Saturday, December 31, 2005


To ring in the new year, we're doing a couple of special things.
First, on Monday several of our novelists are presenting their resolutions for 2006.
Next, Charis Connection is repeating the seven "most commented upon" posts of 2005. If you missed these pieces, here's your chance to catch up!

Have a wonderful and exciting 2006!

--The novelists of Charis Connection

Friday, December 30, 2005

JSB: "Three Godfathers"

The other night I happened to see TCM was showing Three Godfathers (not the John Wayne version, which I'm not a real fan of; nor does it refer to Marlon Brando in his latter years). This was the 1936 version, and I almost didn't watch it, except that I saw Chester Morris was in it. I always thought Morris was a strong leading man in the early 30's, and didn't know why he didn't go on to greater popularity (although he did do the Boston Blackie serials and a lot of TV). Maybe this movie is part of the reason. It's a really challenging movie, and Morris doesn't go for the sugar coated leading man role. He's a real stinker. But this turns out to be one of the best Christian movies ever made in Hollywood, I do believe, for that very reason.

***Spoilers ahead ****

The film is about three bank robbers who take it on the lam in the desert. Then they come across a dying woman in a covered wagon, and her baby. Before that, they're in the town of "New Jerusalem," and Morris is really magnetic here, and funny, and totally ruthless. He kills a guy in cold blood.

He says to his two cohorts to leave the woman and the baby and get going, because they have to get water and get away with all their loot. But the older of the trio insists on taking the baby when the woman dies right in front of him.

So the movie is about these three men and a baby, so to speak. Morris is against the baby the whole way. But then the old guy, who is wounded, can't go on. He knows it (their horses died drinking poison water, and they're on foot, and will barely make it anyway). He tells the other two to go, and gives the baby to Walter Brennan, #2 guy. Morris is still unhappy. As they go along, they hear the gunshot. The old guy has shot himself. Wow! In a 1936 Western?
The other two walk on. It's looking bleak. Then Brennan decides to leave his share of the loot for the baby, and a note to Morris to give the kid a break, and then Brennan walks out to HIS death! Dark stuff.

Morris wakes up to see he's alone with the baby. Well, he's not going to take the baby. He starts to walk away. A rattlesnake approaches the baby. (Can anyone say Satan and the church?)
Morris whips around just in time to shoot the snake. And decides to take the baby with him.

Well, they're not going to make back to "New Jerusalem". Morris figures if he only had some water now (he gave the last of it to the baby) he could make it. But the watering hole he's at is the same poisoned hole that killed the horses. Not right away, though. He knows if he drinks he'll have an hour or so of life.

So...for the kid, he drinks. He makes it back to New Jerusalem, where the town is gathered in church. He marches in and hands the baby to the woman who spurned him (the guy he shot was her fiance). And then he dies.

What makes it work, what keeps it from sentimentality, is the great performance by Morris and the script refusing to soft peddle him. It's a lesson for Christian writers, too. You don't have to force the theme. Give us real, and flawed, characters and it'll be so much more powerful.

James Scott Bell, , is writing books when he's not watching classic movies or drinking coffee at Starbucks.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

JK: Focus

This morning I picked up the book my sister inspired. It’s called A Simple Gift of Comfort, Healing Words for Difficult Times (Harvest House). She would have liked this small book of prose and photographs by Lisa Sorenson taken of every day things like water pitchers sitting a window sill or shadows playing on multi-colored river rocks worn smooth by water and wind. I find inspiration for my writing in beautiful photographs that focus on familiar things.

My sister inspired that book when she was very ill and later passed away from a rare multi-system disorder called Shy-Drager that robs the person of movement, control of body temperature, blood pressure, digestion and eventually breathing. She noted that when one is going through a hard time it’s often difficult to concentrate long enough to read a whole book. “I just can’t focus,” she’d tell me.

I wasn’t her daily care provider as I lived some distance away, but I saw her weekly to pay her bills and acted as a mediator between her and her estranged husband and helped comfort her grown sons and our parents. I coordinated her care which was no easy task. I called her “the queen of control” and the rest of us “ladies in waiting.” She laughed at that and would type out on her computer with two pencil erasers “How true!”

Because reading was now difficult for her and even listening to taped books required longer periods of concentration, even reading to her -- something I could do -- wasn’t the joy it might have been. Instead I offered her little things to think about during the day. They were metaphors or insights such as the word focus having nothing to do with clarity as in a photographer’s lens, but rather being a word drawn from the Greek word hearth or the center of the home. It’s where the heat came from. We talked about the word comfort in Greek meaning “to come along beside.” I always thought it interesting that the word parable comes from the Greek meaning “pebble” something “tossed along beside.” That’s what I hope my novels do, come along beside; for certain it’s what I hoped the suggestions offered to my dying sister did.

On a day when she could speak, she expressed particular regret at the likely ending of her life before she turned 55, of how she’d miss meeting her youngest son’s first child, of how there were so many things she hadn’t done and now wouldn’t get to do because she lacked the ability, I wrote the following for her.

You don’t have to climb the mountain today, only find the footholds that will greet you in the morning. You don’t have to graduate today, only take that first class. You don’t have to write a novel, just pen a paragraph. Somehow we seem to think we must be large enough to finish before we first begin.

We gain by just beginning, take on new strength with each small step taken, even if we have to later change our course. Clarity and direction rise from the swirl of indecision; courage and potency appear through the malaise of unworthiness and woe.

Your faith need not be strong enough to finish, only adequate to embark.

We can take the next first step together.

Some describe this little piece included in the book as “The Procrastinator’s Prayer.” It may well be. That day, my sister got a nurse to loan her a portable ultra sound so she could hear the heartbeat of her grandchild. She asked her son to lift her up onto her favorite horse and ride behind her into the junipers that dotted the ranch she loved so much. She did what she could do, savored the relationships she had, trusted that God would see her through.

Today I consider that word focus, and remember the hearth of my heart, where I draw heat from, where nurture is promised. Today it’s a reminder to do what I can do to bring comfort, to come along beside someone through words written down.

