The Adventure of Writing

“Fiction is art and art is the triumph over chaos… to celebrate a world that lies spread out around us like a bewildering and stupendous dream.”

― John Cheever

Since I’ve never thought of myself as very organized, it’s interesting to ponder writing fiction as triumphing over chaos. But for any of us who has  attempted to control circumstances and people, it makes perfect sense to strive over what T.S. Eliot terms the general mess of imprecision of feeling, Undisciplined squads of emotion.

 

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Isn’t that what wrens do when they set up housekeeping in a world of predators ready to disrupt their nesting?

Ah, yes. That’s what control freaks try to manage–the inner chaos. Of course, our actions spread out to those around us, and we get the sense we’re doing well, even if everyone else is chafing at the bit.

Anyway, writing fiction helps this type of personality by giving us a whole set of characters to manage. To bring to life on the page, with all their secrets and foibles, passions and dreams.

I just read about an author hard at work on a sequel to her first novel. This past year, life has given her more than a full platter of challenges, including grief, but she’s finding joy in working with her characters.

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Kind of like gardening…cooperative plants like ajuga grow just about anywhere with relish,

 

 

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same for Shasta daisies–we can count on them to flourish and multiply with little care,

 

 

while others require a gentle hand, lots of water, and shade.

 

 

But the act of tending these plants nurtures us. What a gift–glorious July blossoms to delight the eye!

Much like flowers, the gift we receive in focusing on our stories nurtures us, too. What can we say but thanks?

 

 

 

 

This morning, a nifty anonymous quote appeared on my teabag- thank you, whoever came up with this:

                  The ones who say, “You can’t” and “you won’t”

                  are probably the ones scared that you will.

 

 

Will this little house wren move into our rather dilapidated offering?

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Will this American tree sparrow father a healthy brood of chicks this summer?

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Will my poor tulips make it through the cold spell we’ve been having?

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And this early butterfly, will it …” I’ll let you think of a question about this delicate creature.

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And what about us? Will we take the plunge to submit our writing for publication? Will we go through with our plan simplify our lifestyle?

Will we … what ever decisions we face, chances are some naysayers exist. Mine live mostly in my own heart, so I’ve had to learn to ignore them. I used to hope they’d magically disappear, but that hasn’t happened in the past six decades, so I doubt it will.

Today, we’re attending our nephew’s high school graduation party. He’s such a cool young man – I hope he moves ahead through life with confidence and positivity.

Ignoring those who say we can’t or won’t–a good resolution to make as spring bursts into summer!

 

Seasonal Changes

Back in the forties, autumn saw my heroines harvesting the last produce from their victory gardens, hauling burlap bags of potatoes and carrots to the hideaway under the windmill, drying walnuts to pick through on winter nights, and stripping dry bean and pea pods to save for next year’s seed.

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With more time ahead for indoor work, perhaps some women looked forward to sewing and mending. Addie didn’t, that’s for sure. But she did enjoy knitting sweaters for the soldiers, and even tried her hand at fine stitching.

Recently, I found an amazing cache of someone’s hankies from that bygone era at a garage sale. The more I consider them, the more they overwhelm me with a sense of all the time someone spent  stitching their decorative touches.

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Can you imagine the hours this required? And how about these?

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So many colors … so much creativity. Picture some weary woman crafting these in her “leisure hours” after a full day of hard physical labor.

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Those of us with limited stitching skills (I sew on buttons and  do hemming. Period), stand in awe. Besides fashioning these gems, the Greatest Generation women and their forebears carefully laundered and ironed these useful items, these tear catchers.

How things have changed, eh? Paper tissues catch our tears during life’s ups and downs. I’ve been going through some changes too. Yep. Because of an eye challenge, my computer time is now greatly limited – yes, I’m looking into one of those new-fangled speak-into-your-computer programs.

The past few weeks may have found me remiss with online duties, and that may continue. But stories still bounce around in my head, and the sequel to In Times LIke These will release with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in February 2017.

