Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Janet Grunst! Winner of the 2017 Selah Award for Historical Romance

***Jodie Peters is the winner of a copy of Janet’s novel A Heart Set Free!***  

I’m honored to call this Selah Award Winner my friend. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Janet is a great encourager! We met at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in Dallas in 2012–before we were both published–and we’ve kept in touch ever since. What a blessing to share and celebrate our publishing journeys together!

I hope you enjoy our mutual interviews both here and on Janet’s website.  And, if you comment on this post, you’ll have a chance to win either a print or Kindle copy of Janet’s award-winning novel, A Heart Set Free.

CGJ:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

JSG:  I was in my mid thirties and a stay-at-home mom.

CGJ:  Who first supported you in this dream?

JSG:  My former husband, Bob, who never read anything in this genre. He would read each chapter as I finished it and ask for the next one.

CGJ:  Who is your biggest cheerleader now?

JSG:  My husband, Ken, who encouraged me to get back into writing after I’d put it aside for decades. He encouraged me to try again to get this first story published. I provide him with red pens, and he loves to comment and edit.

CGJ:  What did you do before you became a writer?

JSG:  I was in the banking and mortgage lending industry before I had children. When I returned to work in the 90’s I worked for Community Bible Study (CBS), an international and interdenominational Bible study program with many classes throughout the United States and world. I have continued to serve in CBS Leadership before, during, and since retiring from employment in the ministry.

CGJ:  What genre do you prefer to write?

JSG:  Historical Romance and Historical

CGJ:  Which authors have influenced your writing and how?

JSG:  Secular authors: Jane Austen for most of her work; Margaret Mitchell for Gone With The Wind; Nevil Shute for A Town Like Alice; Charlotte Brontë for Jane Eyre; and Elizabeth Gaskell for North and South and Cranford. Inspirational authors: Too many to list but my all time favorite is General Lew Wallace for Ben Hur. All of these stories are ones that stay in your mind.

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

JSG:  While the stories may be in an historical setting, they communicate feelings and experiences that are timeless and the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain and bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader.

CGJ:  Tell us a little bit about your book, the title and one or two sentences.

JSG:  A Heart Set Free  tells the story of a woman who flees Scotland in 1770 as an indentured servant to escape disgrace. In Virginia she finds forgiveness, faith, and a future she could never have anticipated.

CGJ:  How have your readers responded?

JSG:  I was so pleased with these reviews:

“I loved this tender and wonderful story. Amidst all the hurt and misunderstanding, we find forgiveness and grace. And along the way, we see love, slowly evolving, making its way into hearts that have been closed off due to hurt and loss. I found myself slowing down my reading as I approached the end because I just didn’t want the story to end.”

“This is a wonderful story! It has just the right amount of intrigue, romance, and adventure to keep the reader turning the pages – one of those books I didn’t want to finish too quickly, but didn’t want to stop reading. Please, where can I find the sequel?”

CGJ:  What lessons have you learned from this [publishing] journey?

JSG:  To always hold my writing with an open hand. I’m to do my part, and if it is God’s will, He’ll see it through to publication.

CGJ:  What writing projects are you currently working on? Is this book part of a series?

JSG:  A Heart Set Free  is the first story in a trilogy. Its theme is forgiveness. The second story is complete and in search of a publisher. Its theme is faithfulness. The final story is underway. Its theme is forbearance. They are each stand alone stories.

AUTHOR BIO: Janet is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight. She lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband and West Highland White Terrier. A lifelong student of history, her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that can communicate the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain, and bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader. Janet is represented By Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency

Janet’s Website

Colonial Quill’s Blog 

Janet’s Facebook

A Heart Set Free ~ Winner of the 2017 Selah Award for Historical Romance.

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Linda Brooks Davis: An Inspiration

Ella McFarlandFor all you wannabe writers out there who think your AUTHOR date of expiration has come and gone, Linda Brooks Davis is the inspiration you need to see that your dream is not dead, just waiting on God’s timing.

ME:  Linda, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

LINDA: In high school I learned there was a spot inside me, somewhere around the heart, that came to life when I wrote. Later, at a local college, a quirky English professor asked me if I’d ever considered creative writing for a career. I was astounded. 

