Saturday, November 23, 2019

Giving Up on NaNoWriMo?

I've been gone forever!

Actually, my computer broke and had to go to the 'hospital' and I haven't had it for some weeks. That is why I went radio silent. Sorry about that. I have it back now and will commence blogging regularly again.

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about giving up. Is it ever okay to just quit?

The story that I chose to write for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a Crime Fiction story. It's a new genre for me, and therefore presents difficulties I have not faced in the past. And it was a struggle to write. NaNoWriMo is not over, so I won't say I've failed yet. But I will say that this story has been a trial on a number of levels. The new genre and learning the rules of how to write Crime Fiction has been difficult. Writing in the 80s rather than the middle ages has been hard, as I put more pressure on myself to get the 'history' right--even though this is only the first draft, and I could go back and fix it later. And the big thing: Writer's Block.

Writer's block is not something that I deal with, ever. I just don't. I know most writers have their times of not knowing what to write, of not having words. But that has never been me. This story, however, has me staring at a blinking curser a lot, just completely at a loss.

And at first, I refused to give in. I was getting frustrated, and writing stopped being a joy for me, but I wasn't going to be a quitter. Just because it was harder than usual didn't mean I had a right to stop. That's what I told myself.

But upon further reflection, I think it was okay that I wanted to stop. My writing is a very spiritual experience. I pray about the stories that I will be writing, I seek God's guidance throughout the crafting of each story, and I want every story I write to point to Jesus. When this story stopped bringing me joy, that was a clear indicator that it simply wasn't the story I was meant to be writing yet. I ignored that indicator because I didn't want to be labeled a quitter.

Maybe I will finish the story another time. Or maybe I won't. The important thing is paying attention to what stories God does want me to be telling. And knowing that's it's okay to quit sometimes.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Book Review: Frodo and Harry

I'm starting something new, which I'm unofficially dubbing 'Book Review Wednesday'. I already review books on this blog, but I also talk about how to write novels, and in order to organize my own mind a little better I'm separating the two by posting them on different days. Hence, Book Review Wednesday.

So, welcome to the first Book Review on a Wednesday...let's get started, shall we?

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." ~William Shakespeare

I recently read a book called Frodo and Harry: Understanding Visual Media and It's Impact on Our Lives. Fair warning, this book, and consequently my review of it, deals entirely with the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, magic, and Christianity, and how these things work for or against each other. If that's not a discussion you want to have, I suggest reading one of my other blog posts. :) I will, however, only be reviewing the book that I read, not diving into the discussion of the books/magic/themes/etc except when necessary to explain my review of the book in question.

First Impressions? The subject matter was not always laid out well. There was plenty of appeal to pathos, and certainly ethos,  but very little to logos. The science was credible and researched, but the details of the stories in question were sometimes less accurate. The book itself was also poorly organized, as you'll see in the rest of my review. My first impression was that it wasn't a great book, despite its good message.

One of my biggest complaints about this book is that it is not objective. To be fair, if someone genuinely believes something is evil it would not seem appropriate for that person to not be passionate in refuting it. Yet the lack of objectivity made it hard to read for me. The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) books are praised so highly and passionately that the authors appeared to be fangirling, for lack of a better term, and Harry Potter was simply hated on throughout the book. I would have preferred to read a less emotional comparison and defense/rejection of the books in question.

My second, much lesser, complaint about this book is that some of the details of both stories are incorrectly portrayed. Elements of both LOTR and Harry Potter are discussed in length and every time that a fact or detail from one of these stories was represented poorly or altogether falsely, I had to put the book down. I have read both series of books multiple times and know them very well, and it is possible that such details would not bother a less invested reader of this comparison book, but it bugged me. In the writers' defense, it was never anything big; just simple details that a nerd like me would notice. 

And in fairness, this book was published in 2003. LOTR and Harry Potter were only just taking the world by storm due to their movies being made. People had read Tolkien's work for years, but both series were becoming popular with the majority of culture when this book was written.

With those two complaints out of the way, I can say that it was an interesting read, and certainly made some very good points--both in defending of LOTR and in rejecting Harry Potter. The defense and rejection of the two series in question were both made from a Christian worldview and with Scripture in mind.

One of the biggest arguments for LOTR and against Harry Potter in this book is that the magic in one is entirely power given from God (Eru) while in the other it is very much elemental witchcraft. The magic users of one rely on a higher source of power while the magic users in the other can, in essence, become gods themselves. This comparison is a good one, that I hadn't considered before.

Yet I don't feel this argument was entirely written well in this book of comparison. It had the potential to be a solid argument, but I don't think the execution was there. The explanation of the magic in Harry Potter was thorough and the reader allowed to draw their conclusions based on facts presented. The explanation of the magic in LOTR was briefer, rather glossed over, and relatively ignored. The reader simply had to accept that the authors knew the truth of how Tolkien meant magic to be rather than being able to read the facts in the same way as the authors had presented Rowling's designs. This, in my estimation, was another flaw in the book.

When you get about 50 pages into the book it turns into a full-on movie review of each individual movie (those that had been released in 2003, at any rate). I did not see this coming and it felt odd, and out of place. When reviewing the movies with the same lens as the rest of the book, discussing the elements of the story that were either in line with a Christian worldview or not, I had no serious objection. But when the movie review started talking about actor portrayals of specific characters, set design, what age would be appropriate to watch the film, etc, I couldn't help but laugh. That isn't what the rest of the book is about, so, as I said, the in-depth movie review seemed out of place.

Along those same lines, towards the end of the book the authors go in-depth about what a story is; premises, themes, genres, the whole shebang. I skimmed much of these pages because I am an author, so it was all incredibly redundant to me. However, for anyone who isn't as familiar with stories as I am, this part of the book would, I imagine, serve a purpose. The premise of this comparison book is that stories can affect us for good and ill, and if you don't know what a story is then you won't understand that premise. Still, if the purpose of this section detailing what story means--down to the very detailed differences between genres--was to prepare the reader to understand the rest of the book then perhaps it should have been at the beginning, not the end. Otherwise, it is simply an odd bunny trail at the end of the book that seems to serve no purpose. 

A large part of the Frodo and Harry book is devoted to how impressionable young minds are and what children will glean, consciously and unconsciously, from both series of books in question (and the movies). This idea, which was referred to many times throughout the book, was well written and credibly backed by research. It wasn't always attached to the question of magic in the books, either. For example, early on in the book while discussing what children might learn from the heroes of both series, the authors point out that from Harry Potter children might glean that it is appropriate to break rules as Harry and his two best friends break every school rule in the book and are rarely, if ever, punished for it--and are, more often than not, rewarded for such behavior as it enabled them to defeat whatever 'bad guy' they may have been up against, rooting the idea of "the ends justify the means" into young readers' minds--and the two biggest rules-breakers (Fred and George) are glorified and glamorized. The latter trouble-makers rarely break the rules for 'the greater good' as the heroes could be defended in doing so. They simply break rules because they can, and the other characters, the author, and the readers (and yes, I am one of those people who loved Fred and George) are treating contempt for authority for no other reason than present amusement as acceptable behavior.

I greatly enjoyed the discussion on how impressionable children are. As a nanny, this is something I am acutely aware of and plays a large role in how I live day-to-day. And I do believe the entire discussion on children's minds was very well written. It was the best part of the book.

One of the sentences on the topic of impressionable minds that stood out to me in the comparison book was this: "Although he has many good qualities, Harry Potter's disobedience, lying, and propensity to break the rules and seek revenge set him against the Biblical model of a righteous hero" (pg 69, Frodo and Harry). 

Every argument that the authors made in regard to the impression each series would leave on children or the behavior that the books might encourage was perceptive, credible, and at times scary. Children soak up everything. 

This is a small complaint, and a personal one, but most of the defense of LOTR lay in a quarter that bothered me. Allegory. The authors of this comparison book fell back on that a lot. This element was Biblical allegory, that element was Biblical allegory, and that's why it is a good book to read. This bothered me personally because Tolkien himself adamantly insisted his books were not allegorical.

To be fair, it is true that Tolkien's beliefs and Christian worldview did influence his writing, and he would admit to that himself, I'm sure. It wasn't that I disagreed with the authors for saying that the themes in LOTR, particularly the moral ones, were in line with Christianity more than those in Harry Potter. That assertion on the part of the authors is certainly true. It was just the insistence that LOTR was allegorical that bothered me, because from the author himself--it wasn't meant to be.

One section of this book that I greatly enjoyed was the emphasis on Christians learning the craft of storytelling as a means of communication. Everyone in our society watches movies, and most read books as well. Stories surround every part of our lives, and they influence us deeply, whether we realize it or not. The authors of this book emphasized that because of the powerful nature of stories--which even Christ understood, telling many parables himself--one of the best ways for us to influence society for the better is to be able to tell stories as well as non-Christians do. I loved this portion of the book because I myself am a storyteller who is trying to bring joy to people's lives, encourage them to live morally, and most importantly point them towards Jesus.

Overall, Frodo and Harry was a thought-provoking book that raised a lot of good questions that every Christian parent should be asking before letting their children read any series of books, not just the two in question. There is also a great deal of time dedicated to explaining the science behind children's impressionable minds within this book, for anyone who is not aware (granted, it was 2003; there's probably more updated research somewhere...). However, it was also poorly laid out, often distracted from its purpose, and at times badly written.

Would I read this book again? I doubt it. I read it from mere curiosity, as an avid reader of both series of books in question. And it satisfied my curiosity. But the book itself is geared toward parents--and I am not one--and was also, at times, rather off-putting for me to read (for the reasons stated previously in this review). So, no. I probably won't pick it up a second time, unless for particular research on something related.

Would I recommend this book to others? Possibly. I wasn't particularly fond of it, but it did make good points and it was based in Scripture.

If you are a Christian parent who is curious about how entertainment affects your children or want to know more about how to prevent a lot of negative influence from the entertainment industry, then maybe this would be a good read for you. The discussion on children's minds was, as I said, the best part of this book.

If you are an adult Christian seeking answers to the 'should I read LOTR?' or 'should I read Harry Potter?' questions--maybe. I would say this comparison book is certainly helpful when thinking about such things. The science on the impressionable minds of children may or may not be useful to you as a grown individual--and that science makes up the majority of the book--but it is insightful. The fact that it is written to the parents' perspective and the fact that it does not represent both sides of the coin equally would lead me to suggest there are likely better works out there to answer your questions. However, it does raise good questions, it does have Scripture as its foundation, and it would be a decent place to start.

I hope you are having a lovely day and reading lots of books!

Monday, October 14, 2019

NaNoWriMo is coming!

NaNoWriMo is coming!

For anyone not aware, November is NaNoWriMo for many authors (National Novel Writing Month). It is a month filled with a ton writing as we all try to complete a 50,000 word rough draft of a novel. And it is so much fun!

This wonderful autumn month we are currently enjoying (I love this time of year! Anyone else a sweater-weather kind of person??) is lovingly dubbed "preptober" for all of us participating in NaNoWriMo. October is the month where we prep our novel for November. And that is exactly what I have been doing.

For a long time, I had no idea what I was going to do for NaNoWriMo this year. I was stumped. The last two years I wrote Return to Sherwood and its sequel, but that story has come to a close. So what would I write next? That was the unanswerable question.

I have many story ideas and partial manuscripts (just one or two chapters), so I went skimming through them to decide which one I wanted to craft into a real novel. It took a great deal of searching, but I finally found one that I wanted to write.

I'm genuinely giddy about writing it, to be honest.

I am going to be dipping my toes into a brand new genre this time around. My Robin Hood series is Historical Fiction (if only loosely based on historical events), Return to Sherwood and its sequel is Historical, and the Finding Hope trilogy is Dystopian. This time around, I'm going to be writing Crime Fiction!

I'm a little bit terrified. I read lots of mysteries and suspense/thriller novels and absolutely love them. But writing them? Even genre has its own rules and styles, and Crime Fiction is a foreign language in many ways. So yes, there's a lot of fear involved. Fear that I won't be good enough to match this genre. Fear that I just don't have what it takes to write Crime Fiction.

But there's also a great deal of joy. I love the story idea, and I have been having more fun than I can easily describe prepping my novel for November. I have my outline, my character profiles, my period research (because yes, it is rather historical in its own way. I can't help it. History is where my heart lies).

I'm eager for November to arrive so that I can actually start writing this novel.

Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, what sort of projects are you working on?

Happy Writing, Everybody!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Quarterly Writing Goals

It's October! That means a lot of things in my world. First, it's the #preptober, the month authors use to prep the book they plan on writing in November--for those authors, like myself, who write a novel for NaNoWriMo every year. Second, it's the beginning of the last quarter of the year. And you know what that means?


It's time to look back at my goals from last quarter and make some new goals to finish out the year!

Goal #1 Finish the sequel to Return to Sherwood. I did it!!! Woot! Woot! That novel took me so long to finish, but I finally did! Now it just has to be edited...

Goal #2 Edit Return to Sherwood POVs. This, I did not finish, but I certainly got started and worked steadily through. It's a massive project removing 15 individual POVs to edit/revise personal character arcs and then put all the POVs back together again. I got a lot done. I'm happy.

Goal #3 Send Return to Sherwood to my editors. This was only if I finished the above goal, which I did not, so this did not happen. But I'm not disappointed. The above goal is a behemoth of a project and I did work hard on it.

Goal #4 was simply to purchase some more ISBNs. My car broke down this month so I had other bills, and therefore this goal was not met.

Goal #5 was to find a Cover Artist for Return to Sherwood. I did this once before, and it didn't work out. I have now done it again. It remains to be seen if it actually works out this time.

I also later added the goal of brainstorming the next story I will write. And I did my brainstorming. :)

I have been very productive since coming back to work. My lazy summer off work I got nothing done, but here in the routine and structure of my job, I'm very productive in my writing time. I've been editing my next novel, finishing the next manuscript, and brainstorming a brand-new story. I'm very satisfied with August and September.

Will I be as productive in the last three months of the year? Only time will tell...

What are my goals for the last quarter of the year?

Finish Editing Return to Sherwood POVs  This is still a huge project, but I have been chipping away at it steadily and plan on getting done before Christmas.

Edit sequel I'm throwing this out there, but only if I finish the above goal. The sequel will have to have the same overhaul edit of each POV which will take a long time and a lot of hard work.

#Preptober  October is, for writers who participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), the month where we prep whatever novel we will be writing in November. For me, that is the novel I brainstormed last quarter. So this quarter, particularly in October, I need to do character profiles, outline the novel, and research.

Write New Story  In November I will be writing the novel that I prep in October. It is a mystery/crime fiction which is a completely new genre for me to write in. It is a genre I read frequently, however, and I am excited to dip my toes into the murky waters!

Purchase More ISBNs  I plan on publishing Return to Sherwood next year, and will, therefore, need at least one new ISBN before then. An author can never have too many ISBNs on hand.

