Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Making up for lost time ...

Not me, Adam Caldwell, who finds himself in a bit of a predicament. And what, you ask, am I talking about? Making up for Lost Time at Infuze! Check it out and let me know what you think.

By the way, you don't have to be registered to read Infuze now. So what are you waiting for?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday news and views

First of all, I had a great weekend with Megan at home. And she got the whole home church experience -- a fall cookout and bonfire at one of the member's homes on Saturday night, and a potluck dinner at church on Sunday. We are a church that knows how to cook -- and eat. Very fun.

Mir rants so much better than me, so I'll direct you to her comments on Angelica Magazine. And yes, she mentions the fact that I had a story accepted, but since I never signed a contract, never received a check and haven't heard much from them, I haven't given it a lot of thought. The editor actually asked to use the first story I had published in Infuze, so I didn't go through the submission process; I worked with a freelance editor on a revision, which I turned in about a year ago. The editor and the freelancer I worked with were nice but I have no idea what's holding up the magazine's publication -- updates would have been nice. Publishing a new magazine is such an iffy venture, I guess I was a little skeptical of actually seeing a copy.

On the other hand, my experience with Dragons, Knights and Angels was completely professional. They sent a contract, they sent a check, they published the story when they said they would. If you write Christian speculative fiction, give it a try.

Speaking of DKA, they've announced the winners of their first poetry contest and Chris placed third. Way to go!

Finally, I've posted my November newsletter column: We Are Not Alone.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

On the diluting of testosterone

Weird title, I know. It refers to the fact that my life is very full of boys -- whom I love -- but this weekend I get to hang out with my girls for a change. Megan is flying into KC and I'm going to see her and Julia tomorrow, then Megan will be at our house for the weekend. I'm looking forward to having another girl around. (That's me and my girls on the right.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tuesday news and views

One of the cool things about this blog thing is that I've gotten to know some neat people online. One of them is Chris -- critique partner, Funny Farm solver extraordinaire, Kanner Lake blogger, and now radio star. Chris was interviewed last night on Art Hustle, a radio program from the U of O and he's posted his impressions and link to the broadcast. Fun stuff.

Books that matter to readers: Mary Demuth and various commenters on the books that made a difference for them. Something about lists like this always inspire a similar response, such as Mark's. After reading all these suggestions I've discovered even more books I want to read!

Jordon Cooper posted this list (with a link to where it came from, which is also interesting) of what an apprentice of Jesus looks like. Challenging and interesting.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday news and views

(someday I've got to figure out a more interesting title for this type of thing)

Good reading today:
Who's to Judge at the Master's Artist, in which Mark Bertrand offers up a fresh reading of Phil. 4:8. Excellent.
Mick Silva is moving Toward a Definition of Christian Literature. Also excellent.
Ashangel, a story by Robert W. Hegwood at Infuze. This is a really beautiful story, and guess what -- you don't have to be registered to read at Infuze anymore. They've opened up their content to everyone. But you can still register to receive their weekly newsletter. There's a lot of great stuff at Infuze, so check it out.

Techy tip:
I installed a new extension for Firefox yesterday: Tab Mix Plus. This is very cool. It gives you close tab buttons for each tab, as well as a lot of other features for managing your tabs.
I loaded up another extension for Firefox, too: Tab Preview. It does exactly what it says -- mouse over a tab that's not your current window and it previews that page. Very cool.
One the great things about Firefox is the way you can add features through extensions. I probably get a little crazy with this, but there's a lot of neat things available. I use Firefox more than any other browser, even Safari, and this is part of the reason why.

A grammar hint:
A while back I wrote a grammar hint about semicolons for the ACE Writing SIG (special interest group). It is posted, at last. You can check out the archived grammar hints (the link is at the bottom of the page) for more grammar goodies. I did one last year about 'all right.'

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cat people run in the family

Sometimes I think Megan and I are so much alike it's not even funny. Evidence:
You Are: 40% Dog, 60% Cat

You and cats have a lot in common.
You're both smart and in charge - with a good amount of attitude.
However, you do have a very playful side that occasionally comes out!

She, too, is 60 percent cat, 40 percent dog. (Though it shouldn't be surprising since our family has had way more cats than dogs.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Don't mourn the demise of books just yet

I'm still catching up with e-mail from the last few days, so I just read David Pogue's article in the New York Times last week about the Sony Reader. It sounds like a nifty gadget, but still too pricey for me. Still, it's a fascinating idea. As the technology improves and the price comes down, I could imagine using an e-book, especially while traveling. I always take way too much reading material when I travel. I guess I have a horror of being stuck in an airport or someplace and running out of something to read. So I always have a couple of magazines (meaty magazines, like the Atlantic Monthly, that take a long time to read) and a couple of books besides my Bible. The downside of this approach is that my luggage is awfully heavy. So this gadget could come in handy someday.

