"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

10/31/12

Running Out Of Time - A Goals/Progress Post

My year of learning is coming to an end. And it has been so VERY worth it.  I've taken a HUGE number of classes since January, and unless something surprising comes up, I'll only be taking one more before the year ends (see below for details on it :D).

My deadline to submit my complete nonfiction manuscript to the One Hope contest  at Write Integrity Press (which I finalled in! Winner gets cash and a publishing contract!) is only two months away, and I still have me some work to do. And I do NOT like turning things in at the last minute.

But enough about how short time is. How did I do in October, and what are my plans for November? Read on to find out

Here are my goals, direct from last month's goals/progress post.
  • More research for Handmaiden to a Princess
  • Keep up in the Mastering Goal, Motivation, and Conflict class at Savvy Authors
  • Keep up in October's free ACFW course on characterization
  • Prepare a chapter of Handmaiden to a Princess for the free edit Cindy Vallar (teacher of the writing and researching historical fiction class I took) offered to all her students.
 I kept up in both classes - and both were WONDERFUL learning experiences. (check out tomorrow's writing craft recap post for some of what I learned) They helped me think out some stuff - plot, character, action, etc - for HtP, and have caused me to actually feel READY to write/plot out this book - which is going to be QUITE different than what I thought in the beginning way back when (or even at the beginning of this year!). Actually looking forward to moving forward with it. Soon :)

I did SOME research, but not a whole lot. Checked a couple books out from my local library, and have found some others at a local college library that I'll investigate later. Started taking a bit of notes too.

I did NOT prepare the chapter for the edit - but his was a deliberate decision. With all the changes I'll be making to the plot and such, I'd rather get a critique on a chapter that at least resembles what I'd be submitting to agents/editors eventually. Here's hoping I get that chapter written in a timelyish fashion. But not in November.

Speaking of that-month-that-starts-tomorrow...

Here are my goals.
  • Take notes necessary in Plants of the Bible by Michael Zohary and The History of Ancient Israel by Michael Grant (my two library books) for Handmaiden to a Princess.
  • Keep up in ACFW's November loop course on weaving the spiritual thread into your story.
  • Fix up Ailing Body, Nourished Soul for the One Hope contest, based on my dear friends' read-throughs. Would LOVE to be ready to submit by my next goals/progress post.
  • Do some plotting (snowflaking?) on Handmaiden to a Princess with the new ideas I have. Thinking serious writing may begin either in December or January.
So, there ya go. I'm optimistic (as usual) that I'll make this progress. With God's help - and YOUR wonderful encouragement - I just might! 

So - How was YOUR month?

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/29/12

The Problem with Peace

When I am looking for direction from God, I will often take circumstances, or occasionally my sense of peace, as an indication of whether I am heading in the right direction. I know I'm not alone in this.

I'll say to myself, "I'm not sure where in the Bible I should read, so I'll just close my eyes and open it, and start from there." Or, I might be considering whether I should email or call a friend. If I should notice that my husband is currently on the phone, I might decide that is a "sign" I should email.

In another instance, I'd be trying to figure out how to respond to a not-so-friendly comment from someone. I'd be more likely to say what makes me feel at peace. If I start saying something and a knot develops in my throat, I might just hold my tongue.

In my study of the book of Jonah, however, I have discovered that this is not necessarily a foolproof method. It also could mean that I am so spiritually numb that I am not hearing the Lord's nudging.
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. Jonah 1:1-5 NIV
You can tell as early as verse two that Jonah is absolutely, positively outside of God's will for him. Yet, he was able to find a ship from Joppa to Tarshish. According to Bible study teacher Bill Crowder, a ship would only travel from Joppa to Tarshish two or three times a year. Perhaps Jonah figured that God wasn't serious up in verse one. I mean, what are the chances this ship, bound for the exact place Jonah was considering, would be sitting in the port waiting for him? Must be God's will - right?

And how about verse five? The weather is pounding on the ship, seasoned sailors are panicking. And where is Jonah? Below deck, sleeping like a baby.

