Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Without Small Beginnings, There Would Be No Big Ends

Like most writers, whether pre-published, newly published, or multi-published, we often wish we were further along our career path —no matter how far down that path we are. “After all, growth is natural,” we say.

Let’s admit it. We don’t really want growth to be natural; we wanted it to be rapid and explosive.

We begin a story and can’t wait to type “The End.” When the end arrives, we agonize over our book proposal and one-sheet. (Whether anyone actually reads them, we don’t know.)

We can’t be happy until we find an agent. When we do, we can’t be happy until we find a publisher. Then, “Hooray! We have a publisher!” We sign a two-book contract then spend weeks, sometimes months, editing our manuscript according to our publisher’s preferences, all the while scrambling for a new storyline for the second book.

When our debut novel arrives, we enter contests, hoping to add “award-winning” and “best selling” in front of our names. Then we’re off to book signings, conferences, and speaking events to sell, sell, sell! And I haven’t even touched on social media. [Sigh.]

While I’m not saying any of this is bad, I am wondering if the “one day at a time” axiom has morphed into “I can’t wait until tomorrow?” In our mad race to cross an imaginary finish line, do we appreciate the strides we’ve made to date? Have we forgotten to enjoy the present? Do we have any guarantees the future will be better?

In Zechariah 4:10, we are encouraged: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line [pen?] in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)

Without small beginnings, there would be no big ends. Small beginnings are more personal; they usually involve working closely with others. During these formative years, we hone our craft and develop good habits. We also have more time to read, learning much from those who’ve gone on before us.

I remember when angst grabbed hold of me as soon as I decided I wanted to write for publication. I fretted over query letters, elevator statements, and pitches to agents and editors—as if I were in charge of the outcome.

I thought back on the small beginnings I had so enjoyed: 1) Creating and presenting humorous “roasts” for my friends and family. 2) Writing and editing a monthly church newsletter. 3) Creating website copy for my employers. In all these cases, the feedback was immediate and more intimate, and the experiences encouraged me to keep writing.

What are your small beginnings? Are you rejoicing with the Lord over them?

Do you finally have the time to write after raising your children? Has an article you wrote been accepted for publication? Does someone other than your mother love your writing? Have you employed the plot twist that came to you in the middle of a sleepless night? Have you created an outline for your non-fiction book? Have you figured out how to apply the three-act structure to the first draft of your novel? (If so, write to me privately and tell me how.)

God’s word says, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I [Jesus] say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42 NASB). So, whenever I find myself absorbed in self and steeped in my projects alone, I break the pattern by focusing on someone else. Encouraging other writers excites me, humbles me, and brings me joy.

Getting rid of negative internal dialogue helps, too:  I wish I was as prolific as he is … If only I had a different agent … What if my publishing house closes? … I wish I had her sales … If only I had his platform …What if I get a bad review?

Listen up, Clarice! Whining is selfish, comparison is ungrateful, and fear is doubt.  

Eventually, I learned to listen more closely for God when I wrote, mainly because I had no idea what to write. When my novel Double Header debuted in 2015, a reader told me, “I feel like you wrote that story just to help me and my family.” When Party of One came out last year, others wrote basically the same thing. Just this past week, someone said, “I love your blogs. They’re so funny and uplifting.” I knew God was using me. Whether my books minister to one or thousands is in his hands. He is the ultimate marketing genius.

Zechariah 4:6 (NASB) declares, “Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit.” God has a personal and perfect plan for each of us. If you’re using your writing gift to the best of your ability for God’s glory, he’ll get you where you’re supposed to be on time. You can’t rush the Holy Spirit.

Let’s all enjoy the moment we have right now. It’s all good ’cause it’s all God.

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Meet & Greet Author Eleanor Gustafson

Ellie GustafsonCLARICE: What do you want readers to experience while reading your books?

ELLIE: I want to engage, to hook readers right off and keep them turning pages until they arrive at the meat of the novel.

CLARICE: Tell us about your books. 

