Tag Archive | Scattered Whimsy

The Writer’s Desert

This past November, I traversed into new territory when I signed a publishing contract with Clean Reads. Setting my sights away from the sparkling, intoxicating metropolis of Accepted Manuscript, I ventured down an unfamiliar, inconspicuous path: The Second Book.

Funny thing about this path. The Second Book doesn’t take two authors in the same direction. Some find themselves in a thick jungle, wrapped in an overabundance of words, swathed in the heat of a luscious plot that can’t wait to be written. Others enter the succulent haven of a coffee shop, drawing inspiration from the lives unfolding around them, tears splashing onto plastic lids, laughter bubbling up toward the ceiling tiles.

Still others, alas, take a journey such as mine and step into the barren wasteland of the Writer’s Desert.desert-790640_1920

 

Unlike an earthly desert, it stays cold here even during the day; the sun might shine, but it emits no warmth. The dry ground remains firm beneath my feet, unforgiving in its hard surface, wicking away what little optimism I had armed myself with when I first started this journey.

I thought I was prepared for it. I had my laptop for communication—you know, for those several rounds of edits expected from my publisher, and for that finicky thing called a platform I need to spend time thinking about. But more importantly, I had a canteen of liquid words—others’ words—that were supposed to keep my writing muscles limber and supple until I reached the other side of this empty landscape. Serving as one of several judges on a few writing contests. Swallow. Involvement with an online critique group. Gulp. Offering my help as a beta reader for two different manuscripts. Sip, sip, sip.

But while my muscles stay quenched with others’ words, my soul has become parched at the lack of my own.

Sure, I’ve come across an oasis now and then. Broad ideas for a new story here; a one-paragraph summary for another story over there. Scenes for a sequel to my book that releases in October. But for the majority of the time, it’s just me and my canteen of somebody else’s work.

Oh, and the devil.

He likes to come alongside me at those times when I’m stumbling across the sand and taunt me. Tell me I don’t have what it takes, because other authors—better authors—are thriving in the jungle and there’s a reason I’m stuck in the desert. Better authors are on book #20 after eleven years of writing, and I’m on book #2 after seventeen. Better authors always have ideas cooking on the back burner, and since I don’t, that just reaffirms I lack what it takes to be successful in this field. Better authors have better blogs, more followers, a larger platform, a stronger backbone, a more persistent nature.

Sometimes Jesus is able to edge the devil out of my peripheral vision. For a few moments of time, maybe even as long as a day, I breathe in His clarity. He’ll take my hand in his and with the other, he’ll point to the horizon, and whisper, “Do you see it?”

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And with my flawed incompetence wrapped within His limitless capabilities, I glimpse something hazy on that horizon, something shimmering with promise and strength, purpose and fulfillment. And—

Then the devil shoves his snout in my face and I lose hold of my precious Jesus.

Why is Satan’s voice so much louder than my Lord’s?

Why does Hate have a better grip than Love? Why does self-deprecation feel more comfortable than self-confidence? Why are lies easier to believe than the truth?

The devil, I’ve come to realize, has been leading me in unnecessary circles to keep me floundering in this desert so I don’t gain the promise on that horizon. I reached a certain milestone despite his lies when I signed that publishing contract a few months ago, and he hates it. He knows my fundamental desire—once the selfishness and narcissism gets pushed aside—is to write for the Lord, whether that’s in the form of a Christmas fantasy or inspirational romance, so what better way to keep me from accomplishing anything further as a Christian writer than to blast my negative qualities on “repeat” in this desert that offers no diversion to silence the noise? Wallowing in negativity is a stronghold in which I practically have a doctorate, so long did I once study it.

Once. Several years ago. I’m not where I was several years ago, and the Lord certainly doesn’t want me making a U-turn to head back there.

So this time, I’m on to the devil. I’m on to his pranks, his condemnation and discouragement. It might have taken me a few months to slough through his deception, but better that than several years. I’m learning to tune him out again; to trust, instead, the voice of my precious Jesus, and to believe what He sees as good in me. I’m taking steps toward that shimmering horizon, and while I’m not there yet—I still have weeks of travel through these cold, hard-packed sands—the oases ahead of me look more abundant than those along the trail of my last four months.

I’m confident I’ll be filling my canteen with my own words soon.

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What if We Lay Aside the Blame?

 

glass-1818065_1280These days, the nation looks more like the Fractured States of America than the United States of America. There’s so much anger and fear, name-calling and hatred, bitterness and resentment. But what if…

WHAT IF, instead of accentuating our differences, we focused on what makes us the same? Each of us at one time or another has been somebody’s brother or sister, son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband, lover or friend. Each of us at one time or another has felt sadness and joy, anger and forgiveness, grief and contentment. We’ve all experienced triumphs and setbacks, and we all suffer from insecurities and pride. We want the best for our children, desire financial security, crave affordable health coverage, need shelter from the elements, and we ache find that certain somebody who will love us despite our faults.

We want so many of the same things; we just don’t agree on how best to attain them.

But WHAT IF, rather than pointing a finger at others to lay blame and accusation, we looked at ourselves first?

WHAT IF we took accountability for our own actions and the parts we each play in this fractured nation? We call for tolerance and then become intolerant of those who have different beliefs and values. We speak of love, but our actions scream “hate” when we feel threatened. We desire our own freedom…at the expense of someone else’s freedom. We frown on bullies in the schoolyard but think nothing of bullying strangers on Twitter or Facebook.

Whatever your beliefs about Jesus Christ, I think most of us would agree with him when he said in Matthew 7:12, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (NLT) How many times do I say this to my children? “Don’t treat your sister the way she treated you. How do you want to be treated? That is the way to treat your sister.” Because, like as not, what we dole out over time will eventually make its way back around to us.

Do you want respect? Be respectful of others. Do you want to receive kindness? Be kind to others. If someone insults you, compliment them in return. (We can always find something nice to say if we take the time to look.) It’s hard, though, huh? The adage, “Kill ’em with kindness” sounds good in movies and reads good in books. Yet when the rubber meets the road, when you’re the one on the receiving end of prejudice or sexism, discrimination or racism (and trash-talking a white person is no less racist than trash-talking an African American), it’s hard to implement. It’s hard to show humility when pride gets stuck in our throats; hard to keep quiet when our bodies tremble with the need to scream; hard to love someone who represents everything we hate.

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But if we want to repair the hurt and disunity in this nation, then someone needs to take the first step and break the cycle. That someone is you. And me. Not our significant others. Not our children. Not the law enforcement. Not our leaders. Not in the passing of more laws or abolishing others. Not in sitting back and letting “someone else” do the grunt work. We—YOU and ME—must get up, dig in, break the cycle and move one step closer to that common ground. Day in and day out. Hour after hour. Tweet after tweet. 😉

It’s a daunting task, true. But WHAT IF the unity we find, the healing we can give, the forgiveness we experience, results in a far more attractive future than one built on anger and hatred? Isn’t that worth a try?

Tinsel à la Phone Case

Last week I shared some of the things I worked on this summer when I had limited writing time. But I saved the best for last. Well, best in my opinion. 😉

If you’ve followed me for a while (or know me in person), then you’ve come to realize I love Christmas. Which is part of the reason I want to stay in my Christmas manuscript rather than emerge and hop into something new. (I’ll get there, don’t worry.) And because I’m kinda smitten with my elf, Tinsel (as creator-created kind of way, thankyouverymuch), I’ve been wanting to bring her to “life” in phone carrier form. 🙂

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Traditional dirndl

Now, Tinsel wears a dirndl, a traditional dress worn in Austria, Bavaria, and South Tyrol, so first I drew out how that might translate on a knitted/felted phone carrier, and then I knitted it in bright colors (it was summer at the time, go figure) to make sure it would actually come out looking right.

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No, it’s not a headless doll. 😉

My girls say it looks like Disney’s Rapunzel—which got me thinking of ways I could knit carriers to reflect Disney princesses, but that’s a feat for another season.

Knowing I had the design as close as I was going to get it over a set of 18 stitches and 45 rows, I got right to work on Tinsel. Just kidding. I didn’t start on her until last month, since I was busy with all those other projects.

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Tinsel before needle-felting.

And because there’s a team of Scottish-accented reindeer that play a significant role in my story, they had to be reflected in my phone carrier somehow, right? So here’s my token reindeer:

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And here they are pieced together.

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After needle-felting and sewing.

Though neither of these characters took long to knit, I think it took me almost as long to sew on all the different pieces of the reindeer as it took me to knit them. And sewing the apron string around Tinsel’s torso was not an easy task. Nevertheless, they were fun to make, and since I have lots more yarn…well, a red dirndl-clad elf is calling my name.

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I’ve Got Two Words For You

Apparently in certain circles, the hip thing to do at the start of a New Year is pick one word to sum up your resolution(s). My mother, two sisters, and I were texting about it the other week, and my older sister chose “Thrive” as her word. My mother quickly texted back with “Health” as hers. Don’t know what my younger sister chose, but as for me, I needed a few days to think about it. I mean, if it’s going to frame how I look at things for 365 days, I want to make sure it’s the right word…right? 😉

I don’t have a word. I have two. Sorry—broke the rules. But if you read my last post about all the writing rules, then you know I do that sort of thing. (Hey, I was a very good kid growing up. I didn’t break those rules.)

So what are my words?

OPTIMISM

and

PERSEVERANCE

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you’ll know I’ve struggled with depression and negativity over the years, and while I believe God’s brought me to the other side of those murky waters, I still dip my toe in every now and then. (Yeah, I don’t get the appeal, either, but it happens.)

Between my writing life and a parcel of land Hubby and I finally closed on last week, 2016 will present opportunities to go full-on deep sea diving in the ocean of negativity. Here’s why: 1) I plan to query my Christmas story hard this year and 2) I’ll be joining Hubby in building a house.

Now you see my problem.

I thought the least I could do is help keep my head above the water level by repeating OPTIMISM to myself on a weekly…excuse me, hourly basis. And if I manage to sit on the shoreline for most of the year, rather than going for a swim, that would be fantastic!

So what’s with the perseverance? Uhhh, I plan to query my Christmas story hard this year. ‘Nuff said.

I anticipate rejection. It’s part of the job of an author-wannabe. But my hope is to continue pressing forward despite the refusals and silence from agents, maintaining the same love and enthusiasm I have for my characters right now. That’s where I want to persevere. What a feat if I could arrive at December 2016 still believing in my work and my MCs*, even if I have nothing but an email box full of rejection letters. I don’t want to quit pushing this story until I’m positive God has shut the door and I’d only make my fists bleed by continuing to pound on it.

Why do I want to push so hard? What’s the difference between this story and the one I tried to query last year? Simply put, I’ve been with these MCs for almost three years now…and they still make me laugh. With the other manuscript, I was so over my whiny characters and their problems. When I thought about them, I’d roll my eyes. Not that my current characters don’t have problems. Heck, my protagonist, Tinsel, is a too-tall elf whose chemistry final went awry. It blew up part of the school and destroyed a portion of Christmas presents along with it. And that’s just the start of her problems. Insert Santa’s grandson, Niklas, and she’s got a slew more. But even though I wrote “The End” on this manuscript last February and have been editing it ever since, I still chuckle when I think about Tinsel and Niklas, their escapades, and all the misunderstanding between them. I owe it to them to push their story, so I’m going to PERSEVERE. It’s what Tinsel would do. 😉

There you have it. I kind of like this one-word idea. Makes it easier to remember a resolution when you don’t have a lot to remember. So what’s your word? It’s not to late to chose one…

Or two.

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*Main Character