Chanukah or Christmas?

Hanukkah-in-Jerusalem-3

Chanukah in Jerusalem AP

The Jewish Feast of Dedication (Chanukah in Hebrew) begins Sunday evening and my husband will be lighting the first candle on our chanukiyah. The tradition of Chanukah began 165 years before the birth of Messiah. The apostle John (10:22-23) said, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.…”

 

Why is Chanukah associated with lights? When the Maccabees drove the Greeks out of Jerusalem. The priests found only a one-day supply of consecrated oil for the golden lampstand (which must burn continually before the Lord). Although consecrating oil is an eight-day process, the one-day supply kept the lampstand burning until the new oil was ready.

Tel Aviv Memoriah

Tel Aviv AP

 

Jerusalem celebrated the Lord’s miracle, and thus began the annual tradition of remembering the dedication of the Temple with lamps, candles, and—now—electric outdoor menorahs.

 

Jewish sages teach the menorah light is both physical and spiritual. According to the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, “The Sanctuary’s windows allowed the special ethereal light coming forth from the menorah to burst out to the world from within the hallowed hall.”

 

When Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world,” the citizens of Jerusalem knew exactly what he meant, and they called Him a blasphemer because only the light in the Temple represented the Lord’s light shining out to the world.

 

Warsaw AP photo

Warsaw

Stuttgart Jews Celebrate Hanukkah

STUTTGART, GERMANY – DECEMBER 16, 2014 (Photo by Alex Quesada/Getty Images)

Paris menorah

Paris AP

 

I grew up in a home that celebrated the Christmas season with baked goodies, midnight worship, a lit-up tree, and a few gifts. As a believer grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, I now find special meaning in Jewish traditions; the lessons in each resonates in the context of Yeshua’s all-too-short time on earth.

 

Do you think it is okay for non-Jews to celebrate Chanukah? And is it acceptable for Jews to share and celebrate the secular joy of Christmas. What do you think?

 

Born on the Fourth of July – Byways Series

Byways

This week I’m celebrating the anniversary of CJ Milbrandt’s fabulous fantasy series for kids, Byways! At the bottom of this post, you’ll find information about CJ’s anniversary sale!

I recently read Byways Book 2, “Aboard the Train: A Ewan Johns Adventure,”which follows the magical journey of Ewan, the eldest Johns brother as he competes against his two half-brothers in their race across the country. Magic runs on the Johns family. They’re Changers who can take the form of an animal. Not that magic will make winning the race any easier for Ewan, Zane, and Ganix. Subsequent books take turns following each of the boys’ adventures as they try to reach the rendezvous point first.

I highly recommend the Byways books. CJ’s website http://cjmilbrandt.com/ contains fabulous resources to enhance enjoyment of the series. For example, a waypoint log allows kids to submit their home state information and receive a unique seal similar to those of the Johns Brothers. (I confess, my inner child made me submit my name and state to receive my very own seal.) Kids can also mail a postcard to CJ and in return receive a postcard from one of the Johns Brothers.

Johns Brothers' Seals

Johns Brothers’ Seals

I’m thrilled CJ dropped in to talk about her inspirations and share what’s coming up in the latest books of this charming, magical series.

 

Byways was Born on the Fourth of July in 2014, and this year you’re celebrating the anniversary by running a sale. What is the significance of Independence Day in the Byways series?

Byways books are full of shape-shifters and rogue magicians; mythical creatures and runaway slaves. Then there are frightened stowaways and royal lineages, but they all have patriotic underpinnings. They subtly teach readers about the fifty states of the United States of America.

When I reached the end of my book, I noticed the “Let’s Play a Game” section, which included geography and fun facts about Delaware—the first state in the union. What can readers expect in the remaining Byways Books?

Each of the Byways books is tied to one of the fifty states and borrows from its history and geography—icons, mottos, landmarks, people, places, and famous firsts. They’re hidden throughout the story, turning the series into one long game of hide-and-seek. I’ll give you an example from Ewan’s first solo adventure.