Expose my inner self to the world? Horrors!

It wasn’t until I went away to college that I discovered letter writing brought that spot to life. I wrote copious letters home. I remember hurrying back to the dorm between classes to start a letter or add to one, imagining my loved ones’ faces as they read and laughed and cried—experiencing college vicariously. (Think “The Waltons.”) Believe it or not, my mother saved every single letter. When she died in 1995, I discovered reams of them. I’ve organized them as a history for my offspring.

After college, life got in the way, and my writing pen remained in a drawer.

Fast forward to 2004. My daughter called me at work with news: Our first grandchild would arrive—in triplicate form. Not only was the news astounding, but so was my reaction. People in offices on the first floor came up to see what all the racket on second floor was all about.

My daughter’s at-risk pregnancy, mainly in the hospital, was indeed something to write home about. Her physician urged her to abort one baby, painting a landscape of dire predictions, but she refused.

When the babies were born at 28 weeks at just over 2 pounds each—and survived and thrived—you can bet that spot around my heart that comes to life when I write shifted into overdrive.

That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I would leave a legacy of faith in writing. Pow!

ME: You mentioned your work place, what did you do before you became a writer?

LINDA: In 1968, I began a 40-year career working with individuals with special needs. I was a speech pathologist in public schools and in clinical settings. The last ten years were as an administrator of special programs. I retired in 2008.

When not writing, my husband and I dote on our six grandchildren.

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

LINDA:  Ready for another story? Remember my dream of leaving a legacy of faith in writing? That 2005 goal took me to the internet where I stumbled across an essay contest sponsored by the host of a local talk show. (One of the program sponsors was Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.) For fun, I wrote an essay entitled “Why I Should Attend the Writing for the Soul Conference.” I didn’t know what the conference was, but it sounded like a grand event. It was at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, after all.

I didn’t tell anyone I entered. Actually, I forgot all about it.

Weeks later, I received a call at work. I recognized the voice … the host of the radio show … calling me … I’m one of three finalists … and I’m to read my essay on air … in forty-five minutes.

What? I didn’t remember where I put the essay. Was it still on my computer? Could I even find it?  Yikes.

Whew! Found it. Printed it. And caught my breath. I read, and with the clock ticking down to the last seconds of the show, the announcement was finally made. The host had made his decision . . . What? I won?

That’s how it happened. My husband and I were treated to the Broadmoor and the conference and all that went with it. I was open-mouthed and uninformed and naive. But I soldiered on.

Ten years later came the Operation First Novel win and publication of THE CALLING OF ELLA McFARLAND, a novel based in my family’s stories about hardship and faith and grit—a legacy of faith in writing.

God is so faithful, even to a ditzy woman like me who prayed for something and then was astounded when it happened. Will I ever learn?

My advice: Get the story down, no matter the form or quality. Keep learning. And don’t quit.

 

Linda-Brooks-DavisLinda Brooks Davis, first-place winner of the 2014 Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel award, has lived in multiple states and outside the U.S, but she speaks Texan. 

Set in 1905 pre-statehood Oklahoma, THE CALLING OF ELLA McFARLAND, an inspirational historical with a strong romantic thread, debuted on December 1, 2015.

When not writing, Linda enjoys teaching 4-year-olds at church, reading, and researching genealogy. She and her husband dote on six grandchildren.

 


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Through a Glass Darkly: The Quilter

As an author, here’s how I see things vs. how they really are. Sort of.

The way I imagined it . . .   

Jeff ConwayRecently, while walking through the Mall of New Hampshire, I noticed a man, probably in his mid-forties, with his hair rolled into a slick pompadour like Jeff Conaway as Kenickie in Grease. He wore a royal purple  satin jacket with knit collar and cuffs. Embroidered in gold on the back were the words “Perth Amboy Foreign Autos.”

A short, sandy-haired woman dressed in a flowered turtleneck and denim jumper held his arm and clogged along loudly beside him. She looked nothing like Stockard Channing as Rizzo.

While the happy couple admired the display of miniature hand-blown glass animals at a kiosk, I “found” them a family.

