Exclusive Content, My Creative Projects

On completing the first draft of a dream come true

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for the Creatives

Nothing is wasted

I’m envisioning this post like a lighthouse. Only, this isn’t your typical lighthouse analogy. It’s not a lighthouse showcasing all the rocks you’re on the verge of crashing into and saying, “Wait, danger, you’re going the wrong way!” This isn’t that lighthouse analogy. It may be the same lighthouse, but look at it a different way with me today. Instead, think of it as the lighthouse beaming amidst the tumultuous waters, reminding you of the cozy shelter you’re heading towards. The lighthouse that beckons, “See, you’re on the right track. Keep moving along, you’re getting closer.”

If you feel like you’re stuck in the wrong place, or living the wrong life, or just 20 steps behind where you planned, treading water while reaching toward that elusive dream… (like, say, a dream of being a full-time author making a living off her writing, hypothetically speaking…)

Shes The Man GIF: "speaking as a completely objective third-party outsider with absolutely no personal interest in the matter"

(Note: the subtext in the movie this quote is from, and here, is the entire discussion is because there is a WHOLE BUNCH of personal interest in the matter))

I’ve been seeing reminders lately that nothing is wasted, and I thought I’d throw that reminder out to you, too. Nothing is wasted. Like a lighthouse or a floatie or at least a piece of driftwood, this is something for you to focus and grab onto amidst the waves. If your plan for your life is a little more zigzag than a straight line, let me tell ya: nothing is wasted.

I don’t mean this as some sort of “smile when bad things happen” mantra. Just because we land somewhere doesn’t mean we were meant to land there. But I take hope that I’m not necessarily derailed forever, that each intricacy is knitting together a life I’m pursuing.

You may be learning administrative or customer service or leadership skills that will translate to your own entrepreneurial endeavors one day. You may be learning what not to do. You may be taking the time you need to recover and rejuvenate to go full steam ahead next year. You may be passing on a legacy or a dream to those around you. Look closely at your past circumstances, at your present circumstances, and see what you can glean to move toward your dream better than before. If you look closely, you might see something to take with you on your journey. Or, you may not. I sure don’t sometimes. We don’t always get to see what’s happening until hindsight.

Emperor's New Groove GIF: Kronk says "By all accounts, it doesn't make sense," while showing a map where one party had no way of beating the other party to the location and somehow they did anyway

The more I look at the dreams of others around me slowly coming true, how all the detours and pieces of their lives come together into this moment…. It’s something that can be happening for me too, for you too. If you can’t yet see it for yourself, look at someone further along the journey than you. Sometimes we can see it in others before we can see it for ourselves. Whether you call it God or destiny or providence or purpose or… It’s conspiring for you as you dream. Keep dreaming, keep following that light, and sooner or later we’ll see the convergence.

Faith, for the Creatives

Being a Christian writing really nonchristian work

Though my faith is important to me, my work doesn’t fit into the rules of that genre. If you’ve read books from the Christian market, you probably picked up on that 😉 Sorry, but my murderous psychopath protagonist isn’t gonna go to church and convert.

And yet, if you stick around long enough, you may hear about my faith on my blog and social media. It doesn’t make sense for marketing or branding purposes, I know. But here’s a peek behind the curtain of why. (Note: it’s not some sort of cheesy “hide it under a bushel” answer either.)

The problem:

There’s this perception within pockets of Christianity that if your art isn’t explicitly Christian in theme – if you’re not painting pictures of Jesus or writing Scripture on your artwork, if you’re not singing worship songs or at least angsty churchy themes, if you’re not writing clean Christian-themed books that wrap everything up in a tidy Jesus-saves-the-day bow – then you’re not using your gifts for God.

What further perpetuates that mindset is that it’s hard to find Christians who are doing their art in the general marketplace, not because they’re not there, but because their websites understandably don’t scream “Christian alert!”. It’s arguably easy to connect with artists in the marketplace. And it’s relatively easy to find Christian artists making Christian art. However, it’s hard to find Christian artists in the secular market. Their faith is not their branding, so they’re inconspicuous.

A solution…?

Kiera Cass was one of the first writers I found who has nothing to do with the Christian market but still mentions her faith. Matt Tommey and Alex Marestaing have both spoken at Karitos Christian Arts Conference about believers working in the secular market instead of separating ourselves into this Christian bubble. And I recently finished a book by Marlita Hill about “represent[ing] the Kingdom while…making ‘that kind’ of art,” (that’s an affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales through that link). The book is an encouraging and hopeful book for this weirdly taboo topic in Christian circles. One day, I want to be what those people have been to me, an example to some artist who wonders if they can create nonchristian work and still honor their faith and their God.