ELLIE: Dynamo is one of those page-turners, so readers tell me. Jeth Cavanaugh is searching for a new life along one of Pennsylvania’s mountain ridges when he stumbles upon a stable of show jumpers owned by Rob and Katie Chilton. Throw in a bad-tempered, gaited stallion named Dynamo, and Jeth will do anything to work there. He earns his living by training and showing Rob’s jumpers, but Dynamo is his primary passion. Everything changes when God enters his life—via a hard slap by an old girlfriend—and ignites a new, greater passion within him. But with that fervor comes fear at the undeniable evidence of God’s hand on his life. Inexplicable events, both good and bad, make him moan plaintively, “Why does God do this to me? I get the feeling I’m being set up for something.”

He is, indeed. Jeth’s life is anything but predictable, much like the God he serves. The real Dynamo and his ultimate trainer emerge out of an excruciating mix of disaster and brokenness, which are never beyond the reach of redemption.  This story is God in your face: Who is He, really? What does He ask of us?

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. ~ Psalm 139:1-6 (NIV)

The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David: Next to Jesus, David is my favorite Bible character. As I soaked in his story, I felt compelled to put flesh on the bones of history. The fascinating and complex characters who surrounded him—Joab, Absalom, Abigail, Benaiah, Ahithophel—needed a place to stand and be heard. Who were they? How did they influence David? Shepherd, warrior, musician, king, ladies’ man, lover of God, despicable sinner. Only God could use such a man, not only to establish the Israelite kingdom, but also to plant a seed—in the least likely of his wives—that would ultimately bear the righteous Son of David.

CLARICE: What inspired you to write Dynamo

Gustafson DynamoELLIE: God put horses in my life early on, and each summer I was exposed to a show that featured some of the finest horseflesh on the East Coast. Though I never owned a horse, my experience back then made a permanent mark on my life. My passion for horses met my passion for God, and Dynamo came forth.

CLARICE: Do you have a story or two of how your books have impacted individuals for the glory of God?

ELLIE: One of my valued pre-readers had this to say concerning Dynamo: “On a personal note, I had recently been praying to be a weapon in the hand of God—a weapon of mass creation and healing, not a weapon of destruction. Shortly after praying this, I was able to read this book. Be encouraged, people. He is still VERY involved on this planet.”

After finishing The Stones, a reader said, “This book is one of just a few works of historical fiction that is truly life changing, and I know I will NEVER read the Psalms the same again. They now seem so much more relevant because I better understand the events and emotions from which they sprang. I also identify much more closely with the psalmists because I realize that they were just as human as I am. Pretty good outcome for such an exciting read!” [I won’t mention that my son posted this on Amazon. J ]

CLARICE: What lessons have you learned from this journey? 

ELLIE: In Dynamo, Maybelle taught me along with Jeth. She’s a piece of work and serves as Jeth’s personal prophet and God interpreter. She loves Jeth and walks him through the spiritual minefield of God’s unusual activity in his life. Even before Jeth becomes a Christian, she somehow knows that God has chosen him for a special purpose. Drawing on Old Testament prophets, she feeds him passages that strike terror in his heart but that bolster him at critical moments. Mentor, yes; spiritual goad, yes; but tower of strength when Jeth desperately needs one.  Maybelle became my spiritual mentor, as well, and I can’t begin to say all that David/Stones taught me.

CLARICE: Which is easier for you—coming up with a story idea or actually writing it?

ELLIE: Actually, neither of these is easy, but once I get a draft, then the fun begins. I love weeding out verbiage, polishing the rough edges of sentences, mining for metaphors that zing.

CLARICE: What writing projects are you currently working on?

ELLIE: I have a work, An Unpresentable Glory, that is tottering on the edge of hopeless. How do you knit together the disparate threads of gardening, politics, and American Indians? My valued pre-reader, mentioned above, thinks it could well fail but believes the last chapter to be worth the struggle of making it work.

CLARICE: Where can our readers (or listeners) meet you and get a copy of your books? 

ELLIE: For copies, go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD, and Christian bookstores. To meet me—hey, I’m here! I’m accessible by email egus@me.com . If you want a signed copy for someone, let me know, and I’ll mail it and tack on the Media Mail charge—$2.69.

