Coming Next Week – the Mini November #WIPjoy!

All writers welcome! Join us next week on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or even your own blog – and share some things you’re thankful for about your WIP! If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, it could be an excellent pick-me-up for that slump in the middle of the month, and if not, it’s a great chance to connect with other authors and be excited about our work together. 😀

Here’s the list of prompts for the week…can’t wait for this mini WIP celebration!

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I Want to Be a Persons-Pleaser

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Something imperceptible shifted in me in the last couple of months.

The first time it felt like a fluke – I was having a good day, apparently, nothing special.

The second time it barely caught my notice – a passionate moment of boldness, probably too bold, but whatever.

The third time it took me by surprise, as I finally realized…

That girl was gone.

That girl who bears within herself the blame for every negative emotion. That girl who internalizes conflict until it cramps her stomach and leaves her no appetite. That girl who feels like she’s been punched at a simple negative statement from a friend.

That girl who thinks it’s all about her.

Who thinks, surely, everyone else’s problems are her fault. Who thinks it’s her responsibility to fix the anger of another heart. Who assumes, when her calmness is met with grumpiness, that her very presence is the impetus.

Who believes in her heart of hearts that if she brings anything other than peace and happiness to any situation, she is worthless, a negative influence that deserves to be cast aside.

That girl lived in my heart despite all my logic growling at her to leave.

I don’t miss her one bit.

Because now I can see clearly – it isn’t about me. It’s almost never about me.  Every heart has so many tethers and roots and tendrils stretching in every direction…what arrogance to believe that every disturbance in another person comes from my tiny corner in their soul!

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Pride’s twin sister is worthlessness. Each one places you higher or lower than God intends you to be.

That girl I knew would spiral into grief and anxiety for hours if a friend seemed in the least bit unhappy with her – desperate to make it right, desperate to restore the balance.

And suddenly I…don’t.  I listen. I exhort. I offer corrections. I offer prayer. Because it isn’t about me – it’s about them and helping them in their needs, because there are tethers and tendrils pulling on them that I don’t even know about.

For so long I’ve hated being a people pleaser by nature.

And suddenly I find I’m not one.

Maybe it’s God’s direct intervention, the influence of friends, or the slow march of maturity. Maybe I’ve been riding a hormonal roller coaster, sent down the track by pregnancy and motherhood.  Maybe something broke in me long ago and it’s finally fixing.

But whatever the cause, I’m done with it!

I want to be a Persons-pleaser…pleasing the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

As long as I am obeying the Father, emulating the Son, and listening to the Spirit’s leading, the tumult of others’ emotions cannot rule me.  I can trust Him to order and guide all my relationships, and if someone has a problem with me for petty reasons and rejects me? – that’s only because He willed it, and He still loves me and is better than any earthly friend.

And for those times when it is about me, and I have hurt someone, He can give me the humility to apologize and make it right – without devolving into self-hatred and miserable anxiety.

My heart, soul, and mind are forgiven, loved, and claimed as precious by the Maker of all things.

I’m so thankful that my emotions finally got the memo! 😉

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

– Zephaniah 3:17

Have you ever suffered from being a people-pleaser or social anxieties? When? What helped you overcome it? Are you dealing with that right now? Share your story in the comments. ❤️

Favorite Characters of Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water

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I’m blogging today about a new book coming out at the end of this month! Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water is co-authored by my good friends Janeen Ippolito and Julia Busko. It’s a riveting novella and if you like vampires (or if you don’t like vampires!) you should check it out! 😀

Here’s the blurb:

What would you do if the one you loved was turned into a monster?

Melrose Durante brings order. As founder of the Houses of the Dead, he tirelessly opposes the vampires, and provides refuge for the Blood Kind, those like himself who fight against the blood curse that leads to vampirism. His medical breakthroughs have brought many back from the vampire path. After thousands of years, the Blood Kind finally has the upper hand.

