Saturday, July 30, 2011

Better than Bariatric Surgery

This is one of several chipmunks that entertain us here at Big Pine Lodge. Faced with the horror of growing too large to escape down his hole, Chippy gladly wears the fashionable "diet ring" (comes in five colors and sizes) when gorging himself on sunflower seeds.

Chippy offers other diet tips such as 1) eat more fruits and seeds, avoid meat, 2) stuff your cheeks, not your stomach, and 3) don't walk when you can run.

I'm going to try this diet. I have an old hula hoop in the garage . . . running to get it . . . yes, it fits. Now off to stuff my cheeks - chocolate is a fruit, right?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Humble Advice for Aspiring Authors

I have two humble bits of advice for aspiring authors. First, give your characters free rein. Let them change the story on you. Life is an adventure; we don’t know what tomorrow will bring and a novel should be just as surprising for the author as for the reader.

I started EDGE OF ESCAPE with a particular ending in mind. In fact, I wrote the penultimate scenes immediately after writing the beginning scenes. Rebecca, the victim, would be rescued, I thought. I wrote a scene of her recovering in the hospital with a young male character standing vigil. I didn’t name him so I could keep the reader guessing. Kidnapper , boyfriend, brother? I thought I knew who it was when I wrote the scene, but it turned out that I was wrong. I can control the circumstances and events as they unfold, but by giving the characters free will, I give the book its own world.

I don’t write a lengthy outline like some authors, but I do have a plan, just like in life. But, just like in life, things don’t go the way I plan; there are twists, turns, surprises and problems. I guess you could say that my characters rebel against me, their creator, just like we humans have been rebelling against our Creator since Adam and Eve.

When I first started writing many years ago I got into the habit of following a writing routine. First I like to proofread the previous day’s pages then go for a walk. With the last scenes fresh in my mind I create new action, dialogue and dilemmas as I get my exercise. Forty-five minutes later I sit back down to type. The characters obediently follow my plot ideas for a few paragraphs and then . . . bam! They rebel. I don’t mind because what they decide to say and do keeps me interested and entertained.

My second piece of advice is to love your characters, even the evil ones. Care for them. Give them hopes, dreams, habits, idiosyncrasies, goals, fears and flaws. Make sure your protagonist has some defect and your antagonist has some merit; nobody is all good or all bad.

Everybody has a book inside. If a colleague hadn’t challenged me with that statement I never would have written my first book, let alone several. You have a book inside – go write it!

(I wrote this piece for a guest blog at Wise Words. Hop over there and check out the other helpful posts she has as well as her books, Eden and A Proper Charlie.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Giveaway at Sugarpeach

Thanks to Evangeline at Sugarpeach for hosting a giveaway of my book, EDGE OF ESCAPE, on her blog and for doing a really fun interview with me. Go and post a comment before August 12 to enter to win.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vain Repetition or Heartfelt Declaration?

I was recently in a debate over whether or not we should say the Apostles’ Creed every week in our church service. This centuries old statement of belief is traditionally used as a baptismal confession of faith, but has been incorporated into many worship services as an affirmation or declaration of faith.

Opponents to repeating it weekly say that it will lose its meaning. I understand their worry and I hope that isn’t true. I also hope the Lord’s Prayer, which we always say, hasn’t lost its meaning for these people. Another argument is that just because it was a customary part of the service for the past three pastors over the last 20+ years doesn’t mean it should be for the current pastor. I understand and I actually agree.

However, I think there are many more reasons to regularly declare our basic doctrinal beliefs (with the Apostles’ Creed or even some other concise credo) that are valid. I feel passionate about this. First, saying the creed together shows our unity in faith, honors God and comforts us. Any visitor to our service can hear exactly what we believe and Who we believe in.

Saying it often is like studying something so well that you will spot a counterfeit instantly. Therefore, knowing the creed safeguards us against false doctrine and we preserve the basics of our Christian faith to be passed on to the next generation. By hearing it 52 times a year rather than once children will learn it.

Those are my arguments. The decision is left to the pastor. (Click here
for original version of the Apostles' Creed.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Aspiring Authors: Is Self-Publishing Right for You?

I've read a number of articles in the past year that either praised or criticized the fast growing industry of self-publishing. I’m willing to bet that 99% of all authors hope and wish for a book deal with a major publisher, but an even higher percentage (99.99%?) won’t get that deal. In fact, they won’t even get an agent. The conundrum new authors face is that they can’t get a publisher’s attention without an agent and the agent won’t take them on unless they’ve been published.

