Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New survey up for readers. Will you help?

Click Here to take survey

Hi, everyone:

Ever so often I like to take the pulse of my readers, as it were, and this little survey is designed to do just that. Will you take a moment to answer a few simple questions? Thanks so much!


You Need To Watch This

All I can say is . . . wow.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You May Have Already Seen this . . .

First watch the video above. Then watch the one below. Notice that they chant the words to "Jesus Loves the Little Children," but 'mmm mmm mmm' has been substituted for Jesus' name. (Red and yellow, black and white, all are equal in his sight, mmm mmmm mmm.)

I don't think any further comment is needed.


Monday, September 28, 2009

How to give a man hug

General Etiquette:
How To Give A Great Man To Man Hug

LOL! Call the men in your household around to watch this hilarious video. So true! Watch carefully the next time you see a couple of men hug! And don't forget the pat!

Tee hee.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Talking Animals

This weekend I'm speaking at a women's retreat held at--get this--a spa. :-) Oh, yes, it's a rough life, but someone's got to live it.

Seriously, I'd appreciate your prayers that this would be a blessed time for the 150 women who are supposed to attend.

In the mean time, enjoy these adorable film clips.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

You Tube Hits

Someone took the time to collect snippets from the 100 most-watched videos on You Tube and put them together in a four-minute clip . . . and after watching it, I think it's proof that human beings are insane. :-)

Take a peek . . . and see how many you recognize!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Watch out! I've been thinking . . .

I’ve Been Thinking . . .

. . . about old friends. Yes, still reflecting on the college reunion last weekend. And I’ve gleaned a few treasured realizations.

One thing I realized is that though we’d all changed on the outside (some were heavier, some were thinner, some were grayer, some were brightly colored, some were shiny), no one had changed much on the inside. We were the same exact people we were more than thirty years ago. Same smiles, same caring, same attitudes for the most part, though some of us had passed through life-changing trials. Part of the reason, I think, is Jesus—because the hope within us never dies.

One woman there, Cindy, had just buried her dear husband—but she shared his story with us, accompanied with smiles and tears and rejoicing for the victorious life he’d lived.

Another realization I gained was that old friends are special because they know YOU. They may or may not know what you’ve achieved or lost in the intervening years, but those things don’t matter. Your status in the community, your successes, your failures, your disappointments, your struggles—none of those things affect the way they see you, because they see you as you were. In our situation, we were all acting from knowledge gained in our college years, when all of us were shapeless, untested, raw adults-in-the-making.

These friends are the ones you can meet after a long interval and pick up right where you left off. They’ll still laugh at your jokes, weep over your sorrows, love you for who you are.
Old friends remind us of what is truly important—those small deeds we perform and forget about, but that matter greatly to the ones we took time to serve. One man came up and thanked me for helping him with a school project—I don’t remember it at all. A woman came up and thanked me for taking her “under my wing” and helping her fend off “lecherous men.” LOL! I don’t remember any lecherous men, but okay. I was glad I could help, and amazed she remembered.

What mattered most to those people? Small kindnesses. Investments into the lives of others. Generous words, taking time, sharing wisdom. I found myself wishing I’d done more of that sort of thing. My husband had the same experience, multiplied. Adults who had been middle school students in those days came up to thank him for “being there” during “a rough time” of their lives. Just his being there had made a huge difference.

Another thing that struck me was that the “giants”—the professors and vice presidents and teachers who had been so far “above us” in status—came back, too, and ate with us, sat at our tables, and talked to us like peers. I didn’t feel much like a peer, but I was a little shocked to discover that suddenly I’m nearly as old as they are. ☺

Perhaps the best realization I gained was that our reunion was very much a foretaste of heaven. In eternity we’ll be able to mingle with our past earthly friends, the heroes we admired, the saints we modeled, the writers who penned the gospels. We can ask Daniel about the mysteries he wasn’t able to write. We can talk to Paul about what he saw in the third heaven. We can ask Jesus how he felt when the disciples scattered, and exactly what he meant when he cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”

Best of all, there’ll be no time limit. An eternity to catch up and move forward, to learn and study and know. To worship. To play softball with Paul and chat with the animals and Francis of Assisi.

