Step Four in our journey with Moby Dick

How did I choose to write my master’s thesis about Moby Dick? Here’s the first part of my thesis introduction.

Norton Edition Moby Dick CoverSince the 1920s, Herman Melville’s great American novel Moby Dick has been the subject of literary, religious, social, and psychological analysis, movies, television mini-series, Far Side cartoons, Internet sites (both serious and humorous) and countless other forms of commentary. In every generation and with each new academic approach, this multi-layered work continues to inspire interpretation in many forms. Though many non-academic people may not have read the novel, who has not at least heard about Captain Ahab, the monomaniacal whaler who chases to the death the white whale who bit off his leg? (At left is a picture of my much-used copy of the book.)

After hearing of Moby Dick all my life, I at last read it for a class in graduate school and was surprised at how complex and, at the same time, how simple the story is. Because I am a romance writer and I am always looking for romantic stories, one minor detail of the epic tale jumped off the page as I read: Captain Ahab had a wife! Who knew? Immediately, I was intrigued. What kind of girl—Ahab calls her his “young girl-wife”—would marry such a crazy old man as Ahab? What made her fall in love with him? What kind of romance did they have? What did she do while he was away at sea? How did she cope with his monomania after he lost his leg?

After perusing hundreds of articles and books on Melville, and on Moby Dick in particular, I was surprised to see that very few commentators make reference to this wife or to the child she bore Ahab. It seems as if Melville, by mentioning her only in passing, is merely using her as a tool to demonstrate that “Ahab has his humanities, as Captain Peleg assures us. This incidental mention by the author rightly concerns feminist readers, who see it as a typical example of nineteenth-century dismissal of the value of women and women’s work to society. But, after all, Moby Dick is first and foremost a book about one man’s attempt to avenge himself against the whale who wounded him. And, of course, Herman Melville did not write about women with any great degree of understanding in any of his books or stories.

Still, I am intrigued by the idea that a young woman would marry this old whaling captain. I am also curious to know why Ahab would marry “past fifty” when he had been content to be a bachelor all his life. On the surface, there is not much to go on. There are only two mentions of this unnamed wife in the entire four-hundred-and-seventy-page Norton Critical Edition of the book. To my feelings of intrigue and curiosity, add the element of challenge. I’m going to find out who these people are, and I’m going to write the story of their romance! But how do I make this character my own?

What do we know about Captain Ahab? All we know of him is related to us by Ishmael, who narrates the novel. But in addition to his own observations, Ishmael gives us the words and viewpoints of others, so we have much scuttlebutt and many opinions about Ahab. To whom should I listen if I am to find out why our young girl, whom I have named Hannah, loves Ahab? I decided that Ishmael’s views of Ahab can be trusted. He writes from the viewpoint of one who loves/admires Ahab but who also sees his flaws. What Ishmael observes can be believed, for only he speaks with affectionate objectively. The ideas of other characters who speak of Ahab must go through a filter to strain out superstition, fear, anger, self-delusion, and self-interest. Thus, if Ishmael is reporting something another character has said about Ahab or his wife, I don’t necessarily have to believe it, for it merely forms a part of the myth of Ahab.

A wise and brilliant captain: FMIB_34731_On_his_Back,_with_his_Jaw_in_the_First_Biting_PositionFrom Ishmael, I learn that Ahab’s “firmest fortitude [and] determinate, unsurrendered wilfulness” earn him the respect and awe of his crew. His lance (harpoon) is the “keenest and surest” out of Nantucket. He “lowers”—gets into the whaleboat—along with the rest of the crew in the active pursuit of the whale. He is a wise and brilliant captain, knowing how to rule his tiny shipboard kingdom in order to keep everyone alive at sea for three or four years at a time (89). He can be a harsh taskmaster to his crew, but he is not unjust. He will reward hard work and give incentives to his men at the appropriate time. This is what the real-life whaling captains of American history were like. (The picture above is from Wiki Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42887975.)Moby_Dick_final_chase

Admirable qualities: Adding to the typical attributes of a good captain, Ahab has many other admirable qualities. He is a strong, powerfully built man, resembling Cellini’s cast bronze statue of the Greek hero Perseus. Despite a rod-like scar down one side of his face, he is strikingly handsome in appearance. He has had a long, successful career in whaling to the point that he has become a legend in the industry, especially in his home port of Nantucket. He is a god-like man and far above average. He has visited other cultures and has learned to accept hard-working men of all races without prejudice. He can be tenderhearted, as in the case of poor, mad Pip, his little cabin boy. He dotes on his son, speaks fondly of his wife, and would gladly be back home to sit with her by the fireside if he were not driven by his quest. He has confidence in his wife’s love and devotion, knowing she will tell their son about him every day. (Picture above from Wiki Commons.)

Less admirable qualities: We also learn of Ahab’s less admirable qualities from Ishmael. He acknowledges that there is a God, but he is angry with Him even before his injury, seeing Him as unjust. Ahab has had prophecies made about him ever since the time his “crazy, widowed mother” gave him the name of an evil Biblical king and a Gay Head Indian woman, Tistig, said it “would somehow prove prophetic.” Others have made prophecies about him, as well, usually because of some aberrant behavior on his part. He has had a checkered past, having done numerous rash things in his younger years, such as spitting in a calabash (breaking a heathen taboo) and fighting with a Spaniard in a church (breaking a Christian code of behavior). And he lost his leg according to a prophecy.

