Dianne G. Sagan – Best Selling Author

Christian and Women's fiction, with a little mystery thrown in for good measure


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P is for Power

Dianne 2In previous blogs I’ve discussed the development of my series main characters. In each case Rebekah, Johanna, Miriam, and Mary underwent a metamorphosis. While Mary’s was somewhat different from the other women because her experience with Jesus was daily from the time he was born, she learned from being with him and observing him with Joseph and those they encountered. My other characters were touched in more subtle ways and in briefer contacts.

Each woman was portrayed in life circumstances that left her feeling powerless and out of control. She wanted answers. She wanted certainty. She wanted relief from the agony of the present.

In their encounters with Jesus he not only spoke to them but he also listened to them. He felt what they felt, and they came away from those encounters feeling healed – physically, mentally, and spiritually. They felt full of life and powerful enough to live it.

To feel powerless is to feel victimized. We all feel victimized when we feel as if we have no choice, and all of my main characters start with this feeling. Instead of being “at cause” in their circumstances, they all felt “at effect” in them: that their actions were determined by the environemnts in which they lived.

In this sense they are like all of us today: products of the winds and whims that produce us and bring us hence. Very few of us seize our lives as products of our own making. It is easier, and it involves far less responsibility, if we can blame our plights on circumstances of others’ making.

One of the most crucial – and under-appreciated – of Jesus’ messages was that we are all responsible for our own beliefs and for our own experiences of life. We may not be responsible for what life hands us, but we are all responsible for what we do with it.

In my opinion Jesus didn’t promise a trouble-free life if we followed him and his path. What he did promise was that following his path would make this life worthwhile, and that in following his path our spirits would live forever.


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O is for Omission

The Fishermans Wife - full coverTo continue along the same vein as yesterday’s blog about writing economically, there are times when fiction writers say too much about a subject. It’s actually easier to write a longer piece than a short one. Mark Twain once apologized for the length of a letter he’d written, saying, “If I’d had the time I would have written it shorter.”

The keys to writing a novella are:

– What to include

– What to exclude

– What really constitutes the story

About three years after my book The Fisherman’s Wife came out, another book with the same title appeared. It was written by a Catholic nun. In her first chapter she describes her main character as being the mother of the Messiah, in heaven, sitting on a throne of gold which was decorated with jewels. This kind of worldly wealth is common in Catholic depictions of heaven – at least according to my husband, who was raised in the Catholic church – and it is certainly the author’s prerogative to incorporate such imagery. However, from my viewpoint such worldly wealth is meaningless to God, and in this particular example the author’s use of this imagery added bulk to her book without adding readability or impact. In the process, her version of the story grew to over 260 pages.

Since my novellas are based on both Judaism and Christianity and the characters are initially placed in Jewish communities, I have a different take on their frames of mind. Research reveals that most first-century Jews didn’t believe in an afterlife. It also reveals that Jewish girls growing up, both then and now, do not spend a lot of time thinking about being chosen as the mother of the Messiah.

So there are at least two versions of The Fisherman’s Wife, one a novel and the other, my book, a novella. Both authors made choices on what to include and what to leave out. In both cases these choices defined the story and either illuminated or obfuscated the point.

I intentionally leave out controversial subjects and eliminate all the usual stories when I develop an idea. I want to create something new and look at what I see as more subtle facets of who and what Jesus was to women of his time and what he is to women today. By omitting what is in other stories and what has been told before, I am able to tell a story of what it might be like for me to encounter Jesus in my own garden.


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N is for Novella vs Novel

ruins-in-capernaum-x1Why write a novella instead of a novel?

The facile answer is that telling a story in so short a space is a real challenge for a writer. For an author, writing a novella is to a novel what tatting lace is to weaving blankets: part of the telling is what’s not there.

Ironically, in writing about first-century topics we find either a wealth of information or a dearth of information. With that in mind, that leaves me developing novellas with a great deal to invent and a great deal deduced. I have to fit what I create into what is already known, and I have to do it in a way that says something new. Many novelists have told and retold familiar stories of well-known women of the Bible. My approach to writing novellas is to tell unusual stories about little-known women in the Bible that don’t ignore, retell, or reinterpret what is in scripture.

I choose for my main characters women who encounter Jesus personally. The challenge in developing them is keeping them consistent with Judaism in their initial attitudes, behavior and results and then shifting those attitudes, behaviors and results after they encounter Jesus. The shift I describe needs to be consistent with generally accepted Christian principles.

All of my main characters meet with frustration because what they believe influences what they do and creates results that they don’t want. They try to change what they have first and it doesn’t work. Even today – 2,000 years later – we, ourselves, try to change things we have thinking that it will make a difference in who we are. Jesus changes who they are first, and that makes all the difference in their lives.

The challenge of the novella is to illustrate this process in 120 pages.


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M is for Mark: John Mark

MiriamsRoom_ebook coverThe third book in my Women of the Bible series, Miriam’s Room, is a story not only about Miriam but also about her son, John Mark.

We don’t know much about Miriam, but from Josephus and early church records I found that her home was a gathering place for followers of Jesus. Some sources say that her home was the location of the “upper room” where Jesus and his disciples ate the last supper.Israel_0440-Jewish_Neighborhood_Jerusalem

What we know about John Mark is that he was the author of the gospel of Mark “as told to him by the apostle Peter.” Since Simon Peter was a fisherman, it makes sense that he probably didn’t have much education other than what was required by his religion. According to historical sources, John Mark spent some time with Peter and the disciples during Jesus’ ministry, but from what I could gather he would have only been there for some of the later events. In essence, Mark’s gospel tells Peter’s perspective of Jesus.

These were the clues on which I based Miriam’s Room and intertwined the lives of John Mark and his mother with Biblical and historical events. In this book, my main character is from a higher social class than Rebekah or Johanna, the main characters in books one and two of this series. I expanded Miriam’s character well beyond the skimpy reference in scripture to explain and dramatize how Jesus came to use her “upper room” for his last meal with the apostles. Miriam’s relationship with her husband and with John Mark allowed me to add depth to the story and to broaden the appeal to the reader.

Instead of just a women’s story, Miriam’s Room is a young man’s coming of age story, as well. When Jesus reaches Miriam, John Mark feels the touch.


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L is for Love

christ_in_the_house_of_martha_and_maryOver the past several years I’ve studied Judaism and spent a lot of time thinking about the similarities to and differences with Christianity.

It is a matter of historical record that from the time of Jesus’ ministry until over 300 years into the early church those who believed in and followed Jesus’ teachings were considered a sect of Judaism. We both have the same roots.

When I write my Women of the Bible books, my stories take place in a Jewish society influenced by the Hellenistic world around them and ruled by the Roman Empire. Jesus and his disciples were practicing Jews. They studied the Torah. They went to the temple in Jerusalem for the required festivals and to make their sacrifices. They followed the laws, customs and traditions of Judaism. The God the Jews in the first-century worshiped was a jealous god who showed his anger to his people when they sinned. He was viewed as spiteful and vengeful, and he could and would strike them down individually or in groups even though the Israelites were his “chosen” people. God demanded obedience to his laws.

To keep from “angering” God, the priests of Judaism – mainly from the Levite tribe  – went well beyond the ten commandments handed down to Moses, contriving, writing down and enforcing 620 laws, or mitzvahs, that the Jewish people were expected to follow. These mitzvahs were like warning tracks in baseball, maintained so that the Jewish people would not approach the actual violation of the commandments. Judaism became very legalistic after Moses.

The teachings of Jesus essentially attempted to convince the Jewish people that this version of God was incorrect, that God was as loving to his creations as a (normal) earthly father was to his own children.

In my stories I attempt to show this love in a number of dimensions, such as:

– The love of a mother for her child

– The love of a wife for her husband

– The love of a woman for her God

When you read about Jesus and how he treated people in the scriptures, it is evident that he treated both men and women with equal compassion and love. Jesus taught the women along with his male followers.

My attempt to capture this sense of egalitarian love should, I hope, give all of us a hint about how to think of and treat each other in our contemporary world.


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K is for Kinesthetic: Hitting the Heart

Jesus_Curses_Fig_Tree_JamesMy readers tell me that my stories create significant emotional impact. This is intentional. When I write historical fiction, it’s not just an exercise in relating facts and describing people. The ideas that grow into stories are based in history and in Biblical incidents, but they are about real people experiencing real life and doing real things with real consequences. The issues I raise in the telling are meant to be timeless. My self-imposed challenge is to make the situations and feelings that my characters experience as familiar as those of contemporary women.

