Saturday, June 30, 2007

Special Edition: Athol Dickson's Latest

Once you've published a few books, people often ask you to read their about-to-be-published books for possible endorsement. There's no way I could read all the books that I'm invited to enjoy, but every once in a while I move heaven and high water (as if I could!) to read something. Athol Dickson's was a book I made time for this past spring. Athol is an excellent, careful writer, but he also writes a gripping story that keeps your gaze flying over the page. In fact, I read the ending so quickly that I had to go back and read it again to savor the meaning and mystery of those last significant chapters.

If you like my books, I think you'll love THE CURE, Athol's latest. We're both caught by high concepts and the beauty of analogy (which reminds me of something I learned in theology this week--I need to blog about it. Remind me if I forget).

Anyway, without further ado, here's the "teaser" for Athol's book . . . as if it needed one.

The Cure
By Athol Dickson

Imagine a medicine that cures you of your worst vice.

One dose and you’re free. How much would a person pay for such a cure? How far would they go? Would they lie for it? Steal for it? Kill for it?

Riley Keep, former man of God, former missionary, has been a beggar on the streets for years, desperate to forget the past. His wife, daughter, work, and faith were all lost in the aftermath of one far-flung act of wickedness. Believing some things cannot be forgiven in this life, lately Riley has begun to think of giving up the ghost. Then he hears the rumors.

Miracles are happening in Maine.

An old woman fleeing a horrific monster, a lonely wife and mother tempted by forbidden desire, an impoverished lobsterman lured by tainted wealth, a young girl weighing life and death decisions, a small town cop with a murder on his hands . . . these are just a few of the citizens of Dublin, Maine, a picture postcard village slowly suffocating underneath an avalanche of hungry people searching for a miracle. But only Riley Keep will find what he desires. And only then will Riley learn if it will save him, or if it’s true what people say . . . .

Sometimes The Cure is worse than the disease.

Advance praise for The Cure:

“…well-written, intelligent follow-up to Dickson's Christy Award-winning River Rising. An involving, suspenseful take on God's transforming grace, it tackles a serious issue while providing an absorbing story.” (Library Journal)

“…unpredictable and surprising, even though clues are sprinkled throughout the book. The final twist was chilling…the author does a wonderful job weaving in the deceit and the actions of those unrestrained by ethics and driven by the bottom line…a powerful book, one that will remain on my bookshelf for a long time to come.” (Crosswalk)

“Rich with local dialect and scenery…. Dickson's approach is thought-provoking, and his prose beautifully evokes the taciturn spirit of the Mainers who people this novel….full of interesting ideas and well-developed characters.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

About the author:

Athol Dickson’s writing has been favorably compared to the work of Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly) and Flannery O’Connor (The New York Times). His They Shall See God was a Christy Award finalist and his River Rising was a Christy Award winner, selected as one of the Booklist Top Ten Christian Novels of 2006, and a finalist for the Christianity Today Best Novel of 2006. He's also a very cool guy, he likes Cajun food, and he knows almost everything there is to know about boats and his lovely wife, Sue.

Learn more about Athol Dickson and his work at or visit his blog at . If you visit his blog, tell him Angie sent you!

Order The Cure here or pick it up at your local bookstore.


The Elevator Movie

No, not my elevator movie. Someone else's. :-)

Found this on youtube. Apparently three kids made their own version of "The Elevator" (not my story, their own) as a spoof of those old disaster flicks like THE TOWERING INFERNO. If you've got an extra three minutes, take a look at this:

Cute, huh? Hope it gets you in the mood for THE ELEVATOR as the "book of the month" for July!


Friday, June 29, 2007

The Other Side of the Writing Life . . .

This is part of the writing life few people talk about. Oh, it's nice to hear kind comments and read nice reviews, but every once in a while the opposite happens.

I just received the following email:

I just am finishing the book, "Uncharted" I found it very difficult reading. In addition, for a Christian author where is all this talking to the dead, etc. I was really turned off with that. In fact, I will have a hard time picking up one of your future reads. We live in such a satanic world that we don't need to be encouraged by, even fiction, slanting towards something that is not of God.

This is one of the hardest things about going public with your thoughts, your stories, your life in pages--when someone completely misunderstands, misses the point, or misinterprets all that you have struggled for months to say. Of course I wrote this person back and tried to explain that Uncharted is the retelling of a biblical parable, but I'm not sure my explanations help.

It's hard for me to understand how someone could think that a book could originate with a Christian author, get past a Christian editor (half a dozen of them, actually), be published by a Christian publisher, and get into Christian bookstores while being "not of God."


~~Angie, wishing you a blessed Friday. Anyone getting an iPhone today?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Night-Blooming Cereus

I have two of these strange little plants, and I was sure the first was going to bloom on Monday night. When it hadn't bloomed by midnight, I figured I was wrong, so I went to bed. When I woke up at six on Tuesday morning, I discovered I had missed the bloom. After the bloom, the blossom closes back up and goes limp.

So--I had one more chance. Another NBC, another blossom ready to bloom. So Tuesday night at about ten-thirty, I took my notepad and pen, my camera, and lit some candles on the back porch. Hubby thought I was crazy (nothing new), but I was determined to sit up with the cereus and add to my pool of life experiences.

By eleven-thirty I was getting a little drowsy and I had watched all the lights go off in my neighbor's houses. (No telling what they thought about me if they looked out their windows and saw me keeping a candle light vigil with a plant and a camera.)

But while I was sitting there, my brain began to spin. I'd run into a problem, you see, with the ending of my book. I knew how I wanted it to end, but I was having a very hard time coming up with a credible scenario that would result in the situation I wanted to create.

So I backed up and took another stab at it, from a new direction. And what do you know, things began to fall into place. I'd tell you more, but we're now entering the "unexpected" part of the plot, and I've learned that it's not fair to give things away to blog readers who have long memories. It spoils the book for them.

And then--wow! Another completely unexpected thought. I sat out on my back porch, in the candlelight, and wrote four pages of notes. I think it's all coming together now.

And the plant was beginning to bloom.

By about one a.m., it had opened enough for me to feel satisfied and ready for bed. So I took a final picture, breathed deep of its fragrance, and put my precious notepad in the house, in case of rain.

And Wednesday morning, I didn't even feel tired. I've attached a couple of pictures--one before bloom and one after. I should have set the flower against a solid background so you could see it better, but if you click on the photo, I think it'll enlarge so you can have a peek.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'm a Rockin' Girl Blogger!

Cindy Swanson over at Notes in the Key of Life has named me as a Rockin' Girl Blogger. Let me say, I am touched. Seriously. I was tagged as a "thinking blogger" the other day and I meant to mention it, but I think I was in the middle of a BOM or something, so I never got around to it. (Shows you how well I think!)

As part of this award, I'm supposed to nominate five other rockin' girl bloggers, and I will. In a minute.

First, I want to talk a moment about my WIP, tentatively titled THE FACE. Have I mentioned lately that I REALLY dislike writing first drafts? They are like pushing out a baby that doesn't want to be born, and trust me, once it's out and on the table, it's a mess. Things definitely get better once the first draft is done, but it's no fun when you're in labor. And it does NOT get easier.

What is this book about? The easiest way for me to explain is to lead you back to the source of the idea. Visit this web site-- then come back here and I'll continue.

