Monday, October 31, 2005

Home again!

I've been saving this photograph for weeks, in honor of the fun tonight. Yes, despite some misgivings about Halloween, I've decided to turn it into an occasion for celebration, so I sit out on my front porch with the pumpkins and give candy and books to any child who happens by. It's a balmy night here in central Florida, so I'm sure I'll have a few mosquitoes to keep me company. And Charley, of course.

(Charley? My mastiff puppy. The only mastiff I have left and a Very Spoiled Canine.)

Got home from Glorieta last night after eleven p.m. and have spent the day clearing the desk and getting my mind back together. Will have to start writing again soon, but more on that later. Have revisions on MAGDALENE to do, but am waiting for my editor's revision letter (hint, hint.) Oops--here it is!

Back to work,

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Glorieta Christian Writers' Conference

Isn't that picture a HOOT? Love it!

I'm writing from the Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference, which is one PACKED conference for writers! Wow. I'm teaching the fiction track and having a ball with lots of folks who are interested in learning to write novels. Wonderful people with great ideas and a heart to reach people through the printed word.

Also here with novelist friends like Gayle Roper, Jim Bell, Steve and Janet Bly, Brandilyn Collins, Lynn Coleman, and -- ha! Today I looked up in my class and saw Randy Singer sitting in front of me! I have no idea why he thought he needed to come to my class, but now I can say (with a giggle) that I helped teach Randy Singer how to write!

In any case, having a great time and looking forward to two more days and then home. Until then,

Remain in grace,

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Key to the Story Engine

(Continued from previous entry)

Once you have chosen your main character and given him two needs, you will set him in a specific time and place. This is often referred to as the protagonist’s ordinary world. Usually the first third of a movie and the first few chapters of a novel are involved with the business of establishing the protagonist, his world, his needs, and his personality. The story has not kicked into gear, though, until you move from the skull to the spine, otherwise known as the inciting incident.
In a picture book, the inciting incident is usually signaled by two words: “One day . . .” I’ve written a dozen picture books, and though I don’t intentionally signal the inciting incident, those two words are a natural way to move from setting the stage to the action.

As you plot your novel, ask yourself, “One day, what happens to move my main character into the action of the story?” Your answer will be your inciting incident, the key that turns your story engine.

Let’s look at The Wizard of Oz. In the first act we meet Dorothy and the people in her life. We also meet Miss Gulch, who is clearly an antagonist. Dorothy runs away with Toto, but she’s sent home by the kindly Professor Marvel. If she’d made it back to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em without incident, there would have been no story—or only a very short one. But something happens to prevent the family reunion and Dorothy is literally whisked from her ordinary world to a special place unlike anything she has ever known. The inciting incident? The tornado that picks up Dorothy (and her house) and drops her in the land of Oz.

What is the element of change in Mary Poppins? In this film, the inciting incident is placed right up front; the ordinary world is depicted only briefly. Yes, everything changes in the Banks household when the musical Mary blows into town with a talking umbrella and a bottomless carpetbag. Mary’s arrival moves the family from its ordinary world into a special world. The house is the same house, but with Mary in it, almost anything can happen.

Consider Maria, our misfit postulant from The Sound of Music. She would have continued in her ill-fitting position, doubtless trying to make the best of an uncomfortable situation, but the Reverend Mother receives a letter from Captain von Trapp, who is seeking a governess. The Reverend Mother immediately thinks of her restless postulant and Maria is dispatched to the von Trapp mansion. She leaves her ordinary world, the cozy cloister, for an adventure beyond her imagining.

The inciting incident in Mostly Martha arrives with a ringing telephone. When she takes the call, she learns that her sister, who was a single mother to an eight-year-old girl, has been killed.

But I Don’t Want to Go!

Often—but not always—your protagonist doesn’t want to go where the inciting incident is pushing her. Obviously, Martha doesn’t want to hear that her sister is dead, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a mother. She takes Lina, her niece, and offers to cook for her, but Lina only wants her mother.

Maria accepts the governess position, not because she wants it, but because she’s bound to obey the Reverend Mother. Dorothy is charmed by the Munchkins in Oz, but she doesn’t want to stay in this Technicolor land—she wants to go home.

