Dianne G. Sagan – Best Selling Author

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


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Nancy Drew Turns 85!

(copied from post on Facebook by “A Mighty Girl”) I just had to share this with you. I read and loved Nancy Drew as a girl and so did my daughters.

 

Nancy Drew's 1st book in seriesHappy 85th birthday to Nancy Drew! The first volume in the long-running girl detective series, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” was published 85 years ago this week under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. In a tribute on The Mary Sue, author Theodore Jefferson writes, “Agency. It is that which forms the foundation for any hero’s ability to save the day. In America, agency for teenage girls in literature made its debut in 1930 in the person of Nancy Drew.” This original Mighty Girl character paved the way for many more heroic female characters and inspired generations of real-life girls and women.

Ghostwritten by Mildred Wirt Benson and later revised by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, the first volume of Nancy Drew had a huge influence on young readers. Jefferson writes, Nancy Drew provided them with “stories of someone like themselves who had a positive effect on the world instead of passively sitting at home… She is a character with that magical ‘what if’ question woven into her identity, and one that effortlessly captures the imaginations of readers by allowing them to participate in a world where the answers to that question are just as entertaining as the stories themselves.”

Jefferson adds that the “echoes” of Nancy Drew can be seen in “Gidget, Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Katniss Everdeen, Black Widow, Jessica Halloran and numerous other literary characters, television stars and comic heroes.” She also was at the forefront of a new literary idea: “the character upon which a universe could be created” for a series of related stories. For the first time, a whole world could be built around the adventures of one character, an idea that Jefferson notes was “powerful enough that Nancy Drew unseated many leading book series for boys in the process.”

At the time, some viewed Nancy Drew as a poor role model, “contradicting adults while she squared off with the villains… she is mechanically inclined and at the same time doesn’t act like most people in the 1930s would have expected a teenage girl to act.” In fact, many libraries and bookstores refused to carry the Nancy Drew stories. Despite — or because of — that disapproval, kids collected the books voraciously, and in the midst of the Depression, used copies were shared and traded like trading cards are today. As a result, “any kid, even those who couldn’t afford new books, would very likely get to read every adventure starring their favorite character.”

The tremendous influence of Nancy Drew continues to this day asserts Jefferson: “It is difficult to overstate how powerful Nancy Drew’s presence remains in literature and in other media. She has influenced film, comics, video games and animation for 85 years, and will continue to do so as long as teenage girls take the lead as our heroes in the imaginative worlds of adventure.”

Did you grow up reading Nancy Drew? Tell us about your favorites in the comments below. You can read Jefferson’s essay in honor of 85 years of Nancy Drew on The Mary Sue, visit http://bit.ly/1bk0r1o

To introduce a new generation to this classic girl detective, the Nancy Drew Starter Box Set featuring the series’ first six books, recommended for ages 8 and up, visit http://www.amightygirl.com/nancy-drew-box-set

Nancy Drew’s stories have also been brought to life in a wide range of Nancy Drew Video Games athttp://bit.ly/1c37uNp

Nancy Drew is also featured on a “Twisted Candles” t-shirt for teens and adults (http://www.amightygirl.com/nancy-drew-shirt) and in a Nancy Drew Paper Doll Set at http://www.amightygirl.com/nancy-drew-classic-paper-dolls

For more mysteries starring Mighty Girls — all for readers ages 8 to 12 — we recommend “The Case of the Missing Moonstone” for ages 8 to 12 (http://www.amightygirl.com/the-case-of-the-missing-moonstone), “The Fairy Tale Detectives” (http://www.amightygirl.com/the-fairy-tale-detectives), “Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes” (http://www.amightygirl.com/ruby-redfort), and “Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief” (http://www.amightygirl.com/sammy-keyes-and-the-hotel-thief).

To discover more Mighty Girl mysteries for readers of all ages, visit our “Mystery & Suspense” section athttp://www.amightygirl.com/books/fiction/mystery-suspense


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Z is for Zealotry

Roman Soldiers At EasterIn the first century the Zealots were those who fought outwardly against Rome. They tried to start revolutions to overthrow their oppressors, and the usual result was that they were crushed and the survivors crucified. About the time Jesus was a boy the Zealots staged an uprising, and the history resources I’ve used say the roads entering Jerusalem were lined with hundreds of crosses bearing the rebellious contenders as a warning for the people to go home and submit to Roman rule.

