Monday, September 30, 2013

Memories of Rocks, Trees, and Lakes

by Anita Mae Draper

This past summer, my sister and I drove 4,000 km/2500 miles in 8 days to attend a family reunion in Ontario. The trip was exhausting, but I treasure every minute I got to spend with my sister who lives five hours northeast of our farm near Montmartre (Mo-mart), Saskatchewan.

Bonnie and I rendezvoused on the TransCanada Hwy #1 about 2 am on July 30th, and headed east. It seems like a weird time to travel, but Bonnie had to work until 9 pm before taking the long drive down to meet me. Also, there aren't as many tractor trailers/semi-trucks/18 wheelers on the road at that time, so it's less stressful than the daylight. Of course there are deer and moose, and other critters, but that just means a watchful eye on the road.

We crossed the provincial border from Saskatchewan into Manitoba at 4 am just as a sliver of grey appeared above the horizon. And 6 am found us stopping at Brandon for a much needed cup of Canada's favorite coffee - Tim Horton's.

Bonnie and her Timmy (Tim Horton's coffee) about 20 mins east of Brandon, TransCanada Hwy, July 30, 2013

We spent the morning travelling across the flat prairie of Manitoba until about an hour from the Ontario border, the prairie suddenly disappeared and we were in the trees and rocks of the Canadian Shield.

Manitoba/Ontario border at 11:30 am on July 30, 2013. The 490 km sign denotes the distance between Manitoba's east and west borders. (A 7 1/2 hr drive including pit stops.) 

Driving across the Canadian Shield is hazardous at night with its hills, turns, and ever-present rock cuts, but after years of living on the prairies, I savored the colors and textures of my birth province. Although Bonnie lives among the trees and hills, she considered it her duty to take a photo of every rock, tree and lake we passed along the way. And I'm so glad she did because I had to keep my hands on the wheel and she took many of the photos you see here.

Rock cut through the Canadian Shield northeast of Kenora, Ontario, July 30, 2013

Trees and lakes northeast of Kenora on TransCan Hwy 1, July 30, 2013

At 7:53 pm we neared the outskirts of Thunder Bay and my tired, but watchful eyes picked up movement on the north side of the highway. I slowed and then pulled onto the shoulder as I made out 2 moose browsing in the area between the road and trees. If this YouTube doesn't work, check it out on my YouTube Channel.

We pulled into the city of Thunder Bay at 10:30 pm that night where our mom was waiting up for us. The next morning, I knew I was 'home' when breakfast included scones from the Current River Bakery and a newly opened jar of Finnish Lingonberry jam.

 Lingonberry jam from Finland and Current River Bakery scones, Thunder Bay, Ontario, July 31, 2013

As usual, a trip to Thunder Bay wouldn't be complete without a brief stop on High Street to gaze across the harbor at the familiar vista of The Sleeping Giant.

The Sleeping Giant, Thunder Bay, Ontario, July 31, 2013

On August 1, Bonnie and I took to the road again, heading east toward Nipigon for the second leg of our journey. Of course, we took full advantage of pit stop adventures, like this one at the Ontario Travel Information Centre in Nipigon. This is one of those self-portraits where I set my camera on a tripod, click the timer, then run like crazy to get into place.

Bonnie and Anita, self-portrait, Ontario Travel Information Centre, Nipigon, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013

Instead of turning north at the Nipigon junction like we normally did, we headed south and east near the northern shore of Lake Superior toward Wawa where we were expected for lunch. This area is known for the iron in the rock which gives it a reddish color. The town of Red Rock is on the west side of Nipigon, and the highways are paved with pinky/red asphalt. But it wasn't until we were on the east side of the junction that we saw the splendid color in the rock cuts along the highway.

Bonnie showing off the gorgeous rock color east of Nipigon, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013

Hwy 17 overlooking Nipigon Bay to the escarpment in the west. Aug 1, 2013

More red rock cuts on Hwy 17, east of Nipigon, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013

We stopped for a brief rest between Rossport and Terrace Bay where I walked the sandy beach and picked up some choice rocks. We arrived at Wawa, shared a wonderful 3 hrs with our dad and his wife, then backtracked to White River where we turned north on Hwy 631. I'd never driven this highway before, but it looked good on Google Earth and so it was as you can see from this next photo...

