Claudia Madelyn Rutheford hated her name. Not even as a child did she once remember liking her name—especially when the other kids teased her by calling her a “clod” which she never thought was even remotely clever or funny in spite of their hysterics. By the time she was old enough to imagine such things, she wished her mother had been more adventurous and named her “Madison” or “Collette” or “Jenna”—anything but the names of her great grandmother and grandmother respectively. Nothing against them—she just happened to hate being named after them. So, by the time she was in high school, she went by C.M., and no one (other than her mother) had better call her anything else because she would respectfully but commandingly correct them. And by the time she was in college, she dropped the periods and went only by CM.
Matthew Preston, his 6 ft. frame slumped over his laptop set up on the glass coffee table in the living room of his expensive two bedroom apartment, inquired as he typed furiously, “So, did you like it or not, CM?”
“Geez, Matt, I don’t know. What’s that about anyway? Normally I would’ve really liked it,” she answered with irritation in her voice at her own indecisiveness. She squeezed the aromatic spicy flavored tea from the bag into her mug. “Did you get any honey?” she asked, looking in the cupboard.
“Forgot,” he answered as he continued to work. “Sugar’s there, though.”
“Matt—you know I’d rather have honey, darn it,” she said with muted ire as she grabbed the box of sugar and inadvertently slammed the cupboard shut. “I didn’t mean to,” she offered looking back at him before he could react further than the uplifted eyebrows she received.
“What’s buggin’ you anyway? It’s just another movie, right?” he asked, closing his laptop and stretching his muscular arms over his head while pulling his long legs out from under the coffee table so he could climb up onto the couch.
“You know it’s my job,” she said with a hint of disgust at his apparent lack of understanding. She sat down at the dining table and stared into her mug, stirring abstractedly.
Matt stood up and walked over to the table and sat down. “Hey, I know you take your work very seriously—and rightfully so—but c’mon—you can’t possibly expect to give your positive approval or your succinct rejection to every movie you see, can you?”
She noted his sincere logic as well as his genuine concern, and she wondered why in the world she didn’t love him madly and passionately—like in the movies, she thought in the brief span of a moment. He was gorgeous. And built. His above the collar length bleached blonde hair with its medium brown roots only accentuated his deep blue eyes and the natural color of his skin that always looked tan. He was a bona fide head turner.
“Well, can you?” he asked quietly, reaching over to place his hand over her free hand resting on the table.
“No. No, I suppose not,” she answered finally, trying to sound resigned to the fact and muster a smile.
He stood up and walked to the refrigerator, bending down to examine its contents. He pulled out a carton of pulpy Minute Maid orange juice and drained it, tossing it in the garbage under the sink.
“Let me take you out to dinner. We’ll go to ‘Carrera’s’.”
“You just want to get me drunk on Margaritas and take advantage of me,” she said, turning in her chair to face him.
“Yeah,” he said, grinning broadly with his incredibly charming smile lighting up his face. “I do.”
“I do appreciate your honesty, believe it or not,” she laughed.
“That’s one thing I’ve always liked about you, CM. You want it straight.”
“And don’t forget that either.”
“I don’t plan on it.”
CM knew she was a cheap drunk. Two Margaritas and she would be flying high. Any more than that and she’d be sicker than a dog. It was also no secret to her that alcohol made it easier for her to enjoy sleeping with Matt—her conscience succumbed easily in that fluid state of mind allowing her to participate with less guilt in today’s version of love—or whatever it was supposed to be. At times she wished she knew. There was a place in her, now buried deeply, that resented Matt for his initial seduction of her, although she couldn’t deny her own participation in it. Granted by that time she’d already squandered her virginity on her first boyfriend after literally years of doing everything else but “that”. She remembered at her weaker moments the absolute terror she’d felt wondering if she’d gotten pregnant and never feeling more relieved than when her period showed up on time. Eventually her boyfriend became too frustrated to continue without the real thing, and after four years of sharing everything they had to give, they broke up. CM was nearly 20, and Jason had been 22.
Inevitably every time she slept with Matt, at some point during their time together, these memories surfaced to haunt her. Why couldn’t she just forget? Why couldn’t she just give in to all of it—after all, she was a very independent, self-sufficient 21st century woman. Matt almost begged her to move in with him, stopping just short of seeming desperate she thought. As much as she figured he was capable of loving someone, he loved her. He certainly thought he did because he never failed to tell her—especially, she never failed to notice, after enjoying her body. What was it with men anyway? Why did sex have to be involved in their ability to express “love”? She doubted sincerely that there were actually very many men who could really love a woman. Jason had adored her until they finally went “all the way”. Then that act became the focus of his life with her, and when she refused to do it anymore, it led to their split. By that time she was ready for the end. She felt used, and she regretted how their relationship had deteriorated to that point. She decided she had no idea what love was supposed to be or how it was supposed to feel because with all of her heart she’d thought she had loved Jason. Now with Matt she didn’t even pretend to love him. She really liked him—no doubt about that. She might even love him in a way—but not the way every girl hopes to love a man, not the way you figure your knees might actually give out on you when he gives you that certain look, no—not the way the motion pictures made you feel when you viewed Hollywood’s version of true romance on the screen. Momentarily heart stopping, silent gasping, sheer knock you to your knees romance. Did it even exist in real life? She ignored the fact that the first time she saw Matt that’s exactly what had happened to her, and she also chose to forget the certain look Matt could give her that caused a meltdown inside of her.
“What’re you thinkin’ about?” Matt asked, propping himself up on an elbow and gazing down at her.
Self-consciously, she discreetly pulled the sheet up higher. “Just taking inventory and making sure I’m almost ready to drive home.”
“Why do you always do that?” he asked quietly.
“Do what?” she asked with some surprise, afraid for a moment that he was reading her thoughts.
