Category Archives: Writing

Art as a Ministry

Shortly after I moved to Illinois, I was invited to an art circle, a meeting where artists get together and show their work and talk about art. While there, I met a young lady who created art out of light (literally light). It was amazing! When it came my turn to share, I talked about my writing and the books I had published. This young lady contacted me a couple weeks later and shared how my books had intrigued her, so she went home and started reading Daughter of Light.

That connection led to us having coffee and her sharing how she came to know Christ—from an antagonistic atheist to a follower of Jesus—and how her passion is to not only create art, but to reach fellow college art students with the gospel. As a fellow artist, I resonated with her words and was moved by her heart for college students. I’ve been in ministry for a long time, but I’ve never heard of anyone with that kind of passion for art and for students of art.

Not only that, Sara gets college students and speaks into their unique world. She shared with me a story about how she was talking to a young lady who was viewing her artwork and the topic of Star Wars came up. By using Star Wars, Sara shared who God is and how He works in the world. No big words, no eloquent gospel presentation. Just using an image the young lady already knew, and using it to help her to understand God more. To Sara, the gospel flows naturally through her, whether that is directly through her artwork, or through whatever topic comes up when she is speaking to people.

As one artist to another, I am inspired by Sara’s passion and love for art, for God, and for people. Because of that, I wanted to introduce all of you to Sara and the ministry she is embarking on to reach art students. Here she is to tell you her story in her own words.

Being-installation-Sara-paige

During my time in grad school, I realized just how hostile the arts can be towards Christians. I was baptized four months before coming to the University of Illinois, so faith as part of my art was a new concept for me. I felt like I had to hide or be covert about faith topics within my art. I reached a point where I could no longer be ashamed of who God called me to be and the power within His truth. I got a lot of push back from classmates and some professors when I started being open about the influence my faith had on my art. Once I allowed God into my art practice though, I witnessed amazing growth, spiritually, artistically, and relationally.

God is the ultimate creator. He created everything, especially us, in His image. I honestly believe that as artists, when we create we enact on that image of God within us. God wants to be a part of our artistic practices, whether it be visual arts, design, music, theater, dance, or writing. He longs to see His kingdom come and what better way to bring that than through the arts? We as artists make physical the unseen. We take the unimaginable and put it into words/movement/imagery. Our sole purpose is to reflect the glory of God!

My calling is to help shepherd art students at the University of Illinois. There are 2,300+ students in the college of Fine and Applied Arts. My goal is to start a revival and help bring redemption through the arts. These students face many struggles and are in desperate need of the Truth. As a staff member of Illini Life, I will be able to establish an arts outreach and help build a community of artists who will boldly proclaim the gospel.  

However, I’m not currently on campus and working because I first need to build a team of people who believe in what I’m doing to support me. I’m looking for partners to join me in this mission through prayer, resources, and financial support. This is an opportunity to be a part of the bigger story God is writing in the lives of students at the University of Illinois. My goal is to be fully funded by August, so I’m ready to meet the thousands of new students coming to campus. If you are interested in joining me in this mission, please send me an email! I would love to meet you and get to know you 🙂

***

That afternoon when Sara shared her vision and ministry with me, I knew I wanted to support her, not just financially, but with prayer and as a friend and fellow artist. She will be reaching other artists, young people who I will probably never meet or have a relationship with. But she will. And I get to be a part of that, and that’s exciting!

If you’re interested in learning more about Sara’s artwork or ministry, or want to talk drop her an email, here are her links:

Ministry: reliant.org/sara.hoag

Artwork: sarapaigeart.com

Email: sara.hoag@reliant.org

Thanks, Sara, for sharing!

Rooglewood Fairy Tale Contest

Once again my friends over at Rooglewood Press are looking for writers to enter their last and final fairy tale contest. Have you always wanted to write your own version of Snow White? Ever wanted to place that classical story in a different setting, or even a different world? Now is your chance! So get out your creative ideas and start writing.

THE FINAL FAIRY TALE CONTEST
Rooglewood Press invites you to join the adventure of the Five Poisoned Apples creative writing contest!

FivePoisonedApples

And here is the cover that will be accompanying the five stories that make it into the collection. Isn’t it lovely? Now go forth and write!