I’m still learning how my faith plays into my writing. What I do know is: There’s not the Christian Amy and the writer Amy. It’s not two separate Amys, two separate lives; all pieces of me are intermingled. My writing, and my faith, together. They play into each other, perhaps in subtle ways rather than overt. If you look really closely, you just might see my faith as you read about my murderous psychopath protagonist. And when you look at faith really closely, it may not tie into the way you envision a Jesus-saves-the-day bow. It doesn’t always look like a good story, but it could still be a good story.

Musings

The trope of the wise and emotionless character, ughh

The more knowledge and wisdom you gain, the more emotionless you get….right? At least, that’s what stories seem to be selling.

In my recent watch of Game of Thrones (affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales through this link), it has this one trope that makes me wanna shake my fist or pull out my hair or do all the emotional things the trope claims I shouldn’t be doing. Spoilers ahead, stop now or forever hold your peace.

Gosh, Bran. The “super wise, nearly-all-knowing figure who then loses all feelings” trope. I adored how Game of Thrones speaks to our various perceptions of power and challenges our assumptions, and this is one place where I in particular pondered deeper than where the TV show at least ends (and maybe it goes further in the books, or maybe it’s supposed to leave it hanging for these exact sort of ponderings outside the story; either way, I’m on board). So while I don’t like this trope, it’s just one way the show approaches the concept of power and how the world sees it.

"I'm not angry at anyone." - Bran Stark, Game of Thrones
Yes, this is a horrible resolution photo, it’s the only one I could find, bear with me here 😛

I think it’s such an unassuming trope, one that kind of sneaks under the radar and makes ya think “Yeah, if I just had more discernment and understanding of the grand scheme of things, I’d freak out a whole lot less.” And that could possibly partially be true, but then it kind of makes it seem like those in-real-life people who deny having emotions and think about everything “calmly and rationally” and analyze everything are just better than those trying to lead with their emotions along for the ride as well. This is how we get leaders who don’t demonstrate compassion when someone is pouring out their heart and struggling. It perpetuates this idea that “If victims of oppression would just let go of their anger and see the big picture, that’s the real problem here.”

Good, wise people, and good, wise leaders who do see the big picture, I’d like to think they are willing to enter into lament alongside those they serve who are suffering. That righteous anger leads to enact justice and demonstrate mercy. And I think someone who sees the grand scheme of the universe, maybe could possibly have learned something about being in touch with their feelings and others’, would react strongly to injustice or pain because they’ve seen the results of that, they’ve seen where it leads.

That sounds like I’m just hopping on some social justice bandwagon, and sure how this trope contributes to privilege is an important component at play here, but more selfishly it’s personal too; I’d like to think my tears can be a strength, not just a weakness. And I’d like society to think that sometimes emotions come from a place of wisdom, that they’re not opposite ends of a spectrum but inseparable pieces of being human.

As far as I remember, that trope tends to show up as a “good guy” thing across most stories that use it, it doesn’t tend to lead anywhere bad. (If you know an example I’m missing though, let me know!) And I’d love to explore that more in a story, to see it viewed positively at first and then turn sour, similar to how Daenerys’ bent towards justice goes too far.

So kudos to George R. R. Martin and all the team that put this story together, especially in exploring themes of power. I don’t yet know if this is further explored in the books or will be as more is written there, but these are my musings I ponder of a possible other story, a possible other theme to explore in a separate character and realm even.

"God isn't asking you to be OK all the time." Quote by Abby Norman from "You Can Talk to God Like That"
Faith

The spiritual practice of lament

In Christian culture there’s difficult Biblical qualities we joke about being painful, like patience. “Don’t pray for patience or you’ll get a whole bunch of waiting ahead of you, hahahahaha….” ha. ha. But something big in the Bible that we try to completely hide away and forget even exists is lament. I don’t think I’ve heard a message on lament in….. *crickets* *looks at watch*…. nope, never.

We prefer to think about the fruit of the spirit is love joy and peace, and God works things together for good, and we don’t grieve like those with no hope, and the joy of the Lord is my strength. We like to skip to the “happily ever after” in the Bible stories, the red sea parting and the restoring doublefold and the resurrection – not the centuries of slavery or losing everything as a pawn in a supernatural contest or the crucifixion. We don’t want to sit in that place.

And Abby Norman‘s new book “You Can Talk to God Like That” is a breath of fresh air for the church and the world and for me.

