Category Archives: The Arts

God created us to reflect Him through the arts

Wilderness and Writers

 

Last weekend Bruce and I decided to revisit some of our favorite scenic spots on Washington’s Highway 20. The clouds and rain have still not gone to bed for the night, but given the amount of rain the Pacific Northwest has gotten this year, I hoped to see waterfalls.

I was not disappointed.

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Close to the town of Marblemount, we passed more:

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After Newhalem, I photographed about six more, but you get the idea.

What is it about waterfalls that make our hearts beat faster, in awe? Is it merely  the water? Or is it the distance that it falls? The “shhhhh” sound as it tumbles and whash-boards over the layers of rocks? Or the white spread and spray, resembling a bride’s veil and train?

We continued on Highway 20 until we met the road closure, turned around and parked at the top of Diablo Lake. When the sky is blue, the lake resembles Canada’s Lake Louise, with its turquoise water, hedged by giant, snow-capped peaks.

But today, the clouds, fog, and wind stirred up gun-metal gray waters.

There were only two cars in the vast parking lot: ours and a woman accompanied by her little boy, who complained about the cold while the mother insisted he “at least take a look” at the lake.

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There’s a kind of visual that inspires the writer in me. It’s the one where the sky is as gray as the mountains, un-mirrored in the lake they overshadow. The clouds twist and swirl, and hover over the mountain peaks as if God had settled there, waiting to speak with Moses, His prophet.

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They say that stories are largely inspired by social interaction, where conversations and situations create a personal challenge in the protagonist, giving rise to an interesting story concept. Perhaps that’s why so many writers love to hang out in coffee houses, watching and listening.

But I think viewing God’s dazzling creation, His mountains, lakes, and waterfalls, is another kind of stimulant. A trip into the wilderness sends a message to the mind: Here’s your backdrop, here’s your setting. Now go and search your memory to find the right characters to populate this stage.

Tell me, what scenes prod your creativity?

 

A Bit Of Respite

I took a breather yesterday from all this marketing stuff about my new book, Haven’s Flight, which launched on April 4th on Amazon.

Being a newbie to the business of publishing novels, I had no idea how many promotional things I’d be asked to do.

Not that it wasn’t all fun things. But it was a lot to do.

For example, last Friday, March 31, I did an interview for Suspense Sisters blog about  Haven’s Flight. If you’re curious you can see that  here.

And then, just this past Tuesday, April 4th, I did an hour-long radio interview for BlogTalkRadio. Marji Laine Clubine hosted the show, and she’s just delightful. Listen to it by clicking here.

So, as I said, I took a breather from marketing activities and drove down to the pier to walk and soak (literally soak, since it was raining and raining) up the flavor of the sea and the culture of marine industry yards away from my feet.

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My boots started getting saturated, so I dipped into my favorite Woods Coffee, which is perched right above the water and spend a couple of hours writing on my newest suspense/thriller.

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This next book, the sequel to Haven’s Flight, takes place right here, even though I don’t call the town by its actual name. The sea, the town, and the mountains surrounding the town are the perfect place for my next story to take place. I hope you agree. The book will come out in the fall, and I’ll be letting you know more about it when as the date for its release approaches.

Marji Clubine mentioned that she had traveled to the Northwest and thought it was beautiful, but she could never live here. Too many trees.

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How could there ever be too many trees?

But she loves the wide open spaces of Texas. I’ve been there, and I can say it is beautiful, too, in a different way.

I’ve gotten a couple of lovely reviews already for Haven’s Flight. If you’re curious, hop on over to my “published book” page for a quick read.

I’ve got my launch party coming up this Sunday, April 9th at the Fairhaven Public Library. It’s at 2:15. I’ll be signing books. Goodies will be present, too!

I’ll be sharing photos from that event later next week.

Gosh, I really appreciate my readers. Thank you all so much!

 

Yippee! My Book

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I just got my book in the mail!

Wow, what a feeling. To see my words transformed from a manuscript on my computer to an actual physical book.

I did not begin writing with a dream to make myself famous or to make money. Ha, ha! My goal was to make a story— which had been percolating in my mind for decades—take shape as words, and eventually, pages. And I hoped someone would read it and take something of value from the story.

Haven’s Flight began with an image that popped into my head when I was just a teen. An image that wouldn’t leave my head until I sketched it on a sheet of artist paper.

I had no concept yet, just the suspenseful drawing of a young woman standing alone in a snowy field, surrounded by dark forest, looking nervously over her shoulder.

Some of my readers have found similarities between my protagonist, Haven, and me, the author. That wasn’t my intent. But authors imbue their characters with things they feel and know, and have experienced. I knew Haven would have to be a musician because that’s what I have known intimately for nearly fifty years.

