who lived in a tent and traveled from place to place, they built fortified cities. Their law contained specific provisions relating to the inheritance of land and reserving part of their harvest for God, the priests, and the poor. We see an example of both laws in practice in the world's first inspirational romance novel -- the book of Ruth.

As I was attempting to juggle my hours among canning jam, chauffeuring kids, and writing a novel last week, my mind kept returning to Ruth. I love that story. I always try to imagine what must have been going through Boaz's mind that day he looked out at his grain field. He'd grown up in Bethlehem--spent his whole life there, most likely. It was a small town where everyone knew everyone else. There are no secrets in a small town. As the country song says, "Everybody dies famous in a small town."

And then one day at the height of the harvest, Boaz noticed a woman he'd never seen before. She was young, poor, and diligent--a foreigner who left her people and religion behind. The more he learned about her, how she had left her own country to care for her mother-in-law, the more intrigued he became. Of course, he married her at the end of the book. (As I said, the world's first inspirational romance.) They had a son, who had a son, who had a son -- who became a king.

I admit, the romance draws me back to that story over and over--not necessarily a good thing because it keeps my focus off the more important message of God's provision.

The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet (1857)
God gave the Israelites specific instructions for taking care of the poor, both Jewish and foreign. The law forbid landowners from completely reaping a field, orchard, or vineyard. They weren't to harvest the edges of fields, beat olive boughs more than once in a season, or pick up what fell to the ground.

Ruth followed behind the harvesters, gleaning what they left behind. It was hard, hot work that lasted from morning until evening and yielded meager results for the amount of labor expended. But God took care of Ruth. He rewarded her tenacity and compassion by providing her with far more than her daily bread.

Isn't it interesting that God didn't instruct the people to just give the poor part of their crops? God provides for our needs, but He expects us to do our part. From the very beginning, even when all was good in the Garden of Eden, God expected Adam to care for the garden.

In the last two weeks, we've been buffeted by a fresh round of dire economic news: a shaky stock market, the financial and societal chaos in Europe, predictions of another rise in unemployment over the next twelve months, ballooning debt. When the bad news seems overwhelming, we need to reconsider the Old Testament lessons. Work diligently. Take care of each other. And trust God to provide for our needs.

Have you seen God's providence during difficult economic times? Can you suggest some ways God can use us to minister to others who are suffering economic hardship?

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Redeeming the Rogue is an August, 2011 release. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at

Friday, August 19, 2011

Live Simply -- Simply Live

by DeAnna Julie Dodson

Life seems to be moving faster and faster. Despite all of our modern conveniences, our to-do lists seem to spiral out of control. We're supposed to take care of our families, hold down a job or two, keep a clean house, do laundry, prepare nutritious meals, exercise regularly, keep the yard looking nice, attend church and church functions, nurture friend and family relationships, maintain the car, care for our pets, and spend quality time worshiping God. On top of that, we're encouraged to continue our educations, keep up with world and local events, enroll our children in several different extracurricular activities and ferry them back and forth, volunteer at charitable organizations, grow our own food, clip coupons, pursue a hobby or two, read widely, keep up with cultural events, be knowledgeable about the latest books, movies and television programs, follow politics and sports and be involved in neighborhood gatherings. But wait! There's more!


Who really has time to do everything?

My maternal grandmother, with very few conveniences, managed to raise her four children, cook three elaborate meals a day (making almost everything from scratch), sew the family clothes, do the cleaning and laundry and raise an amazing garden – her front and back and side yards were all full of glorious flowers, some of which she cross bred herself.

My paternal grandmother had ten kids, also made all the meals from scratch, including baking bread and cornbread every day. In addition to all the housework, she made quilts and somehow found time to do lovely embroidery and crochet. She raised her own kids and cared for many of her grandchildren when their mothers were working. She always had a full house and a mob of people to feed.

How did they do it? I confess I don't have a clue. I can hardly raise four cats and manage to stick a frozen dinner in the microwave when I'm hungry.

I just finished the rough draft of my current manuscript and am letting it sit for a few days so I can have somewhat-fresh eyes when I edit it. That gives me a minute or two to catch up on the things I've been putting off. That means I can do the blog posts and interviews and book reviews and endorsements I haven't gotten to yet. It means I can get back to the quilt I've had almost done for the past month and haven't had time to finish . . . IF my day job stays quiet for a while.

I could look around at all the other things calling for my attention and agree to take them on, too. After all, what's one more thing?

