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Friday, December 31, 2010

True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

How can we apply the meaning of Paul’s words to the media? Is there anything noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy on TV, in the movies, online, in video games, or in books? Besides, that is, very conservative Christian fiction or nonfiction?

There is an ongoing debate among Christian writers and publishers about what is acceptable in “Christian” literature, and, by implication, on TV and in movies. Is it okay for Christian writers to show violence, sex, or profanity?

Another question we may ask, is it okay for Christians to ever watch or read of these things?

Answers, of course, vary. What some see as gory, others will accept without qualms. And the real question is this: Can violence, sex, or profanity ever show things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?

On the surface, it seems not. How can the portrayal of sex or violence be any of these things? The Bible shows us how.

Although the examples are numerous, let’s just look at a few.

REACTIONS:

One example that shows a praiseworthy  or noble reaction to violence was when Stephen was stoned. We can’t deny that stoning is extremely violent. Yet, something praiseworthy came from this violence.

Let’s look at an example of a reaction to a sexual act. We certainly know what Potiphar’s wife had on her mind when she grabbed Joseph’s cloak. She told Joseph what she had in mind. Yet, Joseph’s reaction to her advances was pure.

Can the reactions be seen without the dishonorable actions? Doesn’t the action, whether violent or sexual, have to be shown to some extent for the Christian reaction to be seen? Of course.

ACTIONS:

Let’s go one step further. Do the actions of sex or violence ever have positive connotations? The Bible says yes.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrew 13:4

Sex is pure in the confines of marriage. How much “action” in the form of sex can be shown? Song of Solomon gives us an idea. Some of the actions are blush makers. Yet they are shown as pure and lovely.

How about the action of violence? Is it ever praiseworthy?

It is when in the defense of others or of God. The act of overturning the tables in the temple by Jesus has to be judged as violent.

Imagine someone entering our home and overturning a table. Definitely a violent action. Yet if a computer were sitting on the table with pornography on the screen, the violence is something that would be praiseworthy. (I’m thinking here of Fireproof when the husband takes a baseball bat and destroys his computer.)

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

I recently read a book by a well-known Christian author and found it too violent for my taste and stopped reading. Each person has their own threshold of how much violence is too much or how much sex is too much.

For me, sometimes it simply overloads my senses and I say, enough! Sometimes it depends on what I gain by the experience of reading a book, or watching a TV show or a movie portraying sex or violence. If I gain a greater understanding of human nature, I have a higher tolerance. Especially if there is a triumph over adversity or evil.

I will give you an example of this. I refused to watch Home Improvement. Why? Because the husband/father is constantly ridiculed. Yet, I watched Everybody Loves Raymond. The husband/father is ridiculed also, so what’s the difference? In Everybody Loves Raymond, everyone is ridiculed. I do not get the sense that the wife if far superior to Raymond. Furthermore, human nature is accurately portrayed. We clearly see the mistakes being made in the marriage and this can lead to greater insights in our own relationships. (And I watch the reruns still just because they’re hilarious.)

We wish to see life as rolling green hills, with a cottage surrounded by flowers. Butterflies flit through the air and rabbits hop about without a care. image

However, a bird swoops down to make a meal of the butterflies while a wolf hides behind the bush, waiting for the rabbit to hop a little closer.  Meantime, you’re in the cottage with your spouse . . . . (Fade out.) And, unseen, a dragon clambers up that hill.

Better get your sword out. For that is simply life.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Joy of the Kindle

Those who are my friends on Facebook know I received a Kindle and a Nook for Christmas. My husband Carl is using the Nook and I’m using the Kindle.

I love the Kindle. And that comes as a shock to me. I’m a lover of books, especially the leather-bound ones,—not just the reading of them, but their beauty, and their feel when I hold them in my hands.

And I’ll always be a collector of hard-backed books and have them lining my book shelves. I’ve always wanted an English library with dark mahogany wood shelves lined with books, and with leather wing-backed chairs and a round table adorned with an antique globe. And of course a heavy mahogany desk with a leather chair. image

So, yes, I wanted a Kindle. It does hold 3500 books at a time. My house has always been overcrowded with books since I don’t have that English library in my home. So I thought I would like it, if only to cut down on the clutter. It shocked me how much I love it.

It is an absolute joy to read. My eyesight, as I’ve mentioned before, is deteriorating. The Kindle is much easier to read than any book I own.

Beyond that, it is so light and thin. It feels right in my hands. And it’s so easy to begin using. Hundreds (maybe thousands, perhaps millions?) of free ebooks are available. It takes less than a minute to download a book.

The Nook is pretty cool too. I haven’t checked out all of its features. It’s also easy to read, but is slightly larger, heavier, and thicker than the Kindle.

Okay, Amazon, where’s the money for my endorsement???

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It Is Finally Finished

I finally finished Thundersnow. I changed the ending so it took me a little longer than I anticipated  to make the ending seem natural.

The ending definitely leaves room for a sequel.

My emotions took me by surprise when I read this last chapter out loud to Carl. I didn’t cry while writing it (which I’ve been known to do) but cried like a baby when reading it.

It’s not a sad ending—not entirely. The whole book is sad as it deals with child abuse. Mainly psychological abuse.

And it has been gut-wrenching to get the story on paper.

I am so happy I’m through!

But the wave of emotions washing over me caught me off guard. I know this comparison has been made before and with good reason. But it was like having a baby. And you look down at your baby in wonderment, delighted the baby has ten fingers and ten toes—no matter if others see your baby ugly as sin—and are humbled that you played a part in the child’s birth and know, really know, the birth was a miracle.

And I’m reminded of perhaps my favorite poem, “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran, and have rewritten it, with apologies to the original:

On Books
My book is not my book.
It is words of Life’s longing for itself.
It came through me but not from me.
And though it is with me yet it belongs not to me.
I gave my characters my love but not my thoughts
For, perversely, they had their own thoughts.
I may house the words in the covers of a book
But they dwell in the house of tomorrow
In the eyes of the readers
Who will see them in their own way
And not seek to make them fit my conception.
For the words go forward and do not tarry with me.
I was but the bow from which the words
as arrows were sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends me with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let my bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

May I always bend in his hands and bow to his will as Thundersnow takes flight on its journey.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Life Is Like a Comet

002 

Moonlight: Reflections on Aging

Live as long as you may, the first twenty years are the longest half of your life.  ~Robert Southey

Those of us who have lived longer than twenty years can testify to the truthfulness of this quote. Just as a comet’s speed depends on where it is in it’s orbit, so the speed of our lives depends on the point we are at. Farther away from the sun, a comet moves slowly. As it nears the gravitational pull of the sun, it speeds up. image

Our lives also speed up as we approach the “sun.” When we are young, time passes with infinite slowness. Are we there yet? Is it time to eat? How many days until Christmas? And then comes the day when it’s, “Oh no, (we’re already there!) (we haven’t cooked yet!) (Christmas is tomorrow!)”

