Posted in Bookish Things, Personal, Writing

I Bid You All a Very Fond Farewell . . .

Hey, people! Just dropping in to let you know, well, I’m taking a vacation. From blogging. Leastwise, from blogging on this blog and my dog training blog. Because I had the crazy idea to start a third blog, called A Need to Breathe, and it has murdered my blogging schedule. Then I was sick for four lousy days and I fell behind.

And now . . . I have to catch up. Which means, I need to take a vacation.

*sighs* I’m going to miss you. 😉 I really am. Which is why I’m already making plans for the cool things we can chat about when I get back in May. This little hiatus is only for April, ’cause April is a crazy busy month. Camp NaNo? Nope. Forget it. But I do need a new writing project, then there’s the new blog, three dogs in need of training, school is wrapping up . . .

Need I go on? 🙄

At any rate, I’ll see you all in a month. Don’t disappear on me! I still have a lot of bookish things to ramble about. If you want to continue to hear from me, you can do so at aneedtobreathe.com and . . . you’ll find a newsletter sign-up there. If you can spare a half-inch in your inbox, you might want to sign up. ‘Cause one can never have too many newsletters, right?

Ah, to quote Bilbo Baggins, “I regret to announce this is the end! I’m going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye.”

*cue vanishing into thin air*

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Posted in Bookish Things, Guest Post, Inspirational, Personal, Writing

It’s Not Enough to Just Survive (a writing update)

Hey, everyone. I’m dropping in to share something I wouldn’t have shared if it hadn’t been getting such a good response from the blogging and social media world.

In short, I wrote a guest post recently (which, if you follow my dog training blog, you already know) about dealing with severe food allergies as a teen.

GUEST POST on LAMPLIGHTER HOMESTEAD (2)  This had been on my heart for a while, I just never got up the nerve to write about it. When I finally did, it was just so freeing. Most people do not understand the seriousness of food allergies. It is vital that we raise awareness, because it’s not enough to just survive.

You can find the guest post here. I encourage you to read it and share it. Any way you can. (Details can be found in the post.)

Also, I’m hoping to take this material and write a short book on the same subject. 🙂 And, while Promised Land is out of my hands this month, it’s perfect timing!

READ THE POST HERE >>

GUEST POST on LAMPLIGHTER HOMESTEAD (2)

Posted in Highlights and Goals, Personal, Writing

I’m Alive! Let’s Recap . . . (And a writing update!)

Yeaaaah . . . *hides guiltily* I am still alive. But my lack of blogging on both of my blogs might suggest otherwise. What can I say? It’s been an insane month or so. Let’s recap a little.

The weather. Blustery winds – gale is more like it – accompanied by freezing temps, snow storms literally every few days, and 40+ inches of snow already on the ground. Cool, huh? Where do we live? Alaska? Well, no, it just feels like it sometimes. 😑

This driving thing. Yeah, I just finished drivers’ ed. I’m a couple of years late, because I didn’t feel ready for it before, and I’m still not ready. 😉 I’m just completely overwhelmed about that, so yeah, I’ll get back to you later.

The school thing. Well, when drivers’ ed was taking up SO MUCH time, school fell behind, so now I’m catching up.

The blogging thing. Yep. Same. Catching up on two poor, neglected blogs. Thanks for sticking with me, people. You’re the best. 💛💛💛

The four-legged creatures. Also known as dogs, or puppies. Also known as toddlers. Also known as total craziness. So, my training endeavors with them have slowed to a crawl, partly because of drivers’ ed, partly because, well, it’s kinda hard to train one dog when there are three puppies in the house.

The writing thing. Wait, what? Writing? What writing? All I’ve been doing is editing. And thank goodness, I was almost done the Promised Land edit before I started drivers’ ed. But yes, I am now done with my edit of Promised Land, so off it goes to the editor once again! I’m holding my breath, you guys. 😊

I have to say, I’m surprised I still like my book. Usually, I hate it after a couple of months. But I’m still in love with my main characters – Talia and her struggle to identify with her faith;  Owen and his fierce loyalty, which results in terrible indecision. And then all the other characters too . . . like a certain secondary character who was only supposed to have a minor role but then ended up carrying the climax . . .

Don’t you love it when secondary characters do that to you??

Speaking of books, I just finished reading one. (I know – one. It’s terrible. But such is the nature of an insane schedule.) Chasing the Lion, by Nancy Kimball. You guys, this book was good. Really solid and incredibly researched.

Now I’m off to update my dog training blog. Thanks for sticking with me here. I’ll leave you with a right-place-at-the-right-time photo of our cat, Sam. 🙂

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Yeah, he’s not supposed to be sitting with the pots and pans, but . . . do you honestly have the heart to tell him? ❤

What has your February looked like? Snow? Rain? Super busy? Boring? Let’s chat in the comments! I love hearing from you!