Now, I have to admit that I RARELY sleep like a baby--especially when I am rebelling against the Lord. Yet here is Jonah, snoring his way through a violent storm, as if he hasn't a care in the world. It is obvious he has so dulled himself to the Lord's desires that it doesn't even bother him anymore

I can't help but draw a parallel between another Bible figure who was in a similar situation.
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Matthew 8:23-26a NIV
Here is the Son of God, in the midst of a violent storm, also sleeping. Yet what different motives! Jesus is sleeping because He trusts His Father, while Jonah is doing so because of his rejection of Him.

So, don't always assume because things feel good, or because they work out "just right," that you're walking along the path the Lord wants you to walk. You could end up so engrossed in your own plan that you miss His. And we all know where Jonah ended up!

Heavenly Father, help me to never get so disobedient, or set in my own ways, that I miss Your plan for my life. Release me from the stubbornness and self-centeredness that threatens to turn me toward my own way instead of Yours. Guide me on Your path, and help me throw aside my own for Your glory. In Jesus' Name. Amen

 **


We're discussing this here, and at Living By Grace today. Won't you join us?


 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/26/12

Finds for Fridays: October 26

Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and I at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

What Makes a Villain Tick? by Audra Harders at Seekerville (about crafting a good villain)

The 3 Components of Job Satisfaction by Michael Hyatt at his blog (about what you need to be satisfied in your job or ministry - thought-provoking, to me anyway)

A Light-Bulb Moment by Maria Morgan at Life Lessons (about "eating around" the hard stuff)

Stepping Stones by Karlene Jacobsen at Look to the Hills (about struggles, opposition, and moving forward)

Winning the Battle, Losing the War, Missing the Point Entirely by Lori Stanley Roeleveld at Deeper with Jesus in Rhode Island (about debates, motives, and Jesus)

Really enjoyed this week's posts. Hope you will too!



Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/24/12

Guest Lynn Gipson - Grace is Calling - God is So Good


Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good.  Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the  Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
I know Lynn from FaithWriters - she is a sweet soul, a real encourager, and, as I learned recently, a cancer survivor. When I read this testimony, I had to share it with you. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me.

Grace is Calling
By lynn gipson
The phone rang today. It was Grace. Not a lady named Grace, but a doctor named Burnett. "Your biopsy came back negative," he said.

Hello? Grace calling once again. I've had many calls from Grace in the past three years and I know the voice so well, though the voice always changes and it does not necessarily have to come through the phone line. Sometimes Grace can be a man and sometimes women. Sometimes a doctor and sometimes a friend.

Image courtesy of akeeris
 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am a cancer survivor. I was told three years ago I didn't have long to live. Seizures from a brain tumor should have killed me, but Grace called up and said, "Not yet dear." Surgery took care of the tumor.

Stage four colon cancer then tried to steal me but Grace called again and said, "no, sweetie, still not your time." A cocky young surgeon showed up and must have been Grace. He did my surgery for free because I had no insurance, and it was extensive, expensive surgery. He did it for free because he was convinced he was the only one who could do it properly. Then Grace came disguised as an oncologist, and I know he came straight from God because I could see right away he was a healer. He told me he could fix this and he did. Grace calling.

Grace appeared again when a man in Florida who had never seen me before heard of my plight and helped me get the insurance I needed to get back into the hospital I owed so much money to. I was waiting for financial aid and meanwhile my cancer had spread to my uterus. That man deserves a purple heart and a crown in heaven because I am convinced he saved my life. Grace calling again.

Meanwhile, I've had so many calls from the Grace of God I can't begin to count them. At night when I was alone for the month I was in the hospital, Grace called out to me all the time. Grace came in the guise of nurses, doctors, therapists and my two granddaughters.

The good Lord knows I don't deserve Grace, but He loves me regardless of this, and He knew I was all alone in this world so he sent me one of His greatest gifts.

I get calls from Grace every day, telling me I am loved, worthy of life and forgiven. I am at a loss for words to describe how grateful I am. Surely God is saving me for something better than the life I have lived so far.

I had a doctor's appointment last week. Something suspicious made a biopsy necessary. I worried as I waited for the results of the test and for the doctor to call. I should know by now I need not have.

The phone's ringing again. It must be Grace.

