On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft [Book Review] (Scribner; 10 Anv edition, 2010)

The only horror in Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is that he preaches hard work as the foundation to good writing.

With a steady dose of encouragement, King challenges writers of all levels to employ discipline as the key to developing one’s craft.

He also affirms his disdain of the passive voice and sings the praises of standard writing volumes like Strunk and Whites’ The Elements of Style and William Zinsser’s On Writing Well.

If you skip the first 100 pages and head straight to the “Tools” section of the book, you will find distilled guidance on writing fiction. With the exception of his advice to just let the plot happen (something only buffoons or geniuses like King should attempt), the book offers useful principles anyone can use. For example:

  • “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or the tools) to write.”
  • “Until you get [a place of your own to write] you’ll find your new resolution to write a lot hard to take seriously.”
  • Set a daily writing goal and don’t quit until it’s done.
  • Write what you know, but use imagination. Describe what you see, but then get back to the story.
  • Never tell the reader a thing if you can show it.
  • Good dialogue comes from listening to real people talk—and to how they talk.

The book would get five stars if not for a couple of gripes.

King used the first 100 pages to recount his life story and—in justification for doing so—his development as a writer. Granted, the memoir offers occasional kernels of wisdom on the craft of writing. But for the most part, the story of King’s life betrays the fact that successful horror novelists have little opportunity to publish an autobiography. (So squeeze it in wherever you can.)

Also, a writer as gifted as King doesn’t need to use profanity to make me laugh (that’s too easy). But hey, you write what you know.

In short, if you don’t mind spitting out a few bones, On Writing has some great stuff to chew on.

Tell me what you think: Have you read King’s book? What is your take on it? To leave a comment, just click here.

Blame Shifting our Blunders

Finger pointing is hard-wired into our hearts. In fact, it started early in human history. Like, really early.

Blame Shifting our Blunders

(Painting by Domenichino. Public domain)

In the Garden of Eden, God confronted Adam and Eve after they sinned, and their reaction set the course for an entire race of blame-shifters.

We’re still shifting the blame (and getting blamed).

The solution is the same today as it was then.

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Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus [Book Review]

It’s pretty rare to find a devotional book written about the Holy Land.

stars 5

Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus

In fact, one of the reasons I wrote two of my books was to help fill the void in application of Holy Land study.

True, there are other books that do this. It’s just that so many of them waffle between inaccurate and superficial.

Charles Dyer offers us a refreshing alternative.

As I read Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus, I felt like I was on tour in Israel with a great Bible teacher. The book takes 30 events in the life of Jesus and gives you a geographical and devotional tour of the places where they occurred.

Bethlehem, the Temple Mount, the Judean Wilderness, the Sea of Galilee are only a few places Dr. Dyer leads us on this virtual tour through key places in the life and ministry of Jesus. “Watch your step as you get down from the bus,” it reads in one place.

I felt like I could easily take the book in hand and stand at the very places in the Holy Land. The book could serve as a pocket guide devotional.

If you’re looking for a unique devotional on a part of the Bible most people miss, Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus is a journey worth taking.

I read the Kindle edition, but you can also pick up the softcover edition.

P.S. Charles Dyer has written two other books about the Holy Land also worth having in your library (I have them both):

Question: What place in the life of Jesus would you most like to see? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Tower of David Citadel – Jerusalem’s History Made Easy

Whenever someone asks how to spend a day in Jerusalem, I try to steer the person away from shopping malls and toward the Tower of David Citadel—Jerusalem’s museum of the city’s history.

The museum does what no book can. In just a few hours’ time, one can catch a glimpse of Jerusalem’s history as well as observe archaeology from the city’s various periods.

Tower of David Citadel—Jerusalem’s History Made Easy

(Photo: Courtyard of David Citadel, Jerusalem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Ironically, the museum that does so much to remove the confusion about Jerusalem’s history is named in error.

The Tower of David Citadel in Jerusalem has nothing to do with David.

