Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Most of you are probably familiar with the prayer of Jabez. It was all the rage a couple of years ago to pray the "Jabez prayer." Not long ago, I had a thought about it.
God granted Jabez's requests not only for enlarged territory, but also for God to keep him free from harm and pain. But how did Jabez know that God had granted his prayer? He had to have faith that he had received God's answer, that God was good. Jabez had to keep trusting in that answer every day of his life. Otherwise, it wouldn't really have made any difference. Without faith, Jabez might have started every day in fear and dread, expecting the worst, even though God had granted him the best.
I want that kind of faith. I'm a pessimist by nature. I come from a family of pessimists. In my family, if anyone asked, "Are you going to do such-and-such this weekend, " the answer would be, "If nothing happens before then." The implication was that we fully expected something to happen--and we didn't mean something good.
So I've had to work at the kind of faith that expects God's love and protection every day. Thanksgiving has a lot to do with that. If you constantly thank God for what he's already done, you're reminding yourself of his goodness, and it's easier to expect it the next time. Have you ever noticed in the Bible how many times God reminds the Israelites, "I am the God who brought you out of the land of Egypt"? He's constantly reminding us, "I've taken care of you before. I'll do it again."
So with that happy thought, I'm going to sign off for this week. We're making a nine-hour trip to Mississippi to spend Thanksgiving with my husband's family. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, that God will keep you safe whether you travel or stay home, and that we'll all truly be thankful.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I've discovered there are lots of books out there that are crammed full of personal stories about people who have gone through a certain kind of experience or illness or trauma. And one good way to find those books when searching a library catalog is to add the phrase "case studies" to your search.
The term "case studies" is one of those terms that library catalogers use as an attachment to the main subject headings. If you just stick it into your keyword search, the catalog will locate books with the term in the title, subject heading, etc. I just played around with WorldCat (a really neat combined catalog from thousands of libraries that I told you about earlier) and tried things like "schizophrenia case studies," "domestic violence case studies," "poison case studies"--you get the idea.
Of course, as with any keyword search, you come up with a lot of junk to wade through, too. You know another trick you can use in library searches to get rid of all that irrelevant stuff? Zero in on one book title that looks good. Click on its title and open its catalog record. Look at the "Subject Headings" or "Related Subjects" that are listed. These aren't keywords; they're the subjects the librarians use when cataloging the books. In most catalogs today, the subjects are hot links, and if you click on one, you'll bring up a list of just the books with that heading. You should now have a very focused list.
In a story I'm working on, a character has a bout of memory loss after an injury. First of all, I didn't want it to come across like an old episode of Gilligan's Island or I Dream of Jeannie--you know, get conked on the head, memory flees. Conked on the head again, memory returns. Second, I'm struggling with one part of the story. I was so excited last night to start reading a chapter in this book that was so similar to my character's experience. I now know so much more about how she should behave during the ordeal. Not only that, I got ideas for making a couple of scenes so much more powerful because of this real woman's experience.
Monday, November 12, 2007
This is a giveaway I've had in mind for awhile, and yet, Christmas has somehow sneaked up on me and I don't have all the details worked out. So today, I just want to let you know in general what I'm planning.
I want to fill a box with goodies, all of which will be handmade. Several items will be made by my good friend at Fluffy Flowers. She creates fun little creatures, Christmas postcards, all sorts of goodies. I'm going to include some jewelry that I will make--probably a necklace and earring set; a beaded watch; and a bookmark. Other possibilities are a tote bag, sachets, etc.
I'm planning to hold a drawing on December 2, so I figure the winner can use these items for stocking stuffers, or else have a nice little basket of cheer to keep for themselves.
So leave a comment between now and December 1. Each comment will be worth one entry. If you don't want to leave a comment, you can also email me at robing8300 at gmail dot com.
When I get the treasures collected, I'll share some pictures with you and more details. Have fun!
Friday, November 9, 2007
I first read one of Card's books earlier this year because of a challenge from Andy Meisenheimer of Zondervan. I met Andy at ACFW last year and, knowing that he's a fan of Card, showed him my autographed copy of Ender's Game (which I got when I took a writers workshop from Mr. Card years ago). But then I had to confess to Andy that, although I owned this treasure, I had never actually read it. Andy chided me no end for that and assured me this was one of the best-written books I would ever come across and could learn from it. So I took the challenge, read it, and loved it.
