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.