Thursday, January 29, 2009
In three weeks I'll be at the Christian Writer's Guild Conference, teaching the morning fiction class, plus afternoon sessions on writing a compelling first page. Students in the "First Page" workshops will be submitting their pages ahead of time for critique during the class. Preparing for the "First Page" classes has got me thinking about openings in novels--what I expect of them. What works and what doesn't. Then on an author loop we got to talking on that very subject. Here's Angela Hunt's response. I'm running it (with her permission) because I agree with her on just about every point.
When I teach, I always stress that the beginning of the novel establishes an unspoken contract with the reader. In those all-important first few words, you are--or should be-- doing the following:
*indicating the genre (if you start with an action sequence, you're promising a book full of action. Ditto for gore, romance, suspense, etc. The reader will naturally expect more of whatever you're doling out.)
*revealing your voice and skill level
*introducing the protagonist (I know a lot of people break this rule, but people naturally expect the first character they meet to be the main character.)
*Indicating the tense, POV, and setting
*Establishing the tone (somber, comedic, suspenseful, intellectual, etc.)
If you give the reader something different in chapter two, you run the risk of alienating your reader. That's another reason why first chapters are all-important.
My pet peeve (and boy, does it make me peevish): when people take an exciting scene from the back of the book and stick it up front to hook us. Makes me think the writer couldn't come up with anything better.
I'm going to discuss each point tomorrow. In the meantime--what do you think about these points? Anything you'd add or subtract?
P.S. If you don't see a post here tomorrow, blame it on my traveling today. I'm finally getting to fly home, after being trapped in the ice storm for two days. If I arrive too late, I may not put up a post for Friday. If so, we'll take this subject up on Monday.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
"I killed my little sister."
Oh, does that chilling line take me back a few years.
A Question of Innocence was my first published book. It was written in 1993-4 and was published in 1995. This is a secular true crime, the story of the "Diary Girl" murder case. I was able to write it through gaining the exclusive story of the defendant and her family.
I was reminded of this book today because somone on Twitter told me she'd ordered it. Q of I is now out of print, so no royalties remain for me. But you can buy it from Amazon, on eBay, and on alibris for starters, starting as low as $1.24. I'm sure it can be found in other used online bookstores as well.
I first attended the "Diary Girl" trial as research for the novel I was writing at the time--Eyes of Elisha. The whole nation was watching the case. Media were everywhere. And they were welcomed by Melvin Belli, attorney for the defense, who was quite the media hound. This case was Belli's last big criminal case before his death. (This story would eventually send me to the Phil Donahue and Leeza shows.)
From the back cover:
Mallory Moore was four years old when she died, apparently in her sleep. But months later, Sharri Moore, Mallory's mother, read a startling entry in her elder daughter, Serena's, diary: the troubled teen's admission of guilt in the murder of her little sister.
Upset and confused, the Moores went to the police. Then came the trial, and the nightmare that followed. For though the facts strongly suggested Serena was innocent, an agine, world famous attorney's controversial defense would shatter an already tragedy-stricken family--damning them with devastating allegations of molestation and abuse. And a frightened young girl would end up in prison for the crime of needed attention and love.
Endorsements: "Captures the twists and turns, legal and psychological, of one of California's most compelling recent murder cases in a lively and arresting style." --Richard North Patterson
"Engrossing...a power story of a real case that reads like a fictional courtroom thriller." --Phillip M. Margolin
A lot of murder trials occur in our legal system, but few contain the elements to make a good true crime. Like the best fiction, a true crime needs a raison d'etre. It should make a point, teach something about the legal system or about the human condition. This case did all those things. It was a hard case to watch and write about. The death of a four-year-old is always tragic. When her only sibling is accused of the crime--in fact confesses to it--the story is even more tragic. What worse situation could parents face?
Yet from a legal and psychological viewpoint the story of Serena Moore is fascinating. Do people write lies in their own diaries? Why would they? What would drive a teenager to wrongfully confess to killing the little sister she so dearly loved? Or was that confession the truth?
Although the book is all true it's written in a fictional style. If you enjoy watching/reading legal crime dramas, the convoluted legal machinations in this trial will surely keep your attention. It is a gripping case. And just like the movies, there's more than a sprinkling of craziness amongst the attorneys. Lawyers do love putting on a show.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Two things before I get to the Washington Post list:
1. You may have seen email notices yesterday about Strang Communications now being in the market for romance manuscripts. The email wasn't clear whether Strang would look at manuscripts from yet unpublished authors, so I contacted the editor to clear that up. Debbie rewrote her announcement paragraph to make her answer clear for us:
The Strang Book Group is now considering publishing Christian romance novels (mainly prairie romance or Amish romance) from both established writers and newcomers. In order to be considered for publication, manuscripts must be completely written and must be the first installment in a three- or four-book series, with summaries for all books in the series having been developed. Please submit completed manuscripts and corresponding series ideas to Debbie Marrie, imprint editor for the Strang Book Group, at email@example.com.
2. Today I will be trying to travel from Kentucky back to California--through an ice storm. If I'm delayed, you may not find a Wednesday post here, as I always post at night for the following morning.
The Washington Post sponsors a contest in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. The winners ought to give you a good laugh. I think these date to last year. I've yet to see a January 2009 list. If anyone has seen it, do let us all know.
1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
6. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
7. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
8. Flatulence (n .) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
9. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
10. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
11. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
12. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
13. Frisbeetarianism (n.), The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
14. Circumvent (n.) , an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
The Washington Post also asks readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition:
1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
3. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
4. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
5. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
6. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
7. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease.
8. Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
9. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
10. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
11. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
12. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
13. Beelzebug (n.) : Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
14. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Lots of wonderful captions for the Weird Photo! You all made deciding the winner very hard.
You may be wondering--what was that photo all about anyway? The answer (for you new readers of Forensics and Faith) mixes fiction and reality. The guy in the dragon mask is Stuart Stockton, author of the science fiction novel Starfire, Stuart's debut releasing in May. One of the characters in Stuart's created world of Sauria is a dragon, hence the mask. The book I'm signing for Stuart is Violet Dawn, first in my Kanner Lake series. The picture was taken 2 1/2 years ago.