And it wasn’t just that the Romans ruled over them. Rome taxed them and even demanded that Roman subjects bow down to the image of the Emperor. Among the Jews, bowing down to anyone but Yahweh, the One True God, was forbidden by the Mosaic Law, and in bowing to a mere man a Jew could be put to death. However, if they did not bow down to Caesar then the Roman governor of Palestine could have them crucified. This was undoubtedly the origin of the dilemma, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

The High Priest tried to reason with the Roman officials but with little success. The Zealots incited riots, killed Roman soldiers caught alone in the streets of Jerusalem, or attacked small cohorts of soldiers marching across the countryside. Palestine was considered the most rebellious province in the Empire by many officials in Rome and the worst place to be stationed by most legionnaires. Why?  Because of the Zealots and their One God for whom they would so readily die.

This is the turmoil that is the backdrop of my stories, and it provides a constant, visceral tension on top of everything else that happens to my characters. It is into this world that Jesus was born.

I’d like you to consider another side of zeal for a moment. This is the side that Jesus had and that his dreamstimefree_27664970disciples shared. It’s constructive, not destructive. It’s what Rebekah, Johanna, Miriam and Mary all found after their encounters with Jesus. The dictionary defines zeal as great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. It is a passion, a devotion, often for only an idea.

In those private moments after each woman meets with Jesus she is changed forever in the way she thinks and in the way she acts. She finds a new sense of purpose for her life and a new zest for living it. She is filled with both joy and passion.

My own path in this life has been an answer to the “Jesus question”: What greater cause is there than love for and service to your fellow man?

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I hope I have helped you answer this question for yourself, and I hope you live the rest of your life with zeal.


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Y is for Yahweh

Intense LightningLet me start with a little historical background. If you were to step back in time and travel across the Roman Empire in the first century then you would find an empire that ruled over many cultures. Even though most Jews lived in Palestine, some Jewish settlements were scattered around the the Mediterranean from the time the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel about 722 B.C. Four hundred years later Alexander the Great would rule much of the eastern empire and spread a Hellenistic culture that would last well into the first century of the common era. The Greek influence in architecture throughout the Roman Empire can still be seen in ruins across Europe and the Mediterranean regions as well as Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. Judea was not dispersed permanently until 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Herodian Temple.

Across the Roman  Empire the people – both Romans and many of those the Romans had conquered – worshiped multiple gods, but the Jews persisted in claiming one God who was so sacred to them that they did not even use his actual name. The cultures around the ancient Jews even erected monuments to “the god with no name.” You may remember in the story of Moses and the burning bush he asked God what he should call Him. God replied, “I am that I am.” Let’s face it: this is, at best, ambiguous, and religious scholars have been arguing for centuries about just what it means.

“I am that I am” is a little cumbersome as a reference to or a name for God, and in Judaism they developed some alternatives that were easier to apply and still observe the prohibition of calling God by name. One is Yahweh. If you go to a synagogue today you find Him called Hashem. There are others, but you get the idea.

When Jesus came he spoke about “God our father,” and the Jewish religious officials said it was blasphemy because the carpenter’s son spoke in such familiarity and his words made Jesus “God.” Such an utterance would have been considered a grave offense then, and even today it might get the speaker commited to an asylum.

The message that Jesus brought gave the people a God who was approachable, not a God who only stayed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem, jealous, angry and terrifying. Jesus even called Him “Abba,” which roughly translates to “daddy.”

In Jewish tradition God is hard, demanding and vengeful. But the way I see God – through Jesus – He is compassionate and loving, and he beckons his children to come to Him. He wants us to return to Him so that He may heal our bodies and our hearts. He does have expectations that we will treat each other with love and that we will be of service to one another, and I believe we are accountable to God for our actions, someday and somehow.

But the enduring lesson of Jesus was the message that when we fall short of God’s expectations the result is not anger but forgiveness.

That is how I try to present Him in the Women of the Bible series.


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X is for Xerxes

Jerusalem PalmWhat does the Babylonian King Xerxes, husband of Esther, have to do with first-century historical novellas?