"God isn't asking you to be OK all the time." Quote by Abby Norman from book "You Can Talk to God Like That"

I’m only half way through so far, reading about lamenting to God and lamenting in community, and it’s reminding me that moments and seasons of lament are okay, and even spiritual. It doesn’t have to be all happy happy joy joy.

Here’s one piece that drew me in, where I’ve seen individuals in my own life embody this with and for me:

When it is too hard to hope, that is OK; your community can hope for you. When it is too hard to believe that the light will come in the morning, you don’t have to. You can have someone else hold your hope for a while. Or your faith, or your anger if you know you should be angry but are just too tired. This is why we recite the creeds together, why we take time in church to chant all at once about what we believe. We believe in the Holy Spirit. We believe in the virgin birth. It is a reminder that when all of it is too much, there are other people who can hang on. When someone else is tired, it can be your turn again, like the way the trumpet section of the marching band can hold the long note forever. Lamenting in a community gives us more space to feel whatever we need to feel, to say whatever we need to say, while other people hold our life and our society together for us. Communal lament teaches us that we don’t have to hold the whole world in our hands, because God does.

Abby Norman, in “You Can Talk to God Like That”

"You can talk to God like that" by Abby Norman, book cover. "The surprising power of lament to save your faith."
(affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales. But more importantly, Abby Norman would receive your support.)

"Grief is the price we pay when we love someone, when we love something, when we have fully embodied and embraced a season and are sad to see it go. It is important to acknowledge that grief. It is necessary if we want to fully embrace the next season." - quote by Abby Norman from book "You Can Talk to God Like That"

Choosing to sit with the times and seasons of grief, of weeping, of anguish instead of brushing it to the side, that’s where we can really fully embrace the times and seasons of rejoicing and laughing and celebration. Limiting and dampening our emotions isn’t a big win. And I’m thankful for voices speaking to that, especially amidst the whole COVID thing, but really in general. If any of us have been waiting for permission, for reassurance that our faith isn’t any less when we’re not okay, this can be that. The door is open.

I’m honored I could be part of the book launch team, and I recommend you check out her site or her book or just try talking to God “like that”, whatever that looks like for you today.

for the Bookworms

A belated GoT post on the power of story from a behind-the-times creative

“Stories matter.”

When googling an image for a Game of Thrones quote, “stories matter” is a different [and non-Game-of-Thrones] quote that popped up. It’s applicable too, compelling.

I think that’s what drives (all? most?) storytellers. And I think it’s the reminder that storytellers need to keep going. Especially at the point of economic difficulties and essential activities, we need that reassurance that what we’re doing matters. I’ve seen those reminders throughout this pandemic in many a post, so this isn’t something new and big and profound I’m mentioning; it’s just another reminder to hopefully hit the feed or inbox at just the right moment for an artist who needs it.

"What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There's nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it." - Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones

I just finished Game of Thrones – I know, wayyyy too late, but I was waiting for the final season to release so I could buy the full series set, and then I was waiting for the full series set to be on sale because I wasn’t ready to spend $200. You either understand, or you’re a Game of Thrones afficionado that now thinks I’m wayy behind the times and have my priorities out of whack, which, fair 😛 I’m usually the person that watches a show much later than everyone else, and I still haven’t figured out why, it just…happens…

I love complex plots and twists and worlds full of characters with depth and themes and foreshadowing and nuance… and of course GoT didn’t disappoint. It brought to mind the power of story, and then of course Tyrion Lannister really came through with the quote above in the final moments to drive it home and bring some sort of semblance of cohesiveness to my thoughts on the show. (Just a semblance though.)

And it must have really been time to fill up on this inspiration, because I stumbled across this other quote in a book I was reading:

Stories are the only thing in this world that are real. Everything else is just a dream.

Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell (affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales from this link)

So now you ask, when is Amy gonna take all this inspiration and bundle it into all that writing to get that circus story of hers across the finish line? Or, if I had been keeping you in the loop the past year you may have asked that, but by now you’ve probably forgotten. And the answer is, now. I’m easing back into things after a lot.

And I hope whether you’re in a season of rest or a season of creating (or both), these quotes remind you that you can always come back when the time is right. Stories are always there for you, whether to binge and stream, or to string together in the imagination, or to share between friends & family. And all of that matters, whichever one is “your thing” right now. Turn on Netflix, call up a friend, cozy up with a book and chai, or get that pen and paper ready – it all matters, it’s all interconnected, because it’s all story.

