Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Celebrating Christmas  
Australian Style

In 1957 Australia issued its first Christmas postage stamp. The image that slipped into millions of letter boxes around the world that year was one of worship and awe as the praying girl knelt in an attitude of reverence. Since then there have been many stamps depicting the Christmas season and the way Australian's celebrate.

One of my favorites is the 1986 collection of stamps which show a kindergarten class preparing to tell the story of Jesus' birth, complete with angels, shepherds and Wise Men. There is something about children telling the Nativity story which never fails to capture the heart of a grown up audience!

As the years have passed and with the shift in cultural mood there has been a spattering of Australian animals and even surfing santas, but overwhelmingly the Christmas stamp images have reflected the real reason for the holidays - the celebration of God sending His son into the world to fulfill ancient prophesies and bring to completion the work of love and sacrifice which the Lord Jesus was to carry out.

The shepherd's on the hillside near Bethlehem knew something amazing was happening as the angels filled the night sky with hosannas. The Wise Men who travelled many miles sought the baby and worshiped Jesus when they found Him. And Mary quietly pondered all that she saw and treasured it in her heart.

This Christmas, will you let the pictures on Christmas cards and stamps pass you by in the business of the season?  Or will you take a moment to consider the wonder of the Lord Jesus' birth,  as God himself came to dwell among us.

Some will sing hallelujahs, others will bow and worship with gifts only they can offer, while others will quietly treasure in their hearts the love of God through His only son Jesus.

If you have found Him, like the Wise Men long ago, you will already know there is no gift better than the Savior. If you are still looking, I pray this Christmas, God's message of love will shine into your heart through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kindred Spirits in the Classroom
How God blessed me in 2009 - Part 3

How do you make a writing dream come alive?
I had a story idea, and wonderful historical details. I had a first draft outline (of sorts) and character charts with lots of scribbled and highlighted notes. I even had a collection of 1870s photographs of my location and its people. But where do you start and how do you know if you're heading in the right direction? In His perfect timing, God drew me to a cyber-classroom, and I gladly slipped into the back row.

Like anybody learning a craft, I needed to come alongside those who were also honing their skills in the same area. This is where the world of writers' blogs fits into my story. I began to follow and listen to what others were saying about their work and life as a writer. I was inspired and encouraged by those on the same path as me, only they were miles ahead and I had just opened the gate.

I discovered so many generous writers who take the time to share what they are learning and achieving. One pointed me to another and then another until I had a list longer than the hours in my day. Writer blogs and websites opened up a vast library of information, and one of the best was a link to the ACFW. 

My membership fee was worth every cent and then some, as I read the questions like minded people asked, and the well informed and thoughtful answers that followed.

From one link I jumped to another until I found -  a gold mine. All the lectures and seminars from last year's ACFW conference were mine to buy and download onto my iphone. Instantly!  For weeks I went around 'sitting' in on writing workshops and discussions. Every household task and car trip I made was accomplished in the company of respected writing teachers and their students. More about that here.

I signed up for an article writing course which introduced me to new friends and something I hadn't done for a while - homework. I joined mailing lists and e-loops which fed me information daily. Suddenly my inbox was bombarded by writer 'speak' from all over the world - and I loved it. With such inspiration and wisdom how could I not be motivated to grow the craft of writing?

Along the way, there were some who showered me with the affection of 'kindred spirits'. Their friendship and leadership have stood out as true gifts from God. Like the best of classroom friends, they came beside me and showed me around by offering help and motivation. They held out their hand and drew me along, cheered for me and whispered secrets they had already discovered.

I knew God had brought me to His choice school for learning. And I am honored to have these people in my life.

To honor them, I pass on this award of appreciation and gratitude, and as a reflection of my thanks to God for the writing friends He has brought into my life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Treasures from the Sea

How God blessed me in 2009 - Part 2

When I opened my birthday card from John in May this year, I was delighted to receive the top request on my 'birthday wish list'. I had asked for 'time' and in my hand I held the promise of a week of uninterrupted writing at Mum and Dad's beach house, while John the Generous One offered to do the Mr Mom thing and keep the home fires burning.

