Femnista: Frances Burney

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My article on Frances Burney, the Mother of the Novel, is up today at Femnista! Please check it out and let me know what you think. Click Here to read it.

 

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The Novel That Would Kill Me

Every writer seems to have one. Its a novel you begin, a novel that consumes you, a novel you can’t seem to let go of, no matter how hard you try. A novel that is perfect in your eyes, but for some unknown reason, the rest of the world can’t fathom its genius (I am speaking from experience.)

For Louisa May Alcott, it was “Moods.” In the 1850s and 1860s, she wrote her “blood and thunder tales” under various pseudonyms. After serving as a nursing during the Civil War and tasting success from the publication of her wartime letters, she tried her hand at a serious novel. “Moods” was the result and it was the book after her own heart. To her dismay, when she published it, it was heavily edited and lost many of its best scenes. Louisa went on to write her autobiographical novel, “Little Women” and other “moral pap for the young” to support herself and her family. However, she could not forget “Moods.” In the 1880s, she worked on “Moods” again and published a new edition of it, one to satisfy herself. Her audience never quite knew what to make of “Moods,” however, it is better appreciated today.

Jane Austen also had a novel she could not let go of, however, she was luckier than most authors. She began “First Impressions” in her early twenties, writing it in the epistolary style (it is a novel told in a series of letters). With her father’s help, Jane sent a query letter to a publisher, only to have it rejected sight unseen. Sixteen years passed and, in that time, Jane wrote other novels, but “First Impressions” remained close to her heart and it is believed she worked on it continually. After publishing “Sense and Sensibility,” she returned to “First Impressions” and revised it, then the publishers “lopped and cropped” it. In 1813, “Pride and Prejudice,” was published to critical acclaim and the love for it has not waned in two hundred years.

Now, we all are not lucky enough to be Jane Austen. Or even Louisa May Alcott. Most authors’ first novels are never published. It’s a difficult pill to swallow; believe me, I know. I spent the greater part of ten years trying to choke that pill down. You see, when I was sixteen, I began The Novel That Would Kill Me. It was an improvement compared to what I had been writing, but somehow, I deluded myself into thinking that The Novel That Would Kill Me was my masterpiece. I spent seven straight years fixated on that novel, until I finally realized that it was utter and complete crap. In my seven years of work, my novel devolved rather than evolved into something great. I needed to work on something else and I did. Unfortunately, I hit a rough patch in my life and wanted something familiar to comfort me, so I rewrote The Novel That Would Kill Me. Thankfully it only claimed three more years of my life before I threw in the towel. And I haven’t looked back.

The point I am trying to make is not to become so lost in a WIP that you lose yourself and your focus. Don’t limit yourself to one project. Broaden your horizons, try something new. You’ll be surprised at the results.

Jack Pearson

::SPOILER ALERT::

You may not want to read this if you haven’t watched “This Is Us.” There will be spoilers.

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I have lately become obsessed with the show, “This Is Us.” Its been a long, long time a show has made me laugh, cry, and find personal healing. As you get to know the Pearson family and their loved ones, you grow to love them and feel part of their struggles. Everyone has a favorite, myself included.

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Jack Pearson (played by the immensely talented Milo Ventimiglia; congrats on the Emmy nomination) stole my heart right away. I never had a chance. He is a kind, thoughtful, goofy, intelligent man who lives and dies for his family. He’s not perfect, he is an alcoholic and must come to terms with that. But somehow his imperfections make him perfect to his wife and kids (and to me too), and it makes him a perfect character.

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In an age when most TV fathers resemble Homer Simpson, its refreshing to have a TV father for this generation who has integrity. Jack isn’t stupid, or a slob, or the butt of another’s jokes. Without being cliché, he lives by his morals and is determined to be a good man his family can be proud of. He encourages his children to do what is right, for them to be the best versions of themselves, and to follow their dreams. When life gives him lemons, he makes lemonade.

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I don’t know how Dan Fogelman and the writers did it, but they created a three-dimensional hero we all love. Its every writer’s aspiration to create a character that will live in the hearts of the audience. I suppose we must write from the heart first before our characters can live in the heart.

