Sunday, November 30, 2014

Psalm 126 (NKJV) ~ A Song of Ascents.

Another short and sweet one from among the songs of ascent ...

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

Nothing compares to the joy of knowing just what the Lord has done for us—the simple fact of being set free from our captivity, here referred to in a literal sense, when Israel was released to return to the land after being led away by the Babylonians. But for us, the deeper and more desperate captivity of the sin we’re all born into.

What makes that joy even sweeter is when others recognize the change, and marvel and rejoice along with us.

Bring back our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South.

Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.

The psalm ends with a beautiful reminder that none of our tears and angst is wasted, when we’re laboring for something worthwhile. Indeed, our tears might be the very thing which waters the seed.

The harvest will come, as echoed in Galatians, when the season is right ... and it will be accompanied with joy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Today we have the privilege of spending a little time with Leslie Gould, author of Amish and contemporary fiction. 

Thank you for coming, Leslie. Have you always wanted to be an author? What made you decide to write, and how long have you been at it?

As a preschooler I used to make up stories about the letters of the alphabet, so yes, I guess I have always wanted to be an author. J I dabbled in writing fiction for years, but it wasn’t until my husband was deployed during Desert Storm that I finally started writing short stories—and finishing them. After a few years of that, I started writing novels.

What do you love about being a writer, and what do you like the least?

I love creating worlds and characters who become as real to me as imaginary friends to a child. The thing I dislike the most is when I have to “crack the whip” at myself, usually when I’m reading instead of writing.

Are you a plotter, a pantser, or a combination?

I have been accused of being a pantster, but it’s not true! I outline all of my novels—otherwise I get stuck in the middle and waste a lot of time. I don’t always stick exactly to my outline because sometimes the characters do unexpected things, but I always know—essentially—where the story is going.

Do you write full time, or do you work it in alongside a full-time job?

I mostly write full-time, although I occasionally teach on the college level.

What do your kids think about your being a writer?

Only one of my four offspring has ever read any of my novels. But they all think it’s pretty cool when I’ve dedicated a book to them.

How do you get your best ideas?

Usually from issues I’m processing in my own life, but occasionally from a reader.  Love those! J 

What do you do to get past writer’s block?

If I’m really stuck, I’ll pull out my own journal and write first person, from my main character’s POV. That seems to get me going. Or I’ll use Freedom to block me from the Internet and then I’ll toss my phone across the room. That definitely keeps me from procrastinating—which usually takes care of writer’s block too.

What’s your favorite method for keeping a story’s middle from sagging?

Outline and figuring out what my main character’s motivation is in each scene definitely helps. I’ve also been known to re-do character arcs in the middle of the story. By then I know what my character wants better, vs. what she needs, and that usually bolsters those middle chapters.

Do you write every day? What does your typical writing day look like?

Yes, I definitely work every day. A few years ago Starbucks used to put sayings on their coffee cups. I’m paraphrasing, but one read: “There are morning people and evening people, but no such thing as afternoon people.” I totally disagree with that. I do my best writing starting in the afternoon and then going into the evening. Ideally, I’ll do emails and marketing in the morning and then do my story writing in the afternoon. I sometimes write into the evening but with soccer games and other activities, like cooking dinner, that doesn’t always work for me.

Do you like to listen to music when you write?

Yes! I listen to classic piano music. I’ve tried other genres but that’s what works best for me.

Do you have any rituals you like to go through before you start writing, such as make yourself a cup of coffee or tea? Do calisthenics to get the blood flowing? Lock yourself in a room and warn your family not to disturb you upon pain of death? Read something inspiring? Pray?

My husband makes a pot of tea every morning so I start with that. Ideally, after I get ready for the day, I do my stretches after that and then spend some time reading either a Bible study or scripture and then go through my prayer list.

Writing is a sedentary occupation. What do you do for exercise? 

I walk several times a week and since I share my car with my seventeen-year-old, I also walk in our neighborhood to run errands. I have a cupboard that’s just the right height to put my computer on so I stand to write part of the day if I’m working at home.

I used to walk at a really slow pace on my treadmill and write, but my balance has been a little off since I was rear-ended over a year ago. Moving enough while writing really can be a challenge. When I’m deep in my story, I’ll be shocked to realize I’ve been sitting in my recliner writing for two hours. That’s not good! Must get up and move!

Do you have any pets? Do you own them, or they you?

