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Archive for July, 2014

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

This is why I love literature. Examining lives. Reading allows me to live beyond my own skin and time, stepping into a different world, exploring what it’s like to be someone else, with different expectations, different family, different abilities.

When I meet people who don’t read, I feel nervous. Not only do they not appreciate the hobby I hold dear to my heart, they also are lacking all the experiences gained from reading stories, biographies & autobiographies. They know nothing of making friends, or the art of communication, and becoming an influential person because they’ve read nothing on how to be great. The political world, the history of the world, the scientific studies…all are lost on those poor souls who don’t read.

But they watch TV and are informed, they say.

Yeah, right. That’s like saying, “I watched a documentary about Adolf Hitler and now know everything I need to know about leadership.”

Books, be it on paper or an electronic device, offer a different type of education. It requires the reader to do just one thing – read. In our society of multi-tasking – one of the worst things to happen, in my opinion – reading requires stillness, peace, and dedication. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or studying for a greater depth in understanding about a particular subject, reading is a focused skill that is the heart and soul of the human race.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

It’s likely that Plato wasn’t talking about reading when he wrote this. I imagine that he is expressing a need for the individual to spend time each day reflecting on our actions, words, conflicts, triumphs and plans for the next day.

The advantage to adding reading to this examination of life is looking into other hearts, minds, and goals of other people. Whether they are fictional or historical, the nature of the human heart is to find happiness. Without a proper examination of life, how can we discover what will make us happy?

A few years ago, my two oldest daughters read Pride and Prejudice. It’s fiction, not a scientific study. It’s not an adventure or a fantasy. It’s a novel about manners. It’s an examination of different types of women and their role in family, society, and grace. From that reading, my daughters decided to practice self-control when talking to boys, lest they sound like Lydia and end up with her lot in life…which wasn’t much. My daughters were captivated by the language, the intelligence of their communication, the patience they exercised. They saw the happiness the characters gained at the end of the story and knew that that’s what they wanted for themselves.

In my hopes of raising daughters, I have often spoken (and try to model) self-control, patience and the virtue of purity. But my words are just words; and while actions do speak louder, there is something about it being spoken by a parent that renders the lesson moot. It takes an outsider to cause the lessons to stick; someone who has earned their trust, someone who doesn’t tell them to pick up their dirty socks or to make their beds. Outsiders can, for better or worse, teach children far better than parents. If the outsiders are the characters from books, readers can extend their experiences, their knowledge, and their friends (personally, my greatest lessons in friendship came from books – the most difficult lessons from my own life.)

In the moments spent between the lines of a story, readers can practice behaviors without actually hurting anyone. The behaviors of characters, of historical figures, even of creatures in books (think Gollum), shadows our own. But what do we do with those characters in our reality?

In the Catholic faith, we are encouraged to do a nightly examination of conscience: How did I do today? Did I live for God? Whom did I serve? What did I sacrifice? What did I give? Did I spend time in prayer and with scripture? Where did I fall short? What can I do differently tomorrow?

Regardless of faith, these same questions crack open a whole new way of looking the way people live. As we examine our days, we discover our weaknesses. Knowing our weaknesses leads us to overcome them in strengths. Exercising our strengths allows us to understand that we need proper information to become better people. Better information leads us to Wisdom. Wisdom will save the world.

An exercise that fell short:
 Years ago, in high school I believe, I was asked where I thought I would be and what I would be doing in 10 years. I don’t remember my answer specifically, but I’m sure it was something to the tune of: good job, happily married, a baby, nice car, nice home, annual vacations.

If I ask myself that question now – Where do I see myself in 10 years? – I’m looking at a 50-something year-old woman. While the question is a starting point, it doesn’t examine the deeper questions: What do I want for that 50-something year old woman? Am I robbing that older woman of her gifts and talents by the things I’m doing today? What I can save for her that will help her in the future? What can I do that will make that older lady happy, secure, and strong?

In examining my future, I can focus my plans for today. If I picture myself in 10 years as a woman living completely off the choices I make each and every day from now until then, how different do you think I will choose to live?

What I do today will determine my success in the future. My goals for today, this week, next month, and the coming year will all add up into something great…or, if they exist in an “unexamined life”, will lead to a failed existence.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

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Blog Tour – Why I Write

I was invited to take part in this Blog Tour by Jennifer Chow, a fellow author Martin Sisters Publishing, author of The 228 Legacy, and a woman who understands the power of books reviews as she took the time to read my book, Unforgettable Roads, and leave a review on Goodreads!

