Welcome Clint Smith, author of FAITH AND THE FORMULA, with a guest post describing a new type of genre that is currently gaining popularity.
The Emergence of Inspirational/Faith-Based Fiction as a Genre
In recent years, inspirational/faith-based novels have become very popular. Readers want to be entertained but at the same time, they want to be inspired.A good story with identifiable characters can serve such a purpose. At Christmas time, inspirational novels are ideal gifts because they make a good platform for reflection about the love of God and the blessings of life.
To me, the most successful faith-based novels have a grounded reality about theplot. A too sugary and sweet tone can turn the reader away. Readers appreciate characters that experience trials and difficulties that are similar to their own challenges. Additionally, if you create a page-turning plot with unpredictable twists and turns, the ingredients are complete for a popular novel.
I believe that my novel, FAITH AND THE FORMULA, will entertain, stimulateserious discussion about important topics in society, and inspire deep reflection about our relationship to God and our future. It will be ideal for a book club discussion, Sunday school, or Bible study group.
Tim Jennings searches for his fiancée who presumably died in a tragic accident, but he believes that she is still alive – her body never recovered. His search leads him headlong into a subversive underground organization dedicated to toppling the U.S. government. The organization plans to implement a mysterious medical formula that halts the aging process to accomplish its evil goals. While Tim confronts evil, he struggles with his own faith. What will be the outcome?
A unique plot line in Christian fiction, the content will surely capture the fancy of hungry faith-oriented readers. Set initially in Atlanta, Savannah, and Chattanooga, the story is briskly paced. The setting shifts to Denmark, Germany, and then back to the United States, ending with climactic scenes in St. Augustine, Florida.
Biography of Clint Smith
Clint Smith lives in Dawsonville, Georgia. He is a writer, businessman, and a member of the Georgia Air National Guard, assigned to State Headquarters at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia. A former legislator in the Georgia General Assembly, Smith has written many newspaper columns, speeches, and other works on political, public policy, historical, and military subjects.
An ordained deacon, Clint Smith is a member of First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Georgia. He is also the former chairman of the board of directors of the Chestatee Library System in Dahlonega, Georgia. Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Georgia State University (minor in management). He earned an associate degree in applied science from the Community College of the Air Force as well as a diploma in Writing for Children and Teenagers from the Institute of Children’s Literature in Redding Ridge, Connecticut. A classic film buff, Clint Smith specializes in writing and speaking on the movies of Alfred Hitchcock. He is currently working on his next project, a science fiction novel set in Alaska.
Welcome Sheila Deeth, author of Bethlehem's Baby, with a thought-provoking post about discovering your true self, past, present and future, and how doing so means going beyond how others label you.
Motherhood, Writing and a College Degree
That moment when you realize your teachers think you’re “quite bright” and may even be destined to bring glory to their school, has a powerful weight of terror behind it, especially if you’re a city kid attending a school where one young woman every blue moon qualifies for a bluestocking high-class university like Oxford or Cambridge. The moon was blue, and I was actually one of two—a really good year—which made me determined to prove myself worthy of the honor.
Of course, when I got to college I found I was a very small fish in a very big pond of super-educated piranhas. I went to parties, but they really weren’t my thing. I haunted libraries. And mostly I hid in my room, trying to figure out whatever it was that everyone else seemed to know about the language of mathematics.
Eventually I caught up, caught on, and got into my stride—kind of like pushing up the speed on the treadmill until running feels like nothing at all. I could do this. I was (almost) a woman and I was succeeding. Meanwhile I’d met a guy who was just as determined as I to be a credit to his family and school. We sat together in lectures, went to talks from famous professors like Stephen Hawking in our time off, encouraged each other, and eventually both got first class honors degrees before getting married.
