Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


4 Comments

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.

Advertisements


2 Comments

My Sources of Good Material

Not resting–people watching.

Collecting good material is all part of the writing process. Here are a few of the ways I gather mine.

First, I’m always on the lookout for new words (new to me, that is) to use in my writing someday. Yesterday I added “flumped” and “clots” to my list just because they made me smile.

I also collect phrases–mostly from listening to my quick-witted husband. I keep a small spiral pad with me at all times. When he speaks, I take notes. (It’s not really stealing if it’s common property; we are ONE after all.)

Unfortunately, he does not provide this service on demand. He  says, “I have no idea when something useful will float to the surface of the muck and mire. You have to take what you get.”  Watching his mind work is pure genius . . .  and a little bit scary.

I also eavesdrop on conversations–in restaurants, at church, while shopping, at meetings. Some might accuse me of being nosy; without hesitation, I admit I’m guilty.

People-watching is kin to eavesdropping, but you can do that from afar.  My husband calls it “rubbernecking;” I call it research. Many of my characters have been dressed in the get-ups I’ve seen while walking through a public place.

Then there are my co-workers, friends and family. In my latest book, Party of One,  some of my friends and family may recognize a few of their own quirks and characteristics. (I do hope they will forgive me.)

And I’m certain they will recognize mine.


29 Comments

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

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.


2 Comments

Twisted Word Puzzle #9

Here’s a twist on my word quizzes. I’ve listed 12 groups with five words each. Your job is to choose the category  in which the words belong.

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature,that was its name.  So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. ~ Genesis 2:19-20 (NIV)

  1. bine, drupe, glume, rhizome, and spidix – a) parts of a plant; b) types of poisons; c) plastic components; d) related to the belly of an aircraft
  2. durmast, garry, banksian, bull, and mugho – a) ancient pavilions; b) architectural moldings; c) parts of a sailing vessel; d) Canadian oaks and pines
  3. abra, bonnet, cowrie, horn, lion’s paw, and turret – a) farming tools; b) seashell collection; c) jeweler designs; d) Middle East hieroglyphs
  4. danbo, esrom, mysost, sprinz, and tilsit – a) types of cheese; b) unflattering Welsh terms for the under educated; c) types of grass popular in cattle ranges; d) middle age salves and potions
  5. axminster, beck, denier, kuster, and velva – a) foreign nicknames for buttocks; b) types of beer; c) carpet terminology; d) English royalty titles
  6. cameo, daisy, doric, spiral, and royal lace – a) types of depression glass; b) notable snowflake shapes; d) stitches used in weaving; d) terms used in jewelry-making
  7. John Astin, Art Carney, Ethel Merman, Cliff Robertson,  and Shelley Winters – a) actors in the first Titanic movie ; b) actors all related to at least one US president;  c) actors who appeared on TV’s Batman; d) actors who appeared on Sesame Street
  8. Brazos, Maumee, Neches, Owyhee, and Yadkin – a) US rivers; b) towns in Oklahoma; c) villages in Argentina; d) names of African tribes
  9. calf’s head, honeycomb, lozenge, rondelle, and scissors – a) types of caves; b) street names for illegal drugs; c) a variety of high wire circus acts; d) types of gem stone cuts
  10. Aquila, Cepheus, Dorado, Fornax, and Indus – a) Big Band record labels; b) types of constellations; c) names of theaters in Athens, Greece; d) brands of Mediterranean cigarettes
  11. curlew, drongo, grandala, hoopoe, and yuhina – a) Native American hand tools; b) birds found in Chinac) Brazilian dances;  d) Asian children’s games
  12. alforja, canniken, growler, kylix, and toby – a) types of fish found in the Southern Ocean; b) types of containers; c) Cockney words that describe a layabout; d) parts of the Hubble telescope

thinking capHave you chosen the correct category? If so, how many of the 5 words had you heard before? Scroll down to see how you did.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. ~ James 3:7-12 (NLT)

Here are the correct answers.

