Thursday, March 30, 2006

Happy April Fools' Day!

I know it's a day early. Did I fool you? Nope? Didn't think so. Actually, I hardly know what day it is myself. I've been sick, still am a bit, so life has been one long blur.

I thought of any number of April Fools' jokes I could play on you guys here. But knowing how things can get taken out of context on the Internet, I decided not to do anything that could come back and haunt me later. Instead, I leave you with some world-famous April Fools' jokes. I actually remember #4.

Enjoy your day and play a (nice) prank on someone.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

POV: Whose story is it, anyway?

March Madness was so “mad” that Peter didn’t think of a post for Monday, as you’ve no doubt already figured out because you are all so bright. All he can say is, “Go UCLA.” Now, I think this is interesting given who he was pulling for in football, but I’m not going to bring that up. I’ve already given Mike a wide opening to hijack this blog if he weren’t so busy writing his book. But since he’s occupied, I’m safe.

I think.

Point of View. We talk about it a lot in writing, generally in relationship to two things: head hopping and what a POV character can know. So if you stay in one head per scene and don’t have your character do something like thinking about raking her hand through her glorious auburn curls and blinking her emerald green eyes (unless she’s a self-absorbed ego maniac), you’re good.


I’ve read two books recently that deepened my understanding of POV as a storytelling technique. The first was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. If you haven’t read it, it’s the story of a man who takes his family to be missionaries in the Congo on the eve of its independence from Belgium in the late 50s. The story is told through his four daughters ranging in age from five to fifteen. A couple of section intros are told from the mother’s POV after she’s in America looking back. But that’s it. Essentially, The Poisonwood Bible is four stories, one for each of the POV girls. It’s not really about the mother or the father, so their POVs are unnecessary, though on the face of it, you would think it would be natural to include their POVs. Through over 500 pages, you grow emotionally attached to these girls as they grow and live their lives. It’s their story, and you want to know what happens.

In contrast, I read a book (it shall remain nameless) that, while it kept the traditional POV rules, didn’t seem to know whose story it was telling. It starts out with the heroine and the hero. For about the first 30 pages. Then the heroine disappears and we have three other characters’ POVs. The heroine doesn’t reappear until around page 160. For one scene in her POV. There’s another later on toward the end. That’s it. And the book is supposed to be about her. The story felt disconnected and the characters felt distant.

When I sat down and tried to figure out what was wrong with this book, I realized the author didn’t really seem to know whose story she was telling. Every time we switch POV we start in on someone else’s story. The beginning was the heroine’s. Then it became about another woman. Then the heroine again. If we have five POVs in only 300 pages, and three of them don’t seem to add to the main storyline, then the reader isn’t going to know who to get behind, who to identify with.

This is why I think doing POV well is more than just refraining from head-hopping. It’s knowing whose story you’re telling.

So, what are your thoughts on POV? What do you consider when thinking about adding another POV? What do you notice about the POV in books you read?

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to toss my auburn curls (which I don't have) and pierce someone with my emerald eyes (don't have those either) while I think about it.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

We Have a Winner!

The winner of a copy of Carol Cox's book Ticket to Tomorrow is . . . Malia Spencer!

I think this is particularly nice since Malia just had a birthday Friday. So happy birthday, Malia, and enjoy the book.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Interview with Carol Cox, part two

Today we are continuing the interview with Carol Cox. Her book Ticket to Tomorrow is coming out from Barbour. You can find out more about Carol and her books at

Yesterday we left you hanging with the chilling question What is a javelina? I'm sure you were up all night just waiting for the answer. Well, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Here's the rest of the interview with Carol.

And for those who don’t know, what's a javelina?

LOL Around here, a javelina is also known as a wild pig, although biologists insist its proper name is a peccary. But we aren’t talking about an appealing barnyard animal, like Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. Think “pig with an attitude.” And tusks.

Not something soft and cuddly. It isn’t unusual to spot them from time to time when we’re driving along the highway, but occasionally they show up a bit closer to home.

At one time, we raised show rabbits. (Which could probably spark off a whole new line of questions. ) One morning my son and I were getting ready for a rabbit show, and he was down by the barn, loading the rabbits and their carriers into the back of our station wagon. I went out onto our back porch to check his progress and stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted a javelina hanging out between me and the barn.

Uh-oh. My son would be walking out to the car at any moment, and I needed to warn him. Calmly, of course. Unfortunately, a calm tone raised to a pitch loud enough to be heard some distance away can bear a marked resemblance to a panicked shriek. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Be careful when you come out to the car! There’s a javelina in the yard.

Son (in a nonchalant tone that would have done Gary Cooper proud): A what?

Me: A javelina!

Son: What kind?

Me: BIG!!

Please explain to me how his snickering could bridge the distance between us so much better than my attempts at vocal projection. I thought he handled it all with remarkable aplomb, considering this same son was once treed by one of the critters while visiting a friend’s house. He tells me the tusks make an interesting clacking noise when snapped together. Apparently he was able to observe this at length before the javelina decided to saunter off in search of something more entertaining.

Okay, now that we have the Arizona questions out of the way, let’s get back to the writing. What are you passionate about? What keeps you at your desk when you have letters imprinted on your forehead from banging your head against the keyboard? (Or is that just me?)

You noticed the “waffle” marks on my forehead? : ) The thing that keeps me going during discouraging times is the concept of stewardship. I have been given a certain number of days to use the gifts God has entrusted to me. He has called me to write; therefore, I’m responsible to make the best use the time I’ve been given.

I like that answer a lot because it makes it less about me and more about Him. Ooh, and to be controversial, what do you think about "gritty/edgy" Christian fiction? Where do you see the CBA going?

Good question! The Christian fiction we see today is far different than what was available just a few years ago, with a wealth of different genres opening up. With the recent spate of CBA publishing houses changing hands, there has been a lot of speculation about the direction the CBA will take. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all turns out in a couple of years.

I agree. I think it's a great time to be a writer (or aspiring one) in the CBA. What's the most devastating thing you've heard about your writing? What did you do?

I once got a reader response from a woman who said, “I got as far as page 28, then said Yuck! and threw it down.” Just the thing to brighten a writer’s day. LOL Years ago, something like that would have devastated me. This time, I grinned and told myself I had a viable entry for the “worst review” contest held by a writers group I belong to. If something really bothers me, I allow myself to sniffle for a limited time, then I get back to work. My skin has gotten a lot thicker over the years.

What do you do spiritually to keep writing or to help your writing?

The most important thing I can do for my writing is also the most important thing I can do for myself, and that is to stay in God’s word and continue to build my relationship with Him. The lessons He teaches me and the truths He instills will overflow into my writing.

Who are your favorite authors or authors who have influenced your writing?

I have a hard time picking favorites, because there are so many writers I love, and the list grows all the time.

Me too. I can never answer that question. Which is why I asked it. What's the funniest thing that's happened to you as a writer?

A couple of years ago, my husband and I attended a retreat for pastors and their wives. One of the pastors there came up and told me he’d seen my name mentioned in a recent magazine article. When I smiled and told him I was glad he’d seen it, a dumbfounded expression crossed his face and he said, “You mean that was really you?” LOL I guess it was easier for him to assume some other CBA author shared my name than to believe he was actually reading about someone he knew.

We hear a lot about marketing. Some writers seem to be in the camp of write-the-best-book-you-can marketing. Others believe only the author has the passion to really sell his or her book. And there’s everywhere in between. What are your thoughts here?

I absolutely believe that writing the best book you can is essential. At the same time, I’m getting more and more involved in marketing my books. I think the key here is to find a good balance. I need to do my fair share of marketing, but I can’t spend all my energy on that, or there won’t be enough left over to craft a compelling story.

What are some things you have found helpful? A waste of time?

Helpful things: Connecting with other writers. Reading books on the craft of writing. Learning about different approaches to plotting, etc., and deciding which one works best for me.

Waste of time: Stressing over the direction my career takes. (God is in control, and I need to remember that.) And I’ve really tried to cut back on that head-banging thing. It seems to create a great deal of distress for my chiropractor.

Advice for all of us wannabes?

When those inevitable rejections come, remind yourself that the Bible tells us perseverance produces proven character. What a wealth of opportunities we writers have to develop character! The good news is, more training and support is available than ever before. Get involved with a local or online writing group. Go to conferences, where you can learn both the craft and business aspects of writing and connect with others in the field.

Remember that it’s God’s business when and whether we get published; our responsibility is to obey and be faithful. Delight yourself in the Lord. Focus on becoming the person He wants you to be. Career accomplishments only last for a fleeting moment. Eternal rewards are. . .well, eternal. : )

Thanks so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Jennifer. It’s been fun!

Thanks, Carol. It was fun and you had a lot of really great things to say.

Just as a reminder, anyone who leave a comment will be put in a drawing for Carol's book this weekend. If you don't have a Blogger account, make sure you leave a way for me to contact you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Interview with Carol Cox

Fellow ACFW member and Arizonan Carol Cox has a new book coming out, Ticket to Tomorrow, with Barbour.

Annie Trenton and her late husband's partner, Silas Crockett, step off the train at the great world's fair in Chicago and walk smack into political intrigue. When a stranger accidentally collides with Silas, more than a satchel is unintentionally exchanged, drawing Annie, Silas, and a handsome rodeo rider into a world of deceptions and conspiracies. When Annie's keen powers of observation threaten to expose devious plots, more than her exhibition plans hang in the balance. Will Annie lose her life before she has a chance to surrender her heart?

You can read about Carol’s other books at

I have to confess, this interview was a lot of fun. I'm going to post part one today and part two tomorrow.

Carol, aside from the fact that you’re an Arizonan and this blog is about Arizona and writing, I wanted to interview you because I loved the idea that your historical has suspense in it. I write romantic suspense, but my first two books were historicals (and I have a degree in history), so they have a special place in my heart. What made you come up with the idea to combine those two genres?

Thanks for inviting me to be here today! And I’m glad you like the concept I used in Ticket to Tomorrow. I’ve loved romantic suspense ever since I discovered the genre way back in high school. The love of history came later. Much later. A college professor brought it to life in a way I’d never experienced before, and I haven’t been the same since. Writing this series let me combine those two loves. We haven’t seen much historical romantic suspense in CBA, so I was thrilled at getting the opportunity to do this.

Let’s talk a little bit about your writing process. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Ah, the great “To Plot or Not?” debate! If I had to pick one or the other, I’d have to say I’m more of a plotter. But I honestly don’t believe it’s a matter of either/or. I see it more as a broad continuum, with Pure Plotting at one extreme, Pure Seat of the Pants Writing at the other, and many points in between.

I use note cards to capture ideas about scenes, characters, and plot points, then organize them and put the sequence into a spreadsheet. That gives me a solid grasp on the overall flow of the book, but still allows plenty of latitude for changes as new plot twists take shape during the writing process.

How do you feel about Randy's Snowflake method (not the Arizona town)?

I love it! The first time I heard Randy give a presentation on the Snowflake Method, I knew immediately it was something that would work for me. The more he talked, the more excited I got. That was about the same time some of the SOTP writers in the group turned pale and started to twitch. LOL But it works well for me and fits the way my brain organizes material.

And Snowflake, Arizona, is pretty cool, too. No pun intended. : )

I haven't been there yet. I have, however, been to Christmas, Arizona. You have to love the names of towns here. What's your daily schedule like?

Daily schedule? I wish I had one! LOL I’m a person who likes structure. But with my husband pastoring two churches, things can come up that send our well-ordered plans flying out the window at a moment’s notice. On what I’d like to consider a typical day, I homeschool our daughter in the mornings and spend the afternoons writing. When that happens, it’s wonderful and I count myself blessed. On the days it doesn’t (which seem to be the majority), I write whenever and wherever I get the opportunity. Louis L’Amour used to say he could sit in the middle of Sunset Boulevard and write with his typewriter on his knees. I’m not sure how my laptop and I would fare in the middle of Sunset Boulevard, but I’ve learned to adapt!

Yeah, I've been on Sunset Boulevard. I think you'd be dead, laptop crushed to smithereens. What do you love most about writing? Hate?

I love having a job that lets me make up stories and spend time with characters I love. And I have a legitimate reason to spend hours delving into research. Could anything be more fun than that?

What do I hate most? Getting that first draft down! LOL That is absolutely my least favorite part of the process.

I'm glad you said that, because I think for a lot of us, that first draft is like pulling teeth. What’s your worst writing habit? What do you do to procrastinate when you should be writing?

My worst writing habit would be paying too much attention to the voice of that mouthy little internal editor while I’m trying to get the first draft written. Conventional wisdom says to just turn it off, but I’m still trying to find the switch.

As far as procrastinating, there’s always Spider Solitaire . . . Word Racer . . . and let’s not forget e-mail.

Since a lot of wannabe writers read (or in my case, write) this blog, tell us about your journey to publication. How did you get into writing? Did you always write or did it come to you later?

I wanted to write ever since I realized that books didn’t just materialize on the shelf. Somebody created those stories. I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than being able to do that. I read books on writing and scribbled down ideas for years, but hadn’t shown my writing to anyone but my husband. He encouraged me to keep at it and surprised me one year by sending me to a writers conference as a birthday present. I had completed a manuscript by then, and through the connections I made at the conference, I started the long process of finding a home for my story. And in the meantime, I continued to write. My first book was published in 1998. I’m now working on my twenty-first title, and sometimes still feel like I’m just getting started. There is always more to learn, which is one of the things that makes writing a great occupation!

You live in northern Arizona. Are you a native or did you move here from somewhere else like the rest of us?

Believe it or not, I’m a native. I was born and raised in Phoenix, where my dad—also a native Arizonan—had a dairy farm. My kids are the fourth generation of my family to live in the state.

Since I live in the Valley and am going through mountain withdrawal (soon to be satiated by a trip to Mt. Hermon in Santa Cruz, California), what do trees look like in Arizona?

Having grown up in the desert, I loved getting acquainted with large plants that didn’t have thorns when we moved to northern Arizona. We live in the midst of miles of juniper trees, but there are forests filled with aspens, oaks, and Ponderosa pines only minutes away. I love watching the color of the aspens change to yellow, orange, and gold in the fall!

By the way, Mt. Hermon is a great place to get a “tree fix.” The first year I attended, I got strange looks from people when I’d stand a few inches away from the dogwoods with my camera to get a close-up of those gorgeous flowers! Only those who come from tree-deprived areas can fully appreciate the compulsion to do this.

Ooh, you have seasons! I'm so jealous. And for those who don’t know, what's a javelina?

Don't you just love that hook? I know y'all are just dying to know what a javelina is, so come back tomorrow and find out. Jenny, don't give it away!

Update: Carol has graciously offered a copy of Ticket to Tomorrow for me to give away. Leave a comment (with a way for me to contact you if you don't have a blogger account), and I'll draw a name this weekend.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Monday March Madness, part 3

Y'all were just waiting for this, weren't you? This post is right up my alley. Blood, people getting shot, trips to the ER. My completed manuscript has a whole scene in the ER and a couple of instances of people getting shot. And yes, my life has involved some blood and a few trips to the ER as well. As one nurse told me, I'm kinetically challenged. Let’s just say Peter being married to me has been good preparation for his job. He already knew his way around an ER before this.

By the way, you can tell he’s not a writer: he double spaces after periods. Okay, here's Peter's post.

Your house was dangerous to build! That’s what I discovered after only a few days in my current job as Superintendent/Safety Manager. Walking through a busy jobsite, I felt a “ping” that hit my jeans just below my right hip. A nail from a nail gun “deflected” from a block and, well, let’s just thank God that physics took place, and the nail lost a lot of velocity and momentum! I’ve been working for a local framing company with about 200 employees, and we have been very busy for the last 3 years (the Phoenix Valley is 2nd only to Las Vegas in new homes being built). I enjoy my job, but it has its downfalls (literally!).

Last year, we had over 20 injuries. Besides the various job-site injuries that are very hard to prevent (i.e. falls from ladders, stepping on/getting cut by exposed nails, back injuries, cuts from using hand saws, etc.), over 50% of our injuries are from the hundreds of nail guns that our crews use daily. Nail guns, if used properly, are easy to use, and they are safe. It’s when you forget the safety aspect of it (like looking at what you are aiming at!) that it becomes dangerous. I just took a guy in to the local urgent care because he shot himself in the foot. He said he reached down to pick up the nail gun, and accidentally pulled the trigger. Good thing he was aiming low!

Our guys are very creative in how they injure themselves! Last year, one of our guys shot a nail in his hand (we went to the ER with this one!). The nail went through the base of his thumb, and ended up going through the joint (you could even see the tip of the nail on the other side of the thumb!). They could not pull the nail out (we sat in the ER for 3 hours, and my poor employee just sat there with a nail sticking out of his hand!), so he needed to have surgery. Then, only one month later, one of our foremen shot himself in the shin. The nail penetrated fully into the bone (don’t you love the description here? ☺ ). What hurt worse was when “they” (in the ER) cleaned out the wound. By the way, I know little about health, but when the doctor injected saline into the wound (to clean it out), even I knew it was gonna hurt! Needless to say, he quickly switched over to sanitized water after our injured employee almost passed out!

The best one so far was early last summer. Our favorite victim was walking on top of the roof trusses, setting blocks between them. He bent down and reached for a nail gun that was hanging from the rafters (he was about 15 feet above ground), accidentally pulled the trigger, and “shot himself” in the chest! The first guy who noticed something was wrong didn’t see the accident, but rather saw a small waterfall of blood dripping onto the floor! When I got the call from the foreman, he asked, rather sheepishly, if they should take him to the hospital. I said, as calmly as possible, to “CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY, YOU--[ed. note: I write for the CBA, remember?] The fire department showed up in record time, and they transported him to the ER. The nail fully penetrated into his chest (3” nail is the norm), and missed his heart by about an inch and a half! I met him at the hospital. Needless to say, they were prepping him for surgery. He was/is fine, and was back on the job 3 weeks later! Oh, by the way, the whole jobsite was shut down by the fire marshal, because none of the roads was paved.

Not all “creative” injuries are from nail guns. Two months ago, a guy was using a nail puller (we call them chivas) to pull nails out of a wall … at eye level! Yes, he smacked himself in his nose, and got 6 stitches for the effort. Four days ago, a guy was using a nail gun while on a ladder, lost his balance, and fell down. As he hit the ground, he lost his hard hat, and then was promptly struck by the falling nail gun! Yes, he got 8 stitches for that act! Then, finally, my personal favorite was our version of the “magic nail”. Our employee “claims” that, while nailing a wall together, the nail went through the block, bounced off the concrete slab just below, and flew underneath his safety glasses. It ended up lodged in the top of his nose, not even ¼” from his eye! Lucky for him. He ended up with minor vision problems for a couple of weeks (and a good headache or two), but is now fine.

Believe it or not, but we do practice safety. All of our guys wear hard hats and safety glasses, and all of our nail guns have safety springs attached (before the guys disable them!). But after you shoot a nail gun a few hundred times, it becomes a little monotonous, and safety flies out the window. Chances are, someone got hurt while building your cozy home. Maybe it was just a scratch, maybe more. So when you complain about the roof leaking, or the floor creaking, or the door squeaking, just remember that the hard working blue-collar framing company had nothing to do with it! Blame it on the roofers, or the tile guys, or the door installers. And if you ever pull up your carpet and look at your slab, don't be surprised if you find some blood stains.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

An Up-and-Coming Novelist as Guest Blogger

No, it's not me. It's my daughter. She wrote a book If Second Graders Ruld the World and I thought I'd share it with you. A special preview edition for my loyal blog readers, so you can say you knew her when. Clearly, she takes after her mother, already blowing things up and hurting people. Don't blame me for the creative spelling. Apparently, her publishing house needs to hire a copy editor.

If second graders ruld the world, I would make a big lemonad stand. And save the mony for charity. And make a big roket so people can live on Pluto, Venes, and the moon.

Then the lemonade axsadetly speld on the roket. then the roket blueup while people were in the roket. So the people that were in the roket were floting in outer space. But they got clocer to the moon.

