Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I had thought about cutting a fresh tree down this year, as we had a nasty dry tree last year. Needles everywhere. After getting home today I heard that my friends were going to a place called "Chop N Shop". No joke. They were wondering if we wanted them to pick us up a tree, as we don't have a truck (almost a sin here in Idaho) and they often help us out with pick-up related duties.
Well, it's hard to have someone else pick out a Christmas tree for you, so we bundled up the crew and followed them out to the country. A retired gentleman was raising trees on his property. He was a little surprised to see us at night. He figured it was kinda hard to see out there, but gave us sharp instruments, told us to watch for stumps, and to have fun.
We tromped around a little bit, checking out contenders. No one fell and got impaled, which I take as a successful night. Finally we settled on a 6' spruce, and I did my best Monty Python imitation. The boys and Beccy skipped back to the van to be warm, while I laid on a blanket in this field in order to bring our Yuletide timber home.
It was a prosperous expedition, and I am ensconed at home all warmed up (though a mug of hot chocolate sounds nice.) The tree is in our front yard, as I'm too frazzled to set it up tonight. But I am confident we will have a nice fresh Christmas tree this year. Maybe I'll post a pic when it is up and decorated.
...and I'm okay.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Men of Zebulun, experienced soldiers prepared for battle with every type of weapon, to help David with undivided loyalty - 50,000.
The context of the above verse is when men armed for battle came to David when he was at Hebron after Saul died, to turn the kingdom over to him.
When reading that in my quiet time recently, it struck me about the aspect of being prepared for battle with every type of weapon. In the Christian life, we have spiritual warfare in our lives. We need to know about this, and understand how to battle for the Lord in this aspect.
But I think Christians ought to aspire to be like the men of Zebulun. I was in a church once where the pastor disparaged using the mind. He felt that it got in the way of the Spirit, that we couldn't be really used of God if we did anything with our minds.
I had a hard time with that then, and have become convinced since then that he was wrong to say that. Now I know how the Word says that our hearts our wicked and we can't even know them ourselves. But He does give us minds to reason and to know Him. He is a God who reveals Himself so He can be known, at least to a degree.
I'm saying all this to ask, what weapons should we be able to fight with? I think that it can be summed up in one term: Biblical worldview. If we understand a Biblical worldview, how the Bible deals with life. From art to justice to helping the poor, we can understand Biblical principles to use as a framework for whatever we come up against in our culture. We shouldn't live in a Christian cocoon, but understand the ideas that are being presented in our world and see how the Bible applies to them. No, the Bible doesn't discuss every idea out there, but it does provide a framework to analyze any situation we can find ourselves in.
Warriors of worldview can go into any aspect of society: politics, academics, entertainment, literature, science, education. We can help shape the ideas of our times, which would be better than always reacting after the philosophies are out there.
If we can make the most of every opportunity and be prepared in season and out of season, we can stand and fight the battles in our world today. We know our battles are not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. This means we need to fight the spiritual battles in the heavenlies, but we also need to stand against the ideas that are counter to what God reveals in His word. We don't fight the battle against the people, the proponents. But we speak with knowledge and with power, like Paul. Then we will be like the men of Zebulun, "prepared for battle with every type of weapon".
Friday, November 24, 2006
For this week's blog tour, enter "Christian chick lit" in Google and one of the first names you'll come up with is Kristin Billerbeck. She's been highlighted on NBC's Today show discussing the fad of "Bridget Jones going to church".
Not that I'm afraid to tackle chick lit, but I was in the midst of a lot of reading already. I've pulled in a guest reviewer this week: my lovely wife! So, in her words:
"Calm, Cool, and Adjusted is the third book in the Spa Girls series. I didn't have the benefit of reading the first two, but I didn't notice anything I missed out on by not reading them. It is focused on Poppy Clayton, a Christian chiropracter and health nut. Her office is next to a plastic surgeon, which cuts against everything she stands for. Her social life is going to change because the last of the Spa Girls is getting married. Is she going to be single and nutty, or will she accept that the perfect mate may not have the best alignment?
