Thursday, May 24, 2018

White-Washed Tombs {cleanliness in writing}



I have people who tell me I shouldn't have any swearing in my books.
Well...

*whispers* I don't always agree with that.

I'll be honest, I'm pretty nervous to share this post with people. I hear it so often from so many different places:


  • Christian fiction shouldn't have language. 
  • Christian fiction shouldn't have violence or gore. 
  • Christian fiction shouldn't have death.
  • Christian fiction shouldn't have kissing or anything beyond that. 


And the ever baffling ultimatum:


  • Christian fiction should be clean. 


I'm never exactly sure what they mean by "clean" because life isn't clean. I understand about keeping things appropriate for the age level and not being slimy and trashy even when you're writing to young adults and adults. But some of these restrictions don't make sense to me because it's stuff I run into in the outside world, about once a week. Thank God for messy books like Katherine Paterson and The Bible, that helped prepare me for meeting messy human beings. (And helped me figure out myself, messy human being exhibit A.)


If you're sitting saying that the Bible isn't a messy book, I don't know what parts you've been reading, because it sure isn't pretty.
In Matthew when Jesus is chewing out the Pharisees? (Matthew Chapter 23, go look it up.)
He calls them "white washed tombs" and "brood of vipers". Now look in the Old Testament at what the cleanliness laws are and consider what those terms actually mean to the elite of the Jewish people. If you actually think about it, he's cussing them out pretty bad. We just don't realize that because those words don't really mean anything to us today. We don't understand the severity of those terms.


The argument people throw at me most often is "Do it all for the glory of God." You know, this section of 1st Corinthians 10:


“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.



Okay, that's great! Thanks. Throw a Bible verse at the issue, because that always fixes it.

Here's the thing:

I write stories. I don't write for a Christian audience, and I have never claimed to. I don't write for a secular audience. I write for readers. I write because I believe these are stories that need to be told. Occasionally I write because God says "oh ho ho, my dear, you're not getting out of it that easily" and leaves Howler notes in my dreams until I get my rear end in my desk chair and write. (I wish I was kidding.)

My stories are populated with people. Some of them have had really horrible things happen to them, and that shapes their character, and sometimes who they are when we meet them at the beginning of the book isn't pleasant.

I cannot demand they are squeaky church-approved clean.

I can't! There it is. I cannot demand that the characters in my story be different than they are.

If I demand that my teenage character Theo {The Importance of Blood} doesn't swear in the first half of his story, I miss out on the way we learn he's healing. He's angry, he's scared, he's hurting. He acts out and yells, cusses, breaks dishes, throws things, and generally makes a mess of everything.

But then he starts to feel safe.

He starts to feel loved.

He starts to feel wanted.

And when he starts to understand he doesn't have to fight for his life anymore, he starts to heal.

That is shown in the way his behavior changes. In the way his character develops. He starts actively trying to work on his anger issues. He stops cussing. He stops breaking dishes. And he learns to apologize when he hurts someone. And by the end of the book we've found he's a sensitive kid who had to grow up too fast, who grew a thick skin to keep himself safe. He's trying so hard to be better than who he was, because he doesn't like who he was.






I don't throw swear words around carelessly because that eliminates the purpose of having them in there. The reason to have them in my story is to communicate that something is wrong. Someone is hurting, something bad is happening, THERE IS A PROBLEM HERE. One well placed swear word can be exactly what is needed. I work hard to make sure it's in the right place. Sometimes I can replace it with 'Theo swore' but sometimes that's a cheap cheat and it shows.
And no, I'm not trying to tell people to put swearing in their books. If it doesn't have a place, don't put it in. It's as simple as that. I'm not writing this to tell other people what to do; I'm writing this to explain why I do things the way I do.


