The Times They Are a-Changin’!

I remember hearing my grandparents and, later, my parents complaining about how quickly the world was changing and how more and more they felt “left behind.” I was clueless and couldn’t relate–until the years began to change my perspective.

When I first got into writing/publishing (WAY back in the Dark Ages, around the early 1980s), my job was actually much simpler. True, I had to write on an IBM Selectric typewriter, as opposed to the PC sitting on my lap at the moment, but I didn’t have to do any self-promoting or social networking or send out email blasts or monthly newsletter or… Well, you get the picture.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that things were indeed changing rapidly, and if I didn’t get on-board, I too–like my grandparents and parents before me–would be left behind. So I dug in and learned all this “newfangled” stuff like marketing and networking, etc., and I thought I’d made peace with that. Until recently…

Now I find myself being contacted about movie and film possibilities for my books. Yeah, I know, a great problem to have, right? Although nothing definite yet, we are certainly making progress in the right direction for seeing one of my stories on the “big screen.” But the tough part for me is that I’m simply not a movie fan. I almost never go to the movies and scarcely watch them on TV. I would so much rather read a book! But that’s another change I’m learning to cope with, as I take on new challenges of scriptwriting and all that goes with it.

As a result I find myself wondering about my favorite people: readers. How do you all feel about it? Are you strictly book people, or do you cross over into movies? What sort of movies capture your attention and make you want to come back for more? As I make this new change, I’d love input from people I respect, and I imagine my fellow authors feel the same. Thanks, dear readers!

New Release–A GRAND TETON SLEIGH RIDE by Elizabeth Goddard and Lynette Sowell

I’m pleased to announce a new release by two Christians Read authors–Elizabeth Goddard (that’s me!) and Lynette Sowell. Lynette and I have been talking about writing a story set in Jackson Hole for years and finally got something submitted last summer that was quickly picked up by our editor. My husband and I spent many anniversaries skiing at Teton Village near Jackson. We’d stay with his aunt and uncle who lived in a beautiful cabin near the entrance to Yellowstone. She was the postmaster at Moran Junction. Many summers when I was growing up,  my parents would take us to Yellowstone National Park–one of my favorite places in the world. And one of the most famous mountain ranges—a picture of the Tetons graces many a dentist and doctor’s office. Ha!AGrandTetonSleighRide

A Grant Teton Sleigh Ride is a generational (historical) novella collection. Many changes happened in our nation over this time period–electricity and automobiles, two of the biggest changes. But Jackson Hole was often isolated when the Teton Pass was well. . .unpasseable, and folks often return to their horse-drawn sleighs in the winter well into the twentieth century.

Lynette and I loved researching these stories. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them!

Wyoming’s spectacular mountains have drawn many—from trappers to ranchers to skiing enthusiasts. This Christmas, spend the holidays with the Covington family, who have called Wyoming home for generations. Rough, bristly rancher Zebulon sets his sights on eastern lady Belle Murray. Forward-thinking Emily would rather stay a dog musher than become a bride. Outfitter Sam wants to make his name in Wyoming—not say “I do.”  Hayley’s quest for her father’s approval goes sour when she takes an interest in a local ski bum. Will four festive sleigh rides rein in romance?

A Grand Teton Sleigh Ride releases September 1st in both electronic format (Kindle) and paperback, wherever books are sold. Pre-order your copy today!

 

 

Blessings!

Elizabeth Goddard

Lynette Sowell

Time to regroup…

The ocean, a restful place -- Siesta Key Beach, Florida.

The ocean, a restful place — Siesta Key Beach, Florida.

There are times when we’ve gotten so busy or overwhelmed with life and all the goings-on, we like to say, “I need time to regroup.” And sometimes, that’s exactly what we need. Whether it’s job woes, family “stuff,” the general busy-ness that so easily invades our lives, everything all piled on–there are moments when we know it’s time to put on the brakes. So this year, after the rollercoaster ride of 2013, I’ve felt that need to regroup a bit.