It was a quick read, light and fun. I laughed out loud at several points (Verified by her husband - J). The book was refreshing from the typical CBA romance novels I usually read. It had a good storyline. I enjoyed it a lot, but some of the characterization of the main character seemed a little overdone to further the plot. "
I read the first chapter, and found the writing engaging as well. I don't think I'd have a problem sitting down and digging in to this when I had the chance. If chick lit is your thing, check out CCA.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Beccy is a teacher, and had been hired to be the fill-in teacher for a local 5th grade, as the regular teacher had a medical leave for the year. Bec was playing catch-up with the traditions and way things were done. In mid-November she found out that the 5th grade teachers always did a Thanksgiving spread for the kids, and she was responsible for a turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.
Since people thought we might starve when we married (a reference to our perceived culinary prowess), this was a daunting task. Also, Beccy was swamped with other responsibilities since it was her first year.
So we read up on how to cook a turkey from Butterball.com and tried to get things going. She got the turkey in the oven, but it was in the afternoon. We had decided it would be too hard to try and do it in the morning of the feast, as we'd have to get up so early. The turkey was going to be a while - coming out of the oven around 11 pm or later.
Beccy had other things to do in the morning, so I sent her off to bed, while I stayed up for the turkey and gravy detail. I had carved the turkey for my mom before, but I had never done gravy. So I pour the juices into the pan and I'm stirring it. Boy, it just doesn't seem like it wants to thicken at all. Better add some flour, right? I dump some in, not mindful of doing things a little at a time.
The gravy seizes up like cement.
Ack! What was I to do? It's almost midnight, so I can't call anyone. I thought it was going to be the worst gravy ever. I added some water and got it to the point where you didn't need a knife to serve it, and put it away for the night.
I finish carving up the turkey after midnight, watching Star Trek: TNG on syndication (amazing the details you remember when you're tired and frazzled). I didn't realize Thanksgiving was so much work - and all we were doing was turkey, potatoes, and gravy.
Turns out the teachers raved about our gravy and potatoes, so that turned out alright. The kids weren't too interested in turkey, so we had some leftovers. And we gained new appreciation for what our mothers went through on Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
If what I've said has intrigued you, then check out what Rene Gutteridge herself has to say. She was kind enough to conduct an email interview with me, so her answers are below!
1. Scoop is the third book you're releasing this year, according to your website. How do you manage such production?
Carefully! And sometimes not all that well! It's usually just two a year. I took on a special project to write the novelization of a motion picture, The Ultimate Gift, coming out in March.
2. How did you come up with the concept for the Occupational Hazards series?
It started with an idea to a series of books on undercover officers, but then I decided, why not explore other occupations, too? So I decided to create an entirely new series. It's been fun to pick the occupations.
3. Can you give a hint on the next book in this series? It's Mack, isn't it?
It is! And she goes into undercover work. I'm completing the rewrites right now. It's called Snitch. The third book, Skid, will be about transatlantic pilots and crew. I just came back from Atlanta where I spent several days researching for that novel.
4. I loved the humor in the book. I don't always see a lot of that in the novels I read. Is there a "method to the madness" on putting humor in a book? How do you test to make sure it is, in fact, funny?
Good question! I don't know if there is an actual method. Madness is a requirement. Comedy is very subjective, so I think that is the real challenge. To write comedy you have to be an observer of people. Comedy writers are often times the quietest people in the room because they're constantly studying people. To test if it's funny? Well, my standard is that if I'm not laughing, nobody else will either. My years in drama ministry really helped me cultivate my comedy writing. I would write comedy sketches and saw immediate reaction from the audience, so I learned what worked and what didn't.
5a. Have you found it hard to switch from comedy to suspense in your writing?
It's actually harder, for me anyway, to switch from suspense to comedy. Comedy takes way more of my brain power and concentration, and I have to be in the right frame of mind. But I do like to put a lot of humor in my suspense books too. It's just that it doesn't have to be on every page. However, suspense does require a lot more attention to plot.
5b. Also, some authors feel they need to stick with a "brand". What do you think about that?
I think it's a good idea. I think the idea is to find something that you're good at and do it. I happen to really love writing both suspense and comedy, and my diversity most likely comes from my studies in screenwriting, where genre really isn't as important as it is in literature. It's difficult to build a brand while writing different genres, and if I writer wants to do that, he or she should be prepared to do a lot of extra work. Or wait until you're a bestseller and then you can write what you want!
