Just a little note to let my followers here know that for this year’s National Poetry Writing Month 30-day challenge, I’m writing and posting all my poems on my regular poetry site: AHYOKA. So if you’re interested in following the 30 days of new poems, just hop over there. In past years, I’ve posted the NaPoWriMo poems on this site, but I’m trying to get myself more organized, and I don’t always have time to post them here and on the poetry site both. So it’s only right to let the AHYOKA site do the job.
Hope to see all you poetry lovers over there. 🙂
What? You don’t think I’m serious about this recipe? Well, I assure you that I am. In fact, I’ve been writing — very successfully, I might add — for many years now using these ingredients on a regular basis. I originally posted the recipe about five years ago, but when I revisited the article recently and thought it over, I realized that I’m even more convinced of its effectiveness now than I was then. So I’m re-posting it just for the fun of it.
1. A Quiet Corner:
I must have quiet when I’m creating. If I’m simply relaxing — or doing housework — or eating — I often enjoy listening to music, a TV program, or a lesson on a subject that interests me. But if I am intent on creating something with words, I do not want any conversation or music whirling around me. I want to be closed into my own private world — just me and my words — until I have received conception of and given birth to that brand new entity that has been waiting on me to bring it into the world. So this ingredient is a must.
2. A Cup of Coffee — or Two:
My, there’s just nothing that quite equals the soothing, uplifting aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. And I’m tired of hearing all the uninformed critics out there who try to make coffee drinkers feel guilty because there is an element of caffeine in coffee. I have always maintained that, since the Lord told us in Genesis that He made the seed-bearing trees and plants for us to eat, then we should be able to partake of coffee with a clear conscience and a happy heart. And let’s not forget that God made the coffee bean with the caffeine in it.
Furthermore, there have been numerous medical and scientific experiments done over the past half dozen years that prove coffee has many beneficial qualities for the human body — everything from quickening our brain function to eliminating headaches as quickly as aspirin to protecting the body against several kinds of cancer and heart problems. Naturally, nothing is good for our bodies if we partake of too much of it, to the exclusion of other important elements. But in moderation, coffee is a great blessing. And considering the fact that, in my family, a good cup of coffee has always been associated with family togetherness, wonderful fellowship, and comforting relaxation, coffee is, for sure, a substantial ingredient in my recipe.
As with coffee, the medical field has grown in its understanding over the past decade concerning chocolate. Researchers in the field have learned that chocolate has many helpful — and healthful — benefits for our bodies. Again, we remember that everything we ingest is most helpful when taken in moderation. But there’s one more quality associated with chocolate that we must add to our evaluation of it. We need to consider the connotations associated with that delicious treat — you know: mother’s love, romantic love, comfort, and a little extra surge of energy. Now, given all those positives, how could I possibly leave chocolate out of my recipe?
Combine all ingredients in whatever ratios make you happy.
So there you have it folks. There’s just no other recipe quite so perfect for the dedicated, committed creative writer. And if you haven’t yet used this particular recipe, give it a try the next time you sit down to write. Your masterpiece may be just a quiet corner, a cup of coffee, and a chocolate bar away.
Just a little update to say Book # 6 of the Smoky Mountain Novel Series will be out around the first of May. GRACE FOR ATTICUS has been one of my most challenging books in a long time, but I’ve been in love with it from the first paragraph. I thought I’d give you a little sneak preview just to stir up a tad of interest. See the excerpt below:
Copyright © 2021 Sandra Pavloff Conner
Excerpt: Chapter One
The glass front door of Tsalagi Craft and Trade Center flew open, the bell at the top of the door jangling so hard it sounded like an alarm. Grace Walela Ross looked up from the accounting work she was doing at the desk in the back left corner of the store.
Her black hair, cut in short tousled layers accented her black eyes and her bronze Cherokee skin. She rose to her full height of five feet, seven inches, and although she was quite delightful to look at as she stood behind her desk, the man stomping his way toward her had such fire in his eyes, it was unlikely he had taken time to notice.
“I understand you’re the one responsible for this trash,” he said, slamming a copy of The Sword newspaper down on top of the desk.
“I’m the editor of the paper, if that’s what you mean,” Grace replied, standing straight and looking him in the eye. He was a good half a foot taller than she was, and all powerful, barely restrained muscle. She felt only slightly intimidated, but had no intention of letting fear have a place.
“Do you have a problem with something in the this week’s issue, Mr. – ?”
“ A problem? No, I don’t have a problem. I have a legitimate complaint against your libelous excuse for journalism. You’re the one who has the problem, Ms. – ” He stopped and glanced at the masthead of the paper to double-check her name. “Ms. Grace Walela Ross! Because unless you print an immediate retraction – and on the front page – you’re going to court and pay through the nose.”
“And just what exactly are you referring to as libelous, Mr. Whoever-You-Are?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Atticus St. John. Doctor St. John to you.”
“Oh, I see.”
“I don’t think you do see, Ms. Ross. I don’t think you even try to see the whole picture. You’re so focused on your own personal rant that you don’t care how distorted you make your articles.”
