Posted in Inspirational, Personal

HOPE.

I’ve recently experienced a burden to share something with you all that has given me an enormous sense of hope while walking through everyday stress and uncertainty. We all go through that, probably often, and if you’re there right now, I hope this gives you the blessing it gave me:

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Mm . . . that gives me peace. 🙂

I hope it encourages you. I’ll be back later for a real post! In the meantime, I’m praying for you all to have a safe and blessed weekend.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:10

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Posted in Highlights and Goals, Inspirational, Personal

Goodbye, 2018

Goodbye, 2018.

It’s hard to believe it’s over. Personally, it was a difficult year. There were a lot of changes. Good ones, I think. None happened overnight. More like agonizingly slowly. So I’m not sure whether to look at 2019 with hope or caution. Because things are still changing, and it’s always a battle between hope and fear.

I’d go into more detail, but I actually wrote a “story” on some of the more major events of the past year, and I might share it here later. Suffice it to say, I’m the kind of person who is always in a battle against doubt. But God gave me an important victory in that battle near the end of the year. Now my job is to hold onto it and to trust. God doesn’t want His children to doubt.

Funny, I seem to remember writing a post that talked about writers and doubt. 😉

Anyway . . .

There’s so much to look forward to in 2019. Maybe publishing Promised Land (yikes, I said it . . .), training a service dog, our dog Phoenix having puppies later in the year, gardening again. So, 2018, we’ll get along just fine without you.

Goodbye, 2018.

The New Year is about looking ahead, not behind. It’s about embracing hope, not fear.

So embrace it.

The time for fear and doubt was yesterday.

That’s not today.

This is the day the Lord has made. So we should rejoice and be glad in it! And rejoice with all creation and with all your might. With all the breathe in your lungs, sing praises to Him. He’s given you a New Year. It was never a guarantee. But here it is.

Now . . .

. . . what are you going to do with it?

Ask yourself.

What are you going to do with this New Year? What plans are on the horizon? Let’s chat!

Posted in Inspirational, Reading, Short Stories, Writing

Land of Judgment – a short story

I hated the way the other men picked on Papa. He was only doing what he felt sure was right. We were all going the same way, following the same trail – the same dream.

They all said the west was the place of new beginnings. Of prosperity. Of dreams come true. That was what Papa wanted. But what we found . . . it wasn’t what we’d set out for.

“Ya drive them animals too hard, Pickett.” That was Jason Pike. He was the one with the six oxen who scared me the most – he was always totting around that ox whip of his. “Them horses can’t take that. You shoulda brought a yoke eh oxen. They can take the trail. You’ll starve these beasts before they even see the Rockies, ya will.”

The night after Pike warned us, I heard Ma begging Papa to take us back home. Hearing her talk about New York almost made me cry.

But Papa didn’t turn around.

After a few more days, we began to see the horses getting hungrier. They didn’t want what the trail had to offer. Against the men’s warnings, Papa fed them all the oats they wanted from our generous supply. I started to worry about my little pony, the pretty one Papa had promised would be mine in Oregon.

Our wagon was something to see. Ma had made sure every detail was in check. Every curtain tucked away neatly, every piece of china secure, the piano dusted daily. She seemed happy with the order in which she kept our home. But she wasn’t. She pleaded with Papa each night until both were finally brought to tears.

But Papa didn’t turn around.

The horses got worse. They were finicky. The oat supply ran nearly dry before the Rockies. Storms made the wagon miserable to haul, but they also encouraged additional growth in the grass. And still the horses wouldn’t eat it.

The men chided Papa worse and worse, not just on account of the horses, but our wagon too. It was too fancy, they said. It would never survive the trip. Papa returned their bullying with insults. Only the trail captain stood in the way of it getting bloody.

“Ma,” I whispered late that evening while she tucked the baby inside his crib for the night. “I’m scared they’re going to hurt Papa.”

She wouldn’t look at me, but that didn’t stop me from seeing the redness around her eyes, the diminishing of the flesh in her cheeks. “Fear doesn’t help anyone, Ellen May.”

I still feared.

But Papa didn’t turn around.

Near the Rockies, two of our horses went down. One to snakebite, one to starvation. I cried. Ma cried. Baby Joseph cried. Papa did not. He plunged forward, stoic, unchanging, unyielding.

