Monday, March 31, 2008

Writer's Workshop at Glen Eyrie

Photo: Becky Gansky, Angie, Nancy, Megan, and Al

In less than a month--April 27-30,to be exact--some good writing friends and I are hosting a writer's workshop at beautiful Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs.  This is not your typical big writer's conference--there are no appointments, no editors to impress.  Just a group of hard-working writers who want to improve their craft.  And we get to work in a castle.  No kidding. 

If you'd like to join us, check out this link.    

If you've joined us before, please leave a note about your experience. 

We take pride in the flexibility of this conference--we get together and go with what we think our students need--but since most people want an idea of what we will be offering, here's a sneak peek: 

Hello, attendees!  

We—Nancy Rue, Alton Gansky, Kathy Mackel, and Angela Hunt—are so excited about our upcoming adventure. Some of you have questions about what will be covered in each track, so we’ve put together brief synopses for you!  We’ll talk more on our first night together, so you know just what to expect.

Oh! And if you’re adventurous, you might want to pack a pair of (modest) pajamas for our pajama party!  Nightwear not required, however.  J

Along with general sessions, we will offer the following "concentrations":  

Novels With Nancy

            Whether you’re coming with a completed manuscript in hand or simply the germ of an idea in your head, Novels With Nancy will take you from where you are in the development of your novel and guide you through one approach to creating rich fiction. We’ll use a hands-on, workshop approach to:


·         clarifying where you want your book to go thematically
·         fleshing out a powerful plot
·         discovering and getting to know multi-dimensional characters
·         creating setting that is in itself a character


NOTE: This is not a nuts-and-bolts lecture class. Come prepared to write (laptop or long-hand), imagine, and try some things that may sound a little out there! 

And in the afternoon Nancy will teach. . .

Manuscript Mentoring:  “And Then It Got Worse” – Bring your manuscript, summary, plot outline, or just an idea and we’ll work specifically on your special plot challenges

Manuscript Mentoring: “Who ARE These People?” – Bring your characters with you in whatever form they now live (don’t’ let them be shy), and we’ll treat them to an afternoon of hands-on development

Public Speaking for Writers:  Al Gansky

Sooner or later it’s going to happen. You’ve written a book and someone wants you to speak to their church, Rotary Club, women’s luncheon, men’s breakfast, or some other gathering. How should you prepare? How long should you speak? How do you write a speech? Can you get rid of the butterflies in your stomach? Alton Gansky who has delivered more than 3,000 speeches, sermons, workshops, classes, keynotes, and more, will take the student through the basics of speech writing and delivery—and have fun doing it. The class is open to writers or others who need to stand before others and talk.

Writing the Difficult Scenes: Al Gansky

Every novelist (and nonfiction writer, too) faces scenes that are more difficult to write than others. From love scenes to descriptions of violence these scenes tax the writer’s creativity. How much is too much? How little is too little? Alton Gansky, author of 30 books, will give the student the tips and techniques that make every scene, no matter how difficult, do its job.

 Screenwriting: Kathy Mackel

Let’s workshop your story, capture its soul and discover its the visual essence. Define the three-act structure of your plot. Script your opening scene and storyboard your climax.

Polish and Shine: Kathy Mackel

Let’s take apart the first 300-500 words of your story, examine word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, tone, and pacing. We spiff it up together, send you off to rewrite, and cheer when you come back with your shine. Limit 10 writers per session, first come, first serve. Please email Kathy ahead of time with your pages ( Fiction and non-fiction welcome.

 The Freelance Writer: Angela Hunt

So you want to write—but you’re not sure what!  Do you write novels or articles or speeches or plays?  Do you write for pleasure or for profit? Could you make a living with your pen? Angela Hunt will discuss the various markets and show you how you can break into them. She’ll also show you how to tighten up your prose to improve your odds of acceptance.  She’s a firm believer that anyone can write anything, as long as they understand the blueprints!

Reading Analytically: Angela Hunt

Ever read another writer and wonder how they managed to create such a lovely string of words? How they managed to transport you to another place and time? We’ll learn how to read analytically so we can dissect writing to see what works . . . so you can use the same tools to make your own writing sing!

That's it!  If you're available, we'd love to have you join us.  


SHE ALWAYS WORE RED is a RT top pick!

4 1/2 stars

This just in from the latest edition of Romantic Times (and the book is not even a romance!) 

"Be prepared to shed a few tears in Hunt's emotionally gripping tale, the second in the Fairlawn series. With themes of family, friendship and trusting God, the plot is enhanced by realistic and engaging characters. Jennifer's growth as a character is evident, and the supporting cast enhances the story in a significant way.