Several readers have encouraged me lately with their reviews of Addie’s story – one woman commended me for not giving Addie an easy way out. I try to hard to avoid pat answers, which really don’t help struggling people much. In her words:

            I appreciated that you didn’t have easy answers for Addie’s troubles.  I tend to shy-away from Christian fiction for fear of the platitudes. I have recommended this read to a couple of my friends.

So satisfying – words from readers mean so much! For those who’d like to communicate with me, I check my e-mail address gkittleson@myomnitel.com, most often. Thank you.

And thanks for your patience, and oh! I’ve shared the title of the sequel numerous times, but it’s been changed to With Each New Dawn

As fall transforms into winter, may you keep discovering new reading delights!

Spring’s Surprises

I was about to upload some pictures of buds leafing out, but then this weather map appeared in an e-mail.  

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Fortuitous that our county lies right under the P in POSSIBLE, don’t you think? Since I’ve been forging into new areas in my writing, this thought fits: who knows what’s possible unless we give an idea the old one-two?

So I’m co-writing a cozy mystery with an author friend. We’re having great fun. And in the past two weeks, a WWII novella has taken shape right in the hometown of one of my other heroines. It’s a sweet romance–the kind that blossomed so profusely in the wild, crazy days of that era, and will release this summer.

So, storm or no storm, I’m plunging ahead. Hope this finds you doing the same with your passions and dreams. As they say, SEIZE THE DAY!

An Author’s Saga and a WILD Giveaway!

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A hearty welcome to Alice K. Arenz. There’s so much I want to learn about you and your work, Alice, so we’ll start out with your favorite things about the Advent season. 

Thanks, Gail, what a wonderful question! I’ve always loved this season—the sights, sounds, the gentleness that prevails—except in shopping frenzies, that is. I even have a cling on my car window that says “Merry Christmas!” which I keep up all year long. ;)

Because of some brain/hearing/balance issues, I can’t enjoy the flashing lights on trees and houses, and sound issues make it difficult to listen to music. I miss that all year long, but especially this time of year. Still, the excitement in my grandchildren’s’ eyes when Christmas is mentioned, the joy I feel setting up Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus . . .

Christmas means time to spend with my children and grandchildren. Our celebration may not last long, but the time together is priceless—a true blessing from God.
Alice, tell us more about your writing history. What  are the two most significant occurrences? 

I’ve always had a very active imagination. Stories and books, TV, movies, and people’s interactions made my mind soar with possibilities, spinning off into lands and scenes so real I could almost touch them.

When I was twelve, my handwritten Adventures of Christopher and Christina was passed around during study halls mingling 7th & 8th graders with high school students. That meant a lot of different ages read my wild imaginings of twins who delved into mysteries and got into danger on a daily basis. I don’t remember much of that chronicle, just that the TV series The Man From Uncle, and other mysteries and suspense shows or books contributed to the overall story.

In the 70s, my “then” husband issued a challenge: get a B in a college creative writing course or agree to give up the dream. I got an A from the toughest teacher in the department, which led to a five-year contract with a New York literary agency. No hoped-for results, but  it taught me discipline and determination, necessities in the writing world. Life intervened, as it tends to do, and until my “new” husband introduced me to Christian fiction, I ignored characters demanding release onto paper.

I prayed for for the writing dream to fade and die. Then Brandilyn Collins’ Eyes of Elisha impressed me so much that I emailed Brandilyn. Boy, was I surprised when she wrote back! She suggested I join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) which started a whole new era of learning and writing.

In spite of more health issues—especially hypersensitivity in my fingers and hands that made typing a challenge–between 2008 and 2010, I got three books published.  The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (cozy mystery and Mirrored Image (classic romantic mystery/suspense),  finaled in the Carol Awards, with The Case of the Missing M.D. winning the Carol Awards in 2010.
Now, after a five-year absence from writing because of even more challenging health issues, a new publisher, Forget Me Not Romances, has published my new classic romantic suspense, An American Gothic. My other books have been re-issued with wonderful new covers and changes. And two more hopefully will be out before the middle of next year! Talk about God’s blessing with this second chance at my dream.

