Confessions from a Fictional (yes, you read that correctly) Author

by Serena Chase

 

My name is Serena Chase and I am not a real person.

I am an invention. A pen name. The secret identity of an author who, for reasons ranging from personal safety—due to a scary series of incidents—to shelf placement, chose not to associate her real name with her public career. But even though I’ve—no, she’s—ahem, we’ve coexisted for a long time now, it sometimes gets confusing. For both us.

More for her than me, probably.

Like now, when I realize I’m talking about the true me—the Social Security Number-bearing individual, the real me, the one responsible for the creation of “Serena Chase” and her associated products—in the third person.

Oh, boy.

When I (the real me) first made the decision to safeguard my work by writing under a pseudonym, I was revising my first two novels, The Ryn and The Remedy while blogging regularly for a popular Christian fiction blog . . . which soon led to becoming a regular freelance contributor to a USA Today blog. “Serena Chase” was gaining momentum, fast—not as an author of fiction, unfortunately, but as an influencer on behalf of other inspirational and YA fiction authors. (Ah, but that’s another “confessions” post.) The career wheels were turning, but it was becoming questionable as to whether I could keep both the pen name and my sanity. Every time I signed a blog post or an email with my pseudonym, I obsessively struggled with the idea that I was a BIG. FAT. LIAR.

Long had I bemoaned the absence of authenticity and vulnerability within the Christian community, but here I was, forming professional and personal relationships within the publishing world under an assumed name and, to some extent, personality. Through those early years, some of the authors I met became dear friends to whom I eventually stuttered through a pen name confession, but all the while, my natural leanings toward anxiety and depression screamed, “Liar!” like Miracle Max’s wife in The Princess Bride.

One moment I would be writing a draft of the apology post that would reveal my real name . . . and the next I would be deleting it, paralyzed with fear that the nasty people responsible for me actually considering a pen name in the first place would discover my secret and cause more damage.

I sought council from those who knew me by my “real name” and were aware of my situation. As a rule, the writers in that small circle saw the pseudonym as a career necessity, not a moral dilemma. My non-writing friends, however, while expressing understanding for why it felt necessary to me, either shrugged off or added to my fears and/or my feelings of being a liar. I was at a moral, philosophical, and business impasse.

Was my struggle, as one friend suggested, only a symptom of an overweening pride that wanted to claim the words I wrote under the name that was truly mine? Or, as another friend offered, was I a slave to fear, not trusting God with my family’s safety? Was I making a mountain out of a molehill? Was having a pen name a lie, and therefore sin? Or was it a solid business decision? Was it right? Wrong? A gray area?

It went on like that for a long time. I obsessed. I prayed. I cried. I hated myself for all of it. I hated “Serena Chase” for being cooler than me. I couldn’t sleep. When I could, I woke up in the middle of the night with panic attacks. I was a mess.

Sometime around the release of my third novel The Seahorse Legacy, however, there was a shift in my thinking. During a conversation with another author, we spoke about a newly released book, both us referring to it as an addition to “The (insert Famous Author Name) Brand.”

In the context of our conversation, we did not necessarily discuss the merits of the work produced. We spoke of a business model, a strategic campaign. Yes, it was Famous Author’s name—her real name, as far as I know—but we were not discussing it as a part of her human identity; we spoke of The Famous Author Name Brand as exactly that: a brand—a label attached to a specific collection of intellectual property and all connected marketing efforts.

It got me thinking . . .

As authors, we are told to “build your brand” and to “be brand-consistent across all platforms.” Could the “brand” concept justify the existence and proliferation of “Serena Chase” in the moral center of my mind? Instead of “Serena Chase” being the “big fat lie” I’d been losing sleep over, was she—er, it—, instead, a brand under which my creative intellectual property could safely reside?

Yes.  Yes, she—it—could.

It was a life-changing revelation.