  1. bine, drupe, glume, rhizome, and spidix – a) parts of a plant
  2. durmast, garry, banksian, bull, and mugho – d) Canadian oaks and pines
  3. abra, bonnet, cowrie, horn, lion’s paw, and turret – b) seashell collection
  4. danbo, esrom, mysost, sprinz, and tilsit – a) types of cheese
  5. axminster, beck, denier, kuster, and velva – c) carpet terminology
  6. cameo, daisy, doric, spiral, and royal lace – a) types of depression glass
  7. John Astin, Art Carney, Ethel Merman, Cliff Robertson,  and Shelley Winters – c) actors who appeared on TV’s Batman
  8. Brazos, Maumee, Neches, Owyhee, and Yadkin – a) US rivers
  9. calf’s head, honeycomb, lozenge, rondelle, and scissors – d) types of gem stone cuts
  10. Aquila, Cepheus, Dorado, Fornax, and Indus – b) types of constellations
  11. curlew, drongo, grandala, hoopoe, and yuhina – b) birds found in China
  12. alforja, canniken, growler, kylix, and toby – b) types of containers

 

How did you do?

10-12  May I call you in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep?

07-09 When you speak, do blank faces stare back at you?

04-06 My kind of person!

00-03  I don’t think you’re trying very hard.


4 Comments

Twelve Words for a Word Searcher’s Vocabulary #8

Gracious speech is like clover honey—good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body. ~ Proverbs 16:24 (MSG)
When I can’t sleep at night, I get up and read a couple of chapters of whatever book I’m enjoying. After that, I try to bore myself to sleep by doing a few word search puzzles. 

This usually does the trick–until I come across words I don’t know. Here’s a list of them. Do you know their meaning? 

  1. bismutha) gray and overcast; b) brittle, grayish-white metallic element; c) standing ovation; d) grandiose
  2. coeval – a) equally old; b) architectural detail; c) hut built over a mine shaft; d) wide and shallow
  3. drupe – a) ancient alphabet; b) to doubt; c) to hang on or over; d) any fruit with an outer skin, pulpy middle, and hard inner shell
  4. fipple – a) indecisive; b) block that forms a flue in wind instruments; c) type of dwarf tree; d) public disturbance
  5. jaggery – a) sharp protrusion; b) sugar made from the sap of a date palm; c) unrestrained indulgence; d) latest Rolling Stones album title
  6. muntin – a) aged; b) flesh of a mature sheep used for food;) playfully mean or cruel; d) strip separating panes of glass in a sash
  7. nitid – a) idiot-like; b) handmade; c) bright and lustrous; d) infected by the egg of a louse or other parasitic insect
  8. piggina) small wooden pail; b) newborn pigs; c) type of fastener; d) type of English pudding
  9. rondellea) type of French cheese; b) vegan casserole; c) circular jewel; d) type of saw
  10. scow – a) look of disapproval; b) jurisdiction over a territory or over people; c) large flat-bottomed boat with broad square ends; d) fist fight
  11. twite – a) beyond a shadow of a doubt; b) small finch; c) stomach of a ruminant; d) to flutter about
  12. valgus – a) essential amino acid; b) earthly or mortal; c) not easily discerned; d) knock-kneed or bowlegged

thinking capHave you chosen the correct definition? Can you use the words in a sentence? Scroll down to see how you did.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. ~ James 3:7-12 (NLT)

Here are the correct answers.

  1. b) Bismutha brittle, grayish-white, red-tinged, metallic element used in the manufacture of fusible alloys and in medicine
  2. a) Coevalof the same age, date, or duration; equally old
  3. d) Drupeany fruit, as a peach, cherry, plum, etc., consisting of an outer skin, usually a pulpy and succulent middle layer, and a hard and woody inner shell, usually enclosing a single seed
  4. b) Fipple: a wooden block that forms a flue at the mouth end of certain musical instruments
  5. b) Jaggerya coarse, dark sugar, especially that made from the sap of East Indian (date) palm trees
  6. d) Muntin: a strip separating panes of glass in a sash
  7. c) Nitid: bright and lustrous
  8.  a) Piggin: a small wooden pail with one stave extended upward as a handle
  9. c) Rondelle: a circular object; especially a circular jewel or jeweled ring
  10. c) Scow: a large flat-bottomed boat with broad square ends used chiefly for transporting bulk material (as ore, sand, or refuse)
  11. b) Twite: a small finch, Carduelis flavirostris, of northern Europe, having streaked brown plumage and, in the male, a pink breast
  12. d) Valgus: an abnormally turned position of a part of the bone structure of human being, especially of the leg. Bowlegged, knock-kneed, or the like

Jumping for joy over your score?

