Featured Author

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I am super excited to be the featured author on Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots today. Thank you Mary Anne Yarde for giving me this opportunity. I am sharing about what inspired me to write Reluctant To Wed. Click HERE to read the featured blog post.

 

 

 

The Antagonist is a Hero

swearing-294391_1280One of the most helpful things I learned about writing a captivating novel is that the antagonist is a hero in his own story. If I can show that the antagonist in my story truly believes he is justified in what he is doing, it adds depth to that character. I must be careful not to focus more on the antagonist than the main characters of the story, but that villain needs to be interesting, believable, and have a good reason for why he is the way that he is. He must also be absolutely convinced that his way of thinking is correct — no matter how wrong he may be.

As I contemplated this, I realized this is true in real life, too, not just in novels. Even the most difficult person we ever have the misfortune to meet, usually is absolutely convinced he is justified in his incorrect behavior. For example, didn’t Timothy McVeigh see himself as a hero? Didn’t the men who flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center on 9/11 see themselves as heroes? Of course they did.

Think about a story you recently read. Who was the antagonist? Did they see themselves as the hero? Let’s take a moment to look at Pride and Prejudice. One of the antagonists in that story is Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Here is a quote that she said to Elizabeth Bennett:

Screenshot 2018-02-25 22.03.12“Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the objections I have already urged, I have still another to add. I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister’s infamous elopement. I know it all; that the young man’s marrying her was a patched-up business, at the expense of your father and uncles. And is such a girl to be my nephew’s sister? Is her husband, is the son of his late father’s steward, to be his brother? Heaven and earth! —of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”

Lady Catherine de Bourgh definitely saw herself as the hero in her own story. She was saving Darcy from having his lineage polluted by bad blood, namely the Bennett family, and Elizabeth in particular. She felt justified in putting Elizabeth in her place and keeping her there.

Creating a character who sees himself as the hero in a Christian fiction, may cause the reader to hope that somehow or other, the bad guy will recognize his error and become a better person. After all, even the worst of sinners will receive redemption from God if he will only repent and stop sinning. If your antagonist can recognize the error of his ways, he can actually become the hero in your next novel. I’ve seen authors do that very thing in books that are part of  a series. In the one book, you can’t stand the antagonist, but in the next, they have changed to such an extent that you find yourself rooting for them.

Understanding this concept has not only helped me in writing, but it has also caused me to try to look more deeply at the motives of difficult people in real life. How do they see the situation? What motivates them to do what they do? Sometimes, they are only partially wrong. They do have some valid points, but their methods of trying to correct the situation may be all wrong.

Bear with me as I take this one step further. I, too, am the hero in my own story. I have my opinions and, at the end of the day, I think I’m right. I’ve looked at all sides, taking my experiences into consideration as well as the things I’ve read, and I have come to a conclusion. However, my neighbor may be of a different opinion. How should I handle this? We certainly can’t both be right. (Can you feel the tension rising here? Life is complicated, isn’t it?)

This brings to mind the Bible verse in Ephesians 4:2 NLT, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” I’m certainly not saying we should make allowances for the faults of people like Timothy McVeigh and simply allow them off the hook. No prison sentence for him. Just a slap on his hands. No, that is not what I’m saying. But if you are a believer and his prison guard or a trusted friend, should you still try to reach out to him for the sake of his soul even though he had no compassion on the many people he killed? Should you try to show him Christ’s love? As difficult as it is to say, I have to answer; Yes, you should.

Why? Because Jesus has compassion on even the worst of sinners. In comparison to God, we all fall short. Not one of us was good enough to be welcomed into heaven. But if Jesus was willing to save us, who are we to say He should not save this person or that person. It isn’t our call. It is our responsibility to reach out to all people and to tell them about the love of Christ. The rest is up to God. He will judge each person. Look at Jeremiah 17:10 NASB, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” God is a just God and will look into every heart before pronouncing judgment. One thing we see clearly in the Word of God: Salvation is for everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, asks Him to forgive them of their sins, and then welcomes Him into their hearts and lives. 

Now, let’s get back to fiction. Think about the antagonist in a novel you’ve read. Have you ever longed for the bad guy to see the error of his ways because you kind of liked him? The writer caused you to see things from the antagonist’s perspective and, although he is wrong, you wish he would change before he goes too far.

Do any of you remember Little House on the Prairie? Nellie was a real stinker. She thought she was better than everyone else because her family was the wealthiest in Walnut Grove. As she grew older, I often wished she would grow up and see herself as equal to everyone else. Interestingly enough, when she finally marries in later episodes, her husband helps her to change, and my wish comes true. Her mother, however, is another story. I don’t think she ever changed. But, really, how fun would Little House on the Prairie have been without that awful Harriet Olson? Which just goes to show that the antagonist is as important to the story as the hero and heroine.

 

The Battle of Finding Time

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. ~Terry Pratchett

    That’s where I’m at right now. I’m telling myself the story. I wanted to finish the first draft by the end of 2017. Alas, it’s taking a bit longer. Finding time to write is an ongoing battle, but one I’m determined to win.
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    What seems to work best for me is to work after everyone living in our house has retired for the night. It’s quiet and I can completely concentrate on my story. Sitting in my recliner in my cosy family room, with my dog sleeping beside me, the words finally fly from my fingertips.
    When do you find uninterrupted time to work on your writing? How do you keep yourself disciplined to get the job done? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Just Finish It!

“Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” ~Anthony Powell

workstation-336369_1920The creative fantasy aspect of writing is fun. There is no denying it. Unfortunately, most of writing is a lot of hard work. There are probably a hundred things I would rather do sometimes than tap away at my keyboard. The dishwasher needs to be emptied. The grass needs mowing. The trash needs to go out. My nails need polishing. A warm bath sounds nice right about now. I wonder what’s new on Facebook. The excuses for procrastination from writing range from legitimate to pathetic. And yet, the discipline of writing produces an amazing sense of accomplishment.

“Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don’t talk about doing it. Do it. Finish.” ~E.L. Konigsburg

There is no trick to learning to be disciplined. You know as well as I do that discipline is simply getting the job done. No more excuses or distractions. Do the job until is is finished.

So I’m not going to waste any more of your time with a long blog post. Sit down in your favorite chair and start writing. If you don’t know what to write, write anyway. The flow will come. It’s okay to start writing even if you don’t know what it is exactly that you want to say. The words will come as you begin writing, and they may even take you somewhere you could not have seen before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Just start writing. That’s what I’m going to do just as soon as I make a hot tea, take the dog out, and empty my dryer.  😉

Happy Thanksgiving!

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“The more I come to recognize my story’s place in God’s grander Story, my once-bewildered questions are turning to psalms of thanksgiving at the wonder that I have been included in what He is doing.”  ~ Gloria Gaither

THANK YOU to all of you who have encouraged me this year with my writing. Thank you for the wonderful reviews, speaking opportunities, words of encouragement, and for taking the time to read what I have written. This new venture I’m on is amazing because of all of you!

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I’m especially grateful for my husband and children, who have been supportive all along the way. And I’m tickled pink to have become a grandmother this year!! There is nothing like it!

Finally, I am blessed beyond measure by the comments from my readers who have said they have received spiritual encouragement while reading my novel and/or reading my blog. I agree with Gloria Gaither in her quote above. I’m so glad to be included in what He is doing. I am eternally grateful for how He continues working in me. Jesus doesn’t give up on me because of my weaknesses. Instead, He encourages, strengthens, helps, and keeps me. Any accomplishment in my life is all due to His amazing love and grace toward me.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!!!!

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Read if You Want to Write

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From the time I was a young girl until now that I’m a grandmother, I have loved to read. Anything from inspirational reading to self-help books to clean romance novels, I devoured these books. I’ve also read through the Bible several times and have read many of the books it contains countless times. If you stacked up all the books I’ve read, I imagine the stack just might compete in height with a high-rise building (I’m probably not exaggerating.)

Now that I’m writing and publishing books, I realize I owe the easiest part of my writing to the years I spent reading. I’m not saying that writing isn’t hard work for me, but when a part of the writing process becomes easy, it’s almost always due to the fact that I’ve read a lot of books. Words that are not necessarily a regular part of my vocabulary come to the forefront as I search my brain for words to help me more clearly express a thought or action. How could that unfamiliar word suddenly be there except that I had read it somewhere.

Most of my writing is in the historical fiction genre — a genre I especially enjoy reading. The years I spent reading in that genre have given me a grasp of the language as it was spoken back then. I don’t write exactly as the people spoke in that time period because I doubt most of my readers would understand and grasp the story, but I include enough of the past to place them in the setting of that day. The important thing, after all, is the enjoyment of the reader and their ability to be swept away to another time and another place. And how did I learn to write like that? From reading many great historical fictions.

I love this quote by author, Stephen King:

“It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written.”   

If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. Read a lot and read broadly. And I would encourage you, for your own mental and spiritual health, read wholesome material. There is no end to the books you could be reading. I’m currently reading six books and I have 27 books I’ve downloaded and am looking forward to reading.

Please don’t tell me you don’t have time to read. Everyone makes choices as to how they want to spend their free time. My choice is to read. I carry a book with me wherever I go. On my last flight last month, I finished one book and started another. I read while waiting in a doctor’s office or while on-hold on the telephone. Instead of watching television in the evening, I pick up a book.

