Sunday, March 31, 2013

A-Z Challenge Starts Tomorrow!

Starting April 1st, I'll be participating in an A-Z challenge, where I will post ever day  of the week, but Sundays, with my topic on a different letter of the alphabet.

The posts will be shorter than normal, but hopefully they will still be a fun and thought-provoking read.

I hope you take a peak each day!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

As a young writer, I crave the secrets have worked for seasoned writers. And though I understand, and fully embrace, the fact that I must earn my stripes with endless hours of writing and editing, I still actively search for any hint, tip or advice that might help me hone my skills.

C.S. Lakin has been a great influence on me, and inspiration to me, as I have taken in the crazy mantle of writer.

I ran across her by accident a while back when I stumbled upon a blog post by a writer who was so excited she had written 5,000 words in one day. She said real writers just push through it and that's how they know they are good writers. Real writers always produce high word count.

It was a blank day, where I hadn't even gotten four words down. So, when I read this post I was on the verge of giving up. Obviously I wasn't a real writer.

Lakin replied to the post with a short, but sweet message of hope for people like me: It's not about numbers. It's about words.

That focus was very liberating to me. I stopped focusing on how many words I had written, and started paying attention to what I had written. That shift in focus worked for me--it inspired me to write more, and better. Even more better :)

My mom bought me a shirt for Christmas that says, "Even if it's crap, just get it on the paper."  I've heard many people say that.  But that doesn't work for me. That doesn't inspire me. Crap doesn't inspire me. Word count doesn't inspire me.

Words inspire me.

Not saying that I don't write crap. But, if I do, it's totally unintentional.

That's not to say that I don't get excited when I have a day where I can bang out a couple thousand words on the key board. But, my excitement comes from the thrill of the flow of words. You know, those days where the story is so clear that it begs to be given life through your fingers. . .

That's what I love.

At this stage in my writing career, I don't work under deadlines. I don't have the pressure of writing a sequel that will be even better than my first novel.  I'm not published . . .yet. So, I can enjoy writing without the stress of a deadline.

SO, here is my question is to you out there:  How do you maintain the love of writing and write the words that inspire you while under a deadline?

I know that word count is a necessary evil (at least tome), so how do you maintain the flow of inspiration while trying to meet your word count goals?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Long Load


I once watched the Iron Man Triathlon once on television. The participants swim 2.4 miles (3.86kn), bike for 112 miles (180km), and then run for 26 miles (42km). I was amazed at their stamina and strength. I wondered if I could ever meet a physical and emotional challenge of that magnitude and succeed.

A few years ago my husband and I drove 2,200 miles (3540km) in 5 days with four children ranging from 2 to 12. Among the joys of being with family were certain experiences that tested my patience and my sanity- but I survived! The experience leaves me confident that not only could I handle an Iron Man Triathlon, but I would dominate.

On day four, somewhere in between Wyoming and Idaho, we were stuck behind a semi-truck. It didn't look any different from all the other 18-wheelers we had seen on the road except for a small sticker on the back which read, "Long Load."

As we pulled up along side the truck, we realized that it was not the typical 18-wheeler truck, which was a cab that pulled a large trailer, but it was a cab pulling two extra-long trailers. "Long Load" was no exaggeration!

From the perspective we had behind the truck, we would have never known it was going to be longer than normal if it weren't for the sticker telling us so.

I thought of life and the "Loads" that often lay before us. Most times we have no idea how long the loads, or trials, will be.

Wouldn't it be nice if our trials came with a sticker warning us, "Long Load"? 

Unfortunately, most trials we go through don't come with a "Long Load" sticker to warn us. For the most part, we don't have the luxury of knowing how long adversity will last in our lives.

But, what we do know is why we have loads to bear, trials and adversity.

The trucks that we passed on the freeway were all going towards their own individual destinations. Their loads, long or small, were items of worth, great and small. The only way to get their precious cargo from where it was to its destination is to bear the load.

Paul taught that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

The only way to get to our destination-- to live with God again-- is by carrying our loads, our trials and tribulations.

It is only through these trials, regardless of size and length, that we have the opportunity to become like Him.

Patience isn't patience until it is tried, faith isn't faith until is it exercised; humility isn't humility until we learn to rely on God.

These loads, short and long, heavy and light, give us opportunities to become our best selves.

