Monday, September 22, 2014

Best Dauntless Deals


The release of Dauntless is still about six months away, but for those of you who like to plan ahead...I thought I'd share the best pre-order deals.

For print, try CBD at only $7.99. Click here.

For ebook, the current winner is amazon also at $7.99. Click here.

And if you haven't checked out my new Valiant Hearts website yet, be sure to do that!!! http://valiantheartsseries.blogspot.com/p/series.html

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Heart Exploration



These past few months have been a season of heart exploration for me. I’ve been inspired to really probe my heart and understand its deepest desires.  It all started when I had the pleasure of taking a continuing class with Allen Arnold called “The Heart of a Storyteller.” The class was all about putting your heart first and creating hand and hand with God. I loved it so much that I decided to continue my study of the heart throughout the summer, which was especially apropos as my upcoming series is called Valiant Hearts. Since Allen Arnold works with John Eldredge and referenced many of his books during the class, I decided to soak myself in Eldredge’s writing.

First I read, Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers. Usually when I read a book, I see portions I want to absorb into myself and make my own, and other parts that I don’t quite agree with. But I have to say, I drank in every bit of this book. So often in church we are given the impression that we must deny our hearts and our desires. That these are somehow “fleshly.” But Eldredge challenges readers to do the opposite: to awaken their hearts, seek healing form their wounds, and align their hearts fully with God. When we truly know God and understand the deepest desires He has placed in our hearts, we will be set free to live out our divine destinies.

Next I read Captivating. In book 2 of my Valiant Hearts series, my heroine is struggling with gender roles, and I wanted to have a clear picture of Godly femininity versus traditional expectations placed on women. The book really helped me to see this clearly, and a surprise bonus was that it helped me to understand more deeply my own heart as a woman. So I went on to read Wild at Heart to better understand the man’s role in this whole journey, and I continued to learn and grow. I’m not certain that I bought every word in these books the way I did in Desire. As much as the Eldredges strove not to stereotype and box in the genders, that tendency still crept in at times, but overall I really enjoyed the books and gleaned a lot of valuable information. They challenged me to look at myself and those around me in a new light and continued the theme of awakening the heart.



Meanwhile, never fear, my obsession with all things YA dystopian continued. Next on the list was the Delirium trilogy. This series is about a future society that seeks to eliminate love and passion, seeing them as a sickness called the Deliria, with horrible symptoms like loss of focus, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, sweating, etc… I imagine most of us have joyfully suffered all those symptoms and more. LOL.

While fairly sensual, full of profanity, and too mature for all but the oldest teens in my opinion, this series was a great compliment to my study on the heart. The author made some wonderful observations about the nature of love and all of its many facets, not to mention the enormous risk and cost involved in loving. I felt that her theme was very much in line with Christian beliefs. The dystopian society in Delirium had twisted scripture to their purposes and created their own religion, but the series seemed to subtly honor true Biblical beliefs and pointed out that the “old” religions had been based upon love and sacrifice. In fact, the heroine’s epiphany involved learning a true Biblical story which helped her understand the sacrificial nature of love.

My summer of heart exploration culminated on August 30th, when I laid on the swing in the backyard determined to finish up my summer reading so I could focus on writing come September. On that afternoon I was struck with brilliant line after brilliant line. I clipped them and saved them together on my kindle, and when I went back to look at them, I was beyond amazed at how beautifully the wrap up of the Delirium series lined up with the wrap up of Wild at Heart. Allow me to share the brief version with you.

Requiem by Lauren Oliver.
But it’s not about knowing. It is simply about going forward. The cureds [those cured of love] want to know; we have chosen faith instead…We will have to trust too—that the world won’t end, that tomorrow will come, and that the truth will come too.”
Take down the walls. That is, after all, the whole point. You do not know what will happen if you take down the walls; you cannot see through to the other side, don't know whether it will bring freedom or ruin, resolution or chaos. It might be paradise or destruction. Take down the walls. Otherwise you must live closely, in fear, building barricades against the unknown, saying prayers against the darkness, speaking verse of terror and tightness. Otherwise you may never know hell; but you will not find heaven, either. You will not know fresh air and flying.”

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (with quote from My Utmost for His Highest)
The greatest obstacle to realizing our dreams is the false self’s hatred of mystery…mystery is the heart of the universe and the God who made it. The most important aspects of any man’s world—his relationship with his God and with the people in his life, his calling, the spiritual battles he’ll face—every one of them is fraught with mystery… it is a joyful rich part of reality and essential to our soul’s thirst for adventure. As Oswald Chambers says, ‘Naturally we are inclined to be mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing…Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.’

