Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What You're Thinking



Can I stir up a discussion?

This morning I was on a radio program, WMBI's A New Day, a Moody Bible Institute station and program out of Chicago. We were talking about the second in the Live Free series, Seduced by Sex, Saved by Love--A Journey Out of False Intimacy.

One question that I was asked, and have heard before, is: how do parents talk to their teens about tough issues . . . like addictions, self-injury, or sex? How do they do it without their teens shutting down and shutting them out?

I live at a residential ministry and ranch for at-risk youth, and though I write full-time right now, I spend as much time as possible with the teens here. I get a strong sense they've wanted their parents to care enough (and maybe to be brave enough) to be available and address those issues with them.

But I want to hear what you're thinking.

My questions for you:
What do you (or did you) most want your mom and dad to know about you and the pressures you face?
What do you feel has worked in their help and conversations with you?
What do you feel hasn't worked?
What advice would you give parents who want to address the tough issues with their teens?

Those are my general questions, but if you have other thoughts, feel free to share them. As usual, respond by commenting on this post or email me privately.

I'd love to know your thoughts! My next post on the 9th will take the discussion a bit further.

Jan

www.jankern.com
www.choose2livefree.com

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Knitting in public

Camy here, talking about being embarrassed or not caring what people think.

Most of the time, I’m ashamed to admit I really do care too much about what people think. Which is stupid, because who cares what strangers think of me?

As long as my husband and my friends and my youth group think I’m a wonderful person, that’s all that matters, right? Right? (At least, let’s hope they think I’m a wonderful person. LOL)

So, for a long time, I used to be embarrassed to knit in public. I felt like it was just too weird a thing to do, because, hellooooo who the heck is knitting in public? I certainly never see anyone knitting while waiting in line or in a doctor’s office. (Not here in Silicon Valley, anyway.)

But on the other hand, my personality is so anal retentive that I can’t stand having nothing to do! And there are some places where it’s just not feasible to read a book, mostly because I get so caught up in it that I won’t notice if someone calls my name.

So I took the plunge. I took my cute little pink bag with my sock knitting and went to the post office.

Yes, you read that right. The post office. Because of all the places I hate to wait, it’s there.

It’s always sooooo busy, and the line is out the door, and there are little kids running around because their mothers are in line, and other people are trying to cut in front of you, and it’s just noisy and crowded.

So I got my envelopes of books to mail, stuck them in a tote bag on my shoulder, hung my knitting bag off my wrist, and stood in line and knit.

The knitting motion made me not so anxious about the screaming kids or the people jostling me. Since I concentrated on my work, I didn’t see anyone giving me strange looks, and so I didn’t feel (too) anxious about it.

Then I took my knitting to the doctor’s office for my husband’s appointment. And it was great! I got a ton of knitting done while waiting for my husband. I only got one or two strange looks from a man in the corner, but then he just ignored me.

Now I take my knitting everywhere! And I no longer care if people are looking at me, because I’m satisfied that I’m being productive during times when otherwise I’d be doing nothing.

I don’t know how I went from being scared of what strangers would think of my knitting to not caring. Maybe it’s God trying to show me that it’s really not as big a deal as I think it is.

And, granted, there are lots of other things that I’m still embarrassed to do in public, like dancing--(shudder) I still am not comfortable with my body to want to jiggle the fat around to an audience, you know?

How about you? Anything you’re embarrassed to do in public, or used to be embarrassed about?

Camy Tang lives in San Jose, California. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her latest Asian chick lit novel, Only Uni, released in February. Join her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly Christian fiction giveaways!

Friday, July 25, 2008

I'm a Hollywood Nobody Somebody

Lisa Samson is mostly known for her award-winning adult contemporary fiction, but it's no surprise to anyone who's read her books that her teen-centric novel, Hollywood Nobody, won the Christy Award in the Young Adult category earlier this month. I had the fun privilege of critiquing that book before it was published (not that Lisa needs much in the way of critique). When it came time to plot the sequel, Finding Hollywood Nobody, Lisa put out a request for suggested settings--places with a unique personality to enhance the action--and I nominated my little East Texas town.

That's how I ended up hosting Lisa and her daughter in our home for several days, shuttling her around town, introducing her to shop owners, exploring buildings, taking lots of pictures, and discovering some of our town's secrets I'd never known before. We had a blast!