To make new friends who will soon become as precious as the old.

Why don't you pick up the phone and call an old friend today?


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hug a Pug

Before I had mastiffs, I had a pug. I've had a couple of pugs, actually, and they really are a sort of mini-mastiff. Same dark mask, same loyal personality, same tendency to snore, same fierce defense of territory. Actually, I'd have to say that most pugs are more defensive than most mastiffs--mine always seemed like little Napoleons, while my mastiffs are more like slumbering bearskins. :-)

However--the pugs do have that cute little head tilt which makes them seem almost human. That quizzical look, as demonstrated above.

Wallis Simpson, aka "The Duchess" had a penchant for pugs--I think she and the Duke had four or five. They really are collectable. :-)


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Government Can

Thanks to the blog reader who sent me to this! What a lovely way to use humor to stress an important principle: the government can only give away what it takes from someone else. It does not make money.

I am a little disheartened when I hear well-meaning people say that the government should provide us with health, a standard of living, education, and retirement funds . . . What? No, all we are promised is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On GMA the other morning I heard Dr. Tim Johnson say that we couldn't be happy without good health care . . . well, I know a lot of bed-ridden folks, and people who live with chronic pain, who would disagree with that. His statement is only a hair's breadth away from saying that if you can't achieve a certain quality of life, then your life isn't worth living.

No, sir.

We who are Christians are charged with feeding the poor and ministering to the less fortunate. In fact, every religion I know of (except, perhaps, for a couple of odd cults) promotes kindness and generosity as a way of life for its members. To entrust charity, education, and health care to the hands of the government will only insure that our dollars buy less and our hearts grow cold because problems will always be someone else's responsibility.

In truth, my friends, the government CAN'T. It should stick to doing what it has been charged with doing--protecting the national boundaries (i.e., defense) and maintaining law and order.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ah, those senior moments . . .

My friend Lyn sent me a link to the video above, knowing that all of us who do booksignings are prone to moments like this. Come to think of it, anyone who BREATHES is prone to moments like this.

So take a tip from Tim, and don't just pull any verse out of the air. You may live to regret it. (Though I must admire the way he weaves comedy out of an embarrassing blunder). :-)


Monday, September 21, 2009

Terri Blackstock opens the metaphorical vein . . .

I forget who said it . . . but some wise writer once said that writing was easy. You simply sat down and opened a vein. I never really knew what that saying meant until I wrote THE NOVELIST, in which I took a painful situation from my own life and superimposed it onto a story.

Terri Blackstock is a dear friend of mine--and one of the intrepid souls who went with me to Ireland last year. At the time, I knew she had some personal struggles, and I kept telling her that I honestly believe that God sends trials to writers so we will write about them, and thereby help someone else in the same or a similar situation. (Not the most comforting thought, perhaps, but I can't tell you how it has cheered me in the past).

Anyway, Terri finally did it. Her new book is INTERVENTION, and I'm thrilled to tell you about it.

Terri's new book Intervention was inspired by her personal experiences with her daughter's addictions. Six years ago she became aware that her daughter (then in her early twenties) had a severe prescription pill addiction that was killing her, and she hired an interventionist to convince her daughter to go to treatment. After a grueling few hours, her daughter agreed to go. As Terri put her on the plane with the interventionist, she was hit with the crushing feeling that her daughter was in the hands of a stranger, and anything could happen. That's when this book was born.

Over the past few years, Terri's family has been in a tornado of relapses and rehabs, with one emergency after another, and grace upon grace. But through all this, God has taught her to pray as never before, and he's shown her how many other families are experiencing the same thing. He's also shown her that many blessings can come from crises such as this. Terri has tried to fold all of those experiences into this suspense novel of desperation and hope. She's also added a page to her web site: "Hope for Families of Addicts," ( ) which has tips on dealing with a loved one who has addictions.