“Pull the sheet up to make sure you’re covered. Don’t you think it’s a little late for that?” He said it gently and with no sarcasm. “I love your body, CM. You’re beautiful. Have I done anything to make you feel awkward around me after all this time?”
She hoped he couldn’t see her blush in the soft low light of the antique lamp on the nightstand table next to his side of the bed. She faltered momentarily.
“Why don’t you stay tonight? I know you don’t like to give me any indication that you might actually want to live with me—don’t worry: message received.” He looked back for a moment at the red light on the digital clock. “It’s after midnight. I have to get up at five—you’ll have plenty of time to go home and change.”
He wasn’t pressing her, she could sense that. He was being kind, and perhaps he just wanted to spend the night with her, next to her, her thoughts random.
“You know me, Matt. I can’t. I—not tonight.” She slipped out of bed grabbing her clothes off the carpet to conceal most of herself as she always did and headed to his shower.
He lay back down in silent frustration and said nothing.
A few minutes later she emerged from the master bath with her naturally curly, just above the shoulder length brown hair flat on the top of her head with wet ringlets hanging down beside her face.
“Good night, Matt,” she said quietly.
“Yeah. Drive carefully,” he replied, resignation in his voice.
She felt the usual guilt driving home. She never experienced sex without guilt. Plus she felt guilty about leaving Matt there alone. He accommodated her every need for independence, never pushed her or their relationship into going somewhere she didn’t want to go—he was a strong yet tender guy, but . . . but what? “What?!” she screamed in the confines of her car, slapping the steering wheel with her left palm. The short drive home came to an end without any questions answered, as usual, and sometimes she felt like she absolutely hated herself for the decisions she’d made all through her life that left her in such a state of confusion and disarray. Maybe she should just end her relationship with Matt. She’d miss him for sure—he was a wonderful guy! But she couldn’t really make him happy the way she was, and so consequently he couldn’t make her happy either. Once inside the door she dropped her purse on the floor and shut the door harder than she intended. “How many times have I had this conversation?” she asked herself. “I’m sick of it.” Without warning the tears came in a rush. “Just sick of it,” she sobbed.
“Hey, CM! Your boyfriend’s here,” Char whispered excitedly. “Listen, if you ever dump him, let me know, alright? Talk about drop dead gorgeous!”
“Matt’s here?” CM asked in surprise, standing in her cubicle.
Char gestured secretively with her hand concealed by her body to a spot behind her across the room.
When she looked around Char, Matt caught her eye and put up his hand in a discreet wave. CM smiled nervously. What’s he doing here? she almost said aloud.
“Hi, Matt. What’s up?”
“Do you have a minute? I brought you a mocha,” he said reaching down to the table behind him and producing the coffee.
“Uh, sure. Thanks,” she replied. “I think the interview room is open. C’mon.”
She led the way to a small room with a round table and four maple captain’s chairs. He sat down at the table and she joined him.
“Normally I wouldn’t bother you at work. I’m sorry for that, but I don’t have a lot of time.”
“That’s okay. What’s going on?” she asked with concern, sipping the mocha and noticing how uncharacteristically serious he was. “Is something wrong?”
“Well, no—and yes, in a way. Look, CM, I’m leaving for California. This afternoon. I got a job offer that, well, it’s an incredible offer.” He looked down briefly, then continued. “To be honest with you, my first inclination was to ask you to go with me,” he said, looking directly into her subdued blue eyes. “But I knew that wouldn’t fly with you. And because of that fact, I decided to take the transfer and head back home. The main reason I’m here, CM, is to tell you I’ve been falling in love with you, but I know you don’t feel the same. It’s been fairly difficult these past couple months to carry on the way it’s always been with us, so I figured I’d just leave you alone and maybe you can find someone who floats your boat or whatever. Or maybe you won’t have to be encumbered with a ‘relationship’ at all. Anyway, I figured I’d just head out and spend a week with my folks and then get started on my new job.”
CM hated the tears flooding her eyes were making it impossible to speak. There seemed to be a plug in her throat, and she knew if she dared to pull it a dam of emotion would leave her in an ocean of weeping. So she simply nodded.
Sweet Release (Romance/Women's Fiction)
Father, thank you for your provision of words, your encouragement when there is no other, your faithfulness when mine is vacant and hollow. I'm desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I can now officially say I'm so glad I "joined" Facebook. Last Friday I mentioned one of my best friends when I was growing up. Just yesterday she found me on Facebook, and we've had quite a reunion reliving those days of old. What a treat as our lives intersect so many years later.
Turns out our memories have been passing through our thoughts simultaneously, so we both know the Lord has something special in mind for our new time together.
I've heard so many people say they found old friends through the Facebook experience, and now I've experienced it for myself. I don't spend a lot of time there, and I have the blog "wired" into my profile page, but this is a reward I really didn't expect.
Neither one of us were Christians in our youth, and now we are. Our friendship covered many years--those formative times when awkwardness and silliness go hand in hand, when laughing and crying are the norms, when horses and boys get equal time . . .
Thank you, Lord, for bringing Debbie back into my life. May we make the most of this renewed friendship. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Deterioration: a lowering in quality, character, or value; degeneration
It can always be argued that this great nation of the United States of America has suffered from the indulgences of excess. Robust vehicles of all kinds, huge theater screens for televisions, cell phones which can practically manufacture books and can contact the world, estates for homes, surgeries which give women breasts a man daydreams about, machines and formulas which make teeth whiter than sheet lightning, injections and creams to plump lips like Thanksgiving turkeys, corporate packages of multi-millions of dollars for exiting executives who ruined their companies. Yeah, we’ve gone over the top in different areas. Some of us.
