Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Begins with CHRIST

(Posted originally for Christmas 2009)

The house is quiet in this predawn hour. Soon my grandsons will come bounding down the stairs and into my room. "It's Christmas, Gran'ma! Merry Christmas," they'll shout. The day will get busier from that moment, so I am snatching this brief time to write the final entry in the "Christmas Reflections" series.

This posting should have been finished by now, but I couldn't find direction. As a writer and storyteller, I had no trouble putting myself in Mary's place. I could imagine her, propped up against the rough boards of a stall, still perspiring from the labor of giving birth, cradling her newborn son in her arms while she examined every wrinkle and pore of His face--the face of God. I could see her bending to drink in His sweet scent and kiss the hollow at the bridge of His nose. I envisioned her slipping aside her robe just enough to put Him to her breast, giving sustenance to the One Who had created her. No doubt she pondered the words of the angel Gabriel, who told her, "He shall be great."

But this was no ordinary baby. With the conception of Jesus, Almighty God condescended from His position to take on human flesh and enter the world of man. The details of His coming were foretold by God Himself, as He escorted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and through His prophets throughout the Old Testament. I love Luke 4:16-22, which says:


And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. and as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
The Christ did not come to be a cute, giggling, wriggling baby for everyone to coo over. The manger stood in the shadow of the cross. The captives? The blind? The oppressed? That's mankind. Me. You. We are held captive by sin. We are willfully blind to His truth. We are oppressed by our own wickedness. Jesus was born to die on the cross to take away the sin of all who repent and believe in Him. He then conquered Death and Hell by resurrecting from the tomb.

Two millennia ago, a baby was born under humble circumstances to a peasant girl, a virgin until after His birth. That baby is the King of kings, and his prophesied return is imminent. Indeed, the King is coming!

One Raggedy Christmas



The tree, bedecked with cherished ornaments, garlands, and twinkling lights, stood in front of the living room window. We had carefully placed the creche on a white sheet beneath it.

While we kept our gift-giving to a minimum so that it didn't usurp the true meaning of the day, that year circumstances curtailed spending all together. The country was in a recession, and my husband was out of work. So I decided to sew. I warmed up the Singer and began working on huge Raggedy Ann dolls for our two little girls. Keeping it a secret from them while having to work in front of them was the challenge. I could do the machine sewing after they had gone to bed. Constructing the body and the clothes was the easy part.

Embroidering the face, the heart, and the "I love you" took many long hours. As Christmas drew nearer, I found myself working much of the day and into the night on the hand sewing. My daughters watched me rooting every strand of red yarn for the hair.

"What are you doing, Mama?" they asked.

I wouldn't lie to them. "I'm making Raggedy Ann dolls. Do you like them?"

Their faces lit up. "Yes! Who are they for?" I knew they wanted me to say that they were for them, but a mama has to have some secrets, especially at this time of year.

"They're for two children who won't have many presents on Christmas morning. I want them to have these dolls. Do you think they'll like them?"

"Yes," each said. They accepted my explanation. I was glad they didn't ask more questions.

Christmas Eve came, and our tree was still bare of presents. On Christmas morning, however, two rather large gifts appeared behind the creche. After we read Luke 2, it was time for them to open their gifts. When they realized that each had one of the Raggedy Ann dolls, they began dancing around.

"But, Mama, you said these were for two other children," one said.

"Yeah!" the other chimed in. They thought they had caught their mother in a lie.

"I never said that." I remembered, because I had been very deliberate in my wording. "I said that they were for two children who wouldn't have many presents on Christmas morning."

That Christmas, they actually received three gifts: a mama-made doll, a lesson in critical listening, and a story to tell to friends through the years. They still have those dolls. In fact, my grandchildren now enjoy them.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Birth Most Imminent

("A Birth Most Imminent" first appeared in December 2009)


Just hear those sleigh bells jinglin', a ring-ting-tinglin', too. Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.

It was a cherished ritual with us--myself and my two daughters. At least once a Christmas season, we would bundle up against the cold, get in the car, and take a grand light tour, stopping off first at a gas station for tall, steaming cups of some specialty holiday coffee or cappuccino. Then, with music of the season playing in the background and us joining in, we'd head for the most spectacular displays we could find, the ones where folks stopped their cars, dimmed their lights, and sat for awhile to take it all in.

You know the spot. You have one in your town, most likely. Perhaps it is a neighborhood where on a special night the streets and walkways are lined with luminarios. Or maybe it's the home of a retired man whose hobby is converting his garage into Santa's workshop and his lawn into a quiet Bethlehem scene once a year.

Giddy-yap, giddy-yap, giddy-yap! Let's go! Let's look at the show. We're ridin' in a wonderland of snow.

We usually visited the flashiest displays first, before wandering onto quiet streets. One night, colored lights shone through a fresh layer of snow, turning neighborhoods into a surrealistic winter wonderland. We rolled the car windows down, willing to endure the cold in order to hear the sound of our tires crunching snow. The icy glow of a nearly-full moon added to the mystery of the scene. We were in an upscale suburb, and most of the properties were decorated to some degree. Brightly-lit Christmas trees stood where they could be seen from the street, electric candles glowed in each window, and wreaths of fresh evergreenery hung on heavy doors of wood and brass.

Let's take the road before us and sing a chorus or two. Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.

One house stood out for its lack of adornment.

"Stop," I said to my older daughter who was driving. "Let's go back to that house."

Both daughters asked why. "I can't explain it, but I just think that we should carol the people who live there."
My younger daughter who was sitting in back leaned forward. "Do you know them?"

"No. That doesn't matter."

We went back, parked the car, and walked up to the door. I knocked firmly, and, without waiting for an answer, we began to sing in three-part harmony, as we often did at church.

Silent night. Holy night. All is calm, all is bright.

The door opened, and there stood a young man and his wife. He had his arm around her to warm her.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.

The young woman looked up at her husband and smiled.

We wish you a merry Christmas! We wish you a merry Christmas! We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

"Thank you. Thank you so very much," said the woman. "I'm in labor. We're on our way to the hospital. And I was not looking forward to the ordeal ahead of me. But I know I can make it, now. I really needed to hear your lovely caroling."

"Yes," the man said. "Thank you. And merry Christmas to you, also."

On our way out of that neighborhood, God gave us another blessing. A family of deer numbering seven or eight wandered onto a broad, snow-covered lawn just as we were about to pass. Again we stopped the car and dimmed the lights. The deer lingered, watching us watching them. For several minutes we sat there, sipping the last of our drinks, cold by now, before heading for home.

