Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Change of Schedule

First things first. Because if I don’t do the first things first, I forget to do them at all. (Ummm … is that a sign of age?)

Beginning this month, The Bookshelf will be posted on a bi-monthly basis (every other month). So the next post after this one will be in August, and then every two months after that.

Just for the record, I love putting this newsletter together, and I hope all of you – readers and writers – are enjoying it and benefiting from it. But I’ve had to make some time management decisions, and rid myself of some of the daily clutter that keeps me from doing what all this is about … writing. I’m trying to get back in gear and get some more of the real stuff done. This change makes it possible to continue the newsletter, but still free up some writing time.

That said, I also want to take a moment to thank all of my subscribers for being subscribers. It means a lot to know that you’re interested in the newsletter, and I always welcome your thoughts and comments on each and every article. If you’re not a subscriber, and would like to be notified each time The Bookshelf posts, why not take a moment to subscribe right now?

Next … my website. In case you didn’t get any of the previous desperate messages, I lost my domain name. Please update your records to show my new web address: www.delialatham.net. Share it with all your friends! I’ve also updated my design website, so if you’re an author looking for a bookmark design, pop on over to my design website.

And that brings us to the here and now.

This month we’ll be chatting with award-winning author Cathy Gohlke. I know you’ll enjoy learning a bit about this Christy award winner. My friend Bonnie Winters brings the devotion, and I hope we all take her words to heart. YOU are a treasure … I am a treasure! Let’s not ever forget it. Jennifer AlLee was kind enough to offer the writing tips for this edition. If you write at all - whether your goal is a novel, a poem, or a daily journal entry – you’ll relate to her topic. I’m offering two reviews this month, and will be giving away both of those books in the June drawing. Check out Contest Notes for further information on that.

Until August … be safe, be happy, and be blessed!

Author of Note - Cathy Gohlke

I’m delighted to welcome Christy-award winning author Cathy Gohlke to The Bookshelf. Cathy, I want to talk to you about your books, and I have a few just-for-fun questions, as well. But first, tell us about you. Who is Cathy Gohlke, the gal next door?

I’m a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, and am absolutely in love with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I love writing, reading, walking, and exploring historical sites, ancient cemeteries, and dusty, old attics—lands and things that time forgot. I love worship services, dancing with my husband, singing by campfires with my grown children and friends, group service projects, and riding my bike on flat roads on sunny days!

Sounds like there’s never a dull moment! That said, your literary accomplishments are impressive. (For readers who may not know, the Christy award is The Catherine Marshall Christian Fiction Award of Excellence. It is very highly esteemed in the industry. Winning the award says wonderful things about Cathy’s writing.) Aside from the stories and articles scattered here and there, you have two published books. Tell us a little about them.

William Henry is a Fine Name

(Christy Award 2007)

It is 1859, and thirteen-year-old Robert is torn between loyalty to his abolitionist father and his mother’s slave-holding family.

After his best friend, William Henry, is trapped in a deadly scheme to protect secrets of the Underground Railroad Robert vows never to get involved again. But when he discovers his grandfather’s plan to sell his own son, born of a slave woman, Robert must decide whether to stand by or risk everything to help him escape.

William Henry is a Fine Name is a coming of age story, a tale of friends, a family, and a nation—caught in the chaos of slavery, forced to take a stand.

I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires

(Stand alone sequel to William Henry is a Fine Name)

As Civil War rends his family and the nation, Robert (now seventeen), vows to rescue his estranged mother and the girl he loves from behind enemy lines. Unwittingly entangled in a prison escape, left for dead, and charged as a spy, Robert must forge his anger and shame into a renewed determination to rescue his family.

Confronted by an enemy and a war he no longer understands, Robert finds that the rescue, and its results, may not be up to him.

Both books sound wonderful. How long have you been writing? Was there an “aha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

My first published pieces appeared in my thirties, though I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was five years old.

I remember sitting on the sofa with my younger brother, Danny—our grandmother sandwiched between—as she read aloud “Through the Looking Glass.” I was certain that book was created by magic. The moment she laughed and told me that real people write books, I knew I wanted to grow up to be one of those magic-creating-book-writing people!

Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

Inspiration is in the places I walk, the history books I read, faces I meet in passing strangers on the street. Inspiration comes from prayer and opening my heart and mind to God in times of meditation, Scripture reading and study, newspaper stories, and in the rhythms of life and passing seasons.

