Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Using Word Lists

Words and Word Lists
Helpful Hints by Judy Vandiver

There is an old saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words.” But unless you are writing a picture book, that won't work for most authors. We are people who are in love with words. We love the way they sound, the way they roll off the tongue, they way they make the reader visualize a picture - the one in the writer's mind. Choosing the right word can sometimes be difficult, but it doesn't have to be.

When I sit down to my computer, I rarely have a major writer's block. Ideas run amuck in my brain. My blocks come in smaller packages. Choosing the exact word I want can stop me like my mother yelling my full name. I can come to a place in my story where I want to say, "Tom was nervous.” The editor side of my brain cautions that I am telling the reader instead of showing them. So I work at showing.

I use the backspace key and start again. "Tom swallowed the lump in his throat." Ok. Good. That shows the nervousness. Editor brain screams my full name and tells me that is trite and over done. Backspace again. I ask myself what else Tom can do with his throat. Bob his Adam's apple, clear his throat, cough? Why does it have to be in his throat at all?

I've developed an aid I keep on my writing desk for times my backspace key is getting a workout. It's my handy little Word List. I have a list of words that are 'sight' words, 'sound' words, 'hearing' words, 'he said / she said' words. For this example, I might pick up a list of 'feeling' words.

As an example, let me tell you ten words I spot on the list at a glance. I let my eyes swoop the page and choose words at random. Bridled - Chilled - Dire - Frustrated - Imposing -Muddled - Private - Rigid - Shruken - Suffocated. Then I try to use the words to show Tom's nervousness. Here are some examples I came up with:

Tom bridled his nerves.
A chill encased Tom's heart..
He was in dire need of a glass of water.
Frustration gripped him.
An imposing lump rendered Tom speechless. (See, I got that lump in the throat in there!)
Tom couldn't make sense of his muddled thoughts.
Tom's legs went rigid.
He shrunk to the back of the crowd.
The doubt suffocated him.

Did you notice I only listed nine examples? That because I won't always use every word I pick from the list. And I don't actually write these down. I let my eyes rove the list, thinking of ways I could use a variety of words to show Tom's nervousness. I may come up with several. What if I wrote:

Doubt suffocated Tom and an imposing lump rendered him speechless. He was in dire need of a cool drink, but his rigid legs wouldn't let him shrink to the back of the crowd.

We are playing with the words here and they may not be what I would end up with, however, they show the reader a picture rather than telling them, "Tom was nervous." The end product gives the reader a chance to visualize Tom. And I used far less than a thousand words. (Of course, the story isn't finished yet... I only need 74,967 more words and I have a novel.)

The paragraph above could be the beginning of a novel. We don't know much about Tom yet, but he's in a crowd of people and for some reason he wants out of there. What happened? What did he doubt? The writer's mind swirls with ideas. I'll let you take it from there.

It doesn't take long to come up with lists of words. Of course, they're all there in your handy dictionary, but having choice words on categorized lists makes finding the right one speedier. And you can find categorized lists very quickly on the internet. Here is a link to one of my favorites:  This list was designed to help with suicidal teenagers, but the list is helpful to anyone looking for a word that might validate feelings.

From that link, I found another list of Common Negative Feelings. If you want more, try googling descriptive words, sound words, or whatever it is you need at the moment. Print these lists and put them in a notebook. Keep it on your writing desk. If you are like me, the editor side of your brain will soon be shouting your full name, you'll pause, but your brain won't freeze. You'll reach for a thousand words and paint a picture.

Note: If this article helps you or you have additional ideas on word lists, leave a comment or contact me at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review - Sparkling Gems from the Greek

Sparkling Gems from the Greek By Rick Renner
Book Review by Judy Vandiver

Word lovers and Bible students will love Sparkling Gems from the Greek by Rick Renner. My sister and her husband presented me with this book last Christmas. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

The book is described on the front cover as: 365 Greek word studies for every day of the year to sharpen your understanding of God’s Word. It has lived up to that claim.

The daily devotions are from two to three pages each; complete with prayers, confessions and study questions, and are dated for year-long study. For each devotional, Rick Renner looks at the scripture with emphasis on the Greek meaning behind many of the words. Meanings that the majority of Christians are not familiar with. In a simple to understand writing style, Renner explores the deeper understand behind selected scriptures. Delving into the customs, studying the true definitions of words, and taking a closer look, he has produced what he calls “sparkling gems” from God’s Word.

