Archive for October 2014

Preparing to Print   1 comment

Front Cover UpdateI’ve spent the last two weeks formatting The Willow Branch for print.

I’m not a perfectionist. As I’ve said before, I worked in the mental health field for 15 years and professionals tell me I have a high commitment to quality that does not quite tip over into perfectionism.

If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right because I want my readers to enjoy not just the story, but the process of reading the story.

That was a lot of work!

Today, I finally got to see the digital version of The Willow Branch in print.

I knew I had it in me to design a professional quality cover without resorting to a professional designer. Not everyone can do this, but I’ve been involved in desktop publishing in a professional capacity for a long time. I just didn’t expect it to be so hard to meet CreateSpace standards and it turned out, it wasn’t, but that their auto vetter was confused for reasons they aren’t explaining. So, after three uploads that threw errors and an email asking why I kept getting the same error message that didn’t make sense (no, really, my front cover image is really truly on the right and my back cover image is really truly on the left), I got to see the result today. It’s one thing to see it in a flat image on my computer and another to see it in 3-D view.


Full Cover for CS

I’ve ordered my proof copies and hope the paperback will be available by Thanksgiving!

The Elephant in the Churches   3 comments

Matt and Molly had a huge truth to consider. 

Sexual immorality in the church is a symptom of a root issue. Matt and Molly and countless other Christian couples who are having sex without benefit of Christian marriage are suffering from something other than the enjoyment of sex. (And, yes, suffering from something you enjoy is a paradox, but an important one to recognize).

Our society has lost the concept of giving ourselves to a concept greater than ourselves. The churches have been affected by that. We no longer see the incredible adventure of serving Christ with all of our passion as a good thing. We no longer see Biblical rules as existing for our ultimate benefit. We think we’re being denied physical pleasure, which is held up by our society as a primary goal, because God is mean rather than because God wants what is best for us.

The divorced couple, the teenagers on a date, the homosexuals, the partners of two marriages who feel themselves attracted to one another, the adult who finds him or herself attracted to a juvenile — all these people want the enjoyment of intimacy in the way that they define ultimate pleasure and none of them will ever successfully say “No” unless they have a higher reason to claim their allegiance.


We sin because we don’t have anything better to do. I’m not just talking about sex. There’s a whole panoply of evil inclinations and behaviors that capture our attention when we’re bored. We will justify anything we can think of simply to keep ourselves occupied. David sinned with Bathsheba because he didn’t have anything better to do at the time (read 2 Samuel 11 before you disagree). We focus on the adultery, but the real issue was his boredom. My husband Brad drinks when he’s bored and he becomes bored when he stops doing what God has called him to do. He’s got time on his hands, so why not fill it? (Because he becomes a jerk when he drinks). The same goes for the churches and the collective individuals who make up the myriad congregations. We have time on our hands; how can God deny us some pleasant distraction from our spiritual boredom?

Because Christians are called to do something greater than the world. Be honest! The world is dying around us. Terrorists are lopping people’s heads off in the Middle East. About 10% of the American population is addicted to alcohol and about 25% are addicted to some other substance. Our kids are committing suicide. We are aborting babies. How many wars in the United States involved in now?

The world needs Jesus and it needs Christians to bring the gospel to hurting people. Instead, we kick back in our comfortable homes and watch the latest cool television show while the world is dying. When we get bored, we scratch that itch, thinking it doesn’t matter because the world says sex outside of marriage (or gluttony, or cheating on one’s business partners, or looking at pornography, or … name that sin) is normal, but on a much deeper level, it matters so completely. What you do impacts your walk with God, your relationship with one another, the standard you set for your children, and — OF GREATEST IMPORTANCE — your testimony to other believers who may be struggling in the same area of sin and the world, which is indeed watching to see if what we believe makes a difference in the way that we live.

If we live like the world, how will the world ever see the life-changing power of Jesus?

Matt and Molly got married some weekend last summer. They spent their honeymoon working with Worldbuilders in Alaska. They were able to afford to do that because they sold Molly’s house and thereby eliminated those “financial considerations”, but more they were able to it because they eliminated the previously unrecognized (but still felt) Holy Spirit’s conviction in their lives by aligning their own interests with God’s will.

