Write Run Live

IMG_0184

Photo from Gretchen E.K. Engel

The Scriblerians regularly “get together” virtual style on Google Hangouts and the topic of our blog came up. We decided to do columns with our individual theme. It was easy for me. I chose Write-Run-Live. My favorite and easiest blogs are ones I do that center around setting goals and encouraging others in their journey.

Right now I’m finishing up the rewrite of a manuscript. I’ve changed it from first-person present to close third, altered the timeline, and changed the title as well as some of the focus of the story. Believe it or not the hardest part was flipping from pantser to plotter. It took a bit of tweaking scenes before I realized I had to strategize. I took the new timeline and made it work. Writing the scenes and editing them have been the easy part.

That’s a metaphor for my life right now. Along with writing, I’m training for my second, and perhaps third half-marathon. Then there’s the kids’ summer activities, and I’m in the middle of a large project with my day job. Scheduling my life is the hard part. Getting it done works with some planning. Did I mention that I’m becoming a plotter in real life too? OK, maybe I’ve always been a plotter who just looks spontaneous.

That said, I do crazy-busy as little as possible. It’s like the speed work part of my training. They’re my favorite runs. I sprint for 400m (1/4 mile) then walk for a 1/4 mile. This alternates for a number of sets. I can sprint knowing that I have time to rest. Toward the end of the rest, I’m ready to run again. Like life. I enjoy seasons of busy when I know there’s an end in sight. And relish the slow times knowing a busy season is around the corner. Another metaphor.

Do you like a scheduled life, being spontaneous, or a bit of both?

Rare Close Collaborations

Many publishers forbid their authors and illustrators to work closely with one another because often the author’s preconceived notions of what things should look like conflict with the illustrator’s ideas. And the publisher doesn’t want that hassle.

However, the publisher that I’m working for, Sono Nis Press, welcomes this type of collaboration. And I love it! Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon is the fourth book where I’ve been able to work with the author to produce illustrations.

I thought you all might like to meet my friend and colleague, Karen Autio, the author of our book whom I have known for 18 years. She has stuck it out with me and my crazy requests for models and/or people to take pictures of me doing various crazy things. (ie. taking pictures of me dancing in the snow in a silk housecoat for another book. Maybe I’ll show it to you someday…)

Here is a picture of Karen and I in the Wild Horse Canyon in 2014.

IMG_3057 Karen and I

Karen, you have been very busy! Can you tell us about your other books?

My trilogy of historical novels for young readers focuses on Canadian history that hasn’t had much attention, along with issues of family, friends, and faith. Second Watch deals with the Canadian Pacific Empress of Ireland steamship’s role in immigration and its shipwreck in 1914—Canada’s Titanic. Life purpose and the impact of tuberculosis on a farming family make up the core of Saara’s Passage. Sabotage in Canada during the First World War is the central theme of Sabotage.  My newest book is an illustrated chapter book called Kah-Lan the Adventurous Sea Otter, set on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC.

Karen and books

How long have you worked on Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon?

I’ve lived in the Okanagan (in British Columbia’s Southern Interior) for 20 years, and most of that time I’ve been intrigued by Wild Horse Canyon and its history as a place to trap wild horses. I so wanted to get to Wild Horse Canyon (in Okanagan Mountain Park) to explore it, but I thought the hike in from Kelowna was onerous, and I didn’t have access to a boat to take me across Okanagan Lake for the shorter hike* in from Commando Bay (* see my answer to the third question). In 2006, my curiosity got me researching the canyon, and the more I learned about it and the area, the more fascinated I became with the history. By 2013, when my third historical novel was about to be published, I couldn’t resist writing the outline and then text of this picture book, which was then accepted for publication by Sono Nis Press in January 2014.

What were your thoughts on working so closely with a friend and colleague?

I remember when I first mentioned this story idea to Loraine (before it was accepted for publication) and asked if she’d be available to illustrate it, she said, “No, my schedule is too full.” I was incredibly disappointed. So you can imagine my delight a year later when my publisher agreed with my recommendation of Loraine as illustrator and offered her the contract, and she accepted. She is the perfect artist for this project, with her lifelong knowledge of the Okanagan, intimate experience with horses, and realistic art style based on detailed research. Loraine stated at the beginning of this project, “I can’t think of a better partner to work with,” and neither can I.