Plan for Conferences  This one is fairly simply; I need to decide what conferences I am going to in the Spring. I usually only go to one, but I have been looking into a second one for next year. I need to get that all sorted out before the New Year.

So there you have it; my goals for the next three months. For the most part, I will be editing Return to Sherwood and writing my mystery novel.

Happy Writing, everybody!

Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, what project are you working on?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Book Review: Obsessed

Today I am once again reviewing a book by Ted Dekker: Obsessed.

"Stephen Friedman is making a good living in good times. He's just an ordinary guy.

Or so he thinks.

But one day an extraordinary piece of information tells him differently. It's a clue from the grave of a holocaust survivor. A clue that makes him heir to an incredible fortune...a clue that only he and one other man can possibly understand.

That man is Roth Braun, a serial killer who has been waiting for Stephen for thirty years. Roth was stopped once before. This time nothing will get in his way."

As with most Ted Dekker books, I read Obsessed in the space of a few days. I have read very few authors who can grip me with the first word of their story and keep me turning pages to the end the way that Ted Dekker does.

Dekker's characters are, as always, fascinating to read about. He finds ways to make them all unique, 3-dimensional, and compelling. There is not a flat character among them. The main character, Stephen, is a young Jewish man who is trying to live an ordinary life in the 70s and ignore his past--an orphan whose parents were lost to World War II. Throughout the novel, he is forced to face the truth of his past, the horrors of the holocaust, and learn to care for something beyond himself. 'Care' seems like a poor choice of words. He becomes obsessed. ;)

The underlying theme, overtly stated right in the title, is that man was created to be obsessed. I loved this book for that reason alone, let alone the amazing story that followed. I have been writing a book myself called Created to be Obsessed for a number of years that explores this very idea. Consequently, I loved every aspect of it in Dekker's story. We obsess over many things, though the real object of that fascination is meant to be our Creator.

Dekker's writing style always pulls me in from the beginning, his fast-paced, intense stories keep me turning pages, and his plot twists--and there's always at least one--never fail to make my jaw drop. I don't know how he does it. I'm in awe.

Would I read this book again? YES

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Book Review: Adam

Today I will be reviewing and discussing a book by Ted Dekker called Adam. The review will be like any other I have done on this blog--the discussion afterward will be a new feature. A necessary addition due to the contents of the book in question.

So let's begin! What is Adam about?

"FBI behavioral psychologist Daniel Clark has been stalking a killer known only as Eve for the past sixteen months. When he traps the elusive psychopath in a face-off, Daniel becomes the next casualty. But then he is resuscitated. After dying once, he's got nothing left to lose in his obsession to stop Eve. Or so he thinks.

He died once to stop the he's dying again to save his wife."

Adam is a page-turner. I read it in a single day. This fact does not surprise me even a little--Ted Dekker is the author. Of course, it's a page-turner. Dekker never fails to grip me with the first word of his story and hold me there until he's done spinning his tale.

His descriptions are vivid, his characters so remarkably real, his story intense and action-packed. As with every Dekker book I read, I was enthralled by the entire thing. I've never read another author quite like Ted Dekker. This murder mystery turned psychological thriller is profound.

The character development is brilliant, as is the slow but steady filling in of details regarding the murders and the killer himself. The twist near the end stunned me. I quite literally put down the book in my shock and paced my room saying "this can't be true" before picking Adam up again and frantically searching the pages I'd already read to find the truth of that plot twist. I don't know how Dekker does it, but he always delivers.

Would I read this book again? Definitely.

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes. Absolutely. Please do read it.

His remarkable writing aside, this book dives deep into something truly terrifying: spiritual warfare. All of Dekker's books have an element of Christianity, and Jesus, and His fight against evil. The ones I've read thus far have been relatively overt in their claims. If he has some that are more subtle, I've yet to read them. In this book, in particular, he dives into the idea of demon-possession and how very real evil is in the present day.

As a Christian myself, and devoted to following Jesus, the idea of spiritual warfare is not unfamiliar to me. It's something I have acknowledged, in a passive way, but never really faced. Yes, of course, I know the devil is real. I know this truth, but I don't confront it on a daily basis.

"Demon possession cases are the extreme examples of evil--where it breaks through the cloak it hides under and show itself to the world in a way that forces us to deal with it. But evil doesn't like to be dealt with, so it remains mostly hidden, and people begin to forget that it exists at all." --
Ted Dekker (in a discussion with John Eldredge included in the back of the book Adam)

Evil doesn't like to be dealt with. That sentence smacked me in the face when I was reading the discussion between Dekker and John Eldredge (American author, counselor, and lecturer on Christianity best known for his book Wild at Heart). I have never personally been demon-possessed, of course, but the devil is still prowling around like a lion, searching for prey, at the edges of my life. He's there when I get frustrated with the people around me. He's there when I am impatient with others. He's there when I choose to say something rude rather than be gracious. It is only through the grace of Jesus that he has no power to harm me. But he is there--and that's the point. Enticing me to get angry over small things, or make a selfish decision--choosing to benefit myself rather than someone else.

Those of us who believe in Jesus need to start taking the devil seriously--because let's be honest, the majority of us blessed to live in this American culture I call home honestly don't take it seriously. But we should. Spiritual warfare is a scary thing--but we have Jesus. There are so many people who don't--they don't have the Light to ward off the darkness, the only Light than can.

I don't have a clever way to end this review and discussion. The book was an amazing read. The truth it highlights is scary, but there's hope--His name is Jesus. And those of us who know that truth need to be pursuing that Light with ferocity and sharing that Light without hesitation.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Can You Write 10,000 Words in One Day?

Well...I survived.

On September 7th I participated in the 10k Writing Challenge hosted by Mandi Lynn (author of Essence, I am Mercy, and She's Not Here). The goal? Write 10,000 words in my novel in a single day.

I knew this would be hard work, but I was also fairly laid back about it. After all, I write a lot. I can't go longer than a day or two without having to write something; it's just the way I was wired. But the most words, prior to this challenge, that I remember having written in a single 24-hour period is around 8,000 words. That was on the final day of NaNoWriMo 2017 when I was desperate to finish the goal of November (50,000 in 30 days). So the idea of 10,000 words in one day was actually a bit daunting.

Why did I choose to do this challenge? I had seen a couple posts on Twitter and vlogs on YouTube about previous 10k challenges hosted by Mandi Lynn and thought it was an intriguing idea. And lately, I have been pushing myself to finish the novel I have been writing since November of last year. I am so close to the end of the story that I felt I just needed a little push to actually finish it. So when I saw Mandi Lynn was hosting another 10k Writing Challenge, I decided to do it!

It was hard work, and after the first 6,000 words, the quality of my writing plummeted. That was around 2 in the afternoon, if I remember correctly. My brain was turning to mush and I couldn't think well enough to string too many words together coherently. So I just strung them, coherent or not.

I did manage to write 10,000 words. 10,006 to be exact.

The best part of the day for me--aside from the relief and pride at finishing--was the interactions on Twitter. There were several other authors participating and posting about their word count, their struggles, their amusements, etc., throughout the day and that definitely is what made the experience fun. Because suffering together is way more fun than suffering alone. Plus we were able to encourage each other, and every writer needs a large dose of encouragement on a daily basis. Almost as much as we need our coffee (or in my case, tea).

Sadly, despite the 10,000 extra words in the novel, I did not quite finish the book I was writing. I shall carry on, however, knowing that someday this novel will be a complete story...

and in that spirit, Happy Writing, everybody!

You can find all things Mandi Lynn related over at her website:

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Mythical Creature Called 'Writer': Separating the Fact and Fiction

Hello, my lovely readers! How are you all today?

