Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Forget--Big Announcement Tomorrow!

Don't forget--we have a big announcement coming tomorrow! If you've signed up for our newsletter, all the details will be coming to you via email!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cupcake Craze

I know that I have a tendency to get on "kicks," as my husband describes them. I go through phases. Fascinations. Whatever you want to call them.

At various times in my life, I have been fascinated with mastiffs, Leonbergers, gerbils, neurology, cardiology, knitting, crocheting, Lee Middleton dolls, Rowe pottery, Criminal Minds, Anne of Green Gables, cake decorating, painting, stenciling, rug-making, sewing, making hats, cross-stitch, bread baking, moving, gardening--you name it. I don't know why I do it--I think it's because I love to learn things, and when I get interested in something, I want to know as much as possible as quickly as possible.

My latest craze is cupcakes. It began innocently enough--baking cupcakes for my book club--but lately it's turned into an obsession. I watch back to back episodes of Cupcake Wars and DC Cupcake. I bought an entire Wilton decorating kit, not to do cakes, but to do cupcakes. I've become an expert on what makes a good cup cake pan. And I've been baking cupcakes--which I can't eat, because I'm dieting, and which my hubby doesn't want to eat, because he doesn't have a sweet tooth. Fortunately, the family across the street appreciates my culinary efforts, and I'm careful not to over load them.

Friday I made some cranberry cupcakes because I knew they'd work as breakfast muffins. Yummy. And yesterday I made some cream cheese cupcakes because I wanted to try decorating with a new piping tip I got at the store. Made a few with cream cheese frosting, took those across the street, and made a new batch of butter cream frosting to decorate the rest. Best of all, I discovered that butter cream frosting FREEZES. So I was able to make a batch and freeze them in my handy-dandy Tupperware cupcake keeper. :-)

Book club is next weekend, and I've been planning my cupcakes for two weeks. Our book is called LITTLE BEE, and I'm making bee cupcakes. I promise to take a picture. :-)

Until then, if you see a cupcake, think of me!


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Burrito Bison

You're going to hate me . . . because this stupid game is truly addictive. But there's something mesmerizing about the way that buffalo just bounces and bounces and bounces . . .

To try your hand at it (and murder a few minutes), go here.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Call the kids! Amaze your friends!

Stunts like this make me wish my kids were little again. Because whether or not I mastered this trick, we'd have a lot of fun trying it. :-)


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cats are Cool

I know I talk a lot about dogs, since I'm close to them, but cats deserve equal time, don't they? This is an amazing video of cat footage . . . and it really makes you appreciate those critters!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Echer's Waterfall?

Someone mentioned Echer the other day when we were talking about perspective, and this happened to catch my attention. Of course, we're looking at a three dimensional object in only two dimensions, and we can't walk around it or turn it, but it certainly appears puzzling, doesn't it?

Anyone have an explanation? In any case, it's very cool. :-)


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blue Ridge Christian Writers' Conference

If you're able to come this year, I'll be there, Lord willing!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Lovely, Still

I don't know how the movie "Lovely, Still" found its way into my Netflix queue, but I watched it the other night . . . and was blown away. It's adult subject matter, though there's really nothing objectionable about it other than a word or two, but it's one of the most amazing movies I've ever seen. I would love to tell you more about it, but I don't want to give away a single element of the plot because it's mind-blowing.

But it's an amazing film. It stars Ellen Burstyn and Martin Landau, and their performances are spectacular.

Plus, after you watch it, you'll have an new and deepened perspective of point-of-view. :-)

And really, that's all I can say at this point. Look it up. If you have Netflix, it's available on DVD or as a streaming movie.



Sunday, February 20, 2011

Get up and Dance!

If this bird doesn't make you want to get up and "shake a tail feather," then there's something wrong with your feathers. :-)

So cute! And what's amazing is the breadth of this bird's repertoire of moves! He's got more moves than anyone on Dancing with the Stars~!



Saturday, February 19, 2011

Point of View

I had a serendipitous moment the other day. I was listening to a lecture on Paolo Ucello, a Renaissance artist, and the professor was discussing this painting, Sir John Hawkwood. The painting is meant to commemorate Hawkwood's military success in defending Florence, Italy, when he was a hired mercenary.

Anyway, the professor pointed out that the artist used TWO differing perspectives--two different points of view. Often writing teachers would have you believe that you can only use one POV in a novel, and that you must be consistent, but if Ucello had done that, this painting wouldn't work.

Why not?

Look at the bottom of the painting. The point of view is that of an observer--you--standing at the base of a towering statue. You can see the underside of the table, correct? If Ucello had remained in that point of view, all we should be able to see of Sir John Hawkwood would be the soles of his feet and his horse's belly! But no, we look at Sir John as if we are standing directly across from him, from a completely different perspective.

So that's why I never make a big deal out of POV purity--the book doesn't have to be all first person or all third person or whatever. The writer should choose what he or she needs to use, and be consistent with that pattern throughout the book. (Example: protagonist in first person, everyone else in third). It makes a better picture.

Caveat: Obviously, Ucello was a master of his craft, having mastered the principles of perception. So the writer who utilizes differing points of view had better have a firm grip on the principles of POV. :-)


Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Fun

I don't know how he did it, but that has to be one of the most amazing illusions ever. Look at the judges' expressions . . . wow. :-)

Enjoy! Just don't try that trick at home!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mystery Keys

The other day I was on a cleaning rampage and decided to tackle the miscellaneous drawers--you know, the drawers that catch everything. I have them in the kitchen, the office, the dining room, the foyer, my bedroom, and even upstairs.

And as I was cleaning, I noticed that they all contained . . . keys. Keys that are a mystery to me, because I can't remember what they unlock. A diary? The hurricane shutters? A car? The house we lived in in Virginia?

So I came up with the idea of creating just ONE drawer simply for keys. That chore is currently on my mental "to do" list, because I haven't had the motivation yet to go through the house and collect all the keys.

This website, however, has given me food for thought. :-) So what do you think? Do you have that many mystery keys around your house?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Poetry for Writers

Every writer stumbles upon a day--
after vials of blood spilt on the page,
thousands of conjured dreams,
hours spent gazing at empty space,
and notebooks scrawled with notes and queries--

When the sentence arrives and the verdict says
This Book Will Not Do.

And when that day comes, the writer
picks up her stunned heart,
sets the notebooks aside,
grips her pen again,
and trusts that the God of inspiration
will not mind another desperate plea.

Because when a book Will Not Do,
She has no choice
But to slay a few more trees
And write another.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Temple Grandin

Last night my husband and I watched a rented DVD, Temple Grandin, produced by HBO pictures. And then I went to bed and dreamed all night about writing this blog for you . . .

It's a memorable movie. This photo is of the real Temple Grandin--and I should have known I'd like her because she's obviously a dog person. :-)

The movie is the true story of Temple Grandin, who grew up with autism, and how she persevered to become a writer and a leader in the field of animal husbandry. Her goal has been to provide for the humane care of livestock, and I'm all for that. (Yes, we have dominion over the animals, but that never gives us license to abuse them.)

Claire Danes does a remarkable job portraying Temple Grandin, and the movie is absolutely fascinating, entertaining, and moving. Plus, it's one of those rare "family friendly" films--your kids would like this, and it'd be good for them to understand what autism is. Not all brains are wired in the same way, and just because someone is different doesn't mean they're a freak.

So I heartily recommend this one--and I think you'll love it. Even my hubby, who usually rolls his eyes at any movie without guns and bombs, enjoyed it, and I caught him wiping a tear from his eye . . .



Monday, February 14, 2011

WHO would have thought . . .

Found an interesting article in the New York Times about a group of sociologists who polled themselves and discovered (gasp!) that they are biased against conservatives!

I'm not surprised. And neither will you be when you read the article.

P.S. And a happy St. Valentine's Day to you faithful readers. :-)


Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Man and His Goose

I love this story I read yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. A goose named Maria has developed a fast friendship with an older man, but she faces eviction in the weeks ahead (and thankfully, she doesn't know it yet.)

I trust the city will work something out, but the story of friendship is really touching. Be sure to check out the slideshow and the video, too. :-)

Ah, animals. They feel and think so much more than we realize . . .


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fanny pack, bum bags, belt bags . . . they're back!

It's back! The touristy, tacky fanny pack is making a comeback, but this time it's coming back in leather and design.

I know, I've always thought they were tacky, especially when they were stuffed full of . . . stuff. But as a tourist, I've learned that they are great for keeping one's wallet closet to the body. As a dog trainer, I've learned they are wonderful for holding dog treats while allowing your hands to stay free.

And now they're back . . . and a pretty price, though you can bet that will soon come down. Read this article from the Wall Street Journal and take a look at the new varieties in the slide show--I sort of like them (except the one that looks like saddle bags. On my hips . . . . I don't think so.) Still, the new designs seem to be slim . . . not much room for more than a single cell phone. On the other hand, sometimes a cell phone is all you need!

Interesting--I didn't know that "fanny" was a nasty word in the UK and Australia . . . but each culture has its own taboo list. But "bum bag" isn't much better. :-(

Enjoy, fashionistas!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Candle Carving

I want to learn how to do this! I went through a candle-making phase back when I was a kid . . . but mine didn't look anything like this! Amazingly beautiful!

Thanks to my friend Tanzel for sending this video my way! If you want to buy one of these candles, check out their home page.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

And they'll know we are Christians by our . . .

Big thanks to Deb Raney for this link. Now, grab a tissue, call your family around, and watch this one . . .


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ghiberti's Doors

Click on any photo to enlarge.

I have been taking a class (on video) on great artists of the Italian Renaissance. (I'm sure there's a book in here somewhere!)

Anyway, my subject today was Lorenzo Ghiberti's doors, designed for the Cathedral of Florence, more commonly known as the Duomo.

For the first set of doors, the project organizers held a contest for sculptors. Ghiberti won the first contest, and his doors included 28 gilded panels, each depicting a scene from the life of Christ or the authors of the Gospels. Because the artist could not use color--other than the gold of the gilding--the figures had to be truly expressive and tell a picture.

Having never been to Italy (yet!), I've never seen these doors, but the journey is on my bucket list. :-) The sculptors used "simultaneous narration" and told a single story through many scenes in one picture.

After Ghiberti completed his first set of doors, the cathedral folks held a second contest for another entrance. The finalists were Filippo Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, and they were each asked to do a panel on the sacrifice of Isaac.

Both scenes are amazing, but Ghiberti won the job. This set of doors was comprised of ten square panels, and the larger panels literally gave the artist more room for story-telling. (He also included a self-portrait in the work--you can see his head in the detailing on the scrollwork between frames.)

If you begin in the lower left corner of the gold detailed picture, you see God (portrayed as a man) creating Adam from earth. Move to the bottom center and you see Adam sleeping while God creates a lovely Eve from Adam's rib while angels look on in approval. Move to the upper left and you see Adam and Eve at the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil . . . with the treacherous Serpent. Upper center to lower right depicts a now ashamed Adam and Eve being forced to leave the Garden, which will remain guarded by angels.

Isn't this work amazing?

Notice the photo of the Jacob/Esau story (this is a photo of a copy). Above the arch to the right, you see a pregnant Rebekkah being told that she will bear twins, and the younger shall rule the elder. In the background on the right, you see Rebekkah on her bed of labor, giving birth. Beneath the arch on the right, you see Rebekkah telling Jacob to kill the kid so she can prepare it the way Isaac favors while Esau goes off to hunt. In the right foreground, you see Jacob (with his mother watching) obtaining the blessing of the firstborn. In the center foreground, we see Esau being told by an aged Isaac that he's too late. And the four lovely ladies to the left--we don't know exactly who they are--they could be the Canaanite women Esau married, or the women that Jacob went off to find (Rachel, Leah, and their maids). Personally, I favor the latter idea. :-)

I've always admired artists--probably because I am utterly unskilled in this area, and also because I think what they do is very much like writing. We all begin with a "blank canvas," and we all strive to create something beautiful that will bring enjoyment, edification, and give food for thought. And finally, we all hope our finished work--into which we've invested a great deal of time and thought and labor--is something that will last and bring glory to the God who gives all good and perfect gifts.

Well, enough rambling for now. Enjoy!


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Capital Punishment

I happen to be in favor of capital punishment. Why? Because "Thou shalt not kill" should be translated "Thou shalt not murder," and because God has decreed that when men kill other men--who are created as representatives of God--that they deserve to die.

Gen. 9:5-6: And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man."

Proverbs 17:15: "Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent --the Lord detests them both." [I think this verse applies both to capital punishment and abortion.]

Prov. 6:16-17: "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers."

I was reading MIND HUNTER, a book by John Douglas, about serial killers and criminal profiling, and came across an interesting anecdote. (This book is not for the squeamish). So for what it's worth, here 'tis, quoted from the book:

When the director and cast of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS came to Quantico to prepare for filming, I brought Scot Glenn, who played Jack Crawford--the special agent some say was based on me--into my office. Glenn was a pretty liberal guy who had strong feelings on rehabilitation, redemption, and the fundamental goodness of people. I showed him some of the gruesome crime-scene photos we worked with every day. I let him experience recordings made by killers while they were torturing their victims. I made him listen to one of two teenage girls in Los Angeles being tortured to death in the back of a van by two thrill-seeking killers who had recently been let out of prison.

Glenn wept as he listened to the tapes. He said to me, "I had no idea there were people out there who could do anything like this." An intelligent, compassionate father with two girls of his own, Glenn said that after seeing and hearing what he did in my office, he could no longer oppose the death penalty: "The experience in Quantico changed my mind about that for all time."

And there's the story. I don't have to look at photos or hear recordings to know that men are capable of atrocious cruelty. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind, I simply found that story interesting enough to share.

And there you have my thoughts for the day.


Monday, February 07, 2011

Criminal Stuff

I've been researching my next book, so I'm sorry I haven't been blogging as regularly as usual. I've been reading, reading, reading, playing way too much Scrabble on my iPad, and watching a lot of CRIMINAL MINDS on TV.

All grist for the mill, btw. Still, it doesn't result in much blogging.

But I just got off the phone with my buddy Mark Mynheir, retired cop and novelist. Have you read Mark's books? They're great, and of course they're realistic.

I tell this story all the time at writer's conferences, but I don't think I've told you.

Many many years ago I was teaching fiction at the Florida Christian Writers Conference (a good conference, BTW) and I had an entire back row of men. Many of them asked me to look at their manuscripts after class, and it seemed like nearly every man had a book centered around a Navy SEAL, an Army Ranger, or some other military action hero.

So this young man named Mark comes up and shows me his manuscript--about a Marine. I looked at him and said, "What IS it with you men and the military? For heaven's sake . . . what's your day job?"

Mark rather sheepishly told me that he was a homicide detective.

"A WHAT? Why on earth aren't you writing about that?"

"Because it's boring. I do it all day long . . ."

"It's not boring to me. And it won't be boring to other people. "

That night at dinner we probably made the other people at our table uncomfortable as Mark told stories about dead bodies and crime scenes and I egged him on, wanting more and more details.

Long story short: Mark sold a series of cop novels, and he's been writing ever since. His books are great, if you haven't checked them out. Here's a link to his latest.

And whenever I have a cop kind of question, guess who I call? Tee hee.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Megan's Back!

I've been sharing Megan's clips on my Facebook page for some time--she's a unique character, and I love her long, I love her strong! Enjoy!


Tuesday, February 01, 2011