Hwy 631 south of Hornepayne, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013

Three hours later, Hwy 631 ended and we turned west toward Longlac, 149 km/92 mi away. I tell you, driving toward the setting sun is not where I want to be, but a brief prayer was quickly answered by a cloud moving into position between me and the solar orb. Dusk fell and we realized we needed to make one last pit stop if we wanted to make it safely to Longlac. Again, our need was answered as we arrived at the Klotz Lake Rest Stop at 10:05 pm with a gorgeous sunset to ease our travel aches.

Sunset at Klotz Lake Rest Station, Klotz Lake, Ontario, Aug 1, 2013

Half an hour later, we shared a joyous family reunion which included Aunt Taimi, who lives in France - and whom we hadn't seen in a dozen years, but who regularly shows up on my blogs and Facebook page , and her son, our cousin Edward from England whom we'd never met. I've always enjoyed my visits to Longlac and never tire of the view from their livingroom window. It was raining on Aug 2nd which was our designated day to visit, so I didn't get the shot of the bridge that I wanted, but there's enough in this following photo to bring back happy memories.

Looking north across Long Lake toward the highway bridge across the CPR line, Longlac, Ontario, Aug 2, 2013

The pylons sticking out of the water are leftover from the logging days when huge booms of logs were tied there until needed.

On Aug 3, we spent some time taking family pictures outside in the rain under Longlac's landmark - a reminder of the Hudson Bay Company's Long Lake post which was built near the North West Company's fur trading post.

Hendrickson Reunion, Longlac, Ontario, Aug 3, 2013

After hugs and kisses, Bonnie and I headed back to Thunder Bay, but not before I took a final photo of my aunt's house while crossing the bridge.

On the CPR bridge looking across part of Long Lake to Aunt Mimi's house, Longlac, Ontario, Aug 3, 2013

On our trip back to Thunder Bay, we stopped for an hour or so to explore Geraldton and share our earliest memories of when we lived there, my birth town. And although I took loads of pics, that's the topic of another post. I will add that wherever we expected to see Geraldton on a green highway sign, we found the word Greenstone instead. We'd asked our aunt about it and she explained that the 3 communities of Longlac, Geraldton, and Jellicoe had banded together under the name Greenstone. As well as being a tourist zone, the 3 communitties were able to save money and duplication in their budgets and logistics. However, my aunt said it's disconcerting to some tourists who expect to see a community of 5,000 and instead find the population scattered among the rocks, trees and lakes. All this to say that if you can't find Geraldton on a new map, try Greenstone.

I have much more photos of rocks, trees and lakes, but I'll spare you those today. At Nipigon, we turned west toward Thunder Bay, but suddenly, I slammed down the brakes and yelled for Bonnie to grab the camera. As I rolled to a stop on the shoulder of the road, she zipped down her window and pointed the camera at the small black bear rooting beside the road.

Black bear cub, Nipigon, Ontario, Aug 3, 2013

"Where there's a baby bear, Momma bear's not far behind," I warned as Bonnie leaned out the window snapping pics. I cranked my head around looking for a large black moving object, but couldn't see one.

The cub disappeared into the bush, and I raised Bonnie's window - just in case. As we started on the road again, I can honestly say I felt good to be alive.

After spending several days in Thunder Bay, Bonnie and I headed west for home. As we neared Brandon, I felt an overwhelming need to pray for people I'd met on the trip, and to praise for keeping us safe. And although I'd been praying right there at the wheel, I wanted to do it at the tiny Wayside Chapel overlooking Brandon. We spotted it in the gas station parking lot. There was enough room inside for 6 people - one small pew each. We prayed and praised and it felt good.

We pulled into Draper's Acres at 11:30 pm that night. Excruciating pain in my arthritic knee had me limping to my door, but oh, I was so glad I'd made the trip.

Several times while I drove, I thought of Inky Jennifer AlLee and her book, The Mother Road. If I recall, it's about a mom and daughter who take the trip of a lifetime down Route 66. It's good reading. :)

Have you ever taken, or are thinking of taking a trip down memory lane with a family member? I'd be honored if you'd share your experience, or your dreams for the future. 


