Sunday, April 30, 2006
These came to me in an email . . . and they're hilarious and worth sharing. Enjoy!
These sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services:--
The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.-
The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."--
Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in therecreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.--
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.--
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.--
-Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.---
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nurserydownstairs.
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.--
The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir willsing: "Break Forth Into Joy."
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.-
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.--
-Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.--
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.-
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.--
-The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.--
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.--
-Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.--
-The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.--
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church Basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.--
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.-
The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours."
Have a grand day!
Saturday, April 29, 2006
See what Angela Elwell Hunt, Christy-Award winning author, has to say about The Da Vinci Code. Her commentary “Fiction and Truth” is now available. Click on the link below to read it now!
Watched an interesting movie the other day--The Whole Wide World, 1996, starring Renee Zellwegger and Vincent D'Orfino (from one of those legal/cop shows).
The movie is the true story of pulp writer Robert E. Howard, who was at his peak in the mid 1930's. The story is not a romance, though it feels like one at first, and the ending is not happy. It's one of those "acceptance" endings, where the main character doesn't get what she wants, but accepts the way things turn out.
As I always do with "true" movies, I was Googling Howard even before the final credits rolled and found out that he was an even bigger success than the movie implied. His books are still in print, he's hailed as a master, and he didn't write past age thirty! You've probably heard of one of his most famous characters: Conan the Barbarian.
Writers have a reputation for weirdness, but this guy was really eccentric. I'd have said he was bi-polar or something, but apparently a psychiatrist friend of the family said he was as mentally sound as anyone else . . . just eccentric. Really.
In any case, if you enjoy stories about writers, this is an interesting tale. But keep the tissues handy.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Yesterday, during lunch, I read Lisa Samson's new book, Apples of Gold. Wow. As a youth pastor's wife, I often talk to our young girls about the need for sexual and moral purity, but I love how Lisa illustrates the lesson in a parable. This book won't release until August, but it's available now for pre-ordering at your favorite bookstore. (And yes, you really can read it in a matter of minutes. You'll want to take your time, though, to savor every word and the meaning underneath the story.)
And, LOL, it was encouraging to see that I'm not the only one who needs to begin a healthy eating program! Okay, here's how it will work: you decide on whatever program works for you--Weight Watchers, Weigh Down, counting calories, LA Weight Loss, Jenny Craig--I've done almost all of those, and I'm here to testify that any of them work if you stick to them faithfully and stay on the program long enough.
Aside: the late Dear Abby used to often get letters from people who wanted to go back to school, but goodness, "it'll take four years to get a degree." And she'd reply: "And how old will you be in four years if you don't get the degree?" Ah, I get it. We can get disciplined now and have a lighter future, or we can keep procrastinating and eating without limits and be four years heavier in four years. See my point?
Okay, back to the program: You choose what you want to do and let's all report in on Mondays. The rest of the week this blog will be what it always is (ha--as if that's definable!), and we'll save the food talk for Mondays.
Don't forget that on May 1 (which also happens to be Monday), we begin a new BOM feature. May's book will be THE CANOPY. Ah, that one was fun!
Okay--have a lovely Friday, stick to your program, and if you have a daughter, be sure to order your copy of Apples of Gold!
Thursday, April 27, 2006
About the Secret Life of Bees . . . our book club liked it, the ratings (we use a star system with five as the highest) ranged from three and a half to four. I gave it a solid four because I loved the writing and the characters. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was because I couldn't accept the mishmash of new age goddess worship that permeated the book. Someone else might have bought into that; I can't.
But the writing was beautiful, and as a reader, I couldn't help but love Lily and the Calendar sisters. There's something about female ensemble casts . . . like the movie Calendar Girls, and the book Secrets of the Divine YaYa Sisterhood and the Yada Yada Prayer Group. Our club talked about why women seem to need this kind of group bonding more than men do, and we decided that we're just more given to that sort of group sharing. You can take a group of women who hardly know each other, and they'll be spilling their guts in a matter of minutes. Men don't do that as easily as women do.
Today I am finishing up the revisions on The Elevator. My editor promised only "minor" revisions, and happily, our definitions of "minor" meshed! I had to write a couple of scenes though (I tend to write thin), so I'll finish up the last of those this morning, Lord willing.
And now--drum roll--I'm going to do something I never thought I'd do on this blog. For reasons of health and wardrobe, I need to go back on a healthy eating plan (notice I'm not using the d-word) and take off a certain number of pounds. I lost sixty of those pounds a couple of years ago, but some of them have crept back on as I fell back into old habits. Fortunately, healthy eating can become a habit, too, it's merely a matter of switching gears.
So--one reason I kept up with the 90 Day Bible Reading was because I keenly felt the need to remain accountable on this blog. So I'm going public here, too. I'll report in each week, probably on Monday, to tell you the results of the previous week. If you want to join me, let's be accountable to each other. No need to share eating plans or recipes (any restrictive plan works if you stick with it!), just little comments like "down two" or "up one" will do. Okay? Anybody want to join me? If so, just chime in on the comments, and we can encourage each other. :-)
That's it from my end! And yes, I love the new header, too. Hooray for Team Samson!
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
BTW, I'm blogging over on Charis today, if you want to take a peek. But if you're a regular reader of this blog, it'll be a rerun. (VBG).
If you'd like to hire Team Samson to do a header for your blog, they would do a great job! Contact Lisa through her blog . . . and the link is listed in my favorite blogs column.
