Allegorically Speaking by Author Yvonne Anderson

Monday, July 21, 2014

“How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” The folk song asks this rhetorical question not because the songwriter’s looking for an answer, but to prod the hearer to think.

Another rhetorical device that’s familiar to everyone, though not always identified as rhetorical, is allegory. When used in literature, a character, object, setting, plot, or other component is used to represent something in the real world. And, like a rhetorical question, its purpose is to encourage the reader to use his noodle. 

What comes to mind when you think of allegory? Pilgrim’s Progress? Animal Farm? The Chronicles of Narnia? They all fit the bill. But I’m not sure Gateway to Gannah does.

What’s Gateway to Gannah, you may ask? It’s a sci-fi series written by yours truly. I released the third book a couple months ago and plan to publish the last title in October. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. Few people have.

When Sandra mentioned my doing a post about allegory, my first thought was, Huh? Because, you see, I never thought of Gannah as an allegory. Its themes are all pretty straightforward, not veiled in symbolism. 

In Pilgrim’s Progress, the protagonist’s journey is a metaphor for the Christian walk. In Animal Farm, the Russian Revolution is portrayed by a coalition of animals taking over the farm and establishing pigs as the new ruling class. In the Narnia stories, a wise, powerful lion represents Jesus Christ. 

In Gannah, however, people are people, the Creator and Redeemer are exactly as named, and the Bible is the Bible. No room for misinterpretation. 

This set to me to thinking about allegory in its various forms, and now I’m finding it everywhere I look – particularly in the Bible. One example among a multitude: the nation of Israel is represented by a vine in Psalm 80:8-16 as well in the 15th and 17th chapters of Ezekiel. 

Sometimes, biblical history is used as an allegorical illustration. Check out Galatians 4:22-31. The Apostle Paul comes right out and says, in v. 24, that he’s pointing out an allegory in the Old Testament. Although the events he refers to in Genesis 16 and 21 are historical, they also illustrate a spiritual reality. 

In another case, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that Israel’s exodus from Egypt serves as an example to those who follow Christ. Old Testament history is both fact and illustration.

It’s not just God’s word that’s full of that sort of thing; so is God’s world. How about the metamorphosis of a grotesque, crawling caterpillar into a delicate, airborne butterfly? The process pictures the death of our sinful flesh and the emergence of a perfect spiritual body in the resurrection. Or how about the falling of a seed to the ground to die, later to emerge as a fruitful plant? Great allegorical performance art enacted continually on the stage of the world.

One of my favorites is the sunrise, which portrays the return of Christ (Malachi 4:2). Did you ever stop to think that at every moment of every day, the sun is rising somewhere on this earth in declaration of the coming of the King?

Obviously, then, allegory doesn’t have to be fiction—something real can portray something else that’s equally real but on a different plane.

What does all this have to do with the Gateway to Gannah series? Gannah is pure fiction: the planet, its people, and all the events described exist only in the imagination. These fictitious things do, however, illustrate actual traits and motives of human nature as well as scriptural realities: the universal power and authority of God (portrayed in the first book, The Story in the Stars), the reliability of the scriptures above human tradition or personal experience (Words in the Wind), and the fact that our Savior’s self-sacrifice demands a response on our part (Ransom in the Rock).

So is the Gateway to Gannah an allegory? I’m not sure. Maybe you should read it and decide for yourself.

Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.

And The Borrowed Book will give you a chance to win a free copy of Book 1 in the series this Friday. See ya then!

The Story in the Stars was a Carol Award finalist in 2012. The adventure continues with Words in the Wind and Ransom in the Rock and will conclude with The Last Toqeph, scheduled for release in the fall of 2014.

Yvonne lives in Western Maryland with her husband of almost forty years and shares the occasional wise word on her personal site, YsWords. She’s been with The Borrowed Book blog for a year or two now and has coordinated Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest for unpublished novelists since the beginning of time. (Or at least, since the contest’s inception.) You may connect with her on Twitter or FacebookOh, yeah: she also does freelance editing. 

