NC Christian Writers Conference 18

Last week I attended a writers’ conference in Liberty, N.C. put on by Serious Writer (www.seriouswriter.com) Going to a conference can be a big commitment as well as an extra expense–especially for struggling writers. What are some reasons for attending a writers’ conference?

  1. To meet other writers. Why is this important? We writers spend our working hours alone and a lot of time just in our own heads. To meet others who also have this strange way of living is refreshing and encouraging. As C.S. Lewis put it: “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another ‘What, you, too? I thought that no one but myself . . .'”
  2. To meet people in the “business.” You know, editors, agents, publishers, and, did I mention other writers?
  3. To attend workshops that will help you better your craft.
  4. To have your questions answered. To learn what your questions should be in the first place.
  5. To hear other people’s stories. You know, other writers.
  6. Encouragement. I had to force myself to make some appointments to pitch my book, but I’m glad I did. I don’t know yet what may come of the appointments, but I did get some positive feedback.
  7. Worship. As Christians, we should worship God in whatever we do. Attending a conference with other Christians makes this easier and is a good reminder of Who we’re working for.

I’m already looking forward to next year. What about you? Have you been to a writers’ conference this year? Making plans to go soon?

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My Name is Hadesh Part 3 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part 2, here’s the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/11/my-name-is-hadesh-part-2-by-p-m-gilmer/

From Part 2: I continued to hug my Seled so close that he began to squirm. I made myself relax my grip before he began crying. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the midwife’s offer, but it scared me somehow. I knew people would think we had no business raising children–but this was my baby, and no one could take him from me.

 

Life went on fine for several weeks. Jemima and I both nursed our boys and began to regain our strength. The other women were accommodating, but we would soon need to be taking customers again. My Seled was sleeping well in his little basket, but Jemima continued to keep her Adar in bed with her as they fell asleep. We tried to tell her that wasn’t good for her or the babe, but she refused to listen. She wanted to cuddle her son as much as she could before going back to work, and I couldn’t really blame her.

The little world we had built soon came crashing in on us, though I probably should have known things couldn’t stay sweet for long. I woke one morning, while it was still dark, startled to find my babe in my arms. I realized I must have fallen asleep while nursing him and had failed to put him back in his basket. I needed to get up and stir up the embers in our fire pit, start some water boiling, and all those things that needed to be done to start one’s day. Feeling a bit cramped, I wanted to just get up and put Seled in his basket, but I felt sure if I did that without feeding him first, he would not sleep long, if at all. So, I nudged him a bit, so I could nurse him again before putting him in his basket.

He didn’t even stir, and my first thought was on how well he was sleeping and what a shame to wake him. Maybe I could carefully put him in his basket after all.

I tried to ease myself quietly up off my pallet, so I didn’t wake either him or Jemima and her baby. I knew both Zebidah and Hoglah had gone out for the night and were unlikely to be back yet. Holding my baby against my chest, I suddenly felt something was wrong. My babe felt cold, and I couldn’t hear his soft breathing as I usually did. My heart pounded as I sat back down, carefully laid him on my bed, and gently put my hand on his face. It was stone cold.

My heart seemed to stop, and I felt dizzy. No! My beautiful, healthy baby could not be gone. Just like that! He had been fine last night. I tried to remember nursing him and wondered again how I could have fallen asleep. But, then I remembered putting him in his basket. I did! I did put him in his basket! Did he awaken again, and had I sleepily gotten up and brought him back to bed with me? Sometimes the nights and the feedings did seem to run together.

I placed my hand on his face again, the tears running down my own. I sat, stroking his face, still in disbelief as light slowly began to illuminate our small room. Zebidah and Hoglah came into the house just as dawn was breaking.

“What is it, Hadesh?” Zebidah asked upon seeing my tears. “Is the babe sick?”

I threw back my head and let out a long, low wail. The sorrow poured out of me as if my grief could be unleashed and set free. Zebidah and Hoglah, as well as a few of our neighbors quickly gathered around me.