I thought I would take today to discuss some common myths about writers and set the record straight. These are statements that I have heard said about writers that I found to be false. Let's dive in, shall we?


It is true that many writers are introverts, and therefore often unsocial. There are writers out there who enjoy meeting new people and being surrounded by a crowd of crazy extroverted friends. Most writers don't enjoy that scene--but that doesn't mean we don't have friends at all. A more accurate depiction would be, writers have few friends (but those they do have they would die for).


This is not at all true. I can tell you this because I am a writer and I don't drink coffee.

Most authors do drink excessive amounts of coffee, that much is true. Yet for me, the beverage I need in order to write is tea. I suppose a more accurate way to describe the truth about authors is that we all have a beverage we're addicted to, be it coffee, tea, hot cocoa, wine, etc.


Okay...I can't deny that one.


I don't believe this. Anyone can write, sure. Being able to write does not make you a writer. Someone who has never written a book and says wishfully to a writer they know "someday I'm going to write a book"....yeah. Pretty sure you aren't. That's not how this works. Writing isn't telling a story, it's telling that story well. There's a lot of hard work that goes into it, not just wishful thinking, but there is also a good deal of natural ability--in my humble opinion.


We're not all sad, miserable creatures who live alone in a cave, okay? Some of us live perfectly happy, healthy lives.

While it is true that some writers are sad, miserable creatures who use writing as a tool to pour out their sad miserable tale, most of us are not that way. We may--and often do--use our life experience to build onto our story and make it real, or as a form of therapy for ourselves when dealing with traumatic issues, but we aren't always miserable.

Basically, people tend to believe--likely due to this being how we are often portrayed in entertainment media--that writers are depressed, lonely individuals who have no friends and live off of coffee. And yet somehow also believe that anyone can be a writer if they only had the time...

If you are considering writing a story, don't let the myths of our lonely existence scare you off. And don't let my insistence than 'anyone can be a writer' is false scare you off either. I don't believe anyone can be a writer, but I do believe that if you are passionate about stories and you are willing to take the time to learn the craft of writing then yes, there is every opportunity for you to become a writer.

And on that note...

Happy Writing, everybody!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Writing Well Takes Practice

You can't run a race well without training.

As an author, whenever anyone hears that I write they will inevitably say "I thought about writing a book once" or "I'm going to write a book someday" or any number of sentences along those lines. I am not offended by this, I find it amusing more than anything else. Yet what people don't seem to understand is that you cannot simply write a book by wishing it.

Yes, perhaps you can piece together a string of words to create a sentence. And maybe you can string enough sentences along to create an 80,000 word story. The latter is highly unlikely when done by chance, but supposing you had accomplished such a feat, will it be a good story? No. Nothing done without some level of expertise is going to be good. There are a exceptions to every rule, of course, but very few of us are such freaks of nature that we can simply be good at everything without trying.

One of my hobbies, outside of simply reading a book, is running. I do 5K races and half marathons and the like with one of my sisters. We pretend to train by forcing ourselves to least once a week. But we are never diligent or disciplined in training our bodies for the excess of physical activity; endurance, strength...the things you need to complete a race well. Do we get to the finish line? Yes. Are we in more pain than necessary because we chose not to train? Also yes.

Writing a book is hard work. It is not something that happens overnight, and certainly not without effort. You have to train for it first. Learning basic grammar rules is unfortunately often the first step--it is physically painful for me to read many first drafts from aspiring writers because they do not understand the most basic principles. Periods. Commas. Capitalization. Learn how to write; that's the first step.

Once you've mastered the basics of the English language, it is time for the next level of training, learning to write well. You have to write every day; practice, practice, practice and in time you will improve. Read excessively and learn to imitate what you see. Take writing courses to hone your skills and learn new techniques. Soak up all of the knowledge and know-how that you can and then pour that into your words.

If you can manage to reach a point of readability, then you've reached the next stage of training: finding your own voice. You want to learn from other authors, but you don't want to mimic them. You have to find your own way of expressing what you wish to say. Everyone speaks differently and it is the same way with the written word. We are all different. So find what makes you different and grow from there. The best way to do this is to write every day. Write, and then write some more--you're training, remember?

Now that you finally write well, you can start thinking about writing a book. This will also take time, effort, and several stages. You have to be disciplined and diligent in writing every day and moving your story forward or your book will never be finished. Some days it is fun to sit down and write, other days it is a chore, but you have to do it regardless.

I am much better at mastering myself and my laziness and procrastination when it comes to writing than running, but I hope from now on I can take what I know of training to write books and apply it to my running hobby. If I train correctly for the next half marathon, I won't die like last time.

So yes, I can run a race and finish it, but can I run well and in such a way that won't bring physical harm to my body? Do I force my way through a book, spewing words as they come, or do I train myself daily, and therefore learn to write well? As hard as it can sometimes be, if you want to write a book, your answer to that last question should always be the latter.

P.S. I fully intend to start training properly for running.

Are you considering writing a book, or already in the middle of such a project? Comment below: I would love to hear about it!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Fishy Tale

I recently had the bright idea to get a fish for my nieces. I assumed this would be a straight-forward process; go to the pet store, pick fish, bring fish home, put fish in the tank. Voila! We have a pet fish.

Things never go as planned.

I did take a lovely, short, trip to the pet store with both young nieces in tow (ages 3 and 1, to give you perspective). The dead fish on the bottom of every tank notwithstanding, we did pick two fish and bring them home. It was simple, it was done. Two little goldfish to brighten our lives.

Here are Willie and Gooey (haha, I didn't name them) acclimating to their new can't really see them, to be honest. That fleck of orange is Gooey.

Unfortunately, Willie and Gooey only lived in our tank for a matter of hours. They were soon as dead as those other unfortunate fish at the pet store. Actually, the deceased on the bottom of those tanks really should have been a red flag. Oh well.

My eldest niece did rather enjoy flushing the dead fish away.

The next day, I decided we would try again. Of course, it happened to be raining that day, but that did not deter us. We set forth through the downpour on a quest to find a fish that would not die. And in that spirit, we went to the other pet store in town. There were no ranks of corpses floating in these tanks. And we got a fish!

This is Ocean (again, I don't name the fish). I have not yet been able to capture just how gorgeous her blue fins are, but this will give you some idea...

Ocean is very much alive, thankfully. We hope she stays that way.

So that is the tale of how I found a fish for my nieces. I'm obsessed with this fish, by the way. She's gorgeous! My niece chose well...the second time (Although, I'm going to say the first time wasn't her fault. They were just a bad batch of fish).

Do you have any pets? Have you ever had any mishaps when obtaining pets? I would love to hear about your adventures!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Book Review: Jane Austen

This is not going to be like my other book reviews. I'm not really reviewing at all. I'm just fangirling. Bear with me.

So, I recently re-read some of my favorite books...a wonderful set of books by a wonderful author. Books that I re-read constantly, and love more every time that I do. Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, EmmaMansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Lady Susan. They are all immensely delightful tales that I adore.

Austen's characters are always vibrant and entertaining, her commentaries on society witty and sharp, her dialogue clever, and her narration brilliant and amusing.

Austen is brilliant, and I couldn't possibly begin to even pretend to critique her writing. No words could ever truly express how remarkable and talented her writing is either. So I will leave it simply as she's amazing and so are her books.

Pride & Prejudice

This story follows the life of Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters as they try to navigate society in 19th century England; the balls, the scandals, and the falling in and out of love. Lizzie is an intelligent, witty young lady who is not afraid to speak her mind or point out the follies and foibles of the people around her.

