just spent the last four days doing hardly anything but sending out
query letters, and after that many times of proof-reading the stupid
thing, I think it has to be the worst-written piece of... for lack of a
better word (well, there ARE more descriptive words which I will forego
here)... TRASH that I've ever seen.
At any rate, 45 queries are floating around
out there in cyberspace. Three have already been rejected that I know
of - I'm sure several more have landed in someone's cyber slush-pile.
Can you pray on pins and needles? 'Cause if you can, that's what I'm doing - praying that at least ONE out of those 45 people will be interested in representing my work.
and that they'll be a good match personality-wise, too. Author/Agent relationships can get pretty dicey if the personalities aren't compatible. Think e-harmony for the publication business.
Oh, and that if they DO ask for more of my work than just my
query letter, which they will examine heartily for months, that they
won't send it back after 6 months of sitting in their inbox and refuse it.
and that if they DO decide, phenomenon of all phenomenons, that they
want to accept it, that they won't submit to six publishers, none of
whom accept, then drop it altogether.
Sigh. I really need to stop stressing. And go do something besides look at my laptop. Is it normal for the words to be swimming around on the screen?
Okay, my eyes are crossing. I need to go to bed
and dream sweetly of, "Dear Mr./Ms. So-and-so, They've existed in the world
since the beginning of time. Born with the ability..."
Sometimes, life comes at me with bigger questions than I'm prepared to handle. For instance: What do you say when your son asks you: "Mommy, is God bigger than giants?" Of course, from a structural standpoint, since God is not actually standing in front of me with measurable height, weight, and mass, I can't say, "Why yes, as a matter of fact, son, God is bigger than giants." So I hem and haw and come up with the half-understood explanation that "God made giants, so it makes sense that He'd be bigger than them." My oldest daughter pipes up. "But if He lives inside your heart, how can He be big?" That's about the point where I glance skyward and think, A little help here, God?
Sometimes, those huge questions can mean your life or your death. The still-unfolding situation of the mall-shooting in Kenya has got me thinking seriously about where I stand in my faith. As the story goes, the shooters have asked each person standing on the other end of their rifle whether or not they are Muslim. If the answer is yes, they are free to go. If not, they die. The one major question that has rankled in my brain since I read the first headline is this: Would I have the guts? I'd like to think so. After all, I've been a Christian since the tender age of four, and while I haven't always been obedient or faithful or even a very willing follower of Christ, I like to think my journey has always been in a forward motion, never complacent. Other questions rise.
What if I held my two-year-old daughter in my arms at the end of that rifle? Would that change my answer? What if my husband was waiting for me at home with three young children who were about to become motherless depending on my answer? All it would take would be one tiny, little, three-letter word - yes - and my life would be spared. My life would be spared . . . but could I live with that? Could I walk out of that mall knowing that with that three-letter word, I had in effect denied everything I had built my life on? I'd like to think that I would have the courage, but in truth, I don't know. Hard times. Hard questions. I guess I won't know the answer until I'm actually there.
Medievalgirl is a British Medieval History graduate, book lover and blogger. Her site, Bookish Medievalist, is dedicated to Christian Historical Fiction and contains reviews, opinions and articles on reading, books, history and any other related subjects. Click this link to check out her blog. She's been kind enough to guest blog for me today. Enjoy reading!
Looks Aren’t Everything…
Not so long ago this
history Graduate learned of something known as ‘the Look of
History’. What is it? Well it seems to be something popular with
filmmakers and audience concerning historical authenticity. This
likely means having the right period costumes, sets, buildings,
armour or weapons so that the dramatic offering looks right for
to the time period in question.
Thus a movie set in
Western Europe during the 1100s would probably feature knights
wearing chain mail, covered with a surcoat, and bearing and
impressive looking sword, perhaps throw in a dramatic and suitably
imposing castle or two, some dimly lit rooms illumined only by fire
or torchlight, and epic battle scenes with a suitable number of
mounted warriors or the odd peasant rustic in the duller garb of his
class tilling a field surrounded by wattle and daub huts.
Historical movies may
indeed include visually spectacular settings, and where non-visual
media such as novels are concerned ‘The Look of History’ may also
come down to period details, for which the appropriate terms or
description could be used. Now I for one have no problem with period
details and terms in and of themselves, but sometimes they are not of
themselves enough to make for a convincing or (dare I use the term)
accurate depiction of the past.
As a fan of a Medieval
Christian Fantasy series stated ‘I might call this period fiction,
as there are castles and servants’. Are we indeed inclined to
believe that a setting which ‘looks’ right is an accurate
representation of the past?