You certainly don’t have to be a reader. For some people, reading is just not their thing. But if you want to be a writer, you must be a reader first.

 

He Bought Me a Smartphone

“You need a smartphone,” he told me.

“Why?” I responded. “This phone does everything I need it to do. It lets me call people and receive calls from people. Everything else can wait until I get home and sit at my computer.” 

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When it was time to get a new phone, he bought me a smartphone. I use it all the time! What was I thinking? Life is so much easier with a smartphone.

“You should get a Kindle. It’s so much cheaper to buy books and it’s convenient, too,” he said.

“I love holding a book when I read. I’m on a computer for my work. Another screen in my face is the last thing I want when I find time to read,” was my response

He said, “You need an iPad. It’s so convenient. You can use it wherever you are. It’s more handy than a laptop.” (Which I didn’t have yet, since I thought a desktop was good enough for me.)

He bought himself a new iPad, so I decided I may as well give it a try. I inherited his older version and — I loved it!! It was SO CONVENIENT!! I could use it to find recipes and then place it on my counter as I cooked. I could do all kinds of research on it. And since the Kindle app is free, I decided that I may as well try that, too. Now I love reading on the Kindle app! I rarely buy books in hardcopy anymore. I can download tons of books and switch to whichever one I feel like reading. I can even highlight in my book. And if I don’t know the meaning of a word I come across, I only need to hold my finger on it and it gives me the definition!!! How exciting is that?!!!

If you haven’t caught onto it yet, the “he” I’m referring to is, of course, my husband. He keeps pushing me to educate myself about electronic devices, apps, and programs. If it were up to me, I’d probably still have a “dumb” phone and be typing in my Word Perfect program. (Anyone remember that one?)

You would think he would be content with his successful endeavors in my education, but no. He pushed me to start a blog. I’m on Facebook and on Twitter because of him. I now own a laptop — an Apple, of course. He said it only makes sense since I already have an iPad and an iPhone. I do my grocery list on my Reminders app. This was also his idea since we can share the app. He just types in whatever he needs me to pick up for him on his phone and it shows up on my phone. Oh, my friends, the list just keeps growing.

When I started writing my first book, he told me I needed to learn the Scrivener program. Everything within me wanted to rebel. I don’t want to learn another program! I have enough to do! But he started to explain how convenient it is for writers. He sent me information about the program with testimonials. Needless to say, I wrote my first book on Scrivener — and I’m so glad I did! It was so easy to move around in my book when it came time to edit. I effortlessly made character pages, a setting/scenery page, and so much more. I felt organized and not overwhelmed. When it came time to publish, the compile feature was amazing, and adaptable to whatever type of compiling I needed to do (PDF, Kindle, paperback, etc.).

Sssshhhhhh!!!! Don’t tell him, but I’m so glad he pushed me over the years. He was right! He has made my life easier, broader, more functional, very exciting, and practical! I love things that are practical! I love not feeling behind-the-times. And I love my man!!

Have You Discovered Your Gift?

What’s your gift? A gift isn’t necessarily something you automatically do well. It’s usually something you have worked at, developed, studied, and now you rise above the average because you are gifted and you’ve applied yourself to grow in that area.

My husband taught himself to speak American sign language at the age of 14, eventually working at the New Jersey School for the Deaf as well as interpreting at church and at many events. At 16, he taught himself German. He’s speaks German fluently, writes in German, and even preaches sermons in the German language. Over our thirty-year marriage, I’ve heard many people say, “You’re so gifted in language learning!” He is gifted. There is no doubt about it. But it didn’t just happen. He didn’t wake up one day speaking German. He spent countless hours working on it. While others spent their time doing other things they enjoyed, my husband spent time in a book learning the German language and listening to German speakers. To this day, he continues immersing himself in the German language so he won’t lose what he learned. There are others who have invested the same amount of time, but will never speak German as well as my husband does. It is a gift. But a gift must be developed.

What interests you? What do you enjoy doing? Therein lies your gift. Study it, develop it, and immerse yourself in it. Grow in your area of interest. And then use it to the glory of God.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

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If your gift is writing, there are countless ways to use your gift, from sending encouraging emails, texts, and letters to publishing articles in magazines or writing books. Use your writing to encourage, teach, as well as for wholesome entertainment. As with any gift, the important thing is that you are faithful with using the gift you’ve been given to bring glory to God.

You may enjoy writing, but feel you will never be as good at it as perhaps John Grisham. Well, you don’t have to be him. All the things that you have experienced have made you the person you are today. You have a unique voice and you have something to offer to others. The important thing is for you to begin writing and keep writing. As you are writing, you will develop your voice and your gift.

Bonnie Friedman said, “Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing.”

