Monday, July 31, 2006
Though I'm excited about some of my stories being optioned for film, I've learned that LOTS of films are optioned and don't ever get made into movies. So I've learned not to hold my breath.
One of my pals, however, is not only seeing his novel, THE WAGER , made into a movie, but he's playing a part! Bill Myers has grown a beard to play the role of a homeless man who holds up signs in various scenes in the film. (He looks grumpy in the photo, but grumpy is one thing Bill's not.)
THE WAGER, which is currently in production, stars Randy Travis, Jude Ciccolella, Bronson Pinchot, Nancy Valen, and Candace Cameron. (For you 24 fans, Jude Ciccolella played the part of Mike Novick, the president's aide.)
Story synopsis: Michael T. Steel (played by Randy Travis) becomes the participant in a wager between heaven and hell. As a man on top of the world, he has ten days to live every truth in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Destined to become a classic, The Wager is a Bible study tool in parable form that probes the depths of the Sermon on the Mount and demonstrates how it can be lived.
Before becoming a novelist, Bill majored in filmmaking and has received several awards for his films. Among kids, he's probably best known for his Wally McDoogle series, but he writes adult novels with heart and a passion for ministry. If you've never read his stuff, you're missing out. My faves? Eli, When the Last Leaf Falls, and The Face of God.
When the movie is released, I'll be sure to let you know how you can see it.
Sunday afternoon I watched PAPER CLIPS, a movie I'd received from Netflix. (Terri G., did you tell me about this one?) I don't remember exactly how it got in my queue, but there it was, so I watched it.
And I will never forget it. Run to your computer or to your movie rental place and get this one. Watch it with your family. Tell your friends.
Paper Clips is a documentary; the true story of students from the tiny town of Whitwell, TN, who wanted to learn about the Holocaust. So they decided to collect six million paper clips to illustrate the death of six million Jews at Hitler's hand.
The result changed the school, the town, and a good many people beyond Tennessee. I don't think you can watch this movie without weeping, but it's extremely motivational and positive.
Paper Clips was named one of the top films of 2004 by the National Board of Review of Motion pictures.
I was also haunted by a song that plays in the movie. After waiting through all the end credits, I discovered that it was called "Jubilee" and was sung by Alison Krauss. It is ONLY available through itunes, so I had to download a copy. Amazing!
If you haven't watched this, it may be the most important hour and 22 minutes you spend this week.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Let's think about Corrie ten Boom, who gave sanctuary to Jews in her home during World War II. She was often asked by the authorities if she had Jews, and she said no. Ultimately, she was turned in and went to the concentration camps, where God worked many miracles for her (if you haven't read THE HIDING PLACE, you really must.)
Rahab, who lied about hiding the Israelite spies, is included in God's "hall of faith" in Hebrews 11. So, indirectly at least, God blessed her for her act.
When divine commands conflict, there are three ways we can try to resolve the conflict. First, deny the conflict. There are some folks (the "truthful Baptists," if you've read THE TRUTH TELLER), who would refuse to lie, period. They would appeal to God to work a miracle or accept his sovereign will, should the worst happen. The example of Rahab and the Egyptian midwives, however, would seem to suggest that God can bless folks who choose another approach.
Second, you can admit that conflicts do exist because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes we have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Corrie Ten Boom should lie to the Nazis because it is a lesser evil than surrendering innocent people to be killed. After lying, Corrie should have asked God's forgiveness for lying.
Third choice? Turn the argument on its head and recognize that a person has the obligation to do the greater good. Recognize that there is a hierarchy within God's laws. For example, God's command to preach the gospel is over his command to be in submission to the state. (Otherwise, we'd never preach in communist countries.) Jesus referred to the "weightier matters of the law (Matt. 23:23-24) and said that justice, mercy, and compassion are more important than the law of tithing, for instance.
(The above points and approach comes from MORAL CHOICES by Scott B. Rae, an excellent book. )
As for me, if I found myself in such a situation, I think I would pray and do as the Spirit led.
I've often wondered what I would have said were I at Columbine High School on that horriffic day. If asked if I believed in God, would I have been justified in lying and saying "No?" A lie might have saved my life . . . and did I owe truth to such an enemy? But those teenagers didn't have time to think, and those who answered "yes" and were killed--think about how God has used their testimony.
So . . . I think all three options above are viable, depending upon how the Spirit leads you at the moment of crisis. Sometimes God wants us to uplift truth and trust Him for the result. Sometimes he may want us to choose between the evils of our fallen world. And sometimes he may want us to choose the greater good. Perhaps we cannot know until we arrive at that moment of choice.
I am confident of this--our sovereign God will use whatever we do to work his will. Scripture is filled with people who chose A, B, and C, and God worked through all of them: Stephen, who died because of his fervent testimony, Rahab, the Egyptian midwives, even Peter, who denied Christ but then learned so much through his personal humiliation.
I may have mentioned that I’m working on my doctorate. It’s an inter-disciplinary study, which basically means that I was able to choose the courses that I think I’ll best be able to use in my work.
Last week I handed in my coursework for “The Problem of Evil,” and for the next couple of months I’ll be studying bioethics—I thought the topic would give me good fodder for my novels.
Yesterday I read a chapter in my textbook on ethical systems and ways of moral reasoning. It applied names to all the ways people reason, and yesterday afternoon, since I was taking some time off, I watched a movie I’d recorded off the TV: “A Bronx Tale.”
Then I found myself floored as ways of ethical reasoning announced themselves with flashing lights. No, not really, but once I learned the buzzwords, I was able to see how characters in the movie justified their actions using weak ethical methods.
For instance: in one scene, a nine-year-old boy witnesses a murder. When the cops come knocking, the boy’s father tells them the boy “didn’t see nothing.” The boy, however, tells them he saw everything, so the cops take him downstairs for an impromptu lineup.
The father lied out of fear. The boy, however, lies because he thinks the gunman is the coolest guy in the world, and he wants to protect him. The end result is the same—the killer gets off—and the boy asks his dad, “Did I do the right thing?” The dad says, “Yeah, you did a good thing for a bad man. But you had to do what was best for us, so yeah, you did the right thing. But I don’t want you hanging around that man ever again.”
