A New Thing

At the writing retreat I attended a couple of weeks ago, one of the speakers read a verse from Isaiah 43 that I have been pondering ever since: Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

As with most jobs, I’m sure, writing can feel like a lot of old things happening over and over: rejection, editing, revising, more editing, writer’s block, more revising, more rejection etc., etc. But every once in a while the new happens – a new idea for a book or a scene, a new contract, new book, new covers. And the new somehow manages to make all the old well worth it.

Today I am celebrating receiving the first hard copies of The Seven Trilogy with the new covers (and a new title for Book 2):

Seven Trilogy - front covers

Although the books came out in 2015 and 2016, today they feel brand new and I’m excited to see what will happen with them now.

Other new things to celebrate with my work? The release date for my next book, the first in a trilogy currently titled The Night Guardian Series, is now June 2019, so watch for more updates on that as the time approaches. As well, I am planning to launch a newsletter (no pun intended) soon that will come out monthly and be short, sweet, hopefully funny and a little bit inspiring as I share my life, faith, work, and family with anyone who might be interested. I’ll let you know how to sign up to receive that as soon as it’s ready to go.

It is easy to get weighed down by the old, by the mundane. But if our eyes are open to see them, God gifts us with glimpses of the new all around us–the sunrise every morning signalling a new day, the changing colours of the leaves outside my window, signs of a new season beginning, births and weddings, photos coming back from the Hubble telescope revealing the existence of universes we never dreamed existed–so many things that provide clear evidence that He is a creator and always at work doing “a new thing.”

And these new things are the reminders that give us hope as we talk to others or listen to the news and are burdened by all the old stories of injustice and suffering and death. They are the promise from God that one day all things will be put right, will, ultimately, be made new.

Seven Trilogy - spines

Just like the covers I am celebrating today (and yes, I agree, they do look pretty good hanging out with all those other great books and authors).

Press on, my friends,

Press on,

Sara

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The Actual Greatest Love of All

For three days this week, I attended a writer’s retreat on the beautiful conference grounds in my city. It was a wonderful time of reuniting with old friends and making new ones. As it always is, it was a joy to gather with others who share both my faith and my passions.

pen and Bible

It was also a time of being gently pushed out of my comfort zone. At one mealtime, a small stone with a single word carved on one side and a Bible verse on the other was left at each place, meant to be used as a writing prompt. Near the end of the retreat, we were encouraged to share a piece inspired by that word. I did manage to both write something and muster up the courage to get up and share it. Although it was raw and rough, and still is, I read it to my fellow writers and I will share it here:

I rolled the stone over and over in my palm. The one word engraved on its side was meant to inspire me to write, to capture the essence of those four letters in a few hundred words. Problem was, the small word on the side of the rock was far too big to encapsulate in a few hundred words, or a few thousand.

I glanced at the words on the stones of the fellow writers around my table. Forgiveness. Joy. Strength. Also not easy concepts to capture in a page or two of writing, but a little more achievable. Hmm. No one sat at the place two seats over. From where I sat, I could see that the word on that stone was Peace. Now that was an idea I could write about. Peace like a river. Peace in the midst of the storm. The word conjured up endless possibilities and pithy proverbs. Could I stroll by, on the pretext of grabbing another helping of roast beef and gravy, and casually scoop it up without anyone noticing?

I sighed. Maybe I should just trust that the right stone with the right word had found its way to my place at the table.

But love? How could you possibly write paragraphs on love without sounding corny, or trite, a little too Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts? The word is liberally applied in our society—we love everything from our family to our country to pizza with extra cheese—using the same four letters for each.

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In Greek, there is more than one way to say love, each conveying a different type. Agape, meaning unconditional love, God for mankind, Philia, or the love that exists between close friends, Storge, the love that grows between family members, and Eros, or romantic love. The distinctions are helpful, and could really be useful in English, possibly with the addition of one for the love of pizza or maybe chocolate.

But my assignment won’t be written in Greek, and neither was the word on my stone, so I was stuck. The lyrics of a myriad of schmaltzy pop songs floated through my head. Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. All you need is love. When a man loves a woman. Crazy little thing called love. None of which, in my opinion, come close to capturing the true meaning of the word, likely because its overuse has rendered the word virtually meaningless.

Then two lessons from my childhood Sunday school lessons flitted in, driving out the musical drivel, thankfully. God is love, and greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Ah. God is love, and what Christ did on the cross, that was love. No wonder I can’t find the words to express it; love–true, unconditional, Godly love–is inexpressible. It is not a word carved in stone, it is the Word hanging on a tree. For me. For all fallen humanity. Love isn’t a four letter word, it is the essence of God. It is the ultimate act of sacrifice and redemption. The word hasn’t lost all meaning, it gives meaning to everything and everyone in existence.

So what do I do with this now, this tiny word printed across a small rock? If I truly grasp that God is love and in love he gave himself for me, what can I do but love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love my neighbour as myself?

Because what matters is not how we say that little word, it is how we live it out in our lives.

                                                                                                Press on, my friends.

                                                                           Press on,

                                                                           Sara

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Just Tell Me Why

A few years ago, my daughter and her friends were standing in their schoolyard across from a dollar store. They noticed a teenaged woman running out of the store with a big bag in each hand. As she hurried across the parking lot, several items from the bags spilled onto the ground. The young woman ignored them and kept going, to the road and across the street. When she reached my daughter and her friends, she stopped for a moment and blurted out that she’d been caught taking things from the dollar store and did anyone want any of the items. Thankfully, they knew enough to refuse and watched her as she rushed down the sidewalk and disappeared around a corner.