We have three cats. One totally owns us! She’s three years old, gray with green eyes, and full of spunk. The other two are sisters and twelve now. They’re slowing down and pretty much sleep and eat, but they entertain us too.

Thanks again, Leslie, for taking the time to visit with us today!

Leslie Gould is the #1 bestselling and Christy Award winning author of 19 novels. She and her husband, Peter, live in Portland, Oregon and are the revolving-door parents of four children and the owners of three cats. Leslie loves researching church history, seeing Shakespeare plays, and traveling with her hubby, mainly on research trips. Find out more at
Don't forget to stop by tomorrow, when you can win a free copy of Leslie's latest release, Becoming Bea (Book #4 in The Courtships of Lancaster County series).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I love a good retelling, so much so that my entire series, The Courtships of Lancaster County, is inspired by four of Shakespeare’s plays. Becoming Bea, inspired by Much Ado About Nothing and the fourth in the series, releases this month. 

Did I have any qualms about writing retellings? Not at all! 

Shakespeare’s plays were all inspired by other stories. In fact, I’ve read that most of Western art originates from either the Bible or Greek myths. Shakespeare was no exception. The first written story of the ill-fated lovers who later became Romeo and Juliet goes back to 8 AD when Ovid penned the tale in his Metamorphoses, written in Latin The oral story, however, goes back to the Greeks. 

Retellings are as old as time. I compiled the following list of a few modern day ones, both in film and novels.

  1. 10 Things I Hate About You (film) (The Taming of the Shrew)
  2. Adoring Addie by Leslie Gould (novel) (Romeo and Juliet)*
  3. Becoming Bea by Leslie Gould (novel) (Much Ado About Nothing)*
  4. Brave New Girl by Louisa Luna (novel) (The Tempest)
  5. Clueless (film) (Emma by Jane Austen)
  6. Courting Cate by Leslie Gould (novel) (The Taming of the Shrew)*
  7. Easy A (film) (The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne)
  8. Ever After (film) (Cinderella)
  9. Judge by R.H. Larson (novel) (Jonah)*
  10. The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson (novel) (Snow White)*
  11. The Lion King (film) (Hamlet)
  12. Love Amid the Ashes by Mesu Andrews (novel) (Job)*
  13. Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews (novel) (Hosea)*
  14. Loves Sacred Song by Mesu Andrews (novel) (Solomon)*
  15. March by Geraldine Brooks (novel) (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
  16. The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson (novel) (Beauty and the Beast)*
  17. Minding Molly by Leslie Gould (novel)  (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)*
  18. My Fair Lady (film) (Pygmalion)
  19. O Brother Where Art Thou (film) (Odyssey)
  20. The Proposal (film) (Pygmalion) (The Taming of the Shrew)
  21. Scotland, PA (film) (Pygmalion) (Macbeth
  22. She’s the Man (film) (Pygmalion) (Twelfth Night)
  23. A Simple Twist of Fate (film) (Pygmalion) (Silas Marner by George Eliot)
  24. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (novel) (Hosea)*
  25. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (novel) (King Lear)
  26. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (Greek Myth of Cupid and Psyche)
  27. Warm Bodies (film) (Pygmalion) (Romeo and Juliet)
  28. Westside Story (film) (Pygmalion) (Romeo and Juliet)
  29. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (novel and Broadway play) (Oz by L. Frank Baum)
*contemporary inspirational market

I’d love to hear your favorite retellings! Please leave a comment below. 

Leslie Gould is the #1 bestselling and Christy Award winning author of 19 novels. She and her husband, Peter, live in Portland, Oregon and are the revolving-door parents of four children and the owners of three cats. Leslie loves researching church history, seeing Shakespeare plays, and traveling with her hubby, mainly on research trips. Find out more at


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Psalm 121 (NKJV) ~ A Song of Ascents

The songs of ascent is a collection of short Psalms, meant to be sung while on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or as some suggest, while ascending the steps of the Temple (one Psalm for each step). This one, in all its sweet brevity, seems perfect for a week when many are traveling and most are thinking of home and family ...

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

As we survey God’s creation in all its glory, may we never forget the true source of our help ... the One who shaped all that we see.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

No matter what goes on, either in our lives or the wider world, God does not sleep or even grow drowsy or inattentive. He sees—He watches—and He watches over us.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

I’ve often said that no matter what has happened to me, no matter how deep a funk I’ve fallen into to, someone, somewhere, has it worse. And I wonder, for all that God does allow to befall us, how many terrible things has He turned aside? How much does He spare us from on a daily basis?

