“He shook hands with Hitler, spent more than a month lost at sea, and ended up in a Japanese torture camp. Louis Zamperini has seen many days he’d rather not recall but he’ll never forget the day he met Jesus Christ.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRJrS8Vsn_Y

From his first breath, Louis Zamperini was incorrigible. Anecdotes related by his parents reveal a child who could not be contained or restrained, whose rambunctious endeavors would have certainly killed anyone with less fire in his soul. His antics led him into trouble with peers as well as police, but at the height of his chaotic youthful life, Louis was saved by his brother Pete, who encouraged him to run track.

From that point, Louis Zamperini’s story led to Olympic fame in Berlin in 1936. Unfortunately, his future as an athlete was cut short by the second world war. Future Olympics were put on hold and Louis was recruited into the army air corp where his fearlessness became legend. Then, in 1943, Louis’ plane was shot down over the Pacific, leaving him to survive against unbelievable odds. “If you get me outta this, God,” Louis said, “I’ll serve you forever.”

The stories of life in a POW camp in Japan were nearly enough to make me stop reading (listening), but I persevered because I had to know what happened to Louis. Again, survival was doubtful.

The subsequent retelling of life in postwar America for bruised and battered soldiers is enough to threaten defeat, and nearly did for Louis, if not for the interception of faith. What would happen to Louis’ promise to serve God?

For me, the final chapters of this saga were the most moving. It was as if the Louis of childhood returned in all his boundless energy and passion to change lives as his had been changed. In 1998 Louis carried the Olympic flag to open the Japan-hosted Olympics in Nagano.Unknown-1

I listened to the audio version of this story. Had I been reading it, I might have skipped sections because of the brutality. I’m not sure I could watch the movie, but the trailers are fascinating. I’d recommend this story to anyone interested in the resilience of the spirit of mankind and the power of faith. Unbroken is a story I’ll never forget.







An important aspect of a writer’s trade is that of resource books. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites below. For writing craft topics, pick up as many Writer’s Digest Books as you can get your hands on.







The Craft of Writing:

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (Writer’s Digest Books)

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell ((Writer’s Digest Books)

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress (Writer’s Digest Books)

Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham (Writer’s Digest Books)

Plot by Ansen Dibell (Writer’s Digest Books)

Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card (Writer’s Digest Books)

Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble (Writer’s Digest Books)

Editing Your Fiction by Michael Seidman

Mastering Point of View by Sherri Szeman

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M. Bickham

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (accompanying workbook)

Writer to Writer by Cecil Murphey

Grammar, Spelling, Usage and Punctuation:

Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik

Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Conner

Write! Better by Ray Wiseman

Merriam Webster’s 11th Edition Dictionary (or something similar)

Roget’s Super Thesaurus by Marc McCutcheon

Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer

My Digital Library of Writing Books: (in part):

Author Publicity Pack by Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart

How to Write Faster by Marcy Kennedy

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

The Story Template by Amy Deardon

The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron

Writing Online by Sean Platt

You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins

GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) by Debra Dixon

Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell

Indie Publishing Resource E-books:

Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide by Joel Friedlander and Betty Kelly Sargent

Search Engine Optimization for Writers by Clover Autrey

Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors by Carla King

Indie Publishing Handbook by Heather Day Gilbert

The Writing Life:

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Write Away by Elizabeth George

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (a bit new-age here and there so beware)

Besides these gems, collect books, either print or digital, that resource your particular genre or time period. I write historical fiction set in Revolution era Russia, so I have a lot of books referring to that historical setting. (View my partial list HERE.)

You are a writer, as Jeff Goins says in his book, so start amassing helps and hints and tips. Happy writing to you!



What is PUG?

* Punctuation

* Usage

* Grammar

Some of us are detail fanatics, who lie (not lay) awake at night because somewhere someone is misspelling something on Facebook. Others will write their stories and ask a grammarphobe to correct the mistakes. Either way, we need to be aware of the importance of proper PUG in our writing.

Punctuation is a bit of a stickler, as rules change over time and differ between publishing houses. The Chicago Manual of Style is usually considered the final word.

