There are collections, and then there are Collections

Pottery Mug

Mug brought back from Israel by my hubby in 1980

I’m not a hoarder, but I do like to collect things. Certain things. Like pottery. I had to sort through an outrageous number of pottery mugs recently, deciding which ones could be culled (to make room for more, of course).

In addition to mugs, I have pottery serving bowls, plates, casseroles, sauce dishes, jugs, vases and more. Not a huge number of items (except for the mugs), but enough to fill a few shelves and decorate the space atop our kitchen cabinets.

There are specific features that draw me to a piece. In mugs it’s the feel of the cup as I cradle it in my hands. Filled with coffee, it needs to feel right in my grip. ‘Right’ is a relative thing, I know, and now that I have arthritis in my hands, one criterion is that the handle be large enough to accommodate at least three of my fingers.

I also collect rocks.

Rock Collection

The criteria for them are similar to what I use to choose my mugs — stones need to hold meaning for me and feel ‘right’ in my hand. I have agates from the shore of Haida Gwaii, a stone from a roadside in Mexico, a piece of volcanic lava from northern BC, and  several more picked up as mementos of other places of significance. Many stones in my collection are ordinary-looking ones collected during walks along ocean, lake and river shorelines.

Rocky Beach

That’s about the extent of my collections. Well, it is if you don’t count all the Loons that appear around here, or all the snowflakes among our Christmas ornaments… but that’s different. No, really. It is. Everyone has a collection of special Christmas ornaments, don’t they?

One kind of collection has never appealled much to me, and that’s a collection of short stories. I’m not a big fan of reading short stories to start with, because once I get hooked by a plot and its characters, I want a long term relationship — hundreds of pages, please. I admit to having written a few shorts, but it was more as an exercise than as a chosen genre.

I believe writing good short stories is more difficult than writing good novels, simply because the writer must accomplish all the same things as in a novel, but with many less words. Nobel prize winner Alice Munro is said to have perfected the art of writing short stories. She always intended to write novels, but never found large enough chunks of time to do so. When she attempted them, they always ended up fragmenting into something shorter. I admit to not reading many of them. I intend to remedy that, not because I want to read short stories but because I think I ought to read hers. I’m curious about her writing. There are a number of her stories published online and I may start with them.

Last Christmas I read A Log Cabin Christmas because among its stories there was one written by Jane Kirkpatrick and I’m particularly fond of her writing. Others of my cyberfriends have joined up to produce two collections of Christmas novellas this year —  Hope for the Holidays Historical Collection  and Hope for the Holidays Contemporary Collectionand I’ll be reading those, too. Hey, don’t be calling me inconsistent. Like snowflake ornaments, Christmas collections are different!

Do you have a preference when it comes to the length of your fiction? What do you see as the pros and cons of collections?

~  ~  ~

March Madness #4: Writing as Magic or Ministry

We’re different, you and I. As readers, you may love to lose yourself in a richly told romance, while today I might prefer a faith-filled inspirational story, and tomorrow a mystery.

As writers, we choose our genres based on a particular level of comfort… telling stories that may be close to our hearts or based on our knowledge and experience, or our desire to master a challenge. How we get those stories out of our heads and onto the page is a unique process for each person. Why we do it and what we accomplish may be equally unique. For many there is an element of creative magic that is intoxicating.

“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life
as any other creative art.”

[Stephen King]
 

Bud

Those of us who are Christian writers sometimes question the validity of our calling to write if we’re drawn to produce secular instead of Christian fiction. We may think it’s frivolous to write something that doesn’t intend to convey an inspirational message, or at least a message of significance.

It’s an attitude that can spill over into other daily activities and even our careers. However, I truly believe that any task done with passion that attempts to bring beauty, help or healing, is a calling… a legitimate form of ministry. At first glance some writing may appear only to entertain but will still have a purpose — providing a brief escape from the mundane, or showing how characters overcome difficulties and solve life problems.

It’s not so much what we do but the attitude we have towards doing it, that determines whether our work is self-indulgent or a ministry/calling.

How do you view your work, whether it’s writing or any other regular pursuit during these thirty days of March Madness? Is it a calling, a satisfying hobby, or simply something you do because you’ve become caught up in the routine of doing it?

~

We’re on the brink of our last week of March Madness.  Are you ready to push ahead and make the best use of these final days?

As a bit of encouragement I’d like to give away another prize from our huge prize arsenal today! Today’s winner is…

Nicole Luiken!

Congratulations! Stop by our goal-setting post, and choose your prize from those still listed. Email Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com with your choice and we’ll get it out to you as soon as possible.

