Friday, December 30, 2011

Why Are Men to Lead?

Why did God choose men to lead? Actually, that is probably the wrong question. As I’m sure you will recall, Paul’s basis for saying that men are the head of the family is based on the fact that God created Adam first and then Eve. Though some people may see that as rather arbitrary because it seems like the luck of the draw whether a person will be either male or female, consider that what God did is not unlike what you would do if you were picking a team of workers. The first person you would pick would the team leader. You would decide what you need in a leader, look for a person who meets those qualifications, and once you found that person, you would pick a team who complimented that person’s style of leadership. God had an advantage over us. He was able to decide what he wanted in a leader and then build the guy to exacting standards. In choosing a helper, he looked first at the creatures that were already there, but when Adam didn’t find anything he liked, God made a helper who complimented Adam perfectly.

When we look at it that way, there is no room for debate over whether men should be the head of the family or not. The leaders of the family are men, by definition. The question that we might be asking is why God gave leaders the characteristics that he did. Some are obvious. If you were trying to make a leader, wouldn’t you want it to be taller and stronger than the rest of the group? And you wouldn’t want a leader who is prone to emotional outbursts. Others aren’t as obvious. Men talk less than women. Men are less nurturing. Men approach problems as an issue to conquer, while women see problems as an opportunity to deepen relationships through discussion. Men approach problems one at a time while women tend consider all at once, but that also leads to women being prone to becoming overwhelmed.

In looking for differences between men and women, I found one particular difference very interesting. In studies done in which groups of boys and groups of girls were tasked with finding their way out of a maze, the boys tended to form a hierarchical structure with a leader and scouts. Girls, on the other hand, tended to remain together, discussed the problem, and employed a “collective intelligence.” Part of why I find this interesting is because not only do boys naturally see the need for a leader, but they naturally look for ways to delegate.

The thing that makes this unpopular is that people have the idea that it is better to lead than it is to follow. So when we start talking about God making men the leaders, people think we’re saying that men are better than women. I don’t think God intended it to be that way. He made men and women to be a matched pair. They are equals, but different. Yes, the man is the head of the family, but he is not free to do whatever he wants. He has the responsibility lead the family where it should be going. Yes, the woman is to follow, but that doesn’t mean she will end up going where she doesn’t want to go because the family is going where we would hope she also would have chosen if it had been her decision. But it frees her to think more about the here and now, which is what women prefer to think about, knowing that the man is planning for the future.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Look at Love

A recent discussion of Romance novels caused me to reexamine the Greek love words. These are storge, phileo, eros, and agape. There’s little question what some of these mean. storge appears to be a fondness for the people we know. You might have this for your co-workers. phileo goes farther than that. It is more like the love that David and Jonathan had for each other and apparently, it is the love Peter had for Jesus. It reminds me of old family friends that you may not see for months, but when you get together it is like you’ve never been apart. Then there is eros which is that natural sexual desire that we all have. It is good when a man has it for his wife, but he could also have it for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. We don’t have much control over it, but we do have the choice not to act on it. Lastly, there is agape, which I suspect is misunderstood by many people.

The reason I think this word is misunderstood is because people have equated agape with the unconditional love of God. We humans are not able to love like God loves, so people assume that we can never reach the level of agape love. Sounds good. The problem is that God command husbands to agapeo their wives.

Rather than looking at agape as unconditional love, as C. S. Lewis did, it seems like a better understanding is that agape is the intentional love. The other loves are built on hormones, chemistry, and chauvinism. But agape is a choice. You don’t have to like someone, or be sexual attracted to someone to be able to love someone with agape love. They may be mean and smell bad, but you can choose to love them anyway. By its nature, it is typically unconditional because a person has chosen to love someone for their own reason, rather than because of how the person looks or treats them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Praise God, I'm Free at Last!

I paid off my mortgage the other day. I’ve got to admit that it made me a little nervous. I’d been saving up the money for some time and it made me nervous because my bank account suddenly dropped by a significant amount. But I talked myself into hitting the button. The mortgage is gone. I am officially debt free!

It will take me a while to build up my savings to what it was before, but it is very freeing to know that there isn’t a bank out there who has a right to foreclose on my house or to repossess my car. And though life always has expenses, it is nice to know that if I were to suddenly lose my job that I would have a roof over my head for as long as it took to find a new one.

Ultimately, it is God who provides and in this case, I believe it is he who has given me the ability to pay off my house. He has blessed me well, though I frequently wonder why. I certainly don’t deserve all he has given me.

