Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Review: A Tale of Mist and Shadow by M. R. Laver

Hello, fellow readers! Here I am with my second book review. Today, it is M. R. Laver's A Tale of Mist and Shadow, the first book in his series by the same name. It is classified under Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I would definitely call it pure Fantasy. The book itself is 450 pages long and can be purchased both in e-book format and as a paperback through Amazon.

I started reading this book shortly after I "met" Laver online through a mutual friend of ours. When I found out he was a fellow author, I knew I wanted to read his first book and throw some support his way. We independently published authors need to stick together, after all. Knowing he was a Fantasy author and a fellow Christian, I figured that chances were pretty high that his work would be right up my alley. So I downloaded the book and got to reading. In truth, it took me far longer to get through this book than it should have, and that was my own fault. I had to stop reading for awhile to get a different book in, and that may have made some details revealed earlier in the book a little fuzzy.

The story starts off by throwing the reader into a bit of a battle and some conflict between those in charge (and those who think they're in charge) of a small town, and it really doesn't slow down much from there. Laver's strength is definitely writing battle scenes. Actions are precise and easily pictured, explaining what is happening and with what kinds of instruments and types of people involved without talking down to the reader. These scenes were easily my favorite. I will say that there were one or two battle scenes that felt drawn out for longer than they should have been, but even then, these were the scenes where the storytelling really shone.

As a whole, the book is not without its flaws. There are multiple grammatical issues, inconsistencies, and some characters that you just don't like. Even the worst villains have some sort of quality that makes you want to read more about them. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the demi-villain in this book. She has no redeeming qualities about her and I honestly sighed every time she was involved in a scene because I knew there would be some sort of subtle (often far from subtle) allusion to sex.

The plot doesn't feel fleshed out enough, which says something for a book that is 450 pages long. There is so much thrown into the novel that not enough time is spent on a single element to get the reader truly invested in it. I was always taught that a good novel in a series takes two or three big ideas and focuses on them while weaving the smaller elements around them, saving other big ideas for later books in the series. It felt like Laver took all his big ideas and stuffed them into this first novel, which left me feel a bit chaotic. There were so many things to learn, characters to keep track of, myths to separate, that sometimes I felt overwhelmed, which made me not want not read as much. Not a good thing.

Dialogue between characters was 50/50. Sometimes it felt extremely organic and believable, others had them pausing in the middle of very serious situations to have a slapstick comedy moment full of laughter. Sometimes reactions were so out of the ordinary that it took me out of the story to wonder about it. There were also moments of swearing which took me completely off guard and just didn't sit well with me. It felt thrown in there to try to make the scene more intense or important, but it just made it awkward.

I did love some of the characters. Grace was definitely my favorite bar far. She felt the most real to me, and her story had a distinguishable arc to it that I thought was beautifully handled. There was even a side character or two that I wished we could have seen more of or learned more about, but again, this was an area where there was just so much that there was not enough time spend on any one character.

My overall rating for this title:

If you would like to check out this title for yourself, check out the Amazon page. 
If reading isn't you thing, you can also find it on Audible
M. R. Laver can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

If you are an author and have a book you would like me to review, leave a comment down below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. The wait list is rather long at the moment, but I am still taking new titles.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Practicing the Pause

My father has never been a very patient man. If you asked him, he'd be the first to admit it. He hates sitting in traffic, complains loudly over the commercials that come before theatrical trailers, and mumbles, mutters, and curses under his breath when something isn't finished when he believes it should be. Out of all the traits I have inherited from my dad, I am thankful this was not one of them. The thing is, he's not alone in his impatience. While I may be more of a “go with the flow” type of person, there are many people who are the complete opposite.

