April 29, 2012

When "The One" is a One-Night-Stand

He's got "that" look, right? Of course he does. To borrow a line from Bill Dauterive, "He's about to make some lucky lady very happy. And then very, very sad."

Well this happened to me recently. Not with a man, but with my novel we'll call "Pete." As I stare at the blinking curser ominously mocking me where Chapter 2 should have started,  it's time to face the truth.

Pete's not going to call.

I wasn't even supposed to be seeing anyone right now. Coming off a month-long writing intensive, I needed to focus on me by editing and polishing my newest completed work and putting my first manuscript on a hard-core word count fitness program. But there he was, every time I'd turn my night-light off to try to sleep or be stuck in traffic or pumping gas. Write me, Pete would whisper in that distressingly suave Latin accent of his. And the first scene WAS enticing. I'd seen it in my head so many times and talked myself out of writing it because writing a novel is hard work. Most of you reading this know first-hand.

Pete was convinced I was just playing hard to get, so he brought his A-game. And at three a.m. one morning, I gave in. I trekked to my office in my pajamas, opened a new Word document, and started the new novel. For the next three hours, Pete and I picked out where we were going to live, how many kids we were going to have, what their names were going to be. It took the form of setting, genre, and characters, but the point is, Pete made me promises. I believed him that this story was good enough to deserve hours and hours of crunches and a fresh lip and eyebrow wax that would be the research involved to set this story. (Because it's not set in first-century Rome.) So I wrote the first scene, and it was amazing.

But that's all there is. It's been days now, and the next scene won't come. I have a general sense of the middle and end and what was SUPPOSED to happen. After all, didn't we talk about this when we were flirting with each other at the red lights and the gas pump? But Pete's gone. He got what he wanted and left, and as the jilted author, I could force myself into seat of the pants rehab and not check myself out until I walked, talked, and breathed like a plotter, but that's not me. And I have to be me. Because if I force this story, my frustration will show up in the work and in my real life.

I'm not going to let that happen. Perhaps one day Pete will come crawling back and swear things will be different this time. We'll see. But for now, our one scene, Chapter 1, is going in the shoebox under my bed and I'm a little older and a little wiser. At least with Pete, I found out after three thousand words instead of thirty. I now have the difficult task of crawling back to "Jason", the story idea that wasn't nearly as tantalizing but is probably going to prove a lot more reliable and worthy of the long-term commitment the author/novel relationship requires. While Jason and I might not have the chemistry Pete and I did, Jason will call me if he says he's going to call me. That's all I want in a novel concept. Reliability to go the distance.

(Next week we welcome Love Inspired Historical author Naomi Rawlings. We'll be giving away a copy of her new release, Sanctuary for a Lady. Naomi will be telling us about her novel, and how almost-kisses and guillotines can make for a great romance. ;-)

April 22, 2012

Some Fellow Genesis Semi-finalists Stop By

(And YES, I have a gift this week! A drawing for an autographed copy of For King & Country's CRAVE CD to a random commenter. But only if they're saying something nice to my friends. Of course me you can always give me a hard time, hehe.)

But first, let's chat a bit with my friend Dawn Crandall.

Dawn, what was your honest reaction when you got the call or the e-mail you were a Genesis semi-finalist? 

I was completely shocked when I got the email. I was in a long line of traffic and was actually looking for an email from my CP. I had absolutely no expectation of being a semi-finalist! I hadn't even told my husband about it... thinking nothing would likely come of it.

How did you celebrate?

Whenever I get news like this I just want to stay home and be happy. I did the very same thing when I signed with my agent. I just like to be at home so much, there's no better place to be when you're experiencing such shockingly delightful emotions.

Dawn, see, this is my fault for not keeping up with you better but I had no idea you were agented. CONGRATS! Ok, so  what would you say to friends who didn't advance this time around in Genesis?

I don't usually enter into writing contests because I get such differing opinions from judges... that feel more like a waste of money than an investment in my writing career. So, yeah, I know how it feels. But seriously, just keep plugging away. Last year at this time I'd never even heard of ACFW, and I surely wouldn't have believed I'd have an agent shopping my first book while my second book made it to the semi-final round of the Genesis Contest. That would have been CRAZY thinking.

You're in the right blog for all things crazy. ;-) What are the three things you must have when writing?

A large block of gloriously quiet TIME, my laptop and my brainstorming notebook. 

Nice. And last, can you tell my blog readers  the #1 on your bucket list or some random fact hardly anyone knows about you?

Well, I wouldn't say that "hardly any" of the day-to-day people in my life don't know I have ADHD... but it's likely something most of my online writer friends don't know.

You're right, I didn't know that. But I also didn't know you'd signed with an agent, so clearly I'm late!
Thank you so much for stopping by and I can wholeheartedly tell you how much I'm cheering for you to final (since you're not in my category, LOL) Thank you so much for stopping by my friend!