My husband asked what I wanted to do with my life and, feeling free to be honest with him, I answered that really I wanted to be a Mom. He didn’t believe me. He said he was sure I’d change my mind; I’d be bored; I wouldn’t want to waste all that expensive education; plus I had a talent and I really ought to use it. But I didn’t; I wasn’t; it’s not wasted—it’s part of who I am and how I see the world; and I have other talents too. Still, words matter. They weigh on you. They nibble at your self-confidence. When the kids hated me I wondered if they’d have been better served by my going out to work. When they shut themselves in their rooms I thought I must have poured my inhibitions into them. When they had problems, I imagined I’d given them mine. And when they succeeded—I’m blessed, now they’re grown, by having three college graduates all happily employed—I knew their triumphs were all in spite of me.
Meanwhile, motherhood had freed me to return to an earlier dream—the one that came before being “quite bright,” and was related not to math but to the way my nose was always buried in a book. I wanted to write. I told stories to my kids when they were small. I helped in school and told stories to groups of kids learning to count, made up storygames for children struggling with learning to read and write, used stories to teach chess, added stories to math lessons, told stories in Sunday school, and tried to show my kids and their friends that their problems were just part of the story of their lives. But the question nibbling away at my self-confidence was still the same—was I wasting that hard-earned education? Was I letting down those teachers who’d seen me as “quite bright?” Was I denying the mathematical talent I’d been born with?
I went back to work and it wasn’t the same, because I wasn’t the same person I’d been before. Getting into Cambridge didn’t complete me. Getting a masters in math didn’t define my final path. Succeeding in my job, even having kids who succeeded, just wasn’t enough. I’m a story still being written and I wanted to tie all the magic of motherhood together with the logic of math and pour it out in words. So when I lost my job, I wrote.
I am who I was—a skilled mathematician, a credit to my school, and happy mother of three—and who I am—a writer—and who I will be, dreaming my impossible dreams. It’s not inconceivable I may even still be “quite bright” but you’ll have to read my books and make your own decisions about that.
Thank you, Sheila, for your guest post. And, I must say that I consider you "quite bright"!
Sheila's latest creation is a book called Bethlehem’s Baby:
Meet the Emperor Augustus’s advisors, the quiet research student helping wise men study stars, the shepherd whose granddad keeps complaining, an Egyptian fisherboy, a Roman soldier, and more in this set of 40 5-minute read-aloud stories based around the events of the Christ Child’s birth in Bethlehem.
Sheila Deeth is an English American, Catholic Protestant, mathematician writer, author of the Five Minute Bible StoryTM Series for children, several spiritual speculative e-novellas, Divide by Zero (a novel), and various poems and short stories. When she’s not writing she’s usually reading, posting book reviews to the internet, or wandering the neighborhood talking to all the local cats and dogs.
Bonnie Milani is the author of the "fast paced, well written" sci-fi novel, Home World. When she's not creating fantastic, out-of-this world story-lines, you might be surprised to learn that Bonnie leads a down-to-Earth life as an Insurance Broker. So, how does she find time to write with her busy schedule? Read on. (I'll be reading along, too, looking for tips to keep up with my own musings!)
Finding Time to Write
by Bonnie Milani
I can’t count the number of times I used to whine I could never find time to write. I started out well enough, writing an environmental fairy tale for the NJ state department of education in college, earning my M.A. in print communications from Stanford. After graduating, I freelanced feature articles for newspapers and magazines ranging from Mankind to Science Digest. Then I got married. Somehow, after that life always got in the way: husband, job, housework, what-have-you. I felt the self-betrayal every single day, felt that something in my spirit was out of kilter. Yet I didn’t write a word for nearly twenty years.
It wasn’t until my mother died that I finally realized I wouldn’t always have a ‘tomorrow’. It still took me three years to get my heart and soul back together, but finally, on Labor Day 1994 I plunked myself in front of my first PC and started putting words down on a screen. It wasn’t easy in any respect. I worked as a pension / benefits administrator: my work days ran from six a.m. to nine p.m. Nights and week-ends I played cook or go-fer for my contractor-husband and his crews. Housework I handled on a ‘if this is Tuesday, this must be the kitchen’ rotating schedule. Finding time just wasn’t happening. Worse, my husband thought I was crazy to waste time on anything as useless as writing stories. Being the crew-boss type, he said so. At length and at volume.
