Martha v. Mary

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NKJV)

Ugh. I don't know about you, but when I read this story, it makes me feel Jesus is unfair. Martha was doing her best to serve, while Mary got to be lazy and didn't care that her sister was working her tail end off trying to make a decent offering for the Lord. Martha's doing her best, right? Exactly what was she doing wrong?

Earlier in Luke 10 the Message Version says - All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God's authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God, but what God does for you -- that's agenda for rejoicing.

If our concentration is on what we are doing for God rather than what He is doing for us, our focus becomes wrong. It can seem like we're doing great things, but we're missing out on the miracles God is doing in our lives, and can easily begin to boast about how great we are.

Saving is all His idea, and all his work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play a major role, if we did, we'd probably going around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! (Ephesians 2:8 Message)

Human nature is to take credit for things. We want what is due us, right?

Lately I've been neglecting my prayer and Bible study time, because I've been working on writing and editing my work. This is Christian fiction and devotionals we're talking about. All for His glory, right? Wrong. 

And that's where Martha went wrong, too. 

If I am too busy to sit down and listen to Jesus, because I want to present Him with the best meal/offering He's ever had, then I am wrong. It becomes about me instead of Him.  And that's just what Martha did. 

There is a time and a place for everything. I need to focus my life on developing my relationship with God, not on doing stuff for Him. That has its time and place, yes, but He wants me, not what I can do for Him. I need to remember that, and it's my prayer that we all remember it, too.

Camp Nano June2012 Recap

I cheated for Camp NaNoWriMo this round. I had already written 14000 words in my novel Sanctuary and decided the 50K would be best spent in completing a first draft of this project. The result: 25 days into June, and I added 50,144 words to Sanctuary for a total of 64,144. A short novel is my result. My second complete full-length novel.


It needs a sequel. The larger story arc of man vs. aliens/zombies is incomplete. I will need another 60k+ to finish it out. *Sigh* I have another project on my list to complete. Does it ever end?

I think my Sanctuary series will only have two episodes. That’s my plan, but it was my plan for it to be a standalone novel to begin with. Actually, my original plan was for it to be a short story. Do you see how these things go?

What I learned in this round of NaNo:

1. Write – even when you hate the story. ~ I’m a pantster and while writing this story, I hated it. It had a few high points, and I loved the characters, but I felt like it was pure drivel that no one was going to want to read. I told myself to persevere and finish it anyway even if it ended up in a drawer somewhere to never be looked at again. In the end, I love the story. Go figure.

My fears about this story lie in the fact that it had zombies in it. Or maybe it was the fact it had aliens in it. Or both. Yes. BOTH. Kind of like lime green with a zebra print – you can have one, but both?
To me, it felt way too fantastical to be real. In order to make it believable, I had to create characters that were true and that I could relate to. Even the bad guy was a hero to me for a little while. Once I made them genuine and created livable relationships between them, it no longer mattered that there were zombies and aliens present in the story. THEY weren’t the focus – I mean, come on, you can only be attacked by zombies and survive it so many times without the reader/author rolling his/her eyes.

2. One step at a time.  ~ I got through my last Nano using word sprints. This time I couldn’t find people to do them with me. So I found a way to sprint myself. I made the small goal of 500 words. If I can just write 500 more words, I’ll take a break. I’ll stop and reward myself. I’ll stop and play on Facebook. 500 in the morning, 500 during lunch, 500 in the evening – it all adds up. In the end, some days (2 of them) I wrote 500 words; other days, I wrote 4000 (2 of those); but most days, I wrote 1500-2000 which is what is needed to complete Nano.

3. I love a bittersweet ending. ~ My books don’t end with “happily ever after” but they don’t end where everyone dies. Both of my novels have ended in tears of sadness tempered by tears of joy. Give some, take some. What it does is keeps out the predictability and gives the reader a moment of sadness which makes the happiness that much more palatable. We’ll see if this trend keeps up.

With my first novel, I had a reader attempt to tell me how he thought the story would end after reading the first 20%.  His predictions were off by a quite a bit, and it made me happy to say that at least I’m not predictable. Who wants to read predictable? I tried that once in a short story – I hated the story, and it was rejected by a market. I didn’t resubmit.

4. My female characters can’t tell a good guy from a hole in the ground. ~ What is that about? In both my novels, a major female character falls for the wrong guy. Wonder if that will continue with my next one?

Writing is a journey of self-discovery. I’m learning about myself as I create characters and the adventures that they are subjected to. As I react with them, I find out what I love, what I hate, and every compromise in between. I have so many stories to tell; it’s great some of them are finally making it onto my hard drive, where I can edit them to my heart’s content. Maybe some of them you’ll get to read someday—if you’re lucky and if I can ever stop tinkering with them.

Pursued by Failure?

Proverbs 28:1 - The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion.

Fear of failure often stops people from chasing their dreams. We run away from that failure before it even occurs. As authors, if we are afraid that no one will like our work, we'll be afraid to submit it. When you don't submit, you'll never deal with rejection. But by never submitting, you have already failed to be published, right?

Often our writing is like our cooking - we like it, and our spouse likes it, but does it mean that the general population will? Share your dish at a potluck, and you'll worry that no one will try it, people who try it might throw it away, or even tell others how much they hate it or what an awful cook you are. But who knows? You may have the cooking talent to create the dish everyone raves about and returns for seconds. Which will it be? If you never put a dish out there, you'll never know!

And those who self publish are not immune - the judges of your books then become the reviewers who can often be more cruel than an editor.

The average BESTSELLING author was rejected half the time before making a big break. That means half the places where they submitted work didn't take it. This is mostly referring to short stories and non-fiction articles. Novels get rejected MORE than half the time.

So what do we do? As authors, our job is to make our writing the best it can possibly be. As Christians, this is MORE true, not less. Even if we then put forth our best foot, we must realize that it still could use improvement.

Last week, I received a rejection letter (I'm in good company with about half the work I send out accepted, half rejected) for a piece that I really like. Here's the letter I received:

I was actually quite surprised by the ending, but I think that was mostly because I thought the narrator was a man. It's important to classify the gender of your first person narrator early on to avoid confusion. I liked the setup with the pictures, but I did wonder what they were for. I had the impression that the man she refers to was a serial killer who killed unremarkable women, but it never really gets brought up and I'm left to speculate. Also, why is she here in the apartment? What is she cleaning up? Is she police, FBI, forensic scientist? Why is no one else with her? I needed more explanation to assist with the images you've given us. 
-- Editor #1

I enjoyed this! You made the black and white images come alive, I felt as if I was looking at the pictures myself. I also liked the opening sentence, it hooked me in. I thought it was interesting how you closed with the last word as "me." I would have liked to known more about you in connection to the photos. I vote yes, overall a strong story with room to expand. 
-- Editor #2 

Really beautiful imagery and sensory detail in this. All of the little things--the tack biting her, the smell of the chemicals, the sound of the window--really put me in the story. I can see what Tara is saying about the confusion over the gender of the MC, and of the details of what she was doing there. But I actually wasn't bothered by it. In fact, the mystery of these things is partly what held my interest. And I actually like that the end is open-ended enough to allow for a few different interpretations. I entertained a few of my own and enjoyed each one equally. 
-- Editor #3

Some solid writing here, and I think the author does a nice job of building suspense. My fundamental concern is, who is this person, and why is she looking through all these photos? Is she the new tenant? At first I thought we were at a crime scene. Also, for some reason I believed I was looking through the eyes of a male MC, only to learn at the end it was a woman. Finally, I believe the prose at the end is a bit overwritten: "A picture tore from its dance and fluttered like a black and white butterfly to the floor." 
-- Editor #4

Very nice prose and some lovely imagery. Unfortunately, I have to agree with Tara and Carol that without some idea of who the protagonist is, I found it hard to connect with the story. I also had a bit of trouble seeing any resolution to the story -- we find out that there's a photo of the protagonist among the others, which is obviously creepy, but then the story cuts off without even a hint of what might happen to resolve the situation. 
-- Editor #5

Unfortunately due to the insanely massive amounts of submissions in our slush pile, we cannot reconsider your piece at this time. 
We wish you good luck in placing the story elsewhere. 

So as you can see from the editors' comments on the flash fiction, there were some who loved it, some who were so-so on it, and some who couldn't get past the flaws. BUT I admit there were flaws. So what am I to do? Should I flee from failure by not re-submitting, or should I fix the issues and try again, like a brave little lion?

Raising Awareness for the Persecuted Church

In order to spread awareness of the persecuted church, Voice of the Martyrs has the kindle editions of their bestselling books on sale: SpiritFilledKindle's VOM Markdowns Page.

 But for those of you that don't have a Kindle, here's your opportunity: I bought these paperbacks from VOM last year, but hadn't read them yet. They are still shrink wrapped and completely brand new! Since the Kindle versions are on sale for $1 each, I bought them for my Kindle. So now I'm reducing my personal library by GIVING THESE THREE BOOKS AWAY!

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