Wanting to Make a Difference by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Making a Difference

 

Why Do What I Do When Other Things Are Easier?

Making a Difference

There comes a time in every life where a person starts thinking about more than moving up the career ladder or personal ambition.  There comes a time when we all start thinking about our legacy—what we want to do with our lives and what we want to leave behind.  We think about what most matters to us.

 

Inevitably, most of us work our way through those rough waters and navigate our way into the unchartered, wanting and hoping to make a difference.

 

That difference can take many forms.  Often difficult ones.  But having charted our way to knowing what we what, we typically aren’t looking for the easy way to achieve our objective.  We’re looking for the way to successfully reach our objective.

 

The difference we want to make is usually based on a need or a shortfall we’ve experienced, or someone close to us has experienced.  Something happened to us or to someone we cared about and we spotted the shortfall, lived the consequences, and that lit a fire in us to do something to avoid a shortfall in the future.  We want to make something better or just or to make a wrong right.  Often so that no one else has to endure what we or those we care about suffered ever again.

 

Our ability to effect a change might be a long-term effort.  Something we aren’t free to address at the moment, but the desire never leaves us. The fire, over time, burns stronger and stronger. The light on it shines brighter and brighter.  We gather information, knowledge, insight, proofs that we need to thoroughly understand the challenge.  We trust that our investment in understanding will clarify solid solutions in our minds and that a comprehensive knowledge and its insights will guide us in discovering the best way to resolve the problem and what we can do—our actual actions—then will make a lasting difference.

 

One of the things that haunts us all is a fear that we’ll reach a point of passing and wonder if we did what we were supposed to do in life.  Did we fulfill our purpose? 

 

If we did, or we tried, then we feel more comfortable facing the closing of our circle of life.  If we didn’t, or we failed to try, then we come face to face with regret.  Failing is fine.  We all know that we fail many times in life.  But failing to try…that raises a kind of regret that can be merciless and unrelenting.  The benefit of avoiding that misery is just common sense.

 

To spare ourselves misery is why we should not look for easy.  We should hope to make a difference.  We should nurture that spark inside us that propels us to seek understanding and solutions. We should try. 

 

Making a difference can but doesn’t always mean sweeping reform that changes every life.  That may or may not be your purpose or your mission.  Your mission might be to encourage or care for a single person. To help someone with no one else. You might think that seems small, as purposes go, but it is not small to the person on the receiving end who needs your encouragement or help to get what that person needs to fulfill his or her purpose.  Your purpose is inextricably tied to the other person’s achieving his or her purpose. That makes your purpose imperative. Critical. The other person can’t do what they need to do without you—and who knows how many are impacted by what that person must do?  Could be one individual, thousands, or millions.

 

The point is, there are no small purposes. We never know how much we impact others. Often we don’t know exactly what they need or what is required from us.  But innately we will give it to them when it is most needed in a way that provides the opportunity for success for the other person.  We must believe that. Know it. Trust it.

 

That is but one of the many things we learn when we feed the spark that grows to a flame inside us.  Answers to questions we haven’t even formulated in our minds come. Once lighted inside us, that flame finds its way.  It is an unseen beacon that draws those who need it close.  That’s where your trust comes in. 

 

And that is why easy is insufficient, but making a difference is always more than enough.


A Note from Vicki:  I’m giving away 5,000 copies of Her Deepest Fear, a Short Read about Dr. Dana Perkins, the protagonist in that story and in my October 11th release, So Many Secrets.  You can get one while they last at:  https://dl.bookfunnel.com/wu1twll1hl.

 

 

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With Wings of an Eagle

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word. Psalm 119:9

 Lord Baden-PowellEvery young person needs adult help to reach her/his full potential in life. In 1907, British baron Lord Robert Baden-Powell (1857- 1941) founded the Boy Scouts to help boys of mixed social backgrounds grow into responsible men of good character. The movement quickly spread to the United States. Through the years, millions of boys joined the Scouts, earning merit badges for each skill achieved and rising in rank as the badges added up. Through hard work, persistence, and conquering of many challenges, a Scout can reach the ultimate level, that of Eagle Scout. Many men in leadership today point to their Eagle Scout training as the foundation for their success. (Baden-Powell image: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Robert-Stephenson-Smyth-Baden-Powell-1st-Baron-Baden-Powell/images-videos/media/48473/16293)

Art Polnasek

 

One such Eagle Scout is Art Polnasek, who, with his wife, Linda, have been responsible for eighty young men (so far) also earning that rank. Art and Linda began with their own three sons and have continued their good work, adding two new Eagle Scouts this past weekend: Brodyn E. Brown and my grandson, Forest W. Reese. (At left, Art is addressing the Scout troop.)