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 the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae  semi-finaled in the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest, and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Fool for Love, Duel on the Delta and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests.  Anita Mae's short story, "Riding on a Christmas Wish" will appear in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013.  Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

That Pesky Research

 by Dina Sleiman

Historical research is tough. Even tougher than finding the right information sometimes, is knowing the right questions to ask. For example, in my first medieval novel I assumed they would have cards and coffee. But when I actually thought to check on those issues, I found out my setting was 50 years too early for either of them to have made their way to England. On the coffee issue, I just changed the drink. On the cards issue, I had a crusader bring them back from the Holy Land.

My latest medieval creation has a fun acrobatic twist. I can't tell you how many times I've read about medieval "acrobats" in historical text books. So, I never thought to ask if the word acrobat actually existed at the time. But right before sending out my final version of Dauntless Love, my daughter's skepticism about the acrobats prompted me to do a little more last minute research. And...I found out the word "acrobat" actually did not exist in English at that time. They would have been called "tumblers" or possibly "aerialists" if they worked off the ground. When used in military training, acrobatics would have been referred to as "agility skills." Mind you, since they spoke Middle English in 1217, I'm fairly lenient with myself on using words from as late as the 1600s when the language stabilized. But "acrobat" wasn't around until the 1800s.

In my last minute research I also found this cool video of medieval "tumblers." If they claim to be "acrobats," don't you believe them!

So let's talk historical research. What are funny mistakes you've seen or made? What are the questions you never even thought to ask?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Old Photograph Game

by Anita Mae Draper

In my research travels I come across many photos which are interesting but don't fit with what I'm researching. I file these photos in my idea file because they're too precious to let go. They are valuable insights into the fashion and events of their time.

Today, I'd like to present these photos and give you a chance to share your thoughts. Here are some questions you might like to try your hand at answering:
  1. Year
  2. Location
  3. Emotion
  4. Subject
  5. Caption
  6. Interesting Feature

Keeping the above in mind, take a look at the following photographs. Do any of them appeal to you?

Photo #1

Photo #2

Photo #3

Photo #4

Well, what do you think? Do any of them spike your interest?

I'll give everyone who wishes a chance to answer in today's comments, then on Wed I'll add an update with whatever information I have on the above photographs.



Photo #1 - Photograph File number: NA-2616-24

Title: Gus Auch, reading a letter at Foremost Alberta

Description: Note buttoned boots. Auch family emigrated from Poland in early 1900s and homesteaded in Birdsholm, east of Warner, ca 1911

Credit: Glenbow Museum online photo database

Anita's Note: My first thought was that Gus was reading a Dear John letter as noted by the intensity on his face. However, being an emigrant, he may be receiving bad news about his family still back in 'the old country.' Also, many people were illiterate back then and he may be struggling to read.


Photo #2 - Photograph File number: PD-327-101

Title: Alpine Club of Canada members relax on mountain, British Columbia

Description: July 24 to August 4, 1911. Note women's shoes in foreground.

Credit: Glenbow Museum online photo database

Anita's Note: If you're interested in women's fashion, activities, and leisure concerning this topic, click the link to the Glenbow Museum. Then at the top right of the screen where you see the SEARCH box, use the pull down menu to choose PHOTOGRAPHS and click the arrow. A new screen will open with more search boxes. Type "alpine club" in the keyword box and hit ENTER. Enjoy the pages of photographs.
If you want to try again, perhaps search for "women's clothing" alone or something, click the link for Search Again and it will take you back. (Don't click your browser's back button because the page will have expired.) The Glenbow Museum pages will always show the earliest images first, and then progress through the years to the most recent ones.


Photo #3 - Newspaper Boys - Real Photograph Postcard (RPPC)

Description: Cyril and Claude Parkinson, newspaper boys, in Kamsack. They appear to be selling the "Saturday Globe" and the "Chicago Ledger." ca 1913

Credit: Saskatchewan Archives Board

Anita's Note: It's hard to date photos of children since they grow so fast and then their clothing is passed on to another child without too much wear except perhaps knees and elbows. Back then, children wore whatever clothes they had without a question of what was in fashion. Their shoes are not buttoned up, so that would indicate 20th century. If you guessed anywhere from 1910-1940, I'd say it was a good guess. The newspaper banners aren't really a help at figuring out the location because Chicago was a central distribution point to Western Canada from the east. Although I haven't been able to confirm this, I believe the Saturday Globe is the weekend edition of Toronto's Globe and Mail which is still sold across Canada.

