Goals for the New Year

Antique pen and inkwell

This is a time of year for looking back at the past year of goals and looking toward new goals. After the holidays punctuate the end of the year in celebration, its time to get back to business. Back to the grind and the hard work that it takes to achieve goals.

This past year, I wrote 3 books and edited 3 books. I sent out 11 query letters and received 11 rejections. I finally established a writing routine and stuck to it for over nine months. I started this blog. All goals checked off a list.

This year, I have a new list of goals. I’d like to write 4 books and edit 3 books. I’d like to improve this blog by making it more reader friendly. I have other goals that I can’t reveal quite yet, but they’re exciting.

The long list of goals can be overwhelming. Shoulders can sag under the weight of goals needing to be checked off lists upon lists. Even exciting goals can be wearisome if they seem too big.

But they needn’t be too big. Yes, I have goals, but I must ultimately bow to God’s will. His will for my life trumps all my goals.

I hope, as you set out on your goals, that you are sustained as you tackle them this year.

Looking forward into this new year of blogging, what would you as readers like to see in this blog? More book reviews? More posts on writing? Other things?


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Christmas Book Giveaway – The Princess Spy

Congrats to DeVorah, winner of last week’s giveaway!

Now on to this week’s giveaway!

This week I’m giving away a copy of The Princess Spy, the newest release by Melanie Dickerson. My sister-in-law recommended her books to me, and I loved them. They are fairy tale remakes set in a historical, medieval setting. While they stick to the plot line of the fairy tales for the most part, they are not constricted by them like some remakes are. Her latest release, The Princess Spy, is based on the frog prince fairy tale. I won’t give away how she manages to pull that one off!

Back Cover (from Amazon):

Margaretha has always been a romantic, and hopes her newest suitor, Lord Claybrook, is destined to be her one true love. But then an injured man is brought to Hagenheim Castle, claiming to be an English lord who was attacked by Claybrook and left for dead. And only Margaretha—one of the few who speaks his language—understands the wild story.

Margaretha finds herself unable to pass Colin’s message along to her father, the duke, and convinces herself “Lord Colin” is just an addled stranger. Then Colin retrieves an heirloom she lost in a well, and asks her to spy on Claybrook as repayment. Margaretha knows she could never be a spy—not only is she unable to keep anything secret, she’s sure Colin is completely wrong about her potential betrothed. Though when Margaretha overhears Claybrook one day, she discovers her romantic notions may have been clouding her judgment about not only Colin but Claybrook as well. It is up to her to save her father and Hagenheim itself from Claybrook’s wicked plot.

 My Recommendation:
 As with all her books, Dickerson weaves a deft tale combining the fairy tale and her historical setting. The Christian themes in the book are given a light touch, but they are still present throughout the book. My favorite part about this book is the character of Margaretha. Unlike some of the female main characters in Dickerson’s other books, Margaretha is not a lady to wait around for someone to rescue her. She is strong without being too bold. Her character has a good balance that shows it is possible to be a strong woman while still relying on others for help.
If you’d like to win a copy of The Princess Spy, please follow the Rafflecopter link below:

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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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Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

The girl in the chair next to me peeks at her graded paper. “I got a B+.” She smiles, clearly happy with her grade.

“Great job!” I tell her. I know she must have worked hard on it. She’s a recovering drug addict struggling to put herself through college. I’m genuinely happy for her.

She turns in her seat. “What did you get?”

My stomach drops through my toes and seeps into the floor. Embarrassment heats my face. “Good enough.” I hedge, hoping that she’ll drop it.

She doesn’t. No one ever does. “It’s okay. You can tell me.”

More than anything, I don’t want to tell her. I’m too ashamed to admit my grade. I spent a grand total of fifteen minutes the night before it was due working on this paper. Hardly any time at all. But I can’t avoid her questions. I know from experience that she’ll ask until I tell her. That’s what everyone does. Finally I stare down at the desk and mumble, “I got an A.”

“That’s more than good enough! That’s great!” She grins at me.

I stare at her. I’d been expecting a snide remark. Another “Well, of course you got a good grade” in a sarcastic tone. Not this. Fresh shame burns my throat. She shouldn’t be congratulating me. “You spent more time on this paper than I did.”

Perhaps she recognizes the shame in my eyes, in my voice. Her tone softens. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Nothing to be ashamed of. Why had it taken an ex-drug addict at a public college to tell me what no one else had? My grades were nothing to be ashamed of. It’s okay to be smart. It’s okay to get a good grade with little effort.

In my junior high and high school, I’d heard teachers tell the class over and over again: I wish I could grade by effort. The C and B students put more effort than the A students. I would hunch in my chair. I was one of those bad A students, the one that gets an A on a test I didn’t study for, the one that spent a total of four hours studying for all of my exams and got an A on all of them while another student studied four hours for each exam and got Cs. If school was graded by effort, I would have gotten an F.

