A Sermon In The Sprinkler

Fact: I am the world’s worst blogger. (Obviously)

Fact: I let busyness get the best of me. Every. Single. Day.

Fact: I measure my value by the amount of things I cross off my to-do list at the end of the day.

I confess this because today I need to share a beautiful moment that sums up the lesson I’m slowly and stubbornly learning.

We’re in the process of moving to the next state over, which is quite a daunting task. I’ve spent the last several weeks packing, planning, and stressing until I’ve made myself physically ill. Instead of powering through my massive to-do list, it’s just growing longer by the day!

Now, I’d love to think that once we actually move and get settled, I’ll relax some. My to-do lists will shrink, and life will take on a new normal. But I know it won’t. Because when I’m totally honest with myself, I know that this stress really has very little to do with the big task of moving. This is just me, my life. This is how I am. If I haven’t cleaned my house, purged something, accomplished my writing, and been on top of my mommy and wifey game, I feel utterly worthless.

This deep down-to-the-bone sickness I feel all the time has been going on for so long, I don’t really remember what it’s like to feel well anymore. I am slowly killing myself, losing joy day after day, and never feeling free from the ginormous burdens I place on myself.

Cue Satan.

He just loves it when we do crap like this to ourselves. I’m convinced his favorite word is “enough”. He whispers that word to me a thousand times a day in various phrasings. “You’re not a good enough mom.” “You don’t spend enough time with the kids.” “You’re not doing enough to promote your writing career.” “You’re not a supportive enough wife.”

And because of that, I sink deeper into dissatisfaction with myself and with my life. I hate it.

Recognizing Satan’s voice in my life has been horrifying. Mostly because I hate how often I’ve listened to it and let it sink into my brain like poison.

One of my favorite things about my Heavenly Father is that He never lets Satan have the last word. And lately, John 10:10 has been running through my mind like a divinely inspired screensaver.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.”

Well, how about that?

As I meditate on this verse, I find myself craving that abundant life. I don’t always experience it. I don’t allow myself to feel joy and relish in the blessings I’ve been given.

Which brings me to today and my reason for posting to this blog for the first time in a year.

I spent my morning cleaning, working on laundry, and packing boxes. While I worked, my brain tossed around book ideas and reminded me how far behind I am in my writing career versus where I want to be. I relied on my coffee for energy and sent up prayers to keep me going forward.

But in spite of all the work I wanted to get done, my little boy needed me. Now, he’s not a cuddly kid. I have to chase him down for hugs most of the time. But today, he wanted to snuggle. So I did.

He wanted to play Legos next—and I am horrible at building with Legos. But we built.
Since the forecast promised a scorcher, I suggested to the kids that we have our outside playtime in the morning before it got too hot. They agreed, and I put on the sprinkler, grabbed my chair, and planned to watch them run and play while I worked on my next to-do list.

I only sat for about five minutes before, Ross begged me to join him. They know Mom isn’t one to go run through the sprinkler, but he insisted. I’d just showered after all my work inside and didn’t need to get covered in grass and dirt, but I felt in my heart that what I needed to do today was run through the sprinkler with my kids.

I grabbed my swimsuit (ignoring the voice that kept whispering that I didn’t look good enough to wear it)and off we went to the yard where we paired a tarp slip-in-slide with the sprinkler and spent the next few hours playing, laughing, and making memories.

Lunch wasn’t ready when Matt got home to eat. The laundry wasn’t done either. And you could track us through the house by following the grass blades from the front door to the bathrooms.

We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the back deck and jumped right back in the water when we were finished. That’s when my little guy turned to me and said, “Mom, I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun in my entire life.”

Oh, my heart.

That’s joy.

That’s what I miss when I put more of my focus on my to-do list and less on the amazing gifts I’ve been given. That’s what I miss when I let Satan speak louder than my Heavenly Father. That’s what I miss when I measure my worth in nonsense and physical accomplishments.

And I don’t want to do that anymore.

God has already granted me abundant life. I just have to take it.

