Saturday, December 6, 2008


While I like many different types of literature, there is a special appeal to scary stories that carry us back to our youth. All of us have pleasant memories of campfires and the inevitable snap of breaking branches in the darkened woods that scared the liver out of us. You don't have to have a campfire, and a dark night is not obligatory, although it helps to set the mood. Quiet is one of those books you have been looking for, filled with tales that will make the hair lift along the nape of your neck. Oh, and another thing I forgot to mention. Make sure you are sitting in an over-sized chair when you read some of the stories in this one. You really don't want your feet dangling down there where you can't watch them. You never know what is hiding in the dark corners or underneath the bed. Don't say I didn't warn you. Click on this link and it will carry you to a place where you can order your copy.

Friday, November 7, 2008


In the last few years, many magazines have stopped carrying short stories. Years ago, when I was growing up, postage was cheap and most families subscribed to several magazines. I remember waiting expectantly for the mail to arrive, anxious to take part in the latest adventure. Now that the Internet is available in almost every home, short stories are making a comeback. There are many sites where you can download stories for a fee, but many others where you can read to your heart's content at no cost. One of the free sites is Author's Den, which has over 1.4 million visitors per month. Click on this LINK and it will carry you to my latest story. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Monday, October 27, 2008


All writers have problems with editing. The process involves going over sentences and paragraphs until we almost have them memorized. While this repetitive process has its rewards, there is also a downside. The more familiar the material becomes, the easier it is to overlook the omission of short words or the transposing of letters. Children, who learned to read with a strong emphasis on phonics, tend to see every letter in a word. The rest of us tend to recognize words in the same manner we recognize any other object. Words to us are pictures and the transposing of one or two letters might go unnoticed. In a recent study, Cambridge University offered the following paragraph as an example.

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulacity uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcaueae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was imphorant!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I was in a restaurant near Mount Vernon several years ago. In a roped-off section near the entrance was a table with the initials G.W. carved deeply into the wood. A sign explained that this was George Washington’s initials, carved by him when he was a young surveyor.

There is a fine line between art, graffiti, and vandalism, and it is not always easy to know one from the other. Defacing public or private property is always wrong and should be discouraged, but there are occasions where there is an unmistakable beauty to some graffiti. I discovered the wonder of it while traveling around in different areas of the country.

Passing a park in a small town, I saw something from the corner of my eye I could not immediately identify. I turned around and went back. There was a rectangle of bright green grass where someone had used liquid fertilizer to write the name, Molly. The grass was taller and greener than the surrounding vegetation and was clearly visible from a long distance. I can imagine the school bus Molly rode each morning passed that way. Was the artist someone Molly knew, or was this the work of some shy young man who desperately wanted to know her?

In another town, I stopped at the approach to a newly constructed bridge. In carefully worded script were the words, Thad Is a Dork! Whoever wrote that one spent many hours with brush and paint, carefully inscribing her thoughts with loving care. I have a feeling she really didn’t really think of the him in that way, and I hope Thad was bright enough to know the difference.

I think every town should erect a sign or designate an area where teens can inscribe the names of the one they are dating, or hope to date. It is infinitely important that John loves Heather, or that Frank is MAD about Tiffany. I think it is important that you and I know that too.

The very best to John, Heather, Frank, Tiffany, and to Thad— even though he is a dork— and to the young woman who cared enough to tell him.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008



Most of us have memories of sitting through long sessions in high school history classes. We remember how our eyes became heavy as our teacher droned endlessly on about places and things that held no interest for us. After suffering through the mandatory requirement to graduate, we silently vowed never to let this happen again. History doesn't have to be dull if we approach it in the right manner. Unless we understand something about the vast sweep of human history, we will never understand ourselves. We are the product of all that went before us. History is exciting, and I will prove it to you if you will set up a little straighter in your chair and take a journey with me. Are you ready? Then here we go.

Most of us are familiar with the term, DNA. It first came to the attention of most of us during the O.J. Simpson trial a few years ago. Today, the use of DNA in criminal investigations has become routine, and it frequently plays a part in determining the outcome of paternity cases. A minute sample of genetic material can identify the parents of a child with certainty. The exciting thing about DNA testing is the fact that it can not only identify our parents, it can also identify our ethnic heritage, plus a lot of other things. A scientist can take a sample of DNA and project backward in time, identifying the groups of people from which we descended. Collecting genetic samples at archaeological sites has become routine in the last few years. This allows them to identify and chart the movement of people across the face of the ancient world. Scientists have proven that every person is a descendant of one man who lived in northern Africa 60,000 years ago. From that humble beginning, the human race quickly spread across the face of the earth. Then at some indeterminate point in time, a catastrophic event almost annihilated the human race. By studying DNA taken from the remains of some very ancient skeletons, scientists determined that less than two thousand persons survived this event, although they are not willing to hazard a guess at the exact number. I have a feeling there was no more than a boatload of hardy individuals who survived.