 

 

IMG_1880Forest’s father, Bill Reese, died in 2006, and my husband, David, has worked hard to fill in as “dad” in more ways than we can count. Looking for a program that would teach our grandson needed life skills, David took him to visit several Scout troops, finally finding a “home” in Troop 192 in St. Cloud, Florida. David also accepted the challenge of becoming a Scoutmaster, attending meetings, going on camping trips, helping with fundraisers, and generally sticking with Forest every step along the way as he earned his many merit badges. Our daughter Jane, who is Forest’s mother, served many a spaghetti dinner and sold many a box of popcorn as part of his various projects. He also received encouragement from his other granddad, Col. Robert Reese, US Army, ret. (At right, Col. Reese, Forest Reese, David Gouge)

2017 Eagle project 29 One of the requirements to become an Eagle Scout involves the Scout completing a project that serves the community. Forest chose to organize the food pantry at the local senior citizens center. If you can picture a large room filled with plastic bags of random donations, then picture volunteers trying to sort through it and hand out helpful food and health items to the needy, you can see why Forest’s project was so important. He designed and build the shelves, organized the donations into types, labeled everything, and made it easy for volunteers to find what visitors to the food pantry needed.

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During a solemn, inspiring ceremony, with their families watching, Forest and Brodyn received their Eagle Scout pins. The ceremony was followed by a barbecue dinner…and cake. It was a great sendoff into adulthood for two fine young men.

 

 

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They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

 

 

 

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A Dream Come True by Julie Arduini

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One thing authors are known for are active imaginations. Before starting out, I’ve heard confessions about book signings with long lines and a cramped hand, a cardboard cutout of them holding their bestsellers on display at Barnes and Noble, and of course, Oprah calling.

Me?

I dreamed I would be part of a collection.

A Christmas collection.

Not that I would have said no to the other things I’ve heard, but I loved the idea of participating in a set filled with mistletoe and Christmas surprises. Early in my author journey I thought it was happening. A group formed, some ideas were tossed, and the project fizzled. It never got off the ground.

I was disappointed, but I stayed busy finishing the Surrendering Time series, participating in a different collection that was so satisfying (A Walk in the Valley,) and recently, published a novella with our teen daughter called You’re Beautiful. I forgot about the dream as I completed these projects and started researching my new Surrendering Opinions series and plotting the first book, Anchored.

On a spontaneous visit to Castle Noel in Medina, Ohio, I was overcome by the romance Christmas brings. The place was simply magical and my author imagination started. What if someone worked at a place like that and hated Christmas?

It was fun to play with the idea as I drove or had downtime, but to me, it was a fun hobby. I didn’t think I’d ever write it, I had enough going on. Imagine my surprise a month later when Kimberly Rose Johnson from Inspy Romance asked the other IR authors if we’d be interested in creating a boxed set together.

A Christmas boxed set.

I answered back, but I remember I kept the excitement contained. I’d been down the road before, and it only brought disappointment. It didn’t take long before I realized this project was different. We established great guidelines and deadlines, and I was off and writing during the winter.

The great news, for me anyway, was spring was more like winter, and I really dug in and wrote. The story was easy to write, but I struggled with the title. Once I finished and it went through critique groups, it was fellow author, friend and critique member Laura Hilton who helped me find the best title: Restoring Christmas.

That boxed set is A Christmas to Remember and it’s now available for pre-order. I’m so excited to be a part of this. The other authors are Kimberly Rose Johnson, Valerie Comer, Elizabeth Maddrey, Ginger Solomon, Lindi Peterson, Deb Kastner and Janet W. Ferguson.

Eight Christmas-themed novellas for .99. It’s a dream come true.

 

 

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An Invitation To A Party…

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What would you do if you woke up one day and couldn’t remember anything about your life? Not what your name was, when you were born. Not even who your parents’ are. I can imagine it would be pretty scary.