Lynn Gipson is a relatively new writer. She writes articles, poems, and short stories of a Christian or spiritual nature. A born again Christian for three years, she is also a recent cancer survivor. She lives in Southaven, Mississippi.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.com
**
 No matter the struggle, He and Grace are always there. GOD is so good!  
 Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/22/12

How To Be Enemy To The Lost

 He said to them, “Go into all the world and 
preach the gospel to all creation." Mark 16:15 NIV

I've said it before. Many times.

Sharing the Gospel is very scary for me. It is totally out of my comfort zone. And, I'm ashamed to say, it's partly, I'm sure, because of lack of practice.

I just don't go around doing it very often. And that is probably being kind on my part. It is RARE that I share the gospel.

Photo credit
And trust me - it's not because I don't have the opportunity. Though I live in a very "religious" area, I am surrounded by lost folks. Folks who have never heard of the saving work of Jesus. Folks who don't understand salvation. Folks who totally get it, but haven't accepted it. They're everywhere: at the grocery store where I shop, at my kids' school, at soccer practice, at gymnastics. In my extended family. In my email inbox. On my Facebook page. My twitter feed. Among my blog followers.

The associate pastor at our church has recently taken over teaching my Sunday School class (the 35-50 year-old group), and every week, something he has said has challenged me. Yesterday, it was something he implied.

We were talking about how people in the church sometimes see the unsaved as the enemy. If they're different from us, we act like they don't belong. Their sins cause US to make a separation between us and them. We decide who we should share the gospel with based on our comfort, or our perception of if they'd "fit" in the family of God.

I've done that. And I'll bet you have too. (Hey - even PB admitted to catching himself doing so)

Well, do you know what I realized as I sat there?
If I won't share the Gospel with someone, I am, in essence, seeing that person as my enemy.
Cuz what if I'm the only person able to do it? If I'm the one God hand-picked to share His truth with her? If I refuse because I'm afraid, embarrassed, or any other reason, I'm essentially saying I'm willing to let that person to go to hell.
If that isn't an enemy, I don't know what is.
What's more important - my self-esteem, or a lost friend's eternal home? Do I care so much about my own comfort that I'm willing to send someone to eternal damnation because to do my part would be inconvenient?

Now, I know that I can't save anyone. That's the Holy Spirit's job. But He has left me here on earth to share His good news. Not to be comfortable, to have good self-esteem, or to live an easy life.

And he told me to love my enemies (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, 6:35). And what greater love can I show than sharing the path of salvation?

Heavenly Father, help me to stop treating the unsaved as my enemy. Help me to care more about the eternal destination of those around me than my own comfort or self-esteem. I want to share Your good news with the world - give me the boldness, and confidence, to do so. Help me remember, Lord, what is REALLY at stake. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

*****
We're discussing this here, and at Living By Grace today. Won't you join us?


 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/19/12

Grabbing the Initiative

I, raised Jewish, learned my first New Testament verse in elementary school. Surprising? Maybe more surprising is what I've recently learned from it. Stop by Jewels of Encouragement to see. I'm learning to Grab the Initiative.

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

Finds For Fridays: October 19

Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and I at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

Where Does Your Story REALLY Start? By Scott Eagan at Babbles from Scott Eagan (about how to determine what chapter 1 should be)

What Really Matters by Yvonne Blake at My Back Door  (about priorities)

Is Venting Biblical? by Jennifer Slattery at Internet Cafe Devotions (a lesson I TOTALLY needed. Toes stepped on for sure)

Why Your Dream Hasn't Come True...Yet by Jessica R. Patch at her blog (about Joseph and God's plans)

Thoughtful About...Nothing Less by Roseanna White at Writing Roseanna (about blessings and appreciation and complaining)

Some very thoughtful posts this week. Praying some of them get YOU thinking too. Have a great weekend!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/17/12

Comfort - God Is So Good


Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good.  Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the  Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
They say that as soon as you buy a car, suddenly all you see are other ones just like it. You didn't notice them before - but once you're the proud owner of your, say purple Chevy minivan, every third car you see is identical.

Apparently, it's not that all of a sudden everyone and their dog went out and bought a car just like yours (you are likely NOT a trendsetter, I'm sorry to say!). It's just that once you own something like that, you begin to notice others' similar vehicles more readily. Perhaps you're hypersensitive to it.

