Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Symbols: Christmas Card

My hand is about to fall off from addressing envelopes and signing the names of all six family members to the Christmas cards.  This is the first time we’ve done Christmas cards in a long time and time is quickly fading away.  It’s like I suddenly looked up at we’re only two weeks from the big day.  I’m not worried about the shopping, that comes much later, but we do need to hurry up and get these cards out or we’ll have to hold them until next year.  We even did a newsletter with everything that’s been going on.  I don’t if anyone will read it, but it’s there for their perusal.


Now I’m not getting off subject.  I bring up Christmas cards to talk about the history of them.  In London in 1843 Sir Henry Cole was too busy during the holiday season to do the writing he would normally do.  So, he ordered the first set of Christmas cards, which featured an illustration by John Callcott Horsley.  The card was of a family drinking wine, which did cause some controversy.  These cards read “merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you.”  The cards were printed in black and white, then colored by hand.  1,000 cards were produced, of which 12 exist today. 


The early cards that took off from that point rarely had winter scenes or religious themes.  They were usually of children and animals.  In 1875 Louis Prang became the first printer to sell Christmas cards in America.  His cards had pictures of floral arrangements and were expensive.  The cards didn’t take off in America and the cheap penny Christmas postcards from Germany ran him out of business.  Of course the German domination ended after World War 1 and American companies took over.


According to one website that was researched, today more than two billion Christmas cards are exchanged annually, just within the United States.  This year there will be two billion and sixty because of the Slagle effort.



Friday Night Lights A Hit With Me

Today is Wednesday, so I feel like I should be writing about a book for the CFBA.  But we are taking a Christmas break, which is nice to be able to read some books I’ve put on hold.  Since I don’t have a book to talk about, I thought I would talk about a TV show that has really caught my interest this season - “Friday Night Lights.” 


Not only are the characters great and the storyline real, the show doesn’t apologize for portraying faith.  I believe the show to be fair toward the Christian influence of the players.  There has been at least one prayer in every show and they pray to Jesus, not just something generic.  The students go to church, and deal with their problems in a way that is reflective of the real world.  Some may say that they took the good Christian cheerleader and turned her into someone who was having sex with her crippled boyfriend’s best friend.  But let’s take another look at that issue.  Do Christian teenagers have sex?  Yes.  If you don’t believe me, you are not living in the real world.  Are there teenagers who are strong enough to stay away?  Yes.  There are those students in the show as well.  Let’s get back to the cheerleader.  She is a Christian, the earlier episodes established that.  She made the mistake of having sex.  There were consequences for that mistake.  In Numbers 32 Moses is talking to his army and he warns them that if they do not do as the Lord commands, they “will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (23).  In last night’s episode, which I assume was the fall finale since there were no previews, Lyla’s sins found her out and she paid dearly for her sins.  She was repentant to the ones that sin hurt and realized that she must endure the pain.  There was no scene of her at the alter or even of her praying for forgiveness, but I got the feeling that she had done that at some point behind the scenes.  And at the end of the show, there was a strong redemptive quality.  We all sin and come short of the glory of God.  When children disobey, they are punished (at least they should be if the parent loves them).  God is not different toward his children.  There are consequences to our actions, but there is also repentance and redemption.


Last night’s show also talked openly about sex and how boys and girls are viewed differently because of the things they do.  There was also a scene in the classroom in which a preacher’s daughter (I don’t recall her name because last night was her first appearance) explained how boys think that it’s okay to spread their seed because that is human nature, but humans are to rise above nature and be stronger than those urges.  She called it higher evolution.  I thought that was really good and met the secular views on secular grounds.  She didn’t mention the Bible or God or that sex should wait until marriage.  She made her point within the confides of the secular argument about human nature and she won.  Again, it was very well done.


This is a show that everyone should start watching.  It moves to Wednesdays in January.  Hopefully, the move will up the ratings because I hate to see a good show like this hit the can.  If you want to know more about the show or watch the episodes online go to the link below:





Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Symbols: The Christmas Tree

As we get closer to Christmas I am reminded of how symbolic everything really is.  So many people think that symbols are just things that writers and English teachers think up to make their lives more enjoyable.  While there may be some truth to that, in reality, symbols are everywhere.  Especially in the church and especially at Christmas time.  I want to take a look at some of the symbols surrounding the Christmas season and shed some light on where the symbol came from and what it means. 


What better place to start than the Christmas tree? 