Believable reports: In addition to Ishmael, I believe Starbuck’s insights regarding Ahab because the young Quaker is a practical man, courageously but carefully involved in the dangerous pursuit of whales only in order to provide for his family. He is also a man of integrity and spiritual insights. He cannot rebel against or kill Ahab to save himself or the crew because of his religious conviction against murder. Yet he is filled with anger toward Ahab, knowing that his monomania will destroy them all. Therefore, when he looks into Ahab’s eyes and sees that the captain has a moment of sanity, he seizes that opportunity to beg Ahab to forsake his mad quest. As a loving husband and father, Starbuck recognizes another man’s love for his family. I also believe the prophet Elijah and Pip because they both are mad and see with the eyes of mystics.

Less believable reports: On the other hand, comments made by Captain Bildad, Captain Peleg, or any crew members may be filled with rumors and superstition and therefore may not be accurate. For instance, the lightning scar that extends down Ahab’s face and disappears beneath his collar is thought to extend clear to the sole of his foot. But the man who relates that story has never seen that it does and is only passing on what someone else has said. If I doubt an account, I do not have to give it credence.

Putting it together: Using these tools, I began my construction of my own Captain Ahab. I think that, as a man who has proven himself with prodigious success in his own arena, Ahab will be comfortable with himself no matter where he goes, including the upper echelons of the whaling society. Just as he knows how to figure out any problem that arises on his ship in the middle of the ocean, he can also figure out how to navigate social waters. Though not ashamed of his Nantucket heritage, he may forsake his usual Quaker-sounding “thees” and “thous” until he is certain that it will not bring contempt from his listeners. He has learned some hard lessons in life and will avoid unnecessary unpleasantries in social situations, which are, after all, only temporary gams to him.

More rocky parts of Ahab’s history: An important factor in Ahab’s development concerns an incident that happened to him “off Cape Horn…when he lay like dead for three days and nights” some years before he lost his leg. This undetailed report from Elijah provides me with an opportunity for creating a reason for Ahab to take a ship from New Bedford rather than his home port, Nantucket, from whence he has always shipped. If he had an illness while at sea, it may have sobered him from his rash ways. He might have begun to rethink his life and to make a few changes after thirty years of whaling, if only to try shipping out from a different port.

My creative juices start to flow: At this point in Ahab’s life, these events might also prime him for meeting an appealing woman and getting married, though I do not think he would be aware of that aspect of his search for change. Ahab will be surprised by his love for Hannah. From the moment he sees her, he will be thinking “What a woman!” But what kind of woman might Ahab fall in love with? We’ll discuss that next time.

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A Never Ending Story – The Series by Mary Alford

To Be Continued words on a clock to illustrate a movie, tv show,

Have you ever reached the end of a great book and thought, “No! That can’t be it. I’m not ready for it to end…”

I think most of us have had that type of reaction to a book that drew us in from page one and held us captive until the end. I know I certainly have on many occasions.

This is the very reason the series is so appealing to us. The story we fell in love with goes on, just in a different way. We can still catch up with our favorite characters, but in addition, we’re introduced to a whole new story that will hopefully make us fall in love all over again.

Still, not every book is destined to be a series.

So what makes a book series worthy? Well, at the core of every series you have great characters:

Obviously, a key ingredient in creating any great series is having an array of interesting secondary characters to complement the hero and heroine and make the reader want to know what happens to them as well.

But there has to be more to a good series than its characters. You need a fresh storyline that’s different from the first book and one that will set it apart and make the reader want to read it.

So, we have a great set of characters and a storyline that is intriguing. What’s next?

Location, location, location. The location where the story is set is key to the story and the series’ success. In Framed For Murder, book three of my Scorpion Team series, is set in the mountains of Colorado as well as the tundra of Alaska. The rugged backdrop of the mountains adds to the suspense of the story.

So, we have great characters, and intriguing storyline and the perfect location. Now comes the end?

Surprise! – The Perfect Ending.

I think what makes for a great series is that the ending both surprises and satisfies us. The story ends, but there’s still room for more.

framed for murder cover 1

About Framed for Murder – available at Amazon:

FALSELY ACCUSED

Framed for helping her partner smuggle guns—and then murdering him—CIA agent Liz Ramirez must find the evidence that will prove her innocence…before she’s caught or killed. So when her squad’s leader attempts to bring her in for questioning, she knows her future depends on convincing Aaron Foster to go rogue and help her. On the run from the rest of her team and the gun dealers who are convinced she knows the location of their missing weapons, Liz risks losing the proof that would clear her name. But will eluding her pursuers—and trying not to fall for the handsome commander—prove to be fatal?

 

 

 

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To the Fair by Tara Randel

Every February the Florida State Fair takes place in Tampa at the fairgrounds. When my girls were little, we pulled them out of school for a day of petting animals, watching shows and marveling over the different kinds of fried food vendors offered. As the girls got older, and more busy with school and activities, we didn’t make our annual visit.

Until a few years ago. My youngest daughter, older now and clearly nostalgic, wanted to visit the fair. So for the past four years, we’ve make a full day of it.

Cracker Country is a favorite of mine. Old wooden buildings were moved to fairgrounds to show how people lived in the 1800’s. A one-room schoolhouse, general store, post office, church, train station, just to name a few, now celebrate Florida history. Children can walk though the structures and hear stories from volunteers, informing curious minds about what went on in the buildings and how things are so very different today. Volunteers wear period costumes and work just like they lived back then, dipping candles in hot beeswax, pounding out nails from scraps of metal, twisting rope, and giving us a glimpse of what life was like before electricity.

Then there are the art projects from students all over the state. Oil, watercolor, ceramics, fabric, photography, from first grade on up, each as intriguing as the next.

Of course, you can’t go to the fair and not visit the animals. Baby goats are my favorite. There are also plenty of livestock to observe and every year a calf or two is born.

