Sometimes I wander the Mystery section at B&N to see if a fortuitous mistake has landed @talexander's newest on the shelf early. Alas.
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Hey all! It has been FOREVER since I blogged here. My apologies but I’ve been working on something big and bright and all sorts of exciting. I’m hoping to share it with you soon. Fingers crossed, everyone!
While I haven’t been blogging here much, I’ve been doing all sorts of gabbing on the Go Teen Writers website. The fabulous Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson are really the mad scientists over there, but they let me chime in on Fridays with tips and tricks and all sorts of inspiration. You should swing by sometime and join the conversation. We’re a friendly bunch and are always on the lookout for writerly souls to chat with.
Today, I thought I’d pass along something fun. Angel Eyes is on sale right now. $1.99 at just about every e-book retailer I can dig up (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo). The sale ends on 5/25, I believe, and I’d love a little help passing the word. If you’ve considered giving my books a try, I can’t think of a better time to start!
As always, I’m active on social media, so feel free to drop in and say hello. My favorites are FB, Twitter and Instagram. And I dabble a bit on Pinterest. It’s a time suck, but goodness, it’s so pretty. 😉
Alrighty! I’ll go now. Friday night means pizza at our place. And I NEVER miss out on pizza.
Talk soon, friends.
School is in session! And that means the littles have vacated my home office. I spent the day scraping goldfish crackers and peanut butter off my keyboard and sorting through their arts and crafts. Beneath it all, I found a couple boxes of books and it got me thinking. It’s been a bit since I’ve done a giveaway!
So, here’s what we’ll do. To enter, you MUST leave me a comment on this blog post with a little story about your first day of school. Because I’m a HUGE believer in fiction, your story does NOT have to be true, just entertaining (and clean!). It doesn’t have to be long; a few sentences will work. Once you’ve shared your story in the comments section, Rafflecopter will let you rack up entries in a few other ways.
Here are the prizes I’m offering:
Three lucky ducks will be drawn at random and will receive a signed copy of Dark Halo with a couple bookmarks to share.
And one VERY lucky duck will be chosen BY ME. From the comments section, I’ll choose my favorite first-day-of-school story. The winner will receive his or her choice of any book in my Angel Eyes trilogy as well as my pal, Jill Williamson’s, upcoming book on writing, Storyworld First.
I’ll let the giveaway run until 9/1 (which just happens to be the day Jill’s book releases!) and I’ll notify the winners via email.
So, let’s have some fun, tell a few stories, and win some books!
UPDATE! I’ve chosen my favorite Back To School story and it was written by Sara Bennett! It was the toilet seat advice that did it for me! ALSO, the three random winners are listed below. EVERYONE CHECK YOUR EMAIL!
Hey all! WELCOME BACK! We’ve got a new blog series going here. And by WE, I mean ME and the quotes of some of your favorite authors.
Since writers are notorious for giving others advice, I thought it would be fun to dig up some of the most recycled tidbits on writing and share my thoughts with you. Not because I’m an expert. Not at all, but well, I covered all that self-deprecating stuff in my first post.
Today, I have a piece of advice from an incredibly prolific author who’s given us a zillion one-liners to chew on. This is a personal favorite.
Stephen King just kind of says it, doesn’t he? He’s good at that. And he’d better be with all that editing-is-like-murder business. But, I absolutely agree with him. And the longer I write, the more I appreciate this point of view. In fact, it’s increasingly difficult for me to turn off my internal editor now and simply read a book. I’m always editing other authors. Something I’m sure they appreciate. It’s okay; I know they’re doing the same to my books.
The liberating, albeit terrifying, truth is this: it’s not only the writing of a story that makes your stuff uniquely you, it’s also the ruthlessness with which you edit.
You should be overjoyed by this fact. It means that if you’re true to yourself and true to the process, your story will be unlike anything anyone else is creating. I know the crushing pressure to churn things out quickly. The haunting terror that someone, somewhere has already thought of all your ideas and written all your stories. It’s not true. It can’t be. Your voice is distinct, but so is that internal editor of yours. Find freedom in that.
There are ways to lessen the pain of editing, but one more thought before we go there. That phrase Stephen King uses, bare essentials, is entirely subjective. There are books that meander more than others, stories that do not walk directly from A to B. There are authors who set out to lead you on a delicious, slowly unfolding stroll. I think of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy and The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. In each of these books, there are scenes that could have been sacrificed for pacing. But during the editing process, the authors decided those words were essential. And, honestly, who are we to argue?
