Pay the Toll

Pay the Toll

Recently, our family took a rare day trip together to mark the end of summer. We traveled to Austin, Texas to gawk at the Texas State Capitol building and Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Both places were well worth the trip, by the way. I particularly enjoyed seeing the reconstructed remains of La Salle’s ship, the La Belle. So cool!

On the dri4-IMG_9309ve to Austin from Houston, we were presented with a choice: use the old, traditional roads or pay the tolls to access the bright, shiny new highway to get out of town.
Let me tell you, Kids, sometimes it’s worth paying the troll . . . Um . . . the toll. We cut at least thirty minutes from the first stretch of the journey. That stretch always takes at least an hour to navigate at the best of times. When we reached Austin, we used their tollway and saved more time. We spent our extra time sightseeing and eating a leisurely lunch.

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La Belle

Fewer traffic lights. Less road construction. Fewer idiots. See what I mean? More time for what mattered. Totally worth it! Would I recommend taking the toll roads at every opportunity? No way. But it seems both wise and frugal to make that decision on a case-by-case basis.

Real Life

You knew I was going to apply this to real life, right? Well, here goes. I think it’s false economy to try to do everything yourself if there are experts around who can do the same task in a fraction of the time.

It’s false economy to spend weeks learning a new skill on your own if there are reasonably priced courses available to teach you the skill you need in a few days.

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Texas State Capitol

Sometimes, the toll road is worth the expense. You can putt-putt-putt your way to your goal, and you will eventually get there. What opportunities did you miss out on while you were doing it yourself or learning a new skill by cobbling together the information? That’s what is known as opportunity cost.

Don’t get me wrong; sometimes the hard way is the best way. Most often, though, the best way is a mixture of DIY and paying for help.

For Example

A couple of years ago, I bought the Scrivener software to help me organize my writing. A lot of writers buy Scrivener, try it out, and abandon it on their hard drives. It’s not that expensive, as software goes, so it’s not a big monetary loss. Most of those writers claim that it’s simply too hard to learn.

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The interior of the capitol dome; that star is eight feet across, y’all!

They work through some of the free tutorials, get lost, give up, and go back to using Microsoft Word. It works. I use Word almost every day. But is it really the best software for organizing a full-length novel? Those of us who have pushed through the Scrivener learning curve would answer no because it’s extraordinarily useful.

Scrivener has a steep learning curve because it has lots of bells and whistles. Some people can learn Scrivener on their own. That’s great. But I chose to take the toll road; I paid someone to teach it to me. And that investment saved me weeks of frustration and needless toil.

I Sound Like a Commercial

This isn’t a commercial for Scrivener; I just used my experience as an example. Take the long road when you can, but pay the toll when it makes sense.

Are we there yet-This is another installment in the column,  Are We There Yet?

Have you ever paid the toll to learn a new skill or get work done faster? Feel free to share.


A1047webTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

Learn more at http://www.kathresemckee.com

From a Word Processor to Paint Brushes

“And the winner of the 2013 American Christian Fiction Writer’s YA Category is… Loraine Kemp!”

I was dumbfounded! But over-the-top-excited!

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My writing goals seemed to be forging ahead with two contest wins and acquiring an amazing agent in the same year. There was little doubt in my mind about where God was leading me and what my future had in store.

How completely wrong I was. At least for the next few years.

After a year of working with the agent and sending my novel in various directions, lukewarm responses were the result. I felt deflated and confused. “But, but God, I thought…”

That’s when a completely new direction was literally dropped in my lap.

I’ve always been an artist (I’ve provided illustrations for 3 novels to date) but when my buddy Karen Autio asked her publisher to offer the job of illustrating her historical picture book Growing Up In Wild Horse Canyon to me, I couldn’t say no, and signed a contract soon after. With my writing goals not being realized, I had some time on my hands.

