Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Sweater That Doesn't Fit . . . Anyone

The other day I was in TJ Maxx--one of my favorite stores. On the clearance rack (one of my favorite places), I saw a Dana Buchman sweater that looked soft enough to hug. It was light blue, fuzzy and warm-looking, and perfectly designed--one of those short-sleeved tops that should just graze the top of your jeans. Size large, so it should be comfortable. Best of all, it was only $11.00. Retail was way over $100.

So I plucked that sweater off the rack and dropped it into my shopping cart without a second thought. Eleven dollars isn't nothing, but it's not much for a Dana Buchman sweater.

Fast forward a few days. I'm in Colorado Springs with my pal Nancy Rue, who's smaller than I am and also loves T.J. Maxx. I'm trying on the lovely little Dana Buchman sweater, and I find that I can't wear it. Apparently it wasn't designed for women with breasts.

I'm not saying that my pal doesn't have all the usual female features, but she's definitely more petite than I am. So I gave her the blue sweater and explained all its worthy attributes: designer, bargain, soft, cuddly, luscious shade of blue. "Take it," I tell Nancy. "It'll probably look great on you."

Fast forward a half hour. Nancy comes out of the bathroom and returns the sweater. "It doesn't work," she says. "It just doesn't fit."

I look at the lovely, useless thing on the bed. "Do you know anyone who can wear it?"

Nancy thinks of her grown daughter, who's tall and willowy. So she agrees to take the sweater back to Tennessee to see if her daughter would like to wear it.

Fast forward another couple of months. Nancy and I are meeting at Colorado Springs for "Nangie" at the Colorado Christian writer's conference. While we're unpacking in our hotel room, she looks up and laughs. "About that sweater," she says, "we gave it to everybody. Marijean couldn't wear it, so she gave it to a friend, but she couldn't wear it, either. That sweater's been passed around to more women . . ."

Then Nancy grows thoughtful and says, "You know, it's a metaphor, isn't it? It's like everybody's telling us we have to wear a certain kind of sweater, but none of us really look good in it."

One of Nancy's personal passionate themes is "personal authenticity"--most writers have a cadence they like to play in their work, and Nancy is big on finding your authentic self. We joked about doing a story on the "tale of the traveling sweater," but she'll do more with it than I could.

But still the image of that lovely, stupid sweater lingers with me. How many times have I tried to be something or someone that God never intended me to be? How many times have I settled for a "designer label" when it's better to be an original? How often am I dazzled by the word "bargain" and tricked into trading my treasures for useless trinkets?

I wish I had a photo of that sweater. It's so pretty, you'd want to reach out and run your hand over it. But trust me--that pretty little thing binds worse than a corset. Just like all the false molds and models we pour ourselves into.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In Your Deepest Heart, How Old Are You?

Hello! You may have noticed that 1) I'm running some reruns on this blog until the BOM and 2) my internet access is sporadic. This is because I'm 1) in Europe 2) at sea and 3) have been as sick as the proverbial dog. Take one migraine, add one sleepless transatlantic flight, and toss in a stormy crossing of the Bay of Biscay (sp?), and you have one day spent totally inside the cabin. :-) But now, I am thrilled to report, I am well, head is clear, sea is calm, and Espana es muy bonita! Hubby and I spent the day touring Bilboa, and I've even put my fledgling Spanish to good use--even in an area where the major language is Basque. And the food--let's not even talk about it. Honestly, I wish I were travelling with my dogs, because there would be enough to feed me and both of them!

In any case, on to the rerun of the day. I am going to try to keep up, but can only get online when we are close to a port. Tomorrow? France!


I clearly remember one afternoon when I was about ten . . . I was in the car with my mother, getting ready to go to a Girl Scout meeting, and I was reading a biography of Catherine the Great. The book said this: "At thirty, Catherine was in the prime of her life."

Stunned and surprised, I looked up and read the sentence to my mother.

"So?" she asked. "I'm thirty. Don't you think I'm in the prime of my life?"

I didn't have the heart to tell her, but nooooo, I thought thirty was OLD. One-foot-in-the-grave-old.

Now, of course, I've changed my mind. "Old" is always at least thirty years older than I am. (VBG)

Anyway, I found this little meme, and it says I'm 31 at heart. I like that because it puts me in the prime of my life.

Because I'm on vacation, here goes--how old are you REALLY?
You Are 31 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Light and Darkness

Yesterday I was thinking about darkness and light and my first adult novel, Afton of Margate Castle. I've alluded to it before--I wrote it back in the "dark ages" of Christian fiction, when the market was young and so was I. It also happened to be set in the Dark Ages, so it contained a lot of . . . well, darkness. The young heroine is a villein (another word for serf) and she is given in marriage to an old, scrubby fellow who is cruel and demanding and seeks to humiliate her . . . and so he does. It's a medieval picture of an abused wife, which I think was rather common because women were little more than chattel in those days.

After I wrote that story, some folks were less than pleased with it precisely because it was dark and disturbing. One woman wrote to tell me it ought to be "rated R" and frankly, I wouldn't argue with that--I didn't write it for children. And just because a book is Christian fiction (which means it contains a Christian message) doesn't mean it's rated G.

Long story short, I spent one afternoon weeping in my office and asking the Lord if I'd made a mistake in writing that book. I'd encountered some fairly strong resistance, and I wasn't used to that kind of feedback. (As a pastor's wife, I want everyone to be happy with me.) But even after weeping my heart out, I knew the book was what it was supposed to be. In order to show the light of grace and forgiveness, I needed to show the darkness of depravity and sin.

Fast forward several years. I was sitting at a table at a Women of Faith event, signing copies of The Pearl, when a woman walked up to me. "I've always wanted to meet you," she said, "because you saved my life."

I'd never heard that before. When I asked her to explain, she lowered her voice and looked me straight in the eye. "I was raped," she said, "and thought no one could understand. And then I read Afton of Margate Castle, and that book pulled me through."

Ah, great grace. I'd been smarting over that book for years, and God, in his graciousness, allowed me to see how its message had borne fruit in one precious life.

God is good.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Quote of the Day . . .

"A characteristic of the great saints is their power of levity. Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly. This has been always the instinct of Christendom, and especially the instinct of Christian art."

Ah . . . well said, Mr. Chesterton! (Orthodoxy).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Precision and Passion

I was skimming my friend Randy's blog, Ethos, this morning, and saw a definition he gleaned from a mutual friend, Derric Johnson. It's this: What is E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-C-E? It's the place where precision meets passion in an explosion that rips through a world of complacency and mediocrity.

I've always been a promoter of excellence, primarily because of Derric Johnson. Back when I used to sing with The Re'Generation (that's our 1977 group--I'm the middle girl, bottom row and Derric is the man in the tux), "Pastor Derric" always stressed that everything we do should be presented as an offering to the Lord. And you know what David said in II Samuel: "I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing."

And so whether it's homemaking, writing, singing, or yes, even housekeeping, I try to do it with excellence. Sometimes I know I'm fighting a losing battle with the mastiffs, but every morning I sweep up the hair (usually enough for a chihuahua) and glory in a few minutes of a clean house. When I work on a book, I do many drafts and then listen to my editors because we all want one thing: a book that will be an excellent offering to the Lord.

I'm certainly not perfect--and sometimes I think I'm offering my best and I find that if I'd only taken a little more time or done a little more research, I could have made a project better. So it's lately been my prayer that I'll slow down a bit and think harder instead of writing faster. It helps to pray harder, too, and I'm so grateful to my prayer team for undergirding my efforts with prayer.

I love Derric's definition: excellence is the place where precision meets passion. Boy, that's succinct. Your passion for a thing--your craft, your loved ones, your audience--meets precision. No halfway measures, no token gestures, no in-a-hurry efforts.

Thanks, Randy, and thanks, Derric, for giving me a new life motto. I love it!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Skateboarding Bulldog

Okay, the above video is just too hilarious--made me laugh out loud. And it's further proof that animals have emotions. Can't you just FEEL the fun this little guy is having?

If this is Saturday, I'm in England on a cruise ship and ready to head out for an honest-to-goodness vacation. (Though, I confess, I will be researching a couple of locations and trying to get some overdue reading in as well.) So please forgive me if my blogging is irregular for the coming week . . . I might have internet access, and I might not. But, Lord willing, I'll be back and ready to launch the next BOM soon.)