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This year’s highlight? My daughter rode a camel. A camel.

Then there are all the free shows and exhibits; illusionists, trained rescue dogs who are clearly treated well and loved by their owners, 4H projects, and the pig races. Yep, we have those too.

Probably the most important aspect of the outing is this; spending time with my family, unplugged for a few hours of simple entertainment and enjoyment. Spending the day outdoors, under the sun, eating food that is not good for us in any way, shape or form. But hey, you can’t beat deep fried Oreo cookie dough. I figure once a year won’t hurt me.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS ONE AND ONLY BRIDE, available now.  Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

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To Learn or Not to Learn by Marilyn Turk

Have you ever met someone who seems to know it all? Or maybe you’ve dealt with children who believe they know more than you do? It’s very frustrating to deal with these people because when you try to help them or correct their errors, they refuse to listen.

As an author, I’m often asked how I became an author, and even more importantly, how others can become authors too.

Truthfully, the longer I’ve been an author which is ten years now, the more I realize how much more there is to know about being an author, that is, a GOOD author.

In today’s world of self-publishing, literally anyone can be an author. You can pay someone to publish your book, or you can do it yourself. The end result – your name is in print. But is that what it means to be an author? In my humble opinion, no, not a GOOD one.

Like you, I have some favorite authors. I love the way they spin a tale, create word pictures, evoke feelings and transport me to other places and times. I want to write as well as they do. But once I take a look at how long those authors have studied the craft, how many years they’ve put into their work, and how many books they’ve produced, I see a vast difference in my own development. Compared to my favorite authors, I’m still a beginner and have a lot to learn, therefore I continue to strive to improve.

Which brings me back to what makes a GOOD author vs a published author. Before self-publishing, it was very difficult to get published. Authors had to pass a number of hurdles, among them learning how to submit clean, edited, grammar-correct manuscripts. Today, traditional publishers still expect clean manuscripts devoid of errors. But unfortunately, many self-published authors skip the editing process or find someone not professionally trained to edit their work before it’s published. The result is a book filled with editorial errors.

I have a friend who started writing a few years ago and wanted to be published, so she found a vanity press and paid them a lot of money to publish her book. She followed that book with another, then another. To her hometown, she is a success. I tried to read her books and couldn’t get past the errors.

She asked me how she could get her books published by traditional publishers, and I carefully tried to direct her to writers’ conferences, hoping she’d learn a few things that would improve her writing. But instead, she told me she thought her experience qualified her to teach a class at a conference herself. Obviously, she does not see her need for improvement. And unless you realize your need, how can you accept instruction?

So I guess it boils down to what your goal is. Do you want to be an author, or a GOOD author? If your answer is the latter, then keep learning.

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,” Proverbs 16:20

 

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Valentine’s Day -Thumbs Up or Down?

Valentine’s Day -Thumbs Up or Down? by Lyn Cote

Last Thursday I took part in a Valentine’s Day Party on Facebook. One of the authors asked the readers–How did you meet your husband or true love? It seemed an appropriate question for that event. Two readers, however, responded that they were single and were happy to be. And I thought-YES! I know that it’s harder being single on a day when the world (our world) celebrates couples but being single can be a positive choice. I’d rather to happily single than unhappily married, know what I mean? I’m sure you do.

I met my husband at church when we were in our mid-twenties and have been together for over forty years. I feel blessed because he has proven to be a good friend and a good father to our kids and he’s got a romantic soul–twice a year. On Valentine’s Day and our anniversary. I mean he was an electrical engineer–all right? Romance is a stretch for him! 🙂 So I hope whether single or “coupled” that you enjoy Valentine’s Day.

Fun Fact: Necco Sweethearts — a.k.a. conversation hearts — were invented in 1866. Each box has approximately 45 sayings — including “True Love,” “Hug Me,” and “You Rock” — but you can personalize your own, too. And about 10 new sayings are added each year. So how about that???–Lyn Cote

Welcome to Steadfast, a town whose people and mysteries

you may never forget~

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BTW, my wintry romance, WINTER’S SECRET, is still FREE on all online retailers. Click here. https://booksbylyncote.com/SWBS/books-by-lyn/winters-secret

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The Everyday Heroes

The Everyday Heroes

By Margaret Daley

I’m starting a new series called Everyday Heroes. I finished a long series about Strong Women and had so much fun writing about women who went through difficult, extraordinary situations. I featured different professional women from a teacher to law enforcement officer to a woman running a rodeo company.

Brave Fireman Descends Stairs of a Burning Building with a Saved

What makes a hero? I think of soldiers, police officer, firefighter and people like Rev. Martin Luther King. But heroes are more than their profession.  A hero can be an everyday man who does something heroic/extraordinary. I asked my readers what they thought made up a hero. Here are some of the replies:

“knows how to treat and take care of a woman”

“someone with honesty, integrity and a love for fellow human beings and animals”

“doesn’t need praise or thanks for what he’d done”

“kind, gentle person”

“loyal, self-sacrificing and protective”

“having faith in Christ”

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Certain jobs (as I noted above) create situations where a man can be a hero. But I want to show not only those professions but others. In my first book in the series, Hunted. The hero, an ex-Wall Street financial advisor, Luke Michaels, owns a horse farm. He often is involved in search and rescues with his German shepherd, Shep. He’s camping by the river when he sees a woman being thrown off a high bridge by two men. He doesn’t think twice. He runs through the woods and dives into the water to save her.

What do you think are qualities of a hero?

 

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Blurb for Hunted:

Murder. On the Run. Second Chances.