Have a lovely Wednesday!
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Have you ever had one of those days when you just needed a break? Work is going well, but deep thoughts and prayers left me feeling a little stressed this morning. Then the Lord sent Allison Bottke into town, she called, we went out, and the day looked a lot brighter!
I've met Allison many times at writers' conferences--she's the woman behind the "God Allows U Turns" books, and those books began with her own life story. Allison had a surprise with her today--a hot off the press copy of her first novel, A STITCH IN TIME. I mentioned it on the blog a few weeks ago, and now the book exists in print.
Allison and I drove out to the beach for lunch, then came back to my house to trade writing tips and talk about books, then we drove out to the beach for dinner. In the mean time, she made friends with Charley Gansky, as you can see from the photo. I'm not sure if Charley wants to kiss Allison or eat her book!
Allison and I have decided we are sisters born from different mothers. We both make lists (and if we finish something that wasn't on a list, we PUT it on a list simply so we can have the pleasure of marking it off!), we both keep three different pairs of glasses in our purses, and we both like going to the movies alone. We're very much alike, except that she's an extrovert and I'm an introvert. That's okay--someone has to be the life of the party.
So I didn't get a lot of work done today, but my spirit was refreshed. The Lord knew I needed it, so thanks, Father. Thanks for friends.
Monday, April 24, 2006
A couple of months ago I reported on my delight in discovering a new way to procrastinate--computer Scrabble. Imagine how my heart rejoiced this morning when I read in the paper that Scrabble has now recognized new words!
I can't tell you how many times I've used words in the game only to have the decidedly unimaginative referee whisk my tiles away. But now, perhaps, I stand a chance of winning . There are 41 new three-letter words, including def, vid, duh, and app. There are 289 new five-letter words including skank, 540 new six-letter words (doodoo, doowop); 901 new seven-letter words, among them suckier and ziplock, and 1,333 eight-letter words, including snarfing and snarkily. (Oh, my!)
Don't forget those words that use Q without a U: faqir, qat, qaid, qanat, qindar, qintar, qivut, qoph, qwerty, sheqel, suq, and tranq.
Finally, every Scrabble player needs to know two-letter words, particularly those which use the high-point letters x and z: qi, az, fe, ki, and oi.
Now, if only I can find a way to teach my old computer game new tricks . . .
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Thank you, Carrie and Kristine and Sally, for your kind comments (and thank you, Carrie, for the lovely review on your blog!) Kristine asked why I didn't have the disciples go get the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem during the triumphal entry . . . the answer has to do with POV, or point of view.
Since Mary/Miryam couldn't be with Jesus all the time, she didn't hear Jesus tell the disciples to go fetch the donkey. She merely saw him with a donkey and made an assumption. Interestingly, the apostle John makes the same sort of blanket statement in his gospel: John 12:14 simply says, "Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 'Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."
I'm sure POV is the reason the gospel accounts give slightly differing accounts of some events--it's not that they contradict each other, it's just that each writer is coming at it from a different point of view. John saw Jesus sitting on a donkey and wrote, "Jesus found it." Miryam saw Jesus sitting on a donkey and said, "Some man offered it to him." Luke tells the story of how Jesus sent two of the disciples ahead into the city with the instruction to bring him the colt . . . and when asked why they were taking it, they replied, "The Lord needs it." (And I think we can assume that the owners then said, "Okay." (VBG)
You see? All are accurate. (Well, I wouldn't place my account on a par with Scripture, but you get my drift.)
P.S. Isn't the weather pixie cute? She's synchronized with my home town, so when I'm traveling I can look at her and know what weather I'm missing!
Have a blessed Lord's day!
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Friday we spent some time with our dear friends Mike and Paula Walker of Lafayette, LA. Mike is a pastor there, and Paula is his lovely red-haired wife.
Mike led my hubby to the Lord many years ago, and soon afterward suggested that my hubby and brother-in-law might want to work with the youth. So my hubby and BIL began to do just that . . . and today my brother-in-law is a Campus Life missionary in Louisiana and has influenced hundreds of kids in the name of Jesus. My sweet husband has been in youth ministry for thirty years . . . and it all began with a word of encouragement.
I'm a writer because Pastor Derric Johnson once told me I had a way with words so, "why don't you try writing?" I don't think I would ever have thought of it without that nudge.
Someone asked the other day why I speak in schools . . . and I had to ask myself the same question. For marketing? LOL. I'm not even writing kids' books these days, so it's surely not marketing. Sales? Not really. I sell a few books, but not nearly enough to justify leaving home and losing a work day. The paycheck? There were some months last year when I truly needed the honorarium provided by my school sponsor, but again, it'd be a lot easier to stay home and work.
So why do I do it? Because someone once told me I had a way with words . . . and someone once told my husband he ought to think about working with kids.
I don't tell the kids they should all be writers, because I know they're not all cut out to be. But I do tell them that I've learned it's far better to obey God day by day and listen for His voice than to chase dreams that may or may not be part of His plan for them. "If you'll do that," I tell them, "what you become will be so much better than anything you could dream."
That's why I do it. Because kids look up to authors, and if even a single kid from each school remembers the gist of my message, that'll count for something in the perspective of eternity.
