Thoughts for Today

My mind is a jumble. I feel so foolish.

My romantic heart jumps up and runs ahead of me too quickly for my logical brain to check it. I rush right into something without thinking about it. I think I really know something, 100%.

Then my hopes crash, and I realize I know nothing at all. I’m being stupid again.

But it brings me back to You. It reminds me that though I don’t know everything, though I’m weak, You know everything, and You are my strength. I can trust that You’re taking care of me. I can trust that You will do what’s best for me, even when I don’t understand.

Where I’m From

It’s been about a month since I wrote my last blog post. Life got really busy. 😛

Today I want to share a place that’s dear to my heart. I’ve thought a lot about Round Rock, Texas, the home I knew for the first 15 years of my life, the home that shaped me as a person and as a writer. This is the best way to let you feel what it was like growing up there:

I’m from a hot, dry summer day
from short oak trees and rolling fields of bluebonnets
from prickly brown burs that stick to bare feet
and morning doves cooing at evening.
I’m from fajitas on tortillas with hot salsa that burns your mouth,
and the buttermilk smell of pancakes sizzling in the kitchen.
I’m from brown carpet and sink-into-cushions couches
that used to be white,
and my mom’s nice, white doily on the coffee table.
I’m from the safe softness of a hug every morning,
from a special date with Daddy, while Mama’s in Garden Ridge.
From pink walls, and Barbie dolls,
and stuffed animals who seem like real people.
I’m from an old white house with a blue door
and green St. Augustine grass that my mom watered every day,
from runs in the sprinkler,
and tap dancing on the picnic table when it finally rained.
I’m from the land of the Longhorns and the Alamo,
where everything’s bigger.
Even the memories.

 

Evoking Emotion

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How do you evoke emotion in writing? How do you make your readers feel what your character is feeling? How do you make it feel genuine? Can you use a character’s experiences to evoke genuine emotion even if you’ve never experienced what you’re writing about?

Simple answer: YES!! Of course you can!

If you’ve ever wondered how to do that, here’s some advice from what I’ve learned over the years.

So you have a character who’s going through something. You don’t know exactly how she would feel because you’ve never been through that yourself.

But then it reminds you of something that happened to you. You felt similar emotions in your experience, so you realize you can identify with your character in her experience. Using your emotions, you can fuel hers as you write. That’s what I do in a nutshell.

Here’s an example:

There’s a scene in my novel where Rose is all alone after pushing away her friends. She feels like no one would ever understand. She thinks that if anyone knew her secret, they would look at her differently. I had to feel how she would feel, and it came easily as I thought back to my own experiences. I remembered all the times I’ve been alone and felt lonely because I thought nobody would ever understand how I felt. I remembered telling myself, It’s going to be okay. I remembered a poem I wrote once, the word I used for myself in a low moment–irreparable.

And this scene is what came from that:

“I wrap my arms around my legs. My phone is buzzing in the bottom of my purse, but I don’t care. For the first time in so long, I let myself accept this aloneness, listening to the wind whispering in the trees above me. It’s starting to rain on the awning above the steps.

I’m fine. Everything’s going to be okay.

I blink against the tears.

What have I done?

I pushed away two people who love me.

Why?

Because they were getting too close to the truth. I couldn’t let them in. They’d never understand.

I wish I could sit here forever. Closing my eyes, I pretend I can. I pretend I can just sit here and never have to see anyone again. I can pretend the truth never happened. I can pretend I’m not a broken girl, damaged, irreparable. I can pretend I didn’t hurt anybody. I can pretend nobody hurt me.”

Remembering my experience with loneliness really helped, especially because I’ve come out of that low moment! As I write my novel, I can bring Rose up and out as well, showing how she finds healing the way I have. I can bring hope, but I can also give my readers empathy (because I know everyone has experienced the feelings of loneliness). And that’s one of the most important things about being a writer! The ability to write about specific experiences that not everyone has gone through, but connect universal emotions so that your reader can identify with your character and with you. That’s my favorite thing about writing stories. 

The Supporting Cast: Rose’s Besties

I know I’ve written a lot about the two main characters of my novel: Rose and Lewis. While these two are (obviously) my favorite characters, the supporting cast, Rose’s best girl friends, are just as important to the story. I want to introduce you to the group:

Haven

  1. Haven Cottrell

Rose has known Haven since they were children. Rose’s mother had Haven over many times, especially right after Haven’s parents divorced. Haven’s father is estranged from her and her mother, and Haven has a hard time trusting men. She’s gorgeous, with a model-like figure, light blonde hair, and blue eyes. Her mother made her do a lot of modeling throughout middle and high school, but Haven decided to quit because it was so high pressure and stressed her out. She’s dated many guys who haven’t treated her well at all (and really only dated her because she’s pretty). She seems strong and confident, but in reality, feels insecure. She’s the first person Rose confides in, and she stands up for Rose in one of the most critical parts of the story. Originally, she was supposed to be a not so likable character, a fake friend who betrayed Rose. Now that I’ve gotten to know her better, I realize I like her too much to make her a bad character. She’s the friend that holds the others together. Her biggest weakness is guys: she always tends to date guys who turn out to be jerks. It’s good she has Brooke, Jenny, and Rose to give her perspective. One day she’s going to find a guy who will love her and treat her well.