As I think about this, I can only say that the wealthiest people in the world are those who know how to live within their means. I work with people who make more money than me, but to hear some of them talk, they make hardly anything. I once watched a documentary on the wealthy and one person made the comment that he just didn’t see how someone could live on $6 million a year. And yet, I’ve seen people who made low five figure salaries who never lacked for anything. It doesn’t matter how much money a person makes as much as it matters what they do with it.

I’m at that point where I will have to give thought to what I’m going to do with that money that will no longer be going toward principle and interest. Much of it will go into savings, because there will be other major expenses in my lifetime, and I would rather not go into debt again. But where and how much? I must give that some thought, but I’m glad to be free.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Humbled by Winning

A company I own stock in sent out an announcement about a new contract they had been awarded. In their statement they said, “we are humbled by this selection.” Suspect that companies say that as a way of recognizing the efforts of those who put effort into making the decision and it sounds better than singing We Are the Champions, no matter how much you might want to do that. One also doesn’t want to offend the selection committee while the paperwork is still being signed.

But it made me wonder. Is the statement correct? “We are humbled by this selection.” Is anyone ever humbled by winning? I suspect not. We can be humble when we win, but it is not winning that humbles us. Losses can humble us. If we’re expecting to win, but if someone we didn’t expect to win beats us, it will humble us. But what can humble us when we win?

To be humbled when we win requires that we look at the competition and see what they are capable of. We’re glad when we win that we came out on top, but the humble person knows that the competition put up a good fight. While we may have had the edge, we cannot afford to become complacent because the competition is worthy.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Story for We

People say that a writer should imagine he is writing to one person, much like he would if he were writing a letter. The idea is that by doing so he will avoid the problems caused by trying to say too many things to too many people. But I see something wrong with this idea. Imagine, if you will, that you have a mother-in-law that you can’t stand and you have chosen to write to her. So, in your story you begin to point out what is wrong with everything she does. When she reads the story, if the theme is obvious, she will take offense. That is probably why some people have the idea that we shouldn’t have an obvious theme.

Sometimes, we intend for people to be offended, and that’s okay, but just because we don’t want people offended doesn’t mean we must not have an obvious theme. Instead of writing your story to her, write it to we. Find a way to include yourself in your audience. Instead of venturing into areas you know nothing about, look for common ground. Don’t tell your mother-in-law what she should be doing, but find things both of you should be doing and write about those. People are much better about taking advice when they know you are talking about yourself too.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's Christmas, of course you should go to church today.

Merry Christmas. I hope you are attending church somewhere this Christmas, whether with your home church or at a church where you are vacationing. If you live in Fort Worth and are looking for a church with its doors open today, South Park Baptist Church will have preaching at ten o’clock this morning.

Now, on to other things. I thought the video below very fitting for a Christmas post:

Flash mobs like this interest me because they take art to the world. People who might not visit a concert hall, a church, or even the center court of a mall while a choir is singing, will stop and listen. Still more will pass these videos around on the Internet. In spite of what some church music directors believe, people still like choirs. So why aren’t people flocking to churches with talented choirs? Largely, I think it has to do with keeping up appearances or event the fear of death. Some people are afraid to say that they like choir music because they think their friends will think they are strange. Some people may see attending choir performances as something “old people” do, so they’re afraid that if they start going they are that much closer to dying.

Anyway flash mobs seem to get around that problem, for now. So have a Merry Christmas and I hope you prove wrong all the preachers who are saying people won’t go to church today.

Friday, December 23, 2011

On Marketing Books

The saying is that you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. To me, it seems like marketing is like bringing horses to water. The more horses you bring, the more horses will drink, but not all will. If you are trying to sell a book, your job isn’t to make people buy the book. Your readers will decide whether they want to buy the book or not. What you are trying to do is to put the book in front of as many people as possible. The more people who know about the book, the more that will buy the book. You need not be concerned with those people who don’t buy the book. They weren’t thirsty enough to drink. And who knows, maybe they’ll be thirsty sometime later. So you just keep putting it out there.

Some time ago, I heard that on average, a person has to see a book seven times before he makes a decision. That implies that we should look for ways to put it in front of the same people seven times. The problem with that is that we may spend a lot of time putting it out there and no one is interested. On the other hand, there are some people who will see a book one time and make a purchase. A better approach is probably that we put the book in front of the people who are most likely to want or need the book. We don’t try putting it in front of them multiple times, but the people who are the most likely to buy the book will likely see it frequently anyway, because they will be looking in many of the places where we are mentioning the book.