But the real deterioration comes from within a soul. It produces an insatiable appetite for the addition of “things” which do not contribute to the betterment of an individual. Before you start shaking your head in agreement with all of the things I listed above, I want to state flat out that I think it’s positively wonderful for a person to be able to buy the vehicle, cell phone, home, or TV of his/her choice—providing he/she can pay for it. I do not have a problem with people enjoying their lives.
Do you know that missionaries to the Philippines have stated that it doesn’t matter how “poor” a family is, they have a television hooked up in their tiny tin roof dwellings? People like to have “things”. Tell me you don’t.
So what makes a soul “deteriorate”? The three letter word which few acknowledge as being at the root of pure “excess”. The “S” word. The thing that not one of us can escape because it’s virtually running through the bloodstream of our human nature. You know the word, the condition, the irreversible taunt which keeps us from seeking true relief from deterioration. Sin.
What quickens deterioration is the failure to admit our innate slavery to this condition. By dressing it up to look pretty, by calling it by new names to disguise its pull and degradation, by lying about its source, its demands, its critical importance, and its ultimate cure, sin is rationalized and justified.
One of the gravest concerns for the people of this nation right now is that some of them can no longer look straight into the eyes of sin and recognize it. Instead they point to those who have more than they do and rail against “excess” when in fact they are being covetous. Jealous because they do not have. They look straight at an administration and ignore the barbaric extermination of little babies in the womb, and instead of calling it infanticide which is its truthful name, they label it with “rights” for women to choose to murder their own children. When a nation calls murder “a woman’s right to choose”, there is advanced deterioration.
To avoid or refuse to look at sin and to mislabel it with policies and programs and bail-outs and packages to reward the fallen state of mankind for his misguided, degenerate, irresponsible, harmful, and sinful ways is to set mankind above the God of the universe. To declare our ways higher than His ways instead of vice versa. To state that regardless of what is inherently and eternally wrong, we do not acknowledge the ways of our Creator because we have a better plan—well . . . the only possibility is further deterioration and degeneration.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight.
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine
and champions at mixing drinks,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
but deny justice to the innocent.
Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw
and as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
so their roots will decay
and their flowers blow away like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty
and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.
Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against His own people;
His hand is raised and He strikes them down.
The mountains shake,
And the dead bodies are like refuse in the streets.
Isaiah 5:20-25 (NIV)
One day it will come. The quicker we turn away from Truth, the quicker we will suffer the consequences of eternal punishment. It won’t be from “excess”. It will be for ignoring Sin and the One who came to save us from its deathlike grip.
Jesus, keep me safe in your nail-scarred hands where my name is engraved on your palms along with those who have turned to you and acknowledged and surrendered to your excruciating sacrifice on our behalves. Thank you, Jesus, for rescuing me from the hold of sin which had me bound. Thank you, Jesus, for your divine and perfect love for me in spite of me. I love you, Lord.
Mary DeMuth has written six books, three non-fiction parenting books and three novels. Daisy Chain is her third novel, the first in the Defiance Texas Trilogy.
If you know anything about Mary, you know she is one of the hardest working writers out there in the publishing industry. Always searching for new ways to market her work, so dedicated to the craft of writing that she formed her own mentoring business for writers, called upon to teach at conferences, and devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, Mary remains humble, transparent, and enthusiastic. She’s a treasure.
Daisy Marie Chance is Jed Pepper’s best friend and future husband according to Daisy. Sharing the special bonds of young kids who come from hard home situations, these two often congregate at an abandoned church at the edge of the woods away from their neighborhood, sitting in their own pew, and talking about the here and now and the past and future. Normally, Jed walks Daisy home from their private meetings, but time is running late for Jed, and fearing his father’s physical reprimands for being tardy to dinner, he insists Daisy can walk herself home this time. Her final words to him were, “You’ll regret it.” And he did.
The story opens with Jed Pepper returning to the memory and the place 30 years later and quickly we are immersed in the very day Daisy disappears in Defiance, Texas. From Jed’s perspective, that of a 14 year old son of a preacher who beats his family into submission, we see the fun-loving, sunny-haired, wise beyond her years Daisy who dares Jed to get outside his comfort zone, who tells him his family “ain’t normal”, and who cares for her single mother who neglects her and lives a sordid lifestyle according to Jed’s father who condemns just about everyone but himself.
Having read and reviewed The Killing Tree by Rachel Keener, it’s kind of surprising to meet Jed’s father, Pastor Hap (Happy) Pepper who is very similar to the rigid Father Heron in that story. More concerned about appearances than he is about his family’s needs, Hap makes spectacles of sinners from the pulpit of his church and rules his family with his iron fist, slapping, degrading, humiliating, berating, and beating them if they contest him, disobey him, or if he construes any of their words or actions as a challenge to his authority. Jed, his little sister Sissy, and Mama live in palpable fear of Hap’s wrath which explodes like a tight coiled spring. The classic hypocrite who leads by legalism and assertions of power, he never apologizes for his punishing ways.
The search for the missing Daisy adds extra sorrows to the young Jed Pepper who blames himself for leaving her to rush home to avoid his father’s belt. Mixed in with the underlying fears about what could’ve happened to Daisy is finding out the strangeness of Daisy’s absent father turning out to be his mother’s old high school boyfriend and another source of contention between his father and mother. As the first segment of this trilogy heads toward its conclusion, we sense that Jed’s mama is becoming more defiant toward Hap and suffering more of her crippling headaches in addition to his abuse.
Layered within this woeful tale is the natural love children desire to feel for their parents regardless of ill treatment, how they hope for protection and security even when it’s rarely provided. The training to honor one’s parents collides with a tyrannical, volcanic father who spouts righteousness like a weapon but fails to deliver any of it. Hiding in the background is the coming of age from boy to young man and what it takes to accomplish this in a dysfunctional and hypocritical setting that instills a false picture of a mean, out of control, and incapable God. Throughout we witness a David and Goliath struggle building which culminates near the end.