My destination was Phillip Island,  just off the southern coast of mainland Australia, where my family has holidayed for more then 30 years, and the setting for my current writing project. Although my story takes place in the 1870s, there are still many places where 19th century island life  remains preserved for history buffs to explore and enjoy. Instead of writing, I found myself collecting information and talking to locals from the Historical Society about life during the early days of settlement on Phillip Island. I spent a day exploring the nearby Churchill Island with its original homestead built in the 1860s, and another day at Coal Creek Historical Village. My week of writing and researching flew by, but in that short time I discovered lots about my setting and the people who brought it to life in the first place.

Characters and plot began to take shape. Farm and village settings came alive in my mind as I stopped to talk to locals who were eager to share what they knew about their island. In the evenings, thanks to the absence of the internet, I read old newspapers and books detailing the daily life of the pioneers who braved the wind blasts of Westernport Bay, and made their homes on this remote volcanic outcrop. It was a birthday present unlike any other and I savored every moment, as my imagination played with the many elements of my developing story.

I had always wondered about the brave families who  turned an isolated island into a welcoming rural community. My first holiday experience at Philip Island was when I was 9 and my fascination with its history has only grown with the passing years. Now, after many months of research and writing,  I have an even deeper connection.

I came home from my retreat by the sea, with bucket loads of ideas and historical details. Some were destined to find their way into my wip. Others remain threads to be picked up at some stage for layering as my story develops.

Six months into my writing adventures, I was now armed with information and the emerging tale of two very different people, destined to meet and fall in love during this exciting time in Australia's history.

Thanks to my generous husband who pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, and 'run away' from home for a week, I was moving in the right direction. Like a diver returning from the deep, I surfaced with treasures and remnants from the past - the essentials of my story.
But how do you take all that information and imagination and turn it into a novel? This was no short story anymore. Thankfully, God had another classroom for me to join in the months to come!

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Four Seconds Changed My Life

How Four Seconds 
Changed My Life 

How God blessed me in 2009 - Part 1

The first full week of the Summer holidays began today. Even though my children finished school last Thursday,  Friday whizzed by with many errands and commitments, followed closely by a weekend of Christmas service rehearsals and performances at church.  The pace didn't really slow down for us until this morning, when the luxury of sleeping in ushered the true meaning of school holidays. No timetables to follow or bells to obey. No lunches to make at 7am, and no school uniforms to iron. Delicious and Bliss. I could add more words but I like those two the best!
Now that we have almost come to the end of another year, it's natural to think ahead to what's 'round the corner. A dear friend was asking me today about my writing goals for next year, and that's coming up in a blog post later this week. But for now I'm looking back with thanksgiving to the steps God guided me to take, so I can stand where I am today.

This time last year, I was reading The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers, one of my favorite writers. Ticking away in my heart, the life long ache to actively pursue my writing dreams, was making noises too loud to ignore. Each page I turned made me want to learn more about the craft of writing.  
Enthralled by Francine's work, I wanted to discover more about her. (I think I secretly wanted to be her.)  I never expected, the four seconds it took me to google her name, would change my life and turn it upside down in the best possible way.
Francine's website is a generous showcase of the author and her work. There are photos and book announcements, as well as Francine's amazing testimony and updates on her life. Like a heat seeking missile, I honed in on the Writing Tips link, where an explosion of information lit up my world. And following Francine's advice, I made a list of recommended books to hunt down,  to get me started.

There was no shortage of Summer reading last year. Armed with library books on writing as well as a speedy package from Amazon I was more then set with beach books and by the time we got back from our holiday, I was itching to get started.
The first thing I did was join my neighborhood writing group. I also joined an online writing community, FaithWriters. Just as my children were starting back at school in February, I began my education in the craft of writing.  I practiced by producing two short stories each week. One as homework for my local class and one as my entry for the FW Writing Challenge. This meant I was writing for an audience, with a given topic, working to a deadline and keeping to a word limit.  I also started receiving positive and constructive feedback.  One of the best encouragements I received was from a fellow writer who wrote, "I was disappointed that this story could only be ...750 words. Would grab a book of this story in a heartbeat, beautiful." I think I cried happy tears that day!
My excitement intensified when I won first place in the Beginners' category and moved up to Intermediate. My husband John wanted to know when he should quit his job and look after the family so I could write full time! (Ha!!)
From Intermediate I stepped up to Advanced, by this stage happily addicted to my online writing competitions and learning so much from the many talented writers I was reading and getting to know through online forums and blogs. 
By April I had my routine set. Housework in the morning, and writing in the afternoon. Each week I worked on my stories and took small steps toward my ultimate goal of writing a novel. Bit by bit, and chuck by chunk, little portions of writing got done. 
Perhaps it's because I like baby steps, and I happen to have married a man who loves to take giant leaps,   I found myself pushed on from the comfortable tip toe routine I enjoyed, to a new and unbelievable place by the man I love the most. By May, thanks to the best birthday present I ever received, (more about that tomorrow) I had moved into a new phase of my writing adventures.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his 
steps. Proverbs 16:9