"Summary: Jennifer Graham is buried under a heavy load of parenting, college courses and running a mortuary business. Yet when she meets newcomer McLane Larson, a pregnant young woman whose husband is in Iraq, Jen reaches out and finds a new friend. But she also finds a few surprises, and it's going to take strength and God's help to get her through the events that follow. "

I'm trying to finish up the final Fairlawn installment this week, so I'm "going under."  Don't forget the big "Spring Fling" drawing on April first.  To enter, just send me a note via my "contacts" page before April 1. That's when I'll be drawing a name from all the submissions to see who wins the book bag stuffed with books! 

Tomorrow: Another  Book of the Month begins!  


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Chapter A Week Selections for This week

I've talked before about the Chapter-a-week service, but this is a good time to mention it again.  If you'd like to "try" before you "buy" new novels, you need to sign up for Chapter-a-week!  You'll find the signup button to the right on this web page, just below the cute weather pixie and the frapper map.  

After you sign up for this free service, you will receive sample excerpts from two great novels in your email box.  Learn what your favorite authors have coming hot off the press and meet new authors, too!  

Here are the CAW selections for this week: 


By Kim Vogel Sawyer

Published by Bethany House Publishers, March 2008

Orphaned in a tenement fire, three Irish-immigrant children are sent to Missouri to be adopted. Despite eight-year-old Maelle's desperate attempts to keep her siblings together, each child is taken by a different family. Yet Maelle vows that she will never stop searching for her brother and sister...and that they will be together one day in the future.

Seventeen years later, Maelle is still searching. But the years have washed away her hope... and her memories. What are Mattie and Molly doing now? Where has life taken them? Will she ever see her brother and sister again?

Hideaway Home

A Hideaway Novel by Hannah Alexander

Has their love survived the ravages of war?      

        Throughout World War II, Second Lieutenant Red Meyer anticipated the day he could return to Hideaway, Missouri, and to his sweetheart, Bertie Moennig. His dreams are shattered, however, when he is wounded in the last stages of the war in Europe. Bertie is beautiful inside and out—she deserves a whole man. Red is determined to keep his distance until a tragedy on the home front brings the couple face to face for the first time in a year. Now a dangerous mystery threatens Bertie's life. As they fight for survival in their tiny Ozark town, Red has to summon the faith and courage to protect the woman he has never stopped loving.    


To read the full excerpt of these new titles go to Chapter-a-Week .

Have a great weekend! And keep those entries for the "Spring Fling bookbag giveaway" coming!


Friday, March 28, 2008


My friend Athol Dickson recently shared something fascinating with me. He's blogging about it over on his blog, too, but here's the note he shared . . . and that blew me away.

A friend sent me a devotional today, written by a Messianic Jew named Aaron Rabin. In it, Mr. Rabin refers to the tetragrammaton, YHVH or (in Hebrew letters) Yud Hey Vav Hey, which is the most holy name of God, given to Moses at the burning bush, the one that most English translations render as “I AM”. As many of you may know, YHVH is also the "forgotten" name of God, which Jews say is incomplete and which has a meaning that was lost because their ancestors refused to speak it aloud for so many generations. Today YHVH is most often rendered as "Yahweh" when spoken. “Jehovah” is an older, less accurate rendition. It's also the name most often printed as the LORD (all caps) in English Bibles. (Sometimes "Adonai" is translated that way as well.)

Anyway, Mr. Rabin refers to the "ideographic" meaning of the Hebrew letters Yud Hey Vav Hey. An ideogram is a symbol that represents an idea, like those little male and female symbols you see on the outside of public restroom doors. This is similar--but not identical--to the Chinese written system, or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. I knew Hebrew letters had ideographic meanings, but I never thought to check the tetragrammaton against those meanings as Mr. Rabin did. When I verified his assertion at three different sources, I was amazed. Using the ideographic meanings of Yud Hey Vav Hey most commonly accepted by Jewish scholars throughout the centuries, I found they absolutely match Rabin's translation of the most holy name of God.

Symbolically speaking, YHVH can indeed be translated as "Behold, the hand. Behold, the nail."


Thursday, March 27, 2008

A spring fling contest!

In honor of the soon-coming release of SHE ALWAYS WORE RED, we're having a spring contest! 

Click on the second image to see details about how to enter for the drawing to be held on April first for a tote bag filled with (different) Angela Hunt books! All the books you see in the first picture--plus the book bag, of course! 