Now, if we were horses, Loraine would be a fancy warmblood and I’d be a trustworthy cob (we confirmed this via an online quiz!). She’s full of spunk and energy, a true extrovert, while I’m more quiet, contemplative, you know, an introvert. At times I’m reining her in and at other times she’s spurring me on out of my comfort zone. We complement one another in so many ways. Knowing each other so well, we’re free to honestly critique each other’s work, which has strengthened both the text and illustrations.

What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the project?

Two challenging aspects immediately come to mind. First, wrangling the historical details, especially when resources were non-existent, were scarce, or disagreed. Second, and here’s where I address the * in my first answer. Getting into Wild Horse Canyon to actually see the setting of the book was incredibly challenging! In September 2014 we finally met someone who was willing to take us by boat to Commando Bay! (Just below the canyon) However, the promised short hike to Wild Horse Canyon had us detouring through a smaller overgrown canyon, needing to bushwhack over fallen and burned trees, through prickly bushes, and climbing rocks and sliding on loose ones.

IMG_5510

But we made it!

A year later we met a hiker who guided us to Wild Horse Canyon on foot from the end of Lakeshore Road in Kelowna—not as onerous a hike as expected, but still a full day’s adventure.

The most rewarding? Again, I have two answers. First was experiencing the incredible, awesome Wild Horse Canyon twice, with its breathtaking sheer granite west wall and the peace of its secluded location. Second was the initial feedback on the story, that people got what I was aiming to convey about the history of place, a journey through time.

What do you hope readers will get out of the book?

I hope readers (and those being read to) will enjoy connecting to history. May they be so fascinated by the changes over time in one place that they’re inspired to explore the range of history of their own neighbourhood.

I have been told, and have experienced, that in order to keep a friendship healthy, you shouldn’t live, work, or travel with friends. Karen and I have committed all of the above taboos, and will do even more as we tour together to schools and libraries this fall. I am looking forward to finally sharing this huge project with kids and adults alike – with my buddy Karen!

Karen Autio at Mission Creek Greenway

I’m taking a stab in the dark, but I’m assuming most of our readers are creative. I hope you also have a friend with whom you can share many types of creative activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Incredibly FAST Passing of 2015…

When the calendar flipped to October 1, I had a panic attack.

How was it possible that my favorite season—fall—which always proceeds my two favorite holidays—Thanksgiving and Christmas—could be upon us already? How indeed, as it was not conceivable that nine months of this “new year” had expired. Surely it was only June, certainly not later than July in this year of 2015.DSCF8153

The flowers on my front steps had never looked better. The weather was nice—not hot—but warm and very pleasant. Too many items remained on the summer to-do list. How could it be fall already? Where had the summer gone?

Simply. Not. Possible. ¾. Of the year. History.

Most of my adult life, I’ve declared the passage of time to be swifter with each passing year. You know the old adage, “The older you get, the faster time flies…” True, for sure. But this year had simply vanished.

Panic gripped my mind and emotions. So much to do in preparation for my favorite season. Buy pumpkins and other interesting fall produce, haul the saved-from-last-year fall decorations from the attic and then actually decorate. Other fall rituals needed to be worked into an already hectic schedule. Important  things like traditional fall recipes to make and share with family. I resisted the slight dread that accompanied my thoughts about this favorite season and vowed not to let the sneaky nature with which it descended upon me this year rob us of this most special of seasons.

DSCF8155 DSCF8157

Okay, you got this, I chanted repeatedly until my nerves calmed. However, the calm was short-lived as I remembered that mental Christmas prep normally begins in October. Mental only, you understand, as the rule in our home is no Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but then we pull out all the stops and do Christmas BIG.

My internal chant changed to, One holiday at a time…you can do it.

