Tasting the air: senses heightened during the lockdown

The wind blew hair in my face as I walked beside my husband. The breeze sent the scent of impending weather I breathed in and tasted the coming rain. If you’ve never tasted the rain you haven’t been paying attention to the world around you. A sea breeze tastes salty while rain carried in the air tastes and smells of dirt and clean. My senses are on high alert now longing for a fresh perspective after being confined to the house. I’m smelling, seeing, tasting, feeling things in a new way. This is a great thing for a writer. Come walk with me.

Revived senses

After being lockdown for months I am even more aware of my surroundings. A bird’s song draws my eyes to the tree as the bird flies overhead. I hear a dog’s joyful bark in the distance. All the dogs in my life run through my mind and I wonder what bred the barker might be.

My neighborhood is a nice place to walk and my senses long for something different than the sounds of the mantel clocks chime, the smell of pizza in the oven, and the feel of the upholstery on my favorite chair.

I am consciously aware of the squirrels chattering in the trees. The lawnmowers’ distinct sound reminds me everyone will be busy in their yards before the evening comes. The smell of fresh-cut grass brings back memories of working with my dad in the yard. Yardwork brought him so much joy. The one thing he was excited to share with me.

Smell and times past

The air fills with the smoky smell of burning wood. Fire pits do the job of the long-ago days of burn barrels because open fires are against city code. My son was nine when he played archeologist as he dug into the dirt where a burn barrel had once been. He found antique bottles that he still treasures over thirty years later.

Sight paints a picture

Neighbors greet us as we walk. Most are waving acquaintances. A young man basks in the sun in a lawn chair in his front yard. Reminding me that so many aren’t yet working. A pang of sadness pricks me. I pray for the unemployed. His friendly voice as we exchange a few words speaks of hope.

Weather attacks our senses

Another day while we walked in the humid afternoon that sucked the energy from me, my steps slowed, sluggishness showed my age. I’m envious of the small children who ride their bikes in the driveway oblivious of heat.

Smell and Taste evoke memories

The smell of barbeque made my mouth water and my heart sad. The lockdown prevents my three sons from coming around anytime soon to grill a variety of meat each telling the other how they marinated their chicken.

Yardwork and senses

On Saturday hubby and I till the soil. The black damp mud clings to my shovel making turning the dirt more of a challenge. The fresh dirt smell clings to me, something familiar and normal after months of strangeness. I separate bulbs to replant. Even wearing garden gloves I can feel the shape of the bulbs between my fingers. My sister will be so proud to hear I took her suggestion. She is a wonderful gardener like our late father. She finds it relaxing I just find it drudgery.

Hubby and I near the end of our day of yardwork by spreading mulch. The cedar mulch between my fingers reminds me of Guinea Pig bedding and the sweet sister who is long dead who loved them so.

Outdoors revives creativity

These walks and times outside have sparked my creativity as I pay attention to the sensory stimulation all around me. When I return home after one of these walks I notice the whir of the ceiling fan that I took no notice of all morning. I listen to the echoed, watery sound of my husband using his electric toothbrush in the bathroom. I still haven’t master letting the brush do all the work after scrubbing my teeth with a manual one all my life. Charley is always more particular in the things he does. Not so much perfection as organized. (See what I did there? Gave you a peek at my husband’s personality through the sound of an electric toothbrush.)

Senses in storytelling

See how the senses around me stir up memories. The characters in your books should have the same sorts of memory. The manure and hay odor in a stable might remind a woman of the sweet palomino she had as a child. Watching a leaf drift down the river as the chilly wind permeates her jacket and chills her flesh could bring a sense of foreboding or loneliness. Maybe the cold wind excites her with the prospect of coming snow and ski season.

Write down the senses you experience. Then you can use them to deepen your character’s experiences. In return, your readers will be even more invested in your story as they smell, hear, see, taste, and touch along with your characters.

 

What senses bring memories to you? How would you describe them?

Ginny Dent Brant shares her upcoming release and why she wrote it

 

Although I primarily write fiction I love supporting non-fiction writers as well. Ginny Dent Brant is here today to share her upcoming release and the why behind it. Thank you for sharing your heart with us today.

Unleash Your God-Given Healing:

 Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer

 

By Ginny Dent Brant

 

This book explores nutrition, lifestyle, integrative and conventional medicine, and biblical wisdom in a practical way to assist people in preventing and beating cancer while surviving the journey.