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Work In Progress

Yes, I disappeared a bit in November.  I've been writing madly. Not blog entries, but words which went towards my tally for the NaNoWriMo competition. The National Novel Writing Month has grown to become an international machine which grinds its way through the month of November, as thousands of competitors scribble their way to a writing goal of 50,000 words. Lasting the entire month of November, and not a second more, the goal of writing so many words loomed insurmountable at first. But with many friends attempting the challenge, and the encouragement of my wonderful family and those who have done it before, I soldiered on...... and finally made it to the finish line!
With 50,179 words in total, I have a better feel for where my story is going, a clearer picture of my characters and their motivations, and a stronger desire to see this project through to the end.
I know now more than ever before, how much work awaits me before I can bring my story to completion. But I have plans for my work in progress. Plans for my characters to grow and unfold as the story takes shape, plans for secrets to spill out and hearts to be broken by man and mended by God. My plans include days and days of rewriting and editing, rewriting and editing ... and rewriting some more. But even though there's lots to do, I'm excited to continue and finish what I've started.
And I am encouraged to know my creativity is a reflection of the Holy God I belong to. He is also working on a project of character development. Me. As His child I can rest on the promise that the work He has begun in me, will one day be brought to completion, according to His will and purposes for my life.

When Paul wrote his letter to encourage the people of Phillipi, he reminded them of God's hand in their growth and direction as believers.
 Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion
 until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

This is the same promise which encourages me too. I'll have to wait and see what happens with my writing and where it will go from here... but I am sure of one thing. God's hand on my life is a given. And the spiritual work He has begun in me will reach a perfect conclusion one day. 

What about you? Are you encouraged to know you are one of God's works in progress? 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

And the winners are....

Well, the results are in, and we have our winners in the
 "Name that Character" competition.
Many thanks to those who played the game with me last week and suggested names. You were great sports and I am thrilled you helped me out. As the days went by I found myself thinking about how I could use all the names. 
Yes, I bonded with these 'wannabe' characters and decided my nameless male and female characters needed a family as well. So it is with great pleasure I announce the Lynne family, Amos and Agnes, with their children Anthony, Esther and Irene. I did end up using more than I first promised and I guess that happens when you have a soft spot for the names and the real life people who inspired them.
All were written on slips of paper, put into a bowl and drawn under my own supervision. No bribery or corruption took place, and I was more then satisfied with the results! 

Now that we have our winners, I can safely say, those left in the blue bowl do not come away empty handed. They stay on the short list as standby names for those determined characters who sneak up on a writer while they are working, and insist they be written in. I just know Lady Laviah Darvell is lurking in the shadows. As is Adam Grenville. Does he sound like a school teacher to you? Is Matilda his wife or child? Something tells me they will let me know when the time is right. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is your name the one I'm looking for?

A good name is more desirable than great riches;
 to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
 Proverbs 22:1

When a friend asked me if I would name a character in my book after him, I had a good laugh and then politely told him why I couldn't use his modern sounding name in a story set in the 1870's.  But as a last name it would work well, as a significant explorer with that same surname did pass through Victorian waters during the early part of the 1800s and was instrumental in the naming of a few coastal towns. 

Later as I thought about it some more, I discovered I like the idea of naming a character or two after people who are following my writing adventures. Your encouragement keeps me writing, and I want to share the fun around.

So today I invite you, as a follower of this blog to enter for the chance to win
  'a character name in Dorothy's novel'. 
If your name is true to the time period between 1850 and 1870 in colonial Australia, then I will be happy to place it in the hat for the final draw, this Saturday 14th November.
If your first name is too modern, you may enter your middle name, surname or even your maiden name if it is more suitable. If you've got nothing for me, I am happy to consider your dog's name or even your street name -  if it will work!
I have one male and one female character who are nameless at this point and they need to make an appearance soon. You can suggest a first name and/or surname, as your own name inspires you.
I look forward to your suggestions. :)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Do you want to get lost in a book?