The Importance of Living in Order to Write

enigma-1427049-1280x1920In this day and age where there is pressure for an author to churn out lots of books, I’ve stepped back and realized that when we as writers forget to live—to take those walks, to eat dinner with our families, to spend a half hour in quiet thoughts—we lose the very substance which we write about.

A favorite children’s book of mine is Frederick. In this book, while all the other mice are gathering supplies for winter, Frederick is sitting on a rock and enjoying the sunshine. Or he’s feeling the rain fall on his face. He’s sniffing the flowers and eating a strawberry.

The mice complain, but Frederick just smiles. What they don’t realize is he’s experiencing life. When winter comes and it grows cold and dark, Frederick steps forward and begins to tell them stories of summer. He reminds them what it felt like to feel the sunshine on their faces. He reminds them of the scent of a flower, or the feel of rain. He describes a fresh strawberry so vividly they can almost taste it.

That is what we do as writers. We experience life, then write stories to remind others of life.

A couple weeks ago I was in Chicago with my family. As we walked between the skyscrapers, I talked to my daughter (a budding writer) and asked her to describe the city for me. I had her listen to the sounds of Chicago, the smells, the sights, even the feel (Chicago can be bitterly cold and windy). I told her to remember this as an experience to draw upon if she ever wrote a scene within a big city.

Last month I was up in Michigan. I spent an hour walking around a lake, taking in the feel of the gentle rain falling, smelling the wet soil, listening to the different birds and sounds of the lake, and watching swallows dive for food along the water’s surface. I filed these away to use someday to describe a rainy day on a lake.

But these experiences are not just tied to places. A writer should also study emotions. I remember filing away how it felt the day my dog died, so I could accurately describe grief over death. Or the desperation and depression I felt the year my husband was without work. And what hope felt like when we found a job and a home.

Some life experiences are small and simple: conversations around a dinner table, a walk around the neighborhood at night, how good it feels to finish mowing the grass as I drain a large glass of lemonade.

If a writer spends every day, all day, sitting at a computer writing stories, then slowly they lose touch with the real world, and the substance that would feed their story fades. It is not a bad thing to write lots of books (many times I wish I was a faster writer), but there is something to be said about living and experiencing life, then bringing that life into your story.

Book Update and Awards

Rone AwardThis is really exciting! Tainted is up for two reader’s choice awards, both which are now in their second stage of voting. This means if you enjoyed Tainted and would like to vote for this lovely novel in the second stage, I would greatly appreciate it!

First is the Alliance Award. The requirement for this award is you need to have read two of the books on the list (Tainted counts as one book, so just need to have read one more). Here is the link:
https://faithandfantasyalliancellc.regfox.com/alliance-award-semi-final-voting

And second, because Tainted received a Crowned Heart review from InD’Tale Magazine last year, it is automatically a candidate for the Rone Award. Now that award is in its second phase where you, the reader, get to vote! You need to have an account in order to vote. If you voted for Heir of Hope last year or for their cover contests, just log in. If you do not have an account, there are directions on the award page. Here is the link:
http://indtale.com/2017-rone-awards-week-one

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! Without readers like you who love this book and go the extra mile to tell others about it, Tainted would not be up for these awards. So thank you very much 🙂

But Morgan, I hear you saying, I really loved Tainted and I’ve told all my friends and family about it, but when are we going to get the second book?

I’ve received numerous emails and messages asking me when my next book is coming out and I thought it was high time I updated all of my readers.

First, Awakened, the next book that follows the story of Kat Bloodmayne and Stephen Grey, is all finished. All the edits are done and there is even a cover. Unfortunately, the release date has been pushed back and I don’t know when it will be released. It might be this fall. It might be longer. And for that I apologize! This is one of those things I have no control over, other than I spoke to my editor and the final book will come out one way or another. So do not fear, you will find out how the story ends!

However, I have not been idle while waiting for the release of Awakened. I am now half-way done with the rough draft for a whole new epic fantasy series. The tentative title for the first book is Mark of the Raven.

I hope to share more as I finish up the first book, but if you want, you can take a look at my inspiration board on Pinterest for the characters and places. Here is the link: www.pinterest.com/morganlbusse/mark-of-the-raven/ 

Thank you, everyone, for your patience and support! As soon as I know the release date for Awakened, you will be the first to know!