{One of the things I love about blogging is that it's an interactive medium of sharing my thoughts. One of my new followers sent me a lovely email in response to this post, and hearing her point of view allowed me to find the piece I knew I was missing somewhere, and wrap this up so I'm happier with it. And if any of this is confusing, I'm sorry. My head doesn't always arrange itself in such a way that it can make sense.}


I've spent a lot of time praying about this, thinking about this, and talking it out with a few people. That verse that people throw around, about glorifying God in all I do? I glorify him by doing the job He's given me, to the best of my ability. Sometimes that means reading a bible passage in church, and sometimes that means cleaning out the septic field. Sometimes that means writing a story that is glowing with His love, and sometimes that means writing a story that's still trying to find His love. Sometimes that means praying and talking with other Christians, and sometimes that means trudging through a foot of snow to check on a family in need. Sometimes that means taking flowers to an elderly neighbor and sometimes that means putting on my war boots and gloves to jump in and get my hands dirty.

What is the intent? I try really hard to make sure the bad stuff I show in my writing is met and matched by hope and light. There is truth in the bad things. But there is also truth in the good. My intent is not to shock people with foul language. My intent is to use that as a tool to further, deepen, and strengthen the story I'm telling. My goal is that the words I lay before people have been considered, weighed, measured, and found to be needed in their place. I don't throw these things around casually, my dears. But I know from personal experience that the right book at the right time, dealing with hard things and showing things that aren't pretty... that can make all the difference in the world. 

Some of the time I read Christian fiction and it leaves me feeling sick to my stomach. It's so sappy and melodramatic and overly moralistic and oh-so-clean. It completely abolishes the fact that we live in a world where bad stuff happens every day. And then I read books like The Fault in Our Stars, which has some language and some sexual content, and it's a breath of fresh air because these, these are kids like the ones I knew at high school. These are people I know. I'm not saying that it's okay or that I agree with everything that is said and done; I'm saying that it's real. 

The best is when I find books that give me that "I know this character, they're a person like I could meet on the street" that are written from a point of view that shares the good and the hope as well as the bad and the hurt. Stories that are written to strengthen, challenge, and reassure those who read it. They don't shy away from the messy parts, but use them as necessary, as a tool to tell the story. 

One of my romance stories doesn't have any language, any sexual content beyond the couple kissing when they get engaged. It doesn't need it. It would be horribly inappropriate to include it, not to mention disrespectful to the characters, the story, myself, and my readers. I have a lot of stories like that, actually. But that doesn't mean the other stories aren't there too, and it doesn't mean they don't need to be written. How can we ever hope to reach the hurting if we act like they don't exist?

See, life is messy. And I write about that. But life is also really cool, and sometimes we meet other humans and we just *click* and that's it, we're family now. And life has rainstorms and thunder and apple blossoms and waterfalls and autumn leaves and holding hands while you walk to the post office. And life has snow storms and crocuses and sunlight pushing through a cloudy day. And life has mud puddles and blood and death and dark, dark earth that sticks to your shoes because it's so moist and rich. It's a huge, tangled up, complicated mess of so many things, and I don't know how to pick and choose which things I talk about.

So yes, sometimes my stories are messy.

-Annie


Copyright 2018 by Annie Louise Twitchell

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

10 Amazingly Clever Ways To Store All Your Other Stuff When Your Life Is Already Packed To The Max With Books





So many articles about “Clever Ways To Store Books” seem to be written by literary-challenged people who have a total of twenty books to store. Sweetheart, I have twenty books on one bedside table. (That’s the smaller table.)

If you’re one of those people who has so many books that they’ve started re-papering the walls independently, this post is for you. Here, I outline 10 Amazingly Clever Ways to store all the other stuff when your books take primary control of the living space.



1.
In the basement. A lot of basements aren’t good places to store those valuable books, either because of moisture or pests, or both.




2.
In the guest bedroom. I’m sure no one will notice. That is, until they try and sleep on the bed that is actually packing crates covered with sheets, blankets, and pillows.



3.
Got filing cabinets? Use them to rest stacks of books on. Store all that lovely icky paperwork inside it and every time you’re tempted to do some filing, pick up a book and read it.