Nonfiction Inspirational book

Blurb from Back Cover

Ginny Brant’s cancer diagnosis sent her on a quest to discover what caused a health nut to contract a deadly and aggressive form of breast cancer. What she found may surprise and inspire you. Whether you’re determined to prevent this deadly disease, survive it, or prevent its recurrence, this book pulls back the curtain on cancer and answers the question “What can I do to help my doctor beat this disease?” She challenges you to change what your doctor has no control over—your lifestyle and health habits.

Brant connects the dots between nutrition, lifestyle, integrative and conventional medicine, and biblical wisdom to reveal how your body was created with self-healing mechanisms that work optimally when you do your part. But you need to get back to the Garden of Eden—the basics in life. By implementing a few lifestyle changes, you can begin building your immune system while lowering your toxic load.

Learn how to enable your body to work as God intended, thereby unleashing your God-given healing!

Why I Wrote this Book:

This was the book I never wanted to write. Cancer was the word I couldn’t say and the nightmare I could not wake up from. But the more I learned about what causes it and what I could do to help my doctors to beat it, I felt compelled to share with others to help them avoid this nightmare.

Two questions drove my research. First, What caused an aggressive and deadly cancer in a health nut like me? And second, after being told by three cancer centers that every weapon must be brought out to save my life including chemotherapy for one year, I wanted to know what I could do to help my doctors to beat my cancer and lesson the side effects of the chemotherapy. Chemo has four options and everyone wants option #1 where the chemo works with minimal side effects. And praise God, I got option#1. My doctors called me their “Rock Star” cancer patient when six weeks after chemo all blood work was within normal ranges! This cancer babe endured the worst of chemo, and I was able to climb a mountain, walk miles daily, and snow ski in between infusions.

My Book is for:

My book is written for those who desire to prevent cancer, those who are in the journey, and those who don’t want it coming back. The eight steps in my book help prevent cancer in the first place, help you get through the journey and prevent recurrence (a cancer patient’s greatest fear). The eight steps in my book also help to prevent many chronic diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, etc., and any flu or virus—yes, even COVID-19! Keeping your immune system armed and ready for battle is one of the best ways to lessen your susceptibility to any flu or virus.

Author Bio:

Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Her cancer prevention blog and website can be found at www.ginnybrant.com.

Personal video about my book:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfJS90zqU6E

Links to my book:

My website has a link to Amazon at www.ginnybrant.com

Amazon link  https://www.amazon.com/Unleash-Your-God-Given-Healing-Prevent-ebook/dp/B087GVP3K8/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Unleash+Your+God+Given+Healing&qid=1588612919&sr=8-1

 

Sign up for Ginny’s cancer prevention blog and get access to download one chapter of Unleash Your God-given Healing as thank you.

If you have any questions for Ginny place them in the comments. ( The Jubilee Writer blog site.)

 

 

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It’s hard to stay focused on writing in isolation

I’ve seen a number of articles encouraging writers to use this time of isolation to create. We’ve got the time now to do those things that you didn’t get done before. Another mentioned a list of historical figures who created wonderful literary works during a time of isolation.

All that encouragement is wonderful. But at some point during this whole worldwide, never experienced before stay-in-place, social distancing thing stuff happens and no creative comes. I miss hugging my family. And although we can get together on zoom—it’s not the same.

As authors, we are encouraged to add the senses to our stories. Otherwise, the scene appears flat and lifeless. So it is in the real world. I’m blessed to be in isolation with my wonderful husband. Even so, depression raises its ugly head for me. My productivity is no match for those who encourage us to hunker down and do great things.

The strangeness of this new normal makes it hard for me to focus on writing and social media promotion.  I struggle with shutting down emotionally and crawling under a rock of distress. Focusing on my writing isn’t easy.

I work part time and how we conduct business has changed. Gloves, face masks and sanitizing my work space are part of the new routine. Masks make us distant. No more leaning in close to whisper. The muffled conversation that needs to be repeated because I can’t always make out what the masked person before me is saying.  No more hugging co-workers and clients alike because of social distancing.

Now my mother has declined even more since the isolation that she has to be moved from assisted living to a nursing home. She fell because of her confused state and an undiagnosed UTI. Somehow she’d evaded the nursing staff on the evening shift, took the elevator to a different floor,  moved her wheelchair to the other end of the building and opened a stairwell door, and fell ten steps. Mom was looking for something—whether it was her daughters or some other thought she was fixated on. Her mental capacity has slowly unraveled to confusion and little recall of past events either short or long term. I’m grateful she broke no bones in her fall, but I agonize over the state of my new normal. I can’t see her, touch her, offer her a comforting word. She is lost and alone in a strange environment. Zoom and Skype don’t bring her the reassurance that I am there for her like a hug and kiss on the check. Hard to write beautiful words when the world seems ugly.