Some kind of righteous anger mixed with personal hurt rose up in Grace. She rounded the desk and advanced toward him until she stood mere inches away. “I never distort my articles! How dare you come stomping in here and speak such lies!”
“Me speaking lies! You have the gall to accuse me after you’ve written and printed this hideous excuse for journalism?! You should be tarred and feathered!”
Grace’s head almost buzzed with the anger she felt. She prided herself in all the effort she put into being sure of all her facts, even down to the exact spelling of every single name she used. And she was always hard on herself to make sure she’d used proper restraint before assigning responsibility and fault to anyone in her articles. Such an attack as this on her character as a credible journalist was more than she could bear, and before she could even think about what she was going to do, she spit in his face. Instantly, the shock of what she had done hit her so forcefully that she gasped, and her hand flew to cover her mouth. Her eyes, wide with the horror of her actions, locked onto his.
But her shock was nothing compared to his. Followed by a new level of anger. “Why you little savage!” he said, grasping her by the shoulders and, without thinking, pushing her backwards against the desk, and pinning her there with his own body. Grace put up her hands against his chest in an instinctive defense, but he was much more powerful than she. Her eyes focused on his shoulders now, and her self-defense training came to mind, but for some reason, she felt a kind of dazed lack of energy to inflict any kind of retaliation.
He wasn’t sure what he’d intended when he’d grabbed her, but was responding to some primal need in him to exact revenge for such humiliation and put her in her place somehow. He fought within himself over whether to spit in her face as well or kiss her forcefully enough to prove his mastery over her.
He had decided on the ruthless kiss when, suddenly, her eyes met his again and held him with a look that said she knew he was in control, but she wouldn’t even consider backing down. There was something so pure in her eyes – an assurance of being in the right – something that pulled on him to side with her unflinching commitment to what she believed – that his own thoughts came crashing to a full stop.
In response, he gradually leaned forward almost touching her lips in what would have been an entirely different kind of kiss, but he caught himself just in time. He pulled back slowly and heard himself say in a tone of disbelief, “Grace? … You’re name is Grace? And if I’m not mistaken, your middle name is the Cherokee word for Hummingbird, is it not?”
Grace was silent with surprise at the sudden change in him, and she just nodded. He laughed softly then. “What a mistake your poor parents made. You most definitely are not a hummingbird. In fact I’d say you’re more like a she-bear – defending her domain – a spitting bear in fact,” he added, taking his right hand from her shoulder and wiping his cheek where her spittle had landed. He quickly grasped her shoulder again, but couldn’t hold back more laughter.
The laughter was genuine, but he was having a hard time understanding everything else he was feeling. Something powerful had passed between them in those moments – something so elemental he couldn’t put a name to it, but it pulled on him and caused him to want to stay close to her. A ridiculous feeling since she represented everything he had to fight against in order to carry out his own work – work that he believed in and had labored hard to be able to accomplish.
He finally released her and stepped back, glancing toward the floor and running his hand through his hair in a frustrated manner. But he looked right at her again and spoke in a disgruntled tone. “Never mind. I don’t really have time to bother with you.”
He turned away from her and started for the door, but just before he pushed the door open, he turned and almost spat out the words, “Just be careful, my little Spitting-Bear. The next victim of your irresponsible journalism may not be as willing to forego exacting his vengeance.” And with those words he walked through the door and almost stomped down the street.
Grace still leaned against the desk, almost as if she needed its support. Her adrenaline was rushing, and she knew she’d been frightened a little by the encounter, but there was something else involved that she couldn’t identify. She realized with a quickening of her breath that she actually wished he had followed through on his actions and kissed her. She shook her head in disbelief now and finally pushed herself away from the desk, making her way around it, where she sat down in the chair again. She closed her eyes and relived the whole experience.
In the heat of the moment, she hadn’t been conscious of noting his appearance, but now, in her memory’s eye, she saw again the strength that showed in the muscles of his arms and chest even beneath the fabric of his long-sleeved dress shirt. His hair was sandy brown and had been tousled by the breeze. She saw again the firm jaw, and the olive green eyes – eyes that kindled with his barely restrained temper as they bored into hers. She felt a stirring inside as she remembered those eyes – and the way his body felt barely touching hers. Suddenly, she shook herself lightly, trying to escape those memories and clear her head.
Everything about the man was the antithesis of her beliefs and agenda for her own life. How could she have wanted to kiss him – to stay in a place where she was touching him and looking steadily into his eyes? She leaned back in the chair and just sat, waiting for her thoughts to clear and for her day to get back to normal somehow.
She heard the bell again, but at a normal volume this time, and when she glanced toward the door she saw her brother Blaze heading her way. “Hey, Sis, I read your article this morning.”
Grace looked up at him as he stood now in front of the desk, but she seemed to be having trouble focusing.
“Is something wrong, Hon.” he asked, concern in his eyes now.
Grace really looked at him then, finally focusing, and shook her head again slightly, as if still trying to clear it. “No, not really. I guess I’m just a little dazed after having a confrontation with Dr. St. John.”
“St. John? As in the man you wrote about in the front page article?”
Grace nodded her head and, to Blaze’s relief, her impish grin kicked in, and he felt reassured that she was her old self.
