Thursday, December 13, 2007
These are all scenes from around the K-State campus. The building in the last picture is Anderson Hall, the main administration building.
Friday, December 07, 2007
But there are a couple of positive things going on these days: it's less than a month before my grandson is due, and on Dec. 16 we do our adult Christmas program at church. And one of the neat things about the Christmas program is that I wrote it. At least, I wrote the scenes between the songs. Back in the fall the woman who is co-worship coordinator at our church asked me to write some connective scenes for the program, so I did and she's worked on coming up with music. I haven't gotten to see much of the acting practice because I've been in music practice, but what I've seen is fun. It's exciting to hear my words coming from actual people's lips and see how the scenes are coming to life. It's not a full-fledged play, but I think it does provide some continuity to the program and tells a little story of hope and redemption. So (shameless plug coming) if anyone happens to be passing near Clay Center Evangelical Covenant Church on Dec. 16 (at 7 p.m.), stop and see.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
It's also time for the FIRST tour. This month's book is Minor Protection Act by Jodi Cowles. You can read more about it at the FIRST blog.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Typeflakes -- make snowflakes with words and email them to your friends (this is my favorite)
Cake writing generator -- even if you've never been good at writing with icing
Dance writer -- a dancer makes letters as you type them
What chefs do when they're bored -- the title says it all
Have fun and Happy Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sports Illustrated has a good article about the Kansas-Missouri football game coming up on Saturday. I like the Max Falkenstien (long-time KU broadcaster) quote near the end of the article: "People are so wrapped up in football, they almost forgot basketball season was starting." It's been a long, long time since anyone took KU football seriously -- it's kind of nice to see a team from Kansas getting some respect.
Starting last week and continuing this week, there's a good discussion at The Rabbit Room about Creative Intent. If you haven't checked out this group blog, now's a good time.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
It's November here (well, everywhere, I guess) but you wouldn't have known it from the weather the last few days -- beautiful. I took a walk yesterday and enjoyed the warm breeze and the color still on the trees, though lots of leaves have fallen now. The year is winding down, but that's OK. I'm writing again. Some stressful things are behind me and I can think creatively again.
Speaking of writing, I have it from Coach Culbertson himself that the 2008 edition of Coach's Midnight Diner will probably be open for submissions on Nov. 15. Coach will be posting the categories at the Relief Web site so check it out soon. I think I have the perfect story for the next issue of the Diner, so I'll have to get busy revising it so I can submit it. Support Relief with your subscriptions and your submissions, folks -- this is a great outlet for writers who happen to be Christian and don't feel they fit in the traditional "Christian writer" mold.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Actually, I want to call your attention to a very excellent article about faith and the arts: Being a Child of the Creative Age, by the artist Makoto Fujimora. He uses one of my favorite books of all time, Jane Eyre, to illustrate his point about art and redemption and imagination. Awesome. (I found this article through a link from Brewing Culture, a good source for though-provoking stuff.) We have divorced imagination and faith for too long -- Fujimora helps us see why that should not be.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
(Edited to correct the highway number -- though U.S. 77 will get you into the Flint Hills, too, but I was referring to the state route that goes through Council Grove.)
Friday, November 02, 2007
Mike's interview with Coach Culbertson is generating some good discussion about Christian horror.
Here's a new group blog/Web site worth checking out: The Rabbit Room. It's the home of musician Andrew Peterson and others and in the few weeks they've been up, they've already written about books and music I'm interested in and discussed interesting topics. This is becoming a regular stop for me and I heartily recommend it.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
and her book:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Th1nk Books (August 30, 2007)
Lisa Samson is the author of twenty books, including the Christy Award-winning Songbird. Apples of Gold was her first novel for teens. Visit Lisa at http://www.lisasamson.com/
These days, she's working on Quaker Summer, volunteering at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, raising children and trying to be supportive of a husband in seminary. (Trying . . . some days she's downright awful. It's a good thing he's such a fabulous cook!) She can tell you one thing, it's never dull around there.
Other Novels by Lisa:
Straight Up, , Club Sandwich, Songbird, Tiger Lillie, The Church Ladies, Women's Intuition: A Novel, Songbird, The Living End
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Hollywood Nobody: April 1
Happy April Fool’s Day! What better day to start a blog about Hollywood than today?
Okay, I’ve been around film sets my whole life. Indie films, yeah, and that’s all I’m saying about it here for anonymity’s sake. But trust me, I’ve had my share of embarrassing moments. Like outgrowing Tom Cruise by the age of twelve — in more ways than one, with the way he’s gotten crazier than thong underwear and low-rise jeans. Thankfully that fashion disaster has run for cover.
Underwear showing? Not a good idea.
