The Beautiful Sound of Silence

person enjoying solitude

Hello silence, my old friend
I’ve come to soak you in again
The noise of modern life always keeping
Creative thoughts and ideas sleeping
All the visions, that are swirling in my brain
Will be in vain
Without the sound of silence.

with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel

We live in a world filled with noise.

And when we’re tired of the noise, what do we do? We block out the noise with more noise. Continue reading

Anyone Searching for Treasure?

fun fact friday (800x520)

Buried Treasure

What picture do those words evoke in your mind? A pirate chest filled with gold? A secret map? Indiana Jones? Captain Jack Sparrow? The curse of King Tut’s tomb?

Hidden treasure is the stuff of great stories, from classics like Treasure Island or The Count of Monte Cristo, to modern tales like National Treasure, Sahara (the Dirk Pitt version) , and Pirates of the Caribbean.

But treasure isn’t just for pirates and fictional heroes. Continue reading

What lies are you listening to? Maybe it’s time to doubt your doubts.

doubting raccoon peering through hole

Don’t be afraid of your doubts

Acknowledge them.

Wrestle with them.

Question them.

I ran across this concept in a book called The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. He suggests that it is healthy to wrestle with doubts:

People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.

Continue reading

What’s in a Name?

fun fact friday (800x520)

What do the following names have in common?

Julia — Claudia — Antonia — Amelia — Cornelia

  1. They were all stars of classic Hollywood silent movies
  2. They are all names of china patterns
  3. They are all daughters of important Romans
  4. They are all mothers of British Royalty

 

If you chose either two or three, you are correct. The names have been used for china patters, but they come to us from ancient Rome, specifically from some of the most important patrician families. (Do the names Julius, Claudius or Cornelius ring any bells?)

A Roman female was given the female version of her father’s nomen, or family name. So, Gaius Julius Caesar’s daughter was named Julia, Publius Cornelius Scipio’s daughter was Cornelia and Marcus Antonius‘ daughter was Antonia. Actually, Mark Antony had three daughters, and they were all named Antonia.  (Can you see a problem here?)

The Romans came up with various ways to differentiate between daughters. In Mark Antony’s case, the daughters were differentiated by age: Antonia Prima, Antonia Major and Antonia Minor. Some women were given a cognomen, so two daughters might be called Claudia Paula and Claudia Patricia. Or the family name could be given an ending such as ‘illa’ to differentiate Drusa from Drusilla or Prisca from Priscilla. I am sure families came up with all sorts of other nicknames for their daughters, but they didn’t leave such information behind so we can only guess.

statute of Livia_Drusila from Paestum

Livia Drusilla, wife of Caesar Augustus. Her father’s name was Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus.

One benefit of this naming scheme is that all females retained their family name even when married, but I don’t consider that a sufficient reason to emulate the Romans.

Aren’t you glad we no longer follow such naming conventions?

Happy Friday!

Are You Listening?

If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.

– Mark Twain

Are you paying attention to what your cat is saying?

Cats may not use human speech, but they are excellent communicators. Sadly, not all humans understand the complex and nuanced body language of felines. This guide is intended to help the cat-illiterate grasp the gist of what their feline acquaintances might be saying. Continue reading

What Exactly Do You Do All Day? — or — My Writing Process

Writing a novel is a time-consuming, emotionally draining and often lonely job. As a wanna-be-published writer, some days I wonder if I am crazy for trying to write a novel, especially given the daunting task of snagging a publishing contract and then marketing the darn thing if and when it is published. It was on one of those doubting days that I was invited to participate in this blog tour. (This is my first invitation to join a blog tour. It’s like being in high school and some cool kid finally notices you and invites you to a party. You mean me? Really? Yipee!)

my writing process

 

The My Writing Process blog tour aims to direct readers and writers towards new books and friends. When you are invited to participate, you simply answer the four questions below and then pass the torch on to three fellow writers.

 

But, first of all, a big Thank You to Donna L. H. Smith, who nominated me for the My Writing Process blog tour. Do take a moment to check out her website.

And now, without further ado, let the tour commence!