Blog readers, Dawn writes historical romance and I KNOW how much you love your historical romance here, so check her out at www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com 

 Next is my friend Kathleen Freeman. Kathleen and I have an inside joke involving hot dogs we might be persuaded to share one day. Might. But first, let's hear how Kathleen responded to the news she was a 2012 Genesis semifinalist.

Relief ; ), yeah I know, right? Excitement, and then, you'll love this, Nancy, surprise that another of mine which was close last year didn't make it.

I do love that. Because you have SO MANY good stories in so many different genres you still kind of intimidate me, LOL. I only had one in Genesis, but you know which kid of mine it is so needless to say I was relieved as well when he made it. ;-) What can you say to our friends who didn't make it to semi finals this year?

I understand your disappointment. Many of you are fantastic writers, I've seen your stuff. Take heart in knowing  mood can affect judges and next year will be different. A work I submitted last year, which came really close, was not the one to make the semi-finals this year. My semi-final was a work that flirted with mediocrity last year. I LOVE this contest because the feedback is excellent. This one likely made the semis this year because of the feedback I applied from last year. I've read many of the entries making the semis this year, and I have to say, you had some mighty stiff competition. Timing is everything. I believe God has a plan for every one of us. 

Well said, Kathleen. But no surprise there! How'd you celebrate?

I called my husband and then sat giggling and staring like a crazy person. 

 I like it. =) I'm surprised I don't already know this, but what three things are must-haves for you to write? 

Chocolate, the support of family, crit groups, and God, and then cheese puffs- Barbara's. MMMM! 

That's fantastic. (Note to self. Send Kathleen chocolate and find out more about these cheese puffs.) Anything else you want to add before you go? 

I'm pretty transparent. My every whim and passion is put into my stories.
You're the best, Nancy! Congrats to all of you!

Thanks Kathleen! See you on the loop. ;-)

Next, we have my friend Terri Wangard. Not only does she write great historical fiction, but is clearly a thrill-seeker with the bridge climbing in Australia. I can't wait to get her to tell me more about this later.

Terri, what was your honest reaction when you got the call or the e-mail you were a Genesis semi-finalist?

It's been a roller coaster. When I saw the coordinator's email in my box with the subject heading, "Congratulations," it took my breath away. Could it really be?? Thursday morning my mail box was filled with congratulatory notes from friends. Thursday afternoon I received another email from the coordinator, "Thank you so much for entering... attached are your judged entry, three files with comments and scores from three judges." I opened the first file and... that wasn't my story. They all belonged to someone else. Our stories had been mixed up and mine hadn't advanced after all. Then I read the accompanying letter. "This one is not the one that semifinaled. :0 It was your other entry that went on and I won't send those back until after the 2nd round judging is done." I had only one entry and it did advance. Whee. Whoever wrote this other story got some nice scores. 

Wow, that's crazy but I'm so happy for you! Honestly the people who make Genesis happen every year are amazing. I can't even imagine the sheer volume of work that this contest requires. God bless each and every one of them! And I know you were super busy so thanks for stopping by and I would LOVE IT if you, me, and one of the other fourteen people vying for the the three finalist spots in the Historical Fiction category move on to finals. Best wishes Terri!

My turn is it? Well, it's kind of funny that the entry form for Genesis specifically requested the legal name and not pseudonym for entries. That's how only my closest friends and family knew that the Nancy Diekmann in the list was me, and all my writer friends were freaking out that I didn't semi-final and e-mailing and facebooking me. (Because they're awesome like that! =)

When I saw the e-mail in my inbox, I freaked. I was expecting a phone call but I opened the e-mail that started with CONGRATULATIONS! I was at my day job coming back from lunch and the office was empty, so there wasn't anyone around to tell. I'm going to be really honest here and say that I fully expected to semi-final. So making it was great, unlike Christian Writers of the West The Rattler where I fully expected to final and then didn't. (Lost a heart-break tie for third place by nine-tenths a point.)

I celebrated by e-mailing my closest friends and writing buddies and splurging on a ten piece McNugget meal for dinner. Seriously, that's how I celebrated. Hey, I'm saving up for Dallas. ;-)

It was bittersweet because there were some names I was surprised I didn't see in the lists. For those of you brave enough to put your work out there to be judged and didn't advance, Ashley Clark over at the great blog The Writers Alley said it better than I ever could here.

 And if you're wondering who the tall, handsome Australians are on my arms in the photo above, then you have yet to discover the awesome that is the Christian band FOR KING & COUNTRY. So I'm going to help you and give away an autographed copy of their CD CRAVE (which is seriously fantastic) to one lucky commenter just for congratulating my friends Dawn and Terri here on the blog. Leave me your e-mail if you're not a follower so I know how to find you. =) And here's a little FK&C to whet your appetite. 

