Clean Fiction for Readers and Writers

Where to find clean fiction

The challenge to find clean fiction for teens and adults is real. We are bombarded with scenes that we are being trained to think are an acceptable part of a book. In my travels through media land, I met Amelia Nichole, author and founder of Story Quest Academy. The search is over! Amelia is a solid resource into a community of indie authors who write clean fiction.

Clean Fiction Blog Tour

Amelia launched “Clean Fiction Blog Tour” which features clean indie fiction for the whole month of March. Story Quest offers writing courses for tweens and teens with a focus on clean fiction. There’s so much to chose from but much of the literature written today is not “clean”. We want our kids to read good stories (so do we) and this is a whole world of good fiction written by authors who are dedicated to making their book wholesome and worthwhile.

For a full list of authors, please scroll to the bottom of this post and cruise all the stops!

Story Quest Academy Info

To check out a great online academy of writing, you can find Story Quest Academy here.

Why was Seasons of Devotion created? The back story

I’m letting you in on a secret. I started Seasons of Devotion as a means to find people who would actually read my stuff. Boy, was I naive! Writing a book and getting it published is only the tip of the iceberg! There’s so much to learn if an aspiring author wants to not only publish a book but also be read.

When I heard about Amelia’s blog tour of authors, I was very interested in what that was about. When I inquired about it, Amelia asked if I would like to join in.

So, here I am, taking my first baby step and submitting to the world the first draft of one chapter of the book I wanted to write for-oh, about four years now. But it’s actually not the first baby step. I’ve done a lot of preparing for this.

Ruth: a historical fiction novel in the making

I wanted to write a historical fiction story about Ruth of the Bible from a Jewish understanding of who she was. So I read an entire Jewish Bible and ALL of the commentaries in the side notes, and a Jewish study book, The Book of Ruth, a new translation with a commentary anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources. I also went to Israel as a tourist and I got to experience the land from a Jewish Messianic perspective. That was an added bonus trip of a lifetime.

But all of that does not make me a good writer. This step, which I am sharing with you, is an invitation to critique the first publication of the first chapter. You won’t hurt my feelings with any constructive criticism you have to offer. It’s necessary for a writer to get a lot of feedback in order to improve. Please leave a note in the comment area below or use the “contact me” box at the bottom.

My story about Ruth is a historical fiction story

This book is meant for high school age and up. It should raise questions from those who are familiar with Ruth as a book of the Bible. Here is my first publicly submitted piece. The title may change, but it’s what I have so far. I like the title because Ruth’s life became centered around farming and farming is a subject I connect with. I also do not know if this will be chapter one or not.

So, without further ado, here is…..

The Farmer’s Wife (one chapter)

“Come on, we have to leave NOW!”, Ruth said. 

“This is one time I wish I were a man!” Orpah exclaimed, “Then, I would not have to go. Who knows what we are really going to? Elimelech convinced everyone that he was some great judge in Israel with land to spare. Well, if he was that important, why did he even come here? And, why didn’t his sons, those sickly little husbands of ours, take us back to that big inheritance they said they owned when their father died years ago?” 

Ruth whispered loudly, “Shush, Orpah! You’ll bring shame on our father’s house!” as she glanced at the servants who were helping them adjust their bundles across their backs and over their shoulders. As if they didn’t already know the truth.  

It was supposed to have been a good arrangement. Turns out, the brothers that were promised to her and Orpah were not at all what they were made out to be. They were weak and seemed destined to die an early death. A so-called peaceful alliance between her father and Israel never happened. Now, she and her sister were locked into going to who knows what.  

Indeed, there were no real answers except that their husband’s town,  Bethlehem, “a house of bread”  in their Hebrew language, had become a house of famine when they left it years ago. Famines come and go, yet people don’t just leave their country if there is any food to spare. Ruth wondered about these things too. A lot. 

The night before, their mother had wept with them privately, with bitter tears, knowing she would never see her daughters again. She said her good-byes then, saying she could not disgrace the King in front of the servants. Hadn’t she lived in the palace long enough to know that the King must not be made a fool? His bargain turned out to be no bargain, after all. That was clear. 