A trio of tittering pre-teens, windowshopping outside Claire’s, seemed perfect for the role of their daughters. I named them Sephira, Solara, and Sienna.

A 15-ish square-built boy, looking bored near the escalator, became their son. The crotch of his jeans was almost level with his kneecaps. Crippled by this ill-advised design, I dubbed him Yugo.Yugo

They’d traveled all the way up from Perth Amboy, New Jersey for the “Happy to be Scrappy” Ladies of the Lakes Quilters Triennial Quilt Show. It had been held over the weekend at Kingswood High School in Wolfeboro, where “Mrs. Kenickie” had taken first place.blue-ribbon

The family planned to return home directly after the judges’ decision in time to phone friends and family before the news got old. They would’ve, too, but for the nuisance of a dragging muffler on their 1992 Chrysler Town & Country mini van.

Rather than pay for an extra night at Motel 6, they hiked to the mall about a mile from the mechanic’s garage. Before they entered, their kids watched as their proud dad pinned the blue ribbon to their mom’s jumper.

The family whiled away the hours, not bothered by their car trouble, just pleased to be together to celebrate this milestone occasion.

The way it was . . .   

John Travolta hairThe couple, Hank and Betty Dutra, hailed from Raymond, NH. Hank combed his hair this way because twenty-seven years ago Betty told him he kinda looked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

Hank bought the royal purple satin jacket (practically brand new) with the Perth Amboy logo for $5.00 at Goodwill because he’d never owned anything from Australia before. Betty hated it. He wore it today mainly because she’d made him come to the Mall.

Despite Hank’s jacket and hard-headedness, Betty wanted this day to feel special. That’s why she’d exchanged her comfy sweats for a proper jumper. After all, it was Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, not Dollar Tree in Raymond.

Used to her everyday sneakers, she clung to Hank’s arm, unsteady in her dress clogs.clogs

As they passed by the kiosk filled with miniature hand-blown glass animals, Betty  whispered to Hank, “Who on earth would pay these prices?”

Hank answered, “Who knows? Maybe the kind of people who live in Hollis and Bedford and Exeter.”

They listened to a trio of girls cackling outside Claire’s and witnessed a teen boy’s jeans slip down to his knees.

Hank shook his head. “Aren’t you glad we have dogs?”

“Don’t forget the chickens,” Betty said. “They might cackle but at least they keep us in eggs.”

flex-seal-liquid_1000After a few hours of browsing, they bought some Flex Seal Liquid Rubber (as seen on TV) so they could repair the used truck bed liner they purchased for their 2016 double cab Ford 2500.

The blue ribbon on Betty’s jumper? It was there when they left the house. She’d taken first place in the “Happy to be Scrappy” Ladies of the Lakes Quilters Triennial Quilt Show held at Kingswood High School in Wolfeboro that weekend.

And Hank made sure everyone in the Mall of New Hampshire knew it.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)


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Word Search: First Christmas

Holy Family WSDecrease the stress and focus on the importance of the Christmas season.

Here are two Word Search Puzzles–one for adults, one for children, based on the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2:1-21 (KJV).  The words used in both puzzles are highlighted in red.

Click on link for Word Search Adult Puzzle (30 words): WS First Christmas Adult 

Click on link for Word Search Puzzle for Children (12 words): WS First Christmas Children

Mary onn Donkey“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LordAnd this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Apparition-to-the-Shepherds“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” ~ Luke 2:1-21 (KJV)

Click on link for Solution to Adult Puzzle: WS First Christmas Adult Solution

Click on link for Solution to Children’s Puzzle: WS First Christmas Children Solution

 


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Why I Stalked a Shopper in Hannaford

old-womanwigIt’s near impossible for a writer to go out in public without imagining characters for their next novels.

Once, while waiting at a bank’s drive-up window, I wondered about my teller’s hair–which was really a bad wig. Why would she pick a style from the ’60s? Was she threatened by the aging process? Or had she spurned the whims of fashion?

The drawer slid open with my receipt. I reached over my half-opened, stuck-off-its track window to retrieve it. My arm wasn’t long enough. While I tried not to stare at the woman, character names for her ran through my head: Paula? Nancy? Frances? 