What this means is that we keep looking for places to mention our book. That may be through paid advertising. That may be on a radio show. That may be on the Internet. We don’t have to spend a lot of time talking about it, but we do want to put it in front of as many of the right people as we can. Those who want it will gladly buy it. Those who don’t may think we’re pushing it too hard. That just means they aren’t thirsty yet.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Helping Those Who Sin

People don’t care if someone is good or not, as long as they are nice. That is part of the reason why people change their attitude about sin, like adultery or homosexuality, when it involves a person who is part of the family. When we think of an adulterer as a bad person, it is easy to see it as wrong, but when someone we know and like is involved in adultery, we want to dismiss it rather than think of them as bad people. The same is true of homosexuality. As long as it only involves people who hang out at gay bars, or Catholic priests who are a little too familiar with the boys, it is easy to think of homosexuality as bad, but when it involves a family member or a friend, it looks very different.
The real problem is that we have the wrong idea about sin. Think of Jesus and the woman at the well. She was an outcast because of her sin. She had had many men and she had likely taken some of those away from their wives. She wasn’t a good person. I don’t know if she was a nice person or not, but Jesus didn’t treat her differently because of what she did or how she acted. Rather, he treated her like a person who needed help. Sure, she had caused her own problem, but she still needed help.
Sin is a bad thing, no matter who is involved or how nice a person happens to be. Our desire to help someone should not be influenced by whether we think they deserve it or not. Sure, we naturally want to help a child whose father drinks too much, but what about the father? He is as much a victim of his choices as the child is.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Marriage May Be Weak, But Not Forever

Marriage is on the decline. People who do get married are getting married later in life. And many couples forego the legal ceremony and simply live together. Of course, once people start living together, they don’t really see the need for a ceremony because they are “essentially married.” It sounds bleak, and indeed it is, but I don’t think it will always be this way.

Life goes in cycles. Part of the reason why people don’t see a reason to get married these days is because they see marriage as something of a religious nature. It is religious people who see a problem with adultery, so when people reject God they also reject marriage. But in time, people will begin to see that marriage isn’t a matter of religion, but God instituted it for a reason. Let me give you a real life example, I’ll change the names to protect the guilty.

Jason and Rachel were high school sweethearts. They were so in love. One night, maybe even many nights, things got out of hand and they found themselves in bed together. That was okay, they thought. No one would find out and if they did, who cares? But then Rachel missed a period. A baby was on the way. She told Jason and though he was sorry he’d gotten her pregnant, he wasn’t ready to be a father and they broke up. The baby came and for several months it was just Rachel and her parents taking care of the baby. But then Jason decided that he wanted to be a part of his son’s life. So they worked out a deal where Rachel would keep the baby for a while and then Jason would keep the baby for a while.

All went well, until one day, Rachel and her parents went to pick up the baby and Jason wouldn’t open the door. “He’s sleeping.” He said, and wouldn’t let her take the baby. Then the calls began. Jason would call Rachel and tell her what a bad mother she was for not taking care of the baby, but when she would go to get the baby, he wouldn’t let her see him. One day, Rachel’s mother called Jason’s mother and asked, “Why won’t you let us see the baby?” Then came the reply, “We’re afraid you’ll take him and not bring him back.”

Though we might think Jason a bad person, Rachel didn’t think so when they were together. So what I think people will begin to see is that the commitment of marriage prevents nice people from turning into monsters. People can be driving to do almost anything when they fear their children will be taken away from them. Forget the religious side of it, marriage is an agreement between two people that they are going to stay together. People will begin to see that the people who have made that commitment and work to keep it are much better off than those who have not. When that happens, people will return to the desire for marriage.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Simple or Complex?

I listened to the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts the other day. It is a beautiful hymn, but I really hadn’t paid attention to the words before. As I listened to the very talented singer singing those words, it struck me how much it worships simplicity. People worship so many things, but it is God that we ought to worship. People work at so many religious things. For the Shakers that thing appears to be simplicity. The claim of the hymn seems to be that if we can achieve simplicity then everything else will fall into place. But that isn’t what the Bible says. The Bible says that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to us. As far as I know, God has never required anyone to be simple before they can approach him.

