Friday, December 25, 2009

The Night I Had Waited For

On our third night we stayed at Maagan Guest House. This was the first time our luggage was unloaded for the night that we would actually dare to unpack a little. Tonight and tomorrow night, this was "home."

And what a home it was. The landscape is so lush and green you'd think you were teeing off rather than sleeping in (not that we slept in!). Palm fronds rustled in the evening breeze as we checked in and then were escorted to our suites. Yes, I said suites. Guest suites made up of living rooms with little dinette areas, a small kitchen, a nice double bedroom and a bath. At the entry way to each suite was a picnic/patio area. One could conceivably kick back and with friends and listen to the ripples and waves of The Sea of Galilee not more than a few yards away.

That evening we were dining at Decks. YES!!! DECKS!!!

So, why the excitement, you wonder. Well, I'll tell you. Everyone who travels to Israel has a favorite.

Favorite site.

Favorite guide.

Favorite moment.

Favorite hotel ... kibbutz ... hostel. Favorite food.

Favorite restaurant.

My favorite site -- well, I'm torn between Tel Hazor and Ein Gedi. Favorite guide. That's easy. Miriam. Favorite moment -- which time? First time was when I fell in Tel Hazor. Second time was watching a Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall. Third time was a fleeting moment when I realized two of my dearest friends had experienced a healing from their emotional wounds.

Favorite hotel ... has to be Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Favorite kibbutz -- well, I'm torn there too. I love Ein Gedi. Nof Ginnosar, and Maagan. Each are unique in their own way. My favorite food in Israel is the pita bread with hummus. Hands down. You can't get it like that anywhere else. Not to mention the fruit. Fresh squeezed juices.

Favorite restaurant?? Decks, in Tiberias.

My first trip to Decks was in 2002 during my first visit to Israel. During my second trip, I insisted that we return. Miriam called ahead and told the owner, Vered, that I wanted to come back ... how much I'd enjoyed dining there. I expected that Miriam and I would dine quietly on the beyond delicious food. But instead, we were wined and dined and personally entertained by Vered and her wait staff. At one point, four of the servers came in and danced to We Are Standing On Holy Ground. (Okay, so this is my other big moment during my second visit.)

So, I couldn't wait to go back! I told everyone with me (and Joe concurred) that they would never have food like this ever again in their lives. (I bet they'd tell you I was right, too!)

And so we went. There was a possibility that Benjamin Netanyahu would be there, so security was tight. Pretty interesting having to answer intense questions just to go eat! (Turns out he was at the restaurant next door eating Chinese food!)

We were served by -- I am not kidding you -- the prettiest thing I've ever laid my eyes on. I'm talking one BEAUTIFUL Middle Eastern gal. There really are no words to describe her. The food was -- as always -- out of this world. I kept telling our group to pace themselves. "More is coming," I said.

And then more did.

The joy of my night came when the lights were dimmed. I stood. I knew (or at least I thought I knew) what was about to happen. Larry was standing now, too ... on the other side of the table. I motioned for him to come to where I was. I pointed out. Out over the sea to where fireworks were going off. Then, up to the outer porch came a boat, lined in tiny white lights. Men stood on the outside and -- in the utter darkness -- set off sparklers as, inside, a woman announced a welcome to Israel and to Decks.

Then she mentioned several folks who were special guests. This person. That group. Applause went up all around us. And then I heard my name. My name in Israel. As fireworks exploded and people applauded ... Israel was speaking my name. They were calling me "a friend."

I burst into tears. Larry wrapped his arm around my shoulder, then Joe came up and I sobbed, "I love this country so much!"

Someone took our picture ... then one of Joe, Miriam, and me.

It was a night I would never forget. Will never forget. I will never forget Israel. Her name is forever in my heart and on my tongue.

And now, they also know my name.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

To the Sea

(Day 2 continues)

After our trip to Masada, but before we dipped our feet into the Jordan in the wilderness, we stopped at what is known as Cave #4 in Qumran. The most significant find of all the Dead Sea Scrolls was done here. And, if you are watching videos or looking at photographs about the Dead Sea Scrolls, this cave is the one most photographed.

After Qumran and our Jordan River experience, we headed up to the Galilee region. We rambled along for some time ... a few of us chattered ... a few of us slept. Cheri was sleeping so hard, she actually missed the excitement of coming out of the West Bank via checkpoint.

One of the places Miriam has always wanted to take a group of writers was to the grave of Israel's beloved "Rachel the poetess." So loved are her works, her headstone has a special place to sit, retrieve some of her works, and read them by her final resting place -- which is next to the Sea of Galilee.

Miriam was getting her wish. We were heading toward the Sea and the grave.

As soon as I saw the blue water sparkling in the late afternoon sun, I reached over the back of the front seat, placed my hand on Larry's shoulder and said, "Hey, Larry! You're at the Sea of Galilee." (This would end up being something I did a lot to Larry ... "Hey, Larry ... you're at the Dead Sea ... Hey Larry, you're in Jerusalem ... Hey, Larry ... you're in Israel."

Before walking into the cemetery in Kinneret, we jaunted across the street to watch Christian pilgrims decked out in flowing white robes as they were baptized in at Yardenit (the part of the Jordan at the mouth of the Sea of Galilee).

I'm not sure what everyone else was thinking, but I couldn't help but compare our very private moments at the water in southern Israel to what seemed almost commercialized. Then again, not everyone -- I thought -- gets a private IDF escort through mine fields to the water's edge and not everyone can understand the spiritual implications of what I just wrote.

We left our places at the bridge overlooking the baptisms and into the cemetery. It had been raining before we'd arrived. The ground was spongy. The air cool. The sky darkening. The Sea of Galilee lapped at the shoreline nearby as we, canopied under thick trees, made our way to the grave, walking behind Miriam -- our mother (Ema) duck. A breeze rustled the palm fronds as Miriam sat by the grave honored with small stones. We, her students (ducklings), sat across from the grave and watched as she opened the small compartment holding texts, then listened intently as she read to us.

I watched Miriam's face intently. This was a moment for her. Miriam, as gifted a writer as anyone I know, reading words that stirred not only her heart, but the heart of a nation ... not only a nation's heart, but our hearts as well.

Earlier in the day -- having left Ein Gedi -- we each penned our own thoughts, moved as David must have been moved to write some of his great psalms of praise to God. When Miriam had finished reading, I said, "Now it is time to take out what you wrote today and read."

Each of us read ... words so beautiful! Mine went thusly:

I look back at where I've been.
The heights. The valleys.
And I think that you knew all along.
You see where I am. And you see where I am going;
it is no mystery to you.
So why then do I fear?
Do the conies shudder?
Do the ibex stand on unsteady feet?
Do they run along well-worn paths with care?
No.
They seek the safety of the rock with confidence and there they find God.

When everyone had read (Ellie had written a special song to Robi, which nearly ripped my heart out), and had cried enough to fill the sea beside us to overflowing, we stood. We took a few photographs as best we could in the near-darkness. Then we returned to the van where Tzvika awaited to take us to our next destination.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 2 Continues ... Land Mines and Healing Waters


We left Masada after two or so hours of exploration and learning. It was now time to do something I'd been excitedly waiting on for months. We were going to the Jordan River.

