The Art of Self-Deception Part II

or…How to Drown in a Teacup

Greetings from the Great (wet) state of Texas. The Trinity River here in Henderson County has been approximately fifteen feet over flood stage—give or take a couple of feet—for several weeks. After nearly four months of rain, we are praying for more sunny days.

Vanessa Morton Trinity River Henderson County

Vanessa Morton
Trinity River Henderson County

The water table in Henderson County is typically high due to numerous lakes and springs, even without the recent heavy rains. Roher Springs, five miles away, is one of three sources of Ozarka bottled water in the southwest. Likewise, my family enjoys sweet well water from an underground spring in our vineyard, a mere 35 feet below the surface.

So . . . what does flooding have in common with Drowning in a Teacup? I’m glad you asked!

After my life-changing health challenges (read Part I), I’m gradually returning to my passion—writing—but this time it’s different. Previously, I agonized over passages, phrases, and dialog while drafting. Thus, my writing—overwhelmed by trivia—sometimes “drowned in a teacup” of my own making.

drowning in a teacup

Help!

With greater self-clarity, I now realize my perfectionism was only another form of self-deception. For example, while I tweaked, polished, and re-tied plot threads, I avoided the big issue: What if no one liked my books? Unpublished, my stories were still my babies with infinite potential. Once they left the nest, however, I’d have to face the reality that not everyone would find them superbly brilliant or vastly entertaining.

Now I write for myself instead of an audience, and I resist editorial backtracking until after the end of the rough draft.

Having a health crisis is strangely freeing, yet somehow poignant. I mourn the fact I wasted time, not only on my writing habits, but also on the mundane. Being unable to do some tasks—such as housework—released my inner perfectionist. Despite my initial misgivings, I found the world did not stop spinning when I failed to dust the house for a month.

The creator made each of us unique, and I believe your stories are different than mine and we can learn from each other. Would you share the techniques that help you meet your goals while maintaining balance?

 

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“Exodus: Gods and Kings” Biblical History or Entertainment?

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

Last week I watched Sir Ridley Scott’s new movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings. A cast led by Christian Bale and Ben Kingsley, epic cinematography, a sure formula for success. Right?

 

Colossal statues at Abu Simbel 1

Colossal Ramses Statues 20th Century Fox – Exodus Gods and Kings

 Colossal statues of Abu Simbel by torchlight in their original glory, detailed sets of Pharaoh’s palace, and intriguing portrayals of pyramid-building made my inner archaeologist turn cartwheels.

 

Several character-driven scenes establish the conflict as sibling rivalry (Moses and Ramses) which deepens to a war of of cultures when both men learn Moses was born of the slave cast.

 

Moses and Zipporah.  20th Century Fox - Exodus: Gods and Kings

Moses and Zipporah. 20th Century Fox – Exodus: Gods and Kings

So far so good. Then Moses—exiled and married to a Midianite—attempts to retrieve three sheep from what his wife refers to as the Mountain of God. He stumbles and is partially buried in a rockslide. When the burning bush appears, Moses is lying in the rubble with a broken leg. No voice admonished Moses to remove his sandals while standing on holy ground (perhaps because Scott had Bale lying flat on his back?). Instead, a boy with a British accent cryptically encourages Moses to help his people. Meh.

 

bow training EntertainmentWeekly

Moses showing Hebrews low-intensity-warfare Entertainment Weekly

Back in Pi-Ramses, a most-unhumble Moses returns to train Hebrew men the skill of low-intensity warfare—attacking high value targets and quickly withdrawing. This turn of events surprised me, but I can’t say it’s impossible, given that human nature first strives to solve our problems without supernatural assistance. I’m still pondering that one.

 

Plague of Hail.  20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

Plague of Hail. 20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

And then the first plague begins. Instead of Aaron jabbing his staff into the Nile and turning the waters to blood, a cadre of giant crocodiles kills several fishermen and animals, enough to turn the entire Nile and all the canals red with blood. In fact, Aaron was largely absent the entire movie. Odd, given that he was the designated spokesman for a stuttering Moses.

After the brutal ‘crocodile’ plague, the rest follow, each shown as a natural consequence of the previous . . . except the Passover. In the evening, a dense dark shadow steals across the city, swallowing up the light one street at a time and stealing the breath of each firstborn who did not have the blood of the Passover lamb in the door. It had the kind of supernatural shock and awe that gives me the shivers.

