I walked the Mighty Mac – Again

I walked the Mighty Mac

Every Labor Day for my entire life (except for the year my youngest brother was born), I’ve walked the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced MACK-ih-naw).

For those who don’t know, the Mackinac Bridge is the suspension bridge that connects the lower peninsula of Michigan with the upper peninsula. It is the fifth largest suspension bridge in the world. Each year, tens of thousands of people gather for the annual Labor Day bridge walk, including Michigan’s governor.

I love the tradition. I love the feel of walking five miles high above the water, Lake Michigan on one side, Lake Huron on the other.

It’s a tradition that’s bigger than just my family. It is a tradition that connects generations. My dad did it. My grandparents did it. Years from now (if I ever get married and have kids) my kids will do it. Even if I don’t get married, I’ll keep walking the Mighty Mac each year until I no longer can walk.

There’s something special about walking in the footsteps of your grandparents. The bridge connects Michigan, but it also connects generations in Michigan. I remember walking across the bridge holding my grandma’s hand. My brothers spent several years walking across with our grandpa.

It’s a part of a culture. A culture that walks the bridge rain or shine, wind or sun. Fall isn’t allowed to start until that bridge is crossed. It’s a culture that’s tough enough to get up early in the morning to gather for a five mile walk.

It connects those who do it. When I meet someone who has walked the Mighty Mac for a number of years, we share stories. We both remember the year the wind was so strong that the whole bridge swayed, causing everyone to stagger. We remember the years it was so cold we walked in our winter coats and scarves. And we’ll remember this year, the year it was spitting a warm rain and all the early walkers got covered with a sheen of rain.

There’s a power in that. It isn’t a religious holiday or tradition. It’s a cultural one. Something that is specific to just a small number of people.

For someone who loves traditions as much as I do, it’s strange, when I think about it, how little I remember to add them to my fantasy worlds when I’m writing. But I should make more of an effort. Traditions hold a lot of value and power. They will shape our characters and hold our fantasy worlds and cultures together.

What about you? Do you have any traditions that your family has? If you’re a writer, do you have any traditions for your characters?


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Revisiting My Writer Past

Laura's House

As most of you know, I was on vacation last week. I intended to post this Tuesday, but when I got back, unpacking from camping, catching up on work and all the stuff I’d neglected before and during vacation, and realizing that deadlines I’d pushed back to the end of summer were now less than two weeks away. All to explain why this post is going up on Friday.

While I didn’t get to go to Realm Makers this year, I did end up in St. Louis, MO on the Monday after Realm Makers. A couple of my friends and I took an awesome week-long road trip to Missouri. And, I still got to revisit one of my writing roots.

The year was 1996. I was six years old when my parents loaded up our old Midas motorhome and took my brothers and me to Missouri.

My dad had read the entire Little House series to us, me curled on his lap listening to the rumble of his voice in Pa’s stories and knowing that I was his Half Pint as much as Laura was Pa’s. We’d already visited the replica of the little cabin in the big woods, though it is now a little cabin surrounded by tiny saplings. I don’t remember if we had visited any other sites by that point. I eventually visited all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites, the last one in Independence, KS when I was sixteen.

But on this trip, we were stopping at a Laura Ingalls Wilder site not in the books, yet essential to them. I’m talking about Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, MO, the place where Laura Ingalls Wilder actually wrote the books.

I was six. I was awed in the museum at Pa’s fiddle and a handwritten manuscript. The house was old and huge. The furniture big. The tour boring. I don’t remember anything from most of the house.

But I do remember Laura’s desk. It was big with cubies and space for writing. And there, standing in front of that desk, I made the decision.

I was going to be a published author someday.

The year is now 2015. Nineteen years have passed since I saw that house in Mansfield. Seeing things as an adult is both the same and different.

The wonder at seeing Pa’s fiddle is still the same. Pa’s voice in my head is still my dad’s. I’m still my dad’s Half Pint.

Pa's Fiddle

Pa’s Fiddle

The house is different. It’s smaller. I actually remember the tour through the rest of the house. This time, I see the people and their lives, not just the author and her books.

Laura Ingalls Wilder is smaller. I’m actually taller than her (by a whole inch, but I’m still taller).