Ruth gave her bundle a tug and crossed the inner chamber that she and her sister had returned to ever since their husbands had died. She walked through the doors into the beautiful courtyard for the last time. Green leaves were budding and fruit trees were beginning to bloom. A cool mist was hanging over the whole garden in the early light of day. She and Orpah had grown up there under the watchful eye of their nursemaids and servants. Oh, she was going to miss waking up in the mornings and coming out there first thing. 

She had hoped to see her father’s favorite guard waiting to usher them into the King’s inner chambers but she knew that was just wishful thinking. King Eglon was a proud man. Besides, a king’s daughters were merely an asset to use for bargaining and her father got the raw end of the deal. No grandsons. No real alliance happened. No legal claims to land could be made after the old man died. The king would not want any more attention to that!

Finally, the large doors that led to the outer courts were swung open by the guards at the gate, just enough for her and Orpah to go outside the palace walls. When they shut closed, the two women looked at each other. Ruth was the first to look away. 

They made their way down the cobbled street, through the market square and finally into the open air. The early morning sun was promising a warm day but the chill of winter was still in the air. She drew her bundle wrap a little closer. She knew she would warm up once they had walked a little way. 

Just walk. Just walk. What else could they do? Naomi would be waiting for them. She will make them feel better. She always did. 

Orpah said, “We are walking to our deaths, Ruth! You know it. Why can’t you see that? We won’t even be alive this time next year. We are ruined. We can ask Father if he will let us stay. I know he will.” 

Ruth replied, “You speak as if you could tell the future. How long have you had such powers? Naomi is not like Elimelech. She fears God. Haven’t you learned anything from her? Besides, she says her hometown is named “House of Bread” for a good reason. We won’t starve!”

Orpah remained silent and stared ahead as they walked. Then, she blurted out, “Maybe we won’t, but who will want us? We have already been married and have no children. How many times did we ask each other, ‘Are you with child yet? Are you with child yet?’ Who wants a barren woman? Who will want us, barren, foreign women? We will end up being their servants! That’s what will happen to us!” 

As they walked, Ruth looked to her right and saw farmers that were already headed toward their fields. This was the time of year that she loved to go for walks. The fields were filled with tall barley that was nearly ripe. The landscape was one large field after another of fluid grassy waves that rippled from one tall grassy field to another. Yes. This was another sight that she loved. She was going to miss it terribly.   

The other side of the road had wheat fields as far as the eye could see. The tender green expanse was already knee-high. How she loved barley. The fresh smell of green was mixed with the nearly ripe grain of the wheat. To her, the sweet smell mixed with the cool air was intoxicating. 

Naomi had told her that her “house of bread” had fields of grain again and Naomi told them stories about how the grain was always beautiful with plump heads that threshed out full. Maybe, Springtime would be beautiful and rich there too, like it is here.  

The timing was perfect, according to Naomi. She wanted to go back home. Now that she had no husband and no sons, she had no future here. No man here wants an old Hebrew woman. The king wasn’t going to support her. Not after the way her husband Elimelech tricked him. 

Ruth was deep in thought. “Who wants an old woman anywhere, here or at home?” Orpah had said. Her point about being barren weighed heavy too. To be truthful, what was to become of any of them, not just Naomi. But, family ties were not to be broken. It was a woman’s duty to honor their husband by honoring the mother too.  Naomi was going back after all these years and they had to go with her.

Ruth liked the customs that Naomi had taught her. She knew Naomi felt lonely as they celebrated their holy days alone. Ruth’s city had mocked the Hebrew family, pointing out that Naomi and Elimelech’s God had left them. That’s why they had a famine. But, Naomi insisted that her God had a reason for everything. Ruth sensed the peace in their little homes-a peace that she had never felt in her father’s castle. 

There was Naomi, waiting for them at the crossroads. From that point, they could see the caravan in the distance. The merchants were breaking camp and piling their rolled tents and blankets onto the camels, drawing up ropes, and making a place to ride on top. The cooking pans and water flasks were still on the ground in piles.