But life in its ever-flowing route through time, doesn’t give us that pause button. If you have found that pause button, let me know where it is. Because I haven’t found that switch to throw that will let me disappear with my hubby on an island to rest, reflect and reenergize.

I looked up the definition of the word regrouping, or regroup. Regrouping, in one of its definition, is also a math term. (Blech) The other definition says something along the lines of, “reassemble or cause to reassemble into organized groups, typically after being attackedd or defeated.” 

Oh, joy. 

One of my favorite verses comes from the book of Matthew, at the end of the chapter: 

“Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.” Matt. 11:28, The Message 

It is so often quoted because of the comfort it gives us, in “letters in red” straight from Jesus. He did’t say we won’t have to work, that we won’t wear a yoke, that we’ll never have burdens. He asks to let Him teach us; He’s not a hard taskmaster, laying so many things on our shoulders to be mean. The people He spoke to understood what yokes were for–to keep the oxen in check and guide them while they worked. No, He wasn’t calling us oxen! :)  But the analogy shows me that Jesus will give us a yoke–one to help guide us, get done what we need to do, and stay in line with where we need to be going. 

Sometimes we take things upon ourselves that aren’t from Him. Whether it’s over-committing with good intentions, having work habits that need improving, a need to learn to  be organized–Jesus will give us the grace and strength to do what we need to get done. 

Yes, we will work, we’ll stumbled and slip sometimes. But that promised rest will come. Jesus will give us that rest, but we need to take action ourselves to learn to accept it. My prayer every day is that I will learn to do just that myself!

How do you regroup, get that “rest,” and still keep up with the flow of life? 

About the Ice Bucket Challenge by Julie Arduini

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last week, chances are you’ve seen the Ice Bucket Challenge gone viral to raise awareness and donations for ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Along with the videos, you’ve probably read the comments.

  • How does pouring water over your head help a cause?
  • Why would I participate in something just because someone tagged me?
  • Why not just give the money?
  • Wait, are people donating, or just getting wet?
  • I’m pro-life and have heard organizations use embroyonic stem cells to fight ALS. I don’t want to donate if that’s the case.
  • I’m uncomfortable jumping on a bandwagon that’s so massive, just because.
  • How can we dump water on ourselves when Africans don’t even have wells drilled?

I admit, when I saw it start, I hoped I wouldn’t get tagged. I don’t look great on video, and less so wet. There’s a vulnerability to put myself out there and share.

I also was fairly sure I heard about the embryonic stem cells, and that’s a deal breaker for me. I would want to give to an organization that uses adult stem cells.

I also interacted with people affected by ALS and their response to the videos was incredible. If the world could respond with as much passion to the issues I personally live with and around as they have ALS, I too would be choked up and overwhelmed. It is a terrible disease and I understand the need for awareness. I also know a cure can’t be found without donations.

My step son, Matt, in his ice bucket video.

My step son, Matt, in his ice bucket video.

So, what do you do with all the opinions out there about a video that challenges people to learn about ALS and send money?

My answer is to prayerfully remember your God-given convictions.

When I got tagged by my nephew, my own kids were so excited to respond that they didn’t even wait for me to move ahead. They researched ALS and created the video. They did wait on me to learn about donating.

When I was tagged by one of the girls I minister to Wednesday nights, I knew it was time to make the video. All the girls in the class were tagged and I thought it was a great opportunity to be foolish for Jesus, if you will. They saw me take the time to buy ice and put a call out on when and where we’d do it. They were so giddy to watch and participate, they couldn’t contain themselves, and the parents gave money.

My turn came and it was important for me to say in the spiel that although I was taping on behalf of ALS awareness, I wanted people to respond to a charity they felt comfortable with. For me, I planned to take the monies and donate them to a charity close to these girls and me that I knew where and how the monies were spent. (M’Pact Girls Ministries.) I tagged people who I felt made an eternal impact in the lives of children. I challenged viewers to do the same.