For those writers who want to read a novel which is a clinic for application of the rules of writing, Daisy Chain should be your choice. Mary DeMuth demonstrates all of them in an illustrative, carefully written story with harsh and lovely characters, well-defined and easily conjured up in the mind’s eye. Vivid images, clever metaphors, active verbs—they’re all there in abundance—capturing the mindset of a distraught 14 year old boy and his lost love. (I couldn’t help but think of a young Mary as Daisy.)
I do have to say I did not like the finish of this first installment in the trilogy. Too abrupt and inconclusive. An author risks a setup when they begin a series, a technique that alienates readers like me. This novel didn’t feel like a setup to the one to follow as it inched its way to a realistic conclusion, but it didn’t really end this story. Instead it took us back to page one.
Readers will quickly turn the pages of this novel, meeting the best and worst Defiance, Texas, has to offer and be anxious (if not slightly miffed) to proceed to the next chapter in the next segment which is included before the study questions in this book. The story, the characters, the searing heat and sweat and bare feet . . . they’ll stay with you, lingering in your thoughts as you wait for the next book.
Father, I lift up the lovely Mary to you, the one who’s endured such pain and triumphed in you. Please continue to build her up, wrap your loving, protective arms around her, fill her with the stories you have for her to tell, and let her experience the divine expression of your love in abundance. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Looking forward to: Johnny Depp’s new film about John Dillinger due out in July
Favorite colors: Black, yellow
Names of my remaining yet to be published novels: Sweet Release, Wounds . . . and Healings, Destination, The Fixer, and Breath of Life
I might go again to the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal this year . . .
I was elected Senior Class Secretary at my high school.
In the senior class skit, I played Agent 99 to Jed Neiderer’s Maxwell Smart. He was perfect.
I graduated at the age of 17 and didn’t turn 18 until I attended the U.
Some authors are very accommodating and interested in what their fans have to say about their books. Others basically ignore them.
I’m very sequential in my learning style but totally random when cleaning.
God, thank you for my life. Thank you for the opportunity to breathe in and out and remain and enjoy, to suffer, to cry, to learn, to fail, to groan under the weight of it all so I can appreciate when you lift me up to the high places. I love you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Okay, some of it is unintentional. Nevertheless, inexcusable.
Because what it’s really saying is this: Why can’t others write as good as me? Why can’t others strive for excellence like I do? Why can’t others produce the kind of effort that I extend to make my writing as perfect as I can? Why can’t readers discern the pulp from the profound and appreciate the labor it takes to write something as meaningful as I’ve written? Why can’t publishers be more discerning and only give us books that rise above the mundane and common?
Authors are a unique bunch. You do get the humble with the haughty, that’s for sure. The hacks with the heroic. The daring and the delicious. The dark and the didactic.
I can’t tell you how many times newly introduced novelists expound on how it takes an excellent story, well-written, to break through the publishing curtain. What is it they’ve written? Chick-lit or a mystery? Of course this is fostered by the common bonds of expression they parrot from the pros. And, granted, what are agents and editors going to say other than “Write the best story you can write because only the best will be published”? Even though, it’s all a matter of opinion.
I apologize to keep harping on the point in different ways, but don’t you think it’s a valid point? Next thing we’ll be hearing from these writers is that Jesus (when He walked the earth) was a snob, too, because . . . Huh? Because they always use the example of God demanding the most excellent craftsmen to build the temple of God. And my response to that is always: Yeah, and who gave those craftsmen their excellence? And who is supposed to receive the praise and glory for all excellence, good, and perfection? Not man.
The craft, the desire to seek after excellence in anything, to pursue the heights of creativity—it’s all God inspired, acknowledged or not. When “not”, it’s a matter of the flesh, the exclamation of the ego seeking to glorify itself, to point to “me” and “my” achievements. Even in Christians.
And I think it’s a shame. I really do.
I think sometimes we get confused about what is pleasing to God. We forget all about the obedience factor, the effort it sometimes takes to actually do the task set before us by the living God, the One who takes us to any of those heights we often seek for ourselves instead of for Him. We justify our efforts, our labors, our exquisite pain in creating our masterpieces and rail against those little novels which seem to pop up like so many kernels of corn in microwave popcorn. How dare those authors be mentioned with the likes of the designated authors of the classics—take your pick of which author you would proclaim. How weak the general public reader must be to pick up those rags to read and then to share how much they love the stories!
CBA fiction takes a lot of hits, and as much as I’ve read in “Christian fiction” I can say with some authority that there are some poorly written novels in the bunch. In fact, I’ve reviewed a couple here. And there are some magnificent authors in the overall genre as I’ve also reviewed here. The point is—again—for every single novel that I thought was not so good, there were others who truly loved it.
When we belittle and insult the craft of other authors, it speaks volumes about how we view ourselves. And the noise I hear is obnoxious snobbery.
Father, help each one of us to do what you have for us to do to the best of those abilities that you’ve given us as an offering to you. Let us be about our own individual business and not try to determine what you’ve designed for others. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
I took ballet lessons from pre-school age through the sixth grade. I quit because I didn’t think I could keep up the heavy schedule in junior high school. My teacher tried to convince me to stay, and it made my mother sad when I quit.
When I was in grade school, I used to direct “recitals” in my back yard.
I still remember my best friend Debbie’s dogs: a black Lab named Sarge and a little Beagle named Brownie. Following them were her Dad’s two German Shorthair bird hunting dogs, Maggie and her daughter Kate. My first dog’s name was Tag.
I used to get to go with Debbie and her parents on weekend camping trips to eastern Washington. They had a trailer her dad pulled with a Lincoln Continental. Her mom baked wonderful pies in the oven of that trailer. In the summer heat we used to get our beach towels wet with cold water, wring them out and use them for blankets at night. One of the major treats we enjoyed at the café at Park Lake was a huge fountain coke for 30 cents.
