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Published: Saturday, 9/30/2006

Jenkins offers advice to writers

When you hear the name Jerry B. Jenkins, what comes to mind?

Left Behind, of course.

Mr. Jenkins is one-half of the duo, along with Tim LaHaye, whose Bible-based novels about the End Times caused the biggest publishing sensation of the last 10 years - and that's not hyperbole.

The Left Behind series has sold 65 million books since the first hard-cover novel was released in 1995 telling the story of such characters as Rayford Steele, Hattie Durham, and Buck Williams after the Rapture, when all the Christians disappear from Earth in the twinkling of an eye.

Initially planned as a six-book series, it since has been expanded to 12 with three prequels.

That series alone would qualify Mr. Jenkins as a writer whose advice is worth taking. But a little known fact is that Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days was not Mr. Jenkins' first book; it was his 125th.

Long before his agent introduced him to Mr. LaHaye, Mr. Jenkins was already enjoying a six-figure income writing books and living what he considered to be a dream life.

Left Behind simply expanded the dream, boosting Mr. Jenkins to the pinnacle of the publishing profession, at least in terms of units sold.

Now he's giving back to society by sharing his insights and experience in the newly published Writing for the Soul: Instruction and Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life (Writer's Digest Books, $24.99).

Anyone interested in being an author, writing for newspapers or magazines, or even putting together a family history can learn from the pro, with Mr. Jenkins' offering real-life tips and advice that can help people no matter where they are in their writing journey.

One of my favorite phrases in the book is both simple and profound: "The only way to write a book is with seat in chair."

Mr. Jenkins, who turned 57 on Sept. 23, also offers advice on such topics as equipping your writing space, adding realism through research, creating characters, and pursuing publication. His tips range from making sure you don't record over a taped interview to being receptive to constructive criticism.

Writing for the Soul is written from the perspective of a man of faith who wants to use his abilities to create something of lasting value, even if it's not necessarily a quote-unquote "Christian" book.

Some of Mr. Jenkins' diversions are among the highlights of the book, when he gives the inside scoop on some of the famous people he's profiled, including Hank Aaron, Billy Graham, Walter Payton, Orel Hershiser, and B.J. Thomas.

I especially enjoyed his lists of recommended and must-read books. (As usual, Mr. Jenkins was totally right when he said it is hard to find a copy of Dean Koontz's 1981 classic, How To Write Best-Selling Fiction. The book is out of print and typically sells for well over $100 at auction.)

For trivia fans, Mr. Jenkins, a self-professed sports nut, somehow managed to write the classic comic strip about high-school athletics, Gil Thorpe, from 1996 to 2004.

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Another best-selling Christian author, Max Lucado, makes Bible lessons fun for children in the video To Share or Nut to Share, featuring cartoon caterpillers Hermie and Wormie.

The seventh video in the Hermie & Friends, this episode addresses the issue of sharing when there's only one nut left in the garden and everyone goes all-out to get it.

The computer-generated 3D video, from Tommy Nelson publishers ($14.99 for DVD), offers an hour of great graphics and the inimitable voices of comedian-actors Tim Conway as Hermie and Don Knotts as Wormie (Knotts died in February at age 81).

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"The world's fastest seder" is the centerpiece of "When Do We Eat?", a wry, well-crafted comedy recently released by Hart Sharp Video ($24.99).

Starring such veteran stars as Jack Klugman and Lesley Ann Warren, this cutting-edge Jewish comedy follows a dysfunctional family's strained relationships during the Passover holiday, made even more dysfunctional when one of the sons gives Dad a dose of the psychedelic drug Ecstacy "to give him a new perspective."

Directed by Salvador Litvak and his wife, Nina Davidovich, the DVD is not only hilarious in itself but offers such interesting bonus features as a conversation among three rabbis on the hidden meaning of the film.

More information is available online at www.whendoweeat.com.

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You've probably seen the dance-step video games in the malls, where players dance around on a pad trying to synchronize their feet to the on-screen prompts.

Digital Praise, Inc., has created a home version, playable on a PC computer, featuring Christian music by such top artists as the Newsboys, Hawk Nelson, David Crowder Band, and Toledo's own Sanctus Real.

Two "Expansion Packs" are available to add more tunes to the mix.

This game is great fun, highly competitive, and good exercise. And I'm not too ashamed to say that my 7-year-old nephew trounced me.

The original game with dance pad, which plugs into the computer's USB port, sells for $49.99 and the expansion packs are $24.99.

More information is available online at www.DigitalPraise.com or by phone, 510-770-0244.



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