MnGEleanor Gustafson is one of eight published authors who’ll be featured at the MEET & GREET LOCAL CHRISTIAN AUTHORS event scheduled for Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 3:00 to 5:30 pm at Bonhoeffer’s Café & Espresso, 8 Franklin St., Nashua, New Hampshire. Guests will enjoy FREE admission, refreshments, book-signings, special discounts, and MULTIPLE door prizes–including a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite! Click HERE to register!  For more information, call Clarice James at 603-578-1860 or Cindy Saab at (978) 821-6547.


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Meet & Greet Author Susan Call

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. ~ Psalm 9:18 (NIV)

Susan CallCLARICE: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

SUSAN: Sitting in the audience at a large women’s conference, the transparency of one of the speakers really impacted me. I realized that the more genuine she was in sharing her difficult journey, the more the audience heard and felt God. Through her story, God was demonstrated so vividly. Soon, my own story started percolating – so much so that I could no longer be silent. I had to write! My sincere hope is that through my writing and sharing of my testimony, that people are encouraged and see how faithful God is!

CLARICE: How did you get involved in writing for publication?

SUSAN: I entered my first manuscript into a writing contest, hoping to win, but never really thinking I would. Imagine my shock when I learned I was the grand prize winner! The prize – my book, A Search for Purple Cows – A true story of hope, was published as a self-published title. Within two months of the release, I had a contract to release my book with a traditional publisher, Guidepost Books.

CLARICE: What do you want readers to experience while reading your books?

SUSAN: I want my readers to experience refreshing hope for life’s challenges. One of the biggest lies this world has to offer is that we’re the only one struggling and that everyone else has “life” all figured out. We’re not alone in our difficulties. I would love for readers to know that no matter what life has dealt them, they are not alone. God is available, present, and loves them. Life’s lions may be close but the same God that protected Daniel in the lion’s den can give each and every one of us His strength and peace.

Call CowsCLARICE: What do you want your readers to know about you?

SUSAN: I’m an imperfect person following where God leads. My high school senior writing teacher told me I was an awful writer. She said I should “never write.” I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t call the qualified but qualifies the called. I guess I’m living proof! I think the second things I’d like my readers to know is that I love hearing how they’re impacted by my writing. The notes, feedback, and reviews encourage me to keep going. And, I’m always blessed to witness God touch the heart of someone through a word He’s allowed me to deliver.

CLARICE: Tell us a little bit about your book.

SUSAN: A Search for Purple Cows – A true story of hope is my memoir. A few years after marrying my husband, I realized that the idyllic life the world saw–a beautiful home, two wonderful children and everything a family could desire was a façade hiding my difficult truth. Behind closed doors, I was tormented by my husband’s alcoholism, domestic abuse, and infidelity. Through the unlikely source of a Christian radio station, God found me in the midst of my pain and brought me hope that fostered a new faith. I eventually found the strength to flee and start anew. Written with candor and grace, A Search for Purple Cows – A true story of hope will leave you laughing, crying, and believing that God is present and able, ready to bring hope and healing.

CLARICE: What inspired you to write this particular book? 

SUSAN: My story deals with alcoholism, abuse, and infidelity, all topics that are remarkably common, yet often not talked about. I want others to know that there is hope. There is a way. And, they are not alone!

CLARICE: Has the Lord used you for his purposes through the writing and distribution of your book(s)?

SUSAN: I’ve been so blessed by watching God move through the release of my story. Both through speaking engagements and through my book, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with so many others who have shared a similar journey. From a woman in Arizona finally ready to get help to be safe, to the divorced single mom in New Jersey who had lost hope, I’ve had a front row seat watching God touch and change the lives of others with His peace and strength. My writing is a tangible modern-day example of Romans 8:28. The difficulties of a broken marriage marred by abuse and infidelity, is being used for good and bringing Him glory!

CLARICE: What are some resources you recommend to readers who want to learn more about the topics you address in your book? 

