Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Writing

Witchfinder — characters shock the writer

(This is part two of a blog series on the discussion between Sarah A. Hoyt and the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club about Hoyt’s book Witchfinder, the art of writing, and what it is like to publish a book as both a traditional and “indie” author.)

Sandy: So how you keep all of these characters and plot points straight – do you have index cards or something?

Sarah: I tried cards, and notebooks, none of that works for me, because the characters are just themselves. They just show up and do their thing and if I don’t get in the way they are amazingly consistent in themselves.

Another writer said you have to do it this way, find out things about the characters. So I did it, but I wasn’t writing the stories because I was talking to the characters. What I was finding out wasn’t what I needed for the book.

There are things, like when Jonathan reveals himself, takes action and reveals himself, that shocked me, which I think works very well, because it was a shock for the readers too.

I feel very responsible and non-professional doing it that way. Should I pretend I do index cards?

Sandy: No’ I think that is actually fine, I have seen articles and other interviews that say similar things. Everyone has their own style, and whatever works for anyone is great.

Sarah: If you think about it isn’t quite the sane thing to do for a living. I sit down and create elaborate lies.

Sandy: And talk to my imaginary friends.

Sarah: Yes!

Jonathan: You mention Jonathan Blythe several times, and one of my favorite lines was about him near the end of the book. “We’ll send Jonathan Blythe to them, and they’ll end up thinking this was all their own idea.”  I take it that this idea of Jonathan Blythe is where Rogue Magic spins off of. I didn’t exactly see him that way, but it sparked such a wonderful idea is my mind when I read it.

Sarah: Yes, he is like that, although inside his head – because in rogue magic we spend a lot of time inside his head — and oh, is it a messy place! He is not as nearly as suave as he comes across on the outside. There is a lot more hesitation and stuttering, but what comes out of his mouth is very polished.

(From here Sarah segued to a story about the fastest she ever wrote a book – 3 days – in writing Plain Jane – a novel about one of Henry VIII’s wives. The publishing house asked her to be one of several authors each writing about a different wife.

Sarah: They gave me Jane Seymour. This is somewhat of a problem because I have no interest in the woman. She lived a life no one recorded and died giving birth. How do you write a novel about this? So I put it off and put it off. For the first time in my life the publisher was calling.  We have a cover, can we have the book. So I sat down and I just rushed through it in three days and I actually had no clue about what I had just written. But I thought, hey, it’s not under my name (the publishing  house was giving her a Pseudonym). So I sent it in and fully expected them to say what about these chapters in the middle? They never said anything, they published it. It did well, it is still doing well. And about a year ago I actually picked it up and read it. It makes perfect sense – probably one of the best things I have written.

I’m seriously considering writing all my books in three days. Only it almost killed me. When I got done writing it I felt 80 years old. My fingers hurt, the joints on my fingers were about pounded to death. I felt and looked 80, looked like I had just been drained, pale. I came up with all sorts of things, like dividing it into sections, having cool names for the sections.

Sandy: I notice you have a whole wall of books behind you. I have to ask, what is your favorite.

Sarah: The books behind are mostly research. But as an author who I like most everything he writes, that is Pratchett.

Sandy: Yes, he’s my favorite as well.

Sarah: I read Pratchett, I read Agatha Christie, obviously with this book I read Georgette Heyer. Although I didn’t read any of her (Heyer’s) stuff until I was 37. I met my publisher Toni Weiskopf at a con and said I know my plotting needs help — there are cultural reasons for that —  plotting of Portuguese novels are much slower, and that is what I grew up with.

So my novels had these very slow, very inside your head rhythm. And she said: Read Heyer. And I found I liked her romances. Her mysteries are atrocious. There is no life in them. They are like set pieces, just figures moving around.

The ones (authors) I reread are Terry Pratchett, Agatha Christie, Heyer, and Heinlein, but Heinlein is more when I am in a science fiction mode, which I should be right now.

Betsy: (Referring to something on a bookshelf behind Sarah) I was wondering if that was a Lego Batman up there…

Sarah: No, no, this, my younger son, at 4, came to me with this.  The way I bought time to write was have them play on the floor in my office. So he came to me and told me “this is an attack duck. It will protect you when you are writing.”  He is embarrassed that I have kept it all these years. It talks (she moved its mouth and it fell apart, she put it back together). I told him we should have it dipped in resin or something so I don’t have to put it back together. That is my guardian duck, he protects me, which is good because the critters I write about are dangerous. So I have an attack Duck, and have all sorts of things the kids have given me. An origami crane from his Japanese culture class… the one thing I do collect in the junk.


