I read about a young man who emailed his seminary professor asking for a good reason why so many trite and meaningless rules in the Bible were of any importance.

A week later, he emailed the professor again, gloating. “I didn’t hear from you, so my question must have stumped you.”

The professor responded, “I replied but didn’t bother to put the dot before com in your email address. After all, it’s only an insignificant period.”


Rules are important in traffic, life, and yes, in writing, whether it’s the placement of a period or capturing the theme of the entire story. When we need a doctor, employ a mechanic, or send our children to school, we want skilled, able people in those positions. Editors, agents, and readers want the same from authors. We may be called to the profession and visualize publication, but first must come the training.

We are blessed in having access to expert, experienced, and knowledgeable teachers through writers conferences, books, college courses, internet courses, DVDs, critique groups, and email loops.

But it was Albert Einstein who made famous the idea that “imagination is more important than knowledge.”


Twenty-one published writers decided to show other writers something about the combination of craft and creativity. Each would write a short story, incorporating the same five elements.

First line: The wind was picking up.
Mistaken identity
Pursuit at a noted landmark
Unusual form of transportation
Last line: So that’s exactly what she did.

The book is titled What the Wind Picked Up (iUniverse) and showed that a story can be told many times and include the same elements yet be different because each writer has his own unique style and voice.

When a talent or special ability or inclination is discovered in persons, they’re encouraged to work harder at it, learn more, and practice more. Our imagination (creativity) makes our stories unique and original.


Those who succeed are those who don’t give up but continue to study craft, practice creativity, and work through challenges because it leads to the joy of reaching the world, whether that’s one person or many.

But don’t forget: if reaching the world requires an email, it won’t happen if you type com without the period.

Learn more about the Three C’s of writing at the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat – October 7-10, 2018 – Would love for you to join us!



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Step Seven on our Journey by Louise M. Gouge

Thank you for sticking with me on this journey. Today, I’m posting an opinion piece titled:

Ahab’s Bride Versus Ahab’s Wife

A woman with brown hair, wearing a teal shirt, pale pink leggings and gray shoes, closes her eyes and opens her mouth to weep and cry out loudWhen a writer completes a novel and begins the arduous task of finding a publisher, or better still, finding an agent who will find a publisher and wrangle the best deal for the author, there can be no more disheartening discovery than to find that one’s clever, unique, brilliantly created work has already been “done” by someone else. (Crying woman is a free images from

How did this happen?

No, this is not a case of plagiarism, but rather simply a case of two writers, who do not know of each other’s existence or work, selecting the same subject at the same time and each pouring her heart into the story of a lifetime. Thus, in the spring of 1999, when I completed my master’s thesis, titled Ahab’s Bride, submitted it to my thesis advisor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, received an A on the project, and set about finding an agent to sell it for me, I was appalled to discover that in only a matter of months, another author’s version of the story of Captain Ahab’s “young girl-wife,” also based on one obscure line from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, would make its appearance in bookstores everywhere. That book is Sena Jeter Naslund’s Ahab’s Wife.

Moving forward

After partially recovering from the initial shock, I continued my search and eventually was accepted as a client by an agent who believed with me that, despite the apparent success of Naslund’s novel, a publisher and an audience could still be found for my book. Finding those two essentials has become a lengthy quest that eventually succeeded. In the process, however, I realized how important it would be to show a potential publisher–and, subsequently, readers, why my novel is different from Naslund’s and every bit as worthy of publication and being read. With that in mind, I offer this comparison.


As in Moby Dick, the dominant theme of each of these sequel novels is the central character’s belief system. Naslund’s Una Spenser and my Hannah Oldweiler are both independent women who question the faith of their fathers, but their spiritual odysseys lead them to very different conclusions.


Una travels through many adventures and trials, suffering abuse from her father (physical) and first husband (physical and sexual) and being forced by circumstances into a variety of controversial behaviors. Through all events, Una’s childhood rejection of religion is reinforced. In fact, Naslund’s strongest, most sympathetic characters are those who are non-religious humanists. Una seems to regard people of the Christian faith as somewhat simple-minded and/or foolish, and even evil. For two examples: her father is stereotypical in his evangelical fanaticism until his confusion about his faith leads him to commit suicide Then Una has a bizarre meeting in a forest with a sadly misrepresented, excessively Puritanical Nathaniel Hawthorne. Ultimately, she ends up with Ishmael, the narrator of Moby Dick, with whom she shares a feeling of oneness with the universe rather than a traditional faith in a higher being, i.e., God. This interesting interpretation is certainly the author’s prerogative, and her book has garnered much success. As a fellow author, I applaud her.

Initially, my Hannah suffers more conventional trials for a woman of her time. She loses her mother at birth, experiences a smallpox epidemic, and almost dies when her son is born. While her husband, Ahab, is at sea, Hannah’s father dies, and she is left nearly penniless. Then she must endure years of loneliness after Ahab goes whaling again instead of taking her on a promised sightseeing trip to Europe. When he returns from the voyage with one leg missing, she must cope with his bitterness and insanity. But despite her disappointment in organized religion and hypocritical Christians, Hannah finds a faith that sustains her because of the example of other suffering believers. In the end, she weeps over Ahab’s misunderstanding of the good and loving Father God she has found.

Different Interpretations

My interpretation of Ahab is different from Naslund’s. She changes some of the history Melville created for Ahab, sending him to sea at thirteen rather than eighteen and having him raised by his mother, who Melville tells us died when Ahab was twelve months old. Rather than give us Melville’s Ahab, whose great struggle is against a God Whom he sees as evil and unjust, she makes him an agnostic. Further, he is essentially the same moody and “smoldering” man before and after he loses his leg rather than being dramatically changed by the tragedy.

My Ahab embraces the Puritan concept of God but thinks Him unjust and refuses to worship Him. I believe Melville intended that Ahab wouldn’t actually rage against God until after he loses his leg. Then he actually tries to kill Him by killing that which he views as His instrument of unfair judgment, a “pasteboard mask” behind which God hides: the White Whale.

The Love Story

In Ahab’s Bride, the love of Hannah and Ahab is at center stage. Although Ahab sails away on three voyages during the course of the narrative, he is always a part of Hannah’s thoughts and decisions, as is true in loving marriages. She is his antithesis; therefore, when she suffers tragedies that parallel his, her response is exactly the opposite.

Una’s relationship with Ahab is limited and her marriage takes up less than a third of the book. Una and Ahab see themselves as female and male of the same person, though the reader may not. Further, although she is a loving person and truly loves Ahab, her life is in no way defined by her relationship to him. She could have been married to any wealthy, moody whaling captain who died at sea, and still have come to the same conclusions about faith, religion, God, and the universe.


Without a doubt, Ahab’s Wife is an engaging book. It is a huge work, and many of its elements will satisfy academic, feminist, and humanist critics. However, while realizing I am somewhat biased, I feel strongly that Naslund’s use of Melville’s character was simply a hook to draw an audience, making that connection clever but suspect. But again, we authors use many such devices, so I applaud her success.

On the other hand, I feel that I have responded to Melville’s clear message in Moby Dick: Ahab’s rage against God was both needless and futile. Ahab’s Bride further reveals that Ahab fought against a God he did not understand, to his own destruction. People of faith, and seekers as well, will find my version of Ahab’s “young girl-wife” eminently more satisfying than Una because Hannah rejects a faulty concept of God and instead responds to and accepts His love. Academics will acknowledge the validity of my research and interpretation. My thesis defense, a detailed exposition of my novel’s research and development, has been offered in my previous posts on this blog.

Concerning style

Naslund’s approach seems quite cerebral to me, while my narrative is more direct. A tale of Ahab’s wife can be told effectively through either method. To my way of thinking, we each chose the most appropriate style for our novels.

In My Defense

Finally, it is important to note that I found no overlaps in our story lines that might suggest I have copied her work. My novel was submitted as my master’s thesis in May 1999 and is archived from that date in the Rollins College Olin Library in Winter Park, Florida. I did not learn about the existence of Naslund’s novel until June 1999 and did not read it until late October of that same year.

My publisher, RiverOak Publishing, a now-defunct imprint of David C. Cook, showed sufficient faith in Ahab’s Bride (first published March 2004, released on Kindle 2013) to sign me to a three-book contract for my Ahab’s Legacy trilogy, which continues the story of Hannah Ahab as she struggles to raise her son alone in the 1840s. Book Two in the series, Hannah Rose, was released in February 2005 and on Kindle in 2013, and Book Three, Son of Perdition, was released in the spring of 2006, on Kindle in 2013. All are available at in ebook or print.

You Are the Final Judge

gray_lady_downUltimately, it is readers who decide the financial success of any novel. Naslund’s Ahab’s Wife was a bestseller. (NYT bestseller list’s Bride was not. A failure of  empty pocketsmarketing? Who knows. I must content myself with knowing I wrote the book of my heart, and a Christian publisher saw fit to publish it. While every author wants to make a living doing her art, I take great satisfaction in a project well done. (Woman with empty pockets from

If you’re still with me on this journey, please stay tuned for my next post about the second book in my Legacy of Ahab series, in which Hannah struggles to rear her son…and perhaps even find God’s will for her own life.

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Keeping Easter In Our Hearts All Year Long…


As I write this, my family celebrated Easter yesterday and it was a wonderful day, filled with remembering what sacrifice was made for us so that we can have eternal life.

Normally, we have a party for the grandkids, but this year, some of my grandkids were not able to make it on Easter due to conflicts with their schedules, so my husband and I decided to postpone the children’s Easter party until next Sunday, so we get an extra day to celebrate.

We go all out on our party with a Walking with Jesus walk that takes us through the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, from the triumphant entry, to the crucifixion, to the empty tomb. That’s the highlight of the party. Then we do fishing with Paw Paw, real life Candy land, and many other games. But through  it all, we remind the girls why we celebrate Easter.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep that special Easter feeling all year long? Well, maybe we can. We just have to keep remembering the amazing sacrifice that was made for us that day when Jesus defeated death, the grave lost its power, and for those who put their trust in Jesus, heaven is certain.

So as the Easter decorations get put away for another year, let’s not put the gift that was given to us away as well. Let’s keep Easter there in our hearts all year long.

The latest from Mary

Layers Of The Truth – Available at Amazon

Layers of the Truth


When Cady Russell receives a heartbreaking call from Deputy Sheriff Aamon Lone Elk telling her that her sister has died in a fire that mimics the one that took her parents’ lives twenty years earlier, Cady knows she has to return to Wyoming to find out what really happened to Samantha.

Deputy Sheriff Aamon Lone Elk knows a little about grief himself. He lost his wife to a drunk driver five years earlier. Aamon still isn’t able to move beyond the pain. Yet meeting Cady Russell throws him. She is both beautiful and strong, and he is attracted to her right away.

Cady has been lost in the past as well, unable to move beyond the tragedy that claimed her parents. Now her sister is dead by the same means, and she is convinced the two fires are related.

As the attraction between then continues to grow, can Aamon keep Cady safe as they peel back the layers of lies connected to the two fires? Or will a killer bent on keeping his deadly acts secret send them both to their graves?

All the best…

Mary Alford


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A Day to Rejoice by Tara Randel

Spring is here!


Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message.  And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”  Matt 28:1-10

Don’t be afraid. Words spoken by Jesus that are as powerful today as when spoken to His followers when they discovered He was indeed alive. I can imagine the shock, slowly morphing into joy, when they saw Jesus after two days of pain and confusion, thinking He was not coming back. We are connected by the very same joy, sharing the knowledge with those early believers that Jesus was true to His word and did come back to them. To us.

Let us take the example of Jesus, His life, His death and resurrection, and become a people who walk daily with a mighty Savior. The man who conquered death and the grave for us. Let the joy of that long ago morning fill us every day as we rejoice in His glory.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of sixteen 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 next Harlequin Heartwarming romance coming in August 2018.  Visit Tara at Like her on Facebook at Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

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All About the “Like” by Julie Arduini

My husband jokes that I am the definition of the marriage book we highly recommend, Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel. Where men compartmentalize, women tend to start talking on one topic, switch to another, and another, and before you can stop her, she’s asking you what you thought of her wedding day.

He’s not wrong, and I try not to take him on a journey too crazy when I talk, but my mind tends to be jump around with all tabs open. Today is such a day, and the thing in common is “like.” I thought I’d share those thoughts with you.

  • The book I mentioned above. That helped start and keep our marriage. Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti. See, the word like. 🙂51ENkqaZmML._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_


  • As I write this, it’s my birthday, and our son noted that there were a lot of birthday wishes on my Facebook wall. I told him it’s probably because I have a wide selection of friends there. People I truly know, family, online friends, authors, readers. He joked that he’s going to become an author and when someone asks why, he would confess he’d want to be liked and have a lot of birthday wishes. We’re a silly family that likes to laugh.


  • I critique work as well as send my own chapters in to groups for their review. I also review books when I’m able. A romance I recently finished had a flaw that I’m on the lookout for when I critique—unlikable characters. If you have a hero/heroine that isn’t likable in the beginning, there needs to be something vulnerable there with a heart to change throughout the story. When there’s no change, the reader won’t want to keep reading. Who wants to read a romance with a whiny, obnoxious character that never evolves? The character can be troubled, but if they are straight-up mean with no backstory, I’m done. My favorite villain is Lex Luthor from Smallville. He was written with a brilliant backstory that explained why he became the criminal he did. It was so well done that I felt sorry for him. His path was laid out, but still, a part of me was rooting for him. I liked him despite his evil schemes. That’s a “like” I think about a lot as an author, and a reader.


  • The last like on my mind deals with my author page on Facebook. I am so close to 1000 likes. Crazy. Awesome. For the 1000th person who likes the page (not a post,) I plan to bless them with my Surrendering Time series and my latest release, You’re Beautiful. If it is an international winner, it will be eBooks. If US winner, they can choose between eBooks or softcover. facebook-box-1334045_960_720


There you have it. What things are on your mind that you like? It can be totally random, I love reading what you’re thinking about.





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The Wedding Kiss (by Hannah Alexander)

At long last, I have uploaded my newly rewritten novel, The Wedding Kiss, to Kindle. If you belong to Kindle Unlimited, it’s there, too. I’m particularly excited about the cover, designed by a very good friend, Angela Hunt.

This book holds special meaning for me because it’s set in a place I’ve visited dozens of times over the years. Eureka Springs, Arkansas, was the setting for my very first novel in 1998, when the Great Passion Play was still being held. In fact I was allowed to be one of the actors in the play in order to get a better feel for what my character might experience, and I was allowed backstage with another novelist, Barbara Warren. Together we plotted the death of one of my antagonists.

