Thankfulness and a Christmas Extravaganza

christmas red
Happy Holidays!

November is here and we’re ready to kick off the season with a month-long look at what we’re thankful for. And as a special bonus, most posts will share favorite holiday recipes. Yum!

Also, we want to give back to one of our loyal blog readers during this season. We’ve set up a rafflecoptor giveaway that will run from November 1st to December 29th. On December 31st,  we’ll announce the blessed winner of the following prizes…

$25 Barnes and Noble gift card
$10 Walmart gift card
Print copy of “Sweet Freedom a la Mode”
Print copy of “Amelia’s Legacy”
Print copy of “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon
Print or ecopy of “Crooked Lines” and a small gift from India [Holly’s there now]
50 ,000 word edit by Janet Carol Abney. Certain restrictions apply.
Editorial services by Marisa Deshaies, a copy and substantive edit for the first three chapters of a manuscript.

Someone has to win!

Why not you? See you at the Writing Prompts Blog...

Self Publishing Revolution: Minnows are Making Waves

20140428_144615By Cari Schaeffer Conversations with Cari

Self Publishing – that term causes a lot of confusion, angst, and strong emotions in The Industry. I doubt my two cents – worth half a penny when adjusted for inflation – will cause a cataclysmic shift, but I hope to give you some food for thought.

I want to clear up what Self Publishing is and what it is not. Currently, there are three ways for an author to get their work into the hands of readers:

•    Traditional Publishing
•    Self Publishing 1 – Vanity or Subsidy
•    Self Publishing 2 – Indie

Note that Vanity/Subsidy and Indie Publishing are separated under the umbrella term Self Publishing. I want to be very clear – they are not one and the same. Bundling those terms has unfortunately caused a stigma to arise against Self Publishing in any form.

The definition of Self Publishing, per Wikipedia, is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. The author is responsible and in control of the entire process including the design of the cover and interior, formats, price, distribution, marketing and public relations.

That is where the similarity between Vanity/Subsidy and Indie Publishing end. The key distinguishing characteristic that defines true Self Publishing is that the author has decided to publish his or her work independent of a publishing house, whether Vanity or Traditional; thus the term Indie.

A number of years ago, in order to publish one’s work apart from a traditional publishing house, authors had to spend considerable amounts of money to do so. Vanity Publishers are those that will accept any work, no matter the quality, and publish it for thousands of dollars. They also require the author to purchase hundreds of copies of their own books to sell first before they see any return for their investment.

Current technology allows authors to publish, market, and sell directly to readers without requiring middlemen of any kind. The biggest leap forward for Indie authors is the availability of Print on Demand (POD); no longer is it necessary to print hundreds of copies of one book in order to make it available. Now, as one book is ordered, one book is printed. As for e-books – well, that is an amazing technological wonder all on its own. Readers can download books to any electronic device they want to, no publishing house required. The Indie Publishing revolution grows more each year.

Arguments against Self Publishing

One of the primary arguments against Self Publishing is that an author’s work isn’t considered legitimate by The Industry if it is Self Published. Well, as a consumer, is your food or clothing less legitimate if you purchase them from a wholesaler or a retailer? No. The end product is either quality, or it isn’t. Let the market decide. It’s also often more economical to go wholesale because middlemen require payment. Indie authors make a whole lot more in royalties per unit sold than Traditionally Published authors do and infinitely more than Vanity Published authors.

Another common argument is the lack of marketing afforded to Self Published authors. The myth is if an author is picked up by a traditional publisher, that publishing house will spend money to market their work for them. When I was exhaustively researching my publishing options, I saw the trend in all of the traditional publishing houses to require every inquiring author to have an established marketing plan and social media promotional platform. As a debut author, they are unwilling to invest in marketing my work. That is, should they ever decide to pick it up at all. I would have to do that myself. If that’s the case, then why not choose to do it all myself and keep the royalties, too?

A third common argument against Self Publishing is the work isn’t polished or professionally edited. It is true that there has been a lack of polish and professional editing in some books that have been Self Published. Please refer back to Vanity Publishing. However, there are also a number of books that have gone through traditional publishing houses that have also lacked polish even with professional editing. There are typos and errors found in best selling works from traditional houses. As an author and an avid reader, I can attest to that fact. I haven’t read one single book that is one hundred percent error free. Editors are people and will make mistakes regardless of who signs their paycheck – the author or a traditional publishing house. One cannot blanket judge any genre or publishing method based on one bad work, or even several bad works. A science fiction book that is filled with typos and has a poorly developed plot would not cause a judgment to be rendered against every science fiction book. That’s ludicrous. A blanket judgment against Self Publishing should not be rendered by this method, either.