Just before I turned 9, my Uncle Peter asked me what I wanted for my birthday. It was an easy question. All I wanted was a book. I knew, just like the girl reading by the window, that stories could take me anywhere in the world, while I was safely tucked in my own bed. Uncle Peter generously gave me about 10 books that year, all Enid Blyton titles including the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. Adventures in England with well known fictional friends darting among the hedgerows and eating peaches from tins, became mine to savor during winter evenings and "Just one more chapter?" became my nightly plea before lights out. Opening the first few pages of a new book and knowing there were nine more waiting for me was such a delicious feeling. I still experience this same delight when I read today. I never come home from the bookshop or library with a single book and orders from Amazon always arrive in bundles.

If you're wondering what to read while you wait for my novel to be released (just kidding there. sort of), I've come across a great new blog which will inspire you, no matter what fiction genre you're interested in.
The International Christian Fiction Writers have launched their new blog to promote Christian fiction with a global flavor. They shine the spotlight on more than twenty international  authors who take the reader to a world beyond our respective borders. 
You may be looking for an Australian outback romance, or an African suspense, or even the recent release from Nick Daniels, set in nineteenth century London, The Gentleman's Conspiracy. 
Who is Nick Daniels you ask? A great interview with him and review of his work can be found on the blog.
While these writers represent global settings which are miles apart, they are bound by one unifying goal;

Writing fiction with a foreign flair, for His glory.

As author bios begin to appear, I can tell there is a wealth of amazing writers to be featured in the weeks to come, whose desire is to be used by God through their writing. 
 If you're lucky you may even win one of the titles being reviewed in the month of November. Your input is valued too. What are you reading and what do you want to see more of? The good people at the International Christian Fiction Writers want to know what you're thinking when you look for Christian fiction. 

What I want is an experience like the girl in the picture. I want to forget where I am and be totally immersed in a story which transports me far away from my reality. If it's set in the 1800s, even better. I also want to see how people grow and learn through the life lessons God brings their way. I want to see people fall in love with each other and with God. And I want a happy ending. 
You may have different preferences. 
I'm sure you will find something which you won't be able to resist when you explore what the International Christian Fiction Writers have to offer. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

Are you a ‘glass half empty’ or ‘glass half full’ kind of person? Do you notice things from their ‘Oh no’ potential or their  “Oh wow” possibilities? Last weekend at the Agape Women's Retreat I read a Thomas Nelson book, The Noticer by Andy Andrews, an award winning writer and speaker. Against a backdrop of busy quilters with their whirring machines, and those cooking or chatting by the fire, I sat in the sunroom with the other readers and took a trip to the community of Orange Beach, Alabama.
The Noticer is a book about Andy, a homeless young man, and Jones, the older stranger who sets him on a new course of life for his adult years. Jones claims to have been bypassed in the natural talents of running or singing but his gift is that of being a 'Noticer.' 
"I notice things that other people overlook... about situations and people that produce perspective. That's what most folks lack - perspective - a broader view. So I give them that broader view... and it allows them to regroup, take a breath, and begin their lives again."
When Jones passes on his perspective to Andy things begin to change and a new hope propels him to see the future with its many possibilities. He starts to consider how others view him and how this might have an impact on his relationships.
Fast forward ten years, and Jones is back in Orange Beach again. Once more, his perspective on life intersects with the people around him. Those in unhappy marriages, the arrogant, the lonely and the desperate, are all challenged to consider a new perspective. Jones is not a 'solver' of problems. He simply challenges the way people look at themselves, and gives guidance without telling them what they need to do.
The Noticer is a quick and easy read which comes with discussion questions for each chapter. Part allegory, part inspiration, it's not the sort of book I normally choose for myself but I was drawn to its unusual blend of fiction and autobiography.
The Noticer is an enjoyable read. A book you will want to share with a friend and talk about later. You may find you too begin to notice things with a new perceptive.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

