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Writing from the Dust

Cara : March 21, 2017 8:55 pm : Latest News, Uncategorized

Why I wrote Devil in the Dust.

One Sunday after church, we decided to go to lunch with another family. We hadn’t had the opportunity to get to know this couple well, but the conversation was amazing, we laughed until we almost cried, and I’m pretty sure the restaurant manager was glad to see us go.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5f/Dust_Bowl_Oklahoma.jpg

On the way out, the topic grew more serious, and I mentioned something that worried me. It was maybe a sentence—I was not baring my soul—but the woman with whom we had spent the last couple of delightful hours stopped, blinked, and put up her wall-of-a-Christian-smile. In an instant, I knew I had been judged as negative. You see, for many Christians, the mantras of “the battle is already won,” “faith will get you through,” and the largely American “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” have drowned out the quieter mandate to care.

I went home chased by the feeling that, somehow, I didn’t measure up. And for a time, I dredged that place of overthinking, attempting to float a reason out of that murky pond where insecurity hides.

Of course, I came up with nothing, and decided to put my efforts into deciding what my next novel would be. Unfortunately (or fortunately), at this stage, every little life experience has potential for use.

While I had been undecided on theme, I knew I wanted the setting for the novel to be in the dustbowl in the 1930s. I began researching, and I realized the scope and human impact of this disaster was much larger than I had remembered from history class. More importantly, it lasted an entire decade. For a decade, people dealt with hunger and drought and death from breathing in the ultra-fine soot. Children were lost. Families abandoned their farms. People survived on rations of canned government meat…and that’s when they were lucky. Many felt cursed.

Life was hard. I imagine that smiles were rare, even in the church.

I started thinking about what it would take for a community to survive devastation on this scale. I considered the kind of people who make up a town: merchants, teachers, police, farmers, and ministers. And while merchants and teachers, along with everyone else, would feel the change brought on by the slow death of a drought, for a minister it would be different.  A minister’s purpose is to bring people the good news of the gospel. Technically, their job would stay exactly the same, except every phrase they spoke would shift in meaning because the context—the lives of those sitting in the pews—had changed so dramatically.

Growing up as the child of a pastor, I have some knowledge about how a minister’s home works. And in all my research I was left with one question: How could a minister preach every Sunday to a congregation of people who had lost everything with no hope for improvement anytime soon?

I moved my research to the Bible, and when I did, I came across the story of Lazarus. I have heard and read this story countless times, but in the light of trying to puzzle out what a pastor might do in a situation where it looks like all has been lost, I realized something about the story that I had never considered. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he cried with Lazarus’ sisters. He shared in their grief even though he knew it would end. He stayed there with them in that moment of sorrow.

I came to the conclusion that during times of suffering, our responsibility to others should look nothing like that drought-of-a-Christian-smile that I met outside that restaurant. Rather, it should emulate Jesus’ example. When we make Christianity only about victory, and turn faith into a wish book, we strip it of its most powerful message: hope. Not eternal hope, but the hope of not being alone. More often than not, we lack the ability to change someone’s circumstances. What we can do is come up alongside someone and help carry their burden even if only for a few minutes. Christianity is not a way to avoid suffering, it’s about finding meaning through the suffering.

I wrote Devil in the Dust as an exploration of what it means to be a Christian while standing in the midst of a desert. Told through the voices of three women who endure the quiet shame of poverty, Devil in the Dust is a story about what happens to faith when everything goes wrong.

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Dragon Fruit and Letting Go

Cara : November 2, 2016 1:44 am : Church, Education, Family, Kids, Latest News, Parenting

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MTL Article

Nov. 1, 2016

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6 Must-Haves for a Great Series

Cara : July 18, 2016 8:20 pm : Books, Craft, Latest News, Uncategorized, Writing

I love to read. Everything. I read mystery, literary, historical, contemporary, sci-fi, biographies, academic…pretty much anything I can get my hands on.

And even though I am currently writing a series, I typically prefer not to read in a series because I like variety.  That’s not to say that I don’t go back to my favorite authors, because I do. I just tend not to read the books one after another.

