Who’s your Irish Ancestor?

On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone wants to be Irish. It’s not necessary to prove your ancestry to participate in the fun. However, most Americans are descended from a huge melting pot mixture of different cultures, so you just may have some “green” blood in your system after all!

The stern gentleman in this picture may look familiar  if you have studied American (or Texan) history. Yes, this is General Sam Houston, the famous war hero, congressman, governor of two states, and president of the Republic of Texas. He is also my most famous relative. I grew up counting the “greats” when trying to explain how we are related. Though he is not in my direct bloodline, we do share a common ancestor, his grandfather was my sixth great grandfather who came from Ireland before the American Revolution. General Houston’s aunt was my fifth great grandmother.

So other than feeling entitled to wear a green party hat on March 17, why do the faces in our family tree really matter?

For me, it all comes down to the stories. General Sams’s grandfather came to America because he was not the oldest son, and had no inheritance in his home country. With all the wide open spaces here, there was a chance for everyone to be a part of something great. General Sam himself must have felt this sense of opportunity himself, as he traveled from where the family had settled in Virginia to Tennessee, even becoming part of the Cherokee nation along the way. He ended up in the Arkansas Territory, and then famously, in Texas. Meanwhile, he fought, both as a soldier, and as a politician to defend the American ideals of freedom. No more being tied to birth order. Everyone should have the same opportunities.

The aunt who was my ancestor married into another Irish family, the McKees. This family provides a legend for us, as they were involved in a tragic Indian attack in Virginia in 1765. The story goes that the husband and wife sent their six children ahead to safety, and reluctant to separate, they were both killed in the savage attack, first the mother, and several days later, the father.

My mother faithfully documented the names and dates associated with these events. But  it’s the stories that have always mattered the most. They tell us who we really are. They explain the tough, never say die attitude of our forefathers. Freedom was worth fighting for. And, though it isn’t always well documented, I know that their faith in God must have sustained them through these un-believably tough times. That spirit, that faith is what continues, what we pass along to future generations.

Who’s in your family tree, and what stories have sustained you? It’s something to celebrate, as sure as you’re born! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Support Your Local Author

Have you been enjoying all of these Inkspirational suggestions for great books to read? I know my To Be Read pile is growing daily!!!

We interrupt this series of very helpful blog entries for a brief advertisement. These days, it is easier than ever to help your favorite author so that she can continue to write those wonderful books you love.

Write a review!!! There are lot of ways to do this, but since the overwhelming majority of my reading is now done on my Kindle, my favorite way is to continue past THE END and write a review before I close the book.

Amazon Review for blog

You don’t have to pretend to like the book and give it a five star review, although you should always be kind. Give it three stars, and just say, I learned a lot. (About how not to write a book?) But, if you do love it, give the future readers some great reasons why.

One tip- No Spoilers. Don’t tell how it ends, or even very much about the specifics. Just say, plenty of action, plot twists, had me on the edge of my seat,  – – you get the idea.

This week, I even got a chance to answer a question generated by my review. The reader wanted to know if this book was a “Christian” book, or was it just about faith in general. Woo-hoo! I said,”Yes, it is a Christian book, but the theology doesn’t overwhelm you.” I loved helping the author get her message out!

So, read, read, read, and then review. Your favorite local author will love you for it.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog. Enjoy the wonderful Inkspers!

Winter or Spring- Straddling the Line

It’s that time of year.Early spring, or six more weeks of winter? Here in the upper South, we can go either way.

The one and only snow day in Central Arkansas so far fell on the day last month when hubby and I were scheduled to leave for a Caribbean cruise! Around here, just a little bit of snow can shut down roads and cause havoc. Since we live around 20 miles from the airport, we spent a little extra money to stay in a hotel just a hop and a skip across the freeway from the runway. This gamble paid off for sure, as we were able to sleep confidently. Roads leading to the airport are among the first to be cleared. The next morning, there was just a dusting of white stuff, and no ice underneath, so we navigated the overpass, left our car in the cold, and headed for warmer climates.

When we connected in Atlanta, the terminals were buzzing with talk of an ice storm. Ours was one of the last planes to leave for Florida before the weather shut things down in Georgia’s busiest city.

Even in Florida, and on the ship, the weather was unseasonable. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s and strong winds made for choppy seas, and even a change in our schedule. But we did have a sunny day on the beach, and another warm one on a fishing excursion.