This morning, I decided to walk down to my local craft store. Unless it's a holiday or there is a major sale going on, it's unusual for more than a couple of people to be in line, especially on a Monday morning. For some reason, today the store was packed. Even with multiple registers open, the line was quite long. When I was ready to check out, there were five people in front of me with more people quickly falling into line behind me. One of them was an elderly gentleman. He heaved a great big sigh behind me when he saw how much of a wait there was. It was the first of many. His impatience was not hard to understand. I certainly hadn't expected the store to be so busy. As more and more sighs sounded behind me, I was torn between amusement and annoyance. We all needed to buy things. We were all stuck in the line if we were intent on purchasing the things we wanted. How was expressing irritation over and over helping? It did nothing but make me feel rushed and cause his wife to question whether or not she really needed the things she had in her cart.

A trip to Market Basket is always a lesson in patience, no matter the time of day. There are people everywhere. All the time. No matter what. I have learned to go in with the expectation that it's going to be chaotic, and rushing will only raise my already high anxiety level. (Little known fact about me: grocery shopping stresses me out, and by stresses me out, I mean I would rather sit naked on broken glass than grocery shop because it raises my anxiety level so much.) I had a list with me, as I always do, and was strolling through each aisle, grabbing what I needed, waiting when people were in my way to move before taking what I needed. As it seems to happen when I grocery shop, I kept going down the same aisle with the same people, one particular woman standing out. She was quite a bit larger than me, and tended to walk (and park) her cart right down the middle of the lane, making people either have to wait for her or shimmy around her if they could. We happened to be down the frozen veggies aisle together at the same time, both of us heading for the other end. An elderly couple entered the way we were looking to exit and stopped to discuss whether or not they wanted frozen tilapia. The woman with the cart stopped, waiting for the couple to move. They blocked the aisle as they talked for all of fifteen seconds at most, a much shorter time than her own record for blocking the way. Instead of politely asking if either of them would step aside, she let out a loud, obnoxious growl, whipped her cart around, nearly taking me out in the process, and stomped back down the aisle saying rather rude things about impolite people who don't take anyone else into consideration in a loud voice.

How many times do we do this? How often are we oblivious to the ways we hold other people up, yet feel impatient, angered, even outraged and abused when we feel like someone else is hindering our ability to accomplish or complete something? Why do we feel like we deserve to have every want and need met the second we realize it is there, but if we see a want and need in someone else, we react to fill them with much less speed and conviction than our own? I don't have any real answers for this, but it's something I intend to be more aware of. This “righteous indignation” that tends to take root when we are faced with obstacles that remove situations and outcomes from our control gets us nowhere. What of, instead of huffing away or sighing loud enough so that everyone knows you're unhappy, we took a breath? What if we paused?

Life moves so quickly and we've become so accustomed to getting what we want exactly when we want it. It's killed our ability to wait and made patience practically an antiquated ideal. We rush through everything, looking for the quickest way and in doing so, we sacrifice so much: experiences, memories, interactions. Sometimes our inability to take a second before reacting makes us say or do things we wouldn't normally, simply because we're giving knee-jerk reactions.

Practice the pause before you give that tell-tale sigh. Practice the pause before you speak. Practice the pause. Let it be the action that comes before your reaction. It isn't easy. I'm working on doing this myself, and I'll be the first to tell you that it doesn't feel natural. I can also tell you that it's incredibly freeing to not be bound by impatience and frustration.

I'm in the middle of a rather long pause myself, and it's certainly testing my patience. I've promised a new website and blog, and neither has been able to see the light of day yet. Unfortunately, this has not been a good year for book sales and I'm definitely feeling the pinch of it. Stay tuned. The website is still coming, the new blog with guest posts, reviews, and interviews is still coming.

In the meantime, in the breath before the exhale, I wait to see what's going to happen instead of jumping ahead, opening my mouth before I take a second to think and make things worse. I'm going to try to do that more often. Hopefully others will do the same.

Friday, July 28, 2017

New England Author Expo

How's that for a dynamic, eye-catching title? *eye roll* Okay, so I have some things to work on when it comes to this blogging thing. No great shocker there, not to me at least. I'll get better at it. Or I won't. Stay tuned, I guess?