I've been feeling like that lately. No - not about cars (haven't had a new one in a while). About being the wife of a struggling husband.

It seems like more than a handful of my female friends and acquaintances are taking care of ill, injured, or struggling spouses. Car crashes. Cancer. Unemployment. You name it. It appears that, at least lately, if you're married and know me, there's a fair chance something (not so good) is going on with your hubby.

And I can relate. AND, perhaps most importantly, I can help.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
Because I've been there (not exactly there, but in a similar situation), I can use the blessed comfort the Lord gave (and gives) me to try to comfort my dear sisters. But do you know what is amazing? One phrase in this passage makes its implications so much more. Did you catch it?

IN ANY TROUBLE

God comforts us in all our troubles - which allows us to comfort those IN ANY TROUBLE. I don't even need to have "been there" specifically. If God has comforted me, I can use that same comfort to comfort others. Sure, when the situation is similar, the comforting may come more naturally, or feel (to the giver anyway) more effective - but our God is more powerful than that.

If we let Him use us, we can be that comfort to our struggling friends. And that, my friends, is what He wants us to do - one of the reasons we're here.

So whether your own circumstances are like that of your struggling friends or not, if God has ever comforted you (and I KNOW He has), you can help. Amazing. God is SO good!
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/15/12

My Burden? His Yoke!

We live in a busy world. Well, at least I do. Perhaps I'm the only person who feels like she's always got somewhere else to be, something else to do, someone else to satisfy. Somehow, I doubt it, though.

I don't even make a to-do list much of the time anymore. Way too depressing. Every time I cross something off, three more new ones come to mind. So I just get on my hamster wheel and put one foot in front of the other, over and over, until my energy is gone. Then I hop off, crash on the floor of the cage, until I wake up again and get back on the treadmill.

 So, maybe I'm not that bad (at least I HOPE I'm not). But sometimes, my day sure feels like that. More often than not, at minimum, I feel weary. And burdened.

And do you know what? The Lord knew I would get this way. And he gave me an answer. COME TO HIM.
 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 NIV
 I love that verse. All I have to do is go to Him, give Him all my troubles, tasks and to-do lists, and they'll get done. Cuz look at the next couple verses:
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30 NIV 
Look at that – it's easy. My burden will be light. My soul? Rested. Just dump my stuff on both of our backs and we share the load.

 Or IS that it?

 I don't know if you're a grammar person or not, but I was noticing a particular pronoun that's repeated a couple times in this verse. And both times, it's right next to that word yoke. It's the word “my.”

Newsflash – that my is not referring to yours truly. It's talking about the King of Kings. The Great I Am. The Way, the Truth, and the Life. Yeah, Jesus.

I'm not taking my yoke and sharing it with Jesus: He's sharing His with me. Are the burdens I'm taking on mine to take on? Am I in His will with all this running? Am I working for God as I run from activity to activity, or am I serving some other purpose—self-accomplishment? Pride? Fear? Feeding my ego? Trying to get ahead?

Check your motives at the door. Then come to Him. Take the burdens He has for you, and share the yoke with the King of Kings. Trust me—He'll carry the a lot more of the load than you will.
It's His yoke, after all.
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living By Grace today. Won't you join us?

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/12/12

Finds for Fridays: October 12

Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and I at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!


Why Rewarding the Reader is More Important than Ever Before: Reading Has Changed by Vince Mooney at Seekerville (about huge changes in how we read)

Hit The Redneck by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today (about being targeted - or not)

Pepper's Agent Story: Who Believes in You? by Pepper Basham at The Writers Alley (about God's working and faith in US - oh, and how Pepper got an agent ;))

Hope these posts bless you :) Have a great weekend!


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/11/12

The Bible Character I Wish I WEREN'T Like



There are some Bible characters I would love to be compared to. Ruth. Jonathan. Jesus. Many others.

Esau, however, is not one of them.

But I found a parallel that fits me (and maybe you?) quite well. Join me at the Internet Cafe today, where I talk about what Esau and I have in common, and why we ALL need to Keep on Seeking.