6. I specifically loved the part where Ray was with his Christian singles group discussing an outreach. It seemed you were able to tweak some ways the church does things without authenticity. Do you find humor is a better vehicle for bringing out these issues?
Sure! We are all better able to hear something if it's fed to us with humor. If we can laugh at ourselves, that is when we are most likely to see, and accept, our flaws. I think humor is a powerful device, which is why I use it so much. It can bring out the truth in a much less painful way.
7. A lot of people who read the blog tour are aspiring writers. Any tips for them (besides buying all your books to study the wondrous prose)?
Ha! Well, my advice is to write as much as you can, and save up money for a big writers conference. Writers conferences are incredibly valuable. I encourage writers to do one or two. But don't get caught up in feeling like you have to do them all the time. Most of your free time needs to be spent cultivating your craft, which means setting down all the books you're reading on the craft and actually start writing. Finish what you start. Write one entire book before starting something else.
8. One last question: pants or plotting? (For those that don't understand writer lingo, "pants" is someone writing "by the seat of their pants", just winging it. Plotters carefully outline everything.)
Pants. Most definitely.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Yeah, the title is meant to get your attention! I'm continuing the blog tour on Scoop today, because I enjoyed the book so much. I want it to get its full due. If you are looking for a synopsis, yesterday's post on it has the plot line for you. Today, I not only want to review it, but dissect it a little to look at some good writing.
This book delighted me in several ways. The blurb on the cover from Kristin Billerbeck mentioned the book making her "laugh out loud". I can testify to the fact that this book is FUNNY. As a medical professional, watching Hugo Talley's inner debate whether his Blue Pill was the right one for him, or if the Purple Pill would be better, was hilarious. It is a perfect example of how Rene can capture the absurdity of a situation, whether it be the preoccupation with physical perfection, how Christians have a hard time figuring out how to be "real", or plain ol' romance. When Ray the reporter is wondering how to turn an offer of prayer into a pickup line, the book is priceless.
The main character is Hayden Hazard, but after the first chapter, you wouldn't know it by the point of view (POV) in the book. Except the first and last chapter, the book is written through another character's POV. We only see Hayden when they encounter her, and we only get her external actions and speech. I thought it was very well handled how she portrayed Hayden, and had her drive the story, without having her the POV character. Many books take a break from the main POV for a chapter or so hear and there, which can serve to give a different view of the protagonist. But I've never seen this technique. Hayden moves through the Channel 7 News universe appearing as a secondary character, but always manages to turn the events as needed. We see Hayden's true humility, servanthood, and conviction, without thinking she's a fanatic (despite other characters' thoughts to the contrary). I think a high compliment is this: Hayden is someone I'd love to meet in real life. How many books can we say that about a character?
The writing is also very tight throughout the book. I didn't notice unnecessary scenes or dialogue. It seemed that everything added up in the end. The plot isn't the stand-out aspect of the book in my opinion. It is an entertaining one, and keeps the reader moving toward the climax in anticipation. However, I enjoyed the journey with the characters so much, I didn't really worry about what was happening in the plot. Don't get me wrong - this isn't a bad thing! It speaks of the great characterization in the book.
These are the major reasons why I enjoyed the book so much. Like I said yesterday, Scoop is the best book I've read so far this year. I eagerly anticipate the next book in the Occupational Hazards series. My next post for the Scoop tour will be an interview with Rene Gutteridge, so check back!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Just saw on the Calling All Nations website that there's a live CD of the event that is now available here.
From the site:
Calling All Nations on July 15th 2006, was a truly historic gathering. The youth of the world and the young at heart were called to come and worship in the great and strategic city of Berlin. 25,000 people from more than 42 nations came.
Also, an amazing global team of worship leaders and musicians came together to serve the event. This was a unique day and the album is one you won't want to miss.
Worship leaders include: Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Brian Doerksen, Delirious?, Andrea & Albert Frey, Reuben Morgan, Noel Richards, Dave Bilbrough, yfriday, Broken Walls, Psalm Drummers, onehundredhours, Lothar Kosse & David Ruis. 20 outstanding tracks on this album.
