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.

Confessions of a Hybrid-Homeschooling Mom

goals-for-2017by Lisa Godfrees

 

I have two daughters, both of whom have been in public school until recently. Without going into the long story behind why, let me say that public school works very well for most students. In fact, my 7th grader excels in school and when given the option to be homeschooled, she decided to stay with her friends.

But some kids need a little more one-on-one time, or a different approach to learning, than a public school can accommodate. Such is the case with my 5th grader. While she misses recess, she is overall relieved not to be in the classroom, much preferring to be taught by Miss Mummy Pants (her teacher name for me—I have absolutely no idea why).

While I cannot claim to be an expert at homeschooling after less than a semester, I can offer some unique insights even in my short time. Feel free to add to it in the comments below.

 

Homeschool parents: Public school is not evil.

Some parents who have exclusively homeschooled have the biased view that sending a child to public school is inexplicably evil. And to listen to some of the people who speak at homeschool conferences, it’s no wonder parents hold that view. Homeschool associations that have fought for parental rights and seen the bad side of the system tend to have a jaded view of public education and its administrators.

Thankfully, I live in Texas which is still a conservative part of the Bible belt. In my experience, public school teachers and administrators do their best to offer safe and quality education away from the hot topics of gender and sex education. Many of the teachers/administrators my daughters have had are Christian. And thank God for that! Can you imagine what our school system would look like if no one involved in it were Christian?

 

Homeschool kids are not necessarily better educated.

I have several friends who homeschool their children. Depending on the child and the parent, their kids may be ahead or behind public school grade levels. What some of these kids learn is truly amazing, and what others don’t learn is concerning.

A child’s performance depends on what they are taught. If their parents don’t select a well-rounded curriculum, if they don’t take schooling seriously, if they don’t push, if they don’t monitor what their students are learning and retaining, then we can end up with high school students that can’t link countries to continents. They might place China in North America, or the Philippines in Greenland. (I’m not joking. I’ve graded tests.) Or students that don’t complete homework, or don’t come prepared for class, or whine when asked to do a more coursework than they are used to… more than can be completed the night before the class.

After teaching high school students at a co-op this fall, I’ve seen that some kids are directionless. Graduating seniors who don’t know what they are going to do next year. College, work, neither? Homeschool children need vision casting for their futures too. It might not be college, but it should be something. We all need a goal to shoot for.

 

To public school parents: Homeschool kids are socialized just fine.

If you’ve been around homeschoolers, you’ll realize what a laughable misconception it is that children who are homeschooled aren’t well socialized. You probably work or know people who have been homeschooled and don’t even know it. Don’t mistake children with special needs or learning disabilities (at home or in public school) with poor socialization.

Socialization can be a concern. Since it’s just me and my daughter at home, I try to make sure to encourage activities and play dates with other kids, but many homeschool families have a lot of kids, so this is more the exception than a rule.

 

To public school parents: History makes a lot more sense when the Bible is taken into consideration.

As a product of a public-school education, this one came as a surprise to me. I’m not sure why it should—I mean, I went to seminary. It’s not like I’ve not learned the history. But the thing is, when you start looking at world history from a biblical perspective and consider everything together, it Just. Makes. Sense. In a way that separating church and state from one another is fundamentally flawed. It’s enough to make me wonder what great disservice we’re doing to our kids. How are they going to understand God’s ultimate plan if they don’t learn a comprehensive view of history and the Bible? We can’t expect them to learn it at church/Sunday school once a week. The Bible illiteracy of our culture probably has a lot to do with the Bible being taken out of the school room. It’s a historical document, folks!

 

Moms on both sides of the equation feel guilt.

My public-school daughter is out in the world, interacting with peers, learning about due dates, tests, competition, and expectations. She has extracurricular activities that my homeschool-child doesn’t have, but she’s missing out on the comprehensive Christian worldview my youngest is learning. She’s spending time doing some ridiculous school bureaucratic things, because – hey, that’s public school, right? There’s a reason we make fun of it.

But I worry for my homeschool daughter, too. Am I teaching her my bad habits? Is she missing out on real-world experiences that she needs to turn into a well-rounded adult? Am I sheltering her too much? Am I ruining my kid?

