Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Choice- To Serve or Destroy

While listening to a panel of authors talk about creating unforgettable characters, my mind began to file away information for a blog post on writing tips.

However, the panel began discussing something I hadn’t thought of before and so I took down a few notes to share here in today’s post….


When developing an unforgettable character, a writer needs to decide if the character will be the main character of the story or not. For instance, Harry Potter is definitely the main character of the entire series and he is surrounded by many supporting characters. Same thing with Frodo in Lord of the Rings, and Katniss in Hunger Games, etc.

But one author asked an interesting question. What happens when a character realizes he or she isn’t the main character of the story…or even their own life story? How do they react?

Take Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series. He is the best friend of the hero. In the fourth book, Ron realizes that he isn’t the main character or hero of the “story” nor will he ever be. He also realizes he isn’t the main character even of his own life story and he may never be. How does he react? He is jealous of Harry at first…but then realizes that he has to help Harry with this huge task of defeating evil once and for all. Ron could have chosen to be the villain, but he chose to help the hero.

And that’s when I thought of the story of Christ and Lucifer.

Here is Lucifer, the most beautiful of all God’s creatures. He is called The Bright and Morning Star. He is described as being more beautiful than all the other angels in heaven. But then he shows pride and arrogance and is cast out along with many of his angels. At this point, Lucifer realizes that he is not the main character of this story.

How does he react? With pure hatred. This hatred is what fuels his actions forever. He knows he can never defeat God Himself, so he decides to defeat God’s creation instead. And so he appears to Eve and tempts her and her husband, Adam.

After that, we see in the Bible this pattern over and over: Abel pleases God. Cain does not. He realizes he is not the main character in the story. He realizes his brother did good…so he hates the hero and destroys him.

Some chose to help the hero instead of work against Him while others are so filled with hate, they must destroy.

When Saul realizes he isn’t the main character, he seeks to destroy David who is. We see this with Jesus where Satan thinks he can tempt the Christ away from the will of His Father…but fails. Instead of helping and serving the Hero, he seeks to destroy Him. 

The Pharisees and the Sadducees fell into this pattern as well. When they realized they were not the main characters of the story, they sought to destroy Him. And on and on and on…

So, the question is….have you yet realized that YOU are not the main character of your life story? Do you see now that it’s not about YOU? How do you react to this realization? Do you hate the Main Character? Or do you strive to serve Him and get His message out to the world?

Perhaps you haven’t come to this realization yet and you still think that you are the center of the universe and God orbits you. Well, let me be the first to inform you that you are NOT the main character of your life story and this story has nothing to do with you, but it has everything to do with Christ.

Now that you know, how will you respond?  You have two choices…..

You can hate the Main Character and seek to destroy Him and His Creation. Or you can love the Main Character and seek to serve Him and further His message.

“Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” –Joshua 24:14-15

Joshua got it. He knew that the LORD was the Main Character of the story and of his life. Instead of fighting Him or hating Him…he chose to serve Him.

Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…..and choose wisely.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Heroes & Villains

I had the privilege of attending a writer's conference for YA Fiction writers over the weekend. I met some very talented writers and sat in on their workshops.

I thought I'd share some tips on developing Heroes and Villains for your book:


When developing the hero of your story, you first might want to determine if he/she will be a "classic" hero or not. The classic hero is the one, you know, who has courage, strength, determination, inspires those who are with him/her to be better, etc. In other words...Superman!

But sometimes your story may want to begin with a hero who isn't so classic afterall. For instance, Harry Potter starts off as an eleven year old kid, shy, uncertain, and lacking courage. This is ok because then the reader is taken on a journey as they watch this anti-hero change and become courageous and strong and determined right before their eyes. This tactic draws readers into the story as they root for the character to become the Hero.

Now, you have to decide which type your hero will be.


There are your usual "classic" villains as well. These villains are evil from the beginning and stay evil throughout the book. They have no redeeming qualities in their character, therefore, the reader can almost predict what will happen in the end.

In other stories, the villain might start out as a friend of the hero. He might even be the hero's mentor. She might even be the hero's favorite teacher. Allowing the reader to uncover the truth about the character can add excitement and elevate the action to another level. This is what makes writing fun! Draw your readers in with the unpredictable, but in an interesting way.

J.K. Rowling does this well with her character, Severus Snape. We know he is one of the villains in the story, but Rowling takes the readers on a journey and reveals that Professor Snape, in the end, may not be who we thought he was all along. Very clever!  This tactic worked because it was believable.

Will your villain have any redeeming qualities at all? Jot them down ahead of time. Will she end up being good after all?


The most important thing we learned was to make that connection between the hero and the villain. For instance, if your hero has the power of teleportation...perhaps give your villain the power of telepathy. See the connection? The hero can teleport wherever he needs to go, but, alas, his nemesis can read his mind and know where he will end up. How fun is that for the reader?

Think back to your favorite villains in stories. How did they connect to the hero?

