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Saturday, December 01, 2007



Have you ever completed a project and found that you were at ‘loose ends’ – or in other words, no road map and your destination unknown? It is a feeling of being freed up and not knowing what to do next. I have also realized that in my writing that I begin a story or a book with no road map and the destination is an unknown.

In writing classes, I was taught that one should have an outline before beginning a book. Really? I listened to my professors and at the time felt sure they knew what they were talking about. I soon realized that their advice was great if one is writing a book of non-fiction and especially a ‘how-to’ book. But fiction? All I can say is that it didn’t work out that way for me.

In 2004 I completed my first novel, Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls and all I knew when I first sat down to write was that I wanted to write a book about Mary Magdalene. I researched Mary Magdalene for a number of years to learn about her. What I learned is that no one really knows who Mary Magdalene was or what she stood for. Too many writers have kept her in the tiny slot given in the New Testament where she was placed in a subservient role and kept there. In the Book of Matthew her name is mentioned three times; in Mark another three times; in Luke two times; and in John three times. I realized there was very little information to go on.

Myths carry within them seeds of truth and I found one that has been perpetuated by the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church. The storyline is that Emperor Tiberius Caesar gave a banquet and Mary Magdalene attended. Tiberius asked her about Jesus and as the story goes; her reply was Christ is risen. Tiberius handed her an egg from the banquet table and told her that if this was true, then she was to turn the egg red. Reportedly she did and thus began the tradition of a red egg at Easter time for the Eastern Orthodox Church. If she had the ability to turn an egg to the color of red, what else was she able to do?

My research has taken me on an odyssey of unraveling history and learning that history as we have been led to believe is indeed a tapestry of facts intermixed with misinformation, lies and deceit perpetuated upon the human mind. James Cameron, who wrote the Introduction to The Family Tomb of Jesus, stated that history is a consensus of hallucination. I agree with him.

The morning I sat at my computer to begin the novel, I asked myself: how to I begin? I realized I couldn’t write a non-fiction book based on my research, so the alternative was to create a book of fiction interwoven with facts. The white screen stared back at me blankly. With my fingers on the keyboard, I began with the first idea that came into my mind of secret scrolls found in an unknown cave in the French Pyrenees Mountains. From that seed an idea came of two American women while hiking stumbled into the cave. Thus, Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls began to take form.

I had no road map of where the storyline would take me; nor did I really know the destination, or how the book would end. Each day as I wrote, I allowed the story to unfold with its many twists and turns. Sometimes I would startle myself as the characters took on their own personalities. There were also times when I would be surprised at a new twist or when a new character was introduced. The writing of the book became a wonderful adventure. There were also times when I would re-read what I had written and told myself, Damn! That’s good!

Even while writing, I continued to research and finally when the last sentence had been written, I knew the book was completed. In 2005 the 2nd Revised Edition came out followed by an Italian language edition and a German language edition. This was followed by winning the prestigious Independent Publishers Book Award in 2006. What does one do after that? Write a sequel.

I had a germ of an idea regarding Sarah and James, the two children of the Magdalene and Jesus. In the fall of 2006 I again sat down at my computer and asked myself how to begin. Again I had no road map but this time I felt I had a destination. At the end of May this year, I completed the manuscript of the sequel titled: Mary Magdalene: Her Legacy. My editors have told me that this one could be even more exciting than the first book. I would like to think so.

The book is now in the hands of my editor with the next stage creating the cover. Again, I have chosen to self-publish. Having researched the established publishing houses, I have noted a shift that is not favorable to authors or to literary agents. I also have decided that I don’t want my storyline changed and I want to retain control of my creation. When one signs a contract with a publishing house, the author has signed away her/his rights.

Will there be a third book? Perhaps. For the present moment, my focus is on promotion and marketing – an entire new adventure. I am open to any innovative ways to promote my books. If you have some valid suggestions, please share them with me.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Today I received an early Christmas card from an acquaintance of some years. When I read her photocopied one-page synopsis of her life this past year, I was saddened by how empty her life appeared to be. If the best of her life is receiving a Red Sox t-shirt because she donated blood--well, enough said. However, this caused me to think about life and ask what is our life script?

How many people do you know who meander through life complaining, harboring anger and resentments, jealousy, fear and doubt? Is it any wonder that they are sick? Most people hate their jobs, but stick it out in hopes they will be able retire. This isn't a life script that I would choose. It sounds boring and excludes the excitement of crafting one's life.

I have learned that we are each the creator--the craftsperson of our life. Our life will turn out just the way we thought. In other words, our beliefs, our words, our thoughts are the road map for our life. Being miserable and lamenting about our so-called victimizations create one's life script and the destination is illness, injuries and eventually death.

There is a way to change one's life script. It takes practice, practice, practice until we get our part correct. Changing one's habitual words and thoughts takes determination and doing it over and over until it happens. When an actress/actor is given a script, each must learn their part and they rehearse over and over. At any given moment, we can choose to change our life script if we are unsatisfied with it.
It is all about choice.

The url given below is beautifully stated and if one were to use it, then the new
life script will be a piece of cake. Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Who could ask for a better commentary for a book submitted to a writing competition?
The following is a replica of the Commentary Sheet from the Writer's Digest 15th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards.

Author: Bettye Johnson
Title: Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls
Category: Genre Fiction
Judge: 99
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning "poor" and 5 meaning "excellent," please evaluate the following:
Plot: 5
Grammar: 5
Character development: 5
Cover design: 5

Judge's commentary:
What did you like best about this book?

Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls is a tantalizing story depicting the discovery of ancient scrolls about Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Though it covers some of the same ground as the Da Vinci Code, the writing is infinitely better and far more believable. The heroines in the story are more realistic and the adventures described in a truer voice along with a possible time-line--something very much lacking in Dan Brown's tale. Whether the reader chooses to believe what is revealed in story form or not, the book is entertaining from beginning to end.

How can the author improve this book?

No suggestions--the author knows how to write and tell a compelling and convincing story. Hopefully the promotion for this book will be enough to make those who read the Da Vinci Code want to read the Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls.

I thank and bless the judge.
Bettye Johnson