There's a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray. It will be the perfect ending of a perfect day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

News, Reviews & Interviews

Cedar Creek Seasons

by Eileen Key, Becky Melby, Rachael Phillips & Cynthia Ruchti

Romancing America
Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Ulrichsville, Ohio

350 pages
ISBN: 978-1-61626-645-5

The elections were over, and I was ready for a vacation. As God would have it, I met Rachael Phillips at the autumn ACFW-Indiana Chapter luncheon on the north side of Indy. Post-meeting, we lingered over coffee and a sweet treat with fellow writers Ramona K. Cecil and Millie Nelson Samuelson. As we were saying our farewells, Rachael offered me an all-expense paid getaway trip to Cedarburg, Wisconsin!

All right. I must tell the truth and shame the devil. What she actually said was, "Would you be an influencer for this book?" I hesitated ever so briefly. I occasionally review books, but I'm choosy. I will not write a negative review. Though I may point out what I perceive to be a weakness, the general tone of my reviews will be positive--or I'll abstain from writing it.

We've all heard, "You can't judge a book by its cover," but I disagree. The cover of Cedar Creek Seasons has several things going for it. It's appealing. It features an autumn scene; fall is one of my four favorite seasons. (Yeah, I know. That doesn't make sense. What can I say? I love Indiana where each season struts its own beauty.) It has a covered bridge. (Who doesn't love covered bridges?) Then there are the writers: Eileen, Becky, Indiana's own Rachael, and Cynthia--all solid scribes with whom I am familiar, having read their previous novella collection, A Door County Christmas, and Eileen's Dog Gone.  With all that going for the book, I eagerly accepted her invitation and soon was on my way to Cedarburg.

"Love Blooms in Every Season of Life," the back cover blurb headline, has a duo-meaning since the novellas of Cedar Creek Seasons feature protagonists in four life seasons, and each story gives the reader opportunity to enjoy Cedarburg in a different season.

A Contest of Wills by Becky Melby

It's winter when Cedarburg holds a contest. The entrant who garners the most votes from shoppers will win space in the town's historic district rent free for a year. Forty-something Willow Miles finds herself in fierce competition with artist Wilson Woodworth. Willow builds unique children's furniture and has outgrown her present area. A spot in the historic district would give her the room she needs and place her wares on the path of Cedarburg's many tourists. Wilson wants the space as a gallery for his paintings. The contest goes from friendly to fierce as the day draws near for the winner to be announced.

In Tune With You by Rachael Phillips

Chesca Appel, the twenty-five-year-old part-time choral director at Christ the King Church, is ready to begin rehearsals for the Easter cantata. She has carefully selected the music to ensure a magnificent worshipful performance. All is well until the pastor requests that she add drama and children to the program. To help out, he brings in Seth Amundsen, the tone-deaf school football coach, who loves both drama and kids. Seth, in turn, introduces his own cast of characters: several members of the football team, an obstinate donkey, and sheep. Amid all the chaos, enter one beguiling ex-fiancée and her brassy mama. This cantata is to be one Chesca will never forget.

Silvery Summer by Eileen Key

It's not personal. It's business. Recently retired Claire Parsons returns to Cedarburg with daughter Melissa simply as a vendor, to sell her pottery during the Strawberry Festival. She has no intentions of rekindling the embers of a long-dead romance with Eli Mueller. He broke her heart once. She wouldn't let it happen again. Besides, who knew if he was even still around? He is. Banners and flyers proclaiming his role in sponsoring the festival abound. His face is everywhere she looks--older than the face that haunts her memories, but just as handsome. Once he realizes she is in town, he tries to woo her again. But can cold embers be revived?

Eileen proved in Dog Gone she has a way with writing romance that features mature characters, so I knew I would thoroughly enjoy her contribution. Silvery Summer lives up to my expectations.

Maybe Us by Cynthia Ruchti

(I love word plays, and the title of this novella is that, since the main character knits and sells moebius scarves. Moebius, if slightly mispronounced, sounds like maybe us.)

Beth Schurmer, just five years out of college, can't be bothered with love. It has gotten in the way too many times in the past, and she won't let herself get sidetracked again. Her plate is full, thank you, what with caring for her beloved Oompa and managing his Yarn Shop (which, by the way, is another play on words, since her grandfather revels in telling stories to all who will listen--and many come in to do just that). When chocolatier Derrick Hofferman, who is nearly seven feet tall, sets up shop just two doors down, he enlists Beth as his official brownie sampler. She loves chocolate, so that works out well. Derrick and Oompa hit it off immediately. Derrick often leaves his own business unattended to listen to Oompa's tales. As autumn progresses, Beth, Oompa, and Derrick form a strong yarn of three strands. How far will the metaphor extend? Will the yarn be knitted into an unending moebius?

I thoroughly enjoyed my post-election getaway to Cedarburg, Wisconsin, which is near Milwaukee. I checked out the town online and vicariously walked the historic district and the path to the rustic covered bridge pictured on the cover, the only one still standing in Wisconsin.

Christmas gift suggestion: Couple Cedar Creek Seasons with A Door County Christmas.

Review by Sharon Kirk Clifton

Know any young writers and readers? Invite them to visit Quirky Quill.




Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Eleven Hours and Counting!

Dateline: Wednesday, 31October 2012; my writer's nest.

  • Got idea? Check!
  • Completed a healthy chunk of research? Check!
  • Lined out characters? Check!
  • Laid out town? Check!
  • Interviewed MC? Check!
  • Printed off character and place pictures? Check!
  • Compiled Pandora.com 1930s radio station for inspiration? Check!
  • Nailed down some Great Depression dates? To do today!
  • Complete plot/subplot braid? To do today!
  • Bought coffee? Check!
  • Planned for quick meals? Check!
  • Proclaimed participation through social networks? Check!
  • Reviewed NaNo site? To do today!
  • Warned family and friends? Check!
  • Prayed? To do DAILY!
  • Sent my internal editorial staff on a month-long, well-deserved hiatus to the moon! To do at 6 a.m. November 1!
Gentle reader, if you compare this list to yesterday's, you'll note that I'm on schedule. I've also added a few items, so I'll have references at my fingertips. Are you participating in NaNo? Have you in the past? Any advice? How do you prepare in advance? Leave comments and help your fellow WriMos!

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo! Two Days and Counting!