What if Only One Person Reads My Books?

writingThis thought has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if you’re doing what you’re supposed to as a writer. Doubt is always there, lurking in the back of your mind. My rankings are down, should I still be writing? My royalty check makes me blush, should I still be writing? I feel like I’m letting my publisher, agent, etc… down, should I still be writing?

Is anyone even reading my books?

So as I was once again re-evaluating if I should be writing (aka, I’m not feeling like I’m successful and wondering if my life would be better served doing something else), I had this thought: what if only one person ever reads my books? Then I took it a step further. What if what I was writing was meant for just one person? That God wanted me to spend my lifetime writing multiple series for a person who I will never meet, but someday would need to read my books because through those books God would change them? And not just one book, but God would use all of my books to help that one person?

Would it be worth it?

Would it be worth all the hours I pour into writing, the sacrifices I make so I can make time to write every day, the other “good things” I could be doing, but instead I am writing? Honestly? In my flesh that thought makes me cry. Just one person? But as I pondered this thought, I realized that God would do that, because of that one soul.

When we think of God doing above and beyond what we can imagine, we think of grandiose plans and ideas. But what if God’s plans involve a lonely writer, writing her heart out for the rest of her life, then connecting her books to one person who needs to read those books—every single one of them—and by reading them, comes to know God his or herself?

That’s exactly how God would do things…because to Him the value of a soul is priceless. He would do anything to reach people, including using the lifetime of a writer and all of her books to reach that other soul.

This thought has plagued me over and over again for the last few weeks. What if only one person ever reads my books? And not just one book, but will read everything I will ever write, and by doing so will connect with God? Is that worth it?

Yes.

That’s not to say sometimes I wish I had more to show for my writing, but when my focus is on God, it’s then I believe that what I am doing is not in vain, even if it might be for just one person. After all, every soul is precious to God. And that makes writing worth it.

How about you? Are you struggling with what you’re doing? Do you wonder if it’s worth it or is it time to throw in the towel? I can’t tell you yes or no, but I can tell you anything you do with open hands held up to God is never in vain, even if you don’t see the results.

Steampunk Worldbuilding

I was asked to share a while ago how I created the steampunk world for Tainted, the first book in my steampunk series, The Soul Chronicles. Before I begin, I think it is good to define what steampunk is. There are a lot of definitions out there, most of them wordy and abstract. So I took the common elements and narrowed them down to one statement: steampunk is the fusion of our history (usually Victorian Era or wild west) and science fiction/fantasy. The “steam” part comes from advance technology that is run on—you guessed it—steam.

I like to use the word “fusion” when defining steampunk. Why? Fusion is the process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity. With steampunk, you join the historical genre with the speculative genre and fuse them together with steam-powered technology to create a brand new genre.

So now that you know what steampunk is, let me share how I created my own fused world. For the historical aspect, I went with the Victorian Era. I love this time period because there was so much change that occurred during this era. This is when the Industrial Revolution occurred (perfect for my steampunk technology), many things were in the process of being invented (again, perfect for steampunk), advances and changes in the medical world, women were stepping into the world of higher education and science, and all the advancements of science itself.

For the speculative aspect, I went with fantasy. The idea for Tainted originally came from an online conversation where someone asked if necromancy could ever be used for good. I had this image of a woman who had been “tainted” by her father’s research, and although it opened her up to amazing power, it also was killing her on the inside.

Tainted_Hi_Res

And thus Tainted was born. But instead of straight up fantasy necromancy, I chose to use science instead, and ask the questions 1) Are there lines we shouldn’t cross in our pursuit of the unknown? 2) What happens if we cross those lines? 3) Does it hurt others?

Kat’s own abilities stem from science as well, namely, the laws of science. She can manipulate matter. This means she can cause things to combust, or move, or cause particles to draw together (forming a solid) or drift apart (creating liquid or state form). She can even cause time to stand still. But humans were never meant to contain such power, and so it is killing her soul.

Lastly, the steampunk technology. I chose to go with a more covert approach instead of flashy, in-your-face technology. Steam technology is part of the everyday world in Tainted, and thus not focused on as much by the characters, in as much we use the coffeepot to make coffee in the mornings, or use our cell phones to connect with other people, but we don’t sit there and gawk at how amazing our technology is. We simply use it. It is part of the background of our lives.

