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Posts Tagged ‘goals’

wpid-0710151654a.jpgI have wondered at the infatuation with Zombie novels and movies. As a believer of living life to its fullest, the idea of being intrigued by the walking dead has left me puzzled. Wanting to be slightly informed, but cautiously aware that I’m the type that would probably really enjoy a good zombie movie, I watched World War Z last week. Based on the expressions of various friends and acquaintances who have equally various opinions on zombies, I’ve either gone over the edge or I’ve wasted my time with a glorified-yet-disappointing movie.

Either way, I have a feeling that I haven’t truly experienced a true zombie. To be honest, that is okay with me. From my limited knowledge of a zombie apocalypse, it’s a plague that drives zombies to bite healthy individuals. In the movie, the plague killed first, then within 11 or 12 seconds, the bitten rose to spread the disease. The faces of the zombies were distorted with bulging eyes, snarling lips and a hunger to devour others. When left without noise or stimulation, they became listless, wandering from room to room with no purpose.

Zombies sound like an antagonist of fantasy literature.

Actually, they are real.

I saw a young mother at the grocery store who leaned heavily on her shopping cart, moseying up and down the aisles, staring blankly at the items on the shelf. When her child whined for snacks, her lips curled into a sneer and she launched cruel words toward the toddler.

During a visit to the mall, a swarm of zombies lurched around the shoppers, biting into the souls of others with snide remarks about that one being too old, that one being too fat. Within seconds, those within ear-shot withered into piles of nothing.

The walk of a person who had come to the mall with a purpose was instantly replaced with the wounded crawl of defeat. Employees can be zombies. They thirst of money and power and success. Their eyes bulge with desires for these things, their calendars are riddled with meetings and appointments that direct them away from their real hopes and toward the desires of a society without a purpose.

The expression of a child watching a video is reminiscent of a zombie expression. Childhood – and all of life – is not to be wasted living someone else’s adventures.

Parents can be zombies. The disease of striving for success while not having a meaningful purpose is a plague. Are we working at something we love? Or are we working to keep a roof over our children’s heads? A recent study revealed that the average father gazes into the eyes of his children for less than 38 seconds a day? But how many hours does that same man watch TV or play video games? Talk about a zombie! This mind-set is a disease. It’s a bleak landscape that offers no life-giving fruit. It’s a life without hope, a life without purpose. Is there a cure? Yes.

Fight the disease of purposelessnessitis. (I know that’s not a word, but it should be. Our society is plagued with it!)

 

Find a mission.

 

Seek a purpose.

 

Align your mission and purpose in a career.

 

Each day find something that is living and gaze at it. A child’s eyes. A blooming flower. A radiant sunset (okay, that’s not living, but there is atomic energy in that sun).

sunset-morrisionlake I am not immune to the plague of zombies in this world, but I will also actively seek a cure. I believe the cure is found outside, by talking with other living souls, or inside a book. I’m no longer puzzled by the idea of zombies. For some, it’s a fad genre that is entertaining. For others, perhaps death feels more appealing than living. That’s backwards. It really is. LIVE backwards is evil. Live life. We have it only once and for a short time. Why waste it on walking around like the dead?

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The winter doldrums usually never visit the Schaub household. With four children participating in homeschooling events and a house lined with books, there is rarely a dull moment. But, alas! The doldrums came knocking this year. It wasn’t during the winter, but the early Spring just as Mother Nature teased me with two days of warmth and sun which she nestled into the bosom of a month of cold and rainy days.

In those two days, I gardened until I had to chip the dirt from under my fingernails. My arms were slightly red, my eyes were dry from the intensity of the sun, and my back ached from tilling the soil. Overall, I felt alive.

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When Michigan’s April spring temperatures returned, the weather forced me back inside. The tasks that a mother needs to attend to cluttered my day; meal planning, actually making those planned meals, laundry, homeschooling and the endless list of trivial to-do’s.

As that to-do list grew longer every day, I noticed that my drive to cross things off that list was waning. I had entered a slump. A swampy-low dump. Not a happy place to be.

“When you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.

Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

-Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I needed a little inspiration, a bucket of motivation, and a reward at the end.

My inspiration? To model the behaviors of dedication to my children. To inspire others to read more, learn more, to find positive associations that will build their lives toward love of God.

My Motivation?

Wait…how is that different from inspiration?

Inspiration is the fuel that drives me.

Motivation is the destination to which I’m driving.

I needed to remember that my motivation is to live a life steeped in the riches of God’s love and passion. My husband and I are the two major players and driving forces in our family. While we aren’t perfect and our children certainly know that, we are expected to live well, learn as we go, and do our best to not repeat mistakes. If we can work our way toward establishing an ever-developing strength in our marriage, that will carry over to our children and their perception of live, love and faith.

My reward?

Before I can select a reward, I need to measure the rate of my success. Yes, I’m a Type A, Dominant Personality, a Choleric-Melancholy, for those of you familiar with personality types. My children tease me about the amount of notes, charts, and the depth of detail I go into in our family life, lesson planning, writing (plot organization) and budgeting. But, heck! It works 🙂

What is success for me? Well, I have a goal for this year that will lead me to my 5- and 10-year goals. To reach that annual goal, I have an ongoing list of books to read and write, articles to explore for this blog, people to learn from (including my children). There are places to visit, experiences to have, and communities to participate in.

