Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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How God Used My Fictional Character to Teach Me True Things

November 6, 2015

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What if our characters are real?  What if they are actually the souls of unborn children who died before birth, and God gives them to authors as inspiration for characters in our stories?  What if we will meet all our characters someday in heaven?

When I came up with that fun fictional concept last week, I didn’t intend to write a story about it.  I just thought, “Haha, this is a cool idea.”

But a dear friend urged me to write a story, so I decided I would have some fun with it.  I flung my “Is this the best use of this concept?” worries to the wind, and sat down and wrote the first thing that came to me, the idea that tugged at my heart – a near-death scene where I encountered my most precious fictional character, Kevin, from beyond the grave.

It was like lightning struck.

It was fun, the way skydivers find jumping out of a plane fun. 😛

The entire couple of hours I worked on the story, adrenaline buzzed through my body.  I poured out words without inhibition, completely honed in on the emotions of the scene, blind to everything around me.  When I finished it was like I was walking on air.  I floated upstairs and went to bed, worn out and slightly totally obsessed.

I knew this story would be exciting and interesting to write, but I had no idea it would leave me full of tension and aching with yearning.

I had no idea that for two days I would cry out to the Lord for help and wisdom, terrified that I had built my own character into an idol by envisioning him as a sinless saint from heaven.  (I already adored the guy as my character, and now he’s perfectly sinless and “alive”??)

I had no idea the adrenaline would leave me with muscle cramps and no appetite for half the week, and I would lose four pounds in four days from the stress of remembering the story, re-reading it (more aftershocks of adrenaline!) and sharing it with some fellow authors in my writer’s group and elsewhere (*terror* Will they despise this chunk of my soul??).  It was not a real experience, but as far as my emotions were concerned, it might as well have happened in reality.

And I had no idea that as time passed, God would suddenly hush the siren-cry of character worship and catapult me into a spiritual ecstasy so joyous that I (the totally introverted shy person!) would go grocery shopping and smile at everyone I passed and want to talk to them, even mentally fish for ways I could share the gospel as I went because I was full to bursting with Christ’s joy.

What is this madness??  God, who am I and what did You do with myself?? 😀 

For the first couple of days, I thought I had made the most horrific writing mistake of my life.

I prayed for wisdom and just waited for some convicting inner urge to delete the whole thing and never think of it again.

I felt like it blurred the lines between reality and fiction and was too close to a “ghost story” for my personal comfort.  I thought it was completely off-the-wall-weird and I deserved rotten tomatoes flung at my head.  I thought I had walked right into a swamp of temptation and my imagination had led me astray (it wouldn’t be the first time).

But I prayed that God would use this piece of writing for other purposes, to glorify Himself to me.

Suddenly, while thinking about the themes in the story, my heart was captured by eternity and my Savior in a new and incredible way.  I had been seeking the Lord in a stale fashion for a long time, going wearily through the motions because I should, despite having no deep feeling there…and suddenly I was all feeling.

My emotions were gushing over, uncontainable.  I could no longer gripe about any hardship, rather bursting forth with reasons for praise and gratitude.  I started delving into God’s word not because I should but because I was delightfully starved for it, and I got fresh bursts of adrenaline simply reading about heaven.  I overflowed with prayer of all kinds throughout the day, not just simple thank-Yous or petitions, but full-hearted, amazed exaltation.

Things that Kevin said in the story convicted, encouraged, and uplifted me.  His glorified zeal for the Lord was infectious!  I started applying his words to my daily life across the board.  Discussions about the story with fellow writers who read it led me to more snowballing epiphanies and spiritual joys, both about my stories and my real life.

Wow!  God really doesn’t care about my prayers being organized or eloquent – He is patient and doesn’t mind me taking time to formulate my words or pause for a minute just to feel in awe.

Wow, He has perfect, personal love for me.

Wow, Lord, You have given me the promise of heaven!

Wow, when I am suffering You cradle me in your almighty hands like a mother holds her hurting child.

Wow!  When I push my characters to overcome their flaws, and I’m sad about their pain but know it is best for them, that must be how God feels about the trials of our sanctification.

Wow to everything.

My “revelations” about God were not new. Mostly they were things I already believed, grasped, and agreed with in theory – in my brain.  But pouring them out on paper, experiencing them so intensely that I was physically in pain for days afterward, suddenly they became tangible truths wrapped tightly around my heart and flowing out of my actions and words.

