Category Archives: Writing

When Reading Loses its Magic

When I was a child, I devoured books. In fact, I broke the record of the most books read in one year at my elementary school. I read anything I could get my hands on. I even read Shakespeare, biographies, and encyclopedias :).

As an adult, my love for a good story continued. I found myself blessed with a husband who loved reading. Even better, we loved the same kind of books. We read Star Wars novels together, Harry Potter together, even Twilight. And I would read whatever nonfiction he was going through, whether it was on church ministry, leadership, or spiritual disciplines.

It wasn’t until I became a writer that reading began to lose its magic. I still read, but now that I was learning the craft of writing myself, I began to critique what I read. I couldn’t help myself. If I learned to stay in one-person point of view, then every book I read that didn’t follow that rule I thought was wrong.

As an author recently put it, reading a book is like watching a magic show. It’s fascinating and you are caught up in the spectacle. But when you start to learn the magician’s tricks, the show loses its charm. You know how he does it now. And you begin to critique the magician if he doesn’t do it right.

So how does a writer find her way back to the magic of simply enjoying a story? That’s a hard one, a feat that has taken me almost 2 years to learn.

One, I had to learn to turn off my inner editor. If there is one thing I have learned in writing, it is there are many styles of writing. And one style is not necessarily better than another. Just different. Both accomplish the same thing: a well-written, emotionally engaging book. But if I let my particular style drive my reading, then I am bound to be disappointed in a book that is different than me.

Two: don’t go into a book with preconceived ideas or emotions. What do I mean? In this industry, it can be easy to let jealousy come in and distort my view of a book. That is not right. If I am jealous, I will not see the good in a book, I will only be looking for the bad. But if I learn to rejoice with my fellow authors when they produce a good book, then I will enjoy their written work (for more on that topic, click here).

Thirdly, I need to let myself enjoy the experience of reading. Drink a cup of tea, curl up on the couch. Allow myself to be drawn in and taken to another place. And make the writer part of myself stay home! It has no place in my pleasure reading.

When I do this, I am finally free to just simply read. I get to experience the book as a reader. And the magic of reading comes back, just the way I remember it as a child.

 

Marketing for Writers on a Dime

First, my philosophy in marketing is how effective is whatever I’m doing compared to the time/money I have to put in? As a mother of four kids and the wife of a pastor, I have limited time to use toward my writing and marketing. So unless it guarantees a big return, I am reluctant to do something that requires a lot of time.

Same with money. My family just came off of being unemployed for a year and we are currently recovering from that. And as a small indie publisher, I have very limited resources from my publisher. Not that I’m complaining, I absolutely love Marcher Lord Press and there are some benefits you get with going with an indie publisher vs a traditional publisher (that will be a topic for another time ;)). Lastly, I see marketing as a small, step by step, reader by reader process. If I gain even one more reader through my endeavors, then I see that as a win.

So here is what I have done that has required little time and money:
-I started a blog 2 years ago (and here it is :)). I love blogging and so it’s not a hard thing for me to do. I blog about anything and everything on my heart and am not afraid to bring up sticky issues like what does a person do when they have lost their faith or how to deal with bitterness. Through my blog I have found a small readership who isn’t just writers. They appreciate my candid approach to faith and that readership has transferred over to my book.

-Build a relationship with the people you interact with on Facebook, don’t just talk about your writing life. Most of the people in your life do not understand the writer’s life nor do they really care. But when you are a real person with kids who do funny things or issues you are passionate about, you build ties with readers.

-Send arcs 3-4 months in advance to some big review places like Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, even Locus magazine. I sent to about 10-12 places and only heard from 2. But that was 2 more than I had the day before :).

-I chose not to do endorsements. At the time I was getting ready for my book release, I was also getting a house ready for the market and moving across states. Since endorsements have never influenced my choice in books, it wasn’t high on my priority list. And I didn’t really know anyone personally to ask, except one friend. She had just signed a contract for 2 books (hurrah!) and was honest and said she didn’t have the time, which was fine by me.

-Reviewers: I’m still learning this aspect of marketing. I do a lot of research into a reviewer before I ask them to review. I see what their site is like, do they like my kind of book, do they post their reviews in other places besides their blog? I know traditional publishers can send out a lot, but since every review book I send out comes out of my own pocket, I am selective on who I give one to.

-How to find reviewers: I just spent yesterday looking up quite a few of them. I looked over amazon’s top 150 reviewers, saw who reviewed my kind of book and sent them a nice, polite email with a request for a review. I also see who is reviewing my peers’ books and see if they would review mine. I have already received responses, all positive, and half of them said they would review.

