Monday, April 30, 2007

Cigarette Smoking . . . drives up the cost of Bibles

Religion Today Summaries, April 26, 2007—There are at least two good reasons to stop smoking. Number one: It may damage your health. Number two: It raises the production costs for Bibles, ASSIST News Service reports. The Chinese craving for cigarettes is responsible for rising paper costs in bible printing, according to the business manager of the German Bible Society, Felix Breidenstein. Because of the rising demand for cigarette paper in China the special thin paper used in bible printing is getting more expensive, as Breidenstein told the German news magazine Der Spiegel. The German Bible Society sells approximately 400,000 bibles per year.

Update 4/27 - Smoking Bible pages actually does happen, as attested by a Bible Network News audio report about a prisoner whose chaplain asked him not to smoke the book of John.

Whoda thunk it? I never would have associated Bible pages with cigarette papers, but who knows?

Reminds me of something I heard Phil Gulley say once--he told about a woman who wanted her chickens to lay "Scripture eggs," so she fed them slips of paper with Bible verses on them. Since I know nothing about a chicken's digestive OR reproductive system, I'm leaving that one alone.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

BOM and WIPs

Thanks for your suggestions on the Book-of-the-Month. I think we'll do "Unspoken" next, since Kay was the first to suggest it and it hasn't been done before.

We have done some of the others suggested, so if you missed a book, here's a recap. You can find any you missed over in the archives. (I can't believe how long we've been doing this!)

March 06--A Time to Mend
April 06--Magdalene
May 06--The Canopy
June 06--Uncharted
July 06--The Immortal
August 06--The Novelist
September 06--Keepers of the Ring series
October 06--The Proposal
November 06--The Awakening
December 06--The Nativity Story
January 07--picture books
February 07--The Justice
March 07--The Pearl
April 07--The Heirs of Cahira O'Connor
May 07--Unspoken
June 07--The Debt

July 07--The Elevator

And why I went to Mississippi--i
f you follow football, you're probably familiar with Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers. I went to Mississippi to meet with his lovely wife, Deanna. I'll be writing her story about breast cancer for Tyndale House. It'll be a rush job, because we want the book to release in time for October and National Breast Cancer Awareness month. All royalties from the project will go to Deanna's Hope Foundation, which helps uninsured or under-insured breast cancer patients. (The photo is Brett and Deanna with Laura Bush.)

So--please pray that this project touches hearts and lives! It's a really moving story.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

On Language . . . again

Recently a small firestorm erupted among the readers/commenters at the Charis Connection. The issue? Obscenity/profanity in Christian fiction. You may be amazed that this is an issue at all--especially since Christians are commanded to be watchful, for we shall give an account of every idle word--but an issue it is. Even after I googled "profanity" and "lazy writing" and found over 800 sources who agree that the former equals the latter, other folks were offended that we should equate the two.

Well. This morning I was plowing through my stack of newspapers and ran across a Wall Street Journal editorial by John McWhorter. Mr. McWhorter reports that Mr. Russell Simmons of Def Jam records has called for a voluntary ban on the "n-word, bitch, and ho" in rap music. He suggested those words be bleeped out when music with them is broadcast. In addition, the NAACP has spearheaded a STOP campaign "aimed at combating the use of these words, and the imagery associated with them, in popular culture."

This, opines the WSJ, "is a moment for the history books."

"The idea that black people ought now sit back and savor the 'reality' of abusive language, including the same word that the Bull Connors of the world once hurled at us in all of its 'reality,' is in essence lazy," says Mr. McWhorter.

Sound familiar?

If rap music--which comes from the streets--is cleaning up its act, why do some insist that Christian novelists should wallow in the mud? The logic continually eludes me. A writer does not need to borrow verbatim from gutter language to make a point. Dialogue, after all, is not a transcript, it is a representation of speech, and a truly creative writer can represent that speech and intention without resorting to language that offends.

If that requires us to think a little harder, so be it.

LOL. I suppose we owe a tip of the cap to Don Imus. Something good has sprouted from his ranting.


Friday, April 27, 2007


I read another book on the way TO Mississippi . . . "Emotions Revealed," by Paul Ekman. Ekman is an expert at facial expression. He has identified the facial expressions that are universal, shared even by primitive people who have never seen civilized people before. His book teaches us how to identify true expressions of anger, surprise, fear, disgust, contempt, and sorrow. Fascinating!

If you've read Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink," you've read several pages about Ekman's work. Ekman is the one who proved that if we make a certain facial expression for a while, we begin to experience the physical sensations (high blood pressure, pounding pulse, etc), that accompany that expression.

But to my point--I was particularly intrigued by Ekman's ideas on disgust. This gets a little--well, disgusting--but it proves something I find fascinating. We are disgusted by things (physical discharges, in particular) that are out of their proper place.

For instance--your mouth contains saliva. So does mine. That realization doesn't freak us out. But spit into a glass of water, then drink it? Ick. No way, even though the saliva was in my mouth only a minute before.

(In college, my pals on the Youth Aflame drama team did this skit where they took turns pretending to wake and do things with a glass of water--brush teeth, spit, squeeze a pimple, etc. And then the last one would drink the water down. I ALWAYS gagged and had to turn away. I simply couldn't watch.)

Spit isn't the only thing that disgusts me. Roaches do, too. And I think it's because if I see one in my house, I'm upset because he's out of his proper place . . . which is ANYWHERE but in my house. Randy Alcorn keeps assuring me that I won't be disgusted by roaches when I see them on the new earth (and maybe even in heaven), because roaches are God's creatures, too . . .

Disgust is signaled by nose wrinkling and a raised upper lip, sometimes with lowered brows. Contempt--usually directed at people, not things--often adds a lip raised in a one-sided smirk.

So . . . next time you see something disgusting in your kids' bathroom sink, glance up at the mirror . . . and you'll see a wrinkled nose, a raised lip, and maybe even lowered brows. Then you can laugh.


P.S. I didn't mention why I was in Mississippi, did I? That's another story . . .:-)

P.S.S. Any requests for book of the month? I'm open . . .