It seems the Christmas tree had its humble beginnings in Germany, which really interests me because I’ve done a lot of research on my family history in America as well as Germany.  Our family line has close ties with the church, and so when I talk about when the tradition of the Christmas tree began, I am probably also looking at a piece of family history.  Anyway, the tree began as part of “The Paradise Plays.”  These plays were performed in churches and town squares during Advent and told the story of the human race from Adam and Even until Jesus in a manger.  So the tree was center stage from the beginning, where apples were hung on it to represent the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The tree represented many things, such as the original tree in the Garden of Eden, the tree made into the cross of Jesus, the tree the Apostle John saw in Revelation.


The modern Christmas tree comes from Germany.  Because of the tree in “The Paradise Plays,” German families set up a Paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the feast day of Adam and Eve.  They hung wafers on it, which symbolized the bread eaten during communion.  Since the Christmas holiday was right after that day, people put candles in the tree to represent that Jesus came as a light to the world.  I don’t know how they kept the trees from burning down.  Have you ever thrown an evergreen into a fire?  It goes up immediately in a flash.


There is also the legend of St. Boniface that takes the Christmas tree back to the 7th century in Germany.  During the 7th century, Boniface went to German to teach the word of God.  According to the legend, he used the fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity because of its triangular shape.  Once converted, the people began to see the fir tree as God’s Tree.  This could also be why the trees were used in “The Paradise Plays.”


The Christmas trees first came to England with the Georgian Kings who came from Germany.  I want to add on a personal note that we have a direct connection to Electress Sophia of Hanover through the church.  Her son was King George I.  The custom did not catch on because the British were not fond of the German Monarchy, so it wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that the tradition caught on.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were very popular and made the Christmas tree fashionable.


The Christmas trees in America were introduced by the Hessian soldiers.  The Pennsylvanian German settlements had community trees as early as 1747.  Most Christmas traditions in American followed the immigrants who settled the area.  But once mass communication really got going in the 19th century, customs began to spread.


Now there are all types of trees from manufactured to real, but they all have a place in homes, whether the people are Christians or not.  Stores may try to rename them Holiday Trees, but we know the difference and know the deep heritage they have in the Christian community.



Friday, December 08, 2006

Learning from Nanwrimo

What did I learn from National Novel Writing Month?  There are a lot of things that I learned, and I’m not sure I can come up with all of them this moment, but there are a few things that come to mind. 


One thing that I’ve always known about myself - I need a deadline.  If left to my own devices, I waste so much time doing other things.  Even though I love writing, I tend to take my own sweet time when it comes to getting some things done.  That’s why it’s nice when the muses visit me and I finish something in a flurry.  If I don’t have that drive, I put things off.  I need to push through those times when I’m not feeling the inspiration and get as much written as possible.  Even if the things I write are not top literary quality, at least I have written and I am that much better off for having done something.  Plus, when I write everyday, the story and characters stay fresh in my mind and it’s easier to move the story along and doesn’t seem so forced.


Secondly, when it comes down to it, I can make time in my busy schedule to get more written.  There is a lot of time in the evening and pieces of time during the day that allows me to write.  I need to seize the day and take advantage of the the time I’ve been given.


Thirdly, I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer.  This is something I’ve always known, but this experience brought that out.  I enjoy learning about the characters and letting them take me to places I never thought of.  The best writing for me is to sit and type what happens on the movie screen in my head.  If I outline, then I feel the story is already written and there is no point to writing because I know what’s going to happen.  I’d rather take the adventure and see what happens.


I could go on, but I don’t want to.  I want to take the opportunity to write my fiction and not this blog.  I plan on coming back next week with some information about Christmas symbols.  You know, that is my two favorite things - Christmas and symbols, so when you put the two together, I could talk for hours.



Monday, November 20, 2006

Nanowrimo Marches Toward Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is coming up and I have so much to be thankful for.  My children and wife are wonderful and each day is so full because of them.  I want to be everything God wants me to be, so that I can be the best father and husband I can be.  Now, back to writing, which is the purpose of this blog.  I’m still going strong on my Nanowrimo novel.  I’ve fallen behind, but I plan on catching up this week.  I’m afraid my novel is going to end before I reach 50K, but we’ll see.  I know there are parts I need to add during the edit, but there isn’t time for that this month.  Well, I’ll be blogging about a new novel tomorrow and I hope to start up the interviews again soon. 


