Thursday, July 31, 2014

Would you like some zucchini? We’re swimming in them.

If I could figure out how to get veggies through the computer, I’d be happy to share my garden’s bounty with you. Since I can’t, I’ll share some Y’s words instead. (This post is adapted from one that appeared on my personal blog,, on February 11, 2011.)

I’ve been gardening far longer than I’ve been writing. But it didn't take me long to discover the two preoccupations fit together like cucumber and dill. Yes, gardening can provide great subject matter. But I not only like to write about gardening, I write while gardening. I’ve spent many hours plotting a story, getting to know characters, or mentally clambering about a fictional setting while tending my veggies.

Of course peppers and onions inspire creativity—everyone knows that. But it’s less common knowledge that the art of growing fruits can teach us a thing or two about the craft of writing.

Like many readers of my generation, I cut my teeth on the old classics, which were written when language was flowing and flowery. Consequently, when I began writing, I imitated their wordy style.

Keeping my writing clean and concise was difficult for me at first. For one thing, it seemed wrong to cut off all that beauty. (Or what I perceived as such. It's in the eye of the beholder, after all.) For another, old habits are hard to break even when you’re convinced of the need for it. Which, at first, I wasn’t.

Shortly after my writer friends held an intervention and forced me to accept that I had a problem, I came to a surprising realization. That is, the most helpful guide for trimming the fat from my fiction was the same book that taught me the art of pruning trees: Lewis Hill’s marvelously practical resource, Fruits and Berries for the Home Garden. Since then, I’ve applied Hill’s guidelines to my apple trees, grape vines, and writing with equal success.
Grape vines in need of pruning

For instance: why do we prune?
1 – To remove diseased, broken, or old branches;
2 – To thin out extra limbs;
3 – To remove crossed limbs and prevent weak divisions;
4 – To allow more light to reach the inner branches;
5 – Removing old limbs that have lost vigor allows new ones to replace them, thus renewing the whole tree every decade;
6 – To train the tree into proper shape and size.

Though we're talking about fruit-bearing plants, it’s easy to apply the same principles to writing.

Confusing phrases and misused words are diseased and broken branches. 
Redundancies and repetitions are extra or crossed limbs. 
Side tangents that don’t move the story forward are weak limb divisions. 
Unnecessary words need to be cut to let the sunshine of clarity shine in. 
With all these things removed, our writing will take on the shape and size that makes it beautiful and fruitful.
Grape vines properly pruned

When pruning trees, Mr. Hill recommends removing everything you dare. The next day, go out and do the same thing. Again. To the same trees. That should yield the desired result.

I follow that advice with my writing. When revising a draft, I remove everything it seems possible to cut, let it rest awhile, then go back and do it again. 

Incidentally, that works with trees and manuscripts, but not grape vines. With grapes, you must know what shape the vine should be, and you merely remove everything that doesn't conform to the way the plant needs to grow. There's a lesson for writing there, too, I think!

Unlike the orchardist, the writer can prune in any season. We needn’t worry about temperature or sap flow. So scribes, get out your clippers and saws and start trimming!

And if you need some zucchini, stop by the house. I’ll give you all you want.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I hope our Borrowed Book readers don't mind, but tonight I'm going to recycle an article I wrote in 2012. It seems apropos because of an article I recently read about a man dying in Yemen from bubonic plague. Even more interesting is the archaic way Yemen officials are handling the death--they're sealing off parts of the city. But sealing people away isn't going to keep diseased animals from spreading the disease via fleas. It reminds me of the book I mentioned at the end of this article, and the panicked way U.S. officials reacted to the first U.S. outbreak in San Fransisco.

Here is the article:

In this day and age of pest control companies, pesticides for sale, and well built houses, it’s hard to imagine the pests that our forefathers had to put up with. Our prairie foremothers had bugs, snakes and mice falling from the ceiling of their soddies. Nowadays we aren’t so used to seeing things like that. In fact, many of us panic at the sight of creepy crawlies, whether they be of the buggy type like centipedes, the no legged type like snakes, or the four-legged type. . .like rats.

Recently I acquired two Woman’s World magazines, one from September, 1922 and one from July, 1926. Both had an ad for products to get rid of rats. 

That struck me weird because I’ve never seen ads like that in present day women’s magazines. That’s probably because we’ve become relatively successful at keeping the pest population at bay in the United States. Notice I said, “at bay,” not controlled or eliminated. I think the recent upsurge in bedbugs is a good example that we aren’t really in control (a topic I’d like to address in a future blog).