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

... until the time for going out and coming in is done, and it's time to go to Him, at last.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We all know what a cliché is, right? It’s a phrase or expression that's been used so often that it's no longer original or interesting; or, a theme or device so commonly used in books, stories, etc., that it's no longer effective.

“No longer” is the key here. These overused tools were once fresh, new, and witty. But now, employing them merely proves that you can have too much of a good thing.

For that reason, unless we want to impress someone with our lack of originality, we should avoid clichés like the plague. For an example, it’s been an eternity since someone first used “an eternity” to describe a long but finite stretch of time. Now, the vibrant analogy is so overworked that it's weak as a kitten. We should leave no stone unturned in our search for more picturesque speech. Or at least, phrases that don’t look like something the cat dragged in.

You get the idea, so I’ll stop beating this dead horse.

In first drafts, it’s okay to allow clichés to sit around the table over their coffee, taking up space and chatting. It’s in the editing phase that we must send them on their way and make space for paying customers. But once you’re ready to clear the room, how do you find the better clientele? Where does the sort of language grow that’s fresh, crisp, and juicy as an October apple?

Here’s where it can pay to write speculative fiction. (Believe me when I say it doesn’t pay financially.) When you create a world and a culture, you can also create everyday expressions that people in our world haven’t heard yet. Which means, of course, that they’re not clichés. 

A character can be as “content as a luglit with his belly full of zikzak” without making the reader yawn. (She might scratch her head in puzzlement, but she won’t complain it’s a cliché.) Another character can say he feels as out of place as a Nobian sand snail in a crystal punchbowl. And a father can state, when a screaming child won't listen to reason, that “Tears can’t hear.” Though these are all common expressions on Gannah, most readers on Earth have never heard them, so “fresh and new” still applies -- even if they’re not particularly witty.

But what if you don’t write weird stuff like that? No matter; writers of earthbound fiction can beat the cliché rap in much the same way. Dig up turns of the phrase from the world you’re writing about. Pull them from your characters’ brains. Envision how someone's experiences might color her speech and let her speak for herself.

For instance: Is your protagonist a fireman? He might say, when refusing to weigh in on a sensitive topic, “I’m not touching that with a 100-foot ladder. It’s hot as napalm.” When faced with a situation that’s too far gone to remedy, a character who loves to bake might say, “That cake’s already burned.” A meteorologist might describe his teenager as being as gloomy as a low-pressure system stalled overhead.

Don’t like those examples? No, they’re not perfect. But I’ll bet you can think of better ones if you put your mind to it.

However, I don’t think you’ll find a better escape from the humdrum than a trip to Gannah. Yes, I’m biased, but others share that opinion. Many readers who don’t ordinarily head for the sci-fi section tell me they enjoy the series, and those who ordinarily do like speculative fiction say it blasts the typical clichéd story out of the sky.

Though each title in the series can be read alone, they also fit together to build an epic tale. It all begins with The Story in the Stars, an ACFW Carol Award finalist in 2012. The saga continues with Words in the Wind and Ransom in the Rock, and concludes with The Last Toqeph, released last month.

If you like to walk alongside believable characters as they deal with emotional situations, all told from a Christ-centered perspective, consider a flight through the Gateway to Gannah into some serious sci-fi adventure.

The Last Toqeph: Will Adam right an ancient wrong and lose his inheritance? Or ignore the truth and lose his integrity?

Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world. When not exploring space, she 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 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.) She also does freelance editing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

At my first writer’s conference (ACFW, Dallas, 2007), I met with Andy Meisenheimer, then acquisitions editor for Zondervan, to discuss a manuscript. The occasion held a number of personal firsts: among other things, my first conference, my first meeting with an editor, and my first foray into writing science fiction.  (Four years later, the book was published as The Story in the Stars, the first in the Gateway to Gannah series.)

By God’s grace, I wasn’t particularly nervous. Considering the experience an educational field trip, I felt no pressure to achieve any specific goal but to learn and enjoy myself. Since I had no expectations, I was surprised that when I explained my story’s premise to Andy, he showed real interest and asked pertinent questions, nodding at my answers as if intrigued. (Possibly he was just being nice, because he seems to be that kind of guy.) 