Or I could stand back and think about what I should be doing rather than what I could be doing. Things like teaching Sunday School or helping out with the youth group or teaching a literacy class or any of the other volunteer opportunities are wonderful in and of themselves. We should all try to help out. But is the particular opportunity you could be doing what you're actually called to be doing? And are you called to it right now?

As a writer, I'm always encouraged to have an online presence. That means I should have a well-maintained website and be visible on Facebook and Twitter and MySpace and on a personal blog and on a group blog. I should have fresh content on a regular basis. I shouldn't be shy about promoting myself, but I should be careful about not talking about myself too much. I should let people know what I'm doing, what I had for lunch, what movie I saw, why my Aunt Lulu moved to St. Louis, on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Don't get me wrong, all of these outlets can be great for promoting a writer and his work, and yes, publishers definitely like to see that you have a "tribe" of people who are your regular followers. But if you have, let's say, 5000 Twitter followers and you follow 5000 people yourself, are any of you actually reading what those between-five-and-ten-thousand people are saying? Really?


And, if you are, and if you keep your Facebook page updated and read and respond to everyone who comments, and if you do the same with your personal and group blogs, when do you write? When do you have time to actually do the thing you're trying to promote? And if you have to keep a day job besides being a writer, when do you sleep?

I'm not saying social media is bad any more than I'm saying the family and community activities I mentioned before are bad. It's a question of making choices. Which will you do? Which are most important to you? Which are you called to? When are you supposed to do them?

We can all wear ourselves out 24-7 trying to do it all because it's all good. Or we can step back, breathe deeply and listen for God's voice telling us what He has for us. He designed each of us for a particular purpose at a particular time, but we can never fulfill that purpose if we try to do everything all the time.

Contrary to what you've heard, you don't have to do everything. You don't. You have my permission to say no. If anyone complains, feel free to blame me.

It's okay if you don't know who won American Idol. It's all right if your child is just in band and not soccer and drama and Girl Scouts and the spelling bee. You don't have to make the Thanksgiving dinner for the extended family every single year. Sometimes someone else can do it. You don't have to agree to read every book for endorsement you're asked to, even if that means you miss some that look really, really good. It's okay if you don't always take nursery on Sunday morning. Maybe someone else needs that ministry opportunity. Find what you are called to do and do that. The rest will take care of itself.

Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."

How can we know if we're never still?

Are you overwhelmed with everything that must be done? Are there things you could say no to? In your willingness to do everything for everyone, are you keeping someone else from learning and growing into the place God has called them to? Are you missing your perfect calling in trying to do everything you could do instead of only what you should do?

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, and Letters in the Attic, a contemporary mystery. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with four spoiled cats.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stressed Out!

By Lisa Karon Richardson

I’ve gotta be honest. I was not in the mood to write about faith. I’m feeling stressed out and tapped out, overwhelmed and under-inspired. I was pretty sure I didn’t have anything to offer to this group of readers that I admire and value so much. I was willing to bet that you all had your acts together a lot better than me. In short, I whined a great deal. Finally, God whacked me upside the head with the reminder that it’s not all about me. Then he graciously led me to some scriptures that refreshed me as I hope they will you.

Psalm 61
Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle forever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

It’s encouraging to know that I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed at times. Even the poet-warrior-king felt that way at times. I love the image of God as a mother hen. I want to be that little chick taking shelter below His wing. The storm may be raging, but I am secure tucked in where I can not just hear, but feel His heartbeat.

Isaiah 40:28-31
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

I know that in that scripture “wait” means to tarry. I’ve been reminding myself that I want His perfect timing because I know it will be better in the long run. Waiting can be a good thing, even if I long for something now.

I love our language because in English “wait” can also mean to serve. Like a waiter waiting at a restaurant. And I think there’s something to be learned from that interpretation too. If I seek first to serve the Lord, to do what He has called me to do, then He has a vested interest in seeing me succeed. He will help me climb higher and go further.

2 Corinthians 12:9
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

If I don’t have it all together, well… maybe that’s just where God wants me. I would rather be aware of my neediness than to think that because I’ve got my life so “under control” that I have no need of a savior.

I desperately need the Lord, but He is more than enough to meet my need.

Anyone else feeling stretched too thin? Can we help you pray for something?

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Let’s Talk TBRs

by Suzie Johnson
I don’t think a week goes by here at the Inkwell where someone doesn’t mention their TBR stack (pile, shelf, tower, whatever) – be it physical or virtual – and bemoan the fact that there’s never enough time to read everything.
courtesy of nkzs at
So let’s talk about our TBRs (that’s what I’m going to call them for the rest of this post).