  1. Brooke Kaminski

Brooke met Rose and the others at the beginning of their freshman year of high school. They were all in the same homeroom together. Brooke, with her extroverted personality and big heart, loved her new best friends almost immediately. She has a big family, five siblings (one older brother, two younger sisters, and a toddler brother). In middle school, she had been overweight, and her mom had her on a strict diet and exercise program. Rose, Jenny, and Haven accepted her completely and helped her gain confidence. She’s active, into dance, gymnastics, and volleyball. She and Haven share a love for country music (and they both love swing dancing on Saturday nights). She started dating Josiah a year ago, but her friends weren’t too sure of him. Turns out, they were right. When he dumps her for another girl, Rose, Jenny, and Haven are there to help her heal and move on.

  1. Jenny Evans

Should writers have favorites? Oh, well. This writer does! Jenny is my favorite of all three of Rose’s best friends. She’s a huge nerd, quite the picture of “bookish type.” She loves reading fantasy and sci fi books and watching old chick flicks. She writes fanfiction (anonymously), and only Rose knows that secret. Her parents are both college professors and still very much in love. She has one younger brother who’s the baby of the family. She and Rose have been friends since 8th grade. Rose had just transferred to a new middle school where she didn’t know anybody. She met Jenny after PE in the locker room where she was crying because she didn’t have any friends and felt so out of place. Jenny invited her to her house where they made milkshakes and watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Since then, they’ve been inseparable.
These are my girls! I made each of them unique. I can see a little of each of my girl friends (as well as myself) in them. They are a tribute to best friends. I can’t wait to see how they develop as I continue to revise my novel in the next few months!

How I Found Love

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I remember a time I used to think I needed someone to love me before I could know what love truly is.

After breaking up with my ex boyfriend in May 2013, my trust had been shattered. He had said he loved me, and then hurt me over and over again at the same time. I knew that wasn’t love. I knew that wasn’t a healthy relationship. I believed that one day I’d meet a godly man and start a relationship with him that was whole and good. He would show me what love really is. So I waited.

And waited.

And waited…

And the man of my fairy tale dreams never showed.

I was devastated. I sank into depression. I still had all this pain inside of me I was trying to deal with, plus the desire to find a man who would take away all of that pain and sorrow. I wanted someone to “fix” me. I wanted someone to make me whole again. There was a big, gaping hole where he used to be, and I tried to fill it with friends and future dreams, but nothing could satisfy. Nothing could fill that hole inside of me.

In my head, I knew that only Jesus could fill my emptiness. I had heard people say that a thousand times. I’d been telling myself that so many times I thought I believed it. I guess I didn’t really think He could. Maybe partially, but not fully. In my loneliness, I longed for someone to hold me. In my sadness, I longed for someone to wipe away my tears. In my uncertainty, I longed for someone to give me clear direction. But he still hadn’t shown up.

It was over the course of a couple years I slowly began to learn, not just with my head, but in my heart, that I had been longing for Jesus.

He was the One Who could fix me. He could make me whole again. He could fill that gaping hole with His love. He had forgiven me. He saved me. He is the Man of my fairy tale dreams.

I didn’t need a man to love me to know what love is. Jesus had already been showing me love. I think the greatest picture of His love (for me) was how He rescued me from this relationship. I was foolish and stubborn, insisting on my own way. I loved this boy, and no one could say anything that would make me stop and listen. When it turned sour, I began to break. I started to see what a fool I had been. I was scared and full of guilt and shame. I came to Jesus, like a child, begging Him to forgive me and set me free. He brought people into my life at just the right time so I could get the help I needed. I felt like He had grabbed me and pulled me up just as I was falling into a pit.

All this time He has been drawing me closer to Himself. His unconditional love has taught me how to love. His full forgiveness has taught me how to forgive. He has been healing my brokenness so that I can be full instead of empty.

I hope to love someone one day, but it will not be from a needy, broken heart. It will be from a heart He has restored (as only He can).

I am not my own. I do not belong to anyone here on earth (and I never will).

I belong to Jesus.

Finding Joy

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Psalm 30:5b

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

 

I’ve been realizing something gradually over the past six months. After hearing for years about joy, I had always thought, How can you have joy when you’re hurting? How can you feel joy when all you actually feel is deep sorrow? I had always understood joy as being the opposite of how I felt–happiness when I felt miserable. This unattainable state of perpetual bubbliness over how wonderful life is, when all I could do was lie in bed and weep from the deepest part of my soul. There must be something wrong with me spiritually, I thought, because I obviously don’t have that joy every Christian is supposed to have–smiling even when life is falling apart.