We never know when our words are molding soft clay . . . so may the Lord remind us to make sure our words are "fitly spoken," like apples of silver.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Heard a report this morning that novelist T. Davis Bunn was bitten by a shark. Shudder. Davis lives part of the year on Florida's east coast, near where I grew up, so I know about those waves and those particular beasties. I checked the online versions of that local paper but found no news, but it's unlikely we'd have heard that story unless it was true. So we'll remember to pray for him. (We like to tease Davis and say that the T. in his name stands for "the." I have no idea what it really stands for!)
Update: the story has been confirmed. The accident apparently happened Wednesday. Davis required 100 stitches in one leg and 20 in the other, and had to have a skin graft. He's in good spirits and recuperating . . . and joking about how writers will do anything for publicity. Ha! I don't think I'd go that far . . . Pray for Davis's speedy recovery!
Spent most of yesterday reading books about the funeral industry and embalming--still have several books I need to get through before I start outlining the WIP. Am also dealing with the three day migraine--fortunately, it leaves me during most of the work day, and resurfaces in the middle of the night.
The fellow who led my husband to the Lord more than 30 years ago is coming to town today, so we're going out to lunch. That will be a nice visit--we don't often get to see Mike Walker, though he does speak at our summer camps every other year or so.
My book club meets Monday night, which means I have to get busy reading THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, our book for the month. I've read the first chapter, which assured me the writing was exquisite, now I have to read the rest of the story.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
And you'll have to excuse me while I revert back to my seventeen-year-old self. Vaughn is alive! (I knew it). Syd had her baby! (In about two minutes-ha!) SpyMommy is a reluctant rat! (We knew this, too). Weiss is back! (I missed him!)
Back to reading about embalming and funeral homes. Enjoy your day!
P.S. What do I do in Christian schools? I talk about writing, give my testimony, and teach writing workshops in a program sponsored by Thomas Nelson book fairs.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Remember that song? Came out when I was in high school . . . loved it!
And it's especially applicable right now, as I've just finished my last chapter in today's theology reading. Here's a paragraph--one of many, mind you:
We may put the matter pedantically by saying that the goodness of a stateLOL. Did you get all that? I'm a little nervous because it's actually beginning to make sense to me!
of affairs p is balanced off by a wider state of affairs q provided that the
following is true: q obtains; q entails p; p is good; q is not good; and q
entails a state of affairs r such that p does not entail r, r does not entail p,
and q is better than r. But it is simpler to say that when goodness is balanced
off, then a whole that is not good has a part that is good, and, outside of it,
a part that is worse than the whole.
Here is today's lesson in a nutshell:
Walter learns that something bad happened to Sam. (Whether it really happened or not)
Walter feels bad for Sam.
Walter's feeling bad is a Good Thing.
Therefore, even a perfectly good world should have bad feelings in it.
Got it? Makes perfect sense to me.
Spent most of the day at Orangewood Christian School in Orlando . . . had a wonderful time with the kids. Will try to write up my theology lesson in a slightly more elegant form later tonight, when I am back from dinner.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be speaking at schools in Orlando . . . and I think this is the last of the schools for this spring. I've enjoyed them, but I also enjoy being home.
Hubby had his first colonoscopy today--that's a milestone of sorts, isn't it? Had to drive him and pick him up, but he reports that it was no problem. He went to sleep and woke up with it done and everything all clear. Best of all, he doesn't have to do it again for another five years--when he's sixty-one!
About Catherine, the talking head--thank you for your opinions. Some of you love her and some of you hate her, and I'll admit that's she's been fun . . . for a month. I'm afraid she'll get old, though, so I think I'm going to let her go at the end of the month. So enjoy her, because her days are numbered.
I'm reading all kinds of research books to prepare for my funeral home book. Today I read this self-published book by a mortician. The information on how to embalm bodies and how a funeral home operates is wonderful, really useful stuff, but the author called it a "novel" and he's written in . . . . well, perhaps he thought he'd make more money with a novel, and successful novels had to have a certain number of sex scenes.
So far two (living) female characters have shown up, and both of them seem to be walking breasts--at least, that's the impression the reader gets. I have to believe that normal American males see women as more than mobile mammary glands.
Please tell me I'm right.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Yesterday I started my doctoral program with "The Problem of Evil," a class I am sure I can use in the soon-to-be-started WIP. As a pastor's wife, the one thing I heard over and over during tragic times is "How could a loving God allow THIS terrible thing to happen?" I've seen people get angry at God and even turn away from Him because they couldn't understand that yes, bad things do happen to God's people. Jesus promised persecutions.
I've developed a theology that allows suffering, but I want to be able to present it, defend it, and explain it with grace and truth. So I opened the first textbook (there are three), and started wading through the material. Actually, I started yesterday at the hair salon, but between the denseness of the material and the drowsiness of the stylist's chair, I didn't get very far. I had to read each paragraph three times just to let the material sink through my brain fog.
Paragraphs like this: "There are, in fact, many so-called solutions which purport to remove the contradiction without abandoning any of its constituent propositions. These must be fallacious, as we can see, but it is not so easy to see in each case precisely where the fallacy lies. . . . in order to solve the problem one (or perhaps more) of its constituent propositions is given up, but in such a way that it appears to have been retained, and can therefore be asserted without qualification in other contexts. Sometimes there is a further complication: the supposed solution moves to and fro between, say, two of the constituent propositions, at one point asserting the first of these but covertly abandoning the second, at another point asserting the second, but covertly abandoning the first."
You still with me? LOL! I think the best way for me to learn this stuff is simply to rewrite each chapter in plain English!
