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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wow. Just Wow.

As writers, we have probably all experienced negative responses to our work. Heck, not even writers, everyone gets criticisms from time to time. They can be true and helpful -- as the Bible says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another," (Proverbs 27:17) and "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." (Proverbs 27:6). Sometimes the criticism is motivated out of jealousy or misanthropy. Sometimes the criticizer is simply not qualified to give a good opinion.

Doesn't matter. IMHO the best way to respond to criticism, no matter what, is to say, "thank you." Period. Don't defend yourself, since you're not going to change someone's opinion anyway. Take the words back with you, and study them. Try to maintain an objective stance (it may take a little time to get there). If the words are pointing out something true, then internalize the message and learn from it. If the words aren't relevant, for whatever reason, then discard them.

This is difficult of course. I have learned that when someone criticizes my manuscript, often what they think is wrong isn't the problem (for example, it may not be a character issue but simply that I'm truncating an emotional scene), but there is SOMETHING there. When more than one person points to the same passage, I scrutinize it with a microscope. I am so grateful for the comments that people have given me to help improve my writing. Even the mean ones can be helpful.

With all this being said, check out this blog review and the comments after it. This just showcases how your defense of your work might appear to others. Wow. Just wow.

Jacqueline Howitt Part 2

PS I'm not trying to pile tsk tsk criticism onto this woman. She lost control -- we all do. Her novel (The Greek Seaman) was apparently based on something that really happened to her, she was upset, and now she is experiencing a flame war. I'm thinking she probably feels pretty bad this morning. Jacqueline, hang in there and I hope this experience is eventually helpful for you. Writing is tough, and you've GOT to listen to feedback and use it to make your work better, not become defensive. But also, you are not a failure as a human being.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jefferson's Prescience

Jefferson had some amazing thoughts that saw the potential of some of the problems circling our government right now. As our country recklessly careens towards earthquake-type change in its reach into our lives, I will pray and ponder these thoughts. I hope you might also.


The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.


It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.


I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.


My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.


To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

China Market Store

I hope you forgive me for today's entry. A friend sent these photos to me of *mart* offerings in China. I am discombobulated.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Japan 2011

Looking at the apocalyptic wreckage in Japan, I can’t help thinking that this might be how God feels looking at the wreckage of sin in this world. To us the world looks orderly, with stately mountains and neat four-square streets in cities. God sees the human hearts, and He weeps.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Won :-))))

I'm pleased to announce that A LEVER LONG ENOUGH won the Adventure category of the 2011 EPIC awards, out of a field of 10. EPIC stands for electronic publishing internet coalition. The list of winners is HERE.

Thanks everyone for your support!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writing the Novel or Screenplay

I have a very simple trick to finish long writing projects such as a novel. When I use it, it's magic. When I don't use it, nothing gets done. Are you ready?

Two steps:

1. Determine a daily or weekly writing quota of WORDS PER DAY. (Not hours per day since you want results). 300 words per day might be a good place to start, but keep pushing this up as you get into the writing groove.

2. Make a chart, and put it on your refrigerator where you always see it. Every day, write down what you've done.

Doing these two steps is amazing, I promise.

I'm keeping this blog entry short because you shouldn't be on the internet anyway! Get back to work!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Optimists Clubs of America

In many ways life is just too short to be lazy, shy, scared, mean, prideful, uncaring, angry, unloving and unloveable etc... so promise yourself the following:

~Promise Yourself~

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best, and expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

~The Optimists Clubs of America~

Friday, March 11, 2011

Some of My Favorite Writing Books: A List for Fiction and Screenplays

I've been meaning to make a list of my all-time favorite writing books. It's going to take some time to really review and remember all of the books that have been excellent, but I thought I'd at least start on a few. Whether you do screenwriting or novel writing, I've found ALL of these books have been insightful. Also, if you have any favorites that you thought were helpful but I've missed them, please let me know.

Save the Cat! and its two sequels, by Blake Snyder

Snyder was a successful Hollywood screenwriter who sadly died in August 2009. He had developed a system for writing a story that is amazing; I just love what's he's done here. Snyder starts with a 15 point story progression, then breaks it out into 40 scenes that are ready to write for the screenplay.


The Anatomy of Story by John Truby

This is an intellectual book that needs to be worked through slowly with your story development notebook in the other hand. Truby sticks with the important through line of the story, and especially the all-important changes that MUST occur in your character in order to make the story gripping and resonant.


Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon

This book is hard to find, which I never understood because it's so on-target. McCutcheon breaks down writing the synopsis and gives many examples that will help guide you to write a decent synopsis. This book is also helpful if you're simply trying to work out what your story is about. If you want to purchase, I suggest you go to the publisher Gryphon Books for Writers at, since this book is outrageously expensive on amazon.


Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon

Another offering from Gryphon books for Writers at that gives clear instruction for the smaller units of fiction development. Randy Ingermanson and others also talk about the GMC -- a critical concept if you want to write well enough to become published. Again, buy this from the publisher rather than on amazon.


Break Into Fiction by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love

The book that goes along with the workshop taught by these two ladies, different chapters focus on different aspects of the story with templates and worksheets that give thought-provoking exercises to help develop your ideas.


Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

Maass is a successful literary agent who has deeply studied books that have "broken out" and grab readers. He includes challenging and thoughtful exercises to do once you have finished your first draft -- and believe me, you will NOT finish your next draft for a very long time, but it will become so strong you won't recognize it.