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That’s what happened to Charlotte Swenson, in my upcoming novella, Ghosts From Christmas Past, part of the Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 boxed set.

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Eight years ago, Charlotte Swenson was in a car accident that took her parents’ lives. Since that time, Charlotte has been in a coma. When she suddenly wakes up a few days before Christmas, Charlotte is faced with a blank memory.

With the help of her high school boyfriend, Sheriff Dylan Parker of Bitter Creek, Colorado, can Charlotte remember the past she lost after so long, and if she does, will she forgive him for his part in the argument that sent her out on that fateful night eight years earlier and almost cost Charlotte her life?

So, you’re probably wondering how a story about Ghosts From Christmas Past fits in with the invitation listed above.

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Well, on September 25th, Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 releases, including Ghosts From Christmas Past. And to help celebrate the launch, the authors are hosting a launch party from 2-7PM Eastern Time. It should be fun, with lot so games and giveaway, so I invite you all to come.  Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/events/247056015981253/

All the best…

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

 

 

 

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Bouchercon 2018

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A week ago, I found myself in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg, FL at the historic Vinoy Renaissance Hotel attending the 49th Annual Bouchercon 2018 or The Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention. I’ll be honest, for a big reader, I’d never heard of the World Mystery Convention, but since it was close to home, a writer friend and I decided to attend.

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I soon learned that Anthony Boucher (1911-1968) was a science fiction editor, author of mystery novels and mystery reviewer. He helped found the Mystery Writers of America in 1946. The conference was named after him, as well as the Anthony Awards presented each year for outstanding crime fiction.

Every year the event is held in a different city. This conference was sold out, writers and fans there to spend four days meeting authors, attending writing panels and listening to popular authors speak about their work. I’ve been to many different writing events, but I have to say, the crowd was excited and it was contagious. Speakers from here in the U.S. and around the world represented the genre, happy to discuss the craft of writing as well as their books. I discovered new authors as well as getting to see those whose books I already love to read.

The panels featured authors who write P.I. series, police procedurals, amateur sleuths, cozy mysteries, to name a few. Since I write cozies, I was especially drawn to those panels. There were book signings, as you can see I came home with a bag full.

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And sweets at an Agatha Christie trivia contest.

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So what did I come away with?

That I love to read mysteries as much as I love to write them.

Authors, no matter how many books sold, are very generous with their time and these authors couldn’t have been friendlier. Or funnier. I suppose you have to throw in some humor when writing what can sometimes be dark material.

Crime fiction is a big seller.

I’m an accessory to excessive reading.

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It was a great weekend and I will definitely make it to another convention in the future. If you ever happen to hear about Bouchercon coming to your city, now you have an insight into what takes place. If you’ve already been, you know what I’m talking about.

 

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of eighteen 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, THE LAWMAN’S SECRET VOW, available now and OUR CHRISTMAS VOW, her 2018 Christmas Town novel, available October 9 .  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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Storm Warning

hurricane tracking

By Marilyn Turk

As I write this, I’m glancing out my window to see what this year’s first tropical storm or maybe hurricane is bringing to my neighborhood. So far, we’ve gotten only rain, despite the Weather Channel’s dire warnings. Folks who live along the south and eastern coasts of the United States keep an eye on the weather this time of year because it is hurricane season. If you’ve lived here any number of years, you probably have at least one hurricane story to tell and usually, more than one.

Recently I read a list of “You might be a Floridian if…” which could also relate to other southern states. One of the things on the list was the way we tell time not by years but by hurricane names. In fact, I can tell you I moved to Florida the week before Ivan hit. Now if you’re from around here, you know that was 2004, when a hurricane that at one time was a category 5 storm and  was still a “cat” 3 when it hit Pensacola, Florida and towns all nearby, doing billions of dollars’ worth of damage.

Other people have different storm names to identify with, but what they all have in common is that there was ample warning given to the public before these storms hit. Today’s meteorologists have a number of tools and equipment to discover storms at their original and track them to their destination, even to the point where they can approximate the place and time when the storm will make landfall.

As a result, people know how to prepare. We board up windows and doors. We remove things from outside our home that might become a flying object and cause damage or become damaged. We stock up on shelf-stable food, water, batteries and flashlights in case power goes out. And if evacuation is required, we choose a destination and a route of escape.