Ewan the Eldest

Ewan the Eldest

Excerpt from Byways #2, Aboard the Train: A Ewan Johns Adventure…

“A race? Against your own brothers?” asked a chatty woman in a fuzzy green coat. “How exciting! Are they aboard this train? I want to meet them!”

Ewan Johns said, “No, Mrs. Throop. We each took different roads. And I chose the railroad.”

“Rush, rush, rush!” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t think I could chase from east to west Liberty. Too much effort! I’m more of an ambler. Yes, I’m quite the walker.” She patted the dog whose head poked out of her purse. “Isn’t that right, Sugarloaf?”

The dog with sandy fur growled.

Leola Throop kept right on talking. “And you’re the elder brother?”

“Eldest of three,” Ewan replied.

■ ■ ■

Byways Book 2

Byways Book 2

Byways Book #2 is tied to Pennsylvania, the second state to be ratified. At the end of each Byways book, there’s a master list that covers everything from the state tree to the state insect. Nicknames, sports teams, state heroes, and national parks also find their way into the story.

My illustrator even fit two allusions into the cover art—the Liberty Bell and Pennsylvania’s iconic keystone shape.

I homeschooled my children and they would have loved Byways. The books are a fun way for parents and kids to learn about history and geography, not to mention appreciation of the intricate, whimsical art. The series could be categorized in more than one genre.

Byways is a twist on the fantasy quest genre. Three half-brothers take sibling rivalry to new lengths by challenging each other to a cross-country race. While away from home, the Johns brothers encounter things that shake up their ideas and shape their ideals. So the storyline also fits the coming-of-age category.

What age range are you writing for?

These books are for young readers who are ready for chapter books (ages 6-10). However, I wrote the stories with parents in mind. As a mother of five, I listened to a whole lot of read-aloud books, and most of them failed to hold my interest. I wanted to create a kids’ series adults would enjoy. Incidentally, the books will “age up” with readers, increasing in both the length and complexity. By the end, we’ll be in middlegrade territory.

This adult thinks you’ve succeeded in creating a kids series that parents will enjoy! Is there a common thread that holds all the books together?

Readers meet Mr. Ian Johns, Postmaster of a land called Liberty. Ian’s three sons bicker too much, so he plans a family trip, hoping the boys will bond. But everything gets turned around, and their tour becomes a race. Three routes stretch from coast to coast. The rules: each brother—and his two companions—must check in at post offices along their route. At these waypoints, they stamp in with their personal seal and report their progress by postcard.

Excerpt from Book #1, On Your Marks: The Adventures Begins… (and check out the special details in this gorgeous cover)

Byways Book 1

Byways Book 1

Crash!

Laurel jumped when loud growling came from the front hall. Hooves clattered, and a howl filled the house with its high, eerie note. “There they go again,” she said.

“What now?” Ian hurried out of the kitchen. He slowed to step over the shattered pieces of a glass candle stand. “Boys? What’s the meaning of …!”

He was interrupted when a full-grown elk minced past with a young raccoon dangling from his antlers.

“Not in the house!” Ian started after them, but a snarling wolf zoomed between his legs, tripping him. For a moment, Ian was afraid the silver wolf was going to bite the elk. But the wolf only jumped and snapped at the raccoon’s ringed tail.

Laurel charged in, eyes flashing. “Stop this nonsense before someone gets hurt!” Without a speck of fear, she threw her arms around the big wolf’s neck. “For shame, Zane.”

Ian addressed the elk. “I’m surprised at you, Ewan.”

Magic stirred, and the elk Changed into a young man. Ewan still had a chittering raccoon riding on his head, making a mess of his long hair. “I’m sorry, Father. I was only trying to get between them.”

“It’s Ganix’s fault.” Zane had also Changed back. He sat and sulked in the circle of his step-mother’s arms. “He started it.”

Ian lifted the half-grown raccoon off Ewan’s head. Curling up in his father’s arms, the coon blinked happily and churred. His dad said, “Nice try, mister, but being cute won’t save you. Or that crystal candle holder. That was a family heirloom!”

