A Christian Author’s Perspective on Harry Potter

I decided to plunge into murky waters.

When the Harry Potter series first came out, I was at the end of my high school career in a Christian school. The subject matter didn’t really appeal to me, and that was good, because in those days the Christian world recoiled at the idea of Harry Potter. Wizards tend to be accepted, but witches? N. O. Dark magic? Unthinkable. So because I was older than the target audience and fully enveloped in Christian culture, Harry Potter was off limits.

Now the series is 20 years old, and these stories are still going strong. J.K. Rowling is touted as the world’s first author billionaire, due to the success of the books, movies, and theme parks. (Holy cow. Theme parks? Could you imagine creating a storyline and characters that spawn theme parks?) Not only do I write, but I study as much about writing as I can in hopes of improving my craft. And Rowling comes up time and again as examples of what to do. As far as I can tell, she is held at the pinnacle of contemporary children’s literature right now, and as a children’s author I would be remiss not to take note.

So I decided it was time to read them. I borrowed the series from a friend and opened the first book with much trepidation. I’m not really scared of the subject matter anymore, but I’m not really into fantasy, and I was afraid the story just wouldn’t grab me.

It did. The hype is legit.

I read the first three books in one week, and I was almost halfway through the second book before I remembered that I was supposed to be analyzing these stories to find out why they are so popular. The fact is they are simply well-written, amazing stories, with likable, (or dislikable,) relatable characters. A good story should make you forget that you’re reading a story, and these stories absolutely do that.

I don’t really need to convince the rest of the world of the merits of the Harry Potter series. I am decidedly behind the times on this one. (Obviously.) But I did want to address it from a Christian perspective, especially the perspective a parent and author.

I think the biggest roadblock to Christians is the magic aspect. Yes, there are wizards and (gasp) witches and cauldrons and magic spells. But another very important part of the story is the fact that this world of magic is to be kept separate from the normal (Muggle) world. I think Christians balk at the idea of magic because they are concerned kids might try to translate that to our normal life, and the Bible is pretty clear on rejecting sorcery in our practical lives. But in the story, magic isn’t used in the practical lives of normal people. It is only used in the context of the wizard world, and they deliberately keep it there. They even have a government agency monitoring that fact. So when you a.) remember that this is a work of fiction and b.) see the lengths Rowling has gone to keep magic where it belongs, I think the question of magic is answered. And here is the most unpopular statement I’ll make today: If a Christian is going to reject Harry Potter solely on the basis of magic, then they must reject Lord of the Rings for the same reason.

Neither Harry Potter nor Lord of the Rings mention God, or even Satan for that matter. But they both constantly discuss good and evil. And both strongly oppose evil and strongly advocate for good. For this reason, as a parent, I have no hesitation in recommending either series to young readers. As with everything, parents should use the topics and story lines as springboards for discussion about right and wrong and what the Bible says. But there is no reason to reject it .

As an author, I absolutely recommend these books. The storytelling is impeccable. I have a new standard to strive for.

I know this topic is debatable. Chime in and tell me what you think of this series. Yay or nay?

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Epic Giveaway! (Ends September 18, 2017)

Confession: I enter giveaways. I can’t really think of any that I’ve won, but I enter because what if I do? You can’t win if you don’t enter!

Soprano Trouble is a part of an epic giveaway! I’ve joined forces with 15 other authors who are each giving away copies of their middle grade novels!

One winner will receive a copy of ALL 16 books PLUS a Kindle Fire.

One winner will receive a copy of ALL 16 books.

Free books!

Check out the website for details. (And YES, it’s open to Canadians!)

Click on this link to enter:

Enter to Win 15+ Middle Grade Fiction Novels!

Good luck!

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Everything is Different

My grandma died last week. It was as sudden as it can be, when someone is 86 years old and hasn’t really been in the best health for the past couple of years. I should have been expecting it, but I wasn’t. It prompted a very quick, unscheduled four-day trip, where we were able to celebrate her life with cherished relatives, and soak up family time with my siblings that we weren’t expecting to have. The whole thing has been a classic, textbook picture of bittersweet.

At our wedding in 2004

We missed work and school and today we have to jump back into that unrelenting current of life. I’ve already done two loads of laundry and my grocery list is ready. My girls told me that all their homework was in their backpacks this morning, but they also told me that last week when we left at four in the morning for our trip, and it wasn’t then. They’re at school now, so I’ll find out later if a rogue worksheet somehow got shoved under the bed instead of into the correct folder.