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Not a lot to say, as I'm home again and scurrying to catch up. Watched "The Queen" last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Couln't help but notice that the WSJ did a piece on all the upcoming Diana books coming out this summer in honor of the tenth anniversary of her death.

And I've got to say--in the battle between the Diana and Buckingham Palace, I usually find myself siding with the palace. Diana knew what she was marrying into, she knew about Camilla from the beginning, and she was a master manipulator of the press. The girl had some real problems, but the public didn't see that side of her--though occasionally we were "treated" to transcripts of her cell phone conversations with her lovers.

(Eye rolling here.) In any case, I'm for moving past the sordid mess and getting on with life. Perhaps I tend to side with the Queen because I'm the sort who likes to folllow the rules . . . it's in my nature. And tradition can be a lovely and meaningful thing. In times of stress, it can hold a country together, and the Brits have been examples of courage under fire many times.

On the plane home yesterday, I was reading a book called "Survival of the Prettiest" (research), and I learned/realized that one reason the public loved Diana was because of her beauty. If she'd been plainer, or cared less about her clothes, hair, and makeup, I'll bet my booty that the public hue and cry wouldn't have been nearly as great. Deny it if you will, but research has proven that people forgive beautiful people a lot faster than they do plain folks.

Princess Anne, for instance, has zillions of charities, ditto for Charles, and do they get the publicity Diana got? No.

In any case, beauty--which is often only skin deep--gets forgiven a lot in this life. Don't think it will account for much in the next, though.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wireless Internet in the Air? Bring it on!

If it's Wednesday, I'm flying home today.

My Saturday paper reported that Southwest Airlines is considering selling inflight perks such as on-board wireless internet. Wow! That's great news, but they should make it FREE. Want more customers? Give them free internet.

I think I'm like a growing majority of Americans who don't like to be without internet for even a day. With more and more communication coming through email, if I let my email go unattended for 24 hours, I'm faced with a landslide when I get back to my desk. I receive over 100 emails per day (and that's with most of the spam weeded out), so you can imagine how long it takes to go through a weekend's worth of backlog.

My closest major airport, Tampa International, has free wireless internet all through the facility, and I LOVE it. I've also discovered free wireless internet in Anchorage Alaska's airport . . . and I sure wish other airports would follow their example. Nothing's more irritating to see that wireless is available, but it'll cost me $9.95 to log on for an hour (typically, they promise 24 hours of access, but most people don't sit in the airport for 24 hours--at least, no one wants to.)

And what's up with hotels? I've discovered that lower priced and medium priced hotels offer free wireless internet, but some of the swankiest joints (like the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa), charge you a daily rate. Come on, now. If they're charging a couple of hundred dollars PER NIGHT, don't you think they could include free internet as a perk?

Kudos to Embassy Suites and Hampton Inns, both of whom have had free wireless every time I've stayed there (well . . . since wireless was invented, that is.)

One more thought--on 9/11/2001, when I heard about flight 93 and all the phone calls that were being made from that doomed flight, I kept thinking, "But telephone signals are supposed to interfere with navigation systems, aren't they?" Apparently not. I've heard the same thing about wireless aboard planes, but apparently that's not true, either.

So bring it on, Southwest. But let us have it free, and I'll be the first in those lines you're so proud of.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Story of the Carpet and the Candles

The other day I referred to the fact that we've already had to replace our carpet--well, here's the entire story. Read it and be warned. :-)

About four months after we moved into our new house, I began to notice a faint black line that appeared all along the edges of the carpet--where the carpet met the wall. I didn't know if it was dust or what, and then I moved my sofa (which had been in the middle of the great room) and discovered the black line on the carpet, perfectly outlining the sofa!

I was convinced the air conditioner was throwing off soot. For one thing, the black/gray mess was always most obvious right in front of the air vents in the ceiling.

So I called the builder, who sent over a technician, who checked out the AC units and told me they were perfect. So he called his supervisor, who came to my house, listened to my description of the problem, and then asked a simple question: "Do you burn candles?"

"Just one," I answered. "I burn one scented candle all the time, on account of the dogs."

"That's your problem," he said. "It's candle soot."

I told him that was crazy. For one thing, I always burned the candle in the kitchen and this black stuff was everywhere, even upstairs. He said it didn't matter--the soot particles get caught up in the air conditioning unit, which spews them all over the house through the venting system.

My neighbor, who was an anestheologist, pointed out that we were BREATHING in all the smoke . . . so soot was undoubtedly speckling our lungs.

So I went to the Internet and discovered several web pages about the problem, including this one:

After being horrified by the truth, I went on a soot hunt . . . and found it EVERYWHERE. Soot is attracted to plastic, so I found soot :
in my computer case
on/around every light switch plate
outlining every picture on the wall
in the medicine cabinets (lots there!)
in the refrigerator and freezer
on the carpet in every room

Soot is not easy to clean. It's greasy, so you almost need a degreaser to get it off. I did manage to scrub it off the walls, etc., but the carpet was hopeless. Fortunately, our insurance company (State Farm, God bless 'em), paid for the damage and gave us a check for new carpeting--I replaced the beige with a deep cranberry, not caring if it was in style or out. I wanted dark colors!

That was five years ago, but even today I'll move a picture or a piece of furniture and find traces of soot on the wall behind. I'd always burned candles in my old house, but it was so "open" and breezy that we never noticed any buildup. Newer houses are more tightly constructed, and the soot gets redistributed.

I know some candles say they don't give off soot, but the experience rattled me so deeply that we don't do candles in our house any more. I still keep air fresheners going--I still have my big dogs, you see--but not candles.

And that is the story of the candles and the carpet. :-)


Monday, April 23, 2007

Miss America Going Strong at 82

I don't know which side of the gun debate you're on, but I tend to fall on the side of an American's right to bear arms. If we outlaw guns, it's the law-abiding citizens who won't be able to get them. In fact, I just read that according to current federal law, the gunman at VA Tech shouldn't have been able to buy a gun, but the state had not properly informed the gun dealer who sold them.