Ever since I got serious about writing, the matter of time has taken on a new dimension. Once writing became a priority in my life, my “time habits” changed dramatically. I once joked that I gave up sleep for Lent. It became a sort of year-round observance. Why sleep when there’s so many amazing writing related things I could be doing? Like …

  • Immersing myself in the characters and storylines of my YA 3-book series – the immediate goal being to finish book #2 ASAP and then indie publish book #1 with the second book following not-too-far behind

    Pieces of a Life storyboard

    the storyboard for my series characters

  • Composing the next post for my “Waiting Matters… Because YOU Matter” abstinence/renewed abstinence themed blog
  • Compiling this month’s sets of weekly web content for my business clients
  • Reading a YA book
  • Connecting with my writing partners via our email loop OR private Facebook page
  • Studying the craft of writing through any number of means
  • Critiquing the work of my awesome, talented writing partners
  • Networking & marketing to build my author platform
  • Reading a popular or award-winning or classic tale for the purpose of dissecting it’s greatness
  • Creating posts for the group Scriblerian blog
  • Dipping my toes into the sea of editing
  • Reading a book just for fun

Yep, it just happened again. As I finished typing the above list, an understanding of why this year has whizzed by washed through my mind. Just as it did the first week of October, as I tried to figure out why this year in particular seemed to have vanished in the wind, a sense of, “See, that’s why,” followed by a wave of relief.

My life took an unexpected turn earlier this year when the part-time job I’d had for 9 ½ years came to an abrupt, unforeseeable end. Poof, it was gone, due to circumstances beyond my control. Over the next month, I couldn’t shake the deep sense that this was my chance to for-go a “regular” job and just write. To establish myself as a “real” writer.

Let’s jDSCF8152ust say I’ve learned not having a “regular” job opens the door for a lot of things. Good things. Worthwhile things. Certainly not all writing related things, though. Actually, a lot of not-writing-related things. As I try to get used to the new “normal”, I’ve found myself issuing a rather firm warning to myself, repeatedly. “Do not waste this opportunity. Get that series finished and published.”

I’ve given my writing partners permission to get tough with me, to push and nudge, even badger, to keep me moving in the right direction. And I’m extending that same privilege or responsibility, depending on how you look at it, to you Scriblerian followers as well. Take me to task, if you feel so led. You have my blessing.

And now I’m off to finish a set of business blogs before diving back into the fictional YA world of Preston and Maggie. I’d love to hear any “keeping on task” tips you’d like to share!

I Detest Fiction Fudgers!

 

Unknown

The horse stood calmly while the little girl leaped expertly into the saddle. Even though she’d never ridden, ever, she gripped the reins and sat in the saddle like a pro. She grinned while her grandpa pleaded with her to take it slowly to begin with. She was after all slightly handicapped, as well as totally inexperienced. But she wheeled the horse around toward the wide-open field and galloped off.

No problem!

I blinked. Twice. Oh really? The movie had also displayed a few rather ridiculous horse training methods (ie. describing to the horse in a stern voice what was required of it), but the UK countryside scenery and the gorgeous images of the horses held me captive. Until the episode with the little girl, that is. After that, I began to doubt the validity of the rest of the research done for the movie.

Seriously? Couldn’t Steven Spielberg have consulted just one horse-training expert before he made the movie War Horse?

This is exactly why I, as a child, steered clear of all horse books like Black Beauty, The Black Stallion and Misty. I had been raised with horses so I could smell an equestrian fiction fudger three paddocks away. Now I’m not saying these classics aren’t good books, I’m just saying that they cater most often to the general public and not to experienced horse people.

We all know that as fiction writers we must adhere to the rules we conjure for our setting. We may be writing fantasy, but as long as our world’s rules are taken into account, the sky’s the limit for composing stories in that particular setting. So why do even the best writers and movie producers still try to cheat  in their plots? Why do they spend the time and money producing stories that have plot holes? I just don’t understand.

Another favourite example of mine of fiction fudging is the use of knocking a character out. If a writer needs someone in their story to be out of commission for a little while, all a fiction fudger has to do is bop the character on the head and there you have it – instant time out for said character.

Now, I’m no expert, but as a hockey mom, I’m all too familiar with the side-effects of concussion. Even when someone isn’t completely knocked out, they can suffer often for months with debilitating repercussions from getting their ‘bells rung’ (as we hockey moms called it).

Over the thanksgiving weekend, my kids brought home armloads of movies to watch. One of them was Jurassic Park 3. There was a scene as they drew near to the jungle island in a plane, where the famous Dr. Alan Grant is adamant that they do not land on the horrifically dinosaur-infested island. A bop on the head and Dr. Grant is conveniently out of commission for about 15 minutes while they land the plane. Easy right? And he had no nasty side-effects in the least!

My brother was knocked out for about 30 seconds a while back and he took a year approximately to get back to normal (ish). So no one is going to put that little plot tool by me!

Am I the only one who detests these little plot cheats? Are there fiction fudgings that you detest as well?

Worth it… So Incredibly Worth It!

In a common-around-our-house scenario, my husband nodded slightly as I summed up the plans for our stay-close-to-home vacation: visit our son for his birthday, spend a couple of days in Brown County, attend opening day at the State Fair, mosey over to my brother’s downtown Indy apartment. I very casually concluded the vacay itinerary with this: “Then on SATURDAY, my writing partner Linda and I are going to St. Louis to meet up and hang out with three of our other writing partners. We’ll come back on SUNDAY.”

“You’re going WHERE? To do WHAT?” To be sure, I now had my husband’s undivided attention.

“Linda lives in Indy (well, close) and she says it’s not that far… only like four hours to St. Louis.”

His forehead wrinkled in disbelief or shock or concern. Who knew?

“Really, she said it’s only four hours, that’s not that far.”

His eyes still fixed on me. “And you’re coming back SUNDAY?”

“Umm, yeah. We’ll have dinner with them Saturday night, hang out, have breakfast Sunday morning then head back.”

Deep sigh, from head-shaking husband.

I felt the need to explain further, to defend our much anticipated road trip. “You know, since three of our group will be there–they write spec and fantasy, you know, so they’re going to this conference called Realm Makers.” I rushed on, searching for just the right words to adequately convey the greatness of this opportunity. “Linda and I write contemporary–that’s why we’re not attending the conference. BUT we want to go see the ones who are going.We haven’t been together since the 2013 conference in Indy…”

At the ACFW Conference, Indy 2013

At the ACFW Conference, Indy 2013

“Oh, fine.” His gaze drifted back to the TV but I detected an ever so slight, continuous shaking of his head.

Of course he didn’t “know”. How could he? He’d never met any of my writing partners. He didn’t have a grasp on how close we’d become. And probably of even greater significance, he’s not a writer. The whole writers-need-other-writers thing that we all firmly, unequivocally believe held no meaning for him.

I hoped Linda’s husband would be there when my husband dropped me off at Linda’s. I thought he might benefit from even a few minutes of “Can you believe this crazy scheme our wives cooked up?” commiserating. Upon our return to Indy, he and Linda’s husband did get a few moments to banter about the craziness-of-our-wives. Before they asked the inevitable, “Was it worth it?”, Linda and I, almost in unison, announced that it was INDEED worth it. Absolutely. Without a doubt. So very worth it.

The Realm Maker Conference attendees Lisa, Tim, Gretchen

The Realm Maker Conference attendees Lisa, Tim, Gretchen

Having dinner in St. Louis

Having dinner in St. Louis

From St. Louis skyping with Karen in Canada!

From St. Louis skyping with Karen in Canada!

You’d never have guessed that nearly two years had lapsed since our last group meeting as we meshed like we spent time together every day. And while we had a totally awesome time, we deeply missed Karen, Vanessa, Cynthia and Loraine.

Truthfully, even us Scriblerians don’t fully understand the depth of our connection. How eight women and one guy who have yet to all be together in the same place at the same time have developed such a strong, deep and lasting bond can only be explained as a GOD thing. While our candid critiquing of each other’s work has challenged each of us to become better writers, our relationship goes way beyond the craft of writing and the dreams of publication. We share praises and prayer requests, heartaches and triumphs, dreams and longings unrelated to writing. We may never fully comprehend the ties that bind us together but we accept it, we believe in it and we love it.

