Sunday, May 29, 2011

SEW Sunday: Boot Camp

(SEW Sundays are where I rant about discuss what's going on with the queries I am SENDING to agents, my EDITING, and my WRITING.)

Okay, so here's the thing.  I don't have much of anything going on.  I keep saying I'm going to do stuff, but the week goes by and I haven't done much.  I do have excuses as usual--such as the fact that I was insanely busy working my last week of working preschool, only to jump into house/dog/cat sitting and working my other two jobs.

And since I'm house/dog/cat sitting, I have access to more than seven channels on tv, so I've logged a few hours watching reruns of House and watching dumb movies.  I even caught an episode of "Saved By the Bell: The College Years" which is arguably the worst show ever made.  Okay, so I'm pretty sure that award actually goes to "Yo Gabba Gabba."  ...or "The Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills" (I promise that's a real show--it's too horrible to be something I just made up).

So yeah.  I'm a loser who has nothing to show for herself this week.

OH WAIT!  I did write two songs.  Complete with music.  Yay me (not really)!  One of them I think is probably the best song I've ever written--but by next week I'll probably find something I hate about it.  I mean, that's usually how it goes.

Also, with this week being so weird and stuff, I've let my diet/exercise slip completely.  I had a minor injury to my back on Monday (leaning over to pick up a toy...I'm like an old person), so exercise has been out.  And I wanted to eat pasta and cake and ice cream...and pretty much everything else in sight.  So I did.  And my pants are very snug now...

Boot camp starts tomorrow...theoretically.  Boot camp will hopefully include a return to a regular exercise routine with lots of sweaty running (I'm SO excited the weather forecast is calling for temps in the mid 90's...ugh).  It will also hopefully include a return to a strict 1200 calories per day diet.  It will hopefully also include some actual DISCIPLINE in my writing life.  I have got to send out some queries.  I mean, it's kind of hard to find a literary agent if you're not sending them anything to let them know you exist.  I also need to get some guts and make some progress with this song project--at least I think I do.  If I keep writing new songs like this, I might need to make plans for TWO upcoming cds....

Hmm...either way, I will eventually need some guts.  Do they sell those at Wal-mart?

So pray for me as I try to get my act together.  The Ruth version of boot camp is not like real boot camp (my version includes LOTS more procrastination, whining, and general lameness), but I'm still pretty sure I'm not going to like it a whole lot.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fiction Friday: Disney Movies

So movies aren't books, but they're still fiction.  And I can't think of anything else to blog about for this Fiction Friday.  Lol.

I am like a lot of people who grew up watching Disney movies.  In fact, there was this youtube video that showed brief clips from all 50 of the animated films Disney has put out so far (did you know Disney has put out 50 films (not even counting the Pixar movies)?  Now you do.  In fact, there might be more by now...shrug).  Of those 50 films, there were only two I hadn't seen.  Part of that is because I watch kids, and part of that is because I pretty much am still a kid.  Which two Disney cartoons haven't I seen?  Brother Bear and Home on the Range.  That almost makes me want to go rent them so I can have my perfect record...but...nah.

Anyway, like most good American girls, I was raised on stuff like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White.  These put all kinds of unrealistic ideas into my head.  For instance, I think I grew up fully expecting to be able to waltz out into the forest, sing a song, and immediately befriend three dozen forest animals before Prince Charming came along to carry me away.  (I love the movie Enchanted, because Disney is making fun of itself.  And self-deprecation is one of my favorite forms of humor...and I also like it because Amy Adams is incredible.)

Then Ariel came along and showed all us independent women that we didn't have to listen to our dads.  I mean, sure.  King Triton was overbearing and had a short fuse, but dude was a single father who was just trying to take care of his SEVEN daughters...while also trying to run an entire underwater kingdom.  Talk about pressure.  Ariel was a princess.  She had a lot of good things going for her.  She had a loving family.  She had great friends.  She could sing amazingly.  But who cares.  No big deal.  She wanted MORE.

Oh, good job, Disney.  You completely violated Hans Christian Anderson.

I believe The Little Mermaid came out in 1989.  And most of the Disney animated films of the 1990s have that similar theme of wanting more more more.  Belle wanted MORE than this provincial life (nothing against Belle, though--she's my fave--she reads books).  Aladdin wanted everyone to see there was so much MORE to him, while Jasmine wanted a different life, too.  And honestly, I couldn't blame Jasmine for not wanting to get married off--but in her culture, she would have been raised to expect it (and if she had defied her father like that in real life, he would have probably done something horrible to her--just sayin').   Simba just couldn't wait to be king.  Pocohontas wanted to find out what was beyond the river bend (and with this film, Disney mutilated historical fact!).  Quasimodo wanted to spend one day out there (although I have to admit I liked the happy Disney movie better than the original novel where everyone died,  I'm sure that Victor Hugo is rolling in his grave).  Hercules wanted to be a true hero that could go the distance.  Mulan wanted to be a warrior (okay, okay, so she was being noble and protecting her father).  Tarzan wanted to know more about those strangers like him.

There's nothing particularly wrong with that theme.  It's just that I noticed that these movies were a big part of what shaped my later childhood.  It's probably why I spent a lot of my time staring into the sunset in my late teenage years, wondering what MORE was in store for me instead of actually doing stuff with my life.  There's nothing wrong with dreaming.  There's nothing wrong with hope.  There is something wrong with discontent, and I'm not blaming Disney for this as much as myself.  Because I tend to get caught up in fantasy...if you haven't noticed.