With my 10- and 5-year goals charted, I wrote down what I could do this year to make that possible. Every month I revise my “This Year” list to bring me closer to my 2020 goals. I also reserve the right to change those goals for 2020 and 2025, but only in an upward direction. If I find that I’ve underestimated how many books I can sell each month, I will raise that goal, but I will not lower it.

Getting back to the reward…each month I set down a list of to-do items. The typical list includes:

  • listening to 2-3 inspirational and informational audio recordings each day, which can accomplish as I drive my children to their activities, while I cook, fold laundry, or walk.
  • Reading 3 books on personal development (see my current reading list here) and 1-2 novels in the genre I write.
  • Write a blog post each week
  • Make an actual dinner (pre-planned, prepared and enjoyed) at least 3 times a week. That might sound like a low goal. I do have four children who do eat dinner seven times a week. They also eat breakfast, lunch, and two snacks a day–all at home. Three of them are old enough to prepare meals on their own, so I have them do that. You can call it Home Economics. I call it ‘time to write’.
  • And because I need to stay healthy, I set an exercise goal for each month. In warmer months, I’ll set a walking/jogging mileage goal. In the winter, I set out a stack of 4-5 exercise DVDs on Sunday night and do them all by Saturday morning.

If I can put a check mark next to each of these goals, then I know I have earned my reward. Sometimes it’s a Saturday morning specialty coffee from an upscale coffee shop. Sometimes I will take an entire day or, if possible, an overnight mini-vacation to a local retreat center and just relax, read and write. This month, the reward is a trip to Barnes and Noble where I will spend all the gift cards I received for Christmas.

A friend of mine laughed when I told her what my reward was for this month. “You already have the gift cards, just go and spend them!”

But I didn’t earn those cards. If I gain something, I want it to be because I’ve done the work and have earned it. It means more.

I encourage you to do the same. My mentor inspired me to try this reward system, using the idea of delaying gratification from the simple, easy-to-buy things until I had completed the work toward a dream. By adding this reward process to my life, my dreams of becoming a writer, author, and public speaker aren’t just pie-in-the-sky wishes, but realities. If there was ever anything you want, make a plan and implement it. At all costs, make it happen. There will be hard work and set-backs, but there will be no regrets. If you work long enough and hard enough, every dream can be reached.

This post was inspired by the book: Ladder, Climbing out of a Slump published by Obstacles Press.

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The entire world wants something. Peace. Money. Fitness. Beauty. Happiness. True Love. Family. Joy.

What is it that you want more than anything? Write it down. Don’t just think it. Thoughts are fleeting and easily lost in the breezy whims of life. Seal it onto paper with ink.

Do you really want that? I mean REALLY want it? Is that the something that wakes you up during the night? Does thinking about that cause you to daydream? If you so, keep reading. If you aren’t sure, keep reading anyway. If you want it but don’t feel like it’s something you can achieve, then you definitely need to keep reading!

Let me preface this with a disclaimer–I want something too. I’m learning how to reach my dream by studying people who have already reached theirs and are onto their second, third, fourth or tenth dream levels.

What do I want? I want everything listed in the first line and Perfect Faith. I don’t ever want to doubt God’s plans for me. I also want to be the most successful Independent Author who walked the earth. Lofty? Sure. Possible? Absolutely! I mean, somebody has to be the best…why not me? Am I there? Certainly not today, but tomorrow, if I live today correctly, I’ll be closer.

As I’m learning from mentors and as I read books on success in business, leadership, and faith, I am continuously finding a common theme: Not everyone is capable of competing for what they want.

Competing for that ‘one thing’ doesn’t necessarily mean that people are in a race to ‘get there first’. My greatest opponents in that competition is usually me. I am my greatest naysayer, the perfect enemy, the one who really knows what I have and have not accomplished. If I talk myself into something, I can talk myself out of it just as easily. That’s why I believe that not everyone is capable of competing for what they want. It’s also why I don’t want to be in that incapable group.

When I think of the word capable, I think of ‘having the ability’. But my friend Webster describes it differently: “competent; gifted; skillful.” To have capability means to “have power”. My definition is weak, but seems to be accurate for today’s culture. According to my old thinking, to be capable means that I have the ability. There are many people in the world today who are capable of doing great things. We hear that often, particularly from frustrated teachers and parents: “I know he/she is capable, but he/she just doesn’t!”

I much prefer Webster’s definition. It’s forward in its meaning and implication. Taking each of the words in the definition, here is what it breaks down into:

Competent = properly qualified

Gifted = possessing natural talent

Skillful = expert, dexterous

Do I feel competent as a writer? Sometimes. There are days I write scenes that just drip from my fingers onto the keyboard as if it takes no energy at all. Other days, I claw at the words, digging them out of my brain and pasting them to the page where they stick into gooey clumps.

Write BIG, write little, just write!

Write BIG, write little, just write!

Do I possess a natural talent for writing? Nope. Everything I’ve written has been toiled over, rewritten, thrown out and resurrected through several edits. In fact, a college professor told me that I had no natural ability whatsoever. I was furious. And as my mother can verify, when I am furious about something, I work diligently to prove that person wrong. I’m still in the process of following the map toward the treasure of great writing, but I’m better than I was a year ago. Next year is looking golden.