There are those who take heed and prepare, and there are those who don’t, who wait to see what will happen. But once you’ve experienced a dangerous storm, you’re more likely to prepare or evacuate when the next storm approaches.

It’s occurred to me how fortunate we are that, unlike people who lived in the past, we know of these storms before they hit so we are not caught off guard, thereby giving us a chance to get ready. I can’t imagine how people who lived a hundred years ago dealt with hurricanes. History tells us about some that wreaked tremendous damage and had great loss of life. If only they had known what was coming and how to prepare.

Sometimes, we joke about how the weather people missed the prediction or overstated a storm’s impact. But at least we were warned, giving us a chance to make decisions about our course of action.

Have you ever wished you could get a warning about life’s storms? Were you ever blindsided by something and wondered what happened? Did you say to yourself, “If I’d only known, I would have …?”

Chances are, you have been in at least one situation that was a storm in your life. Often, we don’t get warnings, so what do we do? How do we prepare?

I suggest that first of all we pray regularly before storms hit. We pray for our families, that we will be able to face whatever comes our way. We pray for safety and protection, for wisdom and guidance.

Along with prayer, we need to spend time in God’s Word. In it, we are given some great advice about what to do in times of trouble and how to cope with them.

God doesn’t mince words when it come to trouble. In fact, He guarantees it. In John 6:33, He says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

And how appropriate are these words. “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 6:24-27

The result? “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

Have you faced any storms? How did you deal with them?

Praying for those who live on the East Coast at this time who have a major hurricane headed for them.

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Do You Love Autumn?

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

I grew up in the north. So fall was a refreshing time of year. After the hot summer days, the air would turn crisp. A virtual mask was removed from my face allowing me to breathe again. And the trees would put on a show, illustrating God’s amazing artwork.

But now I live in Florida where autumn doesn’t have the same aura. The days can still be hot. And I rarely see trees that burst with yellow leaves. (Although I can look forward to seeing the beautiful rain trees bloom with vibrant colors.)

Even though I live in Florida, I still love this time of year. It goes beyond what we see and feel physically. For me it represents change. A time to let go of old things in order to make room for the new. A time to discard old beliefs and habits, so that new opportunities and ideas will have room for growth.

I was thinking about this recently, and I wondered if my internal clock was off. To me, this time of year has such an excitement to it. And in my soul it feels like a new year. Four months before January 1st, I am ready to start a new Bible plan, ready to alter my focus, and ready for radical change. Why is that? Am I just ahead of schedule? Or is there something deeper going on?

(Photo by John Frenzel)

If we look at the Jewish calendar, we find three key events that happen around this time of year.

1 – Elul is the twelfth month of the Jewish civil year. Elul usually occurs in August–September on the Gregorian calendar. In the Jewish tradition, the month of Elul is a time of repentance. Elul is seen as a time to search one’s heart and draw close to God. This year Elul falls between August 11 – September 9. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elul)

2 – Rosh HaShanah (literally, “Head of the Year”) is the Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of a 10-day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance. This year Rosh HaShanah falls between September 9-11. (https://reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/rosh-hashanah)

3 – Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. This year Yom Kippur falls between September 18-19. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_Kippur)

(Photo by David Austin)

So I wonder, could this be why I have such strong feelings about fall? I do not have any Jewish blood in me (that I know of). But perhaps since I have been adopted into God’s family through Jesus, maybe this is why I have an appreciation for this time of year.

Whatever the reason, I believe we all can view autumn as a time for harvest. Traditionally this means that crops will be harvested. After many months of working the soil, the people are rewarded with plenty of food for their family and neighbors.

In the same way, I feel that fall is a time for soul harvest. After spending the majority of the year cultivating your life, it is now time to pull new attitudes and perspectives up from the ground.

God has new and exciting things on the horizon. If we take time to stop and reflect on what we have learned this year, we will see what changes we need to make, which will allow for great things to come into our lives.

(Photo by Brian Lary)

Take some time this season to think about what changes God is calling you to make in your life. What old habits and beliefs need to die and flutter to the ground with the leaves? After you have cleared some room in your life by removing the old, think about what new treasures God is prompting you to uncover from deep within the soil.

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Do You Remember? (by Hannah Alexander)

I was alone at home when we were attacked seventeen years ago. I received the horrible news from my writing buddies online, and the shock of it sank in more and more deeply as the day wore on. Do you remember?

One of our friends was in New York City at a medical conference when it happened. He and other colleagues were bussed to a medical aid unit near the towers. They waited for injured patients that never came. The attack destroyed thousands. Do you remember?

Another friend was at a writer’s conference several states away from home. All airline flights were canceled, and she didn’t get home for several days–by bus. The skies were empty as the cockpits were fitted with impervious doors and our country was shielded from further attacks. Do you remember?

We visited Ground Zero some years later. It was a vast wasteland of destruction. I could not stop crying as I felt the impact of all those lives lost in that very place. I will always remember. I can never forget.

 

 

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Imagination Gone Wild by Nancy J. Farrier

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There are times when having a writer’s overactive imagination can give you so many possibilities for a story idea that you don’t know where to start. Seeing something unique, or even ordinary, can set off a chain of ideas humming with potential. Every time you see or experience that trigger, the concept becomes fresh again.

 

For me, one of those stimuli happens on my morning walks. I have mentioned before that I walk an old road that loops through the desert hills. The trail is remote and can’t truly be called a road. There are no houses or people, just rocks cacti and plenty of wildlife. Access with a vehicle would be difficult.

 

Along one stretch of this trail, are several mounds like the one pictured above. I would say there are at least a dozen of these mounds. They are grave-shaped and not fresh. They aren’t a natural occurrence either. Every time I pass by, I wonder what made them and what is underneath those piled up rocks and dirt.

 

Because they are older and are in a remote area, I think about settlers heading west. I’m not sure that would be logical for them to traverse this area, but I can almost hear the thud of hooves and the creak of a wagon. I see the sway of the canvas. Hear the cries of little ones. See the driver, his back bowed, shirt sweat-soaked as he sits on the narrow wooden seat holding the reins, dreading the death and burial of another member of his family. I picture this scene for a historical book.

 

I also love suspense and thrillers so I sometimes envision a more horrific scene. Once again, the area would not be easily accessed by any vehicle. Instead, I think of a murderer, urging his horse to climb the rocky trail. Stones rattle back down in the dark of the night as he attempt to hide his crime. A blanket-wrapped body slung behind the saddle is being taken to a place where he can bury the person without anyone knowing. I hear the labored breath of the horse. See the moonlight reflected in the canteen as the murderer takes a drink before beginning the process of covering the body with dirt and rock. Maybe hear a curse as he comes too close to a cactus in the dark and gets some spines in his hand. Hmmm. A historical suspense has some appeal.

 

Because this land is close to, or on, the Apache reservation, there is the thought that this could be a burial place long abandoned. Or, perhaps, after the advent of machinery, the trail was being readied to become a road and some sort of heavy equipment was used to clear the way, making the small mounds out of the debris.

 

I will probably never know what caused these mysterious grave-shaped mounds. I do know that every time I see them, I will think about story potential. Maybe someday I will write the  book.

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A Holy Calling

Opinion by Jim Denney

“Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn’t matter. I’m not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?”
— Alice Walker

Can a bad person write good fiction? That’s a tricky question. No one is perfect. We’re all flawed human beings.

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William Faulkner, 1954, photo by Carl Van Vechten, from the Library of Congress (public domain).

It’s sometimes said, “Love the art, not the artist.” I admire the work of many writers whose political views, religious views, and moral views are opposed to mine. I even admire the work of some writers whose words and actions are, on some level, offensive to me. I have a high tolerance for differing points of view.

But I do draw a line. I have no use for the writings of, say, a racist, a pedophile (or defender of pedophiles), a murderer, a traitor, or an out-and-out hypocrite.

William Faulkner once set a very high standard for writers, saying, “No man can write who is not first a humanitarian.” I’m inclined to agree with that statement. Faulkner is talking about writing as an artistic endeavor. To be a writer and artist, one ought to be idealistic about life, sympathetic and empathetic to other human beings, and generous and compassionate in spirit.

Faulkner, however, contradicted himself. In a 1956 interview for The Paris Review, he brushed aside humanitarian concerns and claimed that the artist should be completely without morality:

FAULKNER: “An artist is a creature driven by demons. He [doesn’t] know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.”

INTERVIEWER: “Do you mean the writer should be completely ruthless?”

FAULKNER: “The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.”

[Jean Stein, “William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12,” The Paris Review, Spring 1956]

Those are not the words of a humanitarian. Faulkner was driven by numerous inner demons, including alcoholism, narcissism, and a strange compulsion to fictionalize his own life. (For example, after failing to enlist in the military for service in World War I, he returned home to Mississippi wearing a pilot’s insignia he hadn’t earned. He affected a limp and told people it was an injury from a “plane crash” that never happened.)

Faulkner referred to his frequent drinking binges as his “collapses” (as if they were accidents that just happened to him). In 1929, after he completed the revisions on The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner drank himself into a coma— one of the many times his drinking put him in the hospital. Faulkner’s editor, Saxe Commins, grimly observed, “It is the complete disintegration of a man.”

Faulkner’s daughter Jill often cleaned up after him or helped him back into bed when he was drunk. Once, when Jill was twelve, Faulkner drank himself into a stupor and she pleaded with him, “Please, Daddy, don’t drink anymore. Think of me.”

Pouring another drink, he cruelly replied, “Nobody remembers Shakespeare’s children.”

No one’s humanitarianism is unflawed. We all do and say things we later regret. But it’s hard to respect the “humanitarian” claims of a writer who would belittle his own daughter or rob his own mother to write the next “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

“I find Faulkner intolerably bad,” novelist Evelyn Waugh once told an interviewer. I don’t know that I agree with Waugh’s harsh assessment, but I do know I’ve never been attracted to Faulkner’s work, and have only read him when assigned to do so in school. Is it because I’ve never detected in his works the attraction of a humanitarian vision?

I believe writers should approach their work as a holy calling. Camus spoke of “the nobility of our calling,” Annie Dillard called writing “a high holy art.” Harlan Ellison said, “writing is a holy chore.” That’s why I pray over the words I write. That’s why I pray for the people who will read my words. To approach the work with anything less than awe, humility, and absolute integrity is to demean my calling.

We ought to live worthily of our calling. We can never arrive at perfection, but we can always strive for the unattainable. Like an early draft of a novel, we are all works-in-progress. Our lives undergo continual rewrites and revisions until, by God’s grace, we finally graduate from this mortal life and receive the gift of immortality.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
— Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

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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.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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Lyn Cote Asks What’s Your Favorite Title?

What’s the title of your favorite book? One of my favorites is At Home in Mitford, Jan Karon’s first in Mitford series. A few of her other titles are Somewhere Safe with Someone Good and Come Rain or Come Shine.

The last one is of course an old song title. I wrestle with titles myself.  (Translation–I am dreadful with coming up with titles,) But I have to do it. I’m bringing out a new historical series this fall–the stories of 4 generations of women in one family from 1917-1990. I have decided to use song titles for the book titles, one for each era: “Meant for Me” 1920’s, “Had to Be You” 1930-40’s, “To Love Somebody” 1960’s and “What Love Is” 1990. I hope the titles make the books attractive to readers.

I have been known to buy a book based merely on the title for example: Miss Frost Solves a Cold Case, and How to Murder a Millionaire. If you have strong feelings about titles and want to share you fave or the one you couldn’t stand, this is your chance to tell us about it–Lyn Cote

WEB LYN COTE IT HAD TO BE YOU

Here’s one of the covers of this upcoming series–I love this cover!

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The Valkyrie in Me

Brunhild_(Postkarte),_G._Bussiere,_1897At some time in the dim, dark past, a Viking Valkyrie visited Ireland or Scotland or England, fell in love a warrior from that land, and left her mark on my matrilineal DNA. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Whatever the reason, I’m thrilled to have a bit of Viking, i.e., Norwegian in my ancestry. Even before I knew about this thread of my DNA lineage, I enjoyed visiting the Norway exhibit at Epcot here in Orlando. There’s something undeniably fascinating about the Norsemen who left their homes in wooden long ships to sail the forbidding seas, traveling from Scandinavia to North America, Europe, and even to the Far East, leaving their mark wherever they roamed.