It was his complete and utter opposition to my need to tell stories that finally pushed me into accepting I was going to have to make time to write. Initially during those hectic years, I set aside Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. (after I shooed him out the door) to 10 a.m. (when I had to start prepping the crew lunch and do the banking). Eventually, I moved out of the admin world into insurance and started my own agency. That put another 5-year gap in my writing; every waking moment went into building the business. Eventually, I worked out a schedule that let me write for myself from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. I also started putting my MA to use by picking up a side job teaching writing at a local adult school. That led to putting my shingle out as a freelance editor. Eventually, I built up a writer’s group from my students who were serious about writing for publication. And, of course, I still ran my own insurance agency. (Still do, for that matter.) Didn’t get a lot of sleep, but I finally felt my soul start to heal. The result – after many, many drafts and the wonderful guidance of generous authors like Mary Rosenblum – is Home World.
Long story short: nobody ever finds time to write; we all make it. Let me ask you: what’s your writing schedule? What’s your story goal? Are you aiming for publication? When? How many story pages a day do you need to get down to make your schedule? Have you got a specific time and place already established? Or do you always wind up feeling so guilty about all the other things you’re not doing that you give your time up? OY do I know that feeling! So here’s a suggestion: set your writing time. Then think of that time as sacred. That’s YOUR TIME to worship the Lord by putting the gift He gave you to use.
Hope that helps!
Yes, it does! Thank you, Bonnie. I think I'll copy your last paragraph and hang it next to my desk for inspiration to keep writing!
About the Author: Bonnie vividly recalls the book that helped her decide she could out-write another writer: it was a junior reader's biography of Sir William Harvey, the 17th century English physician credited (in the West) with discovering how blood circulates. After about 30 pages of telling herself "I can write better than that!" she grabbed a crayon that just happened to be blue and started editing. She was all of seven years old at the time. Unfortunately for her juvenile bottom it was a library book. She followed the dream through college and after grad school, freelancing feature articles for newspapers along the East Coast. Milani even wrote a cover story forScience Digest! Alas, life and grown up responsibilities caught up with her and by her late twenties she put writing away with so many other dreams while she followed a ‘career track’. After losing her entire family, she realized story telling wasn't just a want but a need and a gift God gave her. So here she is, a self-declared “middle-aged pudge” working on getting back into a writer’s kind of real life!
Home World is a fast paced, well written story about the power and price of love. This story takes place amid the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Waikiki. Jezekiah Van Buren thinks he has found a way to restore Earth—Home World—to the other worlds of the human commonwealth. His goal is to restore his home to her lost glory.
Ingenious even by the standards of the genetically enhanced Great Family Van Buren, Jezekiah has achieved the impossible: he has arranged a treaty that will convert Earth's ancient enemies, the Lupans, to her most powerful allies. Not only will the treaty terms make Earth rich again, it will let him escape the Ring that condemns him to be Earth's next ruler. Best of all, the treaty leaves him free to marry Keiko Yakamoto, the Samurai-trained woman he loves. Everything’s set. All Jezekiah has to do is convince his xenophobic sister to accept the Lupan's alpha warlord in marriage.
Before, that is, the assassin she's put on his tail succeeds in killing him. Or the interstellar crime ring called Ho Tong succeed in raising another rebellion. Or before his ruling relatives on competing worlds manage to execute him for treason. But Jezekiah was bred for politics and trained to rule. He’s got it all under control. Until his Lupan warlord-partner reaches Earth. And suddenly these two most powerful men find themselves in love with the same woman. A woman who just may be the most deadly assassin of them all.
Amber Lea Starfire is the co-editor of the anthology Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s and '70s. Today, she shares a fascinating look back at a dynamic, idealist time in American history in her guest post, "The Age of Aquarius".
The Age of Aquarius
by Amber Lea Starfire
We believed it was the dawn of a new age of spiritual awakening, bringing with it world peace and an end to poverty, sickness, and hunger. And this Age of Aquarius, this astrological movement that was to last thousands of years, began with us, the youth of the ‘60s and ‘70s. It embodied the hope and aspirations of an entire generation: "Harmony and understanding/ Sympathy and trust abounding*.” We believed in that harmony and in love and all the good we perceived as residing in the human spirit. We looked for its revelations in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, found our own personal expressions in the land and communal living, and we were hungry for alternatives to the status quo, which we perceived as stifling, unimaginative, and profoundly unoriginal.
