Showing posts from 2012

technology gives me a boost

Right now my husband and I are taking a winter retreat in Florida. He loves the sunshine and warmth, so this is his treat. I'd rather go somewhere moody and atmospheric, like the Shetland Islands or Istanbul, but I can't always have my way, so here we are.

The good news is that I just bought a new computer. And so did my husband. We are both writers, and have struggled along sharing one mini netbook for almost two years. We didn't want to buy a computer in Prague, where we live, as they are very expensive there. Here in Florida, we found such cheap computers that we bought two. My husband and I are very frugal, so this seems like a real splurge, but the prices are so good that we could not resist.

The boost is twofold: my new computer has a 14" screen, so I can actually see what I am doing, and now we don't try to rip the computer from each other's hands. We have our very own. My husband's has a 17" screen and he is in heaven. I wanted something light…

money or time?

when I was in my 20's, I had a revelation: one has either money or time, but rarely both.

Life can seem like a lane that leads to an unknown place, exciting and intriguing. But you can't take the time to explore that lane unless you have sufficient money to pay your bills in the meantime.

In my 20's, I decided to use my time as I pleased. I had lots and lots of time to observe, think, experiment and try to understand the world. What I didn't have was money, but my wants were few and responsibilities were minimal.

As my life passed, I turned my attention to money. To be able to do what I wanted to do, I needed an income and some earning potential. My time became precious as a  means to make money. Not so much time to contemplate and actually process my life as I lived it.

Now, I am in a position I never expected--I have both time and money. Now, I need to use both with equal precision.

Point of View revisited

Jarda and I have lived in Prague for two years, and I am celebrating this anniversary by once again trying to write 21st Century Christianity. Among the many decisions to be made in envisioning this book is which point of view to use.

Lots of Christian books (well, a book can't be a follower of Christ, so let's say "books by Christian authors that presumably offer a Christian worldview") suffer from "me-itis." That is to say, they are written from 1st person singular perspective ("I"), which is meant to give authenticity and immediacy to the book.

The problem is that 1st person is only interesting and useful for a) that person or b) people who can fit their feet into that person's shoes. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird (not a "Christian" book, per se, but a well-known novel) is written in 1st person, but the skill of the author, Harper Lee, is such that she allows readers who are not small-town girls with lawyer fathers to feel th…

BBC advice for writers

BBC News is our homepage on the computer. We like its news summaries and headlines--though we can't figure out where they are getting their weather forecasts for Prague! If it says "thunderstorms," count on a hot, sunny day. The infamous "white sky" of high overcast is actually quite rare here. "Partly sunny/cloudy" is a pretty good guess, but not a very helpful forecast.

Anyway, we like BBC. They have some interesting features on their website. Here's one I just found on writing. It's not dull, and it takes a different approach to writing than the dull, formulaic approach of academia. Take a look at it!

How to write

I need to take my own advice

I haven't been writing much lately. This is a terrible thing for a writer to admit publicly, but I have my excuses all lined up:

1. unreliable computer that falls asleep whenever it gets tired.
2. family medical stuff that takes time to deal with.
3. spring fever.

I will try to do better. Really.

First person perspective

I love books written in 1st person [First person, a grammatical person (e.g., "I", "we", "me", "us"), according to Wikipedia.]. Autobiographies, most travel books, and many novels are written as 1st person perspectives. In my mind, the advantages (A) of 1st person outweigh the disadvantages (D).

In 1st person, the writing seems fresh and spontaneous (A), unfiltered through any mind except the narrator's. Of course in fiction, this spontaneity is false, as there is no "first person" except the author, who's making it all up anyway. But in travel writing, first person adds to the reader's experience by making it easy to imagine being the traveler, as the reader feels as if he or she is getting inside the traveler's mind. Paul Theroux is a good example of a travel writer who makes no apparent effort to prevent the reader from living inside his thoughts and actions, be they flattering to Theroux or not.

[Of course, Theroux&…

Blog fever

I am feverishly writing blog entries, having started a new blog (number 9) and being reenergized by the need to please my reading public.
My blog site tells me how many pageviews each blog has, gives me a graph of viewing activity over time, and tells me how the viewers found my blog (what site they entered from). My Feedjit tells me where some of the viewers are from, geographically.

Although I didn't start writing blogs to build a readership, I find that knowing that my readers are "out there" is very stimulating. When I teach, I can see the students right in front of me, which produces a strong motivation to say something worth listening to. Writing in my blogs is similar, when I realize that someone will want to read what I've written.

So this morning is Blog Fever morning, here in Prague. Please check out my new blog,

for some pictures and information on felting, if you have any interest!

Imaginary Jesus

I downloaded a free ebook on Amazon last week. It looked like it might be cute. Well.

More than cute, I'd say. Jarda and I are reading it aloud, one chapter at a time. It starts with a fistfight between Jesus and Peter, the apostle, in a hip Portland coffee house. So far we have had some pretty good discussions about the tone (zippy-quick and semi-serious) and setting (cool Portland, where our daughter used to live--we visited and liked it very much).

Here's the Amazon description:

Imaginary Jesus is an hilarious, fast-paced, not-quite-fictional story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before. When Matt Mikalatos realizes that his longtime buddy in the robe and sandals isn’t the real Jesus at all, but an imaginary one, he embarks on a mission to find the real thing. On his wild ride through time, space, and Portland, Oregon, he encounters hundreds of other Imaginary Jesuses determined to stand in his way (like Legalistic Jesus, Perpetually Angry Jesus, and Magic 8 B…
Sometimes you have a project that just doesn't come together easily. Our book in progress, 21st CenturyChristianity, is such a project.

During our 2012 planning meetings, Jarda and I decided to finish the book this year. We first envisioned this book in 2008, and wrote about half of it before realizing that it was not the book we really wanted to write. We put it aside while working on 21st Century Jobs, the book we published in 2009.

I think that the problem with 21st Century Christianity is that the topic is too vast, yet too limited at the same time. We can't come up with a narrative that will lead us into the book. The drafts so far have had these less-than-successful qualities:

1. too factual, too dry, and so data-driven that the book will be outdated by the time we publish it.

2. too opinionated, ending up as a diatribe that doesn't even interest us, let alone anyone else.

3. too general and sweeping, covering centuries of complex history in a few paragraphs, disto…