Big News – There’s a New Addition to Our Family.

Ookkaayy, so as you might recall from my last post, I hinted that there was going to be a big announcement on Monday. Alas, Monday is here! And just like an evil author, I’m going to make you wait for it. (Even though I did kinda spoil it in the title of this post.)

. . . .

 

Keep going.

 

. . . .

 

Keep going!

 

. . . .

 

. . . .

 

. . . .

 

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
Me and Phoenix. This was taken two weeks ago when we first met her. But we didn’t bring her home till this weekend. You can see how much she’s changed in two weeks.

*throws confetti for Monday and puppies*

So, unless there’s something wrong and you weren’t able to see that picture up there, you’ve just been introduced to the newest member of our family – an eight-week-old Goldendoodle puppy named . . . ready? . . . Phoenix.

No, I did not name her after the city of Phoenix, I named her for the ancient myth that says there’s a bird that rises from the ashes of a fire. I thought it fitting, based on the circumstances through which we brought this little girl home.

There have been a lot of changes on the family farm. Actually, we were forced to sell our entire herd of goats because of my allergies to the barn, which have just kept getting worse. So, it’s been a fairly difficult spring for all of us. To my whole family, Phoenix is a little beacon of hope – like a message from God saying, “I’ve got this. Wait on Me. Trust.”

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
“Yes, of course, I know I’m beautiful.”
GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
“Play with me!”

If you were not aware, Goldendoodles are a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle. It is said that they inherit the Golden’s eager-to-please personality and the Poodle’s intelligence. Because they are a gentle, keenly intuitive dog, they also make excellent service animals. We’re hoping to raise these dogs, on a small scale. I’d like to train some as service and therapy dogs.

This is a new direction for us, although we did raise Great Pyrenees puppies for a few years after we first moved to the farm. But all that aside, it starts with one little adorable puppy named Phoenix.

She’s extremely well-adjusted and adaptable. She wants our older dog, Izzy, to play with her, and, well, that’s not going so well. ūüôā The cats are having the most difficult time with it. They had a very secure balance between the three of them and Izzy, who is extremely patient and gentle with the cats – because they leave her alone and she can approach them on her terms.

Because we did raise Great Pyrenees, we had a point of reference to observe Phoenix. Interestingly, she far more dependent than the Pyrenees puppies were, and, frankly, she’s smarter. ūüôā

Right now, little Phoenix is sleeping soundly in my room. That’s her spot. Her safe haven. It’s funny to think she’ll have puppies of her own one day. Right now she’s so young, so much a puppy. But thank goodness her potty training is progressing rapidly. ūüôā

So, there will be more updates to follow, sprinkled among our regular posts. Anybody want to see more of Phoenix? Check out our farm’s Facebook page. There’s a very popular puppy slideshow on there right now.

Do you have a dog or puppy of your own? Is Phoenix just irresistibly cute? Want to see more of her? (I’m telling you, she was the cutest of the litter.) Let’s chat in the comments!

Advertisements

You Know You’re a Writer When . . .

We’ve¬†all¬†seen those little notes that begin with “You know you’re a writer when . . .” and the blank is filled, usually with something humorous that you can totally relate to. But what if we just simplified it and said,

You know you’re a writer . . . when something inspires you to write.

What inspires you? A sight or a smell? A sound, like laughter? An image or a quote?

The fact is, if you’re a writer, you were probably inspired to write long before you put pen to paper. Writing doesn’t begin with the pen and paper. It begins with a¬†feeling.¬†A sensation you can’t identify that sparks imagination, creativity, excitement. Even ambivalence.

Think about it.

Were you the ten-year-old riding your bike or sitting on the lawn while telling yourself stories? Were you hiding in your room with a good book while your friends were playing? Did you hoard all the notebooks you could find and say that even all those couldn’t fit the stories in your head . . . even if they remained blank? Did you write a story simply because you had to? There was no choice in the matter – there was just this burning imagination that had to be expressed?

That’s where inspiration started for me. An idea – five kids stranded on an island at high tide. An imagination – two siblings transported back through time to help defeat a giant (the humble beginnings of One Light Shining¬†six years ago). Eventually, creativity and originality – the crash of the nation’s power grid drives a family from their home (Ashes Remain,¬†currently a first draft).

You know you’re a writer when there’s a bit of inspiration that¬†must¬†be set loose to conquer that giant, slay that dragon, wield that sword . . . or, simply, tame that imagination, harness its power, until the hunger in you is satisfied.

