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The following blog was written several months ago by author Melanie Jeschke. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Melanie M. Jeschke

Melanie M. Jeschke

Jane Austen: A Writer’s Inspiration

For the last few weeks, I’ve been immersed in Jane Austen—a happy occurrence while I’m teaching my favorite class for Marymount University: an upper level literature course on 19th century British women authors. (I especially enjoyed being snowed in this past week so that I could watch a marathon of the BBC Pride & Prejudice mini-series with Colin Firth :). Re-reading Jane Austen’s novels and various biographies has given me some insights to Jane Austen’s writing life, which have inspired me, and I hope will inspire you as well.
Lesson One: Importance of observation
Jane Austen is known as a keen observer of her society and social sphere.  Her wit and ability to catch the nuances in voice of different characters has stood her above most writers for the last two centuries. By modern standards, her life appears rather uneventful, touching only a narrow sphere of society; and yet, she captures so vividly commonplace details, social conventions, settings, conversations, and characters that we are transported easily to her world. Social historians still utilize her writings to learn more about daily life among the gentry class in her era.  As writers, we need to observe and listen—even ordinary life has great wealth for the imagination.
Lesson Two: Keep writing (and revising)!
Jane Austen wrote stories, poems, letters, satires, novels, and even prayers for most of her life. She was only published in the last five years of her short life, the final two of her six novels not appearing until after her early death at 41. Despite rejection of Pride and Prejudice in its first version as First Impressions, she continued writing. Sixteen years later, after Sense and Sensibility finally met with success, Miss Austen revised Pride and Prejudice, which was immediately bought for publication. Her novels have held international acclaim and have never been out of print. Few of us will ever enjoy that kind of success, but we can at least be encouraged not to give up writing–even when faced with rejection.
Lesson Three: Don’t stress about the “fallow” times.
I’m in a fallow time myself now when I’m not producing anything new other than these occasional  blogs, and this unproductive time can be quite frustrating. Besides just the normal busy-ness of a pastor’s wife and mother of a large clan, I’ve taken on a care-taking role for my elderly parents who have moved in with us.  I’m also an English adjunct professor with piles of student papers to grade, and I’m barely getting the edits done for putting my existing books into e-book format. So, for this season in my life, I’m often frustrated (and embarrassed) by my lack of productivity in the writing department. I’ve been encouraged to realize that Jane Austen also had a fallow period. Her first versions ofSense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey were all written in her early twenties. Then on her father’s retirement, the Austen parents and (unmarried) daughters moved to Bath. Jane Austen attempted little writing during this period of her life. Some critics speculate that she was unhappy in Bath. I think the evidence weighs more on her being extremely busy with an active social life and the care of her parents. In any case, after the death of her father and several moves, Jane and her mother and sister Cassandra were able to settle down at last in a lovely home in Chawton on the estate of her older brother Edward. In Chawton, Jane was finally able to get back to writing and revising and from there her six published novels were produced. I don’t believe that Jane’s fallow time was ill-spent. I think her observation skills had been sharpened and she had much more life experience to enrich her stories. This consideration makes me hopeful that my fallow season will not last forever and that perhaps my best writing will come in the not too distant future.
 Lesson Four: Faith can be subtle
Some scholars have actually argued that Jane Austen was devoid of faith as her books bear scant reference to it. Many biographers ignore her religion altogether. In graduate school, I wrote a paper on Jane’s faith and my research revealed that not only was she a devout Christian from a devout family, but that her faith permeates her thinking and writing. Jane Austen is quick to satirize the religion of hypocritical clergymen like Mr. Collins, while her finest characters reflect a strong morality grounded in true religion. Although Jane Austen deliberately kept her religious beliefs from being overt so as not to “preach” to her readers, her Christian world-view informs the strong moral message which under-girds all of her novels.  C.S. Lewis aptly describes the author’s skill of keeping Christianity “latent” in a story. In an August 1939 letter in response to Sister Penelope’s praise of his science fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis writes: “Any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under cover of romance without their knowing it.” (Collected Letter of C.S. Lewis, Vol. II 264).
Like Jane Austen or C.S. Lewis, we Christian fiction writers have the opportunity to tell compelling stories which illustrate spiritual truths— but hopefully, like them, we will do so with subtlety and grace.

