Grand Prize Winner

10444401_783430071694342_4450495211235494301_nI am overwhelmed!

THE STONE OF EBENEZER has won the Grand Prize in the New Look Writing Contest!

www.westbowpress.com/newlook/winners.aspx

The Stone of Ebenezer

There are some things that should not be forgotten, some truths that should not be forsaken. A story torn from the pages of antiquity, in an age where gods ruled the land: two men, two nations, drawn into an immortal struggle.

~     ~     ~

NAGAD’s life was perfect until it was torn apart by the ravages of war. Now, haunted by his past, this young conscript must meet the enemy in battle. With shaking rage the nations collide in a fierce conflict for dominance. Yet more is at stake than the survival of a people. The dispute contests the claim of immortal supremacy, the outcome to prove whose god reigns omnipotent.

And so, Nagad of Benjamin pushes on through the raging tide of battle. But to no avail. Soon crushed by the mighty war machine of Philistia, thousands of Hebrew soldiers lay slaughtered upon the carrion infested field. Hope has abandoned them. Then it is remembered, that in the days of their fathers, any army that bore the Ark of the Covenant could not be defeated. They need the Ark, for only then can the Chosen of God prevail against the enemy.

But they are wrong.

~ Susan

An amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate where God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.
Foreword written by Rev. Judith Wiegman

THE STONE OF EBENEZER Coming spring of 2015

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The Stone of Ebenezer – Finalist

untitled (3)I am so pleased to announce that my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, has been selected as one of the top ten finalists in the New Look writing contest – sponsored by HarperCollins and Westbow Press. I am truly honored! Winners will be announced on January 13.
www.westbowpress.com/newlook/winners.aspx

This is the third honor this novel has received:

The Stone of Ebenezer

There are some things that should not be forgotten, some truths that should not be forsaken. A story torn from the pages of antiquity, in an age where gods ruled the land: two men, two nations, drawn into an immortal struggle.

~     ~     ~

NAGAD’s life was perfect until it was torn apart by the ravages of war. Now, haunted by his past, this young conscript must meet the enemy in battle. With shaking rage the nations collide in a fierce conflict for dominance. Yet more is at stake than the survival of a people. The dispute contests the claim of immortal supremacy, the outcome to prove whose god reigns omnipotent.

And so, Nagad of Benjamin pushes on through the raging tide of battle. But to no avail. Soon crushed by the mighty war machine of Philistia, thousands of Hebrew soldiers lay slaughtered upon the carrion infested field. Hope has abandoned them. Then it is remembered, that in the days of their fathers, any army that bore the Ark of the Covenant could not be defeated. They need the Ark, for only then can the Chosen of God prevail against the enemy.

But they are wrong.

~ Susan

An amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate where God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.
Foreword written by Rev. Judith Wiegman

 

THE STONE OF EBENEZER Coming spring of 2015

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THE STONE OF EBENEZER, or the story I did not intend to write

triology of kings logo in blackIn the stillness of the early morning, I come to my desk and write. Darkness is brushed away by the gentle glow of my lamp. All slumber, save me, for it is the appointed hour, the time set aside in my hectic life to bring forth words upon the page. So I sit at my desk, and begin to relay a tale, of a king, anointed by God, asked for by His people, but against the will of the prophet, Samuel. Images of great battles and events of fealty and lordship  take shape. Through the vivid drama played out before my mind’s eye, a solitary figure emerges. Just a glimpse at first, then a gentle nudge, until at last, he erupts upon the scene in full grandeur, filling the pages. He has a story to share, a tale to tell, and he has chosen me as his vessel. I listen to what he has to say, but I only allow him an opening place in my story, a lead into the main action of what I have chosen to recount. But he is relentless, pressing into my mind, usurping the process; until, at last, I stop and take notice.

Before I begin my scheduled writing time, I have a moment of prayer. I ask of God direction in my work. Each word, each phrase, is to be the voice of God revealed within my manuscript. It is, and has always been, my chief desire to express the message of the Lord upon the pages of my books. And I have been amazed at the words He has given me. So there I was, trying with great effort to write a novel about King Saul. The story came, but this nagging image of another character kept taking my attention. I added scenes to the beginning of my book in an attempt to quell the voice of this one leaning heavily against my mind. Then it came to me, as so often thoughts do, in the dark as I lay in my bed.

“Make it its own story.”

But that is not the story I want to write, I thought to myself in the stillness.

Again the thought came to me, “Set it down as its own tale. It is a story unto itself. A prequel.”

A prequel, I repeated. But it is not long enough to stand alone.

“Rewrite it and make it so.”