What I’m trying to say is that regardless of a story’s pace or word count, every good author cuts. They delete. They whip out their almighty hatchet and they swing it. A well-edited manuscript is not necessarily a manuscript void of description and full of short sentences. A well-edited manuscript is one that uses only the words necessary to tell the story trapped inside the author’s head. But necessary is entirely a matter of style and preference.
That said, most of us meander more than we should. We need to unshackle our inner editor. The good news is that once you get a taste for hacking up a manuscript, there’s something very addicting about the whole bloody thing.
But it can be painful. As the mother of two, I’m not convinced it approaches the despair of murdering children, but for the sentimental author, it can be a lot like shooting paintballs at puppies. And that is quite painful enough.
Here are a few ways to dull the pain:
1. Consciously celebrate this stage of the writing process. Treat yourself to a slice of cake and a balloon bouquet. You have drafted a novel. Being IN EDITS means you’ve accomplished something only a fraction of us ever will. YOU WROTE A BOOK! You now have the privilege of brandishing your shiny new machete and hacking it to bits. You’re in an enviable place. Let yourself appreciate that for a moment.
2. Stop monitoring your word count. You did that all the way through the drafting process. You posted it on Twitter and all your followers squeed! I’m glad. Truly. We need others on this solitary journey of ours. But, now, stop watching those numbers. They will fall. You will lose a few brave soldiers, but this is war. Keep your head down and your eyes on your own work. It doesn’t matter that Suzy Floozy just tweeted out her impossible word count. What matters is that you’re past that now. You’ve been promoted. YOU GET TO EDIT!
3. Keep what you cut. Not everything. Not the four billion adverbs you used. Strike those down and move on. But if you’re cutting the bulk of a chapter, keep it. When I’m editing, I have two Word documents open. One is my manuscript and the other is called CUTS. Whenever I decide to scrap a large portion of text, I cut and paste it into this other document. There are three reasons I do this. One, like you, I can get attached to my darlings and I don’t like to vanish them entirely. Even if I don’t use the actual words, I may need to reference them again. It’s good to keep them close at hand. The second reason is vanity. I like to see how glorious a word slasher I’ve been. For example, my current manuscript has about 80k words that I’m almost certain I’ll keep. But, on my CUTS document, there are over 15k words. I wrote those words. They cost me time and energy and they moved my writing forward. They taught me what WON’T work and that’s just as important as what will. And finally, I save what I cut because some of it may work as an ‘Extra’ later. Once my book is published (optimism, people!), I’ll have pages of deleted scenes that I can share with readers during the marketing effort. This saves me from having to generate new material down the road.
So those are my thoughts on Stephen King’s advice. What are yours? How do you dull the pain of cutting the excess fat?
Writers are in LOVE with words. We go out searching and when we find a few morsels worth savoring, we form them just so, and then we spit them out for others to digest. That doesn’t mean though, that everything we say has equal value. Nor does it mean that all well-intentioned advice has a place in your world.
If a thought does inspire, even if it does look rather nice on you, the words may fit you in a way the advice-giver never intended and that should be celebrated as a glorious turn of events.
New authors, especially, are on the lookout for the very best, most beneficial advice an experienced author has tucked beneath their keyboard. Some golden nugget that will spur them on in their journey. I do it. Constantly. With only three books on the shelf, I am still in the very early days of what I hope will be a career in writing and I am always looking for a new wind of inspiration. Words that will bring clarity to my writing.
I’ve collected thoughts in this way. They’re pins on my Pinterest board, quotes shared on Twitter. They’re purple scrawled sayings on index cards around my office. Advice is everywhere. And I thought it might be fun to take a look at the tips most often given and share my thoughts on them. Not because I know more–because I certainly don’t. And not because I’m set in my ways–because wouldn’t that be nice. But because I remember how ugly I looked when I wrapped myself in ill-fitting advice like it was a one-size-fits-all uniform and tried to pretend it worked for me.
So, over the next little bit, I’ll share some of the advice I’ve picked up and I’ll get real with you. I’ll tell you why it works for me and why it doesn’t. And while my experience with someone’s words should neither deter nor encourage you to try them, I hope it will at least free you from the idea that all writers write in the same way. We don’t. We are unique and that adds to our value, both individually and as a creative whole.
So, let’s get started. Here’s a good one.
This quote is by Nora Roberts, but variations of it have been given as advice by nearly every published author out there. That, in and of itself, tells you one thing. It’s good advice. It works. And I can find nothing of fault in it.
Except . . .
The problem I have with this advice is that it weighs very heavily on an author who finds herself in a busy season. We feel that if we can’t find the time, we must not be doing enough, being creative enough, being awake long enough to be a REAL author. It’s a struggle I know very well. My kids were on different school schedules this past year and I spent half my life driving back and forth, up and down the same roads, and sitting in overcrowded parking lots waiting for my munchkins. And while I absolutely agree that we have to MAKE time for the words, I decided a while back to MAKE kids and regardless of my passion for story, those kids have to come first. And not out of some moral obligation, but because I want them to be first. I want them to be more important than my stories.
