Tuesday, June 17, 2014

God is Not My Audience

Phenomenal cosmic power...
itty bitty audience?
Being involved in Christian writers circles, I've heard over and over, "Write for an audience of One." It can come in variations, but that's the gist. Write what you believe God wants you to write and don't worry if no one else ever sees it. You're doing it for Him, not them.

I could never understand what bothered me so much about the saying. Maybe it was because it seems as though you are writing for God's entertainment. Like, some cosmic bedtime story just for Him--as if He's bored with taking care of the universe and trying to bring His children home, and needs you making up imaginary people that go around having conversions for His escapism. (Does God need to be presented with the Gospel?) Or it's simply obedience--Write what He says to write, and don't worry about it ever getting published or seeing the eyes of other readers. It's just an exercise in you Doing What You're Told. Cosmic busywork.

Yeah, I know, those comments probably ruffle some feathers. It can be argued that writing a story "for" God is like singing to him in worship (of course you may want to read my post here about that before continuing). And obedience is something the Bible commands. We don't always know why we're told to do something. Dip in the river seven times? Walk around the walls blowing horns? Ludicrous. But God sees the big picture. And working on your manuscript may be something in and of itself--a way for God to refine you, to make you think, to give you patience, etc. The end result is not necessarily what you think it will be.

But none of those things makes God my audience. I'm not a performer putting on a show for Him--I'm a person forging a relationship with Him. I'm not trying to wow him with my cleverness, or get Him to gasp over the twist ending I came up with. What I am trying to do is open my heart and soul to Him, to express my awe, to ponder his Creation, to connect with Him.

But the question is--does that mean the end result is just between me and Him? Is the ultimate goal a private conversation, or one others are supposed to overhear, and maybe learn from, maybe discover a new connection with God of their own? And how much am I supposed to consider those readers when I'm writing?

How's this for timing--I started this blog post yesterday. Today, right before I dived back in, I read today's post on Speculative Faith: "Biblical Discernment: The Glory Rule." Basically, if you are supposed to glorify God in everything you do, how does that translate to what you write (and read)?

I think in many ways, this is the same issue I've addressed. What does it mean to glorify God in your writing, and how much of that is directed at an "audience"? My belief on this is that it's different for every person. That we each meet God in a different way, unique to our personalities and experiences--but the key is, again, we are meeting Him, not performing for Him. He is not my audience. He is the one with whom I'm connecting in order to write a story that is going to reach an audience.

When I write, though, am I thinking of them? Yes. But I'm not writing just to please them. I'm writing what comes out of my connection with God. I'm writing the result of opening up my heart and soul to Him, not what comes out of seeing God as an audience of One, and the rest of the world as incidental.

I do, in fact, believe God uses my writing for me--which is what inspired this post. My Sunday school teacher was talking about how preparing lessons for the class benefits him by making him get into the Bible more deeply. My writing does the same for me--it makes me step closer to God, makes me read the Bible more so I can find that connection I so need in order to write.

But I'm not writing specifically directed at me, or at God. I'm writing knowing that someday an outside audience is going to read my words, and see my story, and hopefully find that connection I've forged with God through the process. And I believe that God wants that. My readers are my audience, and the show I put on for them is a story based in a very real connection between me and God. God is a very real part of the story--He is not my audience.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Realm Makers 2014 - Riding the Conference High

I probably should be using the time I have this morning to work on an actual writing project. But I figure I better get this post out while I'm still on "conference high." Yes, I think that is a real thing, and yes, I think it is a good thing, too. If you can take that high and transfer it into motivation before letting yourself crash.

So, let me start where I left off last time. I said I was going to wear my Captain America shirt the first day, and I was true to my word:

The Avengers got nothin' on us, baby!
There is nothing like being greeted by amazing friends, both new and old.

Especially at a venue that looks like this:

We started off with a critique party on Thursday night. Then moved into an amazing opening Keynote speech by Tosca Lee. (Whom I took about five picture with, but none of them came out. I. Could. Just. Cry.)

There were sessions on topics like magic, horror, world-building, the psychology of war, villains, and Steampunk....

Oh, and some stuff about writing, too ;).

But speaking of Steampunk...the costume party was nearly taken over with this genre!

Not that there weren't plenty of other genres represented:


Science fiction!

OK, I know, I know...hardly a word in this post. But you know what they say about pictures...