“Change back, Ganix,” Laurel said firmly.

A moment later, the boy mumbled, “I didn’t mean to, Dad. Sorry, Mom.”

Ian shook his head. Laurel was right. It was high time to reveal his new plan.

■ ■ ■

To celebrate the first anniversary of the series kick-off, I’m running sales on selected Byways titles. Take advantage of these e-book deals and introduce yourself to Ewan the Eldest.

Byways Series

Byways Series

  • Byways #1: On Your Marks: The Adventure Begins is FREE from June 30–July 3, 2015.
  • Byways #2: Aboard the Train: A Ewan Johns Adventure is FREE from June 30–July 3, 2015
  • Byways #7: Inside the Tree: A Ewan Johns Adventure is on sale until July 8. The quicker you catch this Kindle Countdown Deal, the better the bargain. Starting at $1.99 on July 1.

There are currently seven titles in the Byways series. The next three release in October 2015. Find out more at CJMilbrandt.com, and “like” the Byways series on Facebook.

C.J. Milbrandt

C.J. Milbrandt

J. Milbrandt has always believed in miracles, especially small ones. A lifelong bookworm with a love for fairy tales, far-off lands, and fantasy worlds, CJ began spinning adventures of her own on the advice of a dear friend. Her family-friendly stories mingle humor and whimsy with a dash of danger and a touch of magic.

Dear Readers, if you’ve ready any Byways books, which brother is your favorite character?

The Art of Self-Deception Part II

or…How to Drown in a Teacup

Greetings from the Great (wet) state of Texas. The Trinity River here in Henderson County has been approximately fifteen feet over flood stage—give or take a couple of feet—for several weeks. After nearly four months of rain, we are praying for more sunny days.

Vanessa Morton Trinity River Henderson County

Vanessa Morton
Trinity River Henderson County

The water table in Henderson County is typically high due to numerous lakes and springs, even without the recent heavy rains. Roher Springs, five miles away, is one of three sources of Ozarka bottled water in the southwest. Likewise, my family enjoys sweet well water from an underground spring in our vineyard, a mere 35 feet below the surface.

So . . . what does flooding have in common with Drowning in a Teacup? I’m glad you asked!

After my life-changing health challenges (read Part I), I’m gradually returning to my passion—writing—but this time it’s different. Previously, I agonized over passages, phrases, and dialog while drafting. Thus, my writing—overwhelmed by trivia—sometimes “drowned in a teacup” of my own making.

drowning in a teacup

Help!

With greater self-clarity, I now realize my perfectionism was only another form of self-deception. For example, while I tweaked, polished, and re-tied plot threads, I avoided the big issue: What if no one liked my books? Unpublished, my stories were still my babies with infinite potential. Once they left the nest, however, I’d have to face the reality that not everyone would find them superbly brilliant or vastly entertaining.

Now I write for myself instead of an audience, and I resist editorial backtracking until after the end of the rough draft.

Having a health crisis is strangely freeing, yet somehow poignant. I mourn the fact I wasted time, not only on my writing habits, but also on the mundane. Being unable to do some tasks—such as housework—released my inner perfectionist. Despite my initial misgivings, I found the world did not stop spinning when I failed to dust the house for a month.

The creator made each of us unique, and I believe your stories are different than mine and we can learn from each other. Would you share the techniques that help you meet your goals while maintaining balance?

 

Christa Kinde’s Alter Ego Tells All . . . and a chance to win an autographed, beautifully-illustrated book and an e-book as well!

Today, we have a very special guest, Christa Kinde (KIN-dee), prolific author of fairy tales, epic adventures, comic misadventures, light and sweet romance, clever allegories, whimsical fantasies, far-flung journeys, knotty mysteries, and more.

Christa, thanks for posting in The Scriblerians ‘visiting author’ slam book:

Nicknames: Marmee, CJ, codename “Sugar Daddy” (my husband is “Nacho Mama”)
Genre: Fantasy & Christian Speculative Fiction
Personal Philosophy: “Be brave and do your best.”
Fave Scripture: “Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.” –Micah 6:8
Fave Quote: “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” –C. S. Lewis
In high school, I was a… voracious bookworm with lamentable social skills and a formidable vocabulary.

