Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blog Tour: Comes a Horseman

This month's featured selection is Robert Liparulo's thriller from WestBow, Comes a Horseman. My copy just came over the weekend and I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it looks good. I decided it looked like something I wanted to read during daylight hours, though -- I have a low heebie-jeebie threshold.

The author has an awesome Web site if you want to find out more about him and his book. You can find links to his interview at Infuze, news about the sale of movie rights for the book, a bit of biography, contests, and other cool stuff.

And Chris Well has an excellent three-part interview with Liparulo over at his Learning Curve blog. Not only does the author share some insights to his writing process, he answers some questions in the comments section. He sounds like an interesting guy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What do your characters long for?

I started reading Robert Olen Butler's book about writing, From Where You Dream. I found it in the KSU library a few weeks ago and thought it looked good, and the title and author sounded vaguely familiar to me. Now I remember why -- Kathleen recommended this book earlier this fall. And now I can see why she recommended it so highly. There's a lot of meat in this book. It challenges the analytical way many of us approach writing.

In my reading last night I got to the chapter about "Yearning." He says:
We are the yearning creatures of this planet. There are superficial yearnings, and there are truly deep ones always pulsing beneath, but every second we yearn for something. And fiction, inescapably, is the art form of human yearning.

Yearning is always part of fictional character. In fact, one way to understand plot is that it represents the dynamics of desire. It's the dynamics of desire that is at the heart of narrative and plot.

I read this and realized what is most often wrong with my stories. I usually start with a character or characters, which doesn't seem to be a bad way to start, according to Butler, but I don't always have it clear in my head what really drives these characters. Thus, something is missing, the story doesn't fully engage the emotions. (And emotion is where Butler says our writing truly comes from.)

So I've been thinking some today about how the dynamics of desire drives some stories. The one that came most readily to mind is one of my favorite movies of all time, While You Were Sleeping. It becomes clear early on that what Lucy desires more than anything, whether she realizes it or not, is a connection to a family again. She has a crush on Peter the hunk, but she doesn't know him. Her longing for family is why, in a sort of mistaken identity twist, she ends up letting Peter's family think she's his fiance, after she rescues him from the train tracks. (You really need to see the movie, though.) Everything that happens in the story flows from that desire and its consequences. And it's one of my favorite movies because it has so much heart. It engages my emotions.

And what does this mean for me? I've got a novel I'm revising, a novel I'm writing, and a couple of short stories I'd like to get published somewhere. But I need to get to the heart of my characters and show what drives them, what they most long for. Otherwise, all that great description and witty dialogue and exciting plot twists will ring hollow to the reader (and for the writer). Makes me think a little of I Cor. 13: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." And isn't coming to understand what drives a character, or a live person for that matter -- getting to the heart, in other words -- involve love?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Some random thoughts on a snowy Monday

We had a great time this weekend — lots of visiting and catching up with people I don't get to see very often. My parents' 50th anniversary reception went very well and I think my folks really enjoyed it. My youngest sister-in-law put together an awesome scrapbook of our family's life -- very cool. And she's going to make another one that will include photos and memories from this weekend, as well as bringing the family history up to the present time. (I think she got through the 80s in the first one.)

Yesterday afternoon my daughter and two of my sons and I drove back home to Kansas. My husband called Julia's cell phone to tell us there were tornadoes in Kansas. Yes, in November. Not unheard of, but unusual. And now it's snowing. Yep, I'm back home in Kansas. Anyway, we did run into heavy rain with lightning and wind as we crossed Missouri, but we got home safely. The nice thing about driving with Julia is I get to discover new music. A few months ago she introduced me to Guster. Last night we were listening to a band that was new to me: Blue October (from Texas). I liked them -- very loud, very interesting music.