Faith, for the Creatives

My experience in the Created to Thrive mentoring program

Nobody buys art because they need it. They buy it because of connection.

Matt Tommey of created to thrive mentoring

That is the basis of Matt Tommey’s marketing approach which I’ve been learning and applying since I joined the Created to Thrive mentoring program last September.

Created to Thrive mentoring program binder

Now this sounds like a sales pitch, so let’s back up. I am not an affiliate, nor offered anything, by telling you about this program. This post is for the curious, those who are wondering what I’ve stepped into and where I’m growing.

So how’d I get roped into Created to Thrive?

I already knew and learned so much from Matt Tommey’s work. This wasn’t some salespitch from a stranger. I’d been part of his Facebook group for years. I’d heard him speak at conferences. I recommended a couple of his books back in 2016. I took his free Artist’s Rise Up online class. I’d learned and grown as an artist countless times from his work.

There were a couple type of connections I was looking for last year:

  • More connections with artists that are further along in their business than me.
  • More connections with artists who are Christians working in the general marketplace.

This mentoring program offered an opportunity for community in both of those areas.


There’s lots of training out in the world to help me grow as a Christian artist.

There’s lots of training out in the world to help me grow in my artistic skill.

There’s lots of training out in the world to grow my business and marketing skills.

A short weekend training in any of those categories is normally what… a few hundred dollars at best, easily up to a thousand dollars…right?

Enter, the best deal ever.

All of those categories, wrapped into a yearly mentorship program, from a trusted professional I already glean from, for a price I’d normally pay for much less training.

What I’ve gleaned from the mentoring program so far.

Since I joined Created to Thrive, I’ve:

  • worked on better telling my creative story
  • revamped my website with SEO
  • found direction in growing as a Christian artist even though I’m not writing Christian books

And that’s just scratching the surface of the program. There are also opportunities for live Q&A, mastermind groups with other artists, and so much more. The program offers five modules full of training – cultivating your heart & mind, your art, your brand, your business, and your life – to remind me I’m a full person that needs some semblance of balance 😛

It came along when I didn’t expect it.

I say I was looking for training opportunities and for connection. But I should clarify, that was more passive waiting and praying for those opportunities to show up. I didn’t have a specific idea of how to get to there from where I was.

So if this blogpost just blindsided you with a new shiny idea you didn’t know you were looking for, don’t discard it right away.

If you’re looking for Christian artist community and training:

Look into the Created to Thrive mentoring program. Sign up for the free Artist’s Rise Up online class he is offering right now (the same one that got me hooked hehe). Try it out. Ask me questions. Count the cost of doing it, but also count the cost of not doing it.

This program offered all that I was looking for, which I’d originally thought would only be answered by about 20 new things on my plate. Instead I got 1 thing, a program that has so much training I can’t keep up, with growth opportunities for years to come.


Okay, now I’m curious: What training do you recommend for growing as an artist? How has it helped you along the way?

Interested in the Created to Thrive mentoring? Sound like a fit for you? Ask questions below, and maybe I’ll see ya in the group soon 🙂

Musings

2019 in review: Looking back to balance

2019 began with a word: Brave. But that word very quickly changed to: Balance.

I was burnt out from all the 2018 hustle to publish IKYLAM, I’d put aside everything else, including rest.

So I approached 2019 with my only goal being “to return to balance”.

Normally I’m all about the “SMART goal” thing, where it’s measurable and such, but this year I intentionally did not make it measurable. This type A planner personality would have been all “Okay, to achieve balance I need to attend the gym 2x a week, write 3x a week, cook a homecooked meal at least once a week, finish reading 2 books a month, and have 2 lazy evenings a week. Annnnnd, go!” Haha I’d be hustling to achieve it and miss the point. So for the first time ever, I left the goal intentionally vague and amorphous.

Looking back: Did I do it? Did I return to balance?

Maybe not in the way a type A planner personality would want, but overall, yes. Here is a few of the ways I see improvement:

  • 2019 started with hardly touching my writing-related life. I was too burnt out. Now it’s a steady part of my week again. I am moving forward on my next novel, as well as regularly blogging for you fine folks and improving my business practices through training opportunities.
  • In 2018, I only read 4 books. That’s how “in the zone” I was with the publishing process. In contrast, 2019 I was able to read 54 books. What a jump! I was finally able to relax and refuel my inspirational well.
  • I had stopped attending the gym almost entirely, but throughout the year I was slowly able to build that back in to my routine. Not all the way as far as I’d like, but a whole lot closer.