What God does require is that we be righteous, but it isn’t righteousness that we can work at and gain. It is okay to be complicated instead of simple. It is okay to have stuff as long as we don’t worship the stuff rather than the person who created the stuff. Likewise, if you really want to simplify your life and get rid of your stuff, that is okay too, as long as you are not doing that so you don’t have to rely on God to provide.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Time Is Really Here

It’s the week before Christmas. If you have a job that, that probably means you are extra busy at work. Perhaps you have taken the week off or you are planning on taking time off next week. If you have kids, they will be home from school and you’ll be anxious for them to go back. There are parties to plan and presents to wrap. Think of all the kids who are anxious for Christmas to come. They have no idea just how busy Christmas is. I’m just glad it only comes once a year.

Of course, we’re all supposed to remember the reason for the season. I don’t think many of us forget. It is all the rest of it that is stressful. But trust me, it won’t be long and it will be over. In a couple of weeks, everything will be back to normal and our biggest concern will be whether the weather is going to shut the schools down or not.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Book for Art of Illusion

Today, I am pleased to announce that my latest book is available to purchase. Extending Art of Illusion is a book for people who would like to make the most of the open source tool Art of Illusion by writing their own plugins and scripts. Art of Illusion is a user-friendly 3D modeling tool developed by Peter Eastman.

I believe Extending Art of Illusion is needed because the current documentation on plugin development for Art of Illusion is inadequate. As far as I know, this book is the only book that is currently available for Art of Illusion. There is much information available online about Art of Illusion, but most of that is on how to use Art of Illusion as is. The person who would like to automate some of their frequent tasks in Art of Illusion may have difficulty finding the information they need to accomplish their goal. When I began writing plugins, most of the guidance I found online was so out of date that it would not work with the latest version of Art of Illusion. I spend hours trying to figure out why it wasn’t working, then even more time figuring out what I really needed from an example that did. My hope is that Extending Art of Illusion will help readers get past that problem without the same difficulties.

Extending Art of Illusion is broken up into two major sections. The first section provides guidance on how to start writing plugins and scripts for Art of Illusion. It begins with a simple “Hello World” plugin that demonstrates how to set up the work environment to develop plugins. The other examples build on that concept. The example plugins in Extending Art of Illusion include a plugin that will drop the selected object to the “floor” of the scene at the press of a keystroke, a plugin that will point one object (such as a camera) at another, a plugin that will place one object on top of another, and a plugin for creating a procedural texture. There is also a script for creating a walled room and a scripted object that draws axes in the scene. My desire in creating these examples was that, even if readers don’t spend a lot of time developing their own plugins, they will find the plugins in Extending Art of Illusion add value to Art of Illusion.

The second section of the book is a quick reference. It includes the “header file” information for both Art of Illusion and Buoy. This quick reference is to provide an overview of the classes and methods available to people who are writing Art of Illusion plugins or scripts. People who already know how to write code for Art of Illusion will likely find this section to the be the most useful section of the Extending Art of Illusion.

Extending Art of Illusion is currently available at for $44.95. It will be available from other booksellers soon. Extending Art of Illusion is 540 pages long. I hope that anyone who wants to develop their own plugins and scripts for Art of Illusion will find this book useful.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's Not Just What You Say

A frustrated author stated the other day that it isn’t about what you write but who you know. This particular author was frustrated about someone who had gotten a book deal because he knew someone in the publishing industry, while the author was still trying to find someone to publish his book. That got me thinking. Where is it written that it should be about what we write rather than who we know?

We want quality books, but consider the situation in which a publisher has a friend who has written a book. What makes us think that he should publish the book of a stranger instead of publishing the book of his friend? Maybe it is true that the stranger has written a better book than his friend, but that’s not the point. What kind of friends would we be if we weren’t willing to give our friends special consideration?

Also, consider that the importance of what a person says may be dependent on who that person is. When the President speaks, whether we see him as highly intelligent of the butt of jokes, people listen to what he has to say. What people say is important, but who they are is also important.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Using Kindle Prices as a Measure of Quality

I’ve created a personal rule of thumb for when I buy books. If the Kindle version is priced at $2.99 or lower, I don’t buy it. I realize that is the opposite of the attitude that many Kindle owners have, since many of them bought Kindles hoping to get cheap books, but I have my reasons. If I want to keep the book, I’ll probably buy the paper version. But if the book is one that is normally printed on cheap newsprint paper anyway, I’ll purchase the Kindle version, even though it will cost me $8.

My thinking is that the people who are pricing their books at $2.99 and below are self-published authors who have the idea that lower prices will generate more sales. I’ve got nothing against self-published authors. In fact, I have several books in my library that I purchased for about $20 because that is what the subsidy press was charging for them. But here’s the thing, people who are willing to sell their work at very low prices don’t see their work as valuable. They price their work that low because they don’t think people are willing to pay more than that. That is quite possibly true, in which case, it isn’t of high enough quality for it to be worth my time.

