Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Poison Control

Do you recognize this plant?

Yes, it's the time of year when this obnoxious weed invades my yard. Leaves be three, leave it be, they say. Yeah, well good luck with that, unless you intend to spend the next four months indoors. In my little corner of paradise, poison ivy grows everywhere.

It's pretty easy to spot twining up the trunk of a Japanese cherry tree.

It's not as easy to see in the grass.

And here it cleverly hides among cute, inoffensive English ivy.

Every year I get out the sprays to rid my piece of ground of this itch-inducing plant. I'd rather not resort to chemicals, but there are few alternatives to ridding oneself of a plant that can't be touched. Did you know that a person can get a poison ivy rash without even touching the plant? All you need is to come into contact with something (gloves, shoes, clothing, pets) that brushed against the leaves. (This actually happened to one of my aunts, who got a reaction from washing her husband's blue jeans. Sounds like as good an excuse to avoid the laundry room as any.)

But here's the worst part. No matter how much I fight the creepy creeper, it always comes back the next year. Just when I think I've won, it invades from another direction.

As I had the spray out for the third time this year, I realized it's a lot like the sin in my life. I fight it constantly, but every time I think I have it under control, I find it growing in another spot. Like poison ivy, this is a battle I will fight for my entire life. Fortunately, I don't fight alone as there is one who gives me the ultimate victory.

Blessed is the one
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one

    whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.
    -- Psalm 32:1-5 (NIV)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Historical Romance or Historical Fiction?

I'm reading a book right now (from an inspy publisher) that was marketed as a Historical Romance. The book is good, no question, but reading it has triggered a one-person conversation in my brain that I'm still working out:

What makes a Historical Romance different from a piece of Historical Fiction?

Because in my opinion, this book on my nightstand isn't a romance at all.

Here's how I define the two genres (and as we all know, I'm no expert, but here goes):

Historical Romances are romance novels set prior to WWII, or for some publishers, to the Vietnam era. The story-line focuses on the hero and heroine (H/H) and the journey of their relationship. Without this romantic relationship, there is no story. Every conflict the H/H faces affects the romance. The story is told primarily in the H/H's points of view, but on occasion, another point of view is included (a villain's, for instance).

Historical novel is set prior to WWII (or, again, Vietnam). Romance can be and often is included in the story, but it is not the main focus of the story. Conflicts don't necessarily affect the romance.

So what makes a romance a romance, aside from the main thread of it being a love story?

I can think of two "rules" (and by "rule" I mean it isn't written in some handbook somewhere, but it is something that seems to happen in the majority of romances I've read, and/or an editor or multi-published author has stated it in an interview or in blog posts I've read, etc).

One "rule" is that the hero and heroine are well-defined. The reader shouldn't have to guess who's getting married at the end. Yes, there are love triangle stories, but the reader should be able to figure out who ends up with whom.

Another "rule" is that the hero and heroine shouldn't be apart for long. Editors vary on the length of time. One suggests the characters should never be apart for more than the span of ten pages. Another prefers that the scenes where they aren't together be kept to a minimum, and ten pages would be waaaaay too long. Either way, the hero and heroine are together. A lot. The reason for this is simple:

Romance can't bloom if the couple isn't together.

Yes, there are exceptions--a villain kidnaps the heroine, or they're in a war, or there's an illness, but in those scenarios, the couple is at least thinking of one another when they're not together. They're working to get back together. That caveat makes all the difference.

One last rule? Others may disagree with me, but in a romance, the points of view should stick to the viewpoints of the hero, heroine, and maybe one or two other people who have a stake in the plot. Some romance lines go so far as to say only the H/H's POV should be included. Not that long ago, romances were written with a lot of head-hopping (bouncing between viewpoints, sometimes in the same paragraph) and even omniscient narrator, but things have changed, and most editors seem to appreciate it when POV shifts only occur with a scene or chapter break, and even then, an author should make it clear right away whose viewpoint we're in.

And yes, rules are made to be broken. Stories can work very well breaking these three pseudo-rules (that are not, after all, on anybody's rule list but mine).

But the truth of the matter is, genres come with certain expectations. If I pick up a cozy mystery, I expect a clean read featuring an amateur sleuth who solves murders. If I pick up a suspense from the book tables at Costco, I expect murder, a race against a clock, and an alpha protagonist.

Same goes with Historicals and Historical Romances. I expect different things when I read them.

Which is why I'm of the opinion that this book I'm reading is a Historical, not a Historical Romance. I wouldn't have guessed the hero is Mr. Right unless it was stated on the book cover, because another guy gets most of the page time. The hero and heroine rarely appear in scenes together. If they have a relationship cooking, it is way, way, way on the back burner. We spend more time with the non-hero's family, and romance is not on anyone's mind there.

Which is fine, but not the romance I expected.

Is it time for me to loosen my rules, or are they reflective of your experience, too?

Which do you prefer, Historicals or Historical Romance?

Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of over half-dozen historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, cozy socks, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Last Kid to Graduate

by Anita Mae Draper

Like several of the other Inkies, one of my kids is graduating from high school this year. It happens to be my youngest and the big event was this past weekend. It was a huge milestone in our family since it has been 20 yrs since our eldest graduated and now Nelson and I will be experiencing the empty nest syndrome.

