Sunday Thoughts: Visiting the Sick

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For the last week of April through the first week of May, I was sick. Sick for two weeks! Yuck. The first week, I mainly felt gross and had normal cold symptoms. I laid on the couch and watched Band of Brothers, Transporter 1, Safe, LA Confidential, Rambo 4, Hobbit 1 & 2, and Lord of the Rings. The second week, I was able to do a little writing and the cold symptoms abated, but I felt exhausted. Putting on a load of wash required resting for a few hours afterwards.

I tend to be an active person. I get up at 5AM and go until about 7PM. Between keeping up the house, my writing, and my far more important church and family, I rarely have a day to just sit and be. I like it this way. I don’t want to spend my life sitting and being. I want to serve and do. Being sick for two weeks required many reminders to let my body rest and heal at its own pace. It required trust in God’s providence and calm. I hope I learned from this experience how to better love others who are sick. In our own church, we have several people who have battled illness for years, not just days and weeks. We have fellow saints who know, barring accidents, what’s going to bring them face to face with the Lord someday in the future. How can I better serve shut-ins, those struggling with long-term illnesses, or those who just caught what’s going around? Here are the things I noticed while I was sick.

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  • Communication: I had so many text and Facebook comments to encourage me to rest, to let me know I was missed, and reminding me to trust the Lord. Communication helps the person whose world is suddenly reduced to a room by reminding them of the bigger world outside, the place they hold in your lives, and your desire to have them back. It lifts the spirit and the morale. Often I was too sick to take phone calls—never knew how much energy that required—or have visitors who weren’t related to me, but thank goodness for Facebook and texting. This does require the sick person being at least slightly open about being sick. You can’t hide away and then be upset when no one can find you.
    I’m renewed in my determination, after being sick, to not lose track of my own church family members who are struggling with sickness. Some of them can’t come to church. We need to notice that and do what we can to remind them they are still part of our body. Send a note. Send flowers. Send a text. For those of us afflicted with lighter health issues, it’s important to notice when a member is gone. We have moms who don’t make it to church for weeks due to a rampaging cold or stomach flu. Text them. Facebook them. Remind them that this is a season.
  • Empathy: As a writer, I tend to analyze and explore every experience I have, or that you have, so I can increase my character realism. Being shut up for two weeks gave me new insight into the life of those who are shut up all the time and renewed my empathy for them. It reminded me to pray for them. To pray they don’t listen to the lies of their heart and the Devil and become bitter. It’s easy to do. From my window, I could see my sisters getting together to take a walk through our neighborhood. I had to swallow a hint of bitterness and selfishness. How dare they get together without me??? (As if we can only get together when I’m around.) Watching people do things you can’t, or finding out that life had to go on even though you weren’t there to be in it can be very hard, even when you’re thinking logically through the situation. Being sick helped me glimpse this danger, which will help me pray for those who are sick.
  • Visiting the Sick: I don’t know about you, but I tend to stay away from sick people . . .they’re sick. Or, I don’t think about visiting someone who is sick. I think about texting them, but I don’t think about visiting them. Part of this stems from being a bit of a loner. When I’m sick, I tend to want everyone to go away. But, even then, a visit from my moms or sisters for just a second or two can really lift my spirits. This obviously has to be balanced with how much the sick person can handle, but a visit can really make a difference. A drawing from my nephew and a gift box from my sister made my whole week. We are instructed to visit the sick in the Scriptures. Christ spent a fair amount of His time with the sick. This is an example we should follow. A visit doesn’t have to be in person, it can be a simple note just saying the person is missed.

36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ – Matthew 25:36

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Being sick for a few weeks reminded me of our church members who are sick even now. I think about Sherman, Mark, Delbert, my Dad, and others. I think about my own Grandma and Aunt Vi who, due to age, aren’t able to make it to church as often as they like, or ever. I’m convicted. I go about many of my days without thinking about them, praying for them, or finding some way to visit them. There are people who have struggled with major health issues in our church, some of which, I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t even really notice. I want to notice. I want to visit. I want to let them know they’re loved and missed. This was done for me. I want to do it for others.

Being sick for a few weeks reminded me of the joy of being visited, the joy of being missed, the joy of being in a church family. It convicted me of the ways I don’t make time for others who are sick in my church family. It reminded me to that my health is not promised to me, but God’s goodness is.

I’m very thankful for Christ’s gentle leading and I hope I can hold onto the frustration I felt at being in this room, trapped on the couch by my own body, so that I can better love and serve my fellow pilgrims.

blessings-for-pinterest-330x247If you would like to read a couple of blogs written by people who deal with chronic illness, or who are  caregivers, I can suggest two, written by a mother and daughter I love very much.

http://strokemanswoman.wordpress.com/

http://likeabedofrest.wordpress.com/

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Quote of the Weekend

“Regrettably, on some level, we equate God’s favor with material prosperity.  Do material gifts come from God? Yes.  Should we be thankful for material gifts? Yes.  Are material gifts an indicator of God’s favor upon us or pleasure with us? No.  Naomi is aware of that. Her faith isn’t rooted in what God gives her or doesn’t giver her.  It’s rooted in God.” – A Hope Deferred by J. Stephen Yuille

(Something the Health, Wealth and Prosperity movement should consider.)

Special Agents: The Mysterious Case of the Monsters Under the Bed (Part 5)

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(Part 1)

(Part 2)

(Part 3)

(Part 4)

Rachel nudged Lauren as the car jostled along flying over the roads at speeds that would baffle the mind of any policeman on duty that night.