Immediately, I recognized the moral reasoning involved: UTILITARIANISM, that which says morality is determined by the end result. If telling a lie and covering for a killer keeps the family out of trouble with the mob, then it was the right thing to do. Trouble is, nobody thought about the dead guy in the street . . . . who was looking out for his interests?
In a later scene, the kid is grown up, a teenager, and he’s asking the mob guy (who’s become a second father to him), if he should date a black girl. “You gotta do what’s right for you,” the thug says. “You gotta follow your heart.”
Again, lights flashed in my head. That’s ETHICAL EGOISM, and even Scripture indicates that a degree of ethical egoism is valid. God motivates his people by promising blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The weakness of ethical obedience is that it must be balanced with a concern for others—you can’t live in a world that runs only by your reasoning and your desires.
The kid goes on, loving this slick hood, and I realize I’m seeing the embodiment of VIRTUE THEORY: we choose an “ideal person” and model our morality after his/her example. Christians, of course, model their morality around Christ (Example: what would Jesus do?), but this kid was modeling himself after a street-smart thug.
Now . . . it’d be nice if I had a point, wouldn’t it? I find all of this very interesting, and I know it’ll be useful as I get ready to write columns for my local newspaper and for my books. As Christians, we use a combination of divine command, natural law, and virtue theory to conduct our moral reasoning. I’m looking forward to being able to deconstruct some arguments and build others that will stand up against faulty systems.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Take the quiz here -- http://www.deathforecast.com/ --and then come back and tell me about it.
Okay, I have to say I HATE the name of the link and the quiz--I'd prefer the opposite approach, as you can tell from my post title. But this little quiz is based on statistics, and can give you a fairly good estimate of how long you can expect to live--unless you meet with an unexpected accident or incident, of course.
According to that quiz, I should live to the ripe old age of 88 . . . and I really was planning on getting to ninety, if the Lord tarries. My grandmother lived to 94, so maybe if I lose a few of these extra pounds, I can go as long as she did. Then again, she suffered from dementia at the end, so I'm not sure I'd want to live that long if I couldn't write or recognize my loved ones.
Thinking about this makes me very glad that the Lord controls our lives. Scripture tells us that he has recorded every day of our lives in his book, so He knows far better than any quiz exactly how many days I have remaining. And as his child, it's my job simply to live each day in obedience.
I think we're supposed to be good stewards of our time and our bodies--doing what we can to remain healthy and refraining from stepping out into moving traffic. But God is also sovereign, so he holds my life in the palm of his hand, particularly in regard to events I cannot control.
All of this reminds me that I need to order Nora Ephron's new book about aging . . . the title is something like "Sorry About My Neck" or "I Wish I had My Neck." I hear that in it she tells young women to put on a bikini and not take it off until they hit thirty-four . . . LOL!
Aging with humor. I love it. Aging with grace is even better.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Life is good. THE NATIVITY STORY is handed in, the house is clean, I'm ahead of schedule. God is good.
Hubby and son are at camp . . . which means Charley Gansky and I have the house to ourselves for a few days. Now, please understand that I love my family . . . but I also LOVE solitude. I feel like I'm on vacation! (even though I'm technically on deadline).
An aside: a group of very special friends sent me a surprise--a huge box of bubble gum! (They know I love it.) And I learned something--you remember those almost-square Bazooka bubble gum pieces we used to chew? The ones you unwrap and then read the cartoon as you chew the gum? Well, now I know how old I am. My bubble gum surprise box held lots of Bazooka gum . . . and sure enough, I unwrapped and found the cartoon inside. But now I can't read it without my glasses! Ah, the joys of aging. Then again, I think my eyes have more reading miles on them than most.
In any case, I wanted to be sure to mention a little known movie that is definitely worth the rent. It's "On a Clear Day", and no, it's not that ditzy reincarnation movie with Barbra Striesand. It's a new English (I think) flick starring Brenda Blythyn (sp?), whom I adore. It's a sort of change-of-life theme, and though the hubby began to watch it with me as an act of charity, he soon got into it--and my hubby isn't the type to "get into" foreign films, if you know what I mean.
In some ways, the movie reminded us of "Waking Ned Devine," which hubby and I also loved. In any case, it's warm and funny and inspirational, and you can't say that about many movies these days. Enjoy!
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Deadline: a word that originated in the American Civil War, where a prisoner would be shot if they crossed a line around the prison or prison camp.
I'd better get to work, but I thought I'd take a minute to update you on some theatrical happenings . . . maybe.
Good news! Have heard that "The Note" should begin filming this fall. For more information (and to see a short film featuring Lisa Anderson, who is to star in the movie), visit http://www.thenotefilm.com).
Good news! UNCHARTED is being optioned by Namesake Entertainment, the same company that produced "The Visitation" and is filming "House." More news to come as it trickles in.
Good news! Work is proceeding on my novelization of THE NATIVITY STORY, which opens in December. The book will be available in early November, which reminds me of that deadline . . . back to work!
~~Angie, who should hand in THE NATIVITY STORY today! Five days EARLY! Whoo-hoo!
P.S. I finally got around to watching THE END OF THE SPEAR on Wednesday night. Oh, my. I'm actually glad I didn't make it to the theater, because I bawled like a baby. It's so moving, so powerful, and so true. You have to rent that movie!
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Did any of you see the “Grizzly Man” movie that was on Discovery Sunday night? Maybe they’ll replay it. In any case, I’m sure you heard about this guy—a vagabond type who spent his summers in the Alaskan wilderness, loving and protecting the grizzlies. (Dean Koontz even referenced him in one of his latest novels). Tim Treadwell was his name.
Anyway, a grizzly ate him. And his girlfriend.
As I watched the movie —and heard the coroner give grisly (no pun intended) details about how the autopsied bear was . . . never mind, the metaphor just kept hitting me. So many people delude themselves about evil, or drugs, or alcohol, or name-your-sin. I mean, this guy would walk up to the bears and say, “I love you! I love you!” He thought he had some kind of special rapport . . . until the bear ate him.
Man. This reminds me of something--maybe Frankenstein? It's one of the classic motifs of horror stories . . . the evil we try to tame destroys us in the end. In any case, it's a haunting movie and a parable for those who have ears to hear.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
It's so HOT!