Exciting Horizons

Did you know that in 2008, for the first time in history, more books were Self Published than were Traditionally Published? In 2009, 76% of all books released were Self Published, while traditional publishing houses as a whole reduced the number of books they produced. Their funnel is getting ever narrower. That was six years ago. I find that to be both amazing and exhilarating. I am so grateful to be a ripple producing minnow in the publishing sea that is creating a tidal wave to change the landscape of literature.

Currently, I have one work Indie Published (with five more works in progress) and available for sale in the marketplace. Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate was released in May, 2014. With the royalties I have made and already been paid, I was able to replace my husband’s wedding ring which was recently stolen. That tragedy was turned into triumph because God has blessed my Indie Publishing efforts and I thank Him for it. Onward and upward!


Religion and Moral Lessons in South India Folklore

Contemplating on the theme of “folklore,” I recalled a scene from my new release, Crooked Lines, where Sagai, one of the two main characters, has hitched a ride on back of a bullock cart in South India to get to the orphanage where, as a young seminarian, he will spend a few months caring for children at a run-down orphanage.

Along the way, Sagai happens upon a Hindu folklore tradition. This scene below was taken from a true scenario that my husband had experienced as a young seminarian in Tamil Nadu, South India in the early 1980s. This scene offers a peek at South India Folklore-Theru Koothu. (which means street play).

Sounds of singing, flutes, and drumming whirled in the night air along with aromatic holy ash, incense, and burning oil. Sagai scooted the suitcase behind his back and sat up. An elephant blessed children with its trunk. This wasn’t the Christian orphanage, but a Hindu temple entrance.

Sagai rose to his knees. At the other entrance, a shop front displayed bowls of red powder and garlands, offerings to the deity.
Over the din, he yelled. “Why did we stop?”

“Road block.”

He stood on the back of the cart, curious about the crowd beside the temple. Gaslights propped on pillars cast a glow over a musical troupe. Actors and actresses in dramatic make-up and elaborate colorful costumes watched the musicians.

images (2)The folklore tradition–Theru Koothu–was a street play performed in a junction, in open air, to teach a moral lesson to the community.

When the musical interlude ended, musicians retreated to a wooden bench. Actors and actresses took center stage and the bullock driver leaned back and crossed his arms.

A man dressed in king’s finery sat on a gold painted throne in the middle of the street.

“Lord Rama, we do not want you to take a soiled wife.” One of the actors bowed before the makeshift throne.

A scene from Uttara Ramayana! He knew this play very well, already half over. When Rama returned to Ayodhya after killing the demon king Ravana and rescuing his wife, Sita, he was crowned king. However, Rama’s subjects rejected Sita as their queen because she was no longer pure.

“But as king, I must perform many rituals and in all of them, the presence of a wife is required.” Lord Rama raised his hand under the gas lamp glow.

untitled (21)The street scene ended with a compromise. A golden effigy of Sita was placed next to Rama as he performed necessary rituals.

After the scene, a clown ran into the street, a custom to digress from the religious theme to a present village issue. It seemed the headman had some moral issues of his own. The clown lampooned him for taking advantage of certain village women.

The driver, not so interested in the moral lesson, clicked his tongue and snapped the ropes. The bullocks headed down a new road. So, not a road block after all, but an entertainment break. Sagai leaned back and stared up into the night sky, wondering what lay ahead for him in Andimadam.

Later, in that same chapter, after caring for the orphans in Andimadam, Sagai takes the children to the town center where  Christians perform a Vasagapa–a street play that involves the entire community (even Hindus). This is based on a true event that occurs each Holy Week in this small Tamil Nadu village. Here’s a look at that scene from CROOKED LINES:

On Maundy Thursday, as the church bell struck twelve, Sagai and his youth group stood on the parish steps. Residents from surrounding villages, Christians and Hindus alike, arrived as the scene opened in the Garden of Gethsemane. A few boys gasped and grabbed onto Sagai’s arm when the frightening Roman soldiers arrived to arrest Jesus, taking him to the Sanhedrin to Pontius Pilate.

When they tied Jesus to the pillar, Balu wiped his eyes. The brutality, so well performed, ripped through Sagai’s heart as if he were the one being flogged. Feeling each lash, he held back tears, as his body flinched. The women and children didn’t control their emotions. Gasps, sobs and wails penetrated the solemn night.

At dawn, Sagai and the boys entered the chapel to sit in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament–the Body of Christ. At noon, the way of the cross began. A few who’d been fasting, swooned in the street as they followed Christ’s last steps on earth. Sagai also felt weary, but bore his discomfort as penance for the heavy weight of his own sins, especially his struggle with blind obedience and his occasional revulsion against superiors.

