April 29, 2011

RCRW "Duel on the Delta" Contest Results Are In!

I knew a week ago I did not final, and I was okay with it. It was my first contest with CHASING THE LION and my goal was solid critique from some industry experts. Then I saw that there were only nine entries in my category. Suddenly, not placing stung. It took me back to those days in elementary when coaches didn't know better and let team captains choose members from the rest of us kids lined up against the backstop like we were facing a firing squad.
I remember it so well because I was the second to last kid chosen for a team that day. I couldn't relish being spared the humiliation of being THE last because when it was only me and the girl beside me, the captain whose turn it was to pick waved his hands and said they didn't want anyone else.
That stung a lot.
It still does, though I have forgiven the boy and the coach, and the younger me who let the pain of that day and others like it wreck her true identity in Christ. Clouded her knowledge that she was strong, beautiful, desired, fearfully and wonderfully made, for far, far too long. Well, after a prayerful battle with suddenly not coveting one of those top three spots and reminding myself of my original goal, I was back on track.

I was hit hardest in two areas I had already identified as needing overhauling since entering the contest. So I have an established confidence now those judges of these contests know what they're talking about! The more I learn about craft and polish the earlier chapters, the stronger the story gets. I'm pretty excited about that.  But... I'm also SO SAD that I can't share a decision I made tonight because it would be a big, fat spoiler. It's like finding out you're having a baby and not having anyone to tell. Like... Livia HAHA.

Well I had been mulling this big, and I mean, BIG decision over for about two weeks now. Ever since really, and I mean REALLY bonding with the characters through some emotionally difficult scenes. But tonight I made the decision that is going to completely change the last third of the book. I'm pretty excited about it!!!
I can thank the fine authors of Seekerville where I got this piece of advice:

When the third person tells you you're drunk, it's time to lay down. 

All three contest judges "told me I was drunk." Metaphorically speaking of course! But that decision I'd been grappling with, the contest judges were too. It was enough to be the deciding vote as to the fate of a particular character. Now, to get those thank you notes written and mailed off, and then a day to process what this decision does to the last third of the novel.

Somewhere God laughs at me as again... "my plan" yields to His. I keep trying to make sure they're the same to begin with, but I have all the same faults my characters do, which is why I still need Jesus everyday. ;-)

April 24, 2011

Why No One Should Ever Edit the Bible

Okay, I'm pretty well mad right now. Let me get that part out first.

While volunteering at church today, I wandered to the bookstore (unusual for me, but getting an assignment I DON'T WANT from the Lord isn't lol) and spotted a book on the shelf that had no place there. I'm not going to rehash that here on the blog, if you want to know more about that... see my review of it on Amazon posted 18 months ago.

 Voted Most Helpful Critical Review of "Love Must Be Tough"

What made me mad was when I had to google the address of the verse in Malachi I needed in my e-mail to the leadership team of our church regarding the above book. And I entered it's most important key words "I hate divorce" and, AND, AAAANNNNDDDDD, biblegateway.com returned the verse. But returned it in the new NIV, and as I read it, I had a fit. Seriously, I had a huge fit. A fit to rival the one Valentina throws when Jonathan refuses her. Somebody didn't translate, they EDITED THE BIBLE!!! Below is the verse, from the King James, the New King James (My preferred translation because I believe it be proven as most accurate), and this new, heretic version (okay, that's probably a little strong, but I mean a LITTLE!) the 2011 NIV.

"For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously." Malachi 2:16 (KJV)

"For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, For it covers one's garment with violence," Says the Lord of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously." Malachi 2:16 (NKJV)

"The man who hates and divorces his wife," says the Lord, the God of Israel, "does violence to the one he should protect," says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. Malachi 2:16 (NIV 2011)

Are you kidding me??? Sure, God saying He hates divorce is pretty powerful, and polarizing, I know because I've lived it as part of my own Chasing the Lion, but the people putting out the NIV 2011 must have thought so too, so they took it out. I have a major problem with that, beginning... here:

"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." Deuteronomy 4:2 (NKJV)

And if you need more reason to believe God does not want His word changed, try this one:

"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book: and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19 (NKJV)

So I urge you, one and all, to be wary of the new NIV, or any translation of the bible that is NOT a translation, but an EDIT. And now, having peace once again and praising the Lord for allowing me to see His truths and be led by the Holy Spirit into understanding... I can calm down now. My old testament prophet moment of rending my cloak and covering my head in ash is passed, and I can give a little update on Chasing the Lion.

I won a professional critique of the first five pages of Jonathan's story from author Tina Radcliffe, and am looking forward to having her comments and thoughts soon, developing the much needed "rhino hide" as it is called in the industry, and continuing to bring this story to life the best that it can be. Also, the contest results from Duel on the Delta should be coming soon, and that is three judges critiques, so I'm looking forward to that too.. and settling in for a long night of writing (and overdue laundry)!

