Monday, March 31, 2008

Glen Eyrie Writer's Conference 4/27-30

For those of you who've's some further information on a wonderful writers' conference. If you've never been to Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs, the Navigator's website just can't do it justice. It's heavenly, infused with divine peace.

Here's what's going on the week I'll be there. Join me if you can!


We—Nancy Rue, Alton Gansky, Kathy Mackel, and Angela Hunt—are so excited about our upcoming adventure. Some of you have questions about what will be covered in each track, so we’ve put together brief synopses for you! We’ll talk more on our first night together, so you know just what to expect.

Oh! And if you’re adventurous, you might want to pack a pair of (modest) pajamas for our pajama party! Nightwear not required, however. J

Novels With Nancy (continuing course)
Whether you’re coming with a completed manuscript in hand or simply the germ of an idea in your head, Novels With Nancy will take you from where you are in the development of your novel and guide you through one approach to creating rich fiction. We’ll use a hands-on, workshop approach to:

· clarifying where you want your book to go thematically
· fleshing out a powerful plot
· discovering and getting to know multi-dimensional characters
· creating setting that is in itself a character

NOTE: This is not a nuts-and-bolts lecture class. Come prepared to write (laptop or long-hand), imagine, and try some things that may sound a little out there!

And in the afternoon Nancy will teach. . .

Manuscript Mentoring: “And Then It Got Worse” – Bring your manuscript, summary, plot outline, or just an idea and we’ll work specifically on your special plot challenges.

Manuscript Mentoring: “Who ARE These People?” – Bring your characters with you in whatever form they now live (don’t’ let them be shy), and we’ll treat them to an afternoon of hands-on development

Public Speaking for Writers: Al Gansky (continuing course)

Sooner or later it’s going to happen. You’ve written a book and someone wants you to speak to their church, Rotary Club, women’s luncheon, men’s breakfast, or some other gathering. How should you prepare? How long should you speak? How do you write a speech? Can you get rid of the butterflies in your stomach? Alton Gansky who has delivered more than 3,000 speeches, sermons, workshops, classes, keynotes, and more, will take the student through the basics of speech writing and delivery—and have fun doing it. The class is open to writers or others who need to stand before others and talk.

Writing the Difficult Scenes: Al Gansky

Every novelist (and nonfiction writer, too) faces scenes that are more difficult to write than others. From love scenes to descriptions of violence these scenes tax the writer’s creativity. How much is too much? How little is too little? Alton Gansky, author of 30 books, will give the student the tips and techniques that make every scene, no matter how difficult, do its job.

Screenwriting: Kathy Mackel (continuing course)

Let’s workshop your story, capture its soul and discover its the visual essence. Define the three-act structure of your plot. Script your opening scene and storyboard your climax.

Polish and Shine: Kathy Mackel

Let’s take apart the first 300-500 words of your story, examine word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, tone, and pacing. We spiff it up together, send you off to rewrite, and cheer when you come back with your shine. Limit 10 writers per session, first come, first serve. Please email Kathy ahead of time with your pages ( Fiction and non-fiction welcome.

The Freelance Writer: Angela Hunt (continuing course)

So you want to write—but you’re not sure what! Do you write novels or articles or speeches or plays? Do you write for pleasure or for profit? Could you make a living with your pen? Angela Hunt will discuss the various markets and show you how you can break into them. She’ll also show you how to tighten up your prose to improve your odds of acceptance. She’s a firm believer that anyone can write anything, as long as they understand the blueprints!

Reading Analytically: Angela Hunt

Ever read another writer and wonder how they managed to create such a lovely string of words? How they managed to transport you to another place and time? We’ll learn how to read analytically so we can dissect writing to see what works . . . so you can use the same tools to make your own writing sing!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Looking for a Good Book? Try Chapter-A-Week

It's hard enough to find books that are just right for everyone. Chapter-a-Week gives readers the opportunity to read sample excerpts from a broad range of Christian fiction every week without having to pay a cent! Plus it's a great way to discover new authors you might not have found otherwise. We don't fill your inbox with needless emails. Only one email per week is all it takes to discover great new titles.

Founded in February 2002 by beloved novelists Jane Orcutt and Angela Hunt Chapter-a-Week has had a steadily growing readership. Chapter-a-Week is a Yahoo! Group, so simply sign on to be a subscriber of the list and you'll start receiving your excerpts every Friday. Just go to: and click "join this group."

Tasha's Gone, Sultana Rules

My daughter accuses me of putting gross pictures on my website but some things must be seen to be believed.

First, a word about the BadCat. Most animals freak out or mourn if they lose a companion pet. Not this girl. She's taken over the house completely, strutting as if she drove the final nail. She does, however, seem to be at loose ends, doing a lot of rolling and meowing, following even me from room to room.

But, if you look at her picture from this morning, there is no question who is now the alpha dog (okay, so she's a cat) in this household.

I was just sitting on the front porch, looking out at our acre of snow as the sun beat down on my shoulders, enjoying a little moment of praise.

BadCat comes up. I ignore her because to greet her is to invite disaster. She rubs against me, purrs, climbs on my lap, sends fear into my marrow as she rubs her face against mine. I venture a pat, then another, and we have a moment of harmony.

She walks away, purring.

I sit, soak in the Spirit, and out of nowhere, she attacks me! She whacks my arms in three rapid-fire blows. Mind you, I'm wearing two long-sleeve shirts, but she gets deep into the skin. The picture cannot do her damage justice because I've got wounds on the other side of my arm, and bruises are beginning to form.

What did I do, other than love her? She has pierced me deeply and without provocation.

The spiritual analogy is too chilling to offer.

I need a dog.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Frozen in Time

I've been climbing the hill, taking care not to step on Tasha's footprints as I go. Eventually the spring will have its way, melt the foot of snow that's still out in the woods, and Tasha's legacy will disappear.

Yesterday a cold front came in, and today an icy wind blows. I know when I go out to hike today, I won't be crashing through snow or ice but walking on top of it. Tasha's footprints will be frozen and uneraseable, at least for the next few days.

And I think, how fitting for Good Friday. This is a day when the sun blackened, time stopped, eternity held its breath. Creation was frozen in time while the Savior completed His work. We know Easter will come but on that day, his disciples and followers didn't understand.

They could only look at his last bloody footprints that led to the cross...and wonder when time would wash them away.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rest in Peace, Natasha 1990-2008

Faithful companion of Kathy and Steve, Natasha is survived by Sultana ("BadCat") and her good friend Maddie. Ms. Mackel was pre-deceased by her beloved cat friends Martha, Frisco, and Keyser, whom she protected from coyotes and cuddled with on every possible occasion. A canine member of the 4000-ft club, Natasha spent her last day eating tuna fish and climbing the big hill next to her home--twice.

No condolences necessary--we climbed a lot of mountains together. She earned her rest on the mountain top.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Hate Billy Crystal

Oooh, what an awful thing to say on a Sunday morning. Palm Sunday, of all times.

And I don't really hate Billy Crystal, though I do suffer the Red Sox fan's reflex of despising anyone or anything adorned with a Yankee insignia.

But I do envy Billy because this week he lived my dream. (Okay, the dark side of my dream, given the whole New York Yankee thing.) For his 60th birthday, the Yankees signed him to a one-day contract and he got to bat in an actual game. He struck out but word is he actually got the bat on the ball and hit one foul of the first base line.

Marj and I are teaching a Sunday School class on the book of Daniel. Today's ice-breaker question is: "Have you ever sacrificed your dream for the good of someone else, or for the greater good?"

Today we'll be looking at chapter 10. Israel has been in exile for 70 years and Daniel is now into his 80's. Cyrus has given Israelites permission to return to Jerusalem and re-build the temple. This is something Daniel has longed for since being taken to Babylon. And yet, when permission is given to return, Daniel stays behind. Scholars believe it's because he could serve Israel--and God--better by remaining in his post of high authority and interceding for the people there.

Daniel didn't ink that one-day contract.

I'm of the age where I can't help but think about unfulfilled dreams. When I speak to women's groups, I joke about the realization when I was about 10 that I would never play for the Boston Red Sox, simply because I was a girl. I go on to unfulfilled dreams...singer, dancer, astronaut.

Writer was never in my plans. When my sister Janice Freeman was a star pharmaceutical rep, it didn't enter her mind that she would become a fitness trainer, and serve many women who are rediscovering their own dreams.

God wills what He will, and it's a blessing--and a challenge. Those Israelites who returned home, found rubble and opposition.

Tell me your dreams. Tell me what you've given up, and what you've found. And if you dare, tell me God's dreams for you.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Just a Little Taste

So we still have snow on the ground. Some south facing hills are barren but in my yard and the woods, the snow can run two feet deep. Snow is a misnomer at this point...with the rain and snow and thaw and freeze, it's more like freezer ice. The woods can be treacherous. I can be walking along, mushing through the mess when suddenly I break through a layer of ice and end impaled in the snow up to my thigh. I now know what it means to hyper-extend the knee.

Tasha has the same struggles. She's lighter and her weight is distributed over four limbs so she's less likely to break through, but when she does, the look on her snout is pure betrayal. She's gotten cautious, afraid to walk through three inches of water. Weeks earlier, she'd fallen into the same water when it was two feet deep. She doesn't trust her eyes now, nor my urging.

With all of it, there's a taste of spring in the air. Yesterday was a bit over thirty degrees, with a brilliant sun that was an absolute tease. The breeze is so clean, I want to drink it. Spring dances over my head but winter clogs my steps.

Heaven is in the air...but I know what it's like to crash through hidden ice, and hyper-extend my soul.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thumbs Up

Elsi was kind enough to email me to ask if I was OK. I fact, I expect to be better than all right in a couple months.

I had a joint replacement in my thumb last week. Arthritis had worn away the cartilage in all my finger joints and my thumb has been particularly troublesome because I can't grip. My sister Janice Freeman has had similar surgery years ago, though her surgeon used a tendon to cushion the joint, a procedure called Excisional Arthroplasty.

Joint replacements in fingers have been almost 100 percent failures with the exception of the major thumb joint, which now has a long-enough success record (6 years) that I elected to go with the prosthetic implant rather than the tendon cushion. If this doesn't work, I'll have to have the same surgery Janice had. But I'm hopeful.

And I'm grateful. I have a tremendous amount of metal in my left side now (hip, shoulder, 3 fingers). I'm no bionic woman but the improvement in quality of life is a blessing.

Now that I've learned to type with one hand and a couple fingers, I'll be back to posting. Tasha and I have continued to walk, me using my hiking pole to protect my new hip/shoulder/now hand on the ice.

It's all good. And it's all God.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

That's Life!

I love to look out the front door in the early morning, praise the Lord for the sunshine and the new day.

Today it's pouring rain on top of the six inches of snow we got over the weekend. It's a driving, gray rain. An angry rain, it feels to me. Even when I look past it, I gaze over the soggy snow and into the barren trees and see no light.

I tell myself rain is a blessing, that water is the physical essence of life, that this water offered from sky to land will make the grass green and the flowers bloom and the vegetables hearty. I remind myself that the water slapping the ground is only a shadow of the living water, the stream of life that nourishes my soul.

That's life that I see from my front porch. It's not always sunshine and sweet music. Sometimes it's hard and cold. But necessary.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Raging Against the Glass

So I'm awakened last night by a howl and a scream. Turns out Sultana is having a cat fight. Only...she's inside, and the cat she's fighting is outside. We have the full glass front door, and even in the darkness, Sullie spotted this fluffy black cat licking Tasha's food bowl. Utterly disgusting but Sullie does the same thing.

She's at the door, uttering a continuous yowl. Loud enough to wake up Steve, a sound sleeper, and Tasha, who sleeps like the dead. I try to shoo her away (no way I touch this cat...ever) but she's not moving. Fluffy takes the challenge on the other side of the glass, begins her yowl. I tap on the glass, try to get her to go away.

Finally, she leaves the porch. Sullie runs into the office to watch from that window. I close her in there, thinking it's over.

Awhile later, Fluffy comes back and darn, if Sullie doesn't get herself out of the office and start up the fight all over again. This time she's beyond peeved...she's enraged and leaps at the glass, snarling, hissing, claws out.

Nothing can come of such activity, of course...a useless, impotent fight only disturbs those around you, brings a bump off the glass but no resolution for the warrior. Sometimes we batter the image we see in the mirror. Sometimes we yowl against the glass ceiling we think is heaven. Sometimes we want to rip and shred that which we can't possibly touch.

How many times have I said this? Get thee behind me, BadCat.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Enough, Already