Until a vampire attacks Melrose’s family, then begs for asylum. To his friends she’s Lucy, a disturbed young woman prone to incoherent rants, warning of an imminent attack by vampire leader, Conan. But to Melrose she’s something more.

His lost wife, Jane.

One thing is clear – time is running out. In five days Conan will attack Quebec City, killing or enslaving all in his way. If Melrose cannot unlock his wife’s tormented mind, even his immortal wisdom may not be enough to save Quebec City, the Blood Kind, and the Houses of the Dead.

In addition to the plot and the fascinating world (where vampirism is caused by a blood disease), one of my favorite elements of this story were the characters. I love them. I love their relationships. I love their interactions. I also love that the romance elements center around married couples, which is unusual in fiction, and very heartwarming and refreshing.

Here are some of my favorite characters, their Myers-Briggs types (because I’m MBTI nerd) 😀 and some of the things that drew me to them most.

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Melrose Durante (INTJ)

Protagonist of the story and fearless leader of the Blood Kind, Melrose stands bold off the page and was one of my favorite characters. He’s originally from ancient Egypt, so glimpses of his backstory were some of the neatest things about the book. As an INTJ, he’s highly principled – he holds strongly to his hatred of fighting and violence, for example – and he uses his renowned intellect and medical knowledge to bring healing to vampires and the Blood Kind. He’s cool, calculating, and driven by a fierce desire to help and protect others, especially his goddaughter and niece, Zuri, and her family.  Because of his particular strain of the Blood Curse, Melrose is afflicted with OCD, an aspect that the author portrays with faithful tenderness throughout the book. I really appreciated how well mental illnesses were handled in the story, whether they were more slight (as in Melrose’s case) or more extreme, as in the case of…

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Lucille Jane Durante (ISFP)

Jane is a complex and compelling character, particularly so because of her mental state – dissociative identity disorder, which has left her warring between her brainwashed “Lucy” identity, and her true identity of Jane Durante…Melrose’s long-lost wife. Her strain of the Blood Curse gives her special mechanical skills and speedy learning abilities. She is highly skilled with a camera, in particular. Despite her mental illness, she’s sweet and snarky, and I enjoyed getting to know her and…I definitely ship her and Melrose. A lot. 😀  They balance each other out really well – grounded, earthy SP type with intellectual NTJ. She draws him out of his intense mind and brings out his romantic side.

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Zurina Yamamoto (INFJ)

 Zuri and I share the same Myers-Briggs type, so I took particular note of her as I was reading. There is so much about her I relate to: her aversion to conflict, her ability to be compassionate even toward enemies, and her tendency to silently keep it all together on the outside when trouble strikes. She’s also a fierce, capable warrior and has certain…powers (I’ll give no spoilers!! But seriously, so much awesome). Zuri is running from something, hiding from something, which is teased at through the story. She’s a character for whom I felt very deeply, and I’m excited to read more about her in future installments of the Blood Mercy series.

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Akira Yamamoto (ENFP)

 Ah, Akira…Zuri’s sweet, witty husband. I liked him at once! The survivor of an agonizing history, he hails from Japan originally, and has unique powers of perception (which I shall not spoil for you!).  He and his wife are a dangerous fighting team. He’s intensely devoted to Zuri, and cares for others so gently too…an enthusiastic and comforting presence.  I especially enjoyed his hospitality toward Jane, and the fact that he cooks.  Who doesn’t like a character who makes amazing food? 😀

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Zeke Yamamoto

A list of my favorite characters has to include Zeke!! Zeke is Zuri and Akira’s small son. He’s a little young for his Myers-Briggs type to be obvious, but he’s adorable and a spot of sunshine in the story, tumbling through the narrative with his many doggie friends and his humorous childlike remarks.

To bring things back around to Melrose again, I loved seeing his perspective on Zeke as the boy’s great-uncle. The variety of ages and personality types in the story let us see many different dimensions of the characters, their roles, and their emotions. It gives them a deep, endearing realism that is rare in fast-paced, high-stakes stories like this one.