I dream of the day we can all be together in the same place at the same time. And how awesome it would be if our spouses could join us to witness first-hand the amazingness of being a Scriblerian.

Until then, my incredible writing partners, carry on!

The Genre of Horror: Let’s Talk About It.

Scary Young Girls Face On Halloween Day

 

For many Christians, the idea that horror literature could be legitimate as an expression of faith and love sounds like heresy. After all, how can someone that claims to serve the God of peace and love purposely intend to terrify people? I mean, isn’t intentionally scaring people some kind of sin, or if it isn’t, shouldn’t it be?

Those questions are valid and move this discussion from mere literature into theology.  When you consider The King James Bible has 71 instances where there is a command to “Fear not.” The idea of frightening people seems antithetical to the basic tenants of the gospel.

Any student of Church History understands clergy have been scaring people into the Kingdom of God for centuries, does that make it right? No one’s figured that out yet. One of the most noted and famous sermons preached from our side of the 16th century is Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. That sermon is as much a horror story as any Stephen King novel. More important, the sermon underscores the one aspect of God that people seem to forget. Life apart from God is a life of misery and loss.

11188395_10153230210193397_7236923557098932552_n

Going to Hell is everyone’s right of choice and God doesn’t mind accommodating anyone’s desire to spend eternity out of his presence. For many of us believers the idea of being apart from God, now that we have tasted his love and generosity, is terrifying. Remember Christ’s words on the cross when the full judgement of the world’s sin came upon him, and his true parent turned his back to look away from the only Begotten of God?  Jesus said,  “My  God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That’s pure abandonment and fertile ground for the horror genre.

Horror is as much apart of the Bible as faith and blessing. Consider the beggar Lazarus wanting to warn his family about the judgement waiting for them and is told “no.”

Many people consider that horror is only about frightening people.  Who wouldn’t think that when looking at pictures of Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, or watching a long list of movies made for the sole purpose of shocking and terrifying audiences. What people don’t realize is that horror isn’t strictly about scaring people.

scary-halloween-night-background_z1ohZadO(1)

 

Horror explores important topics like hubris, monsters, the unknown and our responses to things we don’t understand. This genre, when done well, allows us to explore our own darkness from the safety of our favorite chair. Some of my favorite horror stories such as  The Birthmark by Hawthorne, or Frankenstein by Shelly, or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus by Marlowe deal with the topics of unforgivable sin and hubris. These dark tales aren’t grossly gory, but they are entertaining and cautionary in nature.

Horror can also deal  with hope, redemption, acceptance and love. Don’t believe me? Read the stories I mentioned and decide for yourself. Of course not all horror is good or even entertaining. Some of it is genuinely awful, but that’s true of all the other genres too.

graveyard-night-scene-in-the-moonlight_Gkx2h-Kd

There are those tender hearts out there that say,  “Fear is always bad.” To that response I’d  say fear as an emotion isn’t intrinsically a bad thing.

My family owned land and horses in Southeastern Washington State. It’s very arid and dry and home to rattle snakes, scorpions, millipedes, and a few other venomous creatures, Bringing the horses in from pasture could be an adventure as it sometimes brought me face to face with this innocuous little rattle from the tall grass or from beneath a sage brush. That little sound could make my heart stop, not to mention my feet.

I would turn around, and go back the way I came, why? Because I stood a good chance of getting bit by the thing making that sound.Was I afraid? Yes, but in a good way that kept me from harm.

Before we dismiss all instances of fear as ungodly. Let’s not forget that running away from temptation because we fear entanglement is completely encouraged. (1 Cor 6:18, 1 Cor 10:14, 1Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22).

There are things that should genuinely should frighten us, like hardening our own hearts to compassion, kindness, and the leading of God’s Spirit. We should always fear injustice, bigotry, and genocide. The violence of Fergeson and Baltimore were far more horrifying than any zombie apocalypse, but very similar to those stories – except no one was eating brains.