I love my neighbhood book club. Tonight the ladies met to discuss a new NYT bestseller, and I have to admit, I gave the book a higher rating than anyone in the room . . . and afterward, I felt like one of those sychophants who praised the naked king in "The Emperor's New Clothes." After listening to everyone go around the circle and talk about how they found no redeeming value, no sympathetic characters, and a plot that turned on an unbelievable coincidence, I wanted to say, "Yeah, but it's so-and-so, and he once won a Pulitzer Prize."
But you know what? They were right. And I love these women, because they constantly remind me that I'm not writing for prizes or the literati; I'm writing for real, intelligent women who love to read and know what makes a story work. Yes, some of the writing was beautiful, but the author's existential bent shone through, and we were left with a feeling of hopelessness.
Not exactly why we'd wanted to read the book. (And no, I'm not going to mention the title in public.)
In any case, we're looking forward to next month. We'll be reading another favorite author, Anita Shreve. We almost chose to read "Marley and Me," but someone realized the dog dies at the end, and that settled that . . .
Monday, July 24, 2006
I'll let you know if he shows up again.
http://www.ospenterprises.com/phone/ is the coolest link! On this website you can enter a phone number to call, the number that should appear in the caller ID, the name for the Caller ID, and then you enter a message which will be read by any voice you choose.
From my laptop, I called my house, put HEAVEN in the caller ID, gave a number of 777-777-7777, and told my husband that Heaven was calling to confirm his reservation. (VBG).
What a fun way to send a birthday message! To tell someone you're thinking of them! To remind your children to get home before their curfew!
Hat Tip to Brad Wunderfool's Quirky blog for this tip. How ingenious!
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Last night hubby and I went to see LADY IN THE WATER (a title I keep having trouble with. I want to say LADY IN THE LAKE because of the alliteration, then I remember it wasn't a lake, so I want to call it LADY IN THE SWIMMING POOL, but that's definitely verbose, so then I remember "water," but then I can't remember if it's THE LADY or just LADY . . . )
But I digress. I enjoyed it--would give it four out of five stars, but that's probably because I'm a writer and it seemed fairly literary--I mean you have a woman named STORY who's looking for a writer. How much more literary can you get? It's a fantasy, so you have to suspend your disbelief from the get go, and obviously, some of the critics I've read had trouble with that. We went despite some truly terrible reviews because we like M. Night Shamalan's movies.
I love his films in this order: THE SIXTH SENSE was brilliant; ditto for SIGNS (which I'd rate as one of the most theologically correct films I've ever seen); LADY IN THE WATER, UNBREAKABLE, and THE VILLAGE.
The latter film was a disappointment. He had us in the palm of his hand until the ending, then I felt cheated. Worse, I felt that the film could be interpreted as a slam against religion/belief. He seemed to be saying that everything we've been taught/told is nothing but lies to keep us penned up in ignorance and fear. (I doubt that's what the man meant to say, but that's what I took away from the film.)
In any case, LADY IN THE WATER had some lovely "eeek!" moments, a fair bit of humor, and a lot of fantasy elements. Like I said, it requires a quick willing suspension of disbelief, but if you go with him, you'll be okay. The theme? Everyone has a purpose, and sometimes our first guess is the wrong guess . . .
There's also a bit about how the power of the printed word can change lives . . . any writer would find that inspirational and challenging.
An aside: I read that some folks tried to dissuade Night from playing the part of the writer--a fairly major part. I have to agree with them. He did a fair job, but I think the part would have been better served by a better actor. There's a place where someone gives him a bit of distressing news--and Night just accepts it. I think he would have shown more emotion if someone had told him he needed a new carburetor, but that's just my non-professional opinion.
In any case, I would give it four out of five stars. Not his best, not brilliant, but enjoyable and a sight better than THE VILLAGE. The red-haired actress, BTW, is Ron Howard's daughter. She's lovely. An all-around great supporting cast, too.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
The other day I had to pinch myself--I had the feeling I'd become a character in one of my novels.
I learned, you see, that one of my good friends from high school had become a genuine, bona-fide, nationally-renown Elvis Impersonator. Not just any Elvis impersonator, mind you, but a certified ETA, or Elvis Tribute Artist.
According to Jack's web page, http://www.lstproductions.com/
ETAs don't try to make you think you're seeing Elvis. They want to perform his music as a tribute to him.
I've always known that Jack could sing like Elvis. We were in choir together in high school, plus Jack used to (and still does) live around the corner from my parents. For a while there he'd drive past my house every night and honk the horn as he turned the corner--always made me smile to look up from the book I was reading and know that Jack was driving by.
Jack used to sit behind me on the school bus and tease me--about what, I don't remember. I do remember that he called me "Well Well" (my maiden name was "Elwell"), and that he, like me, was a believer, but he went to the Pentecostal church while I was a born and bred Baptist. Such differences seemed huge then, though they matter not a whit to me now.
Anyway, Jack and I were good buddies, and I'm delighted that he's found something he loves to do and is having good success in his field. He's coming to Largo for a concert on September 2nd, so I'm going to get tickets. Hubby is up for it, and so am I, even though Elvis was more of my mother's generation than mine. (I fell in love with the Monkeys and the Partridge Family.)
But when he comes to town, I won't be going to the concert hall to honor Elvis. I'll be going to see Jack. For old times sake.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Would you like to turn your computer into a a colorful etch-a-sketch? Visit www.jacksonpollock.org and have fun! When the page loads, just move your cursor over the page and create! Hat tip to Randy at Ethos . Enjoy!
If I didn't have to work, I'd do this all day! What pretty colors!
Thursday, July 20, 2006
My email box has been filled with letters about the explosive situation in the Middle East. If you're a prophecy scholar, you know that the world will (and always has, if the truth be told) revolve around the Middle East and Israel. There mere fact that Israel still exists is one proof of God's willingness to keep his promises.
First, a report from Christian Israelis:
Air conditioners are off. Windows are open to listen for a one-minute siren.The Israeli Army told Israelis from TelAviv northward to "be alert."