“My daughters! You are so beautiful,” cried Naomi.  

Orpah kept her eyes down but Ruth looked into Naomi’s sad face. 

“I’m sorry it has come to this, my daughters,” Naomi said sadly studying Orpah’s demeanor. She turned to walk toward the caravan to hide the tears that made their way down her cheeks. She knew they would be better off staying in their own country. She wanted to release them for a better life. But, how was she going to break tradition?

Ruth loved her mother-in-law. She was different, for sure. All of “this” wasn’t Naomi’s fault. She remembered the time that Naomi said that she loved her husband with a look that let Ruth know that Naomi was not a part of the scheme of making deals for her sons.

But all that was over anyway. Ruth knew Naomi longed for the home of her youth. More importantly, Ruth knew that Naomi seemed to have a way with her God. She had told Ruth so many stories about God and his promises that were recorded by Moses. Her whole country knew the stories very well. But she had never known the stories the same way that Naomi did. She had grown to love the stories told the Hebrew way. She wished she could be blessed with the promises too. 

Suddenly, Naomi stopped in the middle of the road. 

“My daughters! Go back to your mother’s home. I can’t ask you to go with me. I’m thankful that you were so kind to my sons. Please go home to your mother’s house. Don’t worry about me. Just go back and I’m sure you will be given a good man for a husband. Go, and be blessed.” 

“Oh, we can’t do that!” they cried, “We will go with you to your people.” 

“No, listen to reason, girls.” said Naomi, “I am too old to get married and try for a son for you to marry one day. I know you want to honor me, but I am too old to even think about conceiving again. Even if that weren’t true and I did marry and have sons, it would be ridiculous for you to wait all those years for the child to grow up.”

“No, go back home. Be blessed. This curse from the Lord need not be on you too.”

Ruth and Orpah were overcome with emotion. Naomi surely loved them. They all wept as they stood there. The caravan was starting to leave. The first in line was already heading out. 

Orpah hugged Naomi, and said, “Thank you! Goodbye!” She walked away, not even giving a look back.

Just like that! Ruth was left standing there, looking after her sister! The last connection to her country was broken. Her heart felt like it was ripping in two.  

Naomi said, “Ruth, go on. You too. Go back to your mother’s care. Look, your sister has gone back to her people and her gods. You go too. You have my blessing.” 

Ruth hugged Naomi tightly and Naomi waited for an answer. Ruth clung to Naomi, hiding her face. Silent. 

That was the third time she was asked to go. 

Naomi waited. 

Here’s your blog tour!

March 1st Story Quest Academy

March 2nd Ellie Naomi

March 3rd Julie Gilbert

March 4th Jasmine Natasha

March 5th Liz Delton

March 6th Mark Hansen

March 7th Ian Vroon

March 8th Story Quest Academy

March 9th Nicholas Kotar

March 10th J.M. Hackman

March 11th Mark Hansen

March 12th Courtenay Kasper

March 13th Debbie Schreffler

March 14th Story Quest Academy

March 15th Steven Guglich

March 16th Laurie Lucking

March 17th Julie Gilbert

March 18th Meg Dendler

March 19th Nicholas Kotar

March 20th Courtenay Kasper

March 21st Story Quest Academy

March 22nd Molly Casperson

March 23rd D.J. Edwardson

March 24th Marty C Lee

March 25th Molly Casperson

March 26th Mark Hansen

March 28th Story Quest Academy

March 29th Debbie Schreffler

March 30th Nicholas Kotar

March 31st Molly Casperson

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A photo of the author, Deborah Schreffler

Debbie Schreffler

Veteran Homeschooler, avid gardener, and proud grandma

I believe that you can design a peaceful lifestyle while you homeschool, complete with a garden if you want, and meals that will make the best memories you ever could imagine!

I homeschooled seven kids through high school, starting them all with a lot of planned, hands-on activities. Then, I centered subjects around the activities. That gave them lots of room for their natural curiosity to be satisfied as they learned about God’s world.