If you could do any kind of writing in the whole world, what would you write? A sci-fi trilogy that would knock fans’ socks off? 
Wow! I guess  I would just want to write whatever God gives me and have it published. I’d love if it would knock the socks off fans—I’d love to know there WERE fans out there waiting for my next book!

A.K. Arenz

Please tell us about the work(s) you’d like to promote. 
Presenting a chance for FOUR different winners to receive a special  Christmas gift of ONE Kindle book from the following, feels wonderful.
An American Gothic(August 2015)—mystery/romantic suspense

She came to Foxxemoor to write a mystery, not become part of one.

Devastated by the death of a child in her care, Lyssie’s heart strings are tugged when she finds another child in danger. Amid past secrets, lies, and betrayals of an old college friend’s family, she must choose a twin brother to trust. The wrong decision could cost her life, and also the life of the child she’s come to love.

OTHER BOOKS—RE-RELEASE
The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (Re-Issued September 2015), The Bouncing Grandma Mysteries, Book 1—cozy mystery
Has Glory hit her head one too many times, or was there really a foot dangling out of that carpet?
Reduced to watching new neighbors move in as a form of amusement, Glory Harper is stuck in a wheelchair with a broken leg, bored, and itching for some excitement. She just doesn’t expect it to come in the form of a foot dangling out the back of a carpet as it’s carried into her new neighbor’s house. The problem is getting someone to believe her.

The moment police recognize Glory as the woman whose misadventures have given her a sketchy reputation, her believability quotient lowers considerably. Just when she thinks someone’s taking her seriously, Glory realizes Detective Rick Spencer, a Harrison Ford look alike, appears more interested in her than in her story.

But, while she’s looking in what seems the obvious direction to solve this mystery, the real criminals are hot on her trail.

The Case of the Mystified M.D. (Re-Issued September 2015), The Bouncing Grandma Mysteries, Book 2 – cozy mystery

First a foot, now a hand—what body part is next?
When her puppy finds a severed hand on a walking trail, Glory Harper is positive the signet ring belongs to a missing college professor who caused a lot of trouble around town. Her insatiable desire to solve his  murder mystery finds her in over her head with secrets, blackmail, and arson.
With her sister Jane overwhelmed by fiancé troubles and an arson fire in her home, Glory latches onto an unlikely partner, and soon feels as though she’s stepped into an episode of the Twilight Zone—where nothing is as it appears, and danger lurks around every corner . . .
Including from her boyfriend, Detective Rick Spencer.
Mirrored Image (Re-Issued September 2015) Mystery/Romantic Suspense
Their faces were the same, will their fates be as well?

Eccentric newspaper columnist Cassandra Chase and by-the-book Detective Jeff McMichaels clash over the murder investigation of Lynette Sandler—a woman who looks eerily like Cassandra.
The case becomes more than a test of McMichaels’ mental acumen as he finds himself drawn to a woman he determined to dislike. While the department hunts a murderer, the uncanny similarities between herself and Lynette cause Cassie to launch her own investigation. What she uncovers gives her the sneaking suspicion that she was the murderer’s original mark. She just needs to stay alive long enough to prove it.

Thanks so much for this interview, Gail. Merry Christmas!

And thanks to you, Alice. It’s good to get to know you, and may the best FOUR commenters win one of your books!

World War II Author Johnnie Alexander

Welcome, Johnnie, to my blog and  question city.

image001Years ago, did you see yourself where you are today, celebrating the print copy of a World War II novel? 

The turning point for me came in 2003 when I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. For the next decade I dreamed of being a published author. Like many writers, it was a two steps forward/one step back journey. And sometimes it was a one step forward/many steps back journey.

Other milestones came from winning awards at a writers conference, having an editor show interest in my writing, and then winning the ACFW Genesis historical category in 2011.

I am thrilled that Tyndale released the print copy of Where Treasure Hides. It’s not the first print edition—that one was in Dutch—but it’s the first one I can actually read!