It may not be children for you. It may be employment or another relationship. It may even be another art form that demands your time, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a REAL writer. Do real writers write? Absolutely. Do they make time? Most certainly. Will writing always be at the top of their priority list? Nope. Probably not.
And that’s okay. I say, celebrate the season of life you’re in. Really, REALLY live it. Write whenever you can and when life slows down, you’ll have all the more stories to tell. You’ll have life experience and that is something you don’t get huddled in your writing cave. So, yes, I absolutely agree with Nora Roberts and everyone else who has given this advice, but I refuse to let it weigh me into depression. When I’m busy and enabling my children to live their lives and exercise their creative souls, it’s okay to take a deep breath and tuck the words away for later.
It’s okay for me.
And it’s okay for you.
Did you know tonight is World Book Night? No, seriously. It’s an official thing. The goal is to get books into the hands of people who don’t regularly read or have easy access to books. It’s a very cool initiative and you can read all about it here.
My publisher thought they’d get in on the action and help spread their love of reading as well. Thomas Nelson is incredibly awesome that way. I was able to partner with them by handing out books. I received my box last week and inside I found 12 copies of my very own, Angel Eyes. After I counted the copies, I knew exactly who I wanted to share them with.
Koinonia is a fabulous group home program here in Northern California. Before my children were born, I worked with them and so I knew that at any given time, they’d have twelve girls in their care. This is a population I absolutely love working with, and when I made the call, they welcomed me with open arms. THANK YOU, BILL! And Steph! And Lacey! And Allison! And Mindy!
I got to visit the girls and chat books. Probably my most favorite thing ever. They asked questions and I pretended to know all the answers. They even let me read to them a bit. It was a lovely afternoon and at the end of it, I got to give away twelve books to twelve amazing girls with absolutely no strings attached. I’m thoroughly grateful to my publisher for making that possible.
So, I was thinking, there’s got to be a way to get YOU ALL involved as well. It’s too late to sign up as a World Book Night giver, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spread your reading love around a bit. The authors at Thomas Nelson and Zondervan are officially celebrating for the next week, so there’s plenty of time for you to participate.
WHAT IF … and I’m just spit-balling here, but what if you took one (or two, or twelve) of your used books and you gifted them to someone who just might have trouble purchasing a book on their own? OR what if . . . what if you decided to start a little book group? You and some friends. You could read together, and chat books together, and invite along a friend who has yet to be bitten by a bookworm. Maybe your habit will rub off on them!
There are a zillion ways to spread a love of reading. If you’ve got an idea or would like to share how you plan to celebrate, leave me a comment. I’d love to know what you’re up to.
And happy reading, friends! Books matter. Words matter. It’s a love worth sharing.
I have such a wonderful, heartwarming story to share with you all.
My friend, author, CJ Redwine, and her husband, Clint, are adopting a beautiful little girl from China named Isabella Grace.
As you’ll read, things unfolded much more quickly than they anticipated, and they could use a little help bringing her home.
I hope you’ll consider taking part in their journey. They’ve gone out of their way to make it fun for everyone; when you give, you’ll be entered to win donated items, including books from many of CJ’s friends. But the real excitement here is that a little girl who needs a home is getting a wonderful family.
Did you wake up today hoping to make a difference somehow, somewhere? This is one of those opportunities. One very real, very tangible, very simple action from you can change so much.
UPDATE: They did it! They raised 15K in two days! THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED!
I’m working on a new story. It’s a detective story with a speculative twist thrown in to please the strangeness in me. And I like it. I’m enjoying the characters and the fact that I know where this one is going. For a writer, those are things to be celebrated.
But I noticed something the other day. Something that made me sad. My main character is alone a lot. Now, that’s not so uncommon for these types of stories, not so uncommon for your heroine to strike out on her own, but it does make for a hefty amount of internal monologue and not quite enough conversation. And suddenly, I wished my lead had a best friend.
I’m not sure I’ll give her one. It’s okay for her to be lonely right now. But that need, that vacant spot in her fictional existence became desperately apparent because I know what it is to have a best friend. I know the noisy, companionable, sometimes silent, space-filling, hand-holding, shoulder-leaning blessing another kindred soul can be.
I know this because I was born one month and three days before Alicia. Our fathers were best friends and we were raised to be the same. Rumor has it everyone expected me to be a boy, and our arranged marriage agreed upon. I spoiled things by showing up a girl, I suppose, but maybe not. Because I gained something in Alicia that so few can really claim: a lifelong friend.
