Can’t wait for Breaking Dawn? Get your fix, part 2

I know you’re probably still in the middle of Anointed by Sarah Witenhafer, but you must plan ahead. The next book on your To Be Read pile really should be Ravenmarked, book one of The Taurin Chronicles, by Amy Rose Davis – if you’re serious about keeping the Breaking Dawn release date anxiety at bay.

Ravenmarked is not exactly apples to apples with the Twilight Saga. Ravenmarked is high fantasy along the lines of J.R.R. Tolkein, as opposed to the urban fantasy/paranormal romance setting of Twilight. However, for epic romances and star crossed lovers, Amy’s got your fix. Also like Stephenie Meyer, Amy Rose Davis writes a thick book. (“You keep saying that like it’s a good thing.” “Yeah? Well. It is.”)

Mairead is about 20 years old, and has spent most of her life in the care of the nuns who began preparing her for her position as the rightful heir to the throne of Taurin. However, trouble has come to the land. The Regent, Braeden, who by law only holds the throne for the rightful heir, has declared himself king. The ancient earth magic that protects the sacred relics from misuse is weakening, and Mairead is sent to the far north in an attempt to save her life.

Her escort and protector is Connor SilverAir, a half-breed human who has been marked as a Raven. The Ravenmarked are divine avengers, appointed to serve justice no matter how violently that may be. The romantic tension comes when Connor falls in love with Mairead – but believes his Ravenmark prevents him from ever obtaining peace or happiness in life.

My two favorite characters in this book, though, are secondary. One is the mystic woman, Rhiannon, who helped raise Connor and just happens to appear again in his greatest need. Her faith is complete and  unshakable. She literally challenges evil to confront her, she is so secure in her place in the safety of her god.

My other favorite is Igraine, the Eiryan princess. She and Mairead were at the convent together. Unlike Mairead, an orphan, Igraine is a recognized princess from a neighboring kingdom there to avoid an arranged marriage. She is a political animal who never intended to take her vows of service to the church. When Braeden takes the throne by force, Igraine uses her beauty and her brains to save both herself and the sisters. And although she comes to realize her role in the fate of their world may be greater than that of becoming the queen of Taura, she continues to wrestle against divine will in an attempt to exercise her own.

These two women encapsulate my spiritual walk. Sometimes I feel as invincible as Rhiannon, secure in God’s love, invincible in his armor. Other times I fight fate, determined to do things my way, forgetting God’s way is more peaceful evenin the midst of struggle and His success more fulfilling.

Ravenmarked is currently only available in digital form through Amazon.com, B&N and Smashwords, which you can access through Amy’s blog, http://modicumoftalent.com/. Amy is currently editing Bloodbonded, book 2 in the series, and has several other books available as well.

Return of the Monkey

A horrible yowling woke me up at 5 a.m., a full hour before I usually start ignoring my beeping alarm. I laid there trying to ignore it, cursing the stray cat who wouldn’t go away – until I recognized that particular yowl and leapt out of bed in complete disbelief.

Remember Cricket, my beloved cat who was killed by a car last September? (Yeah, it wasn’t him. I don’t write horror stories.)

His brother, Monkey, was a huge comfort to me as I mourned the loss of that little body with the great big personality. Over the winter I got used to having only one cat around as Monkey literally expanded to fill his brother’s boots, bulking up and taking over the morning meditation duties that had been Cricket’s sole domain.

I’m a pretty laid back cat-owner. We get along well that way. I provide food, window sills and affection; they come and go pretty much as they please. So, I don’t usually stress if a cat doesn’t come home for a day or two. But by the beginning of April, when two days had stretched into two weeks I resigned myself to the worst-case-scenario. I assumed Monkey had also exhausted his 9th life.

Fast forward two and a half months. I’ve given the cat food and paraphernalia to the Humane Society. I’ve told the boys we will get another cat someday, but not yet. I’ve started to think that maybe we need to thin the herd by of a golden retriever as well. (Emmet, I’m convinced, is willfully ignorant and intentionally stupid – but that’s probably another blog post altogether.) I’m trying to rest up from a long weekend and there’s a stray cat howling in my back yard.

After 10 weeks of being AWOL, Monkey the cat is skin and bones and happy to be home

But it’s not a stray cat.

It’s Monkey.

A very thin, very hungry, very, very, affectionate Monkey the Cat.

The house feels at peace with itself again.

A “Purpose Driven” Blog

For whatever reason we spend a lot of time in Western culture thinking about “why”. Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? What am I supposed to do with the package that is wrapped in this skin?

A few years ago California pastor Rick Warren was surprised by the success of his little book The Purpose Driven Life. It became such a phenomenon that the phrase fell from the lips of celebrities such as Susan Sarandon when interviewed by James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio. She was talking about her children and how she feels they have brought her to a “purpose driven life – whatever that means.”