Yes, it is still awkward sometimes, operating under one name in “real life” while using an entirely different identity when I need to be the human representation of “The Serena Chase Brand” online or at an event. Sometimes, I talk about myself in the third person and it weirds people out (including me, to be honest!) Sometimes, my worlds collide. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing. Sometimes, it’s scary. Sometimes, I just need more coffee so I can remember which name I’m using that day (*winks at Ronie Kendig.*)

But most of the time . . . I’m okay with it. I’m okay with building The Serena Chase Brand and representing it in the flesh when necessary.

Sure, sometimes I wish I could move far away from my hometown and legally change my name to “Serena Chase” because it would make life easier. I’ve realized I often feel more comfortable operating under my brand identity than the one I was born+married into.

Is that weird? Yeah, that’s probably pretty weird. Ah, well. Another confession for another day.

What do you think about the use of pen names?

 

Author Bio:

SERENA CHASE is the (pseudonymous) author of the critically-acclaimed Eyes of E’veria epic fantasy series and Intermission, a contemporary young adult romance. She believes readers expect a novel to be an immersive entertainment experience and seeks to provide that experience through her stories. When not writing, she can often be found assisting other authors with manuscript critique and marketing copy creation through her business, Reviewer’s Eye View, or teaching workshops on the art of crafting immersive, entertaining fiction. Connect with Serena on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and through her website and newsletter.

 

June 2017 Goals

Welcome to another bright, shiny month! Can you believe how fast May flew by? I still feel that the conference I went to the first weekend of May was last week.

May was pretty crazy for me. Fun, amazing–but crazy. I accomplished a lot, but none of what I set out to do. Odd how that happens sometimes. But that’s the thing about a new month–a chance to try again!

My Goals for June:

  1. Get into a routine where I can better balance work and homeschool. I already have my schedule laid out, so it’s a matter of getting everyone on board and sticking with it!
  2. I got my first round of edits for Aletheia back, so I need to get those done before vacation at the end of the month, if not sooner. I’ll continue getting up early in the morning to edit for a couple of hours.
  3. Do a shakedown and reorganization of my work layout. I’m going to be focusing more on social media and book marketing (instead of editing). So, there’s going to be a learning curve. Plus, I’ll be changing my daily focuses to reflect this change.
  4. Get my homeschool paperwork organized!
  5. The first step to getting my health under control is to plan better meals! My husband and I are working together to plan out menus and find meals that we all enjoy.

I’m going to print up these goals and hang them up by my desk. This way I can see them every day and remember where my focus should be.

What are YOUR goals for June, work or personal?

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Teenager

by Heather Fitzgerald

 

I’m a late bloomer. It took many years of marriage and four kids to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When I graduated high school back in *ahem* 1987, I had plans of becoming a model and world traveler. Yeah. I know. Very realistic and attainable. But college was definitely not part of my head-in-the-cloud plans because there wasn’t anything I wanted to do that could justify the cost.

Thankfully, the Lord had other ideas. He brought Prince Charming my way a year after graduation, and we were married shortly after I turned twenty. Billy (aka the prince) was the left brain to my right brain—quite literally—and helped me to keep my feet on the ground without giving up my desire to dream big and embrace life.

But once we started our family, a lot of my hopes and daydreams had to be set aside for a season. This was before the internet and smart phones too, so when I see busy moms that—somehow—juggle school, jobs, writing, housework, and social media, I’m a bit boggled and incredulous. I don’t think I could have managed such an itinerary with any measure of grace, let alone success! Hats off to you millennials that have grown up with social media diversions as part of your norm. I guess it’s all a matter of what you’re used to.

By the time my oldest daughter was seven, we also had a boy, age six, with autism, and two more daughters, age three and newborn. Let’s just say there’s a large chunk of my young married life that’s rather fuzzy. Beyond laundry, meals, school work, and therapy, I don’t have a whole lot of clarity on the day to day. Pretty sure everyone made it through well fed and with clean underwear, but I wouldn’t bet large sums of money on it.

Still … in the midst of our busy family life, I knew there would be another season that would allow more time for creative pursuits. Fanciful ideas always bubbled just under the surface. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t merely biding my time as a mother so I could get to the ‘fun stuff’. No. I loved being a mom, a wife, and a teacher. Creative pursuits just looked different at that time…like learning to cook and enjoying the challenge of decorating on a shoestring budget. Still, my mind constantly came up with ideas, both realistic and impractical.