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/10/12

In Trouble - God is So Good


Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good.  Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the  Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
  I thought I would share a verse and picture this time - just for a change. I used to be a very regular contributor to Word-Filled Wednesday, but it's been a while. It often amazes me how much a well-chosen scripture and a background can touch you. I hope this one does.


God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Psalm 46:1-2 NIV

There is NOTHING to fear, for God is there. He is SO good!

Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/9/12

A Midwest Soccer Mom

The Barn Door

I know very little about soccer, but I'm learning as my son plays with AYSO. Saturday was definitely a "Midwest Fall day," and this native Californian had a bit of a challenge watching his game during the cold, windy, rainy afternoon. Stop by the Barn Door where I'm telling you all about it - have I really become a Midwest Soccer Mom?

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/8/12

Forgetting What Is Wrong

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV

I love volunteering in my kids' classrooms. I studied to be a teacher way back when, and I feel in my element, so to speak, when I'm working with kids and/or teachers.

Image courtesy of Paul Gooddy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This year, one of the things I'm doing in my 3rd grade daughter's class is putting together each student's individualized spelling list. Basically, this involves checking over several spelling type tests/activities and making a list of ten words that they missed for them to study for the next week. I also have bonus words for those who don't have enough misspellings to make a list ten words long. And I do this twenty-seven times - once for each student in the class.

Needless to say, this isn't a quick job. It generally takes me an hour or two. And sometimes, looking at the same words over and over can make me doubt myself.

You see, there will often be a word that almost everybody misses. And the more often I see it spelled incorrectly, the more likely it is that I'll begin to wonder if maybe I'm the wrong one. Or, at the least, I'll have to take a second, and possibly a third, look at the word until I'm convinced that I really DO know how to spell "heavy" or "doesn't."

This happens in my life spiritually as well. When I surround myself with sin, I'll often find myself questioning if a particular act is really that bad. And sometimes, if I see it enough, I forget what I know is correct and allow my desensitized self to indulge.

Common does not mean okay, my friends. No matter how many people are doing it (with or without negative consequences), there is a right and wrong. No matter how many of the twenty-seven kids in my daughter's class misspell the contraction of does not, "dosen't" will never be correct. And neither will sin.

Heavenly Father, we live in this world, but You do not want us to be of it. Help us, Lord, to never forget what is sin and what is right. Help us to flee from those things that will ensnare us, and to recognize when we are allowing doubt to take us to that slippery slope. Help us to remain faithful, and to never forget what is sin. In Your precious Son's name I pray. Amen.
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living By Grace today. Won't you join the discussion?
 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/5/12

Finds for Fridays: October 5

Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and I at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

The Catalyst of Your Story by Angie Dicken at The Writers Alley (about why God wants you to write that story - sort of. VERY powerful post!)

Telling Subplots from Plot Bunnies by Janalyn Voigt at Author Culture (about subplots done right)

Thoughtful About Blessings by Roseanna White at Writing Roseanna (about thinking of blessings as the gifts they are)

Which Jesus is YOUR Jesus? by April Gardner at DIY With A Purpose (about who you have room for)

Enjoy these posts - I know I did :)

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/4/12

Writing Craft Recap for September

Time to share some of what I learned last month about the writing craft! (learning the craft is my declared focus for 2012 - and it has been SO good for me!)

I had a few sources of learning in September, including the free ACFW course on Plotting, the unofficial ACFW at-home conference, and a couple of magazines. Hoping you will glean some good stuff from what I'm sharing here (and know, of course, that this isn't EVERYTHING I learned - just the highlights!).

And here I go!