My rule of thumb is to read my work aloud and use punctuation at pause or breath points. The aim is effective communication.

Consider these sentences without punctuation:

“Slow kids at play.” That’s a nasty attitude.

“Woman finds inspiration in cooking her dog and her family.” Dark. Very dark.

As writers, we must make sure our words communicate our intent.

My personal plea: Do not use more than one exclamation mark at a time! Ever! Instead, use strong words and appropriate action tags to add power to the sentence.

Usage: “the customary manner in which language is written or spoken.” (Dictionary.com) There are times when rules overshadow meaning. An old rule stated that a sentence should not end in a preposition (to, with, in, of, etc.). The following sentence applies the rule but sacrifices clarity: “This is a rule up with which I will not put.” (Ascribed to Churchill, but unsubstantiated.) We must be accurate and clear in our meaning.

The most important tips on word usage:

– use strong words in all parts of speech

E.g. “chartreuse” instead of “a shade halfway between green and yellow.”

We should aim to use as few adjectives and adverbs as possible, replacing them with strong nouns and verbs. E.g. “She hurried / dashed / trotted / slipped away” instead of “She walked quickly away.”

A rule of thumb is to use the simplest words to convey our meaning.

Use action beats with dialogue. E.g. “Stop!” She pointed the gun at him.

Grammar doesn’t have to be boring. We can find answers in entertaining and informative books such as these:

Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Conner

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik

An option is to trade skills with someone who is more competent in grammar than we are.

Proper use of PUG has always been a priority in any writing contests I’ve entered or judged. Offering up our stories without attention to the details of PUG is like showing up at a party in a gorgeous outfit sporting ketchup stains. We may have a fascinating storyline, but poor grammar will reduce credibility and professionalism.

Google image

Google image








It’s all in the details.

This is the 4th “first-Tuesday-of-the-month” post in the series on The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). This little book profoundly impressed me with its simplicity and encouragement.Practice of the Presence of God


Notice: I’m not a philosopher or a theologian; the following are my simple understandings of Brother Lawrence’s writings. I welcome your insights and comments.






The substance of religion is faith, hope and love, the practice of which unites us to God’s will. Prayer is simply sensing God’s presence.

We must realize our utter worthlessness, accept that trouble is common to man, and become dependent completely on God alone.

The best way to draw near to God is by doing our daily tasks, whether large or small, to please Him (not others).

We should not be discouraged by our sins because:

– our confidence is in God’s grace

– our confidence is in God’s merits (not our own)

– our confidence is in God’s faithfulness

Our Response:

I strive to prove my faith by my works instead of separating faith and works. Paul says that’s organic religion.

In this fourth conversation, Brother Lawrence condenses religion to three simple concepts: faith, hope and love (charity). He suggests that it makes no difference what task or vocation or occupation we apply ourselves to, but that we do it for Christ.

Surely this should remove competition between Christians. But does it? We take pride in our works, when they mean nothing to God. We try to appear godly, when God is looking not on the outward person but on the heart.

Life would be much simpler if each of us were to commit ourselves to following God in our “corner of the world” instead of trying to do more, or better, or more noticeable things for Him.

“All things are possible to him who believes,

they are less difficult to him who hopes,

they are more easy to him who loves,

and still more easy to him who perseveres

in the practice of these three virtues [faith, hope and love].”

Janice L. Dick:

Thanks, Violet, for your review. Greatly appreciated.

Originally posted on Violet Nesdoly:

other side of the riverOther Side of the River by Janice L. Dick.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Luise Letkemann and Daniel Martens have been sweethearts for almost as long as they can remember. Luise expects they will marry soon. But the spring of 1926 is not a time life goes along according to expectation for the lovers or anyone else in the Mennonite village of Alexandrovka, part of the Slovgorod Colony in Western Siberia.