This past Wednesday, I was able to be a part of my very first author exposition. Let me tell you, it was nothing like what I was expecting. Part of that was because I had no idea what to expect, and part of it was because I set the few expectations I had way too high. I Loved. It. There were tons of other authors, there were panels, and with that came a great deal of networking. My favorite part, hands down, were the panels. If that was the extent of my day, I honestly would not have been mad. I was never the best student in school, but when it came to subjects I was interested in, dude...I was INVESTED. I felt like a little nerd, sitting in the second row with my pen and notebook, listening as though these people were giving me the secrets to all the things in the universe, and I could not have cared less.

Though some of my readers are authors themselves, most of you are not so I will not go into detail about everything I learned. Anyone who does want me to share what I learned, drop me a comment and let me know. Maybe I'll compile a special email for those of you who show interest.

It was amazing having my editor with me for the day. She's one of the few people who can take my neurosis, look me in the face, and tell me to chill out without me reacting poorly. That's a huge reason why she's the best editor for me, as well. I know most people hear that she is my best friend and automatically discredit the author/editor relationship between us, and with good reason, but I like to think we're different. She's brutally honest with me. She's flat out told me she doesn't like things. Heck, most of the time, she doesn't even like my main characters, but she's able to still work with them. It cracks me up now (but never in the moment) that the things I get most excited about in my writing are usually the things she absolutely does not like. She made me cry when she told me a huge chunk of Dragon Song had to be taken out or vastly rewritten. Yes, she's my best friend, but she is also a phenomenal editor. I could not be more grateful for her and the support and encouragement she provides. *cough* Anyone who is in need of an editor, let me know. She is now taking new clients.

During the course of our day, not only was I able to make connections with other authors and local publishing houses, but Jessica was also able to make some pretty amazing connections. One of the women we met during the day was a local television producer. I had no idea who she was when she came to my table and asked me about my Claymore dirk. I explained to her that I am ridiculously proud of my Scottish heritage and that it plays a big part of my series. She then asked me if I had any books that had come out this year, so I showed her Dragon Song, giving her a quick synopsis when it was asked for. She asked who Jess was and I explained she was my editor. Upon asking Jess how she got into editing my novels, Jess told her how she could only read so far into the first book before she had to stop because of all the problems she was finding. We told her about the books filled to the brim with red pen, and still, she was a little bit skeptical of the whole best friend/editor dynamic. It wasn't until I told her that Jessica made me cry that her attitude became rather open. She quickly snatched up one of Jessica's cards as well. She told us both that she is a local television producer, and that she's looking to fill slots on her show for next year. Though she made it clear that she couldn't promise us anything, she told us that she loved what Jess and I had and that she wanted me to send her my press package ( what now?) and my book. now I need to figure out what the heck a press package/media kit involves, and fast!

I didn't sell any books that day but I was able to trade with three other authors. I'm really excited to read their work, mostly because they are all so different from one another. They took my books as well, and hopefully, we'll all get some good reviews from one another out of the deal.

Up next: Black Swan Renaissance Faire in Tilton, NH, August 12-13. If you're cool, you'll be there.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book Review: Doorways and Debts by J.P. Michaels

Hello, dear readers. Please give me a moment to blow the dust off of this thing. It's been sitting for nearly a year and needs a bit of a tidying up. I had plans to move my blog to my own website but things have some cases, they have NOT happened...and here we are. I can't promise to be better at this blogging thing, but I'm certainly going to make an effort.

As an independent author, I know how hard it is to get your name out there and to get recognition and reviews for your books. Because of this, I want to support as many other independent authors as I can. My goal is to read and review at least four books a year, starting in 2018, written by self-published and little-known authors. It may be a lofty goal, especially looking at my busy schedule, but it's something I feel is important enough to make time for. That being said, if you know of an independent author or are one yourself, send titles (or books!) my way. I'm starting a list to go through.

Before I begin I will say these thoughts and opinions are my own. They are not a representation of how anyone else I know who has read the book feels about it. My reviews may sound harsh at times, especially given that I know for 100% certainty that my own books are far from perfect. However, I feel it is important to be honest and to help each other along this rather arduous and isolating road of being an IA. None of my comments are meant to be malicious, neither are they meant to blow sunshine. They are meant to help grow, refine, and encourage. I can only hope others would do the same for me.

