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Where research leads

March 17, 2015

IMG_4572I’ve been knee deep in research these days, trying to figure out the backstory of the characters in my next book. My editor accepted the manuscript for The Prophetess, Deborah’s Story, so now it’s back to my work-in-progress, Ruth’s story (working title).

Somehow I thought Ruth’s story would be easy. Ha! Why do I ever think these things? As one of my author friends told me today, sometimes the stories with the most in Scripture are the hardest to write because you have to stay within the parameters that are there and work around them. That’s true. But that’s not quite so hard for me as figuring out what isn’t there.

Ruth’s story is a challenge because it poses some interesting questions, like:

  1. When during the era of the Judges did her story take place?
  2. If I assume it happened sometime between Judge Ehud and Jephthah, then I want to know more about Moab’s oppression of Israel during those times. So…how was it possible that the king of Moab conquered Jericho when Joshua had already burned it to the ground some years earlier?
  3. If Moab is located east of the Jordan near the Dead Sea and if it’s capitol was Dibon, then why was the tribe of Reuben allotted some of their territory? Or am I confused about where the lines fall?
  4. Why did Elimelech take his family to Moab when he owned land in Bethlehem, despite the famine. Especially when no one else was leaving?
  5. Did Naomi support her husband’s decision? How long were they there before her husband died?

These are just a few of the questions that have me hitting the books. I told Randy the other day that Jericho was driving me crazy because Joshua cursed it, and that curse came true many years after King David under another king of Israel – Ahab, when a man of the day took it upon himself to rebuild the walls. So that makes it seem like Jericho didn’t exist until the time of King Ahab. But Judges tells us that the king of Moab captured the “City of Palms”, which was another name for Jericho. And King David told his men to “stay at Jericho until your beards grow back” after the king of Ammon had humiliated his messengers.

So were there two locations for Jericho? Did they build upon the same mound but just didn’t rebuild the walls? Archeology tells us that Jericho is one of the oldest cities on earth – dating back about 10,000 years. It still exists today, though in a location south of the ancient tel where the digging has given way to all sorts of clues, but nothing completely definitive. There are some pretty interesting discoveries though.

What does that have to do with Ruth? Isn’t Jericho about Rahab’s story? Yes, of course. But it pops up in later chapters of Judges, and it could be that Ruth happened somewhere before or after the Moabite oppression of Israel. We can’t know for sure. Which is why it’s good that I write fiction.

Still, I strive to understand. And sometimes my brain hurts in the study just trying to put the pieces together. But when I get stuck, research is where I turn. Research may not have the answers, but it does have clues. And clues lead to ideas, and ideas feed imagination, and that’s where the stories begin.

Until next time~

A week we didn’t expect

March 14, 2015

IMG_4422Last Saturday I wrote a post about my new helper. Duchess came to our home in a foster capacity at the beginning of March. We expected to foster her for a month and decide during that time whether she was a good fit for Tiger and our family. I have to tell you, she was a small little girl, and the sweetest kitty. She was quickly wrapping her little white paws around my heart.

She was far more curious than any other cat we had owned, but we figured in time she would learn what we didn’t want her to do – not that cats listen very well…In the meantime, we planned to just make sure drawers and closets and the basement door remained closed. (Didn’t want her lost in that cavern down there!)

I never expected that we would only have her a little over a week. One night she was playing so well with Tiger that I told Randy “I think she’s a keeper.” But the next night she grew suddenly lethargic and hissed at Tiger when he tried to coax her to play. All she wanted to do was sleep.

IMG_4446She felt warm to my touch, so we carted her off to the vet, never expecting to hear that she had multiple things going on, one of which, if she proved to have it, was fatal 100% of the time. The literature about this virus/disease was confusing as to whether or not she could pass it to Tiger, and after nine years of loving that boy, we just couldn’t take that risk.

Saying goodbye was so hard. I still miss her. I can see her sleeping on my bed and feel her lying on my chest as she slept. Poor baby girl just was too sick for only two years old, and she had seen way too much trauma.