April 20, 2011

Christian vs. Inspirational Fiction

I learned something today. And broke down and spent $5.99 to get a look at Writer's Market. There is a big difference between Christian Fiction, and Inspirational Fiction. Christian fiction has specific guidelines, for example, zero profanity. Not even the substitute words like "womp" or "darn". The ones you learn in elementary school and use to test the boundaries. Christian fiction romance does not contain explicit sex, (Chasing the Lion is okay there... although there are two characters who wished that was not true!), and a Christian worldview. Inspirational is more... edgy. God is there, and His biblical truths, but the characters are more "real". I hate to put it that way, because it sounds like I'm knocking Christian fiction, which I am NOT!!! So I'll say... Inspirational Fiction can be more transparent, with characters like me, who can politely ask a guest in my home not to use the GD word but the next day get home to see an exploded washing machine spewing water all over the sheet rock and utter that "thing that beaver's build" like I'm saying "Hello". Or characters like Valentina... who is the quintessential Pottopher's Wife only... on crack. Probably speed too. Of course in 89 A.D. it was Opium. (I have to stop there before I have to start flagging spoiler alerts, because that would be a bummer to rob readers of the force of nature that is Valentina and her and Jonathan's... disagreements.) I can say with all confidence, hopefully soon in a query letter, that Chasing the Lion is firmly in the Inspirational Fiction category.

Too many late nights/early mornings writing. And my most emotionally difficult chapters to date no less, so I feel a lot like Penny Tweedy after Secretariat won the second triple crown race. Do you rest, like everyone says, to recover and avoid burnout? Or... do you train hard, give it all you've got and don't let up till you made the finish line? I don't know, but one thing is for sure, I have to start sleeping more. Having Friday off is exciting, though like most holidays of significance, it breaks my heart the way people consider it just a day off of work. The only Good thing about "Good Friday" is that there was a Resurrection Sunday. I'd like to think I wouldn't have been one of the people screaming "Crucify him! Crucify him!", or that like Peter, I would have gotten scared and lied. Somehow I'm more forgiving of Judas than of Peter. Satan entered Judas to fulfill God's Providential will, but Peter didn't have the devil to blame his betrayal on. When I look back at seasons of my life, I could have as easily been any one of them. And sometimes, in the choices I make and the way I live when the things of the word intrude, selfishness and pride, I'm still them. I was stubborn enough to require an "advanced tutorial" (See bible salesman scene in the great film "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?"), just like Jonathan in Chasing the Lion, because God loved me too much to let me stay that way.

Jonathan is not me, Nessa is not me, I'd like to think Valentina and Caius are not me, but that is what I have loved so much about writing this book. I'm not any of them, and I'm all of them too. At times I feel that way about Judas, Peter, Paul, Sampson, Esther, Daniel, Jonah, Job, Moses, Abraham and honestly, a lot of times, Sara. I think that's part of the reason God let us see the heroes of the bible because at some point, they were all also epic fails. That's real. And there's nothing more real than epic fails turned around and redeemed by Jesus Christ. That's the hope I pray binds every word together in Chasing the Lion, otherwise it doesn't deserve to make it past my ink jet printer at home.

April 17, 2011

The evolution of language

Writing a historical has been thrilling in many ways.But there is one thing I really miss about writing in a contemporary setting. Some words.  Words like cannon, powder keg, missile, static, phone, energy, channel (not the body of water, the other kind), and fry (not baby fish, the act of making food really bad for you while also making it taste so good!!!) and many other words for things that just didn't exist yet. I think any earlier time period would really cripple me!

It was a weekend of balance, the kind I strive for consistently. Faith, family and writing. It was a horrible weekend on the surface but as God promises in His word, he continues to work all things together for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, and he did this too!
I discovered my good saddle had been stolen this weekend. Working through my anger and unforgiveness was tough, as I was still hacked off about having all my fishing gear stolen last month. Seven times seventy.
My horse sustained a severe injury and due to her age, medical history, and money, the decision to euthanize was a real consideration and a choice I pray to be spared from. That was an amazingly difficult time that only the strength of the Lord got me through. Forgive me Jesus, when I feel you aren't enough. She is not out of the woods yet, but showing some improvement. Not a sparrow falls to the ground that my Lord does not see and I know nothing is impossible with my God or too little for him to care about.
I also received news of the death of a friend after a courageous fight through a long illness. I'm not ready to write about that, the kind of friend and mentor he was to me, and many others. For my friend, and tearful hearts he leaves behind.

