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Posts Tagged ‘Issym’

Writing is a joy like no other. And after nearly a decade of dedication (I’m twenty-three now; I was fourteen when I finished Issym–my first book), it is still full of surprises. I sit down at the keyboard with no concept of what I want to say and yet words, beautiful, important words, come flowing out. And they ease the ache in my soul.

I’ve come face-to-face (yet again) with the reality that seasons end. Good, wonderful, God-blessed seasons do not last forever. That’s why they are called ‘seasons’ after all. So I’m closing some chapters in my life, most notably with my resignation from my beloved coastal church. Working six days a week and commuting over wintry coastal roads for early morning worship practice is no longer a viable lifestyle. And while I am disappointed beyond measure, I’m also supremely confident that God orchestrated this decision and so it is good.

He has been showing me the value of finishing well. Not focusing (for once in my over-achieving life) on what is to come, but instead focusing on doing the last few weeks of this season to the very best of my ability. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a major Eiffel Tower nerd. I’ve always been struck by how it was built to be temporary. Knowing that his creation was doomed for destruction, Gustave Eiffel still poured blood, sweat, tears, and inspiration into the now iconic tower! He wasn’t daunted by the certainty his creation was temporary. He finished well. And so will I.

12278732_10207210957488957_8617144566751611846_nAs for the holidays, we’ve had a few less Christmas movies or mass-baking evenings than the usual season, but we’ve still had lots of fun. Who knew it could be cold on Christmas Tree Day even without snow? And who knew how FREAKING TALENTED my brother-in-law and I are at picking out Christmas trees. (Isn’t it a beaut?)12219417_10207199026510690_5196170164171381163_n

We’ve celebrated a few less birthdays than usual too, thanks to cases of pneumonia and a deer that made contact with our family van. But the 12274458_10207199026950701_7812799157813826790_ncelebrations we have pulled off have been awesome, from flame-filled nights at the local hibachi to an entourage of people taking dear niece Evelyn to Build-A-Bear for Year 1 of a running tradition. (The writer in me couldn’t help but stick a note inside.) Yes, my niece–who surprised us all with a month early arrival–has reached the age of one going on thirty. Intelligent, persuasive, and highly verbal, she is already turning my world upside-down in all the right ways. I can’t wait to spend Christmas with that sweet little soul.

Overall I’m settling into a new skin–one that’s a bit less afraid of the telephone and far more confident in glasses and even more determined to keep on writing. One that is learning to let go and still savor every second of every season I’m in.  A few months back I wrote a song for my church and I think I’ll close with it here:

Verse 1: There is time for celebration. There is time for tears. You’re the God Who holds me through it all. You’re the God Who holds us through it all

Chorus: Hallelujah to the King of majesty. To the One Who calls me friend. Hallelujah to the One Who conquered the grave. And is coming back again.

Verse 2: The past, the present, and the future, Can overwhelm the soul. But You say “Do not fear for I am near”.

Verse 3: You are trustworthy; You are faithful. You number the hairs on my head. How can it be that You would love me through it all? How can it be that You would love us through it all?

Bridge: You are good, You are good, You are good. You are faithful and sure. For everything there is a season. In every season You are Lord.

 

 

 

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For those of you a little more interesting in my personal musings than in my writing advice, I offer you a second post for the day. One that still touches on writing but focuses more on Your’s Truly.

I’m breaking ground on my novel–again. The writing of the Lure of Lemons has been a herky-jerky ride (note: Spell-Checker doesn’t think that herk-jerky is a word. Merriam-Webster would disagree. Feel free to click on the link for the definition and for proof that I don’t blatantly ignore all rules of grammar and spelling.). One minute, I’m tapping away at my keyboard with lightning speed, inserting glorious paragraph after glorious paragraph. The next, I’m at a dead halt for days or weeks. Then I’m up and running again. I will breathe a deep sigh of relief when I finally finish the draft. I feel as if I have been on one of the old, wooden roller coasters and have been jammed and pushed and whipped around until I am nauseous, dizzy, and covered in bruises. Okay. Maybe that’s a stretch. But not much of one.

64, 064 is my word count. It may not sound like much, if you know about writing novels or about the million people it took only one month to complete 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo (again, click on the link if you want to know more). Of course, I did that challenge too, but had to scrap most of it and start over. Sometimes experiments fail. And the writing techniques I employed for NaNoWriMo left me wandering around in the dark once I was finished. But its not so much about the specific word count as it is about my process.

