I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LOST Finale: Pour a Cup and Let’s Dish!

Crybaby that I am, I went through a significant portion of a Kleenex box watching the final episode of LOST. And I need to talk about it! If you haven’t caught up on the finale yet on your DVR, stop reading now. I’m going to talk spoilers: mainly, Christian themes I noted and questions I still have. There are blog-loads about the finale out there, but here are a few things I’d like to dish about. So pour yourself a cup of something warm (I have a coconut mango oolong blend here) and let’s gab LOST!

Last warning: spoilers after the photo!

From left to right: Ben, Kate, Sawyer, Claire,...Image via Wikipedia



So, what did you think of Christian symbolism and themes in the finale? Christians have long recognized elements of faith in the series as a whole (there are quite a few books on the subject). References to other religions were also woven through the show (reinforced by the stained glass window in the sacristy where Jack spoke to his father, Christian, in the final ten minutes of the show). But as a Christian, I took mental notes on the Christian themes running through the final episode. Some of my favorites?

The “Holy Communion” ceremony to pass on guardianship of the Island. We saw “Mother” offer a cup of flowing water to Jacob; Jacob offered a cup in the same ceremony to Jack; and finally, Jack took part in the same ritual with Hurley (the vessels differed, but the water flowed from the same source). In each instance, the “officiant” said, “Now you are like me.” It made me ponder how I identify with Jesus when I partake in communion each Sunday, recalling His words, “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Forgiveness and Reconciliation. The episode is rich in demonstrations of forgiveness, even though most are not articulated. Among them: Jack and Sawyer discard their mutual dislike and work together in a way they’ve never before demonstrated on the show; Claire accepts Kate’s support raising Aaron through she has blamed Kate for taking Aaron away; and Jack forgives his father. The most poignant scene of forgiveness is when Locke forgives Ben for murdering him, a beautiful scene which brought on a fresh round of tears. Ben’s confession was heartbreaking and all too-familiar to me as I recalled the times I’ve spent on my knees admitting my jealousy, anger, and outrage.

(Side note: I thought it was interesting that while Ben received forgiveness and was invited inside the church not once but twice, he chose to stay outside. Whether or not this is the point, it made me think that we all are offered forgiveness and invited “inside,” yet many people choose to reject the offer. Is Ben symbolic of those who reject Jesus, or will Ben eventually come to terms with his sins and make his way inside? Hmm.)

Community of Believers. I thought it was interesting that life’s biggest questions were best dealt with in the context of community. That point was introduced in the beginning of the series (“live together or die alone,” and the Drive Shaft song, “We All Everybody”). The characters grapple with large themes together, they struggle together, and they even go to heaven together. The Bible tells us that we make up the Body of Christ. We use our gifts to serve others and glorify Jesus, the Head of our Body. God Himself is a community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, One God. He values community, and it’s interesting that the show emphasized it, too.

(Other side note: I loved that “heaven” – or eternity or whatever it was – was shown as being outside the constraints of time. No matter when the characters died, whether it was shortly after the plane crash like Boone or “long after” Jack died, like those who escaped on the plane, they all meet to enter eternity at the same time. We are to left to guess that Claire, Kate and Sawyer would not die for some time, and Hurley and Ben acknowledge their work on the island, which didn’t start until after Jack’s death. Nevertheless, they all meet up to “move on” together. Who was missing from the church scene who you thought might be there? I looked for Richard and Miles. Baby Aaron was there, but not Baby Charlie or Sun and Jin’s baby, whose name I will surely misspell.)

Lastly, many would argue against Jack as a Jesus figure, though he did heal the lame and sometimes had a surgeon’s God-Complex! I did think it was interesting that Jack offered himself as a sacrifice to save those he loved. He was stabbed in the side, too. He also had a "garden scene" before he went to vanquish evil. This may be stretching it, but the “certain death” of The Source didn’t kill Jack, either. Not exactly a Resurrection scene but interesting, nevertheless.

What did the finale of LOST leave you with? Food for thought, closure, and/or a heap of unanswered questions? I have oodles of those. What happened to our friends on the plane after they left the island? How did Desmond get home? (Ah Desmond, one of my favorite characters. I envision him having a long and happy life with Penny.) All my Dharma questions will remain mysteries, as will the things I never “got” about Charles Widmore. Ah well.