Skillful writing is not writing like an expert, although there is certainly a place for that. Skillful writing is more of a dedication to a skill, devoting time and energy to the practice of, to find mentorship, to grow thick skin in order to perfect it. Skill comes to those who want it and work for it over a period of time.

My first manuscript was a massive collection of sentences with no clear focus or destination. I spent over a year working on that story, but I didn’t heed the advice of the experts. When I did, I could see the gaping holes in my story. I had no natural skill. The intense amateur status of my writing was blinding. There was only one thing to do: throw it out and start over. And I did. I deleted every copy on the computer and shredded every paper copy I had.

The greatest gift I received from that ‘do-over’ was the freedom to start fresh. I read every book on writing I could find. I read other novels in the genre I loved. Years went by before I had a manuscript that was even worth sharing with someone else. My days were (and still are) filled with caring for my children and homeschooling, so the only times I had to write were early in the morning, late at night, and during nap times. But, I found that my capabilities to do that were tied to my motivation to make that dream of becoming an author a reality. That gave me power.

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My first book. I still feel goose bumps when I look at it 🙂

I told myself: I will write until I have a complete and well-written story.

Then I said: I will polish and submit this manuscript until I find a publisher.

Then: I will continue to write until each story idea is taken to its fullest potential.

The “I will…until” concept was only recently put into words for me, but as I look back over the last decade of writing, it’s exactly what I did. Now, with that motto in my head, I feel more motivated than ever to continue forward with new and bigger goals. More books, more stories, more speaking opportunities. More books to read, more people to meet, more abilities to uncover.

The “I will…until…” phrase is an attitude. It’s a frame of mind that creates a willpower fueled by ability that grows into expertise.

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Brian Tracy, in his Book, Eat That Frog! titled after a statement by Mark Twain. Paraphrasing Mr. Twain, he essentially said: If, upon waking every day, you had to eat a live frog, it’s best to just do it and get it over with. Then, for the rest of the day, nothing can be as bad as that.

 

Essentially, don’t procrastinate the ugly job, because it’s only going to grow worse.

 

Stare that task right in the face!

Stare that task right in the face!

Mr. Tracy states that eating that frog indicates “Your ability to select your most important task, to begin it, and then to concentrate on is single-mindedly until it is complete is the key to high levels of performance and personal productivity.” (pg. 109) In essence, figure out what it is you need to do and work on that until it’s finished.

 

He goes on to suggest that “Starting a high-priority task and persisting with that task until it is 100 percent complete is the true test of your character, your willpower, and your resolve.” (page 111) Clearly, Mr. Tracy isn’t referring to parents who stay-at-home or work from home while there are children around. For anyone who has spent three or more hours caring for a child, they can attest that nothing happens as planned, nothing stays where you put it, and anything that is too quiet is either asleep or in the depths of making a ghastly mess.

 

“Starting a high-priority task and persisting with that task until it is 100 percent complete is the true test of your character, your willpower, and your resolve.”

 

I felt angry when I read that. The book is geared toward professionals in a professional setting. But I’m a professional mom. My setting involves very domestic chores, children, their schedules, needs, and all the lessons (both life and academic) they must learn. Even now, as I’m typing this, my willpower is being tested by the four-year-old who is claiming to be hungry after having a breakfast of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, sliced bananas, and two cups of milk. Honestly!

 

To achieve this standard of success seems impossible as caring for a child (or two, or four, or twelve) is not a single-minded task. It involves cuddling, caring, cleaning, feeding, reading to and listening to a child. There is the grocery shopping, the meal planning, gift buying, bribery purchases, laundry, toilet scrubbing. Chores at home are undone as quickly as they are crossed off the list. Then add to the list the task of raising three teenage daughters. They prefer to be called ‘young adults’. Most days they do act like young adults. On the days they don’t, they are frog princesses waiting for that kiss…

 

There are even tasks a parent must think of before they become necessary–what items will be needed during the shopping trip (i.e. a change of clothes, that special stuffed animal), how the schedule change is going to effect that child who is schedule-dependent, or any number of unexpected situations (usually vomit) that are the norm for those who spend their day with children.

 

What is the Frog of my day? Mothers have so many little things to manage. Which one is the Frog with its big bulging eyes and slimy skin that I just need to choke down and move beyond? What is the job that will only get uglier if I procrastinate?

 

I don’t have an answer other than to say that as a mother, frogs jump at me and I have to make split-decisions. I don’t always choose wisely.

 

Since reading Brian Tracy’s book, I’ve been dipping my not-so-edible frogs in a “Prayer” sauce. As I make my list of to-do’s and as I juggle the frogs that jump onto my plate, I am learning that the power of prayer and the gift of sacrifice make a savory meal of any frog.

 

And so I will pray for you. That whatever frog jumps onto your plate, it is one that brings a fullness to your life and brings joy to those whom you love (because watching someone eat a frog is what reality TV was born on!). Mostly, I will pray that when you do cross that frog off your list, you have taken another step toward satisfying your dreams.

 

Bon Appétit!

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Awaiting Inspiration?

Have a Dream? Don’t wait for Inspiration. Dreams are reached on the wings of determination.

 

Let me preface this post with a statement: If I can do it, so can you.

