Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Charley Gansky and I have just rented/watched MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, and we were absolutely charmed. If you like animals, or if you want to just revel in the glory and miracle of God's creation, you have got to watch this movie. Life/death/love/parenting--this documentary has it all, and it's presented with an unsentimental but gentle and factual approach. Loved it, loved it!
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Yesterday I was somewhere doing something (sorry for the secrecy, but I am doing my utmost to protect a surprise Christmas gift), when someone saw me madly tapping on my NEO. What's a Neo? It's a small word processor made by Alphasmart, and it's perfect for tossing into a book bag and taking around town when you have to run errands, etc. I'm first-drafting, you see, and when I'm on a roll I don't like to stop for ANYTHING. "Just get it down," is my motto, because even if I'm typing stinkiness, I can fix stinkiness. You can don't anything with a blank page but fill it up.
Anyway--there I was, tapping away, and someone saw me and started asking about the Neo. Yes, it's a word processor. No, it has nothing to do with The Matrix or Keanu Reaves. Yes, it's light and durable, but yes, the keyboard is also full size. And yes, it runs for over a year on a few AA batteries. And yes, you just slide in a USB cord and your words flow from the NEO into your desktop or laptop word processing program.
Next thing I knew, this someone was asking me to order two Neos on her behalf for Christmas gifts. I promised to do so, and was tickled. I mean, I love my Neo, but I've never seen anything that sells itself like this gadget! (No, I don't earn any kind of commission.)
So--that's the news from this end. Oh, and I discovered that I have a broken bone in my spine. It's healed over, but not very well, so if I strain the muscles attached to it--ouch. So now I have an excuse not to haul all those heavy boxes of Christmas decorations out of the attic . . . yippee!
One more thing. In December, I'm having my annual 2-4-1 sale on my web site. Any books ordered from this page automatically get doubled with surplus from my stock. Got to get the garage cleared out for the new spring books.
Have a lovely day!
Monday, November 28, 2005
I'm pontificating today over at http://charisconnection.blogspot.com. If you haven't discovered this blog, you're in for a treat--not necessarily because of today's post, but because my friends' very colorful posts before and after. See you there!
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Last week I had to answer several queries from the copy editor working on MAGDALENE. Not really a big deal, it's just part of the process, and she made several important points.
She queried a passage my editors hadn't even blinked at--and, after a bit of thought, I passed the passage and the query on to some writer friends for their response. The topic? I had Jesus/Yeshua doing something that people in fiction and films usually don't do--attend to physical human needs. Yes, I had Jesus step away for a moment to relieve himself.
Most of the friends I queried said it didn't bother them; in fact, wrote Athol D., the passage showed the depths to which God was willing to sink to redeem us! The passage did bother a couple of folks, but I wonder if that isn't a good thing. Doesn't it say that we don't really think of Jesus as human? Yet he was as fully human as he was fully divine. In fact, his followers didn't expect a divine Messiah--they expected a descendant of David who would be the "son of God" in the same way that all children of Abraham were "sons of God" because Israel was considered God's "firstborn." It wasn't until AFTER the resurrection that most of the disciples realized that Jesus was truly divine, and the concept of the Trinity (though illustrated throughout the Bible) wasn't clearly defined until the second century.
But--back to the passage--here it is:
At a word from the disciple who'd stopped Atticus, Yeshua turned toward a thick stand of brush behind the rocks, seeking privacy.
Atticus looked away as understanding dawned. The rabbi had been standing before these people for hours without a break-no wonder he needed a moment.
"Auuuuuuuuu." Quinn pulled on the neckline of Atticus's tunic. "Auuuuuuuuu."
Atticus jiggled the baby. Soon the boy would be hungry and he had no food on hand. This prophet had better hurry.
The shrubs rustled and the rabbi reappeared. His mouth curved in a slow smile when he caught Atticus's eye. "I'm sorry you had to wait."
