Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fascination with Fantasy

At present I am reading a children's fantasy novel, Mister Monday, written by Garth Nix. It is the first in a series titled, The Keys to the Kingdom.

Over the last few months I have been trying to find an author who writes the same type of book I am about to embark on. When I think I find a good one, I discover a dark realm to it that I don't want to dove into.

However, I accidently came across one that the wikepedia quotes, "appears to contain many examples of religious symbolism and references, particularly in Judeo-Christian tradition." So I decided to take a chance and get it.

So far I have come across two things that I didn't think were appropriate to put in a children's book. But it is well written, entertaining, and has some Biblical depictions.

I am enjoying it, and feel that it is preparing me for the upcoming nanowrimo novel that I plan to write.

It appears that bookstores are filled with books of fantasy for children. My life long dream has never been to write this kind of book. However, I feel a great need for a book of this type with a strong moral underlay, and achieving this without the center of witchcraft portrayed to be good if it's used for good.

So I have been busy outlining, time-lining, and character defining these last few days in preparation. I am very exciting. I have had this idea for months and wasn't planning on touching it until I felt better qualified to write a novel. So here is to, The Defender's Key, ready or not, here it comes!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Truth or Fiction?

Matt.10:26 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, or kept secret that will not become known."

Fiction and truth – how can these two opposites possibly co-exist? How can a story with a made up plot and characters be truthful? Is fiction merely a fantasy and means for fleeing the truth, or worse yet, embellishing the truth?

Jesus didn’t think so. He used stories to reveal truths. Matthew 13:3-17 (Message) "What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.

"Are you listening to this? Really listening?"

The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?"

He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're blue in the face and not get it. I don't want Isaiah's forecast repeated all over again:

Your ears are open but you don't hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don't see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won't have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won't have to look,
so they won't have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.

"But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance."

Who was the farmer? Was he a real person? No. He was a character in Jesus’ story. And the story itself told a truth. Obviously, that truth was not immediately evident to everyone who heard the story. However, did that stop Jesus from telling it? No!

In the same way, we as writers should not hesitate to tell our stories just because some may not understand. We write for different audiences and in different ways. But, we must write in such a way as to tell the truth. And then, our writing will not be in vain. Wouldn’t it be worth the writing if just one soul got saved as a result? Or if one family stayed together? Or one child said “no” to temptation?

I think it is worth it, and so I write.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Countdown: Seven days out from Nanowrimo

Seven days out from Nanowrimo's beginning is probably not a good time to hack a chunk out of the tip of your finger while chopping blueberries. (Like there's any good time for that.)

I immediately noticed that it is much harder to type with three bandaids wrapped around the end of my middle finger. (I tried four, but that was cutting off circulation.) However, without them, blood would be dripping steadily into my keyboard. Fortunately we care nothing for accuracy, so my new Nano-strategy is to stay on top of hitting the space bar at regular intervals, thus preserving my word count, if not my legibility.

This week I read a little of a book about being funny. I wasn't impressed with it because the author and I didn't see eye to eye on what is funny, so it's on it's way back to the library. However, he did make an interesting point. He said that comedy is truth and pain. I didn't entirely agree since my view of humor is filtered by the idea that humor comes from God (who is truth but not pain), so I concluded that comedy could be truth and surprise.

• Truth: Charlie Brown is going to try to kick the football. Surprise: Lucy is going to pull it away at the last moment.
• Truth: The three stooges have to carry a chunk of ice up flights and flights of stairs on a hot day. Surprise: When they get there, it will be a little ice cube.
• Truth: I chopped a chunk out of my finger tip. Surprise: We're all hoping that last bite of blueberry pancake didn't have a little extra protein in it.

So as you go forward into the Nano world, don't be afraid to put some truth into your books. And don't be afraid to add some surprises. (If you haven't done much planning, like me, the whole book will be a surprise.) For there to be a story, there must be a conflict, and not only can story be generated by conflict, but humor as well. (Richard Peck has many truth and surprise patterns in his historical fiction.)

Your inner editor, which will be on vacation in Cancun for the month of November, would not have you risk humor. Please do not take any emails or calls from him. Adults are notorious for being afraid to be funny, because they become accustomed to things going right and don't want to risk falling flat on their faces in the humor department. Throw caution to the wind. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, and although not everyone thinks the same things are funny, we all can develop our funniness if we aren't afraid to try.

So put on your "funny glasses" and practice seeing the funny side of life. Humor and joy are good for you.

