I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 Reflections

--First book was published. In May 2005, Revell published my singles book called Single Servings. If you had asked me when I was growing up if I would ever have a book published, I would have said that it wasn't something I had ever thought about. I wrote, but I always considered it an outlet. I was extremely shy as a child, and as a teen, and at times, writing was my only way of expressing myself. But I never even considered the writing I was doing at the time to be preparation for an eventual book.

--Wrote two nonfiction books. One of them is a sports book that doesn't have a release date yet and the other is a book about preparing for retirement—that book is scheduled for release in July 2006.

--Made a failed attempt to write a novel. I signed up for NaNoWriMo and I knew right away that I wasn't going to be able to pull it off. I had too many other deadlines looming and I couldn't set aside the necessary time to write a novel in one month. Ever since I started taking writing seriously, I've wanted to get a novel published. I've written two, but neither have been published. I'm working on my third and hoping that this will finally be the one.

--Had about 70 articles published. I had more articles published this past year than in any previous year. I'm a sports columnist for one newspaper. I'm a financial columnist for a magazine. I wrote over two dozen articles for a newspaper in the Midwest this past year. And I had quite a few articles published in national magazines.

--Started this blog on August 31. After writing a political/cultural blog for the past two years, I wanted a little more variety, so I shut down my previous blog and started Little Nuances. I've already heard from many of you who are enjoying this blog and I'm extremely grateful for each reader who makes this blog a small part of your busy day. If you've never e-mailed me before, drop me a line when you get a chance. I'd love to hear from you.

--Read 19 books. I set a goal for myself at the beginning of the year to read 36 books. I fell miserably short, but of course some books are longer than others. I've read more than 5,000 pages this year—which is just about the same amount of pages I read in 2004. That works out to about 14 pages per day. When I'm not under tight deadlines, I read a lot more. But when I'm under deadline, I read less.

--Made progress on the decluttering of my home. I've written quite a bit on this blog about my journey to rid myself of the much of the stuff I've accumulated over the years. I would have liked to rid myself completely of all the clutter this year, but I made more progress on it than during any previous year. My next step is to call somebody to haul away the things that are too big to throw away. Once I've done that, I'll actually have room to store the things I actually want to keep and that'll be a great feeling.

--Did a little soul-searching. I took time to do some self-examination and I didn't always like what I saw. One area that really bothered me was my lack of patience with others. I have one of those outward exteriors that probably makes it difficult to know whether I'm feeling impatient or not, but after seeing real patience from one particular person in my life, I determined that I might not be fooling that many people after all. I'm resolved to change this area of my life.

See you in 2006.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Lonely Battles

I was in Borders the other day and I flipped through John Eldredge's new book called The Ransomed Heart. My eyes were drawn to one particular line in the book: "Lonely men fight lonely battles."

Such a short sentence, but powerful nonetheless. Consciously or subconsciously, all of us are careful who we talk to about our battles. We fear judgment. We fear challenge. We fear disappointment. And we fear that people won't understand our battles or worse, we fear they'll be apathetic towards them. I heard somebody say recently that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's apathy, and I couldn't agree more.

We isolate ourselves out of fear and end up fighting lonely battles. This is one of the reasons that the arts are so important to humanity. Everybody is fighting at least one battle and when we see characters in movies, television shows, or books fighting the same battles we are, we feel a deep sense of connection—so much so that we consume the product over and over. When we see a painting of a woman gazing out the window with longing in her eyes, we can identify because we've all longed for something. When a singer pens lyrics that give voice to our pain over a relationship that has gone bad, we latch onto it as if it were our best friend. And it in way, it is. But we really aren't latching onto the movie, television show, book, painting, or song as much as we are latching onto to person who created it. That person "gets us."

Over the years, I've experienced quite a few friendships and relationships with people who "get me." I'm probably relatively easy to read, but that doesn't mean people are going to automatically care. But when they do, it's both an exhilarating and a frightening experience. Exhilarating because of the connection. Frightening because largely, the opportunity to pick and choose what I reveal is gone. But I'll take exhilaration and frightening any day over fighting battles alone.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Upside of Anger

I wanted to see The Upside of Anger when it first came out in theaters, but I never got around to it (read: I couldn't convince any of my guy friends to actually go see it). The title of the movie intrigued me. Not all anger is wrong, but you don't hear a lot about the upside of anger. Maybe it's because humans tend to get angry about too many things that we shouldn't so nobody sees the need to point out any positives that may actually come from it.

I picked up a copy of the DVD and I watched it a few nights ago. The movie does a good job of exploring the way humans react when we feel scorned, or betrayed, or ignored. We tend to self-destruct in one form or another and that's what happens when Joan Allen's character, Terry, believes that her husband has abandoned her and their four daughters (in reality he's dead, but she just doesn't know it yet). She drinks too much and becomes bitter in the process. Her daughters are left to try to figure out their place in the world by themselves and they aren't happy about it.

One of those daughters is named Lavender (played by Evan Rachel Wood). Her nickname is Popeye. She's working on a video presentation for her final grade in television production. Best I can tell, her presentation is about the way people interact with each other—or in her mind, fail to interact properly with each other. As The Upside of Anger draws to a close, viewers hear Popeye's voice—which is actually from the end of her own video presentation.

Here's what she says:

"People don't know how to love. They bite rather than kiss. And they slap rather than stroke. Maybe it's because they realize how easy it is for love to go bad—to become suddenly impossible, unworkable, an exercise in futility. So they avoid it and seek solace and angst and fear and aggression—which are always there and readily available. Or maybe sometimes, they just don't have all the facts.

"Anger and resentment can stop you in your tracks. That's what I know now. It needs nothing to burn but the air and the life that it swallows and smothers. It's real though—the fury—even when it isn't. It can change you. Turn you. Mold you and shape you into someone you're not. The only upside to anger then is the person you become. Hopefully someone that wakes up one day and realizes they're not afraid of its journey. Someone that knows that the truth is at best—a partially told story—that anger, like growth, comes in spurts and fits. And in its wake leaves a new chance at acceptance and the promise of calm. Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child."

I'd say she knows quite a bit, wouldn't you?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Light from Heaven

Well, sadly for me, I just finished the seventh and final novel, Light from Heaven, in the Mitford series by Jan Karon. Here are a few excerpts from the book—they are but a taste of the endearing characters that Jan Karon brought to life and allowed us to enjoy for so many years:

"I love pickup trucks."

He laughed. "What don't you love, Kavanagh?"

"Twenty-five-watt bulbs in reading lamps, cats that throw up on the rug after devouring a mouse, age spots…"

"The usual," he said.