But not just any location along the 156 mile ribbon of water known as one of the most sacred bodies of water in the world. No. We were heading toward the historical site where Joshua and the early Hebrews crossed the muddy and rising waters to the Promised Land ... the place where Elijah and Elisha crossed over ... but only Elisha returned ... the place where John the Baptist cried out, "Repent!" and the place where Jesus came to be baptized.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan is in Jordan. And, it is the location of a lot of historical evidence, having been written about as far back as the 5th century. Churches have been erected here, crosses discovered, and -- in fact -- a church marking the spot where (it has been said) Jesus laid his clothes before being baptized.

Most modern-day pilgrims to Israel, when desiring to be baptized in the Jordan, do so at the mouth of the river where it spills out from the Sea of Galilee in the north. While it is no where near the Bethany beyond the Jordan mentioned in the Gospels as being where Jesus was baptized, it has been -- at least -- a place without conflict.

Until recently. Thanks to renewed relationships with Jordan, conflicts have lessened. Still, with the exception of special dates and occasions, one must obtain special permission to visit Kasr el Yehud (Possibly: The Castle of the Jews), which is on the Israeli side of the site.

We had special permission!

Our driver pulled the van just inside a narrow strip of road, which was blockaded. A call was made. We sat, waiting somewhat patiently for our military escort to arrive. Around us was nothing but land and sand, boundaried off by barbed wire and large yellow-gold signs reading "Danger! Mines!" in not one but three languages. Minutes passed. I don't think anyone said a word. Except maybe for Robi. By now Robi was talking 100 miles an hour. (Praise God!) The rest of us just watched and waited. Then, a humvee approached. Stopped. An Israeli soldier got out, came to the driver's side of the van, spoke Hebrew to Tzvika, and the returned to the military vehicle. Soon enough we were jostling along the road behind it, each of us wrapped in our own thoughts.

We were in an extremely militarized zone. We were in the West Bank. We were heading toward the Jordan escorted by a specially ordered team of soldiers with AK47s.

Wow.

We came to a stop and climbed out of the white van. We said "Shalom" to our new friends (the guards) and then slowly made our way toward the newly constructed building and a platform with steps leading down into the water.

Across the way, Jordanian soldiers stood guard. We were so close, we could have whispered and they would have heard us. Instead, we waved. They waved back. I think I may have giggled, even.

A look at the river told us a few things. 1) it's just not that wide. If you tried to skip a pebble, it may only hit the water twice. 2) it's muddy as all get out. 3) no one was up for going any deeper than our ankles.

But the platform was covered in about two to four inches of creamy mud. Someone mentioned it might be too slippery to reach the water. But nothing was stopping me. I slipped out of my shoes, rolled up the legs of my jeans, and forward I went.

"Be careful ..." I heard.


I was. Trust me, I was.

And then my feet slipped into the cool water of the Jordan River. For a moment, my breath caught. How beautiful the feet of those who bring the good news, the Bible says in Isaiah 52:7.

I turned now to see each of my fellow journalists taking one easy step at a time. When Cheri reached the water, she choked and then cried openly. Larry was so moved, he could hardly say a word. Robi gathered water in a jar for the purpose of baptizing her new grandchild (who was born a month later...). Sharon and Ellie held back for a while, then Robi and I helped Sharon to the steps amid a lot of laughter. The next thing I knew, Ellie had joined us and Cheri was "sprinkling" everyone as a form of baptism ... including our IMOT rep.

I don't think a single one of us was ready to leave when it was time. But the soldiers grew weary and -- appreciative -- we knew our time had come to say goodbye. (It was about this time someone walked up who Sharon actually knew from the States! Only in Israel!)

We had washed our hearts by dipping our feet into the water ... now it was time to wash our feet of the mud.

On the way back to the gate, we were all talking, laughing, chirping away like caged birds set free. And in a funny and beautiful way ... I believe we now were.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Healing at Masada

Day 2 continues. After our climb at Ein Gedi, we ventured back to the van, then drove the few miles from there to Masada.

Masada is the 1800 feet by 900 feet plateau where, in 66 AD a group of Jewish radicals (called Sicarii) overcame the Romans. In 71 AD, after the destruction of the temple, the rebels and their families left Jerusalem and settled in what was once the "get-away" palace of King Herod the Great. The following year, the Romans marched against Masada. They failed to overcome the zealots and then built a rampart, using 1000s of tons of stone and sand. This rampart was finished in 73. The Romans could now take control of these Jewish men, women, and children. But when they finally made it to the top of Masada, they found that a mass suicide had occurred. Flavius Josephus records that 960 in all were dead, but that two women and five children hid inside a cistern and were therefore spared.

Today, Masada is a national park. One does not need a good pair of hiking boots to reach the top (although a snake path makes getting there possible for those willing to spend the time and energy). The most common method of reaching the summit is by cable car.

Just before we reached Masada, Larry asked me, "How long does it take inside the cable car?"

"A few seconds," I replied. I thought nothing of the question or my answer.

Then, once we'd reached Masada, had watched a video, and then exited the theater to the cable cars, we all boarded.

Well, all except Larry and Robi.

Larry, I was told by Cheri, was afraid not only of heights, but of closed spaces. "Don't worry," Cheri said. "Robi is talking to him." (Robi is a Masters student of psychology. And, she'd just finished a course on anxiety!) Though I was concerned about Larry, I trusted Robi. And God.

Then I heard someone say, "Larry made it in."

I breathed a sigh of relief. (I fear Larry wasn't breathing at all!)

When we reached the end of our ride and the doors opened, Larry was the first off. When I walked up to him, he was looking straight ahead, not to the left or right and certainly not down! We continued on the path to the extreme top of Masada where we saw a group of people who'd just celebrated a Bar Mitzvah coming toward us. It was a delightful processional, which we were all swept up into.

When they'd gone past us, I looked at Larry.

It was as if he were seeing the beauty of the whole world for the first time. Looking to the east, a picture of the Dead Sea and the hills of Jordan. To the west, the Negev ... naked and rugged. All around, history. Millennium of history.

By the end of our time on Masada, he was practically leaning over the edge of the ancient stone walls, just to take photos!

"My wife won't believe this," he said. "So many things we have not been able to do because of this issue I have ... and now ... I honestly believe I've been healed."

And so do we.

Larry and I spoke of it later ... how fear must have wrapped itself around those who eventually took the lives of their wives and children ... then killing each other until there was only one left. He alone fell on his sword.

Fear can do horrible things to you. It not only cripples, it takes away the joys God has in store for you. Larry grasped all of that and so much more on Masada ...

But there was more healing to come. So much more. And not just for Larry. We just didn't know it yet.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 2 Continues (Part 2)

Have you ever seen or heard something and thought, "That'll preach ...?"

When I was in Israel in 2007, the fabulous photographer Doron Nissim said to me (about photography), "Always shoot for the light. If you go for the light, you can't go wrong." To which I said, "That'll preach..."

Yesterday, my 2009 Israel traveling companion Larry Leech and his wife Wendy came over to visit with my hubby and me. Naturally, Larry and I talked about our many adventures in Israel. Larry made an observation about one of the days we'd spent there (can't remember it now...) to which Wendy replied, "Larry, that will preach."

It seems to me that everything in Israel will preach. Every chance meeting, every landmark, every holy site, and every rock ...

