Monday, May 29, 2006

At Last, the CCWC

In my last post I promised you all I'd tell you about my trip to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (CCWC) . I thought I'd be quicker about the sharing but after the past week, this is good. As you can see, the vista was incredible--hardly any pollution (or oxygen, for that matter) but the view was quite lovely before I passed out;-)

My friend and mentor, Esther Bailey, thought this would be the perfect trip for us to do together and I agreed--still do but with a few reservations. We had an adventure with the shuttle service making our arrival time 11:30 p.m. The driver dropped us off and we checked in. As the man handed us our keys he said we could drive a couple blocks to the four-way stop. Go another block beyond and then turn left. That's where I explained we didn't drive. He shared a "short-cut" and wished us well. Esther and I (along with Monique, another writer who shared our shuttle adventure) started walking, pulling all our luggage behind--uphill. When we finally arrived at the door to our building, this is the sign that met us. I had to take a picture--I didn't think I'd believe it the next day without proof.

Fortunately things improved after that. I had so much fun seeing old friends, making new ones, learning, growing. I took James Scott Bell's continuing session and was lucky enough to get to sit around the lobby of Wind River one night and shoot the breeze with him, Nancy Rue, Angela Hunt, and Lisa Samson. I think I learned more that night about being an author and this crazy business than in any of the classes. It was fun, it was great, it was amazing.

Seems I've loaded my limit on pictures (and didn't even get to post the ones with me and Ted Dekker and Tammy Alexanderor several others--none to worry, I have plans:-). However, I have to say this has only whet my appetite for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (ACFW) in Dallas this September. More pictures to follow. In the meantime, wishing each one of you a day of rememberence and hope. Thank you to all who have stood in harm's way for us and Abundant Blessings one and all!

PS By request, I'm adding a link you need to check out.
And it is my pleasure to do so.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Interview with Stephen Bly and More

Dear All,

I have a million and one things to share with you, not to mention a great interview with Western author Stephen Bly. So, a quick set of announcements and then on to the interview.
First, I have a new website that is up but not quite done. So, if you checkout and notice some problems, please be patient. I will announce when it is finished. Second, I have just returned from the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (CCWC) in Estes Park and have lots to tell and pictures to share. Again, soon, I promise. Last (before the interview) this Wednesday is the seventh anniversary of the homecoming for our son, Ian. If you are led to think about us this week, I’d appreciate your prayers. Also, use this as a reminder to give your child an extra hug or pray for a family dealing with chronic illness in their midst. If you want to do something more substantial, may I suggest making a donation to the Make-A-Wish foundation? This group was wonderful to our family.

And now, please enjoy getting to know more about author and Pastor Stephen Bly and his latest book Wish I'd Known You Tears Ago.

Abundant blessings!

Q: Why did you decide to try your hand at writing a contemporary Western instead penning another historical?

SB: Actually, I've written a number of contemporary novels, for instance: The Austin-Stoner Files, The Hidden West Series, and Paperback Writer. One motivation was that the basic plot for The Horse Dreams series, a divorced teacher whose ex dies of a heart attack, before she gets a chance to offer peace and forgiveness, fit a contemporary scene better.

As a matter of fact, that was my entire plot when I sat down to write the books. I don't plot much. Okay . . . I don't plot at all . . . it's more like a "guideline" idea. I often don't have a clue where a story is headed. PLUS. . . in this case, I knew lots of ladies like horses (and cowboys), even if it's only a daydream. So I combined those elements and placed the series in one of my favorite locations, the empty prairies of central Wyoming. It seemed like a good mix. Dev Worrell is the kind of caring, gifted schoolteacher that all of us can remember--mine was named Mrs. Welch, and she taught the 4th grade at Ivanhoe Grammar School.

Q: Which character in this series did you most enjoy writing?

SB: Casey Cree-Ryder. I was going to say Casey and Uncle Henry, but since Uncle Henry is a burro, I suppose he doesn't quite fit the category.

Casey is a 29 year old, Wyoming "cowboy girl," who is dark skinned like her Native American/African American bloodlines but has the temperament of her Mexican American/Irish bloodlines. She is totally unpredictable in behavior . . . almost shocking in speech, and lives life with few restraints. She is very much the opposite of Dev. But they become great friends and throughout the series, you can see how each makes the other a better person.

Casey is one person you would like on your side in a fight (guns, knives or fists.) One glance from Casey and tough cowboys are known to cross to the other side of the street. Yet, there is sensitivity, a crushed spirit and a broken heart that need healing. I like her too, because she has a waist-length, thick black braid that is purdier than bronc-rein.

Q: What challenges did you face writing from a woman's point of view?

SB: You know, I get that question a lot. Gals write to me and say, "How did you know what was in my mind?" I attribute my ability to write from a woman's point of view to two factors: first, I have been married to a talented, interesting, adventuresome, intelligent, creative and beautiful woman for 43 years. Second, I have LISTENED WITH ALL MY HEART to a talented, interesting, adventuresome, intelligent, creative and beautiful woman for 43 years.