Friday, November 10, 2006

Nanowritmo Story Evolving

There’s a lot going on right now.  National Novel Writing Month is in full swing.  Right now I have 11,243 words.  I thought I knew what the story was about, but I’m giving the characters full reign over the story, so they are taking me to places I didn’t expect and the theme of the novel is slowly changing.  It was about a girl with a brain tumor going for one last trip with her friends to the beach and she falls in love with a guy.  But the friends in the story have put such a focus on hooking-up, that the girl’s vow of chastity and the boy’s manhood are both being challenged.  I think the novel may now be about standing strong in the midst of sin.  I don’t know.  All that matters for this is the word count, so we’ll see where the story ends up.  By nature I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer anyway, so this has been a lot of fun.



Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Published Again!!!

After an eight month drought, I’ve hit the market again.  This makes number 12 on the good old resume.  Now which story will be lucky #13?  This published piece is “Reflections of a Preacher’s Kid,” a poem I wrote for my dad during pastor appreciation week a few years ago.  It will be published in the January/February/March issue of The Storyteller.  Go check it out and vote for it.  They have a contest in every issue for the best article, short story and poem.  It would be nice to win, but I doubt it will be.  There are probably some serious poets in there that are a lot better than me.

Friday, November 03, 2006


National Novel Writing Month has begun and I’m off to a running start.  I have 8260 words in 3 days, so I’m quickly out of the gates.  I already feel myself wanting to put on the brakes and analyze what is going on in the story, but I can’t do that.  I think that’s the nice thing about Nanowrimo.  I have a measure of accountability, so I’m pressing on.  The only thing that matters are the words on the page.  I can go back and better structure things later.  Right now, I’m getting the story down and I’m letting the characters have total control, which is the best way to approach a novel.  If I keep up this pace, I’ll have over 80000 words by the end of the month.  I’ll probably fizzle out by the end of the month, but so far, so good.  Pray that I can succeed.


I went to the school play of The Odd Couple last night.  It was very good.  The actors were excellent.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fall Break 2006

Fall Break was a good time.  It wasn’t very restful, but I can rest when I’m dead.  We took off after school on Wednesday and drove to Kansas City where my sister lives.  It was an eight hour drive in the rain and fog, so it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. 


Thursday, October 26

After breakfast and showers we headed into downtown Kansas City to the Negro Baseball League Museum.  It was a great display and very informative.  I’m not sure the kids totally understood everything and what it all meant, but they do have a little education about our country’s past and how far we have come.  I recommend for everyone to stop by the museum.  One warning, though.  They won’t let you take cameras in.  That was a little disappointing.  I wanted to get some pictures of the legends field (a bronze statue of the best Negro league player at every position).  In the gift shop I got Malarie a novel about a girl who pitched in the Negro leagues, Kaleb a set of Negro league baseball cards, and Mackenzie a key chain.  There really wasn’t anything to get for Marissa.  I wanted something with the Indianapolis Clowns on it, but there wasn’t anything.  Just so you know, there is also a jazz museum in the same building.  That really wasn’t up our alley, so we didn’t go there.  If you want more information on the NBLM check out this website:


After leaving the museum we ventured out to Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Field.  It was pretty cool.  We took pictures of ourselves in front of the stadiums.  Hopefully, next summer we’ll be able to go to a Royals game.  It shouldn’t be too hard to get tickets since they are so bad.  Then we went shopping and back to my sister’s condo for the evening. 


Friday, October 27

We left and headed to Branson.  It was state roads all of the way, but the speed limit was still 60-70 mph.  We saw some really beautiful country, in between rains.  The drive took about four hours.  When we got to Branson we had to check-in at the welcome center.  We were part of a tour package.  The first place signed us in, then sent us to a second location.  The second location signed us in, checked the availability of our rooms, then sent us to a third location.  At the third location, we got the key to our rooms.  We were put up in the newest condos with two adjoining condos.  It was bigger than our house and very nice.  When we went on the tour our guide was surprised we had such nice accommodations.  After settling into the room, we went swimming, then grabbed something to eat.  I don’t think we did anything else.  I really can’t remember.  Branson is not a fun place to drive.  The main strip is horrible.  The place wasn’t designed to have so much traffic.


Saturday, October 28

Mom and Dad came to the condo to watch the kids while we went to the sales pitch.  The guy at the sales presentation was nice enough.  I told him up front we weren’t going to buy and the last time we went through this, the salesman got mad and sent someone else over to high-pressure us.  He promised that wouldn’t happen, and it didn’t.  The places were nice, but I wasn’t going to finance a place for more than my mortgage payment.  Plus I didn’t have a couple thousand dollars sitting around as a down payment.  After leaving the presentation, we had to go to another place to pick up our gift.  We then went and got tickets to a show and went back to the room.