Then, imagine my delight when I received the manuscript for critique and discovered she'd named characters for all my family members. And the character with my name looks like me, dresses like me, and sounds a lot like me. Wow! How fun is that?

Yeah. So, I'm a Hollywood Nobody Somebody. May be my greatest claim to fame ever.

If you haven't read Lisa's books, I encourage you to check out this series. You'll love spunky Scotty Dawn, a sixteen year old who travels from movie set to movie set in an RV with her food-stylist mom, and gets to know some of the hottest stars most of us only day-dream about--all while hiding from some secret danger no one is willing to explain to her. You'll meet lots of fascinating characters, and--kind of, sort of--you'll even run into me. :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Talk's cheap

Hi all,

It's been quite a while since I posted ... chalk it up to writing a book every four months! Here's what's happening:
  • It's All About Us is launched
  • The Fruit of My Lipstick is getting great pre-publication reviews before it hits shelves in August
  • Be Strong and Curvaceous got a super endorsement from American Idol finalist Mandisa
  • Who Made You a Princess? is turned in and the cover art is faboo
  • Tidings of Great Boys now has two chapters to its name!
Whew! Reasons for rejoicing all the way around, right? I thought so, too ... until I went on MySpace and read a review of It's All About Us. Which was a good one, don't get me wrong. But the comments, oh my word. 

Some of them were downright ugly, written just to poison someone's day or to provoke a reaction. Written out of the darkness of someone's life, where there's no room for anything but to pull someone down and spread hatred. Who does these kinds of things? I don't know, but of course my first reaction was hurt feelings that someone could say those things about something I loved and created.

But then I realized they weren't addressing their comments to me at all. They were just hurling them out into cyberspace to do their work, and it was up to me to bring up the shield of faith and punt them away. And then what? Yup. Pray for that person, who desperately needs a little light down there in the black where they're living.

What about you? Some days do you feel like there are fiery little darts flying everywhere, and it's all you can do to duck and cover? Man, I'm glad God covers us with love. Imagine life without that!

Love ya,
Shelley
http://www.allaboutusbooks.net

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Finding the Time


Think of something that you want to accomplish. Perhaps you are one of the many who has said “I want to (write a book, try out for a play, join the dance team, or fill in the dream),” only to lament in the same breath, “but I don’t have time.” A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to interview an amazing man. Maybe Richard Couser’s story will give you a much-needed kick start. He managed to find the time to accomplish a huge goal while working full time as an attorney and partner in a law firm. Richard is in his 60’s, has a family, and like most of us, is dealing with some major life stuff. Still he did it! Let him inspire you today.

For his first book with WinePress Publishing this Concord, New Hampshire resident chose a topic not often tackled in fiction—the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy.

“I didn’t want to write another commentary on Deuteronomy. I figured there are enough of those.” He should know—Richard has over 70 books on Deuteronomy in his library. Instead, understanding that people respond to story in a unique way, he chose to weave it into the lives of two true-to-life characters.

The Deuteronomy Project: A Journey into the Mind of God centers on the mentoring relationship between Chris, a young lawyer seeking a deeper understanding of his Christian faith, and Hal, a retired pastor. The two men read through Deuteronomy and in the process take a journey that allows Chris and others to see how this ancient book applies to their contemporary lives. When asked if he patterned the characters after real people, Richard admits, “I’m Chris.” Hal, he says, is based on many pastors and mentors he has known throughout his life. And his life is as interesting as a book. He is certainly no stranger to the discipline and perseverance that it takes to write.

Raised in Lebanon, New Hampshire by working class parents, Richard earned a work study scholarship to the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy. “My main job was doing dishes. That’s how I covered my tuition.” He recalls the challenge of living and going to school with teens from more privileged backgrounds. He had to work and earn his way through while they didn’t. But he did get involved and make friends, his closest friendship being with a Porto Rican student, also attending Exeter on work study. “Of course I went to Exeter in the late fifties, early sixties so things were pretty different,” he says. “Now the school is much more balanced when it comes to race and social status.”

