Into the Publishing World and onto the Shelf

Not every book I write has the fundamentals of my faith interwoven into the fabric of the story. In fact, most of the novels I write are just cool stories. For my debut, however, I wanted to choose one that hit a little closer to home.

Yes, I’m going to attempt to publish a book this year. (Can I get a hallelujah?) I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, I’m not even promising that it will happen, but I’m going to try. I do still have kids at home and most days I feel like someone who wrangles bulls for a living; trying to keep everyone fed, the floors poop-free, and contain them in their pens during nap time. But here’s to the “I’m going to go for it anyway” attitude.
If it doesn’t happen this year, I’ll try again next year. But I have a good feeling about 2020.

As I toss around my ideas for the book title (sometimes out loud by accident – my family loves my maniac one-sided conversations) I try to consider everything. The novel I’ve chosen to publish this year is a young adult urban fantasy Christmas novel, currently titled, PEPPERMINT. The idea behind the title is that regardless of what time of the year it’s being read, I want the reader to feel like they’ve been hit with a tiny burst of cold, which, if you have ever noticed, is precisely what happens when you eat a mint.
But the title has little to do with why I chose this novel as my debut.

When I was younger, my dad used to read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis to me and my siblings before bed. We would heap onto his comforter and go quiet for hours (which was rare for us – I had two sisters so you can imagine the daily scream-fights.) Every time he finished a chapter, we would come up with calculated arguments, or sometimes just straight up begging, for him to read another chapter. I’m not telling you about this childhood memory to stimulate warm gushy feelings, I’m bringing it up because it was a tradition that took me on adventures every night before bed. It was an exciting time for me as a kid, to be able to bond with my family over a story we all loved. Even if I couldn’t agree with my sisters on anything else, like whose turn it was to get ready in the bathroom in the morning, or whose turn it was to clean a certain room for Saturday morning chores, or even who stole whose stuff, we could all agree on Reepicheep. And Aslan. We could all get swept away to Narnia.

That marked the beginning of my obsession with other worlds.

The simple Calder family tradition (that may or may not have become a tradition by accident) fuelled my inner book nerd and is something I think about all the time these days, because now I have kids. It shouldn’t come as a shock that I want to carry on the tradition with them. There’s something magical about gathering, listening, staying up late just to hear what happens next. I want my children to go on those same adventures, to fall asleep with their minds on brave characters, to create those same bonds with each other over stories. I think with what’s become of this world, with technology sabotaging authentic relationships at every turn, it matters that we start traditions where we can spend real unplugged time with our kids.

I first started writing Peppermint when I had my son five years ago. This book, in a lot of ways, is for him. I imagined pulling out this old Christmas book every season and reading our way through the evenings of the twelve days before Christmas, with snow blowing against the windows and our toes toasting by the fire. Now I have three kids, because frankly, it just took me that long to finish writing and revising the book (oh wait, I’m still revising it), but now I’m getting it ready to go out into the world and share the message of hope. To hopefully start new traditions in other homes, while I pull out my book every year and start a tradition in mine.

My faith plays a role in this one. It’s hard to talk about faith these days, and people are especially against it at Christmas time (and with some of the stories I’ve heard about people’s encounters with the church, I don’t blame them.) But to give them a book at Christmas with no strings attached? I think I can handle that. A present never hurt anyone, even people who have different beliefs. That’s my way to share hope at Christmas 2020.

And just like that, you have all my reasons for my choice.

Just pray I can get my book done and published before the fall.

(No seriously. I will take all those prayers.)
Peace.

Enter the Maze

How do I explain this? Okay, sometimes I look at other people and I imagine their heads are like eggs. If you crack them open (non-violently of course) inside you will find egg whites and a yolk. This is normal. This is healthy.

I feel like when God made me He jammed a tub of cotton candy, twisty patterns, endless tunnels to other worlds, a whole village of people with strong personalities, eight vastly different pairs of shoes and a box of crayons into my egg-head. I hope I never have to get brain surgery. Because I have this sinking feeling that I’ll freak out the surgeons.

I’m not saying that there is something wrong with me, but there are definitely times when I feel like I’m doing everything I can to hide the fact that I might be a ‘crazy person’. Sometimes it’s incredibly frustrating to try and keep ‘the brain beast’ under control. Someone can be having an entire conversation with me and I will be looking right into their eyes, even nodding, but I can be in a completely different place, having no idea what they’re saying. I want to listen. I want to be a part of what the person is talking about. But my mind takes off without consent. I’ll catch the first few words, and then notice something across the room, or something they say will trigger an idea or thought, and then I’m gone. For the next couple of minutes while they talk, I’m not aware of anything except what my mind is producing.