Be sure to enter through the "contact" page at Angela Hunt books, not through the blog comments. One entry per family, please. Thanks! 

P.S. We can only ship to United States addresses.  


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Contest for Young Writers

I am often asked where young writers can get their work published.  While I'm not up on the regular magazines that feature work by young people, I have learned about a new contest for young writers in three age categories:  6-9, 10-13, and 14-19.  The winners in each category will receive $15,000 for college (wow!), a trip to Kansas to visit the publishing house, and the publication of their book.  

To be considered, a book must have been written and illustrated by ONE person.  For detailed contest rules, visit this link.  

I'm a big believer in encouraging young writers, and my first published book was a contest winner. (I wasn't a child, though--I was in my late twenties).  If I hadn't entered that contest, I'd probably still be writing nothing but magazine articles and brochures.  

So if you know of a young person who's interested in writing, send them the above link.  The contest deadline is June 1, 2008, so be sure to beat the deadline and follow the rules! 


Tuesday, March 25, 2008



For you children of the seventies--rockets and Elton and Star Trek--you have to check out William Shatner "singing" Rocketman.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry!


Monday, March 24, 2008

Skid: by Rene Gutteridge

Publisher's Weekly is often hard on novels--particularly Christian novels--so it was with great delight that I read the following review of SKID by Rene Gutteridge.  Of course it helps that I know and love Rene, who is a dear woman, very insightful, and a keen writer. 

This book releases in May, but I thought you might want to know about it right away. I'm ordering a copy for my book club and hope they'll pick it up.  You can order a copy here

Here's that wonderful PW review: 

"No Christian fiction novelist can tickle a funny bone like Gutteridge, and this installment in the Occupational Hazards series (Scoop; Snitch) doesn't disappoint and works easily as a stand-alone. Think Snakes on a Plane meets Airplane meets Billy Graham. Hank Hazard, a homeschooled, naive mime in the Hazard Clowns family troupe, has struggled to find his niche since his parents died in a freak hot tub accident. The 28-year-old's latest job foray is an an airline company spy for Atlantica, where he flies incognito to evaluate the service. Hank gets more than he bargains for on Flight 1945 to Amsterdam, which involves a rampaging pig, a senior flight attendant with hot flashes, some diamond thieves, a 103-year-old woman pronounced dead and an aging female pilot who pastes sticky notes on the windshield. Hank can't resist evangelizing the passengers, and somehow Gutteridge makes it work without seeming awkward. Gutteridge is a pro, from smooth point of view changes to snappy dialogue. What could have been cliched slapstick turns into unbridled hilarity in her capable hands, and the laughter doesn't stop until the wheels touch the tarmac.  

Copyright Reed Business Information.  

Doesn't that sound hilarious?  I can't wait to read it. 


Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Lord is risen!

. . . the Lord is risen indeed! 

And because He is, death has no dominion over us. 
Sin has no claim on us. 
Sadness has no power over us. 
And guilt has no place in us. 
A blessed Easter to you and yours! 


Friday, March 21, 2008

The Winchester Mystery House

I have always wanted to check out the Winchester Mystery House.   I saw a TV special on it years ago, and because it's in San Jose, and because we have to fly out of San Jose tomorrow morning, we saved it for today, our last day in CA. 

We arrived at about ten a.m. and immediately set off on the tour of the mansion.  Here's the story, which is unbelievable even before you set foot in the house.  Sarah Winchester was odd--and her oddness was compounded by grief. She married the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, and a spiritualist allegedly told her that she'd be haunted by the ghosts of all those who had been killed by the Winchester rifle (thousands, apparently, since the gun killed hundreds of Native Americans and hundreds of soldiers in the Civil War) unless she started building a house and kept building. In fact, apparently Sarah was led to believe that she would not die as long as she kept building. 

So she left her home in the East and moved to San Jose, where she bought a working farm.  And started building.  She hired carpenters and kept them hammering twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  And she built. And built.  And she had the money to build an enormous mansion (at one point seven floors), filled with exquisite, specially commissioned Tiffany windows, doors, etc.  

She had no master plan; she simply sketched out designs on napkins and plans and gave them to her carpenters.  Some say that she said the spirits told her what to build.  And as she grew older and was afflicted with arthritis, she had all the staircases ripped out and replaced with "easy rider" steps that are only about two inches high.  So these stairs wind back and forwards and up and down, all to accommodate her inability to take tall steps.  An earthquake in 1906 (I think) so rattled Sarah that she stopped building in the front of the house and left those rooms in a state of disrepair--beautiful rooms that had barely been used.  Apparently the spirits told her that she'd spent too much money furnishing those rooms. 