 

Whatever the case, we can only live in the moment and make the best decisions we can at the time. And pray, pray, pray – for one another, for our kids, and for our country.

 

lisa-godfrees-lr-5Author Bio:

LISA GODFREES worked over a decade in a crime lab. Tired of technical writing, she hung up her lab coat to pen speculative fiction. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and online. Mind Writer (Elk Lake Publishing) co-authored with Mike Lynch, is her first novel. Lisa is a member of ACFW, SCBWI, the Houston Writers Guild, and serves as the Production Manager for Splickety Prime. She currently resides in Houston with one dog, two cats, two girls, and a husband.

Website: www.lisagodfrees.com

Social Media Links:
www.facebook.com/LisaGodfrees
www.twitter.com/LisaGodfrees
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LisaGodfrees
www.instagram.com/fictionmom

mind-writer-3

Confessions of a Reluctant Author

by Tracy L. Snyder

youre-invited-to-ababy-shower-forFriends drug me to my first writer’s conference a good ten years ago. While there I talked to an editor who advised me to enjoy the writing journey. “Have fun,” she said. “Make friends. Learn new things. Just don’t expect to be published. Accept the fact that the odds are so stacked against you that it will never happen.”

I loved this advice. It fit perfectly with the messages of my youth.

You’re good, but not good enough.

If you aim low, you won’t have to fall as far when it all goes south.

So I learned what a plot arc was, and how to describe scenes. I went to my critique group, attended more conferences, and was perfectly happy in my anonymity.

Then I started getting a new message. One that worried me.

This writing is good. It deserves to be seen. You should try to get published.

Last summer I sat across from the author Tosca Lee at a writer’s conference. She complimented my writing, then paused. “You seem hesitant,” she said.

My shoulders slumped in resignation. “I just feel as if I’m in so far over my head.”

She leaned forward until our noses were inches apart. “You’re not in over your head. You are a masterful writer. Getting published is well within your grasp.”

Wow, I thought. And then I froze.

For years I have been in treatment for PTSD due to childhood trauma. I’ve gone both inside and outside of the box in my determination get well. Acupuncture is great, and I haven’t shown a single sign of becoming a Buddhist. One of my favorite councilors met me at the door of her office with a fistful of burning sage leaves and proceeded to wave smoke all over me.

Fine. If it will help, then fumigate away.

I’ve worked hard, and have achieved a level of recovery that makes the specialists do Jazz Hands when they see my brain scans.

But when I think of being published, I still I feel the grip around my throat, and hear the details of my impending death should I speak.

I know that every author is dogged by a voice of doubt that whispers in the background. But for those of us who have been scared speechless at some point in our lives, the voice can be deep, and dark, and carry a threat.

Sometimes I grow weary, and I think about how wonderful it would be to stop hammering away at the wall of silence that surrounds me. How easy it would be to stay voiceless, and quit trying, and rest in the shadows.

And then I go get porcupined by the acupuncturist, and smoked by the councilor. I attend a support group at my church, join the Christmas choir, and play piano when no one is listening.

And I write.

I write not for fame, nor money, nor bragging rights. I write to reclaim my voice, which was removed from me with surgical precision.

I do know that I’m not the only author who has had to dig deep to reclaim my voice. And I believe that those of us who have done so, are left with a unique timbre and cadence to our words that others don’t have. I think there is grace to cover the pain, songs to banish the darkness, and laughter to stab the devil’s heart.

And so, I write.

 

tracyAbout the Author:

Tracy L Snyder lives in Salem, Oregon, the wife of one man, mother of two sons, and servant of two cats. She usually writes science fiction or fantasy, but occasionally pens a piece from the real world. By day she is a lymphedema therapist, in the evening she paddles on a competitive dragon boat team named the Angry Unicorns.
You can find her website at www.tracylsnyder.com

Twitter: @tracysnyder111

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tracy-L-Snyder-204665353212426/

 

Books:

realmscapes-cover-websiteRealmscapes Anthology

https://www.amazon.com/RealmScapes-Science-Fiction-Fantasy-Anthology-ebook/dp/B01GZ5NEFQ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

The Gold Man Review

Literary Journal

https://www.amazon.com/Gold-Man-Review-Issue-6-ebook/dp/B01MCY4CLG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1479876196&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Gold+Man+Review+Issue+6

Confessions of a Writer with Depression

by Victoria Grace Howell

 

confessions-1I’ve been creating stories for as long as I can remember, but I’ve been struggling with Depression since I was fifteen. I didn’t fully understand Depression until recent years when I finally started taking steps to manage it. For years, I didn’t know why I would feel sad for days on end or abruptly stop being motivated to do things I’ve loved or why I was just so darn sensitive.

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. When I get depressed, my thoughts spiral into doubts and kicking myself over every little thing. It’s not just feeling sad. It affects my entire body. I’ve sometimes felt so “down” that it’s hard to wake up in the morning, my back and neck hurts, and I lose my appetite. Some of the things I do to feel better are take walks or drink tea with lavender, chamomile or chocolate or watch a favorite TV show. Sometimes writing out my emotions in my stories is therapeutic. All of this in turn affects how I handle life as a writer.

I know I’m not alone. A lot of writers struggle with mental illness. Perhaps some who struggle with Depression can relate to these confessions.

I Have to Take Breaks – I watch writers able to type out thousands of words a day or write every day for a year, and I think that’s fantastic, but having Depression makes that hard for me. I can get burnt out so easily if I do that much. I usually have to take a mental health day every week or that can make my depression act up and then I’m out of the game for days.

Sometimes I Have to Take Days Off on Down Days – Sometimes my Depression hits me at times I don’t expect. I get so down that I can’t concentrate and just uncontrollably think of anything that could possibly be bothering me on repeat. Therefore I need to take an hour or up to several days off to pick myself back up.

It’s Very Hard for Me to Develop a Thick Skin for Criticism of My Work – I’ve gotten so much advice on how to develop a thick skin for critique. Critique is a wonderful tool, but I still procrastinate for days before I read any feedback of my work, because I’m afraid it’s going to be bad enough to send me into a spiral of Depression. I usually have to spend a good five minutes or more psyching myself up before opening the document. Then if the critique is bad, sometimes I take a day off of writing to recover to make sure it doesn’t cause a down day.

Rejections Hurt A lot – When I see an email from a publisher or agent in my inbox, I feel a rush of cold go down my spine. Then I steel myself for a rejection. I’ve only gotten one acceptance, so this has happened a dozen or two times. Sometimes I can shrug off the rejection, but it usually sticks with me like a parasite for a day. More often than not I have the battle off feelings of doubt that I’m a good writer. Sometimes I have to take days off writing to make sure I don’t get a down day or sometimes because it incites a down day.

I Feel Things Deeper in My Writing – People with Depression feel emotions deeper than the average person. They are more sensitive to feelings of others around them. This in turn can be a writer super power.

This post isn’t to ask for sympathy. This post is to come clean about how it is be a writer and live with Depression. I can’t just eat some chocolate and feel better five minutes later whenever I start feeling sad after an agent made the decision not to represent my work. No matter how much I wish I could yank myself up from being knocked down as anyone not struggling with depression seems to be able to I can’t.

It’s not all in my head. It’s a real thing that affects me. Depression is part of my struggle, but it helps me relate to my characters who struggle with it. I don’t know how long I’m going to struggle with Depression. It could be my whole life. I may have to tweak my schedule a bit to keep it under control, but I won’t let it stop me from being a writer.

Have you struggled with depression? How does it affect your writing? What do you do to cope?

 

vicVictoria Grace Howell is an award-winning, author of speculative fiction, a social media manager, an editor for the non-profit organization, Geeks Under Grace, a staff writer for Geekdom House, and has been published in Splickety: Havok Magazine and Area of Effect Magazine. Since she was a child growing up in the state of Georgia, she’s always had a heart for stories. When not typing away at her novels, she enjoys drawing her characters, blogging at Wanderer’s Pen, practicing Kung Fu, cosplaying, and having a really good hot cup of tea. Connect with her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

Confessions of a Change Hater

confessionsHi, my name is Amy, and my confession is that I hate change. 

So, I started this post about six times before actually committing to this particular topic. Does that qualify for irony? For someone as indecisive as I can be, change is really not a comfort zone for me. At all.