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker
Voldemort and Harry Potter
Sauron and Frodo
Lucifer and Christ

These are just some pretty famous villains where you can see the connection. By connecting these two characters together, you create a bond. By creating that bond, you add interest. This interest draws the reader into your story.

In my book, The Dragon Forest, I have a connection between the evil Lord Caragon and the good King Alexander. They are bound by the King's father. His act of mercy (allowing Lord Caragon to live in exile...) came back to haunt King Alexander who now has to deal with this evil Lord.

In Conclusion....

So, now you have a general idea of how to develop your heroes and your villains. Will your hero be that "classic" here type or be something else? Will your villain have any redeeming qualities or will she be evil through and through?  You have all the power to make your characters what you want them to be. Just remember to make connections, stay consistent, add a few surprises if you'd like, tease your readers....and have fun!

But most importantly....just write!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Water Pot

In the scriptures, the Woman at the Well is a very captivating and significant story. I long to complete a devotional on the passage in John chapter 4 that I started about four years ago because of all that I have gleaned from the story.

I will share with you some insights I have learned from it….

Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.  And He had to pass through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus took His disciples through Samaria, which was very odd since all Jews were ordered not to enter into the land because it was seen as unclean. The Samaritans were considered a “mongrel” people. They had blended Jewish customs with their pagan beliefs and rituals. Many Samaritans worshipped the Hebrew God, but they did not know Him.
The Well
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
So, to enter into this land was taboo, yet here was God Himself in the land. He rests on a well, not just any well, but the well of His fathers; Abram built an altar here, it is where Isaac met Rebecca, Jacob named the site El-Ehohe-Israel (God, God of Israel).
Wells had great meaning in scripture. They symbolized the presence and provisions of God. Many men in the Old Testament met their brides by the well; Moses, Isaac, and Jacob.
Now Jesus is about to meet a woman who will become part of His church….His bride.
The Sixth Hour
The time of day is significant because it was noon when the sun was at its highest.  We are told in Genesis  24:11 that the women usually came to the well in the evening time when the hot sun is low in the land and the water would be cool for drinking.
So, why would she go out at noon when the sun is highest? Surely the water would be hot. Perhaps, it is because she wanted to avoid the other women?
Living Water
Later, Jesus explains to her that the water she has come to draw will not satisfy her. This water in the stagnant well will cause her to thirst again. Isn’t that how it is with earthly things tainted with sin? Instead, He tells her:
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.
A well of water springing up to eternal life! What a word picture! Water springing out and up…not stagnant in a deep dark hole, but living water.  How does she respond?
The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”
Who wouldn’t want this water? But Jesus has to reveal Himself to her first. So, He confronts her sin. Now we know why she comes to the well at noon in order to avoid others:
He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.”  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’;  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

A Life Changed
Yes, we discover that the woman is living in sin. But, there is hope for her. Jesus takes this time in His ministry to reveal Himself as the Messiah…the Promised One sitting on the well of His fathers. He is the Promise Fulfilled!
So, does the woman continue on with her task of drawing water? No. As with anyone who comes in contact with Jesus Christ…she is forever changed:
So the woman left her water pot, and went into the city and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.
She left her water pot….and many came to Him!

Living Water
Have you left your water pot by the stagnant well? So many of us have met Jesus, but continue on drawing lifeless water. Now is the time that we leave our daily tasks behind and drink the Living Water!
Think about it.
Are you a changed life? Leave the water pot and go tell others about the Man who is The Christ!

Your Turn: What lessons did you glean from The Woman at the Well? How have you left your water pot to further the Gospel message?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Meet and Greet: Author Katie Ganshert

 Welcome!  Today I introduce to my readers author Katie Ganshert!  I have had the pleasure of meeting Katie through her blog where you can learn more about her, read some of her writing tips, and join her book club. I look forward to reading her book:

Katie's book will be released this May!

Tell me a little about yourself: 

Why do you write?
Because I love the process of creating. I love what it teaches me about myself and God and life and humanity. It draws me to my knees more than anything else I’ve ever done. Plus, it’s just plain old fun!

Will you return to teaching someday?
That is a great question. I don’t know. I’m not sure yet if I miss the classroom enough to return. Perhaps as a sub. That way I wouldn’t have to make a year-long commitment and I would still get my teaching fix. I would absolutely love to teach creative writing.

What projects are you working on now?
Right now I am editing my sixth novel, which is yet to be titled. This story has given me more trouble than the previous five combined. But it’s been worth it (I think).

The premise goes something like this: A fiery train crash claims the lives of thirty people. Only one person survives, and she’s completely unharmed. Will her obsession with the dead teach her what it means to truly live?

That doesn’t sound like a romance, does it? I promise, it is. I’m also preparing to dive into content edits for my second contracted novel, Wishing on Willows.


So, what is your writing process? Do you brainstorm? Outline? Or “wing it”?
Winging it gives me major ulcers. I don’t know how those pantsers do it. I have nothing but admiration for them. Because I am a psychotic plotter. I usually start with an idea. Turn it into a back cover copy. Turn that into a synopsis. Then turn that into a scene-by-scene spread, complete with every scenes GMC (goal, motivation, conflict). Only then do I start the actual writing.

