Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Update & The Face by Angela Hunt

Hi Friends,

First, baby hasn't arrived yet. Had my doc appointment last Wednesday and baby didn't look like he was going to make an appearance any time soon, and so far he hasn't. If he still hasn't made his move by Wednesday, he'll be getting an eviction notice in the form of pitocin. So, keep us in your heart & prayers on Wednesday!! And I'll keep y'all updated as soon as I can as to any news.

Meanwhile, I've got a new novel by Angela Hunt to tell you about for this week, so here's the scoop on that:

THE FACE by Angela Hunt: Born to parents who died shortly after her birth, twenty-year-old genius Sarah Sims has been hidden all her life in a secure CIA facility. Yet her days of anonymity are limited because her aunt has discovered her existence and is determined to lead Sarah out of exile. But before she can leave the only world she’s ever known, Sarah needs what most people take for granted . . . a functioning face and the skills to use it. Will she remain in her secluded fortress or summon the courage to follow her heart?

The Face, Angela Hunt. Mira, $6.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7783-2727-1

Compelling characterization is the driving force behind this enthralling story of hope . . . Hunt (The Elevator) fuels the completely engrossing story with dual present-tense narration by the two women. Readers are drawn into their lives, sharing their joy and fear as they approach a fulfilling and surprising climax. A touch of suspense adds to the powerful themes of second chances and new beginnings. (Nov.) --Publishers Weekly

Publisher's Weekly Interview with Angela Hunt about THE FACE:
--Sarah Sims, the main character is a victim of Treacher-Collins syndrome, a rare disease that causes severe facial defects. Sarah literally has no discernible face. Her disease is a vehicle for plot development. Did you have any personal connection with this disease or specific reasons for highlighting it in your novel?
Last year I watched a special on the Discovery Channel about a real little girl born with Treacher-Collins. She's still preschool age, but I was so touched by her plight and all she has had to go through to have a functioning face. A novelist naturally asks, "What if?" and so I found myself wondering what might happen if someone like this young girl had the same condition . . . and the story bloomed in my head. I'm also fascinated by the power of beauty, so the story gave me an opportunity to juxtapose the two conditions--beauty and facelessness.

--Like your last novel, The Elevator, The Face is also written in alternating perspectives and in the present tense. Most novels use third person or an omniscient narrator, and this choice is definitely unconventional. How do you feel that adds to the story and/or the reader’s enjoyment of the book?
I like present tense because it adds an immediacy to the story--plus, unlike a past tense narrator who obviously survived to tell the tale, you're never quite sure if the present tense narrator is going to make it through. I struggled a long time with the question of protagonist--was it Sarah's story or Renee's? And then I realized the story belongs to both of them.

--The title, The Face, represents more than just what the main character lacks. Faces are revealed and discovered through the course of the story. Why the significance on faces?
Studies have shown that not only do our facial expressions reveal our emotions, but our emotions can be ignited by our facial expressions. In order to be fully human, Sarah not only had to learn how to communicate through a face, but to feel the emotions her face could convey. On a deeper level, her new face represents an emotional and spiritual rebirth. Because she receives a new face, she receives a new future and a new life.

--Because she has been isolated on an island all her life, and her contact with people has been extremely limited, Sarah has turned to old movies for her understanding of situations and emotions of the real world. Her idea of reality is based on things she has seen on the screen. Why movies and not books, or music?
I like movies, old or new. I knew Sarah would want to know about the world outside her cloistered life, and movies were the most direct way for her to visualize things she could never see. By watching films, Sarah thinks she knows the world. She doesn't realize that movies are only an imitation of life.

--There is a fair amount of research that went into this novel, from CIA protocol to extreme medical procedures, all of which seem a bit fantastic but are ultimately true. How important is it to blend fact into your fiction and what does that do for the overall quality of the story? Is research fun for you?
I cut my teeth writing nonfiction and I suffer from rabid curiosity so yes, research is fun for me. Why make something up if it really exists? So I do as much research as I can and travel whenever possible. I spent a week in the Amazon jungle to research one novel, and I visited the Spanish coast for The Face. When I saw an old monastery on an island off the coast of Spain, I knew I'd found the location for Sarah's fortress.

--What comes first for you, building the characters or building the story? I work with four elements to build a story: plot concept, character, setting, and theme. The plot concept usually shows up first, then the other pieces either fall into line . . . . or I give them a shove.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Giving Thanks from My World of Writing

Hi Friends,

I thought I’d post early this week since we’ll all be busy getting ready for Thanksgiving later in the week (and I have my next doc appt on Wednesday anyway, which is when I normally post).

So, in honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a bit about what I’m most thankful for as a writer:

First, I’m thankful for the chance to partner with God in the creative process. Sometimes it feels like I’m listening in on his musings. And I’m finding that there’s a moment in every book when I see something, when I write something, that I never planned, didn’t, and didn’t realize the story had been leading up to. That’s when I feel the touch of God, I sense His pleasure, and it’s like getting a glimpse of heaven. I love those moments . . . those flashes when I know that this is what God has been doing, and the story impacts my heart and life in some new and wondrous way.

Of course, don’t ask me about those other times – when I’m staring at the blank screen, the clock is ticking, and I can’t think of a single thing to write that doesn’t sound like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. There are plenty of those times too.
But I gotta say, those moments when I glimpse God’s vision for a story are worth all the others when I don’t.

I’m also so thankful for the chance to touch readers’ lives and hearts. What a wonderful privilege to have an opportunity to reveal God’s wonder in the written word.

And I’m so thankful to those of you who have written to me to tell me how my stories have impacted you, or how you’ve enjoyed them. Your encouragement and kindness mean so much to me!

So, now, may I wish you Happy Thanksgiving filled with moments of wonder, glimpses of His beauty, and breath-taking whispers of God’s love for you!

(P.S. Hopefully my next post will have some baby news! Check back next week!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Waiting ... and Trusting

Hi Friends!

Well, just a week and a half until baby boy's due date. I just got back from my weekly doc appointment, and so far so good! Baby's head is down and his heartbeat sounds strong. My blood pressure, weight, etc. all look good too. No problems detected. So, now we wait!

So, on the final countdown of days, I've been thinking about God's timing, how often He doesn't tell me what's going to happen when, but asks me just to trust Him. To wait on Him, knowing He's got the plan under control.

It reminds me of this story that happened a few years ago when I was teaching preschool kids at church:

It was just like every other Sunday morning at church. I waited in the preschool classroom with my box of supplies sitting at my side, eager to present the day’s lesson on how Jesus can make us fishers of men. I’d worked especially hard on the lesson, praying and arranging all the parts to fit together in the best way to communicate the message to the kids. Now, everything was ready.

Before me, brightly colored yarn and construction paper peeked over bins of broken crayons. Sticks that would later become fishing poles poked from the box at my side, and my Bible story book rested, open and ready, on the table in front of me. Even the dry erase board shone clean and white, with colored pens lined up in preparation for the day’s teaching. I said a quick prayer that the lesson I’d prepared would impact the hearts and minds of my young students.
In minutes, they arrived – a jumble of small, flowery dresses, clip-on ties, shiny shoes, and children’s Bibles clenched in restless hands. As soon as they sat down, it began – the barrage of “what” questions.

“What story are we reading today?”

“What are those sticks for?”

“What are we going to make with those?”

“What’s in your box?”

“What song are we going to sing?”

“What are you gonna write on the board?”

What, what, what . . .every question they could think of except “What do we need to do to get started?” Of course, I should have been used to it. The questions were nearly the same every Sunday. And just like last Sunday, and the Sunday before that, I answered them all with an assortment of “You’ll see’s,” “You’ll have to wait’s,” and “Trust me’s.”