Though the book is fiction, Terri poured much of herself into Barbara, the mother who's desperate to save her daughter. And Terri's own daughter has given her blessings for Terri to talk about this, in hopes of helping other hurting families and raise awareness about the perils of addiction. To see/hear Terri share her personal story about Intervention, don't miss her interviews on American Family Radio's "Today's Issues" on September 24, Moody Radio's "Chris Fabry Live on September 25, and "The 700 Club" on September 29.

In Stores Everywhere September 22nd--
It was her last hope—and the beginning of a new nightmare.
Barbara Covington has one more chance to save her daughter from a devastating addiction, by staging an intervention. But when eighteen-year-old Emily disappears on the way to drug treatment—and her interventionist is found dead at the airport—Barbara enters her darkest nightmare of all.
Barbara and her son set out to find Emily before Detective Kent Harlan arrests her for a crime he is sure she committed. Fearing for Emily’s life, Barbara maintains her daughter’s innocence. But does she really know her anymore? Meanwhile, Kent has questions of his own. His gut tells him that this is a case of an addict killing for drugs, but as he gets to know Barbara, he begins to hope he’s wrong about Emily.
The mysteries intensify as everyone’s panic grows: Did Emily’s obsession with drugs lead her to commit murder—or is she another victim of a cold-blooded killer?
In this gripping novel of intrigue and suspense, bestselling author Terri Blackstock delivers the page-turning drama that readers around the world have come to expect from her.
Watch the Intervention video trailer at
Terri is a wonderful writer, and I know you'll enjoy this book! I'm sooo looking forward to it!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Novel Idea, 2

Morning, everyone!

My Internet has been in and out for the last couple of days--the cable man says my modem is dying, but they're supposed to bring me a new one this afternoon. Hoping they do. :-)

You've heard me talk about A NOVEL IDEA, the "how to" writing book assembled by some friends of mine. You may recall that the idea was born one night last year when Robin Jones Gunn was hanging out at my house and we went to Five Guys for burgers. :-)

Anyway, Robin left my house and went straightaway to a board meeting for Media Associates International, the group to whom all royalties from A NOVEL IDEA will go. MAI trains foreign Christian writers on their own soils.

Some British members of the MAI board were so thrilled and challenged by our idea, that they decided that the Brits would do something, too. LOL--so "three men in their boots was born." Three men from Lion Publishing in the U.K. (They are the "home" publisher for my book THE TALE OF THREE TREES) are going to trek along the Thames to raise money for MAI. You can follow their progress online at this site. While you're on that site, you can also click on "home" to learn more about MAI.

So--here's to global participation in this effort. Words are communication, and we are commanded to "go tell." Sounds like a lovely effort!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Athol Dickson's latest

My friend Athol is, quite simply, one of the best writers around in any field. I'm happy to call him my friend and thrilled to tell you about his latest book, Lost Mission. Here's the official information:

“An epic suspense story spanning two centuries and brimming with magical realism.”

Lupe de la Garza, a simple shopkeeper in a mountain village in Mexico, believes God wants her to go to America to preach the gospel. She is guided on her quest by her people’s greatest treasure: an altarpiece painted by the eighteenth century Franciscan friar who founded her village after fleeing the mysterious destruction of his California mission outpost. When Lupe is distracted by desire for a young minister who rescues her from certain death in the Arizona desert, and when her preaching in a southern California beach town inspires only apathy and laughter, she begins to lose faith in her quest. Then the slumbering evil that destroyed the friar’s Franciscan mission rises up again after two hundred years, and Lupe once more looks to the altarpiece for guidance, only to find the true purpose of her quest in the midst of her single greatest fear.

You can read the complete first chapter of Lost Mission by clicking here.

To get your own copy, click Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Christianbook.