I also knew she had to have her adventure in the wet, rugged, and mysterious Cascade Mountains.

The book I’m confident you’re soon going to order from Amazon wasn’t even on my mental back-burner originally. (By the way, Haven’s Flight is discounted by forty percent if you order it before April 4th.) Book 2, coming out in the fall was the original story. But when I started to write it, I realized that story needed to begin with another story.

Haven’s Flight is a redemptive story about a young woman who has lost her faith, but comes to realize, after facing extreme danger and adventure in the Cascade Mountains, that God never leaves us or forsakes us. Don’t expect this Christian novel to be all sweetness and light. After all, Haven spends half the book hiding from a crazy guy!

I hope you love it.

 

 

Haven’s Flight Finally Flies

I remember talking to published authors a few years back at a writer’s conference.

Most of them advised me: Take your time. Don’t be in such a hurry to get published. You’ll never be as free with your writing time as you are now, not yet published.

Of course I smirked at this advice, although not visibly. Easy for you to say, published author, looking down from your high perch as an author with credence in the publishing world.

I was in a hurry. I bristled at the thought of all the things an aspiring writer has to do to prepare for a career (or even a partial career) in writing. Why can’t I just write?

Why do I have to have a platform? Why do I have to join all these writer groups and have critique partners?

Why do I have to submit my excerpts to contests and get stinging criticism from judges? Why do I have to read and study all these books on the craft of writing?

And why does it all take so much time?

I wrote my first book nine years ago. Man, was I ever ignorant of the publishing process. I thought I’d just take my baby down to the nearest agent and get a contract the same day.

Wrong!

My first critique at my first writer’s conference pulled me up short. The critiquer, a seasoned author said, “Before we go over your excerpt, let’s pray.”

We have to pray because it’s so bad? Not an auspicious start to our meeting.

She handed my printed excerpt to me and my stomach went sour at all the red ink on the pages.

 

A couple of years later, I attended another conference. This time I interviewed authors during our meal-times. My question, “What is the most important advice you could give me as an unpublished writer?” got the biggest response.

“Don’t give up.” Without exception, each author had said nothing was more essential than the will to keep going.

God reminded me of that bit of advice over and over during the next few years as I slowly began to get small articles and stories published.

My first full-sized novel releases in three weeks: Haven’s Flight is the story of a young woman, a pianist, who has witnessed the violent death of her mother during a robbery and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress. She enrolls in a wilderness therapy camp, hoping that the program will help her heal so that she can perform on stage again. But, while at camp, someone is following her, leaving her threatening notes.

If you click on “my books” you can read a little bit more about the story.

Haven’s Flight is a Christian story, a redemptive story. It’s got some dark themes in it. I wouldn’t recommend this story to anyone younger than sixteen.

But the biggest spiritual message in the story is the one God gives to each of His children:

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Haven’s Flight releases April 4th as an ebook, (Write Integrity Press is the publisher)) and can also be ordered as a print book from Amazon.com. I hope you enjoy it!

Facing A Mountain

img_0952I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.

No offence to those who do. It just doesn’t work for me.

But each January I ask the Lord to show me what my focus should be for the year.

One year, the answer was simply, “Get on your knees and pray hard.”

Another year, my focus on one of the shortest verses in Genesis: “And Enoch walked with God.” What would that look like, lived out in my own life?

This year, as I rejoiced in the book contracts for both my suspense novels and my romance novel, I faced a mountain of edits, blurbs, bios, and promotional activities.

Coming out of neck surgery just weeks earlier, I felt so feeble. How could I possibly get done all that my publishers require of me in such a short time, as well as fulfill my ministry commitments at church?

God is faithful. as I poured out my heart to Him about the size of my burden, He reminded me of Jesus’s words from His sermon on the Mount: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34 NIV Bible)

So my new focus for this coming year is:

“One day at a time.”

I know, it’s a cliche. Even so, it’s a great paraphrase of Jesus’s words. If I let myself focus on the whole mountain, my feet don’t want to start trekking.

One day, Dena. Just one day’s amount of steps. You can do this.

 

 

 

Dust Yourself Off

 (Note to readers: This is a post I wrote about three years ago, but, given that it’s about the season for writers to start submitting their manuscript excerpts to writing contests, I thought I’d re-post it. Also, since then, I have signed a writing contract for the novel mentioned below in the post, with a strong possibility of having the next two of that series being published, as well.):
I received scores from three judges for a writing contest I’d entered recently.
The first two judges loved the excerpt of my romance novel and gave me glowing scores and remarks.
The third judge hated everything about my piece. He/she couldn’t muster any constructive comments. Not one.
Third judge’s score was a whopping 40 points (out of 100) lower than the other two judges.
If her low scoring had followed with constructive suggestions such as: “this paragraph needs an action beat,” or “add more description of the environment in this section,” I’d have received her evaluation with appreciation.So, I will chuck her unbelievably low scores.
I’ll push my jaw back in place after it dropped to the floor for ten incredulous minutes while I perused this judge’s low score.
And I’ll dust myself off and “get back on the horse,” so to speak.
I’ll study what the positive judges said and put their advice into practice.

