Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Steadfast - Guest Blogger, Eleanor Gustafson

It's Wednesday! That means I have a guest blogger and a book to give away. I'm thrilled to welcome the indomitable Eleanor Gustafson.

Why am I suited to write a story about extraordinary horses and an extraordinary God? I grew up loving horses, and God drew me to himself early on. I graduated Wheaton College and have been involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. A major writing goal has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant through the power of story.

My previous title with Whitaker House is The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David.

Writing From This Side of Heaven

I have been working on a novel for several years, its working title An Unpresentable Glory. I passed it by three pre-readers, all of whom had serious problems with it. I addressed these issues, rewrote major portions, and put it in the hands of yet another. Took him a long time—not a good sign—but when I offered an easy out, he convincingly wanted to finish—a good sign. One of my earlier readers had serious negatives, but he believed the novel needed to be published, if only for the last chapter. A very good sign.

The book’s diverse threads—gardening, American Indians, and politics—are complex. The characters are strong, the threads hold considerable interest, but the book is challenging to write and to read.

Another obstacle is the potential market for Glory. I write literary fiction, which sort of says it all. Who, these days, is into literary fiction? Easy reads and big-name authors have a ready audience. Lacking those advantages, I aim for page-turners, and those who manage to get past the hurdle of Ellie WHO usually like what they read.

The biggest challenge, though, is not the book itself, but bottom-line realities. I’m getting long in the tooth (aka old) and am nose-to-nose with the Big Question: Will I live long enough to finish this thing and actually get it published? I don’t write fast (The Stones set a record at 15+ years), so the odds are against me. Will my publisher be willing to pick up yet another of my risky novels? Will I be able to negotiate publicity and marketing challenges and actually get readers to buy my book?

I base my writing on a Christian worldview, and that means more than just choosing appropriate Bible verses to inject into my fiction. The Kingdom of God—the base of my operations—has many dimensions. We are familiar with our basic three (length, height, depth), but had we proper glasses, we’d probably see far more. Wild, indescribable colors; precious jewels and metals; creatures with eyes, wings, wheels; deep, untiring worship; love such as we’ve never experienced. But how do we live on this side of heaven, and how does one write from that perspective? Not easily, and certainly very carefully.

And then the matter of time. As I said, I write slowly. But everyday life doesn’t allow time for even minimal creative stuff. I write a lot, but mostly having to do with church (missions and other responsibilities), book-marketing tasks (blog, interviews, asking for reviews), and caring about countless people (church folk, missionaries, via email and phone calls). Love requires time and energy, but that’s what we’re called to do in this complex Kingdom of God.

Be steadfast. Walk in faith. I just read an article* that speaks of faith layers.

1. In basic, easy faith, you ask God to supply a need. He hears, he answers, and you rejoice.
2. You ask, he doesn’t seem to hear but then answers, and you rejoice even more.
3. Then those tough verses in Hebrews 11:35-40: There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

The latter is genuine, raw faith—believing without seeing. Our eyes must not be on what we get here on earth, but fixed on our Lord who promises “something better for us”—himself and his love.

May God give me that kind of steadfast love and faith for whatever amount of time he has allotted me. Finishing An Unpresentable Glory is truly a matter of faith—and in the Long Run is not even all that important.

* “Faith is the thing”—AndrĂ©e Seu Peterson (World Magazine, February 21, 2015)

Available April 2

Jeth Cavanaugh is searching for a new life along one of Pennsylvania's mountain ridges when he stumbles upon a stable of show jumpers owned by Rob and Katie Chilton. Throw in a volatile gaited stallion named Dynamo, and Jeth will do anything to work there. He earns his living by training and showing Rob's jumpers, but Dynamo is his primary passion.

Everything changes when God enters his life—in the unconventional form of a hard slap by an old girlfriend—and ignites a new, greater passion within him. But along with fervor comes fear at the undeniable evidence of God's hand on his life. Inexplicable events, both good and bad, make him moan plaintively, "Why does God do this to me? I get the feeling I'm being set up for something."

He is, indeed. Jeth's life is anything but predictable, much like the God he serves. The real Dynamo and his ultimate trainer emerge out of an excruciating mix of disaster and brokenness, which are never beyond the reach of redemption.
This story is God in your face: Who is He, really? What does He ask of us?


  Jeth rejoiced when Rob stayed home and only Cecil came with him to shows. In the midst of the tension he and Rob were living under, the boy was a calming presence. He even breathed peace on the horses. He talked to each one, nose-to-nose, and fussed over them. Jeth watched. I used to do that.   What happened? He locked his arm around Cecil’s neck. “Hey, lug—you’re good for me.”
  “Ow! Lug yourself! Lemme go!” Cecil laughed and clawed at Jeth’s arm.
  “I won’t let you go till you bless me. No, that won’t work. You bless me every day. What else can I get out of you?”
  “I’ll sic my mama on you!”
  “Oh, no!” Jeth tossed Cecil onto a pile of sawdust and rubbed a handful over the boy’s head. After a brief dust war, they both lay back and laughed joy into the core of their being.

Wow! This is special. I'm getting myself a copy today. And one of you can win a FREE copy. Just leave a comment along with your email address and you'll be included in next week's drawing.

Last week's winner is Deanna Stevens. Congratulations!

Grace and peace to you from God,



  1. Anonymous1:51 PM

    Eleanor~ You had me at, "Love requires time and energy..." but the more I read, the more I love you. Then the book! My granddaughter and other young horse people would love this principled work. I want to encourage you that some that wrote books in the bible, that was the calling of their life. I rejoice over your knowledge and what you've what you've learned and your willingness to take the time to share your wisdom in such a thorough and wonderful way. Like you said... "Love requires time and energy!"

  2. Really enjoyed the interview and would love to win a copy of the book.

  3. Anonymous3:55 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Ellie www.eleanorgustafson.com7:49 AM

    Thank you so much for your comments! Yes, love does require time and energy, but when I think of the cost of God's love, how can I not love people around me in return? He died that we might live, and he lives that we might never die. Bless you, and shout aloud, "HE IS RISEN, INDEED!"

    Ellie Gus

  5. I enjoyed meeting you today Eleanor. Your story sounds wonderful..
    dkstevensne AToutlook doTCo M
    I do love horses & would enjoy your book!

  6. Hey Deanna--I see you're hoping for winning two weeks in a row! Yes, I'm sure you would enjoy reading Dynamo--win or not! You're a horse lover, but even those not so blessed like it--LOTS. : )