I’m sure there are exceptions, but when you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, you have to have some way to eliminate the least likely places you’ll find a needle. You start by finding the genre you like. If you don’t typically like romances, you don’t go looking there. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some romances you would enjoy, but you’re more likely to find a book you like somewhere else. Since the traditional publishers generally charge more than $2.99, and the highest percentage of poorly written books is among the self-published stuff, if we eliminate anything under that then we’ve eliminated the bulk of the poorly written books.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why It's Okay to Say Happy Holidays or Send an X-mas Card

Why do we get upset about these things? The other day, I walked into church and someone had set out a bunch of buttons that said, “It’s okay to say Merry Christmas.” I suppose you’re suppose to wear them to the store and the clerk will know that you won’t be offended by the use of the word Christmas. For the past few years, people have been upset over the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays.” Before that, people were upset about the word, “X-mas.” The belief is that people are trying to take Christ out of Christmas. But I found the irony interesting when I watched a video on Merriam-Webster’s website. One of their editors was talking about where the word “X-mas” came from. It turns out that it is a printer’s abbreviation from back when every letter took a lot of time to produce. The X, in this case, is actually the first letter of a word that we would translate as Christ. Today, we might have written it as C-mas instead. So, people aren’t taking Christ out of Christmas, they’re just abbreviating it.

And what of “Happy Holidays”? Here too, people generally mean Christmas when they use it, but the phrase itself comes from “Happy Holy Days.” That has meaning if you see Christmas as a holy day. I’m Baptist and we don’t really have true Holy days. We also don’t observe mass. So why get upset about all of this? Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Merry X-mas are all saying the same thing, so that shouldn’t be reason enough to be upset. I almost want a button that says, “It’s okay to say ‘Happy X-mas’” just because I know it will upset a few people, but think about it. None of these terms are accurate. It isn’t a Holy day and it isn’t a mass. We might call it Christ’s Birthday, but we know it comes at the wrong time of year for that. It certainly isn’t worth fighting over.

So here’s what I propose. Instead of worrying about people taking Christ out of Christmas or making sure people say Merry Christmas, let’s just enjoy the season. Let’s go about our business, buying gifts for our family and friends, eating too much, and watching kids play sheep in the Christmas play. Let’s remember that there was a day about 2,000 years ago when a baby was born to a virgin and shepherds saw angels. Let’s remember that wise men traveled from the east to see him. And most importantly, let’s remember that he came to be the final sacrifice for our sins. Isn’t that much better than worrying about what to call the day?

Monday, December 12, 2011

How Much Should a Kindle Book Cost

How much should a Kindle book cost? Some people have gotten the idea that Kindle books should cost less than print books because the publisher has lower costs. Personally, I think that books should be priced to match demand. This is because publishers work on an 80/20 rule in which 80% of the money comes from 20% of the books. It may even be a 90/10 in which 90% of the money comes from 10% of the books. The 10% are actually making up for losses in the 90%. But one person recently indicated that she didn’t like paying “high” prices for Kindle books because she thought the publishers were charging far above their expenses. She indicated she might be swayed by hard numbers. Publishers don’t reveal much, but I’ve put together as close to what she wanted as I could.
Here are the publishing prices Rachelle Gardner listed some time ago for a Trade Paperback:
Editorial: $5,000
Packaging (cover design & production): $3,500
Typeset & Interior layouts: $500
Printing & binding: $12,000
Marketing: $6,000
Warehousing: $3,000
Sales: $5,000
Total: $40,000 not including the advance

Assuming the publisher puts the same level of effort into an eBook, we can make the claim that the prices for a Kindle book are the same, with the exception that the publisher isn’t paying for Printing & binding or for Warehousing. To simplify the math, let’s assume that the publisher will either print the book or will make it available for Kindle, but not both. In many cases, the publisher will make both available, but the publisher must be concerned with the overall profitability of the book, not with which customer is paying for each of the listed items.

Total for Kindle book: $25,000

If the cover price is $13.99, the publisher receives approximately $6.30 for each trade paperback sold. To break even, the publisher must sell 6,349 books to break even. Some books sell more than this and some sell less, but on average, a successful publisher will sell more than this for the books in his catalogue.