Did you visit? Okay--I saw a special on this little girl on the Discovery channel, and that's when the idea began to germinate. My book isn't about that particular little girl, but let's say another child was born with that same condition about 20 years ago. Let's say her parents worked for the CIA. Let's say her parents died right after her birth. Let's say her grief-stricken grandmother didn't/couldn't handle the thought of coping with such a tragedy, so the little girl remained in the secret CIA hospital where she was first cared for. Let's say she grew up there, and only had whatever surgeries were necessary for her to breathe, eat, and talk.

Let's say she's 21 years old, and still doesn't have a real face . . . and her aunt, who has always thought she died at birth, discovers that she's still alive.

And there you have the beginning of this book. It's set within the CIA (thanks to my Alias fixation, though I am taking the time to get the CIA right) and involves spying, the legal and illegal production of opium, and, of course, two women who will learn a lot from each other. It's another parable story, where the real meaning lies beneath the surface.

Believe it or not, it's been helpful for me to lay all that out. :-)

And now, for my five rockin' girl blogger nominees (and this is certainly not an exhaustive list because I know so many):

Julianna's Mom. Tami and her husband have to be two of the most courageous people I've ever heard of. I think--I know--God had a special reason for sending this child to them.

Links to all these gals are on the right. Read 'em and you'll know why I love 'em!
Roxy Henke
BJ Hoff
Lisa Samson
Robin Lee Hatcher
Brandilyn "the Babe" Collins and
Charlene Baumbich (Traveling Laughs)

Well, that's seven, but I'm feeling generous. And of course, kudos to Cindy Swanson, who never fails to have something intriguing on her blog. Thanks, Cindy, for putting me on your list!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I need to brush up on my driver's test . . .

I took the following "driver's test," and the first time I only got 6/10 correct--a failing grade! So then I went back and figured out one I missed, raising my grade to passing, but I still don't know which other three were incorrect.

Anyway, I suppose it's a good thing I don't drive much. Seriously. My car hardly ever leaves the garage.

Enjoy this little test! I'm hard at work on what I'm tentatively calling THE FACE. Or FACE TO FACE. Something like that. It's another one of those high concept novels that I'm having trouble putting into words. More later.

(My night blooming cereus is getting close to blooming! I keep running out to check it on the hour . . . and I'm taking pictures!)

So . . . how did you do on this driver's test?


You Passed Your Driver's Test

Congratulations, you got 7/10 correct.
You're a good driver - at least, when you want to be.

Monday, June 25, 2007

THE OAK LEAVES by Maureen Lang

I'd like you all to meet (relative) newcomer Maureen Lang, author of "The Oak Leaves," a new release. Please welcome her to the blog!

One writer’s take on the “book of her heart.”

Maureen Lang thought she’d write about her experience with Fragile X Syndrome (a genetic form of mental retardation) “someday.” After all, having a child who requires round-the-clock care doesn’t make for the upbeat, escapist reading most romance novelists prefer to write about. Still, Lang wanted to include Fragile X in a story because so few people have heard of the disorder that affects her 12-year-old son. So she put the tale in the middle of a love story.

The Victorian romance of Cosima Escott is interspersed between the pages of a glimpse into the contemporary life of Talie Ingram as her world is forever altered by her son’s diagnosis of Fragile X Syndrome.

From the back cover:

Talie Ingram has an ideal life: a successful, devoted husband; a beautiful one-year-old son; and another on the way. But her world is shattered when she discovers a shocking family secret in the nineteenth-century journal belonging to her ancestor Cosima Escott. Only in reading Cosima’s words can Talie make peace with the legacy she’s inherited and the one she’s passed on to her son.

Media Reviews:

From the very beginning, Lang, a romance novelist and author of Pieces of Silver, deftly navigates back and forth in history… It’s Cosima's lingering voice—her determination and faith—that inspires Talie to reconcile her son's diagnosis of fragile X syndrome (a disability Lang's own son suffers from) with her belief that God is merciful. -- Publisher’s Weekly
A tender account of unconditional love and the deeper joy that results from overcoming the odds, Lang's latest is recommended for all collections and is an essential read for those with fragile X syndrome in their families. - Library Review
“…A lush and moving tapestry of love, fear and faith…spellbinding… Flawlessly plotted, filled with flesh-and-blood characters and a radiant faith…Very highly recommended.” -Christian Book Previews

Available at a store near you or order The Oak Leaves online.

If there’s one thing Maureen Lang would like readers to take away, it’s this: God loves us all, even through the trials He allows into our lives. And one more thing…the next time you happen to see a family with a disabled child . . . send a smile their way!

Amen. I believe God sends us the exact trials we need to mold us into what He wants us to be--better equipped tools in His service. Thank you, Maureen!


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Money-saving coupon for THE ELEVATOR

You may have heard that THE ELEVATOR has rolled off the presses. Here's a coupon you can enlarge (by clicking on the image), print, and take to your nearest bookstore. It's valid beginning June 26. Enjoy!

I'll be discussing THE ELEVATOR as the BOM beginning on July first, so stay tuned!


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Evan Almighty

I can't remember the last time we went OUT to see a movie, but hubby and I slipped out last night to go see EVAN ALMIGHTY. The verdict? It's not a "Christian" movie--but if you can swallow the premise that God would appear as Morgan Freeman, it's very cute. Funny and clean enough for even the little ones. An adorable film.

As entertaining as it was--and it WAS--I just couldn't help feeling rueful that the gospel had been supplanted by a feel-good, "save the planet" message. It's one of those movies I would take my kids to see, and then I'd tell them the message God REALLY wants us to share.

For some videoclips and a sneak peek, visit The website is adorable, too.


Friday, June 22, 2007

The Purpose of LIfe

In my daily Bible reading this week, I came across this passage:

"Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people need more than bread for their life; real life comes by feeding on every word of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn't wear out, and your feet didn't blister or swell. So you should realize that just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you to help you.

"So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with springs that gush forth in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley, of grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, olives, and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. When you have eaten your fill, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you" (Deut 8:2-10).

One of my doctoral classes was "The Problem of Evil and Suffering" and in it I studied several complicated theodicies--defenses of the goodness of God in a world where evil exists. By the time I had finished, I had come up with a theodicy of my own, but as I read the above passage, I realized that this passage pretty much sums up my theodicy, but as a metaphor.

What is the purpose of life? Why do we suffer on occasion? It's all in the above passage. "He did it to teach you that people need more than bread . . . and the Lord your God disciplines you to help you out."

You could almost come to the end of a man' life, substitute the number of his years for the number "forty" above, and read that passage as a metaphor about life in general. We walk through the wilderness with the Lord, we learn, we grow, and yet he takes care of us. And then he leads us to heaven, a "land flowing with milk and honey."

I like that a lot.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

300 years of women in art

If you like art--and I hope you do--you should find this video fascinating.



Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mormons and Evangelicals

This weekend I read an article in the Tampa Tribune that reported the following: "About 1 in 3 voters would be less likely to support a Mormon candidate. The faith draws more unfavorable ratings than any other religion; only atheists fare worse. Doubts run especially deep among evangelicals, who may account for as many as half the votes cast in Republican primaries in the South. Some evangelicals can articulate specific Mormon beliefs that disturb them: for instance, the teaching that only married couples can achieve the most exalted realms of heaven."

