NEW BLOG LOCATIONS

I've moved to another two blogs, one on writing, and one on general stuff like this one. Please come visit! MY NEW BLOGS:

http://amydeardon1.blogspot.com

http://thestorytemplate.blogspot.com


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Welcome Baby Annabel

About 50 minutes after Christmas ended, Baby Annabel was born. She belongs to my sister Sarah and her husband Marcel, and joins their little boy who's 4.

I wanted to post a picture, but the only one available to me is very tiny, an avatar photo from Facebook. Well, Annabel's cute anyway. Mother and daughter are doing well and their family is settling into their new, happy life.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Life Goal of the Christian

I was pleased a few months ago to discover John MacArthur's sermons online HERE. He's got some great stuff! I was just listening to a series on "The Basics of Christianity" and decided to blog about what he says in this series in context with goals in the new year.

Here's the question: what is your life goal?

a) to glorify God
b) to glorify self

And really, every goal we pursue falls under one of these two categories.

If you do, in fact, belong to God, you should deeply desire to glorify Him and not yourself. So, what does this look like?

1. The first thing is that we must confess Jesus as Lord. His is the name that is above all other names, that all those in heaven and on the earth and under the earth will kneel to. (Philipians 2:9-11) Those who pursue God, but do not recognize Christ as God/man and resurrected redeemer, do not, in fact, glorify Him.

2. recognize that we are saved for HIS glory, and not primarily for our own blessing in avoiding hell. (1 John 2:12)

3. aim all in our life to God's glory -- even the most mundane and menial things. Just ask yourself before each action: will this glorify God, or me? It's a good habit to develop.

And then, you can test yourself to see if you do, in fact, prefer Him:

1. are you looking for His benefit or yours?

2. are you content to do His will no matter what it costs (dreams/ambitions), or do you want what you want?

3. do you hate to be exposed to things that offend Him? (eg swearing with His name, bad actions in movies, etc.)

4. do you rejoice when others succeed? are you content to be outdone by others as long as God is glorified?

5. do you confess sin?

6. do you trust God even when you don't understand what's going on?

7. have you produced fruit in your attitudes and actions?

8. do you praise Him for His attributes and His past actions? You may wish to keep a notebook for your requests and responses.

9. do you pursue peace? (for example, if someone cuts you off in traffic...)

10. are you obedient to His will even if you know it may hurt your own plans?

11. do you study and proclaim his word?

Hmmm...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Reason for the Season

With all the hoopla and preparations for Christmas, it's important to remember why the celebrations began in the first place.

This may seem more of an Easter rather than a Christmas portrait -- but to me, this is the reason for the season. Who is Jesus?



"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.

Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

"What is truth?" Pilate asked.

Monday, December 21, 2009

One Tough Coyote

(from an email)

Meet the wiliest of all coyotes: Hit by a car at 75mph, embedded in the fender,road for 600 miles - and SURVIVED!

When a brother and sister struck a coyote at 75mph they assumed they had killed the animal and drove on. They didn't realize this was the toughest creature ever to survive a hit-and-run. Eight hours, two fuel stops, and 600 miles later they found the wild animal embedded in their front fender - and very much alive.



Daniel and Tevyn East were driving at night along Interstate 80 near the Nevada-Utah border when they noticed a pack of coyotes near the roadside on October 12. When one of the animals ran in front of the car, the impact sounded fatal so the siblings thought there no point in stopping. 'Right off the bat, we knew it was bad,' Daniel explained. 'We thought the story was over.'

After the incident around 1am, they continued their 600 mile drive to North San Juan - even stopping for fuel at least twice. But it was only when they finally reached their destination at 9am did they take time to examine what damage they may have sustained.

At first it looked as though it was going to be quite gruesome. 'Daniel saw fur and the body inside the grill,' Tevyn East said. 'I was trying to keep some distance. Our assumption was it was part of the coyote - it didn't register it was the whole animal.'

Daniel East got a broom to try and pry the remains out of the bumper and got the shock of his life. 'It flinched,' Tevyn East said. 'It was a huge surprise - he got a little freaked out.'

'We knew it was bad': Tevyn East, who was in the car when it hit the coyote, bends down to take a look at the fur poking through the fender.

Fur Pete's sake: What Mr. East spotted as he bent down to inspect the damage to his car - the body of the coyote poking out through the radiator.



Wily coyote: The animal's head can be seen as rescuers took apart the front fender to save it after it was struck by the car at 75mph.



Miracle escape: As the animal struggled, wildlife protection officials put a loop around its neck to prevent it from further injuring itself.



The front of the car is completely taken apart as the coyote begins to wriggle free and voila! Tricky the toughest coyote ever rests in a cage after its ordeal - which it survived with just some scrapes to its paw .

Friday, December 18, 2009

Call for Prayer

I am reading through Thessalonians now, and as I opened the Word this morning I came across this verse in 2 Thessalonians 3:2: "And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith." Dear Friends, I have been so troubled watching as one measure after another comes against our country. I do not call the "leaders" evil, but certainly their policies are designed to hurt our country -- to lower our defenses, to reallocate our resources, to steal freedom in the latest ploy, "Universal Health Care," whose idea sounds so good but whose execution is horrific.

Pray. Please.

Evil should not stand, ever. This country is the manfestation of many peoples' dream, and has stood as a shining beacon of freedom and hope to many peoples for many generations. I believe the USA is a gift the Lord has given to the world. Since it is in the world it will not stand forever, but there is no reason that if the Lord wills He cannot prolong it a little longer. There is so much good here, and to just allow what we have to slip away is, I believe, a sin.

People have tried letters and phone calls and emails and visits to the Capital to walk the halls. People have attended "Tea Parties" to protest the workings of our representative leaders, who turn a deaf ear to what the people want.

Proverbs 21:1 says "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord. He directs it like a stream of water anywhere he pleases." Paul writes, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (1 Cor 1:27)

Dear Friends, let us be foolish and weak and use prayer as our weapon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Animator versus Animation

Too many downer blogs lately, so it's time for something that will bring you a smile :-) This is a truly coolio animation by Alan Becker sent to me by my boy. The interaction with the computer operating system in the cartoon is brilliant!

Monday, December 14, 2009

2 Obituaries

I admit it -- When I have time to read them, I find the newspaper's obituaries section a keen source of interest and imagination. The short encapsulations of someone's life can be poignant, and I often wonder about what isn't said -- what the person thought about the places he had lived, or what he was most proud of, or what he would say if he could make one final statement to his dearest ones. What happens to those he leaves behind? Often the cause of death is not listed, and especially for someone young, I have questions. If donations in lieu of flowers are requested for the American Cancer Society, for example, I can make a shrewd guess. Still, I wonder what the person thought, and how he coped with such a scary diagnosis. If an accidental death, I wonder what the person might have done differently if told that the grim reaper had an appointment with him on a highway next Tuesday...