Now, consider the Kindle book which is also set at a price of $13.99. For illustrative purposes, let’s say the author is receiving 8% of that price. So, after the royalties are paid, the publisher will get about $3.78. To break even, the publisher must sell 6,614 copies of the Kindle book, which you will notice is 265 more than what they needed to sell of the trade paperback.

Okay, so if we assume that the same number of customers will buy the Kindle book as would have bought the paperback, no matter what price we set, the breakeven point is 4% higher, so we need the price to be 4% higher. For the publisher to make the same amount of money, the Kindle book should be priced at $14.57. Sadly, very few Kindle owners want to see that.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Is Beauty and the Beast in the Bible?

Is the story of Beauty and the Beast in the Bible? It has been said that every story that has ever been told is in the Bible. At a very high level, that may be true, but what about a lower level? In trying to find Beauty and the Beast in the Bible, I came across a website that made the claim that the story or Jephthah’s daughter is the story from which Beauty and the Beast came. I can see that in the parallel between Jephthah returning home after making a promise to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house and his daughter coming out first, and the old man returning home after promising to give the beast the first thing that came out of his house.

But Beauty and the Beast is a very different story, other than how the girl was chosen. When one reads Beauty and the Beast, the thing that stands out is that this is a story about two very different people learning to love each other. It is a classic Buddy Love story and the story of Jephthah’s daughter is not. If anything, the story of Jephthah’s daughter shows us how messed up Israel was back in the time of the Judges.

Beauty and the Beast is also what we might call a Premature Marriage story. While Beauty hasn’t actually married the Beast, they are staying in the same house and she has made a commitment to stay, which is essentially what marriage is anyway. The question is, do we find a story in the Bible about two characters who are forced together in some way, even though they don’t want to be together, but they learn to like each other? We can look at it from a higher level, so it doesn’t have to be a man and a woman on their way to marriage.

The Bible has several arranged marriages, so that could be why there doesn’t seem to be a strong connection. People were used to the idea that a man and woman would get married before they knew each other very well. For us, it seems very strange. I suppose we might consider the story of Naaman, the Leper. The servant girl was not there by her choice, but she was had learned to appreciate Naaman enough that she wanted him to go see the prophet. Still, it is a very weak link.

A stronger link might actually be the story of Daniel and his friends. They were carried off to live in a foreign land, much like Beauty goes to the Beast’s castle. They do not want to be there, but they don’t offer strong resistance. They pick their fights and face difficulty, but eventually become trusted advisers to the king.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hard Stuff

One of the hardest things for a novelist is to put characters into a situation they can’t escape from. Think of all of the romance novels in which a woman marries a man because he needs someone to take care of his kids after he is widowed, but he we find out that he didn’t really love his first wife. I was reading one of the reviews of one of Colleen Coble’s books and the reviewer commented on how the character was about to become engaged, but her husband showed up, only it wasn’t a problem because the man she was to be engaged to was “just a friend.” Now, compare that to Cast Away. A man is stuck on an island for a long time. His wife moves on and marries another guy, so when he gets off the island, the love of his life is no longer available. We hate doing that to our characters, but it makes it so much more powerful. But much like in a romance novel, the writers of Cast Away made it okay by having the Tom Hanks character deliver a package to an attractive woman, implying that he’ll be alright anyway.

Personally, I hate situations like that. Here a man has remained faithful for all this time, but his wife didn’t. She thought he was dead, so you can’t really blame her and it isn’t the fault of the second guy either. You don’t want her to divorce him to go back to the first guy, but you want the first guy to have the love of his life. It is so tempting to make it okay by making someone evil or killing someone off. But I think we’re selling ourselves short when we do that. It is how a character handles the really hard stuff that let’s us see who he really is.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Several weeks ago, I was watching some of the episodes of the Dick Van Dyke Show on Netflix. In one particular episode, the theme was the decline of the American male. The discussion at work has to do with all of the examples of how the American male is declining, such as doing the dishes and helping with the kids’ bath, etc. Rob makes the claim that no that isn’t the case, but when he goes home, what does he do but do the dishes and help his son get ready for bed. Of course, that show was filmed in the 60’s. Now, some fifty years later, I look at where the American male stands and the things they indicated were signs of the decline back then look chauvinistic today. Back then, there was no question that Rob Petrie was the head of his home. Oh sure, there were gags where Laura appeared to have the say, but they were clearly meant to be gags. Today, the idea of a man being the head of his home is frowned upon, and yet there are still people out there pushing the idea that girls can do the same jobs as men.