Easter Contrasts

Easter is full of contrasts. The horror of Friday and the joy of Sunday. The end that is really the beginning. Defeat turned to victory.Cross

Another contrast exists between Judas Iscariot and Peter. Jesus chose both these men to follow Him. They walked closely with Him for three years, shared good and bad, worked and learned. But their attitudes were as different as day and night.

Judas reportedly filched money from the kitty, yet complained when Mary poured perfume worth more than a year’s salary over Jesus’ head. Peter was not perfect either, wanting to know how many times he had to forgive his brother, resisting the Master’s foot-washing.

But Judas acted and reacted from selfish motives, while Peter really wanted to know Jesus’ heart. In the end, that made all the difference. When Judas realized he had sinned in betraying God’s Son, he committed his most selfish act by taking his own life. Even though this was foretold in prophetic Scripture, he still made that choice. Peter, on the other hand, wept over his denial of Jesus, but sorrowed toward restoration.

Jesus acted in accordance with all He had been teaching the disciples. His words to the women after His resurrection were: “…go, tell the disciples and Peter…” (Mark 16:7 NIV). He sought out Peter specifically and assured him that not only was he forgiven, he was commissioned to carry on his master’s work.

Easter continues to consist of contrasts.Easter chocOur society has stooped to the low of pitting spring colors, chocolate and rabbits with the greatest sacrifice ever offered. Let us concentrate our thoughts on Christ’s love and forgiveness, turning our darkness to light.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).praying_on_bible_red

The Sign of the Dolphin is now available!

THE SIGN OF THE DOLPHIN is the second book in the series that started with THE SCRIBES: A NOVEL ABOUT THE EARLY CHURCH. Set in the year 184 A.D., this book contains a collection of 72 letters which tell the story of a journey through Gaul and Britain. Along the way you will meet fascinating characters like Irenaeus of Lyon and Diognetus and Ulpius Marcellus. You will wrestle with the question of the two versions of the Acts of the Apostles. You will discover the glories of art in Britain under Roman rule, and you will join Marcus the scribe as he seeks to manage an unruly team, deal with an independent young woman, and share the good news with people on the Roman frontier.

Grab a copy on Amazon!

The Sign of the Dolphin cover 2 copy

Official Book Cover!

Peter Rodgers

Peter Rodgers

Peter Rodgers was Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Haven Connecticut, and an Associate Fellow of Timothy Dwight College at Yale University from 1979 until 2003. He holds degrees from Hobart College, General Theological Seminary and Oxford University. Before coming to St. John’s in 1979 he was curate for student ministry at the Round Church in Cambridge, England. He has published several journal articles on the text of the New Testament and is the author of Knowing Jesus (InterVarsity 1982, Forward Movement 1989), and Text and Story (Wipf and Stock, 2011). In his retirement, he teaches New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, Sacramento campus, and is Pastor of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Antelope, CA.

 

 

 

My blog plan is to interview an author the second Tuesday of each month, then review one of his or her books on the following Tuesday. Last week I posted an interview with Murray Pura, and since he has quite a few publishing credits, I decided to post brief reviews on several instead of just one.

Murray Pura

Murray Pura

 

To see Murray’s complete list of published works, visit http://www.murraypura.com/library.htm.

 

The White Birds of Morning, PuraThe first book I read by Murray Pura was The White Birds of Morning (not to be confused with The Wings of Morning, which is another of his titles). White Birds is a fat novel of almost 600 pages with a most intriguing cover.

Summary: Andrew Chornavka is required by the Vatican to once again open up his past from the WWII years and to examine his and his family’s role in war and peace from 1939-1943. See full review on amazon.com/ca

I found this story, told by the lead character in first person, to be intense and haunting. It’s not an easy read to follow Andrew’s memories and the vast cast of characters involved in this riveting saga. The writing is stellar, the characters so real we mourn with/for them, the settings devastatingly authentic. In short, this epic work imprinted on my mind and left me wanting to read the sequel. I see by the book list that there is a previous book called Zo, which I must read. More to follow in future too.