In the end Richard’s hard work paid off when he got another scholarship, this time to Yale University. His studies at Yale prompted him to choose law and accept another incredible opportunity—Stanford Law School. “I chose law late in the game. When it came time to graduate and decide what to do next I saw that my interests pointed to a career as a lawyer. I had many offers but chose Stanford for the chance to go to California.” It was there that he reconnected with an old friend from New Hampshire. Linda had moved to San Francisco about the same time that Richard started law school. Linda quickly became the love of his life and was instrumental in Richard going from “I’m go to church so that makes me a Christian” to being a true believer and follower of Christ. They married in 1966 and now have 2 children and seven grandchildren, including a son who followed Dad’s footsteps to Phillips Exeter and Yale.

In addition to over 30 years as law firm partner Richard is an active member of Christian Legal Society, a group for Christian lawyers. He is also involved in his church and in his community. So when did he ever find time to craft a 500+ page book?

“The bulk of the writing happened during a 4-month sabbatical that the firm offers. I never would have finished without that.” Even with the sabbatical he had to discipline himself to finish, rewrite, and work the story into something that people would want to read. In the end it took nearly ten years, but he did it.

He is thrilled to see the response to The Deuteronomy Project. It has been read by his fellow lawyers, as well as non-lawyers, men and women. “People like the characters and find the subject matter interesting.” Some read it because they gravitate toward character-driven books that make them think. Others are simply interested in Deuteronomy. As Chris discovers in the story, readers see that this often underappreciated Old Testament book is still important to the contemporary Christian—that it is the basis for how God wants us to live. “It’s one of the most quoted Old Testament books.” Richard points out. “Jesus and Paul both refer to it often in their teaching.”

During the week of July 13-18 Richard had a chance sign and promote The Deuteronomy Project at the International Retail Show in Orlando, Florida. He looks forward to seeing what God will do with the results of his ten years of making the time to write.

And I look forward to hearing what this story drives you to find the time for in the near future. Oh, and if you’re a book lover like I am, check out Richard’s book. It’s a great story. Spead the word!
Jeanette

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wearing a new hat



While we were on vacation, my family told me the truth. My old flower pot sun hat was ugly. Being a redhead, I wear a hat in the sun, especially at the beach. That day, I'd put on my sunscreen (now SPF 85) and the floppy hat. My husband, Rick, and my sixteen-year-old son said I needed a new hat--to lose the old lady one.

Rick picked this one out. I have to admit, I felt pretty cool wearing it. Almost like a new woman, cowgirly and fun.

So, if I can become a new woman with my new hat, maybe I really can make the switch from being a non-fiction writer into a novelist. As of today, I'm at 61,000 words with my first novel. I'm going to stick a picture of the new me at my computer.

The up-and-coming novelist in her cowgirl hat. :-)

Anybody else need a new hat? A new image?

Love,
Julie

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

OUCH! Oh, Well. . . .

My knees are banged up and twisted, my lower back is pulled, my hip is twisted. I have a headache, just because. I fell coming into the house. I didn't lift my bum leg high enough to clear the top step and went over like a graceful hippopotomus. (Does that have too many Os in it?) But there is always a bright side. I fell into the laundry basket instead of the concrete floor of the garage. I also fell against the dryer, the ironing board hanging on the wall, and on a toy. Toys are ficious.

But I got clothes suitable for wearing with a belt and sword, crown, and moonbeam cape. Life is not all bad. I don't know many people who have clothes in their closet that accessorize with a sword. But I do.

In October I will be going on a book tour. Perhaps I should say THE book tour. 8 Christian fantasy authors from 8 publishing houses going to 8 West Coast cities in 8 days in 2008, motivating readers to explore positive literature.
Here's the website:http://www.fantasyfictiontour.com/

Monday, July 14, 2008

Worship songs - fast or slow?

Camy here, talking about worship songs.

I lead worship for the youth group at our meetings on Saturday nights, and last weekend one of the high school girls requested a song they’d learned at JEMS Mount Hermon, a yearly set of Christian camps for families, singles, and teens.

The song is “The Words That You Say,” and she got me the link for a YouTube video of the song. The song was played slowly, so I intended it to be sung slowly.

But my pianist said it was supposed to be faster and upbeat. I think that’s how it was sung at Mount Hermon, but since I hadn’t been at the high school camp and didn’t hear the worship there, I just went by what she said.

So we played it fast. It’s actually quite good with an upbeat tempo, I think.

But then after worship, I got a “gentle complaint” from another teen (although he went to college camp, not high school camp, but he’s familiar with the song) who said the song was too fast. He even said the speed was kind of distracting from the words.