We were climbing Ein Gedi, heading toward the upper waterfall when I spied a rock in the cliffs. It seemed to me that it was standing alone, unsupported, and yet not budging an inch. I said, "Wonder how long it's been standing like that?" to which someone else said, "And I bet it's not going anywhere."

When David wrote about God being his Rock and Fortress, he wrote of unmovable rocks like those in Ein Gedi and a fortress which was a castle of defense against those hunted. David knew all about being hunted. This -- Ein Gedi -- was his hiding place against Saul. The place where he hid in the cave (the caves are apparent all along the way) which Saul entered to relieve himself. The place where David cut the corner of David's robe and then made peace with Saul. The rocks in Ein Gedi cry out this story and remind me that no matter my foe, to the safety of God is where I run!

Jesus said that if the people didn't cry out, the stones would. Ein Gedi proves that. The only difference is, is that in Ein Gedi (the Spring of the Kid/Goat) man does not need to speak. It's hard to speak. The beauty is breathtaking (so is the climb!).
My favorite spot in Ein Gedi is the lower waterfall. It's tricky getting to it at times. The first time I saw it, I climbed over a few boulders and crossed a stream without hesitation. This year, however, having spent so long in bed with my back, there was a little trepidation. Everyone else had gone on ahead, walking toward the upper waterfall. But this was my "spot." The place where God spoke and speaks to me in life-changing ways. I knew I had to take the chance and go to it ... and so I did. It was as glorious as I remembered it; the only thing pulling me away was Miriam's insistence that I "come on up!" (Photo above taken by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, 2007.)

When I reached the upper waterfall, Robi -- who leaned against a boulder staring up at the impressive waterfall -- started singing "Oh Lord, my God ... when I in awesome wonder..." Little by little every voice joined in (except mine. I was now recording the moment on my camcorder.)

You see, Robi has just gone through the most difficult season of her life. She has climbed the mountain of heartache ... just as she had just climbed the sometimes difficult paths of Ein Gedi. Ein Gedi was teaching her (I think ...) and me that when we are faithful in the climb, the Living Water waits to bless us. To heal us. To draw us as we draw water.

Which reminds me of what it was exactly that Larry said yesterday. "Any time we found water," he told us, "we found things growing."



Here in Ein Gedi, the rocks and water, the cliffs and caves, tell me, "we have to climb difficult mountains to find the water."

But when we do ... Oh my ...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 2 Continues

After viewing the wilderness from David ben Gurion's grave, we embarked into the desert where the canyons rise high on both sides and where a stream eventually leads to water pouring from a rock, spilling down several yards and into a pool below. An amazing place to tell the story of Moses and his drawing of water from a rock ...

As expected, the cries of delight from my travel-mates was music to my ears. Miriam had turned me on to this Negev beauty in 2007 ... now I was sharing it with others. Every so often, I'd turn back to see one of the other reporters staring up at the canyon walls ... or enjoying the play of the ibex nearby.

The weather was warm, the shade a respite. But one cannot stand still long in Ein Avdat (the spring of Avdat). One is drawn by the water and its source, which is -- from what I read -- still open for scientific debate. Just what causes the water to spill from the rock -- could it be rainfall that builds up until there is no where else to go but out? -- is up for interpretation.

I say that perhaps Moses left the tap on. And, of course, I say this with a smile.

I heard someone say, "I'm staying here. Come back and get me in a few days." I wish I could now remember who. Perhaps it was Robi ... Tempting, yes, I think. But then that would mean missing the beauty that is the rest of Israel. No such doing! Not here. Not today!

What stands out at me as I read these verses of Scripture and as I stand in the canyon looking at the water and the rock is that the people didn't grumble against God. They grumbled against Moses. No good deed goes unpunished. Moses has led them out of physical captivity, but they'd rather have that than be thirsty.

Water From A Rock
Exodus 17

1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink."
Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?"

3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?"

4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me."

5 The LORD answered Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

New Thoughts

This leads to two new thoughts.

1. That leaders are often called to go forward while everyone else grumbles behind them and with only what they have in their hand. In Moses' case, it was a staff. Moses had already seen that with the staff in his hand, God proved faithful.

2. How like the early Hebrews I am. Jesus brought me out of captivity ... yet sometimes I actually look back and yearn for the days when everything was about "me." Walking the path of God is not always easy. It's filled with awe and wonder and miracles abound, but it's not easy. Eventually the path becomes familiar; we know what to expect. Still, the rocks can be difficult to climb.

One thing is for sure. The Rock doesn't move. I'll show you how I know ... tomorrow.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Israel Day 2

I am beyond excited to share the Wilderness of Zin with my friends and fellow writers. Joe says he has never been where we are going either, which really surprises me. This has been the big mystery: how anyone could possibly come to Israel and skip the desert. After all, this is a metaphorical event of leaving behind the desert and coming into the promise. This is also where Jesus began his ministry, near where he was baptized. Where John called out for repentance and where Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan one way and Joshua crossed it the other.

But so many Christians want to begin their pilgrimage in Galilee where Jesus spent the majority of his ministry, they totally forget where it all began. Miriam introduced me to this concept years ago, I introduced it to Joe (IMOT) and now we are going to introduce it to these five journalists traveling with us.

Nahal Zin/Ein Avdat is also the place where David ben Gurion is buried. We stop at his grave first. Several groups of IDF (Israel Defense Forces) grads are about to have their ceremony. Family members gather near ben Gurion's grave. Flags fly. Young people decked in green mill about. Young men stand in attention with the mountains of the desert as their backdrop. Before them is a table with M-16s and Bibles. A gun and a sword. How can they go wrong?

Our group feels privileged to witness this. We are also surprised to know that male soldiers have female soldiers for superiors. "If they can deal with this," Miriam quips, "they can get through anything."

Our group places stones on ben Gurion's grave -- the Jewish equivalent to flowers -- then walks over to a stone wall where we take photos of the land before us ... the land we are about to venture in to. I hear declarations of how impressive it is.

They have no idea.

(photo at bottom shows David ben Gurion's grave in foreground with graduating soldiers between it and the Desert of Zin.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reporting from Israel


Internet reception at some of the kibbutz's being what it was, we were unable to post the words of our journey as we wished. Jerusalem was better, but by the time we got there, I was too tired to post. But I kept regular notes so that once I was settled in at home again, I could share with you the magnificence that is The Land of the Bible.

Day One



It was the result of years of praying -- Miriam and me. Months of planning -- Miriam, Joe Diaz, and me. Now the time had come. The Florida team -- Larry Leech, Cheri Cowell, Robi Lipscomb and I -- boarded Delta's 12:17 flight for JFK. Robi and Larry were seated together and Cheri and I sat directly behind them. Cheri spoke to our other seatmate. While she got the scoop on the fact that he and his wife were on their honeymoon and that she was seated near the back and the others on that aisle would not change with them, I was zeroing in on his accent. "Where are you from?" I asked.

"Israel," he answered.

It was like a gift we were given. Already God was telling us this would be a special trip. Cheri agreed to change seats with the wife so that they would be together and for the rest of the trip I was treated to photos of their wedding and the first leg of their honeymoon.

Mazel Tov!

We arrived at JFK on time. As the four of us left the jetway, I saw a man standing near the gate holding up a piece of paper with our names on it.

Wow.