“What?” Lauren hissed.

“Tell him.”

“Tell him what?”

Rachel sighed, crossing her arms and rolling her eyes. “You’re joke. Tell him your joke.”

“Did someone says something about a joke?” Tom said from the front. He kept his eyes on the road as he whipped around a corner appearing suddenly out of the dark.

Lauren and Rachel smashed together in the back seat until Tom straightened out.

“Well?” Tom said.

“Fine,” Lauren said. “Knock Knock?”

“Who’s there?” Tom said.

“Woo.”

“Woo who?”

“Where’s the party? Is there cake?”

Tom chuckled to himself, his big belly shaking, as he drove the car towards a city full of lights.

“That’s great, just great,” he said.

“I made it up,” Lauren said, happy that he liked it.

“Did you?” Tom said. “You just might be a comedian in training.”

“Maybe after I get too old to be a secret agent, I’ll do stand up comedy instead…” Lauren mused.

“Now, I have a new pun,” Tom said. He cleared his throat and sat up straighter. The city grew closer and closer. “Earl Grey was away on business during the election. So he cast an absent-tea ballot”

Lauren and Rachel shared a glance.

“Umm, I don’t get it,” Rachel said.

“Me either,” said Lauren.

“Earl Grey? Absent-tea?” Tom said guiding the car past slower going semis delivering goods to the city.

Both girls shook their heads.

Tom sighed. “Never mind. How about a song? We’re almost there, but we got time for one song.”

“You always want to hear the same song,” Rachel pointed out. “We’ve learned others, you know.”

“Yes, but it’s such a fun song, and I met Johnny Cash and June Carter once,” Tom said.

“We know,” the girls said in unison. “We’ll sing it.”

Singing together as fast as possible, the girls sang:

I was totin’ my pack along the dusty Winnemucca road,
When along came a semi with a high an’ canvas-covered load.
“If you’re goin’ to Winnemucca, Mack, with me you can ride.”
And so I climbed into the cab and then I settled down inside.
He asked me if I’d seen a road with so much dust and sand.
And I said, “Listen, I’ve traveled every road in this here land!”

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been to:
Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota,
Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota,
Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma,
Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma,
Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo,
Tocapillo, Baranquilla, and Perdilla, I’m a killer.

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been to:
Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana,
Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana,
Monterey, Faraday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa,
Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa,
Tennessee to Tennesse Chicopee, Spirit Lake,
Grand Lake, Devils Lake, Crater Lake, for Pete’s sake.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been to:
Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika,
Schefferville, Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica,
Pittsfield, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport,
Hackensack, Cadillac, Fond du Lac, Davenport,
Idaho, Jellico, Argentina, Diamantina,
Pasadena, Catalina, see what I mean-a.

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.
I’ve been to:
Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado,
Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, Eldorado,
Larimore, Atmore, Haverstraw, Chatanika,
Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika,
Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City,
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity.

I’ve been everywhere

Tom grinned. “I swear neither of you took a breath, not one.”

“We need to learn a new Johnny Cash song,” Lauren said.

“How about the one about the car?” Tom suggested. He pulled to a stop in front of a two-story house on a quiet suburban street. The clean-up crew parked behind him. Rachel leaned over Lauren to look out the window.

“Looks pretty quiet,” she said.

“Too quiet,” Lauren said.

“Let’s head in.”

“You girls be careful,” Tom said. “I’ll be here with the engine running. Agent Carmichael says we’ve got five houses to take care of.”

Lauren nodded. She drew her Super Soaker and held it in her left hand. With a double-check on Rachel, she drew the Pause Toy. The girls pressed the red buttons on their guns. Time to take care of some monsters.

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Writing Lesson: Suffering

I’m a storyteller. You put me in a group of people and I’ll tell stories to avoid awkward silences. You leave me alone and I’ll write, read, watch, or make up my own stories. About the only time I can get the story part of my brain to shut off is if I’m listening to music, and even that is no guarantee.

My husband is analytical. He’s the researcher, the studier, the teacher in the family. He taught himself how to program computers and now he’s teaching himself to be a preacher. He loves to analyze everything. We’ve had lively discussions about Star Trek, Chuck, Rambo, Godzilla, the Apprentice, Metallica, Downton Abbey, and of course theology.

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Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

Both of us are Metal Gear Solid fans. That’s a video game, fyi. As far as I’m aware, this story started in the 90’s with Solid Snake as the main character. He appeared in five games. His father, Big Boss, was the villain in several of those games. Big Boss is the main character in 2 games, a demo, and the up and coming Phantom Pain. The story is complex, riveting, unique, and moving. As you play, you start to put the pieces together of how Big Boss became the bad guy you face as Solid Snake. You realize he wasn’t always evil. In fact, he was an honorable and good man for many years until one too many betrayals by the US government and people he trusted drove him to the dark antagonist we encounter as Solid Snake.

Being the fan boy and girl we are, we have spent hours playing this game and hours discussing the plot, characters, and unraveling the complex threads of the story. I stand in awe at Hideo Kojima’s ability to move me from anti-Big Boss to feeling very sympathetic towards him and what he becomes. As his story unfolds and you see everything he goes through, all the men he loses, and the betrayals he faces, you begin to understand how and why a man could become such an antagonists.

Discussing our favorite video game, my husband said this: To tell a good story you need great characters, and to have great characters you need great suffering, and to have great suffering you need context.