Each book in the Women of the Bible series explores a key issue of faith for a woman of first-century Palestine and how it shaped her life. I chose to put each central character in different circumstances in which she could make choices and decisions for herself within her social, political and religious boundaries. These issues, I’m sorry to say, aren’t that much different for women today.

The issues and the things that are most important to me and other women I know are featured in my characters. I imagine my characters as real people who experience love, loss, loneliness, motherhood, anticipation and excitement for new life circumstances, disappointment, frustrated ambitions, despair, over-commitment and exhaustion, fear of change and hope for something better.

The biggest difference between the way I write historical novels and general Christian historical fiction is that in my novels each woman has a one-on-one conversation with Christ. While Jesus is not a main character in any of my books, he is the main message. His interactions may be subtle, but my overriding intention is to show how each woman is changed after the encounter.

This change is captured in a change of feeling – a change of heart – for both my character and, I hope, my reader.


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J is for Jerusalem

* I was sick this weekend and missed posting on time yesterday. Therefore, my Saturday, April 11th post is appearing this evening and I will be back on track in the morning with “K”.

bigstock-Ancient-Jerusalem--40647358Continuing with how I research and write my stories, it’s a challenge to picture what first-century Jerusalem looked like. The city we see today has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. Archeological sites that peel away the layers of history are found in and around Jerusalem, and each site leaves clues to its time period.

Churches and memorials have been built over traditional religious sites not only for Jews but also for Christians and Muslims. One well-known place we have access to today is the Western Wall – the Wailing Wall – which is part of Herod’s Temple foundation. This is all that is left of the Temple that stood during Jesus’ time but which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  The Temple Mount is still there and is now dominated by the Dome of the Rock.

The Old City is surrounded by the ancient city wall which has been demolished and rebuilt over the centuries and roughly encloses what was King Harod’s city. Tourists visit Jerusalem and its Holy places for the three major religions, but it is very different from the streets that first-century Judeans walked.

These differences create an extra challenge when writing about Jerusalem of the first century so I didn’t contaminate the past with the present.

The research I relied on most were maps and drawings of the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding area at the time period 5 B.C. to 35A.D. which I found in various books and online resources. I studied drawings of Herod’s Temple as well as maps of the city showing important buildings and gates. Once again, I looked at hundreds of photographs, drawings and paintings of the city, the Kidron valley and the Mount of Olives. One of the most helpful resources was a collection of pictures of a model built for tourists showing first-century Jerusalem. I studied these pictures for hours and then made basic sketches of my own as I laid out parts of the storylines to be sure that I had everything right, including the compass directions.

After that comes the hard part, because then I have to remember where everything is on the map in the city as I develop the story.

Call me obsessed, but I believe that when any of us writes historical fiction it needs to be as accurate with the geographic, historic and climatic parts of the story as if we’re writing nonfiction or it isn’t believable. The Mediterranean Sea has to remain to the West of Jerusalem and the sun has to come up in the east


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I is for Inspired Mother: Mary

Nativity-Scene-300x196     Before I wrote Mary’s Exile the idea of writing a story about the mother of Christ was intimidating. In Christendom she is considered a saint, sinless, and above all other women – qualities I obviously lack. It’s much easier for me to write stories about women like myself – full of flaws who grow through experiences and who find strength, wisdom and healing in the message of Christ.

It was Mary who was visited by an archangel with a message directly from God telling her that she would bear his son, the long-awaited Messiah. Scriptures tell us of her humble acceptance and the challenges she met in telling her parents, her betrothed (Joseph), the rabbi and others. Under the religious laws of the time she could have been stoned to death, but she avoids this fate through what was probably some level of divine intervention. Instead she goes on to bear and raise a child who is not exactly like everyone else’s little boy in the village of Nazareth.

As always, for me, the storyline began with questions:

– What might it be like for Mary when Joseph woke her in the middle of the night and said they had to leave right away to save their son’s life?

– How could they escape Bethlehem without being seen?

– Wouldn’t their neighbors with sons of their own realize that Joseph and Mary were missing?

– If I were trying to save the life of my own baby boy, wouldn’t I be tempted to offer the soldiers the real object of their search if they would let my own son live?

– If I did attempt such a bargain then how could Mary, Joseph and the baby avoid the trap?

Then there is the question of what comes next. The Sinai is vast. It could take weeks to reach Egypt traveling across it even if they rode the entire distance. What might have happened to Mary and her family on the way?

When I thought about what it was like raising a son of my own I remembered him and his friends as toddlers. Mary’s experience with Jesus as an infant and toddler could have been similar. On the other hand, Jesus the toddler might also show important differences from other children his age. What worked for me was to create a “toddler Jesus” who frolicked like other children, who was bright, inquisitive and carefree like other children, but who displayed a passive power that affected others without Jesus consciously intending to do it.

That decision affected how I should describe Mary. To create consistency between mother and child I decided to portray Mary as protective, determined, strong-willed, and brave, yet gentle, nurturing, and accepting. (I know: these qualities, alone, should make her a saint.) On a spiritual level she knew that she and Joseph were chosen to be the parents of God’s child, but this spiritual certainty did not completely erase her practical concerns as a mother. She occasionally doubts herself when problems seem insurmountable. She worries. She sacrifices. She protects. She considers the effects of her decisions on the well-being of her child. Through it all she can never completely free herself of the suspicion that her child knows a great deal more about why he is here and what his path should be than she does.

I developed her relationship with Joseph as affectionate and trusting, but I also thought it was important to have them share Joseph’s subtle sense of humor. When only one partner in a relationship has a sense of humor the frequent result is contempt from the other partner. By creating two people with similar outlooks I was free to explore how that humor might bond them together, and I was also able to weave it through the story to break up the tension of their pursuit.

The result is, I hope, a more captivating story.


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H is for Historical Research

Tarsus dreamtimeThe Christian fiction that I write is also historical fiction. While some people might disagree because I draw so much from the Bible for most of my main characters and story lines, the fact is that I also use historical resources. In yesterday’s post I touched on a few of my sources. Today I want to take you deeper into my process of researching for Rebekah Redeemed.

The internet was a fabulous research tool, and if I wasn’t careful – because I really enjoy researching history – then I could have easily gotten distracted and found myself, eight hours later, reading about something that had nothing to do with first-century anything. To combat that tendency I focused on one type of search at a time. For example, I needed to know about the Roman Empire during the years from 30 BC to 70 AD. Next I studied Judean history during the same period. Then I compared the accounts in the four gospels. That gave me a broad enough scope to include any women during Jesus’ life and also those whom he might have met who were either older than he or who were younger and who survived him. Since information found on the internet may not always be accurate, I looked for at least two more sources to confirm the same facts. I also used the local public library as well as a Library Consortium available where I live that includes area university libraries.

Armed with the best facts I could find, I then spent hours in consultation with two of my Jewish friends – Steve Gens, a Torah scholar, and his wife, Fredrika. They helped me immensely with Jewish traditions, religious practices and history. Steve loaned me books from his personal library so that I could develop a more accurate understanding of Jewish life, both today and 2,000 years ago.

I studied the cultures surrounding Palestine and their impact on the Israelites. I read about the clothes women_in_the_bible__image_5_sjpg1120 (2)they wore, the food they ate, the daily chores, what was expected of both men and women, and how they worshiped. I even studied the climate. I needed to know how both the Jews and the Romans lived on a daily basis. The writings of Josephus, the Jewish historian, provided some of the puzzle pieces. In addition I used Jewish encyclopedias and early Christian church history encyclopedias.

Historical research has to be thorough. I didn’t want someone to stop reading one of my books because she came across something that was completely wrong. It was better for me to spend the time up front to get the facts right.

What I was after was a compelling story that was satisfying to write and satisfying to read.


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G is for Galilee

Sea of GalileeWriting books about first-century Palestine begins with knowing the setting. When you look at a contemporary or ancient map you’ll find the Sea of Galilee about 100 miles north of Jerusalem. Galilee was a northern region of Palestine under Roman rule at the time of Christ. The town of Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary were from and where Jesus grew up after their return from Egypt, is located in this region. Capernaum, the town where Peter, Andrew, James, and John lived and fished, is on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.

