Pause.

 

I’ve been trying to blog, and I’m just not feeling it. I have a lot to say, but I’m distracted by my manuscript– and I think that’s actually a good thing. This month might be a little quiet from me as I battle through revisions. Send good thoughts. I feel really excited about the direction of the story. It’s been a challenge, but a GOOD one. A rewarding one.

I will say that I recently finished The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass and that it was possibly the most useful, nuts-and-bolts book on writing craft I’ve ever read. Ever. If you write fiction, definitely buy a copy immediately.

In the meantime, will you leave a comment? A line or two about what’s going on in your world? I want to stay connected.

Love,

Jackie

Advice for New Writers

Just reblogging a few older posts that are still relevant. Hope they meet someone where they are needed!

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

advice for new writers1. Write. The most important thing you can do as you start your journey as a writer is, in fact, to write. More specifically, write a lot. Most of it will probably be bad. That’s okay. Most writers have to expel a decent amount of junk onto the pages before they ever get to anything good. The more you write, the closer you’re getting to the real gems that are waiting.

2. Read. And be picky about what you read. Consuming massive amounts of poor literature is not going to be much help to you. Read the best of the best, the most brilliant pieces. At first, you might not know how to tell the good from the bad. In that case, start with award winners, ask people you trust for recommendations, delve into the classics that have stood the test of time. Eventually, you’ll be able to discern what…

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Idea Factory: Where My Ideas Come From

I really, really love creativity.

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

I feel like people always ask writers: Where do you get your ideas?

More often than not, the answer is everywhere.

It’s the same for me.

where do you get your ideasI get ideas from song lyrics, conversations, the radio, dreams, daydreams, Wikipedia, real-life events, funny things my co-workers say, freewriting, scents and smells, prompts, answers to the (many) questions I ask on Facebook, people I meet, Pinterest, memories from high school, websites I visit on accident, websites I visit on purpose, Tumblr, photographs and images, pretty dresses, cute things my favorite kiddos say, Quora, novels, memoirs, poems, books of quotations, books of symbols, books of trivia, books of anecdotes, books of mythology, instruction manuals, online journals, art, antiques, trees, weather, arguments, and on and on and on.

I usually start with an idea and a handful of characters. Truest started because of a Wikipedia article I stumbled upon years ago about a topic that continued to fascinate…

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One Word Revisited: Sacrifice, a Trip Through Scripture

You might recall that my one word motto for 2017 is sacrifice

Sacrifice is such an interesting word, and between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there’s a big shift in the way it is viewed. I may have studied the Bible in undergrad, but I would never consider myself an expert. Still, join me for a little walk through scripture in regard to sacrifice.

Of course, in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel offered burnt sacrifices as a way to have their sins forgiven. In fact, it’s described this way (later, in Hebrews):

Hebrews 9:22 – Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Then, in the Psalms, I start to see a shift:

Psalm 40:6 – In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.

Psalm 50:14 – Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,

Psalm 50:23 – The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Psalm 51:16 – For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

And in Proverbs:

Proverbs 21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

And in Isaiah:

Isaiah 1:11 – “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”

THEN CHRIST COMES.

And now we learn a whole new way of looking at what we offer:

Matthew 9:13 – Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 12:33 – And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus dies, the temple of the curtain is torn from top to bottom, symbolizing that his death was a sufficient atonement for sins. It was the final sacrifice– by Old Testament definitions. (Hebrews 10:12 – But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.)

After that, we are encouraged to be LIVING SACRIFICES:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Ephesians 5:2 – And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Hebrews 13:15 – Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

1 Peter 2:5 – you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME IN 2017?

Well, I don’t know. But I see that my body is to be a living sacrifice, which makes me wonder: how do I honor God with my body? How can I treat my body right as the temple of the Holy Spirit and how can I use my body in ways that glorify God and promote holiness? I see I am to walk in love “as Christ … gave himself up for us,” so there is still that element of being poured out for the benefit of others. This, I think, includes my time, my heart, and my money. I see that I need to offer a sacrifice of praise– perhaps to carve out time to worship my God even in my busyness. I see that I am to do good and to share what I have; again, this encourages me to open my wallet again and again. Mercy and love are prioritized; they should be my priorities too.

So, that is what I am trying to do this year.

I am learning my friends’ love languages and trying to love them on their terms, not mine. That means taking the time to think through what would best show them how special they are and then making it happen. For example, I am a hermit. I’m happy to sit alone in my home all weekend, writing. But some of my friends feel best loved when I spend quality time with them. So, that means getting out of my house.

I am trying to become a more gracious, merciful, generous, and thoughtful friend to others and follower of Christ. To care about righteousness and justice. I am a work in progress, trying to keep my hands open.

sacrifice

 

 

When Writing = Death

This post is probably not what you think it is.

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

Look, I’m not the first one to comment on this. Not even close.

You have an idea– a bright, beautiful, perfect idea– and then you start to write it down, and it dies on the page. It becomes imperfect. It gets messy.

Ann Patchett said her ideas are like beautiful butterflies that soar around in her mind, and then when she starts to write, she takes them and pins them to a board. Death.

Chuck Wendig blogged about it recently, saying, “Writing and storytelling is this… nasty task of taking the perfect idea that exists in your head and shellacking it all up by dragging it through some grease-slick fontanelle in order to make it real. You’re just shitting it all to hell, this idea. You have it in your mind: golden and unbreakable. And then in reality, ugh. You’ve created a herky-jerky simulacrum, a crude facsimile of your…

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Six Parts of Writing a Book that Aren’t Actually Writing

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

There is so much more to writing a book than just writing a book. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and thought I’d write up a few thoughts about it. Note that this is my experience; every writer has his or her own methods!

writing3Research. 

When I was younger, I thought, “I’ll never write historical novels; that way, I won’t have to do research.” HA. I think any well-thought-out piece of writing requires so much research, and not always the kind you might imagine. I’ve spent countless hours researching things that my characters are interested in, just so that I can have my characters talk about them with convincing acuity. When those things are above my head (i.e. the quantum mechanics in Yes Novel), I have to still find a way to write just enough to convince the audience I know more. (Then I had to have my…

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Book Heroines I Adore

unsplash90Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling | Related
“The smartest witch of her age” and fiercely loyal, never gives up. Never.

Shazi from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Review (and sequel)
“So you would have me throw Shazi to the wolves?”
“Shazi?” Jalal’s grin widened. “Honestly, I pity the wolves.”

Citra from Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Review
Whip-smart, deeply philosophical … but can also kick your ass.

Joana from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys | Review 
“She must have been a nurse. She looked a few years older than me. Pretty. Naturally pretty, the type that’s still attractive, even more so, when she’s filthy.”
So strong in the face of a thousand hardships

Roza and Petey from Bone Gap by Laura Ruby | Review
Each of these girls is so strong in her own way; I adored every character in this book.

Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Related
She can hold her own against any boy, she knows the power of words, and perseveres through tremendous loss.

Isaboe of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Related
Fearsome. Unwavering. Isaboe’s resolution and leadership are a thing to behold. She is her own boss. She loves with ferocity.

Quintana of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Review 
“‘Do you know who tells me my worth, Phaedra of Alonso?’
The princess pointed a hard finger at her own chest.
‘Me. I determine my own worth. If I had to rely on others I’d have lain down and died waiting.’”
‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

Some Newer Book Boyfriends

unsplash82Indulge me, folks.

Tim Mason from The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick | Review
“Her lips touch just against my mouth, then the cleft of my chin, back to my lips. ‘Good night, Tim.’ My lips on her forehead. ‘Good night, Alice.’ I can’t remember ever having something and not reaching for more. But I back away from her, hands in my pockets. Enough.”

Julian from Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Review
“He’d never stared at her like this before. Sometimes he gazed at her as if he wanted to be her undoing, but just then it was as if he wanted her to undo him.”

Khalid ibn al Rashid from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Review (and Sequel)
“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.
“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.
“No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.”

Eight Beaufort from The Heirs of Watson Island series by Martina Boone | Review
“I’ve been out with enough girls to know what I want. I know. You and me together? We’re not the same plain vanilla let’s-date-while-we’re-in-high-school, let’s-go-to-prom, let’s-promise-we’ll-talk-in-college relationship. We’re more like those fireworks on the Fourth of July that keep exploding with new bursts every time they’re done. Before we know it, we’ll be in rocking chairs side by side on the porch, holding hands and watching a houseful of great grandchildren chasing blue ghost fireflies on the lawn.”

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | Review (and Sequel)
“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

Noah Shaw from the Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin | Review
“We’re only seventeen,” I said quietly.
“Fuck seventeen.” His eyes and voice were defiant. “If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them. If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want to make you mine in each one.”

 

 

 

 

Reviews-A-Plenty

Hi folks, so I’ve been keeping up with my creative goal to read a book a week! Thought I’d better catch you up on the wonderful things I’ve been reading.

caravalCaraval by Stephanie Garber | Scarlett’s grandmother has told her and her sister Tella stories about Caraval since they were young– an audience-participation game that is like a magical carnival. Scarlett has always longed to go, but getting tickets now— less than two weeks before her marriage to a mysterious count she has never met– is not the ideal timing. At Caraval, Tella goes missing, and the game revolves around the sisters. Julian, the young sailor who brought the girls to Caraval, is shrouded in mystery too, and Scarlett can’t tell who is friend or foe, or whether the game is really just a game.

It’s intense, has gorgeous imagery, and keeps you guessing the entire time. I am happy to say that I did not figure the ending out ahead of time!! This is a must read, folks.

cursed-childHarry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany | I think I went into this screenplay with reasonable expectations. I waited quite a while to read it because I knew that it was not going to be like “the 8th Harry Potter book,” as some stores touted. First, it’s a screenplay, not a novel; I knew I couldn’t expect the same thing. Because I went into it with realistic expectations, I loved it!

The story picks up about nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts took place; Harry’s youngest son Albus is headed to Hogwarts for the first time, and it is hard living in your father’s shadow, especially when your father is Harry Potter. Albus isn’t like his dad, and they butt heads, which leads Albus and his friend Scorpius Malfoy (Draco’s son!) on an adventure that gets worse and worse and worse … until it all comes together in J.K. Rowling fashion. I loved getting to revisit the characters. The important thing, I think, is not to treat it as the 8th book but as what it is: the script for a play that takes you back to the wizarding world for one more adventure.

poem-she-didnt-writeThe Poem She Didn’t Write and Other Poems by Olena Kalytiak Davis | This one was staggering. I absolutely adored it. It was like e.e. cummings had become a female spoken word artist. The rhythms were impossible to miss, even without hearing them, and I was exposed to a new vocabulary. I thought it the poem topics were really brave, and there were quite a few that she approached from such a stunningly unique perspective. The title poem, in particular, was mind-blowing. I will be purchasing her other books.

chinoiserieChinoiserie by Karen Rigby | This was the 2011 winner of the Sawtooth Poetry Award– and well deserved. Beautiful writing, rich imagery, the poems took me to other places, something I always love. I was happy to let this collection sink into my bones.