That’s what I tell people who express awe when they learn that we home-school our children and that I write books. If I can do it, so can you.

It’s not that everyone should write a book (although everyone should keep a journal), or that every parent should home-school their children. The idea behind the statement is that if there is something you really want to do, figure out how to do it. (Some days my greatest goal is to finish the laundry. Other days, my family would love it if my life’s ambition was to cook dinner.)

Here’s a formula I learned from Bob McEwen (CD, Freedom Matters, Life Leadership) : S = I + A

Success = Information + Action

The success I have achieved is a direct result of information I’ve gleaned from a variety of sources which I then put into action. I will follow that statement with this: The greater success I am striving for is from specific information I am harvesting from other who have the success I desire which I will put into action.

That’s all I’ve done: uncovered success by putting action behind information. My information was about writing, the time period I write about, the language of storytelling, and even the nature of marketing. Success in writing is not a result of inspiration, but dedication to a schedule.

To await inspiration is to die a dusty death.

To hunger for success is only step one. Satisfying that hunger requires a recipe (S=I+A, in case you forgot). It’s that simple.

As soon as I say that, the excuses start pouring in: But I have children. I have a full-time job. I don’t have a job, so I can’t afford to work toward my dream. I’m too old. I’m too young. I have a disease. I’m not smart enough.

Inspiration never comes to those with excuses. If you believe something is true, then it is. If you believe you are too old to do something, you are. But don’t tell that to the octogenarians who climb mountains or start new businesses, or to the teenagers who launch multi-million dollar ideas (think Facebook).

If you set a goal and work to meet it, the excuses fall away like winter coats in spring. I had a goal of writing a book. In the process of meeting that goal I had three children, adopted a fourth, and chose to home-school them all. In that span of fifteen years, I’ve not written one book, but fourteen. Some have been published, others will be, some will never see a reader. Regardless, each and every word I have written or typed has brought me closer to my goal.

That’s the side-effect of not awaiting inspiration but going out and making something happen…it will. Then what will you do? Make a new goal. A loftier goal. A seemingly unachievable goal, until you set aside the naysayers and just go and make it happen.

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In preparing for a talk I’m gave to high school teachers this month, the image of a river came to my attention several times. From bible verses to inspirational quotes on Pinterest, the analogies I drew from the picture of a river were nearly endless.

I was going over my presentation one morning with my husband, discussing the different types of personalities and how that determines where we are in life. The more I thought about it, the more meaningful the analogy became.

This is not one of those ‘What kind of (fill-in-the-blank) are you?’ quizzes I’ve seen on Facebook, but more of a reflection that will hopefully help the reader identify how the flow of life, the stream of communication, the tributaries of distractions can determine how we are effectively functioning.

Are you the water in the river? Do you go with the flow, riding out every rush, every stagnant corner, following the crowd to whatever destination is at the end?

Or are you the river bank, watching the action from the (supposedly) safe sideline? Are you a muddy bank, steep in your convictions to not become a part of the rushing waters? Watch out for mudslides!

Are you that giant boulder planted firmly in the center of the river, stubbornly resisting change and forcing everything that comes near you to get out of the way?

Are you the tree on the edge of the river gripping the bank tightly as to not fall in, but gaining the nourishing waters from the current?

Are you the fallen tree that landed in the river and is now collecting debris?

Are you a slow, muddy river whose surface is difficult to see through? Are you a crystal-clear stream with light trickling noises as your water slides over a pebble-bed?

Are you a white-rapids river, daring rafters and kayaks to survive?

Are you a tributary river? A Delta? An Amazon?

Are you the Nile, flooding the surrounding area with life-sustaining nutrients?

I do not believe anyone can be stuck as one type of river. As we grow, we move from stagnant waters to rapids, from the watchful tree to the fallen debris-collecting corpse of wood.

Yesterday I was a dammed river who was stumped and couldn’t get past an obstacle. Today I feel like a surging river in the spring, filled with energy and charging forward. Tomorrow? Whatever river I will channel (pun intended) it will lead me toward greatness or ruin. I choose greatness.

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Over the last several months, and for months to come, I’ve been interviewing authors who have self-published their work or have published through small publishing houses. From each, I’m amazed by the mission behind each book and the hopes of the author to share a theme. I have learned something valuable from each – and the trend continues this week with Virginia Ripple.

If you are a fan of fantasy and also appreciate authors who include their faith, then Virginia’s books are certainly for you!

2Apprentice Cat Toby with mysterious eyes

1. In your biography on your website, you shared something that really struck home – While working part-time as a Religious Education Director and writing the other half “the teeter totter of passions unbalanced” your life and you found yourself writing less. Many people reading this will find encouragement that they are not alone in feeling frustrated with not having enough time to write. What changes have you made to your life-style, your career, and your passions that open up the 24 hours to more writing time?

I learned a lot during my time in ministry about what it means to be Called into God’s service. Sometimes others see our hard work and think, “Wow! She really has a heart for (fill in the blank). She should do it full-time.” If we’re not aware of what our true purpose is, then we might go along with their well-meaning suggestion and then suffer because we’re not doing what God planned for us to do. It took me the better part of seven years to figure that out and another four years to understand what doing my particular ministry meant in terms of what I spent time on.

