Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pearl in the Sand Audio Version!

If you like audio books, check out this sample for Tessa Afshar's Pearl in the Sand novel, read by actress Laura Merlington. She's mastered her character voices and accents!

About the Book

Striking beauty... comes at a price.

Rahab paid it when at the age of fifteen she was sold into prostitution by the one man she loved and trusted—her father. With her keen mind and careful planning she turned heartache into success, achieving independence while still young. And she vowed never again to trust a man. Any man.

God had other plans.

Into the emotional turmoil of her world walked Salmone, a prominent leader of Judah, held in high esteem by all Israel. A man of faith, honor, and pride. An enemy. What is a woman with a wrecked past to do when she wants to be loved, yet no longer believes it possible?

The walls of Jericho are only the beginning. The real battle for Rahab will be one of the heart.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Ideal Writing Spot

By: Stephanie S. Smith, Managing Blog Editor

It seems that most famous writers create a certain habitat for their genius, a custom-made space where their creativity can flow forth uninhibited. Virginia Woolf had A Room of One’s Own, J. K. Rowling has her European cafĂ©, and Kurt Vonnegut has his hardwood floor where he worked out of his lap. So what are the basic requirements for a writing spot?

A desk, of course, is essential (except, apparently, if you’re Vonnegut). Preferably, a mahogany, stylishly-distressed desk that just looks like classics have been written all over it. A desk in the tradition of Tolkien’s and C. S. Lewis’, which you can actually see on display (including the wardrobe that inspired Narnia) at the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College. Extra points if your desk has a secret compartment.

Next, coffee. Every writer needs an energy boost now and then. And if you’re self-employed, your caffeine addiction might even count as a tax deduction (don’t quote me on that…)! But don’t try to outdo French novelist Balzac, who was known to drink 50-300 cups of coffee per day.

Your writing space should also host somewhat of a cozy mess. Creative minds aren’t known for their organizational skills, you know.

Surround yourself with inspirational literary quotes. These will remind you not only how much you love, live, and breath writing, but how fun it is! Motivational catchphrases such as, “My stories run up and bite me on the leg” –Ray Bradbury, and, “Writing is…like a long bout of some painful illness.” -George Orwell, should get you off to a good start!

You should also have something to fidget with as you wrestle your brilliant ideas down onto paper. Stress balls, those cool moldable erasers, etc. Now is the perfect time to develop a bad habit such as cracking your knuckles or chewing your hair. All for the sake of art, of course.

A muse: whether it’s a picture of your sweetheart, your cat, or your Edgar Allan Poe bobble-head, you should have something to attribute your strokes of genius to. And someone to take your frustration out on when writer’s block hits.

What’s your writing environment? Where do you hammer out your thoughts, poems, and stories?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

15 Things You Never Knew About Dickens

If you consider yourself to be a well-read individual — at least of the classics — you’ve probably read a lot of Dickens. Even non-English majors have most likely stumbled across Dickens’ greatest characters in college classes and of course, in iconic films remakes, like A Christmas Carol. And just as you’d expect, the writer behind Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist and Pip was just as complex as his famous characters. Here are 15 things you may not have known about Charles Dickens (professors and total Dickens freaks aside).
  1. He was a control freak: Although he was never diagnosed, and it’s impossible to posthumously diagnose someone, scientists and doctors believe that Dickens may have had OCD. He was supposedly a control freak and had many rituals involving repetitive behavior, like rearranging furniture and religiously inspecting his children’s bedrooms for tidiness and order.
  2. He had ten children: Between 1837 and 1852, Dickens’ wife Catherine gave birth to 10 children. Dora Annie died when she was an infant, and the youngest, Edward, died at 10 years old.
  3. He took on factory work at age 12: You may already know that Dickens’ father was taken to prison because of financial problems, but you may not have known that 12-year-old Charles went to work wrapping shoe-black bottles at Warren’s Blacking Factory to help support his family during that time.
  4. Dickens spoke out against slavery: A long-time, committed supporter of social justice issues, Dickens also disapproved of slavery. He reportedly spoke out against it when visiting friends in America, which did not go over well.
  5. He was a leader of social justice and reform until his death: Dickens was an advocate for all kinds of social justice issues, including educating the poor, parliamentary reform, public health, the legal system, the workhouse system, and others.
  6. He was a realistic recorder of epilepsy and seizures: Dickens wrote about epileptic fits and seizures (characters like Guster from Bleak House, Monks from Oliver Twist, and Bradley Headstone from Our Mutual Friend had them) with such accuracy that today’s doctors believe he may have suffered from them himself.
  7. Dickens wrote 5 Christmas books: While he’s best known for A Christmas Carol, Dickens actually wrote five books about Christmastime: The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, as well as A Christmas Carol. They were all published between 1843-1848.
  8. He practiced mesmerism: Dickens was introduced to mesmerism — an early form of hypnosis — by Professor Joseph Elliotson at University College, London. Dickens supposedly became a master at mesmerism was fascinated at its power to control minds.
  9. A Christmas Carol has never been out of print: A Christmas Carol was published for the first time in 1843, and since then, it has never been out of print.
  10. His nickname was "Boz": Dickens’ younger brother Augustus supposedly used to pronounce his nickname in a way that sounded like "Boz," and Dickens adopted that name as his own pseudonym.
  11. Dickens nicknamed his kids, too: A fan of using nicknames with siblings and in his work, Dickens also gave his kids nicknames, like Skittles.
  12. He often based characters on people he knew in real life: Dickensian characters are so memorable, it’s no wonder Dickens actually modeled some of them on real-life people he knew. And David Copperfield is said to be mostly autobiographical.
  13. He worked as a court reporter and parliamentary reporter: Before becoming a fiction writer, Dickens worked for a lawyer but then switched professions to focus on writing and journalism. He first worked as a court reporter and then as a parliamentary reporter, before publishing his first story in 1833.
  14. The Pickwick Papers started as a series of sketches: The Pickwick Papers is Dickens’ first novel, but it actually started out as a series of sketches and caricatures of Cockneys, drawn by Robert Seymour. Seymour’s publishers recruited Dickens to write bits of text to accompany the sketches, but Dickens ended up taking over the project.
  15. He died working on a novel: Dickens’ last novel was just a work in progress when he died. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is still unfinished, but some installments were published, and two films were even made based on the work.
This post is a guest post from Accredited Online Colleges, contributed by Emma Taylor.
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