Some say the woman was a genius, but my overall impression is sadness--it's so sad that such a woman would have been influenced by demonic forces.  What a waste of time and money, and what a way to live--draped under a black veil and running from room to room in the fear that you were being followed by spirits!  How I wish someone had reached this poor woman with the Truth that would have set her free from all that! 

When she was found dead in her bed of heart failure, construction on the house stopped. Immediately.  And the porches and rooms under construction were left unfinished. The exterior portions of unfinished structures were painted black and left as is.  

I've included some photos, including the fireplace that crumbled in the earthquake and was never replaced.  Is it a beautiful house?  It has some lovely things in it--especially the Tiffany glass--but its layout and impracticality bother me at some basic level.  Not to mention the "seance" room with its fake doors to mislead the spirits.  Pluh-ease.  All Sarah needed was Jesus.  

Tomorrow--hubby and I head home!  We have enjoyed our trip, but I have a book to finish and dogs who surely must miss me!  

Photos (click on any photo to enlarge):  
  • The front of the house
  • The fireplace destroyed in the earthquake and never replaced
  • Some of the Tiffany glass in her "storage room"! 
  • A door in the second floor that leads to . . . nothing.  One of several in the house. 


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Monterey Aquarium and Wharf

It's a gorgeous day here in CA--cool breeze, warm sun, and bright.  Hubby and I got up and checked out of our beautiful B&B, then we went down to the aquarium, where we waited in line with dozens and dozens of little kids for a glimpse of the sea creatures.  I got some great pictures--I think.  The aquarium is really marvelous, especially if you have little children.  Lots of hands on activities. 

We then went out and ate (for the second time) at Bubba Gump shrimp.  :-)  We like shrimp, obviously, and the chain was new to us.  Afterward, a little looking around, then we went down to Fisherman's wharf, where you could hear the seals and sea lions barking from the parking lot.  

The parking lot attendant tells me the creatures aren't there all year round, but when they're in residence, boy, can you hear them!  They sound amplified!  They argue with each other for a spot on this floating dock someone has constructed . . . and I don't think it's been constructed for the seals.  Anyway, they have taken it over, and several linger in the water, hoping for a perch and a spot where they can lounge in the sun.  Some of these guys are HUGE--they remind me of my dogs.  :-) 

Anyway, enjoy the pictures.  For tonight, I followed Captain Kirk's suggestion and "named my price" on and got a luxury resort for half price.  Don't you love it when a plan comes together?  This hotel room is one of the "refreshed" ones--flat screen TV (have you heard about all those old hotel armoires going up for sale cheap?) and farmhouse sink in the bathroom.  Very chic.  Very modern.  I love the "office area," except the hidden outlets, once I found them, didn't work.  :-/  I had to settle for outlets in the wall.  :-) 

P.S. For Kay: 
I don't write when I'm traveling (too scattered), so I HAVE to stay home for a while to get a book done.  But yes, I'll soon be heading to CO.  

More Vacation Pictures

At the risk of boring you to death, here are some more pics from our trip.  Enlarge the photo of what looks like a big rock by clicking on it and you should be able to see a couple of seals.  :-) 

Today we're off to the aquarium and to haunt the places where Steinbeck wrote.  


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beautiful Western California

Today the hubby and I drove out of Monterey down to Big Sur . . . amazingly beautiful drive and national forest.  We also stopped at the Point Lobos National Park and saw seals and sea lions--and heard them barking!  And the flowers that bloom in this place!  

I got tickled as we drove along and saw a few cow pastures overlooking this grand view of the ocean.  I  wonder if those cows realize how fortunate they are to have such a gorgeous pasture.  :-)  

Took a few pictures that I can't resist sharing.  Enjoy! 

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mt. Hermon is winding down . . .

Still having a great time at Mt. Hermon.  This afternoon, after teaching my morning class, I was privileged (stunned, actually) to sit in on a panel with many faces that may be familiar to you:  Robin Jones Gunn, Jerry Jenkins, Patsy Clairmont, and Debbie Macomber.  

Tonight Jerry J is our keynote speaker, then classes wrap up tomorrow and off we go.  My hubby is flying out here, and we're going to tool around the California coast for a few days--and I need to find my voice again!  I don't usually talk and sing this much. 
Enjoy these few pictures!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What do Writers do at a Writers' Conference?