4.
Under the bed. Assuming the books haven’t taken over, under the bed storage is a great solution for things like shoes, clothes, books, a collapsible trampoline… Under the bed storage is almost endless. I know for a fact that three children, two cats, a box of toy trains, and a stuffed elephant can fit comfortably under a bed and still have room to spare.




5.
In the garden shed. Never ever ever put books out in the garden shed. Books belong in a place of honor in your home. Besides, you’ll never read them all if they’re way out there in the garden shed. Not like you’ll read them all anyway, but that’s not the issue.




6.
Under the couch cushions. This is a handy place to store batteries, small change, the Kraken, your great-grandmother’s diamond necklace, an entire deck of playing cards (unboxed and scattered, of course), one random fork (probably the one you don’t like), and all of your cat’s shed hair that he’s saving to knit into a winter coat. This location is especially recommended for all the small valuables that you don’t want stolen, as no one ever thinks to look under the couch cushions until the remote isn’t near the TV.



7.
In other people’s homes. To maintain the peace in society, however, it is strongly recommended to relinquish all rights to the stuff before passing it on.




8.
In a yard sale! These urban wonders boast low prices, so you’re almost guaranteed not to make enough money to make up for the labor involved, but at the end of the day you’ve gotten rid of a lot of things you didn’t need, and possibly made a few new friends.




9.
Go green—recycle away! Old papers that you don’t need, used up craft supplies, all the random bits of packing material that you’re not going to use again. Check with your local recycling facility for their guidelines.




10.
In the garbage can. This handy container requires very little maintenance considering the amount of work it does. All things non-transferable and unrecyclable go in here, then get taken to the curb for the garbage men to collect. In rural areas you may have to take it to the dump yourself; it’s still not a lot of work in exchange for less stuff to take up valuable square inches.



There you have it, folks. Ten "clever" places to store stuff that won’t infringe on your book space. Happy reading!


Inspired by Nancy Chase
nancychase.com


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Spinner of Secrets {first birthday + giveaway}

This upcoming week is pretty incredibly busy for me.

On May 14th, Spinner of Secrets turns one year old.

On May 17th, I've been asked to present to three groups of elementary school students about writing as a career.

On May 19th, I'll be at the Homeschoolers of Maine Used Curriculum Sale with my books, in the vendor expo hall.



To celebrate my book baby's birthday, I'm hosting a really big giveaway!




I'm giving away one whole collection of my paperbacks!



I'm ALSO giving away one paperback copy of Spinner of Secrets!


For my international loves -- how about an e-book copy of Spinner of Secrets? I can't pay international shipping this time around, but I don't want you left out. So I'm adding, open worldwide (so yes, this includes US residents) THREE e-book copies of Spinner of Secrets OR a lovely little prize pack that might... possibly... include an art print file...



... that might look like this.


There are five potential winners for this giveaway!!

Here's the Rafflecopter Dude:


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck!

-Annie

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Fellowship of Fantasy: Magical May Giveaway





The Fellowship of Fantasy has banded together once more to bring you an awesome giveaway!

You can win a Spell Book Journal (with a WAND PEN!)
and an ebook collection of Fellowship of Fantasy authors!


You can win the following Fellowship of Fantasy Titles:
















Spellsmith & Carver: Magicians' Rivalry by H. L. Burke




Enter Here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway





Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Iron Core {review and author interview}

Rebekah is a dear friend of mine in South America. We actually met over a year in a teen writer's group on Facebook, when she asked for someone "who knows stuff about snow" to beta read a project for her. Wellll, if there's something I know about... it's snow. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Her newest story, Iron Core, had me in tears. I'm here to share the misery enchant you with this wonderfully heartbreaking story. I fell in love with Lunetta's story and I'm dying for more, whenever Miss DeVall decides to stop torturing me and let me have it. (In her defense, I do think she has to finish writing it first.)

See this pretty cover? Hehe



{Iron Core Blurb}
Everything will be okay. 
Deep in Brancaleone, a prison carved from the mountainside, eighteen-year-old Lunetta plans her escape. Raised behind iron bars, all she wants is freedom - and to take her mother with her.