Today’s word study in Sparkling Gems comes from two words found in 2 Corinthians 11:27. “In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often,” (KJV). Renner looks at the Greek words agrupvia and pollakis, (translated into English as watching and often.)  With a theme centered on being a team player, the devotional explores the way we act and react in the home, church, or work place. The reader is asked to consider not just the exceptional moments of our lives, but what are actions are during the mundane day-to-day living.

This has been a perfect devotional for me. The word lover in me always wants to know the deep depths behind chosen words. As one who loves the Scriptures, discovering the gems hidden in God’s Word excites me.

I checked on Amazon. This book sells new for a little over $23, but you can usually find a used copy around $16. Click on link below to go directly to Amazon’s listing for this book. Sparkling Gems From The Greek: 365 Greek Word Studies For Every Day Of The Year To Sharpen Your Understanding Of God's Word

Monday, September 28, 2009

Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light
A Bible study lesson by Judy Vandiver

This week’s Bible study continues in the first chapter of Genesis.

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:3-5 NIV)

In verse two of Genesis, we saw that we were in darkness, but verse three shows that God did not want to leave us there.

While the story of creation may be looked at literally, it pays us to remember that God also speaks to us figuratively. In looking at meanings for the word “light,” it is natural to think of the sun, moon and stars that God created. However, throughout the Bible, light is referred to as more than “sunshine.” Light is illumination. Sometimes light is a physical illumination and sometimes an internal or mental one. When God proclaimed light for the world, stars appeared in the heavens, but I believe He may also have meant for there to be an illumination of understanding in our world.

We often refer to someone as “seeing” when they “understand” a thought or concept. If I use that terminology to paraphrase verse three, it might read like this: “And God said, ‘let Judy see. Bring Judy from the darkness she is in.’”

As I wondered about this, I thought of another meaning for “light” that is used throughout scripture. Light is also used to represent God. John 1:5 states: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (NIV)

As I continued my paraphrase, I understood that what, or who, God wanted me to see and understand, was Him. If light is my understanding and light is God, my paraphrase could read, “ And God said, ‘Let Judy know Me and who I am.’”

Even when I was in a state of being formless, empty, dark, God said, “Let there be light.” Before I ever knew Him, He wanted me to understand who He was, to understand my awful condition, to understand He didn’t want to leave me like that.

Verse four tells us that God saw that the light was good and he separated the light from the darkness. Someday God will separate those who have lived in the light from those who have lived in darkness. And it affirms that the light is good. It is good for us to “see” and “understand” the ways of God.

Verse five states:  “God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness he called ‘night’. And there was evening and there was morning – the first day.” What a reminder that when we come to know God, to see the light, and move from the darkness, it is but the first day. Our journey is just beginning. God has much more to come in His plan for us.

To ponder on:
1.      Write down phrases where we use the word “light” in different contexts today.
2.      How can these phrases be used to see a figurative or deeper meaning to these verses in Genesis?
3.      List differences between physical darkness and light.
4.      Think about these differences applied figuratively to the verses above.
5.      Using the meanings you have thought of for light and darkness, paraphrase the verses above using your name, as if the verses were written specifically for you. Ask God to help you see and understand Him.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thank You, Mr. Bell, But You Can Have Your Phone Back.

Thank You, Mr. Bell, But You Can Have Your Phone Back.
by Judy Vandiver

I’ve been trying to think of some good lines to say the next time the phone rings and it’s a telemarketer. I don’t like telemarketers. Well, not them personally, but their annoying phone calls. It seems they love to start by inquiring about my health. “How are you doing, Mrs. Vandiver?”

The next time they ask here’s my response: “I’m glad you asked. I thought one of the relatives would call to check on me, but ever since the county started cracking down and limiting prisoner calls, I just don’t hear from them as much. And to tell you the truth, I’ve been feeling right poorly. I have a migraine in my big toe. I put a call in to my doctor, but she hasn’t called back. In fact, I thought it was her when they phone rang. I would go down to that free clinic, but after I drove the car into the lake, the kids hid my car keys. Hey, do you think you could come over and give me a ride to the clinic?”

Telemarketers aren’t the only annoying calls I get.  I once answered the phone and was greeted by a caller trying to collect on a neighbor’s bill. Whom was the collector with? The phone company!

The lady explained that they couldn’t actually call the customer directly because they had discontinued service to them. Then she asked me if I would go next door and tell the neighbors to pay their bill.

She seemed surprised when I told her no. However, just so she wouldn’t think me totally uncooperative, I suggested that she contact the woman next door at her place of employment – which just happened to be the phone company.

