Sunday, June 30, 2013

The noise and commotion of the world around us is a constant roar, drowning out the still, small voice of the Spirit. We can’t even hear ourselves think.

We’re admonished by Scripture to not neglect the small things, but everyday life can be either a wilderness in drought, where our efforts are swallowed immediately by the dry, cracked ground of our circumstances, or the crest of a tsunami, where even the strongest structures might be swept away. How can anything we do really matter?

And just when I’ve given up—or at least am contemplating it seriously—God sends a breath of cool wind, or tosses a lifeline to pull me out of the maelstrom.

God did not call you to an outcome, our associate pastor reminded us this last Sunday. He calls us to a task.

To obedience, I remember.

“Has God ever asked you to do something crazy?” he asked us, and proceeded to share how his moving halfway across country to help with the planting of what would be our church was not his vision, but someone else’s—but God called him to be a part of supporting it.

I think of some of the crazy things I’ve felt called to over the years. Attending college a thousand miles from home. Moving to that same town a few years later, again from halfway across country, after getting married. Having our first baby. My husband’s enlistment in the military. More babies, the later ones born at home. Decisions about schooling and life and ministry.

Some seemed to have turned out pretty well, but others ... not so much. In fact, I’ve wondered over the past few years whether anything I do ministry-wise will ever be successful. Reminding myself that God doesn’t see success as we do doesn’t always help.

But this—this time—tugged me back, made me stop and consider.

God does not call us to an outcome.

God calls us to a task.

Just one task at a time. Well, sometimes several. But the point is, although I may be called to be the best wife and mother I can, it isn’t up to me to see that my husband and children are following the Lord. It isn’t up to me to guarantee that my kids never fail a class, or make bad decisions, or struggle with their faith.

I’m called to be a writer, which means I should be the best writer I know how to be (or artist, or musician, or whatever trade or profession others are called to) ... but I am not responsible for how my stories are received. My winning a contest, or getting published, is not necessarily a marker of my success—or lack of it, if those things fail to happen.

God never promised me I’d be published. He never promised that my husband would never get tired of being faithful. He never promised that my children would never behave badly.

It’s up to us to carry out a task, yes, but—the outcome is solely in His hands.

And you know what? That takes the pressure for “success” off of me.

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands. (Psalm 138:8)

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17, both NKJV)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Happy Saturday, BB fans! Thanks to everyone who participated in our "puzzling" Friday giveaway! Keep all those facebook and Twitter notifications, coming!

This week's winner is:

Mary Preston - Catch a Falling Star by Beth Vogt.

Congratulations, Mary! Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book.

Friday, June 28, 2013

It's Fun Friday at The Borrowed Book!

To enter:

Leave the time it took you to complete the puzzle 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. :-)

This week's puzzle feature is brought to you by Beth Vogt, and her newest release, Catch a Falling Star.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

God turned a season of burnout in my life into a sudden bend in the writing road. That virtual curve led me from life as a nonfiction editor and writer to the “Dark Side” of writing fiction.

Novel writing demanded a new set of skills, mastering things like subplots and layers and description and dialogue – both internal and conversational – and Voices of Truth and Voices of Passion. There’s a lot of “chatter” in fiction. I had a lot to learn if I was going to do this right. After all, my goal wasn’t to wander around lost in the darkness.

And so I made a strategic decision: I would write contemporary romance, not historical. If I wrote about now – the world I live in – then I’d avoid hours of researching clothes and food and cultural mores. That way, I could focus on mastering the rules of the writing road for a novice novelist.

Brilliant move, yes?

Well, no and yes.

Turns out, writing contemporary romance doesn’t exempt you from research. I live now, but that doesn’t mean I know everything about today – or the past five years, for that matter. I am a writer – and a wife and a mom. However, not all of my characters are writers, wives and moms. Professions for pretend people require research – as do locations and hobbies, among other things.

Even so, I’m satisfied with my choice to write romances based in the here and now of Colorado. I love that I’m immersed in my imaginary characters’ Storyworlds.  And if I need to do research, it’s no more than a walk around the block or day trip away.

When I needed to describe what my heroine in Catch a Falling Star saw from her west-facing floor to ceiling windows, I looked out my windows and watched the sun set behind the Front Range. I also accessed some of the hundreds of photographs of Colorado sunrises and sunsets I have stored on my computer.   