But, this morning I wished it would have been different. I had hoped the kids would want to experience the lesson one step at a time, discovering each part as an ongoing adventure, rather than needing to know it all, all at once. Maybe it was because I’d prepared the lesson with particular care, and the order of events was essential to what I wanted to teach them. Or perhaps it was because today, especially, I didn’t want the surprise of what would come later to be spoiled by too many questions now. Or perhaps the real reason was because their questions echoed too closely the ones I’d been asking God just last night.

“What are you asking me to do this for?”

“What am I going to do if it doesn’t work out?”

“What is the purpose of these problems in my life?”

“What are you doing to me?”

What, what, what . . . every question I could think of except “What do I need to do to follow your will right now, right away?”

Like my Sunday School kids, I always want to know the end before the beginning, I want to know what everything’s for and how it will all turn out. I’m not content to take God’s well-planned lessons one step at a time, being obedient at the moment without having to know what comes next.

And just like when I’m the teacher, God answers my questions not with explanations, but with “trust me” – trust Him that He has a plan for my life, trust that He knows what He’s doing in the timing and order of it, trust that the lesson is a good one. “’Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,’” He says, “’for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’” (Matthew 5:34 NIV)

He asks that I first learn what He’s teaching me today, right now, before I worry about what’s to come tomorrow. And, just like my Sunday School kids, I have trouble with that, especially when doubts and questions arise, or when the plan seems to be going askew. Yet, even when life is the most confusing, even when I see strange sticks poking from God’s supply box, still, the best answer to all my “what’s” is a simple “trust me…you’ll see.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trusting God, One Bit At a Time

Hi Friends!

Well, it's been quite a week here. I'm now about 2 1/2 weeks from baby's due date, and so far everything seems to be going fine. A new niece was born last Thursday - congratulations to Jill & Christian on the birth of little Audrey! And my husband's Grandma Eileen passed away with congestive heart failure. We'll miss her.

Here's a picture of Gradma Eileen with Bethany & Joelle at Christmas a couple years ago.

Grandma Eileen's passing reminded me that in life we don't often don't get a full map, from beginning to end, telling us where to go, when to turn, what to do. So often, we only know the next thing - what God wants of us today, right now. The rest is a mystery. We don't know when the end will come, we can only know where we're going when it does. And still, God calls us to faithfully follow Him, one step at a time, one turn at a time, one day at a time. That's was faithfulness is. Doing what's right one step, one turn, one day at a time.

Because only He knows the whole path, from beginning to end. All we get are glimpses. Yet God is in those glimpses.

It reminds me of something that happened a few years ago, when I was first introduced to one of those in-car map/direction systems that tell you where to turn and how to get to whatever address you plug in.

It happened like this:

It would’ve been different if it weren’t nearly midnight, if I’d ever been in Baltimore before, or if we didn’t have a two-hour drive before us. But it was, and we hadn’t, and we did. So when my husband, Bryan, and I climbed into our Hertz rent-a-car we knew it wouldn’t be easy to get to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania over 140 miles away.

But when I unfolded the Hertz map, I realized it would be even harder than I’d thought. “This only shows downtown Baltimore and Washington DC.” I turned to Bryan and frowned.

“Well, um.” Bryan cleared his throat. "Looks like we’ll just have to figure it out on our own.” He gave me a sheepish grin, started the car, and pulled from the parking space.

We hadn’t driven ten feet when a strange voice spoke from a box attached to the dash. “What is your destination?”

“What’s that?” I pointed.

“I think it’s an onboard navigator." Bryan motioned toward the keypad. "Punch in where we’re going and see what happens.”

After a minute of pushing buttons, a map appeared on the screen, and a smooth woman’s voice emanated from the box. “Approaching right turn.”

“Look!” I sat up straighter. “It’s showing us where to go.”

Bryan made the right turn and continued to follow the box’s instructions until we reached a freeway and headed north. What a great machine!

After about 45 minutes, I wasn’t so sure. The problem was, the machine only showed us up to the next turn. It didn’t reveal the entire map, and I was starting to have my doubts.