I'm thankful that I have writing to keep me occupied so I don't miss having kids around, but I'm only kidding myself. I'll miss them like crazy when I'm not writing.

The weekend was the first time in 20 yrs that all the kids have been home in the summer. Usually they'll take time off work to make it back for Christmas, so it was fun to see them playing frisbee, riding bikes, and making summertime noises through the screen windows. I love the sound of kids playing outside in the summer where they can really whoop it up.

JJ Draper and Nick Draper, Draper's Acres, June 2016

The three older kids arrived Friday night and after eating and chatting, we played a game called Fibbage. Oh my, we laughed. Just one more round we kept saying until we finally forced ourselves to stop at midnight.

Saturday morning was time for final touches on our "good" clothes, music practice for Sunday church, casserole for church potluck, etc. I saw it as my opportunity to see how they'd all grown, so out came my journal. Nelson used a tissue box to measure them against the doorway where he'd been keeping tally.

Measuring the kids

Soon it was time to head to Montmartre School for the graduation ceremony. JJ looked so good in his suit - the corporate look - and yet he'll be heading to Eston Bible College in Sept to take the Martyr's Life course where he'll be working with people on the street instead of the world of business.

After the ceremony, we headed to Montmartre's Paris of the Prairies Park for memorable photos.

The Draper Family, Montmartre, SK, June 2016

And of course, the obligatory photo in front of Montmartre's 30 ft Eiffel Tower. We don't call it the Paris of the Prairies Park for nothing. *wink*

The Draper Family, Montmartre, SK, June 2016

Sunday morning was a rush as 6 family members and 1 guest needed to share our lone bathroom. Ugh.

At the church grad service, Jessie led Praise and Worship while Nick accompanied her on his box drum. Each of the four graduating youths received a Bible to comfort them spiritually, and a quilt to remind them that the church will continue to pray for them wherever they go.

Jessie Draper and Nick Draper, Church on the Hill, Glenavon, SK, Jun 2016

After the church potluck we came back home for more fun and laughter. I love my family!

Monday morning came too fast. Nelson left for work early, and then the kids played frisbee while waiting for JJ's school bus to come. I took the opportunity to photograph the kids in front of the spruce tree we planted when we first moved here to Draper's Acres 15 yrs ago. It was only 18 inches high back then and now look at it...

Draper kids and The Tree, Draper's Acres, June 2016

After the pics, group hugs, and school bus whisking JJ off to school, the the 3 older kids scrambled to pack for the long 8 hr drive back to Calgary. It was so very quiet after they left.

I have to admit that I didn't get as much writing done that day as I waited for text messages of their journey. So thankful when they arrived safely back in Calgary. And then on Tues, the oldest continued her journey by flying back to Vancouver after spending the night at Jessie's. That's the first road trip the kids have been on together and I really hope they enjoyed it.

We certainly enjoyed having them all home this weekend. Yes, it's going to be quiet around here soon...


Anita Mae Draper's stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Volume 4, Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, Guideposts Books, October 2014, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her first novella, Romantic Refinements is found in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing, Jan 2016. Discover more at

Monday, June 13, 2016

Queen Mab and the Creative Spirit (an Inky repost)

By Niki Turner

In the midst of a dual deadline and some pretty wild changes going on in my life, I needed this reminder to LIVE creatively, originally posted back in 2009 just after we started Inkwell Inspirations. I'm sharing it again today, and I pray it encourages you to live creatively, as well!

From her literary debut in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Queen Mab, queen of fairies, has been mentioned by poets and songwriters, novelists and screenwriters, throughout the centuries. Sometimes she's portrayed as a protagonist, other times as a villain.
Portrait of Percy Bysshe ShelleyImage via Wikipedia

Percy Bysse Shelley (who looks a little like Rob Pattinson aka Edward Cullen in this picture) was so fascinated by Mab she became the subject of his first major poetic work. Queen Mab is mentioned in Herman Melville's Moby Dick and Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. She even made it into a music video by British pop band Duran Duran in the 1980s.

This mythical, magical fairy embodies the mystery of human imagination and creativity; that secret realm of the God-given soul where stories and ideas and characters and pictures made of words or paint or marble are quickened and birthed into the earth.

You might think of Mab as an image of the artist's muse, gathering the ingredients of thought, feeling, experience, memory, imagination, knowledge, wisdom, and so forth within the human heart, and stirring them into an all-new design like a master chef experimenting with recipes.

God, our creator, is a creative being, and we are made in His likeness and image, according to the Bible. As His children, we have access into that supernatural source of creativity all the time. How magical is that? 

I've heard so many women say, "I'm just not creative," when it comes to crafts, or hobbies, or any sort of creative endeavor. I've talked to Christians who have squelched their "overactive imaginations" because they couldn't reconcile their creative bent with the rigid systems of church organization and religion they've been exposed to. And I have friends who discount the amazing things they do in their homes, with their kids, in their wardrobes, and their kitchens as "normal."

