Archive for the ‘ Deb ’ Category

Psalm 46

Psalm 46

Last Sunday I sat in the pew next to my husband and youngest son. The two story stained glass panels dwarfed the teacher at the pulpit and transfixed me as I tried to listen. It was a very long week in the days prior and I could finally relax and take in the beauty that surrounded me in the presence of love.

 I wanted to stay forever.

Psalm 46 was sung by the choir situated in the loft at the back of the long barn shaped sanctuary. The words filled the air around me and hugged tightly to my body.

                The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.  

The Lord of hosts is with us; God is with us; He is with me. How often I assure myself with these words. He is not only with me he is my stronghold. Though those words were not visible, they pressed against me like a shield.

Even now as I write this blog post I can close my eyes and feel His presence. Daily I forget though. Daily life gets more complicated and I run from before sun up until well after dark.

I cut out the section of the bulletin including Psalm 46 and taped it to my monitor stand as a reminder.

Not sophisticated but it works.

So does reading books that remind us of his truth. Art creates a space for God. That is one of the things that I love about fiction. The truth can stand in it.

I hope that you have had a chance to read the Texas Trails series. The November release is Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough. In it you will see a loving and faithful God who never leaves or abandons the main character: God as a stronghold.

Truth can be found in the pages.

~Deb

5 Terrific Things for Tuesday: What is your Fall Beverage of Choice?

Hello Fiction Fans!

I got our team together to discuss a very important topic: What do you have to be sipping on while you are settled in and reading your book?

1) Holly said her favorite beverage in the fall is mulled cider and it must have whipped cream on top, that is not negotiable.

2) Tracey enjoys a hot pumpkin spice chai when she is curled up with her book (she has given up coffee for the month).

3) Michele likes a good ‘ole Diet Coke and prefers it in a pumpkin mug, you know, for the season!

4) Deb digs an Earl Grey tea with a soy topper and two natural sugars, whew, that is a mouthful, and I bet it is delicious!

5) Myself, I prefer a skim latte, plain and simple. I love it when they can make it rich and creamy enough that it tastes like they used whole milk!

What is your preferred fall beverage to curl up with when you are reading? We would love to know!

Happy beautiful leaf changing day, folks!

~Brittany

5 Terrific Things for Tuesday (yes, we know it is Wednesday…) ACFW Conference

Final thoughts on ACFW Conference (That stands for the American Christian Fiction Writers) 

By Deb Keiser

 

Okay, it is not Tuesday. . . again. Unfortunately I’ve spent a few days clutching a box of tissues with my head propped up in bed. So, my schedule is shot at this point, but I wanted to make sure that I shared the highlights of my trip to St. Louis for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. 

1. The best part of the whole conference is the opportunity to have one-on-one meetings with fantastic authors at every stage of their writing life from aspiring to seasoned. 

2. Agents were excited to hear about our vision for River North fiction by Moody Publishers and shared with me information about authors who would be a good fit for our line. Publishing is a dance often orchestrated at the onset by a knowledgeable agent.  

3. Everyone doesn’t get it—the love of created characters making merry in one’s mind. But it is a wonder to me when I can be in a crowd of hundreds of people who do. It is God’s mercy that I get to share life with likeminded folks. 

4. Now my whiteboard is full of ideas that were planted at the conference. I have more proposals than I can keep up with and a fresh way of looking at some things. Best of all, there are a few ideas that really have some traction and the potential to end in a really good finished piece of fiction publishing.  

5. My anxiety was relieved when I got to the hotel and spied the Starbucks in the lobby. The reports that there were no coffee makers in the hotel rooms turned out to be true. But the hotel staff graciously supplied my needs when I called. My wonderful husband asked me a very silly question, “Why don’t you just throw on your sweats and go down to the Starbucks? Coffee in the room is usually not very good anyway.” Can you believe that? Go to the lobby with foggy eyes and bed-head. No way. Very glad I didn’t have to.

