Friday, September 30, 2005

Tee hee.

Photo: what usually sits on the top of my desk.

Some of you caught the bug! A historical novelist must have tenacity--once you set out to find that piece of information, you tend to stick with it even though it drives you crazy and takes more time than you imagined.

But those of you who responded did well. Here are the pertinent clips from MAGDALENE:

Siblings: Yeshua’s mother didn’t always travel with us, for she had other children still living in Natzeret. As time passed, I learned that she kept to herself not because she was unsure of Yeshua, but because she was unhappy about strife in her household. Though our rabboni was her firstborn, her other children—James, Joseph, Abigail, Simon, Judas, and Anna—were not reluctant to offer their opinions about their elder brother’s activities. The more Yeshua’s fame spread through the region, the more outspoken his siblings became.

Note: The men were named, the women were not, so the names of Abigail and Anna are fictional. But we know he DEFINITELY had at least two sisters.

Clothing: Four legionnaires had crucified the prophet and piled his clothing near the foot of the cross. Five pieces lay on the ground; each soldier took one item: the outer robe, girdle, sandals, and turban. A single linen tunic remained, and the men hesitated when they saw it. The worn tunics of the two thieves were fit only for rags, but despite the bloodstains, the prophet’s garment looked new—and it had been woven of a single piece.

“Let’s not tear this one.” Flavius shook out the blood-stained garment. “Let’s throw the knucklebones to see who wins it.”

I found it interesting that the inner tunic--the one they didn't want to rip--was woven of one piece just like the inner garments the high priests wore. (I think this is where God says, Well -- what else would he wear?). Tradition says that the Virgin Mary gave him this robe; I had Mary Magdalene give it to him. In MAGDALENE, she thinks of him as a son.

A big thank you to all of you who stopped by to play the game. :-)



Thursday, September 29, 2005

So . . . You Want to Write Historical Fiction?

If you've ever wondered about writing historical fiction, you need to know that it requires all the usual novelist skills as well as a real love for research . . . because you're going to have to dig. You can't have your characters sit down to dinner without knowing where they're going to eat, what they're going to eat, and how they're going to eat it. Contrary to rumor, you can't just make it up.

Okay--I'll toss out two questions. See how you do at finding the answers . . . and if you enjoy the process.

1.) See if you can find the names of Jesus' half-brothers and half-sisters. How many of each?
2). How many pieces of clothing did the typical Galilean man wear . . . and what were they?

:-) I'll give you the answers the next time I'm able to blog.

Shalom! I'm in an airport . . . again.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Village School and OCA

Whew. Just came back from a wonderful visit to The Village School in Gaffney, SC. What wonderful students, and how well they listened. We talked about listening for God's voice and building a plot skeleton . . . and I hope the students will begin to write stories of their own. Thank you, students, for welcoming me so warmly!

Yesterday I visited Oconee Christian Academy in Seneca and also had a wonderful time with the students AND their parents (at a PTF fellowship last night). They have a great group of students and devoted parents, so I'm sure they'll be reading and writing up a storm in the coming weeks. Plus, their book fair kicked off yesterday, so they are extra-motivated to get busy. Thank you, OCA students and staff, for making my visit a wonderful experience.

Now . . . home for long enough to unpack and repack, then I leave tomorrow morning for sweater weather! Looking forward to a long weekend in Michigan.

Am still sad about Sadie . . . but I will always have fond memories of the old girl. She was hilarious--bossy to the end. She was the alpha in our house and boy, did she ever let the others know it. Justus, who outweighed her by about a hundred pounds, used to turn his head just to avoid her gaze when she walked by. And Charley--well, he tried not to come within ten feet of her, but the morning she died, my hubby said that Charley came over and lay right down next to her. Wonder what he was thinking?

Thank you for the many kind comments of consolation. I know animal lovers will understand. And I'm more convinced than ever that those of us who love animals will be reunited with them in heaven.

Well, am sitting in an airport waiting for a flight home, so I'll get started on the work I brought.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ask the Animals

Sidney Bristow, of Alias, is always talking about "compartmentalizing" her emotions.

That's what I have to do today, because I've just learned that my Sadie died in her sleep last night. I knew she was feeling her age, and she was not feeling well when I left home, but still it came as a surprise . . . and I'm sorry I wasn't home. But if she has to go, I'd rather she go in her sleep than me having to make the choice to put her down.

So--I'm speaking in schools today, this afternoon, and tonight, so I'll concentrate on the students and try not to think about home. But it won't be easy.

Ask the animals, and they'll tell you about God. It's the premise of my novel UNSPOKEN, and it's the truth.

See you in heaven, Sades.