One of my characters in my debut novel, Wish You Were Here, liked to run in Garden of the Gods, a public park – and national landmark. I grabbed my camera and invited my husband to walk with me through this beautiful locale a mere fifteen minutes from our home. As we walked and talked, I paused and snapped photographs of the towering red rocks – and the lone white one. As we passed tourists and families and runners and spotted the occasional climber ascending a rock face, I reminded myself what my imaginary character might see as he ran through the park. 

Made up characters have to eat and drink just like real people do … well, you know what I mean. The well-known Craftwood Inn was the backdrop for a pivotal scene in Catch a Falling Star. Featuring a wide-range of game, it’s one of my husband’s favorite restaurants. We’ve eaten there a number of times. Even so, to describe the interior and the meal, I went to the restaurant’s website and viewed photographs and a current menu. 

For Catch a Falling Star, I knew I wanted a military hero. I opted to make Griffin Walker a fighter pilot because Warren, one of my husband’s best friends, flew A-10s. Since we live all of 10 minutes from the U.S. Air Force Academy, it was easy to include that Griffin was an Academy graduate. Before polishing a scene where Griffin revisits the Academy for the first time since he graduated, my husband and I walked the exact spot my fictional character walked as he pondered his life choices. And yes, I carried my camera, asking my husband questions to flesh out the scene because he’s also an Academy grad. 

Colorado is over 100 million square miles, and is home to more than 5 million people. With the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, locations like Denver and Estes Park – not to mention Telluride and Aspen – and landmarks such as the Olympic Training Center and Mesa Verde National Park, I’ve just begun to explore the novel possibilities of my home state. My goal? To take my
readers along with me as I follow my imaginary characters along on their adventures!

Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best is often behind the doors marked “Never.” After being a nonfiction writer and editor who said she'd never write fiction, Beth's second inspirational contemporary romance novel, Catch a Falling Star, released May 7, 2013 from Howard Books. Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy (MBT), best-selling author Susan May Warren’s writing community. Connect with Beth at 

Don't forget to stop by tomorrow to enter to win a free copy of Beth's latest release, Catch a Falling Star!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This is an interesting recipe for a coffee lover like me. Reading it I had visions of egg-drop-soup-like threads of egg floating in my morning coffee. But not so. 

You may find the recipe hard to read; I did. (This is from The Housekeeper’s Encyclopedia by Mrs. E.F. Haskell.)

Allow one heaping tablespoonful of ground coffee for each person, and one for the boiler. If eggs are plenty take half enough to wet the grounds; if not, add sufficient cold water to mix thoroughly; beat the coffee and egg until it shows foam; egg if used too freely congeals the coffee and retains the strength. Scald the boiler, and shake out all the water; pour on sufficient boiling water to serve the first table, allowing a cup for evaporation and waste; as soon as it boils, stir down the grounds that rise until all inclination to boil over has ceased; after this boil five minutes hard, with the pot closed; then take it from the fire, and drop a half teaspoonful of cold water, and no more, in the pot; let it stand where it remains hot, but not boiling, from three to five minutes.

I did some research to find out why, exactly, people would put egg in coffee. Turns out this is a traditional Scandinavian way to prepare coffee.

Here is the supposed science behind the recipe. The egg beaten with the coffee grounds encourages the grounds to sink to the bottom of the pot. In addition, the protein in the egg binds to the bitter polyphenols in the coffee which fall to the bottom of the pot. As a result the coffee will be clearer with a mild taste.

In case anyone would like to try this, here is a recipe that’s easier to follow than the one above.

9 cups water (to boil) plus 1 1/4 cold water
3/4 cup freshly ground coffee (medium to coarse grind)
1 egg


1) In a saucepan or enamel coffee pot, bring 9 cups of water to a rapid boil.

2) Stir together ground coffee, 1/4 cup water, and 1 egg.

3) When the water is boiling, pour in the egg/coffee mixture. You may notice a lump of coffee grounds rise to the surface. This is supposed to be okay.   

4) Continue to boil for 3 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and add 1 cup of cold water. Let the coffee settle for 10 minutes and the lump of grounds will settle to the bottom of the pot.