I’m still learning and evolving as a servant writer, and sometimes I fail miserably, choosing to do something as mundane as doing a marathon watch of a particular television show instead of spending that time working toward the goal of producing another book. However, I now divide my work days between writing (and all those things involved in being an indie author) and the daily tasks I need to do in order to live like anyone else, such as going to my part-time day job. No matter what self-imposed deadline I have, though, I make sure to spend the evenings with my family and force myself to leave writing in my office during the weekends, especially Sundays. I take my Sabbaths seriously, because without that rest, we can’t accomplish what God has planned for us.

 

2. Tell us about your novels, Apprentice Cat, Journeyman Cat, and Huntress of the Malkin.

Secrets-of-the-Malkin

When I was in seminary, trying to find ways to make a little extra money so we could survive, I was naturally drawn back into writing. Although I wrote several short stories (none of which ever made me any money, btw), one stuck with me. The story was about a young tom who had entered a Harry Potter like magic school and was paired with a human that never wanted to do his homework like he was supposed to. This human always wanted to race ahead of what he was being taught and it constantly got the pair into trouble with the head masters of the school. It was just a scene, really, nothing very deep or meaningful went on in it, but for some reason, Toby and his partner Lorn kept coming back to me whenever I sat down to write anything new.

 

Flash forward a few years to just before my eldest was born and I decided to dive into this new thing I’d heard about — self-publishing. It was no longer a vanity thing. People were actually making money. Ereaders were starting to become a big thing and I thought, “What have I got to lose?” Still, I didn’t know what I could write about and I was still trying to figure out how to blend my desire to write with the Call I felt on my heart to serve in ministry. The first book I wrote was actually a Bible study, something that came about from a need my church had for an adult VBS class. I’m glad I did it, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped. I was left wondering if I would ever find that balance.

 

Then one night, as I was going through some old stories, Toby padded into my life again. Why couldn’t I expand his story? Of course, the original didn’t have any of the Christian hallmarks. It was straight fantasy. But who was to say it couldn’t become a Christian fantasy? So I started working on it. It took a year and a half to finish, but when it was done, the pieces sort of fell into place. Now I knew how to blend my Calling with my passion.

 

Since then, I’ve worked toward weaving Christian themes into each of my books. For instance, Toby’s story is ultimately the story of learning forgiveness. This tom has a lot of tragedy to deal with from the disappearance of his father to the terrible thing that happens to his mother. Add to that the things he himself must do in Journeyman Cat, things his very soul rebels at, in order to complete his mission and you have a cat that has much to learn about forgiveness — for himself and others. In Master Cat, we get to see how all this weighs on him and what he must ultimately do for his own spiritual peace.

 

Nadine’s storyline is about taking a timid she-cat and showing her how to follow the path God has planned for her. She’s expecting someone else to solve the problems she sees around her in the post-plague world. God, on the other hand, has a different idea of how it should be dealt with.

 

In many ways, both these characters are living out and working through issues I’ve dealt with myself. I wish I could say I’ve come out on the other side of these challenges and now I know exactly how to face all the problems life throws at me, but I’m still learning. I think that’s part of this whole ministry. While I’m serving God and, hopefully, helping others find a way to work through their own life challenges, God is working in my own life, changing me in ways that make me more like the person God knows I can be, the one God wants me to be.

 

3. The pool of Christian Fantasy writers is sadly, quite small. Does this fact provide an obstacle or a boon to publication and marketing success?

 

Both.

 

I don’t write what’s considered typical Christian Fantasy. Generally speaking, magic is frowned upon in Christian literature, so what I write isn’t always deemed acceptable in those circles. However, fantasy, with magic and all the other bits of wonder it includes, is what I love to read. Growing up, it was nearly impossible to find Christian Fantasy with those fantastical elements in it that didn’t seem childish at best. Yet, the regular fantasy lacked the positive world-view I yearned for. It wasn’t until I read about how C.S.Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote their wonderful stories and called them Christian that I began to see that there was something more.

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings labeled as Christian Fantasy, but, according to Tolkien, it is. I think it’s a disservice to Christian Fantasy as a whole not to call a story what it is, but often, for one reason or another, what would otherwise be labeled as such is simply stuck in the pot with all fantasy. I know other writers who do that because they fear they won’t sell as well with the Christian Fantasy label, which is a shame.

 

The niche I’ve chosen is smaller, but so are the sales. That means that, while it might be easier to find in the CF category, most of my sales will be primarily from people who are acquainted with me or that niche.

 

As with all things in life, you thank God for the good and ask God to help you meet the challenges.

 

4. Imagine you are standing in a room of young people that have just read your book. One of them asks who inspired you to write. What is your answer?

 

I’ve always been a story-teller, so I don’t know who my original inspiration was. However, every author I’ve read and movie or television series I’ve seen has influenced the progression my writing has taken.

 

In high school, I read a lot of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. Her book , By the Sword, particularly inspired me to write in strong female characters. I don’t create shrinking violets or male-dependent love interests. My characters have their flaws, yes, but it’s usually not the screaming meemies or the weeping willows.

 

The Christian turns in my writing were heavily influenced by Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. Both of these books scared the daylights out of me when I was a kid. I loved the depth and reality of the spiritual forces, as well as the nail-biting “will he/she survive this encounter” as the characters faced the opposing human force. The best part of either of those books was the enduring hope you’re left with at the end. God loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done. It’s a message I hope readers pick up in my works, too.