Dateline: Tuesday, 30 October 2012; my writer's nest.
  • Got idea? Check!
  • Completed a healthy chunk of research? Check!
  • Lined out characters? Check!
  • Laid out town? Check!
  • Interviewed characters? To do today!
  • Complete plot/subplot braid? To do tomorrow!
  • Bought coffee? Check!
  • Planned for quick meals? In progress...!
  • Proclaimed participation through social networks? Check!
  • Reviewed NaNo site? To do tomorrow!
  • Warned family and friends? Check!
  • Prayed? To do DAILY!
  • Sent my internal editorial staff on a month-long, well-deserved hiatus to the moon! To do at 6 a.m. November 1!
ANNOUNCEMENT TO ALL MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS: I love you very, very much. However, through the month of November--National Novel Writing Month--I will be participating in NaNoWriMo, which means I must write at least 2,084 words a day for 24 of the month's 30 days to meet my goal. If I miss a day or fail to make the count, I must compensate by writing more on other days. Therefore, I cannot engage in social activities or long, delightful phone conversations. I believe in the book I'm working on. Prayers and encouragement will be gratefully accepted. This is a first for me. Please feel free to ask me how things are going, as that will hold me accountable.

Comments, including seasoned advice, welcome. Be brief. Don't expect an answer until 1 December 2012 (exception: agents and editors).

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reclaiming All Hallows Eve

Gentle readers, I highly recommend Dr. Albert Mohler's blog article on this subject, also.


[Note: Whenever I refer to the Church, I mean the regenerated followers of Jesus Christ, not some brick-and-mortar structure.]

The Church has allowed Satan, the ancient enemy of Creator God, to steal, or at least taint, many of our celebrations. The man Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, who gave his all to follow the Savior, has morphed into a jolly, rotund, caricature we call Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny continues to try to usurp the position of the resurrected Savior. Children are taught erroneously that Thanksgiving was a time when the Pilgrims thanked the Indians for helping them to survive in the wilderness.

All Hallows' Eve also has suffered at the hands of the enemy, though not as much as the afore-mentioned, since it was never purely Christian and has clearly pagan origins. Most agrarian cultures celebrate significant events in the seasonal growing cycle: harvest time, solstices and equinoxes, and planting time, for example.

The origins of All Hallows' Eve--Hallowe'en (don't forget the apostrophe)--go back 2,000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The word means "end of summer." Pumpkins, apples, and various gourds were a significant part of that event. The Celtic new year began on November 1. Make no mistake. Samhain was not an innocent harvest celebration. Blood sacrifices--both animal and human--were offered to Druid gods.

By 43 A.D., the Romans had conquered the Celts, and within the following 400 years, had integrated their own pagan festivals into Samhain, including Feralia, occurring in late October. Feralia was a day to commemorate the dead.

"Christianity" spread through the Celtic lands by the 800s. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III established that November 1 would be All Hallows' Day. According to Roman Catholic belief, All Hallows' Day was when souls were released from Purgatory and allowed to wander the Earth for 48 hours. Apparently, Pope Gregory was attempting to supplant Samhain with a Christianized version. That was Pope Gregory's M.O. He often claimed pagan celebrations and buildings and imposed a "Christian" significance on them. For example, he claimed the Pantheon (which was dedicated by the Romans to "all gods") for a Christian purpose. His All Saints' Eve was celebrated much as Samhain had been, with bonfires, parades, and people wearing costumes of saints, angels, and devils.

______________________________________________________________________

Why would any Christ-follower want to celebrate a day that represents everything for which Jesus Christ gave His life to destroy?  

_______________________________________________


Today, many people claim that Hallowe'en is an innocent harvest festival, but a quick trot through the costume section of the local Wal-Mart tells a different story. With a glance backward to Samhain, Feralia, and, yes, All Hallows' Eve, one can see that the culture of death lives and thrives in today's celebration. The holiday is no holy day!

It amazes me that many Christian parents continue to celebrate this time of ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and witches, labeling it "innocent fun." What is innocent about rubber masks that portray people who have been maimed, disfigured, frightened out of their minds, or murdered? Parents who encourage such "innocent fun" are opening the creaking door on the occult and nudging their wee ones over the threshold. Hallowe'en always has flirted with the macabre.

Why would any Christ-follower want to celebrate a day that represents everything for which Jesus Christ gave His life to destroy? Hallowe'en's origins are completely occultic. But children follow the leadership of their parents. May our all-wise LORD grant to those children the wisdom that their parents and grandparents lack. (Consider Deuteronomy 18:14 and Galatians 5:19-21).

Some parents think to avoid the dark side of Hallowe'en by dressing their children as Disney character, vegetables, or historical figures. After all, children love to role-play and dress up. (So do many of us who are adults, in fact.) If it's done at Hallowe'en, it's in celebration of Hallowe'en, even if Snow White doesn't have blood dripping from enlarged eyeteeth. Kids can play dress-up throughout the year. No one day of the year has a corner on that.

Jesus says that He Is the Light of the World (John 8:12). As His followers, we are commissioned to reflect that light in today's dark world (Matthew 5:14), to be imitators of our Lord (Ephesians 5:1).

As for Hallowe'en, we need not reclaim it; we never owned it. Nor should we want to.

Because of Christ,
Sharon

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dining Like a Character

When we writerly sisters gather, we bring along a few delicacies to nibble while we ruminate on plots and protagonists. This month I suggested that we bring a food our main character would eat. Mine was easy. Since my WIP is set in the Great Depression on a small east-central Indiana farm, I made chicken 'n' dumplings from scratch. Knowing that my MC's fifteen-year-old brother takes off to ride the rails, Kathi baked Hobo Bread in a tin can. Delicious! And since she's working on a children's story about a dog, she also baked another bread that she makes for her own dogs: Spinach Peanut Butter Bread. Sounds strange but it wasn't bad.

Kathy, a multi-pubbed writer of historical romances, brought a delicious Apple Crumb Pie, something many of her characters surely would  bake to entice their love interests.

Lori, who contributed a platter of tasty toasted sandwiches filled with fried bananas and peanut butter, is crafting a tale about a character who is a loyal fan of Elvis Presley.

Finally, I come to Natalie. Frankly, I was a bit anxious about her offering. I warned her in advance, "If it tries to crawl off the plate, I'm not eating it." You see, Natalie writes high fantasy. I needn't have worried. Her presentation was exotic enough for a fantastic repast, but familiar enough to arrest anxiety. Each plate was lined with red lettuce leaves topped with roasted mushrooms, toasted piñons, steamed asparagus spears, chive blades, steamed artichoke leaves, lemon-pepper tilapia, and "grubs" (sculpted from string cheese). Since her MC lives in a desert, Natalie served a luscious layered dessert bar made of figs and dates atop a graham cracker crust and spread with a sweet cream-cheese layer.

