A Writer’s Desire…

 “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.”

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

With great effort I labor, putting my words to paper, hoping to create an emotional response in my readers. How lovely to be drawn away from our own world and enter into a world wholly foreign and new. To be swept away into a climatic vision that brings forth a new feeling, or a fresh idea. But putting together a story is not an easy task. It is often with sweat and tears that the ideas form and the words take shape.

It is of great interest to me how writing a simple description can take so much thought and effort. How can one small paragraph take so many days, even weeks of preparation, yet when it finally comes together, is takes but a few moments?  The act of writing can be likened to pulling a molar firmly planted within the jaw. With great effort it is tugged and yanked before finally it is suddenly extracted.

Samuel Johnson stated that “what is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” So then it is the responsibility of the writer to draw out of himself the very being of his soul in order to delight the reader as the author directs the journey placed before his audience. So hold on and come away with me as we journey together through the pages of my books.

~ Happy reading…..

Susan

The Fate of the Epic Hero

cropped-istock_000007964782medium.jpg

Like a true journey of discovery, we do not know what is around the next bend. Often our way is obscured from view. All we can do is simply take the next step, in hope, in faith, that with the following forward thrust, all will be well. Yet we should not neglect the journey, for our quest is not only about the destination. What happens along the road could make all the difference. It may shape the future of more than ourselves.

In many works of literature, we see the importance of the journey. This trek into the unknown is a metaphor for self-discovery.

It is the fate of the Epic Hero.

What defines an epic hero is that he must leave home, travel into the unknown, descend into darkness (death), be transformed (reborn), and ultimately return home a different man. A good example of an epic hero is Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Hobbit.

Bilbo is the reluctant adventurer, forced upon a journey in which he must face many hardships. As he enters into the Mines of Moria, and then again, into the evil forest of Mirkwood, he descends into darkness, and in the depths of his fearsome trial, he finds his true self. Something inside of him has changed. He is now (reborn) an authentic hero; he fulfills his quest, survives battle, and returns home a different person than when he left (There and Back Again).

Throughout THE STONE OF EBENEZER, we experience the journey as we look with different eyes.

We follow the young Hebrew, Nagad, as he fights for his nation. We trek after the Philistines as we see a vision of their quest. And we follow the Seat of Yahweh, the Ark of the Covenant as it, too, is forced to wander.

In each case, something important is about to happen. The journey for each ripples through the saga to impact the destiny of those that will shortly follow. Come along on this epic quest as our hero journeys toward self-discovery and, ultimately, helps decide the fate of a nation.

~                  ~                  ~

Nagad watched as a third of the army turned and marched slowly away, their backs to their destination. Another path would have to be forged through the wilderness, another trek over the mountains. Their journey would be more difficult, their fate a different path than the remaining host. Fortunately, the priests with their sacred burden had made it beyond the flood before the torrent raged. The seat of God would continue on as planned. And the host of men would follow, a holy battalion on its way to its own destiny, unknowing the distant course that would be their doom.

Nagad glanced over at Orach, “Will the others make it in time?”

“They will find their own path and they will come when they come.”

“Those hills are difficult. It will be a challenge for so many to travel the mountain path. I am glad we are on this side of the stream. I do not envy their journey. I will not feel at ease ‘til we get to Eben-Ezer. I fear our delay will have dire consequences.”

“It is the journey, Na’ar, that is important. For with each step we are a little closer to finding ourselves. When we arrive, it is over and self-discovery is at an end. Yes, Na’ar, it is the journey that is important. Which path we are given is up to God.” (Pg. 30)

~ Susan51JU0NxzPNL

Read the exciting first book in the Trilogy of Kings Saga, THE STONE OF EBENEZER.

A nation falters, an enemy approaching; can one man overcome his past to lead his people back to God?

“An amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate where God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.” −Rev. Judith Wiegman

Grand Prize Winner in the New Look Writing Contest January 2015.

A Three-fold Struggle: Symbolic Significance in a Story

In literature, a motif is a recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative aspects such as theme or mood. In THE STONE OF EBENEZER, we see Nature coping with the same 51JU0NxzPNLcrisis that our main character must face—it represents the contrast between the world God created and the world marred by man.