As for NaNoWriMo: I fear I will not reach 50,000 words by Wednesday at midnight. I've written almost 24,000 words, and I feel like that's a good start, but I just don't have the time and energy to crank out another 26,000 words in less than three days. I knew when I started that I had an awful lot going on this month. So I'll chalk this up to experience and keep working on it. I plan to finish it this winter, so I'm not quitting. And this puts me even more in awe of people who have reached their goal already. Big congrats to all you NaNo finishers!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving thoughts

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and I'll be taking a few days off from blogging — we'll have dinner tomorrow with our daughter and son-in-law in Lawrence, then Friday we're all off to Illinois for my parents' 50th anniversary celebration. I'm really looking forward to seeing my parents and brothers and their families, as well as a fair number of other relatives and friends. All our kids, except Megan (because she lives in Alaska), will be there.

A couple of years ago I wrote a Thanksgiving column for the newspaper. It still applies.

Here's a few other links of interest:

The Internet Monk is on a roll this week — two interesting essays. Yesterday he wrote about drama and art in a church-affiliated school — very good thoughts about art and faith. (11-28-05: Yes, I've edited this -- the other link is now gone and apparently Mr. Spencer doesn't like to be quoted. I am sometimes uncertain about blogging etiquette. Sorry.)

Mark Bertrand doesn't usually make political comments. Generally he sticks to literary or theological musings (except for the occasional ninja post). But he wrote something yesterday that I liked a lot. You can read it here. I think it is always wise not to confuse the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms (or nations, if you prefer) of this world.

Finally, if you get really bored with football, or the kids drive you crazy, check this out. It'll keep you occupied for a while.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Somehow it had almost escaped me what today is. On Nov. 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. A couple of years ago I wrote an essay for the newspaper, but it ended up not being used. So I posted it over at my writing blog. When I taught News & Feature Writing, I used an excerpt from Saul Pett's masterful piece of newswriting to show my students the power of language. Here's a bit:
John Fitzgerald Kennedy fell to an assassin's bullet in Dallas, Texas, at lunchtime on November 22, 1963. In streets and offices and homes and stores, in lunchrooms and showrooms and schoolrooms and boardrooms, on highways and prairies and beaches and mountaintops, in endless places crowded and sparse, white and black, Republican and Democrat, management and labor, the word went out and cut the heart of a nation.

Husbands called wives, wives called friends, teachers told students, motorists stopped to listen on car radios and stranger told stranger. "Oh, no!" we cried from hearts stopped by shock.

Incredibly, in a time of great numbers, in a time of repeated reminders that millions would die in a nuclear war, when experts feared we were being immunised against tragedy, the death of a single man flooded our hearts and filled all the paths of our lives.

A great shadow fell on the land. Much activity simply stopped, here and overseas.

A big bronze gong sounded, a man shouted "The market is closed" and the New York Stock Exchange stopped. The Boston Symphony Orchestra stopped a Handel concerto and started a Beethoven funeral march, the Canadian House of Commons stopped, a dramatic play in Berlin stopped, the United Nations in New York stopped and Congress and courts and schools and race tracks stopped. Football games were cancelled and theatres were closed and in Dallas a nightclub called the Carousel was closed by a mourner named Jack Ruby. …

Friends in need

You may remember that I went to Mississippi in September to do some disaster relief. Even though it's been more than two months since the hurricane, the needs continue. Today there was a note from the Mississippi 4-H Foundation about the need for coats. I'll quote from the news we received through the Extension system:
"Friends: Our total 4-H family from across America has been unbelievably generous toward our children here in Mississippi following Katrina. There will never be enough thanks to offer. The level of devastation has not diminished but has only hit us hard again with the change in season.

We have an urgent need for "coats for kids" from toddler through teen. Our group that went to the coast today returned basically in tears. They carried 300 coats and found they were short 2,500 just at one school. As warm as the coast is in the summer, winters are cold and the wind and moisture magnify the discomfort. Children are sitting in makeshift class rooms shivering through the day. They go home to small FEMA trailers and in some cases tents.

Mississippi 4-H is soliciting, receiving and working with Mississippi State University to distribute items that will go to all needy children along the Mississippi Coast. Their need is for NEW coats, sweaters, socks, sweatshirts, headwear, and blankets. New, because we simply don't have the means to have used items cleaned, prepared and delivered in time.

If any of you have personal connections with suppliers/distributors/dealers who might be able to help us, we (thousands of we) would appreciate it beyond words. This could be a great way for someone to eliminate old stock. We are making some direct contacts ourselves but sometimes it's the "who" you know that is important. Yes, money so designated would allow us to purchase coats.

