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

 

triology of kings logo in black03Grand Prize Winner of the New Look Writing Contest

A novel that almost did not happen:

In 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 prelude.”

A prelude, 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 380 pages; 98,000 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

Release date – Spring 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

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

 

 

 

 

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.

Epiphany at Three in the Morning ~

In the stillness of the night I slumber, peaceful resting after a tiring day. Then suddenly I awake from a sound sleep. It is three in the morning. I roll over and try to go back to sleep, yet it alludes me. As I lay there, wrestling with my mind, I begin to think about my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER.

"Night Moon In Big Space" by nuttakit

“Night Moon In Big Space” by nuttakit

Over the past month, I have been jumping through hoops in an attempt to meet the many varying requirements preferred by literary agents in an attempt to interest just one of them in my story. It is a daunting venture. I am overwhelmed in my effort to take a manuscript of over 90,000-words and condense it down to just a few sentences.

“Dear Lord,” I pray, “please help THE STONE OF EBENZER find a home. Help me to know without a doubt how and by whom it is to be published. And give me the fortitude to see it through.”

At present, I have just completed writing chapter summaries of my novel. Each chapter has been stripped to a mere three to four sentences, all of which is to reflect my voice. Just the bare-bones….but how can you really appreciate the beauty of something when the outer covering is stripped away?

Well, I digress. This all leads to the point. As I lay in my bed in the middle of the night, I review the chapter summaries in my mind. My novel runs like water through my restless brain. It is then that I am struck. I have an epiphany as it were. I am blown away. I have always wondered why the story had to be written. THE STONE OF EBENEZER was not what I had intended to write, yet the tale kept pressing me until I finally gave in and wrote it down.

This story is my story. Without realizing it, I wrote a tale that is an allegory of the personal struggles I have faced. It is a story of loss and resolution, of moving beyond the tragedy and trauma of the past to find a peaceful place to rest. As the main character worked through his crisis of faith, I journeyed with him, cried with him, loved with him.

I began writing THE STONE OF EBENEZER, after the loss of my father on September 11, 2001. Well, really, I was trying to write about King Saul, but the story took a different turn. King Saul will have to wait.  The novel seemed to have a life of its own, its purpose not clear to me until I awoke at three in the morning.

I do not know why I had not seen it before. Working beneath my mind, I unwittingly transcended beyond the distress in my own life. Through it all, I have reached resolution.

I invite you to join me on this pilgrimage, and within the pages of this epic tale, may you find a place to rest.

Let the journey begin….THE STONE OF EBENEZER.

~ Susan

To learn more about my experience with September 11, 2001, read my 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.

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

In 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 lordship and fealty 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; 90,843 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 has been selected as a finalist in the Women of Faith 2012 Writing Contest. Winners will be announced March 31.

Silent Resolve Update

Pentagon Flag

A few months ago I entered my manuscript, Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down, in the  2011 Women of Faith Writing Contest. Yesterday, I received word that my work was chosen as one of thirty finalists from out of more than 600 writers whose manuscript was reviewed by a team of judges.

The three top winners will be announced on March 31, 2012.

I am overjoyed to be able to share my story with all of you. The apostle Paul writes that as we are comforted in our own suffering, we are “able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (1 Corinthians 1:4) My hope is that through the struggle and resolution within the pages of my manuscript, many will find the peace that only God can bring.

Look for it. The story unfolds spring 2012….

~ Susan