Last week I scanned the obituaries at my parents' house. At the bottom of the page were two memorial statements: two men who had died on that date in a different year (one 35 years old in 1979, one 56 years old in 1984). The difference in the statements struck me.

The first one, for the 35 year old man, was from a woman who talked to him like a friend: "I miss you, but am looking forward to seeing you soon..." She talked about how she'd found Christ from his example, and how she smiled to think of him in Jesus' presence, and wondered if he sang his goofy songs to the Lord. It was so hopeful, and made me smile.

The second one, for the 56 year old man, was restrained. "We miss you so much. We visit your grave, but there is nothing left of you..."

Hope. Hopeless.

I wondered about how these two men might have seemed if I'd met them. The first one sounded as if he'd been on fire for the Lord, quoting verses and doing silly magic tricks for kids, whose purpose was to point to God. The second man had a restrained family. He might have been restrained too, working hard, quietly living his life, quietly dying and being buried in a respectable plot at the corner cemetery. Maybe the family had put a cross on the gravestone, maybe not. The family even now quietly despaired his loss.

What are you living for? And when Death comes for you, when it is your time, how will you respond?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Old Friends

I just found out that a friend from growing up, my age, has non-small cell lung cancer. She is taking experimental drugs but doesn't seem to be doing well. She's married and has a 15 year old son.

Life can seem to go on forever, but really it's quite short, isn't it?

Melancholy thoughts. I thought of this old Simon and Garkunkel song, that speaks of aging and the passing of time...

Old Friends
from Simon and Garfunkel, "Bookends" album, 1968

Old friends, old friends sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blowin' through the grass
Falls on the round toes of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years, silently sharing the same fears

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

All I Want For Christmas...

OK, my kids have exhausted me researching cell phones, ipods, kindles, and all this other techno-stuff. So, here is something to get even: the ROLL TOP! How cool is this???

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pearl Harbor Lost Photos

These photos are from Will. Incredible.

*

PHOTOS STORED IN AN OLD BROWNIE CAMERA

These Pearl Harbor photos were found in an old Brownie stored in a foot locker, and just recently taken to be developed. They were taken by a sailor who was on the USS Quapaw ATF-110.

On Sunday, December 7th, 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the U.S. Forces stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. By planning his attack on a Sunday, the Japanese commander, Admiral Nagumo, hoped to catch the entire fleet in port, but as luck would have it, the Aircraft Carriers and one of the Battleships were not there. The USS Enterprise was returning from Wake Island, where it had just delivered some aircraft. The USS Lexington was ferrying aircraft to Midway, and the USS Saratoga and USS Colorado were undergoing repairs in the United States.

In spite of the latest intelligence reports about the missing aircraft carriers (his most important targets), Admiral Nagumo decided to continue the attack with his force of six carriers and 423 aircraft.. At a range of 230 miles north of Oahu , he launched the first wave of a two-wave attack. Beginning at 0600 hours his first wave consisted of 183 fighters and torpedo bombers which struck at the fleet in Pearl Harbor and the airfields in Hickam, Kaneohe and Ewa. The second strike, launched at 0715 hours, consisted of 167 aircraft, which again struck at the same targets.

At 0753 hours the first wave consisting of 40 Nakajima B5N2 'Kate' torpedo bombers, 51 Aichi D3A1 'Val' dive bombers, 50 high altitude bombers and 43 Zeros struck airfields and Pearl Harbor. Within the next hour, the second wave arrived and continued the attack.

When it was over, the U.S. Losses were:

Casualties
US Army: 218 KIA, 364 WIA.
US Navy: 2,008 KIA, 710 WIA.
US MarineCorp: 109 KIA, 69 WIA.
Civilians: 68 KIA, 35 WIA.

TOTAL: 2,403 KIA, 1,178 WIA.
-------------------------------------------------

Battleships
USS Arizona (BB-39) - total loss when a bomb hit her magazine.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Total loss when she capsized and sunk in the harbor.
USS California (BB-4 4) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS Nevada - (BB-36) Beached to prevent sinking. Later repaired.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - Light damage.
USS Maryland (BB-46) - Light damage.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) Light damage.
USS Utah (AG-16) - (former battleship used as a target) - Sunk.
-------------------------------------
Cruisers
USS New Orleans (CA-32) - Light Damage..
USS San Francisco (CA-38) - Light Damage.
USS Detroit (CL-8) - Light Damage.
USS Raleigh (CL-7) - Heavily damaged but repaired.
USS Helena (CL-50) - Light Damage.
USS Honolulu (CL-48) - Light Damage..
-------------------------------------
Destroyers
USS Downes (DD-375) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Cassin - (DD -3 7 2) Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Shaw (DD-373) - Very heavy damage.
USS Helm (DD-388) - Light Damage.
---------------------------------
Minelayer
USS Ogala (CM-4) - Sunk but later raised and repaired..
------------------------------------------
Seaplane Tender
USS Curtiss (AV-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
--------------------------------------------
Repair Ship
USS Vestal (AR-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
--------------------------------------
Harbor Tug
USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
------------------------------------------
Aircraft
188 Aircraft destroyed (92 USN and 92 U.S. Army Air Corps.)



PEARL HARBOR

December 7th, 1941

















Friday, December 4, 2009

Setting Goals

Thinking about this past year, I’ve decided that while I didn’t hit everything I ambitiously wanted to do, I did quite a bit. The biggest thing, of course, was that Lever was released on January 12th. I spent a good six months doing almost full-time marketing with it, and still invest one day a week more or less to this. I also redid my story development for Nest Among the Stars, the prequel for Lever. While it’s a great story, it doesn’t grab me as it did last year, and I’ve decided to put it on hold for awhile, maybe start with the sequel or another idea I’ve been kicking around for awhile. I also have done a huge amount with developing Story Template, and am looking into different venues for getting that out. I presented at a writer’s conference this summer on story structure, and have other lectures lined up for the new year. So, not too bad eh?

