Thursday, November 6, 2008

God's Voice in the Falling Leaves

I love Autumn! There’s something so definitive about the changes taking place all around us.

Our beautiful maple trees, in whose elegant green frocks I delighted not so long ago, now stand regal and unashamed in their near nakedness. The lawn is brown and crunchy underfoot. Crisp winds shake the bare branches, stubbornly ridding them of even the most tenacious of leaves.

Unlike the trees, I venture outside bundled into more and heavier clothing. Even inside, I no longer leave my feet bare. Instead, I’ve pulled out all the warm, wooly socks and cozies I can find. The beds snuggle under heavier blankets and quilts. The fireplace has become the most popular place to read and converse.

While I’m not a huge fan of cold weather, there’s no denying the renewal that takes place in my heart and mind each Fall. It’s as if, as the leaves drift to the ground and the greens die out to be replaced by shades of brown and gold, red and purple and orange, my soul also undergoes a kind of rebirth. There’s a kind of dying out of old worries and concerns, a shedding of stale thoughts and mindsets, and a gradual mental and spiritual rebirth.

I know God gives us the seasons in order to replenish and cultivate the flora and fauna of the earth, to recycle them, if you will. But I wonder if perhaps He realized from the very beginning that humans would need a change of surrounding in order to refresh and renew them…body, soul and mind.

Somehow I think He did. I believe the seasons – while certainly necessary to the agricultural health of the soil, the air, the plants and trees – are another special gift to His people…a

reawakening of the curious, adventurous inner child in each of us. “Look…something’s different. Go see what it’s all about. Discover the unknown wonders within this new terrain. Come outside and play!” Or perhaps…”You’ve been so busy. Your soul needs refreshing. See…Winter approaches, and it’s cold outside. Come inside…get cozy and warm beside the fire…spend a moment with me. Rest your body; renew your mind; revive your spirit.”

I encourage each of you to take a moment right now. Look out your window or step outside and breathe in the Autumn air.

Then listen closely. What is God saying to you?

In the spirit of mental and spiritual refreshment, this month's Bookshelf is packed with goodies from a variety of amazing writers. Chris Miller's study on the names of God, started way back in July, continues now and into 2009. My own

devotion is an extra morsel from the Word of God this month. Michelle Griep's hilarious answers to the all-too-often dry, staid author interview will have you smiling for hours. Our review was written by Sarah Varland - an insightful look into the latest offering from Maureen Lang. And of course, if you love really helptul tips on writing, be sure to take a look at Karen Wiesner's discussion this month.

Enjoy the newsletter - and feel free to leave your comments on any articles that particularly touch you in any way. We love to know we're being read! :)

Happy Fall! Happy Thanksgiving!

Notes of Devotion - Christine Miller

"The Lord Will Provide"

A true and powerful story of God's provision is found in Genesis 22:1-14. God comes to Abraham and asks him to take his only son, Isaac, and to be prepared to sacrifice his son on a mountain to which the Lord will direct him. Talk about faith and trust!

Scripture says nothing about the night preceding this journey for Abraham. Did he question God? Did he plead under the stars? Did he wrestle with God in prayer? The answer would appear to be "none of the above." He obediently saddled up his donkey, took two servants with him, along with the fire and the knife, and placed the wood for the sacrifice on the back of his son. Then comes THE QUESTION from Isaac: “The fire and the wood are here. But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham's answer: "God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."

Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son. And yet God knew all along that He Himself would provide the sacrifice, a ram caught by its horns in a thicket.

As I look back at my life, I can see God's hand guiding and providing every step of the way. Past, present and future – I know that "my God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Christine Miller lives in Bakersfield, California, with her husband of 40 years. She and Ken are blessed by two wonderful children, a teriffic son in-law and daughter in-law and four "fantabulous" grandchildren!

Christine considers Cursillo—a renewal Movement which she feels changed her life—to be her major ministry. “I love the in-depth study of God's Word and leading others concerning its life application—through both teaching and writing,” she says.

Author of Note - Michelle Griep

A "quirky" look at Michelle Griep, author of Gallimore

Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?

I always wanted to be Lt. Uhura on Star Trek because her uniform is pretty sweet, she gets to wear a funky ear piece, and she never had a bad hair day in her life.

If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question -- what question would you ask of whom?

I’d ask Mr. Rogers about the whole sweater and sneaker attire…was that really your idea or your mother’s?

Some out there in writing land have strange rituals. Share yours.

It involves blood letting and small mammals, which I’m pretty sure is illegal in most of the contiguous United States. Good thing I live in the state of confusion (sorry, couldn’t resist).