It was obvious from the context she had not actually read the book herself, or she would have known that children, in spite of their immeasurable intrinsic value, are not the purpose of a life – at least not from the Designer’s point of view. Rick Warren points out that our purpose in life is to worship God, and when we do everything else falls into place. Of course, we still have to pick up our own feet and put one in front of the other. In worshiping God and doing his will we find that even if we don’t know what we’re going to be doing this time next year, we do know how to react to the situation we are in today.

Which kinda, sorta, brings me to my point – the question, “what is the point of the blog, Glitter in the Sun?” To answer that question I’ve had to go back to the basics and refocus on “What is the purpose of Jane Wells?”

My purpose is to worship God and obey him with everything has made me to be – and after 40 years of dithering around it has become clear that my purpose is to point to God with words. Right now it’s in this blog, on other websites, and in writing books. I’ve also learned that God is a God of order, not chaos, which means focus is a good thing. Just like each book has a topic that is consistent throughout, so must a blog. So I thought a little more about how God has shaped me and realized one of my very favorite things to do (and yes, this qualifies me as a geek) is to find where fiction and faith intersect. It probably goes back to elementary school when I read the Chronicles of Narnia – and realized Aslan was Jesus. At that moment my understanding of all those Sunday School lessons became deeper and richer than ever before and I nearly burst with the urge to share this realization with everyone.

And that is why when I read the Twilight Saga I saw God’s fingerprints throughout. I saw our human desire to reunite with our eternal God, and to bask in his eternal love. That obvious-to-me connection lead directly to a Bible study and my book Glitter in the Sun.

So, there it is, then, the focus of my blog – where fiction and faith intersect. Glitter in the Sun, the blog, will now focus on works of fiction and how those stories intersect with the realities of modern life and Christianity. In the coming weeks I will introduce you to some of my favorite authors, there will be guest blogs, and I will continue to give you my geeky, quirky, and occasionally cheeky opinions on current events.

Another lesson I’ve learned – if you’re doing it right, worshiping God is the opposite of boring. Come enjoy this adventure with me!

A Brutally Honest Bio

What gives me the right to tell you how to live your life?

Ultimately, you do, but only if it is what  you chose. My parents and husband can attest to how difficult it can be to convince me to do something I don’t think of myself. Even the little voice in my I-Pod Couch to 5K program that tells me it’s time to run only has authority because I have decided to obey it.

But it’s easier to take someones advice when you trust them – which comes from having an idea of who they are and where they come from. So, for you, in hopes of earning at least a little bit of your trust, here is my brutally honest bio for your consideration.

***

Jane spent the first 23 years of her life as a complete slacker punctuated by sporadic attempts at sincere self-improvement. God help you if you met her when she thought she’d been improved, because then she was vain.

The youngest/oldest/middlemost child (yes, it is a long story) of a working class poor family in a working class poor town, aspirations and delusions of a “better life” drove her to an overpriced university immediately after high school graduation. Financially and spiritually broke after one semester, Jane gave in to the depression that had shadowed her since childhood. Community college, serial boyfriends and other bad choices swallowed four years of her life until she finally washed up on the shores of grace, at the end of herself and determined to really try to listen to God this time.

She was not an overnight success.

Eventually she returned to the overpriced university and earned degrees in English and Speech Communications, intending to change the world as the next Lois Lane –before she realized Clark Kent/Superman was not going to save her, and that she hated the unpredictable hours. A brief stint in public affairs cured her forever of corporate ladder climbing aspirations, and again, at the end of herself she listened closely to God.

Giving her the choice of an about-face or staying in public affairs, Jane took the chance to be the youth minister of a very small youth group in a very small town. Choosing to be forced to rely on God for everything from groceries to Wednesday night lesson plans opened her eyes to the vast generosity of God and his desire to give her every good thing. Jane regards that short but intense time of her life as a crucible that made her the woman she is today.

Now married with two sons, Jane seeks to connect other young women with the wise, wonderful and loving God she still relies on daily. To that end she has written Glitter in the Sun, a devotional book that uses the Twilight Saga as a conversation launch point, and maintains a blog of the same name that seeks to identify the point at which fiction intersects with faith influencing reality.

Alone Versus Lonely

I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. As early as Junior High I began filling journals with observations, thoughts and feelings – not just the standard date, weather and what my mom served for dinner. I remember sitting on a swing under a tree writing a short story about owning a unicorn – just because I wanted to, never intending for anyone to see it. I was alone with my words and I was happy with that.

Now, 30-some years on, alone-ness is a rare and precious commodity. As a stay-at-home mom, I haven’t been alone for any stretch of time for eight years. Now my youngest is in preschool three mornings a week, and those six hours are golden. I treasure them. I hoard them. I make lists of the things to invest these perishable and irreplaceable hours into. At the top of that list is never laundry. Or dishes. Or sweeping the floor. Those things can be done when the boys are running through the house – just as they have been for the  past near decade. Instead, I write. I read about writing. I market what I’ve written. And I dream about what to write next.

What I am not during those beautiful golden hours is lonely.