As it happens, one of the assignments for the doctoral class I just finished was to compare the beliefs of Mormons with evangelicals as regarding Scripture. I knew only the basics about Mormonism before I delved into the research, but I knew enough to be disturbed whenever Mormons call themselves Christians. We may both use the term, but we define it--and several other key concepts--completely differently. My intent here is not to attack Mormons, but simply to point out the differences in our beliefs.

I wrote the following for my class paper:

Mormon theology differs from Christian theology in several key areas, though most Mormons call themselves Christians. What follows is a comparison of their position and that of orthodox Christianity in several key areas.

1. Authority:
Mormons acknowledge the divine authority not only of the Bible, but also of The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and continuing revelation in the official teaching of the president of the LDS church. Not only do these extra-biblical authorities contradict God’s promise that his canon would be complete, but they frequently contradict each other: for instance, in teachings on polygamy, in references to the Trinity, the appearance of God (spirit or physical?), and the fact that Mormon scriptures say that not all finite things were created. Mormon writings also contradict the Bible’s statement that Christ was born in Bethlehem, for the Book of Mormon predicts that Christ would be born in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, the prophets of Mormonism have given false prophecies. Joseph Smith claims that an angel of God told him that American Indians were descended from Jews, but modern DNA testing has proven that his prophecy is false.

Another false prophecy: in Doctrine and Covenants 84:1–5, 31, September 1832, Joseph Smith claimed that “Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem … shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased. … which temple shall be reared in this generation.” 1

Fifty-eight prophecies of Joseph Smith have failed to come to pass. As God’s word, the Bible is filled with inerrant prophecies, for no true prophet can lie. The Bible clearly says: "How will we know whether the prophecy is from the Lord or not? If the prophet predicts something in the Lord's name and it does not happen, the Lord did not give the message" (Deut. 18:21-22).

The Bible alone is trustworthy. Furthermore, there are clear indications in the New Testament that Christ’s revelation to the prophets would complete biblical revelation. Not only was God’s complete revelation miraculously proclaimed and recorded, but it has been miraculously preserved.

Finally, we have the Bible’s own word on the subject of extra-biblical writings: “If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19).

2. The Gospel
Most Mormons would say their church is built on the gospel of Christ, but they would also say that their church has been raised up because the gospel has been lost in an apostate church. Yet what do they believe about the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Mormonism is an amalgamation of concepts from Judaism (good works), Roman Catholicism (emphasis upon a hierarchy), the Campbellites (baptismal regeneration, baptism for the dead), Masonry (secret symbolism and temple ceremonies), Islam (polygamy and blood atonement), and Rosicrucian doctrine (the belief that men are gods in embryo).

Walter Martin writes that one “characteristic of [Mormonism] that is quite different from Christianity is this: Doctrinal issues are frequently capricious and subject to change. Unlike Christianity, whose essential teachings are universal and absolute and have not been subject to modification among orthodox Christians through two millenniums, [other] doctrines change according to the need of the moment. New revelation freely supersedes old revelation. The Book of Mormon, for example, has ‘required almost four thousand alterations from its original publication in 1830.’ 19 Some of these alterations have been significant. Mormonism’s rejection of polygamy and their more recent dispensation of religious equality to African Americans reflect major and far-reaching doctrinal changes.” 20

3. View of Christ
Though Mormons do believe Christ existed pre-incarnation with the Father, they do not believe he is the Son of God or equal to God in an orthodox sense of the Trinity. Rather he is a “spirit-child” as all human beings are prior to their birth.

Charles Swindoll explains: “Many people believe in the 'preexistence of the soul,' maintaining that the immaterial aspect of each person existed in some previous state before its union with the body. This view was popular among Greek dualists and a few early Christian theologians who were heavily influenced by Plato’s thought. He believed that souls had become incarnate from the world of Forms, making life here an attempt to return the soul to its proper home. Largely because of the influence of Augustine, this view has not been held by the Christian church since about the fifth century, though versions of it may still be found in Eastern thought and in Mormonism.”

Mormons believe that Christ is not eternally God’s son, nor was he eternally pre-eminent. He is simply the first-begotten. Whereas Christians would interpret John 1:1 as “in the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word (Jesus) was God”, Mormons would render that with a lower-case g, i.e., a god. Though they cannot accept the deity of Jesus Christ, they do claim he was the messiah. The Mormon Articles of Faith state that he was “chosen in the primeval council of the Gods and foreordained to this service.”

Furthermore, Mormons teach that the Father and Son have literal bodies of flesh and bone, despite Scripture clear asserting that God is spirit (John 4:24) and that a spirit has no flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). God is invisible (1 Timothy), and “no man has seen God” (John 1:18).

4. Redemption
Mormons are quick to say that Christ did provide atonement for sin. But they do not believe it sanctifies believers. Instead, it wipes away original sin so that all are one with God at birth. After birth, salvation is only attainable through obedience and good works. Babies who die go immediately to heaven; other people have to work for their salvation.

Scripture says that believers are freely justified “by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:24-25). Yet Mormon priests offer sacrifices like those described as useless in Hebrews 10:11. Furthermore, Mormons believe that unless men participate in those sacrifices, they cannot find salvation.

5. Personal faith in Christ
If we were to ask a Mormon if he or she had personally trusted in Christ as Lord, most would emphatically respond in the affirmative. Like evangelical Christians, they consider “belief” to be more than mere intellectual knowledge or even assent.

Where we differ, however, is that individual Mormons know little about fellowshipping with a living Lord. They are related to their religion through the mediation of the institutional church and its sacraments. He is not trusting in faith alone—in fact, he may consider the doctrine of justification by faith alone a dangerous heresy. In Mormon theology, grace saves a man from eternal annihilation. Christ’s death and atoning sacrifice makes him immortal. But salvation will come only through obedience, baptism by a church official, and enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God.

By insisting on works, Mormons destroy the essence of faith as described in Romans 11:6. Joseph Smith has taken the truth of the Gospel and twisted it so that on close examination, it bears little resemblance to biblical orthodoxy.

Now that it appears we will be hearing a lot about Mormonism and a Mormon candidate, I thought it might be helpful to have a clearer understanding about the difference between the LDS church and evangelical believers.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Overgrown Vines

Photos: left--a blue trumpet vine. Right: Someone else's night blooming cereus.

My new next-door-neighbor knocked on my door after he came home from work today. After setting a chair in front of the door so the Babe wouldn't go through the glass (she's extremely protective), I sneaked out through the kitchen door to see what he wanted.

"I was trimming that vine over the weekend," he said, "and suddenly it fell over into your yard. So if you need help tying it back up, just let me know."

"The Vine" is actually six or seven Blue Trumpet vines that I planted about five years ago. They have completely covered the fence between our houses and spilled over onto my neighbor's side. In fact, those vines are so aggressive that every morning I got out and snip off the new trailers that keep reaching for my kitchen window. I'm convinced that if I didn't do this, the vine would eat my house.

I assured my new neighbor not to worry about anything, I was sure he couldn't hurt that vine. And then Babe and I went outside to see what he was talking about.