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 44

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Discouragement. We’ve all felt it.

Deep, enervating, paralyzing. Sliding, sometimes, into despair.

As I’ve worked my way through the Psalms, a handful of themes surface time after time. Fear, depression, anger, and yes, discouragement and despair. Resignation, then surrender to the Lord, and a renewed surge of hope. Elation when we’ve seen Him come through for us.

Kind of like life, yes?

I see so many, lately, suffering under an onslaught of discouragement. We fragile humans are so prone to it. Always have been …

Psalm 44 (NKJV) … To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the sons of Korah.

We have heard with our ears, O God,
Our fathers have told us,
The deeds You did in their days,
In days of old:
You drove out the nations with Your hand,
But them You planted;
You afflicted the peoples, and cast them out.
For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword,
Nor did their own arm save them;
But it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance,
Because You favored them.

We forget: even during the founding of Israel as a nation, the battles weren’t won because of the people’s own strength. So in our own lives. God doesn’t let His children stay long in a position of thinking anything we’ve gained is of ourselves.

You are my King, O God;
Command victories for Jacob.
Through You we will push down our enemies;
Through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us.
For I will not trust in my bow,
Nor shall my sword save me.
But You have saved us from our enemies,
And have put to shame those who hated us.
In God we boast all day long,
And praise Your name forever. Selah

He truly is our God! Though we may be armed with bow and sword—with influence and intellect and talent—we dare not trust in those to win us anything.

But You have cast us off and put us to shame,
And You do not go out with our armies.
10 You make us turn back from the enemy,
And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves.
11 You have given us up like sheep intended for food,
And have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sell Your people for next to nothing,
And are not enriched by selling them.

Isn’t it so, no matter what the joys and victories we’ve had in the past, that the present distress can make us feel that God really has cast us off, given us up for dead. And then … the discouragement creeps in and lays waste to our souls.

13 You make us a reproach to our neighbors,
A scorn and a derision to those all around us.
14 You make us a byword among the nations,
A shaking of the head among the peoples.
15 My dishonor is continually before me,
And the shame of my face has covered me,
16 Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles,
Because of the enemy and the avenger.

We’ve seen this in past Psalms, the lament over turns of fortune, the nosedive into trouble and the subsequent temptation to despair. Do we hold fast to our conviction of the goodness of God, and the hope that things can change again for the better? Or will we let go?

17 All this has come upon us;
But we have not forgotten You,
Nor have we dealt falsely with Your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
Nor have our steps departed from Your way;
19 But You have severely broken us in the place of jackals,
And covered us with the shadow of death.

20 If we had forgotten the name of our God,
Or stretched out our hands to a foreign god,
21 Would not God search this out?
For He knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

23 Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord?
Arise! Do not cast us off forever.
24 Why do You hide Your face,
And forget our affliction and our oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
Our body clings to the ground.
26 Arise for our help,
And redeem us for Your mercies’ sake.

As Paul says many hundreds of years later, what shall we say to these things? Does God forget us? Will He make us wait forever to see the fruit of our faith and our labor for Him?

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you ... For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

... knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance ... (Hebrews 6:9-12, 10:34b-36a, NKJV)

We have need of endurance. This life is hard. We have the glory of the Lord’s strength to win our battles, but we’ll have all the fury of the enemy leveled at us, in the meantime.

Yet, He does not forget us.

He is our strength.

Hold fast your confidence ... and know that when you can’t hang on any longer, He holds you.

Weekly Drawing ~ Amanda Cabot

Friday, July 18, 2014

It's Fun Friday at The Borrowed Book! This week's prize is available to residents inside the continental US only.

To enter:

Leave the time it took you to complete the puzzles in the comments section as well as your email address for notifying you if you've won. Winners will be drawn from ALL of the times, so the person with the fastest time may not be the actual winner, but by leaving your time, you double your chances.

Want another entry? Tweet your puzzle time and mention The Borrowed Book, get another entry. RETWEET our Tweet, get two entries!

