Confessions of An Adventure Writer Who Disdains Change

by Elizabeth Van Tassel

 

I’ve lived through death-defying moments ducking from flames as we survived a wildfire, losing every possession and our home in one day, working in South America and had my hotel surrounded by machine guns going off at night and rioting. I’ve been closeted in a hospital room with family living on the edge of life and death, gotten on stage in front of hundreds, held thousands of dollars of pink and colored diamonds and a Faberge Egg, and have moved fifteen times in my lifetime all over the country. I write for tweens and teens about Indiana-Jones-style adventures in other worlds and nonfiction to encourage families to live with resilience after big life changes. Yet, when I first hear that a test or trial is coming, I cringe. That moment of trust is still slightly terrifying! Can you relate?

 

The Choice

When a challenge comes I first need to assess it and understand the parameters—what’s the cost going to be? To me? To my family? Our finances and life in general? It can be an unwanted medical scare or a child needing more attention—an extraordinary life event or amazing opportunity. It doesn’t even have to be all negative. It’s just the pain and distortion of comfort with change that gets me. I find it slightly humorous that I can imagine all kinds of terrors and torture, beauty and gems, and poignant lessons for my characters, yet I really don’t like having to endure them myself.

 

The Hovering

In every kind of change, there’s the point of acceptance. Now you understand it involves a move across the country, a whole new diet, a drastic budget change, or a huge open door you never could have dreamed up. The latter is more fun, of course, but in a walk of faith there’s a moment like watching a seagull hover in the wind currents at the beach, circling, wings spread wide. The winds whisper …

Will you accept or fight me?

Will you seek wisdom or do this on your own strength?

Will you allow others to bless you in this transition?

Will you be bold with your feelings or hold them inside?

 
In this hovering state, you meet the Maker, the Designer who holds the fiber of your integrity in one hand, and the ability to create in the other. He wants to shape and mold you. Will you be pliable?

I believe it’s a conscious choice at this point to decide to live a vibrant life. Resilience is found in those moments. Resilience is made in that crucible of belief and willingness to be open to change. I don’t have to like it, but I know its voice well. I won’t refuse the whispers that the Lord brings that can open doors I never would have dreamed, whether through pain or through perseverance.

 

The Change

You can feel yourself stretching. It is often uncomfortable and brings humbling times where you’re at a total loss. You can truly no longer go it alone on your own strength. You’ve not only come to the end of the rope, but the rope is waving in the breeze, floating away. You’re just living in the trust-zone.

I am right there now. We are getting ready for move number sixteen, living on wisps of trust with a new job, new life, new city, so many things all at once will be new. It is very tempting to question and even when there’s been significant signs of affirmation, it still
makes cringe. Someone else will live in our home, walk our paths, feel the Southern California sunshine in my place. You can even meet skeptics and others with difficult journeys where you’re headed.

But all I know is one simple truth.

I’d rather be walking where the Lord directs my path, than anywhere outside of it that seems easier or more comfortable. Jesus is found in those moments of trust. He’s at work inside of me and our family and is being the wonderful Craftsman that He is. Chiseling away at my inadequacies, making a whole new life ready. Ready for change.

Are you ready for change? Do you love the fresh experiences it brings or want to hide in a corner? How have you seen fingerprints of faith on your own journey of change and growth?

 

 

Author Bio: 

Resilience Expert Elizabeth has lived a life with diamonds, wildfires, and miracles. The gemologist and communication specialist has held a modern-day Faberge egg, played with pink diamonds, and spoken to hundreds of people about adventures with heart. She winds her tales of wondrous gems and destructive loss into fantastic fantasy for teens and tweens, and meaningful nonfiction for adults.

But it’s not all sparkle. Elizabeth has found gems of true meaning as a wildfire survivor who lost every possession. She has helped her family through horrific medical traumas with her son almost dying, and her husband’s stroke. Determined to thrive, rather than just get by, now she spots potential as much as she finds inclusions in her microscope. Her creative eye and stories of survival help others to rise above circumstances and begin meaningful life changes. She also speaks, hosts classes, and blogs for adults and kids about how to live a resilient life.

Starting in April, Elizabeth is featuring a guest-blog series on Thorn & Vine with terrific authors sharing their own stories of resilience and invites you to participate at Elizabeth Van Tassel.com

 

LINKS

(http://elizabethvantassel.com/) where you can sign up to receive the posts to your email personally. She hosts a YouTube channel and interviews inspirational people, actors, and authors to encourage your journey (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbfGSIRoGjwywnyAto0IQKA) and family-friendly or beauty inspired activities to lift your perspective. Her Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/elizabethvantassel/?hl=en) features moments of beauty and inspiration, as well as gems from her gemology life to dazzle and delight. Catch her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ElizVanTassel) too!

 

Confessions of a Recently Married 20-Something

My name is Adrienne Niceley–I mean Rollick. Still getting used to that. I got married in November 2016 to my hero, David.