As the Soviet officials begin to interfere increasingly in the life of the enterprising farmers and craftspeople, demanding ever more tax and confiscating machinery and livestock, many villagers decide it’s time to leave. While some are allowed to emigrate to America, Luise’s chronically ill stepmother fails to pass her medical exam. So the family ends up planning to join others on a long train ride east. There is farmland and they have official permits to settle near the…

View original 378 more words

I’m Thankful

This is a fifth Tuesday, so it’s off the radar of my four-blog-a-month schedule. So today, I’m going to list some of the many things I’m thankful for, in no particular order:

My ViolasI’m thankful for Spring. Here on the Canadian prairies, it’s slow in coming. The snow seems to last forever, but then one day it starts to sink and melt, and there’s new life underneath.





I’m thankful for a warm house. Many people in this world have nothing, and I have a lovely place to call my own, a refuge.

hp photosmart 720I’m thankful for a loving husband. Not everyone is so blessed. This year will mark 40 wonderful years together. It’s not all been perfect, but it’s been pretty darn good.



I’m thankful we get along well with our kids and their spouses, and that the grandkids all love to come for a visit.

I’m thankful for health. We all have our issues, but learning to be thankful in spite of them is a gift. People prefer to hang out with positive people, even those who have health issues.



I’m thankful for chocolate!




I’m thankful for books, especially fiction. my library photo





I’m thankful for speed. As I age, I have less energy and don’t move as easily or quickly as I used to. But I can sit behind the wheel of my truck and take off. (I try to stay within the speed limit.)

I’m thankful for laughter. If you follow my Facebook page, you’ll know that. I have an off-the-wall sense of humor, so we may not laugh at the same things, but that’s okay. Different folks.

I’m thankful each morning offers a fresh start.

I’m thankful for my country, Canada, which, although it’s not perfect, stacks up pretty good compared to many. So far we’re relatively free to live according to our conscience and wishes.

praying_on_bible_redMost of all, I’m thankful that I know where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Created by God for His good pleasure and gifted by Him to do His will, journeying toward a land where there will be no tears or sorrow or death or sadness. I’m thankful that Jesus has revealed himself to me and has promised me eternal life, starting now.



Blessings to you!


My Emigrant Father is much more than a memoir. It is a comprehensive revelation of Russian Mennonite history in general and Jacob J. Funk’s life in particular, a resource to be studied and treasured. This book is a buffet of foundational facts, personal anecdotes and author commentary, seasoned with recipes and visualized through photos, trimmed with citations for verification and further study.

Endorsed by Janice L. Dick, Author of historical Mennonite fiction

PRE-RELEASE REVIEW (currently no cover image)

My Emigrant Father by Katie Funk Wiebe

Jacob J. Funk lived from 1896 to 1986, but this comprehensive memoir by his daughter, Katie Funk Wiebe, reaches back further to the beginnings of Mennonite history in Holland. Wiebe’s most recent book, to be released in the summer of 2015 by Kindred Press, spans not only generations, but countries, continents and cultures. Through concentrated research, the author offers a personalized version of her father’s ethnic history, deftly weaving in family stories and events, photos gleaned from long past, and recipes both old and recent that have become part of the Wiebe family memory.

This memoir is not specifically chronological, rather it is a journey that stops along the way to investigate and discuss many thoughts, traditions, events and people, as well as faith and its adaptation to times and experiences. At times Wiebe leaps forward in an effort to explain what happened in the past. Other times, she reaches to the past to explain the present.

In this captivating treatise of Mennonite life in general and Jacob Funk’s life in particular, the reader is treated to word-pictures of an Eden-like existence in South Russia that is destroyed, its inhabitants fleeing to a foreign land they know nothing of, to forge a new life. Family separations are final, fears abound, and old ghosts often haunt the new land throughout that first generation.

Through it all, Wiebe portrays a family carried by faith. In spite of enduring hardships, the Lord leads to green pastures and quiet waters. I marvel at the way God placed the Wiebe family in a community populated by Russian immigrants who shared background experiences, language and many customs.

After reading the Advance Reading Copy of My Emigrant Father from beginning to end, I await the upcoming release. This volume will be treasured for years to come as an exhaustive resource for anyone interested in Russian Mennonite history.

Author Katie Funk Wiebe

Author Katie Funk Wiebe


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