Category Archives: Writing

A Smorgasbord

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I posted an entry. Where did the time go?

My mind has been kinda… full, I guess you’d say. From editing short stories for “Havok Magazine” and chapters submitted by two writers groups, taking some online courses on writing and focusing on God as I write, beginning a bible study on the book of Daniel, working full time, and all other typical daily routines, I don’t suppose I should be surprised I haven’t been keeping up here.

Yet I have been trying to write a daily paper journal. That’s been fun. A change of pace. I still have good handwriting, too!

The nice thing about keeping a paper journal is I don’t have to worry about self-censoring, because I know no one will read it. At least not until I purposefully show someone. Or after I’m dead.

I don’t do that much, here, either, but that’s because I know you, my readers aren’t going to call me names for voicing an opinion you don’t like. I appreciate that, so thank you!

Quite a few years ago, I kicked myself off social media for an entire year. I ended up writing over 250,000 words. Talk about productive! With all the current upheaval of social media, I’m thinking it’s time to do it again. Taking every Sunday off has helped my peace of mind, but I think it’s not enough anymore. It’s a terrible place at times, and I too often feel depressed or at least anxious after spending a few minutes there. God’s way of telling me to walk away, perhaps?

One thing I won’t quit is this blog, though. I like it here, and I still long to put my words out there. I just need to be smarter about it. More focused.

I’m also reading more. For fiction I’m reading Brandon Sanderson’s “The Stormlight Archive, Books 1-3.” I’m 450 words into the over 3400 word story. It’s a good thing I read fairly fast!

For non-fiction, I go back and forth with Matt Walsh’s, “Church of Cowards” and Dennis Prager’s, “Rational Bible: Genesis.” Both are meaty books, so I take those in small doses.

What books are you reading?

100!

I just received a notification that my humble blog has reached 100 followers. In today’s online world, that number may seem anemic, perhaps even something to avoid bragging about.

Considering I write more than market this blog, 100 followers is more than I expected.

So now I have to find a way to thank each one of you… perhaps share one of my short stories? A series of devotionals I wrote for my church? Reader’s choice?

I’ll let you decide.

Spiritual Blockage

Last week I once again signed up to write a few devotions for my church during Advent. While normally greedy by picking between four and six, I chose two (mostly because we were asked to pick only one or two).

As I read through the suggested passages of the first day I chose, I noticed what I can only describe as a spiritual blockage. I couldn’t care about the passages, had no desire to prayerfully seek out wisdom and discernment, and allow God to use his voice through me.

It was a bit startling, and… sad. I honestly had no idea how much I’ve been struggling of late until that moment. I’ve kept it quiet, putting on a brave face—for myself as much as for everyone else.

I could attempt to convince myself that pretending to be strong and “together” was for the benefit of those around me, because they need me to be strong. That may be partially true, but I must also be honest if I am to learn and grow.

Pride is once again my main motivation.

Anyone who’s read my blog for a while knows I don’t enjoy admitting I’m weak. In fact, I hate it.

Yet it must be done. If I continue to allow pride determine my thoughts and actions, it becomes an idol and leaves no more room for God.

My apathy toward the passages mentioned above was God’s way of slamming a door in my face and saying, “You’re neither prepared nor equipped to uplift others until you let me uplift you.”

I like to think God uses the words I write to speak to others, but (again, I must be honest) most often the words that spill from my fingers end up speaking to me. That last statement above in quotes is one of them. I had to stop typing for a few minutes, because I could no longer see through the sudden tears. Just thinking about them now makes me want to cry all over again.

Because that’s who God is. Always aware, always standing by, ready to give us whatever we need—as long as we remain open to receive and accept what he offers with gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving.

And humility.

“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless… But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-29, 31 (NLT)

The Mighty Pen

A few days ago, my hubby and I met with some friends at a restaurant. Most of the conversation circled around firearms, but then it turned toward other subjects such as the riots, and other issues and controversies of the day.

Soon the conversation turned toward social media.

One mentioned how he doesn’t always agree with what I write on Facebook. He considers responding, but ends up leaving no comment. He said my posts are so well written, anything he adds would look stupid by comparison. “I simply don’t know how to write with as good of grammar as you do.”

