Why “NOT” Me?

I haven’t written a blog post in a very long time, but today something happened to inspire me. In fact, you could say I felt a “calling” to finally do so. Church service this morning was quite moving. Our regular pastor is away on a mission trip in Africa, so the youth pastor, Patrick Shaw, gave the sermon. What he did was give a poignant, heartfelt, honest, and very inspirational testimony. You see, on March 29th, Patrick Shaw, who is only 33, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon/Rectal Cancer.

He described the anger he felt when first diagnosed. The shock it was to him that knowing he had cancer at such a young age. The disbelief that this diagnosis he was given could not be real.

Then after thinking through what his life would be like with chemo and radiation, he stated that he realized he wasn’t afraid to die. He commented on how, and made it quite clear, that he hated having cancer, he didn’t have to like it, but he had accepted it as God’s plan for him. He quoted Psalm 139:13-16.

“For you created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.” (NIV)

What was so raw about Patrick’s testimony today, is that he didn’t ask “why me?” He asked “why NOT me?” His faith in salvation is so strong, that he thanked God for choosing him over someone whose salvation was in question. He thanked God for choosing him because he knows where his true home is…and that is with the almighty Father in heaven. His faith has allowed him to not fear death.

It touched me deeply. How many times do we all ask God the question Patrick refused to ask, “why me?” It puts a different perspective on any situation when you add the word “NOT” to the question. The bible says we are to praise God in all things, both good and bad. To be honest, I could never understand why we should praise Him in bad times, but I did. With Patrick’s testimony today, his words gave me encouragement and helped me to understand better why we should praise God in all situations, without questioning His plans for us. Because without trials and tribulations, how can we see the wonder that is God?

As Patrick stated, he does not have to like it…we do not have to like it. But we must accept whatever happens in our lives as God’s plan. His son Jesus suffered, horribly. Who are we to say then that we should not suffer?

God is waiting for us. He is watching. And listening. Do we accept his predetermined plans? Or do we…do I…refuse to accept it? Patrick’s strong faith has given him peace to accept whatever may be his outcome. He could be one of God’s miracles; his tumor disappears, and he lives to be 100. Or his tumor may not disappear. Regardless, Patrick is at peace with God’s plan. And isn’t that what true faith is…that we accept whatever God has in store for each and every one of us. For if we refuse to accept His plan, then we are refusing God’s promise of salvation.

Prayers and blessings to all,
Christine Maria Jahn

Downton Abbey: A Writer’s Aspiration

Downton Abbey fans are not in good humor this morning. Actually, most were upset after last night’s airing of the season 3 finale. And understandably so. After all, a main character has been killed off. A character all Downton Abbey fans have loved since his first appearance. Matthew Crawley is no more. Which surprised many since only a couple of weeks ago another beloved character exited Downton Abbey: Lady Sybil Crawley.

It has become known that the two actors portraying these characters did not want to renew their contracts in order to pursue other acting roles. That is their choice no matter how angry Downton Abbey fans get regarding the demise of those delightful characters. But what is more important here is why are we upset in the first place? What has driven us to be so vocal towards the unfavorable decision of the series writer?

Two words: Emotional Connection.

And isn’t that what we want from any fiction novel we read?  And hope to achieve with any poem, short story, or novel we write? Yes, perhaps the characters could have been sent away on a trip, only to be brought back at a later time should the actors decide to return to the series. However, doing so would not have moved the story forward; the characters of Tom Branson and Mary Crawley would somehow have remained stagnant. Julian Fellowes took a risk, but a risk that I believe will create a new depth to Downton Abbey.

A retired English professor had let me read an interview clipping he kept from many years ago of William Faulkner. To sum up the article, this Nobel Prize-winning novelist stated that a writer must keep the reader wanting to turn the page to see what happens next. He used the word suspense. When you think about it, it goes hand in hand with achieving that emotional connection.

I hope I achieved that myself with my novel, Saving Alessandra; and I am working diligently to do the same with the sequels. Only time, and readers, will tell.

What are your thoughts? Please share them, whether about Downton Abbey or your own writing goals. I would love to read them.

Christine Maria Jahn

Embracing Culture Around the World

Recently I was watching an episode of one of my favorite shows, House Hunters International, and suddenly realized that when immigrants from other parts of the world move to the United States, we expect, and want, them to embrace our ways. However, when Americans (not all, but many) relocate to other countries, we think differently. But why should we not enforce the same expectations upon ourselves? After all, do we not owe a foreign country and culture the same respect we so prominently and ferociously believe should take place on our own soil? Allow me to clarify.

A couple relocates for either a job transfer or to give their children a cultural experience. Yet when looking at apartments and houses, the couple/family want American size rooms and American style floor plans. If you are there to experience a different culture, then embrace it.

If the realtor tells you that it’s not customary for an apartment to have a separate laundry room, rather it’s the norm in their quaint city to have a washer in the kitchen, then accept what he/she says. Do not argue and say that it’s a deal breaker. And it’s not the end of the world if  the bedroom is not big enough to fit king size furniture or if the yard is not big enough to fit an Olympic size swimming pool.