And if you didn’t win, there are still LOTS of great prizes to be won. Winners are chosen from participants who comment at the daily check-in blog locations, so keep checking in each day. Tomorrow’s check-in is at Angelina Hansen‘s blog at  http://yascribe.blogspot.com

~  ~  ~

Book Review & Giveaway: REBELLIOUS HEART by Jody Hedlund

Author Jody Hedlund

Author Jody Hedlund

When I first encountered Jody Hedlund back in mid-2009, she was a new blogger seeking representation and publication for her writing. She often used examples from PILGRIM’S PROGRESS in her posts, and admitted a passion for John Bunyan. So it was no surprise when her first published novel was a story loosely based on the second marriage of John Bunyan. (THE PREACHER’S BRIDE, Bethany House, 2010)

In that book Jody’s writing transported me right into the story’s mid-1600s setting… something that rarely happens unless an author has done a remarkable amount of research and used the information effectively.

In each of her successive books, Jody’s knowledge of historical times – i.e., 1836 Oregon, 1880s Michigan, and 1763 Massachusetts – evoked the same reaction, and I’ve been drawn into reading a genre that previously had never appealed to me. I eagerly devoured her newest book, REBELLIOUS HEART, when it was released in September by Bethany House.

At the end of this post you can leave a comment and be entered in the draw for a copy of REBELLIOUS HEART. 🙂

 ~

Rebellious-HeartREBELLIOUS HEART takes us into the lives of two people from vastly different backgrounds. Susanna Smith is a bright young woman of good social status who, despite being denied the education she desires, displays her intelligence and asserts her independence as she works for social justice. When she seeks to aid a runaway indentured slave, she is assisted by the son of a farmer, country lawyer Benjamin Ross, who is also involved in the pre-Revolutionary discontent of the time. Their developing friendship places Susanna and her family in great danger.

Inspired by the unique friendship of US president John Adams and his wife Abigail, the story places richly detailed and believable characters into historically correct settings while playing out a fascinating and fast-paced plot.

I asked Jody which scene in the story she found the most challenging to write…

“Which scene in Rebellious Heart was the most challenging to write? I’d have to say the first scene in the courtroom where Ben is defending Hermit Crab Joe. I always want the first chapter to accomplish many goals. But often that’s hard to do without being wordy (and potentially boring the reader!).

“My original version of the scene was MUCH too long. And once I’d written it, I realized right away that I would need to pare it down quite a bit. But at the same time, I was told I needed to add more period detail to the scene so that readers could understand right away that they were in Colonial Times. So essentially I had to cut AND add at the same time!

“Fortunately, I’m not married to my words and I can usually cut and chop without mortally wounding myself. The hard part was trying to figure out exactly what was necessary for the scene and setting and what was overkill.

“Once I had eliminated as much as I possibly could, then I had a Colonial “expert” give me advice on where I could add a little more period detail to make the chapter/book more authentic.”

That authenticity stands out in all Jody’s writing, but especially in REBELLIOUS HEART. If you enjoy good historical fiction, you’ll want to add this book to your list of must-reads!

 ~

If you’d like to have your name included in the draw for a free copy of REBELLIOUS HEART, please leave a comment below and be sure to provide your e-mail addy when prompted. The draw will close at 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24th. I’ll be taking a blogging break during Christmas week, but will post the name of the winner on Friday, December 27th.

~

You can find out more about Jody and her books on her website: jodyhedlund.com

She hangs out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund and also loves to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund

She is represented by Rachelle Gardener at Books and Such Literary Agency.

~  ~  ~

BOOK REVIEW: A NOBLE GROOM by Jody Hedlund

author-photo

Jody Hedlund

For someone who never used to read Christian fiction, I keep surprising myself by finding an increasing number of Christian novelists on my list of favourite authors. Jody Hedlund topped the list after the release of her debut novel, THE PREACHER’S BRIDE in 2010. Each year since then I have waited impatiently for, and eagerly consumed, her subsequent releases – THE DOCTOR’S LADY in 2011, UNENDING DEVOTION in 2012 and most recently A NOBLE GROOM, launched just last month.

Jody’s stories are historical romances, and the eras she draws from provide fascinating and authentic backdrops for her characters and their complex stories.  A NOBLE GROOM takes place in 1880, mostly in a rural German farming community surrounding Forestville, Michigan.

*

About A NOBLE GROOM, from Jody’s website:

a-noble-groom-193x300“Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can’t prove it.

Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.

For nobleman Carl von Reichart, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He’s been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn’t commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he’ll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa’s farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor.

Annalisa senses that Carl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He’s gentle, kind, and romantic–unlike any of the men she’s ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love–but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all.”