To tell you the truth, I’m confused. Don’t get me wrong, if a girl wants to become an astronaut or a truck driver, that’s fine with me, but it seems like everywhere you look there is a big push for girls to take on jobs that have traditionally been considered men’s work. It is so much so that it seems like the writers of television shows want to discourage girls from taking on traditional female roles. And I don’t know what they want boys to do, but they clearly aren’t promoting the idea that boys should become leaders in their homes and communities. For the men on television shows see a woman as one of two types. Either she is someone who wants to do a man’s job or she is a trophy he wants in his bed. The women on these shows are no better. They either want to do a man’s job, or they want to be in the man’s bed. You don’t often see shows in which the male characters respect a woman for being a woman and female characters who have enough self-respect to slap the man when he encourages her to go to bed with him.

I realize it isn’t quite as bad in the real world. Yeah, there are people who can’t keep their pants on, but I also see homes in which men are men and women are women. I see homes where men love their wives and women respect their husbands. I see homes where the man is clearly the natural leader, even when his wife as a bossy spirit. But I worry about what young men are being taught these days. So many don’t know how men ought to act because they have no men in their lives. The only role models they have are the wimps on television. And yes, I do mean wimps because putting a character in a uniform doesn’t magically make him a man of courage. We see real strength in how a character handles his family. If what young men are learning is what they see on television, things will be bad for some time to come.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Churchy Rules

Let’s talk about church etiquette. Growing up, there were certain rules that you were expected to follow when you were in the church building. Some of those rules seem to have changed since then and I’ve picked up a few more that I wasn’t taught, but let’s look at a few.

Don’t Run in the Church Building
This was a big one. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the risk of mowing some old person down. I don’t see quite as many people yelling this one down the halls these days, but it is still a good one to follow.
Don’t Chew Gum
This one probably got started after someone reached down and got her hand stuck gum. I just remember that Mom had trouble teaching us this one because the woman who sat behind us in church was usually chewing gum.
Don’t Crawl Under the Pews
I can understand it when the church service is going on, but my mother wouldn’t let me crawl under the pews even when we were the only people in the building.
Sit Still
The idea is that you’re supposes to listen to the sermon. At the very least, you shouldn’t disturb others.
Don’t Walk Around During Prayer
Unless you are preparing for a performance that begins right after the prayer, you have no reason to be moving around while prayer is going on. If you were on stage, you can leave the stage if you’re quiet about it, but don’t go very far while prayer is going on. This is to show respect to God.
Don’t Walk Around During a Special
It’s okay during the offertory, that’s part of the reason it exists. Especially when we’re talking about other musicians, it is a show of respect for the performer to wait until after they finish before moving around the building. If you are outside of the sanctuary, stay out until it is over. If you need to use the restroom, hold it.
Men, Stand Up When You Shake Hands
This is one I never learned as well as I should have, but it is a good rule, all the same. Women can remain seated, especially but men should show respect by standing up when they shake hands with someone.
Turn off Your Cell Phone
This one’s new from when I was a kid. Cell phones have a way of disrupting the services. You can go without a phone call or playing games for a while, so turn it off.
I’m sure there are probably more than that, but those are the ones I can think of right now.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why People Don't Do It Theirself

Why would anyone want to pay hundreds of dollars for someone to publish their book? (One vanity press has said that the average their customers pay is $1250.) For that matter, why would someone choose traditional publishing over self-publishing, when they get higher royalties from self-publishing and traditional publishers don’t do much to market a book anyway. Let me tell you what happened to me recently and see if you can’t answer that question.

I was nearly finished with typesetting the book when I decided that I wanted tabs on the edge so the reader could find key sections more easily. That requires the book be set up with bleed. So the ink goes to the edge of the page, the book has to be set up with the tabs extending past the trim line. When they trim the book, the knife will cut through the printed area, but since I’d set up the book without that, I had to resize the pages. The books contains both textboxes and images, so I had to go through the book page by page, repositioning the elements. The book is 540 pages long.

After getting it all set up, I sent it off to the printer, along with the cover art. The cover artwork requires two hours to render in Art of Illusion because it is so large. But then the printer kicked back the interior file. Somehow, I managed to set up the margins wrong. I won’t try to guess why; mistakes happen. In any case, I had to change the position of every element in the file again. This time, it wasn’t as simple as moving the elements to the right or left and adding a tab. This time, the text box got smaller, so not only did I have to move it, I had to resize it and then reposition the images to the right place with the text. The text was already small enough, but I was able to change the amount of indent. The other option would’ve been to add pages to the book, but with a two hour render time, I did not want to change the cover. I was able to keep most things in about the same location, but the reduced width made the lines in the examples shorter and I had to reformat them.

