Falling Off the Writing Wagon

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wagon wheel

“Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” ~ Confucious

Quite an inspiring declaration. Too bad “inspiring” is not synonymous with “truth.”

I love to write. The process of weeding out an idea, then turning that idea into hundreds of pages, is beyond rewarding.

But make no mistake about it. It’s work. And writing is never harder than when there’s a break in the process.

Circumstances in the past couple of weeks have pulled me away from a consistent writing schedule. And while much of it was beyond my control, I still fretted daily in the back of my mind: “You need to write. You need to write.”

Now that I’m free to get back to my current work in progress, the chasm between what needs to be done and what I think I can do seems to have widened a mile per day spent not writing. I agonize over closing the gap.

Getting back into a rhythm will be a grueling process; a mental strain akin to standing up, dusting off, and limping to catch a wagon that I fell from, before it picks up speed and barrels down the trail without me. The prospect of giving up becomes as tempting as a cold drink in a dry desert.

All the more reason to push through.

Writing is a part of me. I do it because I love it, but it’ll always be work. Whoever coined the phrase “labor of love,” knew what they were talking about.

Now I’ve got a wagon to catch.

Your turn: Do you love what you do? Has it ever been hard for you, despite how much you enjoy it?

I Can’t Resist A Good Challenge!

Originally posted on Unshakable Hope:

Ice Bucket Challenge Donations Top $100 Million in 30 Days compared to $2.8 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 29).

Mary looked at me like I was crazy when I told her that I wanted her to dump a bucket of icy water over my head.
“You might gasp and breathe in water and choke,” she warned. But after a few days of prodding she finally agreed to play her roll in the Ice Bucket Challenge. I was hoping that the ice cold water being poured over my head would cause me to jump out of my chair and run, like my Australian friend, Phil, but (SPOILER ALERT) unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Seventeen years ago, almost a year after being diagnosed with this horrible disease known as ALS, I was asked by MDA to participate in the local portion of the Labor Day…

View original 245 more words

Deleted Scenes

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200401076-001Ever watch the deleted scenes of a movie? Better yet, ever watch the deleted scenes of an animated movie? If you’d asked me that question ten years and three kids ago, my response might’ve been an incredulous, “What on earth for?”

Nowadays, however, it’s an all-wise sounding, “But of course.”

In the world of writing (an ever incredible, tortuous, rewarding, baffling, coffee-chugging existence) deleted scenes are a constant.

Watching them in movie form provides a much-needed perspective change.

While standard movies are typically cut because of length issues, animators delete for reasons we writers can easily relate to:

  1. The plot has taken a different direction and the scene doesn’t fit.
  2. The character behaves in that particular scene contrary to the character as represented throughout the film.
  3. The scene is just…garbage.

But the creators of the script didn’t let a weird spot halt their progress. They pushed ahead, scene by scene, drawing by drawing, until the work was completed.

Then they cut out the bad, cheesy, gag-me portions, leaving excellence worthy of a blockbuster.

That’s a lesson all writers can use.

Every story hits a rough spot. A dreaded “this sucks” epiphany. And it’s there we’re tempted to sulk away from the laptop and drown our sorrows in fresh-baked cookies over a Netflix marathon.

But we need to press on.

Even if our imagination is so strapped that the best we can manage in the heat of a lover’s quarrel mid-chapter is, “Please! I beg of you! Oh, please don’t leave me!” Sow that cornfield, sister! Lay out that cheese, brother! (As I’m doing this very moment.)

It’s all fixable, if we’ll lay out the broken pieces.

Let those awkward scenes serve their purpose in getting us to The End.

Then let’s keep a few tucked away. Not to remind us of our shortcomings, but our ability to overcome.

Your turn: What’s your favorite animated movie, and have you watched the deleted scenes?

 

Mercy Despised

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chains

Not too long ago I had a wrestling match with my youngest daughter, something we do quite often. This particular day I had to cut our bout short.

I trapped her legs between mine, clamped her arms to her sides and her back to my chest in a one-armed hug, and applied enough pressure so that she could accomplish little more than a wiggle.

She laughed.

“You want me to let go?” I stuck my nose in her neck to tickle-torture an affirmative out of her. After squirming just to double-check my grip, she agreed. “Okay, okay. Let me go.”

“Say ‘mercy.'”

She stiffened. Struggled a little more. Shook her head.

“You want me to let go don’t you?” Nod. “Then say ‘mercy.'” Vigorous head shaking. Then the real battle began. She flexed and pushed and strained and twisted. Breath held. Shoulders stiff. Feet jerking in short kicks.

I held on, amazed by her obstinacy. Between laughing and having to reestablish my hold (she’s a strong one), I’d repeat, “Say ‘mercy.'” And she’d respond with a firm, “No.” Her giggling petered out as she got frustrated.

She wanted me to let go. That had already been established. And she was more than willing to take my offer of mercy if it were unconditional. But a formal surrender? Too proud for that. So proud, in fact, she was willing to get deeper into bondage by struggling, rather than simply say the word “mercy” and receive freedom.

Astounding.

Of course I let her go once her “ha, ha, ha” weakened to “he, he, he” and then became “wa, wa, wa.” She’s four. Smack a kiss on that stubborn cheek and set her free.

It didn’t escape me, however, that the response to Christ by many is sadly no different from that of a pre-schooler. We despise the idea of surrender. And in doing so, despise mercy as well.

There’s bondage aplenty: spiritual, physical, financial, sexual, and too many more to name. If it exists, we splash in it, swim in it, or plunge right in to drown in it.