You know you’re a writer when it’s not about the money, not about the fame, not about the praise – it’s just about feeling alive, and it’s between you and God.

I would ride my bike for hours, rain or shine, greedily whispering stories I would never write, as I peddled faster and faster under the excitement of what was unfolding. One day, even this wasn’t enough. So, I just started . . . writing. Yeah, it was pretty lousy. I would never show my first work to a single soul, and I cringe to think I had my mom and dad read it. ūüėȬ† But that’s okay. If I hadn’t started that way, I never would have started at all.

Is writing easy?

No. It’s difficult, often. Torturous, frequently.

Why do we do it?

Because we must. To quit would leave us empty. There’s something in every writer that is only satisfied by the expression of words, a thirst only quenched by the victory that is achieved by the wielding of their power. We can’t substitute it. I’ve tried.

You know you’re a writer when the imagination and inspiration is too strong to ignore.

You know you’re a writer when you can see the story in your head, not the words on the page.

You know you’re a writer . . .

Now, before I forget, let me advise you in advance that on Monday, I have a very exciting, slightly off-subject announcement to bring forward. It’s a post that will be a lot of fun. ūüôā You ready? Monday. Don’t forget.

What do you think? When did you first start crafting stories? How far have you come? And what inspires you?¬†Let’s chat in the comments!

 

Does Your MC Have a Soul? – and some character-crafting advice

If you have spent any time at all researching the art of writing, or, for that matter, if you’ve spent time actually writing, you’re probably aware of what might, arguably, be the single most important factor in the crafting of your story. Simply, it’s called¬†character development¬†or¬†character arcs,¬†but we’re delving a little deeper than that.

Does your MC have a soul?¬†It might sound like a funny question, but it essentially refers to the bend-ability of your characters. Or, their ability to grow and change, for better or worse, and thus engage your reader’s heart and attention. If your characters do not engage the reader, your story is very likely . . . drowning.

A while back, I read a novel that was very much based on the typical plot line of “time travel brings the prophesied hero into a world that they are destined to save.” You know that kind of story. And there’s nothing wrong with that kind of story, aside from its cliche-ness. However, because the plot of that book relied so heavily on a used-and-abused cliche, it did not feel to me as the reader to be a very well developed story.

But then there were the characters. And those characters were so well-developed and had so much room to grow Рin other words, they had souls РI kept reading and ultimately enjoyed the story. Because of the characters.

Then there are the stories with plots and worldbuilding so thorough and well thought-out we are blown away. But many times, if those stories do not have believable characters, they cannot really stand up to the stories that do.

However, please note that you may write a very believable, real MC, with an excellent arc,¬†that a particular reader can’t relate to.¬†Thus, they may not enjoy the story as much as they could. I’ve read books like that – but just because¬†I¬†can’t relate to the protagonist, doesn’t mean it isn’t a character with a soul.

1. GIVE YOUR PROTAGONIST FAULTS

Let him/her make mistakes. This is one of the easiest first steps in reaching the reader. If your MC is “perfect,” well, who can relate to that? Yes, of course, you can make your character a hero in his own way, but a hero without fault is unlikely to inspire the avid reader or garner their support. And besides that, I think even the author will find that a hero¬†with¬†his own weaknesses or misled beliefs or shadowed past is much more interesting to write. ūüôā

2. DON’T LET YOUR ANTAGONIST BE STAGNANT

This is far trickier, it doesn’t work for every story, and honestly, I don’t recommend you tackle this until you’ve reached a certain level of confidence in your writing, especially the writing of your protagonist. That said, there may come a time when you’re ready to do more with the antagonist.

Be creative. Ask questions. Was he/she always evil? What carried him/her down that path? Make your antagonist someone we might even be able to feel a little story for. An example, at least for me, would be the antagonist Shinzon in the movie Star Trek: Nemesis. Without going into too much detail, let me just say that he was not only given a unique launch point Рhe was more or less a clone of our protagonist who took a different road in life Рand because of the things that encouraged him to make the choices he did in his life, it is easy to come to feel sorry for him, making that character an excellent antagonist.

To clarify, that antagonist just went from someone we cheer against to someone we want to see become a better person. And that is good writing.

ūüôā

There are many more points I could talk about here, but I’ve run out of time. So let’s chat.¬†Who is your favorite antagonist/protagonist? What do you do in your writing to give your characters a soul?