For the most part, it was tedious work. It was work that I would’ve been happy to let someone else do. While a novel doesn’t require the same level of effort, it does require work to setup any book. There are plenty of people who would rather just submit a manuscript and let someone else handle the details.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Interview With Amber

Editor’s Note:It’s been a couple of years since I last did this, but Michael Hyatt recently posted about some of the things novelists can blog about and it rekindled my desire to interview a character from one of my books. I decided to sit down with Amber from Mother Not Wanted

Timothy Fish:
Amber, some of my readers may not have read your story. What would you tell someone who may be trying to decide whether to buy the book or not. What is it about your story that you think makes it special?
You really know how to make a girl nervous, don’t you?
Timothy Fish:
I wasn’t trying to. Just tell us how it all started. The novel starts with you an Lizi on the train from St. Louis. Maybe you can tell us what was going on before that. What was it that convinced you to get on that train?
I had to do something. I was at a point in my life where I couldn’t take care of Lizi properly. We’d recently gotten into church and our pastor was doing this series on the importance of men in a family. I kept thinking about how Lizi had a father out there somewhere and he she needed him.
Timothy Fish:
But you weren’t sure who he was.
No, and I didn’t know if he could be trusted. You see, Lizi isn’t mine. I’ve raised her like she is, but I got her by default. Her mother died when Lizi was young. We were roommates, and I’d been taking care of Lizi a lot of the time anyway, so I went on doing it. If anyone knew that she wasn’t mine, I guess they didn’t care. Anyway, Lizi’s mother didn’t tell me very much about her family before she died and what she did, it wasn’t very clear. She was that way.
Timothy Fish:
And yet, it was enough for you to buy a couple of tickets to Fort Worth.
Yeah, I was able to piece together enough information to find someone who knew Lizi’s mother. I knew that Fox was either Lizi’s grandfather, or he would know who was.
Timothy Fish:
But why the train? Why not call him up? Why not send him an e-mail or a letter?
Is that what you would’ve done?
Timothy Fish:
That’s not the way I do things. I had to know she’d be okay. You don’t raise a kid from the time she was a baby and then just dump her off on strangers. And I had to know I could control the situation. If I’d called, they might have sent the authorities to take Lizi. I might have gone to jail and never met her father.
Timothy Fish:
But you didn’t have complete control. Any thoughts on why not?
I got too close. When you’re trying to con someone, its never good when you have more to lose than they do.
Timothy Fish:
You were afraid you would lose Lizi.
I think that goes without saying.
Timothy Fish:
What was your life like before you left St. Louis?
Pretty normal. I worked in restaurants most of the time. But there’s not always work available.
Timothy Fish:
Do you have any regrets?
You mean about leaving that life behind?
Timothy Fish:
That or about anything. Is there anything you would do different, if you could?
Yeah, I wish I hadn’t messed with those silly birth certificates.
Timothy Fish:
Do you think things would’ve turned out different?
Timothy Fish:
Thanks for stopping by.
My pleasure.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Revile Not the Gods

I came across a verse that I don’t remember taking much notice of before. I know I’ve read it, but I don’t recall doing more than that. “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” (Exodus 22:28)

The last part of that verse is clear enough. For us in America, that means we should be careful about what we say about the President, the members of Congress, the judges throughout the land, the Governor, the Mayor or anyone else in such a position. We can certainly say that we disagree with them, but they are to be treated with respect and we aren’t to wish they were dead.

It is the first part that got me. “Thou shalt not revile the gods…” How does that fit with the statement, “thou shalt have no other gods before me?” When you look back at the Hebrew, it doesn’t help much. The word that is translated as “gods” is often translated as “God”. The verse would mean something very different if it were stated as “Thou shalt not revile God.” And does it mean “thou shalt not revile the gods” or does it mean “thou shalt not revile the gods of thy people?”

If we take it just as it is translated in the King James Version, what it seems to be saying is that we shouldn’t use abusive language concerning other people’s gods. But Elijah didn’t seem to see anything wrong with that when he challenged the prophets of Baal. But another way this word is translated is as “judges”. Given the context, that actually makes more sense.

We are not to be disrespectful to those who have the authority over us. As we approach an election year, we will encounter many people who speak with contempt for some of those who currently hold office. We should not participate in this talk, rather we should be an example to others. Though we may disagree with our leaders, we should show them respect, even as we make our case against their decisions.