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Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water can be pre-ordered HERE, and releases on October 29th.

Be sure to join the launch party on Facebook!! It’s going to be a blast, and there will be lots of prizes and chances to learn more about these characters and their story. :)

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About the authors:

2016janeenheadshotJaneen Ippolito is an idea-charged teacher, reader, writer, book reviewer, and the Fearless Leader of Uncommon Universes Press. She writes nonfiction writing help and speculative fiction laced with horror, humor, and cultural tension. Her co-written illustrated novella, Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water, releases on October 29th. In her nonexistent spare time she reads, cooks, and sword-fights. Two of her dreams are to eat a fried tarantula and to travel to Antarctica. Go to janeenippolito.com for world-building resources and off-the-wall insights from this sleep-deprived author.

2016juliaheadshotJulia Busko (like “bus” and “co.”) is an illustrator, designer, writer, and the Elusive Unicorn (art director) of Uncommon Universes Press. In addition to co-writing with Janeen Ippolito, Julia has created book covers, made logos and t-shirt designs, and is planning a series of steampunk fairy tale picture books. In her spare time she dances with a local company and watches documentaries and horror movies. She strives for art filled with creative wonder and the beauty inherent in tragedy. Go to juliabusko.com to dive into a world of remarkable visions and artistic musings.

Are you the same Myers-Briggs type as any of these characters, or do you know anyone like them? What are some books you’ve read recently with great characters and relationships?

 

And the Next #WIPjoy Shall Be… (Drumroll, Please!)

So, I have happy news (the next #WIPjoy) and also a bit of happier news (a surprise)!  Read on…

I usually announce the next #WIPjoy at the end of the one that’s currently running, but a lot of people have asked me this time when the next one will be – and some people are new to the event and not aware it’s more than a one-time thing!  For those reasons I’ve decided to announce it a bit ahead of time so people can know what to expect.

The next #WIPjoy will be………..

(Drumroll please…..) 😀

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January!

January???  Maybe you’re a little dismayed.  It’s such a long way off!  But I’m trying to transition #WIPjoy into being seasonal (four times a year! Yay!).  The next season is winter.  And we all know the holidays are crazy, so December is kind of out! 😛

The tentative #WIPjoy schedule for the future will be:

Winter (January)
Spring (April)
Summer (July)
Fall (October)

This year’s was a bit off – hence the long gap between September and January. *sad face*

BUT.  But but but.

Here’s the happier (for now) news. 😀

To tide people over during this abnormally long gap, I’m going to host a week-long mini #WIPjoy in the middle of November!

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It’ll be a week of fun daily prompts – thanksgiving themed, since it’s the week before Thanksgiving. 😀  If they’d like, those doing NaNoWriMo can gain momentum and encouragement during that hard stretch in the middle of the month, and those of us not doing NaNo can enjoy it anyway!

I hope to see you there!!

Who’s with me? 😀  Leave me a comment letting me know how WIPjoy can be more awesome and serve your author needs even better! ^_^

On Living in a Box

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Sometimes my life feels like a long saga of making proclamations to myself…

I would never do that.

Nah, that’s not really for me.

That’s not my thing.

Or conversely:

This is what I am made for.

This is my thing, my purpose.

This is who I am.

…And then God bringing me around later and showing me, “Surprise!  Now this is your thing.”  “Tell you what – now I’m going to have you do that.”  “Guess what?  This is for you.”

As a silly example of what I mean…

When I was a kid, I once proclaimed that I’d never feed my kids sandwiches.  We had PB&J most days for lunch and I eventually decided sandwiches were boring.

