The Day Dad Stopped World War II

Raymond JonesOn May 7, 1945, Germany learned that Raymond Jones of Seaboard, North Carolina, would turn 18 the next day and enlist in the U.S. Army. Rather than face THAT, Germany signed an unconditional surrender at Allied headquarters in Reims, France, to take effect the following day, ending the European conflict of World War II – and sparing my father from having to open a big old can of U.S. whoop &*^# on’em.

Mom … My Biggest Fan and Best Salesperson

Happy Mother's Day, ya'll

Momma_NellOne thing about Mom, you always knew what she was thinking—whether you wanted to know or not. You also knew you were loved.

A few years ago Mom was on her way to the hairdresser when another driver ran a stop sign and smashed into her Buick. Mom got out, inspected the damage, and exchanged insurance information with the other driver. While waiting for the police to arrive, Mom popped the trunk and motioned the other woman to the trunk.

“My son’s a writer,” Mom announced, “and I’ve got some of his books. Do you want a copy?” I wasn’t at the crash site, but knowing Mom, I imagine the inflection in her voice was more like: “You do want a copy of my son’s book, right?” I’m almost certain of this because the woman bought one copy of my pirate novel. I bet the woman doesn’t even have kids.

But that was Mom–always hawking my books and asking me how my writing was going. She worried constantly I wouldn’t make enough as a writer to support my family. I kept telling her our daily provision is God’s business; mine was to be obedient and write stories that reflect His truths.

In 2012 I lost my biggest fan and best salesperson.

The last thing Mom told me was, “I’m not as young as I used to be, Son. You need to come see me once in a while.”

I will, Mom. One of these days we’ll be together, again.

If you’re blessed enough to still have your mom around, give her a hug and whisper, “Love you, Mom.” Trust me, it’s the best and cheapest gift there is.

Love you, Mom.

—EJ

Creating Compelling Characters

From the book "A Novel Idea"

A Novel Idea - Learn How to Write a Novel in Under 60 MinutesWhat makes a character compelling? Simple. Something happens to them. Even if you despise your (_____), you enjoy telling others about his failures. “Did you hear what happened to my ex? He got busted for…” We love to loath, meddle in the affairs of others, and watch them fail. Our participation in their lives expands our world, which explains part of what fuels reality TV.

 

CHARACTERS MUST…
• Reveal heart
• Face obstacles
• Pick paths
• Make a discovery
• Reveal a secret

Characters Conquer Mountains

For your characters to be likable they should be witty, charming, wise, friendly, empathetic, authentic, encouraging, secure, or vulnerable. If your lead is perfect she’s boring, so give her both redeeming qualities and flaws so the reader can relate.

Give Your Lead Goals 
• What does she want?
• What is she willing to do to reach her goal?
• What WILL she do to reach that goal?
• What is she willing to sacrifice?
• What happens if the she fails?
• Is your Lead larger than life?
(Does he lay in the middle of highway, hang from a Ferris wheel, and rebuild an old house for the girl he loves?)

Want, Need, Motivation
If the reader questions why a character reacts in a certain way, then you’ve lost credibility. There are two reasons your characters act “out of character.”
1. There is no clear motivation for the character to perform the action.
2. The motivation provided isn’t sufficiently developed.

That’s the start of character development. Question: Is your character such that others cheer for you?

From Pit to Prominence (Faithfulness)

Ernie Big EZ Baker

Ernie Big EZ BakerSo the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.” Genesis 39:22 (NIV)

In his thirties he led an e-business technology team from a start-up company to its public stock offering. The firm made a splash in the press, sold out, and went looking for a new and younger manager.

Unemployed, he founded a new business. The job took him to Asia where he met with top executives in the semi-conductor industry. Modeling the successful strategy of his previous job, he positioned the firm to go public. But days before their announcement, the global economy burped; investors pulled back, the firm floundered. For years he watched as one angel investor after another waltzed by his office, but none came bearing good news and gifts. The firm folded.

In order to pay the bills, he began restoring homes, adding decks, and refinishing rooms. Of course, business thrived. He hired additional help, rebuilt his savings, and discovered he enjoyed working with his hands, going to bed tired, and waking up in better shape than the day before. He dropped pounds and added muscle, plus a few more clients. Over coffee one morning, a customer commented on his leadership skills. “Would you like to have a job with an office, benefits, and stock options?” his friend asked.

“Only if it presents a challenge.”

Of course it would.

He accepted a job at the customer’s firm and soon his unit led the company in growth, profits, and efficiency. The CEO offered him a promotion, one as head of a new division with increased responsibility and income. Then, on the eve of the announcement, he was diagnosed with bone cancer. The firm fired him.

Joseph also suffered betrayal, mistreatment, and misfortune. Told by God that he would become a grand leader, Joseph struggled with the mantle of greatness. Listen to the dream I had,” said Joseph.I had another dream… No one is greater in this house than I am…When all goes well with you, remember me… show me kindness… mention meI have done nothing to deserve being put in a pit.” Joseph’s arrogant attitude bred jealousy and resentment, leading others to forget and forsake him.

