Thursday, September 30, 2010

It All Began With a Picture...

By: Stephanie S. Smith, Fiction Blog Editor

I have a question for all you writers out there: how do your stories begin?

Do they begin inside you, with a striking thought, image, or hope? Do you observe something in the world that makes you want to put in onto paper? Do you imagine your characters to life, or do you see them on the street, at the Farmer's Market, the corner coffee shop?

Many of my favorite authors, it seems, birth their stories like this: a curious image arises in their mind, an image they see and cannot forget, and they write to discover the story behind the image. 

Beloved author C.S. Lewis says that his enchanted world of Narnia began with a picture of a faun carrying an umbrella in a snowy wood.  "This picture had been in my mind since I was sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it'.”

Kate DiCamillo was lying in bed one morning, her life in a state of depression, when she suddenly saw a magician, joined by an elephant.  The tale of these two characters entwine in what became The Magician's Elephant, a beautiful story about magic, homecoming, and belonging.  

Sue Monk Kidd's award-winning novel, The Secret Life of Bees, began with an image of a girl going to sleep in her room amidst a swarm of hovering bees.  Right now I'm reading Traveling with Pomegranates, the author's memoir which gives the reader the backstory behind the creation of her bee novel. I find myself fascinated with the way Sue Monk Kidd collects the smallest of details and finds a home for them in her book.  Simple things like a pink house she saw in a magazine, a childhood memory of bees that hummed through the walls of her old house, and a story about a black Madonna struck something in her and she wove them into her novel. 

As much as I love reading and writing, fiction has always been the hardest thing for me to write.  Characters do not appear to me in dreams, or start talking to me in the shower, or hover over my bed in the form of elephants.  But I do often see images in real life that I pause over and tuck away, and lately I've decided to brave a short story, weaving in bits and pieces of things that catch my attention and make me curious. 

Here are some of them:

A man sitting on a porch that is covered with windchimes.

The way a book in my hand vibrates with the live music of a cello playing in a bookstore.

A newspaper clipping of an elderly man who was killed by a church steeple as it fell onto his parked car.

A verse in Exodus about the bells the priests of the tabernacle would wear on their robe, so that outsiders could know by the noise whether or not the priest was still alive in the holy presence of God.

An odd menagerie, I know! But if it works for Sue Monk Midd, hopefully I can tell a tale with these details, too.  What works best for you? How do you translate an idea onto the page?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Reaching Lives Through Literature

Good morning readers! I am proud to present to you today a guest post from our friend Kim Ford, who blogs at Window to My World.  Have a great weekend!

“…Muriel told me our life is like a winding path with a deep ditch on either side…One ditch is our full-fisted rebellion. The other is our response to someone else’s rebellion. She told me, ‘The Devil couldn’t care less which ditch we fall into, he just wants us off the road.” (p. 353, Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth)

The Devil has successfully driven the women of Hosanna Home into the ditch of addiction. Meanwhile, the Lord has drawn me to minister to these women through a very unlikely avenue – Christian Fiction. How can fiction reach out to women bound within the stronghold of life-controlling of drugs, alcohol and other hellish addictions? I’m glad you asked!

More than three years ago I followed my husband’s lead to minister to women in our local rehab facility. I couldn’t fathom what I had to offer these ladies, for they had lived a life so foreign to my own I couldn’t imagine what we could ever have in common. At the same time I began my to volunteer my time, I was exploring the burgeoning world of blogging book reviews. I guess my enthusiasm and excitement spilled over into my conversation and snagged the attention of some of my new acquaintances.

Many of these women hadn’t picked up a book for years on end, and at the time I was crossing their path they were in such a mental fog they couldn’t really comprehend the pleasure I gained from reading so many books. As time passed and their minds cleared some of the ladies approached me and began to ask about the books I was reading. As I began to share some of the stories, I realized that the same pleasure and encouragement I received through these stories could be theirs as well! I began to share some copies of the books I blogged about, and it wasn’t long before I was receiving requests: mysteries, romance, historical fiction, suspense…the world had opened up to these ladies once again, and they were discovering the pleasure of a well-told story!

The world of Christian Fiction has grown exponentially in the past twenty years. I’ve found several impressively realistic stories from both sides of the addiction nightmare that have blessed me and the women of Hosanna Home. Mary DeMuth’s Defiance Texas Trilogy, Terri Blackstock’s Intervention, and Christa Allan’s Walking on Broken Glass are just a few of the stories that I’ve shared with the ladies.

And while the stories about redemption for those struggling with addiction are very powerful, there are none as moving as the stories within the pages of the Bible itself. When an author is able to draw upon these biblical characters and bring their stories to life, it makes a lasting impact upon the hearts and minds of the reader. Francine River’s story Redeeming Love was already required reading for the women in the program, and I was thrilled when I found another biblically-based story to share with them!

Tessa Afshar’s book, Pearl in the Sand, centers around the life of Rahab, and I was quickly able to draw many parallels between the issues that Rahab wrestled with, and the women with whom I interacted at Hosanna Home. Forgiveness, insecurity, fear and the difficulty of dealing with other’s judgmental attitudes are just a few of the issues that I knew these ladies could relate to, and I was eager to share this story with them all.