With less than a month before the new year, it seems like a propitious time to organize a plan of action for goal-setting. By doing it now, before the Christmas rush, you have time to draw up any progress charts you may want to keep, and maybe even start with a plan of action so you’re up and running on January 1st.
I always like to use four categories to come up with my goals for the new year: body, mind, spirit, and interacting with others (includes relationships, business, and other). I’ve already spent about two hours free-writing what I want to accomplish this next year, and hope you take the time to do so also! Once I have my goals, I break them down to get an idea of a timeline to work for each month, and so on and so forth. It’s hard to reach all of these goals, but certainly helpful for a guideline.

Happy (early) New Year, my dear friends.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Month Before Christmas

Sent to me from KAT. Merry Christ-mas!

*

*Twas the month before Christmas*

*When all through our land,*

*Not a Christian was praying*

*Nor taking a stand.*

*See the PC Police had taken away,*

*The reason for Christmas - no one could say.*

*The children were told by their schools not to sing,*

*About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.*

*It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say*

* December 25th is just a ' Holiday '.*

*Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit*

*Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!*

*CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod*

*Something was changing, something quite odd! *

*Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa*

*In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.*

*As Targets were hanging their trees upside down*

* At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found.*

*At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears*

*You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.*

*Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty*

*Are words that were used to intimidate me.*

*Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen*

*On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!*

*At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter*

*To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.*

*And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith*

* Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace*

*The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded*

*The reason for the season, stopped before it started.*

*So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'*

*Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.*

*Choose your words carefully, choose what you say*

*Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS ,

not Happy Holiday !*

*

Please, all Christians join together and wish everyone you meet during the holidays a MERRY CHRISTMAS

Christ is The Reason for the Christ-mas Season!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Cab Ride

This was sent to me by email. I thought it was a good story.

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving! Did you make a list of all of the things you're thankful for?

***

The Cab Ride

So I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."

"Oh, you're such a good boy," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.

"Nothing," I said

"You have to make a living," she answered.

"There are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Phil 4:4, NASB)

During the early 1600s the Puritans (so named because they wanted to restore Christianity to its "ancient purity") relocated from England to Holland, before deciding they would sail to the New World to establish their own colony where they could worship in peace and without secular pressures and temptations.

They sailed from Holland back to England, and were joined by farmers and tradesmen. On September 16th, 1620, the small Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, with 102 passengers seeking a new life in America. (The Mayflower originally had 90 passengers, but when a second ship the Speedwell couldn't sail, 12 of those passengers were added).



On November 19, 1620, the land of the new world was first sighted. Two days later the ship anchored in Provincetown Bay, Massachusetts, far north of the Virginia colonies for which they had been aiming.

Although the passengers debated going south, they finally decided to stay where they were for the winter. Before setting foot on the shore, on November 21st, 1620 (November 11th according to the Julian Calendar, 10 days behind the Gregorian Calendar), 41 of the Pilgrims and other colonists signed the Mayflower Compact that read:



In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread* Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.


*Note: The "dread sovereign" referred to in the document uses the archaic definition of "dread," meaning awe and reverence (for the King), not fear.

Scouting parties identified Plymouth as a place to settle, and on December 30th 1620 the pilgrims disembarked here. Governor William Bradford, describing the first landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth that December, writes:

Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth.... What could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men--and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not. The season it was winter, sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms. What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace?


The settlers built log huts. Weakened by the long journey, cold, lack of food, and disease, nearly half of the settlers died that first winter. They buried their dead at night so the Indians wouldn't observe their weakness.



In March of 1621, an Indian named Samoset who knew a few English words visited and then introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, an Indian who had lived in England. Squanto brought corn, and taught the pilgrims how to adapt to the new environment.



In the autumn of 1621 Governor William Bradford set aside a day for public Thanksgiving to God in gratitude for the blessings already received. Chief Massosoit was invited, and brought 60 braves, 5 dressed deer, a dozen wild turkeys and popcorn.

On this day, we are hopefully fortunate enough to sit in our warm homes surrounded by dear ones and enjoying a groaning table full of food. Let us not forget the great blessings and privileges we have and perhaps take as a matter of course. Make a list. Here are a few things I'm grateful for:

God, life, family and dear friends (both here and gone), and the opportunities to pursue dreams

As I read this over, I'm suddenly realizing the things I'm grateful for are the values set forth in the Constitution -- wow, what inspired geniuses they were who set up this country, starting from the Mayflower Compact on up.

I'd love comments to hear what you are grateful for, and how you celebrate Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What Did Reagan Say About Socialized Medicine?

This speech was given in 1961, when Ronald Reagan was a private citizen.



What would Mr. Reagan say to Mr. Obama?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Designing the Story's Plot

The plot describes the outward shape of your story. This is what people usually think of for a “story,” and what they will describe to you when you ask what a book or film is about. Unlike nonfiction in which you clearly present the material without leaving hanging questions, in fiction you should always have at least one, preferably many, intriguing bits and uncertainties throughout. The reader or viewer will eagerly continue to discover the answers to these points.

There are three large components of the plot that move it forward:

1. Story Goal and Story Question

Before you start writing, you need to know your STORY GOAL, which is the thing that your protagonist wants to accomplish during the course of your story. This goal needs to be something unequivocal, something that clearly is attained, or not, by the end of the story. Whether this goal is attained or not becomes the STORY QUESTION.

For example, in Lion King, Simba is the young (lion) heir to the throne when Scar engineers Simba’s father’s death to seize control. The story goal is for Simba to regain ownership of the kingdom. Failure occurs if Scar remains in control. The story question is: will Simba become king?

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond is falsely imprisoned, then escapes and gains an enormous fortune. The story goal is that he wishes to take revenge on those who stole his youth, his career, and his fiancé. Failure occurs if the wrong doers get away with a great evil. The story question is: Will Edmond be able to suitably punish the guilty (without losing his integrity)?

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo is a hobbit who comes into possession of the One Ring, which is the focus for evil power and greatly desired by many. The story goal is that Frodo must destroy this ring. Failure occurs if the ring is not destroyed. The story question is: Will Frodo be able to destroy the One Ring?

2. Stakes

You also need to decide why this story goal is so important to your protagonist. If it isn’t important, he could just go home and eat dinner instead of knock his socks off to achieve. What horrible things might happen if the story goal isn’t achieved?

For example, in The Lion King if Simba does not become king, Scar will govern as a tyrant, and irrevocably ruin the Pridelands and let the hyenas take control.

In The Count of Monte Cristo if Edmond cannot wreak an appropriate revenge, great evil will go unpunished.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, if Frodo fails to destroy the One Ring, Middle Earth will fall into chaos and horror under Sauron’s dominion.

