Thursday, March 29, 2007

Which Outlet?

One of my commenters on last Sunday's post said he had gotten so excited to learn of RotGK's release that he ordered it from Bethany House, even though he wasn't sure they'd even be ready to send it. That got me to wondering which venue is the quickest for receiving the new release of a not-best-selling book.

I'd love to hear from readers of this blog regarding where you ordered/purchased the book and when you got it. You can email me (see my profile) or leave a comment and I'll do a little report on the results. Since I have a theory that those closest to Bethany House (or the distributer) will get the books quickest, let me know the city and state where you got the book (received it in the mail, or bought it from a store).

I also find it interesting that Amazon gives the release date as April 1, whereas Christian Book says April 20. Another interesting thing is that CBD no longer offers Arena, but Amazon's still selling it new -- though admittedly it's no longer "in stock" and takes 4 - 6 weeks to ship.

Whatever the case, it won't be long now...


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More from Overcoming Writing Blocks

The first stage of any writing task is the training and gestation period.

"You know what you have to do and, overwhelmed as you may feel, you must prepare yourself properly for it. Just as you would prepare yourself for a footrace, so you need to develop basic fitness habits that will get you in shape for prose composition, especially if you know you have a tendency to block.

"More than anything else, your job as a writer at this stage is to cultivate a special quality of receptivity to make yourself as sensitive as possible to faint suggestions about the work that crop up in the back of your mind. Once you know what your task is, you begin to explore it, gathering information, trying out different leads, and generally seeking to encourage the texture of the piece to take clearer and clearer shape in your mind and in your notes."

Reading this I realized that this was smack dab where I was in the process continuum. Because I'd already worked on the book a bit, and even come up with a synopsis and proposal, I thought I was further along than I am.

For one thing, I came up with the the original idea years ago. I'm a different person now. The slot this book must fill is a totally different slot from the one I had conceived it for. So in many ways it really is like starting all over.

Yes, I already have a plotline and even potential scenes -- but those no longer seem appropriate. I don't like them any more. And even some of what I've written just seems lame. So I have to take it as something that is still very early in its gestational period. A period that isn't going to be completed in a day or two, despite my ridiculous hopes that it will be.

What I've decided to do is to just read through all the material without demanding that I make decisions about it. Stop demanding that I wrestle a plot out of it. Just keep reading through it and reading through it, noting whatever occurs to me and maybe doing a few nonstops. I'll read more in Overcoming Writing Blocks as well, for additional ideas of things I can do. And I will keep doing the research that I've started. But more on that later.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Getting Started Again

Yesterday I started out with high hopes for getting in some good work on Black Box. I had my morning chores done quickly, I didn't have to go anywhere, I knew that I would have the whole day to devote to working on this book and I intended to use it to full advantage. After all the interruptions and delays and so forth that I'd encountered since my official beginning of the book, now, finally I was set to go.

Or so I thought. I started developing this book years ago, after I'd written Arena but before it sold -- during the year and a half that Steve Laube held it, waiting for the right moment to approach the editorial board. He'd said in a seminar at Mt. Hermon that if what you want to write is "C," but the market is at "A," you should write "B," that is, something that incorporates elements of the marketable A, but also the passion of your C.

So, operating on the premise that Arena might not sell, I wanted to develop a book that might be more palatable and yet also be a bridge to Arena. So I came up with Black Box -- an alternate world story set in our own world, but still almost as strange as Arena. I think I worked about 10 months on it before Arena sold. After the sale, Steve wanted to know what I was working on for a follow up but when I ran a brief summary of Box by him he nixxed it in about five minutes (literally).

I figured the Lord wanted me to go in another direction so I dropped it and started developing another novel. After that I went back to Eidon and then the Legends of the Guardian-King series. A year ago January I knew I had to present something new to Bethany House and took up Box again. But this time I had no time to spare, because every day devoted to that was another day away from Return of the Guardian King. I had to take the notes I had and come up with a story synopsis that made sense and was interesting and that's what I did. I also, at what I believe was the Lord's nudging, added a new and unexpected element to the story.