 

pharaoh chariots

Near the end of the movie, hemmed in between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, Moses despairs of leading the Hebrews to freedom. Frustrated, he throws his gold Egyptian sword into the water. Immediately, the entire sea retracts southward until completely out of sight … huh? Even Disney’s Prince of Egypt got that part right. Are we to believe the sword was imbued with magical Egyptian power?

At the conclusion, the Hebrews were depressed, not joyous as depicted in Miriam’s song, even after the Pharaoh’s demise. And speaking of Ramses … I don’t have enough space here to explain all my objections to Ramses being depicted as the Pharaoh of the exodus. An excellent analysis of the Exodus within the historical context is postulated in the Associates for Biblical Research by Dr. Bryant Wood http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/09/Debunking-The-Exodus-Decoded.aspx. The site contains many other valuable resources about the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan.

Bible and Spade Magazine

Bible and Spade Magazine

 

I can enjoy a Biblical movie even if it omits minor details due to production time constraints, but to turn the actual events on their heads and remove the Lord from the equation is another story. I struggled with my final opinion of the movie, due to the well-researched historical settings, but in the end, I remembered John Calvin, who said, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

If you’ve seen Exodus: Gods and Kings, what did you like/not like about it? Do you think it’s permissible for movie adaptations to take creative license with the Bible?.

The Art of Self-Deception – Part I

I don’t know exactly when it started. Years ago, maybe, when the volume of commitments almost equaled my available time. What was I doing? Nothing extraordinary.

  • Full-time job and daily commute. Check.
  • Caring for my parents. Another check.
  • Evenings with my husband and children, followed by writing several pages on my WIP. Double checks.
  • Weekends for congregation & worship, errands, keeping house, and helping my family grow a vineyard. Quadruple checks.

Raise your hand if these sound like you.

Launching my first novel was a thrilling experience last year, but it edged me into a time deficit. Did I care? Not really. It simply proved that the harder I worked, the more successful I could be. I still believed everything on my schedule was necessary and could only be done by me… a deception that took root in the void of No Free Time.

My smartphone came to the rescue—calendars, lists, online shopping, alarm reminders, apps for reading the Scriptures, email and social media—and enabled me to become uber efficient. Addicted to my smartphone’s super hero qualities, I became the puppet, and it became the master.

In the spring of 2013, a health crisis brought my Figure Eight laps to a screeching halt. Curled up in bed in a fog of pain, I couldn’t tolerate lights or sounds—even conversations, and I had difficulty pulling my thoughts together and formulating words. My computer and phone lay idle for the first time in years.

pulse-traceAn unpleasant surprise greeted me after I emerged from my cocoon, not as a colorful butterfly, but as a wounded moth. No longer able to breeze through complex tasks, any small thing now required effort, time, and multiple re-do’s. In 2014, following another hospitalization, a team of doctors diagnosed me with an incurable, debilitating disease. Forced to cut back on work, my Type A personality rebelled, believing that non-productivity was tantamount to failure.

During the holiday season, I finally admitted I was not improving. When I reluctantly asked my family for assistance around the house, they blew away another dangerous deception. They gave me unconditional love even though I couldn’t do everything I’d done before, and they happily—yes, happily—stepped in to help. To my amazement, they expressed gratitude that I would allow them to come along side. When I confided to my friends I discovered they didn’t shun my weakness either, but rallied around me.

Self-reflecting in this new year of 2015, I’ve found the courage to ask questions.

Why was I doing all these things? Love-certainly, but did a deeper need for validation drive me even harder?

Was it the perfectionist in me or because I feared a loss of love or respect if I wasn’t Superwoman 24/7?

Did I hope to earn the Lord’s approval by being a good person?

Examining my heart for the truth will be a challenging hike over mountain terrain, but I believe the answers will come, along with breathtaking views.
hiker on mountain
Are you too busy to reflect on your inner self instead of how you are fulfilling expectations? What tasks are you doing that could be borne by others?

Twins: Terrific or Terrifying

new moonfall cover

 

 

 

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have an identical twin.

Twins I’ve seen in real life or in photographs look like some of the happiest people on earth. To have someone at your side from birth who understands you better than anyone else must be a fantastic feeling.

However, the idea of having a twin of my own scares me a little. Would I see one or more character flaws I didn’t know I possessed reflected in my twin?

Movies and television have certainly portrayed the evil twin. But rather than a truly evil one, a sibling who starts out with the same genetic material as our own and then is influenced by its environment makes more sense. Twins don’t necessarily want the same things or go about getting them in the same way.

Vanessa Morton

Vanessa Morton

In Vanessa Morton’s Moonfall, the characters Rachav and Zaron are identical twin teenage girls living during the time of the fall of Yericho (Jericho). Each thinks the other should desire the same kind of life she does. Each sees the difference in her twin as a flaw. I think it scares them both. But the love is still there.

Moonfall will transport you to a time and place that is richly textured and historically fascinating.  And you will find that girls will be girls, and twins will be twins, even in 1406 B.C.

Have you ever wished for a twin? Are you one?

MOONFALL: History come to life

I’m an into-the-details kind of person. Especially when it comes to people because I’m also a people person. I like getting to know a person, discovering what makes them tick, so to speak. Digging into who they are.

In my almost twenty years of teaching high school Sunday School, I often found myself pondering between-the-lines as I prepared lessons. As my class and I studied the heroes and heroines of the Bible, we did our fair share of imagining. We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of those faithful, committed yet human men and women.

  • What was it really like for the very young Mary to find herself with child?
  • How did Paul cope with the hardships and suffering he endured time and again?
  • I can only imagine how very long those three days of fasting must have been for Queen Esther as she prepared to approach the king.
  • And oh, how I would’ve liked to be a “stomach bug” during Jonah’s time in the whale!

How serious were their second thoughts? How sleepless were the nights as their minds whirled with questions and doubts and “what-if’s”? Who experienced stuff-your-face kind of stress and who suffered through can’t-swallow-a-bite worry? What did GOD’s peace and presence feel like as HIS all-powerfulness met their frail humann519e-KyUcVL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ess?

Our own Vanessa Morton takes us deep into the well-known story of the fall of Jericho, in her recently released “Moonfall: Tales from the Levant”. This fictional account of the events from the book of Joshua is infused with the rich details a curious mind like mine longs to revel in. She brings to life the exotic culture of the ancient near east and illuminates the characters in a way that very much compliments the Bible’s rendition of this great happening.

As I strived to do when teaching my senior highers, Vanessa makes the novel relevant to today’s culture. The story reveals how young people living in the Bronze Age struggled with similar issues to those facing present-day teenagers – teen angst, political corruption, sibling rivalry, passion and the longing for a spiritual connection with our creator. As we follow “Moonfall’s” main character Rachav, we get a culturally accurate idea of what Rahab’s life may have looked like leading up to the important role she played in the Israelite’s journey. We get a clearer picture of this young woman spoken of only briefly in scripture.

Lovers of history will devour the intricate “world-building” in this mash-up of adventure/fantasy, based on historical and Biblical history. Biblical fiction enthusiasts will appreciate delving deeply into the hearts and minds of the players engaged in this history-altering event. Those who enjoy intricate tales rich with layers of detail will be keen on the story’s depth.

Vanessa Morton

Vanessa Morton

Fascinated by archeology and ancient history since middle school, Vanessa immersed herself for three years into the Late Bronze Age, researching original sources and university publications, interviewing scholars, and taking a private academic tour of ancient Jericho. The period and people became three-dimensional in her imagination. And her efforts paid off big time for her readers.

When she’s not writing stories—Moonfall is the first in a planned three book series or assisting the other Scriblerians with their stories—she might be found exploring ancient ruins. Then again she may be spending time with her husband and two daughters at their vineyard in east Texas.

What favorite Bible story would you like to see fictionalized?

 

 

Bullied? You Are Not Alone

BIRD.FACE.FC.tinyVanessa writes: today I’m talking to author Cynthia T. Toney. Her new book, Bird Face, is an entertaining—yet enlightening—novel about a teen girl dealing with issues such as suicide, eating disorders, and bullying in the public school system.

 

As I read Cynthia’s book, it resonated with me because of my own experiences—which are still quite vivid despite the passing of years. In high school, two girls consistently harassed me in the halls, the cafeteria, the gym, wherever our paths crossed. They were tall and loud and insulting, abullying leaves scarsnd the constant stress ruined my high school years. At home, my father had a debilitating, chronic illness and my mother was his full-time caregiver, so I was reluctant to tell my parents I was in trouble. Like many victims, I felt isolated and just wanted to survive until it was over.

Fellow readers, if you or someone you know is being victimized by a bully, you’ll find immediate help and resources at the bottom of this blog post.

Cynthia, thanks for coming to the blog today and talking to us about Bird Face and the subject of bullying.

Vanessa: My first question is about your main character, Wendy, and how she faces difficult challenges and discovers something about herself along the way. Did you draw from personal experience?

