Lessons Learned While Writing: Relationships Are Important

Writing is an isolated task. Even if an author writes in a busy place like an IHop or a coffee shop, we still ultimately do the work alone. As a Christian I believe God is part of that process so “alone” in terms of human interaction is what I’m referring to.

Getting a book published takes a lot of people—beta readers, critiques, editors, marketing, cover art, and eventually readers and reviewers. Writers need people, even if most of us are introverts.

We need relationships. Prayer. Accountability. We need to be reaching out to help others because that’s where we stay engaged in the human race. We need to live life so our characters can be real on the page.

I have found, after coming out of an abusive relationship, that good friendships are a treasure. I can write and it can be cathartic, but I need to do life with others, enjoy a cup of chai or a meal, do something fun, or sit and cry together. This is important to my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I need to keep growing as an individual if I hope to write characters that will also grow through the stories I try to put on the page.

I also need time to play. Whether it’s tug-of-war with my dog, crafting of some kind, a concert, mini-golf with my husband, or a rip-roaring game of Uno. Playing doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. For me playing and decompressing even takes place on my zero-turn lawnmower which my husband has graciously allowed me to do. It’s fun! Sitting and reading a book because I can, not because I need to is a gift as well. Whatever it is, we need to live our own lives fully in this one and only life we have, not just write imaginary stories for others. These experiences give our writing more depth.

It is in one-on-one connection where we grow and are challenged and encouraged. I want my life to count. I pray my words in my stories can encourage and bring hope and maybe even healing to the reader. But if I neglect my husband, kids, and friends, or those I meet at a craft fair, or a writer’s conference, I’m limiting the ways God can use me. Now if I’m unable to go anywhere the writing is great, but it’s still good to have a connection. It keeps me grounded and hopefully helps me avoid some of the sins that can beset creative people.

Lessons Learned While Writing: Two Kinds of Writers

Before I started writing my first novel I had heard about people outlining their books but had no concept of what that could possibly be about. I just started writing…and kept writing…and 21 days later had a book that was way too long!

When I write a non-fiction piece of work, whether a talk I’m going to give or a book, I do outline. But I find an outline restrictive to the creative process for me as a writer when I’m writing fiction. People who outline struggle to believe there’s another acceptable way to write.

So I learned there are two kinds of writers. Actually—there are two extremes. Pantsters who have no idea what there are doing and wing it and planners or plotters who outline their books, do in-depth character interviews, understand the motivations, story arc, and plot points.

The funny things is, I do some of that now, but not as much as a pure plotter would do. I’m co-authoring a series with a plotter. The first book we did together was torture for me trying to make sense of this story arc and the characters and there were timing issues that I needed to fix. That was primarily because it was handed to me to start the rough draft. I did manage it and the story is wonderful, but it was challenging on so many levels.

My plotter friend, DeeDee, and I now do much of that work together. She comes up with the main stuff and we wrestle through plot points and we talk it out quite often. I give her stuff to write as well so I’m not the only one putting original words on the page. For me getting to know the characters well has been huge for this. Plot points are suggestions and sometimes I come up with fun surprises. I figure if she reads it kind of knowing what is going to happen and I can surprise her, then I can surprise the reader too! It’s a balance that so far seems to be working for us.

Either end of the spectrum is fine. Pantsters want some love too and maybe some of that is personality or part of the unique creative soul some of us have, but it’s OK and no way of writing is right or wrong as long as the writer, in the end, produces a great piece of fiction.

If you are a writer, where do you fall on the pantster-plotter spectrum?

Spatzle Speaks: Obedient Unto Death (Book Review)

Mom doesn’t often read Biblical fiction but Liisa Eyerly’s novel, Obedient Unto Death is a suspenseful story of the early church that she at times struggled to read because it was so tense. In spite of that, the novel had moments where she surprised me by laughing out loud.

A young scribe is murdered during a covert Christian worship service. Sabina, a member of this outlawed religion, can’t believe a member of this new faith could be the killer. But when her Roman magistrate father arrests the church bishop for murder, she reluctantly admits all is not brotherly love and harmony among the faithful.

Who would have killed this man? Could it be the church’s bishop? Sabrina can’t believe that would be true. As she strives to prove the man’s innocence she is confronted with the fact that all the followers she’d considered her church family, were not all filled with love and peace.

Sabrina works hard to uncover the truth about who murdered the scribe but the journey is filled with twists and turns and unexpected dangers. Her father can only provide so much protection and will she ever be able to find a husband in the midst of this drama? Will she be able to uncover the truth in time or will she end up in prison as well for being a follower of Jesus?

Intrigue, mystery, and a dash of humor at points, makes this a difficult book to put down. I give it five bones because I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Writer Wednesday: Cathy Krafve

Today I welcome author Cathy Krafve as she shares a little bit about her writing.

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to…?

I call myself an accidental everything. Podcaster, speaker, comedienne, you name it. But really, from the beginning I knew I wanted three things, to write, to pray, and to be a mom.  Those last two go together well, don’t they?

What’s your pet peeve?

I try to control myself about double standards and hypocrisy. Politicians tend to make me a little crazy, for example. Yep, I have to dial it down. But seriously, hypocrisy is dangerous for the hypocrite, and we’ve all been there. That’s why Jesus called hypocrisy out with so much strength and love.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

Since my books came out I find myself on stage a lot more. I’m kinda klutzy. Klutziness is a gift; the gift of humility. Recently, I stumbled and my friend jumped up from the pew to catch me. I announced into the mic, “See, God is just like my friend. He knows we’ll stumble and He’s ready to catch us!” Tripping is pretty inevitable, so I just try to roll with it, sometimes literally!

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

Not bragging about how great the books turned out. People don’t realize how surprised I am. But I had amazing teams of people helping me on both books. My editors and publishers are super-stars!

