Friday, September 25, 2009


I have long thought this...but this man says it out loud, finally, and way better than I could.



Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Sometimes, one word can mean infinity.
Sometimes, you’re not even aware of the depth of a word until you experience a bit of that infinity.

I was closing up my lunch bag and my novel this afternoon, closing up the umbrella over the outdoor lunch table, and reluctantly preparing to go back to my desk and resume my day’s work, when the sensation came over me that I was returning from a lot more than a half hour’s lunch break.

I had been rereading, leisurely and with enjoyment, over my lunch. Rereading one of the Mitford books by Jan Karon—spending time in a place I’ve spent much time in before. Dipping back in for another visit…

…and away, for just those few minutes, from everything else.

When immersed in a truly good book, we do go away. Sometimes, we can be so transported that when someone taps us on the shoulder to bring us “back,” we react with a start. Or resentment. Or weariness…because it’s hard to come back from that place to which we’ve escaped.

Chances are if we find books like that, we keep them…and we go back to them. We remember that pleasant, relaxing place, that virtual vacation, and we want to have the chance to go to that place again if need be. Just like a real geographic location that we love, books that we can “lose ourselves” in become a quick route to refreshment and restoration.

And what better way to write—or reason to write—than to give ourselves, and others, those kinds of books?

Many of us, I suspect, have been led astray. We’ve been taught about character arcs and plot structures and Acts I-III, and climax and denouement…but how many of us every get taught about AWAY? Far too few, if the truth be known.

And some of us who do know about “away”—but who may not be the most polished writers in the world—get ridiculed for that. We may be able to take readers to another world, another place, another time, and immerse them thoroughly—but that, we’re told, is not what contemporary fiction is all about. Contemporary blockbuster fiction nowadays is supposed to grab a reader by the throat, shake her a few times until she begs for mercy, and slap her around a little bit before we drop her to the floor, just to make sure she GETS OUR POINT. After all, we only have milliseconds to hook a reader and draw her in, and…and…!

And…over time, reading most blockbuster fiction has become, if not an exhausting experience, certainly not a refreshing one. A reader who’s whipped around, shown the seedy and frenetic and fast-paced—but little else—cannot come out of that book much refreshed. She might enjoy the ride, much as some of us enjoy rollercoasters, but exhilaration—or sheer terror!—is not what any of us wants when we need a break from reality, a bit of respite, time for ourselves.

Sometimes, we just want to get AWAY.

So I’d suggest we try thinking about AWAY when we write.

Getting “away” is what we try to do when we need to recharge. Coming “away” is what the Lord asks us to do to get closer to Him. And a real trip “away” takes time. It shouldn’t be a road race but a Sunday drive in the country.

It’s worth thinking about. It’s worth working to get to. And it’s what I, truth be told, want to give my readers. I don’t care about grabbing them by the throat and shaking them. I would much, much rather they be so immersed in my book that they only reluctantly fold the umbrella over the outdoor table, only reluctantly close up their lunch bags and gather their trash, only reluctantly come back to the “real world”—because then they will not only look forward to going back to my book, they’ll keep it. They’ll want to go back to that lovely place where they feel so at home, a place of refreshment and comfort and relaxation. Even if I’m tingling their spines with a deliciously suspenseful story, I don’t intend to do it at 120 miles per hour; I want to enjoy the trip…and I want them to as well.

AWAY. It’s where I want you to be when reading my books. AWAY: where you can breathe…where the Lord can whisper in your ear if He needs to…where for just a few moments, life’s hassles recede and you amble through a world that welcomes you, entertains you, uplifts you, and leaves you feeling more able to come back to reality when you need to.

AWAY. It’s a great place to be. I want to write much, much more of it. I hope you will, too.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Thanks to Charlotte over here, I get to enjoy Starbucks for free in not so many days! Or, as my daughter refers to such things, "Mocha goodness in a card."

May this be the first of many things I win this week. :-)
Happy Tuesday!


P.S. Charlotte, d'you think you could send some of those people over here, too? I'd love to have the kind of readership you do!

Monday, September 07, 2009


There’s only one thing wrong with most holidays…
And it’s not even that they’re over too soon. Never mind that they usually ARE…but that’s not it.
One aspect of holiday weekends that makes most of us writers salivate at our keyboards is the thought that, for at least some of that time, we CAN be salivating at our keyboards, and no one’s going to say a word. The husband’ll be sleeping late on one or all of those days…the kids’ll be outside (at least on these summer holidays) tooling around the neighborhood or sitting in a cool basement playing video games…and there we’ll be, with nothing but a few hours ahead of us, a computer in front of us, and a pot of coffee beside us.

Should be an idyllic creative moment, right?
Not necessarily.

I found myself this evening in an interesting conundrum. I had a busier weekend than I should have, in that I had to play catchup on some freelance work that fell by the wayside last weekend. Long story, health related, daughter is OK, we think…(budget won’t be, but daughter is). But when your Sunday and Monday are interrupted with ER visits and X-ray errands, not to mention pharmacy runs and the other draining or daunting side trips, writing tends to take a back seat. Writing something funny or heartwarming at that point might be just what the doctor ordered—but you haven’t got the strength or the energy for it, either. (!)

Nevertheless, now that things are calmer, I’ve been scrambling to get current with my nonfiction writing assignments. Some of them are pretty well caught up or—dare we say it?—even, for all practical purposes, done. One still has multiple parts left to it, and has taken way too long…but at least the collaborator seems generally pleased with the work once we finally get past his broken English and my complete ineptitude at writing “techie” and meet in the middle. :-) I did send back some of the documents he had made suggestions on, rewritten and the like—but I didn’t do that until I ran smack into a brick wall looking at my own work.

And there’s the rub. The idea that “when I get time over a weekend, I’m going to use it writing,” versus the reality of what actually happens when we do so. As in, sometimes, panic.

Yeah, I know, writing’s easy for me. It’s supposed to be, anyway. But I’ve been had. Hornswoggled. Led down the garden path…of nonfiction editing and freelance pieces. These pieces, on the whole, come together without a whole lot of angst on my part. They’re not easy, necessarily…but they just don’t take a lot emotionally out of me, either, which is good—because ideally, then, that leaves the emotion for the fiction.

Until I sat there this evening looking at the work I had to do on one book, and thought, “This is too much. This is going to be SO hard. I’m not even sure what way to go yet.” So I pulled out the short story…and had much the same reaction. I didn’t want to get back into it. I was scared I couldn’t do it…again. And I retreated to the safe, easy stuff I know I CAN do now. Even if it’s sometimes boring as sin—at least I know I CAN do it. And I will get paid something for it.

Which, even if I were to finish the fiction I’m working on now in the next twenty minutes…won’t be something that happens any time soon from it.

It can’t be denied that right now, my most pressing need is money, and so it makes sense that writing for pay—even if it’s not all that dependable pay—tends to be more attractive than writing fiction that may, or may not, sell sometime before I’m supposed to officially be “retirement” age. (No comment.) But I wish it had not also turned into something that’s become more “fun”—because it’s easier—than fiction.

I’m a novelist. I’m still feeling called to be a novelist. But quite honestly, where is the energy and emotion going to come from for it if I chicken out and write the stuff I know I’ll get paid for first? And where am I as a responsible working writer if I shun things I really can do, things that will pay things like daughter’s ER bill…in favor of trying to eke out some of my novels again from the unsettled states and pieces in which they find themselves?

If I had the answer to this one, I’d not have to worry about trying to apportion time properly on a holiday weekend. A
nd I would have had a more successful fiction “go” on this one, too.

But maybe, just maybe, if I approach my fiction the way I started out doing nonfiction…which was tiny pieces at a time…I can get my “fiction feet” back under me again. I can get the novel’s sea legs again...and once again, find the most relaxing, exhilarating, and rewarding end of my work coming from where it always came from before.

Maybe. I’m hoping so. Because this alternative of having novels in pieces, short stories half done, and feeling like a failure every time I don’t crank out a couple thousand words of my OWN stuff a weekend…this ain’t a good place to live in for long. I don’t like it. And I can’t believe it’s remotely good for my Muse or what I still feel called, after all this time, to do.