Therefore they must publish on their own. I’ve written seven books over the past nine years and only tried to interest the industry folks with the first one. I saw a much faster and more rewarding future in being my own publisher and retaining all the creative control. It has worked for me, but I have a background of over three decades in education and my grammar editing has been honed by correcting hundreds of thousands of homework papers. (I’m not kidding; I can spot an errant apostrophe in a nanosecond.)

Self-publishing MAY be right for you because (1) it’s free or darn close to free and (2) it’s a first step. Check out Kindle, PubIt!, Smashwords, Createspace and others. Traditionally published authors and self-published authors inhabit the same online world, do book tours (real and virtual), have fan pages, websites, blogs and more. One may get a $5000 advance and the other may earn more than that over the life span of a book that never has to go out of print and pays monthly royalties directly to your bank account. Hmmm.

Self-publishing MAY NOT be right for you if your English skills are lacking. Because of the ease of self-publishing, thousands of unedited, poorly written and just plain horrible books are added to the list daily. These unpolished works give the whole category a bad reputation and make it tediously hard for a buyer to find that worthwhile read.

If you think traditional publishing is right for you, then that’s great and I wish you good luck; I still query a couple of agents once a year so I’m with you there. In the meantime, my books are being read and that it enormously satisfying.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Excerpt 4 from TUNNELS

As the growling grew louder and the snorts produced some foggy, and stinky, hot breaths, I slipped over the side of the cliff. Old Miss or Mrs. Jackson was already below me, rappelling faster than a spider in a chimney.

The crash of the waves below told me when I was near enough to look down, catch some good footing and finish the descent by swinging into a convenient cave.

“Watch out,” Jackson said as she grabbed me around the waist and kept me from landing in, or rather diving through, the hole in the cave floor. “Now listen.”

The language we heard coming from the steamboat and the raft was specifically identifiable as nineteenth century . The jargon, the cussing and continual use of “the n word”, was jolting yet I was not offended. Somehow it fit.

“Start writing!” Jackson hissed, thrusting paper and pencils at me. She had already turned on her recording device and was capturing the dialogue. I didn’t see the point in my taking notes. Who even knew shorthand anymore? Still, I disengaged myself from the ropes and gave it my best shot.

It seemed to take hours and when I looked up we weren’t outside at all. We were standing in an old-fashioned farmhouse bedroom, peering out from a crack in the closet door. A school marmish, bonnet-headed old woman was shaking her finger at a boy coming out from under the bed, another boy was huddled under the sheets.

“Enough,” Jackson whispered, dropping her device into her satchel. She held it open for me to toss in the paper and pencil. Then she stepped back and disappeared through a hole in the floor.

But not before she grabbed my ankle. I flew after her, bumping against the smooth sides of yet another tunnel.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Guest Post at 3BookBees - Thanks Girls

I began writing in high school. I would turn the music up really loud and let the words flow. Mostly it was poetry and short stories. I showed my work to my English teacher who, of course, encouraged me. Then, when a boy I had been crushing on since seventh grade started hanging around one summer, I actually let him read my poems. What was I thinking? Well, the emotional stuff didn't scare him away and we dated a couple years later when he came home from college . . . that is, until his girlfriend returned. Oh, well.

I also kept a diary which I would encourage everyone to do. It makes you think about what was important every day of your life and you get to really know yourself when you look back through the years. What was going on in my life on January 5th of eighth grade or May 5th of twelfth grade, who I was friends with, what I was stressing about, what my hopes were, etc., are more real because they are on paper and not faded or altered by my memory.

When I wrote EDGE OF ESCAPE, which flits around between events in Eddie's and Rebecca's lives in grade school, junior high and high school, having that diary front and center in my mind's eye gave me some added perspective to work with.

I had confidence in my decision to become a writer because of my early efforts. I just wish I hadn't waited so long to try novels. Since I started 9 years ago I have completed 7 novels and have 3 more partially done. Everybody has at least one novel inside - just write!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dragon's Milk in Ponshewaing

As I was driving through Ponshewaing yesterday I saw a sign advertizing Dragon’s Milk at the local market. First of all, Ponshewaing is a one breath whistle stop. I don’t even have to hold my breath between Ponshewaing coming and going signs, that’s how close they are and how small the place is. I love typing Ponshewaing almost as much as I love saying Ponshewaing.

Anyway, the sign got my attention and so I thought it might make an interesting blog post, better than writing about shoulder replacements, skin cancer, colonoscopies and other things that are going on in my life this week.

How many nipples do dragons have? I’m guessing two, but maybe those spiky things running along their backs have other purposes. I can imagine a litter of baby dragons (draguettes?) fluttering in a row, sucking like hot-breathed piglets, if pigs could fly.

How did the market get the Dragon’s milk? What’s the mark up? Is there a major distributor? Now I’m picturing Shrek’s sidekick, Donkey, as the spokesperson for a series of ridiculously smart commercials that we will still fast forward through.

Well, all of the above flitted through my mind as fast as Ponshewaing did and when I got home I took a second to google it, pretty sure that the little market was using some clever salesmanship to get people to stop in. Turns out Dragon’s Milk is some kind of ale, beer by any other name. I’m a bit disappointed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Body Parts and Coded Verses

Psalm 119 – 14th Stanza

Unfortunately many modern translations of the Bible have eliminated the 22 groupings of this beautiful Psalm. There are 176 verses divided into 22 stanzas of 8 lines. The first eight lines each start in Hebrew with the letter aleph, the next eight with the second Hebrew letter, bet, and so on, in order, through all 22 Hebrew letters. Is this a memorization technique, a poetic device, an amazing code or something else? The cool beauty of it is lost in translation. The words law, statute, precept, decree, promise, command and word appear more than 176 times. That’s a pretty big emphasis on WORD, God’s word. Should we pay attention to his laws, promises, commands? To His Word?

The first line of each stanza give us some great bits of wisdom (who says there’s no instruction manual for parents?). How can you be blessed? Walk according to the law of the Lord (119:1). How can a young man stay pure? Live according to God’s word (119:9). Why would God be good to me? Because I obey his word (119:17). Who made me? God’s hands made me and formed me (119:73). Where should I put my hope? In His word (119:81). Isn’t God’s word out of date now? No, it’s eternal (119:89). And there’s more.

The 14th stanza begins with an oft quoted text. You may have heard it sung. “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Four body parts are mentioned in these verses; look for them. Here’s the whole stanza (NIV):

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
preserve my life, LORD, according to your word.
108 Accept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.

Feet, mouth, hands, and heart were the four body parts. They are in the original Hebrew and yet some translations have written them out. Feet signify our walk or our conduct: we need God’s word to light our path. Our mouths should be praising him willingly and without expecting anything in return (though He will bless us). Verse 109 says I constantly take my life in my own hand. We should be in God’s hands, not our own. By the way, there are two words for hand in Hebrew, both are symbolized by the 10th and 11th Hebrew letters, one is a grasping hand and the other, the one used in this verse, is an open hand. If we put our lives (our souls in the Hebrew) in our own open hand the inference behind this is that we are in great danger – we could fall out of an open hand. The last body part is mentioned twice: heart. God’s word is the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping (extending, completing) God’s word.

I love that my heritage (vs. 111) is God’s word. That is exactly why the only things I specifically willed to my children were my Bibles.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I'm on a Virtual Book Tour

Here's my schedule and it should be fun! Come on along and check out some new blogs. Special thanks to the Virtual Book Tour Cafe.
July 10 - Meet & Greet at Virtual Book Cafe

July 13 - Guest Blogging at 3bookbees

July 16 - Guest Blogging at Words I Write Crazy

July 19 - Guest Blogging at Been There Read That

July 22 - Author Interviewed at Sugarpeach The Peach Who Loves Books

July 25 - Author Interviewed at RiftWatcher

July 27 - Guest Blogging at Wise Words

August 3 - Guest Blogging at Bibrary Bookslut

August 5 - Guest Blogging at Live to Read

August 9 - Author Interviewed at BK Walker Books Etc.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Excerpt from Mystery's Grave

MYSTERY'S GRAVE is book 2 in the Big Pine Lodge series for kids ages 8 - 12. Here's an excerpt from chapter 9:

Missy and Kevin had divided up their job of knocking on the guest room doors in the lodge and then went cabin to cabin together with no luck.

“Let’s keep going that way toward the stable,” Missy pointed. Kevin agreed and they followed the path.

“You don’t have any quicksand around here, do you?” she asked.

“No, but wouldn’t it be funny if he found another way into the caves?” Kevin stopped. “Hey! We should have checked the little playroom under the stairs.”

“I did.” Missy had kept walking and now Kevin caught up. “When you went down the hall on the right, I checked right away. The secret door was locked and I even checked the secret staircase behind the poster to see if he snuck up to the attic.”

“Good thinking, Missy. Well, maybe he’ll be at the stables. I hope the bobcats don’t get him.”

Now it was Missy’s turn to stop. Her right hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, no! That would be awful! Come on, let’s run!”

They raced to the stable and searched diligently, but there were only medium and large size footprints in the soft dirt.

Missy and Kevin walked past the stables and out to the access road. The old, old cemetery was across the road and Missy had found her great-grandmother’s grave there the first week she had spent at the lodge. She automatically looked in the direction of that gravesite and was astonished to see Scooter walking toward them, tightly clutching something.

“Scooter!” she yelled. Then Kevin started yelling, too. The little boy stopped for just a moment before realizing that he knew who Kevin was though the girl was only vaguely familiar.

“Look!” he hollered back. “I found a kitty.”

Missy and Kevin ran up to Scooter and he held out the baby bobcat for them to see.

“Where did you find him?” Missy wanted to know. Scooter thought about not answering her since he didn’t really know her, but then he pointed at the fallen tombstone and started to explain.

“He gots a sister, too, but the mama cat came and took it away in her mouth.”

“Oh, my gosh, Missy, I think Scooter has a bobcat kitten.”

They examined the tiny wild thing more closely, then agreed.

Suddenly there was a loud screeching scream from the oak tree and all three sets of eyes went wide with fear.

“Put the kitten down, Scooter. We better get out of here!” Missy was scared to death. She didn’t want another encounter with a bobcat even if the cat was tame. And there was no guarantee that this was the same animal.

“I want to keep it.” Scooter hugged it closer.

“I really think you’d better let the mother cat take care of it a while longer,” Kevin coaxed. He pried the kitten from Scooter’s grasp and set it on the grassy mound of a hundred year old grave. Then he and Missy each grabbed one of Scooter’s arms and took off in a six-legged race where half the time Scooter’s legs were off the ground.

They heard another cat scream and they went even faster. Kevin bravely glanced back to see the mother bobcat gently retrieving her baby and bounding off into the woods.

Copyright 2010 by Debra Chapoton

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who Memorizes Scripture?

What’s wrong with memorizing Scripture? Absolutely nothing . . . except now some of the words and phrasing mess me up when what I had memorized as a child is so different from the more modern translations I consult now. Ah, but that’s a good thing. Take, for example, this modern (1995) translation of Matthew 11:28: Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. What I had memorized is: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Same thing, right? Not really. Looking into the original words of Jesus I discovered that he intended the two contrasting verbs – active and passive. That is, he’s saying we are weary from what we do and what is done to us, we are laboring and we are burdened. The modern version just has us tired from carrying heavy loads. What Jesus says next is also in two parts: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. See? Take the yoke . . . and learn. The Bible uses “yoke” as an symbol of different things such as slavery, punishments for sin, afflictions, legal ceremonies, commandments of God, marriage, and religion. Here Jesus uses “yoke” as a metaphor for religion. So take on His religion (passive) and learn (active).

All of the Old Testament laws, hundreds and hundreds of them beyond the Ten Commandments, were indeed a heavy burden to bear, a yoke that would weary the strongest soul. But Jesus’ religion is based on love – love God, love your neighbor. He says in the next verse that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I picture a set of scales with all the levitical laws on one side weighing down so heavily and the other side tipped up with just one word perched there: LOVE. Ahh, so light and easy. Restful. And that brings me back to the first verse I memorized as a kid: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 1 - 31 Sitewide Promo at Smashwords

Authors are offering their books at 25%, 50% and 75% off for the month of July at Smashwords. You can download to your computer, Kindle, Nookbook or other ereader. My books are $1.50 or $.99 with discounts taken at check-out. Here's a LINK

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Excerpt 3 from Tunnels

I should have been confused by Jackson’s statement, but, oddly, I knew she was right and we were definitely here on this bluff about to save two poor souls on a raft.

But how? We had no tools, no equipment of any kind. At least I didn’t. I looked toward my matronly partner and waited for the next flash of lightning. And there it was. Her shape was etched on my retinas with fading red clarity. There was a strap across her shoulder and a large satchel under her arm.

“What’s in your bag?” I asked, turning my attention back to the flickering boat lights below. I could just make out the square shape of the raft entering the arc of illumination.

“The usual,” she said, “ipad, knives, guns and for back up: paper and pencils.”

Did I hear right?

“Oh, and a flashlight, of course,” she added as she shined a narrow beam in my face. Then she fanned the light over my body and asked, “Where’s your bag? Didn’t you pick it up?” My hesitation must have made her consider another option, despite my nametag. “Are you Paige? Who are you?” And then her light picked up the larger duffel bag behind me. “Oh, there it is. Open it, would you?”

The zipper stuck every couple of inches, but I managed to force the thing open. Inside was another flashlight, rope and a ton of rock climbing gear. I smiled. This was one sport this yuppie mother of three was fairly adept at.

The sound of the raft cracking up below was not the only reason I hurried to pull the supplies out. The growling to our left was especially menacing.