Anyway, the 2000s were kind of a let down for me, Disney movie-wise (again, not counting Pixar--because I love me some Pixar).  I loved Fantasia 2000, but what followed it were a series of Disney films that just didn't seem very Disney-ish.  The Emperor's New Groove made me laugh, but it lacked something I'd come to expect from Disney films.  Perhaps it was simply that the main characters didn't burst into song every five minutes for no apparent reason.  I like Disney movies where people burst into song.  In fact, I'd like life a lot better if everyone just randomly burst into song.  I've tried it, but usually people just give me funny stares and I eventually stop singing...or I just endure the funny stares.

Yeah.  Like NONE of the Disney animated films from the 2000 decade have people that burst into song--unless you count The Princess and the Frog.  I liked that one, but it didn't strike me as a truly Disney film.  It lacked something.  Some kind of magical Disney quality that I believed to be dead.

When I saw previews for Tangled, I just sighed.  I had no desire to see it.  The previews just made it look like a stupid parody--like Disney was trying too hard to be hip and cool and funny.  But it was playing at work one day, so I watched part of it.

Oh.  My.  Gosh.  I had to go rent it afterwards so I could watch the whole thing.

The Disney movie is NOT dead.  Tangled is a funny parody, but it's also a more traditional Disney movie--complete with characters randomly bursting into song!  I don't want to give too much away if you haven't seen Tangled.  It's an original story that does a great job of incorporating the original fairy tale.  I'm not sure what Disney animation has in store for the 2010's, but I'm paying attention again.

Only this time, I hope I'm able to differentiate fantasy and reality.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It's safe to say that 2011 has been an "off year" when it comes to writing.  I've not done much--definitely not all the things I had planned to do.  I know the year isn't quite over yet, but that halfway point of JUNE is mocking me, reminding me of how much of a writing failure I am.

Only, I don't feel like a failure at all.  I probably should.  I haven't really met many of my goals.  I haven't really even tried.  Yesterday (okay, and today too), I spent my free afternoon taking a nap and playing stupid computer games.  I think I might have a slight touch of apathy going on right now.  I hope it passes soon--like by next week, when I have lots of time off that can be used to work on query stuff.

Yeah, but I guess I should be more upset that this year hasn't gone exactly as I had planned back in the last few days of 2010.  The last two or three years of my life, I've noticed that my calendar is a week off from the actual calendar.  My New Year doesn't begin on New Year's Day.  It begins at Christmas.  Christmas is the day on which my entire year revolves. 

For the last few Christmases, my brain has focused on one idea that has to do with the Christmas story--with the story of God coming down to earth in the form of man in order to redeem mankind from death and sin.  Three years ago, I focused on the Star--connecting the stars that God showed Abraham back in Genesis 15 with the Star the Wisemen followed in Matthew 2.  I even wrote a song about it.  Two years ago, I focused on Joy. 

When this past Christmas came, I started thinking early about what idea would stand out.  One word kept standing out to me.  Peace. 

Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas (my fave Christmas movie) read a passage from Luke 2--"...Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men."  A song we sang for the choir Christmas program at church--Casting Crown's version of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" with the refrain "Peace on earth.  Peace on earth.  Peace on earth, good will to men." 

I wish I had taken Greek and Hebrew in college instead of going with Spanish (because I can't speak Spanish).  Then I'd be able to have better insight as to what that phrase "peace on earth, good will to men" actually means.  I've read several different translations, which all give the phrase a slightly different meaning.  "Peace on earth to men, on whom His favor rests."  "Peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests."  Does it mean that God offers peace and good will to ALL men?  Does it mean that God offers peace because His favor rests with men?  Does it mean that God offers peace ONLY to those on whom His favor rests?

I wrestled with this for a little while last December.  I came to the conclusion that while the translation and arguments surrounding it might be important at other times and in other circumstances, it didn't really matter to what I was trying to figure out.  The fact is, God did come to earth to offer peace to those who would accept Him.  He created us.  We rebelled against Him.  He came down with us to offer us reconciliation.  The angel came to bring good news.  And it was the best news ever.  I think that's why my whole year revolves around Christmas.  Easter is important too--it's also the best news ever that death couldn't keep Christ in that tomb.  I think the fact that Christ came and the fact that Christ lives are both the best news ever.

The thing is, this whole idea of peace didn't leave me after the Christmas season ended.  And I'm still trying to wrap my feeble human brain around the concept of peace. 

I'm an angry person.  If you haven't noticed this about me, it's not because it's not true.  It's just because you haven't seen it.  The ladies I work with at the drop-in center have seen it.  Lol.  I have a short fuse.  It's not as bad as it used to be, but it still exists.

But I can handle the short fuse a lot better than I can handle the grudges I hold, the bitterness I have let creep into my heart, the irrational senses of unfairness that I feel.  The Lord has been working in my heart since this past Christmas to root out a lot of the anger I didn't even realize I had.  Reminders of past pain and grievances have just popped up at seemingly random times, and I've had to deal with them and/or let them go.  And it's been a long, often difficult process.  And I know He's not done yet.  I'm grateful He loves me enough to work on me...