Aside and disclaimer: this is not meant as a braggadocios post, but something else, which I will explain further.

I quirked by head at him and said, “Huh. I never thought of using good grammar as a weapon before.”

“That’s exactly what it is,” he said. “A weapon.”

Another piped up with, “The pen is mightier than the sword after all.”

The problem with some cliches is they often become so common, they take on a certain abstraction with no real-world value people can use in their daily life. I’ve used the pen versus sword phrase before in previous posts, usually to say that we need to ever be aware of every word we speak or write. They can tear people down as easily as they can uplift.

Yet I still never considered writing well (having good grammar) as a weapon to the point people wouldn’t want to engage—feeling inadequate to the task.

in some ways I was gratified by the comment, but it also made me sad. I never want to intimidate anyone with my skills. I want them to be inviting and informative so people will engage, even if they disagree. Sometimes especially if they disagree. I would rather look like a fool for a moment than a fool forever because I didn’t take the time to listen and learn something new.

I get it though.

I like to sing, and love to belt out tunes while in my car or alone in the house. I may even be fairly good at it. I also don’t know how to read a single note of music. I couldn’t distinguish a B from an A to save my life.

If a professional singer asked me to do a duet, however, I would have to politely decline. I’m simply not skilled enough—feeling inadequate to the task. ‘Tis better to sit in the corner and not engage.

At the same time, by not taking up the invitation, I deny myself the benefit of the singer’s skills to possibly improve my own.

Sure, in some instances I like the idea of wielding my grammar skills as a weapon, but I prefer to wield them to teach and edify, but mostly as an invitation to discuss ideas and learn from others.

No Bad News

I think we can all agree social media and much of the Internet can be a toxic place. It’s where we vent, argue and too often call each other nasty names—all without having to accept any consequences thereof.

We also have the choice to either not participate, or offer something better.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to offer something better.

Over the last few years, I’ve written short devotions for my church (about 300 words or one page each). Some are pretty good—if I say so myself—and there’s nothing stopping me from sharing them with the rest of you.

The surest cure for emotional and mental toxicity is emotional and mental positivity. While some of you may not share my faith, I promise nothing of what I share from now on is an attempt to preach at or convert you. My only desire is that you find a little joy and hope in my words.

Consider my page from now on a no bad news area.

Motivational Asides

Some like to create controversy. It boosts their readership–clickbait if you will. While I like to see as many readers and comments as anyone else, since I don’t receive any funds from the number of clicks/reads I get, I can’t really claim clickbait status.

When people click on my Twitter profile, this is the first tweet they see:

“I use Twitter to comment on politics, culture, and religion. I’m opinionated, but I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I like hearing differing points of view on varied subjects because I want to learn.

“I always appreciate civil discourse even if we disagree in the end.”

I also like to give my point of view on subjects with the hope it’s different enough that people will stop and think about it, maybe even do their own research to discover whether I’m right or full of [censored] (believe it or not, it’s been known to happen. Occasionally).

Do I hope to change minds? Absolutely! Do I expect it? Nope–as frustrating as that can be at times.

In talking to a friend recently, I mentioned how I may have lost a few friends online due to all my bloviating of late. I don’t know for sure, because I don’t keep track, and there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.

That was a lesson hard learned, honestly. We all want to be loved, respected and heard. When I was a wee youngin’, friends were difficult to come by. While I have some guesses as to why, only when I reached my twenties did I figure out that love, respect and a listening ear can’t (or should) be forced. I have to freedom to choose whom I will love, respect and listen to, so how could I ever believe everyone else didn’t have that same freedom?

So while I like to share my opinions–however controversial–and be heard, I also want to give as many people as possible the same opportunity–even if I disagree.

Part of being heard is to listen, so if you’ve waded through all my rants of late relatively unscathed (or scathed, but waded through anyway), you have my undying love and respect. And, if you walk away from this entry with anything, I want you to know that you have also been heard.

Apathy

Either I’m not getting enough Sun, my hormones are completely whacked out, or it’s a combination of both, but I’m suffering from a severe case of apathy.

I’m not sad or depressed, but I can’t seem to find a reason to care about much of anything more than what I’m required to do for work and family. I’m either in automatic or neutral, and don’t care enough to change gears even when I know I should.