Pride and Prejudice is the first Austen novel I read as a child, and certainly the most popular to modern audiences in terms of the number of adaptions to movies, mini-series, spin-offs, and such-like. I will never tire of reading it. I've also decided that I relate most to Mr. Darcy in this book.

Sense & Sensibility

This novel offers a portrait of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, who embody the two qualities set forth in the title. Elinor, the elder of the two, is intelligent, loving, and wise enough to see the potential folly in failing to temper emotion with good sense. Marianne, although sharing many of these qualities, lacks her sister's wisdom; she is, as Austen describes her, 'everything but prudent.'

Sense and Sensibility will never get old. Also, my younger sister and I are very much Marianne and Elinor.


Young and beautiful Emma Woodhouse meddles in the love lives of her friends. Misunderstandings abound.

I don't think that needs any more explanation...

Emma was always the book that I had the most fun reading growing up. I've read all of Austen's books many times over, but for some unexplainable reason, Emma could hold my attention easier than the others. Perhaps the style it is written in is more captivating to me than the others, despite the fact that the main character is so aggravatingly annoying. It might also be because Mr. Knightly is my hero far more than Mr. Darcy ever could be.

Mansfield Park

Fanny Price, a frail, quiet young woman, is reared from the young age of ten among her wealthy relatives, the Bertrams. Fanny is an unobtrusive presence in the household, and steadfast in her secret affection for her cousin Edmund.

I still remember the first time I read Mansfield Park. I was bored to tears and couldn't finish it. It is crazy for me to think about that time in my youth because now I could read it in a day, never putting it down. Fanny is certainly one of my favorite Austen ladies. She's far different from most Austen heroines, though. She has none of the high spirits or the wit that accompany the likes of Elizabeth Bennet or Marianne Dashwood. But she has a quiet strength and a resolution to adhere to her values and beliefs that is admirable.

Northanger Abbey

Catherine Morland believes she is destined to become a heroine like those in her favorite gothic novels. Her chance to prove this destiny comes when a wealthy neighbor invites her along on a visit outside of her small village, to the city of Bath. There a whole new world is opened to Catherine. She meets Isabella Thorpe, who is more worldly than Catherine and takes it upon herself to instruct Catherine in the ways of society.

Northanger Abbey; the one that I read the least often. It is as amazing as the others, but when I have to choose between 7 novels, I generally go with my favorites. This story will still easily captivate me, however, when I do choose to read it. Austen never failed to write brilliantly.


27-year-old Anne Russel regrets breaking off her engagement with Captain Frederick Wentworth. They wanted to be married at 19, but her father, sister, and mentor all disapproved the match. When Anne and Wentworth meet again so many years later, it takes many trials and mishaps for them to reconcile.

The one I often forget, the one that when I read it I remember is my favorite after all (excepting Lady Susan, of course). This story is perfection. Absolute perfection.

Lady Susan

Lady Susan is a beautiful and charming widow intent on making every man in England fall in love with her, married or otherwise, and has her eye particularly on Reginold Vernon, her brother-in-law, a man who very much disapproves of 'the most accomplished coquette in England'.

Ah, Lady Susan. My favorite Austen story, hands down. This one is different from the others in many ways. In the first place, it was published posthumously. Secondly, instead of being written in the narrative form, it is, in fact, a series of letters between a handful of individuals. And it is a full-on comedy. Austen incorporates a great deal of the comic in all her stories, and she is also a brilliant critic of society. Lady Susan, though, is the height of her comedic endeavors. And I love it! The titular character is a truly terrible person, but her many adventures amuse me.

So there you have it. Austen is brilliant, her books are amazing, and everyone needs to read them.

P.S. If you are interested in Jane Austen, I also have a fun little post from eons ago that you can read: The Janeite Tag

Saturday, August 10, 2019

2019 Quaterly Writing Goals #3

It has been far too long since I have blogged. I seem to have forgotten this corner of the internet existed! I have finally returned from my long absence, with a simple post of little consequence.

Quarterly Writing Goals!

This quarter sneaked up on me and took me by surprise. How could it possibly be the third quarter of the year already? And for that matter, how could it possibly be the second month of that quarter?

For anyone who does not already know, quarterly writing goals are simply goals that I make in order to motivate myself to be productive, and I intend to complete them within a three month period (or "quarter" of the year). The past quarter was summertime, so one would think there would be an ample amount of time to be productive and get tons of work done. One would be wrong to think so. I am incredibly lazy when I do not have structure, and as I had the summer off of work, I had no structure.

Nothing got done.

With that in mind, what were my goals and did I accomplish them?

Goal #1 Finish A Promise to Keep. This has been a goal for far too long...and will remain so because I did not finish writing this novel.

Goals #2 was to edit each individual point of view character arc for the novel Return to Sherwood so that I could start the real editing process with my editors. I did not even begin this behemoth of a task.

Goal #3 was the Cover Art for Return to Sherwood, which I had lined up but then fell we're back to square one and this has not been accomplished.

Goal #4 was my conference in April. I did attend this! But I did not quite fulfill my projected sales.

Goal #5 was to outline my fantasy, nope. Did not happen.

Goal #6 was to world build my fantasy novel. Ha. Nope.

Goal #7 was to start writing that fantasy novel. Which I did not.

Goal #8 was simply to purchase more ISBNs...and I did not do that either.

Wow. Look at that. I did all of 1 of my 8 goals, and that 1 was not a resounding victory (totally worth it though, side note. I LOVE going to that conference).

So, what am I going to do in the next month and a half before this quarter ends? I'm so glad you asked. And yes, I do intend to actually get things done. You see, I'm back at work again. Structure. Less time to write and edit and such like? More writing and editing and such like will be accomplished. Don't try and follow that logic. It's just the truth.

Finish A Promise to Keep  For real this time. I have to finish this manuscript.

Edit RS POVs  I have written a novel from many different points of view (POVs) and before I can send it off to editors I must make sure that every single POV is complete. I can't have a character arc fall through the cracks. So I have to edit each individual story as if it were just that; its very own story. This task appears terrifying but is absolutely necessary. I'm not sure how much I can get done between now and Quarterly Writing Goals #4, but I will do my best.

Send Return to Sherwood to editors  This will only happen if I do the above step...

Purchase ISBNs an author can never have too many...

Restart the Cover Art process for Return to Sherwood  Hopefully this time it works out.

Only 5 thus far, but one of them is worth about 15 (the number of POVs in that massive novel). Let's see what I can do!

In the meantime, Happy Writing, everyone!!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

2019 Quarterly Writing Goals #2

The first three months of the year have passed, which means it is time to look back and see if I accomplished all of the goals that I set out to do!

Before we begin, what exactly are Quarterly Writing Goals? They are just goals that I set and hope to attain within three months. These goals all have something to do with being an author...writing a book, editing a book, publishing a book, etc. etc. I choose to do my goals every three months because, for me, that is a decent amount of time to do any of the projects that I do as an author. I choose to make goals in the first place because when I do I am much more productive and motivated.

Now that that's out of the way...

What were my goals for the first quarter of 2019 and did I accomplish any of them?

Goal #1 was to finished A Promise to Keep. I came incredibly close to finishing this book, but I did not actually write the last few scenes. It is painfully close to the end and I am distressed I didn't make it, but I'll be fine. A lot of writing did get done, and the last few scenes have been outlined in detail so it won't take me long to finish.

Goal #2 was to explore IngramSpark so that I am familiar with that platform when I publish with it. I did do this.

Goal #3 was to outline my fantasy novel. This did not happen because I put it on hold until I finished A Promise to Keep, and obviously that never occurred.

