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Posts Tagged ‘Issym’

It is graduation day. Finally, I’m a college graduate.

I have been having a lot of flashbacks from different points in my college career, and as I promised you around New Years here is some self-reflection. My mom’s verse for me is Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> but I press on to take hold<sup class=”crossreference” value='(X)’> of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Nothing much sums up my life better than that. College really began in high school, when I took a few classes at local colleges. I learned then that I was not as outmatched by the big, broad world of adulthood as I had thought I was. I was still a bit of an introvert. And I spent every spare moment of that senior year writing or thinking about writing. It was the year I published Issym. And then I made the very logical decision to go to school for a business major.

Honestly, I don’t know that I would have gone to college if I had not started with a Business/Bible degree. It was the Bible degree that pushed me to head to South Carolina for college, stepping out of Maine, the only home I had ever known. I will never regret my one semester at Bible College. It was my chance to be a real student, to write on the side, to live boldly, to make friends, to feel warm everyday. I enjoyed Chick-Fil-A for the first time; I learned how to drive on a six lane highway; I discovered the value of coffee with the girls. Very importantly, the time at college granted me a deeper foundation of Bible knowledge and exposer to different chapel speakers and their ideas. I discovered that home could be found anywhere, even in the sweltering south. I made good friends that semester; not one of them lasted as more than a ‘Facebook friend’, which was okay too. Life is funny like that. What I desperately want to be permanent sometimes only lasts for a season. But oh, what a season! One must embrace moments. You do not reject summer because it cannot last.

My description of that semester at Columbia International University (CIU) would be incomplete if I did admit how very near death I seemed one fateful night when the chest pains I had been experiencing all semester surged to a new high. After not leaving my dorm room for a week, I was rushed home to Maine and admitted to the ER. I did homework in my hospital room, searching for the feeling of normality and holding onto hope that I would be able to go back to college. I remember being amazed how my heart (we had a special scan run) looked like an angry Muppet and how one floor of the hospital had the overwhelming smell of coffee. What was then diagnosed (although falsely so) as costochondritus allowed me to get on my feet, slowly. I discovered rest–pure rest–was about all I could do for myself. Somehow, through it all, I made it to the release of my second book, Asandra. That accomplishment may be my proudest because of how many obstacles seemed to get in the way. It was also the book where I learned how to be honest with readers, how to show them my heart. The reception was phenomenal. That semester I learned in a new way how true 2nd Corinthians 12:9 is, “But he said to me, ‘My grace<sup class=”crossreference” value='(P)’> is sufficient for you, for my power<sup class=”crossreference” value='(Q)’> is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” So I boast in Christ’s strength. I am full of weakness; He is not.

The fateful events that haunted me near Thanksgiving break led me on a journey back to Maine. At the time it felt like failure to leave my new home and head to my old one, to move back in with my parents, to have them carry my laundry, to barely drag myself to school every day. I was proud that I had finished the semester at CIU, but I knew that there would be no quality of life if I stayed in South Carolina. I could not have anticipated how good home would feel, how important it would be for me to work alongside Maine Bible Quizzing as a worship leader (for a pretty crazy crew of adults and teens), to participate in my nephew’s lives, to see my sister’s new home the day she bought it, and to take my place in so many little things. No, I have no regrets about coming home. Who knew then that what had been misdiagnosed as costochondritus would later give credence to my Lyme diagnosis as we came to understand just was really going on inside me. I could not understand during my semester at Husson University in Maine why I was not getting better from the supposedly curable costochondritus. So as my business grew and had me traveling, and when the opportunity for online college came along, I jumped at the chance.

I transferred to Nyack College where I completed my degree just today. The program was still business, but its title was ‘Organizational Management’. I think I had expected to be less of a guinea pig (I was in one of the first primarily online OM programs at Nyack), but all-in-all, I graduated and that is what is important. I published another book, the best yet (Xsardis). I invested in my home and family. I found an impact zone in Maine and outside, as  I began book touring. While I had lots of fun with friends in Virginia and met some awesome people at Soulfest, probably my favorite trip of the year was Ohio. The people I spoke with (young and old) and the reception I received was astounding and memorable.