I keep thinking I should be concerned, but I’m not. Mostly. Actually, I am concerned, but not enough to do anything about it.

Part of why I’m writing it down is so that maybe, just maybe doing so will push me out of this odd mood I’m in. Sometimes seeing what I’m thinking and feeling on the screen helps me to find a solution to whatever is bugging me.

Change o’ subject (sort of):

I’m thinking of changing the name of my blog again. This time to “Dear God. I Have Questions.”

Two reasons for this.

Once again, I volunteered to write several devotions for my church’s yearly Lenten devotional. Eight, actually, which is the most I’ve volunteered to write so far. In one of them I admitted I don’t love or trust God as much as I know I should. I take much of my faith for granted, and worse, when it starts to matter, I hide it away, afraid.

Many non-religious accuse religious people, Christians especially, as following blindly, never asking challenging questions. For some, that’s probably true. I’ve heard enough stories where church leaders have punished people in a variety of ways for daring to challenge their beliefs or orthodoxy.

Yet that’s far from biblical. In both the Old and New Testaments, God and Jesus encouraged questions and seemed to enjoy being challenged (as long as the questioner was genuine in wanting to learn). For example, in the Old Testament, Jacob literally wrestled with God–and would have won if God hadn’t cheated. In the New Testament, never once did Jesus condemn anyone for asking questions. Sure, he was tough on the Pharisees, but he also knew their motives; their questions were meant to trap him, not to learn.

I want to focus my blog on studying God’s word to strengthen my relationship with him, and hopefully show others that to be a Christian actually means to ask a lot of questions, to challenge our current religious thinking, and yes question what the Bible says about certain subjects we find objectionable or problematic (while at the same time knowing that my understanding of said scripture is what’s flawed, not the scripture itself).

I also hope that by increasing my time of study, it’ll kick me out of this apathetic funk.

Under No Uncertain Terms

I know I promised to talk about Philipians 4:7-9 in my last entry, but I decided to put that off for a bit. Instead, I want to talk about why I write, and why I can’t stop no matter how much I complain about it.

Back in 2000, I noticed that most mainstream science fiction contained little to no references to God (and many being downright hostile to religion and the idea of a higher power unless it was some ethereal “force” or “universe”).

On the flip-side, most novels labeled as “Christian” had scant little science fiction or fantasy.

I mentally lamented this one day, and a small voice in my head said, “then you write it.”

I ended up writing my first novel in three months. I did nothing with it for quite a few years, because I knew that while the bones of the story were good, the writing itself needed a lot of work. I attended some online writers courses, bought lots of books on writing, and attended writers conferences. I even queried several publishers and agents (to no avail).

In 2008, I had my son, and two years later I wondered if I should pursue publication. I would always write, including blogs, devotions, and journaling that few people would see, but nothing else. Taking care of my boy and working meant I had little time for anything else. I was fine with that.

However, at sixteen I gave my hands to God to use as he saw fit. Quitting on the idea of publication wasn’t entirely my choice, so I needed to ask him what I should do before making any decision.

At about the same time, I heard about a contest for unpublished novelists. It’s called “Genesis” and sponsored by ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). An author submits a synopsis and the first fifteen pages of their completed novel. In return, regardless if a person’s novel wins or not, the three judges return a scoresheet with comments/critiques about where the story worked, and where it needed improvements.

I decided to submit my story, but at the same time set a “fleece before the Lord,” (see Judges 6). I asked God that if he wanted me to continue pursuing publication, tell me by allowing my story to make the finals. Not win, though. I figured that would be asking for too much.

Fast forward a few months. One night I received a phone call, but didn’t recognize the number. Figuring it was spam, I let it go to voicemail. The lady who called left a short message congratulating me on making the finals in the Genesis contest, speculative category.

My first response? Crap. A large part of me wanted to quit. I liked my life as is, and after so much time, so many roadblocks, money spent only to get more rejections, that part didn’t think continued pursuit was worth more of the same.

Fast forward almost twenty years since I penned my first draft, I’m still an unpublished novelist. That’s not to say I’ve been sitting idle, and have zero successes, though. I now have written five complete novels (two need serious work), have published short stories and am an acquisitions editor for Havok Magazine.