Bryan was too. “Are we sure that box knows where we’re going?”

I squirmed in my seat. “How do we know it’s giving us the right directions?”

“That doesn’t seem like the right turn, does it?”

“Why are we going west when Lewisburg’s supposed to be north?”

Finally, Bryan had enough. “I’m pulling over and getting a map." Soon, he spotted a gas station and pulled off the road. Ten minutes later he returned with map in hand. “This is the right road,” he murmured in a very small voice. “I guess we should trust the voice in the box.”

For the rest of the trip, we decided to “trust the voice,” and sure enough, before long, we pulled up, safe and sound, in front of our hotel in Lewisburg.

Since then, I’ve realized that our Lewisburg trip is much like life. Sometimes I’m tempted to navigate by poor maps of worldly wisdom. Or, I think I can “wing it” by doing what seems easiest at the moment. But those methods will only get me lost. Christ offers me another way. When I gave my life to him, he became my onboard navigator, saying to me “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 31:21)

The problem is trusting. Sometimes it’s hard when God is telling me to be kind to someone who’s hurt me, to forgive, to go the extra mile when there seems to be no benefit for me. But what’s the hardest of all is to trust when I don’t see the whole map in front of me. I want to see all the turns and curves of my life right now. But that’s not how God works. Instead, he asks me to trust him one step at a time. And sometimes I feel like pulling off the road to check if he’s leading me the right way. But, then I tell myself to “trust the voice" – trust the One who knows more than any map I could ever buy. He knows where I am, where I’ve been, where I’m going.

And so I’m learning to believe and obey God for the “now” – to do the right thing, to do what he asks today, in this moment, and trust that He will be with me in the turns and curves to come. I remind myself that I have an onboard navigator; God knows the whole map of my life. All I need to do is trust and obey ... one turn at a time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Redeeming Gabriel by Beth White

Hi Friends,

Here's a new Love Inspired Historical novel by Beth White that I thought looked interesting. Read on to hear more about it!

REDEEMING GABRIEL by Elizabeth White

Spying for the Union army has taken a heavy toll on Gabriel Laniere. With deception a constant in his life, he can't allow himself to get close to anyone - not even God. Yet Camilla Beaumont, daughter of the Confederacy, just might be the exception. Camilla has a dangerous secret that rivals Gabriel's...and the unlikely partnership they forge could be the key Gabriel seeks to a soul-shaking truith larger than any conflict - love.

Romantic Times Bookclub says, "Elizabeth White's Redeeming Gabriel (4 stars) is a sweetly evocative story, with just the right amount of mystery to keep readers engrossed."

Amazon Link:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Financial Crises, New Presidents . . . A Thought on Facing Fear

Hi Friends,

With the financial mess the nation's been facing, and the election of a new President, I've been thinking about how we often allow fear to make decisions for us. We let fear drive us to things that are unwise and unhelpful. And as I thought, I was reminded of this story that happened not too long ago. To me, it was a lesson in facing fear and choosing to trust - choosing to act wisely.

It was such a normal morning. Quiet. Boring, as I walked out to feed our two horses. The air was crisp, the sun just peeking over the pines, the grass still sparkling with dew. A regular morning. Calm, uneventful . . . until I turned a corner and saw the horses’ pens.

I stopped. There, one of the heavy-gauge metal panels lay twisted and on its side. The metal bars were bent and torn. I ran forward.

The horse was gone.

A moment later, I reached the smashed up mess that had been part of the horse pen. Chunks of palomino fur lay on the dirt, the only remnants of the 1,300 pound gelding who had somehow crumbled the thick metal and escaped.

I glanced at our other horse. She stood inside her pen trembling, her nostrils flared with fierce snorts.

“What’s wrong, girl? Where’s Biscuit?” I strove to keep the panic from my voice.