Monday, September 26, 2005

North Asheville Christian School

Spent the day driving among these mountains . . . and spoke at Asheville Christian School today. Taught four classes to two great groups of kids and had a wonderful time with their librarian, Rebecca Freeman, and their administrator, Susie. (She has kissed a pig in the past to motivate her kids!)

Saw a gleam enter some young eyes today, especially boys. And while it's given that girls will read about boys, boys won't always read about girls, so it's good when a (female) teacher can motivate boys to read and write. What a wonderful day.

Also learned some things about salesmanship--things that don't come naturally to me. I really don't like talking about my books, but if I didn't believe in them, why'd I write them in the first place? So I have to find a way to talk about them that 1) excites kids and 2) doesn't make it sound like I think I'm all that and a bag of chips.

Tomorrow--Seneca, Wednesday--someplace else, (no secret, I just don't remember) and then home long enough to move the mail and change the clothes in the suitcase. Then it's off again!

And after October 1, I think I truly will take a vacation. I have lots of traveling to do this fall, plus I want to finish my master's, plus I'll have rewrites . . . but I don't think I'll take on anything else. Need to veg for a while. That's the only time I really get ideas.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

It's Saturday . . .

. . . which means this post will even be less organized than usual.

The picture of the smiling kitty is for Anna, who gave her cat a brushing today. (VBG)

I just watched BRIDE AND PREJUDICE, a charming Indian movie based on the Jane Austen story, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, of course. The movie is also charming, and the saris are to die for. I found myself wishing I was Indian, just to wear the clothes.

While working on MAGDALENE, I found myself wishing I was Jewish, not for the clothes, but for the rich culture. And then I wanted to live in ancient Rome. I've also wanted to be Irish and English . . .

Is it just me, or do all writers want to live in someone else's skin? Maybe that's why we enjoy writing novels . . . in a sense, we ARE living in someone else's skin.

Printed out MAGDALENE to take with me on my assorted travels next week (going to South Carolina and Michigan, gone for seven days, maybe blogging, maybe not.) It's pretty much done, though I'll be tweaking. Sent my editor an in-case-the-plane-crashes copy. Maybe I should send one to my agent, too.

Have a book signing tonight and tomorrow morning at my home church bookstore, then it's off to the airport and the treadmill week officially begins. Of course, this entire month has felt like a treadmill, but at least I'll be moving next week, instead of keeping the rear in chair.

The ALIAS season premiere is Thursday night. Better teach hubby how to tape it for me.

Said hubby is now waiting to take me to Cracker Barrel, so must run.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Doin' a Little Funky Dance . . .

Or I would be if you could see me. Today at about six p.m. I finished the third draft--which was really the fourth draft--of MAGDALENE. And it is finally beginning to feel "together," if you know what I mean. In fact--and I say this with great trepidation--I think some of it might actually be good.

Tomorrow I'm going to print it out. I'm traveling all next week, so I'll take the manuscript with me and pull out random pages to check for repetitions, senses in scenes, tension, etc. Looking at it by random pages insures that you don't get so caught up in the story line that you gloss over random errors. Or weaknesses.

In any case, I have been working ten-hour-days for what feels like a very long time, so it feels great to take a little break. Ah . . . .

By Monday I'll probably be thinking that the book is the worst thing I've ever written, but that's par for the course. And when I get my editor's letter, I may be suicidal, but that's normal, too. The lovely thing about a manuscript is that it can be fixed. Errors can be corrected, weaknesses can be strengthened, themes can be enforced, and extraneous stuff can be cut.



Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Magdalene Primer

Before I move on from the post(s) of yesterday, the teacher in me wants you to notice something about those excerpts: stop and look for 1) speaker attributions and 2) adverbs. Unless I've missed one, I count only 2 speaker attributions (said, asked) and NO adverbs.

I tell my writing classes that when you see an adverb, your gut reaction should be "boo, hiss." (VBG). Yes, of course you can use one sometime, but your writing will probably be stronger without it.

The following is from the end of the Magdalene manuscript. I started adding these after I wrote some biblical fiction and started getting reader comments about how I got this or that wrong because I hadn't done my homework. Sigh. I always do my homework, lots of it, but once the book is out, I have no way to respond. So now I take preemptive measures to head off (some) questions and comments.

An Interview with Angela Hunt

Q: Don’t you find it a little intimidating to write a novel where you’re putting words into Jesus’ mouth?
A: Absolutely! That’s why I tried to use his actual words, or slight paraphrases, whenever possible.