Sometimes it is comforting to look for another cat when you lose one you love or were beginning to love, but our hearts are too raw to seriously look yet. Maybe someday. We saw the cutest gray tabby – five months old at a local pet store – and it broke my heart to read that he was found when people moved out of a house and just left him! Who does that? At least take him to a caring shelter.

IMG_1638But we can’t adopt every stray that breaks my heart or every pet that draws me close with its tiny paws. Still, I wish Tiger could speak English because communicating with him doesn’t get me very far. One minute it seems like he wants a friend, the next he seems perfectly happy to have us all to himself. He tried so hard to get Duchess to chase him, and he loved watching her play and playing with her. But he seems more relaxed without her here, less on guard. Maybe in time he would have adjusted as Shadow did to him back in the day.

If God has another cat out there for us, we’ll find him or her someday. (I’ve got a specific wish list, so we’ll see if He answers.) I’m content either way.

But I’m back to only one helper, and Tiger is on my lap at this moment, quite content to have me to himself. And I’m very grateful to still have him!


by jill at 4:23 pm in

No turning back

March 8, 2015

Daylight Savings time always messes up my internal clock, and it doesn’t help when we stay up too late instead of making allowances for it. But we suffer through a week of yawning and extra caffeine and are eventually really glad that it stays light longer and the days don’t feel so short. We’re springing forward toward sunshine and melting snow and whatever God has for us in life. No turning back (until fall when I really enjoy that extra hour of sleep!) But I digress.

The real point of the title of this post is about a different kind of turning back. There are a lot of ways we can turn away from something instead of going forward. I remember as a little girl, I was a flower girl in a wedding and I was so nervous I nearly turned back and ran down the aisle the other way. I didn’t. But I wanted to!

I often wish I could turn the clock back to younger days when I didn’t fight with daily pain, or when the kids were small and life was simpler. But clocks don’t go backward, no matter how much we might try, even with DST coming around each year.

abc04Not turning back takes commitment. It’s a decision to stick with it or stay the course. As Mandisa sings in her song, “Overcomer”, “Stay in the fight ’til the final round.” We are not to shrink back from life. And as Christians we follow in the footsteps of our Rabbi Jesus. We stay so close, the dust of His sandals should cling to us.

Years ago, we used to sing a song that they had us sing in church today. It’s not as old as a hymn, but it has become classic in Christian circles. “I Have Decided” is the title. And it is from these words of commitment that this post springs. They are simple, a chorus actually, that says:

“I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back. No turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me. The world behind me, the cross before me. The world behind me, the cross before me. No turning back. No turning back.”

As we sang those familiar words, I thought about what the pastor said about letting go of everything, like the first disciples did. (They left their nets, their businesses, their families to follow Jesus.) He talked about the day he let go of his dreams – jumping into this faith with both feet – to let the Rabbi’s dust cling to him. And I wondered…have I done that?

IMG_0996People who know me might think I have achieved all of my dreams, but that’s not true. I have been blessed in many ways, but the deepest, greatest dreams in my heart still wait. Could I let them go to follow the Lord, even if I “none go with me”? Would I follow Jesus even if it meant losing everything?

And I realized in that moment – even though I’ve made this commitment to follow Jesus in the past – life is a daily thing and commitments sometimes need refreshing and renewing. It is a hard thing to follow. It is even harder to follow when you don’t know where the journey will lead. But we do know the final destination.

The journey may move the clock forward an hour and spring me forward into a new adventure. Or it may move me to a place I do not want to go. The Scriptures are filled with stories of men and women who were called to follow and what that cost them. Abraham and Sarah left everything to go to a land that God would show them. Rahab took a leap of faith to save herself and her family, not knowing if the God she was trusting was even real. But Lot’s wife had to be dragged from a city set for destruction and she turned back – perhaps because she couldn’t bear to leave it – perhaps for reasons we will never know.