Why the romance genre?
Oh, for so many reasons! Because it makes me all swoony. I love falling in love with love. I love watching two people fall for each other. And ultimately, I love pointing to the ultimate romance – which is Christ’s sacrificial love for His broken, beloved bride. I pray that my stories can point to that truth, however subtly.

How have you taken advantage of social media to build a platform?
I’m a big fan of Twitter and Facebook. I don’t know how well I’m using them. I don’t feel like I have intentional plans. I just like meeting new people and chit-chatting online. It’s fun (and highly addicting). I also enjoy blogging. While I may not be intentional on FB and Twitter, I try to be with my blogging. I blog about topics my target audience would enjoy – which is faith and romance. Plus writing. Because that’s my passion. So on Mondays, I post about my journey as a debut novelist. On Wednesdays, I post reflections on faith. And on Fridays, I try to start conversations about romance. I’ve met a lot of great people through blogging. Like you!

What advice can you give those who are just starting out in the writing business?
First, persevere. That’s the hugest factor when it comes to making it in this business. Rejection is a part of the game. Waiting is a part of the game. I don’t know of any published author who didn’t have to endure both, multiple times. My agent, Rachelle Gardner, blogged recently about brick walls. Anytime we hit a brick wall, we have to ask ourselves how badly we want it. So my advice is to get back up, scale those walls. As many times as it takes. It will only make you grow.
Second, keep writing. Don’t get stuck on your first novel. Write it. Edit it. Send it out on submission. Then get to work on your second.

Which authors have inspired you the most on this journey and why?
Too many to count! I have met so many wonderful, supportive, inspiring writers as I travel this journey. But if I could only pick one, I’d probably have to say historical romance author, Erica Vetsch. Before I had a contract, before I had an agent, before I had a clue, she took me under her wing. With nothing to gain. She saw something in my writing and she offered to mentor me. Then she kindly tore apart my third novel and helped me put it back together again. It’s the same novel that caught my agent’s eye and landed me a book deal. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if Erica hadn’t helped me along.


Why is it important for you to add the Christian worldview into your stories?
I’ve tried writing books without a spiritual arc, but I just can’t seem to do it. Just like I’ve tried writing books without romance. It’s what I gravitate toward. It comes naturally to me. I guess it’s important to me because story is a powerful, powerful medium through which to speak truth. Maybe that’s why Jesus did most of his teaching in parables.

What Bible verse do you rely on the most in good or bad times?
Is it okay if I write three?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. –Proverbs 3:5-6
Be still and know that I am God. –Psalm 46:10

What has the Lord shown you throughout this writing journey that could inspire my readers to keep moving forward?
Publication isn’t the point. Drawing nearer to Him is. And if writing stories and seeking out ways to share those stories draws you into the lap of God, then you are right where you need to be. True joy didn’t cone when I got the book deal. It came when I was waiting, waiting, waiting for the book deal. Because during that time of not-knowing, I spent so much time on my knees, surrendering my dreams to Him. And through that process, God showed me that He is my reward. He is the ultimate prize. Not an agent. Not a book deal. But Him. So if you love telling stories, keep telling them. Keep writing. Don’t let rejections stop you. Let them draw you nearer to God. And trust that He is in control. That He’s given you these stories for a purpose. Whether that purpose is to touch one heart, or a million, doesn’t matter. What matters is your obedience and your trust.

Thank you so much, Katie, for joining me today on my blog!  I wish you and your family nothing but the best!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Character Matters

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky..."

Does character matter in a Presidential candidate?

I remember how disappointed…no, disgusted…I was when Bill Clinton finally told the truth about Monica Lewinsky. Yet, at the same time, I was glad I knew the truth because that brought me out of the Liberal-minded fog I was in and back to my Conservative roots. Thank You, Lord!

My friend had read the phone tap transcripts when they were released to the public. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me was in those transcripts. I couldn’t believe that was the President of the United States doing those things, saying those things, acting like that. Disgusting.

One news magazine wrote about it and I read the letters that poured in from readers. One man wrote that it was Bill Clinton who did all those things, but William Jefferson Clinton was the President so he wasn’t all that upset by it. What??  I wrote that the man in the White House is Bill Clinton AND William Jefferson Clinton. Our president perjured himself, tampered with evidence, and lied to the American people. That’s why he was impeached. 

 Had you or I committed these crimes, we would have gone to prison.

That scandal turned things around for me. I paid attention. Like him or hate him, President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, brought class back into the White House. They showed America what a healthy marriage looked like and I thank God for that. I needed to see that again.

So, now that Newt Gingrich is a candidate for President of the United States and we know he lacks character, how important is it to learn from the past? I honestly believe that, like Clinton, Gingrich is a very intelligent man. He is a historian. He knows politics and can handle politicians. But, like Clinton, he lacks wisdom, integrity, and character.