When I wrote the first draft of The Fisherman’s Wife, a story about Peter’s wife, I envisioned a scene in which the men pulled their heavy fishing boat onto the sand. However, when I did further research and looked at pictures of the actual shoreline on the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum I realized that it is rocky, not sandy. I had to rewrite the scene.

I also found that since Galilee had no natural harbors there were many manmade harbors built around the shore. Then I found an archaeological photograph of a wide, rock breakwater that had been built out into what would have been the water at the time to provide shelter for the fishing boats from storms.

Present day Nazareth has a first-century village for visiting tourists and a website that provides pictures of ancient daily life as acted out there. I also studied the layout of ancient Capernaum from archeological information. Combined with my other daily life research, it gave me a much clearer picture of the setting for my stories.

Since I can’t literally go back in time to visit and see for myself the places I write about, the research helps me tell a story that can take me there and take my readers there.


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F – Father by Choice: Joseph

Mary's Exile coverJoseph is a misty character in the Bible. He appears early in the story of Jesus as the man who accepted as his wife a younger pregnant woman with a fantastic story of how she got that way. Even today the idea of Mary carrying a child while still a virgin is a central pillar of Christian faith.

In Mary’s Exile I decided to make the origin of Jesus’ incubation a non-issue. Too much had already been written about Joseph’s response to Mary’s condition, and yet far too little has appeared that presents Joseph as he affected Mary’s and Jesus’ lives. In the scriptures, once Jesus is born you don’t see Joseph again after he and Mary take Jesus to Jerusalem for Passover, and by then Jesus is twelve years old. After that Joseph essentially disappears.

For a writer, of course, this is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that there’s not much to research. The good news is that the writer can do a lot of imagining, and this was my focus in Mary’s Exile. There were certain things I could deduce about Joseph based on what little appeared in scripture, there were other things I could deduce about Joseph based on my research into Judaism, and there were still other things I could deduce about Joseph given how Jesus turned out. The result was my unique creation: Joseph as a man of quiet strength, humble piety and utter devotion who had his share of human flaws and who was subject to the limitations of his time – that is, he was no super hero, he couldn’t read minds, and he was physically vulnerable to the power of Rome.

Probably the single most daring quality of my characterization of Joseph was to give him a sense of humor. To me this was both important and inevitable. To be the stepfather to the son of God and husband to a saint must deprive Joseph of the kind of macho posturing and imperious tone so common among men of that epoch. What to fill him with instead? Humor.

And yet he is neither flippant nor irreverent. His is the humor of tolerance, acceptance, and appreciation for irony.

It was ironic that a first century Jewish man should accept a pregnant bride. It was even more ironic that the child so conceived should grow up to be the salvation of all mankind.

Joseph simply must have contributed to how Jesus did it.


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E – Eleazar, Rebekah’s Father

black-headed-sheepIn a continuation of the discussion about my book, Rebekah Redeemed, I’d like you to meet Rebekah’s father Eleazar. He is a shepherd who tends flocks with his cousins in the fields near Bethlehem. What sets him apart from most of the others in this part of Judea is that he saw the bright star in the sky the night Jesus was born. He heard the angel tell the frightened shepherds to seek out the newborn baby in the manger. He heard the angels sing.

I invented the rest of the story when I asked myself these questions:

– What might have happened to one of those shepherds and his child later in life?

– Would the shepherd’s child know that Jesus was that same infant her father saw at birth when Jesus was teaching in the fields of Judea as an adult?

– What might have happened if that shepherd’s child had met the adult Jesus under adverse circumstances?

I chose to make Eleazar a loving father to his daughter who taught her about a loving God around their campfire at night. Rebekah experienced this example of a loving father figure early in life to remember as she grew up, even when all the other figures in her life treated her quite differently. I wanted to use this as an underlying theme in the book to represent what I believe are the most important traits of a redeemer, both in a minor key with a relative who wants to help Rebekah escape slavery and in a major key with Jesus working to save all mankind.


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D for Daughter of a Shepherd

Today has been one of those days when it was more challenging to get my post done for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. However, for those of you still wandering the internet and the blog list, the daughter of a shepherd is Rebekah.

rebekahredeemed_frontcover1

 

In the first book of the Women of the Bible series, Rebekah is the daughter of a shepherd who visited the manger the night that Jesus was born. She is a fictional character whose life intertwines with Martha and Mary of Bethany. Rebekah is orphaned at age six and the story follows her for the next ten years through hardship and abuse. According to Jewish laws of the time, she had to be taken in by a male relative, in this case her uncle, but Rebekah was not guaranteed what kind of treatment she would receive.

Then Jesus of Nazareth arrived in Jerusalem and Bethany.

The theme of redemption I wanted to weave through the story was twofold. One, I based on the idea of a kinsman redeemer who would rescue Rebekah. Second, I based on the idea of a redeemer who would change her life.


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Christ as a Child

Mary's Exile coverI originally thought of Mary’s Exile, Book 4 in the Women of the Bible series, as a different kind of Christmas story. The most commonly accepted contemporary version of the nativity includes a visit from the three kings, or the three wise men, from the East. But as a matter of historical fact we don’t really know if the wise men came that first night or sometime later, and some sources lead me to think that it could have taken them as long as two years to arrive in Bethlehem. That is where Mary’s Exile begins. Jesus is no longer an infant. He is a toddler.

The story of the nativity is also a story of Herod’s reaction to the birth of a new “king” in his own back yard. Jealous of his position, and probably more than a little bit psychotic, King Herod sends his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill every baby boy up to the age of two. At about the same time, Joseph was awakened in a dream and told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt.

Mary’s Exile is my story of what I think Mary might have gone through with her husband and young son as they ran for their lives across an endless desert. Part of my vision of this journey includes some of my own experience in raising children. The key question for me was, did Jesus know who and what he was when he was only two? I decided it would be more interesting to describe Jesus as more child than messiah. I saw him much like any other chubby-cheeked, curious, and adventurous child of his age, but also as one who had a powerful effect on everyone he met, an effect he, himself, did not grasp: He is loving to his parents. He doesn’t want to miss anything. He is delighted in people, animals and objects. He is persistent about doing all that he wants to do. But he also tires from trying to do more than he can.

We all know that Jesus, Mary and Joseph survived this journey, but what I tried to do was create a surprise in telling how they did it. I also wanted to maintain consistency with the overall message of the Women of the Bible series and portray Mary as a woman who would do whatever it took to save the life of her child.

 


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Bible-based Fiction Writing

My Women of the Bible series is by far my most popular writing to date. These novellas tell stories of women, who may have been mentioned in only a single line of scripture, who lived at the time of Christ and either actually or presumably met him.

I begin with questions: Who was she? What was her life like? Where did she live? Who was in her social circle? What challenges or problems might she have confronted? What strengths did she possess, and what limitations did she face? What hardships did she endure? Who might have been her friends? Her enemies?

Then the research begins.

rebekahredeemed_frontcover1For example, in the first book of this series, Rebekah Redeemed, the main character is fictitious, but she allows me to bring in Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary in a redirection plot. I researched online and at the library to find out what daily life was like for women in first-century Palestine, and I spent hours talking to a Jewish friend and scholar, Steve Gens, and his wife, Fredrika, about the laws, customs and practices of that era. We also consulted a rabbi for additional resources. Temporal history books and anthropology resources, as well as early church history books, provided copious information with which I filled notebooks.

Everything else was imagination and invention.

These stories are fictional as far as what happens to my main characters, but they are intertwined with recorded Biblical events. I develop stories from the perspective of what I think it was like for a Jewish woman to live at the time of Jesus and what it might have been like to meet him, talk with him, and act on his message. Then I try to capture what that impact might have done to her and to the other people she knew.

Each story illustrates one central theme, or message, of Jesus as he might have applied it to the people of his time, and these themes are developed in ways that – I hope – relate to problems and issues we face today.


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Adventures in Blogging

I’d like to invite you on an adventure with me for the next 26 days. You might notice the A-Z Challenge avatar to the right of this post. That’s right, I’m a part of that challenge and for you, my readers, I want to give you a chance to get to know the Women of the Bible series better by sharing excerpts, character sketches and interviews, research behind the stories, and reviews from other readers with you.

I hope you’ll come along and I’d love for you to leave your thoughts and comments.


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Book Award Season

I know it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me. Due to some medical challenges, I had to put books, blogs, and all things writing on hold for awhile. However, I’m doing much better and see that book awards are in the headlines. Writing contest deadlines loom close as others lure us into new competitions we may not have entered before. Good luck to all of you who are writers!