Any provided items should be sent to Operation 4-H Relief, Mississippi 4-H, Bost Building, Mississippi State University, MS 39762. All gifts will be received as 501c3 contributions.

The Web site for MSUCares 4-H Relief is here. You can find other contact information there, too.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I’ve been thinking about the human need to label and categorize everything. I suppose this is partly the result of the various debates bouncing around the online Christian community (some of which are pretty acrimonious). Of course, we’ve been naming and categorizing things since God gave Adam that job in the Garden. And knowing how to classify something is an important organizational tool. For instance, if you have an insect or rock collection you can consult any number of helpful resources to figure out what it is you’ve got. (Though, after editing some lessons for the 4-H geology project I’ve realized that classifying rocks isn’t always as straightforward as one might think.) A dictionary or encyclopedia would be useless if it wasn’t organized in some way.

My point is that there is nothing inherently wrong with applying a label to something, as long as the label doesn’t become the substitute for what something — or someone — really is.

We do this with books, too. I think it’s Randy Mortensen who said that when he was pitching his children’s fantasy (just recently published by Barbour) Landon Snow and the Auctor’s Riddle he had to come up with a recognizable hook to hang it on. Sort of Harry Potter meets Narnia or something like that. (Apologies to Randy if I’ve got that wrong.) But of course, the story is much more than that. (Little plug here: Randy is taking the Christian Fiction Alliance Blog Tour in December and you can find out more about Landon Snow then.)

We feel more comfortable when we can put a label on something: her book is a mystery, he’s written an inspirational romance, he’s charismatic, she’s a lawyer, they’re vegetarians. Admit it — those phrases all conjure images in your mind, don’t they. If we’re not careful, we let the labels become substitutes for actually getting to know those people. The worst crimes against other humans are committed when we objectify people.

Jesus had a nifty way of dealing with these sorts of prejudices — he told stories that turned the stereotypes on their heads. How about The Good Samaritan or the Rich Man and Lazarus? Jesus could always see past the label to the person underneath. It’s a little harder for us, not being divine and all, but we have the Holy Spirit to augment our vision.

It’s important to remember that each one of us is known by many labels, but those labels do not completely define who we are. I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, writer, editor, blogger, singer, friend, neighbor and probably a few other nouns — but I’m more than that. I’m a sinner saved by grace and perhaps that leads me to the only label that matters — Christian. And so are many of the other people we might happen to disagree with. Just something to remember.

Friday, November 18, 2005

No, you're not lost

I've just renamed my blog and changed the template. I'm not brave enough to try anything too wild, but I was tired of the old one so I found a different Blogger template that I liked. And blue is my favorite color.

As for the new name, you might find some clues here. Or not.

Some more thoughts on freedom and art

This whole “edgy” discussion has got me thinking again. Because every time it comes up people seem to gravitate toward the extremes. Some fear that freedom will inevitably degenerate into licentiousness. Others fear that caution leads to legalism and bad art. And from those opposite poles no consensus is formed.

I lean toward the freedom end of the spectrum. It’s clear to me that freedom in Christ includes the concept of responsibility and being responsive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. This keeps us accountable. It’s not cheap grace that we live under.

What keeps coming to mind, though, as I follow the discussion, is the idea that maybe we’re all missing the point. So what is that point? I’ll admit I’m still trying to articulate it. As I said yesterday, we’re all on the same road going nowhere. So, what if we quit looking for the box that defines Christian fiction? What if we quit looking for lines and saying “I’ll go this far and no farther”?

I think we need to recognize that we have redeemed imaginations. We have the possibility of seeing the world as it really is, and yet also as it should be. Others have said this better — Mark Bertrand’s Masters Artists posts are a good place to start. (I wrote this last night before I saw what Mark wrote today, which is even better than what I'm saying here.) But here’s where that idea is leading me. I’ve been in a Sunday school class studying the letters of Paul. Our associate pastor, who is teaching, describes Paul’s eschatology as “already but not yet.” I like that way of expressing the concept that the kingdom of God is come, and yet it is still to come. We live in expectation, but we also live with that expectation’s fulfillment in Christ Jesus. It’s hard to wrap one’s brain around this idea. Something in human nature wants rules, boundaries. And God gives us those, but he also gives us freedom and the Holy Spirit. He gives us mystery and wonder. He gives us imaginations and creativity in expressing them.

