Monday, February 26, 2007

Scribbles and Scrambles - Ahhh This Feels So Good

This is not a morose Monday in my neck of the woods.

If I had gotten up early and traveled to work and had to whip out a blogger post on my lunch hour, it could have been a traditional blah "do I have to be here?" Monday.

But I currently sit at my desk, in my new home office.

This is maybe a bit of a stretch. My office is a corner, and I am still surrounded by an unfinished remodel. Some drywall waiting for one more slap of mud, a yawning open closet packed with water heater and furnace, insulation covered in plastic in another spot, but if I focus on certain specific spots everything feels done.

Our bounced couch is cozy and turned so you'd never know it hurtled through space and hopscotched west on I-80 eastbound.

There is, of course, a spiritual application regarding focus in this post. But I think I'll let you ponder that on your own.

The most exciting thing about my little corner is that I am sitting at a lovely desk built by my talented husband, and I am hooked up to the computer that has long lain dormant.

Now I have no excuse not to write.

Oooh. I don't know how I feel about that so I'm not going to think about it right now.

I'm celebrating.

I have brand spanking new DSL, a chair with rolling wheels (which is really a bad idea considering I am five feet away from the unrailingized stairwell.)

I'm choosing not to ponder the implications of the wheels on the chair. Instead I am staring out my "office" window. Skeletal trees are blanketed with two inches of snow so they look like mutant pipecleaners. The sun glints off the bright white and through the icicles dangling, dripping like melting diamonds.

I've even accomplished laundry and dishes this morning. Ahhh. A good Monday, indeed.

Hope yours is good as well.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Chronicles of John Aubrey Anderson

John Aubrey Anderson in black and white. He's bold.

Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?

I would want to be me . . . with the heart of Reepicheep, the valiant mouse in The Chronicles of Narnia. Reep is the personification of chivalry; fear will never whisper to his decision-making process; and he is unalterably and unabashedly devoted to the King and His cause.

If you could change something in any novel, what would you change about it and why?

Is it okay to change two?
I'd change THE SHOOTIST to conform to the movie. I read the book because I liked the movie and I didn't like the written version at all.
And in John Grisham's THE PARTNER, I'd have the protagonist get a little better deal at the end . . . but I'm a sap.

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.

The Lt. Sam Weinberg character in "A Few Good Men" said, "I have no responsibility here whatsoever." I quote him often.

If you were assured of writing a best-seller, what genre would it be? Give us a sliver of information, a characteristic or glimpse of a scene.

I'd write action/suspense.
My protagonist would find himself in a bloody confrontation . . . in a hostile environment, surrounded by an overwhelming enemy force . . . he's weakened, exhausted and disheartened, stripped of hope . . . his survival is dependent upon whether or not he can muster the tenacity of purpose to take him beyond that point where normal men would surrender. And he may die there.

What would you write if there were no rules or barriers? (epic
novels about characters in the Bible, poetry, greeting cards, plays, movies, instruction manuals, etc.)

God has given the gift of writing in the genre that gives me energy.
I want to write intense suspense/thriller fiction that rivets truth to the hearts of men, women, boys, and girls.

Where would you most like to travel ----- moon, north pole, deep seas, deserted island, the holy land or back to a place from your childhood, somewhere else? – and why.

I flew for an airline for almost twenty-nine years, and I've been
lots of places, but I'm a dud in the travel department. From Bangor to Seattle, the California cities . . . they all have a lot to offer, I guess, but I always ended up on the same familiar streets . . . strolling, drinking coffee, and watching people. Years ago it was Bangkok, Madrid, London, Hong Kong, London, Rome, Athens . . . same streets and people, different accents.

Favorite season and why?

The one I'm in at the moment. Seasons pass pretty fast at my age . . . I like to enjoy them all.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

I have to bend the rules because this is not exactly a
compliment . . . and I didn't hear it firsthand.
When I went to my first-ever writers' conference, we were allowed to mail two proposals in ahead of time and chose which editors we wanted to have take a look at our work.
As it happened, the guy I had my sights set on ended up being inundated with proposals. While he was pouring over non-fiction proposals, his wife was rummaging around in his fiction slush pile. After reading my work, she walked into the room where he was working and held up my packet.

"This is the one."

The next day the editor and I sat down and talked. That was in the spring of 2003 . . . and he and I are talking about book four now.

What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

I know criticism is on the way, but so far it's been jot and tittle
stuff. There will come a day when someone will come down hard on my work, but unless their comments are supported by people I trust, I'll probably ignore them. If their words have merit, I hope I'll profit from what they have to say.