 
Christa we’re delighted you joined us today to talk about the Galleries of Stone series. After publishing so many successful books, why did you write this trilogy under the nom deplume C. J. Milbrandt?

The books I’ve written as Christa Kinde—both fiction and nonfiction—belong solidly in the Christian market. When I approached my publisher about doing a fantasy series, they advised me to abandon the plan. It didn’t fit my author brand. So I shelved a short stack of magic-laced manuscripts and focused on the angels and demons in my Threshold Series.

But I began quietly investigating my indie options. Maybe it’s because I’m a “from scratch” kind of gal, but I love managing the creative process from start to finish. So my family-friendly fantasy is published under my maiden name—C. J. Milbrandt.

c-j-milbrandt
And all of us are very glad you made the decision to follow your dream! I recently read Rakefang, the riveting third book of the Galleries of Stone, and I found it very hard to put down each night. What is your inspiration for such diverse stories?

Story ideas aren’t hard to come by. It’s near impossible to avoid the pesky things. Their ambushes throw my imagination into a tizzy and make me wish I could type faster.

However, Galleries of Stone trilogy is a special case. The story began as a personal challenge. For one year, I used an online dictionary’s “word of the day” as inspiration for my daily installment. On January 1, all I knew for sure was that the Keeper of the Gray Mountain was a banished Pred—a sheep in wolf’s clothing. And that Tupper Meadowsweet, his new Flox servant, was either brave, dense, or brilliant.

With each day’s addition, new complexities unfolded. I built the world to suit the story’s needs, making new discoveries right along with Tupper. By December 31, I had 366 chapters (2012 was a leap year) and more than 300,000 words. After some minor edits and a few additions, I released Galleries of Stone as a trilogy: Book One: Meadowsweet (2013), Book Two: Harrow (2014) and Book Three: Rakefang (2015).

Your target audience is tweens/teens, yet I’m also drawn to the delicately entwined layers of allegory and symbolism. What do you hope readers—of all ages—will take away from your books? 

I’ve often wished that books could be rated “E for Everyone.” I write what I enjoy reading—adventures with action, a surprising turn of events, a hint of mystery, and a smidgen of romance. If only “heart-warming” was a genre.

Takeaways? Hmm. The three highest compliments my stories have received are laughter, tears, and a warmly-expressed intention to re-read. I want folks to come away from a book feeling that they know the characters. Let’s add joy over the journey they’ve just taken. Satisfaction in its resolution. Anticipation for what’s to come. And with each successive title, a deepening trust in the storyteller.

Well, I for one am hooked because I’ve already started re-reading them. One of the things I like is that Galleries of Stone and your other series immerse readers into the heart of a rich story world, where customs, culture, and relationships unfold in a natural way (and I’d be remiss to not mention that the covers and chapter headings are like works of art). Can you tell us more about how you develop such detailed, fantasy worlds?

Over the course of the trilogy, I invented multiple cultures. Pred are vicious conquerors with an elitist mindset. Grif add a showman’s flourish to all they do. Drom are cantankerous plodders with a passion for spice and melons. Clow honor their tribal ancestry. Fwan are gentle lovers of beauty, but brutally superstitious. It’s a vast and varied world.

By contrast, Tupper’s whole life is bound up in one small village. He didn’t know there were other races of men. He’d never heard of magic. He had no concept of an ocean, let alone distant continents. But when confronted with a wider world, Tupper rolls up his sleeves and chips away at racial barriers. He adapts and adopts new ways of thinking, seeing, and doing. Frey’s “lambkin” makes a big difference in small ways.

Yes, he does. Tupper is one of my favorite characters.  In the Galleries of Stone series, which character is most like you and why? 

There’s a little bit of me sprinkled throughout the trilogy—attitudes, insights, bits of advice, turns of phrase. The strongest resemblances would likely be Carden’s love of family, Freydolf’s restlessness to create, and Aurelius’s formidable vocabulary. 

If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which one would it be and what would you do together?

I wish I had the courage to say Aurelius, but he scares me. So Freydolf. And since the Keeper can’t stray far from his mountain, I’d ask for a tour of the Statuary.

I, too, would like a tour of the statuary and the magical figures the Keeper carefully reveals within the stone! The mountain is a place that came alive for me through your writing!

Christa, thank you for coming on The Scriblerians to talk to our readers! I’ve listed her contact info below. Her websites and blogs are a wonderful world of sample chapters, beautiful artwork, and behind the scenes info on your favorite stories. Check it out!

Continue reading below for a sample chapter from the first book of the Galleries of Stone Trilogy and a chance to win an autographed, beautifully-illustrated book and an e-book as well!

Christa Kinde
Website/Bloghttps://christakinde.wordpress.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ChristaKinde
Twitter – @ChristaKinde
GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/642522.Christa_Kinde

C.J. Milbrandt
Website/Bloghttp://cjmilbrandt.com/
Galleries of Stone on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Galleries-of-Stone/1480104452254159
Byways on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Byways/840562655975459
Twitter – @Elymnifoquent
GoodReadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7465580.C_J_Milbrandt

Christa’s books are available here:
Christa Kinde on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Christa-Kinde/e/B007O45N7A C. J. Milbrandt on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/C.-J.-Milbrandt/e/B00H1D6PLW

Galleries of Stone Trilogy

Galleries of Stone Trilogy

 

 

Excerpt from Galleries of Stone, Book 1: Meadowsweet

With a flurry of silk and sulk, Aurelius burst into the workshop and demanded, “Have you seen the sprat?”

Freydolf glanced over the top of the golden stone he was marking and inquired, “Recently?”

“Since breakfast,” his brother-in-law clarified.

“I’ve been a little distracted.”

“And I’m being driven to distraction! Do you know how much work is waiting?”

“Yes and no,” Freydolf replied vaguely. “I usually leave such things to you.”

Aurelius rolled his eyes. “Very trusting of you, but I thought we’d agreed that you’d be entrusting your pet to me for the duration.”

“Aye.”

“So you haven’t seen him?” Aurelius prodded.

“Maybe he’s hiding from you.” Giving the other man a stern look, he added, “You could have been more polite at breakfast.”

“I was!” he insisted. “For me.”

Freydolf snorted and said, “If you don’t bridle your tongue, you’ll never win the lad over.”

“I’ll bridle my tongue when you collar your pet,” Aurelius muttered. “He’d be easier to find if you kept him on a leash.”

“Have you tried behind the rimbles in the upper loggia?”

The other Pred blinked. “The what in the where?”

“In the upper loggia,” Freydolf patiently repeated. After offering a convoluted set of directions to the tucked-away spot, he remarked, “It’s pleasant there, especially in summertime.”

Aurelius stared dubiously at his brother-in-law. “Do you really expect me to believe that I’ll find him way up there?”

“Not really,” Freydolf admitted, turning his attention back to the stone and making a sweeping chalk line along its side. With a growl, Aurelius exited the workshop, and Freydolf looked down at the boy sitting on the floor between his feet and winked broadly.

Tupper’s eyes shone with gratitude, admiration, and the rare delight of a shared secret. He was quite sure that his Pred was bigger and better than any other.

–End of excerpt–

Dear readers, we would love to hear from you. Tell us which book of the Galleries of Stone you’d like to win, or ask Christa a burning question you’ve always wanted to know about the fantastic realms she creates, or simply leave your thoughts on today’s post!  

One lucky commenter will win The Blue Door from Christa’s Threshold series and another lucky commenter will win an e-book of choice from the Galleries of Stone trilogy.

(if you have technical problems leaving a comment, scroll up and click on the blog title; the comment form will then appear at the bottom!)

 

A rose by any other name . . .

Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Or would it?

Objects have different meanings to different people. This is a photo from my daughter’s recent wedding.

Wedding Photo

What do you think could be happening in this photo and why?

I would love to hear your thoughts . . .  in as few words as possible, write a story about this picture and paste it into your comment below.

Ready. Set. Go!

“Exodus: Gods and Kings” Biblical History or Entertainment?

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

Last week I watched Sir Ridley Scott’s new movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings. A cast led by Christian Bale and Ben Kingsley, epic cinematography, a sure formula for success. Right?

 

Colossal statues at Abu Simbel 1

Colossal Ramses Statues 20th Century Fox – Exodus Gods and Kings

 Colossal statues of Abu Simbel by torchlight in their original glory, detailed sets of Pharaoh’s palace, and intriguing portrayals of pyramid-building made my inner archaeologist turn cartwheels.

 

Several character-driven scenes establish the conflict as sibling rivalry (Moses and Ramses) which deepens to a war of of cultures when both men learn Moses was born of the slave cast.

 

Moses and Zipporah.  20th Century Fox - Exodus: Gods and Kings

Moses and Zipporah. 20th Century Fox – Exodus: Gods and Kings

So far so good. Then Moses—exiled and married to a Midianite—attempts to retrieve three sheep from what his wife refers to as the Mountain of God. He stumbles and is partially buried in a rockslide. When the burning bush appears, Moses is lying in the rubble with a broken leg. No voice admonished Moses to remove his sandals while standing on holy ground (perhaps because Scott had Bale lying flat on his back?). Instead, a boy with a British accent cryptically encourages Moses to help his people. Meh.

 

bow training EntertainmentWeekly

Moses showing Hebrews low-intensity-warfare Entertainment Weekly

Back in Pi-Ramses, a most-unhumble Moses returns to train Hebrew men the skill of low-intensity warfare—attacking high value targets and quickly withdrawing. This turn of events surprised me, but I can’t say it’s impossible, given that human nature first strives to solve our problems without supernatural assistance. I’m still pondering that one.

 

Plague of Hail.  20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

Plague of Hail. 20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

And then the first plague begins. Instead of Aaron jabbing his staff into the Nile and turning the waters to blood, a cadre of giant crocodiles kills several fishermen and animals, enough to turn the entire Nile and all the canals red with blood. In fact, Aaron was largely absent the entire movie. Odd, given that he was the designated spokesman for a stuttering Moses.

After the brutal ‘crocodile’ plague, the rest follow, each shown as a natural consequence of the previous . . . except the Passover. In the evening, a dense dark shadow steals across the city, swallowing up the light one street at a time and stealing the breath of each firstborn who did not have the blood of the Passover lamb in the door. It had the kind of supernatural shock and awe that gives me the shivers.

 

pharaoh chariots

Near the end of the movie, hemmed in between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, Moses despairs of leading the Hebrews to freedom. Frustrated, he throws his gold Egyptian sword into the water. Immediately, the entire sea retracts southward until completely out of sight … huh? Even Disney’s Prince of Egypt got that part right. Are we to believe the sword was imbued with magical Egyptian power?

At the conclusion, the Hebrews were depressed, not joyous as depicted in Miriam’s song, even after the Pharaoh’s demise. And speaking of Ramses … I don’t have enough space here to explain all my objections to Ramses being depicted as the Pharaoh of the exodus. An excellent analysis of the Exodus within the historical context is postulated in the Associates for Biblical Research by Dr. Bryant Wood http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/09/Debunking-The-Exodus-Decoded.aspx. The site contains many other valuable resources about the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan.

Bible and Spade Magazine

Bible and Spade Magazine

 

I can enjoy a Biblical movie even if it omits minor details due to production time constraints, but to turn the actual events on their heads and remove the Lord from the equation is another story. I struggled with my final opinion of the movie, due to the well-researched historical settings, but in the end, I remembered John Calvin, who said, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

If you’ve seen Exodus: Gods and Kings, what did you like/not like about it? Do you think it’s permissible for movie adaptations to take creative license with the Bible?.