Advertisements

Sun versus Snow Critique Workshop

(Last revised: 2/16/15)

Title: RESTLESS
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 86,500

Pitch: When Adelie discovers a world within dreams, she must overcome the living nightmares that threaten her life or be lost to the dream world forever.

Query:

Dear Super Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Adelie Elliot used to have big plans for her life: get into a great college, marry her high school boyfriend, and become a doctor of psychology. But between nightmares laden with death threats and shadow people stalking her every movement, maintaining her sanity is more important.

Fed up with the paralyzing fears, Adelie approaches one of the shadows and finds it isn’t just a figment of her imagination. The creature acts as a portal, sending her spiraling into the world of dreams. A clan of Dream Seekers welcomes her into their ranks and teaches her how to take down stray nightmares created by the fallen god Morpheus. The nightmares latch on to innocent dreamers and destroy their minds; it is the work of the Dream Seekers to protect the innocent. With Morpheus unleashing his plans for the revenge of an ancient grudge, no one is safe –whether in the dream world or reality.

Morpheus’ hold over Adelie’s mind is particularly strong, as she is new to her powers of dream manipulation. If she is unable to break his hold and escape the nightmares he’s plagued her with, her physical form will die and she’ll remain a prisoner of the dream world forever.

Some dreams are hard to wake up from, but for Adelie, it might be just be impossible.

RESTLESS is an 86,500 word, YA fantasy novel with series potential. It will appeal to fans of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS and INCEPTION.

I am currently raising two, rambunctious preschoolers at home that keep my imagination in working order. Like my protagonist, I drink entirely too much coffee and always have a crazy dream to share upon waking.

My completed manuscript is available at your request. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

As per your request, the first 10 pages of the novel are included below for your review.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Eding

First 250 Words:

Keep breathing. It’s not real. None of this is real.

I just have to keep telling myself that. My eyes are locked on my feet; the cracks in the sidewalk move under me in a blur. Thunder rumbles through the clouds, threatening rain. But a storm is the least of my worries tonight.

The muscles tense throughout my body and I speed up into a jog. They’re everywhere: waves of smoky shadows squirm in and out of the bushes, keeping in perfect step with me. If I stop, they stop. Though, it does anything but hold still or mirror my movement. In fact, when I remain still, that’s when it shows itself entirely.

My feet pound against the pavement when I turn the corner onto my street and break into a full-blown sprint. The house is visible from here –the first comforting sight of the evening.  I have yet to see these things indoors; so that is exactly where I intend to go.

I burst through the front door and shut it behind me as fast as I can. Sinking against the smooth wood frame, I catch my breath and find three hungry faces staring at me from the dinner table.

“Goodness, Adelie! You didn’t need to run. I told you I would come get you from work if you wanted.” Miss Abnor moves from her seat to the kitchen to grab an empty plate and gestures for me to join them at the table.

“I know,” I reply. My chest rises and falls with the gulps of air. “It’s okay. I wanted to walk, but I felt a raindrop. Wanted to beat the storm.”

Hook and Pitch Critique

Hook – THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS meets INCEPTION when a teen’s mind is hijacked by the god of nightmares.

Pitch- Seventeen-year-old Adelie Elliot used to have big plans for her life: get into a great college, marry her high school sweetheart, and become a doctor of psychology. But between nightmares laden with death threats and shadow people stocking her every movement, she’s more concerned with simply making it through the day alive.

Fed up with the paralyzing fears, Adelie approaches one of the shadows and finds it isn’t just a figment of her imagination. The creature acts as a portal sending her spiraling into the world of dreams. A clan of Dream Seekers welcomes her into their ranks and teaches her how to take down stray nightmares. They need her help to combat the growing threat in the dream land: the fallen god Morpheus. His plot to regain full control proves deadly to all that get in his way –particularly to this group of Dream Seekers who have the exact skills he needs to complete his plan.

If Adelie is unable to shake the hold Morpheus has over her mind, she will fall under his control forever –and forfeit her life in reality. Some dreams are hard to wake up from, but for Adelie, it might be just be impossible.