You see? Nothing explicit about it at all; it shows Jesus as an ordinary man. Which he was, and which he had to be in order to suffer as we suffer. But he was also fully God.
And (LOL) my good friend Deb Raney pointed out something in an earlier draft--I'd had Atticus "flush" when he realized why Yeshua stepped away. Deb pointed out not only the awful pun, but that Atticus's discomfort might serve to heighten my reader's discomfort, when in a rural society, such things were probably no big deal. So--I did let Atticus "look away" if only as a sign of respect.
What do you think? Does it bother you to think about Jesus having to attend to ordinary human needs? Can you imagine him sneezing? Stubbing his toe? What does our reticence say about him . . . and about us?
Friday, November 25, 2005
(Hi, Aunt Rene!) Photo is my late dog Justus and a puppy pal.
Today I reserved for decorating for Christmas--well, everything but the Christmas tree, which is the job of husband and son. They go out and get it; we put it up, I decorate it. Maybe tomorrow . . .
In any case, I tried to put up/out all the Christmas stuff , but found myself feeling . . . tired. We're not having any Christmas parties this year, so I'm thinking less is definitely more. So I strung up some lights outside, pulled out the stockings, and unbagged the Christmas potpourri. Put some Christmas carols on the player piano and spent the day making the house look merry.
Truth be told, spent a lot of time in the attic vaccuming up droppings left by various rats and roaches. Ugh. The perils of living in Florida. Termites, rats, roaches . . . fortunately, none have yet invaded our living space . . . I think. Plus, it was HOT today, especially in the attic. Not exactly "chestnuts roasting" weather, unless you want to roast them on the sidewalk.
Anyway--my point (and I do have one) is is that decorating, etc., is great percolating time, especially when you're first drafting. I found myself thinking about The Book, the work-in-progress, and had an idea . . . one that may be brilliant or may be dumb, but time will tell as I keep thinking about it.
Thanksgiving was fun yesterday, seeing my family, my aunts, and a whole crop of new little cousinettes . . . an entire new generation has sprung up while I wasn't looking. I'm now a great-aunt . . . hard to believe. And my Aunt Irene told me she reads my blog, so consider this a cyber-hug, Aunt Rene. :-) She's only been on the Internet for a little while, and already she's found blogs. We'll turn her into a blogmeister yet. VBG. (Aunt Rene, that means Very Big Grin.)
Hope your holiday has been warm and restful . . . and vermin free.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Last night I baked two pumpkin pies, one pecan pie, and made one cranberry relish salad. I also began to make my favorite yeast rolls, but the shortening smelled funny . . . and even after being mixed with the yeast, the flour, and the eggs, it still smelled funny.
So I tossed the living, sticky mess into the garbage can. There's a lesson there--if one ingredient is rancid, the entire concoction will be rancid. Better to start over or forget about it.
We're driving over to the family reunion, where we'll check in with those folks we only see once a year or so, then we'll head back home and try not to feel guilty about eating so much when others have so little.
Father, make us mindful of our blessings today and every day. And open our eyes to those who have less so we may share.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
A while back, some friends on a email loop were discussing our favorite part of the writing process. I can't really say which part is my favorite--except maybe for the HANDING IT IN part--but I definitely know which part is my least favorite: the first draft.
Writing the first pages of the first draft is like going to a backyard barbeque where you don't know anyone and you don't even like the food. You kinda stand around and hope someone will talk to you about something interesting, and all the while you're thinking about the laundry you should be doing, the email that is dying to be answered, the opinions you need to express about anything but this backyard barbeque.
And gradually you talk to one person, then another, and you begin to absorb your surroundings and the mood . . . and by the time the party's ended, you think you just might like to visit again sometime. Which is a good thing. Because the way I write, a book requires at least four or five experiences of that Backyard Barbeque.
There are so many decisions to make up front--whose POV? Past tense or present? How much to reveal? Setting--and how to research it. And don't even get me started about that all-important first sentence. Properly done, that first group of words can require as much effort as the entire first chapter.