What that means to readers is lists of new award winning books to read. Always exciting! Especially if you’re snowed in like they were in Boston not long ago. Even in Texas, we’ve had our snow storms this year — waking up to 12″ of snow on the ground!

I have a favor to ask. My book, Miriam’s Room, is a nominee for Christian Fiction Book of the Year from Small Presses and Publishing for the Historical fiction category. I’d be grateful if you have time to vote for it at  http://www.christianpublishers.net/15votes/  Scroll down the page to the Historical fiction section. Thank you for your support and most of all for reading my books.


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Summer Reads

I recently read a great article about summer reads that would give you a tour of the United States without leaving home. Each book is about someone in one of the states or takes place in one of the states. It would certainly be a much more economical way of meeting one of the things on your bucket list if you’re like me. I’ve been to 36 of the 50 states, so I still have a few to see. It may take you a year to read all of them, but think of the places you’ll have been by this time next summer.

This list of books in the article includes book covers, and a short synopsis. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here is the link. Nonfiction Books about the 50 States.


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Bestseller Three Times in Six Weeks

The Fisherman’s Wife hit the Bestsellers list in it’s category on Amazon in Christian Fiction for the third time this week in six weeks. The story about Simon Peter’s wife, as I see it may have been, has always been well received by my readers, but I want to take this opportunity to thank you for making it a Bestseller.

The Fishermans Wife - full cover

 

http://amzn.to/1oQUgDu 


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Spring Flowers, Fresh Herbs, and Porch Swings

It’s that time of year and you all know how much I love Spring! My husband and I get out the patio furniture and I go to the local nursery for petunias, begonias, sweet potato vine, and anything else that strikes my fancy. The pot stands come out and the patios are in full bloom for another season. I love it! We’ll have a small veggie garden this year, too.

daffodils

 

I sit outside and enjoy myself on a swing in the back yard or in a chair on the patio reading or researching for that next book you’re waiting for. Fresh herbs grown in pots along the edge of the patio smell wonderful to the touch and will be the perfect compliment again in our kitchen when it comes time for my husband to cook dinner while I write. (I really do know how to cook, but I’ve gotten spoiled over the years. Greg is a great cook and how could I ever get those books written if I did all the cooking anyway? lol)

As I’ve mentioned, there is another book at the publisher, Buoy Up Press, Mary’s Exile. I’m working on the fifth book for the series.  Have a great Spring and happy reading!


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New Book Release – The Hybrid Author

The Hybrid Author, self-published, will be released on April 21st, by Dianne G. Sagan.

The book to clarify confusion over what the definition of a ‘hybrid author.’

You’ve heard the term at writers conferences discussed in panels and over dinner tables.

With a publishing industry in constant change, authors find themselves trying to make decisions about whether or not to self-publish or traditionally publish.

Now you have a book that explains the Hybrid Author path.

  • What it is.
  • What the options are.
  • How to decide.

Including interviews with C. J. Lyons, Joanna Penn, J. A. Konrath, Hugh C. Howey,  Marie Force, Barbara Morgenroth and Jennifer Archer.

Available in three weeks — on Kindle and in print — watch for details about giveaways on Goodreads and a Launch Party on Facebook. Sneak peek of the cover in two weeks!


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Welcome my Guest Lillian Duncan

Christian fiction author, Lillian Duncan, writes stories of faith … mingled with murder and mayhem.

Lillian is a multi-published writer who writes the type of books she loves to read—suspense with a touch of romance. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

To learn more about Lillian and her books, visit: www.lillianduncan.net.  She also has a devotional blog at: www.PowerUpWithGod.com  as well as her personal blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at www.lillian-duncan.com

I am very excited to have Lillian as a guest, you know how I love a good suspense. Her book Betrayed is one of those that will keep us turning pages and begging for more. To tweak your interest –

Our heroine is hiding in the Witness Protection Program that claims they can keep anyone safe if only they follow the rules so Maria follows the rules–every rule. She’s given up everything–her friends, her family, her past, even her name to ensure her daughter has a future.

Reborn as Veronica Minor in the sleepy little town of Sunberry, Ohio, she struggles to rebuild their life amid the beauty of her flower shop. She hopes for a life where her daughter can have a happy normal childhood and never know that her father was a monster.

When a child disappears, Veronica prays it has nothing to do with her past, but what if she’s wrong? Not knowing who to trust, she trusts no one…and that’s her first mistake.    Betrayed_h11347_300

 

I asked Ms. Duncan a few more questions that I thought would interest you. Tell us a little more about BETRAYED.

BETRAYED is the second book in my Sisters By Choice series and will be released in January 2014. In DECEPTION (the first in the series), there is a terrorist. I kept wondering what kind of woman could be married to a terrorist and not know it.

BETRAYED is the answer to that question. It is Maria’s story and her struggle to get past the betrayal of her husband and create a new life for her daughter.

What’s the setting for BETRAYED?

Most of the story takes place in or around a small fictional town in Ohio called Sunberry. Coincidentally, we have a small town in Ohio called Sunbury that is very similar to the fictional setting!

What do you want readers to take away from BETRAYED?

Bad things happen to all of us. How we react to those things will determine the quality of our future. We can make the choice to stay in the past and be angry and bitter, but a much better choice would be to forgive and move on with our own life.

Does BETRAYED have a theme?

Beauty for ashes is a phrase that comes up several times throughout the book and I consider it the theme. It comes from Isaiah 61: 3. A second theme is about honoring God with our choices and our actions even in the midst of a crisis.

What’s the SISTERS BY CHOICE series about?

This series definitely has romance in it, but I also wanted to explore the strong bonds that form between women—through blood or through the choices we make. Each story focuses on a relationship between two women that becomes as important to the story as the romantic plot.

DECEPTION was the first in the series and it focused on the broken relationship of identical twin sisters, Patti and Jamie. The lesson from DECEPTION was don’t waste time arguing with those you love—you may not get a second chance to repair that relationship.

In BETRAYED, it focuses on two strangers bonding and becoming friends as they face a crisis together.  One of the characters teaches Maria about how to honor God by her actions even in the most horrible of circumstances.

Thank you for visiting my blog and sharing your new book with me and my friends and visitors. You also have a giveaway going on this month. Could you tell us about it?

To celebrate the release of BETRAYED, I’m giving away a virtual gift basket at Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at www.lillian-duncan.com. The virtual gift basket includes a copy of my books, SERENITY SPRINGS, OHIO; DARK ALLEYS; and GEESE MATE FOR LIFE.  Along with the books, a $25 Amazon gift card is included plus a few books from some writer friends. To enter the contest, simply hop on over to Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at www.lillian-duncan.com , leave a comment on the post titled CELEBRATION! Winner will be chosen and announced on February 14.

 

 


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Happy Thanksgiving

Wow, can you believe that it’s time for the holidays already? Here we are taking our place with the crowds at the grocery stores and markets getting all the things we need for Thanksgiving dinner. Family members are gathering and the familiar fragrances of the holiday drift from the kitchen. No matter how large or small our group, it’s a time we look back at the year and see those things we’re thankful for.

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Our celebrations take place around a bountiful table with shared stories, laughter and memories. We all know from school about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth. It was a feast to celebrate their survival. Did you know that the  holiday became official through a Presidential proclamation? In October of 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving in the middle of a Civil War. This official standing made it a nationally recognized celebration that had predominantly been observed in New England until then. Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the day to observe Thanksgiving.

During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, in 1939, 1940, and 1941, the holiday was moved back to the third Thursday to extend the Christmas shopping season and further stimulate the economy. A huge controversy ensued, as you can imagine, and Congress got involved. They passed a resolution in 1941 that set Thanksgiving as the third Thursday of November. All this did is cause more confusion and some states followed one way of deciding the date and some followed another. As a result in December of 1941, President Roosevelt signed legislation that designated the fourth Thursday in November as national Thanksgiving Day, to take effect starting in 1942.

This may be more than you wanted to know about how we actually set the day for our holiday, but Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!


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Newest Release in Women of the Bible series

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The book we’ve been talking about and you’ve been waiting for is here and available for you and your friends. I’m very excited.

Miriam’s Room can be found at this link.