3. Obstacles

If your protagonist can simply go and achieve the story goal, there is no story. All stories need multiple obstacles, both internal and external, that hold the protagonist back from getting what he wants. An important rule for writing is to NEVER MAKE IT EASY ON YOUR HERO.

For example, in Lion King Simba is a little cub who runs away when his father is killed. He must grow up, learn that he needs to fight for his kingdom, then battle hyenas and ultimately Scar. Internally he must overcome feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

In The Count of Monte Cristo Edmond must learn to live alone in prison, then to escape, then to find the men responsible to wreak his revenge. His revenges are elaborate and full of twists. Internally Edmond copes with rage, power, and losing and gaining love. He also grapples with the role of mercy mixed with justice.

In The Fellowship of the Rings Frodo must make his way past the Nasgul and fights Orcs, rough terrain, Gollum, and other varied creatures and problems. Internally he finds carrying the Ring of Power an almost unbearable burden.

*

There is obviously much more to a plot than just these three plot components. However, if you don’t get these right, you won’t HAVE a story!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Preparing for Thanks

Paul says: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As our family prepares for Thanksgiving next week, I couldn't help reflecting on these words.

Give thanks IN all circumstances.

Giving thanks FOR all circumstances is how I think many people read this verse. They seem to think that God has just zapped them with another thunderbolt when they've become too comfortable, and they must thank God for His action, like a child thanks (?) a parent for a spanking. God is seen as the cause of the trouble, whatever it may be.

But as I meditated on this verse, and having learned a very little about the character of God from His word, I don't think this is right. The Lord is a loving God who walks with us through problems. He doesn't zap, and He doesn't scold. Bad circumstances are overcome by His love that sustains. I believe the Lord weeps with us in our sorrows.

Yes, He permits bad things to happen, but everything is filtered through His loving care and perfect knowledge of all that will come of these things, not only in this life but in the next. We give thanks IN all circumstances, because no matter how bad it is, the Lord still reigns.

*

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm pulling out favorite recipes. Here's one that my daughter, especially, enjoys.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup oil (or margarine or butter)
1/2 cup (crunchy) peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Blend oil, peanut butter, sugars, and egg until smooth. Sift and add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Refrigerate dough for an hour. Oven 375F. Roll into small balls, then flatten crossways with a fork. Bake 10-12 minutes.

NOTE: Instead of refrigerating and rolling, I usually just drop the dough onto the cookie sheets as soon as it's mixed. It works fine. I hate getting my hands greasy :-)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Writing the Novel Opening

My theory is that most people would prefer to read an exciting book that's poorly written, rather than a book with flawless and subtle writing that doesn't have anything going on. IDEAS are more important than PRESENTATION.

However, in many manuscripts that I've critiqued, and even some published books, while there may be a lot of action at the start I find that I can't identify WHAT IS THE POINT. I'm just watching a bunch of characters doing something. They're obviously very intent about whatever's going on, often with some explosions or characters having terse conversations about "just how critical this is," but for the life of me I can't figure out why. Who are these people? What is at stake? Why should I care?

It's important to remember that the reader doesn't understand your story at all. You need to give him information that HE will find interesting -- if he doesn't already know that the Qarkles (who invaded planet Xonia 5000 years ago) have suddenly contracted a deadly illness so that the Rebel Nymorgs can take over, he won't understand why your hero is poised to take command. Even if you explain this in 3 succinct backstory paragraphs, your reader isn't going to care. Who the heck ever heard of Xonia anyway?

As a writer, you must intrigue your reader right off the bat. He's probably not going to stay with you for more than a few pages unless you can do that. Here are some ideas for opening a novel:

* Only include information that is ESSENTIAL for understanding the immediate events happening right now. Trust me, no one cares about your backstory.

* Don't flip between characters. Identify ONE who your reader will be following. Along those lines, don't put too many characters in, especially in the earlier scenes.

* Open with an intriguing situation that sparks reader curiosity.

* Create an immediate external goal that the reader will be sympathetic to. For better results, add in a ticking clock.

* Make the protagonist's motivation understandable to the reader.

* For goodness' sake, don't open your first chapter with your character drinking tea and thinking about what has just happened to her!

* One of my favorite techniques for opening a book is using a first sentence full of irony or suggestive of an intriguing character or situation. Here are a few as selected by the American Book Review:

Call me Ishmael. - Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. - Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. - George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

I am an invisible man. - Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested. —Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925; trans. Breon Mitchell)

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. —Samuel Beckett, Murphy (1938)

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. - Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. - Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)

One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary. - Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. - Paul Auster, City of Glass (1985)

124 was spiteful. - Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)

Mother died today. - Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942; trans. Stuart Gilbert)

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. - Ha Jin, Waiting (1999)

Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. "Stop!" cried the groaning old man at last, "Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree." - Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans (1925)

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. - Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

All this happened, more or less. - Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

They shoot the white girl first. - Toni Morrison, Paradise (1998)

The moment one learns English, complications set in. - Felipe Alfau, Chromos (1990)

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. - Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome (1911)

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. - C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) (my personal favorite)

It was the day my grandmother exploded. - Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)

It was a pleasure to burn. - Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street. - David Markson, Wittgenstein's Mistress (1988)

It was love at first sight. - Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961)

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. - Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups (2001)

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

You better not never tell nobody but God. - Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)

"To be born again," sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, "first you have to die." - Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (1988)

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. - Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)

If I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog. - Saul Bellow, Herzog (1964)

Francis Marion Tarwater's uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up. - Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear it Away (1960)

When Dick Gibson was a little boy he was not Dick Gibson. - Stanley Elkin, The Dick Gibson Show (1971)

Hiram Clegg, together with his wife Emma and four friends of the faith from Randolph Junction, were summoned by the Spirit and Mrs. Clara Collins, widow of the beloved Nazarene preacher Ely Collins, to West Condon on the weekend of the eighteenth and nineteenth of April, there to await the End of the World. - Robert Coover, The Origin of the Brunists (1966)

"Take my camel, dear," said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass. - Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (1956)

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. - L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953)

Justice? - You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law. - William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own (1994)

Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash. - J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973)

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. - Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle (1948)

"When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets," Papa would say, "she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing." - Katherine Dunn, Geek Love (1983)

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. - James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss (1978)

It was just noon that Sunday morning when the sheriff reached the jail with Lucas Beauchamp though the whole town (the whole county too for that matter) had known since the night before that Lucas had killed a white man. - William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust (1948)

I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as "Claudius the Idiot," or "That Claudius," or "Claudius the Stammerer," or "Clau-Clau-Claudius" or at best as "Poor Uncle Claudius," am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the "golden predicament" from which I have never since become disentangled. - Robert Graves, I, Claudius (1934)

Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women. - Charles Johnson, Middle Passage (1990)

He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. - Raphael Sabatini, Scaramouche (1921)

Psychics can see the color of time it's blue. - Ronald Sukenick, Blown Away (1986)

In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together. - Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)

Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. - Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye (1988)

High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour. - David Lodge, Changing Places (1975)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Ant and the Grasshopper




OLD VERSION:


The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.