Disclaimer: All goofed up words which made it through spell-check are the result of a pancake injury.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I have begun reading GREEN by Ted Dekker, and the book provokes me. I don't usually read this type of book. It has blood and betrayal and savagery and intrigue set in the realm of science fiction. In fact, I don't like this book, but I can't get it out of my head! In some ways, it reminds me of the Corrie Ten Boom story. She suffered so much at the hands of the Nazis, and reading about that horror challenges me.

When I heard that Mel Gibson was making a movie about the last days of Christ, I thought I would never want to see that movie. That was the horrible, unthinkable, unimaginable part of Christ's ministry. Why would someone make a movie exclusively about the passion of the Christ? However, I did go see it, and was much moved.

These hard stories have one thing in common. If you endure through the difficult parts, you are rewarded with the ending. I haven't gotten to the ending of GREEN, yet. But, I am certain that I will not be disappointed. Love always wins.

And, endure we must. As Christians, we must be prepared for afflictions so that we are not surprised or crippled by them. All faithful people of God will face trials. Being a believer doesn't mean you will no longer have trouble. In fact, the greater your faith is, the greater the challenges become.

Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthian church after hearing about a divisive group there who talked him down and said that Paul was not a true apostle of Jesus. How wounding that must have been to him! Paul had spoken boldly for Jesus and, as a result, had survived beatings, being stoned to death, and physical deprivation. He had also tenderly nurtured the Corinthians!

Paul says in his second letter to the them, "Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, 'I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help.' Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don't put it off; don't frustrate God's work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we're doing. Our work as God's servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing his power; when we're doing our best setting things right; when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all." (Message Bible)

I wondered why Ted Dekker's book was called GREEN. Although I have not finished reading it yet, I believe I have found my own answer in Psalm 1:1-3 "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers."

As writers, we cannot back away from the hard truths. Children and teenagers need to be equipped to deal with affliction as well. Our challenge is to write in such a way as to teach the truth, but provide the reward for endurance as well. Love always wins. In the Lord, we will always stay green and full of life.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Mother's Reflections

I have been spending much of my time buried in writing. Completing my last draft of my non-fiction article, and jotting down idea's, outlining, and completing character studies for the upcoming NaNoWriMo project. I feel spent.

I long for a place of tranquility. Away from screaming kids and barking dogs. A place of beauty, where I can calmly reflect on my writing goals, and write, undisturbed to my hearts content.

Then I get back to reality. The four children are hungry, they want a snack, they want to watch television, or play a game on the computer. For some reason they don't ever want to lock themselves away and read a book.

But this is the life I have chosen, and I don't regret it for a moment! Still a time of rejuvenation, and solitude can help me be a better wife and mother. If only at those times I could step out my door to a magnificent, lush, landscape. Where the sun is shining, flowers are in abundance, and a plush chair sits with my name on it. A girl can dream can't she.

So I will settle for the occasional, "Girl-Friends-Getaway", and my solitary escape to my local library or Panera. Where I can recharge and reflect on how thankful I am for my husband and children. Of course, only to return to laundry and dishes.

As my walls get dented, my carpet gets stained, and small toys find there way to every nock and cranny inside my four walls, it is still a small price to pay for the elation of hearing the words, "MOM" fill my ears!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Drop and Give Me 50,000!

Hi all. As you can see from Christine's post, Nanowrimo is bearing down on us with the deadly precision of a Mac truck. The post I had planned as we buzzed along back from the Wisconsin quadrant on our way to Chicago has flown from my brain. No doubt it was driven away by six loads of laundry that arrived with us. So you'll have to settle for the following for now. If I think of what I was previously thinking, I'll stick it along at the end.

Once again, I must remind you all that you need to participate in NaNoWriMo for the following reasons:

• Everybody else is doing it. (Not usually a good reason, but allowed in this case.)
• The Everybody else who is doing it are almost entirely not Christian. This is quite sad. You have an awesome message. Get out there and write a book about it.
• You'll always regret it if you don't.
• You'll always remember it if you do.
• Up until November 1st, I will do my level best to give you a cover for your novel. I've made one for myself (see under Beth Mac) and also Susan (on the Young Writer's site under Suzi-Q) and Kathryn (Young Writers under Curly Kate, but not posted yet).

If you still think it's utterly impossible to write a novel in November, then you need to go to the NaNo web site and read the post about the Marine serving in Iraq who couldn't bear to miss a Nano event and wrote her book under impossible circumstances, and even got her word count in by midnight by nothing short of a military miracle. That's the Marines for you. Makes you glad they're on our side. Here's the link, and don't blame me if you cry when you read it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Clock is Ticking!