 

The mystery elements of my writing come from various mystery books and shows from the Joe Grey mysteries to Sherlock on BBC television.

 

And I have to admit that Toby’s story originated from my fascination and love of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. That’s not to say I tried to mimic her wonderful world, but I did borrow a few things for Apprentice Cat, like the magical boarding school idea and the beloved head master taking a student under his wing.

 

5. What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? Speaking personally, I’m always looking for new ideas and am eager to learn from those who have succeeded. What have you tried, what didn’t work, and what does work for you?

 

At first I tried to cram everything into whatever free time I could carve out for myself. That’s a recipe for frustration and procrastination. After my eldest was born, I tried squeezing it all in a scheduled hour or two before spending time with my husband just before we went to bed. That led to being over-tired and cranky.

 

After my daughter started half-day’s in preschool, I was able to get four solid hours of work done before I had to go to my day job. This, so far, has worked best, especially since I pretend that I’m going to a regular 9 to 5 job as soon as I walk in my front door after dropping her at school. On my days off from my day job, I spend the mornings doing the highest priority work, like drafting or editing the next book, and the afternoons on more business tasks, like marketing and administrative tasks, and research.

 

The next step I took was purchasing a Galaxy Tab 10.2 in 2012 with a bluetooth keyboard. That has been the best business purchase I’ve made to date. I can now extend my writing time to the afternoons at my day job and kill the down time between customers with some massive productivity. In fact that’s what helped me win the 2012 and 2013 NaNoWriMo. Combined with my smartphone, I can work on both writing and business anywhere, anytime.

 

As for the actual drafting of any of my books, it wasn’t until I read James Scott Bell Plot & Structure and Conflict & Suspense that I really got the hang of it and the process got faster. I’m a plotter by nature, so Bell’s various ways of plotting made getting my ideas down so much quicker and efficient. And while the old adage “chase your character up a tree and throw rocks at him” might be one way of creating suspense and conflict, it just didn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t logical. When I read Bell’s Conflict & Suspense the “ah-ha” moment arrived with a giant Acme lightbulb. It’s not just throwing your character into challenging situations; it’s about finding the tension point — the “what’s the worst that could happen” moment — and then building the next scenes from that. I highly recommend both these books to anyone wanting to stuff some more tools in their writer’s toolbox.

 

6. Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

 

I sort of had this “If you build it, they will come” image in my mind. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing because if I’d known then just how much work getting in front of an audience is, I might not have finished Apprentice Cat.

 

Since then, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that goes on for an indie author to succeed that has nothing to do with writing or editing. The writing and editing, for me, is the easy part. It’s the marketing and social networking that’s tough. Over time, though, I’ve managed to make some great friends who have helped me figure it all out and who continue to inspire me to greater things.

 

7. You also have written two bible studies titled, Simply Prayer and Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Who would benefit from these books? Why did you write them?

 

Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives is a basic Bible study I put together when I was asked to teach an adult vacation Bible study class several years ago. Someone wanting to get a deeper understanding of the scriptures might find it useful, especially after doing the meditation exercises, which I designed with different learning styles in mind. I’ve posted several of the lessons on my blog for people to use for free.

 

It’s part of my mission to aid others in developing a closer relationship with God, and I believe accessing the scriptures is an integral part of doing that. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote Fear Not! and later Simply Prayer, which is a guidebook on different methods of prayer and what real prayer looks like. When it comes to knowing God, people often see not a loving Being wanting to have a close relationship, but rather the white, bearded man on the Sistine Chapel. I would like to help others realize there’s more to God than a wrath-filled judge or magic genie.

8. Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two 🙂 We can all use more inspiration!

 

Be still and know that I am God. — Psalm 46:10

 

In our hurried lives, we so often forget to breath. I love this scripture because it reminds me that stillness is part of balance, that to hear God, we only need to quiet ourselves and listen. I suppose that’s why I love the labyrinth my husband mows into our backyard every year. It offers me a chance to find a moment of quiet in the middle of the rush of life. If I had one wish, it would be that everyone could find a quiet place they could retreat to every day.

 

9. You blog is a eclectic collection of thoughts, scripture, writing and marketing tips. I noticed you do a ‘Wordless Wednesday’ post, which I really enjoyed! How has blogging contributed (or not) to your writing, marketing, and in building a platform?

 

My blog has evolved over the years as I’ve worked to discover how my Calling could reach out to others. As my tagline suggests, it is a glimpse into the heart of one of God’s servants. For a while, I spent so much time on the blog, I lost valuable time producing books. It wasn’t until I realized how unhappy I was that I decided to slow down and re-think the direction I was taking.

 

About two years ago, I decided to switch gears and blog irregularly, focusing mostly on book reviews, as a way for my readers to find good books to read and as a service to other writers. I struggled during that time with a desire to do what would be called sermons in an church setting. I didn’t know how to go about it or even if it was worth doing, not to mention the fear of letting the world hear my voice outside the pages of a book or blog post.

 

Then this year, I decided to take the plunge. I researched podcasting methods and drew up a plan for a once a month inspirational message. I also added the monthly Bible study. I don’t know the exact numbers for my audience on those particular posts, but the number of downloads have been promising. To me, that says I’m on the right track for building a platform that will help me reach out to others who are hurting or simply want to see God in a slightly different way.

