A Rather Funny “Tail”

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Okay, friends. Gather around, because I have a story to tell.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to take me to all kinds of book fairs and craft shows and “white elephant” sales. It seemed there was always a vendor, tucked away in a corner, who was selling personalized books. The books that take your child’s name, and other details, such as the names of siblings, friends, or pets, the name of the town where you live, and other information, and plugs them into a pre-written story. There were all sorts of titles to choose from, and different subjects, some meant to appeal to girls, some to boys, and others with universal appeal.

Over the years, I accumulated several of these books including “Me, Snow White, and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Read About Me and the Bee,” and “The Great Sesame Street ABC Hunt.” But there is one book that will always be more special and memorable than all the rest, for a very odd reason. This book is called “Read About Me in the Mousehouse.”

One detail you must know about the mouse-house book is that the name of the mouse changes depending upon who the intended recipient is. The mouse’s name is the child’s name—spelled backwards. In hindsight I bet this convention caused some trouble for the parents who bought the book. I would imagine that many, if not most names spelled backwards are hard to pronounce. But that’s not the only problem.

You see, my name is Lana. At least, it was back then. When I was born, my name was Lana, but everyone pronounced it wrong. All the time. Teachers. My grandparents’ friends. The man at K-mart asking over the P.A. system if my parent could please come to the front of the store because I was lost. My mom got annoyed, then she got sick of it, and the spelling was changed to Lonna. But back when this book was created “especially for” me, my name was Lana. L-A-N-A.

Do you know what ‘Lana’ is spelled backwards?

Anal.

I have a book in my possession where the mouse is named Anal. Anal Mouse.

To my mother’s credit, whenever she read the book to me, she pronounced Anal as “AHH-null.” Not that I had heard the word ‘anal’ or had any idea what it meant when I was a toddler. I wasn’t sure, why though, it was always so hard for my mother to keep a straight face when she read the book to me. After all, it was an enjoyable book, but it wasn’t funny.

Here is something that’s funny though. Anal Mouse was most decidedly not anal. Her mouse-house is a mess, “as jumbled as” her name. Empty bottles and jars and boxes, torn mittens and holey socks, clothespins, used postage stamps, rubber bands, match boxes, and buttons imprinted with logos and sayings and pictures are just some of the junk that clutter Anal’s mousehouse. By the end of the story, Lana (that’s me!) had helped Anal to create a more livable space by upcycling and reusing all the trash to make furniture, décor, and storage solutions for the decidedly un-anal Anal. I was truly ahead of my time.

If you aren’t crying with laughter at the thought of a children’s book that inadvertently named one of its two main characters Anal then I can’t help you. But here’s one more delightful snippet from the book that might cause you to crack (no pun intended) a smile.

Lana is exploring around her house when she stumbles across the mousehouse, quite by accident, in the back of a closet. The mousehouse, is, of course, a “tiny hole” in the wall.

A tiny hole.

A tiny hole with a sign hanging over it.

What does the sign say?

Anal.

But(t) of course.

You’re welcome.

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I Mean, Who Does That? (Don’t Be An Intellectual Property Thief)

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Did you know that a person’s work is under copyright “the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form”?* That means that an author’s manuscript is copyright before it is published. So is a musical composition. A poem. A limerick or a haiku. A painting or a drawing or a cartoon. A sculpture, a photograph, a Facebook status, a tweet.

Did you also know that this means if you copy, reproduce, or claim someone else’s work as your own, you are infringing on their intellectual property rights? You might know this is true of a motion picture, or the script for a play or television show or a musical. You might know this is true of a record album or a song or music video. For a short story or a newspaper article or a book. But it is every bit as true for a blog entry, an Instagram post, a Facebook status, or a tweet.

Maybe you’ve never really thought about it before. Maybe because the internet is so very open and public you never realized that it’s not okay to copy someone else’s status and share it as your own. That content created on platforms like Facebook and Twitter are not in the public domain, but the property of its creator. Maybe you didn’t stop to think that using someone else’s words requires permission from the creator, and attribution of your source. But it does.

Theft of intellectual property happens all the time. Sometimes it’s a victimless crime, resulting in little more than annoyance or perhaps a touch of anger on the part of the person whose words, art, music, or other work has been co-opted or stolen. But not always.

Would you be okay with a colleague stealing your idea or taking credit for your work? Would you shrug and look the other way if another student copied your child’s book report or science fair project or math homework? Would you be angry if the majority of people on a team project took credit for one person’s work? No, no, and yes. Because, duh.

