Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Power of Memories

Hi Friends,

With Christmas just behind us, I've been thinking about the power of memory in our lives. You see, memory is a powerful thing. We hear a song from our high school days and we’re transported to sweaty school dances and blasting the radio in our first car. The smell of brownies baking takes us back to pigtails and ponies. We drive by the house we lived in as a kid and remember the swingset in the backyard and how that rotten kid from next door blew spitwads through the hole in the fence.

Ever gotten sick on a type of food? You’ll never want to have that again. And don’t even think about naming your child after that whiny little brat that sat behind you in the fourth grade, even if your spouse loves that name.

Memory. It’s why we treasure photos, display mementos, keep in touch with people from our past. It’s why God set up festivals for the ancient Israelites and told them to erect memorials at significant places in their history.

Memory. It’s why the sight of a stuffed stocking takes me back to those early mornings in my childhood when my brother and I would wake up before dawn, run to the fireplace, get our stockings, and race back to my parents’s bed. Mom was always ready. Dad pretended to complain. And together, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we’d pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one. Simple things, boring really. Candy. A toothbrush. Some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short weeks. And yet, opening stockings is my favorite Christmas memory from childhood.

Why? I think it’s because good memories are not necessarily made from the “big stuff.” Rather, they’re fashioned out of warmth and happiness and times together. They’re woven with laughter, colored with simple, plain joy. They come from times when you experience love.

So, this year, I’m thinking about the memories I’m making over this season, for my kids, and for myself. I don’t want those memories to be ones of a Mom who’s running around with too much to do and too little time to do it. I don’t want them to be of hustle, bustle, wrapping, unwrapping, cooking, cleaning up, cards, and everything that makes the season crowded.. I don’t even want them to be of the cool stable-and-horse set that my girls unwrapped Christmas morning. Or the cheap kid’s guitar for my oldest (age 7), or the new “ooo-ahh” (stuffed gorilla) for one of my 2-year-old twins.

Because the toys will break, get old, get lost, or they’ll outgrow them. But they won’t outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking – those won’t get old. The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch – those won’t break. The simple things make the best memories. Times when we’re together as a family, having fun, enjoying the traditions we’re building together.

So, that’s my goal this Christmas season and New Years, to weave memories of peace, love, togetherness, because that’s the best gift I can think of to celebrate Jesus’ birth -- Memories that bring a smile to the face of children . . . and to the face of the King.

For more about the power of memories in our lives, check out my next novel, Beyond the Night, releasing in May. A woman in a hospital bed, a man sitting beside her, and between them, a memory that can set her free.

Find out more at: http://www.marloschalesky.com/

To pre-order Beyond the Night, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Night-Marlo-Schalesky/dp/1601420161/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1196976751&sr=1-2

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hope for the Hurting at Christmas

Dear Friends,

With Christmas less than a week away, I thought I would share a Christmas happening that opened my eyes to God's love for me at Christmas, during a year when I was hurting. So, here you go:

“O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,” sang the children’s choir from the front of the church. But, I felt anything but joyful, or triumphant. Despite the Christmas lights glittering from the sanctuary’s ceiling, despite the candles that flickered and glowed from behind the pulpit, darkness hung over me like a heavy cloak. Everything around me seemed so perfect – parents snapping pictures from the pews, Pastor Joe grinning from his chair at the side of the platform, little Mary Lou shyly stepping forward to read Isaiah 9. But, of all the little girls pulling restlessly at prim velvet dresses, of all the little boys standing tall and proud behind starched shirts and clip-on ties, none were mine. No little eyes searched the crowd looking for me, no little fingers wiggled a wave in my direction, no little voices called me “Mommy.”

Barren, the Bible named me, a cold, empty word. I hated it, not so much because it described the condition of my womb, but because it revealed the feelings of my heart - especially at Christmas time, when families gathered, mothers baked sugar cookies, and children counted the days until they would sit beneath laden Christmas trees and tear open gifts from Mom and Dad. Barren, the word haunted me now as I sat in the back pew and wished for the hundredth time that Christmas didn’t hurt so much. But it did. Christmas, it seemed, was for the “have’s” – those who have families, have children. And I was a “have-not.” What hope did Christmas hold for people like me?

