Things are getting exciting here as the release date for my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, draws near. Here is something to whet your appetite–a teaser for the official book trailer.

teaser

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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

Forsaken

Imagine, if you will, that you are an Israelite in Jerusalem and the army of Assyria is encamped against your walls. All the nations around you whyhaveyouforsakenme_wide_t_nvhave fallen. Jerusalem is the last city standing, your city, Zion, which God had promised to protect.

Isaiah 49:14 speaks of the people’s reaction:

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.”

Forsaken by God. Most of us have felt that way at one time or another. Even Jesus experienced this emotion when upon the cross He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I have felt forsaken. On September 11, 2001, my father was ripped from this world by terrorists. In that moment, I felt forsaken. All that I had believed in, trusted in, was stripped out from under me.

But hear what God spoke through Isaiah, the prophet:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)

He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands…..

This is not just taking a pen and writing your name on His skin. You have been inscribed, that is, engraved. He has taken a blade and carved His palm, wounding His flesh so that forever He will bear the scars of your name upon His hands.

Not only does He know our name, but He bears our scars upon His flesh…forever.

I have journeyed down a dark and empty road: alone, abandoned, and forsaken. But I have found something along this desolate way: a beautiful truth. My foundation is sure…and I am not alone.

We all face trials. We have difficult times. God never promised us otherwise. In fact, He told us that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). But He did not leave us to travel this world without aid.

Listen what the Lord proclaims:

“I, even I, am He who comforts you.” (Isaiah 51:12)

Now this next part is a little condemning to me…God says:

“Who are you that you should be afraid?”

I have been afraid. I am sure you have too. We live in a world full of terror. But who are we that we should be afraid when the Lord is our God? If we are afraid, we do not believe.

“Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.” (Isaiah 51: 12-13)

We have a powerful God. So why do we fear?

What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

“But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared— The Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:15-16)

We do not have a God who looks on from the outside as we struggle along the way. But we have a God who enters with us into the midst of the fire. He walks the troubled path with us, taking us through to the other side. He is our God and we are His people, engraved upon his hand: a perpetual covenant between the Lord and His chosen.

So as you travel the journey of this earthly life, remember: you are not forsaken.

~ Susan

Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down (a 9/11 story)If you would like 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, or your area retailers.

 

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

The Sitting Room with Kath Chiero

“I am wounded. I feel wounded. I try to go about my life as though everything is fine, like I’m OK. But I have been lacerated to my core and I carry the hurt with me always.”- Susan VanVolkenburgh speaking about the loss of her father in the attacks on 9/11. Hear her story and remember our loss on Sunday at 5:00 EST www.610wtvn.com

September 11

A Dreadful Day – For those of us who remember that September morning also recall the pain, sadness and hopelessness that clouded a nation. Thousands died and the victims’ families were forced to begin a journey that none of them wanted to take.

Susan Van VolkenburghKathy welcomes into The Sitting Room, Susan Van Volkenburgh, author of the book, “Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down: (A 9/11 Story)” to recount her journey. On September 11, 2001 at 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 plummeted into the Pentagon, taking the lives of 184 innocent people. One of them was Susan’s father, Stanley R. Hall. At that moment, everything changed for Susan. Everything she knew, everything she ever believed in, came crashing down. Her life began to unravel. This ten-year journey through the desert, through a land where God was silent, was a time of trial and of spiritual awakening. Could faith endure in the face of so great a loss, so large a betrayal? Transcending the events of September 11, this spiritual odyssey moves through the mire of grief and loss, to question the very motives and promises of God.

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.

 

 

My Father Which Art in Heaven….

The wound runs deep, ripped open anew. As blood spills out of my ruptured heart, others look on in confusion from across the aisle. They do not understand. It has not always been so for me. But now it is my reality with each passing year. The light is so bright; the cheerful shoppers pass through the card filled aisle. I take a step closer to the brightly colored display. It holds no joy for me, just a reminder of what I have lost…

Every year it is the same. I have to select Father’s Day cards for other fathers in my family, but all I can do is think of the one missing, the one ripped from my life, killed by hate. Gall rises in my throat. I clench my teeth. My father’s words run through my mind, “Don’t let anyone or anything have dominion over you but God.” But tragedy changes you, shapes you into someone new.

I sit here looking at the blank page. The words come with difficulty. I desire to write a tribute for Father’s Day, but to be honest, it is a difficult time for me. My mind reels against me for it is too painful to walk down that path again. I have fought so hard to rise above the grief, to climb up that spiral of sorrow.

It begins with Memorial Day, that downward trek into grief. I struggle to rise, clinging to the sides of the spiral. I do not want to slide back down. The upward journey is too hard. But it is the way is has been since my father was taken on that terrible day, September 11, 2001.Bench at Pentagon

I fight against myself: want versus will. I am weary of thinking about my loss, yet I was so privileged to have had such a good father. And so I push back against the pain to share with you my father.

When I was in grade school, I had to write a small piece describing whom I thought was a great person in the world. I could have chosen anyone: a sports figure, a movie star, a person in history. Instead, I wrote, “My father, because he loves me and he is nice. I love my father. When I need help he helps me.”