And the desk is smaller. My own desk at home could swallow it. It doesn’t look like something big enough to start off a little girl’s hopes and dreams.

Laura's Desk

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s desk

Still, I choked up standing there. At six, I’d stood there and decided I was going to be a published author. Nineteen years later, I stood there a couple months after my first book released. A surreal moment.

Nineteen years. A longer road to publication than my six-year-old self could’ve comprehended. I’d thought I’d be published by sixteen or eighteen at the latest (because eighteen year olds are so old when you’re six).

Have you ever read the Little House books? What memories do they bring up?

Do you have a specific memory of the day you knew you wanted to be a published author?


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A Trip to a Book Sale

Last Saturday, I realized I might just have a problem. I’m a wee bit too addicted to collecting books.

Every year, my small town holds a festival to celebrate simply being in existence (because small towns still hold celebrations like that). There are fireworks, a parade, half the businesses run sales, the other half do some type of special dinner or hot dog fry or something. It’s pretty crazy. As part of the celebration, my local library holds a book sale.

On Saturday, I was just sitting down to edit when I remembered that the book sale started at 9. It was now 9:37. The parade (which closes down the street in front of the library) started at 10:00. I live 12 minutes away.

It was going to be close. I grabbed my purse, dashed out the door with a quick explanation to my mom where I was going, and hurried into my car.

I didn’t make it. I arrived at the final turn as the local police closed the road. I was stuck half a mile away from the library.

So I did what any level-headed, book-addicted girl would do when a parade stands between them and books. I parked and walked the half mile to the library. Did I mention that it was 85 degrees and humid out?

I fast-walked to the library (after all, the longer I took, the more picked over the books would be) and managed to outpace all the candy-crazed kids eager for the parade to start.

Finally, hot, sweaty, and red-faced, I stumbled into the air-conditioned library. And realized that for the first year ever, they’d decided to run the library sale Friday and Saturday. The boxes of books were already half empty and picked over!

I found a couple of YA books, but none my favorites, and a few research books. All told, I found 8 gems buried in the boxes of books.

After paying, I stepped back outside. The beginning of the parade was just reaching the road in front of the library. I could either wait the 45 minutes and watch the rest of the parade or hike back to my car and leave right then.

I decided to leave. I was supposed to be editing, and I’d have to make the walk either way. Might as well do it before the rest of the crowd and miss all the crazy traffic.

By the time I reached my car, the bags of books had cut trenches into my fingers and ached into my shoulders. Blisters had formed both between my toes where my flip flops had rubbed and on the bottom of one of my feet where the plastic chafed.

I was thankful the sale had been so picked over. My usual forty pounds of books would’ve been way too much to carry half a mile back to my car. Eight books were heavy enough.

Probably the most amazing thing about the whole day, was that I managed to fit the books on my bookshelves when I got home. 😉

Have you ever been to a library book sale?


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A Writer Gets Her Wisdom Teeth Removed

Teeth

I slid onto the brown, cushioned chair. My heart pounded. Nerves filled my stomach better than the food I hadn’t been allowed to eat for the past six hours.

I shouldn’t be such a wimp about this. After all, I’ve had my characters get stabbed, shot with arrows, and cauterize their own wounds without any sort of pain killer whatsoever. I should be able to handle getting my wisdom teeth removed.

Even worse, I wasn’t worked up about the surgery part. I could handle the aftermath, and I’d be asleep when the surgeon removed the teeth.

No, I was freaking out over the needle for the I.V. That tiny, single prick.

The oral surgeon breezed into the room. The assistant placed the rubber mask for the happy gas over my nose. “Relax and breathe deeply. Try not to talk for the next couple of minutes.”

I sucked a long breath through my nose and stared around the room, at the blank TV, the empty stool in the corner, the x-ray of my teeth on the computer screen. The happy gas didn’t seem to be working. Tension still curled my muscles. The monitor bleep bleeped my heartbeat.

“Hold out your arm.” The oral surgeon pulled out a stool and sat next to me. I draped my arm towards him. He tied a rubber tourniquet around my upper arm.

I bolted upright, nearly knocking the mask off my face. “Wait! You’re putting the I.V. in my right arm? Can’t you do my left?”