“Hadesh! What is it?” Then I heard gasps and more crying (besides my own).

“He was fine last night,” I moaned, finally opening my eyes to look at him, now that daylight was here. I started to stroke his face again, then jerked my hand back as if I had seen a snake.

“This isn’t my baby!” I cried out. I looked over at Jemimah who was huddled on her pallet, holding her baby close to her chest and crooning to him. Except . . . that couldn’t be her baby because her baby was lying here on my bed. Dead. And if this was her baby . . .

“Jemimah!” She finally looked over at me, but her eyes were hard and her mouth was set. “This is your baby! You must have mine. Give me back my son!”

Jemima held the baby to her chest, and he began to cry. “You are crazy! Grief has maddened you. Of course, this is my baby. I’m sorry your babe is gone, but that is no cause to try and claim mine. You must have rolled over in the night and suffocated the poor babe.”

I stared at her in horror. Rolled over on my baby? But, no, this wasn’t my baby, and I always put him in his basket. I never went to sleep with him. Did I?

The other women stood watching us closely, but making no comments. Unusual for these women not to have any opinions. I looked to them for help. “Look at this baby. Can’t you see he is Jemima’s and not mine? Would I not recognize my own child?”

Part 4 coming Thursday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Name is Hadesh Part 2 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part 1, here’s the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/09/my-name-is-hadesh-part-1-by-p-m-gilmer/

From Part 1: At almost fourteen, I found myself pregnant and soon Jemimah was as well. It may sound foolish, but it excited us both to think of having our own child. I promised myself, and the LORD God, that I would take care of this baby, and he would always know his mother’s love. No matter what.

The months went by both quickly and achingly slow. I couldn’t wait to see my baby’s face, to touch him, to hold him. But, there is much to prepare when bringing a baby into the world, especially with no real family to help, so the days flew by with always more to do.

Finally, the day came when my pains began, and I knew my baby was preparing to enter this world. Zebidah ran to get the midwife, and Hoglah helped me to walk around until time to sit on the birthing stool. Jemimah hoovered in the background, her babe almost ready to burst forth as well. As she was as inexperienced as I (and twice as scared), she gladly stood back and let the others tell me what to do.

Well, if you’re a woman, you know what follows, and if you’re a man, you know enough to know you don’t want to hear any more details. My baby entered the world with no complications, his voice as loud and demanding as any man’s. Yes, he was a fine boy, and I loved him at first sight.

Everyone cooed over him–except Jemima. She looked rather ill at all the mess this young one had made. I’m sure she was thinking of her own trial to come, so I tried to smile reassuringly at her, but she looked away, then left our house altogether. To get some air, she said.

“Don’t go too far!” the midwife called after her. “You look to be ready to have your own at any minute.”

This only served to increase her look of distress as she scurried away. The other women laughed knowingly. I paid them no attention, having eyes only for my newborn son who slept exhausted at my breast.

Sure enough, three days later, Jemima cried out in pain and dropped the laundry she had been carrying in. “It’s time! Oh, LORD God of the heavens, help me!”

I had been dozing with my little one who had just finished nursing, but I quickly settled him in his small basket and went to try to comfort and encourage Jemima. She wanted nothing but sympathy, however, and that not from me. Since I could well understand how she felt, I left her alone and went back to my baby who was fussing a bit at all the noise.

Jemima raised such a clamor as the other women tried to get her settled that the midwife soon appeared without anyone going to fetch her. News travels fast in our little neighborhood, and Jemima had been complaining for days, so I’m sure the midwife had been anticipating our call. Though she snubbed us in the streets, we paid her well enough, so she had no problem helping us when we might need her. Truthfully though, we hardly needed her at all.

Jemima’s labor was no easier or worse than normal–though that’s not the story she tells. They say you forget all about the pain once you see your little one’s face, but Jemima swore she would never forget one moment of the pain her little boy put her through. Still, she was just as enamored with her new son as I was with mine. It was just her way to complain and let her voice be heard.