Stuart and his story were the inspiration for the character S-Man in my Kanner Lake series. Throughout that series S-Man is writing his novel, Starfire. The characters and the Saurian world S-Man creates were taken straight from Stuart's real manuscript--with his permission, of course. In the final Kanner Lake book, Amber Morn, S-Man sells his novel. After Amber Morn was released, the real-life S-Man--Stuart--sold the real manuscript to Marcher Lord Press. Starfire's May 2009 release fits perfectly with the fictional release of Starfire according to the Kanner Lake timeline. Is that cool or what?
Next week Stuart will be running a "Heralds of Starfire" contest on his blog. Entry will be easy--involving writing a post about Starfire on your own blog, and/or copying the above logo and pasting it somewhere on the Web. There will be numerous prizes, with the grand prize containing: The Kanner Lake Series (signed), guest blog spot here on Forensics and Faith, the Marcher Lord Press Spring list (three books, signed), and MLP E-books: Character Creation for the Plot First Novelist and How to Find Your Story or the MLP Gallery & screensaver.
When Stuart's contest starts running, I'll post the link here.
And now for the caption writing winner(s). Quite a few really made me laugh. Thanks for entertaining me all weekend. I ended up choosing two winners:
Christina Berry: "This book is so good, I came out of extinction to get a copy."
Stephanie Reed: "Hey, you're right--Stone Age Suspense would be a great brand."
Thanks to all who participated. Christina and Stephanie, please email me with your street addresses.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Inspired to Action blog asked me to write a guest post about how the "Liz and Katy" story so quickly spread through the use of social media. The post is running today. Read it here.
Okay, It's Weird Photo Friday. I supply the photo, you write the caption. The writer of the most creative one--as chosen by me--wins a signed copy of Dark Pursuit. Lemme hear your best shot! The winner will be announced in Monday's post.
It's been awhile since I've posted an update on Liz and Katy. They are thrilled to be in their apartment, and yesterday EHC Lifebuilders brought them furniture. Tomorrow they go to San Francisco so Liz can be coached for job interviewing by California Deputy Attorney General/Christian novelist Rick Acker.
Right now romance author Gemma Halliday and her friends at Romantic Inks are sponsoring an online auction to benefit Katy and Liz. The many items include signed romance novels, writing critiques, web site design, even a pitch to an editor. Please check out the auction today. Bidding will close on Friday.
On Friday Katy will be interviewed by a reporter for a story about her and the auction in the Campbell newspaper. I'm not sure yet when that will run. I'll post the link when I get it.
Last Monday Katy was interviewed for a third time by local ABC news reporter Karina Rusk. That link is here. (Although I see only a short story at the link, not a way to play the news video.)
Thanks to all of you who have helped and prayed for Katy and Liz.
Tomorrow--Photo Friday. Come with your creative juices flowing.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Yesterday, like most of us, I watched the inauguration. It was an amazing, victorious day for our country. I say this not as a Democrat. In fact I say it as a Republican voter who strongly disagrees with many of Obama's policies. But yesterday I put politics aside and celebrated. It wasn't a day for political parties. It was a day for America.
As I watched I thought of the African Americans my age and older, who lived through the Civil Rights era. Of others who recite family legends about their slave ancestors. I thought about Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King, Jr. The teenagers who braved the gauntlet of snarl and spit as they dared cross the threshold of a white high school. Those adults brave enough to cast their first vote when the pressure to "just stay home" was strong. I thought of all those people, and their children who now hear their stories, and knew that even with my strong feelings about this historical moment, I couldn't begin to understand the depth of their emotion.
Most of all I thought of a "Negro" mother from the sixties, a woman whose name I do not know. But I have never forgotten her. For her tragic story was my introduction to injustice.
I grew up in a Wilmore, Kentucky, a small town with a worldwide reach through its Christian institutions, Asbury College and Seminary. Students from many countries attended those schools. Church bishops from all over the world came to meetings there, and many of them stayed in our home. My own parents were missionaries in India for twenty years. I was born there, and we returned to the states when I was nearly three. In Wilmore my parents continued their ministry by opening their house to international visitors. I never knew who would be at our table or in a guestroom. All colors of skin were equal to me because of my parents' graciousness toward everyone. I simply didn't know any differently.
That changed one day when I was about ten years old. The Vietnam War was raging. On TV came a story from a deep southern state. A young "Negro" soldier had been killed on the battlefield, and his body had been shipped home. His mother was grieving. Then her nightmare took an unthinkable twist. The town in which she lived wouldn't allow her son to be buried in its cemetery--the son who'd died fighting for his country. That cemetery was "whites only."
I remember hearing the story, first thinking I must have heard wrong. No one could be that mean. A reporter asked the mother, "How do you feel about the situation?" She lowered her head, looking so weary. "Just ... sad."
Sad? As a child, I felt that too. But I felt so much more. A new feeling twisted my gut, an anger, a rage wrapped around that sorrow. How could anyone treat the soldier and his mother like that? How could anyone not see how unfair this was, after that young man had died for our country? Somehow, amid my youth and inexperience, I looked at that mother and knew she felt these things too. Yet all that rose from her was weariness, as if she'd borne the burden of injustice for a long, long time.
I don't know if that mother is still alive. I hope she is. Yesterday was for her.
I happen to be back in Wilmore at the moment, visiting my own mother. We watched the inauguration together. Mom's 92 now and a widow. She's a staunch Republican, never voted Democrat in her life. But she was as glued to the TV as I. That morning she'd been to the doctor because of a swollen leg. We were concerned it might be a blood clot. It wasn't, but the doctor told her to stay off her feet and keep them elevated. During the ceremony she sat in her armchair with the pop-up footrest, her leg on a pillow. I'd put two blankets over her because she was cold. But at the end of the inauguration, when the national anthem was sung, Mom swept aside her blankets and pushed to her feet. "I cannot sit while this song is being sung," she declared. And she stood, back straight, watching the TV screen and listening until the last note died away.