Little did we know that someone else was working on the set that day. She overheard us plotting to kill, and she came storming through a door, demanding at the top of her lungs, “What’s going on out here!?” Once we got her settled down and explained what we were doing, she was very helpful and gave us inside information about the play, things I never would have discovered any other way.

We novelists get that a lot when we’re plotting–the shocked reactions when people think we’re actually plotting a death of a living human being.  It comes with the territory, and we’ve learned to take our plotting behind closed doors in order not to traumatize poor innocent bystanders.

Fast forward to today, and you won’t find my long-forgotten novel–The Healing Promise–for sale except maybe in some used book stores, and please remember it’s my first novel. I really would like to think my writing has improved since then.  The Great Passion Play has closed down. But I still enjoyed using the setting of Eureka Springs for my historical.

Here’s a blurb in case you’re interested:

Against the charming backdrop of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, one simple kiss draws two people into a discovery that will forever change their lives.

Marriage seems the only option for Keara McBride and Elam Jensen when Keara’s father gambles her home away and ends up in jail. Elam’s children need a mother’s care after the death of their mother less than a year ago. Keara loves the children and she misses her best friend.

But when Elam and Keara seal their vows at the altar with a kiss, their marriage of convenience suddenly becomes far less convenient. Their first kiss ignites sparks of attraction that leave them feeling guilty for betraying Gloria Jensen’s memory.

Everything becomes more complicated when a mysteriously injured visitor shows up on their wedding night, threatening to draw them and the children into deadly danger. But does she also hold a key to their future happiness?

The Wedding Kiss is being offered at a special price of 2.99. But don’t faint when you see hard copies of the first edition for sale for much more. Just click on the title with the picture you see above. Have a wonderful week.

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Up For a Stretch?

By Nancy J. Farrier


I’ve been considering the advantages of stretching. I’m not talking about intense physical exercise. Or, about preparation to run a marathon. This is about muscles that might not have moved for some time, whether from an overnight sleep, or from sitting on the couch for too long, and they need to be worked. The simple acts of loosening muscles can have a multitude of benefits.


Physical Benefits:


When you are tired in the middle of the day, try wind-milling your arms, or walking around the house or office area. Reach for the ceiling, or touch your toes (Or, maybe your knees). Spend a few minutes moving and sleepiness will fade. Blood will be pumping oxygen through the muscles, helping you to be more alert and decreasing the danger of mistakes.


When I am writing and face a problem with my plot or characters that I can’t solve, I take a walk or take time out to do some mundane chore. The time away, the movement and the change of focus will often give me a glimpse of the perfect solution.


Even a little stretching and exercise has helped me. I’ve found that I am healthier and less likely to get sick. When injured, I heal much faster than I used to.


Mental Benefits:


Stretching is not only a physical activity, but a mental one as well. This is one of the benefits of reading, or doing something that requires thought. When I spend too much time watching television or not being challenged mentally, my whole outlook becomes lethargic. I need the puzzle of new activities and ideas to maintain a healthy outlook.


I’ve recently taken a couple of knitting classes. The first one, a class on knitting socks, taught me a skill I’ve always wanted to learn, but never had the opportunity to do. The above picture shows my progress so far on my very first pair of socks. I’m so excited. I’ve even purchased more yarn to do another pair.


I also took a class with my daughter to learn a knitting pattern called Entrelac. We are making a scarf and the pattern is gorgeous, but very intricate. There is a lot of counting and turning, with varied stitches, and sometimes the pattern makes my brain hurt. But I love doing the challenge and the excitement. I’ve included a picture of my scarf, which is now finished.


Try embracing an experiment to learn something new. Maybe something you’ve always wanted to do but have hesitated to try. Your brain may hurt once in a while, but the satisfaction is worth every bit of the difficulty.


Spiritual Benefits:


When I thought of stretching, I wondered about how to extend my limits spiritually. What does God want me to do? Is there a certain area I need to work on to serve Him better?


I believe we are all different, all at a special place in our lives, so there is no easy answer. For me, my husband is retired. We are preparing to move to a different State. I am backing away from all the ministries I’ve been a part of for years. How does that stretch me spiritually?


I’ve come to realize this is a time where I need to grow closer to God. To focus on my walk with Him so I will be ready for whatever He has for me in our new home. By doing simple stretches of faith, I will be building a healthy spirit, and guarding against injury that can come from trying something new when I am not ready for that exercise.


No matter whether physical, mental or spiritual areas need stretched, I want to be open to allowing those muscles to be sore so I can be stronger. I am ready for a new challenge. How about you? What new skill or faith walk will you try?

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When is a Writers’ Conference a Retreat?