 

Rose of Lancaster CountryMurray’s writing covers many genres, one being Amish fiction. Today I’ll feature The Rose of Lancaster County series. This story was originally released in installments or “volumes,” of which there are ten. It is now available as a complete digital or print book.

This series takes place in 1720s Pennsylvania with Rose Lantz, a quiet, dedicated young woman of the Amish community who is accused of witchcraft. Is her faith strong enough to carry her through this nightmare while her future hangs in the balance?

 

Ashton ParkOne of Murray’s most popular historical fiction series is the Danforths of Lancashire, the first of which is Ashton Park. Written in the style of Downton Abbey, these books offer a host of colorful characters, unique settings and a convincing plot line.

So far there are two sequels to this series: Beneath the Dover Sky and London Dawn. Set in the momentous times from midway through the first world war (1916) to the late 1930s, these stories are as epic as the era they encompass.

The Night of the HawkLet’s switch genres once again. One of my current favorites is The Night of the Hawk, which is also being released in installments. Three volumes are out at present.

A young man of unknown origin and hidden giftings has been called to an adventure that takes him from Skyrl into a world of evil and supernatural conflict.   With the disarmingly beautiful Skaytha at his side, Hawk ventures out to face his destiny, achieve his goal and turn darkness into light.

 

Blue Heaven Romance-1Besides more series, Murray has penned some stand alones and is also “hosting” a series titled Blue Heaven Romance. This is a story scenario he came up with and then recruited other authors to each write a part of the whole. The first volume is pictured at left: Emalyn’s Treasure by Joy Ross Davis.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I hope you broaden your reading horizons by picking up a few of Murray Pura’s books. Whatever your favorite genre, it’s bound to be in his booklist.

Hi Murray. Welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions for my readers and me.

Murray Pura image

Murray Pura was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, just north of the Dakotas and Minnesota. His first novel was released in Toronto in 1988 and was a finalist for the Dartmouth Book Award. Since that time he has published ten more novels, two collections of short stories, and several nonfiction titles including the Zondervan books Rooted and Streams and the Baker devotional Majestic & Wild. He has been a finalist for several awards in the U.S. and Canada and in 2012 won the Word Award of Toronto for Best Historical Novel. Murray lives and writes in southwestern Alberta and is currently published by Barbour, Baker, Harper One, Zondervan, and Harvest House as well as several other publishing houses – he works with publishers in Canada, America, the UK, and Holland. His releases for 2013 include the novels: Ashton Park, The Rose of Lancaster County, A Road Called Love, Seven Oaks, The Painted Sky, Whispers of a New Dawn, Beneath the Dover Sky, The Name of the Hawk, and An Amish Family Christmas. His diverse writing spans many genres including: historical fiction, contemporary fiction, literary fiction, romance, adventure, western, suspense, fantasy, Amish, and inspirational. Most of his work is available in ebook format for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook as well as in paperback.

Janice:  Murray, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What inspired you?
MURRAY: Quite truthfully I wrote my first stories when I was about nine, made covers for them after I stapled the index cards together, and gave them to Mom to read. And I kept doing this right through my teen years, writing my first 100 page novel called The Quiet Man when I was 13 and my first 200 page novel Bravest of the Brave when I was 14. I remember writing a parody of our teachers in high school which went the rounds through all the classes, smuggled under jackets and in lunch bags and backpacks – that I’m alive today and wasn’t expelled or executed is a tribute to the espionage skills of boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18. I was writing before I became a Christian and then I gave it all to God and he has continued to develop that passion in me. I guess just the telling of stories inspired and excited me.

Janice: Did you have a mentor who motivated you to keep working at it?
MURRAY: No, not at all. It was something I felt compelled to do from very early on. I just sat down and began to write. Perhaps favorite authors and ports motivated me the most.

Janice: What genres do you write and why?
MURRAY: I like romance because the love between a man and a woman is one of the most beautiful gifts God has given us. I like historical fiction because I like to go back in the past and tell stories set in different eras and centered around dramatic historical events – I like to ask the reader, “If you had been there then what would you have done?” I like contemporary fiction because I like to tell stories about who we are right now. I like to write inspirational fiction because I believe God and faith enter into everything even if sometimes we don’t see it clearly.