Fact: I don’t know of a single girl who doesn’t wish the show-itall boxer-shorts phenomenon would go away as well. Guys, we just don’t want to see your underwear. Truthfully, we believe that there is a direct correlation between how much underwear you show and how much you’ve got upstairs, if you know what I mean.
I’ve seen the stars at their best and at their worst. And believe me, the worst is really, really bad. Big clue: you’d look just as pretty as they do if you went to such lengths. As you might guess, some of them are really nice and some of them are total jerks, and there’s a lot of blah in-betweeners. Like real life, pretty much, only the extremes are more extreme sometimes. I mean honestly, how many people under twenty do you know who have had more than one plastic surgery?
So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little hard on these folks. But if it was all sunshine and cheerleading, I doubt you’d read this blog for long, right?
Today’s Rant: Straightening irons. We’ve had enough of them, Little Stars, okay? It was bad on Helen Hunt at the Oscars, worse on Demi, yet worse on Madonna, and it’s still ridiculous. Especially on those women who are trying to hold onto their youth like Gollum holds onto that ring. Ladies, there’s a reason for keeping your hair at or above your shoulders once you hit forty, and ever after. Think Annette Bening. Now she’s got it going on. And can’t you just see why Warren Beatty settled down for her? Love her! According to The Early Show this morning, curls are back, and Little Me ain’t going to tell why I’m so glad about that!
Today’s Kudo: Aretha Franklin. Big, bold, beautiful, and the best. Her image is her excellence. Man, that woman can sing! She has a prayer chain too. I’m not very religious myself, but you got to respect people who back up what they say they believe. Unless it’s male Scientologists and "silent birth." Yeah, right. Easy for them to say.
Today’s News: I saw a young actor last summer at a Shakespeare festival in New England. Seth Haas. Seth Hot is more like it. I heard a rumor he’s reading scripts for consideration. Yes, he’s that hot. Check him out here. Tell all your friends about him. And look here on Hollywood Nobody for the first, the hottest news on this hottie. Girls, he’s only nineteen! Fair game for at least a decade-and-a-half span of ages.
I don’t know about you, but following the antics of new teen rock star Violette Dillinger is something I’m looking forward to. Her first album, released to much hype, hit Billboard’s no. 12 spot its third week out. And don’t you love her hit single "Love Comes Knocking on My Door"? This is going to be fun. A new celeb. Uncharted territory. Will Violette, who seems grounded and talented, be like her predecessors and fall into the "great defiling show-business machine" only to be spit out as a half-naked bimbo? We’ll see, won’t we? Keep your fingers crossed that the real artist survives.
Today’s Quote: "Being thought of as ‘a beautiful woman’ has spared me nothing in life. No heartache, no trouble. Beauty is essentially meaningless." Halle Berry
Friday, April 2
I knew it was coming soon. We’d been camped out in the middle of a cornfield, mind you, for two weeks. That poke on my shoulder in the middle of the night means only one thing. Time to move on.
"Let’s head ’em on out, Scotty. We’ve got to be at a shoot in North Carolina tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got food to prepare, so you have to drive."
"I’m still only fifteen."
"It’s okay. You’re a good driver, baby."
My mom, Charley Dawn, doesn’t understand that laws exist for a reason, say, keeping large vehicles out of the hands of children. But as a food stylist, she fakes things all the time.
Her boundaries are blurred. What can I say?
Charley looks like she succumbed to the peer pressure of plastic surgery, but she hasn’t. I know this because I’m with her almost all the time. I think it’s the bleached-blond fountain of long hair she’s worn ever since I can remember. Or maybe the hand-dyed sarongs and shirts from Africa, India, or Bangladesh add to the overall appearance of youth. I have no idea. But it really makes me mad when anybody mistakes us as sisters.
I mean, come on! She had me when she was forty!
My theory: a lot of people are running around with bad eyesight and just don’t know it.
I throw the covers to my left. If I sling them to my right, they’d land on the dinette in our "home," to use the term in a fashion less meaningful than a Hollywood "I do." I grew up in this old Travco RV I call the Y.
As in Y do I have to live in this mobile home?
Y do I have to have such an oddball food stylist for a mother?
Y must we travel all year long? Y will we never live anyplace long enough for me to go to the real Y and take aerobics, yoga, Pilates or — shoot — run around the track for a while, maybe swim laps in the pool?
And Y oh Y must Charley be a vegan?
More on that later.
And Y do I know more about Hollywood than I should, or even want to? Everybody’s an actor in Hollywood, and I mean that literally. Sometimes I wonder if any of them even know who they are deep down in that corner room nobody else is allowed into.
But I wonder the same thing about myself.
"You’re not asking me to drive while you’re in the kitchen trailer, are you, Charley?"
"No. I can cook in here. And it’s a pretty flat drive. I’ll be fine."
I’m not actually worried about her. I’m thinking about how many charges the cops can slap on me.
