Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Over two thousand years ago, the God of the universe, He who is sovereign over all and Lord of the armies, stepped down from his exalted position, deliberately and voluntarily depriving himself of all the privileges due Him, to take on the form of a man. And not just a man full grown, but a helpless babe, unable to speak, unable to feed himself, unable even to roll over. The one who in his deity held everything together, voluntarily took on the form of a baby, utterly, totally dependent on human parents who were poor, homeless at the time, and fallible -- ordinary people with sin natures and clouded vision. He humbled himself in a way we cannot even comprehend, all so that he could Himself pay the penalty Justice demanded for our sins. It is an incredible, incomprehensible act, exceeded only by what he did next, some thirty three years later on the cross outside of Jerusalem.

At this busy time of year, let us all take time to reflect on what was done on our behalf and be grateful. Wise men sought Him even then. They still do...

May you have a blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year.

See you all in 2007!

Monday, December 18, 2006

a lab tour, a conversation & links

Well, I thought I would not work on my next book for at least two months. But I guess the Lord had other ideas because over the weekend, the opportunity presented itself for me to tour a genetics lab at the UA (above). A friend of my son's works there, and was available to show me around, so this morning at 9am I went over. It was the perfect time what with school being out and the campus relatively empty. No parking problems, no getting in the way of people trying to get to class or do their work. I learned a lot. Learned even more of what I don't know... and am very pleased with the experience. I love the difference between real labs and the ones on TV. Real labs look more like my office, for one!

And then today, as part of an interview I'm completing for Where The Map Ends, I had to come up with a little blurb that tells about this next book, working title Black Box. (They've already told me that title won't do, since some airplane book out a couple of years ago had that title. I thought Black Box was a clever title for a number of reasons, but in light of this -- ie, that most people think of airplanes when they hear "black box"-- I suspect it's a bit too clever.)

On another note, over the weekend, I also had a conversation with another friend of my son's who works at Barnes and Noble. What she told me about her process of keeping shelves stocked was a little different than that article I linked to the other day. For one, if she notes that books in her department are selling, she will ignore what the computer says and increase the amount of books she orders. She also hand sells books she likes. And, something that really surprised me, she told me that the store very rarely initiates a return of books. Returns are almost always initiated by the publisher. I suppose so they can have more shelf space for their new releases...

And finally... the epilog is now in place at the end of Return of the Guardian-King. My editor loved it and thought it was just what the book needed. I'll reserve final judgment until I go over the galleys in a few weeks...

PS. Check out Becky Miller's blogpost An Open Letter to Christian Fantasy Readers for some thoughts about why Christian fantasy isn't selling as we'd like and what she thinks people can do about it. Also, she's got an interview with Nick Harrison up on Speculative Faith concerning the new fantasy trilogy Harvest House will be putting out next year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Two Economies

A concept I like to ponder frequently, especially in times after I've read something like that link I posted yesterday about How the Business Operates, is the fact there are in fact, two economies (which, out of the blue, just "happened" to be the subject of last night's Bible class.) There is the worldly economy, which says, Work! Write the absolute best book possible! Be better than all the others! Strive for success! Save! keep!

And then there is the heavenly economy which says, Seek first the Kingdom of God, submit to your pastor in learning God's word, live in what you've learned, and all these things will be added to you. It says, don't strive for success, strive to know God. It says, don't keep and hoard, give it away, and "it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap..." (And how cool that there are 5 different ways of measuring what is given -- five being the number of grace).

As believers we are not of this world. We have a heavenly citizenship. And if I am not a citizen of this world, then any attempt to function in the world's system, ie, according to the world's system will never lead to any real success or happiness in it.

Proverbs 4 commands us to "Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her (wisdom) and she will guard you. Love her and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding. Prize her and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace; she will present you with a crown of beauty."

"I (wisdom) love those who love me," says Proverbs 8:17. "And those who diligently seek me will find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness."

God's system is grace. We follow Him, we learn of Him, we live in what we've learned, allow Him to change our thinking into His and then we have capacity to receive.

The world's system is works and striving all the way, and includes things like that horrible computerized buying procedure outlined in Holly Lisle's article. Where you get discouraged before you even start. But God has overcome the world. He is not bound by it and I, of all people, know that.

When I first went to Mt. Hermon with Arena, no one wanted fantasy. Most of you know that. There were no fantasies being published except Tolkien or Lewis. I was told that fantasy was a death word. The dreaded seven letter word. (Hmm. And seven is the number of perfection, if I'm not mistaken.) If you weren't Tolkien or Lewis your books wouldn't sell. No one would touch you with a ten foot pole. When Steve Laube took my manuscript, he held it for nearly two years before he thought he had even a prayer of getting the buying committee at Bethany House to accept it. And that after fighting and wrangling his way to seeing Kathy Tyers' Firebird books and then Ingermanson/Olson's Oxygen bought. Everywhere the word was gloom and doom.

Even after BHP bought Arena another year+ passed, during which time the word came that Kathy's Crown of Fire had already gone out of print. Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. I remember Steve saying, "They're great books! We just can't get people to read them." (come to think of it, he and others have said the same thing about mine.) The future was dismal. And what in the world was I going to do to change anything? I am not a marketer. In fact, even then, my first efforts at going into the bookstores to meet the buyers and salespeople were complete fiascos.

And then the Lord just blew the doors off everything. Somehow Arena got reviewed favorably at Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal. Those two things, which I had absolutely nothing to do with, opened all the doors. It was unbelievable. PW does not review first novels of unknown authors especially not in the dreaded genre of Christian SF/Allegory. But it happened and it moved Bethany House to contract the four books of the Guardian King series-- in the straight down the road, no way to avoid calling it fantasy genre. Within two weeks I went from no discernible possibilities of every really having Arena do well enough to convince someone to buy LoGK to awestruck. That's how fast it happened. How out of the blue. Completely unexpected and totally not my doing.

And lest you say, "Well you just wrote a good book in Arena," my response is... I don't think that the books I've written since Arena are any less than it is. I actually like them better, though some readers, I'm sure, disagree. The point is, I don't think that Legends of the Guardian King is this huge step down from Arena. But it didn't get reviewed by either of those publications. Furthermore, I've seen books reviewed that I thought were very poorly done and others ignored that I thought very well done. We can go on down to the minutiae of cause and effect in the attempt to root out why certain books are reviewed and others not, but the truth is, mostly we'll never know why. The truth is, "What do you have that you have not received?" The truth is, as Deuteronomy 6 says, He gives us "great and splendid cities which we did not build, and houses full of good things which we did not fill and hewn cisterns which we did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which we did not plant..."

So yes, things may look dark and grim, now. But dark and grim is when the Light's advent always shines the brightest.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How Chain Stores kill Midlist Writers' Careers

As part of the CSFF blog tour held this week, talk came out about the rumor that Kathryn Mackel's Birthrighter's Project was originally intended as a trilogy, but was cut back to a two book series on account of sales not being what the publisher hoped for. Shannon McNear has posted a piece on the age old problem of Christian publishers' claims that SF/F doesn't sell in their market and so they don't publish SF/F or don't publicize the few books they do publish with the result that readers never know they're out there.

I can relate to all of this. As I believe I mentioned in a previous post, Legends of the Guardian-King was originally contracted with a descending advance rate so that the publishers wouldn't lose any more money than they had to if the series tanked and they had to cut it off before the end. To their credit, though the books have not sold as well as they had hoped, they have stuck with it, and for that I am deeply grateful and even a little awestruck after having read this account (and the one by Holly Lisle cited below). Writing and book publishing is a brutal business, made moreso by changes in bookselling methods over the last few decades.

As an illustration of just how brutal, Tina Kulesa, one of the tour partipants put up a link to a fascinating article by SF writer Holly Lisle on the "midlist writer's career death spiral" called Selling to the Net . In it she describes how books are ordered and sold by the chain bookstores, and what that does to a writer's career. This is not new information -- Donald Maas also outlined it in his book, The Career Novelist -- but it's sobering to be reminded of it, and also in some ways heartening because, in my case anyway, it reminds me of how God has kept things alive when by other considerations they might not have been.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More of Mackel's Birthrighter's Project

Wednesday is the last day of the CSFF blog tour highlighting Kathryn Mackel and her newest release in the Birthrighter's Project, Trackers. Yesterday I mentioned that Beth Goddard was doing an interview and today I read part one of it (part two should be up Wednesday -- which may or may not be today, depending on when you read this!). I'm glad I read it.

I'll be honest -- when I read the setup about the new Ark built under the polar ice cap, my picky, whiny, critical mode kicked in. I'm trying to keep that one in its cage, or at least ignore it for the most part, especially when I have almost no facts. And this is a good case of the need for it to stay in the cage. My thoughts on the new Ark ran along the lines of, (whiny voice) "Well why would God need to do that? He already did it once, and people deciding to build an ark to preserve the species... yada yada blah blah... doesn't really work for me..." But then I read the chapter and decided maybe that didn't matter. See, if the writing, the pacing, the world, the action and the characters are appealing enough, I can set my theological quibbles aside and just enjoy the story, and this definitely seemed to be one where I could do that (not that you can always tell if your theological quibbles are even valid from ad copy -- of all people I should know that!)

Anyway, then I read the interview and Kathy said that her intent wasn't to create a new ark as such but to present a "metaphor for the church or the Christian home. The world of the strongholds is what we face every time we step outside our sanctuaries. Just as the Birthrighters collect specimens to honor God’s creation, we share the Gospel to honor Christ’s sacrifice. In the books, the kingdom of Traxx is sheltered by a wall of thorns. How many hardened hearts are there behind spiritual walls of thorns that the Spirit is calling us to dare to approach?" How cool is that? I'm hooked. In fact, I ordered both books today and you can too. In fact if you go to the Trackers page on Amazon you can order them together for less.

Or you could go on over to Shannon McNear's blog or Beth Goddard's both of whom are offering the chance to win copies of the two book set of the Birthrighter's Project. Mirtika Shulz is giving away a copy of Trackers and also pointed me to a fun test on the Birthrighter's site that you can take to determine what type of hero you are. I took the test, but as with all these kinds of tests they never give me the right options. What kind of canine would I be? A hound! Not one of the choices. What would I do if I had a craving for chili? I don't like chili. Yuck. But I know lots of ways to make it... Sometimes the answer is "all of the above." More often it's "none of the above..." in any case, it came out that I'm a scout:

"Your independence and perseverance fit you to serve as in this role. Your job is to wander this fallen world as the eyes and ears of the Birthrighter camps. Your reports allow trackers to ride, hike, climb, or even swim the ends of the earth in search of original (non-mutated) species for the Ark. You also warn of troop movements that threaten camps or missions, going undercover as needed to spy on strongholds.

"Your mild appearance and shoddy clothes mask the quick strength and iron-clad determination that allow you to move through peril almost at will. Your strong spirit allows you to endure the solitude and lack of physical comforts that your duty requires. While trackers, teachers, and outriders live in Birthrighter camps, you cannot—your duty requires that your identity be kept secret and that you always be on the move.

"The stronghold princes don’t even guess at your existence. But should you fall into their hands, you would be far more valuable than an outrider or tracker because you know the location of all the camps and the pick-up sites from the Ark. Your inner strength keeps you on course and your faith sustains you, even though your duty is harsh and lonely."

Which isn't as off as I'd expected...

Scroll on down to yesterday's post to check out the other tour participants' blogs today. The way this works is we're supposed to post on the subject at least once during the three days, and preferably on all three. Many only get around to one entry, though, so if you tried yesterday and found nothing, give it another shot. Of course, some put up multiple posts, as mentioned above, and you'll want to see the continuations.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Kathryn Mackel & Trackers

It's time for the December Christian SFF blog tour, this time highlighting Kathryn Mackel's most recent release, Trackers, part of her Birthrighter's Trilogy. Since I don't seem to be able to read anything anymore (I just found out I'll be getting the galleys for Return of the Guardian King in a little over a month -- if the Lord is gracious and holds them off that long!) I haven't read Trackers or the first book in the series, Outriders, but I plan to. You can read the first chapter of Outriders here. In fact, Kathy has set up an entire website devoted to the Birthrighter's Project and I encourage you to check it out for more info.

The chapter that I read was well done and undeniably intriguing. An ark below the surface of the ice in the arctic, an earth corrupted almost to extintion by genetic manipulation gone wild, whales, sled dogs, blacksmiths, swords... many things to get my attention. I recommend you read that chapter!

If you want to read some reviews, too, check out the blogs of Sharon Hinck, Rebecca LuElla Miller, and Shannon McNear. Shannon is having a contest for those who leave comments on her blog Monday through Wednesday for an autographed two book set of Outriders and Trackers. Beth Goddard is doing an interview Tuesday.

And check the other tour participants this month -- part of a growing list! -- for more reviews, comments, contests, etc:

Jim Black; Jackie Castle; Valerie Comer; Frank Creed; Gene Curtis; Chris Deanne; Janey DeMeo; April Erwin; Beth Goddard; Todd Michael Greene; Karen Hancock; Elliot Hanowski; Katie Hart; Sherrie Hibbs; Sharon Hinck; Joleen Howell; Jason Joyner; Karen and at Karen¹s myspace; Oliver King; Tina Kulesa; Lost Genre Guild; Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium; Terri Main; Rachel Marks; Shannon McNear; Rebecca LuElla Miller; Caleb Newell; Eve Nielsen; John Otte; Cheryl Russel; Hannah Sandvig; Mirtika Schultz ; James Somers; Stuart Stockton; Steve Trower; Speculative Faith; Chris Walley; Daniel I. Weaver


Wednesday, December 06, 2006



Hooray! Hooray! Today I turned in the final draft of my fifth book, Return of the Guardian-King! Last night I felt only cautious relief. Today, I'm bouncing off the walls. Set free! Whee!

Finally I can get caught up on my email, interviews, my very late newsletter, blog posts, reading, Smallville (Of which I've not seen a single episode this season), doctors appointments, bank statements... Oh, and Christmas, too.

Now, I'm reeling with amazement that this book is done. When I signed the contract for Legends of the Guardian-King, they gave me a contract that has descending advances. That means when you sign the contract you get, all at once, half the advance for the first book, 40% 0f the advance for the second, 30% for the third and a whopping 10% for the fourth. That's so if publisher decides to cancel the series somewhere along the way, they won't have lost too much money in the advance. I was already uncomfortable enough with taking any money at all for books I hadn't written yet, that I was happy to accept that. But it does show the concern they had for the books not doing very well. So I am jazzed and thankful that the Lord has seen fit to see it through. All the way to the end.

I think I'll be even more amazed to actually hold the book in my hands. But first I have to finish fielding the detail questions my editor is still sending me, then I'll have to do the galleys... so right now I think I'll just savor this Impossible thing that's turned out to be Reality: I've finished! It's a book!


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Writing to a Deadline

Well I want to thank those who commented on my last post. I appreciated your kind and encouraging words .

I do want to clarify, though, what I meant by acknowledging that I am hack. I meant that in some people's eyes I will be regarded that way. That compared to some writers, what I do will be found, in some people's eyes, to be lacking. (Maybe even in my eyes!) When I worry about that, and think about how what I'm doing will be criticized, it's paralyzing. When I let go of it, acknowledge that, like all people, really, I write stuff that's flawed, it's freeing. Yes, there will always be those who will be annoyed by those flaws and feel compelled to point them out, but recognizing that, and realizing it doesn't matter, takes away its power to sting me. Some day I'm going to post about the thoughts I've been having on this entire issue -- that the world is way too caught up in comparisons and rankings and nebulous "official" standards when God could care less about stuff like that.

But that's for another time. For now, I'm posting over at Speculative Faith tomorrow (Wednesday) on Writing to a Deadline. I can't imagine why this should have been the only topic I could manage to muster any words to write about today. Must have something to do with what is going on in my life. And if it's not specifically on Speculative Christian fiction, well, it's is on what it's like to write Speculative Christian fiction. Though in this case, I think deadlines get to writers of all types of fiction.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Marathons & Hackwork

Another photo from the Rose Garden on Thanksgiving Day.

Well, I've been unexpectedly quiet, because I'm slogging along through the last couple of miles of this writing marathon I inadvertantly got involved in. I remember when my husband ran Boston last spring, my son and I went down to cheer him on at the end and he neither saw us nor heard us... too focused on just getting to the end.

I sort of feel like that right now. Just getting to the end. Bible class has been on thought testing and mental attitude and how there will be people, things, fiery darts sent in to screw it up. I've experienced it. For one thing, we've had four social engagements in the last week. Dinner parties and the like. We never go to dinner parties, and granted it's the holiday season, but it's not even December yet! Anyway, I thought it was funny.

I also stupidly googled my name late Wednesday night, just to see what would come up (I never do that; I know better than to do that), promising myself I would read no reviews... and ended up doing it anyway. Whoa! Did I get a boatload of fiery darts from that mistake. The reviewer didn't seem to think I'd done much of anything right in my books, and, in fact, spent the bulk of the words in the piece discussing all the things I'd done wrong, or at least not according to the reviewer's standards. Fortunately, immediately thereafter I did Bible class, which brought up the aforementioned fiery darts sent to destroy your mental attitude, and the part that zinged me was,
"'Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but only that which ministers grace to the hearer.' When's the last time you listened to some corrupt communication out of someone's mouth that didn't minister grace to you? It ministered judging to you. It ministered negativity to you. It ministered insecurity to you. Why? Because you listened to the garbage. You did it to yourself. You disobeyed God's commands to be careful what you listen to and how you listen and you said yes to the kingdom of darkness: 'Oh, do you have some more hits for me so as to corrupt my mental attitude?'"

Exactly what happened. All those things -- judging, negativity, insecurity -- were ministered to me. Even after that class, the next day when I had to keep on slogging through the book, the words from the review kept plaguing me until finally I just stopped, looked at it all and said, "Okay, yes, I'm a hack. I can't write. My secondary characters are poorly developed, my worldbuilding stinks, my dialog is mediocre, my characters don't seem real, I preach at unbelievers, and really, I'm just a hack. Fine. God uses the foolish to shame the wise, and even being a hack, even not having everything be wonderfully wrought and exquisitely rendered and blah, blah, He can still use what I do. He called me to do it, and gave me whatever hackish sort of gift I have, and so... who cares if that's what I am? I am what I am by the grace of God. Besides, I like what I do and there are others who like it, too. So, what's the big deal then? I think I'm actually quite comfortable with being a hack because then you have nothing to live up to!

Anyway, after that, well, I was still plagued with the negative voices, but I just kept on writing. Doesn't matter, you negative, accusing voices. You can accuse all day long. I know I'm not a terribly good writer, so it doesn't matter. God will use it anyway!

As of tonight I've sent in to my editor the weekend's worth of work: chapters 34, 36 and 37 (having already sent 35 last week). All that remains to go through are 38 and 39, then 40 to write. Maybe I'll get that done tomorrow. But even if not, I think the finish line is near.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

White Ninja

My son is a fan of the White Ninja online comic strip (new comics released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday), which is a very bizarre comic, very off the wall, sometimes funny, sometimes inscrutable, sometimes a little gross... (so if you look around from where the links below send you, just be aware.) He actually met the creator of the comic at Comic Con in San Diego this year and had him do an amusing illustration/autograph in his sketch book.

Anyway, the site put on its second annual White Ninja Halloween contest for newsletter subscribers last month -- where fans were to dress up as their favorite White Ninja character, take a picture of themselves and send it in. My son and his friend not only dressed up as White Ninja and his nemesis, Black Ninja, they made a little story in a comic panel and sent it in. They won first prize, which was $100 worth of merchandise from the White Ninja store. I think it's pretty funny and if you'd like to have a look, you can find it at White Ninja Halloween Contest. (Note, to have some context for the fire power reference, check out the comic White Ninja Has Fire Power.)


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Let His Plan Unfold

Last week we had some lessons on Thought Testing: the thought conflicts that will inevitably arise in our souls brought on by the fact that we have an old sin nature and we live in the devil's world where we are constantly being bombarded with lies about what life is all about.

Today, I had the lab part of that class. Remember I said I wanted to have ch31/32 done over the weekend? Didn't happen. Then I thought it would be nice if I could have them done yesterday. Nope. They are developing, just very slowly. Today, then, I thought. But though I continued to progress today, they still aren't done.

Sometime around midmorning, when the approaching new deadline and my lack of progress got to me yet again, I went and dug out something I'd written about this very thing some time before...

Don’t try to plan too much, take control…let God’s plan and guidance unfold moment by moment with the book as you do with your day. There's always time to do the will of God.

I keep wanting to see it all now, but almost nothing does He do that way. He releases information slowly, whether it is about Himself, or about me, or, I see, about this book. It is a gradual, day by day thing that I cannot control, despite my repeated attempts to do so. When I think about the future, I only get frantic. I know this. I know I have to do it one day at a time and NOT think about the future. I have to come to work and see what He gives me and be satisfied with that. I have to keep living in the spiritual life really, truly trust that He WILL see it through. It will happen. But not by me doing... well, anything different than I'm doing. I don't think the fault lies with me. Except in my muleheadedness in continuing to demand my timing on all this. When I let go of that, everything's fine.

The thing is, the story is already there. God knows exactly what it’s going to be. He could dump it all into my mind in an instant, but He has not. Nor will He. Because it’s a privilege for me to struggle with it—to continue to have opportunity to be patient, to apply truth, especially as the time grows ever shorter. To remember that this is not “my” work. It does not have to be done according to “my” standards and in “my” timing. When I get upset and frustrated and desperate and guilty—that’s wrong motivation. That’s the old nature trying to take control and achieve. When this life is not at all about achievement.

Life is not at all about achievement. No. It's about mental attitude. It doesn't matter at all what you achieve as far as the world is concerned, if your mental attitude is wrong, if your thinking and motivation are wrong and you are operating in the wrong power (human, rather than the Spirit) then you've achieved wood, hay and straw. If your mental attitude is right, then even if what you're trying to do falls to nothing, you've got gold, silver, precious stones.

Photo by fortunecookie

Friday, November 24, 2006


Yesterday, Thanksgiving, while waiting for the turkey to cook, we took a walk in the park near our home and were delighted to find the rose garden in full bloom. I brought the camera! This is a panorama shot, but I also got some pics of gorgeous individual blooms. It was a beautiful mild, clear, Arizona fall day. One of many things God provided yesterday to be thankful for.

On or around Thanksgiving I like to reflect upon all the many ways God has blessed me: the air I breathe, the food I eat, the ability to walk and talk and see and hear, friends, family, His word, His Spirit, my place in Christ, my pastor... It's a list I have been reviewing often of late, though, so yesterday I thought I'd reflect instead upon specific things God has done in my life this last year that I'm thankful for.

In going through last year's journal to review, I was astonished by the theme that emerged. A year and a half ago He told me through Bible class that I was going to go down. That it's the only way to grow. That we have to be willing to accept the times of humbling and losing, to lose things, to not get the promotion we wanted, to lose the promotion we'd already gotten, and still know that He is in charge.

And so it's been. As I reviewed my entries I saw the losses I was having to deal with -- the year-long death of my dog, friends, the success of my books in the marketplace, to name the most difficult. There was also very hard, continuous lessons in how to deal with people, how not to surrender control of my life over to them, something I see now I have struggled with for years.

What's amazed me is that in rereading the journal I can see His hand working, and see it clearly. When I turned in the final draft of Shadow Over Kiriath and began to think about working on Return of the Guardian-King, is when I got that first message -- "It's going to be hard, you're going to go down, you have to have suffering and loss in order to learn. There is no other way to learn the things I have for you to learn. Even Jesus learned obedience through suffering."
Two months later, when I really began to work on RotGK in earnest, I took Bear to the vet for a puncture wound in his toe and learned about the kidney disease -- he was dying. There was no cure. It would only get worse. That was very hard to take.

Last May, when I received my last royalty statement, and Arena had only sold 24 copies for the period, I was very upset, for I saw that that it was ending. The next day, after much angst and bitter complaint to my friends, the lesson that night was on suffering for blessing and I got the message again. You have to go down. You have to learn to handle undeserved suffering. Without complaint. Without self-pity or bitterness or resentment. You have to learn to handle it with thanksgiving.

We look so many times at the characteristics the Bible says we should have, the way we should be. But love, joy and peace are part of the fruit of the Spirit, not part of the fruit of us. We can't really make ourselves have peace or joy or even real love. He does it. We can't change ourselves, He does it. Through the transforming of our thoughts and minds -- which happens through learning the word combined in many cases with suffering.

"My peace, I give to you," he says to us, "not as the world gives...." How does the world give peace? By providing peaceful circumstances. Having everything go right. We meet our goals. Our work is prospered. We have supportive friends and families. 0ur needs are met. We have a solid home, a good bank account, worldly security. Then there's peace. How does the Lord give peace? Not that way. He gives it through His word and through adverse circumstances, which not only is the only way to get it, it's the only way you know you have it when you finally do.

And even then, it's all too often a choice. We can't make ourselves have peace, but we can confess our anxiety or arrogance and concentrate on the truth. If we don't know the truth, we can learn it. We concentrate on what we know: that God is sovereign and his hand rules over all, that he has wonderful plans for us, plans to bless and not to hurt, that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, that we are already completely perfect in his sight and we aren't going to improve that perfection one iota no matter what we do, or don't do.
We can concentrate on the truth that, despite that perfection in position, we are still dust, which God knows and understands and has mercy upon; that we have an old nature which will always fight against the Spirit and the word and the new nature He put within us when we believed in Christ. Why get shocked and upset when we act like the corrupt, disgusting cockroach we are in our old nature? When it happens, God is still there. We name the sin, the Spirit regains control of our soul and brings to our remembrance the things we've learned, to change in that moment the way we have been thinking. The perspective shifts and we leave behind all those old lusts and goals and human viewpoint ideas that tormented us. And the peace is there.
It's awesome when that happens. But you can't know you have it without the trials. And it can't be developed within you apart from the trials.

For a long time I just wanted to learn the truth and make the application to avoid having difficult times. There's some validity to that approach, but this last year I've learned as never before the benefit of suffering. The need for it. And the fantastic way God has sown it into my life, along with all the truth that I need to handle it, and the encouragement He knows I also need when I fail. And fail, I do. Over and over.

In a recent lesson the pastor said that those who try hardest to make the proper applications of truth and live the Christian way of life are going to fail the most. The more you try, the more you'll fail. But that's okay. That's how it is. When you see that about yourself, there is no room for boasting. It's all God's doing. He's the strong one. I'm just dust. Graced out, made new, blessed abundantly, because of Him. Because of what He did and what His son did.

So that's what I'm especially thankful for this year: the things He has been teaching me about Himself, and about myself; the suffering He has sent to do it. The promise that it will only last for a season, but that if I endure, there is reward.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is Santa Real?

When my son was born my husband and I weren't terribly excited about the whole Santa Claus story, though I had very much enjoyed it as a child, growing up in an unbelieving home. Other relatives, however, were quite invested in Santa Claus, so I sat back and let them do their thing. I read Adam The Night Before Christmas, but beyond that I don't recall ever actually telling him there was a Santa.

When he was about five, we were driving in the car around the Christmas season, and he asked me if Santa was real. I asked him what he thought. He said he didn't think so. How could Santa deliver all those presents to everyone in all the world in a single night? (As a child, I recall being troubled by how he was going to slither under the door, since we had no fireplace and chimney.) I said that was very observant of him, and no, Santa wasn't real. That was the end of any active belief in Santa for my son, though "Santa" still continued to visit on Christmas eve for some years...

On that subject, and a related one -- ie, that children are unable to distinguish fantasy from reality, a claim which parents who object to fantasy stories evoke as justification for condemning them -- my friend Ed Willett has an interesting post on his blog today, What's Real and What's Pretend . It's about a study done at the University of Texas that challenges child expert Jean Piaget's 1930 statement that "children consistently confuse fantasy and reality, the mental and physical, dreams and reality, and appearance and reality. " In fact, according to this study, they're pretty darn good at figuring out what's real and what's not.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Peace Again

Well, yesterday (Sunday) I had food poisoning, the first time for that in 30 years! We went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant the night before and Sunday morning I was not feeling well at all. Had to stay home from church and didn't get a thing done writingwise all day. Didn't get much done on Saturday either, though not cause I was sick. Today though, I turned in revisions on chapters 24 and 25 and several other smaller parts, and started on the first scene in ch 30, since what I sent in with the "final" draft was no more than a place holder.

I hate doing this, and it's been bugging me. I know it's a pain for my editor and I feel like I've failed. I was supposed to have turned it in all at once, not piecemeal. But that was my plan not God's. He's teaching me to accept His timing in things, and to really trust Him beyond what I've had to do in the past. In the past I trusted Him to see the books were done by the deadline, and learned even then, (though to a lesser degree than now) that the deadline was really a human construction and He could work on both sides of the problem -- me and my editor. On one of my first books, it turned out she wasn't even going to get to work on it for a month after the assigned due date. And on this one, she keeps assuring me it's fine. It's no problem.

I guess it really isn't, beyond being a violation of my standards which say you're supposed to turn your book in complete at the agreed upon time. That's professional and reliable. Turning in a book piecemeal like this is flaky and unreliable, and I can really go into a guilt trip on it. But making myself feel guilty is a sin, so I won't. And yes, I failed. But... big deal. Everyone fails. God uses failure. His plan is not dependent on my making perfect execution all the time.

This November, when I was supposed to have turned in the book already, I agreed to try to read for endorsement a new fantasy (due Nov 30), have to decide how many copies of Arena to buy by Nov 30, agreed to attempt an online interview (due Nov 26), agreed to contribute three entries to two team blogs by the end of the month, had to arrange and prepare a birthday celebration, will have to arrange and prepare Thanksgiving, write my November newsletter (not happening) and change my blog over to Blogger beta. This in addition to finishing an online interview begun in October, catch up on email and bookmark mailing, start preparing for Christmas, plus all the other regular stuff in addition to finishing the book. Most of that isn't happening.

That long of a list starts to get me rattled and my brain flits from task to task building anxiety and guilt. Not at all where God wants me to be. It took me awhile but today I finally remembered:

There is always time to do the will of God.

And not all of those things are necessarily His will. So I put them all in His hands and will trust Him to see done the ones HE wants done, not the ones I think need to be done.

"Don't think of all you have to do, just do the next thing. And rest in Him."

So I did. Am. And I have my peace again.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Before the Moment Needed

The Lord always provides the solution even before the moment it is needed. And often afterwards, as well, just for confirmation.

After getting the letter yesterday about Arena's demise, last night's message was on suffering for blessing and as a part of spiritual growth. Perfect. Especially since after a disappointment like that the tendancy is to start trying to affix blame, either on others or on self. But the fact is, God is on his throne, he numbers the hairs on my head and His sovereignty rules over all. Nothing happens in my life that He does not approve, and if I believe that promotion comes from Him and him alone, with no merit on my part, then I must also believe that demotion, such as it is, comes at His hand as well. And be content with it.

I think I am. One of the things I've been praying for is that He would deliver me from being in bondage to what people think, and to the world's system that says success and personal worth is a matter of your accomplishments and sales and how many people like you or like what you do.

Do I seek the favor of men or of God? When you have things like this taken from you, it tests that belief. Are you going to freak out and fall apart because not enough people liked what you did (it would appear) or will you recognize that it's not an accident, it's a part of the plan and the plan is perfect. More than perfect, it is specifically designed with your best interests in mind. If I'm writing for God, sales can't really matter. He's in charge of them. He gives enough or he doesn't, but it's not my concern. My concern is to write the books and leave the rest to Him.

He provided for me in more than just last night's message, too, because in the conference last weekend, the last part of Gideon's story was all about numbers. All about how God doesn't need numbers. And one of the things Pastor McLaughlin said was, "God will place us in situations where the odds are overwhelmingly against us, so we will know that we are not the ones doing the delivering, He is. It's not us, it's not anything about us and it's not with the help of other people, either. It's all Him."

So. We'll just see what He's going to do, because I really believe He's going to do something cool. I just don't know what it is yet. Kind of like Christmas, I guess... all those packages and you know you're going to like what's in them, you just have NO idea what it is. But I know the one I serve, and that is everything.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Death of a First Novel


May 2002 - November 2006

Today I received the news that due to a current sales rate too weak to sustain active publication, Bethany House has declared Arena out of print after a four year run.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

November CSFF Tour: Landon Snow

CSSF Blog Tour

Well, I went away to California and came back to discover a Blog tour had snuck up on me. Given the events of the past month, that's hardly surprising. This month they are highlighting children's fantasy writer R.K. Mortenson's third Landon Snow book, Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum.

I confess I have read none of these books and generally tend to stay away from discussing or recommending Young Adult fantasy to avoid increasing the potential of my own books being regarded as being for children as well. There is an automatic assumption among many that all fantasy is for children or young adults (Landon Snow is pegged as being for 9 to 12 years old and up). I have nothing against fantasies for children or young adults, I just dislike receiving letters and reviews from disgruntled parents/grandparents/relatives who bought my books for their kids without having read them, under the assumption that all fantasy is for children and how dare I introduce adult situations into the story! They had to rip pages out of the book before they could give them to their intended recipients, and I am a bad girl!

