A short story about a family argument that started because one person’s perception of the other was wrong.

The argument started simply enough.

“Now don’t be mad at me,” she said.

You know that whenever someone leads with that line, you’re not going to like what they have to say next. It’s kind of like when they start off by saying “with all due respect.” You can put money on it, they’ll be insulting you in the next sentence or two.

My sister stared at me, lids drooping a little over her almond shaped blue eyes. This wasn’t going to be good, I could tell. Whatever she’s done, she knows I won’t like it and she’s going to fight me on it.

I raised my eyebrows and leaned forward. “About what?”

She crossed her arms. “I took Bill to get his driver’s license.”

Bill is my seventeen-year old son.

“You took Bill where?”

“To the DMV. He told me he was ready, and you were too busy to take him. So, I did.”

I blinked, then sucked in as much air as I could. I was going to need it. Clever of her to tell me in a café. She knew I wouldn’t throw anything at her in public.

When I was able to speak, I asked her, “How could you do that?”

“We got in the car, and he drove…”

“Ha. Very funny.” I narrowed my eyes and glared at her.

“I know you wanted to take him yourself, next month. But he was feeling really bad, all his friends were driving, and…”

She trailed off. I guess she could see the rage smoldering in my eyes, my face turning red, my fingers clenched around my spoon.

“You should have called me first.” I bit my lip to keep from shrieking at her.

“I don’t see what you’re getting so upset about. Bill was feeling like you didn’t care if he ever passed the test or not. I know with Joe being gone it’s been tough on you.” She shook her head, letting her bleached blond hair swing around her face. “I was just trying to help out. Seems to me you’re being unreasonable.” She gathered up her purse and coat. “Selfish, really. Things always have to go your way, according to your plan. Think about someone else for a change.”

She shoved her chair back. “I’ve got to. And you’re welcome.” She stalked off, leaving me staring at my empty coffee cup, dish of half-melted ice cream and crumpled, soiled napkin.

Just like my plans.  The plans my well-meaning, buttinski sister had ruined.

My husband, overseas for a year, was due back in two weeks. We hadn’t told our son the exact date, wanting it to be a big surprise. And Joe, after missing a year of Bill’s life, of tennis matches and fishing trips, would at least be part of this teenage rite of passage and be the one to take our son for his driver’s license.





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Revising a Novel

Writing a novel is like making a fine wine, so they say. You need to give it some time to develop.


So far I’ve been following that advice, now that I’m entering the fourth year of working on Raising Fear.


It’s been a slow process, some bursts of energy and focus, then a time of letting it rest while I turn my attention to other projects.

And I’ve learned a lot along the way.

The actual writing, the creating, is a joy for me. I can crank out three or more thousand words in a day.

The final polishing, the wordsmithing and crafting of metaphor, also are richly rewarding. I can get myself lost in my love of language and nuance.

It’s the revising that is my Waterloo.

For good reason. This is where some of the truly difficult work comes in. Pacing the story. Developing the characters to the point the reader knows who is speaking without being told. Making the world the characters inhabit so believable and tangible the readers feel like they are there.

That’s the hard part. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get it done.

I dug up some writing resources, and everyone seems to have their own approach. Some people make two or three revising passes over their novel; one person reported no less than nineteen.

I can’t imagine. After thirteen or so I think I’d be so sick of the project I’d want to set it on fire and roast marshmallows over it.

After some trial and error, I came up with a workable approach.

Revision Number 1: Structure and Pacing

After letting my novel sit in the proverbial drawer for a month or so, I give read it through. While I may make note of rough spots or other problems, what I’m really looking for is structure and pacing.

Are my plot points coming at the right time? Does the story arc and climax in a way to keep the reader’s attention?  Do I need to add or delete scenes to keep the story moving?

Revision Number 2: Plot Holes and Other Obvious Fixes

Here’s where I try to find problems with the plot. If I need my heroine to flee from the villain on foot, but a few scenes ago, she broke her leg, this isn’t going to work so well.

Also, if I see some obvious problem (like my red-headed hero has suddenly turned into a blond), I make sure these are corrected.

Revision Number 3: Beta Reader Comments

Here’s where I get some feedback from others. There’s a difference of opinion on the role of the beta reader. Some people see them as the last set of eyes to look at a novel before it gets published. I don’t agree. I think they are more valuable earlier the process, to give feedback on character and story, to point out plot holes I might have missed or slow spots.

The tricky thing is they often disagree with each other. After my first revision passes, I added a battle scene involving my antagonist. The idea was to show he was in danger from the powers that be as much as my protagonist.

One beta reader thought that scene needed more action and detail. Another thought it should be cut altogether.

My third pass, then, takes all the comments and incorporates the ones I think help make the story better.

Revision Number 4: World building, Setting and Weather

In this pass, I read through, one scene at a time. Carefully I think about details I can add that will help build my world or create the mood for the scene that I’m going for. I also think about how these details can help show my characters or emphasize my theme.

Revision Number 5: Character and Dialogue

This pass is mostly for dialogue. Here I’m trying to get my characters to speak in distinctive ways, whether through word choice or tone.

I also make sure I’ve got my character directory correct and up to date. The character directory lists names, ages, hair and eye color, other physical features, mannerisms, favorite expressions, and other details that make each character distinctive.

While compiling the directory, I can check to make sure I’m being consistent.

Not only does this document prevent characters’ eyes from changing color halfway through novel, but it’s a big time saver for editors and proofreaders down the road.

Revision Number 6: Language

Here’s where the fun comes in. In this pass, I look at word choices, metaphors and similes, and try to add that extra vividness to the pictures I am trying to paint with my words. While I’m at it, I try to use metaphors and similes that fit my theme.

So, there you have it. Six revision passes.

Then the happy day arrives: we’re off to the editor!

By way of an update, I’m in the final stages of Revision Number 3 of Raising Fear. I’ll finish that pass in a week or so. Before I start the fourth pass, I’m going to check my timeline to make sure I have it right. Then I’ll be able to better fill in some weather details.



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3 Ways Fiction Uses Tragedy to Teach

bike-592543_640Tragedy has been a key part of literature since Cain killed Abel. Whether the work has just one theme or several story lines and sub-plots, the common element is some series of events that are unpleasant, dangerous or sorrowful. The main characters work to overcome these events


Novelists have often used tragedy to get rid of characters they’ve tired of or just don’t know what to do with. But rather than just using tragedy for convenience, creating some conflict or raising the stakes for a protagonist, are there other uses for tragedy in a story

I’ve come up with three.

First, tragedy points to our sense that life has a purpose.

The reason we consider an untimely death a tragedy is because we sense that person hasn’t fulfilled their purpose, that reason we were put here that is bigger than our own wants or whims.

This is one reason murder mysteries have been so enduringly popular. Lives are cut short, but the murderer does come to justice. We feel he must be caught, as the murder was also theft of the time the victim was deprived of. Who knows what that person might have done in life had they not been struck down?

Then there is the pain brought by the tragedy, pain that leads us to wonder why we suffer. Did we bring this on ourselves, or are we pawns in some cosmic game?

Just asking the questions brings more pain—and more questions. Is there a purpose in all this suffering? And if there is, what is it? And Who gave it to us?

Second, tragedy can explore the decisions made in trying circumstances.

Many of the great tragedies depict people caught in complicated moral dilemmas. Any choice they make will lead to heartache or trouble for someone.

Third, tragedy can show us our own fatal flaws.

Often in literature we can see the protagonist headed for trouble. His own fatal flaw prevents him from avoiding the disaster that brings great suffering. His own errors bring on the suffering.

Fiction can do a wonderful job showing us the mistakes of others, that maybe we can avoid. Maybe our mistakes wouldn’t lead to the downfall of an entire civilization or lead to the destruction of a planet. But through the example of others, we can learn how refusing to take advice or over-estimating our own abilities can lead to calamity.