Update on Oct 11 - Companion Fanatic has submitted the following comment and it's so informative that I have to post it here for all to see:

PHOTO # 3: The photo of the boys with the Chicago Ledger and Saturday Blade (which has sod all to do with the Toronto Globe) is holding the 26-April-1913 issue of the Chicago Ledger, which dates this photo perfectly. The CL was a weekly paper, nationally distributed. This paper was only available rurally within a two-week window of the publication date, depending upon the location of the boys in this photo. Naturally, the closer to Chicago, the narrower that window of time becomes.

Hope that helps.

Oh. Incidentally, the fiction serial on the front cover of the Chicago Ledger is by Mason Ray, being "A Siren's Wiles, or, Who Laughs Last." Shame. I actually am missing this issue in my files.

Thank you for sharing this information, Companion Fanatic. I really appreciate you taking the time to fill us in. On a personal note, I'd love to talk historical newspapers with you. If you'd like to do the same, please contact me via the Contact page on my website.


Photo #4 - Untitled Photograph of a Regina Street Scene

Description: Pedestrians and streetcars on corner of 11th Avenue and Scarth Street. Imperial Bank of Canada on northeast corner, old City Hall in background. 

Credit: Brian Miller, Vintage Regina (The history of Regina, Saskatchewan in Photos)

Anita's Notes:
- Regina's inaugural streetcar run was on July 31st, 1911. Since several people in the photo seem to be looking toward the streetcar, I'm guessing it's still a fairly new sight to them.
- If you look at the length of the skirt of the woman with her back to us, it would seem to be around 1900. Her hat is still a floppy one worn into the early 1900's, and not a cloche or flapper hat from the 1920's. Also, she appears to be wearing a corset, which was slowly going out of fashion in the Edwardian period of the 1st two decades of the 20th century, but since most women don't buy/wear the latest fashions every year, it wouldn't have seemed out of place pre-World War 1.
- Why did the photographer take this shot? The first thing I noticed in the photo was the woman's back where you can see her corset. Is it because she's hunched over? Or is she actually wearing some type of body cast? What is the fabric content of her outfit that makes it drape that way? Was the photographer a man or woman? I have to admit, that if I was walking down the street and saw something odd or funny - like the woman's back - I would snap a pic right there. 
- There are many Vintage pages on Facebook, such as Vintage Winnipeg, Vintage Lake Simcoe, Vintage Toronto, etc. Perhaps their is one for your location.


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 the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae  semi-finaled in the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest, and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Fool for Love, Duel on the Delta and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests.  Anita Mae's short story, "Riding on a Christmas Wish" will appear in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013.  Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at

Monday, September 23, 2013

Secondary but not Second Rate

By Lisa Karon Richardson

Characterization is not my strong suit. Plots tend to come to my mind more quickly than people, and I have to work really hard to turn them into people and not just back stories. This is especially true when it comes to secondary characters.  In many stories the secondary characters are little more than props. They serve a functional purpose, but only to force the action of the plot or provide someone to talk so that there can be dialogue instead of narrative. But they aren’t three dimensional in their own right.
In other tales the secondary characters are so vivid they are more interesting than the protagonists. They steal the show. Maybe that’s why pundits suggest not including children or dogs in novels.

Either one of the traps are easy to fall into. I’ll walk the tightrope to the best of my ability. If I don’t get the balance right the first time… well, that’s what rewrites are for.

All of this got me thinking about some of my favorite secondary characters. Here, in no particular order are a few of them:

Marilla Cuthbert (Anne of Green Gables)-Despite her crusty exterior, she grows to love Anne as fiercely as a mother, even when she doesn’t understand the girl a lick.

Ramses Emerson (The Ameila Peabody Mysteries)-Especially as a child, his clear headed, precociousness made such a delightful foil to his parents. He is such an interesting amalgam of the two of them.

Fagan (Oliver Twist)-Now some would say he’s the villain, but I think the villain of that story is Bill Sykes. Why is he a favorite? Because he isn’t all bad, just trapped by circumstances and his own weakness. Without him and the Artful Dodger, Oliver would have starved on the streets before he could complete his rags to riches story. Even if you don’t like him, you’ve got to admit he’s a memorable character.

