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


Monday, February 28, 2011

Domestically Yours

From two years ago...

My boy brought home from school a sweet poem for me. Although I don't usually permit myself to be sentimental, I admit to feeling a specially warm fuzzy glow reading this. Here 'tis:

How do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways.

Yelling, screaming, anxious kids still have a place in your van.
When I get home, chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven are waiting for me with an ice cold glass of milk.

You also take great care to make the house beautiful.
It always makes me happy, like a beautiful sunrise just smiling at the world.

Wow.

I'm far from being super-mom, believe me, but things like this are wonderful reminders that it's important to take care of people -- they are what last. Deal gently with them. We are all fragile.

Since I'm thinking of it, here is my recipe for chocolate chip cookies. You'll note no eggs means little ones can taste the batter (if you worry about things like that):

1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups oats (best to use is old-fashioned oatmeal, but quick is also OK)
chocolate chips

Mix sugars, oil, milk, and vanilla. Sift and add flour, baking soda, and salt. Add oats. Add chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoon onto greased baking pan (I actually cover a tray with foil instead of greasing the cookie sheet). Bake at 350 F for 8-10 minutes or until golden. (I think that time's right -- I just wait till they look ready).

Friday, February 25, 2011

What Are You Missing?



THE SITUATION:

In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

*

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, then how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dog for Sale

A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: "Talking Dog For Sale." He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.

The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.

"You talk?" he asks.

"Yep," the Lab replies.

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says "So, what's your story?"

The Lab looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping.

"I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired."

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

"Ten dollars," the guy says.

"Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?"

"Because he's a liar. He never did any of that."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fallen by Sarah MacLachlan

This song came out in 2003, and I was struck hearing it at the time and again when I heard it recently. While it may be about love relationships, the lyrics also could refer to life in general, to things that we do that are costly in a bad way, and the scars that we must carry ever afterward.

My heart breaks when she sings, "There doesn't seem to be a way to be redeemed..."

No, not in ourselves. But isn't that the gospel, the good news that God will forgive us through Christ. Oh, if only more people could hear this and really understand.

Someone close to me died on Christmas morning. Although she professed to be a believer, I am (and have been) uncertain. She had an expression of horror as she was breathing her last. Was this simply because she didn't have the strength to breathe, or something more? God wants us to turn to Him. He is not willing that any should perish. But... we must turn and put Him uppermost.

Without God it is hopeless, as this song says.

Fallen, by Sarah MacLachlan

Heaven bent to take my hand
And lead me through the fire
Be the long awaited answer
To a long and painful fight

Truth be told I've tried my best
But somewhere along the way
I got caught up in all there was to offer
And the cost was so much more than I could bear

Though I've tried, I've fallen...
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me "I told you so..."

We all begin with good intent
Love was raw and young
We believed that we could change ourselves
The past could be undone
But we carry on our backs the burden
Time always reveals
The lonely light of morning
The wound that would not heal
It's the bitter taste of losing everything
That I have held so dear...

I've fallen...
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me "I told you so..."

Heaven bent to take my hand
Nowhere left to turn
I'm lost to those I thought were friends
To everyone I know
Oh they turned their heads embarassed
Pretend that they don't see
But it's one missed step
You'll slip before you know it
And there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed

Though I've tried, I've fallen...
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me "I told you so..."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Literary Agent Submissions: A First-Hand Description

As an aspiring writer, how is your query received by the agent? Read on for a little first-hand description.

I read an interesting essay last week on the Amazon Create Space community by someone (Mr. Mysterious) who’d done a two week internship (7 work days total, since there were snow days) in NYC this winter. I wrote to ask for permission to post this on my blog and unfortunately didn’t receive a response, so am taking the liberty here of just summarizing his observations and impressions because they’re so helpful. I’m assuming this is OK since this guy posted on a public forum loop.

Mr. Mysterious worked for an agent mainly reading queries and samples – since this agency requested a synopsis and first 5 pages when querying. He estimates during his time there that he went through 300-350 queries, averaging about 50 per day. For eight hours (not including lunch or bathroom breaks, or other duties and time expenditures), that might be about six or so per hour, or even more roughly one every ten minutes. This isn’t much time to impress someone who is reading, say, eight pages per submission (1 page query, 5 page sample, 2 page synopsis).

Many of the queries were “way too long,” and he found himself skimming the long ones and/or those with detailed plot descriptions. He felt shorter was definitely sweeter, and he paid closer attention to the concise ones. Queries were usually mediocre, and the handful that weren’t often had sample writing that was.