And the timing was impeccable.

This week my daughter’s neurological issues worsened.

For some time we’ve been waiting impatiently for her neurology appointment in mid-November, watching her increasing symptoms with concern.  But in the past week week her speech clarity took a nosedive.  She struggles to speak articulately, a new problem that is deeply concerning.

A few weeks ago, I might have been a distraught mess at this new development, frustrated by my helplessness, and angry at the lack of speed in the medical world.

But it is very hard to feel grumpy or angry about anything when you almost died and met your character from heaven, 😉 and had him gently point you toward the earthly service of Christ and the love of God that holds us even through agonizing pain.

I have wept to see my daughter struggle, and wept imagining the worst.  Trust in God doesn’t erase pain, though He holds us through it.

But I am not angry, not despairing, because my eyes are set on life beyond this fallen world, and the Savior who bought me for that life.  He is the surpassing treasure that will sustain me no matter what else happens!

The road might be hard ahead.

But because of what I’ve learned from that short story, I feel prepared by God to meet it.

I am blown away by God’s kindness.  I can’t stop talking about it!  Not only did He revitalize my faith right when I needed it (so I could hold His hand tighter rather than flailing and panicking when things got harder), but He also taught me these lessons through one of the things I love most: writing stories, my characters, and exercising my imagination.  He used my favorite thing to touch my heart!  He could have brought me these lessons any old way – sermons, blog articles, a simple talk with a friend – but he chose to do it through my own passionate storycrafting.

I almost wept with joy as I realized that.  What a personal, sweet expression of His individual love toward me!  It was like a parent giving their child a new folder full of schoolwork, and decorating it with stickers of their favorite animal – or giving them glasses to see with and getting them frames in their favorite color.  But this was deeper and more delightful than those kinds of tiny tokens.  It was an approving and loving validation of my imagination’s worth and why He gave it to me.

God used my own fictional character I love to take rarely-applied truths from the depths of my mind and apply them to the depths of my heart.

I can’t quite express why that was so incredibly special to me, that He taught me this much and used this writing experience as the catalyst…but it was a gift, and I treasure it.

One friend has joked that my stories make me bold.  They break me out of my shell to talk passionately, or make me do crazy things (like snap surreptitious photos of random strangers just because they look like my characters).

I guess this is why God gave me stories.  To make me brave.  To make me bold.

I don’t think this particular story is “going anywhere.”  It’s esoteric, odd, and probably only touching for fellow writers who share the yearning for their character to be real.  It’s slightly messy, with no real plot.  It will never be published.  It’s so deeply personal and so true to my imperfect soul that I cringe at parts to think that I’ve actually shared this with anyone!

But I realize now it wasn’t for anyone else, so their opinions don’t matter. God meant it for me.

I will never forget this tiny story, because God used it like a lightning rod to set me ablaze again for Him. <3

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

– Revelation 19:6-10

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The Simmering Mind’s Awesomest (a.k.a. Very First) Giveaway Ever!!

September 28, 2015

YAY!!!  Here it is, my surprise!  I’m SO excited to finally bring this giveaway to you!

Awhile back my Facebook page reached 150 followers.  I’m continually amazed by the wonderful people who enjoy my posts (both here and on the page) and leave their comments in discussions, making this corner of the internet a fun and talkative place.  You guys are a blessing to me!!  So I wanted to do a giveaway to thank you all. 😀

But first, hugs all around!!

Okay!  Enough hugs now!  (*brushing off shirt and feeling kind of awkward because I’m not usually a huge hugger*)  😛  Let’s get down to business. And by business I mean FUN!

Giveaway Details:

There will be FIVE WINNERS!

And each winner will get to choose between SEVEN AWESOME PRIZES!

Many who follow my page are fellow writers, but not all are, so I tried to create a good balance of prizes that will appeal to writers and non-writers…a little something for everyone.  Winners may each pick ONE of the following gifts.

Without further ado, here are the prize options!

1. Watercolor bookmark

These bookmarks are designed and painted by me on heavy paper, and inscribed with one of the inspiring quotes about books that I’ve shared on my writer page in the past.  (I will create more as necessary! – with different quotes!)  If more than one option is available I’ll let you pick which bookmark you want. 🙂 This would be delivered by snail mail.