Oops. Looked like a green wall had fallen down in the slender ribbon of what passes for lawn in my backyard. So I waited until the men came home, then armed hubby and son with clippers, electric hedge trimmers, and rope. "Just hack off the fallen part," I told them, "and tie up what's left."

So they did. I stood there, directing traffic as they cut through the living top layer of the vine, then we all stood there hacking as dust flew when hubby cut through the dead lower layers of the vine.

And as he began to haul the dismembered vine wall toward the garbage heap, I noticed that the ground seemed to be moving. No . . . I was seeing a carpet of crickets. No, not crickets. ROACHES.

Arrrrrgh! There are few things I hate worse. And suddenly, in a flash of brilliance, I realized why I find roaches in my garage and virtually nowhere else in my house. The garage is next to The Vine, which is apparently a leading Roach Nursery.

So now I have to find someone to take out those vines. Every last one of 'em. And then I'll plant something docile and green, maybe a bougainvillea that will accept my pruning and not challenge me every single morning.

Oh! There is good news from the garden. Last year I planted two stalks of Night Blooming Cereus--the lovely flower that has only a few blooms once a year and only blooms at night. This weekend on those baby stalks I found one bloom each! I was thrilled. I read in the paper that some folks have Night Blooming Cereus parties, but I'm not sure my blooms are stellar enough to deserve the neighborhood's attention. I keep checking the buds, though, so I won't miss the birth of a rare flower.

Maybe next year I'll break out the chips and dip.

PS. If you think I'm kidding about how seriously some folks take the blooming of a NBC, check out this link:


Monday, June 18, 2007

Kyle XY

I don't watch a lot of TV (especially now that 24 is finished), so I do occasionally watch TV on DVD. (Which means I'm always a year behind what's current.) The other day I Netflixed the first two discs of Kyle XY, produced by ABC family. From what I could tell, it was about a kid who might be an alien . . . and the idea intrigued me.

This morning, after watching those two discs, I had to ask some friends at church if I am totally out of touch with the youth culture. I mean, these kids on this show don't behave like any kids I know . . . nor do the parents. Yet this show is definitely geared toward adolescents . . . and that's why it bothers me so much.

For instance--the other day the Mom and Dad were kissing goodbye on the front porch as the kids when off to school. The ninth grade boy looked at his parents and smirked. "Keep it in your pants, Dad," he deadpanned before walking off.

Excuse me?

In another scene, the kids were tussling with a box that contained a Oujia board. The ninth grade boy didn't want his sister to play the game. The reason why became obvious when the box spilled, revealing the boy's stash of pornographic magazines. At that point, all the kids in the room laughed, and an 11th grade boy said, "Dude, I've got one word for you: Internet."

I'm sorry, but I personally know too many adults whose marriages are on the rocks because of Internet pornography. Yet here it was, presented as innocent, funny, natural, normal. (And that's not even mentioning the fact that they were playing with a Ouija board . . . )

I just think it's a shame, because the series could have a lot of potential for good. It could be summed up in one phrase: "test-tube teenager." Kyle, the kid without a belly button, enters the world at about sixteen and has to learn everything. (BTW, the adults in this show are thick as planks. They keep thinking he has amnesia. Excuse me? He has no belly button!)

Kyle is cute and sweet and innocent. He lives with this family where the kids bicker and lie, then conveniently learn a lesson before the hour's over . . . but they are TEACHING a lot to the kids who are watching this show. And what they're teaching isn't so good.

I told my hubby the youth pastor about this show. He doesn't watch it, but he says "all the kids do." I can see why . . . but I don't think it's a good thing. The "moral" of one show was "don't lie to your parents," but then Kyle lies about damage to a car--he says it was his fault in order to spare a friend. And then he walks away, and the moral was that this time, lying was a good thing.

Was it? No one addressed the obvious: who would pay for the damage, whose insurance would go up, etc., plus the girl had already admitted that she damaged the car, so why lie? It simply made no sense.

Frequently the dad will answer the phone, the little brother will say, "I'm not here," and the dad lies for his son.

I'm sorry, but these mixed messages aren't good. What is ABC Family thinking?

~~Angie, on her soapbox

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Babe went swimming!

No, I'm NOT referring to myself, but to my rescue mastiff. Until today, she had seemed a little wary of the pool, but tonight hubby, son, and I jumped in, and after a few minutes, here came Babe! At 220 pounds, she floats! She swam a lap and climbed out, apparently content to know that she saw and conquered!

Wanted to mention two movies to you--the first hubby and I watched last night, and it was a delight--fun for the entire family. It's NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, and it was even better than I thought it'd be. Very cute and even heart-warming.

This second film is for the grownups--THE PAINTED VEIL, based on the novel by Somerset Maugham. It started out like one of those British period pieces--well, it IS a period piece--but ended up being a film about what love really is and the power of forgiveness. It's one of those rare movies that left me thinking about it long after the film had finished.

So--two movies for you to Netflix, if you so desire!

Have a lovely weekend!


Saturday, June 16, 2007


Whew. I thought it would never arrive.

I worked like a dervish this past week to get the book with Deanna Favre out the door--now I hope everyone likes it. She's a wonderful lady and I enjoyed working with her.

I spent Friday trying to enlarge my Windows drive on Mac Parallels--finally figured it out--and then I had to complete my paper for my doctoral class on Systematic Theology, Part One. Here's a little sample of it:

Objection Fifteen: Act/Potency or Necessary/Contingent models are arbitrary. Response: These models are not arbitrary; they are logical and final. The universe is composed of a Necessary Being alone, or a Necessary being and contingent beings, because contingent beings cannot create themselves, yet they can cease to exist—or not exist. There are no other alternatives.

Objection Sixteen: The cosmological argument commits modal fallacies.
Response: If a contingent being exists, then a Necessary Being must exist—if any being with the potential not to exist exists, then a Being with no potentiality to exist must exist. God is a necessary being because He cannot not be necessary. All finite things need a cause for their existence.

Are you dizzy yet? I am. :-)

Anyway, I'm glad it's Saturday and I can putz around the house for a change. BTW, two of my favorite pals are now blogging--Athol Dickson and Randy Alcorn. I really appreciate both of these men, and you'll find links to their blogs on the right!

Have a lovely weekend!


Friday, June 15, 2007

Too funny!

In honor of THE ELEVATOR, the following is a video about being "stuck." Sent in by Michael Garnier, who was indispensable as I was writing THE ELEVATOR.

That clip is hilarious! Reminds me of how I can turn my desk upside down looking for my glasses . . . which are on the end of my nose.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Florida Stories

When I travel, particularly overseas, I find that people love to hear Florida stories. They are amazed that yes, many of us Floridians do have orange and grapefruit trees growing RIGHT IN OUR OWN YARDS! And yes, the state is home to more than two million alligators, which aren't that hard to find and often come calling. And yes, they do occasionally eat people, dogs, and anything else that ventures too close to the water.

Stories less often told involve sturgeon. I was trying to remember the name of this fish on our cruise, and a story in today's paper reminded me. Sturgeon. They are big, prehistoric-looking fish that can grow to over 200 pounds (that's the weight of one of my dogs!), and they have this inexplicable tendency to leap out of the water. Trouble is, they often leap into boats and hit people, and some have died as a result.