“Another boy,” commented the midwife as she cleaned herself and made ready to leave. “You know, I’m sure I could find a home for either or both of these two lads if you decide they’re too much for you.”

Jemima and I both stared in horror at the old woman, clutching our babes to our chests. Though I wanted to screech at the nosy biddy, I said, (as politely as I could), “Though we appreciate your help with our births, you can go now.”

Jemima felt no reason to be polite. “Just get on out of here with your idea of help! You think just because we’re not rich or respectable women that we can’t raise our sons to be fine men.”

The midwife shrugged, unperturbed by our reactions. “Raising children is not cheap or easy. And there’s plenty who would be eager to raise a healthy son. If you change your minds, you know where to find me.”

I continued to hug my Seled so close that he began to squirm. I made myself relax my grip before he began crying. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the midwife’s offer, but it scared me somehow. I knew people would think we had no business raising children, but this was my baby, and no one could take him from me.

Part 3 coming on Tuesday.

In Search of a Critique Group

Critique groups for writers are a necessary evil. Aren’t they? Most of us who write prefer our own company to any other. Also, as long as we are the only one reading our writing, we can believe it’s pretty good. Or not too bad. Or actually, it’s terrible and not worth the hard drive on which it has been stored. (See what I mean?)

But there comes a time when, if we’re serious about putting our work out there to the public in some way (preferably publication as in people are lining up to buy our books or we’re winning prizes for our stories and New York is calling), we must find some other writers who can give us constructive feedback. Letting your friends and loved ones read your work and tell you it’s the best book they’ve ever read (even if they haven’t read anything since high school) is all well and good, but will not impress any agent, editor, or publisher.

How to find that perfect critique group has eluded me so far, so, unfortunately, I am not here to give you any helpful tips if you are in that same position of looking for a good group. I have a couple of possibilities right now, and I hope to be able to share with you in the next few months about how I have finally found that group and how amazingly helpful they have been.

So, while I’m continuing my quest for a critique group, I will share the basic guidelines for what I expect from a group, and maybe you can suggest a few more. The first may seem obvious, but you would be surprised. Everyone in the group needs to be writing and to be serious about writing. (Who would join a group about writing who isn’t actually writing? All those who dream about writing and know how easy it really is, and think ‘what’s the big deal anyway?’)

Secondly, everyone needs to be willing to share something of what they’ve written and be willing to listen to everyone’s comments on their selection without being defensive or apologetic. And, third, everyone needs to be willing to read the writings of all members and give helpful feedback. No “this was great” or “this was terrible.” Be specific at what you like, don’t like, or feel needs to be made more clear.

Coming Soon: Besides rewriting Solomon I (totally changing the POV; more on that another time) and working on Solomon II, I’m working on a story to post in this very blog. Soon.

Fun Fact: I noticed when I started writing this blog, I have published one hundred posts, so here’s to 101.

P. S. For any of you writers out there, the Charlotte Writers Club has their nonfiction contest open now. Any piece of unpublished nonfiction from 750-2000 words may be entered. For more information, check out their website: charlottewritersclub.org

How about you? Have you been part of a critique group? What worked and what didn’t?

 

 

New Name, New Domain

For those who have been following my blog from the beginning, you know I started this blog for a class assignment while working on my masters degree. My original intent was to share homeschooling news, library events, and book reviews.

For the past two years or so, I have returned to writing on a more serious and full-time basis. I have heard and read that I need to have my own domain–under my own name–in order to build a better platform and so that people can find me. I have been dragging my feet about it, but have finally taken the plunge and will be blogging under http://www.pmgilmer.com. I will start with an introduction, then will post “My Name is Absalom”. It will still be in seven parts, but I will probably not wait a week between each post as it is a rerun to most of my readers. Of course, I hope to attract new readers, and I believe this is a good example of my writing.