We’re plunging into our routine, but everything is different. What strikes me the most, though, is how it’s not different for everyone else. They’ve all carried on with their lives, going to school and work and church and get-togethers, while our life was put on hold. And we’re trying to pick back up where we left off, but everything looks so different.

On August 21st, I got to witness a 92% eclipse of the sun. I thought it would get a lot darker, but the sun is strong and you still needed sunglasses if you were just going about your day. But if you really thought about it, the light was either dimmer or a different color, and the air was definitely cooler. Maybe someone was living under a rock and had no idea there was an eclipse going on, so maybe they didn’t even notice that things were different, But they were, especially if you knew to look for it.

Obviously my family isn’t the only one to experience a death of a loved one. People do every day. It’s just been a long while since someone close to me has died. And everything looks different for me. Our routine will be the same, but somehow it just feels different. I know that soon I won’t even notice the differences anymore, because the new light and feel will be my forever normal. But for today, it feels foreign and weird, and all I can do is watch the people around me, shocked that they don’t see that things don’t look like they did a week ago.

I have no conclusions to these thoughts. And maybe that’s just part of the differences, too.

 

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The Hardest Hurdle

I’m not the first to say this, and I won’t be the last: I don’t like writing; I like having written. It’s a strange way to live, as someone who wants to be a professional writer. But it describes my feelings about it perfectly.

I fully recognize that I am blessed to have a series published. It surely helps with the motivation to sit down and do the work I don’t really like to do, because I like the end result so much. I know for new writers, they might not have even this. And the real rub is you have to write in order to have written.

The hardest hurdle for me is the fact that there are no guarantees when it comes to my writing. Writing takes so much time, brain power, and soul, and there is a good chance that it is all for naught. I may never sign with an agent. Even if I sign with an agent, a publisher may never choose to publish the story that I have spent possibly hundreds of hours on. And yet, if I want even the possibility of the best case scenario, I have to write. I have to take the risk that all of my work is for nothing.

Do It Anyway

I often think of this little gem you can find floating around on Pinterest. It always kicks me in the gut. When I interact with my kids, I want the result to be positive. And if it’s not going to be positive, then I don’t feel like doing it. It’s the same as I think about our society. Sometimes I want to hide away, because people are not always going to react to what I say or do in the way that I want them to. They respond with their own thoughts, and sometimes those thoughts are ugly or mean. But I must carry on anyway.

And if I want to be a writer, then I must do it anyway. Even if no one wants to buy it. Even if no one wants to jump on my team. I’m not a writer if I don’t write, and I believe in my heart that God has called me to write.

The point is, I have to do it anyway. No matter what anyone else does. It’s the hardest hurdle for me. But I’m going to suck it up and jump over it anyway.

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I Forgot to Blog

Total honesty and transparency ahead.

On the advice of an agent that I queried, I’m trying to build up my platform. A platform is simply the reach that a person has on the Internet. It’s measured by Facebook likes, followers on Twitter and Instagram, hits on a blog, and the size of an email list. It’s important for authors to have a platform, because publishers want to know that an author instantly has a certain number of eyes that will see that they have a new book out. And that certain number needs to be great.

The agent recommended I get the book Platform by Michael Hyatt. Michael Hyatt is the ultimate guru in platform building these days. So I’ve been plugging through his book, trying very hard to follow every single one of his recommendations. And his main recommendation seems to be that in order to build a platform, you need to blog consistently.

Blogging is hard for me. That’s a weird thing to say as a writer. But I’m a fiction writer. I like completely making things up. Blogging is less making things up and more putting together actual information that the world wants to hear. I have no idea what anyone wants to hear from me. I can write about writing, but if I do that, I’ll only reach writers, and are they the ones I need to build my platform on? I’ve written stuff about my stories, but honestly those posts don’t do as well. So I’m not sure that people want that information either.

Which brings me to yesterday. I forgot to blog. According to my self-imposed schedule, Tuesdays are blogging days. And I missed it. I did laundry, I went grocery shopping, and I spent a lot of time reading. But I didn’t blog. My main question is, have I damaged my fledgling platform by forgetting to do the one thing that is supposed to keep it growing?