I am not going to apologize for wanting these traits in a President. I feel wisdom is needed in such an office. We have seen in the last 3 years how much damage a lack of wisdom can do to this nation. We need character, a man who will not sign legislation that empowers abortion providers. And we need integrity. We need a man who is who he says he is.

Have we seen that man in our Presidential candidates? I don’t know yet. But I know that those traits are important. I insist on learning from the past.

Your turn: Is character important in a Presidential candidate? Why or why not? 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012



noun, verb, -cled, -cling.
a chronological record of events; a history.
verb (used with object)
to record in or as in a chronicle.

When I was younger, I'd start a new journal every year to record events in my life. It started when I was engaged to be married (1988) all the way up to 2002.

I don't know why I stopped, but I miss it. I enjoy going back and reading my journals. Sometimes months would go by between entries, but I can remember exactly what was going on at the time. For instance, on February 20, 2000, I wrote:

"Oh, Lord, please help me to get motivated to do my artwork again...Please help Scottie find the job that you want him to have. I pray we have enough faith to get us thru this hard time. Help us to cling closer together and to hold hands tightly. -Amen."

I remember those feelings of uncertainty as my husband was looking for another good paying job, but coming up empty each week. The money was running out, I was working part time, and we had a 5 yr. old boy. It was a scary time. We went that whole year without health insurance....yet the Lord not only provided, He protected us.


The one thing I enjoy the most about going back and reading through those old journals is God's faithfulness to us. He used family members, friends, and prayer to help us get through the hard times. My journals are also filled with wonderful memories of the good times, too.

I am glad that I chose to write in those journals all those years ago. Now my son has a record of what his mom and dad went through in the early years of their marriage. He also has a record of how his God answered prayers and was always there. And now my son can feel assured that the God who never changes will always be there for him too.


It is no accident that we communicate in words. We were made in the image of God who chose to communicate with us in words.

I urge you to take time this year to write in a journal. Even if it is just one sentence a day. Record where you are spiritually. Record your hopes, dreams, and goals for the year. Record prayer requests and also when they are answered. Record funny things said, tears that were shed, and wounds that were healed. Then, be still and listen as He speaks to you through your thoughts, others around you, and the words in your journal.

You will relish the time this December when you read through the record of your life. You will smile when you see how far you've come and how the Lord brought you through it all. Your faith will be strengthened and your soul will rejoice.

....but most importantly, just write!

Your turn:  Do you journal? How could journaling help strengthen your faith? What keeps you from putting pen to paper to record your life as it happens?


Monday, January 16, 2012


There is a scene in my book, The Dragon Forest, where ten year old Peter realizes his foolish actions (running away) have caused his father, the King, to come look for him even though this puts the kingdom in danger. Peter sees the consequences of his actions and he is conflicted. How could he do this to his father? Make his father choose between saving him…and saving the kingdom.

Adding conflict to your story is what draws in your readers. If everyone in the story gets along, if there are no difficult decision to be made, if your character has nothing to fear…then you have yourself a boring story.

So, how do you add conflict?  Well, imagine your protagonist is a popular, beautiful, fifteen year old sophomore in high school. She gets straight A’s, is on the cheerleading squad, life is good.

But one day she comes home and sees her father leaving with suitcases in hand and her mother is crying. She is told her father won’t be coming back. Now, there is conflict. The girl’s life won’t ever be the same. The rest of the story will show the reader just how drastically her life will change….


This “struggle” can come outwardly or inwardly. Say the young girl has to choose between her mother and her father. Inwardly, she has always had a better relationship with her dad, but outwardly she feels she should stay with her mom. CONFLICT.

By adding conflict, you can also add abrasive, interesting, and striking dialogue that can make a scene more real for the reader.  Take some time to listen to conversations around you. Pay attention to inflection, emotion, and even word choice while you listen in. Jot down some notes, too.

Writing a story shouldn't be easy. It should always make the writer uncomfortable at times because of the amount of thought that goes into each scene. I know for me, writing conflict sometimes causes me to  remember things in my past which can be an unpleasant experience, but it's worth it. Those instances of conflict add realism to the story and can draw the reader in.

And isn't that the point of it all?

Your turn:  How do you add conflict to your stories? Do you draw from personal experiences or is that too difficult for you? 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Is Spiritual Warfare?

Michael Defeats the Dragon- Justin Gerard

"All people are born into a war. The tragedy is that most do not realize it..." -Pastor Frank Switzer.

As I write a YA Christian Fiction series titled, The Warfare Club, I had to do some reading through the Bible about what Spiritual Warfare is....and was fascinated to discover much!

In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter warned us:

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Your enemy. We are in a war between good and evil. There is an enemy that we face daily. it is in our best interest to know just who that enemy is before we head into battle.

Paul warned:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm..." (Ephesians 6:10-12)

We are told that our war is in the spiritual realm.

General Patton, famous for his war skills, famously shouted on the battlefield as he watched the great Nazi General, Rommel, lose a pivitol tank battle, "Rommel, you magnificent bas***d! I read your book!"

Patton was wise to study his enemy before entering into battle. He knew the strategies of Rommel and, therefore, could use them against him.

We are wise to follow suit.

We learn in Scripture that Satan never stops. He is relentless in his pursuit of God's very own. Perhaps that is because he knows how the story ends: he loses.

Maybe that knowledge ispires the urgency in his pursuits. His time is as limited as his power.

But those of us who know him and his ways do not live in fear of his attacks because we have our own General who not only knows the enemy, but has power over him and has already defeated the enemy for us.

Yes, we enter into the battlefield already victorious because of what Christ has done for us: conquered death.

So? What does death have to do with anything? Well, death is the one thing that every living thing has yet to conquer. Death is the one thing we all face.....

But because Christ defeated death for us, we who follow Christ do not fear death. Through Christ, we now have eternal life apart from the sin and anguish of the world.

So, as I write about Spiritual Warfare and teenagers facing it, I am reminded that it is wise to know the enemy and how he works. But it is wiser still to know that the enemy is already a conquered foe. Most of all, it is wise to remember who you are in Christ:

I am a child of Christ.
I am an heir of the throne.
I am a citizen of heaven.
I am a conqueror because of Jesus.

Praise God, indeed!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christians and Politics

1 Timothy 2:1-2 "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."

Today I ask the question, should Christians get involved in politics?

Pastor John MacArthur recently said in a sermon:

There was also a time (not so long ago) when Americans universally disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and divorce; they believed sexual promiscuity is absolutely wrong; they regarded obscene language as inappropriate; they saw abortion as unthinkable; and they held public officials to high moral and ethical standards. Nowadays, most of the behavior society once deemed immoral is defended as an inalienable civil right.

He went on to say that many Christians believe the there is a political solution to the problem in politics today. Is this true?

We saw the overwhelming response by citizens to irresponsible politics at the beginning of the TEA Party movement in 2010. This group is largely made up of Christian Conservatives. There is no doubt about the affect this movement has had on the political spectrum. Many Congressmen and women were voted out of office or just plain retired as a direct result of their performances recorded at Town Hall meetings by TEA Party members.


The TEA Party has successfully brought to the forefront the power of influence a Grassroots movement can have as evidenced by the media's obviously biased portrayal of TEA Partiers or by their lack of media coverage of certain TEA Party events.

But should Christians form a Grassroots movement to influence or change the political spectrum? Many Christians would have to answer no when asked if they pray daily for those in authority over us. I confess I hardly ever pray for the President, Congress, or the Governor even though I know their decisions have a direct impact on my life.

Paul urged believers to pray for those in authority over us...not for the authority figure's sake, but that we all may live peaceable and tranquil lives in all godliness and dignity. Who doesn't want that?


At the time Paul wrote those words to Timothy (62-64 AD), many Christians lived under the rule of Emperor Nero. In 64 AD, Nero started the great fires of Rome and blamed the Christians. The horrific persecution of the Christians began.

Yet Paul begged believers to pray for the rulers over them.

Whether or not Christians should get involved in the political world, one thing remains true. We are begged by our brother Paul to PRAY for those in authority over us because they were placed there by God Himself for a specific purpose.

That we may lead peaceable and tranquil lives in all godliness and dignity.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing With Purpose

Storms gather on the horizon for many teens today......

In a recent interview, I was asked how I came up with the idea to write The Warfare Club series. This is my new YA Christian Supernatural Fiction series I started late last year.

I came up with the idea when I walked through our local public library and noticed all the books for teens. This was back in 2008 at the height of the Vampire-werewolf-paranormal craze in YA Fiction.  As I  browsed through the books and graphic novels, I was startled by the common theme of darkness, sorrow, and just plain hopelessness running through all the books.

So, I asked myself where were the books for Christian teens?  Where could a Christian teen read about what it takes to make it in this world amidst all the darkness, sorrow, and hopelessness?

You know what they say....write the book you would like to read!

After prayer, starting, restarting, and restarting yet again...the first book in the series is almost finished. I decided to make this series of books about battling the principalities of the world and knowing what it means to be Victorious in Christ....with a teenage protagonist.

Let's face it, teens today have significantly more distractions than we did when we were kids. I write curriculum for a university, and one course we are working on is a Psychology course that discusses the many issues teens face today:

Dating violence
Internet porn addiction
Internet gambling addictions
Social media addictions
Drug Addictions
Gender Identity Crises
Cyber bullying

...and the list went on and on and on. I sighed heavily just thinking about the weight on the shoulders of teens today. With all this pressure, they are still expected to get good grades, win scholarships, and become responsible citizens.

I can see how the pressures can overwhelm someone. And that is why I write with a purpose in mind. Do I long to sell thousands of books all over the world? Of course. I'd be lying if I said otherwise. But I also long to send a message to the teen reading my book: there is an enemy out there who wants you dead...but you also have someone who already defeated that enemy for you and His name is Jesus. Therefore, there is HOPE amidst all the darkness and sorrow and pressures of the world. You can be victorious in Christ!

Simple message.

I suppose I have a calling to teach young people. I have a heart for them and all that they endure. I know some kids who are going through a lot at this time in their lives and others who have been spared much pain. But the message is the same to both: 

Only God is the answer and there is no other way!

For me, to write means to write with a purpose: to entertain, yes, but also to educate and encourage.

Colossians 3:23-24  "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."

Your turn:  For what purpose do you write? How can your story be an ecouragement to those who read it? Is that important to you?

Remember.....Just Write!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Meet & Greet: Author, Speaker, and C.S. Lewis Expert, Will Vaus


 Today on my blog, I interview author, speaker, and C.S. Lewis expert, Will Vaus.  I first saw Will Vaus speak at Grand Canyon University about his book, "The Hidden Story of Narnia" before Voyage of the Dawn Treader was released.

I then became friends on Facebook with Mr. Vaus and have read his other books about C.S. Lewis.  I am honored to have him here on my blog today!

So please tell my readers a little bit about yourself….

I am forty-eight years old, husband of one for twenty-four years and father of three boys. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama from the University of California at San Diego and a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Seminary. I have spent most of the last twenty-four years serving in ministry both as an evangelist and as a pastor of various churches around the US. Over the last seven years I have had five books published.

You have written so many books about C.S. Lewis. What is your writing process?  Where do you prefer to write and why?

I suppose all writing starts with an idea, or in the case of fiction, with a picture in one’s mind, as C. S. Lewis said. The next step is to write that idea down, sometimes at first only in the form of a sentence, a phrase or a title. Then, in the case of nonfiction, I draw up an outline of the book as I envision it, a table of contents. Then I write the introduction and the chapters one by one, from beginning to end.

In the case of fiction, I begin by writing a one-sentence summary of the story, followed by a paragraph summary and then a longer summary of perhaps several paragraphs. Next, I write character descriptions, a paragraph for each main character. Then I write an outline of the story, a table of contents and brief, one-sentence, chapter summaries. Then I write the story from beginning to end.

In both cases, fiction and nonfiction, after I have gone through this whole process, then I go back and read the manuscript from beginning to end, revising and editing as I go. I may go through a manuscript as many as several times in this fashion before I feel it is ready to send off to a publisher.

Because I work at home and do not have an office at home, I generally write in my living room, on a laptop, while sitting on the couch with a beautiful view of our small mountain town out of the window. I would probably prefer to write in a room set aside for the purpose of writing, but that is not an option for me at this point. I hope to claim my own office in our house when my second son goes off to college.

How do you go about your research? How long does it take to write one book about C.S. Lewis?

The way I go about my research varies from book to book. In the case of writing about C. S. Lewis, I have almost all the primary and secondary resources I need right at my fingertips because I have a rather good collection of these resources in my personal library. I have, in addition, done some research at the Wade Center in Wheaton, Illinois, and I have traveled to the British Isles on a number of occasions and interviewed people who knew Lewis.

I have also written a biography of Sheldon Vanauken, author of “A Severe Mercy”. For that book, I had to do a rather large amount of travel to the places where he lived (Lynchburg, Virginia, Indianapolis, Indiana and Oxford). I spent a good amount of time in libraries and other locations doing primary research that had never been done before.

Of course, a lot of information that used to be available only in libraries is now on the Internet. Thus, I do a good bit of research using the Web. However, one must be careful to make certain that the sources one is using on the Web are accurate. Cross-checking becomes even more important when it comes to Internet research.

Each book is different in terms of the amount of time required. My book, “Mere Theology”, took seven years to research and write. However, I was the full-time pastor of a church at that time. Now, I can devote more time to writing, and so the books come more quickly.

 My book, “The Professor of Narnia”, which is a biography of Lewis targeted to younger readers, took only a few months to write. I also read aloud each chapter to my family as I was writing it. However, I had already done most of the biographical research for that book when I wrote four biographical essays on Lewis for the first volume of the Lewis “Life, Works and Legacy” series.

 My book, “Speaking of Jack: A C. S. Lewis Discussion Guide”, was written over several years as I was leading various Lewis discussion groups. The final edits on that work took several months. 

Finally, my book, “The Hidden Story of Narnia” was begun while I was living in Ireland in “The Narnia Cottage”. That book took several months to write, but then went through a number of edits over about five years before it was published.

Have you ever considered writing a children’s book series?

Yes, the fairy tale that I have written “The Tales of Rathscar: The Tunnel Under Scarborough House”, is the first in a series. However, I am waiting to find a publisher for the first book before writing the rest in the series.

So, your father was a real life gangster in Mickey Cohen’s crime ring. Tell my readers a little about your book, My Father Was a Gangster. What motivated you to write the book?

I was motivated to write the book about my father because a friend, who had read one of my father’s earlier autobiographical works, despaired that it was no longer in print.  Toward the end of his life, in 1997, my father had begun work on a memoir, but he did not live long enough to complete it. Thus, in 2005 I picked up his notes and began to read what he had worked on. I loved the stories of his early life, some that I had never heard before. It was as if he was alive again and speaking to me in the very room where I was reading.  I took those stories, put them in my own voice and started writing the book, following the pattern my father had set. Then I used the earlier autobiographies he had written, along with a lot of other primary material, and interviews, as my sources. I interviewed my mother rather extensively and read each chapter aloud to her as I was writing.

People often ask me, upon seeing the title of the book, if it is a true story. I guess they find it rather hard to believe. Well, it is true. My father worked for Mickey Cohen and others in organized crime in Southern California in the late 1940s. However, all of that ended when he attended a Billy Graham meeting in Los Angeles in 1949 and gave his life to Jesus Christ. The book tells about my father’s days in organized crime, but it also tells much more. I tell about his early life and what led him into a life of crime, how he got out of the syndicate, and what he did with the rest of his life—mainly helping juvenile delinquents across the country find a meaningful life through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Of all the C.S. Lewis books, which is your favorite and why?

I am often asked that question and I usually say, “Whatever book I am reading at the time.” Out of the forty books Lewis wrote in his lifetime, it is hard to choose. It all began for me with my fourth grade public school teacher reading “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, so that book is certainly toward the top of my list. “Mere Christianity” helped me to hold on to Christ during my college years when I had many intellectual questions. “Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer” is the last book Lewis wrote and is a devotional favorite of mine.

What was it like to actually live inside the Narnia Cottage in Ireland and step through the wardrobe door?

My family and I had a wonderful time living in the Narnia Cottage in Ireland and working with C. S. Lewis’ step-son, Douglas Gresham, and his wife Merrie. We all have very fond memories of our eight months living there. Unfortunately, we never got to step through the wardrobe door in Ireland because the original Lewis family wardrobe is at Wheaton College! However, living in a 400 year old Irish cottage was great fun. It was much smaller than our houses in America but that was all right at the time because our boys were small and enjoyed spending a lot of time outdoors. 400 year old mold in the wettest country in the world did aggravate my allergies a bit.

Living in Ireland, even for a short time as we did, was a dramatic, cross-cultural experience requiring many adjustments on our part. There are many things about everyday life in Ireland that are different from living in the USA: driving on the left, hot and cold water taps in the bathroom, the metric system, using a different type of stove, smaller refrigerators and washing machines, hanging one’s wash out on a line to dry. All of these things required us to make adjustments. We loved the Irish countryside much more than the cities, though we enjoyed some of them too. We lived not far from the medieval city of Kilkenny and greatly enjoyed visiting the castle there on numerous occasions. We also enjoyed the beaches of Ireland that are not commercialized like our beaches in the USA. Sheep have the prime real estate on the Emerald Isle. Of course, it was also great fun helping Doug and Merrie in their ministry of hospitality on their twenty-acre estate and living in their 400 year old, twelve bedroom house when they were away. Doug was working on the first Narnia film at that time and bringing back glowing reports from the set in New Zealand.

Why do you think Professor Lewis’ life and writings have had such an impact on generations?

People have been trying to answer that question for decades. I think the first reason he has had a great impact on millions of people is because he was one of the most thoroughly converted people who has ever lived. He grew up in the church and then left the faith, largely because he could not understand how, if there was a God, this God could allow so much pain to exist in the world. Then he was dragged, slowly, kicking and screaming all the way, back to faith in Christ. He was drawn back by a combination of reason, and numerous imaginative experiences he called joy. Finally, he figured that the source of joy was Jesus Christ and that Jesus had to be who he claimed to be, namely the Son of God.

I say that his conversion has a lot to do with his popularity and impact because the books Lewis wrote before his conversion did not sell very well. Then he became popular during a very dark time in history, WWII, when people in Britain especially needed hope and a reason to go on believing in God and in Christ. “The Screwtape Letters” and Lewis’ BBC broadcasts made him almost a household name, first in England then in America. However, the reason for his ongoing fame and impact was yet to come.

 Lewis is largely known today for the Narnia stories that embody the Christian faith using mythic images. Lewis knew that some people cannot be reasoned into faith. For them the first appeal must be to the imagination.

Thus, Lewis is a writer of great impact because of his conversion—he has something important to say. Second, he is a writer of great impact because he combines reason and imagination in almost all of his books. Third, he is a writer of great impact because he writes well. He honed his craft over many years of education, trial and error. He learned how to speak to the masses through his BBC broadcasts and his RAF lecture series. His most popular books have a common touch about them, we feel as if Lewis is speaking to us from across the table over a nice cup of hot tea.

With The Hobbit coming out soon, can you briefly summarize what you feel are the differences between Tolkien and Lewis’ writing styles and messages within their books? 

 Of course, Tolkien did not write books of popular theology like Lewis did. However, in his fiction I think Tolkien provides hope, a light in the midst of the darkness. This hope is based, for both Tolkien and Lewis, on Christ. Lewis is more explicit in the use of Christian allusion in his books than Tolkien, but both of them, I believe, have a Christian message of hope in the midst of despair. They both lived through very dark times in the history of the world. Both served in the Great War, and were of course friends in Oxford during the depressing days of WWII. Their messages are rooted in their Christian faith but also their experiences of the world as we know it coming unglued.

