Monday, March 25, 2013

The Medicine Wheel and the Cross

 I'm editing my novel, working title: Tall Prairie Vision. It's about a daughter of a Native American Chief and an Irish man who comes to the fictional reservation to teach in the school in the hopes of evangelizing them. He learns a lot along the way. Following is an excerpt from the book where the heroine, Little Feather, teaches a group of students the Native meaning of the medicine wheel.


  “Ancient tribal people built these symbols all over the Americas.” She placed the rocks in a large circle in the middle of the circle of students. “Each medicine wheel has a cross intersecting in the middle and reaching to the edges of the circle.” She spoke slowly as she placed more rocks inside the circle in intersecting lines. Her words sounded like a whisper and nearly entranced Alex as if her voice carried some kind of magic. When she completed the lines in the circle she sat down in the larger circle with the students. Alex faced her on the other side of the circle.    “We’re sitting here all together in a circle, Right?” A number of students nodded their heads. “No one is above or below the other while we’re in this circle.” Alex looked around, confirming her words in his mind. They all sat on the same level. She continued, “In the circle we are equal.”   “The Medicine Wheel represents this equality. All people are represented within the points of the wheel. We each have a place on the wheel and when we work together as a whole we have health and happiness.”   Alex grew nervous with this line of reasoning. He couldn’t argue her logic, but it missed some important aspects of truth. He wanted to hear more. He wanted to understand Little Feather and her tribe and their way of thinking.    “There are many teachings about this wheel, some differences and some similarities among those teachings, but most believe that the points on the wheel represent all the nations of the world. . .


The medicine wheel has cross beams inside it to support the outer circle. The outer circle represents all people of the world. In my book Little Feather has a vision of Jesus hanging on the crossbeam bleeding. She doesn't know it's Jesus and doesn't understand yet that he died to take away the sins of the world so we can have fellowship together and be equally accepted into God's presence. 

This Holy Week may we remember the One who bore our sins and sorrows. The one who redeemed us and united us in Christ with people from every tongue, tribe and nation. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Recipe for a Gloomy, Snowy, Editing Day

An actual photo from my back deck this morning

It's March 18. The clouds are so thick the sun can't even catch a glimpse of the earth. It's dark for the time and it's snowing like crazy.  Astonishing to think that Spring arrives on Wednesday.

Today I planned to do another edit on my novel. l'm changing the time period to present. I previously had set it in the early 1970s. So what can I do to perk up this day and get me in the mood for a few hours of rewrites?

Tea is always my answer to warm up a cold day or give me that small comfort to nudge me into work. A pot of green tea with orange peel and a little honey sounds perfect.

And something in the crockpot for dinner will allow me to be lazy on this gray day. Following is a recipe from "Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker." I hope you enjoy it too.

Spicy Black Bean Chili
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium-size red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp chili powder, or more to taste
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Two 15.5-ounce cans black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup water
One 4-ounce can diced green chiles, drained
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cover, and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cook about 30 seconds longer.

2. Transfer the mixture to a 4 or 6-quart slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, beans, water and chilies; season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

Easy. Now back to work.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Your New Friend: Kefir

By Guest Blogger: Jessiena Luhman
(find Jessiena at her blog. This post linked to Our Heritage of Health, Old Fashioned Friday)

Wikipedia describes Kefir as: a fermented milk drink made from kefir grains, which are a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria.  Kefir grains are packed with: vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, iron, iodine and probiotics. Why are probiotics so important? They help support our immune system by populating it with good bacteria, these little fighters help ward off infections and boost your immune system.
I bet you’ve seen kefir at the market, but here’s why you shouldn’t buy it there: the present factory-produced kefir, the so-called kefir mild, kefir grains are no longer used, but a precise composed mixture of different bacteria and yeast, allowing the flavor to be kept constant. Long story short; don’t believe every label you read. 
If you want to gain all the benefits of kefir, it’s easy to grow at home. So easy, a friend gave me starter grains, explained the general process and within 24 hours I was enjoying my very own kefir. 
What you need:
-A large canning jar, without the seal, sterilized with boiling water. Be sure to heat the jar with hot water first, so the boiling water does not crack your jar.
- A coffee filter, paper towel or piece of fabric to use as a cover, so your kefir can breathe.
- High quality organic milk. You want to feed your new friend the best, so you will get the highest quality benefits.
- A plastic strainer. Metal will kill your kefir starter. If you only remember one thing, remember that metal kills your kefir grains.
- A vessel to store all of your delicious kefir.