I hope you enjoy reading Lost Mission as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you do, please tell your friends!

Athol Dickson

Athol's blog

Doesn't that sound positively fascinating? Order now . . . and you'll be glad you did.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gibraltar airport

There's one road between Spain and Gibraltar. Uno solamente. And it's intersected by the airport runway.

Can you imagine?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Calling all dog lovers!

LOL! And I thought I had done something pretty cool when I taught my dogs to "shake."


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Hunger Games

If you're looking for a great read, boy do I have one for you! This (completely unsolicited) review is coming to you because I picked this book up and could NOT put it down until I had finished it. Fortunately, I was on an airplane at the time. :-)

THE HUNGER GAMES is a young adult novel my agent mentioned to me, and since we have similar tastes, I ordered it (and its sequel) immediately. All I can say is that the book lives up to the hype in the video, and I can heartily recommend it.
THE HUNGER GAMES features a 16 year-old female protagonist in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic North America ruled by "the capitol." The former United States has been divided into districts, and each district has been given a specialty. Since our heroine lives in the former Appalachia, her district is responsible for coal mining. Life is rough, times are hard, and people almost have to be come outlaws to survive and feed themselves.

I got so immediately caught up in the characters that I was crying by page 24, and that almost never happens to me. But you root for Katniss, our heroine, and for the people she loves.

The "hunger games" are a sort of survival game played annually by representatives from the twelve districts. Only one person can survive the brutal games, and as I read I couldn't help but see shades of reality television, the current trend toward government power/centralization, political correctness, and even our growing penchant for plastic surgery. I believe this book could be the ANIMAL FARM of our generation.

According to the book flap, THE HUNGER GAMES and its sequel, CATCHING FIRE (also a great read) are part of a trilogy, and I can't wait for the conclusion. My agent tells me that the film rights sold for an unprecedented amount for a YA novel, and I can believe it. This would make a GREAT movie.

So . . . anyone of any age would love this book. If you have a reluctant reader--especially if it's a boy--I'd bet that he would also love this book, as there are lots of male characters as well. The writing is lean, the characters well-developed, and the truths presented are noble. Not much spirituality to speak of, but the story does celebrate love, sacrifice, and responsibility.

So . . . do yourself a favor and check out THE HUNGER GAMES. You're going to love it.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Poor, poor poodles!

I've seen these pictures of poodles, but I find them hard to believe. One of my favorite shows, Groomer Has It, has yet to approach this level of madness.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Youth Aflame Reunion 2009, by Angela Hunt

I'd like to share my Snapfish photos with you. Once you have checked out my photos you can order prints and upload your own photos to share.

Perpetum Jazille

Home today from the Youth Aflame reunion in Lynchburg, Virginia. Such a wonderful time revisiting old memories and catching up with old friends. But even more important and inspiring was seeing what God has done through the vision of several people who were committed to training "young champions" (as Jerry Falwell always called LU students) to go into the world with the Gospel.

Words fail me. We kept thinking that this was a little bit like heaven would be.

On to the business at hand--I LOVE a capella music, and I discovered this choir sort of by accident. Love those harmonies and that sound! And, as an extra treat, Deb Raney sent me this video of the same choir, in a number that isn't exactly vocal . . .



Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some Lessons from Dragnet

HT to Michael G for this one. It's GREAT!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

If God is Good . . .

It's an old question, and the ONE question that reportedly kept Albert Einstein from becoming a Christian: "If God is good, then why does evil exist?"

Randy Alcorn has written a new book, IF GOD IS GOOD, and I would urge you to pick up a copy. If you've never asked this question yourself, you're bound to know someone who has. Randy explains things in a simple, easy-to-read format, but his answers are biblical, well-researched, and deeply profound. Learn how to take God's word and apply it to what appears to be a most perplexing conundrum.