April 16, 2012

Writing the Tough Scenes

As authors we should all have those moments where we tell our characters "this is going to hurt me more than its going to hurt you." I remember hearing from someone that when J.K. Rowling walked into her kitchen weeping and she was asked what was wrong, her answer through the tears was "I just killed Dumbledore."

I get it. I really do. Honestly I have to wonder about an author who doesn't experience some level of pain and sympathy when turning the fire up on their characters. There were moments in both my manuscripts that are still hard for me to read because of how deeply they affected me personally when I wrote them. The tough scenes in the second weren't quite as hard on me, and I believe its because I learned some things enduring them in the first that helped.
  1. Prepare mentally for as long as you can prior to writing the scene.
  2. If at all possible, pen the entire first draft in one sitting.
  3. Recognize the strong emotional reaction in you will be shared by the reader.
Plotters have a slight advantage over pantsers when it comes to preparing ahead of time for writing a difficult scene. I mean difficult for your characters, in that someone is about to lose their mother, be forced to shoot a child or let a bomb destroy an entire village, or be diagnosed with stage-four cancer.There was a particularly emotional scene in the manuscript I just finished last month where my hero would endure a brutal beating and the heroine would be wounded by it as much as he would. I saw this scene many, many times in my head, while waiting for the toast to brown, brushing my teeth, and at red-lights. Of course, while lying awake trying to fall a sleep should already be a given. When I reached that place in the manuscript, I still had strong reactions to the actual writing that were a physical and mental burden, but recovered much faster than with my previous manuscript. I believe part of the reason was because I'd lived in those scenes so long already.

Another thing that helped was to get through the scene in one-sitting. The angst, anxiety, depression, all the emotion your channeling for your characters in that moment will make you want to take a break. If you can fight through it, like your character will have to in the scene and keep going in spite of the fact their world is ending or has just ended, do it. This seems counter intuitive after number one, but I found it helped for the same reason not many people cut half their yard, stop and have lunch and watch a little television before cutting the second half. Plow through if you can.

The last is my favorite. If your hurting because your about to break your hero's heart, so will your reader. The power of the reader experience for me as an author is my most sought-after prize. I want the strongest one possible. If I were to write a scene where a man knocks out a hysterical woman for her own safety, I could do that with relative ease. I just need to create names, select a setting and lay the dialogue and action to create the scene. For a reader, that would be like opening up a cover-less book to the same scene and reading it out of context.
However, when I had to write this scene for my hero and heroine in Unseen Love, it was difficult. Let me be clear in that is wasn't difficult to craft. I knew the goal, conflict and motivation of each of them and the basic frame of the action and dialogue but the experience of writing that scene was difficult for me as an author. And in a sick, twisted way, that makes me happy. Because Laelia and Drusus matter to me. Their fears and hopes and disappointments leading up to that moment go with me into the scene. Laelia is endangering her life by refusing to go to safety without Drusus, and the only options my hero sees are to knock her out and let the others carry her to safety or let her keep fighting him, refusing to leave without him while a deadly fire is fast approaching. For an entire novel, my hero has done nothing but keep her safe from harm, especially her physically abusive father.
So for Drusus to be the one to have to hit her wrecks him pretty hard. And doing that to both of them really took a lot out of me as an author. Lena Nelson Dooley said in a workshop I attended last year, "Find the one thing your character would never do, and make them do it." Believe me, it works. The emotion running through me as I typed this was so powerful, I can still recall it easily.

            Laelia yanked free. “No. No! You are not leaving me.” She grabbed for Drusus again, so fast she pitched into his chest. If she could only find his neck, wrap her arms around them and refuse to let go until he—
            “God forgive me.”
            Pain exploded along her skull and everything went silent.
            Drusus caught her with his good arm as she slid down the front of his body. Pain seared his right arm where he'd struck her with the heavy metal brace, but nothing like the agony in his chest. His knees threatened to give way, from her weight and the shame of what he'd just done. “Take her.”
            Alexander gathered Laelia into his arms like a sleeping child. Her head lolled back and her arms lay askew as her limp body sagged against Alexander's chest.
            Otho put a palm to Drusus's shoulder, forcing him to meet his gaze. "She'll forgive you."
            Ignoring both men, he leaned down to kiss her forehead, knowing they were wasting time they did not have. God, protect them. "Take her, now. Go."
            Alexander moved swiftly and in seconds disappeared into the river of people fleeing the city. Otho followed but turned back at the doorway. "She'll forgive you."
            Drusus clutched the arm he'd used as a weapon against his chest. "I won't."

