Fiction — Rock and Roll Life — Part 2

To read the first part of this story, go here: Fiction — Rock and Roll Life — Part 1

In a daze, Zane headed back toward the diner, guitar slung over one shoulder, backpack over the other, earbuds in place. His boots kicked up a spray of ochre dust that glowed in the blinding evening sun. He lowered his dollar-store sunglasses and let the words of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody sink in as they belted out the story of his life. 

He sang along. “Mama, I just killed a man 🎶.”

Oh God, what have I done? I saved Mama, that’s what. There was no turning back now. 

He was in luck. Two cars were parked on the gravel-spattered dirt outside the Traveler’s Oasis Cafe on Route 66. One he recognized as the owner’s jeep, the other must belong to an unsuspecting customer, whom Zane hoped would be entertained by Mr. Peterson’s idle chitchat for at least another hour while he enjoyed a leisurely home-cooked meal.

Zane fiddled with the wires under the dash and the Corvette roared to life. His mouth curled at the irony of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell playing on the radio. He probably hadn’t paid Satan’s dues yet, and wished he was headed to some party, but he figured hell was exactly where he’d end up. His fingers tapped on the steering wheel in time to the pulsing beat as the convertible sped toward the state line. 

Maybe I’ll join the other lost souls haunting the ghost town of Nothing, Arizona. That sounds like a good place for a nobody like me to go.

The wind whistled past his ears, ruffling his thick hair, as he pushed the car past 90 mph heading east on Hwy 40. The classic Eagles’ song, Hotel California, came on the radio. His head bobbed in time to the music as he hummed along.

He pulled a hand-rolled joint from his shirt pocket. Holding the steering wheel with his knee, he cupped his hand around the lighter and flicked it to life. He took a long drag, holding each smoky inhalation as long as he could. Zane sunk deeper in the leather bucket seat and relaxed against the headrest. He smiled. Maybe life’s not so bad after all.

Time stood still as the world zipped by heavy-lidded eyes. He yawned. In the rearview mirror, the sun nestled down for the night in a fluffy bed of lilac and tangerine clouds. 

Mile after mile of desolate scenery passed by. 

The car hiccuped and sputtered to a stop. Zane cursed under his breath at the empty gas gauge and slammed the heel of his hand on the steering wheel. Khaki grit and stunted shrubs stretched as far as he could see in all directions.

And here I am, stranded in the middle of God knows where. 

Since going back wasn’t an option, Zane threw his guitar over his shoulder and continued along the deserted highway. Occasionally, a distant object seemed to reflect the last vestiges of diminishing sunlight. He headed toward it for what seemed like hours. It was cool enough he didn’t break a sweat, but he soon felt covered with the same earthen film that caked his boots and the sparse foliage.

Zane flinched when a raindrop slapped him on the cheek. A showy flash of lightning snaked in the distance, followed by a growing rumble. Within minutes, a heavy downpour plastered his hair to his head. Since none of the scraggly bushes would provide any cover, he ducked his head and trudged on. He pulled his collar tight around his neck but not before the rain found its way in and ran down his back, spreading a wave of goosebumps in its wake. He pushed on toward the dim glow in the distance.

 As crimson and turquoise splashed over the horizon, Zane noticed the shimmering light he’d sought all night was not just one light, but several. In front of him, a stone wall dotted with lit windows towered three stories high and stretched the length of a football field to either side. Surrounded by landscaped gardens, lush grass, and solar lights, the building looked out of place in the barren landscape.

Feeling like a drowned rat in a maze with only one direction open, Zane traipsed up steps framed on either side by concrete pillars studded with shiny pebbles. He raised his fist to knock, but jerked back when the dark double doors swung open before he touched them. 

~~~~~

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The First Christmas

Mary grabbed her belly and winced, but didn’t break step with her fiancé. For the last couple of miles, he’d led the donkey in silence, no doubt deep in thought and burdened by the gravity of their situation. Taking a rest from riding, she trudged alongside, lost in her own thoughts.

She remembered the day clearly, just nine short months ago, when the oversized man in glowing robes had startled her while she fed the goats, enough to make her drop the bucket. He called her blessed and favored among women, yet there she was, smelly and dirty and doing any menial chore necessary to help her family have enough food on the table. 

The news he delivered overwhelmed her with a flood of conflicting emotions. She was honored, humbled, terrified, and excited all at once. He told her she was to have a baby. Normally, this would be good news if she were already married, but she and Joseph were only betrothed. Since she was still a virgin and their wedding wasn’t for several months, she asked the angel how she could possibly get pregnant. When he’d told her the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, she wondered what that meant. It sounded a little scary. Even though she had no idea what to expect, she resolved to trust the Lord.

All Mary knew was that if God had sent an angel to tell her she was highly favored and He had chosen her for this mission in life, then she would gladly do it, whatever uncertain path that took her on. 

“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”¹

But she still didn’t understand why He picked her. He could have picked any number of women of privilege, who had the means to provide the Son of God with the luxury He deserved. He could have picked someone more beautiful, someone older, more educated, wiser, someone who’d proven herself capable of raising children. Yet He picked her—a very ordinary, and young, teenager with no experience and of low social standing and limited means.

How was she going to break the news to Joseph that she was pregnant? And her parents? Mama would be heartbroken and Papa would be furious! Why would anyone believe God was the Father of this baby? She’d be a disgrace to her family and the whole village! She may even be stoned to death!

Trying to put those thoughts out of her mind, she’d run off to visit her Aunt Elizabeth, whom the angel had told her was also pregnant, even in her old age. Mary was excited for her. Finally, her aunt’s shame over being barren would be gone. She could hold her head up along with the other mothers. Her aunt and uncle had never stopped praying for a child, and their persistence had been rewarded. God is so good! 

She journeyed for several days to get to Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s home, and when she arrived, Elizabeth greeted her as “the mother of my Lord” and called her blessed because she believed the Lord would do what He said.

Elizabeth’s greeting confirmed what the angel had said and how the Lord God had chosen lowly, ordinary her to bring their people’s Messiah into the world. From now on, all generations would call her blessed. So many praises burst forth inside her in that moment, she couldn’t help but sing them out. She was overwhelmed with gratitude and amazement, and scared to death! How was she supposed to raise the Son of God?

“—Mary?” Joseph’s wrinkled brow showed his concern. “Are you well?”

“I will be soon,” she said, hunching over, clutching her belly, and wincing as the pains sharpened. As they eased, she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Here,” he said, “let me help you back up on the donkey. We don’t have very far now. We’ll be there before the sun sets.” He helped her get settled and they set off again. In the distance, the little town of Bethlehem came into view.

She smiled at Joseph. He was such a good man and she was thankful their parents had paired them to be married. Their families had been friends for many years, so they had grown up around each other. He was twelve when she was born and had always looked after her and protected her like a little sister. He was so polite and never degraded her like other men did. 

When she broke the news to Joseph that she was pregnant and how it happened, of course he was very hurt and struggled to believe her. How could he? She couldn’t blame him. She could hardly believe it herself! 

He decided to quietly break their engagement, so as not to disgrace her any further, until an angel came to visit him in a dream and confirmed Mary’s story. So Joseph took her as his wife, just as the angel commanded.

They endured months of humiliating name-calling, demeaning looks, and rejection as her belly grew, until Emperor Augustus called for a census and they started their journey to Bethlehem, since Joseph was from King David’s lineage.

The sun nestled into a bed of fluffy clouds, spreading beautiful swathes of lavender and orange across the sky, as they entered the busy town. Others whose ancestral roots brought them to Bethlehem crowded the streets. 

Mary moaned and clutched her swollen belly as it tightened.

“Sit and I’ll go find us a place to spend the night,” Joseph said, patting the rock for her to rest on. He turned and a shepherd carrying a lamb for sacrifice bumped into him.

“My apologies,” said the shepherd. Noticing Mary, he furrowed his brow. “Here, have some water.” He thrust the skin toward her and she gladly accepted.

“We’re looking for accommodation,” Joseph said. “Any recommendations?”

“I doubt you’ll find any. The city is already full of travelers,” said the shepherd. “May God guide you and bless you.”  He merged into the crowd and disappeared.

“I’ll be back soon. Rest here,” Joseph said, and he too vanished into the throng of people passing by.

Time crawled by, marked only by her contractions, which were getting closer together. As the last vestiges of sun sank below the horizon, Joseph stepped back into view.

