Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WWI Trench Discovered

By Lisa Karon Richardson

In the quest for a quicker way to get from here to there, workers in France have uncovered a fascinating bit of history. 18 feet below the surface, they discovered a trench and underground shelter from WWI.

94 years ago a deluge of mud engulfed the space when an allied shell exploded nearby and caused a cave in. 34 men were killed instantly. German soldiers were able to extricate some of the bodies, but for more than 2 generations, the bodies of 21 men lay entombed and forgotten.

But now archaeologists liken the site to Pompeii because the catastrophe was so quick and complete it left the site exceptionally well preserved. A 300 foot-long section has been excavated including the shelter which housed 500 men and had 16 exits.

The bodies are all from the 6th Company, 94th Reserve Infantry Regiment and have all been identified, their ages ranging from 20-37 and their names are already recorded on a war memorial just over the German border in the town of Illfurth. Unless relatives are found who wish to claim the bodies, the men will also be buried in Illfurth.

In addition to the bodies, they have discovered all manner of personal effects, from wallets to drinking glasses. Archaeologists have even discovered the remains of a goat, which they believe was kept by the men to provide fresh milk.

I don’t know if it’s just a ghoulish part of me, but I found this discovery fascinating, macabre, and infinitely sad. Almost as if a little hole has been torn in time, allowing us to peek back at what was both a pivotal point for the entire globe and a very intimate, very small tragedy, effecting 21 men and their families.

165,000 soldiers are still unaccounted for on the Western Front.

Read more here.

I'm left longing to know more about these men and their stories. How did this discovery make you feel?

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 October, 2012 followed shortly thereafter by The Magistrate’s Folly in November.

Monday, February 27, 2012

An Awesome Moment in African American History

Okay, maybe I'm cheating on this as a current events post, but it is currently African American History Month. And this is the coolest piece of black history I've ever stumbled across, so I really wanted to share it. Enjoy this awesome letter from a emancipated slave to his former master. You rock, Jourdon!

Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.

So would anyone care to venture a guess as to the colonel's reaction? LOL. I enjoyed a lovely celebration of song, dance, and poetry in honor of Black History Month Friday night. Did you celebrate this month in any special way?


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 with Whitefire Publishing has just released. 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 http://dinasleiman.com/

Sunday, February 26, 2012


by C.J. Chase

As a writer, I spend much of my life searching for just the right word for the situation. Should I have my character walk, amble, stride, pace, saunter, or creep into the room? I've often said that if only I read my Bible as much as my thesaurus...well, you can probably guess. This week, I learned a new word:

Thanatophobia: noun, the fear of death

Many years ago, I read the book, The Victorian Celebration of Death. To be honest, I no longer remember much of it—except for one thing that particularly captured my interest. The author compared Victorian customs surrounding death with those of our “modern” era. While the Victorians had elaborate rituals (special clothing, ink, stationery, etc.), we moderns tend to pretend death doesn’t exist. Three days of bereavement leave, and then back to work you go as if nothing happened.

In fact, I had that experience once. After a sudden death in my immediate family, I called into work. I told my boss what had happened. She granted me leave, then cut the conversation short. Very short. I hung up, rather disturbed. Perhaps she was only busy, but I always suspected a deeper reason at work.

It strikes me that many in our culture suffer from thanatophobia. And why wouldn’t they? We live in a post-Christian society. The future is a frightening place when it holds only emptiness. Better to pretend death doesn't exist than face our fate. For what meaning does life have if there is nothing beyond our few decades on earth?

As it happens, last week I reached the point in my book where I had to kill a character. Mind you, not a nice character, but the one my family refers to as the Slimy-Guy-Who-Deserves-to-Die. No one is going to morn his death--well, except his grandmother. (Note from the suspense writer: these are the best kinds of characters to kill because everyone is a suspect.)

But doesn't that title--the Slimy-Guy-Who-Deserves-to-Die--describe each and everyone one of us? We are all guilty of sin [Romans 3:23] and the punishment for sin is death [Romans 623]. Considering what would await us if we got all that we deserved, thanatophobia should be a universal affliction.

But fortunately, Jesus conquered death and saved us from thanatophobia.  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? [I Corinthians 15:55 KJV]

I recently attended a funeral. Now as funerals go, this was the best kind—the deceased was a 92-year-old Christian widow of a pastor who left behind a legacy of family and faith. Yes, there was sadness, but there was also celebration--lots of uplifting music and a reading from Revelation.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” [Revelation 22:3-4 NIV] 

Many Christians are observing the beginning of the Lenten season. Even if you come from a tradition that doesn’t formally observe Lent (like I do), you can still take these weeks leading up to Easter to reflect on God's grace--the grace that saves us from thanatophobia.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. [Philippians 1:21 NIV] Imagine that! With Christ, we have a win-win situation, both here and forever afterward.