One thing I had always loved to do, from childhood through high school, was dance. Think Fame and Flashdance—iconic 80’s movies. Although my parents didn’t have the finances to put me into any sort of lessons or program, public school had quite a few outlets for it, between dance team, cheerleading, and talent shows (not to mention hoofing it around my house). However, after graduation I really didn’t have an opportunity to continue dancing.

When my youngest was two, my husband encouraged me to get involved with it again (told you he was a prince!). Being that I could only take classes when he was home in the evening, there wasn’t a wide selection of adult dance classes to choose from. I could take ballet, or ballet.

I chose ballet.

Since I hadn’t any experience with this form of dance beyond a plie, it was a whole new discipline. To be honest, it wasn’t nearly as fun as contemporary dance because it’s much more technique driven and all about uniformity among dancers. I’m more of a free spirit. But it was still an opportunity to dance, nonetheless, and I learned to enjoy it.

Around that time, my kids began to take classes at a fine art school for homeschoolers. Eventually, I put my son in their ballet program to help with his coordination. I stayed in class and assisted him since his coordination and flexibility were about as natural as my talent to work quadratic equations (hint, that’s a left brained activity and I don’t have one of those).

Because of my involvement, I was eventually offered a job teaching ballet at this fast-growing school.

What???

Okay, the Lord definitely had a secret agenda for me when ballet had been my only option for dance classes a few years earlier. Someone was actually going to pay me to teach dance and I’d get to choreograph performances—which was my favorite thing ever.

Fast forward fourteen years. I’m still teaching ballet at this fabulous school. We’ve grown from a handful of students to close to one thousand! We’ve expanded from two ballet teachers to five. And choreographing for our ‘showcase’ is still the best part of the year for me. Choreography is storytelling set to music. I prefer to use songs with lyrics so that we can express the story through dance, though certain instrumental pieces can move me in much the same way and I’ve used them as well.

As my children became teens and tweens, I began to see how swiftly our school days would come to a close. When my youngest was in sixth grade and my oldest had graduated, I could feel the fetters of schedules, classes, rehearsals, and performances loosening, little by little, as each child became a young adult. What was I going to do with myself? Ballet classes were only a once a week event. I didn’t want to choose a career path after our final graduate walked the stage. I needed a goal to work toward.

Enter writing. If I could begin a career in ballet in my thirties, why couldn’t I begin a writing career in my forties? I’d always had the desire and the ability lurking just under the surface. Where I had struggled tremendously to keep my head above water in math, I had easily coasted through English and literature courses. And as a homeschooling mom, I enjoyed reading to my kids most of all. “Just one more chapter” was a sure way to take a bite out of my well-intended schedule.

I had already been playing around with writing kids books and venturing into the blogosphere, so writing wasn’t a brand new pursuit. But I made a firm commitment to have some sort of career in place by the time my youngest graduated. Though I had often dipped into creative pursuits only to let projects sit unfinished for eons (if finished at all), I felt like the Lord was calling me to look at the big picture, the long term, and the future of my grown up self.

Well, number four graduated in May of 2016. My first book The Tethered World was published in February of 2016 with The Flaming Sword releasing that November. The Genesis Tree is coming out this June which means my first publishing contract has been fulfilled. Pretty much divine timing, right? Divine indeed because I look back and wonder how my blonde, right-brained self managed to pull this off.

I can’t help but view the past twenty-seven years of marriage with a thrill of awe and thanksgiving over how well the Lord orchestrates our paths. He has blessed me with a wonderful husband, terrific kids that have grown into treasured friends, a beautiful grand daughter, and—amazingly—a dual career doing things that I absolutely love. It’s humbling to look at how little I had to do with any of it. Even the talent to dance or to write are gifts from Him, designed by Him.

I feel like I’m getting some sort of do-over from my graduation in ’87. Probably because I needed to grow up a bit to know what I wanted to be when I actually grew up. Thanks to the disciplines of being a wife and a mother, I’ve matured enough to handle the freedom of self-expression that would have been wasted in my youth (on me anyway).

Yep. I’m a late bloomer. What about you? Maybe you had different opportunities than me and were able to enjoy a career before you reached middle age (okay, maybe you’re not anywhere close to being middle age but, I promise, you’ll be there in a blink). Still, we all have hopes that are deferred for one reason or another. What are your future dreams?

Although there’s controversy surrounding whether or not C.S. Lewis actually said this, it is still a favorite quote and sounds like a tidbit of his wisdom. “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” I’m certainly proof of that.

And I’m not done dreaming!

 

Author Bio:

Heather L.L. FitzGerald writes from her home in Texas, while dreaming of being back in the Pacific Northwest, where she grew up. When her four kids were young, she enjoyed reading aloud until her voice gave out. (Her son, who is autistic, would just move on to his favorite audiobook).

Certain stories became good friends—the kind you want to revisit. The kind you wish never needed to say goodbye. Those are the kind of stories Heather aspires to write. Stories worthy of delicious coffee. Stories difficult to leave. Her YA Fantasy trilogy The Tethered World Chronicles will be complete when her third book, The Genesis Tree, releases June 1st. Her other books, The Tethered World, and The Flaming Sword, are available on Amazon or can be ordered at any book retailer.

Heather is a member of the North Texas Christian Writer’s group, ACFW, CAN, and helps with the Manent Writer’s group in Fort Worth, Texas. You can connect with Heather on her website/blogFacebook, Pinterest,(Belongs to her main character, Sadie), Character blog: (Sadie’s mother has a blog pertaining to legendary creatures), Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads.

Confessions of a Medical Mom

by Lindsay Franklin

 

Red lights flashing in the darkness, sirens wailing in the middle of the night. Your child being loaded onto a gurney and whisked away to an emergency room. It sounds like the start of a horror story. Every parents’ nightmare. The worst day of your life.

But if you have a child with a medical condition, this may be routine. It may be the eleventy-hundredth time you’ve watched EMTs load your kid into the back of an ambulance. It may only barely affect your blood pressure these days, which is good, because you have to be calm enough to recite your kid’s entire medical history at three a.m. to the paramedics who have probably never heard of his rare neurological condition.

I’m only speaking for myself, of course. Every medical parent’s story looks different—indeed, the variance can be wild. But the sirens don’t scare me anymore. When my son has a seizure, my husband and I time it carefully (our comfort zone is five to six minutes) and watch for signs of respiratory distress. Most times, we don’t call an ambulance anymore. What are the ER docs going to tell us? “Your son has something weird in his hypothalamus.” Yes, thank you. We know.

The way I’ve described it, maybe it sounds like medical moms (and dads) are the chillest cucumbers in the vegetable bin. In some ways, that’s probably true. We can’t afford to panic in the midst of an emergency. We have to stay calm and level-headed to make sure our kids get the care they need. But that’s only one facet of the medical mom life.

Anxiety has become part of my essential makeup. It always has been to a degree—I’m just wired that way more than some others, like my husband who doesn’t startle at loud noises and barely blinks when he hears glass breaking, people shouting, or atomic bombs dropping.

But my journey as a medical mom has upped the ante. The part of my brain that wants to protect my squishy, exhausted, grieved heart always has me preparing for the worst. When the worst has already happened—when you’ve gotten the very last news you ever wanted to hear—it’s hard not to constantly wait for the other shoe to drop.

I’ve had a lot of dropping shoes in my life.

There’s a strange layer of shame that tags along when you or your child is not healthy, especially in the faith community. I’d need a couple extra hands and feet to count all the times well-meaning people have subtly (or overtly) suggested my life would look different if I had a little more faith—if I prayed better or more frequently, if I had better theology, if there weren’t some underlying sin lurking in my past or present.

