The Sabbatical Year Perhaps Comes to an End?

Hello again, my dear WordPress blog readers and subscribers! Hope you all had a grand time over the holidays and that you missed out on the flu season of  2018/19. We did not, alas, but we did discover an unexpected remedy for a cough: chocolate. My husband heard Rush Limbaugh talking about it and gave it a try, and is convinced it works. He kept telling me to try it out and so one day when the coughing just would not stop, I  made myself a cup of Starbucks Hot Cocoa Mix and one sip was all it took. I’m not exaggerating. The cough stopped after one sip and stayed gone almost all day.  Whereas prior to that I coughed all day. So I’m a believer, now!  (And also a chocolate lover; does that make my conclusion biased?)

The flu and the holidays also contributed to my failure to post as much as I’d hoped (even if it was only once or twice a week), but perhaps now that all that’s behind us, I can be a little more regular.  I’m pretty sure some of it’s related to burnout, though life getting in the way also contributed.  Then again, I can’t say I’ve done nothing, seeing as I have 17 chapters of first draft material for my work kinda/sorta-in-progress (ie, The Other Side of the Sky), though that was all carried out in previous years, before the point a year ago when I just couldn’t make myself go on…  So, we’ll see how it goes.

P.S  I just found a post I did on Burnout in August of 2010 a tad over eight  years ago. I was flabbergasted to discover it.  How can that be possible? Time really has gotten away from me. The link, which was supplied to me by WordPress just now is right here:

Burnout

 

 

 

Long Time, No Write

Well, it’s been awhile since I posted. A long while.  Like, a years-long while… I’ve been busy doing everything, it seems, except writing.  In fact, I just now canceled my Feed-Blitz account which sent out my posts to whoever signed up to receive them, because they kept sending me notices and bills for a service I hadn’t been using for years. And then they sent me a bill for a mailing list that had no names/addresses on it… telling me to pay up now or else.

It was probably stupidly impulsive — I should have at least waited until I’d written this post, but on the other hand, many of addresses in my file were likely no any good any more, anyway.  I think the service was geared more to people who are trying to sell things, than to someone with a simple blog.  Plus my own blog reading habits don’t require me to get a post in my inbox. I just check my favorite sites each day and read them as a matter of routine. It’s easier that way.

Of course if you’re trying to sell something, you’ll want to make sure people get reminded to read your posts as often as they come out, but that’s no longer what I’m doing.  As to what I am doing… well… I’m not sure…  I may be retired and just not know it yet. We’ll see.

Edward Gibbon on the Fall of Roman Empire

I just came across this in an article from The American Thinker, entitled The Quiet Revolution: How the New Left Took Over the Democratic Party, by Scott Powell. Though it’s not short, the entire piece is well worth the time it takes to read it, tracing as it does the way Marxism, Leninism and other communistic “isms” have slowly made their way into American politics, society, and government — precisely, as it happens, in the manner that some of them advised.

However when I got to the part where Powell references the famous historian Edward Gibbon and what he said regarding aspects of Roman society that were precursors to Rome’s fall, I thought the parallels as they apply to what we’re seeing in the USA today were so inescapable and sobering, I wanted to share them:

The big question is whether the nation can survive and prosper if the culture remains fractured with a majority adrift from the heritage, morality and values of liberty and personal responsibility that are at the heart of the Declaration and the Constitution.

Edward Gibbon, the renowned historian, published his first of six-volumes of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in 1776, the year Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Gibbon described six attributes that Rome embodied at its end: first, an overwhelming love of show and luxury; second, a widening gap between the rich and the poor; third, an obsession with sports and a freakishness in the arts, masquerading as creativity and originality; fourth, a decline in morals, increase in divorce and decline in the institution of the family; fifth, economic deterioration resulting from debasement of the currency, inflation, excessive taxation, and overregulation; and sixth, an increased desire by the citizenry to live off the state.

One might hope that awareness of factors associated with Rome’s fall would prompt an awakening in America. But so many are now disengaged and relatively few people read books, let alone possess the capacity to reflect deeply about causality and historical parallels. Many feel atomized and helpless.