Posted in Bookish Things, Reading, Writing, Writing Tips

Punctuation Pantry: the Oxford Comma (To Use or Not To Use)

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Let me put forth a public apology to my faithful readers who have not heard from this blog in a few weeks. Wanna know why? No, you probably don’t. Suffice it to say, school happened, then driver’s ed happened, then editing happened, then a whole bunch of other stuff happened . . . 🙂 Blogs are wonderful, but they suffer when our schedules get stuffed. Who can relate?

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. The Punctuation Pantry is back, and we’re here to talk about the Oxford comma. Heard of it? Oh, yeah, I bet you have.

Don’t know what it is? No problem – here goes.

I am sending Sally a get-well card, a potted plant, and a new coat.

(I’d like to have a friend who would think to send all that when I’m sick.) 😉

Did you spot the Oxford comma? It comes after the last item in a list. So, after “potted plant.” Now, the controversy surrounding this helpless little comma is that some style guides require it when others don’t. So you have people who like it and people who don’t.

Now, let’s look at that sentence again, without the Oxford comma.

I am sending Sally a get-well card, a potted plant and a new coat.

Not having the comma doesn’t make that sentence confusing. You can mentally insert the separation of the three items. But let’s look at a different sentence.

She took her cousins, Dominique, and Miss Helen to the local fair.

Got it? Now let’s take the Oxford comma out.

She took her cousins, Dominique and Miss Helen to the local fair.

See the problem? A reader might think her cousins are Dominique and Helen. Now, strictly speaking, you’d need a comma after Helen if those names were her cousins’, but that’s a story for another day.

Personally, yes, I use the Oxford comma. It just makes sense. In some sentences, it feels awkward, in some, it’s unnecessary, but in others, it literally makes the difference between a reader understanding and misunderstanding what you’re saying.

And no, you can’t use the comma in one sentence and not in another in the same story. 🙂 Sorry, but . . . no.

So, now that the Punctuation Pantry has been resurrected, tell me your ideas for what we should chat about in the world of grammar!

Your turn! What is your opinion on the Oxford comma? Do you use it? Let’s chat in the comments!

Posted in Bookish Things, Writing, Writing Tips

Adjectives ‘n’ Adverbs – Friends or Foe to Your Writing?

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Okay, I don’t care if you just started writing a week ago, you’ve probably heard rumors of the dissension adjectives and adverbs cause between writers and editors. The plain truth is, every editor I’ve ever heard from speaks against most adjectives and adverbs. Look at this sentence:

The growling dog stalked slowly towards the boy’s house, eager for the tasty beef he knew was on the grill.

If you couldn’t tell, there are too many adjectives in that sentence. And the adverb “slowly” is weak. So how do you fix something like that? Or, more to the point, how to avoid it in the first place?

Well, there is a bit of a trick to this.

STRONG VERBS.

Let’s look at this sentence again.

The dog stalked towards the house, his mouth watering in anticipation of the meat he could smell sizzling on the grill.

Okay, that’s FAR from perfect. But we did chop out some adjectives. Now lets look at the verbs. In my opinion, “stalked” is a fairly strong verb in this instance, because it gives a good picture of how the dog was moving. “Mouth watering” is probably a little cliche. But compare it to “eager for . . .” and it does portray a slightly stronger image. Regarding nouns, “meat” is better than “beef” in this instance. If it’s on a grill, for one, it’s probably beef. Let the reader assume some things, especially if it is not essential to the progression of the story.

Now, don’t go chopping every single adjective or adverb out of your story. When used well (and probably sparingly), they’re just fine, and quite honestly, you can’t write anything without some adjectives.

And think about it – as a reader, when you read a story with a ton of bland descriptive words, you’re going to notice it and it’s going to mess you up as you read.

Don’t just get my take on this. There are a lot of people with way more experience.

Remember, strong verbs will almost always convey what you want better than adverbs. And a mediocre adverb coupled with a weak verb is going to drag you down. So, make friends with a thesaurus.

Adjectives and adverbs are just one thing an editor (or a reader) is going to look at. Fortunately, they’re not that difficult to fix. I don’t really  recommend you worry about it in your first draft, because it will probably slow you down. But if you’re like me and you “edit” your first draft with a read-over, that’s a GREAT time to work on them. And don’t worry if you can’t catch all of them – an editor will. 🙂

Share your take on this! Do you find you struggle with adjectives and adverbs? What technique could you share for other writers? Let’s chat in the comments!

Posted in Book Updates, Bookish Things, Personal, Writing

A (Super Exciting) Writing Update!!

*throws confetti and throws gluten-free pizzas in the oven*

We have a writing update.

Drum-roll.

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I’m gonna cut to the chase.

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PROMISED LAND HAS BEEN SENT TO AN EDITOR.

