Deleted Scenes

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200401076-001Ever watch the deleted scenes of a movie? Better yet, ever watch the deleted scenes of an animated movie? If you’d asked me that question ten years and three kids ago, my response might’ve been an incredulous, “What on earth for?”

Nowadays, however, it’s an all-wise sounding, “But of course.”

In the world of writing (an ever incredible, tortuous, rewarding, baffling, coffee-chugging existence) deleted scenes are a constant.

Watching them in movie form provides a much-needed perspective change.

While standard movies are typically cut because of length issues, animators delete for reasons we writers can easily relate to:

  1. The plot has taken a different direction and the scene doesn’t fit.
  2. The character behaves in that particular scene contrary to the character as represented throughout the film.
  3. The scene is just…garbage.

But the creators of the script didn’t let a weird spot halt their progress. They pushed ahead, scene by scene, drawing by drawing, until the work was completed.

Then they cut out the bad, cheesy, gag-me portions, leaving excellence worthy of a blockbuster.

That’s a lesson all writers can use.

Every story hits a rough spot. A dreaded “this sucks” epiphany. And it’s there we’re tempted to sulk away from the laptop and drown our sorrows in fresh-baked cookies over a Netflix marathon.

But we need to press on.

Even if our imagination is so strapped that the best we can manage in the heat of a lover’s quarrel mid-chapter is, “Please! I beg of you! Oh, please don’t leave me!” Sow that cornfield, sister! Lay out that cheese, brother! (As I’m doing this very moment.)

It’s all fixable, if we’ll lay out the broken pieces.

Let those awkward scenes serve their purpose in getting us to The End.

Then let’s keep a few tucked away. Not to remind us of our shortcomings, but our ability to overcome.

Your turn: What’s your favorite animated movie, and have you watched the deleted scenes?

 

Mercy Despised

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chains

Not too long ago I had a wrestling match with my youngest daughter, something we do quite often. This particular day I had to cut our bout short.

I trapped her legs between mine, clamped her arms to her sides and her back to my chest in a one-armed hug, and applied enough pressure so that she could accomplish little more than a wiggle.

She laughed.

“You want me to let go?” I stuck my nose in her neck to tickle-torture an affirmative out of her. After squirming just to double-check my grip, she agreed. “Okay, okay. Let me go.”

“Say ‘mercy.'”

She stiffened. Struggled a little more. Shook her head.

“You want me to let go don’t you?” Nod. “Then say ‘mercy.'” Vigorous head shaking. Then the real battle began. She flexed and pushed and strained and twisted. Breath held. Shoulders stiff. Feet jerking in short kicks.

I held on, amazed by her obstinacy. Between laughing and having to reestablish my hold (she’s a strong one), I’d repeat, “Say ‘mercy.'” And she’d respond with a firm, “No.” Her giggling petered out as she got frustrated.

She wanted me to let go. That had already been established. And she was more than willing to take my offer of mercy if it were unconditional. But a formal surrender? Too proud for that. So proud, in fact, she was willing to get deeper into bondage by struggling, rather than simply say the word “mercy” and receive freedom.

Astounding.

Of course I let her go once her “ha, ha, ha” weakened to “he, he, he” and then became “wa, wa, wa.” She’s four. Smack a kiss on that stubborn cheek and set her free.

It didn’t escape me, however, that the response to Christ by many is sadly no different from that of a pre-schooler. We despise the idea of surrender. And in doing so, despise mercy as well.

There’s bondage aplenty: spiritual, physical, financial, sexual, and too many more to name. If it exists, we splash in it, swim in it, or plunge right in to drown in it.

And if mercy is our unconditional right, if we can live like we want and spend our days how we wish, and Christ’s blood is still for the taking without us ever doing the asking, then by all means shower some mercy on us.

But ask? Surrender? Lay down our pride and open our mouths and admit, “I need You. I can’t do this on my own. I confess that You died for me. I confess You as the only way to forgiveness, the only One who can grant me eternal life, the only One who can save me.”

We’d rather stay where we are–no, descend further into the depths–in our struggle to refuse Him.

It’s a grievous irony, this fight to stay in bondage at the expense of victory which comes through surrender. This wanting to live forever but not wanting the Way, the Truth and the Life. This desire to do it all on our own.

When. We. Simply. Cannot.

The mercy of God in Christ is life. He won’t force it on us, but He is ever offering it to us. Let us not despise it.

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” ~Psalm 86:5

 

 

10 Steps to iPhone Madness

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  1. Drop phone just so, crack the glass.

  2. Decide cracked glass is functional. Resume regular iPhone activity.

  3. Take a nap while iPhone charges on the bookcase.

  4. Sleep through husband abducting phone and performing an emergency YouTube-instructed cracked-glass-endectomy.

  5. Wake to find iPhone in pieces with TWO cracked glass screens among the carnage.

  6. HOLD THY TONGUE, WOMAN!

  7. Approve the purchase of a second glass repair kit.

  8. Scavenge mind for passwords and phone numbers. Forsake the lot of it.

  9. Celebrate arrival of repair kit and impending iPhone reunion.

  10. Pray to not have to repeat steps 1-9. And kiss that man from step 4, his heart was in the right place :-).

Iselle

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Iselle is the only member of our family who hasn’t been to Hawai’i. So imagine my surprise when I got a text from my sister, “Iselle’s headed to Hawai’i?”

Then another text from a friend joking about the title “Hurricane” matching my daughter’s personality.

Indeed it does. The little four-year-old shouts, “Boom, baby!” when it’s time to get dressed, and it’s a whirlwind from there on out.

Iselle (2)

Laughter about our lively Iselle aside, we love the state of Hawai’i and our many friends there, and are praying for their safety in the midst of Hurricanes Iselle and Julio.

May the Lord be with you all.

The Phoenix Rattler

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rattlesnake

A rattlesnake is a fascinating (albeit formidable) creature. A mixture of strength, mystery, beauty and stealth, this unpredictable reptile has earned the awe with which humans regard it. For when least expected, it strikes. And its effects on the subject are not soon forgotten.

The Christian Writers of the West (CWOW) are in search of entries for our Phoenix Rattler contest. Stories that live up to the legacy of the rattlesnake. Tales that strike the heart of the reader and leave indelible impressions on the mind.

Are you an unpublished* novelist with such a story? One characterized by strength, mystery, history, or love? Maybe even danger and suspense?

You are invited to enter the first fifteen pages of your unpublished novel in The Phoenix Rattler. rattler

The contest opens for entries on August 1, 2014. For more information, please click here. Finalists in the contest will have their entries judged by prominent editors and agents in the Christian publishing industry. The grand prize winner will receive a Kindle Fire HD or a gift certificate of like value.

Send in your entry, and discover if your story has bite!

*Unpublished fiction writers, or those who have not published in the last five years. See site for more details.

A Review of Vow Unbroken by Caryl McAdoo

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Vow Unbroken

Widowed at a young age and left with the care of her daughter and nephew, Susannah Baylor has grown accustomed to fending for herself on her Texas farm. When a local buyer attempts to cheat her out of a good price for her cotton, Susannah finds herself in unfamiliar–and unwanted–territory. She must hitch her mules and take her cotton to port, and she must solicit the help of a shiftless bachelor named Henry to get there.

In Caryl McAdoo’s Vow Unbroken, readers are taken on an adventurous journey through historic Texas, where danger and trouble lurk along the trail, and personality clashes create enough spark to ignite attraction.

McAdoo’s characterization is excellent in this debut novel. Susannah’s headstrong sassiness and Henry’s wise patience make for great romantic tension and enhance the situations of conflict throughout the story. The children Levi and Becky, and Henry’s faithful dog Blue, work together to make this traveling band loveable and interesting.

Susannah’s character is realistic. She has both flaws and positive traits. Her love for the children and her drive to accomplish her goal make her an admirable character that many women can relate to. As a young woman who widowed shortly after marrying, however, she has little experience with people who are not like her. She’s quick to resist advice, and carries some biases inherited from childhood. But her experiences along the journey, and her desire to please God, help Susannah learn and grow throughout the story.

What she cannot change, however, is the vow she made to herself and to God to never marry again without her father’s consent. And of all the trials she faces on the trail, her vow–and keeping it unbroken–become the greatest.

McAdoo’s debut novel was a joy to read, and I gave it five out of five stars.

With Eyes Set Ahead

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Writing is…well…hard.

The temptation to quit lurks at the crosswalk of every failure, around the corner of any rejection, and along the alleys of each hard to write story.

It’s not when the temptation confronts me, but when I actually entertain it, that I’m given a way out of the temptation with a message that speaks exactly to what I’m wrestling with.

God gives me just enough to take my eyes off the corners and alleys of life, and to set them ahead on the path I’ve been called to walk.

Maybe you’re tempted to quit too. And maybe, like me, knowing that it’s meant to be hard is the motivation you need to keep at it.

Blog Hop – My Writing Life

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laptop

I’ve been asked to participate in a blog hop. The assignment is to answer four questions about my writing, then select three other authors to answer the same questions on their blogs within the next couple of weeks. Be sure to see the links to their blogs at the end of this post and find out more about these wonderful writers. A huge thanks to Dana McNeely, president of Christian Writers of the West, for inviting me to participate! You can find her answers to these same questions on the Christian Writers of the West blog.

What are you working on?

I am finishing up my second novel, which is actually the third book in the series I am working on. It’s a contemporary romance about a Major League baseball player who’s managed to maintain a low-key lifestyle–until now. Of all the recent changes in his life, three women prove the most complicating–a sports reporter, a sports agent, and the near-dead woman found in his home.

I’m also a third of the way through the second novel in this series, which follows the baseball player’s twin brother to Guatemala, where cartels are terrorizing the countryside for control of the drug trade. He meets and falls in love with a woman who does everything she can to avoid him. He’s determined to find out why, not knowing that the answer will cost him.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

My motto is “Fiction might not be real, that doesn’t mean it has to be unrealistic. There’s no room for perfect people in my stories.” Add to that sentiment “perfect lives, perfect situations, perfect outcomes”…you get the picture. Only God is perfect, so I’m not afraid to put my characters in real life, messy situations that they need a perfect God to help resolve. I’m also not afraid to diversify. My characters come from mixed backgrounds, races, classes, etc. You won’t find many novels with a main couple of two different races, where their racial difference is not the topic of the book. You’ll find such a thing in my writing. I try to stay true to each story put on my heart, choosing characters, setting, and backdrop that strengthen, not distract from, the plot. My main concern is honoring God by writing it to the best of my ability. I worry less about making it “fit.”

How does your writing process work?

Okay, real life again. I’m a stay-at-home mom. I have two 9-year-olds and a four-year-old empress. So…you can’t set a watch by my writing schedule. Sometimes I sit in the corner of a karate dojo with a laptop propped on my knees, other times I’m tapping in the notes section of my phone from the passenger seat of my truck while my husband drives to Costco. Being a night owl helps. Typically I write after I’ve put the kids to bed, spent time with my husband, and cleaned the house. (A nighttime clean is the most rewarding; it lasts more than five minutes.) So it’s not unusual for me to be typing and backspacing away from about 1 to 3 (or 5) in the morning. Every now and then I’ll pop into a Starbucks at opening time on a Saturday and stay until I’ve reached a word count goal. Ultimately I have to make time to write around my family’s schedule. Depending on what’s realistic any given day, I’ll set a time goal or a word count goal.

I’m also a pantser. I have a general idea of what’s going to happen in a story, and I make notes and loose (very loose) outlines. But for the most part the story unfolds as I’m writing it.

Why do you write what you do?

The stories I write originate in different ways: people watching, past experiences, “what if” scenarios, etc. Only the ones that continue to resurface–those that produce this sort of burning in my chest–actually make it on the list to become a full length novel. Writing is not just hard, it can be downright torture sometimes. But to quit would be to waste a gift I’ve been given and to choose not to honor God with it. That’s a choice I’ll never make. Plus, I have a suspicion that if I give up before that (ever-growing) list has been completed, I’d be subjected for a lifetime to small, relentless voices whispering “write me, write me, write me.” So I write.

Tag, you’re It!

Robin W. Pearson is a gifted writer who is also a stay-at-home mom and homeschooler. Her debut novel A Long Time Comin’ (formerly titled Women & Children First) was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. She has done editing and article writing, and currently blogs about faith, parenting, and writing. She lives with Eddie, her husband of almost 20 years, and their seven children. Within the next week or so you can find her answers to these questions on her blog Mommy, Concentrated, where you’ll also find relatable stories about parenting with a focus on Jesus.

C. Joy Allen is a recent finalist in Clash of the Titles’ Olympia writing contest. She writes contemporary fiction and romance. She completed her first novel in January 2013, and has plans for another. When she’s not writing, she’s enjoying her marriage of fifteen years and counting, and homeschooling her four children. She also loves volunteering for American Christian Fiction Writers where she is a member. Within the next couple of weeks you can find her answers to these questions on her blog To See Joy, where you’ll also find other enjoyable blog posts about faith, writing, and life in general.

Ruth Douthitt – In 2004, author Ruth A. Douthitt completed The Dragon Forest, which was picked up by OakTara Publishing in 2008 and released in April 2011. Ruth currently teaches Writing/Language Arts at an elementary school. She enjoys running, gardening, and drawing in addition to writing. She lives in Arizona with her husband. Within the next couple of weeks you can find her answers to these questions on her blog The Writer’s Pen, where you’ll also see some of her amazing artwork and find access to her books.

 

Risky Embrace

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lizard

I saved a life today.

Not intentionally, and not of the most precious variety, but a valuable life all the same: that of a fat, feisty lizard.

He lives in my backyard. And our relationship is…uh…complicated. (A vague adjective, missing all the negative connotations applicable to our feeble ties, but I’ll go with it.)

See, I don’t like him, but I’m glad he lives here.

He enjoys his home, but he’s no fan of me either.

So we do this little dance around each other. The steps should be fairly simple. He roams the yard at his leisure, eating bugs and diminishing the scorpion population. The backyard is his kingdom. Only when I glide onto the scene, he’s supposed to dip into the shadows.

Apparently human kings aren’t the only royal types to resist abdication, no matter how temporary.

He’s dashed past my feet a number of times while I’ve watered jalapeños or clipped rosemary. He’s perched on the wall and watched me with what I’m sure was a superior lizard scowl on his face. He even accosted guests once, running at them on hind legs with his mouth gaped wide like he’d swallow them whole. That little episode propelled my six-foot-three nephew over the fence in an amazing display of gymnastics.

Bad lizard! Bad, bad lizard!

Despite his nuisance status, I was more than a little upset this afternoon when I found him floating upside down in the pool. The sight of his sea-blue underbelly bobbing under the hot sun sent me screaming–water hose tossed aside–to fetch my husband. (Critters bring out my inner chump. Don’t judge me.)

As I waited for hubby to do the honors, it dawned on me what the reptile’s absence would mean. More bugs. Infested plants. A lost relationship.

Come again?

Apart from my awareness of Lizard’s usefulness, I didn’t realize until I thought I’d lost him that I’d grown a bit attached to the little sucker. But before I could work up a decent drift down Sentimental River, remembering with fondness how he used to bask under the morning rays (cue the music and a slow motion close-up of Lizard lifting his head to the sky), my husband brought the news.

Lizard, once scooped onto a flat pool-screen, righted himself with a fair amount of indignation, then perched on the edge to await royal transport back to land.

He’d floated motionless on his back to conserve his energy. That, and me finding him, saved his life. And I’m glad he lives.

Lizard serves a purpose here. Though I don’t always approve of how he goes about it, I appreciate the fruit of it. Less scorpions equals less danger. And he’s become a sort of wild pet, in a that-doesn’t-mean-I’ll-be-petting-him sort of way.

Sometimes the things that keep us on our toes or riled up now and again, are the very sources God uses to work good in our lives. We resent it when we really ought to give thanks for the difference it’s making.

Maybe it’s inconvenient yet improves the quality of life. (I hate that Lizard zips by and startles me, yet I love that his appetite for bugs lets my plants thrive. Thank You, God, for Lizard.)

Or perhaps the effect is more internal. (I’m terrified of reptiles–okay, any creeping thing–but I’ve grown in courage since Lizard’s been around. Thank You, God, for Lizard.)

If we learn to embrace the difficult–to be content in all situations (Phil 4:11-12)–we risk tapping into all measure of blessing and growth and depth of character God has planned for us.

And that’s a risk worth taking.

He’s still an ill-behaved, cranky, arrogant, bad, bad lizard. But he’s my lizard, and I’ve finally embraced him.

Your turn. Do you have a thing/situation in your life that’s less than ideal, but you see the benefit of embracing it?

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