Grace told him how Dr. St. John had stormed into the store and accused her of being irresponsible in her journalism and of telling lies, and how he’d threatened to sue if she didn’t print a retraction of her accusations.”
“I guess you set him straight, didn’t you?”
“Well … about that.” Grace said and started to squirm a little in her chair.
Blaze was intrigued by that move, because his little sister was generally straight-forward and outspoken with everyone, so he just stood there and looked at her intently until she glanced away and then, finally, looked back at him.
“Hummingbird, why do I feel that there’s something you should tell me, but you don’t want to? What really did happen?”
“Everything happened just like I said, except that … well … I guess he just made me so angry and so hurt … you know everything he said was totally unfair and just wrong … and … well … I … before I realized what I was doing, I spit in his face.”
Grace leaned forward on the desk putting her face into her hands and groaning. She felt ashamed and so guilty. Not only was she ashamed about what she had done to the doctor, but she was just as much ashamed to have her brother know that she had acted in such an un-Christlike manner to anyone. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she lifted her head just enough to reach for a tissue from the box on the corner of the desk.
“Oh, Honey, don’t cry. I can’t imagine your doing anything like that unless you were seriously pressed beyond endurance,” Blaze said and sat down in the chair in front of the desk.
He sat quietly for a few moments while his sister blotted her eyes and blew her nose. He thought back to last fall when she had decided to move back to Cherokee to be closer to their family and to help him with his craft center and store because the Lord was using him so much in a traveling ministry now that he didn’t have the time to devote to actually running the business alone.
She had worked for several years for a publishing company, but had long had a dream to begin her own newspaper with the aim of focusing on much needed moral and social change in both the local community and the nation. After deciding to move back home and work with her brother, she’d felt it was the right time and place to launch the paper, and she had been working hard at making it a real success for the past six months.
He smiled now as he watched her getting control of her emotions and blotting her eyes once more before looking up at him.
“You want to tell me the rest of it?” he asked, grinning at her. “What did he do when you spit on him?” Grace thought back through all of his reactions – and her own unexpected response to his grasping her and almost kissing her. She wasn’t ready to share that part with her brother just yet, but she could at least tell him about the doctor’s words.
She grinned now too as she answered. “He called me a savage.”
Blaze’s eyebrows rose at that. “Wow, that’s a little cowboy-and-Indianish, isn’t it?”
Grace laughed out loud at that. “But that’s not all. He also said that he knew my middle name was the Cherokee word for hummingbird but that my poor parents had made a serious mistake because I was more like a she-bear – in fact a spitting bear. And just as he walked out the door, he addressed me by that name again.”
“And he’s going to sue?”
“Well … that’s the really odd part,” she said. “He acted like he sort of got better control of his own anger and said he didn’t have time to fool with me. Then his parting words to me were that I should be careful because the next victim of my irresponsible journalism might not be so willing to forego exacting his vengeance.”
“Whew!” Blaze said, leaning back in his chair. “You’ve had quite a day, haven’t you?”
Grace nodded and leaned back in her chair as well. “But I don’t think he’s actually planning on a lawsuit now. And, of course, even if he did sue, he can’t possibly win because, as you know, I make absolutely sure of all my facts – right down to correctly spelled words – and he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”
“Still, I’d hate for you to have to be dragged through court over all of it.”
“Yeah,” she said, nodding her head again. “Me too. But, you know, Blaze – well, we both knew from the beginning – some of the situations I’m addressing in The Sword are going to be pretty volatile from time to time.”
Blaze nodded. “It’s true. And, as you say, you didn’t go into the work blind. I think, though, that this whole abortion issue is something the devil and his forces fight more intensely than anything else right now. It’s going to take the true sword of the Lord and a lot more prayer to make any headway against it.”
“And concerning my articles … it’s not as if I’m trying to shut down every abortion clinic in the country. Of course, you know I don’t believe they should be legal at all, but my recent articles are mainly fighting against adding another abortion clinic to this area when we already have enough of them. It’s a valid argument. But it’s true that I am hitting hard on the whole fact that abortion is immoral period, wherever people have it performed.”
“Did he say specifically what he considered libelous?”
She shook her head and picked up the paper, scanning her front page article again. “No … but I’m pretty sure he was going to focus on the fact that I called him ‘another professional exterminator.’”
“Is there any chance at all that he can make his charges stick?”
“ I don’t see how. I was very careful in my choice of words. I would have liked to use the term murderer, but the technical definition of murderer is ‘someone who illegally kills another person. And right now, in most states almost all abortions are considered legal. There are still a few states holding out on late-term abortions, but the scale is sliding downhill fast. And the states where he has his other two clinics are one hundred percent pro-abortion at any time during pregnancy, so that term would have left me open to question. But the term exterminator specifically means ‘someone who kills whole groups of people or animals. What he does fits the term exactly.”
She leaned back in her chair again and sighed. “I think when he gets rid of all his anger, he’ll be sensible enough to know that even if he forced me to retract the article, or even won a lawsuit, it would just prolong the attention people are giving the story, and if I made it clear that I was forced to retract, he would still end up looking like the bad guy to our readers.”