For instance, just this past weekend, a leaping sturgeon jumped out of the water and struck a woman in a boat. Tara Spears, 32, was knocked unconscious but was not seriously injured. In 2006, eight people were injured by sturgeon on various rivers (these are fresh water fish).

Last year, I think it was, a man's heart was pierced by a barb on one of these monster fish, and he had to ride with his grandchildren back to shore.

Maybe I should set all of my books in Florida. There are enough incredible stories around here to make anyone's fiction interesting--and they're true!

P.S. Speaking of Florida stories . . . I have just signed some paperwork that puts THE ELEVATOR well on its way to becoming a LIFETIME TV MOVIE! Pretty cool, huh?


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Library Journal, June 1 issue

I love the opening paragraph of Tamara Butler's review page in this month's Library Journal:

Thoroughly Modern--this summer's books reflect changes that have transformed the CF (Christian fiction) genre in recent years. Female protagonists, in particular, have abandoned their traditionally submissive roles to drive the action of many contemporary Christian novels. Young women will root for high-spirited Cassidy Cantrell, the memorable heroine of Melody Carlson's THESE BOOTS WEREN'T MADE FOR WALKING, Essie Spreckelmeyer, the antiheroine of Deeanne Gist's COURTING TROUBLE, is everything a romance novel leading lady is not; Angela Hunt's THE ELEVATOR takes readers on a thrill ride as three desperate women tackle their problems during a hurricane; and Delia Parr's DAY BY DAY addresses the growing social issue of grandmothers raising their own grandchildren.

I love it! I've been saying for YEARS that Christian fiction isn't what it used to be (if indeed it ever as as insipid as some would have you believe), and here's proof. Kudos to Library Journal for proclaiming that our females are alive and soaring!


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Whatever your position on the war . . .

I hope you'll remember and pray for Iraqi Christians.

From my Sunday newspaper:

"An al-Qaida-affiliated insurgent group is giving Christians in Baghdad a stark set of options: convert to Islam, marry your daughters to our fighters, pay an Islamic tax, or leave with only the clothes on your back."

The U.S. military is trying to protect the largest Christian enclave in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood. In Syria, where thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled, tales abound of families that have been killed or driven from their homes because they couldn't afford the tax levied on non-Muslim men of military age. A Christian Iraqi legislator estimated Tuesday that a half-million Christians have fled Iraq since 2004.

But there are others still there . . . and their lives are in danger.

I'll never forget several years ago when my friend Anne DeGraaf fold me of an Iraqi Christian woman she had met shortly after Americans liberated Iraq from Saddam's grasp. "Tell your people thank you," the woman told Anne. "And don't leave. If you go, we will be slaughtered. There will be no one to told them back."

Think about the Iraqi Christians the next time you hear your congressperson urging a hasty retreat out of Iraq. I hate war as much as anyone, but the truth cannot be denied--a disorganized, hasty retreat will result in a bloodbath of Christians.

Ablahad Afram Sawa last week told the Iraqi parliament that "What is happening today in Iraq against Christians is shameful." He said Christians hadn't faced such oppression in nearly 2,000 years.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Robin Lee Hatcher's RETURN TO ME

You may have noticed that I've begun to feature other people's books on my blog. Well, why not? These are books by special friends, and I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't think you'd enjoy them.

Today's featured book is no exception. Robin Lee Hatcher and I go way back (to the days when both of us had different hair colors and styles), and I love and appreciate Robin's heart. I'm happy to feature her latest book today, RETURN TO ME, which releases this week.

Here's the official information:

Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. However, she's certain there are better plots and fewer calories in her books than in puffed rice and hamburgers.

The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, two RITA Awards for Best Inspirational Romance, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home in Idaho, which she shares with Poppet the Papillon.


Discouraged and destitute, her dreams shattered, Roxy Burke is going home. But what lies beyond the front door? Rejection ... or a brighter future?

A lot has changed since Roxy escaped small town life to become a Nashville star. Her former boyfriend Wyatt has found Christ and plans to become a minister. Her sister Elena, who comforted Wyatt when Roxy ran away, is now his fiancee. Her father Jonathan, a successful businessman, is heartbroken over the estrangement of Roxy from the family.

Now Roxy—her inheritance from her grandmother squandered, her hopes of stardom dashed—finds her way home ... not by choice but because it's her only option. Her father's love and forgiveness surprise her, but her very presence throws the contented Burke family into turmoil, filling Roxy with guilt and shame.

Elena is shocked to discover doubt and resentment in her heart after her father's easy acceptance of Roxy into the family circle. Wyatt wrestles with doubts about marrying Elena. And Roxy struggles to accept forgiveness. Isn't she more deserving of rejection? As the story of the prodigal plays out, each member of the Burke family must search for and accept God's grace.

An Interview with Robin Lee:


No, I didn't, although I loved books and stories even before I could read. In fact, I went to my first day of first grade with only one goal in mind — learn to read. When they didn't teach me how that very first day, I told my mom there was no point in going back. Fortunately, my mom knew who was boss, and I did go back to school.

When I was young, what I wanted to be most in all the world was a movie star. My closest friends all nod their heads, I'm sure, when I say this, knowing my theatrical nature. I took ballet for seven years, and I was in various theater productions, both in school and as a young adult.

My storytelling career began in grade school when I told my fifth grade friends that my mother was born in a covered wagon while coming west on the Oregon Trail. It seemed plausible. My mother was, after all, 47 years old at the time. My word! Had they even invented the wheel when she was born? [Sorry, Mom.]

Fast forward to high school. I was a compulsive writer, scribbling stories and poetry in notebooks and on binders. This wasn't work. This was fun! Writing could transport me to any place, any time. How cool. I also was a lover of horses and spent many years riding and competing and raising them.

Marriage and family filled the next decade. I read voraciously. I daydreamed. In my mind, I reworked the endings of both movies and books any time they didn't suit me. I performed with a Christian theater troupe. We raised a few horses. Then I got an idea for a story, a Gone With The Wind type saga. I talked about it with others for about six months. Finally, I sat down and began to write. I wrote long hand on yellow legal pads and typed the pages on the office Selectric typewriter during lunch hours and coffee breaks. Nine months later, I had a book, and two years after that, it was published.

The rest, as they say, is history. These days, the nest is empty. My daughters are grown with families of their own, and I am the ridiculously young grandmother of six. My mother (past her 93rd birthday — who was not born in a covered wagon) lives with me, as does Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon.


I can certainly relate to the high-maintenance dog! Cheerio for now,

Sunday, June 10, 2007


All The Tea In China, A Regency Romance by Jane Orcutt

Update on the home front:

Friday night, my hubby was honored for twenty years of service to our church. Along with the high school youth pastor, my hubby (the middle school youth pastor), has been serving the same church since 1987. We spent the evening in the company of many friends and former young people, now grown up with families of their own.

It was a special night, and as I stood with my husband and listened to our pastor thank us for twenty years of service, I was grateful for 1) a husband who doesn't see youth ministry as a career path, but as a calling and 2) a pastor who will allow a man to remain in one place for twenty years. We raised our children in this church, and it has become "home" to us. It was a lovely evening, and one in which I counted my blessings all over again.