For most people, regrets surface as they age. Opportunities not taken. Love not expressed. Lessons not learned. The Bible admonishes us to “redeem the time.”

My father was not a demonstrative man. My father died at fifty-nine and neither of us told the other “I love you.”

I tried on the day he had surgery, but my throat constricted and the words couldn’t squeeze through. He died at two o’clock the next morning.

We are not promised tomorrow. God has given us time to accomplish his will for our lives, but we must not let the hours, or even the seconds, slip by for our lives become a blur the closer we come to facing the “sun.”

But much can be accomplished, even in our “golden” years. Here are a few examples:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien published The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, at the age of sixty-two.
  • The first edition of Roget's Thesaurus was published when Roget was 73.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe finished Faust when he was eighty-one years old.
  • All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott, the pen name of James Alfred Wight, was published when Herriott was fifty-six. He went on to write twelve more books.

Age is opportunity no less,
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Yes, much can be accomplished in our old(er) age, but why wait? We must redeem the time today before life passes us by!

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Living for God

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Sunset: Quotes and final thoughts on Dying to Self; Living for God

 

  1. All that matters is that I strive to please God. Humbling myself so God can and will lift me up.
  2. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. ~ Proverbs 11:2
  3. I have always had difficulty making a correct estimate of myself. Or at least I think I have. How do we know when we do evaluate ourselves correctly? Only God knows. However, I think if most people believe, for example, you make great Monkey Bread and you think it’s terrible, you have evaluated yourself incorrectly. Therefore, I believe we need to seek out the opinions of others, hopefully someone who is truthful, someone you can trust, and then receive the suggestions with an open mind and an open heart.
  4. Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self. ~ Charles Spurgeon
  5. I strive to approach my life with this attitude: to love God with all of heart, all of my mind, and with all of my soul, to love people in the same way, and to love writing so that I may convey that love to others. To write for love. To forget self and simply strive to please God. Right for God; Write for God.
  6. Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts.  It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.  ~William Temple
  7. To keep the right attitude takes time, patience, and a study of God’s word. I commit to taking the time to seek God’s will and not my own. To be patient in the waiting.
  8. All human wisdom is summed up in two words—wait and hope. Alexandre Dumas Pere
  9. However, while I am waiting and hoping, I will also be working. I commit to writing as often as possible and to platform building—whatever that entails--and in doing it in a Christian way. For:
  10. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4

Next Week: Christmas

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is It Possible to Promote Without Promoting Self?

image Moonlight: Is there a “right” way for Christian writers to promote their writing?

 

It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help. ~ Anonymous

Don’t call attention to yourself; let others do that for you. Proverbs 27:2

As a Christian writer, I strive to simply focus on God, and most of the time I am successful in forgetting self and focusing on God when I write.

However, what comes after the writing? Some may be content with the writing only and have no wish to pursue publication. But most writers write to be read. It would be great if others could discover our writing without our help. “Far more impressive” as the quote says. Yet, few, if any writers, are discovered today by accident.

I was naive about blogging when I began eleven months ago, thinking people would find my blog on their own. I do not blog to make money. Why, then, do I blog? I began because writers are encouraged to build a platform, and a blog is one plank in the platform. Once I started writing the blog, however, I found I enjoyed it, and I saw it as a means to serve God.

The more I blog, the more I see it as serving God and less as a way to build a platform. I like the idea of sowing the seed, and I truly believe God will give the increase (and he has).

Yet at times, I remember I’m suppose to be working on my platform. And, at that point, I face a dilemma. Do I promote my blog? Do I ask people to read? Not only to read, but to retweet or to share on Facebook? Many of my friends do not understand the importance of sharing my posts. Should I tell them to share? If I even ask someone to read, I cringe inwardly.

Would people think I’m using them? Would I be trying to make people do something they didn’t want to do? Would I be asking people to share something they may not like?

Another thing, do other writers think I read and comment on their blog because I want them to read and comment on mine? And the answer to that is no. I read because I genuinely enjoy the blog I’m reading. If I comment, it’s because I truly mean it. However, if I read their blogs, I also want them to take the time to read mine.

And another dilemma is getting people to leave comments on the blog. Do people not comment because they disagree with what I’ve said? As my friends and family know, I enjoy debating. I don’t mind when people disagree. It’s a great way to clarify my ideas and to change them if needed. I also don’t mind critiques of what I write. I welcome them, in fact. So please feel free to comment, whether you agree or disagree.

My husband and I recently read this in Proverbs: A spoken reprimand is better than approval that’s never expressed. 27:5 It reminds me of the saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. So fire away! My thoughts are not set in stone. I hope and pray I will always be open to correction.

And the ultimate dilemma will occur if I get my book published. Even large publishing houses expect their authors to self promote.

I suppose that’s why I’m concerned now. I would like to have a fan base established before I publish a book. That way I won’t have to push my book (while cringing inwardly) alone but will have others to help promote it.

I wonder how other published writers have handled this. Is it possible to promote your book without appearing pushy—without self promoting?

I know the answer is yes, because I have seen it happen. And I also know the answer is to let go and to let God.

My preacher used an illustration about trapeze artists on Sunday. He said God is the catcher. Our job is to release the bar. But, we must stretch toward the catcher. We must have our arms outstretched, or else the catcher cannot do his job. The question is, how far do we stretch our arms?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Deathly Hallows, Part 1: My Very Opinionated Piece

(Spoiler alert: If you have not seen the movie, or read the book, you may wish to skip this.)

Friday’s Forecast: More Christian Allegory in Harry Potter

This is not a review but more a continuation of my thesis that the Harry Potter books can be considered Christian allegory. As far as I know, J.K. Rowling has not indicated they are and so let me reiterate that this is conjecture on my part—but conjecture that makes sense to me. Rowling may not have been aiming for Christian allegory, but it’s amazing how well things Biblical fit in with the story of Harry.

017Let’s look at the latest movie, The Deathly Hallows, Part 1. First, the title itself. “Hallow” is usually used as a verb and it means “to make holy.” We find that the hallows are the sorcerer’s stone, the invisibility cloak, and the wand used by Dumbledore.

What power does each of these possess? The sorcerer’s stone has the ability to raise the dead. Resurrection of the dead. Obviously we associate that with Jesus.

The invisibility cloak offers protection to the wearer. It has aided Harry throughout each of the books. Would it be too farfetched to associate this with the Holy Spirit?

And the last hallow is the wand. The wand confers great power to its possessor. Great power is certainly an attribute of God.

Three hallows. And three comprising the Godhead. Simple coincidence or did Rowling choose this number and these particular attributes on purpose?

