Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Cool Review

There's another great review of After the Leaves Fall! As if you haven't read enough already. Anyway, more reviews means more exposure so I'm thrilled. This one is from an Aussie--gotta love that, too. Oh how I'd love to go there someday... At any rate, I'll stop babbling and let you check it out. Have fun browsing around RelzReviewz!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Golden Compass

A few years ago, I bought, devoured, and really enjoyed Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Today, The Golden Compass, his first book turned movie, is the topic of a hot debate in Christian circles. My husband (a pastor) asked me to write my own assessment of Pullman's books and the ensuing drama because many of his parishoners were asking him whether or not they should boycott the movie. I figured I'd share my two cents with you. Disagree with me? Leave a comment! I'd love to hear what you have to say...

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Philip Pullman and his trilogy of books, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, are garnering a lot of attention these days. With the movie release of The Golden Compass this Christmas season, many Christian groups are scrambling to denounce Pullman, his books, and the movie adaptation (which stars Nicole Kidman and is stylistically similar to The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia movies). Is all the hype overblown? Or should we be as concerned about these stories as some sources are trying to convince us we need to be?

His Dark Materials, the title of Pullman’s trilogy, begins with a riveting book about a young girl, Lyra, who overcomes extraordinary danger to save orphaned children from an unspeakable fate. The second book introduces another main character, Will. Together, Lyra and Will uncover the secret of a knife that can literally tear a hole between universes, allowing them to experience an endless array of different worlds. By the time the final book rolls around, Lyra and Will are entrenched in the middle of a mighty rebellion, a war that will determine the fate of the living and the dead.

All three books are well written and very compelling; they are full of adventure as well as many unexpected twists and turns. However, these books are not just an interesting story. Pullman is a talented author on many levels, and throughout the entire trilogy he weaves his own beliefs (or lack thereof) into the narrative with increasing blatancy. By the end of the third book, Pullman has asserted through his complex story that there is no such thing as good and evil, and that God (called the Authority) is an irrelevant deception forced upon people to keep them under control. Ultimately, Lyra and Will witness the downfall of the Authority: “Demented and powerless, the aged being could only weep and mumble in fear and pain and misery…” Bottom line: God dies. Or at least a representation of him dies. Of course, the entire thing is highly allegorical and, in many ways, a critique (again) of the Roman Catholic Church. Poor Catholics, they always get the raw end of the deal.

Obviously, the underlying message of these books is in direct opposition to everything that we as Christians believe. (And it is true that Philip Pullman is an avowed atheist.) But do they threaten the bedrock of Christianity? Should we be afraid of Pullman and his glamorous new movie?

Take a moment to think about The Da Vinci Code. Some Christians went to war over this controversial book and movie, and it could be argued that all the extra attention essentially helped to catapult a poorly written book and a boring, bumbling movie to center stage for months on end. As we vilified the book/movie, we continued to draw interest to it. Is the same thing is happening to The Golden Compass? Does it even deserve our attention? Consider all of the other miserable movies out there that promote promiscuity, violence, addictions, and other disgusting behavior. Christians didn’t rage over the vile American Pie. Why are we singling out this one movie among the countless others that are an equally sickening affront to our awesome God?

But we’re not talking about every other movie. We’re talking about The Golden Compass. And the question is: Should Christians take their kids to see The Golden Compass? Only you can decide that. I will tell you that the subject matter is dark and serious, and certainly not suited for small children. But if your kids are older, and if you intend to watch this movie (or read this trilogy of books) with your children and talk seriously about some of the implications of the underlying moral and theological messages, I think you could spark some intense discussions that result in a deepening of your child’s faith rather than a weakening of it. Because even though these books try to end with a bang, what results is actually a sad and empty whimper. The conclusion feels hopeless. It feels wrong.

Even Pullman, entrenched in atheism and convinced that there is no God, allows his characters to mourn when the Authority dies at the end of The Amber Spyglass. The characters weep and feel the loss of what they believed to be love and purpose in their lives. The sad thing is that they’re wrong. And only we as Christians can speak truth into this painful misconception.

Instead of clutching our battleaxes, why not be the beautiful voice of hope and reason to a world that is so desperately seeking? I believe that our message is far more powerful (and, best of all, full of a mighty and glorious redemption) than anything Philip Pullman tries to promote. Instead of shrinking in indignation and horror, why not engage our culture and offer people what they really seek? After all, we have a God who delivers on His promises, who is the supreme and perfect authority and who will not let us down. And hey, we have a God who isn’t afraid of going head to head with a little Hollywood movie. Believe me: He’ll win, hands down.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Naked in Love

Like my racy blog title? I’ll probably get some people trawling the World Wide Web for sexual references checking out my blog! Sorry to disappoint, this post has nothing to do with sex. Oops! I said the S word. Another red flag just went up somewhere in blogland. He-he-he!