Turning around America’s decline will require more than just political change. It’s vital to reestablish a positive and solid framework and foundation, around which a majority consensus could emerge and grow.  Such a foundation was well understood and articulated by George Washington — revered by many as the greatest of all U.S. presidents. His timeless wisdom was conveyed in both his speech consecrating the nation at its birth and also in his Farewell Address delivered eight years later upon leaving office.  He said:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports… Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

You can  Read the entire article HERE.

 

Repost: Reflections on Soaring

When the eagle soars, he doesn’t have to work. The shape of his wings and his momentum are what provide the lift along with the rising air currents. All he has to do is extend his wings and float, so of course he’s not going to get tired. He’s just lying there…Resting. Waiting. Letting other forces carry him along.

We like to flap our wings. It feels good and strong to flap flap flap and suddenly, wow! you gain a bit of speed and lift and you’re flying. Only to fall back to earth panting, dazed and exhausted. But oh, that bit when you were in the air – stimulating in the extreme. Flapping comes naturally to us.

By contrast the eagle most often begins his flight by jumping off a cliff. The very last thing we want to do! Jumping off cliffs does not come at all naturally.

The analogy continues as you consider that the shape of the eagle’s wings is the way God made him to be, tools he’s been given that he had no say over and did not make. For us, that would be all the things God has given us at salvation in the spiritual realm, but most importantly the indwelling of the Spirit and His Word. The eagle’s momentum comes from flying – from jumping off the cliff and gliding away. After he has glided a bit, he flaps his wings to gain more altitude so he can float some more. For us, flying would be learning the doctrine (flapping – because it does take effort to learn), believing it, then applying it to the circumstances of our lives. Which leads to rest. So… flapping is learning and applying the word to our lives, while floating is the result of that application.

An hour a day reading/studying the Word, 23 hours resting in what you’ve learned. No wonder the soaring eagle doesn’t get tired.

Originally posted Thursday, April 20, 2006 on www.karenhancock.blogspot.com

Repost: Soaring Eagle

eagle2

National Wildlife Federation Christmas card: Sacred Heights by Daniel Smith

 

I was thinking about soaring eagles and prairie chickens the other day and recalled this card we received last Christmas. I dug it out of my pile of papers and was struck by how relevant it suddenly seemed to me. The fact that the eagle is ALONE is a big one. As is the fact that when he is soaring, he’s not really doing anything, just resting on the wind currents. His perspective is high and far. And even though there are storm clouds all around, there is light bursting through them. Beautiful picture of our life with God.

He soars above it all, and below him, far, far out of sight are the prairie chickens — flocking and squawking and chattering. Fluttering, clucking, scratching in the dirt, huddling together, going after bugs and seeds. They find safety in numbers (you only have to fly faster than one other prairie chicken to escape the predator!). Where one goes they all go, often without thought. It’s a horizontal existence and a horizontal perspective.

But the eagle lives in the heights. He lives with the higher, bigger, broader perspective. And he is at peace. Ironically, the title of the card is “Peace on earth” and after reading that, it hit me that the only way one can have true peace while on earth is to be a soaring eagle.

Is 40:31 Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary.

Originally posted on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 www.karenhancock.blogspot.com

 

A Good Excuse to Read

For the last two weeks I’ve had the flu!  What fun.

Actually, it was kinda. Last year when we got the flu after our Christmas trip, I read a Vince Flynn book that I’d had on my shelf for ages: Transfer of Power. I enjoyed it a great deal.

Tranfer of Power

I’d read his first novel, Term Limits, years ago and thought it was really lame and juvenile, so I never tried another. But he went on to become a very popular, best-selling author, so I decided, in the hopes that he had improved his skills over time, I would try his second book, mentioned above. Surprise!  I liked it.

Of course I did have the flu, and it was a welcome diversion from the wretchedness of being ill, but really, I thought it was pretty good. Transfer of Power is the first one where his series hero, Mitch Rapp is the main character, and it is about terrorists taking control of the White House, killing dozens and taking hundreds hostage. Rapp, the CIA’s “top counterterrorism operative” is sent in to take care of the problem.

With this most recent bout of the flu, I turned to Flynn again, seeing as I had found at the used bookstore the next two of his novels in the series: The Third Option and Separation of Power.

Third Option

I read both, back to back, all the while going through boxes of Kleenex almost as if I were some sort of Kleenex soiling machine. (I couldn’t believe how fast I went through them, nor how much “stuff” I had to soil them with!)