Think of your favorite movies—how many feature a hero who’s reluctant to enter the special world? At the beginning of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker doesn’t want to rescue the princess. Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara hears about the coming civil war and pooh-poohs the idea; she doesn’t want the cycle of lovely parties and barbeques to end. In The Passion of the Christ, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying that this “cup” pass from him . . . but agreeing that not his will, but God’s must be done.

Even if your protagonist has actively pursued a change, he or she may have moments of doubt as the entrance to the special world looms ahead. In Miss Congeniality, FBI agent Gracie Hart loves her job and would do almost anything to get ahead, but she balks when she’s asked to endure a makeover so she can go undercover at a national beauty pageant.

When your character retreats or doubts or refuses to leave the ordinary world, another character should step in to provide encouragement, advice, information, or a special tool (think Luke Skywalker’s nifty light saber). This will help your main character overcome those last-minute doubts and enable her to establish—

The End of the Spine: the Goal

At some point just before or after the inciting incident, your character will establish and/or state a goal. Shortly after stepping out of her transplanted house, Dorothy looks around Oz and wails, “I want to go back to Kansas!” She’s been transported over the rainbow and learned that the grass really is greener in Oz, but she prefers the tried and true to the unfamiliar and strange. In order to go home, she discovers, she’ll have to visit the wizard who lives in the Emerald City. A

And how does she reach him? By following the yellow brick road.

In a space of only a few lines, Dorothy has stated her goal—to go back to Kansas—and been given a set of subgoals as well. As she tries to meet an ever-shifting set of subgoals, her main goal keeps viewers glued to the TV set.

This overriding concern—will she or won’t she make it home?—is known as the dramatic question. The dramatic question in every murder mystery is Who committed the crime? The dramatic question in nearly every thriller is Who will win the inevitable showdown between the hero and the villain? Along the way the reader will worry about the subgoals (Will the villain kill his hostage? Will the hero figure out the clues? When and where will they meet?), but the dramatic question fuels the reader’s curiosity and keeps him reading until the last page.

Tip: To keep the reader involved until the end, the dramatic question should always be directly related to the character’s ultimate goal.

Martha finds herself trying to care for a grieving eight-year-old who doesn’t want another mother. So Martha promises to track down the girl’s father, who lives in Italy. She knows only that his name is Giuseppe, but she’s determined to find him.

Sent away by the Reverend Mother, The Sound of Music’s Maria picks up her carpet bag and her guitar case and begins the long walk to the von Trapp mansion. Her goal is more sung than stated, more implicit than explicit. When she begins to sing “I’ve Got Confidence,” her flagging voice tells us she’s trying desperately to whip up some enthusiasm for the job. By the time she reaches the outskirts of the von Trapp estate, however, she’s swinging her arms and singing for all she’s worth. Her determination withers at the sight of the imposing family home, but later that night, after she’s met the children, she prays in her room and states her ultimate goal: she will do all she can to bring love, light, and laughter into the lives of these motherless children.

The Ribcage

A story that progresses straight from inciting incident to goal would have a pretty boring plot. Even my third grade students understand that a protagonist who accomplishes everything he attempts is a colorless character. As another friend of mine is fond of pointing out, as we tackle the mountain of life, it’s the bumps we climb on!

If you’re diagramming, sketch a rib cage over your spine, taking care that there are at least three ribs and that the ribs curve gently. These ribs represent the complications that must arise to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goal.

Why at least three ribs? Because even in the shortest of stories—in a picture book, for instance—three complications works better than two or four. I don’t know why three gives us such a feeling of completion, but it does. Maybe it's because God is a Trinity.

While a short story will have only three complications, a movie or novel may have hundreds. Complications can range from the mundane—John can’t find a pencil to write down Sarah’s number—to life-shattering. As you write down possible complications that could stand between your character and his ultimate goal, place the more serious problems at the bottom of the list.

The stakes—what your protagonist is risking—should increase as the story progresses.

In Mostly Martha, the complications center on this uptight woman’s ability to care for a child. Martha hires a babysitter, whom Lina hates, so Martha has to take Lina to work with her. But the late hours take their toll, and Lina is often late for school. Furthermore, Lina keeps refusing to eat anything Martha cooks for her.