One great example of tragedy that does all three is the death of Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry and his friends are in a battle for their lives, and Sirius and some others have come to rescue them.

At one point, Harry is intrigued by an arch in the middle of the room. It doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, but when he stands on one side of it, he hears voices calling to him. His friends pull him away, sensing nothing good will happen if Harry walks through the arch.

Later, in the heat of the battle, Sirius is wounded and falls through the arch and disappears. Only later does Harry learn that Sirius had died.

Here we see the tragedy of Sirius’ death: he didn’t fulfill his purpose as Harry’s godfather, to guide him through increasingly dark times. Sirius, however, was there to rescue Harry from danger, knowing full well it could mean his own demise. Love and loyalty triumphed over self-preservation.

And Harry later had to face up to the fact that none of them would have been there in mortal danger had he listened to advice and thought before he acted.

But Sirius’s death wasn’t completely without meaning, Harry learns. Sirius did what he knew he had to do, to fulfill his role as Harry’s guardian, even to the death.

And the voices Harry heard were those who’d died and gone on before, waiting for the living to join them. Death, Harry was told, was nothing to fear, that it is like passing through a door.

Tragedy, then can be used to explore questions of the meaning of suffering and life itself, to explore the consequences of choices made when faced with moral dilemmas, or to show us our own flaws and how they can lead us into failure.

How have you seen tragedy used in fiction? Or used it yourself in your writing?

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Why Christian Art Matters

vienna-1652804_640When I was thirteen, two lines in a novel changed my life.

Thirteen is a tough age. It’s a time of feeling awkward and ugly, unsure of the world and everything in it. It’s hard enough to make sense of the world, let alone make sense of yourself.

Leaving the house to go to school each morning often felt like going off to the wars. Every advance to maturity that I made was a hard-fought battle, facing down foes real or imagined, like making my way through a thick fog with no roadmap.

On top of the usual adolescent angst, my life was made turbulent by a hypercritical atheist father who resented my embrace of Christianity.

Thankfully, thirteen was a long time ago.

How did I make it though, I sometimes wonder.

A big part was my faith, the sure knowledge of the Rock I could stand upon, no matter how stormy life became. Fights with friends and arguments with my father all were bearable when I clung to the love of Christ.

There were moments of light, found sometimes in the pages of Scripture or a joke shared over pizza with a friend. Or the bracing chill of cold air on my face on the ice skating rink. Or the endless marathon games of Spades played late on Saturday nights.

But one day stands out vividly as the day some of the fog lifted.

Some years earlier I had bought a book at a garage sale. It was called Hope of Earth, a novel written in the forties. At the age of nine, I didn’t find it interesting. I couldn’t relate to the newly married heroine. And there was some talk of God I just didn’t get.

At thirteen, I gave it another try.

It changed my life.

Two lines still stand out.

You can’t please a man who is not pleased with himself.

Nothing you can say can change the truth.

The first gave me an insight into my father like a laser cutting through steel. In an instant I understood why nothing I did was ever good enough, or ever would be.

He wasn’t pleased with himself. So nothing would ever please him.

Like a rock rolling off my soul, I was free from feeling I had to live up to what my father demanded.

The second line gave me a way to respond when my father, harnessing all his scientific knowledge, attempted to prove to me that religion is a farce and only stupid people would believe in God.

I might not have an answer for him, but nothing he could say could change the truth.

Those two lines, added to my faith, provided a touchstone as I navigated the next several years, and beyond. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had not stumbled on them. Would I have spent years trying to please someone who couldn’t be pleased? Would my faith have crumbled under my father’s attacks?

(Possibly not: my stubbornness might have seen me through. But that’s a topic for another post.)

Those two lines show the power of literature, the power that fiction can play in our lives.

Which leads me to ponder other reasons that Christian art, especially literature, matters.