The World War II era intrigues me. There’s no end to the incredible stories, and writing projects produce change in us (at least, they do in me). How did you grow through writing Where Treasure Hides

I’m intrigued by the World War II era also. The tragedies are horrendous, and yet we find amazing stories of courage and heroism. I asked myself what I would have done in different situations I read about. People risked their lives to save others, and they risked their lives to protect artistic treasures. The novel explores the theme of what we value most and it also encourages us to rejoice in the future God has planned for us. I try to remember that every day.

How did your heroine’s character develop, and what prompted the translation into Dutch? I mean, why not French, Italian, or Spanish? 

Alison Schuyler, my heroine, was created especially for the hero with a touch of practicality and a few pages of free writing in a journal.

Now to explain that!

Ian Devlin, the hero, plays a major role in an unpublished novel I wrote before Treasure. His relationship with the woman he loves is mentioned in that story (but I can’t say much more than that without getting into Treasure spoilers).

The practicality came about because I once heard an editor advise new writers to stick to American characters. Alison needed to live in Europe if she was going to meet Ian, so I decided her father was Dutch and her mother was an American.

Alison was born in Chicago and lived there until she was twelve years old. This would also explain any Americanisms that popped up. However, as I got into the story, I learned a secret about Alison’s mom. Those details are still a bit of a mystery.

To become better acquainted with my heroine, I opened a journal and wrote: My name is Alison Schuyler . . .

After writing several pages, I knew more about Alison’s family heritage. From there, she grew into her own person as the story itself developed.

The translation happened because a freelance editor with a Dutch publishing company read the story, loved it, and recommended it to her client. And they published it!

Alison lives in Rotterdam, Holland, and her family has owned an art gallery there for generations. Except for a few scenes that take place in England, most of the opening chapters are set in Rotterdam.

 I’d like to learn more about Where She Belongs, as well. How would you compare the writing process with Where Treasure Hides

Both novels were NaNoWriMo projects before they were polished manuscripts. Exuberant, messy drafts that needed a lot of revision—Where She Belongs in 2005 and Where Treasure Hides in 2009.

WSB is a contemporary so it didn’t require nearly the research that Treasure did. It’s also a more personal story since I once lived in the house that is at the center of the novel and often dreamed of someday living there again.

Both stories are “heart” stories. Treasure because of my fascination with the themes it explores and WSB because of my cherished memories of a beautiful brick home that was abandoned for a time.

The turning point for me came in 2003 when I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. For the next decade I dreamed of being a published author. Like many writers, it was a two steps forward/one step back journey. And sometimes it was a one step forward/many steps back journey

Other milestones came from winning awards at a writers conference, having an editor show interest in my writing, and then winning the ACFW Genesis historical category in 2011.

I am thrilled that Tyndale released the print copy of Where Treasure Hides. It’s not the first print edition—that one was in Dutch—but it’s the first one I can actually read!

  1. Johnnie AlexanderAlison Schuyler, my heroine, was created especially for the hero with a touch of practicality and a few pages of free writing in a journal.

    Now to explain that!

    Ian Devlin, the hero, plays a major role in an unpublished novel I wrote before Treasure. His relationship with the woman he loves is mentioned in that story (but I can’t say much more than that without getting into Treasure spoilers).

    The practicality came about because I once heard an editor advise new writers to stick to American characters. Alison needed to live in Europe if she was going to meet Ian, so I decided her father was Dutch and her mother was an American.

    Alison was born in Chicago and lived there until she was twelve years old. This would also explain any Americanisms that popped up. However, as I got into the story, I learned a secret about Alison’s mom. Those details are still a bit of a mystery.

    To become better acquainted with my heroine, I opened a journal and wrote: My name is Alison Schuyler . . .

    After writing several pages, I knew more about Alison’s family heritage. From there, she grew into her own person as the story itself developed.

    The translation happened because a freelance editor with a Dutch publishing company read the story, loved it, and recommended it to her client. And they published it!

    Alison lives in Rotterdam, Holland, and her family has owned an art gallery there for generations. Except for a few scenes that take place in England, most of the opening chapters are set in Rotterdam.

    Both novels were NaNoWriMo projects before they were polished manuscripts. Exuberant, messy drafts that needed a lot of revision—Where She Belongs in 2005 and Where Treasure Hides in 2009.