When I'm first-drafting, I can find a zillion other things to do. Those first few words are like pulling teeth. Case in point: Sunday, I was supposed to write the first 3,000 words of The Elevator. How many did I write? Zero. I worked on our family bookkeeping instead.
So Monday I told myself to write 5,000 words. How many did I write? About 3600. Hey, that's something. Today I was supposed to bring the total up to 11,000. How many do I have at the end of the day? 5,000. Now I'm only one day behind, and I have OFTEN been one day behind.
But I've established my three main characters, I've sent the tone and the tense, and these women are beginning to come to life for me. Today I also killed a zillion termites, booked a family vacation, answered a copy editor's queries, did an interview, answered a college student's questions, participated in a theological discussion, did my treadmill, updated my author bio, answered about four dozen emails, and cooked dinner. I'm always very productive when I should be first-drafting.
So it'll come together. Lord willing, it always does.
A few weeks ago Gina Holmes (www.firstnoveljourney.blogspot.com) sent me interview questions and posted the interview on her blog. Since I'm hard at work on the WIP (and getting started is the toughest part), I hope you won't mind a repeat of that information.
Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you'd like to tell us about?
My next project in the pipeline is THE NOVELIST, which releases from Westbow in January. It's a book of my heart, probably the most autobiographical thing I've ever written, and really two books in one. I may not be a good judge of my own work, but I think it's my best work to date. I know it was the hardest thing I've ever written.
Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.
That question assumes that I wanted to write books--and I really didn't think about it. I became a writer in 1983 simply because I 1) wanted to help put food on the table and 2) wanted a job I could do at home when my babies were small. No great dreams of publication, no lofty goals. The mortgage-as-motivation.
After five YEARS of writing magazine articles, catalog copy, and what-have-you, I saw an ad about a contest for unpublished picture book writers. Well, I've always liked kids and related to them pretty well. Being an unpublished book writer of any sort, I got a book on how to write picture books, wrote something up, and sent it in. First prize was publication, and when the book won suddenly I was an author--without ever really intending to be one. What went through my mind? An overwhelming sense of responsibility. Books change lives; they certainly have changed mine. They motivate, they inspire, they teach. Shoot, I learned how to flirt reading GONE WITH THE WIND.
Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?
Wallowing in self-doubt is far too narcissistic an activity for the Christian. Writing is a job, pure and simple, like any other job. You can teach people how to write effectively. I teach children how to write stories all the time--there's a pattern and a plan and it's not rocket science. You learn it, you do it. No great mystery involved. Does a dentist who's gone to dental school worry about whether or not he can pull teeth?
With that being said, however, lots of people can paint pictures, but only a few make me stop and gaze in admiration. Anyone can put flowers into a bowl, but some arrangements are more "artful" than others. So there is an element of "art" in the midst of the "sceience." The art part, however, is subjective.
If I have doubts, it's only at the first draft stage, when I'm trying to get the pattern to conform to the vision in my head. Sometimes I fear it will fall short, but as I wrestle with the story through four and five drafts, it generally shapes up. And if it doesn't? Well, that's what editors are for. They give me the objective eyes I need.
What's the best advice you've heard on writing/publication? Don't send your novel to a POD press.
What's the worst piece of writing advice you've heard? Anything that has to do with writer's block--ha! I don't believe in it. If you plan, you'll never be "blocked."
What's something you wish you'd known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business? Adverbs are generally evil.
Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you? Lately I've been seeing the theme of God's sovereignty echoed everywhere.
Is there a particularly difficult set back that you've gone through in your writing career you are willing to share? If one believes in the sovereignty of God, then nothing is a setback. Even my mistakes are part of God's plan; even my failures are steps forward, because I learn from and am changed by them.
What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.) THE NUN'S STORY by Kathryn Hulme, LIFE EXPECTANCY by Dean Koontz.