Driving without a license.
Driving without a seat belt on the passenger.
Speeding, because knowing Charley, we’re late already.
Driving without registration. Charley figured out years ago how to lift current stickers off of license plates. She loves "sticking it to the man." Or so she says.
I kid you not.
Oh, the travails of a teenager with an old hippie for a mother. Charley is oblivious as usual as I continue my recollection of past infractions thankfully undetected by the state troopers:
Driving while someone’s in the trailer. It’s a great trailer, don’t get me wrong, a mini industrial kitchen we rigged up a couple of years ago to make her job easier. Six-range burner, A/C, and an exhaust fan that sucks up more air than Joan Rivers schmoozing on the red carpet. But it’s illegal for her to go cooking while we’re in motion.
"All right. Can I at least get dressed?"
"Why? You’re always in your pj’s anyway."
"It’s Charley, baby. You know how I feel about social hierarchy."
"But didn’t you just give me an order to drive without a license? What if I say no?"
She reaches into the kitchen cupboard without comment and tips down a bottle of cooking oil. Charley’s as tall as a twelve-year-old.
"I mean, let’s be real, Charley. You do, in the ultimate end of things, call the shots."
I reach back for my glasses on the small shelf I installed in the side of the loft. It holds whatever book I’m reading and my journal. I love my glasses, horn-rimmed "cat glasses" as Charley calls them. Vintage 1961. Makes me want to do the twist and wear penny loafers.
"Can I at least pull my hair back?"
She huffs. "Oh, all right, Scotty! Why do you have to be so difficult?"
Charley has no clue as to how difficult teenagers can actually be. Here I am, schooling myself on the road, no wild friends. No friends at all, actually, because I hate Internet friendships. I mean, how lame, right? No boyfriend, no drugs. No alcohol either, unless you count cold syrup, because the Y gets so cold during the winter and Charley’s a huge conservationist. (Big surprise there.) I should be thankful, though. At least she stopped wearing leather fringe a couple of years ago.
I slide down from the loft, gather my circus hair into a ponytail, and slip into the driver’s seat. Charley reupholstered it last year with rainbow fabric. I asked her where the unicorns were and she just rolled her eyes. "Okay, let’s go. How long is it going to take?"
"Oh." She looks down, picks up a red pepper and hides behind it.
I turn on her. "You didn’t Google Map it?"
"You’re the computer person, not me." She peers above the stem. "I’m sorry?" She shrugs. Man, I hate it when she’s so cute. "Really sorry?"
"Charley, we’re in Wilmore, Kentucky. As in Ken-Tuck-EEE . As in the middle of nowhere." I climb out of my seat. "What part of North Carolina are we going to? It’s a wide state."
"Toledo Island. Something like that. Near Ocracoke Island. Does that sound familiar?"
"The Outer Banks?"
"Are they in North Carolina?"
Are you kidding me?
"Let me log on. This is crazy, Charley. I don’t know why you do this to me all the time."
"Sorry." She says it so Valley Girl-like. I really thought I’d be above TME: Teenage Mom Embarrassment. But no. Now, most kids don’t have mothers who dress like Stevie Nicks and took a little too much LSD back in the DAY. It doesn’t take ESP to realize who the adult in this setup is. And she had me, PDQ, out of the bonds of holy matrimony I might add, when she was forty (yes, I already told you that, but it’s still just as true), and that’s
OLD to be caught in such an inconvenient situation, don’t you think? The woman had no excuse for such behavior, FYI.
My theory: Charley’s a widow and it’s too painful to talk about my father. I mean, it’s plausible, right?
The problem is, I can remember back to when I was at least four, and I definitely do not remember a man in the picture. Except for Jeremy. More on him later too.
I flip up my laptop. I have a great satellite Internet setup in the Y. I rigged it myself because I’m a lonely geek with nothing better to do with her time than figure out this kind of stuff. I type in the info and wait for the directions. Satellite is slower than DSL, but it’s better than nothing.
"Charley! It’s seventeen hours away!" I scan the list of twists and turns between here and there. "We have to take a ferry to Ocracoke, and then Toledo Island’s off of there."
"Groovy died with platform shoes and midis."
"Whatever, Scotty." Only she says it all sunny. She’s a morning person.
"That phrase should be dead."
Honestly, I’m not big on lingo. I’ve never been good at it, which is fine by me. Who am I going to impress with cool-speak anyway? Uma Thurman? Yeah, right. "Okay, let’s go."
"We can go as long as possible and break camp on the way, you know?" Charley.
I climb back into the rainbow chair, throw the Y into drive, pull the brake, and we’re moving on down the road.
Copyright © 2006 NavPress Publishing. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, come back to www.navpress.com.