In any case, every Sunday afternoon for the next two years will be filled with reading like this . . . and writing my down-to-earth summations. But I got three, count 'em, THREE great book ideas from my master's work, so I'm looking forward to learning more in my next program.
I'll be traveling again this week, speaking in Florida schools on Tuesday and Wednesday, then home to do some more reading for the WIP. Hope your week gets off to a great start!
Oh--BTW, about Catherine, the talking head (here and on my web page)--what's your verdict? Keep her or lose her?
Sunday, April 16, 2006
I once heard the story of two boys who were working on a float for the Easter parade. They made a cross and covered it with ribbons and flowers, then put it in the center of the float.
"Oh, no," their pastor said when he saw the float. "You've got it all wrong, boys. The cross wasn't a beautiful thing--it was old and ugly and rough."
The youngest boy looked up at the preacher. "But Reverend," he said, "I thought Jesus never touched anything and left it the same."
Ah . . . truer words were never spoken. May you take time today to appreciate the true miracle of Easter.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Home again, and facing a desk and house full of little tasks that are clamoring for attention. Correspondence to answer, thank you notes to write, laundry to be done, rugs to be vacuumed, books to be put away, etc.
But first, a couple of suggestions for Those who Travel Often . . . or Even Infrequently.
1.) It does no good to argue with the people at the counter. If you are late when you arrive, you should have allowed for traffic, security, etc. The bigger the airport, the more time you should allow for check-in. So if you show up with thirty minutes before your plane takes off, you may as well smile and kiss that flight goodbye.
2.) At the security station, go ahead and strip down without being told. You know the drill, so remove your shoes and jackets and pull the change from your wallet. Go grab your own plastic tray (and screeners--don't be stingy with those trays. The lines will move faster if you just let us grab however many we need) and put in it your shoes, laptop, purse, etc. Just remember to hang on to that boarding pass.
3.) If your drivers' license picture is unattractive (and whose isn't?), use your passport instead.
4.) Bring a book to read, a movie to watch, or knitting to do at the gate. You're probably going to have to sit and wait, so you might as well redeem the time.
5.) When they call zone one, if you're zone five, don't rush the gate entrance. Sit back and relax. The zone folks who have been called can't get through the crowd if you're blocking the approach. What sardine is in a hurry to get into the can?
6.) Tsk, tsk--you folks at the back of the plane shouldn't be stuffing all your carry on luggage into the forward overhead storage bins. I know you're thinking that you can grab your suitcase as you file by on the way out, but where are the people beneath those seats supposed to put their stuff? Furthermore, you're usually on the plane first, which is doubly unfair. Remember the golden rule.
7.) In flight, unless it's evening or the seat behind you is empty, resist the temptation to put your seat back. The airlines are cramming us in like never before, and there is simply no room for the other person's knees if your seat is reclined. Furthermore, it's next to impossible for a person to work on his/her laptop if your seat is back--unless the computer is under the other passenger's chin. Do the person behind you a favor by remaining upright--and hope the person in front of you is doing the same thing.
8.) When the plane lands, I know the temptation to leap up out of your seat is strong--we're all like jacks-in-the-box, ready to spring into action. But what good does it do to stand up with your head cocked at a 45 degree angle for fifteen minutes? Might as well sit back and enjoy your neighbor's cell phone conversation.
9.) Speaking of cell phone conversations: pretend the people around you are CIA spies, and lower your voice a little.
10.) Let the folks in front of you exit first--the entire row--unless they're obviously sitting their turn out. If so, thank them with a smile.
11.) At the luggage carousel, pretend there's a solid line painted on the floor two feet out from the edge of the luggage "runway." Respect this space until you see your luggage and it's time to grab it. Then step forward, take your luggage, and retreat from the zone. This will prevent the maiming of toddlers, inquisitive children, and elderly folks who wanted to visit the grandkids, not the emergency room.
I do believe that's it. I feel better now. (VBG)
Thursday, April 13, 2006
As I read and research more about funeral homes, etc., I realize that another goal for the Fairlawn series is to help people get over their fear of death and all things associated with it--to overcome the squeamish factor, as it were. Easy to do if my heroine is initially squeamish, because the reader should "desensitize" along with my heroine. I hope so, anyway
I spoke in two more Atlanta schools today, and had a rare treat--a young woman walked in with her daughter and said, "Remember me?" She was Laura Columbus, whom I taught 26 years ago in Lynchburg. She hasn't changed a bit, and she's now married and teaching students at another school in the area. So nice to see her!
Well, it's been a long day. Two more schools tomorrow, then I'm flying home. Yea!
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Photo: Visiting with some students . . . and I'm presently visiting schools in the Atlanta area.
My heroine for Fairlawn, my WIP, is divorced. And I know going in that I'll encounter some resistance from some readers because I've chosen to put her in that condition.
But I'm going to go ahead with my plan for several reasons: 1) Divorce is common in our society, even in Christian families. My hubby and I serve in a church filled with divorced families--in fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find that no-divorce families are in the minority.
2) Jesus did say that divorce was allowed in the case of adultery, and while I've never been one that would urge couples to divorce quickly, I do think it's permissible if one party refuses to reconcile and adultery has occurred. Furthermore, once one of the parties remarries, adultery has definitely occurred, so the remaining spouse is free.
3). Christian fiction seems to have an overabundance of widows . . . and in the real world, most single mothers are single because of divorce.