Most people when reading that will get visions of sunshine and roses and smiles and sparkly rings. But for us, things haven’t been quite that shiny from the beginning.  

We met online through The One Year Adventure Novel community. Tried a relationship, and it failed. A little while later tried again. And, while it worked, (obviously) it was hard. David lived hundreds of miles away in Kansas while I lived in Kentucky. Our relationship was long distance for almost a year. And if you’ve never been in a long distance dating relationship, let me tell ya, it’s tough as nails.

Because of the distance, the time commitment for our relationship was larger than a normal one, and that, paired with my part-time job, family commitments, and volunteer conference work, took it’s tole on me both physically and creatively.

Now, I’m at the other side of the taxing journey, and I stand before you a recently married 20-something who is … struggling.

Why?

Being an adult and dealing with life and building a marriage all while desperately trying to fulfill the longing in my soul to just create drags me down more often than I’d like to admit.  It’s hard when you have ten loads of laundry on your bedroom floor and three days worth of dishes piled on your counter tops, and all you want to do is run after your dreams of becoming a published author and small business owner.

Life has a way of slowly sucking away at your creativity, joy, and time no matter what stage of the journey you are in.

But today I am also celebrating.

Because I am more myself now than I have been in three years. I am brainstorming again, and my writer’s brain is churning out a story that I am genuinely excited over. I’m reading, knitting, crocheting, cooking–all the things I was too exhausted or too preoccupied to do for the past couple years are all coming back, even if it’s not as much as I would like.  I am building a marriage with my husband that we can be proud of and planning adventures for us to go on together.

The seasons of life are a mixture of the good and the bad, and, more often than not, they show up at about the same time. I’m learning that keeping fast hold on the good isn’t always easy, but it’s abundantly worth it.

 

Bio:

Adrienne has often been compared to Anne of Green Gables. Although she’s never desired to sleep in a wild cherry tree, she has yearned to use stories as a way of reaching out to others and pointing them to God. A student of The One Year Adventure Novel, Adrienne has been pursuing the art and craft of writing fiction for seven years, and is involved in several writing communities. A newly wed, Adrienne is currently working on settling into her new life as a wife and homemaker, as well as getting back to her passions of writing and yarn creations. Visit Adrienne at https://thestorytopian.wordpress.com/

 

Confessions of a Lazy Mom

by Tabitha Caplinger

 

Hi! My name is Tabitha, and I am not a Pinterest-perfect mother. I am, in fact, a lazy mom. Feel free to judge me if you wish. My best friend is also a lazy mom. Her name is Holly. You can judge her too.

We spent the other evening listing the things we have done as parents that most would consider lazy. I won’t tell you specifically which of us did what, but here is the list I have compiled to give you a glimpse of our lazy choices. (For reference sake our kids are all between the ages of 4 and 8.)

  1. Letting our kids drink our drink because we didn’t want to get up and get them their own. (You’ve done it and you know it.)
  2. Making a husband bathe the children in order to eat ice cream alone. (Tell me you understand.)
  3. Buying 3 pizzas from Little Caesar’s so we don’t have to cook all weekend. (You’ve got to admit that one is genius.)
  4. Eating cereal for dinner because we just can’t adult anymore that day. (Not healthy cereal either. I’m talking Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch.)
  5. On the topic of food … popsicles for breakfast because it gets us to the coffee faster. (To be fair, these were real fruit/veggie pops with no added sugar.)
  6. Two Words. Youtube Kids. (That and chocolate milk, and we just bought ourselves an extra hour of sleep.)
  7. Telling our kids that playgrounds at fast-food restaurants are closed for cleaning so we don’t have to go in to play. (Lying is bad, we know that, but we also tell our kids there’s a tooth fairy and Santa so the line here is already a wobbly one.)
  8. Pretending we couldn’t smell the poopie diaper and then passing the kid to our husbands because whoever discovers it has to change it. (We know you’ve done this one too.)
  9. Setting up the pantry so the kids can get snacks by themselves. (This one isn’t so much lazy as strategic.)
  10. Making our kids think we’re horrible at reading instructions so we don’t have to help put Legos together. (I mean, there’s like a million pieces, We just … we can’t.)

 

Are you judging us yet? Please don’t misunderstand, I love my kids. Holly loves hers. Truly, we do. But we also love our sanity.

Want another confession? I don’t even feel guilty about it. (Holly doesn’t either.) I used to. I used to have horrible mom guilt. Especially after seeing someone post the craft they did with their kids, or their fabulous day spent at the park or museum. I felt so bad that I wasn’t the type of mom who would jump at the chance to plan the classroom party or go on every field trip. I used to feel like maybe my kids were missing out on something, that their childhood wouldn’t be magical enough.