So, although it would be nice to have the fore-warning of the length of my trials in the future like the "Long Load" sticker on the back of the truck, I am at peace just knowing that the trials, regardless of length, are for a purpose, my purpose - God's purpose.

The loads I am called to bear in this life are for me--for my growth and my good. With His help, I can bear them, carry them, live through them, and eventually overcome--no matter how heavy or how long they may be.

But………I still might put in a heavenly request for the "Long Load" stickers for future trials. It couldn’t hurt to ask, right?

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Ah, the joy of innocence!  When we were children every day was filled adventure and fun. We spent careless afternoons playing in the mud and grass, or inside with blocks and toys. We enjoyed our food without guilt, and we didn't care if we were fat or skinny. We just loved our little lives.

Then we grew up. The bills came. The pressure came. The responsibilities came. And the wonder of life seemed not so wonderful at times.

Oscar Wilde once said, "To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."

Here is the question, then: What is the difference between living and existing?

Some would say it's fun, others a career. But, I think it's Purpose.

When we have a purpose, we have a reason for what we do. We have a goal. We have a desired outcome, a drive behind our actions.

When we have a purpose, we understand that there is some other reason--external and internal--for our existence.

There is a reason we are who we are, why we are here. And that purpose defines what we do and how we see ourselves.

It brings richness and color to our world, perspective in our pain, and a deeper joy in our live.

So, what is our purpose?

There is a great purpose that applies to everyone who has ever lived, now lives, and ever will live: To become like Jesus Christ--to mold our character, through faith and obedience, and to experience joy.

But, what your purpose?

I don't know. But God does. Ask Him. I bet he'd tell you. You'd be surprised at the depth and breadth His purpose for you will add to your life.

As much as I love the word Purpose, I love it even more when coupled with two other words, live and on, to create this phrase:

Live on purpose (500x468)

That means to live deliberately. Don't just exist. Live. Take each step for a reason--each breath for a purpose. Dedicate each day to Him. Find a lesson in your struggles, beauty in the clouds, hope in the face of a child, joy in service, and marvel at the wonder you are.

Live on purpose. Do something good. Make something worthwhile. Be better than you were yesterday. Act, don't be acted upon.

Live on purpose. Don't waste your time. Refuse to be a slave to addiction or grudges. Stop being a prisoner of insecurity and doubt.

You have a purpose. So, live on purpose.

And love your life.

Thinking about attending a writer's conference?  Scott Hoffman, a literary agent at Folio Literary Management gave 5 great tips for a successful conference experience. You can read his full article here.

I've only attending one writer's conference, and I loved it! I look forward to many more. I'm happy to find any advice on how to make my conference experience meaningful and effective. Mr. Hoffman gives some interesting advice. Read it and tell me what you think.

Below is a sum-up:

  1. Develop a plan ahead of time: He suggests you don't sign up for classes based on their titles, but by who is teaching them. Do your research. Learn from the "coolest people--the best agents, authors, and editors."
  2. Ignore one-on-one meetings: Controversial, he admits. I don't quite agree, but his logic is interesting.In the past three years, he has only sold ten books from authors he met at writer's conferences, and none of them were during a pitch session. They were after workshop, in the elevator, at lunch organic meetings.
  3. Ignore what the conference organizers tell you what to do: (Are you getting the picture that Mr. Hoffman is a rebel?) He says you should always  have: a memorized one-sentence explanation of what your book is about that's catchy and explanatory, a 1-page synopsis of your novel or or polished proposal for non-fiction and a 1-page bio of yourself, the first three chapters of your novel double spaced, and a copy of your manuscript--just in case. They are your hidden weapons.
  4. Understand why agents to go conferences. Agents don't go to conferences just to find a new book to sell, they go to network with other agents and editors.
  5. Don't do something that's going to put you into the agent's "Life's too short" pile. Do not bug agents when: 
    • They are on their way to deliver a talk.
    • They are in a situation where they cannot comfortably shake your hand. (Buffet line, pool, gym)
    • And, understand that no means no.

So, what do you think? Is he right?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I have to tell you, out of all the writing books I've read, this one is my absolute favorite! It has become my bible of writing of sorts--my easy go-to resource. (And I am not even getting paid to say so.)