I was fourteen when Aquarius hit the airwaves, and a ripe eighteen when the Jesus Freak movement was at its height in California in 1973. The movement’s idealism and contempt for traditional religion swept my new husband and me up and tumbled us back into the world, Good News Bibles in hand, with strong beliefs in simple living, faith healing, prayer, and the works of the Holy Spirit. We moved to Portland, Oregon and joined one of the quickly growing hippie-fundamentalist churches of the time.
Like many others then, we lived in a commune, but we were a commune of musicians with the common goal of evangelizing for Christ through music. My husband played piano and I played flute in a band named The Beulah Land Band. We played in coffeehouses and on street corners and during Sunday morning worship sessions. We went to Europe and shook our tambourines and preached in front of the Grand Central Station in the middle of winter.
The band broke apart many times—over disagreements about finances, over who would lead, over the realities of everyday life that didn't fit the life we had pictured—reforming and continuing each time with a different set of musicians. We shifted from contemporary gospel to Celtic music and everything in between.
Over time, those of us that had lived and played music together had children, found “real” jobs, moved into homes of our own, settled in and settled for less. Our churches grew into mega-churches, while our music found a gentler rhythm. Many of us divorced, and moved on, leaving our idealism and religion behind.
Now forty years or so later, I, like many others, look back upon that time as a wild, crazy time of unbridled passion for something more than what life seemed to offer. Eventually, I found my center and ways to express myself in music, art, writing, education, and business. Others, like me, moved on, yet I think there's a part of us that still believes in the promises of the new age: peace and love and beauty, and the words of John Lennon's song, Imagine. We are still searching for evidence that the ideals we came of age believing can be achieved.
Perhaps that is why the stories and poems in Times They Were A-Changing carry such strength of feeling and resonance—for men and women who were there and for those who are weren’t but sense the sweeping power of the times. The promise of the Age of Aquarius is still with us; it’s up to us to fulfill it for ourselves.
Amber Lea Starfire with husband, Eric, at commune on Oregon Coast in 1974.
* Lyrics to "Aquarius" by the 5th Dimensions, made famous by the musical, Hair, in 1969.
Amber Lea Starfire, whose passion is helping others tell their stories, is the author of Week by Week: A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts & Meditations (2012) and Not the Mother I Remember, due for release in late 2013. A writing teacher and editor, she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and is a member of the California Writers Club in Napa and Santa Rosa, the Story Circle Network, National Association of Memoir Writers, and International Association for Journal Writing. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors.
TIMES THEY WERE A-CHANGING: WOMEN REMEMBER THE '60'S & 70'S
Just in time for the holidays, Linda Joy Myers, Kate Farrell and Amber Lea Starfire launch their anthology Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s and '70s. The book is the perfect gift for opening discussions with friends and family members and illustrating what a powerful time the '60s and '70s truly were.
Forty-eight powerful stories and poems etch in vivid detail breakthrough moments experienced by women during the life-changing era that was the ’60s and ’70s. These women rode the sexual revolution with newfound freedom, struggled for identity in divorce courts and boardrooms, and took political action in street marches. They pushed through the boundaries, trampled the taboos, and felt the pain and joy of new experiences. And finally, here, they tell it like it was.
Through this collection of women’s stories, we celebrate the women of the ’60s and ’70s and the importance of their legacy.
Paperback: 354 pages
Publisher: She Writes Press (Sept. 8, 2013)
Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ‘60s & ‘70s is available in print and as an e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and She Writes Press and Indie Bound.
Linda Joy Myers is president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers, and the author of four books:Don't Call Me Mother—A Daughter's Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness, The Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story, and a workbook The Journey of Memoir: The Three Stages of Memoir Writing. Her book Becoming Whole—Writing Your Healing Story was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award. A speaker and award-winning author, she co-teaches the program Write Your Memoir in Six Months, and offers editing, coaching, and mentoring for memoir, nonfiction, and fiction. www.namw.org. Visit her blog at http://memoriesandmemoirs.com.