God's Perfect Sequence

My GPS told me we were 40 minutes away from our destination as we barreled down the freeway towards Bacchus Marsh for the Agape Women's Retreat last Friday. Sitting beside me, my good friend Ola studied her own GPS, showing an alternate route for the same destination. So why, with 2 navigational devices did it take us more than an hour to arrive?
Choices. Let's just say Ola and I 'chose' a sequence of turns which took us the scenic route. Thinking we were smarter then the GPS, we bypassed one possible exit and kept going, sending my GPS into a frenzy as it quickly reformatted and calculated our next move.
My GPS has a name. Jane is the navigator with a British accent. She sounds like she knows what she's doing, and I trust her because there is a satellite somewhere in the sky telling her what's ahead, and then she tells me. If our 'relationship' is going to work though, I need to obey Jane's instructions. If I chose to ignore her I may end up lost. Thankfully, our little detour was not a major deviation, and we were soon back on course. We followed her directions this time to the letter, and ended up where we needed to be, Sunnystones Country Retreat. This solid rock complex set on 50 acres just outside Bacchus Marsh in Victoria was the ideal place for us to unwind and connect in ways we could never do on a Sunday morning after church. Some worked on craft projects, others read by the fire, while some simply napped in the corner. And when we came together to eat we indulged in gourmet fare cooked with love by Anthea and Ann.
When we gathered together to connect on a deeper level and look at our theme for the weekend, it was no coincidence our meditation was on "The Choices Women Make". Using Biblical examples, Laraine walked us through the lives of women who needed to trust God and make a choice to reach out to Him with their needs. We looked at Hannah, as well as the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' garment. In desperation they took their heart's cry to God and trusted Him to answer.
Later we were encouraged to consider a time when we chose to come to God with our own dilemma. How did He help? And what about today? What do I need to bring to Him now? Will I chose to do it?
There is so much to be gained by remembering the many times God has answered our prayers. His faithfulness and gifts to us are immeasurable. His directions are always perfect as is His destination. 

"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." Psalm 143:10

Are your choices taking you the wrong way, or are you choosing to follow God's Perfect Sequence for your life? His very own GPS for you. The road ahead is not always smooth but He promises to go before us. Are you letting Him lead the way?

Monday, October 26, 2009

"You'll hang by the neck until you be dead."

Last week I visited the Old Melbourne Gaol Education Unit with Matthew and his class. This excursion was focused on the justice system and how the courts worked in the 1860s. Matthew and his classmates were given a script and some costumes and ushered into an old magistrate's court room to re-enact the 1863 trial of 24 year old Elizabeth Scott, the first woman to be hanged in Victoria, for the murder of her husband.
In bringing this trial to life the class was able to see the way in which women were treated by the men in authority at that time. With little representation in court, no opportunity to speak in her own defense and an all male middle class jury, poor Elizabeth was doomed. While modern day historians have failed in their attempts to uncover any evidence to confirm or deny her innocence, there is some speculation Elizabeth Scott may not have been guilty of the charges brought against her. Two local men, friends of Elizabeth, were executed along side her, also guilty of the same crime. And while the truth will never be known, the record shows three people died to pay for the one crime. At the end of the 'trial' the students had the opportunity to explore the human rights, citizenship and justice issues they have been studying.

We exited the courtroom through the prisoners’ dock and passed under an ornate arch into one of old Melbourne's cobbled laneways. We briefly saw the cells where prisoners waited their turn for court behind heavy doors and locks, before the children ran outside happy to be free after an hour in the courtroom. The drama was soon forgotten in the business of playing.
But the adults on the tour, couldn't easily forget Elizabeth Scott, who at 14 married an abusive pub owner in his 40s. Her parents had given her in marriage to an older man in the hope he would be able to provide for her and ensure a better life. They could never imagine the drudgery her husband would make her endure as she labored to keep their business going and care for their young boys.
I would've liked to learn more about Elizabeth Scott and understand the isolation and fear which ruled her days. What place did the other two men have in her life for the three of them to be embroiled in such a tragedy? Was there anything good to be said about Elizabeth's villainous husband, or was he already a drunk before they married? What happened to the young brothers after they were placed in an orphanage? 
Sadly there is no romantic ending to this story. Only unanswered questions remain in this sliver of our history, a murky window to the past. 
And what about that one remaining question?
Did Elizabeth's heart turn to God in those final moments before the noose slipped around her neck?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's in a name?

