Author: Allison Grace

Pumpkins, Puppies, Pirates, and Professors!

Pumpkins, Puppies, Pirates, and Professors!

Fall has finally come! And with it come college classes!

You heard me right, I’m starting college. If you had told me a few months ago I would be going to college, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, I might have laughed. But after much prayer and discussion, my parents and I decided this would be the best route for me.

I’m getting a degree in English and Creative Writing through Liberty University Online. That means I get to stay at home and do all my class work on my laptop! No dorms! No cafeteria food!

I’m pretty excited about getting started! My first day is Monday, the 21st. Prayers would be appreciated!

Now onto the pumpkins, puppies, and pirates I promised…

 

Allison Grace the pirate

Let me explain the bandana. My brother and I are into Pirates of the Caribbean right now and his birthday theme was pirates. So I decided to “dress up.”

Simon with pumpkin

Simon tried to take a bite of my pumpkin.

Reese and pumpkin

Reese gave it a good spit shine.

Allison Grace with pumpkin

Then I got to carve it!

 

Allison Grace with pumpkin

I made Liberty University’s logo!

Oliver with pumpkin

 

Glowing pumpkins

What makes that photo so awesome are the phantom gnomes in the background. On the right is Jerome, on the left is Spurgeon.

Reese

We took Reese for a hike…

Berries

found some berries…

Woolly bear

and a woolly bear.

Oliver in tree

Oliver climbed a tree with gorgeous yellow leaves. This might be my favorite picture ever of him. 😍

 

Reese eating cake

We always share birthday cake with our dogs, and Reese has the funniest facial expressions ever. She loves to carry around paper plates. XD

 

And now, I have delivered pumpkins, puppies, pirates, and professors.


What do you like to do in fall? Have you carved a pumpkin yet? Does your dog like birthday cake? Have you ever seen The Pirates of the Caribbean?

Not Squirrels–Things We Call Distractions, But Really Aren’t

Not Squirrels–Things We Call Distractions, But Really Aren’t

A few weeks ago, we talked about my dog Reese who loves squirrels. I compared her obsessive focus on the furry beasts to a writer’s tendency to chase “squirrels” when he should be writing.

You can find that post here!

Eliana's graphic
My sweet friend, Eliana, made this graphic for me! Isn’t it gorgeous?

 

Today I’d like to address another problem that has come up in my own life. That is the subject of “not-squirrels” or things we think are distractions but actually aren’t.

 

God and Church

Do you know how tempting it is to skip or shorten your devotional time so you can go write? This particularly becomes a problem on busy days. It won’t really hurt anything if we skip it for just one day, right?

But church, quiet time/devotions, prayer, worship, etc. are NOT distractions for writing. Your faith is a million times more important than writing.

In the end, how much you’ve written won’t matter. Your faith will.

The happiness you find when writing is nothing compared to the joy you have in salvation in Christ. Don’t take it for granted.

 

School

Whether you’re in college, private school, homeschool, or public school, it’s very easy to see doing homework as a waste of time.

While we see benefit to literature and English classes—they directly influence our writing—other subjects, such as math, science, government, economics, history, and music don’t seem to be very helpful.

“How will knowing how to find the log of 15 help me with life? What do I care if Joan has a savings account with 1.2% interest compounded annually? Who cares?” That was my attitude towards math.

Even if there are subjects you hate, you still have to do them. Don’t slack on school so you can write.

This is coming from a master procrastinator. Since I was homeschooled, my mom made my writing part of my assignments. So I’d spend all morning writing then I’d be stuck with an afternoon (and early evening) of economics, Spanish, science, and all the other things I didn’t want to work on.

Yes, writing is important, but if you are a student, your school needs to come first.

 

Family

Spending time with your family is—guess what—more important than writing in the long run. You’ll be around these people for most, if not all, of your life. The relationships you have with them truly matter.

Take opportunities to hang out—watch movies, play games, go on a day trip. These life experiences actually will strengthen your writing.

 

Don’t mark these things off as “squirrels.” Because they are not-squirrels. These things matter. Don’t take them for granted or view them as burdens. They will shape and form you as a person and as a writer.

 


 

Oliver’s Travels!

Oliver and Allison
Oliver joined me at another band concert a few weeks ago! He’s not big enough to play any instruments, so he just sings along.
The Power of Words

The Power of Words

Words have rent nations, formed alliances, changed history forever. Two words bind one man and one woman in a covenantal relationship until death. They can build people up and they can tear them down again.