But back to the rats. . .they’ve played a significant role in the history of man, for instance, in spreading the Black Death through another pest--fleas. 

I just finished a book about the first epidemic of bubonic plague (spread by fleas via host rats) here in the continental United State. It makes for fascinating reading and tells not just the history of the plague, but how it impacted the path of medicine.

Now that I think about it, given the history of plague and rats (not to mention ticks and Lyme disease, brown recluse spiders and necrosis, or snake bites and death), perhaps screaming at the sight of a pest and running away isn’t such a bad idea.

Monday, July 28, 2014

by Elizabeth Ludwig

Melissa Jagears
Melissa Jagears is a stay-at-home mother on a tiny Kansas farm with a fixer-upper house. Her passion is to help Christian believers mature in their faith and judge rightly. Learn more at

Hello, Melissa! Welcome to The Borrowed Book. Since this is your first time to visit, why don't we start by letting readers know what encouraged you to start writing? 

The need to actively use my brain. Staying home with my first baby, keeping house, and reading required little intellectual exercise. I decided to write before my brain atrophied, and boy, I didn’t realize how much mental exercise I was getting myself into! 

LOL! I understand. So then, what is the most difficult part of writing for you, or was when you first started on your novel journey? 

The rough draft. I hate the worry that nothing I’m going to write will be worthwhile. I procrastinate so badly with this part. I have no idea why though since after I get going, I get in a really nice groove and I generally like everything I write. I think it’s plain fear. Being in the #1k1h Facebook group helps during rough draft times though, because I KNOW I can easily write over 1000 words an hour. So if I post that I’m writing and I come back with nothing because I decided to look at some stupid buzzfeed article on which celebrities looks like their dog (or something else that stupid) I look like a failure—and I hate being a failure. So do I choose to be a failure with word count or failure with a story???? Word count is easier to win at—tricking myself into productivity. 

Do you put yourself into your books/characters? 

My Meyers-Briggs personality is the rarest female personality, so I often find out exactly what I /think that others think “no one would do” when my critiquers flag something my characters do that they think is strange…’s almost always something I pulled from my own character! But yes, I do it sometimes on purpose, sometimes on accident. 

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)? 

At first, when I was in a critique group, I took every suggestion because I realized I didn’t know enough. I know people say “you’ll lose your voice” doing that, but really, what voice did I have to lose with stinky craft skills? It’s not like a voice can truly disappear, though it’s muted in the beginning process. It’s like learning to sing. You follow the notes on the page first and learn to do that, then realize there are other directions for things such as dynamics and so you add those, then you get familiar enough with music you can sight read without the help of an instrument or a conductor. Once you have the ability to sing music as expected without much prompting and know the underlying music principles and are familiar with a range of compositions, one day you’ll realize, “I should be able to cobble something together myself that’s new and different, but skillful.” But just because you sing by rote and under instruction for years doesn’t mean your voice is like everyone else’s, and once you have down the basics of music, then you can create your own style. 

My first book I abandoned halfway through the critique process because after months of critting, I learned so much I realized I needed to write it all over again with all those new skills I learned. But I also decided to abandon that genre, so I wrote another book and did better, but I still took almost every suggestion because I had a lot to learn. The third book was when I felt like I came into my own enough to start ignoring things if it didn’t fit my vision. I did go back three novels later and rewrite that second book once I figured I had the skills to save it. That’s what sold. 

Tell us a little about your latest release.

Bethany House, 2014
My newest comes out in September. This whole series is about mail-order bride mishaps. Not necessarily between the hero and heroine, but there were so many “fun” problems I read about in historical accounts, I wanted to highlight how very rarely mail-order marriages worked. So this one is about a mail-order bride who comes willing, but finds that things beyond her control keep her from marrying as soon as she steps off the train….and Eliza doesn’t like being out of control! 

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer? 

I learn what I do and do not like! Before as a reader, I might have just thought “I didn’t like that one so much” but now I can dissect it. So if it’s really good, I dissect it for “why did that impress me so much” and once I discover why, I jot it down or if it’s something I really don’t like, I figure out why it bothered me. Then in future plotting work, I take a look at those notes and make sure I don’t do what I don’t like because it’s “easy” or if it fits the story, I work to add in those things that were impressive. 

Do you have any parting words of advice? 