Q: Okay—I have to know. Mary Magdalene was a real person, and of course I recognized the names of the disciples, but what about all the other characters? Which are fictional and which are real?
A: The challenge of a historical novelist is to flesh out the story world with fictional characters and events while not contradicting the historical record. So yes, Mary Magdalene is real, as were the other women around Jesus, the disciples, the emperors, and several other names you’ll recognize from the New Testament, including Claudius Lysias. Incidentally, Peter did have a wife who traveled with him, so she must have been one of the women around Jesus. Which one? I chose Susanna, but I could be wrong.
The fictional characters? Atticus, Flavius, Quintus/Binyamin, and Hadassah.

Q: You chose not to depict Mary Magdalene as a fallen woman, but that’s how I’ve always heard her described—
A: Poor Mary! She really has been falsely accused all these years. Tradition has furnished us with much information about Mary that is almost certainly inaccurate. History does not portray her as a prostitute, an adulterous woman, or Jesus’ wife. The only thing Scripture tells us specifically about Mary from Magdala is that Jesus delivered her from seven demons.

We can assume other things about her from the biblical record: first, she was probably an older and much-respected woman because she is listed first seven of eight times when Scripture names the women present with Christ. Those who would portray Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, an adulteress, or Jesus’ wife have taken their cues from misguided sources.

Q: Didn’t the Pope say Mary was a fallen woman?
A: Many people, including Pope Gregory I, have confused Mary of Magdala with the unnamed “sinful woman” who anointed Jesus’ feet at Shimon’s house (Luke 8:36-39) and Mary of Bethany, who anointed Jesus’ feet at her house (John 12:1-7). But in 1969, the Catholic Church quietly admitted Gregory was mistaken—clearly, Luke and John were not talking about Mary Magdalene.
Others have tried to portray Mary Magdalene as the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11) . . . but this could hardly be Mary, as this scene happens outside Jerusalem, and Mary lived in Magdala before meeting Jesus. Furthermore, the most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include John 7:53-8:11, so the story may be apocryphal.

Q: Seems like there’s a lot of mumbo jumbo about Mary today—she’s a goddess, she’s the female apostle, she’s part of a new Age Religion—
A: And all of that ‘mumbo jumbo’ is nothing but second century man’s attempt to reduce salvation, an act of God, to an act of man. The Gnostics elevated Mary in their doctrine, particularly in apocryphal works such as the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. (Gnosticism is the attempt to attain salvation through gnĊsis, or ‘knowledge’ rather than faith. Such knowledge regularly dealt with the intimate relationship of the self to the transcendent source of all being, and this knowledge, according to Gnostics, was often conveyed by a “revealer.”[1]) They have tried to depict Mary as a prophet in her own right, or even as an “apostle to the apostles,” but nothing in Scripture validates such a concept.

Q: But since the publication of The DaVinci Code, everyone’s been saying that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife . . . or at least his lover.
A: Was Mary Jesus’ lover? Don’t think so!
I love the way my friend Liz Curtis Higgs handles this topic in her book Unveiling Mary Magdalene:

“Jesus loved Mary Magdalene, certainly. He knew her well. But he used the same words for all his disciples—to love, to know. Same Greek words, same emotions. In a sense he knows us all ‘very well.’ The psalmist confessed for all of us: ‘You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You . . . are familiar with all my ways’ [Psalm 139:2-3].”[2]

Many contemporary feminists and goddess-worshippers have attempted to elevate Mary Magdalene by linking her sexually with Jesus . . . a contradiction in approaches if ever there was one.

Bottom line: Jesus lived a sinless life that included abstaining from fornication and distraction. He was wholly dedicated to the Father’s will and his purpose of redeeming mankind. In repeated dealings with men and with Satan, he refused to allow himself to become entangled with the affairs of this world.

Q: You’ve portrayed Mary M. as quite the businesswoman. Isn’t that a little out of keeping with the role of women in those times?
A: Not necessarily. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 runs a business and a home. From what Scripture tells us, I think we can assume Mary had a source of income and could have even been wealthy. Luke wrote that the women who traveled with Jesus provided financial support for his ministry (Luke 8:1-3).
From the fact that Mary had the freedom to travel and money of her own we can surmise that she might have been a widow with no surviving children—otherwise, her children would have inherited her husband’s property.

Q: You used some Hebrew names and some Greek names—why the mix?
A: I wanted to give the story an authentically Jewish flavor, but I ran into difficulty with names. First, so many of them are repeated—Miryam was an extremely common name, as were John (Yochanan) and Simon (Shimon). If I thought the Hebrew name might cause a contemporary reader to stumble, in some instances I opted for the more common name, hoping to clarify the differences between characters.

Actually, the characters themselves would have answered to several names. Galileans lived in a bilingual region that had been thoroughly infiltrated with Gentiles who spoke Greek, the lingua franca of the day. In the New Testament we find Peter’s name used in myriad ways: Simeon, Cephas, Simon, Peter, Petros, and the Hebrew Kefa. Take your pick.