“The shepherd was right. There are no rooms available, but a kind innkeeper offered us his stable for no fee. It’s not far and it’s better than sleeping on the street,” he said, stretching a hand out to help her to her feet. She grunted with the effort, then groaned and grabbed her belly again.

Mary’s contractions were barely minutes apart as Joseph helped her get settled in the hay, the air thick with the smell of animal dung. 

“Oh, Lord God,” Mary whispered in between birthing pains. “Your Son deserves so much better than this, but I know You’re in control and You could have provided Him with a palace if that was Your will. I trust You and love You, Lord.”

They were about to be parents to the Son of God! 

The gravity of that thought weighed heavy until the angel’s words came back to her. Do not be afraid, Mary. She repeated them to herself over and over as she focused on pushing, until with one final push and scream she delivered the most perfect, beautiful baby boy.

The Savior for all people. The answer to Israel’s prayers. The fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s prophecies. Immanuel, God with us.

She wrapped the Son of God in swaddling cloths, kissed His forehead, and lay Him down to sleep in the feeding trough in which Joseph had placed some hay. She smiled at Him and then up at Joseph.

“You did it!” he said, stroking the side of her face. “You brought our Messiah into the world.”

A ruckus outside drew Joseph to the door. When he opened it, a group of four shepherds crowded in, led by the one they had met as they entered town.

“Please excuse us, but I knew in my spirit that there was something special about you two when I met you. I didn’t know what it was until the angels appeared to us in the field. They told us of our Savior’s birth and that we would find Him here.” His words tumbled over one another in his excitement. He beamed at them.

Mary lifted the sleeping baby from the manger and offered Him to the shepherd. He held him tenderly and dropped to one knee. The other shepherds fell to their knees too.

“What is His name?” 

Mary and Joseph looked at each other and spoke simultaneously.

“Jesus.” 

*This is a fictional account of the birth of Jesus, based on Luke 1:1 – 2:16 and Matthew 1:18-25.

1Luke 1:38, NLT

Giving Thanks

“Lord, I will give thanks to you with all my heart. I will tell about all the wonderful things you have done. I will be glad and full of joy because of you. Most High God, I will sing the praises of your name.”  (Psalm 9:1-2, NIRV)

Thank You, Lord, for clothes to wear, a comfy bed to sleep in, and a roof over my head.

I pray for those who are homeless and destitute, that You would help them find warmth from the cold and shelter from the elements.

Thank You, Lord, for lots of yummy food to eat. 

I pray for those who go to sleep hungry most nights, that You would help them find sustenance. I pray you would send people into their lives who would bless them with a good meal during this season of giving and thankfulness.

Thank You, Lord, for loving family and friends to share life with. 

I pray for those who feel alone or unloved, for those who have no family to care for them, and for those who are alienated or torn from their families by crime, abuse, or discord. I pray they would come to know how much You love them. I ask that You comfort them and remind them You are always with them.

Thank You, Lord, for good health and the ability to take care of myself and others. 

I pray for those who are struggling with mental illness, poor health, chronic illness, or a debilitating condition that makes them unable to take care of themselves. I pray You would provide the care they need and help them in their infirmities.

Thank You, Lord, for a job I enjoy and for caring coworkers who share my love for You. 

I pray for those who are struggling financially or are unemployed for whatever reason, that You would help them find work and provide for their needs. I pray for those in unpleasant or hostile work situations, that You would give them the grace to handle it, the ability to forgive those who malign them, and the strength to be a godly example in their workplace so others will want the peace and inner joy You give them.

Thank You, Lord, for providing for my every need, even those I didn’t know I had. 

Thank You for choosing me to follow You, and for saving me through the blood of Your Son, Jesus, from a life of sin and separation from You. 

Thank You for Your grace and mercy, Your love and patience, Your provision and protection, and the gift of Your Holy Spirit. 

Lord, help me to never take what You have given me for granted, but to give out of the abundance You have provided, not expecting anything in return. Help me to show others the love You have shown me. Help me be a friend to those who feel alone and unlovable. Help me be a good listener so I can understand and empathize with others’ situations, and show them the grace and mercy You have shown me.

Fiction — Rock and Roll Life — Part 1

Letting the rain drip from his nose, Zane Driggers leaned against the backstage door of the sold-out stadium in L.A, still bummed he couldn’t get a ticket. He tugged his hood further over his eyes, and buried his hands in his pockets. The bass drum pounded against his back, resonating deep inside him. 

An electric guitar screamed, sending chills down his spine. The crowd roared. He pictured himself up on stage, sweat dripping off him instead of rain, his fans singing along, jumping and clapping, then surging forward, arms outstretched to him, the star. 

On his way home, he spotted a well-used guitar in a pawn shop’s window spotlight a few miles out on Route 66 in Newberry Springs, and knew he had to have it. It thrummed his name to the beat of a hopeful heart filled with big dreams.

The next day, Zane exited the school bus early and purchased the old six-string. This guitar was going to be his one-way ticket to a rock and roll future. He could feel it in his bones. He slung it over his free shoulder, inserted his earpieces, and smiled at Foreigner’s Jukebox Hero thumping in his ears. He had stars in his eyes alright. 

Filled with a renewed energy, he headed to the Traveler’s Oasis, ready to endure another tedious afternoon bussing tables, washing dishes, and listening to Mr. Peterson drone on about his younger days as a navy cook on the USS Midway. Daydreaming about rocking out on his guitar, imitating the 70’s and 80’s rock legends he admired, made the evening fly by. 