About four years ago, I had a second phone line, for business calls, installed in the house. The very first call I received was from the collections department of the phone company. No joke! They wanted to know when I could make a payment against the outstanding phone bill. When I tried to explain that I hadn’t even used the phone yet, the man on the other end insisted that I make a payment immediately or my phone service would be disconnected.

“But, I’ve only had this number for ten minutes,” I told him.

I “googled” my new phone number and found out it had previously been assigned to the police department of a near-by community. (Ah, now we know why the county is cracking down on those prisoner calls.)

Hubby and I moved again last year. New phone number. Old problem. Note to previous owner of phone number:  “Cassandra, call me. We need to talk. You know the number.”

And to top all my strange phone calls off was the one I received from the local hospital concerning an overdue bill. I explained that I had, indeed, been a patient recently, but it had been for minor surgery, not the delivery of a baby girl, as she continually insisted. After much arguing, I was informed that denying the delivery of my phantom child would not excuse me from paying the bill. By the way, she even told me that I had named my infant, Kimberly. Every year on April 15th, my husband again asks if we can claim Kimberly as a dependent on our tax return. I recently told him that Kimberly would now be thirty years old and had moved out.

So, if the phone rings in the night, I’m not answering unless the caller I. D. informs me it’s Cassandra, Kimberly, or the prisoner holding area of the local police station.

Click on the word "comments" below and add your story of a harassing phone call. Keep it clean or I'll have to use my delete key.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Camouflaged Angels

Camouflaged Angels
by Judy Vandiver

Steve looked out the window of the white truck at the endless miles of sand. Daily he drove the two and a half hours from Kuwait City to southern Iraq. As advisor on a military contract, he analyzed conditions at refineries producing Liquid Petroleum Gas.

The convoy drove through a military entry point on the border. “Alpha One, this is Lima 12. We are crossing the border,” Steve spoke into the radio. Paul, the driver, flashed the headlights on the truck, and Alpha One, a private security team, fell in behind their vehicle.

Breaking from the main convoy, Steve’s smaller convoy and Alpha One continued north, when six pick-up trucks approached from the opposite direction, pulling off to the side of the road.

The radio crackled. “They are getting out of the trucks and throwing large rocks at us,” warned the man in the lead truck. Paul maneuvered the vehicle close to the one in front of him, allowing little room between the trucks.

Steve watched as angry men pelted the trucks with rocks. Glancing to his right, he saw an Iraqi man stoop, pick up a large rock, then straighten as his arm raised over his head preparing to throw the stone. Steve’s eyes locked with the Iraqi man’s and he remembered a bible verse. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” With that thought, Steve used his only two weapons, prayer and kindness. “I sure hope this works, Lord,” thought Steve as his face spread into a wide grin. Lifting his hand he waved in greeting, smiling to the Iraqi man.

The stranger stopped with the rock raised over his head. When he moved again, he shook the rock in a threatening manner, but let Steve and Paul pass. The vehicles in front of and behind them had been damaged by rocks, breaking out the windows in some of them, denting others badly. All trucks were still operational and no one was injured. The convoy kept moving further into Iraqi.

The last truck in the group reported via the radio. “The Iraqis are getting back in their trucks and headed in a different direction. Looks like the border is clear again.”

Shortly after arriving at the job site Steve’s cell phone rang.

“Load up,” the voice spitted out. “There’s too much trouble there. Pack up your team and get out of Iraq as soon as possible.”

Scrambling to load their gear, the small convoy, lead by Alpha One, soon sped down the road. Twenty minutes later the men had not seen any of the trucks that had broke from the larger convoy earlier. A column of black smoke rose ahead near the border crossing.

“This is Lima 12. We’re approaching the border. Can we get through? Over.” Several times Steve sent the message over the radio.

Finally an answer came sputtering back. “The border is closed. You can’t get through. Rioting has increased. Turn around and head north. Find a military base and shelter there. Over.”

As the small convoy turned around, and continued bouncing down the road, Steve prayed. “Help us, Lord,” He thought of Psalm 91. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;”
Steve radioed Alpha One. “Where are we headed?”

“Shiba,” came the answer.

“We have to go through Zubair to get to Shiba. Too dangerous,” said Steve. “Find another place.”

 An unfamiliar, but distinctly American voice came over the radio. “Lima 12, give us your location. We will give you military escort and try to get you into Kuwait.”

Within two minutes, Steve saw American soldiers headed in their direction. “Turn around. We’ll lead you to the border. When we get there,” continued the Sergeant, “you guys make a run for it. When the border patrol sees the U. S. military with you, they will open the border. If necessary, however, we’ll cover you and shoot your way into Kuwait.”