You can watch a video about Randy's book on the page, here. This is one you won't want to miss.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Procrastination Made Perfect

So . . . Tuesday my goal was to get the first 5,000 words of THE GRANDMA GENE into the computer. So I got up, did all my morning stuff, and was at my desk by 11:00 a.m. Opened my writing program and stared at the little note cards on the screen. My job was to fill them in with scenes, lots of scenes.

I looked down and noticed that my keyboard had a hair on it. Oh, no. Had to stop and remove the hair. Had to then turn the keyboard upside down and shake to dislodge any miscellaneous pieces of personal DNA that might be hiding there. Then had to get the antiseptic wipes and clean the entire shelf on which the keyboard sits--can't have a dirty shelf, can we? Oh! And that's dust on the printer and the phone. Excuse me while I dust said printer and phone and Kindle and work area . . .

Back to the desk. Emails arrive, several of them. Yea. I answer them immediately.

Oh! The UPS man. I run out to the porch and retrieve the package, then come in and open it. A book. One I've looked forward to reading--THE HUNGER GAMES. Am tempted to start the first chapter, but no, I must write today. Set the book aside.

Oh, my, I think it's lunch time. Lunch break.

Back from lunch. Sit down, open shelf, hands on keyboard. But look, more emails have arrived. I answer them immediately.

Hands on keyboard when I hear the rumble of the mail truck. Mail call, and there's bound to be a lot of mail because yesterday was a holiday. Go out and grab the mail, then come in and sort it. Toss, toss, file, toss, toss--oh! Two books: Randy Alcorn's IF GOD IS GOOD (autographed, no less!) and Dean Koontz's A BIG LITTLE LIFE. I skim through Randy's book and find myself tearing up at the truths written there. Have to stop and send him a thank-you email.

With an effort, set books aside. Hands on keyboard, but look! Dog wants to go out. Okay.
Get up and take dogs out. While they are doing their thing, I take a few moments to water the plants, scoop poop, consider rearranging the porch furniture. No, too hot. Maybe later.

Back inside. At desk. In chair. Hands on keyboard. Who are these people and whatever made me think I could write a novel about them?

Phone rings. Hubby calling. Chat about nothing important.

Emails come in. Answer them immediately. One is from a friend who wants to know when's a good time to call. NOW, I respond.

He calls. We talk. I hang up.

Hands on keyboard. Eyes straight ahead. Oh my, I'm thirsty. Need Diet Coke. Up to kitchen, empty glass in hand. On way back to desk when I remember laundry in dryer. Oh my, can't let those clothes wrinkle. Stop and fold laundry--some of it, anyway.

Back to desk. Hands on keyboard. Wait--still thirsty, because cup, Diet Coke, and ice are in laundry room. Off to fetch them.

Back at desk. Emails come in! Yea! Write chatty notes to friends. Stop and stare at people walking by on sidewalk. Who are they? What are they doing in the neighborhood? What are their dreams?

Scold self--should confine imaginings to characters in work-supposedly-in-progress. Hands on keyboard. Type.

Stop typing and laugh. Think this would make a good blog post. Consider writing it out now, but sternly remind self that 5,000 words must come first. Hands on keyboard. Wonder about Jon and Kate. Sigh for those eight children.



Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reunion Time

Photos: Gordon Luff warms us up on a Sunday morning, a performance, clowning around, and traveling in Korea. (I don't know where the other girls were hiding.)

If this is Thursday, the hubby and I are off on a grand adventure. :-) We're heading to Lynchburg, Virginia, where we met, married, and lived for ten years.

I should back up. After leaving the Re'Generation in 1978, I went to Liberty, where I sang with the LBC Chorale (as it was then known) and traveled with Dr. Falwell when we weren't in classes. The Chorale was led by Gordon Luff, a professor/minister/teacher who ended up being extremely influential in my life.

During my second year, the Chorale was swallowed up by an organization called "Youth Aflame," because Gordon's real heartbeat was youth ministry. I haven't been called to youth ministry, but I've always liked kids, so I enjoyed traveling and singing to young people when we weren't in class. We traveled during the summer as well, and formed many lasting friendships with the other "kids" on the team and in the youth ministry.