All of this is to say that sometimes the plans I make for my year, for my month, for my week, for my day--well, all of them can be thwarted quite easily.  I had plans for this to be a major writing year.  The Lord has had plans to work on my heart.  He's showing me that peace, although I can't understand it, is something worth pursuing.  He's showing me that as an imperfect person, I can't hold the imperfections of others against them.  He's showing me how to listen more than I speak.  He's bringing situations into my life that force me to be confrontational, yet He's showing me how to be gentle in the midst of those confrontations.  And I'm learning again that everything that comes into my life is filtered through grace.  God knows things are going to happen to me.  He knew I'd have a couple of financial issues this year (so far).  He knew I'd have to deal with work issues and situations in the lives of friends.  He knows everything that's coming, and He's allowing it--the good and the bad--because everything that comes my way is an opportunity to trust Him and show love to others.
And I have a feeling that peace is found somewhere in the midst of all of that. 

So no, this year hasn't gone exactly as planned.  I could definitely stand to work a little harder, so don't get me wrong.  I'm not using this as a cop-out.  But when it comes down to it, I'm not really that stressed out that things haven't gone as I planned.  God has His own plans.  And I'm hoping that when Christmas rolls around again, I'm closer to peace (and to Him) than I was before.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

SEW Sunday: Priorities...and Being Afraid

Gonna come right out and say that I'm calling it quits (for now) on my current writing project.  It was sick and dying from the beginning, and just gradually got sicker and sicker.  It tried fighting for life there at the end, but then it died to death.  And I just don't have time to try to pick up the pieces and try to salvage anything from it right now.

And I have stuff I REALLY should be doing in regards to preparing queries.  I have more than enough projects that require massive amounts of editing.  Writing new stuff just seems kind of silly at the moment.

After going out of town last weekend, I have had a killer time trying to get back on track.  I feel as though I really didn't even get a break, and I guess that's okay.  I've been trying to learn how to live life as it comes...because like it or not, it's not just going to pause for me to get my act together.  And lately I've been a lot more scatterbrained than usual.  I've been forgetting events and telling people I can do things when I've already told other people I can do other things at the same time.  Ugh.

My preschool job ends next week (for the summer), and while I'm going to miss "my" kids SOOOOO much, I'm actually looking forward to only having two jobs for a while.  Part of me wants to consider looking for just one full time job after this summer--but I'm not actually considering it yet.  I'm just considering considering it.  If that makes sense.  If it doesn't make sense, don't worry.  My life doesn't make too much sense at the moment...

I have got to learn to prioritize.  That's why the current writing project is getting nixed (for now--maybe for always.  Who knows?).  I've been saying, "Oh, I have to get this synopsis done.  I've got to send out queries."  I haven't done that.  I haven't done it--not because I don't HAVE the time, but because I haven't MADE the time to do it. 

My other priority right now?  Working on this cd idea I have.  I need to practice my guitar a lot more than I have been doing.  I need to buck up the courage to actually call and/or email the guy at my church about the possibilty of recording the cd.  I need to coordinate time with my roommate (who is an amazing violinist) to work on some violin harmonies for some of my songs.  I need to.  I need to.  I need to.

I need to make this cd happen.

It amazes me how God is showing me that it's the right time to do this.  I have wanted to put out a cd for such a long time.  I've never felt good/strong/courageous/talented/cool enough to do such a thing.  In the past few weeks, so many random people have told me that they love my voice.  So many people have encouraged me.  It's not even my voice that I want to get out there.  As Mitch McVicker (an uber talented Christian musician and super nice guy) has said, and I paraphrase, "The world doesn't need more Christian music or Christian musicians.  But the world needs truth, and I've been given this to do.  I'm just trying to be faithful with what I've been given." 

That's kind of how I'm thinking.  It's not that I have anything brilliant to say, but the fact is, I've said it anyway.  I've put words down to music.  But they're not doing a bit of good at the moment.  I'm tired of keeping all these songs and all these words hoarded up inside the four walls of my room.  While there's nothing new under the sun, I still think there's something worthwhile in sharing something that God's given me.  And if I donate a portion (or all) of the proceeds from the sales of this cd, then there's something worthwhile in that, too. 

Here's the problem.

I'm such a scared little kid.  I have given up on the idea that that's ever going to change.  For a while, I could pretend.  I could be braver.  I could be more confident.  I could be more lovable.  I could be more interesting or suave or beautiful or whatever.  ...only, it wouldn't be who I am.  And I learned a long time ago that if I try to be something I'm not, then sooner or later (usually sooner), whatever false foundation I built under myself is going to crumble.  God won't let me pretend, and for that, I'm VERY grateful.

The truth is, I'm weak.  I am scared to death.  I like safe things that I understand, like work and routine.  I don't like stepping out in faith and doing things when I don't know how to do them and when I don't know what's going to happen.  What am I really afraid of?  That people are going to look down on me.  That people are going to see me for what I am.  That my slip is going to show, and the whole facade of beauty and "put-togetherness" and strong, confident woman (HEAR ME ROAR) is going to crumble. 

But I'm already weak.  And I'm not more lovable.  I'm not more confident.  I'm not more "put together."  I know I keep repeating myself on this, but it's something that takes awhile to get through my head.  And I think other people need it, too.  So I'll keep repeating it:

The only hope for a weak fool like me is that God delights in using the weak and foolish to shame the strong and wise.  And I am not going to be more lovable or beautiful, but that's okay.  Because God's love is so much more powerful than my unlovableness.

I fear man instead of God.  God knows it, and that's one of the reasons He's really encouraging me to do step out and do this scary cd thing right now.  Quite honestly, I'm terrified, because it's a big deal to me to do something like this--just like the query letters terrify me.  But I'm getting to that remarkable point where I'm more terrified of disobeying God and missing out on what He has for me than of the things that terrify me.

...and the thing is, I'm still learning just how to be afraid...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fiction Friday: My THIRD Favorite Character of All Time Ever

I love me some Narnia.  Seriously, every single time I go into my closet, I look behind the shirts to see if there's a doorway to a secret world.  Every.  Single.  Time.

And I'm too old to be doing that, but I can't help it.

My third favorite fictional character of all time ever is from the Narnia series, but this character is NOT my favorite character from the Narnia series.  My favorite character from the Narnia series is Aslan, and I don't consider Him to be fictional.  Do I expect to go to heaven one day and bury my face into Aslan's mane?  Not exactly, but it gives me a nice image to keep in mind.  I like the image of Aslan a lot better than some of the other images I've seen/imagined of Jesus/God.  I wish I were beyond needing such images, but I'm not.  I'm pretty sure most people aren't beyond the need for images.

And C. S. Lewis was pretty much amazing with imagery. 

So since I don't think of Aslan as a fictional character, I can't say He's my favorite fictional character of all time ever...or my second or third favorite fictional character of all time ever.  And I have to admit that it's really hard for me to choose a second favorite fictional character from the series, but I can't help but love Lucy.

I love Edmund, too.  As a helpless sinner, I can relate to him better than any other character in the books, although all of the characters besides Aslan were imperfect--even Lucy.  It's just that Edmund was the one depicted as the traitor for which Aslan died.  That hits home.  I perfectly understand Edmund's willingness to betray his own family for just another taste of Turkish delight.  There have been times when I have turned my back on God just because I wanted to do my own thing--and once I had what I thought I wanted, I realized how worthless it was, especially compared to Him, His calling, and His unfailing Love.

But there's just something about Lucy that wins me over.  She's just so wonderfully childlike.  I can just sense that wonderment when she first enters the wintry land of Narnia.  I appreciate her insistence that she really did see Narnia, even when her own family thinks she's just playing make believe.  Even more than that, I admire the amazing childlike love she has for Aslan. 

My favorite book out of the Narnia series is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  There are so many amazing things about this book (the movie was all right, but I really think they missed the adventure aspect of the book by trying to write a new plot for it) that I can't begin to even list them (Dragons AND Dufflepuds???!!!  What's not to love?).  My favorite part of the book, however, is near the end, when Lucy and Edmund learn that they must go back to their own world and that they're too old to return to Narnia (so that confirms it, then...I really am too old to keep checking my closet).  And Lucy says something wonderful.  Aslan's reply is even more wonderful.

"It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy.  "It's you.  We shan't meet you there.  And how can we live, never meeting you."
"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan.
"Are--are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.
"I am," said Aslan.  "But there I have another name.  You must learn to know me by that name.  This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

I want that kind of childlike devotion.  I want to be more like Lucy.  She's not perfect; I realize that very well.  She has doubts.  She has insecurities.  She is very human.  But the fact that she is imperfect makes me hopeful that someone human and imperfect like me can be more like her.  I want that childlike faith.  I want that childlike devotion and love for God.

No.  You know what?  What I really want is to have the relationship with God like Lucy had with Aslan.  Maybe I do want to bury my head in His mane and hear His voice tell me that even if I'm not perfect, I'm still dearly, dearly loved.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


One of the biggest issues I've had with my own writing is not knowing whether or not I want to be identified as a Christian writer.  I am a Christian.  I am a writer.  That doesn't automatically make me a "Christian writer."

When I first started getting serious about writing books, I absolutely knew I did NOT want to be known as a Christian writer.  It's mainly because I've not read a whole lot of good Christian fiction, but also because I really have reservations about writing books that probably only Christians will read.  I've read some decent Christian fiction in the last few months, and I've given some thought to what I want to do.  I haven't come to any solid conclusions...because as you might have gathered, I'm just a TAD bit indecisive.

The thing is, I am starting to think I won't have to make a decision.  I can't seem to help keeping my Christian ideals out of my writing.  Some writers who are Christians don't have a problem with this.  They can keep their writing lives separate from their beliefs, and I can't judge them at all for it.  In fact, I'm a little jealous.  It must be nice to just be able to separate writing from life like that.  I'm not able to do it...and I know I'd be doing something detrimental to my writing if I tried. 

I am not one of those Christians who can tell you the exact day I became a Christian.  I can't tell you exactly how old I was.  I can't tell even really talk about what my life was like before Christ, because as long as I remember, the Lord has been pursuing me.  I do know that I originally wanted to be a Christian because I was afraid of hell.  That's a pretty lame reason, but God used that to eventually build a strong faith that isn't just a part of my life.  It is my life.  That's not to say I'm perfect or always make decisions based on what I think God wants me to do.  I fail.  I fail a LOT.  But I can't deny His constant presence guiding everything in my life--including my writing.

I'm not a "five point Calvinist."  I'm not sold on this predestination stuff.  But as far as I'm concerned, I think He's chosen me.  I know the Lord has wanted me since childhood.  It's not because I'm good or worthy.  In fact, the Lord knows better than I do that I'm a weak, foolish, cowardly sinner who's only able to do anything good because of the goodness He's done in me.  I'm not all that useful, but He wants to use me anyway.  I don't know why.  I don't know why He has chased me so hard or given me so much, but I know that because He has, much is expected of me. 

That's not why I think that I'm going to end up being a Christian writer.  I'm not trying to give something back.  I'm not trying to be anything.  I just am what I am.  And I think what I am is...a Christian writer.

Sometimes, I have to make a choice.  Sometimes, it chooses me.  I think I'm going to end up being a Christian writer because I don't really have the choice to be anything else.  I think every time I put pen to paper, something "me-breathed" is going to come out.  And because God is so present in my life, that "me-breathed" stuff is going to be a reflection of God's breath.

I just pray they're not all poor reflections.

Monday, May 16, 2011

SEW Monday?!?!

I'm updating on a Monday, which I usually don't do, but I just got back from my weekend trip to KY, and I kind of just want to type for a bit to get it out of my system.

I don't promise that the sentence above will be my only run-on sentence in this blog post.  Be kind.  I was on the road 10+ hours today with only a few Dragons to keep me company.  Okay, so I did go visit with a wonderful friend and her little girl, but it was mostly just me and the Dragons.  And some Mitch McVicker cds.

He writes/plays/sings the best driving music.

Turns out, I write some decent songs myself...though most of them aren't good driving music (they're better, uh...sleeping music).  Now, they're not Mitch McVicker quality, by any means.  My guitar playing lacks, er, shall we say...mad skills.  And my insane operatic vibrato doesn't really make for excellent easy listening music.  But I've been wanting to put out a cd for over a decade.  I was afraid to do it before, and really, I don't think I was ready.  I think I am now.  I've written some good songs.  The Lord has given me the desire to raise some money for a specific cause, and he's given me just enough talent to perhaps be able to do that.

And the mountain roads are the best places in the world to clear your head, make some decisions...

...and I think it's time.  I've got a business card from a guy who can maybe help me record my songs (hopefully for free).  I've got some friends who can help me with some photos and maybe even some graphic design (again, hopefully for free).  I'd like to get a cd out fairly soon and donate most of the proceeds (if not all of them...I might have some production expenses even if I get lots of freebies). This is an idea I've had for about six months, and I'm thinking that it's about high time that THUNDERCATS ARE GO!

I wrote a few poems this weekend, but otherwise I've had little time for writing.  I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things this week--or maybe next week.  My head still feels all buzzy and fuzzy from driving all day.  As for the querying--hopefully that will start up again soon, too.  I really think my main focus needs to be on this musical project, though.  And it still counts as writing since it's all original work.  So there.

I have a feeling I'm going to be off all week and think that tomorrow is Monday instead of Tuesday, so hopefully I will get back to my poor semblance of a blogging schedule by Wednesday.  

I miss the mountains. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I'm still incredibly busy.  In fact, I still have to go finish packing so I can leave tomorrow for KY.  It's my brother's college graduation, my dad's birthday, AND my oldest niece's SIXTH birthday.  Unless something unforeseen happens, I am so there!  ...and I should be there until Monday.

That means that I may or may not be updating the rest of this week.  Just in case, do not be expecting a Fiction Friday or a SEW Sunday this week.  I might get the opportunity to post something, or I might not.  Either way, I don't have much to say and I doubt people are really waiting on the edge of their seats for my newest blog update.  If you are, feel free to let me know so I have another reason to blog.  If you aren't...then feel free to lie to me.

Well, this year has been really interesting so far.  In late March, I found out I owed an extravagant (for me) sum of money to the IRS.  With the help of some VERY GENEROUS friends, I was able to pay the full amount.  Only a couple months later, I have gotten myself into another financial mess because of my lovely car.  Again, I've been humbled by the gifts of some very generous friends. Very humbled.  And part of me just wants to ask the Lord, "Really?  Have I not learned what You're trying to teach me, yet?"

Maybe I have.  Maybe I haven't.  But I know that I'm learning so much about the way God's grace works.  See, there hasn't been any situation that has come into my life without His knowledge.  He has known each situation that has come.  He knows every situation that will come.  And sometimes my dumb choices get me into dumb messes, and sometimes things just happen because life has the tendency to suck sometimes.  But I'm learning that everything that happens to me--EVERYTHING--is filtered through grace. 

Everything that happens to me is an opportunity.  It's an opportunity to trust God.  It's an opportunity to show love to others.  If someone cuts me off in traffic--I have a choice to blow my horn at them or to just let it go.  If someone makes a hurtful remark, I can choose to try to hurt them back or forgive.  If I lose my job or have to pay large sums of money to multiple auto mechanics, I can choose to wallow in worry and saddness, or I can trust God to provide, as He always has before.

And I guess I'm leading up to something I should have just posted in the first place.  Here's a poem/song I wrote.  It needs music, but I'm diggin' the words...which probably makes me vain or something...


Oh, Your love is like the sun
Bursting through the clouds
Burning through the haze.
And I've been growing used to dark
Of this dreary world
And I have to turn away.

But You burn through me, too
And I'm changing

Give me songs
Give me grace
Give me the breath
To sing Your praise.
Great are You, Lord
From everlasting to everlasting.
Oh, Lord
Give me songs
And the grace to sing.

And, oh, when darkness overwhelms
And I can't fight the demons
That steal Your peace away,
Then, Lord, let Your love burn through
Like the promise of Your stars.
Let night shine like the day.

And make me like those stars
So I'm blazing

Give me songs
Give me grace
Give me the breath
To sing Your praise.
Great are You, Lord
From everlasting to everlasting.
Oh, Lord, give me songs
And the grace to sing.

Everything that comes my way is filtered through grace.
Everything that comes my way is an opportunity to praise.
Everything that comes my way is another chance to trust.
Everything that comes my way is just another chance to love.
Yes, Lord.