But I digress--gun control is not the point of my blog today. I want to talk about Venus Ramey, age 82, who was Miss America 1944. According to the Associated Press, Ms. Ramey confronted a man on her Kentucky farm last week after she saw her dog run into a storage building where thieves had previously stolen farm equipment. Ms. Ramey, using a walker, followed her dog out to the storage unit and found a man, who took off for his car.

She told him to stop; he said he was going. She said, "Oh, no, you won't." Ms. Ramey, balancing on her walker, pulled out a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun and shot out the man's tires, then flagged down a passing motorist, who called 911.

And they said beauty and brains don't mix. Kudos to Venus Ramey, who is fascinating in many ways. Here's her bio from the Miss America website:

With a relative who fought in the Revolutionary War, a Grandfather who was a Kentucky State Senator and a father who was a Kentucky State Representative in 1934, it seemed destined that Venus Ramey would develop a passion for public service within the United States political system. In fact, she began this interest at a young age as a page in the Kentucky House or Representatives.

After leaving her home in Kentucky to work for the war effort in the nation's capital, she entered and won the Miss Washington D. C. title. With her dancing, singing, and comedic talents she became the first redheaded Miss America in 1944. Venus was also the first Miss America to be photographed in color.

Being encouraged into show business because of her new fame, Venus performed in vaudeville included in her pageant duties, but made sure she sold war bonds all along the way across the country. Her war efforts in this area resulted in a Special Citation from the United States Treasury Department.

In her honor her picture was adorned on a B-17 fighter plane, which made 68 sorties over war-torn Germany and never lost a man. The story made the Associated Press.

During her tenure, she also worked with Senator Kaper of Kansas and Congressman Somner of Missouri on publishing their bills to get suffrage for Washington D.C. in 1945. For the first time, the District was able to vote. The bill was passed in both houses and signed by the president.

Legendary Hollywood producer Milton Sperling of Warner Brothers Studio sought to sign Venus for a major Hollywood film in 1947, but disgusted with show business, she returned home to her Kentucky tobacco farm (which she has maintained for over fifty years). Venus married, and began raising her two sons.

With Kentucky educational issues and a burning desire to see the word "illegitimate" eradicated from the birth certificates of innocent children among two of her issues, Venus ran for a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Thus making Venus the first Miss America to run for public office. Later, she hosted her own radio show and published her own political newspaper.

In the 1970s, Venus received an Ohio real estate license to save a Cincinnati District called Over-The-Rhine, a four square mile area full of 19th Century Germanic and Italianade buildings. Her valiant efforts resulted in a full-page story in the Cincinnati Post, and subsequently led to a bid for a seat on the Cincinnati City Council.

She lost the election, but won the war. Over-The-Rhine was eventually listed on the U.S. Registry of Historic Places, the largest group of buildings on their list in the U.S. A poster "Venus Ramey for Council" still proudly hangs on the wall of Cincinnati's famous Stadium Club to this day.


Saturday, April 21, 2007


Know what nice thing happened on my Friday the 13th? The hubster brought me roses, classical piano CDs, and bubble gum balls, in celebration of my finishing my book. No, he doesn't always do that. Chalk it up to Friday the 13th.

Okay, I thought this was interesting. And I'm going to save this info, because since we built our house in 2002, I know the "birthdate" of all my appliances/household fixtures. I'll watch to see how many of them live a long and useful lifespan.

How long will it last?

6 years: trash compactor (eek! mine only has one year left!)
8-10 years: carpet (I've already replaced it, due to daily candle burning. Long story.)
10 years: clothes washer
11 years: freezer, electric water heater
12 years: disposal
13 years: refrigerator, clothes dryer, electric range
14 years: range hood
10-15 years: air conditioner, garage door opener
15 years: gas range, kitchen faucets
15-25 years: laminate floors
20 years: medicine cabinet, tub/shower faucets
20-50 years: whirlpool tub
20+ years: tankless water heater (don't have one of these, but when my electric model goes, I'm signing on.)
50 years: kitchen cabinets, vinyl floors (that's a scary thought)
75-100 years: tile floors
Lifetime: wood floors

I find it a little hard to believe that my wood floors (which have doggie nail scratches on them) will outlive me, but I don't suppose looking good and surviving are the same thing.

And 20 years for a medicine cabinet? What's to wear out? On its 21st birthday, does it shrivel up and drop off the wall?

Too bad that so many things will undoubtedly be out of style before they die . . . colors of tile floors, for instance. But I've personally beheld the tile floors from King Herod's bathtub at Masada, so I can vouch for their long lifespan.

So, there you have it, courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders. And if the thought of Pergo flooring sticking around for more years than your child will be in school doesn't paralyze you, I don't know what will.

BTW--thank you for your honest comments on the post about whether or not you'd drive someoneto an abortion clinic. I appreciate your transparency.

And yes, Kay, I'm taking a vacation in May. Hubby and I are taking a cruise that will take us to London, France, and Spain . . . in a busy seven days. But I'll be researching while I'm there. :-)


Friday, April 20, 2007


(Photo artist: David Meanix)

I've spent the week reading books and trying to get a grip on the next novel . . . a work I'm tentatively calling THE FACE, though I'm not at all wild about that title. It'll probably change.

I have the germ of an idea, of course, and I'm excited about it, but how best to tell the story?

One of the first things I do when beginning a project is pull out the book 20 MASTER PLOTS by Ronald Tobias. He has boiled most possible plots down to twenty, and a quick flip through the book usually helps me solidify my thinking. I know my plot when I see it, and Tobias is really good at differing between action plots or character plots.

In any case, I knew at once that THE FACE will be a "transformation" plot--a plot about the change in a character. THE AWAKENING was a transformation plot. What Aurora did in the story wasn't nearly as important as the way she changed over the course of the novel.

So--I have my transformation plot guidelines, I have a good idea of what's going to happen, and I have a LOT of reading to do. Oh, yes, and I did my plot skeleton. :-) But I'll be working on that all the way through the writing.

So--what's THE FACE about? Two seminal ideas: one, face transplants. Two, the fact that making a facial expression actually causes you to feel the expressed emotion.

I find those two keys fascinating. :-)


Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Act of Writing . . .

One of the reasons I enjoy writing is that it forces me to think and evaluate. In fact, there's a saying painted on the wall of my office: "The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe." It's so true.

I basically write two kinds of stories: one, in which a Christian character is challenged to live out his/her faith in the world (THE DEBT, THE PEARL), and two, a story in which an unbelieving character becomes aware of God's presence in the world (THE AWAKENING, THE ELEVATOR, UNCHARTED).

The Fairlawn books are the first type, and Jen, my protagonist, is encountering some sticky situations. She's discovered a long-lost half-sister and resolved to help this girl. The girl's husband is fighting in Iraq, and she discovers she's pregnant. So far, so good.

But then the sister discovers that the baby has hydrocephalus, and the doctor suggests that she might want to terminate the pregnancy. The sister has "gone to church" her entire life, but she doesn't know the Lord the same way Jen does. And Jen feels strongly that abortion is wrong. But the sister feels that an abortion would save the baby tremendous suffering.

So . . . when the sister asks Jen to drive her to the abortion clinic, how does Jen respond?

I have already decided what will happen in the story (in fact, the book's practically finished), but I've been tossing the question out to friends over the last few days. And I've received all kinds of answers.

So . . . if you were Jen, what would you do?

P.S. I pre-wrote this blog--and I think it's providential that it's being posted right after the Supreme Court upheld the ban on partial birth abortion.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Anti-Migraine Diet

You may recall that I moan about my migraines from time to time. In March, I finally decided that I'd had enough--I had more than 20 days with migraines, and though they weren't all off the knock-me-off-my-feet variety, they were enough to slow me down . . . and on deadline, I don't like being slowed down.

So I went to the neurologist, who gave me two approaches: drugs and diet. Of the drugs, basically two avenues were open: the beta blocker (possible side effects: sleepiness, weight gain) or the anti-convulsant (possible side effects: weight loss and mental fog resulting in "word loss." Oh, and hair loss.)

Obviously, I went with the drug that could make me gain weight. The weight loss possibility was appealing, but not at the cost of my words. I lose enough words through age attrition.

Next: diet. The doc advised me to cut out the following, because all have been proven to be migraine triggers in some people:

foods high in sugar content (Ack! I have a sweet tooth!)
chocolate (Ack! I'm female!)
nuts (Ack! I LOVE pecans!)
pizza (Eeek! I'm married to a youth pastor!)
cheeses (Eeek! the pizza!)
citrus fruits (Egads! I live in Florida!)
Cola beverages (Groan! I'm a Diet Coke addict)
Caffeine (Man! My diet coke!)
Artificial sweeteners (Ack again! My Diet Coke!)
onions (well, who eats those?)
herring (right, like those are a staple)
avacado (the mere sight of one makes me queasy)
and any foods with MSG (which I think is everything in the packaged foods section of the grocery store.)

I can't say I've been 100 percent faithful, but I have carefully weaned myself down to one diet coke per day. I drink it at breakfast, since I've never liked coffee.

And the headaches? None yet in April, but my brain may be on vacation. Stay tuned . . .

Do you have migraines? Do you eat any of those above foods (and get away with it?)


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Porn for Women

Okay, don't faint on me. I read a review of "Porn for Women" in People Magazine, and I think it's one of the funniest, most apt books I've ever seen.

Too bad the title will make people cringe (and with good reason).

"Porn for Women" is about what women dream of in men . . . and the cover shows a man vacuuming. LOL! I love it.

The review I read featured a couple of other pages, too. In one double-page spread, a man is holding out a plate with a slice of cake on it. The caption? "Eat this. I don't like to see you looking so thin."

On another page, a man has crossed his arms and has an intent look on his face. I'm paraphrasing, but the caption is something like: "Really? That's fascinating. Tell me all about it."

So . . . if you have an open-minded gal pal, keep this book in mind. My copy hasn't arrived yet, so I'll let you know if it lives up to its tantalizing promise!


Monday, April 16, 2007

Now that's a big hoax!

Because I love big dogs, people send me big dog photos. I recently received the above photo (with horse) and this blurb:

Hercules: The World's Biggest Dog Ever According to Guinness World Records. Hercules was recently awarded the honorable distinction of World's Biggest Dog by Guinness World Records. Hercules is an English Mastiff who has a 38-inch neck and weighs 282 pounds.

With "paws the size of softballs" (reports the Boston Herald), the
three-year-old monster is far larger and heavier than his breed's standard 200lb. limit. Hercules' owner Mr. Flynn says that Hercules weight is natural and not induced by a bizarre diet: "I fed him normal food and he just "grew"...and grew...and grew...and grew.


Hubby and I had a good laugh over this one. First, we've met the real Hercules, and that gray Neopolitan mastiff with the horse ain't him. Hercules is/was an English Mastiff, and when we met him, our dog, Justus (in the unretouched photo with the boy), was heavier. Plus, this was back in 2001, and Hercules was at least four years old then.

We met Hercules when we were invited to take Justus to be on "Live with Regis and Kelli." Gelman decided we'd have a "weigh off" on this giant teeter-totter contraption. Hercules, who had been on a diet, weighed less than Justus, but this mastiff from New Jersey named Moose, outweighed Jussy. (Moose definitely needed a diet, though.)

I'd bet my booties that the Neo photo is a hoax . . . someone got clever with Photoshop. Justus (with my then sixteen-year-old son) was 275 pounds, and a mastiff who weighs 300 has a major weight problem.

But it sure makes for a startling picture!


Sunday, April 15, 2007

A moment of silence, please . . .

. . . for Edward Charon, whose obit in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye. Mr. Charon died April 8 at age 71 in Oregon and was minister of an independent church he founded.

Why would the WSJ report on Mr. Charon? Because, in the words of the headline, "He Ripped Phone Books for a Higher Purpose."

"To demonstrate to his church congregation and to prison audiences the seemingly miraculous willpower it takes to overcome addictions, minister Ed Charon became a world record-setting telephone book ripper."