Let me help you teach kids, grow food, and stay calm!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.Mat 6:33 CSB

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11 thoughts on “Clean Fiction for Readers and Writers”

  1. Hi Deb,

    Thanks for sharing this. The writing style is great! I don’t have enough background to comment on the portrayal of Ruth and Orpah as sisters and daughters of King Eglon. I know that you did much research of Jewish writings, which, of course, I have not! While I understand that this is fiction, can I ask if there are any hints in the biblical story to back up this portrayal?

    Blessings,
    Jane

    1. Hi Jane,

      Hey Jane, thanks for your curiosity! You are right, there really aren’t any hints in the Bible. So much about Ruth is unknown when our only source is God’s word. What Jewish scholars have done is to put two and two together and made some assumptions and arguments about who was who and came up with answers to satisfy the lack of details. Personally, I am confident that the only thing for sure is that the time period matches Judges 3:12-30. If that is correct, then questions do come up. Although King Eglon suppressed Israel, there had to be some back story to the respect that King Eglon showed Ehud with Ehud’s declaration about having a message from God. Moab had their own gods, so why would King Eglon even consider a “word” from Israel’s God? That’s where the speculation of some sort of marriage alliance comes in and it does make a fascinating story that begins with treachery and betrayal!

  2. Hey Deb,

    I’m working on some Biblical dramatizations myself. I’ve been crowding my space with commentaries from top scholars (for Messianic Jewish resources I’m using Alfred Edersheim). It’s a noble undertaking. (If you’re interested, I’ll recommend a few resources to you.)

    The Rabbis of antiquity often embellish Scripture and extrapolate with a hair or nothing to go off of, partly based on their obsession with knowing what is not being said and partly based on their insistence to connect things (the prophet Jonah, for instance, is seen as the kid of the widow at Zarephath, despite the fact that this would make him about 100 years old by the time of 2nd Kings 14:25). Some of these traditions can be helpful, but usually only because they let us know what the rabbis thought about the passage many centuries later. That is, the traditions typically don’t help us discern what happened historically in any way (at best), and at worst end up contradicting Scripture.

    I would treat these sources with more than a grain of salt—try a bowlful. You may want to try a commentary from Joyce Baldwin for reliable information. It’s usually better to extrapolate as little as possible when dramatizing the Biblical narrative.

    Yes, you said you wanted to tell it from a Hebrew perspective. But what about from a historical perspective? Given the fanciful speculations of Hebrew traditions, you may have to choose between the two. I’ll let you decide what kind of story you want to tell.

    By the way, the time of Ehud, while favored by some here, is unlikely. This is because of the genealogy at the end of Ruth. Even though Biblical genealogies do contain gaps, Ehud is very early in the period of the Judges; from Boaz to David we have only 2 links, and one of them goes directly to David (Jesse), as seen in 1st Samuel. This means that about 300 or so years (Ehud to David) have to be filled by Obed and whatever gaps come before and after him—a tall order to fill. One name, Obed, essentially is supposed to fill in for 300 years? I’m not sure if I’d buy that. If the rest of the genealogy were that brief, I’d spring for it. But the rest of the genealogy *can’t* be that brief if we’re talking about Ehud’s day, because between Ehud and Exodus/Numbers you have scarcely a century or so. Even reasonably assuming gaps, the latter period of the Judges is more likely. (Some have proposed the famine of Gideon, but this is also too early and speculative.)

    Anyway, I hope this helps. Have a great day!

    –Ian Vroon

    1. Thanks Ian, I’m thrilled to have more information. I was really troubled about the fact that I assumed that the book of Judges was a linear account. I learned that many Jewish scholars do not believe it to be. So, I asked an Old Testament professor (who is a Christian) about the idea of the book of Judges not being a linear account and he agreed. That makes Judges make more sense to me and it gives me leeway with the timeframe for Ruth. I found out that many Evangelical Bible scholars believe this to be true, not just Rabbis. I have also wrestled with the idea that I am writing fiction about God’s word. I don’t want to mislead anyone so when I get to the point of actually publishing the book, I plan to have a section on how to read critically and help the reader to research and know the difference. My intent is to spark an interest to find out what we know for sure is true.