1) What am I working on?

I spent the last year and a half writing a historical suspense novel, working title The Jackal’s Prey, which I have just sent out to beta readers. While I wait for their input, I am concentrating on some smaller projects.

One of those is focusing on my blog: everything from reevaluating my purpose statement, to learning a little more about html to reading the advice of expert bloggers (and actually applying some of it!) I am also trying to figure out where my niche is within the blogosphere, which means I’m trying to find, and follow, some blogs similar to mine. (Easier said than done.)

In addition, I will be writing several drama sketches for an upcoming Christmas outreach event, and dusting off a melodrama I wrote several years ago, in order to actually submit it to drama publishers. (It was staged again last spring and the actors all encouraged me to pursue this.)

And then there’s the idea for my next novel, simmering away in the back of my brain—a historical mystery featuring a brother-sister duo, set during the time of Acts.

2) How does my book differ from others in its genre?

Most Christian historical fiction set in the first century feature some character mentioned in the Bible. Either the author takes an obscure character, like Barabbas or the man born blind, and weaves an interesting story about them, or the author brings a cast of fictional characters into contact with Jesus himself. I enjoy these books, but I wanted to do something a little different.

My book is set just after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which means it occurs after the events described in the gospels and Acts. This must have been a tough time for Jews (the ones who survived), because they faced increased persecution and surely wondered where God was in this disaster.

My two main characters are a young Jewish man whose world has been turned upside down by the war and its aftermath, and a retired Roman centurion who fought in the war and has a personal vendetta against Jews. What would happen if the Jewish man is unjustly enslaved and finds himself serving the Roman soldier? And, how might that relationship change if the young Jewish man becomes a Christian?  And what if that new outlook enabled him to work together with the Roman he once hated in order to overcome a common enemy?

historical novels set in first century

Some of my competition. How intimidating

3) Why do I write what I write?

Mostly, I am writing the kind of book I like to read. I have loved reading historical fiction since before I knew that’s what I was reading, so it’s only natural to attempt writing a historical novel, despite the extra challenges that poses. In addition, I have a passion for learning about first century history because it informs the context of the New Testament.

I prefer action and suspense to romance, so I wanted to write a book for others who would rather skip the mushy stuff and get on with the plot. But I’m not writing breathless action with cardboard characters. My hope is that readers will identify with the characters and their struggles despite the differences in time and culture, and be challenged to consider the truths my characters wrestle with.

4) How does my writing process work?

I have read several different books on “how to plot” and they all make sense—until I try applying a given method to my story. That’s when I get frustrated and decide to stop obsessing over it and just keep writing. For this novel, I started with a timeline on a large piece of paper that covered the dining room table. I added Post-it notes for events that needed to happen, starting with the major turning points, then filling in possible steps to get from one to the next. I also included notes listing the various questions I had about those events or their implications. This gave me enough of a plot outline to begin writing.

I also made character sketches of all the important characters, including physical description, temperament, issues, fears, dreams, and pertinent backstory. I started there, but as the story took shape, the real character emerged and I adapted as needed.

Somewhere along the line I ran across the advice, “never go with your first idea.” (Orson Scott Card, I think.) I have found this to be true in my writing, as my first attempt at a novel can prove. Whenever I am not sure how to get from point A to point B, what works best for me is to write down every possible  scenario I can think of, no matter how stupid or far-fetched. Usually, as I am jotting down the fifth or sixth idea, I find one that makes strategic sense and go with it.

Thanks for reading!

Now I will pass the ‘torch’ on to three other awesome writers and bloggers. They are:

Alison McLennan

Laure Covert

Lisa Bartelt

Fun Fact Friday

Fun Fact Friday (or Interesting stuff I bet you didn’t know.)

Part of blogging is trying new things to see what readers like, so I thought I’d try some short posts about some bit of information I found interesting. I hope you think so to. Now, on to the fun fact …

If a character in my work-in-progress, set in 70 AD, decides to run off into the wilderness, he can figure out where north is by looking up at the night sky and locating Polaris, (what we call the North Star.) Right? Continue reading