Coffee Withdrawal at ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers)

Coffee withdrawal at ACFW

By Deb Keiser

I stood on the platform waiting for my train into Chicago yesterday morning and glanced down at my iPhone. Like most of the commuters our faces were turned toward something to read—a newspaper, book, or an electronic device. Hardly anyone talks first thing in the morning. Not enough coffee yet.

I read this hysterically funny email string of comments about coffee makers at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference which runs September 22-25 officially, but many participants are arriving on Wednesday.

Anyway, it appears that there will not be coffee makers in the rooms at the convention hotel, the Hyatt. It was so hard for me to believe that a reputable national hotel chain would not know that coffee is one of the nation’s staples. It is like soap—everyone needs it.  I had to call to discover for myself if it was true—and it is! “No coffee makers in the rooms, for green reasons.” The desk clerk told me when I called the hotel. Sounds fishy to me . . . next thing you know caffeine addicts will be escorted outside to drink coffee and forced to join the smokers on the street. I can just see us huddled together in the dead of winter on the sidewalks of Chicago.

No less than 16 people commented on the hardship of going without coffee first thing in the morning. I think that was the longest email string sent from the ACFW conference. Christian fiction writers definitely have their priorities. Coffee first then everything else.

I totally get it. In an attempt to give up coffee, I’ve been drinking tea first thing in the morning since December 2010, nine . . .  long . . . months. Drinking tea at work, too. But I’ve been “treating” myself to Starbucks lattes with an ever increasing frequency. I’m now a Starbucks Gold Card member. Good for Starbucks but bad for my pocketbook.  

I finally broke down and bought an espresso maker. After tallying up all I have spent on lattes in a given month, I decided that it was time to stop the bleeding. I checked on-line for the best price, make and model, but in the end I drove to the nearest Kohl’s and bought one for 50% off. I was so proud of myself—it cost less than a month-of-lattes.

In the end I failed to give up coffee. But I’m back in sync with my people—Caffeinated Christians for Fiction. Think that American Christian Fiction Writers would change the name?

Tonight I rest assured that on Thursday there will be coffee served on the plane to St. Louis bound for the ACFW (or the new CCFF?) conference. See you in St. Louie!

5 Terrific Things for Tuesday: 5 Ideas for Better Stories

5 Ideas for Better Stories

Today I would like to share the wisdom of others, from some of my favorite books on the craft and life of writing. Unfortunately in my dash to leave home this morning I forgot some of my resources on the granite countertop next to my fridge—a happy accident in hindsight. I will have more to share with you next time.

 From Bird by Bird – by Anne Lamott

1) The ABDCE of Writing

I heard Alice Adams give a lecture . . . . She uses a formula when writing a short story, which goes ABDCE, for Action, Background, Development, Climax, and Ending. You begin with action that is compelling enough to draw us in, make us want to know more. Background is where you let us see and know who these people are, how they’ve come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story. Then you develop these people, so that we learn what they care most about. The plot—the drama, the actions, the tension—will grow out of that. You move them along until everything comes together in the climax, after which things are different for the main character, different in some real way. And then there is the ending: what is our sense of who these people are now, what are they left with, what happened, and what did it mean?

2) Know Your Characters

Find out what each character cares most about in the world because then you will have discovered what’s at stake. Find a way to express this discovery in action, then let your people set about finding or holding onto or defending whatever it is. They you can take them from good to bad and back again, or from bad to good or from lost to found. But something must be at stake or you will not have tension and your readers will not turn the pages. Think of a hockey player—there had better be a puck out there on the ice, or he is going to look pretty ridiculous.

From Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins

3) Point of View is a Party

Imagine your story as a party with you as host. You’ve invited old friends, new friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. Your job is to choreograph the events so people feel comfortable and never wonder what’s going on.

You greet guests at the door and introduce them to each other, get conversations started. Without being intrusive, your aim is to make sure everyone has a good time.

We’ve all been to parties where the host has not covered the basics. Although we don’t expect our host to be the center of attention, we expect her to manage the details. When this is done right, we hardly notice. We simply know we’ve had a good time. When details are neglected, everyone leaves with a bad taste.

