Thursday, March 29, 2007

Signs of Spring

My daffodils are blooming. And that is really saying something since gardening and I are not the best of friends. We're barely even aquaintances. I dig the leaves out from under the shrubbery once a year (this task is sorely in need of doing right now!). I cut my unruly rose bushes back in the fall. And I'll water the new tree we put in two years ago when it gets to dry. Other than that, the plants on their own.

My 90 year old grandmother lives with us and she is the type of person who can just be near a plant and it thrives. She can make anything grow. Me, well, I kill my plants. Her "green gene" missed me completely. The plants that are alive around me are alive in spite of me, not because of me.

I don't remember planting daffodils (it is quite possible that my grandmother did it years ago.) But each spring they are the first thing to blossom. Just a few days before the pear trees burst into their white bloom, the yellow daffodils open up as if they are announcing that spring is on it's way. I love spring. (Well, I love spring when I'm on Claritin...but that's another story.) It comes each year no matter what we do. We don't have to hope it comes, we don't sit around praying for it to come - it just comes, because that's the way God designed it.

We all go through "spiritual seasons" as well. In my regular life, we are going through a very difficult time. It feels like it will never end, that things will never "get better" and that I will be stuck here in this spot forever. It might feel that way ten times a day, but in my heart - I know that's simply not true. This season will end when God wants it to. And not one day before. He is working out some grand plan that I cannot see, working things together, changing me on the inside and teaching me very important things. The delay might because He is still doing something, or it could be because I still have something to learn. Whatever the reason, I hear his precious voice telling me to keep my eyes on Him. To stop looking at the circumstances - and to focus my heart and mind on Him alone.

It's not always easy. But every once in a while, he'll give us a sign that spring is on it's way. Like the daffodils in my garden that burst from the ground, God will often give us little signs to help us "hang in there". Simple gestures that tell us that things will change, that spring will come - when it's the right time.

So if you're stuck in a "winter" time, keep your eyes on him, and be aware of those signs that spring is on the way.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Because of Dad

An author named Jane Orcutt died last week, and many of my author friends knew her, loved her and are missing her. I never got to meet her. Sandra Byrd joined us over at Girls, God and the Good Life this month and her post today is about her friendship with Jane. It makes me sad, but in kind of a distant, helpless way. I can pray for those that are grieveing bnow, but there is so little you can actually do. And sometimes you just want to do something.

Death, of course, always reminds me of my dad. I can look at my grief and see how it has changed over the past two years. I still miss him. I still often think of things I'd like to tell him. He was the one who always wanted to know what I was up to. He was interested in whatever I was doing. He didn't even like to read and still loved the fact I was a writer.

This weekend I tackled a backyard project that had been looming. One of those things you keep meaning to do, but never quite get around to doing it? I needed to hang some lattice from underneath our deck to block off the spot where the wheelbarrow and other miscellaneous items sit. My grandmother, who lives with us, has a patio out there, and putting up this lattice would make things look so much prettier down there.

It was a beautiful day Saturday so I took my measurements and we all went off to Lowes to buy the supplies. Jeff helped me, of course. I especially needed help hammering a 2x6 to the rafters that hung 9 feet above us. But I was the one that measured, cut and hammered that baby into place. It looks great - and I have my Dad to thank.

See, I was the oldest of two girls so it was me that helped my dad with carpentry, lawn and any other project he could think of to do. He taught me how to use saws and hammers. How to measure wood and to not be afraid to build. I suppose there are lots of people who could have done that simple project outside, but my confidence to tackle the project at all came from years of watching my Dad. And if he were alive, it's the very thing I would have called and told him. "Thanks Dad! You taught me to do that!"

I had a rough time growing up, and I have so many bad memories. So when I have a day like today, when I can genuinely point to something in my life and say, "Hey! You helped put that there!" Well, it's kind of cool.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rotten Fruit

In third grade, I had a teacher named Mr. Slocum. I adored Mr. Slocum. He was really old (though since I looked at him from an 8 year old perspective, he might not have been as ancient as I remember) but he was so nice.

At some point early in the year, maybe Christmas time, I was at the grocery store with my mom and we picked out a fruit basket to give him as a gift. I loved giving gifts so I was thrilled to bring it in to him.

At the very end of the year, I was getting something from some storage cabinets that sat along the side of our classroom. I opened a drawer, and there was my lovely fruit basket, nasty and rotten, the cellephane unbroken.

I was crushed.

I quickly closed the drawer and walked away, but the moment is burned in my brain. An image that stuck with me for many years.

Sometimes I think about that little girl skipping into the classroom bringing a gift to her teacher and my heart just breaks. Not because I was the girl, but because this happens to us all the time. We open ourselves up, like a flower, then a cold blast of wind snaps us shut. My early years were, unfortunately, full of moments like this, simple moments that cut deeply.

To be honest, it still happens. Times when I give of myself with joy only to face rejection.
But oh, how wonderful, to know that God is different than people. It's so easy to think that our gift becomes worthless when it is rejected by someone. The time we gave, the money we spent or the thoughtfulness that was just ignored ending up just like that rotten fruit in the drawer.

When I was a kid, I didn't know God. I didn't know that God loved me and that even though Mr. Slocum let that fruit rot in the drawer, God saw the gift I gave, and received it.

Now, when I see a gift I've given dropped to the ground, I can lift my face and offer it to God. I can remember that while people may fail us, God never does. When I give now, I can give freely, with no expectation, and trust that my gift is going straight to heaven regardless of what happens here on Earth.

God takes pleasure in you, and your gifts to Him will never fall to the ground. Isn't that nice to know?

(And believe me - having just found another basket of rotting fruit, I take comfort knowing that everything I just said to you is true - even when I have to remind myself of it!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I'm a Cover Girl!

I had to say that! Especially since it may be the only time that it will actually be true. That's me on the cover of Cross & Quill, in a section called "Meet the Pro".
It's kind of amusing really, because most of the time I feel like I'm struggling to get somewhere. I don't feel like a "Pro" at much of anything. With the exception of my ability to find things in the house that my husband can't. And I think most wives can do that.
It was still fun to do, regardless of whether I feel like I belong there:-)
And, my other news is that I will be teaching at the American Christian Fiction Writers Fall Conference. I'm excited about this because it means I have to go! I haven't been to a conference in so long that I'm beginning to feel the "crazies". You know that "I must be nuts" feeling you get when you're mostly around people who give you weird looks if you ramble about characters, plots or arcs? Yeah, I'm feeling the need to be around some other writers.
I still gotta pray that God lets me go (Translation: that He provides the finances to get there). But just the thought of going gives me smiles on this rather dreary looking, first day of spring.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Demise of Christian Fiction?

Maybe that’s being a little over-dramatic. But stick with me here -

I brought in my mail the other day and flipped through the new sales flyer from “Family Christian Stores”. I was pretty discouraged by what I saw.

Here is the lowdown on the products that were shown in the 50 page catalog. (Keep in mind, several products were shown multiple times.)

Easter Stuff (Easter related gifts/products) – 15
Movies for Kids – 39
Movies - 28
Music – 49
Gifts – 32
Kid Products – 59
Bibles/Bible Products – 54
Church Supplies (communion cups and choir robes) - 9

Non fiction books – 87
Fiction books – 6 (total!)
Three by Ted Dekker (shown twice)
2 Left Behind Books by LaHaye/Jenkins (three total covers)
Forever by Karen Kingsbury
The Watchers by Mark Andrew Olsen
The Heir by Paul Robertson

Six fiction books buried within 285 other products.

From a marketing standpoint, this catalog reflects what this store thinks it will sell. What will bring people into their store to spend money.

And it’s not fiction.

The thing that confuses me is that Christians seem to get the power of story when it comes to movies – they featured 28 DVD covers – some multiple times. Where is the fiction? Of the six fiction titles shown in the catalog, four are from bestselling authors. Ted’s book is coming out at as a movie soon. Only Left Behind and Three were even featured, the others were buried in a mostly nonfiction spread.

We’ve long been aware that the sales avenues for Christian fiction is changing. Those of us who have been to the Convention Formerly Known as CBA know that there is an awful lot of Christian “product”. While fiction may be on the shelves, from these numbers, it is obvious that it is not what brings people into the stores. It is not what keeps bringing them back.

So what does this mean for the novelist? What does it mean for those of us who are called to communicate truth through story?

I wish I knew.

I know that we will continue to face challenges. We’ll continue to face a market that, at least in part, has no problem watching a movie but feels a novel isn’t worth their time. I can’t even count the number of times I have seen that dismissive wave, when I share what I write, from someone who tells me they don’t have time for fiction.

I think there will always be a place for great fiction. There are tons of people out there who just can’t get enough of it. But the question for us is – where will that fiction be bought?

The local Christian bookstore or the local B&N or Borders? To be honest, I am much more likely to be found at Borders than anywhere else. Because they have a coffee shop where I can sit and write. And…while they have gifts and calendars and other stuff, the store is still mostly…books. And oh, do I love books. Just being around them makes me feel good. Walking through aisles where I have to climb a stool to see the top row and sit on the floor to look at the bottom row just makes me feel like I am at home. And since I’m not the sort to buy Scripture covered jellybeans or dust collecting statues for my house, my visits to the Christian bookstore tend to have a specific purpose. I go for something. At Borders, I just go to be there.

The shift away from books and towards products probably began long before I came on the publishing scene. But days like today, I sit back and wonder what will happen over the next five years. What changes we might see. How fiction from Christians will find readers. How writers will have to adjust to an ever-changing market.

I think I’m going to go work on my movie…

Monday, March 05, 2007


Gah! It's been a while. I think of all these things I want to say and post about then don't actually get around to doing it. You probably have no idea what I'm talking about, since you probably do things instead of just thinking about doing things.

My daughter turned four last weekend, and while that did take a bit of time and planning, I have no idea where the rest of the last couple of weeks really went. The year is flying by and I am unable to slow it down. I turn around and it's two months later. I don't think I'd mind as much if I had something interesting to show for it, but I really don't.

I am pretty excited about a couple of things though - and perhaps that's why I've been a little sidetracked.

First - I finished the first three chapters for a new novel that I'd like my agent to pitch at the Conference Formerly Known As CBA. Since three chapters forms the base of a solid proposal, I am psyched that I have gotten this far...and I still like the story!!

Second, I have begun writing an original screenplay. It's a fabulous story from a friend of mine and she asked me to co-write it with her. After years of talking about doing it, well...we're doing it. I have the first twelve pages down in my little MacBook. This might not sound like much but since momentum is everything for me, getting started is half the battle.

It's interesting moving from a novel to a screenplay. There are things I can do in a screenplay that I can't do in a novel and vice versa. As a creative person, I appreicate different things about each form. But more than that, it reminds me of the passion God put in me to write movies in the first place.

Back when I attended my Act One class in Washington D.C., I remember plopping into my chair each morning, grateful to be there. It was an amazing class that truly changed my life in so many ways. But I couldn't launch into a screenplay right away since I had a book due. Then my father died. Which stifled my creativity for a while.

Then life just got busy. You probably know what that's like.

I could get frustrated with myself, thinking I wasted time, blah, blah, blah, but if there is one thing I've learned about God - it's that He happens to know what He is doing. For whatever reason, it seems like now is the time to write this screenplay - not two years ago, but now.

I have high hopes for it. Not because I am anything special, but because the story is. I have no doubt this movie will be made and that's saying something, since the percentage of movies actually made is woefully small when compared to the number of movies optioned and/or purchased. When it comes right down to it - it's the story that matters.

So, I've hit the ground running. And I promise I'll be better about blogging. Thanks for hanging in there with me!!