Some critics have given the movie less than glowing reviews. But to me, the movie captures the effect Rowling was going for, if indeed my premise is correct. If the books are Christian symbolism, this movie gives us many parallels, as we have already seen by consideration of the hallows. Let’s delve a little further.

For most of the movie, Harry is cut off from others, except for Hermione and Ron, and even Ron abandons him for a while. He wanders from place to place, in the wilderness, searching for answers, questioning why Dumbledore did not tell him more, beginning to doubt if Dumbledore is good, doubting that he can fulfill the role thrust upon him, and simply wishing he could escape.

Parallels to this in the Bible include the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years, a period of hardship and trials. The people constantly doubt God, just as Harry doubts Dumbledore in the movie. This movie shows powerfully how alone and hopeless Harry feels.

Another example from the Bible is Jesus fasting for forty days and then being tempted by the devil. When the locket is destroyed, who can deny the similarity between Voldemort’s lies and the lies of the devil? And the horcrux is destroyed by a sword. What does a sword in the Bible represent? God’s word. God’s truth.

Also in the Bible we find Jesus praying for the cup to pass from him. His friends slept while he prayed in the garden, totally alone. When he hung on the cross, he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the same way, Harry feels Dumbledore has forsaken him. This is the time of greatest darkness; this is the time before the greatest victory.

When the early Christians committed to Christianity, they often paid with their lives. In Part 1 of The Deathly Hallows, we see the commitment to Harry also results in this ultimate sacrifice.

And yet Harry endures. He even endures the abandonment of Ron, just as Jesus had to endure the abandonment of Peter. Yet both Ron and Peter return with a new zeal. After passing through this period of darkness, Harry and his followers emerge with a new determination. And we’ll see where that leads in The Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Enduing the hallows with the attributes of the Godhead; the wandering of Harry in the wilderness; the doubting of Dumbledore, as many doubt God; spewing of lies by Voldemort, sounding much like the devil; destroying the locket, Voldemort’s lies, with a sword, just as Satan’s lies are destroyed with the sword of God; Ron’s abandoning Harry, just as Peter abandoned Jesus; and dying for a commitment, all seem to indicate Biblical themes interwoven throughout The Deathly Hallows.

Did Rowling deliberately set out to make this a Christian allegory, or did these Biblical parallels slip in subconsciously?

Or, am I simply reading something into the story that’s not there?

As always, your opinions are greatly appreciated!

Next Week’s Theme:

Dying to Self; Living for God

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harry Potter—Christian Books?

I approach the topic of Harry Potter with some trepidation. A couple of years ago I was with a group of Christian friends and mentioned a quote from one of the Harry Potter books. I got my eyebrows singed from the blast of outrage. How could I read that trash? Didn’t I know J.K. Rowling was leading our children into Satan worship? Didn’t I realize she was using her books to drum up more witches for Satan?

After moving back a few feet and scanning the area for cover, I asked this question:

“What makes the Harry Potter books different from The Lord of the Rings? Was Gandalf not a wizard? Was Saruman not an evil wizard? What’s different about Harry and his lot?”

I don’t remember the reply since my mind is a sieve and the chaff gets blown away. I know “they” sought to justify Lord of the Rings as Christian literature. And it is. But I also believe the Harry Potter books can be classified as Christian literature (and, of course, that’s up to Rowling and her publisher).

How can I make such a statement? I am definitely not an expert on Harry Potter, but I have read all of the books at least once. Some of them three or four times. I believe they can be considered Christian allegory, as much as, or perhaps more than, The Lord of the Rings and here are just a few of the reasons:

  • This is a classic story of evil versus good.
  • Lord Voldemort and the Slytherins are associated with a snake. Sound familiar?
  • Harry is prophesied to be the Chosen One.
  • Voldemort, who represents the devil, rebels against Dumbledore, who represents God. Rebellion, hmm . . . . sound familiar?
  • Dumbledore’s “son,” Harry (and I know he is not his real son, but Dumbledore takes him under his wing), is the one chosen to defeat Voldemort.
  • Harry represents Jesus, growing up in humble circumstances, just as Jesus did.
  • Like Jesus, he has times of great popularity and times when the masses turn against him.
  • The Deatheaters use the Crucio curse on Harry. Crucio is a Latin word meaning “I torture,” and it’s the word from which we derive our word “cross.” Need I say more?

This is from my brain and I’m not J.K. Rowling. I have not read articles or books with any of this information and you are welcome to dispute my conclusions. I’m not positive that this is what she had in mind when she wrote the Harry Potter books, but this makes sense to me.

Any thoughts? Agree, disagree? Wish to singe my eyebrows? All comments are welcome!

Theme this week: Harry Potter—Christian Books???

Monday: SUNrise: Harry Potter—Christian Books?

Tuesday: Sunsets: Becoming a Harry Potter Fan

Wednesday: Moonlight: What Makes the Harry Potter Books Successful?

Thursday: Quotes from Dumbledore

Friday: Forecast: My thoughts on The Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Moonlighting: Writing and Happiness

imageAs many know, I am writing a book. This week’s theme is “How to be happy,” so, I ask myself: Does my writing make me happy?

Happiness eludes me as I do the actual writing. Groping for the right word, forgetting the names of characters, forgetting what day it is (in the book and in real life), leaving a character out of a scene when he/she should have been there, and trying to give each character a unique personality tries my soul. Have I told you my brain is like a Teflon-coated sieve—yeah, I think I have. Writing for me is a grueling experience.

But, oh, when the right word is found, when a new plot twist reveals itself, when a character speaks to me in a new way, then the rejoicing begins. One thing I have found in my writing is that as I strive to glorify God, I draw closer to him. Peace and contentment surround me when I finish a particularly difficult section in my writing.

When I picked up my fifteen-year-old manuscript and dusted it off a year or two ago, I was filled with insecurities. Would anyone be interested in what I wrote? Would I have the necessary skills to write a novel, albeit a children’s novel? To begin with, I was timid about speaking (writing) to other writers, afraid of the blunders I might make, because my brain is like a yada, yada, yada.

But you know what? I may not be the sharpest hoe in the shed, but my thinking has improved during this time. Maybe there are not as many holes in the sieve as there once were. Maybe because I’m using my brain, I’ve quit losing it. My passion for writing has benefited my thinking ability and with that my confidence has grown.

And since I have written of James Herriot for the past two days, let me again mention him here. His books are well loved because he had both purpose and passion. He wanted to provide the best veterinarian care possible (his purpose) and he did so with compassion. He found happiness in his work and shared that happiness with us through his writing.

When we have a purpose in life and we work to fulfill that purpose, happiness ensues. We should all find the thing we’re most passionate about and pursue that with a…uh, passion.

Passion minus purpose equals frustration.

Purpose minus passion equals drudgery.

Purpose plus passion equals happiness.

I think I just made that up. And that produces happiness in me.

What’s your purpose in life? Are you fulfilling your passion?