But you know what? My kids are awesome. They are independent. They can make their own lunch, put away their own laundry, make the beds, and help each other. They are musical and artistic and smart and kind and brave, and their childhood is magical. They have light saber fights in the living room. We dance while cooking dinner. They spent the weekend camping in a tent in the living room.

So, yes, my name is Tabitha and I am a lazy mom, and I am totally okay with that.

 

Author Bio:

Tabitha Caplinger is a wife, mom, youth pastor and professed tv addict. It’s seriously a problem but she doesn’t plan on getting help anytime soon. Mostly because she loves the stories. She can’t help but get lost in the worlds created and invested in the lives of the characters. She brings that same passion for the story to her own writing. The first book in her YA trilogy, The Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline, is currently available with the second book releasing in early 2017. Aside from writing and watching tv, Tabitha can be found singing off key and dancing in the kitchen or car with her two adorably sassy daughters and awesome husband who she thinks is kind of cute.

You can find more information about Tabitha and her books at tabithacaplinger.com

Links:

Facebook: Tabitha Caplinger

Twitter: @Tab_Caplinger

Instagram: @Tab_Caplinger

Snapchat: pastortabitha

 

 

Confessions of a Part-Time Teleworker

by Gretchen E K Engel

 

My name is Gretchen and I’m a part-time teleworker and a full-time mom. That makes me 1.5 people. Sometimes it seems like it. I’m married to my college sweetheart and have two school-aged children. We moved to a small mountain town in Arizona eight years ago for my husband’s job. When we moved, I became a teleworker.

Five years ago I began writing. My first manuscript was a speculative fiction story with a real-world setting and a supernatural twist. Since then, I completed two sequels, a manuscript for a steam punk story, as well as several short stories that have been published. Currently, I’m writing a steampunk deconstruction of “Beauty and the Beast”. I’m active in Realm Makers, a regular contributor for New Authors Fellowship and the Scriblerians, which stems from my young adult writing group.

By day, I’m a chemical engineer who works as an environmental engineering consultant for a large engineering firm. My specialty is compliance, and my job consists of preparing permits, reports, and plans to keep clients out of trouble with the EPA. Day-to-day I’m a technical writer and Excel spreadsheet ninja.

By night, I’m a wife and mom. We don’t over-involve our kids. It’s sports (one per season) for our son and piano, dance, and AWANA for our daughter. This year I hung up my soccer mom tag and became a football mom, which was a fantastic experience.

 

The Good

My life is ideal. My position is professional and is 20-40 hours per week. My company is very pro-teleworker and work-life balance. In the past eight years, I’ve been promoted and given some exciting projects. At the same time, the less than 40 hours plus no commute gives me time to be a mom, wife, serve in ministry at our church, attend performances/practices/games, and of course write. My schedule is deadline driven and consequently pretty flexible.

 

The Bad

Flexible sometimes translates to erratic by day, week, and month. The first four months of the year are “compliance season.” Federal, state, and local reports for the previous year are due during that window. November and December are sometimes slow. The first of the month is busier. Mondays and most Wednesdays my most structured days. Fridays are quiet.

 

The Ugly

I’m not a flake—really! However, I don’t commit to steady volunteer roles because of my work schedule. It has to be something really special. Lots of guilt when I offer to help friends but have limited availability. Honestly, my day job often has to take priority. Remember, I work for a large company with prominent clients. They don’t understand “I can’t turn in the report because I have to run a sick friend’s errands.” Callous maybe but real. The good thing is with time management, I can usually plan out my week to accommodate making meals, etc. but am not the best person to rely on in a pinch.

 

What does a day in my life look like?

0645-0900 (I prefer military time) – I get up in time to see my son off on the bus. Some mornings I get up earlier to make my son and husband breakfast others I sleep in until about 0700. Coffee is my first priority. Cattle prodding my daughter to get ready and eating breakfast are second. This is my Bible study time at our kitchen island, which includes homework for church leadership training. Occasionally, I write. Recently, I uninstalled Facebook and except for a quick check of work e-mail, I remain electronics free. My daughter gets on the bus at 0815. I continue Bible study or get ready and start my work day. Arizona doesn’t do daylight savings time; part of the year I have calls at 0800 but not until 0900 the remainder.

0900-1600 – The bulk of my work day. I run and exercise, so it’s not unusual for me to fit in a 3-4 mile run or yoga, etc. and a quick lunch. I try to not leave my house for errands. It disrupts the rhythm of my workday, which also includes housework like laundry and dishes.

1600-2200 –  Depends on the day. I work until about 1730 or when one of the kids has an activity. My iPad with Scrivener goes whenever I’m shuttling kids. Piano and dance are great times to squeeze in a few words. Tuesdays I go to the gym after my daughter’s dance class. Wednesdays it’s piano and AWANA. Other days it’s dinner, homework, piano practice, and sports depending on the season; occasionally I work in the evenings. My son is in bed by 2100, but my daughter is a night owl (Where does she get that?) and is hard to wrangle to bed.