Their raids lasted from the eighth century raid on Lindesfarne, England, where Vikings warriors plundered a Christian monastery, to the eleventh century, when a Norseman named William of Normandy defeated Anglo-Saxon King Harold and became the king of England. Viking settlements have been found in Newfoundland, and archeological evidence confirms that Vikings traveled as far as Bagdad and India. Yet despite the Vikings’ reputation as murdering thieves, not all expeditions were pirate raids. Some were attempts to open trade routes.

Ulfbehrt-Rebuilt-OriginalThe Vikings had a culture of technology. In addition to building circular fortresses for maximum defensive protection, they worked in metallurgy, crafting hard yet flexible swords called Ulfberht, according to PBS Nova’s “Secrets of the Viking Sword” (September 25, 2013). They perfected the keel, thereby developing those light, flexible long ships that could quickly skim over the seas for long distances, surviving storms and carrying them to all of those far-flung locations. In addition to shipbuilding, Norsemen excelled in bridge building, which made travel around their cold, harsh, and mountainous landscape easier.Osebergskipet_2016_(bw)

Norsemen were a religious people, and their belief in an afterlife was strong. Just as in their own war-filled lives, they held that Valhalla was the afterlife for those who died in battle; a place where dead warriors feasted, fought, and died again, only to rise again the next day to fight again. The recent movies depicting the hammer-wielding god of thunder, Thor, give only hints of the complex mythology of the Norse gods. Like most primitive deities, their gods mirrored the character of the people who worshipped them: Strong, warlike, capricious. Unlike the Greek and Roman gods who involved themselves in the affairs of humans, the Norse gods lived in Asgard, and humans lived in Midgard, worlds apart, having only rare interaction. This makes sense, considering the independent nature of the Norsemen.

255px-Fyrkat_hus_storMost remarkably, the Norsemen believed in the power of the individual, not in governments or kings. This was probably due to the mountainous terrain that prevented a central government or large armies. People had to solve their own problems and provide for their own needs. However, as viewers learned from the recent television series, The Vikings, they did hold large gatherings from time to time, meeting in a longhouse much like many Native American people of the Pacific Northwest.

While I don’t know anything specific about my own personal Viking ancestry, I’m pleased to find that drop of DNA connects me with a wild, noble people. Most of all, I’m thankful to learn that these ancestors became Christians possibly during the reign of Charlemagne, who evangelized the far reaches of his burgeoning empire. Oh, yes, I know. Some will say the heathen were “converted” by force. But while we cannot change the past, we can be thankful that the Gospel message extended to those far northern regions, where those with seeking hearts could find faith in the Living Christ instead of their capricious, self-serving gods.

All of the above pictures are from Wikimedia Commons and are in public domain.

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Jesus Wept by Julie Arduini

Jesus Wept by Julie Arduini.jpg

I chuckle when I read the title of this post. Years ago, when I was new in Christian faith, I helped out with youth group. Anytime, and I mean anytime we challenged the kids to memorize a verse or create a devotion and share it with us, they always went with one verse:

Jesus wept.

They chose it because it’s a short verse and it drove us crazy they did it every single time, but then, we decided to make them dive deeper. One of the teens, now a father of his own teens, really gave a great message on that verse.

Today, I have a message that came to mind as I mentored a young woman. I thought it it was such a game changer for us, perhaps it will encourage someone here, too.

The woman and I were sharing that we were brought up in homes where emotions weren’t openly expressed. As adults, it’s difficult for me to remember it’s okay to feel. I confessed to her it’s been such a trouble spot that I know it’s affected my health. I wanted her to know letting the feelings out is a good thing. It’s a God thing.

“Jesus wept. Weeping isn’t a little sniff, it is a full on cry. A snot fest. So if Jesus cries like that, why can’t you?”

When I wrote that, I felt like the words jumped off the page. Wept is a power word. To visualize Jesus in full emotions, expressing through active tears, is helpful. It reminds me Jesus didn’t stuff His feelings. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to confess you’re struggling.

I never felt free to do so, and even now, I struggle trying to stay stoic. But understanding Jesus wept gives me permission to release the tears when I feel them. Share. Lament. Anything but stuff them.

If you’re fighting a good cry because you believe it’s wrong, take it from Jesus. He wept.

And so can you.