Ignoring Conviction   3 comments

Our unmarried adult friends were having sex with one another and they wanted Brad and I to give them the Good Housekeeping stamp of approval. They wanted to know why they didn’t feel convicted by the Holy Spirit for their behavior but that they felt judged by others, except for some reason, Brad and I, who had been unaware of their affair prior to it coming up during the salad course at our dining room table. Since sex is not usually a spectator activity, we figured others were as uninformed as we were and that the “judgment” they felt was conviction by God, but that they didn’t want to admit it because then they would have to do something about it.

First, Brad and I are borderline anarchists who don’t think a marriage license makes a couple “married”. We don’t particularly care if you have a state-issued piece of paper in a file that says you’re “married”. We do care that a man has covenanted with God and a woman has covenanted with God to form a godly marriage and that they have contracted with one another before a congregation of like-minded believers to marry for life.

In our friends’ circumstance, neither of their former partners were Christians and both of them had been dumped by their former spouses, so they were free to marry according to New Testament standards. They were delaying the ceremony for “financial reasons,” living in separate homes and having sex.

God often speaks to us through the witness of the church. If there were really people judging Matt and Molly (not their real names), it might have been because God was speaking to them through the “judgers”. Matt and Molly had asked Brad and I for our opinion and we gave it freely.

Generally, when we do something that is outside of God’s will and we feel that people are judging us because they “just know” what we’ve been doing, that’s really our own consciences prodding us. That they brought it up to us — Christians with reputations for being ideosyncretic and brutally honest — suggested (to us) that they were looking for approval. We didn’t give it. Instead, we spoke for God and from His word.

Matt, Molly (we said), if you’re really in love, get married. Have a ceremony in the church. Get a license if you want. Marriage is a common rule of Christian community. Just because lots of people break the rules doesn’t mean they don’t still exist. Money issues are not an excuse for violating God’s will. In fact, chances are good that if you combined households (as part of marriage), you’d have more money to settle your debts. Money troubles are not a reason to delay Christian marriage.

Brad and I thought the problem ran more deeply than financial considerations.

More on that topic in my next post.that.


Writer Sweat Equity – Research   1 comment

Thom Stark and I began a conversation following his author interview with me here and here (which I intend to run in its entirety some Wednesday when I need an author interview. It was far ranging, from writing topics to politics and religion. I intend to share these with my readers on Thursdays.



Thom StarkLELA: I enjoyed the part of May Day by Thom Stark that I’ve read so far, by the way. I could definitely see myself as a fan of the series. I like political thrillers when they’re well done. You clearly have done your research and you present some very striking images of what such a terrorist attack would look like. My hat’s off to you for a phenomenal work of future fiction.

THOM: Thank you. Like most writers, I love it when my work is praised by other authors.

Research is something I strongly believe should be a critical element of the writer’s tool chest – one that he or she should use early and often. It’s every bit as important as, say, a thesaurus, a spell checker, or a dictionary. Or a knowledge of proper grammar and punctuation, for that matter. The keys are to learn enough about a given subject to know how much to tell the reader about it, and to make sure that what you tell them is as factually correct as possible. That helps build the bond of trust between you that allows the reader to let go of his or her skepticism and enter fully into the world you’re creating.

In Robert A. Heinlein’s classic juvenile novel The Rolling Stones, he and his wife Virginia painstakingly worked out the orbital mechanics of a Hohmann Earth/Mars transfer orbit, using the Moon to slingshot the Stone family’s spacecraft into the proper trajectory. It was a major job of calculation at a time when there were no desktop computers, or even scientific handheld calculators. They did it all using slide rules and an astronomical ephemeris (and it’s worth noting that Ginny did most of the work, because, as Heinlein frequently noted, she was the better engineer of the two). They certainly didn’t expect his teenage readers to check their equations – or even to understand them, for that matter – but they put in the necessary skull sweat, because Bob Heinlein was convinced that getting the mechanical details right would help make the 21st Century human civilzation he was painting all the more believable to his readers. And he was right, too. As someone who read that book in 1959, I can attest to that.


DSC01494LELA: I definitely agree with the importance of research. My only published novel is a fantasy. Many people think that fantasy is just made up in the writer’s head, but I’ve researched Celtic mythology, poisons, hawks, horses, cheeses, clothing, hot springs, railroad tunnels and a whole host of other subjects in order to build the world of Daermad so that it makes sense. Whether a horse can see in color matters if one of your characters can actually talk to the horse and, while it might not matter to most readers, to the one reader who knows something about horse vision, it will be the difference between willing suspension of disbelief or spending the rest of The Willow Branch watching for my next mistake.