 

I’m always looking for new ways to show God’s love to people, so I’m sure my blog, as well as my newsletter, will continue to change and grow. I think that’s what’s important. Do what you’re Called to do and the rest will follow in God’s time.

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This blog is usually about writing, but on occasion I throw in a post about homeschooling or faith. Today? Self-esteem and how it influences what we do or don’t do.

Something occurred to me a few months ago…I disciplined myself enough to write a book. Heck, not just one book, but nine so far. Why am I not carrying that over to other aspects of my life?

And so I began writing about it. Shocking, I know.

I came to this conclusion:

Life is hard. Get over it and make your dreams real. (cue Disney music)

In other words: Take the tough stuff, feel it, explore it, and cry about it. Then make a plan and move on.

After practicing the ‘deal with it and walk forward’ plan, I began to look at my reflection, my body image, my children, and my house. In that order. Interesting.

I’ve blamed so many other things -diabetes, stay-at-home-mom, too tired, no gym membership, etc. – in my life I wasn’t happy with, I wasn’t giving the joyful areas of my life their due attention. My family, being a mom, being able to stay home, a husband and family that supports our homeschooling, amazing friends, my faith…the list goes on. Sad how body image can become such a wedge to everything else.

I saw myself first. Self centered me. I was not as thin as I wanted to be, but passably feminine. Because I have three daughters, it’s important that my body image and my ‘self-speak’ are all positive. I don’t want to feed them negative images of women, spiritually or physically. After all, is every woman you love able to grace the covers of magazines? No? Really? Same here. I won’t be on the cover of Fitness or Vogue, but in my kids eyes (and hearts) I am fit and vogue. Yes, I rock these yoga pants!

See that? Positive self-speak.

Say it out loud, believe it, and others will follow.

That is, after all, how politics work. For better or worse, it rocks a nation.

Part of changing how I see myself has impacted how my children see me. I have not talked about those last few pounds I need to lose, but I have talked about training for a 5K and then a 10K. My daughters run cross country, so this is something to which they can relate. We train together, talk about running pace, running shoes, trails and sports drinks. This week, we all went swim suit shopping…and it was fun! I actually liked almost every suit I tried on. They didn’t all look great, but I saw beyond my body’s short comings and could see my strength. It’s all about perspective:

If you train for it, the results will come.

The biggest lesson on body image came from my three-year-old son: At Barnes and Noble, as he played with the train set, a little girl joined him and they played for over fifteen minutes without any conflicts. (For parents who have ever monitored the train table, you know what a miracle this is.) As we left, my son whispered to me, “She is so beautiful!” I asked, “What makes her so pretty?” In his preschool ways, he answered, “Her smile.”

Pow! Truth!

The other area I struggled with was my house. Being a homeschooling family in a fairly small house, it’s been difficult for me to keep things clean and clutter free. I really wanted this to change. It’s hard to think in a mess. I don’t have a desk. Instead I use the dining room table and sometimes a lap desk. How could I possibly carve out a ‘writing space’ where I could truly become the writer I want to be.

The reading corner...favorite place to write.

The reading corner…favorite place to write. It’s clean in the picture, but today there is a pile of Legos on the floor.

I started with my heart. If I want this dream of writing to be real, I needed to make it happen. A desk won’t magically make the words come to life. Only I can do that.

Then I moved to the house and the de-cluttering. One room at a time, we attacked the corners, the papers I’ve picked up and set down a dozen times, the stacks of books. Once we had the room just how we wanted it, I took a picture. Now when I ask my children to clean the reading corner, the kitchen, the bathroom, the family room, there is a picture to refer to so everything is done properly.

The result? Cleaner house, faster runner, happier me. Happier me, happier kids, cleaner house. I’ve also written and read more in the past three months than ever before. The organized home, the positive thinking, the focus on forward movement all pays off.

This process has brought to mind five things we can do to change our thinking from self-defeating to forward thinking:

1. Identify where you struggle and be honest about it.

Journal about it. You can burn the pages when you are finished writing, but have a heart-to-heart on paper about areas of your life that are hurting.

2. Identify aspects of your life that you are good at and feel positive about.

Make a list and list everything you like: eye color, your name, your legs, your wide hips. Maybe you make kickin’ desserts or love to cook for others. That’s a huge gift…and if that’s true, I want to be your friend!

3. Focus on those positive things and figure out how to carry that over to the areas where you struggle.

I wrote books. I disciplined myself to make the time to sit down and write. Then I edited. Now I’m learning to carry that discipline over to exercise. Everything I do well in writing can help me do well in other areas of my life. The same is true for you. Explore that.

4. Don’t ever give up. Ever. Giving up on making changes – be it weight loss, career stuff, making a dream come true – only results regret.

In a journal, write a letter to yourself a year from now and talk about all the things you hoped you accomplished. Try writing a letter to who you were ten years ago. Keep it positive, but identify what is holding you back. Give that younger version of yourself some advice. Then take that advice. In ten years, the letter you write should be very different.

5. Remember that you didn’t get to this point in one day, one week, or one month. It will take time to make the changes happen and to make them real. Be patient with yourself.