Mr. Mysterious always read the sample, even if he didn’t like the query. If the query didn’t have a sample, he requested the author to email it back in the body of the email.

After a day, he stopped reading the synopses:

1. Some were too long, occasionally even longer than the sample.
2. After awhile they started to sound the same.
3. If he didn’t like the sample, he didn’t care about the synopsis.
4. They took a long time to read, and when going through a large pile of correspondence the principle is: the faster the better.

The authors didn’t always follow the requested guidelines for number of pages (the longest sample was 20 pages), and although Mr. Mysterious didn’t immediately disqualify these writers, he was definitely annoyed and gave a less careful reading.

Out of 300-350 queries, Mr. Mysterious found exactly ONE that went into the YES folder, and 40 into the ?MAYBE? folder. These query samples had skillful writing (voice, characters, settings, etc.). A few maybes were included even though he didn’t like the samples simply because the writer had some good credentials: a former literary agent or previously pubbed by a reputable publisher and/or major magazine. Many of the credentials cited in the queries were trivial or irrelevant. Credentials only mattered to the intern when they were of something/someone he’d heard of.

The agent who was mentoring this intern rejected the YES, and from the maybes requested pages from one and left two others as possibles. The rest were rejected. The accepted ones he didn’t quite remember but doesn’t think they had credentials in their queries. Neither the agent nor Mr. Mysterious liked the query from the writer from whom she requested pages.

I was fascinated to read that Mr. Mysterious found the same terms appearing in many queries. For example, GUARDIAN – there were a lot of guardians in these samples. He didn’t mention what sorts of genres the agent specialized in, but it sounded like YA and adult, science-fiction-y adventure.

Here’s a quote from the intern’s post: “A lot of queries were like, Main Character is just your average kid/just wants to be your average kid, EXCEPT HE SHOOTS LIGHTNING OUT OF HIS BUTT WHEN HE FARTS.

“A lot of queries, especially YA Urban Fantasy queries, read like they’re all written from the same template. Off the top of my head.

“NAME, a [number] teen year old at [school name] has enough to worry about with [insert generic school/teenage problems], without [insert discovery of paranormal abilities, an ancient conflict, discovery of paranormal abilities AND an ancient conflict]. It will be up to Name to [stop conflict, learn to control abilities]. That is, if he doesn’t get [insert fantasy problem and/or generic school/teenage problems,] first.

“Jake, a thirteen year old at springwood high, has enough to worry about with not making the base ball team and getting dumped by text message, without a sect of ancient warrior chipmunks bringing their civil war to his town of Springwood. As the prophesied Tailless One it will be up to Jake to bring peace to the chipmunks, if he doesn’t get his heart broken by text message again first.”


This intern also found many girl meets boy stories, where the guy is just too amazing for words. After a few too many samples like this he rolled his eyes and passed on all of them.

Another interesting observation is that writers wanted to “start with a bang,” for example a plane crash on the first page. Mr. Mysterious found this stuff not compelling, if not frankly boring. I would take a guess here that this is so because if you (the reader) don’t care about the characters yet, you don’t really care what happens.

Here’s another quote: “As an intern reading the first few pages of your novel, I was about the most detached person in the world from your story. I wasn't doing this for fun. Or as a favor, cause I knew/liked you. I was doing this, because it was my job, and as you may have guessed, a rather monotonous job at that (though certainly not without its rewards and excitement.) What this means is, the world might be ending in your story, but I was sitting there in an office, tired from my commute, hungry cause I skipped breakfast, and with a lot more queries after you to get through. And the world outside my window? Still there.

“As such, your primary goal in those first five (imo) should be to make the reader, be he agent, intern, or prospective buyer, care. If you make the reader care, he'll be hooked whether you drop a bomb on him or not. If you fail to make him care, then no matter how many bombs you drop, they'll all be duds. (lol, couldn't resist.)”

There were so many queries that he quickly started looking for reasons to reject. Some of these were:

1. Lots of typos.
2. Grammar or tense issues.
3. Blandness, clich├ęs, not being interesting.

Mr. Mysterious kept reading especially if the samples had Voice and/or Humor. He suspects there are two types of Voices that are professional: an overt or stylized voice that is immediately intriguing, and a subtle or realistic style of voice. Some examples of voice that he gives are:

Overt/Stylized: Coen Brother’s The Big Lebowski, Chuck Palahuik’s Choke, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Doestoevsky’s Notes from The Underground, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part Time Indian. These overt voices portray exceptional, unique characters with stories that leap off the page.

Subtle/Realistic: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, anything by Hemmingway, John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Orwell's 1984, a lot of classic plays like The Glass Menagerie, and Death of a Salesman. You could imagine someone you see in the supermarket being able to tell these stories. This style often occurs in literary fiction.

5-10 pages for a sample may not be enough to capture this type of subtle voice well, and may not play well to a hurried agent or intern. However, different agents specialize in different genres, so you should look carefully for the type of agent that takes your type of stories.

*

I find it interesting to think that this intern found himself jaded and impatient after only a few days on the job. Keep this in mind when presenting your story. And thank you, Mr. Mysterious, for your sharp insights into the pubbing biz.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This is Why I Write



I love this picture. Isn't this so true -- when no one understands or wants to hash out an issue -- when you may not even KNOW there is an issue -- books have a way of gently taking you by the hand and showing a better way. Novels especially, because they just tell a story, and buried within that story is the kernel of what you need, or the model that you can follow to be just a little braver or stronger.

Keep writing, my friends. You don't know how your words may touch someone.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review: The Cause Within You by Matthew Barnett




More than anything, Matthew Barnett's story of building his Dream Center in Los Angeles reminded me of David Wilkerson's 1963 THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE, in which Wilkerson recounts building a ministry to New York City's teens involved with drug addiction and gang violence. In the present day, the Dream Center is a comprehensive outreach to the homeless and poor in LA and now in NYC as well, that emphasizes finding God's love and purpose along with food, shelter, and job training. The story of how the Dream Center grew from Barnett's failed pastorship of a dying church to a vision of others with whom he could serve is compelling. Barnett strongly emphasizes in this book of how GOD, not himself, led him to build the ministries and guided him to find the outlets and resources necessary to continue to grow.

On an inspirational level, this book is remarkable. Barnett includes many stories of his own and others' interactions with the Dream Center that have produced positive and sometimes seemingly impossible changes. Barnett emphasizes the power of unconditional love and prayer that points people to God and help them to turn around.

I found this book less helpful in regard to its purpose as stated in the title: to help a person find what he was "created to do." Barnett includes general principles: for example, recognize that God can use you and your circumstances no matter what; aim to serve rather than to be successful; pay attention to God's leading (whether a sense or observations --> not specific); walk in faith with the idea of a progressive revelation; keep proper attitudes of loving others unconditionally and being open to opportunities; and do whatever presents itself no matter how small or unlikely. Also it's important to develop partnerships and persevere together in a vision.

This is certainly good advice, but general. It is interspersed with the stories from the Dream Center, so seems perhaps greater than it actually is. There is a list of a few Scriptural references in the back of the book, but not within the body of text. The book is unabashedly Christian and might be difficult for someone to read who doesn't already have this mind-set.

What Barnett has accomplished in LA with his Dream Center is phenomenal and therefore I can't find it in my heart to downgrade his book too much. However, I found this to be a "feel-good" book with remarkable true examples, but beyond these examples little substance for deeper study.

I am grateful to Tyndale House for providing this free review copy in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Writers Write Part Two

I thought so -- there's no easy way to be a writer, except to write. This is the year.

On a writing loop I belong to, this question came over the wires:

I finished my first manuscript last September. I was naive and eager and began submitting it to agencies right away. I received some really nice letters back and also some constructive criticism, which I took to heart. I made some drastic changes to the manuscript, which I feel improved it considerable. My question is, what do I do with it now?

At what point can I resubmit the same manuscript to an agent? 3 months, 6 months, never? Help!


This great answer is from Kaye Dacus, a multi-pubbed author of some terrific books. You can check out her website at http://kayedacus.com.

What else are you writing? How many other manuscripts have you finished? If you haven't already been asked that by the editors/agents you've had contact with, you will.

My advice is to set this one aside and write/complete/revise another manuscript. And then another. And then another. The best way to train for becoming a multi-published author is to finish multiple manuscripts now, before you're agented/contracted. I'd completed four manuscripts before I ever dreamed of submitting anything to anyone---and I worked on that fourth manuscript for three years (two of those years in graduate school as my master's thesis with the help of two published authors and half a dozen critique partners). By the time I submitted it to anyone, I was already most of the way through the first draft of my fifth manuscript and planning my seventh through tenth. And that fourth manuscript became my first published novel.

We learn more about the craft of writing with each manuscript that we complete and revise---our voice, our storytelling, our own individual style becomes stronger and stronger with each new story we write.

So, as I've said to the members of my local group many times: Bravo for finishing your first manuscript. Now write the next one.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vote for Me?



