Thursday’s Throwback with Barbara M. Britton

Jerusalem Rising

In November of 2017, Jerusalem Rising launched. I had taught about Nehemiah’s rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall many times, but I had missed the women in the story. Now, I had a chance to correct that oversight.

The daughters of Shallum helped Nehemiah rebuild the stone wall around the city. What? Women wall builders in Bible Times? Yes, you can find them listed in Nehemiah 3:12. We don’t know the daughters’ names, or how many there were, so I call my faithful duo Adah and Judith.

There is also a nasty woman in the story of Nehemiah. A prophetess, albeit a false prophetess, works against Nehemiah and ultimately God, in her plans to thwart the rebuilding. Her name is Noadiah, and you can find her in Nehemiah 6:14.

Even though my launch was almost four years ago, I am always learning something new about this story and God’s Word.


Blurb

When Adah bat Shallum finds the governor of Judah weeping over the crumbling wall of Jerusalem, she learns the reason for Nehemiah’s unexpected visit—God has called him to rebuild the wall around the City of David.

 Nehemiah challenges the men of Jerusalem to labor on the wall and in return, the names of their fathers will be written in the annals for future generations to cherish. But Adah has one sister and no brothers. Should her father who rules a half-district of Jerusalem be forgotten forever?

Adah bravely vows to rebuild her city’s wall, though she soon discovers that Jerusalem not only has enemies outside of the city, but also within. Can Adah, her sister, and the men they love, honor God’s call? Or will their mission be crushed by the same rocks they hope to raise.

Excerpt: 

Holding the oil lamp before her, Adah strolled toward the mournful sounds. If this were a trap, the deceiver would receive a warmed-oil bath. She passed through the remnants of the gate, by a length of crumbling wall, and inched closer to a figure crouched on the ground. Muttered words grew louder. Was this person in prayer or pain? She kept a safe distance in case the stranger lunged.

 She licked her lips and concentrated on her single word greeting. “Shalom.”

The figure flinched. The weeping halted. No sudden movements came, only a careful rise and a slow turn in her direction.

Her trembling hand held the lamp aloft and sent light gray shadows dancing across a man’s face.

“Daughter of Shallum?”

It couldn’t be.

“Governor?”

What was the governor of Judah doing weeping outside the city in the middle of the night? Did he find some fault with the officials, or with her father and his duties? And if he had fallen, where were the soldiers that had accompanied him on his trip? Sweat pooled above her lip as she balanced the lamp. Should she go and find Nehemiah’s guard? But where would she look? Her mother waited for her return.

Nehemiah brushed off his robes and swiped at the skin beneath his eyes. No salutation came. Chirping crickets continued their unending song.

“Are you hurt?” She blurted as she scanned his garment for the stain of blood.

He shook his head, but his chest shuddered.

She opened and closed a fist, not knowing what to do or say next. Her wandering alone at night, needed an explanation. A man could scout the streets of Jerusalem in the dark…but not an unescorted girl. And not the daughter of a ruler. She swallowed, but the lump in her throat remained. A small cough cleared her windpipe. “I did not mean to disturb you, Governor. My mother could not sleep, so I brought her outside for some night air. She heard someone in distress, so I came to see if I could help.”

He glanced off into the distance. “Your mother is here?”

“I left her beyond the gate.” Would he think her irresponsible? “This section of the city lies within my father’s district.” She looked around as if a crowd of city dwellers encircled their meeting place. “Most people are known to us.”

Nehemiah stepped closer. The flame from the lamp illuminated his finely stitched collar. She lowered the light so as not to irritate his eyes and to show him the respect he deserved. “You are a brave woman.” His praise was filled with the familiar authority she heard at their introduction hours before. “Your compassion knows no end, for you did not turn back at this hour.”

If that were only true. Her mother had sent her to seek the mourner. Left to her own decisions, she would have fled. “My mother deserves your praise. She heard you.” Heat rushed to Adah’s cheeks. “Sometimes I believe God blesses my mother’s hearing since her sight is no more.”

Nehemiah scrutinized her face as if the sun was in full glory. “Is her blindness a burden to you?”

“No.” Adah flinched at her half-truth and stood a bit straighter.

The governor’s stare did not waiver.

“Well, maybe. Some days.” Had she ever admitted this truth before? Not desiring to sound hard hearted, she said, “I love my mother. I would never complain about the extra work.”

The governor nodded. He averted his gaze and pointed toward some crags in the distance. “My father and his father are buried near here.”

She knew the caves of which he spoke, for many tombs were carved out of the same rock.

He continued, “When my brother brought word that Jerusalem wallowed in disrepair, I could not stay away any longer.” Nehemiah pressed a fist to his chest as if he were seeing the destruction of his city for the first time. “God has called me to rebuild the birthplace of my fathers. To resurrect the city of His beloved, David.” He turned to her with a gleam in his eye. “That, daughter of Shallum, is my burden.”