Life demands creativity and imagination. Whether you're a writer or a janitor, an artist or a stay-at-home mom. Whether you are developing a plot twist, or devising a way to create a scrumptious meal for six with half a bag of lentils and a frozen chicken breast. Even organization and time management require inspiration. Ministry, marriage, and obeying God's instructions to love our neighbors are all in desperate need of a fresh infusion of creative pixie dust!

Just think: Someone had a spark of inspiration and invented the Chip Clip. Martha Stewart, love her or hate her, is a master of homemaking creativity. She's turned that creative spark into a multi-million dollar industry. More than once.

Are you a perfectionist? You probably have a death grip on your creativity because you're so terrified of doing something the "wrong" way. Guess what? It's usually the people who do it wrong who create a masterpiece that outlives them and blesses the generations to come.
Are you a (what's the opposite of a perfectionist?) ... slacker? I'm willing to bet you slack off because you need inspiration to do those tasks you don't enjoy. Good news for you! God has inspiration available for everything under the sun, and He knows just what YOU need to hear to move you forward.

Whatever you set your hand to this week, whether you've started a new novel or just started the laundry, remember Queen Mab. Let the mythical fairy be a mental reminder of the wealth of creativity you carry that's just waiting to enrich and empower your generation.
"... From her celestial car
The Fairy Queen descended,
And thrice she waved her wand
Circled with wreaths of amaranth;
Her thin and misty form
Moved with the moving air,
And the clear silver tones,
As thus she spoke, were such
As are unheard by all but gifted ear."

            —Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem (Shelley)
This is just a segment of the complete poem, but I love the last part about her words "unheard by all but gifted ear." It reminds me of Jesus' words, "Let him who has ears to hear, hear." It's up to us whether or not we will listen to the stirrings of inspiration on the inside.

Here is a portion of Mercutio's monologue. Note the extraordinary details used to describe Mab's chariot.

"O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider’s web,
The collars of the moonshine’s watery beams,
Her whip of cricket’s bone; the lash of film;
Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid:
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or an old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night—"

— Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene IV

Animated Queen Mab via

Originally posted in November 2009.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

The Inkwell Doth Overflow!

by Dina Sleiman

Has anyone else noticed how many books the Inkies have been producing lately? We've been churning them out like there's no tomorrow. Our Inkwell is overflowing with books; I can hardly even keep up with them anymore. Just think, seven years ago, we were mostly a group of unpublished authors, and now every last one of us has been traditionally published.

No matter your reading tastes, the Inkwell has something to offer: from cozy mystery to romantic suspense to whimsical romance, women's fiction, speculative fiction, young adult, and historicals.

So I have a few questions for you. Which is your favorite book by an Inkwell Inspirations author? And which Inkwell book are you looking forward to reading?

I'll go first. My favorite Inkwell Inspiration book so far is Volume 1 in our Austen in Austin novella collection. The ties between the novellas were a lot of fun, and the connections to the Austen stories were delightful. Although the stories were written by four different authors, they flowed seamlessly. I enjoyed it from the first page to the last. This book thoroughly tickled me at a time when I had grown weary of reading. If you haven't checked it out, what are you waiting for? And the good news is that Volume 2 will be coming this fall, including my own Mansford Ranch.

The book I'm most anticipating reading is Jennifer AlLee's Last Family Standing. I love a book that surprises me and isn't just the same old same old. So I love the fresh and unique premise of this women's novel based on reality TV. Not to mention, I really enjoyed Jen's novel The Mother Road. Now, don't be confused. Last Family standing is already available. In fact it has been for almost two years. I'm just terribly behind on my reading! But this is definitely one I plan on getting to.

Your turn! Tell us what Inky books you've enjoyed and what you look forward to reading in the future.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Reading for Pure Pleasure

    In the middle of trying to stay on schedule with my writing (I would blush to tell you how far behind I am!) and deal with my day job and everything else this adventure called real life entails, I’ve been thinking about what I would like to do with my free time, if I ever had any.
    Of course I have a TBR ("to be read") stack that’s bigger than the contents of my local library. And I have a TBS (“to be sewn”) pile that my whole quilt guild couldn’t finish in less than a year. But if I just had a week or two to power down and do nothing but loll (and LOL), I would spend it with Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances.
    I’m not that into contemporary romance, but if there were such a thing as period chick lit, this would be it. As a historical mystery writer, I’ve really, really wanted to get into Heyer’s detective stories, but for some reason I’ve never managed to finish one. But her Regencies are the absolute best. They’re one-hundred-percent clean and one-hundred-percent delightful to read. And, since I want to go on and on and on when I find an author or series I love, it delights me to know there are a LOT of Heyer Regencies to choose from.
    And do you want to know the best part? Three of them have been made into audiobooks featuring the spine-melting voice of Richard “North and South” Armitage. He doesn’t just read the books, he performs them. And if you aren’t left a little breathless when he reads the heroes at last baring their hearts to their lady loves, you’re doing it wrong.
    So if you have time for reading or listening to stories that will make you sigh, swoon and laugh out loud, give Georgette Heyer a try. Then let me know what you think.

Richard Armitage

An just because I can . . . more Richard Armitage.
So what do you read for pure pleasure?

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