Given my experience with four novels (Issym, Asandra, Xsardis, and Mark of Orion), I know that my first draft should only be about 108,000 words, which puts me well past the halfway mark. And once I reach the last quarter of the book, I usually pick up speed–as if I am running downhill. So the good news is: I’m nearly to the home stretch. To quote Einstein as he rode a motorcycle in the adorable movie IQ, “Wahoo!”

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I believe that e-books should be cheaper than print books. So why aren’t they?

Unfortunately I discovered (or re-discovered) the answer. You might not have print costs, but–hey–that gives e-book distributors an excuse to charge you double or triple what you would usually give to bookstores. Have fun trying to make money under those conditions. The good news for us print-lovers is that this is going to keep the physical book from going extinct for an extra decade! Let’s pop the sparkling cider and toast to traditional reading.

In the mean time, we at Rebirth Publishing would still love it if you picked up our book on Amazon’s Kindle. Or you could always head over to my website http://www.issym.com and order your traditional copy now. Book Release? Tomorrow!

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” ~Charles Dickens’ opening for A Tale Of Two Cities.

This is one of the most repeated first sentences ever. And it is not even the whole sentence. In an epic run-on Dickens adds: “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

What Dickens wants us to see and feel and learn and anticipate, we see and feel and learn and anticipate. So profound is his first sentence that even those who have not read the book can quote you those first few words. We authors can learn much from Dickens. We can also take away a lesson from observing countless readers who remember only the first portion of his novel: brevity is a virtue.

As you struggle to write your own first sentence be aware that there are many ways to give the director’s call (mentioned in my last post) and capture the reader’s heart and soul. There is no one, better way.

The dramatic opening. This often utilizes nature to mimic the stormy or sweet or tense tone readers will uncover in the story.

“Thunder rippled across the frozen lake.” ~Jessie Mae Hodsdon’s opening for Issym.

The unassuming opening. It takes a soft approach, that makes the reader lean into the very ordinary nature of the words.

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” ~Charlotte Bronte’s opening for Jane Eyre. This mild opening for a very dramatic novel causes the reader to wonder, “What was there a possibility of?” And so the bond between author and reader is secured. Only the book can answer the question the reader has now latched onto.

“They moved with joint precision.” ~Jessie Mae Hodsdon’s opening for Asandra. Again, there is something quite ordinary about movement, but it also raises questions like “Why are they precise?” “What makes them move jointly?” “Where are they going?”

The evident opening. There are no hidden questions, no lost meaning, no parallel imagery. This opening, as its name suggests, is evident.

“The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.” ~Jane Austen’s opening for Sense and Sensibility.

“One strike of his sword after another, the youthful warrior barreled through his enemies.” ~Jessie Mae Hodsdon’s opening for Xsardis.

We know we are going to deal with the traditional Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility and that we shall see a medieval adventure take place in my own Xsardis. With unmistakable clarity, there is also a draw. We cut through all the fancy words and jump (in Austen’s work) to a traditional estate and (in my own novel) to a medieval battlefield. As a director’s call this leaves no room for losing a reader, as they are immediately forced onto stage. It might, however, jar them.

The location opening. It is possible to arouse the reader’s curiosity based on opening location alone. It is a risky move. If the reader finds the place uninteresting he will close the book, but, if he longs to know more or has a traveler’s heart, this opening can be highly persuasive. Most readers long to go somewhere. That is why they read.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien’s opening for The Hobbit.

“Ho Chi Minh City in the summer.” ~ Eoin Colfer’s opening for Artemis Fowl.

The image of a creature living in a hole is captivating. It begs questions like “What kind of hole?” “What’s a hobbit?” “What was it doing in a hole?” “Will it leave the hole?” And while I knew nothing about Ho Chi Minh City when I first read Artemis Fowl, I wanted to learn. The foreign sounding title awoke my sense of adventure.

The problem opening. This opening names a problem from the start. It may not be the problem, but it will point to the climax that will unfold.

“‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” Louisa May Alcott’s opening for Little Women.

“When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.” Anthony Horowitz’s opening for Alex Rider: Stormbreaker.

