Category Archives: guest blog

Fiery Christmas

Merry Christmas! This month, my daughter Libby wrote a Flash Fiction piece. It is her first try at writing fiction this way. She worked hard on it and endured her mother’s edits. I hope you enjoy it. For more Holiday flash fiction, check out Splickety magazine’s most recent issue.

As my gaze fell upon my seat at the dinner table, my joy for Christmas fell like the shepherds in the field.  “I can’t believe you’re making me sit between the crazies.”  I faced my mother, flipping my hand at the chair.

She didn’t even bother arguing, we both knew she agreed.  My mother’s sisters, Kelly-Anne and Barbara-Jean, were crazier than sprayed roaches.  It’s a wonder my logical, mild-mannered mother is related to them.  I mean, Kelly-Anne thinks she’s Scarlett O-Hara and Barbara-Jean’s still livin’ in the fifties!  It may have made sense if she’d been alive in the fifties, but she was born in 1973, so she had no excuse.  Nevertheless, they’re family, so I took my place and prayed for patience.

“How lovely you look this evening darling,” Kelly-Anne commented in her syrupy Southern accent.  “Barbara, would you be a dear and pass the preserves?”

Barbara-Jean leaned forward for the sweet peaches, tilting her cotton candy bouffant over grandma’s candles. Just a slight wobble and the outdated style caught on the flickering wicks.  The fire ringing her head reminded me of an angel’s halo, but Barbara-Jean was no heavenly being. She shrieked loud enough to scare the birds further south for the winter.

My father ran to the kitchen for the fire extinguisher.

Kelly-Anne flapped her arms. “Gracious darling, your hair’s in flames!”  Apparently, she forgot Southern Belles don’t shout.

Mother attempted to douse the flames with the water from her crystal goblet. However, the hairspray Barbara-Jean covered her hair with every morning fueled the fire.  By the time the inferno was extinguished, the bouffant was little more than a poodle cut.  It took grandma three days, seven vanilla scented candles, and two bottles of Febreeze to remove the stench.  Barbara-Jean gained a little sense that day and never wore her hair in a bouffant again, moving to the sixties with a beehive.

Gifts of a Changed Perspective

I’m so happy to have my friend Juana Jordan sharing a message this week. During this season of busy days, I pray that we will pause and look around for people who need love. What better gift could we give?

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son,” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” — John 19:26-27

Rev. Juana Jordan is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, where she is currently planting the soon-to-be Bridges UMC in the city, a multi-ethnic intergenerational faith community in the downtown urban core of her hometown. As an elder in full connection of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Jordan holds a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Ga. and a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. She is the former senior pastor of Harris Chapel UMC in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., her very first appointment where she served for 5 years and is passionate about pursuing her passion as a Gospel storyteller, teacher and writer, and believes like the Rev. Dr. Nancy Lane that “telling our stories is a holy work.” When time permits, Rev. Jordan can be found at the local kickboxing gym, dancing to the rhythmic beats of the African drums or thrift store and consignment shopping. Follow Juana on Instagram at preachergirl_in_the_city.

I remember praying I wouldn’t be asked to preach this text for a Good Friday service. Of all the seven last words of Jesus, this was a passage I feared. Not only did it not seem sexy enough (yes, there are passages that are sexy, therefore making them easy to preach), but it didn’t seem to offer kindling to get a good fire started — or so I thought. Besides, how could I relate to this passage. I am not a mother nor a wife. I am a no children having, single, never been married preacher and in no way can I relate to the Jesus/child/parent dynamic — or so I thought. So with hesitation, “fear and trembling” and in obedience I accepted the challenge to deliver a message, only to be surprised at what Jesus revealed. I did in fact understand the feelings that can rise up when the one you depended on being there is no longer there. I did understand the anxiety around the thought of being alone for the rest of your life. I did understand the feelings of not wanting to go on or knowing whether you can go on and how to go on when your life is torn apart. As a single, never been married, no children having woman, I guess I really could understood the absence of a family and the fear of not having one.

Jesus was Mary’s son, yes, and he was also her family. Jesus was John’s friend, yes, and he was also his family. And in a compassionate expression of selfless love, Jesus introduced them and “gave them” to each other so that they would be each other’s family. Jesus handled it, in an unexpected way. He covered their silent fears and concerns of loneliness and aloneness in one fail swoop. He sent the message that bloodlines don’t necessarily bind us. It’s the love lines we have with each other that matter. It was a point he made to the disciples: “And they will know that you belong to me by your love for each other.” (John 13:35) In other words, it is our act of love and acceptance and embracing of each other that speaks the language of family. Jesus’ action is a reminder of what he does for all of us — loves us so fiercely by adopting us into his family and connecting us to others who share his call to love beyond traditions and societal and familial boundaries. He reminds us of what it means to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. He reminds us of what family looks like and what its members do — they care for each other.

