Happy Friday! Today CAN member Carla Hoch inspires us with writing perspectives told from a fighter’s point of view.
Mohammed Ali estimated that over the course of his career he had been hit about 29,000 times. Twenty-nine thousand! Now, I don’t know how many of you have been punched in the face, but it ain’t fun. A solid punch can rock you to your core. And, after the fact, you are sore in places you never thought you’d be. Including your spirit.
Writing is a lot like fighting. You pour your heart into it and sometimes the “win” doesn’t come. The agent isn’t interested, the editor isn’t impressed. And, it hurts. Literally. Rejection and physical pain ride the same pathways in the brain. Biologically speaking, a solid rejection can rock you to your core just like a punch and hurt you in places you never thought you would. Including your spirit.
Ask a boxer if they ever get hit when they train and they’ll probably laugh. Of course they do. They get hit a lot. And it’s not because aren’t trying or aren’t good at what they do. For boxers, taking punches is part of the process, essential to the product and integral to their profession. Achievement comes with ache. Ali wasn’t the greatest of all time despite those 29,000 hits. He was the greatest of all time, in part, because of them.
The rejections we as writers get are not signs that we should give up. They are proof that we’re doing something right, that we are still in the fight. You know what kind of writer doesn’t get rejected? The kind who won’t step in the ring, who won’t send in their MS. Folks, what if after a hundred punches Ali had called it quits? What if Seuss, Golding, Joyce, Faulkner, Potter, Plath, L’Engle, Kipling, and countless others, had taken their rejections as proof that they weren’t any good, that they should just hang it up?
Writers, achievement comes with ache, punches are part of the process, pain is essential to the product. And all are proof that you are still writing, still fighting. Take the hits. Get ok with them. Expect them. Welcome them. Make them a sandwich and sit on the couch with them. Because you won’t be a success despite them. You’ll be a success, in part, because of them.
Carla Hoch is the author of the Writer’s Digest book Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes and proprietor of the award winning FightWrite™ blog. She is a Writer’s Digest author and instructor and regularly teaches workshops on the mechanics of fighting for writers as well as the craft of writing fight scenes. Carla is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter with training in nearly a dozen fighting styles. She lives just outside Houston, Texas with her family and host of mammals.
What is your greatest fear? What would it take to face that fear, and make the shift from from fear to love?
Halloween, El Dia de Los Meurtos, All Hallows Eve—these traditions offer a great opportunity to reflect on our faith walk and the extent to which we are allowing the Holy Spirit to move us away from fear into His perfect love. The journey itself could spark a great story.
Anytime I notice myself living a little smaller, a little less joyfully, a little less confidently—I know it is time for me to stop, pray, and reflect. I ask God to show me His truth and to lead me back into His light—and to allow His perfect love to cast out all fear. And then I take the time to backtrack and acknowledge the crooked thinking, or soul woundedness that made me vulnerable to breathing in fear or lies, instead of basking in His love and peace.
This process of uncovering distortions and moving away from fear toward love is embedded in the lives of the characters in the novel I’m currently working on. Asking myself how fear shows up and holds my protagonist back strengthens my writing and creates space for growth and personal renewal as a result of my characters’ struggles. Tonight, as I set up individually bagged candy offerings for my neighborhood goblins, I’ll be thinking about how the Word of God can lift off the mask of our distortions and bring us into the clarifying light of His love.
And tomorrow morning, I’ll be back at my computer, weaving suspenseful tales as my characters move away from fear and back onto the path of His glorious love.
Catherine Finger loves to dream, write, and tell stories. Retired from a wonderful career in public education, she celebrates the ability to write books, ride horses, and serve others through her emerging coaching practice. She lives in the Midwest with a warm and wonderful combination of family and friends.
We welcome Linda Rooks and thank her for today’s wonderful fascinating fact!
Did you know there is a rabbit in the shadows of the moon? In the United States we often talk about a man in the moon, but in other parts of the world—especially Asia—people talk about the rabbit they see in the moon. In fact, centuries ago, storytellers in the East not only observed a rabbit on the left side of the moon but made up legends about him. In countries like India, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico and others, legends abound about the brave rabbit whose sacrificial courage was honored by having his image placed on the moon.
Since the moon determines the date for Easter each year, these legends about a rabbit that was willing to give his life for another and can now be seen on the moon, kindled my imagination as a writer. The coincidences were intriguing. Could this rabbit on the moon be connected to the Easter bunny that has always seemed a misplaced icon amidst the profound message of the true Easter story? The tantalizing coincidences about this iconic rabbit resulted in my writing a children’s Easter picture book called The Bunny Side of Easter that uses an adventure about the heroism of a little bunny to point children to Jesus, the true hero of Easter.
Children delight in discovering the rabbit in the moon and love hearing stories of how he got there. In the shadows on the left side of every full moon, they might see a large bunny facing to the left with his ears back and an Easter egg at his feet. Or they might make out a bunny facing to the right with his ears flopped over and his head bowed in prayer. Or they might spot a smaller bunny at the top. He can be seen in three different ways.
It’s a fun addition to the Easter tradition, and you can see it from your own front door when the next full moon appears on April 7 to herald the advent of spring and the coming of Easter.
Award winning author Linda W. Rooks takes her life-long love of children’s books and uses it to tell a winsome, but exciting adventure that points children to the real meaning of Easter in her picture book, The Bunny Side of Easter. Linda is best known for her ministry to those in troubled marriages and for her books, Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated and Broken Heart on Hold. Her writing has appeared in Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, Home Life, and Chicken Soup. She has appeared as guest on TV and radio talk shows across the North American continent. Visit Linda at bunnysideofeaster.com.
My recent retirement prompted a personal move from Illinois to my home state of Wisconsin—which meant my awesome nine-year-old quarter horse mare and I also moved to a new barn and horse trainer. All of these changes resulted in prepping, practicing, and praying for success on a brand-new horse show circuit this year. We agreed to an aggressive schedule of shows that would take us from Wisconsin to Oklahoma City for our first event; onto Las Vegas for our second show—The Silver Dollar Circuit—and then to Scottsdale, AZ for our final event, the Sun Circuit. This was my first series of horse shows with my new trainer and new barn mates.
In preparation for our training and showing debut, my friends and family lit candles for the poor guy and wished him all the best from afar. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mare, and everything about the showing process, and I appreciate and respect my trainer—but he hadn’t yet experienced me at a horse show. And by that, I mean he hadn’t seen me after too many late nights and early mornings in a row, jacked up on extra strength Excedrin and French Roast coffee, limping around the show pen (me, not my horse) waiting for my next event.
Willie Nelson lyrics rang through my mind as I packed up Cosmo, my 2016 RV built by Pleasure Way—a Canadian company making great use of the Mercedes Sprinter to create a small but mighty road warrior. With nearly 4,000 miles and six weeks to cover together, every aspect of packing was carefully considered. Mostly. Until that critical 24-hour window where a few things may have slipped past me. And definitely around that 10 hours to go mark when I may have accidently thrown in two coffee makers but not one pair of spurs.Oops.
The interesting antics and chance encounters with strangers falling into and out of my life on this journey are already making their way into my latest novel. As I write tonight, melancholy tunes from a country western band staged across the parking lot seep into my little camper, spurring me to write on.
We writers know, love, and sometimes hate this age-old question.
My Jo Oliver thriller series started with a desire to write compelling stories of triumph, choice, and the power of emergent faith and community. Each story was fueled by a strong character, a plot idea, or an idea of what justice might look like via a twisty series of events. And while I am playing around with my next installment, I find myself distracted by new dreams.
For the past year or so, I’ve been toying with a new story that I finally had to start writing. This idea came to me in my sleep. Literally. I dreamt of my protagonist and how she meets her man— a paunchy insurance salesman with a deep alternative history steeped in international espionage. I loved the scene that first appeared to me in that memorable dream and ignored it soundly for about a year.