Before he left, Zane slipped the gun Mr Peterson had tucked under the counter at the cafe ‘in case of an emergency’ into his backpack. 

The screen door squealed its usual protest as Zane entered the sweltering interior of the trailer house. Mama busied herself in the kitchen, dish towel slung over her shoulder. 

“Hey, Mama.” The plastic covering on the kitchen chair squeaked as Zane slumped into it and slid his backpack off his shoulder, leaning it against one of the metal legs. 

“Hey yourself,” she said, eyeing the guitar he’d propped against the wall. Smiling, she singled out a white envelope from the stack of mail on the end of the counter. “Look what came today.” 

She thrust it in his direction. Her eyes sparkled for the first time in as long as he could remember. The bruise and swelling under her left eye was barely noticeable now but he could tell she still favored her right arm a little whenever she moved.

Zane’s high school graduation ceremony wasn’t until next week, but when he accepted the crisp business envelope, Mama beamed at him as if he’d just been awarded his doctorate. He walked his fingers around the edge of the envelope, past the UCLA return address, finally breaking the seal. He flattened the letter out on the formica-topped table where they could both see it. He’d only read as far as “Congratulations!” when Mama gripped his bicep.

“I’m so proud of you!” she said, her eyes glistening. “This is your chance to get out of here and make something of yourself!” 

Without thinking, Zane pulled Mama into a bear hug but quickly released her when she winced from the pressure around her ribs. Hate for that boyfriend of hers boiled up inside him again. 

“Mama, let’s both get outta here,” Zane said.

“You know I can’t…” she said, kicking at a corner of curled up linoleum.

They both jumped when Cal jerked the metal screen door open with such force that it slammed against the weathered exterior paneling. Muttering a string of curse words, the brute strode across the uneven floor in his heavy work boots, snatched up the letter and tore it into several pieces. Cal backhanded Zane, whiplashing his head to the side, then shoved him down into the corner. The guitar slid to the floor. His head sounded like a ripe watermelon as it thudded against the wall. Mama screamed. 

“Woman, how dare you—!” Cal grabbed Mama by the hair, flung her onto the stained couch, straddled her and slapped her several times. Mama cried out in pain. 

The hatred clawing at Zane’s insides cleared away the fuzzy-headedness. His hands balled into fists and his jaw clenched so tight his teeth hurt. He inched his backpack closer, trying not to draw Cal’s attention, and slid the gun out.

This was just such an emergency.

“Get up!” All of Zane’s pent-up loathing raged within him as he pointed the gun at Cal’s head. “I said, get up!”

Cal scowled at Zane. “You think I’m afraid of you, boy?” His face still red from his tantrum, Cal pulled himself to his full height, and puffed out his chest. He towered over Zane by several inches and outweighed him by fifty pounds.

“Move out of the way, Mama.”

“No, Zane! Please don’t do this! Don’t throw away your future! Please…” As she spoke, Mama scrambled off the couch and backed away.

“I can’t go on with my life and leave you here with this scum!” Zane thrust the gun’s muzzle hard against Cal’s temple, making his head tilt. He knew this was the only way, even as Mama sobbed. 

The shot boomed in the confined space. Cal’s body crumpled to the floor like a puppet whose strings had been cut. Mama screamed again. 

Zane dropped the gun onto the dingy carpet next to the body. Relief and fear roiled inside him, each one fighting for dominance. 

Even without any close neighbors, Zane knew he couldn’t stay. He gathered up his backpack, strode down the hall to his bedroom, and stuffed some clothes in it. He headed back to the living room and grabbed his guitar.

Dishtowel in one hand and gun in the other, Mama stared teary-eyed at the body lying face down on the mud-brown carpet with a dark pool of blood for a pillow.

“I love you, Mama.” 

“Oh, Zane!” Her words came out as a moan. She finished wiping off the gun and positioned Cal’s hand around it. 

Zane turned and left. Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody played his life story through his earbuds. 

Elements of Story

When my husband came up with an intriguing idea for a children’s book, I thought, “That’s a good place for me to start. How hard can it be?”

With most picture books being around 500 words or less and early readers up to about 800-1000 words, there’s no room for fluff or filler, backstory or flashbacks, or lengthy character or scenic descriptions. Fewer words means every word has to count. Of course, most picture books have the added benefit of illustrations, which are instrumental in bringing those words to life — unless it’s The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak 😉.

Just as with full length novels, a children’s story has to be a good story. So what exactly makes a story good?

All good stories have the following factors in common: 

  • a protagonist, or main character (MC), that is interesting enough to capture the attention of those with notoriously short attention spans (that includes most adults these days!). That character can be a human, a dinosaur, a robot, an animal, an inanimate object, or something else the reader is familiar with or can relate to. If the protagonist is not human, most often they will take on some human qualities like being able to talk. If the MC is a person, it’s best if they have some attribute that makes them distinctive, like Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy or Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man.