I grew up in the same house, in the same town, with the same friends until my mid-twenties. It took 20 minutes to drive to my favorite place in the mountains. I had two favorite coffee shops, and a close-knit circle of amazing friends. I loved to travel, but mostly I loved coming home to my room, my things, my friends, my corner of the world.

So when I married a military guy, it was jarring to say the least when I made that first move away from my home. Honestly, life became pretty difficult for me. I felt lost without my support system, without the familiar landmarks I loved.  I didn’t know how to live on my own without them. Even the seasons felt “wrong.” Each time we relocated, there was new territory to learn, new friends to make, new hangouts to discover. I now got to learn how to call unknown places, “home.” And I despised it.

The only things I could take with me were my hobbies (reading, writing, and knitting), my little family, and my faith. And while my hobbies and my family didn’t change too drastically, my attitude was a major challenge to my faith. Externally, I made friends, learned about my new space, but my heart was crying out for a comfortable place, and my inner toddler was stomping her foot and hollering, “I don’t want to do this again!”

Have you ever made a decision, covered all your bases, done all the research, and then committed to it — and afterwards found out on the flip side that, well, this wasn’t exactly what you expected? Maybe it’s a job. Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s even something small. No matter, when this happens, sometimes well-meaning people will tell you that, “You have no excuse to complain, since you knew what you were getting into on the front end.” I think they mean it as a tough-love kind of way to remind you that, once, you believed that this was the right decision for your life. And you need to see it through. 

Though they may be correct, I haven’t ever found it to be that helpful of a statement. Words like that made me more unsure about making decisions — what if a decision that looks good on the outside actually turns sour? How can I be sure it won’t?

As you might guess (or maybe you’ve also learned), this is an exhausting way to live. So I had to figure out a way to get out of this paralyzing mentality. 

For some reason, the simplest answer is sometimes the most overlooked, like prayer. And that’s probably because I used to pray and tell God I wasn’t happy with where He’d put me, and that I’d (respectfully) like Him to make it possible for me to move to my comfort zone. Yeah. I’ll let you smirk at me on that one. I was always disappointed because He didn’t give me what I asked Him for.

I was recently challenged to approach God with the attitude of Mary (Jesus’ earthly mother) at the wedding in Cana. Present Him with the problem, and then step back and let Him take care of it in the way He will. It’s that stepping back part that gets me every time. Not telling Him how to handle my predicament. But when I started presenting my concerns about change to Him in this way, I noticed that I was granted peace and calm, more than a reversal of my situation. Because of that stillness, I was able to grow in my new place, rather than stay paralyzed in fear and frustration.

Music has always been a refuge for me. Finding lyrics, or even instrumental pieces that speak to me during times of change, has always helped me deal. It becomes kind of exciting to find the new soundtrack for this upcoming challenge, similar to when I’m choosing music to inspire a writing project. One of my hands-down favorite bands is Switchfoot. We got to go to one of their concerts recently and I about died of happiness, but that’s another story.

Anyway, their song, The Shadow Proves the Sunshine, is one that I’ve listened to on repeat when faced with transition. It’s a reminder that our difficult times actually accent the beauty in life, and God knows I need to remember that often.

One of the things moving has given me is an array of new friends each place I’ve lived. And I know that I’d regret never meeting the people who I miss the most. He’s given me cognizance of the difference of skies across the U.S. He’s given me the opportunity to be present in critical times for dear friends. I’ve witnessed both amazing and heartbreaking moments that I never would have, if I had stayed in my comfortable Hobbit Hole. And I’ve been given an appreciation for the depth that distance can give a relationship. 

Change isn’t something I can avoid. I will probably never truly like being pushed from my comfy place, which always seems to happen when I’ve finally become content. But it’s as if God says, “You’ve grown long enough, here. It’s time to grow another part of your soul. Let’s go.”

 

The Shadow Proves the Sunshine:

 

 

blog-author-photoAuthor Bio:

Amy Davis is a writer, mother, lover of hot drinks and nerdy things. She’s also a co-founder and Acquisitions Manager at Crosshair Press (crosshairpress.com) where she blogs monthly. She occasionally tweets on Twitter (@afielddavis) and posts on her personal blog at writingandrhythm.com.