Words have power.

An immense power, even greater than that of an atomic bomb.

James talks about the untamable tongue in the third chapter of his letter. He compares it to a fire. Flames can provide heat to warm us and cook our food. But they can also consume entire cities.

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. -James 3:5b-10

People handle fire with reverence and caution. But we throw our words around like grains of sand—unimportant and insignificant.

When we speak or write, we are handling a volatile asset. Every post on social media has the potential to inspire someone. Yet at the same time, if we aren’t careful, it can cause division between friends.

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Proverbs 10:19

We’ve all be told to think before we speak. But how often do we think before we write?

Whether written or spoken, all words have power. The ancient words of the Bible are just as important as they were when they were first penned.

Next time we are tempted to lash out with our words, we must stop and think.

We have great power at our fingertips.

But we must use it carefully.


Allison Grace blogs at allisongracewrites.com

8 Books I Want To Read This Fall

8 Books I Want To Read This Fall

It’s hard to believe it’s already fall! I’m more than ready for hot apple cider, sweaters, falling leaves, and all things plaid. (Others in my family are excited about all things pumpkin spice—coffee, popcorn, frosted flakes. 🤢)

As the weather gets cooler (or is supposed to, here in Ohio weather gets a little wacky), not much could be better than curling up with a couple good books and a steaming mug of cider.

I’ve picked out eight books I want to read before December.

 

The Titanic’s Last Hero by Moody Adams (nonfiction)

You might recognize this one from my 2019 TBR. I haven’t read it yet, but now seems like a good time. An encouraging true story is just what I need!

 

Jesus Freaks Volume II by dc Talk (nonfiction)

I can’t remember if I ever read the first volume, but I got this one cheap at a used bookstore. It looks really interesting.

 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I started re-reading this several weeks ago, but I got distracted by library books. *cough* So, I’m going to pick up where I left off and see how far I get this time.

 

Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

My brother read the entire Ranger’s Apprentice series plus the Brotherband books. He really liked them, so I’m going to give it a go. It’s not that long (250ish pages) so it should be a fast read.

 

Odessa Fremont by Michelle L. Levigne

Yet another book from my previous TBR that I haven’t read. XD This is a steampunk novel. Most steampunk is set in a Victorian-type era, but with steam-powered machines, weapons, dirigibles, etc. The back of this one mentions Abraham Lincoln and time-travel. (Kinda reminds me of this horrible story I wrote years ago about Abe Lincoln building a time machine and accidentally winding up in the 21st century. I think it probably ended with something blowing up. 😂)

 

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’M SO CLOSE TO THE END OF LOTR! The only thing stopping me is 280 pages.

I don’t expect to actually finish this before winter begins, but if I can get a good start, maybe I can finish it before 2020. XD I’ve been trying to read LotR for over a year now.

 

The Stolen Princess by Katherine Wilson

I’ve read this book before, but I never finished the series. Of all the books on my TBR, this is the shortest one. I keep talking about how short these books are, but it will take forever to read them. XD

 

The House on Foster Hill by Jamie Jo Wright

Back in August, I read The Curse of Misty Wayfair. Guys, it was so good! I was afraid of a Scooby-Doo ending, but it wasn’t like that at all!

This book will be a perfect spooky book to read in October. I’m really excited about this one!

 

If I get to at least starting all of these, it will be amazing. But hey, I love books. And I’m guessing you do too.

 

Your Turn!

Have you read any of these books? Which one would you read first? What is your favorite part about fall?

 


Oliver’s Travels!

Oliver with pumpkins
It was quite the struggle to keep Oliver from scratching the pumpkins while I took this picture.

 


Allison Grace blogs at allisongracewrites.com

Celebrate Small Wins!+A Poet’s Dictionary Release!

Celebrate Small Wins!+A Poet’s Dictionary Release!

context: The good guys (Snyder and co.) just captured one of the villains.

“A crooked grin slanted across Snyder’s face. He was having too much fun. But he deserved to celebrate a victory. They all did. It was easy to forget they actually succeeded sometimes.” – Checkmate

 

While I’m no longer working on Checkmate, I still like this quote. Why? Because it reminds me to celebrate small victories.

As humans, we get so focused on the destination (getting published, graduating college, etc.), we forget the journey. The individual steps that make the path to the end.

