Saturday, September 30, 2006

Publishers Weekly Review of Nativity Story

I'm always happy to get a PW review, and even more delighted when the review is a good one. This is from the most recent edition:

The Nativity Story
Angela Hunt, developed from the screenplay by Mike Rich. Tyndale, $13.99 paper (250p) ISBN 1-4143-1462-0

It's a difficult task to retell the biblical nativity story in a fresh way--after all, it has been novelized, brought to stage and screen, and is the stuff of endless children's Christmas pageants. Yet this companion novel to the New Line Cinema feature film (which will hit theaters December 1) should find a place on the bookshelf as a fresh and viable retelling. Hunt, the author of more than 70 books and working from Mike Rich's screenplay, refrains from oversanitizing the story, although Mary and Joseph are fairly one-dimensional (there aren't a lot of character flaws here). She depicts their gritty, hardscrabble existence as balanced by the love of family.

As a thoughtful reader would expect, the census trip to Bethlehem is no picnic, but some readers may be surprised that the shepherds and wise men show up at the stable together, unlike in the gospel account. The good-natured joshing among the three wise men provides a lighter note to the chapters where Herod's cruelty is well portrayed. Hunt balances the necessary violence with a sensitivity that will expand her readership. Her rich prose and cultural details utilize the five senses to recreate the familiar story, which spans many points of view and includes a fine subplot about Elizabeth, Zechariah and John. (Nov.)


Two Kinds of Wisdom

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives . . .

The above is from the book of James. I've always liked James, the practical apostle. He was a nuts and bolts kind of man, a bottom-line guy.

I have always wanted wisdom. I think I was impressed by the story of Solomon's request as a child, but I have one memory from childhood that's as clear as day. I remember being ten years old and in the fifth grade. I remember looking in the mirror and taking an inventory of my looks--and realizing that I was never going to be beautiful. I saw eyes that were two different sizes, dishwater colored hair, buck teeth--hey, I was a bottom-line woman even at ten. (If you could see my fifth grade pictures, you'd agree with that assessment!) I remember praying that since the Lord obviously didn't plan to make me beautiful, would he at least help me get that "beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" talked about in 1 Peter 3? And if he could make me wise, too, that'd be great. Thanks and amen.

There have been times in my life when, by the Lord's grace, I have been able to react with wisdom, but there are other times when it's all too easy to react in the flesh. It's easy to become distracted by things that get under my skin. It's easy to take my eyes off the end of the furrow and forget that I'm supposed to be plowing a straight line.

And periodically it's good to remind myself of my callings and refocus. I am blessed with the positions of wife and mother, community member, member of the body of Christ. I have been placed in a position where I work with words--to share my faith, to teach, to impart Truth through the power of story.

Part of the call to excellence--and to obedience--means that I must diligently keep my hand on the plow and not become distracted. I must remember that I am a servant.

And today--I am off to do my best to serve some ladies in Birmingham! I'm looking forward to it.

Tomorrow: the BOM returns!


Friday, September 29, 2006

The Lake House--Spoiler Alert !

Don't read another word if you haven't seen THE LAKE HOUSE and plan to.


I watched the movie this past week and liked it well enough. I like Sandra Bullock and Keanu as actors, and Keanu got to smile in this movie, which was a nice change.

And this morning, as I was blow drying my hair, the analogy struck me.

Keanu (Alex) was living two years behind Sandra (Kate.) When he doesn't show up at an appointed rendezvous, Sandra realizes that something must have happened to him. (Duh--at this point I was shouting, "Why doesn't she Google the guy?" But I digress.)

At the last minute, she tells him NOT to go to XYZ square on Valentine's Day, because if he does, he'll be killed. If he'll not go, if he'll just WAIT, he won't die and they'll have their entire lives together.

Of course Alex goes to the square. He looks up and sees Kate, the love of his life, sitting across the busy street. Their timelines have finally overlapped. He loves her, he wants to go to her with every inch of his being, but . . . he waits. And the Bus With His Name on It goes by without knocking the life out of him.

The analogy? Abstinence. Maybe it hit me because I'm a youth pastor's wife and we're always looking for ways to teach kids that waiting really does have some pretty terrific rewards, but it's hard for them to believe that when people are shacking up all over the place (including, incidentally, in The Lake House, when Sandra moves in with that neurotic guy).

So--for what it's worth, there's a great lesson in there.

I'm out of town this weekend, speaking in Birmingham. And don't forget the Book of the Month feature starts Sunday. Next book: in honor of National Breast Cancer Prevention Month, we're going to look at THE PROPOSAL.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Hero

Last week (or has it been two weeks already?) Donald Maass began his intensive just as he did the last time I attended. He stood before us and said, "Write down the name of a person you admire."

The first time I attended his intensive, I wrote down the name of a woman writer friend. This past time, I wrote down the name of a male writer friend: Jerry Jenkins.

