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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Have the Right to Be King

A lion and a tiger were drinking beside a river when the lion let out a huge roar. The tiger said, "Why do you roar like a fool?" 
"That's not foolish," said the lion, with a twinkle in his eyes. "They call me king of all the beasts because I advertise." Untitled
A rabbit heard them talking and ran home. He thought he'd try the lion's plan, but his roar was just a squeak. A fox came to investigate and ate the rabbit for lunch. fox The moral of the story: When you advertise, be sure you've got the goods and can deliver them. (from a friend’s Facebook status)
I read this and thought how aptly this ties to writing. A writer can get out there all day long, pushing their book, giving away bookmarks, pencils, etc., but unless they deliver the goods, the book is not going to sell.
Well, sure, if you push it enough it will sell a few copies. But it’s not going to be a bestseller.
I think as writers we need to spend more time on producing good quality writing instead of promotion. When we get that right, when we have “the goods,” then we can roar.
If we’re like the poor rabbit, critics will eat us alive.
Short post today. I need to get some sleep. I’m to have two MRIs tomorrow, back and brain. And have a dear friend’s funeral to attend.
Appreciate all prayers!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Writing Advice? From Me?

It’s Moonlight Wednesday. I call it this because this is the day I normally post something about my writing, and, just as the moon reflects the sun, I hope my writing reflects the SUN. On Wednesdays I’ve been discussing, on and off, one of the novels I have written.
I generally do not discuss the craft of writing. I am unpublished. And, although I’m fifty-seven, I do not have a large body of even unpublished writing to my credit.
So who am I to give writing tips?
I do have some credentials. I almost have a minor in English. Doesn’t that make me an expert? I have been a voracious reader for most of my fifty-seven years. Doesn’t that make me an expert? I took one creative writing class. Doesn’t that make me an expert? I have read Writer’s Digest for fifteen years or so. Doesn’t that make me an expert? I have read many books on the craft of writing. Doesn’t that make me an expert?
Nope. None of that makes me an expert.
However, I’m not afraid to critique others. It’s something I do now every time I read a book. It’s something I do now every time I see a movie. It’s something I do now every time I read anything. (And I annoy my husband as I analyze every story. I usually try to keep quiet, but when I see something that is just so wrong, it’s hard not to speak up.)
Perhaps that makes me an expert. The craft of writing has become so engrained I automatically see “problems.” Just as an architect automatically judges buildings he sees. Or an interior designer automatically addresses the “problems” he sees in a home. Or an artist automatically sees “problems” within a painting. Or singers or musicians hear “problems” when someone sings.
No, no. I’m just an amateur, a newbie still learning the craft and still making mistakes.
But, I’m still going to throw in my two cents here. Expert or not. (I often wonder if there are any true experts in creative writing.) Anyway, I’ve noticed a problem with many books I have read lately and I would like to address it.
The problem is lack of focus. I wonder if these writers outlined their books. The books are so unfocused—so cloudy. I’m not saying outlining is strictly necessary—at least, I’m not saying it’s necessary when you begin writing.
I have seen so many writers who are proud to be pantsers, that is, seat-of-the-pantsers. They love to sit down and just write and let the characters lead them where they may, discovering the story as their characters reveal it.
And there’s nothing wrong with that approach. I know it’s fun. However, after the fun, it’s time to get serious. Focus your story. Focus
What’s its meaning? Why are you writing this particular book? What’s the theme? Once you know the answers to those questions, go back and outline your book.
Outline when you’ve finished writing the first draft? Yes.
And think about each chapter. No. Think about each scene. Perhaps a character in your book led you down a rabbit trail. Delete that scene if it’s leading nowhere. File it away somewhere. Perhaps it will fit in another book.
But keep this book focused. Perhaps eliminate too many subplots. Perhaps rearrange chapters. Don’t get hung up on a beautiful piece of writing. If it doesn’t follow your theme, junk it. Make your meaning clear.
Think, fellow writers, think. And when you’ve thought your book through, think some more.
And stay focused.
Clear those skies. Let the SUN shine!


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Friday, February 11, 2011

A Light Has Dawned

sunrise


A friend of mine, Sandra Heska King, shared these words on her blog:

This mission field is littered with lies.

That we can’t make a difference.

That nobody is listening.

That we are wasting our time. ~
Reflections on @stickyJesus: Chapter 8

Her words spoke to me at a time when I needed encouraging. Do we really listen to the words of Jesus? Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20

Or do we listen to the world, the world that tells us people are offended by our words, that “we are wasting our time”?

If we present our words graciously, seasoned with salt, we will never waste our time when we speak God’s word.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

Why do we Christians often fail to speak his word? We know “it will not return . . . . empty, but will accomplish what (God) desires.” We have become so fearful people will be “burned” by the word, that we fail to illuminate.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

We have this ministry. What ministry? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:6--He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant. The “new covenant.” The New Testament. The Gospel. The Message. This Treasure.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

We are imperfect, jars of clay, yet we carry a perfect message, a perfect treasure.

And my friend reminded me:

And we who walk in light must carry the light to a shadow land where people hide . . . ~
Friday Fuel for the Weekend: Light

We are but clay vessels, imperfect, and often our words will not be all that they need to be. But if we strive to make our words HIS WORDS, it will be enough.

We are his voice, his instrument, the carriers of his light.