Overdone Book Themes

I’ve declared December to be my reading month. I just needed a break from writing to clear my head and do a little research on what’s popular on the shelves right now. I’m noticing a lot of trends, some of which are annoying and some that are just interesting.

Here are some made up story excerpts to explain what I think is OVERDONE:

1.) “Blythe always found it very difficult to fit in with other girls. Always being a bit of a tomboy herself, it was just easier to hang out with the guys. That’s why she hit it off so well with Frank. After getting into a fist fight on the playground in kindergarten, they settled their differences and had been best friends ever since.” (Main female character doesn’t fit in with other girls, has male best friend.)

2.) “The winter dance was the biggest party of the school year. But Caycee Jo didn’t mind that she didn’t have a date. She was happy to stay home, curled up with her newest book from the library. She was a loner, anyway. Even in a room full of people, she still felt lonely and simply preferred not to dabble in the world’s push for social interaction.” (Main character is an extreme introvert/book nerd.)

3.) “Greer looked toward the door. In a normal household, the father would be waltzing in from his full day at the office. The mother would be humming to herself as she put the finishing touches on supper before helping the children finish up their homework. But there was no father dropping a briefcase at the entrance, no mother making his favorite dish of macaroni and cheese. Instead, Greer was left to figure out his own math problems and eat another bag of potato chips to sustain him. If it hadn’t been for the car accident, he would have been able to experience the former. But, alas, he was forced to live the life of an orphan.” (Main characters without one or both parents.)

4.) “I knew I shouldn’t stare, but how could I not? His face looked like he’d been chiseled to perfection by an angel. His flowing blond hair curled around his ears, highlighting the deep blue sapphire of his eyes. He smiles at me, the dimples beside his lips acting as glorious parentheses around his vibrant smile. His laugh is contagious, causing me to laugh right along with him. He was the most popular guy in school, the star quarterback of the football team –and he chose me. I’m just a simple girl. What could he possibly see in me? No matter. I’m his and he’s mine.” (Main character has a boyfriend that is too perfect and very popular –is surprised he wanted her out of all the other girls.)

5.) “There was something very mysterious about Leeland. He came and went from school like he was under no obligation to attend. He spoke to no one and remained aloof. I caught him looking in my direction from time to time, his pupils dilated far beyond that of a normal person. There was a strange mark on the back of his hand that intrigued me. I knew I had to find out what it meant, even if it killed me.” (Dark, mysterious love interest that is something other than human -probably a vampire- and the main character is ready to risk her life just to soothe her curiosity.)

6.) ”Lyla knew she was the only one that could save the world. She was the Chosen One, after all.” (Chosen One books.)

AND MY LEAST FAVORITE OF ALL:

7.) “Harbor, I love you, but I have to do this alone,” Walden said, his fingers winding into the tangled curls of her hair.
“No,” she argued. “I can’t let you risk your life for me. We’re in this together.”
He pulled her in closer, crushing the air out of her lungs with the strength of his embrace. She wondered how she would go on without him, if she could really bring herself to say goodbye. She held on to the moment, memorizing the way their bodies fit so perfectly, every curve coming together like a puzzle. They were one, not meant to be broken.
“If I don’t come back…”
“Stop it. You will come back. I love you, do you understand me?” Harbor took his face in her hands, keeping her eyes fixed on his. “I’m coming with you!”
“No! Harbor, no! It’s too dangerous! I can’t risk your life for this.”
“We started this together, Walden. We’re finishing it. I’m coming.”
(Overly romantic couples who find themselves in peril and argue about who is going and who is staying and ultimately both go because of their undying love. Blech.)

If you also couldn’t tell, weird names is also a theme I’m noticing.

I’ll admit, I’m guilty of a couple of these. (Not the last one!!!!) My characters are a little more along the lines of:
“I don’t want to go! It’s freaking scary in there!”
“Oh, suck it up, Buttercup!”

However, I do have an orphan and her name is unique (Adelie) and she does like the library, but she’s not a full blown introvert. So, there’s that.

Query Letter Critique: A DREAM LOST

I’m participating in Michelle Hauck’s Holiday Query Blog Hop where writers can post their query letters and get feedback on how to make improvements. Since query letters are CRAZY hard, I’m thrilled to invite the advice! Here is my query letter for A DREAM LOST, revised December 11.

Dear Wonderful Agent,

I am currently seeking representation for my YA novel A DREAM LOST. Because of your interest in urban fantasy, I thought you would be a good fit for this project.

Eighteen-year-old Adelie Elliot is ready to make a break from her foster home and head off to college. But there’s a hitch in the plan when shadowy figures make their appearance without warning when awake and recurring nightmares claim her sleep. Struggling to be brave against the crippling fear, Adelie pursues one of the mysterious shadow people and is transported to a new world within dreams. Waiting to guide her in using her abilities as a Dream Seeker are three eccentric young men with rather unorthodox methods of training. She never knew that sleepwalking could become an art form or that plastic, take-out forks would be a tool used in mastering such a technique.

With the Seekers’ help, Adelie learns to manipulate the dream world and discovers the real purpose of the elite group: to destroy the rogue nightmares before they capture dreamers within sleep. When the nightmares become more consuming, Adelie finds that a fallen mythological god is scheming to reclaim his dream world. As he gains power by feeding off of other Seeker’s strength, Adelie realizes that her own life –and the lives of her new friends –would give him just what he needed to restore himself as lord over the dream land.

If Adelie doesn’t stop the unnatural villain before he’s restored to full power, her life will be lost, or worse –she’ll have to remain within dreams forever as a servant to the god of nightmares.

A DREAM LOST is a 93,000 word YA fantasy novel with series potential. It is similar in tone to THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS.

I am currently raising two, rambunctious preschoolers at home that keep my imagination in working order. Like my protagonist, I drink entirely too much coffee and always have a crazy dream to share upon waking. My completed manuscript is available at your request.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Stephanie A Eding

Death by Writing

I haven’t written a blog in a couple of weeks.  Why?  Because I hit the end stages on finished my second book A LINGERING UNREST.  Once I get the finish line in sight, I can’t be relied on to do any sort of life outside of writing.

But I’ve discovered something in the writing process:

Writing is HARD!

It’s OVERWHELMING!

It will drive you to complete MADNESS!

It will suck every last ounce of energy right out of your body.  Seriously.

Allow me to walk you through my thought process from the beginning to the end stages of writing:

“OK.  I’m going to write a book. Yikes.  Where do I even begin?  This is too stressful!”

“All right.  I have an idea.  I have characters.  Will people like these characters?  Has this idea been done before?  How do I make it original?  This is so dang hard!”

“Page one is written.  It took all day, but that first page is out of the way.  Page one of –what?  Like 300?  This is going to take forever!”

“Second pot of coffee consumed in three hours.  OK.  The book is halfway done and I’ve used up all of my ideas.  How in the world will I stretch this out into a full novel?  GAH!”

“Ready to conclude.  How do I make this epic enough for people to remember it?  Will they put it down and be excited or did I just waste a portion of their lives?  They are going to hate me!  I’m a terrible writer!”

“I just wrote a whole book! I’m so pumped!  Celebrate!  Well, now how the heck to I get it published?  You mean there’s more to this than just writing the blasted thing?  I’m not done yet?  Are you freaking kidding me??????”

“Agents.  I can do this.  I can find a great literary agent to represent me.  I just have to write a noticeable query letter and get their attention from the slush pile.  No problem.  I should only have to send out a few of these, right?  Wow, this is a project… It’s so time consuming!  There are a million agents out there!”

“Welcome to my collection, Rejection #871.  My book sucks!  I’m a joke of a human being!”

“I’ve gained ten pounds solely from coffee creamers.”

“I’m going to have to go back and rewrite this entire book…”

“I can’t do this.  Where do I even begin?  This is so stressful!!!!!!!!”

Yeah, it’s just one big circle of insanity.  Hopefully soon, I can post that I have been signed by an agent.  However, that just starts a whole new circle of craziness in the process of publication!  It’s a long one, folks.

The good news (and, I guess, kind of a weird part about all of this) is that I have never loved a task more than writing a book!  Seriously, you should try it!  It’s totally worth the gray hairs and stomach ulcers!  I promise!

Bucket List Explosion

What are your life’s goals and ambitions? I don’t just mean the standard –get married, have kids, find a great career –those are all fabulous life aspirations, for sure! But I mean, if you could do anything in this lifetime, sky is the limit, what would you do? I’ve always been a bit of a big dreamer, so I’m going to share my bucket list that stretches to the stars:

-Open a feline rescue center. I will name all the cats after my favorite book characters and when I run out of those, I’ll simply name them after foods. (Would you like to adopt Magnus Bane or Funyun?) I also plan to have a special wing in the building just for black cats in memory of my cat Annabelle Mildred who was the best little fluffy companion I’ve ever had.

-Start a Christian night club. I love to dance. And I love to dance crazy. I miss my clubbing days in college BECAUSE of the dancing, but there are a whole lot of other parts of that experience that I do not miss. This new revolutionary idea is going to be fun AND wholesome. Can’t you just imagine? 🙂

-Adopt somewhere between 4 and 13 children. I want a big family. I want to adopt. I know I will go insane in the process. That much is understood. Also, I need money.

-Pet a giant squid. If you plunge me into the depths of the ocean in one of those deep-sea-diving submarines, I will cry until I drown in my own tears. The thought of that is terrifying to me. However, if you bring a giant squid up to the surface (dead or alive), I want to touch it. I am completely intrigued by those crazy things. I will tell everyone I meet that I’ve pet one. I will even get a bumper sticker that displays the fact on the bum of my car as proudly as every marathon runner or honor student parent.

-Publish books. This one is not quite as far-fetched as my others, as I’m in the process of trying to get my first book series accepted by a literary agent right now. Still, it remains one of my greatest goals in life!

-Run for office. I enjoy politics and I can be incredibly passionate about issues. Unfortunately, that passion can rush out of my mouth faster than my brain can think and I don’t know that anyone would elect me because of my raw emotion. I’m sure everyone else thinks they’re as right as I am about the issues. But we can’t all be right. Am I right?

-Start a business. I would love to be a small business owner. I’ve tossed around the idea of book stores, coffee shops, and even starting my own gift basket company. I really don’t care! I think they all sound like fun!

-Go on “Dancing With The Stars”. Since there still isn’t a “Housewives Edition”, I’m going to have to make myself famous in one way or another which should probably be a goal all on its own, but it’s not. I want to be paired with Derek Hough because I think he’s the greatest dancer alive and I want to Samba my tail off on that fancy little stage!

I see no reason why I can’t do them all. I must go. I have suddenly become very busy.

Play Harder

Sometimes I forget how much fun it was to be a kid. Despite my efforts, I grew up. OK, maybe I shouldn’t even try to phrase it that way. I COULD NOT WAIT to grow up! As a little girl, I would dream of being a wife and mommy or having a grand career of different sorts. I greatly desired to run my own home and make a difference in the world in whatever way I could manage. I don’t remember being afraid or trying to fight it at all.

HOWEVER, when the growing up actually happened –I got married, moved into my own home, brought children into the world, and started paying mountains of bills while managing to prepare meals, keep on top of laundry and housework, and not destroy the lives I had been entrusted with. And do you know what I realized? Being a grown up is really freaking hard!

I don’t remember student loans crossing my mind when I would play with my dollies. I think I neglected to shop sales and stick to a tight budget when I would go to the imaginary grocery stores. Heck, since I planned to marry a Backstreet Boy I didn’t even need to worry about money anyway! And wouldn’t you know that all of my sweet, dollbaby children slept through the night –every night!?

But let me just say that I greatly prefer my living, breathing babies to the perfectly tame and well-behaved imaginary ones. I think God gave me these rambunctious little blonds to keep me sane amongst the chaos. Ironic, isn’t it? You can’t say God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

You know why they’re keeping me sane in the stress-infested reality of being a grown up? They remind me to play! They show me how to enjoy the simple things. They laugh and smile. They don’t know how to worry or stress. They just know fun!

