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Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Presumptuous Provoking Design

Tower

by Marcia Lee Laycock

It’s an old story, one taught to children in Sunday School because it’s all about obedience. After the flood God gave the people who stepped out of the ark a command: “multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” (Gen. 9:7). He wanted them to scatter. But some decided it was a better idea to stay together and build a fortified city and a tower that “reaches to the heavens ... (Gen 11:4).

They decided their plan was superior to God’s. They did it to keep themselves safe, perhaps thinking a city and a tower would save them from another flood, even though God had promised never to flood the earth again. And they did it “so that we may make a name for ourselves...” (Gen 4b).

In his commentary on Genisis 11, Matthew Henry states: “These Babel-builders put themselves to a great deal of foolish expense to make themselves a name; but they could not gain even this point, for we do not find in any history the name of so much as one ... Philo Judaeus says, They engraved every one his name upon a brick, in perpetuam rei memoriam-as a perpetual memorial; yet neither did this serve their purpose.” Henry calls the tower of Babel, a “presumptuous, provoking design.”
 

As I read those words my conscience was pricked just a little. I realized I’m too much like those Babel-builders in wanting to make a name for myself. With every book I’ve written I confess I’ve thought, maybe this one will make it onto a best-seller’s list. Maybe this one will make me known.

It’s a common failing, and a very old one, according to the scriptures. We all want to make a name for ourselves. God’s intent is that we make His name known. That’s why He told the descendants of Noah to scatter and multiply, so that God’s glory would be revealed, His promises remembered, His plan for humanity accomplished.
God foiled the plan of those early inhabitants of the earth by confounding their language. He will foil any of our plans that are not according to His will. He does it because, as Matthew Henry says, “It is just with God to bury those names in the dust which are raised by sin.” God’s justice prevents us from the chaos that would result from our own impudence. He knows all of our failings, our inclinations to foolishness like carving our names in a brick and believing it will last forever.
As I ponder these things my prayer is that I will be obedient to the calling God has put on my heart, that I allow Him to direct not only my work but my life. I pray one more thing Matthew Henry said will stay with me – “What a difference there is between men's building and God's; when men build their Babel, brick and slime are their best materials; but, when God builds his Jerusalem, he lays even the foundations of it with sapphires, and all its borders with pleasant stones, Isa. 54:11, 12; Rev. 21:19.

Lord save us all from presumptuous provoking designs. 

****

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has three devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies, including the Hot Apple Cider books. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Mrcia Le


 
Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded on Smashwords or on Amazon. It is also now available in Journal format on Amazon.

 








Her most recent release is A Traveler’s Advisory, Stories of God’s Grace Along the Way.

 
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Friday, January 29, 2016

Putting it Aside

Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin Caroll is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin's mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage--two aspects Robin weaves into each of her 25 published novels. When she isn't writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty-five+ years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons--in the South, where else? She serves the writing community by serving as Executive/Conference Director for ACFW. Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, RT Reviewer's Choice Award, Bookseller's Best, and Book of the Year.

I remember the first manuscript I hacked out on a typewriter. (Showing my age, aren’t I?) It was bad, and I mean, bad. That was back in the 90s. Thank goodness I lost that manuscript in one of my moves. Yes, it was THAT BAD. The good news was (and still is) one story does not a writer make.
The next one I hacked out wasn’t AS BAD, but it was still pretty bad. And the next one—well, it was improving, at least. Again, one story does not a writer make.

Then I wrote a story I just loved. Wrote it, rewrote it, polished it until it was “ready.” Submitted it to a publisher. Imagine my surprise when I received a form rejection letter. You know the ones that are addressed to Dear Writer? And another. And another… Back then, I didn’t even realize that “unsolicited manuscript” would get that form rejection letter quicker than quick. That was early in 2000.

Between then and now, there have been many a manuscript on my computer in various stages. Some completed, some not. Some I really love, some…well, not so much anymore. But there is a story on my system that I love. It’s one that comes straight from my heart. It is ready for submission. Again, let me reiterate, I LOVE this story. My beta readers love this story. But for some reason, editors don’t. Or it’s not right for them. Or it’s too similar to something they’ve already contracted. Or . . .

Know what I’m talking about? There comes a time in every writer’s career when they have a story that means so much to them, is so personal to them, that it’s almost obsessive in the way we write, rewrite, and edit that story. When it’s finally ready to go out, we just KNOW it’s going to be snapped right up. But it doesn’t.

Each writer will come to this crossroads sometime in their career. Each writer will have to cross the hurdle, much like overcoming writer’s block. Each writer will have to make that painful decision to either independently publish, or put the story aside and move on. Yep, you heard me—put the story of our heart aside and move on to something else.

Ouch, that hurt. For me, it was several months of pouting. Kicking the couch. (Would never kick my dogs) Pouting again. Stomping around the house until the hubby and kids were cowering in closets. Depressed. Angry. Pouting.

And then I grew as a writer.

I saved the story of my heart onto a jump drive. (Ok, two different ones—I’m obsessive, what can I say?) Then I did the hardest thing: I deleted it off my desktop. My heart pounded, I felt nauseous. But I knew I had to. I didn’t break down. My heart ached only a little before I did the unthinkable—started a new story. I’d learned there’s a time to put away a story and move on to something else. One story does not a writer make.

I still miss that story of my heart sometimes. Every six or seven months, I pull out the drive and read through it. I don’t save it to my computer though. I read it, then put it away. In early 2000, I’d moved on to something else, and doing so got me published.

One story does not a writer make.

One day . . . one day it’ll be that story’s time. It’ll be its turn. And I’ll take it out, probably revise it for the millionth time, and send it out again. Who knows? It might be snapped up in a minute. Or I might publish it independently—the timing might be right for it then.