After watching someone else rip a phone book in 1992, Mr. Charon practiced at home until he perfected the techniques. He set his first mark in 1992--at age 57, he ripped 19 directories in the three minutes that the Guinness World Record rules require.

As recently as last September, he demolished 56 Portland, Oregon directories. Then he retired.

Wonder if he'll be ripping phone books in heaven? Probably on the new earth, then. :-)


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Back-Handed Compliments

Or maybe what I want to talk about are back-handed insults. Or is a back-handed compliment really a back-handed insult? I'm confused.

Anyway, this morning as I was drying my hair I started to chuckle, thinking about what a woman at a conference once told me: "Your hair matches your fur collar perfectly!"

I think she meant it as a compliment, but considering that I was wearing a jacket with an orangey and obviously fake fur collar, now I'm not so sure.

How many times have you received compliments that later made you go, "hmmm"?

Years ago, back when perms were popular, I got one. I had to go to church, and even had to sing with a just-permed hairdo. One of my girlfriends, undoubtedly hoping to console me, said, "Oh, yes, I remember those days. Of course, I wouldn't go out of the house with my hair looking like that."

Another time I was talking to a girlfriend who went to a different church. I had gone to her church and spoken at their first ever Mother's Day event--an event my girlfriend had missed because she was out of town.

"Well," I said, trying to be encouraging, "I think they had 200 women show up at the Mother-Daughter tea."

"Oh," she said, rolling her eyes, "you know, those core folks will come out to hear just anybody."

What was the most perplexing compliment you've ever received?


Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th

I have always LOVED Fridays the 13ths. They've always been special and something wonderful (or significant) never fails to happen. I often get an unexpected paycheck, or a nice reader letter, or some affirming something or other on Fridays the 13th.

And the 13ths in general are special. For instance--

I got married on a 13th.
We decided to adopt kids on the 13th.
My son came home on the 13th (from Korea).
And I just handed in my book on the 13th.

And, BTW, I changed the first paragraph because of your feedback. And I knew it wasn't the best first sentence. It was okay, but I had a much better one at the start of chapter 26 (I never knew Levina Gifford, but she had the smoothest skin I've ever felt on a dead woman). Trouble was, I couldn't move Levina into chapter one.

So I sat and thought and thought and thought some more. I thought about starting at a different place, but incorporating unnecessary material simply for the sake of one sentence seemed like overkill. And backstory was out. So then I thought about the book's theme and hit the jackpot.

So here's the new beginning:

The nameless cadaver on the cover of my anatomy textbook—a middle-aged man who is no longer black, white, or brown—would be counted among the orange in a census of the embalmed.

Someone should have adjusted the tint before they juiced him.

I flip the book open and study the color photographs of the cadaver’s aortic arch and brachiocephalic veins, then close my eyes and try to commit the multi-syllable words to memory. Here I am, near the end of my first semester of mortuary school, and I’m still having trouble keeping my veins and arteries straight.

And that's it. New beginning, book gone, desk cleared. Now, onto the next project, but after a nice Sabbath rest tomorrow.


Do you like trees?

I love trees--the forest, in fact, was one of the loveliest things about Mt. Hermon. To check out some of the world's most amazing trees, be sure to click on the above link.

I think I have just finished my WIP, SHE ALWAYS WORE RED. I sat here today, polished the ending (which didn't get solidified until the third draft), and kept checking my skeleton. The bones fit.

Then I went over my "to do list"--check my notes in my notebook, on all the scraps of paper littering my desk, changing my double hyphens to proper em dashes, checking the emotions (I tend to short change 'em), and making sure I got rid of all the weasel words I'd capped.

And then it hit me--only four o'clock, and I think I'm finished. I wrote my editor and told her to expect the ms. tomorrow--I'm still going to print out a copy and sleep on it.

Right now I can't think of a single way to improve it, but I'm sure there are dozens. My brain, however, cannot hold another revision thought, so it's time to move on.

How do you know when the time comes? You just do. And you pray you never hand a book in unless that point comes.

BTW, I ran a spell check and got all those lovely statistics--this 110,791 word manuscript was only one percent passive, with 11.5 words per sentence, and a reading level of grade 4.6. LOL! And that was with quite a few medical terms!

But boy, it feels good to be done (at least, until I get my revision letter). Because there's another book or three waiting to be written . . .


Thursday, April 12, 2007

First Chapter

I suddenly realized that if I want feedback on the WIP's first chapter, I'd better toss it out QUICK! So here it is . . . . and what do you think? Would you keep reading?


Chapter One

The aortic arch, I’ve convinced myself, resembles the squealing monster that exploded out of a man’s chest in the first Alien movie. The brachiocephalic veins look more like an upside down cypress tree.

I grimace at the color photograph in my anatomy textbook, then close my eyes and try to commit the multi-syllable words to memory. Here I am, near the end of my first semester of mortuary school, and I’m still having trouble keeping my veins and arteries straight.
Behind me, an irate mother in the carpool line is honking, though we have a good three minutes before kindergarten dismissal. She probably has to pick up her child and get back to work before the end of her lunch hour. While I sympathize with her impatience, I wish she’d lay off the horn so I can concentrate.

I open one eye and peer at the book propped on my steering wheel. The right internal jugular branches off the right and left brachiocephalic veins, which lie outside the brachiocephalic trunk. Bra-chio-ceph-alic . . . sounds like some kind of dinosaur. Bugs would like that word.
I turn the book sideways, but the photograph on the page looks nothing like a prehistoric animal. I find it hard to believe, in fact, that anything like this jumble of tunnels and tubes exists in my body, but skin covers myriad mysteries . . .

I snap the book shut as the bell at Round Lake Elementary trills through the warm morning. The kindergarten classes troop out into the sunshine, their hands filled with lunch boxes and construction paper cutouts. The tired teachers stride to the curb and peer into various vehicles, then motion the appropriate children forward.

My spirits lift when my red-haired cherub catches my eye and waves. My son, Bradley “Bugs” Graham, waits until his teacher calls his name, then he skips toward me.

“Hey, Mom.” He climbs into the back seat of the van as his teacher holds the door.