The world is a beautiful place in so many ways, and a dark place in many others. “The world behind me” doesn’t mean we step out of reality and live in la-la land. It just means that the light is better than the darkness. And the cross is worth the sacrifice of anything the world has to offer. Even our fondest dreams.

So yes, I have decided, once again, to follow Jesus. Though none go with me, though it cost me everything, still I will follow.

No turning back from wherever God leads.



by jill at 7:10 pm in ,

My new helper

March 7, 2015

IMG_4407I have forgotten what it is like to have a two-year-old. Even a two-year-old cat. And I think a two-year-old in any species can be a little bit of trouble! Though I must say compared to the kittens we saw at the adoption area, Duchess is tame. (I seriously think she needs a new name. Any suggestions?)

Still, she is two and this new addition to our family is proving to be fun and challenging. The first night Tiger did not know what to do with her. She had been the friendly one when we had them meet at the vet the week before. But once she was let out of the cat carrier, Tiger wanted to “meet” her. She wasn’t so thrilled about meeting him.

IMG_4384She is the quietest kitty – never made a sound in the car, and when she hisses (mostly at Tiger when he gets too close) she makes very little sound. She has a baby cry, rather as Tiger had for years. Shadow was our howler, and I can’t remember if Sandy (our first cat) said much. But she is the first girl we’ve tried. All of our male cats were sweet and loving, and she seems to be too – just not as much toward our boy. This will hopefully work itself out because she is only with us on trial and I’m already in love.

IMG_4427She’s brought out the mama instinct in me again, a feeling I thought long gone. But the protective mama tendency toward Tiger is stronger and I’m hoping and praying they will be right for each other. Tiger has always wanted to snuggle but Shadow wanted no part of it. I think Tiger would curl up with Duchess to sleep if she’d let him, but so far, she’s keeping her distance.

She does not keep away from us, however, and tends to follow me around. She is redefining “curiosity” when it comes to cats and climbing on things and exploring things Tiger wouldn’t think IMG_2103of doing. (Fearless seems to fit her.) But then I remember she’s two and he’s nine. When he was a kitten, he was just as curious and climbed on keyboards and traipsed all over desks. I’ve never had a cat hop into a sock drawer until now though or climbed into a closet to bury herself in the clothes. (Almost lost her in there!)

In any case, she has been our little distraction this week. On day two as we watched Tiger try to coax her to chase him or just play, I could feel his rejection to her refusal. So I got out a catnip mouse and that seemed to help. I uploaded a video of them playing, which was rather fun to watch. Now if they would just continue to get along (no such playing today yet) before she wears me out! (And stops walking on the computer keys instead of sitting nicely in my lap and simply chewing my fingers.) Apparently Tiger needs to give her some household advice.

Until next time…

by jill at 8:06 am in

March 2015 Christian Fiction Releases

March 6, 2015

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

8 Weddings and a Miracle Romance Collection by Janet Lee Barton, Lena Nelson Dooley, Nancy J. Farrier, Pamela Griffin, Diann Hunt, Loree Lough, Tracie J. Peterson, Sandra Petit and Gail Sattler — Weather the storms of life alongside nine modern couples who hope to make it to the altar-someday. Be it a meeting in the wrong place at the right time, an accident that opens hardened hearts, or weather that seems to blow things off course, sometimes love needs a little divine intervention. (Contemporary Romance from Barbour Publishing )

Dandelions for Dinner: A Farm Fresh Romance by Valerie Comer — When man-hater Allison Hart gains custody of her nephew, she decides to build a house and farm school at Green Acres. Too bad contractor Brent Callahan builds a rapport with the boy. Can Brent tear down the walls around her heart or will their secrets push them apart forever? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Valentine for Kayla by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Florist owner, Kayla Russell hates Valentine’s Day, but this year something is different. The beautiful florist-and hopeless romantic-has nearly given up on love, when the man of her dreams walks into her shop…to buy flowers for another woman! (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Cowboy’s Forever Family by Deb Kastner — Rough rodeo cowboy Slade McKenna is determined to protect his late best friend’s wife and baby, even if Laney Beckett is too stubborn to admit she needs his help. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