Post your puzzle time on BB's Facebook wall guessed it...get another entry!

Post it on your OWN Facebook wall and you could get as many as FIVE entries.

It's all a way to spread the word about the great giveaways on BB. So c'mon! Help us spread the word, and have a little fun at the same time. Enter all weekend long! Winners will be announced Sunday night at midnight.

This week's puzzle feature is brought to you by Amanda Cabot and her newest release, Sincerely Yours.

Click to Mix and Solve

Catching the Brass Ring, by Amanda Cabot

Thursday, July 17, 2014

When we first chatted about this blog, Yvonne mentioned that many authors did “a day in the life of” posts.  I considered that for about a nanosecond before I realized that you’d be yawning from the first word to the last.  Unless you count the time I spend staring out the window at the cottontails and jackrabbits who think my backyard is their playground, my normal days are boring.  But not every aspect of writing is boring.  A good example is the day I decided to catch the brass ring. 

I lived in New Jersey at the time and still had a day job, but we had summer hours, meaning that the office closed at noon on Fridays.  At one minute after noon, my husband and I were in the car, headed for Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania.  Nestled in the Lehigh Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, one of Pen Argyl’s claims to fame is its historic carousel.  We’d visited a number of antique carousels ever since I caught an incurable case of carousel fever in 2000, but this was the first one we’d found that had a ring machine.

Are you familiar with the phrase “go for the brass ring”?  It has its origins on a carousel.  The original carousels were designed to train knights, and as part of that training, those knights tried to throw their spears through a brass ring.  Later, when carousels became amusement park rides, the brass rings had a different function.  A machine would dispense rings as riders passed by.  Most were tin and worthless, but a few were brass.  Since anyone who caught a brass ring was given a free ride, you can bet that every rider on the outside row was leaning to the right, reaching for that brass ring.

Sadly, although many of the original carousels had ring machines, safety considerations led to their demise.  But the carousel at Pen Argyl still had one, and I – determined to learn everything I could about carousels – had to see it.

Everything was on schedule until we stopped at a red light in western New Jersey.  Bam!  Bam again!  The car shook as a Peterbilt rammed right into us, crumpling the trunk and causing more damage than I want to think about.  Fortunately, other than mild whiplash, we were both fine, and the car was still operational.  An hour later, when the police had filled out the last of their forms, we looked at each other.  Should we continue to Pen Argyl or go home?  Pen Argyl won.

When we arrived at the park, the carousel pavilion was closed, but a friendly employee opened it for us and let us wander around, taking pictures to our hearts’ delight.  The carousel itself is magnificent, featuring the realistic animals known as the Philadelphia style.  As for the ring machine, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed in it.  As you can see from the picture, it’s utilitarian rather than elegant, but it did its job, and I doubt anyone who caught a brass ring cared that it was coming from an ordinary yellow arm.

I may not have caught a brass ring that day, but it was an adventure I’ll never forget.  What about you?  I hope you’ve never had a close encounter with a Peterbilt, but I’m sure there have been times when your plans didn’t go exactly the way you’d expected yet still turned out to be enjoyable.  Will you share them with us?

A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  She’s delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances.  Her Texas Dreams trilogy received critical acclaim; Christmas Roses was a CBA bestseller; and a number of her books have been finalists for national awards, including ACFW’s Carol award.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow, when you can enter to win a free copy of Sincerely Yours, a collection of romance novellas by Jane Kirkpatrick, Amanda Cabot, Laurie Alice Eakes, and Ann Shorey.

Did You Know? ~ Household Uses for Ammonia during the Civil War

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I found a little booklet called Civil War Household Tips, which included these uses for ammonia. I have no idea if they really worked, but I thought they were interesting.

All housekeepers should keep a bottle of liquid ammonia, as it is the most powerful and useful agent for cleaning silks, stuffs and hats, in fact cleans everything it touches. A few drops of ammonia in water will take off grease from dishes, pans, etc., and does not injure the hands as much as the use of soda and strong chemical soaps. A spoonful in a quart of warm water for cleaning paint makes it look like new, and so with everything that needs cleaning.