Many times throughout the year I’d tell fellow writer Jenn “I didn’t write before work, I slept in” or “I didn’t write when I got home yesterday. Instead I binge-watched Lucifer, oops.” And she would faithfully remind me “Your goal for the year is balance, and it sounds like you’re achieving that.” Having that reminder, that permission to rest, was crucial.

And now, looking forward to 2020, my new word is: Brave.

It feels like the right time to choose Brave. Stepping out into big things while keeping balance in mind. Here goes!


Now you tell me: How’d your 2019 go? And what’s next for 2020?

for the Creatives

How I became a bookworm, an author, and generally obsessed with creative fashion

The start of struggling to read…

Last year I wrote about how my love of reading almost died as a kid. There was a time you probably would have thought I’d never become an avid bookworm. I couldn’t make the jump from short kid books to chapter books. Until I did.

The start of ignoring any sense of fashion…

Similarly, there was a time you wouldn’t have pegged me as an artistic fashion enthusiast. I would have told you I didn’t care about what I wore or how I looked. A clashing and frumpy and bland wardrobe. But let’s not relive those days. Moving onto later, now, when I actually have my own unique outlandish style.

The start of pushing down my writing interests…

Author of quirky, imaginative fiction. You may not have guessed that either. Sure, I wrote on the side all through childhood. Loved it. But for a good while I was adamant that I wouldn’t be an author, didn’t want to be. Instead, I wanted to study fiction, get my English Lit degree, not an English Writing degree. Until one day.


Looking back, my life started out in all these areas as things I outwardly said I didn’t want, didn’t care about, wasn’t interested in. While inwardly, I think a lot of it was actually doubt that I could do it up to my own or anyone else’s standards. So I gave up.

The turnaround…

The common strand in these stories is other people supporting me. My mom finding small books I’d be interested in. Friends to shop with that didn’t mind my outlandish creative fashion interests. Writers who saw the value of my stories and wanted more.

I learned that I didn’t have to live up to these hypothetical “other people’s standards” I was imagining. I hadn’t known there was another option. That I could carve out my own, and that I would find there were others in my corner who value the same stories, the same style, that I treasure.

And there wasn’t a timeline on it. Just an opportunity. I realized, if I really wanted it, I could do it. I could put the work in to create what I hoped for.

And now…

  • I like big books. I cannot lie 😛
  • I’m a published author of introspective psychological stories, studying my craft and coaching others wherever they’re at in the process.
  • I wear artistic fashion that brightens my day and those around me. It’s not what everyone else wears, but it’s unique and creative and interesting, and it’s me.
book launch party ideas for authors
for the Writers

On having a booklaunch on your birthday

As I neared publication of my psychological meta mystery, I realized:

  • Books usually launch on a Tuesday (similar to how movies usually release on a Thursday)
  • My birthday was a couple months away on a Tuesday
  • This opportunity would only occur every 6 or so years (give or take a leap year)

So I seized the opportunity, and you may be wondering: Was it worth it? It’s okay, I’m wondering the same thing…

The cons of publishing a book on your birthday:

It was hectic and exhausting and overwhelming. I didn’t have time to celebrate – I had to fix my website, ship preorders, update social media, figure out why Amazon hadn’t listed my book yet (note: it was my error, newbie probs), organize a blog tour, request reviews, order collector cards, find the best deal on crime scene tape, plan a booklaunch party, and on and on and on.

(Ahem, yes, if you purchase “I Know You Like a Murder” from my site, you get it wrapped with a crime scene tape bow because you’re solving a mystery. Christmas gift idea maybe? 🙂 )

Anyhow, it’s a lot to have going on while also wanting to celebrate your own presence in the world. And yet…

The pros of publishing a book on your birthday:

….What better way to celebrate your own presence in the world than celebrating the achievement of one of your biggest dreams come true?

Sure, we could celebrate my birthday. But would this introvert ever plan a costume party at a coffee shop for her birthday? Of course not.

On the other hand, would this introvert plan a costume party at a coffee shop for her booklaunch? OF COURSE YES! And you all did not disappoint:

I could not have asked for more from a booklaunch party. And, on top of that, my birthday basically became a murderous-booklaunch-themed birthday:

It’s a birthday cake that matches my book title! Eek! 😀

You don’t need an excuse to have a huge costume party for your birthday. Or a huge party of any kind. You’re worth celebrating just for being you.

But, if you’re an introvert looking for a reason to plan a big shindig, a booklaunch might be just the thing to gather people on your birthday 🙂 I’m not sure if I’d do it again or not, but I will say I wouldn’t have traded that experience for the world.