Some of you may remember me asking for prayer for my friend Jane, who suffered from leukemia and went to heaven only a few weeks ago. As we mourned her loss, several of her writing friends pooled their resources and talked to the indomitable Kelli Standish of Pulse Point Design. Kelli has generously given of her time and effort to create a lovely web site for Jane, and you can find it at There you can read all about Jane's novels and even listen to a recording by her latest protagonist from ALL THE TEA IN CHINA. I had the honor of reading this book for endorsement, and it's a lot of fun.

So please--check out Jane's lovely new web site and order a copy of ALL THE TEA IN CHINA from your favorite bookstore. You'll love it!


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Good news!

I've just learned that two of my novels have won awards in Foreword Magazine's "Book of the Year" contest.

THE NOVELIST won gold in the religious fiction category and MAGADALENE took the silver position in the (general market) historical fiction category. I am always thrilled to place in this contest because it's judged by a jury of judges consisting of editors and reviewers of ForeWord Magazine, booksellers, librarians, and other industry professionals. It is not a Christian organization by any means, and I just love having our fiction right out there along with everything else the world has to offer.

One of the nicest things about our recent vacation was its decidedly English flavor. Though it was a Princess cruise ship, I'd estimate that 85 percent of the people on board were from England. So I slipped into my fake English accent (which varies wildly from moment to moment), sipped tea, and read the London Times. There I picked up this tidbit: will email restless readers the first line of a novel every 12 hours. (

Do you know how important the first line is? Terribly. I usually spend more time on the first sentence than on the first chapter. In any case, check it out and see what you think.



Friday, June 08, 2007

Tamera Alexander's REMEMBERED

Isn't that a gorgeous cover?

Aside: I came back from Europe with the Mother of all Head Colds. Have spent all week wandering around in a drug-induced haze . . . sigh. Can't wait until this bug runs its course . . .

Two years ago, at the convention formerly known as CBA, I roomed with Robin Lee Hatcher. She asked if I minded if a friend of hers dropped in for a couple of nights. Of course I didn't mind, and that's how I met Tammy Alexander, who dropped in with her curling iron and charmed her way into my heart.

Shortly after that, Tammy had her first book published . . . and her second and third. She's a wonderful writer and I wanted you to know about her series and her newest release, Remembered.

Q: Hey Tammy, thanks for joining us. I've only given a slice of your history, so tell us a bit about yourself and your writing.
A: I’ve always loved writing and dreamed of being a writer when younger, but never thought I had any talent at it. So I tucked it away…until God unearthed it again a few years back.

The first novel I wrote in 1999 is one I targeted specifically for Bethany House and their historical line. It got to the final review board but then was ultimately “passed over” in early 2002. There were problems in that novel and in my writing that I needed to work on, so they were right to let that one slip through their fingers! After that experience, I realized that if I was going to have a good shot at this publishing thing, I needed to get serious about learning the craft and addressing the weaknesses in my writing.

I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (, and began dissecting novels—books that I’d loved and read multiple times—with the goal of finding out what made them ‘tick’ for me. I prayed that God would bring people into my life who would help me become a better writer by telling me what I needed to change, how I needed to grow. And He did. I’m so thankful for those writing partnerships.

Q: It's an old question, but I'll ask it anyway. Where do you get your ideas?
A: I see stories in most everything around me -- news headlines, snatches of conversations I may overhear, scriptures that hit me in a new and fresh way, and in music. Just the other day I heard a new song from a favorite artist of mine (Alison Krauss) and it prompted me to thinking about a subplot that I could write into the book I'm working on now. You just never know where story ideas will spring from!

My motivation behind Remembered was a trip to Paris that my husband and I took in May 2006. I "met" Veronique Girard (figuratively, of course) in a cemetery in northern Paris, and as Joe and I strolled the old cobbled walkway of Cemetery Montmartre, this young woman (the daughter of a French Fur Trapper from the 1840s) came alive for me. And....the first scene in Remembered is set in that very cemetery.

Q: Oh, I LOVE Allison Krauss! Haven't gotten an idea from one of her songs, though . . . yet. What is the best historical novel you’ve ever read and why?
A: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It changed the way I view God and his love for me. Never before have I ever seen his unconditional love so clearly.

Q: I love that one, too. Can't read a chapter without crying. Did you have any experiences that prompted your love of fiction and historical fiction in particular?
A: As far back as I can remember I’ve loved history. When I was nine years old my family took a trip to Europe. It was a fabulous experience, even though there were eight—yes eight!—of us (four adults and four kids) touring Germany, Holland, and Switzerland in a Volkswagen Bug (I rode in the cubby hole in the back and ‘fake smoked’ bubblegum cigarettes, remember those?). Touring the castles in Germany was a defining moment for me, though I didn’t know it then.

I remember standing in one particular castle on the Rhine River, touching the stone walls, and thinking to myself that I wished I could know the lives and details of the people who had lived there. When I was older I read a ton of Regencies, and when I studied American History in high school, I fell in love with the American Frontier 1840-1880s. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Q: How much time does it take to research your stories – what balance would you say there is between research and actual writing?
A: I research for four to five months before starting my novel and often start researching my next book (reading at night) while I’m writing the current one. Which isn’t confusing because right now my books are based in Colorado Territory 1860s-1870s. I’ve been told that a writer should research a ton, and then put about 1% of the research in their books. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that percentage but I do know that in a final edit I’ve often removed interesting historical facts (well, I thought they were interesting, LOL) because they didn’t serve to advance the story. And if something doesn’t serve the story, it must go!

Q: Yes, indeedy. Describe for us, if you will, your writing style, as in plotter vs. seat of the pants, and do you put more time into developing characters or plot or are they equal?
A: I’m more of a seat of the pants gal. I know where I’m starting and the general direction of where I’m going. I most always have the last scene of the book clearly in my mind at the outset, or else very soon thereafter, as well as all the plots and sub-plots. I write historical fiction/romance which is typically more character driven but my love for suspense keeps the plot moving at quick pace too. I love both the external and internal twists and turns.

Q: Was there a person who inspired you to write?
A: Several people, some of whom I’ve never met (other writers), have inspired me to write. But one person whom I did know and who influenced me in a lasting way was my 7th grade teacher, Miss Debra Ackey of Idlewood Elementary School in Tucker, Georgia. In fact, I dedicated my second book, Revealed, to her with hopes that a copy of that book will some day find its way into her hands. I’ve contacted the school where she taught and I attended, but they have no record of her current whereabouts today.

Debra Ackey encouraged my writing in what proved to be a very difficult time in my life. I was sexually abused as a young girl (my perpetrator was not someone from my immediate family nor a blood relation), and I was dealing with a lot of guilt, doubt, and repressed anger during those years. Writing served as an outlet for me. Looking back the stories and poems I wrote during those years, it’s easy to see that I was obsessed with death, and the source of those feelings isn’t hard to understand.

With God’s strength and mercy, I’ve long forgiven the person who abused me, and I’ve thanked God often for placing Miss Ackey in my life at that time. She read so many (what I’m certain were) horrible poems on death and dying, and yet encouraged me anyway. She reached through the pain I was dealing with, past the ugliness I felt steeped in, and she breathed new life into my dry bones. I pray she’ll one day know just how much she did for me.

