Friday, December 25, 2015

A Long-Expected Announcement

I have a short story in an anthology!

My short story, "The Debt-Keeper," was published in the Crossover Alliance Anthology Vol. 2 this month.

That's me on the top right of the list. :D

I've been keeping this announcement under wraps until our family Christmas celebrations were past, though, because part of our gifts to our parents were copies of the anthology (which you can purchase directly from The Crossover Alliance in your ebook format of choice here or in Kindle and paperback formats here*).

This is a big deal for me, and I've had the hardest time not spoiling the surprise.

You can also check out this awesome group interview that Peter Younghusband (who also wrote the foreword to the anthology) conducted with all the authors in the book. I wrote a little about the origins of the story and the world of John Valley where it and my two stories in When the House Whispers are set.

If you'd like to get a book of stories to entertain and challenge you, please pick up a copy. If you're near me, I can even autograph it for you. (I can't autograph ebook copies, though I will sign your eReader if you like. ;) )

* The book is printed via Amazon's CreateSpace platform, so it will come to you once they print it.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Writing Lessons from Dr. Seuss, or What the Grinch Teaches Us about Storytelling

As we commenced our annual viewing of the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I discovered that this simple little special (and the book upon which it's based) offer some impressive little tips on writing, and I thought I would share those with you (as much for my own edification as for yours).

1. Introduce the conflict ASAP.

"All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not."
Seuss just lays down the central conflict in a sentence. Granted, he's writing a children's book so he has less room to wiggle, but no matter whether you side with the Whos or the Grinch at first, your attention is caught.

2. Don't overexplain your antagonist. There's something to be said for mystery and ambiguity.

No one quite knows the reason, but here's a working theory.

3. Keep your characters true to themselves, and the story will follow.

You can't have the Grinch hate Christmas and not do something about it.

4. Introduce the opposite of your character to create conflict and allow for emotional resonance.

This is one of the few things the live action film did well.

5. Everyone's a sucker for a redemption story.

Especially me.

6. If you can't find the word you need, make it up.

Or in this case, alter an existing word to fit your rhyme scheme.

What unexpected lessons have you discovered in Christmas movies or specials?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hard Lessons for Christmastime

Hello, everyone! I'm sorry I all but disappeared last month. NaNoWriMo took up a lot of my spare time. To sum up: I won NaNo with about 52,000 words, but didn't finish There's No Place Like Home? by about 10,000-15,000 words. So December's goal is to finish that up and maybe get a couple other small writing projects off the ground.

While working on NaNo, I've also been preparing for Christmas dramas at church. Really, I've been preparing for them since some time in August or September (I've slept since then, so the exact details are a bit fuzzy), but we are now in crunch time, with the next two Sundays taken up with adult drama (written by yours truly) and a children's musical (which I will only be participating in as a character).

Not THAT character, but the show does have a Whoville-type setting.

And in the last few months of preparation for these productions, along with an Advent-starting service this past Sunday, God has been teaching me some hard lessons about myself and leadership that I didn't know I needed and wasn't sure I wanted. God's like that -- He gives us what we need like a good Father, sometimes over our protests.

If only getting shown your shortcomings tasted like strawberries...

I'll spare you all the details of the situations and confrontations that led to these lessons, but suffice it to say that I have been hit with the hard reality of my own inadequacy and shortcomings.

So, the lessons:

1. Protect those under your leadership (whether they be younger siblings, children, team members, or members of a study group or ministry) from harm, even and especially if the harm comes from you.

2. Count the cost of any endeavor before you sign yourself (much less other people) up for it. Make sure you know how much will be expected of you (and your team) and that you are willing to put forth that time and effort.

3. Even when things look like they are falling into place, something can change your plans. Be flexible and try not to get your feelings hurt when your idea for the perfect whatever has to be tossed out to make room for what God is sending you.

4. Even if you thought the previous plan was what God was sending you.

5. When you have a backup plan for when things go wrong, don't wait until the last minute to enact it. It's no good to anyone if you never use it when it's needed.

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Always. With everyone. Even if you think you're on the same wavelength with everyone, communicate anyway. You'll save everyone a lot of stress and heartache this way.

7. Don't expect everyone to think the way you do. Something that's immediately obvious to you may not be from another viewpoint. Your thought processes are not universal, so don't pretend they are.

8. When your feelings are hurt, as they inevitably will be, don't linger on them, but don't ignore them either. Acknowledge them, deal with them (which for me is just acknowledging and then ignoring so they don't take over), and move on. Dwelling on hurts and harms, particularly small ones, without seeking reconciliation just leads to resentment and a hard heart. Have a spirit of forgiveness toward everyone, because you'll need it yourself when you say or do the wrong thing.

As you can see, I had a lot to learn.

To end on a lighter note, here's a picture of our adorable calico, Pumpkin, inspecting the invaders who have taken over her place beneath the tree:

One of these is a Decepticon, Dad. I'm sure of it.
As we head into Advent and Christmas, what lessons is God teaching you? Are you willing to listen and learn? (And do you have adorable pictures of your pets interacting with seasonal decor?)