This first review is of a book called Doorways and Debts by J.P. Michaels. I was actually in the middle of another IA's book when I received this one, but chose to make this title a priority since I would be seeing the author again in a month. When I sold my book at the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival in Turners Falls, Mass last month, I had the pleasure of meeting J.P. in person. We were able to have a great, albeit short, conversation in which we agreed to a book exchange. Because I was slow and stupid busy, it took me about six weeks to get through. Having finished it just last night, I wanted to get the review done while thoughts and feelings were still fresh on my mind.

Format and Grammar
J.P. writes in a block format that is sometimes hard to follow. Instead of starting new paragraphs each time a new character speaks, there could sometimes be up to three different characters speaking in the same paragraph. Many times, I had to go back and read things over to be sure of who was speaking and when. Another thing that made me pause at times were the paragraphs that were little else but definitive statements. He did this. He did that. She came from here. She went there. Sometimes it was just a laundry list of what the character was doing, and that made reading certain sections a little tedious. He also tended to get caught up in describing characters to minute details, even sometimes, characters who were only used very briefly. It may be a personal preference, but I like basic descriptions of characters that leave room for personalization through imagination as I read. It matters little to me the exact height or weight of a character. Short, tall, average is really all I need to know. Several times I was taken off guard by incorrect words, such as "wonder" instead of "wander," and little things like that. However, I've had a few similar instances in my own books, so I can't really be too picky about that.

I want to know more about this world than I was given. To be fair, this is a side story to J.P.'s main series entitled The Legacy of Jiraiya, but it left me feeling like I was jipped on this fantasy world he created. There are clear indications that this place is not like our world. There are lions that walk on their hind legs, orcs, dwarves, elves, even creatures that look like talking rocks. There are allusions and brief mentions of a war, but other than that, this great big fantasy world is very limited. I was disappointed that we didn't get to explore things a little more. For most of the book, we are inside an inn and its different levels that have a bar, a restaurant, and a spa. Different, certainly, but not expansive.

This is where my review may come across as harsh, but as I said, I'm going for 100% honesty in hopes of helping people grow in their craft. The plot of this book was very thin and not very engaging. The first few chapters where we are getting to know the main characters and find out about this magical doorway that leads to another world got me so excited about what was to come...only to find out that the rest of the book follows only two of the five characters we're initially introduced to as they do odd jobs to pay off this mysterious debt that is keeping them all from returning home. That's it. There is very little conflict, and when there is, it is addressed and solved rather quickly and tidily. There was no villain, no antagonist at all, really, and that was disappointing.

I love these characters. J.P.'s strongest feature in this book is definitely his ability to create endearing characters. Though the book mainly focuses on two young teenage boys, Andy and Roger, we also get to meet Ed, Tom, and Jack. They are all distinctly different from one another in personality, though not always in voice. For as young as they are, they have a bit of a Dawson's Creek syndrome to them in that they speak a lot older than they are. That doesn't do much to tarnish who they are, however. I got a clear Goonies vibe from the group right from the beginning. I loved the relationship between Andy and Jack especially. There is always one kid in every group of friends who ends up the butt of the joke, even if it's not meant to be mean, and I loved seeing the "leader" of this pack come to the rescue and stand up for his friend even against his other friends.

Mister Gravoa was a fun character to meet. His pattern of speech instantly made me think of Gru from Despicable Me which, whether intended or not, made me love him all the more. As a mentor, he watches over all five boys from afar while still managing to be involved. No easy task when it comes to teenagers.

The three girls we are introduced to-Laurel, Nicole, and Marie-are all very different from one another and just as endearing as the boys in their own individual ways. I could see bits of myself in each of them, just as I'm sure boys/men would see bits of themselves in each of the boys. There was a brief scene at the end of the book between Laurel and Mister Gravoa that actually made me quite sad. It was beautifully addressed and I'm sure it was the reaction J.P. was going for.