If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why? I'm Glenda the Good Witch, without a doubt. She steps in, explains everything, and makes it all look SO SIMPLE (can you tell I've spent an entire week teaching elementary students how to write?)
What piece of writing have you done that you're particularly proud of and why? I'm fond of THE TRUTH TELLER because it was my first "high-concept" book and the first time I really wrote something that rose from my own wacky imagination. I'll always be grateful to Bethany House for not thinking I didn't have both oars in the water . . .
Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz? YES! I hate it when I come home from a speaking engagement and people crowd around the luggage carousel. If everyone would stay two feet back, we could grab our suitcases and pull them off the moving thingy without taking out two toddlers, a tourist, and somebody's visiting grandmother . . .
Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life? At my desk by ten thirty, answer emails, write some, answer more emails, write more, eat lunch, write more, get the mail, toss the mail, write more, answer emails, pet the dog, write more, check to see how many more words until quitting time, eat dinner, write some more, pet dog, check schedule, finish with a flourish, and go put on my jammies! (Dull, huh?)
If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom? As in any other job, we all have strengths and weaknesses and I'm happy to keep dealing with my own God-ordained set.
Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?
I wouldn't dare. While dreams are nice and can be motivational, I've found that obedience to God's will is far more important than jogging toward anything that may or may not be his plan for me.
Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting? Of course. But I got over it.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer? Favorite: the way time flies when you are In the Zone. Least favorite? First-drafting. Because I don't know the story world well enough yet to stick in it.
How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area? I don't particularly like marketing, though I understand that the savvy writer today is required to think about how she is going to get her product to her intended reader. I prefer to do this in quiet ways--through the internet, the occasional postcard, etc.
I was in a school last week and a young girl, starry-eyed, of course, asked me what inspired me to write. I said "the morgtage payment" and her little face fell. I felt awful, but I also think we need to be realistic. There's a huge mystique about writing--encouraged by far too many writers--that needs to be shooed away.
Truthfully, I think we do people a disservice when we act like writing is some kind of mystery and we are strange artistes. I mean, really . Writing is a craft that can be taught. Some people will never be writers because they don't like sitting in a chair for long periods of time; I'll never be a runner because I hate to sweat.
And that's okay. We're created to be and do different things and God has a sovereign plan for each of us. The Christian writer is simply a person created with the gifts and temperament for writing and called to exercise those gifts in the light of eternity. Nothing mystical there. Nothing mysterious. Preachers preach, teachers teach, writers write. And if we are believers, the Love of our lives shows up in the work.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
A friend sent me directions to four of the funniest videos on the Internet. The folks at Vintage 21 took an old “Jesus movie” and added the sort of dialogue we THINK Jesus and his disciples would say.
Sorry for the convoluted directions, but getting there is a wee bit complicated. First go to http://www.vintage21.com/findex.html, then enter the site. Now, in the collage on the left, click on the movie projector, then on the “videos” box. Now go to the second page—you should see links for “Jesus Movie” one through four.
Click on those links. The four clips are hysterical, but all too true.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
So . . . I’ve been on the road all week, traveling to a different school every day, taking questions from dozens of elementary kids, and teaching writing workshops. It's been great, but I'm really beginning to miss my family and my routine. I'm heading home tomorrow, where I have to begin work on a new WIP called THE ELEVATOR—yep, about three women stuck in an elevator.
An hour ago, to refresh my wilting spirit, the Lord sends me just what I need. I walk into a Lakeland hotel, check in, and find two men working . . . on the elevator. Yep. So I put my suitcase in my room, grab my notepad, and hustle down to quiz them on all things elevator. They’re so nice they take me up and let me look down onto the top of the elevator, show me the escape hatch, find all my plot holes . . . and tell me how to fix them.
I ask for their names so I can thank them in the acknowledgements . . . they demur, saying that a mention of the "two handsome gentlemen" will be enough. :-)
God is good. And his timing is perfect.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Isn't it pretty? The final cover for Magdalene, due out in April.