Kate Farrell earned a M.A. from UC Berkeley; taught language arts in high schools, colleges, and universities; founded the Word Weaving storytelling project in collaboration with the California Department of Education with a grant from the Zellerbach Family Fund, and published numerous educational materials. She is founder of Wisdom Has a Voice memoir project and edited Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother (2011). Farrell is president of Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter, a board member of Redwood Branch of the California Writers Club, member of Story Circle Network and National Association of Memoir Writers.
Special thank you to Wow - Women on Writing for providing this stop on the Times They Were A-Changing blog tour.
For those of you close to me, you've heard all about this story - many of you even there to witness it. It happened on a certain Friday over four weeks ago and I think after a month, I can finally laugh about it. At the time, I had said, "This would be a really funny story - if it wasn't about me." Also, I had added something about how I must have inadvertently made people's work-weeks a little less stressful. I imagined laughter and the response, "No, she didn't! That's too funny!"
It all started on a mild, late September day as I opened the mailbox to find a credit card statement the size and weight of a small brick. "How did we charge this much?" I wondered aloud. Of course, when I thought about it, we had gone on vacation back in August. I ripped into the envelope and the list of charges uncoiled to the floor. Charge by charge, item by item, I relived our week in North Carolina until I arrived at the very bottom of the list and ... "Hello - What's this?"
It's just like the movie, Identity Thief - I was sure of it! I was a victim of fraud. There was a charge for 200 big ones for a local sports bar/eatery - on a Thursday, no less - when I was at the soccer field and my husband was away for his job in New York! I called the credit card company in a panic and canceled the card on the spot. Then, I called my husband at work and told him the whole story to which he said, "Oh yeah. I can't talk now - there's an emergency that just came up."
"I'm not going there," I plainly stated to my friends when they suggested we celebrate my birthday at the very same establishment that allegedly made a fraudulent charge on my now canceled card. "Maybe the identity thief is in there now," I thought aloud as we approached the front door of the very place I said I wasn't interested in going. Oh, the "identity thief" was there alright. (Have you figured it out yet? Because there was a point when my stomach literally dropped as it all clicked in my head.)
That awkward moment when ... you realize that you had canceled your own surprise party. When the hostess told us to head to the private party room upstairs, I froze. What I had I done? There, at the top of the steps, was a crowd of people I knew very well and they were all yelling, "Surprise!" And, there was my "identity thief" looking nothing like the character played by Melissa McCarthy. "Are you surprised?" my husband greeted me. "It was you?" I asked. "You charged our credit card with this party when you know I take care of the bills?"
"You idiot!" I yelled completely dropping the ball on what should have been words of gratitude. Of course, I recovered quickly by apologizing for such an outburst and by covering with many, many kinder words of love. In the end, the party was a great success. And, I was a bit of a celebrity as everyone from the manager to the waitstaff came out to meet the woman "who canceled her own party".
Here I am capturing my "Identity thief"!
Like I said in the beginning, "This would be a really funny story if it wasn't about me."
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Today, Sara Connell author of Bringing in Finn shares how her mother's decision in a time of great suffering in Sara's life bonded them together in the most amazing and joy-filled way. Grab a tissue, this post will touch your heart.
“Family bonding in difficult times”
The day my husband Bill and I found out we were likely going to lose our twin boys late in our pregnancy, I twisted on the hospital bed and Bill called my mother. Orderlies wheeled me into an operating room for a last-ditch attempt to stop my early labor. Our twins were delivered later that night, stillborn.
The first thing I saw when I came out of the anesthesia and was out of recovery was my husband and, standing next to him, my mother. She stayed with us for forty-eight hours in the hospital room, at one point even curling herself into the narrow bed with me as I shook and sobbed with grief.
A few months later, while visiting my parents I stopped to cry in the hallway. My mother heard me and came to stand next to me. She lifted my face so I would have to look at her eyes and said, “There will be joy after this pain”. I stared at her, knowing she believed the words she was speaking and yet unable to fathom a way that they possibly could be true.