(Next time – more on the “junk” Hoyt collects)

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Family

Community Meal — a Taste of Christmas

Avondale United Methodist Church had its monthly community dinner, free to all, Wednesday night. And as a regular part of the evening, there was the monthly craft for kids.

This month’s used discounted Halloween candy on sale after Halloween and graham crackers to make easy “ginger bread houses”.

Both my kids took part in the craft. Carly in particular made some unique designs that can be seen in the accompanying pictures.

Carly drew the symbols of the characters Demo and some Goopas on the one side of the roof of her house.
Carly drew the picture of raocow on this side. raocow is an online “lets play” er that they read and follow his video blogs.
Carly created minifigures – a king a queen, and the little prince.
Nathan attempted a pixel sprite art that didn’t quite have enough supplies to complete the design, but gives a good sense of the intent.
Another angular view of the pixel sprite art project.
Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Music

Service Music — 100th Anniversary Celebration

The 100th Anniversary Service was preceded by a lot of musical practice. The musical ministries of the church chose large thematic numbers to practice and feature for the day. Today’s blog is an audio blog, featuring sound clips from the service.

The service started off, as always, with the prelude.  Matt Gender, organist, chose “Festive Trumpet Tune” by David German as his opening.

The next number I wanted to mention was that of the Jubilee Handbell Choir, that did a rendition of “It Is Well With My soul” by Bliss/Moklebust, that included the playing of an excellent violinist, Omari Abdul-Alim.

The choir did a rendition of “Now Thank We All Our God”, arranged by Mark Hayes, with soloist Ellen Garret and Jonathan Lightfoot.

Matt Gender finished with a postlude of “Carillon-Sortie by Henri Mulet.


Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Music

Reflections on choir

1 Timothy 4:12Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.


I remember when I was young(er) taking especial note of the passage above. I taught me to be bold, but also to be sensitive, to others who might be tempted to despise my youth to their experience. I mention that to mention the latter …

It has been a little more than a years since we at Avondale United Methodist Church brought in a new choir director.  A very young choir director compared to many of the members of the choir (myself included, I suppose I must admit). I know there were questions about how well such a young director would understand and be able to work with such a mature adult choir. And while he came with heavy credentials and loads of experience, especially for one of his youth (A prodigy of sorts), this would be his first experience in a church setting. Would he be too technical for us?

Well, now that we are in his second year, the second season, I can safely say that all those concerns were certainly put to rest. He was stiff at first, it took him awhile to learn to relax and how to interact with people, but he has settled in nicely. He is already on the third organist he has gotten to work with, learning to handle change. But what I chiefly wanted to mention was the spirituality and musicality he has brought to us.

Avondale has always had an emphasis on good music, well done, from the entire congregation, with an emphasis on worship and ministry. Aaron came in following a director of more than 10 years. And in this one year he has brought us further than we have been previously in the time I have been attending AUMC. He is challenging us to be better — musically and spiritually — with our music. We want to do the best musically, and we want to do it with a conviction that the congregation can feel. Each week I can see the members around me learning something new, rising to new levels — of both musicality and conviction.

Today we did a version of “Abide with Me”. It was a simple piece. Which made it the most difficult to do. Doing simple things well is the real challenge in anything.

And well we did — even with the hornet that was flying around the choir loft. To God Be The Glory.

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church

Ode to the Phone Book


Everyone in our area is familiar with those phone books placed on the front step, or at the end of the walk, usually encased in a plastic bag to protect it from the weather.  But does anyone consider much about how they get there? My kids learned more about it this weekend than they probably ever intended to.


You see the companies that print the books hiring independent contractors to pass the books out.  They give them sets of books, and geographic zones, and pay them to pass the books out. Individuals, organizations, non-profit groups, can pick up the contracts.  The companies just want to ensure that the books are delivered.


That is how a member of my church men’s club picked up several contracts in past years, and recommended this year that our men’s club and youth group could do the same and use it for a fund-raiser.


So Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, members of our youth group, men’s club, and other supervisory adults, bagged phone books and walked them to the stoops of each house and placed them on the step.


We saw a few people as we delivered. Some said thank you, and some said do not leave that book there. But many people have felt the presence of the Avondale United Methodist Men’s Club and Youth Group by the passing of the books.

Now, only a few more similar days to go to finish our two routes here in the Northland.


Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Social Issues

Another use of water at Camp Wilderness

Besides the baptisms I wrote about yesterday, there was another use of water at Camp Wilderness this weekend, one with a smaller depth of tradition but currently part of a larger publicity campaign. Two people from the church used the time to complete the ALS challenge, and pass it on to other people.