On your mark...

Get Set...


And there off!

There are seventeen days until NaNoWriMo. I have the countdown set on my iphone.

I still have yet to solidify what I am going to write about. Kinda unsettling. It's like I am about to jump out of a plane without a parachute. Sure, realistically speaking I would jump out of an airplane, but NEVER without a parachute, what am I crazy!

My mind goes in so many directions on what to write. I have semi-committed to an idea in my head, but I am still lacking idea's for, conflict, plot, and climax. That's all, no big deal, just those three things. So other then that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

But in spite of all this, I am at peace. I feel confident it will all come together. Once I get an idea that I am passionate about, things will all fall into place. Right???

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jane Austen as Inspiration

I love Jane Austen and what her writing did for women. She faced many difficulties living in Georgian England where women had very few options. But, with her novels, she encouraged women by assuring them that marrying for love was a good thing, and that using intelligence, perseverance and common sense would reward you. Her characters are complex and fascinating, and, I think, reveal much about Ms. Austen's personality as well.

As a sign of her true insight into relationships and love, her novels have endured in popularity for nearly two hundred years. The novels have also served as the foundation or inspiration for many films and other novels. Her stories intrigue and entertain both teenagers and adults alike.

Jane Austen also inspired many women to write novels and to express themselves. And for that, she has my sincere gratitude. Following in her footsteps were some of my other favorites: the Bronte sisters, Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) and Louisa May Alcott. Each of these writers also possessed a clear, moral point of view. And all of them have had a part in shaping my own life and attitudes.

I like the little poem I once heard:
"The novels of Jane Austen are the ones to get lost in."

Monday, October 12, 2009

You Can Do This!!!

The Secret Life of Eleanor Blunt is beginning to take shape in my imagination. I've begun to carry a notebook and write down character and story notes. It really helped me to go to the Young Writer's Program and get their tips for the kids who are writing in NaNoWriMo. I like them because they are easy to understand. If you've never done the WriMo before, this is a good place to start:

These are the Young Writer's Notebooks that guide students of all ages through the NaNo experience. You can print them out or view them on your computer, and they will walk you through the planning process if you choose to plan a little. Lots of writers just sit down and start typing instead. Some plan and then abandon their plans after a few days. It's good to stay loose and not get too tied down to anything if you want to keep moving.

If you haven't decided to do the NaNoWriMo, it's PEP TALK TIME:

When you get to week two, scroll back to this post, because at that point, many writers throw in the towel.

You can do this!!! You can write a novel in one month. You have a voice that no one else has, and it's such a blessing that we still have free speech in this country and can write books. Take advantage of it to write a novel that you would never otherwise get around to writing. So remember...


If you do sign up on the NaNoWriMo website, you can ask to be added as my writing buddy by accessing my username, BethMac (there is no space between the Beth and Mac). This way you can keep track of my word count, and I can see yours.

Sign up before October 31st!

Whatever You Do, Don't Look Down

So far I have nagged at least five other people into doing the NaNoWriMo with me, and three or four others are reeling at the edge of the precipice. (I guess that means you could say the others have officially gone over the edge.) If you too are at the edge of decision, the best advice I can give to you is, don't look down. Just take that step of faith. You can write a book in a month.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Written Word

I am about to embark on something I have never undertaken, nor did I expect to undertake until further down the writing road. I will be writing my first novel.

A few days ago, I was reading the October 4th devotion in, "Daily Devotions for Writers". At the end of the authors one page entry is a thought to focus on.

The thought was, "Father, thank you for giving me the gift of writing to glorify you and serve others."

While meditating on those words I was granted more perspective. I enjoy writing, yes. I want to be published, yes. Perhaps even have it as a career. However, with every word that goes from my heart to the paper or screen before me, my desire is that it glorifies my Creator. That was my prayer that night.

The power of the printed word has changed the world throughout history. Thomas Paine wrote, Common Sense and significantly effected the beginning of America's Revolutionary War. In the year nineteen hundred and two, Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated the book, Tales of Peter Rabbit. It was the first time that a book with colored pictures was placed into the hands of children. Then there is the Holy Bible, written by sixty-six different authors, all inspired by God to bring us His promises and His Story. And so many more!