~          ~          ~

As they journeyed through the mountain pass, the cavalcade crested yet another hill. Below lay a lush valley full of orchards. The sweet fragrance of apple blossoms rose to meet them. A gentle breeze lifted pale pink petals into the air, twirling blossoms around the party, teasing the men until the flowers showered down like snow upon the mountain.

Now that is a pretty sight, thought Nagad as he took in a deep breath, savoring the smell of peace and beauty. And he wondered at the contrast between this loveliness and the horror of battle. How could the two reside in the same realm? Truly, Yahweh had created the world in beauty. Man it was who marred the land with war, tearing the very foundation of the earth asunder with the rampage of contention and rage. Yet the quest toward battle continued ever onward against the backdrop of God’s landscape. (pg. 23-34)

~          ~          ~

One of the main themes that runs through THE STONE OF EBENEZER is Revenge vs Forgiveness. The narrative speaks to the motives that drive what one does in order to come to terms with loss and trauma. Battle is used as a metaphor for personal struggle.

~          ~          ~

Dominating the landscape, across the undulating ground, Nagad beheld various shades of yellow and crimson, short-lived flowers of summer, fluttering in the soft morning breeze. The smell of spring, of the uncertain glory, hung in the air, a variant wave of freshness faintly perceived, coming with the distant scent of apples wafting up from the golden blooms of the crown daisy. Breathing in the smell of the field, the green lap of the vernal season beckoned from sleep and issued forth a flood of memories of youth and peaceful times, of white linen robes and youthful love, and the soft laughter of a virgin.

Transfixed by the flowery field, by the scarlet crowfoot residing close to the ground, each with a single stem that terminated in one ruby flower, and the gilded display of the crown daisy towering over the crimson carpet, Nagad thought: how like a flower we are. We come forth and then we are cut down and fade; as a shadow we do flee, lost in the dark of night, and continue not. Of neither do we make much account, for neither can bear our confidence, for all wither and are gone.

“At the end of day, we shall be lifted up,” Nagad spoke under his breath as he raised his sword before his face. “Though the way be long and hard, we will endure.”

Tiphcar, as he displayed his blade before the readied troops, exclaimed in a loud voice, “New is the dawn before us! Now is the hour that the Lord will be glorified! If God be for us, who can stand against us!”

And there, between Mizpah and Shen, the Philistines came rushing toward them in great number, hastening unto their own fate. The vision of the heavily armored and highly trained Philistines moving forward in tight formation sent fear into the hearts of the Hebrew lines. Yet, through the knee-high stems of the crown daisy, trudging through the bushy display of glorious yellow heads, the Israelites marched onward, increasing their pace until they surged forth in swiftness of speed.

Across the expanse they sprung, as lodestones drawn by an unseen attraction, which urged them onward. Colliding, the opposing lines recoiled, the violent concussion of the forceful impact sending men back a step in a carom of clashing colors. Trampled underfoot by the myriad of sandaled feet, by the forward thrust of the rushing troops, the scarlet flowers were soon crushed and covered in the crimson stream of life’s hemal nectar. As a wave strikes a boat amidships, the soldiers dashed against each other dealing deadly blow upon deadly blow. In contention they strove to obtain what the other possessed, but which only one could hold. (pg. 255-256)

~          ~          ~

In this scene, flowers are used to illustrate the drama of the battlefield, foreshadowing what is to come for the men fighting upon plain. Another motif is weather—the weather of the world—literally and figuratively—reflects the action and tension within the story. As nations erupt, so too, the sky ruptures in conflict.

~          ~          ~

Thunder sounded overhead as lightning streaked across the darkening sky. Rain came down in sheets, driven with great force by the west wind, as the thundercloud burst open, the heavens rent, suddenly violent, issuing forth a forcible storm. The silent expanse of nature, whose bowels gave way, ruptured with tumultuous agitation, the dreadful fury of the tempest amid fitful bursts of wind.