Eventually, the human race began to multiply again. They spread across Europe and into Africa, Asia, and the islands surrounding them. Then, they started to spread to all of the other land areas. They crossed to the Islands off the continent of Asia, then to Australia, Hawaii, and across three thousand miles of open sea to Tahiti. One group migrated around the cost of China, bypassed Japan, and up the coast to the Aleutian Islands. They eventually arrived at the Pacific coast of North America. We call this group Native Americans.

Mankind has always been restless, inventive, and adventuresome. It was rather astonishing when a team of archaeologists dug into a grave in Oregon and discovered a skeleton much older than the group known as Native Americans. When they ran DNA test, they discovered this was the remains of a Caucasian person of European descent. Then they found a skeleton of another Caucasian in Illinois, and then two others in a dig in South Carolina. Some of the tools found in South Carolina suggests they were related to the people who drew the cave drawings of prehistoric animals in France.

If DNA can tell us something about our beginning, then it becomes natural to ask the question: Who are we? Why do I have a medium build, brown hair, and blue eyes, while my neighbor is six foot tall and outweighs me by thirty pounds? This is something we can actually blame on our parents, and all of those who came before us. DNA is a tiny ribbon of genetic material present in each cell of our body. It is smaller than a dust mote floating in a beam of sunlight. If you were to unfold this ribbon of material, it would be approximately fifteen feet in length, but only three atoms wide. This miraculous substance contains the codes that determine our psychical characteristics. It contains a complete blueprint of our body. Think of DNA as being like a long array of electronic circuitry with many billions of switches along its length. Some of them are flipped on and others are flipped off. The switches flipped on are the ones that control our appearance and other physical characteristics. The genetic switches flipped to the off position don't perform any function, but we still pass them on to our descendants. This is the reason you do not look exactly like your brother or your sister, and the reason your child might have your great-grandfather's red hair, even though no one else in your generation has red hair.

Who are the people in our family tree? Most of the history of the human race has been lost. Some historical accounts are of doubtful value, full of fables and inaccuracies. It is exciting that we have the science of DNA which can tell us something about human history. When most of us think about family history, we only think about the people who passed our family name along to us. Everyone― even if they were adopted and never knew their birth parents― has two parents. In the next generation, there were four grandparents. Each generation has twice as many people as the previous one. A generation is about twenty-five years in length, with four generations in each 100 years. One hundred years before your birth date, you had 16 great-grandparents in that generation. Only one of them had your surname. Unless there was intermarriage, this is true of each generation. Two hundred years before your birth date, you had 256 grandparents in that generation. At the time the European nations were making their plans to colonize North America― which was about fifteen generations back― you had 32,768 grandparents alive on that date!

Labs that conduct DNA testing for genealogical purposes, can tell you which genetic group predominates your family tree. The first immigrant bearing your family name might have come from England in the middle of the sixteen hundreds. This person was English― but wait a minute! The Englishman of the 17th century was a mixture of Brythons, Anglo-Saxons, Danish Vikings, Bretons, Normans, and many others thrown in for good measure. Your ancestor's English surname was passed down to his descendants, but if your family located in a town predominately inhabited by some other ethnic group, then it is likely most of your 65,536 grandparents who lived since the middle sixteen hundreds, were not English. This brings us back to our original question. Who are you? The next time you pass through a kitchen and someone is baking a cake, look in the mixing bowl and see is you can find the vanilla. We are an astonishing mixture of races and nationalities― we are everyone, but most important, we are uniquely ourselves.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008


The picture accompanying this article has been circulating on the Internet, but I had not seen it until my sister brought it to my attention. I immediately contacted the photographer, Michael Clancy, and received permission to use it on my website.

The child in the photograph is Samuel Alexander Armas, and he was diagnosed with spina bifida. At 21 weeks old, he could not live if removed from his mother's womb. Dr. Joseph Bruner, practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, rose to the challenge. He performs these difficult operations while the baby is still in the womb. The procedure involves removing the uterus via C-section, and then the small incision you can see in the photograph is required to reach the fetus.