Goal #4, similarly, was to world build for my fantasy novel and this did not happen for the same reason as #3.

Goal #5 Change everything to Mandi. This I did do.

Goal #6 was sending Return to Sherwood to my editors. This did not take place because while writing the sequel, A Promise to Keep, I came across many things that needed to be fixed in Return to Sherwood and therefore my editors couldn't see the manuscript yet.

and last but not least, Goal #7 was to read/edit the books that several different young authors asked me to look over. I did this. But I did it rather half-heartedly because reading bad writing is a painful experience that I did not wish to dive into too deeply. I will never be an editor. Ever.

Oh, and of course keeping up with social media/vlogs, which I actually did decently well at this quarter. That's a first.

There you have it. I did some things, I missed others.

So what are my goals for the next three months?

Finish A Promise to Keep  I am so very close to having the first draft of this book done! I would like to actually finish it.

Edit Return to Sherwood POV This is a major editing task that I must complete before I send this manuscript to my editors.

Start Cover Artist process for Return to Sherwood This is technically already lined up, but as it hasn't begun yet it's on my list.

Conference in April Again, already lined up, but since I haven't been to the conference yet it is on my list. I do have an undisclosed sales goal for that weekend. We'll see what happens.

Outline my fantasy novel Assuming I ever actually finish A Promise to Keep, I will begin the outlining of my next novel which happens to be a fantasy novel.

Worldbuild my fantasy novel  a vital step for a fantasy story...which I intend to get done, as long as I finish the last few scenes of A Promise to Keep.

Start writing my fantasy novel This is entirely dependent on finishing A Promise to Keep (which I WILL do)

Purchase ISBNs  an author always needs more of these...but they're not exactly a cheap purchase.

And, as always, keeping up with social media/vlogs.

Those are my goals for quarter #2. I certainly hope to accomplish them and anticipate doing most, if not all, of them for once. But maybe I shouldn't jinx myself.

In the meantime, Happy Writing everybody!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Book Review: Sleeping Coconuts

Today I am going to review another book. This review is slightly different in the fact that it is an autobiography and not a fiction novel like most books that I read. It is called Sleeping Coconuts and was written by John and Bonnie Nystrom, missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

In the late 1980s, John and Bonnie Nystrom came alongside Pastor Peter and several other men from Arop Village in Papua New Guinea to translate the Bible into the local language. Now, while visiting another part of the country just ten years later, John and Bonnie learned that tragedy had struck Arop village, causing massive loss of life.

What happened? Were their neighbors okay? What about the members of the Bible translation team? Was this the end of Bible translation for Arop?

In Sleeping Coconuts, John and Bonnie Nystrom share their story of tragedy, teamwork and transformation, and the incredible way that God used a tsunami to change the face of Bible translation in Papua New Guinea.

First Impressions? This book was amazing. It is heartbreaking and inspiring and challenging and everything that it needs to be.

The way that Bonnie and John tell their perspectives on the events that unfolded--the tsunami, the aftermath, the way that God used their circumstances to spread the translation project to many more languages than it would have otherwise reached--is straightforward, conversational, and informative. They are talking to the reader, telling them precisely what happened and what God did about it.

I cried, multiple times, reading this book. At the beginning, I cried because of all of the tragic stories of the people who survived the tsunami. Later I cried to see the remarkable ways that God had put pieces in place to expand the translation project beyond Bonnie and John's wildest imaginations. It reminded me of Ephesians 3:20 repeatedly.

I loved this story, even more so because it was true. And it challenged and encouraged and stretched me in my faith in many ways. It was a remarkable journey of my own, reading this book.

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes. Please go read it.

Would I read it again? Probably. I don't generally read non-fiction with regularity or repetition, but this one is worth it.

Until next time, Happy Writing everybody!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Book Review: A Gathering of Days

I haven't posted a book review in a while. Unfortunately, this is due to the fact that I haven't actually finished reading a complete book in a while. I am currently reading quite a lot, and this will hopefully be the first of many completed--and subsequently reviewed--books of 2019.

Today I am reviewing a novella called A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32 by Joan W. Blos. Quite a mouthful with that subtitle, so we'll just call it A Gathering of Days.

So what is this book about? Ignoring the fact that the title seems pretty self-explanatory, here is what it's all about:

Catherine's mother has died, following the birth of an infant son, and when her father decides to remarry, Catherine faces painful changes, not the least of them in herself.

It is a novella, which only leaves so much room for plot and character development, and it is also in journal form, which leaves even less room. With that being said, what were my first impressions of this book? I enjoyed it. I wasn't enthralled by it, but I certainly wasn't bored either.

It is a historical novel, which is one of my favorite genres to read and write about. The characters are vivid, despite having limited scenes due to the nature of short stories and journal entries. The main character and the person writing the journal entries that are the reader's window into the story is Catherine Hall. She is a fierce, playful, clever, and kind fourteen-year-old girl caught between childhood and adulthood. And while this is true of most teenagers, it is more striking in her case as she has had to step up and fill her mother's shoes. Catherine's voice is quite an entertaining one to hear a story from, and her wit and kindness come through quite clearly. The other characters, Catherine's friends and family, are delightfully portrayed through Catherine's eyes.

Joan Blos also does a remarkable job of slipping in historical facts through Catherine's simple explanation of daily life and of various farm tasks and festivals she attends. The reader is able to learn a lot about the time period by simply living with Catherine and without excessive info-dumps.

The plot, while relatively simplistic, is artfully crafted. Blos also touches on potentially controversial topics as Catherine interacts with a runaway slave and various other aspects of 19th century American politics are introduced throughout the story. And yet, Blos never preaches her own views of the topic in any way. The characters themselves come to their own conclusions, of which none are precisely the same, and the reader is allowed to make their own decisions on the subject.

The writing itself is delightful. Catherine's speech is quaint and simple, and yet Blos manages to be brilliant despite this.

Would I read this book again? Probably. It is perhaps not high on my 'read again' list, but it is well worth a second glance.

Would I recommend this book to others? Absolutely. Go and read, my friends. You will not be disappointed.

And in the meantime,

Happy Writing, everybody!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Marketing: 5 Useful Resources for Indie Authors

What's the one thing every author has to do--even if they aren't self-published--if they want to sell books?


Marketing has always been my least favorite part of my job. I don't have a business degree and certainly haven't done enough research of my own. Plus I hate tooting my own horn, which is often what marketing feels like to me. However, in the past few weeks, I have been putting in some research, learning new skills, and getting the hang of this whole marketing thing.

I still have a lot to learn, for sure, but I am actually enjoying the journey now which will help immensely. When something is a chore, it is hard for me to work up the motivation or enthusiasm to do it properly. Now, however, I can say that I am enjoying marketing. What clicked for me to change my perspective, I have no idea. I'm glad it did, though.

I thought I would share a few of the helpful tools I've discovered recently for various aspects of marketing. So, without further ado, here are 5(ish) resources for you to make use of in your quest to market your book.

First, a very useful article detailing how to make your own books ads to put on various social media platforms. This was a lot of fun to do! There's a link within the article to Derek Murphy's (the champion of Indie Authors) free tool for creating 3D covers for these ads, but I'll also link it here:

Lynn Nodima: Creating DIY Book Ads

The 3D Cover Creator

Derek Murphy has instigated an amazing community of Indie Authors sharing their resources, critiquing each other's work, and pushing each other to greatness. You can find that page on Facebook as Guerrilla Publishing, although you'll have to request an invite as it is a closed group.