Someone recently asked me why I named this blog Ink Dots

Ink, is for the beautiful way a word appears on the page when it is written with an ink pen. One of my favorite Christmas presents ever is an elegant fountain pen which I use every day. There is something very romantic about the way the nib scrapes the paper and the purple ink flows, (yes I use purple ink) even if it's just a shopping list. The words milk and bread look so much better when they have little violet tails and swirls!

It reminds me of once upon a time when letters and diaries were scribbled by the light of the lamp. Last year as I was digging around in a thrift shop in Nappanee Indiana, I came across this old purple ink pot (above) made by Sanford's of New York and Chicago. I had to take it home to Australia with me, it was begging! How could I resist an octagonal faced charmer like this, with it's corked lid and brush? I don't know what the brush is for and I'm not sure how far back it dates. The Sanford Manufacturing Company first appeared in the Chicago Directory in 1873 but it's believed it was most likely established earlier than this. I like to imagine it's from the 1880s and in some Chicago attic there is a stack of faded purple love letters penned with it's ink. 

As for the Dots in my blog title, well that's me. Dot, Dotti, Dorothy. I go by all of these names. But you guessed that already right? Dots is also what the ink makes on its way to becoming words. Little splatters which join and blend and become the message on the page. My stories - my ink dots.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Raw Material

My daily Bible reading, historical research for my novel and writing studies collided today in one simple image. Clay.  
During the week I finished reading Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Looking like a coloring book, there are many passages highlighted there I plan to revisit. In the section, Keep them Reading, I read about the raw material used to stretch the tension in fiction, sometimes missing in the middle of a story. "Before you can stretch anything, of course, you need the raw material. You don't fashion a clay pot without clay. The clay for a novelist it trouble."
As a visual learner this image grabbed me. From my distant school day attempts to play with clay, I know the possibilities it offers. If you're not happy with what you're making, you can change. Start again completely if you like. But if there's no clay at all, there is nothing to work with. For good writing I need trouble to create and then pull on the tension my characters are experiencing. There is a real purpose to the clay or trouble.

All this clay talk got me thinking about the different materials used in the 1800's for simple household items, such as ceramic bottles and jars. I wondered how much pottery was locally made. I knew a little about the famous Bendigo Pottery company, founded by G D Guthrie, a Scotsman who came to Australia in the 1850's hoping to strike it rich on the goldfields. What he discovered in the ground was of greater value to him than gold, when he realized the clay deposits were perfect for pot making. It didn't take him long to begin production on household items like tall ewer jugs to hold drinks, medicine and tonics, and emulsion jars for chemicals and turpentine. A more recognizable piece, the ceramic water filter, was popular in many homes during the 1880's due to the muddiness of the water supply. G D Guthire may have abandoned his potter's wheel in Scotland but he returned to it with renewed purpose when he saw the potential for a new business venture.

This morning my Bible reading text was from Jeremiah 18:1-5.
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD :  "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand." 

I was blessed to remember God also uses clay to tell a story. In this one He is the master craftsman who shapes and works on His children to fashion them according to His purpose, so we can be equipped to serve. He knows what He's doing. He's in control. And just like the writer with her words or the Scotsman with his wheel, God desires the best result.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Black Saturday

When a cluster of raging firestorms exploded through large areas of the Victorian bush in February this year, it destroyed property and livestock, and claimed the lives of 173 people. The town of Marysville, known to locals as 'God's Eden' became front page news when it was wiped off the map, as the day etched itself into our history and memories as Black Saturday. With temperatures reaching a devastating 46.4°C (115.5°F) the inevitable had occurred. 

Six months later Australia’s worst natural disaster was revisited in the Weekly Times, still smoldering in the minds of witnesses in horror and disbelief.
"Locals say the flames on Back Saturday were half a kilometer high, the radiant heat so intense that even ceramics melted. Water was sucked out of creeks, trees ripped from the ground by the fire's ferocity, houses vaporized." 

For those who have chosen to stay and rebuild, a mammoth task awaits. But as new buildings and infrastructure slowly reappear, so is life in the scorched remains of the bush. Dead looking tree stumps are showing signs of life. With the welcome arrival of Spring, tufts of green appear, as leaves and saplings make their way from the source of life hidden within.
This photo, taken a few ago weeks shows the regeneration of the Victorian bush. Beauty is replacing the ashes and transforming the ugly into something life promising.