We forget the careful outlines, never-ending drafts, A+ assignments. We forget them all when we look at the destination.

But the tiny things build up to create big things.

We need to remember to celebrate the small wins. When we get another email subscriber after a month of silence. When we finish an article we’ve been struggling with. When we write a paragraph during our first week of college. When we reach 5k in our new work-in-progress.

When we recognize and celebrate our small wins, we fight discouragement. We see that we really are making progress towards that goal.

We remember that we actually succeed sometimes.

 


 

Speaking of achievements, my friend Havilah just released her debut poetry collection yesterday!

There were a lot of small wins that led up to this moment. 😉

A Poet's Dictionary by Havilah Gael

A Poet's Dictionary by Havilah Gael

I read most, if not all, of the poems in an ARC (advanced reader copy). She takes a word (like “sleep”) and writes a poem defining that word.

I thought it was an intriguing concept. I really enjoyed reading them.

Some of them have a darker tone, but the light shines through!

Buy a copy here!

 


 

Oliver’s Travels!

Oliver writes his story
I complain about my phone’s keyboard being tiny, but poor Oliver is dwarfed by this one!
Squirrel!–Dealing With Writing Distractions

Squirrel!–Dealing With Writing Distractions

Reese 

Our dog Reese has a concentration problem. If food or a toy is involved, she’s all ears. But when it’s time to go outside for you-know-what, every single thing is a distraction. Birds. Bugs. Kids screaming at recess. Power tools.

Squirrels.

Those furry little creatures have captured her attention for countless hours. We often find her at the patio door, watching them scurry around.

Reese watching squirrels

Squirrel

 

Squirrel stealing food

 

We all have our squirrels. Things that might be good, but take our attention from what really matters. Whether that is school work, Bible study, or writing, we need to learn to deal with and eliminate distractions.

I get easily distracted by my writing community. There’s nothing wrong being on a social media, in fact, it can have great benefit. But when it distracts you from what you should be doing, you have a problem.

Another internet sinkhole I’ve fallen into is research. A simple search of “How tall is an eight year old?” turns into hours of Googling ways to survive a bear attack. Very important to know when you spend most of your time indoors. 😅

How do you deal with the distractions of a computer/phone/tablet when you need to write on it?

 

Tip #1: Write on paper.

Writing on paper isn’t right for everyone. And you certainly can get distracted using a pencil. There’s nothing magical about this method.

I find that it helps me to concentrate on one project and keeps me from editing as I go.

 

Tip #2: Turn off the internet.

Disconnect yourself from Wifi. Turn on airplane mode on your device. Get an app like the Freedom App (I haven’t used it before, but I’ve heard good things about it).

Sure, you can easily turn it back on if need be, but if it’s simply to scroll through Facebook for “just a minute” or to look on Pinterest “for inspiration,” you might find yourself deciding not to click the “on” button. It’s a little reminder of what you should be doing.

 

Tip #3: Write before surfing the web.

Make checking your email or social media a reward for completing your writing for the day. Tell yourself you can’t watch your favorite bands’ music video until you meet your word goal for the week.

 

Tip #4: Make a research list.

Instead of stopping writing to look up how far a horse can gallop before it drops dead, make a note about it and keep going. You can go back and add in the details later.

Just remember to actually look things up when you’re done writing!

 

Whatever you decide to try, the only to way for it to work is for you to stick to it. Hopefully you won’t get distracted by squirrels any more.

Hey look! A squirrel! *runs off*


 

Oliver’s Travels!

Oliver and Simon
Simon was “thrilled” about taking part in this photo shoot.

 

Oliver and Oreo
Oreo was happier to be involved. At least, it was easier to get a picture with him than with Simon. =D
Windsong: A Poem

Windsong: A Poem

The wind makes its music in the trees,

Rustling the branches,

Rattling the leaves.

 

It brushes its silvery fingers

Through the grass,

Across the colors, of stained window glass.

 

It whistles its soothing tones

Through the fields of green and yellow,

Across the shining surface of a pond.

 

Sometimes it turns into a lion,

Ripping, roaring, tearing,

Snarling, snapping, growling.

 

It bats paper bags,

Drives the rain,

Snarls the trees.

 

It swats crispy leaves,

Snatches hats,

Rips away homes.

 

It blows in the storm clouds,

Then brings in the sun.