He gave his name -- Shim W. Lew -- and told us he was Chief of Protocol for Delta at JFK. By him we were escorted to the Sky Club near our departing gate for Tel Aviv. We settled in then left for some lunch at a nearby restaurant. As we nibbled on food and talked about our hopes for the trip, Sharon Decker from North Carolina joined us. After lunch, we returned to the Sky Club where each of us did our own thing until our flight was called.

At Gate 14, Ellie Kay met us, making our group nearly complete. Upon arriving in Tel Aviv, we would be met by Joe Diaz (Israel Ministry of Tourism, Atlanta office), my coauthor Miriam Feinberg Vamosh (who would serve as our guide) and Tzvika, our driver. I could hardly wait.

But wait we would. The flight from JFK to Tel Aviv is a long one. We were fed an okay dinner (for airline food) then catnapped the rest of the flight. At some point I stood up to walk around. From the shadows of sleeping figures I saw a hand wave at me. It was Larry, about six rows back. Next to him, Cheri slept. Across the aisle, Robi did too. I walked to Larry and received the news that we were landing a good deal ahead of time, thanks to a tail wind.

The Ben Gurion International Airport is absolutely spectacular to behold. Ellie and I seemed to walk faster than the others but still took in the sense of being "home." At the end of a long hallway called the connector I spotted a pretty woman holding a sign that read: Eva Marie Everson's Party.

That was us!

I greeted the woman with a smile and a handshake. We gathered everyone together. She escorted us through border patrol, then to get our luggage, then through customs. Because we were early, there was no one to meet us in the Arrivals Hall, a disappointment for sure. But it gave us a while to turn our dollars into shekels and grab a much-needed cup of coffee.

Of course all I could think was "Where is Joe" and "Where is Miriam?" A few minutes later, Joe arrived. We hugged, said, "We did it! We made it!" then waited a while longer.

Someone from IMOT reported that our driver and Miriam were waiting outside for us. My heart flipped. MIRIAM! I grabbed my luggage, slung my camera bag and purse over my shoulder, and headed for the outside doors.

I spotted Miriam across the way. She was on the phone. Next to her was the man I assumed was Tzvika. We made our way across. Miriam ended her call and looked up. Our eyes met -- having not seen each other for nearly three years -- and we both smiled. I ran the remainder of the gap between us. We hugged -- it had been TOO long -- and Miriam said, "It feels like just yesterday ..."

Crazy. She was right.

Tel Aviv greeted us with gray skies and rain. Miriam declared that this was supposed to be the last day of such weather -- although they were grateful for it -- and we all lifted a verbal prayer that the weather would be kind to us.

Our first night was spent in Ma'ale Hachamisha Hotel outside of Jerusalem. We were led to our rooms where a plate of fruit and a large bottle of water waited for us. I pulled back the heavy drapes and flung open the window.

The rain had stopped. The sun broke through the clouds. God was speaking. We were about to spend seven unprecedented days.

At dinner we were treated to a visit with Miriam's husband Arik. Arik and Miriam are Israel. Arik's father and mother were Holocaust survivors -- while other family members were not. Arik fought in the Yom Kippur War in which he was hit with shrapnel, which left him paralyzed from the waist down -- not that it has stopped him from living a full life. Miriam grew up in New Jersey but came to Israel at age 17 to see her brother, a Rabbi in Jerusalem. She fell in love with the country and decided to call it home. Shortly thereafter, she made aliyah.

This couple is like family to me. I love them, their family members, and their children as though I were born into their fold. I know they love me in this way, too.

Friday, October 2, 2009

She's Writing Again


Can you believe I sat on my novel for nearly a month? According to the writing log I keep, the last time I wrote was September 5th.

In wondering why, I went back and re-read the entire 11,000 words I'd written up until this point. In doing so, I realized that the final scene penned had nearly done me in and I had needed time to recoup.

The final scene written is a courtroom scene. A courtroom scene in which the destiny of two children is decided. In my personal life, and in the course of a decade, I spent nearly five years in a courtroom, fighting for the right of one child, a child my husband and I now raise as our own. To write the courtroom scene in my novel, I pulled out a DVD I'd purchased of one of the old hearings. I watched it over and over, looking for tiny movements, listening for legal terms and the legally proper moments of the hearing. I was swept back into the angst, the fear, the relief. I relived every brutal moment.

Now, as the author of a fictitious work, I had to place my protag in the same skin I once wore. But in her case (pardon the pun), she lost.

My worst fears became Kimberly's reality.

But, you see, I know something Kimberly doesn't know. I am her creator ... the story's creator ... and I know I have to get her from Plot Point A to Plot Point B where she will be blessed beyond what she has even begun to imagine. To gain something she doesn't even realize she wants, she must be forced to loosen her control on something she thinks she cannot live without.

It took me a month to realize this. Writers often use the events of their lives as inspiration for scenes or stories. But we mix them up, change them around (lest we end up in court ourselves!). Still, we have to revisit old wounds and sometimes wonder what may have happened had things not turned out as they did.

And that takes the wind out of our sails. So, for a month, this writer -- with a reopened wound -- had to sit in a corner and lick it. Now, having a better understanding of God's grace and His plan, she can continue to write.

And so she shall. And so she has. Return to Cedar Key is now at 16k words.

Until next time ... write on...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Guest Blogger Gail Pallotta



In the Wilderness by Guest Blogger Gail Pallotta,
Author of LOVE TURNS THE TIDE

In my new inspirational romance, LOVE TURNS THE TIDE, twenty-six-year-old Cammie O’Shea takes a job in Destin, Florida, and simultaneously suffers a heartbreaking split-up with her fiancĂ©. Moving one week early to keep an appointment with an important client, Vic Deleona, she goes to his office to interview him before she even meets her new boss at The Sun Dial newspaper. When she enters, Vic has his back to her, so she pushes the door shut to make a noise. He turns and glares at her with angry green eyes. Then, he takes a call, excuses himself and leaves Cammie standing alone in the middle of the floor.
I thought of Cammie a few weeks ago, when I heard a sermon about the hungry Israelites wandering in the wilderness grumbling that at least they had had food, when they were slaves in Egypt. As soon as the minister pointed out that we too can find ourselves in a wilderness with no one but God to turn to Cammie came to mind. She leaves her family and friends she’s known for years and ends up in a place where she knows no one. Not long after she settles into her apartment in Destin she visits the shore.
When she sees the beauty of the water and miles of white sand dotted with sea oats blowing in the breeze, she stops in her tracks and thinks, “What a sight it must have been for the disciples when they saw Jesus upright on the lake. The Bible said they were frightened and thought it might be a spirit instead of Christ until he told them “…Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then Peter walked on the water. As long as he stayed focused on Jesus he never faltered, but when he became skeptical and turned his attention to the wind, he sank. In Matthew 14: 31, when Jesus caught him he said, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’” While still staring at the sea Cammie ponders why she doubts.
Now when she needs God most with her life spinning out of control, for some reason she doesn’t understand she feels more estranged from him than she ever has. “If only he would take the weight of the failed romance, the new job, and a new home off her shoulders. She was saying her prayers and reading her Bible every day. What more could she do?” she asks herself.
Being in the wilderness is like being in a jungle with a forest too dense to let in a ray of sunshine and underbrush so thick one couldn’t walk through it even if there was a visible way out. One can stroll into it so easily, so unexpectedly. One day life’s humming along; the next, the dark curtain falls. A number of events can create a wilderness, joblessness, controversy, disagreements, illnesses, separation from loved ones, loss of loved ones. When I’m in my next one I’ll try to think of the part of the minister’s sermon when he reminded the congregation that God sent the Israelites manna in the wilderness.
The minister also claimed that the time spent in a desolate, lonely place would strengthen one’s faith. Even though I know such words can dissipate into jumbled letters that make no sense when gray clouds hover over a person day after day, I’ll cling to the thought and know that God is with me. If I keep believing and follow his lead I will find my way out.