The surgeon raised his eyebrows at me. “Anything special about your right arm?”

“No, it’s just…my right arm.” My tongue wasn’t working right. I didn’t have the energy to explain why I was freaking out. I needed my right arm. If it got a bruise from the I.V., I wouldn’t be able to spend Saturday editing like I’d planned.

“Okay, get ready. Just a little pinch now.”

I squeezed my eyes shut. He was right. It was only a slight pinch. He removed the tourniquet.

“So, what do you do in your spare time when you’re not getting your teeth out?”

The oral surgeon was trying to distract me while the I.V. started working. But I might as well go along with it. “I’m a writer. I write books.”

“Oh, what kind of books?”

“Young adult fan…fantasy…Christian fantasy fiction.” Did that sound as slurred to him as it did to me? “I actually have an idea for a book where a guy from the Middle Ages goes to the dentist.” It was an idea I’d had while at the dentist a few weeks’ before, right before I’d learned I needed my wisdom teeth removed.

“Just think how bad something like this would have been back then. No anesthetic.”

“Yeah, though my idea would have him go to a modern dentist. Time travel. He’d freak out.” The things a writer thinks of while getting her teeth cleaned at the dentist. I could just see the guy freak out by the strange torture session.

By this point, the oral surgeon was probably relieved when I passed out.


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Things to be Thankful For

Snoopy Thanksgiving

By now, you’ve probably read plenty of blog posts about thanksgiving and what people are thankful for. This is a good time of year to pause, look back, and reflect, and I guess this blog post isn’t going to be any different.

I could go on and on about how I’m thankful for nice clothes, a car, my family, etc. Those are all good things to be thankful for, and I am thankful for them. But here I would like to focus on five writing related things that I’m thankful for this year:

1. I’m thankful I wasn’t published this year. That sounds like a strange thing to be thankful for, but I’ve learned so much that I wouldn’t have learned if publication had come when I’d thought it would.

2. I’m thankful for the community of writers that I’ve discovered. This year, I commented on a few authors’ blogs and discovered that published writers are people too. I’m so thankful for Nadine Brandes, Angie Brashear, Gillian Bronte Adams, Jill Williamson, and other authors who have replied to my comments and encouraged me even though they have never met me in person. I still squeal in excitement when I see an author replied to one of my emails or my comments.

3. I’m thankful for my critique partners, whether they are ones I just met this year or friends I’ve had since high school. You all are so amazing, and I wouldn’t know how to write without your encouragement every step of the way.

4. I’m thankful for Go Teen Writers even though I’m no longer a teen writer. I’ve met so many unpublished, young authors through that blog, and I look forward to getting to know everyone there better next year. The community there is wonderful.

5. Finally, I’m thankful for you, my readers. I don’t even have a book published, but I have 49 likes on my Facebook page and 74 followers on my blog. I never would have thought that possible when I started this blog a few months ago! Thank you so much!


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You Know You're a Writer if…

thCAIC19T8

I can’t take credit for this list. I found it on the blog of Kaye Dacus, a Christian Fiction writer who writes historical and contemporary Christian romances. Her Ransome trilogy is my favorite of hers so far (seriously, Regency, British navy, and pirates, what isn’t there to love?).

I loved these so much I thought I’d share some of my favorites:

You know you are a writer if…

  • Some of the letters on your keyboard are completely worn off.
  • You would rather write than go out.
  • Your/you’re and their/there/they’re errors send you into an apoplectic fit.
  • You get cranky if you don’t get to write.
  • You’ve ever said, “The voices are getting louder; I must go write.”
  • In the middle of the night, you grab the pen and paper you keep next to your bed to write down a scene to make the voices be quiet so you can get some sleep.
  • Getting the scene finished is more important than food, coffee, or the bathroom.
  • A blank wall becomes the screen where the scene you’re writing takes place right in front of your eyes.
  • You can’t write because you’re mad at one of your characters.
  • You argue with said character.
  • The “sermon notes” section of the Sunday morning bulletin comes home every week filled in with ideas or scenes for your WIP.
  • You–hold on, I have to check my e-mail . . .
  • You do everything you can think of to procrastinate from writing, then turn the light on in the middle of the night and furtively write a few hundred words because you feel guilty for not writing.
  • You can predict the next line or conflict in just about every TV show/movie you watch.
  • You don’t meet “new friends”; you meet “potential characters.”
  • You stay in bed ten minutes after you wake up structuring the details of your dream into a novel synopsis, complete with character descriptions, setting, and costumes.
  • You spend more on “writing stuff” every year than you do on groceries and gas combined.
  • You’re never bored, because your characters are always there to entertain you.
  • You aren’t concerned when someone else talks about “the voices” not leaving them alone—in fact, you ask them about their voices and tell them about your own.
  • You know more than ten verbs to describe the way someone walked into the room.
  • Poorly written novels make you bipolar—elated knowing that you’re a better writer, and depressed because that hack got published and you can’t get past the acquisitions editor.
  • It takes you forever to send a text message on your cell phone because it has to be properly spelled and punctuated.
  • When given an essay/paper assignment in school with a ten-page length requirement, the professor turns and looks at you and says, “That means ONLY ten pages!” Your response is, “Is eight-point font okay?”
  • You live in a constant state of “What if?”
  • You see a hand-drawn employee appreciation poster at the grocery store with one word misspelled and have to avert your eyes every time you walk past it to keep from attacking it with a red Sharpie.
  • Staring off into space with a glazed look in your eyes is considered “working.”
  • You are automatically drawn to the display of journals and fancy notepads/notebooks on the bargain table at every bookstore you enter. And you buy at least two, because you don’t have any in that style yet, even though you have at least fifteen or twenty sitting at home unused.
  • You go into mourning when you kill off a character . . . even if the character deserved to die.
  • You know that “Which of your books is your favorite?” is the second worst question you can be asked. The worst is “Which of your characters is your favorite?”
  • You can never “clear your mind.”
  • You’ve figured out how to write while driving. And have actually missed your exit/turn because you’re so absorbed in your own story.
  • You pat the lid of your laptop after you close it. (Bonus points if you mutter, “Good girl/boy” while patting.)
  • At parties, some people snoop in the medicine cabinet. You sneak peeks at the bookshelves.
  • You read a list of “you know you’re a writer if…” statements and think of twenty others not covered.

Aren’t these awesome! There were so many that Kaye Dacus compiled that I didn’t include them all. There were just my favorites (and no, I’m not going to admit how many I do on a regular basis. If you’re a writer, you can probably guess without being told).

Which ones are your favorite? Did you think of any “You Know You’re a Writer if…” statements to add?

And, lastly, congratulations to Miquel, the winner of the A Time to Die giveaway! You should have received an email this morning. If you didn’t, please contact me. Thanks to everyone who entered!


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Claim the Name

For years, I told everyone who asked that I was going to be a writer someday. They would smile, nod, and tell me that was a good dream for the future in a tone of voice that let me know that it wasn’t going to happen for a long time. That was okay. I was content with writing for fun. I rarely finished anything, but it was fun to toy around with the ideas.

I went off to college. I learned how to write lots of short stories, and I told myself that I didn’t have time to write anything longer. That was okay. I was going to be a writer someday. Eventually.

Then, I graduated. I wanted to launch my writing career as I had been envisioning for four years…and realized that I had nothing to work with. I had some ideas, some half-finished projects, but nothing to use to seek publication. In fact, I knew nothing about publishing. I didn’t even have my own blog.

Somewhere along the way, I had believed my own words. I was going to be a writer someday. Not now.

It was my excuse for not writing. Not being disciplined. Not researching the world of publishing.

It was time for a title change.

I began to tell people that I am a writer. After all, publication doesn’t make a person a writer. The act of writing does. I gave myself a writing schedule. I blog-stalked my favorite authors. I learned. I wrote.

That was a year ago. I have now finished three manuscripts and I’m working on a fourth. I’m launching this blog, and I hope to continue to reach out and make connections with my fellow writers, both published and pre-published.

I wouldn’t trade my years of being a someday writer. I did a lot of practice writing in those years that will never make it off my computer, but the practice brought me to where I am. I couldn’t claim the name of writer until I was ready.

Now I am still learning patience. Publication is still a ways off, and it’s tough to lean on God’s timing instead of mine.

What about you? Are you still calling yourself a someday writer?


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