The disciple we know as Peter was more frequently referred to as Simon during Jesus’ ministry and Peter in the church age, but I tried to keep things simple. The apostle Paul (Hebrew Sha’ul), did not play a large role in this book, so I used Sha’ul whenever he appeared in the story.

Q: Was it difficult to pin down exact dates and references for the story?
A: Yes—though I studied dozens of reference books, few of the experts agree! I finally went with a consensus of opinion. Few references agree on the exact dates of Jesus’ birth, death, and years of ministry, but all of them are remarkably close. For the record, this book supposes that Jesus began his ministry in AD 30 and was crucified in AD 33.

Q: I was hoping you’d include the scene of Jesus in Gethsemane . . .
A: As much as I would have liked to include every event in Jesus’ ministry, the limited scope of a novel made that task impossible. Plus, I was working from Miryam’s and Atticus’s limited perspectives, so I could only record events they might have seen and experienced.

Q: When Jesus meets Mary outside the tomb, my Bible says that he said, “Touch me not.” But you have her clinging to his feet.
A: I read several sources and translations, and the best meaning of Jesus’ words is “Don’t cling to me.” So Miryam must have touched him, she probably wanted to cling to him, but Jesus had something important for her to do . . . just as he has an important task for each of us.

Q: As I read about Atticus and the baby, I kept wondering—what did they use for diapers in the first century?
A: You know, I wondered the same thing! Scripture talks about swaddling clothes for newborns, but there’s no way you’re going to keep a toddler swaddled.
So I did a little research and discovered a technique called—are you ready for this?—elimination timing. Apparently it’s still in use all over the world. As I read the overview, it occurred to me that it’s pretty much like training a puppy—you pay close attention to the child’s signals and, after waking or eating, you give them an opportunity to, well, eliminate. It’s helpful if the child wears a tunic and nothing underneath.
Oh, the things I learn in this job . . .

Q: So what was the most interesting thing you learned?
A: Tough question. All of it was interesting, but my eyes were opened to how radical Jesus’ preaching was and how much my faith owes to Judaism. For years I’ve read Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:16-17 and not really understood the metaphor: “And who would patch an old garment with unshrunk cloth? For the patch shrinks and pulls away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger hole than before. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. The old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. That way both the wine and the wineskins are preserved.”

After researching this book, the analogy became clear. Jesus was presenting a new way to relate to God, and the Jews who followed him had to accept some radically different ideas—that God was One and also a Trinity, that the God whose name is too holy to be spoken could be addressed as “abba” or “daddy,” and that women, who were never taught the Law, could sit and learn at the Savior’s feet.

Faith in Jesus (the patch) had to be adapted to Judaism (the coat) and Judaism (the old wineskins) had to be reconditioned in order to hold the new wine (faith in Christ).

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: As always, I need to thank some folks: first, a huge thanks to Terri Gillespie, director of Project Nehemiah, for making sure the manuscript had a proper Jewish flavor. Like me, Terri has a deep and abiding love for Isra’el. She works for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, an amazing organization which can be found at Thanks also to Susan Richardson for proofreading an early draft, and to Randy Ingermanson, who helped me make sense of several ancient manuscripts.

[1]P.J. Achtemeier, Harper's Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).
[2] Liz Curtis Higgs, Mad Mary (Sisters, OR: WaterBrook Press), 2001, p. 189.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Scene, Take Two

Okay--after gathering some opinions, listening to it read to me, looking for repetitions, throwing in more of the senses, taking out an errant comma, and going back through the ms. to tie it in with an illustration from the text, here's take two. I hope you can see from this example that writing really isn't about writing--it's about re-writing.

I like this much better. And who knows, I may do a take three. (VBG)

They had been aboard the transport ship for little more than a week when Cyrilla pulled Atticus aside and motioned to Quinn. “You need to speak to him.”

“About what?”

The tip of her nose went pink. “He has just realized that he . . . is not like you. Because you’ve been with him, you know, more often since we’ve been at sea.”

Atticus blinked, then drew in a deep breath. He had known this moment would come sooner or later. He hadn’t expected it to come when Quintus was only seven years old.

And what should he say? He knew nothing of what fathers told their sons about such intimate matters. The men in his garrison were frank enough with their thoughts and comments, but how did a man talk to a child of such tender years?

He walked forward, took Quinn’s hand, and led him toward the bow. Smiling, he lifted his son onto a block, then braced the boy’s hands on the rail as a sudden gust struck the boat, heeling the vessel over enough to bring their fingertips within a foot of the foaming sea.

To his credit, Quinn laughed. Atticus chuckled, glad the boy wasn’t afraid, and nestled the child against his chest as the ship breasted the swell and straightened.