Final Thoughts
This is a good book for pre-teen/young teens if they need a casual read. There are a few swears within, so if that is something you're worried about, be aware. I always encourage parents to read the books their children want to read first, simply because you just never know what can be hidden within the pages nestled between a pretty cover and a back-of-the-book summary.

The Legacy of Jiraiya Website
Read the Prologue
Amazon Page
Facebook Page

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Cute Girl at the Gym

How many of us feel, on a normal day, that we look good? How many of us feel like we'll pass but get no high marks? How many of us think we look like we rolled out of bed at 2 a.m. with one eye sealed shut by sleepy goo and the other one wide open with the pupil dilated for no good reason all day? If you're like most women, you fall in the middle. You feel okay in what you're wearing. Your hair is fine. Your make up, if you chose to wear make up at all, doesn't look like it was done by a three-year-old so, yay! Overall win for you! What about when you go to the gym? Yeah...totally different story.

Every time I go, I look at myself in those huge stupid mirrors on the other side of the room and hear this little voice in my head that says I don't belong there. Because, you know, the gym is for skinny beautiful people who really just go because they're narcissistic and like to watch their muscles flex in those evil mirrors and make kissy faces at their own reflections. Before you tell me I'm wrong, I'll beat you to it by saying I know that is not the case. Always.

I went to the gym tonight for the first time since getting my heart monitor on three weeks ago, and boy did my body feel it. I was sweating, my round, bean shaped face was red, I was panting like Tom Hiddleston had just come in the room, I had a bandana on my head to cover my sweat-drenched hair that makes me look even more balding than I really am. I mean...messy, gross, and not feeling all too great about myself. But I was there. I kept telling myself that. I was there, and that mattered.

And then I saw her.

Here I am, this four-foot-eleven-inch tomato doubled over on a glutes machine as I try to push and extend, the wheezing coming out of my mouth reminiscent of a chain smoker on her death bed, and this petite little blonde girl walks over near my station. She's got the classic all black ensemble of skin tight yoga pants and black sports tank. Her hair (which was totally dyed, I'm sure) was curled in that way some women can do, making it look effortless and natural even though it would take me at least five hours to get it done right and then it would fall pin straight five minutes later. Her make up was done beautifully and she had ruby red lips that glittered when the unnaturally bright lights above her caught the top coat of gloss she'd applied at one point.

I hate you, was the first thought that ran through my mind, subsequently and immediately followed by, I hate myself. For once, I was able to get my thoughts out of that dark place fairly quickly and direct them to a more healthy place: back on the girl. What? It was healthier for me at the moment. I scowled at her with my inner Gremlin, thinking, Really? You have to come here looking like that when the rest of us feel like gross piles of slime? I actually stewed in my irritation for the rest of the thirty minute circuit I was on, watching every male head turn in her direction when she passed them, blissfully unaware. It wasn't until I was driving home that grace tried to edge its way into my heart.

Once upon a time, I had a friend who could not do anything menial without looking cute. I mean, cute outfit, cute hair, full on makeup. She literally could not leave her apartment if these things were not in place, and it was because she had so little confidence in herself. I was one of the lucky few to see her without all her trappings (pun fully intended) and got to see how vulnerable, uncertain, and uncomfortable she was in her own skin. When she was all done up, even to go do laundry, she was a totally different person. She was sure of herself, funny, easy-going. Remembering this friend made me wonder if this cute Barbie-esque girl at the gym was like that. My friend was, and still is, gorgeous. This girl was gorgeous. But I don't know her struggles. Maybe she does have issues with confidence, maybe she doesn't. Either way, I had no right to assume the things I did about her, and I should not have compared myself to her. I shouldn't compare myself to anyone, because no one else is me, and no one else is walking my path.

As annoyed as I was by her presence, I'm actually really glad I saw her today. Not only will she be something of an inspiration for me to keep going to the gym and working hard, but she served as a much needed reminder that what we see on the outside is not always what is going on in the inside. I think that's a reminder we could all use from time to time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An Explanation For My Angst

Before I begin this painfully raw blog entry, I feel like I need to throw out a disclaimer. Nothing I say here is directed at anyone in particular. My heartache is my own and is not caused by anyone. If you read this and think, "I wonder if she's talking about me," I'm not. In fact, if you read this and think that, then I didn't write this entry very well because I don't want anyone to take anything here personally. That being said, I think it's time I explained my angst from the past few days...