Now some steampunk authors love to build all sorts of cool gadgets and gizmos. Great! I wanted to focus more on the story of the characters and use the steampunk aspect as the backdrop to their story. I think ever writer has the freedom to be as overt or covert with their technology as they want to be. And I think it also depends on the story you are writing. If it’s about an inventor, then yes, you’ll probably have a lot of cool inventions. If it’s about a socialite, eh, not so much.

So there you go. To build a world of steampunk, you research your history piece, pulling together what works for your world, including cultural aspects, manners, beliefs, and even fashion. Then you choose if you want a more science fiction or fantasy feel (maybe even both), then tie those into your world. You want magic? Great! You want AI automatons? Great!

Then lastly, have fun coming up with your own unique steampunk technology and decide how covert or overt you want to be with it. Does it take center stage of your book? Or is it the backdrop? And how does it work? Some things you can get away with just showing it in use, but some things readers might want an explanation for, depending on how overt you go with your technology.

Now go forth and write!

To find out more about Tainted, click here.

This article was originally posted on janeenippolito.com 

 

I Choose to Write Dangerously

A couple weeks ago I received a review that made me scratch my head and ask if this person really read the same book I wrote? The descriptions given seemed far out there. But as I had time to process what this person said, along with what other people had to say, it made me realize something: I choose to write dangerously.

I will never glorify evil, but I will write about it because there is real evil in this world. In a tactful way, I will write about abuse because there is abuse in this world. I will write about the dark places of the soul, gut-wrenching pain, and betrayals by loved ones because all of those are real.

I will also share hope, because without hope, the soul withers and dies. I will write about the hope I have experienced, that is, the hope I have found in Jesus. I will do this in a non-preachy, realistic way because Jesus isn’t a sermon or a moral, He is God, and He has touched my heart and changed me. He is the only light and hope at the end of all things.

To write about both the darkness and the light puts me in a place of tension. I told my husband the other day that sometimes I feel like I have a horse tied to each arm and the horses are running in opposite directions. On the one hand, I write about uncomfortable things. Why? Because life isn’t squeaky clean, and neither are the lives of my characters.

  • Rowen from Daughter of Light has the power to see inside people and see all of their sin. This has caused her to be exiled from her home, used for financial gain, and abused by her own people.
  • Caleb from Son of Truth was a previous murderer and womanizer and still struggles with lust.
  • Nierne from Heir of Hope struggles with faith. She grew up in a monastery, but comes to realize she really has no faith in God.
  • Stephen from Tainted is betrayed by his fiancée and allows his bitterness to cloud his judgement and place a friend in danger.
  • Kat from Tainted is abused by her father, and yet longs for a relationship with him as well. Because of her father’s experiments, she has uncontrollable power that has caused her to hurt others, and so she sees herself as a monster beyond redemption and love.

 

Four books

Even though I write about fictitious characters in worlds far from our own, their struggles, pain, and hurt are familiar to us all.

On the other hand, I write about God, and that just makes people uncomfortable or downright grouchy. Like I said, I do it in a non-preachy way ( I leave the preaching to my husband!). But I do mention a monotheistic deity and have gotten in trouble for it. But to not mention God in one form or another in my books is to bring my readers through a very dark story then offer no hope.

True love does not bring hope in the end. A happy ever after does not bring hope (and seriously, how many real-life happy ever afters actually happen?). There is only one who can heal the soul, and that is God. And after what some of my characters go through, they need more than a true-love bandage to heal what has shattered inside of them. I know there are readers who have also been shattered, and I want to help bring healing to them as well by showing them what God can do.

However, to write this way is to write dangerously. It means I’m not going to make everyone happy. I’m not going to make the person who wants the clean, light-hearted Christian novel happy. And I’m not going to make the person who hates any mention of God happy. It means I will always write with tension on either side of me.

There are readers out there who want—even need—the books I write. They know the darkness, and they want the light. And so I will continue to write dangerously because that is what God has called me to write and because of those readers.

How about you? Have you felt tension in what you write? Do you feel pulled in both directions? What is God calling you to write?