It’s borderline embarrassing. If I’m not quick on my feet at the time I won’t be able to come up with some sort of stuttering response to whatever I think they were talking about. Usually I have to take a wild guess. And thankfully I’m usually right. But sometimes I’m not, which makes me look really stupid.

It started in high school, I think. But maybe it was before that. I had systematically trained myself to sit in a chair and check out, the moment the teacher opened his/her mouth. I would stare at them so they thought I was listening. But I would be somewhere else entirely, creating a distant landscape or engaging in some ridiculous legendary battle that I’d fabricated in my mind. I was doing it on purpose at first. But after a few years of getting into the habit, I couldn’t stop. Daydreaming became my kryptonite.

It started getting really bad when I could sit by myself for hours with no concept of what time it was. In those moments the idea of having to move was aggravating, almost unthinkable. I would watch things; machines, people, animals, trees. I would study them obsessively until I understood how they worked, or discovered every detail. A tree is not just a tree. It is branches, leaves, a trunk, bark, moss, buds, bugs, and sometimes birds. And it feels cold, sometimes moist, depending on the tree. I don’t know why I ever realized this. Trees really aren’t of any concern to me. Why do I even care? I don’t. But for some stinking reason I notice it anyway. Bah.

85% of the time I’m battling between trying to pay attention to what’s important (like someone talking to me, remembering that I have to make supper, or that I should probably do the laundry) and the overwhelming pull that is taking me in another direction – somewhere that isn’t important but consumes me. Some fantasy land I create. Plotting out the traits of a character that isn’t real. Some crisis that would cool for the character to overcome.

It’s exhausting. Several times a day I’m telling my brain to shut up. Who talks to their own brain? I don’t typically sleep well on a normal night either – usually because I just think and think and think and think…

The weird part is that I actually can focus on something, if it’s something I like. If it’s making the preparations for something that I can see the big picture of that no one else seems to get, I can do it. I can do it because I want to prove the world wrong. I want to do it so that everyone can see the end result, the way I see it. People don’t always see what I see, the big dream that I know will be amazing once it’s finished. In those instances my focus is spear-like.

I’m not going to lie, I think if I didn’t believe in God, if I didn’t have the relationship with Him that I have, I would have probably lost my mind by now. I would be restless all the time. Peace was foreign to me, until I really started to pursue God to the point of choosing to give those things, those parts of me that I typically can’t control, to Him. He keeps the aimless wanderings going in the right direction at least. I must focus my energy on something. So I know I can accomplish masterpieces if I keep my focus on Him.

Not everyone gets my need to constantly spring into a new situation or venture out into new territory. It’s not that I’m reckless. And it’s not that I’m ignorant and don’t understand the risks. It’s that I’m trying to feed the howling ‘brain-beast’ that won’t shut up until I do.

Not everyone gets my need to escape either. I love people, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I realize that I need seclusion, and I don’t know where the freak-desperation comes from without warning, but sometimes I just need to be by myself so that I can ‘hear myself think’. Little distractions instantly become my enemy. I need to focus, or I will lose my train of thought. And if I lose my train of thought I might never get it back. And for whatever reason my mind deems it pivotal to keep these little thoughts safe, like they are priceless treasures that are worth a fortune.

It’s so weird. I’m not saying it’s normal. I was never really a normal kid – even in elementary school I had more than one teacher that had to pull me aside to get me in trouble for handing in papers with doodles and pictures coloured in around all the margins of the paper and only half the required school notes. I never broke that habit. In fact, halfway through my grade 10 math exam I gave up and just wrote, “I don’t need math. I will get through life with my art” across the page. And then I handed it in. Granted, at the time I might have been a little naïve. But I was never good at exams.

You know, finally confessing all of this actually makes me feel better about it. I think I just needed to let it all out for a change. Thank God, for God. I can’t even comprehend what my life would be like without Him.

And for the record I’m not crazy. Just a little distracted on a regular basis.

That’s my rant. Tootles.

Flesh Eaters.

When life is coming at you like a hoard of angry zombies, and you just feel like you’re about to get eaten alive, lift your eyes up to Jesus. He’s a heart-loving-zombie-crushing-pound-on-Satan’s-face kinda guy. And in your worst moments, even when you feel disconnected or like you’ve lost your way, Jesus still knows you by name, loves you in your weakness, and is ready to fight on your behalf. He gives peace. He restores life. He makes you a survivor.

You will make it.