      1. Thanks for the gracious reply! My wife and I were hoping you wouldn’t find my reply disheartening when I clicked to post the comment. I appreciate you including that section for further study at the end of your book. 🙂

        As far as I’m aware, most scholars have always thought that Judges 17-21 is a detailed set of examples of what happened in the “in-between” moments when the Israelites turned away from God, arrayed from bad to worse to show what happens when people do as they see fit instead of making God their king. I have always been taught that the last 5 chapters could fit anywhere in the book chronologically. So this is likely what you are getting from evangelical scholars, as most of them believe ch. 17-21 are nonchronological.

        However, the rest of the book appears to be fairly chronological—Shamgar, for instance, is said to come after Ehud, Deborah comes next and even sings about the days of Shamgar, Gideon’s account leads into that of his (seventy and change) sons and the rhythm of the narrative of Judges seems to suggest a chronological framework until ch. 17.

        So for instance, a Judges timeline I found online that puts ch. 21 at or around Ehud still puts Ehud really early (after Othniel, before Shamgar). That same timeline might interest you because it puts Ruth near Ehud (you made me curious)—and it still puts Ehud near the beginning of the period of the Judges (right after Othniel, right after Joshua), which is too early for the genealogy in Ruth. (Oddly enough, that same timeline states that Mahlon and Kilion died in the Moabite army, killed by Israelites in the war against Israel. Now that’s some extrapolation!)

        At any rate, the non-chronological aspect of the book is limited to chs. 17-21. I haven’t seen or read a commentary or source that says the other judges are out of order. But if you know one, let me know and I’ll take a look at it. I really am curious; I just spent an hour (or two, or three) before writing this comment combing through (almost) every Judges commentary we have and online sources and even Logos, and I cannot find anyone who thinks Ehud didn’t come after Joshua-Othniel and before Shamgar-Deborah, or even anyone who thinks the judges listed thru Samson aren’t in chronological order.

        I’m not trying to be a pain at all—I really did investigate. I’ve just never seen or heard of this view in scholarship. I wonder if you thought that because the scholars were speaking of Judges as a whole—again, 17-21 is not chronological, which is enough to rightly claim that Judges is not chronological—and you might have supposed they were extending that claim to ch. 1-16. If so, it’s an easy mistake to make. 🙂

        Judges has been one of my absolute favorite books, even when I was just a six year-old with wide-eyed wonder. So let me know what you find. 🙂

        1. Thanks for your insight and time, Ian. Not offended or disheartened at all. I agree that Judges is fascinating and I understand that the Jewish perspective on scripture is quite different from my Evangelical Christian perspective in many instances. That was a glaring fact as I read the comments in my Jewish Bible. Yet, there is not a real cut-and-dried historical record about the time frame or setting behind the story of Ruth. The setting I created (based on the sources I cited) can certainly play a big part in portraying her character going forward. So, we will see where this goes as the book, “The Farmer’s Wife” is still pretty fluid and can change:) I’ve taught a lot of classes over my lifetime and one of the things I love to do is to show different perspectives and talk about them critically. We often uncover wrong beliefs when we do that. After all, you were inspired to fact-check me:) I hope that the readers will be inspired likewise.

          1. That’s a wonderful reply! Thank you for your time and trouble.

            Yes, I do hope people are inspired to think critically. The goal of such dramatizations (at least when I write them) includes bringing the Bible to life for people in a way they may have never realized. It’s a huge responsibility for me to “get it right,” even when I have virtually nothing to go on for the details. This has challenged me in my own writing to never settle for ambiguity, but really try and figure it out.

            Like I said, it’s a noble undertaking. 🙂

  3. Pingback: My Top 10 Favorite Middle-Grade Clean Fiction Books! – Courtenay Kasper

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