Let’s look at the complications Maria faces in The Sound of Music. For the sake of brevity, we can group them into three classes—first, she faces obstacles from the children. The older children don’t think they need a governess; the boys put a pine cone in her chair at dinner. But Maria wins them over with understanding, firm guidance, and complicity in their escapades.

Next, she faces obstacles from the stern Captain von Trapp. The naval commander is horrified to discover his children climbing trees in play clothes made from curtains and he can’t believe Maria refuses to obey his whistle. But because Maria sings a sweet “Edelweiss” and loves the same country (and children) he loves, she wins him over.

Maria’s third complication is the most serious. When I ask my writing students which character represented Maria’s most formidable opponent, most of them mention the rich Baroness who wants to marry Captain von Trapp. But no, though the sophisticated Baroness represents another threat, she’s a red herring. Maria’s toughest opponent is herself. The Baroness points this out when, after discovering the Captain dancing with Maria, she pulls the young postulant aside and says, “You blushed in his arms just now.”

Maria, who has promised her life to the Church, is horrified. How could a future nun allow herself to fall in love with her employer? For Maria, this is the biggest complication of all.

Let’s consider the many complications in The Wizard of Oz. I asked you to make the ribs curve gently because any character that runs into complication after complication without any breathing space is going to be a weary character . . . and you’ll weary your reader. One of the keys to good pacing is to alternate your plot complications with rewards. Like a pendulum that swings on an arc, let your character relax, if only briefly, between disasters.

When Dorothy receives her marching orders from the Munchkins, she sets out upon the spiraling yellow brick road. Soon, however, she reaches an intersection (a complication) and doesn’t know which way to go. Fortunately, a friendly scarecrow is willing to help (a reward).
The scarecrow, in search of brains, joins Dorothy on her quest but they haven’t gone far before Dorothy becomes hungry (a complication). The scarecrow spots an apple orchard ahead (a reward). These apple trees, however, come to life and resent being picked (a complication), but the clever scarecrow taunts them until they begin to throw fruit at the hungry travelers (a reward).

See how it works? Every problem is followed by a reward on a scale commensurate with the seriousness of the complication.

Let’s fast forward. Dorothy finally meets the Wizard (reward) and is told to bring back the broomstick of the wicked witch of the east (a more serious complication with higher risk). On that quest (a sub-goal), she battles winged monkeys, is kidnapped and threatened. But the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion, her loyal friends, balance the action by making overcoming opposition and sneaking into the witch’s castle.

Finally we join Dorothy and her friends with the witch. The witch picks up a torch and is about to set fire to the scarecrow (a more serious complication), but Dorothy spots a bucket of water and tosses it on the flame, inadvertently splashing the witch. “Eeek,” the witch squeals, “I’m melting!” (A considerable reward for Dorothy, a considerable complication for the witch).

Dorothy can’t relax yet. She looks up and finds herself surrounded by the witch’s guards (a complication), but they hasten to assure her that they never liked the witch and won’t miss her (a reward). They give Dorothy the nub of the witch’s broomstick and our jubilant traveling party goes back to the Emerald City.

The road ahead should be smooth for our stalwart travelers, but when they appear before the thundering, powerful Oz to claim their rewards, Toto slips away and pulls aside a curtain, revealing that the mighty Oz is nothing but a completely unimposing man (a complication quickly reversed when the man hands out rewards to the scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion).

Finally, the wizard assures Dorothy that he can help her. We cut to a scene where Dorothy says her farewells and climbs into a hot air balloon with the wizard. But Toto jumps out to chase a cat, so Dorothy has to jump out to chase Toto, and the balloon takes off without her.

This is a severe complication—it’s so severe it deserves a title of its own: the bleakest moment. This is the final rib in the ribcage, the moment when all hope is lost for your protagonist. Dorothy has no more witches to kill, no more wizards to entreat, no more friends to offer help. She is completely and utterly crushed.

Just like Maria the governess, who realized in her bleakest moment that her own heart had betrayed her.

What does your character need in his bleakest moment?

Next: The End of the Story

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Heading to New Mexico . . . and teaching

First things first--happy birthday to my Mom!

I'm heading out tomorrow for Glorieta, New Mexico, and since they only have dial-up at the retreat center, I'm going to pre-write several blog posts and hope I'll be able to click "send" every day.