“Hey yourself, kiddo.” I check to make sure he’s snapped his seatbelt, then smile my thanks at his teacher. “Did you have a good morning?”

“Yep.” He leans forward to peek into the front seat. “Do we hafta go home, or can we stop to get a snack?”

My thoughts veer toward the to-do list riding shotgun in the front passenger seat. I still have to run to the grocery store, swing by the dry cleaner’s to pick up Gerald’s suit, and stop to see if the bookstore has found a used copy of Introduction to Infectious Diseases, Second Edition. Textbooks are usually pricey, but medical textbooks ought to come with fixed-rate mortgages. Still, I need to find that book if I’m going to complete my online course by the end of the semester.

“I’ll pull into a drive-through,” I tell Bugs, knowing he won’t mind. “You want McDonalds?”
He nods, so I point the car toward Highway 441.

“Mr. Gerald make any pickups today?” Bugs asks.

I ease onto the highway, amazed at how easily my children have accepted the ongoing work of the funeral home. “None today.”

“See this?”

I glance in the rear view mirror and see Bugs waving his construction paper creation. “Yes.”

“It’s a stegosaurus. Can I give it to Gerald?”

“I think he’d like that.”

I force a smile as an unexpected wave of grief rises within me. Like a troublesome relative who doesn’t realize she’s worn out her welcome, sorrow often catches me by surprise. Gerald, the elderly embalmer at Fairlawn, has become a surrogate father for my sons. Thomas, my ex-husband and my children’s father, has been gone for three months, but in some ways he’s never been closer. He lies in the Pine Forest Cemetery, less than a mile from our house, so we can’t help but think of him every time we drive by.

I get Bugs a vanilla ice cream cone at the McDonald’s drive-through, then we run to the grocery and the dry cleaner. I’ll call the book store later; no sense in going downtown when a simple phone call will suffice.

Finally we turn into the long driveway that leads to the Fairlawn Funeral home, where we’ve lived for the past five months. Gerald has poured a new concrete pad next to the garage, and as I park on it, Bugs notices that the call car is gone.

“Uh oh.” He looks at me. “Somebody bit the dust.”

I press my lips together. A couple of months ago I would have mumbled something about the old station wagon needing a wash, but now I know there’s no reason to shield my children from the truth—we are in the death care industry. The squeamishness I felt when we first arrived vanished the day I walked into the prep room and gloved up to help Gerald lay out my ex-husband.

“Come on in the house,” I tell my son. “I’ll pour you a glass of milk.”

The Truman Show Comes to Life!

If you have a few moments to kill, check out . (Get it? Just-in TV?)

Anyway, this young guy, Justin, has promised to wear a live camera until he dies. He's supposed to wear it even when eating, sleeping, and performing various other personal hygiene functions. (Not to wish the guy ill, but if he wore it while having major surgery or something . . . now that'd be great TV!)

Anyway, I'm not sure how this team of Justin's guys is supposed to get rich off this experiment. I watched about five minutes the other day and decided that Justin leads a fairly boring life. But if I wore a camera 24/7, people would definitely say the same thing about me, so who am I to judge?

It is interesting to consider, however--if you KNEW the world was watching over your shoulder (poor Truman didn't know), would that realization modify your behavior? In what ways? Hmmm . . .


HT to Brad Do-Dah for the lead on Justin.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Typewriter Jewelry

I love this! At Mt. Hermon, fellow novelist and gal pal DiAnn Mills showed me her bracelet, made of antique typewriter keys. I loved it so much I bookmarked the web site and came home to order my own. It arrived today--the "wordsmith" bracelet pictured at right. I love it because I learned to type on a manual typewriter (translation for you younger people: a typewriter that doesn't plug into anything!)

DiAnn had her bracelet custom-made (and I won't tell you what hers said so she'll have a fighting chance of remaining unique), and I'm thinking of having one made for my agent. But shhhh! Don't tell her!

If you like the unique, check out the typewriter key jewelry at . Enjoy!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kudos to this Father

A respectful tip of the hat to John Holley, who has changed things for the better. When told that his son's body would be returned from Iraq in the most "expeditious" way (meaning in the cargo hold of a commercial airliner), John Holly wrote to his congressman.

An honor guard from son Matthew Holley's unit at Ft. Campbell, KY, was on hand in San Diego for the arrival of the body. Persuaded by Duncan Hunter, a Republican Congressman from California, Congress passed a law that requires the remains of miltary service personnel to be flown on a military or military-contracted aircraft with an escort and an honor guard. Commercial airliners are now used only if requested by families, or in cases where the remains are sent outside the United States.

Now, says Pentagon spokesman Maj. Stewart Upton, "regardless of what the reality was, there was a perception there that the proper respect was not being provided to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. That is no longer a question."

I am grateful for this new law, but I remember a story that assures me that respect was being accorded before the change. To refresh your memory of the story, visit this link:

One more thing before I sign off--I'm typing this on Monday night, and about to go put on the coffee for my book club. But already I foresee a problem. We read a literary book this month, and I've already heard from at least three women who couldn't get through it. Sigh. I found it slow in the beginning, gripping in the middle, and weak at the end. And no, I'm not going to tell you what book it was, because I have resolved never to diss authors in public. (I feel their pain.)

So . . . I'd better make that coffee STRONG.

DANA--what cool news about your church. Hubby and I were thrilled to read of your Easter service.


Monday, April 09, 2007

A moment of silence, please . . .

. . . for Johnny Hart, whose comic strip "B.C." and "The Wizard of Id" (with Brandt Parker) often displayed his Christian faith in profound and original ways.

"He had a stroke," his wife told the Associated Press. "He died at his storyboard."

All in all, not a bad way to go. He will be missed.

Johnny Hart died Saturday at his home in New York. He was 76 . . . and still working.


Pranks for the Memories

This is my last week to work on the WIP, so I've pre-written a week's worth of blogs. I'm pressing forward in a wicked rush to meet my deadline!

But now, to our daily topic:

Did you play an April Fools Joke on anyone? I did, at Mt. Hermon, though it was inadvertent. (And I won't explain what it was because I plan on doing it again.)