When I start writing, I usually only have a glimmer of an idea. It isn’t until I begin writing that my thoughts begin to form and I find myself going in a direction I could not have seen if I hadn’t sat down and started tapping away at my keyboard. I’ve tried writing out an entire outline first, and then start to write. It’s fine to do it that way, but I found myself rewriting most of my outline once the writing process began. Ideas come to me as I write. Find what works best for you, and then do it.

Anne Rice says, “If you want to be a writer, write. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again. Save everything that you write. If you feel blocked, write through it until you feel your creative juices flowing again. Write. Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less.” 

Whatever your gift may be, you must develop it and use it. And as followers of Jesus, we must use our gifts to serve others and to bring glory to God. When my readers reach the end of my novel, I hope they will have enjoyed a clean romance, but I also hope they will find something in the characters of my story that will help them desire to become better people.

In the song, Little Drummer Boy, the writer had it correct when she wrote the lyrics. “Our finest gifts we bring…to lay before the King…” and later it says, “I played my best for Him…” And finally, “Then he smiled at me, pa, rum, pum, pum, pum. Me and my drum.” 

In order to give Him a fine gift, I must develop what He placed within me. In order to lay it before the King, I must use it to serve others, because Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Do you want Him to smile upon you? I do, too. So we must develop our gifts. Yes, I used the plural on purpose, for I’m sure you have more than one. There are many ways to serve others. I will close with this verse in 1 Peter 4:11 NLT that says it best.

“Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”

You Can’t Bask In Yesterday’s Glory

The thing about writing is this, you can’t bask in yesterday’s glory. As soon as you complete one book, you must begin the next. And as a writer, this is not a bad thing, since I lovefullsizeoutput_1bd7 what I do. I’m always writing in my head anyway, I may as well put it down on paper. But lets face it, it’s easier to think up a story than it is to actually write it.

For years, to help myself go to sleep at night, I have made up stories in my head. It would help me not to think about the problems that I was facing or plans for the next day. These things could wait until morning. I would pray about them, leave them with God, and instead of needless worrying, I would distract myself by making up a story, falling to sleep in the middle of it, and then picking up where I left off the next night. Sometimes I’d work on the same story for months because I’d fall asleep before I had gotten very far. Of course, there were times the story was so captivating, I found myself fighting sleep because I wanted to finally finish it. Since I was a pre-teen, I’ve made up these bedtime stories in my head. I wish I could remember them all, but, alas, it isn’t so.

For much of my life, only traditional publishing existed, and it was extremely difficult to find a publishing company that would even want to look at your manuscript. However, self-published books are all around us now, so I decided to take the plunge and finally write out an entire story. I had no idea of all it would entail. I didn’t even read much about writing before I started. I simply started writing in one of my favorite genres and I attempted to write the type of book I enjoy reading. As I was doing so, I realized I had to research to make the story more realistic. So I researched as I continued writing. Each time I encountered a problem, I Googled for a solution and found it. It’s amazing how we have all the answers at our fingertips now. Then I edited and edited and edited before sending it off to be edited by others. I had a few people read it and give me their input before I published my first novel. Thankfully, anyone can publish a book today and there are even free publishers like Kindle and Create Space that make it easy for new writers to get their books out to the public.

Once your book is out there and people like it, they begin to ask you when the next one will be published. The pressure is on and, if you want to make a career of writing, it will always be on your mind. While you are writing one book, you are already deciding which character you might use for the next book in your series. While you’re promoting your last book(s), you are researching, choosing character names, background, personalities, scene, etc., and when you finish with all of that, the writing process begins all over again.

I heard a helpful YouTube this week with Joanna Penn from The Creative Penn as she interviewed Michaelbrent Collings on the topic How To Write Faster And Never Get Writer’s Block. What stood out to me was the fact that Michaelbrent Collings said, “I go in and begin to start typing and I don’t stop for eight or nine hours. And sometimes I write total crap, but that’s what the delete key is for. But even with writing the total crap, I learn how to write better the next day.” He goes on to explain that writing becomes your life. Everything you experience, watch, observe, hear, or read can potentially help you when you sit down to write. BUT…he works on writing EVERY DAY!

And that’s the KEY to writing. And I’m not there yet. I’m doing so much better, but I can do much better still. With my lifestyle, I doubt I’ll ever be able to write 8 to 9 hours a day, but I’ve read other successful writers who disciplined themselves to write one hour each day. They may not publish as many books at Michaelbrent Collings does each year, but they will continue to publish books on a regular basis.

My first novel, Reluctant to Wed, has been published and is getting great reviews. As I’m basking in the glory of this moment, my fingers are on the the keyboard pounding out the next novel in this series. It’s what I must do. It’s what I love. I’m a writer.

Do you write every day? What time of day is your best writing time? Are you an early bird or a night owl? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.