Matthew 17:20: “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

ABOUT LOVE TURNS THE TIDE
To find out what happens to Cammie look for LOVE TURNS THE TIDE on the Awe-Struck E-Books Web site. To locate the site Google Awe-Struck E-Books; then look for Genres on the Home Page and click on the Inspirational Bar. For a while Awe-Struck will offer a discount on the New Releases page. Available in a variety of formats for PDA readers, laptops and computers, the book costs $4.99. Read more about LOVE TURNS THE TIDE on Gail’s Web site, www.gailpallotta.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
The granddaughter of a minister and niece of several English teachers, Gail inherited their interest in storytelling and her mother’s love of people. Her first writing appeared in a grammar school newspaper she and a friend put out about their classmates. Many years later she worked in Atlanta, Georgia, as an editor and copywriter. After she married while helping her husband with his business she published poems and freelance articles. While some of her articles were selected for anthologies two historical pieces ended up in museums. Gail published her first book, NOW IS THE TIME, a Christian novel in 2004. That year the American Christian Writers Association named her a regional writer of the year.

ABOUT DESTIN:
The Beginning: Once dubbed the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” Destin dates back to seventh century A. D., when American Indians lived there. It’s named for Leonard Destin, who moved from New London, Connecticut, about 1845. For years he and his descendants fished and navigated the only channel passage to the Gulf of Mexico between Panama City and Pensacola, known as Destin’s East Pass.

The White Sand: Destin’s sand originated 20,000 years ago during the Ice Age, when temperatures warmed and ice caps started melting. Quartz particles from the Appalachian Mountains were swept into the water and carried by the Apalachicola River to the Gulf of Mexico, one-hundred twenty-five miles east of the area that became Destin. As the sea level rose, the quartz sands formed a new shoreline. The process continues today.

Destin Currently: A tourist area, Destin’s activities include fishing, golfing, boating, snorkeling, kite boarding, and scuba diving. For more information visit www.destinfl.com; www.destin-ation.com; www.destinchamber.com.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Very Brave Thing


It was with much trepidation that I picked up the phone to call my friend, Larry Leech. Earlier that day I'd been at a Word Weavers meeting. I heard a couple of writers talking about their "novel group." It was then I remembered that Larry also has such a group, a place where writers in the throes of a novel can bring portions of their work for critique.

It takes a lot of nerve. Especially for me.

First of all, because I am published I fear putting other non-published writers ill at ease. Secondly, as a published writer, I am putting my work out there and saying, "See??? NEEDS WORK!" That's humbling. Not that I think I don't have work to do ... but my fear is that others will not feel as if they can honestly critique me.

Well, Larry didn't answer so I left a message. Later that afternoon he called back. As we were chatting -- exchanging pleasantries -- I wondered if I should just say, "Well, I called just to say hello."

But I didn't. I came clean. I told him I wanted to join his novel critique group, if there was room. He assured me there was.

He sent the email addresses of about the eight to ten writers in his group along with the general rules. I sent the first 2500 words of "Cedar Key" to them and then waited three days until the evening of the meeting.

I'd struggled with the opening of this book. Was it good enough? Compelling enough? Did it hook the reader? Did it raise the Major Dramatic Question that would be answered in the climax of the book?

Larry put me in the hot seat first. Of course. I listened as each one of the group's members gave me their honest opinions. One thing in particular had jumped out at each of them (so I immediately came home and took out the artistically offensive lines). For the most part, the group's members "got it." They loved it. They gave wonderful suggestions and pointers.

It's a very brave thing to do but I'm glad I did it. Next month I return with 2500 more words having been placed before them. Scary but I'm ready.

WORD COUNT: So far I have 11,415 words of the 95,000 contracted. I'm on Chapter Four and I'm still in the "first day."

(Photo is of --right to left -- Larry Leech, Cecil Murphey, and myself. Photo taken by Loyd Boldman)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Bump in This Writer's Road


I hit a bump in the road.

It happens, okay ...

I was typing away on my next great masterpiece. In this particular part of the story, Kimberly -- the protagonist -- is taking her ex-husband to court over his summer visitation with their children. It's not that she doesn't want him to see the kids ... or vice-versa ... it's just that he's been reportedly hanging out in too many bars, with too many leggy women who may (or may not) be spending the night in his hot new bachelor's pad. Kimberly is concerned, as any mother should be, about the welfare of her children.

So she goes to court.

I know the family court system well. (See my post about our adoption of our little one...) and I know how the legal system can work against you as easily as it can work for you. I also know how the system works here in Florida. Some issues go before the judge -- the grand master who sits behind the big high desk donned in flowing black robes (the grand master, not the desk) -- and some go before the General Magistrate.

They don't wear robes but they do sit behind big high desks and sometimes they are more frightening than the judges they are there to represent.

The feel of being in the courthouse ... the smells ... the sounds ... the sight of it. This is know.

So, Kimberly is taking her request for a more controlled summer visitation to the G M. She is not bringing legal counsel with her (also sometimes the way it goes).

As I am typing away -- impressing even myself on how well the words are flowing from my fingertips --I have a sudden thought. Would she, I questioned, have an attorney for this or no? Should she? Could she represent herself (often the case with a G M hearing...)?

This, I don't know.

So I called a friend of mine who works within the family court system. She didn't answer, so I left a message. I waited for a return call. I didn't get it. I called again. Still, nothing.

Could she be out on vacation, I wondered ...

My main character is sitting in the courthouse waiting area with her sister Heather by her side. Her ex-husband is across the way, standing with his attorney. The sister remarks, "I thought you didn't need an attorney for this hearing ..."

"I don't," Kimberly replies.

And that is when it hit me ... I don't know for SURE!

Thus the call and the waiting and the not getting any writing done for days. This, as any writer will tell you, presents a dangerous problem. Getting out of the heads of the characters, out of the flow of the story, out of the mood entirely! Dangerous!

Finally, I had another thought. Hey! I'm a FICTION WRITER! HELLO! I can make this up until I know for sure. For absolute certain.

"So then," Heather now says as my fingertips return to the keyboard of my computer, "why is Charlie with his?"

And then story begins to flow again. And I'm liking it!

Here's hoping they don't need an attorney for this ... 'cause that's the way I wrote it.

Writing on ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Research, Research, Research/Location, Location, Location


There is an old saying in the world of real estate. It goes like this:

Location, location, location.

But what does it mean? Primarily, that the LOCATION of a property is vitally important to the buyer, therefore to the seller. It is repeated three times so as to be remembered.

We, those of us who call ourselves writers, use that same line. "Location, location, location."

Without location we know little about our characters. A girl growing up in the 1950s rural South will have a different characterization than one growing up in the new millenium, New York City. Or, New York State for that matter.