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

The reviews have amazed me. If I have negative reviews, I don’t know it. I’m too busy pedaling so my life stays upright. Besides, my books are not for everybody. After the first person told me the first book helped them figure out some stuff, I quit worrying about reviews. One person helped is enough for me. But so many people tell us they’re sharing our books with their friends. We hear their sacred stories and we rejoice!

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

Beyond success, we feel blessed! My whole family joins me in feeling like God is blessing us all in this process. We see Him in action. Plus, we do so many of our tasks as a family; jumping in and helping each other. For example, Anna, our oldest daughter is a frequent co-host of Fireside Talk Radio and we just finished the manuscript for a book together. Family conversations on Sunday at lunch are energetic and hilarious!

What is your current work in process?

Right now, I’ve been focused on getting the word out about Marriage Conversations: from co-existing to cherished. Mainly because we notice a need for women to feel they have options when it comes to rebooting stagnant marriages. A lot of women feel lonely in their life. We’ve all had those isolated moments. The Well: the art of drawing out authentic conversations focuses on moving from isolation to influence in our communities. So the books are very different, but complementary. I am writing the sequels for both this year. Plus, Anna and I are working on the next book in our series of character/communication building for moms and teachers of elementary-age children.

Bio:

Queen of Fun and Coffee Cup Philosopher Cathy Krafve puts a snappy spin on deeply spiritual truths. Host of Fireside Talk Radio and author of books about communication, Cathy understands life is about companionship and community. Truth with a Texas twang spoken here!

Website: CathyKrafve.com

Newsletter:  Join the Fireside Tribe at CathyKrafve.com

Facebook: Cathy Krafve

Pinterest: Pinterest

Twitter: Twitter

Amazon Page: amazon.com/author/cathykrafve

Latest book release: Marriage Conversations: from co-existing to cherished

Lessons Learned While Writing: The Necessity of “Tough Stuff”

A story that is all sunshine and happy times doesn’t keep the reader engaged. As an author I need to find an inciting incident to start my story. A disturbance of some sort to draw the reader in and make them want to take this journey with me. Obstacles need to be faced because this forces my character to make choices and face consequences—good and bad—for those decisions. Without conflict, the story would be boring. Without challenges the character doesn’t grow and change to become a better person emotionally and spiritually.

The challenge of living in this world filled with sin is we face conflict regularly in real life and sometimes that can be a royal pain. Sometimes we create our own conflict. Sometimes events happen over which we have no control and we are forced to deal with and react to them. Every choice leads us down a path filled with more choices.

The darkness in this world, the grief and heartache we face, serves to remind us of how human we really are. How far from heaven we’ve fallen due to the ongoing and exponentially growing prevalence of sin in the world. But the ups and downs of this life also help us appreciate the good times, the happy moments, the blessings that come along as well.

The stars don’t cease to twinkle when the sun is shining, even though we can’t see them. When darkness falls and we are way from city lights, the stars sparkle in the heavens. So too when life is dark do we sometimes see things clearer. The harshness of death, expands the depth of love. The threat of a terminal illness makes us cling to what really matters. 

Without the difficulties of life it would be, well, boring. At least on a page of a book. We don’t want to read about everything always going great on social media, do we? It’s not real. Everyone has some heartache and challenges they face from within or without. Maybe they won’t share it but it’s there. Sometimes we only get the highlight reel.

It makes me wonder how Heaven in all its glory will compare to this world filled with tears and sorrows, gains and losses, pain and healing. We will be awestruck. We will have work to do as we worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. But there won’t be the struggle, the pain, or the tears.

If you are struggling, hang on. It won’t last forever because we have something wonderful to look forward to.

Lessons Learned While Writing: God Never Forgets Me

A few years back I was writing the book Whitney’s Vow, which released last summer. I was in the middle of a scene where I had my character, Whitney, hanging off the edge of a cliff. I ran out of time and needed to get to church for a ministry obligation I had.

The entire time I was doing my task at church I kept thinking about poor Whitney! I was worried about what was going to happen next (because unlike God I don’t know what I write until after I’ve written it). I had a concept and a plan but due to my obligations, I couldn’t write it until the next day. So, Whitney, albeit a fictional character, was stranded on the side of a cliff for a long time.

God in greater fashion than me, cannot forget. He is always aware of where I am even if He is waiting for His perfect plan to unfold. While I’ve not been stranded on the side of a cliff like my character, I have waited for years for rescue from a painful situation I was in. All the while my writing has reminded me that God was fully aware of my circumstances and pain during that time. And all the time.

He will never forget me. He created me, called me to be His child, and while He remarkably also never forgets anyone else, He remembers me and my challenges, pains, and yes, joys.

What a blessed gift that even in the process of writing a story that hopefully people will enjoy, I’m reminded that God doesn’t forget me. He won’t forget You either.

What other ways are you reminded that God is present and aware of your circumstances?

Spatzle Speaks: Murder of Crows (Book Review)

Mom has a friend, Anita Klumpers and this woman writes books that will keep you reading. The latest release from Anita is Murder of Crows.

Now I’m not one to look at things too closely but I love this cover. It’s amazing. Mom says the book is one you’ll have a hard time putting down.

Paulina Deacon is the main character and she has a frightful experience. In fear for her life she drives, and drives, and drives. She believes her boyfriend has been murdered and as a witness, via a video call, she’s next. She ends up in Briar, Wisconsin, calls herself Polly Madison, and ends up working at a rehabilitation clinic where everyone has secrets.

Hal Karlsen runs the clinic and is suspicious of Polly–and curious. Polly quickly develops friendships. Soon the terror Pauli feared finds here in Briar. She confides in Hal and together they try to unravel who is after her and why. As a result, they draw closer together. He wants to protect her and she wants to protect the clinic.

I won’t tell you how the crows play into this but they do–big time. Mom had a hard time putting it down which meant I got extra cuddles in the process. I give this book five bones because I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Lessons Learned While Writing: God Led Me Down a New Career Path

When I started my writing journey, I was a stay-at-home mom with a master’s degree in counseling psychology leading a ministry to women at my church. I didn’t anticipate going back to work for a few more years as I firmly believed in being there for my kids, even though it involved steep emotional and financial sacrifices. Not need to dredge that all up here.

I wrote a book. Gothic Regency Romance. I wondered if I could write contemporary and tried it. Then I wrote another Regency. Then a contemporary and on and on it went. Flip-flopping back and forth and trying to keep my language straight: not putting modern words in a story taking place in the early 1800’s and not putting Regency-era language in a modern romance. Then, of course, cultural differences. And I was enjoying myself immensely. And learning more and more about the craft and editing.

I fell into editing because a friend suggested a position to me. I applied and after much prayer accepted the offer. I could work from home. I set my own hours. Oh, but I only got paid when the books sold and based on the book’s sales. It wasn’t much but I was learning more and more with every novel I not only wrote but edited. And then I started teaching on faculty at Christian Writer’s Conferences as well as meeting with and encouraging other authors who were where I was not that long ago. Again, not a huge financial boon to my family, but I was making an eternal impact in the lives of my readers, my authors, and those who read those books.

I’ve added teaching a continuing education class at my local state university and that’s been well received. And I keep writing.

I don’t know what I thought I’d be doing by the time my kids left the proverbial nest, but writing is perfect for me as my retired but very busy husband likes that I’m home, and travels with me when I speak. He understands the bigger picture of what I do and supports that endeavor regardless of how much, or little, money I might make.

I may not have gone to school to become a writer, but writing well is what allowed me to succeed in school and in my first career. I still use those skills more than you might think. None of that degree was wasted. And the Hard Knock School of Writing doesn’t give out degrees until you’re dead so I’ll keep plugging away at it.

Have you seen God take you down a different career path from what you originally intended or went to school for? What happened? Please share!

The Most Important Thing: The Gospel

I was getting ready for a craft fair and decided to include an excerpt from one of my novellas inside my brochure that lists all my books and contact information. Why? Because whether someone likes my stories or not, the most important thing is their relationship with God. Hopefully, all my stories have some thread or truth of the Gospel in them without being preachy it is usually covert. In my novella Slam-Dunk Christmas, I had a more overt moment, so this is the excerpt I took from that story.

“So tell me what’s on your mind.”

How did he know? “I think God is trying to get my attention.”

Blake grinned. “He’s been trying that for a long time, Sam.”

“Maybe so. I was too busy to listen. I guess I want to make sure I’m not heading down a wrong path. I’m trying to pray…”

“That’s a good start. Let me ask you a few questions.”

Sam nodded. “Go ahead.”

“Do you realize that you are a sinner who can in no way match up to God’s holiness?”

“Duh. Of course. I’ve done and thought unconscionable things. I’m sure every day I screw up in some way in spite of my best of intentions.”

“Do you believe that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again as the perfect solution to your sin problem?”

“Huh?

“Maybe I’m doing this wrong. Hold on.” Blake rose and left the room, returning with his Bible. “Here we go. Romans 3:23 says, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Do you agree with that?”

“Of course, after all the evil we’ve seen on this planet, it would be hard for anyone to deny that.”

“Romans 6:23 says, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

“I’ve seen enough of death,” Sam said. “I want to know more about that life part.”

“Great. Romans 5:8 says, ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’”

“So like a criminal who is convicted of a crime, Jesus has taken my death sentence upon himself.  Interesting. A substitution.” Sam marveled. He’d read stories about Jesus, but he’d never really studied the Bible or its tenets.

“Exactly. In Romans 10: 9-10 it says: ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.’”

“So, I just need to accept the gift. Believe and state it out loud, much like we professed our commitment to the military once upon a time?”

“Correct. Verse 13 states, ‘For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ And when we look back at chapter 8:38-30 we see a wonderful promise, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

“Whoa. That’s amazingly all-encompassing. So the punishment for my sin is gone, I can live a life with Jesus forever?”

Blake nodded.

“I want that.”

“Would you like me to pray with you?”

“I think I need to do this myself. Thank you, Blake. Can I borrow your Bible?”

“You can keep it. I have several, and the verses are underlined in here.”

“Thank you.”

“Let me know how it goes.”

Sam nodded, took the book, and his coffee and headed to his room. Once he was inside, he closed the door. How did someone do this? He placed the book on the bed and knelt on the rug that was there, leaning against the mattress he folded his hands. He hadn’t read that this was important but he’d seen images of people praying that way so he figured it wouldn’t hurt.

“OK, God. You’ve been trying to get my attention and I’m ready. I know I’ve made some big mistakes. What did Blake call it? Oh, yeah, I sinned. I am a sinner, and desperately need You to rescue me from that. You’ve already done that, and I need to accept the gift You graciously offer me. So Jesus, I proclaim You to be the Lord and my Savior. My rescuer. My salvation. I desperately need You to help me live the rest of my life in a way that would honor you, my Commander-in-Chief. Thank you for dying for me, rising again, and finding me, calling me, to be Yours. Amen.”

How about you? Where do you stand with God? HE is the greatest gift of all. Let me know if you’ve taken that step. I’m praying for you!

Writer Wednesday: Lindsey Bell

I’d love you to welcome author Lindsey Bell to Writer Wednesday! I really do enjoy hearing how unique each author’s journey is. Be blessed.

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to…?

I have loved writing for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t actually take it seriously until a college professor urged me to send in an article I had written. That article was accepted for publication, and that’s when I thought, “Maybe I’m not too bad at this!” That first article gave me the courage to send in another. And then another. And then another. And that eventually led me to write books as well.

One quote that stuck with me that I read years ago was from Kaci Calvaresi. She said, “God can’t use a redemptive story that you’re not willing to tell.” THAT, for me, is why I write…so that God can use my story to help others.