The command said that in the event of a rocket strike, a siren will sound a one-minute warning, alerting the public to seek shelter inside as protected a room as possible.Residents across the North were instructed to take cover in bomb shelters and secure areas 24/7 (this is difficult to do). 600 people have been treated at hospitals. Israel Railways halted all train traffic north of Binyamina. Authorities closed Haifa Portand diverted ships to Ashdod Port.
The Israel Defense Forces said over the weekend that more than 700 rockets have been fired at Israel since the start of the military operation in Lebanon, prompted by the Hezbollah abduction of two IDF soldiers last Wednesday.
The Bible on "Lebanon"
Israel has taken its hits, but has done major damage to Hezbollah. Most Israelis want terror stopped. . . period. . . because people have an inherent right to live safely without threat to life or property. We are willing to fight to defend ourselves, our families and our nation, and to pay the price. There are interesting, unfulfilled Scriptures in Hab. 2:17 and Zech. 10:10 concerning the country of Lebanon!
HaAretz reports the Shi'ite guerilla group Hezbollah has amassed over 10,000 rockets, some having a range of 220 km, and has dispersed them in towns throughout Lebanon. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nasrallah on Sunday said the Israel Defense Forces offensive on Lebanon had not depleted its large stockpile of rockets, and warned that the Islamic group could strike almost anywhere in Israel.
"We will continue. We still have a lot more and we are just at the beginning," Nasrallah said in a taped televised address on Al-Manar. "We promise them surprises in (any) confrontation. Today, especially in this sensitive moment and after several military achievements and surprises, Hezbollah is not fighting a battle for Hezbollah or even for Lebanon. We are now fighting a battle for the (Islamic) nation," he said. "The peoples of the Arab and Islamic world have a historic opportunity to score a defeat against the Zionist enemy ... We are providing the example," he added.
Rockets have landed all across the north, including a Haifa train station. "The injuries at the depot are the most severe," said Haifa mayor YonaYahav. Hezbollah television station reported that rockets hit the oil refineries in Haifa Bay. "The Islamic resistance . . . rained again on Haifa with a new salvo of Raad-2 and Raad-3 rockets," it said.
And another report from a Christian teenager in Lebanon:
yes , things are pretty bad here , no electricity ( since the generators were bombed) no food (well until now , there’s only hunger in the south , but with Israel surrounding every bit of the country , any form of trade has stopped ) etc...
The good news is that since we live in a Christian area, we haven’t been attacked, the effects we feel aren't direct, and its the fear of listening to bombings that we have to worry about. That is, until now. In my belief, Israel won't stop at killing Muslim civilians, but Christian ones, too (not taking consideration that almost the majority of Christians is praying for the end of the Hezbollah movement).
Angie here again: Israel isn't targeting innocent civilians, but war is not always neat and tidy. I've been praying for Christians in both countries, and that God would help Israel defend her borders and silence the guns and rockets of her enemies. We must remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem . . . and her safety.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Okay, this is too much fun. I found this link: http://www.myheritage.com/FP/Company/face-recognition-samples.php at which you can upload photos of yourself and friends and find out which celebrities you honestly look like (you share the same face shape, bone structure, etc.) So I uploaded some friends and here's what we came up with:
Brandilyn Collins looks like Lucille Ball.
I look a little like Rita Hayworth.
BJ Hoff looks like Joan Fontaine
Jim Bell looks like Gary Sinise (58% match)
My hubby looks like Harold Wilson or Mark Wahlberg
Athol Dickson looks like . . . himself
Nancy Rue looks like Julia Roberts (71 percent match)
Deb Raney looks like Charlize Theron (70% match)
Robin Lee Hather looks like Jennifer Aniston (64% match)
and Al Gansky looks like Sir Alec Guiness.
I would have uploaded pictures for all, but blogspot is feeling balky and wouldn't take all my shots.
So try it out and have fun! As for me, I do have a book to write . . .
Who do YOU look like?
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I had a serendipitous moment that you have to be female to appreciate. (Gentlemen, you may leave now. I doubt you'll understand the importance of today's post.)
Last week I was flying to Denver and, in a moment of boredom, I picked up the Skymall magazine and flipped through. Saw an interesting gadget and ordered it.
Today I was back at work on The Nativity Story, and was polishing a scene that involves an armilliary sphere. I had never seen one, so in the first draft I hadn't been too specific, but I figured I'd better check things out. So I did some research, discovered the details, and studied a picture. I've posted the photo for you. (It's a brass device with circles revolving on axes and used by ancient astronomers to predict the movement of the stars.)
So while I'm working on the scenes with the magi and their armilliary sphere, the UPS man rings the doorbell and delivers my gadget from www.skymall.com. It's pictured here, too.
Now, tell me truly--did I have a deja vu moment or what? I got a giggle out of it.
BTW, the "bra baby" has nothing to do with astronomy and everything to do with laundry. You put your padded bra into the "sphere," hold it in place with the "inner sphere," and toss the thing into the washing machine. Your curves are supposed to come out smooth, not lumpy, if you know what I mean. For a bra baby of your own (they come two to a package), visit http://www.skymall.com and search for "bra baby."
I sure wish they could have come up with a more dignified name to put on the outside of the box. My UPS man must be curious.
I could always tell him I'm studying the stars . . .
Monday, July 17, 2006
. . . this review on a blog.
The Novelist by Angela Hunt
As an agnostic I expected to be turned off by this when I realized, early on, that it was going to take a strong Christian bent. I was pleasantly surprised at the authors' (both Ms Hunt & her protag) ability to express their faith in their Faith without driving me off. Overall, it was okay, not great, but I give it kudos for not putting off this agnostic.
Hmmm. Is that a compliment? I'm not sure.
And then I found this one:
Honestly, every time I pick up an Angela Hunt book, I am both convicted and wondering whether or not I should be reading it. She is a Christian author, but sometimes I’m not sure about the content. She’s an author you really need to read to the end or else you’ll miss the point . . . I will warn you though—[Uncharted] is not for the faint of heart. It’s an honest look at the way people think . . . It is definitely not a book I would allow my daughter to read. But I am glad I read it. I’m glad—believe it or not—I felt the conviction of the Lord on this one.
Hmmm again. She feels guilty reading me?