Friday, May 25, 2007

Copying Beethoven

My pals Athol and BJ recommended a movie the other day--a film I'd never heard of. It stars Ed Harris, who I've always liked, and it was about Beethoven, who I've always adored. Didn't know much about him as a person (except that he went deaf), so I thought I'd give the movie a try.

What a delightful surprise! The movie is about a young girl who is hired to literally copy his music down, and there are some scenes that are SO analogous to writing/editing that I was enraptured. I don't want to spoil it for you, but anyone who loves any sort of artistic creation would find much to relate to in this film.

I even used one scene to answer an "ask the author" question for the Charis blog. The question was "what does a good editor do?" and here's my answer:

I recently watched “Copying Beethoven,” a delightful film about a young woman who wrote out Beethoven’s music after he had gone deaf. On the night of the premier of his ninth symphony (one of his most famous), he was worried about being able to keep the beat and keep the orchestra together. This young girl, Anna Holz, volunteered to keep the beat for him. So they set her in a little alcove, and she stood hidden among the orchestra. She knew the music so well she was able to “conduct” Beethoven, who conducted the orchestra and the chorale.

And that’s what a good editor does. He takes my “music” and helps me overcome my weaknesses so that the audience will hear my song the way it was meant to be heard. A good editor knows my music, but it content to remain hidden in the orchestra in order that the song might shine.

If you're into car chases and semiautomatic weapons, this may not be the flick for you. But if you're into art, writing, or music, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

And, on another note, as I write this, I have just finished watching "The Last Sin Eater." (Excuse me while I reach for another tissue.) Simply put--I loved it. Great concept, great film, great story. I loved the novel when I first read it years ago, and I loved this movie.

My only quibble--and boy, it's minor--is that I kept marveling at the beauty of the birch trees and thinking, "They don't grow in Appalachia . . ." and then I saw that it was filmed entirely in Utah. :-) And was that Louise Fletcher in there? Sure looked like Nurse Ratched. (Yes, it was!)

P.S. PW published an interview with Athol Dickson (pal), Tracey Bateman (gal pal), and yours truly. You can read it at .


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Amazing Dancing Horse!

I have always loved horses--I think it comes from reading Black Beauty as a child--and the above link will take you to the most AMAZING horse!

I wonder if I could teach my dogs to do that?

P.S. Yes, I do believe that's me on that pony. :-)


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stunning News

Dr. Jerry Falwell was laid to rest Tuesday. My husband and I will miss him.

Photo: Jerry bodysurfing the crowd at an LU basketball game.

On to brighter topics:

A few days ago, I received the following in an email from one of my Tyndale editors:

Dear Angie:

Just wanted you to know that we have some fun, fun news. You have not one, but TWO books as finalists for this year's Gold Medallion Award in fiction!!!

The Nativity Story and Magdalene are BOTH finalists . . .

I jotted back a quick reply, thanking her for letting me know, then I sat there and read her message again.

Then I pillowed my head in my arms on my desktop . . . and sobbed. Didn't stop until two worried mastiff noses worked their way to my face.

Why the tears? Hard to explain. I've been nominated before, but not in a while. I don't know . . . it just felt like God stooped down, threw his arms around me, and said, "I see your hard work. And you're doing okay."

That's why. Gratitude.

Especially when I skipped over to the ECPA web page and read the judging guidelines for this award: . It's not just the writing that judges consider, but also things like design, cover, title, and cover copy. So this nomination is not only an honor for me, but for the entire Tyndale team, without which these books wouldn't exist. I am only a happy team member.

God is good. All the time.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Template

I promised you my funny story from the Colorado Christian Writers' Conference . . . here it comes.

First, let me say that the conference was wonderful. Marlene Bagnull outdid herself, as usual, and Nancy Rue and I taught TWO Nangie clinics: a 101 class and a 303 class. Both groups had some very talented writers and we all had a great time learning from each other.

While we were having our conference at the Estes Park YMCA campground (lovely!), we were sharing the facilities with a group from Habitat for Humanity. (And this story is not meant to reflect badly on them. They do great work.)

Anyway, we shared the dining facility with 700 other people, most of them middle schoolers. No further comment needed.

So Friday Nancy and I trot down to the much quieter cafe to grab a sandwich. Nancy slips away to powder her nose while I hold our place in line. A family in front of me--two husbands and two wives who look like parents and daughter/hubby, are chatting when the older woman suddenly turns to me, glances at my name tag, and deduces that I am with the Christian writers' group.

"Oh," she says to me, very matter-of-fact, "you're with the Christian writers."

I nod.

"What is that, exactly--a class in computer generation?"

I blink at her. "Excuse me?" I search through my mental files, wondering if someone is teaching a class on Christian computer programming or something.

"Well," she says, even more matter-of-factly, "it's a genre, you know."

I gaze at her even more blankly. "A genre?"

"Yes, Christian fiction is a genre."

"Well," I say, "yes, it is, but it has many genres within it. We have mystery, romance, suspense, military, thrillers, historicals--"

At this point she dismisses me with a glance and turns to her daughter. "I know all about it," she says. "A friend of mine used to be an editor for Harlequin. There are templates, you see, and they pass them out so writers can just fill in the blanks."

Not sure whether I should laugh or cry, I turn away and wail, "Nancy?"

LOL! At lunch the next day, I tell what has now come to be known as the "template story" to Dave Lambert, Nancy, and Kathy Mackel.

"Ah," Dave says, "what you don't know is that I have the template. And I'll be auctioning it off a little later . . ."

How could anyone believe that nearly 300 people would gather to learn how to fill in the blanks? :-) ROFLOL!

If only it were that easy.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Sharon Hinck: The Restorer

Susan, a modern-day soccer mom, is pulled through a portal into another world, where a nation grappling for its soul waits for a promised Restorer to save their people. Can she fill that role? While she struggles to adapt to a foreign culture, she tackles an enemy that is poisoning the minds of the people, uncovers a corrupt ruling Council, and learns that God can use even her floundering attempts at service in surprising ways.

An Interview with Sharon Hinck:

Q: What was the inspiration for The Restorer?
A: I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Deborah in the book of Judges, and wondered what a modern woman would look like in that role. The fantasy genre provides a powerful way to look at a familiar story in a new way. I loved the challenge of creating a completely relatable character, and then inviting the reader to follow her into an imaginative journey.

Q: What kind of reader did you have in mind as you wrote the book?

A: I wrote this story for my friends – ordinary women who are sometimes called on to fill extraordinary roles that they don’t feel prepared for. We may not be literally yanked into an alternate universe, but the idea of being pulled into an unexpected challenge is very real to most of the people I know. I wrote this book for my friends who receive a diagnosis of cancer, or the news that their child has a learning disability, or their parent is battling Alzheimer's, or their spouse has lost their job. They suddenly find themselves in a foreign world, facing new rules, and being asked to fill a role they don’t feel ready for. My prayer is that as well as being entertaining, this novel can inspire courage and determination for those facing daily battles.

Q: How much of The Restorer is drawn from your own life?
Susan’s spiritual journey – her desire to follow God and her confusion when the road is much harder than she expected—is very parallel to my own. I’ve never carried a sword into battle, but I’ve faced the challenge of surrendering more deeply to God’ s purposes when they didn’t make sense to me.

Q: What’s next in the pipeline?
A: The Restorer’s Son (the next book in the Sword of Lyric series) releases in September (NavPress), followed a few months later by The Restorer’s Journey. Then in 2008 I have two new books coming out with Bethany House (back in the more contemporary fiction genre). Symphony of Secrets (2/08) and Penny’s Project (9/08).

Sharon (whom I met at Mt. Hermon this past Spring) is a wife and mom who has had many adventures, though none have involved an alternate universe (thus far). She has an M.A. in communication and has spent her life working in the arts (music, theatre, dance, and writing). Her other novels include The Secret Life of Becky Miller (Bethany House, 2006), Renovating Becky Miller (Bethany House, 2007), The Restorer (NavPress, 2007) and The Restorer’s Son (NavPress, 2007)

For more information about her books, visit

P.S. I have a funny story to share about something that happened at the CCWC. Stay tuned! I'm still giggling about it!