10-12  May I call you in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep?

07-09 When you speak, do blank faces stare back at you?

04-06 My kind of person!

00-03  I don’t think you’re trying very hard.


7 Comments

Twelve Words for a Thinker’s Vocabulary #7

Many of the words I chose are from The Thinker’s Thesaurus by Peter E. Meltzer.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. ~ Pslam 111:10 (NIV)

  1. apothegm – a) saying; b) growth on throat;  c) respiratory condition; d) architectural detail
  2. codswallop – a) British fish and chips; b) backhand; c) nonsense; d) swallow whole
  3. deflagration – a) slander; b) explosion; c) mass migration; d) corporal punishment
  4. harpocracy – a) berating; b) silence c) glad-handing; d) fear of harps
  5. keelhaul – a) rebuke; b) drill a doorknob hole; c) climb aboard; d) shuck shellfish
  6. mobocracy – a) agility; b) political control by a mob;) of robotic limbs; d) type of poem
  7. neoteric – a) lighthearted; b) self-centered; c) genius; d) recent
  8. ostreal – a) of or relating to oysters; b) night sky; c) of or relating to ostriches; d) unfathonable
  9. pleonasm – a) stinginess; b) type of political lobby; c) legal pleadings; d) redundancy
  10. rataplan – a) caste system; b) zuchini and tomatoe sidedish; c) repeating noise; d) type of roof shingle
  11. smellfungas – a) wine taster; b) faultfinder; c) mushroom tester; d) person with huge nose
  12. ulracrepidarian – a) presumptuous; b) liberal; c) delusional; d) unkempt

thinking capHave you chosen the correct definition? Can you use the words in a sentence? Scroll down to see how you did.

Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. ~ Proverbs 3:13-20 (NIV)

Here are the correct answers.

  1. a) saying
  2. c) nonsense
  3. b) explosion
  4. b) silence
  5. a) rebuke
  6. b) political control by a mob
  7. d) recent
  8. a) of or relating to oysters
  9. d) redundancy
  10. c) repeating noise
  11. b) faultfinder
  12. a) presumptuous

Jumping for joy over your score?

10-12  So, I see you enjoy being an introvert and book worm.

07-09  People only pretend to know what you’re talking about.

04-06  You might not want to try out for Jeopardy.

00-03  If I were you, I’d stick with Word Search puzzles.


6 Comments

Eleven Lousy Excuses

Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,” will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know— Someone not impressed with weak excuses.  ~ Proverbs 24:11-12 (MSG)

  1. The brief definition of the sentence “My husband will understand” is “rationalization.” The expanded definition is “I better start praying for a real good reason before I get home.”
  2. If I find myself repeatedly saying– “Laugh, that was a joke” –it doesn’t necessarily mean the people to whom I’m speaking are dense. It could be my jokes aren’t that funny.
  3. When I preface a sentence with, “I shouldn’t say this but—” then I shouldn’t say this—period.
  4. If my main reason for not going to the doctor’s is because I don’t want to get weighed, it means I’m overweight and vain and in denial and not too bright.
  5. Since the little I have to offer won’t make a big difference, I’ll wait until I have more before I give.   Bored audeince
  6. If three or more people yawn (or fall asleep) while I’m speaking, it’s not them or the heat or their lack of sleep, it’s me . . . being boring.
  7. If I have to defend my friend’s words and actions over and over with this sentence: “You know, she’s really quite smart,” chances are my friend has to work harder to prove my hypothesis.
  8. When my fellow writers don’t “get” a scene I’ve written now, a rewrite is always better than a long-winded explanation that my readers won’t put up with later.
  9. I’m able to watch all the TV shows and movies I want by skipping over the offensive parts.
  10. Why should I tell them how Jesus changed my life? They won’t listen anyway.
  11. I cannot vote for one presidential candidate and don’t want to vote for the other, so that means I’m not obligated to vote.

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?  ~  Galatians 5:13-15 (MSG)