Friday, October 26, 2007
OK, here's a few more words. Last night I got to see the David Crowder Band in concert right here in the Little Apple (Manhattan, Kan.). Opening acts were The Myriad and Phil Wickham -- who were excellent by the way. But the main attraction rocked the house. I was near the back, but it was a good location because the sound just washed over me and I could see just fine. David Crowder and company are excellent musicians and their focus is alway where it belongs -- on God. And they have a great time, too, so the audience has a great time. They played a lot of songs from their new album, Remedy, but also some old favorites. If you have a chance to see them on this tour, do it. You won't be sorry.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
You can find out more by visiting some of the other bloggers posting this month:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Merrie Destefano or Alien Dream
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Daniel I. Weaver
Monday, October 15, 2007
When I got home from retreat yesterday, I found my very own copies of Coach's Midnight Diner and Relief Issue 4 had come in the mail. Yay! These are quality publications, in spite of my own contribution to them. I started reading the Diner yesterday and was not disappointed. There are some stories I like better than others, but the writing is top-notch. If you like horror, weird fiction, crime stories, or supernatural suspense, you should check it out. You'll be challenged and you may disagree with some of them, but you'll definitely be thinking after reading the stories in the Diner.
Want some good music? I'd never heard of Tim McAllister, but Infuze pointed me to his album Strong Tower. I figured I'd check it out, since it was free. This is good music. He's got kind of a different voice -- but good. And the songs express a lot of honest emotion and Christian wondering. It's not all wrapped up neatly and tied with a bow, but it's hopeful all the same. Good stuff.
One of the new posters at The Master's Artist is Chris Fisher. He's got some good thoughts today about writing and faith.
I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Joel Osteen last night. I am even more convinced that he's preaching a very incomplete gospel and downright bad theology. But better theological minds than mine have posted about it -- check out the Internet Monk's thoughts here. Of course, Osteen isn't preaching anything new -- the prosperity gospel has been around in some form or another for a very long time. But it's still wrong.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The revamped Relief Journal site is up and it looks great. The Relief Writer's Network is integrated into the site and I understand the submission system will be part of that. Coach is still transferring content, but it will soon be complete.
J. Mark Bertrand has been doing stuff with his blogs: He's separated out his Bible Design and Binding entries into their own blog as well as making a new site for his writing related blog. It used to be call Notes on Craft, now it's Write About Now and, like the other sites, shows Mark's flair for design as well as boasting excellent content. And, of course, he's got a blog related to his soon to be released book Rethinking Worldview.
The Master's Artist has a new look, too, thanks to Mark (with photos from Jeanne Damoff).
Right now I'm listening (via Rhapsody) to the new album from the Foo Fighters: Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace. Very, very good. So far it's a good mix of loud and mellow.
Last week I got to listen to the new CD from David Crowder: Remedy. Also very good.
Both of these are going on my music wish list (my itunes shopping cart).
Monday, October 01, 2007
and her book:
Demon: A Memoir
Tosca Lee received her BA in English and International Relations from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has also studied at Oxford University.
As a Leadership Consultant, Tosca works with managers and leaders of organizations throughout the Pan-Pacific region, Europe, and the U.S.
Tosca is a former Mrs. Nebraska-America 1996, Mrs. Nebraska-United States 1998 and first runner-up to Mrs. United States and has been lauded nationally for her efforts to fight breast cancer.
In her spare time, Tosca enjoys cooking, studying history and theology, and traveling. She currently resides in Nebraska with her Shar Pei, Attila.
Visit her at her website and her blog. Read the first chapter here.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart. I lived my life completely unscripted . . . and, well, you saw how well that went for me.
How about you? What type of script are you writing for your life?
When I say “script” I’m not talking about career goals or college plans. I’m not talking about current class schedules or finding the unique purpose for your future. While all of those are important, there are other parts of our life we need to script, too, such as:
• Dealing with peer pressure from both guys and friends.
• The search for popularity. How to find it. Or live without. Or be happy in between.
• Relationships with parents. No matter how out of touch with reality they seem to be.
• And living for God without turning your back on the world.
Scripting your life comes down to thinking through struggles—yours as well as the struggles of others—and considering the best approach. While there are dozens of teen books and magazines out there dealing with these relationship type topics, I’m going to lay it all out there by (1) sharing my past experiences (which would be easier and more comfortable to hide), (2) including input from teens just like you, and (3) showing God’s POV (point of view), through God’s Word—the Bible. We’ll dig deep to uncover answers concerning our lives and our place in the world.
Why use the Bible? According to a recent survey, “Almost two-thirds of teens (62 percent) believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings.”
If you’re part of this majority, then you’ll already appreciate how God’s Word can help you in everyday life. If you aren’t sure how you feel about the Bible, feel free to stick around and keep an open mind.