"Just look!" She showed him the backs of her hands.

"Freckles," he said. "Trust me."


"Let's play a game," he said to his wife.

"I love games!"

"What don't you love, Kavanagh?"

"Jeans without Lycra, lug soles on barn shoes, age spots…"


"And," she continued, "any sitcom more recent than M*A*S*H."


Here's a quote by Francois Mauriac that Father Tim wrote in a letter to one of his friends: "If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads but what he rereads."


Here's a little of what Father Tim said at Bill Watson's (who was known in Mitford for always being prepared to tell a good joke) funeral: "When the tide seemed to turn against loving, he loved anyway. When doing the wrong thing was far easier than doing the right thing, he did the right thing anyway. And when circumstances sought to prevail against laughter, he laughed anyway."


When Father Tim and Cynthia went for a walk in the woods, they spread a quilt on the ground and found great contentment lying next to each other. Father Tim quoted Churchill to her: "We're always getting ready to live, but never living.' We should have done this sooner." Then Cynthia turns to him and quotes Henry Canby: "Live deep instead of fast."


"Cynthia, Cynthia, what don't you love?"

"Shopping malls at any time of year, especially now [Christmas]; flea shampoo that does nothing more than attract a new colony of fleas; and roasts that cost a fortune and cook out dry."

"When I ask you this question, you always have the answer on the tip of your tongue. How do you do that?"

"I don't know, I suppose it's just in there, waiting to get out."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

100 Preferences

1. Silence over background noise.
2. Books over movies.
3. Novels over nonfiction.
4. Contemporary fiction over every other genre.
5. Character driven fiction over plot driven.
6. Amazon.com over BarnesandNoble.com.
7. Barnes & Noble over Borders.
8. Christian bookstores over other retail stores.
9. New King James translation of the Bible over every other.
10. Blue over every other color (but I don't mind green).
11. Digital cameras over traditional 35 mm.
12. Twisty-type watch bands over straps or Velcro.
13. Low top tennis shoes over high top.
14. PDAs over day planners.
15. Laptops over PCs.
16. Watching DVDs on my laptop instead of on my television.
17. Chick-flicks over every other type of movie.
18. Total darkness when watching movies or television at home.
19. Firefox over Internet Explorer.
20. Maintaining blogs instead of websites.
21. MS Word over Word Perfect.
22. Cats over dogs.
23. Small cars over big cars.
24. Old style clocks with hands over digital clocks.
25. Refrigerated peanut butter over non-refrigerated.
26. Refrigerated potato chips over non-refrigerated.
27. Refrigerated pop tarts over non-refrigerated.
28. Refrigerated cookies over non-refrigerated (noticing a pattern?).
29. Personality blogs over topical blogs.
30. Christmas over every other holiday.
31. Artificial Christmas trees over real Christmas trees.
32. Baseball over every other sport.
33. American League over National League.
34. Kansas City Royals over every other team.
35. Denny Matthews over every other baseball announcer.
36. Folgers Breakfast Blend for coffee makers.
37. Vanilla Latte over every other fancy coffee.
38. Steak over chicken.
39. Steaks must be pink or red in the middle.
40. Recliners over every other form of furniture.
41. Play Station 2 over every other console.
42. Traveling by car over every other form of transportation.
43. Fox News over every other news network.
44. Talk radio over music stations.
45. New country music over old.
46. Old rock music over new.
47. Small government over big government.
48. Target over Wal-mart.
49. Grilled food over fried.
50. Chocolate chip cookies over every other.
51. Small rectangular shaped ice cubes over every other.
52. Diet Pepsi over every other.
53. Printed and bound books over e-books.
54. Paperback books over hardback.
55. Mass market paperback books over trade paperback books.
56. E-mail software applications over web-based e-mail.
57. Moleskin notebooks over every other.
58. Cold weather over hot.
59. Snow over rain.
60. Blinds over curtains.
61. Showers over baths.
62. Water beds over regular beds.
63. Putting largest bills on top before putting money in my pocket.
64. Manual razors over electric.
65. White wine over red.
66. Staying up late.
67. Cherry flavored Chapstick.
68. Pro football over college.
69. Al Michaels over every other football announcer.
70. Old style tape recorders over digital records (but that could change).
71. Green beans over every other vegetable.
72. Watching television shows on DVD.
73. Playing tennis over every other sport.
74. CDs—complete with liner notes over downloaded music.
75. Thick chili over soupy chili.
76. Slippers with closed backs (I walk right out of open backed slippers).
77. Google over every other search engine.
78. CSPAN over MTV.
79. Athletes who hustle—always.
80. Athletes who care more about their sport than themselves.
81. Athletes who care more about their team than themselves.
82. Quiet time with friends over a night on the town.
83. A night on the town over being alone on the weekends.
84. Polo shirts over dress shirts.
85. Dark colored clothing over light.
86. Casual clothing over dress clothing.
87. Sit-down restaurants over fast food.
88. Conversations that go deeper without being forced there.
89. Women who have no desire to change me.
90. Friends who challenge me by example rather than words.
91. Relatives who keep in touch.
92. Old friends who reconnect.
93. Family and friends who accept my crazy side.
94. 80's music over every other era.
95. Medium point pens over fine point.
96. Land lines over cell phones.
97. Old style stocking caps with the insignia actually facing forward.
98. Baseball caps with the insignia actually facing forward.
99. The word "pop" over soda.
100. Pronouncing "coupon" as "queue-pon."

Monday, December 26, 2005


We live in a grand age. One in which we enjoy relative freedom to live out our dreams. One in which we can instantly communicate with anybody in the world in which we choose. One in which we have more access to information and knowledge than any previous generation ever dreamed. And one in which we have invented so many ways to entertain ourselves that we can't possibly keep up with each new invention.

You'd think that all of this would lead to more enjoyment and fulfillment. But if life is made too easy, we often overindulge and in so doing, we become bored, slothful, and disconnected from past and future generations.

The more I read about history, the more I realize that I know less about previous generations than I dare to admit. I'm still playing catch up regarding my knowledge and understanding of history, but I'm often moved by stories about people who were not only willing to make huge sacrifices so that our generation could have a better life, but that many of them also seemed quite content with their lot in life. These people didn't have the instant communication, the access to information, or the means of entertainment that we do, but they seemed to contain a spirit of sacrificial joy that many in our current generation have never experienced.  

Knowing this causes me to ask myself what I'm doing for the next generation and whether those with whom I've had immediate contact will see me as a person who was sacrificial and in the process loved my own lot or as someone who just endured it, or worse, entertained myself all the way through it.