Confession of Two Arrogant Thoughts

by James L. Rubart

 

eugeneArrogant Thought # 1

It was the mid 90s when I finished a novel in the wee hours of the morning and said to myself, “Really? C’mon. That’s supposed to be a good story? I could write a story way better than this.”

It wasn’t the first time that thought had skittered through my mind.

Arrogant? Yeah. But I didn’t do anything other than think that thought. Why? I’ll explain. (You might even relate.)

I’d dreamed of being a novelist since I was eleven. But I’d been taken out at the end of 8th grade by a lie that I believed till I was in my early 40s. The lie? That I had no writing ability.

In 8th grade—given my dream of writing—I took a journalism class. I loved it. I imagined being on the school paper the next year. Then, at the end of 8th grade, the journalism teacher chose the staff for the newspaper the coming year.

You already know where this is going. You’re right. My name wasn’t on the list. And I believed deep down in my core: “You can’t write, Jim.”

How ‘bout you? Might not have been writing for you. Might have been sports, or speaking, or painting, or singing, or cooking, or running for student body president, or a million other things, but I’m guessing you had a dream, a desire, something that stirred that deep place of joy inside you, but it crashed. It burned. Or it never got off the ground.

Arrogant Thought # 2

Fast forward a few years. Thanks to my life-changing wife, I finally jumped off the novel writing cliff and built my wings on the way down. (Thanks to Ray Bradbury for that awesome metaphor.) I got published. I hit a bestseller list. I won an award for that first novel.

You know what my reaction was?

I thought, “It’s not that I’m any good, it’s just that everyone else is so bad.”

That’s what I thought. Truly. Arrogant and self-deprecating and judgmental—all at the same time.

The Truth

In the years since I’ve discovered a few things. Or better said, my perspective has changed in a few ways.

  • First, both of the arrogant thoughts above come from deep insecurity. Am I worth anything? Do I matter? Can I do anything in my life that’s worthy of being remembered?
  • Second, the only way to be set free from that insecurity is to know, to KNOW I am loved by a Father with an unquenchable love. A Daddy that loves all my attempts—and sees all of them as triumphant, that celebrates not what I do, or accomplish, or create, but celebrates me simply because I am His son.
  • Third, the answer to the first question (can I do anything worth remembering?) is it’s really, truly okay … wherever the path of your life leads you, it’s okay. You are worthy. You do matter. You are utterly loved by a good, good, Father. And that’s enough. God’s definition of success is different than ours. Our is money, or fame, or recognition or … fill in the blank. But God’s is simple. Did you try? With whatever ability, be it great, or small, did you try? And the very fact that you care that you’re trying means you’re trying.

 

So as my friend Mark says, “Go crazy!”

Try it.

Dream it.

Believe it.

Do it.

 

tljtjp-cover

 


The Long Journey to Jake Palmer

Publishers Weekly starred review

Library Journal starred review

RT Book Reviews- 4 1/2 stars and  TOP PICK!

Available wherever books are sold.

 

 


james-l-rubart-hs-v4-7-26-16Author Bio:

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s the best-selling, Christy, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington.

More at www.jameslrubart.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Feel free to include headshot, bio, and links

 

 

Confessions of a Crazy Parrot Owner

confessionsof-accrazyparrotownerWhen I was 15, I went with my folks to get fish for my brother’s fish tank. Fish are interesting, but I’m not a terrific fan. You can’t do much more than sit and watch them and clean up after them. That amused Belle, my parents’ mostly cocker spaniel, who’d sit and watch the tank for hours. Literally. Even when it was fish-free. Not much fun for me.

While we were at the pet store, my folks and brother went look at the fish while I stopped to chat it up with a couple cockatiels. They were cute little critters. One, the typical gray color, was chattier than the other, a yellow and gray splotchy one.

The pet store had them on consignment from someone who needed to rehome them, so the owner was game to give my folks a good deal on the cockies and the cage they were in. When we left, I had my first two parrots. I named the gray one Sijon after a character in a story I was writing and the yellow-and-gray one Lockheed because she could fly incredibly well.