Ender's Game is science fiction, and Card has written plenty more of those. But I was curious about some of his other books that sounded like my work in progress--set in the contemporary world, but with hints of the supernatural and creepy. Which led me to The Lost Boys.
It's about a family who moves to a small town in North Carolina where there's been a rash of disasppearances of young boys. The family has two young boys, naturally. The book starts out in a fairly familiar way for a book of this nature: a prologue from the anonymous killer's p.o.v., describing how he came to start kidnapping children, and how he discovered it was necessary that they not be able to tell tales afterward. Definitely a dark beginning, and wouldn't you just figure you'd know exactly how the book would go from there?
I figured there would be scenes of the still-anonymous villain kidnapping one or two other children to set us up, a few disturbing and violent scenes with the victims, and then the eventual kidnapping of this family's son. It would be fast-paced and plot-heavy, with a climax of the protagonist's child being saved from the kidnapper/killer at the end. I felt pretty safe in assuming this since I've read a number of books that fit that description.
Boy was I surprised.
For most of the book, the disappearances sort of lurked in the background as the family went about the difficult adjustment to a new culture (moving into the deep South), job, and school. The story was filled with conflict and tension, but it mostly came from skirmishes and wars with cruel teachers, sneaky bosses, and scary co-workers. My heart bled for sensitive little Stevie, who tried so hard to fit into his new school and please everyone but seemed to be more crushed and withdrawn with each passing day. Naturally his parents were worried when, instead of making real friends, he started playing with an imaginary boy--then two, then three. The list of names continued to grow until one day, the parents saw a newspaper article listing the names of all the boys who had disappeared. The names were the same as Stevie's "make-believe" friends.
At this point I tried to imagine just where this story was going and how it would end. I managed to figure out who the serial killer was, but that still didn't help me predict the conclusion. At one point, just before the end, my mouth literally fell open as I realized what was happening. Since I was driving and listening to this on CD, it's a wonder I didn't hit a mailbox or something. It wasn't a happy ending, but it was right. I thought back over the rest of the book and could see where it came from. As I mentioned before, I'm still thinking about it.
Oh, for the ability to make my creepy little book turn out like this! With real characters that readers would care about so deeply--and with an ending that makes their jaws drop.
One more interesting thing about The Lost Boys. Orson Scott Card is a Mormon, and so were the family in this story. Card painted a portrait of a close-knit family whose first priorities were church and family, who openly discussed their beliefs, prayed about tough decisions, and went with the ethical route even when that appeared to be a disastrous move to make.
At first I thought, why can Orson Scott Card do this in his novel--while most books that show evangelical Christians in the same way have to be segregated into a special segment of publishing, a special section in the bookstore, etc.? Then I remembered Ender's Game and books that came earlier for this writer, where ethics played a huge role but characters didn't talk so openly about a particular religion or belief. John Grisham did something similar--he had huge success with books like The Firm and The Client, and then he published The Testament, in which a drunken lawyer has a conversion experience that could have come straight out of a CBA (Christian Booksellers' Association) novel.
Do you think this strategy might work for more Christian writers? Write great stories, gain a following out there in the secular world--and then be able to write more overtly about faith issues without being segregated into that special section of the store?
Just a thought to muse on for this weekend.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
I'll let Melanie tell you more. Go check out her blog post:
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I wanted you to know I'm still here, though, so I decided to share a picture with you. (That's worth at least a thousand words, so they say.) My husband took this with his cell phone last week when he went camping in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina (while I was home working in the library).
Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with some encouraging words. Actual words.
Friday, November 2, 2007
My first draft is really sort of a long outline. I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, so frankly the ending is going to be a surprise to me, too. I can't wait until I can start the second draft, know where the thing is going, and start turning it into a "real" book.
So if there are others of you out there having a hard time writing as much as you think you should, and you're feeling discouraged, take heart. I may not be able to "keep up with the joneses" and turn out 2,000 words a day, but I've finished five other novels and I'll finish this one, too. I'll get there. And so will you!