Big Boss context is war. From WWII, to Vietnam, to the Cold War, including children soldiers, his context is the battlefield. He suffers betrayal by his government which leads him to kill his mentor. He’s betrayed by everyone he counts a friend. He loses soldiers in useless battles. He has been trained to be a weapon and then is shunned because he is that weapon. This betrayal is his suffering. This context and this suffering creates a great character. Big Boss has three sons. The least of his three sons goes through similar sufferings at the hand of his government, but he is able to overcome them in the end. This creates a juxtaposition between Solid Snake and his father Big Boss. This allows you, the viewer, to see a mirror image of one man going bad and one man going deeper and stronger.

200_sTheir story reminds me of Lore and Data in Star Trek:NG. Two brothers created in the exact image of their father, one is evil and one is good. Big Boss and his sons are that way. Solid Snake is forced to destroy both his brothers who take on the evil of their father.

As a storyteller, I found my husband’s analysis of what makes a good story to ring true. A good story has to have good characters. But what makes a good character? Suffering. It is what they go through and how they react that we are interested in. We want to see them suffer because that’s something we can all relate to. From a child who loses a parent, is bullied, bullies, to soldiers, mothers, and growing old, we have all suffered. That suffering and how we react to it is what makes us who we are. Whether good or evil, it’s suffering that paves the path we are walking.

That suffering needs a believable place to happen. That’s our context. It’s not so much about being in space, or on the battlefield, or traveling through time, as it is creating the suffering which makes sense. A princess forced to live a life of ease is not suffering, but a princess trapped in a betrothal to a man she’s never met is suffering. A boy adopted into a wealthy home after living on the streets isn’t suffering. But that same boy now in a new home who discovers his friends aren’t all they seem, and then finds himself in a battle for his soul is suffering. Context enriches the suffering of your characters. It gives you a structure to guide suffering the rest of us can get.

Marcus Luttrell, the Lone Survivor

Marcus Luttrell, the Lone Survivor

Think about the stories that stick with you. Think about the characters that stick with you. Harry Potter sticks with us because every year of his life the suffering ratchets up a notch. The Hunger Games don’t just deal with suffering at the hands of oppressive governments, but the psychological suffering of Katniss as she becomes a darker and darker character. To this day, I’m haunted by Henry in The Time Traveler’s Wife. He suffered his whole life and even suffered in his death. In real life, we think about the Holocaust. Those stories of great suffering continue to reverberate through history. Think about the haunted look on a soldiers face in Vietnam when his country couldn’t back him. Look in the eyes of Marcus Luttrell knowing he was the only one of his buddies to survive. Suffering is what connects us.

Do you use suffering to help us bond with your characters? Are you afraid to put your characters through the fire? Remember the Bible teaches that we are refined in a fire to clear away the dross. God uses suffering to make us more like Christ. Suffering burns away pride, self-reliance, and hardness leaving soft gold shimmering behind. In antagonists, suffering brings bitterness, blame, self-protection, and self-love creating a monster.

Suffering is one of the best ways to create believable characters, both your protagonist and antagonists. I’m pretty good at making my heroes suffer, but I think I need to start working on my villains a bit more.

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Just an FYI:

Metal Gear Solid is rated M for mature.

Harry Potter is PG – PG13.

Hunger Games is PG 13.

Time Traveler’s Wife is rated R.

Star Trek: NG is PG.

Chuck is PG-13.

Rambo is R.

Godzilla is PG-13.

The Apprentice is PG-13.

Metallica is PG-13.

Downton Abbey is PG-13.

Guest Post: Heather FitzGerald on Blogging

A while back I was asked by a couple of my fellow writers in my writing group to share some thoughts on blogging. So, I invited a few close friends to share their blogging stories. We all blog for different, yet similar, reasons which I hope will showcase the diversity of blogging. Their thoughts will be featured here over the next few weeks , and then I’ll share my own blogging story.

First up, Heather FitzGerald from the Tethered Together Blog:


 

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Thank you, Abby, for sharing some of your personal cyber-space with me today! I’m grateful that you would like to hear a little about why I blog, because it also makes me stop and take inventory of my commitment.

There are a lot of experts out there in Writing Land that weigh in on how to effectively reach a potential audience. These are people with more notches in their belts—or rather—more ISBN numbers registered to their name, than me. Although I had a blog for five years prior to my new one, I never considered that blog a serious endeavor as a writer. That was a mistake which I’m learning to correct after listening to many podcasts and webinars from said experts. Blogs should be the heartbeat of a writer’s life.

You’d think I could have put two and two together. My old blog was an eclectic mix of curriculum and book reviews, personal experiences with autism, and even politics. By God’s grace—haphazard experiment that it was—a certain author who’s book I reviewed contacted me and asked if I was a writer. Author Susan Marlow saw something in me and took time to connect and encourage me.

That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that allowed me to be mentored by an amazing writer and professional editor who would cheer me on, point out my writing pitfalls (I had no idea how much I liked the word “just”), and even edit a draft of my novel, The Tethered World, that will be published soon.

All of these wonderful repercussions happened because I fumbled around on the internet with a blog. Somehow I still failed to see the importance of maintaining it and cultivating a relationship with my readers and/or other bloggers.

BLOGPart of the reason that regular blogging activity fell by the wayside was that, with four busy, homeschooled kids, I only had so much time to squeeze my creative juices. I chose to use that time working on my book. But in hindsight, it would have been wise to recognize that opportunities only come along when you put yourself out there where the opportunities exist.

