Crossing the Waters by Leslie Leyland Fields

What first grabbed me about Crossing the Waters is the subtitle: Following Jesus through the storms, the fish, the doubt, and the seas. Fields, originally from New Hampshire, married a fisherman in Alaska changing her life completely as they built a house on a small island, raised children and caught fish. Not sugar-coating anything, Fields shares her own struggles as a wife, mother, and a disciple of Jesus. She retells the stories of Jesus and the fishermen He called to be His disciples. Most of her experiences come from fishing in Alaska, but she also retraces Jesus’ steps around and on the Sea of Galilee.

Reading again of Jesus walking on the stormy water or waking from a deep sleep to calm the sea through the eyes of someone who has been on stormy waters, both literally and figuratively, gave me a new appreciation for the experiences of the disciples and the awesome power of our God.

Favorite quotes: “They are believing in their fear of the deep more than in Jesus. They do not yet know that he is with us wherever we are, that he will even walk on water in the middle of the night in a storm to come to us . . .”

“Jesus has not come to save them from the waters–death is not the enemy–but to save them from unbelief and their still small faith.”

Fields has written an enjoyable, thought-provoking book helping us to reconsider what Jesus meant when He said, “Come, follow me.” This is a book I highly recommend and am sure I will read again.

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Then Sings My Soul” by Amy K. Sorrells

Nel Stewart hasn’t been home in years when her mother’s sudden death brings her back to Michigan from Arizona. Her father’s deep grief and oncoming dementia causes Nel to stay longer than she originally intended. Together, Nel and Jakob work through their present pain as well as learn to deal with their past griefs.

Using alternating story lines, Sorrells tells Jakob’s story of his escape from the Jewish pogroms in the Ukraine, a story Nel never knew. We also learn Nel’s story of why she left home and the significance of Jakob’s hobby of the lapidary arts.

I was immediately drawn into this book because of the historical descriptions of a time and place I know little about (the Ukraine and the Jewish pogroms). The use of the lapidary arts was also an interesting addition, giving insight to the characters–their backgrounds and their interests.

From the title, I thought it was going to be a book about the song, “How Great Thou Art”, but it’s not; exactly. The author explains the meaning behind the title at the end, so make sure you read that. Highly recommend!

 

 

First Lines

In editing and rewriting, I have struggled with those first lines. The first line on the first page is probably the most important as you are trying to reel readers in, but even the first line of succeeding chapters have a place of importance, and it seems to take me awhile to warm up to my subject or my scene. I am now going through several books and writing down their first lines. These lines are not necessarily famous or even great. In fact, most are so simple, I wonder if I am just trying too hard.

“Joshua Poldark died in March 1783.” Winston Graham in Ross Poldark

“The treasure of Hookton was stolen on Easter morning 1342.” Bernard Cornwell in The Archer’s Tale

“Roger woke and shot upright on a gulp of breath.” Elizabeth Chadwick in The Time of Singing

“A cold wind blew down from the snow-covered mountains, hissing through the narrow streets of Thebe Under Plakos.” David Gemmell in Troy Shield of Thunder

“Weeks had gone by since winter had lost her blinding white beauty.” Ginger Garrett in Wolves Among Us. (For those who say not to start with weather, these last two are rather beautiful to me.)

“Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, overly educated and excessively rational, knowing right from wrong and fancy from fact, woke in a nest of marten and fox pelts to the sight of an eagle circling overhead, and saw at once it could not be far to Paradise.” Sara Donati in Into the Wilderness  (Now, there’s a sentence! Excuse me, while I pause to reread this book.)

“In 1959 Florence Green occasionally passed a night when she was not absolutely sure whether she had slept or not.” Penelope Fitzgerald in The Bookshop

“On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.” Anthony Maara in A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

“At dusk they pour from the sky.” Anthony Doerr in All the Light We Cannot See

“Now I believe they will leave me alone.” Wallace Stegner in Angle of Repose

This is rather fun, and I could keep going, but I have also found this exercise inspiring, so I need to cut this off and go read. I mean, write.

What is Christian Fiction? And What Should it Be?

Appreciate the discussion going on here. Christian fiction has many roles just as there are many gifts in the church.

Discerning Lilies

My last post (CF Books: Heading toward extinction? Or adapting to a new market?) received a fair amount of attention, and a good number of thoughtful comments both on this blog and on various Facebook pages.  So I want to extend the conversation a little further.  There are a few ideas that ran as common themes in the comment section, and today I want to pick one of them to tease out a little further.

The Goal of Christian Fiction

A few years ago, Library Journal posted an article by Melanie C. Duncan that spotlighted Christian fiction.  Duncan counters traditional opinion that CF readers are solely white, middle-aged, and women.  She also counters the stereotype that CF novels are safe, gentle, and simplistic.

These are the same arguments many have brought up in their comments in the last couple of days.  And I find it interesting that the…

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Biblical Fiction: Dead or Alive?

At the writers conference I attended in March, I had an opportunity to meet with someone who is the head of a Christian agency and well known in Christian publishing. I didn’t go with the plan of talking with him, so was pretty proud of myself for taking the plunge. I knew it would be a good experience, both to speak with him and to hear his thoughts on the book I’m writing. Now, I was not expecting much–no, I really didn’t think I would tell him about my story, he would respond with delight, and hand me a contract on the spot. The dream is there but I was feeling pretty realistic. However, I have spent a bit of time thinking over some of the things he said, and I have to admit, I am still puzzled by his attitude.

His first response to my pitch of “I’ve written an historical novel about Solomon growing up in King David’s palace,” was “People aren’t reading Biblical fiction. That just doesn’t sell, and no one is publishing it.”

I was stunned and, yes, I’m a bit of a slow thinker, so it wasn’t until I was back in my hotel room that I thought: “What about Tessa Afshar? Ginger Garrett? Connilyn Cossette? Francine Rivers? Jill Eileen Smith? Stephanie Landsem? Mesu Andrews? These writers may not be on the New York Times bestseller list, but they are all publishing Biblical fiction and doing reasonably well. I am currently reading Tessa Afshar’s Land of Silence, am enjoying it, and believe it is very well written. 

Did I misunderstand him? No, the conversation went on from there as he explained the ups and downs of Biblical fiction and told me why no one was interested in that any more. Of course, I tried to tell him that my book was special and many people would be interested in it and love to read it. Well, I didn’t exactly say all that, but I did spend more time telling him of my story, but I did not leave with a positive impression.

Looking through the authors I mentioned above, I found they were published by six different publishers, so there seems to be quite a few publishers still interested in these books.

So, am I wrong, and is he right? Are people not interested in reading Biblical fiction? What about you? Have you read any of these authors lately? Have you any others to add and recommend?

Kings Mountain National Military Park S.C.

I haven’t been blogging lately, but I have been writing. Still editing (trying to get that word count down that I worked so hard to build) and also working on a couple of short stories. Took a day to enjoy the spring sunshine during my son’s spring break and went to Kings Mountain. Besides being a nice place to take a not-too-strenuous hike (except for that little part when you’re going straight up the mountain but still piece of cake compared to its neighbor, Crowders Mountain), an important piece of American history took place there in 1780.

To sum: the Brits stirred up a hornets nest by threatening the Scots-Irish mountain men. The Patriots had lost several major battles, and Major Patrick Ferguson was sent to raise men for the loyalist cause in the Carolinas.  Sending a message to the leader of the “backwater men”, Ferguson riled the mountain men with his words that “he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country to waste with fire and sword,” if they did not desist from their opposition to British arms. With 900 of their best riflemen, the Patriots met Ferguson and his men on this mountain, and using their superior guerrilla tactics, defeated Ferguson and his men in little over an hour on October 7, 1780. This battle turned the tide of war in the Patriots’ favor which would eventually lead to their overall victory.

Memorial to the three African Americans who fought with the Patriots.

 

83 feet high, this monument was dedicated in 1909 with a list of those died in the battle.

The centennial monument dedicated on October 7, 1880.

In spite of his loss and death in this battle, Ferguson was honored for his service and is also known as the sharp-shooter who had an opportunity to shoot General George Washington, but out of a sense of honor did not.

A tree that seems to be flaunting its individuality. (I enjoy finding unusual trees).

A Rare C.S. Lewis Book

Mere Inkling

readers

Just because you read a book doesn’t mean you need to purchase it for your library. Yet some of us do feel compelled to add almost every volume we enjoy to our personal collections. The dilemma arises when the cost of a particular book may exceed its “long-term” value to us.

Faced with this question a few weeks ago, I pursued a course open to many readers of Mere Inkling. I simply borrowed the book from my local library, which in turn borrowed it via interlibrary loan from a university in a neighboring state. Most libraries offer this service without charge. I regularly use it when researching obscure subjects I don’t anticipate I will continue to follow.

The subject of the particular text I am currently reading, of course, C.S. Lewis. While I believe I own a copy of every work ever written by Lewis that has been published, I doubt any human being could gather together…

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My Takeaways from the Writing Conference

It’s already been a week since I attended my first Writers Conference. I’ve been busy correcting my manuscript (more on that shortly), and writing some flash fiction for a contest. But I want to take a few minutes to give you some highlights of my takeaway from the conference. First, it was exciting, disappointing, and fun. Exciting just to be there; disappointing to receive my critiqued manuscript full of red marks; and fun meeting and hearing from other writers.

I attended several workshops, heard from the faculty during two panel discussions, and listened to the main speaker, Torry Martin.

At one workshop led by Larry Leech, I learned about the importance of having an “adorable antagonist.” A villain is needed for conflict but should not be used just as a scapegoat. A villain should be likable in some way and the bigger (s)he is, the greater the victory for the protagonist.

From DiAnn Mills, I heard about creating good dialogue. A writer needs to know what motivates their characters, to understand their top emotions and what type of body language they would use to express themselves. Gestures and body language help to “show and not tell.”

During a panel discussion, the members of the faculty were asked to give and explain some of their pet peeves concerning writing. Among these were: exclamation points, misuse of pronouns, using the passive voice, run-on sentences, indefinite “it” beginning a sentence, and the overuse of being verbs. When I heard this last discussed, it struck home with me, and I had to wonder if my writing was guilty of this. I didn’t have to wonder long. When I received my critique the next day, the use of many “be” verbs was heavily marked.

The main speaker for the conference, Torry Martin, spoke on the importance of networking. He stated that we don’t need to be a “bon vivant” to network. (Always good to learn new words and how to use them). Since most writers (including myself) are introverts, this was good to know!  Torry had a lot of good advice on networking, and if you ever have a chance to hear him, I highly recommend taking the opportunity.  I particularly appreciated his way of looking at networking from a spiritual perspective. He quoted Philippians 2:3 (“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves”) several times during his lecture, stating that all networking by Christians should be done with this verse in mind as we want to do all things under Christ’s leadership.

In all, I enjoyed hearing from different writers and having a chance to mingle for a couple of days. I know I have a great deal of work to do, but I left inspired and encouraged to keep at it.

Any conferences or workshops that you have attended lately? Or plan to in the near future? I hope this has encouraged you to check some out.

Going to a Writers Conference

writersconference2017headermoja

On Friday I will be attending my first writers’ conference–the Christian Writers Conference in Spartanburg, S.C. I’ve been pretty excited for several weeks now, but I can now add: scared, nervous, and a bit intimidated.  My first class will be on “How to Get the Most Out of the Conference.” That was an easy enough choice, but choosing the right class in the different workshops is a little more difficult, though it’s great to have so many interesting ones to choose from.

There are many writers conferences out there, and even though I haven’t yet been to one, I can already recommend that if you’re into writing at all, that you look for one that you can attend. Besides the classes that are available, attending a conference gives you the opportunity to meet other writers and others in the industry. I especially hope to connect with some writers who might live in my area.

Also, for any of you on facebook, I started an author’s page under the name–P.M. Gilmer. I’m posting and sharing news about reading and writing, so if you’re on facebook, check it out and give me a follow. I’ll be sharing some highlights from the conference on there (probably through Twitter) when I can, but I will definitely be sharing more right here when I get back.

How about you? Are you attending any writers’ conferences this year?