Luke Michaels’ relaxing camping trip ends when he witnesses a woman being thrown from a bridge. He dives into the river to save her, shocked to find her wrapped in chains. As a canine search and rescue volunteer, Luke has assisted many victims, but never a beauty whose defeated gaze ignites his primal urge to protect. When Megan Witherspoon’s killers make it clear they won’t stop, Luke fights to save her, but can he keep her alive long enough to find out who is after her?

Buy links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo and Google Play

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Celebrate You’re Beautiful by Julie Arduini

Last month I shared that after a season of adversity with our teen daughter transitioning to junior high, she came up with a story to encourage girls. I promised if she kept going with it, I’d write it.

She plotted a three-book series.

You’re Beautiful is now out in eBook and print format. I love that it really is a story for girls ages 10-100. Each book centers around a mentoring ministry that features junior high girls and their mentors. In You’re Beautiful, seventh grader Hailey Atkinson and college graduate Sabrina Wayson both believe a lie about themselves. They need to surrender believing the lie to receive true freedom.

FBPartyHannah and I are going to share more about the book during our Facebook Party Thursday, February 15th, 8pm Eastern on my author page. Make sure you “like” the page and you should be set.

Not only will we be talking about the book, but we will have “surprizes,” and special guest authors Candee Fick, Kathleen E. Friesen, and Laura V. Hilton. Between Valentine’s Day and my main contemporary romance genre, I wanted to feature authors who are known for these things. If you don’t know them, they are super-talented authors.

Also, You’re Beautiful will be a free eBook this weekend, Friday, February 16-Sunday, February 18th. We want to see our message go global, so please grab a copy and tell your friends.

We look forward to seeing you at the party!

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My Own Occam’s Razor by Hannah Alexander

In the 13th century, a friar by the name of William Ockham proposed that the simplest answer to a problem was most likely the best. This was something Mel and I discovered the hard way this morning.

Something happened to me that had never happened since I purchased this MacBook Air. I began to lose my screen. It kept going dark, then brightening, then darkening again. Some people might deduce that, due to the title of this page, I immediately guessed the most likely answer to my problem and fixed it. Those people would be wrong–and if you know me, you would not have considered that in the first place because I do everything the hard way and everyone who knows me knows that about me.

So I told Mel about the problem. He also has the tendency to expect the worst. We started looking for Apple shops nearby. We live in the middle of the Nebraska Panhandle, where the closest Walmart is 40 miles away, so the closest Apple store is Denver. That’s three hours away in good traffic–far longer in bad. Also, we had trouble finding places with decent ratings.

So Mel got into the disk utilities and tried to do a disk repair. But it said everything was fine. After spending an hour or so seeking repair services, Mel finally pushed a key on the keyboard. It was the “brighten” key. And lo and behold, the darkness parted and the light showed us a screen!

Surprise!

So my wonderful, brilliant husband did fix my computer for me–I don’t care if it was a simple fix because I certainly hadn’t found it. I will next time, but the first time even the simplest of problems arise, I always expect the worst. Many of us do, don’t we? Mind you, I still do not remember pressing those keys. I never have before. Why start now? I did leave the laptop open last night, so one of the cats could have walked over the keys. It’s still a mystery, but the issue has been fixed and for now I’m back in business.

May all your issues be simple ones that can be easily fixed in a timely manner.

 

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What? Me, worry?

 

SMirC-worry.svg_By chris 論, CC BY-SA 3.0, https-::commons.wikimedia.org:w:index.php?curid=34547559

Image By chris 論, CC BY-SA 3.0, https-//commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34547559

By Nancy J. Farrier

What is it about worry that creeps up and grabs me by the throat before I’m even aware of its presence? I know I should ignore this emotion. I know I should be strong. I know this is an attack. Or is it?

 

I’ve heard people say worry is a sin, but I’m not sure I agree. I believe worry can become a sin, depending on what you choose to do. Scripture tells me not to worry about my life, my food or drink, my body (What?! Not worry about my weight?), my clothes, tomorrow, or what to say. (Mt. 6:25,28; 10:19; 13:11)

 

So, what do I do when my child is driving on a busy freeway alone for the first time? What about when a friend, or family member, is waiting to hear about a biopsy? When losing a home? When money is running low and there is nothing to eat in the house? When someone I love has been arrested? When life is uncertain as it so often is?

 

I am facing uncertainty in my life right now, and I thought I had everything covered. I prayed about the future. My heart and mind were at peace. But, peace can evaporate in an instant. A word, or question from a well-meaning friend, can resurface those concerns. (Because we don’t want to label them worries and concerns sounds so much better. Right?)

 

A couple of Sundays past, I showed up early to practice with the worship team. Between the time we finished and the start of the first worship service, I had about thirty or forty minutes, so I went for a walk in the neighborhood. I like to do this and pray for the people I don’t know. Pray their day will be blessed. Pray they will think on the Lord. Pray they will choose to go to church.

 

As I walked, one of my big concerns rose up and grabbed me. We are moving. Moving where there will be no close church I want to attend. My ministry opportunities are ending where I’m at. Does God still want to use me? Where will I fit in? What will I do? Who will I find for fellowship?

 

That may seem like a stupid concern. Of course, God still wants to use me. He provides all I need, including fellowship. I know that in my heart, but my head still worries if I’m not careful. So, as I walked, I prayed. Prayed about the future ministry God has for me. He doesn’t have to fill me in now, but I needed some peace and affirmation that He’s got this. Within moments, I had the calm I sought.

 

I sat out during out first service, but when I came in toward the end to be ready for the last worship song, the Pastor was finishing his message on using your gifts God has given you. During second service I heard the whole message. How God wants to use you if you surrender to Him. He will show you what he wants you to do. You don’t have to worry, simply be there for Him.