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 was an August, 2011 release. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at cjchasebooks.com

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Opposite of Art - Athol Dickson

  By Dina Sleiman

This book went on my must read list when Athol started talking about it on Novel Rocket. He predicted although probably his best book, it would also be his biggest commercial flop. Why? Well, in addition to being very “edgy” for the CBA market, in other words realistic, it’s also his most literary book.

So of course I had to have it. The very next amazon gift card I received immediately went towards purchasing this book. I mean, even if I hadn’t known much about it, the name and cover themselves would have been enough to intrigue me.

And the contents did not disappoint. I can’t say this is one of those books that kept me riveted, and I didn’t put down. In fact the opposite is true. I found that again and again I had to pause for upwards to a day to digest and reflect upon what I had read. But I will say this, it’s going on my top five all-time favorite novels list. If forced to pick a spot at this very moment, I’d probably put it at number two, but it’s a little early to make that final decision.

Why did I love it? First of all, the main character is a brilliant artist. After a near death experience, he’s determined to paint “the glory” as he calls it. But he can’t quite remember it. He can’t quite grasp it. So he begins a worldwide quest through the major religions of our time in search of it.

Will everyone love this book as much as I do? Maybe, maybe not. If you’re looking for fluff, don’t even bother. But if you love a book that will challenge you and make you grow, then dash immediately over to amazon and buy it, because it’s right up there with the best of the best. It’s not the fastest paced book, although there is ample romance and suspense to keep you interested and provide entertainment value. The structure is sort of odd, and yet it serves the story. At times, it delves into the realms of magical realism in a beautiful and symbolic way that brings to life the wonders of the spiritual world.

In his quest through the world’s religions, Athol uses a delicate hand both in showing the beauty that does exist and the areas where they fall short. Although he never clearly states, “Jesus is the way,” I believe he showed that with gorgeous symbolism that lived up to the theme of the book. For him to have pinned it down and become didactic, would have undermined this book as a great piece of literature. And Lord knows we have few enough of those in Christian fiction.

I simply loved every moment of this novel. But I think what I loved the most was the quest for the ultimate beauty. God is the quintessential beauty. He is beauty personified. Too often I think we overlook that in Christianity. We focus on laws and rules and theologies and forget about the unparalleled bliss of a relationship with the divine. There are two new books that came out in 2011 called Beauty Will Save the World. And I think it’s true. This generation will not be drawn to God through ration and reason, but rather through beauty and love. Please join me on Thursday, February 1st as I delve further into this topic.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Sometimes the best thing we can do to help ourselves is just find something that brings us joy.

What if you were out shopping one average day, and suddenly an opera broke out?

Opera Company of Philadelphia "Flash Brindisi" at Reading Terminal Market (April 24, 2010)

How can you not be smiling after watching that? It's pure joy, free and unexpected and delightful.

Thank you, Opera Company of Philadelphia.


What have you done lately that has brought you joy?

How can you bring joy to someone else?

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, February 23, 2012

What is Faith?

What is faith?


1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

The "based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof" part is, I believe, the key. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." How can we have substance and evidence without substance and evidence?

On the surface, it's ridiculous. It's contradictory. It's not rational. And, yet, it is true. When our spirits are reborn and alive in Christ, we can know these things that are spiritually discerned. Our spiritual eyes are opened, and we can see that substance and that evidence. We can take hold of it and hang on to it even when "reality" tells us something different.

I had a long discussion with an unbelieving friend on just this subject. I said I know God is real. He said I believe it but can't possibly know it. I realize the distinction he was making, but he didn't seem to understand the one I was making. I know. As much as I know the things I can see and feel or taste, touch and smell, I know. And yet I realize he can't possibly understand what I was telling him. The natural (unregenerated) man cannot understand the spiritual.

Can. Not.

1 Corinthians 2:9-16: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."

Thank God that He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us in discerning spiritual things. It's an amazing, awesome gift that I can't possibly explain. As a pastor I know likes to put it, "You just know in your knower."

How does that work? I don't have a clue. But I have faith that it does.

What are you having faith for right now?

What do you see with your spiritual eyes?

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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fairy Tale Furor

Once upon a time...

Cliche? Yes.
But those four words still hold the power to lure a reader, or a listener, into the realm of imagination.

Fairy tales are often the first fiction stories with which we fall in love. They stir our hearts toward belief in the impossible, remind us that good triumphs over evil, and promote the boundless power of true love.

Perhaps it's a need to escape all the negativity and division around us, or the tragedy of war and natural disasters, or the fear of the future ... whatever the reason, the humble fairy tale is no longer limited to children's literature and animated Disney films. (Disney, in fact, has turned down several recent animated fairy tale remakes.)
On TV this season are two new prime-time series, "Once Upon a Time" and "Grimm," that mix and match various classic fairy tales in fresh modern contexts.

In theaters, we've seen a recent remake of Little Red Riding Hood, and Beauty and the Beast with Beastly.

This spring will see the much-anticipated release of Snow White and the Huntsman with Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen, and hunky Chris Hemsworth from Thor (also the people's Facebook choice to play Jamie Fraser in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander if and when the book ever becomes a movie) as the Huntsman.

It would be almost impossible to list all the books based on a fairy tale, written to reflect a fairy tale, or even lightly framed around a fairy tale plot. (I'm looking forward to reading Melanie Dickerson's new release, The Merchant's Daughter, based on Beauty and the Beast.)

Thumbelina via wikipedia
With all this fairy tale fever, I've been thinking about all the fairy tales I remember reading as a child, especially the obscure ones and the ones with unusual characters or plots, and wondering how those could be adapted into a fresh stories for this fairy tale hungry generation, like Thumbelina, or the Wild Swans for example. For inspirational writers, finding a way to weave the gospel of Christ into these classic stories provides an additional challenge.

These stories sparked my love of fiction and fantasy. Judging from the popularity of the remakes, the time is ripe to search out the hidden treasures in those classic stories. And there are far more stories out there to be told or retold in a fresh manner. Check out the following chart of fairy tales on wikipedia. You might be surprised by the number of stories listed that are unfamiliar to you.

Do you have a particular favorite fairy tale?
How do you feel about the remakes and re-tellings we're seeing in popular culture today? 

About the Author: Niki writes fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Invisible Woman

 by Susanne Dietze

In the aftermath of the gruesome English Staplehurst rail crash of 1865, only one first-class passenger car remained on the rails. One of its passengers was Charles Dickens, arguably one of the greatest figures of English literature. With him were two women, a young lady named Ellen "Nell" Ternan, and Ellen's mother.

Many scholars have dismissed Ellen as the married-Dickens’ platonic companion. Other evidence points to the contrary, identifying Ellen as the married author's true love. Either way, Ellen is receiving a lot of press this month, as February has been set aside to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth (February 7, 1812) in over 50 countries.

Charles Dickens in 1858
Dickens was a literary rock star while he was alive, and his popularity hasn’t dimmed. First published at age 23, his works retain their bite and richness despite the passing of time. Mystery, love, longing, sacrifice, inequity, corruption, and other timeless themes are woven into tales with memorable characters and well-crafted plots. His legacy continues, perhaps in ways he wouldn’t have expected. It’s not uncommon to yearn for a Dickensian Christmas. Alas, “Dickensian” also is used to describe poverty and squalor.

But he was also quite human. Dickens was a complicated person, the survivor of a brutal youth, an energetic man, a demanding father, and a not-so-doting husband. He parted from his wife Catherine in 1858, after ten children and twenty-two years of marriage, shortly after meeting Ellen Ternan.

He was forty-five; Ellen was eighteen, performing in The Frozen Deep, which he produced. Ellen is said to have been clever and passionate, interested in politics and literature. She left the stage shortly thereafter, and was supported by Dickens for the rest of his life, residing in houses he took under false names. She received £1,000 upon his death, as well as income from a trust fund ensuring she’d be well cared for throughout her life.

Ellen Ternan, 1858
Most of the world didn’t know about Dickens’ thirteen-year long relationship with Ellen. He kept her well-hidden from the media and the two destroyed whatever correspondence they may have shared. She didn’t accompany him on his two trips to America, although she did travel with him on occasion (they were returning from France when they were in the train accident). Other evidence of their liaison survives, however, including confirmation from Dickens’ children, who spoke unhappily of his relationship with Ellen and the sad news that Ellen bore a son who died in infancy.

What happened to Ellen? Six years after Dickens died, she married a pastor twelve years her junior (it’s said she told him she was 23, not 37. Sounds a little bit like actresses of today!). They had two children and ran a boys’ school.

Ellen hasn’t been forgotten, of course. The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens, by Claire Tomalin, was published in 1991, inspiring an upcoming movie starring Ralph Finnes and Felicity Jones. Invisible no longer, Ellen’s name is forever linked to Dickens’—a complicated, flawed, gifted man by the standards of his time, as well as our own.

Have you ever read any Charles Dickens outside of a school assignment? Which of his books is your favorite?

Susanne Dietze has written love stories 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. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book, http://www.susannedietze.blogspot.com/.

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