Yesterday was for my mom, too. For the mother who taught me that all people are created equal.
In his address President Obama said we now choose "hope over fear." That phrase links old memory and new in my mind. The stricken face of that "Negro" mother of the sixties who was denied justice--and the picture of my own mom, standing straight and proud as the national anthem was sung on an African American's inauguration day.
Tomorrow, this nation faces its future. Politics return. I will raise my voice against certain policies of President Obama, such as extending abortion. Even as I oppose other injustices, I can still rejoice that this country has come a long way in shedding its past sin of slavery and oppression against an entire race.
Yesterday was a day for all of us.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Here are the CBA "February" list, and the ECPA "January" list, both of which reflect sales in the month of December. CBA's list notes that it includes sales through Jan. 5. Titles appearing on one list and not the other are highlighted in blue.
CBA (Numbers in parentheses refer to placement on Top 50 list)
1. (2) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
2. (6) Every Now and Then, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
3. (11) Fireproof, Eric Wilson & Alex Kendrick, Thomas Nelson
4. (32) Sinner, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
5. (37) Sunset, Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale
6. (49) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah/WaterBrook
7. (50) White Christmas Pie, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
8. Adam, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
9. The Longing, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
10. Jessie, Lori Wick, Harvest House
11. Circle Trilogy, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
12. Dead Heat, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
13. Home to Holly Springs, Jan Karon, Harvest House
14. Rachel’s Secret, B. J. Hoff, Harvest House
15. The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis, Zondervan
16. Riven, Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale
17. Where Do I Go?, Neta Jackson, Thomas Nelson
18. Texas Legacy Christmas, DiAnn Mills, Barbour
19. The Centurion’s Wife, Davis Bunn & Janette Oke, Bethany/Baker
20. All I Have to Give, Melody Carlson, Revell/Baker
1. The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
2. Every Now and Then, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
3. Sinner, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
4. Sunset, Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale
5. Fireproof, Eric Wilson, Thomas Nelson
6. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Waterbrook/Multnomah
7. Dead Heat Joel C. Rosenberg, Tyndale
8. The Longing, Beverly Lewis. Bethany/Baker
9. Adam, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
10. Alaska Twilight, Colleen Coble, Thomas Nelson
11. Jessie, Lori Wick, Harvest House
12. Home to Holly Springs, Jan Karon, Penguin
13. Riven, Jerry B. Jenkins, Tyndale
14. Deeper Water, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
15. The List, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
16. The Last Jihad, Joel C. Rosenberg, Tyndale
17. The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, Zondervan
18. Kidnapped, Dee Henderson, Tyndale
19. The Last Days, Joel C. Rosenberg, Tyndale
20. Black/Red/White, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
Monday, January 19, 2009
Happy Martin Luther King day. Today, in continuing the discussion from last week on character arcs, I'm running the final batch of emails on the subject.
First, an update on Liz and Katy. They are in their apartment! Spend the first night there on Saturday. Katy has updated her blog.
Character Arcs -- Part III
Email #8. I find that working on the character arc during the planning process gives me a stronger spine to the story. I like to discover those character arc turning points, such as realizing the need to change, making the decision to change, trying to act in a new way, getting kicked in the teeth for the effort, realizing the change will be impossible without God's help, etc.
Email #9. I do see your point. We are encouraged to present flawed characters in need of redemption. (I simply want characters my readers can identify with in some way.) Past novels with well-known detectives do seem a little more stable than some of today's offerings.
However, Sherlock Holmes struggled with his desire for "seven percent solution," and he had a strange and rather disturbing view of most women. Except of course, Irene Adler. He was also taken with periods of melancholy. Dr. Watson would become very worried about his friend during these "dark periods." Hercule Poirot was certainly an odd man who relied on his "little gray cells" over emotion or human empathy. But off the top of my head, I don't remember any other demons he struggled with. I agree that Miss Marple seemed rather well-rounded. And I simply adored her!
Email #10. Maybe the detectives mentioned would be examples of the "strengthening the spine" type. They are all good detectives, but the current case tests them in a new way. Can they meet the challenge?
Email #11. Of course [they can meet the challenge]. We know that or there wouldn't be a book. It's the puzzle.
Email #12. In the older mysteries, especially Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle, the mystery was all. You read to solve a puzzle. For me after a while that wasn't enough. I like the new mystery leads because you not only get to solve the puzzle but watch the characters grow and develop. Whether it's series like Evanovich's Stephanie Plum or Robb's Eve Dallas or stand alones like Dick Francis writes, that character arc is there. It's like twice the value for your time and money.
Email #13. I like to see some kind of character change or epiphany, even if it's small. If the lead character is strong, driving through a situation, a big character arc isn't needed, but even Mary Poppins softened, nearly falling in love with the Banks children.
In fiction, I don't think we realize how much we need some kind of arc until reading a book where the character doesn't change. I've read a few of those and the flat line character really stood out to me.
Maybe instead of seeing a character go from weak to strong, or embrace some grand universal truth, we need to see them power through their struggles. Sure, Scarlett was stubborn and strong in the end, but she was more stubborn and more strong than in the beginning. We watched her go from a spoiled southern belle to an overcomer. She wasn't using her wiles to get a man, but to survive. Her core was the same, but fine tuned by the end of the movie. Would we have liked her if she'd let Rhett conquer her? If she'd become the dutiful wife? ;) Probably not.
My take on all this: I do believe in character arcs. When the protagonist changes for the good, when he/she learns something, the reader is left with a take-away value from the novel. That story has spoken in some way of the human condition. However, I was most intrigued with the statement in Email #2, regarding such characters as Marge in Fargo: "It's the stubborn peculiarity of the one who is out of step with everyone else that brings about the change in those around him or her." True. Still, I haven't written a story like that. My protagonists always have some kind of learning curve.
But there's no denying that some very popular series don't include character arcs, such as those mentioned above or the James Bond stories. Yet how interesting that in the new James Bond movies the character was first taken back to how he was "back in the day" before he became the chill-hearted agent. All to make him more understandable/empathetic, of course. And that arc was positive to negative, rather than the other way around.