 

But joy is not pure happiness despite your circumstances. It’s not getting rid of those negative emotions when life has hit you hard.

 

You know when you really feel joy? It’s after that terrible news sitting in a hospital room, realizing that there may not be much hope for someone you love to get better. It’s in those tears running down your face because you’ve waited so long to be here, and now everything’s going wrong, and you have no idea what’s going to happen in the future. It’s saying, “God, what are You doing? Why is this happening to us?” It’s in that prayer, “Lord, I don’t know the future, and I’m scared right now, but I know You’re taking care of us, so please give me strength so I can be a support to my family and show them Your love.” It’s what comes alongside sorrow and bears you up and helps you keep going. It’s when you’re all alone but you understand like you never have before that in reality, you’re not alone.

 

It’s finding God when you feel like you’re drowning and there’s no one else who understands the way He does.

 

You can’t truly experience joy until you’ve experienced pain. You can’t understand that feeling of great hope despite the chaos unless your world has been shaken.
I know that pain and suffering won’t go away until we get to Heaven. Until then, God will give us joy in Himself as we cling to Him even when everything’s wrong and we don’t know how to fix it. He meets us where we’re at and heals our brokenness a little bit every day. On days when we feel defeated, He’s still right here, giving us comfort. On days when life is good, He’s here giving us happiness. I know that we can’t experience pure joy here on earth, but one day we will when we see His face and He wipes away our tears. I look forward to that day.

Story of a Young Woman

I know I haven’t written for about a month. It’s been busy around here. 😛

This story is what I’ve been struggling through for a long time. Recently I’ve been finding peace from drawing closer to my Savior and finding my identity in him. I hope it encourages you!

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She’s a beautiful young woman, inside and out, even when she can’t see it. She’s strong even when she’s ugly crying in her room at night. When she walks into a room, she’s not the first person everyone notices. She has a girly laugh and she wrinkles her nose when she smiles. People who know her would say she’s sweet but quiet. People who know her well would say they love her and appreciate her friendship. She loves and is loved. She’s also single. Very single.

She remembers a time when she wasn’t single, and she thought she was the happiest she’d ever been. It turned out to be a tragedy when the boy broke her heart not just once, but a thousand times. She felt weak because he told her she was weak. She felt trapped because he told her he couldn’t live without her. Then one day, she ran from him and didn’t look back. She cried so many tears they could have filled multiple oceans over the passing years. She healed little by little every day until she felt almost strong again. Then she wanted to love again, but as she looked and looked, there was nobody. She would meet someone, but every time it would turn out he only wanted to be friends.

Is this my future? she wonders, her heart sinking. Am I just not good enough? What is wrong with me?

She tries to be okay. She tries to tell herself it’s not her fault. She tries to push away the fear that she will be alone forever.

She looks around at her friends, and she sees other women who feel the same way. She smiles because she realizes she’s not alone. She looks up, remembering the One Who loves her more than any man could ever love her. She begins to smile little by little every day. She opens her hands, letting go of what she wants her future to be. She asks Him to help her trust. Her trust has been shaken by people, but she knows He can heal those wounds.

She continues to love and be loved. She continues to hope in Him. She knows He will grow her into the woman He wants her to be. One day, she believes, good things will happen.

She knows now that she is not alone. She was never alone.

New Idea…

I’ve fallen in love with a new story. At first it was supposed to be a short story idea to give me a break from my novel, Voice, but as I’ve been working on it, I’m realizing it’s deepening into a novel (possibly even a series; who knows?) I’m sure you’re curious to hear more about it, so…

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The Princess Game is the working title, and as you can see, I had a little too much fun making a potential cover (hehe). Basic synopsis:

“When Arabella comes to the palace as one of four beautiful young ladies chosen as potential brides for the prince, she has no intention of being his first choice. But then an assassination attempt on the prince’s life goes awry, throwing them together when she is injured as a result of saving his life. As she and Prince Bayard fall in love while trying to protect each other and find out who the would-be assassins are, Arabella wonders if she actually wants to return home now, despite the great danger she’s in.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“You mean a lot to me,” he said.

I felt like he had shot an arrow right through my heart. “No,” I said, trying to hang on to the anger I had a moment ago. “That can’t be true.”

He didn’t say anything at first. He was waiting for me turn around. I could have walked away right then, but something kept me there, rooted to the floor.

“You’ve been totally disinterested in the whole thing from the beginning,” I said. 

“Not quite true either, although I admit I acted that way at first.”

I turned around to find him closer, his eyes directly gazing into mine with an intensity that made my legs suddenly weak. “Why?” was the only word I could say.