I don't know where this writing road will lead me, perhaps it will end soon, or keep twisting and turning before me. But I know I have a voice, we all do. The dismal reality is, there are many voices out there in print that are bringing lies and immorality to the masses. As believers we need to fight and take back the literary world that has succumbed to so much darkness. We are the light of the world! It's time to place that light on a lamp-stand and let it shine for all the world to see.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Peer Pressure

It's a good thing I'm writing for young adults as I have succumbed once again to peer pressure. Beth and Christine are doing it, so... I checked it out: NANOWRIMO. Okay, I signed up. And, joined the Chicago group... That was pretty simple. I'm in.

This experience feels high school when my friends and my brother told me how fantastic skiing was. The first time I went, I ripped my gloves, fell a million times, got soaking wet, drank a lot of hot chocolate, did all but one run on the bunny hill, and got hooked. I'm sure this will be much the same - maybe even the ripped gloves. So, hang on to your poles, take a deep breath and let's go!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Worth Doing Badly: NaNoWriMo

Just so you know in advance, every post I do from now into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) will be a goad to suck you into doing it too. Don't say you weren't warned.

Before you read the rest of this post, read this:

Robyn made some excellent points which immediately caused me to jump to several conclusions of my own. She said that she had heard it argued that some things worth doing were also worth doing badly as opposed to not doing them at all. Her point was that you could mop the floor quickly with less than perfection rather than not at all and give the extra time to bettering your writing. But I submit to you that writing poorly is also worth doing.

Enter: NaNoWriMo

Of the 50,000 words you produce in that month, and I'm speaking in faith that you will indeed succumb to my personal brand of peer pressure and participate, there probably won't be one inspired literary word in the lot. But the beauty of it is that you DO it. Driven by nothing more than a deadline, you actually WRITE a novel instead of just THINKING about it or PLANNING to do it. Also driven by a deadline, you abandon all ideas of perfection along the wayside and write a dreadful first draft. You'll be in good company with about 250,000 other writers or more doing the same. First drafts are like seed sown. You can't get the harvest without them.

In other words, it is so worth it for you to exercise your right to write a novel, even if you do it badly. There are hundreds of thousands of people in history that would have given anything to have that kind of freedom that we so casually pass off. Heaven forbid that we eventually lose that freedom in the USA, but it's possible.

Reasons to be a NaNoWriMo Writer:
• Because you like to write.
• Because you don't like to write.
• Because you have the freedom to.
• Because you have an obligation to capture your personal voice and ideas on paper in a way that no one else ever can.

In case you're thinking that you don't have time, it'll take you about 55 hours total if you're an average typist. Spread out during a month, that's not too bad. You'll even have a few free evenings here and there. If you do it like one writer, you'll get the first 12,000 words done in the first week, and the last 38,000 done in the final three days, plugging in the last at one minute before midnight on the 30th.

In conclusion, I think only real value of NaNoWriMo is the accountability that transforms an otherwise procrastination-laden individual into a writing machine for one month. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen

My wonderful husband and I had a very interesting conversation recently. What does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing! But I was extremely amused at my discovery and expressed to him my desire to share these words of wisdom.

Men and women are different, that's a given. The following has been commonly said by experts and commonly observed by myself.

When a wife approaches her husband with a problem, he will immediately try to find a solution to the problem. Most of the time the wife is not looking for a solution, but to talk it out, vent, or perhaps just have someone who will listen. Then be taken in his arms and told that everything is going to be all right.

Upon relaying a problem to my husband last night he proceeded to tell me exactly what I should do to remedy it. I humorously informed him ONCE AGAIN, that I was not looking to HIM to solve this problem. He couldn't understand why I would tell him something and not expect a solution.

Here it is. I just wanted to talk it out, to share what I was going through inside and have someone listen, and care. I explained that if I wanted him to help remedy the problem I would at the end of my pondering, ASK him for his help.

This was a breakthrough! I think he finally got it. Of course we will probable have this same conversation a month from now, but for now he understood.

Then the conversation lead down a different path.

Generally, when a women wants a man to do something say around the house, she will say, "Honey that chair leg really needs to be fixed."

"Okay, I'll get to it," he grunts.

Two weeks later, the chair leg sits untouched.

I was informed by my husband during this conversation, that I can't just tell him something needs to be done (even though he is the only one who can fix it). I must say something like, "Honey, could you please fix the chair today?"

We were in stitches over our discoveries of each other after almost fifteen years of marriage. The light bulbs were turned on and we had a better understanding of each others needs.

We have never ARRIVED, there is always something new to learn. We just need to try and keep the journey fun, and laugh at ourselves along the way. :)

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. - Ernest Hemingway

Men and women belong to different species, and communication between them is a science still in its infancy. - Bill Cosby

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. -Benjamin Franklin