Sunday, July 16, 2006
http://www.tbo.com/news/opinion/commentary/MGB0HN38NPE.html is the link where the Tampa Tribune officially announced the community columnists for the coming year.
I still have no idea how often I'm to write or if there are any guidelines, but I'm assuming they'll call a meeting soon and my questions will be answered. Can't wait for this opportunity!
Saturday, July 15, 2006
This is Herman. He's my pet snake, but I use the word "pet" loosely. He comes and goes at his leisure, which he seems to have a lot of.
I first discovered Herman at the beginning of summer, when the warm days were banishing me to the indoors. Herman's favorite chair is located on my front porch, which is shaded in afternoon. As you can see, he has a favorite pillow, and it was beneath that pillow, neatly lining the edge, that I first discovered evidence of Herman--his shed skin.
Then I spotted Himself a few days later, sunning himself on the arm of the wicker chair. He watched me, I watched him, and since neither of us seemed inclined to bother the other, we settled in to our own work. Herman has watched me paint a bench, sweep said porch many times, and answer many knocks of UPS and Fed Ex deliverymen. Herman is what I hope to be--mainly unflappable.
A couple of weeks ago, Herman left me another skin, this one artfully entwined among the wicker spokes of the back of the chair. So entwined was it that the lovely thing tore when I tried to pull it out to show the little boys across the street. (I daresay they think I'm the Science Lady. I've shown them pigeon eggs in my flower bed, ripe sunflower heads--even their Mom didn't know where sunflower seeds actually came from--and, of course, a dog large enough for them to ride.)
This morning Herman was waiting in his chair to greet me from my trip. I looked for him yesterday, but yesterday afternoon was rainy and damp, so Herman must have been holed up wherever he goes when he's not hanging out in his chair. He's been in the chair most of today, though. Wonder what he's thinking?
He's a lovely blue-eyed snake. I hope he stays around for a good long time.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Photo: Me 'n novelist pal Jane Orcutt putting our heads together in Denver (I'm in the hat.)
Got in at about midnight last night from the convention--and boy, is my head spinning. It's taken all day to unpack, do laundry, and sort through all the material I brought home in my suitcase. I have about a dozen thank you notes to write, books to put away, receipts to enter, and thoughts to ponder.
A couple of things to pass on: http://www.thenativitystory.com has a trailer and a clip about the making of the film that will open on December first. I met the screenwriter, Mike Rich (we did a signing together), and was very impressed with his friendliness and down-to-earth manner. And his screenplay is brilliant, of course. I only hope he likes the novelization when it's done.
I watched an amazing film this week. It's not for the faint of heart, and it earns its R rating--so consider yourself warned if you know you can't watch gritty movies. It is DOGVILLE, by director Lars von Trier, and it's one of those films that leaves you thinking and puzzling for days after you watch it.
The story line is fairly simple--a girl in jeopardy, Grace, comes to a small, desperate town during the time of the depression. The town writer/philosopher warms to her (she's Nicole Kidman--who wouldn't?) and the town votes to take her in. In return, she'll do chores for the townsfolk.
As she gets to know the people, they fall in love with her--and they discover that everything is easier with Grace's help. She speaks the truth, helps them to see through their delusions and shortcomings, and they love her for it. Life is easier with Grace.
But Grace is apparently running from gangsters who will stop at nothing to get her back. Over time, as "wanted" posters appear, the townsfolk begin to think maybe Grace owes them a little more than a few chores. They work her double time and cut her pay. Tom, the writer, loves her, but can't seem to defend her with anything more than words and good intentions.
Finally, Grace is raped . . . and then begins to be abused by all the men of the town. The women abuse her, too, but in other ways. The townfolk chain her, put a dog collar around her neck, and finally her true love turns her in to the gangsters.
When the gangsters arrive, Tom explains that they've chained Grace for their own safety. And they're not expecting a reward, "unless you'd like to divest yourself of something . . ." (What hypocrisy!)
Turns out that the gangster is Grace's father, and they've had a disagreement. (The analogy isn't perfect; there are a few red herrings tossed in.) Grace wants to forgive the townspeople for the horrible way they've treated her--they only acted horrible because that's their nature. "I probably would have acted that way myself, were I in their shoes."
But then she thinks . . . and she realizes that she wouldn't have--ever--acted that way. And so they deserve to be punished.
During this exchange, one of the hoodlums sticks his head into the car and says, "Shall we take the curtains down? You don't need them anymore."
Grace looks at the curtains that shield the occupants of the car from view and says, "I think that's appropriate." For the first time, the townspeople get a clear view of their judge.
And the gangsters open fire and destroy the town. Grace herself, acting as Judge, kills Tom, the man who betrayed her.
There's a lot more to the story--it's told in a theatrical setting, with chalk outlines instead of walls and actual buildings, because God sees through walls. Often the camera is overhead, giving viewers the "God-view."
We hear so much about God being love; we see so many redemption stories. How often do we forget that Jesus will be the judge on the Great White Throne? Sin will be punished. Those who abuse and reject grace will pay the consequences.
Once again, be warned--this film earns its R-rating. But it's profoundly symbolic. If you watch it, notice how the townspeople represent philosophies--commerce, education, philosophy, medicine.
It's certainly not a feel good movie, nor a comfortable one. But it rings with Truth.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I've spent most of the day at the Christian Bookseller's Convention--they call it something else now, but I can never remember the correct name. International Christian Retailers Something or other.
In any case, for a writer the day is filled with meetings, hugs, signings, and walking--miles of it. I saw early promo material for THE NATIVITY STORY book and movie, talked to some editors, and had lunch with some old friends. Had a wonderful dinner at a fantastic restaurant and am ready to call it a day.
Got a call from the hubby about something fun--I am an official Community Columnist for the Tampa Tribune. :-) I submitted a couple of columns a few weeks ago and promptly forgot all about it, but hubby called with the news that I'd been selected from a pool of applicants to be one of several community folks who will write columns over the next year. I figure it'll be a lot like blogging, but with more local interest. :-)
I think I'm as thrilled about my status as a Community Columnist as any book I've ever written.
Two more days, then home again. Wishing you well . . .