I'm still waiting for the DVD, but I will be getting this as well. It was an awesome event, and would be a great addition to any worship collection. Hey, I might even being in the choir for one of Brian Doerksen's songs! Whooo!
In looking back, I've been part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance since June. I've read a number of great books so far, and I've read extra novels seeing as I still have extra time on my hands.
This week, the blog tour is highlighting the book I consider the best one I've read so far this year.
Scoop is written by Rene Gutteridge. She's written numerous other books, including suspense and the "Boo" series. I was given a choice of a few books to read, and Scoop seemed quite intriguing just from its back cover blurb and the very favorable review from Publisher's Weekly listed on her Amazon link.
I was NOT disappointed.
Scoop is the first of a new series: The Occupational Hazards. This family of seven kids was homeschooled by their parents while participating in the family clown company. Until the tragic hot-tubbing accident that claimed the parents. Now the Hazards are out of the clown business, trying to find their own way in the world with God's help.
Channel 7 News is also trying to find its way. From a pill-popping executive producer to the conscience-stricken reporter to the sagging (literally) long-time female anchor, Channel 7 languishes at the bottom of the news ratings. Sweeps week is approaching, and producer Hugo Talley is trying to keep the whole thing from falling apart.
He finds this isn't easy to do with a sneak attack on a reporter, a Botox accident, and a disappearing colleague. He's not even sure how to deal with his temp administrative assistant, a pleasant and lovely young lady who has a habit of being totally honest and of praying at really crazy times. Can Hayden Hazard help bring a little peace to the chaos that is Channel 7?
I'm going to save my review for tomorrow. Be sure to check back for my detailed look on why Scoop is my Favorite Book of 2006!
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
November 13-15 is the monthly Christian Sci-fi and fantasy blog tour. This month the highlight is R. K. Mortenson's latest book, Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum.
I've had the pleasure to get to "know" Randy through the Faith in Fiction discussion boards. It's not like we've had a lot of chat time on-line, but reading someone's "behind the scenes" posts I think gives a little insight into them. His Landon Snow series is on its third book now.
Unfortunately, I don't have a lot to share about it at them moment. I just received my copy of the book yesterday, so I can't really tell you about it.
However, I can point out that it is also on the docket for the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance in a few weeks (the OTHER blog tour group I belong to), so I will have more for you at that time.
Also, you have my fellow tour-mates to give more information this week. I'd like to point out specifically: Mirtika Schultz , Sherrie Hibbs, and Rebecca LuElla Miller, all who have specific discussions of the Island of Arcanum and can enlighten you further. I plan on checking out others in the links below, and I encourage y'all to do the same!
Todd Michael Greene
Karen and at Karen¹s myspace
Lost Genre Guild
Daniel I. Weaver
Monday, November 13, 2006
I went to see my brother this weekend to celebrate his birthday (oh, I'm sorry, his 20th anniversary of his 25th birthday). We decided to catch a movie, and despite having Will Ferrell in it, we chose Stranger Than Fiction.
I first became aware of this movie through Dave Long at Faith*in *Fiction. He linked to the trailer, and I began to anticipate this movie. I don't normally make opening weekends of movies unless it has the words "Star" and "Wars" in the title or is made by Pixar. I was glad that it worked out to go.
It's an all-star cast with the aforementioned Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Ferrell is Harold Crick, an IRS agent who counts each of his strokes while brushing his teeth, and lives an entirely predictable and boring life.
Until he hears the voice.
The voice is narrating what he's just done. The number of brushstrokes. Getting off the bus. Harold gets annoyed and yells at the sky to shut-up. But he doesn't get too concerned until the voice announces: "Little did he know," and mentions his imminent death.
This leaves Harold in a bit of a dilemma, and he ends up turning to literary professor Hoffman to help figure out the mystery. All the while, Emma Thomspon's author struggling with writer's block tries to find the best way to kill off Crick, with Queen Latifah as her assistant.
