Fiction, Full of Days, Love, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

What Is the Book About?

“What is the book about?”
I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I have heard this question. Sometimes people want a summary of the plot. Other times they are looking for the genre or a succinct synopsis. Easy question to answer, right? Right.
As the author, maybe because I am specifically a new author, I find the question difficult. How do I condense this story down to a few simple sentences? This story I’ve been writing and tweaking and rewriting for almost a decade. These characters I created from scratch and know like my best friends. Their relationships, their dilemmas, their pains and victories. How do I answer that question?
Then I stumbled upon this photo from the online magazine, “Verily.” I saw it and exclaimed, “That’s it!”
“Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.” (St. John Paul II)
That right there is my book pared down to one sentence. The theme at the heart of Full of Days is the worthiness of love even when sacrifices are necessary for its existence. That truth is the reason I wrote it. Extending from this theme are the additional claims: that love’s worth is essentially increased by those sacrifices and that no authentic love is capable of existing without some sacrifice.
In Full of Days, the protagonists experience this truth in varied ways. Sacrifice of pride and of approval. Sacrifice of comfort and security. Sacrifice of self. The latter is the only means for love to thrive. Do not mistake it for a pretty, romantic notion. It is the depth beneath the romance. It is the struggle beneath the prettiness. Self-sacrifice is the sustenance of love.
And, oh, the rewards! Freedom gained when pride and fear are rejected. Joys and adventures experienced when security is set aside and faith is boldly chosen. Strength built by arising from sorrow. Yes, my beloved characters experience these too.
If there is anything, anything at all, I hope my readers gain from this novel, it is a little less fear of and a little more courage for authentic love.
Full of Days, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

Doing the Hard Things

Ever have those days when God drops His subtle tendencies and instead places what you need smack dab in front of your face so you won’t miss it? Today was one of those days. A Facebook friend shared this photo today and I broke down crying.
There’s progress being made toward publishing Full of Days, my debut novel. Steps on this mountain climb of a dream coming true. Writing the first draft nine years ago was hard. Revisions ever since have been hard. Setting it aside when it was not top priority for a few years was hard. Rededicating myself to it this year with a level of commitment I had not employed since writing the first draft has been hard.
It’s all been hard and I have done it all. I have done it and every single bit has been worth it. That’s what I keep reminding myself as I acknowledge the intimidation I feel right now. There’s something no one ever told me about drawing close to fulfilling the dearest dream of your heart: it can be scary. Not pursuing the dream or giving up on it when you hit the inevitable bumps, those things are scary in their own crushing way. This is a different sort of scary. It’s not crushing. It’s not terrifying. It is simply intimidating.
The repeated question running through my head is, “what will I do if this falls apart because I can’t do it?” Sometimes the gist of that question is self-doubt, wondering if I am capable. Other times it is a panicked query of myself, at a loss for how I would handle this dream coming to an end so I’d better do everything possible to not let that happen.
I can do the hard things. As I’ve been doing and will continue to do until this novel is in the hands of every possible person willing to read it, I will do the hard things.
Full of Days, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

Almost

You know that tremendous weight of something being nearly finished but not quite? It is not a burden, this weight. It is thick with anticipation and heavy with significance. The matter paces the circuit of your brain, refusing to step off your mental homestead even while you focus elsewhere. It is always there, always present in the shadows, biding its time. It waits for that break in the day when you’ll pull it back into the light. It looks forward to those end of the evening hours when, despite the tiredness, you can’t bring yourself to be so cruel as to make it wait until tomorrow. It knows you’ll come for it if it simply holds its ground.

The book proposals are almost finished.

Full of Days, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

Completing Our Masterpieces

Oh, my friends. My dear reader friends. I am inching ever closer to the end of my intensive revisions of the manuscript. Every week I add another stack of pages to the “finished” pile and watch the “to-do” pile shrink. I can see the end. It’s out there; up a few small hills, hugging the horizon, waiting to greet me. Not that it’s the true end. It’s only another necessary phase of the work. Next up: an out loud reading of my novel to find mistakes and weaknesses overlooked by the eye but noticeable to the ear. Still, it is an end. It is a finish line I’ve been striving for since the start of 2016.