Huckleberry Finn (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)-Here’s a tale of character so compelling he demanded his own story. But first he played second fiddle to Tom Sawyer. Either way he’s an irrepressible scamp and I love him for it.

Dr. John Watson (The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries)-Without good old Dr. Watson, there’s no way we could relate to Sherlock. But because Watson likes him and stands in awe of his talent, so do we. He’s absolutely critical to the success of those stories.

Who are your favorite secondary characters? What novel was like baby bear and got it “just right?” 

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, LISA KARON RICHARDSON’S early stories were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now, even though she’s (mostly) grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure 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 new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Vanishing Act, the second in the Charm and Deceit, series co-authored with Jennifer AlLee, is coming September 2013. She also has a novella coming out September, 2013 from Barbour entitled “Midnight Clear,” part of the Mistletoe Memories collection.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Here comes the fall TV season

By Niki Turner

If I had been paying more attention, I would have scheduled my surgery for mid-September, instead of mid-August. That way I could have enjoyed much better entertainment (or at least fewer reruns) during my convalescent period. But, alas, I didn't, and now I'm looking at the upcoming seasons of some of my favorite TV programs and a lengthy list of new shows and wondering how much longer I can drag out my "I need to lie down" excuse to stare at the television screen. 

For those of us who are TV fans, September and October are like a mini-version of Christmas, with a multitude of new characters and stories to unwrap as we curl up in our chairs and sofas to be entertained on those increasingly dark autumn evenings. 

This year the major networks have 30 new shows laid out on their schedules. Some will slip silently into television's vast graveyard, and others will capture the hearts and minds of viewers, often to the surprise of critics and producers. Who, for example, could have imagined the wildly popular success of the BBC's Downton Abbey?

Since the new season of Downton doesn't start until January, that leaves us all with a few months of new shows from which to choose, and how do we know when to start programming our DVRs? 

Here are a few new programs that sound promising that are slated to begin this month or next:
Sleepy Hollow (premiered Sept. 16)
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (begins Sept. 24)
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (begins Oct. 10)
Reign (begins Oct. 10)
The Crazy Ones (begins Sept. 26)
The Michael J. Fox Show (begins Sept. 26)
Dracula (begins Oct. 25)
And then there are some of our returning favorites:
Castle (Returns Sept. 23)
Elementary (returns Sept. 26)
Once Upon a Time (returns Sept. 29)
Grimm (returns Oct. 25)
Downton Abbey (returns Jan. 5)
I know, I know... I left off The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and any number of other popular favorites. (I didn't even include my own guilty pleasures: Vampire Diaries and Duck Dynasty). And that's where all of YOU come in. What new shows are you interested in this fall, and what shows are you anxiously awaiting to return? You know, if it hadn't been for the intense devotion shown by all my Inkwell Inspirations sisters, I might not have bothered to watch all three seasons of Downton Abbey in three days this summer. (I'm still debating whether I should thank them or send them poison pen letters.) I, for one, appreciate the input of my friends when it comes to what I take the time to view. So what's on your fall TV schedule? Share!!!

(And of course, we all know that we're just biding our time until next spring, when Starz releases the ultimate series, for which I am saving up my pennies to afford the subscription: Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER.) 

Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of two and a half. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Goin' Back to Church?

by Dina Sleiman

Last week was "National Back to Church Sunday." It got me thinking. What does back to church mean to you? How does it feel deep inside when you hear those words: back to church? Most of us know those people who claim to love God, to even have accepted Jesus as their savior, but who want nothing to do with church. Heck, maybe you are one of those people. Maybe the idea of church fills you with latent pain. Maybe with anxiety. Maybe you picture walking in the door and being judged. Maybe bitterness wells up inside of you as you recall all the hypocrites you've dealt with at church. Maybe you just want to lay low and avoid the drama.

And little wonder. The church is full of wounded, messed-up people. 

People not so different from you and me.

But the church is also the expression on earth of the body of Christ. And it is through that body that we can experience the fullness of Christ. The church helps us grow in maturity, in the word, and in relationship with God. The church gives us a place to minister and be ministered to. It joins us together with a group believers so that we can increase our impact in outreach to others. And it gives us a place where we can worship in a group and experience God in different ways than we do when we are alone.

