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

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wisdom in Vampire Temptation

I like to check out the books and movies my kids are interested in. In this spirit, I just read Stephanie Meyer's Twilight, a hugely popular novel that all of my daughter's friends are talking about.

First, happily, I didn't have a problem with this book, although the subject matter -- vampires -- made me a little nervous before I began. I'd give it a solid PG rating, with nothing particularly scary or otherwise inappropriate. No bad language, nothing beyond a few chaste kisses, and references to blood drinking were minimal and superficial. For those of you who need a little story background (no spoilers), this book is about a 17 year old high school student named Bella, who transfers schools and is perplexed by her sudden popularity. However, there is one student she sits next to in Biology -- Edward -- who seems utterly repelled by her.

To cut a long story short, Edward turns out to be a vampire -- a *good* vampire, who drinks only animal blood and wishes to live as well as he can, but a vampire nonetheless. He could relapse at any time. Bella falls in love with him, of course, and he with her. Objectively, it is best for Bella to stay away from Edward -- he will always be a vampire, tempted to kill her or even usher her into his own dark life. And therein lies the dilemma threading through most of this story:

Are Edward and Bella strong enough to stay together despite temptation, or should they separate?

Edward, with his greater maturity (90+ years old), seems to understand the danger and the ramifications of his lifestyle better than Bella, especially once some bad vampires appear on the scene. But I promised no spoilers, so I'll stop the plot description here...

What interested me the most was this question of temptation -- forbidden fruit -- how is it best handled? I found myself identifying with Edward, who knows his nature is bad despite all efforts. He knows he could destroy that which he loves if he moves closer, and yet he can't bear to stay away. To break an attraction like this can be excruciating, and may leave wounds that never heal. In the book, Edward and Bella decide instead that they can fly close to the flame without being burned. It makes a better story, anyway, although objectively I doubt the wisdom. Flee temptation, I've always heard.

Just for you parents, I found lots of good things in this novel, especially Edward's and others' successful struggles to live good lives. It is very innocent/romantic with a brooding hero; I found it a reasonably interesting novel, although slow in some places. Then again, I'm not exactly the target audience, so I may be missing some of its charm.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On Writing: Don't Be a Welfare Hydra

For those of you who don't know, I've done an in-depth study of story (novels and films) with the aim of articulating how stories can be put together. I've been fortunate enough to coach several writers to apply and refine my paradigm, and I think I'm onto something! This is something I'm writing up now, as a book that I hope will be out before too long.

A main, and I mean really main, really big, problem that I keep running across I've called the "One Darn Thing After Another" syndrome. But I've just found the icon for this that I think is perfect -- the Welfare Hydra!

First, take a look at this 3 minute clip. This scene is from 1963's Jason and the Argonauts, where Jason needs to kill the 7-headed Hydra in order to steal the golden fleece. The chick is a high priestess who's basically betrayed her people to help Jason, but we won't go into the whole ethics of Jason's quest here -- after all, this is high Greek mythology, so let's just watch it for fun:

This is an impressive movie with astounding special effects for 1963, and I enjoyed watching it on many levels. I first saw this movie about 6 years ago with my boy, when as a first grader he became interested in ancient warfare topics in general (as an aside, he impressed the heck out of his teacher by taking half an hour to explain the Pelopynesian War to the class. My daughter, though, is the Greek myth expert. But as a proud mom, I digress).

I feel a bit guilty being so critical here since the special effects technology WAS so primitive, but hey, this makes my point. In this clip, did you notice what the Welfare Hydra does?




Yes, the Hydra waves its heads a bit, hisses, and slithers on its floppy little belly. It even catches Jason in its tail at one point, but promptly lets him go and doesn't press the attack. You can almost hear the Hydra saying (in a squeaky voice) "I'm scary! I'm scary! See how scary I am?" At the end it bares its chest so Jason with his sword can conveniently stab its heart, at which it obligingly dies.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Simply this: in many of the stories that I critique, I find this same sort of "Welfare Hydra" mentality appearing, on both the macro and the micro levels. The writer describes exciting (or not so exciting) events that the protagonist wrestles through, but in the end, these events don't make any difference to the story. They don't push the story along.