My grades shamed me. If I got an A with no effort, then was I really giving my best? Most of high school was so easy that I rarely felt challenged. Even when I did pour effort into a project or a paper, shame still clung to me. Had I really given my best effort? Had I actually worked hard? Surely that C student sitting next to me still worked harder than I did.

I demanded perfection from myself. A single wrong answer would gnaw at me for a week afterwards like an infection eating away at my stomach. I wasn’t worthy of my grades. I hadn’t earned them. I didn’t deserve them. Still the pursuit of perfection consumed much of my high school years. Perfection was king. At times, I felt like it determined my self-worth.

I hated admitting my grades to other students. Sometimes, I would even put my test straight into my folder without looking at it so I could answer truthfully that I hadn’t looked.

When my freshmen year of college rolled around, I enrolled in the Honor’s College. On my very first paper, I got a B. I stared at that red letter B for several minutes, shocked to see that grade on the top of one of my papers. I’d never gotten that low of a grade on a paper before.

And it felt wonderful.

For the first time in years, I could actually put effort into something. I worked hard on revisions and upped my grade to a B+. It was the best B+ I’d ever seen.

It was a long, slow road from that first B+ to the moment I realized I didn’t have to be perfect. My self-worth was not dependent on my grades or how much effort I put into them. I couldn’t earn perfection. Jesus had already earned perfection for me. His perfections cover me, earned me the words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I don’t have to earn those words with my own pitiful efforts.

My gifts are given of God. I’m not to be ashamed of them. If I’ve been given the ability to take tests with little effort, then it would be wrong to put in more effort than necessary. I’d be wasting time and energy that I could spend elsewhere on my family. Friends. Neighbors. A person in my church in need. So many ways I could have used my time and energy in high school instead of the pursuit of perfection.

Writing is something that challenges me. Unlike history facts or science formulas, it is not something that can be memorized and declared learned. It is a constant learning and growing process. It is something that demands my hard work.

I don’t know what it is like to struggle in school. I don’t know the hardships that come with that. But I can understand the shame of hiding your grades. I can understand the fear that the teacher will call on you, fear so intense my shaking rattled my desk sometimes.

If someone from my high school reads this, then I am sorry if I ever made you ashamed of your grades. If I ever made you feel unworthy. It was not my intention. Most likely, I was too ashamed of my own grades to genuinely compliment you on yours.

I still struggle with perfectionism sometimes. If I mess up at work, I struggle to let go of the mistake and move on. It haunts the back of my brain, lingering, reminding me of all my failures. When I write, I have to write a really fast, messy drafts. If I stop to edit, then my perfectionism kicks in. I see all the mistakes, all the failures, and it clutters my mind so much that I can’t keep writing.

I have to keep my mind and heart focused on the Perfect One. I don’t have to be perfect because He is. I need to stop comparing myself to others and focus only on using my gifts in the way God would have me use them.


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Why I Write Speculative Fiction

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite book in the Chronicles of Narnia. I always loved the thrill of the sea voyage. I could feel the sea breeze on my face, hear the creaking of the ship’s timbers, and touch the cold spray on my face. I was always sad when it ended and Edmund and Lucy had to leave Narnia for the last time.

But Aslan tells them that he is in there world too. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I knew Aslan’s other name. I knew C.S. Lewis referred to Jesus and I did know Jesus in our world.

As I began writing and telling my own stories, I realized Lewis was giving his reason for writing the entire Chronicles of Narnia in that quote. He hoped that his readers would get to know Christ a little in Narnia so that they could know Him better in their own lives.

This has become my goal as a writer. Like Lewis, I like to write speculative fiction, especially fantasy. Even if my fantasy doesn’t directly reference God or Christ, it still shows Christian morals and decision, much the same way that J.R.R. Tolkien showed Christ throughout The Lord of the Rings.

But my goal is always the same. I might be only showing a tiny aspect of Christ, a fragment of all the glories that He is, but my prayer is that God will use my small efforts to help readers know Him a little better.

Fantasy gives me the freedom to approach topics from different angles, much in the way that Lewis gave us different angles to Christ through Aslan. Historical fiction can only go so far. Fantasy can make us think about our faith differently.

What genre do you write? What is your goal in writing it?


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Why Should Christians Write Fiction (Part Two)

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The fifth word in the Bible is created. 