The kings, or wise men, who visited Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus were from the East. Resources say that at least one of them was from Babylon. If you remember the story of Esther then you know that she saved the Jewish remnant of her people who remained in Babylon after some of them had been allowed to return to Palestine during Darius’ reign.

Another connection with Judaism is that the Jewish scribes in Babylon wrote down the Torah for the first time. Prior to that time, Torah was passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. The priests had taught the young boys by repetition, word for word, until they could recite the entire Torah from memory. In Jesus’ day the priests and rabbis read from Torah scrolls which were probably copied from those same original written works from Babylon.

Centuries later the Torah would  become the first five books of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible. The  stories in its content are as familiar today as they were to the first-century Jewish society that I write about in my books. They are a foundation for the research of the social and religious make-up of the people in my Women of the Bible series.

Without the development of the written Torah in Babylon and the tolerance of Xerxes for Esther’s people, we can only speculate about how long it might have taken for a written version to inform the works of those who wrote the Christian bible.

It is an over-simplification, in my opinion, to treat the Christian Bible as a work separate from the Torah. The Christian Bible continues a story that the Torah began.


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W is for Worry

Holy MultiplicationWorrying is a familiar pastime for most of us today and has been shared over the centuries by men and women alike. In my Women of the Bible series I incorporated this common human characteristic into each of the women. After she becomes a slave Rebekah worries that she will spend her whole life in bondage. Johanna worries that with the miscarriage of their child her husband, Simon Peter, will divorce her for being barren. Miriam worries that she cannot be both mother and father to her son, John Mark, after the death of her husband, Ezra. Mary worries for the safety of her son, Jesus, when they escape to Egypt.

Each woman, like us, worries and focuses on the events in front of her, not able to see beyond the present challenge. She broods about it. She only speaks about her heartache if those around her force the issue. Her worries become fears that control her thoughts and behavior until she finally encounters Jesus.

These meetings turn into what psychologists call “pattern interrupts” for each of them. He listens to them, seeking out and examining what concerns are driving each one in her own direction. When he speaks to them his words and his attitude of loving acceptance for all that is grant each one a perspective of timelessness. In the process they each surrender the quality of worry for some other quality that produces both inner peace and altered actions. Even Mary feels this from the young Jesus when she needs it the most.

In the four gospels, we read about Jesus’ life. They each tell us that when Jesus felt tired, when he was at a low ebb, when he worried about the future he faced, he prayed.

Each of my stories is an example of this transformative power of prayer. Our prayers may not remove the source of our worries, but they can, should and often do “reframe” that which we worry about to permit answers that may have eluded us before.


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V is for Vanity

Vanity is generally defined as excessive pride in one’s appearance, achievements and qualities. As such, it can be viewed as an expression of one’s ego, that part of us that yearns to assert our uniqueness and our valu-Vanity - dog in the mirrore. Vanity might be considered as the triumph of image over substance. In Catholicism vanity is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, a quality so destructive as to condemn us to damnation unless we overcome it.

I chose to make vanity an essential characteristic of various characters in my “Women of the Bible” series. For example, in Rebekah Redeemed Rebekah’s aunt Mara, with whom Rebekah went to live, thought only of herself and her own needs and wants. In Mary’s Exile, Herod is known throughout his kingdom for his paranoid compulsion to eliminate any who would deprive him of his power or glory. History tells us that he was so focused on himself and his position that he ordered his own wife and son killed to protect his throne.

By using characters who are pictures of vanity in my stories I can show the great contrast between that kind of thinking and behavior and what Jesus reflected. He enters each story through what characters say about him when they hear him teach, and when my main characters meet him they have a universal experience of someone of divine carriage and poise. Through this I can begin to reveal his character as I see it. As each story unfolds I can then demonstrate Jesus’ impact through the subsequent behavior of and consequences to my main characters.

The message in every one of these stories is similar: That we are all bound to each other, that we are all accountable to God for what we do in spite of the forces we believe are “making us” do it, that life lived in service to others is the most reliable and enjoyable way of defeating vanity with spirit.

If my stories touch my readers this way then I am content.


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U is for Unusual

bigstock_Fisherman_240621When I started writing my Women of the Bible series, it was unusual to find books about little-known women mentioned in the Bible. (I guess that’s why they were “little-known.”) The idea for The Fisherman’s Wife came from the gospels of  Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Each one mentions in one verse that Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house and that Simon’s mother-in-law was ill. Jesus healed her and she served them. Like many other people, I read this story for years before realizing the clear implication: Simon Peter had a wife.

I immediately realized that I knew nothing about her, not even her name. Nor could I find anything Roman roaddefinitive anywhere about who she was, where she came from or what her life was like. From studying Catholic sources of church history I found out only three things: that she and Simon Peter had a daughter, that she often accompanied Simon Peter when he travelled, and that she was crucified with her husband in Rome.

So I started by I asking myself these questions:

– Given how and where Simon Peter grew up, where was his wife most likely from?

– Knowing what I do about Peter from what I read in the scriptures and in other sources, what might it have been like to be married to a man like him?

– What kind of life events might most likely cause chronic and heartbreaking stress for a first-century Jewish woman and her husband?

– What would it feel like to have an unknown rabbi come to my village and take my husband away with him  and leaving us to fend for ourselves?

– What would I think when this rabbi unexpectedly came back with my husband, my brother-in-law and a dozen or so of their close friends and wanted to stay with us?

– What would I do when hundreds of people crowded inside and around our house trying to see Jesus and refused to leave?

– What might this rabbi do to convince me that he was the prophesied Messiah?

– What would I say when I met Jesus face to face?

– How would I come to terms with this new rabbi and his teachings?

I soon saw that there were a number of ways to answer these questions. Some were so “usual” as to be trite, even hackneyed, and those answers, I knew, would not tell the story that I felt squirming around in my head.

So I took a chance. I reached for something “UN-usual.”

The squirming stopped.


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T is for Transcendence

first century homeI chose the subjects and circumstances for these stories to make them examples of transcendence. I illustrated this transcendence in two ways. The first was  transcendence in time – the sequence of act and consequence that defines the path of the story. The second was the transcendence in Jesus’ relationship with the women he encountered. Rebekah, Johanna, Miriam and Mary are all faced with challenges in their lives that they experience as too overwhelming to handle by themselves. There may be other characters in the stories trying to comfort and support them, but they each feel deserted, defeated and alone. Even when they cry out to Yahweh, His lack of immediate relief for their distress feels to them as if He doesn’t hear them.

It is when they cannot understand what to do next that Jesus comes to them. In each case he first listensLet the Children Come to MeCarl Vogel von Vogelstein, 1805 to them. He empathizes with their emotional stresses. He accepts their descriptions of their circumstances. He responds with compassion, with clarity, and with a point of view different from the one they each seized upon. He gives each one exactly what is necessary in the deepest part of her soul to continue with courage, strength and gentle joy.

To transcend anything is, for me, to rise above it, to climb to some higher vantage point that allows a person to see what was hidden from the lower vantage point of life’s daily travail.

The story is told of a small party of adventurers hacking their way through a dense jungle. Tired, hungry and blistered they come to a clearing. As they rest they hear a helicopter approach. It lands, and one of the party climbs aboard. When the helicopter rises the adventurer can see many things: hills, streams, villages and, in the distance, the mountain that he knows intuitively is their goal. He also sees, about one hundred yards from the trail they had been hacking and running parallel to it, an asphalt road. When the helicopter lands again, the adventurer takes his party, turns ninety degrees, and hacks the short distance to the roadway.

This, to me, is transcendence.


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S is for Set-up

book - pencil writingI have a plan for the Women of the Bible series even though I’m not an outliner. Some writers never type a word without a completed outline. Others are what we call “pantsters” -writing by the seat of our pants – developing the story as it comes out on the screen in front of us.

I began writing as more of an organic/pantster writer, but as I’ve written more books I have developed an appreciation for what an outline can add. Now I have a combination that works for me, a little from both the structured and the unstructured worlds. I start out writing organizally first, as the story just flows out of me, and then I use a story board to keep myself organized. If I need to keep my timeline straight then I include a “work-in-progress” outline as part of the process.

Setting up my stories is more than just adapting a structure. I put my characters into situations where they face physical and spiritual crises in their lives, reach a point of realization that they cannot solve it themselves, arrive at the end of their rope, and then encounter Jesus. The whole story up to that point has been set up so that the reader experiences the character’s circumstances as they unfold, identifies with the character’s frustrations and disappointments, and then walks with the character through a change of heart after she talks one-on-one with Jesus.

