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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Things I Have Learned from NaNoing

 

This is National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who may not know. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. And the prize is . . . well, knowing you have written 50,000 words.

I decided to take the challenge this year and, back in October, thought about what to write. Some people do not like to plan ahead at all but simply write whatever comes to them. They call it writing by the seat of their pants. I call it channeling spirits. (Just joking!)

I don’t believe I have ever been able to sit down and write “cold.” I have to daydream a little before I can write. So . . . all those long bubble baths, the dozing in the hammock, the taking of naps is really me working hard.

At least, that’s what I tell my husband.

However, even though I have to think before I write doesn’t mean I don’t follow my fingers where they lead. Sometimes it’s one of those aha moments. Such as the naming of the dog back in book one (years ago), and the significance that name develops in book 2. Unplanned. One of those God moments to me. (Maybe just something corny to my would-be readers.)

And that was only the beginning. My fingers led me places I had not thought of before that moment and to subplots that became a strong thread of the main plot.

I have learned to trust my fingers, wherever they lead. If it’s just a bunch of gibberish, that’s what the delete button is for—after NaNo, of course.

Something else I have learned—keep my nose to the grindstone and persevere, even when my nose gets ground away.

You see, my computer crashed. Three times. Everything wiped clean.

Thank goodness for online backup and flash drives. I did lose words, around 3000 all together, and hours while I worked on my computer (I have two and both crashed.). I finally broke down and bought a new computer and reinstalled my software. I still haven’t installed everything, but I’m working on it.

And, I’ve said, since I first heard of NaNo years ago, why was this month chosen—the month of Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping? Obviously, some man chose it. Or someone who didn’t cook.

But through it all, I have typed away, cheered on by friends and family. Persevering even amidst the trials. A lot like life, isn’t it?

And this is my award:

NaNo

That and 50,114 words.

Something well worth the effort.

Congrats to all my fellow NaNo winners!

And thanks to my family who put up with me during NaNo.

 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks for Autism

Note: Since this is still November, a month in which we emphasize thanksgiving, I thought I would recycle this blog post from a few months ago. Next Monday will be A Faith Test for Writers, Part 2. Thanks for the read!

Some may think this a strange title for a post.

When parents watch their child from birth and notice difficulties with speech, or perhaps no speech at all, and they struggle with their child’s temper tantrums when routines are disrupted, and then finally learn their child is autistic, they usually do not rejoice.

Yet doesn’t the Bible teach us to give thanks always, to rejoice always?

And, may I submit, parents may actually have reasons for rejoicing and giving thanks. Many people with autism are remarkable people with remarkable strengths. Their brains function differently than the so-called normal brains, but that may actually be a good thing. A very good thing.

For example, one twelve-year-old, Jacob Barnett, diagnosed with autism, is challenging Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Jacob has an IQ of 170 and left high school at the age of eight. Eight.Here’s Jacob Barnett in 2009 discussing dark matter.

 

Albert Einstein himself was believed to be autistic. Other famous people who may have been autistic were Mozart, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Jefferson, to name but a few.

Autistic people “have unique strengths such as memory, attention to detail and the ability to keep track of seemingly unrelated facts. These strengths are very useful in computer and engineering fields. . . Autistic people can easily identify shapes embedded in designs or individual notes embedded in musical chords – shapes and patterns that normal people often do not see. This ability to think and see in patterns means the autistic brain has the potential for unusual excellence in math, chess, computer programming, music, engineering and physics.” (Read more at Suite101: New Research on Autism Reveals Benefits http://www.suite101.com/content/new-research-on-autism-reveals-benefits-a237273#ixzz1JqMBfmEr)

On American Idol this season is an autistic named James Durbin. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s (a form of autism) as well as Tourette’s Syndrome. Despite, or perhaps because of his Asperger’s, he is one of the frontrunners. Time will tell if he is able to excel in a musical career.

This is Durbin, before becoming a contestant, singing “The Star Spangled Banner”:

For the Mozarts, the Dickinsons, the Barnetts and the Durbins, for all the autistics who enrich our lives and leave us in awe, I give thanks and rejoice that God has seen fit to bless us with them.

 

 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why Are the Twilight Books So Successful?

One of the quotes I have seen on Facebook lately is this:

“Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.” ~ Stephen King

And I got a kick out of the quote. A laugh-out-loud moment. However, I don’t entirely agree.

