Saturday, November 01, 2014

Time Change: Fall Back

Tonight we say farewell to Daylight Saving Time for another year. To me, it's always seemed like cutting an inch off the bottom of a piece of cloth and sewing it to the top to make it longer. But, I digress.

As a public service, this is a reminder to set your clocks back an hour before you go to bed tonight. Other than getting to church earlier in the morning, what will you do with that extra hour? A recent survey shows that only a few of you will sleep longer. So, what do you plan to do with your twenty-five hour day?

See you Tuesday with my regular post.

(image via

Friday, October 31, 2014

Writing: Endorsements

I'm often asked this question. How does an author get endorsers? We've all seen (although sometimes have ignored) those blurbs on the front and back covers of books. Where do they come from? And what do they mean?

Do endorsers even read the books about which they write a sentence or two to aid in marketing? Speaking for me, I do--although there are others who simply skim and I've heard of people who don't even bother to read a book before endorsing it.

My endorsers are taken from the group of authors I've met during my time as a writer. I didn't seek their friendship for this reason, but that's the source I seem to tap when it comes time for a blurb for my books. I generally ask three or four, figuring that one of them may be too busy to read the book. And I always ask them to 'read the advance copy, in view of an endorsement.' I never flat out ask for their approval, but thus far I've always gotten it.

As for the endorsements I give, my rule of thumb (learned from a colleague long before I was known enough to be asked for endorsements) is that I'll read a book in view of an endorsement if 1) it's in the genre with which I'm familiar, 2) I know or know of the author, and 3) I have time. Some people give endorsements like people on a float throwing Mardi Gras beads. Others just don't do it at all.

Do endorsements make a difference to you? Have you ever bought a book because a favorite author endorsed it? And, if so, were you ever disappointed? Leave a comment--I'd like to know.

(picture via

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Latest "Plague"

In the fourteenth century, the plague was so often fatal it was called the "black death." We've had problems with influenza outbreaks, causing untold suffering and death, for over a century. When I was asked recently to do my annual column on health for Christian Fiction Online magazine, I chose to write about enterovirus, because at the time it was a major concern. It seems that we've always had to worry about diseases.

Then came Ebola. Thousands died in West Africa, but it wasn't until the viral infection came to our shores (and in my case, our metropolitan area) that people really took note.

It's good to see patients recovering from this infection, and although there is no specific treatment as of this writing, great strides are being made in that area. Meanwhile, let me introduce some facts into an area where rumor and fear abound. This information is from the national allergy and immunology college of which I am a fellow. I believe it's accurate, and I hope it's helpful.

At present, the recognized means of transmission are:
1. direct contact with blood or any secretions of an infected person, including saliva and sweat.
2. exposure to objects (e.g., needles, surgical equipment) contaminated with infected secretions.
3. hand-shaking and close contact (3 feet or less) for prolonged periods with infected patients unless wearing recommended personal protective equipment.
4. Although a 2012 Canadian study suggested Ebola might be transmitted from animal to animal via air, that has not been confirmed.

Symptoms may appear from two to twenty-one days after exposure, but typically are seen at eight to ten days. Symptoms are non-specific, and may mimic flu or similar viral illnesses. Tests are available to show if Ebola infection is present.

One last thought. After you've taken all reasonable steps to stay safe, take comfort in this verse of Scripture: "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty...
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday."

(representation of a virus via

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Writing: More Than A Painting

I wish I could recall who our pastor was quoting when he talked about reading the Scriptures, but whoever it was, the words started me thinking about their applicability to novels.

Some look upon novels as being like paintings. They can be appreciated for their art, for the way they portray events and scenes, pulling us in like the seascape in the illustration. But if that's all our books are, they aren't fulfilling their potential. If we read them and move on, we're like people who don't pause in front of Rembrandt's The Night Watch and study the characters, the composition, and even the message. I think our novels should be more than paintings.

Novels can be mirrors. Author and writing teacher James Scott Bell refers to a scene, generally toward the center of the book, as a "mirror moment." He likens it to a character looking at themselves in a mirror and seeing something they haven't perceived before--a needed change, a shift in direction. Likewise, the same thing can happen to a reader who has identified with the character having that epiphany. Ideally, a novel should hold up a mirror to the reader and say, "Look. Is this you? Do you know someone like this? What does this say to you?"

And finally, our novels can be windows, through which the reader can view the lives we create. How many of us have unabashedly watched people in restaurants, airports, and other public places as they interact? The view through the window our books open should ultimately give the reader impetus toward a fuller understanding of themselves, a change in their lives, or a desire for something more.

What novels have you read that have served all these functions? Writers, do your own works have these characteristics? I'd like to hear.

(Painting by Kay Mabry of Sugar Beach in Maui).

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is Chivalry Still Alive?

One of the nicest compliments I've been paid recently was being called "a true southern gentleman." My mother and grandmother taught me some things that have stayed with me for the rest of my life. For instance, a gentleman opens doors for ladies and lets them precede him through. A gentleman pulls out a chair for a lady and gets her seated before sitting himself. A gentleman tips his hat (if he's wearing one) or even removes it when he meets a lady.  Those of you who've reached my age are probably familiar with these and a few other bits of what Mother would call "the manners of a gentleman."

Today, on my morning walk, I met three ladies (of varying ages). I touched the brim of my baseball cap and said, "Good morning." One of them responded. I've noticed the habit of opening doors and pulling out chairs seems to be observed more in the breach than the actual performance. And that leads me to today's question.

Am I totally out of touch? Did the movement for equality for women (and I'm totally for it--glass ceilings have no place in our modern society) make chivalry obsolete? I wonder how many of the readers of this blog still observe what I was taught to be good manners. I'd like to hear from you.

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