Immersion

Despite the fact that I am seriously behind in blogging here, today’s post is not going to be one of the usual ones. I tried to come up with another writing post, but the need to share what has been on my heart won out. So if you end up bored, I apologize. ūüėČ

I was wired so that I had to know what course my future is going to take.¬†And there are times that I like that. And there are many times that it just causes problems. Like the past month or so. Whenever I come to a point where I simply don’t know what the immediate future will look like or how to shape it, I end up like a slug moving through sand.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe you’re that way too. But as I tried to work through it this week, I was reminded of a scripture.

“For I know the plans I have for you,‚ÄĚ declares the¬†Lord, ‚Äúplans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”¬†Jeremiah 29:11

That was such a relief. ūüôā I’d read the verse before, but all of a sudden, it meant the world to me. To know that God has a plan in place for my future, to really¬†know it, has settled my heart enormously.

And then I found myself watching¬†Star Trek: Voyager.¬†*waves to all¬†Star Wars fans who are frowning right now*. If you’re unfamiliar with¬†Star Trek,¬†(highly unlikely) then I’ll just say this – it’s an old-ish science fiction TV series.¬†Star Trek: The Next Generation¬†was probably the most popular, but I’m very fond of¬†Star Trek: Voyager¬†myself. Anyway, I was watching an episode in season seven. And a line in there stood out like an ice cream cone on a summer day (don’t you love these metaphors?).

I’ll try not to misquote. “If you can always see the road ahead of you, it’s not worth the trip.”¬†Spoken by Commander Chakotay.

And that really jumped out at me.

The fact is, for now, I won’t know. Not for sure. My future could take me anywhere. As much as I want to have the whole journey mapped out, what good would trust in God do me then? Meantime, I’ll work to take this to heart every day, and take my mom’s advice:¬†immersion.¬†Immersion in our life here on the farm. Immersion in the direction we’ve felt God has led us in.

God’s plan will unfold itself. I can’t force the issue.

So, I just felt I needed to talk about that today. What about you? What do you need to talk about? I can listen. ūüôā

“For I know the plans I have for you,‚ÄĚ declares the¬†Lord, ‚Äúplans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”¬†Jeremiah 29:11

 

What the Good Old Days Teach us About Writing – and ourselves!

I discovered a bag full of old papers today among things we were storing away. I glanced through them and discovered the bag to be full of some of my earliest stories and unfinished “books”. Memory lane, deja¬†vu, whatever you want to call it. I haven’t seen those papers in years. Most of the time, when I come across old work, I cringe, curl up in a ball, or else just wither and die. ūüôā

But not today.

I actually looked through those plain, boring, immature, lame stories and relished every minute. I had to ask myself why.

Of course, there was the measure of embarrassment in rereading much of what was there, but there was also a sincere enjoyment and appreciation in rereading them. And maybe the answer to my own question was quite simple –¬†appreciation.

We all have to get to the point where we are confident enough in our work to realize how far we’ve come, but flexible enough to really¬†want¬†to continue to learn and improve. Maybe there we can truly appreciate where we’ve been.

the hobbit

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM WHAT WE’VE WRITTEN?

Simply put, where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and where we are going.

Okay, yes, it can be totally embarrassing to reread stuff from the “good old days,” but let’s admit, there is a great deal we can learn from them. We learn the areas which we have improved in.¬†What else can teach us that?¬†We also learn the areas in which we should learn more.

So, have the guts to go back to the good old days, and the flexibility to readily admit that whatever it is you write today, you will likely look back to it in two years and say with open-mouthed, wide-eyed horror,¬†“I WROTE THAT?!”

Tell me something about your early work. Does it kill you to go back and read it? Be honest. Let’s chat!

Is Your Story Made of Starlight Dust? (The long-awaited part 2)

Was it really a long-awaited part 2? I don’t know. You tell me. I know it was long-awaited for me because it has pretty much taken me since part 1 to discover the answer to the unanswered question I raised in that post – what is starlight dust and how does it fly from your imagination and into your story?

If you don’t remember or did not read that post, I encourage you to check it out. There were some wonderful responses!

messier-17-1656071_1920
Is your story one of starlight dust?

So. The question I asked as I puzzled over it in my own mind was, “Why do I write some stories and they just completely flow? There’s little effort to really get it out, and it comes out solid and¬†good.¬†Why do I write other stories and, after great effort and writer’s block, it comes forth choppy, jagged, empty?”

My critique partner and I settled on our own term for this mystery – starlight dust – and I proceeded to observe in my own work when I saw that “dust” and when I didn’t. It’s been eons .¬†.¬†. but I believe I’ve discovered what starlight dust in the written word means to me.