My own point of view about Christianity is not particularly dogmatic. The value I have found in following a Christian path is that life events that might otherwise be enraging, defeating or terrifying become spiritual lessons which, when learned, make me a better person – to my family, to my friends, to my readers and to my God. But I also know that anyone can follow such a path, we only need to make the choice. Consequently, I write my stories from a Judeo/Christian perspective, but I try to do it in a way that will appeal to any reader of any conviction.

So when I set my stories up I’m not aiming at converting my readers to Christianity in any of its forms. It’s nice if that happens, but it isn’t my goal or purpose.

My true goal is to tell stories that define and resolve spiritual dilemmas in ways that parallel what we know about the words and the message of Jesus.


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R is for Respect

Christ with Mary and Martha Henryk SemiradskyIn some ways the women’s world of the first-century hasn’t changed. I know that some of you who read this will disagree, and I never expect universal agreement with any of my views, but when it comes to “respect for women” it’s hard to deny the truth of the proposition that women today must still put up with a lot of disrespect from men, from governments, even from other women.

For me, respect is a lynchpin of relationships, whether it is between me and a friend, me and my husband, me and my children, or between me and my God. Without getting into etymology or philosophy, I will put it simply like this: If I feel heard then I can assume there is respect for me in another person. A lack of respect between and among people is the fountain from which injustice springs.

The first-century women I write about lived in a world where women were little more than property. The Fishermans Wife - full coverUnder Jewish law, the marriage contract at that time did commit a husband to provide food and shelter for his wife. However, he could divorce her if she could not give him children. Her family was expected to provide a dowry to “sweeten the deal.” In some cases a woman could inherit, but it was usually tied to a minor son. A woman had some rights under Jewish law that women in the surrounding cultures did not have, but that should not be confused with whether they received actual respect. Much like today, some men had great respect for their women, most did not, and the penalties for exhibiting contempt for a woman were episodic and capricious. It was generally regarded as a greater crime for a man to come between another man and his wife than it was for the other man to do to his wife whatever required such an intervention.

When Jesus began teaching he included women in his inner circle, which was counter to his culture and religion. He spoke directly to women; and, just as important, he listened to them and gave weight to their words. In short, he treated them as equals. He made no differentiation between men and women when it came to his message of how to live with one other.

It is subtle, and it actually takes up very little of each storyline, but Jesus’ respect for women is a central message of every story I write.


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Q is for Qualities

Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount Gustave DoreI have favorite characters that I admire in the bible. What makes me admire them is the qualities of their personalities. Writing Christian and historical fiction gives me access to real people, some with admirable qualities and some with twisted and sinister qualities, but the characters that I develop from small clues offer a chance to use each person as an example of  the qualities that I want represented in my stories.

Jesus possessed certain qualities that are both well-known and common to almost all characterizations: compassion, forgiveness and self-sacrifice. What I want to do in my stories is focus on qualities that aren’t usually mentioned.

I focus on two qualities that I believe Jesus must have had in order to perform the miracles that he did: intelligence and insight.

As a human being, Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a small village of craftsmen in Galilee. He was not highly educated in a contemporary sense, but he was a rabbi, a teacher, so he was educated in Judaism – the Torah and the Law of Moses. On the other hand we tend to take it for granted that the “God” dimension of him created the universe. We can’t be sure how much the “human” dimension consciously knew or when he knew it, but in the nature of what he accomplished we see that he must have been extraordinarily intelligent.

We see his insightfulness by how he perceives and interacts with other people in the scriptures. Often with just a word, and sometimes with just a look into their eyes, he captures the essence of individuals with whom he comes in contact, reading their hearts, capturing their pain, defining their turmoil, liberating their unique holiness.

In his encounters with my main characters, Jesus talks to them empathetically about whatever disturbs, limits or incapacitates them. He blesses them not only with physical healing but also with a change of heart – a change of viewpoint and a change in how they live their lives.

These qualities have grown and expanded to fill many people in the world, and it’s interesting to me how many of us can spot them by the words they speak, by the examples they set, and by the hearts they touch.


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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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