God has made each of us responsible for someone and some thing. Whether we’re serving time in prison, serving soup to the homeless, or serving on the board of a Fortune 500 company, our attitude toward others reflects our heart for God’s work.

When my friend arrived home that final evening, he hugged his wife, held her hand, and prayed for God to see them through the crisis—just as they’d done in times past. I have no doubt he’ll rise again from pit to prominence. That’s what men of God do.

Even when we feel imprisoned, we don’t have to yield to despair. God’s promises, power, and protection will set us free if we trust, work, and wait upon Him.

On APRIL 26, 2019, after a 9 year battle with cancer, God welcomed Big EZ home. I have no doubt Ernie heard the words, “Good job, buddy. You did it!”

 

My Father's Business(the post above first appeared in the book My Father’s Business.)

Dramatic Dialogue

Writing Dialogue for Scripts and Novels

Dramatic DialogueA scene is: Doing (Action), Thinking (Narrative), and Talking (Dialogue)

Obviously, we can’t know what others are thinking. We can see them moving, doing, and we find that interesting, but when they speak, we listen. The cell phone rings and we answer it. A loud speaker blares and we pause.

Talk is not cheap. Talk is tension.

A writer has a number of tools for story building: narration, action, description, and dialogue.

Description and narration will move it slowly, steadily, and easily along. Think literature.

Action and dialogue will speed it along—dialogue more so than action. When characters start talking, the story starts walking.

Dialogue reveals theme. “Sometimes the right course demands an act of piracy.” In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow actually states the theme of the story in dialogue. When possible, allow your main character to speak the theme through dialogue.

Function of Dialogue

Dialogue reveals the character’s motives and opposing agendas. A dialogue scene propels the story into high gear. We love to eavesdrop; through words we reveal our heart. We introduce our characters through dialogue, expose their motivation, wants and needs.

Behavior is external; motives are internal. Dialogue presents both at once.

Elements of Dialogue

For dialogue to work it must:
Sound right for each character. There are four aspects to consider:

  • Vocabulary (words each character uses)
  • Words & Expressions unique to each character (establish a saying or phrase early in the story)
  • Regionalism
  • Dialect (accent)

Since dialogue is best when it is an extension of action, give your characters different agendas in a scene. Then the dialogue will take care of itself as your characters work through a problem in the scene.

Making a Scene Readers Will Remember

Making a Scene Readers Will RememberThe power of a scene is derived from the slightly claustrophobic feeling you get when you focus on the characters. They seem somehow trapped in a place, unable to leave. Through your writing you pan across the room, landscape, and set the context, before moving in for a close-up shot of the characters. Now reveal the pain, stress, hurt on your characters’ faces. In order to engage the reader’s imagination, your scenes must do one or more of the following:

  • Move the story through action
  • Characterize through reaction
  • Set up essential scenes to come
  • Sprinkle in surprise

A GOOD SCENE

  • Reveals information that moves the story forward with new goals, old secrets, and hidden motives
  • Shows conflict between characters (this adds tension)
  • Deepens the character’s development by exposing another flaw or strength
  • Creates suspense by introducing a new wrinkle that leaves the reader what will come next

Making A Scene

Making a scene is as easy as: ABCD !

Action!

Static settings will put your readers to sleep, so get your characters moving. Show the world around them spinning. It can be something as simple as snow falling on a patio railing or bullets piercing the sides of the limo, but you must show movement. Make sure the reader “sees” something is happening. If readers can feel movement, that’s better.

Background

Open with action, then place the scene in context. Why are the characters in the scene? How did they arrive? What does your Lead want? Background IS NOT history. Background IS showing your Lead’s goal for that scene. Your character must want something. What is it? This is where you will state your Lead’s goal for this scene.

Conflict

Who or what stands in the way of your Lead reaching his goal? Present the barrier. Include conflict on every page. Never let your Lead relax. Show the struggle! Increase the risk of failure. Tension comes from unresolved conflict, so let the scene devolve into a mess.

Decision

At the end of each scene, your Lead must choose a course of action. A scene moves from struggle, discovery, choice, and change. Character choice, not circumstances, should drive your story forward. At the end of each scene present your lead with two choices and force him or her to pick one. The rapids approach. Should your character: Reach for the branch overhead or try to swim for the rock in the middle of the river. High stakes decisions at the end of each scene force readers to turn the page to next chapter.

Scene Summary

When you finish writing a scene, ask, “Is this scene necessary?” Read the scenes before and after. Does what just happened deserve its own scene? Could the information be placed in a neighboring scene?

A great novel is made from a series of great scenes strung together. Do that and readers will beg you to write more.

Did Jesus Really Say He Would Rise from the Grave?

Yes ... yes he did

Did Jesus Really Say He Would Be Raised from the Grave?Did Jesus really say he would rise from the grave three days after his death?

Yes … yes he did.

Multiple times, in fact.

“As Jonah was in the stomach of the sea creature for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” ~ Matthew 12:40.

“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’”~ Matthew 27:63

Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. ~ Luke 9:22, Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” ~ Luke 18:31-33

And still on the morning when the women went to anoint his body neither they, his disciples, or apparently any of his followers believed his words. How many times must God and Jesus say a thing before you will believe?

Image by dadaworks from Pixabay