Monday, December 31, 2012

2013: the Year of the Snake

St. George & the Dragon by Trina Schart Hyman
We are standing in the final footsteps of a dying year. The credits are rolling. The sequel is about to begin. And it looks like there will be dragons.

In keeping with my promise on Friday, here are a few of my New Year's resolutions, which all seem to have to do with learning, because I have a lot to learn.
  1. Have more fun with writing this year. Don't get stressed with it and think of it as work. Play with it. Learn it. 
  2. Do new things. Don't stay inside my bubble of writing-related stuff. Branch out and learn something completely different.
  3. Wrap up school/college, and savor learning along the way.
  4. Learn to be a servant not only in the big things, but also in the little things as well. 
And since, without repentance, serious resolutions can never come to be, here is my chief New Year's repentance:

I am lazy, complacent, and afraid of pain. I need to:

Put off: staying comfortable, which is serving myself.
Put on: willingness to serve other people, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. When it's inconvenient or humiliating. When it's exhausting and uncomfortable.

This ties in with my word (or lesson) for the New Year. For 2012 my word was chosen because I've been learning to accept that not only does God care about me, but also that He chose me. Not only that He chose me, but also that He gave me everything. Not only that He gave it to me, but that He gave it to all the world. I felt like I was learning about His grace, and learning to wonder at His grace.

So it seems to follow that for 2013 my word is servant. Because God has done so much for me, it gives me a desire to do much for other people. Right now I feel like I have almost a hunger to serve, to take care of and take charge of the big things. That's why I took on not only the church Christmas play, but also the children's choir. However, in 2013 I want to focus on being a servant not only in the big things but the little things as well. I want to use this time I've been given to serve as exorbitantly and passionately as I possibly can, wherever I am. I want to be used up with service. I want to empty my store of love. Only when that happens can you find that is actually overflowing.

2013 is a year that will be filled with dragons. Economic and financial dragons. Relational and spiritual dragons. Mental and physical dragons. 2013 is the year of the snake, the year of temptation, the year of the serpent. What 2013 needs is dragon-slayers. But it needs dragon-slayers who are servants, which is why I sorely need to learn this lesson.

But before I can slay dragons I need to repent of the dragons I have not slain, that I have allowed to flourish and grow instead. Before I can learn to serve and be selfless I need to repent of having been selfish.

Repentance is putting off the old and putting on the new. God grant me the grace to repent this coming year, to take what He gives me with blessing, and to pour out myself in love to other people.

God grant us all the grace to crush the head of the snake beneath our feet this year.

Friday, December 28, 2012


2012 was quite a year.

I don't really know how I feel about it yet. It's like when you're walking out of the movie theater after a really good movie that had so much in it that you have to reserve judgement until you're far enough removed from it that you can think about it clearly.

So basically my feelings about 2012 are the same as my feelings for my recent experience with Les Miserables. I can't talk about that yet, either.

This year had ups and downs, as all years are accustomed to have. It had painfully hard moments layered in with blissfully sweet ones. It had stretches of growth tempered with patches of falling down and getting back up again.

I thought I would do a recap of 12 of my favorite posts I wrote from 2012, although that's a little odd because I only really started blogging this year. But here are some of my favorites:
  1. If the Lord is with Us
  2. When Others Define You
  3. What Superheroes and Fairy Tales Have in Common
  4. 5 Reasons You May Have Lost Followers (and Why You Shouldn't Be Too Upset)
  5. Top Ten Tips for Creating Top Ten Tips Lists
  6. Z is for Ze Accent
  7. T is for Tortured Artists
  8. E is for Ebooks vs. Books
  9. B is for Books vs. Ebooks
  10. What's the Point?
  11. Lauren and the Post About Titles
  12. Five-part Avengers review
Also, don't forget that I have spaces open for guest posts on Word Art. I'm currently open from February and onward.

I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to 2012 yet. On Monday I'll be posting my New Year's resolutions - and some New Year's repentance as well.

If 2012 is the movie we're walking out of, then 2013 is the sequel that we are all forced to see. On the one hand, it's a good year ahead, because God is good. On the other hand, I see dragons in the path before us. But this just means we've been given the chance to rise up, to wrestle the dragons to the ground and cut off their heads. I'll write more about this on Monday. For now, hope you had a happy Christmas, and hope you have a happy New Year.

How do you feel about 2012? Did you have a good Christmas?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jessica Marcarelli: How to Effectively Market Your Writing

Hey there! I'm Jessica Marcarelli from Visions of Other Worlds. Lauren kindly allowed me to write a guest post for her, which I have been wanting to do for a while.

