Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Encounters with Bears

In my first novel in my Alaskan Waters series, Till the Storm Passes By, the protagonist, Evie, encounters bears. Both black and brown bears are plentiful in Alaska. My worst nightmares growing up there involved fleeing from bears, probably because a boy my age was mauled by a bear and blinded for life.

Or, maybe it was because when I was four years old, my mother told me to play with a bear! Don't get me wrong. She was a good, loving mother. But strange things can happen in Alaska, especially in 1950.

That morning I was standing at the railing on our open porch that ran along the front of the house to the entry door at the second floor. The house faced a steep bank in front. The back of the house rose straight up from the beach. A long flight of wooden stairs at one end connected the porch from the highway above and down the steep bank along the side of the house to the beach below.

When a huge, black animal lumbered up from the beach under the porch, I was petrified. I'd always been afraid of big dogs, but this was the biggest "dog" I'd ever seen. Wide-eyed, rooted in place, I watched as its gigantic head swiveled over its shoulder. With stained fangs bared, it glared at me with bloodshot eyes, A low growl rumbled from its throat.

Unable to move, I followed it with my eyes as it climbed the hill to the road and disappeared into the woods beyond. Only then could I run screaming into the kitchen. "Mommy! Mommy! There's a big, black dog out there without any tail, and it growled at me!"

"Oh, go on out and play with it," she said. "It won't hurt you."

Just then, two teenagers from the nearest house burst in carrying rifles. Breathless, they asked, "Did you see the bear in your yard?"

"Oh, no! I just told AnnaLee to go out and play with it!"

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Seven Truths I Learned from Christian Fiction

A love of books was instilled in me from my childhood and youth. When we visited our grandparents for the summers in the tiny fishing village of Pelican, Alaska, Grandma Personeus would read aloud to us at every opportunity. As a teenager, Christian novels were my constant companions. To provide us with good reading material on cold, dark winter evenings in Alaska, my father subscribed to a Christian book club. We could hardly wait for the two selections to arrive each month. Those pages influenced my world view and my attitudes about life and love. Here are seven truths I learned from Christian fiction:

  1. Marry a Christian. In the books I read, every love story demonstrated the fact that two can walk together in life only if they are headed in the same direction and share similar values.
  2. God designed for marriage to precede sex. This order is not arbitrary; it is for our own good. Since God made us, He knows what will make us happiest. We can choose to follow God's way or not. The Bible illustrates the results of good and bad choices. 
  3. Seek to do God's will, not my own. I can't remember the author's name, but the book, "Not My Will," brought this truth home to me in a memorable way. Frank Sinatra's song,"I'll Do It My Way," is not the theme song for my life. I want to "do it God's way."
  4. Learn to say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you." We all make mistakes and hurt each other, whether we intend to or not. Asking for and receiving forgiveness is the necessary ingredient to good relationships.
  5. Never part from loved ones on an angry note. We never know when our words may be the last ones they hear from our lips. I don't want mine to be angry, hurtful ones.
  6. Always check the facts. When I read Biblical fiction, I always looked it up in the Bible to find where the author embellished the story. I learned to love studying the Bible.
  7. Love is a choice. Love is more than a feeling; it's an act of the will. Love is choosing to put the best interest of another ahead of my own. First Corinthians 13:4-8 (The Message) describes it best:
 Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others.
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

As I create my characters, I ask myself, "Will they choose to go their own way or God's way? I want to give my readers a good story that inherently illustrates, without being preachy, the value of choosing God's way.