Since I'm heading off to teach the fiction track, I thought I'd share what I've developed to teach writers of all ages about plotting. Now--I know about Randy's snowflake and Vogler's The Writer's Journey. I've read tons of books, and my skeleton isn't necessarily a tool for plotting, though I've had great success in using it for that purpose. You can use it merely as a tool for analysis, if you like. (Recently I got stumped in MAGDALENE and forced myself to stop and sketch out the skeleton. Almost immediately I found my story problem--the bones weren't fitting together properly.)

Anyway . . . people who call themselves "seat of the pants" writers relish the joy of being free to discover new things in the process of writing. But I can't sit down without an outline; the very idea of not knowing where I'm going scares me spitless. I need a destination or I know I'll wander all over the place, and I can't stand the thought of wasted effort. On the other hand, writers who plot out every single development before hand--well, I'd find that too limiting. I need the freedom to listen to the characters because they come to life as I work with them. I don't know all their secrets in the first draft. I have a much better handle on things by draft three.

So--I came up with the plot skeleton. It's bare bones on purpose. It will give you a basic, solid structure without limiting your desire to add additional things. And it's simple enough for a third grader to understand.

The other day I realized that all of us were (or should have been taught) how to construct a five-paragraph theme in high school. You know, the old intro, thesis sentence, three main points, conclusion. I wrote more of those than I care to remember.

Yet we were also often told to "write a story" and I don't remember EVER being given clear directions or any kind of blueprint. I think our teachers thought that anything would be okay and frankly, it isn't. Fiction needs a structure, too. (If it's going to hang together properly, that is.)

So, beginning tomorrow, I'm posting a mini-workshop on plotting. Enjoy.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Reading and Writing . . .

. . . go hand in hand.

People always ask if I've always wanted to be a writer, and I say no. But then I quickly admit that I've always been a reader. Am still reading Jane Smiley's 13 Ways, and I loved what she said about novelists and reading. An excerpt:

"While the desire to write a novel does not guarantee that the resulting novel will be a good one . . . it is the only way to begin. Most often it grows out of a compulsive habit of reading as a child . . .

"We were reading because it was easy and fun and because we were unsupervised. We were reading to find companions more congenial than those around us. We wanted to fill our heads with nonsense and tune out practical considerations. We were not, most likely, athletic or useful sorts of children. We were reluctant to help around the house or to go outside and play. We did not have very good manners, because in numerous ways . . . reading books is deleterious to good manners. We did not have good sleep habits, because if we had, we would not have read under the bedcovers with a flashlight, or held the book up to the moon that shone through the window, and ruined our eyes."

And this is the best part:

"We were reading because we had two lives, an inner life and an outer life, and they were equally important to us and equally vivid. A novelist is someone whose inner experience is as compelling as the details of his or her life, someone who may owe more to another author, never met, than to a close relative seen every day. A novelist has two lives--a reading and writing life, and a lived life. He or she cannot be understood at all apart from this."

Well said, Jane.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Perfect Haircut

Photo: signing books for students at the wonderful Grace Christian School in Ohio. With the new haircut.

I've recently discovered what every woman dreams of: a hair-cutting genius. (With apologies to all the hairdressers in my past. You were great, but my latest experience just struck me as a perfect metaphor.)

The genius's name is Rob, and I'd tell you the name of his salon, but then I'd never be able to get in--he's already very busy. The difference with Rob, you see, lies in the fact that he looked at my head, my hair, and the shape of my face--all those things we're told to pay attention to--and then he told me what he was going to do.

My problem, he said (I'm paraphrasing; he was much more diplomatic) is that I have too much hair. I knew this. So he was going to remove all the hair above and behind my ears and at the nape of my neck.

Remove my hair? Images of bald flesh and itchy stubble flashed before my eyes, then Rob assured me he wasn't actually going to shave my head. But remove the excess hair, yes. The result would be hair that kept its shape, flattered my head, and did not look like an overgrown ligustrum bush.

So I trusted myself to Rob's scissors and didn't even wince when he cut the air around and behind my ears shorter than the length of a pencil eraser. Thank heaven, I couldn't see what he was doing at the back of my head. And you know what? I walked out of that salon with hair that was easier to dry, style, and actually looked good on this aging head.