If this seems petty, I’m not sorry. Because stealing is stealing whether it’s armed robbery or pocketing a candy bar or cutting and pasting someone’s Facebook post to share it as your own. Don’t say it’s not a big deal because it shouldn’t matter whether someone dashed off a thought in twenty seconds or spent nights tossing and turning over the perfect status update or tweet. Stealing is wrong. Can you be arrested or sued for stealing someone’s work? Yes. Does it always happen? Of course not. But that doesn’t make it okay.

I find this particularly vexing because I am a writer and a published author. Imagine that you have X number of Facebook friends and I have X number of Facebook friends, and never the twain shall meet. Right? But what if we have X number of friends in common, mutual friends, on Facebook? I post a status, you steal it, and our mutuals see your status first. Then, they see my status. Whose status do you imagine they will think was stolen, and whose will they think is the original? How many of them are going to toggle between the two accounts to check time and date stamps?

Writers of all stripes, published, amateur, and everything in between, absolutely DO NOT want mutual friends—or anyone else—thinking they have stolen another person’s words, however few words, however inconsequential those words may seem. It’s a matter of being seen as professional, as having integrity, of being trustworthy, of being a person who does one’s own work and keeps one’s eyes on one’s own paper. I learned this in first grade. Maybe not everyone did.

If you see something that’s clever, that’s poignant, that’s funny, that speaks to you, that you want to share, stop. Contact the person who created that content. Ask permission. Then, give credit where credit is due. Share directly from the creator’s page to be absolutely sure the right person gets the credit for the photo, the drawing, the pithy saying, the joke, the whatever. And if the creator’s content is not available for public sharing, then be sure you give proper attribution before cutting and pasting to your own page. But never should you ever copy something and present it as your own. That’s dishonest. It’s childish. And yes, it’s stealing.

So, if you’ve thought about doing this, don’t. If you’ve done it, stop it. And if you’ve never done it or considered doing it, I thank you.

 

*U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright.gov

(See how easy it is to give attribution to one’s source?)

A Servant’s Heart is Here!

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I am pleased to share that my Christian historical romance, A Servant’s Heart, is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. This is the long-awaited story whose original title was River Farm. 

Idealistic, independent, and utterly alone, seventeen-year-old Catherine Abbott arrives in the Virginia colony in the spring of 1774. Now an indentured servant, she is determined to leave her painful past behind and build a new life.Dr. James Craig has lost his entire family and his fiancée. He immerses himself in his work and surrounds himself with a surrogate family of employees and servants to assuage his loneliness. When he hires Catherine and she comes to live at his farm on the Potomac River, it seems as if God has brought them together for a reason. But has He?

As the colonies teeter on the brink of war, the future is uncertain. James joins the Continental Army as a surgeon and is shaken by the suffering and death he witnesses. As Catherine’s steadfast faith draws her closer to God, James finds himself doubting God’s goodness.

A Servant’s Heart affirms that God is present and working for good even when we can’t understand the process or know the outcome. It is the story of a woman searching for a home, a man standing in the way of his own happiness, love thwarted by the course of history, and a message of hope about the power of God.

 

 

No More Silence

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Archaeologist Eleanor Blake has no intention of relying on a man for her happiness; she needs only a trowel and a dig site to feel fulfilled. But in 1985, an attempted sexual assault frightens her into giving up field work. She hides behind her desk job at the Smithsonian—safe, but unhappy with the limits she’s placed on her career.

Those sentences describe my as-yet to be published contemporary romance Trowel and Error. It’s a story I believe in. A story I feel needs to be told. A story I want to share. But I’m not sure I will get that chance.

Attempted sexual assault. Do you need a trigger warning? Are you disgusted? Turned off? Already hitting delete on my query? If only sexual assault victims could delete what happened to them. But they can’t. We can’t. I can’t. And it’s downright hard—insulting even—to see so many people (agents) say they don’t want to see a manuscript with a rape. According to RAINN, one in six women will be a victim of a sexual assault or an attempted sexual assault. Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. So you can say you don’t want to read about it. You can say it’s “not for you.” You can dismiss it as an empty or lazy or manipulative plot device.

You can say all these things, but you haven’t met me. You don’t know me. And maybe, your attitude is diminishing my experience. Maybe you’re rape shaming me. Maybe you think I’m playing the victim card. Maybe you’re just not interested. Maybe you just don’t care. Maybe you don’t want to bothered, don’t want to be upset, don’t want to acknowledge there’s a problem.