“I think you’re right. And I’ll let Joy know about your little … uh … adventure today,” he said grinning again, “and we’ll both be praying for the Lord to cover you in this. But, listen, I came in to do some work on the leather moccasins I started yesterday, but I wanted to ask you if you’d like to take a couple days off and get away from the store. You know Joy and I will be gone four days next week for that seminar in Dallas, but I’m here for the rest of this week, and you’ve been working non-stop for months now. I don’t want you worn out with this, especially since you’re still doing some editing for Milton Publishing.”
“Well, if you wouldn’t feel abandoned, I just might think about taking a couple days. I’d actually like to take Mom shopping in Nashville one day, and if we stayed over and went out to dinner, that would be fun for her and me both. I can also make a quick run by the publishing house and check in with the main office.”
“Hey, that sounds like a great idea.”
“Do you think Joy might want to go with us?”
“Well … I guess she might … but … I rather hope she doesn’t,” he said, grinning.
“You really are still newlyweds, aren’t you?” Grace teased him. “You don’t want her out of your sight if you can manage it.”
“Oh, it isn’t that bad, but I do really like having her around all the time. And after all, we have been married only five months.”
He heaved a sigh and added, “But I don’t want to be selfish, and it’s only fair that she have some time with you girls if she’d like to. I’m sure I can survive forty-eight hours,” he said grinning again.
“I know you can, but I just can’t keep from teasing you. I think I will ask her if she’d like to go with us. We haven’t all three had a chance to do anything like that together.”
“I know, and, honestly, I’d be happy for her to get that time with you and Mom if she’d like to go. Call her and let her know what you’re planning.”
Just a teeny-tiny update for those of you who have been following my progress and cheering me on toward the completion of book # 5 in my Smoky Mountain Novel Series: Book # 5 — This Fire In My Heart — has crossed the finish line! We’re currently ironing out a few last details about publication, and it should be available to purchase in about a week.
It’s a love story that will probably bring a sentimental tear to your eye now and then, but will warm your heart all the way to your toes by the end.
I’ll be in touch with links for purchasing as soon as I have them.
People often ask me where I get ideas for my novels, and they also like to know the “behind-the-scenes” details of the actual writing. So periodically I share some of those details — especially the ones that I found personally enjoyable or that helped me grow as a writer. The writing of Quenton’s Honor taught me much about dedication and commitment to a project — the kind of commitment that refuses to throw in the towel because tracking down those miniscule details takes multiple phone conversations, some with foreign speaking individuals, and hours poring over dusty facts and figures and then double-checking to see if any of them have changed since I started the research. But it also taught me that even the drudgery work has its own rewards in the positive results of self-discipline.
Quenton’s Honor was actually my third novel, but it was the first of all my novels to be published, with the first printing coming out in 2008. It was marketed by its original publisher for several years, but now it is currently available on Amazon as well. The basic story had been hanging around in my mind and my heart for months before it took enough shape to send me to the keyboard to write the first words. Once I was started, however, there was no stopping. I had to do a considerable amount of research where Pakistan was concerned, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was dealing with a huge time difference between St. Louis Missouri, and Karachi, Pakistan. That time difference didn’t cause me nearly as much trouble, though, as the loss of 12 whole days when I decided — after finishing the novel — to substitute Chapter 3 for Chapter 1.
As often happens in writing a work this long, once it’s done, the author can look back and see new possibilities for the beginning chapter — scenes that will better help grab the reader and get him involved with the story immediately. I realized that Quenton’s Honor would be a better story if I took Chapter 3 and gave it to the readers first. It was a beautiful trade, and I was very happy with it, except for the fact that I had lost 12 days of action. Not to be thwarted, however, I managed to squeeze in a little flashback to grab those 12 days. Of course, I’ll admit it took me 3 days to figure out how to make it all work. But in the end, all was well.
Another editing change came when I turned it over to a friend who reads all my novels critically. I like to have him read my works before anyone else, if possible, because he is very particular about the quality of books he reads and is eager and quick to speak up if a book is lacking in any area. When he read Quenton’s Honor, he loved the book overall and was genuinely touched by several parts, but he was not at all happy with one scene where Quenton’s life is about to be snuffed out by his terrorist guards, and the men sent to rescue him have not arrived. My friend insisted the scene needed more energy and physical action.
Now, this friend is a very shy, introverted, quiet-spoken person, and definitely not the physical confrontation type. However, when I asked him for his ideas about changes to that particular scene, he got up from his desk and began to act out all the parts of the physical confrontation for the scene. I sat and watched him with my mouth open. Here was an entirely different person from the one I’d known several years. He was so energized as he acted out all the parts that he made a believer out of me, and I went home and re-wrote that scene exactly the way he had acted it out. Of course, I acknowledged him gratefully in the front of the book.
Making those changes before publication seems to have been the right decision. The feedback from the book has been very positive — more positive, I think, than it would have been if I hadn’t gone beyond just writing a good story. The fact that I grabbled with the troublesome places until I got them “right” has made all the difference in my opinion. Any of the rest of you who read the book are welcome to let me know what you think as well. To say that writing Quenton’s Honor was an adventure is a bit of an understatement. I think the extent that I grew as an author during its creation makes it more of a major life event for me. I love that I was able to write the story and share it, and I love that I learned so much that helped me hone my craft more effectively for the sake of all the books that came afterwards.