Yet the dreams returned. At night. While napping on planes. And once, while driving, an idea presented itself so strongly, I had to pull off the road into a highway oasis and furiously stab it all down on fast-food restaurant napkins. That chapter involved a kitchen island sex scene, with my 60-something arthritic protagonist secretly desiring to be ravished by her man on her granite counter—while fearing the possibility of breaking a hip with equal ferocity.
I’m thoroughly enjoying creating a life of unexpected purpose and adventure for two recently retired individuals who find themselves at the same banquet table at a hotel facing the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Stuff happens—and it is stirring my writer’s heart to share their story, giving me that excited I can’t wait to get to my keyboard to see what happens next kind of feeling.
Rest assured, as the story reveals itself, I’ll share more with you!
Catherine Finger here with the great privilege of interviewing CAN Member Donn Taylor. Donn is a prayer warrior and serves our CAN members through his tireless prayers and encouragement. His faithful organization of the weekly online CAN prayer group blesses us all. When he’s not praying, Donn can be found inspiring others in person and via his daily Facebook posts. His wisdom, warmth and good humor is revealed in a new way today.
Thank you for joining us today, Donn! And thank you for your tireless service of prayer over the members of CAN and encouragement. We are looking forward to learning a little more about you. Let’s start with what drives you, Donn. What are your personal passions?
Donn: First is a vision of Western Civilization as one aspect of God’s calling his people out of the popular culture of their day. (That process began as far back as Abraham, but let’s begin with the early Christian church.) The world of Christ’s time was incredibly cruel, even savage. Through Christianity, the West (primarily Europe) gradually emerged from that savagery into what we now think of as civilization, though the process is far from complete. But as of today, only Christendom has that quality, while the rest of the world remains as savage and cruel as it was in the time of Christ. Only Christendom has the answer. The great exceptions within Christendom were Communism and National Socialism, both of which were specifically anti-Christian. In short, Christianity is the civilizing force that has made this progress possible.
Second is a vision that one becomes an educated person by asking three questions. The seeker’s first question is, “Who am I?” The obvious answer is that he is a member of mankind, and that leads to the psalmist’s question, “What is man?” Seeking an answer leads us to considering “the best that has been thought or said” in all ages. (Matthew Arnold’s words.) The third question is, “What kind of world do we live in?” That is where the sciences come in. Today there is an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). My point is that STEM cannot address the first two questions, and the answers to those questions define what STEM is about.
These thematic elements keep showing up one way or another in my novels and poetry.
Thanks, Donn. Talk about deep calling unto deep! You’re reminding me of C.S. Lewis, or Watchman Nee. Outside of your daily prayer and reflection, how do you spend your time? What activities do you engage in giving you a more rounded life?
At age 89 I’m not as “rounded” as I was in past years. Today I’m just doing church and what I can do electronically. I got on Facebook to sell my books, but I’ve ended up doing more counseling and praying than anything else. In past years I served as deacon in several churches, mentored students at the colleges where I taught and a few writers since then, coached a basketball team of 12-year-olds. I participated in church-league basketball and in 10K runs until at age 64 the wheels came off. I still maintain membership in the National Association of Scholars and the Military Officers’ Association of America.
Bless you for that, Brother! I appreciate your passion for prayer, coaching, and service to others. How do you use this experience in your writing?
Tennyson’s Ulysses said, “I am a part of all that I have met,” but in my case it’s more like all I have met is a part of me. And there’s no telling which part will show up at any particular time. My first career was Army, the second as professor at two liberal arts colleges, and only after those did I take up creative writing professionally. My suspense novels reflected my Army experience, my mysteries set on college campuses reflect my teaching days, and my and Mildred’s lives as Christians governed my historical novel. The two passions mentioned above keep appearing in different parts of these and in my poetry.
I’d love to hear about a time when things didn’t turn out as you’d planned. Got a story for us?