They play with rubber snakes, apparently. 

Somehow I have stumbled into an episode of the suspense writers (president: Brandilyn Collins) versus the Big Ol' Honkin' Chickens Club (president: Deb Raney).  

Brandilyn is trying to frighten Deb--probably so Deb will learn to overcome her fears enough so that she will be able to read one of Brandilyn's novels.  

So Brandilyn is trying to scare Deb with poisons (innocent, actually, but printed in dire-looking bottles and hand-delivered by cooperating waitresses) labeled as "flavor enhancers", etc., but Deb doesn't go for food additives. 

So Brandilyn pulled another weapon from her arsenal and sneaked into Deb's room at Mt. Hermon before we arrived.  Deb was supposed to room with Colleen Coble, but Colleen is suffering from food poisoning (no, Brandilyn didn't do it), so she wasn't able to come.  Deb's room contained two twin beds and a double bed, so Brandilyn hid a rubber snake in the double bed.  

I had a bad feeling about B's joke as soon as I heard that Deb thought that Colleen might make it in--knowing Deb, who would give anyone the shirt off her back and her last meal, too--I suspected that she would choose to sleep in one of the twin beds. 

Righto.  Next morning, Deb appears at breakfast, unruffled.  Brandilyn confesses the joke, and Deb removes the snake from the bed, and sneaks it back to me, asking me to hide it some place where it might startle the Queen of Suspense. 

At this point it occurs to me that I am an official Double Agent.  :-)  So I sneak the snake into Brandilyn's bed, not breathing a word until the moment when Brandilyn pulls back her covers, sees the snake curled near her pillow . . . and laughs.  

Now she's trying to figure out how to get the snake back to Deb . . . but in a diabolical way, of course. 

And yes, we're also teaching a lot while we're here.  :-)  And talking with conferees, and I even sang in church this morning.  

But far more entertaining is the Saga of the Snake. 

Photo:  Carol Cox and DiAnn Mills in the Mt. Hermon coffee shop.  (This is where the Internet is; this is where we all congregate.) 


Teaching Tapes Are Available

Leanna asked, so here's the answer:  yes, you can order teaching tapes from the Mt. Hermon Christian writer's conference through their web site.  Here's the link.  Enjoy!   (The 2008 tapes will be available soon--the conference has to end first!)  


Photo:  Just a few of the 2008 Mt. Hermon faculty members lining up for introductions during orientation.  

Open Doors and New Challenges

The only thing constant is change, no?  

I'm going to be making a few changes in the coming months, and I'm hoping you'll come with me. Actually, I won't be changing, but the external appearance of some of my books will be. 

Let me back up. 

I've mentioned before that when I wrote my first novel, Afton of Margate Castle, I was writing for the world at large, not specifically to a Christian audience.  Because I'm a believer in Christ, my Christian values are part of my stories, but in that first book I wasn't attempting to cater to a believing readership. 

And then I learned that since I was writing for Christian publishers whose books were sold in Christian bookstores (which only a small fraction of professing Christians ever actually patronize), maybe I should try to gear my writing to a specific audience.  So I did change my focus a bit. I wrote about "Christian problems"--legalism, how we cope with suffering, when we rebel against God's sovereign will, how we should deal with bioethical issues, etc. 

But still, my tendency has always been to write parables--stories that work as a story on one level, but have an underlying spiritual message.  Jesus taught in parables, so it it worked for him . . . 

Since my salad days, I've written both kinds of books--books geared more for Christians (the Fairlawn books would fall into this category, also The Debt) and books geared more for the world at large. The first category usually features a believing protagonist who is struggling to live out her faith in the world, just as we all are.  The second category usually features an agnostic character who either comes to faith or deals with faith elements in an allegorical way (The Elevator; The Face, The Awakening, etc.) 

I'll be honest--it always makes me grimace when someone reviews one of my parable books online and chides me for not being "Christian enough."  The elements are there, but they have been carefully laid beneath the obvious story. And writers are all different, and we all write the stories the Lord has given us. 

In any case, on to the changes:  I have a contract with Steeple Hill, which is the inspirational imprint for Harlequin Publishing. I was thrilled to sign with them because most of Steeple Hill's sales are outside of traditional Christian outlets and my desire has always been to get my stories out to the world.  My editors--whom I trust-- have recently decided to move me into another Harlequin imprint--one that is not aimed at the Christian market. 
Please understand--my books are not changing.   My style, my messages, my high-concept plots will all remain the same (and boy, do I have a dilly of a plot planned next!).  But in a few months "The Elevator" will be released as a Mira title in "mass market" format--the smaller size paperback that you see in bookstores, at the grocery store, and in Wal-Mart.  "The Face" will be released later this year in the same format.  Same novel, different size. Different imprint. 