I soon realized I’d have to open my door and half-step out to get my hand inside the drawer. I had one foot in and one foot out. Unfortunately the car was in drive, and the foot that was in was not on the brake.

I grabbed the receipt and hopped alongside my rolling car to the end of building. It came to a stop after it withdrew the bank’s downspout.

 All because of that woman’s hair.

Recently, I was developing a female character. It was important for this character to be recognized by her perfume, which meant researching fragrances. I tested a multitude of brands in department stores. All I came away with was a bunch of stinky samples and a whopping headache.

None of them were right for my character. I needed to simplify my method. I would sniff it out in a more natural habitat.

It worked. I was standing at the deli counter in Hannaford when I smelled the perfect scent: Clementine and cactus flower, bergamot, Hawaiian tuberose, spring honeysuckle, frangipani, musk, exotic woods, and nectarine. [Research, people research!]

I looked around and tried to figure out which woman owned it. The one in the Nike jogging suit? The lady with the kerchief and polyester pants? The one in the beige top and funky straw hat who looked a lot like Minnie Driver?

Minnie DriverI wove my cart in and around them, sniffing as subtly as I could, pretending to check out cheese. I quickly eliminated the kerchiefed woman, who smelled more like salami than the salami she was buying. I tucked her away for another day.

I tailed the other two women until I reached a fork between two aisles. It called for a quick decision. I chose the Minnie lookalike. I tried to get as near to her as I could without drawing attention to myself. I dropped a few items in my cart to throw her off. Each time I got close, I sniffed, surer than ever I was on the right scent.

Even when she skipped aisles and pushed her cart faster, I kept up. I had to have the name of that perfume!

At one point, she gave me a weird look. I wasn’t sure if I’d blown my cover or if she’d looked in my cart. I’d been in the store for forty-five minutes and all I had to show for it was a jar of Gerber strained peas, a box of matches, and a toilet plunger.

Before she called security, I gave up the hunt. I retraced my steps and found the makings for dinner. Rather despondent, I checked out.  All my research had been for nought.

Pushing my cart through the lot, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Loading groceries into the car parked right next to mine was my perfumed lady!

I sprinted toward her, then slowed to a stroll, blocking her only way of escape. I said, “Excuse me, you may have noticed me in the grocery store?”

“Ye-es.” She quickened her pace and scanned the area.

Before I could finish my explanation, she gave up the name of her perfume and took off faster than I could say Tommy Bahama.

Nice woman. Haven’t seen her since.

TB Perfume

 

Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:15 (MSG)

 


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If My Ears Could Talk . . .

women with finger in ear

For at least sixteen years, I’d been using the same medication for an allergy that made my ears itch like crazy. All I did was put a few drops on a cotton swab and run it around the outermost inside of my ear.

When I moved out of state, I had to see a new doctor before I could get a refill. After she checked my ears, our conversation went something like this:

DOCTOR: “Open your mouth wide and say, ‘Ahh’.”

ME: “Ahh.”

DOCTOR, after shining her light and depressing my tongue: “So how many drops do you put in each ear and how often?” She turned away to jot down some notes.

My mind curled into a ball of confusion. Drops? In each ear? For the first time—in SIXTEEN years—I thought about that bottle. It did have that tiny hole at the end of its long neck—just the right shape to put in my ear. I’d never noticed. I went dumb.

When the doctor turned around, she laughed. Not only had I not answered her question, but my mouth was still wide open.

DOCTOR, still laughing: “You’re funny.”

ME, pretending I was doing it on purpose: “Liked that, huh?”

DOCTOR: “So how many drops and how often?”

ME: “Well, depends on what you mean by drops. A couple. Maybe. Not that often. Sometimes. A month or two.” I did not answer well.

DOCTOR, looking at me suspiciously: “You’re not sticking anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, are you?”

ME: “No, if anything, I’m conscientious about warnings.” I just don’t read directions.

DOCTOR: “Good. Here’s your prescription.”

PS: Whaddya know? Putting drops in my ears allows me to use them less often.