Until I decide, I’ll keep pressing forward. Keep writing what I can. Keep giving each current story all my attention. I’ll keep doing so because I want to be an author, because I DO have more than one story in my heart.

One story does not a writer make.


As a white water rafting guide, Katie Gallagher must battle the forces of nature on a daily basis. When sabotage becomes apparent on a weekend rafting trip, Katie must determine who she can trust—and who has their own agenda. Hunter Malone has a mission on a business adventure trip on the Gauley River, a mission that didn’t include a spunky guide who could handle the class-five rapids better than he’d ever imagined. But can she handle the truth?



Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Read, I Write, and My Daughter Does Arithmetic

My twelve-year-old daughter crafted a way to bolster reading time.

Why does my reading time matter to me?

Readers know when authors don’t study.

We all know the books written by men and women with no interest in literacy. The book has no hope of lasting works defined as genius, and there's no motive other than a bit of an ever-diminishing paycheck. These stories litter the shelves of both general and Christian market.

Of course, you write works of genius. That’s why you read books. And read Novel Rocket. And read Peter Leavell novels.

Reading, to an author, is more important than writing.

What happens when you don’t read? Is there danger in not feeding fiction plotlines into your brain? What does it matter if you don’t study interesting characters of biography? What if the ‘little gray cells’ never grapple with the fascinating biosphere of nonfiction?

Or more harshly said—can you live in a vacuum filled with fellow lifeless drones who strive for their next phone and reproduce nothing other than artless humanism?

If you need an excuse to read more, here’s your stamp of vindication on your timecard—your writing is shallow when you don’t read.

The thought’s brutal, but your characters, plotlines, and the worlds they live in are only as brilliant as you. And you’re not getting any smarter unless you’re reading.

Reading expands your thinking. Reading bolsters your writing skill. Reading strengthens your writing voice.

My daughter made 10 bookmarks, numbered 1 through 10.
My crafty daughter!
Any given book I should be able to finish in ten days. When I divide a 300 page book by 10, I place the first bookmark at page 30, the second at page 60, third at page 90, and if you don’t get the pattern yet, read a math book. Marker 10 is on the last page, unless the book is over 400 pages, then I divide the total pages by 11 and give myself an extra day.

If life is going smooth, I’ll be reading three books at a time. I rarely read over the bookmark, unless the book is so compelling I can’t help myself, or I’m close to finishing a chapter.

I also keep one nonfiction history with 1000 or more pages I read, simply when I need a history fix. I have 10 markers, but 1 represents the first year. Ha!

Happy reading!

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. www.peterleavell.com.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

WHAT TO DO? BRAG, SHARE, or PROMOTE

by Yvonne Lehman @YvonneLehman


On a writing loop I saw where a writer friend’s book was a finalist in a contest. I emailed him and copied the section showing his being a finalist and wrote, “Don’t you think you have something to tell your writer friends?”

He answered that he rejects any possibilities of bragging.

That totally surprised me. I wasn’t asking him to brag, but to share.

Of course, anyone has the right to reveal or keep quiet about their accomplishments. Then I recalled another friend who recently received a book contract after learning, trying, writing, re-writing, being critiqued for several years. She emailed me and asked if I would let our writers group know.

I said, “Absolutely not. For years we have supported you with prayers and effort and you weren’t quiet about what you were trying to do. Now, don’t be quiet about having one of your dreams come true. You tell it…with excitement and joy.”

She did, and we all rejoiced.

I remembered that she, too, had been reluctant. Is it because we hear phrases like, “shameless promotion” of one’s published books? It’s often said as if shameless means shameful. I think the shameless should mean we may promote without shame. Writing is a profession. What business or profession doesn’t promote?

That prompted me to look at DICTIONARY DEFINITIONS:

BRAG: pompous or boastful statement; arrogant talk or manner; cockiness, braggart; to assert boastfully - BOAST: assert with excessive pride (I would not recommend that!)

SHARE: to partake of, use, experience, occupy, or enjoy with others; often used with with; to talk about one’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences with others (I like that!)

PROMOTE: to contribute to the growth or prosperity of; to present (merchandise) for buyer acceptance through advertising and publicity (Who wouldn’t recommend that?)

And then, there’s further explanation. BRAGGING RIGHTS is entitlement to boast about something. BOASTING may imply a claiming with proper and justifiable pride (my note: such as finally meeting your goal or dream)

Pride may be negative or positive. We certainly need to guard against false pride or lack of humility. But hiding our light under a bushel is not humility. Jesus says to let our light shine.

A runner in town has medals hanging in his Running Shop of about 50 races in which he’s participated. I don’t know if he won. He ran the races. And he sells racing clothes, shoes, water bottles, accessories, health products to use while running. Is he bragging? No, he’s saying he’s qualified to help you. He knows something about what a runner needs on his feet, on his body, in his body. He’s saying, “I know from experience what it means to work at something and succeed” (whether or not he got first prize).

As a Christian, I am well aware that all I have, including the air I breathe, comes from God. I cannot write one word without his allowing it. But he doesn’t write one word of my books without my hands on the keyboard. We work together. That’s the wonderful joy of it. I’m thrilled to announce that God has blessed me, worked through me to accomplish something and to bring a little meaning into the lives of others. That isn’t pride. To me…that’s worship.

So when we say we won’t brag—is that saying I am thinking about me and what others think about me? I want others to see the product produced from trying and accomplishing.

Scripture tells us, without Him I can do nothing.

It also says, I can do all things through Jesus.

I love to hear about the accomplishments of my friends. I believe they love to hear of mine.

I feel that sharing what God has allowed me to do, or he does through me, gives glory to God.


What are your thoughts on this?


Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC