Thursday, August 31, 2006

Small Assignment

Well, even after we're clearly told to wait, sometimes it's hard. This morning I stayed on task, and ended up smashing a bunch of miscellaneous scenes together that seemed to be important. That made the chapter WAAAY too long. Weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth loomed as temptations. Maybe I gave in a little... but I kept confessing frustration, fear, angst, and the arrogance of unrealistic expectations before any of them got out of hand. I was told to wait. In contentment and confidence.

I recalled again the promises that the Lord would do it, that He would provide, and I also remembered something from one of my writing block books about how very often right before a solution comes it seems like you're further away from it than ever. By that measure I was in good shape, because it seemed to me the solution must be out beyond Andromeda...

I read some of my homemade devotionals... about not trying to plan too much and take control, but to let God's plan and guidance unfold moment by moment... I started just sitting before Him, asking for His direction and waiting.

And somewhere in there I remembered small assignments. Oh yeah! The yoke is easy. The burden is light! I don't have to overwhelm myself with thoughts of how much I have to do. I only have to come up with a small, simple task! So I did.

First assignment: read all 26 hard copy pages of chapter 9 and write down one thought about it when I finished. That would be easy.

And it was. In the process, I came up with some new ideas and made lots of changes and cuts in the first 4 pages during the read-through. So my next small assignment would be simply to enter those into the computer. I did that, changed, cut, added some more as I was moved, and by the time I was done I was almost to end of page 5. At that point, a man with two books enters the scene, so the next small assignment was simply to describe the books.

Hey, this is cool. Step by simple step I'm making progress.

"Add a little to a little. Do it again and soon that little will be a LOT."


Watching Penguins

This is a mobile Adam and I made a number of years ago when we were home schooling. It's hung over the couch in the living room where the breeze from the cooler can stir it. Sometimes I lie on the couch and watch it when I'm thinking. I did some of that today.

Actually I started out asking the Lord for some encouragement. Sometimes it gets scary looking at how little I have accomplished in the month and how much appears to remain. Thoughts I'm not supposed to be entertaining start banging loudly on my door, demanding entrance. So I specifically asked for the encouragement to come in the form of some measurable progress. Could I please finish chapter 9 today? If not that, of course I would take whatever encouragement He gave since I knew He knew exactly what I needed.

Well, He said no to the measurable progress, but yes to the encouragement.

In the morning I did some nonstops, watched the penguins, sat at the back window and stared at the yard, walked laps, went to my desk and pulled out all the effects that resulted from chapter 7 and turned them into causes for chapter 9. I figured some things out, answered some old questions, came up with new ones, read through the notes several times... but nothing clicked. Was there something more I should be doing? Was I not concentrating enough? Should I be more decisive? Or was it just not ripe yet and I needed to wait some more? But, Lord... I protested, we're running out of time here!

Then about 5 pm, I tuned into Bible class -- live -- and from three thousand miles away the Pastor was talking about 2 Peter 1:4 and how we become partakers in the divine nature: by hearing and believing the promises God has given us. Then he started running through a bunch of them:

Casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. -- 1 Pe5:7

My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. -- Phil 4:16

Do not fear. Stand by and see the deliverance of the LORD... the LORD will fight for you while you keep silent -- Ex 14:13,14

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Hiim and He will do it. -- Psalm 37:5,6

I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Ps 16:8

Wait for the LORD -- Have PATIENCE! -- Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD. Ps 27:14

"You've got to wait for the Lord," he said, "because if it doesn't come from Him you don't want it. It takes courage to have patience. If I search for it myself, grasp for it myself, it won't be from Him and it won't be right."

There were lots more, but the latter verse and commentary really struck me since that was exactly my question earlier in the day. Am I really just to wait for things to emerge? Yes.

Okay, then. To use my airplane analogy, I shall go back to my seat and relax and let the pilot fly the plane without me. God's the one with the deadline problem, not me!


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Progress Report

Well, I haven't reported on my progress in awhile, so I guess I should. August is nearly over and during this month I have worked through chapters 2, 3, 5, 7 and I'm now on 9. I hope to finish it before the month is over.

Feedback from my editor and readers was that this plot thread (Abramm's) was slow, and that I needed to trim it up a bit. Actually, the plot thread was nonexistant and needed a lot more work than trimming. This is one of those cases where I thought the book was going in one direction when I wrote those chapters, but now that I see where it's actually gone, they no longer work.

So I've been first drafting again. Sort of. There are the familiar days of blankness alternating with days of too many options. Then something starts to break, a new scene takes shape, an old scene insinuates itself into the new, in a different order with a different emphasis... I'm working my way through each portion to figure out what the central thrust is and slowly but surely it's coming together. I think it's working, but of course right now it's impossible to tell.

Looks like I'll not be finishing by the end of September after all, but probably will need all of October as well. Oh, gee, I am really surprised! Blogging may get spotty in the days to come as I become more and more turnip-headed.

I am vigorously claiming Isaiah 50:7 "For the Lord GOD helps me, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint and I know that I shall not be ashamed."

The cheery sunflower photo, by the way, I got off of Ed Willett's flickr album and I really hope he doesn't mind that I have used it here because looking at it makes me happy... :-)


Monday, August 28, 2006

My Unusual Life

Last Tuesday's Bible class has had a significant impact on my approach to my work. The pastor was teaching on Ecclesiastes, ch 12:9,10 and he was exegeting the words in the phrase "the teacher pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs." From that he said this:

"A pastor lives a very unusual life. He is called upon to ponder, to be sharp mentally, to weigh words carefully, to concentrate. Being sharp mentally and able to concentrate, in particular come from his gift and from being filled with the Holy Spirit. But it is a tedious and exhausting exercise to continually read and concentrate.

"His life is words, his world is words. He searches for just the right words, arranges them together in just the right way, thinks things through, and fits them alongside other sets of words. What is the best way to put this so the majority of his congreagation understands? People need to be fed solid food, and good teaching, day in and day out doesn't come from shooting from the hip. It comes from daily deep study.

"Thus the pastor cannot allow anything to take the place of his personal study. He can't afford to spend time on visiting, fixing the devil's world, counseling, getting involved, and personally encouraging people. His job is to investigate and to teach. To arrange and compose. To say what needs to be said. This is how he will encourage people. "It is not desirable for pastors to neglect the word so they can take care of people's problems." God the Holy Spirit has given the gift of encouragement and helps to others. Pastors are to "devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:2b,4)"

When I heard this message God the Holy Spirit impressed upon me how much this is like the writing life. My life. My calling is also to work in the world of words. I, too, am to search for just the right words, arrange them together in just the right way, think things through, fit them alongside other sets of words, and figure out what is the best way to put something so the majority of my readers understand or have the response that I intend. Part of my problem has been that when it's not easy I want to wander off and do something else. Recalling that the pastor faces the same temptations and cannot afford to give in has helped me to see that I can't either. My gift, like every other gift in the Body of Christ, is as important as the Pastor's. Pursuing it is a serious calling upon my life.

And my gift is to write, not to be out trying to function in some other believer's gift, like, for example, trying to encourage people personally. My encouraging of other people will come mostly through my writing. That is my calling. Nor should I be out trying to sell my work. Again, that is a function that lies with others, as God moves them. My focus is to be on the work that I've been called to do. To be who God has made me to be, and to live my life as unto Him.

And that is what I intend to do.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Flight 93

Last night we rented Flight 93, about the passengers that took over control of the plane from the terrorists on September 11. I think it's one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. Very moving, something with meat, something absolutely worth seeing.

The only problem wasn't the movie I thought we were seeing, which is actually called United 93 ("aka Flight 93" - the working title). I'd read reviews of United 93, Rush Limbaugh wrote about it in his Limbaugh Letter, I saw the trailer and had heard the relatives of those involved in the flight had helped in the making of the movie. So I was eager to see the whole thing. We were in Blockbuster and there was Flight 93 on the shelf and we assumed that was it.

So we took Flight 93 home, watched it, and as I said I thought it was excellent. I haven't felt so satisfied and edified after watching a movie in a long time. I thought the way they shot it was excellent, the music was perfect and I loved the courage and heroism of the men -- and women -- involved. Loved seeing how it all came about, the conversations between the loved ones by cell phone, the slow realization on the part of those on the ground as to what was happening... Very worth while to see this. The box quotes from the New York Times ("Flight 93 is gripping from the very first scene") USA Today ("...a moving elegy...") and Daily Variety ("...a taut, grim thriller... convincing performances... a gripping pace..."). All true.

It was only afterward, as I went online to get a picture for this post that I discovered there are two versions. And that the one we just watched is not the United 93 aka "Flight 93" I'd heard about, but a movie made for TV. Even now as I'm studying the box, I don't know how I was supposed to tell this. None of the actors in either version are familiar, so I couldn't use that as a key. And unless you know that the theatrical release is directed by Paul Greengrass (who also did Bourne Supremacy), which I'd forgotten, and didn't even think to look for, it's going to seem like the right one.

The weird thing is, having written all this, and feeling somewhat cheated at having not seen what I thought I was seeing, when I think back on the movie itself, I don't feel cheated at all. So maybe it doesn't matter. I think I still want to see the other one... just not tonight!

Have a great weekend

Friday, August 25, 2006

"Surgeon General" on Schedules

Got this off Holly Lisle's blog (8-18) and had to share it:

NOTICE: The Surgeon General has declared that creating schedules can be detrimental to your health and sanity, and that schedule dependence has been linked with weight gain, weight loss, hirsutism, hair loss, nervousness, nausea, vomiting, auditory hallucinations, angina, GERD, hypertension, hypotension, insanity, and death. Pregnant women, women who might become pregnant, persons with preexisting liver or kidney or heart conditions, and people with eyelids should avoid scheduling. If you experience side effects from scheduling, stop immediately and consult your doctor.

DISCLAIMER #1: This schedule is subject to Life, which happens while one is making other plans.

DISCLAIMER #2: (Marine Adage) No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.

DISCLAIMER #3: (Yiddish Adage) Men plan, God laughs.



Thursday, August 24, 2006

Arizona Sunsets

We've been having storms here in Southern Arizona. After all the months of drought, now we're over on our rainfall by almost two inches. Storms make for stunning sunsets, and I just wanted to share this one, though photos never really do them justice. The whole world turns orange, and the sky is so big and filled with color and shape and light. Incredible! But it only lasts a few moments, before it fades away.

Have a grace-focused day!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

SF/F Blog Tour: Kathy Tyers - Day 2

Many years ago, back in the dark ages when writers still typed their manuscripts on typewriters, I joined the Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop, a nationwide group for SF/F writers to exchange manuscripts through the mail for critiquing. They also put out a monthly newsletter on different aspects of writing in the genre. At the time they were just getting started with the novel-critiquing part of the workshop, The Long Writers, and I volunteered to be the coordinator of that group. (Ed Willett, whose blog, Hassenpfeffer I referenced last week, was also a member of The Long Writers)

One day I received a letter from a young woman telling me she'd just completed her first science fiction novel, a YA space opera which had recently been turned down by Atheneum with a personal letter of encouragement and suggestions for improvement (this is a great milestone in the world of rejection letters -- a personal letter from an editor!). She had just finished incorporating the suggestions and was looking for someone to critique her manuscript. It sounded interesting to me so I wrote back, introducing myself and among other things, telling her that I was a Christian. Within a few days I received an answer. She was a Christian, too. We were about the same age, had both been married for the same length of time, each had one son, hers a year or so older than mine, and had degrees in the biological sciences (I was a double major in Wildlife Biology and Biology, she had a degree in Microbiology) -- we were both crazy about Star Wars, military stuff, SF/F (she's the one who persuaded me to read the Miles Vorkosigan books) and had a multitude of other areas of compatibility. Her name, of course, was Kathy Tyers.

Well, Kathy sent me her YA manuscript, which, as you may have guessed by now was the original version of Firebird. I loved it -- practically inhaled it -- and a little later I sent her what was then called The Shadow of Ghel, now (three rewrites and several decades later) The Light of Eidon. Kathy was a great critiquer -- insightful, discriminating, honest and very encouraging. We not only became critique partners but good friends. I think in those early days we exchanged letters on a once a week basis -- long ones. I'd get one from her and immediately be moved to respond, and from the turnaround, she did the same. This was all snail mail, mind you, hence the time lags.

Over time, Kathy, I and Ed, all of us Christians, developed our own round robin critiquing group within the Long Writers that continued after we'd all dropped out of the official group. Those two were just what I needed, not only as critiquers but as friends who can cheer you on and keep you going when the going gets rough. I'm very grateful the Lord sent them into my life.

We've all gotten published finally, Kathy first, Ed next, and me at long last. (Ed writes excellent Adult and YA science fiction and fantasy novels, and nonfiction on science topics) Life changes, the pressures and deadlines of publication and other factors contributed to the decline of our critiquing activities, but I shall always look back on those times fondly. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop continues on today, both online and off, and if you're interested in exploring it, just click on the links embedded in this post.


Monday, August 21, 2006

August SF/F Blog Tour: Kathy Tyers

Today marks the first day of the August Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. This month the tour is highlighting the work of author Kathy Tyers, with an emphasis on her Firebird Trilogy. Published in 1999 by Bethany House, Firebird was the first in what has turned out to be a new wave of Christian SF. Beth Goddard is coordinating the tour from her blog, Writing with Fire.

Kathy is well known outside of Christian circles as the best-selling author of the Star Wars novels, Truce at Bakura and Balance Point. She also has the distinction of having published three of her novels with two different publishing houses. The original Firebird and its sequel, Fusion Fire, were first published by Bantam Books. Though Kathy had hoped Bantam would take the final in that series, Crown of Fire, the evil marketing gnomes (okay, maybe they weren't technically "evil"... ) intervened and she was instructed to write something entirely new. So she penned the delightful Crystal Witness, followed by the Nebula Award nominated Shivering World, Truce at Bakura, and finally her last book with Bantam, One Mind's Eye.

There followed a period of spiritual and artistic redirection, from which she emerged with the Bethany House contract to reintroduce Firebird and Fusion Fire, this time bringing into greater relief the already existing faith elements in those books. Even better, Bethany House wanted her to finish Crown of Fire, which had been so frustratingly left hanging. What a blessing to see that book finally in print! Not only for her but for the rest of us as well -- a real-life example of how the Lord can breathe new life into something we thought was entirely dead and without hope of resuscitation. Today, all three volumes remain in print as a three in one volume, The Firebird Trilogy.

In addition, Bethany has republished Shivering World, also with increased focus on and development of the faith elements. Kathy's also written a number of Star Wars short stories for inclusion in anthologies and a travel guide to the Rockies, where she's lived until recently. Her most recent book Grace Like a River, a biography of her friend, Classical guitarist Christopher Parkening, just released from Tyndale House this summer. For a complete listing of all her books, check her website, .

Have fun, and if you've not yet tried any of Kathy's work, I recommend it highly.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Coonhound Bear -- 1

The one thing Bear has never been terribly good at is anything to do with the coonhound aspect of his breed. It probably doesn't help that we don't have a lot of raccoons in Arizona -- you need a lot of water to have a lot of raccoons I expect. He loves to go out running around in the night, but I don't believe he's ever treed a raccoon. In fact the first thing he ever treed was the neighbor's cat...

(Yes, there is a cat in the photo above: he's that gray blog up in the tree on the left.)

Treeing the neighbor's cat however, is not good for neigborly relations so, like many people, we joined the regional coonhound association which holds Trailing Dog Trials several times a year (none of which involve cats). The best way to train a tracking dog, they say, is to put him with a pack of experienced dogs. In fact at the trials it is pretty funny to watch the young dogs on the scent-drag event. The experienced hounds go racing off on scent, leaving the youngsters behind in a mass of confusion, barking at each other, running here and there, noses to the ground, searching for...well, they aren't sure what they're searching for and what difference it makes anyway, because EVERYTHING smells good! And it's so exciting!

Coonhound events include the hundred yard dash, the treeing bark competition, following a scent-dragged trail, and a swimming race. Bear, remember, is the alert to all the distractions dog, so the primary thing he does at coonhound events is bark at all the other dogs as they just bark. When coonhounds get excited they bark (this is painful when you are on your way to the park in the car) so being at one of these events is an incredibly noisy affair. They're bred to do that, so that they'll bay when they're on the trail and the hunters behind them can follow along. (There is no hunting at the trials, though.)

The first event I ever participated in was the hundred yard dash. I had Bear on the starting line and my hubby was at the finish hoping his presence would draw Bear on even faster. He is supposed to be really fast -- his daddy was a purple ribbon champion at it. So we're standing there, waiting to unleash our dogs, all these hounds baying their hearts out. Bear is going bananas, figiting all around, backward, forward and --- Oh! What's this? I have a collar on the end of my leash and no dog! Somehow he backed out of his collar. We both realized it at the same moment and he was off before I could catch him... moments before the starting shot sounded. Which means he was disqualified, even though he ran straight to the tree and beat all the other dogs. Alas...

Have a great weekend

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Hypocrisy of SF Writers?

Recently I was interviewed for an internet radio show/podcast and was asked the difference between SF and Fantasy. One answer I like to give -- a pretty simplistic one -- is that if the impossible thing you want to happen in your story is accomplished through buttons, switches, gizmos, or other machines or justified through "sciencebabble", it's science fiction. If the impossible thing is accomplished through magic spells, talismans, magic creatures, living wood/stones/clouds/whatever, and other unexplained supernatural powers residing in people, animals or in things, then it's fantasy.

For an amusing dissertation on the ... well, I really do have to call it hypocrisy... of science fiction writers when it comes to the (deep and profound intonation) Importance of Being Scientifically Accurate in their works, along with their howling disdain for Bad Science in movies or books... check my friend Ed Willett's blog entry Unreal Science.

The funniest thing about science is the way it always changes. There was a time when all the scientific experts agreed that the world rested on the backs of giant turtles! (An image I absolutely love. I might have to try painting it some day...) Today we're told the scientific experts (the vast majority of whom are not expert in atmopheric sciences) agree that global warming as a result of man's activities is a truth and that before long we're going to have a meltdown. Of course, only 40 years ago the experts were telling us that we were heading into another ice age...

I suppose the best approach here would be... Do not take seriously all words which are spoken.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A little to a Little

Well, it's been slow going this last week. I have to keep my focus rigidly on the Lord, and the fact that He has chosen me and not rejected me and will help me and has guided me all along the way and has never, ever failed to come through in His time and for His purpose. Otherwise I will fall into panic and despair.

It's not that I don't think there isn't a solution to the problems I'm facing with these chapters; it's that I'm not sure the solution will become apparent in time. Of course, since God is in my picture, then there is no reason why it wouldn't become apparent in time and hence the reason for not contemplating the problem but concentrating instead upon the solution: that my Father is all He has said He is and is completely worthy of my trust.

He has also given me encouragement, bringing to mind Ps 112:4 -- “Light rises in the darkness for the upright..." which reminds me that sometimes His guidance comes slowly, gradually, bit by bit.

That led to the recollection of a John Gardner quote I believe I've blogged before about:

"All that matters is that, going over and over the sketch as if one had all eternity for finishing one’s story, one improves now this sentence, now that, noticing what changes the new sentences urge, and in the process one gets the characters and their behavior clearer in one’s head, gradually discovering the deeper implications of the characters’ problems and hopes..."

Very very slowly I'm watching the sequence I've been working on begin to change. Slowly, it is getting better. This morning I thought it was hopeless, but tonight I think that chapter 5 is just about there. And I've already made some small changes to 7 and thought about 9. So they are begining to change, too.

And then, just at the end of the day I checked in at Charis Connection where Athol Dickson has posted a collection of quotes on this very thing: "Writing Well--Writing Slow(ly)"

Thus I press on, continuing to trust, being content with what is measured out for each day, and staying OUT of the future.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Baying Bear

Hounds are, not surprisingly, vocal dogs. In fact, the baying is another thing we love about hounds. Bear enjoys having conversations with us from time to time. For example, he will do a little half bark outside, letting me know he wants to come in. So I go and open the bedroom window to the back yard and ask him if he really wants in. And he tells me that he does. I ask if he's really sure and he assures me he is really sure...

His voice is huge (one set of neighbors complained that he sounded like a seal, but I think they must have not heard many seals). When he barks it will degauss the computer screen. In fact, when he stands at the front window and barks at "intruders" daring to walk down the street, he hurts his own ears. You hear him baying and then he breaks off to shake his head. More baying, more ear shaking...

Which was a clue I should have taken note of before I thought it would be a good idea to put my tomato plant seedlings near the window. I think they were there for a day and then some dog went by. Bear went ballistic as he always does and with the intermittent ear shaking managed to chop all but one of my seedlings into itty bitty pieces. Death by ear flailing. That's got to be a new one.

I'm not making any reports on what's going on with RotGK until tomorrow when perhaps I'll have something signficant to report!


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bible Conference: God's Love & Mercy in Prophecy

The New England conference is over and God had some wonderful concepts to teach me. The lesson on obedience, which launched my previous post, also included the coolest analogy using those voice navigation systems they have in cars these days. When you're driving and you don't do what the navigation system says -- say you're supposed to turn right at the next intersection but you miss it -- it doesn't throw a fit and boot you out of the car. It just calmly and coolly says, "Recalculating the route." So it is with God when we blow it as Believers. He doesn't throw a fit, and boot us out of the car. He just says, "Recalculating the route." I love it.

Other snippets --

When do you plan to replace passive self-pity with active courage?

Your life can be a walking epistle in the way that you think and can be read by other men because of what you've gone through and how you've persevered and did not quit in spite of all the obstacles. What is your unjust situation or disadvantage in life? Make it your pulpit! Use it to reveal to a lost and dying world how you're going through something but there's a Love and Mercy that will come through for you...

Relationships are NOT reciprocal. Unconditional virtue (agape) love is one-way. You don't give a lot and wait for the recipient to love you back. No. When the angels fell, God loved them more. When Adam and the woman fell, God loved them more and did more for them, not less.

The prophecies of God are designed to reveal His love and mercy and to give us confidence that we are on the right track.

There are over 1000 specific prophecies in the Bible, of which some 500 have been fulfilled.

The mathematical probability of just 11 of the prophecies about Jesus's birth being accurately fulfilled is, by conservative estimate, 1 in 10 to the 19th power. One in ten billion billons... for just 11 of them.

There comes a time you will have to go forward with God's plan for your life and leave friends and family members behind. Jesus didn't come to get us all involved and reconciled with each other but to divide. (Mt 10:34-38)

If the scripture teaches us anything about God, it is that HE IS FOR US!

Consider the work of God. Who is able to straighten what God has bent? (Eccl 7:13) We think things should go a certain way and then they don't at all. What is God doing? He knows. We don't and we can't straighten what He's bent back to the way we think it ought to be. Nor would we even want to if we had all the facts.

I feel like I've been feasting for a week. Fabulous, amazing stuff.


Thursday, August 10, 2006


Awhile back I posted some reflections on winning the Christy award, and there were some comments praising me for my obedience. I took minor exception to that and tried to explain why I didn't really see it as obedience because the desire in me was so strong to write, and because nothing about what I did was earned.

But I've been thinking about it ever since, because something was niggling at the back of my mind about what I'd said. I think I gave the impression that obedience isn't important. That the Christian way of life isn't really about obedience, and that's not so.

The Christian way of life is all about obedience. Grace Bible Church in Massachusetts is having a conference this week. I couldn't go because of the dog and the deadline, but I've been listening to the messages morning and evening, and this morning's message, on obedience, returned this subject to my mind.

Because I see now that I was obedient, but not so much in writing. I was obedient in learning what God’s Plan for my life is all about. I was obedient in submitting to the authority of my right pastor, something many, many people reject. Even the idea of having a right pastor is generally rejected today, and the idea of submitting to his greater knowledge, sitting down and learning from him is outright anathema. I have lost friends because of doing this. Many of my family members think I’m nuts, or in a cult. This is the kind of obedience that exacts a price.

A price not only in relationships, but in time and energy. It takes time to sit down daily and listen. It takes humility. Sometimes you don’t like what he says or don't agree with it. Sometimes it’s boring. Sometimes you are exhausted and the last thing you want to do is sit down and listen to someone speak. Sometimes you have to give up time with friends or family or going to the movies. It's hard. Especially at the beginning. It takes obedience – you obey the command not to forsake assembling yourselves, to keep on renewing your mind, to respect the authority of the pastor who’s been assigned to teach you, to make hearing and learning the word of God more important than your necessary, daily food.

Then after you learn the word, you have to obey it.

Keep on being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)
Confess your sins -- keep short accounts (I Jn 1:9)
Keep on renewing your minds (Ro 12:2)
Be anxious for nothing. (Phil 4:6)
Set your minds on the things above not on the things of this world. (col 3:2)
Do not judge, do not criticize and find fault. (Ro 14:10; Jude 1:16)
Do all things without arguing and complaining. (Phil 2:14)
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. (Phil 2:3)
Have this mind in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5)
Seek him first and his righteousness ... (Mt 6:33)
Do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him.(Pro 3:5,6)
Don’t worry yourself to gain wealth/success. Cease from your consideration of it. (Pro 23:4)Rejoice always. (I Th 5:16)
Pray without ceasing ("with the frequency of a hacking cough") (I Th 5:17)
In EVERYTHING give thanks (I Th 5:18)

God honors those who honor Him (I Sa 2:20). He honors His word above his own name -- wherever he finds it. If it is within me or in my books, He will honor it there. And it will only be there if I've made constant decisions to obey the commands to hear it, to learn it, to believe it, to live in it, to abide in it. That's where the obedience comes in.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Solution to Fear

I went over and over chapter 5 today and was drawing a blank. I can see why it's slow and why my editors complained, but not how to fix it. I started to freak out, then thought I should go read my Little Blue Book, which is a compendium of notes excerpted from the notes I take in Bible class. Portions that for whatever reason seemed especially relevant to me at the time. Not surprisingly they continue to be so and I love the way the Lord uses them in my life.

So I picked up the book, which has no page numbers, no headings, no table of contents, little labeling of any kind and opened it randomly... to one of the few titled pages: "The Solution to Fear." Ha!

Here's what it said:

Courage is the ability to think properly under pressure. The brave man is the one who masters his fears and is willing to face his problems head on. The thing that will always calm your fears is doctrinal thinking.

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves and on the way He said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the Chief Priests and scribes and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up." (Mt 20:17-19)

Our Lord was completely clear about what he faced. The pain, the degredation, the insults, etc. Yet He went forward. He also knew He'd be resurrected. His confidence in the Father's plan enabled Him to face incredible opposition.

"And they came to a place named Gethsemene... and He took with Him Peter, and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled." (Mk 14:32,33)

It's not the absence of fear or feeling troubled we're after, it's facing fear and mastering it: "Whatever your will is, Father, I'm embracing that, no matter what the consequences to my flesh."

Do you have a fear? We are here to honor and acknowledge the leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ... to take courage from His example and face that fear head on. Maybe knowing the outcome, maybe not knowing it but facing it and saying, "There's something more important to me than that problem -- it's the mind of Christ, the divine viewpoint... it's acknowledging the leadership of Jesus Christ and following in His footsteps."

That's who I want to be like. I recognize I have something in my way to face and until I do, I'm not going to understand the mind of Christ when it comes to confidence in God -- and true courage.
So I will trust Him. I am facing the blank wall, a major part of the book seems seriously flawed, I have NO idea what to do about it and, in fact, am tempted to think there isn't anything I can do. But when I am afraid I will trust in Him ... I know He will come through for me, just like He's always come through before...


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Left Behind Linked with Christianity

Terry Mattingly's July 19, 2006 column "On Religion" (LINK) noted that a recent survey of "Left Behind" readers showed a surprising 22.8 percent of them were non-Christians. Now Christian leaders are disturbed, fearing that for many of these non-Christians "Left Behind" has become tightly linked with "Christianity." Says Mattingly, "They have been fed a pop version of 'premillennial dispensationalism,' a complicated 19th century doctrinal system that says Jesus will reign for 1,000 years on earth after the last trumpet sounds, the dead rise and the true Christians are raptured to meet Christ in the air...(and many of them) believe that the Left Behind books are highly accurate portrayals of what the Bible teaches about the end of the world."

Being a premillennial dispensationalist myself, I'm citing this because it's gotten me to thinking about a progression I find fascinating. First, though, I don't see how anyone can accuse Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins of "feeding" anyone anything. They sat down some years ago and wrote their beliefs into a story, then passed it around CBA publishers, were rejected by quite a number of high level editors (who are now kicking themselves for that oversight), until Tyndale finally picked it up. Another endtimes book, ho hum. Hopefully it will sell through... they NEVER imagined it would do any more than that. Publisher's Weekly, not surprisingly, ignored it. If you go to the Amazon site you see that it doesn't review the book until two years after its initial release and then it's the audio version that's reviewed.

LaHaye and Jenkins wrote the book, Tyndale published it, and to the astonishment of everyone, it took off. Not because anyone was feeding anyone anything, but because people were interested in it.

Since I'm inclined to believe the Rapture is not far away, I think this promotion was God's doing. I love that the books are sneered at as being poorly written, that they are not stunning examples of fine prose and rich, subtle characterization -- because God doesn't use many mighty or many wise, but has instead "chosen the things that are humble that He might nullify the things that are not, that no man should boast before Him."

I find it fascinating that these books, which have sold 70 million copies, and have been translated into umpteen languages have made their way around the the world. To the point that Christian leaders are now upset that everyone links the Rapture and subsequent Tribulation with Christianity. I see that as a warning. And perhaps so have thousands of others who have believed in Jesus because of these books.

Grace always comes before judgement. So first there is this so-called "popularized" warning. Then, following on its heels we have The Passion of the Christ, which has also been around the world, even been watched in Middle eastern countries by Jews and Muslims -- a miracle in itself. So the warning of what is to come gets spread, then the solution to avoiding those horrors is presented in Passion.

And finally... we have Satan rushing to play catch up, scrambling to find something to muddy the waters with his DaVinci Code... to give people the opportunity to poo-poo what has come before.
And I just think it's all very cool.

Have a grace-filled day ~

Monday, August 07, 2006

Revisions: Rethinking

Well, here I am starting in on the second week. I decided, per my editor's recommndation, to start the book with Maddie instead of Abramm, so I've put her chapter (3) to the fore and his first two coming after that.

I spent last week working on the new chapter 2, which used to be chapter 1. You may recall that I've gone through this one a number of times, but here I am again, still strugging to weed out all the chaff, find the core of it and get it moving. I always struggle with early chapters. These seem especially difficult and I think it's because of the way I ended Shadow Over Kiriath.

Anyway, it's coming together. I stripped five pages of material out of it, condensed, consolidated and finally got an idea of what exactly I want it to do with. I know who the major supporting characters are going to be now, something I didn't really know when I first wrote this. In fact, the one that I didn't really outline or develop beforehand but who just appeared out of the blue has turned out to be the main secondary character and the two I thought would be the most important are not. One of them hardly showed up at all in the rest of the book, even though I had great plans for him at the start.

I did the same sorts of things with chapter 3 today -- that one's gone from 20 pages to 12. Now that the book is entirely done and I'm able to see where I'm going, it's much easier to see what I have to keep and emphasize and what I have to lose. And also what I need to add. Even so, the going is slow. My thinking is never as clear as it seemed, and now I'm seeing all the inconsistencies, illogicalities and impossibilities... Which is a good thing.

Great messages lately in Bible class, particularly the one about how "God is able to make all grace ABOUND to you, that ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in EVERYTHING you may have an ABUNDANCE for EVERY good deed." ~ 2 Co 9:8

Just a reminder that I have everything I need -- the talent, the wit, the time, the energy -- to complete this task in accordance with His will. I am keeping myself focused on that, and not the scary speculations that want to raise their very ugly heads from time to time.


Knot photo by PhineasH

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Michelle asked: "After your editor has gone through your first draft, how much time do you spend revising? Ie, how many revisions do you make before you think that it's good enough? How does that compare to how long it took you to revise when you first started writing? Has the process become familiar enough that you trust your voice on the first draft so that you don't feel you need to make as many revisions?"

I get two months, maybe three, to do the final revisions on a book that has 211,000 words. Revisions will include about a 30,000 word cut at least. Some chapters I do upwards of 15 versions, others maybe I'll only do one or two (this is first and final draft revisions combined). I don't know what the number is on the chapter I just finished but I suspect it's one of the 15+ versions. Those are also the kind where I do the two steps forward, one step back type of progress (See Tortoise Day) trying to get it all to come out right. Yesterday I kept realizing something was wrong, fixed it, then realized why the fix wouldn't work either, fixed that, realized why the new thing wasn't working...

Also, I don't get to do as many revisions as I need before I think it's good enough. I usually have to stop before then because the time runs out. That's why I quote to myself that little statement from the Tom Clancy book about good enough is good enough, while perfect is just a pain and often not worth the trouble...

As for the process having become familiar enough that I trust my voice in the first draft and don't have to make so many revisions? Well, yes and no. Writing the first draft is a bunch of really bad writing. It turns out often not to be as bad as it seems, but the actual experience is one of writing pure dreck and I haven't learned to trust that yet. I do seem to have a pretty good sense of what needs to go into a story and what doesn't, so I've been able to bypass a lot of the really big revision changes because of that. The editors mostly recommend that I tighten and tweak and clarify, but not anything really big.

I think that and the fact that I have to write to a deadline are what most contribute to reducing the number of revisions I make now. I've heard this from other published writers as well -- we never get to work with a manuscript until everything is the way we want it. The deadline always comes before that can happen.

What I am learning is to relax about it all and trust the Lord that if I'm taking what seems to be way too long on chapters 2 & 3 right now, that's only my viewpoint and He has it all in hand. If I stop with the worrying and the fretting, things go much more smoothly.

Happy Saturday

Friday, August 04, 2006

How I Work

When I was looking up the background on author Steven Brust for my recent Cool Theory of Literature post, I found his live journal with an entry for "How I work". It is very similar to how I work, and, in light of an admittedly cursory reading of recent discussions on Speculative Faith suggesting that world building is bad if it comes out of faith issues, I thought this would be an appropriate counter.

Brust's method of world building is largely intuitive -- I'm not the only one who builds the world to tell the story. Connie Willis described doing the same thing at a writing conference I attended. Like Brust, and me, she does only enough research and world building to make it work in the story. As Brust says in his journal, the intent is to "1) Encourage the reader to buy into it sufficiently that it won't detract from his enjoyment of the story, B) provide a nice backdrop against which the story can take place, and, iii) insofar as possible without messing up 1) or B), create a vehicle to explore such systems in our world, or the attitude toward such systems, or (in the case of magic especially) the thing for which the system is a metaphor."

The very fact that I can manipulate the world to make the point is why I like writing in this genre. The world is always for me only background. I could care less about building a vast, complex and detailed sub-world. My focus is the characters and the story. Faith issues come in automatically. They're part of who I am and how I think. And what I want to emphasize.

If you want to read Brust's entire post check A Bland and Deadly Courtesy
Scroll down (or click on a new page, if necessary) to
Saturday, July 29, 2006 How I Work Part 2
See also, Tuesday, July 25, 2006 How I work

I have now spent three days working through Chapter 2. I think it might be nearly done.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Odd Bits of Info

Researched scavengers yesterday. Did you know that an adult cockroach can live for a week without its head? Then it dies of thirst because without its head it is unable to drink water. [LINK]

Komodo dragons, the largest species of monitor lizard, live on only a few islands in Indonesia (though, since they swim, they could move if they wanted to). Males grow to an average of 9 feet long. The record is 10 feet. Females are smaller.

They have 50 different kinds of bacteria in their saliva, of which 7 cause severe and deadly blood poisoning. So even if the prey escapes the initial attack, it will most likely die within 2 to 4 days.

Komodo dragons can smell carrion -- the largest part of their diet -- from up to 6 3/4 miles away.

A tiger needs 12 pounds of food a day, a wolf 7, but a komodo dragon only one. [LINK]

The forked tongue common to many species of reptile is an organ of smell. Being forked allows the lizard to determine which direction the smell is coming from.

In China recently they unearthed the fossils of two large mammals believed to have lived concurrently with the dinosaurs, and which fed on dinosaurs (one had young dinosaur in its belly). They resemble very large Tasmanian Devils. This blows away the standard and long- held view that mammals were only nocturnal shrew and mole type creatures that hid away in holes and underbrush and had to wait until the dinosaurs died before they could emerge as a dominant class. [LINK]

The same Hebrew word is used for jackal in the Bible as is used for dragon...

Research is fun, but now it's back to work.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Cool Theory of Literature

I picked this up from a Locus Magazine interview of Steven Brust, best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos. I read one of them years ago -- possibly Jhereg, though I recall it too vaguely to say for sure. I loved the intrigue, the word use and the swordplay, but didn't like the immorality and I think it might have been a bit over my head because I have a recollection of never really grasping what was going on. This interview was done sometime in the 1980's, and to this day his comments resonate for me:

"This is my theory of literature, developed about 48 hours ago. Literature consists of cool stuff. Every form of literature is some writer's attempt to make the reader go, "Wow! Cool' When you hear a sentence like, 'I don't like horror' or 'I like rhythm & blues,' you've got to know how to interpret that -- it's not that straightforward. For most intelligent people it means, 'The standard things you find in horror that make it horror don't work for me. If the book is really spectacular and a magnificent piece of literature, I'm gonna dig it, but the mediocre stuff doesn't do it for me." If you say, 'I like rhythm & blues,' what you're saying is, "Even if it's mediocre, if it isn't all that great, the stuff that makes it R&B I get off on, turns my crank.'

"In the Cool Theory of Literuature, the object is to put as much cool stuff in the book as you can. Some of the cool stuff that really gets me off is a really finely turned sentence. I'm a Zelazny freak, and one of the things he does that I just adore is the way he can put together a sentence that makes me go 'Ahhh!' So I attempt to do that. Playing with the structure of the book is cool, because when I notice it as a reader, I'll say, 'Wait a minute -- every chapter he's had one of these happen, and they're building scenes across the book into... oh, wow, cool!'

"Now what is the cool stuff in fantasy? I can give you a real simple answer from my own work: Cloaks are cool, swords are cool. That's what makes it fantasy for me, my kind of fantasy. Other people probably think unicorns are cool. I don't; they bore me. So if something's a unicorn-and-elf kind of book, it's got to be really good for me to like it. People who like sf think clicky-clicky things, relays popping and lasers blasting rocketships are cool! As a matter of fact, I do too. But for me real cool means a rapier, a cloak -- I like it. It makes me smile."

Me again. I think the issue of "cool" in a book very much governs the degree to which a person likes it. Sometimes if there is enough of the cool, it can overshadow the not so cool.

I like heros with character and honor who start weak and end strong; horses, palaces, cloaks and swords. Sailing ships. Very cool. A touch of romance. Stories that resonate with Spiritual truth. Even cooler.

So what is cool for you?


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Water in the Desert

We've been getting lots of rain in Southern Arizona -- perhaps you've heard. Bridges are closed, the dry washes are running bank to bank and even overflowing some of the bridges. We're in the middle of town, so we don't have to worry, but on Sunday we went up the road to Mt. Lemmon. That's an 8000 ft peak about an hour from the heart of town, sporting spruce, aspen, ponderosa pine and a ski run. We didn't go that far, only to some of the drainages at the 4000 foot level, where we hoped to see the water flowing -- and were not disappointed.

So here are two pictures of water in the desert. Normally these places have no water at all, or at most a small trickle. The first one, above, is looking down into a steep walled basin. The water's not easy to see since, being mostly runoff, it's got a lot of sediment in it, which makes it the same color as the rocks. But you should be able to see the brown and white pool in the lower right hand corner with the white stream rushing into it from the left.

The next one was taken alongside the road where the Forest Service fee station is located. The water's easier to see here, still brown, but the trees and the white foam help to bring it out.
Mt Lemmon got six inches in two days and the rest of us close to three inches, with some locations getting more. I think we're almost at our normal rain totals for the year.

People are getting stranded, driving into flooded dips despite numerous warnings. Arizona now has a "Stupid Motorist Law" for those who ignore the posted warnings and try to drive through the ditches anyway. If they get stuck and have to be rescued, they have to pay all or most of the cost of their rescue. If it involves helicopters and such, that's going to be alot.

Looks like our storms are subsiding for now. They were not the usual afternoon monsoonal pattern that we get, but strange storms, moving slowly southward across the state and reaching us during the night. Both Saturday and Sunday nights I awakened to let Bear out, and found lighting flashing, thunder crashing and rain falling. Quite exciting! But not for the people who have to travel around in it.