Heinlein is an example of a writer who never disappointed me with his writing and now I know why. I did not know that story and I am very impressed.

What sort of research went into writing The American Sulla trilogy? 

Stay Turned for Thom Thursday   Leave a comment

Thom Stark and I continue our conversation.

Interview with John Holt   9 comments

Today’s interview is with John Holt, whose book The Thackery Journal asks the question “Were Lincoln’s own generals complicit in his assassination?” John has written a very well-researched book about the Civil War that suggests, very credibly, that Lincoln’s assassination was planned by his own generals who used John Wilkes Booth to cover up their treachery.


John HoltTell us a little bit about yourself, John. 

I was born in Hertfordshire too long ago now. Since 1980 I have lived in Essex, in a small town about 40 miles northeast of London, with my wife Margaret, my daughter Eizabeth, and Missy our cat who adopted us. I used to work as a Senior Project Manager with the Greater London Council. Then in 1986 I started my own surveying practice. In 2004 I suffered a heart attack, and I finally retired in 2008. In April 2012 I was diagnosed with a cancer. After several tests this was confirmed in the October of that year, and I started treatment in the November. I January 2013 I started an eight week course of radiotherapy. A blood test in May of this year showed no trace of the cancer. So I am hopeful that when I see my oncologist in November I will get the all clear.


I’m glad to hear that. You’ve written quite a few books.  Seven in total, five of which feature your private detective Tom Kendall. The Thackery Journal is a historical fiction/slash political thriller. What brought you to write this book?

The answer to that is quite complicated, but here goes. The first novel that I wrote was The Kammersee Affair, a story about the search for hidden Nazi gold. We went for a holiday to Grundlsee in the Austrian lakes. We discovered that during the war the next lake, Toplitz, was used by the German Navy to test rockets. As the war came to a close many items were hidden in the lake, including rumours of hidden gold. This gave me the idea for Kammersee. Shortly afterwards I heard about a hoard of Confederate gold going missing during the Civil War. I had no idea as to where the gold had gone, but I started to imagine how someone would feel when being pursued. This led to the last chapter of The Thackery Journal, and there it remained for some while. I started work on the first of my Tom Kendall novels, The Mackenzie Dossier. Gradually the idea of where the Confederate gold had gone, and why, began to form in my head. The gold was used to finance the assassination plot. But still the book wasn’t going anywhere, except I had developed a couple of opening chapters. I started to research the Civil War, and ended up with about 200 pages of data, but still no story. I produced three more Tom Kendall novels, The Marinski Affair, Epidemic, and A Killing In The City. Then suddenly the whole idea of “Thackery” came to me. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and how. The book was finished, after almost five years, in three months.


This book plays on the sentiments of many a conspiracy theorist out there. It’s up there with Kennedy and the Grassy Knoll. Did John Wilkes Booth act alone or was he part of a wider conspiracy? This is a work of fiction, but it draws on historical documentation.  We were all taught in school that Booth acted alone, though supported by a handful of conspirators he was the only one actually in the theater at the time. Many of us even remember details of what is said to have happened that night.  Tell us a little bit about why it might be plausible that Booth wasn’t even in the theater.

The Thackery Journal is a work of fiction, nothing more and nothing less. In the whole book there are only a handful of characters who actually existed, the main ones being John Wilkes Booth, Ulysses S Grant, and Abraham Lincoln. Apart from the battles depicted, the only real events that occurred are Lincoln at Fort Massachusetts, and the assassination at the Ford Theater. The suggested conspiracy concerning Booth and Lincolns Generals, is simply that, a suggestion and it is not based on any evidence whatsoever. However the question could be asked as to why was Lincoln assassinated. What earthly difference would Lincoln’s death make to Booth? Alright he was a Southerner, and clearly he could have had a reason for hating Lincoln. But so could thousands of other Southerners. Nothing would be gained by killing Lincoln, he would simply be replaced by another Northerner. Booth was a simple actor and had nothing whatsoever to gain, except money. However, Lincoln’s own generals would have had much to gain by installing Grant as their President.


Holt BooksTell us about your other books.