From Plodding vs Plotting class at ACFW:
  • The plot is what the character goes through to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of achieving his goal.
  • The plot is the vehicle for the hero's transformation
  •  If your characters are well-developed, they will come alive and take the story where it needs to go.
  • The middle of the story is all about raising conflict,increasing tension, making the journey more and more difficult for our hero.
  • Act one is complete when all your main characters have been introduced, when the main story challenge is introduced and your hero is engaged in it.
  •  Plot, character, and societal stakes need to be high.
  • Keep building the tension until the last possible moment.
From the unofficial ACFW At-Home Conference:
  •  Let your reader experience emotions at the same time as your characters.
  • Make sure your character tries, or at least considers and discards, the easiest, most obvious and most logical solutions to her dilemma before she finally hits on the right (and hard) solution.
  • Every word in your story will add to or detract from the story.
  •  YA books generally take place in shorter time frames than "adult" books.
From the October issue of Writer's Digest:
  • What matters when it comes to critiques is not how far along you are, but the source of the feedback.
  • To raise the stakes, make us care about something, then put that something in danger.
  • The longer we keep our reader guessing, the more attention they will pay to what they are reading.
From the October issue of The Writer:
  • Writing in bite-sized chunks - one idea at a time - is very appealing to me.
  • Secrets up the tension.
  • The more the story matters to your character, the more it will matter to your reader.
  • Your novel should be like a sitcom - every character should be interesting enough to have a spin-off show.
Good stuff, eh? Be sure to come by next month, when I'll be sharing what I learned from, among other things, the ACFW class on characterization, a Savvy Authors class on Goal, Motivation and Conflict, and the ACFW Great Lakes Chapter's writing conference the last weekend in October (click here if you want more info! All are welcome )
      Questions? Comments? Observations? What was most interesting/helpful to you?

 

10/3/12

Glad She's Crazy - God Is So Good


Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good.  Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the  Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
I'm sharing some fiction this week. I wrote it almost five years ago for the FaithWriters Writing Challenge (which starts up again tomorrow after the break - and ANYONE can enter this coming week!). It reminds me of where our strength needs to come from. I doubt I could act like my MC did - but I KNOW I couldn't without Christ to strengthen me.


Glad She's Crazy

Photo credit
Yelena grabbed the hem of her ankle-length skirt at the seam and tore up about six inches. She then ripped horizontally around its bottom until she had a workable rag - and a calf-length skirt.

She turned toward her patient Samuel, who had already lost consciousness. She tore the rag in two, using one piece to wrap his bleeding arm. His knife wound was deep, and he had already lost quite a bit of blood. She continued to put pressure on the wound. After a minute or two, the blood flow slowed dramatically.

She wiped the sweat from her face and looked out into the distance. Other than the small oasis a few hundred yards east, all she could see was sand. There wasn't a soul in sight, and she had no way to communicate with anyone.

The heat was almost unbearable. The shortening of her skirt was a welcome relief to her legs. She grabbed the skirt's new bottom and tucked it into her clothing's waistband.

Samuel needed medical attention; of that she was sure. He also needed water. His breathing had steadied, but he was perspiring heavily.

Lord, I need to go to that oasis, but I don't know if I should leave Samuel, even for a few minutes. Guide me, Lord. Give me the wisdom to know what to do, for I certainly don't have it on my own. In Your Son's precious and holy Name I pray.

She opened her eyes and looked at Samuel. The corners of his mouth were turned up slightly, as if trying to grin.

Yelena closed her eyes and sighed deeply. "I guess that means you'll be okay for a bit."
Image courtesy of worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Yelena picked up the other portion of her torn dress, put Samuel's empty canteen over her shoulder, and trod toward the oasis. Every several steps, she glanced back at Samuel. Her gait quickened the closer she got to the haven, until she practically ran into the water.

She stopped when she was ankle-deep in the cool pool, kneeling down and splashing water on her legs, arms, and upper torso. She smiled for the first time since she had arrived in this desolate place.

Removing the canteen from her shoulder, she filled it with the pool's water. She drank the canteen dry, refilled it, and closed the cap. Next, she held the rag in the water, allowing it to saturate with fluid. Without wringing it out, she exited the water and looked back out into the desert.

She could see them from her vantage point. Her smile immediately disappeared. Lord, help me keep my focus where it should be: where You want it to be. Breathing deeply, she walked back, her eyes fixed on Samuel as she approached.

Arriving at his side, Yelena knelt beside Samuel and rubbed the wet rag on his forehead, along his cheeks, and under his neck. She unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt and placed the cool cloth there as well.

The canteen, hanging from her shoulder, swung as she worked, coming within inches of striking Samuel's temple. Noticing this, she took it off and placed it next to him. At that moment, he opened his mouth a bit. Yelena opened the canteen and put a few drops of water into his mouth.