If a man will truly listen to women . . . he can write from their point of view.

Q: You are among the first to write Christian Westerns. What changes have you seen in this genre? What advice do you have for others wanting to break into this market?

SB: I'm not sure the genre has changed too much, but there are still only a few that can master it. Too many writers want to tell a modern story, and they dress it up like a doll in cowboy gear. That's not a western. If you are going to write about the 1800's, you have to know the west-the history, the geography, the politics, and human nature of 1880.

Many read a Louis L'Amour novel and say, "I can do that." They can't. Most good writers can research the right words, but they don't have the right tune. It's the rhythm, the tone, and the flow that makes a great western. It's a tough thing to teach.

If you want to break into the western market, spend the next 10 years roaming up and down every dirt road in the 11 western states. Read every book you can find about the old west and published by University of Oklahoma, University of Nebraska, University of California, and University of New Mexico press-and a few others. For months, study every old map of the west you can find, memorize such books as Ramon Adams' "Western Words" . . . Andy Adams' "Log of a Cowboy" . . . Charlie Siringo's "A Texas Cowboy" and Fay E. Ward's "The Working Cowboy's Manuel." Then move to Denio, Nevada and work the Fall Gather for one of the Big Basin ranches. That'll work.

Get your facts right and forget most of what you've seen in western movies.

Q: As mayor of Winchester Idaho, pastor of a church, and a prolific writer, what does your schedule look like? How many hours a day are you able to spend writing?

SB: Lucky for me, there are forty hours in a day. That's the only way I keep up. I go to bed about 10 - 10:30 and get up about 3:30. I like to spend 5 to 10 hours a day writing-more when the deadline approaches. But there are breaks. I travel a lot around the west and find time to read lots of non-fiction books about subjects that fit my stories. I have all the time I need to do the important things of life. I just have to keep reminding myself what those important things are.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Mothers' Day

They come in all shapes and sizes, temperaments and abilities, colors and humors. Most people only get one and if they’re lucky, that one is a keeper. I have to say, though, I by-passed lucky a few decades ago when my little brother’s speech teacher saw something in a widowed father with three kids. The smartest thing Mary could have done probably had something to so with “just say no!” and running as fast as her feet would fly. Instead she opened her heart and loved us all.

That’s my mom—my second mom.

My first mom died of cancer when I was a young teen. I thought that was the end of the mom-thing in my life. God had other plans. And now this retired teacher has been my mom more than twice as long as the one who gave me birth.

Not that is was all moonlight and roses. Anyone who has tried to blend two families knows what I mean. But Mom didn’t run when she had the chance and she didn’t even when things got bad, ugly or rough—and they got all three. She hung in there for the long haul and now she has seen the rewards of a Proverbs 31 Woman—we, her children, call her blessed knowing full well that we are the ones who have been blessed.

My first mother was a rare gem. Lovely, loving, and lovable. Not everyone can say that about their mom. I can say that about both of mine. I am blessed beyond measure and want to publicly thank you, Mom, for not running for the hills, for loving us as your own, for being my mom. I love you! Happy Mothers’ Day.

Abundant blessings!

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Yesterday I learned a lot about friendship.

During the course of my life I have been blessed to call a few incredible women “friend.” I wrote about one of them, my friend and pastor, Lori, a few posts back. Today I want to tell you about another friend who allowed me the privilege of sharing in her special day.

My buddy Laura has now joined the ranks of those of us who can officially claim to have lived a half century. Many find reason to celebrate that milestone with black balloons and AARP jokes. No black balloons for Laura, though.

Ten years ago, she was forty, bald and in a wheelchair, fighting an uphill battle with stage four cancer. I doubt any of her doctors would have placed bets on her seeing fifty. That is, unless they took time to get to know her.

Laura puts the fun back into dysfunctional.

She and I go back a long way, about twenty-five years to be exact. We’ve been pregnant together, sold Tupperware together. Laughed, cried, and leaned on each other. We never say good-bye though years may pass without us being in touch. And then one day we get together and just pick up where we left off. Almost like a revolving door deposits us in the same place every once in a while and then we move on. But somehow we always manage to end up back together one more time. Probably because that revolving door spins inside my heart.

I could tell you of how Laura came running to the hospital in the middle of the night when my son was dying. I could tell you how she ran interference for me when I just couldn’t take another hysterical phone call, or how she held my hand through panic attacks and the loss of my identity. But I haven’t the words to do her justice.

Instead I want to tell you how she finds laughter in the midst of pain, beauty in brokenness, and magnanimous heart in the middle chaos. But how do I describe how lights burn brighter in her presence? Or how humor becomes more healing when she tells the story? I can’t. I can only say I am so blessed to call her my friend.

Happy birthday, Laura! Many, many more!

Abundant blessings!