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-27

Attending and then serving as a volunteer in my first Prayer Experience at New Hope East was a high. I'm not talented enough to even try to put to words that kind of face to face encounter with my Lord. Something I can put words to was the fresh appreciation of how powerful art can be in proclaiming the truth of God's word. Particularly through the clips of Passion of the Christ, and then the words of the songs played during the taking of communion and the way the music and lyrics touched me.The way Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love was used by God in my life. The way I hope God is able to use my writing for others, but even if he doesn't, it's been enough already the blessing it has been for me in my own faith journey these past months.

Through the emotional roller coaster (another word that could never be used in Chasing the Lion HAHA) of the past few days, I did a lot of writing. My feelings of outrage at the most recent theft, my fresh sense of loss for my dear friend, my feelings of failed responsibility and tough choices with my girl Lady B, the sense of helplessness for her pain, and tonight, as I look back on the writing this weekend... it's all there, and its really strong. For a change, Jonathan let me swing the sword with him, shed tears of frustration and helplessness in an empty cell along with him, resist the forgiveness we are called to because of our humanity. All I can say is... thank you Lord. The more it hurts, the more I want it used for your good, your plan, and your glory. And if its a part of growing my forgiveness so I look more like you and less like me, I'll thank you for that too. If it served the story, that's an added blessing.

Another bright note... the antibiotic pain relief ointment labeled "Not for human consumption. Not for use in livestock intended for food or consumption." Yeah... that stuff that I figured out was making the carrots my niece gave me taste bad after I had consumed all traces of it from my fingers along with the ranch dip... is probably NOT going to kill me. It's pretty funny how messed up I can make my life when I don't listen to my Dads. My dad here, who tried to tell me go wash my hands right after... and my Heavenly Father who keeps telling me "Trust and obey." What can I say. I'm a slow learner, but no one is ever hopeless. Except maybe Valentina ;-)

April 15, 2011

In The Beginning

It was November of 2010 and I sat alone at a wobbly table, the only diner in a local hole in the wall. A passing acquaintance had told me about something called NaNoWriMo, and I was intrigued. More importantly, I was hungry. Not just for the mouth watering chicken club sandwich that was getting cold between scribbled ideas on the page of my spiral notebook, but to write again.
And if I succeeded, 50,000 words in 30 days, not only would I have met a goal but maybe, just maybe, this would be the "one".
I had one failed novel attempt already to my credit, buoyed by one 3rd place finish in a short story fan fiction writing contest from a few years back. I remembered what writing that had felt like. The consuming way it invaded my brain and life, demanding to be given life on the page, and the joy it felt to see it to completion, even before the contest place. I had written it simply because I had to. I wanted to know that again.
I made a lot of lists that lunch hour, getting garlic mayonnaise on most of them, and after slashing through some thoughts, circling others, something was taking shape.
I returned to the office that day with a setting, a title, and the main character.

The setting = Ancient Rome.
There's three things to thank for that. First, the computer game Rome: Total War. Second, Francine Rivers's Mark of the Lion Series. Third, it's still here. Not in the countless sword and sandal flicks and their remakes, but the culture, the calendar, the roads, and it's greatest symbol, the Colosseum.

The title = Chasing the Lion
The pathway to your greatest potential often lies straight through your greatest fear. I heard that in church while listening to a guest pastor talk about a single verse from second Samuel.
"And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many acts, he slew two lionlike men of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow: " 2 Samuel 23:19-21 (KJV)  The pastor spoke about the kind of courage that should mark the life of a follower of Christ, one strong enough that instead of fleeing our "lions" of fear, circumstance, shame, we charged them head on, with the power of Christ and the truth of His word. It was the perfect title, and the story came from it, not the other way around.

The character = Jonathan
Jonathan came to life slowly, the way Jell-O sets. You don't ever really know when Jell-O is going to be finished until it is. I knew what I needed and wanted Jonathan to do to develop the storyline taking shape in my head, but sticking the fork in to pull out why and how kept coming up still dripping. He had yet to come to life for me. I put a picture of him on the desk with a note that said "You did not create him. He is telling you who he is." And after two chapters, he started to "speak", let me see inside him just a little. And by the fifth chapter, I knew I had something. The "I" is important, because I needed the something that was going to spark my inner passion and summon the writer that had been in a coma for so long, showing signs of life in pages of journal entries and e-mails called "novels" by their recipients, and occasionally eyes twitching when writing devotionals as part of my own quest to chase the lion, and a single contest win for a little short story that consumed six months of my life.
I remember the moment that Jonathan came to life. In a rush, (I credit the Holy Spirit) he pulled back the shroud and let me see inside him, his motives, his passions, his fears, his faults and the unmet needs that drove him from God, to God, from God, to God, mirroring my own faith journey. The feeling was familiar, knowing I would not be able to abandon this halfway through like before and give up when it got hard. No, that day Jonathan stood up from the page, put his sword to my neck and with his haunted green eyes alone, told me I would have no rest until his story was finished. The sword is still there, and I'm grateful.
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