We loaded up the kids and headed for downtown Branson.  The traffic was so bad that we lost Mom and Dad, whom we were following.  We parked in a back lot downtown and went through some of the stores.  Never go through an old downtown store with a stroller.  It was horrible.  I was glad to just fight my way out.  We ate at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant.  It was wonderful.  Those are my favorite kind of diners.  The food was good, the people were nice, and the place had atmosphere.  Then we walked down to the water where the pavilion is.  It is a new multi-million dollar shopping area that looks like a little town in itself.  We went through some of the stores, including the Cardinal’s Club House.  They had just won the World Series the night before, but the stuff was more than I wanted to spend.  We watched an Elvis impersonator, a commercial being shot, and a drum-line beating on trash cans.  We almost took a carriage ride, but had to hurry to our show.  The carriage driver told me how to take back roads, which I’m glad he did.  We saw some of the most beautiful country.  We stopped twice and took pictures.  The first time was from an overlook that looked across the water at Branson.  We could see our condo.  Then the drive took us around to the dam.  We stopped and took pictures with the lake and fall foliage behind us. 


The show we went to that afternoon was The Acrobats of China.  The kids were amazing.  They could contort their bodies and balance themselves on anything.  They also had a lot of other tricks.  The show was two hours and they amazed us the whole time.  We picked this show because it would keep the kids’ interest.  It was during Marissa’s naptime, so she was a little fussy.  An old woman in front of us kept getting mad at her, so Brooke moved back where no one was sitting so the old bitty wouldn’t be bothered.  I wanted to say something to her about the reality of having children (I assume she doesn’t have any or she would have been a little more understanding), but I figured people like that are so miserable anyway that it was pointless to say anything.  I did feel sorry for her husband, though.  The rest of us moved back after intermission.  Malarie got some autographs and a picture with one of the performers.  The rest of the kids were afraid to approach anyone.  If you want more information about the show, check out this website:


After the show we went to the family fun place and rode go-carts.  The younger children got to ride some rides.  Then we went to the Majestic to eat.  There was an hour wait and the kids were too restless for that.  We were told that the place was so big that we wouldn’t have any trouble getting in.  The hostess, who seemed to be afraid that I was an irate customer, said it was beyond her control but that only one dining room was open.  I asked her if she could give me $30 for the voucher I had.  She said no, but I could order take-out.  We did that for me and Brooke.  The kids wanted McDonald’s anyway, which saved us about $30.  Now, you have to realize my disappointment at not eating in the place, because I had look forward to it all day.  I had to pay the bartender and I told him I wasn’t happy about half of the room being unused.  He said they didn’t have the staff for it.  Now, let’s think about that.  It’s a Saturday night in a tourist destination and the place only has enough staff for half of the tables.  Sounds like some bad management to me.  But that’s not the worst of it.  I paid for the meal and was charged a $7 tip.  $7 for sitting in the lobby for half an hour waiting on food that really wasn’t that special.  The chicken on my wife’s chicken alfredo wasn’t even fully cooked.  We had to throw it out.  When I questioned about the tip, they said it was part of the voucher.  So, with the tip I paid $15 for a meal that cost around $40, so from that stand point I shouldn’t complain, but I should have gotten the voucher for somewhere else.  I would never recommend The Majestic to anyone.  In fact, I would suggest you spend your money somewhere else.  The people weren’t very nice, the food was less than ordinary, and everything was overpriced.  I refuse to even give you a link to them.  I don’t want to give them any rating points.


Before getting McDonald’s we stopped at the baseball card store called Play Ball.  It’s on 1141 W. Highway 76.  There’s no website, or I’d link to it.  The store was closed, so I walked up to see when it opened.  There were no hours posted, but I saw some guys sitting in there talking so I asked them.  The worker opened his door and invited us in.  Kaleb got two packs of soccer cards, which we can never find, a pack of football cards, some free baseball cards, an album and sheet protectors.  I am very grateful to the gentleman for opening his doors.


After eating in the room, I took the kids swimming, then we all went to sleep.