Earlier this month I was researching WWI and WWII stories in France, Germany, and Poland. Inspiration was everywhere—in each concentration camp, each cemetery, each cathedral—in the fields and cafes—in gardens and museums—in the Berlin platz where the book burning took place . . .

There is no shortage of inspiration or stories. The challenge is in untangling the threads, and holding tight to the story we are given to write.

It seems to be more of a challenge for some of us than for others! LOL How much time do you spend writing?

As much as I can, and that is never enough. Life is busy on every front for me—just as it is for everyone. I try to schedule my writing early in the day, after a morning walk when I feel fresh and energized. I’m most productive when not distracted by those siren calls from laundry, dirty dishes, overgrown shrubbery, etc., etc.—so sometimes that means writing late at night. Writing in blocks of time is important for me. Knowing I have a definite span of scheduled time frees my mind and helps me gain momentum.

What’s your best piece of advice for new and aspiring writers?

Read all you can, write all you can, love all you can, live all you can, pray all you can, and ask the Lord what He would have you do with all that unique and valuable experience. Surrender your project, yourself and the outcome of your dreams to Him. Don’t flinch when the going gets tough.

Excellent advice, and well said. Give us one writing tip that you personally find invaluable.

A newspaper editor once told me to take note of the stories that are making national and international news, then search for those stories on a local level and write them well. It was probably the best writing advice I’ve ever received. I’ve tailored that advice to write historical fiction: Take the stories that are making national and international news, find a similar theme/story in history, then write it well, revealing God’s purpose.

Another piece of good advice!

Now for that off-the-cuff stuff I mentioned. What books are on your bedside table right now?

Hmm. I’m researching WWI for my wip—so, this list is a bit “war heavy.”

Testament of Youth—by Vera Brittain

Gentlemen Volunteers—The Story of the American Ambulance Drivers in the Great War August 1914 – September 1918—by Arlen J. Hansen

The Last Fighting Tommy—The Life of Harry Patch, the Only Surviving Veteran of the Trenches—by Harry Patch with Richard Van Emden

Blood in the Argonne—The ‘Lost Battalion’ of World War I—by Alan D. Gaff

Scars Upon My Heart—Women’s Poetry and Verse of the First World War—selected by Catherine Reilly

What word annoys you more than any other?

Regurgitate—at least for today.

Not a pleasant word at any time, is it? What “super power” would you like to borrow for awhile?

Ahh—while we’re wishing—I’d love the ability to work and concentrate for days on end without sleep or food. And let’s add jets to my arms to shear those overgrown shrubs!

Share a grammatical pet peeve…go ahead, sound off.

When to use “who” and when to use “whom.” There are days when that distinction is perfectly clear and there are days when I’m ready to toss them both into the air and see which one lands on paper.

Sounds like we have a couple things in common…. Thank you for hanging out at The Bookshelf for awhile, Cathy! Where can my readers find your books?

They are available in or can be ordered by any major bookstore or online through Amazon, CBD, etc.

Thanks again, and we hope you sell a million!

My pleasure, Delia! Blessings today for you and all your readers!

About Cathy:

Cathy Gohlke’s first novel, William Henry is a Fine Name, won the Christy Award. Her second novel, I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, was listed by Library Journal as one of their picks for “Best of 2008” and is a finalist for the Christy Award 2009. Cathy has worked as a school librarian, a drama director for adults and young people, and as a director of children’s and education ministries. She lives with her husband in Elkton, Maryland.

Visit Cathy's Website

Notes of Devotion - Bonnie Winters

I Am a Treasure

by Bonnie Winters

Deuteronomy 26:16-18 "The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with your soul. You have declared this day that the Lord is you God and that you will walk in His ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands, and laws, and that you will obey him. And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possessions as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.

"One man's trash is another man's treasure." ~ Author Unknown

My daughter, sister-in-law and I spent Memorial Day cleaning my mother-in-law's front porch. Ugh - what a dusty job as we sneezed our way through piles of old cardboard boxes containing fabric, craft supplies and yarn.

My first inclination was to cart the filthy cardboard boxes and their contents to my house where I could toss them in the dumpster without offending Mom. But as we began pawing through them, I discovered many real treasures!

One box contained pre-cut quilt squares, just waiting to be stitched together. We also found a few already stitched into pretty pillow tops that just needed stuffing. Of course, they needed to be washed to get rid of the slight musty smell, but otherwise they were beautiful. Someone went to a lot of trouble to cut and sew them all together.