It sold, amazingly, but I was deep into RotGK by then and didn't give it a thought until well... this last month. March 1 I began ferreting out all my old files and notes from their various hiding places, collected them into my office and was completely overwhelmed. I have tentative plot lines, lists of possible events, index cards of notes on background issues, setting details, details of character, more possible events, research snippets, incidents or scenes, writings about where I'm going with the story, what kinds of things I might want to do... stacks and piles and folders.

Plus I have about 8 1/2 chapters written, some of which I like and some of which I don't. And over the course of this very distracted month, every time I came in to wrestle with the alligator, I found myself wanting to read email, or staring out the window, or ...

Well, here's a quote from Overcoming Writing Blocks that describes it quite well:

"The paramount symptom of blocking at this first stage is restless, anxious procrastination. You can think of a thousand things you'd rather be doing than sitting at your desk pushing your pen, and when you do finally force yourself to sit down, dozens of extraneous but apparently urgent thoughts bubble up, as your recalcitrant mind ingeniously struggles to distract itself from the task at hand. Then, when you do finally manage to focus your attention on the job, all you get is a dull blankness, or nothing but the most obvious banal truisms. There's no excitement, no inspiration about the whole project; it leaves a flat sour taste in your mouth."

I had forgotten about this. It is right on. Yesterday, when I had all those hours to really get working on the book, sometime in mid-afternoon I picked up the Robin Hobb book I'd started a couple of weeks ago (Fool's Errand -- it was lying enticingly on the dining room table) just to finish the chapter I was in the middle of... and read almost straight through until midnight (minus time to make dinner and watch 24).

Arg. Not at all part of my plan. When I woke up this morning, I refused to let myself go on the usual guilt trip, realizing instead that this was a familiar pattern. That it wasn't just lack of self-discipline, but that something else was going on. The work I had before me was hard, and the strategies I was using to tackle it were not working. I needed more. And so... back to Overcoming Writing Blocks. Check back tomorrow for the rest of the story...


Sunday, March 25, 2007

A New Release

The Wednesday evening before I left for San Fransisco, I received from the UPS delivery guy a package from Bethany House containing my hot off the press copy of Return of the Guardian King.

It's always a little amazing to hold the first copy of your new book in your hands, but especially this one. I can't help remembering how it was at the beginning -- the warnings that the series might never actually be completed and the stories of others which hadn't. Of course at the back of your mind, you always hope the book will be a break out blockbuster success, but that's not been the case. Still, here it is, a real book sitting in my hands. Soon all those people who have written or told me in person how much they are looking forward to reading it, will at last read it.

Already a couple of reviews have come out... I read the first with trepidation, fearing the reviewer might have found the book incomprehensible. Or boring. Neither seemed to be the case, so that was a relief. Or maybe I should say a confirmation that once again the Lord came through, filling in the gaps my weakness left.

I probably won't read it myself for some time. Oh, I'll go through my author's copies (they arrived yesterday) to make sure there aren't any more disasters of signatures being omitted or doubled as with The Shadow Within... but I will wait to sit down and read it until I can get some decent distance on it. Until I can largely forget all the options I wrestled with, the false starts, the actual choices and see what it is that I have done. That will take months at least. And by then I'll be deep into Black Box.

Which I've not worked on much now for two weeks -- ever since the computer crashed. Next week, though I plan to dig in.

For now, I will revel in the Lord's faithfulness. It's amazing that after all the years of writing without apparent success, to realize that I have had five books published. And another in the works.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

San Francisco Conference

Last Thursday, Mar 15, I headed out for San Francisco for another weekend of learning God's word and fellowshipping in the company of like-minded believers from all over the country. This was the first time for the San Francisco group to hold a conference and it was wonderful. At left is the lobby of the Doubletree Hotel --San Francisco Airport -- where it was held.

Pastor McLaughlin was in fine form, opening the conference Friday morning in Revelation 3:14 where he began the last segment of his conference studies on the seven churches of Revelation. He started with a review of the seven churches which some take to represent different developments in the church throughout the church age, while others say they represent different types of churches in any generation and still others that they represent different types of believers in any given church during any given generation of the church age. I tend to think it's all three.

Again he stressed the importance of knowing which dispensation we are living in, for without that knowledge it will be impossible to live the Christian way of life.

From there it was on to the exegesis of Rev 3:14 which begins the passage on the church at Laodicea. The first word of note is aggelos which can be transliterated "angel" or translated "messenger," depending on its usage. When it refers to supercreatures, the transliteration "angel" is used; when it’s referring to something in the human realm, it should be translated "messenger." In Mt. 11:10, Mk 1:2, James 2:25 you find examples of when it’s used for people and translated messenger.

In this case, it refers to the pastors of each of the seven churches in Asia minor at the time, and also to the future pastors of the different types of churches in the church age, who are certainly God's messengers to us in these days. But the Pastor does not have a special in with God. He has a voice. Behind the voice must be thought and understanding of the word of God in the original languages, in the historical context in which it was written (Isagogics) and in the comparison of scripture with scripture.

The Bible is the most important textbook, historical tome, instruction manual known to man. It is the one book we can study constantly and still not learn all that it contains. It will survive all time and the destruction of all the present universe. It contains the very thoughts of God, given to us so we might know Him – who He is, what He’s done for us and what He wants us to do.

It has always seemed like a no-brainer to me that the Bible beyond all other books or sources of knowledge should be studied intensely -- like no other. In it are the keys to life in time and in eternity. In it are all the answers to any problem any person will ever face. It contains the answers to why we are here, how we got here, where we are going…

But we can’t all sit down and spend all day studying the word of God because we have to feed and clothe and shelter ourselves. Thus God provided the gift of pastor-teacher. To certain men He has given the gift of pastor teacher, and they are to be supported by those who are assigned to learn from him, so that he will be free to spend his days in the concentrated study of the word of God.

It's not an easy calling. In fact, the daily teaching that is the practical outworking of Our Lord's command to Peter to "feed my sheep" is the easy part. It's the studying that is the hard part. The part that requires discipline, dedication, preparation and a great deal of mental effort. It may take a man all day to unravel the meaning of a single verse – insights that may take but seconds for him to speak when he teaches his congregation.

I can never be reminded of this without feeling a depth of gratitude that God has given me a man who is willing to do all this. It's hard work and unfortunately there are pastors out there who do not wish to do it and so resort to other, easier routes.

More than that, there are many believers who do not wish them to. Believers content to scratch the surface of the love letter God has sent to us under the assumption that the deeper truths, the theological matters have no bearing on their day to day lives. They just want to get by. Or maybe they just want to get whatever they can out of it so as to have a nice life.

I was especially struck by the words Pastor McLaughlin spoke toward the end of his message:

The Lord Jesus Christ had many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross;

Many seekers of comfort, but few of tribulation;

Many companions of His table when He was prospering, but few in fasting.

Many desire even now to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to undergo suffering for His sake.

Many are eager to follow Him so they can eat of His loaves... but few that they may drink of His cup.

Many say they love Him, so long as there is no adversity.

And many will praise and bless Him so long as they receive comforts from Him. But if He withdraws Himself from them, they fall into complaint or even great deception...

As I said, it was a great beginning to a great weekend.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Peace and Rest

In yesterday's post I made the statement that God wants us to be at peace and at rest. From one of the comments, I see I must clarify. Of course I meant we must be at peace and rest in Him...

My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives...

The world gives peace by having everything placid and in place, no problems, no questions, no doubts, no worries. All is going right. We're sitting on the quiet beach enjoying the quiet shusshing of the and secure and content. That's not the peace our Lord gives. It's a peace, but it's one that everyone can have if the circumstances are right.

His peace is one that is not dependent on our circumstances. It's based in our mental attitude and our understanding of who we are and who God is. It's based on our decisions to think certain things and not think other things.

We are told in Hebrews that the only thing we are to fear is not entering into His rest. The ministry I'm a part of refers to that as faith-rest: We have faith that God has everything under control, that He is fully aware of everything that is going on in our lives and that He wants for us His highest and best -- which He is fully able to give. And we rest in that.