Sunday, October 29

We took our time that morning because my dad had told us it was a six hour drive home.  Come to find out many hours later that it was a 9-10 hour drive!  We stopped at a craft store on the way out of town.  Then before getting on the Interstate, we stopped at Lambert’s Café in Ozark, MO.  When we pulled up there was a line of people out into the parking lot.  I asked the guy at the end when the doors opened.  He said not for another half hour, but that if we wanted to get a seat, we’d better get in line.  We didn’t want to wait that long, so we ran over to get a gift for my aunt who took care of the dog while we were gone.  When we pulled out of the candle outlet, the line at Lambert’s was gone.  So we stopped and got right in.  The kids loved how the workers threw rolls at them.  The food was really good and filling.  I felt wasteful, but I couldn’t eat another bite.  I was supposed to get a cigar at the end of my meal, but I forgot about it and so did the waitress.  Oh, well, I didn’t need it anyway.  I thought I might smoke it next month when I win at National Novel Writing Month.  The price was reasonable, the food was good, the atmosphere great, and the people very nice.  This was the kind of dining experience one would expect.  My hat is off to Lambert’s.  And let me add that word of mouth is very important.  People told us to stop and eat there, otherwise we wouldn’t have.  I’m glad they told us about it and I’m glad we decided to stop, even if it did put us getting home even later.  Here’s the website for Lambert’s Café:  The site has a place for pictures, so I’ll scan the ones we took there and send them in with what I’ve said here.  Everyone stop at Lambert’s Café when you have the chance.


We quickly learned that the drive back to New Castle wasn’t going to be 6 hours.  After eating, it took 3-4 hours to get to St. Louis.  We happened to go by while the Cardinals parade was going on, but we didn’t see anything.  We just heard about it on the radio.  We finally got home at 8:30.  We were tired, but glad to have had the experiences.    Branson was a nice place to visit, but I think we still prefer the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, or just a long weekend in nearby Cincinnati




Monday, September 18, 2006

A Weekend at the RCA Dome

It’s Monday morning and I am tired.  From writing all weekend?  No.  From staying up late reading a great novel?  No.  But I did have an exciting weekend. 


Saturday our high school football team played at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.  The flag football league got to ride a bus over and play a 15 minute game on the field before the high school game.  It was a great experience for the kids and adults.  My entire team made it.  The school took three busses just to carry the flag teams.  When we got there we couldn’t get in.  They raised a garage door for us and we went into one area.  Then we were blocked again.  Someone opened a side door but it was so windy that the kids had trouble walking through there.  They stopped us and opened another large, garage-like door that led into the dome.  Then we walked out of the tunnel and onto the dome turf where the Colts play.  It was huge.  We took a moment just to look up.  After a quick restroom break, we took our spots around the field while our high school team was warming up.  Once they left the field, we took the field for a quick game.  We scored first on a forty yard run on the first play of the game.  Then Kaleb, my son, returned a fumble for a touchdown.  The other team scored, then intercepted a pass and eventually scored again.  We finished the fifteen minutes tied.  Then we ran over and made a tunnel for the high school team to run through as they came out for the game.  After that, the flag players went to sit with their parents and we watched the high school game.


Sunday morning we got up, showered, and ate breakfast.  Then Kaleb and I put on our Payton Manning jerseys and took off to Indianapolis to watch the Colts play the Texans.  We went early to avoid all of the traffic and to walk around.  We parked in the convention center garage, next to the stairs.  The garage was actually cheaper than some of the outside parking that was further away.  We talked to some scalpers.  We already had tickets.  They gave us some free coupons for Rally’s.  We walked around Victory Field.  Kaleb thought it was neat to see the nice field and large stands.  There were tailgaters everywhere.  Then we went up on the walkway close to the gate we were to enter.  There were blow-ups and balloons everywhere, so we thought we’d check it out.  When we got to the top there were tents set up and people walking around.  A couple of guys were at the entrance to the walk way.  They were from Edy’s and gave out free Dibs.  They were really good.  Kaleb didn’t eat his fast enough and it eventually melted.  We walked around looking at all of the food.  Neither one of us was hungry.  Then we came up on a football toss game.  Kaleb got in line for it.  The guy told me it was for adults, too, so I got in line too.  Kaleb made some nice spirals but didn’t hit the hole.  I hit it on the second throw.  I got a shirt for him, but he got back in line and hit it, so he got a shirt and I got a shirt.  Then I signed up for the Sunday Indianapolis Star and got a free hat.  Kaleb quickly took it and wore it.  We then watched the pregame talkshow for Q95.  They mentioned face painting.  We had missed that, so we went back.  In the meantime a band had set up on stage and was playing.  It was the second in the area, because down off the road at the corner where we parked was a jazz band.  Kaleb got in line for the face painting.  We had fun joking around with the people from Edy’s and Kaleb got half of his face painted white and the other half blue.  Finally, it was time to head for the gate.  We stopped at an air force booth and I let him pick out something. 