  • a problem that is age appropriate and relatable, which for kids might be the uncertainty of the first day of school, bullying, or fear of the dark. Whatever the problem is, it needs to be presented in an imaginative or unique way. Lectures, lessons, and adult problems, such as having financial woes or work stress, are of little interest. Most children do not read books to learn something — they get enough of that at school — they read to be entertained. Kids can still learn something from an entertaining book, but the lesson is incorporated into a well written story. Consider Ganit and Adir Levy’s series of books What Should Danny Do? and What Should Darla Do? that teach about the power to choose and the different outcomes from those choices.
  • a classic 3 act story structure with a beginning, middle, and end. That may sound simple enough, but you’d be surprised how many new writers make their story a series of events or actions, or an excerpt from real life, without a true beginning, middle, or end to it. The beginning, Act 1, needs to have a hook to pull the reader into the story, followed by an inciting incident that kicks off the story problem. The middle, that starts with Act 2, needs to show an escalation of the original problem, where things keep getting worse for the character, until it culminates in a satisfying resolution at the end of Act 3.
  • an It-Factor. By that, I mean something that makes it stand out from other stories or books. It can be a unique concept like the talking crayons in Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit, a fantastical creature (a unicorn, mermaid, leprechaun, etc) such as those featured in Adam Wallace’s How to Catch series, or the unforgettable wacky characters and rhyme of Dr. Seuss books. The It-Factor is something that gets the writer excited because they know they’re on to something special. It’s also what draws readers to the book and keeps them coming back because the story becomes a favorite. 

All that good stuff has to be contained in those limited word counts and be presented in such a way that adults will want to buy the book and kids will want to read the book or have it read to them. Titles and illustrations help make a book appealing too, since books really do get judged by their cover — more on that at a later date.

Every writer wants their book to stand out from the countless others, to be the next one a reader chooses to buy, to be wildly popular because it resonates with so many people, but it’s harder than you might think, especially when you’ve only got 500 words to make it happen.

Tell me: What makes you want to pick up a book you see at the store? What makes you decide to buy it?

Revamp

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may have noticed several older posts have disappeared. I’m probably not done yet, either. I’ve decided to do a blog remodel.

I want to focus more on writerly subjects (or at least posts that can be applied to writing in some way), plus share some short stories and poetry.

I’ll also be writing on what I’m learning as I go through this journey to being a published author and maybe that’ll help other up and coming authors and author/illustrators as they travel that path.

I hope you’ll stick with me, especially if you’re planning to have kids or already have kids or grandkids. There’ll be some picture books coming out of all this eventually 😉.

Lies! All Lies!

Nothing will stop us in our tracks faster than fear. Fear is one of Satan’s favorite tactics. It prevents us from accomplishing the purpose for which God put us on this earth. It’s also why many of us miss out on the abundant life Jesus offers. Plain and simple, fear blocks faith.

Fear is defined as

F = false

E = evidence

A = appearing

R = real

In other words, our fears are not real or true, but merely something our minds think is true. 

When I stopped blogging two years ago, it was to focus on my novel writing. 

Or so I thought. 

But that’s when things shut down for me. 

I was unable to stick with the deadlines I set for myself. I was unable to come up with any words to put on the page. I became dissatisfied with the story line I had for my novel but I found it impossible to come up with a suitable alternative. I realized my story had major gaps and faults, but I felt at a loss as to how to fix them. 

I was confused and lost and numb. 

I was so disappointed in myself and feared that I had disappointed God, too (which I now know is impossible, since He already knows everything I’m going to do or say, and loves me despite my many faults). 

I was embarrassed and wondered what was wrong with me. 

Others were doing it, so why couldn’t I?

Had I been fooling myself all these years with a dream that was beyond my capabilities?

Had I heard God wrong? 

Why wasn’t God answering my prayers and helping me if this is what he wanted me to do?

My story and my writing languished, then stagnated. I walked away from it all for almost a year, but although I left my story, my story never left me. It was always in the back of my mind and I felt drawn to get back to it, but every time I sat down and opened that file, I faced the same blinking cursor and blank mind. 

At least, I thought my mind was blank. 

After finding the Going Deeper Workshop by Karen Ball & Erin Taylor Young offered through the Christian Writers Institute, I learned how to focus in on the words in the background and realized my mind was playing the same ugly messages over and over again. You know how you can tune out a ticking clock or a song in the background or even a physical pain when you’re focused on something else? Those lies had played so long I didn’t consciously notice them anymore, but subconsciously, because of their frequency, I took them as truth. 

I was believing lies like:

1. “You’ve been away from blogging for so long and still have nothing to show for it — what a failure! What will people think?”

2. “You may be a little better than some writers, but you’re way behind most writers! And look at how many years you’ve wasted!”

3. “There are so many steps to writing a novel — you’ll never get them all down! It’ll be a flop!”

4. “Your writing is terrible! Embarrassing even! People are just going to laugh at you!”

5. “You’ve never stuck with anything long enough to get good at it. What makes you think this is any different? May as well give up now.”

6. “You’ve been doing the same things, making the same mistakes for years — you’re just a messed up failure!”

Is it any wonder I haven’t made any worthwhile progress? With those lines, and several others, repeating in my brain every time I sat down to write, it’s no surprise I suffered from writer’s block and felt totally inept and discouraged.

To counteract the lies, the instructors advised replacing them with truths from God’s Word, so these are the corresponding verses I came up with:

1. “6The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can [mere] man do to me? 7The Lord is on my side, He is among those who help me; Therefore I will look [in triumph] on those who hate me.”  (Ps 118:6-7, AMP)

2. “12I don’t mean that I am exactly what God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and make it mine. That’s what Christ Jesus wants me to do. It is the reason he made me his. 13Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me.” (Phil 3:12-13)

3. “O Lord our God, let your sweet beauty rest upon us and give us favor. Come work with us, and then our works will endure, and give us success in all we do.”  (Ps 90:17, TPT)

4. “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.”  (Is 50:7)

5. “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”  (Gal 6:9)

6. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  (Eph 2:10)

It’s a work in progress. I’ve seen improvement and small advances. I took a big leap and submitted a children’s story and a poem to a Writer’s Digest competition. I also pitched my children’s story during a #FaithPitch event on Twitter and got a ❤️ from Little Lamb Books, which meant they wanted me to send my query letter and manuscript to them, so I did. I was so tickled!

It’s scary putting your work out there in the open for people to critique, and possibly reject, so I joined a Christian Picture Book Critique group through Facebook, got valuable feedback from them, and made some much needed revisions before submitting my picture book story to the publishers. 

I’m memorizing and reading aloud several other verses every day, too. Reading them aloud really helps, because hearing them as you read reinforces them. They include:

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  (Eph 3:20)

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.  (Ps 37:4-5)

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.  (Prov 4:23)

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”  (Ps 32:8)

Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  (Phil 4:6)

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  (Rom 8:28)

I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.  (Mark 11:24)

Then He touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith, let it be done for you.”  (Matt 9:29)

For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.  (Phil 4:13)

Fear blocks faith. The lies we believe produce and feed irrational fears that stop us from living up to our full God-given potential. We are often our own worst enemies, and Satan loves to fuel the fires of self-deception and self-destruction. Awareness is the first step on the road to change. Jesus is the Truth we need to follow on the Way to our best Life.

 

Do you suffer from similar struggles and have to fight against lies you’ve told yourself for so long that you believe them? What have they prevented you from doing? How do you counteract the lies you’ve come to believe?

©️ 2020, Mia Manumit, https://calledtobeawriter.wordpress.com

Lost

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I’ve lost my Mojo, my Muse, my Inspiration, and my Motivation.

Have you seen them?

They’re mischievous and often stir things up just for fun or pop up in the least likely places, but this time, they’ve disappeared and I can’t find them anywhere.

I’ve looked in all the dust bunny dens, under every unturned stone, and even in the dark cobwebbed recesses where there’s stacks of musty files to hide behind and yesteryear’s trinkets to get tangled in, but they’re nowhere to be found.

Why would they just up and leave?

Has someone stolen them?

Could they have perished?

I miss them terribly! 😢

If you have any clues that might lead to their recovery or if you spot them, please send them home or contact me and I’ll come get them.

 

 

©️ 2020, Mia Manumit, https://calledtobeawriter.wordpress.com

Writing Update—First Chapter Critique

Just a quick update because I’m excited about something that happened recently. I also hope it might help other writers out there.

I’ve been working on staying focused on my writing lately and after deciding I’m not much of an outliner, I skipped the rest of the character biographies and detailed scene planning, and just started writing. I wrote six chapters, then decided I’d bite the bullet and send my first chapter in to my Facebook writing group for critique.

I’m a member of the Your Novel Blueprint group headed by Christian author Jerry Jenkins, most well-known for his Left Behind series, although he’s had over 190 books traditionally published in his 40 year career. Since there’s over 300 members in that group, there’s no guarantee he’ll see every post, but he does manage to catch most chapter or page submissions and he does a personal edit of them for us, with suggestions on how to make it better. Such a blessing!

A couple of other group members saw my submission and made comments that they liked it and were hooked or would read more, so that in itself was pleasing, but then Jerry also looked at it, so I was really happy about that (since he’s the expert😉).

When he reposted his edited version of my chapter, he apologized in advance for being so severe with his editing. Eek! 😬 Uh oh, that didn’t sound so good.

I prayed for a thick skin and a teachable spirit. 🙏🏼

But then he went on to say it’s “only because I see potential here.” (Happy dance! 😀) That’s promising! Another positive comment he made was “this is a big concept, futuristic, maybe even dystopian premise.” Coming up with a “big concept” is what every writer aims for when brainstorming story ideas, so I was tickled.

My chapter was only 582 words to begin with, but he chopped it down to 268! I left all his comments in so you can see them (in green).

Below, I’ve pasted my first chapter before editing, followed by the chapter with Jerry’s editing suggestions (just read the black and red to know what it would sound like without his comments). Remember when you read his revised version that he’s working with what I already wrote, not what he would’ve written himself.

Tell me what you think.

