Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Announcing The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall

My friend Cindy is one of the leading writers of Amish fiction. If you love this genre, you won't want to miss her new release.

The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall

Releases today: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Headstrong schoolteacher Lena Kauffman finds herself at the center of controversy in her Amish community when a young man in her classroom refuses to submit to her authority. As her friends and family rally around her, especially longtime friend Grey Graber, things go from bad to worse when Grey’s wife, Elsie, becomes an accidental target in trouble meant for Lena. As the present unravels around them, each must find their own way through their private pain in order to find peace and a brighter future.

The Bridge of Peace is the second novel in the Ada’s House series and it returns to Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, and the beloved characters from The Hope of Refuge. The Hope of Refuge—Christy finalist, Inspirational Readers Choice Contest finalist, and a Carol Award finalist.

To read the first chapter of The Bridge of Peace or see a list of places to order it online, go to http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/books/bridge-of-peace_excerpt.php.

Cindy is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She’s coauthor of an upcoming spring release, Plain Wisdom, which is a nonfiction book of touching and humorous life events written with an Old Order Amish friend.

Happy Reading! And happy birthday to my little sister today!


Monday, August 30, 2010

Beach Bubbles

This short video is mesmerizing . . . and don't some of those bubbles look like whales? Loved it. And I live near a beach . . . if I could figure out how this man did it, I'd go attempt the same some nice afternoon!


Sunday, August 29, 2010

God's Great Goats

I don't know much about mountain goats (don't see many of them around Florida), but I was gobsmacked by these photos. Amazing! Just looking at the pictures of goats--and the places they go--made me dizzy.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Opossum Pedicure

Because until you've seen this, you have NOT seen it all:

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Best of the Worst Infomercials

Time Magazine has composed this list, and I couldn't believe some of what I saw. Do you remember the infomercial for the Hula Chair? How about the anti-flatulance blanket, supposed to "make a marriage better?" And surely everyone remembers the Ginsu knife!

You can skim through the list of infomercials here and even watch the video, if you're so inclined. Happy watching!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stem Cell Research in the News Again

From yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

In a landmark ruling, D.C. federal judge Royce Lamberth yesterday blocked the federal government from funding research involving human embryonic stem cells.

A Reagan appointee, Lamberth invoked a 1996 law that prohibits federal money for research in which an embryo is destroyed. (Here’s the 15-page ruling, which granted a preliminary injunction against federal funding.)

Scientists called the ruling, which could affect hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, a major setback for medical research. But some Christian groups hailed the result.

(Click here for the WSJ story, here for the Washington Post and here for NYT).

The government, WSJ reports, had attempted to distinguish between the destruction of embryos—for which funding remains barred—and research using already destroyed embryos. But the judge said embryonic stem-cell research “necessarily depends on the destruction of a human embryo.”

“Federal money should not be used for destroying human embryos for the purpose of research,” Ron Stoddart, executive director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, told WSJ.

Angie here again. As I wrote in an earlier blog post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the latest WSJ article (and comments!) here.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday and Muck

Photo: one of my college friends sent me this picture of your truly writing an English paper on the bus when I traveled with the LBC Chorale. Wow. I just realized that I've been writing a long, long time.

Friday I printed out what I am calling a first draft of "the train story" . . . and today I am staring at 144 pages of muck.

I usually compare producing a first draft to giving birth to a baby. It's a lot of waiting, moaning, and groaning, and the end result is pretty slimy and messy. But once you have that end result, you can clean it up, siphon the goop out of its nose, and put a diaper on it. Give it a few hours, and it may end up looking cute . . . or even beautiful.

So I do have hope for the mess on the desk in front of me. But right now it's a bizarre amalgamation of notes, bad dialogue, worse narrative, and random thoughts. (You see, I'm of the 'don't get it right, just get it down' school of novel writing.) But once I have something to work with, I can turn on the old left brain and get busy. :-)

Cleaning up twelve pages a day: that's my goal and I'm sticking to it.

Oh--right now my working title is "Brief Encounters with Strange Heroes." Whaddya think?


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Interview up at the Writer's Alley

For my blog today, I'll send you over to The Writer's Alley, where they put up an interview I did a few weeks ago. :-)


Friday, August 20, 2010

Announcing . . .