Q: I had an inspirational teacher like that--Janet Williams. Fortunately, I was able to track her down and send her a copy of my book before she moved on to heaven. Do you consider writing a calling or more of a season of your life for right now?
A: I’ve have to say a bit of both. I’m certain God invited me to write fiction for now and yet I’m not certain how long he plans for me to do that. Right now I’m contracted for three more books with Bethany House (another historical series) but who knows beyond that. One thing I’ve learned in my walk with God is that there’s nothing better than being centered in the middle of his will for my life—whatever that brings—and nothing more miserable than being outside of it.

Q: What do you do when you find yourself overwhelmed with all the stuff that goes along with publishing?
A: I have a background in marketing and management so I actually love the business side of writing. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t get overwhelmed. I most certainly do at times. Learning to say no to ‘really good things’ has been freeing, although not without an occasional twinge guilt.

I’ve led women’s ministry for the past fifteen years but recently stepped down. My juggling skills just aren’t what they used to be and my writing time was suffering. My last book was turned in horribly late and that about killed me. It wounded my pride, which in the long run, was a very good thing personally (sure didn’t feel good though). I’ve always “prided myself” on being on time, on having everything organized and “slotted.” I don’t think God wants me to take pride in myself about anything, so that was a good lesson for me.

Writing this last book also came during a time when I had some personal challenges, and I hit the wall creatively speaking. Wasn’t pretty. But God brought me through it. His faithfulness constantly amazes me. He’s so lavish with his grace! My editors at Bethany were wonderful and understanding about the delay (and I kept them abreast of my progress each step of the way so that it wasn’t a surprise to them—HUGELY important to do if you’re ever going to be late).

Q: Do you have a life verse or a mission statement that guides your writing?
A: A verse that God is etching on my heart these days is found in II Corinthians 4:7 – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

God has given us this treasure—a relationship with him, a promise of an eternity with him—in jars of clay, in broken, marred vessels in order to show that the transcendent power comes from him. It may flow through us, praise his name!, but it originates in the heart of the Giver. Not in the one gifted.

Our gifts, however imperfect and weak, are given to reflect his glory and are made “perfect” when we give ourselves and those gifts over to him. There’s no end to what God can do with someone who makes themselves totally available to him—something that’s easier written than done.

This is actually a theme from my next book (Remembered, Book 3 in Fountain Creek Chronicles with Bethany House) that’s releasing now.

Here’s a sneak peek at the back cover copy:

Though loss is often marked in a single moment, letting go of someone you love can take a lifetime...
The threat of war—and a final request—send Véronique Girard from France to a distant and uninviting country. In the Colorado Territory, she searches for the man who has held her heart since childhood—her father. Pierre Girard left Paris for the Americas to seek his fortune in fur trading, vowing to send for his wife and daughter. But twenty-five years have passed and his vow remains unfulfilled. Sifting through shards of broken promises, Véronique embarks on a dangerous search for a man she scarcely remembers.

His grief finally healed, Jack Brennan is moving on with life. After years of guiding families west, he is now working as a freighter to the mining towns surrounding Willow Springs. What he doesn't count on is an unexpected traveling companion on his trips up into the mountains, and how one woman's search will cause havoc with his plans... and his life.

Visit Tamera’s website at
And her blog at

Have a great day, everybody!


Thursday, June 07, 2007

BOM: Questions and Answers

Karen sent in several comments and questions, which I've condensed below:

Did you take flak from churches - or para-church organizations, for that matter - for shining an unfavorable light on them or their practices?

No. I think that all organizations who raise funds "professionally" need to be careful that they state nothing but the truth in their fundraising. I know that professional fund raisers tend toward hyperbole in their letters (everything's a crisis), but we owe truth to one another. I can see that it's important to raise funds in a large ministry, but I also believe that God honors truthfulness and honesty.

Emma's actions seemed to border on disobeying her husband - and her pastor - and that surprised me. What was the reader or critical reaction to that?

I don't recall that Emma disobeyed Abel . . . but it's been a long time since I've read it. Even if she did, I know I wrote it that way because few women would be able to walk away from an opportunity to meet with their own child.

Abel's change of heart, resulting in his calling off the campaign and
changing the focus of the ministry overnight, seemed to echo Charles
Sheldon's classic In His Steps. Was that planned? Even so, the change seemed
too fast and abrupt. Can you explain how that would come about, based on the
Myers/Briggs typing?

No, it wasn't planned because I haven't read In His Steps. And Myers-Briggs typing tells how we're bent, not what we'll do. We are all capable of doing things outside our typical responses. Abel came around because he realized the truth after a profound shock. Such events tend to rattle our worlds and leave us open to new possibilities.

Finally, how did Chris get the picture of Eunice Hood?

I don't know. Chris was a Christ-figure (obviously), and I meant for him to be shrouded in an element of mystery. He had the photo of Eunice (and probably lots of others), and neither I nor Emma understand exactly how that came about. But it did.

Thanks for coming along on another BOM journey!


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

BOM: Results and Reader Reaction

Cool picture, huh? I took it on our last vacation to Alaska. Eagles everywhere!

It's been gratifying to see THE DEBT touch other lives in the same way it touched mine. When the Lord sent the idea, I knew it was one of those heaven-sent stories that would be different . . . and I hope and pray He'll continue to use it through the years.

Here are a few sample responses from various sources:

This novel should be required reading for all Christians, especially for people who have been in the faith for many years and may have forgotten that we are called to reach out to those who don't know Christ. Let's not stay insulated in our safe sanctuaries. Let's get out and minister to a hurting culture.--Amazon review

I don't like sappy books, but since this was written by Angela Hunt, I thought I'd give it a whirl. I was not disappointed. Ms. Hunt can write about anything, and I'd read it. She's a wonderful story-teller, and her tales touch the heart without being overly sentimental. One of my favourite authors. --Amazon [God bless her. I don't like sappy books, either.]

I have never read a book by angela hunt but I saw it on my mom's shelf and thought "this should be a quick easy read that will amuse me at least a little" boy, was I wrong. While it is a very easy read, and it is typical Christian generic drama, I enjoyed the contrast of the main characters life and her son. It was that dichotomy of Christianity that really got me thinking about my own 17 year walk with the Lord. It's not so much the THOU SHALT NOTS, but what are you really doing for God. Needless to say because of this book me and a few other friends now hold each other accountable to befriend the untouchables, hurt, and slums of life... and all because of this little novel. --Amazon review

Interesting, I think, that it's the content of the book, not the writing, that is changing people's lives . . . and the content came from the Lord.

Have you read THE DEBT? Did it change your perspective in any way?

Tomorrow: your questions, my attempted answers (so if you have a question, please leave it in the comments!)


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

BOM: The Writing and Editing

This will be a brief post because, frankly, I don't remember that much about the writing and editing.

Well . . . maybe I do. I do remember wondering how far I should take Emma out of her comfort zone. I had planned to take her into a bar, a porn shop, and a crack house, and I thought all three of those areas were important. But I didn't want to lose my readers along the way.

So during the writing I walked a very fine line . . . as you can imagine. Emma learns that showing love is more important than keeping her feet clean . . . and she can go to those places while still keeping her heart clean.

I'm pretty sure I remember Lisa Bergren editing this one . . . and reading that she didn't find much to edit. This story simply fell together and there were only a couple of places that needed tweaking.

Oddly enough, it's one of my shorter novels--I think it's only 70,000 words or so. But a story should be as long as it should be, and no longer. And I knew when I had finished.