I'm excited to tell you that my book, A LEVER LONG ENOUGH, is a contender for the Christian Small Publisher Association's (CSPA) Book of the Year 2011 award. Who'd have thunk?

If you've read it and liked it, and can honestly do so, PLEASE VOTE FOR ME! The link is http://www.christianpublishers.net/11votes/.

Here is a short write-up of Lever:

A small military team travels back in time to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb. A LEVER LONG ENOUGH is an adventure story with a touch of science fiction and religion: THE CASE FOR CHRIST meets THE DA VINCI CODE.

In the near future, the Israeli military has developed a prototypic time machine. When believers in Yeshua (Jesus) create a politically explosive situation that threatens the balance of peace between Israel and nearby countries, the Israelis must send a team of four elite soldiers back to film the theft of Jesus' body from the tomb and thus disprove Christianity. The team, consisting of a Special Forces soldier as leader, an ex-American astronaut as engineering specialist, an archaeologist, and a linguist, has exactly seventy-two hours to collect the video evidence. Drawn into a web of first century deception and death, the only way to escape is for the team to change the past. In the present, a traitor attempts to sabotage the mission and seize control of the military complex. The Special Forces leader operating in the past is the only one who can reveal him, but he is trapped two thousand years away. Even with a time machine, time is running out.

AUTHOR BIO:
I am a scientist and skeptic who was intrigued by objective evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus. My novel presents some of this evidence (for and against) in a fictional adventure appealing to readers regardless of their religious affiliation or preconceptions.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ronald Reagan, Happy 100th Birthday



Yesterday was Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday.

The 80s were an interesting and largely optimistic time in America. Remember Michael Jackson's Thriller and Big Hair? The bombing of the Lebanon barracks? Princess Di? AIDS? The USSR as the USA's major nemesis? After Jimmy Carter people felt proud again to be Americans. A lot of this was due to Ronald Reagan. Who can forget his line at the Brandenburg gate of the Berlin Wall separating West and East Germany: "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!"

At his funeral over 100,000 people filed directly by the casket in the rotunda of the Capitol. He was eventually buried at his presidential library in California.

During his presidency Reagan was witty and perpetually befuddled his detractors. He was shrewd as he dealt with other nations. He led the USA confidently from an economically depressed and politically weak country to usher in a booming economic recovery and the defeat of the Soviets. The last few lines of his final address to the nation, on January 11 1989, were:

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was 8 years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

We've done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan Revolution, the men and women across America who for 8 years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger; we made the city freer; and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad -- not bad at all.

And so, goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.


He loved this country, and he imbued many with his vision. Ronald Reagan, thank you.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Teach Your Children Well

On the car trip home yesterday, my daughter told me how she was pleased to get extra points in English that day. The teacher read a poem with some Christian allusions, and no one else in the class knew any of them (or at least raised his hand to answer). My daughter’s best friend admitted that she hadn’t even known that in the Christian faith Jesus had risen from the dead. The teacher admitted he was a lapsed Catholic, and commented at the end of the session, about my daughter, that “someone went to Sunday School.”

Well, actually she didn’t, she just had a darn picky mom who drummed the principles of the faith into her head. No, I didn’t proselytize – I just told and answered questions about the Bible stories, and explained, “this is what I believe, and this is why…” I explained how these questions about God are so important to honestly explore. We studied what other religions believed. I explained how, as a scientist, I had found atheism to be lacking in explaining certain truths about the world: for example, where do these ideas of self-awareness, or morality, or justice, come from? We discussed these things as easily as discovering how to fill a balloon with CO2 (mix baking soda and vinegar in a narrow bottle, put a balloon over the opening to catch the gas), and learning how the atoms moved around to form different compounds. (The kids were delighted to discover that the CO2 balloon thumped to the ground because it’s heavier than air). We learned how to make biscuits. We learned how the eye worked. And we learned to discuss God.

This past summer our family joined a new church. Our previous church had a confirmation program in which I taught for about five years. I asked the kids once, “Who brought the ten commandments down from Mount Sinai?” and someone answered, “Martin Luther.” They didn’t know who were David or Daniel, or even Abraham. Jesus was important but they didn’t know why. These were churched kids, by the way, who had attended church since they were babies. I ended up in my confirmation class, every week, asking them “What does a Christian believe?” By the end of each year they could give me a pretty good answer.

The Youth Group was a patronizing, fun-and-games place for “kids to be kids” (“Even though you’re underage, I know you’re going to drink, so do it safely…”) Even in the church proper there were only a few adults who knew their stuff. The wife of a deacon told me that “if you’re sincere with your religion, even if it’s not Christianity, you’ll go to heaven.” Well, no. This pluralism is a popular view in our culture, but it’s NOT what Christianity teaches. If you want to believe this fine, but then don’t call yourself a Christian. You have the right to believe anything you want, but you DON’T have the right to change the faith that has been “once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

Am I ranting yet?