The micro events just add word count. A character will find a chilled bottle of water, unscrew its tight cap, take a few sips of the cold liquid, then screw the lid back on and wipe her hands on her black summer-cloth-weight capris, feeling refreshed now. Excuse me? Does any of this detail really add to the story? Now, maybe if the character had arthritis, then her method of opening a bottle might give a little grace note to her character, but otherwise this is throwaway stuff.

So how might one push a story along? There are many techniques to do this, but the core principle is to consistently raise the stakes for the protagonist: put more in jeopardy, make it uncertain that the protagonist can accomplish a goal that is vital to him and for the long-term success for the story. Everything counts, including little actions. Who cares how the character opens a bottle of water? But if the character isn't sure that she will be able to sneak a sip of water to calm a cough before she has to make an announcement, it might be more interesting.

A good way to raise these questions is to write in a deep third person point of view. Many manuscripts I read are written in a superficial POV, where actions are captured as if on camera, and there is no insight into the character's thoughts. The penetrating POV is one of the great strengths of novel writing. (Films of course have music, camera angles, and other tricks that make them a different, yet also strong, medium).

Use your POV!

Here are two passages:


Sam ran down the hallway. It was long, and there were no windows. He picked up speed. The entrance was twenty feet away. (objective POV)



Sam couldn't see the intruder, but knew he must be close by. This was the hardest part to get out of the building: a long white tunnel, no windows.

Twenty feet. He might just have time. If only he could turn off these lights to race in the dark, but no time, no time.

And then he heard a footstep behind him...

(penetrating POV)


OK, it's a hokey example written off the top of my head, but you get the idea, I trust.

When you write, whether a paragraph or a scene or more, keep asking yourself, "Are my words a Welfare Hydra?" If they are, stab them through the heart.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mixed Metaphors

Hi Everyone --

I couldn't resist. I received this in an email, and just had to share it with you, my dear friends.


Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are last year's winners.....

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse, without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River .

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap,only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some Pix of the Conference

Last week I attended the GPCWC conference, organized by Marlene Bagnull.

This is a picture of two friends, Hannah and Alex, and me on the right. Hannah is writing an incredible novel called Mortis that she has kindly let me critique over the past few months; Alex is a screenwriter.


This is the cafeteria where we ate and socialized.


I'm in the middle, on a panel.


There's Marlene. Her voice was giving out by this point!


Here's a picture of my NANGIE class for advanced novelists.


This is the main room, where book sales and socializing took place.


There's me, with my book. I wish I photographed better!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Win $50 to Write a Review of Lever on my Blog!

Thank you for visiting my blog! If you're new, welcome. If you've been reading for awhile, you already know that my book, A Lever Long Enough, will be released in January for general sale, which means it will be available on amazon then and not before.

With prepublication copies out, though, it's time to celebrate! Although the book isn't generally available yet, you readers of my blog have an opportunity to read the book early. I'll tell you at the bottom of this entry how to obtain a prepublication copy.

I'm very excited about my book, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'd love to hear what you think about Lever, and therefore am having this little contest.

I am a scientist who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus—frankly, I was blown away by the evidence. My book, A Lever Long Enough, is about a small military team that travels back in time to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb. Here is the back cover copy:

The Israeli team, led by Benjamin Feinan, has exactly seventy-two hours to collect the video evidence. Failure threatens the existence of Israel and may cause the world to slip into all-out war.

Drawn into a web of first-century deception and death, the only way to escape is for Benjamin to change the past.

In the present, a traitor attempts to sabotage the mission and seize control of the military complex. Only Benjamin can reveal him, but he is trapped two thousand years away.

Even with a time machine, time is running out…


I wrote this book to the skeptic I used to be. Lever takes a more neutral stance to Christianity than many CBA books, although it clearly leads the reader to conclude that the resurrection is reasonable. As such, this book can be used as a tool to open discussion with a nonbeliever of who is Jesus?

Here are the Contest Rules:

1. I’m looking for honest amazon-type reviews to post on my blog. All reviews, good or bad, are valued and eligible for the contest. Include a title for your review and your star ranking—just like amazon. Also give a nickname if you want to use one.

2. You can send reviews to me at amydeardon @ between now and September 20, 2008. On September 21st, I will post all reviews at once on my blog here, at

3. Then the fun begins! Everyone who visits my blog will be able to vote (once) for the most thorough and well-written review. (no spoilers on plot, please). The voting period will last between September 21st through September 30th. If there are more than 8 entries, I will throw in a second prize of $25. My verdict of winner(s) based on blog vote is final.

4. I will NOT share your email address with ANYONE without your permission, although I may send occasional book release/related announcements. If you don’t wish to receive these, just let me know.

5. This contest is open to anyone who learns about it and would like to enter.


Here are some prepub endorsements I've already received:

Did Jesus rise from the dead? Deardon wrestles with this question in an exhilarating adventure full of high technology, romance, and treachery that excites the imagination. There are no easy answers, only compelling arguments that will challenge your beliefs -- whatever they may be.

---Ralph Hamilton MD, Professor of Surgery Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania


Amy Deardon's debut novel is compelling, intriguing and explosive! Fans of Michael Crichton, Mark Mynheir, and Creston Mapes, will love the fast-paced, character-driven and suspense-filled plot. I cannot wait to see what else Deardon has in store for her fans!

---Thomas Phillips, author of The Molech Prophecy


In A Lever Long Enough, Deardon expertly weaves science, technology, fact, and fiction into a riveting tale. Deardon's ability to take the reader from within a top-secret military lock-down facility to a realistically depicted 1st Century Jerusalem makes this science fiction thriller a stunning and captivating read from start to finish.

---A.K. Arenz, author of The Case of the Bouncing Grandma


This is a book packing multiple big pleasures within its pages—clever time-travel adventure, political intrigue, fascinating historical settings, philosophical/religious challenges, and a captivating mix of imagination and technological authenticity. Deardon's exhaustive and meticulous research and her deft writing skills set this book well apart from the crowd.

---Donna W. Payne, PhD
Biomedical researcher and author of The Handel's Messiah Family Advent Reader (Moody Press) and numerous newspaper and journal articles


Whiz-bang twists in a never-ending series of surprises and subterfuge drag the reader right inside all the thrills. Breathless shocks, sweaty fingertips, romantic suspense, forbidden faith, a trail of corpses—yes, this one is definitely hard-hitting…Ten out of ten! I hope to see more work soon from this brilliant author.

---Grace Bridges, author of Faith Awakened and Legendary Space Pilgrims


Ms. Deardon has done her research! From modern-day science to ancient Israel, Deardon's attention to detail makes these two colliding worlds real and alive. Warning: it's a page-turner!

---Fran Lemzo, author of The Handel's Messiah Family Advent Reader (Moody Press)

A fiction strong enough--To borrow a phrase from Archimedes, this "Lever" might just move your world. Smart, action-packed, and meticulously researched, this thriller is thoroughly believable. So buckle up and get ready for your own "time throw"--once you open this book, you will immediately find yourself transported five hours into the future. Be sure to clear your schedule!

---Amy Fogelstrom Chai, MD, MS
author, columnist, educator


Thrilling…romance, suspense, and an unpretentious and thought-provoking look at beliefs…A great story. A great premise. A great writer!

James McGovern, Airline Transport Pilot


This book pulled me in. It’s a thoughtful, developed, and intense exploration of the biggest mystery in Western Society. At the end, you’ll be begging for more.

---Sarah Halberg, MD, CFPC


A Lever Long Enough is a fascinating story of faith and action. Ms. Deardon’s use of technology keeps the adventure high, and Biblical accuracy makes the story factual and believable. I could barely put the book down, and am eagerly anticipating the next part of the adventure.

---Michael Saunders, Biblical Teacher, The Holy Land Experience


Fascinating and intriguing…unpredictable and provocative…I look forward to the sequel.

T.H. Shumpert, Ph.D., P.E.
Professor Emeritus
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Auburn University


Now it's your turn! All feedback, positive and negative, is valuable and eligible for this contest.

Here are some FAQs for this limited edition of A Lever Long Enough:

Q: Why does the front cover of this book say it’s not for sale? On the back, why is there a white box with release information?