 I love the old film noir with Humphrey Bogart, Cagney, Edward G Robinson. I had always wanted to write a detective story in the same style. Snappy dialogue, fast talking, fast acting. So I started The Mackenzie Dossier, hoping that I could re-create the crime thrillers from the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. I soon realised that I couldn’t do it. It just didn’t work. But what happened was, in fact, so much better because I realised that I was developing my own style, my own characters, my own brand, and so private detective Tom Kendall was created. Since Mackenzie Kendall has appeared in four more novels, the latest, simply called Kendall was published just a few short weeks ago. Although the fifth in the series it is actually a prequel. I am currently working on a sixth novel to feature Kendall, but it is early days yet. I’m afraid it will probably be another year before it becomes available. I have also made a start on a adventure story set in the 1930’s. It is loosely based on a true story about a submarine going to the North Pole. It never reached its destination, and was later found at the bottom of a Norwegian fjord. What actually happened was never discovered. There is also a very basic idea for another Civil War novel. So it looks like a busy year ahead.


thackery journalWhere can we find your books? Three of my books “A Killing In The City”, “The Mackenzie Dossier” and “The Marinski Affair” are available in EPUB form for Nook, Kobo, and itunes –

All of my seven novels are available in MOBI form – my Amazon author page is –

My novel “Epidemic” will be available on Countdown from the 21 September 70 28 September, priced at 99 cents/99 pence –



And where can people find you?
My author page on Facebook –
My twitter site –

Stay Tuned for Writing Wednesday   1 comment

This week’s interview is with John Holt, mystery and political thriller writer.

Intermarital Sex   3 comments

Brad and I had an unmarried couple from our church over for dinner a while back. The man was a Christian, divorced, and in his forties. He met a Christian woman who seem to be an answer to prayer. Over time they had fallen in love and hoped to get married eventually, but were delaying for “financial reasons”. Meanwhile they “become intimate.” They announced this while at our house for dinner and noted that they didn’t feel convicted by the Holy Spirit for having unmarried sex, but did feel judged by friends — though not Brad and I, which is why they felt comfortable “being honest” with us.

“We waited until we were in love before we had sex,” she explained. “I think there’s a difference between premarital sex and unmarried sex for older adults who have been married before,” he added. “God understands that we’re not young adults just having a fling, but that we can’t afford to get married right now.”

Then they did it. “So what do you think? Why shouldn’t two adult Christians who happen to be divorced and have fallen in love sleep together?”

What follows is the synopsis of what Brad and I said during the dessert course. We were flattered that they trusted us enough to be candid, but a hasty conference in the kitchen assured that we had to respond to the question.

Brad, my husband, is kind of a Christian rogue. He doesn’t necessarily attend church every Sunday and he has a few dings in his image consistent with being a recovering alcoholic. Enough said about Brad. I bring it up only to explain our particular view of things and the reason we answered the way that we did to a couple who are regular church-goers. That, and they asked. Don’t ask if you don’t want an honest answer! I suspect they asked us because they thought two Christians who admit to dirt on their spiritual feet wouldn’t condemn them.

And, we didn’t, but we didn’t give the soft-soap answer either.

In the big picture of the world, an adult male having sex (we refused the euphemism) with his adult girlfriend is no big deal. Russia’s unofficial annexation of the Ukraine … people getting their heads lopped off in Syria … the upcoming mid-term elections … those are all bigger issues than two single people loving one another with their bodies. The world we live in certainly expects two people in their 40s who love one another to have sex. Even in the churches, people pretty much wink at it, though we were puzzled how anyone knew if they weren’t telling them.

Sex is enjoyable, so we weren’t surprised that they liked doing it. The Bible supports the concept of sex as a gracious gift from God not just for procreation, but also for enjoyment … within marriage. Genesis 2, Hebrews 13 and the Song of Songs are good resources for understanding this. Fire in the woodstove is a good thing that keeps Alaskans from freezing to death, but outside of the woodstove, it burns the house down. Similarly, sex is a wonderful thing that is meant to be enjoyed. God wired human beings that way.


And, you’ll have to wait for the next post to read what we said over coffee in the living room.


False Analysis   Leave a comment

Sex is a very spiritual physical activity.

I can not think of another physical activity where you can feel the same sort of oneness with another human being that you can with sex.

No wonder that we as a society are in trouble, but more, we shouldn’t wonder that the churches are in trouble.

The United States of America and Europe, circa 21st century, is highly sexualized. There are those who want to say that Christians ought to get the with times and not fight the tide of sexual immorality. How dare we say who can have sex with whom and how?