This delicious idea provided one more way we each connected with our characters, and we won't soon forget what our cohorts are writing.

Your turn: Have you had an interesting writers' meeting? Do you ever utilize themes for your meetings? Share the fun by leaving a comment. Thanks!

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Decrescendo


The trees play a symphony of color,
With the maples and the sweet gums
Filling in the brass section,
The willows, the graceful, high-pitched strings,
And the oaks, leather-headed drums.
It is September, that unsubtle month,
That must be heard beating out summer,
Heralding fall,
Warning of winter to come.
"These crisp mornings put sweetness in the apples,"
Mama used to say.
And the orchestra plays on--
Sometimes in the raucous sunlight that seems
Brighter because it is rarer than in July,
Sometimes under billowing clouds,
Sometimes softly muffled in the early morning mists.
The song is as sweet as a golden delicious,
But with overtones of melancholy,
Foreshadowing a change of key.

(Copyright 1998 by Sharon Kirk Clifton)

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Half a Dog Won't Hunt: Writing in a 50% World

Two years ago, I had bilateral knee-replacement surgery. The left knee is nearly perfect. It works fine. The right? That's another story. It's nearly as bad as it was before surgery. I got 50% of what I expected.

Yesterday, my air-conditioning went out. Zilch. Nada. The fan wasn't even blowing warm air. I called the office of the apartment complex where I live, and within a half hour, maintenance had yanked the old unit and wrestled a different one into place. (Notice I didn't say a "new" one.) The fan worked on that one, but it didn't cool. I got 50% of what I expected. After another call to the office, I actually got a new one that cools. Huzzah! 100% at last!

Years ago, I worked in advertising for Sears, Roebuck, and Co. (Yes, it went by its full name before they truncated it, hacking off more than 50%.) I loved my work. I laid out the ads, designed and built floor and window displays, and wrote ad copy. When floor managers would go to lunch, guess who got to cover for them. Yep. Me! I loved that, too, because if it was a slow day, I hauled out the hefty books from which the department managers ordered their stock, and I studied, so I knew why this sofa's construction was better than that lower priced one, how muslin differed from percale, how to determine which tire tread would best suite a customer's needs, and how to tie a four-in-hand knot. I also loved those times when business was bustling. The problem-solving element of sales I found exhilarating.

Times have changed. In this 50% world, the part that has been lopped off is service. Seldom can sales clerks tell customers where to find items, especially if it's something outside their department. (In days of old, we had to memorize department names and numbers before we were let loose to help customers.)

Our writers' craft requires 100%. We can't get by with a 50% approach to research, for example. I'm not sure how writers of yore avoided anachronisms, since I'm constantly chasing down internet rabbit trails to verify some fact such as when certain words entered the common lexicon. My work in progress is set in 1935, so Tillie, my ten-year-old protagonist, can't use a bobby pin to hold her hair back, nor can she say to her best friend, "Hey, toots, wha'cha reading?" Neither term was recorded as in use prior to 1936.

As I was writing novel MS #2, partially set in 1860, I had to toss away a beautiful handgun. I loved that weapon. As guns go, it looked good. It was a revolver that had some shotgun features, too--a gun the southern-Indiana deputy in the story would cherish. Problem was, I learned the following:
  1. it wasn't invented until mid-Civil War; 
  2.  it was a Southern weapon
  3. only a few hundred were manufactured
  4. for the most part, it was a favorite of Confederate officers
A pre-Civil War sheriff's deputy wouldn't have had one. What if I had done only 50% of the research necessary to discover the truth?

Consider the many genres of fiction--Regency romance, Amish, bonnet, biblical, historical, thriller. The list is endless. Writers who excel in their genre possess an amazing abundance of esoteric knowledge about that genre. Recently I asked an Amish friend if she reads Amish fiction. "Yes," she said, "but only by the writers who get it right." To get it right, Vanessa Chapman, Wanda Brunstetter, Beverly Lewis, Cindy Woodsmall, Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, etc., can't settle for less than 100%. Even if they've lived among Plain communities, they constantly check with contacts for accuracy's sake.

The same dogged determination that drives us to get the facts right should propel us through the other aspects of our writing, as we thoroughly get to know our characters (I like to interview mine, as I've written about before), our setting (sometimes I draw up house plans or layouts of a town or farm to use as reference), and the plot.

The world around us may settle for "50% off," but we dare not. Neither publishers nor readers will tolerate it.

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord. . . " ~Colossians 3:23

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Monday, August 20, 2012

Celebrating Dr. Calvin Miller's Life

Yesterday, the Lord's Day, 19 August 2012, Dr. Calvin Miller passed from this life into the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are blessed to have his great body of work remaining to continue his legacy. 

I am most familiar with his poetic works, The Singer trilogy. When I was classroom teaching, I often read it aloud to my high school English students and saw it touch their lives. 

Dr. Miller was to be the keynote speaker at the 2012 Indianapolis Christian Writers' Conference, held the first weekend of November at the world headquarters of the Wesleyan Church. I was looking forward to hearing him speak and hopefully meeting him. Alas, I'll have to wait for Heaven. 

Do you have memories of Dr. Miller? Which of his works especially affected your life? Please leave a comment.

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Monday, August 13, 2012

WriteOnCon Begins

Today is "gear up" day for the 2012 WriteOnCon. It begins officially tomorrow. This is my first year to participate in this FREE online conference for writers of MG, 'Tween, and YA. Can you tell I'm excited?

Write on!

Because of Christ,
Sharon

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Name Game


When our group of writerly sisters met this month, Natalie had a problem. She writes speculative fiction--fantasy, to be specific--and she couldn't settle on a name for her mc (main character).

"I'm stuck," she said. "I can't write on until I have a name." She needed one suitable to both her genre and her character. The girl no longer worked. The character was gelling in her mind, but the name eluded her. So we sat around my dining room table brainstorming names--alas, to no avail.


A couple days after our gathering, Natalie sent out a Facebook message to the sisters that she had found the perfect name. We all celebrated her victory.

Character names are extremely important. Try to imagine The Adventures of Clarence Finn, Harriet Eyre, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Joe B. Smythe, or Robert the Pooh. What if Old Yeller had been named Golden Boy or Because of Winn-Dixie were Because of Walmart? Would a rose by any other name truly smell as sweet? I'm with Anne Shirley on that one. If roses were called skunk cabbages, they couldn't be as fragrant. (And would you want to read Bertha of Green Gables?)