I find it hard to blog these days, mostly because I find the Internet a hard place to be. Everyone is angry. People are angry at events, people are angry at other people, and people are angry at other people for not being angry in the way that they are angry. My blog is one more note in the deafening noise, and I’m not sure what that note should be.

So I forgot to blog. Or maybe I’m just a bit weary of clamoring for attention. Probably a little of both.

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The Roller Coaster of Writing

I love roller coasters. At least, I used to. I don’t think I’ve been on one since our family vacation to California in 2003. (Oh, adulthood.) But I love the rush. I love the sound of the harnesses as they clank into place, and the click-clack of the wheels as the car gets pulled up to the pinnacle. I love the speed and the wind in my hair and going upside down.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I do not love emotional roller coasters. I’d like my emotions to rise and fall in a gentle, easing manner. No sudden peaks or dips, thank you.

No one told me what an emotional roller coaster the writing life would be. Most of the time, the writer’s life is completely humdrum. There is not much going on. You’re waiting and writing and waiting some more.

Then, when you least expect it, a giant high comes. You’re skyrocketed into elation with the request of materials from someone or by the sight of your cover art. You are quite literally the king of the world.

And that feeling lasts a day. Maybe two at most. You look around and realize that everyone else who liked your post about it has gone back to their own life, and you’re left still smiling all by yourself. You shove your hands back in your pockets so you won’t look like Tom Brady getting shunned from getting a high five. Then you’re back on plain, smooth, boring road of waiting and writing.

And sometimes, out of nowhere, you get the dreaded No email. Your day was going fine, until you see the words, “Thank you, but at this time…” You get the free-falling feeling in your stomach as the bottom drops out. This feeling always lasts longer than the high feeling, unless something comes along to sweep you back into the high. Otherwise you free fall until you wake up a few days later and realize you aren’t falling anymore. Then it’s a slow climb back up the the plain, boring road of waiting and writing.

This is the journey a writer must embrace. Does it sound like it’s bad news? Here’s why it’s not: every single writer has gone through it. You’re not alone. It’s a right of passage.

So grab a brown bag, if you’re prone to motion-sickness. We’re writers. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve wanted to do our whole lives.

Enjoy the ride.

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How to Survive the Long, Slow Road

These are amazing times we live in, with so much information instantly available at our fingertips. The other day I had an immediate need to know if there are ever tornadoes in the winter. It took me less than two minutes to find out that while they’re not common, there are sometimes tornadoes in the winter in Oklahoma. I needed this information, and I got it.

There’s always a downside of the instant information, though. You can instantly read about other’s successes and instantly know the areas you are not up to standard. Innocent research can lead you to believe that you are missing the mark, by a little or by a lot.

Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash

These moments are Make It or Break It moments. They are forks in the road, and you’ll have to choose whether to take the smooth path of Giving Up or the hard, rocky path of Pressing On. And I get it; you’re so tired. You’ve been working for so long and here you are again at the fork, and the Pressing On path looks even harder and more treacherous than the path you climbed to even get to this fork.

I’m tired today, too. Will this be worth it? I have no idea. If only I could take just a little peek into the future to know if I made it or not.

Here’s the thing I keep telling myself: I’m in a marathon, not a sprint. This whole writing career takes time. So. Much. Time. And I can’t count the years I was just thinking about writing. I can only start the clock at when I actually started writing. Which means I am still at the very beginning of my journey. The long, twisty, rocky journey that takes time.

Much of the internet attributes this quote to Jon Acuff, so I will too.

I am easily fooled into believing I made a wrong turn somewhere, just because I see someone else has had some success. The problem is, I didn’t see the road they took to get there. It was probably just as long as mine, and they probably started way sooner than I did. I am constantly catching myself comparing my beginning to someone else’s middle, and that is a career-killer, my friend.

So this is how I survive the long, slow road: I remember that it is long and slow for everyone, not just me. I remember that each step is important, because I’m learning new things and I’m building new muscles with every step. And I remember that I’ll need all that knowledge and strength when I get to where that person is, so I can handle the weight without it crushing me.

And I’ll bookmark this post to read again and again, so I can practice what I preach.

Keep on keeping on, friend.

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5 Ways to Cope With Rejection

I’ll give you a few minutes to uncurl out of the fetal position. I apologize for not labeling that title with a trigger warning.