I haven’t seen the last Twilight movie and I have read only one of the books. It’s not really my type of story. However, I’m always interested in why some books or movies transcend into pop culture phenomena. Many people are stunned by the success of the Twilight series. And while I don’t have all the answers, I do have a theory about their success.

Most if not all popular books and movies have underlying themes we first encounter in the Bible. Those themes are, as King points out, overcoming our fears, standing up for what is right, and laying down our lives for others.

And, yes, Twilight has those themes interwoven throughout.

And something that undergirds these. Something that is also Biblical.

The greatest theme. The theme of love.

Edward loves Bella with a sacrificial agape love. And Stephanie Myer made this a perfect agape love. The type of love we all long to experience. Untitled

So . . . while I’m not a Twilight fan, I understand the appeal.

However, we live in an imperfect world and cannot find such love among fallen people.

People (and vampires) can only imitate God’s love.

Christians are called to strive for such love. However, we will never be able to obtain God’s perfection, his perfect love.

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~  Romans 8:37-39

Too bad more young people are not seeking this love through the truth of God’s word.

Only God can offer such love to us.

The rest is but a imitation, only a shadow in the Twilight.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Blogging Schedule

My blogging schedule is changing. Look for posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

I’ve been thinking about the focus of my blog and have decided to keep it on Christian writing.

On Mondays, I will do a devotional-type post that I’m calling “Inspirations.” Often this will pertain specifically to writers of Christian fiction. However, often the observations I make or scriptures I share will be applicable to all Christians.

On Wednesdays, I’ll be sharing some type of “Information.” At this moment, these posts will mainly deal with my self-publishing journey and the things I learn along the way.

On Fridays, my posts will be called “Interjections.” These are random thoughts I interject into my blog, things that interest me such as TV shows, books, or news articles.

My goal is to maintain this schedule for at least one year.

Rise, Write, Shine! is all that is necessary to accomplish this. Hope to see you along the way!

 

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 1

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18
We’re studying the book of James on Wednesday nights, and these verses we studied last week resonated with me.
As a Christian, when I write, I strive to realize my responsibility to adhere to God’s word. I often wonder how a person believes the words they write come from God while others believe they are from the devil. These are Christians viewing the same words very differently.
I’ve had people attack things I have written, and it makes me stop and think. How do we know the words we write are the words God wishes us to write?
We may not always know. However, I believe the Holy Spirit does guide us. When a person lines up his/her spirit with the word of God, the words will be the right words.
Although that brings up another question. How do we know we are lining up our spirits with the word of God? Isn’t it great that we can find the answer right here in God’s word? Let’s take a Faith Test. blog1121
In verse 13, James uses the term “meekness of wisdom.”
At Dictionary Reference meek is defined as:
1. humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.
2. overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame.
3. Obsolete . gentle; kind.
~ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/meekness
In today’s world, we want to appear anything but meek. However, we, as Christians, are called apart from the world. Jesus was meek, and we are to follow in his footsteps. And that means “patient,” even when others provoke us, as we see in the first meaning. Or even consider the third meaning: “gentle, kind.” We, as Christians, should not write with an attitude of impatience or unkindness.
Not that we can always be as patient, gentle and kind in our words as we should be. James says in this same chapter “if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well (verses 2-3).”
We may not have reached perfection, of never stumbling in what we say, but it’s something we are to strive for.
Does this mean we cannot have conflict in books? Of course not. However, if we are not writing with the ultimate goal of helping others to be Christ-like, to develop kindness and patience, we’re missing the mark.
Books teach. Even if we say we are writing only for entertainment, our books still teach. We, as writers, are teachers. And as teachers we are held to a greater accountability. (Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. ~ James 3:1)
So, let’s take the test. Are we showing our works (our writings) in “the meekness of wisdom”?
And that’s just question number one. We’ll continue the test next time. Hope you join me!
(Special thanks to Mark Littleton for his lessons on James.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Can't Believe . . .


I'm giving myself a few minutes this morning to write my blog post although I am so far behind on NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) right now. My laptop crashed. I had written around 800 words on the morning of the crash. I really didn't lose much--it could have been much worse. And then I was without a computer for a day or so.

I can't believe that not only did my laptop crash, but the desktop did also. What are the odds of our two computers crashing on the same day? I restored the laptop, but the desktop seems to be beyond repair. I bought a new one, and my husband and I are trying to install needed software.

I can't believe installing software can be so difficult.

I can't believe customer support is so unhelpful (I don't know why I find that one hard to believe).

I can't believe I am three or four days behind on NaNo after finally catching up.