I could almost do a rant about that subject...but I will restrain myself. It's a fact of life, particularly, I think, in the Christian world.

My fantasy can be and is read by more experienced younger readers, but it was never intended for children and in some people's eyes is definitely not for them. R.K. Mortenson's books on the other hand, are designed for younger readers, and do not introduce unwanted adult situations of the sort that have so incensed some of my correspondents and reviewers. So if you are looking for good, clean fantasy stories for middle grade readers, Mortenson might be your author.


Monday, November 13, 2006

2006 California Conference

Above is a view from our hotel, the Riverside Marriott.

I've just spent the last four days in Riverside, CA for what was, I believe, the fifth annual Robert McLaughlin Bible Ministries California Conference. We had a great time, as always. Two classes a day, Friday and Saturday, a question and answer period Saturday night after class and another class and communion on Sunday.

I got some great answers in class and in the Q&A afterward and was so looking forward to going over my notes (I'm a copious note-taker) only to discover that somehow I'd left my notebook in the hotel room! Arg. (One of a number of consequences of going on a trip immediately after a big push to finish a book draft. For the second time now, I have dared to venture out into public without a brain. This time, fortunately, I gave no speeches, but I was amazingly turnip-headed! Leaving my notes behind is just one example!)

Anyway, today I tried to recall some of the things that stuck out for me and here are some snippets and reflections ...

In honor of Veteran's Day Pastor McLaughlin broke from his study of the seven churches in Revelation to do a special on soldiers. He started with the doctrine of Warfare, then went on to a study of Gideon.

Gideon's story starts at the end of the 40 years of peace that followed the victories of Deborah and Barak. Israel is once again doing evil in the sight of the Lord, ie, getting involved in idolatry. I've often wondered about all the emphasis on idolatry in the Old Testament, in light of Romans 15:4 (For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have confidence.) If it's for our example, instruction and encouragement why all the references to idolatry being such a problem? I mean, you don't see too many statues of Baal around these days. Then he defined idolatry: anything we turn to for help, happiness, support, success, comfort, encouragement or security instead of the word of God. By that definition, idolatry takes on new meaning.

Even as Christians, how many of us turn to something besides the word to make us feel better or more confident or secure? How many of us focus on getting that thing we just know is going to solve all our problems and make us wonderfully and finally happy? In fact, without it, we are often desperately unhappy and yearning. It can be a job, writing, being published, getting a mate, having the mate you have act right, having your family or kids turn out right... the options are innumerable. I see the temptations everywhere, but for me now they especially hang out in the field of writing when it comes to getting or being/staying published.

As Pastor McLaughlin moved through the passage the next major subject was miracles and how miracles are the easiest thing in the world for God to do. The much harder thing for God to do is to get a Believer to line up his thinking with God's -- to learn His word and then to apply it to his life. A miracle can be accomplished by a snap of God's fingers, but bringing a Believer to maturity requires that believer's volition. And a lot of time and consistency.

Miracles are used for many things, but rarely does God use them to deliver his people from their problems. Instead, the deliverance lies in his word -- in changing our thinking and our viewpoint and really believing what God has already told us. And that's pretty much what happened with Gideon. The arabs in the land were the problem, and the miracles didn't solve the problem.

Gideon was visited by the Lord and told right off that he -- Gideon -- was going to deliver Israel. After that he saw two miracles: the fire coming out of the rock to consume the meat and the bread he'd offered, and the Lord vanishing before his eyes. But at that point, instead of remembering what he'd just been told (that he was going to deliver Israel) he thought he was going to drop dead from having seen God. His panic tells us how short his memory had become, and how shaky his understanding of God's very recent word to him was.

Of course he didn't drop dead, but finally got his act together, listened to what God told him to do and went and tore down his father's idol -- in the night. And that was another cool thing. Gideon was too afraid of his father to do it in the day, and his fear (despite having been told directly by God that he was going to deliver Israel and seeing two miracles) caused him to do it at night. Which, ironically was exactly what God wanted him to do since the final operation for which Gideon was being prepared would be accomplished at night. I find the fact that God has incorporated even our failures into His wonderful plan to be extremely comforting. And also the demonstration here of His very great patience with us when we are total doofuses.

Which Gideon surely was. For after he tore down the idol and saw his father suddenly switch sides and defend him against the angry religious Israelites who wanted him dead, and after 32,000 Israelites came at his call to be under his command, he lost his nerve again. This is so much what I see in my own life. Great things happen, you realize God is leading you in a direction, first you're afraid to step out on faith but finally you do it, then the stakes multiply and -- oh, no! What if I make a mistake? I have 32,000 men waiting for me to command them. What do I know about command? What if I fail? Oh, noooo.....

So then we have the fleece episode which is really... well, blasphemy. God already told Gideon what was going to happen, and Gideon just didn't believe him. The God who cannot lie. The God who does not change, and in whom there is no turning or shadow. Gideon doubts Him, so he asks God to prove himself. Give me a sign. How many of us do that? I'm really not sure you mean what you say here in your word, God. Could you make the stoplight turn red right now? Or the lights in my living room flicker? Or have someone call me? And God was gracious. He did the miracle. Only to have Gideon doubt the miracle and turn around and ask for another. And even while being insulted, again, God answered his request.

I liked how pastor emphasized at this point how in Judges 6, Gideon had been doing all the talking and not listening much. As a result he didn't learn much and kept falling into fear. But in Judges 7 God started doing the talking, Gideon started listening and obeying and finally started moving forward in the plan...


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Done!

Whoopee! Return of the Guardian King is done!

My fifth book, in the can. Wonder of wonders!

Sort of in the can, anyway... I still have two three-chapter sections to go through and develop/smooth out, and about 5 or 6 chapters at the end to work through (editing, tweaking, bringing details into line with things I've changed) but I can send those in as I finish them.

Yesterday I had even more left to do, but had decided just to send the thing in as it was... only to learn that the guy who processes the e-copies into hard copies for the editor was off to work the election. So I kept it another day, worked through one of those three-chapter sections and made significant headway before sending it off today. Even though I still have work to do on it, it still feels like a huge load off.

The deadline factor is oppressive, to say the least, and the last few days left me despairing. Some of the problems were large and complicated, the kind that require several days to mull over and sort through and I didn't have several days. And by the time you get to the end of a book as long as mine are, you're just sick of your own words. Especially when you're having to write fast. You begin to notice all the times you're saying the same things, the fixation you have with particular words, and you start chiding yourself: "Can't you think of anything else for them to do besides "look" at one another?!" I think that's why I like editing the best: I can cut most of that stuff out or replace it with better. I get positively on fire when I start editing. Just love it.

Anyway, there are more days now, so it's all working out just fine. As the Lord knew, but I was too often doubting. In spite of all the times He's come through. What can I say? I'm dust.

I can say, though, that I have the most wonderful editor alive! She is amazingly patient and so encouraging.

Anyway, I thought I'd take the afternoon off. Maybe clean the house a bit, do some ironing, write in my journal, take a walk, post a blog entry -- all the things I've not been doing lately. It feels like I've been in a long, dark tunnel for some time now and have finally emerged -- only to realize that I lost my dog in that tunnel. Kind of a strange feeling.

The other weird thing is that ... I can't believe I'm saying this... part of me also wants to go back and start looking at those chapters I still need to fix. Talk about obsessive! You know how they say dogs are like their owners? Or owners are like their dogs? Well, that's why the hound is the perfect dog for me. Get them on scent -- or focused on anything else they care about -- and they will NOT leave it alone!

Tomorrow, though, I'm off to another Bible conference, this one in CA. Looks like we'll be having a car caravan heading over there, which will be a blast.

I'll be back Monday and finally regular on posting again. Thanks for all the prayers!


Oh yeah, and the word count? It came in at 176,000. How about that?

Fireworks Photo by brianteutsch

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Second post at Speculative Faith

Today I'm posting over at Speculative Faith today (Wednesday)... "Why I Read Fantasy".

I was supposed to be finished with the book by now... but instead, I'm aiming for next Wednesday. Today I pushed through VERY rough drafts of chapters 30a, 31, and 32.

Time for bed

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Well, once again, the schedule... is a bust. I talked to my editor on Friday, and I have a few days worth of extension. I keep thinking I'm going to get to the easy stuff, that this next chapter will be the one I just whip through. Not happening.

Not long after I made my schedule (about the third day, actually, when I had already gotten behind) I decided to do two schedules: mine and God's. On God's I just enter in the work as it's completed. I think I'm going to try to post both of them when I'm done.

Funny thing, too, is that Bible classes lately have been all about failure and how God uses it to conform us into his image. That those who most vigorously pursue the plan of God are the ones who're going to fail the most. Failure reminds us we are weak, we can't do anything apart from Him and need His power. So. Once again I'm back to where I was: okay, God, you're the one doing this book and it's going to be in your timing and my biggest responsibility is to rest in that.

As to progress: I reached chapter 30 yesterday, thinking it would be one of those easy, blow-through ones. No. It was all wrong. In fact, the entire first section was completely extraneous to the story. So I cut it and went on to work through the second section. I have yet to type in the changes on that, but I went on to chapter 31. And... oh my. I was bored! It also had nothing to do with the story. SIGH. So most of it has to be ditched as well. I should rejoice... I asked the Lord to show me what needed to be done and He did. But this means I have to come up with something entirely new for chapter 31... which is what I've been doing today. I am definitely NOT adhering to my lovely 2 chapters a day delusion...


Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Thanks to all of you who commented or emailed condolences about Bear (see previous post). I really appreciate it.

It's been harder than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be hard. I miss my Booboo! Sometimes it's just a sad ache. Sometimes its a big empty hole as if something has been ripped out of my flesh, and it hurts intensely, and there's nothing that will make it better but time.

He was so much a part of my life. When I get up in the morning, I no longer need to check the floor to be sure I don't step on him. And as I get out of bed I realize that no dog is going to come jauntily in to say good morning, and that no matter how thoroughly I search the house, I will not find him.

Yesterday it was finding his stuffed raccoon and hedgehog in one of his many beds that set the tears flowing. And later, finding his doggy coat lying on the washing machine. Today I opened the cabinet and stumbled across his pill box, emptied up to the point he didn't need his pills any more. I wept as I threw them down the toilet. And wept again later, when I had to vaccuum and there was nobody to look out for, no dog to have to stand back and let escape from the corner into which he'd gotten himself in his effort to avoid the thing...

Twelve years of close living makes for a lot of connections and memories. It's hard when that relationship is cut off. I don't think it's a lot different from losing a person, depending on the degree of intimacy and the length of time involved. Hard. Painful.

But not lasting. I know that. And I've seen how much the pain depends on the thoughts I have and how much I indulge them. I can't avoid the things that set them off -- like the raccoon, or the pillbox, or going outside to hang up laundry and he's not there trotting along with me -- but those memories and thoughts can lead to others and to others and I could spend a long time wallowing.

I haven't been. Because I always come back to the fact that he was a gift from God. And while I may have lost the gift, I still have the Giver. In fact, yesterday I was reminded that Bear was something I had prayed for twelve and a half years ago. Several years before that, my husband had brought home a really horrible dog, a German short-haired pointer with serious personality problems. Of course, my husband didn't know that when he got him, but we discovered it soon enough. The dog didn't like women and would growl and snarl at me for no apparent reason. He scared me to death and actually trapped me in the backyard once, snarling and baring his teeth at me. I threw a Tonka truck at him and escaped, then didn't want to go into the backyard again. We finally got rid of him, and I was ready to have no dog ever again. But my husband couldn't imagine life without a dog, and brought home a Walker hound puppy, destined to weigh 100 pounds as an adult who ended up at six months old having no hip sockets. We had to put him to sleep, but just before that he also had begun to be aggressive with me.

After his death, I started praying that the Lord would send us the right dog. The perfect dog. And when Stu heard about a litter of redbone coonhounds and went up to Phoenix to see them, I prayed earnestly that God would lead him to bring home the one we were to have, or none of them if none were right. He came home with Bear.

I'd forgotten that until the last couple of days when I was going through all the things I loved about Bear and seeing how perfect he was for me. For both of us. Realizing he was an answer to my request -- an answer that exceeded my wildest imagination -- made him even more special. More than that, it made me realize that the one who gave him to us, who chose him specifically for us, could easily do it again. The blessing was immense, but all blessings have their season. There is a time to rejoice and a time to mourn. We mourn now, but I have no doubt that the time to rejoice is waiting up ahead.

Not surprisingly, I lost a day and half's worth of writing because of Bear's death, and have been (obviously!) distracted from time to time ever since. Even so I've managed to reach chapter 23 of Maddie's sequence (I was previously doing just Abramm's). I'm two days behind on my scheduled assignments which means I have six chapters to edit/fix today to bring me up to date. That's not likely to happen. I'm hoping to finish 4 chapters, though I'll be happy with 3 -- which would at least not put me any further behind. Word count actually dropped below 190k yesterday, but added development of some pretty sparse scenes since has brought it back up to 191,337.

Pressing On,

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hancock's Boo-Boo Bear

PR Hancock's Boo-Boo Bear
Registered UKC Redbone Coonhound
June 25, 1994 - October 20, 2006

Today we said goodbye to our dear friend of 12 1/2 years, Mr. Booboo Bear -- writing buddy, walking companion, inept coonhound, movie star, obedience trained trick dog, computer degausser, Bible doctrine dog, home security system, camping & hiking dog, unrelenting optimist ("Maybe today the ham will fall on the floor and I will get some!"), tireless enthusiast ("A WALK! We're going on a WALK! Whoopee! Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!"), all around lover of life and...yes, I know I said this, dear, dear friend.

He'd been declining for some time, but in the last few weeks things began to really deteriorate. We discovered that he had gone blind in one eye, he was losing his co-ordination and his stamina, and often seemed to "zone out". If he got up in the night, he might get "lost," standing for hours between the bed and the desk, for example, or in the hallway. One night last week he got up while we were sleeping and made his way into the space under the headboard of our waterbed, between the bed itself and the wall. The side he entered through was open, but the other was blocked with boxes. We awoke at 2am, and saw he was not in his bed beside us. I searched the house and couldn't find him, and Stu said he thought he heard him by the bed. So I looked in that space and sure enough, there he was. You can't pull him out of a place like that, so we had to move the boxes and feed him on through.

Anyway, he kept eating, though it was less and less, and he kept wanting to take his walks, though he stopped more often and for longer periods of time during the course of them. This last week he began to sleep almost all the time, getting up only to go outside to pee. When he did, he seemed weak, wobbly and disoriented. I began to bring his food to him in his bed and soon realized that my own interaction with him had been reduced to waking him up to drag him outside to pee or stuff a pill down his throat or stick a needle in the scruff of his neck to give him his fluids. Last Tuesday we decided it was time and on Wednesday I called the vet and made arrangements for her to come out today, Friday, to put him to sleep.

He was lying on his bed in the living room when she and her assistant arrived, and was actually more responsive to her than most of the other people who have come lately. (Which means he lifted his head and pricked his ears and kind of sniffed her hand, as opposed to merely wiggling his eyebrows). The procedure was accomplished very smoothly and his passing could not have been more peaceful.

The vet said he'd declined a lot since the last time she'd seen him six months ago, and that we had made the right decision. she could not believe how long he lasted, though -- dogs usually don't survive kidney failure of the level he had for more than a month. He was a fighter. But he was also blessed with an extraordinary amount of strength and energy. And his enthusiasm stayed with him almost to the very end. He was a terrific dog -- fun, funny, beautiful, cute, smart, vibrant and an incredible blessing. We thank God for the time we had with him, but we're going to miss him an awful lot. Especially me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

God is Always Right

"God is always right. He can never be wrong.
It is only our perception of what is happening that is wrong."
~Rick Kabrick

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Schedule at Last

Saturday and Sunday I worked through the new chapter 4 (formerly 6) and today I woke up, asked the Lord for some encouragement and became convicted that now, at last, it is time for the schedule. I have basically two weeks left and 30 or so chapters, or parts of chapters left to work on. That means I have to finish two chapters (or parts) per day. If I succeed I will finish on Monday, October 30. My editor says she has to have it by Nov 1, and by this outline, it just might happen.

I am now at the stage where I have to give up all the little extra things I thought would be good to do. In fact, I have to let some things stand even if I think they don't work all that well because there is no time to change them. I could look at this and lament, but instead I choose to believe that the Lord has been guiding me all this time and that whatever elements have been left to leave more or less as is are as they should be. Not all the changes we think need to be made, really need to. Not all the changes we think need to be made even should be made. I have learned over and over the fallacy of putting a lot of credence in how I feel about a passage of work, particularly this late in the game. So if I'm not allowed to "fix" all that I think needs to be fixed, I'm going to assume that God knows they don't need fixing.