Fast forward four years and about seven drafts of my novel and it’s time to look for a publisher and how to go about marketing this YA fantasy of mine. Another writer pointed me to The Best Seller Society and I paid for a months worth of book marketing seminars and listened to everything that I could. It became painfully obvious (and rather comforting) to learn that major or minor publishing houses all expect you to be the major marketer of your book. (Comforting because—since I was not going the agent route, and therefore would not be considered by a big publishing house—I’d have the same amount of legwork to do for my book. A bigger publisher would not be the key to finding my audience).

Through webinars on The Best Seller Society I was introduced to other successful authors and what worked for them. I started to hear about creating a “tribe” and learning that, for a new author, an internet presence is NOT an option. And I didn’t just need a blog . . . I needed a platform.

These revelations made me rethink my old blog that only occasionally gasped for air and floundered about the internet. It was the antithesis of “platform.” It became clear that if I was to be serious about writing novels, I needed to be as serious about maintaining a blog.

Another important component for marketing, that these experts stressed, was a website for my upcoming book. (And let me add, for any of you that may be a few steps behind me in this process: ‘they’ say it is important to get a website and a blog in place BEFORE your book is published—nay, before you even land a publisher! A publisher will actually look to see what kind of following you have in place). I found myself in the throes of a huge learning curve . . . centered around technology.

Not exactly one of my strengths.

So....how do I turn this thing on?

So….how do I turn this thing on?

But I dove in and embraced the nuts and bolts of building a marketing presence because I don’t want to merely publish my book, I’d like for more than a few people to read it! So, I set about building my website through Wix. I found it to be the most user-intuitive for a visual person like myself.

The next step was to get my blog running. Per instructions from those in the know, the blog would be a part, or page, of my book’s website (because the book would naturally be the crux of my platform). This is where I hit a wall. How long can I blog about an imaginary land full of dragons and Nephilim? In theory I could blog about fantasy, but the Talking Heads all agreed that it was best to connect the blog to one’s book and its unique audience. They are the ones that will love what you write . . . right?

Hmmm. I was in a quandary. My audience: teens. Their interests: social media . . . not following blogs. Besides the obvious lack of subject matter if I based my blog on my book (remember, this is an indefinite blog . . . how many years can I write about a land that will be summed up in a trilogy?), I asked around and felt like I wouldn’t have an audience that would pay much attention to my book’s blog due to the age group.

It all sounded too limiting. (Though I did begin a fun, fake blog that one of the minor characters in my book writes. I think readers will get a kick out of connecting to this character in such a way. The main character, Sadie Larcen, also has a Pinterest that readers may follow). <—–These ideas are a way to get the social-media-driven teens to interact with my story. At least, that is my hope, once the book arrives.

It hit me that all of the experts from these podcasts and webinars were non-fiction authors that had some sort of first-hand experience to share. Connecting their book on, let’s say, ‘domestic violence’, to a blog that continually offered support and stories about this subject, could go on as long as fallen man continued to act like the unredeemed sinners that they are. Having a blog as an extension of a non-fiction subject was a natural flow. Their platform is built-in by virtue of their expertise.

What’s a fantasy writer to do? After praying and considering all the angles, I felt like I should begin a new blog with a platform that was unique but less specific than “homeschoolers, trolls, leprechauns, and gnomes,” or something along those lines.

light-bulb-momentAt this time, by divine grace, someone loaned me Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water. It was poignant, thought-provoking, and made me want to hone my gift to display God’s glory and be a glistening thread in the creative tapestry woven by the Creator. I bought my own copy so I could properly mark it up. It held such beautiful truths (though I didn’t always agree with her theology) that I felt compelled to share what I was reading with others that loved to create as well.

That’s when the main thrust of my new tetheredtogetherblog began to take on flesh. The “platform” I landed on would be a way to connect with other lovers of words. Beginning with Walking on Water, and moving on to other inspiring works from those that have gone before me in the writing world, my blog would be a sort of writer’s devotional that would keep me learning at the feet of great authors and allow me to share things that inspire or challenge me with others.

This premise denotes longevity. I hope to be an author with longevity. To garner the trust of an audience takes time. There are so many blogs out there, it must be a patient person’s undertaking. A serious writer needs to be a tortoise, not a hare. I love the verse in Five for Fighting’s song, “Slice.” It says:

 “Have you read my blog today?

Three hundred million little USAs.

Your doorstep is just a click away.

We’ll get together one of these days.”

That is a perfect word snapshot of the blogosphere, isn’t it? There are a multitude of voices vying for attention and it’s our job as writers to give readers something worth reading. Repeatedly.

It’s not always polished, not always witty, not always timely, but if my posts are consistent and born out of a desire to serve, to inspire, and to glorify the Giver of all good gifts then I feel my blog will, God willing, make it in the long run. After a few months of being up and running, I’m seeing new followers pop up. I’ve enjoyed the interaction of readers and getting acquainted with other bloggers. I look forward to seeing how maintaining this blog will keep me challenged and pressing onward and upward in my creative endeavors.

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Thank you, Abby, for allowing me to share my blog experience with your followers today! I must say that having a friend like you, oh Prolific One, is an inspiration and a challenge. You are always posting such edifying, fun, or thoughtful blogs that I love to read. Thankfully, I’m not very competitive and do not feel compelled to try to keep up with your rate of frequency!