Anyway, I had to post this. I was curled up on the couch this evening doing my Bible study as my husband got my four-year-old ready for bed. All of the sudden, said little one comes barreling into the living room buck-naked except for a pair of khaki socks. He proceeds to do a wild jig and then pauses to admire himself. He holds out his arms and studies them. He bends down to check out his legs. Then he hooks his chin over his shoulder and peeks at his backside. After a moment of contemplation he says, “Mommy, I love my bum.” He gives it a resounding smack for good measure and runs from the room.

I laughed my head off. And then I envied him a little bit. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done such a thorough inspection of self and come back with such positive results. Most of my self-evaluation (physical, mental, emotional, relational, spiritual, etc.) is rather harsh and uncompromising. I don’t see a whole lot in myself that I can love as cheerfully as my son loves his bum.

Hmmm. I think I could wax philosophical on this for a long time, but I’d rather leave you to your own deep thoughts. Have fun. I’ve been pondering this for hours… And laughing. I've been doing a lot of laughing... :)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Giving Thanks

I know I'm hardly being original by doing this, but I have to take a minute to express a little gratitude for the fullness of my life. The list goes on and on ad infinitum, but for the sake of brevity, here are a few of my favorite things (raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens go without saying):
  • a warm patch of sunshine in the middle of my living room floor (the kids are asleep and my house is resplendent with afternoon sunlight)
  • Isaac saying, "Mommy, I love you" at least a dozen times today (much nicer than yesterday when he called me a stinky skunkweed over and over and over again)
  • Judah hitting my cheeks as hard as he can (and those chubby little hands are strong!) just so he can kiss them better
  • the bare spot in my living room that will be filled with a Christmas tree by this evening (hand in hand with that pleasant thought is the fun trip we get to make to the local tree farm in just an hour or so!)
  • fresh flowers on my kitchen table
  • a double date with my hubby and our good friends last night (I may have gutter-balled nearly the entire first game of bowling, but I redeemed myself in round two, thank you very much)
  • the thought that one year ago today we were landing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and on the verge of meeting our son
  • a God who continually surprises, upholds, and adores me, though I can't claim to deserve his love in any way, shape, or form

Life is just so beautiful... Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Writing the Third

It's a cool, Monday morning in my quiet little community and I have the unexpected opportunity to write! Usually I write Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, but because Aaron has to preach on Wednesday night for our church Thanksgiving service, he woke up this morning and ushered me out of the house. Yay! I love surprises. And I devour any chance I get to write.

This new project for me is such a learning experience. In some ways, I feel like my first two books were "practice." After the Leaves Fall is an emotive, in-depth character study. Summer Snow is still very character driven, but I experimented a lot more with plot. My family and friends who read earlier copies of the sequel said it was a much more compulsive read than the first because most chapters end with a mini-cliffhanger. There are more twists and surprises. But difference aside, both books were a blast for me to write; I had so much fun discovering what I was capable of.

Now, I've taken off in an entirely different direction with my third book. It is heavy on both character and plot. It is much more complicated than my first two books. It is written from three different points of view. It deals with subject matter that I have to research intensely. Argh! It's incredibly fun, but daunting, too. I guess I could liken it to the difference between training to run a 10k and training for a half-marathon. I'm at the point in training where I'm thinking, "Am I crazy? Can I even do this?"

My agent and my writing partner are fantastic. They are both so encouraging and they both continue to say the same thing: KEEP WRITING! They assure me that it will all work out in the end and that we will be able to fix any significant problems with minimal heartache (i.e. some rewriting). I think therein lies my problem: I've never had to do rewrites. Well, at least not big rewrites. The edits for Leaves and Snow seemed pretty minor to me: change a word here, flip a sentence around there, add a short paragraph or two and bada-bing! we're done. What if, like I know some authors have had to do, I have to go through with a fine tooth comb and change a third person POV to first? I break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it.

Confession (as if the whole wide world didn't already know): I'm a perfectionist. And I want my first draft to be a hair's breadth from perfect.

Admission (and this is huge coming from me): I don't think I can be perfect this time. Oh! The horrors! Oh, the inner turmoil!

Oh the learning curve. I am learning so much. And though I worry a bit and wonder if I can do what I want so badly to do, I am so grateful for this opportunity. How awesome is this? How blessed am I to do what I have always, always wanted to do? Trials and fears aside, it's worth all I have to give it.

Anyway, I gotta run, I have a messy manuscript to work on.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Leaves" on USA Today!

So I just got a really cool email... Michelle's review of After the Leaves Fall is on USA Today Online! How fabulous is that? I don't know how she pulled it off (magic? friends in high places?), but I sure would give her a bone-crushing hug if I could get my arms around her! Best of all, Michelle's review is littered with the hope of a loving God who longs to make all things new. What a neat message to promote in such a public forum. Anyway, check it out at USA Today. And leave a comment--you can still win a free book!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another Giveaway!