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sunsets: Reflecting on Thankfulness for Days Gone Past

image When I attended Troy University, music played across the quad in the middle of the campus. One day, as I walked to class, John Denver’s song of Country Roads elicited a longing in me. Tears coursed down my cheeks as I longed for the place from my childhood, the farm outside of Opp, Alabama where my grandmother lived. It was a place where my cousins and I played in the barn, using square bales of hay to build forts, houses, or mazes. It was a place filled with teasing from aunts and uncles and the air was thick with laughter. It was a place of fresh vegetables from the garden, fresh milk from a cow, and fresh meat from hog killings. It was a place of playing outside all day in the fresh country air. It was a place of cows and pigs and the place I learned where baby pigs came from. It was a place of delight at seeing newborn pigs, all pink and round and not at all like their long-snouted mother. It was a place of my roots, a place near the farms where, for several generations, my ancestors had lived and struggled to grow crops and raise cows, pigs, and chickens.

It was a place where my family gathered for Thanksgiving and other holidays. It was a place we ate our fill and then gathered by the fireplace, watching the flickering flames. It was a place we cracked pecans on the bricks of the hearth while listening to my uncles trying to undo one another in the telling of jokes. It was the place I loved the most upon this earth.

It was the place I longed for when John Denver sang: Take me home, country roads, to the place I belong.

It was the place stories were told of days gone by. And it is the place I am the most thankful to have known.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friday’s Forecasts: Life-Changing Books

  • 001 I have to say that every book I read as a child was a life-changing book. Each one taught me about people, places, new words, emotions, or morals.
  • I loved reading, but my mother didn’t and tried to stop me whenever possible. Probably she did the opposite of what she set out to achieve. Just as when a parent forbids their child to see a friend, it makes that friend all the more tantalizing. More than likely, my mother helped cultivate the love of reading in me.
  • It always amazes me how many people have written books and how many people want to write books. What is in us that wants to share our words with others? A need to be understood? A need for praise and glory? (Which comes to very few writers.) A need to work through problems by writing of them? A wish to share our legacy with our children and grandchildren?
  • Speaking of which, I have seen two movies in the past few weeks that had as their theme the breakdown of society if we no longer had children. I would hope we would have enough faith in God that if that ever happened, we would still be able to carry on as civilized people. In one of the movies one of the characters said, “It’s sad to think no more books will ever be written.”
  • I think some people have a difficult time understanding the words of Solomon: There’s nothing new under the sun.
  • Think of books, or movies, if you prefer, about aliens. Is it possible to come up with any image that has never been seen before? Many authors get their ideas for such creatures from looking at God’s creation. As we (writers) create, we are only copying the Great Creator!006
  • One thing I have not mentioned this week is the influence of poetry upon me. Edna St. Vincent Millay and Emily Dickinson are two of my favorite poets. It’s too bad that poets quit writing for the masses and made their poetry so obscure that it’s difficult to enjoy.
  • And I do write poetry. Someone asked me why I don’t write more. The answer is: Because it’s very difficult. To me blogging is easy. Writing a short story is a little more difficult. Writing a book is very difficult. Writing poetry is almost impossible. (Good poetry, that is.)
  • Two books I found lyrical, almost like reading poetry, were Green Mansions, a book that I pulled out of that treasure trove on the first floor of that house in France, and The Yearling.
  • As I said before, writers are simply reflecting God just as the moon reflects the glory of the sun. And the moon will never be able to outshine the sun!

Next Week: Thankfulness!

Thursday’s Thoughts: Life Changing Books

008 I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.  ~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

014 The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.  ~Mark Twain, attributed

I have written a book. This will come as quite a shock to some. They didn't think I could read, much less write.
~
George W. Bush

Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own.  ~William Hazlitt

I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done. ~Steven Wright 002

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all.  ~Abraham Lincoln

No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.  ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.  ~E.P. Whipple

003 He who lends a book is an idiot.  He who returns the book is more of an idiot.  ~Arabic Proverb 016

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. ~Groucho Marx

A blessed companion is a book, - a book that, fitly chosen, is a lifelong friend,... a book that, at a touch, pours its heart into our own.  ~Douglas Jerrold

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday’s Writing in the Moonlight: Life-Changing Books

The sun of righteousness will rise will healing in its wings. Malachi 4:2

Just as the moon reflects the rays of the sun, Christians need to reflect God. Hence I’m calling my writing life moonlighting. Also I thought the name fit because I write better in the quiet of the night. I have read many books on the craft of writing and have subscribed to Writer’s Digest for probably twenty years or more. I have also read numerous articles on the web. You would think I would have learned something by now!

From the time I first found out that regular people wrote books, that you did not have to be a genius (although I suspect that might help), I have wanted to be a writer. I don’t remember learning to read. I remember devouring every book I could get my hands on in first grade. As I’ve mentioned, we didn’t have many books at home, so I eagerly read any textbook our teacher gave us or any book we were allowed to check out from the school library. The reading books used in first grade were the Dick and Jane series. I still remember some of the stories, such as the one where the dad buys cowboy outfits for his children (and I wondered, why didn’t my dad buy me a cowgirl outfit?). The next year, or at least some time in the future, the kids find the outfits and put them on to find they no longer fit.

Isn’t it funny how certain stories “stick” in our memories? I suppose that one stuck because I longed to have such a happy family, a family where laughter came easily and parents were focused on making their children happy. Why am I mentioning this book in a post on writing? Because every book we ever read has led us to this point we are at in our writing.

I would say the authors who have influenced my writing the most are Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Agatha Christie—three very different writers, each with a distinctive style. Yet they all have this in common—unforgettable characters. I am one of those who believe story trumps all. If you don’t have a compelling story, no one will want to read what you write. But, if you do not have compelling characters, no one is going to remember what you write.

Specifically, of the books I have read on the craft of writing, two stand out. The latest one I read (and probably why I remember it so well) is Stephen King’s On Writing. The biggest lesson I garnered from his book is to keep on keeping on. After his accident, when he still had difficulty sitting up for long periods of time, he began writing again. How often do we let a mild headache, or just a feeling of tiredness, keep us from doing those things we know we should do? In other words, writers need to be disciplined. We should not let minor aches and pains, or any other minor distraction, keep us from writing.

The other book I remember well is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. And the take-away from it? One step at a time. Remember John Lennon’s quote from last week? “The goal was always just a few yards ahead.” I take it one chapter at a time or one page at a time or even just one word at a time. When I first started writing, I would write in chunks of time. Fifteen minutes and then I would take a break to play a computer card game. When I finished my game, fifteen more minutes of writing. Little by little, “bird by bird.”

When I think of coming up with a completed novel, the idea seems overwhelming. It always amazes me that so many people have been able to achieve it. As many people who write know, it ain’t easy! But it is very rewarding, especially if we are able to reflect just a bit of God’s glory!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday’s Sunsets of Days Gone Past: Life-Changing Books

I’ve written of this before so forgive me if I repeat myself. Growing up, books were as scarce as hen’s teeth. My mother and father didn’t read novels and, furthermore, my mother thought them all foolishness. Read the “truth,” she told me, “not junk someone made up.” Until the age of ten the only books I remember in our home were a set of encyclopedias and a set of short stories and poetry that came with the encyclopedias.002 I still have them on a shelf in my closet. Because I read them over and over while I was growing up, their covers are ragged and pages torn. 003 My mother probably didn’t realize what those books actually were. I never saw her open any of them, so I guess she thought I was reading “true” articles from the encyclopedias. This was one of my favorite stories: 004

And, after we moved to France. when I turned eleven, we moved into the supposedly former Nazi-headquarters house. (For more on this, see: God's Plan.) The first floor contained a treasure-trove of books. And, thus began my love affair with books. Probably to get me out of the way and because I had nothing else to occupy my time, my mother allowed me to ride the bus onto the army base once a week and check out an armful of books. But she fussed continuously at me for reading too much. To avoid her scrutiny I would use a flashlight and read under the covers at night. She soon discovered the flashlight and took it away. However, my mother has always left a light on at night in the bathroom. After everyone was asleep, I would tiptoe into the bathroom and sit on the floor and read. And laugh and cry.

The library on base had one wall of children’s books. Horses were my passion and I read Black Beauty, National Velvet and all of the Black Stallion books. When I ran out of those, I read Old Yeller and Lassie, Come Home. The Wizard of Oz books came next and Little Women and its sequels. Most, if not all, of the classic children books stood on those shelves and, as far as I remember, I read them all.

When I finished that wall, I moved to the section labeled “Teens.” I read a few of them, but found none of interest. I don’t remember a single title from that wall of books. Most I didn’t bother reading, but simply moved on to the adult section and discovered James Bond. Probably not suitable reading material for an eleven-year-old girl.

I never paid attention to age-appropriate books. When I was in sixth grade, we went to the school library once a week. We sat at tables in assigned seats and waited our turn to check out a book. On the shelf by my table within arm’s reach were books I had never read or even heard of by someone named Dr. Seuss. The memory of reading them is very vivid, perhaps because the other kids at my table laughed at me for reading “little kids’ books.”

Books from my childhood. Books that molded and shaped me. Books from my sunsets.

What are your favorite books from childhood?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Friday’s Forecast: The Beatles

Some final thoughts:
  • Synergy is king! The sum of two people (as in the case of John and Paul) working together increases indefinitely.A partner who supports, challenges and competes will allow you to become much more than you could ever be on your own.
  • Even people who have “made it” still have doubts. Doubts are a normal part of living and writing. We must say: Get thee behind me, Satan!
  • As our world crumbles (in this case, the break up of the Beatles), we have a choice. We can choose to continue on or simply give up. Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney brought us great music after their world collapsed.
  • When first starting out, the Beatles played in Hamburg, Germany for over 10,000 hours. Success does not come easily even for the talented. Some estimate that a person needs to write one million words before they began to produce good quality work. There are rare exceptions, but talent is not a substitute for hard work.
  • We should never compare ourselves to others. John Lennon was often jealous of McCartney’s success, wondering why his songs were more popular. Yet, today, most people believe Lennon was more talented. Commercial success does not equate to long-term success.
  • Without the help of their manager, the Beatles would not have basked in such adulation. To their credit, they listened. Brian Epstein advised them to wear suits and to act professionally, i.e. polite such as when they bowed at the end of their performance. It would behoove (don’t you love that word!) us to listen when others offer advice, even if we perceive that advice as criticism. Sometimes, especially if we perceive it as criticism. 
  • Take one step at a time. I loved Lennon’s quote: “The goal was always just a few yards ahead.” For me that might mean simply finishing one chapter or even one scene. Small steps lead to great strides.
  • For the past forty years or so I have not listened to the Beatles. Now I am rediscovering their music. I guess it’s true as we age we enter into our second childhood!
Next week’s theme: Life-changing Books

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wednesday’s Writing in the Moonlight: The Beatles

These are a collection of quotes I found inspirational as a writer.

John Lennon’s quotes:

  1. “My role in society, or any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”
  2. The goal was always just a few yards ahead.
  3. You can be bigheaded, and say, “Yeah, we’re going to last 10 years.” But as soon as you’ve said that, you think, “You know, we’re lucky if we last three months.”
  4. It’s still the same up there with the mike, you don’t try to work out what it all means, you forget who you are. Once you plug in and the noise starts, you’re just a group playing anywhere again and you forget that you’re Beatles or what your records are; you’re just singing.
  5. It’s a bit haphazard. There’s no rules for writing.
  6. What's talent? I don't know. Are you born with it? Do you discover it later on? The basic talent is believing you can do something.

Paul McCartney’s quotes:

  1. I just always enjoy it; if you really enjoy what you do, you don't want to stop.
  2. I just want to do my job well. And really, that's all I'm ever trying to do.
  3. Nothing pleases me more than to go into a room and come out with a piece of music.
  4. I don't know how I got here, and I don't know how I write songs. I don't know why I breathe.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday’s SUNrise: John Lennon and Paul McCartney—A Lesson in Christianity?

The Beatles—love them or hate them, they were a cultural phenomenon. Most people recognize John Lennon and Paul McCartney as great song-writing partners, perhaps the greatest in history. But it was a relationship that almost didn’t happen. John Lennon, twenty months older than Paul, started out with a band called the Quarry Men. He explained his thought process to a journalist when he met the then fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney: "I half thought to myself, 'He's as good as me. I'd been kingpin up to then. Now, I thought, 'If I take him on, what will happen?' " . . . . In a 1970 interview with Jann Wenner, Lennon described his dilemma even more plainly: "I had a group. I was the singer and the leader; then I met Paul, and I had to make a decision: Was it better to have a guy who was better than the guy I had in? To make the group stronger, or to let me be stronger?" (http://www.slate.com/id/2267342/entry/2267343/)
As I read these words at Slate, I couldn’t help but think how this parallels our decision to become a Christian. We are in control of our lives; we’re calling the shots and then God comes along. We have to decide if we’re going to allow God in, if we’re going to let go and let God decide the direction of our lives.
The ironic thing is, and the Bible tells us this, that we must forget self to be saved. (If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:34-37)
This irony was manifested in an earthly fashion with The Beatles. John Lennon, by allowing Paul McCartney into the band, allowed himself to become a greater musician. McCartney pushed Lennon to become his best and Lennon was willing to learn from McCartney, albeit for human reasons. He didn’t want to be overshadowed by McCartney, so he strove to be a better musician. Without their competiveness, their great body of work would never have come into being.
In much the same way, Jesus pushes us to be our best. And he is our competition, our only competition. We must study and learn from him and pattern out lives on his. By becoming the best Christian we can be, we also become better in all areas of our lives. Better writers? Just imagine!
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Life (3)