It was a very enjoyable movie, especially if you are of the writing persuasion. There were several laugh-out-loud moments, which I didn't really anticipate. I don't know that the romance sub-plot is very believable or plausible, but considering the whole movie's premise, that isn't a strong negative. Latifah was wasted in her role. Overall, I think it is well worth checking out. All you writers ought to appreciate it (although I hesitate to endorse it too much, as we are a notoriously picky crowd :D).
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Imagine that you are an anonymous blogger, one who uses a silly name instead of your own, then imagine blogging about your work. Now imagine blogging about your cubicle mate of the opposite sex and calling him by an anonymous name.
I know some who have done just that.
But now imagine that your cubicle mate has discovered your blog and begins to read it out loud to you. EVERY MORNING.
The Cubicle Next Door is set in a civilian's view of working on a military post. That in itself is funny enough...then add that the main character is a tree hugging, anti-SUV lover, with a thing for Bollywood movies. (Her favorite it Bride & Prejudice.) Suddenly this civilian hippie is thrown into a cubicle next to an Air Force Pilot/Teacher who drives...yep...an SUV. Can't you feel the love?
Also, The Cubicle Next Door has some wonderful moments of self discovery.
A delightful read...here is an excerpt for you:
The Cubicle Next Doorby Siri L. Mitchell Released Aug 06
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
“So what do you think, Jackie?”
What do I think? Funny Joe should ask me that. He’s just finished reading my blog. He’s just quoted me to myself. Or is it myself to me? Do I sound surreal, as if I’m living in parallel universes?
The blog—my blog—is all about Joe. And other topics that make me want to scream. But the clever thing is, I’m anonymous. When I’m blogging.
I’m Jackie, Joe’s cubicle-mate when I’m not.
And that’s the problem.
Joe is asking Jackie (me) what I think about the Mystery Blogger (also me). And since I don’t want Joe to know the blog is all about me and what I think of him, I can’t tell him what I think about me.
My brain is starting to short circuit.
So if I can’t tell him what I think about me, I certainly can’t tell him what I think about him, so I’m going to have to pretend not to be me. Not me myself and not me The Cubicle Next Door Blogger—TCND to my fans.
I have fans!
If I were clever I’d say something like, “Look!” and point behind him and then duck out of the room when he turned around to look.
But there’s so much computer equipment stacked around my desk and so many cables snaking around the floor that I’d break my neck if I tried to run away. So that option is out.
I could try pretending I didn’t hear him. “What?”
“SUVs. So what do you think about them?”
But then we’d basically end up back where we started.
So how did I get myself into this mess?
It was all Joe’s fault.
I thought of this for my writing friends, although anyone can enjoy this show. I think my new favorite show is "Secrets of the Dead" on PBS. I've just watched the last 2 weeks, but it has been quite fascinating to see the things they go back over, trying to use evidence from the past to unravel a mystery.
This week dealt with a famous dogfight over Guadacanal during WWII. They pieced together part of a mystery: Why the American pilot didn't shoot down a Japanese ace when he had the chance.
I mention it to writers because it is the type of thing that can really spark your imagination. I won't talk about another episode I saw, because the ideas are mine, ALL MINE! MU-hahahhahaha...
Um, sorry about that. Anyway, check it out if you can get it.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
I must confess that I've had problems with self-motivation and self discipline lately. You'd think, seeing as I'm still on that great job hunt, that I'd have all the time for getting things done, doing all the writing and blogging I want to do.
Unfortunately, I've dealt with some problems with being a little depressed at times over the last few weeks. I'm sitting at the computer, staring at the screen not really having interest in doing much of anything. I think this is pretty natural, dealing with a monotony of not having much to do.
Anyway, I don't know if anyone particularly cares, but I'm working on some self-improvement things that should translate to keeping up with blogging regularly. I'm notorious for needing a deadline to get stuff done. I just wanted to say that I'm still here, just trying to get my head together. Thanks for hanging with me on the journey.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
5. What types of stories is DKA looking for? I mean, what would have the best chance of getting published?
Something with a fresh twist and very good prose. We always look for those. We like stories of hope that offer an emotional and spiritual and not just cerebral experience. We want characters who aren't bits of cardboard pushed around to serve a doctrine, political stance, or scientific concept. Make us care about the characters.
I refer your readers to the contest-winning story by Chris Mikesell, "The Unfortunate Purgatory of Arthur MacArthur" for a look at solid, good prose with atmosphere and an interesting character. Plus, it has a hopeful, happy ending (of sorts). Is this a slipstream story? You decide.
I also refer you again to "Damage" by Jane LeBak, an angel story. (Angels, really, as there are more than one.) The twist here: the guardian angel is actually a fallen angel, and one who has critically damaged the fetus to which he is then tethered. Consequences and redemption ensue. And surprises.
We like humor, too. We've published some pieces with a chuckling spirit.
Ultimately, we don't want to be bored and we don't want crappy writing or flat characters. Beyond that, be creative.
6. What are DKA's plans in the future?
To stay afloat. No, really. We depend on volunteer workers and donations. (A good part of the budget comes from the volunteer staff.) If you want to support the CSF community, consider donating to DKA. It's easy. We take Paypal. (Jason's note: see the Paypal link on the left sidebar of DKA)
Besides the matter of survival, we hope to be able to offer higher pay rates. That depends on how much support we get.
Next year, we will host our second fiction contest. Unlike this year's, we may have to charge an entry fee, a minimal one. We had hoped to offer it as a free contest, but funds are low and the reality is that for a good prize(es) to be given, a five or ten dollar entry fee may be required.
We're no different than any magazine with an ethical heart and a fannish soul: We aspire to offer higher quality stories and poems of wonder and magic and space. We pray and we work to improve the magazine. But the long-term depends a lot on what those of you out there do. If you support us and submit good work, we'll continue.
7. I help moderate a site for Star Wars related fanfiction ( www.kotorfanmedia.com). We get some pretty crazy submissions sometimes. What is the most interesting (read: weird, unpublishable) story that you've come across in reading submissions?
We recently read a very strange and incomprehensible story with oodles of math and talk of dimensions. We declined it. Later on, we accepted another rather odd story by the same writer. I fought for that one. I like odd stories, as long as I see evidence of good craft and some character I can relate to or sympathize with or root for or be enthralled by. Good sci-fi concepts will nab me, too, but the execution is often lacking with science fiction, it seems.
Usually, our unpublishable stories and poems aren't that way due to weirdness. They are unpublishable due to poor execution: awkward prose, jarring metaphors, stilted dialogue, cliche plotlines, etc.
8. Do you have a favorite story you'd like to highlight here?
I really loved the ones I mentioned and recommended in a previous question. Those would be my top two.
Others your readers may enjoy: "Sorrow's Shroud" by Rachel Marks (Issue 30) got very good reader feedback and had a redemptive, hopeful ending. The Dragon Keepers, or How the Dragon Spits Fire by Candy Taylor Tutt in issue 31 has a Rudyard Kipling "voice" and is both amusing and rather charming. As a book-lover, I had a soft spot for Tyler McHenry, Middle-Aged Lover of Books by Wade Ogletree.
I wouldn't mind highlighting my poem about Lot's wife, "MONUMENT "in issue 34. A shameless plug, I know.
I like this quote from Johne Cook, former managing editor of DKA who wrote the vision statement:
To my way of thinking, dragons represent the mystical, the unknown world, dangerous and magical and huge beyond reckoning. Knights represent the horizontal, selfless but moral humans fighting the good fight with feeble flesh and faith. Angels represent the vertical, messengers of an almighty God, purveyors of Providence, proof of the unprovable, denizens of a supernatural spiritual reality.I was watching the end of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers yesterday where Sam and Frodo were talking about the story that will be told of them someday. I felt an encouragement from the Lord, telling me "there are still stories of good and evil waiting to be told." I felt it was an encouragement for me to continue with my writing, but I think it applies to DKA as well. Our species needs hope, and it has been a tradition as far back as cave paintings: Telling of the exploits of our heroes to encourage us all. Sci-fi and fantasy seem to do this particularly well. I encourage everyone who reads this to check out DKA and support them if you feel so moved. We need a place for these "stories of good and evil" to reside.
And continue the journey with the other members of the blog tour below.
Kameron M. Franklin
Todd Michael Greene
Karen and at Karen¹s myspace
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Lost Genre Guild