Some years ago, a very wise woman taught me an important lesson that I will never, ever forget. She told me that Satan really amps up his personal attack game when God is doing or is about to do something incredible in your - my - life. That singular thought has been my saving grace throughout the years. If it felt like everything was going wrong, it was because God was on the move. That was exciting, even in the middle of the turmoil. Well, sometime over the past five or six days, I lost that. I was hit with one thing after another that hurt, that depressed me, that beat me down enough for me to lose that. There were times this week that I cried out to God in anger and desperation. Never once did I remember that hope I had always clung to, the promise of things to come, until today.

I've always been told I was the type of person people feel comfortable just word vomiting to. Though I still scratch my head about that, I don't mind it. In fact, I love that people trust me and feel comfortable enough to do that. I'm a good secret keeper, I guess, and I don't often interject with my own stuff. I think that's why I often forget that I need people I can do that with myself. Today I got the opportunity to just get it all out, and get some better perspective.

For anyone that's known me for very long, knowing I have a congenital heart defect is no surprise. For those that don't know, I have a murmur, a leaky valve, weird palpitations, and a pulmonary aneurysm. Lately, my heart has been doing this weird thing where it will beat perfectly fine, then it feels like a car engine trying to turn over with no success. That's the best way I can explain it. It's not racing, it's not slow, it's just beating hard. And then it skips beats. It's uncomfortable, and it's pretty darn frightening at times. I went to the ER for it at the end of July...and it led to this whole sequence of events that, quite frankly, just makes me angry. Long story short, I can't see my cardiologist until October. It's been suggested to me by a few people that I look for anew doctor but I've decided to wait until after this appointment to see how it goes. It took me three tries to get an appointment with him because of one person in the office telling me twice that she would set things up and call me back, and never did. By the time the appointment was set up - three weeks later - I was feeling frustrated, forgotten, and not very important.

Another thing I have never hidden from anyone is my desperate want to be a mother. I confessed to a close friend this week that there is honestly not a day that goes by when I don't think about it on some level. Some days are easier to deal with than others, and this week, after certain events transpired with not only friends, but things I read in the news...this longing was not so easy to deal with. I felt the loss of something I've never even had so greatly, and I grieved deeply. I was angry, questioning why God would give children to some and not to others. I felt overlooked.

The final nail in my pity party coffin came from a Skype call with my editor. Jessica, I'm calling you out by name simply because I can, and because it's easier for me. When your editor says she wants to Skype so you can talk about the chapter face to face rather than in notes and doesn't cultivate a great sense of confidence in the matter. As it turned out, the anxiety that was growing within me while I was at the gym was justified. Jess and I talked, and it was not good news. In fact, it was pretty horrible news. Apparently my main plot for this third book in my series could pretty much have been ripped from another book/movie I had never even seen before. I was crushed to say the least. Months of hard work, of poor sleep because my brain wouldn't turn off, of research and planning...all of it was now out the window. I was going to have to start back at square one. I found the movie online and watched it, thinking after the first twenty or so minutes, it wasn't really that bad. Then the movie progressed and I could not believe the similarities. How in the world could this movie and my book be so similar when I hadn't even seen it? That was it. I was done. No new book for the faire in May. I would have to tell the person working on my cover that all his work has been for nothing. I would have to disappoint people who were counting on me having my third book for sale next year. I felt...a lot of things.

This morning I got to get all of this out with someone I love and trust, and she reminded me that God is always working behind the scenes and pointed my attention back to Him. In talking to her, admitted that this book had been so hard to write at times. There were moments I was literally in tears because I was constantly feeling like it wasn't as good, it wasn't as dynamic, it wasn't BIG enough. I know now that my feelings were right. Jess told me point blank that she feels book 2 is better, and is there any wonder? Book 2 came so easily to me! There was never the struggle I had with this one. Then I also realized that the chapters Jess loves the most of book 3 so far are the ones that came so easily. Of course the rest of it is crap. I was trying too hard.  I was trying to do it on my own, rather than letting God take the lead as I had last time.

So now I'm feeling sort of...disillusioned, I guess. I needed the reminder to trust God this morning, and that it's okay to be upset, and to question, and even to rage because God is a big God - He can handle it. I just can't let myself wallow in it. Jess is confident we can fix this, and I trust her without question. If she thinks there's still a story here, even if it needs to be tweaked, I don't doubt her. In fact, I'm so thankful she told me, no matter how uncomfortable it made her to do it and how many tears I shed hearing it. Words cannot express how grateful I am for her honesty, even when it's painful. My series would not be what it is and what it will be without her hand in it.So I have a tentative hope that this will not all go down in flames. Half, maybe, but not all, and that's something.

As for the other things...y'all, I don't even know. It's going to be a fight every day to trust God knows what He's doing. But I'm going to keep fighting, and I appreciate the people in my life who go to battle for me when I can't do it myself. You are truly invaluable.

So there you have it, an explanation for my angst. Now that I've gotten it all out, I think it's time for me to go back to work and get this book back on track.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Time to Get Real

I think it's been about fifteen minutes now that I have started and restarted this blog entry. Every beginning I come up with just doesn't work, and I end up deleting everything I've written. I want the first few sentences to hook my reader, as all bloggers do, but I think this one is just going to be raw and honest, and may not be the most well written or witty. There's an issue that needs addressing, and I've been trying to figure out the best way to do it. So I guess I'll give it a try.

A lot of non-believers think Christians are all cookie cutter copies of one another. We all act, think, speak, and carry ourselves the same, as well as have the exact same beliefs on every single subject in the history of everything. Honestly, I know people who think this. It frightens me mostly because I have seen many people who say they are Christ followers, but what they worship most are things of this earth and not of Heaven. I digress, though. This entry isn't about Christianity in a generic sense. It's about something much more personal.

I was blessed with the opportunity to go to an event this past Saturday where I could sell and sign my books. I've done this twice before at the New Hampshire Renaissance Faire, as well as at a local bookstore. Now, being perfectly honest, the NHRF feels like home to me now. I don't know if any other signing event will top it because they gave me my first shot and welcomed me back with open arms this year. I've even had people threaten me if I didn't return next year with at least one new book. It's my Ren family and I love it. It was through this faire that I met Jeremy Oneail. He approached me this May at my booth and said he was going to be hosting several wizarding (read Harry Potter) events in the coming months and thought I would be a perfect fit for a vendor. I took his info and told him I'd think about it. My gut reaction was "no," but I told him I would think about it, and I was going to do just that. I was also going to pray about it because that is what I do. I try not to make any big decisions like that without talking to God about it first...try being the operative word. I am not a perfect Christian by any stretch of the imagination.

This first event would be a market day, something set up like Diagon Alley in Harry Potter where people would get to come in, shop, see some shows, drink butterbeer, and meet some of the teachers for the school days in the fall. I was hesitant because of the stigma, quiet honestly, one that was drilled into me from a very early age. This kind of stuff, even if it's fiction, is not okay for a Christian. But, reminded a small voice in my head, I'd read all the books and seen all the movies. God gifted me with a very sensitive spirit when it comes to discernment. I know almost immediately when someone or something is not okay for me or my walk. I get this icky, uncomfortable feeling that tells me something is toxic, and, if I'm smart, I walk away. Harry Potter was never something that made me feel that way. So I prayed about it and received an answer almost right away, a knowledge that this was something I should do. I committed to the three days and looked forward to the new venue.

I have to tell you, it was crazy! The venue itself was perfect for the atmosphere. If you've ever been to the Higgins Armory in Mass, you'll know how cool it looks inside. If you haven't, look up pictures on Google. It's just a perfect location. I ended up selling 23 books which, again, being honest, was nowhere near what I had wanted or expected to sell. However, Saturday night I learned from many people posting on the event page that there were numerous cases of people wanting to stop at different vendors but they simply couldn't because it was so over-crowded. The total number of people who came through the doors that day was over 1,900, and no one was prepared for that kind of traffic. Keep in mind, this was the first year this event has been held, so no one really knew what to expect. To be over capacity for the building and still have a line of over 100 people out the door waiting to get in? Pretty sure no one planned for that. As the day went on and I sold such a small amount of books to such an overwhelmingly large crowd, I expected to be disappointed. Yet with each book or set of books I sold, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to pray. I don't know that I have ever prayed for strangers so fervently before. As I packed everything up at the end of the day, I actually felt at peace. I knew those who would read the books were the people that needed the content within the most.

At one point during the day I had an older woman approach my table. She looked my books over, then eyed the Celtic cross I had next to Heritage. "Are these Christian?" she asked, a mixture of confusion and disgust on her face. Cheerful, I replied, "Yes they are." She looked at me with her brows drawn together. "So you talk about Jesus in these books?" I nodded, the smile never leaving my face. "I do indeed. The names are changed to fit in with the whole fantasy element, but God and Jesus are in there. The story of the crucifixion and salvation are laid out pretty plainly in the first book, and scripture is and will be woven throughout the rest of the series." She didn't say anything for a moment, but glanced over the covers of my books one more time. Then, still confused, she asked, "I thought your people didn't like Harry Potter."

It was God's grace that kept me from laughing, y'all. Your people. My first thought was, "Lord, help me if I am ever chosen to represent my people." And then it hit me. That's exactly what I was doing. I nodded again, my smile slipping just a bit because I had two people tell me just the day before that they were disappointed in me for even considering doing an event like this. "This sort of genre is very polarizing for Christians. They either think it's bad and should be avoided at all costs, or they recognize it as fiction and can separate the fact from reality with it. I know Harry Potter is not teaching children how to be a real witch or a real wizard. It's fiction, fantasy...just like my own books." She paused with one more glance at my books, then gave me a small, awkward smile and said, "Well, I don't know if your books are any good, but if they are, good luck," before moving on.

That conversation was the reality check I needed. How many of those 1,900+ people walking through those doors knew Jesus? How many of them were even open to hearing about Him? How many of them, in this world that has become so full media that boasts of sex, violence, and graphic language, would even get a taste of Christ if it wasn't in an engaging story? I may have disappointed some people by going to this event - heck, I found out this weekend that I have family disappointed in me for writing fantasy to begin with; the devil is a dragon in the bible, you know - but I know God placed me there on purpose.

Friday was not a good day for me. Besides having the lack of support for my doing this event and it being shown so publicly, I have been struggling with severe depression and self-worth when it comes to my writing. I sat in my bedroom, crying much of the afternoon, questioning whether or not I was doing the right thing. Each time I asked (Thank you, Lord, for never losing patience with me.) I felt that cherished peace come over me that told me my path was the one I was supposed to take. Though friends and loved ones sometimes think they are correct and that their paths should be my own, I am on the one He wants me on, and He knows I know the second I stray from it.

I know this has been a long entry, and if you've stayed with me to the end, I thank you for having patience with me as well. All of this has been to say that it's okay if someone's walk looks different from your own. You don't know how God is going to use them. If you know their heart truly seeks after God, then you have to trust they are seeking Him still when they go into situations that you might not be comfortable in yourself. Each person is convicted of and by different things in their walk. It's not up to you to condemn them, but to pray for them, to support them, and in private, voice your concern so a dialogue can happen between you and not the rest of the world.

I love the people in m life who care enough about me to address concerns. I need people like that in my life. We all do. Just remember the next time you see something going on with a friend or loved one that worries you or gives you pause, it is biblical to address it with them and it is healthy to talk about it, but don't condemn anyone for making a choice you would not make yourself. Love, support, and pray when all is said and done. It's what we are called to do as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Have a fantastic Wednesday, everyone, and happy reading, no matter what your genre!

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