Saturday, February 27, 2010

Notebook Nugget--"Imagination"

I wasn't sure if I wanted to just throw out a nugget from my encouragement notebook every now and then, tacked on at the bottom of a post...or if I should make them separate posts, highlighting where each came from and its application to writing. Maybe group them together according to theme, like perseverance, fighting discouragement, or humorous quotes? So many ways.

In the end, I decided it doesn't really matter. I'll just post them as the mood strikes me :).

So, today's is in honor of the vacation I just came home from--camping at Disney's Ft. Wilderness. We spent a day at EPCOT, where there is this ride called "Journey Into Imagination." It starts as a tour of a laboratory in which a scientist does experiments on senses. But his "assistant"--a little purple dragon named Figment--hijacks the ride and redirects the tour into "imagination." He encourages you to go beyond what you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste, and create your own experience of the world, using your (say it with me) imagination.

Here's the notebook nugget, which came in the form of a fortune cookie:

"It is up to you to create your own adventures today!"

As a writer, I have to be reminded of that sometimes.

Imagination takes effort.

This particular nugget came on a day when I was feeling rather uninspired...disappointed no stories ideas had dropped from the sky into my head for a while. Sometimes that does happen to me--a story idea strikes out of nowhere, or as was the case for one story I wrote, two old guys started arguing in my head. But, other times the story has to be dredged up from the depths, or I have to take hold and really work at its creation.

This doesn't mean I think you have to force yourself to write when it just ain't happenin'. Prompts, journaling, and daily word count goals work for some writers, but not for others. But there are days when you have to get the adventure going in your mind. You might not get a single word on the page, but put your focus on your story and see where your imagination takes you.

Quick writer tip: Make sure you don't neglect those aforementioned senses in your writing. When you're imagining your story world, think about the noises things make, and the smells, both pleasant and unpleasant, that may waft toward the character. Let your characters touch their surroundings--are things hot or cold? Wet? Sticky? Smooth? Itchy? And, um, feed them now and then :).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blood Ties

I pulled out the notebook I use to track short story submissions--I've been sending out a lot lately!--and happened to flip to a page where I'd pasted in a blurb written by a fellow writer. I had posted on a writers forum for Christians who write "out of the box" fiction, because I wanted opinions on how other authors deal with negative comments/reactions. It was right after I'd gotten "Willing Blood" accepted for publication, and I was a little nervous about the reactions I might receive from Christians because the main character is vampire-like. It spawned a discussion on the forum about the place of vampires in Christian writing.

Author David Brollier responded with these words:

"The premise behind vampires is basic. They are undead. They drink blood. They fear the light. Using these three basics you can tell a very eye-opening Christian tale...we were born under the curse of sin, and as such become the "living dead." We feasted, maybe not on blood specifically, but on evil. And we at one time feared the light knowing, as any vampire does, that should the light of the sun touch us we would die. This happens to each child who accepts Jesus, for they are touched by the rays of God's Son, and that Light does in fact kill them, but at the same time empowers them by creating in them a new person, one that is truly alive, not a walking dead person. The Gospel is told by the story of vampires in possibly the most odd, yet interesting of ways."

I just wanted to share this with you because I felt he summed up EXACTLY how I feel about the topic, as well as the very message I was trying to convey with my story!

You see, "Willing Blood" is the first short story I ever wrote. And I had not stepped too far into the writing world at that time. I felt like a complete newbie, and needed encouragement from within the circle. I think we all hear "good job" from those close to us. Sometimes, however, those same personal cheerleaders shake their heads because they just do not understand why we write, or why we write a particular genre, or for-heaven's-sake why we write for hours and hours and not get paid for it. So it is important for us to hear "good job" from someone who "gets" us. Or even if we don't hear the "good job," knowing that someone "gets" us is enough!

I've discovered that these types of interactions are the most meaningful and encouraging things in my walk as a writer. I've started another notebook (besides the ones I track submissions in) that holds snippets of emails and articles I've cut out, devotionals that really hit home, sayings by and about writers, and even Chinese fortunes. What all those things have in common is that they in some way or another contributed to me pressing on with this endeavor to write for publication.

So, David, thank you for "getting" me. I know that at the time you had no idea your words meant so much.

And for everyone else, I think I'm going to start posting more of the words of encouragement I've collected, so keep checkin' back.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A little more...

Yesterday I got my second acceptance letter for the week!

I mentioned in my last post that "Jordan's River" will be in the March issue of Digital Dragon. (I got that letter on Monday--a much needed pick-me-up!)

Well, now, you have something to look forward to in April, too! ResAliens is publishing my story "Dude" in their April issue. This piece is probably best described as...quirky. And it lets my scientist side show :).

Anyway, just had to throw that out there!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More about me...

Time for another post of miscellaneous items.

First, I'm so happy to announce the acceptance of TWO more short stories:

"The Guitar" will be published in a print anthology called While the Morning Stars Sing, which will come out in May. This is an anthology created by the publishers of ResAliens magazine.

"Jordan's River" will appear online in the March issue of Digital Dragon magazine.

Second, I posted a while back that I would be chronicling my experiences with marketing, and so far I've hit two walls:

One is that the Grandmothers' Necklace anthology, in which I have one story, is only available to me at full price. I'm OK with this, since the proceeds go to charity, but I'd hoped to be able to buy several copies. And it's not available in the U.S. so I'd have to order it from Canada for $20 plus $6 shipping. I haven't even ordered a copy for myself yet :P.

The other marketing wall is the not-so-discount discount price from the publisher on my other anthology, The Ultimate Christian Living. Not quite so unreachable as the first, but still, once tax and shipping is figured in, the price I pay for each book isn't much different than the price on Amazon. So, no real motivation there to buy copies and resell them.

It's not so much the disappointment in me not being able to make a profit off of them. It's more that I can't afford to buy multiple copies at those prices on the off chance someone would like to get one directly from me.

But, if you are interested in buying a copy of either for yourself, here are the links:

Grandmothers' Necklace

The Ultimate Christian Living

Oh, and, you can still get my limerick in Vampyr Verse :).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Need a Muse?

Be careful what you wish for...

Stan Marino needs a muse. He's written himself into a corner...again. A shot of inspiration is all he needs to finish his story ...where is he going to find it? What Stan doesn't know: Inspiration has found him. And it's about to take over his life. Ripped from reality, he must lead a band of lost souls in a life-or-death battle with a merciless enemy. Stan has found his muse, but will he survive it?

I did this a little differently--the above is the actual back cover blurb. I normally don't use that as an intro to a review because, to be honest, I rarely read back cover blurbs. I've found all too often that the book turns out to be nothing like the back cover description. NOT THE CASE HERE!

I also found myself wanting to copy the endorsements for this novel, because I actually agree with them. Descriptions like, "A light-hearted, family-friendly page-turner..." (T.W. Ambrose, editor of Digital Dragon magazine), and "Unique and imaginative, a humorous yet mysterious twist..." (Jill Williamson, author of By Darkness Hid).

I found The Muse by Fred Warren funny and heart-warming, with great characterization. I truly enjoyed reading it. I picked it up on a day that I was feeling pretty dumpy, and by the time I had finished it (and I stayed up late to finish it!) I was smiling :).

The Muse can be found on Amazon and you can check out the trailer at Splashdown Books.

One of my favorite things about the book--Fred Warren's gift for choosing names. Names of places, names of pets...but I'm not going to tell you what they are! If you want to know, you'll have to buy the book ;).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Learn to Build a Bridge

For the past year, I've had the privilege of knowing an amazing woman and author named Sheryl Young. I met her at my local Word Weavers group, and I was immediately interested in her writing because she focuses a lot on the relationship between Christians and Jewish people. I bought her book, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People, out of sheer curiosity, and was thoroughly impressed.

First, I'm going to let Sheryl share with you about her book:

Why is it imperative for every Christian to gain a fresh, love-filled perspective toward the Jewish people today? What makes a person consider him or herself Jewish? And the question usually on every Christian's mind: Do Jewish people really need to be “converted”? In What Every Christian Should Know About the Jewish People are answers to these questions and many more! Come discover the key to building bridges between the only two faiths who believe in the one true God.

Even if you don’t know any Jewish people, maybe you've wondered why it's so hard for them to accept the Gospel. Or you want to know how our two religions can work together in these times of renewed anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity. Who better to explain this than a Jewish person who has found Jesus as her Lord and Savior?

When my husband gave his life to Jesus, I thought, "How can I, a girl from a Jewish family, be married to a Christian?" I set out to prove the Gospel wrong. But the moment I really studied the Old Testament and dared to compare it with the New, everything changed. I fell in love with “Yeshua,” saw my Jewish heritage with new appreciative eyes, and realized the two could fit perfectly together.

I have been a “Jewish believer in Jesus” since 1987. I wrote this book for Christians to answer the many questions Christians have asked her over the years about Judaism, the Jewish peoples’ culture, faith, and why Jewish people are hesitant to accept the Gospel message of Christ as their true Messiah.