Financial woes for our young heroine in Little Women and the impending doom faced by Alex in Stormbreaker. Such problems arouse sympathy (even on the part of Jo’s drama, which doubles to show us a good deal of her character) and keep the reader browsing on.

The first-person opening. This is the last opening we will discuss today. Books told in first-person carry with them unique strengths and challenges. Their opening sentences should ignore all location, all weather, all danger, all other characters except the narrator. Unless you have a good reason to break this rule, the first sentence of this kind of book must give readers a glimpse at who they will be following through the entire novel.

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.” ~Rick Riordan’s opening for The Lightning Thief.

Such a comment makes us 1) feel sympathy for his unhappiness, 2) wonder what a ‘half-blood’ is, and 3) want to learn what events led him to wish he was not a ‘half-blood’. This makes for a powerful combo.

Opening types abound. Most are short; some are not. Most beg a question; some don’t. But the good ones all draw the reader towards the content of the entire book–not just the next paragraph. The one rule you should follow is this: make your reader want to uncover the adventure.

(Written 6/27. Scheduled for you while I am away.)

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Well patient writers, those who have been following this blog waiting for me to return to useful pieces of advice, this is finally a post for you. Later this week on a collaborative blog I will be discussing four writing myths (check out my posts on Fridays: http://writeovertheedge.blogspot.com/). Until then I would like to highlight one of the myths: ‘You have to make a living to be a real author.’

This is a standard that can easily bash in our writing-filled heads as we try to achieve something that is, well, nearly impossible for beginners. Unless a miracle occurs or you are one of the lucky ones with connections (both of which are valid possibilities), a writing career is not born overnight. Nor should it be.

I could tell you to go back and look at my beginning blog posts to see how far I have come. I won’t. Please don’t. It is plain embarrassing. You can watch the same type of growth in my unpublished stories and my published novels throughout the years. Growth came in failures, in successes, and through a lot of learning. It came in bad blog posts, in good ones, and in epic ones. It came in discovering how I liked to write and what people liked to read. It came in budding self-confidence and in an ever-expanding comprehension of the realm of publishing. Growth came and is coming. I should not have been a New York Times Bestseller when I published Issym in 2009. I had no following and I lacked the energy with which to withstand criticism and accept praise. Just as my writing was growing so was I. Today I have the endurance with which to stand much more, the skill with which to wade through conflicting reviews of my books, and the passion to keep going even in the dry spots. The seventeen-year-old author of Issym could have wanted to be famous within weeks of publication. She wasn’t ready.

So, my friends, do not see writing without profit or applause as failure. See it as a means to an end. Every word you write, every article you publish, and every book you finish is growth–with or without accolades. Profit may come, but it should never be the sole reason we write.

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There are some crazy statistics about how many people think they have a novel inside them. Then there are some even more crazy statistics about how many people start and never finish. Why? Well, in my journey as a teacher in schools, as a mentor in emails, and as a participant in writers’ communities, I have pursued the answer to that question. My take follows.

The number 1 reason people never finish a novel is the curse of perfectionism.

What is the curse of perfectionism? It is that little voice in your head that demoralizes you. It has two chief strategies, both of them equally devastating. The first says you will never succeed; the second says that your effort needs more refinement. The first is what keeps you from trying; the second what keeps you from finishing. Both can sound highly logical; neither can be trusted.

For writers, the first part of the curse usually comes around after an idea is newly formulated. “There’s no way you can make a novel out of that,” and “you don’t have the talent to craft a book” are common voices of the curse. Push through those and you will ram right into the second phase of the curse. This is where many authors spin their tires in the mud for years, wasting talent and losing the joy of writing. It is quick sand. Flee from it. “Your characters are rough,” and “you should rewrite that chapter” are repeated in the author’s mind until he fully believes it to be true. Writing, rewriting, and rewriting again and again takes away from ever finishing a novel. Before he knows it, the writer has a sour taste for his own novel and disbelieves his own talent. The curse of perfectionism can be fatal.

I fully believe the curse of perfectionism is what fells countless authors. I know it intimately. Perfectionism has been a bane not just in writing but in all aspects of my life. Thankfully, I am learning to live free of it.