The verdict? I enjoyed both books, though I struggled at bit with The Third Option at the beginning because I kept getting lost. Finally about a quarter of the way through, when I realized I had no idea what was going on, I wondered if I was no longer capable of reading books as complex as these with my aging brain… Or was the problem really Flynn simply not being clear? After all, the characters in The Third Option had been presented as if I should know who they were, but I couldn’t remember any of them and there were no reminders for those who might be in my position.

Finally I went back and dug up my old reviews of Term Limits, his first book, and made my first discovery — the characters I was puzzling over In Transfer of Power were indeed the main characters in Term Limits. A book I’d read 11 years ago!  No wonder I couldn’t remember them nor the operations they’d taken part in!

I also went back to the beginning of The Third Option and started going through the writing itself, just to see if it really wasn’t very clear.  (This is the kind of thing a writer does. Normal people probably don’t. If you are an aspiring writer, however, I recommend you do this… It can be very enlightening and help you avoid similar mistakes)

And what was the result of my investigation of technique? The writing was, indeed, unclear.

For one thing, Flynn writes from the omniscient point of view, which means he jumps into any characters’ viewpoint whenever he wishes all within the same scene. The problem with this type of point of view (pov) is that if you’re not careful you can lose your reader along the way, and that’s exactly what happened. You have to be very clear you’re making a pov jump and to whose point of view you are jumping, which Flynn didn’t always do.

For example, the first chapter starts in Rapp’s point of view where he’s walking alone through the woods in Germany, reconnoitering the estate he is about to “invade,” then returns to a cabin where his two teammates have set up.  He enters. There’s some description of the man and woman already there,  the interior, and some equipment. Then it says

“Rapp had never met the man and woman before. He knew them only as Tom and Jane Hoffman. They were in their mid-forties, and as far as Rapp could tell, they were married. The Hoffmans had stopped in two countries before arriving in Frankfurt. Their tickets had been purchased under assumed names with matching credit cards and passports provided by their contact. They were also given their standard fee of ten thousand dollars for a week’s work, paid up-front in cash. They were told someone would be joining them and, as always not to ask any questions.”

All of that is consistent with Rapp’s point of view, which we were clearly in. In the next paragraph, there’s no reason to think it’s not Rapp’s as well, recalling things the Hoffman’s have told him about their journey to this point (or perhaps that he knew from other sources since he’s running this operation):

“All of their equipment was waiting for them at the cottage when they arrived. They started right in on surveillance of the estate and its owner. Several days later they were paid a visit by a man known only to them as the professor. They were given an additional twenty-five thousand dollars and were told they would receive another twenty-five thousand dollars when they completed the mission. He had given them a quick briefing on the man who would be joining them…”

The problem is that this second paragraph is all from the Hoffman’s pov and includes information Rapp does not have. But there’s nothing in the text to give you even a hint of that. In fact, in paragraph one they’re told by their contact that someone will be joining them and in paragraph two that this “professor” has joined them… so… it seemed logical to put those two together, all of it stuff that Rapp knows about.

Except that he doesn’t, as I said, the viewpoint having shifted out of Rapp’s specific awareness at the end of paragraph one and into a general omniscient.  And since that’s not remotely clear, the result is confusion on the reader’s part. At least on this reader’s part.

You could say this was the fault of the reader not reading carefully enough, but I disagree. As an author, you want the reader to rip through your story, especially if it’s a thriller. They aren’t going to be reading carefully, they’re reading to find out what happens and “How is he going to get out of this?!”

 No, it’s up to the author to make it all clear and smooth so the reader always knows through whose eyes he’s experiencing the story.  C.S. Lewis once said something to the effect of (I’m paraphrasing) “Readers are like sheep going down a path. If there’s any way for them to go besides the way you want them to, that’s where they’ll go. Hence, you have to make sure that every gate is closed to them except the ones you want them to go through.”

I don’t think Flynn did such a great job of that in The Third Option, at least not in the beginning. Once I had figured it all out, though, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. And it was especially  good to know I wasn’t all washed up as a reader of complicated political/military thrillers, which I love! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Why Not Try This?