Final thoughts on the subject, anyone?
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Before we continue our discussion on character arcs, I have great news about Katy and Liz. They will be moving into their new apartment tomorrow! They are so thrilled that they will no longer be homeless. Right now I'm lining up people in their area who can provide cars to help them move. Liz's own ancient car isn't even working right now--it needs a new starter, which is about $250. Their donation funds have been drained by the long motel stay. We are hoping some additional funds will come available soon for the car. If you'd like to donate through Paypal, please use the email address of: hugheselizabeth (@) gmail (dot) com. Or send a check to: Elizabeth Hughes, PO Box 111525, Campbell, CA 95011. Visit Katy's blog here. Thanks to all of you who've been such a great support through your prayers, letters, emails and financial donations.
The local ABC news channel wants to do another follow-up story. This may happen Monday, showing Liz and Katy getting settled into their place. I'll keep you posted.
Character Arcs -- Part II
Thanks for the comments yesterday. Good discussion. Today, continuing from the original email that brought up the discussion of character arcs, are the first responses. I'll continue with more on Monday.Email #2. I think the best fiction includes character arcs--usually with a problem the character has that the story must help her come to grips with. The story forces a decision to stick with the old way and be destroyed or go with the new way despite the cost.
However, I think you can also have excellent fiction in which the main character does not change one whit. Consider Forrest Gump, Anne of Green Gables, Being There, Mary Poppins, and of course the story of Jesus Christ. In those stories, it's the stubborn peculiarity of the one who is out of step with everyone else that brings about the change in those around him or her.
Email #3. I think there is a character arc in both Fargo and The Fugitive, but it's just not the primary character. In Fargo it's the dweeby guy who hires his wife's kidnapping and spirals down and down (a reverse or negative arc). In The Fugitive it's Tommy Lee Jones's Gerrard. In Forrest Gump it's Julie; in Mary Poppins, the father. If the main character wasn't so centered and unchanging, the others wouldn't have changed. The thing that makes these stories work is the extraordinary situations the stable leads find themselves in.
Email #4. The most compelling thing to me about Marge Gunderson was that she did all of what she had to do when she was about 22 months pregnant. I kid you not, that one thing about her undoubtedly went a LONG way in creating an empathetic character that women wanted to see in action.
So. . . the fact that she had a perceivable "burden" or "weakness" and yet did her duty made for a compelling heroine.
As for the "arc" of change, she didn't. But there's also something compelling about a steady hand and the oak tree around which everything else dips and slides and moves. In a crazy world, that's a great character people want to spend time with.
Marge was also a great antithesis to the incredible evil that came into her world. To me, Fargo was a very black and white movie. The evil was evil and the good was good. Not a lot of need for growth there. We just needed to see the good woman win. And she did.
So, for simple-minded readers like me, I don't know that a true "story arc" is necessary. As long as your "flat-lined" character is believable and empathetic and put into a game they have to win. And then win.
When you come right down to it, I'm not sure Scarlett O'Hara grew much. She was still self-centered, thinking about tomorrow and running home to Tara, at the end of that book.
Email #5. I don't necessarily think that character arcs are always weakness to strength - I guess I approach them more as "growth" in some way. Not only in themselves, but in their relationship with those around them. The other thing I do a lot--and didn't realize until I started thinking about this--is show a character who is forced to change in some way because of something that has happened to him/her, or has no choice but to react to a challenging situation. I find it compelling to walk with a character through that kind of experience.
Email #6. I don't think of it as change from x to y so much as I do that the character learns a lesson. After going through the conflict and either meeting or failing to meet his goal, he learns something that either leads to an HEA ending or a SBW ending (sadder but wiser).
The father in Mary Poppins learns how to be a father (and I've always seen him as the protagonist.) Scarlett learns that she loves Rhett. Lars learns how to allow a real girl into his life.
That's the key for me.
Email #7. It seems to me that readers like to identify with characters who are struggling to overcome adverse circumstances, and my most popular heroine gives them a chance to do that. She doubts herself, can think three contradictory thoughts before breakfast every morning, but is gradually learning how to deal with her domestic problems while solving crimes in the community and worrying about going on a diet.
The heroine of my other series is a much stronger person but is also taking a journey through doubt to belief while trying to mother (but not smother) a couple of dysfunctional youngsters. She is not as popular with readers, though she does pretty well.
On the other hand, what about the famous fictional detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, et al? They don't change, and the people around them don't change, either. They are the deus/dea ex machinas of mysteries, sorting out human problems from above. Perhaps they are so popular because they reinforce our belief in a God who distributes justice?
Is our more sceptical age a reason why we don't see such god-like figures in literature any more? The best of the new crime stories feature protagonists who are far from god-like.
Interesting, isn't it?
Read Part 3
Recently on a writer's loop one of the novelists raised a discussion question about character arcs. Do we feel they're important in novels? I found the original question and ensuing discussion very interesting. With the permission of all writers involved, I'm running the emails here anonymously for the next few days. I'm going to run them pretty much as the discussion played out--so you can add your own thoughts to the topic. If you're like me, you'll find some interesting points to ponder--and very likely use in your own writing. For today--the original email that kicked off the discussion. Tomorrow--some responses.
Email #1. Would love a little discussion on "character arcs." That's usually a term found in screenwriting books, meaning how the character grows from weakness or need to an overcoming strength or completion by the end. Some go so far as to say without that, you won't have an enduring story.
I agree a complete character arc is a fine thing to have in some stories...but not necessarily all. I thought about this as I watched Fargo again the other night.
The lead character in Fargo, Marge Gunderson, does not have a weakness>>>strength arc. In fact, she remains the same person throughout. But we are totally locked in with her. Why?
Because she is a sympathetic character who is faced with a huge challenge. She's a small town deputy who loves her husband and their normal life, and then this horrendous homicide happens, unlike anything she's ever faced. So she proceeds to investigate, and clearly shows how good she is. And we cheer for her as she ultimately brings the perps to justice.