 

I hope you found some good insight and information on why writers blog. I also hope you go visit, follow, and comment on Heather’s blog. It seems like I might have gained a new nickname–Oh Prolific One–which I shall endeavor to live up to! Heather’s thoughts have made me think about a website for my own books once I get a little further down the publishing path. Thank you, Heather, for the heads up!

You can also check out my Guest Post for Heather about writing darker themed stories.

 

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Thank you Michael Fedison for inviting me to the Writing Process Blog Tour. This is my first blog tour and I’m really excited to be part of it.

Michael is the author of the ‘coming of age’ book, The Eye-Dancers. This is the story of four young boys who slip into another world and must find a missing girl and their way home. Each boy faces his greatest weakness and finds a chance to shine as their metal is tested. I really enjoyed the characters in this book, the young and innocent love story, and the focus on friendship. You should check it out! Michael also authors the Eye-Dancers blog, which I adore. His articles are well written, insightful, and beautiful. I’m honored to join him on this Blog Tour.

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So about me:

What am I working on?

I am working on four separate, yet connected projects. My blog is my outlet to the world with articles ranging from religion/theology, movie and book reviews, to writing journals and advice. On my blog, I also featuring two different series. One is about my nieces and nephews, which I hope to publish someday as children’s stories. Most of them are about the silly things they do and say, while some are longer ‘moralistic’ stories. I alternate those with a Secret Agent series featuring my older, twin nieces. Someday, I would like to publish the series as a MG (Middle Grade) book.

When I’m not working on those, I’m working on my fairy tale for Young Adults. The story takes place in a fantastical/steam punk setting with an economy based on child labor and children soldiers. It’s a dark story about the seventh son of the seventh son and the lost Arts.

I generally alternate between the two every two weeks.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

This is always a hard question to answer. I guess the main difference between my work and others in the young adult field is my Christian worldview and my focus on the ideas of the undeserved rescue. This means I have bad people being saved and living in light of that salvation. Like Hunger Games, I don’t steer away from darker concepts, but like Tolkien, I have copious amounts of hope mixed in. I write in a more poetic voice than is typical for the YA genre and don’t focus so much on the teenage drama typical of YA fantasy.

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Why do I write what I do?

I write my blog to encourage my church. I write my children’s stories to capture this precious time in the lives of my nieces and nephews. I write my fairy tales because much of my previous work was too dark. Changing it to YA Fairy Tales helps me control the darkness and increase the light. I write because I love stories. I especially love heroic stories about warriors, the women who love them, brotherhood in battle, and mercy shown to monsters. I’ve been telling stories since I was a little girl and I’ll do it until the day I die.

How does your writing process work?

Strangely enough, I usually daydream during the few minutes before I fall asleep. From the seeds of these half-done stories, I discover the trees of my fairy tales. Some stories take root and some don’t. Either way, my daydreaming moves on to different worlds, different characters, and different plots. Many of these ‘between-sleep-and-awake’ stories feature the same characters over and over again in a new and fresh circumstance, which gives me a lot of familiarity with them when I go to type.

I don’t outline. Usually, I start at a point of high emotion and work towards another scene of high emotion really giving the characters room to grow and move. As the story unfolds, I take notes and document important side characters and places within the world. Editing happens after the basics of the story are complete. If I do enough proper world building the rest of the series tends to flow nicely out of the first book.  Because I’m more of a pantser, I will never publish a series until all the books are finished. There’s just too much back and forth editing between each book in the series to publish one before the others are done.

My blog posts are usually inspired by something I’m feeling fired up about, or something someone has asked me about. I try to keep them to a 1000 words or less and can usually crank one out each morning unless I’m working on one of my children’s stories. Those take a little longer. I read the blog posts out loud to check them and then give them another going over on the morning they go up. I like to be ahead on my blog in case real life invades my writing time.

I’m an early morning writer and do most of my work between 530 and 730 am while the sun rises.

1535525_10202921846195107_664240107_nNow, here are three other bloggers/writers that I enjoy who have agreed to talk about their own writing process:

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Heather Fitzgerald is a dear friend and soon to be published author. Her blog Tethered Together has been a great blessing and challenge to me. Heather writes YA fiction with a CS Lewis style and is currently going through Madeleine L’Engle  Walking on Water on her blog. I trust you will find it a refreshing  and thought provoking place to stop and read for a bit.

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Rob Akers is a fellow writer/blogger and also Iraqi War Veteran. His blog charts his time spent in the Middle East and other adventures along with some opinion posts and sports articles. Rob is a fellow contributor to the Magill Review and has recently sent me his novel with copious promises to appreciate all the red I’m pouring on it. I’ve loved and loyally read Rob’s blog for a couple years and always enjoy our extended comment conversations.

1383681_176272072576788_5656032_nRaelea Hiller is a young writer fresh on the college scene. She has always focused on her poetry, but recently she has started to dip her toes in the deep pool of novel writing. I’m excited to see where she goes! Raelea is also a fabulous artist and a wonderful fashionista. The poetry you will find on her blog is beautiful and sometimes haunting.

Quote of the Weekend

Simple Man

I ain’t nothin’ but a simple man
They call me a redneck I reckon that I am
But there’s things going on
That make me mad down to the core.

I have to work like a dog to make ends meet
There’s crooked politicians and crime in the street
And I’m madder’n hell and I ain’t gonna take it no more.

We tell our kids to just say no
Then some panty waist judge lets a drug dealer go
Slaps him on the wrist and then he turns him back out on the town.