Fast forward three years. I’m in my office downstairs in the middle of writing a scene. My ears start to itch, but my drops are all the way upstairs. I look around my desk. A shiny, metal paperclip looks like a promising medical instrument. I half-unfold it and carefully stick the smaller, rounded end into my ear and scratch. “Aaaah.” My itch is relieved and no one is the wiser.

I go to remove the clip, but it hooks on a part of my ear I can’t see. (I can’t see any part of my ear, but you get what I’m saying.) I try again, but fail. I twist, it catches. I reverse the twist, it pinches. I pull, it sticks me.

For a while I just sit there breathing quietly with the paper clip sticking straight out of my ear. If only I can get my ear to relax, I think, the clip will fall out. How do you relax an ear? Listen to Yanni?

The doctor’s words taunt me, “You’re not sticking anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, are you?” I make an ugly face at the memory of her.

I climb the stairs and prepare to humiliate myself in front of my husband—who would never do anything this stupid because he is an engineer who reads and follows all directions.

HUSBAND, when he sees my face: “What’s wrong?”

ME, now crying, not out of pain but embarrassment: “I haa a prclip stck in m er.”

HUSBAND: “What did you say?”

ME: “I said, I HAVE A PAPER CLIP STUCK IN MY EAR!”

HUSBAND, sighing [pfft] like I do this kind of stuff all the time: “Come here. Let me see.” He performs the delicate surgical procedure and removes the offending object. Then he informs me that I pulled so hard I pierced the inside of my ear.

So, whaddya think? Earring or no earring?paper clib earring

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. ~ 2Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV)


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God Didn’t Make Me No Ballerina

3 Great Danes I dont know3How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter! Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of an artist’s hands.~ Song of Solomon 7:1 (NIV)

Graceful. Not a word ever used to describe me. Don’t believe me? I can show you the bruises.

I used to believe my lack of athleticism and coordination could be reversed. One day it hit me. God didn’t make me no ballerina. I’m okay with that. Most of the time. Until I’m in the presence of graceful people—which I was while recently visiting in-laws.

My husband’s sister and her husband [I shall refer to them herewith as “Darleen” and “Peter.”] are gracious hosts and lovely people. (Well, Darleen is lovely, Peter is blessed—and he knows it.)

Now, Darleen and Peter are ballroom dancers. I think they’re the inspiration for the Lladro dancers collection. Okay, not really, but you get the picture.  

Darleen is thin and tall–just over 6 feet. Peter is thin and taller. My husband David is not as thin, but the tallest. I am short and chubby. When all three of them sit on the furniture their feet touch the floor at the same time. My legs stick out straight–unless I sit on the edge of my seat and pretend they’re telling an exciting story.

As a former model, Darleen has perfect posture and walks like she’s floating on wisps of air. No matter how soft I tried to tip-toe, every time I entered a room, the crystal in their cabinets jangled. When Darleen poses for pictures, she angles one leg in front of the other and it looks natural. I tried that once and fell over. Even the way she moves her hands is graceful. She could hand me a used tissue, and I would feel blessed.

So, you can see why I was mortified when this happened. The four of us returned home from lunch out, entering through their garage. I was first to the back door. (What I lack in grace, I attempt to make up in speed.) Unfortunately, I underestimated the height of the step and tripped. Falling in a heap, I landed with a thud on an area rug just inside the door.3 Great Danes I dont know4

It knocked the wind out of me, I tell ya. I couldn’t speak. But I could hear the tall ones conversing: “Where’d she go?” “She fell.” “Is she okay.” “What happened?” “Don’t know.” “I can’t reach her.” “Let me see.” Their mutual height had blocked their view. (I should have seen that as God’s grace at work, but missed it at the time.)

Embarrassed, I laughed it off and tried to get up. Instead, like a clumsy, chubby Pug, I pawed and scrabbled at the rug–which kept slipping and sliding beneath me atop the shiny wood floor.

Question. Is it possible to re-fall when you haven’t gotten up yet? If so—as the trio of sleek, graceful Great Danes looked down from above—I re-fell twice. [Sigh to the 3rd power.]

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Tell me about it. Make me feel better. Please.

PS: Darleen and Peter, thanks for a most memorable trip. 😉 Love you both.