It would seem then that,
as the old saying goes ‘appearances can be deceptive’ and
historical details which make a setting appear authentic can be
merely superficial if little or no attention is paid to the norms,
mores, customs, attitudes, values, beliefs, sensibilities,
expectations, and past societies and their people. In this case of
the series above, for instance, it seemed that many of characters’
attitudes and values were more of our time than theirs , the
secondary female protagonist appeared to more like an embodiment of
militant feminist ideology than a real person, Medieval or otherwise,
and the dialogue peppered with modern terms, phrases and
Americanisms. Practically anyone it seems can research a particular
period and learn about its fashion, food, and style of architecture,
but it is I believe not so easy to actually gain an understanding of
the deeper aspects of past epochs, especially if they are very
different from what we are familiar with today.
Take arranged marriage as
another example. In the modern Western world we have something of an
aversion to this practice but for our medieval aristocratic forbears
it could be the norm. For us the notion of a young girl being made to
marry a horrible man that she hates for his money, land or political
convenience is one that seems abhorrent but how might it have seemed
to people ‘back then’ in light of their social expectations,
priorities, and notions of duty?
Or how many modern movies
set during the time of the Crusades feature a major character with
religious doubts agonising over the notion of killing in the name of
God, or at all, or espouses tolerant multiculturalism, and the
baddies be intolerant ‘fanatics’? How often might the attitude
towards religion of characters in movies set in the pre-modern era
resemble those of modern secularists and sceptics? How many Medieval
movies feature heavily made up women sporting loose flowing,
shimmering locks (or styles which can only be created using modern
products). One interesting look is wearing a circlet or headband,
which may have been designed to keep a veil in place- on top of loose
bare hair. It might look nice, but perhaps is not a reflection of
reality as “Broadly speaking; only a woman of very poor breeding
or a prostitute did nothing with her hair and even peasant women made
an effort to appear modest and decent.”1
To use the term coined by
British Historian and novelist Alison Weir many historical novels and
movies seem to be populated by ‘modern people in fancy dress’ who
look the part, but might be thoroughly of our time rather than their
own where their worldview, attitudes, behaviour and outlook are
concerned. Now don’t get me wrong, I sometimes do enjoy such
movies, but the imposition of modern standards and ideals onto the
past is generally one of my pet hates in fiction.
Yet I am not a writer, at
least not of fiction, and whilst the historian in me may rally
against such as the above, or be left cringing at medieval people
saying something like ‘I think it’s okay for you to go out with
that cute guy’, writers may find it more difficult to strike a
balance between the needs and expectations of their audience and
historical accuracy, and even their own beliefs.
Speaking of her Crusading
period novel The Road from the West: Book One of the Chronicles of
Tancred author Rosanne E Lortz said:
‘While writing the Chronicles of Tancred, I try to
write about religion as if I were an eleventh century Norman adhering
to the rites and rule of the Church of Rome. In some ways the
fact that I am a twenty-first century American Protestant helps me in
that task; in other ways it hinders me.
But when a scruffy
drunkard has a vision of St. Andrew informing the Crusaders where the
Holy Lance is buried, it's not my place to make my protagonist
distrust him simply because I, the author, am dubious of visions,
don't embrace the Roman Catholic view of sainthood, and don't believe
relics have special powers. Instead, I must put myself in Tancred's
Some aspects of the past
may indeed be unpopular, unpalatable, controversial or even downright
offensive to modern sensibilities, or those of a certain cultural
background or ideological position, but does this mean they should be
ignored or replaced? Perhaps not, I for one believe that learning to
appreciate or accept the differences in ideology and belief between
ourselves and our medieval forbears, and perhaps trying to come to
terms with why they believed the things they did may help to greatly
enhance our understanding of this period.
This is not to suggest
that understanding the past on its terms means we have to agree with,
condone or accept the beliefs held by our ancestors, but perhaps we
should refrain from complaining or condemning those who held them
because they do not line up with modern liberal Western ideals. Of
course the, statues and requirements of God are absolute, eternal and
unquestionable, transcending the bounds of time, fashion and human
society so we have every right to judge the events and peoples of the
past according to those, but some aspects of our society and
worldview, even though we may hold that as sacrosanct are not
So dressing a modern
European or American, complete with his modern liberal outlook in a
cloak and tunic, putting him on a horse and giving him a sword does
not make him ‘Medieval’, and whilst it may serve to make the past
‘relevant’ or present a sanitized version of it more in tune with
modern sensibilities, does it truly teach us anything?
Perhaps it would instead
be a more valuable, rewarding, and enlightening or indeed challenging
experience to lay aside those modern preconceptions which are
subjective, step outside our comfort zones and explore the past as it
was, not as we would have it. A past in which it may not have
considered sexist and repressive, but perfectly reasonable for women
to stay at home for much of their lives to raise children, or take
economic and practical, instead of just romantic considerations in
mind when choosing their spouse.