Mark Whittaker, Youth and Communications Director, took the challenge, quite willingly, as you can tell if you follow this link to the (upside down) video posted on the church’s Facebook page. As Mark noted on his Facebook page:


I’m not sure why this video is upside down and if I can figure out how to fix it, I’ll repost. Anyway … I was inspired by two former youth at Avondale United Methodist Churchwho also serve as camp counselors at Wilderness Retreat and Development Center(Anna and Aaron)and that’s why I chose to do the ‪#‎IceBucketChallengeForALS‬ duringWorship in the Wilderness. It’s also why my challenge is to those that got me into Youth Ministry nearly 20 years ago: Amy Rosine Underwood, Ken & Michelle Fritsch, and Rev. Lora Mattenlee Cunningham. My youth group is making a donation to ALS plus AUMC (celebrating 100 years) raised funds for the church camp, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

My challenge also goes out to anyone reading this text or (attempting) to watch this video.


Elizabeth Boman, lay leader, also took the challenge. She was quite game for it, though in a more “I’ll get back at the person who challenged me” tone.

That is about all I will say on the ALS at this time, except to encourage people to follow along with the comments each of them posts about their experiences.


Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Family, Music

Baptism at Camp Wilderness

This weekend was Avondale United Methodist Church’s annual “Worship it the Wilderness” weekend, where the church sponsored a campout at the Wilderness Retreat and Conference Center, and had its Sunday worship service at the campground. It was also when they chose to do the immersion baptism of the three members of this year’s 100th anniversary confirmation class that had yet to be baptized.  My son Nathan was one of the three.


The youth group, which included many of the confirmands and all of the baptismal candidates, gave the sermon for the service in the form of a skit — on the story of the paralytic man whose friends tore open the roof of a house to let him down into the presence of Jesus. In the picture above you see Nathan as the paralytic who has just been healed, and his friends standing around watching in amazement.



That was followed by a potluck meal at the pavilion, and then an adjournment down to the lake for the Baptism, where Ronin Dmittri Dare, Jonathan David “Nathan” Lightfoot and Savannah Kya Louann Lindsay were baptized. They went in order of age, which meant Nathan went first.

DSC05726 DSC05728 DSC05731 DSC05739


Each one was “dunked” and then came out of the water to be prayed over by the laying on of hands by family and mentors.

Music, of course, was an important part of the service, both before and after the actual baptism. Songs sung included “Shall We Gather at the Lake,” “Creator of the Water”, God Claims You” and Because He Lives.”

After the singing and praying, the service was done, and additional recreation followed.  Since the youth were by the lake, swimming ensued. The baptismal candidates, being already wet, led the way.

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(Upcoming related blogs: ALS challenges at Camp Wilderness and the Accident Gauntlet.)

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church

Organic Staff Changes

Sunday Avondale United Methodist Church had a double-whammy to its staffing. We had known before service that Michelle Hoitenga was going to be resigning after almost 5 years as a nursery attendant. But what we hadn’t expected was the announcement of the resignation of our “new” organist Seth Bott after only 6 months in the position.  He commutes 50 minutes each way to play for us from Lawrence, KS, where he is a doctoral student of organ. Seems like he prefers taking a position at the First United Methodist Church of Lawrence, KS, which also happens to have the largest pipe organ in Kansas.

While that announcement was shock, I know none of us blame Seth for making that decision. But he will be missed.

But that wasn’t the intended topic of this blog.  I was talking to the head of the staff-parish committee (apologies if I get structural names wrong), which is responsible for filling positions, and she commented about how many different positions they have had to fill in the past year. Sometime after that conversation it dawned on me that, yes, there have a lot of positions changed/filled, but also how organic they were.

I am afraid I have grown up in too many churches where staff changes always seemed to be a part of non-organic issues. People disliking the pastor until he moved on seemed to be a favorite. A church split over the use of memorial funds is another I can remember. Then there was the retirement of a senior pastor that led to a church split when people who favored one of the associate pastors becoming senior pastor learned that the board had really meant what it said, years before, when it said they would not be promoting either of the associate pastors (the board had done that to prevent any rivalry between the associates, but the one pastor’s faction apparently didn’t care).

What I guess I am saying, is that it is nice to be part of a church where the movement of staff comes from ordinary life events, where everyone can wish the departing Godspeed, and look forward to seeing them again in the future without concern about who was part of what camp.

So I will feel sad at the recent departures, and know that changes are in store as we fill and find new people, but I am glad to be a part of AUMC, where these changes are a sign that we really are participating in people’s lives and helping them to move along to the next steps God has in store for them.

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Education, Gonzaga University, Reviews

Book Club Book makes it into Master’s Class Paper


Today the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club discussed Paul Collins’ The Murder of the Century, a story of a grisly murder in 1897 New York City. It was generally agreed by the group to be a good read.