Since then, I’ve had a third cockatiel, a pearl named Spot; two pionuses, a white cap named Johnny and a dusky named Tiercel; and my current goofball, a Timneh African grey named Masika.

Parrots are all at once a terrific amount of fun and a bit of a drag to keep.

They’re chatty. Each of my parrots, to varying degrees, liked to whistle, chirp, imitate sounds, or even talk to me. One, Johnny, even showed signs of understanding exactly what he was saying. When he saw me doing something new, he’d ask, “Whatcha doin’?” He’d keep asking until I answered him, and then he’d never ask again if I were doing that activity. Another, Sijon, tried to teach me stuff. He was a wolf-whistler. If he started wolf-whistling and I answered with anything but another wolf-whistle, he’d stare at me, then whistle very slowly until I “got it right.” Then he’d resume normal speed.

Parrots are also amazingly clever. Masika can undo quicklinks, bolts, screws, latches, and dog-clip closures. Not even a problem. She is Houdini with feathers. I have to padlock her cage to keep her from taking some of it apart. Once, she even moved one of her toy from the top of the cage to a perch halfway down. Johnny figured out how to get my attention when he was scared by something. He had a particular screech that he used only when spooked. Spot figured out that if she bounced against the door of the cage enough times, the door would flop open and she and the other cockies could escape.

Unfortunately, keeping parrots can be a bit of a drag.

They have no concept of “sleep in.” Sijon and Freebie were up with the sun. Johnny was quiet until he heard me moving around even if I got up in the middle of the night. Masika has no concept of “night time.” That, I assume, comes from living some indeterminate time in a dark warehouse. Two in the morning is not inappropriate for bell-ringing, in her humble opinion. This was problematic when she and I shared a room.

Finding bird sitters is tough if I need to leave town for a while. Most people aren’t too keen on getting close to even a small bird beak, and boarding at a vet is often not an available option.

Birds are also a terrific mess. Every bird I’ve had could mess up an area in a 10-foot radius from the cage. Cleaning up after them is like taking care of a tantrum-prone toddler.

Surprisingly, I have learned a lot about writing from my parrots.

I’ve built some alien characters around my birds’ personalities, particularly when it comes to humans trying to communicate with the aliens. Birds communicate with posturing, vocalizations, and micro-expressions. Although there have been some similarities, each bird had a unique “accent” to the way they communicated with me. Whether it was Johnny’s call for help, Sijon’s world-class hiss, or Masika fluffing up, I learned how to read each particular parrot and birds in general.

The couple times I’ve tried to use speech-to-text software have been a bust because Masika or Johnny started making ruckus at inopportune moments. (I did come up with some fun non-human names that way, though. Dragon attempted to translate a squawk into letters.)

Owning parrots also showed me that all members of the same group do not necessarily act the same. No two birds were alike, even within the same species. Each parrot had a unique personality. Sijon was the straight man in the comedy troupe. If he had a sense of humor, he never showed it. Lockheed was very motherly. She was the gentlest bird I have ever had. Even when she was upset or defending a “nest,” she never did any damage. Spot was the adventurer. If there had been an avian version of X Games, she would have taken top marks every time. Spot did crazy things like spelunking in my purse (and emptying it out in the process) and purposely walking off the edge of the cage. She didn’t start flapping her wings until she was halfway to the ground.

Johnny was a protector. We worked together in a pet store for a while. If someone was picking on one of the birds, Johnny would do his special “help!” screech until one of the workers arrived to stop the gooberhead. He also tried to protect me from my abusive ex by flying off his cage or off my arm and attacking my ex.

Tiercel was a grouch until after I rehomed him. I’m not a fan of rehoming pets, but in his case, that was the best thing. He was clearly unhappy with me. His new owner has assured me that he’s doing much better now. He’s much calmer and happier. His new owner loves him easily as much as I did, so I’m happy for them both.

Masika is very wary. There is cause. She is a rescue bird, whose history we can track back 30 years. No idea how much older she is than that, but she was rescued from a warehouse where she’d been left after the pet store she’d been in was shut down. Getting her to trust me even a little has taken most of a decade, and there are still more days than not when she isn’t very friendly.

Using my birds as examples showed me that you can have huge variation even within a close group.