We have lots of things in common, Alicia and I. We were both raised in Christian families by church leaders. We vacationed together. We went to high school together. We took piano lessons from the same teacher. We cheered together. We slathered on the mime makeup and performed together. We even crushed on all the same boys at church camp. They ALWAYS chose her, by the way. LIKE. ALWAYS.
But even with all the things we’ve shared through the years, we’re very different individuals. Our temperaments, our challenges, our talents, our passions. We don’t share many of those. And yet, God saw fit to stick us together. He thought we’d need one another.
He was right.
I mean, nobody can beat us at Taboo. Nobody. We have too much history. And if you need to know the fastest way to get around Disneyland, or the best way to apply mime makeup, we’ve got you covered.
And if you need to sit and talk, or cry, or vent, there’s no better person to call than Alicia. Especially when she’s driving! There is nothing quite so amazing as talking to Alicia when she’s toying with a little road rage.
And when life changes and you don’t see each other quite as often, it’s okay, because Alicia is still Alicia. No matter what she’s gone through, no matter the battles she’s had to fight, no matter how you’ve both changed–Alicia is still the kindhearted, sassy soul she’s always been.
And she’s going to tell you the truth. And she’s going to let you mope. And she may even curse a little bit (which might be the funniest, most surprising thing about her).
The world can be crashing down around us, and still, Alicia will be there.
And life is less lonely because she is.
While my detective story is short on BFFs, my Angel Eyes trilogy is not. And if you’ve caught the similarities between Alicia’s name and Ali’s, you are one bright Crayola. Today–on Alicia’s birthday!–we’re celebrating best friends. To do so, I’ve put together a little Dark Halo BFF Prize pack to be raffled off. Two of each prize will be given. One for you and one for a friend. The winner will receive:
2 copies of Dark Halo | 2 Dark Halo audio books | 2 Dark Halo bookmarks | 2 Dark Halo posters
Use the Rafflecopter below to enter. I’ll draw a name on Friday, March 28th and notify the winner via email.
And hey, enjoy your friends today. 😉
When I was doing research for the Angel Eyes trilogy, I read so many stories about human trafficking. Accounts of children being locked up, sold, abused. I read their own testimonials and I read the versions reporters put on front pages.
The story that stayed with me the longest was about a girl, locked in a basement, with only a roll of toilet paper for comfort. When they found her, she was holding it to her chest as my own kids do their stuffed animals. Her story was only one of many.
As I assimilated the horror, one truth made itself clear: this issue was way bigger than I had ever considered.
Rich people take part. Poor people. People of all different races and backgrounds. There are politics involved. Money changes hands in ways I’d never thought possible. Some of it happens out in the open. Some of it we see. But a lot of it is hidden from our eyes. Because these things happen in dark places? Sometimes. But mostly I think, because we haven’t tried hard enough to see it.
Today, you’ll see people wearing red Xs on their hands. It’s part of the END IT movement. Now, I don’t know who started this campaign. I don’t know who funded it, but from what I can tell it’s all about spreading the word and choosing to look. To look at the slavery, not only around the world, but in our own communities.
I live in the greater Sacramento area and statistics will tell you that as of last year, our city is one of the top five cities in the US suffering from human trafficking. My city. Where my kids go to school. Where I worship. Where I shop and play. It’s a staggering thing to consider. So, most of the time, I don’t. Because it’s too real to process. Too big to wrap my arms around and that makes me feel helpless.
But I think that’s what today’s about. February 27th. Shine a Light on Slavery Day. Attempting to be a generation that strives to END IT.
So, I’m in. Here’s my red X and my fist, and while half the time I don’t know where to throw this thing, I’m committing to fight slavery when and where I see it.
There are SO MANY doing amazing work in this area. I think it’s important to shine a light on them today too.
Recently, I watched The Pink Room documentary. A friend of mine was involved in the production of it and it’s a heartrending, eye-opening film that highlights trafficking in Cambodia. Watch it. Let yourself be moved.
Chab Dai is an organization here in Sacramento that works locally and abroad. That’s HUGE! Locally and abroad.
The Koinonia Group Home program is also local and works with at risk youth.
The Thrive Rescue Home is another outreach worth supporting. They have a home for rescued girls in Pattaya, Thailand and they’re opening another in India this year.
There are many, many others and these front line workers could use your support, be it your hands and feet, your pocketbook, or your prayers. We can all make a difference. It’s important to believe that.