There is not one strict answer. Show of hands, how many of you have seen the epically awesome, squeal-worthy, downright incredible¬†The Man Who Invented Christmas? It’s in theaters now, if you haven’t even heard of it – inconceivable! – and you must watch the trailer.¬†Anyway,¬†enough fangirling – never enough! – let me get to the point.

Spoiler Free: In the above-mentioned movie, we witness the process Charles Dickens¬†went through to write the second-greatest Christmas story of all time,¬†A Christmas Carol.¬†The first-greatest is Jesus’. But I think we’re safe to presume¬†A Christmas Carol¬†ranks second. Okay, so, in this new movie, providing the following bits of the film are true to Dickens’ life, we see an enormous portion of that author’s life, past, and convictions being poured into the book he worked so hard to produce.

And thus, we see starlight dust. Because of what Dickens put of himself into the story – without trying to – it came to life. Again, providing those tidbits of the film are true, as I have done no research on the topic, because¬†A Christmas Carol¬†came straight from Dickens’ heart, it was showered in starlight dust.

So, our past, present,¬†and personal convictions can drastically affect whatever it is we’re writing. They can give the story that special glow I now label starlight dust.

What else? Having observed my own writing, I believe there’s another source. And it’s just a plain and painful fact:¬†Some stories we can put our hearts into, and some we cannot. It is the blessing-in-disguise of writing. But when you can pour passion, like your convictions, into whatever it is you’re writing, it can illuminate the words so they become totally¬†yours.

Of course, just because you deal with writer’s block or fatigue or pulling your hair out – do you do that? I’ve never experienced it – or slamming your head against a brick wall – or your keyboard. I don’t recommend either – those things do not mean there is no starlight dust to be found, or that what you’re struggling with isn’t what you should be writing. Beware of falling into those excuses.

There are, of course,¬†many, many¬†other sources for that special light only you can give your story. We wouldn’t have enough time to write down or read through all of them. Perhaps the major ones are the two highlighted here – convictions/you and passion. But many more exist and only you can uncover what starlight dust means for you.

So, while you’re puzzling over that, go watch¬†The Man Who Invented Christmas.¬†I saw it in theaters yesterday for my first-ever visit to a theater. (I know, I know. I’m sixteen and have never been to a theater.) It was an interesting experience. ūüôā

Tell me, friends, what does starlight dust mean to you? Any tidbits you can share to encourage someone struggling as I was with figuring out¬†what’s wrong with this story? And perhaps the most important question of the day . . . drumroll commences . . . drumroll ends . . . HAVE YOU SEEN¬†THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS¬†YET!

To Finish NaNo. Wow.

I tackled NaNoWriMo for the first time ever this year . . . and I did it. *takes a deep breath for the first time since November 1st*

I ended up with about 52,000 words, but the last two weeks, after I hit the half-way mark, were torture. I mean torture. Thank God for a day of close to three thousand words near the end that enabled me to write a thousand a day instead of two thousand to keep up.

So, all’s well that end’s well, and I. LOVED. IT.

I’m tellin’ ya, if you’ve never tried NaNo, DO. IT. Nothing has taught¬†me the stick-to-it-ness that this past month has. I learned I can set and meet a goal. That in itself is worth something. Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Can you attest?

What’s next? Well, of course, NaNo didn’t finish my novel. 50k is awesome, but I need another 30 or 40 to finish this draft. So that’s what I’m doing this month. And next year I totally plan to drop everything and have another go at it. Wow. It was totally great.

But the month of craziness is over. That’s nice. And guess what else I learned last month?¬†It is possible to turn off your inner editor.¬†Completely true. I was forced by the deadline to write without editing. Of course, that is going to require a tad more editing later on, but that is an enormously good discovery.

So we are moving on, NaNo-writers. Any special plans? Tell me what you thought of last month if you were part of the craziness. I love to hear from you guys!

My next post will be a more complete one, in which I will probably talk about the inner editor monster, but right now I have to fly to get back to my home-school work, and there are plenty more words to be penned. ūüôā

On to victory, my friend!

NaNoWriMo and an Awesome Autumn Announcement!

Okay, folks, I survived the first four days of National Novel Writing Month. Got a little cross-eyed on Saturday and my word count dropped, but my word count was above where it needed to be on the days prior to that, so it evened out. I’m on track so far.

Are you part of NaNo this year? How is it going for you?