If I were a new writer, this negative and (non-constructive) evaluation would have really messed with my mind and heart.
I wonder if judges realize that their comments have the power of life or death over aspiring writers, even established authors.
The writing tone of the negative judge smacked of a kind of “got-you” attitude.

But I’ve already published lots of articles and stories and devotions.
And last year (this year, too, in spite of negative judge) I semi-finaled in a national writing contest.
I’ve got more publications coming out in the fall
and my literary agent is shopping out one of my novels.
And I have five more novels waiting in the wings.

I’ve experienced both rejections and acceptances and I’m getting used to the idea that the writing industry, just like the music world I used to live in, is fraught with emotional upheaval.
There’s nothing new under the sun.

So it doesn’t shock me so much when I see how subjective the evaluating of manuscripts can be.
And I don’t take it personally. Well, not as much as I used to.

And the main reason I don’t get so bent out of shape by a lousy evaluation is that God has given me a vision for how my writing can be a blessing.
So what is one fallible judge’s opinion compared to the Lord of the entire Universe?
Of course I have much more to learn in my craft. What writer doesn’t?
But I won’t let one little, negative evaluation thwart the plan that the Lord has for me to write stories that glorify Jesus and comfort and encourage readers.

So if you’re reading this, still smarting from a similar negative evaluation at work, at church, in sports or the arts, at home, wherever, please don’t let it stop you.
Get back up, take a big breath and ask God how this experience might teach you, and make you a better person.
Only vision-less people stay down.
Hold onto your vision.

Lift your eyes and gaze at the horizon, where your future lies.
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For God’s sake, hold on!

“Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” (Proverbs 9:9 NIV Bible)

Solomon’s Conclusion

IMG_0965The world famous pop singer, Madonna, said in an interview with Dianne Sawyer, that she felt insecure, not happy, and not emotionally safe.

Yet she had achieved it all: fame, wealth, a rich and handsome husband—well, more than one rich and handsome husband. Many, in fact.

The “material girl” had sold millions of records, was featured on the cover of glamorous magazines, was often quoted by admirers, followed by paparazzi, fawned over by hotel staff, and restaurateurs.

Beautiful , brainy, talented, and driven.

In the world of musical entertainment, she had achieved the pinnacle of success.

Who wouldn’t want to be like her?

Yet she didn’t feel “emotionally safe.”

Kind of like the ancient king, Solomon. His success story happened three thousand years ago. But since then, nothing’s changed in the hearts and minds of men and women.

We still wrestle with the same needs and motivations, the same questions about the existence of God…

Why am I here? What is my life all about? How can I find significance? Am I loved and valued?

Perhaps I will find the answers to my deepest questions, and fulfill my greatest needs by…

intellectual pursuits: college degrees, new skills, more letters after my name: JD, MD, PhD, etc.

Maybe my significance is found in building something: a house, a business, a charitable foundation; writing a best seller, building my bank account.

Being popular and sought after? That’s a roller-coaster ride because people have a short attention-span.

Physical feats in sports or warfare, or travel to exotic places? Feels good for a short while.

If not that, then maybe I can dull my senses by engaging in the ultimate sexual experiences?

No?

Why not drown my disillusionment in marijuana, drugs or alcohol?

And finally:

I’m tired of life. I’ve tried it all. Nothing makes me happy or gives me peace.

We all come to the Solomon conclusion eventually, if we give ourselves time to reflect.

He concluded: “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!,” ‘says the Teacher.’ “‘Everything is meaningless.'” (Ecclesiastes 12: 8)

Certainly, the famous pop singer had recognized the futility of success. I’m not sure, though, that she came to Solomon’s conclusion.

In my own little world of volunteering at the local pregnancy clinic, I have had the opportunity to share this with my clients:

“Nothing makes sense unless we have a true connection—through Christ—with the God who made us. He understands how we are made, because He made us.”

 

Solomon’s conclusion: “fear God and keep His commandments.”

Holy Cow! that sounds old-fashioned and hell-fire.

But if mankind hasn’t changed, then the Teacher’s words are true and applicable for us today.

Deeply respect and humbly follow the Loving and all-wise God who made you. Listen to Him, and don’t do life your own way. (When has that ever brought you lasting satisfaction, anyway?)

Solomon was right, but it took him a long time to discover this truth.

I hope we come to agree with Solomon’s conclusion while we’re still young.

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1 NIV Bible)