Another box held pre-printed fabric panels with designs perfect for making baby quilts for gifts. Again, they had a slight musty smell from being packed away for so long, but the cardboard box had protected them from dust bunnies and other unwanted critters. As I examined and refolded each piece, my imagination whirled with pictures of appreciative church moms cuddling their newborns in these hand-crafted quilts.

On and on the afternoon went as we found boxes of stuff - from whole skeins of yarn to small balled up remnants, rolls of quilt batting and even several unfinished quilt tops that were pinned together with batting, ready to be stitched. My daughter found one she loved, asking me to please finish and launder it for her bed.

We never did get to the cupboard that held lengths of quilt fabric and the boxes under the game shelf. That's a job for July 4th when we gather there again!

But the point is that the boxes we did manage to sort through held things that were treasures to Mom. As her arthritis became worse, more items were moved to the enclosed porch because she needed space for her motorized wheelchair, hospital bed and clothing downstairs. She asked us to sort through the boxes hoping her treasures would be passed down to people who would also value them.

While we can't keep everything for lack of storage space, many of her treasures will be valued and used up eventually - not just thrown in the dumpster.

God created man in His image, originally intending him to maintain the world He created as well as to enjoy His presence forever. Then sin came along and separated man from God. It caused man's heart to become hidden and dirty, much like Mom's treasures which were boxed up and moved to the front porch where they were hidden from view and growing musty.

But God isn't content to let His treasures disintegrate with age or disuse. He constantly goes through the dusty, musty piles of refuse, looking for His treasures so He can wash them and restore them to places of use and honor in His kingdom. He turns the musty, cut up fabric of our lives into beautiful quilts and then uses them to wrap others in His warmth.

How often Satan's trash becomes God's treasure! Consider a person, like the woman taken in the act of adultery. Those around her wanted to trash her life - to stone her because of her sin. But Jesus forgave her and restored her sense of value and worth. Without His restorative power in our lives, where would we have ended up eternally?

Thank You Father, for searching through the dusty, musty, castoff fabric of our lives to find the treasures within us. As You clean us up and stitch our hearts together anew, help us to share our trash-to-treasure story with others so they might know Your redeeming love. Amen.

About Bonnie:

Bonnie Winters is a pastor's wife and mother of three wonderful grown kids. They have given her five wonderful grandkids. Besides visiting with the kids, Bonnie enjoys writing Christian fiction, articles and devotionals for Christian online and print periodicals. Her novel, Daughter of Lot, is available through all major online booksellers.

Notes on Writing - Jennifer AlLee

Conquering the Blank Screen

by Jennifer AlLee

It used to be that a blank sheet of paper was a writer’s worst nightmare. But not anymore. Now, we fear the blank screen.

So what’s a writer to do when a new idea is pounding at the inside of his brain, begging to come out, but he doesn’t know how to start the thing? Here are a few ideas:

Write the title first.

Quite often, assigning a title to a project will make it feel more real. Think of something snappy, something that will grab people’s attention. Try to capture the tone of your project in a few words. Once you’ve got it, type it at the top of your first page, in capital letters, and follow it with your by-line. Under that write Chapter 1. Now keep on writing.

Flesh out your characters.

Have you ever started working on a story only to stop short when you realize you don’t know all the characters’ names? Talk about a creativity killer. Before you write the first word of your first chapter, take some time to get to know your characters. What are their names? Who are they? What do they do for a living? What do they look like? Write a short paragraph about each one. This doesn't need to be pretty writing. No one will see these paragraphs but you. Not only will this exercise help you nail down necessary facts about your characters, but you’ll feel those creative juices start flowing. By the time you’re done, your fingers will be itching to start the actual story.

Examine the setting.

Sometimes, setting is just as important as the characters. Sometimes, it almost becomes a character of its own. Is your story set in a unique place? Is the location pivotal to the development of your characters? If so, you may want to start there.

Write anything.

It’s been said time and again by lots of people smarter than me: You’ve got to write the first draft before you can move on to the second. In other words, sometimes you’ve just got to write something, even if it’s drivel, in order to move the story along. You can fix it later. So if you’re stuck staring at a blank page, wondering how to get things moving along, just write something. One of the blessings of the home computer is how easy it is to edit and revise a manuscript. After all, that's what God created the delete key for.

Jennifer AlLee lived the first ten years of her life on the second floor of a mortuary in the heart of Hollywood, California. She thinks this explains her twisted sense of humor. Her publishing credits include skits, activity pages, and over one hundred contributions to Concordia Publishing House’s popular “My Devotions” series. Her next novel, The Pastor’s Wife, releases Spring 2010 from Abingdon Press. Jennifer resides in southern Nevada with her husband and teenage son.