To say I was overwhelmed by this illustration project would have been a gigantic understatement. I hadn’t painted for years and the book is an advanced picture book with 28 full-colour pictures that needed to be designed and painted. Not only was there research involved with making this historical fiction come to life (Karen had already done a mammoth amount already), but I also had to take many pictures in Wild Horse Canyon, which was a two-hour hike from our city.

In 2003, a wildfire devoured most of the trees in the canyon, so I had to rely heavily on my imagination to construct the illustrations that took place in the canyon.

I was also deeply worried that I wouldn’t physically be able to illustrate that huge a project under a deadline. Just thinking of it, my back cringed, as sitting for hours on end sent my back into spasms.

I felt strongly that this was a test of faith and that I had to trust God was with me on this one. As grace would have it, I now own the ideal set-up for illustrating: a stand-up chair with many positions available and an adjustable-height table. So far so good.

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To start the process, a year and a half ago, Karen and I talked about each illustration. Normally illustrators and authors don’t work together, but Karen’s historical knowledge was invaluable. Tiny rough drawings of each scene (thumbnails) were finished first, and approved by the publisher. Then came the full-size drawings, again approved by the publisher. Then last fall I began the process of scouring through my thousands of photos (scenery, horses, other animals, and local students posing as historical characters) and painting the illustrations.

To show you all the different stages, I will take one illustration and walk you visually through the steps.

Here is the small thumbnail sketch of the ‘First Contact’ illustration where the fur traders are meeting the native first nation’s band, the Syilx. It is about 3″ by 5″.

first contact thumbnail

Then came the full size drawing. After some research I added a fish drier in the background. The below illustration is about 8″ X 10″

 

first contact full size

 

Now you will have to forgive my bad photography of the painting steps, as my camera wasn’t good at the time. But you will see that I start in one corner and progress.

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I found out that the pinto, (brown and white horse) needed to be changed to an appaloosa, a much coveted horse by the band. The coat my fur trader wore wasn’t going to work. So out came the white paint and the changes were made.

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In addition, the western saddle was not used. A lower, more close-to-the-horse-but-very-uncomfortable saddle had been used. After I spoke to a consultant, I decided that the clothing should have been more what you see below, plus I needed to have an elder overseeing this meeting. (Penciled in below) I had to move the woman and her kids next to the fish dryer to accommodate the elder.

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Almost done. However the rolled blanket on the horse’s saddle is one from the Hudson’s Bay company, not the Pacific Fur Company. Out came more white paint. Plus I completed the rest. I’d had many more tries to get it right than you see here. In all, probably four more changes were involved.

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And just for fun, here are a few more pictures from our book. You will see even more on my website, http://www.lorainekemp.com and look under my portfolio. Or go to my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/lorainekempartist. Our book will be out this fall and you will see much more on this site about it. It is for kids and adults alike.

The below is a young Syilx man on a vision quest, sort of a ‘coming of age’ occurrence for every young man. Here he is painting the rock faces.

finished vision quest

The below is all about the beginnings of the young in Wild Horse Canyon, a ponderosa pine,  and the wild foal jumping over it.

foal and seedling

Now don’t think for an instant that I am going to get rid of my word processor. I have some ideas for novels that I want to expand on that will need some illustrations as well. I feel that I have learned a great deal about myself and the strengths that I have through this complicated process that I would never have found out if God hadn’t pressed me in this direction. My plans were derailed for something else God had in mind for me, and I’m happy now with that, though admittedly I was not in the beginning. I’m still also a writer, and will always be. I just needed to be open for God’s new gifts for me.

One thing I’ll be eternally grateful for, is that during the contest mentioned above, I was taken on as a Scriblerian. They rock!

Have you ever been sure of your directions and then had the rug pulled out from under you to reveal a new direction?

 

Mislabeled

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The word “Superstar” was stamped across her bum,
the “A” a multi-coloured, glittery star.

The little dictator yelled her list of demands to the other girls in her class,
her face firetruck red with fury.
She couldn’t have been older than eight.