I'm on the road again, speaking all week in Florida schools, courtesy of the Nelson School Enrichment program. I've been answering questions and teaching the plot skeleton to students from Tampa to Jacksonville, so my blogging has been a little eratic.
Tomorrow: Tampa; Thursday, Mt. Dora; Friday, Brandon. Then home!
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Caveat: I have a slight fever and am medicated at the moment, so I hope the following will make sense.
A bit of a brouhaha lately about "edgy" versus "safe" Christian fiction out in the blogosphere, so here I go, chucking in my two cents. Twenty-five cents, actually, because after seventeen years in this biz I have a whole pocketful of change.
Let's not narrow our focus to one or two areas--why, with an entire world to explore, has the debate about writing "safe" versus "edgy" centered on profanity and/or sexual explicitness? Writing "safe" means creating stories and plots and characters that resemble stories and plots and characters that have previously met with widespread acceptance. "Writing on the edge" means trying new forms, new stories, new plots, new techniques and new character types. The edge is always risky . . . anyone remember New Coke? (VBG)
John Grisham wrote "safe" . . . until he wrote A PAINTED HOUSE. Most authors write "safe," mirroring themselves or another popular genre, until they discover their unique niche.
What is "safe" for Ted Dekker might feel "edgy" for Lori Wick. What is safe for one publisher might be edgy for another. What is "edgy" for CBA might be "safe" for the general market . . . and vice versa. (An openly evangelical novel about the transforminig power of Jesus Christ might prove quite edgy for some general publishers.)
Tough topics? Christian writers have been addressing them for years--and doing an excellent job. Gritty situations? Been doing that, too. Taking risks? Yep, even that.
My editor recently sent me a letter with a paragraph that fits here: You take a lot of chances--both "The Novelist" and "Uncharted" throw something at CBA readers they've never seen before. You're risking a lot--readers of some of your more upbeat recent novels may be confused by the two new novels, and if they don't like them, may choose other authors in the future. That's not "safe."
I'm not unique--lots of my novelist friends are striving to try unique things, improve their craft, and tell God-filled stories in new and excellent ways. The Christian publishing houses, too, are venturing closer to the bleeding edge. We're all looking for the best tools available to illustrate the greatest story ever told.
Personally, I simply try to write the stories God gives me in the best possible format--one that allows me to be true to my convictions while respecting my audience, the craft, and the art.
So . . . before we become myopic with the word "edgy" and limit it to one or two areas, let's remember the entire spectrum. Christian novelists are working hard to tell their stories as best they can to a world that desperately needs to hear Truth.
And now I think I hear my fever calling me back to the sofa . . .
Angie "Expect the Unexpected" Hunt
Friday, November 11, 2005
I should be working, not blogging, but Allison Bottke (one of the most together women I know) just sent me some photos from Glorieta and I wanted to share.
That's Jim Bell, Janet Bly, Brandilyn Collins, Stephen Bly, Allison, and yours truly during a stolen moment at the Glorieta conference. The guys are in costume--Jim's wearing my dainty green flowered reading glasses and Steve's wearing Brandilyn's rhinestone studded sunglasses. Why? Don't ask.
Novelist pals Gayle Roper, Tracie Peterson, Lynn Coleman, and Randy Singer were also at the conference, but apparently were busy working while we were clowning around. I'm probably forgetting someone else, so forgive me if I am . . .
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Three women enter an elevator as the Tampa Bank Building closes. The first woman is Regina Rossman, the wife of Parker Rossman, an executive with an office on the thirty-first floor. Gina knows Parker is having an affair, so she’s brought a gun to murder him.
Michelle Brantley is also an executive on the thirty-first floor, and she’s pregnant with Parker Rossman’s child. He doesn’t know about the baby, so she’s on her way to tell him.
Isabel Suarez works for the building’s custodial department. She knows Mr. Rossman, too—in fact, she has just accidentally killed him.
These three women, strangers to each other, are in the elevator when an approaching hurricane cuts off power to the building, leaving the women trapped inside.
As the storm threatens to flood the streets of downtown Tampa, Isabel, Michelle, and Gina discover that it’s going to be a long and interesting weekend.
And that's all I have so far . . . along with some character cards. Time to start my plot skeleton!
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
First, a huge thanks to novelist pal Nancy Moser, who created this REAL plot skeleton to go along with my outline! I don't know how she did it, but this little guy is just great. Thanks, Nancy!
Am back home today, recovering from the cold, and cleared the desk. The revisions for MAGDALENE are done and today I printed out my work calendar for the next several months, x-ing out my out-of-town dates and sabbaths. What's left are the work days, and I jotted down exactly what I had to do on each of those days . . . and it all fits perfectly. Whew.
Now . . . in today's mail I found a copy of a book I'd ordered--THE TROUBLE WITH POETRY, by Billy Collins. Wow. I sat down to read a couple of poems and was instantly swept away to afternoons when I used to sit on my front porch swing in Virginia and read poetry. I love poetry, I really do, but I haven't read it in a long time. Haven't written it in a long time, either, because, frankly, it doesn't pay to write poetry these days. I write for a living, and I don't know how poets manage to pay the mortgage.
But there's something about the elegant simplicity of poetry . . . the snapshots of clean images evoked in only a few words. Made me want to take my book out onto my current front porch and rock a while, just readin' and thinkin' . . .
Poetry is good discipline for a writer's soul. I'm sorry I've gotten out of the habit of reading and writing it. So thanks, Billy Collins, for reminding me.
Tomorrow: I begin work on THE ELEVATOR.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Isn't that pug adorable? I used to have a pug when I was a teenager . . . until one of my boyfriends ran over it.
Later, after I was married, we had a pug named Ike. He was hilarious--he looked like a watermelon with legs.
I'm heading out in a couple of hours to fly to Atlanta where I'll be speaking at a school tomorrow. I love the speaking, but I was in bed with a fever all day yesterday and today my nose just won't stop running . . . I just pray my energy holds up. The good thing is that I can come home and crash. No pressing deadlines.
I finished the revisions on MAGDALENE and have handed in my written project for my master's degree, so no pressing deadlines . . . for a week or so, anyway.
Friday, November 04, 2005
I feel a bit like these little guys today--a little bug-eyed and loopy. Had a wonderful time with the librarians yesterday, then flew home and took care of some household things. Have two major items on my to-do list: finish my revisions of MAGDALENE by Sunday, and finish my master's degree writing project by Thursday. Will be speaking in a school on Tuesday, so that's a writing day out of next week.
Take a look at the little "Frapper" sticker in the sidebar--a hat tip to Randy at Ethos for this one. Click on the sticker, then enter your name, zip code, and a picture if you want, and we'll see ourselves on a national map. Pretty cool! What will the guys at Google think of next?
Cindy S. tells me there's going to be an English version of "Mostly Martha" staring Catherine Zeta-Jones Douglas. That's cool. And, speaking of "food movies," if you haven't watched "Eat Drink, Man, Woman" (Am I remembering that correctly?), it's a wonderful film. Alas, another subtitled one, but I don't even notice the subtitles once the movie begins.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
That picture cracks me up!
Have been busy since coming back home--got my editor's revision letter on Monday, and have two stages: go through his direct queries, for one, and then, if we have time, to go through some "big picture" issues that aren't crucial but would be nice. So I worked hard yesterday and finished the small things; today I'm wrestling with the big things until I have to catch a plane to Atlanta.
Speaking tomorrow at a luncheon for the National Christian Librarians' Association--I love this group! Should be fun, then I fly back home and get back to work.
And I am no longer unemployed . . . in fact, my calendar is filling up. More on that later . . .