Now I’m completely confused. Since I never heard the song played at Mount Hermon high school camp, I can’t say for sure how it’s supposed to be played. Some teens like it fast, others apparently like it slow.

I can’t please anybody!!!!

I admit, there are some worship songs I really enjoy played with a good beat. The first that comes to mind is “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”

I went to a SonicFlood concert years ago and they opened with that song, and it was so powerful and worshipful played with a strong drum beat and loud electric guitars, that I’ll never forget the incredible feeling of God’s presence as we stood and sang and worshipped.

To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy ...

Other songs are often played fast, but I prefer them slow. I like “I Want To Know You” played ... well, not slow, certainly, but not super speed, either. The words to that song are so powerful that I enjoy singing them--and meaning what I sing--rather than rattling them off to a fast beat.

I want to know You
I want to hear Your voice
I want to know You more
I want to touch You
I want to see Your face
I want to know You more

How about you? Slow or fast?

Camy Tang lives in San Jose, California. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her latest Asian chick lit novel, Only Uni, released in February. Join her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly Christian fiction giveaways!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fire, Fear, and Fullness


A couple weeks ago I was traveling through a beautiful canyon toward the northern California coast. The colored sky was filled with dramatic clouds only God could paint. Then the sky darkened over the mountains to the south and lightning shot toward the treetops. We didn’t realize these initial electrical cracks were the beginning of storms that would push California into a fire season that may become the state’s worst ever. It’s not over. Typical fire season for California doesn’t end until the rains of late fall.

Many Californians are in survival mode, fleeing their homes. Others are doing what they can to prevent a fire from taking everything they have—a fire not yet threatening, dreaded just the same.

Living in the country, surrounded by dry brush, I at times find myself in the latter group, consumed in fear of what to me sometimes feels inevitable but may not be.

Not a good way to live.

I have a dear, older friend who somehow works into every conversation the challenge to live fully. It’s what God designed us to do, she’d say.

I think she’s right. This week I’m challenged to look at ways I might be consumed by a fear or anything else that keeps my time or thoughts trapped in survival mode. I don’t want to just make it through a day or just survive my life. Instead, I want to be as available and open as possible to God’s work of fullness in each moment, no matter what the circumstances.

Psalm 16:11 talks about eternity that will one day bring complete fullness, but I believe the verse also hints of what I can experience now:

You have made known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (NIV)

Twenty-six words calling me to passionate fullness. Far beyond simply surviving. Definitely better than living in fear.

How about you? Have you ever found that you’re just getting through? Or that a task, fear, or difficulty has become so consuming that you’re in survival mode? What has helped you? What verses have you found stirring you to live more fully and passionately?

Please consider sharing. Someone might find encouragement in your experience.

Jan

http://www.choose2livefree.com/
http://www.jankern.com/

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Great New Music


My baby girl is now 5 weeks old, and one thing that she has developed is a time of day when she is just fussy. Nothing we do seems to comfort her... except one thing, music. Not just any music, but one album in particular. One of my church's worship leaders released an album recently. His name is Eddie Kirkland and the album is called Orthodoxy. For some reason the songs on this album calm her (and me). So, needless to say, I've been listening to it a lot lately. This album is full of words and imagery of God's grace. One song in particular is called "Oh How He Loves Us" and it is one of my favorite worship songs. If you are looking for some new (and good) worship music then I encourage you to check out this album. You can purchase it on iTunes and check Eddie out at his website http://www.eddiekirklandmusic.com/

Sarah Bragg

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A People Pleaser's Nightmare

I had the weirdest dream last night. My husband was in the hospital recovering from back surgery and his room was overflowing with visitors. Friends that we hadn’t seen in a decade were there, along with friends from church and people that I only see once a year at writer’s conferences who’ve never met Norm. I was totally stressed, knowing that any minute my friend Sherry would arrive and remind me of the two visitors at a time rule (Sherry is a nurse). Then the nurses would come in and I'd get in big trouble for not protecting my husband from overstimulation.

“Can some of you wait in the hall?” I asked a cluster of girls that I didn’t recognize.

“We didn’t sign up for this,” They huffed. “We didn’t come all the way down here to hang out in the hall.”

As they walked out, others walked in and my stress level went through the roof.