Back at home, there has been no more below freezing weather. Just a weekly roller coaster of winter, back to spring, and even summer. The plants are confused. Flowers and shrubs are blooming earlier than normal, and we go from shorts and flip-flops to scarves and boots with little notice.

I’m not complaining. It certainly keeps life interesting. But, I am just hoping that the beautiful blooms won’t be bitten by that last icy blast that always seems to arrive just before Easter Sunday.

God has a plan.He just keeps the weather men guessing in the Natural State!!!

Who said that? POV and Head Hopping in fiction

My friends who are just beginning this writing journey must be very confused about some of the things we authors say.  “I think the POV is a little off in this scene.” “Oh no! Now I’m head hopping.” What????

Yes, we tend to get caught up in catch phrases at times. But the concepts are simple-and very important to how our stories will be received by our readers.

POV- Point of view- means the perspective from which the story is told. Each character in a good story has a different outlook about what is happening. Their own past experiences and expectations come into play. Besides, the way the story is unfolding has a lot to do with  what they know about what is happening, and how they learn those details. Each person involved sees, hears and experiences different parts of the event in different ways. Point of View varies according to who is telling the story.

In many old manuscripts, a real narrator is used. This is called “omniscient” Point of View.  You, as the reader, are privy to everything that is going on. You can see and hear and experience all of what is happening at once.

First Person  means that the narrator-the main character- is only telling us her side of the story. Most sentences begin with “I”,   because she can only tell us what she did, what she heard, what she felt about what was happening.

Third Person point of view takes the “I” out and refers to the main character as “she” or by name. We still get only one viewpoint, but it’s as if we are watching the story unfold. A popular variation on this Third Person point of view takes us deeper. We really get inside our heroine’s head, and she may have some internal thoughts that bleed over to First person. Most often, the writer uses italics to make this clear.  Many stories switch from one Third Person point of view to another, in order to fill in some blanks, and experience the “other side” of an event.

Head hopping? No, I am not talking about flying body parts here (another catch phrase, sorry). Head hopping is when we are safely hearing the story from inside one person’s head, and suddenly, another view point intrudes. It’s like hearing a voice coming from somewhere that we can’t identify. These “who said that?” moments take the reader out of the story, causing them to stop and re-read, or maybe just giving up all together. Not what we want as writers!

Okay- to illustrate this- to “Show and not Tell”- let’s have an example. Here’s the same short scene told with different types of point of view.

Example One:

“Inside a rustic pavilion in one of Arkansas’ premiere State Parks, four generations of a family gathered for their annual reunion. Happy chatter erupted and echoed from the log walls. As each group arrived with their hands full of covered dishes and ice chests, they were shown the best place to deposit those items.” – POV??? Omniscient

Example Two:

“I pushed up the window covering, bracing it to keep it from falling back down. There were lots of my husband’s relatives here. That was a good thing, they always had a good time together.”  POV??? First person

Example Three:

“Jenny stood next to the long serving bar, rearranging to make room for the third bowl of potato salad. She smiled at her husband, who was standing nearer the door, glancing out toward the parking lot.”  POV??? Third person

Example Four:

“It was a little hard for Jenny to keep her mind focused. She should feel happy at the turn-out for this reunion. But she couldn’t help noticing that their own branch of the family tree stopped abruptly. None of the next generation had been able to fit this gathering into their schedules. Heavenly Father, help me to enjoy this day without feeling sorry for myself. 

Chris noticed that his mom’s back was turned, and prompted little Austin forward.

‘Aaahh!!!’ Jenny took a side-step to keep from falling over the smiling munchkin standing so close by here side. They did make it! Thank you Lord.”   POV??? Deep Third Person with an intrusive bit of Head Hopping. Did you catch it?

So, POV is not so hard to understand after all. It is just a tool to help us get those stories told. Each genre- type of story- has varying norms for the point of view that is used. It’s all about what your reader expects, and what makes them want to keep reading. Because, as a writer- that is definitely what we want!!

Coming Clean

In this year of refocusing, the scripture that won’t leave my head begins with a request that would be impossible for anyone but God. Psalm 51:10.  “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” To be truthful, this verse rattles around in my head in a musical fashion, because it was part of the weekly liturgy in the Lutheran church of my childhood. When I sang these words, I thought they probably applied to someone else, someone with a lot of issues. With a very filthy heart.