And if mercy is our unconditional right, if we can live like we want and spend our days how we wish, and Christ’s blood is still for the taking without us ever doing the asking, then by all means shower some mercy on us.

But ask? Surrender? Lay down our pride and open our mouths and admit, “I need You. I can’t do this on my own. I confess that You died for me. I confess You as the only way to forgiveness, the only One who can grant me eternal life, the only One who can save me.”

We’d rather stay where we are–no, descend further into the depths–in our struggle to refuse Him.

It’s a grievous irony, this fight to stay in bondage at the expense of victory which comes through surrender. This wanting to live forever but not wanting the Way, the Truth and the Life. This desire to do it all on our own.

When. We. Simply. Cannot.

The mercy of God in Christ is life. He won’t force it on us, but He is ever offering it to us. Let us not despise it.

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” ~Psalm 86:5

 

 

10 Steps to iPhone Madness

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  1. Drop phone just so, crack the glass.

  2. Decide cracked glass is functional. Resume regular iPhone activity.

  3. Take a nap while iPhone charges on the bookcase.

  4. Sleep through husband abducting phone and performing an emergency YouTube-instructed cracked-glass-endectomy.

  5. Wake to find iPhone in pieces with TWO cracked glass screens among the carnage.

  6. HOLD THY TONGUE, WOMAN!

  7. Approve the purchase of a second glass repair kit.

  8. Scavenge mind for passwords and phone numbers. Forsake the lot of it.

  9. Celebrate arrival of repair kit and impending iPhone reunion.

  10. Pray to not have to repeat steps 1-9. And kiss that man from step 4, his heart was in the right place :-).

Iselle

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Iselle is the only member of our family who hasn’t been to Hawai’i. So imagine my surprise when I got a text from my sister, “Iselle’s headed to Hawai’i?”

Then another text from a friend joking about the title “Hurricane” matching my daughter’s personality.

Indeed it does. The little four-year-old shouts, “Boom, baby!” when it’s time to get dressed, and it’s a whirlwind from there on out.

Iselle (2)

Laughter about our lively Iselle aside, we love the state of Hawai’i and our many friends there, and are praying for their safety in the midst of Hurricanes Iselle and Julio.

May the Lord be with you all.

The Phoenix Rattler

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rattlesnake

A rattlesnake is a fascinating (albeit formidable) creature. A mixture of strength, mystery, beauty and stealth, this unpredictable reptile has earned the awe with which humans regard it. For when least expected, it strikes. And its effects on the subject are not soon forgotten.

The Christian Writers of the West (CWOW) are in search of entries for our Phoenix Rattler contest. Stories that live up to the legacy of the rattlesnake. Tales that strike the heart of the reader and leave indelible impressions on the mind.

Are you an unpublished* novelist with such a story? One characterized by strength, mystery, history, or love? Maybe even danger and suspense?

You are invited to enter the first fifteen pages of your unpublished novel in The Phoenix Rattler. rattler

The contest opens for entries on August 1, 2014. For more information, please click here. Finalists in the contest will have their entries judged by prominent editors and agents in the Christian publishing industry. The grand prize winner will receive a Kindle Fire HD or a gift certificate of like value.

Send in your entry, and discover if your story has bite!

*Unpublished fiction writers, or those who have not published in the last five years. See site for more details.

A Review of Vow Unbroken by Caryl McAdoo

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Vow Unbroken

Widowed at a young age and left with the care of her daughter and nephew, Susannah Baylor has grown accustomed to fending for herself on her Texas farm. When a local buyer attempts to cheat her out of a good price for her cotton, Susannah finds herself in unfamiliar–and unwanted–territory. She must hitch her mules and take her cotton to port, and she must solicit the help of a shiftless bachelor named Henry to get there.

In Caryl McAdoo’s Vow Unbroken, readers are taken on an adventurous journey through historic Texas, where danger and trouble lurk along the trail, and personality clashes create enough spark to ignite attraction.

McAdoo’s characterization is excellent in this debut novel. Susannah’s headstrong sassiness and Henry’s wise patience make for great romantic tension and enhance the situations of conflict throughout the story. The children Levi and Becky, and Henry’s faithful dog Blue, work together to make this traveling band loveable and interesting.

Susannah’s character is realistic. She has both flaws and positive traits. Her love for the children and her drive to accomplish her goal make her an admirable character that many women can relate to. As a young woman who widowed shortly after marrying, however, she has little experience with people who are not like her. She’s quick to resist advice, and carries some biases inherited from childhood. But her experiences along the journey, and her desire to please God, help Susannah learn and grow throughout the story.

What she cannot change, however, is the vow she made to herself and to God to never marry again without her father’s consent. And of all the trials she faces on the trail, her vow–and keeping it unbroken–become the greatest.

McAdoo’s debut novel was a joy to read, and I gave it five out of five stars.

With Eyes Set Ahead

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Writing is…well…hard.

The temptation to quit lurks at the crosswalk of every failure, around the corner of any rejection, and along the alleys of each hard to write story.

It’s not when the temptation confronts me, but when I actually entertain it, that I’m given a way out of the temptation with a message that speaks exactly to what I’m wrestling with.

God gives me just enough to take my eyes off the corners and alleys of life, and to set them ahead on the path I’ve been called to walk.

Maybe you’re tempted to quit too. And maybe, like me, knowing that it’s meant to be hard is the motivation you need to keep at it.

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