“Your mother,” Atticus said, glancing down at his son’s face, “tells me you had a question.”

Quinn looked up, his eyes wide, then he scrunched his nose and nodded.

“You want to know why we look different . . . in a way that has nothing to do with why I’m tall and you’re small.”

The boy’s chin dipped in another nod.

“Well.” Atticus braced himself against the railing. “Have you seen the brand on my back?”

Quinn’s eyes flicked at the armor over Atticus’s shoulder, then moved away as if afraid to rest there. “The dog and snake?”

“It’s a dog, a snake, and a scorpion. The brand of a Roman soldier.”

Quinn digested this information, his eyes serious, then looked back at Atticus. “Did it hurt?”

“Yes, it did. But it doesn’t hurt now. And anyone who sees my back knows I’m a soldier. Not all soldiers have this brand, only the ones who worship Mithras.”

The boy slid his hands beneath Atticus’s as the sea spat at them in a sudden white plume. “Will . . . will I have to get a brand?”

“No. In fact, I have left the people who worship Mithras, but my body still bears his mark. Taking the brand was part of a ritual. You’ve seen rituals, haven’t you?”

Quintus nodded.

“Good. When you’re old enough to go to the public baths, you’ll see that men look different in many ways. Some groups of people, you see, perform rituals on babies and cut away part of their skin. Some perform these rituals when boys become men. And some groups never perform these rituals at all.”

Quinn looked up at him again. “And me?”

“When you were a tiny baby, you lived with people who cut part of your skin away in a ritual. I’m sure you don’t remember it, but that’s all right. It doesn’t hurt you any more, does it?”

“No.” Quinn remained silent for a long moment. He didn’t look up when he asked, “Didn’t I come from your people?”

Atticus squeezed the child’s arm. “You came from special people, Quintus, but the gods brought you to me and your mother. Are you glad they did?”

Again, the small face tilted, the nose squinched, and the mouth curled into an impish smile. “I am.”

“Me, too.” Atticus dropped a kiss onto the top of the boy’s head and inhaled the scent of sea salt in Quinn’s hair. “Very glad.”

Not saying what you mean . . .

Meet Atticus Aurelius, the Roman centurion who's a major secondary character in Magdalene.

I haven't been blogging much because I now have four work days left and I've been writing like a loon. Act three needs much work, so the old nose has been put to the computer without much time for anything else.

I'll share one bit, though, and maybe you can tell me if this works. You see Atticus finds a Jewish baby early in the story, and obviously, the baby would have been circumcised, because it's almost 11 months old. So to save this baby from death, Atticus places it in the care of a woman who works in Pilate's household. And through the years he acts as a father figure to this child, whom he names Quintus.

Now--as I worked through the third draft, it became apparent to me (being the mother of a son) that Quintus was bound to notice certain things at certain points--especially if he hung out in the baths with the Romans, who did NOT circumcise at any time.

So--how to handle this delicate topic? I came up with this scene, which takes place on board a ship. Pilate has been recalled to Rome, and his wife has taken Cyrilla and Quinn with her--and Atticus and all his soldiers are along, too.

Sometimes the art of writing lies in not saying what you mean, but you still have to be obvious enough that it's clear . . .

They had been on board the transport ship for little more than a week when Cyrilla pulled Atticus aside and motioned to Quinn. “You need to speak to him.”

“About what?”

The tip of her nose went pink. “He has just realized that he . . . is not like you. Because you’ve been with him, you know, more often, since we’ve been aboard the ship.”

Atticus blinked, then drew in a deep breath. He had known this moment would come sooner or later. He hadn’t expected it to come when Quintus was only seven years old.

He walked forward, took the boy’s hand, and led him toward the bow of the ship. Smiling, he lifted his son onto a block, then braced the boy’s hands on the rail as a sudden gust struck the boat, sending the vessel over enough to bring the rain within a foot of the shining sea.

To his credit, Quinn laughed. Atticus laughed, too, glad the child wasn’t afraid, and nestled the boy against his chest as they rode the laboring ship.

“Your mother,” Atticus said, glancing down at his son’s face, “tells me that you had a question.”

Quinn looked up, his eyes wide, then he scrunched his nose and nodded.

“You want to know why we look different . . . in a way that has nothing to do with why I’m tall and you’re small.”

Again, the boy nodded.

“Well.” Atticus braced himself against the rail. “When you’re old enough to go to the baths in Rome, you’ll soon see that many men look different. Some people, you see, have rituals they perform on babies. Some people perform these rituals when boys become men. And some people never perform these rituals at all.”

Quinn looked up at him again. “And me?”