Find an honest and “harsh” critiquer who’ll follow you into publishing land who won’t let you get too big for your britches. I’ve read works by favorite authors that I wonder how they got away with stuff that wasn’t great—if favorite authors can turn out something that’s not very good, there is never a point I’ll be assured of never doing it either. I sometimes wonder if publishers allow things like that to go through because of schedule, “they’ll buy it anyway,” and not wanting to ruffle feathers. I’d rather my critique partner tell me ahead of time I’m working on a dud. 

Melissa's novella, "Love by the Letter", is always free, but right now, in the month leading up to A Bride in Store’s release, A Bride for Keeps is on sale for 2.99 – Don’t miss it!

Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of the EDGE OF FREEDOM series from Bethany House Publishers. She is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Good morning, 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: 
Cindy W (countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com) - Ransom in the Rock by Yvonne Anderson.
Congratulations, Cindy! Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book.
Good morning, 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: 
Cindy W (countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com) - Sincerely Yours by Amanda Cabot.
Congratulations, Cindy! Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book.
Deep in our hearts, there’s a tenderness for the story of Cinderella. Ordinary girl, stuck in an oppressively unfair situation, who steals away for one magical night to attend the ball. She unexpectedly finds love but is so unsuitable for the prince, and knows it, so she disappears back into obscurity. But, the prince can’t forget her, so he goes looking for her.

And he finds her. What happens then?

We know, of course, that he lifts her from the oppression and obscurity and makes her his wife. Some of us love the story all the more because, really, we are Cinderella. Sold into bondage, discovered by the prince, invited to become his—and we deserved none of it.

Some scoff at the idea of assigning any sort of romantic connotations to our relationship with God. I have to wonder what they think of Song of Solomon, and of the metaphor of the Bride of Christ.

Because here, buried deep in the Psalms, is this snip of a fairytale, the story of Cinderella if you will, foreshadowing our union with the victorious Son of God.

Psalm 45 (NKJV) … To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Lilies.” A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. A Song of Love.

My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.
Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One,
With Your glory and Your majesty.
And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness;
And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies;
The peoples fall under You.

The stage is set by the royal scribe, who sets the stage with a breathtaking description of the Hero of the Ages. Anyone else find it noteworthy that sandwiched in between truth and righteousness is the descriptor of humility?

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia,
Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your honorable women;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.

The wording of this Psalm only makes sense if one believes in the Messiah as God incarnate—in other words, deity in the flesh. The mighty King of kings, strong and mighty and beautiful beyond description, is honored as God by God Himself.

And now, once we’ve been introduced to the hero of the story, the focus shifts to our heroine …

10 Listen, O daughter,
Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also, and your father’s house;
11 So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him.
12 And the daughter of Tyre will come with a gift;
The rich among the people will seek your favor.

How completely romantic she, likely just an ordinary girl, carries a beauty and grace that is not only the envy of others, but desired by the King.

13 The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace;
Her clothing is woven with gold.
14 She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors;
The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You.
15 With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought;
They shall enter the King’s palace.

And she doesn’t come alone. Is it her sweetness that compels those who accompany her? The hope that some of the King’s glory will rub off on them, and they too will find stellar husbands?

16 Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons,
Whom You shall make princes in all the earth.
17 I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations;
Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.

The Psalm closes with the reminder that regardless of what happens, the Name of the Everlasting and Almighty will be remembered. This is our glorious Sovereign, who rules forever and ever with a beauty and goodness that would dazzle our mortal eyes to blindness were we to see it unveiled, now.

Someday, though, we’ll enter His palace, completely transformed by that beauty—and then dwell there with Him, as His beloved.

Who could not be enchanted with that story?

Friday, July 25, 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 Yvonne Anderson and her newest release, Ransom in the Rock.

Click to Mix and Solve

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Today we have a treat: one of our own Borrowed Book bloggers, Sandra (who writes as S. Dionne Moore) comes out from behind the curtain to chat with us.

Come on out, Sandra. Oh, look, there she is! We won't applaud, though, in case we embarrass her and she hides again. Instead, let's talk about her latest release, A Heartbeat Away, part of the Quilts of Love series by Abingdon Press.

How did you get connected with the Quilts of Love series?
A private tour through Antietam Battlefield led me to ponder another setting for a historical romance. My agent suggested that I write a proposal for the relatively new Quilts of Love series. I wasn’t so sure about the quilting part, since I don’t sew that well. But one thing I can do is admire the time and effort put into the beautiful pieces of what really amounts to art. Then it came to me. . .maybe my character can’t sew either! I then had to delve into the characterization of the heroine who became Elizabeth in order to make her frustration with sewing become an intricate part of her personality.