The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.


The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.


MORAL OF THE STORY : Be responsible for yourself!

************************************************************

MODERN VERSION:


The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.


The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.


CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast.


How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?
Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when they sing, "It's Not Easy Being Green."


Rev. Jeremiah Wright stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, "We shall squash you."


Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.


Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity and Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.


Barack gets ACORN lawyers to represent the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the ant , and the case is tried before a panel of federal judges who appreciate that a Hispanic woman may a priori have a better understanding of justice than a Caucasian man.


The ant loses the case.


The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he doesn't maintain it.


The ant has disappeared in the snow. The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.


MORAL OF THE STORY : Be careful how you vote.

*


Monday, November 9, 2009

A Great Idea!

For today's entry, I'm copying a press release that I originally saw posted on Andra's blog HERE, and am using with permission. Marcher Lord Press is Jeff Gerke's baby, a publishing company that specializes in Christian Speculative Fiction. You can read more about it HERE.

Andra was invited to participate in the premise contest! Wahoo! Since this contest will go better with the more voters who are involved, if you feel led, please take a moment to register and vote in the contest. You can sign up by following this link HERE.

By the way, Andra already has an amazing book, A Reason to Hope, that you can find HERE. I'm sure her new stuff is just as compelling!

*

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Marcher Lord Press Announces Marcher Lord Select

(Colorado Springs, CO)--Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction, today announces the debut of a revolution in fiction acquisitions.

"Marcher Lord Select is American Idol meets book acquisitions," says publisher Jeff Gerke. "We're presenting upwards of 40 completed manuscripts and letting 'the people' decide which one should be published."

The contest will proceed in phases, Gerke explains, in each subsequent round of which the voters will receive larger glimpses of the competing manuscripts.

The first phase will consist of no more than the book's title, genre, length, a 20-word premise, and a 100-word back cover copy teaser blurb. Voters will cut the entries from 40 to 20 based on these items alone.

"We want to show authors that getting published involves more than simply writing a great novel," Gerke says. "There are marketing skills to be developed--and you've got to hook the reader with a good premise."

Following rounds will provide voters with a 1-page synopsis, the first 500 words of the book, the first 30 pages of the book, and, in the final round, the first 60 pages of the book.

The manuscript receiving the most votes in the final round will be published by Marcher Lord Press in its Spring 2010 release list.

No portion of any contestant's mss. will be posted online, as MLP works to preserve the non-publication status of all contestants and entries.

Participating entrants have been contacted personally by Marcher Lord Press and are included in Marcher Lord Select by invitation only.

"We're also running a secondary contest," Gerke says. "The 'premise contest' is for those authors who have completed a Christian speculative fiction manuscript that fits within MLP guidelines and who have submitted their proposals to me through the Marcher Lord Press acquisitions portal before October 29, 2009."

The premise contest will allow voters to select the books that sound the best based on a 20-word premise, a 100-word back cover copy teaser blurb, and (possibly) the first 500 words of the book.

The premise contest entrants receiving the top three vote totals will receive priority acquisitions reading by MLP publisher Jeff Gerke.

"It's a way for virtually everyone to play, even those folks who didn't receive an invitation to compete in the primary Marcher Lord Select contest."

Marcher Lord Select officially begins on November 1, 2009, and runs until completion in January or February 2010. All voting and discussions and Marcher Lord Select activities will take place at The Anomaly forums in the Marcher Lord Select subforum. Free registration is required.

"In order for this to work as we're envisioning," Gerke says, "we need lots and lots of voters. So even if you're not a fan of Christian science fiction or fantasy, I'm sure you love letting your voice be heard about what constitutes good Christian fiction. So come on out and join the fun!"

Marcher Lord Press is a Colorado Springs-based independent publisher producing Christian speculative fiction exclusively. MLP was launched in fall of 2008 and is privately owned. Contact: Jeff Gerke; www.marcherlordpress.com.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Small Things

Twice yesterday I was reminded of small actions people had done for me over the past year or so that were encouraging. As I reflect on the topic now while writing this blog entry, I can remember others.

I've been thinking: it's important to watch even the small things you do, because you don't know how they may affect others. Do all things well. Go the extra mile for the person who asks you for help, even if it seems little. You just don't know. The small actions that I smiled over today, might have seemed inconsequential but they weren't. They weren't.

I always loved this part of Paul's letter to the Philipians, when he thanks them for encouraging him in his ministry when no one else did. He calls these actions a fragrant offering.

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:15-19)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Piano Stairs

What was it that Mary Poppins sang? A spoonful of sugar?

This is a fun short that shows the importance of putting a smile into everything you do :-)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Last Words

Time can seem to move slowly, until you look back and are shocked at how much has passed by. The fact is, 70 years is about 25,567 days -- not an infinite number by any means. King David writes "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalms 90:12, NIV). Good advice.

I was thinking about this brevity of time, and what people have said when they come to the end of this world. Following are some last words, in no particular chronology. Some are funny, some sad, some thoughtful.

*

I'll be in Hell before you start breakfast!
"Black Jack" Ketchum, notorious train robber

Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.
Voltaire (attributed), when asked by a priest to renounce Satan

Voltaire died a terrible death. His nurse said: "For all the money in Europe I wouldn’t want to see another unbeliever die! All night long he cried for forgiveness."

Don't worry...it's not loaded...
Terry Kath, rock musician in the band Chicago Transit Authority as he put the gun he was cleaning to his head and pulled the trigger.

Is someone hurt?
Robert F. Kennedy

Die, my dear? Why, that's the last thing I'll do!
Groucho Marx

Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!
Karl Marx

I have a terrific headache.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I have not told half of what I saw.
Marco Polo

Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking towards me, without hurrying.
Jean Cocteau

Dammit... Don't you dare ask God to help me.
Joan Crawford

Lord help my poor soul.
Edgar Allan Poe

I don't have the passion anymore, and so remember, it's better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, Love, Empathy.
Kurt Cobain. Kurt Cobain (in his suicide note)

It's very beautiful over there.
Thomas Edison

Now why did I do that?
General William Erskine, after he jumped from a window in Lisbon, Portugal in 1813

Don't worry, relax!
Rajiv Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister, to his security staff minutes before being killed by a suicide bomber attack.