My own example shows how literature holds a mirror up to us, and shows up ourselves and others in ways we hadn’t seen before. We gain a new perspective, a new understanding of ourselves and others.

This new perspective can also teach us much.

Without naming them as such, Christian literature can show worth of Christian values like honesty, self-sacrifice or faithfulness. Or it can show the cost of ignoring these.

Literature can also explore the unintended consequences of well-meaning actions, such as when in the name of “love” or “family” people pursue morally questionable paths.

Taken further, literature can play out scenarios where characters commit actions that look good on the surface, but in fact have evil consequences. Or the reverse: the actions appear evil on the surface, but when seen from another point of view, aren’t. Or at least they are understandable and call for compassion, not scorn.

In our so very divided world, fiction can become a more neutral ground to explore ideas and their consequences. We can live vicariously through the characters we read about, following them as they make choice we’d be too afraid to make, groaning in their failures, cheering their victories.

Just as the beauty of a painting can touch our souls, the images we create with our words can help us, for a moment, encounter some of what we’ve lost in our busyness, materialism and the distractions of social media and other amusements.

Those word pictures, then, can be used to dig up the rocks from the hard soil of hearts hardened in our postmodern world, readying them to receive the living water that quenches thirst for all eternity.

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[VIDEO] Can You Solve This Dilemma?

In thinking about moral dilemmas, I came across this little video that describes what’s called the trolley problem.

Briefly, you’re near the junction of some train tracks. Five people are tied to one track, one to the other. A runaway trolley is headed for the junction. The switch is set so that the trolley will go down the track with the five people on it. You can move the switch so the five survive and only the one person dies.

This is a dilemma that often comes up in fiction. Do you sacrifice one for the many? Allow just a few people to die to save many more?

The video explains the decision-making process in terms of rational thought or emotional thought.

Someone could rationally decide that saving five is better than saving one. Or you could reason emotionally that you wouldn’t be able to live with yourself if you killed the one person by your actions.

Either way, the reasoning of the person would be influenced by their worldview. We can see this come out in stories like The Lord of the Rings. Aragorn led his army to what seemed to be certain defeat and death. He reasoned this was the only way Frodo would have to destroy the ring and with it, their evil enemy Sauron. Aragorn was willing to sacrifice the lives of many to wipe out evil.

A more utilitarian leader would have reasoned any life was better than none, and better to be alive under Sauron than march to death, pinning all hope on a hobbit.

While the utilitarian may have appeared more rational, he only considered the immediate impact on his life, the practical outcomes, rather than the larger question of good and evil.

And he wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome a hero as Aragorn.


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Wanting Justice

justice-683942_640What does it mean to want justice? That you want a fair outcome to some conflict, or you feel a lack, a “wanting” of justice in the society in which you live?

Both thoughts were in my mind as I drafted the second novel in my fantasy series. It’s working title is (no surprise) Wanting Justice.

In the novel, my hero Terek, who’s about eighteen, is beginning to observe the world he lives in a bit more carefully. He’s been brought up to believe in the values promoted: peace, safety and fairness as the way to prosperity for all.

The problem, as Terek sees it, is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of peace or safety. Bandit attacks on traders and travelers between villages and towns are becoming more frequent and the King’s Guard appear powerless to stop them.

Fairness also seems to be in short supply. As a trader’s son, Terek was brought up in the markets, watching his father negotiate prices. Terek’s seen plenty of false scales or clerks who don’t seem to know how to count, or to record their counts accurately. And those in charge don’t seem to care.

The more Terek observes, the more he wonders. Fairness for all, and the sacrifices all are to make to achieve it, is supposed to bring about prosperity. The country is four hundred years old. Terek wonders how long the elusive prosperity will tarry before that dream is realized.

Injustice spills over into Terek’s family. Terek’s mother and her family despise his father, to the point his father has not been permitted into the family home for over five years. Terek’s heard whispers of his father’s womanizing, which naturally stirred up some resentments. But as he began traveling with his father more, he saw no evidence of carousing on his father’s part. Rather, there seems to be an almost ascetic, prim attitude toward women.