My convictions are different than yours and I think too often and too easily we trip over ourselves about it. I’m not about to participate in anything demonic, but I’m not going to go after anyone that throws water over themselves. I know that it’s a first world excess and I’m aware of third world issues. But my conviction is to be relational with kids and this challenge was a way for me to share the gospel and be with kids. That might work for you, it might not. But it was my conviction.

I might not agree with where all the funds are going, but my answer has been that I am uncomfortable sending to a place that uses embryonic stem cells. I follow with my interest in using adult stem cells, and that I understand the world doesn’t agree with me. That’s my conviction.

I’ve seen arguments rise up over music choices, movies, several things that we end up fighting over and missing the bigger picture. God’s done amazing things using movies like Spiderman to help me share a nugget He revealed to me about unforgiveness. If all I did was watch Biblical movies, I’d miss that. But I understand some people have that conviction. I don’t watch R movies, but I know some very strong Christians who do. It’s their conviction. Alcohol? I know denominations struggle with it because Christians can be all over the map about it. Alcohol is a stumbling block for me and many people I know. That’s my conviction. I’m not afraid to walk into a bar, nor do I look for one. 

Anyway, I thought I’d share my observations. If nothing else, the person/people who created the ice bucket idea are marketing geniuses. As someone who studied marketing, they thought out of the box and it cost them nothing to come up with the idea as far as I can see. Pure genius.

I’m not interested in being a wet blanket. I am passionate about showing people Jesus. 

And I had fun getting wet.

What are your thoughts?

Personal Power

At times we all get mired down by events in our lives, or by the events in the lives of those we love.  When we do, it impacts our judgement, our viewpoint, our perspective, and all of that makes it harder to remember who we are and whose we are.

A few years ago, I recognized this and sought a way to remind myself when I needed reminding.  As for all of us, that’s pretty often.  I spent a lot of time thinking about things, and then I started noting the important points to remember.

One thing that isn’t on the list but is etched in HUGE letters across my heart is to hit my knees first, not as a last resort.  We’re conditioned to try to fix everything, but we don’t see the whole “big picture.”  God has the view, not us.  So hitting the knees first, relying on his view and perspective and judgment can spare us a lot of misery and help us better cope with whatever we must endure.

The rest of my notes, I put in a little business card, then printed it out and I’ve carried it in my wallet ever since.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled it out to remind myself of things when I needed to be reminded–and sometimes when I didn’t.

So I’m including a copy here so that, if you’re inclined, you can print it out and carry it with you.

vicki hinze, personal power

I hope it helps you as much as it’s helped me.

Blessings,

Vicki

___________________________

vicki hinze, forget me not, crossroads crisis center series, Christian Fiction

Crossroads Crisis Center    Book #1

 

 

 

When we forget who we are, do we remember whose we are? 

That’s the question in Forget Me Not, and the one our characters answer in their search for truth and healing.

Read the first chapter HERE.

Advice to the Lovelorn by Hannah Alexander

Advice to the Lovelorn Man

Here we go again! If you enjoy fiction, or reading advice columns, here’s a combination of both as I attempt to guide fictitious characters in their love lives. I believe there’s always a lot of truth in fiction, so I hope we can find some truth here today.

Dear Hannah,

I’m upset. Livid, in fact. I just discovered my best friend, Myra, has been dating a man who nearly ruined my life last year. And she should know better, she’s a psychiatrist! With lies and manipulation, Weston managed to convince Zack, my fiance, that I was having an affair behind his back, and instead of coming to me about it, Zack broke off the engagement. I was devastated, of course. Then when I was at my lowest, Weston convinced me to go to work for him. Little did I know that he had other things in mind. After I worked at his clinic for less than a year–constantly on guard to keep his hands off me–he fired me. The man’s a lecher. And Myra knew all this. So why does she seem to be falling in love with him? What should I do?

And another thing, Zack is back in the picture again. We’ve reconciled, but I’ve found I’m not quite as trusting as I once was. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a wonderful man with a caring heart, but if he was willing to listen to lies about me one time, what’s to stop him from doing the same thing again?