Friday, September 28, 2007
I'm going to tell a Megan-story. She learned to walk when she was about 10 1/2 months old -- it was shear determination. She would stand up and stagger drunkenly across the floor after Julia and John. She'd fall down, then pick herself up again and take off. There was no way she was going to be left behind. Not long after she learned to walk we were in a waiting room at the hospital and she was toddling around tapping on things, with her pacifier in her mouth. She wasn't talking yet (though it wouldn't be long), but she understood everything we said. An older lady spoke to her in that condescending tone some grown-ups use with little kids. She pointed at Megan's pacifier and said "Can I have that?" Megan gave her a perfectly dead-pan look, took her pacifier out of her mouth, and held it out to her. I'm sure she was thinking something like "well if you really want it lady ..." I don't think the poor woman knew what to think.
Whatever is ahead of her, I know her determination and sense of humor, as well as her reliance on God, will stand her in good stead.
Now that I've thoroughly embarrassed her, I'll say "Happy Birthday! Hope you have a great day!"
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Merrie Destefano or Alien Dream
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
I also got a very nice bit of writerly news on Friday, which I think I'll count as a birthday present. "Sanctuary" will also be appearing in Issue 4 of Relief Journal, as a teaser for Coach's Midnight Diner. Speaking of the Diner, Nappaland.com has a nice review. (I'm not sure it's posted at the site yet, but Coach posted it in the Diner authors section of the Relief Writer's Network, so I've seen it.) I'm getting more excited to see my copy.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Wondered, whatever became of meA special treat came in the mail this week: the first season of WKRP in Cincinnati, one of the best TV comedies ever. It was supposed to be a Mother's Day present, but I think now it's more of an early birthday present. But that's fine. It's been fun to watch this week and see how well it's held up over almost 30 years. There are references you'll miss if you don't remember the 70s, but most of the humor is related to the characters and the situation and it's still funny to see Les Nessman broadcast live as the Pinedale Shopping Mall is bombed with live turkeys, or get ready for his date with Jennifer, or any of the other great moments from that season. The cast truly was an ensemble and it's fun to watch.
I'm livin' on the air in Cincinnati
Cincinnati WKRP ...
And here's a bit of trivia for you: Gordon Jump, who played Arthur Carlson, was a K-State grad and worked on the campus radio station in the late 1950s.
In the fall of 1999 (I think), Mr. Jump spoke at the Kansas Association of Broadcasters meeting when it was in Manhattan (home of K-State), so he visited the school of journalism and had lunch with some of the faculty and students in the Bluemont Room. (I was working in the school of journalism at the time.) Mr. Jump is on the front row, on the left and I'm the woman in the blue dress in front. He was a very interesting and nice man and seemed to feel he'd been blessed to have the life he did. At the time, he was still doing the Maytag commercials and enjoyed it. He died a few years ago, so it's neat to have had the chance to meet him.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Yes, it's a long title and somewhat reminiscent of Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons. But I think it gets its point across all the same.
Friday, August 31, 2007
THE DEAD WHISPER ON
Tony is the author of the acclaimed Waking Lazarus. He has been an advertising agency owner/principal, a trade amgazine editor, and now a novelist.
He has been a professional writer for more than 15 years with articles appearing in publications as varied as Log Homes, Conservative Theological Journal, and Travel & Leisure. He is also Creative Director at Montana's largest advertising agency.
His long list of past odd jobs includes trimming Christmas trees, sorting seed potatoes, working the graveyard shift at a convenience store, and cleaning cadaver storage rooms.
As a teen he was undefeated in air guitar competitions in which he performed songs by ZZ Top.
He lives in Montana with his wife and daughter.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Candace "Canada Mac" MacHugh lives a ghost of her former life.
Once a proud Butte, Montana, miner who daily risked her life setting explosives, she's now a garbage collector in her dying hometown.
Her beloves father is dead and she doesn't speak to her mom. More than anything, Candace Mac misses her father. He promised to contact her from the "other side" if he could...but it's been eleven long years. And now even her beloved city of Butte, Montana, seems to be dying off.
Candace Mac is alone. Longing for the past. Dreaming of making a difference.
Until one night when her father's voice speaks to her from the shadows. Bud MacHugh's trademark growl. The dead, it seems, have messages they hunger to share with the world...warnings of impending disasters and grave danger. Of cities doomed to burn.
But they need Canada's help.
T.L. Hines' first novel, Waking Lazarus was named one of the Library Journal's Top 25 Genre novels of 2006. Now he's back with a gripping suspense that brings to light our fears and asks us if we still have the courage to fight for those around us, if we have the guts to be one of those who run into burning buildings.
"Chilling!" Publishers Weekly
"...a well-paced suspense populated by dynamic characters." Kirkus Discoveries
Thursday, August 30, 2007
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula LeGuin
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
There are other books I love and reread, even, but the books listed above all stayed with me in some particular way. They probably have more influence on me as a writer than most other books, too. And they all have some things in common.