Then a series of revelations rock Terek’s world. All that he thought about the kingdom he inhabits and the family he belongs to was proven to be false.

And so he sets out to discover the truth and to figure out how to set things right.

Several moral questions arise for my characters. For the adults in Terek’s life, the question of how and when to reveal the truth of his birth. Some chose to delay the truth out of concern for him, others to retain the knowledge as a weapon to be used against each other.

Knowing when to tell a child hard things about their past is a dilemma many parents have faced. When is the best time to reveal devastating secrets? Will telling the child too early be destructive? Will telling too late be seen as deceptive, destroying trust?

Another question is defining “fairness.” We all frame what we think is fair from our own perspective. Another’s perspective gives them an entirely different idea. Both points of view could be right, partially right, or flat out wrong.

How is one to know?

And what should be done about it?

Terek finds that sometime the answers are more disturbing than that questions. And that some actions people take may appear to be wrong on the surface. But when he learned their motives and perspective, what appeared evil at first turned out to have been done for his benefit. And those who pretended to help may have had selfish intentions, making their “good” actions really bad.

As I write I realize the novel could be summarized by saying that making judgements without having all the facts doesn’t always lead to justice.

Something I’ve often see play out in my own life.

Have any of you?

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Who Moved My Goals?

new-years-day-1838254_640I’m learning that goal-setting is a trick business. Life has a way of adding new, urgent priorities. Procrastination, fueled by perfectionism and fear, doesn’t die easy.

If I’ve learned anything these past few years, is that to-lists only go so far.

This is because work has a way of expanding to the available time.

So I have a new strategy. I still make my list. But I also am setting time goals for how long I will spend each day on different projects.

If I don’t achieve everything on the list, that’s ok. Sometimes tasks take longer than you thought they would.

On those wonderful days I do achieve what I’d written down and there’s still time left, then I keep  working on that project, and get further than I planned.

I’ve been experimenting with this new plan for two weeks. The results have been astounding. I’ve gotten easily four times as much done as I thought I could.

Just be instituting the discipline of set hours of work. Duh.

What’s on tap for 2017? Here’s the plan:

  1. Finish revising Raising Fear, #1 in the quartet
  2. Edit Raising Fear
  3. Publish Raising Fear
  4. Revise Wanting Justice, #2 in the quartet
  5. Blog weekly
  6. Track my productivity and hold myself to a serious work schedule
  7. Find critique partners

And just for grins…

8.Participate in NaNoWriMo. (This year I actually have an idea for it!)

So breaking this into quarters:


  1. Finish revising Raising Fear, at least 3 hours per week
  2. Figure out a way to track productivity and get started
  3. Post 13 blog posts
  4. Look for critique partners/participate in critique group
  5. Schedule an editor
  6. Look for book cover desinger for Raising Fear


  1. Edit Raising Fear
  2. Keep tracking productivity and make adjustments as needed
  3. Post 13 blog posts
  4. Look for critique partners/participate in critique group
  5. Proofread Raising Fear
  6. Design book cover for Raising Fear
  7. Write marketing plan for Raising Fear


  1. Publish Raising Fear
  2. Market Raising Fear
  3. Start revisions of Wanting Justice
  4. Outline NaNo novel
  5. Keep tracking productivity and make adjustments as needed
  6. Post 13 blog posts
  7. Look for critique partners/participate in critique group


  1. Draft NaNo novel
  2. Revise Wanting Justice
  3. Promote Raising Fear
  4. Keep tracking productivity and make adjustments as needed
  5. Post 13 blog posts
  6. Look for critique partners

Maybe this will be the year!

Happy New Year to all of you, and to your success!

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Writing in Three Dimensions

Favorite NovelsOr, Why I Write This Blog

My mother tells me she taught me to read when I was barely four just so I could read for myself and stop bugging her to read me a story.

That love of reading hasn’t ebbed one bit.