Nor do I have anyone to blame for my lack of novel publication other than me. I simply don’t submit enough. Part of it is procrastination, but it’s also extreme pickiness. Too extreme, probably.

Some might say I should go the indie route, and I have thought and prayed about it quite a bit. I keep getting the sense that God doesn’t want me to. At least not yet.

Writers tend to feel a lot. About everything. No matter what happens, we always think of the worst possible consequences. We can’t seem to help ourselves. No one should be surprised, because that’s what we have to do in our stories. That kind of thinking can’t help but spill over into reality.

I submitted a short story for another anthology, and received comments back in less than a day. Many of his changes would affect the plot significantly, but not it’s impossible. That same day, I received edits for my fantasy from a fellow writer who said that she feared her edits would make me think the story is terrible when it’s not (I haven’t looked at them, yet, though).

That knee-jerk-reaction-the-sky-is-falling reactionary part of my psyche once again told me I’m wasting my time. I suck as a writer, because after 20+ years I have scant little to show for it. That alone should prove how bad I am. After all, very few endeavors could have a worse track record. Imagine being a doctor with little success after that many years!

Granted that’s not the best comparison, because mere spilling words onto a piece of paper doesn’t physically heal or harm anyone.

In the end though, all that lamenting, pouting and whining is irrelevant and a waste of more time. God told me during the 2010 Genesis contest that under no uncertain terms am I allowed to quit. It might take another ten years (although I pray it won’t take that long) before I see any of my novels in a bookstore, but I have to keep working on it. Sometimes (most times), it’s all I have to fall back on to keep me moving forward. Luckily it’s been all I needed (even if I do grind my teeth while accepting it).

Oh, and my novel did end up winning the contest.

Must. Write. Story.

Two people so far have directly responded to my short story in “Beatitudes and Woes”:

“Andra I think you deliberately ripped my heart out. I loved the story but that ending. Oh my gosh, how could you do this to me! I hope it leads to a series of yours.”

“You’re story was fantastic. You’ll have to tell me what happens to him.”

When two people want more, how can I not? I mentioned it on Facebook, and they both told me how thrilled they are.

So far I’ve written a rough outline, and plan on writing the actual story in the next few days. Based on the outline, it’ll be novella-length for certain. I’m not sure it’ll reach full-novel length, but being a pantser (short for flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer), I can never guess how long my story will be until it’s done.

I’ll also be participating in a group called “October Write Fest” on Facebook. It’s similar to the idea of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, but in October, and less strict as far as reaching a 50k goal. We can set smaller or larger goals, short stories instead of novels, for example. Plus October has one more day and fewer important holidays to interfere.

Oh. Pertaining to my previous entry: “Ignorance is Preferred – For the Moment,” my first instinct was right. The letter was indeed a rejection. As usual, I allowed 24 hours to feel sorry for myself, but after that, it’s back to work. That includes writing this next story, and querying more agents. I have a good list, so it’s only a matter of tailoring my letters to each agent and sending them off. I’ll keep you updated.

Ignorance is Preferred. For The Moment

I wrote previously about meeting with an agent at the Realm Makers writers conference, and how he asked me to send a proposal. I decided to send it via regular mail, because he mentioned once during a Q & A session that he preferred it over email. Emails tend to pile up and get buried. If it’s on his desk in an envelope, he’s more inclined to read it faster.

Yesterday when I took the mail out of our mailbox, I spotted my SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) stuck between a dental cleaning reminder, and a stack of store coupons.

My first response: “Great. Another rejection.” Especially considering the thinness of the envelope indicating it contains but one sheet of paper.

I couldn’t open it. I was already in a sour mood last night (no particular reason; I get that way sometimes). Why make it worse by intentionally reading a rejection letter?

Still it sits on my dining room table, buried under those coupons and dental cleaning reminder. We’ll see if I’m brave enough to read it after work today. Chances are good, regardless, because I am curious. That and what if I’m wrong, and the letter is merely to ask to see the entire manuscript?

I think there’s a 25% it’s to ask for more; 75% it’s a rejection. Hence the desire to remain ignorant and hopeful instead of knowing and being disappointed.