If any of you readers would like to check out Quenton’s Honor for yourselves, you can find it here.
There’s a quote floating around out there among writers and readers that says, “Every book you’ve ever read is just a different combination of 26 letters.” I don’t know where it came from originally. I’ve searched the Internet for a reference, but found none. However, I know that quote is true. And this past week, I’ve found myself thinking about that truth more than usual.
As many of my readers know, I’ve recently taken a dive back into my “Smoky Mountain Novel Series” to get book number 5 completed. It’s been a few years since I finished the first 4 books, and I actually had to go back and read a bit of some of them to make sure I still knew the characters well enough to continue the series. I found that I do, indeed, still know them and love them. And after a couple unsuccessful attempts at birthing book 5, I have finally managed to get it into the birth canal far enough that delivery is imminent.
But as I sat this morning pondering on this quote, I thought back over all the books that I have written. Now, I’m not even thinking about books by others that I’ve read — the multiplied thousands of them — and I wasn’t even considering them as I meditated on this thought. But considering just the books that I have written, I stand totally amazed at the vast differences in the subject matters, the characters, the environments, and the stories themselves that have all been created by using only these same 26 little letters.
I guess I’m unusually focused on language and it’s amazing power in the lives of human beings at this particular time because in book 5 of the series, I’m telling the story of a full-blooded Cherokee man who is very personally involved in a movement to restore the original Cherokee language to his people. While many of the elderly Cherokee still speak their native language, most of their children and certainly almost all of their grandchildren barely know and understand that language.
A major reason for that lack, of course, is the result of the U.S. government forcing thousands of American Indian children to leave their homes and families and attend boarding schools for years at which they were totally stripped of everything about their culture and their heritage. They were forced to use only the English language for all communication and were severely punished if they even spoke to each other in their native tongues. Naturally, that kind of treatment could easily and quickly eradicate an entire nation’s communication skills.
As I’ve been pondering these terrible events in history and working them into the story where they need to go for the sake of developing my main character, I’ve been thinking anew about how powerful language really is. And how powerful words are. As a devout Christian and one who tries to write mostly for the sake of sharing Gospel truths through my work, I’m very well acquainted with the importance the Lord puts on words. In fact He comes right out and tells us in Proverbs 18:21 that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
So our words have great power to effect others. And as a writer, I try to always be aware of that fact. I know that words have driven men to hateful, heinous acts against each other, and words have brought an end to wars and brought comfort and courage to thousands in times of need. I try to be aware that all my words carry some degree of power to affect others and even the atmosphere around me — for good or for bad. I believe that the words I write are just as powerful as the words I speak aloud, so it’s my aim as an author to be the most responsible purveyor of words that I can possibly be. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a great adventure — taking 26 little letters and crafting them responsibly into brand new life-sized people and their stories.
If readers would like to check out “The Smoky Mountain Series” novels for themselves, they can find them, along with many of my other books, at this site.
Several years ago, the first four books in my Smoky Mountain Novel Series went on the market. I had always intended to write at least one more book in the series — and did get two chapters of it done — but life just sort of got in the way — if you know what I mean. And part of that life was other books that were pressing from within to get out. During these intervening years, I have written 8 other novels and loads of short stories and poetry. But book number 5 of the series just wouldn’t materialize — at least not all the way.
I love the family of wonderful characters in the series, and many readers have felt the same. In fact, I just had one reader tell me this past week — as she was reading the whole series — one complete book a day — that the people in the stories felt like family. I was delighted to hear it, and her telling me that just nudged me that one more little bit to get back to the keyboard and finish book 5 this time.
So, that’s my assignment for this week. And I thought in light of that fact, I’d re-post a super short piece I did a few years ago that gave an excerpt from Book # 5’s story. I wrote this super condensed piece in response to a flash fiction challenge, but it’s from the first chapter of This Fire In My Heart — which is now well on its way to seeing daylight as Book # 5 in The Smoky Mountain Series of inspirational novels:
He was Cherokee, she Scottish-American. But the moment they met in the airport coffee shop, they were connected. Waiting out the fog, they talked like old friends. When her plane was called, he carried her bag to her boarding gate.
A question in her eyes, she said, “Wow, Chicago and Dallas – talk about two people going in opposite directions.”
Light flared in his eyes as he realized she didn’t want their connection to end any more than he did. He reached out, thinking to touch her cheek, but caught himself just in time. Such an intimate touch with someone he hardly knew wasn’t like him, but the pull of her was so strong — so elemental. He quickly bent and picked up her bag and handed it to her, smiling.
“Opposite directions today,” he said, “but not always, I think.”
A spark in her eyes leaped to his, just as the boarding line began moving, and he promised: “I will see you again, Joy.”