But, if I am focusing on changes that need to be made in my life, I will first have to recognize what needs to be changed. I have never enjoyed having my failings pointed out. I am very good at rationalizing, at justifying.  You see, it isn’t my fault. I always mean well. It’s me, not someone else. I am really a good person.

From past experience, though, I know that when there is a problem in my life, coming clean hurts, but it feels so good when it is over.  The best thing is, I know that once the sin or shortcoming is recognized and confessed, my heavenly Father forgives me. There will still be earthly consequences. And God expects me to work hard at correcting the problem. His advice to the woman at the well in John 8:11? “Go and Sin no more.”

So, I am in a period of evaluation. What things need to be purged from my life so that I can make room for this new, clean heart? My list will include being more honest about my faults, my bad habits, my sins. This will allow the rest of verse 10 to happen, as he will “Renew a right spirit within me.”

What better way to refocus. With a clean heart and a right spirit. Amen, and amen.

 

 

My Word for the New Year: Refocus

As many writers do, I enjoy contemplating a single word as the year on the calendar changes. This year, my mantra has been obvious since our fall writing retreat. Refocus.

I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil, and as you can tell from my bio pictures, that is now a very long time. I am known for being able to phrase things well in business letters at work. When it comes time to explain a difficult topic in laymen’s terms, I’m your girl. Of course, with the ability to write comes the desire for others to appreciate that work. So, I have been seeking publication, which has resulted in writing monthly columns in a local general interest magazine. With the advent of social media, I have actually developed a following of sorts, with folks looking forward to my comments, and participating when a song breaks out that they know well enough to sing along. But, have I strayed from that path of storytelling? Refocus.

At this stage in my life, my health can easily get out of control. There is a fine balance of the type and amount of food I eat, the time spent exercising, and the amount of water I drink. When I let any of these components go un-noticed, extra pounds pile on. With more weight, it becomes harder to move, harder to exercise. With no reduction in food, or increase in water, more pounds. The pattern is obvious. Refocus.

Every winter, when plunging temperatures cause our joints to ache, my husband and I talk of moving further south. Since our middle son moved to Florida, got married and brought us our fifth grand-child, the discussions have gotten more serious. Now, grand number six is on the way, and we have learned our way around Central Florida quite well thank you. But, do we really want to move permanently, or just arrange for a vacation home there?  So much to consider. Refocus.

Along with a highlighted word, I like to have a scripture in mind for the new year. This year, I keep hearing Psalm 51 – verses 10-12. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Refocus.

This year, I plan to explore a new path for my fiction writing. I plan to focus on my audience, and then find an agent who shares my vision. Health-wise, I know what to do. It’s just a matter of concentrating on doing what works, and feeling better in the process. Financially, we will dedicate ourselves to paying off as many bills as possible to make the dream of living in a warmer climate a much clearer vision. Renew, Restore, Refocus.

 

 

 

New Author – New Year

So, by this time, you have finished your shopping, you have the Christmas dinner menu settled, and you’re sitting back to do some shopping for YOU.  Time to add to your own To Be Read pile in preparation for the rest of the long, cold winter.

If you love historical novels, and appreciate realistic, non-perfect heroines, I have a new author for you to check out. Her name is Julane Hiebert. You can read her bio, and blurbs for her books at Kimberly Vogel Sawyer’s Wings of Hope Publishing website:

Julane Hiebert

Meanwhile, Let’s visit with this super sweet lady:

Hi Julane. I’m honored to share your story here on Inkspirational Messages.

First, how would you describe your journey to publication in a few words? Were you an overnight success?

Thank you, Jenny. It’s so nice of you to consider me and I appreciate it so very much. To answer your question—NO, I certainly was not an overnight success—as least not in the way some would define success. My journey was long, lots of ups and downs, promises and disappointments. But every ‘bump’ came a new layer of learning and I’ve been blessed with author friends who encouraged me every step of the way.

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What is the overriding theme of your books?

I would say the overriding theme is grace. In fact, the very first novel I wrote (though never submitted) was called Threads of Grace. I don’t want my characters to be perfect. Instead, I want my readers to be able to identify with my characters in their imperfection, as a way to show that God will, and does, use our flaws to bring glory to Himself if we are willing to be used.