Life's lessons are often learned by watching nature. The cycle of life, death and rebirth is all around us. God displays it in so many pictures and His object lessons are worth observing. His breath of life is on the charcoal log, not dead as it appears, but transformed by the trial of the storm.

Monday, October 12, 2009

That Dude Romeo

Who is responsible for the deaths in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet? This is what my son Tom was exploring this afternoon as he contemplated an essay question for English.
As he worked away at the computer, he yelled out in frustration, "This Romeo dude makes me so mad. It's all his fault and I don't like him at all!"
Wow. My sports mad boy was actually moved to dislike a literary character and tell me why. There was much mumbled about Romeo's 'impulsive actions which lead to the deaths of many." Go Tom! 

Taking the advice of those who know things, I have been reading James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure. In it he discusses that which controls the deepest emotions of a character. He says it is obsession. 
"Create a character. Give her an obsession. Watch where she runs."
Romeo ran all over the place trying to find love. One minute he was in love with Rosaline, the next married to Juliet. Today free, tomorrow a fugitive murderer. What a mess young Romeo made in his obsession with Juliet. Of course many will say others must share the blame. And they do. 

The apostle Paul shares some similarities with Romeo. As Saul, in his zealous pursuit of Christians he  "went from one synagogue to another to have them punished." He writes, "In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them." Acts 26:11. 

While Saul's character underwent great transformation, poor Romeo didn't get a chance to grow. 
This is what my favorite English teacher called a real tragedy - unfulfilled potential. 
Today it was about an impulsive dude named Romeo, and a modern day basketballer's exploration of medieval tragedies.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The School Bell Is Ringing

After 2 1/2 weeks of sleeping in and 'pajamas 'til lunchtime', the holidays have ended and all my chickens are back at school. There is always a little grieving for me each new term, as I contemplate how quickly our children are growing up.  Last night I filled in their medical forms for 2010. I have been doing this since 1998, when Sophie started school. Yesterday when I completed her forms, I realized regretfully that those forms would be the last, as next year is her final year of high school. How did that happen so quickly? Wasn't it only yesterday the little girl in the long dress, big hat and floppy shoes started school? Thankfully she still likes to dress up and play. And hanging out with her drama gang means there is no shortage of opportunities to bring a scene to life with the greatest dramatic flair!

This is a recent photo of Sophie and her friends slipping into character with 2 other 'dramatic figures' at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. The discovery of gold there in 1851 heralded the frenzy of mining which was to shape the town and district forever and still captures the imagination of many who visit this historical village.  Thank you Drama 5 (Nat you were there in spirit!) for letting me laugh with you and for sharing such a fun day together. Now that everyone is back at school and hard at work, it's time for me to return to the characters I have put on hold.
Psalm 78 1-4
O my people, hear my teaching; 
listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in parables, 
I will utter hidden things, things from of old
what we have heard and known, 
what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children; 
we will tell the next generation 
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, 
his power, and the wonders he has done.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Road Ahead

My wonderful new friends at the ACFW have been helping me with a writing question this week. There has been much discussion from all over the world, and emails have gone back and forth in earnest contemplation. There is a wealth of experience there and I am privileged to listen in.

I even emailed my question to an award winning author, who generously took time from her busy schedule to answer.

In a nutshell, this is what I was pondering.

Will my locally set Historical Romance capture the attention of an audience outside Australia?

This was her wise advice.

“Write what you LOVE to write.....writing a full manuscript is an education in itself. When you're just starting out, it's best not to think about marketing. Better to write a brilliant manuscript that no editor can refuse--regardless of the setting. And that's not just words, it's the truth. It's what I did.”

And then there was this last Sunday at church.
Our older congregation members were celebrated as “those saints who have been at the foot of the cross a little longer than the rest of us.”
They know things. Things about life and faith, about sorrow and hope for the future. They have journeyed to where I want to go. They have broken the ground before me and I can see them up ahead.

There are many along this road, some older and some are younger.  Thankfully, they’re happy to stop along the way and point out the tracks their journey has made. And as I follow, I hope to reach a hand out to those who will come alongside me, because a journey is ''best measured in friends rather than miles."

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.