5) Pour through a fine sieve into cups. (Or if you’re hardcore, just pour the coffee from the pot and chew the grounds.)

Makes 10 cups coffee.

If anyone does make this, or if you've had this kind of coffee, I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Beth K. Vogt is a nonfiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an air force physician who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.”

If you give a character a Lie that is tied to some Dark Moment in his past. . .he is going to believe it.

And if he believes it … he is going to act certain ways in both his relationships with people and with God.

And if his relationships with people and with God are influenced by a Lie he believes, than he’s going to make mistakes – both with the people he loves and the God who loves him.

With that brief nod to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by children’s author Laura Numeroff, let’s talk about why lies can be good things – at least within the context of writing compelling characters.

We are taught early and often that it’s wrong to tell lies, but it’s not until much later in life that we are taught not to embrace lies. But by then, it’s too late – we’ve listened to lies about ourselves and believe them to be true.

While we often carry around a multitude of lies-that-we-believe-are-true, there is usually one lie – the LIE – that affects us more than all the others. This Lie is created by some sort of Dark Moment in our past – an experience that wounded us emotionally and possibly physically.

Let me specific:

In 2007, a life-threatening illness took me down for months. In the early days of the illness, my doctor-husband closed down his practice and stayed with me around the clock. My fever was almost 104 and at times I didn’t recognize him. Here’s what we didn’t realize until 18 months ago: In the midst of all the fear and stress and questions, our then six-year-old daughter sat outside my bedroom door, waiting for her daddy to come out and tell her that I had died. 

Dark Moment for my daughter? Yes.

And the Lie she believes because of that incident six years ago is that I’m going to leave her – at any time, without notice. If my husband and I allow our daughter to continue believing this Lie instead of reassuring her, praying with her, telling her who God is – that Dark Moment could affect her relationships with both God and others.

Now let’s talk about when lies are good. Your fictional characters need to believe a Lie – and you, as the author, need to know what the Lie is. 

Your character’s past – who  they were before they appeared on page one of your manuscript – determines why they say certain things. Why they make certain decisions. Why they stiff-arm God. Why they want nothing to do with love.

Think of wrapping a thin piece of rope around a wooden top and then releasing it to spin, spin, spin … and topple. The rope represents your character’s Lie. The Lie influences your character’s choices and beliefs because they believe the Lie is true. 

In Catch a Falling Star, my latest release, my heroine Kendall believes the Lie that she will never be picked. Why? Because she had severe childhood asthma, and was one of those kids in school who was never picked in gym class. Her Dark Moment, which involved her high school hopes for romance, proved the “I’ll never be picked” Lie in the worst possible way.  

Forget the adage not to tell lies. As an author, you want to craft characters that readers care about. One key to doing that is to create the Lies your hero and heroine believe. You understand how one major Lie affects them – emotionally and spiritually. Use the Lie to deepen your story. Then weave in the spiritual truth and allow God to heal the Lie. You’ve created true-to-life fictional characters. After all, we’ve all believed lies. And we know the release – the freedom – in discovering and embracing the truth.

What about you? Are you telling your imaginary characters lies?

Return Friday for a chance to win a copy of Beth's latest release "Catch a Falling Star."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

This time of year I always get a little misty about heaven and how indelibly changed I am by those I love who’ve gone there before:  my adoptive father, July 3, 1984, and our sixth baby, Duncan Reid, July 13, 1999, after his birth just eleven days earlier. But the tug toward heaven has always been there ...

A certain chording in a song,
An almost-familiar landscape,
A certain scent…
Awakening memories—
Leaving me breathless—
On the verge of tears—
Hoping, wishing, trying
To return to a time or place
So far beyond my reach
That it’s impossible to recapture.
The Past is past,
I am told.
You can never go back.
And so I remind myself
When this ache grips my heart.
And yet I can’t help but wonder
If this, too, is not part of something
greater, deeper, older—
A small part of the continuing proof
That we are not alone
That this place is not…the only one
That all of humanity longs
To reach back
To Whence we came.
O Lord, I know You are real
And You need no proof
Still I am grateful
For a small demonstration of the truth
That I have a Home waiting
And someday I’ll be there
Where all that was broken or lost
Will truly be regained.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8, NKJV)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Happy Saturday, BB fans! Thanks to everyone who participated in our "puzzling" Friday giveaway! Keep all those facebook and Twitter notifications, coming!