Dr. Bruner has performed many similar operations, but as he completed the surgery on Samuel, something unusual happened. Samuel reached his tiny, but fully developed hand, through the incision and grasped the doctor's finger. Doctor Bruner is reported to have said that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life. The operation was successful and Samuel was born healthy and perfectly normal.

At this point, you probably expect me to launch into a sermon or perhaps a rant concerning the many shades of gray that pro-life and pro-choice advocates have argued so eloquently. Instead, I would like you to take a moment and focus your attention of young Samuel's tiny hand, and see what this image says about hope, and trust, and the future.

Have a great life Samuel Alexander Armas. I have a feeling we are going to hear from you again.

If you would like to know more about Samuel’s story and Photographer Michael Clancy’s efforts to publicize this extraordinary event, you can follow this link. to


Thursday, August 28, 2008


I have always loved short stories. I am convinced there can never be too many of them, just as there can never be too many Christmas mornings, or too many celebrations of the 4th of July. Most of us started our reading experience with children’s storybooks, usually in our preschool years. I have some of my favorite books in a well-guarded place, safe from little fingers that might dog-ear the pages, or the expectant ones who might want to borrow them. I can still feel the excitement I felt in that long ago era when I settled back in a chair to experience the magic of Sammy Jay, or Tom Cat, or the Brothers Grimm.

Short stories present a challenge to the writer, because they have all the elements of a television commercial. You have to get to the what, where, who and the why of it, in only a few words. I am honored to have two of my short stories appearing in an anthology from Down in the Country Press. The book is called The Black Whole, and it contains 25 stories that vary widely in subject matter. You will be sure to find several of them to suit your mood, and you might want to move your chair while you read in case you need to turn the lights up again. Be sure to have a box of Kleenex handy, and tennis shoes aren’t a bad idea in case you feel the need to run. I have read halfway through the book and I think I will read just one more story before I go to bed. But before I get started on the next story, I think I will check my window. It sounds as if something is pecking on the glass . . . .

The Black Whole anthology is available from the publisher, from Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and other on-line book stores.

Don't miss this review of the Black Whole at Bookzombie!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Book Trailers - What's it all about?

If you have been in Outer Mongolia for the last few years, you might not recognize the term, Book Trailer. A book trailer is very similar to the previews of upcoming movies you are accustomed to seeing on television or at the theatre. They are short ─ most of them lasting no more than a minute ─ but they tell you a little more about the story than you can learn by looking at the picture on the front cover, or reading the blurb on the back of the book. Click on this link and watch the Trailer of my suspense novel Dead Certain.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


For many years, editors have requested manuscripts that tell a complete story, but do it succinctly. The development of computer drives with many gigabytes of storage makes it possible for us to store large amounts of text efficiently and cheaply, but it has caused many of us to develop some bad writing habits. Our novels have become longer, more expensive to print, but not necessarily better. Recently, I joined a group writing Flash Fiction. I had a brief idea of what this involved. A story of this type is ideally only five hundred words in length. I knew that, but I did not know how hard it was to gather all of the elements of a story together into a coherent pattern. Then I ran across a short anecdote about Ernest Hemingway that was rather amusing. According to the story, he made a bar bet that he could write the shortest story on earth. His contribution consisted of only six words, and it is definitely a complete story.

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

I haven’t reached Hemingway’s proficiency yet, but I am working on it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


When someone visits my office, their eyes always go to the top shelf of my bookcase where I have a long row of books from Reader’s Digest Select Editions displayed. For guests who aren’t familiar with Select Editions, it is probably the attractiveness of the books that catch their eye, but for others, it is almost like they are waking up on Christmas morning when they were a kid. I often hear, “I love to read, and I wonder if I could borrow just one . . .”

I always allow them to do so, because after a half century of reading almost all of the 800 novels the editors at Reader’s Digest have selected, I am still as excited as I was when I held that first edition in my hand. Many readers spend long hours in book stores trying to find something they haven’t read, while others depend on the New York Times Bestseller List. You might be surprised to learn that most of the books on the bestseller list also appear in Select Editions. If you love James Patterson, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, and all of the other great writers, you will find them there. I could go on for hours about this, but I am in the middle of one of the best novels I have read in a long time. The name of it is Iris and Ruby, and yes, it is in the current issue of Select Editions. You might want to check their website to see a complete list of the books Reader’s Digest has published since 1950. It is an astonishing list, but I need to get back to my book . . .