2200-0100 – peace and quiet. All are in bed and I do the bulk of my writing. I read for a few minutes before bed.

“It’s complicated” describes my daily life. While not overly busy, I’m constantly “doing something”. Things that keep my sanity: coffee, Earl Grey or cold brew decaf for the afternoon, chamomile-lavender tea for nighttime, slow cookers, and audiobooks for housework multi-tasking. Scrivener is my favorite writing tool. I can write offline on my iPad with the iOS app while my daughter is at her activities, on the way to church, and other bits of time. I have Scrivener on my laptop for home.

 

Author Bio:

In high school, Gretchen E K Engel competed to write her English teacher’s favorite essays and earn highest marks in physics. Science won over the arts, and Gretchen became a chemical engineer. An environmental consultant by day and speculative fiction writer by night, she has authored hundreds of technical documents and several short stories.

 

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/gretchen.engel

https://twitter.com/GretchenEKEngel

http://gretchenekengel.com/

Also blogs at

http://thescriblerians.wordpress.com/

https://newauthors.wordpress.com/

Confessions of a Dreamer in Search of Wonder

by Patrick Carr

Most of my dreams are unpleasant. I don’t know if I’m alone in that because, frankly, I don’t want to know. Yet, I suspect that like a lot of people my brain goes to work at night trying to find solutions to the conflicts and confrontations we experience during the day. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a math teacher in an urban school setting, so I live, eat, drink, and breathe the pressure that comes with public school education every day. Naturally, some of that stress spills over into my sleep.

But there are times I have these dreams filled with wonder and I wake and it’s as if I’m a child again experiencing the world for the first time. This in itself would hardly be worth mentioning except to say I hope everyone has them because I think they’re a gift from God. But as they say in the commercials “but wait, there’s more.”

These dreams, the ones I long for, these rare respites from thistles and thorns aren’t unconnected. Weird, right? I don’t mean that I will have continuing dreams several nights in a row, although I wish “wonder” would visit me that often. It’s stranger than that. Years, sometimes many years, will go by and a long-forgotten dream will come back to me and pick up where it left off, like a favorite college-friend who drops in on your doorstep unexpectedly to say hello.

I had one of these sublime visitations last night, which is why I’m writing about it. My amazement and longing is still so fresh, I doubt if I could write about anything else. What fills me with wonder? That the answer is surprising to me perhaps reveals how little I know myself, but to understand last night’s dream, I will have to relate the details of its predecessor.

I find myself in a library. It’s not overly large and certainly not modern. There are no computer stations and there are all these old-fashioned card files to help the patrons find their books. The shelves are hardwood and they lacquer on them is dark with age. Though well-lit, the library has a bit of a dusty smell and the books are all hard-bound copies and the binding is the heavy duty type with embedded fabric without ornamentation. Only the titles are on the cover.

I love libraries, especially one with hardbacks and I’m browsing through the shelves when I find a series of thick books in my favorite genre by an author I’ve never heard of before. I pick up the first book in the series and I start to read.

Boom.

The story is perfect. I’m so overwhelmed by it that I’m completely captivated. Not only does the story enthrall me, it gets inside of me. It makes me a better person. It’s literally the perfect story.

I’m filled with wonder.

I’ve lived and breathed fantasy for years. Why haven’t I heard of this story and this author before? Here I am, holding in my hands huge volumes of the best writing I’ve ever read and I’ve never even heard mention of the author. I sit on the floor, so lost in the writing that I don’t want to move, half-afraid the books might vanish.

The dream ends.

Now, understand, this dream came to me decades ago, but last night I got the sequel.

I’m wandering in the countryside. I live in Tennessee so there are a lot of places even close to Nashville that are half-a-breath away from being completely rural. For some reason in this dream I’m walking and I come upon a hollow. For those of you who don’t speak the southern vernacular, a hollow is the fold between two hills. Unless you go right up and into the crevice in the land, you’d never see whether or not there’s a house there.

I enter the hollow using a dirt road of southern red clay – there are hills all around – and I see a house. When I look at the mailbox, I realize it’s the home of the author of these amazing books. He lives here! I’ve stumbled on the home of the greatest fantasy author ever to set pen to paper.

It doesn’t matter that he’s not home. It’s the middle of the day and I know he’ll be back before long. I settle myself to wait for the man who wrote the story that got inside of me and filled me with wonder on every page.

And that, fortunately or otherwise, is where the dream ended. I don’t know what the author looks like. I don’t know if he’s a nice old man or curmudgeonly with age. I only know that I’m filled with wonder and longing this morning.

I’m also resisting the urge to interpret the dream. I have no desire to explain the points in both dreams and their obvious symbolism. They’ve worked their magic on me and I find myself unwilling to reduce my wonder to the level of prosaic explanations.

However, I will say that I hope and pray you have a similar experience. I hope you get to read the perfect story and find the author, even if it’s just in your dreams.

 

Author Bio:

Patrick W. Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of cold war tensions. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every three years until his father retired to Tennessee.

Patrick saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and has worked as a draftsman at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and consulted as an engineer.

Patrick’s day gig for the last eight years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz pianist, and he wrestles with the complexity of improvisation on a daily basis. While Patrick enjoys reading about himself, he thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.

www.patrickwcarr.com

Confessions of a Rail-Jumper

A few months ago I opened an Etsy shop and named it Jumping Rails. Part of that name choice came from an experience in which I’d jumped a fence to cross some train tracks despite the warning sign not to, but the deeper reason has to do with my path as a creative person. You see, I am constantly jumping rails from one pursuit to another.

Pretty much any time before my senior year of high school, had you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d have said, “Artist.” But after graduation, I honestly had no idea what direction I wanted to go. I still loved to draw, but didn’t like the idea of it becoming “work.” Art stayed a hobby for me, but it didn’t at all stay centered on drawing, even though drawing was the heart of what I considered true art.

Over the years, art has shifted from one thing to another for me. Some examples:

Drawing

Painting plaster figurines

Assembling a multitude of craft kits

Scrapbooking

Refinishing furniture

Building and sewing window treatments

More drawing

Writing

Making wands

Mixed media art

Acrylic painting

I’ve had to shed the strict “artist” label I’d held onto during my childhood and adolescence, but it’s come off layer by layer over many years. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for not sticking to one art form, worried that I was abandoning certain talents. I have wondered off and on what it says about me that I am constantly changing direction and focus. I’ve thought, “I must not be an artist anymore because it’s been so long since I’ve drawn,” all the while not realizing that all creative things are art as well in their own ways. The guilt was never quite strong enough to keep me from jumping, though. I have never been one to force creativity. I found inspiration and it called relentlessly.

It wasn’t until after I started writing that I finally began to see the connection. It finally sank in that I was using the same creative force to write stories as I had to draw portraits. And that same creative force was at work when I scrapbooked, or sewed, or reupholstered a set of dining room chairs. I also accepted that painting didn’t have to mean masterpieces; I didn’t have to be Da Vinci or Van Gogh. I could paint space ships and fairy trees and it still counted as art to me. I could glue burnt paper and brass keys to painted canvas as long as what I created made me happy and counted as art to me.

All of those things, all those art forms, are part of a giant rail system, but for so many years I thought to be a true artist I needed to stay on one track. Now, I’ve had time and life experiences that have shown me all the branches of creativity cross each other. (As we get older, we are more able to see just how complex life in general is, so carrying that over to art makes much more sense.) I’ve gotten to know other artists and creative people who have embraced the different aspects of their own natures, and I’ve learned from their examples. Now I know it’s perfectly okay to jump the rails from one track to another as long as I keep the train moving.

 

 

Author Bio:

Kat Heckenbach spent her childhood with pencil and sketchbook in hand, knowing she wanted to be an artist when she grew up—so naturally she graduated from college with a degree in biology, went on to teach math, and now homeschools her two children while writing. Her fiction ranges from light-hearted fantasy to dark and disturbing, with multiple stories published online and in print. Her YA fantasy series Toch Island Chronicles is available in print and ebook. Enter her world at www.katheckenbach.com.

Amazon page for Toch Island Chronicles ebooks on sale for $1.39 each- https://www.amazon.com/s?ref=series_rw_dp_labf&_encoding=UTF8&field-collection=Toch+Island+Chronicles&url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text

Confessions of an Independent Woman

by Emilie Hendryx

Hello, my name is Emilie and I am an Independent woman … but sometimes I think I’m too independent for my own good.

That may sound funny—especially in the atmosphere of today’s world. Women are encouraged, even pushed sometimes, to be independent. The more independent the better! A common phrase I hear is: “I don’t need a man to complete me.” Well, of course you don’t! You go, girl! But, at the sake of sounding a bit countercultural here, I want to look at the other side—dare I say, the downside?—to independence.

Note: This is not a political post. Really. I promise—it’s not! Secondary note: This is not about bashing men or other independent women. I feel very strongly in supporting other independent women! If anything, it’s a caution to myself and others like me to see our independence as a blessing and to use it wisely.

I enjoy my independence. I like the fact that I can make decisions on my own, do what I want, and rely on ME.  >insert finger snap here< But … the flip side of that is the occasional presence of self-doubt, feeling alone when it’s just me in my one-bedroom apartment, lugging heavy boxes/groceries/furniture in by myself, or wondering what I’m really doing with my life when everyone around me seems to be getting (or already is) married or having their first, second, or third child. Most of my adult friends are at a different stage in life. That’s good … but it’s also hard.

I’m an only child, and I think a lot of my independent mentality comes from strong parents who raised a strong daughter (thank you, Mom and Dad) and who encouraged me to know my own mind. I wouldn’t have it any other way! But, if they had done that and also instilled a sense of single-minded heroism in me, the type of “Emilie, you don’t need anyone—ever” kind of thinking, I’m not sure where I’d be today. Instead, they encouraged me in my independence while they encouraged my faith and my friendships, gave me help and advice, and portrayed a strong marriage ethic for me. Yes, they really are rock stars.

As I’ve gotten older though, I see my independence both helping and hindering me. It helps me when I face new things in life, turning to the Lord with a confidence that can only come through His strength. It helps me when I remember that He has made me the woman I am. I know I have what it takes to make it through whatever I need to (through Him). And it helps me when I decide to go to the movies alone and I’m reminded that it’s okay to be by yourself—that I am not less-than because I’m single or a woman.

But, this sneaky, old independence has its downsides too. When my independence get’s in the way of community, there’s a problem. When my independence incites arrogance in my heart, there’s a problem. When my independence allows thoughts of control, there’s a problem. And when my independence overshadows who I am: a woman who loves God and loves people, there’s a problem.

I am more than my independence. I am a child of God, one of many brothers and sisters around the world, and I am called to love. Sometimes that means giving up some of my independence and allowing others to help me even if it makes me feel “less in control”. Sometimes that means forcing myself to take a step back and listen to what others are saying—is my independence stifling them and their gifts? And sometimes it means being alone and resting in Him and seeing myself as needy—I need my Savior and His strength.

I’m Emilie, an independent woman who is dependent on a strong God and an amazing community of believers.

_____

Author Bio:

Emilie lives in Dayton, Ohio and fills her time with creative pursuits. She writes, takes pictures, designs, reads, plays guitar, and drinks too much coffee. She’s a member of ACFW and currently working on a romantic suspense novel and plotting a YA Sci-fi series. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Connect with Emilie:

Blog: www.eahendryx.blogspot.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/createxploreread

Twitter: www.twitter.com/eacreativephoto

Facebook: www.facebook.com/emiliehendryx

And check out her shops full of bookish things:

www.society6.com/emiliehendryx & www.etsy.com/shops/createexploreread

 

Confessions of a Closet Fanfiction Writer

“Please, please, can we have a Sega Genesis?” my brother wheedled. “I’ll buy it with my birthday money!”

Our parents hemmed and hawed. This was the 1990s. Focus on the Family had been cranking out anti-videogame propaganda for years–anything from it ruining a kid’s grades to being a gateway to porn. But finally they said that we could buy a Genesis on one condition: the approve the games we bought.

The light was green! We bought our first video game system (and every single system after that). We played Sonic the Hedgehog and Jurassic Park and the maddeningly difficult Disney games. Batman Forever became a fixture.

Then–horrors–one hot summer day, our parents decreed that we spent too much time on games. “One hour a day,” they admonished. “Go do something else.”

Mutinous, I stalked upstairs to my desk. As a homeschooler, I had a very nice desk where I did my school and drew pictures. I busted out a binder, filled it with loose-leaf notebook paper, and began writing a story that mixed my two loves at the time: Sonic the Hedgehog and Jurassic Park.

Fan fiction had entered my life.

It was years before I even knew the term fanfiction. I just wrote my Sonic stories and read them aloud to my siblings. I adapted the games into epic novels, mixed in elements from the cartoons, crossed over other games, Michael Crichton’s book on nanotechnology called Prey, anything I wanted. The story universe grew into a sprawling monster of a thing.

I taught myself to type so I could convert my terrible handwriting into neatly typed pages. I consumed every book on writing I could find. I learned HTML to build a Web 1.0 website where I could post my stories, and maybe even connect with other kids who wrote Sonic stories.

The 90s gave way to the 2000s. My crappy little website grew into a fair-sized fansite with a busy community of creatives. I kept writing. I really wanted to try to write something publishable, but I didn’t really know how to write outside the universe I had spent so much time building. I dabbled here and there with a few ideas, but nothing stuck.

Fast forward. I got married, closed my website, got a job, and generally moved on with life. But the writing bug never left. I just loved burrowing inside a universe and reconstructing it from the inside out.

After I wrote a few books in my husband’s Spacetime universe (note: still fanfiction), I finally figured out how to convert fanfiction into original fiction.

Spoilers: you don’t.

Your favorite character is still your favorite character, even with a bit of a facelift. Or even living in a different world. As long as you give yourself enough characterization hooks to constantly remind yourself of who this character really is on the inside, you can write something ‘original’ while still secretly writing your fanfics.

“Okay,” I said to myself. “I happen to love young adult paranormal romance. But I hate vampires. What if I used this one reformed villain from my fanfics, and the heroine thinks he’s a vampire, but he’s a different kind of monster?”

As I worked to translate my reformed villain from one universe to another, I had to do a tremendous amount of world building to explain how the magic worked, how he kept himself alive, and better yet, how the magic was killing the heroine. I wanted bees that collected magic, and I had to build explanations for that. Slowly my fanfic character became his own person–deeply flawed, deeply wounded, compellingly loveable.

I turned to my heroine. She needed to be just as interesting as the monster. In fact, the more opposite she could be, the better. I imported another of my fanfic characters, a spunky, spitfire girl whose attitude stemmed from her massive insecurity. She’s impulsive. She’s headstrong. She’s stubborn. And when she decides that the hero is a vampire, she’s bound and determined to prove that he is. Except that he’s actually something worse.

“And now,” I thought to myself, laughing, “which of my really bad guys can I bring in to make their lives miserable?”

The funny thing is, the villain of Malevolent isn’t from my fanfics at all. If anything, he’s inspired by Dr. Phoenix from N.D. Wilson’s Ashtown Burials series–gentle, kind, and utterly ruthless.

As the books went on, the characters really stood on their own feet. The fanfic template faded. But it jumpstarted the delight, that kernel of joy that kept me up late, typing words until I had callouses on my fingertips.

Better yet, the readers enjoyed the book, too. They had no idea who these characters were originally. Heck, even in my fanfics, these characters barely resemble their official selves. My character arcs had been that deep. And now, given new life in a new setting, these characters whom I had loved for years could charm new readers.

So, if you, like me, are having trouble switching from fanfic to original fiction, just do it like this. Trick yourself. Use your fanfic characters, but dress them up so that nobody recognizes them except you.

It also works for old projects that you would like to rewrite and publish. Take only the gold from those early drafts–only the things that you love, love, love. Toss the rest and start fresh. Your readers will thank you.

 

Author Bio:

Kessie Carroll is a second-generation homeschooler. When she’s not chasing kids, she’s writing, drawing, blogging, or playing Minecraft with her hubby. Catch her online at her favorite haunts:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kmcarrollauthor

Twitter: @netraptor01

Blog: kmcarrollblog.wordpress.com

Malevolent: https://kmcarrollblog.wordpress.com/malevolent/

Confessions of an OCD Writer

Confessionsof an OCD Writerby Mike Duran

In the summer of 2010, I began experiencing some weird medical problems. I am not a hypochondriac and, on average, see the doctor about once or twice a year. That changed in 2010. I began experiencing severe dizzy spells. Debilitating, occasionally. Sometime after that, it was compounded by tingling and numbness in my hands and feet. Eventually, my entire body. The icing was a visit to Urgent Care one afternoon where I was promptly given a sedative and exhorted to pay attention to my health.

What followed were batteries of tests: bloodwork, MRI, brain scan, etc.  During the process, I’ve seen a neurologist, audiologist, and a dietitian. Along with my regular doctor.  After these tests had rolled in, accompanied by significant head-scratching on the part of the professionals, my doctor asked:

Mr. Duran, is there anything that has changed this year in your life? Your diet? Your work? Your living arrangements? Your schedule? Your routine? Anything that may have triggered this?

And then it hit me.

I said, Doc, I am a writer. I have been contracted for two books, one which I am currently attempting to finish. I work 40 hours a week outside my home. I wake up at 3-4 AM every morning and blog or write until I leave for work at 5:30 AM. When I get home at 5 PM, I check emails, mumble at my wife, and attempt to resume writing. You might also want to know that I am obsessive compulsive, an insomniac, a perfectionist, and I feel guilty when I relax.

He leaned back from his computer and squinted. Mr. Duran, stress does strange things to people.

Stress.

It’s been a humbling admission for me. I’ve always fancied myself as the tough guy who could soldier through all kinds of adversity, pain, and difficulty. They didn’t nickname me Bull Durham on our softball team for nothing. So who would’ve guessed that it was writing that would break me.

Little did I know when I answered the “call to write” that part of the plan would be to help me confront … myself. Like Dr. Jekyll, I was forced to confront a “dark side,” a side of me that obsesses over doing things right, that nitpicks details, that lies awake at night futilely attempting to dot every “i,” cross every ‘t,” and tie up every loose end.

This admission—the admission that my obsessive/compulsive tendencies were killing me—was not that great for my writing. It forced me to slow down. It forced me to think about something other than stories and characters and plots. It made me manage something more important—my health. In the “age of indie,” where authors are repeatedly instructed to crank out novels and expand their back catalog, slowing down is, sadly, viewed with suspicion. But that’s exactly what I needed to do.

It’s led to several admissions and lifestyle adjustments designed to help me stay out of Urgent Care. It’s about juggling two careers without dying. It’s about realizing I have a life outside of writing, and that my literary canon is will never exceed my being. It’s about smelling the roses before I’m pushing up daisies.