Some people turn their faces away from homeless people. Some people change the television channel when starving children or amputee veterans or abused animals are on the screen. Everyone has that right.

But when you’re in an industry that the rest of the world relies on to give us a window into other people’s lives, that holds up a mirror to reflect ugly truths, how can you not be brave and try to understand someone else’s experience? How can you deny the legitimacy of someone else’s pain and their right to share?

I can’t believe I even have to say this but here it is: A RAPE ISN’T A PLOT DEVICE. It isn’t who a person is. But it is part of that person. You can no more ask a rape victim to disregard that part of their own self than you can ask someone to distance themselves from their race, their gender, their age, their sexual orientation. I’ve often wished there were some sort of #ownvoices designation for assault victims who want to tell their stories. It feels like we need that sort of protection. And yet, no one is saying someone else is more qualified to tell our stories; they’re saying that even we shouldn’t be telling our stories. How sad. How wasteful, short-sighted, and damaging.

There is still so much shame around rape. There is still so much doubt. Rape victims have an enormous burden. To prove it wasn’t their fault. To prove that their clothes or their actions didn’t cause what happened to them. To prove it actually happened.

When someone doesn’t want to see a manuscript like this, it’s as if they are saying my story isn’t important. My experience doesn’t deserve to be shared. I should sit down and shut up. I should keep my experiences to myself. Because they might inconvenience you. They might be hard to read. They might make you uncomfortable. Any idea how uncomfortable I was?

The agents say, “no raped women.” No rape as a means to making a female character stronger. As if a woman who has been raped is suddenly, forever and completely, a raped woman. As if a woman who has been raped isn’t a total freaking HERO for rising above what happened to her. Rape is not her identity, it is not her fate, it is not the end of her story. But you’re saying the story doesn’t matter. That what comes next isn’t important. That you have no interest in finding out how this doesn’t have to be the final word. That women can be and are so much more than what happened to them. And they have stories. Stories that deserve to be shared. Victims need a voice and a platform.

I will use my voice. And I will create my own platform if I have to. But having allies and advocates in the publishing world would help. Having people who won’t automatically reject even a glance at my manuscript because of one thing would help.

One way or another, I will share my story.

And maybe it will help others. And maybe it will make those of you who don’t want to be bothered more compassionate, more understanding, and more aware that survivors should never be branded.

If I sound angry, I am. By saying you don’t want to see it, you’re sending a message that this is bad, this is wrong. No one wants to see this, no one wants to know. Move along. Keep going. Close your eyes. Turn your head. Deny, deny, deny.

 

Profile of Lonna Seibert and her manuscript “A Servant’s Heart” on Susan Preston’s blog

I’m so pleased to be featured as a writer of Christian/inspirational fiction on Susan Preston’s blog. Susan is the award-winning author of the Apostle John series, books that explore what was like to be a Christian in the first century, A.D. You can find the post about my manuscript, “A Servan’ts Heart,” here:
 

My Pitch Wars Bio 2017

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What the Heck is Pitch Wars?

From the Pitch Wars website: For those unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, it’s a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer edits on how to make the manuscript shine. The mentor also edits his/her writer’s pitch and query letter to get it ready for the agent round. Those entering Pitch Wars submit applications (query plus first chapter of manuscript) to their chosen mentors. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for two months to get them ready for the agent showcase.

I participated in Pitch Wars last year and it was, hands down, the best thing I have ever done for my writing. I met fellow writers, made some great friends, had a lot of laughs, and learned so much about my craft. And now I’m back, ready to do it all over again!

About Me

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Hello! My name is Lonna. I’m a writer. I also love to read. I adore children, animals, and bugs. Autumn is my favorite season and windy days are my favorite days. Polka dots are kind of my signature thing. My favorite holiday is Halloween. I play a mean game of jacks. I’m an expert at parallel parking, which is weird because my spatial awareness is terrible.  I will go out of my way for miniature golf, a good ice cream cone, used book sales, and steamed crabs. Beach over pool. Forest over mountains. Fish over meat.

My Writing

I would love some help with showing versus telling, active versus passive voice, head hopping, and maybe some assurance that my story isn’t a terrible bore. As a writer what I fear most is indifference and being called self-indulgent.