Joy

Dear Joy,

First of all, do you trust your best friend? I agree that what Weston did was heinous, but people do bad things for all kinds of reasons, and unless you can see through his eyes–or, in fact, Myra’s–you’re not in a position to make a sound judgment. If Myra already knows Weston’s tendencies and she’s been seeing him anyway, then perhaps as her friend you should stand beside her. Listen to her if she confides in you. Don’t let her decision to date Weston destroy your friendship.

As for your relationship with Zack, just the fact that you still don’t trust him shows me that the two of you need pre-marital counseling. If you can’t trust him with your whole heart, there’s a break between you already. How much more unstable will the foundation of your relationship become after marriage? Saying those vows won’t change what’s in your heart. Make sure you have a solid foundation for marriage before you stand before the minister and say “I do.”

Hannah

 

Demo Day by Tara Randel

That’s right, demo day. Today begins the remodeling of my kitchen, living and dining room. Which means walls coming down, flooring coming up and general noise and confusion. And during this renovation I must also finish writing projects.

I’ve been emptying out cabinets for three days. Why do we let ourselves accumulate so much stuff! At least I can purge during this process.

While I’m excited, the prospect of not having a kitchen for 4-5 weeks is daunting. Good thing only my husband and I live in the house. Well, the cats too, but I expect they’ll be so wigged out over all the commotion that I won’t see them much.

It’s during times like this, when everything is out of my control, that I learn to trust in the Lord, because He is in control. No matter the circumstances of life, I know God is with me every step of the way. You don’t need a major remodel of your home to know that life can be messy and loud. But in those quiet times spent with just you and God, there can be peace and joy.

So while I clean out my cabinets and move furniture, I’ll sing songs of praise and thank God that he has me in his hand no matter what I go through in life. And if you’ve been through the renovation process and have a few words of wisdom to share. let me know!

What I Wish the World Knew About Depression by Julie Arduini

I was stunned to open my Facebook feed and find it full of tributes to Robin Williams. I knew he wasn’t even 65, so I wondered if it was his heart. I was devastated to read and now know it was a suicide.

His family shared that he had been struggling with deep depression. His own confessions regarded his addictions. I love to read biographies and such and most of the great comedians had ravaging inner pain. Many medicate with alcohol or drugs. All in that category used humor, and we found it entertaining.

Robin Williams photo: London DSCN1435.jpg

I suspect his death is especially hard because his talents knew no bounds. Hysterical stand-up. Oscar winning drama. Laugh out loud interviews he hijacked. Touching tributes to causes and people like St. Jude’s. TV. Movies. I can’t think of another person like him, not before, not up-and-coming.

Now my Facebook feed is full of posts, articles, updates and comments regarding depression, suicide, God’s word, eternity. I don’t think any of these help his family. I pray something does. I can’t imagine the torment of anyone left behind after a suicide.

My hope is that through my small experience with depression someone might get a glimpse of what it is like. It took decades for me to realize I had hormonal imbalance. I suffered with severe PCOS, so I’m not sure if the two were related. But when I was in a certain time of the month I could feel a change and it was as ominous as a dark cloud and still night in the midwest. Nothing would be wrong otherwise and a thick veil of darkness consumed me. I was rocked with shame, for what, I don’t know. But it perpetuated knowing people needed me. The physical drain, almost like a vaccuum suck somehow took all energy and joy out of me left it impossible to manage the easiest of tasks. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. I simply could not. Like I said, it was absolutely consuming.

This would hit hard for twenty minutes straight. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’ll be real here. It was such an intense darkness that I can think of many times I got a suitcase out and started to pack. I thought if I ran somewhere, anywhere, my family would be free of what my torment delayed them in having.

Three times I can recall walking to the medicine cabinet. I picked up pills and stared. I knew what I was contemplating but I was that void of hope and that full of desperation. And yes, this was as a Christian, and a strong one at that.