This week's winner is:

KayM - Afloat by Erin Healy.

Congratulations, KayM! Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book.

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's Fun Friday at The Borrowed Book!

To enter:

Leave the time it took you to complete the puzzle 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. :-)

This week's puzzle feature is brought to you by Erin Healy, and her newest release, Afloat.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

I think most writers have experienced the cold chill of uncertainty that freezes our flow of words from time to time.

The writer who thinks writer’s block is primarily a problem of imprecise metaphors and weak ideas—that is, of not being able to find brilliance on the tip of her tongue—will spend a lot of energy looking in the wrong place for the solution she really needs: motivation and momentum to press through self-doubt.    

Yes, self-doubt. In my world, writer’s block is a peculiar type of fear. It’s not a void of ideas or possibilities, but a creative pipe clogged with anxiety. More than just “I don’t know what to write,” writer’s block is a hesitation to take a risk. Why? Because we might get the story “wrong.” Readers might “hate that” choice. We might paint ourselves into a plot corner that’s impossible to escape. We might betray our characters, or waste effort on material that doesn’t make the ultimate cut, or really really  really mess up our outline.

The first question I ask myself when I’m feeling frozen is What are you afraid of, Erin?

> I’m worried that this passage is boring even though it’s important. Solution: Skip it for now, or ditch it and merge what is “important” with a function of another scene.
> There are so many ways to execute this scene! I don’t know which one serves the story best. Solution: Just pick one. Or better, write it three ways and then pick. Nothing in a novel is ever set in stone.
> What do I know about industrial bread-baking ovens? What if I get it wrong? Solution: Do the necessary research, or pick a different subject.

That’s just a sampling of a very long list of reasons how fear freezes me up. Usually, naming the fear helps me to break through it pretty easily. But in situations where even that isn’t enough, these strategies sometimes help:

(1) Pretend you’re a journalist under deadline. Put yourself under a time constraint no longer than 90 minutes to get something done—a scene, a line of dialog, a certain number of words. Write with only a mind for the clock and the destination—do not judge what goes on the paper. Write without regard for consequence—to pacing, to plot, to readers’ suspension of disbelief.

Sometimes I write stream of consciousness right into the manuscript about all the reasons I’m stuck. Like a battering ram, the exercise can occasionally bust a locked door open. Also, hitting a word count helps foster a sense of accomplishment and helps to maintain important momentum.

So: write something. Anything. It’s easier to refine material that exists than it is to create something good out of a blank page.

(2) Call your editor/agent/writing partner. Talk it through. I offer this advice as an editor who has been called many times by verbal-creative types who need a sounding board. I’m not this type of writer. For me, talking about ideas is like turning a fan on a stack of paper. It creates mental chaos, which makes things worse. You have to find what works for you.

(3) Write a tricky passage from a different point of view, to gain a different perspective on it.

(4) Write scenes out of order. Write what is hot on your mind, even if you’re not quite sure how it will fit yet.

(5) Return to research, because sometimes discovering something surprising is like finding a puzzle piece that’s fallen under the table.

(6) Dip into writing books that speak not to writers’ block, but to your issue at hand. (Such as a problem with pacing, or characterization, or suspension of disbelief, and so on.)

(7) Deal with the problem during your high-functioning writing hours. For me, these times are before noon or after 8pm. During those hours especially, the goal is to keep my fanny stuck to my writer’s chair, and just keep going. Like a body in a blizzard, it has to keep moving. If you lie down and stop, you’ll die.

(8) Outside of your scheduled/peak writing hours, put the writing behind you. Abandon it (temporarily) for a non-writing-related activity. Great ideas come to those who play with their kids. Or go for a drive. Or start a home-improvement project.

What do you do to keep your efforts flowing?

Thank you, Erin, for sharing these wise words with us today. Readers, make sure to stop by tomorrow to enter to win a free copy of Erin's latest release, Afloat.

Erin Healy writes supernatural suspense novels from a Christian worldview. She is also a career fiction editor and owner of WordWright Editorial Services in Colorado Springs.

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