I don't like divorce, I don't encourage it, but I think my writing has to reflect the world around me. So--my heroine is going to be in the "moving on" stage after a divorce. Her former spouse has remarried, leaving her free to get on with her life and try to make a home for herself and her sons.
I'm a member of a theological loop that has discussed divorce extensively, and we've come to the conclusion that divorce should never be quick or undertaken without an attempt at reconciliation. Divorce almost always occurs because of a hard heart, and no one can deny that hard hearts are part of the human condition. So my as yet unnamed-heroine will find herself in that condition, and part of the struggle will be seeing how she rises above her sadness and makes a new life for herself.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Had a very nice surprise last week. This letter came from Carol Stacy, publisher of Romantic Times Book Club magazine:
We have selected the winners for our 2005 Career Achievement Awards and you have won for your body of work creating outstanding Inspirational Romance. A heartfelt congratulations from Romantic Times BOOKclub and all of our reviewers. All the winners will be announced in our July issue of Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine #269.
Wow. I'm reminded of the feeling I had when I turned forty-five--suddenly I realized I was halfway to ninety, and I not only had a finite numnber of years left to me, but also a finite number of books left IN me.
My body of work. Hmmm.
A few years ago I was standing in our local Home Depot, then I knelt to study some water filters on the bottom shelf. Suddenly a huge box fell from the overhead shelf--if memory serves, it was a big sink--or maybe a toilet. In any case, it was a heavy water-bearing plumbing fixture, and if it'd fallen a couple of inches to the left, I'd have been fractured or dead. Or both.
And as I stood up and turned to find a half dozen gawking shoppers staring at me ("You must be livin' right," one woman murmured), I couldn't help thinking that it would have been a convenient time for God to take me home because I'd just finished a book. But I desperately didn't want that last book to be my last book, if you know what I mean.
So I'm grateful for the body of work God has allowed me to complete and hope that he will allow me to create yet another body of work before he takes me to heaven. (You know I'm going to be talking about this a lot, right? My WIP is about a funeral home.) And for the encouragement from the wonderful folks at RT, I am very grateful.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Being in Lynchbug has sent me pinwheeling down memory lane. I was fortunate enough to eat tonight with Stephanie Whitson Higgins and her husband, Dan, and son, Max. We ate downtown at the DPO, and I was amazed to see how Lynchburg's downtown area has been revived. After dinner we drove around and I looked for the old Virginian Hotel/Stewart Arms Hotel, which later served as a dorm for Liberty University students--back when it was still known as Liberty Baptist College. I was a student at LBC back then, and I lived in this hotel for two years--on the sixth floor, to be precise, and I can still point out the windows of my rooms in the postcard picture.
And see that glorious staircase in the interior photo? Whenever we had a banquet, we girls would take the elevator down to the second floor, then walk down that staircase to meet out dates waiting in the lobby. Somehow that beautiful marble staircase was the perfect accessory for our formal wear. And Mama Lind lived on the second floor--in a little apartment where we could visit her and she could look out and keep an eye on us students. She was a "widow indeed" as spoken of in Scripture--a preacher's wife, she lived with us and was "mama" to all of us.
I spent a lot of hours talking to a lot of friends in that hotel . . . including the man who became my husband. I washed clothes in the basement laundry room, ate meals in the cafeteria off the first floor, lived on the bottom berth of a triple bunkbed with two roommates.
I LOVE old buildings and hate to see them torn down, though the last time I saw the old hotel, it had fallen into sad disrepair. The elevator was one of the old kind where you close the gate yourself and pumped the handle to take the car up or down. When I first arrived, a gentleman worked the elevator for us--I think he had been employed by the hotel, and when the college bought the building, he stayed on.
Such wonderful memories. I've been bombarded with them this weekend as I visited Lynchburg again . . . walking the halls where I used to teach school, sitting in the hard pews where I heard from great men of God, standing on the very spot on the Thomas Road platform where I took my marriage vows. So much has changed in the last twenty years--you won't believe everything the university now has to offer--but much remains the same. The people, for instance.
This weekend has been like one prolonged case of deja vu, but I've loved every minute of it. I'll have to come back again and bring my husband . . . soon.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Happy birthday to my daughter, Taryn.
I am finishing up a weekend in Lynchburg at the women's conference--and had a wonderful time visiting with old friends and making new ones. We lived in Lynchburg for ten years, and it always feels like home!
I have no idea if I agree with all of the book American Gospel or even all of this article, but the first page is worth reading (I tried to read further, but suffered from a balky internet connection.) In any case, I found the story of the inaugural Continental Congress interesting You can read for yourself at the following link:
Have a lovely Sunday!
Saturday, April 08, 2006
April brings the start of a new book, the first in a series of three. Which means I not only have to plot out a story, but I have to plot out a series so the character will continue to grow and change over the course of all three books.
This is the Fairlawn series,which will be published by Tyndale House, and the concept in a nutshell is this: a big city woman inherits a small-town funeral home and has to run it to provide a home for herself and her two sons. Because I know from the start that this will be a three-book series, I'll be able to make some long-term plans in terms of the character arc.
I've been thinking a lot about death lately--no, I'm not sick, but I am halfway to 96, so I realize I have a finite number of years left . . . and a finite number of books left in me. This realization has fueled my energy, and made me realize that every book has to COUNT for something of eternal significance. So I want the Fairlawn series to entertain first, and teach about heaven and eternity and trust.