We got into the dome really early.  The first thing we had to do once we were in the dome is get a big blue Colts finger that held up #1.  Then we went ahead and got our food.  Then headed way up to our seats.  We were three rows from the top, next to the jumbo-tron.  Someone from a local high school came by selling that day’s paper, plus a roster insert.  We bought one.  The bag also had beads in it, so Kaleb put those on.  One strand was blue; the other was silver.  We also got a large football card of Marvin Harrison.  We watched the guys warm-up and eventually the place began to fill up.  The pregame was exciting with the mascot, fireworks, and an American flag that covered the entire field.  I got a nice picture of it.  Once the game started we screamed and clapped like a bunch of maniacs so that the other team couldn’t hear the quarterback.  It seemed to work on the first two plays, when we sacked the quarterback, then recovered a fumble.  Then we got to see Manning take the field.  We scored quickly and then kept scoring the rest of the day.  Kaleb asked a million questions and I answered them all.  Actually, there weren’t as many questions as there had been earlier in the year at our first high school game.  He’s starting to catch on to the rules and a lot of the little things.  He had his program out and looked up the players as they made a catch, run, or tackle.  He learned the meanings of things on the scoreboard. 


It was an experience he will never forget, and of course, I won’t either.  And yes, I don’t feel rested after the weekend, but it was more than worth it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Personal Plea

Late last night, after the Colts beat the Giants, I lay in bed and thought about September 11, 2001.  The night before those events, the people who would die, rested, just as I was doing.  Only those on a suicide mission had any idea that this would be their last night on earth.  The events that transpired that took so many lives and affected us all were incomprehensible.  If someone had come up with a movie script that followed the events of that day, the script would have been returned as unbelievable.  And even today we have a hard time coming to terms with what happened.  But those who lost their lives, they had no idea that this was their last day on earth, that they were living their last hours.  And when some did realize it, albeit at the very end, they contacted loved ones.  Had they known that day was their last, would things have been done differently the night before, the Sunday before, the weeks before?


That’s an important question to ask, because none of us have the assurance of tomorrow.  Chances are, most of us will die in some way other than by the hands of terrorists (unless, of course, the courts and liberals continue to interfere with military matters and we all come under some biological attack).  Every day when we get up and every night when we go to bed, eternity could be waiting for us and the question to be answered is - are we ready to go?  Are we ready to stand before God and give an account of our lives?  What will we say when He asks, “Why should I let you in heaven?” 


If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Lord and savior, I pray that you will ask for forgiveness of your sins and ask Jesus to come into your heart.  If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.



Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Personal Update for September


I picked up Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins this weekend.  I’ll blog about it later this month.  I’m really enjoying it so far.  I’m also reading Something That Lasts by James David Jordan.  I’ll be blogging about that one next month.



I’m working on The Sound of His Voice.  I’d like to finish the book by the middle of next month, so that I can participate in the national novel writing month in November.  I plan to write The Breeding Ground that month.  I already have the full outline and character sketches ready, so I think I can pull off the writing that month, even though the book looks to be close to a thousand pages, which is really a lot for me.


I have some short stories out right now, but not as many as I should.  I need to get some more out to publishers. 



This is a busy month for our family.  3 of my 4 kids are playing soccer, each in a different league.  I’m coaching one of the teams.  I’m also coaching my son’s flag football team. 



We’re off to a pretty good school year.  I like my classes and hope that things keep going as well as they have the first three weeks.  I’m already loaded down with essays and am trying to keep my head above water on the grading, which often cuts into my own personal writing time. 


Also, I’m heading into my third interview for teaching at Indiana Wesleyan.  This is the final phase, so hopefully I’ll be teaching for them in the near future.



“All things work together for good for them that love the Lord.”  That has always been one of my favorite verses and I try to keep that in mind as I get bogged down in the daily grind.  I pray that I am doing the things according to God’s will and I pray the same thing for you.  God bless.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Writing Life

Don’t worry.  I haven’t forgot about discussing the journey of my published works.  I’ll get to the rest soon.


Infuze has a good interview with Melanie Wells, author of the “Day of Evil” series.  I would put down the web address, but since I now blog from my e-mail, I’m not sure the link would transfer.  If you want to read the entire interview, there is an Infuze link over to the right of my blog.


Writing is hard work.  If it were easy, then everyone would be doing it.  And just like anything else that is hard, the rewards can be great.  And I’m not talking about monetary awards, although they are nice when they come along.  Few people make a living of just writing and even fewer people become wealthy from it.  The satisfaction is in the process, in the end product, in the know that you have created something out of nothing.  Like Melanie says, the best part of the writing process is “holding the book in my hand the day it comes off the press.”