It is organized into dozens of stand-alone mini-chapters (I'm talking 1-2 pages long) on everything from pacing, to character development to POV to flashbacks.  You name it and it's in there!

One of the things I love the most about this book is that it is filled with charts, graphs and tools.  

When I first started writing I was a 'Pantser.' I wrote the first three chapters by the seat of my pants.

Then I stalled.

I realized that, even though I had in mind the plot, message and ending, I wasn't able to write more.

A friend gave me this book as a gift, and it unlocked that magic of Plotting.

This book gave me the tools necessary to plot my novel, give it structure and pacing.  It taught me strategies and techniques that improved my writing and story by leaps and bounds.

"Hello. My name is Michelle, and I'm a plotoholic."

It's a great writing too, even if you're a Pantser.  You can purchase it at Amazon here if you're interested.

I have recreated many of the charts and tools on my own computer while I was writing The Rise of Addie Moon, and I have the author's permission to share them with you. Email me if you are interested.

Happy writing--and may the words be with you!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Most of what I've learned about writing has been self-taught. I've read nearly every how-to book from the library, attended writer's conferences and retreats, read a lot of books, and did my research online.

Over the years I've found some wonderful articles - but my favorite types are the easy-to-read, bottom-line, tips and advice from professionals (which do me more good than "Just follow your dreams")

I came across a great article this morning called '5 Editor's Secrets to Help You Write Like a Pro'

The article is great, and I highly recommend you read it, but below is a summary of the 5 secrets:

  1. Sentences can do one thing at a time.
  2. Paragraphs can do one thing at a time.
  3. Look closely at -ing.
  4. Omit unnecessary words.
  5. Reframe 90% of the passive voice
     Bonus secret: Use spell-check!

There is no 100% formula for successful writing--but there is one for failure: Don't write.

So, if you want to write, do it. Research, read, practice!  Let others read your writing, and be sure to wear you big-girl underwear when they tell you it needs work (if they are good friends, they will!)

Then, re-write, edit, research more and keep writing!

Smile on!

Monday, March 11, 2013

"That was Wednesday . . . "

During my church meeting over the weekend a man was telling a story of how he met another man, and had an opportunity to express his testimony with him.  It was interesting to me that, though what he shared was inspirational, it was his last sentence that struck me.

The speaker smiled and said, "That was Wednesday, so I don't know how the story ends."

So often we get down about life because it's not going our way. We get discouraged, sad, even depressed.  Sometimes we tend to focus on the here and now, like it is the end.

We convince ourselves that our book will never get published because it was rejected by one agent.

We will never get married because we aren't dating right now.

We will never get that degree we wanted because we're home raising kids.

We will never be anything special, because we are

When we are at the end, so is our hope.

But, here's the truth that hit me like a ton of bricks when he said those words:

None of us are at the end of our story.  

I know--it's not anything new, but it is a truth so full of hope I couldn't help but smile.

This is just today, so we don't know how the story ends.

There so many possibilities. Yes, some of those possibilities are a little scary, BUT, the others are so exciting, and fill me with hope.

Especially when we understand that we are the author of our own story.

We can decide how it will end.

Where do you want to be in five years?

Who do you want to be?

What does God have planned for you?

How many lives will you touch?

What kind of impact will you leave?

Every day that we live is not the end of our story, but a continuation.

It is true that we cannot control everything, but God gave us the ability to think and act for ourselves. Those are the rudders that will steer us through the paths He puts before us. We are in control. We can make the choices that are necessary to be happy. We can overcome grief, pain, and hard times. We can achieve. Our story will continue.

There is a saying that I love: The person at the bottom of the stairs looking up is better off than the person at the top of the stairs looking down.

Where you are isn't as important as where you are headed.

So, my question to you today is:

Since this is only today, and you don't know how your story ends, where do you want to go? What do you want to do? 

If you don't know, that's okay. Ask God. I know He's got some great ideas (perfect ideas) for you.

Together, you can write--and live--the most amazing story.

Where you are at this moment isn't the end of that story. So, don't wallow in the present. Don't become complacent in the now. Don't celebrate as though the work is done. 

For there is more, much more to your story.

To me, there isn't much more exciting or empowering than possibilities.

And, here's the greatest thing: Even after the chapter of your live here on earth ends, there is still more to your story.

There is a greater purpose to life than just this life.  There is a greater purpose to us than what we can see. There is a greater--and much more beautiful--end to our story than we could ever imagine.

But try to imagine.

What do you want in your story?

Who do you want to be?

Who does He want you to be?


This is your story. You are the author. How do you want your story to end?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

God's Will

C.S. Lewis Quote

No need to say more...

Originally posted on on 3.7.13

Thought I'd share a great article I found called 'How to Get Started Writing: Hamster Wheels and Hurdles.'

It's a great read for aspiring and published authors alike.

My favorite quote from the article is: Have you wondered, frustrated, how to get started writing? The solution can be as simple as a little trajectory.

For me, the impetus was an experience I had in 2006. I shared it with my husband and he said, "You should write about that." He was actually the first one to tell me what a blog was (something he was regretted many times since, lol.)

I started a blog, and my love for writing grew. My trajectory was set!

The more I wrote, the more I realized I have always been a writer.  As I went through my boxes of old things there were stories and poems, letters and talks that I had written over the years. I've filled more than a half a dozen journals since I was thirteen (some of which have been edited with my trusty Sharpee!)

I love writing. Always have.

But, it's that jump from a love of writing, to a hobby, to something more that is frightening. That was where I needed the push. Luckily for me I have an enormously supportive husband who has pushed me the entire way.

According to this article, I am deeply entrenched in phase one. I am hoping for phase two.

Are you a writer? Do you love it? Are you pursuing it? What''s your trajectory?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Father - My Favorite Name

Sometimes life can get pretty crazy, and I can feel a bit overwhelmed. It's those times that I pray to God. I was thinking about Him today and the many names for Him:


The Great Choreographer.

The Architect.

My Biggest Fan.


I call Him Lord because it is a sign of respect. He created all things. He is all-knowing, all-powerful. He deserves respect, and I freely give it to Him.

I call Him the Great Choreographer because He leads and guides those who will listen to Him (and many who don’t know they are listening to Him) through their various trials and situations, matching us up with partners and opportunities that only He could arrange. He knows what is best for us, and as much as we allow Him to, He works to make that happen.

I call Him the Great Architect because it was He who laid down the plans for the life that I live and love. He has a plan, not just for me, but for all of us—and He doesn't keep it from us. If we seek after His will and guidance, He will make His plan known to us. And, as we choose to build on His plans, we see that together we can create something beautiful.

I call Him my Biggest Fan because, well, that’s what He is. He wants me to succeed more than any other soul that has ever existed. He knows be better than anyone—better than I know myself, better than my husband knows me. He knows who I am, where I came from, and who I can become. And He roots for me. He cries for me. He cheers for me. He weeps at my pain, and finds joy in my successes. He has given all that He has, including His eldest son, so that I can have a chance to reach my greatest potential (something that I can’t even imagine!).

But, out of all the names that I have for God, the one that is closest to my heart is Father—because that is what He is. He is my Father in Heaven, and I am His daughter. That is the title that brings me the greatest joy. Of all the good and wonderful things He is, to know that there is a glimmer of that in me...well, that makes me feel good. Really good. My Father in Heaven sees something special in me, and since He cannot be wrong (He is God, you know) than it must be true. So I feel special.

As I sit here and ponder on this, my mind goes to my earthly father. Many of these same things apply to him as well. Though I don't call him Lord, he most certainly has my respect. He has helped plan and orchestrate my life. He has always been my biggest fan. And he loves me.

My dad has always had an amazing way of seeing something special in me, too. He sees things that I don't see in myself yet. And when I have doubts, I only have to ask him what he thinks, and they are calmed. His love for me and faith in me is staggering. And empowering. And I love him so in return.

I know not everyone has an earthly father like mine, but here's the beautiful thing: EVERY ONE of us has a Father in Heaven who is our biggest fan, who works for us, is patient with us, hope for us and misses us. He loves us.

He loves you.

He is your Lord, your Choreographer, your Architect, your Biggest Fan. . . and He is your Father.

And He is real.

Perhaps the greatest miracle of all of this is that God, with all of His power and titles, is only a prayer away.

When we struggle with seeing the good in us, the purpose in our trials, the meaning in life, all we have to do is ask Him what He thinks, and our doubts and fears will be calmed. His love and faith in us is staggering.

And empowering.