Last week, having discovered the nine-year-old post I “reposted” yesterday, I decided to put the “discoveries” I’d made therein into practice. I would take all those pesky cards with all their suggestions and ideas that I’d found so confusing, and assemble them into a list.

Except, when I went to do that, I discovered that the cards had disappeared. After a few moments cogitation, spiced with alarm at the notion I might somehow have thrown them all away,  I recalled that I’d already made a list of them, and furthermore, that it had been more or less incorporated into a very wordy and long-winded “outline.”  (I use the word advisedly. It isn’t so much an outline as a… conglomeration. Maybe a step up from the non-ordered list mentioned in the last post, but nowhere near any kind of cohesive outline.)

That I forgot having already made my list, is yet one more result of the fractured nature of my life these days. I seem to get in a couple of good days of work and then… Things Happen that I must deal with, or that distract me despite my intention not to be distracted, and when I finally get back to work, I can’t remember where I left off. That’s because I never envision the latest weird distraction that may come up to consume my time the next day and keep me away from the office, so often I don’t make detailed notes of what I must do next. (And that assumes I even know what I must do next.)

If I do make notes, when I come back to the work after the interruptions, I often can’t figure out what they mean nor recall what I had in mind when I wrote them. So once again I’m left sitting there with a feeling of confusion, my head full of whirling thoughts and ideas and ‘maybe’s,’ but nothing concrete. So there I sit, staring at the computer screen, or the papers on my desk… getting nowhere, wanting to run away, and finally recalling that I should to take my problem to the Lord, which I did.

And He delivered the following, which I happened to find amidst my papers — which is to say, I can’t recall how I found it, only that suddenly it was lying there on my desk and I picked it up. And read it:

Cobble notes card

[Transcription if you can’t decipher this:  “Here’s something I’ve been doing (22 Feb 2005): Just putting my narrative notes right into the chapter, or cobbling snatches of dialog together in order to get something going — instead of sitting down and writing the sequence out whole cloth.”]

And by “writing the sequence out whole cloth,”  I meant “start with the fully realized scene and just write it out as it might appear in the finished copy” (yes, I was delusional, but often delusional people don’t realize they are being delusional). To do that, of course, I needed to figure out all the details in advance which was where I was getting hung up.

But hey, this note from the me of the past suggested I forget about trying to make it all orderly and cause and effect and logical… instead of all that, just get the stuff down. You can always change it later.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. If Sevorius is going to walk into the room Varko is in… do I have a description of that room somewhere? Grab it and put it in. What about Varko? Do I have a description of him? Oh yes. In fact I have pages and pages of notes on him, including all manner of details. So I copied and pasted the description, and worked in some of those others notes, and  so on.

As I saw again how sometimes that was all that was needed to get a scene moving. And if not, I’d just stop, type in a

**

and move on, inserting or laying down whatever other idea/dialogue snatch I had for that character in that general section of the story. It’s what I did yesterday and I ended up with 15 pages of chapter 14 which I’m calling it done for now.

More than that, several things happened along the way that I hadn’t anticipated. For one, Sevorius is suddenly having panic attacks and he has no idea why.  For another, Varko wants him to look into my hero’s past, and suddenly a whole line of conflict I hadn’t thought of has presented itself. Yay!

Next up is chapter 15 and I’m going to continue mining my outline and voluminous notes for material to “stuff” into the chapter. That is, see if there aren’t some new interruptions – distractions – crucial errands/tasks that must be run/carried out/endured Right Now This Very Instant!!!  that I can put into my next scene.

Repost: The Outline

(Originally posted Wednesday, February 22, 2006)

I know I’ve said in different places that I tend not to make outlines, but that’s only partially true. There comes a point in the process of writing the story that I suddenly realize I have to at least tentatively plot the rest of the book.

Saturday I finished a very rough, very sketchy draft of Chapter 13, and with that reached the end of Part 1. After that I realized I had to plot the rest of the book. Until this point I’ve had stacks of index cards sitting around my desk. Stacks of things that might happen, or could happen, or will happen to Abramm. Stacks of things for Maddie. And Trap. And Carissa. Smaller stacks for others. Periodically I go through them and try to sort, but it’s usually very difficult, because they aren’t all even events. Sometimes the note is just of someone’s general mindset. Or it’s a note on the background situation. Or even a description. It might be a line of dialog that could really go anywhere. I probably have about six inches worth of stacks. Maybe more.

