“Into the Void” is Coming!

I know what you’re thinking…wasn’t it supposed to be done months ago?

Yes, I suppose it was. But I am going to share a couple of facts of life with you:

  1. I am not a full time author and have to work to support myself, plus try to have a life outside of my laptop 😉
  2. I don’t have an editor or publisher to help me.
  3. My work tastes better seasoned with time.

So there’s really nothing to complain about. And you should all know that I am stinkin’ excited! You see I really thought this book was done months ago (was it late January or early February?). I even ordered a proof copy. The proof copy is an important step for me because I am a very kinesthetic person. There comes a point where scrolling through the manuscript on my laptop isn’t good enough and I get stuck. My proof copies are like a test run to get new perspective. The perspective I got a few months ago was that the story wasn’t finished yet. So I kept working on the weak spots, and I’m so glad I did!

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And here is my other exciting news:

These two books (“The Creation of Jack” and “Into the Void”) are intricately connected to one another. They are the same story and they need each other to be whole. So I am publishing a special volume containing both books combined!

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I am awaiting their proof copies before I start advertising to the whole world! And keep your eyes peeled for a free book giveaway!

The Importance of Reading

Learning to read was hard. But probably from second grade through high school I was a voracious reader. From “Little House on the Prairie” to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “A Wrinkle In Time,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Ender’s Game”…my imagination was challenged and stretched. I also read biographies and autobiographies. Then college hit. I don’t know if it was the busier schedule, or all the academic reading, or the fact that we weren’t assigned novels to read in class, but my “out of school” reading started to wane. It must have tapered off slowly because (here’s the scary part), I hardly noticed.

To be fair, I will add that my interests did switch. Even at the end of high school I was leaning toward non-fiction over fiction. My college years seemed to solidify that. I’ll also add that some of my high school required reading made me think that there wasn’t much good fiction out there. But I kept telling people I was a big reader.

And I suppose I did keep reading large amounts of non-fiction. But for at least 4-5 years there I hardly read any fiction at all! And suddenly I woke up one day and decided to read more. I still have a busy schedule, and plenty of excuses. But I make time for it. In fact, for about a year and a half now I have had a steady diet of reading. And guess what?

I can directly see it impacting my writing. It makes me wonder how I could last so long without reading! I kept writing through those novel-drought years. But even I saw some of the symptoms of rusty, stale prose and flimsy character development. Now, I must admit that my writing has also directly improved in proportion to my life experiences. But I have to credit my renewed passion for reading as well.

You will often hear people give advice to new writers: read widely. I wholeheartedly agree! I learn something new from every new author and every new book. They give me perspectives, new voice, inspiration, and sometimes show me what not to do. Reading other authors is one of my best writing resources. So if you don’t have a steady reading plan: make one. I mean it. It is too easy to keep saying you’ll read that book. Set goals for yourself! I recommend goodreads.com. They help keep me motivated to meet my reading goals and it is fun to look back on the year and see what you’ve read!

Happy reading.

Endings: The Cliffhanger vs. the Payoff Part 2

Okay! Where did we leave off? I promised to examine some different endings with you.

  1. The Return of the King
  2. Ender’s Game
  3. Serenity
  4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty/ Midnight in Paris

Just for the heck of it we’re going to start with number four.

Now these are two movies (which I love). But they have a similar ending style. In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Walter is a responsible man overseeing negative assets for LIFE magazine. He has taken care of his family since his dad died. He doesn’t branch out and is afraid to pursue the woman he’s interested in. The movie is about him stepping out, fighting for what’s important to him, experiencing life, and finding his own adventures (instead of daydreaming them). It’s a fantastic movie about not getting locked behind a desk, but experiencing this beautiful world that we live in. In the end, after chasing a photographer around the world, Walter finds the negative that he lost and gives it to the executive who fired him. And he gets the chance to stand up, not only for himself, but for all the men and women who were let go during the transition to online. Then he moves on with his life. He starts job searching. While picking up his severance package he runs into Cheryl and takes the risk to speak to her again. At the end of the movie his life of quiet responsibility is validated and there is the promise of a future relationship with Cheryl. It’s a quiet ending. But the movie was mostly about the journey, anyhow. It delve into the depths of human tragedy so there is no need for a dramatic ending. And his relationship with Cheryl was not the center of the story. The ending matches the tone of the movie: Walter is re-learning what life is about.