I soon noticed she wasn’t the only one mislabeled.
A boy with “Awesome” stamped across his chest pushed another boy off the swing.
A girl with an angel hat had thrown herself on the ground in a full tantrum.

It got me thinking about Labels.

Not the ones that others give to us:
Jock, Stupid, Braniac…
But the ones we give ourselves:

Mother, Wife, Teacher, Employee.

Oh yes, they are all very functional labels.
And as humans we love to put things into boxes.
It makes us feel safe.

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But how often do we use labels,
to keep ourselves safe?

I can’t do that I’m a “Busy Mother.”
I’m “Not A Public Speaker.”
Me? I am “Not A Leader.”

Labeling is not a bad thing in and of itself.

But when it keeps us from moving outside of our box,
keeps us from trusting that God knows best.
Then it is a problem.

So be careful that your self-labels aren’t keeping you from being obedient to God.

After all, when it comes to labels God knows best.
Beloved.
Treasure.

Mine…

Do you have a label that keeps you from fulfilling the grand plan God has for your life? Share it in the comment box. I love to hear from you!

 

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck

A Rainbow Kind of Day

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It’s been a rainbow kind of day.
Not the kind that have been splattered across social media of late.
No.

You know what I speak of:
a spring day when a fine mist falls from the sky,
the clouds are dark and menacing,
yet the sun is still out.
A perfect day for a stunning rainbow.

I am at home in bed due to a brutal cold,
sadly missing my friend from high school’s wedding. 😦

This day is filled with a deep sadness,
crammed into the nooks and crannies,
hiding in the shadows.
My church is packed to say goodbye to Walt Hartholt after a year and a half fight with cancer.
Thankfully the church is streaming the service so I can still partake.

Walt was active in the community,
father, husband, principal, teacher and mentor.
He touched so many peoples lives  there is now a hole where he used to be.
There is a deep sadness at his passing.
But as I hear his family and close friends speak about his faith.
About his conviction that “God is good” even through this season.
I am struck by God’s faithfulness.

Through the sorrow and rain of today,
God’s rainbow, His faithfulness, stretches across generations.

Lately,
I’ve felt like my life has been filled with bad news:
friends losing a child,
parents dying before they see their children grown,
families splitting.

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It is enough to make me only see the dark clouds,
to feel the weight of the world and all its sin on my shoulders.

When I heard how Walt, even through the pain,
remembered God’s goodness and faithfulness.
This reminder filled my heart with joy.

Thank you Walt for this final gift.
That even through the trials and pains of this world,
as Christians our joy through it all remains like bedrock.

Like a rainbow,
more beautiful for the dark clouds behind.

“God is good…
it is well with my soul.”

Please feel free to share your “dark clouds” in the comment section below or just ask for prayer. I’d love to pray for you!

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck

We the People

God Bless The United States of America.

God Bless The United States of America.

 

“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…” The U.S. Constitution

On July 4th we the citizens of The United States of America are celebrating our countries 239th anniversary. As countries go, we aren’t by any stretch of the imagination the oldest governed country in the world. There are actual populated cities on this earth that are far older. But for what we may lack in age and maturity, we certainly make-up with in brashness, can-do spirit, and audacity. Is that good? I don’t know, any perspective less than a hundred years old I immediately consider suspect at best.

Regardless of my nation’s sometimes bloody, sometimes noble, sometimes idiotic, sometimes unfair, and sometime brilliant past or present, I do love my home and nation – warts and all. Our US flag stands for a great deal, some bad, but so much more that is good.

Consider how many people from around the world would move to the US at the drop of a hat. Think of all our Latin American neighbors sneaking in against or laws and policies because they would rather live here than their own nations. I work at a University and meet many students from other nations who would rather stay here than go back to their own nations as their academic careers draw to a close. Many struggle to stay, some are not so successful.