This sort of thing is very hard to order, and often I end up laying a batch of cards out on the desk in no particular order. I arrange a few of them together, shake my head over the rest, then give up and go back to whatever early chapter I was working on.

But eventually I have to know more clearly where I’m going and that happened last weekend. So for the last two and half days I’ve been taking the cards and putting them into a list. If I try too hard to put them into an ordered list, I will freak myself out. So I just require that I put them on the list, and assure myself I will deal with the ordering later. I got this idea from a book called Overcoming Writing Blocks, out of print now, unfortunately. It’s the one that suggested I make the index cards of Whatever Occurs to Me in the first place. And at this stage in the process it informs me that “a frequent cause of blocking is the confusion that ensues when you try to hold the entire pattern in your head at one time.” Amen, to that!

So you just sit down and you start listing your notes. “Once you’ve made the transfer from cards to list,” says the book, “you will automatically begin to engage that powerful ranking faculty everyone possesses: certain entries will begin to stand out from the page… others will naturally fall into secondary positions, to cluster around more important concepts that they support…” And how about this? It works.

I now have about 10 pages of plotline. Which is a good thing. The bad thing is that I’ve got waaay too much. So much, it makes me want to hyperventilate. So much, I have to back off, and put it all in the Lord’s hands. I don’t know how He’s going to do it, but somehow He will bring order to all this. And it’s a good thing, because from where I sit at the moment, it looks downright impossible!

Writing Diary: Thwarted Again

tortoise2

I seem to be moving like a tortoise these days.

Well, things were going well last week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I began to move — slowly — through Chapter 14. But then came Friday and my morning appointment with the eye doctor to make sure the shingles I developed in my eye a couple of years ago was still quiescent.

The appointment went normally, the news was good, but when I was driving home — slowly, via back streets — I noticed that everything seemed much brighter and blurrier than in the past. I chalked it up to the fact that it was a clear, bright day, whereas the last time I’d done it, the day had been overcast and I had driven home later in the afternoon.

But even when I got home, everything was so bright I had to close most of the blinds. And I could hardly even look at the computer screen, much less work on it.  Focusing on the small printed words of my hard-copy drafts was difficult as well, and I began to think my sight had degenerated much more than I feared (even though tests at the eye doctor’s had said otherwise). I could not work on the book at all:  couldn’t look at the computer screen, couldn’t stand to read the print on typed pages, was getting a headache just trying… so I worked on cards. And even that was a strain.

Finally, increasingly frustrated with my inability to see clearly I went into the bathroom to check on my pupil, thinking it was only the left eye that had been dilated, which was the usual procedure. Instead I finally discovered the problem: the tech had dilated both my eyes, by mistake, I think, since the doctor never looked in my right eye, only the left. In any case, there they were, these huge black pupils staring back at me. Even though it had been hours since the appointment, they still looked huge — which brings up another drawback to seeing the eye doctor in the morning rather than the afternoon: I have blue eyes and from what I’ve read,  dilation takes longer to recede in blue eyes than it does in brown eyes.  Indeed, it wasn’t until well into the evening before they were back to normal… and so, once again my intentions to keep consistent in writing this book were thwarted.

The next day, Saturday, I could see again, but now I had all the errands I might have done Friday but couldn’t, to attend to: dog food to pick up, dog bran to buy, a car gas tank on empty to fill up… administrative duties, etc. So no work then, either.

Today was our local assembly’s monthly communion and pot luck, longer than usual because we had a visit from some evangelist friends who minister in Pakistan. It was great to see and visit with them… but when I got home I was wiped out and so… yet another day where I didn’t get to the book…

Still I did manage to this post written!  So I shall feel good about that, at least…  I set all this down, as example of all the weird things that keep happening to interrupt the flow, consume time I’d hoped to devote to writing, and even get me off kilter. I keep asking myself, “Was it always like this? How did I get those other books written, anyway?”

Nevertheless, I do know that everything comes to me through my Lord’s permission, and for my blessing, even if it doesn’t seem like much of a blessing. He’s definitely teaching me patience. Or maybe I should say He’s giving me lots of lessons designed to develop it. I am just a very slow learner…