Favorite chore - Why?

I like taking care of our cars . . . keeping them clean and changing the oil. One of the worst things about being so busy for the last four years is . . . my car has only been washed about three times. I've kept the oil changed, but the interior looks like I've been using it to host styrofoam fights.

Thanks, John

Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Wedgewood Grey

Happy Thursday. Hoping you all face a rejection-free day. Hang out for a bit and peruse Wedgewood Grey.

The Book:

The Author:

The Review:

"Wedgewood Grey" plays out like a crime scene drama with facts layered upon each other while details of the situation's depth is fleshed out. Set in the south at a time when white men considered men of different skin to carry little value, and women of different skin to be worthless.

This story will likely be too gruesome for the Big Honken Chicken club, and may be a bit too scary. However, the tension and the potential of the spiritual warfare isn't so intense that you'll never sleep without a nightlight again.

"Wedgewood Grey" reminded me of early Peretti though the spiritual warfare aspect takes a backseat to Anderson's human characters. "Grey" carries a strong Christian message, with at least one character becoming born again after an encounter with a demon-possessed man.

John Aubrey Anderson crafts descriptive sentences, multiple characters, interwoven storylines and scatters the blend with wry humor.

I'm not a fan of omniscient story telling. I feel you lose the intimacy with the characters or gain too much intimacy with secondary characters who are just passing through. However, Anderson tells quite the story and manages to tie up the loose dangling threads he feeds into the mix. This impresses me, writing is not for the weak-kneed, and his cast of characters and storylines must require file upon file to keep them straight and tied together.

Compulsion to see what would happen next kept me reading, though some of the story lines didn't hold my interest as well as others and I skimmed a few times.

If you are a big fan early Peretti or you like omniscient narrated fiction with a strong Christian thread, I believe you'd enjoy "Wedgewood Grey."

Tomorrow...The Interview:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Scribbles and Scrambles - Rejection R Us

I just got rejected again.

I should be used to it by now. This one wasn't even a big rejection or a mean-spirited one. A simple "I like this but it's not going to happen" kind of let-down.


What kind of crazy person works, crafts, sweats, cries and then starts all over again with a pile of words in an attempt to form them into a pleasing concoction? Offering the end product, imperfect, but the best conglomeration of the moment, to others who then shred it and give back the pieces? Who is this individual who survives that scenario and repeats it endlessly?

A writer.

Is it any wonder some of us snap, grow goatees and wear all black? Or that most of us spend many days of our lives surrounded by the whoosh of espresso machines and the scent of liquid ecstasy? I think it might be a miracle that any of us press the send, or save button at all, ever.

The mind of a writer forms many thoughts. Let me share a stereotypical morning self-talk of a writer. “Who wrote this crud? Ha. Fool. What idiot doesn’t know a comma from a hyphen? This piece of writing might be valuable to the bird, face down on the bottom of the cage.”

The writer then zips to e-mail or solitaire and drinks several mugs of coffee or tea. Some may even drink Jack Daniels on the sly. Then the urge hits again. No, not the urge brought on by a quart of coffee. The urge to express oneself. The writer alt/tabs back to Word, erasing everything on the page until virgin-white screen stares out at him/her.

“Oh, I feel a metaphor coming on, no, maybe it’s a simile, like the birth of a new morning it brightens the horizon…no, that stinks.”

“Similes are overrated. What do I think I am -- a poet? Ha. Fool. Wonder if Starbucks has any openings, maybe the library, then I can be around books, and with real writers?”

“I’m never writing again.”

The writer returns to the scene of the crime, I’d use the Biblical “as a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly,” but it would not help my current mental dialogue.

The following questions were posed twice in different words on two different loops today. “Why do you write? How do you overcome the yuck of writing? And why do you want to overcome it?”

I think the answer is in the above rant, but also in the unique make-up of me. For some reason, I have to write. This blog is almost a year old and I have 169 single-spaced pages of posted material in my Scrambled Dregs Word document. Much of it is lame, but some offered a random person a laugh here, and maybe a tear there.

I hope that what I write creates a spiritual ripple. When I laugh at ten in the morning, I may be nicer to the person in line at the grocery store at four-thirty. If I have to ponder someone’s words or things bigger than me for awhile, I treat people differently than when I focus on what I want.

Finally, I think the God of words expects me to use what He shows me and shares with me. I don’t want people to be dazed, lost and confused when I have access to the answer to their problems.

I write because Jesus is all about words, and healing and love and grace. And I want to be just like Him.

