Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vanity, Oh Vanity!

Years ago, when I was a young mother, I loved Christian television. I watched it all the time. It fed my weary, stressed out, frustrated, wounded-by-life heart. Looking back, so many "stars" of Christian television were considered celebrities. As often as I could, I would go see these Christian celebrities whenever they were at at venue in town. Most were kind, gracious, talented individuals who truly loved God and people. A few, although definitely talented, their ego got the better of them. One in particular that I remember seeing on television and in person had a bodyguard that walked beside him at all times to keep people away from him.

Looking back, I realize how vain and self-absorbed that was. Seriously, if you are in the people-business, if its because of people that you are popular and successful, then don't come across like you are a cut above everyone. That you are too good to be bothered by those who admire you.

That brings me the purpose of the is post. Last week was my birthday. Like most people today, I have a social media presence. On Facebook, your birthday is posted for all your friends and followers to see -- unless you've set your privacy to not allow it. I got many, many birthday wishes on Facebook.

Doesn't it make us feel good, even blessed, that people take the time to wish us happy birthday. Because I am involved in the writing community, I have numerous writer and author friends on Facebook. Friends is a loose term because I've never met most of them. I was pleasantly surprised when several authors -- successful authors that I've never met -- posted birthday greetings on my Facebook .

God, if you see fit to bless us with success, let us never forget, or take for granted, the everyday people who help put us there. Either by purchasing our books, or whatever our talent is, and following us on the many social media sites.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sunday's On-My-Way-To-Church Inconvenient Inconvenience

Yesterday – Sunday – I was driving out of my gated community on my way to church. Normally my husband would be driving, but he was on a time constraint to finish a contracted painting job. As I pulled up to the exit gate, I saw a truck, with a young man standing beside it, parked off to the side on the entrance side. He looked distressed and was trying to call or text on his phone. Usually when this happens, someone is trying to get inside the complex but doesn’t have a code to open the gate.

I lowered my window and asked if he needed to get in – not my van, the housing complex. I was going to give him my code. Trust me, there is nothing secure about this complex. The gate codes are to give us residents the allusion of security.

The young man approached my van. He tells me: He ran out of gas, can’t get a hold of his wife, needs a gas can and ride to a gas station. He’s clean-cut, doesn’t look threatening and starts off by extending his hand and saying he’s James. He also offers me money to help him. My response to his obvious distress, “I can’t. I’m on my way to church and I’ll be late.”

What? I’m a woman and I was alone, but the minute the words left my mouth, I thought how ludicrous I sounded. How could a Christian on his/her way to church refuse to help? If I didn’t want to help, I should never have stopped. The truth? I didn’t want to be inconvenienced. My brain quickly ran through possible scenarios to help, because it only took me a few seconds to realize I was going to help.

WWJD. I remember when that was all the rage. Christians wore bracelets, necklaces, t-shirts and plastered it on everything – WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? I told the young man to get in my van. I drove him back to my house, got our gas container filled with gas for the mower, gave it to him and told him it was enough gas to get him to a gas station. (okay, I know I used the word gas a lot in that sentence) He – James – asked me about church, told me about his wife and one-year-old son, and baby girl due in three months.

He repeatedly thanked me, offered me money again. I again refused the money, but told him to return my gas container. Just put it in my driveway, I said. I felt good about helping. I felt remorse that being inconvenienced keeps me from helping more often. Shame on me. Shame on us. I was late for church, but lightning didn't strike me. And my gas can? It was not here when I returned home from church two hours later. It still hasn’t been returned.

*sigh* What Would Jesus Do? Well, Jesus might use it as a parable, so I think I’ll work this into a story. And, yes, my husband told me how dangerous the situation could have been, after he told me it was sweet of me to help.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

If My Characters Were Actresses and Actors

A few years ago my husband asked me if my life were to be made into a movie, what actress would I want to portray me. “I don’t know,” was my brilliant response because, honestly, why would my life be made into a movie. But obviously it was something he had given thought to because right away he responded, “Marg Helgenberger in CSI Vegas who plays Catherine Willows reminds me of you. She should play you.”

Uh, okay. I was flattered because I think Marg Helgenberger is attractive. Jeff, my husband, and I are always making comments – inane, nonsensical comments –  about actors and actresses in movies or on television, sometimes entwining their real life with characters they play.

Last night I thought about my books and what actresses/actors would I want to play my characters. If…if a book of mine ever got made into a movie. Certainly not that I think that would happen, but well, a girl – er, grandmother – can dream, right? So I picked actors and actresses for Like A Cedar In Lebanon.

Lebanon/Lebby would be played by Amanda Seyfried.
Jack would be played by Hugh Jackman
Ethan would be played by Seth Green
Nate would be played by a young Troy Donahue
Amy would be played by Claire Danes
Tina would be played by Liv Tyler

I had fun doing this. I know writers and authors – is there a difference? – who compile a notebook in preparation for starting a novel with actors and actresses pictures that they want their characters to look like. Or they cut pictures from magazines or off the internet. Me? I just get a mental image stuck in my head. It is fun, though. Like giving birth to babies and getting to choose what they will look like as adults. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Introducing Scenery In Your Story

The month of July is my birthday. I will be sixty-seven. Yikes! It seems so old. Who said that age is just a number? Age isn’t just a number. A sixty-seven year old body – and sometimes mind – is not the same as a twenty-seven year old.

My age doesn’t bother me. Being old does bother me – specifically what it does to my body. Getting older has made me more reflective about my life, life in general, and the world. In sixty-seven years, things have changed. I have changed. I grieve for my country, for humanity – those that are lost and deceived and don’t even realize it. I ache for some of my family members who flounder through life.

If I’m not careful, I tend to reflect on negative things in my life and in the world around me. Go away pity-party negativity; you are not my friend. There is so much beauty and blessings surrounding me – so many things I didn’t notice or appreciate when I was young.

Our Earth is quite amazing. When I was young, why didn’t I appreciate the awe of sunsets and sunrises? Were the mountains always so breathtaking? I’ve lived in Arizona all my life and travelling across our state was a cheap adventure for my poor family when I was a child. As a child, I was never amazed like I am now that one can travel a hundred plus miles from the desert area of Phoenix to forests and lakes and streams. The desert is beautiful. At least I think it is.

My husband, uh, not so much. But I also think forests, seashores, mountains, valleys, and all in between are beautiful. As a writer, I need to subtly incorporate scenery and landscape into my story to give the reader a feel or glimpse of the setting. Subtly. Not overburden the reading with pages of describing scenery. As a reader, I skim past pages like that.

Below are two excerpts from books I’m working on that describe location and scenery without blasting the readers by overdoing it.

(Josiah stood and stared out the window at the landscape, noticing but not really seeing, the lizard scurrying across the Tucson, Arizona desert.)

(The sun was barely peeking over the horizon and the air was chilly on this crisp October morning in Flagstaff, Arizona. Cold air filled Lily’s lungs with tiny razors slashing her chest.)

So, my writers friends, be creative in introducing your readers to where the story takes place.