Oh--and keep commenting for the Mandisa book. The number isn't quite there yet!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Katrina Aid . . . Lost

News Flash! IDOLEYES, my book with Mandisa, is out! And I'm going to send a free copy to the person who posts comment number ____--the number of photographs on the interior of the book. :-)

You remember the rules? You may post as many times as you wish as long as you don't post two times in a row. When you get to the magic number (or as soon as possible thereafter), I'll jump in and announce the winner.

Now, onto the daily topic . . .

Okay, this bothers me. Maybe it's because I was a Girl Scout who learned to be thrifty, or maybe I'm just frugal. But I really dislike two things that go against my nature: 1) ineffeciency and 2) waste.

And last week I read a newspaper article about massive proportions of both.

Did you know that many nations gave aid to the United States after Hurricane Katrina? And that most of that aid went unused, unnoticed, and (apparently) unappreciated?

According to a Washington Post story by John Solomon and Spencer Hsu, Allies offered $854 million in cash and oil that was to be sold for cash. So only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million of oil. Some offers were redirected to groups like the Red Cross, but the rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how much can be spent. Italy sent shipments of medicine, gauze, and other medical supplies that spoiled in the elements and had to be destroyed. Greece offered to send two cruise ships that could be used as free hotels or hospitals, but the deal was rescinded after it became clear the ship would not arrive before Oct. 10. Instead the U.S. paid $249 million to use Carnival Cruise Line vessels.

Maybe we should put the Girl Scouts in charge of disaster recovery.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Movie Recommendation: The Scarlet and the Black

One of the features I like most about Netflix is when they recommend something for me. They are constantly recommending movies I've never heard of, and occasionally after watching I WISH I'd never heard of a few . . .

But recently I watched an older movie called THE SCARLET AND THE BLACK, starring Christopher Plummer and Gregory Peck. Once I got over the feeling that Christopher Plummer was going to break into a chorus of "Edelweiss" (spelling?), I really loved the movie. Best of all, it's based on a TRUE story of a priest who was rescuing Jews and POWS during the Nazi occupation of Rome. And what a lovely redemptive . . . well, I don't want to spoil the ending for you. It's worth watching.

As I watched, though, I kept thinking about how BLESSED we are as a nation. I mean, these people were enduring food shortages, they couldn't walk down the street without being stopped, people were shot with no provocation whatsoever. No civil rights, little food, no freedom--and there are many countries today where people still live under those conditions.

As Americans, we have been spoiled. But this film reminded me of the courage and honor that can rise to the surface in times of great distress . . . and it made me wonder how we, the Body of Christ, would behave if such conditions were forced on us today.

It's a good movie. Worth the rent.

P.S. Enjoying the Colorado mountains and the wonderful folks at the CWCC conference.


Friday, May 18, 2007


BTW, my book club read "Love Walked In," by Marisa De Los Santos this past month. We really enjoyed it! You can tell the author's a poet.

I'm up here in Estes Park, CO, a lovely place. Tonight I had dinner with Lisa Samson, Patty Hickman, Kathy Mackel, and Nancy Rue, for wonderful gal pals. Pretty close to a perfect girls' night out.

The PW review of "The Elevator" just came out. Fortunately, it's a good one. And for once, they didn't use the word "competent." :-)

The Elevator
Hunt, Angela (Author)

ISBN: 037378578X
Steeple Hill
Published 2007-07
Paperback, $13.95 (384p)
Fiction | Religious - General; Fiction | Suspense; Fiction | Romance - General

Reviewed 2007-04-30

Prolific novelist Hunt knows how to hold a reader's interest, and her latest yarn is no exception. As Hurricane Felix races toward Tampa, three women's paths unexpectedly converge when they're marooned in an elevator. The action takes place over the course of one tension-packed day. Michelle Tilson is a smart, 33-year-old headhunter who is apt to fudge the truth in the interests of more business. She's in a passionate relationship with a widower, who's reluctant to introduce her to his three children. Michelle's biological clock is ticking, and when she discovers she is pregnant, she's ready to press for a commitment. When Michelle boards the elevator to give her lover the news-instead of fleeing the impending disaster-she-s joined by office cleaner Isabel Suarez, who has a frightening secret, and Gina Rossman, who is on her way to confront her workaholic husband about his extramarital affair. Trapped, the women discuss relationships and faith, and make some startling discoveries. Although the idea of characters stuck in an elevator is nothing new, Hunt packs the maximum amount of drama into her story, and the pages turn quickly. The present tense narration lends urgency as the perspective switches among various characters. Readers may decide to take the stairs after finishing this thriller. (July)

Copyright © 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

BJ --don't read this one!

Came across this in the paper--

Albany, Oregon:

A nine-year-old boy heard a popping in his ear. Got an earache, went to the doctor. Doc found out that a PAIR of spiders had made themselves at home in his ear. The kid was hearing them walk across his eardrum.


The doctor irrigated (flushed) the ear and one spider came out, dead. The other spider needed a second flush before it came out, still kicking.

Jesse Courtney, the boy, was given the spiders as a souvenier to take to show and tell.

Please, Lord. Anything but that.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dr. Jerry Falwell

Photo: Dr. Falwell and wife, Macel, children and grandchildren.

My husband and I lost a friend today. One that changed our lives in more ways than we will ever know.

The friend, of course, was Dr. Jerry Falwell, whom we have never seen as a fanatic, strait-laced, or bellicose preacher--the way the media often portrays him. To us he has always been Dr. Jerry, and we love him.

Hubby and I both arrived on the campus of Liberty University back in the fledgling days of mud and ugly green buses. In 1977, I had only seen the college on television, yet I went there on a scholarship because I was to join the musical group that went around singing and raising money for the school. So we traveled--I think one semester I was in class exactly half the time--but I was able to observe Dr. Falwell behind the scenes.

I have never met a man more unafraid to speak up for what is right. I have never met a man who believed so confidently and completely in the Word of God. I have never met a man more willing to cut up . . . if the time was right.

He was a devoted family man, a natural merry-maker, and willing to apologize when he'd made a mistake. He was committed to the Word of God, sold-out to the Lord, and willing to invest his life in the students who came to study at Liberty University.

I've seen him go down a waterslide in a suit . . . and saw his smile as students of Liberty University let him body surf over the crowd. He went to every possible game in which his children or LU students played. He was brilliant, a family man who loved his wife, children, and grandchildren, and he was forgiving.

In our dorm (an old hotel), I learned that an elderly lady, Mama Lind, lived on the second floor. And why did she live there rent free? Because she was a "widow indeed," and according to the Scripture, the church should take care of widows who had no children to support them. So Mama Lind lived with us, and "grandmothered" us, and we loved her. Jerry did that.

Perhaps it's because he was a rascal himself in his youth, but time after time, I saw Dr. Jerry forgive someone who had committed some sort of indiscretion . . . . and soon they were back in the ministry. It wasn't until I left and began to observe other organizations that I realized how rare that kind of forgiveness is. I've seen more people fall by the wayside . . . but Dr. Jerry knew we serve a God of second chances.

The last time I was in Lynchburg, Dr. Falwell came into the classroom where I was, gave me a bear hug, and told me he was proud of me . . . and it was all I could do not to burst into tears. Some part of me will always be that young college coed who was desperately seeking to train myself for whatever the Lord might ask me to do. To think that Jerry thought I'd achieved even a little something . . . meant so much.

He wasn't perfect, but he was a good man. A brave man. A man who would--and did-- stake everything on being on the Lord's side.

If Jerry Falwell hadn't stepped out in faith to build a college, I wouldn't have the education I do. I wouldn't have met my husband. I wouldn't have my children. I wouldn't have my job.

And mine is just one of thousands of lives Jerry Falwell touched through his lifetime. Please join me in praying for his family, who will miss him dreadfully. And for the students, who will doubtless begin to think about how he has changed the course of their lives, too.

I pray he enjoys his first look around heaven.


P.S. If this is Wednesday, I'm flying to Colorado. See you CWCC folks soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shades of Meaning

I remember having an epiphany once . . . and it was this: you can't think thoughts unless you have words with which to think. Which made me wonder how in the world Hellen Keller thought anything before her epiphany with Anne Sullivan . . .

A recent experiment conducted by researchers at MIT asked groups of Russian and English speakers to identify identical squares. The subjects were shown three blue squaes, two identical and one a lighter hue. The Russian speakers, whose language has more words to describe shades of blue, accomplished the task more quickly than the English speakers.