In Miriam’s Room, you’ll read the story of the wife of a wealthy copper trader and community leader in Jerusalem, mother of John Mark, Miriam faces a society in which she must hide her strength and knowledge in the sanctuary of her upper room. In the world outside she fights not only her emotions but also the influence of a young Zealot who wants to claim her son for his cause against Rome. In Miriam’s determination to save John Mark from himself, will she drive her son away? And how can this new Rabbi open her eyes and restore her broken heart?

You can get your copy on Kindle or in print and give it as gifts to your friends who have been waiting anxiously right along with you for this next book in the series.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it for you. I’d love it if you’d leave a review when you’ve finished. Thank you so much and have a blessed day.


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Reasons to Write

I often hear people say, “I really want to be a writer, but I have such a busy schedule.” or “I need to find the time to write someday.” or “I’ve always wanted to write, but just am not sure what to write about.”

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The stock answer is to write what you know. However, I’d like to give you my take on that statement and share some reasons why to write and how to break the log jam a little bit at a time.  Life has a way of throwing things at you or there is always something to do that will get in your way.

Consider these:

1. You have thoughts that you need to get out – write them in a spiral notebook to get them off your chest. This doesn’t have to be for publication, but can be just for you.

2. Write lists to clear your mind. People have published books of lists. You don’t have to publish yours, but it is writing.

3. Journal. You don’t have to write in it every day, just write in it when you want to. Many writers journal regularly. I don’t, I am more irregular with my journal.

4. Keep a notebook to use as an idea log. Write your thoughts as they flow out so you don’t loose them. It could become a collection of story ideas or completed short stories.

5. Write because you can’t not write. Just get it out of your system. Do it on a computer or with a pen in your hand.

6. Let your mind wander when you’re trying to work out a problem. Write about something that comes to mind that has nothing to do with the issue and it may help you find the solution.

7. Write because it’s what you think about when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night.

These are only a few of many reasons to write in spite of what is happening in your life. It gets the muse going so you can write the “great American novel.”


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Hot Reads and Cool Drinks

Are you keeping track of the top sellers? J. K Rowling has done it again, but this time under a pseudonym – Robert Galbraith. Her book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, has sold tons of copies. She definitely has a way with words! Mysteries and thrillers have a huge followings (I love reading them, too). This one has a detective named Cormoran Strike.

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Of course, you all know about the new Dan Brown book, Inferno. This one delves into the classic from Dante that we all had to read in English class in high school or college. This is another popular author who weaves great stories.

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These books are not news to you, but let me share a couple of more that you may not know about that are also wonderful reads that you don’t want to miss. We have one more month left before school starts and the Fall routine begins. Just released earlier this month – The King: The Bowers Files, by Seven James. He is really good. I’ve read the other books in this series.

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Patrick Bowers has pursued the nation’s fiercest serial killers—and now one elusive foe is back for revenge.

Settling into a new post at the FBI academy, Patrick and his fiancée, Lien-hua Jiang, are planning their future together with his stepdaughter, Tessa.

But just when his life seems normal, a demon from the past returns to draw him down a dark road he hoped had closed forever. Forced into a desperate hunt to save the two women he loves most, Patrick is in a race against time to stop an international conspiracy from becoming the most widespread act of terrorism in U.S. history.

Okay, one more book to share before I go. Terri Blackstock is another author who will never disappoint you. As you know, she is one of my favorites. Truth Stained Lies is on my must read list and I hope it will be on yours if you haven’t already gotten to it.

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When truth doesn’t make sense, will lies prevail?
Cathy Cramer is a former lawyer and investigative blogger who writes commentary on high-profile homicides. When she finds a threatening note warning her that she’s about to experience the same kind of judgment and speculation that she dishes out in her blog, Cathy writes it off as mischief . . . until her brother’s wife is murdered and all the ‘facts’ point to him. The killer has staged the crime to make the truth too far-fetched to believe. Working to solve the murder and clear her brother’s name, Cathy and her two sisters, Holly and Juliet, moonlight as part-time private investigators. Juliet, a stay-at-home mom of two boys, and Holly, a scattered ne’er-do-well who drives a taxi, put aside their fear to hunt down the real killer.
Stakes rise when their brother’s grieving five-year-old son is kidnapped. As police focus on the wrong set of clues, the three sisters and their battered detective friend are the only hope for solving this bizarre crime, saving the child, and freeing their brother.

Sit down with your iced tea and enjoy!


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Evaluate, Consummate, and Propagate

Book FestivalDon’t get excited, this isn’t a blog on sex education. This is advice for my fellow writers. Here we are in the seventh month of the year and if you haven’t evaluated where you are with your writing goals so far for 2013, then its a good time to take a few minutes out and do that. That’s where the evaluate comes in. I recommend that you take a look at those things you’ve already accomplished or how far you’ve come on the  projects you’re still working on. Give yourself credit for what you have done. Don’t beat yourself up for everything you have not done. At the same time, unless there is a good reason why you haven’t accomplished more then ask yourself what prevents you from getting more done on your writing goals? What do you need to do so that you can accomplish your goals. What do you need to do so you can write? At times in the past, the answer for me was to leave the house and go to the library or coffee shop for a couple of hours so I could clear my mind enough to write. Maybe it is sitting out in your backyard away from the family for an hour every evening while they watch TV.

What could I possibly mean by consummate and what does it have to do with writing? The meaning of consummate is to complete or perfect in every way; to finish. First, get it done. Then be sure that you edit your work. Whether you self-publish or go through a royalty publisher you want your best work out there. Who wants the reader to wonder how you ever got “this thing” into print with sooo many errors in it. How embarrassing. I know from experience that no matter how many eyes are on a manuscript that sometimes a few typos or mistakes can slip through, but do your best to perfect your work as much as possible before you put it out there.

Last but not least — propagate. Keep on writing. Don’t stop. A lesson that I’ve learned in the last couple of years is that you don’t want to stop the flow of articles or books coming out. I focused on writing a couple of nonfiction projects and didn’t keep my fiction series coming out at a regular interval so that there has been a gap between book 2 and book 3 of over two years. That was not very good planning on my part. I won’t let that happen again. I’m back on track again with one in production with the publisher now and another that should be out by Christmas. I need to discipline myself to keep propagating my novels so that the readers have them. If you don’t feed your readers they may go somewhere else.

So all you writers out there — come on and evaluate, consummate, and propagate with me!


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60th Anniversary of the AP Style Book

This isn’t your normal Birthday party. For readers it may feel like a ho-hum, but for writers this is a big deal. If we want to get ourselves in print in the media including newspapers, magazines and the like this is really important that we not only know what this little book is but that we at least follow the basics in this style guide.   bigstock-happy-birthday-cake-shot-on-a--14496323

At my party, it’s a toss-up who gets to blow out the candles on the cake, my husband or me. My personal favorite cake is sour cream white cake with lemon frosting! Don’t worry, I usually include a chocolate cake, too, for all of you chocoholics.

Let’s blow out the candles and have some of that cake. Then, I thought we would take a quick look at some of the most common guidelines we use every day in the AP Style Guide.

Commas in a series: Use commas to separate elements in a list, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple list. Example: We purchased apples, oranges and pears. Even though the style guide says “No comma before the conjunction” your grammar check on MSWord will indicate that a comma is required before the conjunction. I suggest that you follow the AP if you are submitting to the media.

Quotation marks: Commas go inside quotation marks.

Numbers: In general (except in the case of ages, dimensions or distances when and you only use numbers) spell out numbers 1 through 9 and use the numerals for 10 and higher. If a number begins a sentence, then always spell it out except when the number is a calendar year. Also, spell out numbers used in casual expressions: “Thanks a million.”

Ages: Always use numbers for people and animals, but not for inanimate objects. Example: The boy is 13 years old; the law is nine years old. Use hyphens for ages used as adjectives before a noun or in place of a noun: Example: She’s a 3-year-old girl. The girl is 3 years old.

State abbreviations: Do not use tow letter ZIP code abbreviations such as IL(Illinois) and WA(Washington) unless they’re part of a full address. Otherwise, use the traditional abbreviations we learned in school, for example, Ill. (Illinois) and Wash. (Washington) and only when a city or county name precedes the state name. However, according to AP, the following states do not use abbreviations: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas or Utah.

Addresses: Street, avenue and boulevard (St., Ave., Blvd.) are abbreviated when writing street addresses that include numbers. Road, highway, terrace, circle are never abbreviated. Example: The school is on Canal Street. Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School is at 222 Canal St.

The new AP Style Guide will release on July 13, 2013 in all formats. Don’t forget to pick up a copy for your reference shelf or ereader.


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Happy Fourth of July

bigstockphoto_freephoto-Fireworks_542My husband and I watched the movie Gettysburg last night on the 150th anniversary of that battle. Over 250,000 visitors are gathering on the battlefield in Gettysburg, PA this weekend to watch re-enactors stage the three day battle where 53,000 of our countrymen died fighting for what they believed in. It is a part of our history. In the movie, when General Lee realizes what the date is he says to his aide, “God has a sense of humor.”

Two years later the union was preserved when the South surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865. We are a diverse country and yet we persevere. I hope we are still here in spite of all our differences in another 150 years.

Today we celebrate the founding of our country that started with 13 tentative colonies with very different ideas of what they wanted, but one goal — freedom from England. Did you know that only 10% of the population in the colonies wanted revolution when it stated? Did you know that the resolution on Independence almost did not pass because of a difference on opinion over slavery? If we do not learn from history, then we are bound to repeat the mistakes and suffer the same consequences. The issues may change but the results of our actions or inaction will repeat themselves until we learn and change. Our own national history shows us that.

I encourage you and your children and grandchildren to read history – fictionalized and nonfiction – it is important for us to know where we have been and who we are. Now, go out and enjoy this day. Attend a parade, go on a picnic, grill out, and go to the fireworks tonight. It’s our Birthday!


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Picnics, Summer Camp, and Baseball

What do picnics, summer camp, and baseball have to do with books?

PIcture taken at a rotary family picnic found on Yahoo images. Credited to Rotary5280, DSC_0141

Picture taken at a rotary family picnic found on Yahoo images. Credited to Rotary5280, DSC_0141

In my world, everything has to do with books and stories. Are you surprised? Story ideas come from everywhere. I receive a church newsletter that keeps me apprised of all the coming events, prayer requests, and service opportunities. Our annual beginning of summer all church picnic is this weekend at a local park. The meal is catered so we need to sign up early to be counted or just bring our own food. Everyone has a great time. The sounds and smells remind me of family picnics as a kid when we drove across country to get there. Within 24 hours of our arrival, grandparents, uncles, cousins, in-laws and out-laws from multi-generations gathered at Sinissippi Park on the Rock River. We had mountains of fried chicken, potato salad, green beans, home made baked beans, jello salads, and apple pie.  It started at lunch time and lasted until dusk. We swam and played baseball. Some of the more sedate cousins sat under the huge shade trees and read books or walked hand-in-hand with future spouses along the river bank.

My brother and I spent part of our summer at Scout camp and loved every minute of it. We experienced things we never would have other wise — stoning rattle snakes to death and curing their skins, skinny dipping in the moon light, and hiding the camp bell in hopes of getting up late the next morning. Great memories!

When I was growing up in Amarillo, Texas, the library had book mobiles that made the rounds of the city parks. The neighborhood kids could check out books, participate in the summer reading program, and return their books for more two weeks later when they returned. I loved it. My best friends and I would line up with the other kids and then spend the afternoon reading. I’ll bet you have picnics, summer camp, and baseball in your summers past and present. Go out – have fun and make more memories, read a new book, and enjoy yourself.


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Welcome to the Greater Treasures Book Blog Tour

My Guest today is author Karina Fabian. Her latest book is Greater TreasuresIt is Christian Fantasy Mystery and a delight to read.

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Karina Fabian does it again with her newest Dragon Eye, PI book – Greater Treasures, From the Case Files of Dragon Eye, PI.

A great fantasy detective story, Vern and Sister Grace take on another case. After a visit from the Mundane Eva Heidler, the bottle red-head, they find themselves searching for Eva’s missing brother Weylin. He had joined a cult, the Brotherhood of Baal and she wants the help of the Magicals. Grace follows the client to meet a man who knows about Eva’s brother but is shot with a dart. Vern is called to the hospital and must find out what exactly happened.

After searching the crime scene, he flies to Eva’s hotel suite (dragons can fly) and gets the real story from her that her brother is hiding because he took an artifact – a magic Faerie spear – that could do great damage. Vern must save this Universe and his own before it is too late.

It is a great read. You’ll keep following along with Vern’s adventures. And, the best part for me is the underlying story. Fabian’s research about the Lance of Longinus is well done and makes the book very interesting to read. Enjoy!

You can purchase the book at Greater Treasures


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OWFI and DIY Alphabet Soup

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We live in a world of alphabet soup. Everything has an abbreviation that comes down to either a letter combination that we use instead of the name or the anachronism we use as a word in place of the full name. Have you noticed we even do that for the names of the churches we attend, at least we do in our area. Those of us who text and tweet a lot write and read in an abbreviated language that I’m not sure I even understand part of the time. I have to admit that my daughter had to explain what lol and roflol meant and then I felt quit smart and hip, one of the in-crowd because I knew what that meant. Then? I found out that there was a whole lot more to the shortened vocabulary … so much for speaking fluent text and tweet … lol :)

My friend and fellow author, Kimberly Black, and I went to the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. Conference this weekend or commonly known as OWFI, this past weekend.  About 300 attendees and a great faculty presented workshops for people of all levels — we all found something of interest and learned a lot. I found out I’m a hybrid author and here I thought I just aspired to owning a hybrid car someday to be environmentally responsible. With the changing publishing industry, many authors are combining the traditional pathway with a traditional publisher and then self-publishing as well.

I have a great relationship and wonderful books produced with Buoy Up Press from awoc.com, Dan Case publisher. He is a royalty publisher and produces great quality books and takes good care of us authors. We have to give him top quality writing and the editing process is stringent, as you would expect. About 18 months ago I waded into the shallow end of the pool as a self-published author with my nonfiction book, Tools and Tips: What Every Writer Needs to Know to Go Pro. At the time I wrote and published it, I have no plans to go out on my own with everything, but I had no idea that made me a DIY and hybrid author. It seems to be part of the journey for many of us. We as authors need to be flexible and adapt. A couple of jewels I learned this weekend are:

1. The fastest growing market for ebooks in the next three to five years is in the third-world countries because of the explosion in cell phone availability. Inexpensive ebooks available on iphones give us a market previously not available.

2. Ebooks priced at $2.99 – $3.99 sell approximately 4.2 – 4.3 times more books than those prices $.99 – $2.89 or some catagories prices more than than, up to $9.99. You actually make more money selling at $3.99 than at $9.99 in the long run.

3.If you’re interested in publishing your own ebooks, check out Smashwords.com – I’m not actually endorsing them, but their founder was one of the presenters at OWFI and had a lot of impressive and valuable informative information that was backed up with substantial facts. They have a lot to offer including marketing.

For those of my blog followers who are authors, as well as readers, a lot of what we do besides the actual writing is a do-it-yourself process. We cannot afford to hire a staff to do everything else for us, at least not to begin with in our careers. That’s why it’s important that writers share and help each other with what we’ve learned, not only through our books, but also when we meet each other and talk over a cup of coffee or a glass of tea. In my experience, those authors who are ahead of me in their careers have always been quick to offer a hand to bring me along and it’s my turn to pass it on. We all have the opportunity to pay it forward to someone else coming up behind us with a bowl of alphabet soup.


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How Do YOu See Yourself?

diannegsagan:

I know my blog is focused on writing and reading, but this video impacted me and I wanted to share it with my friends, fellow writers and readers. The way we see ourselves affects the way we write and the way we perceive the world around us.

Originally posted on AMOKArts:

This is hugely important.

One of the best videos I have seen in a while. My confession today is I have always had a hard time loving myself, but by the grace of God, I am His child. I would never treat anyone the way I treat myself. How about you?

God doesn’t make junk.
How do you see yourself?

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How to Write a Book Review

Do you ever wonder what the best way is to support your favorite authors? Of course, purchasing books, reading their books, and telling your friends about them is the best way of getting the word out.

Another way of showing your support is reviewing the books you read. When you purchase a book from Amazon or Barnes & Nobel online there is a place for you to write a short review. Goodreads.com also provides a place for reviews. Most readers don’t leave one because it intimidates them. People think that there are certain requirements you must have to be a book reviewer. Not true any more.                        animated woman typing

I’d like to give you some tips on how to write a simple, short review that is easy and only take a few minutes of your time. You can read the book in print form and put a review online whether you bought it online or not. Fear keeps us from doing a lot of things. Don’t be scared of writing a review.

Some suggestions:

  • The theme represents …
  • I enjoyed the story because …
  • The relationships between characters demonstrated …
  • It is well written …
  • My favorite character …
  • The story is well researched …
  • Read some of the reviews posted for examples and write one in your own words.
  • A review does not have to be only positive statements, but can include points that you feel are negative. Just be sure that you stick to the subject and the writing, do not get personal about the author.
  • If the writing is not professional, then it is alright to say that.
  • If the research in a historical novel is obviously well done, then mention it.
  • It can be a great story that isn’t told very well.
  • Tell whether you like the book or not.
  • Would you recommend it to others?

I hope this helps take some of the anxiety out of writing a review. I am sure your favorite authors will appreciate your support.

Pansies, Tulips, and Spring Releases

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Pansies

Pansies are some of my favorite flowers and they have brightened our garden all winter long between snow storms and rain. They are the beautiful color that gives me hope for warmer weather as the cold night temperatures hold on this year, and help me remember that spring flowers will come again. The pear trees are in full bloom. Tulips will be out soon and are always a sign that the winter has let go and spring is here.

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Spring flowers aren’t the only thing that is new with our warming temperatures. I don’t know about you, but I love sitting out in the back yard in my swing enjoying a new book with a glass of sweet tea or lemonade. I know that sweet tea is something that is particular to those of us in the South – it’s iced tea that is already sweetened. Have you ever tried putting a little fresh lemonade in your iced tea and top it off with a sprig of fresh mint from the garden? Better than a mint julep!

In your list of books to read this Spring, I hope you’ll add Miriam’s Room. Coming Soon! I know you’ve waited awhile for this one and it is finally at the publisher. The next book in my Women of the New Testament series. Meet Miriam, John Mark’s mother. She is a lot like you and me. A woman who believes she can do anything. She is a wife, mother, manages a household, known in her community, and must meet many challenges in life. Miriam shares relationships with different people and grows from each. Her upper room is a special place to her and those in her life. Why?

I’ll be giving you hints, excerpts, and the release date over the next few weeks.


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Reading, Writing, and Whatever Else You Like to Do

You thought I was going to use that old adage that everybody has heard since the earth cooled, but no I won’t put you through that. I know it’s Saturday and there are things that you probably have to do, but hopefully you’ll find some time to do those things you like to do as well.

In my world reading and writing go hand in hand because if you didn’t read then there wouldn’t be anywhere for the books that we writers write to go. Of course most of us are also avid readers so we would probably read each others work, but I love to make readers happy or stimulate their thoughts with what I write.

I also love spending time with other writers and people in the publishing industry. It’s awesome to be in a room full of writers and watch or almost hear the wheels grinding. Some of us need a little oiling now and again to get the books to the stage that you see them when you pick them up at the store or download them for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad .. I probably left somebody’s technology out but you know what I mean.    Almost Foreve

I found a new author, Deborah Raney. She has a ready smile and is delightful to talk with over breakfast. She is a knowledgeable workshop presenter and most of all for you readers, an excellent storyteller. Almost Forever: A Hanover Falls Novel is the first book in a series that I am sure you will love.

In this first book, Byn Hennesey, a volunteer at the Grove Street Homeless Shelter, was there the night the shelter burned to the ground and five heroic firefighters died at the scene. Among them was her husband, Adam. Like the rest of the surviving spouses, Bryn must find a way to begin again. But Bryn must do so living with a horrible secret …

This is a great read! I hope you won’t miss it.


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Jet Lag and Synapse Overload

Yes, this post is a day late. I spent Thursday through Sunday at the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild, Writing for the Soul Conference, in Colorado Springs, CO.

Pikes PeakWhat an amazing experience! It was half spiritual retreat and half writer’s conference. Keynote speakers included people like Liz Curtis Higgs, the author of The Bad Girls of the Bible and The Unveiling of Mary Magdalene, as well as other great books, both fiction and nonfiction. She is funny and inspiring all at the same time. Deborah Raney, Steven James, Dennis E. Hensley, Christopher Yuan, and James MacDonald were some of the other speakers and workshop presenters. My brain feels like it is still on overload. Those little connections are firing as fast as they can.

In addition to the beautiful God-given setting, the conference takes place at the Broadmoor Hotel and Resort. The conference facilities were great and hotel staff spoiled us all in our elegant surroundings.

If you are a Christian writer, then I would set my sights on attending this conference in the future. Yes, it is on the expensive side, but it is well worth the price for the experience, what you’ll learn, and the people you meet. It is a level above what you’ve probably experienced before at a writers’ conference. Where else would you start the day with praise music and prayer? I was blessed with fantastic results from the editor and agent pitch interviews. Now I’m home, the last editing and polishing, as well as formal written proposal, comes next.


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The Women of Camp Sobingo

Looking for a great story about a group of women who are friends. How about a great story set in a historical backdrop? We women have been camp followers for centuries. This one is about our mother’s generation or maybe your grandmother’s generation but it is as timely as our own generation. The men in our lives are still suiting up in a uniform and we are still following them to those cookie-cutter housing units. This is a story you won’t want to miss.

Four women of diverse backgrounds form a bond while en route to join their Army officer husbands in Korea in 1946. Their experiences in a far-flung military compound strengthen three of the women, but a fourth chooses to end her life there, and during a reunion twenty-five years later, long-held dark secrets and sorrows are revealed.

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The Women of Camp Sobingo, by Marilyn Celeste Morris, a member of the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., shares the story of four women; friends who share the life of army wives in a strange land, with husbands who serve. Raising children, making do, enduring hardships, these women survive – all but one…

There really was a Camp Sobingo, located outside the capitol city of Seoul, South Korea at the end of WWII. This military compound with its cookie-cutter quarters was home to the women and children who joined their Army officer husbands during the US Occupation. The camp had a school, a post exchange, a dispensary, a commissary, and even a movie theatre (think MASH). Ever-present, however, was the military presence, both Korean and our own US forces and the tyranny of the Russians located across the 38th parallel, who merely annoyed the dependents with their random denial of electricity to the American contingent.

Most of the Americans had deployed to other assignments before June 25, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. Those remaining escaped safely, but The Land of the Morning Calm would never be the same.

To learn more about the author and her book go to http://www.vanillaheartbooksandauthors.com


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Any Ghostwriters or Aspiring Ghostwriters Hiding Out There?

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Ghostwriters and aspiring ghostwriters- -take off your cloaks of invisibility for a moment and check out these two upcoming opportunities to meet other ghosts, learn new skills and techniques, and join our growing community of professionals.

1) Ghostwriting Certificate Program is now online at Cal State U., Long Beach. The next class begins February 16, 2013. Go to www.ccpe.csulb.edu and search for “ghostwriting& quot; for full information and registration.

2) Ghostwriters Unite!, the first international conference for, by, and about ghostwriters, takes place at the Long Beach Hilton on May 3, 4, and 5. Go to http://ghostwriters unite.com for info and registration. Early bird special rates end April 1st.

These are great opportunities for anyone who is interested in ghostwriting. Even though the first listing may be too short for you to make the deadline, if you live in the Long Beach area, then you can sign up for the next course cycle. I have done some ghostwriting, as many of you know, and enjoyed it. If you don’t live in that area, then check at your local colleges and universities. They may have ghostwriting programs or classes available. Best of luck.


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Snowflakes, Daffodils, and Lincoln

What could these three possibly have in common? It’s February! Still don’t get it? Okay, maybe you have to live in my part of the country – the Panhandle of Texas where the weather changes on a dime. People have said for decades “if you don’t like the weather right now, wait a little while and it’ll change.”

We can have snowflakes blowing sideways 30 minutes after the sun was out and you need your winter coat, muffler and gloves when you went into the grocery store with only jeans and a T-shirt ( okay you do have to have your shoes on or there isn’t any service). That is the weather in February.

We find daffodils turning up their faces to greet us at the florists booths in the grocery stores and at Wal-Mart. They are my favorite flower. Daffodil bulbs are at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Because the temperatures are bouncing between 70° and 25° the daffodils already planted in my yard are peeking about an inch through the mulch trying to figure out if it’s time yet to come up. Actually now I look around me, the walls in my new office are painted daffodil yellow with white wainscoting and trim. It’s February.