May his light shine through.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Not So Patiently Waiting

I am not always patient. When I become restless, I think of Abraham and Sarah who tried to help God and created a mess.image
That’s often what I do. It’s been fifteen years since I finished writing my book. I queried agents and publishers until finally I wearied and put it away.


Sarah and Abraham were childless. They longed to hold a baby in their arms just as I long to hold my book in my hands. Years passed, in their case and mine.
And then they had renewed hope, as have I.
My manuscript is making the rounds.
But Abraham and Sarah couldn’t wait for God’s timing. After waiting so many years, they pushed through their own plan and Ishmael was conceived.
I need to learn from their mistake. I need to be still and wait for God. Fifteen years. What’s another year?
God has his own plan. His ways are not my ways.
This reminds me of a story I once read. A rumor began that the world was going to be destroyed. For those who gathered in an abandoned building, salvation would come. A man joined a few others who believed the rumors. He sat on a bench and waited. And waited.
And, disillusioned, he walked out. As he did, the entire building was beamed aboard a spaceship. He was left as the world began to crumble around him.
Salvation was seconds away. Isaac’s conception a few short years away.
The publication of my book is just a few more ???? away.
Surely.
Maybe.
Perhaps.

If I just remain patient. And wait for God’s guidance.
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Light

Many years ago a mother and her young child clung together as they trudged down one of the many dirt roads of Covington County. A man, unshaven, spitting tobacco, stood at the door of a small shack and leered at the woman. The woman stopped to stroke her three-year-old son’s hair and breathed a heavy sigh. Her stomach grumbled, as did her child’s. She hesitated for another second before turning toward the man. Her son hid behind her skirts as she approached the shack.

A black eye, sprained wrist, and other unseen insults to her body seemed a small price to pay for a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.

One chilly night, thankful the man had gone out, the woman stacked lighter in the firebox and knelt on the hearth to light it. The pine aroma drifted through the room and the woman added a log, careful not to smother the flame. The log caught fire and she added another piece of wood. The flames licked up the chimney and their warmth dispelled the chill. The woman sat down to mend while the child played quietly by the fire.

The door swung open and the man staggered in. His drunken gaze swept over the boy.

“Get out,” he said.

“It’s too cold.” the mother said. “You can’t send him out into the night.” She stood to face the man.

The boy remained huddled by the fireplace. The man brushed the woman aside and snatched up the child. The boy struggled against the man’s powerful arms, crying for his momma. The woman tugged at her son, but the man’s grip tightened. He shoved past the woman and she fell back, crashing against the wall. The man glanced her way and shot a stream of tobacco juice over her. He then readjusted his grip on the writhing boy and clamped his hand over the child’s mouth to  stifle the screams.

The man looked into the fire and back at the boy. Then, he thrust the child’s feet into the fire. The woman struggled to stand and stumbled toward them. She attacked, clawed, bit, and beat until he flung her son down. He rounded on her.

As the child whimpered in a corner, the man beat the mother until she stilled. Ignoring the child, he stared down at the woman’s body for a moment, wiped his mouth, and strode out into the night.

The boy crawled to his mother’s side.

“Momma.”

Silence and stillness. The boy cried as the pain intensified.

The fire died down and darkness descended and the young boy shivered against his mother’s cold body. He finally raised his head.

The door hung on one hinge and he crawled painfully across the floor of the shack toward it. He paused on the small front porch, straining to see into the blackness. Clouds blotted out the stars and moon and the sounds of the night were silenced, the night’s heavy curtain concealing all. Wincing at each bump, he crawled down the steps and headed to the road, feeling his way in the dark.

The clouds drifted apart and a thin ray of moonlight squeezed its way through. The boy crawled slowly, painfully, each movement agony. He slogged through the darkness that draped over him like a soaked blanket. Rocks scraped his hands and deep ruts slowed his progress.

The clouds drew closer together and complete darkness descended once again. The boy stopped crawling and rested his weary body against the cold ground. His tears dried and an emptiness grew within.

He shivered and pulled himself to his knees. He forced himself to crawl forward into the darkness, a darkness so deep all was masked. He crawled steadily forward and his hands met nothing but air. He plunged into a ditch. As he fell, he clawed the sides, frantic, until his hands closed around a root. He scrambled out, his burnt flesh scraping against the dirt.

He rested a moment and a light rose before him from the darkness. Hope fluttered in his chest. The light led him from the road and into a field. Sandspurs clung to him and pricked his skin. Weeds and vines entangled him. He yanked them away and crawled faster, ignoring the pains from his feet, his hands and his knees. Inky blackness surrounded him on all sides, yet the light still shone ahead.candle

And then a small house loomed out of the darkness. He crawled up the steps and his small fists beat upon the door. And all went black.

When he awoke, a woman sat by his bed, a warm bed with clean sheets and a colorful quilt. Sunlight streamed through the window. The woman, plump and fair, watched with tears misting her eyes. His wounds had been cleaned and bandaged, easing some of his pain.

As tears spilled down his cheeks, he looked up into the strange woman’s face that shone brightly in the light. He lifted his arms and she gathered him to her, shushing and rocking gently.

And she became his mother.

(This is my version of a true story told to me many years ago. This young boy’s mother was murdered, his feet were burned and he crawled, following a light until he came to a house. The people in the house adopted him. The man who killed his mother was never found. What was the light? A firefly? Moonlight glinting off a pool of water? A light from a house? No one knows. No one but God.)