“You had the ritual performed when you were a baby. I’m sure you don’t remember it, but that’s okay. It just means you came from people who believe that way.”

Quinn remained silent for a long moment, and he didn’t look up when he asked, “Didn’t I come from your people?”

Atticus squeezed the boy’s arm. “You came from special people, Quintus, but the gods brought you to me and your mother. Are you glad they did?”

Again, the small face tilted, the nose squinched, and the mouth curled into a boyish smile. “I am.”

“Me, too.” Atticus dropped a kiss on the top of the boy’s head. “Very glad.”

So--does it work for you?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Left Brain/Right Brain Redux

How I'm feeling this morning . . . . worked until 9:30 p.m. last night on the WIP and have six work days left . . .

Well, LOL, apparently yesterday's quiz was a "no-brainer"--I heard from several people who said that it gave them the exact same result no matter what answers they put in!

So--I found another test that does the same thing but also utilizes your Myers-Briggs type (a personality test that I adore.) So if you're still interested, check out the following link. (You don't have to know your MB type to take the test).



Sunday, September 18, 2005

Right Brained or Left Brained? Which Are You?

Color and form . . . I think God's brain is ambidexterous, don't you?

Some novelist friends and I were discussing whether or not we're left-brained or right brained, so I scouted around on the Internet until I found a quick, easy quiz. As you can see, I'm both-brained, but not simultaneously. (VBG) I literally use the right side of my brain (the creative side) for first drafts and brainstorming, then I use the left side (the mechanical side) for second and third drafts, where the Inner Editor comes out.

Which side of your brain is dominant? You can take this test to find out. Enjoy!

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
The higher of these two numbers below indicates which side of your brain has dominance in your life. Realising your right brain/left brain tendancy will help you interact with and to understand others.
Left Brain Dominance: 16(16)
Right Brain Dominance: 16(16)
Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

Friday, September 16, 2005

Take a short hike over to Charis . . .

I'm pontificating over on Charis Connection today. Stop by and say hi.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Reed Quaking in the Wind . . .

I love it when I can see the hand of God in what I'm working on. Some might call it serendipity, but I know better.

For instance--I'm nine days away from my deadline, but I research until the last minute. (Gives me something to do when I have to leave the house and wait.) In any case, the WIP contains a reference to the fact that Herod Antipas built his city, Tiberias, by the sea of Galilee, which was fringed with reeds. And so I wrote in banners that flutter from the watch towers emblazoned with reeds. I also have a merchant come from Jerusalem to see Herod, and he happens to present the king with a crown decorated with . . . reeds. Just pulled it off the top of my head and wrote it in.

(Ooohh--just got another idea. I'll have to write that one in, too.)

Okay, so I'm at the salon yesterday waiting for some chemical to do its thing on my hair, and I read that Herod A also put reeds on the backs of his coins. Pretty cool. Then I read that Jesus talked to some folks about John the Baptist and said, "What did you go to see? A reed shaking in the wind?"

Ahhhhh--get it? A reed? Jesus was hinting that they were hoping for another king like Herod. And while that was a very cool insight, it got better. Remember when they mocked Jesus and dressed him in purple and put the crown of thorns on his head? Do you remember what they placed in his hand?

A reed. For the king of the Jews.

Wow. Pretty cool, huh? And people think novels are made up . . .

If there's one thing I've learned through working on this WIP, it's that we contemporary Christians who operate from an ignorance of Jesus' times and Jewish history--well, we're only scratching the surface of the story. We think the Scriptures are rich, but we're only mining about an inch of the top layer.

There's so much more to learn.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Checking In . . .

Heard from my brother and sister-in-law--they're home and the power has been restored. I know they're relieved to see life getting back to some semblance of normality.

The WIP has ten more working days. It's coming at that 20-page per day clip. I'm going through, editing and adding scenes that needed to be there. Also sprinkling in more material that will provide a much-needed Jewish flavor. I know I am personally tweaked whenever I read historical fiction and the characters act/react like 21st century WASPs. Many thanks to my friend Terri Gillespie for reading the rough draft over the weekend and giving me some help in that area.

Well, things to do this morning--I actually have to leave the house, so I'd better get hopping. Until later!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Disability Insurance? I wish!

No, this is not my dog, but Charley does the same thing. Fills his mouth with MULTIPLE tennis balls and tries to place the drooly things in my lap.

Did you know that writers really can't get disability insurance? I learned this a few years ago when we bought some new term life insurance policies. The salesman was doing his thing, trying to sell us insurance for every contingency under the sun, and he kept saying that disability insurance was a good idea. I was skeptical, but asked him to check into it.