Then I saw my youngest son’s Sunday school teacher, Miss Kelly. Knowing she is sweet and would understand I asked her to leave next.

“Nobody cares about that rule,” Kelly insisted. “At the other hospital they actually hire people to fill up rooms of patients who don’t have visitors. You know, so they don’t feel left out and the room doesn’t look depressing. Don’t listen to Sherry. She doesn’t know anything.”

That so didn’t help! Now I didn’t know who to listen to. The dream ended as a well known literary agent showed up with flowers for my husband.

In reality my husband did have back surgery and Sherry did show up at a time when Norm was particularly popular and point out, “There are six people in the room.” But it wasn’t like she was mad at me. Still my need to please, even while helping my husband recover, leaked over into my dreams. I woke up thinking, why do I do this to myself? I worry so much about pleasing everyone that I often forget to stop and wonder what’s right. What does God want me to do? Has anyone in authority asked me to do something differently? Am I focusing so much on what I can’t control, like who happens to show up, that I neglect the one who needs my attention?

Are there any more people pleasers out there? What has perfectionism done to your mind lately?

A People Pleaser's Nightmare

I had the weirdest dream last night. My husband was in the hospital recovering from back surgery and his room was overflowing with visitors. Friends that we hadn’t seen in a decade were there, along with friends from church and people that I only see once a year at writer’s conferences who’ve never met Norm. I was totally stressed, knowing that any minute my friend Sherry would arrive and remind me of the two visitors at a time rule (Sherry is a nurse).
“Can some of you wait in the hall?” I asked a cluster of girls that I didn’t recognize.
“We didn’t sign up for this,” They huffed. “We didn’t come all the way down here to hang out in the hall.”

As they walked out, others walked in and my stress level went through the roof.
Then I saw my youngest son’s Sunday school teacher, Miss Kelly. Knowing she is sweet and would understand I asked her to leave next.
“Nobody cares about that rule,” Kelly insisted. “At the other hospital they actually hire people to fill up rooms of patients who don’t have visitors. You know, so they don’t feel left out and the room doesn’t look depressing. Don’t listen to Sherry. She doesn’t know anything.”
That so didn’t help! Now I didn’t know who to listen to. The dream ended as a well known literary agent showed up with flowers for my husband.

In reality my husband did have back surgery and Sherry did show up at a time when Norm was particularly popular and point out, “There are six people in the room.” But it wasn’t like she was mad at me. Still my need to please, even while helping my husband recover, leaked over into my dreams. I woke up thinking, why do I do this to myself? I worry so much about pleasing everyone that I often forget to stop and wonder what’s right. What does God want me to do? Has anyone in authority asked me to do something differently? Am I focusing so much on what I can’t control, like who happens to show up, that I neglect the one who needs my attention?

Are there any more people pleasers out there? What has perfectionism done to your mind lately?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

If you read, you have to go check this out!


The Christian Fiction Online Magazine premiered yesterday. I have been anxiously awaiting this magazine. Editor Michelle Sutton has put together content that is just not to be believed. You could spend the month from now until the next issues comes out going through the multitude of articles and
columns contained in The Christian Fiction Online Magazine. She and Bonnie Calhoun have collected top names in Christian publishing.
1. An author interview with Robert Liparulo,
2. book reviews
This month some topnotch historicals: The Begotten by Lisa Tawn Bergren (Berkley); Wagered Heart by Robin Lee Hatcher; and A Mending At The Edge by Jane Kirkpatrick.
3. a devotional
4. a column by the literary agency Hartline with Joyce Hart leading it
off
5. Allen Arnold of Thomas Nelson contributed to the Publishers Corner
6. a column by Kristen Billerbeck of the Ashley Stockindale fame.
Oh my! There are too many things to enumerate: articles on ACFW Happenings, Publicity, writing topics, short stories, POD info, and of course, (This is a quote from Terry Burns) "no premier issue would be complete without Chip MacGregor opening upthe top of his head to see what comes out."
The main pages are called BEST, BUZZ, BERSERK, BRILLIANT, BIZ, AND BLITZ.

If you like to read, go see the teen column and several columns on fiction today. Bookmark the website http://www.christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/
I keep neglecting the work I should be doing and going back for another peek.

Hope you jump into this Ezine and have a totally awesome experience.

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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