Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Author's Check List for Characters

I’m about 25,000 words in to a new novel. I’ve never used so many main characters before, 5 teens this time, and it’s been challenging to keep things straight. Here’s one of my check lists to stay consistent:
1) Keep subplots evenly spaced.
2) Keep each character’s emotional arc flowing.
3) Make each scene come alive through the viewpoint of the character with the most to lose.
4) Don’t name emotions – show instead of tell.
5) Interact with setting.
6) Give each character distinctive quirks, mannerisms, etc., to help them stick in readers’ minds.
7) Make my characters change and grow in response to the various situations.
8) Keep those situations real, exciting, suspenseful.
9) Show characters’ self-images whether true of false.
10) Give the protagonist and antagonist concrete goals, direction, and action.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Tick in Time

A TICK IN TIME is now just $.99 on AMAZONand BARNES & NOBLE.

This chapter book is one of my favorites for kids ages 8 to 12.

A TICK IN TIME is a middle-grade fantasy-fiction novel with surprising twists, unusual creatures, quirky riddles and some scary moments.

Tommy MacArthur is a 6th-grader who is spending the summer at his grandparents’ with his younger brother. Though he is warned not to run past the old pendulum clock he does, of course, and the clock ticks when it should have tocked and Tommy is plunged into another dimension. He navigates through a number of adventures before stumbling upon the solution to returning.

When he shows his new friend, Noelle, how to slip into the strange land, the two of them fearlessly explore. However their younger siblings have followed them through the portal and that means trouble. And who or what will follow them back?

A Tick in Time is available in PAPERBACK, too. Do you know any kids who are good readers and would enjoy this adventure? I wonder how much more kids are reading now with Kindles and Nooks and other e-readers. I know I love reading on my Kindle more than I expected. I hope kids do, too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Psalm 25, Lessons for Me

Psalm 25 is an alphabetic psalm. That means that in the original Hebrew each verse starts with the next consecutive Hebrew letter. King David wrote this psalm probably at a time when he was under a lot of stress from his enemies. He appears fearful and threatened, but trusts God.

This psalm starts with a wonderful assertion of David’s righteous actions: he lifts up his soul; he trusts the Lord. How can I apply this to myself? How can I lift up my soul? I think this means PRAYER. The second part is to trust God. That will take a lot of conscious effort.

David makes 18 supplications by my count throughout this psalm. Among them he asks the Lord to show him his ways, to remember him, to be merciful, to forget his sins, to be gracious to him, to free him from anguish, to take away his sins, to rescue him, and to redeem Israel. Take a look and see if you can find all 18.

I also found at least 5 expressions scattered throughout the psalm that I can apply to my life: Be hopeful (vs. 3). Be humble (vs. 9). Keep the covenant (vs. 10). Keep my eyes on the Lord (vs. 15). Be righteous (vs. 21).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Questions to Ask to Stay Focused

Staying Focused

Focused on LOVE: Am I telling those I love that I love them? Every day? Am I showing them that love as well?

Focused on HEALTH: Am I exercising (housework counts) often enough and long enough? Can I multitask the exercise, that is, read a book on the stationary bike or listen to an audiotape as I vacuum?

Focused on WORK: Am I accomplishing my goals? Am I doing something worthwhile? Am I presenting an honest and respectable work identity?

Focused on FINANCES: Am I saving? Am I giving? Am I spending wisely?

Focused on FAMILY: Are we creating good memories? Are we treating one another with respect, kind words, and encouragement?

Focus on FAITH: Am I honoring God in all I do and say? Am I praising Him, praying to Him, and reading His word daily?

15 question marks – 15 points for each “yes”. On a good day I can get above 8, how about you?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Post Passion Post BEST SELLERS

2020 Update: LOVE CONTAINED is out in paperback and Kindle.

Trapped in a shipping container, sinking to the depths of the ocean … but this isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to Henry … or Max.

After one of the Winston twins dies, the surviving brother loses his faith, ignores God’s plan, but never forgets the girl both of them loved.

2018 Update: THE TIME BENDER series is out in paperback and Kindle.

Two aliens are on a mind-blowing quest to find an astounding super power. When they discover a remarkable girl on Earth, one who can bend time, they all get caught between love and adventure. Heads, hearts, and hormones go galactic in this brilliant and fresh YA novel. 

2016 Update: THE GIRL IN THE TIME MACHINE is out in paperback and Kindle.

A desperate teen. A faulty time machine. A rising body count.

Laken Mitchell has been bullied one time too many, but using a time machine to make her tormenters disappear means putting her own future—and her past—at perilous risk. THE GIRL IN THE TIME MACHINE is science fiction at its complex best. If you’re looking for a new twist to time travel, a heroine who dodges parallel universes, and a story that makes you think, then you’ll love this dark and mysterious tale.

Click the link to buy THE GIRL IN THE TIME MACHINE now and enter a world that will challenge your concept of time.  Also available at Barnes & Noble and most other online bookstores.

2015 Update: EXODIA and OUT OF EXODIA are out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

By 2093 American life is a strange mix of failing technologies, psychic predictions, and radiation induced abilities. Tattoos are mandatory to differentiate two classes, privileged and slave. 
Dalton Battista fears that his fading tattoo is a deadly omen. He’s either the heir of the brutal tyrant of the new capital city, Exodia or he’s its prophesied redeemer. Shy, handsome, smart and in possession of powers he doesn’t yet realize, he escapes an order for his execution by fleeing the city with the help of Lydia, who quickly captures his heart. But can he escape a destiny that will force him to marry another girl and return to Exodia as its liberator? 

Based loosely on the ancient story of Moses, this two book dystopian journey (EXODIA and OUT OF EXODIA) crosses genres, combining young adult, new adult, sci-fi, magical realism, and speculative fiction for an adventure full of symbolism, hidden codes, and thematic imagery.

2014 Update: A SOUL'S KISS is out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

Buy your copy today.

When a tragic accident leaves Jessica comatose, her spirit escapes her body. Navigating a supernatural realm is tough, but being half dead has its advantages. Like getting into people’s thoughts. Like taking over someone’s body. Like experiencing romance on a whole new plane - literally. Jessica learns an amazing truth as she struggles to return to her body before the doctors pull the plug, only she can’t do it alone. Now the only two people willing to help Jessica’s splintered soul are the two she’s hurt the most. They must find a way to guide her soul back to her body . . . before it’s too late.

Seriously, folks, what did you expect to read about? This blog post has had thousands of extra hits probably because of the number of highly searched for terms in my innocent "after Valentine's Day post" (get it? post passion post). Well, there's a reason you're here anyway, was it to buy one of my books? Hooray! But to satisfy my curiosity would you please leave a comment below and tell me how you ended up here on my blog?

Oh, and here's the original post that has inexplicably received so many hits:

Yup, that’s right, Valentine’s Day has come and gone. That pink passion and periphery of chocolate, flowers, jewelry, chick flicks, and love are fading fast. My pound of chocolate is, of course, now five pounds on the hips. Alas.

But this year there’s hope for quick weight loss help. I’m off to babysit two small children in a vegan household. Surely I’ll expend a few calories chasing after the small fries (mmm, can you supersize that?).

The youngest one is sweet as candy (oh, that reminds me, I should bring some treats). The older child has allergies to nuts and soy and a host of other things. How does her mother manage? Maybe I won’t bring food treats.

Books! Of course. Is there any better gift or treat?

(Was your search word there?)


* indicates required

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Top 5 Reasons Jesus is the Best Valentine

5) He knows the number of hairs on your head so when you have a good hair day He knows.
4) He will never leave you or forsake you so you don’t have to worry about being alone.
3) You don’t have to wait for Him to call, He’s always right there.
2) He’s not afraid to commit; He loves you more than anyone else could.
1) He sacrificed EVERYTHING for YOU! When He says He’ll love you forever He can back it up with Eternity.

Monday, February 13, 2012

13 Secrets of Love from the Bible

1) Patience – I love how this is mentioned first in the discourse on love in 1st Corinthians, chapter 13. You can probably measure your love for just about anyone and anything by how patient you are with him/her or it. Don’t have a short fuse with the one you love!
2) Kindness – seems like a no-brainer and yet I’ve seen people in relationships and marriages being very unkind: name-calling, demeaning the other person, arguing, even rolling their eyes at something their “loved one” said.
3) Have no envy – envious feelings are bitter and unhappy and suspicious, definitely not good things for a love relationship. You should want good things (success) for your partner.
4) No boasting – what? Why would boasting be bad? Because boasting shows insecurity and immaturity.
5) No pride or arrogance – that’s right, try to be humble and caring in your love relationship. When you are proud you may try to wrestle power from the other person. Pride carries with it a disdain for others as well as disrespect.
6) No rudeness – do not be rude. How simple is that? Well, pretty hard actually. We think we always have to be honest to the point where we forget to shut up sometimes. Don’t verbalize all of your thoughts. If what you want to say doesn’t build up your partner, think again and rephrase it. There’s probably a way to express the same thing in a courteous, tactful, and polite manner.
7) No self-centeredness – why do you always insist on your own way? Center yourself on your partner’s needs, wants, hopes, desires, etc., and if he does the same you’ll both be fulfilled.
8) No keeping a record of faults – ! Love forgets the hurts, slights, goof-ups. If you must keep a list, keep a list of good qualities, fun times, favorite memories, special events, secret words, surprises, and anything that makes you both happy.
9) Stay truthful and true – nothing more needs to be said.
10) Protect – protect your relationship. Hold fast. Stand firm. Be united.
11) Trust – when you trust you give your whole self over to the other.
12) Hope – this is one step past believing in your love. Be optimistic. Give your loved one the benefit of the doubt. Expect the best.
13) Persevere – too many people give up too soon. Of course, the best thing is to build the love relationship on friendship first, but if you didn’t, and you started with that excited infatuation, and now there’s a marriage, home, kids, and a rocky road ahead, then you need to get help and work on keeping the marriage going. Love perseveres.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

10 Things You Should and Shouldn't Do For Valentine's Day

’Tis the season for hearts and candy and flowers. The list below names things that either I or friends of mine have tried in the past. All have positive and negative outcomes. Can you imagine both?

1) Greet your spouse wearing nothing but Saran Wrap
2) Use magic marker to tattoo his name on your “self”
3) Make an appointment with your ob/gyn
4) Order tickets to next year’s super bowl
5) Schedule a mammogram
6) Hint about your favorite (expensive) brand of chocolates
7) Write a rhyming love poem
8) Prepare a romantic vegan dinner with black beans
9) Talk about the credit card bill
10) Wink a lot

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Did the Kids' Sermon, Too

I also had to do last Sunday’s children’s sermon. I picked one verse from the scripture reading I was preaching on: Mark 1: 35: Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

The simple kids’ lesson is that Jesus thought it was pretty important to start his day with prayer so we should, too.

The adults’ lesson is a bit deeper. Jesus had just spent the day before preaching in the synagogue and amazing the people with his authoritative teaching. Word spread quickly. That night the whole village of Capernaum, about fifteen hundred people, showed up at the gates of the house where he was staying, carrying their sick and demon possessed. He must have stayed up quite late to touch and heal so many. Yet he gets up early, while it’s still dark, and makes time for prayer.

My natural question is: why does Jesus have to pray to God if he is God? I don’t know, but sometimes I talk to myself, don’t you? I think he is giving us a wonderful example of a spirit-filled man. Prayer is important and we don’t do it enough.

I like that he goes off to “a solitary place”. He chooses nature, his creation. Throughout scripture he prays in similar settings: the wilderness, the Mount of Olives, the garden of Gethsemane, the desert.

I guess the lesson for kids and adults alike is: Pray.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Edge of Escape - more extras

Sarah slept with a night light. A pink flower glowed bright enough to give a clear outline of the objects on the floor. Sarah was messy. Eddie felt his stomach tense and the anger he felt toward this particular girl surged. She deserves this, he thought. He was going to be rough.

He stepped over a school bag and a pair of shoes and held the soaked rag near her nose. He counted to twenty and then pressed the cloth directly onto her face. She didn’t move. Another count of twenty and he put the cloth back into his pocket and pulled back the bed covers.

Sarah was light. He cradled her in his arms and tried to imagine that she was his Becky. How joyous he would feel when he got to this part of his plan with the perfect girl. But this wasn’t the perfect girl. This was Sarah, the intruder.

He heaved her over his shoulder and let her head fall against his back. He used his left arm to hold her bare legs and felt for the doorway with his right hand.

Four steps down the hall . . . cross the kitchen . . . out the door . . . careful not to make a noise.

What was he thinking? He had parked too far away. Well, he could just leave her here on the back porch. Experiment done. Practice finished. Rehearsal over. But . . . no, he couldn’t leave her outside.

“Do not panic,” he nearly said aloud. He hadn’t realized how fast his heart was racing or how much his hands were shaking. He stroked Sarah’s legs, as if she were a kitten. “Calm down,” he spoke the words beneath his breath.

Her legs were smooth. He wondered . . . certainly Becky’s legs were softer. Everything about Becky was far superior to this Sarah.

He turned around and re-entered the kitchen, made his way through the small house and left Sarah exactly how he had found her. He pulled the covers up to her neck and bent down to listen to her breathing.

She would never know how lucky she was.
(Excerpt from Extra Scenes for EDGE OF ESCAPE )

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What's On Your "Bucket List"?

What’s on your “bucket list”? You know, the list of things you want to do before you die. The trick is to put things on the list that are feasible – like building a log home, vacationing in Hawaii, flying an airplane, seeing the Grand Canyon, and getting published – and not including things that are unrealistic like winning the lottery or becoming a rock star.

Today I crossed off “preaching a sermon”. Our pastor asked me to take his place while he was gone, trusting that since I teach a Bible study that I could handle an hour on my feet in front of the congregation. I could and I did, though my blood pressure hasn’t come all the way back down yet.

Next on my list is . . . well, nothing. I need a new list. Can you comment with some suggestions? What’s on your “bucket list”?

Friday, February 3, 2012

More Excerpts

Eddie crept toward a new hiding place. Having to split his stalking between two girls made him feel disloyal to Becky, but she would understand some day.

He watched the window as Sarah’s bedroom light flicked on at 10:05 p.m. She was predictable, as were her parents. They were still in the family room, still watching those inane television shows. The house would be dark by 11:30, everyone fast asleep by midnight. He would wait an extra hour just to be safe. Thankfully there were no pets in this household and no alarm system on the back door, the one he had so easily picked yesterday after everyone had left for school and work. His quick tour of the house didn’t even make him late for school.

He had no romantic feelings for Sarah. Just disdain, irritation, resentment, contempt and, yes, jealousy. But wouldn’t Becky think that was flattering?

A car slowed as it came around the corner, the headlights sweeping over Eddie’s secret spot. He held steady the square piece of cardboard he had brought with him. Its shape mimicked an electric box, a less conspicuous silhouette than his own. That would probably be the last car of the night through this sleepy neighborhood.

Three solitary hours ticked away.

Patient, prepared. Precisely at 1 a.m. Eddie left his hiding place and walked up the driveway. He kept his head up and imagined himself to be Sarah’s brother, returning home. Yes, that’s what a nosy neighbor would see. Sarah’s family was new to the area, the neighbors wouldn’t yet know how many kids were in the family. He walked as if he belonged here, no glancing over his shoulder, no sneaking.

He reached the back door and performed his magic. The lock released and he eased the door open, walked in and closed it to within an inch.

The green glow of the numbers on the microwave helped orient him to the room. Sarah’s bedroom was off to the right. He crossed the kitchen without a squeak and stopped in the carpeted hallway. Sarah’s door was completely closed, but that was all right; he knew it wouldn’t make a sound.

Eddie took the cloth and the vial of chloroform from his pocket and quickly rehearsed his next few actions. This is for you, Becky, he promised. He was quite rational. It made perfect sense to practice “the event” on Sarah. If he could whisk Sarah out from under her parents’ noses while they were sleeping then he could definitely steal Rebecca away while Rebecca’s parents vacationed.

A perfect plan. He smiled and pushed the door ajar.
(Excerpt from Extra Scenes for EDGE OF ESCAPE )

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Plan C

Plan C
“Call me Edward,” he practiced. He stared at himself in the mirror, stood a little straighter and puffed out his chest. “I’m Edward. You remember me from Mrs. Marks’ sixth grade class, don’t you?”

He shook his head and started over. What he said first, when Becky awakened like Sleeping Beauty, would be the most important part of his whole plan. He tried the lines again in a deeper voice. Then he slowed his speech down and watched the movement of his lips as he formed each word, imagining how Becky would focus on his mouth, watching the love pour out. She would see the truth before she heard it. She would see it, then she would hear it and then she would feel it. She would awaken to a new happiness.

He tried again. “Becky, it’s Eddie. Remember? From sixth grade? You used to sit by the window. But I’m Edward now.”

His heart was pounding; he was beginning to sweat. Here he was, alone in the house, rehearsing in front of the mirror, and he was more nervous than any other time he had to speak to someone.

“I’m Edward. Don’t be scared. I love you.”

No, it would be a mistake to tell her that too soon. She’d have to read the diaries first. She’d find out about his love as it unfolded in the wonderful expressions he had penned, the tributes he made to her, the poems, the love letters.

He pounded his fist against his forehead. Think, think. Get it right.

Last try: “Wake up, Becky. Everything’s all right. I’m here to rescue you. It’s me, Edward. Edward Burling.”
(Excerpt from Extra Scenes for EDGE OF ESCAPE )