But it’s the next question and answer that got me to post this.  The interviewer asks, “Is there any part of writing you loathe?”  Melanie answers, “Um . . . all of it?  Writing is much too solitary for me.  I usually feel a little foggy and grumpy after I’ve spent a day writing.  I don’t think I could do it full time.  And though I love spinning the story, creating and developing characters and writing snappy dialogue, the actual doing of it is tedious.  It’s like being constipated all the time.  You’re constantly straining to get something out of your brain.”


People who don’t write seem to think that there is something surreal about the writing process, particularly the fiction writing process.  It’s as if we sit on the porch of a cabin by the lake and the words pour out of us as the squirrels scurry about and the birds fill the air with chirping.  Trust me, most writers would like to live that life, but we can’t afford to rent the cabin, much less own one.  And at times the words flow, but more often we are trying to force it out, or as Melanie says, “Straining to get” it out.  Work is work, no matter what it is.  Some people like to write as a hobby because it’s fun, but when something changes and that hobby becomes a job, the fun seems to deteriorate and some of the joy is lost.  That’s why it’s important to work at something you love, no matter what it is.  Life is too short not to enjoy it.


Melanie also talks about being a musician, which ties in nicely with what I want to talk about next week.  She says, “Writing is very much like music.  As a classically trained musician, growing up listening to jazz and symphonic literature, I learned how to deconstruct a composition while I was listening to it.  You listen for theme and timbre and rhythm and voice and structure.  And you pick it apart and then synthesize it into a whole and you do the whole thing unconsciously after a while.  Writing is the same thing – I use all those skills very naturally, which is by, I think, my books seem to have a natural rhythm and continuity that works.” 


I believe all art has the same basic tenants.  An artist can learn by studying different forms of art and applying those forms.  Melanie has seen the connection between music and writing.  And I want to talk more about God’s connection to music and how we can apply that to writing.  That’s the plan for next week’s discussion.





Friday, July 14, 2006

Poems of the Passion

About ten years ago I was trying to decide what kind of Easter program I wanted to produce at church.  The play I was working on wasn’t ready and I needed something fast.  Then I thought, what if I took my poems about the passion and turned them into dramatic readings?  That’s exactly what I did and the result was fantastic. 


After the performance I began shopping the program around.  National Drama Service liked it and contracted me for it.  I was excited, because the payment was larger than anything I had received up to that time.  Unfortunately, the editor was over-ruled on the program and it was cut from the final printing.  The powers-that-be decided it was too hard to present dramatic poems.  But since I was already contracted, I received the full payment, plus five complimentary copies of the issue that the program didn’t appear in.  Well, their bad decision was my good fortune.


Another publishing company wanted to program, but couldn’t fit it in to their publications that year and asked me to resubmit if I didn’t find another publisher.  Well, I found another publisher.  Meriwether Publishing liked the program and published it.  I was contracted for the work and I was on a royalty payment plan that maxed out at a certain amount of money.  I maxed out in three years.  In some ways I thought the contract was unfair because I was only making 10% of the proceeds and if I was making money, then they were making money.  But it was also a foot in the door and the beginning of what I hope will be a long relationship.  The editor said that they always gave new writers that contract because they were taking the chance.  Hopefully, our future contracts will be a win-win situation.  But how can I complain?  Two companies paid me for the work.




Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Gift for the Giver

For many years I had received the National Drama Service through the church.  It would come in a packet along with things for the music department.  I liked reading the skits in NDS and sometimes using them in our own productions.  So, I knew their style and the types of works they liked to publish. 


I had the idea for “A Gift for the Giver” written down in my journal and sat down to write it specifically for NDS.  I sent it out ot them and it was accepted for publication.  This was proof that a writer should know the publication before sending a work. 


I was glad for the sale, but when I received a copy of the booklet in which my skit appeared, there was an editing change made to the skit that I didn’t like.  A line was changed so it would be proper English, but people don’t talk in proper English and the line change sounded very stiff.  I thought it stuck out like a sore thumb, but maybe others didn’t notice it.


Anyway, it was my first paid work and that was great.  I even have a picture of the check!





Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Victorian Culture vs Wonderland Culture

Victorian Culture vs. Wonderland Culture


When I went back to get my graduate degree to teach secondary English, I had to take a lot of English classes.  It didn’t seem to matter that I already had an English degree.  So, I sat in classes with students much younger than me and aced the classes because I had already developed the skill they were trying to teach. 