It's crazy how every day passes, and a million moments fly by, and three days later, you have no idea what you were thinking or doing at such-and-such a time. It's not Alzheimers, it's just life. And then, there are those moments that are seared into your memory with a branding iron, leaving permanent scars that will never fade. I don't like to use the word "scars" because my wedding day is one such moment, the birth of my children another. But it's true - I will never forget the moment my husband slid the ring on the third finger of my left hand . . . and it got stuck because my knuckle was too wide. He was too embarrassed to try to keep shoving it on, so he just left it, and I had to finish pushing it on myself. Or when each of my children was born. The first screaming wail of life as they pushed their way into the world was a heart-stopping moment, one that I will never un-remember. The rush of emotion, the joy of new life, the exhaustion after days of labor (four days, people, four days for our oldest) are written in indelible ink on my faulty memory pages. Twelve years ago, at this very moment, I sat in the admissions office at Eastern Mennonite University in a back room where I had a work-study job, stuffing prospective student folders with information. The radio was on in the cubicle outside the door, and I remember thinking that was a little strange . . . we didn't usually have the radio on in the mornings. I finished my package of folders and went out to get a tissue, and my boss turned around in her office chair. The look of pain on her face was one of the first bits of scar tissue that stamped itself on my memory from that terrible day. "Did you hear about that?" she asked, nodding toward the radio. "No, what?" "A plane just crashed into a tower in New York City." She sighed heavily. "All those poor people." Little did we know. I began filing some paperwork, and the reports on the radio grew more and more disturbing. Suddenly, work didn't seem so important. Suddenly, every person in the admissions office was standing around the radio. I glanced at my watch. My shift had ended. I grabbed my bag and ran to the nearest dorm where a TV was on in the lobby. There are no words for what went through my mind as I saw the smoking tower. The first one had already fallen. The newscaster's voice was filled with heaviness as he narrated the events. I remember he was in mid-sentence when the second tower collapsed in its own cloud of rubble. He just stopped talking, and the silence said more than words could have ever conveyed. I only had one class that day. I dragged myself to it, but it was a pointless effort. No one could concentrate. No one could think of anything to say. We just stared at each other with pain mirrored in our eyes. The chapel service that day was packed. On a normal day, seven or eight pews in the huge auditorium would have been filled. That morning, every row was filled, even the balcony. People stood in the aisles and along the walls. It's ironic, isn't it, that when we are confronted with death, with the end of life, suddenly God becomes a huge factor in our thought processes? For the rest of the day, I sat in the campus center where a huge screen had been set up. I watched the news all day, allowing myself to suffer in spirit along with those who were suffering physically. I cried along with the ones on the ground in NYC. I felt as helpless as those who stood on the streets of NYC with shock written across their blackened faces. Fifty years from now, if I live that long, these moments will still be seared on my consciousness. And each year, when September 11th rolls around, I'll revisit the pain. I'll once again ask God, why? Why? And once again, I'll gather the remnants of my faith about me, and slowly, but surely, allow God to stitch them back together. Was God surprised? No. Was God happy about it? Absolutely not. Could God have stopped it? Yes. Did He? No. Did He cause it? No, no, no! What did cause it? Sin. Was He there the whole time? Oh, yes. Did He hold the dying ones in His hands? Completely. I don't pretend to understand. But I know this, God is good. Absolutely good. I may have moments of anger, confusion, frustration, other emotions that have no words, but my faith that God is bigger than this carries me through. Today, I'm praying for the families that are one or two or three short a person because of that day. In the pain that this day brings, I pray that they will find the peace that comes from being in God's hands.
My good author friend, Deborah Heal, is setting up a GREAT deal for her Unclaimed Legacy trilogy! Buy a copy of one of her books for under a dollar and you get entered into a drawing to win the WHOLE trilogy, signed by the author, along with a mug! Can't beat that! Check out the details below, and take your chance to get some awesome books!
-- Tamara Shoemaker
Giveaway Featuring Unclaimed Legacy by Deborah Heal
and now are the perfect place and time to get your copy of Unclaimed
99 cents for
Kindle (for the month of September only). Here? Because
buying it enters you in a giveaway of the complete Time
and Again trilogy
(personally signed by the author) AND a pretty mug for your morning
You might want to keep the mug and Kindle book for yourself and give
the signed copies of the trilogy as a gift.
Rafflecopter giveaway entry form is below, but first let me tell
you about Unclaimed
who have read Time
know that Abby Thomas is a college student on a summer service
project with 11-year-old Merri. And they know that the summer is not
going the way Abby had expected—but in a good way. For one thing,
she meets a very nice guy named John Roberts. And for another, she
discovers a strange computer program called Beautiful
lets her fast-forward and rewind life. Not her own, of course, but
those of the people who lived in Merri’s old house.
in handy when Abby, John, and Merri agree to help the "Old
Dears" next door with their family tree. Except Abby and John
learn more about one of the ladies’ ancestors than they ever wanted
to know. Convicted in 1871 of murder and arson, Reuben Buchanan is a
blight on the family’s reputation. But was he really guilty? Abby
and John must get inside the mind of a murderer to find out.
while they’re rummaging around in the Old Dears’ family history,
they also find Nathan Buchanan, a heroic relative connected to the
Lewis and Clark Expedition—and a legacy waiting to be reclaimed.