-Always be respectful and polite. For one thing, you are an example of Christ to whoever you interact with (for the Christian writer). Secondly, it might win you a review. I had someone respond yesterday that they were so impressed that I actually took the time to look at their blog and read their posts that even though she was bogged down, she was going to make a spot and do a review for me.

-Be a part of Goodreads. I had never heard of this site before, but it is a great place to interact with your readers. Also check out Shelfari.

-Do a book giveaway with Goodreads. I am finding that a giveaway gives your book great exposure and it’s free advertisement! And it’s going on right now, so if you’re interested, here is the link: Goodreads book giveaway

-Book trailers. Not everyone likes them, but some people do. And it might bring them one step closer to purchasing your book. If you have a mac, it comes with iMovie. That is how I made mine: Daughter of Light Book Trailer

-I have not done a blog tour, but thinking about it.

-Remember, you can’t do everything or you’ll go crazy (not to mention not have time to write!). Do what you are good at. I don’t twitter or do pininterest because I don’t know how or have the time to keep either updated. I’m good at FB and so that is what I do for now.

– And lastly, remember God might have different plans for your book than you do. Keep your priorities straight: God, spouse, family, then writing. Sure, there are seasons when writing needs to take a front seat (like that dash to the release date), but it shouldn’t stay there. Be who you are suppose to be, have eyes open and ready for opportunities, and give your writing and marketing to God.

When you think you did it all yourself, you take the glory away from God. But when you give your marketing to God’s control, He might surprise you and in the end, all you can say is “God did it, not me!”

 

 

Achievement Junkie

I love achievements. When the xbox icon pops up that says I just unlocked master, I quick pump my fist in the air. When I come in first on Mario Kart and beat the entire game, I do a victory dance (with my kids dancing with me). The achievement list that was placed in World of Warcraft was made for a person like me. Found all the coins in the fountain in Dalaran? Me. Ironman in Warsong? Me again. Killed the Lich King while singing Itsy Bitsy Spider? Me. Wait, that’s not a real achievement ;).

I think this achievement need started when I was a child. I was never pressured to get good grades. It was something I craved, something I thought I needed. When I got an A, I didn’t crow. But I did feel deep satisfaction and searched for the next thing I could be best in.

I won awards for my athletics, for my grades, and for my art. I scored high in both my SAT’s and ACT’s. But it wasn’t enough. Once I had one achievement under my belt, I looked for another.

My achievement addiction moved into other areas of my life as I grew into adulthood. I knew theology and could debate with the best of them. I worked hard to have the perfect body to the point of hurting myself. I read everything I could so I could have the best pregnancy and birth. Same with being a mother.

Almost everything I put my hand to, I exceeded at. And if I didn’t, I dropped it and moved on. I would not waste my time on anything that I wasn’t the best at.

Funny enough, I never really wanted the limelight. That didn’t matter to me and in some ways scared a shy person like me. So why did I want to be the best? I couldn’t explain to you. There was this gnawing craving inside of me. I desired it and it made me feel good when I had it.

The dark times God brought me through over the last few years blasted through the fortress of Achievement I had in my heart. I have been humbled. I learned that all I have, I have been given by God. So when I published, I never dreamed that I would find that gnawing hunger inside my heart again. But it’s here, and it took me by surprise.

I have had people asking me how many books I have sold or how much money I have made. I have no idea. I’ve never asked. And I was delighted that I didn’t really care. But what I found myself craving was acknowledgement. I wanted to be the best… again.

I had coffee with a friend yesterday and I told her about this darkness inside of me. I was humiliated by it and didn’t understand it. Why? Why do I struggle with this? She pointed out something that I had never realized. It’s like a high for me. As soon as I achieve one thing, I look for my next high. I’m an achievement junkie.

I sat back in shock and knew she was right. I never understood why as a child I wanted good grades. Like I said, I was never pressured. But I wanted it anyway. And now that I know my addiction, I’m giving it to God. In the end, achievements do not fulfill, they just make me crave more of them. But God, well, He satisfies in a way that no achievement ever will.

Besides, I can’t claim anything. Good grades? God gave me my brain. Athletics? God made my body. A great book? I can’t tell you how many times I bowed my head and asked God to help me with a scene. And He did. So I can’t take the credit.

There is a saying I once heard on the television series Combat Hospital that stuck with me and made me think long after the episode ended.