During this last year of college I have learned more about myself than I thought possible. In understanding Lyme and what was going on in my body; in accepting whatever the outcome of my health is; in participating with friends and family; in investing in home and accepting the value of seasons that come and go; in traveling; in speaking; in writing; in worshiping God and writing songs; in choosing joy and peace; in seeking God’s will for my future; in meeting some very remarkable people that had a big impact on my life, I have discovered a fuller, deeper life. From uncovering my desire for coffee shops, to my love of Lindsey Sterling fiddle music, to my happy-place by my sister’s side, to the charm of dancing in my father’s arm, to the merit of playing guitar in an empty house, I have grown to understand a bit more of who God made me to be. I have learned that I love mentorship and so am working on mentorship programs with students. I have learned what I want to write about; who I want to be; and why it is so very important to live as God has called us to live.

So what’s next for me? Lots of family-time and reading by the fireside in the coming month. Part of my Lyme treatment is a doctor’s order for rest and that’s what I will be focusing on as much as possible. I head to the road in March to catch up with friends I have not had the time to see. I am highly motivated to work on my already-drafted novel, Mark of Orion, that has captivated my heart and my imagination. I plan to write/publish/and speak for six months as I look at buying my own printing equipment and try to gage how far I am from making a living based on my writing career. Whatever adventures come next, be they in this state or another, I will carry with me the lessons learned of joy and peace and seasons and the beauty of God’s majestic plan for my life and this world. I look forward to following where my Lord leads. The purpose of my life is to go where He sends me, to share His goodness with the world, to grow to know Him and love Him better. As my graduation verse, Ephesians 2:10, says, “For we are God’s workmanship,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(U)’> created<sup class=”crossreference” value='(V)’> in Christ Jesus to do good works,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

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Continuing our theme of introductions, let us talk about The Backstory Introduction.

There is nothing quite so powerful as a story. A well-told backstory is especially strong. While there are different types of backstories, a general rule is that it should allude to a lifetime of information and character development without taking up pages and pages.

The character backstory describes a specific event (likely traumatic) in the main character or hero’s life. This gives the reader perspective, from the beginning, on why the character is the way he is. It can be helpful when the character is tough and unlikeable. Similarly, when the story is set in the past, the character backstory can set the stage with political and geographical facts. Examples might be the car crash of the detective’s wife or the day his daughter was born. Seeing how he handles pressure in the first scene and how his family is (or is not) his priority in the second tells the reader big things about the character.

The legend backstory is what I used for each book in The Xsardis Chronicles. It alluded to the moral of the story; it told of the past heroes of Xsardis; it gave the land depth and history; and it showed some principles about my world that it would have been hard to otherwise detail. It also set the field as a medieval world, despite the fact that my first chapter would open on Earth.

The historical backstory can be real or imagined. It will tell of an event that happened before the story took place. It will not follow any living characters on which the book focuses–although it might incorporate deceased relatives. This is useful for treasure hunting tales and stories that need to incorporate background information that the narrator of the tale does not know.

These are three common backstory introductions. They each take on a unique shape; and they each borrow from each other. Here are some cautions when using them. 1. They can be boring–especially the legend backstory. What you find interesting about battles and lore may completely bore the reader. And since your introduction is at the beginning of your book, this can stop a reader before she even gives you a real chance. So be careful. How? Ask readers’ opinions and (like with the foreshadow introduction) be willing to cut your intro. Also frame the story with something interesting. The introductions of Issym, Asandra, and Xsardis were narrated by Reesthma and Joppa, who told their tales while adventure and death crouched at their door. This added drama to the story. 2. Accuracy can be hard to maintain. Every introduction you write sets the stage for the rest of your book. Maintaining the integrity of your book in this context–which is removed from the rest of your book–can be a challenge. Spend time and painstakingly be sure that every fact you share in the intro is accurate Look ahead to what books will come next in your series. Does this information still fit? 3. Brevity is an author’s virtue. Introductions tend to lag on. No matter how interesting your backstory, it is NOT the story. Readers want to get something from the backstory, then get to the real tale. So keep it short. A well-told, short backstory has every possibility to endear your reader, make them love your style, give your story and your world depth, and excite the whole book. A long and/or boring tale will do just the opposite. It’s the kiss of death.

