Monthly Archives: September 2013

(Not So) Pretty in Pink

I’m back with more song references, this the time Psychedelic Furs, but being a 40-year-old woman, we all know I mean the John Hughes Brat Pack Film Pretty in Pink. As you can only imagine  from a girl who calls herself GEKE, I popped this flick into the Betamax (actually, I think this one was VHS) and all but wore out the magnetic tape. Coming out between The Goonies (one year later) and Dead Poet’s Society, it was a favorite for this usually dateless angsty teen.

Except it’s about something I don’t like, the mismatched pair. From Redeeming Love to a modern version, adaptations of the Bible story of Hosea, a Godly man who marries an unfaithful prostitute, are a hard sell for me. I ended up liking Redeeming Love but it took some soul searching.

With the girl from a rough background falling for the rich boy scenario, there are movies I don’t like (Pretty Woman) and ones that I do (Cinderella). Often compared, there’s a big difference. Cinderella gains my sympathy because she’s not a poor street urchin but a girl of breeding whose life takes a drastic turn.

Same with books, I laugh that my favorite genre is orphans and invalids (Heidi, The Secret Garden, Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables). It’s not that I don’t like the underdog, it’s that I have to actually like the underdog. What is different is these characters are intelligent achievers, not uncouth and unlovable wretches.

I don’t like the opposite either rich girl gives up everything for the poor boy. Again, it’s not all or nothing with me. Sometimes you can’t help but cheer for the underdog. Other times, it’s cringe-worthy.

I’m going to use two examples by author Sarah Sundin to show what it takes to make the “mismatched” pair to work. In A Distant Melody, wealthy Allie Miller falls for engineer and B-17 pilot, Walter Novak. The problem is she’s engaged to her parents’ choice. She risks everything to marry “beneath” her station. I don’t care who her fiancé is, Walter Novak won me over with B-17 and engineer. He could have been as ugly as homemade sin and I would swoon for him. In fact, both Allie and Walt are described as being plain looking. The thing is he’s intelligent, brave, clever, talented, and, Godly.

In A Memory Between Us, the opposite happens when Ruth Dougherty falls for Jack Novak. Jack is a proud B-17 pilot. Ruth comes from a rough background and has an unbecoming past. The thing is she’s an orphan who went to nursing school, works hard and sends her money home to take care of her younger siblings. I don’t care that she came from the slums and falls for the respectable pastor’s son. She overcomes her past and remains throughout the story, a hard-working woman of virtue.

God is in the Details

 Two weeks ago, I left for Indiana. I spent the first part of that time with my family which included two 15-mile bike rides with my parents. Traveling without my kids allowed me to explore my hometown on two wheels. We ended each day in their pool then enjoying dinners with lots of fresh produce. I could not eat too many tomatoes!

Highlights of the first few day were visiting with my 89-year old grandfather and trying on his flight jacket from WWII, watching my niece’s middle school volleyball game (they won), and getting my hair cut by a friend I’ve known since fifth grade. Also, I got together with a group of my high school girlfriends for dinner and visited with family friends at the church my family has belonged to since 1987.

The main reason for my trip happened later in the week. I attended the American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) Conference. I’m part of an 8-member critique group called The Scriblerians. Seven of us were to meet in Indianapolis for the first time.

The long weekend was filled with classes on various aspects of writing. I focused on craft courses to improve my writing and learned some great techniques. There were also agent and editor appointments and mine went well.

Robin Jones Gunn was the keynote speaker and Frank Peretti was given a lifetime achievement award.
I didn’t get to meet either although Frank Peretti walked right by me. I didn’t want to interrupt him although based on the Facebook pictures, he wouldn’t have minded. That’s the way everyone was at the conference. I didn’t see a single instance of ego from cocky newbies to editors, agents, and multi-published authors who were probably stalked on a regular basis.

I wasn’t completely shy. I introduced myself to several of my favorite authors, most of whom I’d already interacted with on e-mail, Facebook, or blogs. That’s what’s cool about ACFW, the members are super-friendly. It was like a giant summer camp except we were in a nice hotel and dressed in business casual attire. And formals. Sunday night was the Gala, and it was glitzy.

I’d been looking forward to the conference for a year. And it didn’t disappoint.
I found not only the big moments (and I had them!!) to be a blessing but little ones too.
First, I learned just how much the conference is bathed in prayer. There’s 40 days of prayer before the conference even starts and a dedicated prayer room. God was there!

I roomed with two of my critique partners and we got along great. Actually, our entire group got along so well together and grouped in twos, threes, fours. No matter what the combination was, I found myself enjoying their company. One of our Scriblerians lives in Indianapolis, so she took us away from the 700 attendees to a restaurant outside of downtown Indy. It was so nice being at a restaurant surrounded by “normies” (non-conference attendees).

My flight home was super early, so I arranged to split a cab another woman. We ended up splitting the cab 4 ways and conversation led to finding out a writing conference I want to attend may be logistically doable and the lady I originally planned to ride with solved a 60+ year old mystery for my grandfather. At the airport, I didn’t get charged for my overweight bag and I ended my trip on an earlier flight home.