Spots on towels and hosiery will disappear with little trouble if a little ammonia is put into enough water to soak the articles, and they are left in it an hour or two before washing; and if a cupful is put into the water in which clothes are soaked the night before washing, the ease with which the articles can be washed, and their great whiteness and clearness when dried, will be very gratifying. Remembering the small sum paid for three quarts of ammonia of common strength, one can easily see that no bleaching preparation can be more cheaply obtained.

No articles in kitchen use are so likely to be neglected and abused as the dish-cloth and dish-towels; and in washing these, ammonia, if properly used, is a great comfort more than anywhere else. Put a teaspoonful into the water in which these cloths are, or should be, washed every day; rub soap on the towels. Put them in the water; let them stand half an hour or so; faithfully, and dry outdoors in clear air and sun, and dish-clothes and towels need never look gray and dingy—a perpetual discomfort to all housekeepers.

The Myth of Rejection by Author Amanda Cabot

Rejection.  It’s a subject few writers want to think about much less discuss, which may be why it’s shrouded in so much secrecy and why there are so many myths about it.  As someone who’s collected enough rejection notices to paper a good-sized room, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject, and so I invite you to join me for my attempt to demystify rejection and to debunk some of the myths.  Grab a latte, a cup of tea, a piece of chocolate – whatever soothes you – and let’s go.

Myth #1: It won’t happen to me.  I used to believe this one too.  Even though I knew the statistics, I was certain they wouldn’t apply to me.  Of course the first editor who read my manuscript would buy it.  Wrong.  Instead of the joyful “I want to buy your manuscript” call I’d expected, I received a form rejection in the mail.  And, like all form rejections, it was singularly unhelpful.  I had no way of knowing whether the editor thought my manuscript was the worst prose in the English language or whether she’d bought something similar the previous day.  To say that I was devastated is an understatement.  While that was the only rejection for that particular manuscript, it was the first of many rejections I’ve received.  Rejection is an unfortunate part of most writers’ lives.

Myth #2: It doesn’t hurt.  We’ve all heard the adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  If that were true, rejection wouldn’t hurt, but it does.  Why?  There are a couple reasons why rejection hurts so much.  The first is that we’ve sent something of value to that editor or agent, something that’s a part of us.  Rejecting it is like rejecting us.  Another reason is that as writers we’re empathetic.  We understand and feel others’ emotions.  That’s wonderful when it comes to writing stories that touch readers’ hearts, but the same empathy means that we tend to be thin-skinned where our own emotions are concerned.  There’s no sugar-coating it.  Rejection hurts.

Myth #3: It’s not personal.  That’s true, from the editor’s view.  For an editor or agent, reading manuscripts is a job.  So is rejecting those that don’t fit the publisher’s current needs.  Remember that editors want to buy manuscripts, but their job is to select those stories that have the greatest chance of succeeding in the publisher’s chosen market.  That doesn’t mean that a rejected manuscript is unpublishable; it simply means that it doesn’t meet that publisher’s needs at the current time.  It’s a business decision, not a personal one.  But for us, the writers, it is indeed personal, because our books are part of us.  (I know I said that before, but it bears repeating.)

Myth #4: It only happens to unpublished authors.  Oh, how I wish this were true!  After I sold my first book to the second editor who read it, I thought I was on Easy Street.  Reality was that the market changed and the line that featured my first book was discontinued.  It took me several years and many, many rejections to sell another book.  I’d love to tell you that that will never happen to you, but there are no guarantees.  The market continues to change.  Some publishers are being acquired by others.  Lines are discontinued or are contracting, while others are expanding.  The only guarantee is that change will continue.

Myth #5: The only rejections come from editors and agents.  When we talk about rejection, we often focus on the traditional definition, namely rejection of a manuscript by an editor or agent, but there are other types of rejection that hurt almost as much as the traditional one.  I consider bad reviews, scathing emails from readers and unsuccessful book signings to be a form of rejection, and yes, they’ve all happened to me.