After the twins’ death and the ensuing two years of IVF, miscarriage, and failure, my body hurt from the grief and I struggled daily with the pull to shut down the desires of my heart. During this time my mother continued to visit and call. When she asked, I would confess to feeling despair and name the nasty fears my mind offered daily: that I was broken, that I was a failure, that I would never have children. The fear and despair was real, but also, in large part thanks to my mother’s presence and unwavering faith in Life being good, I also felt hope.
Neither she nor I had any idea of the experience that awaited us three years from that moment in the hallway, one that started with a wild idea on the part of my mother—an offer to be the surrogate for our child at the age of sixty. We did not know that this seemingly crazy plan would bring a gorgeous, healthy boy—the child my husband and I wanted so badly—into the world, or that she would make a little bit of history in the process (my mother became one of the first grandmother surrogates and the oldest woman in Illinois to give birth).
I’ve heard of Sufi masters who reach a point at which they no longer differentiate between suffering and joy—emotion is just energy- no one more desirable than the other. I am not enlightened in this way. If given a choice, I will take joy over suffering every time. But I will not deny the gifts of the love I have received in the moments of crisis. During those seven years of trying and “suffering,” friends brought over homemade soup and held our hands, doctors tried new solutions, fertility researchers pioneered advancements, and one night, a week after our miscarriage, my husband got onstage with a band he’d reassembled from his early post-college days and played me a song that further opened my heart.
And my mother. My mother and I evolved from a polite call once a week to two women who held hands and jumped together into unfamiliar territory. While there we found courage and honesty; started to be able to speak the hardest truths while looking in each other’s eyes.
These demonstrations of love are real enough to me that I can concede a fraction to what those sufi mystics claim. The moment in the hallway, my husband’s voice going hoarse from singing, the collective whallop of cheering from the delivery team the night we heard our son’s first cry- one that signaled the completion of and made worth it the anguish of the past seven years- are some of the moments of the greatest aliveness I have ever tasted.
Read more about Sara Connell's "incredibly moving story of surrogacy and how it created a bond like no other between a mother and daughter" in her book, Bringing in Finn.
In February 2011, 61-year-old Kristine Casey delivered the greatest gift of all to her daughter, Sara Connell: Sara’s son, Finnean. At that moment, Kristine—the gestational carrier of Sara and her husband Bill’s child—became the oldest woman ever to give birth in Chicago. Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story tells this modern family’s remarkable surrogacy story.
After trying to conceive naturally without success, Sara and her husband Bill dedicated years to a variety of fertility treatments—but after Sara lost a third pregnancy (including the loss of twins at twenty-two weeks), they started to give up their hope. When Kristine offered to be their surrogate, they were shocked; but Kristine was clear that helping Sara become a mother felt like a calling, something she felt inspired to do.
In this achingly honest memoir, Connell recounts the tragedy and heartbreak of losing pregnancies; the process of opening her heart and mind to the idea of her sixty-one-year-old mother carrying her child for her; and the profound bond that blossomed between mother and daughter as a result of their unique experience together.
Bringing in Finn is the true story of a couple who wanted nothing more than to have a family and a mother who would do anything for her daughter. After unsuccessfully trying to conceive naturally, years of fertility treatments, miscarriage and a late term loss of twins, Sara and Bill Connell were emotionally and financially depleted and at a loss as to how they could have a family. When Sara’s mother Kristine offered to be their surrogate, the three embark on the journey that would culminate in Finnean’s miraculous birth and complete a transformation of their at-one-time strained mother-daughter relationship.
Paperback: 336 Pages
Publisher: Seal Press (October 8, 2013)
Twitter hashtag: #BIFinn
Bringing in Finn is available as a print and e- book at Amazon.
More about Sara Connell:
Sara Connell is an author, speaker, and life coach with a private practice in Chicago. She has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR, The View, FOX News andKatie Couric. Sara's writing has been featured in: The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, Psychobabble, Evolving Your Spirit, and Mindful Metropolis magazines. Her first book, Bringing in Finn; an Extraordinary Surrogacy Story (Sept 4, 2012 Seal Press), was nominated for Book of the Year 2012 by Ellemagazine.