Then Don said, "Now write down the qualities about this person you admire." I wrote he's humble and yet committed to excellence.

Then Don said, "Write down the first moment you saw this person exhibiting this quality . . . and figure out how you can have your character exhibit that exact quality." I don't know if this is the first time I saw Jerry exhibit humility, but it's the one I remember most. I wrote: "At the Christy dinner, when Jerry won the award Christian novelists desire most, he sent his editor up to accept it. I wouldn't have even known he was in the room if his editor hadn't told us what he'd done."

You'd almost have to be living in exile not to know that Jerry wrote the mega-best-selling LEFT BEHIND series. But you may not know that apart from that, Jerry is one of the most prolific writers I know, writing for children and adults, writing in fiction and nonfiction. He's also a devoted father and husband, the sort of man who really places his wife and children as a priority. Perhaps I admire him for that commitment most of all.

Jerry knows his strengths and weaknesses, and he writes to his strengths. He's not a fussy, flowery writer, but his prose is powerful and succinct. He makes writing look easy--so easy, in fact, that some folks take him to task for his writing skills, but I'd dare them to do what Jerry does in as few words. The popularity of Jerry's books proves that he's reaching the masses, and it's obvious that God is using Jerry's work in an amazing way. If only we could all do as well.

Jerry is also such a good writer that his work is often cited by Sol Stein, guru to all kinds of novelists, and Donald Maass, who quoted from one of the Left Behind books in his "Writing the Breakout Novel" workbook.

Jerry's success has inadvertently reminded me of the "turtle on a fencepost" lesson. What's that? Simple: when you see a turtle on a fencepost, you know that someone put him there. And you also know that the turtle is in a vulnerable position. It's easy for folks on the ground to throw stones at the turtle, and there's not a lot the turtle can do about it.

God placed Jerry in the position he's in. I've watched Jerry on Larry King, Fox News, and dozens of other television shows. He's faced some of the toughest reporters in the biz, and he always responds with Truth, grace, and humility. I don't envy his position, but I'll do my utmost to support him in the place where God has put him.

Just so you'll know--LOL--I'm not up for a position with any of Jerry's organizations and I'm not hinting that he should endorse my latest book. I just truly admire and respect the guy as a Christian, a writer, and a professional.

Now . . . how do I make my character exhibit that same humility in the first chapter? Won't be easy.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Column Test Run

I'm putting together a new column for my newspaper gig. Can I try it out on you? Comments are welcome.

I grew up with devotedly Christian parents who took me to church every Sunday. As a five-year-old, I would sit in the pew, mystified, as the ushers passed around the offering plate. When I asked what the preacher did with all that money, my parents told me that we didn’t give our money to the preacher, we gave it to God.

Oh. Trouble was, I’d learned in Sunday school that God is a spirit, so I couldn’t figure out how the money got from the offering plate up to God’s spirit . . . and what God did with the money once he had it. After pondering the question and coming up clueless, I learned about the Old Testament’s burnt offerings . . . and had a eureka moment. The ushers, I figured, had to take the money outside and burn it. That way the smoke went up to heaven, and God could breathe it in.

I sometimes feel silly when I think about things I used to think, and more than once I’ve wished that adults would simply tell literal-minded children exactly what they mean. But we often fall into word patterns that can be confusing. Sometimes our verbal shorthand can be deliberately misleading, even dangerous.

In a recent Sunday edition of this paper, a proponent for embryonic stem cell research called his position “pro-cure.” I gaped when I read that term, because those of us who promote adult stem cell research (which is more effective and preserves the lives of unborn children) are not only pro-cure, but pro-adoption and pro-life. But the argument will not advance constructively if we resort to counting up our “pros,” so we’d do well to center the debate on scientific and moral grounds.

Over the years, I’ve learned that some words bear the accumulated griefs and injustices of generations. These words are like uranium atoms—the smallest word can, when split by an expert, be a source of tremendous heat. We must use these words with caution . . . and we must respect those griefs and injustices.

After the horror of September 11, 2001, President Bush delivered a speech that polarized the world. Unfortunately, Bush called the war on terror a “crusade,” a word that cannot fall upon Arab ears without being accompanied by images of relentless waves of “Christian” knights who raped, pillaged, and murdered Muslims a millennia ago. Arab groups who might have been sympathetic to our situation were incensed by the word “crusade” and reacted with vitriolic demonstrations.

What seems like ancient history to us is not so ancient in the Middle East.

I recently watched the movie “Conspiracy,” a film based upon notes found in the filing cabinet of one of Hitler’s S.S. officers. The screenplay centers around a historic meeting of Hitler’s top men on a snowy day outside Berlin.

The meeting’s purpose? Twofold: first, to find a way to rid Europe of thousands of Jewish men, women, and children being detained in work camps and ghettos; second, to teach these leaders that the word “evacuation” would soon mean “extermination.” Most of Hitler’s men accepted this adaptation of language with chilling nonchalance.