And so that is how I wrap up my summer of heart exploration. Love is hard. Following your heart is hard. They involve risk and much sacrifice. They are fraught with mystery and uncertainty. But the risks and the sacrifice are well worthwhile, and the alternative is a life not worth living at all.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Selection Series

Yes, my obsession with all things YA Dystopian continues. As I've mentioned before, LOVE the Hunger Games, LOVE Divergent, meh on Matched, although the covers are gorgeous. And speaking of gorgeous covers, drum roll please...


And I'm just getting started. The Selection brings to mind classic stories like Cinderella and Queen Esther, but is set in a dystopian future. Of all the series I've mentioned so far, this one wins for best romance. Despite the dystopian caste system and civil unrest, it is for the most part a romantic and at times even comical read. Our heroine, America Singer, is one of a group of thirty-five normal girls chosen as a potential wife for the handsome Prince Maxton. Problem is, she already has a secret love from a lower caste. The dystopian elements are not the strongest, even a little cheesy at times. The caste system seems a bit illogical, but maybe that's part of the point. And the northern and southern rebels are hazy, hokey, and not terribly believable. But...the love story is awesome! Author Kiera Cass has a light, breezy style that is sure to keep you reading. Now for more gorgeousness...


In book two, The Elite, America has made the cut to the top six girls. She has come to truly like and admire Prince Maxton, but meanwhile, she discovers more about the warped political system surrounding her. Can she ever picture herself as a queen? Then comes...


Let's face it, this series is worth reading for the exquisite gowns alone. Unlike many of the other dystopian series, book 3, The One, is just as good as (if not better than) the other books. The dystopian elements finally become clearer and more believable. The climax to the series is exciting and full of twists and turns. And for once, YES!!!, a happy ending full of light and hope.

As for younger readers, this series is very appropriate for teens. The books are safely PG, and there is nothing I need to warn you about beyond some steamy kissing scenes. Unlike some of the other dystopian books, there is no dark, psychological trauma. I felt it offered good lessons about what is truly important in love, life, and friendship. Some adults might find the heroine a little young for their tastes, but if you enjoy a good fairy tale, I doubt you'll mind.

I can't really put this series in the same category as Hunger Games and Divergent. It's a little silly in comparison. But if you would enjoy reading "dystopian lite" with lots of romance, then I say go for it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Thoughts on the Divergent Series

This summer my daughter and I have been devouring YA fiction, and at the top of my list is the Divergent Series. These books by new, young author Veronica Roth have become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, and no doubt many of you have seen (or soon will see) the first movie.
Divergent is driven by a unique and powerful premise. The story takes place in a dystopian world that has been divided into “factions” based on a person’s dominant personality trait and way of viewing the world: Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, and Candor. As someone who loves to study culture, psychology, and especially personality, I found the concept fascinating. The main character, Tris, leaves her Abnegation family behind to enter the brave, wild, and most importantly, free world of the Dauntless. There is plenty of material for an awesome book right there as Tris struggles in a new society to find her source of courage and inner strength, but as the plot develops, the story takes some awesome and unexpected twists. The result is action packed, romantic, poignant, and thought-provoking. (And the fact that my upcoming YA novel is titled Dauntless is only a small part of why I enjoyed it so much :)
The movie changes some details of the story, but keeps to the same theme and major plot points. I found the choices to be effective for the visual format, and equally enjoyed the book and the movie. However, both the book and the movie are fairly violent and contain some emotionally upsetting material, so I personally would not recommend either for children or preteens. They are also fairly sensual, although not inappropriate for the intended teen audience.
Books two and three take their own unique twists and turns as we delve further into this society, why it is breaking apart, and how it came to exist. And I loved every step of the way. Veronica Roth is a confessing Christian, and although the books are not Christian per se, I saw much more light, hope, and redemption than in other dystopian novels I have read. The main character makes one choice in book three that many Christians will not feel comfortable with, but it is handled delicately. Although I would have made a different choice as an author, the decision did seem to fit the plot, and I understood why Roth went in that direction.
I’ve heard people say these books aren’t well written, and to that I say: give me a break! I can only assume they mean something about these books did not live up to their preconceived notions of good writing, or perhaps that they are writers who are upset that this woman didn’t follow all the rules that they so meticulously adhere to and she succeeded anyway. No, Roth did not follow every “rule” of writing. She was a little heavy handed with the narrative summary, did not always place readers firmly in the scene, and sometimes drifted in and out of scenes without scene breaks. And you know what—who cares?!?! The books are mesmerizing. People love them, buy them, and tell their friends to buy them. In my opinion that is what makes a book great--the ability to move the reader--not an arbitrary set of rules.
That being said, I thought book three was the weakest. Books one and two have a single first person narrator. Book three has two first person narrators, and while I didn’t mind this choice, it was not handled as well as it could have been. I often forgot whose point of view I was in, which says to me that the point of views should have been more distinctive. That small distraction aside, I still thought it was a great book.
Minor spoiler alert – but keep reading anyway. A lot of people hate the ending of this trilogy, but they are usually the ones who didn’t know in advance that it would be sad. So I’m telling you straight out, the ending is sad. I went into the book aware of that fact, and was able to enjoy and appreciate the redemptive resolution, which I found quite powerful and satisfactory. In fact, my very favorite quote of the entire trilogy is found at the end.
Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can't escape that damage. But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Meet Me in Philly!