Anyway, I promised an awesome autumn announcement. Ready for it? You may remember I posted a short while ago about some developments on our farm and an agriculture research project I’m working on. Well, this¬†awesome autumn announcement¬†is along those lines.

To keep it short and sweet, our farm is on its way to being fully launched in 2018. We’ve launched our fundraising campaign. We want to open our farm up as an educational, hands-on, community farm. And you can help us! If you would take just a few minutes to visit this link –¬†https://www.gofundme.com/savethefamilyfarms¬†– and share it with friends and family on social media, we would appreciate it more than we can say. No gift is too small, and simply sharing the project, reaching people we cannot, is a huge gift.

Okay, enough about that. (Although you can also find more info here¬†if you’d like.) A little book update if you missed it last time, I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo with the second draft of my portal fantasy, One Light Shining. So progress¬†is¬†being made on that despite the roadblocks experienced this year.

And¬†since I’ve missed two months of Highlights and Goals, I’ll be getting back to that in January. The new year and all.

And now, I’m off! Be sure to check out the campaign and share it with friends. Meantime, let’s chat – have you ever taken part in NaNoWriMo? Are you involved this year? Are you interested in saving family farms? Such fun this month of Thanksgiving. ūüôā

When the Cats Come Home

So, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about the cats. Mostly we’ve chattered about bookish things, but who doesn’t love cats? My cousin doesn’t.

Here we go. A couple weeks ago, my dear friend Lentil – that’s a cat, not a legume – went outside around lunchtime . . . and just didn’t come back. We searched, searched, searched until dark. I fell asleep to dreams of her that night. It was pretty rough, since she has never, ever disappeared like that.

The next day, nothing. We called her name, we triple-checked all her favorite spots. Nothing. And yet I had the strongest sense that she wasn’t dead. She felt so . . . close. As if I could reach out and stroke her soft, gray-striped fur and feel her lick my finger.

Evening closed in. I was in the kitchen when I heard my dad say her name as though he saw her. Then came what we all longed to hear – Lentil was outside in the flower bed. ūüôā

Sure enough, she’d found her way home to us. She came inside, hungry and a little flustered – as well as flabbergasted that Sam, the new stray kitten, was¬†still¬†here.¬†Really?

Lentil’s back to her normal routine. Best we can tell, she either got lost, or was trapped somewhere. But our family – even with the addition of Sam – was disjointed for those roughly thirty hours. Like Mom said as we grinned ear-to-ear after Lentil came back, “Our family’s back together again.”

And just think – my dad used to hate cats!

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
Lentil asleep on the windowsill.

How to Write When the Music Fades – Chronic Writer’s Block

When the music fades, write on, courageous writer!

But when the music fades, it can be hard to find a tune to write to. There are a million “best writing playlists ever” and a million blog posts with guaranteed keys to success in overcoming the fading music disorder, but . . . do they¬†really¬†negate the issue? Or is it something you, personally, must face?

Confession: The music faded recently for me. For now. You see, the WIP you may be familiar with, my YA portal fantasy, was a WIP. It is now RIP. For now. There are simply times when you have to accept the amount of work a story will need in its revising process, and I came to that point with the portal fantasy. However, I also realized that I did not have what it would take to rush into a second draft. It has been moved to the back burner.

And soooo . . . with that confession comes a little announcement. I am presently working on a new idea. Alas! I can’t divulge the details at this time. I must outline, outline, outline, and I must write, write, write! Stay tuned, because I’m eyeing my September “highlights and goals” post in just over two weeks for any *cough*¬†official bookish¬†*cough* announcements. But know, my friend, that I am marching on in the writing world, with or without the music, and I encourage you do to the same.

Everyone gives out tricks to the trade in overcoming writer’s block, but I think there’s only one thing you can really do when writer’s block turns chronic.¬†Step back from your story¬†and ask yourself¬†what might be wrong with it¬†OR¬†what might be wrong with you.¬†It isn’t always the manuscript. Don’t let that become an excuse to not writing. It may be sheer laziness. Yes, I’m being cruel! But believe me when I say I know how it feels.

In the case of chronic writer’s block, it may be the manuscript or it may be you. In my case, it was both.

So does that mean you’ll never read my portal fantasy? I doubt it. I believe in another year or so – maybe after I’ve finished this WIP, providing the outlining goes well in the next few days here – I will pick that story back up again. That’s the beauty of the moment when the music fades.

And so, when the music fades, write on, courageous writer!

Psst . . . ¬†I will say, my critique partner has given the first chapter of this story idea a very good review. ūüôā ¬†Stay tuned.