~~~~~

Original:

The Asylum Country of New Zealand, 2025

Fuming over the injustice of being excluded from the Deliverance Day roster, I scowled at Mum in the rearview mirror as she prattled on, but my vengeful thoughts focused on the mayor, the President, the secretive One World Order—whoever stamped my name ineligible.
“Give me a break! If I’m so special, why was my name the only one not on the list?” The fireworks from the stadium we’d just left tinted her blonde hair shades of pink and gold and blue.
“Indianna Grace Fletcher, how many times have I told you that everything happens for a reason? Your purpose will reveal itself when the time is right.” She only used my full name when she scolded me, but I didn’t care.
“Well, I’m tired of waiting! I’m going to make things happen the way I want for a change!”
T.J. covered his ears with his hands, bumping his forehead on the glass as he rocked back and forth, no doubt trying to escape the mounting tension the only way he knew how. Mum reached forward and touched his shoulder.
My twin brother, younger by the thirty minutes he got stuck in the birth canal, got the short end of the stick. Within the first few months of his life, specialists diagnosed him with a mild case of cerebral palsy, but by his third birthday, they changed the label to autistic. I squeezed his slender leg in apology.
“How on earth am I supposed to do anything great stuck in this little country the rest of the world’s forgotten about?” I said through gritted teeth.
Ruining our run of green lights, the signal at the last intersection out of town turned red, forcing the car to stop. I pouted. Big raindrops spattered across the windshield distorting the view. I knew I could override the autopilot if I wanted to. It couldn’t be that hard to drive manually—after all, people did it all the time years ago.
Tired of peering through smeared splatters as we sat at the empty intersection, I slapped the steering wheel with the heels of both hands, and gripped it till my knuckles turned white. “Come on!”
“Calm down, Indie. Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. It always does.”
My rebellious streak kicked in. Maybe I can stow away. Or maybe I’ll just marry Hayden! He’s already got a scholarship to Stanford. Surely the stupid authorities can’t stop a wife from leaving with her husband.
“Don’t get any wild ideas now!”
I frowned. I hated when Mum read my mind.
“Destiny has a way of showing up when you least expect it. You’ll see.”
For some reason, her usual calming tone grated on my nerves tonight. It was the same spiel she’d been spoon-feeding me my whole life. I rolled my eyes. Give it a rest, woman!
Finally, the light turned green and the car accelerated forward.
Stop!
I jumped, surprised to hear my brother’s thought loud and clear in my head for the first time in several years, but he echoed my sentiments exactly. Yeah, buddy, Mum needs to stop, doesn’t she?
I jumped again as T.J. smacked both hands flat against the window. Two huge headlights barreled towards us. I jerked the wheel to the right. The truck slammed into the left side, throwing us into a roll. The din of crumpling metal and shattering glass wasn’t enough to drown out our screams.

~~~~~

With Jerry’s editorial suggestions:

The Asylum Country of New Zealand, 2025

Fuming over [resist the urge to explain; if she’s fuming, we know she considers it an injustice] being excluded from the Deliverance Day roster, I [confusing; I would have assumed Mum was driving and the main character was seeing her from the back seat] [already established] vowed revenge on whoever in the One World Order deemed me ineligible. 

[sorry, but this is a big concept, futuristic, maybe even dystopian premise that is diminished by this whole whining to Mum car scene; makes it sound like a typical coming of age tale—and it can be much bigger than that] Why was mine the only name not on the list? [not sure what this means; she’s literally the only one who won’t be delivered, or the only one in her family—including her CP brother?]  [if this is that big a deal, it shouldn’t be rehearsed off stage after it’s over; maybe start there] [this has become one of the most overused clichés of this genre; editors see it as a lazy way to work in someone’s whole name, and it’s always in this context, an exasperated parent addressing an irrepressible son or daughter]  [that quote may be realistic, but it’s so vapid it just slows the story].

I was tired of waiting, determined to make things happen the way I wanted for a change.

T.J. covered his ears, [what else would he cover his ears with? 🙂] bumping his forehead on the glass as he rocked[redundant; that’s what rocking is], no doubt trying to escape the mounting tension the only way he knew how.  [your best bet is to leave Mum out of this; main character should be on the run with her brother; maybe even stole the family car]

My twin brother, younger by thirty minutes had been diagnosed with  mild cerebral palsy, but by age three, he had been labeled autistic. I squeezed his slender leg in apology. 

“How on earth am I supposed to do anything great stuck in this little country the rest of the world’s forgotten about?” I said.[let your choice of dialogue words do the work so you can resist the urge to explain] 

Ruining our run of green lights, the signal at the last intersection out of town turned red,[we know 😉 ]. I pouted. Big raindrops spattered across the windshield. [ditto] [omit needless words] I could override the autopilot. [omit needless words]  People drove manually all the time years ago. 

[cliché] “Come on!” 

Maybe I can stow away. Or maybe I’ll marry Hayden and follow him to Stanford. Surely the authorities couldn’t stop a wife from leaving with her husband.

[yes, please; this is the reason most editors want adults excised from YA books]

Finally, the light turned green and the car accelerated[assumed; give the reader credit] . 

Stop! 

I jumped, surprised to hear my brother’s thought loud and clear for the first time in years.  T.J. slammed both hands against the window. Two huge headlights barreled towards us. I jerked the wheel to the right. The truck slammed into our left side, throwing us into a roll. Crumpling metal, shattering glass, screams

 