Picture yourself as the host of a fiction party. Invite readers to a treat. Don’t take center stage, but manage the basics in such a way that the reader barely notices. Nothing should jar her as she engages with your characters and plot.

No one should notice that you followed the rules of perspective, that you limited your point of view to one character per scene. But they’ll notice if you don’t.

4) Internal Dialogue

Getting inside a person’s head is fun. Imagine a character thinking, I hate that guy and always have. He ripped me off, stole my wife, and crashed my car.

Now put him in a scene with his nemesis and have him say, “Good to see you again, Phil. I’m looking forward to working together.” When Phil responds positively, the reader knows someone’s lying. Probably both of them. Continue that way throughout your story, and the reader will wonder to the end who is being real and who is not.

From Writing Down the Bones – by Natalie Goldberg

5) Be Specific

Be specific. Don’t say “fruit.” Tell what kind of fruit. Give things the dignity of their names. Just as with human beings, it is rude to say, “Hey girl, get in line.” That “girl” has a name. (As a matter of fact, if she’s at least twenty yours old, she’s a woman, not a “girl” at all.) Things too, have names. It is much better to say, “the geranium in the window” than “the flower in the window.” “Geranium”—that one word gives us a much more specific picture. It penetrates more deeply into the beingness of that flower. It immediately gives us the scene by the window—red petals, green circular leaves, all straining toward sunlight.

By Deb Keiser

5 Terrific Things for Tuesday: (We know it is Wednesday!)

5 fantastic books to read now that the kids are back in school

Now that your children are happily situated back at school you will have plenty of time to read! If you do happen to catch a few spare moments here are some suggestions from the fiction fanatics at River North.

Unveiled Freedom – by Jeanette Windle

This believable and timely story is told through 3 characters; Amy a young Christian NGO worker, Jamil a tortured soul and native Afghan, and Steve a cynical independent security contractor. Their lives intersect against the back drop of Afghanistan after the democratic elections and the implementation of Sharia law.  I appreciated the author’s grace-filled approach to Afghan culture and the challenging questions raised about Christian “interference”.  It has been 2-3 months since I finished Unveiled Freedom and I continue to ponder The Great Commission and closed cultures; it is that impactful.

–Holly, Marketing

 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society–by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Set shortly after the end of WWII main character and author Juliet Ashton receives a letter from one of the book club members on the tiny island of Guernsey. Written in epistolary form, Juliet’s circle of friends on the tiny island grows as they share their enchanting and moving stories of living through the darkness of war. They are all drawn closer together as a community because of one of the inspirational inhabitants of the island. I wanted to catch the next flight to England and meet all the book club members when I finished reading. You too will feel like you have a larger circle of friends. Check out the audio book at your local library, if you can. Lovely to hear all of the voices of the characters—it adds a lot to the telling of the story.

–Deb, Acquisitions 

The Pioneer Woman Cooks-by Ree Drummond

Every once in a while we all find ourselves in a routine for dinners that needs to be broken. This cookbook is the place for inspiration. The Pioneer Woman is a mother of 4 and a rancher’s wife. If she has time to whip up these great recipes, hopefully you can find time too, especially with school having started again. She has a great recipe for pizza with a homemade crust that is whole wheat and simple. She does a little bit of everything from Chicken Fried Steak to Asian Noodles with a very tasty glaze. There are plenty of pictures to draw you in and show you what you are aiming for. She also has plenty of dessert recipes to add to your collection. I have tried a handful of the recipes myself and our household is always satisfied, it is a little down home and a lot of delicious.

–Brittany, Editorial 

Almost Heaven – by Chris Fabry

As I read Almost Heaven, I couldn’t help but be touched deeply by the characters.  I was struck by their ordinary lives and ordinary dreams that God used in very mighty ways if even in a small community.   The tenderness of the main character was evident throughout the book even though he endured significant losses and unexpected turns.  Billy lived his life with the deepest desire to serve God & bring glory to Him in the midst of hardship, disappointment & failures.   I was profoundly moved by the gentleness of his spirit and the way in which God wove a beautiful tapestry out of the brokenness of Billy’s life.  Almost Heaven will encourage you to live your life, however ordinary you think it is, seeing the value in touching people’s lives not gaining wealth or notoriety. It will bring focus to what is important in this life and you will see the greatness of being used by God in ways you might never have expected.  Billy didn’t change the entire world, but God used him to change the lives of those he touched every day.  What more could we ask for?!