For more information visit the Select Editions blogsite at:

Joe Prentis

Monday, June 30, 2008


Stories by Southern writers have always been popular among fiction fans, and I think a lot of the appeal is in the realistic settings that always seem to be present in this type of book. High school and college literature classes would not be complete without a review of William Faulkner, Margaret Mitchell, and Eudora Welty, for each of them brings something to the table that would not be complete without them. While these writers are important, a new generation is continuing to introduce readers to the uniqueness and mystery of the Southern experience. Fannie Flagg, John Grisham, and Willie Morris are among the best Southern writers of our era. Each of them presents a different view of Southern life, exploring the temperament and the feel of the times. If you are already familiar with these writers, let me add another name to your list. In the crime novel, The Sweet and the Dead, Milton T. Burton has captured the essence of the Southern criminal. You can feel the tension from the first page to the last, and the sweat and fear of the characters becomes frighteningly real as the tension mounts.

by Milton T. Burton

MANFRED EUGENE ‘HOG’ WEBERN a retired Dallas County deputy sheriff, is talked into going undercover in Biloxi, Mississippi, in a multistate effort to nail a group of traveling Southern criminals who have been tagged by the press with the lurid name “Dixie Mafia”. After making contact with the gang’s nominal leader, the notorious Jasper Sparks, Webern begins to worm his way into the group’s confidence. He also meets and becomes involved with an old friend of Sparks, the mysterious Neil Bigelow, a former assistant federal prosecutor whose daddy ‘owns half of the Delta.’

Having gained the gang’s trust, Webern soon learns that the score being planned is the massive robbery of a wintering carnival of an entire year’s receipts. Joining in planning the job, he meets such well-known hijackers as Slops Moline, a Charleston, South Carolina, killer and armed robber; Lardass Collins, the country’s premier car thief; Tom-Tom Reed, one of the world’s most skilled safecrackers; and the infamous Raymond “Hardhead” Weiler, and Alabama-born moonshiner who has pulled off more than two dozen high-profile contract killings in his seventy years.

As the story develops, Webern is drawn into a maelstrom of robbery, mayhem, and senseless violence that threatens to engulf his very being. And before the final curtain falls on The Sweet and the Dead, we learn that in the murky world of Southern professional crime, nothing is ever quite what it seems to be.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I am pleased the Angela Wilson is featuring me on her web site on Pop Syndicate. Angela is not only an author with a great deal of talent, she is also involved in a number of other projects. She produces copy and pod cast for clients. Angela is also a columnist for various writing publications. She has worked as a print and broadcast journalist, marketing PR executive and radio host. Take some time to check out her web site, her blog, and some of her other projects on the web -- and while you are there, read through the articles she will be posting this week concerning my novels. Click on this link for more information.

Monday, May 26, 2008


In celebrating holidays, we sometimes forget that holidays were originally holy days, a time set aside to give thanks to our creator for some special remembrance. Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving retain strong elements of their former status as holy days, despite the fact that we have commercialized them to ridiculous extremes. As we celebrate Memorial Day, honoring the many men and women who have served their country, we should not forget that this day is holy too. We should never forget their sacrifice nor take our liberty too lightly.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Almost as soon as the earthquake ended, China invited aid workers from all over the world to come into their country and help with the victims of this disaster. Large amounts of food and emergency supplies were gathered and were on the way within hours. The stories and video footage that came back from the devastated area were heart rendering, but the acts of heroism seemed to give hope to the ones who were suffering. People were pulled from the wreckage while their families waited. Some of them were still alive, while others were less fortunate. It is hard to conceive of such a terrible event. Then in the midst of all of this terror, pain, and suffering, I saw it. A young boy who couldn’t have been over 9 years old, was seated on a pile of rubble slowly thumbing through the pages of a book. He could very easily have been the last survivor of his family, but somehow he was finding comfort from what he was reading. All across the world, books, computers, and cell phones are reaching into areas where communications with the outside world were impossible only a few years before. We will see a change in the months to come, and it will be from people like that young man who was setting on top of that pile of rubble. Never underestimate the power of the written word or the determination of the people who read it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


No one knows for sure when the concept of an electronic book came into existence, but ebooks in one form or another were in existence long before Google 'invented' them in 2004. The argument could be settled very easily if everyone was willing to agree on what is meant by a 'book.' The first use of an electronic retrieval system dates back to 1969 when the manufacturer of a computer placed help files on board their system. It didn't take long for this to catch on because it was cheaper, and much easier to search through an online data base than to thumb through the pages of a book for some elusive piece of data.

