Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Writer's Easter

All over the world this week writers have been sitting at their computers, staring at a blank monitor or the empty pages in a notebook as they contemplate and struggle to articulate what Easter means. I am one of those writers.

There are many things I know about Easter. I know it is the most important celebration in the Christian calendar. I know without Easter there is no effectual Christianity. I know about the cross, that torturous mode of execution that has become a universal symbol of hope. And I know about the tomb. I’ve stood inside one, in Jerusalem, and stared at the rough ledge where they believe our Saviour might have lain, wrapped in grave cloths, waiting for the third day.

But I’m a writer. I want to know more about this drama. I want to get inside the characters’ heads. I want to feel Mary’s pain and confusion, or perhaps peace, when they arrested her son and dragged him away. I want to know Peter’s horror and self-loathing when he ran from the courtyard after denying he knew his friend, his saviour, his God. I want to know his catharsis when he answered the same question three times. “Peter, do you love me?”

I want to know how Joseph of Arimathea summoned the courage to openly admit his allegiance to the Christ and petition for his body. I want to know the bloom of understanding when Jesus appeared in the midst of his trembling disciples and said, “Peace, my peace I give to you.” I want to know the depth of that profound comprehension when Thomas touched the wound that killed his Messiah and when the two disciples on the road to Emmaus watched him break the bread before their eyes.

And above all, I want to know the main character in the drama of Easter. I want to know that Messiah. I want to look into his face and know the depth of his knowledge of me and the incomparable love that made him drag himself to that cross as though it were his only source of life. Because He is my only source of life.

I am a writer. I am a believer in this Saviour, Jesus Christ. I count it a privilege to engage in this struggle to understand, to know more and more and more about this drama and all that it means. I count it a blessing that there is no end to the understanding of it, as there is no end to the magnificence of God. I am humbled to my core when I contemplate the gift he has given me as I am obedient to the call and struggle to articulate the story.

I pray that for all of us this Easter, that need to know drives us to our knees, drives us to His word and drives us to a deeper understanding of the meaning of the words “He is Risen. He is risen indeed.”  Glory. Glory Hallelujah.

 Abundant Rain, Inspiration for Writers of Faith, is available on Smashwords or Amazon

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Your Assignment, Should you Choose ...

There's a small card sitting by my computer. Every time I glance at it I smile. The card pictures three horses standing in a green valley surrounded by mountains. I love it because it was sent to me by a friend who had just read my first novel and wanted to tell me how much she was blessed by it. I love it because that woman painted the picture on the card. I love it because the horses in the picture are real. I'd ridden one of them often. And I'd ridden in that very valley surrounded by mountains.

When I look at that card I can smell the sweet green of the wild grasses in the valley and the sweat of the animals. I remember what it was like to be swayed gently by the movement of a powerful animal under me as we walked the high trails. I remember the joy of the wind in my face as we galloped and the vast views when we reached the mountain tops. When I look at that card it all comes rushing back and becomes real again.

A picture can do that. So can words on a page written with skill. It's what I aim to do every time I sit down to write. I aim to bring it all to life on the page so that others can be there too. I want them to experience that place, the emotions of the characters, the pain and the joy. Even if they have never been there themselves they can experience it as though it were real, if I can capture it and convey it clearly to them.

But this is not my only task as a writer of faith. I am charged to do more. I am charged to convey something, even if just a small sliver, of the character of Christ. I can do it because I know Him. He has revealed Himself to me through the story of my life. I see Him in every aspect of it and I have the joy and the privilege of communicating that to others, to make Him real to them.

That's the joy and challenge of writing as a believer in Christ and, in a way, the joy and challenge of living in Him. It's the challenge to see Him and his hand of mercy all around us.

Through her wonderful blog, A Holy Experience, Ann Voskamp challenges her readers to do just that. She calls it the Joy Dare. I accepted that dare for two months while undergoing radiation treatments for breast cancer. It gave me a reason to look around me, in the tiny space where I lived, and find things that were gifts from God just for me. I found them and I found Him, every day.

That's the challenge of life, our assignment. Will you accept it?
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Good Question

"I'm writing a book," the woman said. "I've been writing it for years and I know it will probably never be published. There are a lot of people in this same boat. So my question is, how do we justify the time we're spending on these works in progress when there are so many other things deserving of our time and energy?"
It was a good question and the other writers on the panel tried hard to answer it, to give the woman hope and the courage to carry on. I was one of them. This is what I said:

1 - Never say never. When I wrote my first book, Spur of the Moment, I was pretty sure it would not go beyond my home-town audience. God had other plans and He is still amazing me with what He continues to do with it. You don't know what God intends for that manuscript and He may surprise you.