I started reading Jennifer’s book and was immediately intrigued. Her style is fresh and thought provoking – you won’t be disappointed!

In doing my due diligence to see just where this blog tour has stopped, I’m humbled. There are some really great authors out there who have taken the time to make a ‘stop’ on this tour, and many more whom I can’t wait to meet – both in terms of a face-to-face encounter and within their writing.

Blog Hop – Writing Processes

What am I working on?

I will admit here that I’m slightly ADD. When people ask this question, I usually keep it simple and just share that I’m still writing. In truth, I have 4-5 different writing projects going. I don’t think that that I’m unique in this – I can think of no career where a person would only work on one project until it’s finished. For some reason, people are surprised to hear that writers don’t write just one book at a time.

Currently, I’m editing and polishing the sequel to my first book, Gateways. I’m still working on a title, but I have been calling it Maps but I’m leaning towards, The Elder’s Circle. I have a wonderful writing partner that I’m meeting with twice a week to work on a book titled, Retreat, a woman’s survival story in the back woods of Northern Wisconsin. After hours of editing or Retreating (our term for our work on this book), I switch gears to another novel, Circle of Pride. Using the seven deadly sins, I’m working on a series (yep, 7 books) about two foster brothers who are targeted by people possessed by these sins. Wanna sneak peek?

Why do I write what I do?

I write to bring Christian values to teens and young adults without the preachy, shoved down the throat lessons. As difficult as failure is, I really do think it is the best lesson and my characters all suffer good-intentions turned bad as the means to become the person they are meant to be. Let’s be honest, if every character acted on 20-20 maturity, there would be no story. The mistakes we make add to our character, our understanding, and our compassion.
As a mother and a reader, I’m disheartened by the amount of fantasy available that makes death look appealing. A young girl at our church, who comes only because she wants to spend that time with her grandmother, told me that she really would love to become a zombie.
What?
I know nothing of the current trend of zombie books and movies, but it’s my understanding that zombies are dead and quite horrifying. The fact that she wants to become one…well, needless to say, I’m confused about her life goals.
I am saddened by the changes happening in the world. I’m sure we can all agree that the world we live in now is not as healthy as the world into which we were born. Perhaps it appears a bit lofty for me to hope that my writing can make a difference in that, but that’s exactly what I hope. Stories are the language of the soul. If we feed our soul on dark stories, we become burdened. If we inspire our souls with stories that lead to truth (even difficult truth) and hope, our souls become light.

How does my writing process work?

Here is what I wish I could answer honestly:
I start with a scene in mind, a skill that is uncannily simple for me, and with a glass of something bubbly in hand, I sit on the deck of my vacation home and plan out the story in its entirety. With my insanely organized mind, I plot each chapter with character notes, plot, and theme. Then, as the waves roll up on the beach outside, I click away contentedly on my laptop, laughing at my jokes, crying at the emotion of scenes. About three or four months later, I submit my work to my agent, who prepares to battle the onslaught of publishers who are knocking down her door for my latest work.

Here’s the truth:
Sometimes I do start with a scene in mind and toil for months to create a story that develops from that. Mostly, I start with a theme or a purpose for the story first. Once I’ve established setting and a basic plot, I turn to research to enhance my understanding of that time period and location.
I do use an outline to plot points, but it’s an outline that inspires fear for any Type A personality – giant sheets of paper that I tape to the wall of my dining room, I sketch out the story as the ideas come and link them together with lines. In education, it’s called brainstorming. To my family, it looks like a mess. To me, it’s perfect.
Being a homeschooling mom of four and a wife who also runs a business with her husband, my time to write is the only strict schedule I follow. I squeeze in an hour every day for writing or reading, but every Thursday afternoon, my husband is home and I disappear. In order to make the most of that time, I do have to keep a running To-Do List with deadlines. It’s this To-Do List that determines the success of each week of writing. If I know what scenes need work, have a few resources to read to keep me motivated and in the loop of the writing and publishing world, then my time that is dedicated to writing is much more focused and effective. If I just sit down to write, I accomplish nothing.
It’s possible that I’m in the running for being the slowest writer, needing several years to complete a manuscript.
Currently, I don’t have an agent. I have been published through a small publishing house, Martin Sisters Publishing. I have also self-published a two other books. The process for both of those avenues to publishing is very different, but both were fulfilling.

Meet Virginia Ripple

I’m tagging Virginia Ripple as the next author in this Blog Tour. She’s an incredibly gifted writer and a true support for other writers. You can check out her writing and mission at www.virginiaripple.com.

 

 

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