A couple of weeks ago, in her Anglophile backlist post, Deb said she was thinking about re-creating Stonehenge with her stack of books. I laughed at the image, but in all seriousness most of us do have enough books that we really could build something out of them. I know I’m happily guilty of the very same thing.

So I was wondering… how do you manage your TBR? Do you organize your books alphabetically, by author, by date of purchase, by genre, or in order of what you think you want to read next?

For my physical TBR, I don’t have an organized system. I have little stacks in the bedroom and computer room, a box in the garage, and some on a shelf in the hall closet. They aren’t in any particular order. Neither are my NOOK books. However, on the NOOK there’s a front page where you can organize the books you want to read by cover for easy access. I love, love, love this feature! I always put the newest most exciting ones there, but if I get a new book that I think I’ll want to read before that one, say a Julie Klassen or Vicki Hinze, I’ll just bump a few back into the NOOK “library”.

I do tend to read by genre first. Inspirational suspense is almost always what I’ll read first, followed by favorite authors, unless there is something so gripping that it has to wend its way up to the top. Like Dina Sleiman’s Dance of the Dandelion or Lisa Bergren’s new YA time travel inspirationals.

I know people who keep lists of every book they’re read, and every book they buy, so they can cross them off and make sure they don’t read them again. I can’t operate that way. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I just don’t have time to be that organized. I work hard enough being organized at my job, I can’t handle it in my reading life since that’s where I go to relax.

courtesy of nkzs at
For those of you who have a Kindle, NOOK, or other reading device (or even those who read on the computer) do you have a virtual TBR as well as a physical one? I do have to say my physical one has shrunk somewhat since I bought the NOOK, but I think it’s always good to have a physical book on hand just in case the battery runs low on the NOOK due to excessive all-night reading sessions. If any of you have ever found yourself without a book to read, you know exactly what I mean.

My next question is the biggie. How many books do you currently have in your TBR? Anyone care to share? Go ahead, go and count. I’ll wait. I’ll share mine, too. It did take me a while to count. Oh, and before you ask, YES you can count your research books but let’s put them in their own category. I think they’re fair game because most of us get as much enjoyment out of doing research as we do reading fiction.

So here’s my list:
  • Virtual: 151 (NOOK)
  • Physical: 38 (all I can say is WOW! When compared to the NOOK, I can see I've really depleted my paper TBR since buying it. It's better for my allergies, I suppose.)
  • Research: 44 (Okay, I know I have many more somewhere, but I'm not digging through dusty boxes in the garage to count them. And chances are, since they're out there, I may not ever use them again. But still...I have to hang on to them. Just in case...)

Wow. I have a lot of reading ahead of me, but I have five more months of heavy-duty schoolwork ahead with little time to read, so I know before I’m finished with school my list will have grown some more.
courtesy of cafe-ole a
So why, when we have these huge stacks of books do we continue to buy more? I’ll go out on a limb and say for me I think it’s a little bit of an OCD thing. I’m constantly searching for new books by xyz author because even though I know her next book isn’t coming out for a month or two, I want to make sure it doesn’t sneak out early. There was a time when I’d snatch the books up because if you didn’t buy as soon as they became available, they would be gone. That changed with the advent of Amazon, and you can get most any book now, even if it’s out of print. And then there’re the e-versions. If a book comes out electronically, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll be able to buy it when you’re ready to read it. But it’s hard for me to change that habit of constantly searching. Again, probably the OCD thing.

I’ve asked a lot of questions here, and I hope you’ll give me an answer or two: How do you organize your TBR? Is it virtual or physical or do you combine the best of both worlds? How do you choose what you’re going to read, and how many books are in your TBR? Leave your email address and I’ll be sending someone a book to add to their TBR. I’ll let you know tomorrow who I’ll be sending a book to. ;-)

Suzie Johnson has won several awards for her inspirational novels (writing as Susan Diane Johnson), including the Maggie, Lone Star, Heart of the West, and Beacon awards, as well as finaling in the Touched by Love, Finally A Bride, Linda Howard Award for Excellence, and Virginia's Fool For Love contests. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day, she lives with her husband and little kitten on an island in the Pacific Northwest. And although the beaches are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madronas and Evergreens instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much to cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can visit her blog, Suzie's Writing Place at

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