So you didn't win a book? Here's another chance to do so! Michelle at Edgy, Inspirational Author Blog just reviewed After the Leaves Fall. She liked it, she really liked it! Her praise means the world to me because she reviews so very many books. Browse through her blog to see some of the amazing books and authors she has featured. Anyway, Michelle is also giving away a free copy of Leaves. All you have to do is read her review and leave a comment. The comment has to be specific, so make sure you read the review. I believe she'll draw a winner on Sunday, but don't quote me on that. Good luck!

Sorry about the lack of meaningful blogs lately. I've been birthday party planning, book writing, nursing kids back to health, Bible study leading, preschool planning, and just all around being busy lately. That's okay. I've also adopted a little practice from our friends down south... I'm taking a daily siesta! Let me tell you, a ten minute power nap after lunch has doubled, if not tripled my productivity. Never mind my much cheerier disposition. At least, I think I'm cheerier--maybe you need to ask my hubby about that one... He-he-he!

Oh well, for now, sign up for the free book and I promise to write more later.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book Winners

My baby is four years old today!

I can't hardly believe that it has been four years since the first time I laid eyes on him. I'll spare you the sappy mommmy talk, but suffice it to say, I'm feeling very blessed and very in love today. And that's in spite of the fact that my house is full of preschoolers! Yikes, they can make a lot of noise. Anyway, as they're playing nicely upstairs I thought I'd quick live up to my promise and announce the book winners.

Drumroll... Zam and Deborah Shank! Yay! Please email me privately at and give me your specifics so I can mail a copy of the book to you ASAP. Also, even though I didn't pull his name, I want to send a book to Ron Reffett, too. Though I can't claim that the book is full of wisdom, if nothing else it will get his wife's mind off of daughter issues for a while. I was a headstrong teenager myself, I know what Ron and his wife must be going through! Please email me, too, Ron.

As for my former students who signed up... I'll be in BC from December 4-12. Let's do coffee! Seems like we have lots to talk about.

Thanks to everyone who signed up for a free book! I hope you still pick it up and if you do, I hope you enjoy it. Have a wonderful week.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

National Adoption Month

November is a special month for my family. It marks my oldest son's birthday, our trip to Ethiopia to bring our baby son home, Thanksgiving, of course, and now, an event that is particularly special to us: National Adoption Month. I could write volumes on what adoption has meant to our family, but rather than strike out on my own promote awareness of adoption, I'm going to send you over to Linda Hargrove's excellent website. I'm so excited about what she's doing and I encourage you to spend some time at her blog!

Linda is a debut novelist, an adoptive mother, and an advocate for Biblical racial reconciliation. She's a beautiful woman with an equally beautiful mission. And all month she has opened up her blog for other adoptive parents to post their family stories. Today Linda has posted my adoption story, or at least a part of it. Head on over and check it out. And don't forget to leave a comment and encourage Linda in all the Lord is calling her to do!

Also, you still have a few more days to sign up for the FREE books I'm giving away. Scroll down to the next post and add your comment to be entered!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Free Books!

Well, After the Leaves Fall has been out for over a month now and I haven’t given away a single free copy. Scratch that, I have given lots of books away, but not online. Anyway, it’s time I amended that. Yay! Free stuff! I’m slowly learning that fall is all about giveaways in blog land…? I’m a newbie, be patient.

At any rate, in honor of my two November babies (Isaac was born in November and we picked Judah up from Ethiopia in November) I’m giving away two signed copies of Leaves. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. Don’t forget to include a way for me to contact you if you don’t have a Blogger account. Next week Tuesday (November 13, Isaac’s 4th birthday!) I’ll draw two winners. Feel free to enter even if you already have the book--it makes a great Christmas present!

You may only enter once, but just to make things interesting, if 100 people comment to this post, I'll give away four signed books instead of two. Good luck!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Final Stop (on the illustrious bloggity blog tour)

My final blog tour stop is this week! Wow, these past ten weeks flew by. Thank you, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to all the lovely ladies who so graciously hosted me on their interesting and entertaining blogs. It has been a real treat getting to know so many people from so many places. Hmmm... No guys though. Interesting, I never thought of that before. Are there any men out there reading my book? Or has it been branded women's lit? Anyway, that's beside the point and I'm getting off track. Bottom line: it's been great. It being all of it: the blog tour, the book, the entire wonderful process. I'm so glad I get to do it again!

This last stop is a fun one for me to end with because Deena didn't mind kicking back a bit when she read After the Leaves Fall. My somewhat ambiguous conclusion wasn't her cup of tea, and she questioned me on it--good for her! I had lots of fun doing this interview because I had the chance to articulate why I did (or didn't do) certain things in the writing of my debut novel. Whether or not you agree with me, I hope you can concede that this sort of dialogue is fun. And, I hope you enjoy the interview.

Hey, there's lots going on this week so stop back soon for some fun news and a GIVEAWAY. Don't you think it's time I gave away one (or a few) of my own books? Call me crazy, but I'm thinking that would be fun... :) See you soon!