From fairy tales to epic fantasy, science fiction, mystery or thrillers, I’ve devoured it all. Historical novels and history in non-fiction, political science and theology have all claimed my attention.

Like many readers, I never thought I could be a writer. How could anyone come up with a good story, let alone the characters? And write it so people will actually enjoy it?

That seemed to me a gift I just hadn’t been given.

Then I became a writer, almost against my will. Beyond the Rapids, the story of a Ukrainian family, is a work of creative non-fiction, more specifically, memoir.

It was in crafting the story, in arranging it, in finding the right words and right images, that I developed a love for writing. It doesn’t quite match my love for reading, but I don’t think it ever will.

At first I thought Beyond the Rapids would be my first and last book. After it won an award, I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I could learn to be a writer.

So, I set myself to writing fiction.

That was several years ago.

As I write, I’m taking the time to learn different aspects of the craft of writing. I’m also trying to decide what I want to do with my writing.

Some write simply to entertain. They write beach reads or cozy stories that people can easily digest and get a few hours’ pleasure from.

There’s nothing wrong with that. At times, that’s the kind of book I feel the need for.

But I started to think that I wanted to do a bit more.

I thought about the books that I’ve loved the most, the ones that captured my imagination, the ones that have made the greatest impact on how I view myself and the world. The mysteries of Dorothy Sayers. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The works of CS Lewis. Kurban Said’s Ali and Nino. Random works from Jane Austen, Dickens, Ayn Rand and Brandon Sanderson.

Diverse as these authors are, I realized they have three elements in common.

The first is that they all tell great stories. Stories that can be read over and over.

The second is that they are all superbly written, examples of the craft at the highest level.

The third is they all write from their worldview. Whether they present it explicitly (Ali and Nino, and many of Lewis’ works) or implicitly (Lord of the Rings), worldview is there.

Their worldviews aren’t always the same, or ones I agree with. But by writing within a framework of worldview, they can explore how that worldview explains our world. By looking at the world through their eyes, I can see my own perspective in a new light.

Also, by writing from a coherent worldview, the authors explore how to make sense of a world that often seems senseless, or delves into the struggles of ordinary people to find meaning in their pain. They can also probe and explore complicated moral dilemmas in ways that shed light on the choices we make on a daily basis.

And I, as the reader, watch the characters grow and transform.

Nearly every writer does this, at least the great ones. Voltaire, Shelley, George Orwell, Shakespeare and Jean Paul Sartre all come to mind. We can find example after example in popular fiction, such as Stephen King’s The Green Mile, with a Christ-figure as a central character.

Different worldviews lead to different kinds of books. Most of the ones I loved so well had a Christian or Christian-inspired worldview. While many authors show what’s wrong with our world, only the Christian ones show how transformation and reform can happen. I’m not counting the ones that have autocratic government taking control. Doesn’t seem like transformation for the better to me!

Which leads me to aspire to write in all three dimensions.

To write great stories.

To write them well.

And to write them from the worldview of the Bible, to explore some of its themes, to challenge the stereotypes our culture has about the Bible and Christianity, and to glorify the giver of Faith.

Our culture seems to be more resistant to listening to what the Bible has to say about life, death and our significance. My goal is to show through fiction the truth of the scriptures that there is hope in are suffering, something worth living and dying for, because Someone died for us.

This blog is my journey of exploring. Sometimes I’ll be just telling a story. Sometimes I’ll be exploring different aspects of the craft of writing. And sometimes I’ll be looking at worldview, whether an example in something I’ve read or watched, or am writing myself.

If you’d like to follow along, subscribe to receive email notices of my latest posts. Or you can just stop back every Friday to see what’s new.





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How’d Those Goals Work Out?


success-259710_640The start of a new year is packed with optimism. A new year, full of opportunities to accomplish great things.

Then December rolled around. Achievements? Not so many.


I try to set ambitious goals for myself. But the past few years, it’s been nearly impossible. Too many deaths or family needs. Not to mention the joyous addition of a new grandson. Life has a way of changing our plans.