I began dating my hubby-to-be, you guessed it, a youth minister, and we married in 1980. Hubby served on the youth staff at the church in Lynchburg until 1987, when we moved to Florida.

Anyway--through Facebook, about a year ago several of us reconnected, and soon plans were being laid for a grand reunion of Gordon Luff, his family, and everyone who had ever been involved with any facet of Youth Aflame--and that's hundreds of people. So we are coming together this weekend to share, and I already know there are some great stories waiting to be told. We've lost some members as some folks have already gone home to heaven. We've had some who've spent the last few years "underground" in mission fields where they're not allowed to publicly proclaim the name of Christ. Lots of stories, lots of old friends.

We also have friends who became dear to us while we lived in Lynchburg, of course, so we're also looking forward to reconnecting with them. I've been back to the campus a few times in the past few years, but hubby hasn't. This will be fun.

So--we're off! Looking forward to being motivated and inspired all over again.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Russian TV ad

This is a cute video for a Russian insurance company. The young man featured is looking for a company that will be there when he needs them . . .

LOL! I think he'd better keep looking.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

New arrivals are available for preorder

I've just updated my web page that features books that are "coming soon." And now they are all available for pre-order through

There's the new reissue of "The Golden Cross," the second book in the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor series. It's value priced, too!

There's the how-to writing book called "A Novel Idea," in which all the basics of how to write a novel are covered.

There's my next legal thriller, "Let Darkness Come." I'm really excited about this book (I worked harder on it than in any in recent memory), and I suspect it will be hard to find in stores. So your best bet will definitely be to order this one online someplace.

And finally, there's the book I did with Gayle Haggard, "Why I Stayed." Gayle has an AMAZING story that everyone should read. You'll marvel at her courage and grace, and I think you'll learn--as I did--a lot about how the church should handle occasions when someone in the body sins.

So--I hope that gives you something to look forward to! I know I'm excited.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Sniff, sniff. God and dog.

Thanks to LInda, who sent this to me. How sweet . . . and how true. No wonder I get teary-eyed whenever I hear a good dog story. I think it's because they are the best, most accessible example of God's unconditional love.

BJ Hoff recently wrote to me raving about Dean Koontz's latest book A BIG LITTLE LIFE: A MEMOIR OF A JOYFUL DOG. Mr. Koontz wrote to me after I wrote to him when his dog Trixie died, and I shared my letter with his book club. We all passed it around, each one reading a page, and most of us sobbing through it.

A big little life, indeed. Found in the heart of every dog.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

A Sunday sermon in eight minutes

There are so many profound thoughts in this video . . . the one I like is "God, I've let you down so many times . . ."

"No, you were never holding me up."

:-) Isn't language a wonderful thing?

Thanks to Sunni Jeffers for the link.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Down in the Deep

And you thought JAWS was scary . . .

Someone has gathered a list of the ten scariest sea creatures . . . and I've heard stories about all of them (I live near the beach), so I can attest to their threats. (Actually, we have no sea lions around here, but I've watched them out on the California coastline.)

So visit this link and enjoy. Just a little something else to marvel about on this lovely day in September.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Newsletter Time

My summer newsletter just went out, and I experimented with a new format--I sent it as a pdf file. If you're not on my newsletter list (you can sign up from this page), you can read it by clicking on the images below. They should open up in a new window, full size.

Don't those recipes sound luscious? I have to figure out how to fit them into my diet plan.


Why Health Care is Expensive

Worth watching. And passing on.

By the way--the other day when I linked to another blog where a writer was debating whether or not to discuss/avoid discussing controversial topics in public forums, I ran with an argument in favor of discussing said topics.

I want to clearly state that the author of that other blog was not endorsing avoiding discussing controversial topics. My opinions were, as always, my opinions and not meant to reflect on him in any way.