Whenever I needed help with homework, I often ventured downstairs to my father’s office. He was always willing to stop his own work to come to my aid. Often I desired his assistance in achieving the solution to one particular math problem, but he would go into a long dissertation attempting to lead me to understand the reasoning behind the mathematical operation. I would grow impatient, wanting to get on with it so I could just finish my homework and move on to more interesting pursuits. Nonetheless, he would continue until I had a solid grasp of the concept.

When I had questions about the Bible or God, my father would never just come out and provide me with direct answers. He would put on that crooked smile of his, lean back in his chair, and point to his bookshelf.

“The answer can be found in one of these books.”

I would sigh, my shoulders slumping, wanting quick answers. Then I would search his library until I found what I needed to resolve my query.

Now, as I look back, I am so thankful for the instruction he gave me. I have spent my life seeking answers to questions, desiring to learn and understand. Research has become my passion. Really, I could spend all day researching any number of topics. I credit my father for this love of learning that I now possess. What I saw as a frustration when I was teenager, I cherish now as a gift. And so, I pass the teaching on to my children. I see the same frustration in their eyes, and I smile and thank God that I was blessed to have the father that I had.

stanley hallI remember when we lived in Westlake, California, waking up to the sun filtering through the window of my bedroom. My window was open, as it often was, filling the room with the wholesome morning air, the kind of air that takes you out of yourself. The sound of the pool filter humming met me as I rejoined the waking world. It was a warm, comforting sound. I would look out my window and see my father working on the filter or cleaning the pool. How safe I felt knowing my father was always there.

He was a safe harbor. There was something in my father that spoke of assurance and power. His very presence was overwhelming. His Being spoke of something great and important.

My father was a serious-minded person. He was a humble man. Never did I see him put on airs or become puffed up by his own brilliance. Yet, this humility did not engender in him a sense of passivity that allowed others to sway him when he knew he stood in the right. He possessed a quiet stubbornness, which my husband will tell you I inherited, that provided him with the staunchness to stand his ground. This stubbornness grew into a resolve to live his life with integrity, despite the pressures and trials of life.

With hard work and tenacity, he believed all situations could have a favorable outcome. Though often shy with people, his affable nature often overcame his feelings of bashfulness, his commanding presence covering up any evidence of his uneasiness. Favorably disposed, he was a man upon whom one could depend. Understated by design, my father maintained a firm composure under the most extreme circumstances. Though his attitude was one of restrained equanimity, he did not demonstrate a dull persona.

Predominately serious in nature, my father was not without humor. When he bought his first wash and wear suit, he did just that. He wore the suit, entered the shower (still arrayed), and proceeded to wash it with a bar of soap. My mother captured this event in a photograph that I have always enjoyed gazing upon with a giggle.graphic 4

When I was a child, my father would quietly sit at the kitchen table while we ate dinner. Then he would begin singing, “Daddy sang bass, Mama sang tenor,” using amusing voices—the bass part in his lowest bass, the tenor voice, his best female falsetto. We would all roar with laughter. We cherished these few glimpses, for he rarely showed his lighter side.

Often my father was seen making a trek across the lawn on his riding mower, waving to the neighbors. Or walking behind his snowblower, a monstrous machine in which he took great pride. Many a weekend, he would walk through the woods behind my parent’s house, tending the dogwood trees, which were highly favored in his sight. Among the trees, he labored to build a flagstone patio where he envisioned the family gathering to pick crabs. It was this patio that he worked on the weekend before September 11. With just a few stones left to place, he quit for the day, telling my mother that he would finish the job when he returned from his trip to California. He never had the chance to finish. My brother completed the task as a labor of love and remembrance. The patio stands as a symbol of my father’s life unfinished.

My father spent most of his time pursuing solitary endeavors. He kept his thoughts close. When it came to emotions, expressing himself verbally was difficult. He could not initiate a hug or form the words, “I love you.” As I became an adult, I decided I would hug him. At first, I found that I had difficulty initiating the hugs, but the more I pushed myself, the easier it became. Always, when he came to visit me while on business, he would linger at the door as though waiting for something. I would reach out and hug him, and then he would hug me back.

Sometimes, words are difficult. My father always said that actions speak louder than words. Though very busy with work, my father always took time to attend our music and sporting events. He was often in the role of assistant coach to our sport teams. His actions never failed to say I love you.

graphic 8 (2)He could never tell us outright that he was proud of us, but we could see it on his face. On my wedding day, as I slipped my arm through my father’s as he prepared to walk me down the aisle, I looked into his eyes and saw them well up with tears. I will never forget that expression. No words were necessary; his eyes said it all.

My sister told me of a conversation she and her husband had with my father on the Labor Day before September 11, 2001 regarding the end of time. My father had said the main point to remember is that the end will come, and we just need to be sure we are ready. How profound, for within a week’s time my father was taken. He often did not say much, but when he spoke, his words were thoughtful and wise.

We will probably never know why some people were saved and others were lost that day. Maybe it is not for us to know. What I do know is that God holds tomorrow, and there are no better hands to hold it than the Lord’s.

There is no question in my mind that on the morning of September 11 my dear father followed God and entered into his glory.

Many of us have been fortunate to have had an earthy father that gave us insight into the heart of God. I thank the Lord for a godly father, who stood for integrity, faith, honor, and love.

~Susan

Biography excerpts taken from SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story).

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, or your area retailers.