And, I partially agree with that. As a civil libertarian, much as I don’t like to see it, I agree that you have a right to have sex with any consenting adult you desire. I think there are incredibly bad consequences to society with that sort of cultural milieu, but if that is what you want to do as an individual — that’s  your choice.

And, I believe the churches have enough problems of their own with sexual immorality that we don’t really need to be arguing with the world over sex. Get our own house in order and … well, I suspect we wouldn’t be arguing with the world over sex if we had our house in order because we wouldn’t feel so threatened by the slow whittling away of our values to the majority culture.

I’ve said this before, mankind is not good and Christians are only good to the extent that we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, which means that the churches are merely gatherings of human beings who are not good, but who may desire to be better, but are often influenced by the culture outside the church and by the tares (cultural Christians) and apostates (fallen Christians) within the congregations.

So why are we surprised when congregations act like the flesh and blood that we are composed of?

Because we (Biblical Christians) know we are called to something higher and better. Paul the apostle told the Thessalonian Christians that their first priority for achieving that higher and better God-directed life was to “abstain from sexual immorality.”

He didn’t say “Don’t have sex” or “Don’t enjoy sex” or “Only have sex for procreation”. He said “abstains from sexual immorality.” We know from koinine Greek that there was plenty of sexual immorality to be witnessed and engaged in within the Greco-Roman world that Paul traveled through. Corinth, where Paul was when he wrote back to Thessalonica, was the Las Vegas of its time, which a little bit of Key West rolled in. In other words, Paul would not have been shocked by our culture. He was familiar with the sexual practices of his own era. He knew that the Christians of Thessalonica came out of a culture steeped in prostitution, temple sexual worship, culturally-sanctioned adultery and fornication, and pedophilia. And, yet, he told the Thessalonians that if they wanted to be in God’s will, they must abstain from sexual immorality.

He told them to support their fellow Christians in this endeavor, by word, by deed, and by discipline within the church.

But what he didn’t say was that they should be concerned with what the culture around them was doing. Instead, he told the Thessalonians and later the Corinthians and others to turn inward and create a separate Christian culture within the churches and not let the outside world dictate to them how they would live.

For about 300 years after Paul wrote this letter, Christians largely concentrated on the activities within the churches and saw incredible growth. Without a sword stroke, without a government edict, often under intense persecution that prevented the attraction of the rich and powerful, the Christian church universal grew and grew and grew until it was about 1/3 of the population of the Roman Empire and Constantine realized that he would be better off harnessing the social force of Christianity than opposing it.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. For 1600 years christian-like (deliberate small c) organizations have been the dominant cultural shaping tool of Europe and the United States.

Now it would seem that God has given permission to Satan to thresh the churches like wheat. And, I don’t think we should fight that because God sifts the churches for our good and we really need some discipline, Church.

Bipartisanship Leads in Alaska   Leave a comment

Bill Walker Vote Third Party/Independent

I have been a supporter of Bill Walker for governor for a long time. When he lost the GOP primary in 2010, I wrote to urge him to run as an independent in 2014, which he did. I am not a big supporter of the “unity” ticket with Byron Mallott, the former Democratic candidate. I suspect backroom deals that will see the Democratic Party in more control of the Walker administration than I would like, but I am still voting for Walker because Parnell, combined with SB 21, is raping our state.

Hays Research Group, an Alaska-based polling firm, released a poll that shows a head-to-head match up between Bill Walker and Gov. Sean Parnell has an eight points advantage to Walker.  It’s important to note that 31% of voters are still undecided, so Walker’s win is not a slam dunk. The poll didn’t include the names of each candidate’s lieutenant governors, and it described Walker as an “Independent.” On the ballot, he will be described as “unaffiliated.” The Alaska AFL-CIO paid for the poll. The umbrella union organization supports the “Unity” ticket and was instrumental in bringing Bill Walker, a Republican running as unaffiliated, and Democrat Byron Mallott together on one ticket. The poll, conducted between Sep. 13-14, surveyed 500 registered voters in the state of Alaska who had voted in at least two of the last three statewide general elections. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.38 percent.

I believe I was one of those who participated in this poll as a gentleman with those specifics actually came to my door looking for “super voter” Lela Markham.

Parnell walker poll


Read the full Hays poll here.

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