The Red Hatters of Heavenly Daze will come into play in this book (and that's too long a story to explain here), and I'd like to incorporate some of the elements of humor I used in the writing of the Heavenly Daze series. I do write humor on rare occasions, and some of my other books have been so involved with life-and-death issues that I'm looking forward to the change of gears. I'll need to balance the grimness of life and death situations with lighter moments.
So the month of April is devoted to travel (to Virginia, Atlanta, and Florida), and reading about funeral homes, embalming, and heaven. I have dozens of books in my TBR stack, and I can hear them calling my name . . .
P.S. Clarification--I know some readers are yearning for more Heavenly Daze books, but the Fairlawn series isn't a spinoff . The Red Hatters of Heavenly Daze are real people, not fictional folk, who have kindly agreed to let me use their "red hatter" names in the Fairlawn book. Thank you, Dazers! (BTW, I met Dazer Edna Rhea today in Lynchburg! So nice to meet her!)
With my homework done, I'll start the actual writing in May, Lord willing.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Photo: Take away the cell phone, and you've got my Pontius Pilate.
Aside: I am in Lynchburg, VA, home of my alma mater, and it's SPRING! Beautiful, chirpy, goldy-green Spring! So lovely.
Questions raised during the BOM week:
1.) Have I read Josephus? Yes. I used his work quite a bit for my research with Magdalene, but the question came in the context of The Shadow Women. Though Flavius Josephus, a Jew, did write about Moses, he wrote at least seventy years after Christ . . . so anything he said about Moses was gleaned from oral tradition and was later reflected in the Midrash, which I did reference in The Shadow Women. I consider his work in the same light that I consider almost all extra-biblical sources--interesting, sometimes useable, but invalid if it contradicts Scripture.
2.) Have I lived in Reno? No. I researched the city, however, for THE NOVELIST.
3.) Are you going to write more historicals? I would love to--I love doing research. But first I'd have to find a publisher who wants them. Contemporaries seem to be in demand right now.
4.) What did you learn about Jesus as a direct result of writing this novel? For the first time, I saw his loving care in the small things--like not requiring the disciples to wash their hands before meals so the women wouldn't have to haul water from the lake. I've always accepted him as God--in writing this, I learned to see his human side, too.
5.)What gems of wisdom have you gained from writing this book? My appreciation for our adopted Hebrew heritage grew deeper. Far too many Christians believe that somehow the Church has replaced Israel, when Paul himself said we have been grafted into their tree. Christianity is the new wine in a new wineskin, but God still has a plan for Israel. When the "time of the Gentiles" has been fulfilled, he will redeem his people. (Zech 12:10-13:9).
6.)Have you read the other Magdalene stories? If so what did you think of them. No--I didn't want to read any of the other Magdalene novels lest I subconsciously copy any of those plot twists.
7.) Was it harder/more stressful to write Magdalene as a commissioned work on a tighter deadline, as opposed to your other novels? What were some of the major differences in this situation?
Hmmm. I think I'm one of those folks who actually works BETTER under pressure. And the sovereign hand of God was at work--I'd just finished my master's class in New Testament (I think I've already mentioned that), so the NT was fresh in my mind and I already had dozens of books at my fingertips. I wish I'd had more time, though--when I handed it in (and I had the same feeling with The Elevator)--I found myself wishing for another week to go through the manuscript yet AGAIN. But of course, I got that chance after I received my editor's comments. And at the point of submission, with all my books, I am so close to the work I'm not a good judge of its merit.
Thanks for joining me this month!
P.S. All right, our talking head has a new name--Catherine! (It was the name on the voice, and it seems to fit.) Thanks for all your input! You can call her "Cathy" if that makes her seem less creepy. (VBG)
Thursday, April 06, 2006
On to our regularly-scheduled blog topic: there hasn't been a lot of time for reader reaction to Magdalene, but I have received a few emails and read a few online reviews. Here are some snippets, and forgive me if I seem to be tooting my horn . . . I would post negative reviews if I'd found them. I'm sure some will crop up. [VBG]
Only a skillful novelist could create such a multilayered, captivating
portrait of Mary Magdalene. Unlike Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which
proposed that Mary had married Jesus, Hunt's latest provides a perspective that
will appeal more to traditional Christian readers. Mary is portrayed as someone
who walked among the disciples of Jesus but who did not always understand his
mission. Hunt's attention to detail in her historical research, combined with
her bright imagination, fills in the sketchy biographical facts and creates a
fascinating and convincing Magdalene. First-rate biblical fiction, this will
appeal to readers who enjoy D.S. Lliteras (The Silence of John; Jerusalem's
Rain) or Anita Diamant's The Red Tent. ~~From Library
Angela Hunt's work never fails to satisfy, and she lives up to her reputation
in this compelling portrait of one of the most controversial of Biblical women.
Mary Magdalene, Miryam of Magdala in this book, has been portrayed as fallen
woman, demoniac, and romantic interest throughout the years. This is a Mary I
never expected to know. I had a hard time connecting to the character until
about midway through the book when I was forced to recognize that her hardness
of heart was my own, and how she believed without fulling trusting in Jesus was
so similar to my own walk with him that it was hard, but rewarding, reading for
me. Hunt's use of richness of detail and scholarship brings 1st century AD life
alive. Miryam loses her entire family to the Romans after a rash act by her son.