“Midnight in Paris” has a similar feel and a similar ending. But this movie is about a struggling writer and his wealthy, controlling fiance. While Walter daydreams about his life, Gil is caught up in nostalgia for the past. Through a bizarre set of circumstances he gets to visit his “dream era” (Paris in the twenties). But over the course of the movie he realizes that he has to live the life he has been given-that to long for the past is to miss out on the present. In the end he decides to pursue his dream of living as a poor writer in Paris, even if it means losing his fiance. At the end, not only do we see Gil contentedly walking through the rain in Paris, but there is the possibility of a new romantic interest. Again, it is a simple ending. There really is no need for extended “payoff” scenes of him living in Paris. He has been working toward this goal and now he found it. The audience can see clearly how his life would go from this point. They have all the information they need to know he’s going to be happy.

Number three on that list is a bit different. “Serenity” is a scifi movie with some pretty heavy content. It has action, it has comedy, and it has fun adventure, but it also delves into the dark side of humanity. River is a girl who has gone through deep psychological trauma at the hands of the Alliance–the same people who try to “fix” humanity and ended up turning a group of people into monsters with no morals. One main character and two minor ones die. Others are seriously wounded. So the ending of this movie can’t be a quick cutoff, or even a vague send off like “Walter Mitty” or “Midnight in Paris.” The movie took the audience through deep emotional waters and now the story needs to lead us to the shore again. When the crew of Serenity accomplishes their mission it is bittersweet, because they have lost so much. So the storytellers show a beautiful funeral ceremony where the characters and the audience get a chance to say goodbye. Then there is a montage of the crew patching up the ship. This assures the audience that they will be able to move forward with their lives, and it also serves for a metaphor of emotional and physical healing. A few quiet conversations wrap up plot points and emotional loose ends. There are seeds of hope for the future. Finally, the Serenity takes off, bursting through the storm and above the clouds (another metaphor). The audience can take it from here.

“Ender’s Game” is perhaps the bridge between “Serenity” and “The Return of the King.” While it is difficult to objectively compare the depth of emotional content there are a couple of factors to take into consideration. “Serenity” is a little far-fetched. The technology, culture, and science are pretty far removed from our own. So although you can sympathize with the characters’ struggles, it doesn’t hit super close to home. The world of “Ender’s Game” is much more similar to ours. And the fact that Ender is a child through the entire book makes him more vulnerable, not to mention that the book is far more psychological than the “rollicking adventure” of “Serenity.” “Ender’s Game” explores themes that we deal with in daily life: self-preservation vs. compassion, the struggle of leadership, being your own worst enemy, and betrayal to name a few. Beside all these conflicts there is the main and obvious one: the leaders of humanity have to face the guilt of what they’ve done to Ender and Ender has to face the guilt of his own actions. After the major climax, Card takes his time finishing the story, which I have always been grateful for. He explains some of the political consequences. He shows the impact on Ender and the internal struggles he is facing. The solution for what he does next felt a little bittersweet. I didn’t like it much, but it also made sense. But then Card jumps eight or nine years into the future and gives a remarkably satisfying ending. There is redemption and again hope for the future. The reader can now visualize how Ender’s life will go.

And finally…”The Return of the King.” I won’t take too much time explaining the plot (I bet you all know it). The first time I experienced this story was in theaters. If you’ve seen the movie you know that it has several “fake endings.” The screen blacks out for a full couple of seconds before the scene changes. It was like Jackson kept teasing us that it was the end, but then adding in more. And every time the scene faded in again I was so very gratified. Because after such a long journey through struggle, war, hopelessness, and despair you can’t just end it. If any story needs a payoff at the end it is this one. Not only does Jackson give us the payoff in the movie version, but Tolkien did even more so in the book. In the movie the hobbits are saved from the exploding Mount Doom, the Fellowship is reunited, Aragorn is crowned king, and the hobbits return home. All beautiful things that you hoped for. But in the movie version the Shire is unchanged and no one can understand what the four hobbits have been through. And even though Frodo writes about his experiences, he can never fully recover from what he’s been through, so he goes off with the elves across the sea. I was happy with this ending because it matched the rest of the story. How could he return to a normal life after fighting against such evil for so long?

