Sunday, March 30, 2008

Christianity is not a religion . . .

"Moses could meditate on the law; Muhammad could brandish a sword; Buddha could give personal counsel; Confucius could offer wise sayings; but none of these men was qualified to offer an atonement for the sins of the world" -R.C. Sproul.

Christ alone offers eternal life through his sacrifice. Religious freedom applies to religions and Christian denominations when it comes to the application of rights and laws.

Christianity is beyond religion. It is not man-conceived, but God ordained. It has no moral equivalent or philosophical competitor.

Contrary to some popular belief, Christianity is not a set of principles to live your life by. It is not simply an owner's manual to govern the human existence. It is the road map to salvation, the receipt for the gift of grace, a love letter written to you by God.

Treasure it, Revere it, Embrace it, but do not belittle it by calling it a religion.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Local landmark . . .

This is a small, very old church on Deadwood Road a few hundred feet from where I grew up.

This is the church where they filmed the movie The Apostle by Robert Duvall.

The church is actually sitting on a parcel of drained swamp surrounded by a levee. During heavy rains and localized flooding, the graves, sometimes, pop out of the ground. As a teenager I rode my bike there to find two had floated across the street and came to rest on some cypress knees along the bayou where my dad said they did submersion baptisms when he was a kid.

In New Orleans, in some of the older graveyards, bones have reportedly "seeped" to the surface. The older caskets were not placed in the concrete tombs. So, when the wood rotted away, the bones were free to move with the water table.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Resurrection Day ! ! !

Hi. My name is Teddy.

Dayle can't blog right now because he's taking a break from working on his manuscript to eat dinner.

I just wanted to wish you all a happy Resurrection Day.

I would also like to thank y'all for all the kind words regarding my mother's recent passing. For those of you curious about what Chelsea looked like - she looked like me except with white fur and more wisdom in her face.

By the way, I'm a lot older than I look. Believe it or not, I'm 12 years old. But I've got the heart of a puppy. That's the key to staying young. You have to believe that you are young.

Anyway, I have to go now. Dayle's almost finished eating and he'll need the computer back to continue working on his manuscript (or so he says).

Till next time,


Rose-colored glasses . . . Part 2

Okay, back to where we left off. The '07 ACFW in Dallas.

I had a great meeting with agent Y representing superagency X. The meeting went twice as long as it was supposed to. Very good back and forth. I was told how well I represented myself and how well I summarized my manuscript. Agent asked for my proposal and . . . well, I've never heard from her. Still this was not a rejection. Either I will eventually hear from her. Or, my manuscript doesn't fit the vision of this agency.

Agent B didn't waste much time asking for a full. AB told me my first page passed the test and AB definitely wanted to see more. I still haven't sent AB my full. Why? Because I'm not sure we're a good fit. Result: No rejection.

Editor D seemed promising. Again, meeting went real well. D asked for a proposal and full manuscript. Two months later, D informed me that my book wasn't a good fit for D's House. Okay, this is as close to a rejection as I've received. But still, all it meant was that my manuscript wasn't a good match.

Also, I couldn't miss the bright side. I was a conference newbie who received 5 requests. Not too shabby. I've yet to meet with someone who said: "Your way out of your league. Don't send me your stuff."

More bright side: Editor C from my first conference asked for a full, sent me a page and a half of notes, requested a rewrite and re-submission. Which I'm taking a long time to do, but I am doing.

Alright, I'll confess, I'm not made of stone. I do feel the sting of rejection briefly. But we're talking less than a minute. But the sting is not based on any resentment against the reject-er. It's based on realizing I did something to cause it.

Maybe I...

sent it to the wrong publisher/agent.
didn't pitch it effectively.
pitched it before it was ready.
did everything right, but it wasn't a good match
etc, etc, etc.

Okay, it's possible that the agent/editor is a narrow minded idiot who passes up bestselling books from new authors everyday because they're just upset that they couldn't sell the book they've been working on for the past 12 years, . . . But I seriously doubt it.

My advice, for what it's worth, is to look at rejections in a brand new light. Consider them information sources. Put on your special rose-colored glasses and maybe you'll see the real message behind the form letter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rose-colored glasses . . .

I would like to propose a new way of looking at rejections. I think the word "rejection" in this context is a misnomer. You are not being rejected. Your manuscript is not being rejected. There is always another meaning. The key is to discover that hidden meaning.

So far, I've been pretty fortunate. I don't have a drawer full of rejections. Let's review - Immediately after I finished my manuscript, I queried an agent. A big one in the world of Christian publishing. Two weeks later, my SASE arrived with the form rejection. Oh, it said something like "although your writing has merit, it blah, blah, blah". I would tell you exactly what it said, but I can't find it. Anyway, the point is I wasn't rejected - I was informed that I wasn't ready yet. So I decided to seek and devour all the information I could about novel writing. I also made another great decision - I sent my manuscript to Donna Fleisher to have it edited. I did not immediately query 20 other agents. I did not deem that agency to be blind to real talent.