To Kill a Mockingbird would probably get my vote for the Great American Novel -- the story, the characters, the imagery all work together to create something memorable. I first read it in high school and have read it several times since -- it's like visiting old friends. (I suppose that's true for all the books above.) I suppose what pulled me into the story is the distinctive voice that holds my attention even with the leisurely pace. It's like Harper Lee invites the reader to sit on the porch with her while she weaves her tale. The events are significant and powerful, but it's the voice and the characters that made me fall in love with the book.
The Left Hand of Darkness is a different kind of book, but I think a lot of what I just said holds true for it, too. Ursula LeGuin is a master storyteller and world builder. She makes Winter a real place, and Genly Ai and Estraven come to life on the pages. I first read this in college, over one weekend -- a weekend that found me so absorbed in the story that when I put it down, I had to remind myself where I was. This book showed me what science fiction could be in the hands of a master stylist. I love how it works on multiple levels -- it's a rousing good adventure story that makes you think about what it really means to believe in something, what price you would be willing to pay for that belief, and the true meaning of friendship and love. And all from a self-described atheist! If you've never read this classic, check it out of your local library and be prepared to lose yourself for a weekend.
The Lord of the Rings is, simply, the greatest fantasy novel ever written. I first read The Hobbit in high school and had never read anything like it before. I was captivated. I started The Lord of the Rings in high school, but didn't read it all the way through until college (I think I got bogged down in the Two Towers the first time). Tolkien makes me want to go to Middle Earth and hang out with the hobbits. Bob and I so loved the book that we named rooms in one of our first apartments after places in Middle Earth. (For example, the bathroom was Mordor, just so we could say "I'm going to Mordor." I've never pretended we weren't weird.) No other epic fantasy has so captured my imagination and I think it's because the characters are so wonderful and vivid.
In This House of Brede isn't a book that usually turns up on people's favorite books lists, but maybe it should. Rumer Godden wrote a number of novels in the mid-20th century and some of them were pretty well known. I first encountered this book as a Reader's Digest Condensed Book at my grandma's house. It's an episodic tale of a woman in England who becomes a nun in her 40s. Most of the story takes place in the late 1950s and early 1960s and depicts a way of life that has probably changed a lot since the book was written. But, again, the characters are so real and captivating that it's a pleasure to spend time in their company. Though I'm not Roman Catholic, I appreciated the way Godden was able to write about faith. Her nuns were human and had their own faults and failings, but the underpinning of faith and service in their lives says a lot to me. It's a story that could have come across as sappy and cliched, but it doesn't. God works, but not always the way you expect. Faith triumphs after tragedy but there's a long process of healing. This is another book worth looking up in your local library or used book store.
Jane Eyre, on the other hand, is a classic on a lot of people's favorites lists. I think of it as the original gothic romance. I first read it when I was about 13, so maybe my youthful romanticism colored my first impressions of it. But Jane and Mr. Rochester are such memorable, complex characters that the story holds up well. And when I reread it after I was a little older I realized that Charlotte Bronte was ahead of her time in how she wrote about women and their place in the world. Jane is not perfect, but she shows real courage and sticks to what she believes is right.
While these books were written in different styles and different eras, they have some things in common that pull me back to them: strong, vivid characters; distinctive voice; a slower pace of storytelling. I don't mind a book that takes a little time to introduce the scene. All of these books give the reader a chance to enter the story without being dragged in by the author. Yes, there are compelling elements to the opening pages, but it's not breakneck storytelling here. I happen to like that approach. The writer's voice is distinct in each, too. Ursula LeGuin and Rumer Godden have very different approaches to storytelling, but both work, both styles fit the story being told, both engage the reader. But even more important are the characters. If I read a book over it's because I like the people in it and want to spend time with them again. (This is why I've been rereading the Harry Potter books this summer, too.)
If I could write books that have these things in common with my favorites -- with strong characters, distinctive voice, and an engaging but not overly hurried pace -- I'd feel like I'd accomplished somethng, whether anyone publishes them or not.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Alan Jacobs' reflections on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
An assessment of Eugene Peterson's books Eat this Book and The Jesus Way.
My friend Rebecca has been thinking about church.