I guess we should meet and greet before we begin. I'm a fiction author by night and a business writer by day. Basically, I write all the time. I even - sometimes - get paid for it. I love great stories that I can read again and again, and fiddle with photography and painting whenever I have down time. I live in the desert with my husband and one incorrigible cat, play video games, and still believe Pluto is a planet.

So, that's me. Now, about you. I've got something for you. You may have heard of it. It's that elephant in the room that we all like to call marketing.

How to Effectively Market Your Writing

Writers tend to approach marketing the way a cockroach approaches light: they run away. When I first started my freelance business, I could run with the best of them. Then I learned one of life's unfriendly facts: today's online world runs on marketing. The 'Information Age' has created so much information that no one really wants to read it any more. We're all a bit over-saturated.

Writers looking for attention have to catch it. This typically works one of two ways: you either offer audiences something irresistible or you tackle them to the ground and make them cry uncle.

For the record, don't make them cry uncle. They'll just run away as soon as you let them go. Then you have to chase them. And tackle them again. It's just too much work.

No, what successful marketers do now is offer something so eye-catching that audiences can't help but stop for a look. They - and you - do this through three simple steps:

Build Relationships

We tend to trust friends more than strangers. If you're looking for an opinion on the latest blockbuster movie, who are you more likely to listen to: your movie buddy or some random guy standing outside the theater?

Your audience is no different. They want to know who you are, where you've come from, and why your opinion is any better than their hairdresser's.

Tell them. Not through your words, but through your actions. Get to know them and their interests. Read the books they like. Visit the sites they browse. Engage in heated discussions.

Basically, help others and they will help you.

Be Yourself

Building a relationship only works if you be yourself. I know, I know. Friendship 101. But it still needs to be said. People become friends because they like what they see. Let your audience like you for you.

Hiding behind yet another article about the theology of living life to the fullest is boring. We've seen it before. Write that you lived one day to the fullest by bungie jumping off a cliff...and wet yourself on the way down. It's human. It's alive. It's you.

Whatever or whomever “you” is, write it down. You might not appeal to everyone. But there are people out there waiting for your unique perspective.

Which brings me to my last point...

Shock Everyone

We writers tend to over think every word we put to paper. We compare it to other accepted forms of communication to ensure we won't offend anyone. Worse, we create imagined offenses that our writing is sure to incur. Basically, we don't want to shock or disturb.

Throw that mindset to the wind. Shock everyone. Free yourself from your own perceptions of what is “acceptable.” When you write freely, you come out. People wonder what you'll do next. You grab your audience's attention.

Where To Go

Social media has become the go-to place to spread your message. And why not? It's fast, easy, and used by millions. There are also less known places to spread your message or expertise. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Look them up, check them out, and sign up for one or two. They're all free and easy to quit if you don't like them.
  • Facebook (pages are very helpful to writers) 
  • Twitter (casual, quick, and to-the-moment) 
  • Google+ (easy to keep contacts and updates all in one place) 
  • LinkedIn (for professional networking) 
  • Pinterest (share your interests in a very visual medium) 
  • Forums (talk about your interests and meet new people) 
  • Answer Sites (such as Yahoo Answers – good for sharing your expertise) 
  • YouTube (lots of lively discussions in the comments) 
  • Book-reading Sites (such as Goodreads – review and talk about fave books) 
  • Blogging (on your own blog or as a guest poster) 

So there you have it: effective marketing tips that won't have you running for warm, dark safety. Try them out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Thanks so much for writing this wonderful guest post, Jessica! I know I'll be using some of these tips. 

So, what do you think? Have any other tips on marketing your writing? What has drawn you to a book recently? What do you find most affects you when deciding which books to buy?

Would you like to write a guest post for this blog? Click here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eight Days Till Christmas

I woke up this morning and realized that there are eight days until Christmas, and I've done no Christmas shopping whatsoever. Not that I have a lot of money to begin with, but I've been so wrapped up in preparation for the RCC Christmas play that I haven't really thought about gifts. Now, of course, I have eight days to finish all of that. I guess there's always socks, right?

Since I've been absent from this blog for most of December, I thought I'd do a recap of sorts.

About that Christmas play I wrote and directed 

The Christmas play that I wrote about writing in September had its performance last Friday. It was so much fun to hear everyone's reaction to it. The performance went off quite nicely, and I was very happy with how it turned out. I think it was a success! Now I'm putting together the video of it and I'll most likely post it sometime, since I know a lot of people who missed it but wanted to see it.

I posted the text of my speech last Friday as well. Here it is if you missed it. Also, Sara from The Farmerette posted pictures of the play.