There are times I tell myself to calm down about it all. I fill my brain with warnings about expectations and hopes and dreams. They’re dangerous.

Wasted warnings; it can’t be helped. This manuscript is my masterpiece and I have to treat it as such. I don’t know if it will be a masterpiece in anyone else’s eyes but it is in mine. That fact means it needs to be offered to others. That’s the latest lesson I’ve learned.

My almost three year old son often returns from the sitter’s house with a new piece of artwork. He is invariably proud of them. This includes those that are purely his, that don’t show evidence of how much the sitter helped him but rather look, plain and simple, like the work of a toddler. I arrive home from my workday and he hands them to me with his head held high and a hint of wonder in his voice as he announces, “I made that!” They are his masterpieces. Even when I have to ask him to interpret the picture before I can see the train or the truck or the dog, they are his masterpieces.

Masterpieces aren’t meant for the maker alone. They are meant to be held up for anyone to see. At risk of rejection and criticism, indifference and even cruelty, they are to be offered. Because maybe my masterpiece might make another person’s day better; maybe it could plant a seed of faith in what is good and true and beautiful; maybe it could edify the heart and mind of a person brought low by lesser things. It could make someone laugh deep in their gut like we all love to laugh. It could bring joy or insight or inspiration. You never know. You never know.

We’re all capable of masterpieces. We were designed to provide masterpieces to the rest of our human family. Each unique; each requiring vulnerability and courage. When we create them, we know it. As we are filled with the urgent need to show it to someone, risks be damned, we know what we have created. Want to know why Facebook and YouTube and Instagram are so absurdly successful? Because we long to share our masterpieces with the rest of world. That’s not what we are doing most of the time in those mediums but it’s a large part of what drives us to use them at all.

My masterpiece might end up only being a masterpiece in my eyes. Or, at most, the eyes of those who love me dearly, much like a toddler’s indecipherable depiction of a train. In the end, that’s not what matters. What matters is the completion of the masterpiece and it simply is not complete until it is offered to others.

Full of Days, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

Approaching From Another Side

Yesterday, in a half hour’s time, I thoroughly rearranged the flow of chapter one of Full of Days. Mostly the same details and action, different order. I think I have improved it. I am never certain because no matter how many times I revise my book, I can always find more to change. It causes me to wonder how I will ever know when it is ready to be sent out alone into the big, scary world of manuscript submissions. This never ending journey known as Revision makes me laugh at the fact that I tried to find a publisher so soon after my first draft was completed all those years ago. Oh, innocent, naive Carrie Sue.

Every reader knows that the first pages of a book are critically important for creating a desire to read further. This is as true for publishers as it is for readers. So, no pressure on perfecting that first chapter, Ms. First Time Novelist. Nope, no pressure at all.

Chapter one’s needs have hounded me. The feedback I’ve received from readers and my own experience as a reader made it clear that it has never quite been what it needs to be. I sit and stare at the lines of the pages and I am stuck. My brain locks into “I wrote it this way for a reason” mode and I can’t seem to see how to make more than minor tweaks.

What inspired me to finally tackle the rearranging of the first chapter was some time spent listening to The Piano Guys. These immeasurably talented men gave me the perspective I needed. In addition to other beautiful pieces, they specialize in covering popular hit songs on pianos and cellos and more. Often the covers are composed as mash ups with gorgeous classical pieces. The result is incredible and I could listen for hours. Here’s a favorite. Give it a listen and then come back to me.

See what I mean? A feast for the ears. Listening to them yesterday, song after song, I could not stop marveling at what they accomplished via a new approach. They take material already created, already well known in its first form, and approach it from a new direction. A new angle, a new order, a new combination, and, voila! A new creation.

Of course as I type up these thoughts, it becomes clear that this perspective applies to a whole lot in life. Yesterday though, I was simply grabbing hold of the inspiration to rewrite chapter one yet again.

Maybe that chapter is ready now. Maybe The Piano Guys led me to where I needed to be. Maybe there’s still more to change. Time will tell. The lesson that a radially new approach to the same material can produce beautiful results is one I’ll hang onto as I continue on my way.

Ok, here’s another, just for fun.