“Are you doing your best, or trying to be the best?”

 And that’s a question I have for you :).

April Fool’s Day

Happy April 1st! Today is a huge day for the Busse family. First, it’s Kaitlyn’s birthday. Eight years ago, God blessed us with a wonderful, highly creative, beautiful daughter.

Secondly, my book released today, Daughter of Light. Funny enough, I began writing this story shortly after Katy was born. So they both kind of share a birthday 😉

Thirdly, we get to move into our rental house. No more camping out in living rooms, no more rummaging through boxes. Yahoo!

Fourth, I get to join my new church family today. I already feel really blessed and embraced by the people of Riverpoint Church. Thank you :).

When I realized a couple weeks ago how much would be happening on April 1st, I felt absolutely overwhelmed. Moving and celebrating a birthday and releasing a book and meeting lots of new people. Yikes!

Then I laughed. God definitely had a sense of humor when He orchestrated all these events on a single day, that day being April 1st. Only He wasn’t fooling. It’s all real.

So instead of stressing, I’m going to sit back and enjoy this day God has given me. I’m going to eat lots of cake and ice cream, say hi to people, start putting my new home together, and thank God for my published book.

 

For anyone interested, click here for a link to my new book :).

The Story Behind Daughter of Light

Come April 1st I will have been working on Daughter of Light a little shy of eight years. As I draw near to my release date, I thought I would share with you how I came up with this story…

Rowen (my main character) did not start out with the ability to see inside the soul. I actually created her to be a healer. I was annoyed by the “healing” I saw constantly in fantasy: just place your hands on someone and heal them. Tada!

I asked myself what would it be like if healing cost you something? What if, instead of healing someone, you absorbed the person’s pain, sickness, or wound? Would you do it? Really?

I wanted to explore the psychology behind this answer: What would it feel like? Who would you choose to heal? How much fear would you feel? Would you ever do it again? I wanted real answers, not “this is what the hero would do” answers.

But as I began to write Rowen’s story, I realized she needed something more than this. But what? Then I read a story about a woman who microwaved her baby. I read the headline, horrified. Why would anyone do that? What this woman thinking? What inside of her made her do this?

That made me think. We never see most of the evil in this world. Why? Because most of it is never acted out. But it’s still there, inside of us. What would it be like to see inside of people? What if you were burdened with that ability…and never knew it. Until the moment you touched someone?

What would you see inside the human heart?

This is Rowen’s gift and burden. To see what only God sees, and to reflect it back. To reveal the truth.

Her story begins April 1st.

Daughter of Light

For those of you wondering what my debut book is about, here is a blurb I wrote up this past summer:

Have you ever seen inside the human heart?

I have.

I have seen the darkness that hides within, I have felt the feelings of hatred and lust, heard whispers that still haunt my mind. With one touch I see what no one else sees: the very soul of man.

I am a mirror. I reflect the darkness within. I rip away the lies and deceit wrapped around the heart until all that is left is darkness and light. I expose the truth. And am hated and feared for it.

Why would the Word give me such terrifying power? Why must I see the darkness in others?

I never wanted this. I tried to rip the mark from my hand. I tried to hide it. I even ran away. It worked for a time. But a power like this cannot stay hidden forever.

And so I have been banished from my village. I run from those who wish to kill me. And hide from others who hope to twist my power.

Only a few stand beside me. But even they cannot follow me down the long dark road that lies before me. Only one can. The One who gave me my power.

Someday I will pay the price for my gift. For men do not want light, they want darkness. But until that day comes, the Word will stand with me and by his power I will shine.

***


As the Shadonae rise in the west and war threatens the north, a young woman discovers she is not human…

Banished from her village, Rowen Mar finds sanctuary in the White City using a leather glove to cover the strange mark on her hand. She lives in fear that if she touches another person, the power inside her will trigger again, a terrifying power that allows her to see the darkness inside the human heart…

But those called cannot hide forever. For the salvation of her people lies within her hand.

Daughter of Light.


Releasing April 1st, 2012 (and no, that’s not a joke :)) through Marcher Lord Press and Amazon. Ebook to follow…

My Editor, My Coach

I ran track and field in high school. Hurdles to be precise. I had this one coach who felt I had potential in the 300 meter hurdles. For those of you who don’t know much about track, its one of the most grueling races (in my opinon). You run almost a quarter mile as fast as you can—on your toes—while leaping over hurdles.