Well, one of the classes I had to take was Introduction to English Studies.  As part of the class we read Alice in Wonderland.  We had to write a critical essay on it and my essay compared the Victorian culture to the Wonderland culture.  I got an A on the paper and was later asked if the professor could use it as a student example in her writing textbook.  Of course, I said yes.


I was promised a copy of the book, but I never got one.  I didn’t see that professor until one day when I was in the English office talking about the doctorate program.  I asked her if she had used my essay and she said no, that she ended up going with another essay.  That was fine with me – no big deal.


Then one day I “googled” myself and found my name listed on some college syllabi.  Come to find out, the essay had been used and classes were reading and discussing my essay.  I looked the book up on and ordered a used one for three dollars.  I was proud to find my essay in it.  But it was a sweet satisfaction, because I was a little aggravated at the comments the professor had about the essay.  She picked at some little things that she shouldn’t have and tried to pull some examples of “what not to do” out of the essay, when she should have used it as an example of “what to do.”  Others who read the comments and essay felt like she was really pulling to try and find something to say about the paper.  I guess she forgot the footnote that said the essay received an A and that I had aced her class.  But why should she remember that when she didn’t remember to send me a complimentary copy?  And she didn’t thank me in the acknowledgements, even though she did everyone else who had an essay appear in the book.


I am grateful that the essay was used and that I can list it in my writing credits.  But there are also some lessons to learn from this experience.  One, I need to follow through when I promise something to someone, especially a student.  Also, if I ever promise complimentary copies to someone, then I need to be sure that person gets a copy.  And lastly, if I’m going to acknowledge people’s help, I don’t want to leave someone off.




Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Story Behind: "Billyball: Home Sweet Home"

Every story has a story.  As writers, we know that stories take on a life of their own, but once the writer completes the story and begins shipping it out to publishers, the story begins a journey that’s all its own.  And although the experiences are unique to the writer, I believe most writers will find a lot of similarities to certain aspects.  For the next few entries, I’m going to talk about the stories I’ve published.


Billyball:  Home Sweet Home


I actually wrote this story as part of a writing workshop at the library in Somerset when I was in high school.  I was too young for the adult workshop, and really felt old for the kid workshop, but I knew I wanted to be a writer and stuck it out anyway.  Karen Koger was on a fellowship from the state of Kentucky and was teaching the class.  Years later I picked up her collection of short stories at a store and was glad to read her work.


It was the summer I turned fifteen and I remember sitting on the beach in Clearwater, Florida while on vacation and trying to think about my story.  I tried to capture the beach scene, but my heart was back home, so the story developed about a man giving up a baseball career to come home and care for the family.


The story was a hit with the kids in the workshop, but it was still lacking.  I filed it away until in college when I used it for a writer’s workshop class, where it was critiqued.  It was pretty much ripped apart by the adults in the class.  In my mind there were two keys things wrong with the story.


First of all, I had only just begun my formal writing training.  I hadn’t taken a literature class that actually made sense.  This was my first fiction writing class.  Of course, I didn’t have all of this symbolism in the story.  I barely knew what symbolism was, much less how to use it effectively in fiction.  On a side note, the seriousness of that workshop led me to write Parlor of Mistaken Identities, which was categorized by the teacher as being absurd.  I just wanted to see if the arrogant students could pull something fancy out of a slapstick story.  They couldn’t find anything of literary worth in it, so I guess I succeeded in my attempt.  But I did get a nice compliment in the fact that the story kept them laughing throughout, which isn’t easy to do.  So, I guess I actually accomplished both goals.


The second reason why the story failed was the stakes.  For one, the climate of baseball changed between the mid-80’s when I originally wrote the story and the early 90’s when the story was work-shopped.  Players were making a lot more money and the decision of staying in baseball or going home to save the farm wasn’t really a choice.  Baseball was paying so much that Billy, the main character, could have played and saved the farm.  I also didn’t pull out that connection between Billy and the land he grew up on.  It worked for Margaret Mitchell, but not for me at that point in life.


So, the story went through the revision process, with updates to the 90’s and the second critique was done by the professor who thought the story came off well.  I sent it in for publication in our school literary magazine and it was selected for publication.  It only received an honorable mention in the short story contest.  That kind of aggravated me, because here I was with the dream of being a writer and I couldn’t even place in my college writing contest.  But now I see it as a stepping stone.  I learned so much from that point to the end of my degree and the learning hasn’t stopped.