(insert cool GIF of confetti and cats dancing)

So, there ya all have it. I finally sent Promised Land to an editor. Which is technically just the first step in the long road of fixing this thing, but it’s exciting, nonetheless. I’ve never been so close to publishing anything. And I think this is going to work. *cue internal screaming*

😛

I’m so excited, it’s kinda hard to focus on a new first draft of a new project (which is undecided, so don’t worry, you’re not being kept in the dark). But while Promised Land is out of my hands, it’s a perfect opportunity. So just keep telling me to go write. 😉

It’ll be a few more weeks at least before I have another update, and in the meantime, I have to start thinking about the cover design. Yikes.

And this is the first time I’ve ever sent a whole manuscript to an editor, so . . . do forgive this hasty and unpolished blog post. But those are more fun anyway, right?

So, what I want to know from you, is how is your WIP going? Planning to publish? Any words of wisdom? 😉 Let’s chat in the comments!

Posted in Bookish Things, Writing, Writing Tips

The POV Battle Continues (Choosing the Right POV for Your Story)

I should have done this post just at the beginning of November so some of you could have seen it in time for NaNoWriMo. But alas, here it is, better late than never.

You might recall I did a post about choosing the right POV a while ago. So I’m going to try not to just repeat everything I said before. But honestly, I face this question every time I start a new book.

And it is infuriating.

Sometimes.

At other times, you just know that the story would be best if you wrote it in first person. Or third. Or one-hundred-and-seventeenth. 😔

But most of the time, for me anyway, it’s a constant battle. I wrote my recent WIP Promised Land in the point of view of first person multiple, meaning I switched between two characters. And that was tricky, but now when I try to go back to third person . . . it’s like putting a round peg in a square hole. I feel like I’m totally separate from the characters, even though I know I describe scenes and settings far better in third person than I do in first.

So what’s the answer?

There’s no easy one. Everyone will have a POV in which they write better or, at the very least, enjoy more than any other. But not every story fits in first person, and not every story fits in third person.

Generally, however, a story in which you know you need to get into the head of many different characters OR you need to get into the head of one or two minor characters, third person is probably your best option. Take it from someone who just wrote a novella in first person multiple, it’s not easy.

When I wrote One Light Shining, it was always (all six drafts of the unpublished thing) in third person. Because there were always a number of characters I wanted to bring into the story with their own point of view. Can you have too many POVs in one story? Oh, yeah. Absolutely. First person, even multiple, certainly stops you from writing in too many POVs.

But first person is limiting. So assess what you’re writing. The outline. The characters. How many characters’ heads do you need to get inside? How many do you want to get inside? (There could be a difference.)

Alas, the POV battle continues! Fight on, brave writer. The POV is only the first battle of the war that is writing. 😉

Hmm, I like that . . .

You’re turn. What POV do you enjoy the most to write? Have you experienced this conflict in your writing? Let’s chat in the comments!

Posted in Book Updates, Bookish Things, NaNoWriMo, Writing

A Book Update and Possibilities!

We’ve got a book update! Hurrah! You’re all invited to the pizza party.

Okay, I’ll cut to the chase. I have finished the first round of editing for my fantasy novella, Promised Land. In fact, my critique partner finished reading it, and along with her suggestions for further edits, she liked it! That’s encouraging. All in all, it doesn’t need a ton of work that we can see. And I like my book for a change. 😉 Usually, I find reasons to all but throw it away. *cringe*

But to celebrate, I’ve arranged a few snippets. 🙂 Enjoy! And please, let me know which you like best.

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Further snippets:

Running low, Clarke Creek splashed under our horses’ hooves, and I heard Fraeda laugh as it soaked through her stockings. Aaron good-naturedly threatened to throw Issac into the water after their horses nearly collided.

And . . .

Looking at those waves, I could not imagine one living so close to them. Yet in their destructive strength and cold gray-blue ferocity, there was a certain beauty, too. They were like the mountains, these waters. Powerful, redoubtable, but full of mystery and hope.

I turned my gaze back to the governor’s home, and I determined that it was built by men as redoubtably as Adonai built the sea.

So there you have it, folks! Another book update comes to a close, and now I must chose whether to write the first draft of a new project – no spoilers here! – for NaNoWriMo, or dive back into Promised Land for the edits. Decisions, decisions . . .

Also, as we move into the holiday season, I’m looking at some new possibilities for blogging come New Year’s. Namely, I’d like to be able to host one or two writing contests for short stories. 🙂 However, I don’t know if I’ll have enough of a following to do so, so if I can get some opinions on this, I’d appreciate it.

Meantime, back to the editing! Or . . . NaNo. Argh! Too many book ideas!

So, are you doing NaNo this year? Do you have a WIP underway? If you’ve been following Promised Land’s progress, what do you think so far? I’ll need participants when I get around to publishing this thing. 🙂  Let’s chat in the comments!

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.