So many times I wish I could reach through the television screen and just smack some sense into these people. Some of you probably just said, “well that’s harsh.” And I know it is, but if I had the opportunity to live abroad in Italy, Brussels, or my personal dream, the Cotswolds in England, I would never have the audacity to expect that my way of life here in America could, or should, be expected there. It would be very shallow of me to think that a foreign country should roll out the red carpet and change their normalcy for me.

So to all who are thinking of living abroad to experience a different culture (myself included), please remember to EMBRACE and RESPECT the country and ways of that country, no matter how different it may be.

If you have lived abroad, feel free to post your comments of where and what was the most difficult adjustment. If not, where would you like to live if given the opportunity?

Love and Blessings!

Christine Maria Jahn

 

 

Literary Excursion: Oh the Anticipation!

Ever since I was a teenager, my dream has been to travel abroad to Europe and bask in the literary history of Keats, Austen, Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. Well, that was many years ago. One thing led to another and my dream kept getting put aside. That is, until now.

My oldest daughter graduates next year with a degree in communications. She has inherited the writing gene and like me, wants to travel as well. So as a graduation gift to her, and a long awaited gift to myself, we are planning to take a trip together when she completes her last semester.

We have been scoping out websites to organize the most fulfilling trip we could have. My daughter sent me the following link from “lonely planet,” http://www.lonelyplanet.com/great-britain/travel-tips-and-articles/77625, which lists places and towns Jane Austen used in her novels. Needless to say, I am giddy with excitement.

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(Photo of Peak District by Shaun Dunphy)

I know thousands of these trips are taken every year, but this is my first time traveling abroad to places I’ve always wanted to visit. In fact, my ultimate dream is to reside in a little cottage somewhere in the English countryside.

So now that we have the Jane Austen portion of our trip sorted out, next it’s adding Keats, Shakespeare, etc.

How about you? Have you done any traveling which encompassed visiting places of literary greats? If so, what was your favorite? If not, where would you like to go? Feel free to post a picture of your excursion.

Happy Traveling!

Christine Maria Jahn

Blog-less Blogger

Okay, I have written about blogging once before…quite some time ago in fact. And when I typed my first blog I promised myself I would blog each week. I vowed to my family and friends that I would be diligent in the creation of a weekly journal entry to the masses. Unfortunately, I did not keep that promise.

Oh, I made sure to not hold myself accountable. I had no time because of work, unexpected events, writing my debut novel, blah, blah, blah. What was frustrating to me was that even though I wanted to blog, my creativity began and ended with my novel. Well, that first novel has since been published. So I gave myself a pep talk, sat down at my computer, placed my fingers on the keys, and…NOTHING.

How could this be? How could I have endless ideas for not one, not two, not even three novels, but 4 novels, yet I could not find the words to type one blog entry each week?

I read other blogs by authors who seem to have words flowing endlessly. Some of them blog at least three times a week. Yet here I sit, week after week, month after month, and my blog archive contains less than five posts. It’s shameful. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing. I’m a writer. I should not have this problem.

So after talking with my oldest daughter, and also a coworker, I am determined once again to turn myself into a blogger. I have been advised that the best bloggers have an organized plan on what days they post and what those posts will be about. With that in mind, I am holding myself accountable to post a writer related article on Wednesdays and something inspirational on Sundays.

There’s an old cliché that states “the third time’s a charm.” That’s see if I can live up to the challenge. If not, I will comfort myself with some Oreos and a cold glass of milk before attempting this mysterious world of blogging a fourth time. And if I succeed, then I will celebrate with those same Oreos and cold glass of milk. 😀

Oh the Fun That is NaNoWriMo

November 1, 2012 – National Novel Writing Month has begun. And all I have is the title of my story, while others have written anywhere from 2000 to over 4000 words on this first day. I can’t seem to concentrate and it’s driving me insane!

I have been busy arranging a book give away and signing event for my newly published novel, Saving Alessandra. I have been ferociously attacking my second WIP, In the Presence of Emileigh, which is the sequel to Saving Alessandra. Over 100 pages have been written, waiting impatiently for me to continue its journey. But now, it’s time for NaNoWriMo.

It’s a craziness writers of all ages around the world love to embark upon, yet dread at the same time. Why? Because it challenges you in so many ways. Ways that if you have never done it before, will leave you exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s a battle of wits between keeping your fingers to the keyboard, and the inner editor of your brain desperate to edit in shut off mode. Which happens to be my dilemma.

I am a consummate editor when I write. I have yet to master what other writers have told me to do. TURN THE EDITOR IN YOU OFF! It is quite difficult to do. However, I have motivation that will hopefully get me through the next 30 days. I want to complete my sequel to Saving Alessandra without fail. Preferably by the end of December. It is a major goal I have set for myself, I know. In fact, it is so outrageous I will be writing it simultaneously with the story for NaNoWriMo. Which will also be an installment to Saving Alessandra. Impossible? I don’t think so. A little loony? You betcha. But it’s what I need to do. And with a lot of prayers, it may just be the ticket to getting rid of that infernal editor inside of me.