The metaphor part? Writing is like that. Sometimes you have to have the courage to remove pages, scenes, chapters, and extraneous words. Clip, clip. Snip, snip. The result is a tighter, leaner book.

The other day, in her Charis post, Liz Higgs mentioned the practice of saving deleted scenes and chapters in a computer file to ease the pain of separation. I've been doing this for some time. Some of the good material will find its way to my web page, like the deleted scenes on a DVD. The simple and unnecessary words can vanish from sight, and good riddance.

Ah. When in doubt, cut it out. Works for me!



Saturday, October 22, 2005

Jesus is My Boss . . . what does that mean?

Ever been this tired? LOL.

I've been traveling a lot lately and speaking to elementary and middle school students about life, God, and writing. There's a line in my standard speech that goes like this:

"When I was six years old, I gave my life to Jesus. And I knew what it meant, and I knew what I was doing, and I knew that from that day forward, Jesus was to be the boss of my life."

All true. But--lately, as I've fielded questions about my goals and dreams, I find myself wondering if I even have a right to goals and dreams. Oh, I know that sounds unAmerican. Unnatural. But, if we really think about it, if you surrender your life to Christ, doesn't that mean the right to those goals and dreams belongs to him?

The premise of my standard school speech is that I never dreamed of being a writer--and that's true. But God led me down some interesting paths to bring me where I am today. Expect the unexpected? For sure I never expected to be here. But God is good, and though I haven't been perfect, I really have tried to let him dream and plan for me.

So . . . what are my dreams? Well, it'd be nice to have a best seller and to retire in North Carolina and hold a grandbaby or two, but that's okay--I'm not set on any of those things. It's enough to face each day with the hope and prayer that I'll fulfill HIS dreams and plans for my day . . . nothing more, nothing less.

I'm about to make a huge decision that will affect the next few years of my life and career. So it's a good thing the Lord has brought this to my mind lately. It's not about me, my career, promotion of my books. It's all about him. Whatever he wants . . . and can I say that even if his plan includes a book that bombs?

Big breath. That, my friend, is the challenge of the Christian writer's life.

P.S. Happy birthday to my sister, Gay.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Visiting Another Blog Today . . .

I've been visiting . . . . and . . . is where I popped into do an online interview. Gina Holmes kindly invited me to spout off, so I did. I just hope I don't sound like a woman with chronic PMS.

So . . . if you'd like to pop over there and take a read, be my guest. And let me know you stopped by, okay?



Jane Smiley Quote

I adore this quote from Jane Smiley's book: "If to live is to progress, if you are lucky, from foolishness to wisdom, then to write novels is to broadcast the various stages of your foolishness."

Ah . . . that is so profound I am experiencing an urge to go sit in the closet and perhaps never come out.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

New books, new books

Ah, a red letter day. If you hold to the analogy that a new book is like a new baby, then the picture at the left is my first sonogram. (VBG). The cover of UNCHARTED, due out in June 2006. What's it about? I like to describe it as "LOST" meets "The Big Chill."

And there are two other new books on my desk. The first is a nonfiction book called Not In Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic Is Transforming America. I've not yet read it, but after a quick skim, I'm thinking it should be called How America Is Trying to Trust Anything and Everything but God.
I'm thinking about setting it out for my book club; should make an interesting faith-discussion. It also looks like it'd be helpful for anyone who writes about the occult, etc.

The other new book on my desk is Jane Smiley's 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. Now this is a book to ponder--it looks so dense and lush that I think I'll be doing well to read/digest a chapter a day--or even half a chapter. Can't wait to dig into it.

Well, this is "telephone day"--for some reason I have scheduled four telephone appointments today: two conference calls and two long-distance book clubs. I'm so rarely on the telephone, this will be interesting! And tonight--Alias! I certainly hope this season five picks up. So far it's been a bit of a snooze, but I'll hang in there for at least a while.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Go ahead, take a sip!

It has occurred to me that lots of folks who pop into this blog have never read one of my books. That's rather like hanging around Starbucks to use the wi-fi and breathe in the delicious aroma without ever taking a sip, don't you think? But never mind, no sour grapes here. Honest. In fact, I am offering--and have always offered--a free book to anyone who wants one. All you have to do is pony up for the postage and the fancy padded mailer. My cluttered garage will thank you.