In a moment, clapping broke out over the sanctuary as the kids’ choir finished their final song. With sweeping bows and stifled giggles, the children scampered to a wide box in front of the pulpit and pulled from it sprigs of mistletoe tied with bright red ribbons. My throat closed as each child trotted toward the pews and presented their parents with the mistletoe. I dropped my gaze. I should have never come tonight, I told myself again. But my husband needed to run the sound system for the performance, and no one would have understood if he had come alone. So, here I sat, uncomfortable and hurting while the laughter of happy families swirled around me.

“M-Mrs. Schalesky?” a timid voice sounded from beside my elbow.

I looked up to see 8-year-old Caroline holding her piece of mistletoe toward me. I quickly glanced around and noticed that Caroline’s parents hadn’t come tonight. In fact, they rarely came. My eyes met hers, and she smiled down at me.

“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Schalesky,” she whispered, then leaned over and kissed my cheek. “I hope Jesus brings you lots of gifts this year.” With that, she turned and hurried toward the back door.

Warmth flooded me. “Thank you,” I choked, too quiet for her to hear me as she slipped out of sight.

There, in my lap, lay the small piece of mistletoe, its red ribbon winking at me with the reflection of the Christmas lights overhead. It was such a small gift, so simple, so plain. As simple, perhaps, as a baby wrapped in rags, lying in a feeding trough. As plain as the Son of God, born not before family and friends, but before a stable full of animals - a gift announced not to the movers and shakers of Bethlehem, but to a few Gentiles in the east, and to a bunch of sheep-herders working the night shift.

I picked up my gift of mistletoe and held it close to my heart. If animals, shepherds, and even foreign kings were remembered in the first Christmas, maybe the childless, the outcast, and the hurting were remembered this Christmas too. Maybe I was remembered.

In this small bit of mistletoe, God was telling me that I’d been right – Christmas was for the “have’s.” For in Jesus there are no “have-not’s.” Christ was born for people like me, for “have-not’s” who, through the simple gift of Christ, are welcomed into the family of God.

So, may you too have a blessed Christmas, no matter where you are or what's happening or what has happened this past year. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Focus for Christmas - A Poem

Hi Friends,

Today, I'm thinking about the attitude of my heart during this Christmas season. Am I too busy to worship? Am I too rushed to stand in awe of the wonder of the incarnation -- of how God himself became a baby to save me. How he was born in a stable, wrapped in rags, gave up all privilege and position to become one of us, so that we could be set free of sin and despair. John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us" (that's how it reads in the Greek). The Tabernacle was a tent-like structure where God dwelt in the midst of the people of Israel while they traveled in the desert before they came to the promised land. And so Jesus came in the flesh to be God with us while we travel here on earth, so we could someday come to our promised land. The truth of that is magnificient, wonderous, breath-taking.

So, here's a poem I wrote to ask the question of where my heart is focused this Christmas:

by Marlo Schalesky

Where was I
When the King was born?
Was I at the inn,
Too crowded for Him,
With packages, boxes, and bags?

Where was I
When God became man?
Tending sheep far away,
Lest one go astray,
Blind to even the angels?

Where was I
When Christ first wept?
Was I on the road,
Rushing to and fro,
Too busy to notice the star?

Where am I
This Christmastide?
Am I in the stall,
Forsaking all,
To worship the King of kings?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Martin

Hi Friends,

In lieu of a new Christian novel, I have a great how-to writing book to tell you about today. An excerpt from my VEIL OF FIRE is used in the book to demonstrate writing in both the third and first person in the same story. So, here's a bit about Writing The Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin:

Writing The Christian Romanace is a comprehensive how-to book that emphasizes the differences between Christian and secular romance. While the book focuses on Christian romance, it provides excellent information for writing any Christian fiction genre and includes chapters on: creating believable characters, emotions and the sense, sexuality, spirituality, point of view, dialogue, introspection, plotting and pacing. The final chapter focuses on selling the Christian romance novel with information about Christian writers conferences, contest, finding an agent and learning how to prepare a book proposal for submission. The book contains excerpts and advice from well-known Christian authors as well as exercises at the end of each chapter.