What I didn’t mention in the discussion, is that I used the book in a section of my final paper for the communications masters class on media and technology that I just completed. As a teaser for that, see the excerpt below:

For a first example of the nascent main versus alternative media, I reviewed Paul Collins’ The Murder of the Century, a story of a grisly murder in 1897 New York City, and the media war it created between the newspapers of the time. While not a scholarly work on newspapers and media of the era, the tale of this case, and how its coverage in the newspapers of the day changed the mediascape of the time, is a good background for the alleged dichotomy of today’s mass media and online user-created content.

In describing the news of the time, Collins mentions the “yellow papers of  Joseph Pulitzer’s World, and William Randolph Hearst’s Evening Journal, the respectable papers like the Herald and the Sun, and the runts like the Post and the Times” (Collins, 2011, P. 3).

There was a sense of “legitimate” vs. “sensational” journalism, but it was the sensational that was in the ascent. By the end of the case the yellow journalism papers were trouncing the others in competition. A year later, at the end of 1898, Hearst’s Journal  was considered by some to be more influential than politicians and the government, significantly influencing the United States to start the Spanish-American War — considered by some “The Journal’s War” (Collins 247).

That blurb above, of course, doesn’t even touch on the case itself, which was a very interesting look at the state of police forensics at the time, and the changes that were occurring.  From any angle, the news wars, the crime investigation, the way it was handled in the courts, this book is an interesting study, in addition to being a great human interest story.

So our general agreement was to recommend the book if someone asked us.

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church

Beautiful Day to Beautify the Church


This morning it was a brisk 32 degrees, sunny and calm, when men, boys, and even one girl from Avondale United Methodist Church started cleaning up the grounds of the church.

The annual event began at 9 a.m. with the pickup of leaves, brush and the various items of trash that accumulate around the church. Under the direction of David Garrett the attendees dispersed around the church from the back entrance to begin raking.


I was in attendance with my son Nathan and daughter Carly (the one girl working). Rakes were there in plenteous abundance, and people were accumulating piles of leaves, so the three of us took on the assignment of bagging the leaves piled up by others, and carrying them over to the dumpster rented by the church for the occasion.

The church has a lot of window wells, some of them quite deep. David Garrett, one of the tallest among us, was the one to use a ladder to climb down into them, bag up the leaves, and then come back out.DSC04560One of the big annual projects is raking up the leaves on the Bellefontaine Ave. slope of the church. I don’t know which group of people raked them all up into piles, but Luke and Scott were the first to start picking the leaves up, raking them onto a tarp and then carrying them up to the dumpster.  Nathan and I saw them doing this on one of our trips to the dumpster and decided to join in and help. So on the next trip the 4 of us hauled the tarp up to the dumpster, which I believe was a lot easier.

Then David Garrett noticed and suggested he bring his truck over. So the rest of the leaves were carried up by loading the tarp with leaves, loading the tarp onto the truck, and then taking the truck up to the dumpster where the tarp was unloaded.  That was even easier. But it still was plenty of work raking the leaves into piles and then onto the tarp.


Another significant project is trimming the trees and brush on the east side of the lot, which includes the drainage ditch behind the “Little House”. That ditch is often used as a trash dumping spot. That ditch also leads to a pipe underneath the parking lot that can cause a lot of problems if it gets clogged, so we pay special attention to keeping it clean and the brush out of the way. This year the trash was minimal, and the brush wasn’t heavy either.

But that still left a lot of bushes all around the church, and the shrubs and plants along the main entrance walkway. Most of that got taken care of by the diligent crew before the ladies of the kitchen crew (who are always HIGHLY appreciated) put together the feast that they called lunch and called everyone in to eat. Hot dogs, sloppy joes, cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, chips, and a smorgasboard of desserts greeted us from their creators’ industry.


A meal like that deserved to be followed by a very appreciative nap. But there was more work to be done. I didn’t see what that work was — I headed into the organ to do some more rehearsal and prep work for Sunday (substitute organist this weekend) — but I know they needed to finish up the cleanup, and then spread the new mulch around the trees, shrubs and flowerbeds.

We were all concerned coming up to the weekend about whether the weather would cooperate. And by the forecast it seemed like it would be a little cold. On the contrary, that 32 degrees we started at, calm, no wind, was ideal to work in — the work and sunshine kept you warm, and the temperature rose modestly during the day until various coats were able to be worn unzipped with comfort. Once again an ideal time to work. Especially since I just got an alert from my weatherbug that there might be scattered snow falling throughout the area around 9 p.m. tonight.