Dobsons 411

Hanging on for the ultimate ride--God's great adventure.
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Location: Oregon

The author of fourteen contemporary and historical novels, Melanie Dobson lives with her family in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Her latest novels are Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor and Chateau of Secrets. More info at

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Carnival Lights

Berlin is ablaze this week with festive Christmas markets and showy carnivals. Crowds huddle together at these markets to warm their toes around fires as they warm their hands on mugs of glühwein (spiced wine). White lights are strung across row after row of wooden booths as vendors line up to sell their wares on these cobblestone streets. Ornaments. Gloves. Jewelry. Handmade toys. Crepes. Waffles. Soft pretzels. Roasted chestnuts. Candied almonds. Bratwurst. And lots of alcohol.

Across the street from the massive Berliner Dom (Cathedral) is the largest of these winter market carnivals. Music blasts along Unter den Linden as people from around the world brave the cold air and snow to sample German beer before whirling high in the air on terrifying carnival rides. Crowds stare up into the sky, watching the brave (or drunk) cling to shoulder restraints as they shoot up into the dark sky on mechanical arms and spin so fast that even the people on the ground feel queasy.

We joined the sea of locals and tourists last week to stroll through this carnival. Karly rode the merry-go-round. We ate waffles smothered in powdered sugar and bought candied hazelnuts and hand-carved ornaments for gifts.

As we walked down the last row of noisy rides, we started to turn the stroller when something caught our eye. Tucked back in the darkness, away from the flashy lights, was a small nativity scene with Mary and Joseph kneeling beside Jesus in the manger.

For a moment, the nativity looked out of place in the row of carnival games and rides. After all, the carnival was an entertainment mecca. Not the typical place to reflect on Christ. Then I realized it was the perfect place for a nativity. In the midst of our crazy world, Jesus was born in a dark, lowly manger far from his home.

We stopped and stared at the scene, quietly thanking God for sending His Son to die for us and every person at that carnival—German, American, Russian, Turkish, British, French, Indian….

During this season, it’s easy to get caught up in the lights and food and all the shopping. But as I quiet my heart and mind, I’m reminded that Jesus is here. Everywhere. He’s in the midst of the chaos and pounding music and frantic shoppers rushing home.

As my family and I enjoy this season far from our home, I’m grateful for Christ’s birth and death and resurrection. And, even when the true meaning of Christmas may be tucked back in the dark alley behind the parties and presents and busy décor, I’m grateful for a holiday that still celebrates the birth of our King.

Kiki's Favorite Spot in Berlin

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Leia's Game

Today I crossed the 80,000-word mark in the race to finish Leia’s Game.

Every day I write between 500 and 1,000 words—tortoise speed for a novelist. Some days I don’t even write 500. I’m not sure how I arrived at 80,000, but thank God, I’m here.

Writing this book has been a slow, deliberate, sometimes painful process. When we moved to Germany in August, I didn’t think I would ever see the finish line on this manuscript. But I see a faint line now. In the distance. It’s blurry, but if I keep huffing and puffing and crawling on all fours, I’ll cross the line before the holidays and collapse someplace near a warm fire and a Christmas tree.

Every day I chase two toddlers around the house until their bedtime and then I cram on Leia’s Game for a few hours after they’ve fallen asleep. I write, research, edit, surf the Internet, pour another cup of tea, rewrite …and when it’s time to quit for the day (i.e. I’m nodding off at the computer), I always wish I wrote more.

I’ve learned so many new things during this process. I’ve researched the facts and figures and heart-wrenching stories of families that have been torn apart because of gambling addictions. I’ve learned about the gambling industry, home equity loans, and the correct term for a coffee pot (I always forget the word “carafe”).

I’ve toured Las Vegas and Lake Mead via Google’s incredible satellite photography. I’ve picked apart my Dad’s poor brain asking question after question about checkrides, layovers, and flying an airplane (he’s a retired United Airlines captain). And I’ve learned how to play Blackjack.

I love to learn even more than I love to write.

But I don’t have time to practice my aviation knowledge (thankfully) or Blackjack skills. The past ten days, God breathed new life into my fingers, and I wrote 11,000 words. A sprint toward the end. It’s fun being the rabbit for a week or two.

I’m supposed to deliver 85,000 words on Feb. 1. The first finish line in a series before the book is published in 2007. But it’s the biggest finish line for me. After February, I’ll have a year to clean and polish and work with an editor to decide what stays in the book and (ouch!) what goes.

But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the process even when the tortoise is ahead of me.

The crazy thing is—I’ll miss Leia and her story when I’m finally done.