We don’t talk about that a lot. We talk about the importance of the first 4 words: In the beginning God. But in that focus, we miss that God’s first action recorded in the Bible is the act of creation. The world we live in is the ultimate act of art, of imagination. God created the entire world as a beautiful piece of art for His own pleasure. The stars in the farthest reaches of space out of the sight, the sparkling fresh snow on a mountain top where no one but God will see it, the delicate flower that blooms and dies before any human comes across it…all of these beauties are enjoyed by God alone for His glory alone.

As humans, we have imagination. It is one of the things that separates us from the animals. When we create any art, we are mirroring God’s action of creation. We are projecting God’s glory back to Him. Art isn’t a waste of time. It is another way to give glory to God and show that glory to others.

As writers, we have a special kind of art. Words are a special part of God’s creating act since He created using speech, using words. He communicates to His people through the Bible, His Word. Jesus Himself is called the Word.

Few other types of art come as close to creating something out of nothing as writing. Writers take something as wispy as ideas and as intangible as words and uses them to build stories and worlds and characters (For more thoughts on this, check out this blog post).

When we write fiction, we are mirroring God’s work of creation. We are displaying the glory of God’s creation in our small and human work of creating. I think this is especially seen in writing speculative fiction stories. I could write more about this, but while I was brainstorming this post, Nadine Brandes wrote this beautiful post on this topic that sums it up much better than I can.

How do you mirror God’s act of creation in your writing?


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Why Should Christians Write Fiction? (Part One)

The Power of Story

Sometimes when I tell people in Christian circles that I’m a writer, they smile at me and reply, “That’s good. We need more good articles.” Their faces go from interested to shocked when I calmly explain that I write books. Not doctrinal, nonfiction books, but fiction books. They don’t know how to react.

It is ironic how the same people that decry the lack of good literature for their children don’t do anything about it. Nor do they understand when anyone else does something about it. Writing fiction is somehow…lower. It isn’t the worthy calling that writing nonfiction is.

Except that this idea isn’t true. Fiction writers are just as necessary as nonfiction writers. Because the Story format is important to convey empathy and characters in a way nonfiction articles struggle to do.

Look at the Bible for example. We talk about Bible stories. Most of the Bible is written in a story format. Even books like the Psalms or Ephesians, or any of Paul’s letters have the back story contained in the rest of the Bible. Would Psalm 51 have as much power if we didn’t know the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah?

Think of some of the phrases we learn as children. Dare to be a Daniel. Have faith like Father Abraham. Would these phrases even have meaning if we’d been told about Daniel in a factual lecture instead of as a story? As children, we learn about courage from the stories about Daniel or Joshua. We see the self-sacrifice that faith demands from the story of Abraham. We see the consequences of sin in the lives of many of the saints.

We learn through stories, through stepping into someone else’s shoes and walking with them for a while. We learn by the examples we see in stories better than we do through simply being told this is how you should live.

All those Bible stories are true, and perhaps the argument could then be made that Christians should only write nonfiction stories about real people and places. Except that Jesus himself told fiction stories. Jesus’ parables weren’t stories based on people that actually lived. They were fiction.

Fiction can be just as powerful as true stories at digging at a deeper meaning. In fiction, an author puts the reader inside another person’s head. The reader becomes that person, feeling their emotions, understanding their fears, desires, and dreams. Through reading, we learn empathy for others. We learn to see the pain that others who aren’t like us carry.

Stories can also shine the light on ourselves. In the Bible, Nathan the prophet didn’t get in David’s face when he confronted David about his sin. Nathan told a fictional story. David sympathized with the wronged man in the story, only to realize at the end that the bad guy in the story was him. It shook him in a way that nothing else could. That story had power.

What Bible stories hold the most power for you? Why does that story strike you?


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Book Two Blues

Maybe more experienced writers have less trouble with this. Perhaps practice makes it easier. I’m not sure. But in my experience so far, book two in the series I’m working on has been much harder to write than book one. While I became stuck a couple of times in book one, the scenes pushed to be written. When I arrived at the climax, I could barely concentrate that whole week with the urge to write nonstop.

Book two has been a completely different writing experience altogether. From the first word, I have had to work to get the words to come. My word count has slowed to a crawl because I spend twice as much time laboring over the words than I did on book one. I am currently at the climax and all I can do is stare at the page unable to force a word to come out.

Part of the trouble is that book two is more intense than book one. In book one, I introduced the characters and began their character and physical journeys. They were pushed, but not with the amount of difficulties I throw at them in book two. At times, the scenes became so intense I had to stop writing because I was beginning to get sick to my stomach or cry along with the characters. I had to walk away for a while to catch my breath.

I don’t have a lot of experience writing sequels. I wrote several sequels years ago, back before I knew much about writing and they were never longer than about 30k words. This current sequel is the first full-length sequel I’ve ever tackled.

Do more experienced writers struggle with writing book two? Have any of you experienced the same feeling with book two?


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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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