God, is that you? I questioned. If this is what you want of me, then I ask two things to prove it so. Firstly, I have to have a title. A good book needs a name. Secondly, it must be at least 300 pages or 90,000 words, or it will not match my plans for the rest of the series. If, through me, You accomplish this, then I will write it as its own story.

By the end of the day, I had my title: THE STONE OF EBENEZER. It was perfect. I would never have thought of that myself.

Ok, Lord, I have the picture.

So I began writing. I had worked six years on this novel. Now, after so much effort, I split off the front and began to flush out this new venture. Within four months, the story transformed, into a tale of faith and revenge, of loss and hope. I could hardly believe my eyes.

What was happening?

It was as if I had lost control, given up to the character. It was he, telling the tale of his crisis of faith, of his struggle with his past. Could he let go of the hurt? Move on to a future bright and hopeful? He had so much to overcome, and all the while, his nation faced annihilation. War festered in the land, and with sword in hand, this character strove to fight his way to resolution.

As I wrote the words, I was amazed at how they grew.

When the word count reached 87,000, I told God, alright, I am convinced, it is done. It mattered not that the manuscript had not yet reached 90,000 words; I would do as He asked.

But the Lord is faithful, and we had a deal. And as it often is with God, He exceeded His promise. The novel grew to 315 pages; 92,000 words.

Oh, and the character, who so ardently pushed his way upon my consciousness, his name is Nagad, (naw-gad’ ), which means messenger in Hebrew.

Message received.

~ Susan

 

THE STONE OF EBENEZER:

finalist in the Women of Faith 2012 Writing Contest

finalist in the WestBow Press and the Parable Group 2014 Aspiring Authors Writing Contest  

Release date – Spring 2015

It’s In the Works…

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been asked by several readers when they can expect my novel to be available. With this in mind, I thought I would take a moment to update everyone on the progress I have been making.

At present, THE STONE OF EBENEZER (book one in the TRILOGY OF KINGS series) is in the hands of my editor. She has informed me that she is approximately half way through her edits. She knows you are waiting, but really, give her a break, it is a long novel.

Trilogy of Kings: the Anointed One

The book cover design has been chosen. My illustrator is tweaking the drawing to meet my demanding criteria. Once she receives my approval, then off she goes to fully detail and digitalize the image. I think you will like what she is creating.

20140607_074234

After my manuscript is returned to me, I will have to go through each edit and make corrections. This will take some time. This will be the final rewrite of the novel and the hope is to present the reader a well-written, clean copy (no typos, grammatical errors, etc.).

Then the manuscript is handed over to the publisher. The publisher takes the manuscript and formats it for eBook or print. The final cover design will be applied. And voila, you have a novel ready for reading!

SKU-000524494_COVER

So as far as predicting when THE STONE OF EBENEZER will be available, well, that is hard to say. But it is in the works and I feel good about saying sometime this year.

If you need something to do while you wait, read my non-fiction book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story).

~ Susan

Just to let you in on a little secret – this week I finished the first draft of THE ANOINTED ONE, the second in the TRIOLOGY OF KINGS series.

 

 

Top 30 Finalists of the Aspiring Authors Writing Contest

I am pleased and honored to announce that my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, has been selected as a finalist in the WestBow Press and The Parable Group Aspiring Authors Writing Contest. This is the second honor for this manuscript. On to round two – The winners will be announced on June 21, 2014.

The Stone of Ebenezer

There are some things that should not be forgotten, some truths that should not be forsaken. A story torn from the pages of antiquity, in an age where gods ruled the land: two men, two nations, drawn into an immortal struggle. 

~     ~     ~

Revenge. His blood burns with a shaking rage.He does not forget.

NAGAD’s life was perfect until it was torn apart by the ravages of war. Now, haunted by his past, this young conscript must meet the enemy in battle. With shaking rage the nations collide in a fierce conflict for dominance. Yet more is at stake than the survival of a people. The dispute contests the claim of immortal supremacy, the outcome to prove whose god reigns omnipotent.

And so, Nagad of Benjamin pushes on through the raging tide of battle. But to no avail. Soon crushed by the mighty war machine of Philistia, thousands of Hebrew soldiers lay slaughtered upon the carrion infested field. Hope has abandoned them. Then it is remembered, that in the days of their fathers, any army that bore the Ark of the Covenant could not be defeated. They need the Ark, for only then can the Chosen of God prevail against the enemy.

But they are wrong. The appetite of the bloodthirsty Philistines is not yet satisfied.

In the days of the last judge of Israel, from the foothills of Ephraim to the coast of the Great Sea, THE STONE OF EBENEZER is a sweeping saga of loss and revenge. This extraordinary tale from the Bible is brought to life, woven together in a tapestry of details, accurately portrayed in light of historical, archeological, and cultural landscapes.

As nations clash in a struggle for regional dominance, two men, on opposite sides, each strive to overcome the past and reconcile faith in his god.

Beyond the Biblical account of the conflict at Aphek and the ensuing trouble that follows the Ark of the Covenant, this story transcends to the post-9/11 world and the crisis of faith brought about by loss and grief. THE STONE OF EBENEZER moves beyond the field of battle, looking intimately into the hearts and minds of those dwelling within opposing nations. Influenced by the works of Tolkien and Dickens, and in the vein of Hadassah: One Night with the King by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen, this Biblical fiction, takes the reader on a journey that spans the breadth of twenty years.

An amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate where God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.
Foreword written by Rev. Judith Wiegman


 ~ Susan

Finalist in the 2011 and 2012
Women of Faith
writing contest

 

 

 

 

The Seduction of Words ~

I was thinking today about the vocabulary, or the loss there of, within the English language. Everyone seems to be in such a hurry that words are simply discarded. Even the SAT vocabulary list has been “dumbed down.” It saddens me to think how lightly we hold words. Without words, how would we express ourselves, tell a story, or give instruction? It is hard to estimate how many words are available for our use, but it is clear that the average person speaks only a small percentage. Although Shakespeare made use of the vast vocabulary at hand, he found that there were not enough words for his taste. So he coined new words, somewhere around 1700, such as eyeball, mountaineer, bedroom, and of course puking, green-eyed monster!

Words are descriptive, specific, and waiting to be used.

You do not have to be a erudite, or a philologist, to appreciate a broad vocabulary.

Words are available for everyone. Each word has a unique meaning: some general, and some, are very specific. These are the words that make the difference between good enough writing and great literature.

In light of that last statement, I would like to share the following post from an earlier entry, for words are my passion. As an author, how words are put together in a sentence is as important as what words are engaged in telling a tale. Here is insight into my use of words….

~~~~~

Words, words, words… I have a love affair with words. I am a word collector. I even keep a leather bound word journal. When I am reading, I will stop as I come across a word or a phrase that I especially enjoy. I will pause, turn around and go back, rereading the words slowly as I mull them over in my mouth, feeling the texture of the words as I express them audibly. Then, so as not to forget the sensual experience of these beautifully crafted words, I carefully write them in my journal, noting where I gathered them so that forever I can return to experience their pleasure once again.

As a writer, I often have vivid scenarios that play out within my mind, so real and detailed that I actually view myself within the scene, watching intently as the action unfolds before my eyes. The question is how I, as a writer, relay to the reader the striking images of my vision. I find that authors often miss out on great opportunities to fully express their imaginative conceptions. They assume that the reader sees what they perceive. But if one is not careful, details are missed as the author fails to deliver an adequate description of all that is within the folds of their mind.

We must never assume that the reader can see into our thoughts. Words are the key. It is said, the genius is in the detail. Nothing should be left unsaid. As I view a scene within my mind’s eye, I look all around and ask myself:  what do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? Then I painstakingly transcribe each detail into information for my audience, written in just the right way so that they can be caught up into the action with me. I say painstaking; for that is the way it is for me when I write. I have spent two weeks writing one paragraph, thinking, ingesting, researching, for just the right words so that the images flow as a leaf upon a fair breeze. I do not just tell the reader what I see, or hear, or smell. The way I write, the words I choose, the order in which I place the words, are just as important as what I write.

Below is an example. I could say this…

~~~

Nagad stood upon the rise, looking over the land before him. The rolling hills were covered with flowers that waved in the breeze. The morning air was fresh and new, bringing to mind visions from the past.

Or I could say …

Dominating the landscape, across the undulating ground, Nagad beheld various shades of yellow and crimson, short-lived flowers of summer, fluttering in the soft morning breeze. The smell of spring, of the uncertain glory, hung in the air, a variant wave of freshness faintly perceived, coming with the distant scent of apples wafting up from the golden blooms of the crown daisy. Breathing in the smell of the field, the green lap of the vernal season beckoned from sleep and issued forth a flood of memories of youth and peaceful times, of white linen robes and youthful love, and the soft laughter of a virgin.