Excerpt: This Fire in My Heart
Well, my three-week hiatus from writing for any websites — and focusing on my art instead — has done me some good. I’ll try to get back in the saddle now and focus on some things that have to be written out in words. But even if I’m back in the saddle, I think I’ll move forward at a trot, rather than racing speed. I’ll work my way back to writing publicly in as relaxed a manner as possible — beginning with this light-hearted poem:
Can be a joy,
Except when it’s a drag.
Words must be disciplined,
And that’s the gag.
I took a break
From writing anything.
And gave myself to art,
And had a fling.
I’m in the mood
To write a thing or two.
Thoughts that have been backlogged
Are now in queue.
Over the past decade, the publishing world has experienced an interesting, but, in my opinion, sad phenomenon. Almost all fiction authors and/or publishing houses have started leaving out the words “The End” on the last page of novels. It’s now become passe, and I guess in some minds, even unsophisticated to write those two iconic little words below the last paragraph of a story.
It’s sad. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. My earliest happy memories involve reading stories and having them read to me, and I started writing my own in elementary school. In fact, I wrote my first full-length play in the 6th grade. I get totally immersed in the books I read. I can pass hours and even go without food — even chocolate and coffee — once I get entrenched in a story. I live the experiences with the characters — laughing with them, crying with them, loving with them, fighting with them — and rejoicing in the final resolution of the climax in their favor. ( I do not read stories where the main character ends up defeated.)
But when I come to the end of those stories, I’m generally so much involved that I need closure in order to let them go and move on. Those two little words — “The End” — have always given me that. Now, many have been the times when I hated to see them come. I didn’t want the story to end, and I would have pushed those words forward for another twenty pages or so at least. But eventually, all good stories have to reach their resolution, and when they do, I’ve always found a quiet acceptance and even a serene pleasure in reading those words. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve leaned back after reading “The End,” closed my eyes, and taken a slow deep breath and relished the fact that all was resolved and every loose end securely tucked away.
Those two little words close a story and let me know that it’s all right to let those characters go and move on to the next story — the next adventure — the next romance — the next journey. Yes, I know that any reader of average intelligence is able to figure out that if there is no more text between the covers, then the story has come to an end. But that doesn’t satisfy me at all. Somehow, those two words typed onto the page just make the reading experience complete, and finishing a story without them is not the same. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels that way. I don’t know. It’s not a subject I discuss with other writers — or readers. But it’s something that touches me powerfully enough that I continue to type “The End” at the completion of every novel I write.
And I will continue to do so from now on. The publisher that I have worked with for years is in agreement with me, and, of course, any books that I publish through Amazon don’t require my considering anyone else’s opinion. So I’m free in both situations to do as I please. And what pleases me is to be able to say to my readers — in effect — “Well, now, we have come the distance together in this story; thank you for sharing it with me; I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have; we’ve solved the problems for the hero and heroine, and they are satisfied and secure; I’ve taken great care to leave you in a good place; All is well = The End.”
Hello again, everyone. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had an opportunity to participate in the coffee share, and I’m feeling happy this morning that I have time to just sit here and talk to you as I’m enjoying my coffee. To be honest, there are several things I need to be doing, but they are not pressing me very hard, so I’m ignoring them and choosing to visit with you for a few minutes instead.
I can’t say that I’ve had any important experiences this past week, but I am looking forward to what I have planned for this weekend. It’s related to a victory in my life that took place a few months ago, and I’ll share a little of that with you so you can rejoice with me.
Some of you are aware that about 2 1/2 years ago, I lost my very best friend in an accident. I’ve shared a little about that experience from time to time, but not anything recently. Not only was he my best friend, but he was also my best editor and had such a vibrant, creative mind that he had been enormous help to me in my writing. He was at times my toughest critic, but at all time my greatest champion.
And he was the kind of person I could call on the phone and say, “Hey, I have this character who needs to end up so-and-so, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how I can set him up for this experience.” In no time at all, my friend would come up with at least one and maybe three or four possible scenes that fit right into where I needed to go in my story. And he was available to offer feedback at any time of the day or night.
So, as you can see, when I lost him, I lost someone very personal and emotionally supportive, but also a great catalyst and creative inspiration at the same time. As a result of that loss, I came to a place where I was unable to write any novels at all. I had been working on three when he died — and one of them had already benefited from input from him. Every time I tried to go back to any of those novels, I ran into a brick wall. It wasn’t what some writers refer to as “writer’s block.” It was a deep sense of emptiness that I couldn’t seem to get out of enough to bring words and scenes to life again. I struggled against that barrier repeatedly, but to no avail.
I’m very grateful that the Lord allowed me to write more poetry during that time. It was interesting to me that, while I could not write any stories, I could still write non-fiction work that is part of my Christian ministry, and I could write poetry. In fact, writing poetry was the most healing experience I had during that time, and I even created a brand new poetry website where I could share it. That creativity was powerful blessing.
But, thanks to the Lord’s healing work in my soul, I finally came to a place a little earlier this year where I was able to pick up one of the novels I had been working on and finish it completely. In fact, it was just birthed into the marketplace in April. What a great victory that was. As the author of 20 books before that time, I can’t even put into words how it felt to sit for two whole years and not be able to write one complete story. But victory is mine, and now, I believe I’m ready to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and finish some of the other novels that have been waiting a very long time.