This week I will be at the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. Catch me and say hi if you're there. I will be teaching three workshops, "Personality Types for Writers and Characters," "Writing Powerful Scenes," and one that the conference director specifically requested from me, "Issue-Driven Fiction." I will also be taking appointments, doing paid critiques, and yes, even ministering a worship dance during one of the evening sessions.


This conference with the theme of "Write His Answer" is very affordable and full of the spirit of God. For more info about the Philadelphia conference, check out their website.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dance from Deep Within - Only $.99!!!


Please spread the word!!! And in fact, if you are seeing this on the 9th, yes, it is on sale early :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Subconscious Writer

In novelist circles you hear a lot about plotters (authors who carefully plan their books in advance) and pantsers (authors who write by the seat of their pants and make discoveries along the way.) I’ve even heard the term “organic” writer tossed around lately, which is a prettier name for pantser. I’m a combination. I like to start a book organically, but at some point I can see through to the ending quicker than I can type, at which point I write a synopsis to help me remember the story. Sometimes I really think I need a new kind of name for myself. I propose, "The Subconscious Writer."
 
Why subconscious? Because so much of my creative process takes place on a level even I do not understand. Ideas percolate under the surface, maybe for weeks, maybe for months, maybe for years. At some point they burst out like a geyser. Characters are talking to me, scenes unfolding in my head, worlds evolving, and I’m frantically trying to get them down on paper before I lose them. I’m sure if push came to shove, I could sit down and come up with an idea and craft a book like a normal person, but that’s not the way I typically do it, and it’s not the way I desire to do it.

An upside of this subconscious process is that I rarely deal with writers block. If the words and scenes aren’t there, I simply don’t write. If I’m under some sort of deadline, I will sit down and read the last chapter or so, and then try to write a few paragraphs. Often, that will stir things up and get them moving in my head, and I’m on my way again. If not, I don’t push it. And if possible, I wait for that exciting artistic wave, because it’s so much more fun to surf it than to try to paddle against the current.

When I returned from Colorado a few weeks ago, I had every intention to work on my newest novel, Chivalrous. This is one I needed to plot in advance for the publisher, but I had my first solid creative burst before my trip and the novel was well under way. However, when I returned, I could just tell. It didn’t want to come. My subconscious was trying to unravel things. I didn’t feel any leading from the Holy Spirit to write. And so I didn’t.

Instead, I did what I felt prompted to do. I worked on me. On the trip, God had been dealing with my heart, and I wanted to continue that work. Over the next few weeks, I read a lot of nonfiction books about the spirit, personality, and the true self. During that time, a few ideas welled up from my subconscious about places in the book where I needed to tweak the plot to be truer to the heroine’s character. Then finally, while reading Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers, bells went off in my head. There was a lesson in that book that my heroine desperately needed to learn. Problem was, I needed to learn it too. And Gwendolyn couldn’t learn it until I did first.

What if I had rushed the process? What if I hadn’t waited for my subconscious to untangle things? What if I had pushed ahead of the prompting of the Holy Spirit? I still would have written a good book, but it would have been missing something. It wouldn’t have been all God intended it to be.

I desire to write hand in hand with God in a creative partnership. (He’s so much smarter and more creative than me.) I can’t do that by rushing through a novel. In the end, being a “subconscious writer” isn’t the goal. It’s just the process. The ultimate goal, whether pantser or plotter, is to be led by the Holy Spirit and allow him to flow through every word we put on the page. This is how to write with a godly passion that will cause our readers to fall in love with our stories and transform them from the inside out.
Readers, have you thought about how authors write? Would you rather read a story that is planned or that develops naturally? One written out of practicality or passion? Writers, what is your process like?