MC900382618[1] The book I’m currently working on has been with me all of my life. My mother told me these stories from the time I can remember. I was born at the right time, a time when some homes here in the south still had outhouses, when hog killings still took place, when some still relied solely on a fireplace to keep them partially warm in winter (only the part turned toward the fire), and relied on nothing but hand-held fans or old fans that could cut off a finger, if you got too close, to keep a little cooler in the hot, humid summers. I walked barefoot in the fields of cotton, burning the soles of my feet. I helped slop the hogs and watched my grandmother milking the cow. I saw the one-room school my mother attended and the red-clay hills she walked to get there.
So the stories solidified in me because I saw and experienced some of the same things my mother did. And I knew I wanted to share these stories with others.
I took the stories and molded them into a book, but changed the characters. The mother in the book is not my grandmother. My grandmother was a kind, loving woman. We’ll just say the mother in the book is not so kind. I never met my grandfather, but I did not base the father on what little I know of my grandfather. Except perhaps his sense of humor. My mother said my grandfather would sometimes explode into laughter and never told them what he was laughing about. And the main character, Sarah Jane, is not my mother. Some say writers cast themselves as their main characters. Perhaps Sarah Jane is a little like me, but I think she is more of who I wish I had been growing up. Perhaps me, but a better me. Not that she doesn’t have flaws.
And I organized the stories into what I think is a coherent, entertaining, and touching book.
Thundersnow is the book. And it will hopefully be published—if not by a major publisher or a small publisher, self published by me. It is too much of the lives of others to never come into a life of its own.
And too much of me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Writing Life (2)

I thought we were heading into summer. Really. It took a minute or two to think about it before I realized it’s fall not spring.

What’s wrong with my brain? (Just rhetorical—don’t answer that!) I was confused because I’m working on Thundersnow and the weather’s warming up and spring is almost here (or there) in the book. It’s the middle of March and daffodils are blooming. So, for a moment, I was still in my book—still in spring with cool nights and warm days instead of our fall with cool nights and warm days. 

Scuba diving is what I liken my writing experience to. I don my gear and plunge into the water, going down deeper and deeper. The world above is gone for now. I’m looking at the fish swimming by and the occasional shark. Seaweed floats by and I see a lobster scuttle along the ocean floor. If the phone rings, or someone comes to my door, I have to resurface—sometimes so quickly it gives me the bends. (And that’s why writers are irritable!) And sometimes people make me take off my scuba gear to deal with things. And then I get ready to write again and image have to put my scuba gear back on, but now it’s wet and harder to get on. But I manage and down I go. But, now, the surge of the sea has changed things. Where was that coral I was examining? What happened to the seahorse? It was here just a few minutes ago. And so I have to search until I can find them again.

But sometimes that special piece of coral is gone forever. I have to find something to replace it, because I can’t resurface empty handed. I sigh and fog up my mask. And then I call it a day. I emerge from the water and reenter the land of dryness. But sometimes at certain moments I feel like I’m still down on the ocean floor. And suddenly I remember just where I saw another piece of coral.

And I can’t wait until I can scuba dive again.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Haphazard Fridays: Funny Status Updates

As you can see, I’ve changed my blogging format. Fridays are going to be devoted to whatever I want to write. Today I’m going to share some status updates and comments from Facebook I’ve seen this past week.

  • I posted this picture of my son’s dog, Satchel, on Facebook.

One comment I received was: Now, if THAT isn't a look that just screams ... Yes, I KNOW I’m all that and a bag of doggie biscuits too! I've never seen one! Gorgeous! (Kathryn Kirland)

Hilarious!

  • And here’s a status update that’s going around:

I wish I could be more like a pencil in 5 ways. 1. Everything I do will always leave a mark. 2. I could always correct the mistakes I make. 3. What is important is on the inside of me. 4. In life, I will go through painful sharpening, which will only make me better. 5. To be the best pencil, I must allow myself to be held and guided by the hands that hold me.... The Lord’s.

I Googled it but could not find where this quote originated from. If anyone knows, please tell me so I can give the correct attribution!

  • And here’s another one, that’s not quite so sweet:

Too often, we lose sight of life’s simple pleasures, remember,when someone annoys you it takes 42 muscles in your face to frown, but, it only takes 4 muscles to extend your arm and slap that person upside the head.

I’m using twelve muscles to smile!

  • And this one I saw posted by Max Metcalf.

Recently I was asked to play in a golf tournament. At first I said, "Naaahhh!" Then they said to me, "Come on, it's for handicapped and blind kids." Then I thought... “ I could WIN this!"

One good thing about Facebook is that someone will post something that will brighten your day!

 

Random Thoughts

On Thursdays, I write in this blog whatever pops into my head. I don’t preplan—simply sit down and begin typing. I don’t know if anyone else finds these posts of interest, but I do. It’s interesting to me to see what pops out; sorta like being there to see Athena pop out of the skull of Zeus. So here goes today’s thoughts:

  • Our hummingbird population dwindles. At one point six or seven attacked each other for a chance to drink the sugared water. We placed the hummingbird feederimage right outside our bedroom window. Every morning we watch the feeding frenzy. I’ve found hummingbirds are vicious in their quest. I’m glad they’re small. Imagine one skydiving at your head!
  • The honey bees are now gone. The hummingbirds not only attacked each other, they also attacked the bees and vice-versa.
  • Finally cooler temperatures have arrived. Highs in the low 80s. Actually, for me I prefer the highs in the low 70s. But this is much better than our summer of endless days above 100 degrees.
  • I’ve had my nose to the grindstone and have been able to crank out @ 5000 words in two days. I’ve typed so much that my arm is aching. I had to prop my right arm on a pillow to continue typing.
  • That was irritating. Right in the middle of typing the above point, the computer decided to install new updates. Normally a warning is issued. This time the computer took it upon itself to configure updates and shut down in the middle of my typing. Who’s in control here?
  • Something I find of interest. I believe it was January of 1995 that I started writing the first draft of Thundersnow. We had gotten a Chihuahua puppy for Christmas who sat in my lap as I typed. Today as I’m typing out my final draft, we have a Chihuahua puppy (actually half Chihuahua). So it begins and ends with Chihuahua puppies. If it’s ever published, I’ll have to dedicate the book to T.C. and Shay.
  • Back to the grindstone. I’m planning to finish two chapters today, with God’s help!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writing Life Wednesday (1)

When I look at pictures on Facebook, I always study the background--the furniture, the house, the pets--whatever is lurking back there. Perhaps I have an abnormal interest in things like that, or maybe it’s a normal thing for writers. So, if anyone else is interested in such things, here’s my work space.

036When I first really committed to writing, my husband, Carl, gave me this. One day it may be true. I have it on my desk, of course!