Jared posted a though-provoking Gospel Rant the other day.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I have not been writing much -- I'm not sure where the words have gone, but they haven't been rolling around in my head, that's for sure. I think some of it is stress -- the women's retreat I help plan has hit many, many glitches in the last four weeks, among other things. God is working it out, but I've still been stressed. I also taught a Sunday School in August called Film and Faith (I like to think of it as Watching Movies with Jesus) and that took quite a bit of time. One of my primary resources was Reel Spirituality by Robert K. Johnston. Excellent, excellent book. I've also been rereading the Harry Potter novels. But I was looking at the novel I started last November and thinking about how I might get back into it. Maybe the words will come back. We'll see.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
If you like pirate stories, this sounds like something you might be interested in. Publisher's Weekly certainly has good things to say:
Swashbuckling is the best way to describe Book One of the Trophy Chase Trilogy. Without wasting time, Polivka's first novel drops readers into a fantasy world filled with action, where chivalry is alive and well, and sword fights are frequent. Packer Throme—a failed seminarian turned master swordsman—sets out on a great quest, but not in search of fame. He hopes to honor God by stowing away on (former) pirate Scatter Wilkins's ship Trophy Chase, convincing its captain and crew to seek the legendary firefish—a feat that could raise Packer's fishing village from poverty and win the heart of his longtime love, the beautiful Panna Seline. Happily, Polivka gives this heroine a backbone, not to mention a mighty right hook and her own part to play in this adventure. "It was wrong to have let her, and thousands of young women just like her, believe they had no power, no strength, and therefore could have no place or position," Panna reflects angrily about the plight of women. Though the Packer-Panna romance finds considerable ink, this is a tale almost entirely of pirates, warriors, stormy seas and battles with monsters. The Christian message is palpable, and Polivka's characters relatively complex. With the nonstop action that cuts between multiple story lines, readers will be flipping pages eagerly.Harvest House, the book's publisher, lets you in on the seafaring fun with a "Talk Like a Pirate" contest. So check out the book, talk like a pirate and visit some of the fine blogs listed below for more fun.
Wayne Thomas Batson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Lost Genre Guild
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Daniel I. Weaver
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
Now, 29 years later, we are going to have a grandson -- we just found out this week that the upcoming grandchild is a boy. But Julia and Mike are being a bit coy about the name they've picked out and Bob told me I'm not to make suggestions. But that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun ... Julia and Mike's last name also starts with a 'G' so the possibilities are endless:
Edward Gilbert G.
Frodo Robert Oliver G.
Albert Ricardo G.
Play along -- make up your own fun combinations and leave them in the comments. (By the way, I'm sure they've picked out a lovely name and it won't spell anything weird.)
I think being an expectant grandmother is even more fun than being pregnant!
Thursday, August 09, 2007
They have a strong faith in God but they are total badasses about it. Christian or Non-Christian -- you'll enjoy this if you like Speculative Fiction.I've never been described that way before, but I'm OK with it. I think.
Lest I scare you away with all this goth-talk, I think any fans of speculative fiction will find something to like in the Diner. And it sounds like it'll get reviews from some more traditional kinds of places, like Infuze. So don't hesitate to order now.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Bad Idea by Todd and Jedd Hafer
It is AUGUST 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!
and their book:
(NavPress TH1NK Books, August 22, 2006)ABOUT THE AUTHOR(s):
Todd and Jedd Hafer previously teamed up to write Snickers from the Front Pew: Confessions of Two Preacher's Kids, which has now sold more than fifty thousand units.
Todd is editorial director for the inspirational book division at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri.
Jedd is director at The Children's Ark in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a home for troubled teens, and travels the country as a standup comedian.
Visit them at their website.
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“We should totally drive!” Rhonda said, wagging a limp french fry for emphasis.
I clenched my teeth. I hate it when adults try to talk like teenagers. Rhonda does it all the time. Her efforts are particularly grating to me because she does, in fact, employ the teen vernacular, but always, always at least one season too late.
Thus, my father’s 28-year-old fiancée didn’t say “Congratulations!” when I was inducted into Quill & Scroll (the National Honor Society for high school journalists) early in my senior year. She said, “Big ups to you, G!” And when I was named Honorable Mention All-Area in track and field (small-school division), she didn’t say “Way to go!” She said, “Big respect, G-Man! You got the mad wheels, homey!”
If she says, “I’m feelin’ you, dawg,” during one more of our Dad-initiated dinnertime theological discussions, I’m going to puke on her shoes.
Fortunately for Rhonda, and all of the people at the Big Bear Diner on the night the road trip was conceived, I didn’t barf when she said, “We should totally drive!” I raised my eyes to the ceiling and said, “I don’t think we should totally drive. I don’t even think we should partially drive.”
I looked across the booth to my dad to accept the disapproving glare I knew he would be offering. I smiled at him. It was my infuriating, smug smile. I practice it in the bathroom mirror. It’s so irritating that when I see my reflection doing it, I want to punch myself in the face.
My dad didn’t hit me. That wasn’t his style. He just nibbled his bottom lip for a while before saying calmly, “I think we should give the idea due consideration rather than reject it out of hand.”
“Okay,” I said, sipping my bitter iced tea, “let’s hear why we should cram ourselves into a car and drive for, what, three or four days to Southern California, stomping on each other’s raw nerves all along the way and probably breaking down somewhere near the Kansas-Colorado border. Or maybe getting in a wreck.”
Rhonda looked at my dad, giving him her Wounded Face, all droopy eyes and puckered chin and poofed-out lower lip. You know the look.
He looked at her, then at me. “Griffin, please . . .”
“Okay, okay, okay—you’re right, you guys. Yeah, you know, now that I consider The Rhonda Eccles-Someday-To-Be-Smith Plan carefully, it’s sounding better. I mean, why would I want to enjoy a quick, economical, and stress-free flight when we could all cram into a tired old vehicle and drive? Let’s go with the option that means more time, more money, more risks, more headaches.”
Rhonda tried to smile, but she couldn’t get the corners of her tiny heart-shaped mouth to curl upward. “Well,” she said quietly, “I just thought it would be bomb to make a road trip of it. See the country. Stop at mom-and-pop diners, like the Big Bear here. Maybe spend a day in Denver—hit an amusement park or catch a Rockies game. Griff, please be more open-minded. Think of the time it would give us to kick it.”
“We talk now,” I observed.
“Yessss,” she said, drawing the word out as though it had sprung a slow leak. She wrapped her long, slender fingers around her coffee mug and took a sip. “But in the car, you wouldn’t be able to run away from the convo whenever it got too intense for you.”
I pushed my chair back from the table and popped up like a piece of toast. I was ready to wad my napkin and spike it like a football on the table before marching out of the Big Bear. Then, only a half second before the Great Napkin Spike, I realized that would be proving her point.
Rhonda was studying me. I scrolled my mind for options on saving face, because since she had unofficially joined our family, I had lost more face than Michael Jackson. But I scrolled in vain. My brain was nothing but blank screen. ....
(Want more? Read here)
Friday, July 27, 2007
I couldn't put this book down -- not because of the plot so much as because I fell in love with Dara and her new friends. The story is fairly straightforward, with the plot revolving around turns of character more than turns of events (though certainly there is drama and conflict to propel the story). Dara learns first to accept, then love, her new friend Jane (best described as a hippie missionary earth mother). And from Jane, Dara learns to listen to the voice of God telling her he loves her and calling her to follow him, even though she can't imagine anyone loving her or wanting her around, so damaged is her view of herself. But once you let one person into your life, a whole host of others will soon follow, and so it is for Dara. She takes a job in the restaurant owned by Jane's brother, Tom (a widower); she is beguiled by Tom's little daughter, Clemmie; she is drawn into the life of a mysterious stranger, Sophie; and she begins to find answers to questions that have haunted her all her life.
This book moved me to laughter and to tears and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a beautiful story that shows how God's grace is at work around us. Kathleen has done a wonderful job of writing about faith in a natural way, with characters who live in the same fallen world we all do and have the same kind of struggles we all know, and ask the same kind of questions we all ask -- and choose to trust the Lord.
I know I tend to wax enthusiastic about a book I really enjoy, but I don't think you'll be disappointed if you pick up a copy of To Dance in the Desert.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Raised in the American Southwest, Kathleen began her love affair with the desert as a child. Before becoming a writer she, among other jobs, worked in both the juvenile facility fro incarcerated girls and a home for emotionally disturved children. Mother of two, she lives in Northern California with her husband and youngest son. Visit her blog, Reading, Writing, and What Else is There? She is a member of the CFBA, too! Give her a holler!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
This is the first book of Eric Wilson's I've read and after reading it, I want to go back and read some of the others, especially the first Aramis Black story. I enjoyed A Shred of Truth. Wilson does an especially good job of portraying an interesting, complex character who is still learning what it means to walk with Christ.
Aramis Black is trying to make a new, more peaceful, life for himself in Nashville. But his past keeps coming back to haunt him. In this novel, just as his brother is on the verge of breaking out as a country star, he ends up tied to a statue with the initials AX carved into his shoulder.
Aramis can't ignore the attack, or the threatening e-mails he starts receiving. Nor can he ignore the evidence that seems to be saying someone he long thought dead is really alive. Aramis struggles to determine the truth without returning to the violent habits of his past.
There's a little something here for everyone -- fans of suspense thrillers will enjoy the fast pace, those who prefer character-driven tales will enjoy the complexity of not only Aramis, but many of the other characters. It's a good mix and a good read.
Eric Wilson is the author of Dark to Mortal Eyes, Expiration Date, and the first book in the Aramis Black series, The Best of Evil. He lives with his wife, Carolyn Rose, and their two daughters in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit him at wilsonwriter.com
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Wayne Thomas Batson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Lost Genre Guild
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Daniel I. Weaver
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Fantasy, maybe more than any other kind of story, is metaphor. But the metaphors work best when you don't strain too hard to look for them. They work best when you let the story sink in and simply be what it is.