P.S. My newsletter just went out, in a new format. If you didn't receive a copy, drop me a note and I'll email one to you! It features some great recipes!

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Fascinating Sims Story

Leslie turned me on to this ongoing Sims story online. Fascinating, inventive, and clever! This gal in Britain is playing Sims 3 with two homeless characters (created by placing her characters on a vacant lot and spending their start-up money on dead trees and park benches). Reading through it is like reading a comic book--quite fascinating and heart-rending! I love it when the "Alice" character, who has a trait of "good," gives all her money to charity.

As for me, one of my games--which was well into the fourth generation of the Wolff family--got hopelessly messed up with a computer glitch, so I started over again. But I'm being good and only playing when my work for the day is done. :-)

Jenny Craig update: fourteen pounds off. I'm more than 20 percent closer to my goal!


Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about the "don't reveal too much personal info on your blog" concept. And though no one wants to admit this, I think I know where some of that idea comes from.

Several years ago I was fascinated by European royalty, especially the British royal family. Bought tons of books on Charles, Diana, the Queen, Queen Mum, etc. Read them all. Loved them.

And I read somewhere that one reason the royals kept to themselves (in the years before Diana) was to purposely preserve the "mystique" that kept them apart from the rest of society. It's hard to respect a man you've seen coming out of the loo, so whenever royalty travels, all the restrooms are blocked off so that the royals don't have to mingle with the common folk. There are zillions of unwritten rules such as "Never photograph the queen with her mouth full of food," etc. Why? Because she's supposed to be above the rest of us, she's the QUEEN.

But truthfully, she's a woman who eats and sleeps and has to go to the loo just like the rest of us. She inherited her position, and despite what you think of her personally (I happen to like her immensely), before becoming princess she did nothing to deserve the title.

Now . . . some writers are like that. They want to preserve the mystique of novel writing, so they don't blog for fear they might reveal something too personal. When they travel and speak, they want to take dinner in their rooms and their speeches are filled with bits of poetry and talk about "the Muse," as if inspiration were a fairy who deigns to light upon mere mortals only once every hundred years. You can listen for these folks talk for an hour and come out of the auditorium unable to relate a single thing that was said. All you know is that the speech was terribly pretty and acutely painful because it left pins and needles in your bum.

If one of these folks gives a "how-to" clinic, it's likely to be filled with quotes from other writers and lots of philosophy about the novel's meaning, purpose, and subtext. In other words, the beginning writer will not be able to grasp a single useful tool. Why? Methinks it's because the Writer of Mystique doesn't want others to realize that 1) he has to use the loo, too, and 2) anyone who has a measure of talent, a willingness to learn, and a bucketful of determination could write a novel.

When I started writing, I picked up a copy of DARE TO BE A GREAT WRITER by Leonard Bishop. Among dozens of truly wonderful tips, he included this:

"Make it impossible for the next generation of writers by claiming you work 14 hours a day, and rewrite everything a minimum of 74 times. Confess you have sacrificed family and friends to take long moonlight walks to commune with your creative muse, accompanied only by your loyal dog or parakeet. Research some obscure but scholarly European and Asian writers and claim they influenced your career.

"Rehearse a skill for blurting out spontaneous epigrams. They need not be relevant to the subject being discussed, or make much sense. It is the way writers are supposed to speak. 'No one can be graceful walking down hill.' 'Parents are mills grinding out neurotics.' 'Only in the dream does one behind reality.' . . .

"You are almost a genuine novelist. You have earned admission into a cult of national and international deceivers. The uniform is either attire so meticulously current you obviously employ a cadre of designers, or so disorderly that 'rag-bag' is your fashion statement. You are a novelist--the public stands in anticipation of your illustrious presence. Do not disappoint them by appearing to be ordinary."

LOL! I believe--I hope--that Bishop wrote that tongue in cheek. All I know is that most of the novelists I know are ordinary people, just like me, just like you.

Catch you in a line outside the ladies' room somewhere--