Anyway, I worked through chapter 6 today and then 8a -- and that one really moved me. Whether or not it is truly a moving chapter, or will move anyone else or will even move me six months from now remains to be seen, but today I was moved. And that is very encouraging! And my word count is now down to 195,499.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Chapter 4 into Chapter 3

Well, I did decide to cut the scene that made up the second half of chapter 3, and after trimming what was left, added a trimmed version of what was formerly chapter 4 to make a whole new Chapter 3. That gave me a hole where Chapter 4 used to be so I decided to move the material in Chapter 6 into Chapter 4, which moves the hole to Chapter 6. The cool thing is that eventually it will make a place for the extra chapter I gained when I turned chapter 25 into chapter 25A and 25B.

Now I only have to rewrite the opening of the new Chapter 4 to get it to work in its new place and already I can see that that is going to make it a much stronger sequence.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Who Comes First?

Sort of finished ch 29, after spending the day working out one thing and then another. It had a raid on a villa in it. The raid is gone, the villa abandoned and the chapter fairly coherent except for the end which right now is just a sketch. It's about 700 words longer than the original which doesn't make me happy, even as reason reminds me that the original was full of holes. Anyway, I left it rough because I want to get some distance before I run through it one more time.

That one on hold, I turned to the beginning. Originally I'd started the book with Abramm. My editor thought maybe I should move Maddie's first chapter (3) up and start the book with her. That would mean I'd have to do some timing changes, but it would, she suggested, hopefully provide more suspense as readers wonder where Abramm is and what his circumstances are. Well, I tried. For the last two months I had Maddie first and Abramm second. But today when I went to deal with the changes in Maddie's scene I felt more and more certain that it needed to be the way I had it originally. Hopefully now that I've cut a lot of the "telling myself the story" portions my editor will agree. Besides, I asked a test reader today if she thought waiting through a chapter of Maddie's doings would increase the suspense about Abramm and she said that readers have been in suspense about Abramm for nearly a year and don't really need any more.

At this moment I'm in the middle of chapter 3 (formerly 1) and wondering if I can just cut the scene that makes up the second half entirely. I'm very tempted to do it. After all, I still have quite a few words to weed out of this thing and I think much of the scene's content is covered elsewhere.

Hmm... tune in tomorrow for the decision...


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Perfect Timing

Recently I've been contemplating aspects of who and what God is... and the fact that, as Ephesians 1 tells us, He actually blessed us as His children even before he elected us. That means His first act toward me was to bless me, to give me the gift of His son, but also many other blessings -- spiritual and temporal -- on deposit, as it were, waiting for me to acquire the capacity to receive them. Being perfectly just, He knows it wouldn't be fair to give me blessings I have no capacity for. Without capacity they wouldn't be blessings, they would be causes for misery and might even destroy my spiritual life. Or my life altogether.

But capacity or not, they are still there and that is very cool to consider: that there are incredible blessings I can't even imagine, incredible open doors just waiting ahead of me -- and ahead of every one of God's children -- to walk through. And how about the fact that God is outside of time? That means that in eternity past He had an infinite amount of time to consider all the options relevant to my life and all the ramifications of those options and has chosen only what would be best for me specifically. He's put all those choices into a perfect plan that is based on His perfect omniscience, his perfect love and justice and righteousness. And timing.

God always does the right thing in the right way at the right time. Always. He can never make a mistake and He has complete control over my life. There is not one detail that He does not know about and has not taken into account. In fact, many of the details -- the ones I enjoy and the ones I do not -- were specifically chosen to bring me to the place that I am now.

These are things a novelist can really understand. We do the same sorts of things -- not perfectly, by any means-- with our characters. If only we had all eternity to do it. But we don't and so right now these are things this novelist is really holding to her heart. God knows what I want: to have the story in this book I'm writing revealed to me in its entirety in the proper time. He is going to do that, but it will be in His perfect timing, not mine, and all my anxiety and fussing and trying to force it is a total waste of time. I just have to relax, and wait for Him to unveil it. No matter what sight tells me. I am not to live by sight but by what His word says.

No change to the word count because I spent all day struggling with what was supposed to be the easy edit of Chapter 29. Instead, I got through pages 1 through 8. Out of 15. Not at all my plan. Not at all my timing. But He knew. In fact, tonight in Bible class He literally said to me, through the pastor, "Don't let the kingdom of darkness come and say you're going too slow. That you're not where you should be. God will tell you that, and it will be a conviction not a condemnation. Stop being so worried about where you are..."

Resting then in His timing, not mine,

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Progress Report

I've come to realize that if I want to keep doing blog posts during these last few weeks, I'll have to content myself with posting mostly progress reports. I have no spare brain cells or time to contemplate much of anything else.

In addition to revisions, I'm also supposed to be cutting words: from 210,000 down to about 185,000. I would rather just concentrate on the revisions and then do a cutting down pass after that, because trying to do them together can be distressing. Like when I just spent the last several days turning chapter 25 into chapters 25A & B -- kicking and screaming as I did so but it had to be done. The section is pivotal, and now significantly rewritten, which means it's probably also pretty wordy. I can hope anyway. Before I expanded 25 into two chapters, I had the word count down to 198,000, but A & B shot it back up to 201,000. So then having gone through all the turmoil and mental labor of writing two chapters and having it going pretty well, you can still end up disappointed.

But that, too, is God's problem, not mine. And yesterday, happily, I went through chapter 27 and cut about 2000 words. My current word count is 199,679. I'll be reworking chapter 29 tonight and probably tomorrow. This is just Abramm's thread. I've not yet looked at Maddie's or any of the others. And I dare not contemplate the list of chapters yet to be done. Just carry on, business as usual -- okay, a bit more intense and focused and sustained than usual -- and do the next thing.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fantasy Artists

In my last post, referencing comments regarding my covers over at Speculative Faith, I was asked if I could have any fantasy artist do my covers who I would pick. Well, right off I named Michael Whelan. I love the cover he did for Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice. It made me buy the book... okay, I bought it second hand, because of the cover, because you see, I really didn't think I'd like a story about an assassin. Boy was I wrong. But anyway, I LOVE that cover. And the covers for Anne McCaffrey's Dragon books. Wow. (Click here for a larger picture of Assassin's Apprentice.)

Second would be Tom Canty. I love his watercolor style with all the stained glass panel effects and the voluminous fabrics.

Third, Janny Wurts who is also a writer. In fact, she is a fantasy writer who paints her own covers. I am seriously impressed! (Her website, however, is quite irritating the way they have it set up with floating navigation bars that prevent you from seeing the entire painting at one time.)

Those same comments at Spec Faith also prompted Mirtika Schulz to start a contest of sorts over at her blog. She is challenging readers to pick what fantasy artist they would like to see do my covers and will be giving away to the one who suggested an artist she likes best, whatever one of my books the winner desires. You can find that contest here.

In the process of that I've already found another artist I like:
Todd Lockwood. Check out his Temeraire. Awesome.

Okay, this is fun, but I HAVE to get back to work!


Friday, October 06, 2006


Well, I've been terribly distracted now for several days, with one thing and then another. I'm creeping through the Return of the Guardian King rewrites and thinking about ways to disconnect my Internet connection. Maybe I'll have to go out into the back yard. Or take another plane flight.

My self discipline only seems to last until around noon and once I turn on the computer... sigh... it's all over. And sometimes I NEED to turn it on in order to work. Though I'm doing a lot of editing on hard copy right now, sometimes all the arrows and changes and overwrites and additions get so confusing I need to type it all in RIGHT NOW and go from there. So. We'll see.

For more informative/interesting reading, check out this Speculative Faith blog by ACFW's recent Genesis winner for SF/F Mirtika Shulz on ideas to stimulate the popularity of Christian SF/F: Moving the CBA Mountain: Out of many small voices, one large voice

Be sure to check out the comments there, as a couple are from readers who bought The Light of Eidon in SPITE of its cover which, far from drawing them, instead drove them away.

I hope to make significant progress tomorrow. Actually I did ten pages today, which is significant, but seeing as I'd hoped to do two chapters a day starting last Tuesday, and only managed one a day until yesterday when it got down to none, and then only the ten pages today... I want more. The distractions were legitimate, though, so I guess I can't get too down on myself.