Give me songs
Give me grace
Give me the breath
To sing Your praise.
Great are You, Lord,
From everlasting to everlasting
So give me songs.
Give me songs.
Give me songs
And the grace to sing.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

SEW Sunday: Profit

In my Bible reading, I've been going through Proverbs for the past few days.  I read Proverbs 14 last night.  Honestly, some of the Proverbs seem pointless, like Proverbs 14:5 "A trustworthy witness will not lie, but a false witness utters lies."  Um...not to be rude, Solomon...but doesn't that kind of, um...go without saying?

Then there are Proverbs that really make me think, like Proverbs 14:23 "In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."

I have worked A LOT this week.  Every day, Monday through Saturday, I worked at LEAST two jobs.  I've worked more than 50 hours, not counting the time it took me to drive from one job to the other.  I've also had to take my car to two different places and spent a LOT of money trying to get it fixed up--and it's still not all done.

Sometimes I just really feel like I'm working ALL the time, and just when I start to get ahead (or even just caught up with things) financially, I have to put money into something else.  The other day I was sitting in the tire shop while they put two new tires on my car that will probably wear out within a year because I'm too broke to afford the repair my car needs to ensure my wheels are in proper alignment.  And I was texting my mom.  I texted her something like, "I'm always working.  I'm always broke.  I NEED TO SELL MY NOVEL."

And I'm smart enough to know that's probably not going to solve all my problems...because writers, even published ones, are often pretty broke.  If I sold my book, I probably couldn't quit any of my day jobs...but then I do keep hoping I strike gold like J. K. Rowling...if only.

But that's not the main issue here.

I have been doing a lot of talking.  There are definitely a lot of things I still need to do before sending any queries.  Have I done them?  No.  I've just talked about doing them. 

Now, I've got a butt load of excuses, and I think them reasonable.  After the week I just had, I know there is no way I could have squeezed in any writing activities.  In fact I haven't written down a single word of a story since LAST Sunday afternoon.  I'm a writer who hasn't written anything on a project in a week.  I have simply not had the time.  And that sucks, but that's the way it goes some weeks.

This upcoming week doesn't look too promising, either.  I'm working two jobs Monday, two jobs Tuesday, two jobs Wednesday, and on Thursday I'm definitely working one job and I'm on call for another.  If I don't get called in to that other job, I'm going to leave town on Thursday to go visit family in KY (if I end up working Thursday night, I plan to leave Friday morning).  And I'll be gone all weekend.  My bro is graduating college.  My dad and oldest niece both have birthdays.  There's a possibility I'll have to work on a song to sing at my parent's church.  Do you think I'm going to have time for writing?  HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

So basically, my current project is on a standstill until I have time to do something with it.  I don't have time to work on stuff for queries.  Editing is out of the question.  Reading for fun/inspiration is the furthest thing from my mind.

And it's easy to get discouraged in the midst of a busy schedule.  It's easy to say, "Well, I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing as a writer, so I'm a failure."  And I do have to say that I'm convicted by Proverbs 14:23.  I do a lot of talking about my writing, but how much am I doing with my writing?

But that verse doesn't say " only the HARDEST work there is profit."  It says, "In ALL work there is profit."  I'm doing what I can do with my writing at the moment, and trusting there will be more time for it later.  The question then is, "What WILL I do with it when I have the time?"  Will I do the work I need to do, or will I just continue to talk about it?

In the meantime, I'm not doing a lot of writing.  I'm doing a lot of working with kids.  I gotta say, sometimes, I'd rather be writing.  Right now, though, I have to trust that the work I am doing is going to lead to some kind of profit...hopefully monetary, so I can keep paying my bills, but it's more than that. 

The Lord has been teaching me a lot lately about different things.  He's teaching me how to praise Him in every circumstance, and how WE NEED to praise Him.  God desires our praise, but He also wants us to praise Him because we need to praise Him.  That's what we were designed to do--and I've noticed that when I'm praising Him, I just function better in general.  And so this stressful week has been really unexpectedly good.  I've worked my butt off (not quite literally, though I may have lost a little weight in that general area) this week.  I've had emotional ups and downs.  I've gotten some really nice paychecks that had to be put right back into expenses for my car.  I've taken opportunities to offer help to others, and I've had to be humble and ask for help for myself.  I've seen friends I haven't seen in months and even years.  I've talked a lot about what God has done and about what He is doing and what He will do.  I've failed.  I've succeeded.  I've ran and breathed and rested and hoped and prayed and dreamed and rejoiced and cried and worked and sang and LIVED. 

And I've realized again how much I really love my crazy, wild, wonderful life.

After all I've done against God, I don't deserve for the Lord to love me enough to test me and shape me.  But He does.  And He will continue to do so.  And I know in His timing that my life and my writing are going to become what He wants them to be.  I just have to wait for it and keep working and praying and resting in Him.  Talking is fine, but all work leads to profit...and I believe that to be both monetary and Spiritual profit. 

So I pray I work and worship and live this life He's given me.  If I'm doing the things I know I'm supposed to be doing, I don't believe He's going to lead me astray.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fiction Friday: Hungry for More

I was going to blog about it.

Then I wasn't.

Then I was going to.

Then...I wasn't.

Then I was possibly going to blog about it, but I wasn't sure.

Then I wasn't going to blog about it.

Then I was running the other day and just kept thinking about this book series.  And I realized that I was thinking about this book series...again.  And I realized that I probably should blog about it.

You probably knew this was coming.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (and the two sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay) have pretty much consumed (any puns are unintentional...maybe) me for the past couple months or so.  I had heard of the series, but I wasn't that interested until the 12 year old girl I watch recommended the first one.  So I checked it out from the library...

...and wow.  Wow. 

I don't know how to do any fancy schmancy book reviews without giving spoilers.  So the basics.  It's a YA sci fi / dystopian (kind of the opposite of Utopian) series told in present tense from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old (when the series starts) girl named Katniss Everdeen.  Protecting her younger sister, she becomes a "tribute" in something known as the Hunger Games, in which 24 teenagers are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of "The Capital."  That's how it starts, and it gets WAY more complicated from there...if you can imagine anything more complicated than that.

When I was sixteen years old, my biggest concern was probably about not having a date to the homecoming dance...again.

But Katniss had already had a VERY hard life, and Suzanne Collins told Katniss' story in a believable and extremely entertaining, thought-provoking way.  She is a writer who knows how to keep a reader turning pages late into the night, just to see what happens next.  And Collins definitely kept me guessing (especially in the second book, Catching Fire).  She also handled the romantic scenes just as well as she handled the action scenes--and these books are FULL of both! 

What I really like about this series is the way it makes me think.  Even though it's been a couple of weeks since I finished the series and turned the books back into the library, I'm still thinking about the story.  I know I could not have made the choices that Katniss had to make--not as a sixteen-year-old and not as a thirty-one-year-old.  I know that the reason she had to make these choices was because she lived in a very corrupt, politically charged world.  And I know that the world I live in is capable of the same kind of evil.  In the light of a lot of current events, I'm thinking even more that we're not too far from the world of Katniss Everdeen.  And that keeps me up at night...thinking.

I did have a few problems with the series, mainly with the last book, Mockingjay.  Most of the problems I had were just that I didn't like certain things that happened, and well, Collins is the writer so I can't argue with her about how her story should go (I'm big on the author being right about his/her own story...probably because I write books, too).  I do think that she might have been rushed into getting the last book done.  Certain things just seemed slapped together, and I think they could have been handled slightly better if she had taken her time.  Editing is a crucial part of writing, and I don't think as much editing of the actual story went into the last book.  Probably because she had a maybe it wasn't entirely her fault.

Apart from that, I really think that the last book was far too heavy to be a YA novel.  The fact that the 12-year-old I watch had read it before I did makes me really nervous.  I think a lot of the details went over her head, so that gives me some peace.  But I know this book REALLY messed with my head.  There was a lot of psychological issues involved that, quite honestly, kind of bothered me.  I am not saying they had no place in the story, but I think they should have been toned down some for a book that is marketed towards teenagers.  If I, as an adult (okay, so I know it's a stretch, but still), was disturbed by some of the content of this book, it would probably be even more disturbing to a teenage audience.  I will also point out, though, that while these books had some disturbing, gory imagery, they were pretty much free of sex and foul again, kudos to Collins.

All in all, the last page of the last chapter of Mockingjay DID make me cry (happy tears).  I was happy with the overall outcome.  The epilogue seemed to be slapped together (again, I think she needed a little more time to develop it...maybe?), but it was decent and left me feeling good about parting with the characters and story.

The first two books were definitely better than the last one, but Mockingjay was perhaps a necessary conclusion to a story that just couldn't have a completely happy ending.  I like fairy tales and happy endings, but there is also something to be said for realistic stories that make you think about evil in the world.  And this was one of those. 

If you are looking for a good read, I definitely recommend The Hunger Games series.  A movie is supposed to come out sometime next year, so now would be a good time to read them.  Just make sure you have access to ALL three books before you start reading the first, because you will want them all.  I learned that the hard way.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Writing Within

I haven't written a single word of a story since...oh probably Sunday night.  The reason?  I haven't had time (and that's really not just a lame excuse this's the truth).  I mean, I would have time if I didn't sleep or if I decided all this exercise stuff I've been doing is for losers.  But I've worked two (or three) jobs every day this week so far, and honestly, sleep has been way more important than writing.  The rest of the week doesn't look much more promising.  I've got a LOT to do in the next three days, and I'm not sure when I'll have time to do it all.  So writing?  I might get to that...eventually.

But I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Just because I haven't been writing anything down on paper (or typing anything up on the computer screen) doesn't mean I haven't been writing at all. 

There is a sort of magic that sometimes happens (and sometimes just...doesn't...) when a writer starts writing down things on paper.  Sometimes the words just flow out of the pen and create something wonderful, something the writer couldn't write until he/she sat down to start writing.  Sometimes I, personally, just need to feel a pen sliding across a piece of paper, or I need to feel the rhythm of my fingers clicking across a keyboard.  Sometimes I can't create until I get that physical connection of pen to paper, fingers to keyboard.

Then there are the other times, the times I've experienced this week--the times when a writer doesn't need paper.  I'mma call it...mind writing.  I find that one of my favorite places to mind write is in the shower.  I guess that's weird, but...whatever works, right?  I stand there, washing my hair, and a scene or character comes to me.  It's usually from whatever project I'm working on, and it's usually involving dialogue.  So I stand in the shower and talk to myself until I've figured out the scene or until the water gets cold--whichever comes first.

I also like to mind write while I'm running (or whatever form of exercise I happen to be doing).  I can't have conversations with myself without looking like a loony to other people on the road, so I have to internalize whatever I'm mind writing.  I'm not good at internalizing.  Lately, while running, I've been mind writing about characters who run, because I'm just THAT creative...  ...  ...  ...