Now if I had my way with people sellin’ dope
I’d take a big tall tree and a short piece of rope
I’d hang ’em up high and let ’em swing ’til the sun goes down

Well, you know what’s wrong with the world today
People done gone and put their Bible’s away
They’re living by the law of the jungle not the law of the land
The good book says it so I know it’s the truth
An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth
You better watch where you go and remember where you been
That’s the way I see it I’m a Simple Man.

Now I’m the kinda man that’d not harm a mouse
But if I catch somebody breakin in my house
I’ve got twelve guage shotgun waiting on the other side

So don’t go pushing me against my will
I don’t want to have to fight you but I dern sure will
So if you don’t want trouble then you’d better just pass me on by

As far as I’m concerned there ain’t no excuse
For the raping and the killing and the child abuse
And I’ve got a way to put an end to all that mess

Just take them rascals out in the swamp
Put ’em on their knees and tie ’em to a stump
Let the rattlers and the bugs and the alligators do the rest

You know what’s wrong with the world today
People done gone and put their Bible’s away
They’re living by the law of the jungle not the law of the land
The Good Book says it so I know it’s the truth
An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth
You better watch where you go and remember where you been
That’s the way I see it I’m a Simple Man

(Since my fairytale features quiet a few ‘rednecks’ I’ve found myself listening to more and more of this kind of music…also I’m getting old an that means you start listening to country music. 🙂 )

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Here there be Dragons (Part 2)

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

“Aunt Abby, Aunt Abby,” Jules ran up with a large water bottle. “Now you can finish the story!”

“Drink, drink,” said Ellie.

Constance, Joshua, Bruce, Jude, and Imogene gathered behind the two sisters encouraging Aunt Abby to hurry up with the drinking and get back to more important matters like saving the dragons.

“You know, I could really go for a snack,” Aunt Abby said.

“No,” whispered Constance. “We want to save the dragons.”

Aunt Abby laughed and gave her a big hug. “Okay, story now, snacks later.”

All the cousins cheered.

They settled in around Aunt Abby on Great-Auntie Janet’s quilt under the bright blue Texas sky filled with white puffy clouds.

“Once upon a time…”


Alchemist plummeted down down down. Some of the cousins screamed in delight and some in fear, but Alchemist didn’t let a single one of them fall off his back. Spinning in a tight cork-screw, he tucked in his wings and dropped through some large pine trees to the forest floor.

“Where are we? Jules asked.

“We’re in the forest,” Constance said waving her hand to indicate that the flat Texas yard had turned into a tree-filled forest.

Jules squinted. “Oh! I see it.”

“This is my forest,” Alchemist said. He spread his wings so the cousins could slide off his back down to the forest floor. Jules required a little cajoling, but Bruce and Joshua promised to catch her at the bottom, and she finally slid down too.

“Follow me,” Alchemist said.

The older cousins took the hands of the younger cousins and they all followed Alchemist through the tall swaying pines.

“It smells like Christmas,” Imogene said, smiling.

“We should sing a Christmas song,” Constance said.

“No,” said Bruce. “Don’t do that.”

“Yes,” said Joshua.

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,” Ellie started. Everyone, even Bruce, joined in. They sang loudly as they walked along through the Christmas smelling forest.

“I do hope you children are aware that it is June and Christmas is far away?” Alchemist said.

Before anyone could argue, Alchemist came to a stop. The forest had ended at the base of a large mountain topped with snow. A glimmering silver dragon passed back and forth, back and forth, at the mountains feet in front of a small hole.

“Oh Alchemist, you found them!” the dragon said with a smile.

“Of course I did, my dearest.”

“You’re a girl,” Ellie said.

“A girl dragon!” Jules hissed. “Is she a party girl?”

“Dragons aren’t party girls,” Joshua said, appalled at the idea.

“My dragon is,” Jules said.

“So is mine,” Constance said.

“Mine’s not,” said Ellie.

“Mine either,” said Bruce.

“Yours isn’t cause your dragon’s a boy,” Jules said wrapping her arms around her invisible dragon.

“Mine breaths FIRE!” Bruce said.

“Mine too,” said Jude, copying Jules and pretending to hug his dragon with little baby arms.

“Mine’s red,” said Imogene.

Everyone started yelling their favorite colors. It took Aunt Abby a few minutes to remind them of the story.

“Yes, I am a girl,” the silver dragon said nuzzling Ellie.

Ellie giggled.

“My name is Oceana. I’m Alchemist’s wife.”

“Why do you look sad,” Imogene said.

“Well,” Oceana turned her slim head to Imogene, “my egg is trapped in this mountain and I can’t get it out.”

“Oh, that is sad,” said Jules. She gave Oceana a hug around the neck.

“Why can’t you get your egg out?” Joshua said.

“It’s trapped inside. The hole is too little. Can you help us?”

“Yes!” everyone said at once.

“Come look,” Alchemist said. He led the cousins to a hole in the mountain. Seven rocks lined the hole each in different colors. “It’s guarded by a curse that we can’t break.”

“What’s a cures?” Jude asked holding Imogene’s hand as he studied the rocks around the hole.

“It’s something evil, and it’s keeping us from our egg.”

“Will it hurt?” asked Jules.

“I do not think it will. See, the hole can only be entered by seven children related by blood but not siblings.”

“Ellie’s my sister,” Jules said.

“Jude’s my brother,” said Bruce.

“Josh is my brother,” said Constance.

“Then you will have to enter by different pairs,” said Oceana. “Cousin pairs.”

The cousins studied one another. Jules took Constance’s hand. Imogene took Jude’s. Joshua and Bruce stood next to each other.

“What about Ellie?” Jules said. “She’s all alone.”

“Dear one,” Oceana said in her soft voice, “are you brave enough to walk through by yourself?”

Ellie grinned from ear to ear. “Jason’s my Daddy. Of course I’m brave enough!”

Settled into none sibling sets, and Ellie coming last, the cousins approached the hole in the mountain. Seven stones lined the hole, each one glowing a faint different color.

“What do we do now?” Bruce asked.

“Pink’s my favorite color,” Jules said touching the soft pink stone.

“Mine’s red!” Bruce said.

“Purple,” said Ellie.

“Green,” said Constance.

“Brown like a puppy,” said Joshua.

“Blue,” said Jude.

“Pumpkin,” said Imogene.

They each put their hand on one of the stones and the stones gleamed. The tiny hole opened enough to let the cousins from Texas walk through. Jules and Constance stepped through first. Jude and Imogene followed them. Bruce and Joshua came next with a glance back at Ellie. She turned and waved at the dragons before following her cousins into the mountain.


“Okay, break time,” Aunt Abby said.

The seven cousins gasped.

“You can’t stop there,” Joshua said.

“Do you need more water?” Constance asked.

“I’m brave,” said Ellie with a wide grin.

“I need a snack. Let’s go as Grammie for something to eat.”

“Then you’ll finish the story?” Bruce said.

“Promise,” said Aunt Abby.

To be continued…

(Part 1)

One of my favorite faces!

One of my favorite faces!

Jude, our littlest man!

Jude, our littlest man!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Constance and Joshua!

Constance and Joshua!

Books: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

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Midsummer-Mark; The Day of Changes, the seventeenth of Parthis in the Seventy-eighth Year of Aza Guilla, as the Therin Calendar would have it. On the Day of Changes, the city of Camorr went mad. – The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I follow a blog by a Library where they review books. I enjoy the reviews because they’re short, to the point, and generally true in my experience. This blog has only added to my reading list, so follow it at your own risk.

The other day, I read a review for Red Seas under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch. To be honest, and if you know me you won’t be surprised, it was the caution at the end of the article which caught my eye and made me want to read the book. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy high fantasy, and I enjoy clean fantasy if it’s done well. But, what I don’t like is insipid fantasy with no teeth.

Needing a new book to read on my phone while I work out, I looked up Scott Lynch. I found that Red Seas under Red Skies is book 2 of the series, so I downloaded a sample of The Lies of Locke Lamora, book 1. It hooked me instantly. Reading this book was akin to when I watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I literally grinned from ear to ear the entire movie and couldn’t stop grinning when I left the theater. It was fun. It was just plain fun.pirates-of-the-caribbean-johnny-depp-orlando-bloom

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a very well written fantasy. You know when you dabble in an art form for a while and it gives you an appreciation for the artists because you know how much work it is to do what they do? I felt that way the entire time I read Scott Lynch’s book. I have a good sense of what goes on behind the words on the page. Lynch has done the work. His world is well-developed, in-depth, gritty, and unique. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a fantasy book this much in a long, long time.

I find much of fantasy and urban fantasy annoying, degrading, and poorly written. Lynch’s book is none of those. He’s gritty, but not quite to the George R.R. Martin level. His rich world is familiar, but not just another medieval fantasy. He doesn’t insult my intelligence by having a sex scene on the first page as a hook. Nor does he treat women as eye candy and men as idiots. He uses a series of flashbacks to develop the characters and constantly ratchet up the tension level until the reader is strung out and begging for relief.

The story—without giving too much away—is about a young man, Locke, who is a thief in a dark and dangerous port city. Locke is far more than a pickpocket. He uses costumes, language, and fashion to steal from the one group of people he shouldn’t steal from by the laws of the Secret Peace. He has just enough moxy to get him in deep trouble, and just enough savvy to get him out. But, Locke is also a very loyal man guided by what he views as right: stealing is fine, but murder isn’t. As the plot thickens, this loyalty is used against him over and over, but he never waivers from it. Locke is no Robin Hood. He steals from the rich and keeps it for himself. But he is clever, kind, and has the snarkiest sense of humor even in the tightest of spots. This sense of humor is one of the most enjoyable parts of the book.

10327143_10200897433198493_1895951008_nThe Lies of Locke Lamora did put me in a very uncomfortable position. I both wanted to keep reading and I wanted to stop. I wanted to make sure everyone came through the twisted heist and double-crossing alive and well—they don’t—but I didn’t want to leave the world. I wanted to stay with Locke and his gang for as long as possible. If I read in little increments, I could stay longer. If I savored the moment of tension when lives where on the line, I wouldn’t have to return to a world without honorable thieves dressed in fake beards wielding stilettos and a sharp tongue. If I just read a little . . .

It didn’t happen. Lynch weaves a tale of high stakes and high tension with twists and turns reaching to grab the elusive Locke and his gang in a grasp of death. Putting the book down left Locke, Jean, Galdo, Calo, and Bug in dire circumstance. I just couldn’t do it. So, what did I do? How did I solve the horrible situation Lynch put me in? I instantly got book 2!