Monday, July 10, 2006
Last night I watched "Pride and Prejudice"--the 2005 version, and found it lovely even if the ending was too modern for my taste. I love almost anything with Brenda Blethyn in it, and she was a stitch as the hysterical mother.
As I watched, though, I kept thinking that the movie seemed familiar--in ways different from the obvious parallel of the earlier version of P&P. Then it hit me--last year I watched the Bollywood (Indian) version called "Bride and Prejudice" and thoroughly enjoyed it, too. It's a musical, and it's hilarious when the surfers and people in the marketplace spontaneously break into song.
So--if you want to give yourself a treat, watch the period piece "Pride and Prejudice" followed by the contemporary "Bride and Prejudice." What fun!
BTW, last night at the convention I was able to see a brief film on the making of THE NATIVITY STORY. It's really exciting to watch scenes I've worked on come to life before my eyes . . . and this is going to be a GREAT movie.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
I attended the seventh annual Christy awards for excellence in Christian fiction last night. Got to congratulate several friends on their awards, including Liz Curtis Higgs, Athol Dickson, and Karen Hancock. Such a lovely evening! Also met some new friends like Cami Tang (cute as a button) and Patti Hill.
On to the topic at hand:
You'll need paper and a pencil for this one. And I wouldn't put too much faith in this quiz because . . . well, I'll explain why in a moment.
Here's the official "Are you a nerd?" Quiz:
Now--I've always thought of myself as a nerd . . . and my children frequently say that I am. I mean, I love to read, I'm good with a computer, and I can speak a little DOS. Even a little HTML. And yes, I recognized the Tribbles and loved 'em.
But according to that quiz, I'm an idiot who lives in a box. (VBG).
But like I said, I wouldn't take the results of that quiz too seriously because . . . if the creators were truly nerdy, don't you think they'd have come up with an interactive format so we didn't need to use a PENCIL? LOL!
Have a blessed Sunday!
Saturday, July 08, 2006
When the Daughter was about three, one day one of our toilets stopped working. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never held household appliances or thingamajigs in reverent awe. I mean, if it’s got screws, it can be unscrewed, right? And if it can be unscrewed, it can be put back together.
So I went to the balky toilet and started taking it apart. By the time my hubby came home, I had the entire toilet sitting in the bathtub . . . and still had no clue why it had stopped flushing. So we called a plumber. Turns out the darling daughter had dropped a plastic toy boot down the sewer, which clogged the line.
Years passed. We moved, at one point, into a thirty year old house, which meant, of course, that it had thirty year old plumbing. (Did you know you should always check the date stamped inside the toilet tank when you’re buying a house? I don’t know why, other than to find out the age of the toilet. Most of them are stamped in the year the house was built.)
Anyway, in the 30 year old house, with four toilets, I replaced all those ball floaty thingies with those upside down cup float thingys. The salesman at Home Depot said they were easy to install, and while I don’t think I’d consider it EASY, I did get it done . . . without calling a plumber.
Fast forward. We’ve been in present house for four years, and the toilet right next to my office has developed a leak. Not the water-on-the-floor kind of leak, but the kind that makes the toilet run and runs up your water bill. (Trust me—in drought season in Florida, our water bill is high enough.)
So on a recent Saturday I went to Home Depot and wandered down the toilet aisle. Found a picture of one of those upside-down-cup thingys, and was confident I could install it myself.
Got home and started reading the directions. Right away, the directions tell me to remove the water AND THE TANK, and that strikes me as odd. But hey, I figured, maybe things had come a long way in the toilet world since I’d fixed my last flapper.
So I start taking the toilet tank apart. Trouble is, I’d put one of those blue blocks of toilet bowl cleaner in the tank. Most of it had dissolved, but there was still a glob of blue in the tank. I didn’t worry much about it, though, because I was sure I’d be in and out of the bathroom in no time.
Well, seems that this toilet (which is original with the house) was factory assembled or something, because all the plastic nuts are screwed on TIGHT. I have to wake Hubby from his Saturday afternoon nap in order for him to exercise the family brawn. Finally, he gets the thing unscrewed that holds in the ball flap thingy, then I look at the box in my hand. Uh oh. I didn’t BUY an upside-down-cup thingy, I bought a FLUSH VALVE KIT. I had been misled, because there’s a PICTURE of the upside-down-cup thingy on the cover (though it is slightly greyed out) and the box clearly says EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR A COMPLETE FLUSH VALVE REPLACEMENT.
Doesn’t that sound like the entire kit-and-caboodle to you?
So I tell the hubby that I’ve bought the wrong thing. So he grumbles a bit and goes to Home Depot and brings me one of the upside-down-cup thingys. Trouble is, when I start to install it, it’s missing the little parts. I think—I KNOW—those are important, so he grumbles again a bit and goes out to exchange the part and pick up our dinner from Cracker Barrel. (We usually go there on Saturday nights, but by this time, I am covered in bright blue goop from my fingers to my elbows—and have some on my face and knees, too.
Then I have to turn the tank upside down and remove the huge nut holding the FLUSH VALVE in place. Well, this baby isn’t gonna move. No way, no how. Hubby can’t move it, I can’t move it. We get the pliers, we get the wrench, we get the Tupperware jar opener, we get the rubber gloves. We even get a screwdriver and hammer, trying to dislodge the thing. No way.
So I tell hubby I’ll work on putting the toilet back together while he replaces/exchanges the upside down cup thingy. If we can at least get that part fixed, maybe the leak will stop. IF the new part will work with the old part. IF I can get the old parts back on. If my chewing the plastic screw threads with my pliers hasn’t completely ruined it.
Oops—hubby is home. Maybe he brought a plumber.
Update: float thing is in, toilet is back together, and the blue is fading. Mission accomplished!
Friday, July 07, 2006
Betsy asked: What spiritual lesson did you take from this book?
Angie answers: I think IT'S the lesson I mentioned earlier--about not being so caught up in prophecy that we forget about reaching the people around us today. I'll be honest--when I started writing THE IMMORTAL, I wanted it to be a prophecy novel. But then I realized the futility of what Asher was doing, and how, in his obsession, he kept missing the true image of what grace was all about. So I changed the focus of the book and took the same lesson away for myself.