Janice: Where do your ideas come from?
MURRAY: Everyday life, the things you see and experience, travel, relationships, the books you read and the shows you watch, all things feed into the imagination.

Janice: How do you write? Do you have a specific place, time, method? Do you outline your stories?
MURRAY: I write anywhere and anytime using my laptop. I do have a preferred location by a large picture window that looks out over the trees and sky and creek but I can write in other locations. Any time of day works though it’s best to get started in the morning. There is a general outline, things that need to happen, places I need to go, people that need to be around. But I’m well aware that everything can change after you write that first page. Characters do different things than you imagined they would, new characters pop up, some plot ideas don’t work after a while so you jettison them. There’s a kind of ultimate destiny over everything that you plan for, and that’s supposed to rule, but the free will of the characters always brings in new scenes and new plot developments you didn’t count on. That’s when you feel like the story is writing itself and you’re simply the first writer that’s handy to pour itself through onto a WORD doc.

Janice: You’ve written both stand alones and series. Which do you prefer and why?
MURRAY: Series allow you to develop the characters much more and they allow you to tell a story in far more depth, that’s why I prefer series.

Janice:  I assume with so many projects on the go, you must work on multiple stories at the same time. How do you mentally move from one to the next?
MURRAY: You clear the decks between them, leave one where it is and go on to the next without bringing any baggage from the first with you. Generally having a short break between projects helps but once I’m into the new story that’s where my head space is and nowhere else. Giving each project a week to itself also helps.

Janice: What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you? And the most enjoyable?
MURRAY: Hardest: Tell yourself to sit down and get started each day. Most enjoyable: Love scenes.

Janice: Do you edit your own writing or do you have someone else do that?
MURRAY: I edit my own until the editor gets ahold of it at the publisher and starts to cut and paste.

Janice: Social Media have become a fact of life for writers. What kinds do you use and which do you find most effective?
MURRAY: Facebook and Goodreads and interviews on blog sites are the most effective for me. Especially when coupled with regular giveaways.

Janice: I’m sure you do a lot of research for your stories, in all genres. How do you research and how do you know you can trust the accuracy of your sources?
MURRAY: I use my extensive library and online sources. The only way to trust your sources is to choose reputable ones with reputable authors and researchers. In addition you must reference different sources against one another and see how similar the information is. A reference point of three different sources of information on a topic is an absolute minimum.

Janice: Have you ever collaborated on a writing project and if so, what tips do you have from that experience?
MURRAY: On one project my daughter wrote the poetry and I wrote the narrative for the story. It would have been much more challenging if we were working on the narrative simultaneously.

Janice: As busy as you are, how do you balance your writing life with your personal life?
MURRAY: Each day must have its rhythm. Exercise, prayer, spiritual reading, recreational reading, human interaction and relationships, meals. And the writing has to be treated as a job with a set goal of, say, 2000 words a day, 8 to 4 or 9 to 5, something established like that. It’s not a dreamy thing to write. It’s hard work like anything else that matters.

Janice: What are you currently reading? How do you choose books to read? Favorite authors?
MURRAY: I am reading several books at once: Stand Proud by Elmer Kelton; Penguin’s History of the World; The Man Born to be King by Dorothy Sayers; Fighting the Flying Circus by Eddie Rickenbacker. I enjoy diversity and a mix of genres so long as the writing is good. Browsing stores or online helps me find new books. Favorite authors include poets like Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, and John Milton; novelists like Ernest Hemingway and Alan Paton; spiritual writing by C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, and Eugene Peterson.

Janice: What interesting facts did you learn while writing your latest book?
MURRAY: How quickly the legal profession, medical profession, and the universities caved to the Nazi government in Germany from 1933 on. They had virtually no backbone at all. The churches fought back much harder. Yes, a number of them compromised their faith, but quite a number didn’t. They withstood the threats and intimidation much better than most other organized groups.

Janice: Do you have some tips for beginning / emerging writers?
MURRAY: Take every opportunity that comes your way to write. All the time I see people not writing because there’s not enough money in it, they think they don’t have the time, they say they can’t come up with ideas. You should start off by writing for the pleasure of writing. If you can’t find the time or ideas then change vocations. You need to make the time and coax those ideas out of the depths of your mind or you’ll never succeed as a writer.