Location also becomes a character. People who have read Things Left Unspoken
and who have emailed me about the book's setting (Cottonwood, GA), have declared Cottonwood a character unto itself. This is because I worked hard as a writer to make it come to life through word pictures and through the characters who live there.

The same sentiment goes for Summit View, Colorado, which is where the Potluck Club books are set.

I am currently working on a new series, which has a working title of "Return to Cedar Key." Unlike most of my "locations," this one is real. The others are
based on real places, but are, in fact, fictious.

Cedar Key is located on the west coast of Florida, near the panhandle. I found it a few years ago, more or less by accident. A friend of mine, Janice Elsheimer, and I were looking for a place to "get away" and write. I lamented my problem to my hairdresser, who told me about Cedar Key. When I shared the idea with my friend, she said, "Let's load up!"

And so we did.

I fell in love with Cedar Key almost instantly. For one thing, in those days, once my car drove off the mainland and onto the island, cell service was nonexistent. If an emergency occurred, my family would have to call the hotel and ask for my room number. Otherwise, I was O U T. Don't call me, I'll call you. Maybe.

But there was more than just the being able to get away from it all. There were the sunrises on the east side of the island and the sunsets on the west. There was the incredible cuisine. The people -- easy going, laid back, good folk. There was the history. The boat rides through the Gulf and the marshlands, dolphins dancing behind us in the wake of water. There were the birds -- scores and scores of varieties of birds -- and the local artists with their crafts for sale. There was sitting out on the baloncy with Janice in the cool of the evening, watching the moon's reflection as it dipped and swayed on the ripples of the inky water. Two friends sharing the night, conversation, secrets kept forever. That's what friends do.



And so we returned. Time and again, we returned. It was during one of these trips that I was flipping through a magazine. I stopped, drawn by an ad that featured five young women sitting together in a beach house, all wearing white. Four of them looked alike. One was markedly different.

I ripped the page from the magazine and showed it to Janice. "There's a story here," I said. And I went on to explain what I saw as a novelist.

In June 2009, Janice and I returned so that I could begin the research and development of my next novel series, currently called Return to Cedar Key.

It's about five women ... four who look alike and one who is markedly different.

I am going to ask you to join me on an exciting adventure. I am going to take you through the next six months of my journey as I write Book One of the Return to Cedar Key series. Join me, won't you? Invite your friends, too. I look forward to sharing this most marvelous gift with you ... of creating a world within a world and people who live within our imaginations.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Orphan


Warner Bros. new horror movie Orphan proclaims that it must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own. Let me tell you about how an orphan changed my life...

My "fourth child" is not an orphan, exactly. Her biological parents -- who warred against their own personal demons -- could not take care of her the way this child -- any child -- deserved to be.

My husband and I started "sitting" for her when she was 2, when her mother wasn't getting child support, and was working long hours to put a roof over her head. Over the years, "Miss Priss" spent more and more time with us, becoming more a grandchild than just a little one we "took care of."

She calls us "MrsEya" (Miss E-ya ... For Miss Eva) and "Dennis-Daddy." She always has, mainly because that's what her mother calls us.

In 2005, realizing that her mother's demons had reared their ugly heads in such a way that they demanded to be reckoned with, we attempted to get "Mom" some help. We made a definitive ultimatum. In the process, the courts got involved and -- shock of all shocks -- awarded us temporary custody of this beautiful (then) 8-year-old.

For the next 2.5 years we fought an unsual court battle. I say we "fought." Actually God fought it. We just ran behind him waving our banners. At one point I organized over 100 people who volunteered to pray daily for our little girl, for those who worked within the courts, for the biological parents, for the family members. The mother's family worked diligently beside us to continue raising this precious vessel. We felt and feel as much a part of that family as if we were born of their blood.

Eventually the parents signed off on their rights and we were awarded permanent guardianship. Many of our friends -- who, like us, are now grandparents, enjoying all that comes with it-- thought we'd lost our minds. "What?" they said. "Why would you want to raise a child again? DON'T YOU REMEMBER THE TEEN YEARS???"

But nothing could change our minds. We knew -- in our hearts and spirits -- that God had brought us into this world, brought us together, brought us our own biological children, just so we could rear this child. This beautiful, wonderful, funny, adorable, loving child.

She is now nearly 12. She is the bright spot in our day. She is the "sister" to our children and the "daughter" of our home. She fills this house with love and laughter. And, sure, there are times when we have to discipline, speak firmly, guide and direct. But, I have to tell ya ... she takes it all in stride. She grows from it.

And she loves Jesus with her whole heart.

"When I talk about my parents," she told me recently, "I'm not talking about the two that brought me into the world. I'm talking about you and Dennis-Daddy." Then she paused. "They gave me life," she said. "But you gave me A life."

For us, she just makes life so much more FUN! So much more rewarding. Enriched.

Sometimes I think about what life would be like -- what freedoms I might have -- were Jordynn not our daughter. But then I think, "Are you kidding me??? I'd rather NOT get to do something and rear Jordynn than to GET to do something and NOT rear Jordynn." She's worth everything we've sacrificed. Every day. Every hour. Every minute.

Rearing her is one of the top 7 honors of my life:

1. Being a vessel chosen by God to relay his message.
2. Being the daughter of my parents, the sister of my brother.
3. Being the wife of my husband.
4. Being the stepmother to my two wonderful stepchildren.
5. Being the mother to my biological daughter.
6. Being a grandmother to my grandchildren.
7. (Oh, yes ... Lucky 7!) Being "MrsEya" to my "Punkin."

If you have the opportunity to bless the life of a child, do it! It won't cost you anything at all, believe me. Because, in the end, you'll get back SO much more. No horror story here!

Eva Marie Everson
Jordynn's MrsEya

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Going Home





Last week I "went back home."

My hometown of Sylvania, Georgia -- about an hour outside of the coastal sprawl of Savannah -- has managed to maintain or recapture so much charm from its earlier history. Many of the old stores remain, while a few of them have been renovated to become something entirely different.

The old pool hall is now an antique store, its main room -- narrow and long -- filled with mementos of bygone eras. The old appliance store, where my neighbor made his living, is now a gift shop/drug store. The old soda shop, where I ventured with my buddies in the afternoons after school for a BLT and Coke, is now an artist's gallery.

The town square boasts a fountain for sitting around, chatting, relaxing, contemplating. Just beyond it is a patch of grass where teens used to park on Friday and Saturday nights (just to hang out). Now crepe myrtles bloom and an American flag stands proudly guarding two Napoleon cannons from the Civil War (AKA The War of Northern Aggression). Just beyond the cannons stands the church I walked into week after week, Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday night after Wednesday night.



Of course, while visiting back home I went to church on Sunday. I parked the car on the far right side of the building, under the shade of some old trees. We climbed out -- my mother, brother, daughter, and I -- and walked toward the front of the Sunday school building. I looked at my feet, thinking about the number of times I'd stepped on this sidewalk, inching my way toward the House of the Lord. My eyes cut to the main parking lot and had a vague memory of jumping rope "right here" during VBS one summer and realizing I was pretty good at it.

My mother now stepped ahead of me. I focused on the 1/2 inch heels of her shoes and recalled the 3-inch spikes of her pumps "back in the day." For a moment she and my father were walking just in front of my little brother and me -- Daddy dressed in a dark suit and Mother in spikey shoes, a sleek dress, white gloves, and a small hat. I thought about the fact that it was these heart pictures taken in my childhood that formed my opinions about adulthood. And what proper Southern ladies wear to church.