We all use words to communicate. We call those who are especially gifted in the art of using words for persuasion and/or evasion “diplomatic.” Any husband—mine included--knows that diplomacy is called for when his wife asks how she looks in a new dress. But even the most skilled diplomats are often blind to the connotations words can carry. When stumbling upon an offense caused by apparently innocuous language, we will do ourselves a favor if we ask for help in understanding.

I’m active in an online discussion group composed of novelists. A few years ago we were discussing the creation of African-American characters, and one of our Caucasian members mentioned that she’d been raised to be “colorblind.” I thought her statement perfectly innocent—she was trying to say that she’d been taught to think of people as individuals, not as members of a specific race.

But the discussion quickly became more heated, with our African-American members showing signs of hurt feelings and even offense. Bewildered, I went to an African-American friend and explained the problem. “Why would the word ‘colorblind’ be upsetting?” I asked.

“Because,” he replied, “if you don’t see my color . . . you don’t see me.”

Another eureka moment.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Adopting Again

No, it's not what you think. (Or not what I think you're thinking.)

We've adopted two children, so we know about the application, the wait, the expense, the home study. And we're ready to do it again.

With a dog.

It was a year ago tomorrow (Wednesday) that our dear Sadie passed away. And maybe it's that anniversary, or maybe it's the fact that I've just finished reading MARLEY AND ME, or maybe it's just that I've had a year of a one-dog household. In any case, I've been thinking about getting another dog.

First I checked with our breeder, and though they did just produce the cutest puppy on earth, I think they're going to keep him. (I don't blame them.) Then I checked out mastiff rescue . . . and when my hubby and son came home today, they found me staring google-eyed at photos of "Bubba," who to have the same personality as our beloved "Justus," who passed away a couple of years ago. (That's Bubba in the photo. He's five.)

So now we begin the wait . . . and go through the application, the home visit, the paperwork, the expense. I'll keep you informed as we make progress.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Catching Up

Remember CLUE?

I think it was the editor. In the apartment. With a virus.

Tee hee. Actually, I don't know WHO it was, but somehow a virus sneaked into that Donald Maass Intensive retreat and one by one, I watched people come down with it. First Deeanne, then Maya, then Nancy. I came home, thinking that I had escaped completely, but nooooo, on Wednesday morning I woke up with the telltale sore throat.

Well. Five days later and I'm still creaking around like an old woman. Hubby says I don't look good and don't act at all like myself, which is not what a woman wants to hear. But I went to the doc this morning and came home with drugs aplenty. Am especially looking forward to some knock-me-out cough syrup for tonight.

The bad news is that the sinus part of this bug has given me a six day migraine. The good news is that in between migraine attacks (when I lie on the bed with Charley Gansky, who is in ever protective mode), I've actually been able to pretty much keep up with my work quota. (Well, except for Sunday. I took the day off.) So things are not as bad as they could be and I think I can already feel those antibiotics zipping through my bloodstream, bringing me back to Myself.

I have an out of town weekend ahead (going to B'ham), so I need to be tip top. Looks like things will be okay.

Hope you're doing well! P.S. You know all those warnings about "YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A CAR . . . SO WHY WOULD YOU ILLEGALLY DOWNLOAD?" Wierd Al has a parody video on the subject that's hilarious.

Check it out here:


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Book Blog

My friend Lissa sent me this list, so I thought I'd respond here. Please feel free to do likewise, either in the comment section or on your own blog (but leave a link if you do!)

Name . . .

1. One book that changed your life: Gone With the Wind (and the Bible, of course)
2. One book that you've read more than once: The Nun's Story
3. One book you'd want on a desert island: The U.S. Army Survival Guide
4. One book that made you laugh: The Princess Bride
5. One book that made you cry: The Kite Runner
6. One book you wish had been written: The one I'm working on
7. One book you wish had never been written: The one in my drawer
8. One book you're currently reading: Marley and Me
9. One book you've been meaning to read: Water for Elephants
10. One book you'd like to to write: The Face (this idea in my mental file).

What's on YOUR list?


Friday, September 22, 2006

Tall Dutchmen

I'm tall. Not monstrously tall, but tall enough that I used to be acutely aware of whether or not I should wear heels when I went out with a guy shorter than five nine (my height). I come by my height naturally, since my father is six-five.

But I have just read in the paper that the Dutch have become the tallest people on earth--take a bow, Robert Elmer, friend and fellow novelist who happens to also be Dutch (and yes, Bob is tall). According to the Associated Press, the average Dutchman stands just over six feet, while women average nearly five feet seven inches. "Many Dutch," says the AP, "are much taller than average. So many, in fact, that four years ago the government adjusted building codes to raise the standards for door frames and ceilings. Doors must now be seven feet, six and one-half inches high.

Which leads me to wonder . . . why are the Dutch not noted for basketball?