One of the questions had to do with the languages in my story world. “A lot of writers try creating a language, such as Tolkien did with the elvish language, for instance. But it usually doesn’t hold together logically like a real language does. Do your characters speak another language? And if they do, how did you create it?” When I told him the Gannahan language was ancient Hebrew, his eyes widened and he grinned. “Cool!”

When I first began to sketch out this new world, I thought about God creating our world, and how it all started with a garden. That inspired me to give the planet a garden-related name – but Eden was already taken. What about the word for “garden” itself? I got out my Strong’s Concordance and found the Hebrew word is gannah. Sounded like a good name for a planet. And so it began. 

Though the people of Gannah speak a language that’s very much like Hebrew, I don’t; the best I can do is name things based on Hebrew words I find in the concordance. For instance: the colorful forest in the opening scene, in which the foliage is blue, yellow, and red as well as green, is the Ayin Forest, based on the Hebrew word for color. The ruling family’s name is Atarah, which means crown; the Gannahan weapon of choice is called a lahab, meaning blade. But because my knowledge of the language is so limited, I use only a word here and there; I don’t put them together in sentences or write songs or poems, as Tolkien did with the elvish language.

How about the Karkar? (The which? The Karkar. They’re the people from a different planet, and ancient enemies of Gannah.) The Karkar words, what few of them I use, come purely from my warped imagination. And they’re fun. Listen while a character contemplates his job as a researcher on a medical starship: “The assignments were challenging but satisfying, and when he pillowed his head at dimlights, he felt as content as a luglit with a bellyful of well-aged zikzak.

Which brings me to another kind of word I had to create: names for inventions and concepts that don’t currently exist in our world, or are so different as to be unrecognizable. These names, I tried to make self-explanatory. Dimlights in that last example, for instance, refers to the fact that on a starship, there is no night and day, so the lights are dimmed during the hours that would be night if they were on a planet. Instead of a refrigerator, they have a chill cabinet, and rather than a microwave, they warm food in a quickheater. What we might call a snowmobile, Gannahans call a motorsled. On the space station, you’ll find no bellboys to carry your luggage to your room, but a baggage bot. (“Bot” being short for robot.) My favorite gadget is the floor bot. As you might guess, that’s the one that scrubs your floors to a cheery shine while you’re out having fun on your motorsled.

If you’d like to learn more, come visit Gannah; even people who usually avoid space travel enjoy their time there. You might even find a souvenir to bring home.

The first two of the four books in the series are currently available in both print and e-book versions. Book #1, The Story in the Stars (2012 ACFW Carol Award Finalist in Speculative Fiction) on Amazon and Barnes & Noble; Book #2, Words in the Wind on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Psalm 118 (NKJV)

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let Israel now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

Three times is the reminder that the Lord’s mercy is everlasting ... once for the nation of Israel, once for those called into special ministry (as the house of Aaron was, within the tribe of Levi), and once for all who fear the Lord ... in other words, for His people, specifically and in general.

His mercy endures forever ... His mercy endures forever ... His mercy endures forever.

And I am so grateful that it does ...

I called on the Lord in distress;
The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
The Lord is on my side;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in princes.

At the end of a grueling day, feeling emotionally battered and exhausted, this is both comforting and sobering ... first, that God is truly with us, on our side ... and that if we put confidence in other humans—even important, powerful ones—we are bound to be disappointed. How many times am I guilty of putting my expectation on another person and not God?

10 All nations surrounded me,
But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
11 They surrounded me,
Yes, they surrounded me;
But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
12 They surrounded me like bees;
They were quenched like a fire of thorns;
For in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
13 You pushed me violently, that I might fall,
But the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.

Regardless of how trouble surrounds us, how pushed and pulled we are by the forces of darkness (and this includes the darkness inside our own selves), the Lord is our deliverer—our strength and salvation.

15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation
Is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
17 I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.

Maybe the trouble we’ve faced is a result of our own doing, and God has allowed it for chastening—for discipline. Even then, there is a limit, as long as we’re still living and breathing.

The right hand of the Lord does valiantly ... I’m reminded of that verse in Exodus, Be still! The Lord will fight for you. Indeed, if we have the patience to let God have the situation—any that we find ourselves in—then He can and will do His work in it. The difficulty is often in the surrendering ...

And yet His mercy endures forever.

And so the Psalmist finishes out this one in poetic praise:

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter.

21 I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.

22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
27 God is the Lord,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.

29 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

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