A: This edition of A Lever Long Enough is an ARC, an advance reader copy. Many publishers put out ARCs to gather prepublication book reviews and other promotional quotations or helps for marketing before the book is actually “released” for sale to the general public.

Q: What is the list (retail) price of this book?

A: List or retail price will be $15.95

Q: Can I find this book on amazon?

A: Not until January. Release date is January 12, 2009.

Q: Can I buy copies of the book before the release date?

A: Yes, you may buy as many ARCs from the publisher as you wish. The only differences between an ARC and final book will be a slightly different book cover, and more and/or different reviews inside or on front or back cover. To purchase, send a check or money order for $12 plus $3 S/H for each ARC to:

Taegais Publishing, LLC
PO Box 57
Glenwood, MD 21738

bulk discounts are available; email sales @ for details.

OK, that's it for now. Please email me with any questions or comments at amydeardon @ I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you, my dear friends.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Off to the Conference!

Well, here it is, my friends! I will be leaving tomorrow to go to my writer's conference, and will return on Sunday.

I've been to the conference twice before; it's fascinating to watch how people interact here, and I enjoy splitting my time equally between perusing books in the corner, and chatting with an acquaintance or two I've met in the hall.

Conferences are usually attended by many hopeful writers with manuscripts in hand, published writers of articles or books, and the faculty comprised of agents, editors, publishers, and well-published authors. The conference is set up with classes throughout the three days, and lots of time for interaction. Each attendee also has the opportunity to meet individually for 15 minutes with different faculty members. The agents and editors are always in high demand, of course.

I find it amusing to watch how people respond to these agents and editors, as if they are rock stars or something. Seriously. I heard a story last time (could be apocryphal but I'd buy it) of an eager attendee pushing manuscript pages to an agent under the bathroom stall. Whenever an agent enters the lunch room, five tables (well, the people at the tables) immediately call out, "Sit here! Sit here!"

The faculty are hunted animals. They cluster together in protected zones.

The first time I went to the conference, I was sweaty-palmed and breathless to make a good impression with my manuscript, like everyone else. We all would whisper to each other, "I blew my appointment with so-and-so," and the others would whisper back reassurances. The second year I didn't have an agenda, and was surprised at how much more enjoyable the experience was. I chatted up my appointments, asking the faculty about themselves and only peripherally promoting a manuscript, and I think maybe they appreciated the break.

This time is a new experience again: I will be talking about my book for a panel, and will be able to sell it at the consignment table. I am even sponsoring a contest to take place on this blog: details to be posted for you when I get back, my dear friends, so you may also enter if you would care to.

I will be attending a continuing course called NANGIE: Advanced Novel Writing. This course is taught by Nancy Rue and Angela Hunt (hence the acronym). The first NANGIE course I took was fabulous, and I'm definitely looking forward to this one also.

OK, that's enough for now. Too many "I's" in the previous paragraphs. Report upon return.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Surprise Party!

My books are back from the publisher! Aren't they beautiful?

Let me tell you a little about my friends. We call ourselves the Weaklings -- sort of after CS Lewis's group called the Inklings. I don't know, we thought it was kind of catchy, especially from Phillipians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." It works for us, anyway. We've been getting together for about 10 years now, once a month or so. We talk about life and philosophy and writing. These ladies are wonderful, and I'm honored to know them.

Anyway, we had a meeting planned for this week at Donna's house. My daughter, unfortunately for her, was dragged along after art class but she is a good sport about this and hid in the corner after lunch. But soon afterwards ...

Here's another picture:

OK, in the back from left to right are Donna, Fran, and Bev. Front row is my daughter (with the beautiful hair) and me (with hair definitely uncombed). And then in the very front is the lovely Lucia.

We had cake, and Donna even pulled out a bottle of champagne! The real stuff. We all had just a sip, and then switched to the Italian sparkling mineral water which was just as good :-)

I'm so touched. I haven't had a party since I graduated fifteen years ago, and I have to say, this was really really nice. I'm still smiling. I'm so excited to have actually accomplished writing and publishing a book. Weaklings, thank you so much for the party.

And thank you, my dear friends. Here is my tip of the champagne glass to you.