Thursday, September 21, 2006

The cutest thing ever!

I found this carved reading glasses holder at the Ten Thousand Villages store. Isn't it a hoot? Hubby and I have glasses scattered all over the house, so I wished I had a "carved nose" for every room!


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fox to Produce Christian movies

Yesterday's LA Times reported that 20th Century Fox plans to produce a film based on a novel of Janette Oke's, and has several other works in the pipeline. I find it heartening--and illustrative--to read that Fox movies will be targeting "evangelical Christians." See

Here's an excerpt from the article:

"If this is something Fox is doing only to exploit the audience � or if it's something they don't believe in or are doing cynically � then there could be problems," said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo, a box-office reporting service. "There isn't a huge turnout for these films unless they speak to what Christianity is all about. People want a guide to life and Hollywood has ignored that by saying nothing or dwelling on vices."

Over the last four years, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has quietly built a network to mobilize evangelical Christian moviegoers in an era of diminishing box-office returns. The network includes 90,000 congregations and a database of more than 14 million mainly evangelical households.

FoxFaith films, to be based on Christian bestsellers, will have small budgets of less than $5 million each, compared with the $60-million average. The movies each will be backed by $5-million marketing campaigns. Although that is skimpy compared with the $36 million Hollywood spends to market the average movie, the budget is significant for targeting a niche audience, especially one as fervent as many evangelical Christians.

For instance, "The Passion" grossed $612 million worldwide, thanks in part to its appeal to Christians. Another spiritual odyssey, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," took in $745 million globally. Most recently, Christians came out for this summer's controversial "The Da Vinci Code," which has brought in $754 million worldwide.

Other studios also are beginning to dip an oar into Christian waters. New Line Cinema's "The Nativity Story," scheduled to be released in December, tells the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter to give birth to Jesus. Legendary Pictures, which has a multi-film deal with Warner Bros., is planning to make a movie version of John Milton's epic 17th century poem about the fall of man, "Paradise Lost.

"Fox seems to be getting a warm reception from the Christian community. "It is extremely satisfying to be taken seriously," said Nancy Neutzling, vice president of marketing for Word Distribution, FoxFaith's distributor to Christian retailers. "It's like we have arrived."

Angie here again: I love that distinction pointed out in the quote from Brandon Gray--no matter how subtle or overt the Christian message, these movies--as well as Christian novels--function as a guide to life. What makes a novel Christian? It is more than the author's world view, though that often comes into play. I, a Christian writer, am certainly capable of writing erotica, but I certainly wouldn't call it "Christian." In the strictest sense, something is "Christian" if it reflects Christ, and that is what I want my novels to do.

I'm delighted that Fox Faith has determined to make movies that do the same thing.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Home Again

I had better get back to blogging . . . or my mother and Aunt Irene won't know what's become of me. (VBG).

Got home yesterday around lunchtime after a full week in North Carolina. Had a grand time--not only did I get some great ideas for my book (it's going to be sooo much better), but I had a fabulous time with Nancy Rue and reconnected with some old friends from the previous Donald Maass event I attended last year in Utah. Also got to spend time with Christian writers Meg Mosely and Deanne Gist--lovely ladies and talented novelists.

And I have been bitten really hard by the puppy bug. This will not be easier to take in the days ahead because I have to read "Marley and Me" for my book club this month . . . sigh. Right now I want to go down to our humane society and adopt every homeless hound in the place, but that's not practical. One must be practical.

I bonded with some other "dog folks" at the Maass event--Vickie G and Sherri M. were both dog people, and I think we honestly talked more about our dogs than our writing. Those ladies are both BIG dog people, as am I, and we love our 100 plus pound pets. I'll have to take a new picture of Charley and post it--he's become quite a handsome boy.

So--today I have to go back to the dentist (big sigh) and do some errands, for tomorrow I must get back to work. And in the mean time, I will try to think of something profound to write in this space.


Saturday, September 16, 2006


Photo: The Montreat conference center.

Yesterday (Friday) I sent out one of my quarterly email newsletters. If you didn't get one and you'd like to get them, you need to sign up in the "newsletter" box in the sidebar. If you think you have signed up and still didn't get one, you may not have responded to the confirmation email. It's a "no-spam" newsletter, so after you sign up, you have to reply to the confirmation email via the proper link in order to be "activated."

So if you want one of the autumn newsletters (and winter, and spring, and summer), sign up in the box to your right. I'll be sending out another batch of autumn emails for those who didn't get the first one.



Checking in

I've been neglectful of this space, and for that I'm sorry. Still up here at the lovely stone castle they call the Montreat Retreat Center and attending the Donald Maass intensive week--two more days to go. Getting new ideas for the WIP and have successfully begged my editor for an extension of my Oct. 1 deadline.

This is my second intensive, and while I'm not learning tons of new information, it's simply helpful to have someone standing there WAITING for you to go deeper, think harder, try new approaches. I highly recommend this for any writer who needs to grow and be challenged to try new things. After 100 plus books, I know it's been helpful for me.