She snorted some more, then raced around her pen and stared up into the hills.
I jogged around the pen to the far side. I looked up into the hills. And saw nothing. I peered into the trees to the left. Nothing. Down the road. Nothing.

Then I looked down.

And understood.

There, clearly pressed in the mud, were two huge paw prints. Cat paws. And next to them were two sets of smaller prints. I shivered. Mountain lions. No wonder the horses were scared.

I bent lower and tracked the prints. The cats, a mama and a couple cubs, had come down the hill and stopped fifteen feet outside the mare’s pen. Then, according to the prints, they turned around and ran back into the brush. They didn’t enter the pens or harm the horses. They just stood there, then ran away.

But that was enough for Biscuit. Enough to drive him wild with fear. To cause him to climb out of his pen and smash up the metal panel as he went. Enough to make him run away from food, from shelter, from the ones who cared for him.

We spent the rest of the day searching for our missing horse (and replacing the broken panel). Hours later, we found Biscuit. In the middle of the night, he had run off in a direction he’d never been before. He’d traveled almost a mile down dangerous two-lane road, crossed it, then found his way to a barbed wire pasture. He could have been hit, gotten cut, or been killed. He hadn’t drunk any water, eaten anything but some snatches of grass, and had long tears where his back legs scraped against the metal fence.

As I led him back to his pen, to water, to food, to shelter, to safety, I thought about what drove him to escape. Fear did that. Simple, primitive, instinctual fear. The mountain lion and her cubs hadn’t endangered him at all. It was the escape that put him in real danger.

And I wondered if fear does the same thing to me. Something scary appears on the horizon of my life. Maybe it doesn’t actually threaten me, or come into my space. I just catch a whiff of it in the air, see a bit of tawny fur on the outskirts of my vision. I see the possibilities, sense what could happen if the lion attacks.

How easy it is in those circumstances to run, to panic, to do things that don’t make sense. Fear is like that. It can tempt me to hurt myself, put myself in danger, leave the place where I am fed and cared for. Instead of trusting God’s care, I, too, want to scrape and scrabble, fend for myself, throw myself into desperate acts to get away from the thing that scares me. And in doing so, I put myself in the worst danger of all.

Maybe that’s why the command to not be afraid appears more than three hundred times in the Bible. Hebrews 13:6 (NIV) tells how to respond when fear comes out of the hills and stares at us with yellow eyes. It says, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’"

So, instead scrambling out of the fences in our lives and running down dangerous roads to unknown pastures, God calls us to stay calm, trust Him, and remain in his will. He calls us not to fear the mountain lions, but to trust in the boundaries he places around us.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Me Myself & I AM - Fun New Book

Hi Friends,

Here's a fun new book/journal that's just released. If you're looking for a tool to help you experience more of how God is and has been working in your life, I invite you to check out ME MYSELF & I AM! It's written as a series of questions for you to answer and reflect - perhaps it would make a good addition to your quiet time with God. Here's a bit more about it:

A new experience of God comes one question at a time in this fun and provocative journal. Made up entirely of insightful, profound, and occasionally ridiculous questions, Me, Myself, and I AM invites you to open to any page, open yourself to God, and be the author of yourown story.

Questions range from spiritually intriguing—
You overhear God talking about you. What do hear him saying?

to thought-provoking—
You are on a long car trip with a close friend who is not a Christian and the conversation turns to faith. What is your biggest fear about what your friend will ask or say?

to challenging—
Do you believe that all of Jesus’s followers have a responsibility to tell others about him?

to just plain fun—
If your life before you became a Christian were a movie, its title would be:
Animal House
As Good as It Gets
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It’s a Wonderful Life

Me, Myself, and I AM will entertain, inspire, and get you thinking about your spiritual life from brand new angles. Whether you use Me, Myself, and I AM as a reflective tool, a way to start conversations with friends and family, or as a spiritual time capsule to look back on years later, their own words will create a powerful journey of self-discovery.

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Me-Myself-AM-Unique-Question/dp/1601421427/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225735864&sr=1-1