NaNoWriMo: Pressing on…

Well, we’ve passed the midpoint of November, so of course I should have nearly 30,000 words written so far.  I don’t. I’m a little behind.  By about 12,000 words.  However, the good news is that I’m feeling better, I actually have about 45,000 words written in my story, I’ve passed the midpoint and I’m getting into some good stuff.  So even though I’m dreadfully behind, I am choosing to stay positive and believe that I can still finish this thing by the end of the month.  I’ve been wrestling with a particularly difficult plot element for some time now and I think I may have a solution for that.  Last night at church while I was sitting in the class I’m taking on worldviews I had a moment of inspiration (completely unrelated to the class topic) that provided a possible way to deal with my problem.  I’m very excited about it, even though it will require significant rewriting of what I’ve already written.  However, November is not National Novel Rewriting Month (I think that might be December, unofficially), so I’m going to move on with new words and fix my existing words later.

This is also a good time for an announcement: If you usually read these posts when they magically appear as a note on Facebook, this is probably the last time you will be able to do so.  Facebook has announced that they will no longer automatically import blog posts into notes.  So beginning with my next post, I will be sharing via a link on my Facebook page and I would be so happy if you would follow those thinks and continue reading the random meanderings of my mind.  Enjoy!

NaNoWriMo: 10,000 Words In

When I started National Novel Writing Month 10 days ago, I anticipated there would be some obstacles I would have to overcome in order to finish.  I did not expect to immediately get sick with a lingering respiratory infection or hit a wall (figuratively) about 5,000 words in, but so far that is what has happened.  In spite of those things, I have reached the 10,000 word mark.  I’m a little over 5,000 words behind my target word count at this point, but I am comforting myself with the knowledge that I have never written 10,000 words in 10 days or less at any other time in my life.  Also, I’m not hopelessly behind.  I’ll just have to step up my game a bit in order to catch up.

One thing I have learned so far is that writing is hard.  It is one of the most natural things in the world for me to do, but it isn’t easy.  I confess I often read books and find myself thinking, “I could have written this better.”  It’s one thing to see ways that an existing story could be improved, but it’s quite another to invent a story completely out of my own head.  It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun and exciting one, and I am loving it.  Most of what I’m writing right now is pretty bad, so none of you will be reading it any time soon (and you can thank me for that, trust me), but I’m confident that it will improve in the rewrite process.

Now that I’m starting to feel better, I’m looking forward to charging ahead and getting caught up, and then finishing this thing.  10,000 words down, 40,000 to go.  Obstacles?  Bring ’em on!

NaNoWriMo: Challenge Accepted

For most people, November brings to mind images of family time, a chill in the air, football, and turkey. I have recently discovered that for the writing community, November means National Novel Writing Month: a totally insane writing frenzy during which both first-time and experienced authors take the plunge and attempt to write a novel (or 50,000 words of one, which really isn’t enough words for anything but a children’s novel) in one month. It’s exhilarating, scary, and exhausting…or so I hear. Although I had heard of NaNo before, I had not participated because honestly, it was too scary. But then last month, the writer’s chat that I have recently joined picked NaNo for a topic, and I was intrigued. Then I was excited. Then I was terrified. Then I was hooked.

I have been writing for years – mostly in secret, because apparently writing is not something that rational people do for a living – but I have never finished a novel. It’s sad but true. Recently I’ve realized that starting in on a story, then setting it aside for a year or two, then coming back to it and deciding I have to rewrite it before I can continue, then setting it aside again, then starting back and rewriting it again was really not getting me anywhere. I got over that and decided to start a different story. Now I’m 30,000 words into it, which is more words than I’ve ever written in a single story before. So here’s my confession: instead of starting again with a totally new story, like you’re supposed to do in NaNo, I’m going to start from where I am in my story and finish it. 80,000 words should do nicely. When I first started thinking about doing NaNo, I was going to follow the rules and start fresh. But I like this story, and I really just want to finish one before I start on something new. I think in some ways it will make the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month more difficult, because I’m already dealing with some plot hang-ups and wondering just exactly where I’m going to go from here. Still, 50,000 new words is 50,000 new words, and that’s what I’m going to do. I wrote 1,000 this morning. Only 49,000 more to go. Wish me luck!

This is who I am

Who am I?  Such a little question, but the answer can be so many things.  Who I am is more than the things I do, the (sometimes stupid) things I say, how I spend my time, or the people in my life…although all those things make up who I am.

Do you ever wonder who you are?  Or who you are meant to be?  Or do you think you know, but are you afraid to admit it to anyone else?  Because putting it out there, saying “This is who I am,” can be a scary thing.  What if you make that announcement and then no one likes it?  Or likes you because of it?  Or what if you don’t even like it very much?  Or you wish you were more than who you have become?  What then?

In thinking about this, I can’t help but think of the ultimate “I AM.”  He wasn’t afraid to put Himself out there.  All throughout the Bible, God tells us who He is.  He is holy.  He is righteous.  He can’t stand sin, but in His grace He provides a path for the sinner.  When Moses asked Him, “Who should I say you are?” He answered: “I AM WHO I AM.”  Unapologetic.  Unafraid.  He simply is who He is.  And yet, He cares for each of the people He created so much that He gave each of us an identity, too.  We are made in His image.  As His Holy Spirit flows through us, we reflect that image to the world around us.  We are not cookie-cutter copies, but something different.  Something richer and so much more creative.  God is so infinite that we can all be made in His image and still be individuals, with a unique set of gifts and personality quirks that can all be used for His glory.

So who am I?  Can I tell you a secret?  I have always known who I am, but it has always scared me.  For years I tried to be something else, anything else, as long as it fit into whatever I thought was “normal.”  I took my identity and called it a dream, an ambition, something that I would maybe do someday if I had enough time or money.  I set it aside for awhile because I knew there were other things God wanted me to do, but it never changed.  Now I’ve grown up a bit, I’m a little braver than I used to be, a little more confident that God has a plan and He can do whatever He wants to in me, and a little more willing to step out of “normal” and into the unknown.  I believe that God is giving back what I gave Him years ago.  I don’t know what He’ll do with it, but this is what I know: I am a writer.  People can attach any number of labels to that.  I might be a good writer, or a bad writer, or a crazy writer, or a novel writer, or a freelance writer, or maybe even a published writer, but none of that changes who I am.  Of course I am other things, too.  Look on Facebook, Twitter, or my profile on this blog and you can see all those other things.  But the scary secret is out.  The truth is, whatever else I may also be, I am a writer.  Always have been, always will be.  I have always known.  Now you know, too.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Time for another confession: Mythology fascinates me. I have pretty early memories of reading the sections on Greek gods in my illustrated encyclopedia. (Yes, I spent many happy hours reading that encyclopedia. I doubt this surprises anyone) The Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters sparked my interest in Egyptian archaeology and mythology. So naturally when I discovered that the author of the delightful Percy Jackson series, which moves Greek gods and goddesses into modern America, had started a series involving the Egyptian pantheon, I just had to read it. I was not disappointed.

The Red Pyramid is written as a transcription of a recording by Carter and Sadie Kane, a brother/sister duo raised separately following their mother’s tragic death when Sadie was six. While Carter followed his globe-trotting American archaeologist father on various research expeditions, Sadie lived in England with their mother’s parents. Six years later, during their Christmas visitation time, their worlds are blown apart again – literally. During a visit to the British Museum, their father Julius performs some strange ancient magic and releases five imprisoned gods including the evil and powerful Set, Lord of Chaos. Set imprisons Julius in a magical sarcophagus, and it is up to Carter and Sadie to find and free him. There is quite a bit more to the story, of course, including a long-lost uncle, a mysterious guardian cat, and a host of enemies like ancient magicians and minor gods. Add some great unfolding destiny, off-beat humor, and the possibility of mass annihilation to the mix, and you have a really fun, action-packed thrill ride that spans the globe, stopping at several well-known landmarks across the way.

I really enjoy Riordan’s style. He writes with fast-paced, slightly-sarcastic humor that I appreciate. I also like the way he describes places. Whether it’s Central Park, the Cairo airport, or White Sands National Monument, you get the feeling that he’s actually been there. Without wasting words on flowery language, he paints pictures of people and places in such a way that reading his books is almost like watching a movie. It’s fun.

So if you think ancient mythological gods and goddesses make for good entertainment, check out The Kane Chronicles. I’m looking forward to reading The Throne of Fire, the next installment in the series.

Green Bay Packers: World Champions!

I love football. I didn’t grow up watching it, but I learned to love it during my freshman year of college and have loved it ever since. And for as long as I have been a football fan, I have been a Green Bay Packers fan. People sometimes ask me why, and I can’t really give a reasonable answer. But then, what part of being a fanatic is reasonable? It defies reason or logic. At the time, the Packers were popular in the town where I lived because their colors were the same as the local high school team. Plus, the Packers had the best quarterback in the league. I love good quarterbacks, and Brett Favre was fun to watch. So the Packers became my team. I’ve never been to Green Bay or even to Wisconsin, but I do own a cheesehead.

I have always watched Packers games with passion and enthusiasm. Greg used to laugh at me because I would get angry and yell at the television when the opposing team made positive yardage. Now I only yell when the opposing team gets a first down. I think Greg still laughs, but I try to ignore him. I admit I’m a fairly recent convert to Packer fandom, having only been into football for about ten years. Still, I’ve had memorable moments. I watched the Monday night game when Antonio Freeman made that ridiculous catch and Al Michaels exclaimed, “He did what?!” I watched another Monday night game, right after Brett Favre’s father died, when the team rallied around him and they all played truly inspired football. I endured all the Brett Favre drama of the last few years. And tonight, I watched through moments of delight, anxiety, and finally triumph as the Packers beat the Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV, their first Super Bowl win since I have been a fan. Congratulations, Packers! I am so excited!

Is it worship?

This morning, my parent’s pastor, Wayne Barber, preached on worship. I have to admit I wasn’t paying much attention until he said one thing that really got me thinking. He said, “What we do here is not worship.” So what is worship? According to Wayne, what comes out of our mouths and how we live our lives is our worship. In Romans 12:1-2, the Bible specifies that “our spiritual act of worship” is being a living sacrifice, not conformed to this world but transformed by God. This goes so much deeper than what we do in a church “worship service,” that it makes what we do there seem shallow and trivial in comparison. This is why it doesn’t really matter what kind of worship service we have. If our hearts are right before God, our lives are lived in purity, and our speech is full of thankfulness, encouragement, and praise, then when we come together as a congregation to sing, God will be honored and praised. But if we focus our hearts on ourselves, live like the world, and speak words of bitterness, complaint, and strife, our “worship service” becomes a stench in God’s nostrils rather than a sweet fragrance rising to His throne.

We cannot truly worship together until we offer our hearts, our lives, and our relationships to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him.

Phantom Island: Wind by Krissi Dallas

I chose to read this book for two reasons. First, it was written by a friend of Greg’s, which made me curious. Second, it was fantasy. I am always a sucker for that. The only reason I didn’t jump to read it right away was because it was self-published, and as a total book snob I tend to stay away from self-published books. However, after resisting for awhile I finally gave in and ordered my copy from Amazon. It arrived, and I managed to devour it in a few days even with the time demands of a new baby in the house, proving to myself that even Katelyn isn’t strong enough to cure me of my hopeless addiction to fiction.

Wind is the first in (I assume) a four-part series. We are introduced to Whitnee Terradorra, the main character, and her two best friends, Morgan and Caleb, as they arrive at Camp Fusion where they are going to be mentors for the summer. The three met at the camp after sixth grade, have been inseparable ever since, and are now back to help troubled kids begin to find healing over the course of the summer. It is not long before Whitnee and her friends find much more than they bargained for, when they cross to the forbidden property across the river and suddenly find themselves on an Island that may or may not be a part of our world. There, they learn about life forces and prophecies, and Whitnee discovers that there is more to her life and her history than she had even guessed before. The story is full of lessons in friendship, trust, romance, and even a little magic (or at least something very like it). The ending is satisfactory, although there are plenty of ends left to pick up in the next book: Water. Like any good fan, I am now eagerly awaiting the next installment.

In spite of my snobbery when it comes to writing quality, I was favorably impressed with this book. Krissi writes very well, and I was completely caught up in the story after just a few chapters. One of my major issues with self-published books is the frequent and unfortunate lack of editing. Although Wind could have benefited from a little more polish, it did not suffer for the lack of it. I never had the unpleasant but all too frequent experience of being distracted by the story because of the writing which I’ve felt even while reading traditionally published fiction. Take Mercedes Lackey and Terry Brooks, for example. Mercedes Lackey is a good enough storyteller to almost make up for the fact that she sometimes writes poorly and apparently has a lousy editor, and Terry Brooks is just annoying. But I digress…

Altogether, I thought Wind was a well-written, imaginative, and engaging piece of youth fiction. It is pretty light-hearted, not too dark but not all cotton candy and rainbows, either. The world-crafting is excellent, the pace is good, there is some enjoyable humor and definitely plenty of conflict, mystery, and teen angst. I definitely recommend it for fans of the genre, and wish the author the best of luck in her future endeavors.

Summer Reading Project Book Seven: Anne of Ingleside

Unlike the previous books, which generally pick up where the last one left off, there is a gap of about 7-9 years between Anne’s House of Dreams and Anne of Ingleside. In that time, Anne and her growing family have moved from the little white house of dreams in Four Winds Point to Ingleside, “the big house,” in Glen St. Mary. She now has five children, with the sixth (and last!) on the way.

Anne of Ingleside begins and ends with stories about Anne, but the bulk of the book is about her children and the adventures of their young lives. They each have their own lively personalities, and are all blessed with the spark of fancy and faerie from their mother. This is a book about a large, well-to-do, loving family, and the little events that seem so significant and life-changing to little lives. Through everything that occurs, there is one constant: Anne, the caring, understanding mother, who manages to keep a straight face no matter how tempted she may be to laugh at the children’s little dramas. It is family life seen through rose-tinted lenses, but it is consistent with the rest of the series, because that is usually how Anne sees life.

Although there are still two books after this in the series, Anne of Ingleside is the last book that features Anne as a major character. This book serves as a sort of transition from Anne to her children as the driving force of the story. And the children are delightful. Walter is my particular favorite, but more on that later!

Summer Reading Project Book Six: Anne’s House of Dreams

And they lived happily ever after…

Anne finally marries her sweetheart, and they settle in Four Winds, at their little white house of dreams. The first months of marriage are sweet for the newlyweds, with all the joys of marriage and good friends. Somewhat isolated from the town of Glen St. Mary, they have a few neighbors who become dear friends: Miss Cornelia Bryant, Captain Jim, and Leslie Moore. Like Anne’s other hard-won friendships, her relationship with Leslie is very precious but also very complicated, due to Leslie’s difficult circumstances. Still, with Miss Cornelia’s juicy gossip and Captain Jim’s amazing stories, along with settling into life as a married woman, Anne finds plenty of joy.

This is sort of a bittersweet little book, because there is deep sorrow and strife in it, alongside the bright happiness. However, Anne and her new husband find that their love can withstand even the difficult times. It is “happily ever after,” but in a real-life sort of way. And of course, because Anne is Anne and she seems to attract romance wherever she goes, she more another opportunities to see things work out well for her friends – in ways even she could not have imagined.

This is one of the shorter books in the series. I read most of it on the plane from Texas to Massachusetts, and I did love it. L. M. Montgomery has a way of making even sad things seem sweet, which takes a lot of the sting out of them. By the end of this book it feels like Anne is really a complete person, all grown up and ready to guide a new generation through the wild beauty of life.