Intrepid Writing

My best friend challenged us to make “intrepid” our word for 2015, that we should live intrepidly. Merriam-Webster defines intrepid as: characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance.

What if we wrote like that? Fearless – Overcome the fear of what friends, family, publishers, and audience will think about your writing. Instead, write what needs to be written, regardless of how others might view it. With fortitude – Having the mental strength to sort out the good ideas from the bad is essential for writers. Then one must have the courage to write the story in the way it deserves to be written. Endurance – The hardest part of writing is seeing the story through to the end. Endless drafts and revisions, submissions to hundreds of publishers and agents: we must press on to completion.

I extend my friend’s challenge to all of you. Be fearless, fortitudinous, and enduring in your writing this year and watch as great things happen.

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“The Covered Deep” Is Brilliant

Mystery, intrigue, bookworms, first love, and all set in the Victorian era — all my favourites in one place!

First time author Brandy Vallance has done a masterful job of bringing bygone days to life.

Bianca Marshal, the main character, wins the opportunity to travel to London and Israel shortly after turning 25 (officially now an old-maid). As wonderful as the sights are she can’t help but be distracted by the fact that everyone in her party seems to harbour a very large secret.

During the trip she meets the love of her life, who measures up to all of her expectations, but the road to true love is not easy. They must navigate their way through conspiracy and peril. When everyone’s secrets come out their beliefs about God are tested, with some choosing to follow God and others completely rejecting the gift of salvation.

I enjoyed this book so much that I wanted to read it over again the next day!

How To Be a Rebellious Christian

Megan Clinton’s Be Rebellious revolutionizes the way women view themselves. For much too long we have allowed the way other people view us shape our identities. Some have responded with anorexia, bulimia, and even cutting. Sure, we all know that the pictures in grocery store magazines are photo-shopped to “perfection”, but that doesn’t stop us from excessive exercise or obsessive calorie counting.

Megan points out that we are all made exactly how God planned us. We must rebel against the idea that we won’t be worthy of real love unless we look and act a certain way. Our identity should come from the One who made us.

Though our current cultures encourages us to rebel against the previous generation’s rules, but in doing so we become more trapped than ever.

We all want to be loved, but when we don’t accept that God loves us for who and how we are we buy the lie that we need a special someone to complete us. We reach out for a romantic, or sexual, relationship hoping that “this will be the one” who will stay and love us.

But what if we found our worth in God? How would that change the way you view yourself? How you view relationships? I wholeheartedly agree with Megan that when we rebel against what a broken society believes about us and instead listen to God we will no longer loathe our reflection. There will be no need to be jealous of other women around us. And though relationships are certainly enjoyable and needed for many, they will not define us.

This is a book that I believe every woman, no matter her age, should read.

The Perfect Mom

I have struggled with getting angry with my children for ridiculous things like jumping on my bed, and thereby knocking over the freshly folded clothes. I have yelled at my precious munchkins and have expected them to not act like kids on many occasions.

Why am I telling you this? Because it is heavy on my heart. Many mothers try to be the ‘perfect mom’, either from some personal idea or pressure from others.

1) There’s no such thing as a perfect mom – We all mess up. Why? We’re human. That’s not an excuse, just a fact.

2) Don’t measure your standing as a good mother by what you see on Facebook – This goes two ways. We can’t look at some moms and say, “Hey, at least I’m doing a better job than she is.” On the other side, we can’t say of our friend the super-mom, “She has everything together. I’ll never be as good a mom as she is.” Let me let you in on a little secret: you’re only seeing glimpses of those mom’s lives. Maybe she’s having a bad day and needs to vent or needs support. That mom that does crafts with her kiddos and has all her laundry done, the rest of the house is a mess. I almost quit Facebook at one point because I was comparing myself to my friends. Though after talking with them, they graciously shared the whole picture.

3) Our kids are watching us – These beautiful little human-sponges watch EVERYTHING we do. I’m sure you’ll all know the feeling of just wanting to go to the loo alone, only to see a little hand creep under the door. :) My daughter is the first one to correct me when I’ve messed up. It hurts my pride and my heart, but it also brings me to repentance. This is a good side to not being perfect (as much as I would like to be). Our children can’t watch us be repentant if we never humble ourselves in their sight. Though I wish I didn’t mess up, it does present me with the opportunity to ask for forgiveness from Jesus and my daughter, and to ask for help to not have a repeat. I am able to show my kids how to do this rather than just tell them that it’s something good to do. The love that flows from children after a parent asks for forgiveness is amazing.

Should we desire to be better parents, Christians, people? Absolutely! But we don’t need to beat ourselves up emotionally because we make mistakes. Once you notice problem you have, don’t sit there and hope for it to go away; pray, read verses about the problem, seek accountability. Here are some great, encouraging verses. An accountability partner can be found in your spouse, best friend, mom, co-worker, etc. Someone who shares your same faith and that you see, or talk to, on a regular basis.

Note to everyone else: Please don’t expect the moms around you to be perfect, or their kids either. No one can be the perfect mom, husband, child, etc. because no one is a perfect person.

Our first role in life is to be a servant of God, everything else comes after that. When our relationship with God is where it should be, everything else follows. We are not perfect, but every day is a lesson learned. “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Guest Writer S.J. Abraham: How to get into the mindset of the villain

Hopefully most of us sitting down to write a novel wouldn’t be considered villains. Yet, more often than not, we must write villains. We must step out of ourselves and into a set of evil shoes that our parents, our religion and our society have taught us to avoid. We must know what it is to be evil because, as we all know, you can’t write what you don’t know.

While sometimes it seems that evil is simply evil for no reason that is most certainly not the case. Villains—or I should say, well done villains—cannot be motivated by the “they’re just like that” mentality we’re often presented with.

red skullI’ve seen writers brush this idea off, citing villains like Red Scull from Marvel’s Captain America as an excuse of why they don’t have to develop their villains. But take that into account. Which villain would you rather take credit for? Red Scull, a flat, evil guy with no real motivation or another Marvel villain, Loki, a rich, multi-layered baddie with motivations to spar? From the shallowest mean girl to the darkest dark lord, villains need motivations.

To find those motivations have to spend some time thinking like your character. You must know their past, and their goals and desires. Beware! Don’t trick yourself into thinking that knowing your character is an orphan who wants to take over the world is enough. Just like a hero, they need depth. Lots of it. If you don’t have it, it shows in your writing.

I’ve found that a great way to add depth to your villains and heroes alike is to simply ask “why” and keep asking until you can sum up their response with a base response. If you don’t follow what I’m trying to convey here try doing it with a baddie you already know. We’ve already mentioned Marvel’s Loki and Red Scull so let’s take a look at them both:

In Captain America, Red Scull wants to take over the world. Why? Because he thinks he’s a god. Why? Because he’s insane. Why? No one knows. End of exercise. He’s a flat, dull character.

Now let’s look at Loki. LokiIn Avengers he wants to take over the world, an identical goal to Red Skull, but very quickly we see how much better developed Loki is. Why does Loki want to take over the world? Because he wants to punish and show up Thor. Sum that up as vengeance. That’s a good base motivation but that’s not all that drives Loki. Why does he want vengeance? Because he wasn’t chosen to rule Asguard (read: jealous). Why not? Because he’s a frost giant—the only one among the Asguardians. He doesn’t belong.

Now we see all sorts of great, deep motivations. Vengeance, jealousy, the desire to fit in. These are powerful emotions even non-megalomanics can relate to.

Now take your villain. Instead of trying to guess the answers to those whys you get to put the answers in place. Keep asking why until you can sum up the characters response in two to four single visceral words. Love. Jealousy. Hate. Revenge. Fear. Everyone can relate to these sorts of emotions. Even if you’ve never acted on them you know how you wanted to. Remember what those emotions conjure up, hang onto them and put yourself in your character’s shoes. Bring yourself mentally to the point that a normal, healthy, polite person would you’d turn away from that emotion and instead have your villain keep going. Brush aside those inhibitions that society has created to form civilization.

Likewise, if you already have a scene or action in mind (or on the page), you can work backwards asking why questions. Once you understand the emotion the action is coming from you can hold onto it as you write, tweaking the dialogue and descriptions and, without the need of any gratuitous exposition, reveal your villain’s layers. Imagine a moment where the villain belts the hero across the room. Instead of saying “Fool! You’ll never trick me!” He snarls, “Liar! You’re trying to trick me. Just like all the others!” as a single tear traces down his cheek. Which is more powerful? Which tells you more about the character?

It’s a lot of work. It can be emotionally draining sometimes but if you can get the hang of finding the emotional motivation for your character and writing from that place, you’ll be thinking, not just like a villain, but a deep, well rounded character who will be liked and enjoyed as much as your heroes.

What villains do you feel are exceptionally well written? Why? What do you think their root motivations are?

~ SJA

Bio Pic 2S.J. Abraham is a writer working towards traditional publication. He’s a geek to the core and seeks to write stories that will inspire younger geeks to embrace their nerdy side and never look back. He writes a fiction blog at geekywriting.blogspot.com

Images are copyright of Marvel. Courtesy of Marvel.com

Hacker — An Amazing Adventure

Hacker is written in true Ted Dekker style. This book is part of the Outlaw Chronicles, all stand alones so you won’t be missing information if you read them out of order.

Nyah learns that computers aren’t the only things you can hack. The world around her is more susceptible to change than she thought. On her journey to save her mom, she discovers who she really is. She is not just a hacker, or who she believes herself to be. She is so much more.

A man named Outlaw is reaching out to teach others to see the truth and to know what they are capable of. He works with Nyah and her genius, but dying, friend and changes their lives forever.

I could not put this book down and my husband thought I was joking when I said I was done the day after receiving it :)

Welcome To the Age of “What the Heck?”

I don’t fancy myself to be a true introvert, but the pressure to keep in touch with so many people and be involved is overwhelming. We weren’t built to maintain relationships with over two hundred people. So what happens when we try anyway? Things like Facebook, Linked In, Goodreads, etc. are having the opposite effect of what they were designed to do. Instead of bringing people together they have created a generation of lonely and depressed people.

In China, teenagers have adopted the practice of taking their veg out for a walk. Why? you may ask. Because they’re lonely. Whenever life has them down they attach a leash to a cabbage and take it for a walk. (Read the full story here.)

Taking a cabbage for a walk is now a thing

And now, in Japan, there is a cafe complete with stuffed animals. No, the plushies are not souvenirs. The are company. If you hate eating by yourself, then pull up a chair with a plushy.

Facebook users have changed over the years. At first it was great to reconnect with long lost chums. And of course, there were those people who felt the need to post about everything. Then people changed to complaining vaguely to whoever might read it. Now, most of the news feed is full of links to articles and videos.

Finally feeling the pressure of having too many “friends” has caused people to retreat. And now people feel lonelier than ever. What are we supposed to do then? Resist the urge to drag food behind you. Limit tech time. Start using your phone to call people. Make plans with them. Have fun! When you’re number’s up do you think you’ll regret not beating one more level of Candy Crush? A tablet would make sorry company on the death bed. Get out of the house, make a few true friends and make memories with them.