As the group got closer to the border, Steve saw several basketball and baseball size rocks scattered in the along the roadside. Tires burned in the roadway. “There are people in the road ahead. Get ready to floorboard it,” Steve cautioned Paul.

“Hey Steve, look,” said Paul. “God not only sent the U.S. Army to help us, those are British allies ahead.”

The British soldiers had dispersed the rebels, and were attempting to wet the fires with bottled water, the only thing available. An 18 wheel truck sat disabled on the side of the road, apparently damaged by the insurgents. “That could have been us,” thought Steve as he thanked God for their safety.

“God is so good,” whispered Steve. “I just never knew his angels wore camouflage.”

Ephesians 4:32
Psalm 91:11

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tips for Writers - Walking the Dog

You don't have to be a professional writer to put Tips for Writers into practice.

I attached the leash to Lady's collar, but before I picked up the other end, Mother's dog, Beau, snatched it up in his mouth. Quietly, and with the attitude of one who is older and wiser, he led Lady to the door. Mother pushed the screen open and Beau guided Lady down the steps of the old house. We watched in amusement as Beau walked Lady down the sidewalk to the end of the block, turn around, and prance home like a tour guide leading  a visiting sightseer.

I recalled this scene the first time I heard someone use Walking the Dog as a writing term. I don’t remember where I was when I first heard this, but I do remember being totally confused. I read back over the passage being discussed and couldn’t find mention of a dog, much less anyone walking a four-legged mutt.

But as I listened, I realized the speaker wasn’t talking about a canine, but about details. Too much detail, including everything the character is doing, whether it relates to the story or not, is boring. It can bog down a story faster than a frisky greyhound and makes your writing sound amateurish. Walking the dog usually happens when the author tries to give a blow-by-blow account of the character’s day. Some things that happen to the character simply are not relevant to the story.

If you’ve been writing very long, you’ve probably read or been told that good writing incorporates details. While that is true, the details have to be pertinent to the story. Unimportant details make the reader ask, “who cares.” And if your reader doesn’t care, he’ll soon put your book down.

Tight writing means only including the details, the events, the happenings that are relevant to the problem or situation your character is facing. When adding information to a scene or chapter, ask yourself if the story would be unclear if you left that particular detail out. If the answer is no, chances are you don’t need those extra words. 

If you, as the author, believe that a detail is important, be sure your reader eventually knows why it is important. Will the detail later provide a motive for the way your character acts or reacts? Will it set the foundation for an upcoming event? If the information you are trying to convey is just filling time for your character, you are probably walking the dog.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Through the Fire
by Shawn Grady
Review by Judy Vandiver

I met Shawn two years ago at a writer's conference and was thrilled when he sent me a copy of his debut novel, Through the Fire. I was very impressed Shawn's writing skills, as his descriptive writing made me feel that I was a part of every scene.

As Firefighter Aiden O'Neill entered a fire, I felt that I was with him every step of the way, often wanting to coax him back to daylight and fresh air, but Shawn Grady pushed us both further into the flames and further into the story.

 I thought this would be a "guy book,” full of firemen stories, but the creative writing transcends genders and tells a story of the personal fire the protagonist faces daily - a story that is poignant and universal. This is not just a story about a firefighter, but is a story of faith and hope. If you feel that you are going "through the fire,” pick up this book and find some answers. I give Mr. Grady an A+.

About Shawn (from his website):
Shawn Grady signed with Bethany House Publishers in 2008. He was named “Most Promising New Writer” at the 39th Annual Mount Hermon Writers Conference. Through the Fire is his debut novel.

Shawn has served for over a decade as a firefighter and paramedic in northern Nevada. From fire engines and ambulances to tillered ladder trucks and helicopters, Shawn’s work environment has always been dynamic. The line of duty has carried him to a variety of locale, from high-rise fires in the city to the burning heavy timber of the eastern Sierras.

Shawn attended Point Loma Nazarene University as a Theology undergrad before shifting direction to acquire an Associate of Science degree in Fire Science Technology as well as Paramedic licensure through Truckee Meadows Community College.

Shawn currently lives in Reno, Nevada, just outside of Lake Tahoe. He enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife, three children and yellow Labrador.

Visit Shawn's website:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Formless and Void

Formless and Void
By Judy Vandiver

            About a year ago, God gave me a beautiful insight into a passage of scripture. We had just sold our country home and moved into a community for active seniors. I thought it would be an excellent time to start a Bible reading program and read the Bible through in one year.

            Opening my Bible to Genesis chapter one, intent on making some good progress with my new plan, I blazed through verse one. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” I rolled along to verse two. “Now the Earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Only a little over thirty thousand verses to go.