2. Sneak peek of one of my books

If you’re bursting with curiosity about my writing projects, choose this prize and I will email you a full chapter from either The Trusted: Book One of the Kraesinia Trilogy (my young adult portal sci-fi) or my secondary project, Absconders Series #1: Renegade (young adult dystopian sci-fi).  Blurbs for both projects can be found on my books page.  If you choose this prize, all I ask is that you don’t share the chapter publicly online. 😉

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3. A beautiful little notebook

Unlike the other prizes, which can be duplicated if several winners choose them, I have only one of these gorgeous notebooks with a clasp to give away, so this prize is on a “first come, first served” basis!  It will be mailed by snail mail.

4. An original piece of flash fiction

I’ll write it just for you!  You can choose to have me share it on my blog for everyone (with or without a dedication to you, the winner), or I can email it to you privately.  I’ll even take requests for topics, characters, or premises!…although I can’t guarantee what the muse will come up with in the end. 😉

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5. A blurb clinic

As many of my writer friends know, I LOVE to write blurbs (or “back cover descriptions”).  I love helping people make their own blurbs better, too!  For this prize, I will take any blurb you’re struggling to write and help you revise and polish it so you can put your best foot forward when you go on submission or self-publish.  My forte is speculative fiction, but I’m happy to help with other genres too!

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6. A thorough edit and critique of the first three pages of your work-in-progress

I’m a meticulous editor, both when it comes to my own books and the books of friends who ask for my edits.  The first pages of your book are the best opportunity you have to hook your readers!  If you choose this prize I will go over your first three pages with a fine-tooth comb and point out any problems they might have, as well as highlighting their strengths and making encouraging suggestions.

My green edits on a friend's manuscript - page blurred to protect the innocent. :P

My green edits on a friend’s manuscript – page blurred to protect the innocent. 😛

7. Your choice of one of these e-books from fellow Christian authors

I will e-gift this to you from Amazon – any one of the books from the list below.  I can provide you additional information about any of the books, if you need help choosing!

Time for Fun!

Now, I don’t like it when giveaways are clearly designed just to gather more followers.  So even though new followers are awesome (please, come one, come all – the giveaway’s open to everyone!) this giveaway is dedicated to my faithful readers and page followers, because I like you guys lots. 😀  You can complete any or all of the “tasks” below to enter – things most of you have already done.  Sharing is awesome, but totally optional!

This giveaway will run from the 1st to the 5th of October, and then I will announce the winners here on the blog and contact them by email!! *happy dance*

May the odds be ever in your favor! 😀

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Writer Wars: The Prolific and the Percolators

September 16, 2015

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Yesterday I read an article I enjoyed.  To me, the lesson was: take your time writing books, pay attention to quality, and don’t feel pressured to pump out multiple novels a year, but rather do what you know is right for your stories.  Since I don’t have much time to write, and I am committed to seeing books through even if it takes years to hit gold in revisions, I appreciated the message.

But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea — whether fantasy, love story, science fiction, human interaction, tragedy, thriller, family saga, memoir, non-fiction — in a way that raises hairs or gets someone shouting “YES!”; if you’re compelled to tell that story so beautifully, so irreverently, with such power and prose as to make a reader stop to read a line over just to have the opportunity to roll those words around one more time, then don’t listen to that advice [to write 4 books a year]. – Lorraine Devon Wilke (emphasis hers)

I posted the article in my writer’s group, not noticing that the article was somewhat condescending in tone toward those who do put out many books a year.  She implied (perhaps unintentionally) that writing many books a year means your books will be sub-par.  I heartily disagree!  Some of my favorite authors are extremely prolific.  But I failed to notice that overtone while I was appreciating the other aspects of the article that reinforced how I tend to do things.

Others drew my attention to a response article (be aware if you look it up – there is coarse language), in which Larry Correia tore the original one apart sentence-by-sentence, taking the opposite tack…that writers who take their time are the real hacks, not the other way around:

For most authors our first book is crap that probably doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. I’ve seen them referred to as books with training wheels. Pragmatic professional types stick that piece of crap in a drawer, move on with life, and write more books. Maybe they’ll come back to it and pick out all the good bits to use in other projects later, or they’ll try to edit it again once they have more experience (or your heirs will wait until you are dead and then publish it to cash in on your name), but the important thing is they move on.