Speaking of books, Katy has found a very nifty thing: Shelfari. It's sort of the social networking answer to letting your friends browse your bookshelves. I may just have to do this, too.

As you may have noticed, I'm sharing my music, sort of. I finally posted a chart from my last.fm profile that shows what I'm listening to. But since I'm only on a computer connected to the Internet from roughly 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, if you look at this blog at other times the chart will not be updated. Oh well.

My brother Jim and I have been playing a maddening little game online: Funny Farm. It's a word association game and it looks pretty easy, but it gets hard really fast. It allows collaboration and we've made some progress, but it's slow going. Anyone think they want to give it a try? Leave a comment or e-mail me and I'll explain it to you.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday news and views

If you've wondered where I've been, I was coordinator for an area women's retreat and it was this past weekend. We had a good weekend -- our speaker and worship leader was Ginger Millermon, who is a singer and speaker. She did a great job. Her message and music is very down-to-earth and I think a lot of us were touched and challenged. Still, I've relieved that this year's retreat is over. Being in charge of this thing is hard for me and I've wrestled with it a lot this year.

I have a new favorite album: The Chess Hotel, by The Elms. This is the best straight-up rock-n-roll I've heard in ages. I can see why this CD has gotten great reviews. I love this kind of stuff. It would be great to listen to in the car, turned up loud, with the windows down.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Good interview

CJ Darlington did a nice interview with Chris Well over at TitleTrakk ( a new site that features the latest in Christian books and music). Chris talks about his influences and interests and even includes a teaser for his next book, Kingdom Come.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So much music ...

Infuze has an interview with an artist I hadn't heard of before, Dave Barnes. So I read it, thought he sounded cool, checked out his MySpace page and now I'm hooked. Very cool music.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The clan gathers ...

That's what Mir says, at least. And where would this gathering be, you ask? Why in the Faith in Fiction forum at NaNoWriMo. Technically speaking, I'm not writing something new. But I figure I'll hang out and be a cheerleader and work on revising Secrets in Connors Grove, like I've been planning to do for the last year or so. I've even put up the nifty little logo (and I mean the smallest one).

If you have a novel bursting from your imagination, maybe you should join. Head to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and register. The actual writing starts in November, and the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. I only did about half that, but I did write those words faster than I usually do. So I'm hoping the motivation will help me push harder on the revision. I might even set myself some kind of revision schedule.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

My Testimony: God does not leave you alone

Our pastors have been preaching a series of sermons (actually multiple series of sermons) to help our congregation learn to be responsive to God's call in our lives and to help us bear fruit in the community. Our church is growing -- today Pastor David said we've had 90 new people become involved in our church in the last year -- and we are experiencing some growing pains. But the growth has been because of good things, not just a drive for numbers. People are coming to faith and bringing their friends and family and coworkers. This is exciting, as well as a little scary, as we look for ways to minister effectively.

Today's sermon was about the Great Commission (Matt. 28: 16-20). It occured to me that, though I talk about my faith here, I've never been very systematic about it. I'll be honest and admit that I've never been very bold about sharing the Gospel. I try to live my faith, and I think most people around me know I'm a Christian, but I've never been comfortable with the methods of evangelism I was taught years ago -- methods which involved walking up to total strangers or knocking on doors and handing out tracts and asking people if they've ever accepted Christ. But in the sermon today, Pastor David emphasized the importance of knowing your testimony and being able to share it when the opportunity arises. And I decided that, though most of the people who read this are Christians, maybe I should write my testimony and post it here. So here goes.

First of all, I'll warn you, it's not a dramatic testimony. I remember sitting around the campfire as a kid at church camp and hearing testimonies that would curl your hair -- testimonies about deliverance from sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and lots of other bad (but exciting) stuff. I lived a sheltered life and for a long time I didn't think I even had much of a testimony. But, boring life or not, God was at work. That's one of the great things about God, he loves me even though I'm boring. I was raised in a Christian family -- my father was a minister and my mom stayed at home, but she also spent a lot of time doing church work. I accepted Christ and was baptized when I was 10 years old. We had a revival meeting that week and the preacher painted a vivid picture of Christ on the cross -- I realized my need for salvation and went forward one night. The next evening, my dad baptized me. I figured I was set for eternity. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.

In the years since, I've begun to learn what it means to walk with Christ. Among those things I've learned is that I'm a sinner saved by grace. Sure I knew that on some level when I was baptized, but I didn't really think I was a sinner. I was a good kid. And I pretty much stayed a good kid, at least on the outside. All the rebellion was on the inside, and it took me a long time to realize how that was just as much sin as if I'd rebelled in some of the more obvious ways. And then it took me a long time to understand that God still forgives me and loves me, even though I don't deserve it. I've learned that being resistant to grace is a pride issue. To accept grace, to accept that God has wiped the slate clean for me, is to accept that I have no power to be good enough on my own; that if I keep trying to be good enough on my own, I'll only make a mess of things. It means giving up myself. But it also means I have help, because that's what God has promised.

