Wednesday, April 29, 2009
In the mood to be down on myself, I wailed, “I should be reading more books on craft! Then I wouldn’t be stuck on this chapter I’m writing.”
Mom, a seasoned author, very helpfully replied, “No, you’d probably still be stuck.”
Sigh. “You’re right,” I told her. “It comes when it comes.”
She agreed, and then we listed all the places we were likely to receive inspiration when we least expected it. For her, it often comes in a church service. For me, it happens when I drive around alone in my car. Since I have two children, I’m hardly ever driving anywhere by myself. Hmm, that may explain my lack of brainwaves.
I’m certainly not arguing against reading books on the writing craft, but ultimately, we believe our inspiration comes from God. Studying the craft gives us tools to use when He chooses to zap our little noggins with story and truth.
So where are you likely to get zapped? The shower? The gym? The canned soup aisle? My advice for you, and myself, is to go there and wait on God. And if you don’t receive inspiration before the warm water runs out, our your muscles give in, or you’ve bought every variety of Cream of Something soup, then don’t worry. Inspiration comes when it comes. Or, I should say, when He sends it.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
At beautiful Camp Eden nestled among the pines near Wondervu, Colorado, the fog settled around us, and the fire crackled in the huge fireplace as nearly two dozen authors settled in to hear Kim Woodhouse and her challenging question: "Why do you write?"
She asked this of us several times, nudging us to go deeper. At one point, she asked, "Who are you in Christ?" The point being, how can I be God's instrument if I don't identify with His Word? At least, that's the direction I took that question.
We were told to find a quiet place and journal. I did and decided to look at the "I Am's" of Christ to find out who "I am" in Christ.
I Am the Messiah (John 4:26) - I am saved
I Am the Bread of Life (John 6:35) - I am nourished
I Am from above (John 8:23) - I am blessed from heaven
I Am the Eternal One (John 8:58) - I am God’s forever
I Am the Light of the World (John 9:5) - I am a witness in the darkness
I Am the Door (John 10:7) The Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) - I am led
I Am the Son of God ( (John 10:36) - I am loved with a sacrificial gift
I Am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25) - I am redeemed
I Am the Lord and Master (John 13:13) - I am one with authority over evil
I Am the True Vine (John 15:1) - I am a fruit bearer
I Am Alpha & Omega ( Revelation 1:8) - I am complete
I came to the conclusion that knowing my identity in Christ equips me to write His message.
So, to answer, “Why do I write?” - To glorify the I Am, Christ, Who makes it possible for me to be who I am in Him -- and to teach others to do the same.
If you attended the ACFW Colorado retreat this year, please share what you learned in the comments.
And thank you, Kim, for your excellent teaching, your gentle spirit, and your glittery feathered two-edged sword. ;)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
All things have beginning. Not in the minds of men, but in the heart of God.
Life comes from life, and is breathed out through the power of the LORD. His hands mold and create like a fine artisan. His eyes search the globe for hearts of men who will believe in Him and believe His word to be true.
My God is like a fortress. His wings protect me and His Spirit pours life into my soul. His wells are never dry and His table never empty. He prepares a place for me to rest at night and a safe path for me to walk at dawn. His angels stand guard day and night. They rejoice at His glory and bow at His song. His arms sway gracefully upward as He conducts His symphony. Stars cry out as His melody spreads itself to the far corners of the universe. As He exhales the universe expands and as He inhales, it contracts. Like the beating of a heart, it keeps all things alive.
Grace and mercy are the names of my LORD. They adorn His garments like fine weavings. His crown shines with the brilliance of a million suns and the train of His robe wraps around the expanse. The sea and sky and soil of the earth rejoice in His presence. In excitement they collide like cymbals and swell to the beating of His drums—a thousand orchestras, bowing to His glory and majesty.
Oh how great is my God! How great He is indeed. For although I am nothing more than a tiny seed, His hand raises me up like a mighty redwood. His voice is heard in my ears and His love is felt in my heart. My arms extend like branches to receive Him as He reaches down to embrace me with unconditional love.
No, there is no God like my God.
by refusing to worship Him
than a lunatic can put out the sun
by scribbling the word
on the walls of his cell.”
-C. S. Lewis
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
BEYOND THE MIDDLE:
It’s not right putting “the end” for this last part, because the end doesn’t come until the Lord takes her home. Her story is an ongoing one.
Anyway . . .
So the grownup little girl started writing fiction for adults; prairie romance, contemporary romance mystery, even a futuristic adventure romance. She joined a writing group and started attending writer’s conferences. She submitted novel proposals and got no thank you letters in return.
She submitted a couple of sample chapters at a conference for an author to review. A new editor had come to that publishing house and assumed the slot that the author was going have, including the chapters she had to review. The grownup girl was mortified. It was hard enough to have a favorite author of hers read her chapters, but an editor, and particularly this editor. She was scared witless. She wanted her chapters back.
A friend of hers sat at this editor’s table at lunch because she knew the grownup little girl needed to talk to this editor. The editor wasn’t there yet. Her “friend” finished her lunch in a hurry and left. The editor arrived and sat . . . right next to the girl. The editor kindly asked each person around the table what they were working on. Lunch was almost over and there wasn’t going to be time for the grownup girl. Yes! She had succeeded at being invisible.
But the editor turned to her and asked what she was working on. Immediately every thought, story idea, and all words fled her brain.
Uh . . .
She did manage to get out a word or two about the editor having a couple of her sample chapters. The editor said she had them in her bag but hadn’t read them yet, but the grownup little girl should make an appointment with her. “Sure,” she said, while wondering if she could snatch her chapters from the editor’s bag. It was right there on the floor between them. She could drop her napkin and when she bent to pick it up, she could slip the pages from the bag. Well, it was more like she would have to rifle through the editor’s bag and search for them. She didn’t know how to do that all while looking like she was picking up her napkin. The editor walked away with her bag and the grownup little girl’s chapters.
The grownup little girl walked into their meeting with fear and trepidation. She figured if she could get through the meeting without fainting or throwing up, it would be a raging success.
She didn’t embarrass herself too bad, even found a word or two in her empty brain, and the editor liked one of her story ideas. The editor was willing to work with her. It took a few years to go through the process, but finally her first book was born. Someone had finally chosen something she had written. Since then, she has been chosen many more times.
The grownup little girl’s writing journey is far from over, so this is not “the end” either. The Lord has been with her through it all, guiding her and teaching her. If not for Him, she’s sure she would have given up a long time ago. She’s a better reader now than she has ever been, even if she still reads slow, still has difficultly writing, and her spelling still couldn’t save her life, but she’s so thankful for Spellchecker, even if it doesn’t know what she’s trying to spell half the time.
And the journey continues . . . . . . . . .
Monday, April 20, 2009
Once upon a time there was a little girl who couldn’t write well, could hardly read, and couldn’t spell her way out of a wet paper bag to save her life, but she was creative and had people running around in her head with whole lives of their own.
The little girl thought she was stupid and people told her so. But not the people in her head. They liked her and told her she was smart. When other kids were reading chapter books by the armloads, she struggled through a simple picture book.
The little girl loved creative writing in school. The teacher would give a prompt and a story would immediately start swirling in the little girl’s head. She would start scratching out words with her stubby little hands. The letters were crude and the spelling atrocious, but her story was fun and adventurous. She couldn’t wait for the teacher to choose those few stories that would be read aloud in class. She was sure hers would be chosen this time. She had a great story and everyone would see that she was not stupid.
The stories were chosen and the little girl sat disappointed while others read their stories aloud. No one would know that she wasn’t stupid.
She continued to make the space between her ears a haven for characters to live out their lives.
The little girl grew up and married. She decided to write a special story for her new husband, a picture book. She typed it, edited it, rewrote it, typed it up again. When she had it perfect, She typed up each page, leaving room for the planned pictures. Since her typing ability wasn’t any better than her spelling, she had to type some of the short pages several times before she had one good enough to use.
When the pages were all typed, she sat down to do the artwork. (FYI: She was not artist. Not by a long shot. But she loved her hubby and would do the best she could.) She first drew rough drafts then held them up to the window to trace them onto her finished pages and colored them in, afraid of making a mistake that she would have to type the page over again.
Finally all the pages were complete. She bound them together and created a fabric covered cover. She even made a teddy bear to accompany the book. Her hubby loved it. Her family loved it. Her mother had the audacity to say, “You should get this published.”
She almost laughed out loud. Her? A published author? That was about as likely as getting oil and water to mix on their own. Maybe her mother needed helped. Don’t worry her mother is perfectly sane, but she got the grownup little girl thinking. Eventually, the grownup girl enrolled in a correspondence course.
She started writing children’s stories for magazines. But like with her teachers, her stories weren’t chosen to be published.
This is too long for one blog post, sooooo . . .
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
But Jesus' sacrifice didn't begin with the cross -- rather, it ended a long journey. His entire life was a picture of sacrificial giving and sacrificial living.
Jesus taught us a lot about how to live, but if we look carefully we can also learn a lot about the writing life.
First of all, the calling is the most important thing. If Jesus had tried to deny the calling God placed on His life, we would have no hope of salvation, redemption, or reconciliation. In the same way, if we try to deny the call to write which God has placed on our lives, we may be denying someone else the only introduction to our Lord they may ever know.
Second, Jesus did what He did no matter how he felt, or who laughed at Him, or how much the people around Him didn't deserve it. When we write, we too must take our eyes off the circumstances and instead put them squarely on God, because we write for Him, not for anyone else.
Third, Jesus did not talk about Himself. He pointed people to God and the kingdom. He talked about extending the love and grace of God to others, even when they are unworthy, and He extended that same love and grace to us. Even though we were and are unworthy. Likewise, our writing needs to point people to God, not to exalt us or toot our horn or allow us to preach our particular theology. All of our writing must speak God loud and clear, even if we never mention His name specifically.
Finally, Jesus took all of this in stride, one day at a time. He didn't look around and bemoan all the people who would not listen. He didn't worry about what other people thought about Him. He said and did only what the Father told Him to say and do. He lived a life of sacrifice to accomplish the Father's will. In our writing, we cannot get caught up in the huge job we are called to do. Instead, we need to focus on this day, this step, this minute, of fulfilling our calling to write.
Sacrificial living is not about the cross, it's about the life. Sacrificial writing is not about the book, it's about the page you wrote because you got up an hour earlier this morning. It's about the research you chose to do instead of watching a movie. It's about the conference you went to instead of taking a vacation.
Sacrificial writing IS the life.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Oh wait. Yes, I do. A brand new baby girl! :)
That's right. Margie announced the birth on April 3rd on this blog, but I'm here to share a bit more for those who would like to hear.
But first, there are 2 other "babies" birthed this month. Not only a daughter, but my husband Stuart's very first book released on April 1st and my 4th book (Copper and Candles) released as well. Stuart has been working hard for years and has finally seen all of his hard work come to fruition. Starfire is available through Marcher Lord Press and will be on Amazon and Barnes & Noble by the end of the month. It's a science fiction/speculative story about an alien race, an ancient artificial intelligence, and a warrior who must make a choice that could save his nation or doom his world.
It has been receiving just as many rave reviews as Stuart's other creative endeavor. :)
For that "baby", Stuart and I are now the proud parents of a beautiful little girl! Victoria Elizabeth Stockton arrived at 3:29pm on Thursday, April 2nd, weighing 7lbs. 9oz. and measuring 20in. long. Labor started at 12:30pm on April 1st but by 4am on April 2nd, I was exhausted, had stalled in dilation, and had to get an epidural. At 7:30am, my doctor broke my water and at 9am, after no progress, a 2cc dose of pitocin was administered. Progress began and that was all it took. By 2, we prepped and after an hour of pushing, Tori was here!
The full story is on my personal blog, if you want to read all of the exciting details and the "novel" adventure we had getting to the hospital. That can be found here.
Baby Photo Album
There isn't much to report from the first week home. As most of you know, babies don't do a whole lot at the start. Eat, sleep and mess their diapers. And we've had plenty of that. The good news is that everything is normal, which brings a great sigh of relief.
Victoria had her first doctor's visit at 4 days old, and she was given a clean bill of health. She is back to her birth weight and gained 9 oz. just in the past week. Healthy eater! LOL! We've been so blessed with a beautiful and seemingly even-tempered angel. Likely due to the laid back attitude of Mom and Dad. :)
For Easter, we bought a dress and had a "Baby's First Easter" outfit given to us. So, we took some pictures and posed her with a little duck given to her by her grandparents (on dad's side).
Other than that, she's been smiling, taking in the world, loving to be rocked and held, and just being a huge blessing to our lives. The days pass so fast, but I'll be glad to get back into part of my old schedule so I can actually know which day is which. They've all blurred together so far. Stu is back at work today after 7 days off, so I'm on my own until Friday when my family arrives.
That's all from me. No treasurer's perspective, but Victoria is definitely a treasure that deserves all our praise and thanks to God for giving us such a beautiful miracle.
Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author in beautiful Colorado Springs. They celebrated the birth of their first child this month and have a vivacious puppy named Roxie, a Border Collie/Flat-Haired Retriever mix. She has sold six books so far to Barbour Publishing. Other credits include writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and contributions to the books: 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage and Grit for the Oyster.
Read more about her at her web site: http://www.amberstockton.com/.
Friday, April 10, 2009
What have you been thinking about today? Have you been writing? Plotting? Creating?
I've had many things in my schedule today - a few simple questions from editor and copy-editor, an email or two about the cover design, an email or two about interior design, and a little writing in the WIP.
But what keeps coming back to mind is what today represents. The day Jesus took my sins upon Himself and He died. For me. He was brutally beaten, He was mocked, He was crucified. All because He loves me.
The same holds true for you, my friend. He died so that each one of us could have LIFE. Isn't that amazing? Doesn't that give you chills? Don't you want to tell everyone you know?
Earlier today, I was outside enjoying the cool air. My kids were riding their bikes while I watered my precious flower beds. Around the corner came a school bus. I dropped the hose. What on earth have we come to? Why are kids going to school on Good Friday? Does this day mean nothing?
My thoughts became critical and then I had another one of my 2x4 moments. (God has to 'gently' prod me at times to help me see His point.) It's times like these, this very day and age where we need to be a light more than ever. Each day the need increases as we draw closer to that blessed finish line!
I recently read a book by debut author, Lisa McKay, entitled My Hands Came Away Red. I LOVED this book. Not only is it a great work of fiction, but it makes you think. And I mean, gut-wrenching, mind-boggling, think. My brain has returned to it many times in the days since reading it. It has truly challenged me.
That's what we, as believers, should be doing. Challenging one another. Iron sharpening iron. Praying for one another, encouraging one another, fellowshipping with one another, growing with one another.
In just a couple of weeks, we have another great opportunity for all of that. Our Colorado retreat will take place the last weekend in April and I pray that you have the chance to come. Let's dig in the Word together, seek God's will in our lives and in our writing, and encourage one another in these incredibly difficult times.
Praise the Lord for what He has done. Thank You, for Good Friday and the reminder it is to us all.
Kimberley Woodhouse is a wife, mother, author, and musician with a quick wit and positive outlook despite difficult circumstances. A popular speaker, she’s shared at more than 600 venues across the country. Kimberley and her family's story have garnered national media attention for many years, but most recently her family was chosen for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Montel Williams Show, and Discovery Health channel’s Mystery ER which premiered in 2008. Her story, Welcome Home: Our Family’s Journey to Extreme Joy, releases in September 2009 from Focus on the Family. Kimberley lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband and two children in their truly “extreme” home. www.kimberleywoodhouse.com
Friday, April 3, 2009
Another first for the Stockton family this week is the April 1st release of Stu's first book, Starfire, from Marcher Lord Press. Check it out here.
Wow, with both her parents published writers, I'm looking forward to little Victoria carrying on the tradition. *smile*
Congratulations, Tiff and Stu!