If you could change something in any novel, what would you change about it and why?

I’ll be stepping on some toes here, but personally I’d cut a dinner party or two out of Sense & Sensibility.

What crayon in the box describes you on a good day? Bad day? Which one do you aspire to be?

I’m a marker girl myself, so I’m not really up on crayon colors.

Pick one…..Pink iguana, purple cow, periwinkle giraffe. Which one and why? Can be negative or positive.

Not touching that with a ten-foot pole.

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.

Classic: Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries. (from “Monte Python and the Holy Grail”)

Most Recent: The sun stretched its rays further and stronger, like a thousand lances determined to strike a strong blow and leave a red mark. (from In the Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett)

If you were assured of writing a best-seller, what genre would it be? Give us a sliver of information, a characteristic or glimpse of a scene.

Time travel – I love to throw myself into history, and of course I’m always the heroine. Naturally there’d be an unbelievably muscular hero who’s a warrior with a big heart that’s completely devoted to the heroine. And sorry, Fabio would not be on the cover.

What period of history intrigues you the most?


What would you write if there were no rules or barriers? (epic novels about characters in the Bible, poetry, greeting cards, plays, movies, instruction manuals, etc.)

Whatever I feel like I wanna do! Gosh!

What makes you feel alive?

A cattle prod…don’t ask.

How does something worm its way into your heart? Through tears, truth, humor or other?

Time – I’m a slow learner.

Book, music, person, food you would take with you on a very long trip.

Book: Bible
Person: Jesus

Music: Third Day
Food: Chocolate

Where would you most like to travel – moon, North Pole, deep seas, deserted island, the Holy Land or back to a place from your childhood, somewhere else? – and why.

England. I’m an Anglophile at heart.

Favorite season and why?

Autumn because of the amazing colors and the fact that hot chocolate is once again in season.

Favorite book setting and why?

Jane Eyre when she’s walking the misty moor and Rochester appears on a rearing horse. That’s how God most often works in my life. I’m usually walking around in a daze and bam! He appears.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

Actually, I try hard to ignore compliments and criticism (mean-spirited, anyway) because I don’t want to get a big head, nor do I want to have my heart pierced.

What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?

Eat lots of chocolate, drink lots of coffee, and tell lots of people about Jesus. Wait a minute…I do that anyway.

What is your favorite word?


What word annoys you more than any other?


Superhero you most admire and why?

Underdog. What’s not to love about a pup in a cape?

Super power you'd love to borrow for awhile?


Favorite chore


Anything you'd do but don't because of fear of pain? What is it? Ex. Bungee jumping, sky diving, running with scissors.

Stiletto heels

Grammatical pet peeve…sound off.

Just say no to sentence diagramming.

Societal pet peeve…sound off.

Young men, pull up your pants or spackle that crack. I’ve seen enough boxers in my laundry basket. I do not need to see yours.

Minnesota author, Michelle Griep, has been writing since she first discovered Crayolas and blank wall space. She has homeschooled four children over the past twenty years, and teaches both Civics and Creative Writing for area co-ops. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle's debut historical romance, GALLIMORE, is scheduled for release December 15, 2008. GALLIMORE is made unique by its time travel and paranormal elements. Stay tuned!

Notes on Writing - Karen Wiesner


by Karen Wiesner

A lot of authors ask me how I'm able to accomplish so much in a year. As the author of First Draft In 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel (A Writer's Guide to Cohesive Story Building) from Writer's Digest Books, all my secrets are to be had by all – with step-by-step instructions on how to use my methods yourself. But there's a simple answer (which is short in comparison to my two books, lol) that I love to share with everyone who asks me.

The way I see it, there are several, very distinct stages in writing a book. They include:

1) Brainstorming
2) Outlining
3) Setting the outline aside
4) Writing the story
5) Setting the novel aside
6) Editing and polishing the story

I believe a book is best if you give it time to "breathe" between these stages. Allowing your outlines to sit for a couple of weeks—or even months—before writing the first draft is absolutely essential. The next time you pick up your outline, you’ll have a fresh perspective and will be able to evaluate if it really isas solid as you believed it was when you finished it. Same story after you’ve written the first draft. You can set the book aside for as long as possible, and you’ll have fresh perspective when it’s time to revise. You’ll also see more of those connections that make your story infinitely cohesive. All writers get too close to their outlines or manuscripts to really see them objectively. Distance gives you that objectivity and the ability to read your own work like you’ve never seen it before.

Another reason for setting projects aside between stages is that writers always reach a point where their motivation runs out, and they may simply want to get away from the story as fast as they can. With every single book, I get to rock bottom and I’m convinced that if I ever see the manuscript again, I’ll tear it to shreds. Setting it aside between the various stages the project goes through really gives me back my motivation (and love!) for it in spades. I’m always amazed at how much better I can face the project again when I haven’t seen it for a week or even a month or two. I fall in love with it again. The next stage in the process becomes easier, too, and that helps my writing to be much better.

Also, the more books I have contracted, the more I seem to need these breaks in-between stages. I need breaks even when I feel a project isn’t working. If I put it on a back burner for an extended period of time (as long as I can possibly allow and still meet my deadlines), amazing things happen over the low flame. By the time I return to it, I find myself bursting with new ways to fix the problems I couldn’t resolve when I was too close to, and sick of, the project.

From First Draft To Finished Novel (A Writer's Guide To Cohesive Story Building) goes in-depth about this process, but this is covered in lesser degree in First Draft In 30 Days, too. First Draft has a step-by-step plan for setting project goals and career goals that keep the momentum in your career going indefinitely.

I complete what I need to for each step, and only then move on to something else (whatever's on my annual to-do-list currently available here:

So, for instance, if you look at my WIP page, you’ll see that I've accomplished a considerable amount this year, working in stages, and that I have a lot of other things planned for the rest of the year. I never work on these stages back to back because that would kill my enthusiasm for the project. I love that I’m never doing the same thing, nor am I always working on the same project. I move from one outline, to a different revision, to writing something all together—within a matter of months. I’m always fresh, always enthusiastic, always eager to add another layer to complete a project that I know will be solid and ready to be sent to editors.

I'm extremely disciplined. Everything is planned well in advance, and I keep tweaking my schedule to make it as productive as it possibly can be. For my novels, once a story has been brewing for a considerable amount of time and I've amassed the necessary research, I start with an extremely detailed outline, which is, in essence, the first draft of the book. The outline can take anywhere from a day to a week to work out, depending on the complexity of the book. Because of the way I've worked my schedule, I'm able to set my completed outline aside for a month or more, then come back to it and make sure it's as solid as I thought before I set it aside.

As soon as I’ve let that sit for as long as I possibly can, I can begin writing. In general, I'll write two scene per day (regardless of how long or short - this and the outline itself inevitably prevent burnout and/or writer's block).

My annual goal sheet can then include accurate timetables for researching, writing, and revising outlines and novels. I also use project goal sheets, so I can know down to the day how long it'll take to finish a book. Completing a 100,000 book generally takes me two weeks to a month, usually considerably less.

Once the writing of the book is completed, I again set it aside for a month or so before I begin revisions. Depending on the project, revision amounts to minor editing and polishing. It takes me under a week to complete this.

Not including the setting aside stages between outlining, writing and revising, I can complete a book in about a month.

In this way, I alternate my time between novels in various stages of completion, and I can write at least five novels and quite a few novellas per year. My WIP page really shows you how well this works and how I’m able to juggle all of these stages for multiple projects—and progress steadily. Best of all, with this system, I can always be working at least a year ahead of releases (and, at this time, I am working a year ahead of my releases!). That’s especially helpful is a story doesn’t come as easily as I’d like.

Most people think that I must work 24 hours a day based on my productivity. That's the really amazing part of this whole method. I don't. I don't have to.

Even if you had only 1-2 hours per day to work, with the First Draft method of productivity, you would always be progressing because you're working from a full, scene-by-scene outline. You will never sit down at your computer and not have a clue what to write. You'll have that outline with every single scene detailed and you can start writing immediately. Conceivably, you could finish a novel from outline to revised final draft in 1-2 months. That makes it more than possible for you to write many novels per year and, if you're published, maybe even get about a year ahead of your releases. Talk about never-ending momentum!

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 55 books published in the past 10 years, which have been nominated for and/or won 73 awards, and 15 more titles under contract. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense, paranormal, futuristic, gothic, inspirational, thriller, horror and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles such as First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel (A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building), available from Writer’s Digest Books. For more information about Karen and her work, visit her Web sites at,, and If you would like to receive Karen’s free e-mail newsletter, Karen’s Quill, and become eligible to win her monthly book giveaways, visit or send a blank e-mail to

Notes in Review


by Maureen Lang

Reviewer: Sarah Varland

My Sister Dilly is one of the most realistic looks at faith struggles that I've read in a long time. It is a story of unfathomable depth that has an authenticity about it that makes the reader take a second look at life through the main character's eyes. At the end of the book, I was satisfied with the main character's journey, and how God revealed His love to her though complicated, sometimes unpleasant circumstances.