Which, btw, if you're interested in seeing some more, you can check out my Realm Makers 2014 photo album on Facebook.

And if you are at all interested in joining us next year, follow Realm Makers on Facebook, and/or the Faith & Fantasy Alliance blog. There will, absolutely, positively be another Realm Makers conference next year! Now...time to figure out my costume...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Packing for Realm Makers (Or, The Geeky Stuff I Take to Cons)

Because I tend to be one of those people who panics over packing for trips--you know, the list-making, list-checking, worrying-she'll-forget-something, packing-and-re-packing kind of person--I decided I needed to try and make my packing for Realm Makers a little bit funner.

Yes, funner is a word. Here is the picture I took of the entry in my 1997 Webster's American Dictionary, College Edition:


Some of the geeky things going with me to Realm Makers include, but are not limited to:

The wand I'll be carrying as part of my costume. If you aren't following me on Facebook, I'm dressing as Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter. Yes, I realize this doesn't actually look like her wand, but I don't care. I made this one myself and I like it :P.

This is a writers conference, so of course I'll need something for scribbling things down. This is my dressed up with snakeskin duct tape notebook. Tucked in the spiral is one of the many pens my husband has brought home for me from his enginerd engineering conventions. Enginerds Engineers always have the best pens at their cons.

This is the Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock tote bag I won at the Necronomicon a few years ago. It is now my official con bag. The perfect size, with the perfect length handles and a little zippy-pocket inside. On it are three pins: NAF (New Authors Fellowship, a group blog for which I'm an alumni), Splickety Magazine, and and International Fleet pin from Ender's Game. (Sorry, that last one is hidden by the NAF button, but trust me, it's there.)

In the above bag you'll find these babies. My phone, with a JRR Tolkien sticker on the back (which came with the Smaug sticker I ordered for my truck). And a container of Cthulhu mints. Well, the container anyway--the mints I trashed and replaced with my favorite all-natural gum.

Lastly, something that I'm not technically packing. For ya'll who'll be attending Realm Makers, keep an eye out for me tomorrow. You'll find me in this shirt!

OK, I think I may actually be ready! Wish me luck! (And luck to the husband, who'll be stuck at home with the Beasties all weekend without me...mwahahahahaha....)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An Essay on Kalek from Toch Island Chronicles and Why. He. Rocks.

I've tried to draw Kalek, to no avail.
This is the closest image I've ever found, too.
His hair is really curly, though,
so even this is not right, but gives ya an idea.
(And of course Kalek has pointy ears.)
I've never posted something like this before. When I start ruminating about my characters and where they come from and what drives them, I tend to transform it all into a short story. (Or as is the case for one character in particular, a long story that may actually end up a prequel to Toch Island some day....)

But in this case, I've already written a short story about Kalek, my Elven rocker who first makes his appearance in Finding Angel. If you haven't read the book (or maybe just need a refresher), you can go to Grace Bridges' blog and read the excerpt from the very first scene I wrote about Kalek. Grace basically told me that this scene is what sold her on my manuscript :).

First, let me backtrack and tell you what spawned this post, although it's actually kinda hard to put my finger on something particular. More like little things said here and there, in sermons at church, in an email from an author whose work I judged in a contest last year, arguments online (and closer to home) about what music ministry in church ought to be, and in some other places that I can't fully remember right now but feel like bits of dreams. ...

All of it points toward one question: What is worship?

My novels are not overtly Christian, but Kalek is probably the biggest representation of faith in the series. He's a rocker--long hair and tattoos, rebellious and passionate, the kind of guy who experiences the highest highs and the lowest lows and has to vent all of it through his music. But Kalek's Talent takes that to another level. He's able to tap into nature and do what I call "sing the songs of the stars."

Kalek's Talent was inspired by this Bible verse:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech ;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalm 19: 1-4, NIV)
I'm also gonna come clean about something here that no one--I mean no one--has ever seemed to notice about the passage where Kalek uses his Talent in Finding Angel....I stole it all from the book of Job. Seriously, start at Job 38:39 and just read, you'll see.