As with most words, a name carries with it connotation and denotation, the latter being its actual meaning (which the writer can discover by visiting baby-naming sites). The connotation is the baggage the name carried with it, for the writer, but also for the reader. The two may be quite different, depending on personal experience with the name. For example, I won't name a positive character Jackie because a boy by that name tormented me throughout my public school years. Bonnie is out for me, too. You likely have a list of off-limit names.

Now I have my own naming quandary.  I'm writing my third middle-grade novel, this one for the lower end of that readers' range. It's set in east-central Indiana in the 1930s. My mc is a ten-year-old feisty girl who dares to confront her step-father about his parental skills--or lack thereof. I'm torn between Leora and Tillie (short for Matilda).

Which name do you prefer and why? Or is there one you like better than either of those? Please click "Comments" to register your input. Thanks much!

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon


Friday, July 20, 2012

How Long To Persevere

Do you ever put a book aside, deciding to stop reading it? At what point do you call it quits? What factors figure into your decision? 



I'm a writer; therefore, I'm an avid reader. Of course, much of what I read is within my primary genre, middle-grade fiction; a secondary genre, historical fiction; and books about the writer's craft.
       Now and then, I come across a book with which I have a hard time connecting. Perhaps the characters lack the depth needed to capture my interest or the premise is shallow or weak. The book may be very good, though, and simply not appeal to me. I made a pact with myself when I was in high school that I would read at least 100 pages before I quit a book. Usually, by that point I'm invested in the story and continue to the end. Usually. But not always.
       Do you ever put a book aside, deciding to stop reading it? At what point do you call it quits? What factors figure into your decision? I look forward to reading your comments.

What Am I Reading Now?

by Dr. K. P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia

Were it not for the message of hope through Jesus Christ woven through the pages of this book, it would be nearly impossible to read because of the heartrending content. No Longer a Slumdog is a small book but an important one that every Christ-follower should read. Click on Dr. Yohannan's name above and hear him discuss the book.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Quirky Writer's Kitchen: The Recipes!

Sour Milk Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour milk (or add a little lemon juice or cider vinegar to sweet milk)
2-1/2 cups unbleached flour
7 tablespoons cocoa (not Dutch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 1 cup warm water
Cake: Cream together butter and sugar. Add 2 eggs, 1 cup sour milk (add 1 tbsp vinegar to milk, if you don't have sour milk or buttermilk), flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda. Mix till well blended. Pour in greased 9 x 13 pan. (I sprayed the pan with organic olive oil spray.) Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Test by touching top of cake; if it springs back, it's done. You can also insert a toothpick near the center, and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Caramel Butter Cream Frosting

Melt together 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup dark brown sugar. Bring to a boil and stir for about one minute. Add 1/4 cup. milk. Stir well and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, sift about 3-1/4 cups powdered sugar. Mix caramel mixture together with powdered sugar and beat well. Weather affects the frosting, so don't add all the powdered at once. Beat in each addition until you have it at a nice spreading consistency. This makes enough to frost two 8" layers, tops and sides, or one 9 x 13 pan. If you wish, you may sprinkle nuts on the top.

WARNING! Once you taste this simple frosting, you'll never be satisfied to just open a store-bought can again!

Now, I'm making some tea and cutting a square of this cake, and it's back to the keyboard for me to . . .

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon



Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Quirky Writer's Kitchen

When I discovered my milk was tainted, on its way to being all-out sour, I did what any red-blooded child of a mama who survived the Great Depression would do; I set it out on the counter to let it get good and tangy. Now I'm about to bake a genuine scratch Sour Milk Chocolate Cake. I'll slather it over with homemade caramel icing good enough to cut in squares and sell in any fine candy shop.
I'm beginning my third middle-grade novel, this one set in east-central Indiana during--you guessed it--the Depression. As I searched for the cake recipe, I got to thinking about how much the 1930s changed the way we cook. It certainly affected Mama's style. 

I was born post-WWII, but I know that much of what Mama cooked was the result of having lived through the dark decade in America's history. We were "economically challenged" throughout my youth. I guess the Depression hung on longer for some folks. My mama had a talent for making something delicious out of nothing. 

There's a wonderful little restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans that's famous for its bread pudding. It's good. Really good. But not better than Mama's. And the money I paid for one helping of that N'awleans treat was more than Mama had for a week's groceries. I loved Mama's bread pudding, but I just thought of it as something you do with old, stale bread.

Pies--vinegar (tastes like lemon pie), buttermilk, custard, and old-fashioned sugar cream--were among her specialties. Some of those predated the Depression, coming through the generations from our pioneer foremothers, but recipes that reflected the frugality of the times gained popularity after the stock market crashed.

Casserole recipes abounded during the 1930s, also. Homemakers could stretch a little meat to serve a family by mixing it with something rich in carbs--potatoes, macaroni, noodles/dumplings (homemade, of course), or rice. Toss in some leftover veggies and add a cream sauce of some kind. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and serve with bread. The wolf at the door was staved off one more night.

Back to my research. (After all, I must eat what my characters would eat.) The cake should be cool enough to cut in about three hours. Come on over, and I'll serve you a slab, along with some hazelnut coffee, fresh from the quirky writer's kitchen. Sound good?

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Postscript: Cake and frosting are delicious! Come back in a little while for the recipes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Review: HEALER


    Guest Reviewer: Danielle Dodge

It's a pleasure to welcome Danielle and her review. At fourteen, about to enter her freshman year, she already has several credentials. She has written two novellas, a novel, and several guest blogs. She also has placed in numerous writing competitions. Her goal is to write and traditionally publish YA that will "make a change in teen fiction."  

Healer: A Novel by Linda Windsor

Brides of Alba series

Copyright 2010 by Linda Windsor
Published by David C. Cook
384 pages
ISBN-10: 1434764788
 ISBN-13: 978-1434764782

Back cover copy: 
Sixth-century Scotland—in the time of Arthur….
 
“The Gowrys’ seed shall divide your mighty house and bring a peace beyond the ken of your wicked soul.”
 
Her mother’s dying prophecy to the chieftain Tarlach O’Byrne sentenced Brenna of Gowrys to twenty years of hiding. Twenty years of being hunted—by the O’Byrnes, who fear the prophecy, and by her kinsmen, who expect her to lead them against their oppressors. But Brenna is a trained and gifted healer, not a warrior queen. So she lives alone in the wilderness with only her pet wolf for company. When she rescues a man badly wounded from an ambush, she believes he may be the answer to her deep loneliness. Healing him comes as easy as loving him. But can their love overcome years of bitterness and greed…and bring peace and renewed faith to the shattered kingdom?