Writing the Christian Romance is a well-researched and detailed handbook for anyone interested in writing for this unique and growing market. Filled with examples an excerpts from successful romance novelists, this is a resource that writers will turn to again and again.
--Robin Lee Hatcher, RITA Award winning author of Return to Me and The Perfect Life. http://www.robinleehatcher.com/

Although Gail Gaymer Martin's book covers all the basics for writing for the inspirational romance market, her solid lessons on plotting, character development, and dialogue makes this a valuable test for anyone writing for any genre. The lessons are well organized, easy to follow and pragmatic.
--Dr Dennis E. Hensley, author of How To Write What you Love And Make A Living At It. (Random House)

If you want to write romances for the Christian market, you need this book. Gail understands both this genre and the market and knows how to teach others to write and sell Christian romance. This guide is practical, chock-full of examples, and loaded with worksheets and exercises to get you started or help make your story salable.
--Lin Johnson, Managing Editor, Christian Communicator; Director of Write-To-Publish Conference.

Gail's Bio:

Multi-award-winning author, Gail Gaymer Martin ,writes for Steeple Hill, Barbour Publishing, and Writers Digest. Gail started writing fiction in 1997 and sold her first novel in 1998. Since then, she has signed forty fiction contracts and has over 1 million books in print. She is a member of RWA, and three chapters: Greater Detroit, Mid-Michigan and FHL. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at conference across the U.S. and has been a presenter in London, England. She has a Masters degree and post-master’s classes from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Look for her book, Writing the Christian Romance from Writers Digest released in December 2007. Visit her website at http://www.gailmartin.com/

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Essence of Good Writing

Hi Friends,

This week I wanted to share something a little different - a bit about how good writing captures the imagination and can change the heart. It's a bit about what I see as the goal of my own writing, and something I hope will be useful to you as well, whether you write fiction, short stories, or even just notes about your family to friends and relatives.

So, the question is, What is good writing anyway? What is writing that captures the imagination and the heart, that draws pictures in people's minds and touches their emotions, changes them.

Is it fine metaphors, a clever turn of phrase? Or perhaps it’s just the right verb used in just the right place? While I love metaphors and the right choice of words, these aren’t the things that make writing transcend the ordinary to become truly good writing.

Good writing, I have come to realize, is writing that gets out of the way and allows the reader to live the story, to experience the story from inside the characters’ point of view. Good writing transports the reader in someone else’s mind, heart, life. It’s all about seeing what someone else sees, feeling what they feel, living the story with the point of view character.

That’s why good writing lets the reader interact with the story in a way that’s natural, that’s true to real life. We don’t want to switch point of view from one character to another and back again in the middle of a scene because as people we don’t “head-hop” in our normal lives. We try to eliminate speaker attributes such as “he said/she said” because in normal life there are no “said’s” – instead we watch people as they speak. They fold their arms, or scratch their nose, or look away. That’s how we normally engage in conversation – reading body language as much as we hear words. And that, of course, is why good writing shows and doesn’t tell – because that’s how we operate in our everyday lives. Someone comes in the room and slams the door – we know they’re angry. They don’t announce they’re angry, they show us. It’s no different in good writing. It’s all about coaxing the reader to see, to experience, to live in the story.

So, next time you want to write something good, even if it's just your Christmas newsletter, remember that it isn’t about words and rules, it’s about helping the reader to live the story, to interact with your characters in the same way that they interact in their normal, everyday lives. It’s about the life and breath and heart of the story. It’s about the writing being so natural that it fades away, leaving only the story’s vision to lead the reader into a new world.

That's my hope for the things I write - for Veil of Fire, which came out in May, for Beyond the Night which will be released next May, for the Power for Living articles I wrote last week, for the book I'm working on now. And it's my hope for the things you write as well. Words have power, they say. But story has even more.

May God be in your writing, whatever it may be!

Chill Out, Josey! by Susan May Warren

Hi Friends,

Today I wanted to tell you a little bit about a new Christian romance/chick lit out from Susan May Warren, published by Steeple Hill. It's called Chill Out, Josey! and here's a bit about it:

Russia? Not again. Josey's finally living the good life - she's got the man, the (almost-perfect) wedding, the two-story Cape-Cod house of her dreams. That is until her man drags her back to Moscow! Josey knows she has the guts to follow her own dreams across the world, but she's not so sure she can play the perfect wife while her husband chases after his. Josey's set on having the perfect life…even in a world without hot water, decent take-out and size-two leather fashion. But can she find the courage to tell her man the secret that will change their lives forever?

And here is a link to the first chapter: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/c1_chillOutJosey.html

And here is a link to buy the book: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&p=1028342&item_no=785852

So, there ya go! Watch for a new post tomorrow on something a little different - the essence of good writing.