The fear of rejection is probably what keeps most writers from writing. You would think that a writer would just write anyway and not send it out if they feared rejection, but that’s not the case. The thought of rejection is paralyzing. For years I kept my first book Soprano Trouble tucked away in a forgotten folder on my computer because of the fear of rejection. I know the feeling all too well.

Photo by Adrian Williams on Unsplash

I’m not sure that anyone ever gets to the point where a rejection doesn’t sting at all. They just get to the point where they can cope and move on. Take heart. It is possible. Here are seven ways to help you cope:

1. Fizzy Drinks

Never underestimate the power of a sweet, bubbly drink. Those fizzies are as pleasing to the ear as they are to the palate. Let the carbonation soothe your bruised soul as the bubbles carry away your sorrow. My latest fizzy drink of choice is Sparkling Ice Lemonade.

2. Fishing for Compliments

This is generally frowned upon in most areas of life, but a writer needs a good tribe of friends who won’t hesitate to boost them up with compliments on the heels of a rejection. When someone has said “Thanks, but no thanks,” a round of “we love you, you’re the best” is as calming as aloe vera is to a sunburn.

3. Meme Wars

This is generally carried out by your tribe online. Simply post your need, then laugh as your friends post the funniest memes they can find. This is actually a Biblical concept. You can find it right in Proverbs 17:22 – A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

4. Ice Cream

Turn those rejections into a celebration with an ice cream treat each time one comes in. If an agent or editor or publisher is going to reject your work without even discussing your full vision with you, then that was not going to be the right fit anyway. You can celebrate the fact that you know for sure that that person is not the right one to help you with your career.

5. A Reminder

It’s up to you how you want this reminder to look. You can put a post-it note on your mirror. You can put a reminder in your phone to alert you every day. You could hire an artist to paint it on a pallet and hang it on your wall. But make sure your reminder says this: God’s love for you is complete. He will not love you more if you are successful. He will not love you less if you fail. He wholly and completely loves YOU.

And really, it’s the reminder that helps me move on from the rejections I’ve faced. And it will help me move on from the ones that are sure to come. Because that’s a writer’s life.

You can do it.

 

How do you cope with rejection?

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Addressing Body Image in Harmony Blues

I don’t know what it is about junior high that makes kids so raw and impressionable. Hormones, probably. But whatever it is, things that are said to kids in junior high have the special ability to stay with them for a very long time. They often shape the person for the next five or ten years at best. Sometimes those things stay with that person forever. I tell you this to be aware of the power you have, whether you want it or not. It can be used for good. It can be used to harm. And it will be used for either one of those things, even if you’re not aware.

In Harmony Blues, Brittany is faced with how to handle things that are said about her. She’s actually like quite a lot of kids her age, still growing out of the baby fat that has been with her her whole life. She’s very aware of how she looks, which means she is very aware of the comments made about her, whether intentional or unintentional.

Here is an excerpt from Harmony Blues. I hope girls (and boys) will read this story and feel encouraged by the camaraderie they feel with Brittany. I hope they take comfort in the realization that they aren’t alone in how they feel about how they look.

——-

“Ooo, The Melting Pot?” Brittany squealed as they pulled into the parking lot. She had always wanted to try this fondue restaurant. Cammie had told her that their Dark & Dulce chocolate fondue was a-maz-ing. Brittany didn’t really like dark chocolate, but maybe she’d like it melted over strawberries.

Mom smiled at her and pulled into a parking spot close to the door. Brittany hopped out, her breath making puffs of clouds in the cold Colorado air. They stepped into the restaurant’s lobby and saw Dad sitting in a chair, checking his phone.

Brittany bounced over to him. “Dad! Guess what! They picked my painting to be displayed at the capitol building over Christmas! Can you believe it?”

Her dad finished what he was doing on his phone, put it to sleep, then looked up.

“What? Well, how about that?” Dad said, standing up. He pulled her mom into a side hug and kissed her forehead. Then he approached the host stand and told them their party was complete. The hostess smiled and lead them through the dark restaurant to a booth near a window, where Brittany slid into the seat across from her parents. The hostess explained the hot plates in the middle and how they would be used to warm up their fondue. Brittany took it all in with wide eyes. This was so exciting!

“How did your surgery go?” Mom asked Dad as soon as the hostess left.