I listened to a David McCullough speech this morning on C-SPAN2 in which he spoke about the brave men (and sometimes boys) who fought the American Revolution. He spoke about a young boy named John Greenwood who joined the cause for Independence and about how, as he approached the battlefield, he drew strength from seeing how one soldier dealt with a deep neck wound. The soldier simply wanted to be patched up so he could return to the fight. John Greenwood said he was never afraid after that.

This seems like a good time to inject the wisdom of King Solomon when he said, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11, ESV)

May the miracle of Christmas move you as it has moved generations for the last two thousand years. Merry Christmas everybody.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Notebook

Yahoo! recently released its list of top ten searches in 2005. All ten are related to pop culture. Here they are:

1. Britney Spears
2. 50 Cent
3. Cartoon Network
4. Mariah Carey
5. Green Day
6. Jessica Simpson
7. Paris Hilton
8. Eminem
9. Ciara
10. Lindsay Lohan

This isn't going to be a post that bashes pop culture or even the people who searched Yahoo! for more information about these celebrities. Instead I want to talk about a specific instance in which pop culture embraced redemptive art.

By now, I hope you've seen and/or read The Notebook—the powerful love story of two characters named Noah and Allie. He was a pauper. She came from money. He lived his life quite freely. She lived a structured life. Both were content until they met one summer. They quickly became the perfect complement to each other. But when summer was over, Allie's family left their summer home and the romance was over.

Well, it was never really over. Noah wrote to Allie every day for a year. Allie's Mom intercepted the letters and eventually Noah and Allie did their best to move on. Years later, Allie sees an article in the paper about Noah. He'd restored an old house to the exact specifications that he and Allie had spoken about many years before. She takes a trip to see how he's doing and they fall for each other all over again. After a lot of struggle, and pain, and turmoil, they decide that they want to get married.

As touching as all of this is, by far the most touching scenes in the movie are those shared by the older versions of Noah and Allie after Allie has developed dementia. But before she lost her memory, she handwrote their love story in a notebook and she told Noah to read it to her when she loses her memory and she'll come back to him. And read to her he did—day after day with the hope that she'd remember their love for a few minutes at a time before slipping back to a place far away from him. During one touching scene, after she did remember him, they shared a danced in her nursing home room.

At the end of the movie, Allie is near death, and she asks Noah if he believed that their love was strong enough to take them away together. He said it was strong enough to do anything they wanted it to do. The next morning, a nurse finds them deceased—still holding on to each other. Their love had transcended everything. It's one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen.

But apparently I'm not the only one who saw such great power. I was flipping through television channels a few weeks ago and ran across a program in which two characters were watching The Notebook. The guy wasn't all that interested in the movie at first. He was more interested in the woman. But once he settled in and started watching the movie, he got a taste of what real love looked like. When he was really involved in the movie, the woman leaned over to kiss him and he backed away. He wanted to watch the rest of the movie. Later, the woman called one of her female friends and proudly declared, "I Notebooked him."

The movie so accurately depicted what love really is that the title of the movie can now be used as a verb.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Breaking Bread

My family usually meets for dinner once a week at various restaurants around town. We have a core group of restaurants we like and we don't expand it very often. But last weekend, my Mom suggested that we meet at an old fashioned, cozy, mom and pop style café called Jonsey's. I haven't been in a restaurant like that in ions.

It doesn't have a fancy familiar sign that catches your attention when you drive by. In fact, the building would be quite easy to drive right past without even noticing it. But once you walk through the front door, the aroma of a good home cooked meal tickles your nostrils. The tables and booths look a little worn, but the tables aren't crammed together like they are in so many chain restaurants. Garland is hung by the cash register and Christmas gifts are attached to the walls. The clientele is seasoned and quite relaxed. I felt like I'd walked into Mel's Diner (from the old Alice sitcom).

The menu includes a little of everything—steaks, salads, platters (covered in gravy, cheese, or some other type of fattening sauce), soup, and lots of fried stuff. The food we ordered was good (I ordered a chicken caesar salad), the price wasn't bad either, but what I enjoyed most was breaking bread with those I love in a great atmosphere.

Sometimes I view meals as simply a necessary part of life. But the older I get, and the more time I spend with people over a good meal, the more I consider such times as some of the most important in life. It's a great time to remember days gone by, to get caught up with the current events in each other's lives, and to make new memories.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Midweek Quotes

Alright. One more set of Alf quotes—just because he's so funny. These are all taken from season two…and sadly, I've worked my way through the entire season and now I'm already looking forward to season three.

"I never wager more than I'm willing to lose. I'll bet Willie's car."

"Finger sandwiches? And you won't let me eat cats!"

"Now that's dogma. It's worse than dogma. It's dogma-nure."

"I'm in big trouble. Even on the Alf-scale—this one's a humdinger."

"Could you be a dear and Hoover the crumbs out of my fur?"

"Like my old ball coach used to say, 'Find out what you don't do well, then don't do it.'"

"If I revealed myself to the world, I could become a star. I might even get my own TV show. A poignant drama about my generation. We'll call it Two Hundred and Thirty Something."

"Welcome to Alf-catraz. How was the party?"

"I need something to wash this down with. Got any ketchup?"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Ornament Memories

Nobody is ever going to give me an award for the best decorated Christmas tree. The red garland that I've been using for years needs to be trashed in favor of a new, fuller strand. I never can quite get all of the branches on my artificial tree to point upwards properly. Some stick out further than others and as soon as I think I've fixed the problem, I realize that I've just created new ones.

But in spite of all of its (and my) imperfections, I still love putting up my tree every year. Since 1994 I've been collecting one new ornament per year. They bring back such great memories as I pull them out of the box the follow year and every subsequent year. Here's a rundown of my collection, along with the memory that each ornament invokes:

1994: A teddy bear holding a candy cane inside of a stocking. I received this at a Christmas party I attended at church in which we did an ornament exchange. We had a blast as we exchanged wrapped ornaments. We even made a game out of it—where you could switch several times with other people if you wanted to. Then the moment of truth came. We unwrapped the one we had chosen. I really dug the ornament I chose and I enjoyed the process so much that I decided to start collecting a new ornament every year.

1995: A green metal bell shaped like a bulb. A woman I used to work with made Christmas tree ornaments and she brought enough to give the entire department every year. The year she made ornaments made out of bells made for a quite noisy day in the office, but I appreciated her gesture so much that I told her to make sure she remembered to do it again the following year. She did.

1996: A green plastic bulb, filled with a ribbon, with tiny pine cones on top. Notice that the woman from my office used plastic this particular year rather than a metal bell? From what I remember, she quit early in 1997, but I told her that she still needed to continue the tradition and drop by with ornaments the following year. She didn't.