If you'd like a free book, visit this link and click on the "free book" button. So simple. Leave your postage/padded envelope deposit with PayPal, and I'll get your free book right out to you.

BTW, I think my web hosting company's server has been on the fritz. So if the link is slow or inoperative today, try again tomorrow. I've used them for years without a problem, but Mr. Murphy always seems to show up . . .



Monday, October 17, 2005

Flying to Philly

Actually, I'm not going to Philly at all, I just like the alliteration. I'm on my way to Savannah, and I suppose I ought to be grateful--came here without a seat, but I've just seen my name shot up on the "cleared" list, so I suppose they found room for me. So I'm sitting here on the floor, legs out, laptop on lap (alliteration again!), and I'd say "arms akimbo," but they're not. Ever notice how many romance writers use the word "akimbo"? And "splayed." And "hunker down." Take out your highlighter the next time you read a romance, and you'll see what I mean.

I suppose we all have our habits. I remember once I was writing a very action-oriented series, and no one could pick up an AK-47 machine gun without "slamming the cartridge home." And no one could turn on a computer without it "whirring and lagging" in response. We all have our pet phrases, and usually by the time we recognize them, it's time to kill them off. Big sigh.

Tomorrow I'm speaking in at least one Savannah Christian school, then home before dark, I think. I hope. And home the rest of the week. :-) I'm having the grout cleaned, the exterminator is coming (found evidence of rats in the attic yesterday as I pulled down the tin pumpkins.)

Well, time to board ze plane, ze plane.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reporting from Ohio

Another busy day, but a bonus--a night off! I was supposed to speak in a church tonight, but something happened, so I'm tucked in with room service and in my jammies. Another full day tomorrow--two schools and a bookstore in the p.m.

I'm still talking about my dogs with the kids, so that's Justus with a pup I puppy-sat one afternoon. Jussy was so gentle with small things! I remember him once catching a squirrel and carrying it around the yard as it screamed for its life. Not knowing what else to do with it, he came inside and dropped it in the pool, where Sadie couldn't get it. LOL.

Sadie and Jussy are both gone now, but I still smile at the memories.

This morning I spoke in chapel and did a workshop at Polaris Christian Academy; this afternoon I did the same thing at Genoa Christian Academy. Both schools were super, with great students and a wonderful, supportive staff. I also gave a pitch for the Nelson School Enrichment Program at a luncheon for ASCI school administrators.

Well . . . time to sign off and get some shut eye after calling home to check in. Two more days and then I'm home!


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Marathon Day

Photo: I've been talking a lot about my big dogs. This is Justus in my old convertible. Yep, the 275-pound dog.

Wow. The submission time on this blog is accurate, and what a day it's been. A wonderful day.

Met Debbie and Bethany, my wonderful Nelson reps and hostesses, at eight a.m., and we drove to the Grove City Christian School, where I spoke to a gym filled with students, then taught a writing workshop for the older elementary students. Had my first experience with a smart tablet/smart board--interesting computer setup where just HOLDING a certain colored marker in your left hand enables you to write on a screen with your right hand's fingertip. Hmmm. Wonderful students, so thank you, Grove City!

After a quick lunch, we drove to Gahanna Christian Academy (and I do hope I'm spelling that right) where I spoke to the elementary chapel and then did two writing workshops for middle and high school students. The cutest thing happened in the elementary chapel--because I wouldn't have the young ones for the writing workshop, I let them ask questions. Most of the kids asked about where a writer's ideas come from and how long it takes me to write a book, but this adorable kindergartner on the first row raised his hand. When I called on him, he asked me to unbutton his shirt! LOL! Seems his top button was too tight. So I unbuttoned his shirt and moved on while the teachers giggled. I guess I look like a mother figure. (VBG)

After a brief break, Debbie and I (and her very cool daughter Bethany) drove to Mansfield, where I talked to folks about publishing at the Bookery, a WONDERFUL Christian bookstore in town. They have everything! Best of all, I had friends in attendance--one of our Heavenly Dazers, Ruth Wengard, relatives of my dear friend Bill Wilt, and relatives and friends of my dear hubby (who happened to send me flowers via the store. He's a nice man. I think I'll keep him.)

Tammy, the manager of The Bookery, did a great job getting the word out. Thanks, Tammy!
In the middle of the bookery meeting, I ran into Tammy's office and did a "telephone book club meeting" with Diana Rendon and her book club down in Fort Lauderdale. Thanks, ladies, for the fun time!

Anyway, thank you to all of my husband's Mansfield friends and relatives who came out to say hello. It was such a joy to see you--next time I'll have to bring my other half.

Tomorrow? More schools, a luncheon, and a church. Looking forward to another busy day.
Oh--and just in case any of those students have forgotten the link to my doggie pictures, here it is: Enjoy.

Signing off for now,

Monday, October 10, 2005

Wonderful Surprises

So I'm sitting in the lovely Moments with Majesty bookstore in Pickerington, Ohio, chatting with Renee and Pam and Renee's mom about writing Christian fiction, and I glance down the aisle. And here comes a lovely woman who looks familiar . . . and then I realize I'm about to meet B.J. Hoff, historical novelist and kindred spirit, for the first time.

B.J. and I have been email friends for years, but we have never crossed paths. But here she was, as gracious and lovely and warm in person as she is in her blog and in her emails. What a treat--BJ, if you're reading this, thanks so much for taking time out of your "week off" to come and visit. You added so much to the conversation.

Had a lovely visit with the students at two Tree of Life Schools . . . talked about God and writing with kindergarten through fifth grade students. We had a lot of fun writing stories together! Thank you, Mrs. Sharon Shanks, for all your hard work! You have the face of an angel, you know . . .

Tomorrow--more schools and a visit to The Bookery in Mansfield, Ohio! Can't wait! Those folks knew my hubby when he was knee high!


Publisher's Weekly Review

Greetings from Ohio! Happy Columbus Day!

Every writer I know holds their breath when our books are sent to Publisher's Weekly for review. These folks are the book experts, and they aren't shy about pointing out weaknesses.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I received a copy of the latest PW review for my upcoming novel, THE NOVELIST. (Original title, no?) There's only one mistake in the following review--Jordan Casey is a grandmother, but I definitely am NOT.

Jordan is older, richer, and sells a lot more books than I do. (VBG)

Most important, the PW reviewer "got it"--the message about God's sovereignty and man's free will. They don't cancel each other out--it is perfectly possible for man to have free will beneath the umbrella, as it were, of God's sovereignty. Just like a novelist and her characters.

From Publishers' Weekly: The Novelist

Angela Hunt. WestBow, $19.99 (320p) ISBN 0-8499-4483-X

In a novel her publisher is touting as "a glimpse into her own life," Hunt, a grandmother and prolific writer (more than 70 books), pens a novel about a prolific writer and grandmother. Jordan Casey is the pen name for Jordan Casey Kerrigan, . . . author of a bestselling adventure series. She agrees to teach a college night class on writing fiction and is challenged by an irksome student to ditch her formulaic approach and try writing something from the heart. Stung by the criticism, Kerrigan turns down a lucrative contract for another adventure novel and writes an allegory of paradise, sin, the fall and redemption as played out in an otherworldly casino. As she writes, her desire to change her 21-year-old son Zachary's chaotic life as a suicidal addict becomes an impetus for a story she wants to communicate about life, loss and second chances (told alongside mother and son's actual plight). God, she believes, is the ultimate writer, complete with an outline for one's life story—yet even the characters in the hands of a novelist have choices. Jordan's reality and fiction alternate and finally converge as Hunt spins her tale, with flashbacks to Zachary's innocent childhood that are guaranteed to wring tears from even the hardest-hearted reader. Although Hunt is known for her competency, this novel also shows poignancy and imagination. (Jan.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ohio Bound . . .

I'm flying out Sunday afternoon, bound for Ohio. It's going to be a busy week, but I will be signing and speaking at the following places that are open to the public. If you're in the area, I'd love to meet you!

(Please--I've done signings where all I did was sit and give directions to the restroom. If you're anywhere near, PLEASE come.)

Monday, Oct. 10: Moments with Majesty bookstore, Pickerington, OH, 6-8 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 11: The Bookery, Mansfield, OH, 6:30--8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 12: Genoa Baptist Church, Westerville, OH, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 13: Moments with Majesty bookstore, Dublin, OH 6-8 p.m.
Friday: Flying Home! It's my hubby's birthday!

Hope to see you this week!

Friday, October 07, 2005


LOL. In the comments, Kathy asked if I was a "prophetic" writer . . . not in any revelatory sense, but I have had some brow-lifting moments.

My book, THE PEARL, which features the Raelians and cloning, released the same week the Raelians announced they had cloned a human baby. I had no idea they were "close" (I still don't know if they did it, but they said they did.)

THE CANOPY released the same week a mad cow was discovered in the US. Yep, the book is about mad cow and other prion diseases.

I wrote about a plane crash and the World Trade Center in THE NOTE, which released in January 2001. I also wrote in that book that Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl, which they weren't even close to winning . . . until January 2003.

This one is too funny--when I started wondering about how they diapered babies in biblical times, I discovered "elimination timing." And just TODAY I was going through a stack of magazines only to discover that in the 9-26-2005 NEWSWEEK, there's an article on "infant potty training"--modern moms doing away with diapers. Check it out at LOL.

How do these things happen? Mostly serendipity, I think, though some of it undoubtedly springs from the fact that I am fascinated by a lot of things that are in the news. And you know what? It never fails that when I'm writing about something, I "suddenly" begin to run into things about the topic--or vice versa. For instance, I was taking a course in advanced New Testament studies when I was invited to write MAGDALENE . . . and discovered that my research was already well underway.

Ah, God is sovereign. We only think we are in control of our lives. (VBG) And in that sentence you'll find the theme of THE NOVELIST . . .


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Step on over to Charis . . .

Blogging over on Charis Connection today . . . a bit of my "testimony" and standard speech. Without the singing and dancing, of course.

The link is


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Q & A

We had our book club meeting tonight and discussed THE BIRTH OF VENUS. On the whole, we liked it--an average rating of 3 1/2 stars. We loved the active presentation of history and learning about art, but we felt the ending a little bumpy and the tattoo a shade too much like a gimmick. We would recommend the book to mature readers only.

Next month my book club is reading Little Beauties by Kim Addonizio. It's contemporary and looks light, which will be a nice change from this month's book.

Someone asked how many words I write--on a typical day, I average between five and six thousand words per day. I've written seven thousand a day occasionally, and once wrote eleven thousand when I was away from the Internet. (VBG). I do spend a lot of time reading/writing email, so I have to "go under" when time is tight.
My motto is "get it down," so I do write fast and sloppy. But I do at least four drafts before I hand a book in, and the work gets tighter and longer with each draft.



Monday, October 03, 2005

Well, it had to happen. Once again real life--well, TV real life--imitates art.

Not so many years ago I wrote a story about the first woman president--a woman who's VP and becomes president when the acting president dies from an aortic aneurysm. (Sound familiar?) And no one really wanted her to be president, but now that she is, she's determined to make her mark on the world.

My book was called The Justice, and it's still available on And sure, Geena Davis could play Daryn Austin (the president in my book). I think the characters are made of similar stuff.

My book was actually based on the true story of Henry II and Thomas a Beckett. If you know the story, you'll know they were great friends until Henry tapped Thomas to be the bishop of Canterbury--mainly because Henry was having trouble with the church and he wanted someone in the church to be firmly in his pocket. But then Thomas had a true experience with God, and he decided not to play ball with Henry anymore.

The best scene in the play and movie Becket in the one in which Henry looks up at a group of his knights and says, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

I have Daryn Austin say pretty much the same thing. She's president, and she's been having trouble with the Supreme Court, so she appoints her lover to the court . . . and is put out when he has a real experience with a living God. And then . . . well, I won't spoil the story for you.


Angie, off to celebrate a "catch up" day now that I'm back in my office

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Mission Accomplished!

It's October 1st, 11:33 p.m., and Magdalene was due October 1st. I'm happy to report that it was submitted with thirty minutes to spare.

Whew. And tomorrow I'm going home and can beginning putting life back in order.

I have to read THE BIRTH OF VENUS on the plane home because my book club is meeting Monday night and I haven't finished the book yet. And I'm throwing a baby shower Tuesday night and have yet to even think about food, etc . . .

Yes, life is back to normal, but the book is handed in!

I'd dance, but I'm too tired. (VBG)