So I'll have my work cut out for me when I get back. This is such a lovely area that it's tempting to sit and stare out the window instead of writing, but the deadline calls . . .

Wish you could see this roaring fire and feel the chill in the air. The chill hasn't reached us in Florida, but I've been very grateful for my all-purpose wool blazer. It's become my uniform of the day.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

P.S. I have discovered this store called "Ten Thousand Villages." Not only does it have really unique and beautiful gifts from around the world, but it is a "fair trade" enterprise, meaning that the money you pay for the item actually goes to the artisans who created it--many of whom are in developing countries. I went there yesterday and bought a few gifts, and I think I'll go back again today. These stores are scattered all over the country and I understand they also have a website for their best-selling items. ( I HIGHLY recommend this--it's ministry in motion.

P.S.S. Of course there's time to shop at an intensive! :-) Priorities, you know . . .


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Off to work

Yesterday I drove over to Orlando to sign books at the SIBA convention--Southern Independent Booksellers Association. It was a nice book fair, smaller than the national event, naturally, but well-attended by enthusiastic folks. The only hitch in the day was that my car's air conditioning gave out half way to Orlando . . . on what was probably the hottest day of the year. So I rolled down the windows and breezed home in the heat.

Tomorrow morning early I'm off to Nashville, where I'm going to meet Nancy Rue. Together we're driving to Montreat, NC--beautiful place--to attend the Donald Maass Intensive workshop. This will be my second time and Nancy's first, but I'm ready for some in-depth time on the WIP. So we'll be hauling our laptops, our WIP notebooks, our iPods, and lots of snacks. Brain food, you know.

I'm not sure how frequently I'll be blogging this coming week because I'm not sure about the internet connections. But I'll try to pop in every once in a while.

That's about it from this end. Have a great week!


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Make Your Own Seal

Found something cute the other day--you can make your own seal of approval. Use one on your web site, make up a certificate for when your kids actually have their rooms picked up and give them the "Good Housekeeping" seal! It's fun and easy, so go wild!

P.S. Can ANYONE tell me why blogger sometimes simply refuses to accept a photograph? I'm stumped.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Jack Smink in Concert

On September 2, hubby and I headed out to the Largo Cultural Center to see Jack Smink, ETA, in concert. (ETA=Elvis Tribute Artist.)

All I can say is . . . I have to put this experience in a book. (VBG)

Jack was great in his Elvis outfits--he sang very well and the concert was a lot of fun. What fascinated me was the audience--such a wide array of fans, both for Elvis and for Jack in particular. I was expecting mostly older people--after all, Elvis was popular in my mother's generation. Even my hubby is a post-Elvis guy, and he's eight years older than me. But yes, there were older people, but the Monkeys, Metallica, and Sesame Street fans were also represented. Everyone had a grand time.

One of the things that tickled us most was Jack's practice--based on Elvis's habit--of handing out sweat-soaked scarves to the audience. Jack had at least a hundred scarves prepared, and at several places during the concert he invited folks down to get one. His helper--a guy in black he kept referring to as "Fonzie," would drape the scarf around Jack's neck, then Jack would rip it off and hand it to the reaching audience members. Jack's scarves weren't exactly sweat-soaked, but nary a scarf went out unless it had been around his neck first.

I enjoyed the music, but I also enjoyed sitting back and watching all the bobbing heads around me--including the heads of a couple of other Elvi in the audience.

Jack and I went to high school together, and he used to call me "Well Well." (My maiden name is Elwell). In the middle of his concert, between songs, he calls out, "Well Well, are you here?"

"I'm here," I holler back.

"I can't see you," says Jack. (The lights). "So you've got the advantage--and that's the first time."

"Not hardly," I yell back.

Tee hee. I wasn't sure he remembered all those debates we used to have in the school bus. Then again, maybe he did.
P.S. Kelli S. pointed me to a website yesterday and I got a little carried away. I was trying to make Heavenly Daze tee shirts available to the HD yahoo group and . . . well, see for yourself at this link.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

BOM: Questions and Answers

Photo: the iUniverse edition of Hartford, designed to keep the series in print
Deborah asked: did Gilda ever know that Roberta was her real mother? and maybe I'm just remembering wrong, but if Taregan took over Daniel's identity, do his kids ever know this b/c in Rehoboth i seem to recall he's referred to only as Daniel.
Deborah, it's really hard to remember! I don't think Gilda ever knew much about her history because she was so young when she was taken away--she would only have know what the other boys would tell her, and I'm not sure even the other boys knew that Roberta was her biological mother.
And no, Taregan selflessly spent his life "redeeming" Daniel's reputation. He was Daniel from that time forward--pretty magnanimous of him, wasn't it? Some might say he was selfish and didn't want the switch to be discovered, but I know his heart. (VBG)
Had a wonderful trip to Chicago these last two days, and learned so much from reading Francine Prose's new book, READING LIKE A WRITER.
And now a question from me: about the WIP--"Fairlawn" has always been the series name in my mind's eye, and I'm not even sure we're going to put the series name on the books. Instead I'm thinking of using things people typically say at funerals.
So far the three tentative titles I have are:
Doesn't She Look Good?
Receiving Friends from 3 to 4
In Lieu of Flowers
What do you think? Can you think of any other little phrases people are always saying at funerals? I like these three particularly because they can work in more than one way . . . and thanks to Becky and Karen at Tyndale for brainstorming with me!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