So, what do you do with your strange new buddy? Name him, just kidding! But seriously, I named my Ralph. Trudy, Stella or Gladys are also lovely names for your new pal.
When you get your kefir starter, put him in your freshly sterilized, room temperature jar and add milk. Make sure he is covered completely, that is the least amount of milk you should ever use. You can make as much or as little as you want. I drink daily blueberry kefir smoothies, so I fill it almost full.
Once your kefir friend is in its jar and has milk to nosh on, cover it with fabric, secure it and wait for 12-24 hours. I like to set an alarm on my phone, for a time the next day when I know I will be home. It says, "Strain it or Refrigerate it." 
Place your buddy in a cabinet or on the counter and wait.
Making too much kefir, life too busy, or going out of town? Refrigeration presses the pause button on your kefir pal. 
You may also notice your new friend getting too big for his glass britches. Simply remove a section, using a plastic spoon and give it to a friend or save it in the back of your fridge, in a smaller jar with a small amount of milk for him to cozy up in and take a nap. In the event that your original starter goes bad for some reason, you have a backup!
Is that the alarm? Kefir is ready. Check your kefir. Does it look strange? It is probably ready. For a better description, Google ‘homemade kefir,’ there are a lot of excellent resources. Strain your kefir into a vessel, using a plastic spatula; roll your starter friend around to get all of the thick, tasty kefir.
You may notice that your little buddy has a tendency to get a little slimy and thick with kefir, simply rinse him off on occasion with non-chlorinated water or water that has sat on your counter, in open air, overnight. 
Straining complete? 
Rinse your jar out with hot water to create a nice, clean environment for him to grow good bacteria, plop your friend back in, feed him more milk, set your alarm and put him back in his spot on the counter.
Now enjoy your tangy kefir and wait for your new friend to make you some more.
Easy peasy!
Time to get started on your adventure with fermentation!
Your local health food store doesn’t carry kefir starter? Try this great website:
Lots of great FAQs about kefir:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Author, Gina Holmes Interview

Gina Holmes is the founder of Novel Rocket and a PR professional. Her bestselling novels Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain were both Christy finalists and won various literary awards. Her latest novel, Wings of Glass, released February 2013 and has earned a starred review from Library Journal, a Romantic Times Top Pick and a Southern Indie Bookseller's Okra Pick. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose. To learn more about her, visit

Your 3rd novel, Wings of Glass, has just released. Tell us a little about it.

I think this is my favorite book so far. Wings of Glass tells the story of Penny Taylor, a young wife who feels trapped and alone in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Besides her low self-esteem, she feels her Christian faith doesn’t allow for divorce. It’s not until she meets two women—one a southern socialite and the other a Sudanese cleaning woman—that her eyes are opened to the truth of her situation and she begins her journey to healing and redemption.

What made you take on the tough subject of domestic abuse?

As a little girl, I watched my mother being physically abused by her husband and then later, two of my sisters enter abusive relationship after abusive relationship and I thought that would never be me. . . until the day my boyfriend hit me for the first time and I began to make excuses for him. I know the mindset of someone who gets into and stays in an abusive relationship, because I’ve been there myself. It’s taken me years, and a lot of reading, praying, and talking to get to the heart of what brought me and kept me in toxic relationships and I want to pass on some of what I learned that helped me find boundaries and recovery from a codependent mindset and most of all healing.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

It’s my hope and prayer that those who are in abusive relationships will begin to see that the problem lies with them as much as with the abuser. That’s something I railed against when friends suggested it. I wasn’t the one with the problem! I was no doormat who enabled abuse or addiction… or was I?