You know what they’re doing at this exact moment? We’re outside enjoying the weather and they have fistfuls of leaves held high in the air. Their mouths are open wide and they’re yelling at the sky as they run aimlessly back and forth across the yard. It’s a grand sight!

Playing hide and seek with a two and four year old is the funniest thing an adult can possibly do. If you get the chance, do it. They count together, never in any specific order or to any particular number and then they hunt together. Their investigative voices are enough to make me giggle until my cover is blown. When it’s their turn to hide, I am forced to put on a confused face and check multiple places, knowing that they’re in the exact same spot where they found me on the previous turn. If they ever ventured out to find a new hiding spot, it still wouldn’t be hard to find them because my youngest loves to jump out when she hears me coming and yell, “I found him, Mom!” The older one hates it but still gets caught in a fit of laughter when I discover him.

Now, really, doesn’t that sound much better than doing the dishes? Go play!

I Have Problems

I feel like I need to issue an apology to everyone I come in contact with. I have no good excuse, but I think I’ve become a very rude person. I don’t intend to be mean or impolite, by any means, but it happens –way more often than I care to admit.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not pushing people down stairs or stealing candy from small children. But I do ignore people. I forget to say hello or goodbye. I don’t ask about important events or how everyone is doing. Even on occasion, I will walk right past someone without even acknowledging their presence until a bit after the fact.

This has nothing to do with my shy, awkward introverted personality.
The problem seems to be that my brain no longer functions properly.

Do you know how many times I get home at night and think, “Oh crap! I forgot to even tell someone I was leaving!” Or I get so deep in thought that I can’t seem to see anything past my imagination. It’s almost as if the “baby brain” I had during my pregnancies never left at all (or dare I say, got immeasurably worse with each day of raising said babies!). I might even be a slight menace to society. But I do promise I am not being intentionally rude or self-seeking. That is certainly not my intention!

So, I am very sorry if I have ignored you when you’ve said hello. I feel terrible if I never came to say hello or forgot to wish you a happy birthday outside of your Facebook wall. Forgive me if I go off into a creepy glazed-over stare instead of responding to your posed question. My brain is not itself and I am deeply sorry.

Hopefully, I will regain control someday. But until then−

Are You Disturbed?

How disturbed are you? That’s kind of an unusual question, isn’t it? I thought so when it was posed through my radio speakers. But, really, it is a thought-provoking question. I’ve never really thought about the word “disturbed” in this manner, but I have to say, I just love it! Read on for clarity!

We as humans really like to be comfortable, don’t we? Look around you. Your home is probably decorated in your own personal tastes. You wear clothes of your choosing that fit your personality and are (for the most part) comfortable to wear. We can control our indoor climates, choose what we watch on television, and purchase what we think we need to live our lives in contentment.

If you’re like me, you might even notice that you’re addicted to comfort. It’s taken a long time for me to realize that God does NOT want us to be comfortable. If everything is going our way and we’re happy in our bubbles, we’ll never grow. We’ll never learn to trust, never understand the purpose of suffering, and never have a need to worry about those around us.

We are meant to be disturbed. What is “passion” if not an outlet for our innermost disturbances? I shared in my
last blog post that I have a passion for adoption. That’s because the thought of parentless children is deeply disturbing to me. If I’m being totally honest, I don’t let my mind wander to those thoughts as often as they should. Why? Because being that concerned about something is emotionally draining! I hate to cry. I hate to worry. I hate to feel responsible for something that seems outside of my control. It’s horrible to think about the pains in this world –both seen and unseen. But they’re there whether we want to think about them or not.

Just imagine, if you allowed your bubble to burst and let your heart break to something, what kind of wonders could God work through you? That was a challenge, by the way. The walls of your comfort zone need to crumble –mine, more than anyone else’s. So let’s all get a little bit disturbed together –one day at a time.