Idealistic, literati artistic types will waste six years polishing that turd. At the end of it, the turd might even be so shiny it no longer looks like a turd, and they’ll publish it to rave critical reviews, and rejoice in their whopping $1.75 an hour they made from writing before going to work their shift at Starbucks. Meanwhile, the “hack” will chuckle, cash their royalty check that pays all their bills, and get back to work on book #15. – Larry Correia

Reading the second article was difficult for me, partly because I’m no fan of mocking sarcasm and rude language, but mostly because it was an extreme example of the mindset that made me appreciate the original one! 😉

At the same time, it also had good points.  Going slow doesn’t guarantee quality either.  It’s important to actually write and not just think about writing.  Etc.

At the end of the day, I was disappointed at the writer world.

Clearly there aren’t just “Mommy Wars” – there are “Writer Wars” too.  We can’t just disagree with each other.  We have to call each other “hacks.”  We have to call each other’s books “turds.”  We have to make fun of people who put out fewer books than we do and accuse them of being unprofessional.  We have to tear down the people who put out more books than we do because clearly they aren’t doing it “right.”

At the end of the day, we’re all doing the same work.  We do it at different paces, for different reasons, by different methods, and with different results.  Of course we do, because we are individuals!

But we all care about our stories, right?  We care about our characters, our worlds, and our readers.  We want our books to be the best they can be, and we search for ways to accomplish that.  We’ve all felt the sting of rejection, and celebrated the joy of a beautiful review or positive feedback.  We know what it is to get lost in a fictional universe, and try to balance that work/fun with “real life.”  We’re all human beings with feelings, and life is hard for all of us.

We have much in common.  And the important thing is to give the world good stories.

Doesn’t the world have room for both kinds of writers, the practical prolific ones and the dreamy dilly-dalliers (and all the ones in between)?  The world needs all kinds of stories, from all different personality types and backgrounds.  We need plotters and pantsers, literary and genre writers, indies and traditionally published, and yes, the prolific and the percolators.

Can’t we appreciate each other’s strengths and learn from one another without sniping at each other’s perceived disadvantages?

I don’t get it.  I truly don’t.

All I know is that the world of Christian writers and publishing should be different.  (And all praise to God, we usually are!  The thread in my group of believers was gracious and polite, even though several didn’t appreciate the article I shared.)

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits,impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:13:-17

If you like to write fast and hard and earning lots of money is your goal, go for it!

If you like to write slow and gently, and prefer to prioritize ideals, that’s cool too.

Basically, “You do you,” as Chuck Wendig wrote in a third article I just saw this morning.  Do what you feel called to do.

Reading Jeff Gerke’s The Irresistible Novel (click that link for my review) primed me to take the writing advice I like and leave the stuff I don’t.  This controversy reminds me that the same goes for publishing advice too.  We should all be teachable, and yet remember that God didn’t make us to walk the same paths.  We are all members of one Body, and we fill different purposes in His world.  We all have different processes, and that’s not only okay, it’s GREAT!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a battle scene to write.

Slowly.

As inspiration comes to me.  😉

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

What’s your style?  What are some of the best things you’ve learned that help you write better in your own style?

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Of Books and Babies

August 4, 2015

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As a writer, I know the importance of beginnings.

Everything hangs on the first few pages of your novel.  If readers don’t enjoy those, they probably won’t move on.  There are lots of books in the world, so unless someone else told them it was a good story, why should they spend time on a book that confused them, bored them, or offended them right off the bat?

You have to foreshadow everything right.  You have to lay the foundation for the story and its themes, introduce your main characters and setting (in an interesting way!), and put your plot in motion.

Beginnings are HARD!  I can get so fixated on how my book starts that I don’t move forward, perpetually rewriting and revising my opening scene.

I tend to carry this attitude over to my mothering.

These little years are all-important.  I’m forming human beings!  It’s my job (I think to myself) to make sure they don’t grow up malformed, like a tree that was bent into an awkward shape while it was a sapling, and keeps growing crookedly.  It’s my responsibility (so I fear) to dot every “i,” and cross every “t,” so they have the best possible, perfect, ideal foundation for life.  Sometimes I feel like someone is standing over me, putting negative tally marks for every time I do something that is less than ideal for my children’s foundational years.

Oop, too much TV today. Bad mom.  She lost her temper again.  Bad mom.  What, no veggie with dinner today?  Bad mom.

Some people brush off worries about the little years with thoughts like, “Eh, they’re little.  They won’t remember this stuff anyway.”

But! But! I splutter inside.  They might not remember, but they’ll be irrevocably shaped!