So without the traditional "character arc," we still have an enduring story. Why? Perhaps one reason is simply that the hero in this case vindicates the values of the community. Like the hero in myths, we are confirmed in our notions of justice, which overcomes the evil in the "dark world."
This might be described not as an "arc" but as the strengthening of an already in place "spine" (or some other metaphor).
A second variation: taking the character to a higher level of what Maslow called "self-realization." A more complete human being. Here I would put Sam Gerard, the lawman in The Fugitive. He doesn't go from weakness to strength, but from "I don't care!" to "I care...but don't tell anybody." He's grown.
This might be described as "the next level" type of growth. Richard Kimble [the fugitive] doesn't change, BTW. But his competence (demonstrated as a surgeon) has to be used in a totally new way, to stay free AND solve his wife's murder. So, like Marge, it is a strengthening of what's already there.
Do you think in terms of "character arcs"? Do you think it always has to be from weakness to strength, or negative to positive? Again, some writing "gurus" say so, but I'm tending to disagree.
BGs, what do you think?
Read Part 2
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Liz and Katy Update: Boy, I'm concerned about them. They're still in a motel, now both sick, and their car battery has died. They've been promised an apartment, but it's been about a week now and they have yet to see it. If they aren't allowed to move in soon, they're going to run out of the donations they've been sent. Please keep praying for them. Visit Katy's blog, Anywhere But Here, to see her latest posts. Info on how to donate is in her sidebar.
Now for today--a special, cool announcement about my pal and wonderful legal suspense author Randy Singer:
Have you ever read a legal thriller or watched an episode of Law & Order and thought you would have rendered a different verdict? Well, step right into the jury box. You can help determine the verdict in Randy Singer's upcoming legal thriller, The Justice Game.
Releasing in July from Tyndale, The Justice Game features a court case centered on the gun debate. The verdict voted on will be written into the story and kept under wraps until the book’s release.
“I wanted to do something different and get my readers really involved in the story,” says Randy. “This gives them an opportunity to hear both sides of the national gun debate and gets them thinking. Plus, it adds an element of fun to the book.”
Randy has produced a short, online video that mimics a cable news report, featuring real-life talk show host Lorri Allen as the lead news anchor. The video covers the latest updates on the trial at the center of the book, interspersed with segments of closing arguments direct from the courtroom. At the end of the video, viewers can render their verdict.
You can access the video here. This video is wonderful. Great, fascinating stuff! After the mock cable news show, Randy talks about his personal reasons for writing this story. I can tell you, once you watch this video, you'll decide to buy The Justice Game. (Pre-order from Amazon here.)
Randy is a practicing veteran trial attorney as well as a teaching pastor in Virginia Beach. He's written seven critically-acclaimed legal thrillers--and I've read every one. I really do like his writing. As Publisher's Weekly put it, he's "as enjoyable as John Grisham.” Randy's first novel, Directed Verdict, won the Christy Award. His latest, By Reason of Insanity, debuted in hardcover last summer and releases this month in softcover. PW's take: "... hooks readers from the opening courtroom scene of this tasty thriller, then spurs them through a fast trot across a storyline that just keeps delivering."
Okay, I'm off to look at the video for The Justice Game one more time. I haven't voted yet--it's not that easy an answer, given some unique circumstances. Click the video link and go with me.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
It's a suspense author's personal nightmare--and it comes in the midst of one of most exciting times of his life. He's thirty-five years old. A husband and father. His first novel is about to be released. Then the news from his doctor hits: "You have colon cancer."
Mike Dellosso tells the story of his journey through cancer on his web site. As Mike fought the cancer his debut novel, The Hunted, was released. Now he looks forward to March 2009 and the release of his second novel, Scream.
And now: Part II of Mike's story.
Here are a few other lessons I’ve learned from the valley.
God is good. I know, I know, common knowledge. But His goodness is not always understood by us. Even in suffering, He is good. Even in pain and discomfort and trial He is good. And sometimes that’s all we have to grab on to. It’s all our feeble faith can do to hold on to the truth that no matter what this world throws at us, no matter how deep that valley or difficult the journey, God is good.
Suffering brings about change. Pain causes us to reflect on life and living and what in the world we’re doing here. Trials force us to evaluate our purpose, to weed out those things that only seem to matter from those that really matter. And that causes us to change.
Life is short, too short to waste time on those things that only seem to matter. And that’s where my writing comes under the microscope. I’ve asked myself these questions: Do I write with purpose? Do I seek to change lives through my writing? Does my writing matter?
I write suspense, yes, but, hey, life is suspenseful. I discovered that firsthand. Even a suspenseful novel can prompt reflection, can stir a soul, can change a heart. And that’s what I want my stories to do.
I’ve come out of this valley with renewed purpose behind every word I write. I want them to matter. To stir. To change.
And I want to not only write, but live, fearlessly. Without regret. Without shame. Totally honest. Completely transparent. Boldly placing myself in God’s service knowing our time on this earth is short and growing shorter with each passing minute. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. No one has stakes on the future. I want what I do—whatever I do—to count.
Is that hokey? Is it weird? I sure hope not. But if it is, then color me weird. Gladly.
And you know what the strangest part of all this has been? I have another novel releasing March 3rd, one year from the time I was diagnosed with cancer . . . but it was written even before I was diagnosed. It’s called Scream and it’s all about the brevity of life and the imminence of death. I feel like in some way I’ve lived the message behind the story. Strange, I know. Kinda makes the story a little extra special.
As of the writing of this post, I’m finished chemotherapy, received a great report from my oncologist, and am looking forward to undergoing surgery to reverse my ostomy on January 7th. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men are going to put Mikey back together again.
Now that’s hokey.
Note: Mike's surgery was successful, and he's now recovering. Thank you, Mike, for telling us your story.
Read Mike's blog, Wide-Eyed Fiction.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Before we get to today's post, a quick link regarding Liz and Katy. Romance author Gemma Halliday is holding an auction on her site, with all benefits going to Liz and Katy. The auction includes items such as autographed books, as well as services such as writing critiques. Go here to read about the auction and donate an item/service to it. The auction will be held Jan. 19-26 on the Romantic Inks website.
It's a suspense author's personal nightmare--and it comes in the midst of one of most exciting times of his life. He's thirty-five years old. A husband and father. His first novel is about to be released. Then the news from his doctor hits: "You have colon cancer."
Mike Dellosso tells the story of his journey through cancer on his web site. As Mike fought the cancer his debut novel, The Hunted, was released. Now he looks forward to March 2009 and the release of his second novel, Scream.
Today and tomorrow, Mike will tell us about his frightening experience and what he has learned from it.
March 17th, 2008 was a day that changed the way I saw life, the way I viewed God, the way I looked at suffering. It was a day that changed me.
I was at work, doing my thing, when I received a phone call . . . the phone call: “Michael, I’m very sorry, but you have colon cancer.”
So, no big deal, right? The surgeon can just go on up there with his little scalpel and cut the tumor out, right? Then I can get on with my life, right?
A week later I was sitting in the surgeon’s office and he was telling me he was going to make a twelve-inch incision in my abdomen and remove a portion of my colon, I’d be off work for six weeks, go through seven months of chemotherapy, and deal with an ileostomy that whole time then undergo another surgery to reverse the ostomy.
I left there feeling like I’d been sucker-punched in the gut. And my heart ached for my wife and three little girls who would have to go through this with me.
Um, Lord, I don’t remember signing up for this. I think you made a mistake.
And the kicker was that all this was happening just weeks before the release of my debut novel, The Hunted. Bummer. Talk about poor timing.
But of all the things I would learn over the course of the next nine months, I would learn that God doesn’t make mistakes and that His timing is always perfect. Always.
Three weeks after that initial visit with the surgeon, I was going under the knife. And if I thought recovering from the surgery was hard, getting used to the ostomy was even harder . . . but the chemo topped it all.
You know what, though? As I look back on my journey through the valley, I now see it as the gift it was. Strange, I know, to think cancer and all it’s trimmings a gift. But consider this: I’ve experienced something that few my age or in my stage of life get to experience. I’ve seen God’s faithfulness up close and personal, I’ve had a front row seat to His comfort and love, His promises are more real to me now than they’ve ever been, I’ve felt His arms around me when I couldn’t stand on my own and heard His voice in my ear when I wanted to give up.
It’s not the kind of gift I would ever ask for, but it’s what I got and I’m thankful for it.
Here’s a few other lessons I’ve learned from the valley...
Friday, January 09, 2009
Last night on the 6:00 news, KGO Channel 7 (ABC) ran a follow-up story about Katy and Liz. Reporter Karina Rusk did the first story and wanted to report on what's happening regarding the "homeless blogging teen" finding a house. Karina would like to do a third story when Katy and Liz move into new housing. I'll keep you posted on that.
The news story showed some of Katy's artwork. I know that girl's got a great career ahead of her in art. (When you click on the link above, click on photo #2 to load the video.)
After the news show I received this email from a gal named Jessica. I'm running it with a hyperlink to her email address with her permission. Do you or someone in your sphere of influence know a person or organization in Merced, California, who could help?
Hello. My name is Jennifer and I am currently staying at the motel 6 in santa clara where katy and liz stay (or did stay). I saw the newscast and it tug at my heartstrings. My fiance and I are in the same boat. We are moving from here tomorrow to los banos to stay with my fiance's family (for a couple days). We found an apartment for $600 in Merced and with my fiance's SSI benefits, we can afford that. Unfortunately, EHC lifebuilders will not help us with the deposit because it is out of the county. I was wondering if you or any of your readers know of anywhere in Merced County that might help us with the deposit. We can make the rent every month. We just need the deposit to move in. My mom and I have read many of your books and I really enjoy them.
If you can help Jennifer, please click on her name to email her directly. Please put "Forensics and Faith blog" in your subject line so she'll know it's not spam.
If more news comes up I'll post it as updates over the weekend. Happy Friday, BGs. And thanks to all of you for following this story all week.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
12:15 p.m. Local ABC news reporter Karina Rusk is filming follow-up story with Liz and Katy this afternoon. I will update regarding time of airing and video link.
4:45: ABC's follow-up story (Bay Area of California) will air on the 6:00 news. Once the show has aired I'll be able to post a video link.We're getting closer to our goal! Liz and Katy have a solid lead on housing--a one-bedroom apartment in their area. They are thrilled, and so am I. The apartment came through the efforts of EHC LifeBuilders. They've been told it will be a maximum of nine days until they can get in. (I'm praying it's sooner rather than later. Nine more days in a motel will eat in the donations Liz has received, and she'll really need all that money to get established. She still needs to land a job, and even after she does it'll be awhile before first payday.) On top of the apartment lead, EHC told Liz and Katy that someone from their organization was moving and would donate much of his/her furniture to them, including a TV. Katy is so excited about the prospect of having her own roof over her head--and even a TV that works. Here is her email to me on the matter (printed with her permission):
Okie dokie, here's the scoop: all school issues aside, I have good news!!!! Awesome!!!! We's got a home! It's not a studio or a basement! IT COMES WITH BUNCHES OF FURNITURE, AND A TV!!!! The TV is a really good thing because I think our previous neighbor recked our TV. Black liquid came out if it when he was helping us move it. YES!!!! Um, not that our TV is recked, yes because wees got a home! YESSSSSSS!!!!!! YEAHHHHHHH!!!!!!! Wees go see it on ...tuesday?? Um, I think. BUT YES!!!!! YEAAAAAHHHH!!!! (As you can tell, me is happy. vewy vewy happyyyyyy....so I'm not making much sense. Sorry about that. This is how it looks inside my brain when I'm this happy. YEAH!
Must. Update. Blog. Byas!!!
PS awesome possum is a happy phrase uttered by me when happy. HOO-RAH
PPS Man, this thing is so typo-ed I hope it doesn't end up in you guy's spams. Check your spam if you don't find this in your inbox (ha ha).
On the job front--Liz has an appointment on Monday to go for job interview training. This was set up by California Deputy Attorney General/Christian novelist Rick Acker. Also along these lines, thanks to "kimmykins" for posting the comment yesterday about Career Closet in San Jose. Proper clothing will be another important part of Liz's interviewing. She is excited--albeit somewhat nervous--about her interview coaching.
Yesterday local ABC reporter Katrina Rusk emailed Katy to see how she's doing. Katrina wants to do a follow-up news story on Katy and Liz. I'll certainly let you all know when that's filmed/aired.
Katy's blog is now over 30,400 hits. Amazing. I am praising God for all He's done and is doing in the lives of Katy and Liz. What a story and testimony they will have for others in the future.
As for my own (much less exciting) news these days: I've started writing another adult Seatbelt Suspense novel for Zondervan--as yet untitled. It's due April 1 and will be released in March 2010. I lost a number of days of writing when all this hit but am managing to get up to speed now.
Also--looking forward on Forensics and Faith, if you have topics you'd like to see covered here, or want to suggest an interesting guest poster, please leave a comment to that effect.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Update to today's post, 9:45 a.m.:
Here's a way everyone can help support Liz and Katy: the Letters for Katy Campaign. Please read the post and take ten minute to participate. I also urge you to spread the word about this post through your own online networking. Thank you, @lettersoflove!
Update 2:50 p.m.:
Just got off the phone from my interview with Steve Deace at WHO NewsRadio (1040 Iowa). Steve conducted a great interview, giving out this blog's URL and Katy's URL numerous times. I hope this results in more help for Liz and Katy. If you are a WHO NewsRadio listener just joining us--welcome. To donate to Katy and Liz: Send a check to Elizabeth Hughes, P.O. Box 111525, Campbell, CA 95011, or use Paypal, sending to: hugheselizabeth (@) rocketmail (dot) com.
[A housekeeping note for those who want the Google "Follow This Blog" widget added to the Forensics and Faith sidebar--Google is not making that easy for me, as it's telling me I need numerous fixes to my template first. Sigh, computers. For now, if you have a blogger account, you can log into that account, click "Add" in the "Reading List" section and type in Forensics and Faith. Sorry to make it so hard. I'll keep working on this.]
Yesterday was a day with a lot of behind-the-scenes work on behalf of Liz and Katy. I heard from Good Morning America. The segment producer is still working to get a firm date for the show. I hope to hear more details from her today and that the show is still a go.
Liz needed to have a reliable cell phone as we work to set up job interviews, etc. for her. Kudos to Verizon Wireless on El Camino in Santa Clara, California for donating phones to both Liz and Katy! Sales person Miguel Gonzalez was so helpful and kind when I called to tell him of Liz's need. He even offered to pitch in personally if necessary. I asked for a phone for Liz, but he ended up getting one for Katy too. She is thrilled! Miguel helped set them up on a pre-payment plan for now.
Katy is receiving numerous requests about her artwork. She's already been hired to draw an avatar for one person. And others have asked her about such things as selling her art in various ways and illustrating a children's book. Through Twitter (God bless Twitter!) I was led to full-time artist Tony Snipes, who agreed to give Katy some guidance as to how to charge for her work. Thanks, Tony!
Deputy Attorney General/novelist Rick Acker continues to be a tremendous help. He's refined Liz's resume and circulated it, and has now set up interview coaching for her, which will begin later this week. We're also working on getting her clothes for her interviews. Rick has tracked down some clothing places that might help.Today at 4:15 Central time (2:15 Pacific) I will be on WHO News Radio 1040 (Iowa) speaking with host Steve Deace about the Liz and Katy story. The interview will run around 20 minutes. You can listen live here. I don't know yet about listening after the show is over. If I find a link for that on the WHO site, I'll post it in an update.
Speaking of updates, Katy has updated her blog, complete with pictures.
In a comment yesterday novelist Neta Jackson posted a link for Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Chicago, saying it's "a fantastic Christian ministry that runs both a men's and women's shelter plus programs for kids and women." Neta also wrote, "I'm so glad you're highlighting the plight of the homeless. I've been volunteering at [Breakthough Urban Ministries] for a year and a half now, and oh! the stories! (One result is that my new series, the Yada Yada House of Hope, is about a homeless shelter.)"
I urge you to check out Breakthrough Urban Ministry if you're in the Chicago area. Or you can always donate online. If you're not in Chicago--how can you help a homeless family in your area?
Monday, January 05, 2009
Happy first full week of the new year. Welcome, old readers and new to Forensics and Faith in 2009.
Sometime today I should be hearing from the segment producer of Good Morning America regarding when the show on Katy and Liz will be filmed and aired. I'll post updates here and on Twitter/Facebook throughout the day.
Something big is happening. Something bigger than the Katy and Liz story alone. Katy and Liz have captured the hearts of many because they've put a face on the plight of homeless families. Oh, we hear about such folks--out there, somewhere. But how often do we do something to help? Until last week, when I heard from Liz, one of my readers, I'd done nothing. Liz was that tug at my heart.
As I continue to spread this story in order to help Katy and Liz get settled into a home and employment, I also want to spread the challenge. What are you doing to help a homeless family? They're all over our country. They're so often the working poor, who missed a few paychecks or got laid off from a job--and find themselves without a home. It's so easy to judge. It's so easy to misunderstand. "Why don't they just get a job?" Sometimes they can't find employment. Sometimes serious health issues stand in the way. I ask you--will you judge from your warm bed at night? Or will you do something to help? I thank God for the privilege of being the helping hands to get the story started for this one family. I can't help every homeless family out there. We need a nation of compassionate people to do that.
Here are some blogs for today with stories about Katy and Liz:
Writing From Home: To the Rescue? What will you do?
Saturday, January 03, 2009
[Quick note for my regular readers: the January issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine just posted. My article this month: Writing the Prologue--Part I. Also Cornhusker Academy blog has posted an interview with me.]
For those of you just joining this story of Katy & Liz, here is the background in a nutshell:
Liz has been a reader of my suspense novels for four to five years now. She has been struggling financially for some time. Each time a book of mine released, I'd send her a free copy. Liz would always reply with a handwritten, gracious letter. She's been wonderfully encouraging to me.
