The Things You Do as an Author

Over the weekend, we had some family in town. In the quiet times, when one member was reading, and another was Facebooking, I was trying to squeeze some editing in. I grabbed my 3-ring binder with Launching Justice in it, made sure I had my spiral-bound notebook inside it for making notes for its sequel, grabbed a water bottle, and plopped down in the chair.

Only to burst from my chair a minute later.

You see, I had opened up my binder to where I was editing and thought, “I wonder how Jupiter would look from the surface of Mars.”

Now, for some of you, you may be thinking that that’s a really strange question to ask. But the thing is: my character was looking at Jupiter, not from the surface of Mars, but not from far away from Mars, either. So very relevant.

I’m pretty sure I startled my family who was in the room with me when I jerked to my feet quickly, dropped my binder on my chair, and crossed the room to my trusty laptop, stood over it for about three minutes as I Googled my question, then returned to my chair as though nothing had ever happened.

But I got my answer. And it was exactly what I was looking for.

Sometimes, as an author, you startle people.

For the record, this is what Jupiter–and Earth!–looks like from near Mars: earth_jupiter_i1The round dot at the bottom–that’s Jupiter. Depending on your screen and how good your eyes are, you may be able to pick out three of its moons surrounding it. From left to right, you can see Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, and Europa. (Callisto, I think, is where I set some of my action in Launching Justice. It may be Europa–I can’t quite remember.)

At the top are visible Earth and our moon. Makes someone feel very small to realize how truly vast our solar system is, and to think about how small it is compared to the galaxy, and the universe…

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Revisting a Classic: A Third Time Review of Pride and Prejudice

Earlier this week, I finished what has become an annual re-reading of the classic, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Two years ago, I decided that re-reading this book, which has since become my favorite book of all time, would be something I could do that I could look forward to. Although I read the book for the first time in the summer of 2013 (in the midst of my son’s bone marrow transplant), September seems to have become my month to revisit Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

I’ve never been much for classics, and have painful memories of being forced to read some versions of a handful of what may technically be called classics in school. But, thanks to K.M. Weiland’s inspiration (who has been working her way through classics for many years, alphabetically by author), I’ve been slowly putting my toe in the water and trying a few classics here and there.

But P&P has captivated me like no other. I’m sure a lot of people can say the same thing. But for me as a writer, revisiting the book is something I love to do because I pick up on something new each time I read it. The first time, in 2013, when I read it, what surprised me most was how true to the book my favorite movie adaptation really was. While the book is still better, the movie is nice when I’ve got 6 months to go until I will allow myself to reread this beloved book and just want to immerse myself in the story for a couple of hours.

Last year, while the movie was still heavily in my head–seriously, I see and hear Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadden, and, ironically, Jenna Coleman when I read it–I picked up on more of the nuances of the story.

This year, my reread was a bit more drawn out, as I’ve been busy and I haven’t been able to spend as much time reading as I’d have liked. But thanks to several articles I’ve read over the last several months about the time period and about the background of Austen really enriched the story in ways hard to put into words. Articles that discussed what life was really like for women of a certain background around the beginning of the 19th Century, how characters would be characterized in today’s culture (one article I read characterized Lydia Bennet Wickham as a ‘sex kitten’. That sure puts things in perspective!) But armed with this new information and understanding about life in the early 1800s in rural England really added so much depth and color to this most recent rereading that I find myself thinking more now about Elizabeth and Darcy than in years past.

It really is such a rich and pleasurable story. And even though there are certain things that I think Austen could have benefited from, things we know now as writers, I honestly can’t think of much I’d change about this book.

In my humble opinion, that’s the mark of a true classic.

Question for you: Do you have a favorite book you love so much you reread it (other than the Bible)? What is it? How many times have you read it?

Taking a Deep Breath

As I alluded to yesterday on my Facebook page, I’m feeling a huge sense of relief now thaCompilation Cover Template v 1t the Darby Shaw Chronicles box set is out.

It really feels as though since Emergence was published last July, I’ve been working my keister off. Publish Emergence, only to jump into finishing Retaliation and publishing it, only to jump immediately into work on Capitulation, then the short story Pursued which is in the back of the box set. So much work, but it’s been so worth it.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy of the box set! 😀 It’s going to be so cool.

Anyway, I digress. As usual.

It’s important to take some breaks and breathers when I’m writing. I have a bit of an all-or-nothing approach, and I’m either an extreme workaholic, writing into the wee hours of the morning, or I’m procrastinating.

As in serious procrastinating.

Which reminds of a verse in the Bible, from the book of James. I’m paraphrasing here, but it says that if one knows what they’re supposed to be doing and they don’t do it, it’s a sin. That one always gets me.

I mean, I’m sure that me not writing isn’t a sin, but it does convict me a lot on things that I should be doing, on days when I’m far lazier than I’d like to admit.

Or when I’m using writing as an excuse not to do something, say, cleaning my kitchen (also not a sin, but it sure can feel like it when I get sad looks from my husband.)

Anyway, I’ve seriously taken this post in a completely off-the-wall direction, and if you’re still reading, just know this is how my mind works. 😉

Me at Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Back to breathers.

I was really fortunate to get to take a short breather right before publication (at probably the worst possible time, but it was already scheduled, so there wasn’t much I could do!) My family and I adore Colorado, and we were able to go out there for a few days around my taking our son to Seattle for a follow-up on his bone marrow transplant (two years!)

I think I’m still hanging on to that feeling from once I got back to Colorado. I was able to relax for the first time in what seemed forever, definitely since the fall, probably earlier. I know vacations are supposed to leave you refreshed, but this one seemed especially important this time around. I’m still feeling the result after being back home for more than a week and a half. Sure, my kids have had days where they’ve gotten on my nerves (I won’t even go into what happened yesterday!) But I’m still feeling more relaxed than I have in forever.

I don’t know if this is because of the trip, or because I’ve finally fulfilled my first goal from when I signed with Splashdown Books more than a year ago.

But I’ll say one thing:

I’m glad that I’m feeling more like myself. Hopefully that means I can be a better wife, mother, friend, and writer. Until the next time I’m able to go to Colorado at least.

__________________________

The box set is available now through Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iTunes, and several other stores thanks to Draft 2 Digital. While prices vary internationally, a US edition is $14.99 for a paperback, and $4.99 for an e-book. Keep an eye out on Facebook & Twitter as I’ll be giving away copies in the next few weeks!

Goodbye to a Season

Last week, I boxed up about 20-odd books, slapped a shipping label on them, and sent them on their merry way to the southeastern U.S.

All the books in the box were books I was supposed to read and review for Christian Children’s Book Review. Many of them I’ve had for two years. Sitting. Collecting dust. Some went from Kansas City to Seattle and back again with me. I feel a little sorry for the woman who will open the box this week (maybe today) and find dust on many of the covers.

I first started reviewing for CCBR when my daughter wasn’t yet a year old. The founder and managing editor I count as a friend, and we were both delighted to meet each other when I went to the Pacific Northwest two years ago for my son’s bone marrow transplant.

Since transplant, it had become increasingly obvious that the time I had for CCBR was basically nil. During transplant, my son spent 70 days of the roughly 160 days we were there in the hospital. After we returned, my time and energy was devoted to putting out the fires associated with his care, growing more determined that my books were publishable, and reestablishing a normal relationship with my daughter and husband.

But I wasn’t ready to declare defeat.

I tried putting weekly reminders on my phone to do reviews. They were ignored by yours truly, other than having a guilt trip every week, at least once.

I tried moving the books so they were accessible, only to have my husband gripe about the piles of books everywhere. (Admittedly, we live in a tiny house, and there’s just not enough room for everything.) So back to the bedroom they went, where I only really saw them when I went to bed around midnight, or later.

Until a couple weeks ago, when my editor asked me what was up, and I admitted I just couldn’t figure out how to fit CCBR in with everything else I had going on. I’ve published three books in the last eight months, with a fourth in the works, and three more in the pipeline for (hopefully) by the end of the year. I’m a homeschooling mom. And my son still sees multiple specialists and therapists, with appointments at the minimum of once a week. We both agreed that it was probably best if I passed along my books to another reviewer.

You can’t imagine the sigh of relief I had. A burden had been lifted.

I’m incredibly grateful for the time I spent with CCBR. Kristina, the founder, has helped me figure out a few nuances in grammar that I, admittedly, still screw up a lot. And she has been a truly good friend throughout the last several years. I don’t regret the time I was there in the least, although I do regret that my pride kept me from throwing in the towel much earlier.