*

MY REVIEW:

Publishers Weekly says, “Hedlund intricately balances romance and drama…” but this is an understatement. More than balancing them, she weaves them together with breath-holding suspense, moments of danger and disaster, and the sweetness of a child’s trust. The sustaining faith of both Annalisa and Carl is evident, but there is no slick dishing out of the Christian message. Instead it plays out subtly in the motives and actions of the characters – a refreshing change from some Christian fiction where the stories are thinly veiled attempts to present salvation as the panacea to every dilemma.

While I found the romantic elements more dominant in A NOBLE GROOM than in Jody’s previous books, it isn’t at the expense of an exciting plot, well-developed characters or a vivid setting. They all entwined to keep me engrossed in the story from beginning to end. I highly recommend it.

The only problem with finishing it so quickly is once again I’m left impatiently waiting for Jody’s next book. REBELLIOUS HEART (where Susanna Smith and Ben Ross are caught up “in a very dangerous fight for justice” in 1763 Massachusetts), isn’t due for release until September. Another four months to wait! 😦

~

Jody Hedlund is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency.

You can find Jody on her blog, along with reams of information for writers, or on Facebook and  Twitter.

~  ~  ~

eBook Giveaway and Author Interview: Susan J. Reinhardt

I first met Susan Reinhardt on Facebook and in exchanges around our blogs, and have always appreciated her thoughtful comments and responses. I’m delighted to be among those who are getting the word out about the recent release of her debut novel, THE MOSES CONSPIRACY

“A trip to post-terrorized Washington, D.C. in 2025 and a buggy accident in Bird-in-Hand, PA set in motion events that expose a diabolical plan to destroy the Christian community. Ellie and John Zimmerman find themselves embroiled in a life-threatening investigation, fighting a shadowy enemy.”

Thanks, Susan, for dropping in here to answer a few questions about your book. And thanks, too, for providing a free eBook for one of my readers. (See info below.)

~

flatecover(11)Readers often wonder where the idea for a book originated. What inspired you to write THE MOSES CONSPIRACY?

My late husband and I visited Gettysburg prior to Christmas in 2004. While standing in the old town square, surrounded by history, I could “hear” the forefathers’ voices. However, they were like fading echoes.

After several failed attempts to write non-fiction pieces, I put it on the back burner and prayed for direction. In August 2005, my husband and I were talking about “the Gettysburg experience,” and he said, “That’s it!  That’s your book! And you’ll write it in four months and call it Ghosts of the Past.”

I thought he was crazy, but caught the vision. The name changed to Echoes of the Past and later to The Moses Conspiracy. When I sat down at the computer, I had no clue what I was going to write. By Christmas 2005, I had 55,000 words.

How long did it take you to write the book and what was the journey like?
The first draft took four months, but then I had to learn how to write fiction. I cut my writing teeth on this book. There were multiple re-writes while I shopped it around. It took eight years to write, get a contract, and an agent.

The journey was far from easy. From 2006-2007, I wrote very little due to my husband’s battle with leukemia, death, and the subsequent challenges. When I came through the grief process, I knew I had to finish the book both in his memory and because I felt the Lord had directed me to write it.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

There are several messages, including the faithfulness of God during difficult times, the importance of protecting our freedoms, and building strong family relationships.

What genre is THE MOSES CONSPIRACY?

I loosely define The Moses Conspiracy as Christian Speculative Fiction because it takes place in 2025. Although it takes place in the future, I’ve avoided a lot of techno-babble. One take-away I wanted for the reader was the possibility this or something similar could happen.

What are you working on now?

The Moses Conspiracy is the first book in a trilogy. Book 2, with a working title of The Scent of Fear, takes place three years after the initial story. The rough draft is written and is now in the editing stage. The third book, Lost and Found, is still in its infancy. Each book is a stand-alone novel, but builds upon the previous plotline.

~

the moses conspiracy on kindleSusan is offering a free eBook (PDF version) of  THE MOSES CONSPIRACY to one lucky reader.

Over this weekend, from now until midnight Sunday, those who leave a comment on this post will have their names entered in a random draw — one entry for each comment — and the winner will be announced on Monday. (This giveaway is available internationally. Be sure to include your e-mail address when prompted so we can contact you.)

~

SusanReinhardtAbout Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt’s journey to publication began as a non-fiction writer. She’s been published in The RevWriter Resource, Devotions Magazine, A Secret Place, Vista, Live, and numerous other compilations and periodicals. Her appreciation for using fiction techniques inspired her to use fiction as a vehicle for truth. A widow, stepmom, and active church member, Susan enjoys reading, couponing, gardening, and searching for small treasures in antique shops.