“Because I wasn’t sure what I wanted, and I didn’t like the way my father was pushing me to marry some girl I didn’t even know.” He put up a hand before I could respond to that. “But then, when I walked into the dining hall that first night, and you–” He paused, and I knew he was going to same something important, something that would change everything.

That was when I heard the whirring, coming closer and fast. I saw the arrow hurtling toward Bayard, and on impulse, barreled myself right into the prince’s chest…

I’m so excited about this new story! I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen and where my imagination will take it. Arabella and Prince Bayard are my new favorite characters. Now I know what I’m writing for Camp NaNoWriMo in April or July… 🙂

Why VOICE?

July 2013, at the beach with my parents. That’s when I first had the idea for Voice. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of 7 intense months at the end of April, and I was still grieving over the terrible loss I felt inside. Walking up and down the beach in the evenings, I tried to imagine how wonderful it would be when I found someone much better than my ex one day. 560516_514333021979063_11132853_n

I wanted to write a story and use the feelings and the pain I felt to fuel a complicated, failing relationship between two characters, but the experience was still too raw and real for me to write about it.

That fall, I went back to school. Life got crazy, as I’d hoped it would, but my pain only deepened. I thought it was supposed to get better, but it seemed like every day I just felt like I didn’t know how to go on. When we stopped, I stopped, and I didn’t know how to get moving again. I was such a mess of ups and downs, people didn’t want to be around me anymore. Some friends stuck by me, doing what they could to help me through my grief process, understanding and loving me even when I was unlovable. Others grew tired of being around me, and left me because they didn’t want to deal with my pain. I grew a lot that year, working through the questions I still had, trying to find peace with not having all the answers. I wondered if a heart, once broken, could ever truly heal. I wondered how someone who seemed to love you so much could treat you so badly. I hoped to find someone who would treat me well, but in the end, I found God’s love and the friends, old and new, who stayed to help me pick up the pieces and move on.

I graduated in May, wondering as the summer and early fall passed what I was going to do with my life. And then in October I decided to do something I’d never done before. I decided to write a 50,000 word novel for National Novel Writing Month in November.

Voice was born that month. I wrote the entire rough draft in one month, pouring into it all the feelings I felt over a failed relationship that had defined my life for so long. I used my own experiences to empathize with my main character, who had been through a physically abusive relationship (though mine had been only emotional abuse). As my protagonist gained her voice, so did I. The next few years of writing multiple drafts of Voice helped my healing process. Instead of a tragedy, my experience became the catalyst for a beautiful story of moving on and healing after experiencing terrible loss.

Rose and Lewis have taught me so much as I’ve written and rewritten their story. I can say now I’m thankful for that failed relationship and the pain that came with it, for without it I could never have written this story. Voice still has a long way to go, but it’s come a long way (just like I have as an author). I can’t wait until you get to read it. I hope it becomes as dear to you as it is to me.

Best Young Adult Books to Read if You’re a Hopeless Romantic

Looking for book recommendations for Valentine’s Day? Here are several of my favorite love stories and why I love them so much:

  1. The Winner Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

I’m putting this first because I know you’ll love this trilogy even if you’re not a hopeless romantic (like me). Betrayal, war, forbidden love. Prepare to have your heart torn up into tiny shreds. Kestrel, a privileged general’s daughter, buys Arin, a handsome young slave, on impulse, setting off an irrevocable chain of events, including falling in love with him despite everything that’s against them. They can only break each others’ hearts.

2. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

My favorite of all the Dessen books! Annabel, previously a popular model, becomes an outcast at school following something that happened at a party last summer. She meets Owen, also an outcast and big music nerd, who gently helps her open up about what happened to cause her downward spiral. Annabel and Owen are my favorite characters ever. I definitely want to reread this book in the summer!

3. P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

A cute, fun read about Lily who starts writing song lyrics on a desk one day and finds someone’s written a response the next day. They start writing letters to each other after that, and Lily wonders, Who is this mysterious pen pal? Does she know him? And…is she falling for him?

4. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Hadley meets a British boy named Oliver on her flight to England for her dad’s wedding, and they become fast friends, talking about anything and everything the whole night on the plane. But the next morning, they lose each other at the airport. Can Hadley find him in crowded London and make it back to the wedding reception on time? It seems nearly impossible.

5. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Paige is trying to move on after her boyfriend’s death, but it’s hard when all she feels is guilt when she makes even the smallest of steps. Her new crush doesn’t even seem to like her as more than a friend, and Max, his nerdy cousin, isn’t helping at all, getting her involved in the QuizBowl team. Sure, he’s becoming a great friend, but she couldn’t ever like him…could she?

 

I hope you like my suggestions. Maybe next time you go to the library, you can take a look at one of these!

Do you have any favorite books to share with me? Let me know in the comments.