Posted in Uncategorized

A Mother’s Courage: An Advent 2022 Devotional

It was my honor to be asked to write a short devotional for my church’s Advent devotional booklet again this year. The theme for 2022 is “A Child is Born.” The focus is the miraculous births of the Bible, and our pastor wanted us to share our own birth stories and how God revealed himself in those experiences.

My first reaction was to email them back and make sure they sent the email to the right place. I’m not a mother. Sure I’ve been there for some friends when they gave birth, but I don’t have a birth story. I couldn’t begin to offer insight into something like that. Turns out the pastor asked for me specifically to write one again this year. So, I sat down at my computer and tried to figure out what on earth I was going to say.

The lyrics for one of my favorite Christmas songs started playing in my head. “Breath of Heaven” gives the lead up to Christ’s birth from Mary’s point of view. I never stopped to think about what it would have been like for her to be called to such an important mission until I heard this song for the first time. It was with that song ringing in my ear that I pulled out my Bible and began to write.

Becoming a mother is never easy. Stress, pain, and worry builds to a single moment in time when they hold their child in their arms for the first time. While no two women trod the same path, the unconditional love of a mother for her child is universal. 

I’ve often found myself wondering about Mary’s experience. Here is this young woman, most likely a teenager, being told that she will give birth to the most important figure to ever walk the earth. Can you imagine what it must have been like?

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

Luke 1:29

I picture her trembling in fear at the news. The archangel Gabriel tells her not to be afraid, but it’s hard to imagine that a single sentence dissuaded all her fears. She even questions this call on her life. 

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

Luke 1:34

Mary faced far more than the general anxieties of becoming a parent. She faced backlash from not just her family but her entire community. She risked being ostracized and alone, unable to provide for the child that was dependent on her. But through all that, she found the courage to accept her calling.

“I am the Lord’s Servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:38

I’m thankful she did. The courage of one young woman helped to bring forth the most precious gift the world would ever know. Jesus. May each of us find the courage to answer the call God places on our lives.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Luke 1: 10-11

Posted in Uncategorized, writing advice

Walk Away: Getting Space From Your Work

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Writing is hard. This is readily accepted, but what many of us never talk about is that it never really gets any easier. We expect more of ourselves as we gain experience and learn more about our craft. This can leave the door open for impostor syndrome to wreak havoc on our writing lives.

This is something I’ve been dealing with lately. My edits seemed to take my WIP farther away from where I wanted it to be. Every time I sat down to write, all I could think about was how god awful it was and how inept I was at fixing it. I was seconds away from setting it all on fire and walking away. That’s when I realized I needed some perspective.

On nearly every project, every writer will reach a point where they want to rip their work to shreds and call it a day. It’s the nature of the beast. So what do we do when we get like this? How can we possibly find a way to pick back up and move forward when we are convinced our work is a steaming pile of cow dung? 

I reached out to some of my friends in the writing community for advice. I asked my personal circle and left messages on several writer community pages I am a part of. Everyone came back with the same basic answers. Space. Recharge. Critique.

I can’t resist a Supernatural reference.

Stepping away from a project is challenging. At least for me. I am one of those 100% completion kind of people. I will spend hours aimlessly exploring one tiny section in a video game. I make sure I find all the hidden items and mine as much XP from it as possible from the game. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it tenfold. There is no halfway. However, there are times when you just need to back away. Set the project aside for a while. And I’m not talking for a few hours. I’m talking days. Months even. It’s so easy for us to get wrapped up in the cycles of fruitless effort that we may as well just sit and bang our heads on our keyboards for as much good as it’s doing us. Getting some space from your work allows you to return to it with fresh eyes and see it in a new light.

This is how I picture my brain.

I know I have referenced the spoon theory in previous posts, but I’m not sure if I’ve told you all about the “hamster wheel.” I often refer to my brain’s ability to function like a hamster wheel. When things are clicking, the hamster is running for all he’s worth without a care in the world. Those are good days. They are productive and leave me feeling accomplished. Then there are the days when I’ve exhausted the hamster. He’s just laying on the wheel, one little leg hanging off the side, gently rocking it back and forth just enough to keep essential bodily functions operational. Anything beyond that is simply out of the question. Don’t exhaust your hamster. Give it a rest and do something else to recharge your brain. Better yet. Try to do something that has nothing to do with books or writing. Watch a movie. SLEEP. Drink a cup of tea on the porch while watching squirrels chase each other. Whatever it looks like, let your hamster rest so he can get back on the wheel and keep running.

Me starting the editing process.

As authors, we spend a lot of time with our stories. It takes an average of three to five years to finish a novel. That’s a long time. Because we spend so much time in these worlds, our perspective of them can be a bit skewed. We know things about our characters and settings that never see the page. It may be useless drabble. Or it could be a crucial piece of their character that informs the overall plot. Regardless of what it is, we are too close to the work and need an outsider’s perspective. Finding a small group of fellow writers to read your work with a critical eye and provide feedback is invaluable. It lets you see where your story stands from a reader’s perspective while having a writer’s keen eye. They can help you brainstorm solutions to problems they find and pick you up along the way.

Regardless of the route you take, give yourself some grace. What you are trying to accomplish is not an easy task. It takes time. So give yourself some space from your work. Recharge your battery, and get some fresh perspective. It just might save your sanity and keep your WIP alive.

Posted in Uncategorized

Street Team and ARC Sign-Ups

We are barreling towards the release of my debut novel, Batter Days. I am looking for a team of people to review my book on release day and help me spread the word via social media leading up to the launch on September 28th.

For those of you that don’t know, ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy. ARC readers receive a free copy of the book prior to release so that they can read it and leave a review to help the book get off the ground. 

A book has to have a certain number of reviews before Amazon will start suggesting it to readers. This makes reviews super important, especially for indie authors like myself.

I will send the ebook at least two weeks before the launch (I will let everyone know if for some reason that changes.) A free book for honest reviews. Sounds fair right?

My Street Team is going to help me spread the word before the book comes out. They will share promotional graphics and messages across social media to let everyone know the book is on the way. I’ll give them access to a Google Drive folder with all the graphics and messaging they will need to post to social media, complete with dates and posting guidelines.

Don’t worry. They get a free gift too. Street Team members will receive a copy of Allys Favorite Recipes. It’s a fake cookbook compiled of all the #AllysRecipies posts you may have seen popping up on my social media every Friday. Just a little something from me to you as a way to say thank you.

You can be a part one or both teams. Sign-up by clicking the link below.

I have one more special giveaway. One lucky team member will receive a signed paperback copy of my book. Each promotional graphic and review posted will receive one entry. The more you share, the better chance you have to win. I’ll draw and announce the winner on October 6th. That gives everyone an extra week to post their book reviews.

Thanks for taking the time to help me spread the word!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Magic Hour

In photography, there is something called “the magic hour.” It’s right before sunset or just as the sun rises. Photographers call it that because of the natural lighting this time brings. It is soft, diffused across the landscape. It gives everything this ethereal glow and makes photographs come alive. Don’t you wish there was something like that for writers? Here’s a little surprise. The perfect time to write exists. It’s just not the same for everybody.

Every writer has their own natural rhythm. The trick is finding the time that works best for you. Here are a few quick tips to help you find your magic writing hour.

  1. Vary the time

Try writing at different times throughout the day. If you normally write after work, try getting up a bit earlier to write before you leave in the morning. Maybe your lunch break proves to be the optimal time. Try shifting your writing time every other week and see how you feel. If you notice a time that feels more productive and natural, consider making that your designated writing time.

2. Vary the length

The amount of time you spend writing is just as important as the time of day. Try a combination of writing sprints and marathon sessions. You may find that your brain works better in short intervals as apposed to longer sit downs Whatever you are doing right now, try the opposite for a week or two. See if that doesn’t leave your brain feeling less fatigued and your work more shining. Maybe you need to alternate from day to day. Play with the amount of time you spend writing and keep track of how you feel and the work you are doing. This will show you the perfect amount of time you need to spend wordsmithing.