It will take me a few days to set up my new blog, (and if you go to it now, you will only be redirected to “declare”) and I will continue to post book reviews and other random things that take my fancy on “declare”. I know many people keep up with more than one blog, but I doubt I will do that for long. Then again, who knows?

I hope you will continue to follow me here, but will also join me in my writing journey at http://www.pmgilmer.com

“My Name is Absalom” Part 6 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed last week’s post, here is part five: https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/25/my-name-is-absalom-part-5-by-p-m-gilmer/

 

After many obstacles and hindrances, I finally began to formulate my plans for revenge. A knife in the dark would probably be easiest, but not nearly as satisfying. No, my revenge must be public as well as complete. I not only wanted my brother to know of my hatred, but also my father. If he had done his duty as a father by protecting Tamar–or failing that, in punishing Amnon–I could have, perhaps, forgiven him. Not that he seemed to want or need my forgiveness. He seemed to have pushed the whole incident from his mind, like an unpleasant taste or a childhood illness. Something difficult and heart-wrenching at the time, but now in the past and best forgotten. But, I would not forget if for no other reason than this: Tamar would certainly never forget.

You may be wondering how Tamar fared by this time. Since she still did not want to leave my home, even to visit our sisters and mother, I made plans for her to visit our grandfather, our mother’s father. As I said earlier, my mother’s father is king of the small country, Geshur, and Tamar could feel both comfortable and cared for there. I wanted my mother to accompany her (I needed both of them out of the city), and though at first she balked at this suggestion (why must she be so difficult?), she eventually consented. Not for any concern for Tamar, but rather because of her own present difficulties at the palace. She never felt she received enough respect there, and since the incident with Tamar, things had only gotten worse. The other wives (with the exception of Amnon’s mother who pretended nothing had changed) tried to express sympathy to her, but she flared up at their offers of “pity.” Also, as my mother could not bring herself to express much compassion toward Tamar, this caused the other wives to go from sympathy to puzzlement to scorn. Anyway, once I had both my mother and Tamar conveniently out of the way, I began to finalize my plans.

My brothers and I all had our own pieces of land where we raised sheep, wheat, barley, and a few even had their own bee hives. With the weather turning warmer and the rains ceasing, the time to begin sheep-shearing was upon us. My brothers often shared chores with each other, so I decided to ask my brothers to come and help me with my sheep-shearing. To make manifest my generous and forgiving spirit, I would promise to first give them a big dinner and to even include Amnon and our father.

Since my brothers and I had not been on the friendliest of terms, I needed to find a way to ask them that would seem casual, yet deliberate; friendly and non-threatening. For some reason, my brothers didn’t totally trust me and a friendly gesture from me could possibly be construed as suspicious. It’s true I didn’t often invite them over for a meal, but again, sheep-shearing was a chore often shared, so, hopefully, they would just see it as my way of getting free labor. Or cheap labor. I would be providing a meal, after all.

Since I needed some help, I decided to make use of Jonadab and his eagerness to be of any assistance and to somehow make amends for his part in my sister’s tragedy. Not that I thought for a moment he truly wanted to make amends except as a way to get in my good graces, but having him at my side would lessen my brothers’ suspicions, and I also needed him to convince Amnon to come.

Obviously, after spending almost two years avoiding Amnon and having nothing good to say about him, it would be difficult for me to just saunter up to him and say, “Hey, Brother! Long time, no see. How about coming over to my place for dinner?” No, even Amnon wasn’t that gullible. But, as Jonadab so aptly put it, for whatever reason, Amnon did trust him, so if anyone could convince Amnon to come to a dinner with all his brothers at my invitation, it would have to be Jonadab.

I found several of my brothers at target practice one morning (thanks to Jonadab who ran to my house with the news). One of my younger brothers, Solomon, was showing off a bow he made during the rainy months, and, of course, I couldn’t resist issuing him a small challenge. The kid takes things too seriously, and I knew he would be eager to try and beat me. He is smart in some ways, but dumb in so many others. I mean, I’m a warrior and was pulling bows before he could even pull himself up. I don’t think a new bow, no matter how well he made it, is going to be much of a test for my superior skills. Still, a little competition between brothers keeps things interesting and could make my brothers believe I wanted to be part of the family again.