By Marilyn Turk

Two years ago, I believe God called me to direct a small Christian Writers Conference for our geographic area, the Florida panhandle and lower Alabama. He led me to the location where it should be held, a a quiet, woodsy area used for church retreats. Due to the location and the intimate size of the conference, I called it a retreat. Those who attended the first year told me it truly was a spiritual retreat for them as well as a writers’ conference.

Someone asked me recently what made me think I could handle such an event on my own. My answer was that I didn’t. I never thought I had to do it in my own strength, but I believed that God wanted it to happen and He was responsible for making it come to fruition.

And so now you get a chance to attend. The second Blue Lake Christian Writers’ Retreat (, will take place May 2-5, 2018. Please come join us. You will be blessed.

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Step Six in our Journey

I hope you’ve been enjoying our journey to show how I developed my character of Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab’s “young girl-wife.” Here’s the next installment.

Ahab's Bride Cover Original

To best show Hannah’s conflicts, I chose a limited omniscience, third person point of view. (in Moby Dick, Ishmael relates the tale from the first person POV.) I prefer the third person because it allows me to move back a little from Hannah in some instances to give an objective view of surrounding events. I mirrored several of Melville’s devices, such as Father Mapple’s sermon that laid out the simplest theme of Moby Dick: to obey God is to disobey ourselves. My preacher, Reverend Jeremiah Harris, addresses the issue of taking care to wisely choose whom to follow (or marry): “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” (Picture at right is of the original cover from David C. Cook, 2004.)

What made Ahab struggle against the whale that wounded him? He sees the beast as a pasteboard mask, with a cruel God hiding behind the visible instrument of his wounding. I have read many volumes and articles of commentary on some of the many aspects of Melville’s tale, including ideas about the author’s spiritual struggles and his wavering belief in God. In none of my reading did I discover a final solution to the questions that linger over both Melville’s theology and the theological significance of this work. It was not my intention to “go there.” However, from these and from the text of Moby Dick, I concocted Ahab’s ruminations about the “injustice” of God after his accident. Other than that, I did not use them to construct my Ahab.

After Ahab returns from the voyage during which he loses his leg, he is no longer my character, but Melville’s original. A complex man to begin with, he actually becomes simpler within that complexity as his monomania grows and as he focuses more and more on his quest. I am committed to being faithful to the character Melville created both before and after the accident.

There may be those Melville and Moby Dick purists who think that my Ahab gives too much rational attention to his wife and child after his loss. They may feel that he would be so monomaniacal by that time he would most likely ignore his family just as he withdraws from the community to surround himself with an “ever-contracting, dropping circle ashore” (386). Or they may prefer to keep Ahab remote and unapproachable, thereby perpetuating his myth or maintaining some fearsome, Olympian quality in his madness. I am convinced, however, that Ahab is only insane about the whale. He retains his brilliant intellect and his ability to lead, both as captain of a ship and as the head of a household. He continues to be aware of the detailed needs within both arenas. He can be approached. Just as Starbuck convinces Ahab to take time to tend to the broken oil casks, Hannah and the child, by their mere presence, will require Ahab to tend to details of home life and on-shore business. It works to Ahab’s advantage to keep peace in his ship and in his home. Further, as is shown by his almost relenting from the chase, he truly does still love his family. It is that factor upon which I base my story.

Ahab's Bride Heidi's DrawingThen of course there are the practical sides to Ahab’s involvement with his wife. Of necessity, by living with her, he would be forced to interact with her. Further, after his mysterious wounding with the broken ivory leg a few weeks before the fatal voyage, when he was unconscious for some time, someone would have to take care of him. Even Captain Peleg didn’t know much about that incident. Other than his wife, who could have nursed Ahab back to health? (Picture at left is a drawing by my talented daughter-in-law, Heidi Latto Gouge. Copyright Louise M. Gouge, 2003. Do not copy without permission.)

Because I am a romance writer, my purpose was to create a compelling love story from the few fragments of information that Melville provided. One challenge was to discover what life would have been like for Ahab’s wife while he was on his ship at sea. Of course, she would be on shore the whole time, so I needed to place her in a society. Research turned up wonderful discoveries about the remarkable whaling communities of New Bedford and Nantucket. Hannah’s personality and experiences would be shaped by these places. Though she never intended to be one of those whaling wives who was always being left behind, it nonetheless happens, and she must cope with it. Having plenty of money (Ahab is rich), she does not need to have a business, such as many Nantucket captains’ wives did.

Nantucket was not a closed society to newcomers (off-islanders), but the women did have their social circles. Mirroring Melville, I placed Hannah in both New Bedford and Nantucket, as Ishmael spent time in both communities. She loves Ahab from a woman’s perspective as Ishmael loves Ahab from a filial perspective. Ishmael admires Ahab but realizes his hero is fatally flawed. Hannah believes in him till the end, her love blinding her to the worst in him.

I used the following Melville characters from Moby Dick, fleshing them out where needed: Ahab, his wife, their son, Starbuck, Mary Starbuck, their son, Bildad, Peleg, Aunt Charity, Harry Macey, Captain Gardiner, Ishmael, the Chinese whalers. Mentioned Father Mapple and Seamen’s Bethel.