{Author Bio}
Rebekah DeVall prides herself on being the girl who wrote 200,000 words in 21 days. She’s a Christian author with a penchant for killing characters and a love for writing real female protagonists described as “the example of a Christian hero that young readers need to see”.  




{Contact Rebekah}
Blog: http://www.rebekahdevall.wordpress.com


{Author Interview}



You're a missionary kid, stationed overseas. Did that contribute to the emotions and the overall story of Iron Core?

Yep, I’m a missionary kid, way deep down in South America. While Iron Core wasn’t a “missionary story” per se, some of Lunetta’s emotions and feelings definitely came from my missionary-kid heart.
Lunetta struggles with feelings of loneliness and missing her family. She has to experience the world entirely from scratch, without any previous knowledge. That’s kind of what we missionary kids go through during furloughs (which is coming up close for my family!) I mean, what exactly are dimes and quarters? I’ve been working with South American money for all my life. How am I supposed to dress? I don’t know. I haven’t been in an American church since I was thirteen, and we all know how fashion-savvy thirteen-year-olds are.
So, long story short, there’s a whole lot more of me in Lunetta than I expected when I sat down to write this story.


You write deep, hard stories. Why? (Do you think it's possible for you to write fluff?)

I write deep, hard stories because we live in a deep, hard world.
To be honest, I’ve never been the kind of girl who was satisfied with sweet romances and children’s fiction. I grew up on War and Peace, Shakespeare, Anne of Green Gables (wow that list looks strange), Little House on the Prairie.
I grew up in a house where one night, the living room would hold my dad and a couple there for marriage counseling. The next day, a young woman pregnant out of wedlock. The next day, we would pack up and travel three or four hours to a church, to meet with people who walked miles and waded through rivers just to hear God’s Word.
There’s so much going on in this world, and I feel like standard Christian fiction brushes no more than the surface.

Is it possible for me to write fluff? I think so. I mean, all things are possible. I’ll let you know the day that happens. 😉


What's it like, being a writer in a missionary family? What are a couple challenges you face every day?

I don’t think I have many challenges that other writers in big families don’t. There’s always the issue of scheduling – when there’s a weekend trip, two basketball games, piano classes, Bible Institute lessons, English class, six kids in homeschool – there’s always a lot going on.
One of the challenges I’ve faced is the fact that I’m generally an antisocial person. I’m happiest when I’m at my desk with my headphones in, my music playing, and fingers tapping across the keyboard. But as a missionary family, we’re here to serve people. So it’s always a struggle – to write or socialize?


What do you do in addition to writing and making me cry a lot?

Oh, man, you have asked the million dollar question.
I have seven little siblings. Not a day goes by that I don’t:

  • Drive someone somewhere
  • Tie some little person’s shoelaces
  • Fix their hair
  • Break up a squabble
  • An infinity of other things

I’m also a part-time Bible Institute student, which is where I find a lot of inspiration for my stories.
On top of that, I have a part-time job in a cheese factory. Want gruesome details about how Gouda cheese is made? I’m your girl.
Add that to writing (and making poor Annie cry), and I’m busy enough.


How many stories do you have up your sleeves?

Good thing I’m wearing two layers of sleeves!
On the “to-be-published-this-year”, there are at least eight, if I’m not forgetting any.
Now, on my “plot-bunny-will-be-published-someday” list? Thousands.



{My review}


5 stars

She did it again. Rebekah DeVall did it again. Iron Core has more of the gripping emotion I've come to love in her writing, wrapped in a fresh story and bright new characters. Iron Core is intense, for all the brevity of the story. She seems to make one sentence do the work of two. Lunetta is a dear who needs to be loved and taken care of, but she doesn't seem to allow for that. Persa... Carlotta... ZANE, who I definitely don't have a tiny crush on. I love the characters. They're tangible and I can feel the threads of their own histories that make them into the individuals they are, even in such a short little book. 

Recommend for teens 14+