After spending a couple of hours with my brothers shooting arrows, (I was on one team and Solomon on the other), I decided to end the match and extended the dinner invitation to my brothers. As I had feared, they first expressed skepticism, but I pleaded with them, telling them I thought it would be good for us to get together and have some family time, blah, blah. Seriously? Family time? I suppose I’m lucky they didn’t laugh in my face, but I finally managed to convince them of my sincerity. I’m sure it helped when I added I would help them later with their own sheep.

Jonadab and I left together, Jonadab wanting to jabber the whole way while I preferred to rethink and go over every detail of my plan. But I had to make sure Jonadab knew his part and was ready to play it, so I let him talk, only half listening.

“Did you see Solomon’s face when you asked them all to dinner? And Adonijah’s? Especially when you said you planned to ask Amnon, too? They both looked like they had drunk some sour wine. Do you think they’ll really come? And are you really going to ask Uncle David to come?”

I smiled, reliving the moments of my brothers’ faces when I said I intended to ask Amnon to the dinner. “Oh, they’ll come all right. A free meal? A chance to see if me and Amnon will reconcile? You just better make sure you get Amnon to come. And, yes, I will ask my father, though I know he won’t come.”

My mind continued to race with the details of my plan. Inviting my father would be a bit tricky, and it was hard for me to decide if I wanted him to come or not. Since he would not come alone (having at least one guard, if not several), my plan’s chance of success would be greater without him. However, without him there, I would never have the satisfaction of seeing his face when he learned what I had done to his beloved eldest son.

We came to where we needed to part ways that Jonadab might make his way to Amnon’s house, and I would go on to my own home. I turned to face Jonadab, grabbing one of his shoulders.

“I will expect to hear from you tomorrow about how you fared with Amnon. No one, and I mean, no one had better suspect a thing.”

Jonadab nodded, his pain from my grip on his shoulder evident on his face, though he tried to mask it. “Don’t worry, Absalom. I know how to talk to Amnon, and I would never betray you.”

I smirked at that. Did he really think I trusted him? My little weasel of a cousin had his uses, but I was not such a fool as to trust someone who turned his affections as quickly as this one. A pity for Amnon that he trusted him, but that’s what happened when you committed such a heinous crime against someone in your own family. It left you with few friends.

“I will see you tomorrow,” I said, releasing his shoulder with a final push, then turned from him to walk home.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 5 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed last week of this continuing story, here’s the link for part four:

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/18/my-name-is-absalom-part-4-by-p-m-gilmer/

Unfortunately, my plans had to be delayed when another tragedy occurred in my family. It is not my intention to speak of this event now. I only mention it to partially explain why it took me almost two years to carry out my revenge.

Once things had settled, I felt free to pursue my plans again with, I admit, an even greater sense of urgency and desire. I began again to consider my need to befriend (or re-befriend) my cousin, Jonadab. As I said earlier, he avoided me when possible, so I knew well enough to take things slowly as I did not want to arouse his suspicion. Since I do not willingly seek to befriend people in the best of times, I knew this to be a great possibility–even for someone as eager to make friends as Jonadab.

So for several months, I would nod my head pleasantly towards him whenever our paths should cross. (I thought I looked pleasant anyway, though the way he always skittered away made me feel I should perhaps work a little harder on my “pleasant look.”) Eventually, I took to waving and calling out to him. He would respond with a quick nod, but he certainly made no effort to come any closer and start up a conversation.