I've been in Bible studies with people who really struggle with how God is at work in the world -- why do prayers go unanswered, how can a good and loving God allow some of the horrible things that happen, is God really at work in our lives? And I don't know how to answer those questions, because I ask them, too. But I know that the world is not as it is meant to be and I believe that in his time God will right the wrongs. In the meantime, I have seen how he is at work, at least in my life. I've experienced some long dry spells in my faith, times when I didn't really feel God's presence, though I continued to go to church and tried to be faithful. I didn't see a lot of answer to prayer -- at least not the answers I wanted. I struggled with depression and feelings of worthlessness. But I can see now how God was at work, teaching me and molding me and I was never left alone. I think my experience helps me understand when other people are going through such times, and maybe I can be an encouragement.

And maybe this is what my testimony really is -- that God does not leave you alone. He probably won't give you everything you want, and he probably won't take away your problems, and he'll let you suffer the consequences of your sin, but he is there. Part of learning that was learning to trust God, to give him my burdens and quit trying to carry them on my own -- all my worries about money, my fears of failure, my struggles with obedience and self-discipline, my self-righteous and judgmental nature -- I can't deal with any of these things on my own. But now I understand I don't have to. I've also learned to see the blessings in each day and to be thankful.

God told the ancient Israelites to pile up rocks at places where he had done something significant. That way, when they were walking along with their children and the kids would ask, "What's that pile of rocks for?" the fathers could say, "This is where God brought us through the Jordan River on dry land," or "This where God gave us the victory." These places are called ebenezers (that's what the word refers to in the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" -- it says "here I raise my ebenezer"). I haven't piled up stones around town or at every place along US 36 where I've had car trouble and the right person came along to help, but in my memory I can look back and see the places where God was at work, even if I didn't recognize it at the time.

And now, when I feel discouraged or anxious, I know where to turn and it doesn't take me so long to do it. I know I can trust God to be at work and that whatever the circumstances, I am not alone.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blog Tour: Dark Hour

This week has been a bit of a blog blitz for Dark Hour, by Ginger Garrett, with the FIRST tour earlier this week and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance Tour the rest of the week. I didn't get the first chapter posted, but you can read it here. The novel looks into the Biblical story of Jezebel's daughter and her attempts to destroy King David's descendants. (I haven't had the chance to read it yet.) You can find an interview with Ginger at the CFBA blog. And, of course, you can find out more about the author at her Web site.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Breaking the Rules: A Prayer for Owen Meany

One of the rules that experienced writers tell beginning writers is to avoid weighing down your novel at the beginning with a lot of backstory. I know there are good reasons for this rule -- the temptation is to tell everything you know about your characters and their lives before you even get into the story. But I was reminded of this over the weekend when I started reading a book that pretty much breaks this rule -- and I like the book, so I'm not being unkindly critical. And then I realized that a lot of my favorite books break this rule: To Kill a Mockingbird, Peace Like a River, Gilead, for example. And now add to that list, A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving.

Like Harper Lee does at the start of Mockingbird, at least a little bit, Irving starts his novel with some stage-setting, some family history, some community history. He's divided the novel up into a few very long chapters, so you're well into the book before a key life-changing incident occurs. But far from being bored by the meandering path of the story, I was completely hooked. I'd fallen in love with the characters and the town and was not the least bit bored. I like a story that takes its time -- Owen Meany certainly takes its time. But there's a purpose here, I think. The story is circling around some recurring themes and gradually building on them. I'm about a third of the way through now and John and Owen are still 11. That's OK -- I'm willing to see where the story takes me.

I've noticed a few other things, such as Irving's writerly quirks. We all have them and I think in small doses they help distinguish one individual's writing from another. But it's hard to keep them from becoming annoying. Irving has one quirk that bugs me -- his use of the dash seems pretty random. I know what you're thinking: here's a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I abuse that form of punctuation, too, but I think I use the dash correctly most of the time. I do wonder if Irving's editor went easy on him, at least with regard to his use of the dash. And even though I said I like a story that takes its time, I do think this novel could have been a bit tighter. And the brief interludes in Toronto, set in 1987, are rather jarring. When the book was published in 1989, they might have been more effective, but in 2006 a character's ranting about Ronald Reagan seems pretty dated. For me, the 'present-day' interludes disturb the timeless aspects of the story. But I'm not trained in literary criticism and I'm not a best-selling author, so maybe it's cheeky of me to even mention it.

But even with these few imperfections (at least in my eyes) I'm enjoying the book a lot. Owen Meany is a great character, I love the gradual unfolding of the story, and the quirky prose is engaging. I'll wait to talk about the themes until I finish it -- there's a lot of stuff going on and I'm not sure how it's going to resolve.