Anyway, my newspaper had a great list of famous (or infamous) hoaxes perpetuated on the public. It was too good not to share.

1. 2002: The "Bonsai Kittens" urban myth that went 'round the internet. Did you receive a copy of these kittens-in-bottles that were supposedly being grown under glass to force their bones to conform to certain dimensions? I did, and after my initial shock, I thought the joke was kind of funny. (Not that I'd ever advocate tormenting kittens, but the idea of them submitting to that kind of behavior. If you've ever tried to bathe a cat, you know what I mean.)

2. 1722: A young Ben Franklin writes a series of newspaper columns signed "Silence Dogwood," who claims to be an elderly woman.

3. 1835: P.T. Barnum displays Joice Heth, an elderly black woman he says is 161 years old and George Washington's former nurse.

4. 1869: The Cardiff Giant, a ten-foot-tall figure of stone, is dug out of the ground in Cardiff, NY. People go nuts debating whether it's a statue or a petrified man. It's a phony.

5. 1938: Orson Wells and his "War of the Worlds" theater broadcast. Thousands of people really believe the world has been invaded by Martians.

6. 1957: The BBC airs a documentary on the Swiss spaghetti harvest, showing spaghetti growing on trees, on April Fools Day.

7. 2007: The Big Foot's missing foot found in the dumpster. Remember this one? Not exactly a hoax, but interesting all the same. (Look through the archives if you need reminding.)

8. Today and tomorrow: all those emails assuring you that you can help a poor Nigerian princess claim her ten million dollar estate if you'll wire her a few funds . . . don't fall for that one. Please.

So . . . did you commit an April Fool's Joke? Care to share?


P.S. Happy Birthday to my darling daughter!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Lord is Risen Indeed!

Once upon a mountaintop, three trees dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

"I want to hold treasure," the first tree said. "I will be the most beautiful treasure chest in the whole world."

"I want to be a strong sailing ship," the second tree said. "I will be the strongest ship in the world."

"I don't want to leave this mountaintop at all," the third tree said. "I want to grow so tall that when people look at me they will raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world."

One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. With a swoop of the first man's axe, the first tree fell.
With a swish of the second man's axe, the second tree fell.
With a slash of the third man's axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought him to a carpenter's shop, but the busy carpenter was not thinking about treasure chests. Instead his work-worn hands fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals.

The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took him to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ships were being built that day. Instead the once strong tree was made into a simple fishing boat.

The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" the once-tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted to do was point to God."

Many, many days and night passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.

But one night golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. When a storm arose, the second tree shuddered. But when the traveler stretched out his hand and said, "Peace," the storm stopped. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the woodpile. She shivered when she was dragged through an angry crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew God's love had changed everything. It had made the first tree beautiful. It had made the second tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.


(c) Copyright 1989, Angela E. Hunt. Do not reproduce without permission from the publisher.
The Tale of Three Trees board book edition.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

BOM: Questions and Answers

Deborah asked:

Since such a big deal was made about Cahira and her descendants having to disguise themselves as guys, did you ever intend on Kathleen having to do it herself?

I thought about it, but it was really hard to come up with a "role" that is denied to women in the twenty-first century. Plus, Kathleen seemed destined to be the historian who discovered her true self by reading about her ancestors. Because she learned about them, she was free to embrace the role of womanhood she discovered in Ireland.

Kristine asked:
You mentioned that you worked with a freelance editor on one of these books. Do you often work with freelancers? Do a lot of the publishers you work with hire them? Just curious since that is what I want to get into!

Most of my publishers have an acquisitions editor on staff and then they often hire a freelancer to do the substantive and line editing. All depends upon the house, but yes, I have worked with several excellent freelance editors. Once you find an editor with whom you "click," you like to hang onto them!

Kerry wrote: I have been teaching my students the need for revising, re-reading, and editing. Last week I looked like the man in the comic as I graded descriptive essays. I can agree that editing is subjective, and I try to tell my students that they can change what I've suggested (in content only), or create a new sentence on their own. Angie, do you have any writing suggestions for my students? They are 9th and 10th graders.

Wow. I can (and do) teach hours and hours on the subject of good writing, so it's hard to condense it down to something pithy. But I can pass on this: 1) Tell your students they can pay themselves a quarter for every word they can cut, 2) avoid adverbs whenever possible, and 3) avoid "was" and "were" whenever possible. Use active verbs!

Rachel asked: Do you find your research by going to the library, or online? Do you buy books? Do you travel to larger libraries?

These days I buy books. Tons of them. I do a lot of "trivial" research online, but I don't put complete faith in online resources because they are far from dependable. I enjoy traveling to locations when possible, and I do interviews when appropriate. (Hard to interview dead people, though.)

Dana wrote: Did you "have" to travel to Prague to research this series? Hmmm... tough author's life...

LOL. That would have been a nice trip, but I did all my research on Hus via books. :-) The less-exciting way.

Thanks for coming along on another BOM adventure!


Friday, April 06, 2007

BOM: Results and Reader Reaction

Photo: the original cover.

I have a friend who tells me his teenage daughter learned how to be independent through reading my "spunky woman" books. I don't know if that's true, but I do think this is one of my favorite comments on Amazon:

The lessons taught through each of the female characters in this series combine to reveal a most beautiful creation in the Lord--woman. Spiritual strength, creative joy, raw courage, responsibility, commitment, obedience, ingenuity, compassionate wisdom, all with a sense of humor. I loved the way this series ended! As always, there was wonderful spiritual counsel and wisdom all the way through this novel and the entire series.

am not a strident feminist, but I do believe we women have incredible strengths and gifts. God has given us powers--particularly the power of influence--and we must know how to use them wisely. My Cahira girls don't abandon the role of womanhood because they dislike being women; they do it because circumstances force them to be creative and clever. And they are . . . no doormats here! But all of them find their place in partnership with a godly man (yes, these books have romance!), and all of them find their worth in the Lord.

Tomorrow: any questions? Leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

BOM: The Editing

I have only one real clear memory of the editing--and it's a story I often tell to illustrate a point.

