May 22, 2011

Fresh Eyes

Well the Lord answered the prayer for a critique partner, and based on how this first week has gone, I think we're off to a great start. It's really amazing what a set of fresh eyes can reveal and how much stronger it makes the writing.

Granted, I have a constant reader who I think the world of and a special lady in New York who also proofs for me, but there's something about that completely neutral third person who has zero interest in sparing my feelings that helps flesh out my team.

Of course, I'm a little loath to admit that I don't normally respond well to criticism in pretty much any form, except my writing. I don't really understand why that is. Maybe because I want the book to be as strong as it possibly can, whereas I sort of think I'm already *perfect* the way I am. Like I said, loathe to admit, because yes... I say all those things like "God is still working on me," or "I still have a lot to learn about being more Christ-like" and I don't think I'm lying. I think I'm just... sort of saying the right thing. My friend told me she doesn't pray for patience, because God will send it. More specifically, a way to learn to acquire it. I think I opened my eyes to that this weekend. Change and growth as a person is a difficult, but necessary part of being a Christ follower. It's time to start getting as open and intentional about it in my life as I am in my writing.

I did not make my goal of 3,000 words this weekend and I blame two very good books I could not put down. RANCHER'S REUNION by Tina Radcliffe and TO WIN HER HEART by Karen Witemeyer. Speaking of good books, GATES OF FIRE is here! I just have to go pick it up at the local B&N. (Thank you!!!)

But... I did make the first 3,000 words of CHASING THE LION even better thanks to feedback from my newest critique partner. The beginning is getting really strong I feel, and I'm in the home stretch of the final chapters now which is very exciting.

Then there will be summaries and query letters to write. I've been reading some great and informative blogs and it makes sense that if you're going to query agents, to hold off on querying publishing houses directly. I'm having to think on this. But I've got some time left. As a matter of fact... until July 4th weekend.
That's the deadline I've given myself to have the book ready.Now let's see if we make that goal like we made NaNoWriMo.

May 15, 2011

Letting Go

I can't remember who sings that classic song "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do", and I'm too lazy to google it, LOL. But man oh man, I am thrilled at the new prologue and new first chapter of CHASING THE LION. It's been a long, ugly, painful process to let go of my original first chapter which failed in contest and against solid craft theory because of the following:

It failed to introduce the main character. (Granted, it alluded to him, was caused by him, but no cigar.)

It introduced a powerful romance that ultimately was not renewed. (Mega unsatisfying for the reader.)

Like an earlier post where I quoted the great bit of advice "When the third person tells you you're drunk, it's time to lay down," I finally laid down. I opened a blank word doc and stared at it for ten minutes. I had experimented with rewriting the beginning once before and tossed it in the recycle bin icon after three thousand words. But with the renewed purpose of a Spartan (more on this later) I committed to just putting one line down and saving. And then the one line was there. My fingers started moving as I read, in his own words, "My mother is a liar." I wanted to kiss my fictional twelve year old hero for telegraphing me a MUCH superior hook than the one in the chapter I fought so hard to keep. The rest was easy. Three thousand words later I had something I felt as passionate about as Livia and Cornelius's chapter. After days of polishing, it's better. It's just SOOOOOO much better.

It got me thinking about how often I had done that with God. With stupid, little things like friends I didn't need to keep, material things I thought I had to have until I got them, and a myriad of other things that clouded the only must haves worth clinging to and fighting for at all costs. Faith and Family.

The other thing I let go, well, decided AGAIN, lol, is I've got to break the book in the middle. CHASING THE LION I'm praying will stand alone and sell as a lead in to two other books that will complete it.

Book 2: CHARGING THE DARKNESS

Book 3: MOVING THE MOUNTAIN (If you recognize this from RMM... yes, it's what you think it is!)

Thus comprises the "Forges of Faith" Series. It's got a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

I  finished today, in the parking lot of Home Depot, the unabridged audio book GATES OF FIRE: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield. I do not have words to accurately convey what an incredible experience this book was. I would not have partaken of it except as a writer, because it was not a book I would read for pleasure. As all writers know, there are books you read to enjoy, and books you read objectively the way an architect views the work of another where most people see a pretty building.