Find out more about Jennifer and her upcoming novel:



Notes in Review

Stealing Home

by Allison Pittman

It’s 1905 in a sleepy, one-horse town in Missouri, where all has remained the same for a good long while. But everything changes with the arrival of Donald “Duke” Dennison, the Chicago Cubs’ star player, who’s hiding out in Picksville while he sobers up.

Ellie Jane Voyant is the sheriff’s eccentric daughter. She’s tucked herself away behind the train station’s ticket window and buried the crushing pain of childhood taunts and adult snobbery. Ned Clovis, the deaf feed store clerk, has loved Ellie Jane for years, but keeps his feelings to himself and simply watches her from a distance. Morris Bennett, a twelve-year-old Negro boy with a burning desire to shake the dust of Picksville off his shoes, winds in and out of the lives of Picksville residents – young and old, rich and poor, black and white.

The actions of the little town’s celebrity guest start a ripple effect that will impact every resident. Duke’s a known womanizer, boarding in Ellie Jane’s home. Ned, who greatly admires the newcomer and harbors a lifelong passion for baseball, must either step up to the plate or concede the play for the girl. On a more public level, Duke discovers Morris’ natural-born skill with a baseball, and determines to give the boy a chance at success, despite daunting barriers of racial discrimination and family dysfunction.

Duke. Ellie Jane. Ned. Morris. Four isolated hearts, four hidden passions. Just when it seems there might be a happy ending for them all, tragedy strikes hard and fast. Can love and faith bring them through?

Allison Pittman hits one out of the park with Stealing Home. Absolutely stunning imagery, characters that live and breathe, and incredible internalization. A powerful, touching tale. Though baseball plays a large part in the storyline, this book is not about that sport. It’s about sin and redemption. It’s an example of love and faith, secrets and lies, weakness and strength. It’s finding the “sweet spot” - standing alone at the batter’s plate while the crowd roars in the background, every eye is fixed on you, and a whole team of opponents is out to bring you down.

Stealing Home throws some unexpected curve balls, and keeps the bases loaded at all times.

Great job, Ms. Pittman!

Candy-Coated Secrets

by Cynthia Hickey

Summer Meadows doesn’t seek out trouble, but it seems to find her at every turn.

It’s not Summer’s fault when a carnival train crashes in front of her house. And what Christian-minded, kind-hearted young woman wouldn’t agree to help out in the midst of the chaos? But only Summer is likely to take on single-handedly escorting a cantankerous elephant to the fairgrounds. A full mile. On foot.

The elephant’s trainer is nowhere to be found when Summer finally arrives, towing her over-sized charge. By now, having been sprayed with the contents of the animal’s nose and repeatedly pushed and shoved by its massive trunk, our heroine is more than a little ill-tempered. She sets off in search of the missing woman, but finds instead a dead body hanging in a shower. It’s plainly murder, and the feisty candy-store owner can’t be persuaded to stay out of it.

What follows is a carnival house of fun and folly when wanna-be sleuth Summer, Aunt Eunice, and even boyfriend Ethan – to the extreme frustration of Summer’s cousin, the chief of police – poke into shadowy corners of a third-rate carnival/circus seeking answers that become more elusive with every clue.

Candy-Coated Secrets is number two in the Summer Meadows Mystery collection from Heartsong Presents Mysteries. Author Cynthia Hickey delivers a well-written tale packed plumb full of family fun, quirky humor, a few moments of truly scary suspense, and even some porch swing romancin’. Truly enjoyable. Y’all won’t wanta miss this little candy-coated confection!

Contest Notes

The June drawing will be for two books: Stealing Home by Allison Pittman, AND Candy-Coated Secrets by Cynthia Hickey. See my reviews of these books in this month’s Bookshelf.

The May winner of Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace is

Betty Cash

Congratulations, Betty!

Betty will also receive a small pink tote from Avon.

You don’t need to “do” anything to enter the newsletter drawing each month. If you are subscribed to The Bookshelf, you will be automatically entered.

Here’s how to subscribe: Use the icon on my website’s Home page, or the link in the Navbar (top of page) on that site, which will put you on my e-mailing list. If you want Bookshelf articles to come right to your inbox each month instead of receiving just a link, use the FeedBlitz link in the top left corner of this page in addition to the manual icon on my website.)

Note: The books given away in these contests are in excellent condition, but have been read once for review purposes. They are handled carefully and you will receive them in great condition.