BOM: The Results

Charles Towne was one of my favorites to write. I am always learning, and I remember that I'd just learned something before I wrote this book . . . and now I can't remember what it was! Maybe it was "the hero's journey" form for plotting . . . or maybe it had something to do with romance, because this book has a classic romantic story line.

In any case, despite the readers who "didn't get it," the results were satisfying. In its review of Charles Towne, Romantic Times said: "Angela Elwell Hunt single-handedly sets a new standard for inspirational historical romance with her high quality of writing." Romantic Times, May 1998

Pretty heady stuff for someone who was just beginning to feel like she had a handle on writing novels . . .

And my readers have been very kind. Here's a bit from one email:

On a personal note, I have finished Charles Towne and want to know
if there are any more books in this series. These books have deepened my
understanding as to how this country began and how the church (Puritans in
particular) were too legalistic and prejudiced against the Native
Americans. It has been exciting to go back in time to see and feel what
might have gone on back then (as well as sometimes devastating). For a
person like me who visualizes everything she reads, this series has been very
fascinating! I hope that is not the last of this series -- would someone
please drop me a note and let me know for sure?

And another:

. . . I begged my mother to allow me to read your Keepers of the Ring series, my mother's favorites, but she held off on me until I turned 15 and studied American history in high school. Well, the magical year arrived this spring, and I have adored the books every bit as much as I adored your books earlier, but especially the last one, Charles Towne. Maybe it's because, like just about every other teenager in America, I've been sucked into the vortex known as Pirates of the Caribbean, and with a few tweaks here and there, Johnny Depp casts a near-perfect image of Trace.

Tomorrow: Your Questions, my attempts to Answer. If you have a question, be sure to leave it in the comments.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

BOM: The Editing

Rehoboth is the book that deals with King Philip. And it's interesting that this book's cover falls on "editing" day, because I learned something important in the editing process of this book.

Rick Blanchette, obviously male, edited this book with me, and he helped me to see things from the male perspective. Now I've always thought that male readers and I get along pretty well, because I'm not an emotional writer--not much, anyway. A teenage boy once told me that he liked these particular books because they had a "low mush quotient." LOL!

In any case, Rick pointed out a scene where I had Rachelle and her brother, Mojag, meet another couple as they were out walking. I had written the scene from Mojag's POV, and I had him just casually observing the scene.

Rick said "No way."


"No way a young man who's with his sister is going to look at a new pretty girl without also trying to size up the guy with her. He'd be wondering what their relationship was . . . and he'd be thinking, Could I take him in a fight?"

LOL! Well. I learned that if I am going to write from a male POV, I need to adjust my thinking. Maybe scratch my armpits occasionally or something. But there's a definite difference.

Tomorrow: The Results


Monday, September 04, 2006

BOM: The Writing

I loved writing Hartford. I've long been fascinated by stories that explore duality, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So I created twins, Daniel and Taregan, one who was attracted to the English life, one who preferred the native life.
In writing Rehoboth, I explored the true story of King Philip, an amazing Indian leader who knew his tribe was doomed against the English. I hope my admiration for the man comes through . . . and I wondered how I would react if I faced the obstacles he did.
In writing Charles Towne, I skipped forward a few years. I wanted to write about slavery, both literal and spiritual. So I created a character, Trace Bettencourt, and made him a slave to guilt. His job? He's a pirate who goes around "liberating" slave ships bound for the colonies.
I remember that I went to Charleston by myself, stayed in an old bed and breakfast, and wandered around the historical district to get a feel for the place. Not much there from the early historical period, but I picked up some wonderful books on Charleston that I would probably never have run across otherwise.
I think it was with Charles Towne that I realized that not all my readers are going to "get it." I remember that my editor sent the manuscript out to some test readers. One of them remarked, "This book is about slavery. Slavery doesn't exist anymore. So what's the point?"
Sigh. When you write a layered story, some readers aren't going to peer past the top layer. Fact of Life #269.
Tomorrow: the editing