 

For those of us who have our own stories to tell, describe how you get one of your books ‘off the ground’. Do you outline and plot, or just dive in?

I’m very much a seat-of-the-pants writer. I do have an ‘idea’ for a story and even a title and the main characters, and usually I know how I want the story to end, although that sometimes changes. My characters pretty much tell me their stories as I write. I’ve found that if I end up writing myself into a corner, it’s usually because I’ve tried to take over the story and my characters are rebelling. And yes, I’m fully aware of how crazy that sounds, but I’m sure other writers will understand.lark-officiel-cover-12642509_10205891287626850_46582769142110495_n

 

We all have real lives along with our fiction. So give us a glimpse of yours. What will be your next task when you finish these questions today?

Hee! Hee! My next task will be to get dressed, as I’m still in my jammies! But on a more serious note—I still have some Christmas projects I need to work on, and I desperately need a grocery run. Oh, and the tops of everything in this house need a good dusting. I had November 1 and December 1 deadlines so have been pretty much glued to my computer, but will have a bit of a break now until after the first of the new year. We are retired, so I’m blessed with having time to write—and doubly blessed with a husband who encourages my writing and never complains about sandwiches or dust.official-wren-cover-13254168_1173316602687316_2753737037930584601_n

 

A favorite scripture, song or quote that seems to be following you around these days.

Proverbs 3: 5,6 has sustained me over and over and over again. I’m a ‘fixer’, and when I can’t ‘fix’ any given situation my heart hurts. Several years ago I really hit bottom, and the Lord swooped me up in His arms and gave me both the scripture and a song.  If you’d like to listen to the song—which his basically the scripture– you can find it on youtube.com.  It’s Trust, by SixPence None the Richer.

 

Thank you, Jenny, for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to seeing you at Called to Write conference in March!!

https://calledtowriteconference.wordpress.com/

 

 

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Christmas- the Ultimate Comfort Zone

Before you really get started reading this, close your eyes for just a minute, and picture yourself on Christmas morning. Really. I promise I’ll be here when you get back. One, two, three, close ‘em.

Open again? Okay. So where were you? What were you doing. What did you see, hear, smell?

I’ll share first. I am at my grandmother’s house. The house is quiet, except for my Granny’s humming as she cooks. I can hear the clicking of her basset hound’s toenails on the linoleum floor as she follows Granny around the kitchen. The smell of corned beef hash wafts through the living room. The little aluminum Christmas tree glows brightly in the reflected light of the round multi-colored light machine. Unwrapped toys still sit under the tree, with neatly folded bathrobes and slippers and other warm clothes nearby. We would have a quiet breakfast, just my Mom and sister and me and Granny (and Sam the Basset hound). Soon, my aunt and cousins will return for dinner and playing outside in the South Central Kansas snow.

Your memories are probably much different. But it is not hard to conjure up a Christmas memory. They stick and stay in our heads, and we bring them out when we need to be in a happy place.

If I try again, and fast forward to when our kids were small, the scene will be similar. Some presents are unwrapped under an artificially green tree in our living room, but Santa’s special surprises: a Cabbage Patch doll, a Pound Puppy and a new pair of cowboy boots wait proudly for the first sleepy-head to emerge from the bedroom. I sit with my cup of hot tea and soak up the precious silence. Santa had come through once again, though my husband and I had wondered how he would manage with our meager paychecks. Outside, the Arkansas sun shines brightly, and I am actually thankful that there is no snow. Here in the foothills of the Ouachitas, slick roads would keep the grandparents from coming over later to watch the kids enjoy their new things. The big dinner the night before had been at their house, and I will most likely serve sandwiches today, along with any leftovers that might arrive with them. For now, heavenly peace.

Yes, the faces around the tree change, the size and value of the presents vary, but there are constants. Things seem familiar, comfortable.

Now  that our kids are grown, our new normal is that we very rarely manage to have all of our offspring in the same room at the same time. We enjoy each one when we get to see them, no matter the date on the calendar. The tree goes up earlier, stays up longer, to accommodate their schedules. That is fine for me, as I have more of those quiet moments, more time to remember Christmases past.