And then they bounsed back to earth. But one of the girls brok her neck. And she had to stay in my casil tell she felt better. And do you know that Aubrey is the one that broke her head on the moon?

And so no budy lived on the moon, or Venes, and Pluto. Because Pluto is very cold. And avery body lived on Earth. They were happy. And avery thing was normal. Exsept 2nd graders ruld the world.

The End.

Blog schedule update:
Monday--March Madness from Peter again.
Wednesday and Thursday--a blog interview with Carol Cox, fellow Arizonan and ACFWer who has a historical suspense coming out from Barbour next month. Don't tell anyone but she has a javelina story. Don't know what a javelina is? Well, you'll just have to come back to find out.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Monday March Madness, part 2

It's Monday all ready. How does it always sneak up on me like that?

Peter's going deep today with a thought-provoking mystery. It might be too early in the week to actually take him seriously, however it's never too early to have a completely nonserious discussion.

Before I post Peter's entry, here's a comment my dad tried to leave about Peter's first post. Though the Ides of March are still a few days away, the whole madness concept still works.

I think the whole March madness thing was started by a writer who had more quips than you could shake a pointy stick at. He once said "beware the ides of March...". This blogger bloke was refering to some politician who was romin' around Italy sipping on an Orange Julius when the outfit he was wearing became a literal point of contention by a friend wearing a totally too tight toga. Perhaps he was just a Beowulf in sheep's clothing. Et tu Brute?

Obviously bad writing and bad humor runs in the family. Okay, here's Peter's post.

Although this has nothing to do with “writing”, I would like to know your thoughts on this.

Last week, the national radio station Air(head) America was shut down by the local radio carrier. Why? Well, (bad)Air America “claims” that they were forced out of the Phoenix market by the ultra-conservative Christian right. In reality, it had to do with ratings. They were the lowest rated radio show in the market! Sounds like Econ 101 to me. (Jen's note: Peter never took Econ 101, I did. Though he got the concept right.)

Anyways, the local radio carrier decided to go with religious programming. I was listening to a pastor (name unknown) preach about how God uses man-made creations to show his glory. He was talking about the Great Pyramid in Egypt, and listed a few possible “clues” that may prove why the Great Pyramid was built in the first case. After a little research, I found the following (from Kent Hovind’s Creation Seminar series):

- the Great Pyramid has no inscription to any Egyptian King (unlike the other 67 pyramids in Egypt).
- Inside, there is a broad way that leads to a pit and a narrow way that leads to the King’s Chamber (does this sound like Matthew 7?).
- The King’s Chamber is on the 50th row of the stones (50 was the year of Jubilee – Lev. 25:11)
- The cornerstone at the top is missing. Some say this is symbolic of Christ as the rejected chief cornerstone (Matt 21:42, Mk 10:12, Daniel 2:45).
- The pyramid was originally covered with 144,000 polished casing stones. That’s the number of witnesses in Revelations 7.

The fact is that no one knows for sure who built the Great Pyramid, and why. Many believe that someone other than the Egyptians built it. Theories range from Adam and his sons, Enoch (it’s the only structure to survive the flood), and even Noah (after the flood). Its an enormous structure, and many believe that it is not possible to build it today, even with our technology. Was the Great Pyramid and some of its features built to be a testimony to God? Thoughts?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

It snowed!

But not our house. Almost though. Can it almost snow? The snow level dropped to 2000 feet. We are about 1500 feet so we missed it, but this picture is of the Superstition Springs Mountains behind our house. I've never seen the snow so low.

Final rain total: nearly two and half inches for us after about 24 hours of steady rain.

And if you think I'm talking a lot about Arizona weather now, just wait until we're routinely hitting 115 degrees.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


After 143 dry days, it's been raining since about 3 AM. A good soaking rain sure to cause a lot of rejoicing and a lot of accidents. We already lost power once.

Peter's happy. He gets out of yardwork today.

It's cold! 41 degrees and they're getting snow in the foothills to the north of us, about a foot.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Happy 38th Peter!