When you have the proper word, you think faster and better. When you have to search for a word, the process slows down.

I was reading Paul Ekman's book, EMOTIONS REVEALED, the other day, and discovered a lapse or two in the English language. First, he was talking about the feeling of jubiliation you get when you accomplish something extraordinary. The word PRIDE is too ordinary, Ekman claims (and I agree), so he offers the Italian word *fiero*--the feeling a tennis player gets after winning a difficult match, the emotion you feel after winning a race, finishing a book, or getting an A on that paper.

Another word we lack is supplied by Yiddish: the word is NACHES, and it is "the glow of pleasure plus pride that only a child can give to his parents." As Ekman says, naches is the emotion, kvelling is its expression. Now, if someone will only tell me how to pronounce these words, I'll be all set.

One more, and I'll really need pronounciation help on this one--the feeling you experience when you learn that your worst enemy has suffered is called schadenfreude. When the devil is chained for 1,000 years, we'll feel schadenfreude. (Maybe it's just easier to say we'll GLOAT . . . actually, I've never thought about it until now.)

And if you cannot feel any of these emotions, you suffer from anhedonia--and that's an English word meaning no emotion. Someone with anhedonia feels no fiero, naches, or . . . gloating. :-)

May you experience fiero and naches today. If you find yourself kvelling, tell me how to pronounce it, okay?

P.S. Check this out--it's the most creative book website I've ever seen (HT to Brad Whittington!) .


Monday, May 14, 2007


Before I jump into the business at hand, here are two items of note:

First, be sure to check out Lisa Samson's blog today. She's written a lovely piece that had me begging the Lord for forgiveness. . Look for "Broken Pieces."

Second, C.J. Darlington has put together a beautiful tribute to writers and their mothers. See it here: .

And finally--I don't know how it's been in your area, but we've had smoke from the fires that are burning in Florida and Georgia. Last Friday I sat in my office and peered out the window, amazed to find that I could barely see the house across the street. The rising sun shone through the window and dappled my carpet--but the sunspots were orange, not golden. Truly strange.

VEIL OF FIRE, a new novel by Marlo Schalesky, has just been released. Here’s a blurb about it:

A Raging Firestorm . . .
A Light in the Hills . . .
And a Mystery Rises from the Ash.

In 1894, the worst firestorm in Minnesota history descends on the town of Hinckley. Heat, flame, and darkness sweep through the town, devouring lives, destroying hope. In the aftermath, the town rises from the ashes, its people determined to rebuild their lives.
But in the shadows, someone is watching. Someone is waiting. Someone who knows the secrets that can free them all. A rumor begins of a hermit in the hills - a person severely burned, disfigured beyond recognition. Doubts rise. Fear whispers. Is the hermit a monster or a memory? An enemy or a love once-lost?

Based on historical events, Veil of Fire beckons to a time when hope rose from the smoke of sacrifice, when trust hid behind a veil of fear, when dreams were robed in a mantle of fire . . .

What Others are Saying about Veil of Fire:
Reading Veil of Fire is like feasting on a banquet of rich words and vivid images.
─Tricia Goyer, award-winning author of five novels, including A Valley of Betrayal

Moving. Heartbreaking. Compelling. This beautiful, sensitive story of pain, loss, and, ultimately, healing touched the deepest parts of my heart.
─Laura Jensen Walker, author of Miss Invisible and Reconstructing Natalie

For more information, a preview of the entire first chapter, and discussion questions for groups, please visit . Special incentives for book groups also available at

Purchase Veil of Fire here.

An Interview with Marlo Schalesky

Q: Where did you birth the idea for this book? When? How did it come about?
A: People often ask where I get my ideas for my books. My answer? You never know! For Veil of Fire, the idea was birthed at my favorite Mexican restaurant in the mission town of San Juan Bautista.

Q: LOL! That must have been some spicy food!
A: There I was, sitting with my family, nibbling chips and salsa, when a wedding party came by. The bridesmaids were dressed in beautiful turn-of-the-century style gowns. As they passed, my mother-in-law began to tell me of the dresses that her great grandmother, who lived in Hinckley, used to sew for the rich ladies in Minneapolis and St. Paul. From there, came the story of the great Hinckley fire and the rebuilding that this woman, my husband’s great-great-grandmother, was a part of. And finally, I heard the tale of the mystery figure in the hills, a person burned beyond recognition. A person never identified, living as a hermit until one day he just disappeared.

At that moment, the first inklings of the story that would become Veil of Fire were born in my heart. Who was the hermit in the hills? What happened to him? And how would I solve the mystery if I could? As I pondered those questions, I knew that I had to write the hermit’s story. Had to explore what it would be like to lose everything, even your identity. Had to hear the hermit’s voice in my mind, and hear the story for myself.

So, the writing of the book became for me a process of discovery, as I hope it will be for my readers. I hope that as the mystery of the hermit drew me, so too it will draw others to this story of how fire can change you, take from you, and in the end, may just set you free.

Q: Can you explain your research process?
A: The research was particularly fascinating not only because of its link to my personal family history, but also because of the incredible first-person accounts of the fire that were written by people who were actually there. These stories are compiled into a book written entirely by survivors who recount their personal experience of living through the firestorm that swept through their town. I read about a man whose hat lifted from his head and exploded above him as he ran through wind and fire. I read about another whose horse raced beside the Eastern Minnesota train as fire billowed around him. The horse swerved into the smoke, and the man was never seen again. I read about a boy racing down the tracks, falling, and surviving as the fire roared over him. I read about fire on the surface of the Grindstone River, darkness broken only by bursts of flame, the St. Paul and Duluth engine backing up to Skunk Lake through blinding heat and smoke. I read about a train trestle disintegrating into flame moments after a train passed, about Jane Tew praying on that train, and the brakemen who saved them all.

Those eyewitness accounts, as well as information gathered about the fire from other sources, created the realistic feel of the fire and its aftermath in Veil of Fire. Plus, you can be sure that if something seems almost beyond belief in Veil of Fire, it will be drawn from an actual account that came directly from the research, so amazing were the real stories of the fire on that day!
Today, a number of books about the fire, as well as artifacts, photos, and other articles can be seen at the Hinckley Fire Museum in Hinckley.

Q: Wow. I've never been in a fire, so that seems unbelievable. What takeaway points do you hope your readers pull from this book?
A: Once, when we were children, we believed in miracles. The impossible was only a prayer away. Fairy tales were real, and dreams were free. Where did we lose the ability to trust? When did we stop daring to believe? What happened to us?

Life happened. Failure, discouragement, pain, loss. Somewhere, somehow, life burns us all. And we realize that this life we live is not the one we once dreamed. The realities of life scar us. Doubts rise. Fear whispers that hope is gone. And what was once a simple faith can fail in the face of that fear.

In the midst of life’s disillusionment, choices appear. Do we retreat? Hide our hurts far from probing eyes? Do we embrace bitterness and cynicism? Do we use deceit to try to obtain our goals? Do we give up, give in, forget that we ever dared to dream?

Or is it possible to reach the high places of faith in the low valleys of life’s reality? Can we still live a life of bold faith, of fierce hope, when fairy tales don’t come true? How do we live this life that God has given us when it’s not the life we dreamed?

These are the questions I wanted to explore in Veil of Fire. These are the questions which underlie each character’s journey in the aftermath of the great fire of 1894.

So, for those burned by life, for those who carry scars that cannot be seen, for those who have retreated for fear of more pain, this story is for you, this journey from the hidden places of pain to a new hope in the unhidden truth of Christ’s love.

Q: Can you share with your readers something God has been teaching you lately?

A: Through some recent tragedies and through writing Veil of Fire, God is showing me that I cannot measure his love by my successes and failures, or even by my happiness. Who I am on the inside, how I am being shaped into the likeness of Christ, the character of my life – the color and beauty of it – are what are important to God. And to create that color and beauty, sorrow is necessary. Hurtful things happen.

So, I’m starting to understand that my life, too, is a story that God is writing. And since the best stories have conflict, disappointments, and plenty of action, I shouldn’t be surprised when my life takes a turn and my faith is challenged once again.

And yet, my sorrow matters to God, my tears are counted by him as precious. He does not leave me alone in my hurt. He touches me, he heals me, he creates beauty from the ashes of my pain.