Announcing the cover for THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY, out in May, 2011. (Seems like a long wait, doesn't it?) I've just received a copy of the final cover for the novel formerly known as "The Grandma Gene," and here it is. :-)


Thursday, August 19, 2010

God Bless America

While preparing for a class I plan to teach this fall, I created a little video from a recording I had at hand--and yes, I am actually singing on this recording. :-) It's the Re'Generation, circa 1977. Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Solar Highways

You know how hot asphalt gets in the summertime? Do you know how EXPENSIVE asphalt is? These smart guys have figured out an energy efficient alternative--and I like it!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Creation . . .

Sunday morning, on my way to church, I was thinking about how creation has God's fingerprints all over it. And people who can't see the evidence . . . are simply blind. I feel sorry for them, just as I'd feel sorry for a physically blind person who must learn how to cope in a sighted world.

This video beautifully illustrates all I was thinking that morning . . . and I hope you'll take six minutes to enjoy it. Thanks to my neighbor Barbara for the link. :-)


Monday, August 16, 2010

Sometimes You need a pair . . .

Photos: my dogs, Charley and Babe;
Michael Bay and his dogs (photos from Elle Decor).

So the other day I was flipping through the latest edition of ELLE DECOR (I get way too many magazines--hardly have time to read any of them). I was planning just to flip through and then give the magazine to a friend, but the pictures you see here caught my eye. Someone else has a pair of mastiffs!

Apparently film director Michael Bay has a house in Miami Beach--we're practically neighbors--and a pair of mastiffs. I'd never heard of Bay before, but he directed Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and other films I've seen. This paragraph from the article caught my eye:

"Everything else [in his house] is fair game for the dogs, who collectively weigh in at nearly 500 pounds. The mastiffs schlep from the swimming pool at the edge of the waterway, through the sliding glass doors, and slosh into the expansive living area, leaving a trail of water across the limestone floors and Indian hand-knotted silk rugs. They flail their enormous tongues, splattering nearby furniture. Bay, who is accustomed to micromanaging every aspect of his films to ensure perfection, simply ignores this. "You get used to the drool flopping ten feet up on the walls," he says, laughing. He may control the action on set, but here in Miami, he admits, "the dogs rule."

LOL! I thought I was the only one (well, one of the few) that copes with slingers hitting me upside the head while I'm working. Mr. Bay, if you see this, here's to your great taste in canine companions . . . and your house looks very nice, too. :-)


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Six minutes of motion

Tempus II from Philip Heron on Vimeo.

This video has been shot with a super slow motion camera . . . and it's truly fascinating in a bizarre way. Enjoy!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Gender Genie

If you liked the left brain/right brain quiz, I have a feeling you'll like the gender genie.

I cam out more left-brained, which is typically (but obviously not always) male. But Leslie remarked that my writing style was different from most other women, and I knew she was right. And to prove it, I popped several paragraphs from THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY (which is as girlie a book as I have EVER written) into the "gender genie" and here's the result:
Words: 2377

Female Score: 2954
Male Score: 3009

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

I did it again, testing with another passage, and came up with the same result. But I've always know that I write more like a man than a woman . . . and now I know it's because I'm just wired that way. :-)


Thursday, August 12, 2010

A million minutes for peace . . .

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by Odyssey Networks, the nation's largest not-for-profit multi-faith media coalition, who have launched their second annual multi-media peace initiative, A Million Minutes for Peace, centered on the power of prayer. The people at Odyssey are largely responsible for the Hallmark production of "The Note," so I was eager to hear about this new program. The intiative, I was told, was an interfaith movement designed to encourage people to stop and pray for peace on September 21. Participants would include followers of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and other faiths.

Since Christians should certainly be pro-peace, I agreed to participate and filmed a few short video clips at my home.

Last week, friends of mine from college lost their 25-year-old son in Afghanistan, as he traveled as a videographer for a group of Christian doctors who were offering free medical care to a remote village. (You may have read about these ten murders in the weekend newspapers.)

Thinking about the clips I recorded weeks ago, today I can't help being overcome by a sense of irony. Never has peace been more desperately needed.

Will you put your faith into action and join the pledge? Please feel free to pass these links along to spread the word . . . for peace and prayer.

The following is a public service announcement from Odyssey Networks:

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And you can watch my peace video here.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Right Brained or Left Brained? A Test

Are you right-brained or left-brained? I've seen many of these online tests, but some of them ended with squirrelly results. This test, I think, is pretty accurate.

This was my result. What was yours?

Left BrainRight Brain

You are more left-brained than right-brained. Your left brain controls the right side of your body. In addition to being known as left-brained, you are also known as a critical thinker who uses logic and sense to collect information. You are able to retain this information through the use of numbers, words, and symbols. You usually only see parts of the "whole" picture, but this is what guides you step-by-step in a logical manner to your conclusion. Concise words, numerical and written formulas and technological systems are often forms of expression for you. Some occupations usually held by a left-brained person include a lab scientist, banker, judge, lawyer, mathematician, librarian, and skating judge.

Skating judge? Ha ha ha. Well, the next time the Olympics rolls around, maybe I'll send in an application! :-)


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Theological Rambling #806a

Lately I have listened to Christian epigrams with a skeptical ear,
Compelled to test them against the standards of holy writ:
And when I heard someone say, “Jesus loves you so much that he would have come to save just YOU”—
My skeptical mind reasoned that scripture never makes that claim,
Focusing instead on how much God loves the WORLD.
Would Jesus have set aside the riches of his glory,
The purity of his holiness,
The command of legions of angelic host,
And his station as creator and king
To redeem one lowly soul?

But then I read the story of the ninety-nine sheep
And the single lamb who wandered off on the path of his choosing—
And I realized that even if the ninety-nine were multiplied by ten billions of billions,
God’s love is great enough to cover the single lamb who wanders away.
So perhaps that claim is more biblical than I realized.

Yet when I think of the One who spoke creation into being,
Who created time and all that dwells within it—
Who fashioned the night and day and seasons and sunshine—
Who created grand canyons and the microscopic ballet of cellular life—
I am confounded that he notices me.

And when I realize that this One who lived in holy union with the Father and the Spirit—
When I consider the holy purity by which he created a good world,
In which lies and envy and hatred and greed and avarice and hedonism and death were not found:
But into which my resentments and envy and bitterness and pain intruded—
When I realize that he set his majesty aside to come to this twisted world in order to cleanse and restore it—
I am speechless that he sought me.
His mysterious grace covers me.
Improbable love.

So I will never say that Jesus is my boyfriend,
Or glibly clap and sing that he does everything for me,
Because I am not the center of his universe, but he of mine,
And to him I am indebted for every blessing and breath.

--Angela Hunt

Monday, August 09, 2010

DVD Recommendation: Bramwell

I owe a huge tip of the hat to my editor pal Carol Traver for steering me in the direction of BRAMWELL. This series originally aired on TV (somewhere--I don't remember seeing it, so I suspect it might have been in the UK), but it's WONDERFUL.

The protagonist is Eleanor Bramwell, a female doctor in the 1890's--at a time when women weren't even allowed into some operating theaters. Female doctors were hard to find, but Eleanor follows in her father's footsteps and opens a free medical clinic, called "the thrift."

What's fascinating about this series is that it accurately (as far as I can tell) depicts the fashions, medical knowledge, and mindsets of the late nineteenth century. You'll be amazed to watch Eleanor operate without gloves, and hear one of her father's friends explain that European Caucasians are the superior race because their brains are bigger. You'll gasp (I did) when a colleague explained that women can't be doctors because their brains are smaller, and you'll groan when a patient's heart stops and no one thinks to pound his chest.

I'm almost through season two (and I think there are four seasons all together), but I really love this series. Some parts are universally timeless--for instance, Eleanor is torn between her career and her desire to have a husband and family. How can one woman possibly have it all? We're still trying to figure that one out.

I love the fashions (where can I get some mutton sleeves?) and the genteel pace of life depicted in those days--in the upper class, that is. How did they fashion those elaborate buns on the backs of their heads? Yet the series pulls no punches about how hard life was for the working class and the poor.

One caveat: if you're at all squeamish about the sight of blood and body parts, you'd better close your eyes, because this series is amazingly bold in what it shows onscreen. But if you're like me and you want to see all, you'll find your wishes gratified. :-)

BRAMWELL--I rented it from Netflix, so check your favorite video outlet and enjoy!


Sunday, August 08, 2010

For Dog Lovers

Many years ago at a conference in Philly, I met Chandra Smith. She attended my writing classes many times, and we became friends. Now I'm happy to say that Chandra has been writing a newspaper column for well over a year, on a topic she knows well--dog ownership. You can check out her latest column here.

I love Chandra's down-to-earth attitude when it comes to dog-rearing. If you have a question about your dogs, why not drop her a letter or an email? Her contact info is at the bottom of her column.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Every Life Has a Story . . .

Photo: yours truly with our local Chick-fil-A cow. :-)

HT to Randy Alcorn and Michael G. for pointing me toward this video!

The lesson contained in the above video is one reason I love to people-watch in airports, bus stations, and train depots. Because everyone has a story . . . and everyone longs for someone else to listen to it.

This video was made by the folks at Chick-fil-A, and I'm so proud of the work that company is doing and has done over the years. Some friends of mine own a Chick-fil-A in our town, and they often go on missions trips . . . they're incredibly generous people.

So today as you people-watch, why not take the time to ask a few questions so you can get the story behind a few lives?


Friday, August 06, 2010

Los Tres Arboles

This week I was thrilled to receive an unexpected a book in the mail: Los Tres Arboles, the Spanish version of my picture book, The Tale of Three Trees. I am often asked if the book is available in Spanish, and I'm delighted that Tyndale House, one of my publishers, is responsible for this new edition. (Thanks, Tyndale!)

Furthermore, the book is in English AND Spanish, so it's perfect for someone (like me) who tries to speak Spanish and can use all the help she can get. :-)

So if you'd like a copy, you can order it here. If you'd like muchas copies, contact Tyndale House.


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Okay . . . so this is a different way to eat watermelon.

Apparently they do things differently in Russia . . . :-)


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Is it a bird . . . or a dog?

I've always wanted a parrot . . . but since my community has a two-pet limit, I'm out of luck. But I enjoy watching other people's trained birds, and this one is amazing! Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Jill Eileen Smith's new book

Jill Eileen Smith, who writes historical fiction, has a new entry in her series on the wives of King David. (Seems to me that being the wife of K. David wasn't such a wonderful thing to be. Lots of drama and turmoil in that family.)

Abigail released February 1, 2010 and is book 2 in The Wives of King David series. Bathsheba, book 3, releases March 1, 2011. Michal, book 1 is available now.

A little about Jill:

Jill Eileen Smith has been married for 33 years to her beloved engineer husband, Randy, and together they have three adult sons. Two sons live in California pursuing a film career, and one lives at home finishing an English degree. She was a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom for 12 years so the transition to almost-empty-nester has been tough! She is most grateful for technology, particularly Skype. Jill lives with her family in Southeastern Michigan.

About Abigail:

Abigail is the third wife of King David and her journey is one of heartache and shattered dreams, but in the end she grows stronger for what she has endured and her relationship to David takes an interesting turn.

Her days marked by turmoil and faded dreams, Abigail has resigned herself to a life with a man she does not love. When her husband Nabal’s foolish pride angers David and his men, she boldly steps forward to save her family—and David, the would-be king, takes notice.

Circumstances offer Abigail a second chance at happiness with the handsome David, and she takes a leap of faith to join his wandering tribe. But her struggles are far from over. How can she share his love with the other women he insists on marrying?

Abigail follows the bestselling Michal and continues Jill Eileen Smith’s rich story of David’s wives.

“With skill honed by years of historical research, made sharper still with a gifted passion for storytelling, Jill Eileen Smith crafts the story of Abigail in a way that takes us deep into the heart of King David and into the heart of a woman determined to follow God’s will, no matter the cost to her—or to the man she loves.”—Tamera Alexander, bestselling author of From a Distance and The Inheritance

“Smith’s writing swept me back to ancient days and brought Abigail and David’s love story vividly to life.”—Deborah Raney, award-winning author of Almost Forever and the Clayburn Novels


Monday, August 02, 2010

Titanic Alternate Ending

This isn't a joke--I was wasting some time on the Internet and stumbled across this ending--and I have to admit that I like it, but it's far more didactic than the ending we saw in theaters. The theater ending leaves us guessing a bit, but this ending spells out the "lesson" of the story. I can see why Cameron went with the ending he did, but I like this ending, too.

Then again, sometimes it's appropriate to leave readers (and movie viewers) free to sort through their own impressions so they can take away their own lessons.

P.S. Turn your volume all the way up!

Take a look:

What did you think?


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Manitou Springs

Photos: two views of The Cliff House and some interesting items in a store window down the street.

I'm in Manitou Springs, just outside Colorado Springs, at a lovely hotel called The Cliff House. It's a historic building that's been beautifully refurbished, and yes, it has heated toilet seats. Kay D. tells me that the heat is much appreciated in November, as she's been here in that chilly month.

I took some time yesterday afternoon to walk in the downtown area--I needed some chocolate, and there's a wonderful chocolate and ice cream shop on the main drag. Anyway, I don't have my camera with me, but I did bring my phone, which took these shots of the area.

I've heard from several sources that Manitou Springs is home to many "aging hippies," which undoubtedly accounts for some of the local color. But it's a fun place to visit, and this hotel is heavenly!