I also remember that my publisher wasn't wild about the title "The Debt." Thought it sounded like a nonfiction book on financial advice. So we tried "The Call" and "The Letter" (I'd already written THE NOTE), and in the end, we came back around to "The Debt." It fits--who has the greater love for the master? The one who has been forgiven the greater debt.

Tomorrow: the results and reader reaction


Monday, June 04, 2007

BOM: First Chapter

(Photo: me and hubby outside the Guggenheim in Bilboa, Spain. That's a large floral "puppy" behind us. )

Chapter One

As the President of the United States slips his arm around my husband’s shoulder, I think I might just bubble up and burst with pride. I’m standing and applauding with everyone else, of course, trying to keep my smile lowered to an appropriately humble wattage, while Abel, bless him, bows his head, obviously embarrassed by the deafening applause.

We’re among the few who have been seated at the head table of the National Prayer Breakfast, and my head is still reeling from the honor. Dizzy as I am, I try to look around and gather as many impressions as I can. The support team back home in Wiltshire, Kentucky, will want me to recite every detail.

The woman next to me, a senator’s wife, bends to reach for her purse and jostles the table, spilling my cranberry juice. She glances at the spreading stain, then apparently decides it’s more politic to continue applauding than to help me mop up the mess.

Faced with the same choice, my heart congeals into a small lump of dread. If I ignore the stain, the President might glance over here and decide that Abel Howard’s wife is a clumsy country bumpkin. If I stop to clean it up, I’ll look like a woman who can’t cut herself loose from the kitchen.

Fortunately, life as a minister’s wife has taught me a thing or two about diplomacy and compromise. Steadfastly smiling at the President, I stop clapping long enough to pick up my napkin and drop it onto the wet linen. The senator’s wife gives me an apologetic look as the applause dies down and we settle back into our seats.

“Abel Howard and his affiliated ministries,” the President says, moving back to the lectern, “have provided us with an excellent example of how religious television broadcasts can promote quality in programming and restore morality to our nation. Not only does Abel Howard deliver a worship service to millions of American homes each week, he and his organization have spearheaded drives to lead our country back to its spiritual, ethical, and moral roots. In this special presentation for religious leaders, the Points of Light Foundation is pleased to honor Reverend Howard for his courage and many years of dedicated hard work.”

Behind the President, Abel laces his fingers and keeps his head lowered. Beside him, the Catholic bishop who has also been honored looks at Abel with open curiosity . . . or is that skepticism in his eye? From where I sit, I can’t tell.

“Abel Howard,” the President continues, “and the other worthy people who stand before you today represent all we can achieve through determined effort, concentrated vision, and dependence upon God. Our nation has no official religion, no state-endorsed faith. All are free to worship or not worship, to exercise faith or sustain doubt. Yet faith, and those who practice it, brings out the best in us. Scripture describes people of faith as salt, and salt not only adds spice to a substance, it acts to retard spoilage. The men and women standing before you have decided to be salt in a society that can, at times, seem terribly dark. I hope and pray that these men and women will be joined by thousands of others who realize that salt kept in a saltshaker is useless.”

The crowd responds with another boom of applause. The President grips the sides of the lectern as he waits for the sound to fade, and I catch my husband’s eye. Abel smiles, but his folded hands and stiff posture tell me he is eager to leave the platform. Abel has never minded attention, but this is a lot for a Kentucky preacher
to handle.

The President clears his throat. “In a letter to a friend, George Washington once wrote, ‘I am sure that there was never a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them.”

The President throws back his shoulders as his gaze sweeps across the crowded ballroom. “May we all remember that God can and will intervene in our affairs to keep America strong. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless America.”
As the audience rises to deliver a final thundering ovation, the President turns to shake the hands of a few people on the podium. He reaches for Abel’s hand first—a fact I can’t help but notice—then moves on to congratulate the nun who oversees a soup kitchen, the Muslim cleric who founded a literacy program, and the rabbi honored for his efforts to combat racism.

A host of noteworthy people stands on the platform, but the President of the United States turned to shake Abel’s hand first.

That thought pleases me to no end.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

BOM: The Research

I have to say that this was one of the few books that didn't require much research. As I mentioned yesterday, I've worked in two mega-ministries, so I'm very familiar with the work, systems, and psychology involved. I'm also a pastor's wife, so I know a lot of what Emma feels . . . even though my "pastor's wife" world is much smaller than hers.

This book was also a way for me to work out (as always) some personal conundrums. At the time I was writing, we had just moved from a house in a rural part of town to a house in a very crowded subdivision. I found myself being social again, being forced out of my office and mingling with my neighbors.

I found myself invited to cocktail parties and mixers . . . places where I would have been uncomfortable only a few months before. I met my neighbors, many of whom were unchurched. Many are unmarried. At least two sets were gay couples.

And instead of retreating back into my office, I took a deep breath and tried to live out what Emma Rose was being challenged to live. Not to live like the world, but to live in it, to be salt that gets out of the salt shaker.

So I suppose you could say that my research for this book was simply living . . . and resisting my own impulses to cloister myself in a dear, familiar, comfortable Christian world.

God didn't call us to be comfortable. We have all eternity for that.
Down here, he called us to obey. And to love.

Signing off from Chicago's O'Hara airport . . . on my way home!

Tomorrow: the writing


Saturday, June 02, 2007

BOM: How the Idea Germinated

THE DEBT was one of those rare stories that came to me all in a flash . . . while I was in the shower. More than any of my books, it was a God-thing. I don't even think I was contracted to write it, but I was contracted to write something, so I called my editor and said that I had this idea that wouldn't wait. So Ami McConnell gave me the go-ahead to write it, and I sat down and started writing.

My agent sold the idea to Ami with this paragraph: "A successful television minister loses his first love when he becomes more cncerned about following agendas and leading the Christian hordes than listening to the still, small voice of God. His wife, however, measures her ministry by one simple guideline: "Does this show love?"

The actual idea bloomed when I was thinking about the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears (the shower, remember?) And I was thinking about how people who come to the Lord later in life always have these interesting testimonies about all the things Jesus saved them from.

Well, I'm an "older brother." I accepted Christ when I was six, and knew what it meant, so I never really went off like a prodigal daughter. But oh, there's enough sin in my life to know that without Him, I'd be a mess. And then I started thinking about all the crusades we Christians go on--about all the things we're against. And I realized that the world doesn't care about our "don't" lists. What they hunger for is love. God's love. Our love.

And shortly thereafter I was at a Women of Faith event and heard Cece Winans sing "Alabaster Box." If a book could have a theme song (and I think all of them should), that would be the song for THE DEBT.

And so I created Emma Rose and Abel. The writing was easy for me because I went to a Christian college and I've been involved in two mega-church ministries. I didn't write the book to knock those ministries, because I've seen first-hand all the good they do. But I've also seen what can happen when Christians become wrapped up in their church world to the extent that they forget about the OTHER world outside those walls.

One of the most memorable lines came from a friend of mine. I was griping about something--probably some man in the news or something--and she said, "Angie, you shouldn't be surprised when sinners sin."

That comment rang in my head. Why am I surprised when sinners--me included--sin? The miracle is that we manage to love.

Tomorrow: the research