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What should I be doing right now? Writing my midterm paper or a variety of other school/work projects. I tried this morning. And I got some good work done. But my heart and my mind and my creativity are always with this novel I am working on. It is not even a book I want to release for several years, but my imagination doesn’t seem to care.

So as I listen to Pandora’s ‘Film Scores Radio’, I compose my own tale. The characters, the voice, the adventure, the mystery all seems to be falling into place in a way that it has not since I wrote Issym (or maybe never). What a joy to write on days like these!

I love connecting creatively with my nephew Silas. My winter village is still up since I have been gone, the snow has lingered, and the basement is not quite ready to embrace my pieces. Silas and I walked its center aisle yesterday and he asked me questions about who lived in the houses. We imagined together and it was sweet and good. Some moments you just want to stay in forever and that was one!

And in other news, the Bangor Public Library has purchased two copies of the Xsardis Chronicles. Hooray! So if you have been waiting to read them, request them now!

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Questions: I want to follow the rules of publishing. What do I need to know?

Answer: Good question! Publishing can be an industry that is difficult to learn. We have our own rules, piles of them. Even if you don’t ignore them, we might ignore you. And if you do ignore them, we will most certainly ignore you! Terrible, right?

So is there are place where the mystical realm of publishing is explained for us? Yes! Its called The Everything Get Published Book. I recieved it for Christmas one year and learned most of my basic knowledge from it. It is well worth the investment, if you want to be a writer (even if you don’t feel up to writing a book yet). Get to know the industry through this book. It is worth the time.

Here are the basics I can tell you in the length of this post:

1. Check out the publisher’s submission guidelines. Go to their website. You might have to click on ‘contact us’ or some similar guidelines, but all publishers have submission guidelines. Follow them. If they say submit a querry letter, then do NOT send the whole manuscript. Instead, research how to write a querry letter and send that in. If they say you need an agent and you don’t have one, find one or do not submit to them. Earning their respect is your first mission. Following their rules is how you do that.

2. Never, ever, tell a publisher you will not send them your book because you don’t trust them. If you don’t trust them, don’t use them as your publisher. It frustrates and offends publishers to hear that you would waste their time when you don’t even trust them. It is the mark of a novice. And good news: your work is copyrighted the moment you put it on paper! So be confident.

3. Know who your audience is. This can be easy. Ask a variety of people you know to read it and give you general feedback. See who enjoys it the most and why. You will learn your audience from their reactions. I marketedIssymfor pre-teens because that was where we received our best early feedback.

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Today we finished up Xsardis’ cover. What a thrill! We rushed the project a little in order to get an advertising poster in time for this weekend’s Octoberfest in Downtown, Bangor, where I have the opportunity to sell books. This is the same time as the Bangor Book Fest so the timing could not be better.

Ande Binan, illustrator extraordinaire, also showed me what he could do if I decided to reprint Issym with a cover more in keeping with the other two. I staggered backwards when I saw it. I won’t tell you much about it, because I can’t wait to show it to you in print, but he used a picture of a girl who looks exactly like I would have pictured Rachel (complete with her character expressed in the art!). To see for the first time my character come to life was incredible.

And the recent editing bloopers are:

You put a skirt on a continent?

How do you spell that?: T. H. A. T.   ~ Ug!

I think you need a chicken in this story.

“His focused waned” (said the story). “It could be because of his own stench” (said the editor).

Why did coloring help her use a slingshot?

Doesn’t this person have a name? Call him a small elephant if you want, but give him a name! ~And the jibe has grown to ‘baby elephant’. Thus, the joke goes that every time we’re not sure what adjective or noun or verb to use, we substitute ‘baby elephant’.