In the Rockies, we lost another. My pony was next. We all saw it. She couldn’t keep up. She was skin and bones. I spent hours searching for new food for her. Hours coaxing her to eat, to drink and eventually to rise. We left her behind in a Rockies’ forest. Papa had wanted to shoot her. Ma and I objected. He relented, but not without words that terrified me. Wolves would eat her alive, he claimed. But I couldn’t bear seeing her die.

“Pray,” Ma said to me, “that God will spare us. Maybe He’ll forgive our sins and remove His hand of judgment.”

Our wagon became too heavy for three horses. We abandoned the piano, the crates of books, the stove, even Ma’s treasured set of china. She never spoke a word.

But Papa didn’t turn around.

All but one family left us to fend for ourselves. We were slowing everyone down with our horses. They refused all grass now. Papa fed them the very last of the oats. Another horse went down within the week.

“Because horses are hard to please,” Ma explained with nary a tear. “We were warned.”

Days passed, one blending into the other. Another step. Another step. We faced forward. We didn’t look back. Was that Oregon I glimpsed as the sun descended one evening? Papa told us it was. We were nearly there.

I saw it as I laid my head down and succumbed to sleep. A beacon of hope in this land of judgment.

 

Thanks for reading, you guys! I wrote Land of Judgment a year or so ago, but it came in second in its category. I love historical fiction! What’s your favorite genre??? Let’s chat in the comments.

Posted in Book Updates, Bookish Things, Inspirational, Writing, Writing Tips

The Solution for When You Don’t Want to Write (I’m not kidding)

We’ve ALL been there. We started out just loving this thing that we’re writing and then, middle of the book, or maybe the second draft, and PLOP! We hit a wall. What is that wall? Writer’s block? Maybe. Or maybe you simple don’t want to write this monster anymore. I hear ya.

If you asked me for advice on writer’s block, I might tell you to take a short break or just to write through it, but what about when you hate your book? What about when you suddenly realize your writing is immature and not half as good as that other writer you admire? (I think this way all the time. It’s poison.)

My mom and I have challenged each other to get out of our writing slump and each write a novella in three months. *news flash! news flash!* Yes, you all finally have a writing update from me. More details to follow. However, when we made the plan to do this, we were researching, believe it or not, some answers for why we weren’t writing – why was there a mental block when we tried to put words on paper?

The best piece of advice we got was this: MAKE A SCHEDULE AND COMMIT TO IT. I know I’ve talked to you all before about deadlines and how they help you to write, and this is similar to that principle, but it literally means picking up that book when you don’t want to and finishing it.

We are not perfect writers. Not one of us. We can’t be perfect writers.

What we can be is the best writer we can be. And once you accept that, once you’ve accepted that your writing is only going to get better if you keep at it, then an enormous amount of that pressure can be lifted off your shoulders.

Don’t expect perfection. You’ll be disappointed.

Take critiques and let them make your work better. Team up with somebody else to hold you accountable and encourage you – like what my mom and I are doing now! *throws confetti because she is distracted and totally excited*

Anyway, you see what I mean? There are times when you need to let go of that story that just refuses to be written (see my last post). But at the same time, there are instances when you need to sit down, buckle up, and write. No matter how much you find you hate writing. I’m serious. There are times I hate writing. But then there are times when the river flows, the words pour out, I’m right there with the characters, my mom says it’s awesome . . . and then, right then, I’m so glad to be a writer. 🙂

Please, a show of hands. Who else thought they were alone in this struggle, this battle of words? What kind of moments make you love to be a writer, no matter how hard it can be? Let’s chat in the comments! I LOVE to touch base with you guys.

Posted in Inspirational, Personal

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!

 

. . . .

 

. . . .

 

. . . .

 

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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.”

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“Yes, of course, I know I’m beautiful.”
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“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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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!

Posted in Bookish Things, Inspirational, Personal, Short Stories, Writing

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. 😉  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. 🙂 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!

 

Posted in Bookish Things, Inspirational, Reading, Writing, Writing Tips

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 – in other words, they had souls – I 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 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. 🙂

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 – he was more or less a clone of our protagonist who took a different road in life – and 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.

🙂

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?

Posted in Inspirational, Personal

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. 😉

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,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

That was such a relief. 🙂 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. 🙂

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

 

Posted in Bookish Things, Inspirational, Personal, Reading

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. 🙂

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!

Posted in Bookish Things, Inspirational, Personal, Writing, Writing Tips

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!

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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. 🙂

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!