I then attended the fantastic "Writing for the Soul" conference in Colorado Springs. All three interviews went great. All three editors asked for either a partial or a whole. I still haven't heard from editor 1, therefore no rejection has occurred. Editor 2 informed me that publishing house X has changed its focus to YA fiction - therefore no rejection. Editor 3 sent my manuscript back and asked me to do a minor re-write and send it back. (still doing that) Again, no rejection.

I decided to query an agent again. And, although I made her final cut of three out of 160+, she didn't offer me representation. But she didn't reject me. She was kind enough to send me her thoughts about my writing and I must say that for the first time in this journey, I disagreed with a professional. So, she didn't reject me, she just informed me that we weren't a good fit. She has to represent the kind of writing that fits her eye. That wasn't me.

SIDENOTE: A few other editors who asked for partials over lunch at the conference also said no. BUT, these were not rejections. You see, they came so fast, that I really think they just asked for a partial because of the uncomfortable environment. I mean, really, who wants to say no to someone over dinner? So, still - no rejections.

Fast forward to ACFW conference in 07. I met with two agents and one editor. Again, all meetings went great. Apparently, I make a good impression in person :).

But . . .

To be continued.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Growing up Arceneaux . . .

For those of you (cough-Kay) wondering what this area of the world looks like, here are some pics COURTESY OF TODD.

I grew up surrounded by this stuff. Miles and miles of it. No kidding. 30ft behind my house and extending for miles.

Click on the picture to see the little ones. Good work, Todd.

Monday, March 17, 2008

It takes one to know one . . .

I wasn't born with any musical ability or sensibility whatsoever. It took years of hard work, practice, and dedication to arrive at that place where playing a guitar is almost a subconscious event for me. I don't really have to think about it. I can do it with my eyes closed. I can even worship while playing without missing a beat (for the most part). But it wasn't always that way. And after all this time, I still can't tune a guitar by ear. I can, however, hear when it's out of tune.

When I first became the worship leader for my church youth group I wasn't very good. The lyric sheets (with the chords written above the words that indicated the correct timing) had to be in front of me or I was lost. I had to listen very intently to the other musicians and the singer so I wouldn't lose my place. Despite all of this concentration (which explains all the dumb faces I used to make), I made multiple mistakes per song. The result: no one noticed (I actually got compliments). No one noticed except my fellow musicians and the 1 or 2 musicians who happened to be in the audience that is.

However, even though the general public did not notice my mistakes, no record company on the planet would have signed such a sloppy musician as I. I would have had to prove my technical ability before I would have been allowed to waste tape on their dime.

For example, I went to a concert by classical guitarist Peter Fletcher. Outstanding musician. At one point in a particular selection - he messed up. So I thought. But he did it on purpose. Or shall I say with purpose. He allowed the strings to vibrate against the fret. Usually this is a mistake. But he did it while doing a walk down with the top (bass) string creating a wonderful effect.

See my point? If I do it, it's a mistake. When he does it, it's genius.

How does this apply to writing? Even though the audience can't hear (read) your mistakes, they're not the ones running the studios (publishing houses). You have to prove your technical ability before they allow you to vibrate the strings (break the "rules") with purpose.

Of course, all of this is very SUBJECTIVE. Some really good writers will never get published and some not so good writers will. This is the nature of the human element. And, contrary to popular belief, editors are human, too.

Is this fair? Maybe not, but it is the reality.

On the other hand, one of the mistakes really great technical musicians make is that they play to impress other musicians. So the result is usually over the heads of the general listening public. This is why they rarely produce a hit. The key is to evoke emotion. No matter how simple the song. The great ones can do both.

See the parallel? Story is king. A great story poorly presented is still better than a bad story perfectly executed. But it probably won't get you published.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It's a conspiracy I tell ya . . .

I know Dean Koontz has a twisted sense of humor. If you don't believe me, read his answers to questions 1, 5, & 10.

I'm starting to think Dean Koontz has been playing an even bigger and more elaborate joke on the publishing industry. You see, in some of his recent books, he has been doing things he doesn't normally do.

Exhibit A:

In these examples from The Darkest Evening of the Year, he's putting his dialogue tags before the dialogue. I must say that I found this very distracting. I've checked his older books. He didn't do this then.

She says, "You know what's the worst thing?"
Brian said, "You always carry two thousand bucks?"
He said, "You aren't seriously telling me that Seeing Eye dogs can drive."

Exhibit B:

Look at these dialogue tags from Velocity :

Ned said impatiently, Ned explained, Ned clarified, Ned confirmed, Ned agreed, Ned grumbled, Billy added, Billy judged, Billy assured him, Ned replied, Billy conceded, Steve protested, Lanny objected, Billy suggested, Cottle said anxiously, Billy said plaintively.

and my personal favorite "Science fiction," Jackie emphasized.

Because of his past track record, I'm starting to think there's a method to this madness. Like he's thumbing his nose at the experts who say you shouldn't do these things.