Myth #6: It gets easier.  The good news about this myth is that it’s true if you add a qualifying clause.  Dealing with rejection does become easier if you develop some coping techniques.  And that leads me to the next part of this discussion.

How do you cope with rejection besides eating a lot of chocolate?  A few techniques that have worked for me are:
Venting: Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – vent by calling the agent or editor to say that there’s been a huge mistake, that anyone with half a brain would recognize your genius.  Instead, call a friend or, even better, pull out a piece of paper and release your anger by writing all the things you want to say to the editor.  Then shred it.  
Exercise:  This is one of my favorite coping techniques, simply because it works so quickly.  I’m not going to quote the research about the therapeutic effect of the endorphins that exercise releases; all I’m going to say is DO IT.  Whether you take a brisk walk, go to the gym or simply clean house, exercise helps to calm you.  It also helps burn some of the calories from all the consolation chocolate you’ve been eating.  Two benefits from one technique.  You can’t ask for better than that.
Reading: Pull out your favorite authors and indulge yourself.  Yes, this is escapism, but there’s nothing wrong with that.  You can always justify it by saying that you’re doing market research.
Plan B: Even before you send out the first query, you should have a prioritized list of the editors or agents you want to query.  If one rejects you, send the query to the next one on the list.  And, if you’ve gone the multiple submission route and have sent the manuscript to everyone on your list, do some research to see whether there are agents or editors you haven’t considered.  Only when you’ve exhausted every possible home for your manuscript should you abandon it. 
Writing: I’ve found this to be an excellent remedy for the inevitable blues that accompany rejection.  Get back to work on the next project.  (You were already working on it while you waited for news about the first one, weren’t you?)  One of the benefits of being engrossed in a second book while you wait for the decision on the first is that it’s an expanded version of Plan B.  If the first manuscript doesn’t sell, you haven’t put all your eggs in one proverbial basket.  
Prayer: I’ve saved the best for last in this list, but as Christian writers we know it should be our first step.  Take the time to thank God for the many gifts He’s given you, including the ability to write.  And then listen, really listen, to His response. 

The bottom line is that rejection hurts.  It always will, but you can and will survive it.

A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  She’s delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances.  Her Texas Dreams trilogy received critical acclaim; Christmas Roses was a CBA bestseller; and a number of her books have been finalists for national awards, including ACFW’s Carol award.

Writers on Tour

Monday, July 14, 2014

Michelle Griep
The fantabulous Lynne Gentry invited me join a Writer’s Blog Tour. So, I thought it would be fun to showcase another historical suspense author, a writer friend and critique partner whose work I can only aspire to, Michelle Griep! Michelle is one sweet, talented lady. I can’t wait for you to meet her and find out about her most recent release, A Heart Deceived

So here’s how the blog roll works. Both Michelle and I will take turns answering the blog questions and then we thought it would be fun to do a book give-away (see entry details at the end). 

Here we go … 

1. What am I working on? 

MICHELLE: Currently I'm off the fiction leash and roaming the neighborhood of non-fiction. I'm compiling a writing book based off of the posts on my blog, Writer Off the Leash. Once that's pulled together, though, I'll be back in Regency England with an officer of the Bow Street Runners, hot on the trail of suspected traitor to the crown. . . and the pretty innkeeper's daughter. 

 ELIZABETH: Michelle, your courage to try new things never fails to amaze me! I just know your non-fiction is going to be a huge success (mostly because I got a sneak peek and I know you’re going to inject it with your sharp as a razor wit!). :-) 

I’m one of those people who always say they need to cut back on the number of projects they have going and never does! I mean, I do cut back, but then immediately fill the slot with something else. LOL! Right now, I’m marketing my newest historical suspense from Bethany House Publishers called Tide and Tempest. I’m also polishing up the revisions for a Christmas story coming out in September from Barbour Publishing called, Christmas Comes to Bethlehem, Maine and plotting a series of mysteries for Guideposts called Sugarcreek Secrets. It’s a lot of work juggling so many different projects, but the simple truth is, if I’m not busy, I don’t feel productive. It’s a vicious cycle… :-) 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

 MICHELLE: My writing is a shade darker and snarkier than most. Think Dickens crossed with Sherlock Holmes and Charlotte Bronte. Yeah, I've got balls and dinners and gorgeous dresses, but I also deal with some of the tougher issues of the day such as extreme poverty, addiction issues, and mental health. 