In this holiday season, I was reminded of this gift of family through this passage. I was reminded of the many times Jesus has turned me and others over to each other and sealed us as members of the same family. I was reminded, in the moments of loneliness, that I am, in fact, not alone, but a part of many families that stretch from my days in college, my work in the cities I have lived as a journalist and now those given through my vocation as a pastor and preacher.

What a beautiful present in this season of Hallmark commercials, movies and holiday billboards that can sometimes taint our mood, cloud our perspective and leave us feeling as Mary and John — that love is gone and we belong to no one and no one belongs to us. What a beautiful sight, when in those times, Jesus, in his surprising, unexpected way, commands us to look around to see who is among us and who is with us and what we have been given. He invites us to change our perspective. How has Jesus invited you to change your perspective this season? Who are those Jesus has invited you to name and claim as family? Because I am almost certain that in looking into their faces, we see Jesus and are reminded once again, like insurance, He’s got us covered!

Faith in Seasons of Waiting by Lauren Luckhart

Lately, it seems, my life moves from one season of waiting to another. I would be willing to bet, too, that most people would share that sentiment. Maybe it’s because there are deep-seeded longings in my heart that are still at arm’s length, or maybe because I’ve reached the age where big milestones are spread farther apart, but I am keenly aware of the waiting seasons in my life right now.

Full confession? Learning to surrender my timeline has been hard. Really hard. I’m a work in progress. We live in a world of instant gratification and self-entitlement and I’m often guilty of impatience. There’s an old saying that says something to the tune of, “While your waiting for an open door, praise God in the hallway.” Waiting is difficult, especially when what we’re waiting for is a desire so deep we can think of little else. But the greater dependence on God that waiting creates is something I’m learning to be grateful for. When I realize there is nothing I can do but pray and trust God in a situation I can’t control, it draws me closer to Him, and renews my spirit to the truth of His provision and goodness.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is James. If you’ve never read through James, I encourage you to take 20 minutes and read it today. James 1:2-4 is a life verse for me. It says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV) In this verse, we are challenged to view our trials with joy. Waiting can so often be a trial. Yet when we rest in the truth that God meets us in those trials, equips us to stand, and supplies our every need, our faith grows.

Can waiting be a testing of your faith?  Absolutely! But let’s refocus our prayers from seeking what we want, to seeking God’s will, no matter what. We must be careful not to let our desires become idols. If God places something in our hearts, and His word teaches that, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NIV), then we must believe that even if His answer is different than our desired outcome, it’s for our good. That takes big faith, friend, and surrender. God moves in His timing and for His glory, and as I look back and trace His hand in my life, I’m grateful for His perfect leading.

What are you currently waiting and praying for while you’re standing in the hallway? Is there a job you’ve been working toward and you’re praying for an interview and offer? Is your raw and aching heart praying for that pregnancy test to finally read positive? Have you put everything within you into the manuscript that’s now in the hands of an agent, editor, or publishing house, and you’re waiting for the email that could change the course of your writing journey? You’re not alone. I’m in the hallway with you, praying for you, and hoping this season reveals to you in new and mighty ways, how good and loving our Father is.

Author Bio:

Lauren Luckhart is an aspiring Christian author of Historical Romance. Having been born in the South but raised in the North, she now calls Chattanooga, TN home and is loving every minute of Southern exposure.

An avid history and movie buff, she can be found regularly geeking out over historical facts and blockbuster films. In addition to spending time with her close-knit family, Lauren is a coffee and travel enthusiast, crochet hobbyist, graduate of Bryan College with a B.S. degree in Business Administration, hair stylist of eight years, and loves to connect with others on social media.

Social Media Handles:

Facebook: @authorlaurenluckhart

Instagram: @authorlaurenluckhart

Website: laurenluckhart.com

 

Inspiration for the novel Still Waters by Lindsey Brackett

Award-winning writer Lindsey P. Brackett once taught middle grades literature, but now she writes her own works in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of print and online publications including Thriving Family, Country Extra, HomeLife, Northeast Georgia Living, Splickety Magazine, Spark Magazine, and Southern Writers Magazine. In both 2015 and 2017, she placed in the top ten for Southern Writers Magazine Best Short Fiction. Previously, Lindsey served as Editor of Web Content for the Splickety Publishing Group, and currently she is a general editor with Firefly Southern Fiction, an imprint of LPC Books. In addition, she writes a popular column for several North Georgia newspapers.
Still Waters, influenced by her family ties to the South Carolina Lowcountry, is her debut novel. A story about the power of family and forgiveness, it’s been called “a brilliant debut” with “exquisite writing.” A Georgia native, Lindsey makes her home—full of wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee—at the foothills of Appalachia with her patient husband and their four rowdy children.
Connect with her at www.lindseypbrackett.com, where she Just Writes Life, on Facebook as Lindsey P. Brackett, on Instagram @lindseypbrackett, or on Twitter @lindsbrac.

I’m so happy to have my friend and mentor, Lindsey Brackett, guest blogging this week. If you have been following me at all, you know that Lindsey’s first book, Still Waters, launched on September 8th. It is a story of family, forgiveness, and love set on Edisto Island, South Carolina. Click here to read my review: Still Waters Review 

In this post, Lindsey shares the story behind Still Waters. Enjoy the behind the scenes tour and order yours here: Amazon

Everyone always wants to know the story behind the story, especially when you do a good Southern thing and steal from your family history to write a book.

Truth is, my novel, Still Waters, really started with a place—Edisto Beach, where my family spent most summers of my childhood. Nan is actually modeled after my maternal grandmother. My cousins and I called her Grandmommy White Hair. She died, unexpectedly, the Christmas I was ten. Much of this story was motivated by the “what if she’d lived” scenario. What would she have been like for me to experience as an adult? She was a true Southern lady and my mother, aunt, and uncle make sure we grandkids remember her and our grandfather, who died two years later. They told us he died of a broken heart.

My grandparents farmed tobacco in Colleton County, South Carolina. Every summer in August, after the tobacco was brought in from the fields, the family went to Edisto Beach. She and her siblings continued this tradition with their children, and each summer we rented a big, ramshackle house for a week. We hunted snail shells and made homemade ice cream and watched Grandmommy play solitaire.

On Edisto, time somehow seems to move more slowly. So when I wrote Still Waters, I focused on getting that Edisto pace just right. There’s a phrase I use in the story “an invitation to linger hung among the Spanish moss of the live oaks edging the highway” and for me, that captures this sense of stepping back in time. It’s a place to let your soul be refreshed—or restored like Cora Anne’s.

Ultimately this has always been a story of homecoming, relying on the power of family that ties us to a place. Perhaps that’s why it’s struck such a chord with so many people, already, so early in its release. All I did was attempt to evoke what compelled my family to return to this almost-forgotten piece of shore—you truly drive through forgotten America to find it—and somehow, that has spoken to many readers.

I think it’s because we all want to find that one place we belong, that one place that we call home, that one place, where you can go back and no matter how long you’ve been gone—you’re a local. Your roots are embedded there. Edisto is my place and it has been a joy to share it with this story.

Drop me a line and tell me about yours?

How to Write Flash Fiction by Kimberly Duffy, editor of Spark

Life is busy. There’s kids, cooking, work, grocery shopping, and all-too-often trips to the ER. Sometimes opening up a good book feels like a vacation—which is probably the only time you have to read.

And then you’re a writer, so you must write. But what do you do when all of those kids and chores and stitches interfere, the clock has struck midnight, and you’re still scraping burnt chicken Cacciatore from the bottom of your frying pan?

Enter Flash fiction.

A story fewer than 1,000 words—complete with a beginning, middle, and end, dialogue, character development, and conflict. All of that in less than an hour.

Flash fiction is my go to when I’ve just finished a big project and need to write without pressure. It’s what I write when I want to experiment with a new genre. It’s what I read when I’m sitting in the preschool drop-off line. It’s where beginning writers go when they need to practice, increase publishing credits, and build a platform. It’s where experienced writers get their book in front of a new audience and refine their craft.

Flash fiction isn’t easy. Have you ever written a synopsis? Did you have to cut that synopsis down by half because telling an entire 85,000 word book in three, double-spaced pages seems impossible? Try telling an entire story in 700 words.

You’ve got to be ruthless with extraneous words, picky with description, and clever with dialogue. Everything must do double duty. Can two characters be combined into one? Do we really need to know the hero has a smoldering gaze and killer biceps? Can you wrap up the story three paragraphs early and leave the reader with only the tantalization of what’s to come?

Here are six tips for writing great flash fiction:

Don’t rely on telling. It’s tempting because it’s so much faster, but the same rules for writing a good novel apply to good flash fiction.

Pick a moment or scene. You can’t tell an entire story, from the meet cute to the HEA, in one or two pages.

Stick to one POV and only a few characters. Less is more with flash fiction. Let us get to know one character well, instead of just barely understanding three.

Eliminate backstory. A line or two sprinkled throughout is enough to tell us what we need, and if it’s not, maybe the backstory is the real story.

Conflict is important. Make sure the character doesn’t get what he wants until the end. It’s just as easy to put down a boring flash fiction piece as a boring novel.