–Michele, Sales

Texas Trails Series – by Susan Page Davis, Vickie McDonough, and Darlene Franklin

Finally, we have to recommend a title of our own. Lone Star Trail and Captive Trail are two new releases here that we are so excited about. They are the first two in a series of six and they are sure to get you hooked.

The six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896 begins with Lone Star Trail.  Judson (Jud) Morgan’s father died for Texas’ freedom during the war for independence.  So when the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas (the Verein) attempts to colonize a New Germany in his country, he takes a stand against them. After Wande Fleischers’ fiancée marries someone else, the young fraulein determines to make new life for herself in Texas.  With the help of Jud’s sister Marion, Wande learns English and becomes a trusted friend to the entire Morgan family. As much as Jud dislikes the German invasion, he can’t help admiring Wande.  She is sweet and cheerful as she serves the Lord and all those around her.  Can the rancher put aside his prejudice to forge a new future? Through Jud and Wande, we learn the powerful lessons of forgiveness and reconciliation among a diverse community of believers.

Captive Trail is second in a six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896.  Although a series, each book can be read on its own. Taabe Waipu has run away from her Comanche village and is fleeing south in Texas on a horse she stole from a dowry left outside her family’s teepee.  The horse has an accident and she is left on foot, injured and exhausted.  She staggers onto a road near Fort Chadbourne and collapses. On one of the first runs through Texas, Butterfield Overland Mail Company driver Ned Bright carries two Ursuline nuns returning to their mission station.  They come across a woman who is nearly dead from exposure and dehydration and take her to the mission. With some detective work, Ned discovers Taabe Waipu identity. He plans to unite her with her family, but the Comanche have other ideas, and the two end up defending the mission station. Through Taabe and Ned we learn the true meaning of healing and restoration amid seemingly powerless situations.

We hope you find these suggestions helpful!

~Your fiction team!

Night Song By Tricia Goyer

It was a very rainy day last Saturday. The house was empty. My youngest son returned to Valparaiso University the Thursday before and my husband had a meeting all day about adjunct work he planned for the fall semester.

Perfect day to snuggle up on our feather cushioned sofa with my cat on my lap, and Daisy on the floor next to me, and enjoy the end of the book I was reading, Night Song by Tricia Goyer.

Set during WWII, the author weaves together the lives of her three main characters around love—love of: music, each other, and the Lord of all creation. As the ever-present evil threatens to destroy their lives the female protagonist, Evie, is forced to return to Austria with her family—leaving her American boyfriend, Nick, just as he is called to serve in the war effort. Halfway around the world a young Jewish musician Jakub, watches as his father is dragged off by the SS men who soon return for Jakub and his mother and brother. They are sent off to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia and separated from each other when they arrive. Their most prized possession, a very valuable violin, was secure in the hands of a friend. Or was it?

In order to live the comfortable life she is accustomed to in Austria, Evie finds herself forced to ignore the evil presence of the Nazis. Her dearest friend has joined the Resistance and loses her life, catapulting Evie into a life underground. After Evie is reported dead, Nick contemplates returning the correspondence sent to him regularly by his pastor’s daughter. Instead he volunteers for service on the front line.

It would break my heart to give any part of this carefully crafted narrative away, so I think I’ll leave the plot there.

The author did a fine job of moving the story along at a pace that kept me turning the pages. I was intrigued throughout the book to see how she would ultimately weave these three lives together around the love of music and the symbol provided by the most valuable violin.

If you have read Night Song, I would love to hear what you think.  If not, I highly recommend it for a quiet snuggle on the sofa!

~Deb