 

The next evening, I had an online board meeting with a Christian writers group. Before the meeting began the new President wanted to read a short devotion and pray. Her devotion topic—using the gifts God has given you.

 

Yes, Lord, I hear You. You’ve got this and I have no need to worry about what is ahead. No need to worry or be concerned. I’m taking a deep breath and forging ahead with Him leading the way.

 

So, when does worry become a sin? Phil. 4:6 tells the answer. When I worry, I have a choice to let that emotion take control and lead to anxiety, or I can pray. It’s that simple. When I pray and tell god my concerns, He will give me peace beyond what I can understand. Through that prayer, my heart and mind are guarded against the enemy. (Phil. 4:7)

 

My belief is that worry isn’t always an attack of the enemy, but sometimes God allows concerns so I will be drawn to seek Him out. When worry creeps up and grabs me by the throat, I simply pray, trusting God will get me through. And He does. Every time.

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6,7 NKJV

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Welcome Guest Author DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills headshot

Please join me in welcoming DiAnn Mills to Christians Read today.

DiAnn, thank you for joining us. It’s always a pleasure to learn from you.

Can you tell us how is a Christian Novel Different?

I’m often asked how a Christian novel is different from a general market novel, and my response is always the same.

Novels are about strong characters who have a problem to solve. It’s all about character.

But there’s more. A Christian novel is a story in which one or more of the characters solve his/her problems or strive for a goal from a Christian Worldview. God is a priority: His plan and His purpose for the character. Flaws and weaknesses are important parts of the character’s journey. Faith aspect is not an engine additive. It rises from the writer’s deep rooted convictions. Good overcomes evil. Period.

Sometimes Christian fiction is called inspirational, but the category is misleading because any religion can refer to a story that embraces core beliefs as inspirational.

A Christian novel can be any genre.

A Christian writer can create novels for the general market or the Christian market.

A Christian Publishing House understands the business is also a ministry. Many contribute to charitable organizations and pray for their writers and employees.

 

Here are 10 of my writing objectives in every story:

  1. Realistic, unexpected, and unpredictable.
  2. Values and beliefs are shown not told.
  3. Goals to entertain, inspire, and encourage readers.
  4. Internal beliefs fed by life experiences and often lies the character believes about life, the world, and him/herself.
  5. Well-developed characters with a rich backstory.
  6. A plot filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, with stress, tension, and conflict. The character arc includes a spiritual thread.
  7. Dialogue that’s fresh, exciting, and in character.
  8. Narrative rooted in point of view.
  9. Emotion and Symbolism for the reader’s evocative experience.
  10. Antagonistic setting – everything works against the character.

    In a Christian novel, readers may be uncomfortable with what is stated regarding faith. Of course if the reader is a democrat or a republican, some may take offense to what is written. A story is about a character struggling to achieve a goal, not an opportunity to pound the reader over the head with a Bible or a philosophy.

    A few distinguishing attributes are:

    1. Avoids cursing
    2. Avoids sex scenes
    3. Avoids violence for violence sake

What Christian fiction is not:

  1. A platform intended to evangelize all those who are not Christian.
  2. Preachy, and the characters are unrealistic, unsympathetic, and their actions are predictable.
  3. Filled with words only other Christians might understand.
  4. A narrative of sermons, people quoting Scripture, or lengthy prayers

A common theme for all novels:

  1. Show strong characters who are not victims but survivors.
  2. Pit characters into the forbidden, frightening, and unknown. Adversity is the classroom for spiritual growth and positive change and reveals who the inner character really is.

    The next time someone asks why you read a Christian novel, feel assured to say, “Its all about character.”

    How do you describe a Christian novel?

High Treason

DiAnn’s latest FBI Task Force Novel, High Treason, releases February 6th and is available at Amazon.

Blurb: When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised―and none too happy―when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt.

Kord and Monica must quickly put aside interagency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit―plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince―or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

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DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/diannmills, Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannmills or any of the social media platforms listed at http://www.diannmills.com.

Thanks again for joining us today, DiAnn.

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Writing is Finger-Painting with Words

by Jim Denney

A few years ago, I taught a workshop at a writer’s conference. After one session, a young woman came up to me and said, “My problem is that I never finish anything. I’m so afraid that someone will see a flaw in my story that I keep reworking it until I can’t tell if it’s good or not. I finally get sick of it and put my story away unfinished. Sometimes, I can’t even get started. I know what I want to write about — it all seems so perfect in my head. But when I try to write the perfect opening line, nothing comes. Without a brilliant first sentence, I can’t write the rest of the story.”

My advice to her: “Give yourself permission to write badly. Obsessive perfectionism destroys good writing. If you’re obsessed with writing the perfect opening line, you’ll end up with no story at all. When you permit yourself to write badly, you allow the words to flow.”

FingerpaintingWithWords

Image: Public Domain

John Steinbeck put it this way: “Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.” And novelist Jodi Picoult said, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

When you create a world of imagination out of words, you reflect the joyful, exuberant creativity of the One who created you. Just ask God for a touch of inspiration — then take a leap of faith and start creating.

Writing is finger-painting with words. Creativity is fun, joyful, exciting — and messy. Don’t stop to clean up the mess. Don’t do research. Don’t edit. Write.

Imagine standing over a kindergartner who is finger-painting, and telling that child, “Stop! Look at your messy fingers. Go wash your hands.” That would be cruel. The whole point of finger painting is for the child to be uninhibited, creative, and spattered with paint.

In the same way, the point of writing in first draft is to make a vivid, uninhibited, creative mess with words. You want to get your page or computer screen covered with a profusion of swirling, colorful, emotion-drenched word-pictures. It’s not your intellect that creates those beautiful word-pictures — it’s your uninhibited self, your inner child. 