What’s your pet peeve?

I think my pet peeve -which is completely unrelated to writing – is when people don’t do what they say they are going to do.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

My most embarrassing moment as a writer..that’s a tough one. I’m a people-pleaser and I don’t like conflict, so I think my most embarrassing moment as a writer was when I wrote something that faced criticism. It was difficult to NOT take it personally.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

There are two aspects of being an author that are especially challenging for me: facing criticism and building an audience. I’ve always struggled with self-promotion, especially as a Christian author. It’s challenging to find that sweet spot between sharing God’s story and sharing your own…shining the light on Him versus shining the light on yourself.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

Not well, lol 🙂 In my head, I know it’s not personal, but in my heart, that is sometimes hard to accept. The best thing I can tell myself is that this particular person was not my target audience. My message must be meant for someone else. It’s also important to learn from the negative reviews that offer helpful feedback. I have a sticky note on my computer that reads, “Mistakes are evidence that you tried.” This note helps remind me that failure (or negative reviews, in this case) can also be helpful, and, if nothing else, they show that I tried…that I put myself out there…that I gave it my best effort.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

My books for sure, especially Unbeaten. That is my heart on the page…God’s story in my life.

What is your current work in process?

I’m at the very beginning brainstorming process of my next book, so I’m actually not sure.

Bio:

Lindsey Bell is the author of Unbeaten and Searching for Sanity. She’s passionate about her two silly boys, her husband Keith, books of all kinds, and delicious dark chocolate. Her desire is to inspire and encourage other believers through honest dialogue about faith, family, and learning to love the life she’s been given. As a woman who has lost four babies to miscarriage, Lindsey loves helping others find God in the midst of heartache. Find Lindsey online at www.lindseymbell.com.

Website: www.lindseymbell.com

Newsletter:  http:/eepurl.com/gd9CAb

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLindseyBell

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lindseymbell01/_created/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyMBell

Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lindsey-Bell/e/B00H9NQETM

Latest book release: Unbeaten https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MXZG3CZ/

Lessons Learned While Writing: I’m Not As Good As I Think I Am (aka Humility)

I had started writing in a way many in that genre write, from an omniscient narrator perspective which meant I’d hop from one character’s thoughts and experiences to another without pause. Well, if older writers could do it, why not me?

Oh, how wonderful I thought my first book was, until I began to get the critiques back. What was head-hopping? What do you mean I have too may points of view? What is a point of view anyway?

Because that was then and this is now. I read, and got feedback and I rewrote the book taking out one character as it was too long. Then I rewrote it again with only two points of view. I revised it another time sparsely adding the point of view a villain who appears in subsequent books to give it a darker, more suspenseful tone. Instead of writing a lighthearted Regency-era romance, my novels were more Gothic!

Every time I write a story there is a mixture of pride and fear mixed into the process. Will it be good enough? Will the story resonate with readers?

Sometimes I wonder if big sales have eluded me because I’m poor at marketing or because God is protecting me from pride—that erroneous belief that I wrote those books and I’m wonderful.

I did write them—with God’s help and that of others. And I am wonderful, as a child of God which means I’m also a flawed human being.

Every round of edits can bring up fears of not being good enough. But in reality, I’ll never be good enough. I can only hope to grow to be better than the last book I wrote.

My daughter told me not to worry: “You’ll be famous when you’re dead.” I laughed. Guess I’m not in a hurry to be famous then because I have a lot more living to do should the Lord allow me to remain here.

Sometimes I wonder when it will end. Writers don’t really “retire,” so as long as I have the ability and the imagination, I suppose I’ll keep writing, and leave fame in the hands of God.

What projects do you struggle with to find humility? What works for you to keep you from wallowing in self-pity or puffing yourself up too much?

Ode to Benji

Benji – a rescue we adopted as a senior dog in September 2020 with many issues, put down in March 2022 due to biting combined with neurological decline.

Benji was an old pup, overweight, beset with quirks
Peeing in the house was high on the list of what would irk
He could be kind of bossy, and a bully when he played,
But most of the time he snuggled, my Velcro dog by day. 

Spoiled rotten he was and a piggy to boot
He'd scare himself whenever he'd toot.
He lost the weight and the allergies too
But with focal seizures and shaking, his brain was going to-da-loo.

He'd nip and growl if he didn't get his way,
Or perhaps when he was surprised, 
Instead of moving out of the way
He'd lunge and with his teeth - swipe. 

He'd finally crossed a line with the one he loved most
One quick movement and his future was toast.
He took a bite out of my calf, through jeans he left his mark
It was with relief and sorrow that we'd finally come to part. 

I never thought it'd come to this
The decision needed to be made.
A dog that bit was too high a price
For what I'd have to pay. 

To walk around my home in fear
Out of love for a dog so dear
And worry about our friends who came
It was time, but just the same

To say good bye is hard, even when you're hurt
To lose a loved one so cute and bury him in dirt

But I've learned things and know I tried
To give him his best life before he died.
He was loved and cared for, free to run,
And now his journey is over and done.

Bye-bye, Benji with those big soulless eyes
Your whimpers will no longer awaken me before the sunrise
I will not miss your belly bands or cleaning up your pee
But I will miss you snuggling right up next to me.

Spatzle Speaks: Susie (Book Review)

Now maybe it’s because the book has a derivative of my mom’s name that I wanted to review this book, or maybe because it’s different than the usual fiction reviews posted here, but mom spent time reading Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr., and found it fascinating.

Susie Spurgeon might seem like an imaginary model wife, always perfectly supporting her husband in ministry, and she was that, but so much more. Susie lived from 1832-1903 and was married to Charles for 36 years. She continued to minister as a widow and lived for 11 years before passing away at age 71.