So how about it blog readers? How do you write the tough scenes? Care to share one of them? =)

April 8, 2012

My God's Not Dead

I've been scared to "go public" about something that happened to me the morning of February 19, 2012. The last thing this girl needs is another reason for people to think I'm crazy. But in honor of Resurrection Sunday, and in obedience to my King, I'm just going to do it afraid. (Psalm 27:1)

That weekend, I'd opened my home to a dozen middle-school girls for the annual REVIVE youth event for New Hope church. After two years of telling God "No way." But this year, I found out what I'd been missing. After two days of being used by God in the girls' lives and God using them to encourage me, we gathered with all the other student groups and their families for Sunday service to close the event. The amazing Ben Donnelly band was leading worship, which is always a come to Jesus experience in itself already. Even so, I had no idea my life was about to be forever changed.

In the middle of leading worship, Ben began to pray for God to fall like fire, ignite hearts and wreck our lives so that we would fully surrender to Him and not ourselves. I echoed that prayer, from a sincere and needy heart, on my feet with hands lifted high. I cried out from the overflow of my heart for God to let me feel his presence, to manifest Himself like never before to me. To consume me as a living sacrifice in my body, mind, and soul and to fill me with the Spirit so I could pour out His love and truth to others.

And then it happened.

The words of my silent prayers turned to their heavenly language. As long as I have been a believer, I have never "tried" to pray in tongues. Quite honestly it freaks me out. Its rare, but when my prayer become the Holy Spirit within me and not me, I've learned not to fight it, but surrender to it for as long as the private conversation between God the Father and the Spirit within me will last.

In the edges of my awareness, still on my feet with arms lifted high, head bowed and eyes closed as I continued to pray for God to show up like never before, I sensed Him tell me to get ready. He was coming to pass by me as He did Moses, and He would give me a taste of His glory.

Even as an author, finding words to convey what happened in the moments that followed is still difficult. My entire body began to tremble, from my fingertips to my toes, and heat flooded through me. I tried to stop the shaking in my arms and couldn't. Every part of me felt like it was about to explode, like my body was about to be ripped in two. Looking back, I now understand what Holy terror is, a Holy fear of the presence of God. Part of me wanted it to never end and the other part was begging God to stop because I couldn't take it and knew it could literally kill me any moment.

That was the longest ten seconds of my life.

And when it was over, I opened my eyes, and nothing around me had changed. Ben and the band were still on stage, the room was still filled with people in the low light, but I was absolutely spent and still shaking, this time from exhaustion unlike a moment ago.

I sat down, shaken to my core and rattled beyond reality but able to recognize the incredible gift I'd just received. With silent prayers, I thanked God as coherently as I could manage for revealing a sliver of His true glory and presence to me, and for taking it away before I fell dead. And I would have died, of that I was quite certain. I've had lots of time to meditate on that day and remember that experience, but what I remember strongest in the aftermath is this.
  • Part of the reason we have to physically die is because these bodies made of flesh, that we've corrupted with sin, can't exist in the presence of God. I'd just experienced my physical body trying to run from the glory and presence of God even while my soul tried to latch on tight to its creator. Physical death being necessary to enter the presence of God for those who believe in Jesus Christ made more sense to me than ever before.
  • God's power is so much bigger than I ever knew. I have believed in God and His son Jesus Christ since I was a young girl. I know the bible to be true, and have experienced answered prayer, miracles of signs and wonders that couldn't be anything other than God, and known His comfort and compassion through the Holy Spirit inside me and in others, and never doubted my God is real or that the Word of the Holy Bible is God's inspired truth. My faith is built on that truth, and was never in question. But had it ever been, that moment the morning of February 18th would have laid waste to any doubt God is real, His power is real, and He knows exactly who and where we are every moment.
What I don't know is why God doesn't give that experience to everyone who believes in Him through Jesus Christ, or why He chose me for that gift. I know the Holy Spirit has carried me through some dark valleys and led me to some mountain tops the past three years I've been believing in faith for a big, crazy miracle, but never anything like that morning. And honestly, once was enough to last me the rest of my life, like seeing the movie the Passion of the Christ.  I know that I have been in the presence of God the Father, and am now and forever grateful that God allowed me to experience that and that I lived to tell about it. I wasn't sure I was supposed to share it at first, and I didn't want to. But the longer I know God, and drink, eat, and breathe His great love for me, the more I want to return that love in obedience. (John 14:23-24)

So I have finally told my story. To honor my now and future King, Jesus Christ, who came to the earth as a man, suffered and died to atone for my sin and the sin of the world, and rose again on the third day where He sits at the right hand of God. Today more than any other day we celebrate His resurrection, and the miracle of the gift of salvation. I'm a simple girl, with simple words and a simple faith, but can tell you with absolute conviction in every shred of my existence that my God is real. For me, "My God's Not Dead" is no longer just a great song. It's an anthem for my life, and I can attest to its truth. That my God's not dead, He's surely alive, and He's living on the inside, roaring like a lion. And for that, Lord, I remain unworthy, in awe, and grateful beyond measure.

Newer Posts Older Posts Home