Sometimes when the boulders and dust of life settle around me, I have to bring myself back to this simple truth: My Father in Heaven loves me, and I love Him.

And every thing is in its proper place again.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Roller coasters Scare Me

The older I get I notice a few things: I make funny noises when I bend over, I say things like "Kids theses days," and I worry more about things I didn't used to.

I don't mind the first two. They are both rights of passage, in a sense. But, I worry about the last one (talk about irony!)

When I first met my husband I told him I wanted to sky dive. I really did. It was an exciting notion: to fly!

But, now, I remind him constantly to wear his seat belt and slow down when he drives over the speed limit.

I don't find joy in roller coasters as I used to, either. For some reason, I have it stuck in the back of my mind that if there is a chance something bad could happen, that I would be the one it happens to.

Terrible, isn't it?!

It's actually quite sad, too.

This middle-aged fear hasn't kept me from doing a lot of things, but it has definitely kept me from enjoying a lot thing. Now, I'm not riddled with fear, and afraid to leave the house, but I do find that I allow the 'what-ifs' to ruin many things I used to enjoy.

I was thinking about that this morning, and I realized something really powerful. Something that I already knew, but didn't seem to fully understand.

I often say, "Faith is a choice." But, this morning, the words came to my mind, "Fear is choice."

And, so, this morning, I decided not to be afraid anymore.

Yes, I know it will be much harder to do that do say, but the point it, it is my choice to try to make that happen.

2 Timothy 1:7 states: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Fear is really the act of allowing the thoughts of what you do not want to have happen overtake the what is actually happening.

That's all it is.

When I am on a roller coaster, rather than enjoying the wind in my hair, the fun dips and turns, I have the image me flying off the rails because of a rare malfunction. I do not enjoy the ride. Not because it wasn't enjoyable, but because I am so focused on what I don't want to happen that I cannot enjoy what it actually happening.

It is the same with driving. I worry that others won't be as much attention as me and will cause an accident.

A person that allows themselves to be tainted by fear (yes, I said tainted) is also someone who values control. The more control we have, the less we think we have to fear.

This cycle of thinking is very damaging, especially when it comes to our own human relationships. We fear we will be dumped, so we dump them first. We fear we aren't worth being loved, so we don't allow people to love us. We fear our teenagers will make poor choices, so we force ourselves on them.

I see no good that comes from fear.

Yes, I hear you. You're saying, "But Michelle, isn't fear of snakes good? Doesn't fear keep you safe?"

God doesn't intent fear to keep us safe. That is why he gave us our minds: to think, to consider, to decide what is good for us. In verse 7 it says that God gave us a sound mind. He expects us to look at risks and consider them accordingly--and even to pass by certain things (and relationships) because it is clear the risk is too great. But He doesn't expect us to miss out in life because of fear.

The past few years I've really embraced doing things that scare me (playing church basketball), but I need to take it a step further. Beyond just doing things in spite of my fear, I need to enjoy them as well.

Last weekend I attended a Writer's Conference. While I was there, I met with and pitched two of my books to two publishers.

It was scary.

But I did it.

They both bit, and requested to see my work.  After a final push to ensure a quality submission, I put all the information together in two separate emails. . . then pushed 'SEND.'

I was so excited.

Then I got scared.

I then started wondering if I should have checked it just one more time. Then I started worrying I had forgotten something, or sent the wrong thing. Then I began to fret that they wouldn't like it.

This morning, as I checked my email to see if they'd responded yet (even though it takes weeks, even months, for them to reply) I realized what I was doing: I was letting fear ruin reality.

That's when I decided not to be afraid anymore.

Rather than be afraid that I'm not good enough, or that they won't like my work, I am choosing to have faith in myself and in God. I did my best, and if it doesn't work out, I'm sure God has another plan for me.

Faith feels much better than fear.

I am excited for this new freedom from fear. As I change my focus from the negative 'what-ifs' to the positive 'what-is' I know I will open myself up to more happiness and joy, and less stress and worrying.

It is not God's intention for us to live in fear. In fact, His Son, Jesus Christ, tells us to fear not, only believe.

If fear a thief of moments, joy, and possibility, then faith is the liberator.

This doesn't pertain only to things of a spiritual nature (religion, testimony, etc) but to all things in life--even roller coasters and relationships.

So, as of today, this very moment, I choose not to be afraid any more. And it feels good.