Danielle's Review:
This book is set in 6th century Scotland.  In Healer, Brenna of the clan of Gowrys lives in the hills, hiding from an enemy clan that hunts her because of her mother’s dying prophecy.  She knows many arts of healing and wants to use her gift to help people.  But she is also afraid to come out of hiding so she stays in her mountain cave with her wolf, Faol.
          Ronan of the clan of Glenarden is son to the madman chief, Tarlach.  Ronan knows well the prophecy of Joanna of Gowrys: that her daughter will split the clan of Glenarden.  Ronan searches for the daughter of Joanna – an alleged witch – every year.  But one year during the witch hunt, Ronan is attacked by an assassin.
          Brenna, who watches from the hills just above him, saves his life, takes him back to her cave, and nurses him back to health.  During that healing process, the two fall in love, get married, and Brenna comes back to Glenarden with Ronan.  But can the two warring clans of Glenarden and Gowrys come to peace with each other?  And can they find the would-be assassin before it’s too late?

          Linda Windsor has a very good writing style.  Her dialogue flows naturally and her description is good.  I can always see the story flowing through my mind.  She includes several Christian themes and melds them into the story.  But several parts of this book crossed the line in places for me.
          While Brenna and Ronan are together in the cave, they fall in love.  For a devout Christian, Brenna seemed to let her romantic fantasies run away with her too easily.  Because of the story, it was God’s plan that the two would later marry.  But Brenna had a dream of their intimacy before they were even engaged which is something I do not believe God would do.
          Brenna also slept right next to Ronan to be able to check on him during the night.  Being that close just to check on him seemed a bit unnecessary to me.
          There was an un-foreshadowed event that left me feeling like it was a bit too easy in the end.
          There is also some radical driving out of demons in two places in the story.  While that is realistic and things like that happen today, I would recommend this for more mature readers.  Not really a book for younger readers.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

HELP WANTED! Young Reviewers!

Only Kids Need Apply!

QUIRKY QUILL is my blog site geared to middle-graders and 'tweeners who read and write. It's a work of love in progress. At present, it features "Writer's Nudge" (a prompt to promote creative writing), "Fiction in Baby Bites" (a series of columns about the creative writing process), book reviews, and writer interviews (including some  with young scribes). 

I'll do some of the reviews, but I need help. Do you know some young readers? Let them know about QQ, and encourage them to submit a review. Visit QUIRKY QUILL for more details. Note that I don't want book reports. They get enough of that in school.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

News, Reviews & Interviews

Author Interview: Kimberly Rae
Book:  Stolen Woman

SKC:  Thank you so much, Kimberly, for agreeing to an interview. Am I right that this is your debut novel?
Kimberly:  It is! It was more fun than I expected it to be.


SKC:  But you're no novice at writing. Tell us about your previous writing experience?
Kimberly:  I've been writing for magazines, curriculum and other publications for over ten years now. This past year I hit the 100 times published number, which was a major life goal for me. That was exciting.


SKC:  How did that writing prepare you to tackle a novel?
Kimberly:  I have learned so much from writing the smaller stuff. For one, I joined a critique group, and that helped in so many ways--you learn your particular "besetting sins." (One of mine is using too many commas.) And you grow by critiquing other people's writing. Another thing: when you are writing an article, you only have so many words, so you learn to say things as concisely and powerfully as you can. That, along with the fact that so many of my articles were stories from overseas, really helped with the descriptive aspect of the book.

SKC:  In what ways does novel writing differ from your previous experience?
Kimberly:  It's just so much bigger, so much more involved. With an article, you tell your story then you're done. With Stolen Woman, I got to delve into my characters, give them idiosyncrasies and habits, heart goals and insecurities. And because the whole Stolen series is three books revolving around my main two characters, I got to extend how they grew in their faith and dealt with their fears. I learned as their relationship changed. Now that I just finished the third book, I'm really going to miss them. It may sound weird, but I've gotten to know them so well, they seem like family.

SKC:  Stolen Woman is self-published, correct? What led to your decision to take that path?
Kimberly:  Getting an agent, then a publisher, and then getting the books actually into bookstores can take years. Human trafficking is a huge topic right now, but who's to say what will be in a year or two? Knowing that more books would be coming on the topic. I wanted mine out at the beginning of that trend, not the end. So I did it myself, through Createspace, an amazon.com company. They've been great, and much cheaper than any other option I researched.


SKC:  Are you agented now? Were you at the time you self-pubbed?
Kimberly:  I am now, which is so exciting. No, I wasn't at the time the first book came out. I'd say getting an agent took about a year--just about everything in writing takes longer than you want it to. That's probably the toughest part about this business in my opinion, all that waiting. I'm not good at waiting.


SKC:  There is a lot of interest in self-publishing right now. What advice do you give writers considering that option?
Kimberly:  I've actually blogged about that, because it really is a major decision and has so many ramifications. On my blog, put in the keywords "Ever Wanted Your Book in Print," and it lists all the reasons I chose POD (Print On Demand) publishing. Since then I have to say the biggest downside I've seen after a year is having to do all your own marketing and not having it in bookstores across the country. However, I've heard that the average book sells 5,000 copies, while the average self-pubbed book sells 150, so it's clear that there's a big barrier there. Mine has sold over 1,000 so far, so it may take me a few years to get to 5,000, but I'll keep working at it.

SKC:  Stolen Woman is the first in a trilogy. It was released in January, right? And the second work, Stolen Child, is already out. Why did you pub back-to-back?
Kimberly:  That wasn't really intentional, but once the books got in my system, the continued story was just itching to be written. Also, with having to do my own marketing, getting another book out while people still remember the first one and are interested is basically free publicity. I just finished the third one ('way sooner than I expected--guess those nights I can't sleep come in handy) and hope to release it this summer, again keeping that ball rolling.


SKC:  When does the third book, Stolen Future, release?
Kimberly:  Hopefully in July or August of this year! Readers can keep track on www.stolenwoman.org or on my Facebook page: Human Trafficking Stolen Woman.

SKC:  Are you attempting traditional publishing for the series? Any prospects?
Kimberly:  Yes, I am. I remember reading recently about marketing and how it is not selfish if you are sharing God's truths that people need to hear. My message is about hope and lasting freedom, and especially about finding your worth in Christ so you can share it with others. That's a message I want out there, so I am pursuing the idea of getting the whole series accepted and mainstream published. Now that I have an agent, we're working on the book proposal. (Oh, those are intimidating! I blogged about that, too. If they scare you, you're not alone.)

SKC:  When and how did the idea for the Stolen series come about?
Kimberly:  Great question! I used to live on the mission field, and having to come home for health reasons was hard. I wanted to stay involved, but didn't really know how. One day I was riding in the car with my mom, tossing around ideas about a novel, when she asked, "If you could write about anything, what would you write about?" By the end of the day I think I had about three chapters of the first book written. The other biggest reason was that, as I got involved with fighting human trafficking, I could find so many books that delved into the evil and left the reader depressed, or they rescued  the girl and that was the end of it. I couldn't get past the question: What good is it to be rescued from something bad if you're not rescued to something good? That turned into the main question of Stolen Woman.

 SKC:  You've lived in several countries. How did that come about?
Kimberly:  I went to Bangladesh as a very young and idealistic twenty-two-year-old. I lived there two years, teaching in a school for Bengali kids and doing any writing projects the rest of the team needed. It was a great experience, and I love getting to use the book to take people on a "verbal visit" out there with me. After that, I was in Uganda for awhile. Then I got married and we lived in Kosovo and Indonesia for awhile. Living in different cultures was such a great experience and gave me plenty of things to write about.


SKC:  How has living in other cultures colored your writing?
Kimberly:  I am so thankful I had the opportunity to see outside what is normal in my own culture, to learn that the way I think isn't the only way. This has helped especially with creating multi-dimentional characters. I recognize that the way I see things isn't the only way. Because of that, if I write about a character with a different personality than me, they will not only have different habits and goals, but even a different thought process. And I must say I love writing about international culture. I find it so fascinating.


SKC:  How did you research the series?
Kimberly:  Most of the first book was based on memory, but the second book took me into the village setting, where I had never lived. It was difficult researching it, because with its third-world, out-in-nowhere setting, there wasn't much to find about the real life aspects of it. I went to the library once in my local area and asked the man about if a Muslim man had two wives but they all lived in a one-room bamboo hut, where did everybody sleep? Boy, did he look at me like I was off my rocker! I would have a hard time writing about any other culture, because I wouldn't feel enough in tune to it--how people feel and think and react. Even with this series, I still have sent every manuscript to a friend of mine who has lived in Bangladesh for over twenty years. She checks my cultural facts and makes sure I have the right perspective. She's sent changes for every one, so that's a good reminder that you can always use more help. As the Bible says, "In the multitude of counselors, there is wisdom."


SKC:  Are any of the characters based on people you know?
Kimberly:  Milo is the one I like to talk about the most. He is based on two boys I knew in Bangladesh. His personality is based on a real little boy named Milo whose mother was a brick-breaker. She spent all day on the side of the road hammering bricks into gravel. She made about fifty cents a day. Her three children all stayed on the street-side with her, and Milo, who was about five at the time, was one of the happiest, most adorable kids I'd ever met. His situation, however, is based on another real boy I made friends with, a street kid who only had one leg and used a crutch. In fact, the story with Asha and Milo at the ice cream shop is loosely based on something that actually happened with him and me.

SKC:  How do you continue to hone your craft?
Kimberly:  Oh, I have so much more to learn! I keep trying to learn about writing and be willing to listen to suggestions and critiques. Before I publish a book, I usually send it out to over ten people I trust as pre-readers. They give me their feedback, and it helps me learn what readers want. I went back and read the original Stolen Woman and was pretty amazed at how much I'd learned about writing since it came out. So I went back and fixed a bunch of stuff and put out a second edition. Now I cringe when I see the original one, but hey, if we waited till we "arrived," we'd never arrive!


SKC:  What other writers most influence you and your style? 
Kimberly:  I love Francine Rivers. A friend of mine once told me her book, Redeeming Love, changed the way she saw God. That amazed me, that through a fiction story you could have such an impact. I want my writing to be like that.


SKC:  Who comprise your support team?
Kimberly:  I have a few people who have been cheering me on since before they even knew if the books were any good. Also there's a ladies' group at a church nearby who have had me come to do Book Club sessions, and that's been a great motivator for me. Most importantly, though, is my husband Brian. He hates to read (ironic, right?) but he doesn't mind listening, so I read everything I write out loud to him. It has turned out to be a great editing tool for me, and makes me feel like he's really behind me. Except when sometimes he tells me, "A guy wouldn't say it like that," and then I have to change my sweet, romantic comment into something more realistic.

SKC:  What inspires you?
Kimberly:  Hearing from a teen girl that my book changed her life.


SKC:  What is your writing regimen like?
Kimberly:   Hah! I wish I had one. Having a three-year-old at home makes a regimen pretty impossible. I do a lot of my marketing in the morning on the computer (Facebook, e-mail, blog, etc.), but my real writing times usually have to wait until I can find some time alone.

SKC:  What big idea do you want your readers to come away with after reading Stolen Woman?
Kimberly:  That no matter how trapped someone may be or feel, there is always hope. And that their worth is not in what or how much they do, but in the fact that the God of the universe says they are worth dying for.

SKC:  What Scripture is especially meaningful for you right now?
Kimberly:  In searching for Scriptures for the book, I have been surprised at how much God cares about justice, and have loved the great verses I've found that lets me know God cares about the trafficked so much more than I do. But a passage I am memorizing right now is Psalm 74:14-18. I think it's a great passage for writers.

SKC:  What role does Jesus Christ play in your writing?
Kimberly:  I was just talking about that with a writer I met. He'd sent me a manuscript about trafficking that had some questionable things in it. He had mentioned his faith, so I (very uncomfortably) asked him if his faith was why he wrote the book, then why didn't it affect his book? What good is a book to raise awareness, if it doesn't give the hope of Jesus Christ? To me, without Christ, there's no point in writing. I don't have any desire to write just for entertainment.

SKC:  How do you balance writing, family life with young children, and health challenges?
Kimberly:  That's a challenge! Fortunately, writing is something I can do even when I'm not feeling well (like right now, when I'm on antibiotics for an infection, writing actually helps me stay put when I need to rest). I do struggle with balancing my desire to write and my family life. I keep praying about that one and asking for daily wisdom to make the best choices, not just the ones that feel the most urgent.


SKC:  What project are on the horizon? Do you work on multiple writing projects at once?
Kimberly:   I can't seem to help having several ideas in my head at once. I haven't figured out how to file them away until I have time for them. My latest project is a series of books on chronic health problems titled, Sick and Tired: How to Live Graciously with Chronic Health Problems When You'd Rather Just Kick Something! I also have a new novel idea in my head that I'm hoping will simmer until I'm ready to write it.

SKC:  What was the most difficult or troublesome challenge in writing Stolen Woman?
Kimberly:  Remembering how an American person would perceive Asia for the first time. The longer you live in a culture, the more normal things seem, so you forget what at first felt shocking or confusing. So I had to get some help on that.