~excerpt from The Stone of Ebenezer, Trilogy of Kings

~~~

So you see, how a scene is written is so much more than the delivery of information. Not only do I want to describe my characters, my scenes, I want them to come to life, to jump off the page. I desire my reader to have a visceral reaction to all that is transpiring within the words on the page. They should experience the story as a member of the action, not a passive observer, but an integral part of the story. The narrative should flow off the page without difficulty. The story line should be easy to follow; the burden of the saga should be on the author, and not the reader.

So then, go forth and read. But not only read, study how the words are composed. What makes the author’s words come alive?

~Susan

Foreword to THE STONE OF EBENEZER

In the days of the last judge of Israel, from the foothills of Ephraim to the coast of the Great Sea, THE STONE OF EBENEZER is a thrilling saga of loss and revenge. As nations clash in a struggle for regional dominance, two men, on opposite sides, each strive to overcome the past and reconcile faith in his god.

stone-monolith-270285-m

I am truly fortunate to have experienced such unfailing support in writing this novel. With pleasure, I here present the foreword to THE STONE OF EBENEZER, written by my good friend and mentor, Rev. Judith Wiegman. Her enthusiasm for my effort is overwhelming; she is a constant source of guidance and strength.

So without further adieu, the FOREWORD:

~ ~ ~

As I begin this Foreword, I am reminded of the call from Susan when she completed her manuscript “The Stone of Ebenezer.”  Months before, she had contacted me to pray about writing the Foreword; a request that aroused a feeling of deep responsibility.  I am a pastor, author, and faith writer columnist but this was more than a writing assignment, more than a column for the newspaper, it was a call from Susan’s heart to mine; one I accepted with feelings of immense humility.

Susan and I met when as a children’s pastor; I taught her three children in a Dallas area church. Our mutual love for prayer, music, and writing, bound our hearts and minds together as kindred spirits. One summer I learned of Susan’s love for biblical, historical accuracy when she created booths for a children’s vacation Bible school. The children were intrigued to step back in time and experience life in the little village of Nazareth where Jesus grew in “wisdom, and stature and in favor with God and men.”[1] 

I agonized with Susan and her family upon learning how deeply they were all wounded two years prior to our meeting in the powerful tragedy of September 11, 2001.  They were forced to travel a journey, not of their choice, but theirs just the same. One of the passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon was her father, Stanley R. Hall.  I prayed diligently for her as she struggled to publish her first book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN. I share her grief each time I pick up the book and re-read any portion.

During our times together, Susan would share about another “book” gathering momentum in her heart and head.  As an author I could certainly relate and was not surprised when she completed her second work, THE STONE OF EBENEZER.  Susan sent this message: “I am sending the manuscript certified mail. It is always a frightening thing to put your manuscript in the mail. It is like sending your child away unsupervised.” Her choice of words struck a memory in my thoughts as they wandered to an Old Testament mother who placed her child in a basket made of bulrushes and “sent him away” unsupervised.  As the mother gave the basket a small push, she trusted God to provide a person that would receive the child and care for him. [2]

I could picture Susan as the manuscript left her hands in Texas headed for mine in Pennsylvania. It arrived! Overwhelmed by excitement, I signed for the treasured box.  I held it in my hands, called immediately to announce its safe arrival and curled up in a sunny spot to begin an incredible journey that began long ago in Ancient Israel. A journey traveled by Old Testament characters, re-born in Susan’s heart, now ready for anxious readers such as myself.

As I began to read, I envisioned the daunting task Susan faced as the overwhelming “I must write” feeling flooded her mind repeatedly in the early dawn. I marveled at the countless hours of research she logged in on this work. Her dedication allowed her to portray the events found in I Samuel chapters 4-7. Its amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate. The Bible states “So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.  The ark of God was captured and Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas died.”[3] God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.

Portrayed in her book are characters brought forward from Old Testament antiquity and presented face to face for the reader to experience.  This novel draws the reader to “be at home” in the Old Testament setting. Woven throughout its pages, the reader will readily see the hand of God as it moved in times past to protect the ark of God and the chosen children, Israel.  It will allow the reader to grasp the fact that God’s faithfulness to His Word in both blessing and judgment has not changed and can be claimed by us today.

I am honored to introduce this work by Susan Van Volkenburgh and to encourage her to pursue the completion of the series, TRILOGY OF KINGS.

~ FOREWORD BY: Rev. Judith Wiegman

Ordained Minister, Church of the Nazarene, 2003

Women’s Conference and Retreat Speaker

Faith Writer Columnist, Jotting Judi, The Dalhart Texan Newspaper 2008-2013

Author: Featured in Teatime Stories for Mothers, River Oak Publishing; Tulsa, Oklahoma

Featured in God’s Vitamin C for the Hurting Spirit, Starburst Publishers, Lancaster, PA

Recent Children’s Books: The Trail of the Wooden Horse,  A Stranger at the Gate, The Night of the Storm, Beacon Hill Press, KC, MO


[1] Luke 2:52

[2] Exodus 1:22-2:10

[3] 1 Samuel 4:10-11

THE STONE OF EBENEZER has been selected as a finalist in the Women of Faith 2012 Writing Contest.

To learn more about Susan’s experience with September 11, 2001, read her book: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, LifeWay or your area retailers.