My daughter and the other kids decided they should do something, so they went across to the parking lot picking up all the items. They returned them to the store and explained what they had seen. The manager was grateful and thanked them profusely.

Later, as my daughter told me the story, she stopped at this point, looked thoughtful, and said, “I know what she did was wrong, but I actually felt really sorry for her.”

When I asked her why, she replied, “Because all the stuff she stole was for a baby.”

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The entire story changed here, with the introduction of a plausible (and heart-wrenching) motivation for the crime. Clearly the teenager was a frightened new mom, desperately trying to provide for her child. Although her actions were undeniably wrong, it was difficult not to feel sympathy for her, as my daughter did.

The same thing happens with our characters when we write. Motivation for actions,  questionable or undeniably evil, can explain, if not necessarily excuse, those behaviours, thereby creating at least a tiny amount of sympathy for the character. And that sympathy is imperative in order to develop a multi-dimensional character that the reader can relate to, at least in some small way.

And maybe taking motivation into account can help to understand and empathize with not only the characters we are reading and writing about, but the people we encounter in our everyday lives as well. Something to consider, anyway.

Press on, my friends.

Press on,

Sara

 

 

 

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Judging a book by its Cover

My latest romantic suspense series, The Seven Trilogy, came out in 2015 and 2016. The books received great feedback, including a 4 ½ star, Top Pick rating from RT Reviews. They were finalists for several awards, including two Daphne du Maurier awards for excellence in suspense, and a Carol Award. The second book in the series won the Word Award for best inspirational suspense novel in Canada in 2016 and book three won a Cascade Award for best published contemporary fiction.
I was equally thrilled and mystified by what was happening with the books.
Thrilled by the great critical response, and mystified that the starred reviews and awards did not translate into sales. I conducted a poll recently in an effort to discover why. More than a hundred people responded, and about ninety percent told me what I had long suspected, that the problem was …

For complete post, go to https://wordservewatercooler.com/2018/06/04/judging-a-book-by-its-cover/

Press on, my friends.

Press on,

Sara

 

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Have We Met? Creating Characters Readers Will Feel They Know

Last semester at school, my daughter made friends with quite a few international students, including several from Mexico. So when one of them invited her to visit Mexico this past summer, my daughter was ecstatic. She had the time of her life, deepened her relationships with the friends she’d made here, and returned home already talking about her next trip.
A few days ago, an earthquake struck Mexico City, where her friends live. They texted her that day as they stood outside their school watching the walls crack and nearby buildings collapse.

earthquake-1665886__340

She and I watched the news together, glued to scenes of rescue efforts. My daughter studied faces, searching through the throngs of people stumbling over debris as they searched for the missing. Had she passed by some of those collapsed buildings when she’d been in that city just a few weeks earlier? Quite possibly. Did she know any of the people walking by, streaked with dirt, hands scratched from digging through rubble, or shouting with joy when they were reunited with a loved one? She might. People she knew well, friends she loved, were impacted by this disaster. They were afraid, traumatized, comforting friends and strangers, tired, homeless, helping others. So she couldn’t tear her eyes from the screen. And because I knew their names, had heard their stories, had witnessed the love and friendship they shared with my daughter, neither could I …

Blogging today over at the WordServe Watercooler. Check out the rest of this post at https://wordservewatercooler.com/2017/10/03/have-we-met-creating-characters-your-readers-will-feel-they-know/

Press on, my friends. Press on,

Sara

 

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The God We Draw Our Readers To

“Your book really helped draw me closer to God.”

Are there any more thrilling words for a Christian author to hear? That is, after all, our ultimate goal, isn’t it? To point our readers to God?

That is certainly the main reason I write. Because God gives me the stories and I want to be obedient in writing them down to the best of my ability and to do what I can to get them into the hands of readers. Not for my glory, so they can know me better, but for His glory, so they can know Him better.

So yes, that feedback thrills me like no other. And it also terrifies me like no other…

Blogging today over at the WordServe Watercooler. Check out the rest of this post here: https://wordservewatercooler.com/2017/08/29/the-god-we-draw-our-readers-to/

Sara

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Seven Steps to Guaranteed Success as a Writer

Every author seems to have a different idea of what “success” in their field means to him or her. For some, selling at least five thousand (in Canada) or ten thousand (in the States) books, thereby qualifying them to claim the lofty title of “Bestselling Author” is the goal on which they set their sights. For others, maybe it’s a hundred thousand copies, or a million.

For some, it isn’t about the numbers, but about awards. But which award is the one that will make them feel as though they have finally arrived? Is it the Carol? The Christie? The Pulitzer? I’ve noticed several big-name authors who have won awards in the past entering the contests again, so maybe one award isn’t enough. What, then, is the magic number?

Or maybe it’s a certain amount of positive feedback, a sufficient number of glowing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, recognition at conferences or even on the streets, enough followers on social media.

You see the problem. Success is a wildly ambiguous and deeply personal concept. Chasing that elusive label can be and, I suspect, is in most cases, a discouraging, disheartening, and depressing endeavour. The intended audience for our work can be mind-numbingly uncooperative when it comes to providing us with the accolades, reviews, purchases, and general awestrucked-ness in our presence that would finally push us up to that mountain peak we are continually scrambling to reach. So too, for that matter, can agents, publishers, editors, and judges of contests….

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Blogging today over at the WordServe Watercooler. Check out the rest of this post at:https://wordservewatercooler.com/2017/06/27/seven-steps-to-guaranteed-success-as-a-writer/

 

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