So, I guess I’ll go write something and submit it. They say what doesn’t kill you, makes your stronger. Rejection hasn’t killed any one that I know of.

Rejection – the new strength training.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Scribbles and Scrambles - Pratfall Pats #4

I suppose I should tell on myself before I finish the Pat pratfall moments. Okay, here goes….keep in mind this happened before my first cup of coffee…this morning I used hair scrunching gel like fragrance.

Suppose that’s why my hair feels a little flat and my elbow pits make a horrid Velcro sound when I straighten my arms?

Back to Pat, who is getting ready to ride down the grassy knoll.

Boat shoes. For our family, those simple words conjure up snickers and the favorite phrase … “These shoes are outta here!”

I suppose boat shoes serve a purpose though the soles that can’t handle a little wet grass leave me scratching my head. Why on earth would someone design a shoe for a smooth wooden surface that is often covered in water?

Maybe they were invented by a sadist, or someone who loves a great water-bound pratfall. Or maybe the cheap knock-offs that Pat purchased ended up being the only brand in America that caused loss of limb, life or pride.

Who knows? If you do, I’m not sure I want you to shatter my carefully guarded naiveté, but if you must share your boat shoe wealth of knowledge you should be able to figure out how to comment.

But I digress. This post is not about boat shoes, it’s about Pat.

My mom and dad throw regular summer get togethers. Their place is perfect for them, a lush garden environment, great scenery, lots of room, a pool. Pat is always the last one to arrive even though he lives there. There are always projects and he’s usually neck deep in them as the first guests arrive.

Pat’s legendary pre-company protocol has become a “Where’s Waldo” sort of a game for the kids.

“Where’s Grandpa?”

“Oh, look, I see his crazy hair behind the horse tank.”

This particular get together was no different, except for the fine new boat shoes that clad Pat’s feet as he rounded the corner. We’d all settled at the side deck where the view was fine, the breeze was blowing and the hills gently sloped. Pat zipped toward us. He must have caught the gentle sloping hill just right though, because BAM! he was down sliding toward home. A baseball player would have been proud of the slide.

Pat’s head popped up over the hill. He sported a big, cheesy grin. “Oops.”

We all chuckled politely. Yeah, right.

Of course, the second time he road the same hill with the same shoes, his response was slightly more than “Oops.”

Hence one of our favorite family phrases.

Now that I ponder it, I think he still has those boat shoes.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Christian Market Guide 2007

Book of the Week....pretty sweet resource. Hope your Valentine's Day didn't turn out like St. Valentine's. If it did, I guess you probably aren't reading this.

The Link:

The Author:

The Review:

Christian Writers Market Guide 2007 is one of the books most writers suggest newbies purchase as soon as possible. I'm in my third year of taking writing seriously. I've bought many how-to's, have a subscription to Writers Digest, and have yet to open the Christian Writers Market Guide.

Why? I suppose it’s the anti-techie in me. I hate instruction manuals and feel I have to learn by touching and trying rather than following the road someone else has forged. Either that or I'm just an idiot.

I have three professional memberships that cost $35 to $40 a year. I don't use those resources like I should either.

I'm turning over a new leaf. This will be the year I actually listen and use the advice that those "who've been there done that" generously share.

With that new victory chant swirling around my brain, I opened the Market Guide. While baking cookies, I think you get awarded extra points when you multi-task. I could be wrong about that, so don't try it at home. Even with the aroma of triple chocolate filling the kitchen I managed to find a wealth of information in the Guide.

Sally Stuart provides a CD-ROM with 1,200 contacts so you don't even need to crack the book to benefit. (Actually, you have to open the back cover because that's where they put the CD, but you know what I mean. Right?)

Ms. Stuart includes a "How to Use This Book" guide which includes a plethora (I love to use this word) of books and websites for even more education on the ins and outs of Christian writing. Sites for new writers, legal sources, writing challenges and even some fun diversions for those suffering from a bit of block fill the pages.

Then she lists publishers of books in multiple categories and genres. You choose an area - youth, for instance - and find a list of youth material buying resources. Page over and look up the publishers alphabetically and find most anything you could possibly want to know about that house (except the candy bar preference of the editor). Keep digging and you can find out the number of books published and how many best sellers they produced last year.

Want to know the most popular subjects with publishers? Flip further.

Ms. Stuart repeats the process with magazines/periodicals.

Ready to start selling your work? Looking for new markets? Brand new to Christian writing and wondering where to go from here? You might want to invest in the Christian Writers Market Guide 2007.