I had two editors on the last book, The Emerald Isle. As acquisitions editor, Lisa read it. As the substantive freelance editor, Rick read it. There are two stories in the book.

Can you see where this is leading? Yep--Rick preferred one story and Lisa preferred the other one!

From that I learned that 1) men and women have different tastes and 2) editing is often subjective. :-)

Tomorrow: The results and reader reaction. Feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comments and I'll answer them at the end of the week.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

BOM: The Writing

Sorry to say that the writing is truly all a blur (this is what happens as I age). I wrote them. I rewrote them. And rewrote them.And hoped and prayed that someone else would enjoy them as much as I did.

Anika O'Connor of Prague is clothed in armor and carries a sword, as one of the knights of Chlum. Her disguise protects her from the lecherous son of Lord Laco, who would never think to search for her among the men at arms. Prague is on fire with religious reform, and Anika joins the struggle for religious freedom that cost her father his life. When Lord John of Chlum learns of Anika's deception, he agrees to allow her to continue as a knight until a time of his choosing. Then she must don the garb of the woman she is. Can Anika give up the life she has come to cherish? And will the love in her heart be returned by the Master of Chlum?

Aidan O'Connor
was raised among pickpockets and prostitutes in a Dutch colony on Java, Indonesia. But when a world-famous cartographer discovers her natural artistic talent, she is given a chance to leave her troubled life behind. Disguised as a boy, Aidan joins her benefactor at sea and begins the work of drawing the flora and fauna of the new world. This fresh beginning holds far more than adventure, however. It also holds a great love. But can this love survive the force of Aidan's past...and her ambitions for her future?

When Flanna O'Connor, a young medical student in Boston, is cut off from her family in Charleston at the start of the Civil War, she decides to disguise herself and move south with the Union Army. While in disguise, she must prove herself as a soldier and a doctor, both to her messmates and to Major Alden Haynes, brother to the man she has tentatively agreed to marry. But when Flanna and Alden are trapped between two armies, can Flanna trust God with her future?and with the love she has sought all her life?

This book- The Emerald Isle- is indeed my favorite book above all three of the preceding books in The Heirs of Cahira Series. After Kathleen O'Connor has faithfully recorded the lives of three previous O'Connors, each who left traditional roles to follow the paths God ordained for each of them- each two hundred years apart, Kathleen herself must fulfill her own destiny. Her good friend, Taylor Morgan is now engaged, and is dragging Kathleen off to Ireland for the wedding. There, Kathleen finally grows into the role to which God has called her, though kicking and screaming. Entwined with Kathleen's story is the story of the first O'Connor- Cahira, whose story is much better than Romeo and Juliet! I never enjoyed a book so much in my entire life! --Ruth Clementson, Amazon reviewer.

Tomorrow: the editing

If this is Wednesday, I'm traveling all day to get home from Mt. Hermon. Great week with great folks. And I'm ready to be home.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

BOM: The Research

ALL four of these books required a lot of research--fortunately, I like research.

For The Silver Sword, of course I had to find out everything I could about life in pre-printing press days, Bohemia, Jon Huss, and the conflict in the Catholic church. Fortunately, I had already done a lot of research on medieval times, so I knew about lifestyle, clothing, housing, etc. I was fortunate because many manuscripts still exist from that period. In fact, the scenes of Hus's trial and martyrdom are taken directly from transcripts.

For The Golden Cross, I had to learn about sailing, art, and the Dutch settlers. I still can't draw stick men, but it was fun learning about the artistic process.

The Velvet Shadow nearly overwhelmed me with research only because there is SO much material available. Entire thick volumes have been written about individual battles and generals! So I concentrated on the battles that involve Flanna, my protagonist, and did quite a bit of research on the women who went to war in real life.

And for the final book, The Emerald Isle, I went to Ireland in search of a plot. I knew Cahira's story would be easy because all I had to do was insert her into the history of the 1200s--the Irish kings were frequently at war with one another. But Kathleen? What jobs are denied to a twenty-first century woman? How could I make her fit into the scheme her ancestors had created? Fortunately, while staying on the Finn Family farm, I figured it out.

Lovely land, that. I could live there.


Monday, April 02, 2007

BOM: The Heirs of Cahira O'Connor

How did the ideas germinate?

Since I'm covering an entire series, I have to talk about four separate ideas.

The idea for the first book, THE SILVER SWORD, came from my discussion with Lisa (see yesterday's post). As I began to search for a likely place and time to create a female knight, I ran across the story of Jon Huss--a story I'd never heard. I became enthralled with the story of Jon's struggle to stand up for "faith alone" and I was horrified by the story of his martyrdom. That settled it for me--Jon Huss it was. Thus the story was set in Bohemia.

THE GOLDEN CROSS involves another area I wanted to explore--art. I thought it might be fun to have a woman on one of the great ocean voyages of exploration, but most of the major land masses had been explored by the 1600s. :-) So I learned about Abel Tasman, who discovered, naturally, Tasmania. That immediately set my story in Tasman's home country. How do art and sailing mix? Easy. Pre-photography, artists drew pictures of the flora and fauna in discovered lands. So my girl in boy's clothing is hired to come on the voyage and sketch.

THE VELVET SHADOW is one of my favorite books, period. Partly because I'm fascinated by the civil war and partly because it is probably the most based on truth. More than 400 women really did cut off their hair, put on men's clothing, and march off to war with their husbands, brothers, and lovers. I love medicine, so I made my heroine, Flanna, a medical student in Boston (there were no medical colleges for women in the south at that time.) When war breaks out, she needs to get home, and the only people moving south are in the army. So she joins up.

Finally, THE EMERALD ISLE is really two stories in one: the story of Kathleen, the modern researcher who is compiling the stories of Cahira's heirs, and the story of Cahira herself. Kathleen goes to Ireland to do research, and becomes involved with an Irish family . . . and discovers her own destiny as an heir of Cahira O'Connor.

Tomorrow: the research

Having a wonderful time at Mt. Hermon, BTW. Having a wonderful time teaching, as well as being with old friends and meeting new ones.