I created the following characters to be part of Hannah’s story: her father, her suitor Jeremiah, miscellaneous New Bedford friends, Aunt Charity’s daughter, Ahab’s servant Abigail, Tishtega the midwife.

In addition, I have referred to actual historical characters, including some in the story: Lucretia Mott, the Joseph Starbuck clan of Nantucket, astronomer Maria Mitchell and her father, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Melville’s novel is a multi-layered masterpiece with too many themes for me to count. Religious themes predominate. My novel is a straight-forward love story. Because of the time period in which it was set, I included numerous discussions of philosophy and religion, as is apropos for a nineteenth century American tale. These themes are not intended to overshadow the main story, but rather to augment it.

Internal information in Moby Dick provides a reasonable time frame for my story. Due to the inscriptions in the Seaman’s Bethel that Ishmael reads (1839 being the date of a fatality mentioned on one plaque, so the final voyage of the Pequod would have to begin a year or more, probably several years after that death), Moby Dick being published in 1851, Ishmael speaking of his tale taking place some years (he refuses to say how many) before he is telling it, I set my novel between 1837-1846. Further, Ishmael tells us that he has decided that he must sail from Nantucket rather than New Bedford. Why does he feel that this explanation is necessary? Since 1842 was the banner year for whaling, with Nantucket being the acknowledged whaling capital of the world at that time, any whaler seeking a profitable voyage would not have needed an excuse for choosing that best port. Ishmael would have needed no such excuse for his choice of Nantucket until after 1843, by which time New Bedford, the new whaling capital, would have been the best place to sign on to a whaling ship. So I place the final voyage departure at the end of 1843, by which time, things had begun to decline on Nantucket due to the sand bars that encroached on the harbor.

Since it is difficult to deduce a time frame for all the happenings in Moby Dick, once my Ahab leaves on his final voyage, I have occupied Hannah for over two years until the ships Delight and Rachel return to the island to confirm that Ahab and the Pequod are no more.

Ahab's Bride Second CoverHaving the colossal nerve to try to recreate one of literature’s most memorable and awesome characters, I find my heart aching for the man. I long to call him back to his wife and child, to see him retire from forty years at sea, and to fill his last years with love and happiness. However, I must be true to Melville’s creation. Ahab’s self-will, pride, and monomania are obvious. But I must to ferret out the best parts of Ahab: the things that cause a young woman to fall in love with him, the things that make him a truly great and successful whaling captain, and the things that prove him human. Like Hannah, I have fallen in love with Captain Ahab. I hope my readers will, too. (Picture at right is my current e-book cover by Melinda Cote, 2013.)



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Some Things New

It’s always exciting to have a new book out. Even more fun when you have two new books out in one month.

This month, I’m excited to announce the release of two men Christian romantic suspense novellas.


Love’s Deadly Secrets, which is part of the First Street Church Kindle Worlds series is now available on Amazon.

Can Isabelle Dunn remember what happened the night her friend died, or will she take those memories to her grave?

Isabelle Dunn’s past was wiped away one night when the car she was driving went over the side of the mountain, killing her best friend. Isabelle knows she is lucky to be alive. If it weren’t for her fiancé’s quick action, she might have died that night. Yet it isn’t long before Isabelle comes to realize everything she was told about the accident was a lie, and the man who claims to be her fiancé, is really a cold-blooded killer.
To stay alive, Isabelle flees Buffalo Ridge, Wyoming while looking back over her shoulder. When she stops to catch some sleep just inside the city limits sign for Sweet Grove, Texas, she has no idea how much the quant little town, and Texas Ranger Seth Walker, will change her life for the better.
Ranger Seth Walker had written love out of his life after he watched his twin sister die at the hands of someone she loved. Seth wasn’t able to save Sarah. Can he protect Isabelle now?
Forced into hiding until they can untangle the web of deceit Detective Paul Hardwick has spun, unexpectedly, Seth and Isabelle can’t stop the attraction they feel for each other from turning to love.
With Seth’s help and God’s protection, will Isabelle remember what really happened the night her friend died before Paul Hardwick can silence those memories forever?

Eye of the Storm

And Eye Of The Storm is also now available at Amazon:

Former CIA Agent Kate Reagan finds herself in the middle of storm that has disrupted her life for six years. When Kate’s entire team was killed by the terrorist they’d been chasing for months, Kate finds the only way to save her life is to pretend to lose it.

After moving dozens of times through the years, Kate ends up in the small mountain town of Soaring Eagle, Wyoming where everything about the place screams of the home she’s been longing for.

Running into Deputy Sheriff Brady Connors, Kate finds herself attracted to the handsome frontier lawman right away, but having a future is not possible while the enemy is still stalking her.

With Brady’s help, Kate is about face the showdown she’s been expecting for a long time, when the enemy coming after her proves to be closer than Kate could ever imagine.