Get your copy!

You can purchase “Jerusalem Rising” on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold. Ask your library to order a copy for sharing.


About Barbara

Barbara M. Britton lives in Southeast, Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She is published in Biblical Fiction and loves bringing little-known Bible characters to light in her stories. Her WWI Historical Until June released in 2020. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Find out more about Barbara’s books on her website, www.barbarambritton.com.You can also follow Barbara on TwitterBookBubFacebook and Instagram

Friday’s Feature with Barbara Britton


Today I have Barbara Britton talking about her new book, Lioness. Barbara writes phenomenal Biblical fiction. She’s here today talking about the characters in her book and has even given us an excerpt to read.

Welcome, Barbara. Thank you for being here today.

Thank you for having me on the blog today, Theresa.

Tell us about your favorite character in your new book?

Mahlah is the main character in “Lioness,” and she has a lot on her shoulders as the eldest daughter of Zelophehad. When Mahlah and her sisters are orphaned, they make a bold “ask” for their father’s land (Numbers 27:1-11). Moses seeks God’s wisdom and God says the daughters are right. If a man dies without a son, his daughters inherit the family’s land. This was a huge change to the culture in Biblical times.

While Mahlah is steadfast and brave, I enjoyed writing the character of a mute shepherd named Jeremiah. I have a deaf family member and creating Jeremiah was a challenge but rewarding.

Do you read the reviews and comments of your readers?

Many authors have told me to avoid looking at reviews, but I always read reviews. Both the good reviews and the bad reviews tell me something about my writing. I find out what works and what doesn’t. Reviews are a window into my readership.

That being said, you have to be careful about reacting to reviews. I always say that not every book is for every reader. We all have our unique preferences in books. Some reviews can get personal and leap from not liking my story to questioning my walk with God. I remember the firm foundation that I stand on as a Christian and forget the personal attacks.

Reviews are very important to an author, especially on Amazon where they have algorithms to track the number of reviews a book has received. If you like a story, please leave a review. You can leave a review if you don’t like a story, but please stick to the facts and don’t get personal.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I think my character are much more interesting than I am. I don’t have to fight for rights to own land, or fight to rebuild a city, or go to war to conquer land. The Israelites in the Old Testament stories encountered many challenges. God was using them to be a light to the nations. That is a big undertaking with flawed people.

I have been a Christian for over four decades and my faith has grown through grief and battling cancer. My characters have a strong faith in God, and I hope I can add some of my

faith story to their story. Some of my characters encourage my own faith. I am in awe of the daughters of Zelophehad and their certainty that God would support their inheritance.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this amazing story. I couldn’t imagine it had gone unnoticed in my Bible readings for so many years.

The daughters of Zelophehad will have a growing fan base with the release of “Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey.” Their bravery has been hidden in the book of Numbers for too long.


 

Lioness

While the Israelites struggle to occupy the Promised Land of God, Mahlah bat Zelophehad is orphaned and left to care for her four sisters. But daughters of the dead are unable to inherit land, and it will take a miracle for Mahlah to obtain the means to care for her sisters and uphold the vow she made to her dying mother.

Mahlah must seek Moses, the leader of her people, and request something extraordinary—the right for a daughter to inherit her deceased father’s land. A right that will upset the ox-cart of male inheritance and cast her in the role of a rebel.

But, God is the protector of the orphan and the widow, and five orphaned daughters need His help. With God, anything is possible. Even changing man’s tradition.


 

Excerpt:

Her future and that of her sisters, overflowed with uncertainty. Being the firstborn of Zelophehad left her with little standing in her clan. The elders of her tribe were set to scatter her sisters into different tents. Some as wives, and others as servants.

Mahlah tipped her chin toward a bright blue sky. Her chest tightened, making breaths difficult. “I don’t have a mother or a father, God? But you know that. You know the truth.”

Tears seeped from her eyes and streaked down her cheeks. She didn’t bother to brush them away.

“How can I honor the vow I made to my mother when no one will let me? I am nothing in the elders’ eyes now that my father is dead.”

A wisp of a cloud drifted overhead.

“Are You listening, Lord? I’ve seen Your cloud over the Tent of Meeting. Your pillar of fire leading our people.” She swallowed, her throat thick and raw. “I saw Moses lifting a serpent on a stick so Your people would be saved. Or could be saved.” She shook the images of her father’s bloated body from her vision. “I know You care.”

She glanced around to make sure no one witnessed this spectacle of a girl talking to a cloud. Hadn’t she already stirred the curiosity of the fighting men waiting outside the camp?

“I am not a son, but I swear I love You more than some who wear a loincloth.” She hiccupped as the tears flowed. “Help me, Lord. I am pushed aside while my family is forgotten.”