So tell me, what did you think about the finale? I’d love to dish with you!



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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Calling All Hobbits! You Gotta See This!

A few random facts about me...

I love miniatures. All kinds, from the plastic Fisher Price family dollhouse to elaborate recreations of rooms in the White House. I could spend hours at Miniland in Legoland, with its plastic-block versions of the Sydney Opera House and New Orleans. My Disney trips are incomplete without a sail over London in Peter Pan's Flight, or a cruise on the Storybook Boat ride, past tiny gardens and structures from Disney movies, including a 3-foot high Cinderella's Castle. Miniatures instill a sense of sweet safety and playfulness in me.

Another random fact about me is that I love "Lord of the Rings." Two words: Legolas and Aragon. Ok, more than just those guys: the stories are classics and they carry me to a faraway place. In real life, I don't think I'd mind living in the Shire with the Hobbits, where life is sweet and clean and peaceful.

Who would have guessed those two things would ever go together?

This is a link to one of the most delightful miniatures I've ever seen. It's a painstakingly detailed, gorgeous, miniaturized version of Bag End, completed by one talented woman. "Charming" doesn't begin to describe it. For a sweet, two-minute holiday, check it out!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Marketing for Writers

In the not-too-distant past, I had a home-based business. I loved the product, and I loved my discount. What I didn't particularly care for was the self-promotion.

Unfortunately, a willingness to get your name out in the world and market it is a concept tht's pretty important for writers. Publishing houses appreciate it when writers have goals to market their writing, including a solid platform to advertise their books. Book signings, bookmarks, contests, business cards, and speaking engagements are just a few ideas writers have used to help sell their books. Nevertheless, marketing can be tricky and uncomfortable to some of us.

To find some great links on the subject, from building a platform and finding practical tools to get your name out there, visit Karen Lange's blog. She's also offering a drawing, and the lucky winner will win free business cards! Check it out!

If you're a writer, or a person with a home-based business, how do you market yourself? Do you have any good tips?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And The Winner Is...

karenk!

Thanks to everyone who entered to win Jennifer Hudson Taylor's Highland Blessings, and thanks to Jennifer for offering a copy of the book!

I'll be in touch for your snail mail address, karenk. Congratulations.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Giveaway and Interview with Jennifer Hudson Taylor, Author of Highalnd Blessings


This morning I'm blessed to welcome author Jennifer Hudson Taylor, whose novel Highland Blessings came out out this month from Abingdon Press. As a fellow member of HisWriters and a devoted fan of European-set historicals, I am thrilled for Jennifer's success, and found Highland Blessings a treat to read (see my review here).

Jennifer agreed to answer a few of my questions, but first, here's what Highland Blessings is all about:

Highland warrior Bryce MacPhearson kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. When he forces Akira to wed him, hoping to end a half-century feud between their clans, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment. . .Yet her strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce. But there is a traitor in their midst . . . and murder is the ultimate weapon.

Tell us a bit about your inspiration for this book.

I’ve always loved stories set in historic Scotland—especially a good romance. I wanted to write something that would be emotional, touching, faith-based, and inspiring.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was 12, but I didn’t start writing for publication until my mid-twenties. It took about 14 years for me to break into fiction.

I see that like me, you're interested in particular periods of both European and American History. I'd love to hear a bit about the historical settings which inspire you.

I enjoy historical settings in England, Scotland and Ireland where my ancestors are from. My roots go back 200+ years in the Carolinas and I’ve done extensive genealogical research of my family history. For this reason, I enjoy writing novels set in historic North and South Carolina.

Sometimes, my characters overstep the boundaries I've assigned to them and I end up with something I never expected, whether it's dialogue or an idea for a subsequent story. Have you ever had any characters take over a story?

Actually Akira MacKenzie and Bryce MacPhearson took over Highland Blessings. It’s like they had a will of their own. I didn’t plot and plan this story. I created the story as I wrote. I was ¾ of the way through the first draft before I realized how it would end.

I have such a difficult time with balance: being a mom, writing, blogging, volunteering, etc. How do you find balance? Do you take time to do anything special for yourself from time to time? If so, what is it?