So as this first day of NaNoWriMo begins to wind down, a multitude of people have completed their writing goals for the day; while I still need to create one sentence. At least my writing buddies will see that I posted a title for my story. That’s kind of a start. Isn’t it?

Happy writing everyone!

Christine Maria Jahn

The Path to Indie Publishing

Have you ever wanted something so badly, but had no patience to wait to get it? No patience to see whatever it was you wanted to happen come to fruition? Or perhaps you felt the thing you wanted would be better done yourself instead of allowing someone else to do it. Well, I guess you can say I am guilty of all the above.
My debut novel has been a long time in the making, years, in fact; from the first thought to the final word written. It wasn’t a continuous writing journey. There were several lapses of non-writing time due to the extensive traveling I did for work. But then everything settled down and I once again had free time to put pen to paper.
And because I had invested so much of my time into writing the story, it became my fourth child. I nurtured it and took pride as I completed each chapter. Then this past June, my novel was done. A decision had to be made. A BIG decision. Do I write a query letter and a synopsis and send them to every publishing house I can locate?  Or do I research the self-publishing route, which is now called Indie Publishing.
My novel had all my emotions wrapped up into, as well as time. I was scared of what changes I would have to make, if, by the Grace of God, my manuscript was accepted by a publisher or agent. I’ve read articles upon articles throughout the years of edits an author has to do until the novel meets everyone’s satisfaction. I’ve also read that the turnaround time is long. Mighty long. My impatient inner-self did not like the sound of waiting for an acceptance. Would I give up after receiving the first rejection letter? Would I have an anxiety attack? Would a rejection destroy my motivation to write other books (I am currently working on my second novel and have a third one part way done as well)?
So then I thought about Indie Publishing. I signed up for free brochures, which also included my inbox getting slammed by several companies who said they can help me…for a cost. The fees were staggering. There was no way I could afford thousands of dollars up front. Then I heard about CreateSpace, a division of Amazon. I must say I was very impressed. No up-front fees (unless you want them to do the formatting, the editing, etc). I read the community site posts and many seemed pleased with their experience.
After much thought, I decided to give CreateSpace a try. It has been quite an adventure, to say the least. I had received a proof (there is a cost, but only a few dollars, pending the size of your book). I also received a digital proof, which I read through and compared against the hard copy. I made notes on the pages where changes needed to be made, edited, then re-edited, then reviewed the entire manuscript again, reformatted the file, re-read the manuscript, etc. Having a daughter who is a literature/journalism major was a huge help. I know I drove her crazy.
Now I await the arrival of the second proof. If all is well, then my debut novel, SAVING ALESSANDRA, will soon be released.
I have learned much the past few months and couldn’t be happier with using Indie Publishing via CreateSpace for my first novel. Will I do it again? Absolutely. Does it replace my dream of signing a contract with a major publisher someday? Not at all. But for now, Indie Publishing was the right choice for me.
So how about you? Would you considerate Indie Publishing?

Christine Maria Jahn

A Rose by Any Other Name

Hello Readers,

In doing some research for my novel, I came across a book called The Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway. It was originally published in 1884 with a reprint done in 1978, which is the edition I have obtained. The book is only 62 pages but contains some of the prettiest illustrations. The focus of the book is obviously, well, flowers, and their meanings.

Speaking with flowers was a form of communication between the genders, especially when courting or flirting. Of course we send each other flowers for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, Valentine’s day, etc; but do we really put thought into what the flowers mean that we are giving our loved ones? I never did. I mean, if the flower was pretty then guess what, I bought it. Not so in the 1800s. Careful consideration and attention was given before a flower was chosen.

Nowadays, roses are given because we believe they’re a symbol of love. However, there are so many varieties of roses that it’s possible we are giving a type of rose that means something entirely the opposite of the endearment we wish to convey.

For example, according to Greenaway’s The Language of Flowers, a deep red rose means “bashful shame,” while the Japanese rose means “beauty is your only attraction.” Quite insulting when you think about it, isn’t it?

There is a brief clip below from one of my favorite films that helps demonstrate the sincere thought that gentlemen put into choosing flowers. In Kate and Leopold, Hugh Jackman stars as a 19th century duke who gets transported accidentally to modern day New York. For those of you who have never seen the movie, there is a scene in which Leopold (Hugh Jackman) assists a young man avoid a major faux pas regarding the type of flower he wishes to have delivered to a girl he admires.

So the next time you want to send flowers to that special someone, do some research on what you plan to put in that bouquet before it’s delivered. Unless, of course, you have your very own time traveling English duke to help you. Seriously, what girl would not love flowers picked out by the likes of Hugh Jackman?

Happy Flower Sending!

Christine Maria Jahn