Remove anything nonessential—modifiers, descriptions, adverbs, redundancies, explanations, and boring bits. If it’s not pushing the plot forward, get rid of it.

Everyone wants things that are fast—cars, phones, food, entertainment, and fashion. Most people will not read War and Peace because of the length. Many ignore novels altogether. Flash fiction is a way to capture new readers and it’s a virtually untapped—yet growing—market. So, hurry up and write something short. Something powerful. Something sweet. Something marvelous.

Something written in an hour and read in five minutes can stay with you long after you’ve finished five loads of laundry and brought your child to the hospital for another cast.

You can get e-subscriptions of all three Splickety imprints for free by signing up for our newsletter at www.splickety.com.

Bio: Kimberly Duffy writes historical women’s fiction and romance when she’s not homeschooling her four children. She’s lead editor for Spark Magazine, an imprint of Splickety Publishing Group, and a Genesis semifinalist. In her free time, she scours Goodwill for cute outfits to feature on Instagram and wishes she could drink coffee.

Social media:

http://kimberlyduffy.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKimberlyDuffy/

https://www.instagram.com/welldressedwriter/

https://twitter.com/kimduffyauthor

Shattered by Kailee Diaz

Shattered

We live where the weeds pop from the field grass at the start of each spring. Much to my southern husband’s chagrin, those aggressive little plants don’t stop their onslaught for the next three months of summer. He claims, he’s never seen anything like it, and I believe him because—well, in the southern heat of Georgia, not much grows past a certain point of the year.

Poor transplanted man of mine…

Ironically, that’s not the only thing growing in these parts, from the corn that’s about “yea high” (I’m motioning to my shoulders just in case you can’t see), to the kids who keep inching taller, our place is a well-spring of life. And with that, comes the busyness of lawn mowing season, the wild yelps of toddlers ready to enter the summer sun, and a little more chaos then the usual season.

Why just the other day, the littles knocked a lamp from its side table while playing in the house. They had been captive for quite some time and probably needed the sun to free their energy-filled bodies from the small indoor space. But whatever the reason, these poor littles knocked that lamp to the ground, and it shattered—in the blink of an eye.

Glass lay strewn across the floor, a wobbly, unfixable lamp resting by its side.

Sometimes life happens in an instant. Doesn’t it?

It’s those inexplicable moments, where we sit back and can hardly catch our breath. The glass is shattered at our feet, and we’re left with the pieces of a life that once was…

Maybe for you, it’s a life-altering diagnosis, a barren womb, an unattainable marriage, a lost child, and you’re sitting back grasping for any wholesome piece left behind.

You, my dear sweet friend, to you I say, you’re not alone.

He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Isaiah 53:3

How is it, in our deepest desperations we sometimes feel the most solitude?

Whatever the quiet aching of your heart, there is a man who is acquainted with your grief, both in a human way of understanding and in the capacity and sovereignty of an all-knowing God. This man, this Jesus, knows what you’re experiencing. Better yet, He’s not indifferent to it, my friend.

As a child, I grew up with a grandfather diagnosed with Parkinson’s. For those of you not aware, Parkinson’s is a crippling disease. It attacks the brain and nervous system, so that its victim can’t control their muscle movements.

My grandfather had to leave his pastorate far too soon. He loved ministry and people in a way that for all my love of words, I can’t express in written form. One of the first Parkinson’s patients to have electrodes placed inside his brain to help control the muscle spasms, he spent years plagued by a disease which had no cure.

And yet, even through suffering, He lived a life of joy. He couldn’t physically participate in our outdoor excursions, but he often pulled the board games from the shelf, challenging us to a chess match or taking the least opportune moment to prepare a bowl of ice cream, just because…

Looking back, I know these moments weren’t for show. His joy welled from inside of him. He spent many quiet hours in a back study, diving into God’s Word, praying, leaning.

I hope to never experience what he went through, but if God so chooses me, I pray my heart would set into Him like my grandfather’s. My God is a man of sorrows and grief. He is acquainted with my world, even in its shattering.

And that, my dear sweet friends, can carry a body through life.

Kailee’s a Christian historical-romance novelist and member of ACFW. She’s the daughter of a preacher, with generations of pastors filling her ancestry. A former middle school writing teacher, Kailee now writes full-time. She’s happily married to a wonderful husband, and together they’re expecting their first child in August. While she lives in America’s heartland, amongst cornfields and open skies, her passion for travel and love of history drive her stories.
Through fiction and in life, Kailee seeks to leave a legacy for future tales to be told. She hopes you’ll join her in the wonderment of God’s faithfulness to you and those who follow in your footsteps.
If you’d like to learn more, please visit www.kaileediaz.com or check her out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorkaileediaz/