Monthly Archives: April 2009

I’m Famous!

No. Not really.

I received an email via my website a few days ago:

Dear Ms. Marquardt,

Our church (Grace Baptist) recently produced its own Easter cantata, with several of our members contributing original music and monologues. We also adapted your monologue "My Forever Stained Hands"  as part of the program. A few paragraphs were shortened, and a few sentences added. The program, which we entitled "Silent No More" was recorded, and we would like to make copies of the DVD available for our church family. We will be making approximately 100 copies, maybe less. We will only charge them for the actual cost of duplicating the DVD. Our church family is about 500-600 people; I currently have a sheet for people to sign up so we only make as many copies as we need. I need to request your permission to make copies (since the monologue belongs to you) and ask if we need to pay you any royalty fees. Please call or email me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Ellen Ayers
Music Secretary
Grace Baptist Church

Surprised only begins to describe my reaction. How did she find me, for one? Plus, I never thought it worthy of a church’s Easter program. I wrote it about three years ago as part of my church’s own Easter program entitled "Out of the Shadows." It entailed unknown characters telling their stories about Jesus. "My Forever Stained Hands" was not part of the program. I wrote it later as part of an idea to write stories from Genesis to Revelation from the perspective of little-to-unknown characters of the Bible. You can read all the ones I wrote in Bible Monologues. I’ve only written five so far. When (or if) I’ll write more is still a big question.

Anyway, Ellen told me that her drama director found it in my writing.com portfolio linked above, and Ellen then found my website and contacted me.

All I asked for in return was a copy of the DVD, and that my credit includes my website. Who knows if a few of the buyers will visit me, and (staring off into space with a wistful smile) perhaps buy a book or two?

Hey, it never hurts to dream. It’s what we do, after all.

Butter Spread over Too Much Bread

Spring announced itself first with the invasion of robins and other birds. Rain came next to satisfy thirsty lawns, gardens and trees.

Construction season now rumbles full-ahead with phone calls at my work with clients wanting surveys, subdivision plats and street plans.

I will have no time to pop in here or anywhere else online for a single minute until my son goes to bed every night — or if I plop out of bed sooner than I normally do (yeah, in my dreams. Ha).

I’ve also thought a lot about managing my time better. I waste too much of it watching TV, on the internet, etc. So, I’ve set up a schedule in the two hours of free time available every night:

  1. One hour to clean the house (say one room a day. Wish me luck on that).
  2. A half-hour reading
  3. A half-hour writing/editing.

It’s a simple schedule, and if I keep it up, I’ll accomplish quite a bit.

Thinking about all I need to do without doing it only wastes more time, because I’m also worrying about it. 

Since when has worry accomplished anything?

You likely won’t see me much here or at your blog, although I’ll try to spend another half-an hour a night if I’m not too wiped out.

My Serialization Project will continue, though. It takes less than five minutes for me to add a chapter before I go to bed and schedule it for the next morning. Cool feature, that.

Have a great week, and I’ll see you when I see you.

Everyone’s gotta have a hobby

My New MiniWhat do you think? Is it perty?

Sure, it looks like a standard laptop, and I can hear you yawning.

This ain’t no standard laptop, though. It’s my new Dell Mini. The screen is a mere 8.9", and weighs in at a paltry 2.1 lbs. It’s perfect for sitting, well, anywhere, and won’t slope my shoulders with its heft if ever I need to drag it through an airport.

I learned that lesson the hard way after lugging my old 17", 9.6 lbs monstrosity about five years ago to a writers conference. Oof. 

The Mini arrived via Fedex yesterday, and I spent most of my evening playing with it after my little guy went to bed.

Well, not most of the night. My mom also dropped off her old Mac iBook G4 for me to do whatever I want with it. She purchased a new one, and thought I could use it. If not, she said I could sell it on eBay, and she’d take a percentage.

Never owning a Mac before, I might hang onto it for a while and learn how to use it.

See how this geek is so happy? It’s fun enough to play with one new toy, but two? Oh, yeah, I’m giddy.

Too bad I have to work for a living, and take care of my son at night, otherwise I’d be sitting on the couch in my jammies with not one, but two computers on my lap.

Eleven more hours . . .

What Makes a Writer?

"I’m not a writer." or "I’m a wannabe writer."

My new pet peeve. I want to smack anyone upside the head who spews that phrase.

If you write, you’re a writer. Period. If you breathe on purpose, do you say, "I’m a breather?"

Me thinketh notteth.

I admit I often question my ability as a writer (as many of you know and wanted to smack me around a few times). But lamenting about my lack of talent is not the same as proclaiming I’m not a writer.

If I do, please bounce my head against my keyboard, ‘kay?

Everyone writes, whether it’s in a blog, email, letters (anyone remember those?), stories, poems, etc.

Still not everyone who writes considers themselves a writer. They write merely to communicate to a friend, relative or colleague. That doesn’t necessarily a writer make. One who doodles on a napkin out of boredom doesn’t an artist make, either.

What then makes a writer?

Passion.

It’s the desire to not only to communicate, but to inspire, engage, entertain, and teach. It’s the constant study to improve one’s craft, and to reach as many people as possible.

Is that what drives you, oh wannabe writer? Do you burn to tell your story? If so, then call yourself a writer, and do so with confidence.

Note: Chapter two of A Reason to Hope is available.

Technical Introductions

How often do you read the introduction of a technical manual?

When I was in school, I never did. Who cared, and who had the time?

Nowadays, I read them, because in many cases I find a gem or two.

As one of my surveying manuals (Evidence and Procedures for Boundary Location 5th Addition by Robillard, Wilson & Brown) said,

Seldom do professors require that students read introductions to their textbooks. Over 50 years ago one of our college professors patterned his entire examination on the introduction to the textbook we used in his class. The indignation of the students of “having to read” the introduction could be heard across the campus of Syracuse University.

Yet the introduction or preface should set the tone of the book.

I would have failed that test as well.

Another gem came from another surveying manual (in case you don’t know, I’m a registered land surveyor) entitled Interpreting Land Records by Donald A. Wilson. “Chapter 1: Introduction to Land Records” contains a quote by Brian Clark in his book The Pursuit of Stillwater Trout (Adam and Charles Black, 1975).

The critical difference between the expert at anything, and the non-expert, is not the information, but understanding.

The non-expert fails most of the time because his success depends upon meeting conditions which coincide with a fixed, and usually limited, range of mentally-catalogued techniques; whereas the expert, because of his fundamental understanding of what he is trying to achieve, thinks more in terms of how and why, than that of what; and thus is able to devise specific techniques in response to the demands of specific conditions. Through understanding, he achieves a kind of infinite flexibility.

The truth is that all books really do is act as a catalyst, by providing enough basic information to fire the interest. They cannot, on behalf of the reader, translate this fireside knowledge into better returns. We can only learn so much by proxy, at second hand; and really to improve one’s performance requires commitment on the part of each individual, and effort. No one else can do the work for us; and if we rely on books and the written word, the task will be over and gone before, book in hand, tools in the other, we have gotten half way down the index in an effort to identify the cause of all the interest. It is essential, therefore, that anyone who hopes to improve his performance on a basis of more thought, is willing to put other work without which his aspirations will never be fulfilled.

I could read a slew of writing books, ask for critiques from professional and non-professional alike, but none of them will make me a better writer until I pick up my tools and work.

Knowing the rules of writing isn’t the same as applying them, and finding ways to work within them. Sometimes I find all the rules overwhelming and constraining.

Perhaps it’s because I haven’t stopped to ask why. Readers, agents and publishers expect certain rules to be followed for a reason. Once I understand that reason, I can use them better.

That’s not to say rules can’t be broken, but they have to make sense. When we understand the rules we can better know when to break them, and justify them to those who question.

Knowledge may be power, but what good is it if we don’t understand or apply what we know?

NOTE: Chapter One of A Reason to Hope is now up.

Serialization Project

The article I highlighted in "Oops, I lied" about how not to market mentioned how we should not tell people how good our writing and books are, but show them.

I decided to dive into serialization of my novella, A Reason to Hope. Not here though. I have another blog which I will use for that purpose.

Monday I will add chapter one, and continue through to the end (thirteen chapters total). You can read the back cover copy and the small incentive to encourage readers now at almarquardt.blogspot.com.

After all, readers read because they receive something in return. It doesn’t have to be tangible, but in this case it is.

I think it’ll be fun.

In the meantime, here I’ll talk about what I’m learning from Donald Maass’s book Writing the Breakout Novel.

Book Review: House of Dark Shadows & Watcher in the Woods

House of Dark ShadowsWhen the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his rinds loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a move buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into–as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there’s something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading to far-off places–in long ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen’s dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

To usher in his new publishing company, Marcher Lord Press, Jeff Gerke held a contest for an impressive selection of prizes — most of them donated. I was one of the lucky ones and won House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods, Books 1 and 2 of his Dreamhouse Kings series. 

They are written for juvenile audience, so not having read much since I was a young teenager, I didn’t know what to expect.

Watcher in the WoodsI read both books — each just under 300 pages — in less than a week. I read them at night after I put my son to bed. 

It’s been a long time since a story so engripped me, certain nighttime sounds startled me, and I considered leaving a light on. It was fun, actually. What person of any age doesn’t like a good suspense and to be frightened once in a while?

The story continues with Watcher in the Woods. Robert Liparulo deepens and widens the story to include a shady character who knows about the portals and wants them all to himself. He will take any steps necessary to rid the house of the Kings, but the Kings can’t leave under any circumstances. To discover the why, you’ll have to read the books.

From when I received the books in the mail, to finishing them yesterday, the third installment, Gatekeepers, was released. I ordered it yesterday, and can hardly wait to read it.

So whether you’re a teenager or adult that loves suspense and doesn’t mind an occasional (mild) scare, you’ll enjoy this series.

Note: To find out more about each book, click on the graphic.

Writing God’s Story

First off, thank you for sharing your opinion on yesterday’s entry.

Most ended up in two categories:

  1. When writing for the Christian market, we take the risk of bouncing up against differing theologies. Some will vehemently disagree. Therefore, we should consider removing the controversial parts, or write for the general market.
  2. Telepathic abilities are not directly mentioned in the Bible, so the demonic aspect can be argued against. Not every Christian publisher or reader will see telepathy as abhorrent to God.

Everyone agreed that I must follow where God leads.

Andrea’s point of view on telepathy is not because it is mentioned in the Bible, but that witchcraft is. The only people who claim telepathic abilities (in most societies past and present), are those who dabble in the dark arts.

In my other blog, Dan said:

“I disagree with the premise that telepathic power is demonic.

“There are instances in the Bible where great men of God had visions of future things, supernatural dreams, and abilities to divine dreams. What makes anything demonic is the presence of a demonic spirit in a life. If a Christian is filled with God’s Spirit, there is no place for the demonic.

“In addition, if the gift glorifies God, it cannot be demonic. Sometimes folks spend too much time trying to identify the signs of demons and by so doing they attribute anything that appears to look like that as being demonic. The true test of the demonic is if the person is filled with God’s Spirit or of the Serpent. A true child of God cannot be demonic nor can the gifts they possess.

“I would encourage you to go ahead and continue with your story. However, make it clear the character is a Child of God and that the gift they have glorifies God’s Kingdom. And if you want those Biblical references, just contact me. BTW, this comes straight from an ordained reverend, with a degree in religion and years of seminary completed.”

The references he gave me are as follows:

Gen. 41:11-16 Joseph interprets dreams of Egyptians and Pharaoh

Exodus 7:10-14 Moses, casts his rod to the floor and it becomes a serpent as does Pharaoh’s sorcerers. Notice the result glorifies God.

Daniel 1:17-20 Daniel understands all kinds of visions and dreams & Nebuchadnezzar finds him 10-times better than any of his magicians and conjurers.

Daniel 2:29-36 Daniel does more than interpret a dream. He tells the king what the dream is and THEN interprets it.

Acts 16:10 Paul sees a vision that sends him into Macedonia

Acts 9:10-17 Ananais has a vision of Paul and is sent to anoint him.

My novel began with a single word: Redemption.

I expanded on the thought: No one person is so evil, God cannot forgive them.

Within minutes, Kallie Grath, telepathic assassin, was born.

My secondary thought is how many Christian books end at a character’s conversion. I think giving our soul to Jesus is the beginning of the adventure, so the book opens with Kallie’s introduction to God.

The story progresses from her conversion to the larger issue of eugenics – something I didn’t intend, and didn’t notice until I finished the first draft. I think it’s important to us today, because scientists are experimenting on designing children from the moment of conception among other genetic advancements. Dangerous stuff. I’m not against genetic manipulation as such, but we must always consider the consequences before we go too far.

But that’s another subject.

In the end, do I think telepathy is a demonic power? No. It’s like saying painting with watercolors is evil. The watercolor is merely the tool. How the artist wields the brush is what matters. We have to ask, does the artist glorify God, or not? Does the telepath glorify God with his/her ability, or not?

You’ll have to read the book once it’s published to find out.

ADDENDUM: I reread Andrea’s notes on telepathy, and she said passive telepathy is scientifically possible, such as reading people’s thoughts and emotions. It’s the active telepathy that’s not so easy to prove and thereby must have a demonic component. My telepaths have the capability to manipulate other minds including causing death, hence her concern.

I still don’t agree, but I wanted to clarify.

Tomorrow’s entry: Review of House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods by Robert Liparulo.

Your Thoughts

Last night Andrea sent back her comments to my first ten pages. I’m surprised and pleased at how fast she was. I procrastinated on looking through it until this morning.

The dread I felt after I sent it punched me in the guts, and tried to convince me not to open the document. 

A few days ago, the subject of my daily devotional centered on procrastination. By putting things off, we worry, and they begin to loom larger in our mind as almost insurmountable. Yet if we tackle all we need to do the moment we think about them, then we don’t have time to worry.

It’s like coming home to a messy house. The more the dishes, clothes and toys pile up, the less we want to clean. Yet when we do, we feel so much better.

Andrea’s edits needn’t have worried me. Her suggestions pointed out mostly passive voice (which I thought I eliminated, darn it). I told how a person felt instead of showing via their actions. My chapter breaks also didn’t look right, but that’s easily fixed.

Heck, I’m so focused on her suggestions, I can barely write this entry! I keep editing as I go here.

That means she did her job well. 

One question, though. The bulk of my main characters are telepaths, created through genetic and bio-engineering. Andrea pointed out that from a theological standpoint — and the Bible is clear on this — any telepathic sense is the result of demonic possession. If I am to be theologically accurate, then it changes the entire dynamic of my story — in fact makes it useless. I can’t go any further with any of my books, because in a way I’m glorifying demonic powers.

I’m not saying I will, but her thoughts give me pause.

Will other publishers, agents and prospective readers feel the same way? Should I start over with a different premise and characters?

What do you think?