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Season 3 of “This Is Us” begins on September 25th. Check it out. You won’t regret it.

Hero(ine)

I’ve been working on a new short story the last few days. Another mystery. I never viewed myself as a mystery writer, but that seems to be the genre I am falling into. When I first came up with this story, the protagonist, who investigates a peculiar death, was going to be a man. The concept was sound and it would have made for a decent story. Or not. Knowing me, I would have easily tired of the hero because there was nothing remarkable about him. I had no backstory or face claim. He was just there.

Before I started on the story, it occurred to me that, It would be far more interesting if my protagonist were a woman. But I wasn’t sure it would work. This current short story takes place in the 1930s. Women only received the right to vote ten years prior and it wasn’t common for women to work outside the home. At least not where this story is set. Never mind investigating crimes. And then I remembered a movie I had watched awhile back, which was based in the 1930s. One of the characters, a woman, was in law enforcement. The movie was inspired by a true story.

Suddenly my protagonist became woman and it felt right. I now had this fascinating backstory for my heroine. Everything made sense. I rewrote my outline and made new notes and now I am almost finished with the first draft. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Yes, I had to do quite a bit of work on this story and will have to do more before I can attempt to send it off. But it was worth it. This monumental change salvaged the story. Sometimes a huge change or revision – whatever it may be – is required for the story or a novel to flow better. Give it a shot. It worked well for me.

Until next time.

Femnista Article: The Russian Revolution

My latest Femnista article has been posted. It is about the Russian Revolution. To read it CLICK HERE.

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Writing about the Russian Revolution was a true honor. Not only should we remember that dark history, but that point in history has always been of interest to me. When I was a teen, I was obsessed with the Romanov family. Anastasia Romanov especially. The hundredth anniversary of the Romanov family’s deaths was July 16/17, 2018. May we never forget and may they rest in peace.

Creativity

My minister spoke about creativity on Sunday, which inspired me to do a post on it. His message was how to win people to the Lord using our creativity. Mine, while touching on faith, is more about tapping into the gifts that God has given us. So this post is a juxtapose on what he said and what I feel about creativity.

God is creative. The word “created” is used three times in Genesis 1:27. All you have to do is go outside and marvel at some of His creations. He is the great artist.

We are created in God’s Image. We have value. No matter what anyone tells you, you are not a mistake. You are loved and were created for a reason.

Since we were created in God’s Image, we are creative. He instilled in us our creative nature. The urge we have to use our hands or that talent we have, it comes directly from Him.

Every person is a creative person. Maybe you don’t see it, but you are. Some creative talents are buried down deep and requires a little investigating to unearth. This means trying something new. It can be frightening at first, but it is worth it.

God expects us to use our creativity. He doesn’t want to stifle us; He wants us to live life to the fullest. For some it is writing, others paint…teaching, crafts, public speaking, gardening, singing…whatever it is, He knows it brings you joy and He gave it to you for a reason.

What does it take to be creative? Confidence, observation, humility, mindfulness, curiosity, resourcefulness, energy, action, perseverance, and faith. All of these qualities are gifts God has bestowed on you.

So, whatever it is, give it a try. You won’t regret it!

God bless!

Publishing Drought

I have had not one – but two fictional stories accepted for publication in the last few weeks. Not only am I ecstatic, but I was also stunned. I hadn’t had anything accepted since July 2017. Eleven months. I call that period my publishing drought.

Eleven months of story submissions, rejections, crying, begging God, tearing my hair out…I was beginning to doubt I’d ever get another story accepted. I began to wonder if all of my previous publications had been sheer dumb luck. I’ll be the first to admit that I can only write the story that’s burning within me. Never mind trying to figure out what an editor might want, let alone an audience. I can’t compete with the professionals.

I have to continue on as I have been, writing where the muse leads me. Right now, it is speculative stories. Each is personal to me though.

The point of this post is not to give up. It’s simple: if you give up on your craft, then you will never achieve your dreams. But if you hope and continue to persevere, I truly believe something will come of it.

To celebrate the publication of these stories, I hope to host a giveaway. Stay tuned for more details!