Of course not too many women wear all that to church these days. I missed the boat by about 20 years.

Figures.

The familiarity of "home" rushes back at the oddest times. Walking along the cracked sidewalk in front of some of the storefronts and remembering this person or that moment. Even in my mother's home -- the home of my childhood -- waking in the warmth of the summer's morning and having that "sense" of the same time of day during summer vacations from school. Lazy mornings. Stretching beneath yellow and green floral sheets, wiping the sleep from my eyes as I planned the whole live-long day. Watching "Concentration" or "Captain Kangeroo" on television while eating cereal swimming in whole milk. Getting dressed and then calling my best friend to see if she wanted to meet between our homes and, by that afternoon, going to the recreation department's olympic-size pool where we'd glide like eels under water for hours on end.

Not that I get to do that anymore, of course. None of it.

They say you can't go home again and maybe a part of that is true. But in some ways you can ... you really can. You just have to close your eyes and inhale a little. Breathe in a memory. Bask in the glow of what was and what could have been. Think, "You know, it really was a good life..." and mean it.

And it's nice if someone comes along and restores that which was beginning to crumble, the way the Downtown Development Authority of Sylvania has done.

Which leads me to another point ... about a cook book and some book signings.

But I'll write about those later.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Research, Research, Research/Location, Location, Location


There is an old saying in the world of real estate. It goes like this:

Location, location, location.

But what does it mean? Primarily, that the LOCATION of a property is vitally important to the buyer, therefore to the seller. It is repeated three times so as to be remembered.

We, those of us who call ourselves writers, use that same line. "Location, location, location."

Without location we know little about our characters. A girl growing up in the 1950s rural South will have a different characterization than one growing up in the new millenium, New York City. Or, New York State for that matter.

Location also becomes a character. People who have read Things Left Unspoken
and who have emailed me about the book's setting (Cottonwood, GA), have declared Cottonwood a character unto itself. This is because I worked hard as a writer to make it come to life through word pictures and through the characters who live there.

The same sentiment goes for Summit View, Colorado, which is where the Potluck Club books are set.

I am currently working on a new series, which has a working title of "Return to Cedar Key." Unlike most of my "locations," this one is real. The others are
based on real places, but are, in fact, fictious.

Cedar Key is located on the west coast of Florida, near the panhandle. I found it a few years ago, more or less by accident. A friend of mine, Janice Elsheimer, and I were looking for a place to "get away" and write. I lamented my problem to my hairdresser, who told me about Cedar Key. When I shared the idea with my friend, she said, "Let's load up!"

And so we did.

I fell in love with Cedar Key almost instantly. For one thing, in those days, once my car drove off the mainland and onto the island, cell service was nonexistent. If an emergency occurred, my family would have to call the hotel and ask for my room number. Otherwise, I was O U T. Don't call me, I'll call you. Maybe.

But there was more than just the being able to get away from it all. There were the sunrises on the east side of the island and the sunsets on the west. There was the incredible cuisine. The people -- easy going, laid back, good folk. There was the history. The boat rides through the Gulf and the marshlands, dolphins dancing behind us in the wake of water. There were the birds -- scores and scores of varieties of birds -- and the local artists with their crafts for sale. There was sitting out on the baloncy with Janice in the cool of the evening, watching the moon's reflection as it dipped and swayed on the ripples of the inky water.



And so I returned. Time and again, we returned. It was during one of these trips that I was flipping through a magazine. I stopped, drawn by an ad that featured five young women sitting together in a beach house, all wearing white. Four of them looked alike. One was markedly different.

I ripped the page from the magazine and showed it to Janice. "There's a story here," I said. And I went on to explain what I saw as a novelist.

In June 2009, Janice and I returned so that I could begin the research and development of my next novel series, currently called Return to Cedar Key.

It's about five women ... four who look alike and one who is markedly different.

I am going to ask you to join me on an exciting adventure. I am going to take you through the next six months of my journey as I write Book One of the Return to Cedar Key series. Join me, won't you? Invite your friends, too. I look forward to sharing this most marvelous gift with you ... of creating a world within a world and people who live within our imaginations.

What Inspired Things Left Unspoken


I've been asked a lot lately what inspired my new novel, Things Left Unspoken.

Rather than repeat myself (because, really, who has time for that?), I thought I'd direct you to the answer I gave to author Denise Hildreth when she asked that very same question for her blog/website: DeniseHildreth.com

It reads:

Well Eva, you know I love your new book. But I also loved your Potluck Club books too. You just make me laugh. But your new book, though it still has your charming wit, is a little more serious I think. Can you tell us how the story of “Things Left Unspoken” came to you?

I’d be happy to … when my great-uncle died, he left my great-aunt (they had no children) in the house she’d grown up in. She was unable to live alone so she came to live with my mother. My mother sold the house — now in a dying town — to a land developer who was going to restore not only the house, but the town. (It didn’t happen … ) Anyway, it snowed the day we buried Uncle Jimmy. Fleeting snow. Years later (about 10 years!) I was sitting on my back porch, rocking in one of the front porch rockers given to me from my great-grandparent’s estate. It was cold. February. Very gray. And I thought, “It snowed the day we buried Uncle Jimmy.”

I knew immediately I had written the first line of a novel. So, I ran inside and typed one sentence, then saved it. It snowed the day we buried Uncle Jim.

A few weeks later I wrote some more, then more, and then — as I thought about the restoration of the town that didn’t happen — a story formed. I wrote about five chapters and put it away. Some time later I was talking to my editor at Baker/Revell (Vicki Crumpton) and shared with her three ideas I had for a new line of Southern fiction. The story we now know as Things Left Unspoken was one of them …

The main character is on a search for herself in so many levels. You’re in those middle years of living, (can I say that without you writing me into the next book) do you find that you went through a season of self-discovery as well? And if so, when did that happen for you and what did it look like?

In part, this book had everything to do with my self-discovery, so to speak. I had been writing The Potluck Club books with Linda Evans Shepherd. These are great books, full of things that Christian women deal with. Though the subjects were deep, sometimes the approach to them was light. I’d been reading some deep fiction on my own and really wondering “what I wanted to be when I grew up” as a writer. I knew I was searching for deeper things. I wanted to write things that made a difference (not that TPC doesn’t!) and were more literary. Things Left Unspoken is my first stab at that.

There seem to be a lot of secrets that have been clung to with your characters. Any thoughts on why we can hold so tight to our stuff and cling to our secrets?

Because we are lied to. Call it the devil or your own self esteem issues … we hear the lies and we believe them. We think we are the only ones. Or that we are protecting someone, even putting ourselves at risk to do so. One of the characters — Stella — is holding on to more than one family secret. One, she thinks she is protecting someone she loves more than life itself. The other, the same … For Stella, it’s not about her, but about them. Then there’s the main character — JoLynn. Her secrets are so deeply engrained, even she doesn’t know what they are. She’s missed out on something she wants so desperately … so many things … but her silence will harm her spiritually and … in the end … maybe even physically!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reviews and Such

Writers love reviews. Most of the time. Okay, to be a little more detailed, we love getting reviews when they're Good! Or, when the reader "gets us." We hate it when they don't.