There are times when a fictional story can reach into the heart and mind in a way nothing else can. I’ve seen the door of understanding and atonement open wide within the hearts of some of these women because of something that they read in a story. I’ve also witnessed a bridge of communication being built between a recovering addict and someone called to minister to them with nothing but a love of reading with which to draw them together. I’m anxious to see what the Lord has planned for Tessa Afshar’s book and the ladies of Hosanna Home. We will soon begin discussing this story, and I know that my life will be forever blessed by the things I will learn along the way.

P.S.! Moody Publishers helped set Kim up with multiple copies of Pearl in the Sand so she could use the book to minister to these women, and we know there are many other ministries like hers out there! If you work/volunteer at a ministry (or have one in mind) that you think might be blessed by Tessa's novel, please send me an email at telling me about the ministry and requesting a free copy.  Ministry libraries, shelters, mentoring programs, support groups, are all great ideas for reaching lives through literature, so drop me a line with any suggestions!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Story Behind the Novel

Editor's Note: Meet Tricia Goyer! In today's post she talks about her novel, From Dust and Ashes, which Amazon will be giving away digitally from Sept. 20th-Oct. 4th! Starting Sept. 20th, just go right here and download it to your Kindle or ebook reader. Enjoy!

Hi! I'd like to start by introducing myself. My name is Tricia Goyer, and I'm an author of historical fiction books (among other kinds!), including four WWII novels. When I first starting writing, I never even considered writing historical novels (too much research!). I wrote articles, devotionals, and proposals for contemporary novels. And then, something changed all that . . . well, here's the story behind my first historical novel, From Dust and Ashes.

I can clearly remember when my interest was sparked by the liberation events that took place in St. Georgen, Austria during World War II. An Austrian historian had invited me and my friends into her home, serving up tea and bread, meat and cheeses. It was the end of a long day of travel, and I secretly desired a hot shower and a soft bed. But it wasn't long before our host had me intrigued with her true tales of villains, prisoners, and GI heroes.

I sat--eyes wide--as Marta described the twenty-three, American GIs who had stumbled upon the Gusen camps May 5, 1945. I imagined their horror as they witnessed prisoners reduced to skin and bones. Or worse, piles of corpses. But Marta also spoke of other things, such as the first help to enter the camp--a young Nazi wife with her children on tow.

Who was she? I wondered. Obviously, she had not believed in the Nazi persecution. What would it have been like to helplessly witness such horror? How was her life forever changed?

I also imagined those prisoners who were mere days from death. How did they go on after facing such hatred, such loss? Just the night before, on a dinner cruise in Prague, I had sat elbow to elbow with a young Jewish girl and her brother.

"Fifty years ago, they would have been killed," my friend whispered in my ear as we talked and laughed with our new friends. It was then that the horrors of WWII became real, and I knew I would never be the same.

After we left Marta's house that night, I turned to traveling companions--also fiction writers. "Are you going to write about this?" At that moment their "nos" became my "yes."

I went home with much excitement and began researching the events concerning the liberation of Gusen and Mauthausen death camps. But I soon realized no articles or fuzzy, black and white photos could ever take the place of speaking with those who were actually there. So in August 2001, I was invited to attend the 59th reunion of the 11th Armored Division.

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, I spoke to the brave men, now in their 70's and 80's who had liberated the death camps. Their bodies have aged, but in their hearts they are still the same brave, young soldiers who witnessed so much.

As the research progressed, I was also able to visit Austria a second time to participate in the memorial services celebrating liberation so many years prior. And while there, I spoke with others, including a man who was just twelve-years-old in 1945. I was awed as he led me through the streets where former SS houses still stand. And tears formed in my eyes as I stood before the guesthouse of the brave, Nazi wife, now gone.

So fueled by memoirs, oral histories and personal interviews, I began to write. And in my mind, the streets of St. Georgen and the events of 1945 soon became as real as life around me.

On that sunny day in October, my greatest concern had been resting after a long day of travel. It was only later, after months of writing, that I realized God's intentions were far greater. His plan was to have me share a story of liberation. A story inspired by true events . . . and true heroes.

To read some of the true stories behind the novel, go to: and  Also, from Sept. 20th-Oct. 4th, will be giving away this novel digitally for FREE! Starting Sept. 20 search for the title and download it for free to your Kindle.

Tricia Goyer

Friday, September 10, 2010

Talk with Author Tessa Afshar LIVE Today!

TODAY several fiction facebook groups are hosting a facebook tour with Tessa Afshar, author of her debut novel, Pearl in the Sand. Visit the following pages to ask her your questions and read more about the story behind the book! Throughout the day, Tessa will be personally responding to all posts on these pages and there will also be opportunity to win free copies of the book.  Enjoy!

ACFW American Christian Fiction Writers
Urban Christian Fiction Readers
What Kind of Christian Books Do You Like to Read?

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