Did the sky brighten? A ray of light broke free from the small cloud and illuminated the ground at her feet. Were her eyes playing tricks on her? She blinked.

Another ray of light burst from the cloud.

“God? Is that You?”

Dropping to her knees, she flung her father’s cloak over the rock and lifted her arms toward the blinding light. She closed her eyes and allowed the warmth to heat her flesh.

“O God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, hear my prayer. I am a woman without husband, or standing, or means. My mother and father are gone.” Her chest heaved, choking her petition. “Who is going to take care of me and my sisters?”

I Am.

Mahlah’s eyes flew open. Someone had spoken. Had Reuben followed her?

She whipped around, but no man stood anywhere near her.

It couldn’t have been? Could it?

The cloud hovered overhead in an expanse of endless sky. Her soul emptied of sorrow and soared like a skylark breaking free from the white mass and darting toward the heavens.

“What am I to do, Lord? I love my sisters. They can be brash and silly, but I love them with all my heart. We’re a family.” She licked her lips, warmed by the sun’s rays. “God are You truly listening?”

I Am.

Again. She heard it.

That voice.

Forehead to dirt, she bowed. Heart racing. “Toda raba, Lord. Give me Your wisdom.”

She stayed low to the ground until her back cooled and her limbs stopped trembling. She glanced at the blue hues above her. The cloud had vanished.


About Barbara

Barbara M. Britton lives in Southeast Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. Barb writes romantic adventures for teens and adults in the Christian fiction and Mainstream markets. She is published in Biblical fiction and enjoys bringing little known Bible characters to light in her stories. Barb is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. She has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Find out more about Barb’s books at http://www.barbarambritton.com/books.html

 

Barb is on Twitter, Facebook, and BookBub

You can find her books on Amazon, B&N, and wherever books are sold.

Monday’s Manuscript with Barbara M. Britton

Page Turner or Snooze Fest

Do you finish every book you begin? Or do you close a boring book and never reopen it? The opening of a novel can make or break the story. If you’ve heard, “the story gets going on page 30,” then page 30 should have been where the story began.

How do I know first pages are important? Contests ask for the first pages of a story to judge not the middle pages, or the final pages. When I pitched a story to a literary agent (who shall remain nameless), I was shocked that the agent only wanted me to send one page—the first page. One single page? Was the first page really that important. Yes. If a reader or an agent can’t get beyond the first pages of a novel, then the rest of the story won’t be read.

Where does a story start? At the “inciting incident.” I discovered this term in the book “Story” by Robert McKee and it was referenced at a conference by another author. I liked the simplicity. Your story begins when the main character’s life is changed forever, or something happens to the main character that creates the story problem. Your main character can create the problem, too. Who shows up at the door? Who’s on the other end of the phone. What does the main character discover that will set the story in motion? In other words, when does trouble begin? It should happen fast and furious and be filled with enough conflict to carry a novel for several hundred pages. Not a small task.

The author’s taller task is to make the reader like or relate to the main character, so the reader cares about the trouble. Remember the agent who only wanted one page? How do you make your character stand out in a few pages let alone sentences? When I am drafting characters, I think about what makes my character likeable and unique. How will the reader identify with my character? I also make my characters competent. Give your protagonist a skill or ability that sets them apart (Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES with archery). The skill or ability should help them overcome the trouble that is going to create chaos in their lives.

Not every ability is a physical one. Some of my characters overcome trouble with their phenomenal faith, or their intuition. Those are harder to define than being an expert swordsman but work well in Biblical fiction or Fantasy. David’s faith in God made him confront Goliath. His slinging ability helped him down a giant. Israel’s army had many valiant fighters, but it was David’s sincere love of God that made him volunteer to face a nine-foot warrior.

Remember too, interesting details are engaging. The more specific the details, the better the reader knows your character. Glance at magazines and find an image that looks like your character. What styles are they wearing? Jewelry? Shoes? Habits? Creating a character readers want to hang with will keep them engaged in the story. Anyone remember Kojak? What did the detective suck on while solving cases? A lollipop. It’s been a few decades since the show was on TV, but people remember his quirky habit.

If you’re not sure where to begin a story, sit down and start writing. Later on, go back and have critique partners look at your pages. I’m sure you have heard the adage attributed to Nora Roberts, “You can’t fix a blank page.” The more you think about these things, the more ideas will pop into your head (And I don’t mean lollipop).

Happy “inciting incident” writing!

Barb’s Bio:

Barbara M. Britton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently lives in Southeast, Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. Barb brings little known Bible stories to light in her Tribes of Israel series. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. She is published by Harbourlight Books an imprint of Pelican Book Group. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate.

You can find out more about Barb and her books on her website barbarambritton.com, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Barb’s books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.