Owning a parrot isn’t for everyone. There are some real challenges about owning birds, even down to silly things like what kind of cookware, cleaners, and air fresheners you use. For me, though, owning parrots has been the best. I’d have a flock, but they deserve individual attention and my current one, Masika, is territorial. Just me and she until one of us passes away.

There you have it. Confessions of a crazy parrot owner. I’ll let you decide if that’s “crazy parrot” owner or crazy “parrot owner.”

 

headshot-for-avatars-doesnt-seem-to-pixellateAuthor Bio:

After hatching years ago in a land very far away, Cindy tried to hide under a secret identity, but she finally gave that up and started openly telling people she was an alien capable of adopting many forms. To her surprise, with the exception of one class of elementary students, no one believed her. They assumed she was joking, thereby giving her the perfect cover story.

She spent 14 years mutating the minds of four-footers – that’s height, not leg count – but gave that up to study the methodology needed to mutate the minds of adult humans. In her off time, she writes about her adventures under the guise of telling science fiction and fantasy stories, records her blog articles, and reads wonderful books in exchange for editing help.

Confessions of a Fear Fighter

confessionsof-a-fear-fighterToday, I’m so excited to welcome a new friend of mine, Chaka Heinze, to the Confessions blog series. She has quite the interesting take on fear. Read on, my friends!

 

I have a confession to make. It is not something I like to acknowledge in myself, let alone admit to the vast landscape of the internet where roving, multi-eyed creatures with barbed fangs lurk in shadow, looking to devour misstepping mortals. Did I mention the creatures leer at me with the stark white faces and bright red lips of painted clowns? (Thank you Stephen King.)

I digress.

I have a confession to make. Fear has been my unwelcome companion for as long as I can remember. It taunts me with sibilant whispers when I’m faced with the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable … or asked to drive and meet anyone anywhere in the wild places of the unknown. (The streets of Omaha, Nebraska can be terrifying for those who are used to orienting themselves using the rugged peaks of the Rockies. West. Always West.)

Fear slithers up to coil heavily on my chest in the night as I consider the conversations of the day, the well-being of my children, the lunacy of the upcoming election, or the depravity and violence that is becoming a daily occurrence both in America and around the world.

Fear strikes at me with unbridled venom whenever my son has a heart event and we end up in the hospital again.

If you think about it, there are countless manifestations of fear to contemplate from the moment you get up in the morning until you fall “safely” into bed again at night. I won’t name them all here, because focusing on fear has a way of empowering the beasties and turning garden snakes into leviathans.

As a child, I had one major weapon against the fear—I could control the narrative. If I had free time, I read. If it was time to go to bed, I told myself stories. Books and my stories were a safe place to test boundaries, have adventures, and explore the environment around me. During those days, I sometimes existed in the realms of dragons and elves or in the mind of another child tiptoeing through the minefield of puberty. And during the night, I imagined myself the main character in some fantastical drama in which I saved the world and got the boy. Well, sometimes … I just got the boy.

Fear drove me into the inner workings of my own imagination. And in there I learned to make magic.

As a grownup (a title that can only be loosely applied), I still wrestle with that great snake. Fear. But let me be clear—the beastie is no longer my master. This heart is under new management. Though fear still lurks about the edges striking at my heels whenever it senses a vulnerability, it no longer controls, stifles, or prevails (for long).

But I’m grateful. Instead of tearing me apart or killing my dreams, dealing with the fear helped me to find my voice. Both my spiritual and mental muscles have been strengthened in my battle against the simpering nuisance.

So I have a confession to make. I struggle with fear, and that’s okay. Because I know how this story ends.

 

How do you deal with fear?

 

13072671_10209815349089231_8479661413584245022_oAuthor Bio:

Chaka Heinze lives in Nebraska with her husband, four children, and two havanese pups. She is a keynote speaker with the ministry Wholly Loved and enjoys talking to groups of women about the faithfulness of God through difficult times. Chaka has always admired C.S. Lewis and desires to emulate his ability to glorify God without slapping people in the face with religion. Her debut novel, Under A Withering Sun, is in the process of being re-released (stay tuned for more details). She is a member of ACFW and NWG.

Find out more on her website: chakaheinze.com.