LSD, 100 micrograms I.M.
Aldous Huxley
To his wife. She obliged and he was injected twice before his death.

Let me go to the Father's house.
Pope John Paul II

Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.
Mother Teresa

Don't disturb my circles!
Archimedes

They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance.
General John Sedgwick, Union Commander in the U.S. Civil War, who was hit by sniper fire a few minutes after saying it

Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius. Will you remember to pay the debt?
Socrates

My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.
Oscar Wilde

There are no more other worlds to conquer!
Alexander the Great

So, now all is gone—Empire, Body and Soul!
Henry the Eighth

Let us pass over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.
Stonewall Jackson

I don't know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Sir Isaac Newton

I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.
Leonardo Da Vinci

I desire to go to Hell and not to Heaven. In the former I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, while in the latter are only beggars, monks and apostles.
Niccolo Machiavelli

Why, yes! A bulletproof vest.
James Rodges, a murderer on being asked for a final request before a firing squad

On a wall in Austria a graffiti said,
"God is dead, --Nietzsche!"
Someone else wrote under it, "Nietzsche is dead! --God."

Go away...I'm all right.
H.G. Wells

I am about to, or I am going to, die; either expression is used.
Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian

I failed!
Jean Paul Sartre

O Allah! Pardon my sins. Yes, I come.
Mohammed the prophet

Now comes the mystery.
Henry Ward Beecher

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
Crowfoot, American Blackfoot Indian Orator

I have taken care of everything in the course of my life, only not for death, and now I have to die completely unprepared.
Cesare Borgia

I am in flames!
David Hume

It is very beautiful over there.
Thomas Edison

I am still in the land of the dying; I shall be in the land of the living soon.
John Newton, author of the hymn "Amazing Grace"

Up until this time, I thought that there was no God neither Hell. Now I know and feel that there are both, and I am delivered to perdition by the righteous judgment of the Almighty.
Sir Thomas Scott

A Chinese Communist, who delivered many Christians to their execution, came to a pastor and said: "I’ve seen many of you die. The Christians die differently. What is their secret?"

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!
Stephen, the first Christian martyr

*

HEAVEN
In childhood's days our thoughts of Heaven
Are pearly gates and streets of gold,
And all so very far away;
A place whose portals may unfold
To us, some far-off distant day.

But in the gathering of the years,
When life is in the fading leaf,
With eyes perchance bedimmed by tears,
And hearts oft overwhelmed with grief,
We look beyond the pearly gate,
Beyond the clouds of grief's dark night,
And see a place where loved ones wait,
Where all is blessedness and light.

And over all we see the face
Of Him who'll bring us to our own
Not to a far-off distant place,
For Heaven is, after all, just Home!

--Sue H. McLane

Friday, October 30, 2009

Reformation Day


Tomorrow, October 31, marks the 492nd anniversary of Martin Luther's posting his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Church in Germany in 1517. These theses were a reaction against what he saw as abuses of the Roman Catholic Church against Christianity, and were the catalyst that sparked the Protestant Reformation.

Most famously, Luther objected to the idea of selling indulgences -- defined by Wikipedia HERE:

"An indulgence, in Catholic Theology, is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. The indulgence is granted by the church after the sinner has confessed and received absolution. The belief is that indulgences draw on the storehouse of merit acquired by Jesus' sacrifice and the virtues and penances of the saints.
They are granted for specific good works and prayers.


Indulgences replaced the severe penances of the early church. More exactly, they replaced the shortening of those penances that was allowed at the intercession of those imprisoned and those awaiting martyrdom for the faith."

Basically (as far as my understanding goes), the Catholic Church teaches that indulgences impart borrowed grace and therefore lessen the time that a person remains in Purgatory before being able to enter into Heaven. During the time of Luther, the Church sold these indulgences for money.

Luther promoted the idea of "Sola Scriptura," literally "only Scripture," the only basis by which we may understand God. He translated the Bible into German so that it would be accessible to everyone, not just clergy, since he considered all baptised Christians to be part of the holy priesthood. He taught that salvation is not from good works, but a free gift of God, received only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer. His teachings challenged the Church's authority, and he was excommunicated in 1521.

Today Protestants do not believe in Purgatory, but that Christians at death enter directly into Heaven since sin was effectively and completely remitted at the cross. Protestants also do not accept the infallibility of the Pope as God's representative on Earth, nor the role of Mary as Co-Mediatrix.

Even so, there are many areas of theological agreement between Catholics and Protestants, most importantly regarding the centrality of Christ's death and resurrection as THE means of a person's redemption. These issues are important and well worth discussion, hopefully without the bloodshed and turmoil that characterized the fallout from the Reformation.

*

I have a Catholic friend, Philangelus, who was kind enough to read this post last night. You can read her blog HERE, and I imagine she may be posting something on this topic today. She writes:

Defining an Indulgence:

If you break my window, you may come to me and apologize, and I may tell you that it's fine, and you'll still be my friend (that's the spiritual aspect of sin/reconciliation) but the window is still broken (that's the temporal aspect of sin.) Jesus's sacrifice enables us to be forgiven in all senses, of course. But there's still the temporal effects of sin on our souls that needs to be worked off, and that final purification takes place before we're allowed into the presence of God. That's what Purgatory is. An indulgence supposedly removes that or makes it happen eaiser or something. I don't quite get it myself.

On Selling Indulgences:

Indulgences were granted on the basis of certain prayers and good works (and one of the conditions, by the way, was being free of any attachment to sin!) Giving alms is a good deed, of course, and someone got the brilliant idea to attach an indulgence to it. You can see where someone who was unscrupulous would suddenly realize, "Hey! Gold mine! Er...*I* am a charity!" I can't imagine God is very pleased with that kind of garbage. :-b

On Salvation:

Catholicism also teaches that salvation is not from good works but a free gift of God. :-)

On Mary as Co-Mediatrix:

Martin Luther accepted the role of Mary. Sorry about that -- you may want to remove that part. (You want a link?)

NOTE: actually, I'd find this link interesting, since I have not heard this before and find it difficult to believe. Be that as it may, no matter what Luther or anyone else might have believed, I do not accept Mary as co-mediatrix based on my reading of the Word. Sorry, Philangelus.

Papal Infallibility:

Infallibility as a doctrine didn't exist for another few centuries.