Sunday, September 03, 2006

BOM: The Research

Fortunately, the research for this book was far easier than scraping facts together about the twelfth century. I was able to find copies of the original correspondence of several people who'd been on the voyage to Roanoke, plus the complete passenger list.
As I researched the series, I ran across bizarre (to me) stories of how the English Christian settlers persecuted the native Americans they found. Embarrassingly horrible stories about how they killed . . . trust me, some of our forefathers were Christian in name only. I became fascinated with the stories of King Phillip, the real Pocahontas, her uncle, the slave trade, etc.
And each book had a spiritual theme that dealt with where I was in life. I used the theme of suffering in Jamestown, because that settlement truly fell upon hard times, including a smallpox epidemic. (The English gave smallpox-contaminated blankets to the Indians and entire villages were wiped out.) At the time, my church had been going through a season of suffering--two of our young people had died in unrelated accidents, and another had just been permanently paralyzed . . . an accident on a youth missions trip.
So each novel involved real, little-known history as well as a spiritual theme that came from whatever I was living through at the time.
I have a personal guideline when I write historical fiction: I feel free to create characters, but I never knowingly contradict historical fact. Fortunately, American history is rich . . . and the stories of our first colonies were too fascinating for me to pass up. I loved using them as a basis for novels.
Tomorrow: the writing

The Thread of Life

This is the next column I've written for The Tampa Tribune.

By Angela Hunt, community columnist

I became acquainted with Doni Brinkman when she sent me an email. She said she’d enjoyed the aspect of adoption in one of my novels because she and her husband were adoptive parents.

The Brinkmans’ story, however, is not typical. Doni and Jim adopted one son through open adoption, an increasingly common practice, but their first child, an adorable red-haired boy, was a snowflake baby. In other words, Tanner Brinkman was once an embryo that would have been left to die . . . in a freezer.

While scientific debate swirls around us, certain facts are indisputable: first, those who debate when life begins are arguing the wrong question, for life does not “begin” even at conception. An egg and sperm are alive before they meet. Rather than “beginning,” life is passed from one living human to another. The thread of life winds back through generations and originates at the point where the Creator breathed into the first human.

A fertilized human egg will not grow to be a fish, a bird, or a monkey. It will become every bit as human as the mother and father who hold their baby in their arms. The difference is not in the quality of personhood, but size. Given time and opportunity, the embryo will grow.

Stem cell research has been in the news of late, as it should be. But let’s be clear about the exact nature of the research involved. Those who argue for stem cell research are usually talking about fetal cells when adult stem cells are far more useful for treating disease. Proponents of fetal stem cell research, which typically uses so many cells from frozen embryos that it destroys those lives-in-waiting, cite Ronald Reagan and Michael J. Fox as reasons why we should experiment on living human beings. Yes, we should feel concern for those who suffer from diseases, but should we not feel the same concern for those who are held in a state of cryogenic suspension?

Stem cells, which are valued because they are “plastic,” or able to transform into multiple cell types (blood cells, kidney cells, etc.), are not found only in preborn humans. They are also available in umbilical cord blood, children’s baby teeth, hair follicles, placentas, and even liposuctioned fat.

The Scripps Research Institute has recently reported that a small molecule called reversine allows mature cells to become “plastic” again. Researcher Dr Sheng Ding said: "This [approach] . . . will allow you to derive stem-like cells from your own mature cells, avoiding the technical and ethical issues associated with embryonic stem cells."

Scientists have now proposed taking only one cell from embryos to preserve those lives, but those who lobby for the removal of restrictions on stem cell research are actually pushing for the right to use unborn humans for experimentation—a bizarre situation, considering that our government protects the rights of eagles and manatees to live free from human harassment. Should we do less for babies who have not yet reached a healthy birth weight?

The conflict at the heart of the debate involves the rights of already-born humans versus the rights of preborn humans. Yet researchers currently have access to adult stem cells, which have been successfully used to treat spinal cord injuries, regenerate heart tissue, and reconstruct corneas. Adult stem cell therapy has shown significant results in the treatment of diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, anemias, leukemias, Parkinson’s, and Crohn’s disease. No embryonic stem cell treatment to date has come close to the success rate of adult cell therapies.

Out of mercy and compassion, we ought to try to discover cures for disease. Scientists and medical researchers have a moral responsibility to do what they can to improve the quality of human life. Out of the same mercy and compassion, however, we ought to forbid all uses of embryonic humans for spare parts. If the restrictions on embryonic research are lifted, the temptation to create human embryos for the purpose of experimentation may prove impossible to resist.

So what should be done with “extra” embryos created by couples who are battling infertility? Why not encourage couples to adopt them? My husband and I waited years to adopt our two children. If embryonic adoption had been an option when we were younger, we’d have signed on in a heartbeat.

The psalmist assures us that God designed the delicate, inner parts of our bodies. He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. Embryos that have been frozen in the process of being miraculously woven and spun are continuing lengths in the thread of life.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Book of the Month: How the Idea Germinated

When I sat down to write my second historical series, I was still stinging a little from the reception of my first historical series. When I started writing adult novels, there were not really any writer's guidelines at all--and Christian fiction was still relatively new. (I'm dating myself!) So when I wrote my first historical series, I just sat down and wrote books with no particular reader in mind--for the world in general.