I was reading some of the reviews for Things Left Unspoken last night and came across one that interested me on a number of levels. First, the book was given four out of five stars. This was good. But then the reviewer said that the book was "not what I expected." Reading on, I discovered that what she expected was another Potluck Club book.

I had to smile. The reader/reviewer stated that because this was first person point of view but not multiple first person points of view, she was disappointed. When Linda Evans Shepherd (my coauthor for the Potluck books) sent out the first proposals for the book/then series, we were told that multiple first person points of view would be a problem. Or, so the editors thought. Eventually, of course, Baker/Revell took a chance. Some reviewers said that "at first it was hard to distinguish the character speaking" and things like that. But that "after two or three chapters I was hooked."

Linda and I were thrilled! And, perhaps we "started something new."

I'm starting something new again. No, Things Left Unspoken is not a "Potluck Club" book. There is some humor in it but the underlying feel is not that of tongue-in-cheek to address serious issues within the church. Rather, my new focus with this new line of Southern Fiction for Baker/Revell is to draw people into the lives and the places of the people I know best: southerners.

So far I have received two emails telling me that there was some concern when the plotline went to a dark place in Southern history and they didn't want it to go there. Well, I understand. I wish it didn't have to go there either. And I wonder if perhaps Margaret Mitchell felt the same way when she wrote Gone With the Wind. Or, Kyle Onstott when he wrote Mandingo (which will forever remain one of the most haunting books I've ever read.)

Now, for anyone who has yet to start reading Things Left Unspoken, allow me to assure you that this is not a "slave and plantation" book. We don't discuss the "War of Northern Aggression," either.

Even if it were, it would be about more than that. It's about Southern Legacy. It's about leaving something to the generations that come after you. It's about family history (a huge to-do in the Southern lifestyle). It's about believing in yourself and what you stand for.

And it's about secrets. Every family has them. Some are best left unspoken and some -- when they eek out -- become freeing agents.

But enough of the negative elements of reviews. Do you want me to tell you my favorite reviews? The ones that read, "I stayed up all night so I could finish it." I like those because I used to read that kind of book and I always wanted to write that kind of book! I also like the reviews that say, "I felt like I was the character." This tells me I have done my job. And have done it well.

So far, my favorite review was from a dear, dear friend who told me privately how much I've grown as a writer. If I haven't, then I truly have not done my job well. That meant more to me than all the five-star ratings the book could possible receive!

Well, now it's time to write some more and to scan the Internet in search of more reviews. I can't wait!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Have you ever been to the Garden of Eden?



I have.



Okay, not the actual Garden of Eden; no one knows for sure where it's located. But I have been to a place so tranquil, so lovely, the natives there call it The Garden of Eden. Even in the hottest time of the year and at that time of day when the temperature reaches its peak, it's a cool spot of respite and relaxation. It seems to me that even the water dares not to move. It stands in contemplation of the One who might come walk in the "coolness of the day."

It's in Israel, specifically in the northern portion, in the region known as the Wilderness of Dan. I fell in love with it the very first time I saw it and couldn't wait to return. What I wanted to know above all else was whether or not it was truly as I had remembered it or if my romantic notions had taken hold and rewritten my memory.

It was the former, not the latter. It was as tranquil and as lovely as I'd remembered it to be.

As I stood and beheld its beauty, I wondered if my "mother," (Eve) had ever thought back to the real Garden of Eden. If she and Adam had -- in the cool of the day when work had ceased and family had gathered -- spoke of the way it had been. Before. When there was no sin. Nothing to separate them from God. When listening for His footsteps had brought about great anticipation, hearts fluttering, minds anxious and filled with questions thought of during the day.

Or ideas.

"I meant to ask you about this," Adam might have said to his Father. "This right here. I thought I'd call it a rose. What do you think?"

"Rose," God would have mused. "Rose ... rose ... rose ..." and then He might have smiled and said, "By any other name would it smell as sweet?"

Adam and Eve would have been confused and God would have said, "That's for another day ... another time ... oh, well ... another millennium!" And together they would have laughed.

There would have been so much to say. To share. To go over.

I wish I could go to the Garden of Eden in the Northern part of Israel every day. I wish I could skip along the paths leading to it, listening to the rustling of the leaves in the trees and the water rushing from the heads of the Jordan toward the river that snakes down the country. I wish I could sit on its cools banks and speak to God ... share with Him ... go over things. Things which are important to me.
To Him.

But I cannot.
I can, however, find my own Garden. My own place of respite and relaxation. My own place of prayer and conversation. Of laughter with God.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How You Can Win!


There is nothing quite like having a new book release. No matter how many times an author experiences it, each time is like the first time.

My newest novel, Things Left Unspoken (the first in a line of Southern Fiction from Baker Publishing), is soon to be released. I know because the author copy landed in my anxious little paws just two days ago. I've danced around the living room enough times to qualify for Dancing With the Stars. :) Or, So You Think You Can Dance.

Product Description: Jo-Lynn Hunter is at a crossroads in life when her great-aunt Stella insists that she return home to restore the old family house in sleepy Cottonwood, Georgia. Seeing the project as the perfect excuse for some therapeutic time away from her self-absorbed husband and his snobby Atlanta friends, Jo-Lynn longs to get her teeth into a noteworthy and satisfying project. But things are not what they seem, both in the house and within the complex history of her family. Was her great-grandfather the pillar of the community she thought he was? What is Aunt Stella hiding? And will Jo-Lynn's marriage survive the renovation? Jo-Lynn isn't sure she wants to know the truth--but sometimes the truth has a way of making itself known. The past comes alive in this well-written and thoughtful novel full of secrets, drama, and family with a hint of Southern drawl.

From the Back Cover: Every family--and every house--has its secrets. Jo-Lynn Hunter is at a crossroads in life when her great-aunt Stella insists that she return home to restore the old family manse in sleepy Cottonwood, Georgia. Jo-Lynn longs to get her teeth into a noteworthy and satisfying project. And it's the perfect excuse for some therapeutic time away from her self-absorbed husband and his snobby Atlanta friends. Beneath the dust and the peeling wallpaper, things are not what they seem, and what Jo-Lynn doesn't know about her family holds just as many surprises. Was her great-grandfather the pillar of the community she thought he was? What is Aunt Stella hiding? And will her own marriage survive the renovation? Jo-Lynn isn't sure she wants to know the truth--but sometimes the truth has a way of making itself known.

So!!! Would you like to know a way you can win your own personal copy PLUS receive a special gift from me? Here's how:


1. Gather your friends and...

2. Form a book club. (Already have a book club? Good ... you are two steps ahead!)

3. Pick Things Left Unspoken as your book of the month selection. (To hear more about the book, go to the author interview at Christianbook.com.)

4. Find questions for discussion at Christianbook.com.

5. Let Eva Marie know when your group is gathering. If her calendar allows, she will place a call (which you can put on speaker phone) to answer any questions your group might have and to participate in general. (Especially if you are serving chocolate!) OR: if you are in the Central Florida area, she'll try to pay you a visit!

6. Let Eva Marie know how many you are expecting. She'll pre-send autographed bookplates.

7. Send a photo of your group holding the book to Eva Marie at her email address (EvaMarieEverson@aol.com) for a special gift to the hostess!


That's it! It's just that simple ... and just that fun!