Don’t tell yourself, “Go clean up that sentence.” Instead, tell yourself, “Have fun! Enjoy! Make a beautiful mess!” Write what you feel, write what you see in your imagination, write your passions and convictions.

Your first draft doesn’t have to be word-perfect. In fact, perfection is the last thing you want when you are fast-drafting. Exuberance, passion, emotional intensity, exhilaration, surprise, astonishment, honesty, truth — these are your priorities when writing your first, fast draft. Perfection comes later — much, much later — in the rewrite and editing stages.

If you’ve been feeling stuck or inhibited as a writer, I hope this message encourages you to set yourself free to write freely, quickly, and brilliantly. Try it — and let me know if these thoughts have been helpful to you.

God bless and inspire you as you write for Him.

__________________________________

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

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Step three on our journey

Last time, I promised we would explore some of the themes I discovered in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I hope you enjoy this next phase of our journey. Remember this was research for my master’s thesis, so if it sounds a bit academic, stick with me. It will lighten up soon. Now, back to themes.

CliffsNotesAccording to CliffsNotes: “In a work of literature, a theme is a recurring, unifying subject or idea, a motif that helps us understand a work of art better. With a novel as richly ambiguous as Moby-Dick, we look at themes as guides, but it is important to be flexible while we do so. A good deal is left to individual interpretation so that one reader might disagree with another without necessarily being ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ about what the novel is saying.” Well, if CliffsNotes gives us “permission” to come up with our own ideas, it can’t be wrong. Right? (I took the fuzzy picture on the left.)

Moby_Dick_final_chaseAnyway, while many people list themes by single words—revenge, religion, defiance, I consider these to be subjects. For me, a theme is a complete idea expressed in a strong, declarative sentence. For instance, one subject found in the pages of Moby Dick is revenge. The theme would be: The man bent on revenge will ultimately destroy himself and all he holds dear. With revenge as the subject of Melville’s greatest tome, the destruction of Captain Ahab and all he values becomes the inevitable end of his quest, hence the playing out of the theme. And yet there are other themes that can be considered even deeper. (Picture by I. W. Taber – Moby Dick – edition: Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, Public Domain.)

Religion and Defiance

Although Moby Dick is a multi-layered masterpiece with far too many themes to count, most scholars agree that religious themes predominate. For many literary critics, both academic and religious, the central theme of Moby Dick is Ahab’s struggle against God, whom he considers cruel and unjust and whom he sees personified in the White Whale.

So then, one must ask: Who is God? What does He require of a mankind? What should be our response to Him?

FMIB_43693_Whale_Capsizing_a_BoatTo Captain Ahab, God is an unjust Creator who capriciously wounded him by sending a great white whale to bite off his leg. A proud, successful man, Ahab cannot accept this assault on his person as others might accept adversity. Rather, seeing the whale as a “pasteboard mask” behind which hid this cruel Being, Ahab sets himself above God and defies Him. He sets out to avenge himself, seeking actually to kill God by destroying His instrument. In his monomaniacal quest, he instead destroys his ship, his crew, and himself, crying out in defiance with his last breath: “…thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” Moby Dick, Ch. 135. And so ends the tale, as told by Ishmael, the ship’s only survivor. Ahab is dead. He died defiantly cursing God. (Picture at left is from Wiki Commons and is in the public domain.)

In the most basic terms, this theme may be summed up thus: If we fail to understand God’s love and grace in the midst of our adversities, our lives can become a tangle of bitterness, destruction, and death. Maybe you can come up with something stronger, but that will serve my purpose today.

Moby Dick is one of America’s greatest novels of all time, yet many readers are put off by both its length and its ambiguity. Countless articles and even entire volumes of formal criticism have been written explicating its themes from every conceivable literary viewpoint. Each interpretation has merit if honestly based on a valid ideological construct. My Bible-based Christian faith provides the “valid ideological construct” by which I interpret this novel.

Because imaginative literature has the power to affect our lives, we should never hesitate to read those novels that cause us to think about our own lives and, maybe more important, beyond ourselves. I believe well-written fiction can impact each of us in ways too numerous to list.

Next time, I’ll tell you how I developed Ahab’s Bride as a companion story to the original novel, with the aim of interpreting some of its themes from a Christian viewpoint.

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New Release – Nowhere to Run by Mary Alford

Sometimes, when we find ourselves in a situation that seem out of control and hopeless, the best place to turn it to God. He is there with us no matter what we face in life.

Today, I’d like to share a little about my latest release, Nowhere to Run, available now at Amazon.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

Nowhere to Runcover

When you don’t know which way to turn, the most dangerous place to fall is in love…

Surrounded by death and lies, the last thing Dr. Jordan Scott needs is to fall in love.

Jordan thought she knew her boyfriend better than anyone…until a Detective Riley Donovan confronts her with the truth about her brother’s death. His murder was no random act of violence. And Caesar is the prime suspect, which puts her directly in the path of danger.

Here’s an excerpt:

Chapter One

The steady vibration of Doctor Jordan Scott’s cell phone interrupted the last of her nightly rounds. The text message read 9-1-1. Urgent.

She recognized the extension at first glance. It was the ER.

Under her breath she uttered a desperate prayer. Please, don’t let it be another critical child.

It was after midnight, and already she’d treated two injured children under the age of twelve. One didn’t make it.

Jordan didn’t bother returning the page. When someone on the ER staff contacted her, no spare time remained for details. She took the steps two at a time. This wasn’t her first trip down these stairs tonight. And if life were running true to form for a Saturday night, it wouldn’t be her last.