Liz's daughter, Katy, a smart girl and talented artist, is now 16. A few days before New Years, Katy and her mom became homeless and were living in their car. Katy began blogging about their experience. When Liz emailed me of their plight, I had to help. Using my network on this blog, Facebook and Twitter, I began spreading the word about Katy and Liz. Unfortunately they are just two of the many working poor who've tipped into homelessness. Katy's blog, Anywhere But Here, was putting a face on this problem in our country.
Soon many wonderful people got involved. I could not have done this alone. Julie Bonn Heath of JBH Marketing used her PR skills to contact the media. Mostly, God was in control and answering the desperate prayers of Katy and Liz. Folks started spreading the word and stepping in to help. I set up ways to donate, and money began coming in. Jessica Rosenberg got to Katy and Liz that first night when I could not, and gave them money for a motel. (Follow the links to read Julie's and Jessica's thoughtful posts about their experience in getting involved--could you do something similar for a homeless family?) The next day I was able to get to Liz and Katy, bringing my own donation and donations from many others. By that time the local ABC and NBC stations had stepped in, and that night they ran their stories. The following day--New Years Day--CNN picked up the story. The next day (yesterday) Good Morning America called. They will interview Katy and Liz next week. (Check back here for updates on which day.)
Katy and Liz are out of their car, but they need permanent housing and employment for Liz. (She has health issues, and is unable to do a job that requires a lot of standing. She does have experience in office work.) To donate, please send a check to Elizabeth Hughes, P.O. Box 111525, Campbell, CA 95011. Or send through Paypal to: hugheselizabeth (@) rocketmail (dot) com.
Homeless people are in your neighborhood. What can you do to help? One person can make a difference.
For all the details on how this story unfolded, go back to my post on Tuesday, Dec. 30 and read forward. The posts contain all relevant links and pictures.
All of Liz and Katy's things have now been moved into storage. They remain in their motel, very busy. Katy is responding to many emails, requests to write articles, etc. Liz is working with Rick Acker, a Deputy Attorney General in the California Dept. of Justice (and an author friend of mine) who has offered his time to update her resume. He's been and will continue to be an amazing help.
Check back here Monday for real-time updates. By end of that day we will know the airing date of the Good Morning America show.
Please check Katy's blog for her new post, answering readers' questions.
Here are some other blogs with posts about this story:
Kimberly Woodhouse (This author and her family, including their very sick daughter, had the privilege of being on Extreme Makeover--Home Edition.)
Renovation Therapy is running an auction on small craft items, with all benefits going to Katy and Liz.
2:20 p.m.: Katy needs advice from any artists out there regarding how to charge for creating a blog/Twitter avatar. Please leave a comment if you can help.
2:25 p.m.: Liz needs help with clothes for job interviews and needs some coaching for best presenting herself. If you know anyone in the San Jose, CA area who can help coach in this area, please leave a comment.
Friday, January 02, 2009
Real time Updates:
10:15 a.m.: Breaking News. Good Morning America wants to have Katy on their show. Katy & Liz are moving their things from their old apartment with the help of some angels with SUVs in the area. While they are busy with those details, they would like me to be in contact with GMA to work out details of interview. Will post/Twitter updates as I can.
10:45 a.m.: I am trying to work with a bank to set up a special account for donations for Liz & Katy. If you are sending donations, you can continue either sending a check directly to their P.O. Box number, or use my Paypal account for now. Please bear with me--I've not done this before, and this story has unfolded so quickly. As this story goes national, Katy and Liz will need to have a way of directly receiving online funds.
1:15 p.m.: I have been on the phone with a bank and Paypal, and have now set up a Paypal account that feeds directly into Liz's bank account. To make donations, please log into Paypal and send funds to this address:
hugheselizabeth (@) rocketmail (dot) com
Or you can still send a check directly to:
Elizabeth Hughes, P.O. Box 111525, Campbell, CA 95011
Bless all of you helping angels out there!
4:30 p.m.: Talked to segment producer from Good Morning America. All people who make decisions as to which day a segment runs are out of the office. The producer will call me Monday to confirm date of the show.
Wow, another busy day. I haven't gotten any writing done for three days now, as I've worked to keep up with all of this. People are stepping in to help Katy and Liz. It's wonderful to see the generosity. Thanks to all of you are donating, praying, and helping to spread the word!
I have received more Paypal donations today. These funds will go to Liz and Katy tomorrow. Thanks especially to those of you who don't know me for trusting me with your donations. Every penny is going to Katy and Liz--no Paypal fees have been taken out. I have personally emailed every one who sent a Paypal donation. If you didn't receive your email, please check your spam folder.
Some new happenings today:
As of this post writing, Katy's blog hits are over 24,500.
The NBC news segment is now available for viewing here.
CNN also picked up the news story.
Julie Bonn Heath is the wonderful PR person on our team who has been making all the media contacts. Please visit her blog for more of the story. Julie's Twitter name is @juliebonnheath
@kikarose (Twitter name)--This writer was a godsend to Katy and Liz on Tuesday night, taking them money for a hotel room for the night (until I could drive to them the following day, hand-carrying the first donations). She wrote a beautiful, thoughtful post here.
More blog posts about the story:
Katy is receiving some interest in her art pieces. We still have to see how this works out.
Finally, to clear up questions from some readers: I don't live near enough to Katy and Liz for them to stay with me. They need and want to stay in their area and find housing and a job for Liz there. Katy is homeschooled and meets with a homeschooling mentor in the area on a regular basis. This is a good situation for her, and in the interest of her education, they want to continue it. For the same reason they are not considering moving out of the area.
If you have blogged about this story and would like your link listed here, please email me with the URL. I will be happy to post it.
Blessings to all of you for helping to make 2009 a much better year for Liz and Katy. This story shows how much difference one person can make. Each of you has a sphere of influence of your own. When you tell this story to others, you can know that is having a domino effect. Thank you so much for spreading the word.