So I’m learning to walk through the fires in my own life. And to dig deeper – not to answer the question of why but the question of who – who is God really, who am I, and who is he making me to be? Those are the questions that matter. Those are the things that help me to face my own fires, accept my own scars.

Q: I understand that like me, you're studying theology. What's your favorite reading these days?
A: Why, the New Testament, of course . . . in Greek! Now, before you start thinking that loving Greek makes me too scholarly to write a decent novel, you should know that even though I just completed my Masters at Fuller (that’s a Masters in Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary – so cool!), it wasn’t my desire for an “A” that made me fall in love with New Testament Greek. After all, most students get through Greek class as fast as they can and then forget it. I might have too.

But one day, as I was sitting there in class, learning forms and tenses, my professor happened to mention something interesting. “Did you realize,” he said, “that the Greek word for truth and the word for unhidden share the same root.”

Ah, in that moment an idea came to me, a little whisper from the heart of God. Truth. Unhidden. Truth. And I began to see the connection between truth and what it means for those who hide in their pain.

That idea became the basis for the theme in Veil of Fire. So you see, I can’t help loving the Greek. I can’t help wanting to read the New Testament that way. After all, who knows what I might discover next.

Q: What book project can we expect from you after Veil of Fire? Can you give us a sneak peak of the storyline?

A: After Veil of Fire, I’m writing 3 contemporary novels for Waterbrook-Multnomah. All of them are “Love Stories with a Twist!,” a new type of story that I think will knock readers’ socks off.

Q: If they still have socks--sounds like our might be "burned off" by reading your latest. Thanks, Marlo, for dropping by!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

How Explicit is Your World View?

I've been disturbed by something lately, and it's almost ironic that I, an avowed teller of parables, would be disturbed by this. But I am, nonetheless.

Lately--for the last several years, in fact--I've become aware of a growing movement in Christian writers' circles to push something called "Christian worldview fiction." The gist is that a book doesn't have to have Christian content to be considered a Christian book--it's enough if the writer is a Christian with a Christian worldview.

I'm sorry, but I don't buy that. John Grisham is a Christian, and THE TESTAMENT and THE CHAMBER have Christian content. But THE FIRM doesn't, so I don't think Mr. Grisham's worldview qualifies that latter book as "Christian fiction." I don't think he'd make that case, either.

I keep saying--if you're going to make a banana pie, there has to be something of the banana about it. Either chunks of banana, or at least banana flavoring. Just because the pie isn't cherry doesn't make the pie banana. Just because a banana made the pie (I know, the analogy's stretching thin), doesn't mean it's a banana pie. If a banana could cook, don't you think he could choose to make something other than banana pies? Of course he could.

I remember experiencing an epiphany one day when I realized that I could write erotica. Not that I wanted to or planned to, but that I was technically capable. (I was so used to Christian fiction being so soundly bashed--mostly by Christian people who claim they don't read it--that I had begun to think of myself as incapable of competing in the open market.)

But then I realized that, hey, I can write anything. My intellectual world view doesn't constrain me one bit. What constrains me is my devotion to and love for Jesus. I love him, I want to obey him, and writing erotica would not bring glory to his name.

There are lots of things I can't write for the same reason. On my forty-fifth birthday, I realized that I was half-way to ninety. (You can imagine how I'll feel when I hit fifty next year.) Suddenly my lifespan had a cap on the other end. And even though I had written over 100 books, I realized I'd be hard-pressed to write another 100. (I'm getting slower and more thoughtful as I age.)

I only have a finite number of days in which to write. Maybe less than another fifty years. Wow. :-)

Therefore . . . how can I--a woman who has been called by God to love and obey him first and foremost--how can I write anything less than a story that illustrates his love for mankind? Or that illustrates the reality of what happens to a life that rejects him?

I do write parables that may not be overtly spiritual on the surface, but because I care for my readers, I always include discussion questions or something to urge the reader to think deeper. This isn't "dumbing down" the material at all, it's helping readers to think beyond the story and explore the depths of meaning. I know that fiction can and should stand on its own, that's why I don't include explanations in the story. But I would be remiss if I wrote a story that led the reader to search for God . . . and he went to Buddha or some other false teacher.

And if a story only illustrates a Christian quality like love or mercy or truth . . . well, those are lovely, godly virtues, but the world's prevailing humanism says that those things originate in man, not in God. So unless I'm pointing out the true source of those things, am I not misleading the reader? Am I not simply joining the ranks of those who perpetrate the FOG BOM philosophy? (Fatherhood of God, brotherhood of man). How is my story distinctively Christian if there's no Christ in it?

As a Christian, I can find godly virtues and values in almost any story--that's why I began a neighborhood book club that reads secular books. God's common grace abounds to all, and we all enjoy it even though many people don't recognize its source.

I fear that too many Christians don't want to be thought of as unhip, anti-intellectual, or, heaven forbid, firmly set upon ANY standard. So we create wishy-washy creations/programs/platforms that will be applauded by worldly people because they're inoffensive, artsy, and/or creative. (This movement has also popped up in churches, BTW. It's everywhere.)

Jesus told stories. He told parables that were overtly non-religious, but they had deep, often divisive meanings. When people didn't "get it," he told them the meaning behind his stories, and he didn't pull any punches.

My book with Mandisa is rolling out right now. She took a firm stand for Christ and said that while she loves everybody, she wouldn't feel comfortable performing at an event sponsored by homosexuals. Has she taken flack? You bet. But she took a STAND.

Time is short, life is brief, and our duty is clear. If I'm not pointing people to Jesus--if my characters aren't illustrating spiritual truths or reaching out to God (depending on the type of story I'm writing), then why am I calling it "Christian fiction?"

This, of course, is my conviction, my two cents. I know other writers have opinions about this, but as readers, what do you think?


P.S. Happy anniversary to my hubby of 27 years today! (Sunday).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What religion are you . . . or should you be?

Visit the above link for a suggestion. Warning: the questions are not exact--I found several instances that didn't come close to indicating my exact belief, so I had to "vote" for the closest option. But the answer still turned out to be accurate.



Friday, May 11, 2007

Beauty Test Tubes . . . Irresistible!

Have you received these pictures in your email? These little babies are made of clay and mohair (not marzipan!) :-) Aren't they adorable?

And I have to apologize--I've been tagged twice with the "thinking blogger award" and tagged by Christina for a thingy, but I've been pre-writing my posts (deadline looming), so I'm afraid I'm behind on everything. I'll get to all those things if I can--and I'm honored you'd think of me!

Now on to the really important stuff--

Okay, gals, if you're like me and you're constantly getting suckered into paying twenty bucks for mascara just so you can get the little bag of freebies as the Clinque or Estee Lauder or whatever counter, I have good news for you.

I read in my local paper about . Here's the scoop. Four times a year, for $29.50, you get a "test tube" of sample cosmetics, many of which retail for far more than thirty bucks (cosmetics have to be the most overpriced substances in the world, don't they?)

BTW, the "test tube" is a good deal for trying new things, but if you haven't yet discovered Paula Begouin's DON'T GO TO THE COSMETICS COUNTER WITHOUT ME book, you have to get a copy. Paula takes practically every line of makeup in existence and tells you what works, what doesn't, and what's ridiculously overpriced. After I got my book, I took it with me to Target and stocked up on all the GOOD products at REASONABLE prices.

Paula also has her own cosmetics line (, and I have tried several of her products. I'd much rather use something I understand (Paula's very good at explaining why a product works) than pay a fortune for something that's all hype (like that stretch marks cream that's expensive and ineffective.)

So--you heard it here, gals! test tubes and Paula Begouin. You'll never look at makeup in the same way again!


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Anybody seen a 1,000 pound ball?

I forgot to mention that yesterday pictures of my writing space was featured on the Charis Connection blog-- There's even a picture of my dogs!

I've been praying for the folks of Greensburg, Kansas since the tornado hit them. It must be awful to have a force of nature carry away your home and all your belongings in the space of two minutes.

But one thing struck me as I've been reading about the tornado damage. Greensurg was famous for two things--it was home of the world's largest hand-dug well and home to a 1,000 pound meteorite which was displayed in the center of town. The twister destroyed the well . . . and the meteorite has vanished.

Surely it went SOMEWHERE. Where do you think it'll show up?