ELIZABETH: Dark and snarky…why yes, that about sums it up! LOL! My stories always have a splash of mystery or a splattering of suspense. Seriously. I tried to write a straight historical romance once, and a third of the way through, I killed off one of the main characters. It’s like I have to put action on every page or it feels like there’s just not enough happening. Which, when I think about it, makes sense given that I live my life at 100mph and only slow down when I’m forced to go to sleep (see answer above). LOL! 

3. Why do I write what I do? 

MICHELLE: I adore history. Yes, even when I was in junior high. I'm also an Anglophile at heart, so British history it is, folks. And I write for adults because I'd scare the bejeebers out of little kids, so children's books are a definite no-no. 

ELIZABETH: LOL! Please, stick to writing for adults. As a proud new grandmother, I surely do not want to explain to my granddaughter why Jack and Jill ran up a hill. . .to escape an ax murderer. 

My reasons for writing have changed over the years. At first, it was simply to satisfy a dream. That quickly morphed into something I never expected—a desire to give people hope. Writing inspirational fiction allows me to spread the gospel in a way that speaks to Christians and non-Christians alike, because people who might not sit through a sermon have no problem sitting through a good book. Plus, it enables me to prove what I’ve claimed all along—that fiction doesn’t have to be foul to find an audience. I was tired of the books I’d been reading before I came to Christ. I wanted something uplifting, romantic, exciting, but wholesome, too! That’s what I hope I offer to readers. 

4. How does my writing process work? 

MICHELLE: When I sit down to write a scene, I first fill out this little formula... POV: Whose perspective will we see this scene from? SCENE: Where is this taking place? What will happen? PURPOSE: What is important to reveal to the reader in this scene to move the plot forward and deepen character development? CLIFFHANGER: What will make the reader turn the page instead of putting down the book? 

 ELIZABETH: See…now that may be why your writing is always so much tighter than mine on the first draft. You actually have a plan! My writing usually starts out like this: 

 Hello. My name is Elizabeth Ludwig, and I am a daydreamer. I will usually daydream about the characters in my books for weeks before I ever write the first chapter. That’s because I need to be able to see them in my head, hear how they talk and learn how they act before I can begin to write their story. Then, once I have a clear picture of the characters, I start plotting out the story. That means charting out a detailed timeline from start to finish. I also search for photos, locate maps, make drawings of certain settings, and collect samples of historical details that I can incorporate. Only when all of that is finished do feel equipped enough to begin writing. It makes for a lengthier process, but I’m always satisfied when I finish that I did my best to make the story accurate and exciting. 

Thank you for visiting The Borrowed Book, Michelle! I love your quirky sense of humor, and I’m thrilled to introduce you to our readers. 

You can learn more about Michelle and check out all her books at her website. To follow the blog tour and learn the gritty details of more behind-the-scenes writer-lives, visit Kellie Coates Gilbert’s post on Southern Belle View. Michelle Griep will also host an author of her choice next week Writer off the Leash. And if you’d like to check out my blog tour stop last week, visit Lynne Gentry’s blog

David C. Cook, 2013
Writer Girls Blog Tour Giveaway! 

In celebration of the blog tour, we’re giving away one copy of TIDE AND TEMPEST and one copy of A HEART DECEIVED, two stories that will capture your heart. To enter, leave a comment answering the question of the day. I’ll announce a winner back here in the comments on Tuesday morning at eight o’clock am! 

Question of the day: Michelle and I both write historical suspense. Tell us – what do you like about suspense, and do you prefer it to other genres?