And so does procrastination. Too much worrying about getting things perfect instead of just doing my best caused me to waste entirely too much time.

So what got done this year?

  1. Finish drafting Stinging Power, #3 in my fantasy quartet

Stinging Power was my NaNo novel last year, and I did have well over 50,000 words by the end of November, 2015. I planned to finish it by the end of January. It took me until the end of March, partly because the story just kept spinning itself longer and longer.

  1. Finish revising Raising Fear, #1 in the quartet

The best I can say here is that I got started. I have some good feedback from beta readers, and have lots of notes. I do think when I’m done, I’ll have a much stronger story. Now it’s just a matter of getting down to business.

  1. Edit Raising Fear

Didn’t get there.

  1. Publish Raising Fear

Or here, either.

  1. Revise Wanting Justice, #2 in the quartet

Or here.

  1. Edit Wanting Justice

Or here. Sigh.

  1. Blog weekly

This I did keep up with. Score 1!

  1. Track my productivity and hold myself to a serious work schedule

I had such good intentions…

  1. Find critique partners

Does sporadic participating in an on-line group count?

  1. Participate in NaNoWriMo.

I realized by September, this wasn’t going to happen. Part of the problem is I didn’t have an idea that really grabbed me. I also knew I was going to get caught up in all kinds of non-writing related tasks that attempting NaNo wasn’t going to be at all realistic. Little did I know that in November there would be a death in the family, and the death of a close friend.

But what went wrong?

The big problem, I think, is my fear of turning out a second-rate, dull novel that no one will want to read. The solution is to get down to work and make sure that’s not going to happen.

As they say, you can’t beat someone who won’t give up. And that’s really the difference between success and failure.

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to your success in the New Year!





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A Tale of Two Women

Last month I lost two women who were close to me. The contrast between them could not have been greater.

anayakOne was born in India, in to a loving family. Her parents cared for her, protected her, and got her started in life. They valued the idea of educating their daughters, which was not common for that time.

She worked hard, and used her intellect and abilities to graduate from medical school. Not many women got that much education back then, especially a girl from a modest family.

She prayed for a miracle, and God answered. He opened the way for her to go to America, where she followed her dreams and became an allergist. She settled in a small city of the Midwest, and built a large practice, helping many overcome allergies and asthma.

On top of that, she built a large clinical trials practice and published hundreds of papers. She also traveled extensively, teaching and lecturing. Very few physicians outside of university research settings did what she managed to do.

Her career came to a crashing halt when she was diagnosed with cancer.

marianabdayThe other woman was born in Mexico, into a poor family. Her oldest uncle barely finished the second grade, her mother didn’t get much past high school.

When she was born, she didn’t breathe properly. It took several minutes to get her respiration started.

No one knew the depth of the damage that oxygen deprivation caused. It wasn’t until she was 12 that she was diagnosed. Brain damage and mild mental retardation. Later, in her teens she developed schizophrenia.

One of her uncles moved to America and finished graduate school. He invited his sister and her two daughters to join him. Fourteen years later, their papers came through.

The one niece attended college. The other, the handicapped one, languished. Her mother died of cancer, leaving her in the care of her sister.

We prayed for a miracle, and God answered. He opened the way for her to be placed in a wonderful residential program in Mexico, one of only a handful of places like it in the country. There she found a place where she would be encouraged to fulfill her potential.

Her education came to a crashing halt when she died suddenly.

While so very different, these two women have much in common. They both came from poverty. They both cared a great deal about people. Both were victims of sexual assault. Both loved fine food. (And IHOP.)

Both brought me great joy, in their companionship and their love. Both will be missed greatly, in different ways.

Most importantly, both loved Jesus, knowing that He died to set us free from sin, our own, and the effects of having been sinned against. Both are now with Him, free of pain and illness.

Which is the best gift any of us can receive this Christmas season. The gift of eternal life.

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