This is a constant struggle for me. Sometimes I’ll watch one of my Jane Austen movies, go ice skating with my husband and daughter, or take a nap. I really enjoy naps!

Me too -- to both the Jane Austen movies and the naps! What's next for you?

I’m working on the sequel, Highland Sanctuary. It is scheduled to release in October 2011.

What's your favorite Scripture verse?

This verse is taped on my monitor at work, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

What a beautiful verse! I could stand to put that on my computer monitor, too. And my bathroom mirror. Thanks so much, Jennifer, for coming by today.

Jennifer has graciously offered to give away a copy of Highland Blessings today. To enter the drawing, please leave a comment below with your email address included in the comment (spaced out to protect yourself from spammers). You must leave an email address to be entered into the drawing. One lucky name will be drawn at random sometime after midnight, Monday May 17, so be sure to have your comment in by then! I'll announce the winner on Tuesday, May 18.

Highland Blessings is available from your favorite retailers, including Amazon, Abingdon Press, or Jennifer's website, where you can get the book autographed!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2010: Summer of the Brontes

Jane Eyre Title PageImage by elizabethdunn via Flickr

Last summer, I curled up on the chaise lounge with an iced tea and a stack full of books based on characters created by Jane Austen: among them Mr. Darcy, Vampyre and the delicious Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. What a treat for lit major / Austen fan / Regency romance writer Me to spend a summer in Austenesque alternate universes.

Sadly for those of us who are Austen fans, People Magazine dissed Jane Austen as "so 2009." Fortunately, 2010 is apparently the year of the Brontes, Charlotte and Emily. I feel a bit better now!

And what a summer of Bronte-inspired offerings we'll have. Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre, and her sister Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, are the subjects of new fictional novels and reimaginings, released just in time for you to pack your beach bag. Here's a peek at a few:

Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan takes a fictional look into the close-knit (and tragic) Bronte family. I am dismayed at myself for not knowing that Morgan has also written novels about Shelley, Byron and Keats. My To-Be-Read stack just got taller.

Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael. With a title like this, how could I not love it? I must know who romances Charlotte, and I can't wait to see how closely he resembles Jane Eyre's dishy love, Mr. Rochester.

Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Browning Erwin. Sick of the mash-ups of literary pieces and vampire/zombie/werewolf action? Not me. In this new novel which smooshes the brilliance of Jane Eyre with paranormal action, Jane realizes that Mr. Rochester's attic-bound wife is a werewolf. Oooh.

Whether Wuthering Bites is a joke or not, I confess I thoroughly adore some of the mash-ups I've read since the phenomenon began. I'm going to have to check out these Bronte-inspired works. What about you? Are you a fan of the Brontes?

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Highland Blessings: Book Review


This Friday, May 14, Highland Blessings author Jennifer Hudson Taylor will stop by Tea and a Good Book to chat and give away a copy of her new book to one lucky commenter! Until then, here's something to whet your whistle in anticipation of Highland Blessings.

***

Fifteenth century Scotland was a place of wild beauty, strong people, and clan rivalry, a heady mix which shines in Jennifer Hudson Taylor’s Highland Blessings, an inspirational romance released this month from Abingdon Press.

Bryce MacPhearson kidnaps a daughter of his rival clan, Akira MacKenzie, to ensure she weds his brother Evan and forge peace between their warring clans. When Evan is murdered by Akira’s family, however, Bryce must fulfill the obligation to his dying father and wed Akira himself.

With years generational hatred and mistrust bred into their bones, Bryce and Akira's marriage endures a shaky start burdened by fear of war and lack of love. As Bryce and Akira grow closer, however, they soon realize that a traitor is in their midst who’ll stop at nothing to keep the MacKenzies and MacPhersons enemies.

This story is a satisfying romance, and I appreciated the character’s spiritual and emotional journeys. I am also excited to see more medieval-set historicals, and Taylor’s attention to historical accuracy and sensory detail makes Highland Blessings a vibrant tale. Any Christian fan of medieval-set romances is sure to enjoy Bryce and Akira's story.

***

Don't forget to come by on May 14 for your chance to win a copy of Highland Blessings and get to know author Jennifer Hudson Taylor!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Felíz Día de las Madres - Happy Mother's DayImage by ruurmo via Flickr

Whether they're with us, far away or at home with the Lord, we thank Him for our mothers today.

Best wishes for an enjoyable, relaxing day. I'm enjoying an afternoon helping the kids complete school projects (2 oral reports due tomorrow, plus an "All About Me" poster and a 3-D representation of Mars). In short, today I'm bein' a mom. Hubby and Grandpa are grilling fish later. Top it off with a cake from Baskin Robbins and I'm set!

Happy Mother's Day!
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rejection Casserole

a w:slow cooker Oval Crock PotImage via Wikipedia

Yep, I've got a casserole for rejection. It's one hundred percent comfort food, high in calories, and it requires a minimum of chewing (chewing seems to use up whatever oomph remains in my body after reading a rejection letter from an agent, a not-so-encouraging critique from a contest judge, or a diss, no matter how kindly intended).

We all have our own versions of Rejection Casserole. Chocolate. Potato chips. Something you like to indulge in when things go, well, not the way we'd like them to.

If you're an inspirational writer, you're probably aware that the judges for the American Fiction Christian Writer's Genesis Contest have been hard at work evaluating our entries. Soon, the finalists will be announced. To some of us who entered, the results of our Genesis scores will be awesome, perhaps even life-changing. I rejoice with my Genesis-finalling bretheren with praise and true joy.

But there will also be others of us who might be in need of some comfort. Since I can't hug you all, I offer this recipe. It's the food I want to eat when I feel down. It's not low in fat or packed with fiber, but it's what I wanted coming home from the hospital with a new baby, and I still want it when I'm sick or it's a cold rainy day. It makes me feel better, so I always have the ingredients on hand, just in case I receive a SASE in the mail...if you're a writer, you know what this means. We never want to see our SASEs come back from an agent or an editor.

This isn't one of those recipes that calls for "1/4 c. pluck," "one teaspoon perserverence" or "one pound of love from your family." Nope, this is honest to goodness comfort in a crock pot.

So here it is: Ham Potato Bake, aka a fat-fest of love. You can bake it, but if you're too devastated by a rejection letter, this cooks itself in a crockpot while you lick your wounds. The next day, you'll have the energy to write those thank-you notes to the judges.

Defrost 1 32 oz. package frozen hash browns, shredded or southern style, and layer in a crockpot with 1-2 c. diced ham and chopped onion or celery, if you're inclined.

Make the sauce: Melt 4 T. butter in a saucepan. Stir in 4 T. flour and 1/2 t. salt. Cook until bubbly. Gradually add 2 c. milk, whisk and cook until smooth and thickened. Add 1 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Pour over potato-ham mixture, stirring lightly.

Cover, and cook on low 6-7 hours or high 3-4 hours. As you eat, know that you're a good writer and tomorrow is another day.


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Monday, May 3, 2010

Finding Peace with Plan B


We’ve all had them: the unhappy surprises, losses, and devastating occurrences which have caused us to walk a road we didn’t want to take. Pastor Pete Wilson offers help to Christians living through life’s disappointments in Plan B.

“Plan B” is Wilson’s term for what happens when the path we’re on isn’t what we’ve chosen for ourselves, the future we’d planned. Plan B is what happens when dreams die, illness descends, and death robs…events which can and do happen to everyone sooner or later.

Wilson uses Biblical examples of Plan B situations (Ruth, David, Job, and Martha, to name a few) paired with true-life examples which are touching, challenging, and sometimes amusing. With pastoral kindness, he reminds that life will present multiple challenges that prove beyond our capability to control or handle. In the midst of these challenges, we often don’t “feel” God’s presence or rebel against Him. While painful, these Plan B moments are never beyond God’s capability or concern, however. When we see Plan Bs as opportunities to trust God, spiritual transformations can take place. We can make peace with doubt, support each other in community, overcome panic, and find hope.

Wilson asks some hard questions of the reader. Do we love God, or what God can give us? Do we trust Him, or do we bail out when life takes an unexpected turn?

I found Plan B to be a helpful tool for reconciling a life of service to a loving God with the unavoidable pain life presents, and recommend it to anyone struggling with loss, doubt, or questions of spiritual maturity.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purpose of review.