One amazing source, not just for marketing but for all areas of writing, is Jenna Moreci. I'll link her youtube channel here, as that is where she mainly gives all her marvelous advice. Fair warning, however, Jenna doesn't have the most G-rated language. Jenna's Channel

I also use this blog that has a very long list of useful tools to use to market your book (my list is never going to be this comprehensive). I haven't looked through all 100+ tools and strategies, but it is something that I refer to when I am looking for different/new ways to market: 7 Strategies and 110+ tools to help Indie Authors Find Readers and Reviewers

And another blog post, highlighting mistakes new authors make when they begin marketing. This is a good read: How Not to Market Your Book

Hopefully, you can make good use of these tools and articles. In the meantime...

Happy Writing, everybody!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

4 Things I Do Before I Start Writing Everyday

A short while ago I wrote a post about how to write a novel; not the step-by-step process of outlining, editing, etc., but rather imperative resources or skills that need to be acquired or cultivated before writing a novel. One of the skills I highlighted was developing the habit of writing every day. Well today, I'm going to talk briefly about what I do before I write every day.

The first thing that I do before I begin typing away at my laptop is to ensure that I have all of my supplies for whatever project I am working on. For the novel that I am currently writing, this means making sure that I have my outline, my timeline, my research notes, plenty of blank paper, writing utensils, etc. All the materials that I will need to reference or use when I get into the thick of writing. I don't want to have to go searching for my notes on the University of Paris in the 13th century while I am in the middle of writing an action-packed or conflict-ridden scene. I need that sort of thing right at hand.

The second thing on my list of things to do before writing, and arguably the most important, is prayer. My writing is very much about my God, and for my God. Seeing as my end-game is glory for Him, I start off each writing session with a prayer.

Third, I make myself a cup of tea. This is vital. I have become convinced over the years that tea is the equivalent of gas for my brain which is the engine of my 'car'. I can write without tea, but I don't get as far.

The fourth task I must complete before writing is choosing the music that I will listen to during my writing session. Music helps me to block out the rest of the world and focus on my project and also blocks out any bunny trails my brain might otherwise decide to go on. I usually listen to classical music or movie soundtracks.

When these four things have been done, I get busy at the keyboard and hopefully write a decent amount of words before my tea either runs out or gets cold (the latter happens when I have tons of inspiration and don't have time to take a sip due to the vast amount of words I'm trying to get out of my brain...and is, therefore, rather reassuring. If my tea got cold, I know I was productive. But I digress...).

So, those are the 4 things that I have to do before every writing session to ensure productivity and quality of content. These four things don't apply to my blogging, however. Generally, when I sit down to blog it's because I've had a thought and want to get it down before I forget--because coming up with blog posts is often very difficult for me--or I don't have any thoughts at all and I just stare at a blinking cursor until something happens. It is entirely possible that if I implemented my novel writing essential 4 tasks, then my blogging experience would be that much better. I may, in fact, try this in future.

In the meantime, Happy Writing, everybody!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Writer's Block

For the first time in my writing career, I've experienced writer's block. I know it is impressive I made it so many years without experiencing this phenomenon which plaques seemingly every writers' existence. Yet writer's block has never been an issue that I had to deal with. Therefore, this post is going to be rather odd. It won't necessarily be helpful to people who deal with writer's block regularly in any least I very much doubt it. This is simply my musing on the topic because I can now say I have faced it.

I had reached a point in my current novel where I was simply stuck. I began this novel during NaNoWriMo last year and completed my 50,000 words. Yet the story was far from done, and throughout December of 2018, I continued writing. Now over 60,000 words, I entered January.

And that's when the magic stopped. I had a detailed outline telling me exactly where my story would end up. I already knew the climax and had 'written' specific scenes of the climax in my mind a dozen times. Yet I was stumped as to how to get my characters to that climax. I knew how the end battle was going to go down, but I didn't know precisely where or when, and that is what was killing my inspiration juices. If I don't know where, geographically speaking, to take my characters, they're basically stuck in their house--or this case, living as fugitives in Paris. And if I don't know precisely when that last battle takes place, I can't move the story forward simply because I don't know how many days--within the context of the story--it will take to reach my goal. Thus, my dilemma.

I have tried, off and on throughout January, to get past this roadblock. I failed. I might write a couple hundred words when I sat down, but they were meaningless, had little bearing on the overall plot, and certainly weren't complete scenes.

Today, I managed to get around this thing called writer's block--which up until now had never been something I faced. I did more research on 12th century Paris, and also on a specific historical person who features in my story, Eleanor of Aquitaine. And for whatever reason, which I could not possibly explain, that's what it took to open the dam. I suddenly knew exactly where and when the climax was taking place. And the words poured forth.

So...that was my one and only experience with writer's block, and I do hope I never have to experience it again. If you face this sort of thing regularly, I deeply apologize for your pain.

Happy Writing, everybody!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

5 Major Mistakes I Made Publishing my First Novel

So....that first novel was a doozy.

I love Lucy's Legend-A Robin Hood story. I love it because it was my first published novel. I love it because those characters have now survived two series with me and they're family. I love it because it was the starting point of this writing career that is my joy and passion. But let's be real: that book was terrible.

I wrote a book, and I was insanely happy about it, and I wanted my joy to be spread to the world. What should have been my first step--editing the book--did not, in fact, happen. So that was mistake #1. My siblings read it and a few of them offered some advice--though to be fair, none of them were English majors. I did not look for professional editors or even approach my family members who were, in fact, qualified to edit a novel.

The next step would have been researching the industry, both traditional publishing and self-publishing. I did not do any research of the kind. This was mistake #2. I didn't want to go the traditional route because it seemed like a lot of work. So I did a google search, found CreateSpace, and published Lucy's Legend. Just like that. Mistake #3 was rushing. I had my parents telling me to take a deep breath and slow down, and I for sure did not listen. I didn't even know how copyright worked back then. Or how to format a novel. Or anything at all. But I published it anyway.

Mistake #4: I did zero marketing. None. I didn't attempt to build an author platform online, I didn't garner interest in my community. Nothing.

I was 19 years old, knew nothing about the industry I was trying to break into, and I wasn't taking the time to research. Plus, I was 19...I know I already said that, but let that sink in: I was 19. My writing was terrible. Readable, sure. Showing potential for greatness, I'll give you that. But terrible nonetheless.

I also chose to write under my own name, Amanda Grace, without doing any research, or even a simple google search (which would have showed me what I discovered later). This was mistake #5. I found out after publishing Lucy's Legend, and its sequel Always in Shadow, that there are a lot of Amanda Grace authors in the world, and they all already had relatively large followings. It is hard breaking into the writing world and finding an audience but when you aren't unique it is even harder. Which is why, as you may have picked up on, I have changed my pseudonym.

So for newbies, here's what I would say: Don't publish your novel until you 1) research the industry so you know whether you want to go traditional or self-publishing and also how each of those work, 2) get your novel edited, 3) build an audience, and 4) do a bit of research before choosing your pseudonym. Plus, it might be wise to know, especially if you choose self-publishing, how the whole idea of formatting novels and creating covers, etc., works.

Since that first novel, I have actually researched the industry. What I discovered was that I was glad I went the self-publishing route, even though I had done it for the wrong reasons initially. I did decide it was what worked best for me. I also have every book edited before publication now: that's a big step you can't skip, case you thought you could. And I market my books, because if no one knows you exist how will they know about your books or have any interest in buying them? I also did a lot of editing/rewriting of Lucy's Legend for a second edition that is much less terrible than the initial book had been. I am also constantly learning new skills and doing research--on the industry, how to market, even taking writing classes to continue improving and honing my skills.

There is so much that should have been done with Lucy's Legend that wasn't, but I can say that I learned from my mistakes and am much better--more qualified and more professional--at publishing books now.

So, in conclusion, I hope anyone looking to publish a book will take heed and not follow in my footsteps of that first novel of mine. But know that if you do--or already did--you can come back from it and right your mistakes. It just takes a bit of hard work and determination, but if you already wrote an entire novel I can say with confidence you have what it takes.

Happy Writing, everybody!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

How To Write a Novel

Okay, so you have a brilliant idea and you want to write about it. You can't get this story out of your head. Plus, the world is going to love it, right?

So what do you do?

Obviously, you write your story. But how? Writing a book, while it can be fairly simple, is not an easy task. It takes a lot of hard work, self-discipline, and an ego made of steel--because you're going to face a lot of criticism, and most of it will come from yourself. And now you're thinking, okay Miss Mandi Grace, that's a whole lot of vague and nothing to work with. You're right. So let's get into the details. Fair warning though, this is a list of things that you need to do to write a novel but this is not a list of the specific steps (outline, first draft, etc).

The first thing you need to do is simply write. Spew words. They don't have to be pretty, just get it down on paper--or in a word document--so you aren't losing your mind.

Second, you need to understand words and how they fit together. If you have a basic understanding of grammar, great. Take some classes to learn more. If you're an expert, great. Find resources to expand your knowledge and grow your writing expertise. There's always room for improvement. I'm still learning, too. This is a vital step for you to write a book of any nature, because if you don't know the rules then you can't successfully bend them to make something beautiful. You'll just make a mess. So learn about words, and grammar, and all the nitty-gritty details that sound boring. It's important. Hand-in-hand with learning the grammar, learn how to craft stories. I regularly find resources--books, classes, articles, you name it--to stretch myself because I want to be an expert at what I do. So learn how to write a story, how to create vivid characters, how to showcase powerful dialogue, and utilize descriptions for emotional impact. Writing is a job, and if you want to succeed you need to know how your job works and what it entails.

Third, you have to write every single day. Five minutes. Five hours. Whatever fits into your schedule. If your schedule is too full for writing, make time. You won't write a book any other way. This is not the sort of thing that happens overnight. It takes months, sometimes years. You have to stay on top of it. But don't get overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of your project. If you love it, it will come easy--and on days that it is hard, keep writing anyway. One paragraph a day will get you a whole lot closer to a finished manuscript than zero words written.

Fourth, surround yourself with peers. Find other writers, be they published authors or newbies like yourself. Connect in person or online--whatever works for you--but build yourself a network of individuals who can encourage you in your writing, offer advice when needed, critique your stories to help you grow to be the best writer you possibly can be. You can't do this alone, so find people who can help you achieve your dream to the best of your ability. Don't settle for whatever you can manage on your own. Trust me, it will be that much more brilliant with a group of people pushing you to improve rather than letting you stagnate.

Fifth, do your research. Whatever subject you are writing about, whatever genre you have chosen to align yourself with...become the expert. I write historical fiction more often than anything else, so there's a whole lot of research involved in getting dates, settings, foods, and people of the time correct. But research is necessary in all genres. Are you writing romance? Take some psychology classes or read some articles and become fluent in the language of how the mind works and how people connect with one another. Knowing your material is vital to writing a credible, believable story. And having a credible, believable story is vital if you want people to enjoy your book because your audience is not stupid. They'll know when you don't have a clue what you're talking about. 

So that's five things that you have to be doing if you want to write the best book you possibly can. Write, and write every day. Learn how this whole writing business works anyway. Create a network of people who can challenge and encourage you to be a better writer. And be the expert in your field.

Sometime in the future I might go over the more specific things to be doing to write a novel, but for now...

Happy Writing, everybody!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

2019 Quarterly Writing Goals #1

It's a new year! Can you believe that? I can't.

With the new year comes big changes. I warned you all a while ago that I was changing my pseudonym slightly, and now it's official. All of my social media--unless I've accidentally overlooked one--has been changed to reflect my new pseudonym, and I've bought up the domains connected with my new pseudonym for my website (and so no one else can use terribly rude of me). Actually, while we're on the subject, buying domains is a lot of fun! I'd say I'd found a new hobby, but at some point I'll run out of "mandigrace.whatever" to purchase and my hobby will be dead.

The coming of the new year also means that it is time for me to make my quarterly writing goals! Let's start this off by explaining what exactly are quarterly writing goals: they are simply goals related to writing that I try to accomplish within a three month period. Write a book. Edit a book. Research a new publishing platform. Etcetera. I make goals because they motivate me and force me to be productive. And I post them online for a bit of accountability (and public shaming when necessary).

So, how did I do with the last quarter of 2018?

Goal #1 was to write A Promise to Keep, which is the sequel to Return to Sherwood--which incidentally will be published later this year! Keep your eyes peeled, folks! Anyway, the question is, did I write A Promise to Keep? And the answer is, I wrote most of it. I'm over 60,000 words into this novel, but I haven't reached the end yet. This is going to be my longest book to date.

Goal #2 was to become familiar with IngramSpark, seeing as I intend to publish Return to Sherwood and all future novels through them. I did not, however, do this.

Goal #3 was to update all things to Mandi Grace...which I didn't actually do in 2018. I started this project, but never finished it.

Goal #4 was outlining The Cure, a fantasy novel I hope to eventually write one day. I did not outline this novel.

Goal #5 was to world build for that fantasy novel I expect to write someday...I did not do this either.

Goal #6 was, of course, to keep up with social media and vlogs. This was hit and miss as always.

Well, the last quarter of the year looks on paper like I did nothing. But the fact remains that I wrote over 60,000 words in A Promise to Keep, and I'm not at all disappointed with my work ethic. Goals 4 and 5 were postponed until I finished the novel I'm writing, and I haven't finished yet because it is a much longer story than I anticipated.

Now, what are my goals for the first three months of this brand new year? And have I, in fact, already completed some of them? Why, yes. Yes, I have. That's a first.

Finish A Promise to Keep  I am so close to being done with the first draft of this novel! I just need to actually finish it.

Explore IngramSpark  If I plan on publishing anything this year, as I most certainly do, I definitely need to do my research and get comfortable with the publishing process on this new platform.

Outline The Cure  This all depends on if I actually finish what I have now dubbed 'the never-ending novel', but assuming I do reach a conclusion with A Promise to Keep, I will move on to my fantasy novel.

Change everything to Mandi Grace  Already done! Just finished that project today, in fact.

Worldbuild The Cure  A very important step to any fantasy novel...which will only take place if I finish A Promise to Keep. Sometimes I feel like I'm basically putting my whole life on hold until I finish that novel. We'll get there....we'll get there.

Edit Return to Sherwood  A crucial step to publishing a book. I am going to get Return to Sherwood out to my editors and see what happens. Hopefully it isn't the worst book ever written. We shall see.

Read/Edit books More than one amateur author has asked me to inspect their work recently, and I haven't been great about finishing those projects. So I will do that this quarter, for sure.

Of course I will be trying to keep up with social media and vlogs as well.

I didn't put "Publish Return to Sherwood" on this list because a publication date depends almost entirely on my editors right now. Therefore, Return to Sherwood will have to wait until the second or third quarter of the year. We'll see what happens. I'll keep you posted.

So that's that. I didn't do many goals in the last quarter of 2018, but I did write a whole bunch of words. I anticipate the first quarter of 2019 will be much more productive.

In the meantime, Happy Writing, everybody!