I longed for someone to bust in the door when I’d hide and tell me I was worth it. Who would hold me and let me cry or ooze the darkness out in whatever way. No one did. For those closest to me, they admitted they didn’t know what to do. They thought I wanted to be alone. I felt like I had no choice.

My story has a happy ending, and it is only by the grace of God. I finally broke down and confessed everything to my doctor. I now take a prescription medication that balances my moods and curbs menopause effects. Even with a hysterectomy, I still struggle. I’m upfront when I’m having a hard time. It’s not as dark or isolating but I get frustrated. My memory isn’t what it used to be. I have trouble sleeping. I tire easily than I used to. But it’s no where near where it was.

What do I wish the world knew?

1. It’s the darkest, most isolating and oppressive experience in the world. If you haven’t experienced it, you shouldn’t give answers as an expert.

2. It’s a vicious cycle, always looming. Just when you start to crawl out of the pit, there is a tug on your ankle threatening to pull you down and keep you there. It is frightening.

3. Isolation is the game plan of oppression. Love the person, no matter how much they protest, that they are going out with you for coffee. Show up with bagels. They will say they are busy and fine. Show up anyway.

4. If you’re not sure what to say, admit that. Transparency is an oasis. Patronizing, packaged answers are a wasteland. I didn’t feel better when I heard “I don’t know what your problem is.” Or, “You just need to snap out of it.” If I could have, I promise you, I would have led the way.

5. Jesus Christ CAN set you free. I admitted above that even as a Christian I struggled, so I get that you might argue why bother? Because without Him, I promise you, I’d be a dead statistic. Knowing HIm gave me enough hope to speak out, to call and seek help. I could picture Him next to me, weeping with me. That helped me so much. He is real, He is for you. Don’t go another step without Him.

To learn more, please visit the following: peacewithGod.net

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Advice to the Lovelorn Man by Hannah Alexander

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I’ve always wondered what it would be like to include an advice column in one of my novels. It isn’t something I’d ever consider doing in real life, because I don’t want the responsibility of messing up a living person’s life with the wrong advice–and I’m capable of doing just that. I’m a novelist, after all, not a psychiatrist. However, I have a fictional character in need, and I’m going to attempt to help him here. If you have words of advice for him, I’d welcome them, because he’s in dire straits emotionally right now in the novel I’m writing. Prepare to suspend disbelief…

 

Dear Hannah,

You’re my last hope. I’ve done practically everything wrong my whole life, and in doing so have doubled my family’s wealth while hurting those most dear to me. I would give away my billions for a do-over. I realize you’re not a priest-confessor, but you have the power to change my life. I’m sorry for trampling the hearts of my ex-wife and my daughter in order to rake in the money. I nearly ruined the life of the best doctor who ever worked for me by breaking her engagement with lies to get her for myself. After a recent brush with death I’ve taken a new look at myself, and I hate what I see. My ex-wife has found love again, my daughter is growing up with me in the periphery of her life. There is a woman I truly love, but she’s so much more honorable than I. How do I make up for all the harm I’ve done? How do I become worthy of this woman I love?

Weston

Dear Weston,

In the Bible, Jesus told the rich young ruler to give up all his wealth to follow Him. You said you’d be willing to give away your billions for a do-over, but would you really? Can you possibly stop depending on wealth to define yourself? You’ve lived so long for the next high of cutting a deal, manipulating others to serve you. Can you live without that? Money is all you’ve known or understood. If you were to marry this worthy woman you love, would you truly love her, or would you go back to your old habits? I’m sorry, but you’ll need to prove yourself by doing what you said. Let me know what you decide.

Hannah

 

Trusting God by Julie Arduini

I’ve been hit and miss blogging here this summer. I’d love to say it’s because I’m hunkered down with re writes and marketing plans now that contracts are signed. Although there’s truth to that, our family has been on a crazy ride this season.

We’ve had travels for family visits and our teen son’s missions trip. The bulk of our time has been searching for a new home. Last month we thought we found it. The offer was accepted and things seemed in motion. Deep down I sensed something was off, but I didn’t want to think about it. Red flags started popping up, but we didn’t think much of it. We dismissed them as inconveniences.

And the deal fell through.

Once we recovered from the shock we all confessed we felt this was going to happen. The challenge was to move past the emotions and trust God to move us forward. Literally.

There was one object lesson that gave me the courage to keep that process at the Lord’s feet. I’m a visual person and when this showed up on my Facebook feed, I felt the urge to save it. Now I know why.

Artist unknown. First appeared on Facebook.

Artist unknown. First appeared on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The house we thought would be ours was nice. There was an open floor plan and space for entertaining, yet for us to recharge as an introverted family. It was designed similar to the home we left behind in our faith move from Upstate NY to Ohio. The yard was huge. There were “extras” we didn’t even pray about.

But fast forward past the deal falling through and choosing to move on, we are now on track to close on a new home even better than that one. This house has more space and bigger bedrooms. Cozier. A gorgeous neighborhood with breathtaking landscaping and privacy. So much more, and yet, $15K less than the last house. The sellers left a list of items they can’t take with them and gave us first shot at buying at a reasonable price. Nearly everything we needed was on that list and it saved us a lot of money.

Isn’t God good?

I wish that was my only lesson in the making this summer. With our current home, I was certain we’d be selling. Put a sign in the yard, the people come, we negotiate, done.

Not so fast.

As we’ve made repairs and cleaned out, we’ve prayed every step of the way. When we asked our agent to tour the house and share her insight she was honest. We were taken before the recession with the appraisal. The house will never appraise at the amount we need it to. Many families were taken like we were. Some lost their jobs after the recession and were forced into banktruptcy. They can’t buy right now—but next year—they can.

Her suggestion was to rent our current house out.

At first I couldn’t even entertain it. Afterall, it’s always about buying and selling. Not buying and renting. Right?

Our answer might not be everyone’s but we laid this down in prayer. And I felt such peace. Our agent has provided helps so we’re informed and protected the best we can. By focusing on that visual above, I was able to hand my plan for a straight sell and consider His plan.

Trusting God is so hard. That’s what makes the reward of faith so rich. We can’t see what’s ahead. We have to believe His best for us is the plan. When Eve sinned her real motivation was far. She didn’t think God would come through for her.

Boy, do I relate.

My prayer for you is if trusting God is a struggle, surrender that fear. The same inspectors that went through the first house also inspected this home we plan on moving into. They couldn’t believe we’re getting more house for less money. Over and over they said, “God’s sure blessing you.” They even pointed to the design on the doors, a cross. “See, even down to the door. A cross. God’s blessing you.”

Trust Him to bless you, too. Not for things, don’t get me wrong. As excited as I am for this house, the real blessing here is peace. Unity. And favor.

Trust Him today.

Words, Words, Words

Have you ever wondered what there is left to say? The words I write every day are the outgrowth of a yearning to express something lasting, something meaningful, entertaining, special. As God spoke creation into being, his breath stirred creative wonder within us. He gave us the ability to imagine and the desire to share our imaginings.

Rene Descartes said, “Cogito ergo sum.” I think, therefore I am. There’s no denying God has imbued every individual with a unique perspective and experience, and myriads choose to express it through written words. I love to teach aspiring writers, to see the energy and hope, the joy in the journey. I love to impart skills and encourage tenacity. I urge all of us to strive for excellence in expressing the stories we’re given to write.

Stories have power and purpose. They have the power to change lives–for good or ill.

But now it seems the literary world is inundated with words–EVERYONE with something to say and the avenue to say it, with or without the basic tenets of our language, the resonance of words used well–or correctly. And even with things written well, there’s the repetition, the repetition, the repetition. How many times can the tropes be rehashed in mind-numbing redundancy? In the immortal words of the Grinch, when is it all just noise, noise, noise?

Sometimes I think quiet might be very, very nice.

But then, there’s that flicker inside, that spark that ignites imagination, that unfurling of dialogue wanting a page. There are the characters finding substance in a scene and, always, the agony of the untold story.

Is it better to love a reader?

256px-Photograph_of_a_man_and_a_woman_reading_a_bookThe other day while I was out with my daughter, my son-in-law texted her a link describing the many benefits of falling in love with a reader. As you might guess (or know if you’ve read past posts of mine) my daughter is the very definition of an avid reader. So after I sighed with delight over the sentiment expressed in the text itself, I listened with interest as she read the article aloud.

Basically it poses the idea that voracious readers experience life through “deep reading” – in other words, when we’re immersed in a story world we experience a wide spectrum of emotion, learning to see the world not just through our own eyes but through the eyes of a vast array of characters. We become them, and can often understand and then articulate multiple sides while still maintaining our own set of beliefs and values.

This is, of course, the goal of every writer: to create characters so real that when our heroine’s heart thuds at the sight of her hero, the reader’s heart pounds along too. As the first reader of whatever we’re writing, if we writers experience what the characters do, it’s a good bet the reader will go along for the ride. Books that create the ride are a success.

The article itself might be a little fanciful, giving too much credit exclusively to readers (after all, I believe non-readers can be objective, well-versed and empathetic, too). And the title is misleading; it’s not terribly scientific article despite a few links; it’s merely this writer’s opinion. I was, however, surprised at the variety of comments—many supportive, but at least half if not more were offended by the way the article was written. I found that interesting, that people would object to an article extolling the benefits of reading when nearly everyone agrees it’s a good thing. Perhaps the topic caught on among those “skimmers” the article laments are taking the place of deep readers. The original article that inspired this post was from a Time magazine article, and that one evoked only positive responses.

See for yourself! Click here to read the article.

True Character

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One of the things I do when writing a new novel is look for people who would make good, interesting, heroic characters in my books. That’s one of the most fun things to do, and I take them from real life. Here’s an example:

We have an office manager in our clinic, Bonnie, who hates germs. When she drew up the plans for the construction of the clinic and oversaw the work, she didn’t realize she’d soon be working there. She hates goo, she has a very weak stomach. When the rest of the staff starts talking shop, Bonnie gags, loses her appetite, covers her ears and gets away. She’s also shy. She sits in the back row at church. She’ll sneak over to an elderly neighbor’s house and shovel snow when they’re not looking, and get away before anyone knows. How she ended up in her position is a long story, but it wasn’t where she started. She wouldn’t have chosen to work in a doctor’s office, but due to a job switch, and the fact that I knew what a good employee she was, I kind of dragged her into it.

One evening last week I got a call from Bonnie. Her voice was shaking, but she had to tell someone. That evening, I believe Bonnie showed the world–and to her, it felt like the whole world–what she was made of. She was driving the company car behind an elderly man who was riding his small motorcycle slowly with his groceries behind him. Cars raced past him, honking their horns, yelling at him and harassing him to the point he wrecked his bike, tumbling over right there in the middle of the road, scraping blacktop as his groceries went flying.

No one stopped except our shy, germophobe office manager. Bonnie got out and ran into the middle of the road to find out if he was okay, and helped him to the side of the road, despite his protests about his eighteen broken eggs. He had an oxygen mask, and his arm was bleeding. Instead of throwing up, which she expected would happen, she ran to the back of the car and pulled out the medical kit, wrapped his bleeding arm, comforted him by sitting beside him and rubbing his back so he’d stop shaking. (She also stopped him from lighting a cigarette when she saw gasoline leaking from his motorcycle). Then she talked to him while he calmed down. She discovered he was a war veteran. Shy Bonnie tried to flag someone else down to help them because she couldn’t get the motorcycle out of the middle of the road, but no one would stop and help. All her patient was worried about was his eighteen broken eggs, but she knew there could be a worse accident if she didn’t do something.

She finally called 911. In minutes, an ambulance, firetrucks, highway patrol (which had sped past them earlier without stopping) came screaming toward her and this injured old man. I’m sure it was quite a spectacle, and poor Bonnie was just sitting there in the middle of it all, the center of attention with no place to retreat. Then, of course, proving her devotion to us, she pulled out a card for our clinic, and wrote her phone number on it in case the patient needed anything.