Mind writing in those few moments between turning out the light and going to sleep can be either incredibly helpful or incredibly dangerous.  It can be dangerous because I tend to forget things easily, especially when I'm tired.  So there's a good chance that anything I thought of before I go to sleep will be forgotten forever (maybe that's a good thing...?).  But mind writing before sleep can also be awesome if I'm lucky enough to be able to DREAM about what I was mind writing.  Every book I've completed so far has been, in some way, inspired by a dream.  In the case of my first book, it wouldn't exist if not for a dream (and a really ugly ring).  In my second book, I had an idea for a story, but it wasn't tied together until I had a dream that I thought would be a great scene in the book.  So yeah, I'm a really big fan of dreams.  I like to use them in my writing.  Sometimes I'll take naps just because I have some of my best dreams in the middle of the day.  I mean, I might not dream at all, but it's worth a shot.  ...and I get a nap...  Win-win.

These are some of the times/places I usually mind-write, but they aren't the only ones.  Mind writing can happen just about anywhere.  Grocery shopping.  Driving a car (scary, right?).  Eating breakfast.  Sitting in church (...don't judge me, Christians!).  Yeah.  Just about anywhere.

So if you happen to see me this week and I have a vacant expression, it might just be that I'm mind writing because I have no time for real writing.  If this is the case, proceed with caution and make no sudden movements.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

SEW Sunday: Editing As Death and Rebirth

So, I've come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons I kind of mentally, emotionally, and in all other ways shut down on trying to find a literary agent in February was because I didn't want to do something that I knew (in the back of my mind) really needed to be done.  I fought against it for a while, then just decided I would sweep it under the rug and not think about it. 

Last week, I mentioned that I reread my first book and LOVED it, but I knew there needed to be one DRASTIC change.  That change has been made, which was hard for me, but it wasn't as hard as I thought.

I killed my prologue.

It's a YA fantasy, this book.  For the past DECADE that I've been working on it, it has always had a prologue.  I've always imagined it with a prologue.  The prologue was an integral part, not only of the story, but also of my image of what my introduction to the realm of being published author would look like.  I wanted the first thing people read by A. R. Campbell to be THAT prologue.  The first two words of that prologue were the first two words I wanted for my book...sigh...

But people, particularly agents, seem to not like prologues anymore.  I read more than one anti-prologue blog from agents I respect.  I'd read other agent interviews where other agents I respect discussed their hatred of prologues.  Agents know (at least a lot better than most people) what readers and publishers like.  Apparently, readers and publishers don't like prologues, either.  And I could see how I could easily incorporate my prologue into my story.  It wasn't that I didn't want to do the actual work (although, let's face it, I hate work).  My problem was that I didn't want to kill my prologue...because I loved it.

So it took me three months of pouting to finally get to the point where I was ready.  Friday, I had a day off.  I went out for a run.  I did some shopping.  I did some cleaning.  I delayed and delayed the inevitable.  Then I finally sat down at my computer and did the necessary editing, the necessary changes.

And I deleted the first three pages of my book.  The pages with the prologue.

I wish I hadn't pouted for so long, because as it turns out, I was able to reproduce much of the prologue, verbatim, within the structure of the story.  The prologue died, yes, but it was reborn into something that actually made more sense within the plot.  I had to tweak a few things.  There are still some things I will have to check and double-check (editing is hard, yo).  But, for the most part, it's done.  And my book is better for it.

The prologue is dead.  I mourn it, but all is not lost.

Okay, so that sounded REALLY dramatic and cheesy, but what do you expect?  I'm a writer....

As for writing, I'm still working on my current project.  I still don't like it, but I think I've made a small breakthrough in what I want to do with it all.  Some of my test readers are encouraging me to continue, so I'm trying to appease them, but I have to admit I'm really tempted to just shut the project down for a while and concentrate on the querying and editing aspects of my writing.

I still have a lot to do before I'm ready to start sending queries again.  I need to do some more agent research.  I need to perfect a synopsis.  I need to write and edit some outlines.  I also need to do some minor edits to the actual story.

I also want to start seriously working on a musical project--a collection of songs.  I'm not sure how well that's going to work, but I think it's worth a shot right now.

And then there's another rough draft of a project that I want to eventually try to sell.  It needs serious editing, and now I think I've distanced myself from it enough to be ready for that editing. 

Honestly, I hate hate hate editing.  It makes me see what isn't good about what I've done and forces me to destroy my previous work, some of which took me a LONG time to develop.  I've made an investment in these things that I once thought were amazing, only to find that they often don't even pass the level of mediocrity.  So I have to destroy what I once built, only to try to build it up better the second time.  Then the third time.  Then the fourth time.  As long as it takes...

Being a writer has given me some small glimpses into what it must be like to be God.  Only I'm not as patient as He is.  How many times has He had to tear us down so that He could rebuild us?  Only it's not His fault we're imperfect...we're the ones who mess up our own lives...because we try to be what we can't be.  We try to be Him.

I can't be God.  I can just be a writer, and editing forces me to realize that I'm just not as brilliant as I sometimes imagine myself to be.  As discouraging as all that sounds, I have to say that I really have been encouraged this week.  I've been reminded about how much I really do love my life and the opportunities God has given me.  I know that He's in control, so I really don't have anything to fear. 

There's still a lot of work to be done, but I've got to be honest--getting rid of my prologue was a HUGE step in this journey towards getting published.  It's gotten me back on track to do the things that I know I still need to do.  I'm not there yet, but I know where I want to go.

Now I just have to do the work it will take me to get there. 

Have I mentioned that I'm really glad I'm not God.  I mean, seriously.  I would have forgotten to make gravity, and then where would we all be?  But He's the Author AND the Perfecter.  When I really thing about it, I have nothing to fear.

...hee hee.  Bion is going to be working overtime.