I soon learned Fact of Life #167: "the world in general" does not shop at Christian bookstores--which is where my books were being sold. I learned that I had to write for the Christian reader, and there are things that do not fly in the Christian market.

This debate, BTW, continues to this day. The unwritten guidelines have loosened considerably, but I learned a valuable lesson--she who writes for nobody in particular will reach nobody in particular.

I had endured some pretty tough criticism on my first series, which was set in medieval times. (Not for nothing were those called the Dark Ages.) And I happened to be studying legalism versus grace, so I took the lessons I learned from Charles Swindoll's book, Grace Awakening, and used my novel to illustrate those principles. Roanoke is based upon the original documents about the voyage, and I'd always been fascinated by the mystery surrounding that settlement. So my family and I drove up to Roanoke Island, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I began to write.

One thing about series writing that has always bothered me, however, is the repetition. I get bored quickly, and I didn't want to write about the same place, people, or era for five books in a row. So I needed a way to link the books together but yet keep the series interesting . . . for this writer.

So I came up with the idea of a ring that is passed down through generations. The ring is inscribed with the Latin words for "boldly, faithfully, successfully." It is given to Jocelyn in book one and keeps being passed from one person in Jocelyn's lineage to another. The series spans over 100 years and several different major colonies.

So--you have a ring, a writer determined to write to Christians (the choir needs to learn, too), and the historical genre. I was all set to begin.

Tomorrow: The Research


Friday, September 01, 2006

Books of the Month: the Keepers of the Ring Series

Oh, my! September first crept up on me! Thanks for the reminder that it's time for another Book of the Month!

A good thing, too--I've been working on Fairlawn hard, long, and late, so I like I don't have anything new to say, blogwise. So I'm delighted to talk about a book--actually, a series--that is already done!

This month we're going to look at the KEEPERS OF THE RING series, published by Tyndale House. These books are out of print at this moment, but they're around--new and used are still being sold on

The series includes five titles: Roanoke, the Lost Colony, Jamestown, Hartford, Rehoboth, and Charles Towne. Here's a review and overview from Library Journal:

In 1587, a fleet of English ships set sail for the Virginia colony. During a
storm, one ship became separated from the others and was never seen again. The
settlers on board were presumed lost at sea, but there is both historical and
legendary evidence that the colonists actually founded the Roanoke colony.
Veteran novelist Hunt ("Theyn Chronicles") reimagines this slice of Colonial
history through the eyes of Jocelyn White, a newlywed reluctant to leave her
home in England for the wild shores of the New World. White's journey is fraught
with danger, but her dependence on God and God's providence carry her safely
through. Hunt's engaging historical romance will appeal to fans of B.J. Hoff and
Patricia Hickman. Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Tomorrow: How the idea germinated.


Madea's Family Reunion

As a reward to myself for successfully making it through two more crowns (this time was a breeze), last night I watched Madea's family reunion.
Most of the time I was puzzled--was it a comedy? A Christian movie? A drama? And why was the title character played by a man in drag?
Despite my questions and some over-the-top stuff, I was thrilled to once again see Lisa Anderson in a role--and boy, was she terrific. (She's supposed to play Peyton in THE NOTE.) And I cried buckets at the ending (a happy one), so the movie worked for me. And despite flatulence, a little loose language, and some child-whipping, the movie presented a relationship with Christ in a positive way.
I found the following review on this guy got it right.
Tyler Perry, impresario of the gospel theater circuit, brings his gun-toting granny-drag persona Madea back to the big screen in Madea's Family Reunion, a sequel to the surprise hit Diary of a Mad Black Woman. In addition to being saddled with an unruly foster teen (Keke Palmer, The Wool Cap), Madea has two troubled nieces: Lisa (Rochelle Aytes, White Chicks), who's engaged to an abusive and controlling investment banker (Blair Underwood, Something New); and Vanessa (Lisa Arrindell Anderson, The Second Chance), who can't open herself to the affection of a bus driver/artist (Boris Kodjoe, The Gospel) because of childhood abuse. Wreaking havoc on both of their lives is their mother Victoria (Lynn Whitfield, Eve's Bayou, in delirious wicked witch mode). Like Madea's previous outing, Madea's Family Reunion may induce mental whiplash--the movie zips from a discussion of flatulence to a jazz-backed poetry reading to domestic violence (Underwood, perhaps eager to leave his bland good-guy image behind, is genuinely scary), or from an act of horrific revenge to a staggeringly gaudy wedding. Though schizophrenic and morally questionable (beating an adult women is clearly wrong, but whipping a child with a belt in the name of tough love is apparently good), the movie is definitely unpredictable and never dull. Also featuring Cicely Tyson (Because of Winn-Dixie) and the poet Maya Angelou. --Bret Fetzer