The way those things are connected is the heart of my post here. Music is often seen as the definition of worship. We call the music leaders at church "worship leaders" and we call that part of the service the "worship" part and it seems only in private circles do those of us come out and say that they worship in ways other than singing. It is my personal belief that people can worship through any creative outlet--be it writing or drawing or sculpting or landscaping or architecture....anything that allows you to express yourself to God. I also think more ordinary acts can be just as worshipful, such as running or caring for pets, or, again, anything that allows you to express yourself to God.

For me, worship can be writing and drawing, but the truth is, the real connection, the place where I find the most awe for God is science. Looking out into space at the stars, yes, but even more so looking in at the creation here on earth. Animals and their intricate and perfectly balanced biological systems. The way a bird makes its nest, or a spider weaves its web. The incredible variety of beetles in mind-boggling designs and made with metallic exoskeletons. The egg of an insect.

The above photo is of an insect egg from a gallery
produced by 
National Geographic Magazine
that accompanies an essay written by 
Rob Dunn,
an assistant professor of biology at NC State.
When I look at things like that in the world, I can't help but find my faith bolstered. I can't help but feel my doubts drop away. I can't help but want to express my love and awe for the One who designed all this.

So, Kalek is my representation of that. I mean, yes, you see it elsewhere in the book of course, with all the science stuff going on. But Kalek is the place where science and passion intersect, the place where it gets expressed as worship.

Maybe that's why he's my favorite character in the whole series.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One Week Until Realm Makers!

In exactly one week I'll be heading up to Villanova University in Philadelphia for the Realm Makers writers conference. My experience last year was phenomenal, and it looks like this year will be even better. I know I've posted snippets here before about Realm Makers, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

I'm excited about the conference because:

  • Tosca Lee is the Keynote Speaker. If you haven't read her fiction, you're missing out! (I really am hoping I don't make a fan-girl fool of myself when I meet her...)

  • The writing sessions look to be very interesting again this year, and there are even more of them this time! The official schedule hasn't been posted, but since I'm faculty I've gotten wind of some cool topics, including...

  • The sessions I'm teaching! I'll be teaching about writing for the YA market as a session on my own. I'm teaming up with Andrew Winch from Splickety Magazine to teach a session on science in fantasy writing. And I'll be participating on a panel about magic in fiction with several other authors. 

  • There will be a costume dinner again this year. Last year I dressed as River Song from Doctor Who. This year, I decided to go British again, but fantasy instead of sci-fi. If all goes as planned I'll look something like this:

Yep, Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter. I've even got the crystal ball :). I will, of course, post pictures when I get back, and ya'll can tell me if I pulled it off!

I can't believe this is all one week away!!!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Can You Hear Me Now? Realm Makers Blog Radio Interview on Red River Radio

I have done my very first ever blog radio interview! Yep, on Red River Radio, along with a few other Realm Makers guests, including the keynote speaker and amazing author Tosca Lee, and author and former owner of Marcher Lord Press Jeff Gerke. (Me, interviewed right after them! I was so nervous!)

Check out the archive HERE. You really ought to listen to the whole thing, but if you're short on time and just want to check out my part, it starts right around 45:37.


And for more info on Realm Makers, which is coming in JUST THREE WEEKS, visit the official Realm Makers website.

PS--I mention a blog post during the interview. It was a guest post on Mike Duran's blog, and if you'd like to read it click HERE.

And, to finish with a "kick"....Finding Angel was part of a photo shoot done by Jeanie Hunt of Shutterbug Photography in Newport, TN. I thought this was really fun:

No, that's not my boot :P. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Because it's been waaaaaayyyyyy too long since I've blogged, and I seriously just have not had much to say. My life has been busy-busy with homeschooling and holidays and birthdays. So, I'm sharing this short review about a book I loved, and am now reading the sequel:

(My review as posted on Goodreads.)

This is MG fiction. Fun, well-written, fast-pasted without skimping on story and character development. The writing voice really captured me as well. Told with a fairy tale flavor, it had me smiling in so many places. There are dark bits, of course, as any good fairy tale has, but they're not told in gruesome detail.

The story world has a lot of familiar tropes--witches, wizards, werewolves, etc.--but all handled in unique ways. The magic system is really cool, as are Jinx's particular abilities. I totally connected to Jinx and LOVED Simon the wizard--and the way the author shows the good and bad in all the characters impressed me.

Love the cover art, too!

Goodreads link HERE

As I mentioned, I'm reading the sequel, Jinx's Magic.

If your looking for good middle grade fantasy, seriously, get this series.