Jane Kirkpatrick’s latest non-fiction book is entitled HOMESTEAD, Modern Pioneers Pursing the Edge of Possibility, a memoir.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

DL: Playing for Christopher Parkening

Youth ministry fund-raising banquets aren’t designed as showcases for musical talent—their purpose is to raise money to support the program. As director of the local Young Life program in Helena, Montana, I’d sung at a number of them, and I knew the routine: Provide about a half-hour of music and humor, be fast-paced and entertaining, sing some familiar songs, appeal to the audience’s emotions, and don’t forget to mention Young Life several times in positive ways.

This particular banquet happened to be in Bozeman, Montana, just a couple of hours down the highway from my home in Helena, but the plan would be the same. I’m a pretty fair guitar picker, but this wouldn’t be the time for flashy solos. I’d written some pretty challenging and unusual vocal numbers, too, but I would stick with the tried and true, and concentrate more on emotional connection than musicianship.

(Bear with me—there’s a point coming about fiction writing.)

The night of the banquet, I used two guitars so that I could use two different tunings. I still wince when I remember my joking explanation to the audience when I changed guitars that “when I play ‘em, they’re only good for a song or two before they get so hot I have to put ‘em down to cool off.” I sang a half-hour’s worth of rousing numbers that kept the audience laughing and clapping, and then I turned it over to the speaker.

After the banquet was over, the local Young Life director rushed past as I was putting my guitars away and stopped to shake my hand. “It was perfect!” he said. “Just what we needed. You couldn’t have done better.” He rushed on, but stopped several feet away and looked back at me. “Oh, by the way,” he said. “You know who Christopher Parkening is?”

Of course I did. Classical guitarist Christopher Parkening, who happened to live in the Bozeman area and taught a class at Montana State University, was in my opinion the finest living classical guitarist. He’d been a student of the legendary Andrés Segovia. I had a number of his albums. I nodded. “Sure,” I said.

“Well, he was here tonight,” Rich said. “He heard you play. Thanks again!” He waved and rushed off.

I caught him in two steps, my guitar still in my hand. “Did you just say what I thought you said? Christopher Parkening was here tonight? In the audience?”

Rich nodded happily. “Yeah! I think he pledged some money.”

“You knew he was going to be here?”

“He’d said he would come.”

“And you didn’t tell me?”

Rich shrugged. “Why would I do that?”

“Because I might have chosen a whole different set of material if I’d known he was going to be here!” I exploded. “I mean—it’s not as if I could have impressed him with my guitar playing, but at least I could have acted as if I respected his instrument. I was standing up there beating on it like it was a drum!”

Rich chuckled. “Come on, lighten up. I wouldn’t have wanted you to change your set. It was just right.”

I shook my head. He didn’t get it. “Look—at least point him out to me, okay? I can apologize to him for the disrespect.”

Rich shook his head. “I would, man, but he’s gone. He left early.”


“Uh—I think right after you played.”

I threw my guitar cases into the car and hit the road, steaming at Rich and embarrassed at myself. How often in life does a workaday local musician like me get to play for someone of the international stature of a Christopher Parkening? And I’d blown it! I felt, frankly, humiliated.

So humiliated, in fact, that it didn’t occur to me until halfway through that late-night trip through the middle of nowhere to check the gas gauge. It said empty. I was a long way from any town. In fact, the only business I could think of that would be open that time of night on that remote stretch of Montana two-lane was a bar at the next river crossing. I drove with one eye on the road and one on the fuel gauge and prayed.

I pulled into the bar’s parking lot on fumes.

“No,” the bartender said. “No gas pumps around here. Except on ranches—hey, Manny! You got any gas out at your place?”

Manny, it turned out, had a gas pump at his ranch and would let me have a few gallons when he got good and ready to leave, which might be a while, judging from the amount of noise he and his pool-playing buddies were having. I bought a Coke and sat at the bar. And thought.

I relived my set, lamenting every song choice I’d made, every joke I’d told. Why was I playing for things like that? I was a better guitarist than this! I was a better songwriter! I had an album out, for pete’s sake! Maybe I needed to seek out some coffee shops, some university concerts, rather than this youth-ministry stuff. Places where I could play something I could be proud of…

And then I heard that familiar voice in my head. It said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

And I knew it wasn’t talking about my ideas for new places to play.

Nursing my Coke in that rowdy cowboy bar, I went through an attitude adjustment. Rich was right. The set I’d played had been the right set. Young Life was a strong ministry, and if my music could help them find the funds they needed to operate, then I should feel privileged. After all, my goal that night had not been to promote myself. If teenagers were drawn closer to God by the songs I sang at youth group meetings, why did I need the approval of Christopher Parkening or anyone else? I already had the approval of the one who mattered—and no need to feel ashamed of what I did on his behalf.

I’ve remembered that night often since then. I’ve remembered it when friends from grad school look down their noses at the Christian fiction I write and edit—“Why are you wasting your talents on that stuff?” I’ve remembered it when friends lament the poor reviews their Christian novels receive in the secular press. I’ve remembered it when, at writers’ conferences, I’ve met writers who were near tears because their only publications have been in their own church’s newsletters. I’ve remembered it at publishing trade shows when editors from New York houses ask what books I’ve edited that year, and their eyes glaze over at my answer. I’ve remembered it when I see the huge advances many novelists are getting for fiction that’s morally repugnant and downright embarrassing to read. And yes, I’ve even remembered it when Christians say, “I don’t read fiction. I only read true things.”

If you’re convinced that what you’re writing is what God wants you to write, if you can see a valid ministry and artistic rationale for the type of fiction you’re writing, then well done, thou good and faithful servant. You may not earn much money, and you may never become a household name. You may never show up on a bestseller list or sign an autograph.

Your reward is yet to come.

David Lambert is a novelist, freelance editor, musician, and author of the fiction curriculum offered by the Christian Writer's Guild.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

AG: Mistakes

I visited Tess Gerritsen’s blog today. Ms. Gerritsen (actually, Dr. Gerritsen, M.D.) is climbing in to my “favorite author” category. I first encountered her work in the novel, GRAVITY, and have gone on to read several other books by her. Today, she posted a message that every novelist understands—mistakes. Worse, mistakes that make it into print.

The problem with being a novelist is that your mistakes are printed and distributed by the thousands. And there is always someone who will point them out to you. That’s not bad—it stings a little, but it’s not a bad thing.

