It’s a special day. The day that I have the privilege of seeing my 30th project published (articles aside because I quit counting those after I hit 100).
Before the White Rose is a general market short story I wrote for the love of it. I didn’t write it intending to publish it. But I am thrilled Belle Bridge Books has. In it, three people who are at wit’s end and despairing all take action–and discover something they wished they’d discovered sooner.
For long-time readers, I wrote it as one of my Sunday book projects. Those I write for me, ignoring everything except the story itself. This one I wrote and it continued to nag at me. I wasn’t sure why, and I ignored it as long as I could. But it didn’t stop. So I pulled it out, read it again, and saw something of value in it. That’s when Belle Books got involved.
They’rereissuing many of my earlier works, and added a sampler of the three Seascape novels in Before the White Rose.
It’s a Kindle 99 cent exclusive. I’ve never done one of those in fiction, so I’m eager to see how it does.
Someone asked me this morning on Facebook when you stop getting the adrenaline rush on the day a new project is released. “You’d think it gets old after you’ve done so many,” she said. My response was this.
“If and when it does, and if and when I ever stop being thrilled to pieces about a new release, I’ll let you know. But I have the feeling doing so might frighten you.”
She asked, “Why?”
I responded. “Because as tickled as I still am, I have a feeling that won’t happen until I’m dead.”
Have to chuckle here because I am tickled. I do still feel that same rush I did on holding my first book in my hands. And I hope and pray I never stop feeling it!
The moral of the story (you, of course, knew there’d be one) is that if you’re not thrilled by pleasing aspects of your job, you’re in the wrong job. Look for that in which you find joy. Life is too short to settle for less.
An original, general market short story. Kindle 99 cent exclusive.
Includes bonus material: Seascape Series Sampler.
That’s the first three chapters on:
Beyond the Misty Shore (10/1/2011)
Upon A Mystic Tide (11/1/2011)
Beside a Dreamswept Sea (12/1/2011)
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Disclosure: Christians Read is a Vicki Hinze Special Project created for the purpose of giving readers and authors of Christian books a place to discuss books, interact, find information, encouragement and inspiration.
IT’S ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE.
Career field doesn’t matter, the type of challenge doesn’t matter, and the difficulty level doesn’t matter. For no matter what job you hold, whether the challenge is personal or professional, whether it’s a small challenge or a large challenge, it’s your challenge and that makes it significant to you.
No one escapes challenges. Not in their professional life or in their personal life. Even the person we look at and admire from afar who seems to have the perfect life, the perfect job, the perfect children, the perfect home, the perfect everything, doesn’t. That person, for all his or her blessings, still goes through hard times and struggles.
Some people seem to naturally handle challenges better than others. Some are deemed melodramatic because they overreact to the slightest small problem. What we must remember is that what we deem a small problem may be a very large problem to that person at that time. Because you see, challenges don’t happen isolated from the rest of a person’s life. They happen in concert with the rest of what’s going on in a person’s life. This no outsider can know. Think about it. Who knows what else is going on with that individual who seems melodramatic? Who knows what trauma, medical difficulty, family member challenges, or other drama(s) are playing out in that person’s life?
This is but one reason we shouldn’t isolate our characters in their challenges (or judge others and their reactions to problems that we see they are having). We only know what they tell us. And if they do tell us, quite often more is left untold than shared. True for people, therefore it should be true for characters in our books.
That not sharing all happens for a variety of reasons. One, sharing makes the person feel extremely vulnerable, or ashamed, or embarrassed, or overwhelmed. That person might also be in denial. And before you judge that—denial—understand that sometimes things happen that are so painful and hard to wrap our minds around (thus characters’ minds) we have to deal with them in degrees. Dealing with the weight of all at once is more than we can bear, and so we cope with a little bit at the time.
Remember, challenges and obstacles often have tentacles. They cause chain reactions. Other dominos to fall.