Here's where you come in--if you hear that I have "crossed over" and left my Christian stories behind, know that nothing could be further from the truth.  I've not sold out, wigged out, or burned out.  I'm just moving into a new and uncharted (ahem) area. 

I'm a little thrilled to think that my stories will be on the racks with stories of mayhem and who-knows-what-all.  I hope they don't get lost, and I hope my readers will track them down.  
I have never had a grand career plan with long-term goals.  I have always approached this writing thing one contract at a time, writing the stories God either gave me or sent my way.  And I know that God doesn't make mistakes, so this is His will and His perfect timing.  

So, hang with me, will you?  My Fairlawn books will still finish up with Tyndale; nothing's changing there.  But if you see The Elevator or The Face in a spinning rack with books that may not be your first choice, don't be stunned, be excited!  I certainly am. 

One more thing--all signs look good for more Heavenly Daze books, but I won't be writing them because I'm concentrating on my high-concept stories. Lori will soon be talking to another talented novelist with a flair for small town humor, and I have high hopes for their collaboration.  I wish them all the best . . . and I can't wait to see what those zany townspeople are up to next!  

Hugs from Mt. Hermon, 


Saturday, March 15, 2008

More photos from Mt. Hermon

I'm never sure what order these photos will display in, so here's what you're seeing: 
  • beautiful tulips
  • Marlo Schlaskey, acting goofy
  • Brandilyn Collins, acting like a writer
  • Nick Harrison (Harvest House) hard at work 
As always, click on any photo to enlarge.  (Brandilyn's gonna kill me.)  :-) 


More from Mt. Hermon

Photos:  Pals Jim Bell and Gayle Roper; a redwood tree (I *think*), Deb Raney and Kelli Standish in the van . . . with the Mac Air.  :-)   

The Mac Air is awfully popular here.  Everyone wants to lift it, hold it, weigh it, and run their fingers over the keyboard.  Soon all laptops will be this thin, but until then, the Mac Air is a thing of beauty.  

Today was a fairly restful day, with the conferees still arriving, orientation, and our first few sessions.  Tomorrow we hit the ground running and I begin teaching the fiction track. It has been gratifying to hear from several of last year's conferees that they have been listening to my teaching tapes (actually, they're MP3s) over and over, and tonight a woman told me she sold her first novel after being in my class!  I don't know that I taught her anything, but it was nice of her to imply that I did. 

It's supposed to be rainy tomorrow with hail, believe it or not, but I suspect we'll be too busy to notice.  :-)  


Friday, March 14, 2008

Mt. Hermon, CA

I'm here!  And, LOL, for a few minutes there I thought I was back home.  Take a gander of this truck we snapped on the ride from the airport to the conference center.  Deb Raney had to snap the picture because I was on the other side of the passenger van. 

This "Truck in Flux" (notice the personalized license plate--click on the photo to enlarge) features several live plants, several busts of people, and a bumper sticker that says "I own a dog and I vote." 

Huh?  I don't know, but if you want to create your own "art car," check out this web page. 

It is lovely here at Mt. Hermon--the flowers are blooming, the trees are in bud, and I'm walking around with my camera, as happy as a shutterbug can be.  A little chilly, but I brought my Irish ruanas (a woolen shawl thing), that keeps me warm and sheds water, too. 

Brandilyn Collins is my roommate, and though I was dead tired last night at 11 p.m. (2 a.m. EST), she kept me giggling with her ruminations about whether clouds could get cold and the purpose of two odd-shaped panels in our ceiling.  (Or maybe I was the one ruminating, and she the one giggling.  I'm too tired to remember.) She got up early this morning and went out to run five or six miles while I stumbled into the shower and then went out to check my email.  I'm beginning to think that a person's true personality is revealed by their actions in the first hour of the day. 

Last week in Ireland, I startled Terri Blackstock, who was my roomie.  We were going to sleep, and I was in that inchoate state between sleep and wakefulness.  I think I was with a roomful of people, and I opened my eyes (really) and saw this white blob with a hole in the center--it looked like a camera.  I said, "Oh!  I guess I'm on candid camera!"  And then as the white blob faded and my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I  said, "Oh! They're all gone now." 