In my Zondervan book, A SHIP POSSESSED, I weave two story lines around a single, WWII submarine. There is a contemporary story set against a mid 1940’s plot. The McGuffin, as Alfred Hitchcock would say, is the submarine. I have a scene where the sub’s commander during the war thinks back to time with his wife when they watched Milton Berle on television. A reader graciously sent me a note reminding me that The Milton Berle show didn’t air until 1948. He even footnoted his research. I had been off by several years.

Here’s the thing: I don’t recall writing the scene. I opened the document on my computer and did a word search. Sure enough, I had written just as the reader said. Odd how the mind works.

Recently, a reader came to my web page and posted a note about my incorrectly using parameter for perimeter. She was correct and I sent a note to my editor. Not only had I incorrectly used the word, I had done it twice.

Some time ago, I read a book by a bestselling author who set much of the action in California. In one scene, he describes the appearance of California Highway Patrol cars. It was a well written description even if he did get the colors wrong.

Such things happen. If an author pens 100,000 words and is 99% correct, then the book contains 1,000 mistakes; 99.9% correct and still 100 goof-ups linger. That speaks only to typos and grammar. Content is a different matter. We, as writers, try to get everything right, but it doesn’t take long to realize that perfection—even with the help of content and line editors—is beyond the human grasp.

So what do we do? We strive for perfection. When the boo-boos make it into print we remind ourselves that it is a common affliction among writers. Carelessness shouldn’t be tolerated, but human frailty should.

It is good to expect the best of yourself, but not perfection. Only one person has the title Perfect.

Alton Gansky lives, writes, and blogs from California. Visit his website at

Thursday, December 22, 2005

PH: It All Started in the Middle of Mayhem

At a Christmas party one year, a friend of mine asked a new acquaintance how he and his wife met. I knew their romance had formed across continents so I stuck around, interested in hearing how this couple had battled foreign agencies and government red tape to finally confess their nuptials and begin a life here in the states. An hour later, this man was still expounding on the tiniest details even remembering what strangers said to him in the subway and what he had eaten for breakfast. I politely moved away realizing that I was going to miss the details of how he and his bride had finally made it into America as man and wife. But he had gotten so bogged down in the details of the days and minutes leading up to their eventual reunion that I lost interest and so did everyone standing around him. He needed a little insight for knowing where to start his story.

In a cinematic age, we have come to expect that when we sit down to an engrossing film that we are plunged into the middle of the character’s life that is already ongoing. The same is true for a character in a novel. To engage the reader immediately, instead of beginning at the beginning, I’ve learned to start the story right smack in the middle of mayhem.

In Anna Quindlen’s book One True Thing, she pens the opening lines: “Jail is not as bad as you imagine. When I say jail, I don’t mean prison.”

We’re hooked from the start because she is taking us straight into the fire of the young journalist’s upset life. In my current WIP, In the Cathedral of Grasshoppers, I open with a newspaper clipping informing us that a woman pilot has crash-landed a plane into a Wal-mart. I wish I could tell you that I was insightful enough to start the book this way, but the truth is that I wrote six chapters of the first draft, all eliminated now, so that I could bring the heroine into the hotseat. When I wrote Katrina’s Wings, what is now chapter one, was originally chapter eight. So when I say I’ve learned, what I mean is that I’ve learned what to eliminate. What this exercise in elimination has taught me is that the meat of the story comes alive well into the hero/heroine’s plight rather than in the events leading up to it. The details of those mile markers are good information for the writer to know as backstory. But tension is what causes the reader to keep turning the pages. I used to worry that if I started at this crisis point that I would have used up all of the good crises in the opening and there would be none left for the big finale. But just as life keeps throwing those curve balls at us humans, it’s just as true for our book characters. The crisis that seemed so paramount in the story’s opening only serves to reveal character in the same manner that problems reveal our character. As the story builds to the big climax, we’ve already watched the character responding under fire, being changed by it never to be the same again. Character is revealed in this manner. And it is in the revelation that our readers can connect with our characters and feel as though they know them.

Patricia Hickman has been writing “stories that stay with you forever” for thirteen years and is currently writing her sixteenth book for Random House/WaterBrook. Her latest release is Whisper Town (Warner Books).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

JK: The Season of Lowering our Standard

It could be the fog that rolls in along the Columbia River Basin where we live or it could be the temperature hovering around freezing each day or it could be that this is the month that my sister died eight years ago and she’s been on my mind. But I suspect it’s the passage, the nearing of the end of the year. My SAD light gets turned on more often and I try not to abuse myself with negative thoughts like “you’ll never have a NY Times bestseller you know,” or “you’ll always have to work this hard, even when you’re really, really old because if your ship does come in it’ll be investigated and the cargo likely marked ‘return to sender’ as the recipient is too decrepit to receive it.”

I call my friends more often (to be sure I still have them) and discover that they’re struggling with the same sort of emotional fog too. We compare ourselves to those we admire instead of finding qualities in those we admire that we have inside of us too. We regret all we haven’t accomplished only to discover that those we think have accomplished so much seem to lament their level of inactivity too.

Then we note that we’ve stopped doing the things that made our lives richer. My morning devotional time gets cut short so I can sign those Christmas cards. My exercise program seems waisted (or rather wasted) when I’m consuming holiday confections so I don’t do it. And the rush I always get from writing, well I’ve told myself I don’t deserve it and the former guilt I got from reading when I should be writing, well, that guilt comes back up like an overindulgent burp.

What to do? Lower my standard, bring down the flag that I push so hard towards and always feel I fall short in achieving. Poet William Stafford once noted that when feeling inadequate one should “lower the standard.” When I first read that advice it felt like he suggested giving in. It suggested the standard of a failure.

Today, lowering my standard is a reminder that perfection doesn’t mean “without error” it means “completion.” I suspect many a manuscript does not get sent in because the standard is a high one rather than a completed one.

I completed this piece despite the freezing fog, the waiting Christmas cards, and the memory of my sister’s shortened life. Today the standard is to savor the life I have.

Jane Kirkpatrick’s eleventh historical novel, A Land of Sheltered Promise, is available through WaterBrook Press.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

JSB: The "Ah" Feeling

My last schoolyard fight happened in the sixth grade. A bunch of the boys were playing Socko, a derivative of Dodgeball at which I particularly excelled, and on the opposing team was one Eddie Schweitzer. Eddie was a tall, lanky kid, not real fast. He made an easy target for the Socko ball. And for my idea of fun.