I am an incredibly hard worker and will never balk at criticism or shut down in the face of  constructive feedback. In fact, I crave feedback, even harsh feedback, because I want to know what’s working, what isn’t, and what to do about it. I make a conscious effort to practice gratitude at all times. I strive to have a positive attitude and an open mind. My life’s philosophy is to have as few regrets as possible and to never wish anything away.

My World-View

In a less imperfect world (one that took place prior to our most recent presidential election, for example) I wouldn’t feel the need to include this section in my bio. I am a Christian. I have been a Christian all my life and my relationship with God is incredibly important to me. I don’t name-call, or point fingers, but I don’t want to be lumped in with the people who call themselves Christians but support ideologies that are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus. I don’t like everyone, but I try to love everybody, and when the love doesn’t come easily, I look for ways to empathize. As much as possible, I try not to judge but I am human and I am not perfect.

I believe in marriage equality. I believe it is a woman’s right to make her own, private decisions regarding her body. I believe that people should be able to use any bathroom they want to. I believe that children deserve parents who love them and that families come in endless combinations. I believe that all races, genders, sexual orientations, and varying levels of physical and mental ability are equal and equally important. I believe that everyone has a story to tell. I believe that God loves everyone.

I do not believe in bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, trans-phobia, body shaming, racism, or using God to advance personal or political prejudices. I do not support invoking the name of Jesus to lend legitimacy to hate campaigns or exclusion. And I do not believe in “love the sinner, hate the sin,” because it’s a lazy way of cloaking ourselves in goodness and mercy we don’t really feel for the purpose of judging another person. We are all sinners. If God wrote an eleventh commandment, it might have been, “Thou shalt get over thyself.”

What Else I Do

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I’m an archaeologist and a museum professional. I am a wife and mother. With young children at home, I spend most of my time teaching: preschool, Sunday school, ballet, creative movement, and how to wipe one’s own bottom.

Books I Love

I grew up in a house filled with books. Some of my favorite children’s books are Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, Leaf Magic by Margaret Mahy, The Secret of the Sachem’s Tree by F.N. Monjo, Teeny-Tiny and the Witch Woman by Barbara K. Walker, Nate the Great and Lost List by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, One Bright Monday Morning by Arline and Joseph Baum, Someday by Charlotte Zolotow, and all the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel.

When I got a little older my favorites included My Side of the Mountain by Jean George, The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, Homecoming and Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt, and The Ghost of Windy Hill by Clyde Robert Bulla.

Adult books I love include The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Return to Treasure Island by John Goldsmith, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, My Antonia by Willa Cather, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates.

I also love J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, especially The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Deathly Hallows while Ms. Rowling’s Coromoran Strike books written under the name of Robert Galbraith have become a recent obsession.

My Pitch Wars Manuscript

I believe in this story with all my heart. I love my characters, the settings are among some of my favorite places on earth, and the plot and themes are very personal to me. I am passionate about telling this story and will do everything I can to make sure that other people have the opportunity to read it. Trowel and Error is a contemporary romance. It takes place in the mid-1980s in Washington, D.C., a fictional town called Mockingbird Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and an 18th century Spanish mission in California’s Valley of the Oaks. It is . . .

Trowel and Error

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Eleanor Blake is an archaeologist who needs only a trowel and a dig site to excite her and make her feel fulfilled. She came of age during the tug-of-war over the Equal Rights Amendment and considers herself a feminist. But she must confront stereotypes and outdated notions of what is suitable work for a woman.

Nevertheless, she persists.

She’s an unapologetic and independent woman and a role model for all the little girls who love books, history, and science.

Eleanor exists in a new reality where the fledgling MTV and other emerging media on cable television exploit women’s bodies and glorify sex even as the specter of AIDS looms. She struggles to define her own morality and to identify the risks that are worth taking. And while she longs to experience the sexual freedom of her mother’s generation, she has no intention of letting a man be responsible for her happiness. In 1985, an attempted sexual assault frightens her into giving up field work. She hides behind her desk job at the Smithsonian, unhappy with the limits she’s placed on her career, but unwilling to risk the potential dangers she perceives as lurking outside the museum.

Tom Gage is an actor who’s let his mother and father guilt him into giving up his love of stage acting for more lucrative and visible movie roles. He’s miserable but too afraid of disappointing the parents who worked hard and made enormous sacrifices to ensure his success. When Tom and Eleanor meet in the middle of a blinding thunderstorm on a Tennessee highway, a sense of connection over their shared struggles leads to a night of passion. When Tom tries to convince her to go back to field work, knowing from personal experience that she might regret her decision to quit, their argument blows up into the fatal words of “coward” and “hypocrite.” Eleanor returns to Washington, D.C. and Tom follows her there, hoping to repair the damage of their fight. She sees his grand gesture as creepy obsession and sends him away, expecting never to see him again.