No, I have the company of thoughts I haven’t heard clearly for eight years. I analyze my fears for validity. I root my dreams in reality and map the steps to achieving them. I review memories of small sweet victories and painful dramatic losses that clamor for a purpose outside of my head. A proverb I’ve heard all my life motivates me – and for once it’s not from the Bible. (Apparently it’s Swedish.) “Sorrow shared is sorrow divided, joy shared is joy multiplied.” So, with the promise from my creative God that nothing I lay on his altar of service will ever go to waste, I mine the depths of my mind, imagination and memory and give it all to Him.

So, to bring you joy, I share what makes me joyful. And to ease your sorrow, I will show you I am bearing that burden with you. And above all, I write to show that even when alone none of us ever needs to feel lonely.

(This post was inspired by the fantastic and helpful Rachelle Gardner, who has no idea who I am, but lets me read her blog posts anyway!)

Dragons, giants and vampires: or, how a good allegory can get under your skin

A good allegory can change the course of history. After all, it was the story of a “sheep-napped” and eaten lamb that convicted King David of his sin against God, Uriah and his wife Bathsheba. (Not familiar with that one? Read 2 Samuel 12…) And it is my fervent prayer that a few good allegories such as Pilgrims Progress and The Chronicles of Narnia will serve to correct and direct my sons’ lives as well.

“Mom,” my 7-year-old said to me after seeing the latest release at the theater, “The Dawn Treader is a lot like that movie we watched about Christian following that path.”

I got all misty – I was so proud of his conclusion! It had been a month since we’d watched Pilgrims Progress on DVD. Although I love the themes, I’d always dismissed John Bunyon’s allegory as somewhat cheesy and simplistic, an opinion unfortunately underlined by the bargain-basement production values of the particular video we saw. What I had snobbishly dismissed as weakness is in fact the texts’ greatest strength and may help explain why this 333-year-old story has never been out of print and resonated in my son’s mind.

My second-grader saw the connection between Eustice being trapped in the body of a dragon and the travelling companions Christian and Hopeful being held by the Giant Despair – and how in each case relief and release is available.

It is easy to overcomplicate how God provides salvation for us. That the God of the Universe would care enough about each of us to provide a way for us to become his children is truly a mind-boggling thing. God strips from us the accumulation of our sin and opens the doors of traps we have walked ourselves into through disobedience. It takes true genius to make these concepts of grace readily understandable to a child without losing the vital nuances of our responsibilities in this tale.

When my sons are older and begin to think about girls, I will steer them in the direction of another writer of allegories, the amazing Ted Dekker. I just completed reading his latest novel, Immanuel’s Veins, an allegory of sin and redemption – as well as a fabulous illustration of how love in real life is supposed to work as well.

Dekker ably illustrates just how sneaky our eternal enemy is, how attractive he makes himself and his lies and how he insinuates himself almost seamlessly into our lives if we are not constantly vigilant. And, Dekker does it with the hottest fiction vehicle in the publishing business – vampires.

Yeah, it’s right up my alley. To quote another literary gem, Mary Poppins, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down!”

God Whistles

I can whistle. And not just a pleasant little tune, though I can do that too, but an ear-drum piercing wolf whistle that turns heads and stops traffic. And I can do it without putting my fingers in my mouth.

Yeah, it’s a gift.

Quite useful too. Several years ago I was chaperoning a youth group on a trip to Toronto, Canada. A handful of the kids were a few yards ahead of me deep in conversation and nearly walked right past our destination until I whistled. Their response was nearly Pavlovian. As one their heads popped up, they stopped mid-stride and turned around. I nearly fell on the ground laughing and they talked about that moment for the rest of the weekend.

But I’d never really considered being able to whistle across three counties as something Divine until I stumbled across this verse in Isaiah. The setting is a divided Israel at war with itself. Each half of the nation had made alliances with neighboring pagan nations – which didn’t please God at all. So he sends a message to King Ahaz of Judah, a decendant of King David and ruler of Judah, the southern half of the nation David had fought so hard to unify.

“In that day the Lord will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes.” Isaiah 7:18-19

Whether literally or figuratively as representative of enemy nations – the thought of God whistling, pointing at a disobedient nation, and saying “sic ’em” is a startling image. God whistles and a plague descends.

And yet, God’s anger at the betrayal his people have shown yet again is tempered with mercy. In the paragraph just above, verse 14, is one of the most famous prophesies of the Old Testament. “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign; The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

See that? In the midst of their worst behavior God didn’t say, “knock it off or I’ll tell Santa.” He said something more like, “the consequences of your actions are going to be miserable, and I’m not going to step in this time. But soon you will receive the most precious gift ever – the ability to walk away from your sins and walk with me as children.”

When we turn to Matthew 1 we see how the generations of the Old Testament piled up, son after son after son, from Abraham, to David, through Ahaz to Jesus – and we see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy in a way even Isaiah probably couldn’t even imagine.

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:’The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.'” Matthew 1:22-23.

So this week, as we wind down (or ramp up) to Christmas, is it the buzzing of the flies and bees you hear? Or, is there something else hidden in the white noise that surrounds us? In the midst of your chaos a promise is given. Christ is born, he has died and lives again. He stands at your door and knocks, open the door and welcome him into your heart today.