And discussion between Protestants and Catholics:

It would be nice if we could have some actual dialogue between Protestantism and Catholicism. There's an awesome discussion going on over at one weblog I read yesterday, which ended up with one guy finally yielding in his fight and saying "Sola scriptura is now dead to me. I have no idea where that leaves me." Scary for him, I bet. :-( (That discussion is HERE,btw. http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2007/08/challenge-to-protestants-is-book-of.html There are a million comments, but they're amazing.)

I agree with Philangelus that we need discussion, not torpedoes. These are difficult issues, and important to sort out.

I'm afraid with this entry that I've opened a can of worms; once again, I'm rushing into a hard issue. Comments are gratefully appreciated, but please don't turn this into a firing ground. Truly, I wanted to just remember an important event that occurred on All Hallow's Eve.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In the Beginning...

I've been studying Genesis, and recently noted that God made light on the first day, but the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day.

I've been wondering about that. God is perpetual light, so that He wouldn't suddenly *become* light and divide it from dark.

What I'm thinking is this: any artist must choose his medium (oil paints and canvas for a painting, bronze for a sculpture, piano or trumpet for music) before he creates the piece. These media all have certain properties, certain advantages, and certain limitations. Since God created the universe, I wonder if He chose His *medium* that day to create this universe, the physical laws that must be in effect for the creation to come into being?

Does that make sense? Hmm, something to ponder anyway.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Epitaph in Bookish Style

Here's a poem by Ben Franklin. I love it!

*

EPITAPH IN BOOKISH STYLE

The Body of

Benjamin Franklin

Printer

(Like the cover of an old book

Its contents torn out

And stript of its lettering and gilding)

Lies here, food for worms.

But the work shall not be lost

For it will (as he believed) appear once more

In a new and more elegant edition

Revised and corrected

by

The Author.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Am Not Dead

Hi Everyone,

Like many families, ours has been hit by the flu. No, it's not the horrible ordeal you hear about in the news, just sore throat, fever, and the need to lie on the couch for hours. I'm thinking of getting a T-Shirt for everyone: I SURVIVED THE PIG FLU. My boy got hit the worst, and was out for a week. He still has an impressive cough but is back to school. While he was sick I gave him a little bell to ring if he wanted something and I wasn't right there: he favored my reading to him for hours, and Lime Jello, and warm blankets.

Between this, maintaining the house, and making good progress on The Story Template, I just haven't found the energy to even make an entry such as this. Thank you everyone who has written to me to make sure I'm OK, and please forgive me for not letting you know! I've missed you.

BTW the Template is really taking shape. It describes an algorithm I've used while coaching fiction to develop a complete story (novel or screenplay) from the germ of an idea. I'm currently describing character strands, and how using these can help you develop one or more of 5 types of subplots in a story. If anyone would like to give the template a whirl, I'd love the feedback! Just email me.

OK, I will try to get back to my regular blogging schedule of Monday/Wednesday/Friday soon. In the meantime, stay well.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yom Kippur

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the Holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Many Jews who are secular nevertheless observe this day, and synagogues often have to assign tickets in advance to the participants so that there is enough room.

This day follows Rosh Hashanah by ten days. Rosh Hashanah is the New Year, in which God traditionally records each person's fate for the coming year. In the following Days of Awe, the person confesses sin and seeks forgiveness for all sins against God and man. Yom Kippur, the day that the person's verdict is "sealed" for the coming year, is a solemn day of fasting, confession, and prayer.

Yom Kippur stands in contrast to the messianic system, in which Yeshua, the perfect lamb of God, has already been sacrificed and made atonement for all sin: past, present, and future. The believer has exchanged his own deeds for Yeshua's righteousness; HaShem has made the sacrifice.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Heaven

To forsake Christ for the world is to leave a treasure for a trifle, eternity for a moment, reality for a shadow, all things for nothing.

WILLIAM JENKYN

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William Jenkyn (1613-1685) was an English clergyman, imprisoned during the Interregnum for his part in the ‘presbyterian plot’ of Christopher Love, ejected minister in 1662, and imprisoned at the end of his life for nonconformity.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Acrobatic Swan Lake

Here's an amazing and beautiful performance of Swan Lake...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Promise of Prayer

***reprinted with permission***
The Promise of Prayer
July 2, 2009
by Kathi Macias

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Nearly thirty-five years ago, as a relatively new believer, I was getting ready to leave a Sunday morning church service when I noticed a newcomer sitting in the pew in front of me, a few seats down. As we all made our way toward the center aisle to exit the building, my eyes caught his so I smiled and introduced myself. We exchanged brief pleasantries, and then, as I turned to move on, I wished him well and promised to pray for him and his family during the week. I had no sooner climbed into my car, however, than I felt convicted of not having taken the time to pray for him on the spot. The feeling that I needed to offer to do so would not go away, though I argued with myself that he had probably already left. Still, I decided to go back into the building to check.

Sure enough, though the sanctuary was otherwise empty by then, the young man sat alone in a pew, his head in his hands, and I realized my sense of urgency had been God’s call to prayer. I went to him and told him I believed the Lord wanted me to pray with him, and he began to weep.

“I live just down the street a few houses from this church,” he said. “My wife left me a few days ago and took the kids, and I’ve been so depressed. This morning I decided to give life one more chance by coming here to this church. I told myself that if God would send someone to pray with me, I wouldn’t kill myself when I got home. I’m so glad He sent you.”

And I’m so glad I obeyed! How often do we say we will pray for someone and then forget our promise? And how important is it to obey God’s specific call to prayer? Sometimes that call to prayer comes as a nudge from the Holy Spirit, as it did for me that day more than three decades ago, but other times it comes through a command in the Scriptures. First Timothy 2:1-2 is explicit in its call to all believers to pray “first of all” for those in authority, whether political or church leaders. Are we heeding that command? Do we regularly pray for our pastors, our congressmen, our President, regardless of how we may feel about them personally?

I’ve been a part of the presidential prayer team since its inception in 2001, meaning that I daily prayed for President George W. Bush, those who worked with him, and their families. It also means that I now pray daily for President Barack Obama, those who work with him, and their families. As a believer I have no choice. If I fail to pray for those in authority simply because I don’t happen to agree with them, then I am being disobedient to God. And yet I have heard Christians complain about George Bush and his policies, as well as Barack Obama and his. We seem to be quite accomplished as complainers, but not so faithful as intercessors. In addition to being disobedient, that makes us poor witnesses to those who don’t yet know the One who issued the commandment to pray.