Celebrating Lily at two months on Facebook

I have a beautiful new granddaughter born on March 8th, who’ve I’ve not gotten to hold. Lily is far away in North Carolina and I watch her grow via face time and google duo from my isolation in Illinois.

My five-year-old grandson lives across town and spends the night as often as he can. Now we chat briefly on the phone. He wants so badly to come for a visit. His new normal is confusing and sad. Perhaps if I wrote children’s books I might have some clever way to help him during this time. But like my mother, he must trust me when I say it’s important to stay inside until it is safe to come out.

 

David jr age five.

Prayer gets me through the feeling of hopelessness. Jesus comforts and keeps me when I begin to fear. I wait for the day I can gather the family around me and love on them. Just like books need all the senses to make it real. I need the closeness of those I love to make my life feel real.

For those of you like me who find it hard to be creative in this season of time, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, let me share with you a verse that encourages me that life will get better, my words will flow and family time is just around the corner. Ecclesiastes 3:11a He makes all things beautiful in his time.

I replay that promise in my mind. I recall all the times he has done that for me. When I’d almost given up hope, I got my first book contract. When finances were tight God provided in miraculous ways. His time is always the perfect time.  He will bring beauty forth. At the end of this narrow tunnel.  I believe my words will be deeper, stronger, and more inspired and so will yours.

How have you been handling this “new normal”?

 

Coffee Table books and Photo Biographies can help build your story world

Photo collections of towns help create settings and see the tends of the time.

I’ve been talking about ways to research my last few posts. Today I want to add another layer to historical research. Writers of other genres might find this useful. I love looking through photo books. They are like scrapbooks from the past. A photo documentary that allows you to linger over pages. I’ve posted a few covers of books I own. Unlike my family photos, these often have well-known historical people. The two books on Aurora, where I’ve lived for decades. The faces of Aurora lets me see the types of homes in the various periods, along with fashion and the layout of the town.  I learn of the history along with tidbits related to various photos. If I wanted to place a story in this setting these are valuable details.

postcard collection reveals so much about the trends of the time.

Post Cards of Aurora achieves the same goal of a glimpse into yesteryear. Lots of explanation of the postcards. Some are landscapes, prominent buildings, or the sender’s portrait.

This photo book helps build settings and reveals more specific bits of history related to Aurora.

The other two books are coffee table books. If you don’t know that term, let’s go with the library term oversized. Back in my childhood, it wasn’t uncommon to have an interesting oversized book on your coffee table. Usually, one brimming with photographs, maps, and other illustrations. Some people placed them there to impress others and never cracked the covers.

I loved these large books. They took me to places I wanted to see or back in time so I might gain an understanding of our past.

The West is a plethora of interesting collections of photos from many settings the 1800s.

 

This book can capture your attention for hours.

The Civil War in Color contains many photos of the Commanders down to the washerwoman. Matthew Brady even placed himself in one of his photos. Teams of photographers covered the war on both sides. The victories, triumphs, and reflective moments.

I don’t write the Civil War era, but the photos still give me an idea of what my characters might have experience before they appear in the settings of my stories in the 1870s. Knowing your character’s backstory makes them more three dimensional.

This is another of those informative study the photos for hours book.

When researching a specific setting or timeframe these sorts of books allow you to immerse yourself in the subject matter. You can find some at used books stores or order them online. And of course the over-sized section of the library to check them out.

I might not have an intentional story idea in mind when I read through these mammoth tomes. But a picture may grab my attention and spark an idea.

Whether you are researching past centuries or time not so far away photo books are a wonderful source of inspiration as well as information.

Have you found any coffee table book that made a difference in creating your story world or doing your research for a non-fiction book?

 

Lauren Crews, a Proverbs 31 writer

Although I write fiction I love sharing the blog with those who write non-fiction. Lauren Crews is my guest today. Not only is her genre different than mine, but also her journey to publication. I think those of faith who follow Jubilee Writer will be inspired. Lauren, start by telling us how you began your writing journey.

Becoming an author was never a big dream. I wanted to be a teacher and a speaker, but I soon learned it is helpful to have my own material from which to teach. A friend introduced me to the concept of Proverbs 31 is an acrostic poem of the Hebrew alphabet and the imagery of the Hebrew letters.

My word nerd juices took over from there and I began researching the topic. The more I discovered, the more I felt others needed to hear about this perspective of the passage and I began writing a Bible study.