    WSB is a contemporary so it didn’t require nearly the research that Treasure did. It’s also a more personal story since I once lived in the house that is at the center of the novel and often dreamed of someday living there again.

    Both stories are “heart” stories. Treasure because of my fascination with the themes it explores and WSB because of my cherished memories of a beautiful brick home that was abandoned for a time.

     Why do both titles begin with the same word? 

    I’m a little tickled by that, but it’s not on purpose. Where Treasure Hides has been the only title I’ve ever used for that story.

    But that’s NOT the case with Where She Belongs.

    I’ve actually lost count of how many titles it has had. Though I can tell you it was Bronze Medal finalist in the My Book Therapy Frazier Contest under the title Where the Whippoorwill Calls.

    When I submitted the proposal to my agent, it was titled Into a Spacious Place. I love this phrase because it’s a promise I believe God made to me when I was at a writers conference several years ago.

    When I read Psalm 31:8 as part of my morning devotion, this jumped out at me: You “have set my feet in a spacious place.”

    I believed it was an assurance that God held my dreams in his hands; not necessarily, that I’d be published someday, but that whatever happened, I could trust in him.

    Psalm 18:19, is used as the story’s epigraph: He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

    I just love that.

    However . . . the marketing team at Revell thought Where She Belongs was a more apt title for a contemporary romance. And I agree.

    Thank you so much for honoring us with a visit, Johnnie, and for offering your giveaway to a commenter–either a print or e-copy. And for those interested in purchasing:

Buy Links:

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Target

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Don’t Let Summer Stagnate you!

It’s midsummer, and those who don’t like hot weather may feel a bit stagnant.  Sarah Sundin discusses stagnancy in a writer’s life – and her new release!

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Stretching Yourself

Sarah Sundin

Writers can become stagnant. We’ve all found authors we adored, and we quickly devour several books. But soon we find each book is essentially the same. Same spunky heroine (with a different hair color). Same stoic hero (with a different profession). Same story set-up or plot twist or setting. And we fall away.

Stagnant water becomes sour. Without stirring up, without infusions of fresh water, a life can also become stagnant. So can a writer.

When my first book was published, I vowed to keep stirring things up. For my new Waves of Freedom series, I challenged myself by including a mystery plotline for each heroine.

 

Dangers of Challenging Yourself

 

Risk of Failure

Never having written a mystery, I took a risk that I’d be lousy at writing mysteries. What if my clues were too obvious—or too obscure? Readers would hate it.

Risk of Alienation

Even if I wrote a riveting mystery, I risked alienating my current readers. What if they don’t choose to follow me? What if new readers don’t choose to join me?

 

Hurt and Frustration

Stretching hurts. Challenges are frustrating. Many times while writing Through Waters Deep I wanted to bang my head on the keyboard. It’s so hard. Why did I do this to myself?

How to Overcome

Fight Fear

Those questions raised above come from fear. Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Cast out fear and lean on the Lord.

Get Training

My accomplished writing buddy, Marcy Weydemuller, loaned me her favorite books on writing mysteries. I read them and took careful notes. I learned how to plant clues and red herrings, to craft suspects who looked simultaneously guilty and innocent, and to create a plot chart to track the details. Then I asked Marcy to read the rough draft.

 

Rewards of Stretching Yourself

Delight of Fresh Water

Once you get past the gate of fear and over the hump of frustration, fresh water beckons! How fun to try something new. How invigorating. As the pieces of my mystery fell into place, I relished the challenge.

Thrill of Accomplishment

Only when we accept the risks of a challenge and push through can we experience the thrill of accomplishment. When Marcy said she didn’t figure out who the villain was until the end—but that it all made sense—I danced around the house. My teenagers already think I’m strange, so why not?

No matter what happens with this book, at least I can say I stretched myself. I’m swimming in fresh water, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bio:

Sarah Sundin is the author of seven historical novels, including Through Waters Deep (Revell, August 2015). Her novel On Distant Shores was a double finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. Sarah enjoys speaking to writers’ groups, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. http://www.sarahsundin.com

Through Waters Deep