It’s led to several significant changes that have helped me cope with my kneejerk instinct to over-analyze:

  • I gave myself permission to not regularly blog
  • I gave myself permission to not answer email in a timely fashion
  • I gave myself permission to write something half-ass
  • I gave myself permission to lounge on the couch and watch TV instead of write
  • I gave myself permission to read whatever I want and not just the stuff in my genre
  • I gave myself permission to turn down some writing and promotional opportunities
  • I gave myself permission to embarrass myself and be brutally honest whenever I need to (like I have here)

Yes, writing this “confession” has taken time away from writing my novel or blogging. Yes, some people may read this and think less of me and my professional advice. Which is fine.

Take that, Mr. Hyde!

 

11078075_1482267868700841_7310025605731169301_oAuthor Bio:

MIKE DURAN is a novelist, blogger, and speaker, whose short stories, essays, and commentary have appeared in Relief Journal, Relevant Online, Novel Rocket, Rue Morgue, Zombies magazine, and other print and digital outlets.

He is the author of THE GHOST BOX (Blue Crescent Press, 2014), the first in an urban fantasy series, the supernatural thriller THE RESURRECTION (Realms, 2011), an e-book fantasy novella entitled WINTERLAND, THE TELLING (Realms May 2012), and a short story anthology SUBTERRANEA (Blue Crescent Press, 2013).

Mike is an ordained minister and lives with his wife and four grown children, grandchildren, and assorted beasties, in Southern California. You can learn more about Mike Duran, his writing projects, favorite music, cultural commentary, and arcane interests, at www.mikeduran.com.

Confessions of a Shelf-Elf Mom

by Lindsay Franklin

 

My name is Lindsay, and I’m an Elf on the Shelf mom. This is where you all give a resounding chorus of “Hi, Lindsay!” and then we discuss the tribulations of recovering from shelf-elfdom.

Except I’m not in recovery. I love my elf. Her name is Wendy, and we have excellent adventures together. Like this one:

wendy-with-killer-bunny

That was the time Wendy hopped in my Rabbit of Caerbannog slippers and terrorized the boys’ knight figurines. Or there was this one:

steampunk-wendy

That was when Wendy wanted a steampunk costume just like mine.

Last year, Wendy got super lonely and joined ElfMatch.com (no, it’s not a real thing). She met some interesting characters during her online dating escapades.

wendy-on-elf-match

elf-match-screenshot

But then she met the love of her life, Josepher Twinkletoes.

wendy-and-josephers-first-date

And on Christmas morning, they made it official.

wendys-wedding

Not only do my kids have Wendy and Josepher’s antics to look forward to now, but Josepher’s little sister, Julee, moved in, too. Our house has turned into an elf party this December. Okay, so maybe I do have a little bit of a shelf-elf addiction. Either that, or I really love to tell stories. We’ll go with the latter.

So, what’s my confession? Aside from the fact that the whole world now knows I’m a little nuts … Shelf-elf haters bum me out. For every one social media post I see from a shelf-elfing parent, I see five or six people talking about how much they hate Elf on the Shelf. I’ve even seen suggestions that parents who “inflict” EOTS on their children are bad parents (see also: Santa Claus). Hopefully these things are said tongue-in-cheek, but still. It stings a little when you’re an enthusiastic EOTSer and your own friends loudly voice such opinions.

Here’s the thing: There are innumerable holiday traditions spanning most cultures across the globe. No one family participates in all of them. And that’s totally okay. It’s okay if going caroling is something you can’t imagine skipping. It’s also okay if you wouldn’t be caught dead singing to strangers in freezing weather. It’s okay if there’s that one cheesy Christmas movie that absolutely makes the season feel right to you. And it’s okay if that same movie makes another person want to take a nap.

There’s no single correct way to celebrate the fun, sometimes silly, traditions surrounding Christmas. There’s only what your family enjoys, and each family’s unique culture leads to gloriously different incarnations of the same traditions, as well as eschewing some traditions altogether. My EOTSing doesn’t look quite like my friends’, but I love to see what mischief their little guys get into. And I love to see my non-EOTS friends celebrate in their own special ways. Tree-cutting and trimming, outdoor light displays, candlelight church services, over-the-top décor, subtle décor, even no décor and a more solemn take on the season.

My Christmas wish? That we allow our friends (and strangers) the space to enjoy the holidays with their families the way they deem best. Because it’s all just fluff surrounding the core of Christmas—and that core has nothing to do with trees, tins of cookies, twinkle lights, or Toys R Us. So why hate on each other’s traditions? Ain’t nobody got time for that sort of Christmas negativity.

What is your family’s favorite Christmas tradition?

 

 

l-franklin-headshotAuthor Bio:

Lindsay Franklin is an award-winning author, freelance editor, and homeschooling mother of three. Her debut fantasy novel and first book of devotionals for young women both release in 2017. She managed the flash fiction mayhem for two years at Splickety Publishing Group as Senior Operations Manager, is a Bible college student, and has taught fiction to homeschooled junior high and high school students. She may or may not be addicted to organic coffee. Don’t tell anyone. Connect with Lindsay on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, or her website. You can also follow her wombat on Instagram. Yeah, you read that right.