3 Questions Wednesday with Harriet Michael

IMG_5245Today’s 3 Questions Wednesday guest is Harriet Michael. We’ve recently welcomed Harriet as a guest contributor here on the Writing Prompts blog, so you’ll see her posts from time to time. How did she do with our 3 questions? Read on. I think you’ll find it very interesting!

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday, Harriet. Here’s the first question:

Which author would you never get tired of, and why?

Harriet:  I read a wide variety of authors, both fiction, and nonfiction. Often I only read one sample of their work, because I have so many others I want to sample. But one author whose book I loved and intend to read another is Christian nonfiction author, Brennan Manning. I loved his Raggamuffin Gospel and am told by a close friend whose opinion I value, that “Abba’s Child” is also great. I hope to read it at some point too.

I collect quotes and two of Brennan Manning’s are among my favorites. He is quoted as saying, “On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars.”

And in his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, he wrote: “Most of the descriptions of the victorious life do not match the reality of my own. Hyperbole, bloated rhetoric, and grandiose testimonies create the impression that once Jesus is acknowledged as Lord, the Christian life becomes a picnic on a green lawn; marriage blossoms into connubial bliss, physical health flourishes, acne disappears, sinking careers suddenly soar… The New Testament depicts another picture of the victorious life: Jesus on Calvary. The Biblical image of the victorious life reads more like the victorious limp.”

Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Harriet:  Perhaps my favorite fiction book is Lorna Doone, by R.D Blackmoore. Written in the early 1800’s, the story is set in England in the late 1700’s. It’s a bit of a challenge to read because of the old English used, but after a while, you get the hang of it. Muddling through the tricky old English wording is well worth it! The book is a classic in every way—plot, romance, and characters. The story’s villain, Carver Doone, is a great example of a fictional villain. Blackmoore did a great job of juxtaposing him to the hero, John Ridd. Of course, they vie for the hand of the leading lady, Lorna Doone. It’s a terrific read that I highly recommend.

Great villain! And lastly…

What project are you currently working on?

Harriet:  As is the norm for me, I am working on several things at the same time. I am always writing and freelancing nonfiction articles and devotions to a variety of publications. Sometimes I am under a deadline for assignments too, though that is not the case right now. My first two books were recently released; a seasonal devotional book and a Biblically based study of prayer. They are both nonfiction.

I am also in the editing stages of my first fiction manuscript. It is a character-driven novel based on my parent’s lives. My parents were foreign missionaries to the African nation of Nigeria. They met when my mom was in nursing school and my dad in medical school. My mother’s family was quite poor. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school. Her father dropped out of school to work in a textile mill after the third grade and her two older brothers did the same after sixth grade. Back then they did not have child labor laws. My father, on the other hand, was a medical doctor, as were his father and grandfather before him. He grew up vacationing in a family owned beach house while my mom grew up without electricity or indoor plumbing and drawing water from a well. She didn’t know what a vacation was. Her father, a widowed farmer, supported himself, his four children, and two old-maid aunts with what he could grow and sell on his farm and the little he and his sons brought home from the mill.

So there was a lot to draw from in writing this story. I have been a nonfiction writer since I began writing in 2009. But I have discovered that I absolutely love writing fiction! It feels like I am a child again playing pretend.

I am beginning to formulate ideas for my next nonfiction book too. It will be a follow-up to my recent release about prayer.

Thanks so much, Harriet, for taking the time to complete our 3 Questions.

More about Harriet Michael:  Born in Nigeria, West Africa, as the daughter of missionaries, Harriet Michael is a writer, gardener, wife of over 35 years, mother of four, and grandmother of one.

She holds a BS in nursing from West Virginia University but has discovered her passion for writing. Since her first published article in 2010, she now has over a hundred and fifty published articles and devotions.

Harriet is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Louisville Christian Writers. Her book, Prayer: It’s Not About You, a finalist in the 2011 Women of Faith book contest, is set for release in September 2015 by Pix-N-Pens Publishing Company.

 

362 Days Until Christmas

Christmas is over. Is your Facebook newsfeed already littered with memes like this counting down the days until next Christmas?

keep-calm-only-364-days-left-until-christmas

Keep-calm-omatic 

http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-only-364-days-left-until-christmas/

At all the stores, Christmas merchandise is on discount and people are taking advantage of the deals to buy presents for next Christmas.