 

The wind plays its music,

Sweet, wild tones

In the evening.

 

It kisses the sun,

Embraces the moon,

And blows the starlight down.

 

The wind blows its snaking tendrils

Across tear-stained faces,

Through the bars of a wind chime.

 

The wind has played its music,

Sweet, haunting, gentle, wild,

Through the ages.

 


 

Oliver’s Travels!

Oliver and the coffee maker
Sometimes you just need coffee.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Writer–The Value of Practice

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Writer–The Value of Practice

I love writing. I love music. So it only makes sense that I would use them to create an analogy.

When someone decides to learn an instrument, say piano, they don’t expect to be as good as this when they first sit down, right?

So why do we as writers sit down and expect to write like Tolkien on our third draft?

 

Be Content With Baby Steps

One of the first real songs you will play on an instrument is “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It’s nothing fantastic, but when you manage to play a recognizable tune for the first time, you have a moment of triumph.

Writing is the same. You start with simple stories, clichés, and not much of a clue what you’re doing. Then you begin to progress, learning more and more about techniques and terms. You get better, but you still make mistakes.

It’s normal to take baby steps. It’s good! Don’t rush ahead of yourself and try to do things you aren’t ready to yet.

 

Practice Makes Better, Not Perfect

No matter how much you practice, you will never, ever be perfect. Even masters of music still make mistakes.

That’s what drafts are for! Everything you write, whether it ever sees the light of day or not, is making you a better writer. Every time you pick up your pen, you are practicing your art.

But practice isn’t practice unless it’s consistent.

 

Practice Must Be Consistent

Someone who wants to learn piano can’t practice only once or twice a month. Sure, they might learn some things, but they’ll have a hard time recalling the skills they learned three weeks ago the next time they go to practice.

While I don’t think you have to write every single day to be considered a writer, you do have to write consistently and frequently. Maybe it’s only once or twice a week. Or maybe you can only write on the weekends.

It doesn’t matter.

You simply have to write consistently.

 

Music and writing share a lot in common–they are both art forms, they express thoughts and emotions–but they also take time to master. No one becomes a pianist in a day, or even a year.

With dedicated practice, you will soon move on from the basics and begin composing your own symphonies.

 


 

Oliver’s Travels!

Oliver birdwatching
Oliver didn’t have to travel far to watch the birds in our backyard.
Become an Inspiration Lightning Rod

Become an Inspiration Lightning Rod

Output requires intake, and literary output requires literary intake.
Wordsmithy, by Douglas Wilson, page 30.

 

I think all of us have experienced creative burnout at some point or another in our writing journey. Whether it’s simply running out of ideas or the inability to write at all, burnout is no fun.

When you face this monster, the best way to conquer it is by getting more inspiration. But finding inspiration isn’t just like sitting out in a thunderstorm and hoping to get hit by lightning.

It’s more like intentionally tying yourself to a lightning rod in the middle of a storm cell.

Though it’s a little less dangerous. 😉

 

Where does the inspiration to write stories come from? Other stories of course!

Like Douglas Wilson said above, you need to absorb storytelling before you can write.

There are a few ways to do this:

 

Read Books!

Reading is the best way to fill your creative well. Not only can you enjoy a good story, but you also can discover different styles of writing.

Just like a musician listens to music before attempting to compose his own, a writer needs to read.

Don’t just read in the genre you write! Explore fantasy, historical fiction, contemporary, re-tellings, even non-fiction! You heard me right, reading non-fiction can improve your fiction writing. 🤓

 

Listen to Audiobooks and/or Audio Dramas!

Nowadays, everyone is busy. And sometimes, we don’t have time to sit down with a big tome.

But you can listen to audiobooks or dramas while commuting to work, washing the dishes, or cleaning the house.

If you want to listen to a classic, you might want to check out Librovox. They have free recordings of many classic books.

I personally enjoy audio dramas a bit more than audiobooks. Dramas are a little like movies without the pictures. They have different actors for each character, sound effects, and music.

 

Watching TV!

TV is full of stories, whether it’s a show or movie. Even the Food Network competitions my family likes to watch are stories.

This is a great way to listen to dialogue (noting what is natural and what is stilted) and to watch body language. You’ll start to notice how people act when they are stressed (nothing like the Chopped kitchen to raise your blood pressure!) or when they achieve something big (like winning the million dollar wedge on Wheel of Fortune).

While reading can be more of a solitary activity, you can most likely convince someone to watch TV with you. 😊

 

When you increase your story intake, your writing output will get better. And you’ll find new sources of inspiration.

No thunderstorm required.

 

Oliver’s Travels!

Oliver stowed away and joined me at my latest band concert at an ice cream social.

Oliver goes to band

Oliver goes to band

Oliver goes to band
He enjoyed playing in my flute case.
Oliver's Ice Cream!
He even got his own scoop of ice cream!

(Photo credit: Mom)

 

Oliver Twist: A Lesson on Satisfying Endings+Meet the New Blog Mascot!

Oliver Twist: A Lesson on Satisfying Endings+Meet the New Blog Mascot!

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Oliver Twist and Star Wars: A New Hope.

Dickens’ classic, Oliver Twist, is a novel full of darkness and despair. But that evil is lessened by the hope found in little Oliver himself. No matter the tragedy, he maintains his sweet, hopeful innocence.

Because of these incredibly dark themes, the ending needs to be bright and happy. Otherwise Dickens’ readers would be depressed for days.

While I personally enjoy bittersweet endings the most, I was satisfied by the conclusion of Oliver Twist.

How did Dickens pull off this “happily ever after” ending?

 

The Good Guys Win

As humans, we have God’s Law written on our hearts. (Romans 2:14-15) Even an atheist knows that murder is wrong.

Because of this, we have an innate sense of justice. We want to see good win and evil be punished. Dickens understood this and used it to his advantage.

He doesn’t cheapen the ending by making the heroes win too easily. They have to overcome many huge obstacles in order to achieve victory. Oliver finds a home. Rose finds love. Mr. Brownlow finds the long lost family of an old friend.

 

The Bad Guys Lose

The antagonists in Oliver Twist are utterly despicable. They tried to corrupt Oliver, to lead him into a life of thievery. And after 400 pages of watching them spread their influence, we’re ready to see them punished.

Bill Sikes, the murderer, is dead. Fagin, the ringleader, is in prison, waiting to be hung. Mr. Monks leaves the country and travels to America. Mr. Bumble is in the workhouse.

After the last page, we can breathe a sigh of relief. None of these characters will be back to torment Oliver anymore. They are all dealt with. There is no loose villain running around.  (*cough* Unlike the ending of my first novel. *cough*)

 

How can you create the same kind of ending in your own story?

First, determine what your reader wants from the ending. If it’s a romance, they’ll want the two characters to get married. If it’s a mystery, they’ll want the culprit to be found.

Each genre has a certain set of expectations.

After reading the dark themes of Oliver Twist, I wanted a happy ending full of hope for the future.

Of course, there will be stories where you don’t give the reader what they want.

 

Deal out justice to the villains, or at least give them closure. Sometimes killing the villain at the end of the story is not what you need to happen. Perhaps you’re writing a series and he or she needs to return in book two.

If that is the case, be sure the reader leaves with a sense of resolution. Meaning this, don’t let the villain just slip off the page never to be see again until book two. Sure, leave a teasing loose end, the kind that people love, but don’t leave a glaring plot hole.

For example, at the end of A New Hope, Darth Vader is flying around in his Tie-Fighter somewhere. But we still feel closure because the Death Star is blown up. Yes, Vader disappears for the remainder of the story, but the main threat has been destroyed.

In Oliver Twist, Monks goes off to America. He disappears. But the other antagonists, the more active ones, are all dealt with.

 

Don’t just settle for the easy way out by killing off your antagonists. Like I said in the previous point, sometimes it just won’t work to kill them at the end. Sometimes you need to handle them another way.

Maybe they are in prison for life. Maybe they are exiled.

In Oliver Twist, Mr. Bumble doesn’t die at the end. His status in life is simply lowered. He becomes one of the workhouse people he had taken advantage of at the beginning.

 

It will take a lot of effort to craft as great an ending as Dickens did, but with a lot of practice we can do it ourselves!

 

 

Meet Oliver!

Oliver the cat, that is. 😉

With his green eyes, tiny bow-tie, and one white paw, what’s not to love?

 

Oliver
Oliver loves to play with the coins on Scrooge’s desk.

 

Oliver
When it’s time to play, his favorite place is Madame Defarge’s knitting basket.

 

Oliver
His favorite place to nap is in the folds of Miss Havisham’s wedding gown.