Tolkien and Lewis’ writing styles, however, are very different, I think. Some of the content, some of the inspiration, is the same. Both had a love of rural England, the Shire. That comes through in the works of both men. However, Lewis’ writing is far more succinct than Tolkien. I think, again, that Lewis’ style was honed through having to give brief BBC talks, and purposely writing the Narnia stories in chapters that are the perfect length for reading aloud to a child at bedtime.

 Lewis can give you a picture, light a fire in your imagination, using very few words at all. The battle scenes in the Narnia stories, that played so large in my imagination as a child, really take up only a few pages. Tolkien, on the other hand, goes into very elaborate description. He was unparalleled at sub-creation, creating a whole new world, the languages and cultures of different peoples.

 Tolkien embedded his Christian beliefs very deep in his stories and the connection to Christianity sparks out in brief moments. Tolkien thought Lewis’ Narnia stories to be far too allegorical for his taste, though Lewis always denied that they were allegories.

I imagine a whole book could be written about the similarities and differences between Lewis and Tolkien’s writing style and message. There’s an idea for your readers to follow up on!

What advice can you give to a writer wanting to write about another person’s life? 

Whatever you write about, you have to be passionate about. For example, my writing about Sheldon Vanauken grew out of a fascination with his life. At times I felt almost obsessed to find out more about his family and Glenmerle, the family home in which he grew up, and which he describes so beautifully, almost hauntingly, in “A Severe Mercy”.

Thus, I think you have to start with an obsession. You need something to drive you to do the work, because it is going to be a lot of work. Then you have to completely immerse yourself as much as possible in the world of the person you are writing about. You have to learn as much as possible about the places and the time-period and the people surrounding the person you are writing about. As I was writing about Sheldon Vanauken, in particular, I felt like I was going back in time. Searching out old photographs helps me in the process—photos of old cars, people and places from the time-period. Listening to the music that person loved, watching movies or reading books they enjoyed.

I think when writing about someone else you also have to turn off your own judgment of the person and their actions. You’ve got to pull yourself out of the story and simply tell the story for what it is with great respect for the characters in it. Assessments of right and wrong, judgments of value are best rendered by the reader, not the writer.

As with any book, you also have to find a style, and find your stride in that style, that suits the material or the person you are trying to describe. For example, Vanauken was a great lover of poetry, so I have included a lot of poetry that he loved in my biography of him. My father, on the other hand, was a man of great action and humor. He seldom read a book and even the books he wrote were written by others. So the style of the book I wrote about him was in some senses different.

C. S. Lewis said that we ought, so far as possible, to “become an Achaean chief while reading Homer, a medieval knight while reading Malory, and an eighteenth-century Londoner while reading Johnson.” (“A Preface to Paradise Lost”, chapter IX.) I think the same is true when writing about another person’s life. You almost have to imaginatively become that person. Walter Hooper, Lewis’ secretary at the end of his life, gave me a great compliment in saying that he thought I did that well in the writing of “The Professor of Narnia”.

What project(s) are you working on now?

I am working on writing a book about the top ten books that influenced C. S. Lewis.

Thank you so much Will Vaus for visiting my blog!  I look forward to reading more of your books and hopefully seeing you speak again soon in Arizona. May God continue to bless your work and your family.

Will Vaus Bio:

Will Vaus is an international speaker and author. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama from the University of California at San Diego and a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. Will and his wife Becky and their three sons, James, Jonathan and Joshua, live in Virginia.

You can purchase any of Will Vaus' books at Amazon.com or at his web site and blog.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Bill Clinton Redux?

This morning on Drudge Report, I saw this photograph and read the articles about how our President wants to cut back on defense spending and use those funds on domestic spending. 

And then I thought, hey, isn't that what Clinton did?

And what happened during the Clinton years?  Oh, yeah....we had a "surplus".

But we also had many terrorist attacks on US citizens beginning in 1993 World Trade Center bombing and culminating in the 2000 USS Cole attacks.

...and of course we all know what happened on September 11, 2001.

So, our current President has gone from sounding and acting like Jimmy Carter to President George W. Bush, and now he is channeling Bill Clinton.

I fear the man just doesn't know who he is or what he is supposed to do other than act like past Presidents. 

But perhaps my biggest fear is that he is setting up our country for another big terrorist attack by announcing to the WORLD that we are cutting back on our defense. 

Yes, drones work. I'll give you that. 

But if anyone knows the United States Marines, they know that Marines do not like to sit around and do nothing. They become Marines for one reason and ONE reason only: to go to battle.

After the Clinton years, our military was weakened, flabby, and unprepared for the enemy. After George W. Bush, we have the best trained military in the world because they know the enemy and they have seen battle...they are PREPARED.

So now we return to the Clinton years. Spending money we do not have on domestic issues while allowing our military forces to weaken.

Lord help us, 2012 is going to be interesting.

Your turn:  What do you think?  How is cutting back on defense spending a good thing when terrorism is still out there as an enemy of the US?