A few weeks back as I was settling down to sleep one night it occurred to me that when you are sleeping -- resting -- you are not thinking about your problems. You are asleep! When you are asleep you are not consciously trying to solve your problems. So it should be in life. We apply the appropriate truths to the situation and we stop thinking about it.

How does this relate to the question of the activities one takes on in one's daily life? Can you be at rest while doing things? Of course. It goes back to motivation. Why are you doing the things you are doing? If you are doing so many things you have no time to think, no time to sit and consider God, learn His word, pray. No time to remember him throughout your day because you are constantly consumed with doing the next thing, or the next five things, in a state of constant tension for fear of not getting done everything you've set for yourself to do...and then guilt over what you're obviously not going to get done -- that's not peace. Nor rest.

If we are moving through our days in the confidence that God is the one who will provide all our needs, that God is the one who keeps us alive, that ultimately everything is by His hand, then where is the need for frenzy? Where is the need for taking on more than we have the capacity to handle? If we have placed responsibility for our happiness and blessing totally in Him, why do we still have a mental list of things we have to have and do to make us happy? (Keep a clean house, bake cookies for the class party, have people think well of me...)

The tasks that God places in our lives are there to bless us and help us to grow. But we must stay in control of our mental attitude toward them, and not let the tasks turn into our masters. One of the ways a cult draws its new recruits ever deeper into the fold is to give them lots and lots to do. Keep them constantly busy to the point of exhaustion so they have no time to think about anything but the constant run of things to do. I think the kingdom of darkness does the same to people in general -- believers and unbelievers. Keep them so busy they never have time to think about what they're doing or, more important, why exactly they are doing it.

I know that I, at least, have a tendancy to make to do lists and things others claim are important to be my master. More and more "have to be done" things build up. If I don't stop and step back and take a look, I will run myself ragged, get grumpy and frantic and be completely out of fellowship with God. I try to do it all on my own, without any thought that maybe all these things I "have" or want to do are not God's plan for my life at all. ("They accomplish a plan, but not mine..." Is 30:1)

Thus my motto has become:

There's always time to do the will of God.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Simpify Your Life

Well, my glasses are starting to work (the problem's not the prescription, it's the length of time since I've had a prescription change coupled with a change in shape of the glasses themselves), my computer is doing well (I'm pretty happy with Vista) and I LOVE my new printer! Wow.

Today and yesterday I put in my first full days working on Black Box since I officially "began". The new routine and organizational principles I've been trying to implement are working pretty well with regard to most things in my life so far.

Here are some of them:

Do one thing at a time.

Clean up as you go and put things away when you're done.

Have a daily routine for things that have to be done regularly and stick to it pretty much no matter what.

I've also printed up a list of thirty easy meals we like to eat for dinner and put them in my planning notebook and a chart of the routine mentioned above.

All of those have to do with reducing the amount of decisions that I have to make on any given day, thus cutting into the amount of things floating around in my head. If I don't focus on doing one thing at a time, I will be flitting from one thing to the next as my eye falls upon it, leaving a trail of dropped items and half-done operations in my wake.

I've also been rereading some books on the matter -- first it was Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. John (see above). That's where I got "Do one thing at a time" which is number 81 out of her 100 suggestions. After giving two humorous illustrations of people multitasking (one talking on the phone with the boss while changing the baby's diaper then catching up with her mother-in-law on call waiting, and finishing a game with her three year old so the kids can have a snack before ten dinner guests arrive for the business meeting she's hosting for her husband...) she asks, "Do we really get more done trying to do it all? Perhaps. Does it really matter? Probably not. Are we happier at this frenetic pace? Most definitely not."

When you stop and think about it, it's amazing how many things there are in life to do these days, and how many voices are out there trying to get us to do them. And the voice inside is all too eager to hear and obey -- either out of guilt, fear, worry (everyone says this is the way to success so you have to do it), a misguided assumption of responsibilities God never intended us to take on, or things that just look fun. So many, many things that look like fun. Wow.

Anyway, that was my first step, I think. Do one thing at a time. Don't think you have to do all these things just because they're there. Don't think that you even CAN do all the things there are to do out there. Don't forget you have an enemy who would be delighted if you spent all your time on the fun things or even the alleged "responsibilities" of life so that you had none left for learning God's word or spending quiet time with Him, or fulfilling the calling He's put on your life the very best way that you can.