~~~~~

It clicked after I thanked him for saying I had potential that he wasn’t talking about my writing as much as he was the story, but that’s okay. I realized I still have a lot to learn and as Jerry says, “All writing is rewriting.”

And because of his comments, I started the story over beginning with my protagonist at the stadium during the big announcement. I’ve also decided to change it up so that my protagonist is not excluded from the list, but that the car accident will happen after a celebratory drink or two and her boyfriend or best friend will die, and so she has to live with survivor’s guilt. Then she finds out her mum and brother are missing…

 

©️ 2018, Mia Manumit, https://calledtobeawriter.wordpress.com

Blogging Break

Hi guys, hope your day, week, and summer (for those in the Northern Hemisphere🌞) is going well. I don’t know about you but my summer feels busy so far.

Maybe it’s because of extra time spent with the grandkids while they’re out of school.

books-1841116__480Maybe it’s because I’m falling further and further behind on my reading list (including everyone’s blogs). 😔

Maybe it’s because of our upcoming vacation in 3 months, for which we still need to arrange flights to and from Rome, book a hotel for the night before our cruise leaves and for a few nights afterwards in colosseum-3456772__480Rome, pick out and pay for our shore excursions for each day the ship is docked in a different port, check on travel insurance, and secure boarding for our diabetic cat at the vet’s (for an exorbitant fee) while we’re gone.

Maybe it’s because I know I really need to get my remaining ovary surgically removed before vacation and before I end up regretting it (because of my increased chance for cancer with a positive MSH6 gene for Lynch Syndrome). I’ve been putting it off because I don’t want to go through those first few days of recovery.

girl-3041375__480Maybe it’s because I want to finish my book by November 1st but haven’t even got a rough draft anywhere near completed yet.

If I’m honest, that last reason is the clincher for why I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for at least 3 months.

Is it only me or does blogging take a lot of time—not only the writing, but the reading of other people’s blogs, then liking and commenting on the posts, and replying to comments when people return the favor by visiting my blog?

I’ve allowed blogging to take precedence over my novel writing time and the more time I stay away, the less confident I feel in my ability to write a book.

For a long time now, the devil’s been working hard, distracting me and feeding me lies (and I’ve been listening). Trouble is, I started to believe them and assimilate them into my own thinking. Thoughts like, “It’s too hard!” or “I can’t do this,” or “I don’t even know where to start,” or “What if I spend all that time, and go to all that trouble, and it’s terrible?” Obviously, the main reason I wrote the “Self-Talk—The Battlefield of Our Mind” post was because I needed it.

I’m disgusted with myself for listening to those lies and procrastinating myself into inertia, so it’s way past time to do something about it.

Making an announcement to take a break from blogging to work on my novel makes me very nervous, though. It terrifies me, actually. It means I’ll no longer have any excuses as to why I’m not making any progress. Now I’m going to have to follow through and get my book written. Now people are going to be expecting something at the end of my absence, a rough draft to show it was worth it.

To be quite honest, I’m afraid of failing. Failing myself, failing my future readers, failing God. Maybe this is where my faith is being tested. Please pray for me!

I apologize in advance for not reading your posts for the next few months—I really will miss them! 😢 (Although, I may reward myself after I’ve reached my writing goals for the day and sneak a few in😉)

Also, I want to let all my faithful readers know how very much I appreciate you! I hope all of you will stick around and anxiously wait for not only my next post but for my “I’ve finished the rough draft of my book!” announcement.

Until then:

  • May all your posts be inspired and inspiring.
  • May you be filled with the joy of using your writing gift and gift others by writing from that joy.
  • May you live out your purpose in life, on purpose.
  • May you live life fearlessly and wondrously, remembering you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ by your loving Creator.
  • May you love life, live knowing you are loved, and share the love.

 

©️ 2018, Mia Manumit, https://calledtobeawriter.wordpress.com