3. Trial and Error

I wish I could say you will find that magic moment right away. Unfortunately, it may take some time. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t nail it the first time. Just keep going. Listen to your body, keep trying different combinations, and soon you’ll find your own personal magic writing hour.

I’ve done my own experimentation to find my magic writing hour. My time is 30-45 minutes first thing in the morning before work and on my lunch break. I find I can get more done in these shorter periods than I can on a Saturday afternoon when I settle in to write for hours. (I usually end up just piddling around on the internet.) What time did you find works best for you?

Posted in Uncategorized

New Year. New Focus.

I know. I know. I’m a little behind on getting this one out. Most people posted their New Year’s goals the first week of the month. Not me. You see, the problem I kept running into is that all of the goals I could think of were directly tied into my goals for 2020. They weren’t really new. They just have a different focus.

I have one major goal for this year. It’s one I have been working towards it for a few years now, but I’ve finally reached a point where I can declare it. That goal is to see my first novel, Batter Days, published.

I took an enormous step towards that recently when I sent my manuscript, an unpublished novel, to my editor. I know there will be a few rounds of back and forth with them. Polishing the manuscript into a shiny happy little book is far from done. I also need to purchase ISBN numbers, take care of cover art, handle formatting (the thought alone makes me want to cry) and a dozen other goal posts along the way. It’s a lot of work, but you know what? I’m going to do it.

This year is going to be amazing. It won’t be easy by any means, but at the end of the day, I’ll be able to look back with a smile knowing I’ve done something most never do. I will be a published author. End of story.

What are your goals for the year? Do you have a central focus? A word? What do you want to see happen in your life in 2021? Drop your answers in the comments below. I’d love to hear it and help cheer you on to the finish line.

Posted in Uncategorized

625 Square Feet – An Advent 2020 Devotional

Every year, my church puts together an advent devotional booklet filled with devotionals written by church members. The pastor asked me to write one this year with the overarching theme of “Fear Not.” I wasn’t just afraid. I was terrified.

It was laughable for me to think that I, with my mental health struggles, could write something about not having fear when I fight against it every day. Then I thought about the overall themes of advent. Hope. Joy. Peace. Love. Christ. Hope jumped out at me, and I was reminded of a rather dark moment during the pandemic lockdown.

625 sqft. That is what my world consisted of during quarantine. 625 sqft, a dining table workstation, and two cats. No family. No friends. Just me, myself, and I.

It was an introvert’s paradise! It was everything I thought I had always wanted. Then my  dream  turned into a living nightmare.

Having no human contact outside of a Zoom call was a blessing in the beginning. I could pick and choose whether I wanted to engage with anyone. If a video call was too peoplely, I could just opt out for the day. No explanation needed.  No risk of hurting anyone. Slowly, that little bit of interaction became all that I had. That is when my thoughts started taking a turn for the worst.

625 sqft started to feel more like 6.25. Everything became cold and dark. That blessed reprieve from human interaction started to drive me deeper and deeper into myself until I started questioning my own validity. My own purpose. I was alone and isolated in a way that I had never imagined I could be.

Every day got a little bit harder. Just mustering the energy to pull myself out of bed felt like one of the trials of Hercules. The resounding thought that “this was it” played over and over again in my mind. I was going to live and die alone. My 625 sqft of paradise had become like a tomb. There was nobody there but me. Nobody to make sure I was alright. I was completely and utterly alone.

Then a voice in the back of my mind reached through the fog and reminded me of something I had almost forgotten.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.   Deuteronomy 31:8

As I lay on my couch, tears rolling down my face, a tiny spark of hope welled up inside my chest. I imagined the Father’s loving arms around me as he whispered reassurances in my ear. I was never truly alone. Nor would I be. He had never left my side, and no power on this earth would ever take him from me.