1997: A little red stocking with white fringe. I have no earthly idea where I got this, but I like it.

1998: A bulb depicting the wise men heading to Bethlehem. I dragged one of my friends along one night to do some last minute Christmas shopping. I stopped long enough to pick out the official ornament for the year and when I saw the bulb with the wise men heading to Bethlehem along with the year "1998" on it, I knew it was the one. My friend said something that I still find hilarious: "But why would you want an ornament with the year on it? It won't be any good next year." This friend shall remain anonymous, but how could I have possibly come up with a better memory for that particular ornament?

1999: A candy cane wrapped around a golden cross. This ornament brings back memories of the Bible study I attended with several guys for a number of years. I think I bought this when all of us headed out to do a little last minute shopping. Noticing a trend yet regarding last minute shopping?

2000: A church with glittery snow. This ornament is a quite large and I remember wondering at the time if my little artificial tree would be able to support it. It didn't fail me.

2001: A "God Bless America" bulb with an American flag. A great reminder of 911.

2002: A George Brett figurine in his patented batting stance. What can I say? The guy in me couldn't resist such a thing. I walked into Walgreens, saw a Christmas ornament depicting my favorite Royals player, and I just had to have it. If I ever get married, I fear that our first fight will be about whether we keep this ornament or not.

2003: A blue plastic bulb with blue ribbons inside and the Kansas City Royals insignia on the outside. Hey, I was optimistic. We (yes, I use the third person when referring to my favorite baseball team) made a run at the division title in 2003 for the first time in over a decade. So, I had to commemorate it with an ornament, right? If I ever get married, our second fight will probably be over this ornament.

2004: A big white snow flake with glittery stuff. No particular meaning. I just liked it.

2005: A replica of Jeff Gordon's car. I became a NASCAR fan in 2005 and what better way to show it? Yeah, I know. This will lead to fight number three if I ever get married.

So there you have it—a quick run down of the many Christmas ornament memories I've enjoyed over the years.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Autobiographical Lyrics

I went to go see Walk the Line with a friend the other night and it made me think about the Scott Stapp post I wrote recently. I'm always intrigued by the way lyrics affect people. They bring back old memories—some good, some bad. They give voice to fears. They challenge us. And once in a while, they embolden us. Especially when we believe that the lyrics are at least semi-autobiographical. We hear singers like Johnny Cash or Scott Stapp sing about pain, and heartache, and loss, and we automatically assume that they are singing about specific events from their own life, but that's not necessarily the case.

Lyrics can be ambiguous and not every song is about a specific instance in the artist's life, but rather, in some cases, the artist draws from the totality of life experience to write a song. A song that explores the heartache of lost love might be couched in a modern day love story with different names and different circumstances. A song that expresses anger might be directed towards some unknown entity rather than the actual person or event that caused the anger. And of course, many songs don't address any deep-seated emotions or desires—they are written just for the fun of it.

So why is it that we automatically assume that some songs are a chronicle of the artist's personal triumphs and struggles? I typically do it when I know that an artist has had to overcome a lot of problems. I tend to root for him or her, and maybe I read more into the lyrics than I should, but I'm looking for signs of hope. And when a song speaks directly to a situation that I'm currently going through, then I often assume that the artist must have lived through similar circumstances.

Right or wrong, that's the neat thing about music. It has the ability to speak to us right where we are—even when the lyrics might not be as autobiographical as we'd like to believe.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hardback or Paperback?

Blog Prompt Friday: Do you prefer hardback or paperback books?

I definitely prefer paperback books over hardback books. And I prefer mass market paperbacks to trade paperbacks. I love the way a mass market paperback feels in my hands when I sit down to read it. One thing that bugs me though about some mass market paperbacks is the lack of white space. While attempting to gain maximum profit margins, some publishers use tiny fonts and run the text way too close to the outer edge of the page and way too close to the binding which means the reader has to open the book so wide that it damages the binding.

Trade paperbacks are supposed to be a superior product to mass market paperbacks. And while they certainly contain more white space and often use bigger fonts, they just don't fit in reader's hands as well in my opinion. Trade paperbacks stay open easier, and that's always a nice benefit, but it's not enough to sway me if I have a choice between the two paperback versions.

I've never liked hardbacks. They are too costly. They often don't fit will into my laptop case. They are heavy and something about not being able to curl the covers as you read them bothers me. I almost never buy hardcover fiction. The only exceptions are books written by Jan Karon or Nicholas Sparks. I love their work so much that I just don't want to wait a year for the paperback version to come out. And once in a while, I'll buy fiction remainders in hardback because they are so cheap. But if the paperback version has a similar price, I'll opt for the paperback.

Unfortunately, some nonfiction books only come out in hardback. I'll often wait to see if nonfiction books I'm interested in are going to be released in paperback, but when it becomes clear that it isn't going to happen, I eventually buy the hardback version. Like with hardback fiction, I do have a couple of exceptions when it comes to hardback nonfiction, but I find those exceptions getting fewer by the year.

Okay, don't look at me like I'm weird or something just because I have specific preferences when it comes to such things. Don't all readers?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Right Now Counts Forever

Christmas is just ten days away. Can you believe it? For the past several years, I've purposely tried to slow down the pace of my life during the Christmas season. I don't always pull it off to my satisfaction, but I know that if I don't make a concerted effort, it won't happen.

This year I'm finding it especially difficult to slow down. My writing business is demanding a lot of attention. So is my house (still working on decluttering it). And it's easy for me to say yes to too many Christmas related functions, but then simply view them as functions. For me, slowing down at Christmas partially involves turning my attention to the little things.

I love to drive by decorated homes with my 15 year-old niece sitting next to me. I enjoy making hot chocolate that I received as a gift (yes, it was this year…so it's not expired). I revel in the thought of turning on the lights on my Christmas tree and then sitting down in my recliner with a novel that has a Christmas-themed story line or a devotional book about the advent season. I like to open Christmas cards and have new photos or family Christmas letters fall out. I like to turn the lights down, light a candle, and put on soothing Christmas music. And I always look forward to continuing a tradition that a few of my male friends and I started a few years ago of meeting at a steakhouse and simply enjoying a good meal together.

Above all, I like to use this downtime to challenge myself to think about how the birth of the Christ-child is effecting the direction in which my life is headed. When Christ took on flesh in the form of a baby, he did so with one goal in mind—to die for your sins and mine, so that we might have eternal life. But his birth, and ultimately his death, isn't just about some period of time way in the future after our lives here are finished. Eternal life includes today.