“Just fine. The anesthesiologist had a hard time getting the meds right, so we had to wait for that. I definitely won’t be working with him again. Thankfully we were done in time so we didn’t miss our reservation here. I would have liked a bit more cushion to get cleaned up.”

“Well, you beat us here anyway,” Brittany said. “I wish you could have been at the art show, so I could have showed you my painting!”

“I snapped a picture of it,” Mom said, showing Dad her phone.

“Huh. Look at that. Why isn’t it in a frame?”

“It’s in a mat that we put on during art club,” Brittany said, disappointed that was all her Dad had to say . But maybe the picture on the phone didn’t do it justice. “Can we go to the capitol building over Christmas? You could see it in person there!”

“We’ll see,” Dad said. “Now it’s time to celebrate.” He grinned at Mom and Mom grinned right back at him. Brittany flushed with pleasure. Their server arrived with their waters and took their order. Brittany quickly looked over the menu. She was about to suggest Cammie’s favorite when she saw Chocolate S’mores—milk chocolate melted with marshmallow cream and topped with bits of graham crackers.

“Oh my gosh! Can we get the chocolate s’mores one? Please?”

“No, I can’t stand the thought of graham crackers,” Mom said, wrinkling her nose. “Let’s do the Yin & Yang.” She handed her menu to the server. Brittany checked the menu. Dark and white chocolate.

“And can you just bring fruit, please? None of the cakes or brownies or marshmallows or anything like that. Our daughter doesn’t need those fattening things, right?” Dad said. Brittany’s flush deepened. She had always been on the heavy side and she hated when her dad pointed it out.

“Michael, please. I really need some brownies,” Mom said.

“Oh, right. Sorry, just some brownies on a plate for my bride,” Dad said. The server nodded then slipped away. Brittany slumped down in the booth, tugging her shirt down over her slightly chubby middle. She swallowed hard and took a drink of water. She had learned a long time ago that she just had to shake these things off. She didn’t want to fight with her parents tonight, especially since they were at this incredible place celebrating her art.

——-

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Will You Go First?

I really don’t mind being first in the food line. When a group of people get together and a line needs to form to get the food service started, I have no problem being  That Person that picks up the first plate. I definitely don’t mind being the first one to read a book or see a show. I don’t really need anyone’s opinions about whether or not I should be reading or watching something. I’ll even go first in a group of people when we’re sharing thoughts or our work.

But I don’t always want to go first. I’ve read that I should be the one to go first when making friends. I’m supposed to take the initiative and approach a person and start a conversation. Well, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually done that. The thought paralyzes me.

The whole author/publishing world is another place where you have to be the one to go first. It’s hard. You have to send out your work first, before you know whether or not it will be accepted by someone. When means you also have to spend your time writing and polishing it first, before you know if your time was spent wisely.

Going first is an exercise in sheer will. Most of the time you will not be invited to go first; you just have to do it. Which means you have to conquer a few fears.

Fear of Rejection

When it comes to making friends, I’ve never been outright rejected. At least, not since junior high. But the thought that stops me in my tracks is born out of the fear that whomever I approach first did not want me to approach them because I’m lame or boring or dressed in clothes that are so yesterday. When it comes to writing, the fear of rejection kept my story in a drawer for years before I sent it out.

Fear of Being Fruitless

I don’t like wasting my time. I only want to pursue things that will have benefits in the end. I don’t know if a person and I will connect, so I don’t want to be the one to go first and waste my time or theirs. It’s a hard thing to spend hours on a story without the assurance of readership or compensation. But all writers must start out this way.

Fear of Scrutiny

I have an intense need to do the correct thing. I want to know that I did things the right way. I might hold back from going first because I want to see how others did something, just so I can do it the right way too. The problem is there is quite a bit of life that is not about correct or incorrect. People will tell you they didn’t like how you did something, but that doesn’t mean it was wrong. But you have to go first, even knowing that the Peanut Gallery is ready and waiting to tell you that you should have done something differently. Maybe they’re right. Maybe they aren’t. And honestly, this will happen whether or not you go first.

I have no magic formula to help you get over this fears. You just have to embrace it. Go first, and show others behind you that these fears are actually quite powerless when it comes to whether or not your successful.

Still aren’t sure? Well, I’ll go first and you can watch me and see.

What fears keep you from going first?

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