I know that my experiences are anecdotal, but even so, my friends, I don’t believe these are atypical. I run into people all the time who say they are Christian, but don’t seem to have a clue about what this means. I believe we as a people have lost our faith. Much of our country is as heathen as any place before a missionary comes through – maybe more so, in a way, since there is such an antipathy to God. No one wants to be told what to do. Thank goodness for books and radio that deliver Christianity. Even with these, though, one has to be careful. Joel Olstein and his prosperity gospel? Maybe not.

While watching Ted Turner’s masterpieces Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, about events and people in the Civil War, I was struck with just how saturated with the Bible the culture used to be. Turner was well known for, and deserves great credit for, his desire for meticulous accuracy in this series. For darn sure he didn’t put these Biblical references in on his own, since he is a strong atheist and notoriously antipathic to religion. I reread Jane Eyre this summer, and was struck by the multiple references to the Bible within. Many other classics are the same. Shakespeare is the same. Kudos to my daughter’s teacher for discussing Biblical references as a literary device.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Last Battle



CS Lewis is, I think, my favorite writer. The man is brilliant, whether he writes essays, or long thoughtful works, or fiction. I would have loved to have met him, although I imagine conversing with him would be disconcerting. I might say "good morning," and he would snap, "define good, and what you mean by a 'good' morning, and why you are wishing me a 'good morning' when you don't know if I have spent an uncomfortable night on a lumpy mattress." I'm sure I would be tongue-tied and nervous, although I would sit quietly and hope he might not shine the spotlight too focused on me.

As a child I read The Chronicles of Narnia too many times to count, and I wonder if they didn't help me accept ten or fifteen years later the need to consider the possibility of God's existence and miracles as I investigated the events surrounding the death of Yeshua. If you haven't read the Chronicles, please do; they are richly allegorical for adults and wonderfully exciting for children. The movies, while superbly made, are different, and the books are magical.

I wanted today to quote a small passage from The Last Battle, the last book of the series and my favorite. The situation seems strangely contemporary and disquieting.

In the story, an Ape has seized power of Narnia through trickery by claiming to represent Aslan, The Lion, the religious God-King figure who watches over the country although he has not appeared in the country for generations. Here is an excerpt from the Ape's speech to the citizens of Narnia (talking animals, dwarves, and a few humans):

"And now here's another thing," the Ape went on, fitting a fresh nut into its cheek. "I hear some of the horses are saying, Let's hurry up and get this job of carting timber over as quickly as we can, and then we'll be free again. Well, you can get that idea out of your heads at once. And not only the Horses either. Everybody who can work is going to be made to work in future. Aslan has it all settled with the King of Calormen -- The Tisroc, as our dark faced friends the Calormenes call him. All you Horses and Bulls and Donkeys are to be sent down into Calormen to work for your living -- pulling and carrying the way horses and such-like do in other countries. And all you digging animals like Moles and Rabbits and Dwarfs are going down to work in the Tisroc's mines. And --"

"No, no, no," howled the Beasts. "It can't be true. Aslan would never sell us into slavery to the King of Calormen."

"None of that! Hold your noise!" said the Ape with a snarl. "Who said anything about slavery? You won't be slaves. You'll be paid -- very good wages too. That is to say, your pay will be paid into Aslan's treasure and he will use it all for everybody's good" Then he glanced, and almost winked, at the chief Calormene. The Calormene bowed and replied, in the pompous Calormene way:

"Most sapient Mouthpiece of Aslan, The Tisroc (may-he-live-forever) is wholly of one mind with your lordship in this judicious plan."

"There! You see!" said the Ape. "It's all arranged. And all for your own good. We'll be able, with the money you earn, to make Narnia a country worth living in. There'll be oranges and bananas pouring in -- and roads and big cities and schools and offices and whips and muzzles and saddles and cages and kennels and prisons -- oh, everything."

"But we don't want all those things," said an old Bear. "We want to be free..."

*

Freedom is priceless. Our country was formed by brave men, not cowards, and bought and retained its freedom through the blood of many patriots over generations. As Ronald Reagan said (quoting Scripture), the USA is a shining city on a hill, offering hope and regeneration to many. It is not perfect, of course, but it is still remarkable. Our generation is now the steward of this freedom to pass to the next generation, and I just pray we don't lose it.

~~