I remember crying all through Kindergarten and sneaking home during recess in the first grade. My mom marched me right back to school. Shortly after that I met Debbie and school became bearable.
Father, thank you for best friends throughout my life. And, Jesus, you’re the best friend who’s been there all along, even when I didn’t know it. I love you, Lord.
The royal lineage of any country, I suspect, has its despicable characters, and most likely the Duke of Devonshire is just one of many and not the worst. But he certainly ranks up there with the most disgusting, at least according to his portrayal in “The Duchess” played splendidly or sordidly by Ralph Fiennes.
His sole purpose in selecting the much younger (not yet 18) Georgianna for his bride in his obvious middle age is because he needs a male heir to continue his family’s control of Devonshire, and apparently he needs a fresh womb since none of his paramours have given him a son. No wonder these people died of syphilis.
Georgianna’s mother is nearly as detestable as the Duke in basically setting up her daughter for a life of misery to an unemotional, lustful man with decidedly cold and uncaring bedroom skills as he thrusts himself (literally) upon his virginal bride with only one goal in mind: producing a son. After two daughters, his displeasure with his wife is palpable, and his rampant liaisons with any available female have turned the marriage into a nightmare of humiliation and estrangement for the Duchess (Keira Knightley).
When the Duke beds her only friend, she demands the woman be removed from their estate to no avail. They sit three together with the other woman between them at the massive table and remain in that grouping for the rest of Georgianna’s life.
The harsh discovery of his affair with her friend leads to an ugly encounter where the Duke rapes his wife, and lo and behold, a son is born from that travesty.
When the Duchess seeks to find some small piece of happiness for herself, the Duke quashes all attempts at a happy departure from his control, and she has no real choice other than to comply.
Ralph Fiennes was so perfect in this role, I hated him. It’s hard to believe any woman wouldn’t. The boredom, self-importance, self-indulgence, and sense of superiority emanated so convincingly from the man, there was only one scene toward the end where he was able to muster any pittance of understanding of his limited emotional capabilities or shred of self-awareness. His mostly understated dreariness was very effective.
Keira Knightley, though believable in this role, was not exceptional until a scene where she was required by her husband to do the unthinkable since he would have made good on his threats if she didn’t. She captured the gut-wrenching scene with perfection.
Based on a true story, the quoted facts in the final scenes made it all the more mournful. Most of you know I’m not fond of historicals and period pieces (unless of course they involve “Pirates of the Caribbean”!), but I’ve grown rather fond of watching Keira Knightley grow in her acting skills. This particular film didn’t require much of her, but she did enough with the role to make it real.
The self-indulgence of the ruling class, the privileges and demands of the royal lines, and the necessity for producing male heirs to uphold their status reminded me vaguely of the ancient Jewish women who were diminished and somewhat ostracized when they remained barren. The importance and pressure upon the female’s capability to produce a male child is laughable today since it is known the male determines the sex of his children.
The solitary focus on the life of the publicly popular and fashionable Duchess of Devonshire makes an interesting film and successfully shows that privilege and position do very little for determining contentment and happiness.
Father, we are all just people. Help each one of your people to never forget this. You are no respecter of persons. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Making them one way or another . . . it’s what we do. A shout or a whisper, we make statements. In our dress, our speech, our faith, our toys, our attitudes, our efforts, our habits, our writing . . . Loud and clear.
Once in awhile we make statements we don’t mean. We lack the understanding of the message we send. Perhaps we don’t consider what we’re doing as actually sending a message. But it does. Sometimes people just don’t hear us either because our statement is unclear or it is unseen. Many of our statements get ignored, but some invoke commentary or even retaliation.
Those boots I spoke of in last week’s Friday Five always got a reaction because where they stopped nobody knew. So invariably they asked if those boots went all the way up. It was fun for me at the time to answer yes. I was definitely making a statement with those boots even if I wasn’t quite sure if the reactions to my statement were what I intended.
I don’t leave the house without makeup. I don’t wear a lot of it, but I don’t leave home without it. Nor do I leave home without cologne or perfume. And although the cost of good cologne or perfume is excessive, it’s worth it to me to smell good. When people inhale during a hug or when you’re close to them in conversation and they tell you how wonderful you smell, ask what scent you’re wearing, or say they love that fragrance, believe me, it’s worth it.
Considering yourself as a statement-maker, what is it you want to say?
There are a couple of statements I want to make. Number one, I want people to sense the Spirit of God in me whether or not they can identify Him. Number two, I want people to feel we’re on equal footing as human beings—at least from my end.
In my writing there are several statements I want to make. And if I fail to make those, I’ve failed to write what I mean. My objective is to demonstrate the world, show its conduct, philosophy, “excuses”. I counter that with the character of Christ in a character who, hopefully, is not the stereotypical Christian. Within that objective I hope to portray the struggles, questions, intentions—good and bad—we all face, live, and experience in our lives. My experience grants me “permission” to make these statements because in fact I have been there, done that. Thirty years in the world gives you a certain savvy those in the church cannot know and often discount or judge harshly while dallying in the midst of those same worldly activities and desires.
So, did you know you’re making a statement everyday? What exactly is it?
Father, make your statement through me. You speak the language of love, mercy, conviction, and discipline, always motivated by the love and truth that you are. Help me to be who you want me to be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I come from a long line of coffee drinkers, but I could never develop a taste for it. I love the smell of it brewing, but I can’t stand the taste. I don’t like mocha-flavored anything because I hate the taste of coffee.
Many people (my husband included) swoon and drool over dark chocolate. I’d rather not eat chocolate if dark is all that is available. So I buy him dark chocolates, and then I don’t eat his candy.