Nearly a year later, Eleanor, determined that a past she can’t change won’t impact her future, is back at work, teaching a summer field school in California. When a chance meeting brings Tom back into her life she realizes she’s been lying to herself about her feelings for him. They make every moment count, and it’s easy for Eleanor to forget that her life and work are waiting for her in D.C., while Tom’s acting career anchors him to the west coast. When their summer to remember ends, she must decide between the career she’s fought for, and the only man she’s ever loved.

And Last

Well, that’s all for now. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading this. I want to thank Brenda Drake and her fantastic team for making Pitch Wars happen. Thank you to Lana Pattinson for Pimp My Bio. Thank you to all the mentors who work so hard to help other writers. You can always find me right here on my blog and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lonnaseibertwriter

Please follow me on Twitter at @lonnaseibert. I would love to meet you and I follow back.

Good luck, everyone!

A Writer’s Mind, A Reader’s Heart

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Note: This blog post contains a spoiler about a plot point in Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling’s crime novel Career of Evil.

I think one of the most important things a writer can do is show the reader something of the reader’s self on the page. To speak a truth, to acknowledge a hurt, to hold up a mirror in which a reader can see one’s own reflection and confront it, bravely and unblinkingly. And through this showing, this acknowledgment, this reflection, the reader begins to accept something about herself, to appreciate, to come to terms. Not every writer can do this, and not every writer can do this for every reader. But sometimes, a particular topic or experience, written with care and concern, can touch a reader’s heart like nothing else can.

I recently finished reading Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter universe. This is book three of an ongoing series, and in this book, and the two preceding volumes, a likable and beautifully realized main character has a secret. Passing reference is made in the first two books to the fact that this character, Robin Ellacott, had a life-changing experience at the age of nineteen. Career of Evil reveals that Robin is a rape survivor.

J.K. Rowling writes about rape in a very straightforward way. There is no melodrama, no unnecessary glorification or gratuitousness. She writes with compassion and zero judgment for the victim. It is beautiful. And her depiction of the emotional aftermath is so understanding, so perfectly rendered, that it feels like a vindication and a legitimization of everything such a deeply personal violation makes one think and feel and believe-about herself-and others. More than any other experience or conversation I have had as a survivor of sexual assault, J.K. Rowling’s brief and simple treatment of this topic has made me feel that I am okay and that my reaction to my own experience is okay, too. That’s an incredibly powerful thing for a book to do. And it’s a powerful thing for a writer to do. To reach out, through words on a page, and touch the heart and mind of a person she has never met, and make a reader feel that she is not alone, that she is believed, and that she matters. J.K. Rowling may have written imaginatively and wonderfully about a fictitious world of magic, but her writing is its own kind of magic, and I am filled with awe at her talent, and gratitude for her compassion.

NaNoWriMo

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November is National Novel Writing Month and I am participating in NaNoWriMo, a project that encourages and empowers writers to create a brand-new novel of at least 50,000 words by the end of the month. It’s fun and exciting and it’s always motivating to have a goal. To finish on time writers should complete an average of 1,667 words per day. As the sun sets on Day Three, my current word count is 7,046. I can’t wait to see what this month holds and to discover exactly what kind of first draft I’ll be looking at on November 30. See you on the other side!

Writing Contests Aren’t About Winning

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Writing contests aren’t for winning or for losing, they’re for learning. I’ve entered a few writing contests in my life, but none that felt like they had more significance than the ones I’ve entered in the past two months. At first they felt significant because I wanted to win. Pitch Wars? I wanted that mentor. Pit Mad? I wanted an agent to “favorite” my tweet. Pitch Slam? I wanted to go before the Jedi Council and ROCK IT. I wanted the validation that came with having someone notice me. I wanted to stop writing blind and have someone tell me the words I have worked so hard to produce are not rubbish. I want to feel like I might, someday, see my beautiful book baby in print.