Janice: Thanks very much for talking with us today. Blessings on your future writing.

Readers, check back next week for an overview of some of Murray Pura’s works.

Check out these sites to learn more about Murray and his writing (his website and Goodreads include extensive information about his titles):
Facebook Author Page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Murray-PuraWriting/125082457581805?ref=hl
Website:  www.murraypura.com
Goodreads Author Page:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4120927.Murray_Pura
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/myrrhh/

Marcus Varitor, Centurion, is book two of Anne Baxter Campbell’s Truth Trilogy, and it’s just recently available for purchase. Check it out on amazon and B&N for either digital or print versions. Marcus Varitor book

Book one, The Roman’s Quest, tells the story of Centurion Julius and his Jewish love, Miriam. Uniting a Roman centurion and a Jewish maiden involves many challenges in the first-century Roman world.

Book two, Marcus Varitor, Centurion, follows one of the characters from book one—Julius’ friend Marcus—and weaves his story.

Decanus Marcus (decanus means “chief of ten”) is a young centurion (a professional officer of the Roman army) who has lived a rather riotous life, but seeks to straighten his course because of the change he sees in his friend Julius as well as the attraction he feels for a young Egyptian slave named Meskhanet. Julius has become a Jewish proselyte and Meskhanet also is trying to understand the ways of Adonai, the One God.

Featuring strongly in this story is the infamous Barabbas, whom we know as the criminal freed instead of Jesus. From the start of the book, we know that Decanus Marcus is committed to capturing and convicting Barabbas, but the insurrectionist is a slippery fish to catch and also has plans for revenge and betrayal. The chase leads from Jerusalem to Rome and back, which offers much fodder for story depth and color.

The plot is further complicated by Marcus’ difficult relationship with his family, Meskhanet’s wish to serve her mistress instead of marrying, Barabbas’ mother and her divided loyalties, and many more fascinating subplots. The storyline is intense and unpredictable, which makes for a gripping read.

The characters are strong but not flawless, a must in order for us to identify with them. Campbell makes us care from the beginning what happens to the characters. Dialogue also plays an important part in giving a story credibility, and the author does this well.

Anne Baxter Campbell

Anne Baxter Campbell

 

Both these books are impeccably researched, from my point of view. Campbell knows the money, the clothing, the lifestyles from Israel to Italy (including Barabbas’ camp), the place of women in society in that day, the relationships between slaves and masters, and many other details we take for granted when we read the story. As in any good historical fiction piece, I learned a lot from the experience and was entertained and inspired at the same time.

I highly recommend this book to readers of historical fiction as well as those who do not normally read in that genre. The writing flows, the stakes are high and the takeaway value is worthwhile.

See more about Anne Baxter Campbell at the following links:

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Anne-Baxter-Campbell/e/B00G7RTTDO

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Anne_Baxter_C

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AnneBaxterCampbellAuthor

 

 

A radio interview is an interesting communication concept, the purpose of which, I surmise, is to promote the interviewee and make that person more visible and approachable to the listeners (and in my case, readers, since I’m an author). G-zone

This morning I participated in my first radio interview. The host is Giovanni Gelati and his show is The G-Zone on Blogtalk Radio. I wanted to be prepared for the interview, but it was off-the-cuff, so that was challenging. Just prior to the start of the interview, I came across a post through International Christian Fiction Writers, written by Ian Acheson of Sydney, Australia titled: Tips for Preparing for a Radio Interview. Ian shared some of the things he’d learned through his first radio interview, and I found them helpful. Take a look at Ian’s article.

As an ordinary person, I often come face to face with my weaknesses, and interacting spontaneously with others is one of these. Interviews are another. Live radio is right up there. But as a Christian, I know that in my weakness, God is strong…so I prayed and after listening to the half-hour interview, I think it went all right. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Take a listen at: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gelatisscoop/2014/04/02/janice-l-dick-author-of-other-side-of-the-river.old radio

 

Thought for the day (which I picked up from my 4-year old grandson): Jump in with both feet and “let’s see what happens, Gramma.”

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