Now, back to this weekend. My plan is to take this weekend to finish one of those books. Sadie Rose Donovan: Coed Detective is actually a little different from most of my other novels. This book is more of a young adult novel, but I’m hoping and believing that mature adults will enjoy it as well. If I can’t finish it completely this weekend, I’m thinking about posting it one chapter a day on my website and promising to post every day until it’s done. That procedure has helped me push myself to finish novels in the past. We’ll have to see how things go today and tomorrow. But, for sure, the book is coming to its rightful conclusion this week!
Personally, I love the story. It was inspired almost exclusively by a photo of a young friend of mine who snapped a selfie while standing in a hallway in one of the main classroom buildings on a local college campus. She was posed as if involved in some clandestine activity, and the moment I saw it, the story sprang to life in my head. I’ve told her that I consider her my inspiration, and I’ll be dedicating the book to her — Hannah Herron.
The main character is named after a sweet young lady who waited on the table at a restaurant I visited a couple years ago. My cousin and I were eating supper there, and Sadie Rose stopped to visit a while. The conversation led to how she had come by her first and middle name. I instantly fell in love with that name and told her I knew it would be perfect for a story I’d be writing. I told her I’d let her know when it came out, but I don’t think she works at that restaurant any longer. See the sad pitfalls of taking so long to finish a story??? Anyway, I hope I can locate her and let her know when her namesake is finally on the bookshelves.
So, that’s my weekend coffee share for today. And that’s my weekend plans: I’m going to get out of my robe and start pounding the keys to finish Sadie Rose’s story. And I feel sure there will be plenty of pots of coffee involved as the work progresses.
To participate in “Weekend Coffee Share,” visit our host’s website: Eclectic Ali.
Roses are red;
Violets are ———- purple!
Doesn’t it bother anyone that numerous poets for centuries have painted those innocent little violets blue? Of course, I know that there are, indeed, some strains of violets that are more blue — and even some that are pink and white. But I have to believe that they are the exception, because, after all, the very name of these flowers is spelled v-i-o-l-e-t.
However, I’m not really complaining about the color of violets. I just got to thinking about that particularly well-known poetic line and about how we as poets really do feel we have our own kind of literary license. What is it about poets that makes them think they can write just anything they want to write as long as it rhymes and keeps the meter smooth and uninterrupted? Well, I’ll tell you what it is about us:
We love words — the sounds of words — the rhythm of words — the music of words. And we love playing around with lots of different numbers of syllables. We love to hear consonants repeated, vowels repeated, digraphs repeated. And if we need to turn a sentence around backwards to get the right rhythm — or leave out a couple letters replaced by an apostrophe — or go beyond the norm with hyperbole — well, it’s all part of what we see as our job —— and to be honest —— it’s part of the FUN of writing poetry.
True poets follow rules of meter and rhyme and correct use of figurative language. But we also follow rules of emotion, yearning, and imagination. So, yes, we do believe that it’s okay if we altar reality a bit here and there or say things backwards. If it helps make the poem touch a heart, grab the imagination, take the reader to another realm, or tickle his funny-bone, we figure we’ve done our job well.
And, personally, I think that’s why a poem can speak to readers in such unique ways. People don’t always realize it when they are reading a poem, but it’s those quirky kinds of things — those little excursions away from what is generally the “accepted” pattern — that has caused many a poem to grab a place in the reader’s mind and heart and stay there.
So okay … here’s my version:
Roses are red;
Violets are blue;
We don’t always stick
With only what’s true.
We’re looking for words
With meter and rhyme,
And if we can’t find them,
We might tend to whine.
So cut us some slack;
We’re doing our best.
If a poem gives you pleasure,
It passes the test.
My dad, Ted Pavloff, spent his whole life ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a multitude of places, using numerous methods and media. He’s with the Lord now, having left us at the age of 88, but before he went to receive his rewards, he had served the Kingdom of God for more than 70 years.
When he was 12 years old, he was walking home from church one night, crossing a little bridge, when the Lord spoke to his heart so strongly that Dad stopped right in the middle of the bridge and surrendered his heart and his life to Jesus. There was never any looking back.
He preached his first sermon at the age of 15, and a year later, he was licensed to preach by the denomination he belonged to at the time. Right after Pearl Harbor was attacked, when Dad was only 17, he joined the U. S. Marine Corps, but even during his years of service on the battle front, he continued serving the Lord and helping others know about Him. As soon as he got is first paycheck from the Marines, he sent his tithe to the main headquarters of his home church’s denomination, asking that they make sure all of his monthly offerings got put to the right use on behalf of his home church. And he sent those offerings faithfully every month.
After the war, Dad sought an even deeper walk with the Lord and his ministry took on even more energy. In the decades that followed, he served the Lord as an international evangelist, a pastor here in the States, a Bible teacher, a Christian journalist and author, and a Christian radio and TV speaker.
He had a strong anointing for teaching God’s Word, and he wrote a lot of articles and a few books in which he shared a great deal of revelation from that Word. His books that were published before his death are currently in out-of-print status, but I now own the copyrights. So I decided it was time to re-furbish them and get a second edition of them into the public.