This was the best advice I was given by a dear friend: Take it day by day, but move forward every day. This applies to so many different people in so many different ways. Sometimes it’s my house. Other times it’s diabetes. Today it was remaining calm with my son. No matter what, take it day by day.

There’s more for me to work on – next on my list is meal planning. It’s 4:30 right now and I have no idea what to make for dinner.

Baby steps.

 

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Do you remember gym class? Outside of the horrifying gym uniforms (think green polyester shorts and a t-shirt with my last name written across my chest with a black permanent marker), the exercises we did at the beginning of each class prepared our muscles for the real work to begin.

These exercises serve the same purpose. Before you start the long haul of working on your latest, soon-to-be best-seller, warm up your creative muscles with one (or all) of these:

1. Go back to the beginning:

Write about the first chapter book you ever read. What do you remember?

Was it a good read or did you not finish it?

2. Take a step into a great challenge:

Imagine you are a first grade teacher and have been asked to include a 68-year-old illiterate man in your classroom. What might come of that situation? Make notes, write a few scenes, or run with it.

3. Go back to the basics:

Print the first two pages of any story you are writing. Circle the first word of each sentence. Are those words similar? If so, re-work the sentences and re-print.

Make these writing exercises more fun – get out of the house, order a cup of hot something (it’s below zero here in Michigan) and write the way you imagine all writers do…over coffee, in the middle of a cute café, capturing the essence of your next character from the personalities walking by your table.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

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When people learn that I have four children, they smile. It’s more than the average two kids and far less than the typical Catholic family of ten. When they learn that I homeschool my children, they are impressed (or worried that my kids will be social freaks). And then when they discover that I also write, they slap their forehead and walk away. “How can you possibly do all that?”

Easy! The same way anyone else manages to do the things they love. I make time for it.

Step #1 – Set Weekly Goals.
Know what you want to accomplish. Personally speaking, I include writing, exercise and household chores into one list. My favorite part of accomplishing the goals is crossing them off. It’s a little thing to do, but it means that my time has been well-spent and I have something to show for it.

Step #2 – Schedule Time to Achieve Those Goals
I can’t tell you how many people will tell me that they want to do this or that, but they don’t have the time. I want to lose ten pounds…I want to be a writer…I want to homeschool…I want to train for a 5K…but I work full-time, I get home too late, I can’t afford it, I can’t.
Bah! I say! Those are lame excuses and they need to be tossed out like last year’s trash.
Wake up 20 minutes earlier and read or write. 20 minutes isn’t going to completely deprive anyone of sleep, but using that time effectively can bring about great results.
Have an hour for lunch? Walk for 30 minutes or write for 45 minutes.
Do you watch 2-3 hours of TV every night? Quit. Work toward your goals instead.

Step #3 – Accomplish tasks/goals in ‘Chunks’ of Time.
There are times when little snippets of time are all you have. (see Post-it writing for more). To truly make progress toward your goals, you will need to invest time.
I’m very good at planning meals and I can grocery shop on a dime, but when it comes to actually making the meals I fail. The solution for this came to mind as I looked at how I schedule several hours a week to write; therefore I should do the same for meals. I now plan a week’s worth of meals based on the sales at our local grocery store and shop. When I come home, instead of putting the meat in the freezer (because at 4:00pm on any given night everything will still be frozen) I put the meals together then freeze them. Luckily for me, my family loves casseroles and crock pot dinners, but mostly, I think they are just happy to have regular meals. I spend hours planning, shopping and preparing meals, but making the meals ahead of time keeps my afternoons free. It takes a few minutes to turn on the oven and slid a 9×13 in than to start from scratch.

Step #4 – Professionalize Your Goals
Every professional has business hours. Writers, parents, homeschoolers, and any one striving to accomplish a goal needs the same. I have every Thursday afternoon to write. It’s a guarenteed 3-4 hours of uninterrupted writing time. When I set my goals for the week, Monday through Wednesday include writing tasks that will make Thursday more efficient.

Step #5 – Have Fun!
If writing is your goal, then keep it fun. If you are a parent, it’s not like you can quit. Just find the ways to keep it fun. Same with exercise. Change up your workout. Jog on Monday, lift weights on Tuesday, swim on Wednesday, yoga on Thursday…you get the idea.
The enjoyment-factor of any task helps keep motivation high. For example, one of my least favorite tasks is changing out summer clothes for winter clothes. To put much of the work on my children (it’s their clothing!) and to keep it fun, I pull out the new season of clothing and set up a store in the living room. They all ‘shop’ for what they want, but have to turn in clothing for GoodWill – a one-for-one exchange. They shop, the closets are cleaned out, everyone is happy.
In writing, the enjoyment comes when I schedule in weeks to not write, but to read as many books as possible. My record is 8 books in one week.
When I’m trying to keep my writing fun, I will switch up stories, read something I wrote years ago (and laugh), or find a new place to try writing – libraries and coffee shops are great, parks are more interesting, in the middle of the mall during Christmas is a blast! So much drama 🙂

And remember, there are 24 hours in each day. Minus 8 hours of sleep, that leaves 16 hours of productive time. Use it well!

tick-tock...this is only a caption. Stop reading and start working on your goals!

tick-tock…this is only a caption. Stop reading and start working on your goals!

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