I’d rather eat chocolate chip cookie dough without the chocolate chips because most people make the cookies with semi-sweet chocolate—I like the dough better than the cooked cookie.
If Pepsi is the only cola offered, I won’t drink it. I’m a Coca Cola girl all the way.
Is there any real reason to eat beets or parsnips?
I truly do detest bathroom humor. None of it is even remotely funny to me.
If we go to a movie, I’ll never order popcorn. Not really fond of it.
I find myself getting really annoyed with typos and other word errors in (royalty) published books. It’s unprofessional.
Thank you, Lord, for the wonders of your love. Help me to be kind, real, and always obedient to you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
If you’re looking for perspective, it’s everywhere. The problem in looking for it in some places is you get a skewed version. Really skewed. And wrong. Terribly wrong.
If you think you can gain true perspective from the opinions of mankind, you can’t. You can often gain insights to the rights and wrongs of our existence. You can even find agreement with your research and pursuits of certain subjects, ideas, philosophies, or religions. And you’ll definitely find those who disagree with your own.
So . . . let’s pick the obvious: publishing. The current perspective, if you read/hear the professionals’ opinions, tells you that the selection for new authors is going to be tightened up because of the shrinking economy and publishing cutbacks. The emphasis on platform continues to play a major part in that selection, and the ability and ideas to effectively market your work really matter.
Gone away (if it existed in its purest form in today’s publishing houses) is the idea that an author can just hide out and be left alone to write their novels. Some are afforded more privacy than others based on their fame and fortune no doubt. The new guy or gal on the block, however, better present an impressive résumé and the moxie (and the money) to make people want to buy their product. I’ll insert right here that there are always exceptions to the rule, but this is a snapshot of what the professionals insist is necessary to land a publishing contract in today’s competitive market.
Plus, they plead with writers to attend at least one writer’s conference, but the two or three major conferences which most of them attend cost several hundred or a couple thousand dollars depending upon how far away from them you live. Save your money and budget for them. Uh-huh. But many writers do just that. And some of them land contracts.
Answer the following questions before you analyze your own perspective:
1.Is this writing gig what God has for me to do?
2.Regardless of anything or anyone else, am I willing to do this for God alone?
3.Is royalty publishing the only acceptable goal?
4.Do I line up with the opinions and processes of the publishing industry?
5.Am I willing to persevere for as long as it takes and jump threw all the hoops to get there?
Perspectives often change with knowledge. They really change for the better with spiritual insight. Wisdom is acquired through a series of revelations, failures, prayer, and . . . the addition of years. Yeah, sorry, but age can bring out the best in people. Some people. Those who choose to grow in the Lord and in His mighty power.
So, has your perspective changed?
Father, I desperately want your perspective in all matters. Matters of the heart, mind, soul, and body. Your perspective for me is all that counts. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
"But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways. Therefore He sent the hand that wrote the inscription.
"This is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN
"This is what those words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom at the age of 62.
Aahhh, Valentine’s Day. A day many men dread. And on which many more women become disappointed. Why? Because the expression of love sometimes has little to do with the depth of the emotion of love. And these are the two areas of love which are featured on Valentine’s Day.
There’s nothing “wrong” with Valentine’s Day because it’s supposed to celebrate the noble state of love. Biblical definitions of love make it untenable for humans because when humans become acquainted with love, it’s all about them. It becomes physical and emotional but rarely sacrificial.
Women pout if the objects of their affections are unimaginative, try to ignore the festivities of the Day, give the same ol’, same ol’ gifts as per the media suggestions. Rarely do one male and one female “celebrate” the Day with the same mind. Men have little time to shop for something “special” to tantalize their current squeezes or their mates in order to hop into bed for the proverbial red hot sex which is expected and promoted by all the hype.
All of which has little to do with the four letter word of “love”.
The definition(s) of Love? God is Love. Period. And within that tiny sentence is an explosion of meanings and realities that we humans cannot grasp, understand, or even imitate for the most part. We screwed up our part in it. Flat out blew it. And we’ve been playing catch-up ever since. “Playing” being the operative word.
And I think that’s one possible reason why, in general, men don’t particularly like Valentine’s Day. Because it reminds them of their inadequacies in loving. It taunts them for not understanding the needs of a woman, for the barrier that exists between the sexes, great or small, but visible and coherent even if unable to articulate.
I also think women tend to love the Day because it celebrates what they always hope to have, to experience, to breathe in, to know in its fullness. Yet it eludes them. The need for touch without consummation, the desire to be the only one their man thinks is beautiful, to be celebrated for their perfection which they are sorely short on in every sense of the word. The Day allows them the tease of “feeling” special. That one time a year.
And here’s where we falter. “Feeling” love and living love can be at opposite ends of love’s spectrum at times. While “feeling” love is wonderful, necessary, and sensuous with a mate, it plays only an innocuous part of the whole experience. It’s the “doing” love that becomes the challenge with the curves and twists and injuries life throws at us. I don’t need to diagram love for you. Read 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, if you need real definition.
Remember this, if you have any questions concerning true love: God is Love. And it’s only through Him that you can receive and give the real thing known as Love.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Father, I am still learning. I am still trying. I love you with all my heart even though that heart often pursues you with such lacking. I need you, am desperate for you, and am a constant recipient and student of your love. Teach me more. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The home where I lived from the age of two (I think) through the seventh grade was on Motor Place. The telephone number there was Melrose 2-5077.
My two best friends while I lived there were Debbie Kuhn and Verna Sorlie. Debbie, like me, loved horses. Verna, unlike me at the time, loved cats. Debbie and I got to go to the dude ranch together for a week our first year in the summer after fifth grade and then for two weeks the next two years. Verna and I used to build blanket tents in her small backyard or mine and read novels or write stories during the summertime.