            I saw the next words— “and God said”— but I could not go on. My eyes went back to verse two. I sensed there was a deeper message there than the relating of facts in the steps of creation, so I read the verse again. As I did so, I pictured a deep, black void. No shape. No little, round planet floating through the universe. Not even a star struggling to spit through the cosmos. Just utter darkness.

I probably would have looked at the empty, formless Earth and said, “What a mess. Forget it.” I’m sure my husband would have looked at it and said his familiar phrase, “that’s good enough.”

            But, God hovered. Even before He shaped the world, He knew how His creation would turn out— and He cared deeply. I didn’t imagine His Spirit wafting like billowing yards of chiffon or tiny tendrils of fog. Yet, I felt Him hovering over the void. Hovering the way I had when I learned my father had cancer. Wanting to fix everything the way I had pined many years ago when my son’s vision was suddenly taken away. Staying close the way I did as each of my children learned to take their first steps.

            I don’t believe He hovered because He saw polluted streams, or a gaping hole in the ozone layer, or smog rolling over barren land once covered with dense forests. He hovered because He saw me.
            He saw me as I was when first formed; formless, empty, dark, not fit for human companionship, utterly without substance.
            I read the two verses again, but this time I replaced certain words with my name. “In the beginning God created Judy. Now Judy was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of Judy, and the Spirit of God was hovering over Judy.” I began to see myself through the eyes of a devoting, loving, caring, and hovering Father. I could only become all I am created to be, by listening to the voice of the One that made me, planned my life, pined for me, and stayed close even in the darkest moments. I cried as I thought of how much God loved me. I began as an empty, worthless mess, but He wouldn’t leave me that way.

            I read the verses again and substituted the name of my husband, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings. Finally, I read it slowly, putting in the name of someone who had been a “thorn in my side.” God opened my eyes. “My thorn” was formless and empty. He needed so much. God still hovers, because He loves “my thorn” as much as He loves me.

            It’s been almost a year since God filled me with a new attitude for “my thorn.” I have not finished reading the Bible within this year. When talking about it to God this morning, he told me not to fret over it. Rather than seeing us read the Bible through in a year, He’d much rather have us study it for a lifetime.

God still hovers over those without substance and are empty, those living in a world of darkness. Even there, God is present, ever hovering, even in the darkest moments—waiting to complete his creation.

To ponder on:
1.      How are people sometimes without substance?
2.      What does it mean to you to “hover?”
3.      The story of the transformation of the Earth continues in Genesis. Does your transformation go forward or does it end at verse two?
4.      Do you know someone who has been a “thorn in your side” or who is stuck at the end of verse two?
5.      Substitute their name in the verse as I did mine above. Ask God to help you pray for that person.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New Blog Schedule

I want to apologize to my blog subscribers and readers. I haven't done a very good job in the past in keeping the pages up-to-date. Truthfully, I have sometimes felt lost, not knowing what direction to take with this whole "blogging" thing. 

I believe God has called me to write, therefore, I asked Him for ideas about topics. I have several different interests and don't want my blogs to seem like they are all over the place. Then it hit me. 

"Duh," I heard God say, "why not include all the areas I've spoken to you about with your ministry, "Writing for God's Glory." (By the way, does God talk like that to other people? I mean the "duh" thingee, or have I been a secluded writer too long?)

Beginning tomorrow, I plan to post a blog daily (except for long holidays, my birthday, days I sleep in, whenever I just don't feel like it, Saturdays and Sundays.) Isn't it just like God to give me an outline? (He's so organized!) 

  1. On Mondays, God and I will post a short Bible study.
  2. Tuesdays, look for book reviews and interviews with Christian authors.
  3. Wednesday’s blog will be short topics of interest to writers. Lots of writing and editing tips that I hope also benefit those who are not writing to be published.
  4. On Thursday, I'll share a short devotional, usually taken from everyday happenings. 
  5. Fridays will be "Hodge-Podge-Blog.” No telling what you'll find that day. I’m thinking of items of interest, skits, drama, things going on in my world, and a few topics that could easily be labeled, "Humor Me, Please." 

All blogs, no matter the daily schedule, will be for the purpose of promoting God's glory. I want this blog to be an endeavor between God, you, and me. I'm trusting God to give me the directions and I ask that you pray for me to always have a listening ear and be obedient. In addition, I ask that my readers hold me responsible for diligently posting to this blog. I want you to hold me accountable. 

 Ok. . .see you tomorrow for our first Bible study together.