Websites:

www.thehotline.org – The National Domestic Violence Hotline – A national resource available to assist with domestic violence. (1-800-799-7233)

www.divorcecare.org DivorceCare is a divorce recovery program offering valuable resources dealing with the issues faced by those confronted with divorce or separation.

Books:

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

I Should Forgive, But… by Dr. Chuck Lynch

CLARICE: What writing projects are you currently working on?

My newest project will be released mid October this year. I’ve written a short story “Secondhand Miracle” in A Cup of Christmas Cheer. Additionally as part of the book launch, I have an article in the October Guideposts magazine. In addition, I am currently working on my next book project. I’ve had the opportunity to pitch the abstract to a few publishers who are now waiting for my full proposal. Stay tuned for more information on that project. Readers can also find my blog online at www.susancall.com.

Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. ~ Psalm 62:4-6 (NIV)

 

MnGSusan Heim Call is one of seven published authors who’ll be featured at the MEET & GREET LOCAL CHRISTIAN AUTHORS event scheduled for Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 3:00 to 5:30 pm at Bonhoeffer’s Café & Espresso, 8 Franklin St., Nashua, New Hampshire. Guests will enjoy FREE admission, refreshments, book-signings, special discounts, and door prizes–including a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite! Click HERE to register!  For more information, call Clarice James at 603-578-1860 or Cindy Saab at (978) 821-6547.


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Party of One: I See Lonely People

Party of OneI was widowed in 1998, around the same time the movie The Sixth Sense came out. Every time I saw the trailer and heard the line “I see dead people walking around; they’re everywhere,” I would think, “I see lonely people walking around; they’re everywhere.”

I still do—over fourteen years later.

During the eight years I was widowed, God gave me a heart for single adults—especially those who have slipped through the cracks between active couples and busy families. You know who I mean. They’re the ones who volunteer to help at social events so they have a purpose in attending; the ones who sit alone in church; or the ones who dine out in restaurants at tables, always meant for more than one, trying to look less awkward than they feel.

When I dined alone in a restaurant, I would often wonder how other single diners would react if I invited them to join me. I even drew up a plan, picked out the restaurant, and came up with the name “Party of One.”

It never happened; I chickened out.

In 2006, I was blessed to remarry. When I told my husband David about my passion for lonely singles and my former plan to create A Party of One fellowship, he suggested I turn my idea into a novel. I did, and its title—you guessed it—is Party of One. (My agent is shopping it around to publishers now.)

But something was missing: An actual Party of One fellowship.

So, in October of 2011, Party of One, A Fellowship for Those Tired of Dining Alone, was founded.  Its purpose is simple: to fellowship with single adults at a communal table. (To be clear, when I use the word “single,” I don’t mean single as in dating, but single as in dining.) Not a Singles Club

Party of One people include men and women of all ages, some single by choice, single by circumstances or “spiritually” single. It also includes others, like my husband and myself who are called to encourage them.

We extend an open invitation to all who are “tired of dining alone.” We do not limit attendees to Christians, although many of us are. None of us were Christians before God invited us to sit at His table, so God decides who He wants to show up. 🙂

We have people from nine neighboring towns in southern, NH. They include white and blue-collar workers, those who are employed full-time, many retired, democrats, republicans, and independents, maybe even a few intellectuals, holy rollers, and rednecks.

Matthew 5:46-47: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

To allow as many as possible to attend, we rotate between Friday night, Saturday day, and Sunday afternoon—three of the loneliness times for single adults. On average, we meet twice a month. We change-up venues often between reasonably priced restaurants, fundraising events, and potluck meals.

If I’ve learned anything in the past 18 months, it is that there is a need for this fellowship.

How about you? Is God speaking to you? Is this idea jumping off the page at you? It’s a simple concept. You just get together over a meal and talk and laugh. There is no cost to join or to start a Party of One chapter. Check out our blog to see what goes on:  Party of One.

People have told me that this is “a brilliant idea.” I’m not that smart, so I strongly suspect God’s intervention.

Call me. Let’s talk. 603-578-1860.