We should be telling stories such as the world has never heard, stories full of truth and wonder because that’s the God we serve.

Phil Keaggy sings a great song by Van Morrison, “When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God?” The song talks about how creation testifies to God, but it also talks about great art:
“You brought it to my attention
That everything was made in God.
Down through centuries of great writings and paintings,
Everything was in God.
Seen through architecture of great cathedrals,
Down through the history of time,
Is and was in the beginning, and ever more shall ever be.”

And the song's chorus is the lament that too much of the time we forget that. But it points to where we ought to be so that what we do is transformed, is our act of worship.
“When will I ever learn to live in God?
Will I ever learn
He gives me everything
I need and more
When will I ever learn?”

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Updates and some random thoughts, not too 'edgy'

I was sick yesterday (actually I've been sick all week, but yesterday I actually stayed home), so I didn't post anything. I thought maybe I'd get some writing done while I was home yesterday, but I was too wiped out. I haven't gotten much written since Saturday because I have this cold, I'm not giving up. So maybe tonight I'll get another chapter or two written.

When I checked the Faith in Fiction message board today, I saw the "edgy" debate rages on again. It's an interesting discussion because it goes to the heart of who we are as Christian writers. My own thoughts on the subject are kind of fuzzy. I keep thinking of something from The Left Hand of Darkness (by Ursula LeGuin and one of my favorite books of all time) -- to oppose something is to uphold it, in an odd sort of way. The discussion continues to go in circles and never finds new ground. To debate what is acceptable material for a Christian writer seems to invite extremes of opinion. Those who urge restraint and those who argue freedom are still on the same road and we get nowhere. But Mark Bertrand said two things that seem to point to a different road, if he didn't keep getting drowned out:
"... but I am interested in writing honestly about God, man and the world, with as much faith to the complexities of our condition as I can muster."

And this about art and ideology:
"The Christian artist has to do more. He must bring ideas into an encounter with experience and produce something more (and of a different order) than ideology. This is imaginative, not instructive, work."

I doubt seriously that I have the skill as an artist to realize those goals, but I think it's what I dream of doing. The books that have affected me deeply have done so because they somehow give me a glimpse of God's truth (yes, even a secular writer such as LeGuin), they introduced me to ideas that opened my eyes and my mind. They were "imaginative, not instructive." And those stories have remained more vivid in my memory than many words uttered by teachers in countless classrooms. Something to think about.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Celebration time!

I could be singing "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" today — the snow was sticking as I left home. And now, to add to the fun, the November Celebration of Christian Fiction is up. Violet Nesdoly is the host at Promptings and she's opened the shop so you can start planning the perfect gift for the writer on your list (or add it to your own wish list :) ). My own entry is here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Whoo-hoo! Snow! (Maybe)

I think our mild autumn weather is over. I just checked the weather forecast for northeast Kansas. They have issued a winter weather advisory -- we might get an inch or two of snow by tomorrow! And it will be windy! (thus the advisory) I prefer snow to be the kind that wafts gently to earth, not blows in my face on a 30-40 mile wind, but if it's cold enough to snow, maybe it will be cold enough to take care of the stuff floating around in the air and making me sneeze.

No surprise here


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

This is fun!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Probably not what Rick Warren had in mind

Check out today's treasure from the Calvin and Hobbes archives.

NaNo update and more

I wrote two chapters last night and I've reached more than 20,000 words on my novel. That puts me more than a third of the way through. Yay! The story is still flowing well, but it's awfully talky. I'll definitely need to go back and rewrite a lot of it. Still, I've discovered that writing all this embeds aspects of my characters more deeply into my consciousness, which seems to help the rewriting process. No, I'm not getting all mystical or philosophical, but I don't know how else to explain it. Another way to say it might be: The better you know your characters, the easier it is to portray them smoothly.

Wednesday I mentioned B.J. Hoff's post at the Charis Connection about writing realistic fiction. Today Mark mentions another post of hers, along similar lines, at The Master's Artist, in his discussion of "edgy" fiction. He does wax more philosophical and theological, but as always, it is enlightening.

Yesterday was the 3oth anniversary of an event made famous in song: the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. There's an interesting Web site with information about the tragedy and you will also find lyrics to Gordon Lightfoot's song. I liked the song long before I knew more about the real event.

Today, of course, is Veterans' Day, which is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended WWI. My Grandpa Myers, who died in 1965, served in that war. One of my favorite family stories is how my future grandparents corresponded during the war. Oscar Myers (yes, his real name) was nine years older than Julia Hudson, but he knew her at church and already had his eye on her. Julia must have been about 16 when we entered the war and Oscar was sent overseas. Her brother told her she should write to Oscar as her patriotic duty. Well, they were married in 1920 and more than 50 years later, when Grandma died and my mom and her siblings cleaned out the house, they found that she had saved many of the letters. I remember Grandpa as a kind, patient man with a twinkle in his eye. He loved the Lord and I know I'll see him and Grandma someday, but I still miss him. Thank you Grandpa and Grandma Myers, for the heritage of faith you bequeathed your children and grandchildren.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Writing is a craft so you need tools

There's something of the geek in me — I get excited about reference books and free software. I like maps and encyclopedias. I even blogged about it once. And there are things about the writing life that appeal to that inner geek. Here are a few:

MacJournal is a truly nifty and useful journaling program. As I wrote in the post I mentioned earlier, I use it almost everyday and have entries related to all kinds of things I want to remember for work or for writing. I save song lyrics in MacJournal, or J. Mark Bertrand's essays about writing, or blog posts or just random thoughts. I still use the free version I got several months ago, but an updated and beefed up version is published by Mariner Software. At around $30 it's still pretty inexpensive.

I also find some books indispensible for writing: a good dictionary ( I use Webster's New World College Dictionary or the American Heritage Dictionary the most), of course. But I also like some other types of grammar references.

Working With Words, by Brian S. Brooks, James L. Pinson and Jean Gaddy Wilson (Bedford/St. Martin's) has been on my desk for years. It's marketed as a textbook, so it's not cheap, but you can find used copies in college towns. The authors give a clear, concise treatment of grammar, but the most helpful things in the book I find are the lists and guides -- a usage guide, words that present spelling challenges, a guide to avoiding stereotypical language (including words to avoid) and, most helpful to me, words that are (and are not) hyphenated.

I've also become something of a fan of Robert Hartwell Fiske. I own two of his books: The Dictionary of Disagreeable English (Writer's Digest Books) and The Dictionary of Concise Writing (Marion St. Press). Both books are good reads and helpful when you're wondering about usage or trying to reduce the fat in your prose.

There's more: I enjoy reading books about writing. They inspire, encourage and help me see where I might go with this. I've especially enjoyed Stephen King's On Writing and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Both books are engagingly written and deal with writing on a practical level, as well as addressing some of the more esoteric aspects of the craft.

So there's a few of the tools in my writer's toolbox. I'm sure you would have others. But that's what so great — no toolbox is ever too full.

A writer's task

Since I've been blogging I've followed the ongoing discussion of how Christian writers present the fallen world around us. Novelist B.J. Hoff talks about this in her post yesterday at the Charis Connection, Accepting Responsibility as a Writer ... and as a Reader. She offers excellent insight into this and other areas of the writer's craft.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

For your viewing pleasure ...

Here's a few links of a more visual nature.

Randall Friesen (Covenant pastor and blogger) has a photoblog now, drycold. He's a good photographer and I like it. Click the before link to see what he's posted thus far. You won't be disappointed.

Liminality is a photoblog that I just stumbled on one day. I know nothing about the photographer, Tristan Roy, but he takes some interesting and beautiful pictures. This photo he posted last week is cool.

I follow these partly because I have a character in my Connors Grove stories who is a photographer. I'm more familiar with news photography, so these give me a bit of a sense of art photography.

Finally, I must thank Dave for this link: The Calvin and Hobbes Snow Art Gallery. Awesome.

In NaNo news: I've written about 14,900 words -- still a little behind my goal, but I'll write more tonight. I've posted some chapters over at my writing blog so you can get an idea of what the story is about. Remember, it's a first draft and, as I said the other day, it's long on dialogue and short on description at this point.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Some things should not be done at the same time

I have a new pet peeve: multi-tasking tasks that should never be performed together. Here's an example -- eating your lunch and calling someone at the same time. I'm not talking about someone calling you and you happen to have a bite in your mouth so you have to swallow quickly. I'm talking about initiating a phone call while you're in the midst of eating your lunch. Take it from me folks, the person on the other end does not want to hear you crunching your apple over the phone. It's just gross and it's not worth the two minutes you save by trying to do those two things at once. Just thought I'd share that with you.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What I'm learning from writing really fast

I've written more than 8,000 words now on my NaNo novel -- probably the fastest 8,000 words I've ever written. And when you compress the writing process into such a short period of time, you start to notice things about your writing. Here's what I've discovered:

I write a lot of dialogue. I realized that what interests me is the interaction between the characters. I don't write tons of description, though I have a picture in my mind of the setting. I'm just more interested in how people relate. I can always go back and add description and cut unnecessary dialogue later.

I'm a little weird when I write. We've moved the computer desk out into an area of the upstairs hall so my youngest son can have his room to himself. So last night I had my earphones in and was pounding away at the story -- it was a really exciting part (at least to me) and I'm pretty sure I was mouthing the dialogue a bit as I was writing it. I was completely oblivious to my husband walking by and going downstairs. But when he came back upstairs I did notice him and he teased me a bit about being so absorbed in my story. I told him to get used to it.

My outline is evolving over time. I keep realizing that I need to divide up some parts of the story into more chapters, or I need to include another character's point of view. I had an outline to start with and it's helped, but it's certainly not set in stone and as the story evolves it changes, too. A road map is nice, even if you decide to take the scenic route.

So that's what I'm learning so far. Even if this novel never goes much beyond NaNo (but I hope it does), it's good experience. And I'm having a blast.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Odds and ends

Here's a few random things:

You can find my author profile over at NaNoWriMo here. There's also an excerpt from the novel in progress. It's rough and it's not all I've written but it's the start.

I found an entertaining way to waste a few minutes: hop over to The Thinklings and try out the different skins for the blog. I think my favorite is The Lord of the Rings. I know, I'm easily amused.

This link came to me from Kansas Professional Communicators. A group of people who are tired of the polarization in our country has set up a Web site promoting civil discourse -- the RedBlue Project looks kind of cool. The project is being led by Barkely Evergreen and Partners in Kansas City.

Finally, while I'm not big on forwarding stuff, here's a site worth clicking on: The Breast Cancer Site. Corporate sponsors fund free mammograms for women in need based on how many clicks the site gets, so follow the link and click on it every day.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Is this bragging?

Oh, who cares. I'm really excited. Yesterday I wrote 2800 words, today I wrote more than 3600! Of course, I was off work today. (My son had an appointment and I took the day off, but I figure I may as well write while I have the time, right?) I probably won't have a lot of days with this level of productivity, but the story is flowing well and it feels good. But it's also a story that I've had rolling around in my head for a while, which makes it easier, I think. But usually when I start feeling really good about something, it all goes south, so maybe I shouldn't speak too soon.

Should I post any of it? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Day 1

So I started working on A Long Night in Connors Grove during my lunch hour today and hope to get back to it for a while this evening. I'm feeling pretty good about it (not that I've had time to get discouraged yet). But to help me stay inspired I read the second installment of Chris Well's NaNo interviews: with Chris Mikesell, who was a NaNoWriMo winner last year. He has some good suggestions, but I wish I'd had his advice about junk food sooner -- I stocked up on Brach's Spice Drops last night. But I figure the blog will help me follow another bit of advice -- accountability. I'll have to maintain some kind of word count since I've publicly committed to this project. And anyone who knows me is free to send me the occasional chiding e-mail.