Sheryl's book lives up to her claims, every one. She answers your questions about the Jewish faith, and the compatibility between it and belief in Jesus. The book is packed with information, and written in a fun and friendly style. What Every Christian Should Know About the Jewish People is a relevant and important book in these times of religious divisiveness. You can purchase it through Lifeway and Amazon.

Sheryl has been an inspiration to me--as a person and as a writer. Please visit her on her blog--you'll be glad you did :).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Today's Blog, Draft Two:

I originally wrote this post with a completely different focus in mind. But it wasn't sitting right with me, so I scrapped it and started over. I wanted to address remarks I seem to be finding all over the place in the blogs and such I follow, including agent responses to writers' questions about what does and does not matter in their writing. I found myself composing a very cheerful and "PC" piece about every writer having a different path to follow, blah, blah, blah.

The problem is, where I went ended up very far from what got me going.

This morning, I found a post by Rachelle Gardner that highlighted "craft, story, and voice." She said they all matter, but her deciding factor is often voice. I just shook my head. Voice is something you can't hone, like craft and story. It's an innate part of your writing style. I do, honestly, understand why that is important. And, I'm sure if Rachelle read this post she would insist she'd never choose a poorly-written manuscript over a brilliant one based solely on voice (and I would believe her!). Still, it brings up the idea that it is the things that can't be controlled which often determine a writer's success.

And today a fellow writer posted on Facebook, "The publishing world #1 tip: It's all about relationships." I'm pretty sure she meant that you have to maintain relationships with your agent, your editor, and your readers, so be diplomatic and professional. But somehow it spawned a bit of a discussion in the comments about writers who blame the "it's who you know" thing when they get rejected.

So let's go there. We ALL can name at least one author we think got lucky and landed a publishing deal with no real talent. I've never hidden my disdain for the Twilight series. It was never jealousy that spawned that feeling, though, I assure you. I love seeing talented authors find success, and I opened Twilight with enthusiasm! I slammed it shut, though, with complete frustration. I had been bored to tears for 150 pages, and yet hear over and over again that an author must "grab" her reader within the first page! The first paragraph! The first line! So, why was that not true for Ms. Meyer?

Yes, gobs of authors get published every day based on real talent. But, other truly talented authors get rejected every day. To those of us on the outside looking in, there seems to be no rhyme or reason. And because we don't want to burn bridges, we keep our criticism to ourselves, and politely ask, "What's the secret?" But admit it--we all have moments when we want to scream, "Are you KIDDING me? The editor that turned down my manuscript actually just published THIS?"

So, yeah, yeah...we each have our path to follow. But let's be real. Some do get lucky and send their awesome (or not so awesome) writing to just the right agent on the first shot, some work their tails off and sludge through a multitude of rejections, and some schmooze their way into publication. And as snarky as I'd love to be right here, I'm going to truthfully say: I, you, we, have to just deal with it. And above all, DO NOT give up.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Do you know the secret handshake?

It's been about a week since I posted. I never go that long. But lately, I've just been busy, busy. Since we're officially NOT moving to North Carolina (long story), I've had to unpack boxes and do some serious cleaning around here. On top of that, I've been trying to write, school my kids, and shop for all the stuff I was going to wait and shop for when we got into our "new house."

And, amidst the chaos, I had to prepare a speech for a writers group meeting. I think I mentioned that in a prior post, but what I didn't mention is that a local paper did a write-up on me before the meeting.

Of course, some of the people I know (and had never told about the article) found it--one of them being a member of my homeschool group, who posted it on our forum. It's nice, if a bit overwhelming, to know that people are that proud of me :). (OK, my mom is probably reading this and smiling knowingly right now...)

The really interesting thing about this situation is that now people are beginning to come out of the woodwork.

"I heard you write. I'm a writer, too."
"My sister is a writer."
"My friend, so-n-so, is working on a book."
"My daughter really wants to be a writer."

Often these words are spoken in whispered tones. Like spies exchanging a secret code word. Or members of an underground club sharing a secret handshake.

I fully understand. It took me months to tell anyone other than my husband and best friend that I had started writing. And at first, it was easier telling strangers. Once the word gets out, there seems to be no way to take it back. It's like being stamped on the forehead. So, we tend to hold back until we feel like a "real writer." Then we can wear the label proudly. And when someone speaks to us in those whispered tones, we can say without hesitation, "Yes, I know the secret handshake. I am a writer."

And, if you're just dying of curiosity, you can read the article about me here.