Now. I'm going to eat another cookie or two and jot down some new information. After all, it is 2007.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Scribbles and Scrambles - Pratfall Pats #3

I learned to drive in a Vega. A real live Vega. At the time I drove it, all systems had sprung leaks and I believe it probably was classified as either a lethal weapon or a death trap, maybe both.

The beauty of the Vega was the hatchback.

We also owned horses during the season of the Vega. Mainly pet horses as they tended to try to kill me, and once the other family members scraped me off the gravel, no one else wanted to ride them either.

As nice as a hay-filled barn is with all the warm horse and dried grass scents, someone has to stock the barn with hay. Enter the Vega and its wonderful truck-like back end.

Dad “let” me head out with him to gather some bales of hay. My brothers and I loved it when Dad “let” us help him. We rolled the Vega down the hill. It could travel up to three miles at a time and fortunately we were on a hay gathering mission less than a mile away. We pushed the seats down and slid glistening 800 pound golden rectangles of horse sustenance into the Vega. Okay, they weren’t 800 pounds, but they were really heavy.

We’d load three of four of the little scratchy gems, putt-putt up the hill, unload them in the barn, coast back down the hill and repeat. On one of the final passes I heard a grunt. I ignored it. Pat makes many noises, a grunt is not uncommon.

Peripherally my eye caught something. Maybe more of an absence of something. I glanced over my shoulder to discover my dad missing. I craned around then discovered the reason for the grunt.

Maybe it hadn’t been a grunt at all, possibly it was a desperate squeak for help. Pat’s toes were wedged between two hay bales. His body a perfect bridge between the pile of hay and the Vega, a bridge spanning his entire five-eleven frame, three feet off the ground. White-knuckled fingers clutched the edge of the Vega.

I froze. Once again, I struggled with controlling the hysteria that tickled the back of my throat. My eyes watered and the bridge who was my father quivered slightly. Oh boy. What to do? My voice cracked. “Dad, you need some help?”

“That’d be nice.” Then he laughed.

I eventually got around to helping him, once I could stand up straight again.

Coming up – Pat’s Public Pratfall.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Scribbles and Scrambles - Culture Shock

Since poor Pat got picked on twice last week, so I’ll point out something I did so you can all laugh at me. Pat’s on tomorrow, then.

Several days ago I visited an ethnic grocery store. My friend asked me to come with while she searched for a tasty treat that she had a recipe for and knew she couldn’t make to taste like the real deal. She’d heard that the store carried them. I tried not to be touristy, but I got a little caught up with the different packaging. I have not a clue what one does with guava paste, or why someone would name cupcakes “bimbos.” But I enjoyed poking around and oohing and ahhing over the unfamiliar just 20 miles from home. We looked high and low for the roundish little nuggets and couldn’t find them anywhere. I suggested we scan each row for a big bag or container that looked promising.

Two rows over, I suddenly spied a clear bag with little roundish brown nuggets. “Hey! Look! Is that them?” (grammatically incorrect I’m sure, but I was excited!)

She squinted at the shelf, turned and stared at me.

I raised my hands in cluelessness. “What?”

“You mean the bag of peanuts?”

Ha. We never found them, but she’s going to let me help her make them. That should be interesting.

I’m not done with culture humor. Saturday, after teaching drama with my buddy (another story – actually many stories) my oldest daughter and had an errand to run at the mall (this is what women call shopping when they don’t want to use the s-word). The multi-storied department store had this sign posted at the escalator “For your convenience, we have an elevator located in China.” Needless to say, we took the escalator.

Finally, I called Nannyland on Friday. Some days are just a bit crazy there. And I called right in the middle of lunch prep. Tree-Frog, now 15 months, walks, talks (with a translator) and still feels the need of constant attention. Nanny attempted to make lunch with Frog -Boy glued to her thighs. She picked him up and redeposited him further away attempting to distract him with a toy. He did a little break dance but stayed put. Nanny set the plates on the table right as the dog decided to throw-up in the middle of the floor. Frog-Boy took that opportunity to cross the room.

A large sigh followed. “I’ve got to let you go. He’s doing an Irish jig in the dog vomit.”

Enjoy your Monday, embrace the rich melting pot around you, but don’t…I repeat…do not do an Irish jig in dog vomit.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Christine Schaub's Driving Music

Happy Friday all.

Christine Schaub was kind enough to share her thoughts with us. I loved what she had to say, I think you will, too.

I didn't investigate the missing font color button ,alas, so I will BOLD her answers. On a side note...last night Pat reminded me of a story I'd blocked out for some reason. "Pat goes to the Park." I still haven't shared Pat's Rooster Dance or the Bees Knees - ahhh - I see a Pat marathon coming up. And I had a moment in an grocery store yesterday - public scream laughing is frowned upon, apparently.

Now back to Christine. Thanks, Christine. I'd love to see you write about rubber tree adventures.

Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?

When the movie “Pride & Prejudice” came out, I immediately identified with Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet and returned to the literature to find out why. Like Elizabeth, I am a woman “out of time”—i.e., my natural inclinations don’t seem to fit into society’s expectations of how today’s woman should sound, act, desire, achieve. This makes us exhilarating to some and perplexing to many…admired and loathed…quite often too much, too challenging for the masses.

Some out there in writing land have strange rituals. Share yours.

I write out of order. Because I’m a rabid outliner, I choose a chapter or scene that appeals to me at the moment, then start writing. Of course, that leaves the unappealing parts for last—when it’s a race against the deadline—and I hate myself for it. But it always works out in the end.

What crayon in the box describes you on a good day? Bad day? Which one do you aspire to be?

Oh, for a box of crayons at my fingertips! Is there a “cerulean blue”? That would be me on a good day—the color of the sea and sky along the Amalfi Coast that almost hurts your eyes, it’s so pure and alive. For a bad day I’d have to go with “burnt sienna”—an angry orange-red you find in the coats of the predatory animal kingdom…fascinating, but don’t go near them. I aspire to be a crayon somewhere in the middle—maybe the color at the point where the sunset meets the ocean and blends.

Character, plot or prose? Which grabs you by the heart? Why?

I’m a sucker for really good prose—when the writer can make a scene or sentiment come alive simply by word choice and arrangement. I think particularly of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean…such lyrical, heart-stopping descriptions of a mother’s long-term struggle with the disappearance of a child. You don’t have to be a mother to understand: “And so she had made the choice, it seemed now, to not heal. Instead, she would try to live around the friable edges of a crater, to tread softly and avoid what she had come to think of as the avalanche.”

Pink iguana, purple cow, periwinkle giraffe. Which one and why? Can be negative or positive.

I’m gonna have to go with the periwinkle giraffe—not only because it’s fun to say, eg. “So I stood there in the dressing room, looking like a periwinkle giraffe…”—but also because it’s great imagery…like, Jurassic Park gone cartoon.

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.

I love (and have stolen) Tom Hanks’ line in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” to describe his girlfriend: “She makes coffee nervous.” Isn’t that great? Imagine a force of personality that has the power to give a stimulant the shakes.

If you were assured of writing a best-seller, what genre would it be? Give us a sliver of information, a characteristic or glimpse of a scene.

I’d write action/adventure with humor—something like Evanovich’s “Stephanie Plum” series. Here’s a glimpse of something I’m working on:
I was hanging upside down from a rubber tree, watching my carefully-packed items bounce around on the ground, thinking this situation would only be funny in a Jerry Lewis movie. Oh, and it was raining.
I started swinging toward the nearest trunk, reaching out for a handhold. I looked up. The chute seemed to be holding in the canopy. The trunk slipped away from me and I tried again.
This time I caught a vine and hauled myself upright. With my left hand on the vine and my legs gripping the tree, I reached down with my right hand and worked the jungle knife out of its sheath in my leg pocket. It was a wicked weapon—black and almost a foot long. I sawed through the parachute lines, felt a moment of freedom, then plunged all the way to the ground in a barely controlled trunk slide.
I sat on the jungle floor for a moment, trying not to let my already foul mood get any fouler. The jump had been hot and sticky, and just so we’re clear: landing in rubber trees is not like landing on a pile of bouncy balls. They’re freakishly tall and skinny with slippery, slap-happy leaves and creepy vines. I hate them. Passionately.

What period of history intrigues you the most?

I’m intrigued by the customs and mores of the late-19th century, when the world was on the edge of exploding technology and people were reinventing themselves with optimism and ingenuity. At the same time, men were overtly masculine and women were happily feminine, and that was freely embraced by the masses. An excellent description of this period is Jack Finney’s time-travel novel, Time and Again.

What makes you feel alive?

I have a risk-taking personality, so I feel most alive when I’m doing something daring, something my mother might call “stupid,” like jumping a snowmobile over a snow bluff or skiing down a mountain in an ice fog, or even traveling to New York City alone. I’m in control, but the fringes of the activity are a little…lunatic.

Favorite season and why?

I love the Fall because it brings colorful leaves, wood-burning fireplaces, football and school supplies. The long, uneventful summer has ended and we’re heading into sweaters and Thanksgiving and, if you live in the North, blowing smoke out your nose.

Favorite book setting and why?

I enjoy books set in Washington, DC because I thrill to the patriotism and power in that city, and the reader usually gets a tour of the monuments and emblems that define America.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

One reader wrote and told me my books read like classics. That was refreshing, as I try very hard to write dialogue that matches the time period, using words and concepts that might be wholly unfamiliar to 21st-century readers. I want my readers to feel like they’re living in the past with my main characters, but not be thinking, ‘Thither? What does that mean?”

What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

I’ve never had a “don’t-quit-your-day-job” bad review, but one reviewer wrote about Finding Anna (which opens in the midst of the Great Chicago Fire of 1873): “Although the opening is weak and somewhat confusing, the writing improves as the novel progresses.” Now, this reviewer also printed my name as “Straub,” so there may have been less attention to detail than I desired. Nevertheless, each review is only one person’s opinion…and a writer is never going to please everybody.

Creative Corner : )

Pick a scenario, recipe or story starter from the list below and create a paragraph for us. Feel free to change anything or if you want to get really creative start from scratch.

If Alex had known the body of the senator was in the bathtub, she would've taken Jim's offer for coffee.

So now she had no Starbucks peppermint mocha, no chance of catching a seven o’clock movie, and scant time to freshen up before her favorite detective arrived. Oh—and the senator was starting to stink. She breathed through her mouth while applying lipstick and surveyed the scene: bullet hole over the left eye, closed in peaceful slumber; jacket missing, but shirt and tie neatly arranged; pricey watch and cufflinks intact; dark hair falling across the brow in Robert Redford fashion that made the female politicos swoon. When the door-pounding started, she jumped—not so much from the sound as the last-minute realization that the world was about to witness and photograph her skanky tub ring.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - The Longing Season

Come back tomorrow for Christine's interview...

The Book:

The Author:

The Review:

High school history books should be this beautiful, I would've done so much better on tests.

"The Longing Season" is written as a fully fleshed story wrapped around historical facts. The hand and love of God within the stories of Horatio Spafford and John Newton fill me with wonder. Schaub tackled Spafford in "Finding Anna," her previous novel. Fictionalized accounts of historical people bring their testimonies to life and end up teaching us more than bare facts.

Schaub takes her time and develops the characters in a style closer to literary than pop fiction. She has painted a realistic and almost shocking hero in John Newton. The story behind Amazing Grace has always intrigued me, and that was before I knew of the separation and longings of two young people who communicated not through instant messaging but by letters written and transported by ship.

If you are a fan of Jack Cavanaugh's "Storm" you should find much to appreciate in "The Longing Season."

If you yawn at richly woven prose and descriptions or at hymns, you might not appreciate this amazing story. If romance is your thing, you might feel a bit cheated because the story focuses on the longing and waiting, or the journey rather than the trophy at the end of the long, dusty trip. Some descriptions read closer to PG-13 than PG so if this is something you'd like a child to read for the rich history lesson make sure you preview it.

As for me, I'm going back to pick up Schaub's "Finding Anna."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Scribbles and Scrambles - Pratfall Pat #2

Continued Pratfallian Memories..... Yesterday we visited Pat's silent dance of fall avoidance. Today we have the audio version.

The next tumble I remember witnessing was one of great sound and no visual. My brothers (though it seems there was usually only one brother’s name on my parents' lips) borrowed tools often.

Apparently, a project needing a screwdriver and basement stairs had been completed earlier that fateful day.

Someone didn’t get the screwdriver returned to its proper home but had instead left it lying on the wooden basement stairs.

This was in the day of glass soda bottles.

Full glass soda bottles containing sugary soda lined the basement stairs.

Pat returned home from work as the children innocently did homework at the kitchen table or helped with dinner preparation.

No man in his right mind would stop and ask the children if anyone had created a death-trap on the basement stairs.

No right-minded child of Pat’s would dream of creating a death-trap with Pat’s name on it.

So we’ll chalk it up to childish oopsidity.

Pat began his descent.

I think we’ve all forgotten what he needed from the basement.

A roar. A crash. A thumpity-whumpity-whump-thump poured out of the dark basement doorway. A crescendo of tinkling shattering glass then joined the rhythmic whump, thump, bump.

To say that all blood left the faces of the children in the kitchen would be an understatement. With large alien eyes we glanced nervously around the room bouncing our eyeballs from one sibling to the next to the mom who stood statue still with a tomato in one hand and a lip firmly captured between her teeth.

A long few seconds followed where no one breathed.