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My friend Rachel's DIVA NASH VEGAS

Before we jump into the topic of the day, I've just gotta say this for the record: the new blond Bond? Daniel Craig? I heartily approve.

Now--let me tell you about my friend Rachel's new book. In fact, here's a synopsis:

For the past decade, Aubrey James has ruled the charts as the queen of country soul. She rocketed to fame in the shadow of her parent’s death – Gospel music pioneers Ray and Myra James. While her public life, high profile romances and fights with Music Row execs writes juicy tabloid headlines, the real and private Aubrey’s is a media mystery.

When a close friend and former band member betrays Aubrey by selling an exclusive story about the Diva to a tabloid, Aubrey knows she must go public with her own story.

Inside NashVegas sports anchor, Scott Vaughn, is not prepared for the assignment of interviewing a country super star. Especially not one he dated, then abandoned. Yet, his boss leaves him no choice. His career and the future of Inside NashVegas depends on the success of this interview.

When Scott shows up at her home for the first session, Aubrey threatens to back out of the deal. But, it’s too late. Instead, she bravely opens her heart as Scott probes into her life and discovers a future of faith, hope and love by letting God heal her past.

Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida with her husband, Tony, a pastor. They have two ornery pets. She is a graduate of Ohio State University and a huge Buckeyes football fan. Rachel serves the writing community as Past President of American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of the Advisory Board. Visit her blog and web site at

[Angie's aside: my hubby approves heartily of the Buckeyes. He declared last January as "Buckeye Month" and wore a different Ohio State tee shirt every day of the month--and yes, we live in Florida. I know, it makes no sense to me, either.]

Leave a comment on her blog and be eligible to win a $25 gift certificate to Starbucks or Barns & Noble. Two names will be drawn.

Interview with Rachel:

Q: What inspired Diva NashVegas?

A: The idea to write about a singer came from a conversation with my editor, Ami McConnell. At first, I created the Diva to be a wanna-be star, but after thinking the story through, I decided she had to be an established artist, a superstar.

Q: How do you research a diva? Hang out with me a while? (Ha! I crack myself up!)

A: Not easy. I read a lot of bios, and spent time with Christian artist, Kim Hill. She was a blast and a great help. I loved hanging out with her. I also got some inside scoop from record producer and fellow Thomas Nelson author, Matt Bronleewe.

I talked to an entertainment lawyer and search music business forums for answer to some of my questions. The hardest detail to find was about artist and record label disputes. We all know it happens, but why? The only reason I could find was “creative differences.” This answer did not cover enough detail for me. I couldn’t create a legitimate scene with Aubrey and her record label President arguing over “creative differences.”

Thankfully, I found a forum on the internet and a kind gentleman gave me eight detailed reason why an artist would enter into a dispute with her label. Saved the day!

I also researched foster care and television production for elements of the story. Kelly Sutton and Molly Day, a TV personality and producer respectively in Nashville were enthusiastic resources.

After that, I only had my imagination.

Q: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

A: First, a great read. I hope they can be transported into Aubrey James’s world. Next, a message that life isn’t always fair, but we have the power of choice in our response. God is always there for us, even when we don’t feel He is.

Diva NashVegas was difficult to write. I had a few crisis, but when I finally submitted it to my editor, I wrote in my email, “I love Aubrey James.” She really came to life for me in the end.

My editor loved her, too. I’m confident she’ll capture readers.

Q: What is your writing day like?

A: It varies, but I try to settle down from my morning routine by noon and focus on writing. Some days it’s earlier, and some later. If I’m approaching a deadline date, I completely clear my schedule and work twelve hours a day or more.

Email is my weakness. I’ve modified the Lord’s prayer some for writers: “give us this day, our daily word count, and delivers us from email.”

Seriously, I’m like an email junky. Half the time no one emails me, I just have to check and see. Secretly, I’m hoping a Broadway or Hollywood producer will email me wanting to make a movie or play out of one of my books.

Q: You know, you can trail your computer to make noises only when you have email. But back to our topic--How long have you been writing?

A: For a long time, but not seriously until the mid-90’s. Then I quit for awhile because my corp job became more demanding, then one day in 2001 the Lord began to open doors and by the end of 2002, I had my first book contract.

Q: Name your favorite TV show of all time. Alias?

A: I have no idea. Friends, I guess. Gee, do I want to admit that? I don’t agree with the shows moral philosophy, but I love the comedy, the writing and friendship element of the show. Same with Cheers, or MASH. Wait, I just remembered, I love, loved, loved, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That is my all time favorite.

Q: Now I don't feel so old. How did you meet your husband?

A: Actually, he was hit by a bus. I witnessed the whole thing, pulled my car over, checked his ring finger (empty) then gave him CPR.

Of course I’m making all that up. Hit by a bus? He’d be dead.

I met him at church. He was the youth and singles pastor, and the only guy who didn’t wear a pocket protector or have duct tape holding his glasses together. Husband was cool, and we had a lot in common, but mostly what attracted me was his heart of David – a man after God’s heart. He’s a man of prayer and the Word, high integrity and after being friends for eighteen years, he’s my best friend and makes me laugh.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Look for “Sweet Caroline” from Thomas Nelson March 2008. This is a story of inheritance and finding courage to do what you really want to do in life.

Q: How do you get your ideas?

A: Burn up my last brain cell thinking of something. Then I call all my friends and cry, begging for help. I pray a lot.

Seriously, I believe God has a lot of ideas and He’s most kind to share them with us. I look for what is on His heart.

Q: Besides writing, what goes on in your life?

A: I’m a worship leader at my church, and with a prayer and worship ministry, Fire Dweller. Until August 2006, Husband and I were youth pastors. We handed the youth church over to a younger couple last summer, and I’ve been taking time to see what else God has for me. It’s nice to have a light schedule for the first time in many years.

Recently, I learned of a volunteer program where I can read to children and rock babies. So, I’m going to give time to that ministry. I’m very excited.

Q: I'm married to a youth pastor, too. He calls me his "pastorette." Any parting words?

A: Sure, thanks to the authors on the Diva NashVegas blog tour. Thanks to all the readers. I appreciate you. Stop by my web site and leave a blog comment or email me and I’ll add your name to a drawing for a $25 gift certificate to Starbucks or Barnes & Noble. If you tell me you bought the book, I’d love it.

What if we don't drink coffee? Oh, wait, they have chai tea, too. Love that chai tea. With whipped creme, of course. Thanks, Rachel!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Have you met Charlene Baumbich?

I don't know if you've had a chance to "meet" Charlene Ann Baumbich, author of the "Dearest Dorothy" books. ( I have, and I love Charlene--she looks like Liz Taylor (violet eyes and all), and she's a stitch. (The photo is a shot of her toes.)

Charlene's newsletter is called a "Twinklegram" (suits her), and the last one was so hilarious I asked for her permission to publish it here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did--and you can enter her contest, too!

Today's Message, from Charlene Baumbich

THE BACKGROUND: I'm getting over a broken leg and torqued (OUCH!) ankle.

THE SETTING: An official therapy room full of "equipment," most of which causes me to pray I don't have to get involved with it. Things like mini trampolines (which they make me use), balance boards (which they make me use), a big machine where you lie on your back and use your legs up on the bouncy thing to power your body to scoot back and forth (which they make me use), foam pads (which they make me balance on--on ONE FOOT!). . . . You get the picture: anything I don't want to get on, including the stationary bicycle, they make me use.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED: All exercises are assigned in terms of counting or timing. Do your own counting and timing since if you're daydreaming (or striving to keep breathing) and you ask them how many/how long you have to go, they always say you didn't do as many or participate for as long as you really have. It's a trick.

THE PAYOFFS: 1) Strengthened ankle muscles, which were messed up during my step into thin air. (Actually, it was the landing that did the damage.) 2) Better cardio, which means I can now do six "relaxed" minutes on "Level 3" (out of 10, I believe) without having to stop, collect myself and guzzle water like a marathon runner. 3) They play pretty good music in the room. 4) It's close to a pleasant restaurant where I meet a friend for lunch when I'm done.

THE BEST PART: They massage my foot and ankle afterwards. 'Twas during this time, Dear TwinkleGrammers, when the butt-gusting Funny Thing took place since obviously the rest of the torture -- albeit it ever so good for me -- is not funny.