I do feel obligated to put in a word of caution. This book is pretty clean, all things considered, on the sex side, but it is filled with language and violence. If you have no stomach for such things, please just pass on it. But, if you think you might enjoy something that reads like a mix between Game of Thrones and Pirates of the Caribbean, that’s just a bit easier to read, and where a few people make it to the end, try the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

If you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought! If you click the picture of the book below, it will take you to Amazon where you can order the book, plus I get a little kick back for being the link you used. 🙂

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/055358894X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=055358894X&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=CERRQ3GNG34SLF76

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Jean, Locke, Bug, Calo and Galdo…or Galdo and Calo.

 

Father’s Day

Me and my Dad...playing with fire. :-)

Me and my Dad…playing with fire. 🙂

Last month, when Mother’s Day rolled around, I wrote a blog post about how difficult Mother’s Day can be for women who want to have children but don’t or can’t. Today’s article won’t be a repeat. I’m not a man. I can’t speak for men or even my own husband about the difficulties faced by fatherless men. Maybe someday my husband will write his own article about it. Instead, I’m going to tell you about two of my favorite men: My Dads. I’ve been blessed with not just one Dad who loves me very much, but two—Larry Vincent and Vidal Jones II.

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It’s cool when you love your Dads and they enjoy each other!

Larry Vincent was my hero. Yes, I was his first daughter, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. But, as a little girl, I thought my Dad was the coolest thing ever. He liked to wear biker boots, watch movies, loved cars, and was a pastor. How could he not be the coolest thing ever? 🙂 Some of my favorite memories where following him around as he worked on home improvement projects, discussing Phantom of the Opera, family camping trips, long discussions about politics and history often right in the middle of a movie, but sometimes around the breakfast table, the reading of the Hobbit while smoking a pipe, action flicks late on Friday nights after the younger siblings and Mom went to bed, learning to drive, hearing stories about his college days at Bob Jones University, getting to meet lots of interesting people, missionaries, and other pastors, watching Shakespeare and other culturally important plays and movies, and now hours spent on the front porch of their Texas home around the fire circle sharing our lives.

We still share movies!

We still share movies!

My Dad took it upon himself to do our ‘cultural’ education during my home school years. It is because of him that I have seen Cool Hand Luke, that I watched the Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, and Henry the V, instead of read them, and Dad sparked my interest in criminology, guns, and serial killers. Dad also handled our political and philosophical studies challenging us look for the worldviews of what we listened to, watched, and read. I appreciated Dad’s willingness to stop sheltering us as we grew older and allowing us to explore our world while we still lived safely at home. I appreciate his constant lessons on hard work and his love for Mom. Dad always said he loved us, but he loved my Mom more. This wouldn’t be so popular in our child-centric society, but as a kid, I didn’t struggle with a fear of my parents getting a divorce. Dad also never tolerated us being mean to each other. I think this is why my siblings and I have such a strong bond with one another. We were never allowed to be hateful and were always encouraged to look out for each other.

More than all of this, I’m thankful that my Dad never stopped giving us the gospel. He never sugar-coated our bad behavior as anything other than sin in need of a savior. He led daily family worship, insisted on a honoring of the Sabbath, and Church attendance without every communicating these things would save us. I’m thankful for his diligent efforts to raise, feed, and prepare me for this thing called life. I’m thankful he never stopped doing these things even when I didn’t appreciate them so much, and I’m thankful that he loves me.

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Vidal and my two nieces!

My second Dad, Vidal Jones II, welcomed me into his home when I was 18 with open arms and a bit of distrust. I had, after all, come to steal his son away. 🙂 I was successful, but I think I can confidently say that Vidal did not lose a son, but gained a daughter.

Vidal and I hit it off very quickly when he realized I could dish it out with him as soon as he served it up. Ribbing is part of being a Jones and a Vincent.

Vidal was that father that got to spoil me. (Feeding five kids is expensive, so my Dad never got to spoil any of us like he wanted.) He took me shopping for my birthday, bought me stuffed animals, included me in Christmas gifting, and made me feel like the princess of the family. When Price and I got married, my relationship with Vidal continued to grow. We both enjoy talking politics, history, and military history. Vidal is my Vietnam Vet. My very own. I appreciate his service to our country more than I can every put into words.

I think Vidal and I connected quickly as father-in-law and daughter-in-law because we both grew up in families of five. My father was a pastor and his father was a music minister. We both have some pretty silly stories of our childhood, but his stories have me beat flat-out. I could spend hours, and have spent hours, listening to Vidal talk about some of the crazy things he did growing up. We even spent one night around the dinner table comparing scars and the stories behind them. That’s pretty normal, right? How did you bond with your spouse’s parents? 😉

Vidal is always very serious...

Vidal is always very serious…

Now I live next door to Vidal and my extra mom, Wanda. They still spoil me on a regular basis though the spoiling is shared with my nieces, their grandkids. I’m okay with that. 🙂 After being a Jones for almost 12 years now, Vidal and I still talk about politics, still share stories about our childhoods, and still talk about our books. I appreciate Vidal because he is always supportive about every choice my husband and I make while asking good questions and sharing his vast years of experience. I love Vidal because he made it easy for me to become part of my new family when I married my husband. I love Vidal because he took a young woman after his son under his wings and turned her into his daughter.

We all have a father, but the Lord doesn’t bless everyone with a dad. He doesn’t bless everyone with a good relationship with their dad, and he doesn’t give everyone in-laws who make them part of the family. I’m so thankful God did all three of those things for me. I love my Dad so much that it’s hard to put it into words, even as a writer. I love my extra-Dad just about as much.

Happy Father’s Day!