Join me in wishing my wonderful husband of ten years a happy birthday. And, in honor of his heritage, we went to a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant last night. In case you don’t know, that’s where you sit around the grill and the chef puts on a show for you while he’s cooking. The kids had never been, but Peter and I used to go in California.

I thought for sure the kids would love this. We were seated at a grill while nearby a chef was already cooking. Suddenly, his grill flamed up and little “Calvin’s” eyes got huge. “Whoa! Fire!” He stood up in his chair. I got him seated again, and he was happy with his lemonade until our chef showed up.

I think Peter was looking forward to using a bit of his Japanese. My daughter, too, though she tends to mix up Japanese and Spanish. Peter’s family is interesting. Between them, his parents speak seven languages. They only have English in common. On top of that, they didn’t come to the US until well into adulthood (they both lived through World War II in different continents, both enemies of the US), so they argue over how to say things in English. It is great entertainment. Plus, visiting with them is something like a meeting at the UN. I speak French to his mom, a little, while she speaks Japanese and Spanish to Peter. Then my daughter is bugging both Obachan (grandma in Japanese) and Nagypapa (grandpa in Hungarian) to teach her words in Hungarian and German.

Back to our chef. The whole staff in the restaurant is Japanese. So of course, we get the one white guy. He was nice though. Until he lit his grill on fire. Calvin dove under the table and wouldn’t come out. This is my son who is afraid of nothing. Except apparently fire. Guess he actually listened to my lectures on the dangers of it.

Finally, Peter dragged him out from under the table and carried him to the far side of the restaurant where they could watch from a safe distance. Once Dennis our chef pulled out the rice to make fried rice, Calvin was happy and returned to the table. He was fascinated, as I knew he would be, with our chef’s knife skills and soon was imitating him with his chopsticks. Though he was stabbing his food with them instead of using them properly.

I have to say, gaijin that I am (that means white girl) I know how to use chopsticks. I even eat rice with them (major applause, please). I also know enough to know it’s bad luck to stick your chopsticks in the rice bowl sticking up. So of course I have to do that. Peter’s mom would have a cow but nobody in the restaurant even noticed that I was courting bad luck. I live on the wild side. Can’t you tell?

As far as other excitement for the day, it almost rained. Almost. No rain 141 days and counting. They did get rain to the north of us, just enough to get the news helicopters up flying around chasing the raindrops. Also, the mountains got thundersnow. Yes, thunderstorms while it’s snowing. We just got dark skies and a dust storm. There’s nothing like seeing a wall of dust rising up about a hundred feet in the air heading toward you at thirty miles an hour. Woe to you if you leave any windows or doors open. You’ll find silt in the most interesting places for years.

This weekend has the best opportunity for rain. The jet stream is the most favorable it’s been in 12 months, so we’re hoping for a half inch this weekend. Yes, that’ll be the grand total of rain for the winter. A whole half-inch.

Completely unrelated to rain, but equally exciting, is a really terrific blog post Mike the-blog-hijacker-but-I-still-like-him Snyder wrote for theNashville ACFW group blog. If you’re in my crit group (you know who you are: Jenny, Malia, Sabrina) it’s mandatory reading. For everyone else, I highly recommend his take on what makes a good crit group/partner. Thanks, Mike, for not dumping me yet. ☺ Read the article to figure out what I mean.

And while I’m at it, a couple more interesting blogs to visit.

If you haven’t read Diary of an Arts Pastor, you might want to check it out. Scroll down to his February 28 post on his top ten. His take on Christianity, art, and culture is thought provoking without being too far over my head. He’s also an INTJ (Myers-Briggs personality type) like me. Probably why I like him. We’re only one percent of the population. Also in our company: CS Lewis, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Austen, Peter Jennings, Rudy Giuliani. Nice, huh?

If you read Brandilyn Collins’s blog, you’ve already seen this, but I thought it was funny and worth passing on.

More updates on Arizona weather as they become available. Don’t I sound all news-ish?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Monday March Madness, part 1

What is it with March’s association with madness? NCAA basketball has March Madness. There’s the saying, “As mad as a March hare.” Maybe it’s a prelude to spring fever?