For whatever reason (mostly having to do with the fact I'm now over sixty), along with the usual pain in my healing bone and ankle joint, the joint in my big toe (where it attaches to my foot) was stiff and uncommonly painful. I assumed the position (on back, leg up on incline board, foot hanging over the end so the therapist can handily access it) and waxed poetic (whined) about said toe joint. She gently squeezed it, gently pumped it back and forth a few times and said, and I quote, "Yes. It is stiff. I'm going to distract it and..."

"WHAT?! You're going to "distract" (I use air quotes here) my big toe?! hahahahahaha HAHAHAHAHAHA! YOU'RE GOING TO DISTRACT MY BIG TOE?! BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!"

I start imagining what might come next. Might she run to the far corner of the room yelling "HEY! BIG TOE! OVER HERE!"? Or might she engage my second toe to make faces at it? Or if my big toe becomes too distracted and can't bail out of the distraction, might it make me walk sideways?" I am WAILING with laughter! I am holding my stomach and laughing so hard she can't even get a good GRIP on my big toe, which suddenly seems like it's trying to distract her by flailing around on the slant board with the rest of my foot which is attached to my leg which is attached to my torso, which is rolling from side to side with laughter!

She cannot imagine what is so funny since apparently "distracting" a big toe is a medical term for gently squeezing and pulling it, so I explain the hilarity to her by saying, "YOU'RE GOING TO DISTRACT MY BIG TOE?! BWA-HA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

She's smiling, although I'm not sure if she ever laughs since I am laughing too hard to hear. She's trying to explain to me how important the big toe is to a person's ability to maintain balance. "You can lose the rest of your toes and still walk," she said (or something like that), "but you cannot balance without that big one."


She gives up. Patiently waits out my laughter, waits for my body to settle down so she can begin distracting my big toe (HAHAHAHAHAHA!), which she does--at least in the medical sense. She says she will never again be able to use that term without thinking about "this."

I felt badly for acting like such a doofus, and yet . . . I could not stop snickering. In fact, I'm laughing all over again right now. And, I cannot stop thinking about ways to distract my big toe -- as you can tell by my photograph. (If you receive the text version, I've painted a face on my second toe.) I'm SO stuck on this topic that I've decided to run a contest. (SEE BELOW)

In the meantime, along with working on your contest entries, I encourage you to also spend some time thinking about unimportant "issues" (real ones) that seem to constantly distract you, thereby causing you to lose your mental balance and keep you from missing some of the joys in your life. Perhaps it's time to learn to laugh about those, too.

Until we chat again, peace and grins,

She Who's Trying to Keep Her Big Toe Attentive



1) send an e-mail to
2) write "Distracting Big Toe" in the subject line
3) k
eep your "distraction method" entry to a sentence or two
4) entries must arrive before June 3
5) enter as many times as you like, but each entry must be e-mailed separately
6) please give me your full name and snail mail address so I can send you your fabulous (MAN, I am LOVING thinking about what the prizes might be!) should you win.

With kindest and grateful regard for the medical profession (seriously), all honest-to-golly medical entries will be discarded. The funniest (most creatively funny) three entrants will win something, although I haven't decided just what yet.

I'll post names and winning entries (but of course not your addresses) in the next TwinkleGram so you receive appropriate braggin' rights, which means that your entry gives me permission to do that.

*If someone forwarded you this message and you want to enter, SUBSCRIBE by going here: .

This message copyright 2007 by Charlene Ann Baumbich.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Well, the only questions I have to answer have to do with animals in heaven and evil animals. :-) Good thing those topics aren't at all controversial . . .

Okay--this is probably one of those occasions where the things of God will seem like foolishness to those who don't believe, but I have based most of the following opinions on Scripture. You're free to look 'em up.

Can animals be evil? I believe they have a will, and they can certainly choose to do wrong. All you have to do is look at the dog who's lying on the sofa and knows he's not supposed to be there. If that doesn't cut it for you, Dr. Penny Patterson tells the story of when Koko was using a stick to pry a window open. (I think I also used this with Sema.) When she was caught, Koko quickly used the stick as a "cigarette" and pretended to smoke it. Ah! Deception!

So yes, I believe some animals have at least a basic knowledge of good and evil and can choose between the two. Not nearly as well-developed as man's of course, and we'll probably only see this in higher animals. (I don't know--do soldier ants whip lazy worker ants into submission? I know ants can use tools.)

I also believe that animals can be used of God--and by Satan. Satan used the serpent to tempt Eve. God used Balaam's donkey to speak to Balaam. God also used two bears to devour a group of boys who called Elisha "baldie" (look it up, 2 Kings 2:24).

I suppose we could also say that God used frogs and locusts and flies in the plagues of Egypt.

If you think of animals as servants, I think we begin to see their rightful position. Not that the position of servant is to be disdained--Jesus said HE came as a servant, after all. God gave man dominion over the animals. They serve us, but we are to be benevolent rulers. "Blessed," says the Scripture, "is the man who regards the life of his beast."

Animals originally lived in peace with man in the Garden--and man was apparently vegan. But after man's fall, God used animals to provide Adam and Eve with clothing. After that, God told man to use animals for food and sacrifice as well.

Notice Genesis 9--a lot about animals in this chapter. First, notice that animals who kill people are to be condemned to death (evil animals?) verse five.

Second, notice verses 8-10: animals are included in the Noahic covenant. They are included in the promise that God will never again destroy the earth by flood.

Third, notice verse 2: for the first time, God says, "All the wild animals, large and small, and all the birds and fish will be afraid of you. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables."

Apparently animals weren't naturally afraid of man until this point--and they will return to this fearlessness at some point in the future, perhaps when the lion lays down with the lamb, i.e., in the Millennium or on the New Earth, depending upon your eschatology.

The fact that all the animals came willingly to Noah before the flood is interesting when you realize that this natural fear didn't appear until after the flood.

Aside--did you know they're making Bruce Almighty 2? From the previews I've seen, looks like there's a Noah thing going on.

In the story of Jonah, notice that the king of Ninevah (Jonah 3:7) had even the ANIMALS fast when the people repented. And later, when God chided Jonah for his recalcitrant attitude, God said, "Ninevah has more than 120,0000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn't I feel sorry for such a great city?"

God counts animals, too.

Finally: while I don't agree with Native Americans' pantheism, I do think they had one thing right--I've heard that whenever an Indian brave killed a deer, for instance, he would thank the deer for providing food for his family and giving of his strength. I actually think that's the right attitude toward animals. God has given them to us for our sustenance. So we should be thankful, not domineering or cruel.

For this reason I am not a vegetarian, but neither do I support those horrible farms where pigs and lambs are raised in tiny little boxes, or any inhumane butchering of livestock. I DESPISE the hunting of endangered species and animals' heads hung on walls for show . . . but do not condemn a hunter who kills a deer for food. But those people who go to Africa and shoot elephants and lions who've been penned in . . . don't get me started. My blood pressure begins to boil.

I like elephants. I'm going to write about them one of these days.

Well, enough of my animal ravings. If you're interested in reading more, read DOMINION: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, by Matthew Scully. It'll open your eyes.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

BOM: Results/Reader Reaction

From Publishers Weekly:

What can animals tell us about God? Do animals have souls? The prolific Hunt (author of more than 100 books) offers a compelling story that asks both questions. Sema is a 250-pound western lowland gorilla referred to as "my girl" by 30-year-old Glee Granger, who has raised Sema from a newborn at her home away from the zoo. Glee teaches Sema sign language and hopes to show her how to read, proving that gorillas can assimilate abstract concepts and use their imaginations. Sema's talents cause the director of the Thousand Oaks Zoo in Clearwater, Fla., to demand her return so he can exploit her abilities to help fund zoo projects. Helping Sema's assimilation into the gorilla habitat is "by-the-book" Brad Fielding, a potential romantic interest for Glee. Hunt knows how to craft believable, interesting characters, and readers will find themselves drawn to the lovable Sema, the conflicted Glee and Glee's scripture-spouting "Nana," the proprietor of a Florida motel. The tension accelerates after a near-death trauma, when Sema begins signing to the nonreligious Glee about a "shiny man" who offers insights about God. Hunt handles this unusual and potentially touchy plot development adeptly. The ending may seem abrupt, but the Christy Award–winning Hunt will please many of her faith fiction fans as well as animal lovers with this poignant tale.