In spite of weakness and chronic debilitating pain, she was devoted to her husband and helped him in ministry, reading with him, transcribing notes, and compiling books. She was a prolific author herself. She set up a ministry called the Book Fund designed to help poor pastors by providing them with valuable resources, sometimes beyond theological tomes. Toward the end of her life, she helped plant a church even though she was too ill to be there when it opened.

This book is a charming look at life in the Victorian age of Great Britain and it broadens the scope beyond our modern day. Back then the vocabulary was larger and the culture was different from ours in America–but the truths of the gospel transcend time. Who would be like Susannah Spurgeon in our day and age?

That’s a difficult question to answer because as a couple they supported and encouraged each other and I don’t think you can separate them which goes to the issue that a great man can be all the greater with the love and support of a wive, but to obtain such a prize, he needs to valuer her deeply. Such was the case of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon.

This is a book I highly recommend if you like biographies. The story is told at a good pace with the blessing of her great-grandchild. I give it five bones, because I’m a dog and I don’t have thumbs.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Lessons Learned while Writing: Omniscience vs Free Will

This might seem like an odd thing to learn about while writing fiction but hang in there with me. My master’s degree is from a seminary. I have taught theology and studied the attributes of God. His omniscience vs out free will is an issue people have been arguing about for centuries.

I don’t really have the answer to that debate although I fully believe in both. God knows everything which should terrify us. EVERYTHING. Every thought and intention of our hearts, our motives, the words we don’t say out loud but think. Our wants and desires. Our deepest fears. Amazingly enough, He wanted His human creation, dependant upon Him for every breath we take and every beat of our hearts, to have the freedom to accept or reject Him.

He didn’t want puppets to worship Him. He wanted people willing to give their all to Him because He called and we chose to respond.

Now we could debate about how could God, who knows everything we will do, give us free will since He already knows we will do it?

I can’t answer that. Some thoughts are far too lofty for this mere mortal.

But I came to a place of peace with this because of my writing. It is not a perfect illustration because again, as a writer, I’m a mortal, not eternal like God is.

When I write my story I have an idea of what the journey for my characters will be like and who they are. (Remember, these people don’t really exist even if they seem to in my mind).  I have a general concept of my ending. Since I write happily-ever-afters it will be a happy ending. There will be love. Maybe a kiss or a wedding, and regardless of where my characters start on their journey, they will have grown emotionally and spiritually. Because I’m human and haven’t written the book yet, I’m not sure of all the details of those journeys to love and greater wholeness.

Whether a writer is a panster (write by the seat of his/her pants) or a plotter, planning out general points of the story’s plot, our characters sometimes surprise us. I can have in-depth interviews with these imaginary people but they sometimes throw me for a loop with a memory, or an issue I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes they make a choice I didn’t anticipate. However, I get them to my desired end for the book.

Once the book is written I am fully aware of their choices and decisions and the precise ending.

God knows my beginning and my end. He has a plan and a purpose for my life but I still make choices. Unlike me as an author, God is never surprised because He’s already read the end of my story. He read it before I was even born. That doesn’t mean He dictated my path.

I’m not even sure if that fully makes sense to you, but it does to me. I can’t understand just how it really works with an all-knowing, sovereign Lord, only that I can listen for His voice and maybe I’ll make mistakes, but He will get me to my desired end and use me to fulfill His purpose here on earth. Maybe I’ll sport some bruises from my failures, but He will never stop loving me on the journey through my story.

And He is also the One who leads me as I write. How else can my characters surprise me if my God-given imagination didn’t let that happen? An imagination designed for me combined with my history and past experiences to create a story out of nothing because I am an image-bearer of the Creator Himself.

Maybe this is too lofty, but I’ve found peace in not understanding how it all happens. It is a holy mystery beyond my ability to grasp but His omniscience doesn’t negate free will and there is wonderful security in that truth.

Lessons Learned from Writing: Divine Fun

Now, why did I start this series of posts with this one? Because initially when I started writing in 2009 and understood nothing much about the craft, I had fun. So much fun! I believed God told me to write that November for National Novel Writing Months (nanowrimo.org). When I started I was fearless because I didn’t know any better. I had a blast finally writing the story I wanted to write: The Virtuous Viscount. I’d started years ago on paper and I think I scared myself. But God called and I obeyed.

I wrote a lot of words in 21 days – more than winning two NaNoWriMos. I was exhilerated and in my ignorance thought I’d written a wonderful tome. I cut my teeth as an author on that novel and still love the story.

So I had fun and thought that was it. I was a stay-at-home mom and lived in the country and served in Women’s Ministry at my church and didn’t have much interaction with those who didn’t share my faith in Jesus. I reached out during that month and connected with another stay-at-home mom in my community. We both crossed the finish line and I reached out again to suggest we get together. I gave her my real name, not the name on NaNo and she responded.

She was a friend from high school I’d been praying for, for over twenty years. Wow. Just wow. We connected in person along with others from back then and I heard many sad stories. Now my own story wasn’t that wonderful as I was in a difficult marriage, but I listened and loved. I was newer to Facebook in those days and invited my friend to connect with me there.

She remembered my strong faith in high school and even though I didn’t usually post spiritual stuff then, I was usually more silly, she told me it was as if God was poking her in the shoulder with every post I made. She understood my life was challenging. She was aware of my ministry work, and never once did I talk to her about Christ. She was well aware of the truth she’d turned her back on years ago. I was just being silly old me.

God led her back to Himself. She said later that she believes the only reason she was to write that November was to reconnect with me so God could get a hold of her. She joined a church, she led worship, she’s taken a theology class that I taught, and she made dramatic life changes. Life has been challenging for her in the process, but she’s stood firm.

I thought I was just having fun—but God had a bigger plan.

Her name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life long before my humble gothic regency ever saw the light of day in print.

So go ahead and have fun. Enjoy life. If God calls you to do something unusual because it might be fun? Do it! You may never know the heart you may touch just by being yourself in those moments.

“Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” Saint Francis of Assisi.

What kind of fun might God be calling you to? Don’t dismiss it as frivlolous–He may have a bigger plan than you realize.

Writer Wednesday: Lori Ann Wood

I want to welcome Lori Ann Wood to my blog as she shares her own unique journey to publishing. I personally love hearing these stories because it’s a good reminder to us all that God’s call on each of us is unique and the path He puts us on will also be distinctively our own. I hope you enjoy meeting Lori Ann.

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to…?

Since grade school, I had written short pieces and filed them away. I have always loved the art of arranging words into thoughts that stir emotions and evoke action. So for most of my life, I have known there was a book inside me. However, practicality convinced me to study business in college. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure a few years ago that I started blogging, writing articles for publications and websites, and eventually writing a book.

What’s your pet peeve?

I particularly dislike inauthenticity, whether on social media, in writing, or in person.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

I strolled into my first writing conference expecting to snag a contract on the spot. I had no idea what genre I would write in or even who my audience was. My very first blog post came out on the second day of the conference. I had about 50 subscribers, mostly family, at that time.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

As for most authors, my biggest hurdle is building a platform. I started from scratch on Facebook and Instagram just over three years ago. It has been a steep learning curve for someone who thought she’d never need social media. (My next challenge will be learning Pinterest.) Using social media to form relationships with my audience and other writers has been paying off. My email list is growing as I continue to share with other authors and serve their audiences as well.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

I had conditioned myself from the beginning of this venture that rejection was part of the process. I soon learned that if I wasn’t getting several rejections in a given month, I wasn’t trying enough. Now I see rejection as a honing of my audience and purpose. When I learn what not to write or where not to submit, I have a clearer focus on where I should be spending my time.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

My best success is having my manuscript acquired by CrossRiver Media. Although I have had dozens of articles published in the last three years in national and international publications, the vote of confidence from a Christ-centered team to pick up my work and invest their time and resources into it is by far the best kind of success.

What is your current work in process?

A book of essays on life’s three biggest questions titled Divine Detour: The Path You Didn’t Choose Can Lead to the Faith You’ve Always Wanted

Biography:

Lori Ann Wood lives in beautiful Bentonville, Arkansas, with her husband, the love of her life whom she found in 9th grade. She is mom to three great young adults, one amazing son-in-law, and a miniature dachshund named Pearl. Lori Ann currently serves as the founding leader of the Parenting Education Ministry at the church of Christ in Bentonville. She also serves as WomenHeart Champion Community Educator for Arkansas and American Heart Association Ambassador.  Lori Ann was awarded the Frederick Buechner Narrative Essay Award and her work has been published in numerous print and online venues, including Heart Insight Magazine, The Christian Century magazine, Just Between Us Magazine, The Joyful Life Magazine, Bella Grace Magazine, Sweet to the Soul FAITH Magazine, Pepperdine University Press, and yahoo.com. Having discovered a serious heart condition almost too late, Lori Ann writes to encourage others to find joy in the divine detours of life. Read more from her at https://linktr.ee/LoriAnnWood.

Website: https://loriannwood.com

Newsletter:  https://loriannwood.com/hope

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DivinelyDetoured

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loriannwood/

Latest book release: Coming early 2023 – Divine Detour: The Path You Didn’t Choose Can Lead to the Faith You’ve Always Wanted

All Understanding

I was cleaning up a workspace that had been left for over three years. I tossed out so many boxes of garbage! It felt soo good tossing them into our wood stove/boiler. I even found some things that I’d thought were lost forever.

This was a poem I wrote back in the spring of 1990. I was so young back then, but it still speaks to me. Maybe you’ll enjoy it as well.

All Understanding

Broken people

Broken hearts

The sin of our parents

Now tearing us apart

Satan doesn’t have to work too hard

The damage has been done

The patterns long established

Started before our lives had begun

Yet Lord, You give the courage

To help us right our past

Convicting us about our status quo

You bring healing and peace that surpasses all understanding

So we struggle

With hurts from long ago

Satan has to work harder now

He doesn’t want to let us go

Yet we belong to Jesus

Our hearts washed white as snow

We are cleaning out our closets

The skeletons must go

Yet Lord, You bring the strength

As we change our wrongful ways at last

Encouraging us by Your Spirit

Bringing healing and a peace that surpasses all understanding

You understand us, Lord

More than we ever could ourselves

With compassion, You look upon us

As You bring us to Yourself

Your love abounding always

Though we slip and fall at times

Your grace still reaching out to us

A love that doesn’t constrict or bind

Lord, continue to give us the stamina

To change the grains of time

Gifting us with wisdom and patience

Bring healing and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Have a beautiful week trusting in Him.

One Word: Empowered

I have a heavy writing schedule this year and part of that terrifies me. For the most part, over the years when I’ve written it has been because I wanted to–not because I needed to. When I focus, like with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month nanowrimo.org) I can write fast and finish a full-length novel or at least go over the 50,000-word goal for the month. But now I have a contract for four more books and I need to write, write, write.

I prayed about this before agreeing to this contract. Part of the challenge is that I’m co-authoring with a dear friend, DeeDee Lake. But our lives and schedules sometimes conflict for even basic brainstorming of ideas. We’ve set up a schedule for how things pass between us but then there’s this thing we can’t account for called LIFE.

I usually pick one word for the year and this year it is: Empowered. I cannot accomplish these tasks on my own and I want to make sure that in the process of doing this I don’t miss what’s really important in life: time with my husband, kids, friends, and family. My dad died in October and maybe I’ll write about that another time, but it drove home to me the importance of making every day count.

I select Scriptures to put on my screen savers so I’m constantly reminded of my dependence on God for these tasks. The first uses a verse from 2 Corinthians 9:8 which says: “And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may exalt in every good work.” (HCSB)

The second uses a verse from 2 Timothy 1:9 which proclaims: “He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (HCSB)

I don’t know what you’re struggling with today. But maybe those Scriptures can help. I’ve found that when I’m overwhelmed by the tasks the best thing I can do is write them down and pray and ask God: What would you have me do next? And then do it. One task at a time.