“Someone paged me?” she asked the first-year resident on duty. He couldn’t make eye contact. This was the same kid who’d been flirting with her a few hours earlier. Now, his gaze bounced to the floor, then back to Jordan’s general direction before locking on something just beyond her left shoulder.

“Jordan.” Her attention jerked behind her to where Doctor Elliot Colton, the ER’s attending was standing.

“Elliot, someone paged me?” The sympathy pooling in Elliot’s dark brown eyes made it clear something dreadful had happened.

“I need you to come with me—”

“What’s wrong?” she interrupted because the look in Elliot’s eyes scared her. Elliott had been both her friend and mentor since she’d started at Manhattan General. She trusted him with her life.

“Please, Jordan…” Elliot took her arm and slowly forced her toward his office.

Out of earshot from the rest of the staff.

The mere act, coupled with the seriousness in Elliot’s manner, was all too familiar and frightening.

Jordan barely waited until he’d closed the door. “What’s happened?” For the first time, his gaze slipped from hers, and fear pooled in her stomach. “Elliot, what is it?”

“It’s Jeremy. There’s been…an accident.”

She read the truth in Elliot’s eyes even before she could form the words to ask. “Is he?”

His gaze panned across her face. She’d seen that look a thousand times before. He was trying to determine how much of the details to reveal.

“I’ll explain everything, but right now I think you need to prepare yourself for the worst.”

Once the reality of what he wasn’t telling her finally settled in, Jordan turned on her heel and headed for the door.

Elliot hesitated only a second before following. “Jordan, wait.”

“Where is he?” But she didn’t need to ask. She knew. They’d have taken Jeremy to the Intensive Care Unit.

Jordan jabbed the elevator button until the doors slid open.

“Tell me what happened to my brother.” Her voice shook with emotion.

“I don’t know all the details yet.” He stopped and peered away.

“You said this was an accident?” Why was Jeremy driving anyway? Everywhere he needed to go was in walking distance of their brownstone.

“He’s been shot.”

Before she could even let herself consider the meaning of those words, the doors opened to the fifth floor ICU.

“It’s this way,” Elliott said quietly, taking the lead. She’d heard him use that same soothing tone a thousand times in the past, but never felt its impact before today. Now, each word, though patronizing, carried the weight of a blow.

He led her down the long ICU corridor lined with doors. The ones at the end were reserved for the most serious patients.

Those without hope.

Elliot pushed the door open. It took all her strength to follow him inside. She almost didn’t recognize her brother. Most of the top of his head had been bandaged to cover the bullet wound. A fresh patch of blood seeped through the thick dressing.

Jeremy’s eyes were closed; he was barely hanging onto life. A multitude of lines connected him to life support.

“Oh, no.” Jordan drew in a ragged breath, then crossed the room to reach for Jeremy’s hand. It felt cold to her touch. The boy lying in that hospital bed now was nothing more than a shell of the energetic kid she’d all but raised alone.

The world and its concerns disappeared. She was no longer aware of Elliott standing close, or her worries for a future with her boyfriend, Caesar. The only thing that mattered was Jeremy. She’d do anything to take his place.

Still clutching his hand tight, Jordan fell to her knees and began to pray.

All the best…

Mary Alford

 

 

 

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FAIR AND FOOLISH by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Fair and Foolish

No one wants to see themselves as unfair. And certainly no one wants to see themselves as foolish. Yet there are times and situations in which we find ourselves where we can or do seem one or the either. On the rare occasion, we actually can seem both…simultaneously.

The potential for this in writing books for others to read is evident to any who have written and to many who read. At times, particularly intense or stressful times, it is hard to find the line between fair and foolish.  In situations, the line is as clear as a sunny day but far more often, that balanced line is as murky as the muddy Mississippi after a hurricane.

We think, as writers, that we’re being too obvious, too fair, and yet when others read what we’ve written, their feedback is as diverse as we were mixed-minded in the writing.  Some feel we were too fair, some just fair enough and some foolishly fair and our handling diminished the suspense or the message in the book.

To prove the just-right line floats from person to person, I went to an online retailer and read all the reviews on five current bestsellers.  Then I went to a second retailer and read all the reviews on the same five books.  To be sure I had a strong cross-section of reader responses, I went to a third retailer and read all the reviews available on those same five books.

The results were exactly as expected. Some readers liked one thing, some another, and a few others liked absolutely nothing. The floating line of striking that balance was evident.  And it proved what writers have intuitively known:

Readers are diverse, and writers are diverse, and both groups should be grateful for it.  Otherwise, we’d need one writer and one book and that’d be the end of it.  We’d lose all the opportunities to mentally stretch and grow, to experience another point of view, a different experience, but we’d be affirming our personal tastes. That actually sounds kind of boring and as if we’ve closed off doors in our minds, doesn’t it? Well, if that was the way this worked out, that’d be an accurate assessment, because we would have shut those mental doors and robbed ourselves of possibilities to see things differently.

But because readers and writers are diverse, some will love the stories we write, some will hate them, and (this strikes most fear in writers’ hearts) some will be indifferent.  Loving or hating is great.  Something in the book moved the reader. But Indifference stings and wounds and cuts deep. The story failed to touch the reader. That’s heartbreaking for a writer, who writes because s/he has something to say that s/he wants others to hear and experience.

The results of the little experiment prove that the line between fair and foolish is fine.  It has earned its rightful place.  Readers of one book will not be touched, but will be deeply touched by another book.  And those readers will hate, love or be indifferent to a third, fourth and fifth book.

This insight convinces us. Neither Readers nor Writers should seek all five-star reviews.  Wisdom is in aspiring to a mixed bag of reviews and feedback.  Love, hate, and indifference is evidence that the writer is finding the balance, walking that fine line—and doing it well.

As I write this, I’m thinking of books that have touched me deeply—both positively and negatively—and I’m searching my memory hard for books that left me feeling indifferent.  I’m having trouble finding “indifferent” books, though I can’t say if that’s telling me I’m too opinionated or just normal.  Maybe it means it is normal to be opinionated.

Or maybe it means Writers write books and trust that the right people will find them at the right time. What’s the right time? One when the message in the book resonates for them—a time when this specific book is exactly what the reader needs to read at that given moment, in his or her current circumstance.

I’ve written a lot of books, and I’ve always written each book for a specific purpose. My hope is infused in its pages that the book will offer something of specific value to the Reader. A takeaway useful in the reader’s own life.  Sometimes it takes a while, but always someone writes me a note, an email, or a Twitter Direct Message and says the book was just what they needed… and then discloses why it was perfect for them at that time.  That perfect reason relates to the purpose for which I wrote the book.

It’s humbling to receive notes like those.  But it’s reassuring, too.  Because the indifferent rarely write.  They might post a blistering review, but they rarely message that the book did nothing for them.  Those who love or hate the book are far more apt to write the author.  They’re more invested in it.

In reviewing books I didn’t care for, I discovered they hit hot buttons inside me.  And while that wasn’t fun, it was often helpful.  It gave me the opportunity to revisit that hot button and to reevaluate on whether or not it should be a hot button.  Even though I didn’t care for the experience, taking a look was a beneficial experience. I’ve ditched a lot of hot buttons. And now I wonder if that initial negative reaction wasn’t surface clutter masking a hidden great opportunity for me.   One tied to spiritual and/or emotional growth.

Now that potential fascinated me.  So on I went, reviewing books that left me indifferent.  What I discovered was that those books just didn’t speak to me at the place I was standing at the time I read them.  Later, when I reread them, some of those books did speak to me—and my second reaction was far different from the first!

And that’s the point.  The fine line of balance isn’t just fine, it’s also tied to time.  Our personal time. Sometimes the timing is right for us and a given book, and sometimes it’s not.

Have you looked at the books you’ve loved and hated and been indifferent to?  Why did you love or hate them?  Did you later react differently to a book you’d deemed indifferent?  Are your feelings toward that book now relevant to you in a way not applicable during your first read?

After all these revelations on that balancing line, I’ll tell you.  My attitude has changed.  Some books I love and feel I’ll always love.  Some, I hate for now and may or may not hate later.  Some books, simply put, are just not for me. But more and more books are snagged in shades of gray. Firmly planted in the “maybe another time” zone. And of the books I reacted to with indifference, I say, “indifferent for today” and I set them aside to read again later.

Because the line between fair and foolish is thin and tied to time. Not clock time. Our time.

And it seems we really only know if we’ve walked the line or crossed it in hindsight. That means at times we will be fair and at times we will be foolish—to some—and appreciated by others whose lives we touch.

I can’t speak for all writers but the bottom-line for me, is I’m grateful. It’s a privilege to take on the challenges of being fair and foolish.

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Let it Snow, TBR and New Release by Elizabeth Goddard

Happy Saturday!

 

I had planned to go to town—thirty minutes away–and buy groceries today. A normal Saturday routine for most. Also, I’m in desperate need of a pedicure so thought I’d slip one of those in too. But wouldn’t you know it? A snowstorm is hitting in the morning. Again. Growing up in the part of Texas where it doesn’t snow (maybe once a year if that and it melts by noon) I have always loved the white stuff. Now living in Michigan for the last year and a half, it hasn’t taken me long to get tired of the snow and the subzero temperatures.  I never really knew what “brrrrr” meant until spending a few winters in the Great Lakes region.

But the good news is that I can curl up with a great book and . . .

Let it snow.

I’m currently reading Lynette Eason’s Oath of Honor—GREAT romantic suspense story. Just finished up Susan May Warren’s Troubled Waters. She’s an adventure writer after my own heart. Soon I’ll be starting Susan Sleeman’s Kill Shot. She’s an amazing romantic suspense/thriller writer. So many great books and too little time.

Oh, wait, it’s a snow day. That means I can take off from work, doesn’t it? Add to that, it’s a SATURDAY. Sure, I can read all day.

Now that’s what’s in my TBR (To Be Read) pile. What’s in yours?

Might I make a suggestion—MY NEW RELEASE!

I’m kicking off a brand new series—COLDWATER BAY INTRIGUE—set along the stunning Washington state coastline. You wouldn’t expect anything less than an amazing backdrop for one of my stories would you?

Thread of Revenge is the first book in the series, and so far reviewers are loving it.

“Wow, what a great page turner!” –Kara

“I loved this book!!”—Katrina

“Thread of Revenge is the first explosive book in the Coldwater Bay Intrigue series.”—Brit98

 

I hope you’ll get your hands on a copy today!

New Romantic Suspense

COAST GUARD PROTECTOR

Marine biologist Sadie Strand is back in her coastal hometown to prove her best friend was murdered—but searching for evidence almost costs Sadie her life. Abducted, drugged and left for dead on a sinking boat, she’s barely rescued in time by Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Gage Sessions, an old friend. Assigned to protect Sadie and connect three complicated cases, Gage risks his life time and again to make sure the woman he once loved survives. But although the handsome, guarded agent vows to protect her, someone will keep killing to ensure the truth never rises to the surface.

 

For purchase options CLICK HERE.

 

(Digital version available today. Print version available February 6th)

 

Blessings!

Elizabeth Goddard

 

 

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