Betsy also asked: Two questions so far :) I have not read that story. So when I read about the Wandering Jew. I had not thought of that myth but I had thought of John the beloved who is believed by some to live until Jesus comes again. So my first question is did you find anything about that in your research? The second is for my own curiosity. Is it a positive sign when someone clasps your hand in his and surrounds it with his other hand?
Angie answers: the rumor about John comes from John 21:22ff--in which John himself clarifies that Jesus didn't MEAN that John would remain alive, it was strictly a rhetorical question. Tradition does tell us that John outlived the other disciples and died of old age--the only disciple not to die a martyr's death.
About that handshake--it's typically called a "politicians's handshake." If given by someone you know well, it's warm and endearing. If given by someone you don't know well, this is someone who is trying too hard . . . and the handshake usually comes off as insincere.
Dana asked: Can you give us a list of these books that you'd recommend? There are sooooooooo many books on writing out there!!
Angie answers: If you're talking about books on body language, I'd recommend READING PEOPLE by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and HOW TO READ A PERSON LIKE A BOOK by Gerard Nierenberg and Henry Calero. Both are excellent.
Deborah asked: How many people proofread a book before it goes out?
Angie answers: I can only answer for myself and my publishers (but I've published with a LOT of companies): First of all, the author reads it. Myself, I read it between 4-5 times before I submit it, then I'll read it after my substantive edit letter, and read it again at the galley stage.
Then there is at least one, often two editors who read it--for the substantitive (big picture or macro) edit, followed by the line editing (micro) edit. Then there are copyeditors who go through with a fine tooth comb--at least one of those. Then some companies hire people to proof after that. It's sent back to the author so he/she can proofread the galleys, often called "first pages," while someone at the company is proofing it, too.
Those are the people whose JOB it is to read and catch mistakes. But often you'll have other in-house people reading for fun. (You might be surprised that designers and cover folks don't usually read the manuscript.) Some sales folk will read it. And all those people who read for endorsement? They're reading it, and sometimes they'll point out obvious errors (at least, I'm always grateful when they do).
There are some mistakes that just slip by everyone--like Karl/Kurt. (That's why I like to have the computer read my manuscripts back to me. My ear will often catch mistakes that my dizzy eyes gloss over.) And there are some publishing houses that don't do nearly all the editing/proofing that I've outlined above, but that's the typical process at a large publishing house.
Why do some typos still slip through? Because, as my pal Alton Gansky says, if you have a 100,000 word book that's 99.9 percent perfect, you still have room for 100 mistakes. Ouch. We try to catch 'em, but sometimes we don't.
Well, I'm happy to report that I finished the second draft of THE NATIVITY STORY right before my July fourth company arrived. I'm going to enjoy myself in Denver, then come back home to polish up the Nativity and do final revisions on THE ELEVATOR.
Thanks for coming with me on another book-of-the-month adventure!
Thursday, July 06, 2006
As always, I learn from every book. And after one Amazon reviewer pointed out that I overdid the element of surprise in this book, I've learned to watch sentences like this:
"He lifted his brows in surprise."
Now I'd probably just write: "He lifted his brow."
Instead of having someone gasp IN SURPRISE, just have them gasp. The surprise is implicit.
Some reader reviewers have been unhappy because they really want ASHER to be the main character. Sorry, but the story is about Claudia. It's about how Asher changes her life. (I suppose that's a risk one takes when inventing a fascinating antagonist).
Others have been unhappy with the ending. They want everything spelled out and clearly defined, but I wanted to leave an element of mystery. SPOILER ALERT: I believe that when Asher finally accepted grace and stopped working for his salvation, he was taken immediately to heaven. His mortal body turned to dust, and that's why no trace of him was found.
Some readers, though, want all that spelled out, but I'd rather you figure it out for yourself.
Of course there were lots of good reviews (even one from the TAMPA TRIBUNE, my local paper), but I tend to remember the ones who take issue with a choice I made. As I mentioned yesterday, the book was optioned by Columbia/Tri-Star (that option is now expired) and it has been made available as an audio book by RECORDED BOOKS.
So I've been pleased with the reactions and the results.
Okay--tomorrow--any questions? Just let me know!
~~Angie, traveling to Denver on Thursday . . .
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
To be honest, I don't remember much about the editing process for THE IMMORTAL. I do remember that it was edited by Rick Blanchette, a freelance editor at the time, and he helped me with some Italian lyrics that I had really discombobulated. (I think he went and talked to his Italian neighbors).
One thing that has tickled me since then--Claudia has a boyfriend. He is named Karl in chapter one, and he's Kurt in the rest of the book. Nobody caught the error--until the book came out, of course, and since then dozens of readers have brought the mistake to my attention. I'm pretty sure we fixed the mistake in the recent value edition of the book.
Yes, BTW, THE IMMORTAL is officially out of print in the trade hardcover and softcover editions, but you can find it as a "value edition" for a bargain price. Such is the lifespan of a novel.
Did I mention that "The Immortal" was optioned by Columbia/Tri-Star films at one point? Yes . . . nothing came of it, but the option was nice.
Tomorrow: The Results and Reader Reaction. Don't forget--if you have any questions, post them at any point in the comments section, and I'll answer them on the seventh. Thanks!
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Happy Fourth of July!
Just for fun, before we jump into the topic, you have to visit this link: http://www.flurl.com/uploaded/Honda_Civic_Choir_43459.html . A creative choir (and ad agency!) create the sounds of a Honda with a choir. Fun!
As I recall (and it was a long time ago), I wrote THE IMMORTAL in my usual time, which was about three months in those days (I take a little longer now). The only particular challenges I recall were finding the correct Italian phrases (those online translators just don't cut it) and making sure my Rome locations were correct.
I've been flogged, BTW, for having Asher visit a Baptist church at one point. I think people assume I invented that church because I worship at a Baptist church, but that's not true. I used that church because it HAPPENS TO REALLY BE THERE. In fact, I've received a couple of emails from people who used to attend that little church.
It was important for me to have Asher visit the kind of church that would present the gospel with a fresh face. Having come up through the Catholic church (and, incidentally, the Inquisition), Asher needed something different. My discovery of that real Baptist Church (in a book about Rome) was a godsend.