I started making sport of Eddie’s lope, bounding around the asphalt in slow motion. Some of the other kids started to laugh.

Eddie wasn’t laughing, but I kept on going.

Finally he’d had enough. "You wanna fight?" he said.

Well, everybody heard him, and I couldn’t back down without losing whatever face I’d managed to save up to that time.

"Sure," I said, not at all sure. Fighting was not something I did often or well.

"After school, Boy’s Lodge."

The Boy’s Lodge was a place near Serrania Avenue Elementary School. It was a home for wayward youths. They had a nice big lawn that was sort of secluded, perfect for after school fisticuffs.

Of course, a fight was big news on the playground, and word spread, and by the time school was out a crowd had gathered at the Boy’s Lodge green to take in the festivities.

Eddie arrived. He was a couple of inches taller than I. Funny how I hadn’t really appreciated that difference before. Now I certainly did.

We entered the ring of kids who started cheering us on.

I only remember two punches. The first one came from Eddie’s right fist, and it was a doozie. Smacked me right in the nose. The second one I delivered, catching Eddie in the mouth. It hurt my hand.

Then I saw the blood. It was gushing out of my proboscis.

And that was the end of the fight. I think we both just decided to cut our losses. I ran home holding my nose.

That night I got a phone call from Eddie. I believe his mom put him up to it.

"You okay?" he asked.

"I got a bloody nose," I said.

"I got a fat lip," Eddie said.


There was a pause, then Eddie added, "You wanna be friends?"

"Okay," I said.

I felt a great relief then, because I didn’t want to get into any more fights. Fighting seemed like a pretty stupid idea. Besides, I didn’t like getting a bloody nose.

And friends seemed like a good thing to have.

Eddie moved away not long after that. Years later, when I was playing basketball for Taft High School, I saw him again. He was on the opposing team, sitting there on the bench. I went over to say Hi. His face lit up, like I was a long lost buddy. We talked about old times (yeah, a couple of high schoolers reflecting all the way back to elementary school) then played the game. I didn’t make fun of Eddie that day. At 6’8" to my 6’3", he was a force to be reckoned with.

After the game Eddie gave me a big handshake and smile, said it was great to see me. I haven’t seen him since.

But that was a nice little way to end things. In a way, it was the perfect ending. Not overdone, no melodrama. Just a great final image, Eddie and a smile.

It’s the kind of resonance I love in the ending of a good novel. Endings are the hardest part of writing, for me at least. A soggy ending can dilute even the best buildup. But one that leaves the reader with an "Ah" feeling is worth every ounce of work. That final image, that last line, take up more of my time than any other part of the book.

I just turned in the galleys for my novel Presumed Guilty, which shows up in April. I must have rewritten the ending 30 times. It got to the point where I was changing just one word here and there, for nothing else but the sound. But it was that important to me.

I hope I hit the mark. And I hope somewhere out there Eddie Schweitzer reads it, and smiles.

James Scott Bell can be found writing and smiling in a Starbucks in Los Angeles. His website is

Monday, December 19, 2005

AG: Silverberg, Asimov and Me

I recently read an essay by famed science fiction author, Robert Silverberg titled “Building Alternative Realities.” Silverberg is one of the pillars and guiding forces of science fiction and has been writing for fifty years. Fifty years! His work has been recognized by five Hugo awards and five Nebula awards.

Intrigued by the article, I did a little internet research. The revelation that he had been writing for half a century impressed me, but a line in a Wikipedia article flat stunned me. By his own accounting, Silverberg used to write a million words a year. I’m going to give you a moment to let that sink in. One million words per year. Such numbers prompt me to break out the calculator. After a little number crunching, here’s what I’ve learned. A million words per year….

…is equal to ten, 100,000 word novels.

…means writing over 3800 words every work day of every month. In standard manuscript format that equals 15 pages per day. And this he did before word processors or computers.

Such information can inspire the writer’s soul, or knock it to the ground and kick it around the block a few times. Usually, I fall in the latter category. Writing for many of us doesn’t flow that fast. I’m considered a prolific writer, but compared to the likes of Silverberg or Isaac Asimov my production is akin to a stampeding herd of turtles. Asimov’s bibliography is a list of 509 works, 463 of which are books. His collected papers are kept in the Mugar Memorial Library tucked away in 464 boxes lining over 210 feet of shelf space.

On the flip side, some writers produce only a handful of books. Does that make them lightweights in the authorial kingdom? Not at all. Quantity is not the measure of good writing. Craft is. Some people can crank out four books a year, a dozen articles and maybe a few short stories and do it without breaking a sweat. Others agonize over the process.

Asimov quipped, “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” He also said, “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”

Some people think fast; some think deep. The same can be said of writing. The key is not to mimic the output of the prolific, it is to tell the story the best it can be told. If that happens quickly, then great. If it takes much longer, then fine. Just get it written.

Alton Gansky,, is a man of many talents, including blogging. Charis is happy to have him join us, and you can read more at his blog,

Thursday, December 15, 2005

LS: Welcome Guest

This Advent week in my faith fellowship, we're focusing on welcoming others. It's so easy to focus our thoughts on God's extravagant welcome to us--sinners who are soiled and odorous from our sojourn in the landfill of our lives. It's easy to imagine us, roadweary, bruised and bloody and cold, crawling up to the door of the bridegroom's warm cottage, its golden light thawing the darkness and ice that surrounds our heart. It's easy to imagine the rough wooden door being swung wide, and there he stands. He knew we'd be coming, and not only does he throw open the door, our bridegroom runs down the path, into the frigid darkness, takes us in his arms and warms us, wiping our brow with his white shawl as he carries us inside.

But not only are we cold and dirty and foul-smelling, perhaps we are mentally challenged, perhaps we talk too much, think we know it all. Perhaps we sing off key during the singing and get into his "space" and don't know when it's time to go home. Perhaps we don't make enough money to drive anything but an old Caravan, or we have to take the bus. Perhaps we have physically challenged children who take up most of our time so we can't contribute to VBS or Sunday School. Perhaps we have a different color skin. Perhaps we live under a bridge. Perhaps we're working three jobs just to pay the electric bill and we're still despised because we're poor. Perhaps we're obese. Perhaps we're still wearing a mullet after all these years. Perhaps our father was just a plumber. Perhaps no one would like us if they knew who we really were.

God welcomes us in any state we come, but I know I often hope that the people who come in my door, and the door of my church, will be just like me.

Who will we welcome this Advent? Who will we welcome in our writing? If we're "writing what we know" and most of our characters are just like us, maybe it's time to step out and be a little like God, to welcome within the world we create on a page those who would make us uncomfortable otherwise. Perhaps it's time to step out of our comfort zone, not just in our writing, but in where our feet will go as well. Imagine not only what that would do for our books but for our lives? Oh, the stories we'd surely tell!

Lisa Samson
check out lisa's blog at

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

LC: Ideas---where oh where is a storyline?

People always want to know where I get my story ideas. Fans who have read my Brides of the West, Men of the Saddle, and Morning Shade series know that these books are character driven (with a whole lot of other stuff thrown in). Characters drive my rather linear plots and consequently the storyline evolves from my characters. Those who are writers will readily tell you that when your story reaches a certain point---and that can be anywhere from page 1 to page one hundred-- the characters take over. They run wild. They’re unruly, rude and demand their own way.

My characters often remind me of the Toddlers Creed:

If I want it, it’s mine
If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine.
If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.
If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
If it’s mine, it will never belong to anyone else, no matter what.
If we are building something together, all the pieces (storyline) are mine.
If it looks just like mine, it is mine

Most writers have more ideas than they can produce in a lifetime; others have to search for the right idea—the idea that most fits their unique voice. Ideas most often come to me visually—I’m a people watcher. I can imagine all sorts of things going on in people’s lives—things I’m certain they’ve never envisioned. Ideas flow through a song, a lyric, but more often the thought expressed.

I’m often accused of writing about people I know, and my answer is that I write about people we all know. A good book always engages the reader and makes them identify with the characters.

Last week an interviewer asked if I wrote about my life. I laughed and said, “No, I write 1800’s fiction!” Mostly. I write other stuff too, but my largest fan base is Old West readers. Personally, I have never shoed a horse, shot an elk during a snow storm, dressed it out and slept in the carcass, drunk from a polluted stream, traveled by covered wagon, or worn homespun clothing. But life’s not over!

Ideas come when you commit to the first serious step in writing; show up. Show up with a computer, a pad and pencil, a chalk board—whatever it takes to get started. Then simply let your imagination take over because in the end, that’s the secret-- it’s your idea that comes to life on the paper, your imagination that will catch the editor’s eye. Let it flow . . .

Lori Copeland ( lives, writes, and people-watches in Missouri.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

JK: What Readers Tell me!

I’m still trying to figure out this blog thing. It occurred to me that one of the joys of the blog is a way to connect with readers in a more timely fashion; not having to wait until months after the book’s been completed before hearing from someone that they either loved the story – or thought I shouldn’t have bothered.

I visited my Charis contributions this week and read the comments. I hadn’t done that before! I’d just kept my commitments to submit and then read other people’s contributions and comments. This time I read my own. It was a delight to read that thoughts I’d shared about writing historical novels allowed someone else to explore their own history. I wanted to respond to each person, to thank them for taking the time to read what I’d written and to let me know they had. So this is what blogging is about, this immediacy of connection!

There may be a way to respond to the responders through a blog. I’m going to check-in with wiser bloggers. But what did occur in that writing-reader-reading interchange was to remind me of what Madeline L’Engle must have meant when she wrote that as writers, when we create, we also co-create. We create with Spirit and with readers. Something happens through us as a writer that reaches readers often in ways we never imagined.

Once a woman wrote that after reading a certain book of mine she’d changed her occupation, lost fifty pounds and had met a loving, Christian man who like her wanted marriage one day and a family. My theme sentence for that book was “We can’t protect the ones we love from pain or disappointment but we can prepare them, educate them, model God’s presence and comfort in our lives.”

I think that’s what is so invigorating about writing Christian novels. All novelists want to make a connection with their readers, but as a faith-inspired writer, I want more to be a vehicle, to allow something to come through me to the reader. Someone called it “being bamboo”, being a hollow reed through which God’s message of hope and healing, of awareness and power, can travel. Sometimes when I read general market fiction, I wonder what the author’s purpose was in writing the story, how did they hope a reader would be changed through their listening to their stories and writing them down? For awhile it seemed like all the bestsellers had themes of “Life is tough and then you die.”

Yet my stories about real people, primarily strong women set in historical times are about tough times, too. The woman I’m writing about now spent a winter in the cold, rainy winds of Western Washington Territory living with an infant in a canvas-roofed hut. She was the only woman with nine men who had been sent out from Missouri to find a new site for this utopian so-called Christian community. As a woman her voice wasn’t well heard and that she was even along on this scouting trip was enough of a question to stir my curiosity and end up with at least a two books series. I wanted very much to explore where she garnered her strength from. I discovered in the writing of her life that strength without faith and compassion leads to vanity; and that independence and uniqueness is possible within a loving Christian community.

But I will be interested in what others take away from this story, what they’ll find that I didn’t realize I put there until a reader tells me. Unlike with this blog-thing, I’ll just have to wait.

Jane’s new book, A Clearing in the Wild, will be out from WaterBrook Press next spring. You can visit her website at or leave a comment here!

Monday, December 12, 2005

BJH: Five Reasons Why Most People Will Never Write a Novel

What's stopping you from writing your novel?

It would take me forever to write a whole book. Maybe when the kids are grown. But right now I don't have that kind of time.

Who does? But could you perhaps write 350 words a day, five days a week? (This blog entry, by the way, is approximately 750 words–and it doesn't look all that lengthy, now does it?) 350 words is the equivalent of about a page and a half of double-spaced type. If you write 350 words a day, in a week you'll have 1750 words. In 52 weeks, you'll have 91,000 words. That's a novel.

Every time I think about the enormity of such a task, I freeze up–and then I give up.

Understandable. Many multi-published novelists still find the task daunting if they think of the whole. So they don't think of it that way. They develop one scene at a time. Soon they have a chapter, then a section ... and then the novel in its entirety.

Those who have gone through the process of breaking an addiction say they would never have made it had they not taken one step at a time, day by day, week by week, month by month. That's the same way you write a novel. One step at a time, day by day, week by week, month by month. A scene, a chapter, a section. A book.

I have a lot of ideas, but I can't settle on one that's big enough for a novel.

Keep in mind that your idea for a novel doesn't have to contain a cure for cancer or the answer to world peace. It can be an idea for a story about a man and an oversized fish. Or a story about a middle-aged pastor and the people he touches in his community. Or two teenagers who make a suicide pact. Or a Sicilian don who treats organized crime like a family business. Or a little girl who adopts a stray dog and brings a group of lonely people together in a circle of acceptance and companionship and love.

Out of your stash of ideas, which one is it that makes your heart race, your blood run a little faster? Which idea comes closest to what you love to read? Which idea fastens onto a character, a subject, an event that fascinates you, fills your thoughts with possibilities, tempts your imagination to run away and play "what if" every time it comes to mind?

What's your passion? That's what you write.

I've been tempted to write a novel, but there are already so many books out there. Why waste my time? I'd never get published–I don't know anyone in publishing, I'm just a beginner.

Stephen King was once a beginner. So was Nora Roberts. Tom Clancy. John Grisham. Dean Koontz. Jan Karon. Angela Hunt. Janette Oke. Hemingway. Steinbeck. Fitzgerald. Come to think of it, I was once a beginner also. Every novelist out there had to come out of the gate for the first time. And while a few of them might possibly have had contacts in the publishing industry, they were very few. (I assure you, I didn't, unless you count my newspaper carrier.) If you read the stories of their writing journeys, you'll find that most of them had no connection to the business whatsoever. They just–began. True, if you have an uncle who's the CEO at Random House, that won't hurt. But even he can't get you published if you don't have a manuscript.

That's where you start: at the beginning. You don't worry about not knowing anyone. You concentrate on writing a book that will make them–the publishers–want to know you.

I don't think I could bear to find out for certain that I can't write. This way, I can at least pretend that I'll eventually write a book. It keeps the dream alive. But what if I actually try–and fail?

And what if you don't fail? What if God has known all along that you can write a novel–and a good one–and planned for you to do just that?

You're going to spend the next year doing something. The weeks and months will pass, whether you attempt to write that novel or not. If you don't try, at the end of the year you'll have nothing to show for the passing of time. If you do try, you'll have a manuscript. Possibly a salable one.

Your choice.

BJ Hoff

-Author of An American Anthem series, An Emerald Ballad series, and A Distant Music, to be released in January.

Friday, December 09, 2005

JSB: How Easy!

I write suspense, so I’m constantly asking myself what I can do to make the reader turn the page. Is there any point at which the reader can say, "Well, I can put this down for a bit, and come back to it"? If there is, I cut it. Hitchcock’s Axiom is my guide. When asked what made a good story, the great director said, "It’s life, with the dull parts taken out."

More advice: Elmore Leonard, the famous crime novelist, said, "I try not to write the parts people skip."

It’s like Michelangelo’s remark about his famous statue of David. Someone asked him how he did it, how he fashioned this masterpiece from a big hunk of raw marble. "I saw David inside the marble," the artist said, "and chipped away all of it that WASN’T David."

Ah, simple rules. Surely all the masters of suspense writing agree on the rules.

Not so.

When I was learning how to write suspense, I read a lot of Dean Koontz. I also read his two "how to" books. Recently, I decided to re-read them both. They were waiting for me in the L.A. Library system: Writing Popular Fiction, written in 1972 when Koontz was a pup of 26; and How to Write Best Selling Fiction (1981), in which he contradicts some of his own earlier advice (admittedly so).

In the latter volume, Koontz emphatically states:

"DON'T start writing a novel until you know how to solve the hero's problems. You don't want to get to the end of a long manuscript only to discover that you have no idea at all how to get your hero out of the mess into which you have put him."

That didn’t sound like the same advice given by Stephen King. So I pulled his On Writing off the shelf, and turned to this:

"[I]f I'm not able to guess with any accuracy how the thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety. And why worry about the ending anyway? Why be such a control freak? Sooner or later every story comes out SOMEWHERE."

Ha! Two masters, two distinctly different philosophies. Which only goes to illustrate that there's no one right way to do it.

What course ought you to follow then? The old reliable--trial and error. Find out what works for you, and then tell your story.

Do that, and it’s all sunshine and flowers from there, right? That cocky 26-year-old Koontz might have believed that. Here's a bit of advice from his 1972 book, answering a question on how long it takes to get financially secure as a full time writer:

"With a top-flight agent (and there are very few of them) and a willingness to try other categories, to go where the money is the best and the audience the largest, you can achieve an income of $50,000 a year and up with half a dozen novels per annum."

See how easy it is? Only six novels a year!

James Scott Bell,, is the author of Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure (Writers Digest Books).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

PH: Confessions of a Reformed Hack

I hate being misunderstood, but as I dig deeper into knowing God’s deeper truths, I have also come to realize that sometimes in following the Way, people will misunderstand us. Jesus was misinterpreted all of the time. So when I say that I would like to confess that I was once a hack writer, that God has led me a different direction than my earliest aspirations to follow formula, I realize that some will misunderstand me. I’m okay with that.

I received a letter from a reader a few months back who I will call Jill. The letter is thirteen pages long. She is pouring out her heart, sort of to me, but really more like one of those drink offerings to God, little bits of Jill spilling out all over those thirteen pages. She is in the enviable position of going through a heart transformation. It would appear at the outset that this has come about through reading one of my books, but if you will allow me further explanation, there is a deeper work going on that has nothing to do with me or my pen. It is a story about God and how he works in us and through us and how he intersects all of our lives to bring about the furtherance of his work here on earth.

Jill’s story started some time ago out on the Outer Banks. My story began with a surrender of my writing, also many years ago. How God tied the two together, and how he continues to tie the writer to the reader has a lot to do with time. I have a high respect for his creation of time on earth for our benefit as well as for the mystery of the unseen purpose.

I learned a lot about plotting when writing my first five or so books. I’m grateful I learned to plot first. But I eventually faced some dissatisfaction regarding the development of my stories. It was as though I had gotten to the end of the formulas and stood at a writer’s abyss thinking, “Are there no more stories to tell then but these?” The desire to drop formula in pursuit of a more stylistic approach to my writing was setting me afire. However, it seemed altruistic. I prayed, fearing that I might be following after a selfish pursuit.

I think I lived under the misconception that if I sought a higher literary goal or the pursuit of deeper more meaningful writing that I was somehow trying to be a high-brow writer, or that I would be perceived by some as trying to write over the heads of the readers. If you knew the neighborhood I grew up in, you would know why that was completely laughable. But after publishing a handful of books following my earliest sort of paint-by-number philosophy, all that made sense was that deeper more thoughtful and reflective writing would be more satisfying to me. What seemed clear was if the writer truly allows her writing to spring from life as it truly is in all of its reeling authenticity, then the story should not be over the reader’s head because it rises from the ink of humility and truth.

I could only hope that the reader would find a greater satisfaction in those kinds of stories. No matter what the outcome, though, I was driven to try. So I plunged in and decided that I was turning a corner and would not look back. No more book-in-a-hurry stuff.

I cried a lot the first few days and I know that is a really sappy thing to admit. I had to experience the flushing of personal memories that occurs when the deeper craft is pursued. I went from stream-of-consciousness to personal mini-workshops I applied one paragraph at a time. I asked the character questions to see how she would respond. The writing became more personal. After the next book came out, many readers wrote asking how I could confess those things about my life. Truth be told it was fiction, yet somehow all completely true. Universal truths are strands connecting us together as humans.

So God started me on the path to Jill some time ago. In her thirteen-page letter, Jill says, “ I asked God to help me choose the perfect book ‘for such a time as this.’” And then she says, “I cannot get it off my mind.” Now this is huge! You see when I was writing by formula, I never had a reader mention that the story lingered in her mind for days and weeks after reading it. For the story to linger, it has to take on a life of its own in a manner that causes the reader to believe that after she closes the book, the character has a life that is continuing beyond the pages.

What is evident is that God was working his will in and through me to accomplish a deeper work as a writer so that the story would linger in a reader’s mind. And in that lingering state, God could whisper something to that reader that has nothing to do with me or my pen.

Patricia Hickman,

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

AH: Are Writers Weird?

Last month, after several days of traveling and teaching, I experienced an epiphany: People think writers are unusual people.

Know what else I've noticed? Some writers want to be odd. They talk about how strange they are, as if strangeness is a quality to be cultivated.

Well, I've got news for you--I have about a hundred close writer friends, and they're quite socially acceptable. You could have dinner with any one of them in a public place and no one would stare at you . (Well . . . last month I was eating with Jim Bell and Stephen Bly when they nearly erupted in a duel over the cinematic worth of the movie Shane, but that's another story).

On the other hand, I took my daughter to art school a couple of years ago, and I stared at everyone in attendance. You want to know strange, get thee to an artists' colony.

Maybe, you say, I don't notice that my novelist friends are strange because I'm strange. But I still beg to differ. Every been to an Amway convention? Hung out with circus folk? Gone "backstage" at a dog show? If you've done any of the above, you'll realize that everyone is strange in his/her own way. And when like minds congregate, the strangeness shows.

When writers cultivate the quality of oddness, I think we make writing seem altogether too mystical, as if mere mortals can't possibly aspire to it. Blarney and poppycock. Anyone with the gift of sitting still can learn to write. They may not be artistic about it, but if they can speak and think, they can write. Written communication is not rocket science.

One of my favorite writing books is Dare To Be a Great Writer by Leonard Bishop. I've had this book for years and never tire of flipping through the assorted entries. But one entry, I think, was written entirely tongue in cheek. Bishop says that once you have become a best-selling author, you need to develop a persona; you need to cultivate the writer's mystique:

"No longer have casual conversations. Conduct orations. Not with passive platitudinous ponderosities, but with dynamics and charm. Use the body language of a shadow-boxing pugilist. Develop cunning facial expressions. Grimace as though pained with profundity. Wink, pout, sigh, crack your knuckles in contemplation. Use a repertoire of snappy jokes employed by any popular dentist. Be direct, outspoken, bold. Do not become subtle or ethereal with implication. Audiences are not talented at grasping existentialist innuendo. Rehearse being extemporaneous. "

I respond to the above with a (genteel) snort. And while I'll admit that my presentations at schools are a little over the top with body language, acting, and humor (two girls from one school dubbed me the 'drama queen'), most of that comes from an earnest desire to keep the kids awake.

Yes, writing requires a lot of hard work. Writing a good novel takes hard work and endless hours. Writing an artistic novel takes even more time. Writing an artistic novel that doesn't put people to sleep requires even more effort. Few folks commit to that level of sacrifice.

But there are surgeons who strive for that level of excellence in their field . . . and teachers who aim for excellence in order to influence young lives. And broadcasters and mothers and fathers and architects and pastors and dog groomers, all of whom have committed their lives and their careers to excellence for the glory of God.

Does that make them weird? In a sea of mediocrity, perhaps. But in the light of eternity, they're not strange at all. They're the called, the committed, the good stewards. The ones who will hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I aspire to be one of them . . . but I don't think that makes me odd. Just . . . called.

Angela Hunt, author of The Novelist,

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

LC: How Many Words?

Hmmm---how many?

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? That little tongue twister was a favorite in my junior high group. We’d toss around things like: The flea, the fly and the flue. Said the flea what shall we do? Let’s fly, said the flea. Let’s flee, said the fly. So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

When I wrote my first book back in 1982 I had a lot of tongue twisters racing through my mind. Could I write a book, me a snook, write a book---well that’s not a tongue twister but here’s a question I think most beginning writers ask: How many words are in a book?

A book can have any amount of words: I once read a popular highly-touted diet book (paid good money for this thing) that had one word in it. Think. But the books most of us write have a definite range and it goes roughly like this:

20-25,000 words
80-100 pages
10-12 pages per chapter

Short Contemporary
50,000-60,000 words
200-240 pages
18-20 pages per chapter

Long Contemporary
70,000-80,000 words
280-320 pages
18-20 pages per chapter

Short Historical /Mainstream
90-100,000 words
360-400 pages
18-20 pages per chapter

Long Historical/ Mainstream
432-480 pages
18-20 pages per chapter

So aspiring writers, ready set go! Pick a length, dig out your imagination, and get to work! As for me, I’ll be aimlessly wandering around today muttering: How many words should an author word if an author could word words….

Lori Copeland ( lives and writes in Missouri.