Things often don’t turn out the way I planned. I began with two dead-serious intentions: To write suspense fiction reflecting real-world problems as I knew them and to write poetry I wouldn’t be ashamed to see in a collection of American poetry. I think I achieved a little bit of both, but the unexpected happened. Some of my better poetry is comic, and comic passages kept popping up in my serious fiction. People like to laugh, so in my recent work I’ve emphasized the comic elements while maintaining the serious subjects in the background. (My Professor Preston Barclay can’t resist making a pun or smart remark even if it costs him his job.)
I look forward to reading your work. I love a little humor thrown in at every opportunity. Speaking of humor, do you have a funny story relating to your writing or an event you’d like to share with us?
In my first year to teach poetry writing at the Blue Ridge Conference I wanted to prove that serious poetry could be successfully presented to a general audience. So I volunteered to read a poem on the faculty talent show. But the fellow before me on the program had the audience in stitches with comedy of the absurd. So how was I going to get the audience from that to a serious poem? On the spur of the moment I began telling jokes about my age. (“There is no truth to the rumor that I was a critique partner for Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address . . . It was actually the Declaration of Independence.”) That let me step things down to reading a serious poem. But it also branded me, and I’ve had to keep doing it ever since.
Ha! I’d love to hear about your source materials for those must-have humorous openers someday! What’s one of your fascinating facts that cropped up while doing research for a book?
For the drug-smuggling flights in “The Lazarus File,” I needed to learn all I could about the Douglas DC-3 aircraft. (I had never flown one.) I remembered that James Stewart flew one in a movie and looked out of the pilot’s window to be sure the landing gear was down. When I located an actual DC-3 and sat in the plot’s seat, I found that the pilot could not see the landing gear. Moral: Never base your research on anything you see in a movie.
Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your world, Donn! And thank you for your commitment to praying for and serving others.
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterward, he earned a PhD in Renaissance literature and taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His publications include several suspense and mystery novels, one historical novel, and one book of poetry. Two of his novels have been finalists in the Selah Awards. He lives in the woods near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.
Two of Donn’s books were finalists for the Selah Awards and you can enjoy his daily Facebook interactions here: www.facebook.com/donntaylor His marriage to Mildred lasted 61 years, seven months, and four days until the Lord promoted her. For a great holiday romance, check out their love story on line athttps://tinyurl.com/te4k8kn
A recent visit to Yosemite National Park kept us craning our necks to look up at the magnificent granite mountains that surrounded us. Regardless of which direction we faced, immense pillars of stone reached to the sky, dwarfing even the tall Pines and occasional Sequoia. Beauty surrounding us. From the sounds of water crashing from tall mountain ledges to the caw of iridescent Ravens foraging for food, our ears were as absorbed with the of beauty as our eyes. We left for home, our hearts bursting with thankfulness for the world God made for us to enjoy.
Although there aren’t any mountains towering over my house, nor cascading waterfalls, to astound my senses, I hope I can remain just as thankful for the beauty where God has put me in my everyday life. Instead of a mountain, there is my neighbor’s house where love resides and covers me each time my path crosses with the lovely people who live there. Instead of waterfalls, there are colorful leaves which decorate my trees and cascade to my lawn in the fall. Instead of large Ravens, there are perky Robins who grace my bird feeder.
God help me always be aware and thankful for the beauty You provide to my daily life. I want to stay as appreciative of the smaller, ordinary world You gave me as I am with the larger, magnificent vistas You have made. May we all remain alert to the beauty You put around us.
Mary Tatem is an author of story based devotional books which boost your spirits. Each devotion uses the craft of quilting or scrapbooking to touch the reader’s heart and show the love of God. Her every day examples of God’s involvement in our lives provide encouragement to rely on God. She enjoys speaking to women and inspires them to trust God and His warm love. Currently, she is using her love of story to write historical novels.
As the mother of four and grandmother of fifteen, she finds life full of inspiring stories. Join her to read about God’s work in His people.