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“Every story choice you make arises out of who you are, at the deepest level of your soul… (It) reveals more about you, in fact, than you know about yourself… The moment you use a technique that doesn’t belong in your story, solely for the sake of appealing to some imagined reader… your story dies a little…” from Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.

With the Borders in my hometown closing I set out to use the sales to enhance my library of books in my field. I picked up Characters and Viewpoint not just because of the tone that was easy to follow or because the content was relevant, but also because Card recognizes early on that the book is not a formula for a cake or a checklist for perfection, but construction tools to dig out of the author the important traits. Too often, works on literature try to coddle the author with familiar do’s and don’t’s. This doesn’t work for creative authors!

When I teach in the classroom, I do NOT give students a lecture on how to follow in my footsteps or write the perfect novel. Instead, I teach them how to put emotion into their stories, how to turn a boring article into something they care about, and the like. This is a much more effective manner in the long run. Basics are for English class, not for the professional writer.

I am two chapters into Card’s book and I have already found it extremely helpful. I took the above quote to Writers’ Guild’s third meeting tonight to get their take on it. Unanimously and fervently they agreed that writing does come from your soul and you cannot cater to readers until you love the project yourself.

Writers’ Guild was held tonight at Paddy Murphy’s in downtown Bangor. We arrived at 6 and did not leave until the place closed at 9:30. Our largest group yet attended: 5 people. We talked for a long time about literature and passed around stories. Then we fell naturally into talking politics, movies, theology, life, college, family, memories… Our guild has a unique texture, one changing as the members grow. I look forward to seeing where it goes!

And for my avid fans: check out the new www.issym.com where you can now ‘like’ Issym and comment at the ‘about the books’ page!

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“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord,” Pslam 27:13-14.

I am loving my current read-through of the Psalms. I have not spent much time in the Old Testament lately, since I devoted my fall semester to it for a Bible class. But as I get into the Old Testament again, especially Psalms, I find it entirely refreshing. I love how relationship-based EVERYTHING is. The Psalmists just pour out their hearts before God, with tears and cries and shouts of joy. And because I am in a less-volatile state of mind than I was in high school I am able to do more than just cry along with the Psalmists. I am able to pray and rejoice and be sad and take encouragement. And the lessons I am learning are naturally stemming into my imagination, which is just awesome.

These particular verses I found already underlined as I read them tonight. I think that they show particularly well what was running through my head when I wrote Issym and Asandra and used the word kiash (a term for victory and absolute faith). After describing the trials and the fears and the hopes the Psalmist has, he goes onto say that he is confident as he trusts in the Lord. He is not only confident, but he takes action: he waits and takes heart in the Lord. He seeks to rally his courage, believing in God’s mercy. This may sound inactive, but if you think about it, it’s really very active.

Trust is one of the hardest things we will ever give. Waiting is one of the most difficult things we will ever do. Putting our confidence in an (mostly) invisible God goes against everything we have ever been taught by the world. And as I am discovering this summer, all of this requires a constant training of the mind. It is hard work to say, “Okay God. I got nothing. You got everything.”

I watched the Green Lantern today. When the evil monster (of fear)  is trying to consume the hero (who is supposed to have no fear and steel his will against the evil), evil is taunting good. Instead of just standing there and taking the taunts (and lets face it, who could have blamed the guy if he had? He was a little busy trying to stay alive), the hero starts quoting the oath of the green lantern. He reminds himself why he is there, who he is and where his power comes from. As he masters his courage with this reminder, he is able to defeat the evil despite the pain in his body, the sorrow in his mind and the fear pounding on his heart’s door.

This was the place kiash was born to be used. A simple cry of victory would have underplayed the significance of what the hero was facing. He saw certain death and still fought on, trusting in a higher power and quoting his Scripture, of sorts. And this is what the Psalmist also saw and did. As I ‘train’ this summer, I am learning that kiash is not just a cry for super-heroes and fantasy characters. It is the cry for our everyday crazy lives as we learn to surrender to a mighty God.

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