A woman contacted me who recently lost a loved one and wasn’t notified until after the loved one had been dead for over a week. For days, the woman refused to speak of the death, to acknowledge it, or to in any way express knowledge that her loved one had passed away. Some would say that was an odd reaction—and even one who didn’t say it, thought it… until the specific circumstances became clear. When they had, her reaction made perfect sense. Other tragedies were occurring at the same time in her life: fear for the life of another loved one, which raised a host of past challenges regarding loss that she’d not addressed and dealt with in a constructive way. All these things were dragged out and into the forefront of her mind, and each chewed on her while the others were strumming her emotions and making hash of her heart. She couldn’t handle it all, so she denied it all. And while her denial reaction might have seemed on the surface to be strange, it was her body’s way of coping at that moment.
The news cut so deep, and all the old tapes in her mind and unresolved issues, combined and body-slammed her. The impact created pain so intense she couldn’t handle it. Not at that time and not all at once. But in the days that followed, she absorbed, bit by bit, and she began addressing the smaller issues until finally she was able to handle the big one—that death.
People are complex. Memorable characters are too.
On a smaller scale, but significant to me since it was my issue, was something that happened to me recently. One of my publishers sent me galleys to review on an upcoming book. While they work in electronic form up to the galley stage, it is their company policy that galleys be done only in print. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem. But with my eyes and the challenges I have with the muscles, is a huge problem for me. So it took a little over a week to review the pages. By the time I finished, I couldn’t read a single line of text without the words jumping from line to line. I couldn’t control the muscles. It is now two days later, and the muscles are still swollen, my eyes are still swollen and aching, and while I can read on the computer again, I don’t dare try reading a page. So naturally, I received a second set of galleys on another upcoming project to review. I wanted to weep. But this is a project with another publisher, and fortunately their company policy doesn’t prohibit electronic galleys. So I was spared.
Let’s be real about this. I am extremely grateful I am not blind. I am extremely grateful I can see the faces of those I love and to function in daily life. I’ve had enough surgeries where I couldn’t see a thing for a week afterward that I got a healthy taste of suddenly losing your vision and it’s an experience I’m not eager to repeat. My vision is great. I don’t need glasses for anything and yet I do have limitations due to the muscles. That’s a fact.
So all this said, I have to admit that a part of me is very sad that I can no longer read words on the page without paying a heavy price for doing so. Maybe if I were not a writer, and I didn’t love books as much as I do, it wouldn’t impact me emotionally as much as it does. But I am, and I do, and it does. (Here’s where we take characters to memorable characters… in their reaction to their limitations…)
I’m impacted. And that brings me to a fork in the road, so to speak. I have to choose whether to be sad or to look at the bigger picture. (Neither is right or wrong, only different, and this gives the writer flexibility needed for diverse character roles.)
I choose to look at the bigger picture. While I can’t read physical pages without paying a high pain price for it any more, I can read to my heart’s content on the computer, on my Kindle, even on my phone. The print is sharper, bolder, and the size of the font can be adjusted to whatever size is most comfortable for my eyes at the time, and all require less muscle movement, which means less swelling and less tiring quickly. (Remember, everybody in the business suffers eyestrain!) How fast my challenges arise varies, depending on how tired my eyes are (tired muscles don’t work as well) and sometimes I have no choice but to just stop and rest them a while and then go on. That pause used to irritate me. Now I see the blessing in it. I work through story problems, deepen characterization; add new layers to plot, setting or new complications or resolutions. Pauses have proven to be beneficial things.
And that is the point of this post. Whatever your challenge is, you can focus on it and let it define you, your actions, maybe even your life, or you can focus on a solution to the problem, or an alternative that enables you to work within your limitations and surmount an obstacle. You can discover hidden benefits or waste your time cursing the interruptions. It’s your call to make.
You know, southern women are notoriously determined. Some say stubborn. I say practical. We accept that we’re going to get popped with problems. We’re taught from the cradle that you can rule it or let it rule you—it’s a choice. You make it.
My choice is to see that a problem is often an opportunity in disguise. If not for my particular eye-muscle obstacles, I would have been far more reluctant to accept the new technology of e-books, reading or watching movies on a computer, and certainly reading on a phone, which includes text messaging. I love the feeling of a book in my hands, knowing one is in my handbag—it’s always been an essential accessory! But because I had this opportunity/obstacle, I had a choice: Give up reading or embrace new technology. That the technology was there to embrace is such a gift. Imagine, the world of books being closed to you! Of course, I embraced the technology. Of course, I’m grateful. The world of books that I love is as available to me now as it ever was. And being the writer and reader that I am, how can I not see the blessing in that? (Note the significance is up close and personal to the individual. That’s essential in strong characterization that evokes empathy. If the loss/absence/denial isn’t core to your character, it can’t carry that kind of weight.)
So my question to you is this: will you see your challenges, in whatever form they might take, as insurmountable obstacles or as opportunities? Will your characters?
How you see them and your reaction to them will determine whether you consider them a bane or a blessing. The same holds true for your characters. Because whether it’s about them or you, in the end, it truly is all about your attitude.
© 2011, Vicki Hinze
At times, we all feel alone. Whether we’re facing seemingly overwhelming obstacles or feel as if we’re drowning in a shark-infested sea and being swamped by waves of opposition, we feel as if we’re on our own and getting to safe harbor, whatever that might be, is solely up to us. There is no lifeguard, no rescue coming, no help on the horizon. We sink or swim alone.
And we feel . . . abandoned, betrayed, even angry.
Those are human reactions, and not unexpected. But there are other times when we feel alone and we resent it. Times that are celebratory. We seek a goal for a long time and finally achieve it–and have no one to celebrate with us. We experience a life-changing event, and have no one to tell. We have climbed the career ladder and gotten to the rung we sought, and the world doesn’t notice. We devote our lives to accomplishing a purpose, and do it, and look around and we stand alone. Not only is no one there to celebrate, no one notices or cares.
And we feel . . . let down, abandoned, betrayed and even angry.
In mentoring, I run into this a lot. Writers so dedicate themselves to learning the craft, the business, to networking and promoting and marketing and writing and producing that they sacrifice everyday life. Depending on where you start, singleminded devotion for a time might be needed to achieve your goal. The college of seeking to master your chosen path, so to speak.
But that college can become a treadmill that the writer stays on for decades or even a lifetime, and if s/he does, there are going to be problems that spill over into the emotional realm. Why is that?
There’s a strong correlation between physical and emotional. What we experience in one, manifests in the other. You can think yourself sick, exhaust yourself physically and tumble into emotional instability.
During the course of a career on that treadmill, there are many inclines and declines. You’ll know moments of joy so complete you pinch yourself. You’ll also know moments of such profound disappointment and disillusionment that you don’t want to pinch yourself, you want to escape.
Too much of a good thing is like a prison. Doubt it?
Have you ever walked out into the bright sunlight and been blinded by it? Walked from the bright sunlight into a darkened room and been blinded by it? On either side, you can’t see a thing. It renders you immobile–in writer’s terms, frigid. You can’t move because you can’t see–unless you have something else present to counter and restore balance. Something bigger, that resides inside you that acts as an equalizer.
If you’re walking from light into the dark, that something might be memory of where things are positioned. Saying you’re entering your own home. You know the entry has a rug–so you don’t trip. You know that in two steps if you turn left, you need to skirt a table with a vase on it. Or it’s ten steps to the living room. You know what’s where. That gives you the confidence and certainty to walk on. But what if you’re walking into a stranger’s home?
Odds are pretty good you’re going to pause until your eyes adjust. You’re going to have the discipline to hold on until you can assess your surroundings and not trip, walk into a wall, bump the table and knock the vase to the floor where it shatters. What makes you do that–pause, wait, have the discipline to hold-on? The fear of injury, of doing damage, of making a mistake, of misstepping. It’s some emotion driving the physical action.