Pulling up the drawbridge and barring the gates...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

OR Conference: Doctrine of the Open Door

This is the brand new Salem Conference Center where our Bible conference was held last weekend. It was directly attached to the hotel, so it couldn't have been more convenient.

A week ago Wednesday my friend Kelli and I were talking about some tapes she had given away to someone and couldn't find -- one of which was on the Doctrine of the Open Door. "Oh," I said, "I really want to hear that one." But it turned out there was only part 1 of 2 on the shelves back at Grace Bible Church where she'd gotten it and she didn't think they could make any more of them. And the doctrine wasn't available online either. "Well," I said, "I'm sure he'll repeat sooner or later. Maybe he'll even teach about it at the conference!" It was a totally random remark because we had no reason to think that would be the case, and we both laughed to think of that happening.

Thus we were absolutely blown away when Saturday night, as part of the line by line study of Rev 3:8a ("I know your deeds. Behold I have put before you an open door which no one can shut...") the pastor began a study of the Doctrine of the Open Door!

An open door refers to a grace opportunity God provides us related to giving meaning, purpose and definition to our lives. God puts before us many doors -- as many, in fact, as we have positive volition enough to walk through. Some are universal, like salvation, and, for believers, the door of communication of truth, while others are individual-specific, like the open door of service.

I especially appreciated the information given in connection with the door of communication of truth -- that it has two sides. One side where the communicator must be given an open door to communicate the truth of God's word and the other side, where the receiver is given the open door to receive that communication. And this part is what really struck me:

"If you stay receptive to the communication and application of the truths of God's word, live in your spiritual gift and the niche He has for you, He will bring everything to you: your pastor-teacher, the word of God, the spiritual gift itself, and even an occupation that gives you the time and money to do what He wants you to do. Whatever your spiritual gift is, prepare yourself in it and God will provide the people to feed off it. That means you don't need to employ all the gimmicks and publicity efforts the world systems says you do. He will do it. It's simple.

"He will nourish, nurture and mature your spiritual gift, not you.

"In Col 4:3 Paul asks for the Colossians to "pray for us that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Chirst..." Paul realizes he needs help -- the people must be lined up to receive the information and Paul must be in the right place at the right time to provide it."
This meshes so well with the whole concept of gathering readers for one's books. The readers have to be lined up -- they have to have the time and inclination, in a way they have to be prepared to receive what a writer has been led to provide.

At the very the beginning of my published life, I received confirmation of this fact in an email from a woman who said she'd walked into the bookstore looking for a devotional to help her with some tough times she was having in her life. She looked through all the books on the devotionals shelf and found nothing that interested her, turned around and there was Arena standing on the shelf behind her. For some reason she picked it up and that is the book she bought and took home. Then she wrote me to say it helped her far more with her troubles than any of the devotionals she'd considered would have.

It's all His work, His plan, His grace. We just have to rest in that.


PS. I'm posting over at Speculative Faith tomorrow (Wednesday) continuing my reflections on how obvious to make the Christian elements of my work and what has come of my decisions. I hope you'll check it out. It'll be my last time to blog over there until the first Wednesday in November.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Oregon Bible Conference

Well, I'm back from the Oregon conference and it was wonderful. Fantastic. So many amazing things happened. We got to fly, drive a brand new rental car, stay in a palacial hotel (the Phoenix Grand Hotel, pictured above) and eat wonderful food -- in addition to the classes and the fellowship. But we did have something of a time getting there, as our Delta flight out of Tucson was "permanently delayed" when we arrived to check in. Actually the lady at the counter said "Cancelled" at first, immediately amending that to "delayed". Even though all the people on the flight were now being parcelled out onto other flights.

But they were very helpful, and got us rerouted through Phoenix instead of Salt Lake City and arriving in Portland at 5pm instead of 2:30pm. Because we were rerouted, we were "randomly" selected for being searched. Now the young lady I was with, a long-time family friend, is a top student with impeccable manners, and also very slender, very innocent looking, and was wearing a fairly tight tee shirt that day. Seeing her getting patted down was one of the funniest and most ridiculous things I think I've ever seen and I couldn't stop laughing about it. It was funny to be patted down myself. I don't think the lady who was doing the searching particularly appreciated it, though. She was very serious about her work... and I guess I just had a hard time taking it that seriously.

Anyway, we had to spend about two hours waiting to leave Tucson and another two in Phoenix. We both had work to do, and so the time was well spent. I also think perhaps I should invest in my own private plane cabin because I became incredibly productive stuck in a tiny aisle seat next to people who are completely engaged with each other, with nothing else to do. Sheer boredom forced me to do my editing work on Chapter 21, despite all the obstacles I kept encountering in the work!

At the end of the flight the young man seated next to me, seeing my earplugs wrote me a note: "Is Haiku 5, 8, 5?" Now poetry is not my strong suit. I think I skipped that unit in high school. I did know Haiku had a formula but I had no idea if it was 5, 8, 5, or 5, 7, 5, or something else entirely, and had to admit this, and also that no, I was not an English teacher! He thought, given the way I was marking up the manuscript that I must be grading papers. Oh, my. Woe to any student who would receive grading like that. I'm not sure I'm even going to be able to follow what I did!

Anyway, at length we got there and later that night we learned that my son and his traveling companions were also delayed out of Tucson, though not permanently -- just enough to miss their connection in Phoenix. As a result they did not get into Portland until 2 or 3 the next morning. Given all the things that were going on -- all the problems and hindrances that were hitting not just our group, but almost everyone we talked to who came -- we knew it would be a fantastic conference. And it was.

But more about that tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

When All Around has Fallen

A reader recently emailed to share these lyrics from When All Around Has Fallen, a song by Delirious?, suggesting they express the feelings and themes of the end of Shadow Over Kiriath. I think they do, and also touch on the beginning of Return of the Guardian-King:

When all around has fallen, your castle has been burned
You used to be a king here, now no one knows your name
You live your life for honour, defender of the faith
But you've been crushed to pieces and no one knows your pain

Come, come lay your weary head, be still my friend
Come, rise, I'll place my sword upon your shoulder
Come, rise with me

When tomorrow has been stolen and you can't lift your head
And summer feels like winter, your heart is full of stone
Though all your hopes have fallen, your skin is now your only armour
You wear your scars like medals, defender of the faith

Come, come lay your weary head, be still my friend
Come, rise, I'll place my sword upon your shoulder
Come, come lay your faithful head, be still my friend
Come rise with me
From the album Cutting Edge by Delirious?

Listen to a very small clip of it on Amazon here.

Well, I'm off to Oregon tomorrow. No more blogging until Monday...

Have a great weekend,


So... This is the problem of putting up one post referencing another post before you've put the second one up and you don't have enough brain cells active to keep things all together. After I posted here last night, I went over to Spec Faith and put up my post there about my early days of writing The Light of Eidon. And in the course of the final polishing and tweaking, I decided to change the title from "No More Hiding" to "My Writing Roots," reminding myself that I had to go change the title I'd referenced in the first post.

But then it was time to do fluids and I forgot. So, if you already tried to find the post at Spec Faith and couldn't, please try again. It is called "My Writing Roots" and if you click on that title it should take you to the right place.

I am really looking forward to the Oregon trip -- taking a few days off to be with dear friends, meet new ones, focus on God's word and not think about writing at all! (okay, I'll probably do some editing on the plane tomorrow but after that...)


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Spec Faith and Christian Worldview

I'm putting this up Tuesday night to catch the Feedblitz delivery at 1am, but this post is really for Wednesday, when I'll be posting over at Speculative Faith. I'll be continuing the tale of my writing odyssey from the SF writer to Fantasy writer of hidden Christian fiction... or, as time went on, not so hidden Christian fiction.

One day till we leave for the Oregon conference! Bear is still hanging in there. The last couple of nights he's gone for three and four hour stretches so that's been really nice. Thanks for the prayers.

I thought I'd finished chapter 19 yesterday, but on glancing it through it today, large inconsistencies came popping out at me, so I am back to that, trying to resolve them all and as usual, it's not going easily. But I have been VERY distracted by life issues -- all the problems and self-esteem smashing things that typically descend in the week prior to a conference. That's why I was so heartened by Becky Miller's Tuesday post recommending The Light of Eidon. It was very kind of her, totally unexpected and gave me a great a lift in the midst of darkness when I very much needed it.

I'll keep this short so you can check it out, and then hop on over to Speculative Faith for my article on my experiences and conclusions in working with the Christian elements of Christian Fantasy, "My Writing Roots."