All the best…

Mary Alford


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Blue Lake Christian Writer’s Retreat

Our own Marilyn Turk is helping organize this year’s Blue Lake Christian Writer’s Retreat. Many readers are also writers, or considering writing.  Registration is open.  You’ll find the information you need below:


Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat


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Introducing Guest Author Dani Pettrey

Dani Headshot-4

Welcome, Dani. Thank you so much for joining us today.

How did you get started writing:

I have always loved daydreaming and making up stories. I dabbled with creative writing growing up, but set it aside. A good number of years back, after the birth of my youngest daughter and a bout with a serious illness, God stirred the desire to write back in my heart and I’ve been writing ever since. I truly love the power of story. How it can transport you to another time, another place. Books have been such a huge part of my life, and I’m so glad I can share that love with fellow book lovers.

What got you into Christian fiction?

My faith plays a great role in my writing, just as my love of adventure permeates the stories I write, so does my faith. My relationship with Jesus is part of every facet of my life; it’s only natural to be part of the stories I tell. There are many novels that have touched my life—helped me to see something in a different light, inspired hope, and made me a better person. I humbly hope that my stories touch my reader’s lives in a similar way.

What have you learned along the way?

Finding balance and focus can be a challenge, you have to give yourself grace.

I have learned that balance is crucial–taking care of my family, watching my grandsons a couple days a week, maintaining close friendships, writing, researching and marketing. It’s definitely hard to juggle it all and my deepest prayer is for guidance on how to best balance everything God has so kindly entrusted me with.

It’s also very easy to become sidetracked or discouraged. Writing can be a solitary endeavor and there are many obstacles along the path to publication, but if God has placed the love of story on your heart then write for Him, you just may be amazed what He does.

How long have you been writing? When was your first book published?

I’ve been writing for fifteen years. I spent seven years writing and learning the craft before receiving my first contract in late fall of 2010. My first novel, Submerged was published in May of  2012. I now have eight full-length books out along with one novella, and I have just finished writing the ninth full-length, Dead Drift, and my second novella, Deadly Isle.

Dead Drift_Pettrey.jpg

Upcoming new release:

Dead Drift is the fourth and final book in the Chesapeake Valor Series and is now available for pre-order. It releases July 3, 2018.

Burning debris littering the ground . . . smoke pluming in the acrid air . . . this is just the beginning if he fails.

Seven years ago, operative Luke Gallagher vanished to become part of an elite team set on capturing a deadly terrorist. When Luke returns to face those he left behind, their help becomes his only hope of stopping his target’s latest threat of an attack that would shake America to its core.

Private investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving or looking for Luke after he disappeared. But she also never imagined he left her or his life by choice. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal, all while on the brink of a biological disaster.

Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next mark?

Bio for Dani Pettrey:

Praised by New York Times best-selling author Dee Henderson as “a name to look for in romantic suspense,” Dani Pettrey has written eight novels, which have sold more than 300,000 copies. Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance novel. Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s],” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today).

Dani’s adventure-focused Alaskan Courage series climbed the CBA best-seller lists, with Submerged staying in the top twenty for five consecutive months. The five-book series also won multiple awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award, two HOLT Medallions, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award, among others. She turns her attention to crime and law enforcement in her home state of Maryland in her new Chesapeake Courage series, starting with Cold Shot, which Library Journal called, “a harrowing and thrilling ride.” For more information about her novels, visit

Thank you, Dani!

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A Prayer for the Blank Page

by Jim Denney

“Almighty God, bestow upon us the meaning of words, the light of understanding, the nobility of diction, and the faith of the true nature. And grant that what we believe, we may also speak.” —Hilary of Poitiers (A.D. 315-368)

“Blank pages inspire me with terror,” novelist Margaret Atwood once confessed. And John Steinbeck, the Pulitzer- and Nobel-winning author of The Grapes of Wrath, once confessed in his journal, “I suffer as always from the fear of putting down the first line. It is amazing the terrors, the magics, the prayers, the straightening shyness that assails one.”


G. K. Chesterton, illustration by Paul Henry, Appleton’s Magazine, 1904

Terror of the blank page is as old as literature itself. In 1295, Dante Alighieri wrote in Vita Nuova (The New Life), “It seemed to me that I had undertaken a theme too lofty for myself, so that I did not dare to begin writing, and I remained for several days with the desire to write and the fear of beginning.”

Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird, reveals her solution to the fear of the blank page: Prayer. She writes, “I sit for a moment and then say a small prayer — ‘please help me get out of the way so I can write what wants to be written.’”

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was famed for his literary criticism, theological essays, and mystery tales featuring the priest-detective Father Brown. Like Anne Lamott, Chesterton approached every writing project with an attitude of prayer. He once wrote:

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera,
And grace before the play and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

What should an author pray for? Inspiration. Wisdom to write truthfully. Courage to write boldly. Grace to write freely. A mind that is open and receptive to new ideas — and to the urgings of the Spirit. A heart that is open and sensitive to the hurts, hopes, and dreams of readers.

(I prayed for you, reader, as I wrote these words.)

After praying, the writer must then write.

A story is told about Winston Churchill, who was not only England’s greatest prime minister, but also an author and artist. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the anecdote, but the point it makes is absolutely true.

Churchill was in his garden, confronting an easel and a blank canvas — and he found himself blocked and unable to begin. He was afraid to put the first brush-stroke on the canvas. He would daub his brush with paint and raise it — pause — then lower it without leaving a mark.

A neighbor lady watched Churchill go through these motions several times. Finally, in exasperation, she strode into his garden, took the brush from his hand, and flung a splotch of paint onto the canvas.

“Now, paint!” she said.

And Churchill began to paint.

If you wish to accomplish anything in life, whether it is building a business, starting a Bible study, or writing a novel, you must begin at the beginning, you must confront the blank page, you must write the first sentence (either literally or metaphorically) of your work.

Don’t be intimidated. Don’t be afraid to make your mark. Breathe a prayer to the Author of the Universe, the Source of Creativity. Ask for inspiration. Ask for boldness.

Then fling something new and creative onto the blank page of this moment.

Once you’ve begun, don’t stop. Let the work you do become God’s answer to your own prayer.




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 —J.D.


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Do You Like Where You Live and Why?

March Morning 2015

Lyn Cote here-I know that’s not a question people ask you directly but many times they ask it indirectly with comments, intimating that they wouldn’t want to live where you do! ‘-) I live in the far northwoods of Wisconsin. Lake Superior is just an hour an a half drive north of my house. (Photograph above–a March morning in my backyard.)

And people, especially those who live in warmer latitudes, are always shocked that I like living here. Southerners (and South-Westerners) appear to have a snow and cold phobia. But I think that’s probably natural because snow isn’t fun unless you’ve grown up with it (To a kid, snow makes the whole world a beach:-). And the kind of snow Southern-livers see seems to be more than a nuisance than real snow.

However, the real challenge of living where I do is spring–or the lack thereof. This far north spring is merely the war between winter and summer. Summer wins for a while and brings melting and warm breezes. Then winter barrels back in with Canadian winds and wet snow or ice. This starts sometime in April and continues till around Memorial Day when winter FINALLY gives in–usually. So I don’t mind winter, but our UN-SPRING can get on my nerves!

Winter Homecoming

As is true of every place, my area has a rich history. My book, Winter Homecoming, is set in the northwoods, a historical set in the Depression.

Here’s the blurb:

Catching a freight train out of Chicago is no way to spend Christmas Day. But the Depression has cost Will Gustafson everything—his classy wife, executive job and high society life. Now he’s heading home to the northwoods of Wisconsin to face the “I told you so’s” he deserves. On the freight train a homeless little boy attaches himself to Will like a lost puppy. Who is the boy and why is he alone?

On the day after Christmas in her Model T, Cass Newton picks up Will and the boy and takes them home with her. Is she crazy? But a new widow, she needs a handyman to help her weather the winter in her isolated cabin. She’s concealed her “delicate” condition from everyone but can’t deceive Will. A baby is coming and Will wonders how he’ll handle this—when his lady boss refuses to see a doctor. Why not for heaven’s sake?

He fights his growing attraction to this good but stubborn woman—so unlike the wife who divorced him. The three of them become an unlikely “family.” Yet what will happen when the snow melts and all their secrets are revealed?

I’m going to set the price for the ebook FREE Saturday March 17-21. (It is one of two of my ebooks on Kindle Unlimited too.) Here’s the link So where do you live and do you like living there? I’d like to know.–Lyn Cote

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New Release: Hunted by Margaret Daley—Interview with the Hero

New Release: Hunted by Margaret Daley—Interview with the Hero

Luke Michaels, tell me the most interesting thing about you.

I don’t know if it’s necessarily interesting, but I love working with animals from the horses I own to my German shepherd, Shep. He is a well-trained search and rescue dog. We are a team.

What do you do for fun?

I hike and camp. I love the outdoors.

What do you put off doing because you dread it?

Facing my feelings about my wife who died suddenly. I never go to say good-bye.

What are you afraid of most in life?

Confronting my past. I worked on Wall Street and made a lot of money, but at the sacrifice of my marriage.

What do you want out of life?

To appreciate life and the beauty around me. Also, to help others in need.

What is the most important thing to you?

My family and friends. For many years I worked constantly and had little to do with my family and my friends—no, acquaintances—were my business colleagues.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Put my trust totally in the Lord. I grew up believing in God but when I began to work seventy to seventy-five hours a week, I pulled away from what’s the most important thing in life: God.

If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?

I could say back to when I graduated from college and choose to work on Wall Street, but that part of my life has made me the man I am today. Out of tragedy, I’ve grown and made my life mean something other than making a buck.

Hunted Final small

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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