Dear Angela
I have to tell you Unspoken was not on the top of my reading list but when
my friend insisted I read it, I am so glad I did! Unspoken is by far the
most wonderful book I have read in a long time. I have since bought it and
recommended it to my friends. So far everyone I have recommended it to have
loved it! Thank you so much for writing it! --Cheryl

I loved UNSPOKEN! After not even being able to finish THE AWAKENING I was afraid Angela Hunt was done with giving us wonderful refreshing stories but she has redeemed herself with Sema's story. I couldn't put the book down at all and loved the way Sema was so much like a real person. I learned a great deal while being thoroughly entertained. Thanks Angela and make sure the next one is as good! (Amazon)

I won't say any more about the plot. You will have to read this book for yourself. Suffice it to say that talking to the animals is not a one-way street. Sometimes you have to listen to them too, even if what they say sounds pretty bizarre, like, say, talking about God. So, is Glee listening? Is the gorilla a little psychotic? Or is she on to something astounding? This is an intriguing subject and I wish author Hunt had done a better job with it. The book is over-written, with pages of breathless emotion and enough sentimentality to drown a horse (or gorilla). Glee is an unlikeable, self-centered, arrogant and touchy individual. The other characters are equally one-dimensional. Although the author has obviously done a lot of research on gorillas, the animals in this book are not quite believable. Well, that's just my opinion. If you like reading about talking gorillas, like Koko, or if you want to get a (fictional) gorilla's insights on spirituality, this might be just the book for you. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber. (Amazon)

Angie here again: Well--I liked Glee just fine, but maybe I see myself in her. :-) And I think the above is the first time I have ever been accused of being sentimental!

But there you have it. The good, the bad, and the opinionated. :-)

Tomorrow--your questions and answers. If you have any questions at all, leave them in the comments and I'll be sure to answer them.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

BOM: The Editing

The editing must have been simple because I don't remember a thing about it! (Either that, or I need to up my doseage of ginko babola.)

I do remember one thing my editors and I went round and round about. All during the time I was writing, I called the book "The Oracle"--intending, of course, for Sema to be the oracle through which God spoke. My editor felt, however, that people would hear "oracle" and think of "The Matrix."

We went back and forth, calling the book "The Oracle," "The Captive," and "Unspoken." Finally I put up three sample covers on my web site, sent a letter out to my newsletter list, and let my readers pick the title. "Unspoken" won the vote by a wide margin and now it's hard for me to think of the book in any other way.

"Unspoken" was the first title in years to break my pattern of "The *Whatever*". Since then, of course, we've had "Uncharted" and I'm tentatively calling my novel-in-progress "Unmasked." Obviously, I don't waste a lot of creativity on my titles. :-)

The first photo is a mock up cover I sent to my editors as a suggestion. The second photo is one they had in mind. We had a hard time coming up with the right image until I found the baby gorilla picture at an online image site. That little gorilla guy or girl won our hearts immediately.

Tomorrow: Results/reader reaction


Friday, May 04, 2007

BOM: The Writing

I really don't remember any terrific difficulties in writing Unspoken--the story came together nicely, and said what I wanted to say. I do remember wishing that I could get my entire message across through general or natural revelation--Sema could be a witness to agnostic Glee, her handler, but Sema couldn't tell Glee about Jesus because the specifics of salvation are contained in special revelation, not general.

So I created Glee's grandmother, a cheerful woman who runs a motel on the Gulf coast. Glee's granny doesn't preach, however, because she's more into talking about animals and the reasons God created them.

I set the story in my home county because when you have to do a lot of other research for your story, it's easier to fall back on a location you know. I live about a mile from lots of those motels on the beach, so it was a simple matter to set the story in my own area.

I wanted a story where a woman comes to a knowledge of the Lord through the animal kingdom--and Glee does. Through Sema, she hears not only a testimony, but sees the living embodiment of the good news. And if I say much more, I will give away too many plot points.

Tomorrow: the editing


Thursday, May 03, 2007

BOM: The Research

Before I could begin writing Unspoken, I had to research several areas. First, gorillas. Second, sign language--or the special sign language "Glee" develops for "Sema," because a gorilla's hand is different from a human's. Third, I had to dig into the scriptures to learn about animals and how they fit into God's plan . . . and I was delighted by what I learned. I also had to learn a bit about zoos, and proper primate habitats, and how humans interact with gorillas.

I rented "Gorillas in the Mist" even though Fossey studied mountain gorillas. I was partial to mountain gorillas (they're lovely, and they're endangered), but there are no mountain gorillas in captivity. So Sema would need to be a lowland gorilla, like Koko.

Of course, I also had to learn about how much a gorilla could actually learn of language, so I used Koko for a model. I bought several videos featuring Koko, and based all of Sema's activities upon things that Koko has either done or can do. (I read a review or two that accused me of making Sema "too human." I hate to disagree, but her behavior was realistic.)

I tried several times to find a zoo with a gorilla group that would let me visit "behind the scenes." I called several zoos and begged, but was never granted permission . . . "for liability reasons," I was told. Sigh. I would have LOVED to have firsthand experience, but had to work with books and my imagination.

I don't think I've ever had so much fun with a character. People always ask me if I have a favorite book, and my answer is no. But Sema is definitely one of my favorite characters. I just LOVE that little (ha!) gorilla girl!

Tomorrow: the writing


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

BOM: How the Idea Germinated

I always smile when I think of the origin of UNSPOKEN. First, you have to understand that I've always been fascinated by Koko, the REAL gorilla who speaks sign language and lives in California. (Learn all about her by visiting

I had seen several PBS specials on Koko and felt that there was *something* there--something that would make a good novel, but what? After all, Koko isn't fiction, she's real.

Fast forward a year or so. I was studying theology for my master's degree, and learning about general revelation versus special revelation. General revelation--the truths God reveals about himself through the created universe--clearly speaks of a Creator. Job wrote:

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you.
Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you.
Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you.
Let the fish of the sea speak to you.
They all know that the Lord has done this.
For the life of every living thing is in his hand,
and the breath of all humanity.”

Job 12:7-10

"Special" revelation is given to us in the Scriptures, and it is only through special revelation that we can learn about Christ and his provision for our sins.

Job was speaking metaphorically, but as I began to ponder general revelation and read about animals (who have souls, by the way, because the same Hebrew word used to refer to man's soul is also applied to animals), I read that all of creation will one day be redeemed. Man was created to be the steward of the animals, we were to have dominion over them, but when man fell, the animals fell, too--not in the same way, but they were subjected to the curse of the planet just as we were. So they wait for the redemption of Earth just as we do.

I became interested in studying man and animals and how they interact as opposed to how we were intended to interact. I suspect that all animals (or most) could speak in the garden of Eden--after all, Eve wasn't surprised when the serpent spoke to her, and Balaam's donkey had no trouble speaking to him. As I began to put forth my ideas to some friends, I was amazed to find that some of them didn't even believe that animals could experience emotion--and that floored me. I don't know how anyone can live with a dog and not know that dogs have DEEP emotions.

Anyway--one night my hubby and I were watching TV in bed. I turned to him and said, "I have this idea for a book about a gorilla who can talk--and since the Bible says that even the animals know about God, if an animal could talk, what would she tell us about Him?"

Dear, sweet hubby looked at me and said, "That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard."

Which, of course, made me all the more determined to write the story.

And so "Sema" was born.

Tomorrow: the reserach.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Book of the Month: Unspoken

By request!

A love unlike any other...a story of sacrifice and the unspoken connections that bring us together.

For the last eight years, Glee Granger has centered her life around Sema--they live together, play together, eat together, and "talk" together. Though Sema isn't the first gorilla to use sign language, Glee has pushed their interaction to breakthrough levels. Technically, however, Sema isn't hers. She belongs to the zoo where she was born--and the zoo wants its gorilla back. Glee's only option for continuing her work is to join the zoo staff. At first reluctant, Glee begins to see real possibilites in their new arrangement...until the unthinkable happens. One event overturns everything Glee thought she knew about humans and animals, the seen and the unseen, the spoken...and the unspoken.

She taught a gorilla to talk. Now can Glee learn to listen?

tomorrow: how the idea germinated. (If you haven't read it yet, better hurry! We don't want to reveal any spoilers!)