But suddenly, a giggle tickled the base of my brain. The sounds, the crash, the thought of my father sweeping the steps clean with his body began to torment me. I too, chomped on my lip.

A fist, holding a screwdriver appeared from the basement, followed by my non-too-thrilled father. “Who put this screwdriver on the stairs?” The words were a bark which only added to my need for a guffaw.

The boys scattered, a noise, issued forth from Pat. A snort. A chuckle? He shook his head, Mom put her hand to her mouth and let loose a nervous giggle. The flood gates opened.

We laughed and then we cleaned up soda pop.

Next week I'll share the private and public side of Pat's amazing pratfalls.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Scribbles and Scrambles - Pratfall Pats #1

I suppose my delight with excellently executed tumbles stems from my upbringing, maybe as far back as birth because many of my memories are peppered with falling Pats.

It’s been awhile since I shared a Pat. And for those of you who haven’t been introduced, Pat is my dad. He has two distinct personas. Not personalities, but personas. He is a starched-white professional, church pillar and all around go-to guy. On the other hand he is a wild-haired crazy man who does his own stunts and sometimes other’s stunts as well. I believe I’ve mentioned the leg toss…this is when someone begins to tumble and Pat’s leg shoots out in some bizarre attempt to catch the person which really only adds another humor beat and an occasional bruise.

Pat, over the years, has mastered the art of the tumble. One could go as far as to say that Pat might be the Chuck Norris of falls. (If you don’t get this reference, Chuck is da man in many circles.)

My first Pat Pratfall encounter would be something I witnessed via home movies. This technology won’t ring a bell for the younger readers of this blog so I’ll explain it thus: think camcorder without sound which captures rapid-style still pictures on film which is then threaded through a machine, not unlike threading a sewing machine needle, for viewing pleasure.

My mother or grandparents had captured a slippery battle between man, car, child and snow – on a hill. Much sliding and twisting occurred. The child, clutched in Pat’s arms stared wide-eyed over his shoulder as she swooped and dipped in his dance to open the ice glazed door on the station wagon. Pat ended on a triumphant note in that little skirmish, which is good because I was said child.

He held me because I sported a war wound I’d received while playing in my closet and stepping on a huge nail attached to a six foot piece of woodwork. Which is a story for another day.

Tumble number two tomorrow.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Robert Liparulo Under the Microscope

Ha - get it. He wrote Germ....Under the Microscope. Sorry, I just cracked myself up.

Hmmm. Updated where is the color option? Usually I get colorful. Today we'll just have to be boring black and white. I've bolded Bob's answers to my questions.

A man and woman sit at a table in an upscale restaurant. They each have a cell phone to their ear. What are you overhearing? Tell me about this couple…..

She: I hope we’re not late. I love the first act.
He: We have plenty of time. Don’t worry. Have you decided what you want, yet?
She: You order for me. No, wait... the Veal Oscar sounds good.
He: Are they still listening?
She: Yeah, the guy’s even leaning closer. Say something provocative.
He: I told you not to call me here!
She: Now they’re totally confused. Let’s call the waiter...
This is a fun-loving couple who call each other and chat when other people are eavesdropping, simply to freak them out.

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.

It’s from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, the movie (but lifted in spirit from the book). Gandaldf to Bilbo in Moria: “We cannot choose the time we live in. We can only choose what we do with the time we are given.” So often, it’s easy to complain about the situation we’re in, but the important thing is how we handle ourselves, despite the situation.

A close second: “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” From Jaws.

What would you write if there were no rules or barriers? (epic novels about characters in the Bible, poetry, greeting cards, plays, movies, instruction manuals, etc.)

Comes a Horseman, Germ, Deadfall (the manuscript I’m just finishing), and whatever comes next. I always write as though there were no barriers or rules. I write what I want to read. I write what tickles my curiosity. I’ve been blessed to have had short stories, articles, and novels published, and to have sold screenplays. I’ve been able to make a living writing what I want to write. Most writers are rebels to some extent. Otherwise, we’d all have corporate jobs. And if you’re going to rebel, why pander to rules?

What makes you feel alive?

Many things, but primarily, being with my family. Huddled on a bed, watching a movie, playing a board game, hiking in the woods, building sand castles on the beach—no matter what we’re doing, as long as we’re all together, I feel the most alive. If I have to narrow it further, I’d pick that last scenario: building sand castles on the beach with my family... on Maui... on Big Beach.

How does something worm its way into your heart? Through tears, truth, humor, other?