Not everyone adjusts to changes in the Christmas routine as easily. The same memories that bring us joy, also cause pain. The absence of familiar faces diminishes our joy. We need to be aware of this, and reach out to those who suffer during the holidays.

The first Christmas was not comfortable for the young couple who had traveled a great distance to find a “No Vacancy” sign, and a baby who was born in a building intended for animals. They knew, though, that something amazing was happening, having heard from angels, and visitors who came to gaze in amazement at the future king. This story is the constant that keeps Christmas so special for all of us. The realization that no matter what else happens in this world, God keeps His promises. Whether in a festive room full of friends and family, or alone in the flickering light of a fireplace, Christmas encourages us, prompts us to look around, to reach out to each other. Let’s remember the hope that filled that tiny, smelly stable so long ago. Comfortable or not, enjoy your Christmas celebration this year!

 

 

The Road Ahead – Constantly Changing

When God gives us a talent for storytelling or writing, one of the most common comments we hear is “You should write a book.” For as long as I can remember, my goal has been just that. The stories inside my head are well thought out. I feel as if I have known the characters all of my life.  I could pic any one of them and write you a complete bio right now.  So when will you be able to read a  book by Jenny McLeod Carlisle? Well, that is the $64,000 question.

It is not as if I haven’t been trying. I have submitted to contests, attended conferences, gotten valuable feedback. Joined writing groups, been critiqued by professionals and amateurs alike. I have been represented by an agent. Still,there is nothing you can download on your reading device, hold in your hand, have autographed at a local bookstore. So what is the problem?

Well, if you are on the same pathway, you know that this is not an easy road. There is an endless array of market research, suggestions for improvement, advice from every direction. Still, my stories are my stories. My journey to publication is not like anyone else’s.

Recently, I have been inspired to change direction. Perhaps what I am writing needs to be aimed at a different audience. Maybe the genre is Young Adult, rather than Contemporary Women’s Fiction. This opens new doors, but also necessitates new research. I will be reading more books, studying up on different agents, different publishers. And then, there is always the new and ever changing word of self publishing.

It’s all very daunting, but at the same time very exciting. Meanwhile, I am writing. I still have a monthly column in a print magazine, and I still love reaching out on this blog. I am developing an image, a presence.  Hopefully, I am entertaining someone, inspiring someone, commiserating with someone. When the time comes, I may be someone’s favorite author. I trust completely in Jeremiah 29:11. God does have a plan for me. It’s a confusing road, but it’s my road. Here am I. Lord, send me.

 

Renewing the Walk

It’s been a little over a week since our country chose a new President. The nation has moved from trying to convince others to vote a certain way to watching the direction or new leaders would be taking. In the days leading up to the election, I was trying to reassure others that no matter what, God is still in charge. Our forefathers planned for a peaceful transition with checks and balances to be sure that democracy would continue.

I will be honest, I was saying those things with the thought that the candidate I wanted would win. Now, as our future commander in chief moves from winning to leading, I am swallowing a dose of my own medicine. I really do believe that God is in charge, and He has a plan for us. It’s time to Walk the Walk that goes with the talk.

Two of my friends from opposite places on the political spectrum have influenced me in the past few days.

One reminded me that Jesus was a friend of all, including those whom had been labeled as sinners by the world. The old adage about What Would Jesus Do takes on a new meaning as we reach out in love to everyone who feels abandoned by the results of the election. Renewed expressions of hatred and prejudice must be confronted and squashed. We must spread Jesus’ message of Love to all we meet, talk to, send messages to. We can’t sit idly by and shake out heads. For whatever we do to the least of these, our brethren, we are doing to Jesus.

The other Christian friend remarked that our new Vice President was being called a radical Christian because he believes that the Bible is the true, inspired word of God. In that case, my friend says, Radical Christian is a label we should all seek. Yes, and yes. The Holy Scripture must be our guide as we move forward. Read it, share it, live it. God’s word will be our guide, our ever present help in times of trouble.

For me, it all comes back to the  the scripture I chose to lead me through this year. Micah 6:8. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Read this verse, but first, read the whole book of Micah. This prophet lived in some terribly harsh times. He spoke of God raining judgement on a lawless land. Everything the nation of Israel had known was changing. But in Chapter 4, verse 2, there is hope. “And many nations shall come and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob. and He will teach us His ways . . .”

As Christians, we can truly lead in these times of transition. Keep Walking.