The Dramatic Writer's Companion by Will Dunne

This is an insightful book that puts forth many questions about your work, in different categories, that will help you shape and then refine it. At the end Dunne has a troubleshooting guide called "Fixing Common Script Problems" that gives clues and suggestions to help with bugaboos such as not enough conflict in a scene, or a passive main character.


The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield

Scofield looks at a unit of story construction, the scene, and discusses how to focus it so that it resonates. Step by step instructions, examples, and exercises really guide to write something effective.


Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

Randy is my hero, and I love everything he writes. Peter Economy is a professional writer, and together he and Randy have created something really helpful here. This book uses a number of Randy's techniques to develop a writing routine, design and finish a novel, and then create a book proposal and marketing plan. Here is inspiring and can-do advice especially for the newbie.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Carpe Diem

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
---C. S. Lewis

We all imagine how life could be different, but until we start acting on our dreams, they just remain irrelevant. My dear friends, I ran across this quote today, and hope it will inspire you to reach for something hard. Take a small step every day towards your goal. You can do it!

Monday, March 7, 2011


This is pretty funny :-)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Heaven at the Pump

I chatted with a gentleman at the gas pump not long ago.

He seemed very happy, and we had an enjoyable few exchanges as we filled our respective vehicles -- a good thing, since the station was considered "cheap" at $3.15 a gallon, and I spent more than $40 to fill the tank.

At the end of our brief conversation, he gave me a tract that discussed heaven from a particular religious viewpoint, and expressed an eagerness for me to read it. Then he drove off and merrily waved as he pulled past me; I merrily waved back, but in my heart I whispered a prayer for him.

When I got home I read the tract. It described a beautiful paradise on earth, full of gardens and plentiful food and living space, bursting with health and peace, free of work or strife of any kind. Messiah would rule over this new world. Love would reign. The illustrations showed a park-like setting with happy families cuddling wild animals, and tamed lions and wolves resting next to sheep and deer.

It was very easy imagine.

And therein, for me, lies a problem. You see, I believe that God is infinitely greater than anything we can understand. When I think of the place that God's people will live after death, I remember the quote from Paul, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Cor. 2:9).

Not long ago in my writing group, another gentleman read some excerpts from a book he is writing about heaven. Do you ever feel like a topic is following you around? He was interested to hear questions that either we, or other people, might have about an afterlife.

So I'm asking you, my dear friends, for him. What questions do you have? Is there a heaven? Does everyone go there? If not, who doesn't, and why not? Do we just cease to exist at death? Can we know what happens, or do we just have to guess?

What is heaven like? And does it matter what you believe?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Make Biscuits with a Five-Year-Old

I wrote this awhile ago, and just found it tucked away:

How to Make Biscuits with a Five-Year-Old

The recipe card for biscuits has four cuts in it. It’s bendy when I pick it up but it is precious, bearing the marks of a two-year-old’s scissors. Now my daughter is five, and we are going to make biscuits.

I steady her on the chair pulled up to the counter. The sifter is on the plate, ready to go. “First, we need two cups of flour,” I say to her.

Emily purses her lips in concentration as she pulls out the green measuring cup from the canister. The bit of flour on the bottom flies onto my shirt and the floor, but she doesn’t notice, so intent is she.

“Two cups,” I repeat.

She nods and digs the cup deep, deep into the flour. More flour flies, and I catch her hand gently. “Be careful, sweetie.”

Together we shake the extra flour off the top of the cup and dump it into the sifter. I brush together the flour on the counter.

“One more,” I say, and this time I keep my hand over Emily’s hand. It reminds me of a story I once heard about a child’s excitement when her artist father put his hand over hers to help her to sketch. Her father guiding … but she was the one sketching.

“Good job,” I say, and Emily smiles. “Now we need two teaspoons of baking powder.” I help her with the measuring spoons, and together we scoop out the white powder, take a knife to smooth off the top. The salt I pour into her hand, a half-teaspoon in a small mound. She dumps it over the sifter, stretching her hand like a small sea-plant extending.

“Are you ready to sift?”

This is Emily’s favorite part. “It’s snowing,” she says. The wire rubbing flour through the mesh makes a soft grating sound. We shake off the bit of flour left on the plate into the mixing bowl.

“My turn,” I say. I add a quarter cup of oil and a scant cup of milk, then mix the liquid into the flour until it’s smooth—I’ve learned the hard way that I need to do this first mix to avoid a real mess. A little more flour. Emily wants to mix and I hand her the fork, but she gives it back after a moment. The dough is too thick for her to turn.

“Time to knead it,” I say, and let her sprinkle a little flour onto the counter. We dump the dough out and I make one turn, two, until the dough is soft and elastic. Emily digs her fingers in; they are clumped and white, and she laughs.

When the dough is ready, I hand Emily the rolling pin. She leans too far over, and the dough is impossibly thin at one end, clumpy and bumpy at the other. I fold it and knead it over, and we roll the dough together, making it into a smooth sheet.

Now cutting the biscuits, her second favorite part. “Make them close together,” I say. “We don’t want to knead the dough more than we have to, or the biscuits will be tough.” But it’s all right, really, when we eat the biscuits later for dinner and they are tough. To Emily smiling proudly at her daddy, there is nothing better in the world to eat.