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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Those Rambling, Incessant Talkers!

This is my last entry on real character analysis. Today I’m doing the incessant talker. Do you know anyone like that? More than one?

I have a family member and a friend at church who are like this. They are both precious ladies, BUT unless you have plenty of time on your hands, do not, I repeat, do NOT engage them in conversation.

I am a talker, also, so I understand incessant talkers. But these two ladies will bend your ear about people and things you have no interest in. As in a recent conversation that including the telling of one lady’s daughter’s co-worker getting written up for something. I don’t know this daughter’s co-worker and the story about her getting written up by a supervisor wasn’t an unusual or interesting story, and it certainly had no point to it. But incessant talkers don’t need a point.

I have concluded that incessant talkers are lonely for conversation because they don’t get enough talking, with someone who will listen, at home or from their spouse.

But imagine the scenario with an incessant talker in a novel. Let’s say for instance, a detective investigating a crime scene. One of the people he interviews is a rambling, non-stop talker. He finally sees a break to walk away, or he creates a break so he can walk away, and chalks up the mountain of information he just heard as unrelated to the case.

But he finds out later that in all that rambling monologue, the talker revealed a key clue to the case. Only he dismissed it along with everything else the talker said.

Use your imagination. There are so many possibilities for characters in our writing in the people we encounter all the time. So observe and write, write, write!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Those Quirky Characters Who Refuse to Grow Up

As writers we are surrounded by people that we can use as characters in our stories. Perhaps not the actual person, but someone with the same quirks, personalities,and appearance. There is no end to this. So following in theme I have for this month, here is another character I know or have in my life – the person who never grows up.

She’s in her early 30’s and I don’t think she has ever had a serious relationship with the opposite sex. I’ve known her since she was eleven or twelve, and she’s never really dated a lot. She’s attractive enough, has a bubbly and outgoing personality.

She doesn’t want to commit to anyone because she doesn’t she doesn’t want to grow up. She LOVES hanging out with the teenagers, but not in a weird way. She’s always served as a youth sponsor/leader in whatever church my daughter and her husband are youth pastors. But she hangs out with teens – mostly girls – during the week and weekends.

I love this young lady. She calls me mom. But she is quirky and sometimes her quirkiness is irritating and frustrating. I think I understand her refusal to commit (she was in a relationship recently with a handsome, sweet Christian guy, but she broke up after two months) because I know some of her background.

But the whole point of this blog is how this person I know would make a good character in my writing. Let’s see…a quirky 30ish woman who doesn’t want to grow up, is afraid to commit in a relationship. Yes, I could tweak that into an interesting character in a short story or minor character in a novel.

Go, my friends, and share your story with your vast array of characters. God bless us all, and bless our words that we pen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Those Self-Absorbed Selfie Takers

Continuing with my blogs about people-watching and characterizations. This week I want to concentrate on not one person, but numerous who fit this description: the ever-loving, selfie-taking, posting-pictures-of-themselves-on-social-media people.

We all know at least one. Most of us know several people like that. And let’s face it, they are normally good-looking people. Although a few aren’t, yet they must think they are. One I know posts a different picture of herself every day and sometimes more than once a day. Maybe she was pretty in her younger days, but not so much anymore. But don’t tell her that. Someone did ask her one time at a social gathering why she posted so many pictures of herself. The next day she posting all over social media about how her feelings were so hurt.  What did she accomplish by doing that? Just what she wanted to accomplish. People were consoling her, telling her how they loved all her pictures, criticizing whoever could say such a cruel thing.

It is terrible when older, mature people, especially Christians, behave like they’re still in high school. But what great fodder for writing – the self-absorbed-with-their-looks characters. Of course, people can become absorbed or obsessed over many things: their intellectual prowess, their money, their fame, their physical ailments, their romance, their children, their accomplishments, and so on.

What would we see if we could look into the heart and soul of these people? Pride? Arrogance? Insecurities? Selfishness? A cry for love?  Loneliness? A need to be noticed? Constantly needing praise and affirmation?

Please don’t mistake my example for those of you who post a different picture once a week or so. I am not referring to you. But, just think of the twists and turns your story could take with a person continually taking selfies.

And of course, if I was young, gorgeous, and hot maybe I would be posting selfies every day, eh?