So how do we find a good church? Not a perfect church of course, because that doesn't exist. But a relatively healthy church where we can grow and thrive. Here are my top tips.

1) Find a church that exudes love and acceptance
2) Find a church that focuses on Biblical teaching
3) Find a church with a culture that fits you

A culture? Aren't we talking about church? Didn't I already define the "culture" in the word "Biblical?" Actually, no. Not at all. Much of what legalistic churches try to promote as scriptural requirements for worship are really more about culture and personality than holiness. The truth is, healthy Bible-based churches come in all shapes and sizes.

There are big churches, small churches, contemporary churches, traditional churches, casual churches, and fancy churches. There are simple, cozy churches and flashy, high-tech churches. There are biker churches and cowboy churches. Messianic and Mennonite churches. And don't even get me started on music. Church music comes in about every style. Chants, hymns, gospel, country, pop, and heavy-metal, just to name a few.

These days the under forty crowd often has difficulty fitting in at a fundamentalist church that is stuck in the 1960s. But they might really enjoy a casual, seeker-friendly church with an emphasis on the arts and social justice. Or they might be drawn to the seemingly complete opposite, a high liturgical church that focuses on the wonder, mystery, and awe of encountering the divine. 

My guess is, if you don't like church, you just haven't met the right one.

Maybe you think that I'm being rather glib about this whole issue. After all, there are only two churches within a half-hour drive of your house, and you wouldn't be caught dead in either of them (well, okay, maybe dead, but that's the only way.)

Try some youth group style bonding games
 if you're brave
Here's a thought. Start a small gathering of believers in your home. Despite the lovely picture above, the Bible never says a church has to meet in a building with a steeple. There are no requirements that they feature a trained worship band or a prepared sermon. Try the early church method. Have a meal and some fellowship (i.e. hang out and have fun). Allow time for sharing and prayer. Et voila. Church. And considering the fact that the "sabbath" was actually Saturday, I don't even think you necessarily have to meet on Sunday.

Church is us. It's you and me together. It's simple really. We encourage and uplift each other. We support one another in this Christian walk. And when you think of it that way, I think you'll be happy to go "Back to Church." 

My new novel coming out later this fall, Dance from Deep Within, examines the issues of church cultures, wounded believers, and what sort of Christianity is relevant to change our world today. Keep an eye out for it. 

In the meantime, here's an awesome and highly entertaining video to illustrate what I'm talking about.

Describe your dream church? What sort of culture would best fit you? Does your current church fit you? If not, do you have a different reason for staying there?


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. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an honorable mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Her latest novel, Love in Three-Quarter Time, was the launch title for the Zondervan First imprint. Look for her newest release, Dance from Deep Within, in November. Dina is also a part-time acquistions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, and she is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lilly House and Gardens

by Suzie Johnson

The name Lilly is often associated with the pharmaceutical company. Rightly so, and in Indianapolis, Indiana, Lilly is a big name. Yes, for the pharmaceutical company, yes philanthropy, and yes for the Lilly House Estates.

The Lilly House Estate and Oldfields Gardens are on the National Register of Historic Places, and also listed as a National Historic Landmark.

What does this have to do with fiction? Come, let me show you.

Setting is an important part of a book, and I’ve discovered the perfect one for the second book in a series I'm working on. Believe me when I say this setting would work in both historical and contemporary settings. And I must confess, I’ve thought of a suspense plot that could take place in this setting so maybe I'll get more than one book out of this. It's definitely diverse enough.

Lilly Estate photo by Suzie Johnson
The Lilly Estate, completed in 1913 and then known as Oldfields, sits on a bluff overlooking the White River. It was restored in the 30s, and you can see by the gray splotches, that the estate is currently under restoration. On the back of the estate is a long pavilion with several arched entries, also under restoration. Walking through it was like traveling back in time.

By crossing in front of the estate, you soon find yourself on the path to the Ravine Garden which winds down to Indiana's Central Canal.

The stunning gardens were designed in the 20s by the same landscape architect firm that designed Central Park in New York, the Olmstead Brothers Firm. Statues, arches and fountains fill the gardens. Beauty overtakes every direction a person could look. The garden itself is home to more than 19,000 perennials, annuals, bulbs, shrubs and trees.

Once you leave the Ravine Garden and cross the Waller Bridge you enter the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Also noted as the 100 Acres Park, I couldn't help but sing "Deep in the Hundred Acre Woods..." to my son. I'm not entirely certain he appreciated it.

Lake Terrace photo by Suzie Johnson

Regardless of my silly references to Christopher Robin's friends, we walked the entire lake. The scenery changed as we made our way around, and unfortunately I almost stepped on a HUGE black snake. No, I didn't take a picture. I had a panic attack instead.
Lake Terrace from Another View photo by Suzie Johnson
Aside from the occasional snake, there were lily pads, jumping frogs and butterflies. The density of trees changed as we walked around the lake, and I saw many a romantic spot, as well as a few good hiding places for a stalwart heroine.

Lily Pads photo by Suzie Johnson
Ponderosa Pine, White Spruce, White Pine, Golden Larch, and Weeping Hemlock are just a few of the trees on this staggering property which is now part of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Lake View photo by Suzie Johnson
The important thing for setting is to take note of your surroundings. Mentally process everything you see. Look at it a little deeper. The frog, a fish, and a dog swimming in the water all create different sized ripples in the water. Leaves leftover from last fall crunch the ground in the deepest part of the woods where spiders and other creatures spend time. Use that to translate what you see into words you can integrate into your scene.

LOVE Sculpture at the IMA photo by Suzie Johnson
I'm sad that my computer won't read my SD card where I have the photos of the back of the estate and gardens, and that I didn't use my cell phone to take those photos. I'll do an update to this post once I have them loaded onto a different computer.

Suzie Johnson, writing as Susan Diane Johnson, recently sold her third novel, and first historical, Sweet Mountain Music, to WhiteFire Publishing. Her first two novels, True North (January 2014), and No Substitute (available now), are both contemporary inspirational novels with The Pelican Book Group. Suzie is a regular contributor to the Inkwell Inspirations blog, a group blog by Christian woman and for Christian women. She is also member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, and National Cancer Registrars’ Association. During the day, Suzie is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their naughty little cat. They are the parents of a wonderful grown son who much too far away.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Can you use a 100-year event in your story?

By Niki Turner

My native state of Colorado, (well, the Eastern half, anyway) was deluged with rain and accompanying flooding last week in what the news media has termed "Biblical" proportions. In a state that tends toward drought conditions and water restrictions, and which has a lengthy history of to-the-death battles over water rights, seeing this much water at one time is a bit terrifying.

Meteorologists have deemed last week's events a "100-year-flood." It's another way of describing an event of a lifetime, something you aren't likely to see more than once in any given area over a long period of time. Our prayers go out to those who have been affected by these situations, and especially to those who have lost homes, property, or loved ones. 

I've been watching the news reports, and I keep thinking of the fiction writers' rule: "think of the worst thing you can do to your characters and take it one step farther." These kinds of circumstances, whether natural disasters or centennials of historic events, are replete with drama and danger on every level, creating ideal settings and backgrounds for our stories. The real challenge comes in choosing the event into which you can fling your characters...

Here are just a few from the last couple of hundred years or so (not including any wars).

1811-1812 New Madrid, Missouri earthquakes.   - Two of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in the United States.
1903 Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago.   - Deadliest single-building fire with a death toll of 605. The theater was marketed to women, because it was in a "safe" neighborhood. Corruption of fire marshals was suspected, but never proved.
1904 Eden, Colo., Two trains derailed by a flash flood, 96 killed   - The front Pullman car was left hanging four feet over the edge of what remained of the bridge.
July 4, 1914 - First U.S. motorcycle race (300 miles, Dodge City, Kans.)   - If you are a Harley-Davidson fan, this would be a wonderful story idea!
Those are just U.S. events, and just a limited number. Imagine what happens when you expand your search to Europe, South America, or Asia. Don't forget about local historical events, as well, when you're considering potential story ideas and settings.

Putting your characters in the midst of a natural disaster or man-made crisis generates instant conflict, and just as we see dramatic evidence of character, good and bad, played out for us in the news media during these sorts of events, using one of these events gives your heroes and heroines an opportunity to shine, and your villains a chance to show the depth of their nasty ways.

Now, to find the time to write!

Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of two and a half. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome.

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