A Splash of Substance by Elizabeth Maddrey — She’s a caterer who doesn’t vote. He works for a Senator. Is it a recipe for love or disaster? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

In Defense of Love by Pat Simmons — While playing saxophone at an anniversary party, criminal attorney Shari Carmen grabs the attention of U.S. Marshal Garrett Nash. Only, she’s learned never to mix business with pleasure. As God draws them closer together, the Almighty makes a request of Garrett, one to which it will prove difficult to say “Yes, Lord.” (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg — The only thing Ava Kingsley and Seth Walker have in common is a knack for wordsmithing, which landed them a popular “He Says/She Says” column back in college. At their ten-year class reunion, they pick up squabbling right where they left off and strike up an unlikely friendship. When Ava rents the apartment above the restaurant he’s been remodeling in Maple Valley, Iowa, she finds herself warming up to Maple Valley as well as Seth. Which would be exciting…except he only sees her as a friend. After all the words they’ve swapped through the years, will they ever be able to say the three little words that matter most? (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Historical Fiction:

Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green — Compelled to atone for the sins of her slaveholding father, Union loyalist Sophie Kent risks everything to help end the war from within the Confederate capital and abolish slavery forever. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from River North [Moody Publishers])

The Tomb: A Novel of Martha by Stephanie Landsem — Jesus shocks the town of Bethany with Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead, leading Martha-a seemingly perfect woman trapped by the secrets of her past-to hope and a new life. (Historical Fiction from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Historical Romance:

Romancing the Schoolteacher by Mary Davis — A young teacher with a secret meets a miner with a secret. Will their deceptions destroy the love they have always longed for? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Outlaw Takes a Bride by Susan Page Davis — Which would be worse for Johnny-being arrested for murder or marrying Sally Golding? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Hill Country Courtship by Laurie Kingery — Maude Harkey has given up on being married, but when an orphaned baby needs her as a mother and a job is offered that will provide a home for her and her daughter, should she take it, even if her employer has no use for romance in his life? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Romantic Suspense:

Beast of Stratton by Renee Blare — Architect Aimee Hart, determined to locate her father, infiltrates Miles Stratton’s engineering firm as a secretary. Betrayed by his best friend, Miles would rather hide from the man’s daughter than help her. But something’s not right. Someone’s trying to destroy Stratton Industrial from the inside. A decorated war veteran, Miles has defended his own before and the Beast of Stratton can do it again. Even with the enemy at his side. (Romantic Suspense from Inspired [Prism Book Group])

Shadowed (Heart of a Warrior) by Kariss Lynch — Nick Carmichael is a Navy SEAL, committed to God and country when he meets Kaylan Richards. Idealistic and sheltered, Kaylan has just graduated college and is ready to save the world. Nick faces the demons of his past on a mission to catch Janus, and Kaylan comes to terms with loving a man who leaves. Will light shine in the darkness or will Kaylan and Nick’s love forever be stalked by shadows? (Romantic Suspense from Realms [Charisma Media])


Persephone’s Fugitive (Book #2 Cayman Islands Trilogy) by Dianna T. Benson — Cayman Island paramedic Sara Dyer is taken hostage by an escaped murderer and forced to mend his injuries-or die trying. (Thriller/Suspense from Ellechor Publishing House, LLC)

Young Adult:

The Induction by Melinda Louise Bohannon — Maggie comes to the frightening realization that, by marrying Peter, she has become a member of The Inner Society. She is then forced to prove her allegiance in order to get off their hit list. Meanwhile she is also being tested by The Resistance, dissidents of The I.S. who wonder if she will jeopardize their cause with her reckless rebellion. As The I.S. begins secretly giving vaccines to their own people, The Resistance becomes privy to an impending biological attack that The I.S. is about to wage against the country. (Young Adult Fiction from Ellechor Publishing House, LLC)

Happy reading~

by jill at 11:18 am in