Digital Illustration of a Dragon

The genre of horror serves a cautionary purpose, useful for discovering our own personal evils as well as exploring our own redemption, forgiveness, and pathos. I maintain that horror has as much place in Christian fiction as romance, fantasy, mystery, and any other genres you can mention – maybe even more so.

Click on the link below and be prepared for a pleasant surprise. It’s an award winning zombie short film that will surprise you and make you rethink the uses of horror.

Can you define the components of  horror as a genre? Do you think it’s appropriate for people who call themselves Christians to read it, write, or watch it? Why?

The Bowling Ball

 file00078434595

Todd goes through life much like an oversized bowling ball.

Like his arrival home – heralded by the usual thumps of him kicking perennially unlaced runners against the wall, then a shoulder check to the door while twisting the knob and finally, an eruption into the house.

“You won’t believe this,” he exclaims, stomping into the kitchen in his rumpled gray T-shirt and khakis. Frayed hems flop behind his heels. He tosses his backpack onto the island. “Mr. Crowthers sprung a surprise vocabulary test.”

Our cat sidles out of the kitchen.

Todd scratches his wild curls, yanks the milk out of the fridge and slams the door. Three fridge magnets clatter to the floor. He replaces one.

So far, the bowling game is comparatively low scoring.

“Was it a surprise to everyone else?” I retrieve a magnet from under the fridge.

“Dunno. Prob’ly.” He grabs a spoon and the Almond Crisp, then scrapes a stool to the island.

“Well, how’d you do?”

He stares at the back of the cereal box. “With what?”

“You know, the surprise test.”

“Oh, not sure. We didn’t mark ‘em yet ‘cause he had some VERY IMPORTANT things to discuss. He even held us for an extra six minutes.” He splashes the milk into the bowl, and onto the counter.

“So, what did he say?” I hand him a rag.

“Something about mid terms. I think.”

He swipes once at the milk puddle then fires the rag toward the sink, but instead nails my Easter lily. It nose-dives to the floor. Head Pin!

“Oops.”

I hate that word. But, there are others – “uh oh,” “whoops”, and the ever popular, “Was that an antique?”

“Todd. Seriously! Slow down!” I rush over and groan at the severed white bloom in the pile of dirt.

“Sorry…Oh, hey, you gotta see this.” Burrowing through the contents of his backpack, he yanks out a wrinkled piece of paper. He slaps it down exclaiming, “D’ya like that?”

I recoil – it’s stained brown from something in his pack I’d rather not know about. I gingerly smooth it out and see a circled 43/40. “Wow. Nice going. But 43 out of 40?”

“Bonus points.” He pumps a fist. “I named three Roman Emperors.”

For the millionth time, I wonder how consistent he would be if he really tried.

After re-washing the counter, I bring out the dustpan.

“Hey, I can do that,” he blurts through a full mouth.

I glance at my other tender plants – more potential pins. “Uh, no. S’okay.”

Suddenly I’m in a firm neck hold. Todd delivers a smooch that feels more like a playful punch to the jaw.

“Goin’ to Brandon’s to work on a project. ‘Kay?”

I survey my once neat kitchen. This bowling match could turn out a winning score very soon. “Sure. Great idea.” I say a bit too enthusiastically.

He hauls his backpack off the counter, snagging his cereal bowl. It clatters to the floor.

“Whoops.”

“Todd!”

Strike and end of match.

 

Does this sound like anything you could relate too? I’m hoping you can say yes.

This little story was  the winning entry to a contest on personalities I’d submitted to years ago. I think I took all of ten minutes to write it, as it was crystal clear in my mind. I had, right in my own home, all the inspiration I needed to write about a boy’s personality. All I had to do sometimes (when I wasn’t scurrying off in the car to another of his hockey practices) was grab a chai tea latte, and watch. Okay, plus grab a rag.. and a broom.. and a tylenol for my headaches.

But the difference between normal people (and I use that term loosely) and writers, is that life experiences seldom go unnoticed and/or undocumented. Living life is just doing research for our books. My boys know that my characters are them in different settings. And thankfully they are fine with that.

So tell me, how many of your characters are your family members and/or friends? Or if not, where do you get your inspiration?