But the book ending is now my ultimate favorite. Tolkien takes a full hundred pages to explain what happens after the ring is destroyed (and this not counting the Appendices). The Fellowship have many conversations with each other. There is the process of Aragorn becoming king and finding the sprout of a new White Tree. He explains how each party goes back to their own land. The hobbits go with the elves to Rivendell for a while before finally returning to the Shire. Of course, anyone who’s read the books knows how vastly different the Shire is in Tolkien’s story. The hobbits have to fight to redeem their Shire. And they do so valiantly.

Either way, this story was so long, the darkness so deep, and the struggle so real that it is only fair to be patient in wrapping it all up. The story could have ended with some profound comments after the destruction of the ring. Honestly, when I thought the movie would end with Frodo and Sam on the rock surrounded by lava, I was okay with it. It would have been bittersweet, but at least we knew they had won. All the additional information is like whip cream on top. Here’s the difference: if the story had ended right there, the audience would have remembered the struggle against Sauron as the main part of the story. But since it went on to show the lives of each character afterward you are reminded that the focus of the story is not Sauron, but each of these dear and wonderful characters. And after all of that emotional impact, when you get to follow the characters into their normal lives you love them more intimately and they root themselves in your heart, and suddenly the story becomes yours forever.

And that’s the kind of author I want to be. I want to tell the full story: the beginning, the middle, the end, and even the “after end” if necessary. Ultimately, I strive to make each ending equal in weight to the themes and climax. I don’t want to play tricks on my readers. I want to give them a full story that they can participate in- a story that they want to re-read because it is like going on a journey with friends.

 

The Creation of Jack Soundtrack!

One time long ago I said it would be cool if I could tell my readers what songs to listen to as they read my book. I was half joking. I just kind of assumed that people don’t do that sort of thing 😉

Well the idea never really left my head. I’ve always had specific songs for specific projects. Finally, the other week I saw another author had done it: created a playlist “soundtrack” for her book. So here is mine. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it. At the bottom I will list the songs with a word of how they connect to the book. (If videos below aren’t working try clicking here: COJ Soundtrack)

 

  1. All My Days (Alexi Murdoch)- America
  2. A Whisper (Coldplay)- Into the Maze
  3. Nara (E.S. Posthumus)- Rinty
  4. 300 Violin Orchestra (Jorge Quintero)- Confrontation
  5. The Interview (AFI)- Blackmail
  6. Prelude 12/21 (AFI)- Point of No Return
  7. Let Go (Red)- Hajjar
  8. Bring Me To Life- (Evanescence) Druce

Part 2

  1. Pieces (Red)- Harbor
  2. Breathe (Alexi Murdoch)- A Life On the Ocean
  3. Break Me Down (Red)- The Past Comes Back
  4. Polarize (twenty one pilots) – A New Team
  5. Rivers In Your Mouth (Ben Howard)- Cambodia
  6. Breath (Breaking Benjamin)- The Chase
  7. Taking Over Me (Evanescence)- Dark Memories
  8. Blow Me Away (Breaking Benjamin)- Assault on the Compound

Part 3

  1. Comptine d’Un Autre Ete (Yann Tiersen)- Hospital
  2. Numb (Linkin Park)- Revelations
  3. Hurt (Johnny Cash)- Runaway
  4. Let Go (Frou Frou)- In the Rain
  5. Born to Lead (Hoobastank)- Destiny
  6. Holding On to You (twenty one pilots)

Home Stretch…

Guys, I’m almost there! I am so close to wrapping up “Into the Void.”

I literally feel like I have been running the eight hundred, and this is the last stretch (why is the last stretch so brutal? And why did anyone ever invent the 800 meter race??!).

I am so very proud of this work, but also so ready to have it done and complete, and outside of my mind in a pretty little cover. And I am ready to move on to my next project and re-explore the universe of “The Traveler.”

To any of you who have never written a novel…it is quite a feat. I feel like I hiked Mt. Whitney again, or gave birth to a child. This one was particularly challenging because I took everything up a notch: the character development (focusing more on minor characters), the plot intricacies, the science…it takes a genius to write a good scifi. And while I don’t claim to be a genius, I do claim that my scifi is at least enjoyable.

I would ask for tips on how to finish strong, but I feel like the best advice any of you could give me is…keep going! Make good choices! Don’t sell yourself short! I will do my best.

Why I Don’t Cater to Readers

Touchy subject, I know. Someday (maybe even soon) some well-educated writer will come along and explain to me why I’m wrong, and I’ll probably feel like an idiot. But for now I am going to share where I am at in this and why. I feel like I have good reasons…

I feel like it is very subtle propaganda sometimes…that message to cater to the audience. And I understand that if you are making your living this way you want something that sells. There is a bit of a supply and demand issue, even among the arts. But in my experience, entertainment that consistently caters to the audience inevitably sells itself short. Think of mainstream art and music (which can be admittedly satisfying) verses the masterpieces created by those artists who often don’t fit into society and pave their own way, ignoring conventions. And here we come to an important question:

What is your purpose in writing? Are you writing to make money? (Nothing wrong with that). Are you writing for fun? Are you writing to discover something new? Are you writing to communicate a specific message?

Some writers do cater to readers and they are very good at it and their novels are very good. In truth, I think most writers have a combination of reasons for writing. As I am growing in the craft I have found myself expanding and adventuring into new territory. At the heart my writing is very philosophical and personal: it is my search to understand and communicate the things I am learning about life. But more recently I have been attempting to step away from my usual style and tell a straightforward, entertaining story. That is probably the closest I have been to “catering to the readers” and the reason I struck so close was because I was catering to myself.

Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand. I am not writing thick, existential “mish mash” that no one could even understand beside myself. My writing has plot, adventure, good characters, and I believe (and have been told) is quite engaging. But when I am making choices about scenes, conflicts, and characters, I rarely ask what the reader would be thinking at this point. I have read a lot of writing advice (and this really is good advice for beginning writers) about how to make a page turner, or how to add more conflict and excitement. They talk about the “how could this situation be worse?” question. It’s definitely a valid tool, and one I use when I find a particular scene feels hollow. But I think there is too great a temptation to amp up every scene and interaction to get an adrenaline rush. It reminds me of the blockbuster action films that just keep adding bigger explosions and ridiculous odds every year because the audience would get bored otherwise.

That is not the writing I want to produce. My argument is that readers will still be interested characters and struggles that ring true whether or not they are big and dramatic. And as a reader, I respect a writer who takes me somewhere new.

One of the most precious things about books are the new perspectives they offer. And one of my goals as a writer is to pioneer those new perspectives for my reader.

My creative process looks a little like me forging a new path in the jungle with my machete, hacking off branches, attempting to follow the hint of a path that has formed in my mind. It is a process of discovery. Now when I reach the end, I go back and repair the path so that my readers can follow. Sometimes this means cutting scenes that I love because they slow the plot. So yes, sometimes it means catering to the readers. But to me that is far different than taking a bulldozer in on the first draft and plowing your way directly to the lake so the readers can ride in by the busload, sipping their lemonade.

Maybe that is a bad analogy ;P

My point is this: when I am in the middle of a draft, the characters and their journey is more important to me than whether or not my reader will like it. I think what I am saying is that the creative process needs to be somewhat independent of popular opinion: that is where true inspiration takes flight.

Hope I made some sense there. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Cliches

Yep, I’m diving headfirst into that one today! If you scan the internet for like, one second, you will find hundreds of rants concerning cliches in storytelling. Today, I hope to give a different perspective. “The plot was cliche.” “The protagonist’s struggle was so cliche.” And on and on. There is a mob of movie-watching, book-reading critics out there ready to bash the brains out of your story the instant they think you’ve subscribed to that c-club. Does that sound intimidating? It does to me, especially when you consider the fact that a lot of cliches (like stereotypes) are founded in truth. So what’s an author to do? Well, today I hope to give a different perspective on cliches.

I want to start by saying that I’m as liable as anyone to roll my eyes and cry “foul” when I run across my own little cliche pet-peeve list. So don’t write me off as a cheap, buck-making, penny novelist just yet. And I think this brings up our first good point: the truth that everybody has a different list of cliches they will or will not tolerate. There tend to be some popular ones that get slammed by media figures. I guess you could say there are cliche-bashing trends, while other cliches are celebrated and well-funded. Confusing, right? Here’s a glimmer of hope for you: if a particular cliche is important to your story, or even important to you, you don’t necessarily need to cut it out just to please the masses.

As some wise pinner on Pinterest put it: “You can’t please everyone: you’re not a jar of Nutella.”

Now time for my controversial thesis:

I propose the crux of the issue behind most cliches is a lack of depth, and conversely that almost any cliche can be safely utilized when treated correctly.

Gutsy, huh? Before you start blaming me for all the teenage love triangles in popular fiction today, hear me out.

Let me move to a field where I have unquestionable expertise: my own experience.

For most of my life I’ve had lofty ambitions to master the written word and use it to tell stories that impact people and change perspectives. But where do you begin with such a lofty calling? I’m not afraid to admit that as a teenager I began with a lot of cliches. Because what are cliches? Most people would say they are overused stereotypes, simplistic representations, maybe even uninformed impressions. For example: the bad guy with a heart of gold, the woman who falls in love with her kidnapper, the ordinary person who is really prophesied to save the world. The truth of reality is that people who do bad things often have a lot of darkness inside of them. The truth of reality is that the woman who falls for a man who kidnapped her is in an unhealthy relationship and probably needs some counseling. The truth of reality is there is rarely anything one person can do that would actually save the world from its problems.

The interesting thing about each of these cliches is there was a time when they had never been heard before and introducing them brought fresh perspective. It’s also true that there is something interesting about each one. The fact that they don’t match up with our day to day reality attracts us to them. But unless the characters, events, and motivations are believable, readers will write them off as trite and unrealistic.

One of the fun things about writing is that you don’t have to stick to the daily grind of reality. In fact, I often write to transcend it. I like to use unusual situations, what ifs, and even impossible circumstances to shed new light on the character or themes of my story. I think cliches are one way to do that. Because often times authors long ago used these cliches successfully, and writers have been copying them ever since–maybe that’s why they became cliche.

The root of the problem with cliches is the root of the problem with bad writing: there is no depth and no insight. There are seven billion people in the world with seven billion different stories, and seven billion perspectives on life. There should be no cliches. In my ideal world a hundred others could use the same basic outline for their novels and produce one hundred fresh, different, insightful books. So I guess my point is this: whatever you are writing, don’t settle for the surface. Dig deep into character motivations, draw from your own unique experience, tell unusual stories, and remain true to who people are and what drives them.

But maybe I should tack this on to make myself clear: I think cliches are the shadows of real characters, and fascinating plot. If your writing is full of cliches, you may be just a breath away from a great novel.

What do you guys think? Do you have any examples of movies/books that successfully used an old cliche in a new way?

The OODA Loop and Your Character

I’ve been reading about the OODA loop this week. Have you heard about it? I guess it was first articulated by airman and theorist John Boyd. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It describes how humans respond and behave to changes, especially in conflict/trauma. Training and preparation can help you move through the observe and orient stages and arrive at decide and act more quickly.

Although I didn’t know the specific terms, I sort of discovered this on my own. As confessed in earlier posts, I am an INTP. Practically this means I think a lot. Typically, my goal is to take in as much information as possible before coming to a decision and acting. This sounds like bad news in a crisis and I confess I have a tendency to freeze up and be indecisive.

When I was in seventh grade I developed a new habit: screaming when I was startled. I didn’t like this habit. My brother didn’t like it either. He told me once that he thought I was better than all the other girls who did that. I decided I needed to break this habit. I realized that if I always pretended that someone was about to scare me, I wouldn’t scream when it happened. I would be prepared. Granted, I couldn’t be completely prepared every second of every day…but the process of seriously thinking it out was developing my “situational awareness” (although I didn’t know to call it that). The first couple times things startled me, I was ready. I was able to form new habits and a new mindset for how to react when startled.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was developing my “orientation” skills. Instead of just impulsively letting out a scream, I was more swift to adopt any new, startling, circumstances into my mind frame. I started to do something similar in a lot of areas in my life. Because I am such a heavy thinker, if I can think things out ahead of time it helps me arrive at “decide” and “act” a lot sooner.

That is why I love trainings: CPR, First Aid, Lifeguarding, Wilderness Advanced First Aid, even customer service training. They teach you to prepare for scenarios and often give you the words to say and the steps to take.

How does all this relate to writing and character development?

Well, I was reading online this one woman’s defense of why ISTP’s make the best action heroes. ISTP’s are similar to INTP’s, but they prefer action. They are good observers and good thinkers, but that “S” means they live more in the world of senses than inside their own brain. They are good at making decisions and reacting to the world around them.

I grant that those are good qualities for an action hero. But I don’t think that you should eliminate other personality types. After all, isn’t it more interesting when the personality type that “shouldn’t” be a hero becomes one? Here’s my plug for the INTP: they are good at seeing patterns and detecting flaws in the system. They just need some training ahead of time to help get them past the big “double O” of observe and orient. If they get stuck there they might be useless. (In middle school my sister and I decided to light toilet paper on fire in order to reach the floating candle down in a vase. Of course it turned into a blaze. I was frozen, stuck in the observe and orient phase, debating what to do. My sister promptly snatched it and threw it in the sink!)

In fact, it would be fun to play around with characters who struggle in different areas of this “loop.” Some people will skip observe and orient and just decide and act, often having to deal with the consequences of not thinking things through.

I think it’s an interesting model. I’m not saying it’s flawless…but it helps us understand how people respond and behave.

10 Reasons You Should Read “Into the Void”

  1. Logan Bailey is not your typical female action star!

I’m not gonna lie: most of the leading ladies in movies and television are nothing like me. Nor are they like many women I have met. Granted, there are some wonderful exceptions. But just as J.R.R. Tolkien decided to write the books he wanted to read, I decided to create a female heroine who inspired me and who I could relate to. Logan is quiet, contemplative, and analytical, but she is also brave and compassionate. One of the most unique things about her is this duality of logic and emotion. In this sequel we get to see her grow into a woman, take on responsibility, and exercise leadership. She is not sexy. She is not sassy. She is not fiercely independent. She is very human with strengths and weaknesses.

2. It’s based on real science with creative twists.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers here. 😉 But if you want to look into the science of Lagrange points, brain hacking, and asteroid mining, be my guest. I’ll admit that this novel isn’t super “science heavy,” but it’s definitely frosted with it.

3. It answers questions from “The Creation of Jack.”

If you have read my first novel, you have probably realized there were some questions that were never answered. Or maybe you haven’t consciously realized this, but you were left with a nagging feeling here and there that things weren’t resolved. You’re right. I focused on the main narrative of Logan’s difficult “circumstances” and her emotional journey. There were lots of open ends left here and there. “Into the Void” examines some of them and even gives some new perspective to what you thought you knew! (And isn’t life like that? I’m always finding out new information that puts my childhood and the people I know in a new life). Life is never as simple as we think it is.

4. It explores the politics of mankind as they branch out from earth.

It is a lot more political than I intended when I began this story. The politics are subtle but very present as a backdrop to Logan’s story in this book. It is an interesting glimpse into what life may be like in the future if mankind left earth and expanded into space.

5. There are more female characters!

To be honest I have felt a little guilty at how few female characters are in “The Creation of Jack.” It wasn’t really intentional. In my earliest versions there was another strong female lead that I had to cut (she ended up being superfluous and making my job more difficult). I am not apologizing though. I think each character gives a specific tone to the story. Because of the circumstances of where Logan is and what she is going through it made sense for most of the characters to be men. That being said, I was excited to introduce some more women in this next book. I have enjoyed exploring who they are, what their motivations are, and how Logan interacts with them.

6. It is full of heart.

It is not a blockbuster. It is not a sappy, unrealistic romance. The characters are real, they face their own struggles, and they grow and learn. Some of them make mistakes and have to face the consequences. It deals with difficult questions and bizarre circumstances but underneath it all is a positive message to keep on fighting.

7. It examines healthy relationships.

…for the most part. I won’t say that all the relationships in the book are healthy. What I am tired of is the mainstream media glorifying unhealthy relationships. I have met teenagers who will literally copy characters they have seen in the movies. As a writer I understand the interest in examining the darker characters, the bad decisions, and the emotionally unstable…but it is too easy to cross the line and start glorifying it. I have no desire to glorify immature and emotionally dysfunctional people. That doesn’t mean that all my characters are perfect angels. They make mistakes, they argue, they lash out, and they don’t always communicate properly. But they work through their issues and own up to their mistakes.

8. It is encouraging.

It’s not all glitter and silver linings. There are definitely some dark moments. Many of the characters go through significant struggles and brokenness. But even though things don’t turn out the way they want, even though they suffer through loss and disillusionment, they find the hope to keep on going. They make decisions that they can live with. They encourage each other and they continue to fight what they know is wrong. Warning: this is not a nihilistic book, nor will I ever write one.

9. It is an adventure.

Spoilers: they don’t sit around sipping tea the whole time 😉 To be honest, the scope of some of the action scenes blew my mind a little!

10. It contains bits and pieces of my emotional journey.

This point is mostly for people who know me. It would be difficult to count how many times I wanted to “just quit” over the last three to four years. Sometimes life rains, and then it pours, and then it turns into a blizzard and you find yourself frozen in three foot snow while all your friends are posting beach pictures in Hawaii. That is what my life has felt like. This book is an emotional triumph for me and it displays what I have learned about relationships, about dealing with emotional trauma, about dealing with manipulative people, and about always holding onto hope.

Winter Thoughts: The Best Things Are Worth Fighting For

Every spring I greet the warm sunshine like a long-lost friend and I wonder how I made it through another winter. In summer, winter seems like a bad dream. And when fall sets in I always brace myself for the inevitability of the ever-approaching frozen season.

But when winter actually arrives I am surprised by my own maturity. There may have been times in the past when I curled up in a ball under a blanket and refused to come out, but that has become a rare occurrence.

Today I drove around the nearby lake and was reminded how stunningly beautiful winter can be. The trees were thickly coated with frost, with the rich brown undertones of their trunks peeking through and the lake creating an icy blue backdrop. And as I have learned with all weather, there is something comforting about the uncontrollable that affects everyone’s lives.

So I am back in the season of sweaters, jackets, scarves, boots, hot chocolate, twinkling lights, and sympathetic holiday gatherings. And I’ve realized that me and winter have come along way. I don’t hate it anymore. Our relationship is still bumpy at times, but we have fought through difficult seasons and come out stronger. And I think that I value winter because it has taught me so much about myself and life. I have come to value winter because it is not easy.

Some of the best things in my life are the ones I’ve had to fight for, or the trials I’ve endured that have made me stronger. I like a good fight.

I have fought very long and hard for “The Creation of Jack.” It started out with a lot of promise and a lot of half-baked ideas. I knew the emotional journey I wanted for the main character, but didn’t have much of an idea of how to get there. I needed more practice with writing and a lot more life experience. It started out immature, and probably a little confusing. Five years later it became much more. Not only did I land on a manuscript that I was proud of (that still moves me to tears), but “The Creation of Jack” became a launching pad for my sequel “Into the Void”–a book that has surprised and astounded me with its ambition, scope, complexity, and insight. I think it is the best I’ve ever written (which is what I always hope to say about my most recent projects).

So here’s to winter, and pushing through difficult seasons and difficult projects. The best things are worth fighting for and the best inspiration often comes out of the midst of the struggle.