The names of the horses I rode for those three years at the dude ranch were Minnie-Ha-Ha, Dude, and Friday. Friday was a young horse and he managed to get me off once earning me a “Bite the Dust Club” ribbon.
When I was working to save money for my trip to Europe after my first and last year at the University of Washington, I bought some boots I saw first in “Vogue” or “Harper’s Bazarre” magazine. They were black calfskin and went all the way up to the top of my thighs. All the way. I loved those boots.
My first horse’s name was Honora. She was an 18 year old broodmare who had produced stakes winners (quality Thoroughbreds) after having a distinguished racing career in California. The vet at the breeding farm where we worked was going to put her down because she hadn’t had a foal in four or five years. We rescued her, and eventually she had two more colts. She lived to be almost 32 years old.
Father, thank you for my life. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you most of all for finding me in the mess I made of it. I love you, Jesus. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Specific jobs require specific talents, education, experience, and savvy. Or not. Some jobs provide training and require no previous experience. Most of the people who do the hiring for any place of employment have personal preferences for the kind or type of person they hire—even though the current laws might forbid them from actually exercising those preferences.
So. How ‘bout publishing? Well, there are ever decreasing numbers of actual employees in the publishing ranks, but there are ever increasing numbers of applicants seeking to be contracted. Since there have always been a limited number of contracts available for those who write novels, and since some of those available contracts have been reduced due to survival efforts during the receding economy, the competition stiffens.
And rest assured when the competition stiffens, the superfluous platitudes expand.
Publishing might be the only business where competition does little to determine quality. Geez, I can hear the professionals squawking from such a brash statement—if they ever read this blog. Here’s the thing. Competition might keep the UNqualified out of print by a royalty publisher, but it doesn’t guarantee that the selected authors represent the best writers. However, it might mean they are the best, too. Do you see what I’m saying?
Who’s to say? Because if the measuring stick is copies sold, then William P. Young is far and away the best writer in Christian fiction today, and he would be the first to tell you he isn’t. Karen Kingsbury would be the queen of the realm, and although she writes stories which deeply touch the target market of women, many females on the fringe of that focus group would prefer Robert Liparulo’s or Ted Dekker’s fiction to Karen’s.
Where creativity is displayed and a response is required to establish its worth, the variables to that response are astronomical. It’s far easier to agree—but not indisputably—upon what is terrible than it is to agree upon what is “good”. In publishing the ability to be marketable to an often misunderstood reading public now defines “greatness” in some professional circles. But the twofold cries of agents and editors are, “Write a ‘great’ story and prepare to market it.” If the marketing team can’t catch the vision for how to market the story, forget it. “Great” story or not, it’s flushed.
The writer’s conundrum is always deciphering what it is these publishing professionals want, and the even larger question: Do I as a writer agree with the demand(s) by definition and requirement? Some writers truly believe the publishing professionals are infallible. And those writers will be far more likely to produce the fiction those professionals are seeking because they believe in the system and recognize a contract as affirmation of their abilities.
Who’s to say if the system is working? There are certainly enough novels out there to meet the demands of readers. Some readers get the short shrift in their particular preferred categories such as adult fantasy, but some of that audience has shied away from looking toward Christian fiction for it because it’s been so absent from the shelves. Many of those readers turn to the secular/general market where they can find the category in abundance. There’s certainly no shortage of Amish, historical, category romance, romantic suspense, and chick-lit which pretty much covers the target market.
Quality, quantity, “great”, and not so great. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s all out there in the ABA and CBA. And really: who’s to say which is which?
Lord, just keep me true to you in what I write, in what I say, and in what I do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The Killing Tree is a story about people I have never known—so far outside my world and, yes, probably my comfort zone. Rachel Keener portrays the life experience of her heroine, Mercy Heron, steeped in and revolving around a jarring fear of her grandfather, a church elder known to her only as Father Heron. Her grandmother, Mama Rutha, is considered to be a loon, and the town both pities and admires Father Heron for keeping her as his wife.
Mercy Heron is the illegitimate offspring of Father Heron’s and Mama Rutha’s daughter Mary. Mercy knows only that her mother died giving birth to her outside on the hard dirt because Father Heron wouldn’t let her in the house when she returned pregnant to the family home after running off with a man she loved. Mercy also learns that she isn’t loved by her grandfather, and that her grandmother tries to make up for what he fails to give her, but Mama Rutha’s strange ways also lack important provisions such as necessary meals and clean clothes.
The only real friend young Mercy has is Della DeMar, the flirty redhead who isn’t afraid to bed down whatever boy she’s currently attracted to. When she’s finished with him, she dyes her hair a new color. Mercy is the flip side of her seductive friend—shy, low key, and innocent—until one evening she goes with Della to “the docks” where everyone escapes to party. She meets a young man called “Trout” who works in the tomato fields as a migrant worker. The negative nickname assigned to his kind is “mater migrant”, and he has the red-stained hands to prove it. Only he doesn’t seem ashamed about it and instead alludes to the freedom he finds in doing the work.
The Killing Tree is a story of poverty, emotional and physical isolation and imprisonment, the denial of love, the blooming of love, the desolation of a treasured peace found in the only love Mercy has ever experienced and absorbed into her being. It tells of a cruel pseudo Christianity without love, forgiveness, or kindness. It takes the reader into a combo of backwoods mountain lore mixed with Christian blessings, and the only reality of faith comes toward the end when the pastor of the small Crooktop Mountain Church explains the unburdening of repentance and the instant forgiveness of Jesus, only to be overridden by Father Heron’s desire to cast his granddaughter into the total immersion of humiliation.