Our family has done all we could to keep my dad’s teaching available to help people, by continuing to publish his work in periodicals, on his original blog, and even through YouTube. One of the YouTube videos on my Radical About Jesus Ministries channel — in which my dad reads about 40 minutes of healing scriptures, along with a word or two of exhortation — has now been viewed over 90 thousand times. I’m sure he’s watching from Heaven and is thrilled to know so many people from all around the world are receiving help through his faithfulness.
This past week I finished getting one of his books, Following In The Father’s Steps, refurbished, reformatted, and published in its second edition. I’ve already received orders for copies of the book, and I’m currently working on one of his others as well. Although his first publications were with a traditional publisher, this time around, I’m focusing on the online markets and will eventually offer a great deal of his work in both paperback and digital.
I will most likely do a second post soon with a couple excerpts from the book, but if any of my readers are interested in knowing more about this particular book right now, or in ordering a copy for yourself of a loved one, you can find it on Amazon at this link.
I do not make New Year’s resolutions. But each year, I do look to the Lord and seek His face and His heart to learn what His plans are for my upcoming year, and what He wants from me during that time. And, of course, there are things that I want for myself as well. This year, I decided to just make a list of all the things I’m wanting to accomplish in 2020. Some of them are on God’s list as well as mine, and some of them — well — they’re probably on my list only — but God will tolerate them out of His merciful love for me. 🙂
Here’s my list — so far:
1. Eating lots of chocolate No surprise there, right?)
2 . Drinking gallons of great coffee You didn’t think I’d forget coffee, did you?
3 . Finishing the three novels that got shelved after my best friend/best editor died. I’ve recovered from the grief of losing my best friend, who was also my most trusted and efficient editor — and my reservoir for all kinds of creative ideas. But even though I don’t deal with the intense pain of the loss as much, I’ve still found it impossible to let my creativity flow back into those projects that he was working on with me. I know I’ll be able to do so eventually, and I’m trusting the Lord that this year will see a breakthrough.
4. Writing scores of Cinquain. I do love Cinquain — as most of my readers know. And I can’t wait to dive into all kinds of subject matter that can be disciplined into this wonderful poetic form this year.
5. Writing scores of Tso’i. This new poetic form that I created last year is still a challenge. Of course, it had to be somewhat intricate in order to be a genuinely “new” form. If I had followed the disciplines that are comfortable, I’d have been staying in the same groove of all the forms I’ve written in all my life. So, I accept the challenge to write loads more Tso’i in 2020.
6. Writing a new series of Christmas stories I haven’t written anything holiday-themed in a couple years, and that’s surprising, considering how much I love Christmas. I did put out my Holiday Planning Journal last year, and that was loads of fun. But this year, I want to do some more short stories that relate the special excitement, warmth, and love that belong to the Christmas season.
7. Painting more than I did last year and arranging for a showing of some of my work. During this past year, some people have been encouraging me to do a showing of my artwork at a couple local places, but I haven’t had the confidence in my work that they seem to have. However, I think it’s time I considered it seriously. This venture is more a “maybe” than a sure thing, but I’m definitely going to consider it.
8. Making connections with more Christian artists. I’ve taken the first steps in getting this goal accomplished by creating a brand new Facebook group called “Art From God’s Word.” It looks like there are quite a few other Christian artists out there who want to participate. Twice a month, I’ll post a scripture prompt on that FB page, and all the members will meditate on that scripture and then create artwork that the verse inspires. They are free to use any medium and form of art that they choose, as long as it relates to the scripture passage. It’s a way to focus on God’s Word and fellowship with others who are like-spirited and want their gifts to glorify the Lord.
9. Teaching more”Writing Poetry” classes. It’s been hard to get people to sign up for the “Writing Poetry” classes. They come to other creative writing classes, but the poetry always lags behind in enrollment. It’s such a fun class, and if people realized that, they’d want to come. So, I need to work more diligently this year at making them understand how much fun it really is.
10. Taping a number of live videos, where I teach in front of the camera. Except for a very few, my Bible teaching videos are mainly audio teaching — with the help of a few pictures or graphics for people to look at as they listen. I’ve never been photogenic, and have a complex about being on camera — video or stationary cameras either one — so I’ve held off on this venture. But I do believe the Lord says its time — maybe past time — that I got this part of the ministry off the back burner. As long as I don’t go back and look at the old live videos that I do have of myself, I think I’ll be able to accomplish this goal in 2020.
11. Increasing my focus on the Lord and becoming more conscious of His presence within me. This desire is last on my list in this post, but it is certainly not least. In fact, it is the most important thing I will do this year. And, in truth, unless I do manage to accomplish this one, most of the others will probably fall by the wayside unfinished. But I have faith that this year will be a year of new growth — even great growth — for me spiritually. So, with the Lord’s help, I’m expecting to get this last item on the list accomplished, as well as the other nine.
If you’d like to share your goals, desires, or plans for this new year, please do. Use the “Comment” windows below to tell us about them — or put a link there to a post on your own blog where you share in more detail.
Graphics courtesy of Elisa Riva @ pixabay.com (edited for this post)