Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Family theme for Queen's speech - Home - ITN.co.uk

Family theme for Queen's speech - Home - ITN.co.uk

A big thank you to Leslie Sowell for sharing this link with me--I've always loved Elizabeth II, and I think you'll enjoy this message, too.

A happy Christmas to all.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dogs Saying Grace

In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, it's nice to see that some dogs know how to pray before their Christmas (and anytime) dinners:

A blessed Christmas to you!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Birthday surprise!

It's Angela Hunt's birthday, but you get the presents! Afton of Margate Castle, Roanoke, Then Comes Marrisge, and The Case of the Mystery Mark all FREE on Kindle today!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Duggar's 20th baby

I don't routinely follow  the show "Nineteen Kids and Counting", but I was shocked and touched by recent photos released by the family after the mother, Michelle, miscarried their twentieth child in her second trimester.

I was touched because the photos show how beautiful and perfect the hands and feet of Jubilee Shalom Duggar were.  The family contacted "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," an organization I have endorsed in one of my books, in order to have a permanent memento of their 20th child.  These photos are beautiful, loving, and clearly show how human this tiny child was.

What shocked me was that TMZ called these pictures "photos of the fetal corpse" and even included a disclaimer of their site, saying that these photos might offend viewers.  Excuse me?  What kind of offense could these little feet cause?

Except . . . it truly might shock and educate those who believe that an unborn baby is a featureless fetus, a creature less than human simply because it has never breathed outside its mother's body.  TMZ treated this entire story of the Duggar's action as something macabre and horrible, and I, for one, think their reaction is what's macabre and horrible.

Human life is fully human at conception. There is nothing horrible or shameful about a baby in the womb, even a baby that does not survive in the womb . . . unless that baby is forcibly pulled from the womb with a vacuum machine, a scalpel, or pair of scissors, or a salty solution that burns the baby's skin from its body.

THAT's horrible. That's macabre. And I'm ashamed and shocked to realize that many in our nation have confused these two realities.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Living Adventurously

In 2006 I wrote the following as one of my columns for the Tampa Tribune  and thought I'd share it here, too:

When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes along, an adventurous woman grabs it. In April 2001, my 275-pound dog was invited to appear on Live with Regis and Kelly. My husband said it was a crazy idea, but we cleared our calendars and flew to Manhattan to bask in our mastiff’s fifteen minutes of fame.

Last week, another unusual offer presented itself: would I like to attend the national premier of The Nativity Story in Hollywood? You bet. I cleared my calendar and spent a few days agonizing over what to wear, then jetted off to Los Angeles to mingle with the glitterati gathered at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Why me? I’d like to think it’s because I’m an adventurous woman, but the real reason lies in my work. I’m a novelist by profession, and last May my publisher offered me a rush project. They had partnered with New Line Cinema to produce books based on The Nativity Story film: a gift book, a book for the advent season, and a novel. My job, if I chose to accept it, would be to turn the film’s screenplay into a novel over the next sixty days.

I leapt at the chance. I love historical fiction, and I had recently written a novel about Mary Magdalene, so first-century research was still rattling around in my brain. And who wouldn’t love to tell the story of what is arguably the greatest miracle of all time?

So in early June I settled down with my reference books and Mike Rich’s excellent screenplay. I was wary at first—Hollywood has made biblical movies before, and sometimes the finished product bears little resemblance to the historical record of Scripture. But Rich’s screenplay was right on the mark—except for a slight tightening of the probable timeline, his script was historically and biblically accurate.

For the next few weeks I slipped into the minds of Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Zechariah. I studied expert works on first-century culture and tried to fill in the missing details of the accounts we read in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. While I wrote in my office, the cast and crew filmed the movie in exotic foreign locations like Italy and Morocco.

After meeting my deadline, I moved on to another project. I tried not to think about the upcoming movie, and when someone suggested that I might be invited to the premier, I laughed and said I wasn’t counting on it.

My novelization of The Nativity Story released in early November, and the film’s world premier took place at the Vatican on November 26th. More than seven thousand people saw the movie, and I’ve heard that the audience burst into spontaneous applause at the moment of the baby’s birth.

Two days later, I attended the film’s national premier in Hollywood. With representatives from my publisher, I walked over the red carpet outside the theater, then we made our way to our seats. I watched, amused and amazed, as Hollywood gathered to watch a reenactment of an amazing story.

For years, my slogan as a writer has been “expect the unexpected.” The Nativity Story fulfills that slogan beautifully, but not by human design. In the story of Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, and Elizabeth, God demonstrates that he delights in doing what he promised, but in surprising ways.
With the words of the prophets firmly in mind, the people of Isra’el were expecting a messiah from David’s lineage, a leader who would vanquish their enemies and secure the peace. They waited for a brilliant, charismatic warrior-king who would cleanse the land of the Roman occupiers and establish his throne on Mt. Zion.

What did they receive? A baby, born among livestock and nestled in a feeding trough. A child safeguarded by an adoptive father from David’s lineage, but far removed from kingly wealth and power. An infant born to a teenaged girl rumored to be pregnant before her betrothed husband took her home to be his wife.

The people of Isra’el were expecting a conqueror—they received a child who grew to maturity and died at the hands of Roman executioners. The world longed for a prince of peace and received a Jewish rabbi whose revolutionary precepts have, as he predicted, divided fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. But for those who regard the manger with eyes of faith, the child of Christmas is everything the world expected and more.

Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the magi—since I have spent a little time in their minds and hearts, they will never again be icons for me. They are the most adventurous people I’ve ever known.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

BOM: The Results/Reader reaction

I signed Nativity Story books after services at my church last weekend. A young woman who'd already read the novel came up and asked me to sign her well-worn copy. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for the story . . . and said that though she'd been a Christian for years, she had come to see Jesus in a new light and Christmas would never be the same for her again.
I told her I felt exactly the same way.

I had a great interview with Cindy Swanson about this book. She wrote about The Nativity Story at her wonderful blog, which you can read here.

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

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

At this writing, I haven't heard a lot of reader reaction--there are only a couple of reviews on Amazon.com, and they're favorable. But I have been AMAZED at what I've been reading on some blogs about the movie--long debates about whether or not Mary should have experienced birth pangs, people arguing passionately about whether or not the wise men showed up with the shepherds, and whether or not it's even proper to depict a scriptural event in film or fictionalized account.

Shaking of the head here. God often uses story to suit his purposes, and doesn't logic dictate that one must imagine what one cannot ascertain? In my books, I take great care not to contradict what we know to be true (either through Scripture or trustworthy historical records). The rest I fill in as best I can by using common sense and artistic license, in that order.

Of course no one knows that there were exactly three magi; Scripture doesn't count them. But it's logical to assume there were three because they offered three gifts.

Because I anticipated a certain amount of controversy about some elements of the story, I included a Q&;A section at the end of the book to address these issues. My take on the story rises from my "sola Scriptura" background--I do not believe Mary was divine, or a permanent virgin, or sinless, for she said that God would be her savior (Luke 1:47) --why would she need a savior if she had never sinned? I do believe she suffered labor pains, for she was like all the rest of us, even though the child conceived within her womb was the sinless son of God.

That's part of the miracle of the incarnation.

The novel, I should point out, is not a polemic for my point of view. It's a scriptural retelling of the story, pure and simple.

One day in heaven, we can ask our questions and find out whether Jesus had half-siblings or step-siblings or whether or not Mary felt the pangs of labor. Until then, let's endeavor to keep the spirit of unity in the bond of peace.

Tomorrow: Questions and Answers. Leave your question in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them!


Monday, December 05, 2011

BOM: The Editing

Photo: my book club in 2006, marveling over the fact that I baked . . . a Christmas miracle!

The editing of The Nativity Story was practically painless. My editor said I submitted clean copy (I try my best), and she had only a few queries--in fact, I received the edited manuscript with her queries while I was teaching at a conference, and I think it only took me about an hour to go through them.

In fact, when I handed the manuscript in, I told my editor I felt guilty--I should have suffered more (I usually do). But I was given a great screenplay to work from, the research was a joy (and, in God's sovereign plan, I knew just where to look for what I needed to know--God bless Alfred Edersheim), and the project was a pleasure.

Best of all, the folks at New Line okayed the manuscript without a single change.

Tomorrow: Results and reader reaction. And if you have any questions, be sure to ask them!


Sunday, December 04, 2011

BOM: The Writing

The Nativity Story is showing in schools in Virginia . . . very cool.

When the movie came out, my neighborhood book club went to see it together--and I enjoyed the film even more the second time! Maybe I was more relaxed, or maybe this time I wasn't as intent on noticing the differences between book and film. In any case, I highly recommend it. Don't wait--get out to see it at your first available opportunity! Here's a link to a review of the film by CT.

The writing--not much to say here, except that "the writing" went hand-in-hand with "the research" because whenever I came to a new scene in the screenplay, I checked the historical details with my reference books.

In writing the novel, I wanted to honor the structure of the screenplay, and I wanted to stick to the dialogue as much as possible. I didn't want the novel to read like a completely different critter. It is a novelization of a screenplay, so I wanted to respect Mike's excellent work--he had some great lines of dialogue, and they're in the book. But because the screenplay kept evolving (they were filming as I was writing), I also felt free to let the characters speak for themselves. Characters have a way of coming to life, you know, and sometimes they just kept talking.

A screenplay is action and dialogue. A novel is description, scenery, exposition, dialogue, and interior monologue. The advantage of a novel is that the reader and writer can really get into a character's head, so I did. I did constrain myself, however, and didn't let myself get sidetracked or take off in a completely different direction. No new subplots, no additional characters. And the only scenes I added were necessary, I felt, either to flesh out the history or the background of the action in the screenplay. I added scenes of Mary and Joseph dedicating Jesus in the Temple because I felt it was important to the timeline and because I wasn't under the same time crunch the filmmakers faced.  Plus, it was historical, and THE reason Mary and Joseph remained in Bethlehem for some time--until the angel told them to flee to Egypt. 

This is the only novel-from-screenplay that I've published, and I knew that the final work would have to be approved by the people at New Line Cinema. I knew my job was to respect the screenplay and the film while bringing the story to life in the form of a novel.

When I saw the movie, I noticed that some new dialogue cropped up as they filmed . . . and some scenes that were in the screenplay didn't make it into the movie. I know that's nothing unusual, and I'm glad that I wasn't bound to a time frame or word count in which to tell this incredible story. I admire screenwriters, but I love being a novelist.

Tomorrow: the editing.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Supplemental Edition!

I was delighted when Tyndale invited me to the Hollywood premier of The Nativity Story.  That's me walking by the huge movie poster and--who else?--Gary Busey! The red carpet and the Tyndale men.

Visit this link to see a really beautiful music video from The Nativity Story. 

I hope your Christmas season is off to a delightful start! 


Friday, December 02, 2011

BOM: How the Idea Germinated

This one's easy--the idea didn't germinate. Not in the usual sense, anyway.

A year ago, screenwriter Mike Rich noticed that both Time and Newsweek had feature cover stories on the nativity of Christ. He wrote a screenplay, it was snapped up, and plans were made to produce a movie . . . in just under a year.

In late May 2006, an editor at Tyndale House called to see if I'd be interested in writing a novel based on Rich's screenplay. The catch? It'd be a fast job with a July 31 deadline, because the book would need to release at about the same time the movie opened.

I jumped at the opportunity for several reasons. First, I'm a speedy writer and the story was already plotted. I knew I'd have a screenplay to work from as well as Scripture. Second, I'd just finished Magdalene a few months before, so my first century research was still fresh in my mind. Third, who wouldn't want to explore one of the greatest miracles of all?

I had a few hesitations: if the screenplay followed the pattern of some Hollywood films, it might not be true to scripture. Second, I'd have to please New Line Cinema as well as my editors. Third, it would be a tight deadline, and I'd have to fit this into my calendar.

After praying about it, I felt led to go forward, so I told my editor I'd be willing to start in June--right after I got back from my Alaskan cruise. :-) I hadn't had a bona fide vacation in years, so I was determined to take one.

Before I left for Alaska, however, I went through the first version of the script to see if there were any "red flag" issues. I saw a couple of minor things that didn't seem historically believable, but felt I could work around them . By the time I saw a second version of the script, however, those things had disappeared. The filmmakers were definitely on the right track, so I signed on for the project.

Tomorrow: the research


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Book of the Month: The Nativity Story

From the back cover:

In the simple town of Nazareth, an angelic messenger appears before a teenage girl . . . who finds the courage to believe.
In The Nativity Story, developed from the screenplay by Mike Rich, Angela Hunt fleshes out the characters and histories of the people who lived through the miracles and mysteries surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. This well-researched story is based on the scriptural account. Journey back through time as you relieve that the characters experienced and celebrate the wonder of Immanuel, God with us.
The movie opens today, so see the film, read the novel, and you'll find there are many differences!