No matter what people may think of the United States of America, it is for me the most wonderful place to live in the world. If you were born in a different place and take offense at my statement, I truly hope you love your home as much as I love mine. My wish for you is that you will work hard to make your nation a great and a wonderful place to live.  As for me, I will endeavor to help my home maintain our national identity as “one nation under God, indivisible with justice for all.”

Is our country perfect? What does perfect mean anyway? Is their room for improvement, absolutely.  But if we don’t learn to work together and face our difficulties with civility and respect, the alternative will always be bleak.

 

Name one thing you love about your home in the United States and one thing you would change for the better.

 

Love and Leopards

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I couldn’t resist the title just so I could feature Laguna, my cute little Valentine. But it’s more than that. I’m posing the question – can a leopard change its spots?

The past couple of weeks with competing movies. One about an abusive boyfriend and the other a reformed bad boy turned good guy. For all of it’s faults, the first movie has put a focus on women being in bad relationships, even abusive ones. I’m so glad this topic has come to light.

The archetype of the “Bad Boy” is a popular. But what is the appeal of bringing home a guy like that? His wealth, success, or attractiveness make up for it? Rebellion? A need to control? A need to fix something? Or maybe that the woman thinks she doesn’t deserve any better.

One reason women like bad boys is because they want to be the ones to change them, tame them, turn them good. But no woman can change a man. Neither can a man change a woman. As much as women love the “Bad Boy” there’s also appeal in pygmalion whether it’s My Fair Lady or Pretty Woman.

In books and movies, I don’t find the bad boy to be particularly attractive. Less so if he’s bad for most of the book or movie, and the heroine is the one to tame him. The reformed guy with a wild past holds a bit more appeal. Someone once broken and flawed is endearing especially if it makes him even more honorable. When it comes to female characters, I have to admit pulling for girl from the wrong side of the tracks whether it’s Annie, Pretty in Pink, Anne of Green Gables, or Redeeming Love.

But the question is can people change? Or is a leopard always spotted?

Someone unrefined can be cultured. Convicts can go straight. Prostitutes can become respectable women. Alcoholics get sober. Addicts can get clean. Abusers can become loving partners. Anyone can change. Some people can turn their lives around by sheer will and determination but more often it requires Divine intervention.

In that way, every single one of us who knows Christ has changed. We were born into this world sinful creatures. More leper than leopard. Through His redemptive blood we are all new creations. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18, ESV)

The answer is yes. A person may change their behaviors and habits, but true redeeming change requires God. Not from someone else, no matter how they love the person. If you are in an abusive relationship. Get out. Get safe. And get that person help. If you are in a relationship with someone who is addicted. Encourage them to get help. Find a support group for yourself. And above all else pray. Because God can change anyone.

 

Happy Anniversary!

 

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A year ago I went to the ACFW Indianapolis conference on an  adventure.
Finally I was going to meet the people who I had shared my heart,
and writing with.

Would they be as awesome as I imagined?
Would they laugh at my antics as much in person as they do online??
(that one was particularly important…lol!)

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I was a little nervous!

But as we met and mingled,
our nerves fell away and we found ourselves chatting like old friends.

It is hard to explain to those who have not experienced it,
but our projects–written, prayed and cried over–bound us together.
They became my writing family.
My closest friends, despite the distance.

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Friends that I’d met online,
(I know…creepy and unsafe…)
became my comrade in arms.

They understand writing until the wee hours of the morning,
wrestling with plot lines that won’t behave,
and caring so much for your story that it hurts your heart when it is rejected.

And our love crosses into our everyday lives:
we laugh,
mourn,
and rejoice together through all of lifes ups and downs.

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So join me in raising a glass of your favorite,
to my fellow Scriblerians.

Scribs…you rock!
May we spend many more years writing together!!!!

And of course…publishing many books. 😉

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!!
I love you guys!!!!!!

Have you ever been surprised by friendship?? I’d love for you to share in the comments. 🙂

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck