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Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Post About Waiting

You can get so confused 
that you'll start in to race 
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace 
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
 The Waiting Place... 

...for people just waiting. 
Waiting for a train to go 
or a bus to come, or a plane to go 
or the mail to come, or the rain to go 
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow 
or waiting around for a Yes or a No 
or waiting for their hair to grow. 
Everyone is just waiting. 

Waiting for the fish to bite 
or waiting for wind to fly a kite 
or waiting around for Friday night 
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake 
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break 
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants 
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. 
Everyone is just waiting. 

~From Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss

It is impossible to be in the conservative Christian community without having read at least one “purity book.” In my case, I’ve read several. More than several. Well, let’s be honest. I’ve read parts of more than several.

I’ve only read parts, because after one or two, it’s all the same information. Some people just tell it differently. But, the info’s the same.

But, I’m not here to post on the info you find within the pages of every book on purity. I’m here to post about what you don’t find within those pages.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a twenty-year-old young woman who has never been in a relationship of a romantic nature. Which means I have never been on a date (unless you count the daddy-daughter kind), have never been kissed, and have never told someone I loved them before (in a romantic sort of way).

At this stage of my life, I’m in a waiting period. Waiting for a lot of things, but mostly waiting for the right young man to come and lay claim to my heart. Until that day comes, my heart is on reserve, being kept for “the One.”

So, what’s the problem? I mean, I’m following all the advice the books on purity give. I’m doing it all the right way, the way God wants me to. So, where does the trouble lie? Why am I writing this post?

Because there are so many things the writers of these books leave out. So many things they forgot to mention. And, I want anyone who is in this same place to know they are not alone.

So, things the books forget to mention:

They forget to mention what it feels like to wake up alone day after day. How it feels to fall asleep without another person beside you.

They forget to mention how much it hurts to see everyone around you pairing up and getting engaged or married. How in turn the hurt makes you feel like a horrible person because you want to be happy for the people in your life who have found what you so badly want.

They forget to mention how it feels to want something so badly, to long for it with every part of your being but at the same time be overwhelmed with the reality that you may never see the desire fulfilled.

They don’t mention the sleepless nights filled with tears, the empty afternoons when you don’t feel much of anything, the longing that stirs every time you read or watch any sort of romantic storyline (which is pretty often in our society).

They never offer advice on what to do when your friends are teasing you about someone and all you want to do is scream because you’re tired of people reminding you that, yes, you are still single. They never tell you how to tell your friends to stop because what you think of the person isn’t relevant. It’s what they think of you, and it’s obviously nothing, so it doesn’t matter if you like that person.

They never tell you how to deal with it when people tell you that you’re still single because “God knows the exact right time for it to happen and don’t you want to be the best person you can be when you meet them?” Which always sounds like “You’re not good enough yet and God knows it, so have fun waiting some more.” How do you deal with the insecurity, the desire to be “good enough”?

I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want it to hurt, I don’t want to cry or feel empty, and I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m not good enough. I struggle with insecurities enough as it is.

Yet, so often I feel like Rapunzel at the beginning of Tangled, going through the motions of my daily routine, all the while wondering When will my life begin?

But, here’s the thing: my life began on July 15th, twenty years ago, in a hospital in Syracuse, NY. For all you pro-lifers, I’ll even go so far as to say it began nine months before that, with two people so in love I grew out of the result of that love.

My life begins each morning when I wake up and decide I have to get out of bed, no matter how I’m feeling. It begins every moment, every breath I take. Every second is a choice to live.

Tomorrow is not promised to me. My next breath isn’t even promised. So, why am I wasting so much time waiting? Why am I putting a stamp on these years God has given me, one that says my life is in limbo instead of the paradise I can make it?

Contentment is hard. It is something I know I will not achieve every day. There will always be days when it hurts, when I want to cry or scream or even both. There will still be nights when I fall asleep alone, wishing I was falling asleep in someone’s arms.

But, I can still make an effort to strive toward contentment. I can march toward it, making that my goal, rather than a dream God may or may not fulfill.

Am I doing things with my time just to busy myself and make this period of my life go by faster? Or, am I doing things for the sake of doing them? Am I enjoying the opportunities God has given me? Or, am I rushing through them, missing the life I have now in hopes of a life to come?

I am not getting any younger. I don’t want to look back someday and regret not enjoying these years. Especially if I never end up married. How foolish will I feel then?

God has given me so many good things- the freedom to focus on writing and publishing; the opportunity to babysit some of the greatest kids ever; the chance to lead a book club of wonderful young girls; the opportunity to pass on my love of writing through my blog, and my students, and the young women in my life who have sought me out for advice and feedback; a sewing room full of projects just waiting for me to start or finish them; an entire library full of books, somewhere near 200, at least, and people I can share those books with; the freedom to stay up late talking to my best friend if I need or want to.

I’m not saying I won’t have these things or better things should I be in a relationship someday. I’m not saying I would have to give all of this up or make a trade, all of this for “true love.” I don’t know what my life will look like should God grant me that desire.

But, right now, my life is pretty amazing. And, I don’t want to let all of this pass me by simply because all of these things are not the one thing I really want. Because, honestly, I want all of these things too. And, I want to enjoy them while I have them, rather than rush through them to something new.

I want to make contentment my goal, my focus, the thing I am working toward. I want to strive to be the best writer/ teacher/ babysitter/ seamstress/ librarian/ blogger/ daughter/ best friend/ sister/ young woman I can possibly be. I want to live my life to the fullest, not mourning the things I do not have, but rejoicing in the things that I do. And then, should God see fit to send a young man my way, he will be a pleasant surprise instead of a necessity.

To end, another quote from Dr. Seuss:

That's not for you! 

Somehow you'll escape 
all that waiting and staying. 
You'll find the bright places 
where Boom Bands are playing. 

With banner flip-flapping, 
once more you'll ride high! 
Ready for anything under the sky. 
Ready because you're that kind of a guy! 

How about you? Are you in a place of waiting or discontentment? What’s the hardest part of this period for you?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Arguments and Blogging- Candor Questions

Emily asked: I've been writing and rewriting this one scene for a week now, and finally decided I need help. So, my question is: How do I write a realistic heated argument between two characters?

There are a lot of factors that could change the course of the argument, such as who is fighting and what their relationship is. As I don’t have those details, I’m just going to go ahead and give you the few points the pretty much apply to ever argument:

People don’t make sense
Often times when people argue, they get so worked up about the argument that they’re too excited to actually think rationally. Or, if your character is super rational, they’re probably thinking too rationally. Either way, their words probably won’t make too much sense. I mean, they shouldn’t be speaking nonsense, but they will make nonvalid points as if they are making very valid ones.

People hold grudges
Have you ever started arguing with someone about one thing and then next thing you know you’re arguing about something else entirely? You might be arguing about whose responsibility it was to get the mail this morning and next thing you know you’re fighting about whether or not it was your fault the cover got torn on a book you borrowed from the other person. Especially if there are girls involved, the argument is never about one thing. Never. It’s always about a lot more. Because as humans, we tend to bottle stuff up and when the cork flies out of the bottle, everything comes with it. More than likely whatever caused the argument is really just the straw that broke the camel’s back. There were other things that led up to this argument and whatever caused it was just the final thing whoever was involved is going to take.

Only in fiction does someone ever win
This one really bothers me. According to books and movies, most fights between good characters end with some sort of resolution. Eventually, one of the characters realizes mid-argument that they were wrong or the other person is right and next thing you know they’re apologizing and the argument is ending.

In real life, arguments end when someone interrupts or one or both parties storms off. After they have had time to cool down and remove themselves from the situation, they can then realize that, hey maybe they were wrong. Maybe the other person was right. But, never during a fight. Never. Because remember, they aren’t thinking rationally. They’re trying to win. Which leads to the next point:

People are more concerned with winning than anything else
Remember, the parties involved aren’t thinking rationally. This is why lawyers always get the witness mad (at least in the movies they do. If you have ever seen any sort of movie or TV show set in a courtroom, you know what I’m talking about). Because to the person who’s getting upset (the witness) it’s about winning. We will say or do whatever it takes to win the argument. Even if it means confessing to something we totally meant to keep a secret.

Or, no matter how valid a point one person makes, the other isn’t going to accept it. Or, even if they do, they’re probably going to push it away and look for the problems with that point. Because they want to win. They don’t care as much about what is actually right.

And, not a breakdown of arguments, but a writing tip- body language is a great tool here that not enough people take advantage of. If you show how worked up the characters are in the midst of their words, it creates an atmosphere that the readers can physically feel. If the characters are just sitting there, not moving, while they argue, it won’t feel as authentic. But, if one of them starts pacing, or if someone is clenching and unclenching their fists the whole time, it will add an extra layer to the scene.

If you’re looking for a good resource to help with emotions and body language, this book is great. It breaks down the different emotions and common ways it is shown. Again, helps add an extra layer of depth to your scenes.

Harpley asked: Do you have any advice for someone who might want to start their own blog, or things you wish you’d known earlier in your blogging journey?

First of all, make sure you know what your purpose for the blog is. If it’s a blog you’re just doing for you, it doesn’t matter, but if you want to reach people with it, don’t just make a blog about “stuff” and then post whatever you happen to feel like posting at the moment. Decide what you want to dedicate your blog to and then stick with it. If you don’t 100%, that’s fine, but at least for you have some idea to work with.

For instance, Within the Ivory Palace is dedicated to writing, with some reading stuff thrown in. So, I either post news about my writing, posts about writing advice, short stories or excerpts, or book reviews. Then, on Fridays, I’ll post other stuff, if people ask (and, I’m totally cool with them asking!) But, otherwise I try not to post too much about other stuff that isn’t related to my theme.

Second, make a schedule. Something I have noticed is that my page views peak on Fridays and Mondays. Why? Because that’s when I post. Even on weeks that I skip for some reason, people seem to check back to see if I have posted.

You don’t have to post twice a week. You don’t even have to post once a week. I would suggest no less than once every two weeks but otherwise, you can make it as flexible as you want.

And, lastly, write with confidence. This is your blog. You are writing about what you are passionate about. Take hold of that. Something that is often repeated in my house is “Confidence perceived is confidence achieved.” No one wants to read a blog by someone who is constantly saying, “I’m not really sure about this but…” Even if you never actually say those words, if you feel them, your readers will sense it in your writing. So, write boldly. Write with authority. This is your blog, your thoughts, your take in things, And, if someone disagrees with you, well, that’s their right.

And, that’s that! If you have a question for next week, be sure to send it in! In the meantime, I shall see you all on Monday!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

So You're Building a World? -- Part One

It seems like every time I turn around I meet an aspiring writer who is working on a fantasy. I’m not sure what it is about fantasy that makes everyone love it so much and want to write it (okay, if I thought on it enough, I’d be able to figure it out… but that’s a post for another day).

Right now I want to talk about world building and creating a culture for your fantasy story. It’s one of the most important areas of the planning stage, but one feel a lot of beginning authors fail in.

Here is a list of stereotypes I see a lot and ways in which you can fix them:


Everyone Speaks the Not Only the Same Language but Also the Same Dialect

Why is it that in fantasies everyone seems to speak the same language? Like, all the elves speak the same language, and the humans can all communicate with each other, and then the fairies have their own way language too.

In reality, this is far from realistic. After all, we have how many languages in use in the world today? A quick Google search offers an approximation of 6,500. Out of that number, 2,000 of those languages are spoken by less than 1,000 people. I’d like to read a story about the girl who comes from a dinky little village and only speaks a language a handful of other people speak. That would be cool!

And, if you don’t want to mess with other languages, take a look at all the different regions in the US. Sure, we all speak English, but not only is it a completely different form of English that the British speak, but we don’t even all speak it the same. Where we’re from will determine the dialect we speak. I mean, go ahead, ask a group of people from different places in the US what the fizzy drink is called and take note of the answers. Is it pop? Is it soda? Coke? Soda pop?

Diversity is a Matter of Class, Not Race

Why aren’t there more races in fantasy? How come there are just elves or dwarves or humans? Why aren’t there races among them? Again, look at the world around us. So many people. So many different people with history and culture and stories. Why do we sell ourselves short when creating a fantasy world?

We can create an entire world of different races and people. Did you get that? You have the potential to create an entire world. A whole world. And instead, we sell ourselves short by going, “Yup, they’re humans. They have one history. One culture. One language.”

Even you don’t want to go crazy with the culture thing, there should still be diversity. After all, take a look at the Normans and the Saxons. The Russians and the Ukrainians. The Chinese and the Japanese. All cultures that an outsider might say were very similar. We might even go so far as to confuse the two. But they also hated each other and the thought of being mistaken for the other was (and still is, in some cases) an insult.

There is One Religion and All the Good Guys Adhere to It

If you take a quick look at the world around you, you will see people never agree on anything. If they did, there wouldn’t be a reason for political parties or different religious denominations. Even within cultures you will find people who disagree or want to change things. Take a look at the different Amish sects. It’s human nature to go against the norm. And yet, in our fantasy worlds, everyone who is on the right side agrees and then all the bad guys agree with each other. It’s as simple and black-and-white as that.

But that’s wrong. I mean, Christians, look at all the people in the world who are “good people” but aren’t Christians. They would never do anything to harm another person or go against the strong moral code they live by, but they’ve rejected the truth of Christ. Does that mean we have to classify them with the bad guys? Because they wouldn’t agree with the hero’s beliefs. Or, have to have them convert to that belief by the end of the book. They just don’t understand. Or they haven’t been presented with the truth. Once they see the hero, well, they just can’t help but get saved.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of good people in the world who won’t ever get saved. And, sad as it is, it’s the way of things. I never want to stop fighting for a person’s soul or just accept this as fact, but in my writing, I can’t be realistic and have everyone who is fighting on the side of right believe what I do. Even if my hero is the best Christian anyone has ever seen, I can’t make everyone he touches believe in Christ. Everyone Christ touched didn’t believe in him.

Everyone Agrees on Everything

Along the same lines, but getting off the subject of religion, how many young adults do you know who agree 100% with their parents? Even the ones who love and respect their parents like nobody’s business. How many of them believe every single thing their parents do and plan to raise their children the exact same way their parents raised them?

I’m willing to bet not too many. You might know one person. If that. Because even the best of parents fail or get things wrong. And, while I agree with my parents on a lot of things, there are things I will probably do differently when I have kids. Why? Because I don’t agree with them. Whether that makes them wrong or me actually isn’t the issue here.

The point is, cultures change and adapt. All too often we have one character who wants something different for their life while the rest of their world is content to go about their daily lives happy as can be.

I’m not saying every child in your story needs to rebel. But, people always want more. They want the best for themselves and their children that there is. And, the man who packs up his family and drags them halfway around the world, seeking a better life, and the man who keeps plugging away, day in and day out, refusing to uproot his family, are often both working out of the same desires. But, that doesn’t mean that the man who plugs away is content with the way things are. That doesn’t mean he wants it. But, he’s doing what he feels is right and best.

In your culture there should always be differences. There should always be people who disagree, even on the little things. Politics. The proper way to treat a wound or have a baby. Whether it’s right to pay taxes. And, again, this should not be a matter of good guys on one side, bad guys on the other. Maybe the guy fighting to overthrow the social structure of the world, believes in paying taxes for some reason. It could happen.

The Only Social Issues are Ones that Relate to the Story

Abortion. Gay rights. Feminism. The separation of church and state. How many of these social issues affect your everyday life? I’m willing to guess that you don’t have to deal with every single one of these every single day. Sure, you might have to deal with one of them because you and a coworker are in disagreement. But all of them? Every single day? I think not.

But, you have an opinion on all them, right? Even if you have never known anyone who has even considered having an abortion, you have an opinion on whether it is right or wrong. And whether or not you’re a feminist, you have a clear opinion on the issue of women’s rights.

Because there are always more social issues than the ones we’re dealing with. I may devote all of my time and energy to one cause, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on other causes. You don’t have to deal with a million social issues in your story. But, let your reader know they’re there. We tend to add this element to our stories that if the hero succeeds in fixing this one issue, then everything will be perfect.

But, maybe the hero is trying to stop the slave trade. Does that mean that women aren’t ever treated poorly in your story? Does that mean their faith isn’t being persecuted too? Does that mean once all the slaves are free, life will be perfect? Just because a hero chooses one issue to fight when there are many in his world, does not make him weak, but indeed, stronger, because he is willing to taking things one step at a time and not get overwhelmed by the idea that he will never be able to fix everything.

Social Issues are the Government’s Fault

Along those same lines, why are social issues always the government’s fault? Have you ever considered maybe they haven’t passed a law concerning women’s rights because they’re too busy trying to stop the slave trade? Like your hero, the government can’t fight every issue at once.

Not saying you can’t have an evil government. Because if you want to, go ahead. But, keep in mind that it is cliché so you might want to try doing something different.

The Government is Simple and Straightforward

This one always cracks me. Like, have you never studied any sort of government ever? In fantasy, there tends to be a king or queen in charge of everything and sometimes they have advisors and stuff who they never listen to.

Which is actually kind of lazy, like the author decided to skip out on the worldbuilding part and instead of actually creating a believable government, they were just like “The monarch person rules everything.”

Take a look at the American government system. We have a president and a vice president. We have the senate and congress. We even have rules on a smaller level, governing the states and counties and cities. Seriously, the whole thing makes me head spin sometimes. And, that’s just the American government system. Don’t get me started on Britain, or ancient Greece, or Rome, or anywhere else for that matter.

The point is, the more complex the government, the more realistic, and the harder the task for the hero. Which is good. You want him job to be hard. If it was easy, who would want to read your book? And there are so many different government types, creating one would be fun, don’t you think? Again, whole world at your fingertips. You can do whatever you want.

And, I’m kind of running out of room with this post so I’ll end here. Keep an eye out for Part Two next week.

Oh, and if you’re looking for some great questions to help you with your worldbuilding, you should check these out as they have helped me a lot in the past: http://bethisad.com/conculture/questionnaire.htm

And, in the meantime, I shall see you all on Friday!

How about you? Do you agree or disagree with me about these stereotypes? Was this helpful in anyway? Do you have anything to add that I might have missed?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hitchcock and Characters- Candor Questions

Rodger Sauer asked: Regarding The Lady Vanishes (1938 version):  There were so many distinct and colorful characters.  Which one was your favorite, and why?

Since he’s my dad, he has privileged information like this, knowing what movies I watch and the like. Except when I’m being moody and watching cheesy chick-flicks in my room with my dog. He usually doesn’t know about those. He just knows it’s a good time to make me tea and tell me he loves me.

Anyway! Yes, that movie certainly does have a lot of great characters. And, choosing a favorite is hard. But, I have managed to rise to the task.

My favorite character is Michael Redgrave’s character Gilbert, for several reasons:

For one, he plays the clarinet. Need I say more? I mean, that in and of itself is awesome. I really love at the beginning when he’s got the thing slung across his back with a strap and he’s walking around with it and yeah, it’s awesome. I also love that in the first three scene we see him he’s playing his clarinet. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if he had had the thing for the whole movie and played randomly throughout. Hm… character idea right there…

Two, he’s the love interest and while they have some tension at the beginning, when he sees the main character on the train and she tells him about her predicament, he’s more than willing to help her. No, he doesn’t believe her right away, but he’s still willing to drop everything and help her when he sees she’s in trouble.

And, for three, he’s kind of ridiculous and he makes me laugh. Characters who make me laugh are good. Oh, wait.., most of the characters in the movie fall under that category… anyway! That’s still a reason why he’s my favorite. He has a very engaging personality that just kind of makes me like him.

So, yup! Gilbert the clarinet player. He’s my favorite.

Nancy Sauer asked: I have been going through old letters from you and your family so I was wondering if you have heard anything from Periwinkle Jones recently?  And do you think she will ever get in touch with you again?

Oh!! Oh!!! Oh!!! This question makes me really excited, because unlike my dad, my grandma doesn’t live with me so she doesn’t have privilege information.

So, she has no way of knowing what I happen to be working on right now.

The short answer to this question is: Yup. I actually wrote about her today. And, the day I got the question. And the days leading up to when I received the question.

The long answer (since I always have to give a long answer): I recently started working lengthening a short story I wrote. Originally, it was going to be a series of short stories but I decided it made more sense to length it into a novella and mash the first two stories ideas into one. The second story’s plot (which is now part of the novella’s plot) featured a girl who moved into the farm by the main characters. The girl’s name? Periwinkle Jones.

She’s a bit different than the original Periwinkle (and she’s no longer the main character) but a lot of the essence of her and what I had hoped to do with her is the same. She still has the brothers, though their names are changed and I added one (or, rather, I made the character who I had planned on being her best friend be both her best friend and her brother).

But, she’s the same blue-eyed, freckle-faced young woman I created all those years ago.

Since I only just started working on this story about a week or so. Which is why it’s totally crazy why this question was asked now and not a while ago. But, also why the question totally made my day when I got it!

And, there you have it. If you have a question you want answered make sure you send it in before Friday. Can’t wait to see what you cook up for me to answer!