Finally one day, I sent one of my servants to his house to ask him to meet me at an inn that evening where we could share a meal together. Alas, I couldn’t invite him to my own home as he probably wouldn’t come, and also because Tamar still refused to leave. Though she could easily stay out of sight (and did when I had other company), I did not want her to know of my plans. She would never understand, and I was afraid she might feel betrayed if she knew I was meeting Jonadab for any reason.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Jonadab would even show up. I sat at a table outside where I ordered a skin of wine and two cups. Halfway through drinking my first cup, Jonadab walked up behind me. Now, you might wonder why I would sit with my back to the road, and if Jonadab was thinking at all, he would have wondered at it too. But, I was giving Jonadab a chance to change his mind when he saw me, and I also wanted him to believe I trusted him. Of course, I didn’t trust him–not for a minute. And if he had any sense, he wouldn’t have trusted me. But, Jonadab wanted to please people too much. A dangerous attribute to have and, thankfully, not one I was ever cursed with.

“Absalom?”

I turned and gave him my biggest smile. “Cousin! It has been too long! Come, sit. Innkeeper! How is that rack of lamb coming?”

I pushed a stool towards Jonadab, then poured him some wine. I continued to chatter–asking him about his family, if he had been hunting lately, what did he think about the Ammonites and their refusal to pay Father tribute, etc.–while the food came and we continued to drink. Jonadab answered in monosyllables, eating hungrily, and drinking at least two cups to every one of mine.

By the time we finished our meal, night had fallen, the streets were deserted, and Jonadab had relaxed and even laughed at a few of my not-so-funny jokes. In the middle of one of his loud guffaws, I pulled out my knife, laid it on the table, and leaned over closer to him. “It is said that you were the mastermind behind my sister’s disgrace.”

He blanched, and I feared he might lose the meal I had just bought him all over the wooden table. Fortunately for him he didn’t as I would have been sorely tempted to make him eat his vomit if he had.

“No, Absalom,” he finally managed to get out. “That is, it is not what you think or what people are saying. I never expected Amnon to hurt Tamar. I knew he loved her. I thought he respected her! I did encourage him to speak with your father. I thought he would ask to marry her. I couldn’t believe it when he grabbed her like that, and then when he threw her out . . .”

He stopped, his eyes pleading, while I continued to look at him coolly. Inside, I felt anything but cool. It was all I could do not to grab him by his neck and choke those words out of him. Though I remained determined to get my revenge, I did not need the scene described to me. It would be enough to know who to blame.

“I know well enough the sins of Amnon; it is you I want to hear about now. Did you do anything to defend my sister and her honor? Or did you sit idly by? Or perhaps you were the one who threw her out and bolted the door?”

Even with only a flickering oil lamp on our table, I could see Jonadab’s face turn from a scarlet red to an ash gray. It amused me to see a face turn so many different shades. I hadn’t realized this was possible.

He reached for his wine cup, but it was empty as was our wine skin. “Sorry, Jonadab,” I said affably, though not sorry at all, of course. “But we seem to be out of wine. Why don’t you just answer my questions, and we can both go home?”

“It was his servants who threw her out and bolted the door, though Amnon commanded them to. I . . .”

“Did nothing. As I thought.” I picked up my knife and moved it back and forth so the flame would reflect in its blade, then lightly touched my thumb to the blade as if testing its sharpness, though Jonadab well knew I kept my knives and swords sharpened at all times. Then I slammed the blade into the table and leaned towards Jonadab, so close I could hear his rapid breathing and smell his fear-soaked sweat.

“You did nothing,” I whispered, “and I should kill you right now for that alone. However, . . .” I stopped and sat back, giving him time to catch his breath and consider.

Eyes wide, he said, “I’ll do whatever you want, Absalom. I can help you take your revenge on Amnon. He still trusts me. Truly, I’m one of the few people he still trusts.”

I smiled with no attempt to look pleasant now. “More fool him, it would seem. Very well, you shall have a chance to redeem yourself, but you must do everything I say.”

Jonadab nodded so eagerly, I was minded of a dog I had once seen groveling for his Hittite master.

I jerked my knife out of the table and leaned towards him again. “You’ll be hearing from me soon–and, in the meantime, don’t even think of going outside the walls of Jerusalem.” And I left him there, sitting in the darkness.