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Here Comes Fall…

fall leaves

With the official start of Fall less than 20 days away, it sure doesn’t feel much like it here in Texas. Even though the local weathermen are warning we have a long road ahead filled with many hot days still before we can enjoy those crisp cool mornings of autumn, I remain an optimist.

So today, I thought I’d share a little autumn beauty to get you in the mood.

fall 1

Are you feeling it yet?

Who’s ready for pumpkin patches!
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Pumpkin lattes
pumpkin latte

 

Getting lost on a long walk.

fall leaves1

And Pumpkin Bread!

pumpkin bread

 

I thought I’d share one of my favorite Pumpkin Spice Bread Recipe with you all.

Pumpkin Spice Bread Recipe

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup smooth applesauce

3 large eggs

1 (15 oz) can solid pack pumpkin

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups wheat flour

2 teaspoons ground cloves

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9x5x3 loaf pans or muffin tins. Beat sugar and oil in a large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs, pumpkin, and apple sauce. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions.

Divide batter equally among prepared pans (muffin tins). Bake until tester comes out clean, about 1 hour for loaves, 20 min for muffins. Transfer to cooling racks and cool for 10 minutes.

Turn out onto racks and cool completely.

And to get you in the mood for Christmas, which is just 120 days away, why not curl up with your favorite hot beverage and enjoy this sweet romance boxed set of 9 heartwarming holiday novellas from your favorite award winning authors that are sure to put you in the mood for Christmas.

sweet christmas kisses 5

Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 is now available for preorder for only $.99 for the complete collection. Your order will automatically download when the book releases on September 25th.

Mary Alford New Photo

Publisher’s Weekly Bestselling Author Mary Alford loves to create characters and to throw them into situations that test their faith. A lifelong resident of Texas, Mary was inspired to become a writer after reading classic romantic suspense novels by her favorite authors. Writing her own novels is a dream come true. Mary Alford can be found at: www.maryalford.net or you can email her at maryjafordauthor@gmail.com. Follow Mary on Facebook at “Mary Alford Author” and Twitter at “MaryAlford13”.

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A Puzzling Puzzle

My husband and I go through jigsaw puzzle kicks. Sometimes we will be in the mood to work on them. But other times we will go months or years without even looking at one. Right now we are on a kick. Over the past several weeks we have completed seven puzzles. We started on number eight, but it seems our interest has fizzled a bit with that one.

Interestingly, one of the puzzles we recently completed has a story to it. We started this puzzle once before a few years ago. We lived in a different home then. We had a folding table with a piece of white cardboard on top of it set up in our living room in front of one of the two sofas. We didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it. (You know, real life and all that!) Therefore the puzzle sat there for some time, as we tried to work on it here and there. This puzzle was one thousand pieces, with stunning colors in the sky above, a serene cabin, and an inviting lake.

There was also a streak of fog that sat between the sky and the lake. When we finished this section we discovered that there was a piece missing. The fog had a unique color which set it apart from the rest of the puzzle and made it easy to see that the piece we needed was not there. Multiple times we went through all the remaining pieces, we looked under the cardboard, we peeked in the cracks of the table, and we dug in the couch cushions. We looked everywhere, but to no avail. We finally moved the table into a different room, scratching our heads. Did the dog eat it? Did one of the kids do something with it? We were puzzled! (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!) Finally we put the puzzle pieces back in the box and gave up on it.

Many months later we decided to sell our home and move across town. One night we were in our new home watching TV. When we got up from the couch, what did we find on the tile floor? You guessed it – that missing puzzle piece! We couldn’t believe it. We were flabbergasted, to say the least.

The only explanation is that the piece was stuck in the couch. But it amazed us that it stayed there even when we moved. The couch had been moved into a pod, the pod was moved across town, and then the couch was moved from the pod into our new home. All that jostling and it stayed put.

When we found the piece, I marked the back of it, so that we would know which one it was. And I stuck it in the box. Luckily we had not trashed the puzzle yet! We found the piece almost two years ago, so it still took us time to get back to the puzzle. But now it is complete!

Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I wondered what lesson could be learned from this. Two things came to mind…

1 – No matter how lost a situation may seem, there is always hope.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. – Romans 12:12 NLT

2 – Have patience, wait upon the Lord and His timing.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. – Psalm 27:14 NLT

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