A very disappointed salesman called me back later to say that as a writer, I wasn't technically disabled unless I had no brain waves whatsoever. (Of course, then I'd be dead). So even if I'm in the hospital with broken bones, Ebola, or what-have-you, I'm expected to keep working.

So . . . why did I bring this up? Because the dreaded cold has now officially moved to my nose and though I'd really love to go to bed and let the antihistamines do their thing, I have to sit here and keep working. Hard. There are now eleven days remaining in my work schedule, and this book is a long way from being done. Of course it will be done, Lord willing, because I have carefully appropriated a certain number of pages to those remaining eleven days (this is where my obsessiveness becomes apparent), but that means no naps. No disability claims.

That's okay--I'd much rather have a cold than Ebola or what-have-you . :-)


Saturday, September 10, 2005


Lap Dog?

I haven't been sick . . . thanks to BJ Hoff. The day I mentioned that I had a horrible sore throat, she told me to get AIRBORNE, and I did. Now--usually when I get a sore throat, after a couple of days of not being able to swallow, the germs move into my nose and I end up blowing my nose for a week or two. Anyway, I took the Airborne stuff and a few hours later I felt almost like my old self again. So--thank you BJ, thank you, hubby, for running out to get the stuff, and thank you to the woman who invented it!

Now--on to today's topic. Several years ago I became convicted about the importance of sabbath-keeping. I mean, it's one of the Ten Commandements, and we didn't get rid of the other nine when Jesus came, did we? No.

Now, I know some of you will say that Sunday is the Lord's Day so we don't need a Sabbath any more, but the purpose of the sabbath is to rest from your regular work as God rested on the seventh day. It's a holy pattern we've been commanded to observe. And if you're a pastor's family like us, Sunday is anything BUT a day of rest. It's a day of work. In fact, when I get home from morning worship, after dinner I head straight to the office and work either on my WIP or my DIP (work in progress or degree in progress, whichever is most urgent.)

So--for the last several years I've been pretty adamant about keeping a Sabbath. If I'm home, it's Saturday. I do lots of stuff, but none of it is "my usual work." (I wonder if blogging counts?) If I'm traveling or working on a Saturday, I take a day off during the next week and call it my "sabbath." And you know what? I've found that sabbath-keeping is a key to mental health and productivity.

I found the following in a book I'm using for my WIP. It validates what I've felt in my spirit all along. So--if you're not keeping a Sabbath, I urge you to get into the holy habit. You'll not regret it!

"A Shabbat-keeping, Greek sabbatismos, used only here in the New Testament. In the Septuagint, the related Greek word “sabbatizein” was coined to translate the Hebrew verb shabat when it means “to observe Shabbat.” The usual translation, “There remains a Sabbath rest,” minimizes the observance aspect and makes the role of God’s people entirely passive.

"Christians often assume that the New Testament does not require God’s people to observe Shabbat and go on to claim that Sunday has replaced Saturday as the Church’s day of worship (see 1C 16:2N). But this passage, and in particular v. 9, shows that Shabbat-observance is expected of believers. From Co 2:16–17, which says that Shabbat was a shadow of the things that were to come, but the substance comes from the Messiah, we learn that the essence of Shabbat-observance for believers is not following the detailed rules which halakhah sets forth concerning what may or may not be done on the seventh day of the week. Rather, as v. 10 explains, the Shabbat-keeping expected of God’s people consists in resting from one’s own works, as God did from his; it consists in trusting and being faithful to God (vv. 2–3).

"Although the specific “works” from which the readers of this letter were to rest were animal sacrifices (see 6:4–6), by implication all self-struggle, in which one relies on one’s own efforts instead of trusting God, is to be avoided; and in this the author is making the same point as Sha’ul does at Ro 3:19–4:25. "

Stern, D. H. 1996, c1992. Jewish New Testament Commentary : A companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed.) . Jewish New Testament Publications: Clarksville

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Appearing Elsewhere Today . . .

Nothing profound on this blog today--you'll have to visit me at Charis Connection,

That's my Roman gladiator to the left.

I think I'm getting a cold. Sniff. Who gets colds in September?

Apparently I do.



Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Coming Into the Home Stretch

Yesterday I finished the second draft of the WIP and discovered that the plot skeleton had a missing bone or two. So I literally drew out another one (and if you've taken any of my classes, you know exactly what I did), and ta da! Saw the problem and the answer in a flash. So I went back to my Excel chart with my scenes/timeline, put in the missing scenes, and printed the manuscript out: after putting all my "weasel words" in all caps, of course. (What are those? Words like WAS, WERE, THAT, FOR A MOMENT, LOOKED AT, etc. Anything that's passive or used too often.)

So--today begins the third draft, and I'm moving through it slowly at a 20 page-per-day pace because this puppy is due at the end of the month. This is the draft where I add the "mood music," make sure there's tension in every scene, fill in the gaps, and LISTEN to the computer read the ms. to me. I also discovered that I need to add a character for the simple purpose of killing her off later. Seems a shame, doesn't it? But this character is desperately needed, so in she goes.

The almost-final go through. Lord willing and my schedule permits, there will be one more quick pass after this one, then it goes in to my editor . . . and then it comes back again, after an expert pair of eyes has looked at it. I'll be ready for that stage.

Onward! BTW, if you haven't been checking out Charis Connection, you're missing a treat! The link is

Monday, September 05, 2005

One Katrina-Affected Family

As the Lord would have it, my daily Bible reading this morning was about the poor. It included these verses, among others:

Psalm 109:31 “He stands beside the needy, ready to save them from those who condemn them.

Psalm 113:7
He lifts the poor from the dirt and the needy from the garbage dump.

Psalm 146:9
The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows.

Psalm 112:1,9
Happy are those who fear the Lord . . . . They give generously to those in need.

Psalm 41:1
Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor. The Lord rescues them in times of trouble.

Did you know that tithes were to be given not only to the Levites and the Temple, but also to the “foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows” (Deut. 14:29)?

I know there are many, many desperate needs at this time, but if you’ve been looking for a “face” to latch onto in this time of tragedy, let me tell you about my brother and sister in law. Shane is a Campus Life missionary who lives on faith . . . and most of his financial supporters are from New Orleans. His supporters now have nothing. Vicki, his wife, ran a catering company that serviced movie companies who came to film in New Orleans. She started the business only a little over a year ago, and she was due to start a movie next week . . . now there’s no movie, and there won’t be one for some time to come.

I don’t want to go into a lot of personal stuff, but they also have an adult son and a teenage boy living with them . . . a young teenager who eats a lot. (VBG) If you've raised a teenage boy, you know what I mean.

If you feel led by the Spirit to help them once or on a regular basis, please send your tax-deductible contribution to Shane O'Hara, c/o Campus Life, PO Box 2438, Covington, LA 70434. (You will receive a receipt.) If not this family, I pray the Lord will lead you to someone else.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Little Weekend Fun

This little test is amazing . . .yep, I'm a firstborn. Take the test and see if it predicts your sibling placement correctly!

You Are Likely a First Born

At your darkest moments, you feel guilty.
At work and school, you do best when you're researching.
When you love someone, you tend to agree with them often.

In friendship, you are considerate and compromising.
Your ideal careers are: business, research, counseling, promotion, and speaking.
You will leave your mark on the world with discoveries, new information, and teaching people to dream.

Friday, September 02, 2005


The news continues to come in from Katrina. This morning our newspaper's front page was filled with this photo, and I couldn't help but notice the name of the restaurant in the background--Mulates. I ate at Mulates with a group of Christian novelists back in the summer of 2000--hard to believe that the scene of so much fun and joy then could be the scene of so much suffering and devastation now.

My hubby got a call last night from a friend in NO--since my husband used to live there, he has many friends who lived in the city. This man, Fred, did get out on Tuesday by driving along the Mississippi. Apparently the only part of the city not underwater is down by Mulates, the convention center, and the railroad tracks. Anyway, Fred's house is under water.

We haven't heard a word from my sister in law and her family, who lived on the other side of Lake P.--though we did get her answering machine, which means she has power, at least. Let's just hope there's a house around that answering machine.

The scenes of chaos and tales of looters shooting at rescuer's airplanes remind me of that dark movie, Escape from New York. May heaven help us.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Just checking in with the WIP

I keep thinking about those poor people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast--as a native Floridian, I've ridden through more than my share of hurricanes, but we've never endured that kind of damage. Those folks need our prayers.

The WIP (work in progress) is coming along, but I feel a little like I'm mired in mud. I'm in Act 2, you see, and this is where Mary Magdalene meets and travels with Jesus. The problem is this: the Jesus stories, including the miracles and the crucifixion/resurrection are familiar to almost any reader, so I'm really not covering any new ground here. I am telling the story from Mary's and Atticus's perspective (Atticus is a Roman soldier), but even that feels . . . familiar. And familiar is not necessarily good when you're writing a novel, but at the same time, I don't want to give those stories short shrift.

So--that's the challenge. How to move through those stories quickly and yet present new material. I've already second-drafted the second act (I move into act 3 today), but I'm going to have to take a hard look at that section when I do triage between drafts 2 and 3. Hmmm.

My motto is "expect the unexpected," but even if that weren't my motto, it's never good to write a predictable novel. The trick lies in creating suspense . . . in a way that has nothing to do with genre.

So, I'll keep working and muddling through.