Whatever the reason, it’s infected me. I have become mad enough to create something called Monday March Madness on this blog by allowing Peter to post on here each Monday in March. The madness part is my even thinking this was a good idea.

So with great fear and trembling, here is Peter’s first post.

Thanks to my wife for “allowing” me to present my first official blog in cyberspace (big applause). Now, why would you waste your precious time to read a blog from a no-name non-writer?

Well, it's about my 4 year old son. We decided to forget the cooking for one night and go out to eat at Applebees. Why Applebees? Because it’s about a 90 second drive from our home! Anyways, I don’t know if you have an Applebees that you frequent, but the one we go to is quite cramped. The booths and tables are in close proximity to each other. We were unable to get a booth (for you parents out there, you know how important getting a booth is!), so we settled for a table. Unfortunately, my son had access to a very busy aisle of customers, hostesses and waiters/waitresses running by our table.

What do I mean by access? Well, a young hostess was seating customers at the booth next to our table. Remember the close proximity thing? The hostess was backing up to let her customers sit down, and let’s just say that the hostess’ rear end was within arm’s reach of my son, and right at eye level.

My son was playing with his little stuffed dino. Unfortunately, he couldn’t help himself, and did what any 4 year old boy with a stuffed dino would do. He introduced the dino to the hostesses. That’s right: he shook her booty with his dino!

I will not comment as to the attractiveness level of said hostess rear end, but she must have known who “reached out to touch her”, because she turned around with a smile. Unfortunately, I think she was looking at me first! Hey! Just what kind of a guy do you think I am anyways?

All in all, nothing bad happened, except that my son is well on his way to being a teenager. And I have no idea where he got the idea to do this!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Make 'Em Sweat

Do you ever get the impression that God treats us the way we treat our characters? Let me explain what I mean by that. Maybe others don’t plot this way, but for me, one of the key elements in crafting a book is understanding my characters. I need to know two things about them to plot the book. One, what do they want more than anything in the world? Maybe even something they won’t admit to themselves. Two, what do they fear most? What secret do they hide? What wound are they trying to cover up? And mean person that I am, I make my characters go through that fear, that secret, that wound to get what they want most in the world.

Sometimes I think God is like that with us, though usually not so mean, and generally He takes a lifetime rather than 95,000 words. But I guess it’s human nature to want to make a cozy nest out of our comfort zones until life gives us a rude shove out. Our characters are no different, except that we authors get to do the shoving. It’s way more fun to do that to other people than to have it done unto you. Caveat: only shove people who live in your head. Doing it to real life people can be messy.

I’ve been thinking about this a little bit this week since, just as I thought I was getting my life back into its routine, I hurt my back and have been relegated to the couch. I like my routine. It’s my favorite weapon in the battle against the chaos that constantly threatens to envelop this household. And lately it’s been taking a beating. Between extra stuff at church, taxes, the yard, and who knows what else, I’ve felt like I’ve been playing catch-up and yet never quite catching up.

And then yesterday, not only did I wake up with a sore back, I got an interesting little publishing-biz wrinkle I had to iron out that ended up being quite time consuming.

So as usual, I start complaining to God. Some days I’m sure I really annoy Him. Heck, I annoy myself. “Hey, what’s the deal here? I thought I asked you for more hours in the day, not more problems.” We’ve been having this conversation for a couple of weeks. What do I keep, what do I cut, how do I make my life feel less out of control. It’s not really out of control, it just feels that way to me. And we all know, life is all about my feelings.

But He hasn’t been giving me any answers on this. Which I find very odd. Instead He said, “What are you afraid of?”

Uh oh. Smart person that I am, I know where this is going. I do this to my characters. They don’t like it, but it’s good for them. I don’t like it either, but I suspect it’s going to be good for me.

And ultimately, once again I’m humbled by this calling to be a writer. It seems to me a unique privilege God has given us to peek into His mind, to in some small way replicate in our story world what He does in our lives. Words are important to Him. He could have created the universe in any number of ways, but He used words. The book of John tells us Jesus is the Word made flesh. And He’s given us those same tools to create with. Not sure why, but I’ve got to trust that He knows what He’s doing and step out despite my fear.