At which point Terri began to giggle because I had, of course, spoken out loud.  But by telling this story here, I am nipping any possible blackmail in the bud.  :-)  

Okay--another conference ahead.  Time to prepare my brain and fortify my spirit.  


More Ireland Pictures

I was asked to share more Ireland pictures, so while I'm home (with my broadband), I'll upload a few.  We took hundreds, so I'll try to get some of the best ones.  Enjoy--and click any photo to enlarge. 

Explanations:  not all the "ruins" in Ireland are tourist attractions--some are simply on the side of the road, and you can pull over and prowl around them.  

Wanda, Linda, and Terri. 

Blarney Castle. 

Linda's face after kissing the Blarney Stone. 

A mixture of old and new at a Tipperary cemetery.  I don't know why, but this picture moves me. 


Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Barium Swallow

So my doctor said I needed a Barium Swallow.  I wasn't sure if he was talking about a pill, a bird, or some kind of torture, but he gave me an official permission slip and sent me off to the local medical building where I usually put in an annual appearance for my mammogram. 

(Yes, I suppose I should warn you--this blog post is going into personal areas where I don't usually go. Trust me, though, I do have boundaries.) 

Instructions for the Barium Swallow (which I Googled to find) included drinking lots of fluids on the day before the Big Event and eating lots of fruits and vegetables, then nothing after midnight.  So when you show up for the grand event, your tummy should be empty.  Why?  Because you are going to be swallowing Barium (surprise!) which is apparently a liquid metallic substance that shows up on an X-ray.  These x-rays can tell a doctor with medical school plus 12 years of training in radiology if you can swallow or not.  Plus a few other medical mysteries which the common layman is not permitted to know unless absolutely necessary. 

So I showed up at the medical center at 9:3o and was in the middle of watching a You-tube video on my iPhone when the nurse came to get me.  I was taken to the same mini-locker room where I go every year for that other procedure, and told to put on a scrub top. 

I don't know about you, but I've decided that I could live in a scrub suit--you know, those colorful V-neck tops that surgeons and nurses and medical techs wear.  As I sat in a waiting room with several other grim-faced women who were pretending to watch morning television, I happily announced that I thought we looked pretty fetching in our medical garb--drapes for the mammogram ladies, scrub tops for the swallows, etc.  One woman came out in teal robe and a blanket.  I don't know what kind of procedure you're in for if you have to put on an entire robe and a blanket, but it can't be good. I told her the color looked particularly nice on her.  She smiled. 

After a few minutes, the tech came to get me.  I was taken to a room occupied by a monster machine--a huge board that looked like an operating table stood on end, a chair, and rails across the ceiling.  The tech there asked the operative question:  "How long have you had trouble swallowing?" 

 I assured him that I did NOT have trouble swallowing, I've always been able to eat without any problem at all, which is probably a problem of the dietary kind.  When he gave me a why-are-you-here look, I said that I'd been driving around Ireland with pressure in my chest.  Nothing major, but unusual.  And the doc said I ought to get it checked out since it persisted long after I stopped driving on the wrong side of the road. 

So the nice tech man gave me two little cups--one filled with little white crystals and the second filled with water--the chaser.  "Chug the crystals," he said, "and wash them down with water. And then, if you can help it, don't burp." 

Well.  I told him I wasn't much of a chugger, but I'd give it my best shot.  So I did--tasted like a mouthful of Sprite.  Afterward, he congratulated me on my excellent accomplishment (I'm always tickled at how they exclaim over things like swallowing and chugging and other bodily functions), then he asked me to stand up against the standing-up-table.  I did, and the tech left to go find the radiologist. 

And while I was standing there--because I'd endured a night without water, a morning without food, and far too many hours without caffeine, I confess. I released a silent, ladylike burp.  Twice. 

My first thought upon seeing the doctor was that Mr. Rogers had come back as a blonde.  The radiologist was very calm, very smiley, and very proficient.  The tech handed me a cup filled with chalky stuff and told me to drink it, but not to swallow until instructed to, then to swallow very fast.  Have you ever tried to swallow on command?  It's harder than you might think. 
The thing is--when you swallow, they snap a picture.  I was able to swivel my eyeballs toward the monitor, where I could see my esophagus in black and white, flexing and swallowing and doing all the things an esophagus is supposed to do.  After every drink-and-swallow, both the tech and the doc congratulated me on a job well done.  

Then the doc handed me a little white pill in a cup and told me to swallow it on command.  I did, and from behind the screen I heard him say, "That thing just flew by!" 

By this time I was preening.   I am a champion swallower.  Mom, do you remember how hard it was for me to swallow pills as a kid?  I can now list swallowing as a skill on my resume. 