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Heaven is for Real [Book Review]

I think what grips most people when they read Heaven is for Real is that a little boy speaks about what he otherwise couldn’t have known.

And if THAT is true, the rest of his story must be true, right?

heaven is for real

No doubt, the book taps the nerve of our day that makes experience the basis of truth. Believers unacquainted with God’s Word will have little reason to doubt the story of a four-year old boy who went to heaven and returned to earth to share his story.

Interestingly, very little of the book is actually about the subtitle: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. For example, the first half of the book is mostly back story about what led up to Colton’s appendix procedure. The subtitle for this section could have been, A Little Boy’s Story of His Trip to the Hospital and Back.

As far as heaven goes, should we view this book as affirmation that heaven is real?

For one thing, the book’s account is undermined by its inattention to biblical detail. For example:

  • The book says everybody in heaven has wings but Jesus, but that contradicts Philippians 3:21 that says our bodies will be like Jesus’. Plus, angels have wings, and saints are never portrayed as having them (Isaiah 6:2). Except in the movies.
  • The little boy, Colton, said: “Jesus told me if you don’t go to heaven, you don’t get a new body.” This flatly contradicts Scripture, which says that both the redeemed and the condemned will experience bodily resurrection (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:5, 12). Plus, Jesus described in His parable the rich man in Hades as having a body (Luke 16:24).

If this book’s story is real, Jesus needs to get His stories straight.

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Tuesdays with Morrie [Book Review]

I’ve heard for years that I should read, Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson. My wife and I picked it up at an estate sale recently and read it aloud.

Tuesdays with Morrie

The greatest takeaway from this touching account of the slow death of Mitch Albom’s friend, Morrie Schwartz, is that you’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.

Over the course of many Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch visits with Morrie about “life’s greatest lesson,” discussing issues of life such as self-pity, regrets, death, family, emotions, aging, love, marriage, and forgiveness.

“Aging . . . is more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand that you’re going to die, and that you live better because of it.”

Everyone reads a book through the filter of his or her own world view. And although I can appreciate the truth and wisdom of each chapter as it relates to life, I couldn’t help but think the book overlooks the potential insight this life offers to the next life.

“Aging . . . is more than the negative that you’re going to die . . .”

Yeah, but you can’t sidestep the negative. It’s the most-certain event of anyone’s life.

I totally understand that the book isn’t about the afterlife. I get it. Nevertheless, it seems strange to read a book about a dying man sharing distilled wisdom about life and death with no discussion about life after death.

Tuesdays with Morrie does a great job highlighting how death brings clarity to life.

Okay, so you apply those lessons and have a great life.

Then what?

Question: Have you read the book? What did you think of it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Tel Hazor—Canaan’s Largest City Lost in the Minds of Many

I asked the helicopter pilot to fly to Hazor so that I could take video of the site. Before long we hovered over a modern town with houses, streets, and parks. The pilot and I exchanged awkward glances, and I clarified what I wanted: “I meant Tel Hazor.”

He still looked confused.

Tel Hazor—Canaan’s Largest City Lost in the Minds of Many

(Photo: Tel Hazor, courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After five minutes of searching the area, we finally saw it. Two hundred acres huge, rising from the floor of the Huleh Basin, ancient Hazor looms as Israel’s largest tell.

I had to marvel at how times have changed. What was once Canaan’s most important city has somehow gotten lost in the weeds of contemporary minds.

How could the pilot not have known where it was?

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The Widow’s Mites and the Value of Your Heart to God

The true value of our hearts is hidden. But sometimes we reveal its value by how we give—not by how much. That’s the currency God cares most about.

The Widow's Mite and the Value of Your Heart to God

(Photo: The widow’s mite(s) were like these 2000 year old copper coins. By Royce Bair / Creative Commons license)

On His way out of the temple for the last time, Jesus sat down in the Court of the Women and observed those who made donations to the treasury. To be sure, this seemed an odd place to pause.

But the Lord had a lesson to teach His disciples.

It’s a lesson on how He values our hearts.

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