GATES OF FIRE, as far as readers and books go, was a key that fit my lock perfectly. There was not a single human emotion that I did not feel at least once in that book. Rage, pain, fear, joy, sorrow, lust, pride, loss, hope, happiness, awe... everything. The work is absolutely brilliant. It is NOT for the faint of heart, I'm ready for some puppies and sunsets that's for sure. It is the SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, PASSION OF THE CHRIST, WE WERE SOLDIERS, and ROMEO AND JULIET all rolled into one. Yes, one. It is the novel that the movie 300 was based on. You know it even if you haven't seen it...

"THIS - IS - SPARTA!!!"

If I were an English teacher I would make GATES OF FIRE required reading. It wouldn't pass, but I would still try. I'm taking the $10 Barnes & Noble gift card I won on a writer's blog this week and picking up a hardback copy for my library so I can read it again someday for pleasure (though if you know this book, you know that is the wrong word entirely) or to be knocked down a peg by what incredible historical fiction, narrated well, organized well, richly characterized and painfully honest, what that kind of writing is really like. It's certainly something I aspire too.

So a little sneak peak at the new prologue quote to CHASING THE LION:

"Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. 
But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love." - Khalil Gibran 

And a link to GATES OF FIRE on Amazon if you want to check it out... or get it for my birthday. Totally kidding!!!

Gates of Fire

May 5, 2011

Why not? (James 4:2)

"... you have not because you ask not." James 4:2

That, and some good advice that if you don't try you guarantee failure, was how I decided to e-mail Professor Coleman at Harvard for some research on the gladiator portion of CHASING THE LION. Truthfully, I did not expect a response, as I have been ignored once already by another college professor I reached out to *cough* U of H *cough* But she e-mailed me back! And graciously offered to send me everything I asked for. I was floored and just praised the Lord so much! I used to laugh when Charlyne Steinkamp would say she prays for a parking space, but now I don't. It reminds me of that women's event I attended years ago that changed my life. I remember it like it was this morning.

It was a room full of a dozen or so round tables, each seating about eight ladies. I took my seat with my friend at a table with two other ladies and we made introductions. One asked, "Nancy, are you going to win a door prize?" "I don't know," I answered. She looks to her friend and says "Nancy doesn't know. How about you, are you going to win a door prize?" Her friend said "Oh yes, I'm claiming it in the name of Jesus." She said "Me too. Now let's try again. Nancy, are you going to win a door prize?" Feeling like a fool, and a little sacrilegious to be quite honest, I said "Yes, I'm going to win a door prize." My friend "claimed" one too. So I had forgot about this until the first door prize went to her friend. Then the second one went to my friend. The third one went to the woman at the table next to us. The next one went to her and the other ladies started screaming "RIGGED!!!" and I'm just FLIPPING OUT. So she stood up and gave the testimony. Other ladies were amazed, skeptical, etc. and one came and moved to our table, but there was an uproar when SHE won the next one. And I won the last one. I can tell you the prize was one of those cheap cloth totes, in lime green with a devotional book, a bookmark, and a pastry inside. But the real prize was God showing me what faith can do. Not so much mine, but the woman across from me who led us. And the power of agreement. Over something as silly as a door prize. And I'm so grateful that he did, because there came a time I wasn't claiming a door prize in faith. I was claiming a resurrected marriage. Thus began my own journey to chase the lion, and I'm so grateful for all the Lord has done and continues to do. Not just in my own faith journey, but in the journey of this book.

I have had a lot of plot developments this week, and something I learned about Jonathan, he's left handed. Who knew? I certainly did not haha. Which sounds so ridiculous to anyone not a writer. I made my goal of 10,000 words in two days this past weekend, but haven't been able to write much this week. (A blessing though.) My "great work" trumped writing the past two nights but tonight I was able to sit down and write, picking up where I had left off on Sunday.I'm bummed my test reader was able to only read one of the last three chapters I sent... so I'll have to look at what weakness there was at the chapter closing that did not prompt continuing. (Learned from the Stephen King: Memoirs of the Craft book, which is still been the most helpful of all the craft books I've consumed to date. And there have been many!)
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