Monday, December 05, 2005

JSB: Grow Wings

Goodness, Truth and Beauty are the divine triad of Western Civilization. And all three are under assault these days. The notion that these three are objective aspects of reality (rooted, for Plato, in "the One" and for Christians in God) is mostly pilloried now in the academy. The acid of this trend drips down to the culture and eats away at our triune foundations. Relativism is all that’s left to replace them. "That’s your truth," we hear. "I have another." To Plato, this would have sounded as absurd as saying, "That’s your sun. I have my own."

Of the three aspects, Beauty seems most subject to relativism. It’s common for people to disagree over this or that work of art. For one, a Jackson Pollack is beautiful. For another, it is the contents of a McDonald’s dumpster. Are we then left with no standards?

I don’t think so. Plato said that the contemplation of Beauty enables the soul to "grow wings." It expands the soul so that it touches both Goodness and Truth.

A work of art can do the opposite—it can contract and compress the soul so that it is only looking inward. It touches the baser desires. A porn film can be beautifully photographed, but it can never itself be beautiful.

That’s why a culture that rejects Truth and Goodness will inevitably become an ugly culture as well. It will not be able to distinguish, much less create, Beauty.

But that does not mean Truth, Goodness and Beauty cease to exist. God has built all three into the fabric of existence. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handywork," the Pslamist declares. God has set his divine call in Beauty, but a soul that is determined to reject Truth and Goodness won’t hear it.

It’s time to hold up Beauty again as being rooted in Truth and Goodness. It’s time to loudly and firmly reject bad art for what it is, a rejection of reality. Let us dismiss the idea of relativism in art, that it’s all "only a matter of taste."

As Albert Mohler explains:

"The Christian vision of beauty opens an entirely new awareness for us. We now begin to understand that there is a moral context, a truth context, to every question about beauty. We can no longer talk about beauty as a mere matter of taste. Instantly, by affirming the unity of the transcendentals, we are required to see beauty fundamentally as a matter of truth to which taste is accountable, rather than a matter of taste to which truth is accountable."

In our art, whatever it may be, let us help our audience grow wings on their souls.

James Scott Bell –

Friday, December 02, 2005

DR: The Vicissitudes of Villains

In a recent discussion on a writer’s loop, author Laurie Alice Eakes said, “In the manuscripts I critique—and maybe those I write, too—the villains tend to be the weakest characters when they need to be amongst the strongest. If you don't have a villain, you may not have enough conflict. But you may have a villain and not realize it. In the manuscript I'm working on, my villain isn't really a person—it’s a circumstance, a situation, the heroine's own fears and attitudes. Villains aren't always mustache-twirling, cape-waving, maniacally-chuckling men behind the curtain.”

I cheered when I read these words because I’ve often fretted about my “villain problem.” The books I write aren’t mystery or suspense or legal thrillers or science fiction or even, usually, “high concept” novels. I write women’s fiction—stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges. But the situations I write about are usually realistic and possible. I get letters from readers who say, “I went through the exact same experience your character did.”

I seldom have a flesh and blood villain in my novels. This is worrisome because books on the craft of writing spend chapters on the importance of creating strong villains. And often it seems the human (or at least living, breathing) villains of best-selling novels and movies are even more memorable, more newsworthy, than the protagonists of the piece.

I have a long way to go before I master villains, but I’m learning that it is possible to take a set of circumstances or a dilemma and imbue them with traits that make my protagonists feel and react the same way they might toward a human villain; and in ways that thwart their desires just as powerfully as any human villain could.

One of my villains was Alzheimer’s disease, bringing confusion, frustration, anguish and ultimately grief to my suffering heroine and even worse to her caregiver husband. I’ve also written some pretty malicious villains with names like Addiction, Poverty and Death. There are so many circumstances we can create for our characters in order to bring about conflict and inflict the anger, pain, bitterness, and vengeance usually meted out by a flesh-and-blood villain.

But perhaps we relate better to the concept of a villain when he has a beating physical heart, however metaphorically heartless he may be. Fellow novelist James Scott Bell once advised that an inanimate villain usually works better if there is a human character to represent the opposition. So if my villain is cancer, I might portray it more convincingly through a doctor who is gruff and lacking compassion, or through a pharmacist who feeds his own drug addiction by substituting a placebo for the medication that could ease my hero’s pain.

The quintessential villain, whether human or circumstantial, brings a sense of hopelessness to the plot. And that’s where things get fun. Because our ultimate job as Christian writers is to return Hope to the reader. A holy Hope—One who is able to vanquish the most evil villain our writerly minds can conceive.

Deborah Raney is the author of A Nest of Sparrows and Over the Waters

Thursday, December 01, 2005

LS: Waiting Again

Each year Advent becomes a little more meaningful for me because each year I exist on God’s earth I realize more and more how little I know, how small I am. Time was when I had all the answers; I knew the end from the beginning; I had achieved a lock-down on the mind of the Almighty.

That clock stopped several years ago, leaving me in a perpetual state of waiting to see how the hand of God will move and wondering what that will look like.

In the days before Christ was born in Bethlehem, many of the Jews thought they had the coming of the Messiah figured out. The time was ripe, the oppression of Rome squeezed them like bands of iron — if Israel needed a leader that would usher in the reign of God, now was the perfect time. He needed to be a strong, take-charge man capable of overthrowing evil rulers and oppressive regimes.

Can you imagine if that culture was anything like today? There’d be timelines on overhead projectors, books published, seminars given and the good people of the day, wanting to know the workings of God, would show up, eager to figure it all lest they miss it. I guess we’re not that different, are we?

But God hides himself purposefully, peering around corners and disappearing, ringing and running, giving us enough glimpses of his purposes to feed our faith. But sometimes faith doesn’t seem to be enough, the waiting is agony and we must know the end from the beginning — in essence, we must become like God.We want to write the story of God ourselves, don’t we? We want to have the outline finished, the plotlines converging at the end; we want a neatly wrapped up ending. Fortunately, however, we’re not writing the story, and if the way God worked in the past is any indication, His foreshadowing found in scripture will not ruin the surprise ending. I can’t help but feel that tinge of excitement course through me when I wonder how it will really all shake down.

And so I wait for the returning of the Christ, knowing a little more this year that God is the author of this grand story, not me. I am shrouded in the mystery of the story itself, not as the author, or the critic, or the literature teacher, or a reader, but as a character trying to endure until the end.


Wait with me, won’t you? Take my hand and let us hold our breath together.


Lisa Samson,