Whether you’re dealing with a character’s character traits or the character traits of the writer, there’s a direct relation between physical and emotional. As a writer, you might want to jump on the epublishing train, or not. Your decision will be made, consciously or subconsciously, based on both physical circumstances (as they are or as you see them and potential as you see it) and emotional circumstances (as they are or you see them and potential as you see it).
If you have a great working relationship with your publisher and are content with what you’re producing, you’re less inclined to want to change something. But if you’re not content with your current circumstances, you’re more inclined to want to change. Your emotional reaction to your physical circumstance weighs in more heavily.
Let’s say you’re getting on well with your publisher but you suddenly experience artistic differences. The publisher wants more of the same kind of books but you want to write a different type of book. The publisher isn’t interested in that type of book from you. Your emotional reaction to that circumstance well might drive you to seek another or an additional publisher–or to epublish yourself.
Now you might be fearful of doing it, you might assess and deem it a fiscally sound move, but you will go through a process where you weigh the publisher’s reaction–will or won’t they drop you for doing this? Will or won’t they demand exclusive publishing in your next contract? Will or won’t they continue to market and promote at the same level or a higher one? If so, you have one emotional reaction. If not, you have another emotional reaction. You, of course, can choose to go either way. But you’ll endure the process in coming to your decision, weighing the physical and emotional.
As human beings, we all go through this same sort of process, which means our characters should go through it too.
Now one aspect that I’ve neglected thus far other than to allude to it as that something inside you that acts as an equalizer is on par with the physical and the emotional. That is the spiritual.
It’s often neglected overtly but is in truth most powerful. The spiritual aspect of a human being is home to beliefs, motivations, judgments, purpose. It’s the core that stirs together all of the intangible things the writer or the character considers of greatest value and highest import.
This core that is uniquely our own trumps the physical and the emotional. It leads to tackling insurmountable obstacles, into taking risks and doing that which all logic deems impossible. When we’re leaden and weary, it drives us to keep trying. When we’ve been knocked down over and again, it gives us the strength and endurance to get up one more time. When all signs say stop, it’s a pipe dream, a waste of time, it says go, go, do it! It’s what enables a mother to lift a car, a man to dive into raging water to save a stranger, a fireman to run into an inferno building thousands are trying to escape.
The spiritual side of writers and therefore characters is the home of heroes and villains. Like everything else, that of greatest value and most import can be used for good or evil. It is here, in the spiritual realm, that those choices are made and those judgments defining good and evil are housed.
If your characters lack spiritual aspects, they lack essentials that make them not just human but uniquely human and memorable. Something significant is missing. And its that something that ties and binds between writer and character and then between character and reader.
If the writer fails to acknowledge his/her unique spiritual aspects, then s/he is going to experience a lot of moments–some really long ones–where s/he feels s/he is walking around with a big hole in the chest. See, it’s these spiritual aspects that generate the fulfillment and contentment that resides in the heart.
Now let’s put this all together. If your reason for writing is to earn a lot of money, that’s physical. Bluntly put, it’s not enough. If your reason for writing is to be famous, that‘s not enough. Yesterday’s celebrities are forgotten names today. If your reason for writing is seated in purpose, then fulfillment is possible. And by leading yourself from the spiritual aspect, you factor in the emotional and physical. Odds of success are far greater, because you’re addressing all aspects with balanced weight.
When you do that, you engage balance. And with balance engaged, you and your characters are still going to experience inclines and declines, but they won’t do it alone. The force behind the purpose of it all is there with them.
Another human might not be present, but that gut-wrenching sense of loneliness is not.
There is an enormous difference in being lonely and being alone. Many stand in a room surrounded by people they know and feel alone. The challenge for them is they’re looking outward for someone to make that loneliness go away. But the answer to it, to filling it, lies within.
So in your writer’s life and in your characters, be aware of the dimensional aspects of the whole person/character. Understand that balance defines character. Gaps and absences define flaws and conflicts. And plunder the spiritual aspects of your character first, because it’s where the best of the best and the worst of the worst resides.
It’s where you’ll discover how to be alone on those inclines and declines and still be content.