Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Hymn that Changed a Country

Researching historical novels can take you into some surprising rabbit holes. Most distract, but some are real blessings, even when they never impact the eventual book. I have an alter call in my current project and wanted to find a suitable hymn.

I’ve always loved the hymn, I have Decided to Follow Jesus, because it was the first hymn I learned to play on the piano. And it fit the mood of the scene so well.

The lyrics are based on the last words of Nokseng, a Garo tribesman from Meghalaya, then called Assam in India. Nokseng and his family were converted to Christianity by a Welsh missionary. When called to renounce his faith by the village chief, Nokseng declared, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” As his two children were killed, he continued with the now familiar lyrics, “Though none go with me, still I will follow.” When his wife was killed, his response was, “The cross before me, the world behind me.” Each time he was prodded to recant, he repeated the haunting refrain, “No turning back, no turning back.”

The tribal chief who witnessed the executions was so moved, he later converted to Christianity, along with most in the village. Nokseng’s last words of testimony were often repeated until an Indian missionary, Sadhu Sundar Singh, wrote the hymn and set it to the Indian melody, Assam.

Today, Meghalaya is a lush state in northeast India. It is one of three Indian states with a Christian majority. Close to ninety percent of the Garo tribe is Christian. Because of British rule, beginning in the 1830s, English is the official language. The language and the beautiful scenery make it a popular tourist attraction.

It wasn’t until 1959 that an American hymn editor composed an arrangement of the song, and it became a regular feature of Billy Graham’s evangelistic meetings before they switched to Just as I Am.

Since my book is set in the 1880s, I can’t use the hymn as I intended. But I’m glad I stumbled across Nokseng’s testimony. It affirms the power of one man’s faith. Instead of remaining a hidden rain forest of head-hunters in the high Indian plateau, Meghalaya is a place of lush forests, lakes and waterfalls. Its people are industrious farmers and tradesmen whose villages are dotted with churches, where I’m sure this hymn is frequently heard.

What is your favorite hymn? Maybe I can find one that’s old enough to use in my story.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Interview with Author Michelle Griep

 Today I am pleased to introduce author Michelle Griep!

Michelle's been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: The Captured Bride, The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, and Gallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Welcome Michelle! We're so glad you could visit us today. Tell us about your book.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor is the first in the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series. The entire series revolves around the concept of second chances. I know, that doesn’t sound very Christmasy, eh? But think about it . . . at Christmas we celebrate Jesus coming down to earth to give man a “second chance.” Here’s a blurb for the first story:
A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home may bring danger...and love?

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of five hundred pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Where did the inspiration for your story come from? 

3 different British authors.

I adore Bleak House. It’s my favorite story of all of Dickens’ work. I fashioned many of the characters after that quirky lot. I also thought it would be fun to combine those characters with an interesting situation, such as in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. As for the coin, that inspiration came from the ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

How does your faith and spirituality work in with your writing? 

Nobody likes to be whacked over the head with a Bible, yet Biblical truth is so needed in this day and age. Okay, well, in every age, honestly. I try to weave faith in to my main characters, either in their searching for it or in their sharing it.

Why did you choose a Dickens style story?

Mostly because my publisher wanted me to. But other than that, I’m an Anglophile at heart, so honestly anything set in England works for me. Plus, last time I visited England I toured the Dickens home in London. An actress posed as his housekeeper and did a smashing job of showing us around as if Dickens had just left his home. That really put me in the mood!

Oh, that sounds like SO much fun. What are you working on next? 

Currently I’m finishing up a French & Indian War story for the Mayflower Brides series. My story is The Captured Bride. Here’s a blurb:

Condemned as a traitor, Elias Dubois faces the gallows. At the last minute, he’s offered his freedom if he consents to accompany a stolen shipment of French gold to a nearby fort—but he’s the one they stole it from in the first place. It turns out that the real thief is the beguiling woman, Mercy Lytton, for she steals his every waking thought. Can love survive divided loyalties in a backcountry wilderness?

Very interesting. I love that time period, so I'm definitely going to look that one up. Thank you so much for being with us! 

Thanks for hosting me!

Readers, leave Michelle a comment to get your name in the hat for her book!

Friday, September 22, 2017

8 Reasons to Fall for Fall

8 Reasons to love Fall, even if you are mourning the loss of Summer.

I don't know about you, but Autumn is my jam. Plus, it's literally a great time to make jam. Eat jam. To jam in your jams. Jenn here, and I have to tell you that this season is what we (I) wait for all year long. If you just aren't feeling it yet, here are some reasons to get excited. (it is, after all now officially fall)

1.        Break in the weather. As a northern girl living in the South, I long for the cool mornings I can sip my coffee on the back porch without breaking a sweat. We need this break, no matter where we live, but especially if we live in the South.
2.         Color. Leaves changing colors is one of the most spectacular feats of nature. God puts on a show every fall and I spend hours staring at the trees in wonder.
3.         Schedule. The lazy days of summer cannot last forever, and fall brings with it new programs, school beginnings, and a generally much fuller calendar. But it’s great to get “back on track” isn’t it?
4.         Hot drinks. Coffee. Hot Cider. Hot chocolate. Wassail. You know that sensation of cupping a steaming mug in your hands, and inhaling the contents? Oh, there’s nothing better early in the morning, or late at night, right?
5.         Crock pot. Not that I never use it in the summer, but there’s something awesome about a pot of chili in the fall. Or simply soup in general. Soup on a cool day is healing, comforting, and just plain good.
6.         Leaves on the ground. More specifically, the crunch of leaves on the sidewalk when you walk through them. It’s a singular sound, and it always means fall. Plus, jumping in leaf piles is a major childhood memory, so, leaves on the ground are my favorite.
7.         Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin cake. Pumpkin spice lattes. Pumpkin soup. Pumpkin everything. First let me say that this is WAY overdone. But if you just pick one and indulge yourself a couple times throughout the season, you won’t be sick of it and your fondness will come back. (But don’t do the pumpkin spice Oreo’s – That’s just wrong).

8.         Scents of the season. I am a sucker for the scents of fall. My favorite being, the scent of burning leaves. This takes me straight back to my childhood, and if I catch a whiff, or see a burning pile of leaves as I’m driving by, I slow the car and roll down the windows, inhaling like a crazy person. Also, hot cider on the stovetop, apple pie, camp fires, and hay rides (you can smell that, can’t you?)

What’s your favorite fall scent?