That loss leads from one unto the next until the shell of a woman is renewed by
meeting with the prophet Yeshua (Jesus). But changing her heart is up to Miryam,
and she holds tight to her anger. Atticus is an unexpected character whose world
and faith are so different than Miryam's. As their stories weave together and
apart, we're led to a stunning climax that leaves no one untouched. This is not
the Mary Magdalene we've come to expect, Hunt has written her as far more human, far more like us, and the reader is blessed for it. ~~Christina Lockstein,
A reader letter:
Let me say first that I loved Magdalene. The writing was excellent, the
attention to detail amazing. Most of all, I loved your characterizations—those
characters certainly came to life, jumping off the pages! Wonderful. I did not
want to put it down and was sad when it ended.
The only problem I had with the entire book was Miryam’s “ultimate sin” at the end. I’m not saying that Christians don’t sin; we do. I’m not saying that Christians don’t hold on to past hurts; we do. I was just surprised that someone so close to Yeshua and filled with the Holy Spirit would have committed such an act. Even with that said, I still loved the book and have already “talked it up” and recommended
Angie here again: I'll be the first to admit that I struggled with this very point--could one of the early Christians who walked with Jesus commit a grave sin? After much deliberation, I decided they could. Why? Because they were human, they still possessed a sin nature, and whenever we love something more than God, we sin. At a certain point in the story, Miryam loved her wounds more than she loved Jesus . . . and so she stepped out and did something she later regretted. (Again, hard not to reveal a spoiler!)
Tomorrow: Questions and Answers. If you have any questions at all, leave them in the comments section and I'll answer them tomorrow! I am traveling again, so bear with me if I'm incommunicado . . .
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
The editing process for Magdalene was unusually smooth--and it's a good thing, because this was a RUSH project. Before I handed the book in, I'd had help from Terri Gillespie, whom I met at a writing conference in Philly a couple of years ago. Terri and I share a love for Isra'el, and she helped me check out several Hebrew phrases I wanted to use. Best of all, she steered me toward the Jewish Bible, which enabled me to add a truly Jewish flavor to Miryam's story. After all, Miryam and Yeshua and all his followers were Jewish. Terri was a HUGE help--she read two drafts of the manuscript and help me catch things before the book ever went to my editors. She also opened my Gentile eyes to a couple of things I'd never realized before.
After I handed the book in (on time!) , I received a phone call from Becky Nesbit, the acquiring editor from Tyndale. She told me she liked it. "And?" I asked, bracing for the worst. (I always brace for the worst; it's instinctive.) "I liked it," she said again (and I'm paraphrasing). "Dave has some comments, of course, but I thought it was a good story."
So I figured the really hard-to-swallow stuff would come in my Lambert Letter (Dave is famous for writing lengthy, single-spaced editorial letters. With subheadings.) I was pleasantly surprised to find that Dave only mentioned a few things--issues I've already discussed in this blog. Namely--watch the familiar Bible stories and make sure Miryam doesn't have knowledge beyond her time. I'm sure he mentioned other small things, but those were the two key issues I remember.
After I made Dave's suggested changes, the book went through copy editing at Tyndale. Lori Popp, the copy editor, sent me an email with several queries--many of which were good catches of small errors. She asked if I really wanted to have Jesus disappear behind a bush (the implication being that he had to relieve himself) after a long day in the sun, and I said yes, I did. I wanted to do this small thing to illustrate that he was fully human as well as fully God. She accepted my reasons and agreed that the situation was handled tactfully. (If you'll recall, I also quizzed you blog readers about if you'd find the thought objectionable.)
And that was it--the book came through the editing process looking brighter and better without major surgery. That's not always the case with a manuscript, but it is always a blessing.
P.S. What do you think about the "talking head" above? I've gone a little crazy here and on my web pages. I think she's cute, but I'm worried that she is a little too cutsey . . . what do you think?
Tomorrow: Reader Reaction
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Photo: Atticus, my Roman hero
The writing of Magdalene was not without its false starts. In my early plot skeletons, I used Jesus' arrival as the inciting incident, then realized that I needed to go back further. Miryam's story didn't begin when Jesus entered her life, and her goal wasn't becoming a Christian. The inciting incident was when the Romans destroyed her family, and her goal was justice/vengeance. Once I realized that, the rest of the story fell into place.
Another challenge I faced during the writing was how to deal with familiar Bible stories. Most of my readers will be familiar with the stories of feeding the five thousand, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and many other situations. My problem--do I tell those stories again and run the risk of boring my reader? Or could I tell those stories from another perspective and present them in a way they've never been presented? I tried to do the latter, but there were some scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor.
Cutting is painful, believe me. So I kept a file of "cut material," knowing that I could always open the file and pull up anything I cut if I needed it later. Truly, though, most of the material remained cut.
Another problem I had to conquer was giving Miryam wisdom beyond her time. For instance, we contemporary believers are familiar with the concept of the Trinity--one God in three persons. But first century Jews were befuddled by that idea, and it wasn't clearly explained in doctrine until the Council of Nicea, 325years after Christ. At one point post-Pentecost, I had Miryam realizing that Jesus was God, and so was the Holy Spirit, but her realization may have been a bit premature. The idea of the trinity does date from the time of Christ, but it wasn't clearly set down until much later.
Once I had the plot skeleton formed, the story shaped up. I used a framing device--a woman in present story time carries the reader back and relates her history--and I think it works well to tie things up and carry the story to its conclusion.