Do you recognize yourself in the description of the curse of perfectionism? Perhaps in more than writing? Then, take heart. No true effort is ever wasted. You will be surprised how much you can learn from crafting a whole novel–even if you have to scrap it later and start over. There is as much to learn from failure as there is from success–if not more. And writing is a particularly forgiving craft. If you are shaping a clay pot and you make a mistake, you have to start over completely. If you are writing  novel and need to change a character, tools such as ‘backspace’ and ‘find-and-replace’ make it easier.

For me, dealing with the curse of perfectionism means embracing the idea that ‘writing’ and ‘editing’ are two separate phases of the novel-creation process. With each edit, my novels get increasingly more beautiful and with each completed novel my talent as a writer grows. Would I write my first book, Issym, the same way now? NO WAY! But does it have a merit and beauty of its own? Absolutely? Has it sold many copies? Yep.

Truth is, there is no perfect novel or perfect author. You will always get better at your craft. Life is that way too. I want to be perfect now–at everything. But things have value even if we fail or have room for growth. No effort is ever wasted. Don’t let the curse of perfectionism steal your joy or your talent; don’t let it prove fatal to you.

Christian, take heart. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14.

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So here is the deal. I’ve got a lot of new followers and likes on this blog (thanks everybody!). Since my life story is a bit confusing, I thought I’d dedicate this post to the top ten highlights of who I am and what I do. If you are new, you can catch up without wading through the hundreds of posts I have made on here.

1) After I accepted Christ at age four I discovered an absolute passion for serving Him and teaching others the deeper truths of the faith. I taught the preschool Sunday school class before I had hit middle school myself. I loved it.

2) Creative and athletic from birth, I followed in my three siblings big footsteps to strive for excellence in much; but it took me a while to discover what I was really made for.

3) At fourteen I started playing the fiddle. As my fingers danced along the strings I was looking towards Heaven and an earthly career. Life swept me in a different course. It was when I put down the violin that I really picked up writing.

4) While writing and imagining is something I have always loved, my choice to become an author has much more to do with a calling than with a desire to do something I find pleasurable. After watching my Christian friends ingest trash called teen fiction, and then watching them leave the faith behind, I found my heart aching to reach them in literature, to provide them with something clean, honest, and adventurous to read.

5) When, at fifteen, God called me to take on the challenge of changing literature, I thought He was crazy. But, so clearly called, I pressed ahead. Discovering that a major part of the problem lay in publishing, I established Rebirth Publishing, Inc., at seventeen. My first series of novels, Issym, Asandra, and Xsardis, hit shelves in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

6) In February of 2013 (at 20) I graduated with a Bachelors in Organizational Management. While most people think it is crazy that an author went for a business degree, I am well-satisfied with my choice. All my life I have loved organizing and leading. At times, I find business more fun than writing and often just as creative an outlet. The degree serves me well as I direct Rebirth Publishing.

7) My passion grew until I began speaking and teaching in a variety of settings, showing kids and adults that the time to serve God with the whole heart is NOW. This is one of my favorite, albeit the most exhausting, parts of my varied job. I also lecture on business and writing, and mentor students personally through email and classes.

8) Fun facts: A) I have seriously desired to quit on publishing, writing, and speaking at least a half dozen times. Thanks to God’s steadfast counsel I never did and I now LOVE my job. B) I dabble as a singer/songwriter/guitarist/worship leader too. C) In high school I memorized most of the New Testament. No education ever served me better. D) The perfect writing setting for me involves a good view; my laptop; coffee; maybe a candle; and Josh Garrels or wordless, spunky music (like Lindsey Stirling) playing in the background.

9) As a single gal with a ridiculously supportive family and a network of friends throughout the country, I get to travel a lot for work. What I learn of life on my travels and at home, as well as what I learn from the students I teach, is purposefully crafted into my novels. Ever since Issym, I have determined to share my heart through my writing. You will get to know me in a new way when my next book, Mark of Orion, comes out Thanksgiving 2013.

10) I am on the adventure of life, learning more about the God I love, how He loves me, and how I can love others. It is my greatest joy to serve the King of kings. It is my honor to discover Him in writing, in nature, in music, in organization, in Scripture, in fellowship, and in the quiet and uncertain times of life.

So, there, those are the significantly inadequate highlights of my life. I will leave you with two verses that are my inspiration.

1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV, 1984), “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

Philippians 3:12 (NIV, 1984) “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

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