Tomorrow: The Editing
Monday, July 03, 2006
The first thing I had to research in writing THE IMMORTAL was the legend of the Wandering Jew. So I bought several books on that topic (and yes, there ARE several books on that topic). Next, I had to come up with logical "antichrist candidates" for every generation, particularly for the last couple of centuries. Interesting!
Then I had to research the end times--that was easy, because I'd written three novels with Grant Jeffrey on the subject, plus I'd ghostwritten several prophecy books (I don't do that any more, BTW). Finally, I had to research Rome. I really wanted to go there, but wasn't able to fit the time into my schedule. Rats!
Oh, yes--and one of the most fascinating things I had to research was body language. I am happy to say that I can now loook at a smiling person and tell whether or not that smile is genuine. (VBG) I'm also pretty good at picking up the tells of a lie, but since I'm not around people who lie all that often, I don't get as much practice with that one.
Tidbit: when I learned all the tells, etc., I've learned to use them in my writing. For instance, when a woman flips her hair, it's a sexually suggestive sign. So often I'll have a woman flip her hair when she meets an interesting male character. I don't explain it of course, but it makes sense.
Obviously, a person with crossed/folded arms is literally erecting a "wall" between themselves and others. They're feeling defensive, so when I write defensive characters . . . you guessed it, I write them with folded arms. One arm down, one arm folded, is a sign of uncertainty. (Isn't this stuff useful?)
So--those were my main areas of research. Lots of fun!
Tomorrow: the writing
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Hubby and I went to see "Superman Returns" on Friday night, and I saw the first trailer for THE NATIVITY STORY. What a thrill! (And while the new Superman is adorable, the movie felt . . . blah. I just don't think they can beat the original. I DID believe a man can fly!)
Okay, on to our topic: Like most unique ideas, I remember quite clearly where "The Immortal" originated. I was sitting outside, having my quiet time under my oak tree and reading the story of when Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. Then my mind made the leap from Lazarus to that verse that says "it is appointed unto man once to die."
Wouldn't it be something, I mused, if Lazarus had his one time to die and never died again? Then I realized there were others who were raised from the dead, so I went in the house and counted them. There were SEVEN people who were raised from the dead and their stories recounted in Scripture--not counting, though, those who resurrected at the death of Christ on the cross. (And there's another fascinating story--what happened to those folks?)
Anyway, I couldn't help but remember that seven is the perfect number, so many there were seven immortals on the planet who were helping us along in some way. Maybe this group of immortals had areas of expertise--one covered the arts, one covered governments, one covered organized religion, etc. Maybe they were quietly working to shape human events according to the will of God.
Then I bounced the idea off Grant Jeffrey, with whom I was working at the time. Grant said the idea wouldn't work--they've found the grave of Lazarus of Bethany over in Israel. Pretty much a proven fact. And while I don't mind taking a leap of faith in my novels, I do HATE going against proven fact.
So then I bounced the idea off another friend, Curtis Lundgren. Curtis said I didn't have to let the idea go--had I ever heard of the Legend of the Wandering Jew? I hadn't. Curtis said it's a famous legend, was really big in medieval times, and is based on the idea that Jesus stumbled on his way to Golgatha. A man in Jerusalem told him to move along and even struck Christ, so Jesus looked at him and said, "I will move along, but you will remain until you see me coming again." Hence, the Wandering Jew was condemned to wander the earth until Christ's return.
Well, I loved the idea . . . but I positively HATED the anti-Semetism in it. Lest we forget, Jesus was Jewish. So I took the idea and played with it, creating a character who wasn't a Jewish occupant of Jerusalem, but a Roman stationed alongside the road. And thus Asher Genzano was born.
At the time I was writing, the world was also caught up in the "end times" craze. The Left Behind series had just mushroomed, and everywhere there were books on finding antichrists under every bush. So while I do have that material in THE IMMORTAL, the overall theme is sort of anti-end-times-craze. My message (and all novels have one) was "let's not spend all our time looking for antichrists. Let's live our lives in grace and obedience."
So that's how the idea came to be.
Next: the research
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Okay, by request the book of the month is THE IMMORTAL. The Immortal was published by Westbow (then called W Publishing) in the year 2000.
Overview: Claudia Fischer is a professional jury consultant. She has studied body language and facial expression to the point where she's an expert "people reader." She can tell when people are lying and can read them, well, like a book.
Claudia is hired by a man named Justus Santos--a world leader with an office in Rome. He wants her to run his personnel department, and she does. While she's there, she meets an applicant named Asher Genzano who claims to be an eyewitness to the crucifixion of Christ. He also says that he's been cursed with immortality, so he is on a quest. Since Satan is not omniscient and cannot know when the end of the world will come, in each generation he has a man poised to become the antichrist. Asher's mission is to find that man, tell him of Christ, and thus avert the end of the world.
Claudia is stunned by Asher's story. Who is he? A fanatic? A religious zealot? A raving lunatic? Or is he what he says he is--a 2,000 year old man cursed with immortality and on a holy mission to prevent a global cataclysm?
Her search for answers leads Claudia into the past where myth, history, and prophecy intertwine in ancient legends of the Wandering Jew, biblical warnings about the antichrist, and eyewitness accounts of the Crucifixion, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust. What Claudia learns challenges everything she believes about life, love, and God.
"The Immortal is a page-turner from beginning to end. This is the moving story of a man who wanders through history searching for a way to find forgiveness, and of the Lord's tender pursuit of him until he sees Jesus clearly. This story will move you to tears." --Francine Rivers, author of Redeeming Love
"In The Immortal, Angela Hunt brings her considerable storytelling powers to a tale of grand imagination and religious intrigue. Masterfully wearing End Times contemplation with accounts of spiritual redemption, Hunt both moves us and makes us think. The Immortal is another dazzling addition to Hunt's amazing body of work." --James Scott Bell, another of Blind Justice
"Good books are entertaining; great books are entertaining and thought provoking. The Immortal is a great book. There is a reason Angela Hunt remains on my 'must-read' list. She does more than tell a great story; she makes me think." --Alton Gansky, author of Distant Memory
Tomorrow: the idea's germination