[Update: finally got the video up.]

What happened with NaNoWriMo

I ended up with 27774 words. I could give you a hundred different excuses, but I think the main reason I ended up shy of 50k is that my story turned out to be far more complicated than I expected. I thought I was writing a straightforward action/sci-fi with hints of romance, drama, regret, and sacrifice. Turns out I'm actually writing a story about guilt and shame and pride and achievement and greatness and justice and ethics and forgiveness and the problem of evil. And some of the questions my characters are asking I don't know if I have answers to yet.

It's a story that I'm not ready to write yet. I thought I was, but writing my 27k words helped me see that I wasn't. I'm still glad I wrote as much as I did. It was a great writing exercise and helped me push through some writer's block on other projects.

I submitted my work to a magazine for the very first time

I was incredibly nervous to submit it at all, but finally I just took a deep breath and hit send. It took about ten days for the reply, and it was a rejection. I wasn't too cut up about it. It was a little exhilarating, knowing that I actually sent something out there. I printed out the rejection (it was a form rejection email) and posted it on my bulletin board to inspire myself to keep trying. I'm going to try to send out a lot more submissions starting January. I'll keep y'all updated on how that goes.

Go buy Miriam's stuff

Mirriam from Thoughts of a Shieldmaiden is trying to earn some extra money for Christmas gift buying, and so she has put up some of her artwork for sale. Being in a similar situation in regards to lack of money, I thought I'd help her out by linking to her, so go check it out, or click over to view some of her other pencil sketches.

All these Christmas giveaways

Rissi at Dreaming Under the Same Moon is hosting a giveaway for a DVD from one of her choices or a $25 Amazon gift card. It runs until January 7th. I'm thinking I'd want either The Bourne Legacy or Downton Abbey Season 3. Go check out the other DVD's she's giving away.

Also the Inkslinger is hosting a soundtrack giveaway. You can win either The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack or the Hobbit: Unexpected Journey soundtrack. I'm personally going for the Hobbit soundtrack. I loved the music, in particular the dwarf song/walking-fighting theme.

I went to see the Hobbit
via Fandango
Speaking of The Hobbit, I spent the night at a good friend's house and we went to see The Hobbit together on Saturday. I liked it a lot. I think it did a good job in preserving the spirit of the book, but also adding in a flavor of epicness to fit in with the LOTR movie trilogy. It had some great foreshadowing of the LOTR trilogy as well. Both Martin Freeman (Bilbo) and Richard Armitage (Thorin) did a fantastic job. I'm looking forward to the next part and Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug, as well as seeing Lee Pace as Thranduil, King of Mirkwood.

That's how my December's been going. How has yours been?

Friday, December 14, 2012

If the Lord is With Us...

This is the text of an opening speech I'll be giving tonight for the Christmas play:

When I told people I'd be adapting the story of Gideon for the Christmas play, the most asked question was "What does the story of Gideon have to do with Christmas?"

Of course, all of Scripture points to Jesus, but I think Gideon has special significance both to the Christmas story and to our current situation in this day and age.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and told him that the Lord was with him, Gideon's response was valid from an earthly point of view. "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?"

Gideon's people were being plundered and slaughtered. Their land was overrun by the cruel and vicious Midianite raiders. They could do nothing to stop the pillaging, and it seemed like the Lord was doing nothing to stop it either. "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?"

Mary and Joseph had a similar situation. Their land, the land that God had given to their fathers, was owned by the Romans. They had to pay tribute to them, even going on long journeys to complete a census on the whim of Augustus Caesar. "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?"

Today we hear of horrific things happening in our world. It's easy to be afraid, it's easy to get bitter, it's easy to point to the darkness and say Lord, I thought you were with us. Why then has all this happened to us?

But Christmas is coming. Christmas is the ultimate answer to the question is the Lord with us? Because God came down to be with us. He was called Emmanuel, which means God is with us. He is the savior not just of Israel, but of the nations.

We are a broken people, and we live in a broken world. But Jesus Christ has come – He has come to be with us, to live in the filth and sin and curse of our fallen world. He has come to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. We are shortsighted, and we can point to all the corners of darkness that are still left, and doubt His coming. But Jesus Christ came, was born and died and rose again and ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, where He will rule until death has been destroyed. He has come to free us from the chains of sin and idolatry, to free us from the oppression of death. He has come to light the darkness and to heal the brokenhearted.

Gideon freed the Israelites. Jesus freed the world. He is God with us, He is God among us, and He is God who rules over us. He is ruling now and forever.

"The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool."

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