If that’s you, I envy you. But I, for one, am still trying to recover from this Christmas. What about you?

  Are you

  1. Lamenting the end of the season?
  2. So ready to be done?
  3. Really don’t care either way as long as you have a good book to read?

What Mary Didn’t Know

By Tammy Trail

The Christmas season has always been a favorite of mine. What’s not to like? Bright lights, lovely music, and everything you could possibly imagine is covered in “chocolate.” I am not a big fan of snow, shopping in crowded stores, or the negative aspects of commercialism.

I would much rather focus on the Christmas story. A popular song during the season is “Mary Did You Know.” The first time I heard this song I’m sure I was driving in my car, tears running down my face with a lump in my throat the size of Texas.

In truth, the song made me stop to think. Did Gabriel tell Mary everything? Did God prepare Mary for what would eventually take place the day Jesus died? All we know of Mary is that she was of age to marry. She came from line of David. She was a cousin to Elizabeth. She was married to Joseph, a carpenter. Oh, and she was highly favored by God.

Gabriel

I have read that Mary may have been as young as fourteen. Do you remember what you were like at fourteen? I can tell you that I was certainly not sophisticated enough to realize what it took to be chosen for a task as huge as the one God wanted Mary to carry out.

The Scriptures tell us that God ASKED Mary to undertake his plan. I don’t remember God asking Moses, Jonah, or Paul. I do recall they were TOLD by God or his Messengers to carry out a task in His name. Mary didn’t consult her mother, or Joseph. She didn’t worry about what the neighbors would say, and she sure didn’t consider how she would personally gain from it. Mary willingly accepted without hesitation.

The Scriptures don’t tell us if Gabriel told Mary that Jesus would be hunted down with a bounty on his head as an infant. He didn’t tell her that she and Joseph would go into hiding to live for years as illegal immigrants. Gabriel didn’t tell her Jesus would become a hated man as an adult, arrested, and crucified for his acts of love towards humanity. Gabriel didn’t tell her how heartbreaking it would be to see her son hanging on a cross.

We know Mary was made of tough stuff. How could she have rode a donkey to Bethlehem, carrying a full term pregnancy otherwise! I mean think about it ladies, I remember what it was like to get up to go to the powder room almost fully dilated. I’m going to go out on a limb and just say that God knew, as only He can, that Mary was the woman for the job. Even at fourteen.

Mary and Jesus

Here is her hymn of Praise. Luke 1:46-55 NIV

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me –holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.

I don’t know about you, but I am going to strive to say YES to a lot more that God lays on my heart instead of worrying about how it’s going to affect me. How about you?

What would you do for God if you had the chance?

3 Questions Wednesday with Gail Kittleson

gailToday’s 3 Questions Wednesday guest is author Gail Kittleson.

Welcome to the Writing Prompts blog, Gail. Let’s start out with your reading interests.

Which author would you never get tired of, and why?

Gail: Um . . . how to choose? I think maybe Henri Nouwen. If he hadn’t suffered such an untimely death, he might have written about more Biblical characters, as he did in The Return of the Prodigal Son. I doubt I’d ever tire of those books.

He brings the Prodigal to life so powerfully—including the prodigal in me and the prodigal’s older brother who often manifests in us. Nowen’s gripping descriptions call me to consider the story in fresh ways, and my own attitudes, too.

I love authors that bring their books to life. Second question:

Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Gail: Inspector Javert, Victor Hugo’s antagonist in Les Miserables. He’s villainous, but also tragic in his misguided and self-destructive pursuit of justice. But he respected authority and hated rebellion—what could go wrong?

Javert has no vices, except an occasional pinch of snuff. Hugo describes his life as one “of privations, isolation, self-denial, and chastity— never any amusement.” As a child of a prisoner and a fortune-teller, Javert’s hatred for his own people and his passion for order drive him to become a policeman.

But his fanatical pursuit of Jean Valjean, a man of basic integrity who steals only to avoid death, lead to Javert’s self-destruction. How sad is that?

I think Javert gives us an example of how we might all be affected by legalism. Our “love of truth” can easily turn vindictive, and we find ourselves shutting out the very people our Savior would embrace.

Wow. Powerful thought. Now tell us something about yourself.

What project are you currently working on?

Gail: My World War II series, three books that take the reader from a rural Iowa farmhouse to London during the Blitz, and then to the Auvergne, Southern France. There, the Waffen S.S. causes terrible destruction en route to Normandy to fight the Allies. The Resistance, men, and women who risked their lives to protect their homeland and aid the Allies have a hold on me.

Can you imagine enemy troops and tanks crossing midwestern farms or the Piedmont or the prairies here in the United States, blistering the countryside with havoc and atrocities?

Those French people and the underground workers who parachuted in to strengthen them intrigue me and the research seems endless. So right now I’m working on book three, and this winter/spring, I’ll be working with an editor on book two, since it’s been contracted for February 2017 release.

Congratulations! Sounds like an interesting series…

And if you’d like to read Gail’s book for free, she is offering a PDF of In This Together to one person who leaves a comment at the end of this post. It could be you…

In This Together

Dottie Kyle’s world centers on hard work. When World War II steals her son and she loses her InThisTogether_w9364_750-200x300husband soon after the Allied victory, her job at Helene’s boarding house gives her a reason to wake up in the morning. But when her daughter in California experiences complications in her third pregnancy and needs help with the little grandchildren Dottie longs to meet, old fears of closed-in spaces hinder her from embarking on a cross-country train trip. 

Meanwhile, unexpected challenges arise at work, and Dottie’s next-door widower neighbor Al’s sudden attention becomes obvious. Could he hold the clue to conquering anxieties that have her in a stranglehold? 

Gail Kittleson and her husband live in rural northern Iowa, where they enjoy family and she facilitates a small writing class…small but powerful!
In winter, Arizona Ponderosa forest country provides even more novel fodder. Gail enjoys writing, reading, hiking, biking, meeting strangers, leading writing workshops, and re-connecting with old friends – please feel free to contact her.
Purchase In This Together

The Give and Take of Christmas

by Betty Thomason Owens

As a child, I loved Christmas. Even though we were a low-income family, I looked forward to it every year. The idea of a jolly, old elf was truly appealing and oh, so intriguing! Then my older brother spoiled all the fun by revealing the true “Santas”– Mom and Dad. That explained a lot, like why I didn’t get the Chatty Cathy doll I’d ordered.

As an adolescent, I became aware that the holiday put pressure on my parents to provide gifts for their growing children. Children who needed clothes and food and medical care. Most of the gifts we received were necessary items. I was thankful for them–but honestly–it wasn’t much fun.

So when it was my turn, and I was the one making Christmas special for my children, I set out to make it fun. Yes, there were socks and underwear included among the gifts, but there were also toys–as many as we could afford. I baked cookies and made treats. From Christmas Eve through Christmas Day, it was all about the children and all about fun. We even had a special brunch on Christmas morning, which they appreciated more as they grew older.

ChristmasCollageI wanted their memories of Christmas to be better than mine, but that wasn’t the only reason. I didn’t want them to feel guilty.

Does it seem odd to you that a child growing up in a low income situation would feel guilty receiving gifts? I must confess, sometimes I still do. Especially when I know the expenditure required sacrifice on the part of the giver.

iStock_000010676270XSmallOne year, those guilt feelings caused a problem in my marriage. My husband bought me an expensive watch for Christmas. When I opened the box, I felt guilty. The first words out of my mouth were, “We can’t afford this.” He got angry, and looking back, I don’t blame him. After we recovered from the hurt feelings, he told me he’d saved money for several months to make the purchase. I had no real reason for the guilt. I wore that watch proudly for many years, but he never forgot that first reaction.

ChristmasTreeThose years are far behind me now. During the holidays, the house fills up with sons, their wives, and the grandchildren. There’s lots of laughter and much ripping of holiday paper. Many, many Christmas cookies and lots of thankful prayers for the gifts of life and love.

I can so relate to the famous short story written by O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi.” I think many of us aspire to be that selfless, but fear it, at the same time.

What if I make this sacrifice, and I get nothing in return? Well…even if you get nothing in the material sense, you get the smile, and hopefully, the love of the receiver. You get the satisfaction of knowing your sacrifice is appreciated.

The young couple in the story shared a moment of love and warmth (and humor, thanks to O. Henry’s expertise)–priceless!

christmas treeWriting Prompt–Finish this famous opening line in a new and different way. Create a parody of the beloved poem–have fun!

“Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house…”