R.C. Sproul has a column that is aptly titled "Right Now Counts Forever" in his monthly devotional magazine. When I listen to him speak, it's obvious that he has spent many years preparing himself for eternity. How different would our world look if everybody lived today knowing that it counted forever? And what better day than today—in the middle of the advent season—to begin doing so?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Midweek Quotes

Here are a few hilarious quotes from Alf (yeah, the little furry alien guy), taken from season two on DVD:

"Don't look back. Something might be broken." –Alf, quoting his Grandpa Satchel

"Trust me on this one. I've been wrong so many times before."

"I was going to prepare a lovely Chateau Breanne, but I have no idea what that is. So you're getting hamburgers."

"It's almost time for vespers. I hope that means cookies."

"I just started going out with Rhonda when my planet blew up. Unlucky in love. Unlucky in Armageddon."

"Hey I'm still young. If I'm not married by the time I hit the big 4-0-0, then I'll panic."

"Back on Melmac, I was a registered Demo-cat. We were a political party and a doo-wop group."

"Oh hey look! Willie's shins glow in the dark."

"Boy you're cranky at 3:14 am. I hope you're more sociable at 5:28."

"At-a-girl. Eat your words!"

"Your building is going where? Condo? Where's condo?"

"See the alien throw out his back. She the alien blame the Tanners. Lawsuit Tanners. Lawsuit."

"All's fair in love and guess the cheese."

"This book doesn't have any words. It's got zits. Oh, must be one of those connect-the-dot books." (Actually, it was a book that was written in brail.)

"What, vegetables again? That's not food. That's the stuff food eats."

"I'm here to make your life easier. First, I'll sweep up that glass that spontaneously exploded."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tips for Getting Published

Since starting Little Nuances, I've received several e-mails from people who are interested in writing for publication. Truth be told, writers can take different paths to publication, but no matter which path you may take, it will probably be difficult. To quote the character played by Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own when one of his baseball players said she was quitting because the game was too hard, "Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. Hard is what makes it great. If it was easy, everybody would do it."

According to a September 28, 2002 column by Joseph Epstein in the New York Times: "…81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them—and that they should write it." If we have 297 million people in America, and if roughly 195,000 books are published each year, the vast majority of those who believe they have a book in them and that they should write it never actually follow through. They either don't know what to do, or realize that it's harder than they realized, or they get discouraged and give up.

I don't say any of this to discourage you. I say it so you'll realize that the road to publication is a journey that requires a ton of hard work. If you are looking for easy answers or quick sales right out of the gate, you're in the wrong business. But if you are willing to invest time, energy, and money to understand the industry, the markets, and the elements of good writing, then you have a shot.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Read the material that is already published in the genre in which you wish to publish. You need to know what is being published in the market you want to write for so you can tell editors why your product is better or different. I consider reading to be part of my writing time. Every day, I read for at least one hour. I evaluate while I read. I study the author's techniques, tone, use of the five senses, dialogue and a lot more. If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write.

Purchase market guides. Writers Digest publishes a market guide every year. And they also publish several specialty market guides. You need a market guide. Without it, you won't know where to send your work, how long the article/book should be, what tone to use, whether to send a query, book proposal, or full manuscript, etc. Market guides have topical indexes that make it easy to target markets that publish the types of material you write. Sally Stuart also publishes a fantastic market guide for the Christian market. I purchase Sally's guide every year when it becomes available and I purchase the Writers Digest guide at least every other year.

Obtain and study writer's guidelines. Writer's guidelines are more detailed and more specific than market guides (which tend to give you one paragraph of information). So, it's best to start with a market guide, and then once you've pinpointed specific markets, then obtain and study the writer's guidelines for those markets. Every publication that accepts freelance writing has writer's guidelines. They tell you everything you need to know if you wish to send them your work. Thankfully, most publications and publishing houses have their writer's guidelines available on their website. You can also pick up guidelines at writer's conference (we'll get to those in a minute).

If you don't know what a query letter or book proposals is, you need to find out. Once you've studied the market guides and the corresponding writer's guidelines, you'll be asked to submit query letters, book proposals, and once in a great while, complete manuscripts.

Many, if not most, magazine editors expect to receive query letters from writers—not complete articles. If you send a complete article when the market guide and the writers guidelines clearly say that you need to query first, then you have no shot at being published in that publication. If you need to figure out how to write a query letter, then Terry Whalin (an editor with Howard Publishing and multi-published author) has an excellent website you need to check out. Here's a link to his page that describes how to write a query letter.

Nonfiction books are sold with book proposals (before the book is ever written). If you send a publisher a complete manuscript without first sending a proposal, then you've just told the editor that you have no idea how the industry works and your manuscript will not even be read. If you don't know how to write a book proposal, then you need to invest in Terry Whalin's book called "Book Proposals That Sell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success." Terry not only has a ton of great information about proposals in that book, but he also has a couple of sample book proposals you can use as you write your own.

Novels are also sold on proposal, but for first time novelists, you also must have the complete manuscript finished before editors will consider giving you a contract. You would still send a proposal first, and if an editor shows an interest and asks for the complete manuscript, then you would send it. Again, purchase Terry's book if you don't know how to write a book proposal.

Immerse yourself in the industry. Join writing e-mail groups and learn from professional writers and editors. If you go to the Yahoo! Groups website and search for "writing" you'll find more than 13,000 groups you can join. You can narrow your search by looking for more specific groups such as "novelists," "journalists," etc. Don't join too many of these groups—they'll take up too much of your time. Instead, try to find groups that include industry experts and are focused on writing instead of idle chit-chat.

Go to writer's conferences. This is how I got started in the industry. I invested the time and money to attend conferences in which editors and freelance writers taught classes and took appointments with conferees. I learned the industry lingo, the do's and don'ts, and I made face to face contact with people who could publish my work. I attended conferences for two years before actually seeing my work in print, but I established relationships that continue to this day. Here's a link to a great website that lists many conferences around the country.

Attend industry retail shows. The industry I write for, the Christian Booksellers Association, has two trade shows per year. I attended their big show this past July in Denver called the International Christian Retail Show. Some of these shows are by invitation only, but if you are a member of certain groups within the industry you can often get passes. Just walking the isles of an industry retail show will give you a perspective you've never had before. You'll get to meet authors, maybe an editor or two, agents, publishers, and retailers.

Get involved in local writer's groups. If you go to your local bookstore and library, you can usually get information about groups that meet in your area on a regular basis. Many of these groups contain published writers who are willing to help you write that query letter or book proposal. And many of these groups will give you the chance to have your manuscripts critiqued by writers who are members of the group. Finally, you'll get much needed emotional support from people who understand you.