But the most important discovery they make is that God’s promise to
bless a thousand generations is true.
this sequel to Time and Again Deborah Heal has taken pieces of real
life history and woven them [into] a fantastic story geared to keep
the reader entertained and on the edge of their seat… I adored
every single bit of this. It has the perfect blend of history and
action-packed suspense to keep young adults glued to the pages…I
think she has mastered a home run here. This one easily rates a 5 out
of 5 stars for me…and I hope it will work its way to the top of the
best seller lists for young adults.”
blurb above doesn’t say a lot about it, but Unclaimed
my heroes Lewis and Clark. I’ve always been fascinated by them,
partly because I knew the explorers spent the winter of 1803 at
Hartford, Illinois, near where I grew up in Woodburn.
chose that site for the camp they called Camp River
Dubois, because it was near the mouth of the Missouri River, which
they would ascend the next spring. The captains spent the winter
laying in supplies and training their men. I
decided it would be fun to let Abby “time-surf” back to see Camp
River Dubois. . .
reading HERE to
get more clues about Unclaimed Legacy.
the blurb says, sometimes when Abby and John are “time-surfing”
they learn more than they want to know about people from the
past--like Bertram White a violent husband. Read my companion article
about him HERE.
As a writer, I've always felt that I had a knack for putting onto paper thoughts that are hard to express. It has to be written, though; I stink as a speaker of those thoughts. Just ask my husband. If, say, he and I would (hypothetically, of course) ever fight (and of course, this never happens), I would get so frustrated, not so much at him, but at myself, because I. can. not. spit. out. what. I. mean. to. say. So usually (in the event that such a fight should ever occur, which of course, is a ridiculous notion), he will go back to the bedroom an hour or two later, and there on his pillow will be a notebook with four or five pages of hand-written thought processes that I've spent the last space of time writing, because that's how I communicate best. Sadly, as a result, I rarely get the fun of quick, witty retorts, unless by quick and witty, you mean hand-written and an hour or two delayed. By then, I can come up with a list of fifteen to twenty responses that would have been perfect if only I had thought of it when my husband had first uttered his side of it. But sometimes, even when writing, I can't find the words that I want to use, that encapsulate everything I think or feel. Romans 8 in the Bible talks about how the Spirit intercedes for us with "groans that words cannot express." This morning, on my way to church, I had a rare moment of complete alone time. My kids were all sick with one thing or another, and since I was on the worship team, I had to be at church, so my husband stayed at home with the kids. I honestly don't remember the last time I've had with just God and me, together, alone, and quiet without a background of screaming/laughing/crying/whining/yelling/giggling accompaniment. All I could hear on the way to church this morning was the sound of the truck motor and the whoosh of trucks as they passed me on the highway. And I had a moment-that-words-cannot-express. It was overwhelming, this break of quietness in my too-busy, too-loud, too-cluttered life as a mother/writer, where alone time just doesn't happen. I found myself praying, and listening, and crying, and basking in the presence of God.
I discovered that I have spent so much time trying, so hard, to make it through the busy times, just putting one foot in front of the other, that I had distanced myself in my relationship with God. I discovered that I had been through periods of doubt, where that tiny harmful voice whispers, What if this really is all there is? What if God doesn't exist?
I discovered that I have let myself become overwhelmed with life in general, that I've forgotten how to live. How ironic is that? And I discovered that in spite of all the insecurities, all the doubts, all the fear of the future, I have faith that is stronger. I discovered that God not only sat and listened to me complain and whine, even doubt His very existence, but that He loved me through it, held me securely, reminded me of His faithfulness. Sometimes, faith is a battle. It is not always allowing God to work in and through you, trusting that He fulfills His purpose in your life (though that is certainly a part of it). At times, faith means facing the doubts that come our way from the adversary; not just facing them, but resisting them. Our pastor today spoke on Ephesians 6, that whole section about putting on the armor of God. He said that the Greek word Paul used when he said to "stand firm, then," was the same word that was used in the old testament when armies came together to "violently resist" each other. So when doubt comes my way, or insecurities, or fear, I will violently resist. I will buckle on the belt of truth, slide my torso right into the breastplate of righteousness, get out my running shoes to be ready to take the gospel of peace. I'm gonna take up the shield of faith, which which I can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. That helmet of salvation will stay firmly planted on my head, and the sword of the Spirit will be unsheathed at all times. Because I am violently resisting.