 

 

My desk. On the right is the manuscript for Thundersnow, the original I wrote back in 1995.039

And this is the continuation of the desk. I have my sons’ senior pictures on the shelves.040

The picture below is my bookcase that holds mainly religious books. I do have The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, yearbooks and The Complete Garden Guide on the top shelf. I had to empty the bottom shelf because my puppy, Shay, kept chewing on the books. 

038

This is the bulletin board behind my desk. I did have it filled with timelines, characters, etc. for Moonbow, but, after my grandson,Trace, was born, I took down everything I thought he could reach. Because . . .

041

. . .his crib he uses when he visits is next to it. He’s sixteen months old now.  042 I made these when my sons were toddlers. Kind of falling apart now, but I like to look at them.043 My father died in 1979 and this reminds me of him. Fishing was his passion and he said this looked like the perfect fishing hole.

044And this says it all.             045 If we never begin, we will never be able to say:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

And now to work!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Old Sayings

When my mother was growing up, language in the south was much more colorful than it is on average today. There are still some folks around who come up with unique phrases (or steal ones they hear). For example, my husband.

These are his responses to some typical questions:

How are you? Finer than frog hair split three ways.

Can you get that for me? Does a cat have a climbing gear?

Taste this to see if it’s done. That would gag a maggot.

Here are some more that I’ve heard from other people over the years:

  • I’ll tan your hide.
  • Pretty as a speckled pup.
  • He’s jumping around like a chicken with his head chopped off.
  • He would make a preacher cuss.
  • She made him ill as a hornet.
  • He’s as slow as the moon arising.
  • Money is as scarce as hen’s teeth.
  • They’re as alike as two peas in a pod.
  • He’s as limber as a dishrag.

I remember my grandmother would never say, “The cat had kittens.” Instead she said, “The cat found kittens.” And a woman would be “in the family way” instead of pregnant.

Because of the advent of television, our language in getting more generic. You occasionally hear people come up with unusual similes or metaphors. And when they do, don’t that beat a goose a gobbling!

Anyone have any favorites?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wasted Days

I’ve been contemplating my life as of late. Wasted days and wasted nights. That’s how I feel and I wonder, why did I do that? Why did I waste all of the opportunities God has given me?

One of the saddest times of my life was when my husband started working the night shift. At the time, he worked as an Avionic Technician at Ft. Rucker. Also around the same time, one of my sons  married and my other son left for college. I was so lonely! (Words of songs keep popping into my mind, but I’ll refrain from singing them.) Loneliness is something we can all relate to.

But what I am thinking about now—now that my life is constantly filled with interruptions—is why didn’t I take that time to write? Why did I fritter it away watching TV shows or playing video games? Perhaps I was too depressed to write at the time.

Now, I want to write, yet I’m having difficulty finding the time.

It’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché because it is true. One morning you awake to find you are old(er), and those dreams you had have passed you by. I’m by no means too old to write. But I know I will not have the time to write all of the books I want to.

Enough with the pity party! I can write the book now that God wants me to. Get thee behind me, Satan!

(Okay—just as I was getting ready to post this, my cat threw up and my mother came down to ask me to cook something for lunch, although she knows I’m trying to work. Anyone know a secluded place I can escape to for awhile? By the way, I will cook my mother’s lunch. I would just like to have more than fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time! But God knows that and he will give me what I need.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

RANDOM THOUGHTS on the ACFW Conference Part 2

  • Okay—Part 1 made it sound like I’m a hypochondriac. But I actually took all the medicine because I’ve gotten sick on the last couple of trips I’ve taken. Honestly, I’m not a hypochondriac—well, most of the time.
  • I hit the ground running when we arrived at the hotel. Carl checked us in and I left him with the bags and took just the essentials with me. I was to meet with Jill Williamson and had to call to verify where we were to meet. I searched for my cell phone and could not find it. I sat down and pulled everything from the bag, pawing through it. When I looked up, I saw Jill sitting two chairs away. Whew! I walked over to her and she had her cell phone in hand trying to contact me. I felt so unorganized. I’m usually better organized—well, most of the time.
  • I had planned to go to the room and change clothes, maybe take a shower. We arrived too late for that. I usually look better than I did that day—well, most of the time. (I hope!)
  • Chip MacGregor gave the devotional Sunday morning at breakfast. He said he knew what we were all thinking—“Asparagus?” So at my lunch with James Scott Bell we had broccoli instead of the usual asparagus we had been having at every meal. I tried to make a joke—“This doesn’t look like asparagus.” He looked at me and said, “No, that’s broccoli.” I didn’t get a chance to explain my feeble attempt at a joke. I do know the difference between broccoli and asparagus—well, most of the time.
  • The plane ride home was exciting. We had a connecting flight to catch in Memphis and our first flight was delayed in Indianapolis. By the time the plane flew into Memphis, we had little time to spare. Impatiently, we waited for our checked carry-on bag. The strap was caught against the wall and precious minutes ticked by waiting for maintenance to release it. Finally, my husband broke the strap off and we sprinted for our connecting flight. We ran and ran and ran. The muscles in my legs burned and my heart pounded. “Save yourself,” I said to my husband. “This is as far as I can go.” “You can make it. I’m not leaving you,” he vowed with tears in his eyes that evoked images of Lost when Jin vowed to Sun they would always be together. Perhaps not quite as dramatic as that. I did tell Carl to run ahead, hoping he could get them to delay the flight until I limped aboard. But Carl wouldn’t leave me. Fortunately, we made it with seconds to spare. I usually can run faster than that—ha!--well, none of the time. I pushed myself to the limit that day. And now to push myself to the limit in my writing!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

RANDOM THOUGHTS on the ACFW Conference Part 1

  • I met in person several people I had met online. A weird thing—or maybe not so weird—their personalities were the same in person as online. Their voices shine through in their writing. I wonder if mine does?
  • Another weird thing—most did not look like I imagined. They sounded like I imagined but did not look like I imagined. Hmm…
  • The world is full of nice people. That’s a good thing. Just as you need ten compliments to cancel out one negative comment, you probably need ten nice people to cancel out that one rude person.
  • Carl’s mom had a lot of small angel pins. I took one with me and the attendant on the first flight was named Angel!
  • I haven’t flown in a long time and wondered if I would be nervous. Didn’t bother me at all. I slept through most of it. Hope I didn’t snore or drool. (I asked Carl and he said I didn’t.)
  • Dennis Hensley’s class (Mastering Structure . . . .) covered everything. I loved his class. He was hilarious and so informative. I had an agent conference the first day and an editor conference the second day during his class. I hated I had to miss even one second.
  • I was exhausted the whole weekend and in quite a bit of pain, but I did better than I anticipated. I took a whole slew of medicine with me. Medicine for migraines, nausea, heartburn, nasal congestion, etc., etc. Thank goodness I didn’t have to use any of them.
  • I’m guessing I had so few problems since the conference was fragrance free. Thanks to those who made it so. I can get a whiff of certain perfumes and have a pounding headache in seconds.
  • Tim Downs was absolutely wonderful! So entertaining and yet so much of what he said touched me deeply.
  • I met a couple of unpublished people I know are going to be big names very soon. Stay tuned.
  • I found it funny that some people I met once and never saw again. Others I kept running into over and over. I think God kept thrusting them in my face to say, remember him/her. They will be in your future. I sure hope some of them are. Such wonderful, encouraging people!
  • Thanks to my husband for going with me. He helped keep me focused and partially organized. And he made some good contacts for me. I probably met a lot of men that I would not have met if Carl had not tagged along.
  • I loved meeting the men who write. It is a crying shame more Christian men are not published. Christian publishers, take a chance. Please publish more books for men!
  • Personally, I don’t think of books in genres. To me, a good book is a good book.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just One Thing I Learned at the ACFW Conference