Tomorrow: The Editing
Monday, April 03, 2006
Photo: the image I taped above my desk to remind me of Miryam.
One of the reasons I listed a multi-page bibliography in the back of Magdalene is to prove that I did research! Often someone will post a review on Amazon or some place and take me to task for some statement with which they disagree, but I really don't go around making things up, no matter how "fictional" my books are. Often I'll explain what is fictional and what is not in an author's note at the end of a book.
In any case, there are books and books on the life of Christ and first-century Israel; the problem is finding scholars who agree with each other. What I did was read through all the explanations and either choose the majority opinion, or the view that made the most sense to me.
I learn something with every book I write, and the joy of researching Magdalene was realizing how little the disciples understood while they were with Jesus. Scripture often remarks on their confusion and lack of understanding, but I had to divorce myself from a twenty-first century perspective and try to see and hear with first century eyes. Very illuminating!
For instance--there's a passage in the gospels that describes how some religious leaders came from Jerusalem to hear Jesus teaching outside Galilee. They were horrified because Jesus and his men did not observe the ritual hand-washing before they ate a meal. When I referred to the scene, I had Miryam point out that Jesus had a compassionate reason for avoiding the ritual--because she and the other women would have had to haul the water from the lake!
It's my hope that you'll see things from a first-century perspective as you read the book.
Tomorrow: the writing
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Some good news in from Randy Alcorn, who was recently featured on TBN to talk about his new book, Heaven. If you haven't read it, it's wonderful, and I know I'm going to be using it a lot as I start this new series, Fairlawn--the series about a woman who inherits a funeral home.
Randy was featured along with Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ. Lee has done a refutation of The Da Vinci Code that is worth hearing--especially as the launch date of the movie (May 19) draws near.
If you go to www.tbn.org/index.php/2/37.html and select the Thursday March 30 program, near the top, you can then move it forward to 11 minutes into the program to hear Lee Strobel on Da Vinci Code. After Lee, you can hear Randy talk about heaven. Take time to watch this--you'll be glad you did!
For me, it was incredible to read the OT prophecies of the prophets and then "watch" as Jesus demonstrated--even quoted--those prophecies to show that He was the Messiah. I'll be starting my doctorate in April, and I can't wait to dig into those OT prophets. They had so much to say and raised so many questions in my mind . . .
Back to our regularly-scheduled blog:
As the Lord would have it, after submitting a proposal and completing UNCHARTED, I was contracted to write Magdalene. I toyed with several titles, BTW. Possessed? Surrender? I finally decided that the title almost had to have something about Mary Magdalene in it for quick reader identification, but since I wanted to emphasize her Jewish-ness, I was going to call her Miryam. So Magdalene seemed the simplest and most elegant solution.
At the outset, I had to ask myself a couple of key questions: first, Scripture tells us that Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven demons--and I believe that was a literal possession. I also believe that such possession occurs when a person opens the door to demonic influence in some way. So--what would cause a Jewish woman of the first century to "open the door" of her mind to demonic influences?
In that question I found the "germ" of the novel . . . and the dramatic question that drives the action from beginning to end. In short, Mary is a woman who hungers for justice, then for vengeance . . . and when the God of her fathers seems slow in responding, she turns to the gods of the pagans. Even after she meets and spends three years with Yeshua (Jesus), she has a hard time letting go of her hurts . . . and can't we identify with that?
I also had to ask myself if the followers of Christ were perfect after they walked with Jesus. Well, of course they weren't, but was the idea I had for Mary credible? My husband and I had several discussions about whether or not a Christian could/would commit a grave sin . . . and I had to figure out a way that Mary could struggle with what she does, and be highly motivated to do the thing she does (hard not to give plot points away!)
But in the end, some of the best little twists came directly from Scripture . . . the idea of the crimson/purple cloth, for instance. Magdala was a city known for dyers, and the details fitted together very well. Miryam was also a woman of some respect (since she's almost always listed first when the women are named), and Scripture tells us that the women provided financial support for Jesus and his disciples as they traveled. So she must have been a woman of some means, and apparently had no ties to family because she had the freedom to travel around for extended periods of time.
Very interesting . . .
Tomorrow: the Research
Saturday, April 01, 2006
If you've been reading this blog a while, you were probably with me while I was writing Magdalene--it wasn't that long ago! In fact, the book was a "rush" job, and I think I wrote it in forty-five days.
This book was a little different because I was approached to write it--the opposite of what usually happens. Tyndale House wanted to publish three books that would release at about the same time as the DaVinci Code movie. I still had to put a proposal together that would meet with editorial approval (and I had to finish Uncharted before I could even begin any of this), but my agent and I put our heads together and came up with a rough idea. I was excited by the possibility of working on a novel that would faithfully create a woman of the first century in part because I had just completed my master's course in Advanced New Testament--I had just finished reading the NT and studying that era.
Harriet Klausner, review maven of the Internet, has posted a review of the book, from which I've excerpted a portion:
In the first century in Israel, nobody hates the Roman occupation more than Miryam . . . Angela Hunt has written a meticulously researched and well told story of Mary Magdalene; one of the most controversial people in Christ’s ministry. The author makes the era come alive, populating the storyline with actual historical figures, and allowing the reader to visualize the turbulence during Christ’s earthly ministry, and the disciples who spread his word around the world. This is a fascinating work based on biblical and historical details.
Tomorrow: how the idea germinated