But now? All those things would be nice, terrific, f-bombing fantastic, in fact. But they are no longer my greatest aspirations. Why? Because writing contests like these are more like writing conventions—bringing together like-minded individuals with common hopes, dreams, and goals, to support and encourage, to teach and learn, to invigorate and inspire. How many times has a writer heard the words, find your tribe? Ten times? A hundred times? More? Listen. No instructions, advice, or wisdom you hear will be more important. Your mom thinks you’re a great writer. Your spouse is cheering you on. Your best friend is super proud of you. Yes. Of course. Sure. But who knows how hard it is to sit down and write? Who knows the epic struggle when the words won’t come? Who knows the utter exhilaration when everything comes together just right? Who knows the bitter sting of rejection?

Another writer, that’s who.

When writing contests allow you to jump into the trenches with others who do as you do, something beautiful happens. Newbies become more confident. Struggling writers encourage one another. Agented and published writers share their hard-won knowledge. Everyone shows off their battle scars. These contests are hard. The work is real and the deadlines are real and the self-doubt is very, very real. But these contests are so valuable, too. Because if I can coalesce my 90K+ manuscript into a 140-character Twitter pitch or a 35-word pitch or make an agent want to go to war for my pages after reading just one query or my first 250 words, well, I can do just about anything, right?

Starting can be daunting. I thought I could never write a 35-word pitch. I thought I could never pitch my story in 140 characters (minus the required hashtags, for goodness sake!). But over the course of several days I have written more than 50 different 35-word pitches. Okay, sometimes they were 41 words and sometimes they were 33 words, but I did it. I’ve backspaced over words, letter by letter, in my Twitter text box trying to reach the Holy Grail of that beautiful zero until my fingers ached. I traded this word for that word, relentlessly hunted down and hacked adverbs and made sure I SHOWED rather than TOLD until my eyes crossed.

What am I left with? Confidence. Pride. Gratitude. And friends. Lots and lots of friends who will tweet me some encouragement. Laugh with me. Send virtual hugs. Tell me my pitch makes no sense. Share the hard truth that my 250 is weak. Or high-five me because, darn it, my 250 is awesome. We do all these things and we are better for it. And for those mentors and judges and agents and volunteers behind the scenes who take time from their lives, their families, their manuscripts and their own hopes and dreams to give others a hand up, I am so grateful. Contests build communities. That is their true value. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s simply that you play the game. Write on, my friends. Write on!

The Orphan Bride by Brandi Gabriel

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A review of the book The Orphan Bride by Brandi Gabriel. Christian Historical Western Fiction.

The Orphan Bride by Brandi Gabriel is a book about the power of God, and His redeeming love, even in the face of a potentially impossible situation. It is 1883 and seventeen-year-old Lucy Weber’s time on the orphan train has just run out. No one adopted her when she was a child so now she must marry any man who will have her at the train’s next stop. When the train pulls into Saddle, Texas it looks like Lucy’s only recourse is to accept the proposal of the leering and frightening Clem Toeger, who claims to be Christian, although all his actions say otherwise. At the last minute, quiet and kindly Garrett Black appears. Garrett isn’t looking for a wife, but something compelled him to step into the church where Clem is planning to make Lucy his wife. Garrett knows Clem, and his awful reputation, and he knows he mustn’t let the marriage take place. With the backing of the local minister, Garrett is able to marry Lucy instead, thus protecting her from Clem. Garrett further shows his kindness and his Christian heart by agreeing to adopt Lucy’s five-year-old friend, Joan, who, after three years of being in Lucy’s care, is more like her daughter.

The new family of three begins an unfamiliar journey, getting to know one another, trust one another, and navigate the new relationships that have been created. The story of the orphan Lucy’s assimilation into the ready-made and large family of Garrett’s extended relations is a lovely touch–the girl who hasn’t known the love and security of a family for years suddenly finds herself blessed with many people to care for her. This adds depth and heart to the story, giving us characters to root for. The fatherly role that Garrett assumes for Joan’s benefit, the sub-plot of whether Lucy might someday be reunited with her long lost twin brother, Travis, and danger in the form of Clem Toeger, who repeatedly threatens and harasses Lucy, give us emotionally satisfying plots to entertain and outrage the reader in turn. Perhaps the most uplifting aspect of the story is how Garrett does not insist that Lucy begin performing the physical aspects of her wifely duties immediately, instead waiting patiently until she is ready. By putting her needs before his own he assures that true love accompanies their physical and emotional intimacy.

The characters’ love for, and reliance on God is inspiring and Lucy’s prayer at the beginning of the story, Please, God, give me the strength to face my future, no matter what it is, is both a heartfelt prayer for His mercy and His presence, and a surrender to letting His will be done. A wonderful reminder and lesson for us all.