When it was all over and the road was cleared and the professionals took over, Bonnie drove to the nearest parking lot and had a mini-panic attack. She was on her way home when she passed a police car sitting beside the road. The policeman flashed his lights at her. She thought it was because he thought she was speeding, but he didn’t pull out and stop her. I think he was giving her a salute for caring enough to help when no one else would stop for an old man on a motorcycle.

Funny, Bonnie has this weird idea that she’s unworthy of attention. She won’t listen when I disagree. But next time she tells me what a mess-up she is, I’ll remind her of this day, and someday soon, she’s going to see her likeness in one of my heroines. It takes more strength to do something that terrifies you and hold it together, than it does if that’s your everyday job, and you’re just plain good at it.

I’m proud of Bonnie. She’s earned herself a place in a novel one day.

 

Calling All Librarian Stories!

I recently attended an international conference for Christian book buyers/sellers from around the world. Now I’m preparing to deliver a keynote speech at a national conference for book lenders—i.e., librarians. I’m excited about this opportunity because I’ve loved libraries since I was a kid. When many of my friends wanted to play outside, I preferred to be holed up in a library, discovering new stories and exciting adventures.
Something tells me many of you are the same way. People who grow up to be avid readers usually developed that passion while they were still children. True, parents are huge influencers when it comes to our love of reading (or lack thereof), but librarians played a large part in that for many of us as well.
If that’s you, please leave a brief story of how a librarian influenced or encouraged you in your younger days, will you? I am collecting these stories to share with the librarians at the conference next week, but also because I want to read them myself. So come on. Tell us your favorite library/librarian story!

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My Take on the Writers Life by Tara Randel

Writing, like any profession, is hard work. Like anything worth striving for, writers put their heart and soul, time and energy, into making each project their very best. I can’t tell you how many times people, when they learn I’m an author, tell me that they want to write their special story and get it published. As with every writer, they have all these ideas they want to share. The first thing I tell them is, sit down and write. Even if you have no idea what is involved in putting a book together, the first step is getting words on paper. Later, after time has passed and I see that friend who wants to write I ask, have you started writing? Making notes? Jotting down ideas? Most of the time the answer I receive is, well, I don’t have time… If you don’t make the time, you can’t expect to be an author.

As a professional who loves what I do, I’ve learned that I have to sit down each day for a certain amount of hours if I want to be successful. This is my job. I have deadlines, word counts I need to reach and certain commitments I make to a publisher. This requires a lot of discipline. I have a day planner beside my computer so I can keep up with the demands of the week or month. Don’t get me wrong, I get great enjoyment from what I do, but I’m not naive enough to think that I can sit down and in a few hours throw something together and expect it to be any good. Writers spend hours carefully choosing words, and on top of that, spend addition hours honing the craft. I still read craft books, still go to writing workshops. To be my best, I put forth the effort to keep my mind coming up with fresh ideas and then applying those ideas to create a book.

Writing has to be a passion. It requires a huge commitment. Waiting is also part of the writers experience. Trust me, this isn’t for the faint of heart, but we do it because we are compelled to write. We have to do this. To those who don’t write, this concept may seem a little nutty, but hey, it is the truth!

No matter what genre we write for, there is an expectation from the reader. Again, this is where I have to make sure I work extra hard at delivering. That means a first, second, third, and probably more, draft of my story. And still I’m not finished. Readers will pick up our books and expect a story that touches their hearts and emotions. Which means I have to nail that. So I plot and I plan, I create characters that I love first and hope the readers will also come to love later.

Did I mention that I LOVE what I do? Every day I am thankful that I get to sit down at my computer and live in a world that I’ve created and hang around with characters I’ve come to think of as friends. Anyone who wants to join the ranks of the author can do so, just be prepared to put in the time. Once you do, you’ll see that a writer’s life isn’t glamorous, but it is very satisfying.

 

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