2 - Writing is one of the primary ways I learn about myself, others and God. I learn about my relationship with Him, where it's good and where it's not. I learn compassion for others and forgiveness of my own failings.  Remember that God is doing something in you as you write. If the manuscript never sees the light of a wider audience than your own heart, maybe that's what God intends. If He is calling you to write it, don't stop.

As I chatted with two of the other authors on that panel afterward, another thought was broached - this time we have on earth may be just a training ground for what is yet to come. Maybe all the "scribbling" we do falls into that category as well. Maybe all that we will write here on earth is preparation for what we will do in eternity. That thought encourages me, gives me hope and makes me want to continue to hone my skills and keep learning. I know I am called to write and I know God does not waste His efforts or mine.

"May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us, yes, establish the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:17).
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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Interview with Christian author, Athol Dickson

I'm delighted to have Athol Dickson here to chat about the first book in his new mystery series. Enjoy.
1.         So tell me about your new murder mystery, January Justice.

The back cover pretty well tells the story: Reeling from his wife's unsolved murder, Malcolm Cutter is just going through the motions as a chauffeur and bodyguard for Hollywood's rich and famous. Then a pair of Guatemalan tough guys offer him a job. It's an open question whether they're patriotic revolutionaries or vicious terrorists. Either way, Cutter doesn't much care until he gets a bomb through his window, a gangland beating on the streets of L.A., and three bullets in the chest. Now there's another murder on Cutter's Mind. His own.

January Justice is the first in a new series will follows Malcolm Cutter as he works as a chauffeur/crime sleuth and looks for his wife’s murderer on the side.

2.         When did you decide to become a writer?

I didn’t really make a decision to become a writer, so much as it just happened. I was working as a partner in an architectural firm, and spending most of my days dealing with handling business issues instead of having fun designing buildings, which was not what I had in mind when I went into architecture. I wanted some kind of creative release, and I’ve always loved to read murder mysteries, so I decided to try my hand at writing one. A couple of years later, I met a newspaper editor who had good connections in the publishing world. He volunteered to read my novel, and to my surprise, he thought it was pretty good. He gave me my first professional editorial advice, and after I made the changes he suggested, he sent the manuscript to some friends of his. The next thing I knew, I had an offer from a publisher.

It was all sort of accidental, so I never really thought of writing as anything more than a hobby. But I enjoyed it, and I had a publisher, so I kept writing. Then one of my novels won an award and I flew to Denver to receive it. When they stood me up on stage and praised the book and gave me a round of applause, I remember thinking that somehow, I had become a writer. That was the first time it sank in.

3.         Do you have specific habits when you write?

I write toward a specific goal every day. Sometimes it’s a certain number of words, and sometimes it’s the completion of a scene, but one way or the other I give myself that goal and I keep writing until I get there.

4.         Are you an early bird or night owl?

I’m a morning person, usually up by five or five thirty, and working no later than seven.

5.      If you could have coffee with any character of any book, who would it be and why?

Sherlock Holmes would be near the top of the list. I’d like to try to stump him. Also, I think it would be fun to have tea, not coffee, with Miss Marple. I’d love to hear her call me “dear.” And Sam Spade, for the witty banter.

6.      What do you do, besides writing?

Boats and boating are a passion, and have been since I was very young. One of the earliest photos of me was taken while I was “steering” a boat on a lake. (Actually, I think it was my uncle doing the driving while I sat on his lap, but I didn’t seem to realize that at the time.) A few years later, I built a boat from Styrofoam packing material one time and floated down a creek and into an underground drainage culvert, which didn’t open up again for about three city blocks. That was a big adventure. And just a few years ago my wife and I sold our house and cars and moved aboard a boat and cruised on it for a year, along the Gulf of Mexico’s northern coast, and up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States.

7.         Is there something you want the readers to know about you?

I’m humble but lovable, and if you don’t believe it, just ask me.

8.         Best reward as a writer?

When I finish a scene, and I know it’s good, that’s a fantastic feeling.

9.         How do you react to a bad review?

Over the years I’ve had very few really bad reviews, and the few I’ve had, I ignore. There have been maybe three or four from individual readers on Amazon, and none from professional reviewers in print. So I figure the best thing is to go on pleasing the majority instead of worrying about the opinion of a small minority.

10.     Do you have a good relationship with your fans?

Of course! How could I not love a fan?

To learn more about this great writer visit his website.