And there were those God loves his little girl miracles. I ate fried chicken, Italian food, flourless chocolate cake & chocolate mousse, and still managed to lose two pounds. Still scratching my head on that one, but I think it had to do with moving around a lot more than my days at the computer.

 The craziest thing that happened was meeting up with a piece of my past.

A fellow attendee caught my attention and I read his nametag which had his rather common first and last name and his location. I did some engineering math (OK just 1+1). Familiar name plus town where my alma mater is located. So I said to him, “You taught me FORTRAN77 back in the fall of 1991.” Yes, one of my college professors was a fellow attendee!

And the best thing was how God spoke to me.

As part of the keynote address, we were given prayer cards with phrases on them to pray over the conference. I’ve been listening to The Count of Monte Cristo as I work through the BBC’s 100 Best Novels list. It’s famous not for its first but last line. “Wait and hope”. Comforting words as I come out of a season of discouragement.

My prayer card said Joy and Peace with Romans 15:13. I grabbed my tablet and looked up the verse. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 (ESV)

It was neither joy nor peace that struck me but the word “HOPE” as in the God of hope. I left the conference with “Wait and Hope”. My time is coming. I don’t know when, and I don’t know what “my time” will look like, but I am excited. All I can say from little events that happened at the conference is that is will be unexpected and beyond my imagination!

 The by-products of hope are peace and joy. I left the conference with both.

I’m Calling the Game in the Third Quarter. My Favorite Book of 2013

Yes, we’re only 2 days into the fourth quarter of 2013 but I think I can call my favorite book of 2013. Robert Treskillard’s Merlin’s Blade. Not that the choice was easy but that it’s just “that story”. For me, the best book I read has to be well-written. Have a story world that loses me in it even if it’s a real and modern location. The characters have to resonate deep inside. The supporting cast has to be a well-rounded and interesting. Teenage Merlin grabbed a hold of me and held me tighter than the stone to the druidow. Nearly blind he navigates his world on his own. He’s strong in his faith despite the druidow making it difficult for him. And there’s his sweet crush on Natalenya.

Last year my two picks were Kat Heckenbach’s Finding Angel and Siri Mitchell’s Love’s Pursuit. Not surprisingly, Kat’s Seeking Unseen and Siri’s Unrivaled floated near the top. Others that were highlights of 2013 were pretty much any of Julie Lessman’s Daughters of Boston Series. I think I read all six back to back.

Another author I started reading this year is Jill Williamson. All three New Recruit books rank up there too. Project Gemini was my favorite of the trio and my second place contender. Mostly because it’s what I call an 8-star book. One that because of character, location, etc. it earns an automatic 3 stars, but the author deserves to earn stars for writing well. The book is YA and takes place on Okinawa, where I spent the summer of 2003. It was like a 10-year anniversary celebration revisiting this Japanese island.

So unless things change between now and January 1, 2014, you know the score.

Planes, Planes, Planes, and Minivans

I’m digressing from my usual reading update and reporting in on my journey to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. I grew up in Indiana, so the conference offers a good excuse to visit family. I got a great airfare that allowed me to depart from our small town airport. I love the flight on a 19-passenger Beechcraft to Phoenix. My original flight was cancelled a couple of weeks ago, so I ended up with a 9-hour layover.
Sky Harbor Airport has these cool seats with plugs and free WiFi. With a never ending to-do list, time flew by. I took the red-eye to Philadelphia then in to Indianapolis and had my sister pick me up. Quality time with my BFF! We live cross-country from each other, so we only see each other a couple of times a year. We got into town in time for a ministry fair at church where I got to catch up with family friends. I got together with several of my high school friends for dinner.

Over the next few days, I’ll get to see  my niece’s volleyball game, get my haircut by another friend, ride bikes with my parents, and visit my 89-year-old grandfather. At the conference, I’ll have the opportunity not only to pitch my story but to attend classes to improve my craft and meet in person my writing friends. I’m really looking forward to the entire experience.

On Holiday

Last week I borrowed my title from Jimmy Buffett, this week it’s Green Day. Except, it’s really because today is Labor Day and I’m on holiday. We took a road trip although by the time this posts, I’ll probably be back home. I’m enjoying the extra day off reading and writing. The car ride is perfect for me to plug in the power inverter and power up the laptop for some writing time. It’s also a good excuse for me to read. I just finished what may be my favorite book of 2013, which is the subject of my next post.

The book has given me a bit of a literary hangover. I can’t quite decide what to read next. I’m going for Diana Sharple’s Running Lean because I checked it out of the library, so I need to read it within 2 weeks. However, there are several books vying for my precious reading time. A suspense novel that sounds creepy good. Two different fantasies, two World War II novels one by a favorite author and another by an author I’ve been dying to read. Did I mention the quirky funny sci fi book and a YA trilogy that has been on the TBR list for at least a year? What wasn’t listed? Any of those Top 100 books. On that front, my daughter and I are making great progress on Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.

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