They are shaped by my words, attitudes, and fears.  They are shaped when they see me crying over a poop mess, and when I yell about spilled milk on the carpet.

It can’t be done again.  I can’t rewind time, erase my progress, and start over with a stronger opening – my kids’ life, 2.0.  Their childhood thus far is set in stone.  And that’s a scary thought.

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In the world of fiction, there is a writing rule called “Chekov’s gun.”  It states that if there’s a rifle hanging over the fireplace in the first scene, it needs to go off by the end of the novel.  There should be no loose ends, no details that are not relevant, because all details tie into the plot.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of guns I’m hanging here, over my children’s heads.

(Is that…is that a nuclear missile???)

What part do I play in this opening scene of their lives?  Am I a loving mom?  A sweet mom?  A mom who languishes on a sickbed and weakly entreats her child to “have courage and be kind?”

A lot of the time I worry that I’m more like the wicked stepmother.

You had a potty accident on the couch AGAIN??

But I tell myself these things:

God is the ultimate Author of their stories, not me, and God’s stories always have perfect endings, no matter how messy their beginnings.

However I shape my children, His hands are around them (and me), far more powerful and purposeful than my clumsy little fists.

God’s stories are simultaneously first drafts and finished products, full of crazy, unexpected twists and concluded with every plot thread in place.  All His guns go off, and they all go off at the right moment – even if the characters were only fooling around and fired them by accident and hit somebody in the eye.

And my children are shaped by far more than my flaws!

They are shaped by our Bible lessons, even when I think they’re not listening because they’re busy giggling and smearing cinnamon toast on their faces.

They are shaped when my hubby kisses me in front of the kitchen sink.

They are shaped when I play Christian music on Pandora.

They are shaped by my hugs and kisses, that cup of water I bring them at 2 A.M., those many hours reading Beatrix Potter.

It just isn’t as simple as, “You’re either doing everything perfectly or YOU ARE FAILING AT LIFE.”

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We are all a crashing, colliding, crazy, messy crowd, mixing our good acts with bad attitudes and our worst mistakes with our best intentions.  We are saved in Christ, yet struggling sinners.  We aren’t perfect, but we rest in Perfection.  We are flawed and fallen, and yet He does His good works through us, and appoints us as His representatives in the world and His members in the church.

He didn’t just put me on the earth to make my children grow up well.  He also put them here to make ME grow up well.

So I can’t be paralyzed by these first pages.  I have to keep moving forward, working out my part in my own story and in theirs.  For praise be to God! – I pen imperfect novels, though I may write the beginnings a million times, but He never needs revisions, and He is creating a masterpiece.

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Introducing – A Hot Potato Story!

April 11, 2015

Three fellow writers and I are creating a “hot potato” story!  It will be tossed around between us, with new installments each Saturday on our respective blogs.  You can follow along here (I’ll link to their installments each week too), or follow all our blogs, and be on the watch for hashtags #chroniclesofchadwick and #hotpotatostory on Twitter.

The story isn’t written for children but will be clean and family friendly – it is a fantasy tale with a humorous bent.  Each installment will be roughly 500 words.

This week we’re introducing our main players.  Each of us is in charge of one character, and each character has a secret or ulterior motive that only their special writer knows.  Hehe!  So none of us knows exactly what all the other characters are up to…  There shall be intrigue, surprises, and plot twists!

Interested?

Follow along and see where the story takes us!

Introducing the Characters

Check out these other characters on their writers’ blogs!

Bea Brightbolt – Author H.L. Burke

Thrush Vonsel – Author Nat Davis

Princess Y’manya – Author Parker J. Cole

My Character: Rheban the Dragon


Some dragons are mainly concerned with what’s crunchy and good with ketchup, but Rheban has higher goals in mind – like world peace.

The sleek, enormous gray dragon prides himself in being one of the most fearsome and dangerous dragons in the area, yet using the humans’ fear for noble purposes by keeping the neighboring kingdoms at peace.  Those who warmonger he threatens with instant roasting…  But to those who are peaceful, he shows a smiling, benevolent face, handing down occasional nuggets of wisdom and foresight to those he considers worthy.

Having the gift of prophecy and keen observation, he sees much, knows much, and keeps many secrets…  But what are his intentions, exactly?  Nobody knows, and when a powerful entity could either avert your death with a timely prophecy or roast you and consume you with mustard, you don’t wanna mess with him.

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Check back next Saturday to meet the protagonist of our story, Chadwick, and begin following the story!