This has recently changed for me. I’ve discovered Louise Penny. And in the last year and a half, I’ve finished six of her Chief Inspector Gamache novels.

Lately, as I’ve approached writing the third novel in my Portraits of Grace series, I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about what makes me go back to Penny’s novels again and again, and I’ve come up with a list of six things that are must-haves for writing a series.

1)      I love the characters. I wish they were my friends. They are witty and real and funny, and multi-layered, with complex loves and hates. When I finish the book, I wonder what is happening to them.

2)      The setting is spectacular. If there was a house for sale in Three Pines, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

3)      There is a lack of judgement. In these novels, most of the characters would fall under a “liberal” point of view, and a few are “conservative,” but overall, there is no preaching from the author. This might seem like a simple thing, but these books are set in modern times, and I challenge you to find another contemporary book where it doesn’t feel like the author is trying to in some way sway their readers. It’s hard to do. For Penny’s novels, the characters are who they are, and it is that simple.

4)      She describes the most wonderful food. I want to sit in the B&B in Three Pines and have Gabri bring me a warm basket of freshly baked croissants. Actually, description in general is one of Penny’s gifts. I must not be the only one who really appreciates the food, because there’s a whole page of the series website devoted to recipes.

5)      The characters make me appreciate the value and pitfalls of all sorts of personality types.

6)      Each novel is different, but the same. They are all based on Chief Inspector Gamache, but there is a different murder that he tries to solve in each book. People die in different ways, so there are new inspectors and new experts. The trip to figure out what happened brings in new settings. The person who died brings in new characters with their families and friends. All-in-all, while the main characters grow in importance, the new ones bring variety and life to the series.

If you haven’t picked up one of her novels in this series yet, I encourage you to do so. Order doesn’t much matter. A warning for sensitive readers: they are murder mysteries, so there is some violence involved, and the language would not be considered appropriate or welcome for every reader—although I would not describe the profanity as gratuitous.

Have you read this Louise Penny’s series? What did you like or dislike? If you are a writer, what have you learned?

As a side note, if you have Audibel, the narrator for these novels (Ralph Cosham) does a fabulous job:)

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Fresh Fiction – Enter to Win!

Cara : June 24, 2016 2:37 pm : Books, Craft, Latest News, Writing

Soul's Prisoner front6 Things I Learned About Writing Suspense from Reading Suspense

 

Enter to win a signed copy of Soul’s Prisoner!

Just comment on the blog at http://freshfiction.com/page.php?id=8459

 

Looking back now, I realize that every time I picked up a book as a kid, I was learning to write—especially suspense… read on by clicking here.

 

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Goodreads Giveaway! Starts June 24th!

Cara : June 18, 2016 4:12 pm : Books, Latest News, Writing

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Gathered Waters by Cara Luecht

Gathered Waters

by Cara Luecht

Giveaway ends July 07, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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BookBub $.99 deal

Cara : May 21, 2016 12:52 pm : Latest News

Remember why Freedom is worth the price

Gathered Waters,

2016 Selah Award Finalist,

is featured on BookBub today!

$.99!

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Selah Award Finalist!

Cara : May 6, 2016 8:55 pm : Latest News

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Gathered Waters is a 2016 Selah Award Finalist!

Click here for details!

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Soul Painter Featured Deal

Cara : April 1, 2016 2:23 pm : Latest News

Facebook-20160401-091906Today, Soul Painter is being featured by ManyBooks.net as a .99 deal!

Check out this awesome site and get Soul Painter for .99, and other amazing deals (some are free)!

Happy Friday!

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8 Things I Wish My College Students and Their Parents Knew

Cara : March 10, 2016 4:33 pm : Latest News

Besides being a mother, wife and author, I spend my days as an English instructor for a local community college. I enjoy this additional job, if for no other reason than it provides me the opportunity to watch the next round of 18-20 somethings as they make their first attempts at real world living.

Read the rest of this article here

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