Use paid critique services. Yes, it'll cost you a little, but it's worth it. Why not pay a little up front to discover how you can make your work as marketable as possible? You'll learn a ton and once you catch on, you'll to fly on your own. I'm on staff with a service called the Christian Communicator and we have a reputation for helping writers get published. Many other great critique services exist as well. Take advantage of them.

Buy books about writing. If you are looking to get published, then take advantage of writing books written by people who have already published books in the genre(s) in which you wish to write. I've been a member of the Writer's Digest Book Club for years and I still order books from them. You can also go to your local bookstore and browse an entire section of books devoted to helping you get published. Buy the writing books that interest you, read them, study them, mark them up, and implement what you've learned.

Take advantage of magazines for writers as well. Writers Digest and The Writer are both excellent publications filled with great insight every month. If you can't afford to subscribe to them, your local library carries them. And both of them have websites that contain a lot of free information as well as free e-zines you can subscribe to that will provide you with tips for getting published.

And don't forget the blogosphere. Many professional writers have blogs and are providing meaty content to help you succeed. Here are a few:

The Writing Life
Forensics & Faith
Faith in Fiction
Write Thinking

I've given you a lot of information here—and all if it demands hard work on your part. But if you are willing to invest the time, energy, and money, you'll be further down the road to publication than most people ever travel. And you'll put yourself in a position to see your work in print.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia

I didn't read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis as a child like so many other people did. I finally read all seven books in the series in 2002. I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, but I am a fan of Lewis, and when I finally decided to give Chronicles a chance, I quickly realized that they transcend fantasy.

In "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe," Lewis did a masterful job with his allegory about the sacrificial atonement of Christ. I would have never caught such a thing as a child, but at the same time, the Chronicles of Narnia were written for children. Maybe Lewis intended for us to enjoy the best of both worlds by reading them in both childhood and adulthood.

When Focus on the Family produced an audio dramatization of the series on CD a few years ago, I purchased the complete set and have enjoyed listening to them as I travel. You'd think that by now I might be a little tired of the Chronicles, but ever since I heard that "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" were coming to the big screen, I've been excited to see it. I caught a brief glimpse of the movie while at the International Christian Retail Show in Denver this past July, but not enough to know whether I'd enjoy the movie as much as the book and the audio dramatization.

I'm always going to be partial to books over their movie counterparts, but in this case, the movie comes close. I saw it on Saturday night, and while I'd make a few alterations if I had control over such things, I have no major complaints about the film. Here are a few of my observations:

1. The film accurately captures Aslan's ferociousness, his gentleness, and his majesty. At one point, Mr. Tumnus points out that, "Aslan is not a tame Lion." And Aslan's proclamation that "It is finished" after pouncing on and killing the White Witch was quite moving. As was his roar—especially when he heads into battle with the White Witch. And I loved hearing the fear in the White Witch's voice when she hears that "Aslan is on the move."

2. The Stone Table scene is everything I expected. Aslan slowly makes his way up the stairs, facing ridicule all the way, then has his mane cut off before the White Witch declares victory by plunging the dagger into Aslan's body—a quite moving scene, especially when you know that Aslan paid the ultimate price for Edmund's betrayal.

3. The battle scene towards the end of the movie is thought-provoking. Some on Aslan's side die in the battle and many are injured. Both aspects are part of battle, and while Aslan certainly has the power to win the battle himself, he chooses to display his power through his soldiers.

Sounds like we can look forward to more movies from some of the other books in the Chronicles series and I can't wait—especially if they are done as well as this one.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Scott Stapp: The Great Divide

Blog Prompt Friday: What CD are you currently listening to?

I can't stop listening to Scott Stapp's first solo CD, The Great Divide, that just came out a couple of weeks ago. But I need to back up so you have a little context.

I was a bit of a latecomer to the Creed minions when they released their first CD, My Own Prison, in 1997. The album had probably been out a year before I became familiar with their material, but once I did, I was fascinated. I loved their sound—heavy, groove-laden tracks in which your body automatically matches and moves with the grooves. But for me, their lyrics, sung by Scott Stapp's powerful, honest, searching, and sometimes despondent voice, were always the draw.

My first taste of Creed was their title track from My Own Prison. The lyrics begin this way: A court is in session, a verdict is in / No appeal on the docket today / Just my own sin. Here are a few lyrics later in the song: Alone I drop and kneel / Silence now the sound / My breath the only motion around / Demons cluttering around. Scott Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti are credited in the liner notes for writing all of the lyrics on this album. How many mainstream rock songs have you heard that address sin in such a serious fashion?

Stapp's childhood is now a well known story. He grew up in a Christian home and he butted heads with his father—who at times seemed to be quite overbearing. Stapp left as soon as he was able and often struggled with his faith and his day to day existence. But it's apparent that he was always painfully aware of his standing before God, regardless of whether his father raised him properly or not. The entire My Own Prison CD is full of struggle, and pain, and lack of purpose, and confusion. And during one such song, What's This Life For, in which Stapp repeatedly violated the third commandment in a gut-wrenching song about children who live and die without ever finding purpose.

With such honest lyrics, (and in spite the misuse of the Lord's name), many in the Christian community took notice of Creed and soon people were wondering if they were a "Christian band." The band wanted nothing to do with such a label, but their second CD, Human Clay, just fanned the flames.

A song from that album called Faceless Man contained these lyrics: Now I saw a face on the water / It looked humble but willing to fight / I saw the will of a warrior / His yoke is easy and His burden is light / He looked me right in the eyes / Direct and concise to remind me / To always do what's right. The "yoke" reference is a direct quote from Jesus in Matthew 11:30: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." The songs on this album were also written by Stapp and Tremonti, but by then, fans began to assume that Stapp's struggle with his faith was driving the lyrics.

He ran from such assumptions and reportedly the rest of the band scratched their heads and began to wonder about the lyrics. Their third release, Weathered, contained more of the same. A song called One Last Breath contained these lyrics about a man who was on the brink of losing his battle with sin: I'm looking down now that it's over / Reflecting on all of my mistakes / I thought I found the road to somewhere / Somewhere in His grace / I cried out heaven save me / But I'm down to one last breath / And with it let me say / Let me say / Hold me now.

Creed split up after that album and reports began to surface about Stapp coming back to the faith he grew up with as a child. During an interview in 2004 with Christianity Today, he described himself during his time with Creed as "a struggling Christian who was trying to find holes in everything he had been raised to believe. I was a doubting Thomas. I was raised in a climate where I believed in God because I was afraid of going to hell—and I didn't think that was the right way to fall in love with somebody. I always believed in God and Christ, but I was in rebellion—trying to make my relationship with God fit into my life instead of making my life fit in with him. I was stubborn."

During the same interview he said that he had recently turned to his father and to his pastor for help and that he was "really soul searching and, I guess, on my path to coming home spiritually. And once that process began—and I'm still going through that process, and probably will for the rest of my life—that's when things started changing in my life. I started making some proper decisions, getting things in order."

He considers himself to be an artist who is a Christian rather than a Christian artist. And if you've had a chance to listen to his lyrics on The Great Divide you'll notice a slightly more upbeat, but still brutally honest, Scott Stapp. Listen to his will to fight in the song Justify: I met a man in New Orleans wore a Half Suit with Dark Blue Jeans… / Kicked his heels together winked at me real nice / I Saw Him from a mile away / But in my state of mind I let him make his play / 'Hey boy…have you seen the other side' / Yea…in this man I saw the devils hand so I looked at him man to man and said… / 'This time it's gonna be a fight!'

By his own admission and his own lyrics, Scott Stapp doesn't always live the way he knows that he is supposed to live. Most recently he was in an altercation with a band called 311 in a hotel bar and at this point nobody really seems to know what happened. Regardless of whether he was in the right or wrong in that particular situation, Stapp's willingness to struggle with his faith on a public stage is impressive to watch. He never seems to hide from the current path that he's traveling. Of course, as a result of his unwillingness to hide, some in the Christian community probably shy away from his music. And others might shy away from his music because he refers to his faith too openly in his music. But in a world where hiding is the norm, I suspect that his lyrics speak directly to the hearts of many people who fight their own internal wars.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Megachurches Closing for Christmas

One of the craziest articles I've ever read confirms my ill feelings toward seeker-friendly worship services. Yesterday a story entitled "Some Megachurches to Close on Christmas" from the AP ran in newspapers and on news websites all over the country. The basic gist of the story is this—since Christmas falls on Sunday this year, many megachurches who design their worship service around "seekers," have decided to not hold a worship service that particular Sunday.

"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., is quoted as saying in the article.

I agree with the first part of Ms. Parkinson's statement. Churches are to be involved in the mission of presenting the gospel, but the term "mission" implies being sent somewhere. Worship on the other hand should have no focus other than God. It seems to me that churches like Willow Creek are worshipping the gospel rather than the author of it and given their misguided notion about who should be the focus of worship, they are actually going to cancel their worship service on Christmas morning.

According to the article, Willow Creek isn't the only church doing so. Here's a list of more churches closing on Christmas morning, taken directly from the article:

"Among the other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky., near Lexington, and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., outside of Atlanta, said on its Web site that no services will be held on Christmas Day or New Year's Day, which also falls on a Sunday. A spokesman for North Point did not respond to requests for comment."

I don't think any comment would suffice.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

So You Want to Start a Blog?

You may have noticed on the right side of the page that I've added a new e-book that I wrote called So You Want to Start a Blog?

I'm often asked questions about blogging and thought it was a good time to compile all of my answers into an easy to follow format. The result is an 11-page e-book in .pdf format. In the e-book, I cover: 10 Reasons to Blog, 6 questions to ask yourself before you begin to blog, a list of free and fee based blog hosting services, 6 things to consider before you write your first post, 8 ways to increase and hold readership, and I cover the "extras" to make your blog stand out. The e-book also covers blogosphere protocol, aggregators, and addresses the concept of making money from your blog.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the e-book, just click on the "buy now" button on the right side of the page under the information about the e-book. The cost is $4.95 and once I've received payment via Paypal, you will receive the e-book via e-mail within 24 hours.

And just for today, I'm making three copies of the e-book available for free to the first three people who e-mail me (LeeWJr@yahoo.com) and agree to write a short one paragraph review of the book that I can use when marketing the e-book. Of course, you wouldn't be obligated to write a positive review. I just want an honest review that explains whether or not the e-book was helpful.

I taught a class about blogging last month at a writer's conference and I used this e-book as my guide. A CD of that presentation is also available (for $5.00 + $3.00 s/h). You'll also see a "buy now" button for that on the right side of the page if you are interested.

UPDATE @ 1:24 PM: The three free copies of the e-book are gone. Thanks!

Midweek Quotes

All five of these quotes come from a book called The Writer's Quotation Book: A Literary Companion, which was edited by James Charlton.

"If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads." –Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I divide all readers into two classes; those who read to remember and those who read to forget." –William Lyon Phelps

"When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before." –Clifton Fadiman

"There are some books of which scores of copies are bought for one which is read, and others which have dozens of readers for every copy sold." –John Ayscough

"The value of great fiction, we begin to suspect, is not that it entertains us or distracts us from our troubles, not just that it broadens our knowledge of people and places, but also that it helps us to know what we believe, reinforces the qualities that are noblest in us, leads us to feel uneasy about our failures and limitations." –John Gardner

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Taming of Terrell Owens

Over the past two decades, too many athletes at all levels have disrespected coaches, made obscene gestures, refused to go into the game when a coach or manager told them to, demanded more money even though they were under contract, talked trash about fellow teammates, danced over opponents, failed to hustle, and in general, acted more arrogantly than would be accepted in any other profession. Because of all this, I went from an avid sports fan, to someone who now picks and chooses which sporting events to follow because I just can't take it anymore.

Managers and coaches haven't been willing to stop these antics. General managers and owners haven't either. And so it continues to get worse. But finally, finally, one coach and one organization had seen enough. The Philadelphia Eagles suspended wide receiver Terrell Owens for four games this season after a long string of events, including his incessant shouting and disrespecting of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Other events include: "Owens also annoyed the Eagles by violating the dress code on road trips, parking in coaches’ spots at the team’s practice facility and sleeping through one team meeting, not bringing his playbook to another and refusing to open the playbook at another meeting," according to an article running on MSNBC.com.

And to the Eagles credit, they decided to not activate Owens even after his four game suspension was served. Owens took his case to arbitration recently and lost. So, his season is over. The Eagles could certainly use his talent on the field right now. They are languishing at the bottom of the NFC East with a 5-7 record and it's evident to all that the loss of Owens has hurt the team. But he's been hurting the team since he joined it and while the rest of the Eagles stumble through a difficult season, they are better off without him. Winning is important, but not the most important element in sports.

Before winning comes a strong work ethic. And while it's true that some egotistical athletes have strong work ethics, they generally make bad teammates which often leads to low team morale. But when a strong work ethic flows out of good character, teams often gel. I'm not a huge fan of the New England Patriots—probably because my Pittsburgh Steelers can't beat them, but the way they embrace the concept of team is impressive. They have a reputation for being introduced as a team rather than individuals. A guy like Terrell Owens would never be a good fit for a team like New England because they respect the game of football too much.

I'm hoping that this situation with Owens reverberates throughout the sports world. Wouldn't it be nice to see less obscene gestures and disrespectful celebrations? Wouldn't it be nice to see players unions actually caring more about their sport than attempting to stop teams from disciplining players who obviously deserve it? And wouldn't it be nice if a father could take his son to a game and not have to wonder if he's going to have to explain crude behavior from an athlete his son admires?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Volunteer Day

If you get a chance to listen to the radio around 5:30 pm (Central) today, I'm being interviewed on Kimberly Henrie's drive-time show in Glenwood Springs, Colorado on KMTS-FM. We'll be discussing Volunteer Day (held on December 5 every year). I should be on the air for five or ten minutes. You can listen to the interview online by going to the KMTS website and clicking on the "Listen to Live Broadcast" button.

Novel Update

A little more than a month ago, I told you that I signed up to participate in the National Novel Writing Month during the month of November. I started off well—writing more than 5,000 words in the first few days of the month, but then I fizzled. I had several writing deadlines, numerous speaking engagements, a writer's conference to attend, and I just didn't get as far on my novel as I'd hoped. But I haven't given up. I can't imagine ever giving up on my fiction.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Heidi Joy

The arts were meant to touch our souls. Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel has that effect on people. So do The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Last night my soul was not only touched, but also massaged by vocalist Heidi Joy who performed her annual Christmas concert in my hometown.

She has a powerful, pure, smooth, operatic-style voice that simply captures listeners and she takes them with her on a journey—often leading to the heavenlies. Her rendition of Mark Lowry's Mary Did You Know? is so powerful that it's not possible for me to hear her sing it without getting tears in my eyes. It's that powerful for a number of reasons. The lyrics paint an incredible picture by asking questions like:

Did you know,
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kissed your little baby,
You've kissed the face of God.

But great lyrics don't necessarily equate to great songs. Obviously the music itself is vitally important as well and just hearing the opening notes played on the piano gives me goose bumps. But you still need a great singer and Heidi is the epitome of greatness. She has spent so much time perfecting her voice, and maybe specifically that song, that there comes a point early on in the song when the listener isn't really hearing her anymore. Her voice is just the vehicle to transport the listener into the worship of the Most High God. And in that moment, she fades into the background. Her renditions of O Holy Night and Silent Night produce similar results.

If you are looking for a CD to help you celebrate the Christmas season, then pick up Heidi's "Holiday Joy" that's available on her website. It includes Mary Did You Know? I'm not affiliated in any way with her. I'm just a fan of her incredibly powerful music.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

100 Things

1. I played tennis and golf in high school.
2. I dreamed about playing tennis on a higher level.
3. I wasn't good enough.
4. I still like to play tennis.
5. It's much harder since I ruptured my Achilles tendon in 1997.
6. I watch the entire U.S. Open Tennis Tournament every year.
7. All two weeks of it.
8. I dropped out of college my sophomore year.
9. I was too immature to handle the work load.
10. Several years later, I had dreams of being a rock star.
11. I wasn't good enough.
12. But I did play the guitar for a few years.
13. And I wrote 10 songs.
14. Only one person besides me has ever heard them.
15. I've had seven jobs in my life.
16. I've been fired only once.
17. The guy was a crook.
18. I work for myself now.
19. I'm a writer.
20. I have always written.
21. I started writing professionally in 2000.
22. Some people consider me a sports writer.
23. I'm a sports columnist for a local newspaper.
24. Some people consider me a singles writer.
25. I'm the former Christianity Today online singles columnist.
26. My first book was written for singles: Single Servings.
27. I expected to be married by now.
28. I have two more books coming out in 2006.
29. They are not written for singles.
30. I started blogging in 2003.
31. My first blog was a cultural/political blog called Right Minded.
32. I love politics and think they are extremely important.
33. But I got tired of writing about them every day.
34. I'm a huge baseball fan.
35. The Kansas City Royals are my favorite team.
36. I watch or listen to most of their games.
37. I blog about them @ Royal Reflections.
38. I've interviewed several Royals players for various newspapers.
39. I've also interviewed Albert Pujols and Bill Buckner.
40. I want to get a novel published.
41. I have written two novels and I'm working on a third.
42. I'm a huge Alf fan.
43. I own the first two seasons on DVD.
44. I can't wait for the third year to come out on DVD.
45. Most of my favorite television shows have been cancelled.
46. Okay, maybe that means I have bad taste.
47. I have a cat named Midnight.
48. I wrote about her here.
49. She's 15 years old.
50. I had two dogs when I was a kid.
51. They were both named Toby.
52. I once had long hair with bleached tips.
53. Yes, it was during the 1980's.
54. Yes, I was a head-banger.
55. I still like that style of music.
56. My first car was a Mazda RX4.
57. I've owned 5 cars in my life.
58. Four of them were small.
59. My current car has over 100,000 miles on it.
60. I love to read.
61. I keep track of how many books I read each year.
62. I've read 15 books so far this year.
63. I read 21 books in 2004.
64. I read 22 books in 2003.
65. My two favorite authors are Nicholas Sparks and Jan Karon.
66. In addition to reading fiction, I like to read theology books.
67. And I like to read books about current events.
68. I subscribe to way too many magazines.
69. I have three favorite movies.
70. Braveheart—the most inspiring move ever.
71. The Notebook—the best love story ever.
72. Notting Hill—the second best love story ever.
73. Yes, I'm a chick-flick fan.
74. I have a bad memory for most things.
75. I have an excellent memory regarding dates in which events occur.
76. I used to be out to change the world.
77. Now I think that was quite arrogant.
78. I'm introverted and don't show a lot of emotion.
79. But I'm extremely emotional.
80. I've never been outside of the United States.
81. I don't have a big desire to travel outside of the United States.
82. But I wouldn't mind visiting England, Scotland, and Ireland.
83. I love coffee shops.
84. I love book stores even more.
85. I like deep conversations.
86. But not all the time.
87. Sometimes I like to act crazy.
88. But I only do that around people I know really, really, really, well.
89. I've had several nicknames.
90. I've hated them all.
91. I love the snow.
92. It is so relaxing.
93. I enjoy nature.
94. But I don't enjoy it often enough.
95. I like to fish.
96. But I'm terrible at it.
97. I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
98. I'm a new NASCAR fan.
99. I'm in a bowling league.
100. My biggest unfulfilled dream is to be married with children.


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