I also hope that those who have never understood the mindset of victims would better comprehend the intricacies of codependency and be better able to minister to these women and men. And of course I’d love it if young women would read this before they ever enter their first romantic relationship to have their eyes open to how abuse almost always progresses and be able to see the red flags early.

Which of the characters in the novel is most like you and why?

Each of the characters has a little of me in them or vice versa. I think years ago I was more like Penny, though tougher in many regards, at least I thought so. I’d like to think now I’m a little more Callie Mae. Because I’ve lived through what I have and have found healing, I can see in others the path that will lead to healing and the one that will lead to destruction. The difficult part once you’ve found healing is remembering that you can’t do it for others. You can offer advice, but you can’t make anyone take it. Each person has to learn in their own time, in their own way.

Who is your favorite character?

I absolutely love Fatimah. She had such a great sense of humor and didn’t care what anyone thought except those who really mattered. She was really quite self-actualized. She was so much fun to write and I actually find myself missing her presence.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part about being a writer?

Favorite: making my own schedule. I love when I’m feeling bad one day knowing that I don’t have to punch a clock. I can just take the day off and then work harder the next. Of course, there’s a lot of other things I love about writing, like allowing others to consider another point of view that may be far different from their own.

Least favorite: There’s a joke that when you work for yourself you at least get to pick which eighteen hours of the day you want. That’s true. Working from home means I’m always at work. I work from about 7:30 am until about eight at night most days. Under deadline, it’s worse. Truly understanding how much the success of a book rides on the shoulders of the author is a blessing and a curse. Because I get that no one is more invested in the success of my books than me, I put in a LOT of time on the publicity/marketing end of things. It’s tiring but an investment that I think pays off in the long run.

You had written four novels before your debut, Crossing Oceans was published. Do you think those books will ever get dusted off and reworked?

Never say never, but I doubt it. I had considered reworking some but having gone back and re-read them, I realized they weren’t published for good reason. They just didn’t work. Now, there is one story I’m resurrecting characters from for a story I should be writing next, but the plotline is completely different. I started out writing suspensel but as my reading tastes changed, so did my writing tastes. I don’t see myself doing suspense again any time soon.

You’re known for your quirky characters, what inspires you to write these types into each book?

Honestly, I’m a pretty quirky person. The older I get, the more I embrace those quirks. I think everyone is quirky really. As a student of human nature, I pick up on those and like to exaggerate them in my fiction. I also like to surround myself with quirky people. My husband is quirky, my kids are quirky and so are my friends. Often in life, especially when we’re young, we hate about ourselves what makes us different, when really those are the things we should be embracing. Different is interesting. Different is beautiful.

If you could write anything and genre, marketing and reader expectations didn’t matter, what would you write?

Speaking of quirky… I read a book a few years back that was so different that it made me want to try something like that. The book was a big-time bestseller, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. What turned me on about that book were the characters. They were quirky to an extreme. In contemporary women’s fiction, I can get away with a certain amount of quirk. but I’m always having to play it down because it’s so over the top. In a fantasy, you can be as over the top as you dare. I’d love to play around with something like that one day and just let my freak flag fly! Will I? Probably not unless I use a penname. I realize readers have certain expectations and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel mislead. We’ll see. There’s lots in life I want to do but since I only get a hundred or so years (if I’m lucky), time won’t allow for every rabbit hole.

What advice would you have for writers hoping to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be not to follow too closely in anyone’s footsteps. Yes, there is a certain path all writers find themselves on. There are certain things that we must all do like learning to write well, figuring out platform, going to writers conferences to meet the gatekeepers and figure out the way things have to be formatted and submitted and all that sort of thing. But it’s okay to veer off the path too and forge your own. There are those who have self-published who have found great success.

There are those who have written about subjects that they were told no one wanted to read about and found success. It’s smart to figure out what others have done before you to make them successful, but alter the formula to suit your needs and passions. It’s okay to be different, in fact, I think great success and maybe even happiness depends upon it. And by all means, read Novel and leave comments. It helps not only encourage those authors who have taken the time out of their day to teach us, but it also connects you to the writing community. Community is important. 

From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny's happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn't the last, yet the bruises that can't be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.