Along the way, villagers served water and buttermilk from clay pots. By the fifth station, Jesus grew weary and fell. Impatient, the soldiers pulled Simon of Cyrene out of the crowd and ordered him to help carry the cross. Sagai kept his eyes on Jesus, how he suffered, yet continued on towards his death–for a purpose.

He breathed a prayer. Jesus, let me also help carry your cross by carrying the crosses of others. Let me be Simon. Make me strong, Lord. This path toward priesthood is long and difficult.

Soldiers pressed Jesus’ arms onto the large wooden cross, and holding down his hands, seemed to press nails into His flesh. A heavy hammer fell with a clang. Metal on metal. Metal into flesh and wood. Children held their hands over their mouths and over their hearts, women and men gasped and cried out loudly. Many fell to the dirt, wailing.

The fourteenth station, where Jesus was laid in the tomb, brought everyone back to the church. Sagai stood with the boys, staring at the stripped bare altar. In complete silence, they surrounded the cross as though sitting around a coffin.
During the meditation on the last seven words of Christ from the cross, one the orphans tugged on Sagai’s arm. “Did my sin cause Jesus’ death?”

“All of our sins did.”

Balu and his friends lowered their head as the boy lay prostrate before the cross and wept. “Oh, Jesus. I am so sorry.”

Most fell to their knees crying as if they’d lost a loved one.

The Passion narrative continued. Like a typical funeral procession, the body–a life size statue of Jesus, encased in a glass box, was carried to his burial place. Women fell in the street, struck their chests and cried out loud. He could not be a stoic participant any longer. Emotions bubbled up, choked in his throat, and along with the boys he wept openly.

Sagai and his group returned to the village Saturday night for the liturgy of the Paschal Vigil and the joyful celebration of the Resurrection. The sad faces of the previous days were filled with peace and joy. Dancing and shouts of hallelujah filled the streets.

Every culture and religion has an identity in folklore. In South India religious beliefs are a huge part of folklore that is often appreciated by those of all faiths.

Writing Prompts:

1. Study your region for folklore
2. Is it rooted in religious beliefs? How?
3. Identify the message being taught in the folklore.
4. Consider a message or a moral you’d like to convey.
5. Write your own folktale, adding your own twist and message and imagine it being acted out like a play.

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We have a winner!

vonaOur Christmas Memory contest has now ended and we have a winner! Congratulations, Vona Elkins Bankston. You’ve won the Amazon gift card. Enjoy her bio and favorite Christmas memory…

Vona B. Elkins Bankston lives in Moulton, Alabama. She is a mother of 3 adult children, 7 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren. She is active in the women’s ministry in her church, sings in the choir and is also a soloist. She loves Auburn football, hiking, singing, reading and spending time with friends and family.

She writes skits, life experience articles, and devotionals. For the past 5 years she has been writing interactive Bible studies and Bible dramas for CHRIST TO THE WORLD MINISTRIES which broadcasts on radio and internet in 26 countries.

Vona’s journey in life has led her to the mountain top and down into the valley. She says: You can’t live forever on the mountain top, there is no fertilizer there. It’s down in the valley with real people, with real problems that you find nourishment that enables you to grow deep into the soil of God’s love.


Christmas came to us once a year. My Dad was like a little boy at Christmas. He often let Santa come a day early because he couldn’t wait another day to see the look of joy and excitement on our faces.

Today it seems our youngsters have Christmas all year long and when December 25 rolls around there is not much to buy which they don’t already have. I feel this has robbed them of the thrill of anticipation felt by an earlier generation.

I was born into a family of four siblings. We didn’t have a lot of earthly treasures growing up but the heavenly treasure of the love of Jesus Christ bound us together in a special way.
One of our favorite things to do together was sing around the old family organ. We carried this tradition with us when we married and had families of our own. Though separated by miles we maintained that tradition whenever we had a chance to get together with our parents and siblings.

It was Christmas Eve 1996.My husband and I had been blessed with three children and seven grandchildren. They were all at our house which had become a tradition for us.
The children were excited as they played together but the only joy we adults felt came from their laughter as they played together. My husband had terminal cancer. We tried not to let our fear and sadness show on our faces for we felt this might be his last Christmas with us. I wondered if we would ever be able to sing at Christmas again.

Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. Everyone got quiet. When I went to the door I found my brother’s family standing there, two van loads of singers. The family harmony was heavenly as they sang the songs for us that we could not sing for ourselves. I don’t believe the angels and the heavenly host sounded any better on the night Christ was born.

Isn’t this what Christmas is really about? Standing together as earthly families and God’s family . . . standing together as the shepherds did on Christmas night . . . beholding the star, beholding the Savior of the world lying in a manger . . . then going into the world to share the good news shared by the angels,

“Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this night in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. “