I for one have been guilty many times of promising to pray but not following through. As a result, I find myself becoming critical of others. Whether a young man contemplating suicide or individuals in positions of authority with nearly unfathomable responsibilities on their shoulders, people need us to be obedient and to intercede for them. Let’s commit together to use our words “first of all,” as the scripture instructs, to pray for and bless people, rather than criticize them. If we do, God will be faithful to fulfill His purpose.

***Please take a moment to visit my website at www.kathimacias.com to sign my guestbook or leave a comment on my blog for a chance to win one of my new books. Please check out my new blog as well: http://kathieasywritermacias.blogspot.com.

***Also, please visit www.setfreetoday.com, where I serve as Spiritual Director. Come as you are…leave with a new beginning! Drop us a note or prayer request while you’re there.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Opportunity for Self-Published Books

If you have a self-published book, you may be interested in this...

There is a new service just forming, Vault, that is designed to get your book in front of traditional publishers and agents. They offer the first month of listing for the author free, and after that the cost is $10 per month. The publishers create an account, and can then troll the site to see if anything looks interesting.

But wait!

Since Vault is in its beta mode, the first three hundred authors to list get 4 months free. I don't know, but it looks interesting anyway. I've already created a listing, and figure I can d/c it if it doesn't seem to be working.

I've pasted a few FAQs from the site below. You can check out the site at http://vault.publetariat.com

Happy writing!

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What is the Publetariat Vault?

The Publetariat Vault is a searchable database of independent literary works for which the authors own all rights free and clear and are interested in selling those rights, with accompanying sales data and reader reviews, to take the guesswork out of determining commercial potential in the mass market.

Though publishers and content producers (i.e., film, television, game and online content producers) know a successful indie (self-published) book is a proven quantity and therefore a low-risk acquisition option, these books don't come to their attention until after becoming breakout hits. By that time, numerous buyers are interested and it's much more difficult and expensive to acquire the rights.

The Publetariat Vault solves this problem by providing a searchable database of indie books available for acquisition. The Vault makes it easy to locate indie books based on detailed criteria and keywords, and simplifies the process of identifying the most promising candidates by providing not only standard catalog information, but actual sales data, a full synopsis, excerpt, and direct access to all of the following: customer reviews from multiple booksellers, reviews on reader community sites, author websites, author blogs, author social media profiles, publicity the author and book have received, and additional author writing samples---all on a single listing page. With this trove of data at their fingertips, publishers no longer need wonder if a given book will sell well or be well-received by readers, nor if the author will take an active role in helping to promote the book or produced content.

Who are the publishing pros and content producers who will be allowed to search the Vault's listings?

Anyone who is in a position to purchase some or all of the rights to a given indie book, or who is in a position to make an offer of representation to authors, may sign up for a publishing pro/producer account. This includes publishing house acquisitions staff, independent or small imprint staff, literary agents, literary managers, film and television producers, game producers, online content providers, and anyone else who can offer authors either representation or a contract for some or all of a given book's content rights.

Once the Vault opens for pro searches, a list of registered pros will be posted to the site and updated regularly. We will also post any Vault success stories reported by authors or pros.

What information do I need to provide in my Vault listing?

At the minimum, you must provide Book Title, Author Name(s), Cover Image, Brief Description, Type (fiction, nonfiction, reference, poetry or art), Genre(s), Page Count (for print books), Word Count, Adult Content Yes/No/Not Applicable, Recommended Reading Level, Protagonist Gender (if applicable), protagonist age (if applicable), sales data, synopsis and excerpt. You also have the option to include links to any or all of the following: your book's product pages on bookseller sites, your book's pages on reader community sites, other reviews of your book, author website(s), author blog(s), author social media profile(s), buzz and publicity about the book or author(s), other writing sample(s).

You can view a screen capture of the listing form here, or register for Vault membership (it's free) to view the real form.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spooky

I came across this -- I guess it's a poem -- and thought I'd share it with you, my dear friends. It appeals to my darker, sadder, nature. What kind of story might this make?

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This is a Photograph of Me
by Margaret Atwood

It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a
tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.
I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
eventually
you will be able to see me.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Prosperity Gospel



I found this brief preview of Joel Osteen's latest book on The White Horse Inn blog. Osteen's prepub statement says that you can achieve your dreams with this new book.

Think about that for a minute.

Here are some other prepub statements released with the book. The WHI blog wonders, "how some of the following pick-me-ups would sound to believers in Africa, right before they are martyred for their faith."

Hmmm.

Get your hopes up. Raise your expectations. Expect the unexpected. In challenging times, it may be hard to see better days ahead.

You may feel as though your struggles will never end, that things won’t ever turn around.

This is exactly the moment when you should seek and expect God’s blessings.

It’s your time to declare your faith, to look for God’s favor and to give control of your life to Him so that you can find fulfillment in His plans for you!

God wants to breathe new life into your dreams. He wants to breathe new hope into your heart. You may be about to give up on a marriage, on a troubled child, on a lifelong goal. But God wants you to hold on. He says if you’ll get your second wind, if you’ll put on a new attitude and press forward like you’ll headed down the final stretch, you’ll see Him begin to do amazing things.

Tune out the negative messages. Quit telling yourself: I’m never landing back on my feet financially. I’m never breaking this addiction. I’m never landing a better job.

Instead, your declarations should be: I am closer than I think. I can raise this child. I can overcome this sickness. I can make this business work. I know I can find a new job.

Take your dreams and the promises God has put in your heart, and every day declare that they will come to pass. Just say something like, “Father, I want to thank you that my payday is coming. You said no good thing will You withhold because I walk uprightly. And I believe even right now you’re arranging things in my favor.”

When you’re tempted to get down and things are not going your way, you need to keep telling yourself “This may be hard. It may be taking a long time. But I know God is a faithful God. And I will believe knowing that my payday is on its way.”

Whenever life grows difficult, and the pressure is turned up, that’s a sign that your time is near. When lies bombard your mind. When you are most tempted to get discouraged. And when you feel like throwing in the towel. That’s not the time to give up. That’s not the time to back down. That’s the time to dig in your heels. Put on a new attitude. You are closer than you think.

God promises your payday is on its way. If you’ll learn to be a prisoner of hope and get up every day expecting God’s favor, you’ll see God do amazing things. You’ll overcome every obstacle. You’ll defeat every enemy. And I believe and declare you’ll see every dream, every promise God has put in your heart. It will come to pass.

The WHI Blog ends with this statement:

"Just for the record, out of the fourteen free pages of teaser text about “faith, favor, and fulfillment,” there isn’t one, not one mention of Jesus."