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The one thing I learned from the ACFW Conference: God works in mysterious ways. We know his ways are not our ways. Sometimes he hammers this home to us.

Sunday morning I opened my Bible at random. I read Psalm 37 and drew comfort from many of its verses, especially the last verse that says:

The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him. v 40
 
Two things came to mind when I read this. First, I felt as if God were saying, “You’re on the right track. Stay the course.” In my one sheet, I wrote that my character “seeks refuge in the Lord.”  Coincidence? Or God’s reassurance?
 
The second thing I thought: I need a refuge. A refuge from the stress of dealing with agents and editors. (Not that I think they are wicked . . . .) And then I left my room to meet with an editor. Meeting with agents and editors is extremely stressful, and I was thankful this was my last one of the conference.
 
After my appointment, my husband and I went to lunch. Agents and editors were holding court and people crowded their tables. I wanted to get far away from the “maddening crowd,” so I searched for a place of refuge. An almost empty table stood against the wall, and I made a beeline for it with my husband following. Two men were already seated, and I asked if we could join them. I only sought the emptiness of the table and scarcely glanced at the men. After I was seated, a little awkward pause occurred. Normally I would have said, “Is this your first time at a conference?” God had a firm hand over my mouth and, fortunately, I didn’t say anything. “Jim,” as I read on the name tag, gestured to the other man and said, “This is Tim Downs.” I don’t know what I said. I probably looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Not that I didn’t want to meet Mr. Downs. I just wasn’t expecting it. And then a group of people joined us. In an aside to me, “Jim,” knowing I was out of my element, said,  “From Bethany House.” 
 
He didn’t say who the woman was from Bethany House. And I didn’t know until Sunday night when I saw her walk  onto the stage to receive her Lifetime Achievement Award. I had eaten lunch that day with Carol Johnson.
 
God definitely has a sense of humor. I sought refuge from stress and found myself seated with a group of people that included Tim Downs, James Scott Bell, Dan Walsh and Carol Johnson. He is also compassionate and did not allow me to know more than I could handle at the time.
 
Why did I seek out that table? Just as I turn the pages of a mystery, searching the pages for clues, until that aha moment, I will search each new “page” of my life to find the answer. Perhaps I will never have that aha moment. At least not until I reach heaven and God says with a laugh, “Remember that day you sought refuge and I sent you to that particular table? It was for you to learn . . . .” And then I will know.
 
For now I’m guessing humility.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Favorite Vehicle

Front view of a 1949 Dodge pickup.

              This is a Dodge 1949 pickup truck.

This one is a 1953. I like it, but it’s not red!

I said the other day that I didn’t have a favorite car. Actually not true. I love antique trucks. I looked through hundreds of pictures and found that I specifically like Dodge trucks from the late 1940s or early 1950s. More specifically red trucks, bleeding rust, with a black running board and black tires. While researching, I saw some with white-rim tires and those I rejected. And, I don’t want the truck restored to shiny perfection. I want a farm truck that looks like a farm truck. Why so specific? I was born in 1953. I’m thinking one of my relatives must have had a similar truck and that memory is imbedded in my mind.

What does this preference for old trucks say about me? One thing it says is that I’m very detail oriented. I don’t like any type of antique truck but a very specific one. And I looked at hundreds of trucks online before finding the “right” one. I have a desire to be accurate (some call me a perfectionist).

Also I think this shows I’m nostalgic, longing for those early years of childhood when we visited my aunt and uncle on their farm. I’m a simple person and actually long for more simplicity. I would love to live in an old log house with original wide-planked wooden floors. Dark floors with worm-holes and scruff marks. And my living room would have log walls and a stone fireplace with two comfy chairs flanking it. My cat would be curled up on the hearth and my dogs on the braided rag rug between the chairs. I would have an ottoman to prop my feet on. The perfect season would be fall, cool enough for a fire, but not too cold. A basket of pinecones and stacked firewood would sit near the fireplace. The smell of burning leaves would seep through the windows, mingling with the rich pine scent of the burning wood. And, of course, I would have a book in my hands and a cup of coffee by my side.

Bliss.

So, what is the Sheila Hollinghead brand as a writer?

Simple, comforting, nostalgic, but also detail-oriented and a stickler for accuracy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Random Thoughts

  • I see in the news Sarah Palin came out with a new word—refudiate. It looks as if she combined two words—refute and repudiate. The article mentions a few words that have recently been added to our vocabulary by fusing two words like Sarah Palin obviously did. One of those was guesstimation. I don’t know why, but I don’t like “guesstimation.” Why can’t someone say, “My best guess is that the world will end in 2012” instead of “I guesstimate the world will end in 2012”? My spell check likes guesstimate but not guesstimation. Ha!
  • Two asteroids flew by the earth Wednesday. Two in one day. I wonder how many times that happens?
  • I also see in the headlines, “Snooki Arrested.” Are you like me, wondering who in the world is Snooki?
  • Yeah, I’m getting old(er) and don’t keep up with all of these things. As most of us get older, we tend to relive our past. Carl and I watched John Wayne’s last movie the other night. I watched so many cowboy movies growing up that I tired of them. But I suppose I’m changing in my old(er) age and starting to like them again. In “The Shootist” John Wayne’s character finds out he has cancer and only a few weeks to live. When he made the movie, Wayne had already had a cancerous lung removed, but the doctors had declared him cancer free. image But after the movie, the cancer returned and he died a few years later. I read the Wikipedia entry and it said John Wayne changed the last scene of the movie. The original ending implied the young man (played by Ron Howard) became a gunslinger. The final film’s version has Howard’s character throwing the gun away and Wayne’s character giving a nod of approval. A much more satisfying ending, don’t you think?
  • Snooki or John Wayne? I think I’ll stick with The Duke. I guesstimate most of my friends will agree. Anyone care to refudiate that?