Then the table tilted backward and I rode it over, swallowing and drinking and sipping while x-rays flashed and pictures were taken.  Finally it was all over and the tech assured me I had been a model patient. 

I have never felt so affirmed.  

Back to the locker room, where I put on my regular clothes (bidding a reluctant farewell to that comfortable scrub top)  and prepared to go find food and caffeine.  If the doctor discovers anything, he'll call my doctor.  In the mean time, I have places to go and a book to write.  

So if you ever have to have a barium swallow, it's okay.  Tastes a little like strawberry, even though the goop is white.  Drink lots of water afterward, they told me, so you can flush the stuff out of your system. 

Eeek.  I'd better start drinking, or I'm liable to set off the airport metal detectors when I fly to California tomorrow.  Yes, I'm heading out again, teaching and then vacationing for a couple of days with the hubby in California.  (No, I don't have a Florida hubby and a California hubby. Just the one.) 

P.S.  If you find this fascinating (I never know), you can find a video of Nick R's Barium Swallow here.  This is NOT my esophagus. Boundaries, you see. 


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More than 25 percent of teen girls has an STD?!

I read it here and my heart broke. Over one in four teenage girls!  When music, movies, and TV are assuring our kids that it's okay to have sex any time they feel like it, few people are talking about venereal disease and the associated heartbreak. 

My book club met last night to talk about a new romance that's come out--I suppose it's a romance.  The main question is whether or not the guy will ever get the girl, and that's a romance in my book.  Anyway, there was another character who slept with any woman who walked by, and while we were talking about him, I pointed out that the heroine--who happened to be temporarily married to said sleaze--was a little too gullible for my taste.  "Think of the venereal diseases that guy must have been carrying," I pointed out. 

But no one talks about such things, so no one thinks about them . . . much.  But it's time we began to talk about such things with our kids.  Read the above article and see if you don't agree. 

On another note, today I was trying to print out some handouts for my fiction class at Mt. Hermon.  My laser printer kept quitting before the job was done, and every time it sent me a plain sheet of paper with its complaint printed across the top:  

ERROR:  syntaxerror

Well.  When my words begin to offend my printer, I think it's time to call it a day.  :-)  


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Faithful Service

Sunday my church celebrated our pastor's retirement.  Charlie Martin has pastored my church for 37 years, and he is now going up to North Carolina to pastor a little mountain church up in the hills, as he puts it. 

My husband and I sat in the back of a packed sanctuary and alternately blew our noses and wiped tears from our eyes as so many people told what a blessing Charlie had been to their lives.
He's been a blessing to us, too.  Twenty years ago he interviewed us for the position of middle school pastor-and-wife, and so we moved to Florida, where we've been serving alongside Charlie for all those years.  We've watched his children grow up and now we see them with children of their own.  I've worked alongside his wife in planning women's activities, and Charlie and Stephanie will always be precious to us. 
Our church, under Charlie's leadership, has already called and "installed" a new pastor, Jeff Parrish, so the church is humming along quite nicely.  We love our new pastor, too, and are looking forward to many more years of service here, Lord willing. 

But we'll miss Charlie and his family.  And it is truly heart-warming to see a servant of the Lord humbly accept well-deserved thanks and move on to a new challenge.  I've never met anyone with a bigger heart for evangelism and inviting people to trust Jesus.  

Thank you, Pastor Charlie and Stephanie.  We'll miss you. 


Monday, March 10, 2008

I Admire Ben Stein

Maybe you're familiar with his TV show, "Win Ben Stein's Money." Or perhaps his face rings a bell from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."  Or maybe you've read his book, particularly THE VIEW FROM SUNSET BOULEVARD (which I highly recommend), or maybe you've read one of his columns. 

In any case, Ben Stein is a brilliant man who dares to speak the truth. He's Jewish, he believes in God, and he upholds traditional values.  Apparently he has a movie coming out this spring, and the trailer is well worth your time.  You can view a teaser/synopsis here

Please watch it.  It's well worth your time.  And after you watch it, remember that Hitler was greatly influenced by Darwin--if you believe in evolution and the improvement of the species, it's only a small step to advocating eugenics and the concept of a "master race."  When you don't believe that each man, woman, and child is created in the image of God, it's easy to consign a certain race, the infirm, and the unborn to the trash heap. 

It's frightening to think that scientists and researchers who believe in intelligent design are being silenced in the marketplace of ideas.  What happened to true intellectual freedom?