I’ve accomplished a lot in January because God has enabled me to. I’ve been frustrated at what I couldn’t do sometimes due to circumstances out of my control so after I have my own little internal temper tantrum because things didn’t go according to my plan, I pray and adjust my goals for that day, week, and maybe even month.

I had hoped to start writing last week on a novel but didn’t get the information I needed. So today, I’ll be working on a different project I had planned for later in the year. I shuffled my schedule and plans around and have built-in buffers because so much, wait, really ALL of life is beyond my control. So I will pray, focus and get to work to do what He has led me to do and trust Him for the outcome.

What is overwhelming you? Can you lean on God to empower you? He does give us more than we can bear simply so we need to lean on Him. Our Lord is faithful and generous in His grace and mercy to us! Embrace that and press on. Do you have one word for the year? Why is it important to you, I’d love to hear about it.

Spatzle Speaks: Sunflowers and Suspicions Book Review

My mom’s at it again, reading books and my “adopted” brother Benji keeps getting in the way of my snuggles. That doesn’t stop me from having an opinion about Karen Malley’s latest Pine Springs romance Sunflowers and Suspicions!

Being a twin must be hard at times. Julie Wagner firmly believes something is wrong with her sister Jade so she heads to the big city to track her down. Jade’s neighbor, Matt Callahan from across the hall is the first person to be able to tel lt hem apart. But where has Julie’s sister disappeared to?

Matt is willing to help as he becomes enchanted by Julie. Soon his entire family is equally enchanted with her. But can they find Jade? Tracking down the mystery takes them on a journey fraught with danger and intrigue. The biggest danger is to Julie’s heart as she thinks Matt is really in love with her sister.

I don’t want to give too much away but this multi-layered story will keep you reading till the very end! Matt and Julie are compelling characters and the backstory for all of them kept me turning the pages.

I highly recommend Sunflowers and Suspicions by Karen Malley! I give it five bones becuse I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

The Value of a Day

I’m a proactive worrier. A planner. I want to understand all the contingencies and be ready.

Life doesn’t always allow that though and nothing I’ve worried about has ever come to pass. I’m not superstitious enough to believe that my anxieties and preparation had anything to do with that.

Worry robs me of peace and joy. It takes me out of the present into an invisible (to me) future.

Leaving worry aside and focusing on the here and now can bring me greater contentment. That is if I truly value the work I’m doing right now.

As I’ve grown older, (not grown up), I’ve had to re-think what’s important. I’ve always been a doer and getting things accomplished were a measure of my worth at least in my own myopic perspective.

God has brought me to a place where I can savor more of the less remarkable moments. Yes, I sometimes make a list of all I’ve done to reassure myself that I wasn’t lazy at the end of the day when I don’t have anything tangible to show for the time that’s passed.

Getting work done around the house, completing projects and even finishing a book or having one come out are all tasks that recycle. They never end. There’s always more laundry to do. The dogs track in mud on a freshly washed floor, my daughter needs something for school right away and the grass keeps growing and when that stops the snow will keep me busy. When the kids were younger I struggled to find value in keeping them clean, clothed, and fed. And there are more stories and books in my head than I can possible accomplish in the time God has given me today.

While I still need do all the necessities of daily life, cleaning, grocery shopping, looking after kids, paying bills, helping my husband, and doing contracted writing/editing/teaching work, I’ve found that sometimes the seemingly smaller things are more important:

  • My time with God each day.
  • Hanging out with my dying father even while he sleeps.
  • Giving my mom a break so she can get away from the 24/7 burden of caring for my dad.
  • Playing mini-golf with my husband or sitting and watching television together and date nights.
  • Spending time with my daughter shopping or working on something together.
  • Girls-night out (or in!)
  • Hosting the small group that meets in our home.
  • Having people over for dinner or playing cards.
  • Being aware of people around me wherever I go. Who would God have me bless?

I’m finding that while the daily stuff is important, making time for the eternal stuff, the relationships, is even more so. Even though I hope my stories will impact lives, encourage people to grow in faith, or see the world a little differently, and they may outlast me, I firmly believe relationships are more important than all of it. When I teach writers I emphasize this often. Don’t overlook the people in the rush to accomplish a task. It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

I like to get things done. But sometimes sitting back and valuing the moments in a day with another person, even if it is silence, has the greater value. It won’t happen unless I’m intentional about it.

I doubt I’ll ever have regrets about a dirty house, or a messy lawn when we are in the process of making changes. I won’t regret the dust that sits undisturbed. At the end of my life I won’t think about any of that. All that will matter are the people. If this were my last day on earth would I be happy about how I left the people around me? Would they know without a doubt how loved they were?

I’m not saying to abandon cleaning and caring for those around us and for the material possessions God has given us. I’m suggesting we find greater value in the people than things or tasks. It isn’t easy and I still don’t always do it well, but I’m growing in it.

What are you learning to value in your day?

Spatzle Speaks: Madi’s Secret (Book Review)

My mom wrote Madi’s Secret many years ago and then she forgot it was releasing. I think my brother, Benji, who has dementia has been distracting her. And then there are other life things going on too, much I don’t understand. Still, I really liked this book except there’s no dog in it. Really, mom?

So Madi comes back to Wisconsin with her teenage son, but she left without a trace a long time ago leaving the love of her life behind. He never really understood where she was or why she’d left.

Parker had moved on after a while and married, had a daughter and became a widow. As a paramedic he’d seen many challenging things but nothing challenged him as much as finding his long-lost love trapped in an upside down car on the side of the highway.

She was back. But why had she left? Why wouldn’t she tell him? And her son? Who was the father?

Could love reignite in the shadow of the secrets she hasn’t shared? Madi isn’t even sure what it is that she saw that has her hunted by unknown evil. She returned to Wisconsin because she believed God was leading her back. But would she survive that obedience? And would God ever give her a relationship with Parker once the truth came out?

I recommend this book. Sure, it was written by my mom, but I know she pours herself into these stories. Check it out. It’s in ebook only for now but hopefully it will come out in print soon!

I give this book five bones, because I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Spatzle Speaks: Whitney’s Vow Book Review

Mom has been busy getting the garden in and wouldn’t log me on so I could post a review of her very own book! As a dog it’s hard for me to type in the password to her laptop.

Mom told me that her author friend, Loree Lough had posted this photo (on the right here) on Facebook and stated that it looked like the cover of a romance novel. Mom thought Loree should write it but then opted to make the attempt herself.

Whitney’s Vow is the end result. A romantic suspense which is a newer genre for mom although most of her Gothic Regencies have those elements as well as some of her contemporary romances. Her publisher gave it a different cover which I think looks great.

Let me tell you a little about Whitney’s Vow. First of all Whitney was raised in a more affluent household but going to a public college cut her off from the purse strings of her parents and there she met Blake Anderson. They began their marriage on a beach along with four other friends from college.

Fast forward seven years and Whitney stays home at Rebel Falls Ranch in Montana, manages to make quilts, read books, garden and ride horses. Oh, and she’s a crack shot as well. Blake, however, is often gone for stretches of time doing some kind of undercover military operations with his team. Whitney is clueless about those operations, much less the actual day to day of running the ranch or their finances.

All of that comes to a head when she is informed that Blake is dead and that their beloved ranch is being forclosed on. The only way out is with an arranged marriage set up by her father. Whitney doesn’t want to remarry. She’s desolate…and vulnerable.

Blake is not dead and returns home just in time to stop the wedding and together they begin to unravel the lies and deception that brought them to that point. Whitney learns a lot about the ranch, and her husband’s military operations and undergoes a torturous journey to their happily ever after. Whitney becomes a part of the solution instead of a victim and I am happy to state she gets a dog too! (My favorite part!). Of course I’m biased and think you should read this book…but I will warn you, you might not be able to put it down! I give it five bones, because I’m a dog and that’s how I role!

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Polarization Pollution

Black and white. North Pole vs South Pole. Both examples of polar opposites in our world. We can accept these as valid and real. Interesting how no one wants everything all black or all white – the lack of color is limiting. Grey however is a good neutral ground and acceptable, but even then, it is often, in clothing and decorating added to with pops of color. Grey days are usually gloomy, although some people love them while others prefer the sun. Sun all the time without the darkness of night can be wearying too.

No one lives comfortably at the North or South Poles, or even close to them—they are too cold. And living along the equator is too hot for others so people often live in between either, and even then weather patterns can make life challenging. There is no one “ideal” place to live since the Garden of Eden.

I was pondering all this because of how polarized our culture has become, especially in the United States. Cries of racism and a growing segregation of people of color vs those with less melanin in their skin. But what about those in the grey area? Those of mixed heritage and culture? We are all essentially one race and this is not a “race” issue but a cultural one. What else could we pick on? Are people with blue eyes perceived as superior to those with brown? Or are people with curly hair more frivolous than those with straight? Are people with a higher BMI less valuable than those with less? We can all make judgements based on visual cues that have nothing to do with the reality of our value as image bearers in God’s eyes. I can forget this too sometimes.

I’ve been guessed as Hispanic or Italian based on my appearance, but in reality, I’m in the grey area. My heritage genetically is from a variety of other places but those two aren’t in the mix. I’m a mutt as it were. But I’m also exactly who God created me to be.

Modern medicine has us polarized as well. It has also given us unrealistic expectations, and some have made it their hill to die on. Vaccine or Non-vaccine. That’s it. No colors in between, or are there? Individual choices are questioned and condemned without understanding the other side’s perspective. And it may not even be based on what you think. Cursing someone’s choice however closes the door to understanding.

Or have we made a different judgement? Who controls the power over life and death? Is it Dr.  Fauchi with his ever-changing flip-flopping on things? Or the World health Organization with its own political agenda? Or is it the Centers for Disease Control which also might have underlying precepts that some might disagree with? All led by fallible human beings with their own way of looking at things which, sadly enough, can skew data or the way it is shared to accomplish a particular goal. Trust the numbers, it’s science. Maybe so, but statistics can be flawed if one isn’t careful to see the bigger picture of how the numbers are arrived at. But what do I know? Maybe my professors misled me when they taught me about that kind of thing? They taught me to be critical and discerning…numbers can lie. There is a history of science being skewed…and even wrong.

There are a few other things that concern me…and even I struggle with these. Have we expected too much of modern medicine? Have we made it our idol? Some have made alternative medicine their idol as well. I live in the grey, seeing benefits of both. And neither one can save your life when the LORD of the Universe determines your expiration date.

But something worse happens than physical death in our American society at this present time. It is relational death. The division of people based on superficial constructs—skin color, medical position on vaccines, or political party. (gasp!)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. (James 3:17, HCSB)

Maybe right now some of you are perceiving me as that awful pillow or comforter a relative made for you, with clashing colors that make you wince. Maybe so. Muddy waters aren’t pretty either and I’ve stirred the pot a little more.

What I’m really urging is for us to relax. Take a deep breath. Try to understand the perspective of the other side even if you disagree with it. Politics and Covid aside, the reality is we are human beings created for community. Fight against evil! Always. But be careful what you determine as evil. Is it someone who disagrees with your well-researched opinion? Instead of throwing mud at the other person, perhaps sit down, face to face, to find out how the other person came to their perspective, without judgement, argument, or debate. Ask questions, and even if you don’t agree…love them right where they are at.

Kindness and love are better than black and white or even grey on any day.