SKC:  If you could write only one other book after Stolen Future, what would it be?
Kimberly:  Oh, that's a hard one, but I guess I would have to sacrifice Sick and Tired, and say it would be Shredded, the novel in my head that I want to work on someday.


SKC:  What have I failed to ask that you'd like to address?
Kimberly:  Two things. First, so you can all share in my excitement, I just got a book contract this very morning for the Sick and Tired series. I'm thrilled (and a little scared).
     Second, the books are available for Kindle and Nook. People can also get an autographed copy through www.stolenwoman.org. Order the first two books in the Stolen series and get FREE SHIPPING!

SKC:  That's a great deal, Kimberly. Thank you, again for taking time to answer my questions. God bless you as you continue to write for His glory.

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Learn Writernese in One Easy Lesson


Tina Pinson, a fellow writer, has pulled together a glossary of esoteric terms on her blog. It's helpful to writers and those trying to understand what the scribes in their lives are saying. Check it out here!

Friday, June 1, 2012

News, Reviews & Interviews

Book Review:
Stolen Woman by Kimberly Rae
Stollen series, Book 1
Copyright 2011 by Kimberly Rae
Published January 2012, South Carolina, USA
264 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1461098938
ISBN-10: 1461068932


Back Copy:
Asha knew nothing about it before meeting 16-year-old Rani, stolen from her home and sold into sexual slavery in Kolkata, India. Asha must help this girl escape, but Mark, a third-generation missionary, keeps warning her away from the red-light district and its workers. Will she ever discover why? And will they ever stop their intense arguments long enough to admit their even more intense feelings for one another?
     When Asha sneaks out one last time in a desperate attempt to rescue her friend, someone follows her through the night. Is freedom possible? Or will she, too, be taken?





Author Brief:

Kimberly Rae has lived in Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo, and Indonesia. She now writes from her home in Lenoir, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband and two young children. She has been published over 100 times in Christian books, magazines, and periodicals.  

Stolen Woman is her debut novel. Number 2 in the series, Stolen Child, is now available. 


My Review:

In her debut novel, Rae, leads readers through the bustling marketplace, among the open-air vendors and the ever-present beggars, and into the nefarious slime pit of human trafficking: the red-light district of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. Yet at the heart of  suffering, degradation, and corruption, Rae skillfully weaves a story of love and faith. Among the hopeless there is Hope.


I was hooked early in the prologue. Heavy with mystery and intrigue, it flashes forward, hinting at the climax, and stands in sharp contrast to the first few chapters, which are blithe by comparison. 

The main character, Asha, leaves her North Carolina home to serve as a summer missionary at an orphan compound in Kolkata. Asha's especially excited at the summer's prospects since she was born in nearby Bangladesh, and many Bangladeshis live in Kolkata. Given up for adoption at birth and adopted by a loving family in the U.S., she wants to know more about her native land. 

At the compound, she quickly comes to love the orphans and the staff, with one exception: Mark Stephens, whose grandparents founded the mission. Mark, who is assigned as her mentor, counters her at every turn, or so it seems to Asha. One moment they're friends; the next, they're butting heads.


When Asha goes wandering and gets lost in the red-light district, she encounters a young prostitute named Rani. Asha believes God wants her to rescue Rani, but when Mark learns of her plans, he orders her to forget it. It's obvious he's hiding something. But what? And he's not the only one. Why do the other missionaries become upset when they learn of her desire to help Rani escape sexual slavery? Mark tells Asha there are things she doesn't know, doesn't understand, things he can't disclose. Yet.


Stolen Woman deals with an ugly subject, one we'd rather not think about, one we've neglected far too long. When a light is turned on in a dark room, every corner is flooded with light. With this novel, Rae is flipping the switch to "on." At the back of the book, she provides a way readers can become proactive in helping to rescue women and girls like Rani through Women at Risk International (W.A.R.).


Coming next week, an interview with Stolen Woman author Kimberly Rae.


Read on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon
  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

If . . .

"If you hear a voice within you say, 'You cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."  ~Vincent van Gogh
Does the same advice apply to writers?

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Writerly Question

 

What do you call a group of writers? 


A Gathering of Inky Sisters

Four friends recently met at my little nest to talk about our shared passion: writing. It had been far too long since we had come together--well over a year.

We met through the now-dissolved Southern Indiana Writers' Salon, a group I co-founded in 2001. Since SIWS's demise early in 2010, some former members--I among them--have felt a bit like a motherless child, wanting to start another group, but hesitant to take the risks of such an undertaking. You see, SIWS did not end well, but that's a subject for different blog entry.

Clustered around my dining room table, we shared current projects, nibbled on fresh veggies and still-warm oatmeal cookies, and exercised our problem-solving skills to address rough spots in our writing. Beyond that, we encouraged and inspired one another. (Hey, oft-pubbed Ramona K. Cecil came up with the name for the novella I'm working on--and that was within five minutes of her arrival!)

Most important, we hold one another in prayer. We seek God's guidance in our writing, our meeting, and our families.

We are a diverse band. Ramona writes historical romance fiction and poetry. Kathi Linz writes whatever suits her fancy. She is an information specialist at our local library, so her interests are like a sunburst, pointing off in many directions. Most of her writing, both fiction and non-fiction, is for children. Natalie Bray, who participates in Renaissance festivals, writes in the genre of speculative fiction, the sub-genre of fantasy. As she unfolds the many layers of her current work, the room becomes crowded with strange, unimaginable creatures, dragons, monsters, courageous heroes and silver-haired heroines. I write middle-grade novels and some poetry. I'm also working on a historical novella and some children's magazine pieces.

So what is the future of this new aggregate of wordsmiths? That vision is still under construction. But this we know. We will maintain our Christian identity. Further, we will remain a small, informal gathering of inky friends, running no notices in the newspaper inviting others to join us. Does that mean we would not accept more writers to our circle? Certainly not. But we won't advertise toward that end.

Writing often is an isolated endeavor. Sure, we leave our writer's caves to conduct research and to be active members of our families, churches and communities, but the actual nitty-gritty work of our craft usually is done apart from the gaping crowd. Nonetheless, we need our fellow scribes. I highly recommend participating in writers' organizations, online communities, and critique groups, but don't neglect the face-to-face meetings, also. We say it often because it's true: Iron sharpens iron.

Your Turn:  Do you belong to a local writers' group? What have you gained from participation? What advice or warnings would you give to others considering starting such a group? Please respond by leaving a "Comment."