Rachel Keener is true to her characters throughout the novel, only hinting at a stab of regret for the malevolent and unbending Father Heron. She establishes a real voice for these unusual people in her story who take the reader through the gamut of young—and sometimes unreal—love while exposing the wicked tendencies of those who won’t yield control of their own lives, let alone the lives of others. The story twists toward the end, taking the experience into full blown sorrow, hopelessness vying with hidden hope, brief healing, and a strange justice determined at the designated killing tree. The story leaves the reader with unresolved circumstances and the longing for real mercy and truth to come to young Mercy’s life.
Written in the language of the people in this lifestyle, displaying a stark beauty at times and an ugly despair at others, this novel is both lovely and pitiful. And definitely not for everyone. If you wince at words such as “bitch” or “whore” and their derivatives and implications, “slut”, etc., you might be offended at the realism in this story. Published by the Center Street division of Hachette Book Group, it doesn’t answer up to certain CBA house requirements. The Killing Tree is a fascinating and well-written story but emotionally and spiritually painful to read.
Father, I ask that you walk with Rachel through the reservoir of your provision, that you bless her obvious talent, that you encourage her in all she does to honor you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
(This novel will be available in March and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com.)
Breeds of writers, I’m talking about. The old guard who have sold lots and lots of novels have a right to preach about what works . . . for them. If they still pull in their share of the market, their words on writing give credence to their topics of choice in the writing world. Best to listen to what they have to say because they’ve earned respect.
The new breed of writers often take themselves too seriously, eager to share what they’ve learned which often amounts to a chorus of repeated phrases, rules, “how to get published” instructions written or spoken with confidence and a “better listen to this” attitude.
The wannabes gasp for air as they run to writers’ conferences, spend free time consuming all the writerly blogs, make enthusiastic worshipful comments on those blogs, and work their tales off trying to follow each and every piece of writing advice, often being moved to tears at all the conflicting data. Especially when they read certain best selling novels.
The veteran writers often talk about what just won’t work for the readers, how not to do certain things because they just won’t work for the publishers, and that if you’re willing to follow the rules, persevere, learn from all the rejections, expensive conferences, professional paid critiques/edits, and basically listen to those opinions which matter (and apparently most of those from your reading family and friends don’t), you will eventually be published if you write a splendid story which is also written near perfectly, inferring that each one of their multiple novels has met and exceeded all of those qualifications.
The new breed insists if you just go to conferences, work hard on your craft, follow the rules, and take all valuable rejections, paid edits/critiques, and important opinions as “the law”, you will be published because your story will then be written near perfectly and too good to pass up, inferring that their new novels meet and exceed all of those qualifications.
Well . . . okay. They can all be right about some things and wrong about others. Each one can have an original publishing testimony or not so much, and in each particular case what he/she has to say is valid. For him/her/them. Some things are universal. They apply to all of us. However, “applying to all of us” does not mean some published novels won’t appear with noticeable apparitions to those universal “truths”. Such is life. The wannabes are busy pointing fingers at the “mistakes” while fears accumulate from several rejections of their work, and they find themselves whispering private insults because they are convinced they write better than such and such an author. Hey, it’s true. I’ve been there, much to my shame.
So what about the old and the new? As I stated, there are some universal “truths” involved in writing a novel. Yes, everyone who pens a novel should know how grammar operates, but I bet it would surprise a fair amount of people to learn how many authors use too many commas put in wrong places in their first drafts, don’t spell well, or any other kind of error which those seeking perfection in writing their manuscripts can’t tolerate. And, yes, everyone who authors a novel should know how to tell a story well. But once you forge onward from the basic grammar skills, everything begins to tilt awkwardly toward the subjective mode of definitions.
An accomplished writer can tell us how to write effectively, but if we can’t muster a favorable opinion of what this author has written, what can we gain from that instruction? Mostly we mutter to ourselves, “Well, if that’s what it looks like when it’s done, no thanks.” The more noble among us will counter with the “pick and choose” evaluations, taking what is profitable advice and leaving the rest.
This entire post came to be as a result of reading an opinion stated as fact by an experienced historical novelist who has experienced his/her (not wanting to single out this person) share of commercial success, has an established fan base, teaches/speaks at conferences, and is well respected in the writing community. The opinion was in direct contrast to my particular comment which happened to be my opinion as a voracious reader and as a writer of novels.
Because I am a writer of novels. Not one, not two, but seven. I know: Big Whoop. Two of the seven are self-published, and five lie in stasis. The point is I know exactly what I appreciate in novels, and I write what I like to read. My opinion counts as a reader and as a writer. Not because I’m special or have this inordinate amount of knowledge but simply because my opinion is based on a reality, specific preferences, the observations of weaknesses in some published writings, and the kind of stories which are important to me. And when my opinion clashes with that of another writer or a publishing professional, I suppose because I remain “unpublished” my opinion in some circles is nullified.
Well . . . not here it isn’t. I get the publishing industry as a whole. I do. The so-called target market—the majority of women readers from a certain age group—are being well supplied. And trust me on this point: a fair amount of these women do not need particularly well-written novels. Those super stories, written perfectly, that all the agents, editors, and the old guard and the new breed spout off about. Huh-uh. They just need a story they can relate to in some way, shape, or form. Either suck them in emotionally to another time or place or fill them with a cute romance or broken lives or any situations which touch them as individuals for the moment or for a long time.
So what it really all boils down to—and I mean down to the bare hot pan on the stove beginning to sear and smoke—is this: You are writing first for the agent, then for the editor, and finally for the marketing team. Not for the reader. That’s a stunner. Sometimes these agents, editors, marketing teams don’t get the readers. But as long as the old guard and the new breed keep serving up the same platitudes about how to be published and the publishing professionals keep producing the novels that sell and make a profit—which we know comes from the novels of a mere few—things won’t be changing anytime soon. And what that tells me is my opinion doesn’t count in their world.
God, you lead. I attempt to follow. I desire to follow. I'm desperate for you, Lord. Keep me on the narrow path and help me to follow hard after you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.