As you come around the curve and face the last 100 meters, you wonder how in all the world you’re going to make it to the finish line. You can barely breath, your calves burn, and you’re crying. Somewhere along the haze of pain you wonder why you didn’t chose some other sport, like tennis.

I am finding an editor is much like a coach. You work months and years to perfect your writing so that an editor will finally give your manuscript a second look and offer that coveted contract. But when the edits start coming, you wonder what he or she ever saw in your story.

What your editor saw… is potential. The skills are there, the story is great and it has a possible market. But the manuscript isn’t quite there, not yet.

So a good editor gets to work. And the newly contracted author wonders why she didn’t take up knitting instead :).

I am now entering the last phase of edits. It’s been hard. Really hard. But I have also learned a lot of good stuff. My editor has pushed me, helped me, and encouraged me. He knows I can do it (even when I’ve despaired). He’s a good coach. And for that, I am thankful.

 

*I originally posted this article at Hoosier Ink.

 

Christian Speculative Sites

Back in 2004 I began my search for Christian speculative fiction. There wasn’t a lot, at least that I could find. Since then, over the course of almost eight years I have found books, publishers, and websites all dedicated to this genre. I know some of you are lovers of the weird and the strange like me, but have no idea where to look to find your fill of fantasy and science fiction. Let me share with you my discoveries:

Where the Map Ends. This is the first site I discovered years ago for Christian Speculative lovers. It has everything from interviews with Christian authors of this genre to book lists to forums where Christians talk about science fiction and fantasy. A bonus to this site is a section where you can learn great writing tips from Jeff Gerke.

Speculative Faith. I found this site about 2 years ago. Monday through Friday you can find articles written by people knowledgeable and passionate about the speculative genre in general and how it relates to the Christian faith in particular. Excellent site for discussion. Bonus: Speculative Faith has a current book list of pretty much all the Christian fantasy and science fiction out there. So if you’re looking for something to read along those lines, check out their list.

Speaking of books, the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour (also known as the CSFF) consists of 30-50 bloggers who each month review a Christian speculative book or site. The goal of this blog tour is to let people know good Christian fantasy and science fiction exists. I will be participating in the tour at the end of this month. If you want to read about my thoughts on past books, click on CSFF Blog Tour.

And lastly, publishers. Since I first began writing, there are at least 4 publishers that I know of now dedicated to Christian speculative fiction. I have not been able to read everything produced, but what I have read I have enjoyed and written up reviews on. Here they are:

Splashdown Books

Written World Communications

Risen Books

And of course, Marcher Lord Press.

I hope this helps many of you on your search for Christian speculative fiction. Enjoy!

Why I Write Christian Speculative Fiction

I never set out to write Christian fantasy. In fact, I wasn’t sure what place that kind of book had in this world. Sure, there was Lewis’ Narnia series and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. But with all the controversy over Harry Potter years ago, I didn’t know what to think. I read Star Wars, Terry Brooks, and such, but Christian fantasy? I don’t think so.

It was actually the Harry Potter controversy that made me start thinking about Christian fantasy. Could fantasy and Christianity mix? Could a good book be written where the faith element or the fantasy element was not compromised? Like I said, I never set out to do that, but in the end that is what I wrote.

Daughter of Light began as a story in my head. It was a place to play with some cool fantasy ideas. A fantasy book with a hint of faith. But as the years went by and I found myself traveling down dark roads and facing one crisis of faith after another in real life, Daughter of Light began to morph into an exploration of what it ultimately meant to follow God.

Through speculative fiction, I am able to explore what would a Christian look like if the externals generally associated with Christianity were taken away like church attendance, bible studies, or Sunday school. Now I’m not saying those are bad things (not at all), but sometimes our Christianity is defined by where we go or what we do, not by who we are.

I am also able to paint word pictures with fantasy that I could not do if I wrote about this world. For example: sin. In our world, sin is a hidden part of our nature. We see the results of sin, but not sin itself. But in a fantasy world, I can show what we look like with sin: naked, broken, with blood on our hands. Unable to heals ourselves. Helpless and bound to darkness.

Of course, there is a fun aspect to writing fantasy. I get to write outside the box, ask “what if” questions. What if we could see people the way God sees people, would we still love them? What if we could heal, but it meant taking on the hurt and pain, would we? What if you found out you’re really from another dimension (that’s a fun question 🙂). What if you discovered you’re not human?

I love writing Christian speculative fiction. It combines my weirdness, my creativity, and my faith. Here is a quote by C.S. Lewis that best sums up why I write Christian fantasy:

“I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical. But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.”