The “worm” thing isn’t a nice image, but I getcha. What gets me the most is unfulfilled expectations of happiness: The failed marriage, the promise of a great day that doesn’t happen. I was in the ER the other day because of a cut on my arm. Parametics wheeled in a boy of about eight on a gurney. He was moaning over and over and calling for his mom. She was behind the gurney and the parametrics, reassuring him. “I’m here, sweetie.” He went past me and he looked miserable. Blood and bruises on his face. His pain made me sad, but what anguished me was his pain in the context of what he expected the day to bring when he woke up that morning: certainly not that. That dichotomy between what-could-have-been and what-is gets me every time.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

Well, the compliment that gave me the biggest thrill wasn’t a review. I was in the lobby of a New York City hotel, where the first meeting of the International Thriller Writers organization was taking place. The lobby was filled with authors whom I had admired for years: David Morrell, Lee Child, John Lescroart, Tess Gerritsen. In walked the brilliant writer David Dun. David had given Comes a Horseman a glowing endorsement, and I approached him to thank him in person. In a really loud voice, he said, “I hate you! You’re a better writer than I am!” Of course he was joking, but I looked around and all these great writers were staring at us. I just beamed.

What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

I don’t mind criticism... too much. I know what I write isn’t for everyone. But I don’t like it when people pass judgment without getting the facts. A friend of mine won’t read my books, because he’s afraid they’re too violent or too scary. I understand not liking certain genres, not liking to be scared, but I wish he’d give me the benefit of the doubt and at least start one of them. He’s an important part of my life. It’s disappointing that he can’t share in something else that’s important to me.

What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?

Spend it with my family. I’d want to have fun with them, but I’d also want to make sure they realized where I was heading and that everything would be all right. My number one task in life is to tell my children about Christ, to get them thinking heavenward. Three of them have accepted Christ and are showing the fruit of that. But I’d want to assure them that my passing shouldn’t shake their faith. (My youngest is only fourteen months.) They I’d go about making as many memories as we could squeeze into a week.

Pick one of the following recipes and give me a paragraph or two.......
Unidentifiable antique, the scent of pipe tobacco and the drizzle of rain – make a scene.

Curtains blew in from the open window. Raindrops, flashing silver as they caught the moonlight, rode the wind to land on the leather chair, the side table, a pipe in its stand. Recently extinguished, the meerschaum exuded a fragrance like walnut and cherries. The beads of water pattered onto the ancient and worn item resting on the table, beside the pipe. Grey threads of steam hissed up from a dozen spots. Then it moved, rotating like a head on a neck. Thin rods, spindly as spider legs, piston out and down, clicking against the wood. The body of the contraption rose, now resting on the rods... the legs. A noise outside the study made the thing jerk around. It crouched low, seeming to wait for whoever was coming.

If you missed the links to Germ -

or Bob's website -

Have a great weekend. And keep warm. Unless you are in a balmy location then "pfffttt" enjoy your weather.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Scribbles and Scrambles - Wait Just a Second

This isn’t a post about spectacular tumbles. It’s about the way our minds work and process information. See, I can be normal. I'm not twisted all the time.

One of my favorite patients came to see me today. A routine visit so he was feeling fine. Since he’s pretty healthy I only see him every once in awhile.

He stepped into my x-ray room and we took a few 8 x 10 glossies. We usually get an annual chest x-ray and then while they are dressed (or undressed) for that we jet them across the hall for an EKG. It usually works well but sometimes the EKG’s get bogged down and the patient has to wait awhile in my room. I’ll come out of my dark room and find patients weeping on the scale, playing with my model of the spine or reading medical posters.

Today, I stepped out and my patient said. “Can I ask you what that is? Is it a level?” He pointed to my clock. It’s a drug clock so it has product information on the face and sported the colors of the medication. Often drug paraphernalia is gimmicky, funky numbers, odd shapes, usually not your normal items.

So I stared where he pointed. “Well…it’s the second hand, it fell off.”

He turned red and laughed. “Oh, I thought it was a statement about how the drug leveled something out and the level was crooked so it wasn’t good advertising.”

Isn’t that funny? Our surroundings determine the way we look at things sometimes. He expected some weird gimmick so he didn’t even consider that the item was what it was. In another setting he wouldn’t even has questioned the fact that it was a second hand. It was that obvious. But because he saw things differently in light of his location, he questioned what he knew to be true or likely.

How’s that for a spiritual lesson? Do you ever second guess what you believe to be true because of your surroundings? Does your faith feel foreign in some situations? Do you avoid entering a church because you expect that reality changes and things will be skewed, that somehow in a church a second hand isn’t a second hand anymore?