And God wants us to be at peace and at rest. Not in a frenzy trying to get a bunch of things done. He wants us to enjoy Him and all the precious moments in life that He gives us, to live in His rest and in His word.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Quick Update

My computer is finally up and running again, and most of my files have been transferred, as well as my email addresses and messages. Only my Internet bookmarks remain to be changed over. Yesterday I set up my new printer. It's much heavier than the other one, and I've not had a chance to really try it out, but so far I like it a lot.

The thing with the antivirus problem resolved itself when I did an online chat with an HP support tech. Apparently the program's inability to run any LiveUpdates is as it should be until I purchase and install the complete version of Norton Internet Security (as opposed to the trial version which came with the computer.) The box said I was to get sixty days worth of complementary LiveUpdates. So then, why is the program telling me urgently, with throbbing red hearts, red X's and red exclamation points, that I need to run LiveUpdate and get my virus definitions up to date? Because it wanted me to freak out and buy the full program ASAP, I think.

I did buy it, but I had already planned on doing that. When I began to look into things more carefully I discovered that the option in the NIS settings to run automatic LiveUpdates was running properly -- right under the option with the red X telling me I needed to "run LiveUpdate for the latest protection updates." Though they aren't really presented as options.

I wonder how many people ignore all the furor, and how many fall into the trap like I did?

Anyway, the current storm is nearly over. Now I start round two on the glasses.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Schedule Assaulted

Well, I thought I would start putting up two posts a week, seeing as I was moved to put one up last Wednesday. Unfortunately, I also started a routine. And sure enough, I'd barely executed one week of it, when it got blasted to smithereens.

I picked up my new glasses on Friday, and they were better than before, but still not good enough to wear for the drive home. I was told to start wearing them Saturday morning after a night's sleep, so I did. Uuughgh... I wore them much longer this time than last, but I was constantly feeling like I couldn't see. It was hard to do anything.

Also on Saturday morning, my computer crashed. Sort of. It would go on sometimes and not others. After it went on, sometimes it would get really slow and hang up, other times it would work fine for awhile and then get slow and then get fine again only to hang up again. I saved my writing files and a few other folders, but not much more. For one, it was because I didn't have enough time, and for another because I didn't really think it was crashing. I didn't save my email addresses.

Anyway, my husband decided the next day that I needed a new computer. Long story short, I have a new one. That part is really Cool!

The uncool part is that the old one is sitting beside me, no longer hooked up, with all my email addresses on it, and most of my other stuff. Worse, we tried to install our Norton antivirus program, but it's not compatible with the new operating system (we had to get Windows Vista because that's what all new computer packages are coming with these days). So then I tried to install the new Norton antivirus program, only to discover the old one is partially installed -- just enough to prevent the new one from getting any virus definition updates, but not enough to be easily uninstalled...

Did I mention that I also "started" working on Black Box last Thursday? This is too funny.

Oh yeah, and I finally gave up on the glasses by Monday. The thought of putting them on and then working on the computer was just too much. I was having headaches by then, a bit of nausea, and my left eye especially felt as if it was constantly trying to see, especially when working on the computer. They tell you that you might need to wear new glasses for two weeks before you get used to them. But when you can put on your old pair and relieve the discomfort and see better at the same time... I can't see why I should torture myself for two weeks trying to make the new pair work.

So anyway, just as everything was starting to fall into place, it was like a bomb dropped. But this morning as I opened up one of my older notebooks, I was reminded: we have a powerful, unseen enemy. "He is a hunter. He prowls about looking for ways to drag you down. He doesn't want God's truth taught or communicated and he will oppose that... If you're doing something to glorify God, He will be trying to drag you down, get into your soul, get you away from doctrine, and from God's predesigned plan and calling on your life."

The solution? "Hold your ground. Resist the devil and He will flee from you. Hold your ground in the day that evil attacks. Stand firm in your doctrine (the truths of the Word that you know and believe)."

Back to the trenches,