And of course, it is Lincoln’s birthday this month. I know that we only celebrate President’s Day now, but it’s February. As with many people, Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents in American history. If you’re wondering, no I didn’t forget that today is the day I recommend good books and good authors. One of my favorites is Jennifer Chiaverini. She is the author of the Elm Creek Quilter series. However, one of her latest releases is Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker. I haven’t read it yet but it is on my list of books to read. It is the story of Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker, a former slave, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Keckley. The two women develop an amazing friendship that takes the reader behind the closed doors of the White House, through the emancipation of slavery, the First Lady’s loss of her son and assassination of her husband. We will get to know the president’s wife and a former slave in personal ways through their experiences together. Ms. Chiaverini is an impeccable researcher. Enjoy the read.


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And the Winner is …?

I don’t know how other writers feel about contests, but I have participated in a fair number. There are advantages to participating in contests. Some of them are:

  1.       You have a deadline that you have to meet. It teaches you the importance to meeting those deadlines. If you miss a contest deadline, then you are out of luck. They don’t give you a chance to fudge on the date. I think it was Jerry Jenkins in his book, Writing for the Soul, that he said only 3% of writers meet their deadline. Wouldn’t you like to be in that 3%? I’m sure that would make you stand out in the publishing world.
  2.       You can receive some great feedback from experienced writers and editors who are the judges on your work. They make comments on your work whether you are a winner or not. Take it and learn from it. Take what you can use and discard the rest.
  3.        Contests are usually for short pieces of work, but not always. Learn to write tight and only the best work wins. Likewise you only send your best work to an agent or publisher, not the first draft or the “good enough” draft.
  4.        Contests have specific guidelines that you must follow or be disqualified. That is the way it is in the publishing world. Publishers and agents have guidelines for a reason and expect writers to follow them.
  5.        When you win contests, that makes you “An award winning author” when you are writing up your vita/resume.

My only caution is don’t forget to keep writing and submitting with a focus on your career as a published author in mind. There are so many contests that it could easily eat up your writing time. Make your writing do double duty. Some places to find contests are Winning Writers (both poetry and prose), Writers Market, Poets & Writers, and Creative Writing Contests. (These are sources that I have found or used in my own research, but always thoroughly research the contest source and sponsors yourself to be sure that they are legitimate before sending your work or participating in a contest.)

 


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Davis Bunn – Always a Great Read

If you’ve never read any of his books, then I suggest you give his books a try. I highly recommend his books. His website profile says “An internationally-acclaimed author who has sold more than six million books in sixteen languages, Davis is equal parts writer, scholar, teacher, and sportsman.”

Bunn and Janette Oke have written several books together including the Acts of Faith series.

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These are among my favorites, but Davis Bunn has written many other as well and continues to write great reads. Book of Dreams released in October 2011 is a great contemporary read. Book of DreamsThe back cover blurb can’t be beat for getting your attention “For Dr. Elena Burroughs, life is divided into two chapters—before and after the death of her husband. Today marks the point that her span of being a wife is equal to her span of being a widow. Even her success as a psychologist and her worldwide acclaim for a book on the interpretation of dreams is dimmed by an unspoken If only. Then a new patient arrives, one so private only her first name is given. Impeccably dressed and escorted by two bodyguards, Sandra recounts a frightening series of recurrent nightmares. …”

Enjoy!


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To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question

How many of us set up a schedule for blogging and do really well for a time and then just flat fall off of the wagon? Come on … don’t be embarrassed … most of us would have to raise our hands and nod our heads on that one. I am no exception, but after a challenging 2012 it is time to get back on the horse or back to the keyboard. New goals, I don’t think I’ll go with the resolution thing.  The question comes to mind – why do you want to read this anyway. Book Festival

For the writer: I give you something of value that you can use.

For the reader: I give you once a month recommendations or guest blogs about new books and other authors I think you would enjoy.

My new schedule: Writer focused blogs on Tuesdays.  BookCoverImage - final Nov 6 2011

Focus on readers for Saturdays.    


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Free Book Giveaway!!!!

Hi everyone,

 

My publisher, Buoy Up Press, and I have a special promotion that only lasts Friday, Feb 24th and Saturday, Feb 25th, 2012. That’s this weekend!

 

Rebekah Redeemed, a part of my Women Of the Bible series is FREE on Kindle. Download for FREE. If you don’t have it yet, this is your chance to get it at no cost to you. Don’t have a Kindle? You can download a free Kindle app onto your computer or laptop and then get your copy of Rebekah Redeemed. The download of the Kindle app only takes a few minutes.

 

Rebekah Redeemed url:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0044KM0W8

 

Hope you’ll take advantage of it. Happy reading,

Dianne


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For Everything There is A Season

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying the beginning of a good year. I haven’t posted for a few weeks because my mother suffered a massive stroke and heart attack. She passed away after being in hospice for a week and went home on Christmas Eve afternoon. The family that was here took Christmas day to just remember our Lord and Savior and why he came. I’m trying to get things going for the new year, but am not going very fast.

I’ll be posting, but may be irregular for a few more weeks. I want to give my blog followers something of value and hope you will hang in there with me while I get back on my feet and writing and posting regularly. Keep on writing. Set some goals for yourself. My critique group met last night for the first time this year and we talked over our writing goals. My publisher wants three more New Testament Women books this year. One member plans to write a chapter a week on his novel in progress. Another has a similar goal of writing every week. One other member wants to polish her novel and pitch it to a publisher and complete a manuscript for another novel this year. Our fifth member wants to complete a business book he is writing and then continue with his novel in progress.

I encourage you to set goals and share them with me and those who read this blog. It is good to encourage each other to meet our goals and work through the writing process together.


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Book Lover’s Holiday Giveaway

   Come and join the fun and enjoy all the great gifts. Keep them or give them to those on your Christmas shopping list.

Your Holiday Gift: a free copy of  Rebekah Redeemed or The Fisherman’s Wife

Three Winners Chosen from those who leave comments during the Giveaway Hop  Dec. 2 – 6

Winners Announced on this blog, December 7th, 2011 

Each participating blog is hosting their own giveaway and we’ve all linked up together so you can easily hop from one giveaway to the next.

The rules:
Must be 13 or older to enter
Entries will be accepted until 11:59 pm EST, December 6, 2011
One entry per person
Contest open internationally
The winner will be notified by email
Winner will be determine by random number generator
It’s not necessary to follow me for this, but it sure is appreciated!

To keep it simple each site has a limit of entries per person.  To participate go to the list at I Am A Reader and scroll down a few paragraphs to the link list.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


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FREE Writers Workshop from Writers on the Move

Title: Creating Great Characters
Presented by: Maggie Ball
Date: December 07, 2011 (Wednesday)
Time: 5:00 – 5:45 PM EST (U.S.)
Format: Live Webinar
Handout: Yes
Cost: Free

Workshop Description:

Think of amazing characters, such as Sherlock Holmes, Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind), Tarzan, Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), Peter Pan, Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web), T. S. Garp (The World According to Garp), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), Harry Potter, the list goes on and on.

Characters are at the heart of every great story and every fiction author needs to know how to create good ones. Think temperament, intelligence, appearance, physical characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, and so on. Great characters need to be real, engaging, and motivating; they need to keep the reader reading. They need to touch something in the reader; they need to be remembered.

Join Maggie Ball as she discusses characterization.

To register for “Creating Great Characters” email Maggie Ball at:maggieball@compulsivereader.com

Details to attend the LIVE WEBINAR will be provided upon registration.

There will also be a bonus PDF workshop handout included and registered attendees will receive a recording of the live webinar.

 

For complete details go to:

http://www.writersonthemove.com/p/writers-on-move-workshop.html

 

 These are GREAT workshops by experienced and successful writers.


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Tools and Tips: What Every Writer Needs to Know to Go “Pro” NOW AVAILABLE

I’m excited to let everyone know that the print version of my new book, Tools and Tips: What Every Writer Needs to Know to Go “Pro”, is now available on Amazon.com

What are people saying?

Tools and Tips is full of very useful information. I’ve always been impressed with your organizational and get-the-job-done skills. You did a good job of sharing them. I especially like your do-it-yourself writer’s retreat idea! Congratulations! This is a great addition to your list and I’m sure it will lead to even more inspirational readers for your other works.”

— Patsy Rae Dawson – International marriage consultant, has mentored both husbands and wives for 40 years, award winning author, Certified Public Speaker, publisher, BlogTalk radio host,

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