If you define the term book to mean something like the thick tomes that William Shakespeare wrote, then you can trace the first electronic book to Michael S. Hart's Gutenberg project where he entered over 300 manuscripts into his system by hand. With the help of a group of volunteers, he later expanded this to over 100,000 different volumes, starting with Shakespeare, the Bible, and then to other classic works.

Starting in 2004, Google offered a system that would make electronic books available in a more accessible format. Many people were reluctant to read a long book from a computer screen. There was also the possibility of being able to market a lot of books if two things were offered to the reader. One was a smaller sized reader. How small? The ideal choice seemed to be something the size and shape of the average book. The Kindle ebook reader went one better when they redesigned the case where it was tapered on the edges and more comfortable to hold. Another desirable feature was to be able to carry a whole library of books in one reader. One long novel is approximately one megabyte in length. With chips capable to holding a couple of terabytes, the ebook reader suddenly became very attractive for the man or woman on the go.

The first ebook readers had the same problem of eye strain many people were familiar with from many hours of computer use at the office. Todays ebook readers use a technology very similar to what is used to produce the numbers on the face of a watch. This results in a system that produces little eye strain and looks very similar to a hardbound book. It also saves a lot of trees.

Would I recommend an ebook reader? To that question I will give an unequivocal maybe. The price is still unacceptably high for most people, but the prices are likely to come down as is the price of the books. In the next few years most books will probably be available in both paper and digital format. Will the printed book go the way of the Dodo bird? Not in the foreseeable future and perhaps never. There is something comforting about a book that you can't get from a plastic case, and I haven't found a way to dog-ear the pages in an electronic book.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Spark Of Faith

When the Iron Curtain fell on the Soviet Union a half-century ago, government officials were determined to extinguish the practice of religion, along with other personal freedoms. The same policy was soon to follow in China. Many people were hopeful that the fall of communism in Russia would have a positive effect on organized religion. Thankfully, their wishes are becoming a reality. After so many years of repression, the church in Russia is flourishing, and an even bigger surprise is what is happening in China. Today, almost a third of the young people in China identify themselves as religious, with 300 million of them professing to being Christians. Another surprise is the fact that the government is either ignoring or encouraging this resurgence of faith. Economic, cultural, and language barriers can sometimes seem insurmountable. Perhaps we can reach out as followers of a common faith.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

World Hunger

In a world capable of producing enough food to eradicate hunger and starvation, it is astonishing that we seem to be slipping further and further behind. Almost 850 million people in the world are malnourished, with over 5 million children perishing each year of starvation. As bleak as this picture seems, it is likely to get much worse. On a worldwide basis, the cost of food has jumped almost 50 percent in the last year. Rice, the staple food of over half of the world’s population, has gone up 100 percent. Factor in the expected storms, droughts, and other natural disasters, plus political unrest and war, and you have a bleak picture that will probably get even worse than the current estimates. Relief organizations are already overtaxed. It is time for churches and other private organizations to do what they can. Check with your church, synagogue, or mosque and see if they already have a program in place. If they don’t, you might want to start an effort yourself to elevate some of the suffering.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I was pleased when NEWN Magazine printed the first chapter of Abraham’s Bones in their Spring Issue. NEWN is a small but prestigious magazine that has served writers since 1994. During those years they have published many hundreds of stories, poems and essays, many of them by beginning writers. At the end of the year they will cease publication, but will continue to serve writers with correspondence courses, workshops, and personal contact. I salute Glenda Baker and the fine staff who have meant so much to struggling writers through the years.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Are we headed toward another boycott of the Olympics?

The origin of the Olympics is shrouded in mystery, but we know the first competition was organized more than 3000 years ago. Combat in that era was frequent and intense, but it was agreed that any battle would be postponed for the duration of the competition. This was a worthwhile goal, but in reality it has not been realized. Today, politics has often reared its ugly head in the form of boycotts, riots, and terrorism. There has not been an Olympics in recent years that was not effected in some way with political protest. Sixty-two nations supported us when we banned our athletes from performing in the Moscow events, 22 African countries boycotted the games in Montreal, and the Russians boycotted . . . well, I can't remember the reason for that. In all of this political posturing, we seem to forget the poor athletes. All of them have trained long and hard for their chance, and we ban them from participating because . . . I will let you fill in the blanks. I have a suggestion. Why don't we ban rocking chairs, or inline skates, or how about coffee, and leave the athletes alone. Banning any of the aforementioned makes just as much sense, and would probably accomplish just as much. That is my suggestion. What is yours?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Looking for the perfect weight loss program?

A friend of mine was a little heavy, not fat mind you, but just a few pounds more than she should have been carrying on her five foot four inch frame. The men who liked her used the word ‘ample’ to describe her figure, while a few of the women referred to her as ‘chunky.’ Dieting was a frequent topic of discussion when she was in the break room. These discussions were usually instigated by the ones who ate like a bird and had never carried an extra pound in their life.

Tired of the subtle hints and the sidelong glances from some of her coworkers, she searched and found the perfect weight loss program. It came in a box that looked remarkably like the ones containing a game called Monopoly. I could not see what the cards and pads had to do with losing weight, so she explained it to me. The most interesting item was a little cardboard envelope shaped like the ones they use to serve fries in at the fast food places. This was called the ‘point container,’ and you were supposed to keep it nearby—in a shirt pocket or in the top of a purse—where is would serve as a reminder.

Leaving off an extra helping of potatoes earned you a point that went into the ‘point container.’ A large slice of chocolate cake was worth two points. The goal was to try to accumulate 35 points in any given week. Now here is the good part and I can whip up an appetite just thinking about it. You could redeem the points by trading twelve of them for a banana split or nine for a small T-bone steak.

“I don’t think this is going to help,” I told her as gently as I could. “Here is what I do to control my weight,” I began, but I had only reached the middle of the second sentence when she interrupted.

“What do you know about dieting?" she demanded. "You have never carried an extra ounce in your life! I have talked to Bill about this and he thinks it will work.”

At that time, Bill weighed around 300 pounds, and none of it was in the right places. I tried again, explaining that she should talk to someone who was thin, and see what they were eating and the size of the portions.

“Look, you idiot!” she screamed at me. “Bill has been on a hundred diets during his lifetime. Why should I talk to someone who has never had any weight problems?”

There is a strange logic in her way of thinking. If I figure it out—and I am still working on this—I am going to use it in a novel.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What time is it? A writer's minor nightmare.

Someone asked me recently what was the most irritating thing about writing. For a moment I thought she had asked, 'what is the most difficult thing about writing,' and I was prepared to launch into a long list of difficult things and let her take her pick. With this unexpected question, she had brought to mind one of those little irritating things, almost as bad as finding a tangle in your kids hair on 'picture day' at the elementary school. A lot of tiny things will drive the most level headed among us up the wall. We are programed to solve BIG problems, and the tiny things will drive us nuts. I encountered an especially irritating one when I was working on my last novel. The plot involves part of the characters -- located in Washington -- having to communicate with their counterparts in Israel. Different time zones, and as I continued to plot out the story, I discovered there was a larrrrrrrrrrrrge problem with one group in bed while the other group was in the middle of their workday. Most books occur in the same time zone, or at the most, involve two people having to communicate across no more that the width of United States. I found myself having to work out the current time in both places with irritating frequency. Then I ran across a website at that listed all of the major cities around the world and the current time. Today, with increased travel and so many of our friends and loved ones in uniform, this might be a good link to write down and keep handy. A lot of people aren't really happy at being awaken in the wee hours of the morning.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Christian Stories Taking Over Hollywood? What in Heaven's name is going on!

There is a story circulating in Hollywood that Mel Gibson offered his screenplay, Passion of the Christ, to every studio in town, only to have it rejected by each and every one. Having faith in the message it proclaimed, Gibson decided to finance it himself. After earning over 300 million dollars, the heads of the studios are wondering at the business decisions that caused this colossal financial mistake. There can be no doubt that Christian fiction is hot right now, with publishing companies like Harvest House, Tyndale, or Zondervan leading the field. What is behind this phenomenon, many people are wondering. Christian fiction has been around for a long time, but more and more readers are discovering these wonderful stories and the uncanny way they have of offering a solution to the problems in their everyday lives. It seems that television and the movies are becoming less interesting to most of us, as they continued to offer nothing but sex and violence. More and more people are turning to older programs and books, even though most of them are about an America that half of our population has never experienced. Readers demand something that speaks to today's world. The next time you are in a bookstore or browsing at, take a few minutes to check out the religious section. You will find every genre there except porn and erotica. There is romance, mystery, suspense, thrillers, westerns, and science fiction, just to name a few – and they all have the kind of satisfying events and endings you would like to see occur in the lives of your best friends. Try Christian fiction. I’ll bet you can’t read just one!

Joe Prentis

Friday, February 22, 2008

Got some books taking up needed space? What to do with them.

An increasing number of books have a note inside the cover about the environment and the fact that their book is printed on recycled paper. Recycled paper does, indeed, save a lot of trees and this is a trend that is commendable. Landfills are filling up and books contribute a large part of the waste that goes into them each day. So what are we to do with the books we have read, but aren't going to keep on our library shelves? How about recycling them by passing them along to someone, or even better, to some organization that can put them to use. Most communities already have an organization that collects books and supplies them to libraries, hospitals, and to jail ministries. What do you do if there isn't one in your area? You might want to consider starting one yourself. You can perform a good service, and save a few of those trees that play such an important role in our environment.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Christian Fiction? What's it all about?

If you mention Christian fiction to the average reader, they will think you are talking about stories taken from the Bible or something that would have fit into a 1950s TV series. On those weekly television events, the father always knew best, the mother did not seem to have any character flaws, and if the children were not perfect, their imperfections were so insignificant and appealing you could scarcely tell the difference.

Christian fiction has finally come of age, and I am excited! The stories written and published by Christian writers run the full range of today’s fiction. You will find mysteries, science fiction, love stories, stories of the Old West, about war, crime, drugs, divorce, and every other problem known to humankind. Stories that fall into the classification of Christian fiction are stories with an ‘attitude.’ They deal with the difficult problems that sometimes happen to good people, but they are upbeat, inspirational, and accurately portray human behavior in a difficult world – and above all, they give us hope. Below this article is the first in a series of books that will be featured on this blog. Please take a moment to read the information and check out some to the other blogs and websites where other writers will be featuring Delia’s novel, Goldeneyes. The presentation of these novels is called a Blog Tour, and its purpose is to introduce you to some of the best fiction publishing has to offer and some of the writers who are producing it. Thank you and happy reading.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How do you create believable characters in a book?

Every writer struggles with the problem of trying to create characters that will be believable, appeal to the reader, and most important of all, be the kinds of characters we will always remember. A lot of writers have accomplished this difficult task. Who could forget Scarlett O'Hara, or James Bond or Harry Potter? When starting any story, the author will quickly find himself in possession of reams of notes, charts, and those all-important biographical sketches of the main characters. I want to know what he or she looks like before I start. What do they do in their spare time when they are not wrestling with my plot? Do they have hobbies? Have they been in love, and if so, was it a pleasant relationship or did the many details of the story sweep them away from the one they loved. When I am in these initial stages, I sometimes find myself flipping through magazines looking at faces, examining the way someone stands, the way they look into my eyes. I am looking for the little things . . . . the things that make me or you have a distinct personality. Most of my character crafting was done in my head, and then I discovered this wonderful 3-D drawing program that allows me to pose a character in any fashion, just as you would pose a real person. In the picture above you will find Daniella Siedman, one of the main characters in Abraham's Bones. She has something in mind -- something mischievous, and judging by the way she is looking, she is going to get her way. Writing, to me, is very exciting. I hope I have captured the essence of Daniella in this picture . . . enough that it will make you want to discover her for yourself in the pages of Abraham's Bones.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Silent Spring?

When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, the book was immediately attacked by the chemical companies who said that Carson was unqualified to speak on the subject of chemical effects on the environment. She had sounded a dire warning that the continual use of DDT, the most widely used and effective pesticide, was damaging wildlife and was harmful to humans. She warned that its continual use might produce a ‘silent spring’ in which there would be no birds to herald the season. A frightening scenario, but as I look around me at the fields and meadows normally populated with dozens of species of birds at this time of year, I am beginning to wonder if her warning has not become true. This time the culprit is not DDT, but something not yet identified. Is it Avian Influenza or could it be something else? Will we have, as Miss Carson warned, a silent spring in which our feathered friends are absent from around our bird feeders? Will there be a frightening increase in mosquitoes and other harmful insects? I do not know the answer to that, but I wonder how many of you have noticed the diminishing bird population, and what you think might be the problem.