The experts usually say that most writers do the above 'don'ts' due to a lack of confidence in their writing. I have never agreed with this charge. Most new writers do this because that's the example they've seen in the books they've read. They see it in a novel and consider it accepted practice. Not to mention it's a good way to get the word count up.

It would be ridiculous to say that Koontz is doing this because of a lack of confidence. That's almost too absurd to even think about. If it were his standard operating procedure then you could just use the "when you sell a hundred million books then you can do whatever you want too" argument.

Personally, I think he's just having fun.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dayle the adventurer . . .

More pics from Clark Creek.

Pics by Todd.

Backpack by Ryan.

Higher than it looks. ---->

Todd getting artsy.

Bigger than it looks. That's me in the upper left. --->

Monday, March 10, 2008

Well . . . it ain't the Smokies

but it does have its own charm.

Three things I learned while hiking in the Clark Creek wildlife management area in Mississippi this weekend:

1. Pictures still don't do nature justice.

2. Either a miracle has occurred or I'm no longer allergic to Poison Ivy .

3. I look fat when I put my hands in my pockets. ------>

Friday, March 7, 2008

Speak of the devil . . .

I took this one in North Carolina at Chimney Rock Park.
The dangling rock formation is called Devil's Head. (click on the picture to get a better look)
To me, it looks like one of those creatures in Lord of the Rings.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Blue Ridge Parkway hike

I never thought I'd find myself here. ---->

<---- It's at the top of that outcropping.

Looking back at the car. ---->

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Your novel's only got one shot at . . .

making a good first impression.

I don't like having a story set up for me. You know those novels that have three of four paragraphs telling you the backstory or setting up the real opening. I'd rather that info be threaded in while the opening scene is taking place.

Before I even considered learning anything about writing a novel I knew one thing: The opening has to be good. In fact, the only thing more important than a good opening is a good ending.

But on the other hand, some of my favorite books have okay openings. Especially when it comes to the first line. Silly fact about me - - I'm obsessed with opening lines. (When I'm in the bookstore I often grab a few books off the shelf and read just the first line.)

The truth is: you don't need a great first line - you need a good opening. This could mean the first line, the first paragraph, first page, or first chapter.

Consider these examples from some of my favorite books:

From Demon by Tosca Lee : It was raining the night he found me.

Not too spectacular. Brown and King recommend never starting a sentence with "It". "Was" is also discouraged. And, we have a weather report - albeit a short one. The second sentence is even worse. But the opening chapter is good. The result - one of the best books I've ever read.

From Thr3e by Ted Dekker: The office had no windows, only electric lanterns to light the hundreds of spines standing in their cherry wood bookcase.

Well that's just awful. In fact, the whole first paragraph is awful (for an opening). A single lawyers lamp spread its yellow hue over the leather-topped desk. The room smelled of linseed oil and musty pages, but to Dr. John Francis it was the scent of knowledge.

Okay. . . So far this is not a good opening. But look at the next line. The line I would have chosen to be the first.

"Evil is beyond the reach of no man." Now we're getting somewhere.

Despite the awful first paragraph, the opening chapter is fantastic. The result - one of the best books I've read.

Now on to my all-time favorite novel. Watchers by Dean Koontz.

On his thirty-sixth birthday, May 18, Travis Cornell rose at five o'clock in the morning. To quote Homer Simpson: Boring. But don't stop - keep reading the first paragraph. He dressed in sturdy hiking boots, jeans, and a long-sleeved, blue plaid cotton shirt. He drove his pickup south from his home in Santa Barbara all the way to rural Santiago Canyon on the eastern edge of Orange County, south of Los Angelas. He took only a package of Oreo cookies, a large canteen full of orange-flavored Kool-Aid, and a fully loaded Smith & Wesson .38 Chief's special.

Now that's an opening paragraph. The first few lines are used to set up the impact of the last.

So it seems my obsession with great first lines is a little misplaced. It's the opening that has to be good. Be it first line, paragraph, or chapter. (Of course it's great to have all three.) But even a great first line is nothing if the opening scene is not good. So actually, you need to have a good opening scene. Just don't waste too much time getting to it.

I went through my "To be read" stack and found this opening from Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas:

My name is Odd Thomas, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.

Now that's an opening line.

With all of that said, this is all very subjective. Let's look at what could be Dean Koontz's best novel in the deep, rich, literary thriller sense. From the Corner of His Eye. It does everything "wrong". The first chapter (half a page long) is told from omniscient pov and is just an info dump. The second chapter (three pages long) has no action. But it does give some rich characterization. The third chapter (9 pages long) is one of the best "opening scenes" I've ever read. No one will put that book down after that third chapter.

These three chapters are not connected and use different pov's, but the first two set up the third and add impact to the true "opening scene".

The result = one of the best books I've ever read.

**sidenote: Koontz almost always does something I'm told you shouldn't do - he switches tone. He almost always has two storylines running simultaneously and they are usually juxtaposed between good and evil, the miracles of good humanity and the relentless detructive force of the evil side of mankind.