Samuel's uninjured arm shifted slightly, and his head moved toward Yelena. She backed away somewhat as his eyes cracked open.

"You!" Samuel was clearly trying to yell, but his voice barely reached a whisper.

"Don't exert yourself, Samuel." She looked down at him somberly. "You must conserve your strength."

His eyes ablaze, Samuel attempted to lift his arm, groaning as pain shot through his body.

"Joseph?"

Yelena pursed her lips and glanced off to their right, where a lifeless body lay in a pool of blood. "Dead by your hand."

"And you did this?" Samuel glared at his knifed arm, and then at Yelena.

"I bandaged and tended to your injury, yes. The wound, however, was inflicted by Joseph, in self defense."

Samuel's look changed to confusion. "I killed your husband, yet you cared for my wounds?"

Yelena nodded. "You are his brother."

"His brother who wanted him dead for being an infidel to Allah. I don't understand."

"It is what Christ would have me do. My gift to you."

"A gift for your enemy? This Christ is an odd man, yet you follow Him. Are you crazy, woman?"

"Perhaps. But today you are glad I am crazy, are you not?"
**

Loving your enemy. Who could do this? Only with God's power. He is so good!
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/2/12

Giving My Bug-Eyes A Break

Yep! It's that time again :)

Taking my monthly Tech-Free Tuesday - no computer, no texting, and no Kindle Fire (except when I read to my kids at bedtime ;)). It will be LOVELY - have been staring at this box WAY too much. And my floor needs vacuuming. And I need to figure out how to close my linen closet doors. OH - and I have ladies' Bible study at church.

Don't have too much fun without me, okay? See ya tomorrow :)

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

10/1/12

More Than Himself

You know, I really thought I had a good grasp on what Christ did for me, of the love of God.
He loved me so much

that He willingly died for my sins,

and rose again

to make me a member of His family.
That's pretty basic, I know, but wouldn't you say that's the Gospel in a nutshell? If I can understand that, I've pretty much got the concept.

Yet, there is another aspect to the Gospel, one I generally don't ponder very often. I've often contemplated the sacrifice Christ made, but have rarely thought about his attitude in doing so.
That has changed. Christ's attitude took my breath away.
The book of Philippians is one of my all-time favorite epistles. I've probably read it more times than any other book of the New Testament. All this to say, I am confident that I have read the third verse of the second chapter numerous times. I even have it memorized.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.(NIV)
Wonderful words of advice, and so hard to follow. We are so geared to put ourselves first. I have found that this is especially hard to do for people who are "below us" - in stature, in class, in anything. Yet, this is what God wants His children to do.
Because that is what He did when He came to earth, when He suffered despite being sinless, when He died on the cross.
That's what humility is, right? Esteeming others higher than ourselves. Putting others' needs ahead of our own. And Christ is our model for humility. He put His deity aside to be "lowered to our level," and to take our sin upon Himself. Why? Because He loves us. How? By putting our needs before His. By putting a higher priority on our sin than His sinlessness.
The God of the universe, the One who created Us, the Great I Am, the Lord of Hosts, Who spoke the world into existence, esteemed His creations--esteemed me--more than Himself.
Doesn't that blow your mind? He put my needs ahead of His own. He threw off His deity for a speck of dust. He considered me "better than" Him.

And I'm not. Not by a long shot. And I never will be. But He did it anyway.

How can I not follow this command for others? How can I say my needs are more important than that "poor soul" who could use my help? What justification could I possibly have for living for self?

Heavenly Father, how can I possibly understand how much You loved me, how much of a sacrifice You were willing to make for my dirty, terrible, sin-loaded soul? How could I comprehend Your willingness to esteem a wretch like me higher than perfect holy You? Help me to grasp that incredible fact, and perhaps more importantly, help me to use that knowledge to show that same kind of humility graciously to others on this planet with me. Help me, Lord, to take your incredible example of humility and display it to the world. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

**


 Am I the only one who never really pondered this in just this way before? What implications does Christ considering me better than Him when He hung on that cross have?

We're chatting about this here, and at Living By Grace on Facebook. Hope you'll join the discussion!


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

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