Susan is represented by Joyce Hart, of the Hartline Literary Agency.

THE MOSES CONSPIRACY is an eBook available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Kobo.

Visit Susan on her BlogFacebook, and Twitter.

 ~  ~  ~

Secrets and a giveaway from author Jody Hedlund

.

Today I’m sharing in the excitement of author Jody Hedlund’s newest release, UNENDING DEVOTION. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “a meaty tale of life amid the debauchery of the lumber camps of 1880s Michigan . . . exciting and unpredictable to the very end.” This is stop #2 on Jody’s blog tour sharing fun secrets you probably didn’t know about her.

There’s also a signed copy of her book to be won. Check out the details below.

~

Secret #2: The secret source of my writing inspiration

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

The secret of my writing inspiration is my bed. Yes, I really do get most of my story ideas when I’m lying in bed at night before I fall asleep.

Ideas stay in my heart and mind at all times during the course of writing the first draft. But it’s at night, in the quiet of the house, when my mind slows down and when my body is at rest, that I can hear my characters, that I fall in love with them, and they become real to me.

Interestingly, the moment I turn my book in to my editors, the characters leave my heart and head. It’s as if hitting ‘send’ severs the tie with them—which thankfully prepares me to be more objective with my work during the editing phase.

After the story is out of my hands, then usually the very next night, as I lie in bed, I begin the search for a new story and new characters. I begin to sort through ideas, always trying to find something fresh and exciting.

In fact, if I don’t have direction for a story, I start to feel lost. Then when I’m lying in bed, my mind is restless. And that undercurrent of restlessness remains until I latch onto another story and new characters.

Of course, I do find inspiration from many other places besides my bed. I glean ideas from biographies, history books, interesting people, old photographs, etc.

But it takes a quieting of the mind and the peacefulness of rest for those ideas to simmer and to come to fruition.

Are you building enough quiet and rest into your life to fuel your creative energy? Where do you find your greatest inspiration?

~

Thanks for sharing with us today, Jody! Next time I’m lacking a good story idea maybe I should just go to bed! 😉

 To celebrate the release of UNENDING DEVOTION, Jody is giving away a signed copy. Leave a comment  on today’s post (along with your email address) to enter the drawing. Valid only with US or Canadian addresses. Giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, September 6th. Winner’s name will be posted on Friday.

For more secrets about Jody and additional chances to win her newest release, visit her Events Page to see where she’ll be next in her “Fun Secrets About Author Jody Hedlund” blog tour. Also join in the Pinterest Photo Contest she’s hosting. Find more information about it on her Contest Page.

~

Jody would love to connect with you! Find her in one of these places:

Website: http://jodyhedlund.com/
Blog: http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/
Facebook: Author Jody Hedlund
Twitter: http://twitter.com/JodyHedlund
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jodyhedlund/

 

~  ~  ~

The dilemma of labelling Christian fiction… or not

.

Last week agent Rachelle Gardner posed a question on her blog that has generated almost two hundred comments, and the discussion is still ongoing. She asked, “Should we label Christian fiction?”

“There has been a controversy brewing underground for awhile now, ever since publishers started promoting books by offering a limited-time free download. Many of the Christian publishers have done these promotions, but whenever Christian novels are promoted on Amazon as free downloads, many people download them without realizing they’re Christian. They start reading and when they realize it’s “Christian” they become enraged. They feel like they were hoodwinked somehow. And then they leave 1-star, angry reviews on Amazon….These responses are leading people to ask whether Christian fiction needs to be clearly labeled as such, maybe in the “Book Description” on the Amazon page.” [Rachelle Gardner]

My response was that I like to know what I’m buying, so I favour labelling, but I foresee great difficulty in labels accurately reflecting content.

Since making that comment I’ve had conversations with two people who hold widely differing opinions. When I look at some of the faith-based novels on my shelves I find only one that admits to being Christian. The others are listed as History/Fiction or not labelled at all. I’ve come to the conclusion there isn’t an easy yes or no answer about labelling that would satisfy every reader and writer. I had no idea it was such a controversial subject!

What’s your opinion? Indulge me. I’m curious.

Do you check back cover blurbs and labels, or perhaps research writers or publishing houses for clues about what to expect before you buy a book from an unfamiliar author? Would you steer clear of a book labelled as Christian fiction? Would you be annoyed if you picked up a book that was not identified as having Christian content, and later discovered it did?

And if you haven’t already read Rachelle Gardner’s post and ensuing comments, I highly recommend it.

 ~  ~  ~