Look, I said they’re well-meaning, and I meant that. People don’t realize the hurt they cause when they say such things, and really, no sick or differently abled person should be surprised by these comments. They’ve been happening for millennia: “Who sinned, Jesus, this man or his parents?” But what these folks don’t realize is that the medical parent’s life requires a certain kind of faith just to reach ground zero, if you will. Just to get to the starting place where others begin growing in their relationships with God, we have an uphill battle.

That’s because we start in a pit. We start in a place of constantly wondering why our child is suffering, constantly working to overcome the anxiety and shoe’s-going-to-drop mentality. We start in a place of being reminded every moment that we are weak, that our children are hurting and there’s nothing we can do to fix it. So it is simultaneously true that I’m barely clinging on and my faith is a solid rock. Both those statements are my raw, naked truth—my confession. My faith is tested by the moment, and I’m still here.

The places where I’ve seen God working most clearly in my life have been related to my medical kid. Small miracles—and a couple big ones—have unfolded before my eyes. Medical parents may have a strange, arduous road to walk, but we also have a sharp, unshakable sense of hope. Hope that we’ll make it through today, hope that tomorrow will be easier, hope that even if it’s not, God will see us through.

 

Author Bio:

Lindsay Franklin is an award-winning author, freelance editor, and homeschooling mother of three. Her debut fantasy novel, The Story Peddler, releases in 2017 from Enclave Publishing, and her book of devotionals for young women, Adored, releases October 2017 from Zondervan/HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Lindsay has had dozens of short stories published, and she is Faculty Director for Realm Makers, an annual conference for speculative fiction writers of faith. She is a Bible college student and has taught fiction to wildly creative homeschooled junior and senior high students. Lindsay may or may not be addicted to full-leaf tea and organic coffee. Don’t tell anyone. Connect with Lindsay on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also follow her stuffed wombat on Instagram. Yeah, you read that right.

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 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

 

Looking Ahead at 2017

busyThis post comes about a week late, but that’s okay. The kids and I were all sick last week and needed the time to recover. What a blessing that time was! But now we’re (mostly) recovered, and it’s time to embrace our time with renewed vigor.

Normally, in the week between Christmas and New Year, I take an evening to go off by myself and start considering my goals and such for the New Year. I take time to praise God for the stuff that happened in the previous year, and to pray about what’s to come. Then I start listing goals in different life categories:

Spiritual

Health

Relationships

Business

Education

Homeschool

Financial

(Most of these categories have sub-categories.)

I usually try to limit myself to 3 goals in each category. Then, each new month, I pick about 3 goals from different categories to work on. Even though I might have a few other goals during that particular month, those 3 are usually my focus.

 

Word of the Year

I could go through and list each goal for the year, but that would be at best cumbersome, at worst boring. I will say that most of the goals center around my word of the year.

to-michelle

Consistency has been something I’ve struggled with, especially given my health issues, for many years. I am always sick(ly), and I struggle to find the time to do everything when I’m in a perpetual state of catching up.

Inconsistency leads to more stress, more illness, more of all the bad things. In order to get myself off of this circle I seem to be riding, I have to break the cycle.

Of course, this is a big undertaking. I know that I cannot do it alone–I’ve tried time and again. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13), is definitely the Bible verse I’ll be clinging to this year (among others).

 

January Goals

So, what are my first few goals for 2017?

Health: I am focusing on menu planning and portion control as I aim to get my blood pressure under control. Each week, I’ll review my menu for the month and shop from that (cutting out most junk food). And with each meal, I’ll be sure my carb level falls within appropriate ranges.

Overall: Write out a new routine/schedule that will allow me to include all the necessary aspects of my life and business in a more orderly (less stressful) way. Be sure to include “me” to help me relax.

Business: Write 40,000+ words on Soter, the 2nd of the books contracted by Elk Lake Publishing (releasing in the fall, most likely). I will be writing 2,000 words in the evening after the kids are in bed.

I’m already plunging my way through the first 2 goals. Sadly, I haven’t even started on the 3rd goal, but I’m getting to it! I just have some catching up to do!

 

So, what are your goals for January? Do you have a word for your year?

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 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.