Cynthia: I did. Not so much as a young person, but later. It takes some of us a long time to understand that we have within us the strength to do more than we initially think ourselves capable. I remember thinking as a teenager and a young adult, “If only I didn’t have this difficult situation to deal with” or “If only I could get over this hurdle” or “solve this problem” then I could do such-and-such. But often, forcing oneself to move forward and get involved somewhere else you’re needed, or to work at solving a different problem, helps resolve the previous one.

Vanessa: Were you bullied in school or did you know anyone who was, and how did you deal with it?

Cynthia: There was a girl in elementary school who bullied other kids into giving her candy. I had only one encounter with her but didn’t give in. Nothing further happened because of that. In upper elementary, I was called Bird Face a couple of times, and it hurt a little, but the bullying was short-lived and didn’t affect me the way it does Wendy. My daughter experienced instances of bullying when she was in school, but I experienced more verbal bullying as an adult from other adults.

Vanessa: Indeed, adult Iamavictimbullying is now getting attention, too. Scientific studies indicate that the resultant stress—regardless of age—causes depression, anxiety, PTSD, migraines, stomach trouble and a host of other physical ailments. In Bird Face, is the bully, John Monster based on anyone you knew in school?

Cynthia: The idea for John-Monster came to me because of the variety of bully types in the news. A bully doesn’t always fit the stereotype of years past — that of the hulking male who shoves his way through life. It can be anyone, including someone like John who is verbally bullied at home and turns the same toward his classmates. It can also be the pretty and perky girl next door who bullies someone over the Internet.

Vanessa: How did you develop the bullying plotline in such a believable way?

Writing in first person point of view creates challenges. I had to write the character John-Monster to show us why he verbally bullied Wendy the way he did. Neither she nor the reader could be allowed to get inside his head. I didn’t want her or the reader to understand the reasons for his bullying right away, so I wrote clues into the story as it went along. And I had to show he was still lovable, and loved by someone the reader knows.kid yelling other kid crying

Vanessa: Your research and insight are fantastic.   Most victims are bewildered at being the object of a bully’s vitriol. Bird Face delivers believable, multi-dimensioned characters instead of simple black and white, right and wrong. What advice would you give kids (or parents of kids) who are being bullied right now?

Cynthia: Parents and other adults responsible for children in their care should pay attention and listen to kids. To me, one instance of name-calling doesn’t necessarily equal bullying, and a talk with the parties involved may put a stop to it. Repeated offenses that distress the victim to the point that he or she withdraws socially or turns on others shouldn’t be ignored. It’s important to be aware of what’s happening at school and what your child is doing on the Internet.

Vanessa: Thanks for talking with us about Bird Face and this important social issue for teens. Fellow readers, I highly recommend Bird Face. I bought it for my fourteen-year-old daughter and she found it entertaining as well as informative. A rare combination in children’s literature.

Cynthia: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.

———————————————————-

Ms. Toney holds a BA in art education and began her first novel while working as an advertising designer and marketing copywriter for a number of publishers. She enjoys writing both contemporary and historical fiction for teens. Also once a decorator, her articles on interior decorating appear at homeguides.SFGate.com. She has a passion for rescuing dogs from animal shelters and studying the history of the South, where she resides with her husband and as many dogs as space will allow.

Connect with her:

Email: birdfacewendy@gmail.com

Personal Blog:  http://birdfacewendy.wordpress.com/

Member Blogger:  https://thescriblerians.wordpress.com

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/birdfacewendy?ref=hl

Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

About Bird Face:

Anonymous sticky-notes, a scheming bully, and a ruined summer send almost-fourteen-year-old Wendy down a trail of secrets and self-discovery.

At the end of eighth grade, Wendy Robichaud doesn’t care one bit about being popular like her good-looking classmates Tookie and the Sticks—until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even her best friend, Jennifer, is hiding something and pulling away. But the Spring Program, abandoned puppies, and high school track team tryouts don’t leave much time to play detective. When secrets and failed dreams kick off the summer, will Jennifer still be around to support her?

Using humor and offering hope, this story for ages 10 to 14 (grades 5-8) delicately addresses issues of bullying, eating disorders, imperfect families, and teen suicide

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 how to stop bullyingIf you or someone you know are being bullied, do not remain silent. Bullying is wrong, and you deserve to live in peace, without harassment. Get help and know your options.
  1. Resources for coping with bullies, approaching school authorities, and other strategies: http://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now/
  2. Crisis hotlines and informational websites: http://www.teenhealthandwellness.com/static/hotlines

Tell us about your own experience with bullying. We’d love to hear from you. Together we are strong!

 

 

 

 

Fay Lamb takes us behind the scenes of the new Valentine Novella, A Dozen Apologies

A DOZEN APOLOGIES 2Vanessa Morton writes:   I am thrilled to present Part One of my interview with the Fabulous Fay Lamb, contributing author of the new Valentine novella, A Dozen Apologies.

(Come back on Friday (1/31/14) when Fay talks to us about her writing life and recent projects.)

Today, Fay is taking us behind the scenes of A Dozen Apologies, a fascinating chapter book about Mara and twelve men (heroes) in her life.

Fay, thanks for visiting our site today and staying with us to answer readers’ questions after the interview. Let’s get started!

VM: You collaborated with eleven authors to write A Dozen Apologies. Each week day, Write Integrity is releasing a new chapter by a different author. How did you come up with this concept?

Fay: I share a little about this on my blog, but I have had the pleasure of being a part of three of the four Write Integrity Press collaborative novella projects, and I believe our editor, Tracy Ruckman, has found a niche. After the first project, Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt in 2012 and as we were working on the 2013 project, A Ruby Christmas, I wanted to provide Tracy with an idea for Valentine’s Day. I kept imagining that old board game, The Mystery Date Game. I envisioned a heroine with all of the guys and she needed to choose from them. I have to confess, I also thought of a calendar of heroes. The problem was, a gal with twelve guys usually doesn’t a heroine make. I had to give her a reason for finding each of these guys. Then I realized that Mara had to have a past, and well, her past wasn’t too pretty. She was a terror to these men, and when God allows Mara to reap what she’d sown, she realizes that each of these men deserve an in-person, heart-felt apology, and well, if she fell in love with one of them in the process—that a love story makes.

Mystery Date Game–you’re so clever! How does a diverse group of talented writers give Mara–the main character–a consistent voice and work together toward the ending?

This is something that Tracy and each author who have worked on the three of the four projects centering around a single heroine have wondered. I believe that it starts first with the God-centered message. Each of the Write Integrity Press novellas present a very Biblical message. We also wrap the story in prayer. Then it starts with a very clear heroine and what her journey is about. For Mara, I saw her as out of her element when she hits a low point in her life. She’s a klutz, always running into problems either through her own ineptness or with the help of others, and as Mara grows, you see that through her bumbling and fumbling, God has given her a heart of mercy and grace—the same mercy and grace that she is seeking. As the authors began to work on the stories, just about all of them seemed to come to the conclusion that the problem with Mara, the reason she behaved so atrociously, was due to the fact that she had always been out of her element, not just after her downfall, but maybe even her entire life. With that in mind, Mara seemed to gel for each of us, and as I read chapter after chapter, I was again amazed at how God blended the story together, this time using twelve different pens (or computers).

Tell us more about Mara and what happens to her in your chapter.

Oh, I can’t share about my hero chapter because that’s top secret. You see, after the readers meet each of the heroes from the story (and from interviews posted on my blog On the Ledge), they will get the opportunity to vote for their favorite hero. That hero is the one who will win Mara’s heart and get the last chapter. Voting begins February 5 and ends February 8. On February 9, On the Ledge will begin to spotlight some or all of the authors with their heroes. From the very start of this concept, the authors agreed that the voting should be about the heroes. We also didn’t want to make it a “political” campaign or a popularity contest among the writers. We felt that this would lessen the impact of the story. When one of our authors (wave to Deb Ullrick) suggested the chapter authors remain anonymous, we felt that was a stroke of genius. On February 14 the readers can read the winning heroes chapter because the novella will be offered for free on Kindle through February 16.

I can tell you that Mara stays mainly in the South. Her longest journey takes her to Colorado, but she meets twelve interesting fellows from diverse backgrounds with compelling stories of their own, and well, she makes a mess of most jobs she works. I promise laughter and quite possibly some tears … Our editor told us she cried. We love to make Tracy cry … and laugh. That means we’ve done our job.

Fay, we appreciate you visiting our blog today and look forward to meeting again this Friday.

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Dear readers, before we tell you how to vote for your favorite hero and get a free copy of A Dozen Apologies, we wanted to share Fay’s contact information:

Fay LambFay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.

Write Integrity Press (http://writeintegrity.blogspot.com/)  is releasing a new chapter of A Dozen Apologies each week day up to February 5, after which you can start voting for your favorite hero. Your votes will determine how the book ends! On February 14 through 16, the completed novella, including the last chapter, featuring the “winning” hero, will be offered free on Amazon Kindle.

Fay will be standing by to answer your questions today. Even if you don’t have questions, take a moment to let Fay know what type of hero / heroine / adventure you’d like to see in future chapter books. Let your voice be heard!