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Thursday, April 30, 2009

There's a Monster in my Computer

The Denver Nuggets accomplished something last night that they have failed to do since 1994. They made it past the first round of the playoffs.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know I enjoy watching sports. But that's not the point of this post.

The Nuggets could have entered the seven-game series with a fearful attitude. They could have said, "We've lost the last five years. This year won't be any different." But they didn't. They went in with confidence, and won the series 4-1, posting 20+ point losses on the Hornets.

I need to be like the Nuggets.

I have the opportunity to submit a book proposal that will be decided by the time I move to Oklahoma. In other words--I could have that much-longed for contract that would allow me to write full time. No need to worry about a job.

I was discussing it with a writer friend. I told her about my hesitation. She said, "Oh, so you're afraid, just the rest of us."

Bingo. She put the problem into bald words and startled me. Frightened, because like the Nuggets 14-year playoff series drought, the editor has rejected at least ten previous proposals from me. What makes me think this time is any different? So rather than risk rejection, and the crushing disappointment that would come seeing my dream slip away from me at this time ... I'm tempted to not even try.

For shame.

So pray with me about facing the monster in my computer, that I will do my best work, that the editor will look on it with favor ... and that I will be at peace, whatever happens.

And share your own monster stories.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jolene Speaks

January 5, 2001

I love thee, God
How I love thee
Oh how I love him
He is so special to me
He is my dad when I had none
Oh what a God
A God that I love with all my heart
I love you beyond the glory
Beyond my eyes I do love thee
Love love is all I can say
Oh how I love thee

Mom's note: Amen! Now and forevermore.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Tunes

This morning I found myself singing "Boots, boots, boots." I was fetching my snow boots to wear yet another time, sigh. The dusting of snow we received during the night has turned into a normal snow storm--on the 27th day of April.

The silly song represented the last few days for me. I've been singing snatches of hymns, praise songs, and plain old made up songs for hours every day. The sillest one? "May 1st is a week away." Yesterday I adapted the lyrics. "May 1st is still five days away." (Maybe we'll have a snow-free May? I hope so!)

I sing when I'm happy. I sing when I'm sad, to cajole myself out of the mood. When I can't stop singing, that's usually a good indicator that I'm feeling great.

In spite of the snow.

Here is a poem I wrote many years ago, celebrating snow. One of my favorites.


Heavens telling, snow falling
Winter white, God is calling
Hear His voice soft and low
Gentle as new-fallen snow

Catch His words one by one
Flakes glittering in the sun
Heavens telling, snow glist'ning
Winter white, are you listening?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Changing Channels

In an effort to reduce my living expenses, I recently turned off Cable. That left me with three major networks, even if I lost some of my favoritie shows on CBS. Unfortunately, two of those three stations changed to all digitial broadcasting on April 12th. So I am left with Fox or ... well, you know ... Fox. (Yes, my tv watching has decreased.)

On the radio, our hockey and basketball teams switched stations last fall. They are now located on a hard-to-find AM station in the high ranges. I can usually tune in from the study; in the bedroom, where I often listen as I drift off to sleep, the static is so bad I can't understand the words.

Last night, I was headed to bed when the Nuggets' playoff game tipped off at 8:30. I tried to locating the channel on my bedroom radio; no luck. Then the thought occurred to me. What if the problem isn't the location ... but the equipment? I moved the radio from my study to the bedroom and lo and behold! Success. I could hear every play. (The Nuggets are now ahead in the series, 2 games to none. Maybe they'll get past the first round this year.)

By my own choice, I have limited what I listen to. A similar choice faces me when I go to work. Audio books fill my work hours. I have the Bible on CDs--64 of them--and I decided to finish my annual "reading" by listening to 1 CD every day before I start on something else. There are days when I don't want to listen. I am caught up in the story of my current novel, or don't want to listen to the warnings from the prophets. But I can choose to listen to God's word--filling my mind with His thoughts--or not. (I'm in the middle of Ezekiel. Talk about object lessons!)

Back up further, to when I get out of bed. My Bible waits by my bedside. I have no excuse for ignoring it and jumping into the day's routines. Yet there are days when I do exactly that, come back later and realize, I never had my quiet time today.

Changing channels. What do we choose to listen to?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jolene Speaks

God oh my God
What a God are you
In this life is just a taste of what is to come
I hear you calling out my name
and I shall run to you and
you shall embrace me in your loving strong arms.
You say have faith little one
as I walk through the valley of death
Even as I am blind I know he is there guiding teaching me
I walk through the trials of my life
when I am done you stand there
to greet me and give me encouragement
for another life trial.
You give me hope to lean on you, hold me up straight
when I fall down you place a kiss
and wipe off all the dirt and grime
and tell me to try again and I fail
don't worry I still love you as much
as the beginning of time.
I love thy God for all he does and
the price he had to pay for me.
Jolene Franklin

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Writer's Mind: Descriptive Writing, Part 2

I promised to get back to descriptive writing, so here I am.

Another principle of descriptive writing is to use strong, active verbs when setting the scene. I am still using my current WIP--not because they are the best examples, but at least they're mine.
"The wind caught her hair and lifted strands across her eyes. She held them away with her hand, not wanting to miss a yard of the seacoast, of rocky hills climbing straight out of the water. "

I particularly like the idea of rocky hills climbing, because of course they don't move at all. Look for unusual verbs that convey the impresson you are trying to create. Yesterday I read a sentence about a midwestern drawl crawling along someone's skin, and I instantly knew this seemingly harmless man was a villain.

As always, use the five senses to convey setting. In this paragraph, my heroine is being drawn to the galley aboard ship.
"A pale pink horizon peeked through the porthole. She listened to the ship. Next to their cabin, Cookie sang as as he worked in the kitchen. She enjoyed waking up to his morning hymns of praise. A familiar yeasty smell reached her through the boards. He had promised a special repast for their last morning aboard, and perhaps he was fixing cinnamon rolls or at the very least fresh bread. A welcome meal. She knew they would not enjoy leavened bread for most of their trip to the west."

The example uses four of her senses. The following example includes the sense of touch as well as sight, hearing, and taste to introduce the ship's cook.
"Zillah remembered how she gawked at the strange, unexpected molasses-hued color of his skin. She had longed to touch the dark curls that sprang from his head like lamb’s wool. The tall stranger had welcomed her curiosity and bent down so she could feel his hair. The tight spirals and bumpy surface tickled her fingers, and she giggled. He spoke English, a kind of English Zillah couldn’t always understand. But the first time the man made cookies for the children, he had spoken in the only language that mattered. A language of the heart. For days afterward she had followed him around the house, calling “Cookie! Cookie!” And so the nickname was born. "

Sight. Sound. Smell. Taste. Touch. Five cornerstones for descriptive writing go a long way toward showing and not telling as well.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spared From Evil

I've reached the lofty heights of Isaiah in reading through the Bible. The first verse of the 57th chapter captured my attention:

"Devout men are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." (Isaiah 57:1b-2, NIV)

The thoughts reminded me of Mom's view of Jolene's death. What pain, what heartbreak--what evil--awaited her if she had lived? Perhaps her death had spared her further disappointment.

Jolene's faith shines through in her poetry. She's one of the "devout" that God refers to. No, He didn't take Jolene away. I know that. But she has been spared evil. She has entered into peace. She has found rest. And those are all good things.

That thought brings me comfort as I dig out from Colorado's spring snow storm (maybe a foot and a half of snow? It fell for 36 hours.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sore Muscles, Happy Heart

Yesterday I turned my "notice to vacate" into the apartment office. Two months and counting. How quickly the time is going. How much remains to be done. Gulp!

Last week I pushed myself to pack the hallway bookshelves. There is only enough room to stand; before my surgery, I couldn't have done it. So I praised God for legs that will hold me, and bent and straightened and shifted books and videos and other heavy items.

By Friday, my legs had had enough. My left knee cramped when I sat done on the low toilet seat, and I worried about whether or not I would be able to stand during the Good Friday service that night. I made it through the service, but made a point of taking a very quiet Saturday. I did grocery shopping, but no house work. No packing. So once again I'm behind.

Sunday, the sky was overcast, and I was still sore. I walked into the church library. But as I mentioned on Monday, I was feeling good. Easter does that for me. A friend greeted me. "You're smiling today!"

The librarian said, "Darlene's always smiling!"

Always smiling. I told her how much that meant, given everything that's happened this past year.

Always smiling. Because with God, I am always all right, even if when my life is falling apart.

Always smiling. Maybe that's why my co-workers bend over backwards to help me, even though I'm quiet and don't joke back and forth quite as much as everyone else.

Always smiling. I'm glad that's the memory people have of me.

Because since God is for me ... who can be against me?

Absolutely no one.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jolene Speaks

I love thee God
How I love thee
Oh how I love him
He is so special to me
He is my dad when I had none
Oh what a God
A God that I love with all my heart
I love you beyond the glory
beyond my eyes I do love thee
Love, love is all I can say
Oh how I love thee.
Jolene Franklin

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Monday

Over the weekend, I realized that I had "squandered" my Easter blog time slot. Silly me. It shows how I'm not thinking beyond the end of my nose these days.

Our church was packed yesterday, even the balcony. Yes, people came dressed in springtime finery. Children had enjoyed an Easter egg hunt. Fake grass lined the edges of the hallways and after the service I saw children tearing into packages of candy. But it was so much more than that ... the sheer joy and celebration that "Christ the Lord is Risen Today!" The cry of hundreds of voices responding "He is risen indeed!"

I love Easter. Without the resurrection, everything else I believe is meaningless. The fact Jesus returned from the grave proves everything He ever claimed and gives hope for my today and tomorrow. Without His resurrection--without the promise of my resurrection--Jolene is really and truly gone.

Even the rainy drizzle couldn't dampen my spirits. He is risen!

Say it back to me. He is risen indeed!

Amen and amen.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cats vs. Dogs

An oldie--but--goodie joke goes like this:

A man does everything for his dog. He feeds it, gives it a home, takes it for a walk, and lavishes love on it. The dog thinks, "Man must be a god!"

A man does the same things for his cat. But the cat, on the other hand, thinks, "I must be a god."

I can see all of cat-and-dog people out there nodding your heads and smiling.

This time, the dog's response has a lesson to teach us about faith.

Our heavenly father gives me my daily bread and keeps a roof over my head. He lavishes His love on me. He sent His own son--for me!

John reminds us that "we love Him because He first loved us." That's the dog's response. We recognize God as the source of all good things and love Him and follow Him.

But too often I'm like the cat. I feel like I'm entitled to all those wonderful things. Never do I call myself "god" with my words, but my actions proclaim my cat-like attitude. What makes me feel good and puts my needs first--that's how I expect God to treat me. I forget that He is God and I am but His creation.

Wow, look at everything He does for me! He must be God!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jolene Speaks

When I panic you calm my spirit.
When I am fearful you make my soul have peace.
I shall sleep within your arms
and angels hover over my bed.
I thank thee.

Jolene Franklin

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rejection and Criticism

I will return to descriptive writing soon. But today, another topic presses on me. I received a rejection this week.

It was a good rejection. The reasons the proposal was rejected had nothing to do with my writing and everything to do with market needs. They even asked to see something else from me.

But rejection is always hard. I am struggling right now to focus on writing. I have run a writing marathon over the past year. Now I am fitting writing around packing and working extra hours. Without as much time to write and without a specific deadline to meet--I am not accomplishing as much as I would like.

Add to that content edits on one of the manuscripts I wrote last fall--with a general comment of "vary your sentence structure." It's been a while since someone said my writing was weak. It hurts.

I'm sure I'll learn from the experience. Improving my craft is important.

But in the meantime, I feel like I might have failed at the opportunities presented to me. And that this last year may be the highlight of my writing career, fizzling to nothingness as quickly as it arose.

Any suggestions out there on dealing with discouragement?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Animal Fables

Looking for good in the minutiae of life. What has happened since Thursday of note?

Spring snow continues. Fellow Denverites, how many snow storms is this in the past week? Three or four? But God is good. Snow fell during the night and again this afternoon, but did not fall during the crucial morning hours when I had to get myself out of bed and to church.

I mentioned the deer near my place of work last week (that blog posted at the wrong time, by the way. It was supposed to be my Thursday blog). On Friday, they weren't satisfied with staying in the field. Two does trotted across the street in front of me on my way home. I love looking at animals.

My beloved lynx point Siamese is my constant companion. Last night I laid my head next to hers. She used her soft paws and teeth to unsnarl a knot in my hair. I enjoy someone working on my hair, so her attentions gave me gentle pleasure. A bit like God's tender mercies--perhaps a bit sharp, but reminders of His loving care.

As I've said before, faith is like my cat.

God is also at work in the minutiae I don't like. Going to a restaurant and seeing table after table with couples, while I sit alone. Getting news that a book proposal was turned down. Packing, sorting, shifting books, books, and more books. I can only do so much of that before I'm exhausted (and add in temperatures in the teens, my knees start complaining.)

I can't wait to see what mighty works God has in store for my life.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jolene Speaks

How do I love Thee
the God who made me
Who planned my life since the beginning of life
The life I live
I live this life to worship Thee
He gives me my daily bread and
pours water daily in my cup
I drink his living water and
taste the life I will have
after I am gone
Oh Thy Lord what a mighty name
Is that a name I shall have
on the tip of my tongue
all night all day
You wash me clean of all my sin
which were scarlet with your holy blood
now they are washed as white as snow
All my life I shall adore you
You in three precious blessed trinity
How I love my God.