And now I have an entire Instagram account dedicated to sharing my sandwich inspirations and all the sandwiches I enjoy making, because making sandwiches is one of my favorite hobbies.  (And my kids don’t really appreciate the fancy sandwiches yet, so guess what? Most of the time they have PB&J. 😉 )

I also maintained for years that “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations,” (as said J.R.R. Tolkien) and that I generally eschew symbolism in my stories.

Lo and behold, the most recent story God gave me to write started as straight allegory, and has evolved into a more varied but still deeply symbolic fantasy story.  And I love it with a great passion.

Surprise!

These kinds of things keep me humble…or they should. 😉

Perhaps more startling and painful is when God shows me, “No, that isn’t what you were made for.  No, that’s not actually your purpose.  No, that is not who you are.”

I like to have a very solid perception of myself.  Who I am.  What I am.  Where I’m going.  What I’m made for.  I like to do the things I’ve always done and be the person I’ve always been: solid, steady, reliable.  I like to know why I’m here and then stalwartly fulfill that purpose.

But who I am needs to grow.  And in my finite human perspective, “why I’m here” is always my own subjective idea.

As much as I loftily think I understand God’s purpose for me, His ways are not my ways.  He is in charge of my life and how He uses it.  Who am I to even dream that I would fully understand who He made me to be and why?

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God is in the business of showing me, again and again, that “who I am” is a lot more fluid – and a whole lot bigger – than I think it is.

“Who I am” isn’t habits or preferences or projects or talents.  “Who I am” is broader than any of the things I use to define myself.  How can my identity be anything but vast and broad, when I am created in the image of an endless and infinite God, a new creature being remade into a picture of His all-powerful Son?

I pride myself on being someone who thinks outside the box to some extent.  Yet here I sit, chalking out little boxes for my identity and then planting myself in them and making myself at home.

And then freaking out when God spray-hoses away a side or two of the box I was so comfortable in.

Hopes, dreams, ambitions, talents, abilities, callings, habits – I’m prone to believe that who I am comes from those things, the things that I “am.”

But what a fragile and shaky identity that is!

Any one of those things God could remove in a moment.  He is always changing me and growing me.  Erasing my boxes.  What I think defines me one decade may seem small and silly to me the next.  Worse, I may remain stubbornly planted in a box when I am far too big to fit inside anymore, like a baby bird trying to squeeze itself tight inside the broken eggshell…when in reality, it’s big enough to fly.

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I believe we each have a unique identity.  I personally dislike the reductionist mentality of only ever saying, “I’m a sinner saved by grace – that’s all I am,” to explain who we are, because clearly each sinner saved by grace is an individual loved and called by the Lord, hands and feet and noses and toes in the body of Christ.  We are each created and redeemed for a purpose, and it’s not unspiritual to believe that we have an identity of our own.  We are one in Christ, and our identity is in Him – but we are not a hive mind.

Yet I cannot allow “who I am” to rest on who I think I am.  I am being sanctified into Christ’s image.  I’m a work in progress!  Maybe I think I’m a quick piece of flash fiction allegory, but I’m really a long, symbolic, high fantasy paranormal romance short-story/novella thing – who knows? 😉

That story I’m writing is still in progress.  I know how it ends, and I know how it began, but I still have no idea what’s in the middle!  My own life is not too different.

Unlike God, I’m not unchangeable.  And praise Him for that! – I am tiny, blind, flawed, sinful.

If I’m going to fly to unknowns where God wants me to fly – if I’m going to grow to new heights that God wills me to grow – then I have to stop telling myself that my limits end at the four corners of some tiny box that I’ve used to define myself.

Why be satisfied with a basic, simple explanation of what I’m made for, when He made me for Himself – for absolute infinity?

Not only is He vast, but He is constant, un-altering, and trustworthy.  In this world, He is the only thing we can rely on to define our souls.  Looking to anything less than Him to be our all-in-all is locking ourselves in a cage.

I am a child of an infinite, all-powerful God, an ever-growing work-in-progress by His grace.  I should never be content to live inside a box.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 3:1-3 (emphasis mine)