When I set out to write the Angel Eyes trilogy, I wasn’t looking to convey trafficking in it’s rawest form. I was hoping to spread the truth that none of us are alone. Not you. Not me. Not the girl trapped in a basement hugging a toilet paper roll. And I think a red X on your hand today might serve a similar purpose.
It reminds us that we’re not alone. We’ve never been alone.
We fight together.
President Obama inspired me. It’s been a bit since I updated you all, and since there are just so many things going on, and since I process better as I write, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone.
That might mean you’re acting as my therapist today, and I apologize for that. Also, I’d like to say I’m going to be entirely transparent, but since we know that these state addresses are rarely that, I’m sure you’ll give me the freedom to stay a little veiled here.
It’s hard to know where to start. As a writer, I know there needs to be coherent paragraphs and structure here, but I’m not feeling that these days. Everything is a jumble. Actions, emotions, faith, hope, trust (pixie dust!) and the conscious decision to choose peace. Every day.
I’m realizing now just how ominous that sounds, but rest assured, there’s nothing life threatening going on. No major illness, nothing like that. But it’s the first time in years that we truly have no choice but to set our eyes on Christ and follow. Yes, of course, we should have been doing all along, and to an extent I know we were, but just now I am very aware of how deceptive that feeling of security can be. Life changes every single day and while it’s easy to think we have the world in our palm, we most certainly do not. And honestly, I’m glad that job belongs to someone else.
A little explanation wouldn’t go amiss, I’m sure. Well, here it is. After a decade of stability, my husband is changing careers. It wasn’t a decision we were planning to make. It wasn’t something we were prepared for. There was no backup plan in place, but it was necessary. And while it comes with some incredible challenges, I am glad God chose to close that door. It’s time for other things. New things. And on that front, I’m very excited.
At first there was that feeling of dread, you know? I mean, our nest egg is more like a nest idea. So, where’s that next check coming from? How do we pay our bills? What about the kids? And, oh my gosh, Obamacare! While those thoughts continue to swirl, the panicked voice inside my head has all but fallen silent.
God did this. God brought us here. He’s not going to leave us, not going to forsake us. He knows our needs better than we do and it’s in Him I rest.
I didn’t think I could be this person. This waiting person. I’m awful at waiting. Awful at resting. I mean, lazy? Yeah, I have that down. But waiting on God, being patient, trusting, completely dependent on Him? That’s different. That’s intentional. Letting Him lead me beside quiet waters, shutting up and listening while He speaks peace, that takes effort.
He’s been preparing me, I think. Deep inside my soul, in the quiet places I share only with Him, God’s been molding me into a person who understands where I belong. Or rather, who I belong to.
And I belong to Him.
I am His. His love. His child. His responsibility. And because I can look back on the road that brought us here and see God’s fingerprints along the way, I know that in five years, when I look back on these days, I’ll see His touch once again. I know it. Deep in my soul. And so I have peace.
Part of the molding, I think, has come as I’ve learned to be an author. And yes, that’s not something that comes naturally either. Writing might be instinctual, but the author part? That’s learned. There’s a lot of waiting there too, and patience, but most of all there’s this: when it comes to words, there is only so much I can do.
For the record, I’m working on something very new for me. It’s moving slower than I hoped because of . . . well, because of life, but I do love it. I love the characters and the hook. I love where it’s headed, but I’m not entirely sure what the story will look like when it’s done. I have an idea and my job is to pen it. To craft it, to trim it, to do my very best. Beyond that, the story does not belong to me. It will belong to readers and they will do with it as they will.
I’m learning that life is the same. We do our very best with what we’ve been given, but that does not guarantee things will go as planned. In fact, our very best may cause us to outgrow the very place we put down roots. A time of uprooting and replanting may be necessary. For our own good. To fulfill God’s plan, not ours. That’s where my little family finds itself these days. And while there is discomfort at times, there is no shortage of peace.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but God does. I don’t know where He’ll lead, but I can’t wait to find out. I don’t know what challenges stand between us and our destination. I don’t know what we’ll have to sacrifice to get there. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
But I’m okay with that. I’m okay with not knowing (that was hard to type!). I really think I am. And I’m looking forward to the next leg of our journey. With Christ before us and our challenges nothing but shadows in light of Him, I pray the road ahead would be bright and that we would have the courage every day to place one foot in front of the other. That might be too much to ask of our own strength, but I’m ever aware that we don’t have to do this alone.
It’s in our weakness that He is made strong. So with every step we take, I pray His strength would be exhibited. His love for us made known. And when all is said and done, I pray we keep our eyes on Him.
Here’s a cover Sarah Reeves did of Hillsong’s Oceans. I’m keeping the words close to me these days. Perhaps they’ll encourage you today.