What made you take the direction you did with your books setting?
After visiting Antietam Battlefield (and eating local Burkholder Bakery’s delicious donuts!), my  mind began churning with ideas that would highlight not the actual battle but the struggles that the people of the town faced as war was brought to their doorstep.

Do you have a favorite character from your book?
Definitely Gerta. If you’re familiar with my books at all, I almost always have one who adds a spark of humor to the story. I love someone with a sense of humor. Couple that with a heavy does of sassiness and it makes, for me, a prime character.

What lesson do you hope readers walk away with after reading your Quilts of Love book?
You’re tougher than you think. War is more than soldiers aiming their guns and blowing up others. It affect the townspeople, the citizens. Young and old, able-bodied or not. No one is unscathed, and yet it sometimes happens that we are called upon to endure such an atrocity. Let us prepare now for what we might one day be forced to embrace as a new reality.

What was your favorite scene to write?
All the scenes at the cabin in the woods that Jim, Joe, and Elizabeth escape to were especially poignant to write. Elizabeth’s confrontation with Gerta is a primary scene for me and one that I had to consider for a long time before actually doing the writing.

Do you have any writing rituals? What are they?
Other than the routine of waking up, eating, working out, then putting in my daily word count of 2500 words, there isn’t anything out of the ordinary that I do when I write.

Whats your favorite quote from the book?
I have a few! One is: “It shows a greater depth of character when someone can look beyond a body’s weakness and see the beauty within.”
The other favorite is a question: When did your faith stop and the worry take over?
I love this question. It stops me in my worry-wart tracks and redirects my thoughts toward Him.

Anything else your readers should know about your Quilts of Love book?
I have several Pinterest boards. One in particular is devoted to pictures from Antietam Battlefield: These are places I visited during my initial tour, the rest were taken in my research trip when I stayed at the lovely Mary Hill House. This old house stood during the battle and still has a blood stain on the wood floor of the living room!

Thanks for sharing with us, Sandra. You should come out of hiding more often!

Moore enjoys life in the historically rich Cumberland Valley where traffic jams are a thing of the past and there are only two stoplights in the whole town.
She is author of the LaTisha Barnhart Mystery series, complete with a new LaTisha short mystery found in A Cup of Cozy, as well as new historical romance release “A Heartbeat Away” set in Sharpsburg, MarylandCan a quilt and a hidden message bring enemies together?
For more information, visit her Website at

Follow her on Twitter: @sdionnemoore

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Elderberries have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years through Europe, North America, Western Asia, and North Africa. The Elderberry shrub became a part of many American homestead plantings and was often grown alongside lilacs, forsythia, and apple trees. Ancient elder bushes can still be found on abandoned farmsteads, along roadsides, and in other unexpected places.

The European elder is a large shrub or small tree that grows up to 30 feet tall in wet or dry soil in a sunny locations. Its deciduous leaves grow in opposite pairs and have five to seven leaflets. The flowers are white and flat-topped, and the berries are green and turn red, then black when ripe.

Evidence of elderberry cultivation has been found in Stone Age village sites in Italy and Switzerland. Medicinal use of elderberries is mentioned in ancient medicinal texts, including Hippocrates' Materia Medica. Pliny the Elder recorded its use among the ancient Romans. In the Middle Ages, it was considered a holy tree due to its ability to improve health and longevity. Gypsies in historical Europe reportedly called elderberry “the healingst tree on earth.”

Elderberry has traditionally been used for its antioxidant activity, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to lower cholesterol, and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections.

The medicinal use of elderberry isn’t just a folk remedy. There’s science backing up the claims of hundreds of years. A placebo-controlled, double blind study was carried out on a group of individuals living in an agricultural community (kibbutz) during an outbreak of influenza B/Panama in 1993. Fever, feeling of improvement, and complete cure were recorded during 6 days. (Find abstract here.)

In Israel, Hasassah's Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body's immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it.

Some of our readers may have read that elderberries can be poisonous. The berries aren't, but they should be cooked before eaten. Uncooked berries can cause digestive problems. It’s the rest of the parts of the plant that can be toxic.

Here is a recipe for elderberry syrup, which can be used at the onset of a cold or even as a pancake syrup.

1 cup fresh elderberries or ½ cup dried berries
3 cups water
1 cup honey

Place the berries in a saucepan and cover them with the 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a half hour.

After the berries are cooked, smash them, then strain the mixture through a mesh strainer.

Add the honey.

Bottle and store in the fridge, where it will last a few months.

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. 

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