Hannah Williams does not like to focus on herself. Her whole life is built around her sister Dilly, whom she left behind years ago in Illinois while she went to make a life for herself in California. Dilly has just been released from prison for attempting to kill herself and her child. Hannah is still living in a prison of her own making, tormenting herself with the guilt of not being with her sister when she needed support from someone. Not even the threat of seeing her somewhat legalistic parents and being exposed to their rigid faith can keep Hannah from moving back to Illinois to take care of her sister and leaving her best friend and true love, Mac, in California.

This is a story of love on so many levels. I was struck with the love of Hannah for her sister and the selflessness it takes to put oneself on hold for another person. I enjoyed Maureen Lang's way of pointing out, though, that sometimes we can call something "love" and have good intentions, but not really be doing what is best for the other individual.

The best-friend love Hannah and Mac share is a breathtaking picture of the love that God has for His people. No matter how much we push Him away, He is there. No matter the excuses we give, He offers love anyway. We can do nothing to escape from His steadfast love. Hannah had known of God since her childhood, but didn't realize how personal and relationship oriented our God is until she experience His love through Mac.

This book is for anyone willing to take a fresh look at life, faith, and struggle. My Sister Dilly is a wonderful, entertaining read that will challenge you and uplift you. It is well written and the style is a beautiful reflection of the story itself. I highly recommend it.

An Extra Little Note

In this - the final spot in each month's newsletter - I have promised to start posting original works I have written. I hope to post short stories of fiction most of the time. For some reason, however, I felt like posting the following this month. I don't know why, but God has His reasons. Maybe it's for YOU. Or maybe the reminder is for myself. Either way...I hope you enjoy it.


Psalm 51:10 - Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

My friend had no intention of hurting anybody.

We'll call her Mandy. She's a sweet, warm person with a bubbly personality; she's funny and lovable and kind. This gal wouldn't willingly hurt a fly.

But she has absolutely no control of her tongue.

In the brain, out the mouth—that's Mandy's modus operandi. But sometimes, things she intends to be humorous or teasing inflict hurtful wounds. She's always sincerely repentant, but as most of us have learned from experience, our words can no more be recalled than feathers in the wind.

Last time it happened, Mandy came to me in tears. A simple, thoughtless comment—spoken without malice, but equally without forethought—had caused a deep rift in a valued relationship, and this time her abject apologies were not enough. In fact, her church body would almost certainly lose a beloved member, and Mandy herself would lose a good friend. All because of her unruly tongue.

"What am I going to do about my mouth?" Her anguished gaze pleaded with me to do something, and I longed to repair the damage, but only God could do that.

"Let's pray," I suggested. "Then I want to show you something."

Dutifully, she knelt. We joined hands and prayed a simple prayer while tears raced in endless streams from my friend's eyes. Then I opened my Bible and read with her.

No, I didn't take her to the famous verses about the tongue in James chapter three—though the disciple's words are still true, and I love that passage of scripture. But I knew Mandy had read it before, many times. This wasn't a new problem. She knew her tongue was out of control. She also knew she had been less than successful at taming it.

What she hadn't realized was that the problem lay elsewhere!

We visited the Book of Psalms and discovered a correlation between the heart and the tongue. Over and over again, David linked the two.

Psalm 17:3 (NIV) - Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.

What's this? David all but challenged God to find sin in his mouth ... by examining his heart!

Psalm 19:14 (NIV)- May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Again, David indicates a link between the reflections of his heart and the words he speaks.

The New Testament picked up the same significant message in the very first book.

Matthew 12:34 - You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

Over and over, scripture after scripture, we found the same, straightforward message: If your heart isn't right, your mouth will reveal it. The only way to tame the tongue is to purify the heart.

Finally Mandy worked up a ghost of a smile. "What a relief!" she said. "I was seriously starting to have nightmares about Matthew 5:30."

Puzzled, I flipped open my Bible and looked it up.

(NIV) And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

"Mandy!" I tried not to laugh, but of course it was wasted effort.

"Okay, okay." Mandy still looked a little subdued, but she was smiling, and I was glad to see it. "Just my heart talking again. But me and God are gonna get a handle on that real soon!

"Father, we ask that You purify our hearts today - make them clean and undefiled before You. Your Word says the condition of our hearts is reflected in the words we speak, and we sincerely want to speak only those things that edify and encourage others. Let it not be so that we should hurt or harm one of Your children, nor endanger our own souls, because our tongues are unruly. Create clean hearts and right spirits within us, Father. Make us like You, and the words of our mouths will bring refreshment and joy. We ask it in the precious name of Jesus Christ. Amen.