After a year of research and writing, I attended my first Christian writer’s conference. I went hoping I would receive confirmation from God that I had not wasted a year of my life and that I was handling what I was learning correctly. God did not disappoint. I left the conference with a first-place win in their Bible study category, first-place overall in their nonfiction category and invitations to submit my manuscript to all fifteen people I pitched at the conference. My head was spinning!

Wow! That is amazing.  What is the name of your latest published project?

I have recently released two books, Strength of a Woman: Why You Are Proverbs 31 and an accompanying devotional Strength of a Woman: 31 Days to Celebrate Your Place in Proverbs 31

You mentioned you did a lot of research for this project. I understand the process of researching for a historical novel. Tell us how you went about researching for a Bible study?

I love the research process. I start with various versions of the Bible. From there I do word studies on almost every word in the verse. I study the history and context of the culture and the last thing I do is read commentaries, journal articles, published papers, etc.

What inspired you to write your book?

I knew I wanted to write a Bible study but during the research process, I came across a quote in a Christian commentary about the Proverbs 31 passage that washed over me like ice water and gave me a new focus. The commentary acknowledged that Proverbs 31 is often read on Mother’s Day an opportunity to honor mothers. However, there are many mothers not worthy of the tribute given on Mother’s Day. I thought to myself, “sure there are some women who probably should not have had children. But to read a statement like that, from a Christian source? This man was piling on the judgment so many women already feel from this passage. You’re telling me even the worst mother can not be redeemed? That God loves her less and nothing in her life can be honored? What about the divorced woman? The single woman with children? The widow? Aren’t they deserving of honor too?” These thoughts set my perspective in stone. They helped me define my target audience; everyday women who are worn down from life to the point that they feel unworthy and not usable by God. They need to experience the strength of Christ and hear their heroic hymn sung over them.

Excellent! I’m inspired by your quest. The commentator’s words really spurred you on.

I think this is when I was struck by how difficult the Proverbs 31 passage might be for women. As I researched, I began to understand how the Jewish woman receives these verses. The passage is referred to as a heroic hymn which is a song in the Bible sung over warriors returning from battle. Jewish men sing this passage over the women of the home on Friday nights during their Sabbat celebrations. Christian women need to experience that kind of honor and I had a blessed opportunity to help them receive it.

How wonderful.

Lauren, do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

Yes.

Joshua 1:7-9  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

I believe this verse was instrumental in my calling to teach the Bible. It encourages me to be courageous but tethered to God’s word. Only then will I have success.

Amen!

Knowing what you know now if you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

Hang in there, this is going to be a long journey. You will second guess every decision but keep turning to God for His confirmation.

You write Bible studies and devotionals, what’s your favorite genre to read for fun?

Mystery and historical fiction

Where is your favorite place to write?

At my office desk. I need a quiet place to think, I can’t even have background music playing. It’s too distracting. I’ll light a candle, grab some M&M’s, sit at my desk, and look out the window. When I’m in the writing zone, I feel like I’m entering another dimension. I call it entering the Holy. It’s time well spent with God.

Lauren, thanks for answering my questions and giving us some insight into your heart.

Now I’ll share the back cover copy from Strength of a Woman: Why you are Proverbs 31 click here to buy

The Proverbs 31 Woman seems perfect and is held up as a role model for Christian women everywhere. Would you believe she is a portrait of how God already sees you? You are that amazing woman God sings a song of blessing over.

Based on a word study of the Hebrew alphabet, Strength of a Woman will inspire you to celebrate as you understand the blessings already available to you. Dive deep into the Proverbs 31 Scripture passage and begin to understand the Jewish teachings and the true meaning of the passage. Through this study of the passage, you will:

  • Discover the hidden beauty in the imagery of the Hebrew alphabet through word study.
  • Understand the challenges you face now in comparison to those in biblical times.
  • Embrace God’s purposes versus society’s expectations.
  • Enjoy insights into a strong woman’s day-to-day life.

A bit more about Lauren Crews

Lauren is an award-winning author and holds an MDiv from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. With twenty years’ experience in women’s ministry, she dives deep into God’s word and is eager to share the many layers with women in all roles of life. She resides in Jacksonville, FL with her husband and two brown labs who have their humans well trained.

Facebook: Lauren Monico-Crews

Instagram @LaurenCrewsA2Z

Twitter @LaurenCrewsA2Z

www.LaurenCrews.com

Book Link: https://www.amazon.com/Strength-Woman-Why-You-Proverbs/dp/1563093375/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1588173876&sr=8-2