Five More Things I Can't Believe:

I can't believe Leroy Bell (on The X-Factor) is sixty years old. That guy's found the fountain of youth!

I can't believe Ozzie (on Survivor) is still going strong.

On a related note, I can't believe "Coach" is behaving like a relatively normal person.

I can't believe Terra Nova, with dinosaurs running around, is so boring.

I can't believe the Duggars are expecting another child.

I can believe I will catch up today. I believe, I believe, I believe . . .



Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11 Random Thoughts

Today is 11-11-11. How cool is that?

Numbers have significance in the Bible. For example, there were twelve tribes of Israel and twelve apostles. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years. Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days before his temptation by Satan.

I wondered if the number eleven had any significance. This is what I found:

ELEVEN: disorder: 10 + 1 or 12 – 1; also disorganization, unfulfillment, imperfection.

  • At Kadesh-Barnea the Children of Israel traveled 11 days from Mt. Sinai.  In one more day they could have been in the Holy Land but their faith failed them.
  • The last two Kings of Judah each reigned 11 years before the Babylonian conquest of Judah.

This has turned into a different blog post than I originally started to write. I’m off and running down a rabbit trail.

Instead, I was going to talk about the time-gulping, mind-numbing, headache-inducing everyday things we have to deal with. Specifically, I was going to talk about computer problems. Just one example—I keep getting a message: Catalyst Control Center is not working. I tried different things, and it still shouts in my face every time I start the computer. *Sigh.*

Not long ago I wrote a post dealing with always being professional and positive. No complaining—even about computers. Today, I’m being unprofessional and negative.

A little bit of explanation. I have just spent two hours deleting and uninstalling and reinstalling. Catalyst Control Center is still mocking me.

These things are meant to teach us patience.

This morning I set a goal of 10000 words today. Others can do it, why can’t I? Because I get distracted seeing the Catalyst Control Center box.

Focus, Sheila, focus.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nine Book Covers

Part of the: Check out other participants in the side bar!
         

          I have been working on book covers. When I counted the number I had saved, it came out to nine. So . . . I decided to share my nine book covers. If you find these mind-numbing boring, please feel free to skip. 

          Still here? Here's the story. A few weeks ago, I decided I would self publish my young adult novel. Many writers who self publish hire someone to do their book covers. However, I like to try new things. I decided I would do it myself. Following is part of my process.






1.

My first attempt was not an attempt at an actual book cover. I wanted something to use in the book trailer I made. I thought I would adapt this later on for my book. I rejected it for several reasons. The main reason was because I didn't like the font. I moved on to this:

2.

I started rethinking my choice of this blue cedar tree. I thought it was cool to begin with. I learned a process to make a picture look like snow was on the ground. The problem, I found this too "cool." The colors, the blue and white, convey a coolness, plus I don't think the cedar tree gives a sense of the story. On to my third try.

3

I like this one! But again cool blue colors. I searched for a picture of a teenage girl. Almost all of them wore heavy makeup. My heroine, living during the Great Depression, definitely did not wear makeup. I found one picture but had to cut off the side of her head since she wore several pairs of earrings. As someone said, she looks like an Eskimo. On to my next try.

4.

Again, I'm using the same picture of the girl. This book cover came from a template on CreateSpace. Several told me the title and my name were too small and would be unreadable in the thumbnail. On to another try.

5.

I liked this one, at first. The girl was supposed to be looking out a window. Most people said she was in a "box" and complained because the bluebird was lost in the clouds. Okay, I agree. And the winner is:



6.

Since I could not find a picture I liked, I decided to take my own. I made a visit to my cousin's house. She has an old barn, and I had my granddaughter pose inside the barn. I still had my bluebird picture and I wanted it added to the picture I had taken. My son did some photo-editing of the two pictures, and I love it! This one I decided was a keeper. I love looking at it (maybe because it's my granddaughter?). There's more variety of color. The title and my name are fairly large. But now I had to do the backcover.




7.

I liked the picture but felt it was too dark. The blurb needed more work.

8.


This is better, I think, although I'm not sure if anyone would know that's a cedar tree. And I didn't like the way it looked with the front cover. One more try.
9.

Back to my original cedar tree. I'm not sure, again, if anyone can tell that this is a cedar tree. And I'm still not sure about the blurb. Okay, may be a few more tries before I make a definite decision. *Sigh.*


Bonus video:  video


I redid my book trailer, using the book cover I have finally chosen. Hope you enjoy it!