The road became impassible as the route quickly turned into a sea of mud. The Ark threatened to topple as the soldiers fought to keep their footing on the slippery roadway. A breach in the lines formed as the company stood leaning into the wind, fixed firm against the storm, yet no progress made toward their destination. Bludgeoned by sound, the roar of the driving rain and wind, accompanied by the crash of thunder, obstructed the exchange of words.

“Sar, dark is coming on fast, and we are surrounded by the tormented terrain,” yelled out Phicol. “We will never reach Ekron by nightfall. The way is too difficult.”

With sound radiating through time, notes rising then lost to decay, Caphtor retorted above the thunder’s bend with dreadful voice uttering violent denunciations, oracles severe, as the storm grew more feral. The internal pressure of nature mounted a crack of thunder as though the fissure of doom rent forth with a terrible fulmination, accompanied by the intense display of light, discharging upon the atmosphere with violent exertion. Unable to control the instinct, soldiers dropped where they were, ducking with arms raised to protect their eyes from the dreadful display.

“Sar,” called out Phicol.

“Fall out,” bellowed Caphtor. “We go no farther; make ready camp.”

Amidst a thicket of storax trees, the company of men set up camp with great difficulty. Tents were torn by the terrible tempest, supplies flung about in harried havoc, the battle for dominance over the tent spike continued into the darkness. The rush of the angry wind continued through the night as the sky flew apart and then collided with a loud explosion that shook the foundations of the earth. (pg. 176-177)

~          ~          ~

It is a three-fold struggle:

The conflict is an immortal struggle—a world ruled by the gods

The Philistine god—Baal vs the Hebrew God—Yahweh

A national struggle

The Philistine nation vs The Israelite nation

A personal struggle

The Philistine soldier Ekwesh vs the Hebrew soldier Nagad

The battle is brutal; the way is tough. We all face battles in this life, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, and these battles are brutal, even as the conflicts are within THE STONE OF EBENEZER. And like our hero, we must push through the fight. This is the true sense of an epic journey, a journey that leads toward resolution.

May all your trials bring you to a place of peace.

~ Susan

THE STONE OF EBENEZER: The Story Behind the Story

There are some things that should not be forgotten, some truths not forsaken. This is a story torn from the pages of antiquity, in an age where gods ruled the land: two men, two nations, drawn into an immortal struggle.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER is a sweeping saga of loss and revenge that takes place in the days of the last judge of Israel. You will travel from the foothills of Ephraim to the coast of the Great Sea, through a tapestry woven with details.

 

~          ~          ~

There is always more to a story than what is read upon the pages of a book. It is when you understand the experiences and motives of an author that you can truly see the message delivered within the novel.

As you read, ask yourself:

Why did the author choose to write this particular story?

What message is the author attempting to convey?

When you know the answer, a depth of revelation strikes you, a secret insight that you alone share with the writer.

So what led me to write THE STONE OF EBENEZER?

On September 11, 2001, my father was killed by terrorist. The aftermath of this tragedy threw me into a struggle with doubt, grief, and trauma. I sought relief by reading, especially works of Tolkien. His experiences and insight into the subject of death and loss helped me to come to terms with my own journey.

Through this experience, I began to feel a story growing inside of me.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER—the stone of help—became an outlet for the lessons learned upon this road I was forced to travel.

Yet why this particular story?

I wanted to write about King Saul. The epic struggle between this tyrant king and his man, David, spoke to me. As I was developing the novel, I felt strongly that I needed to build up to the story of Saul, bringing to light the relationship between God and His people so that there would be an understanding of why it was wrong for the Israelites to ask for an earthly king like all the other nations.

The story came, but this nagging image of another character kept taking my attention. I added scenes to the beginning of my book in an attempt to quell the voice of this one leaning heavily against my mind. Then it came to me, as so often thoughts do, in the dark as I lay in my bed: make it its own story.

There was a message that needed to be told, a tale of importance, if not for the reader, for me. For you see, Nagad’s story is my story. His hurts, his thoughts, his struggles: they are all mine. To read this story is to read who I am. It is the journey I have taken.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER is a metaphor of life, my life.51JU0NxzPNL

It may very well be of yours. Whether your struggle is physical, or metaphysical, the battles we face are brutal. Yet, even as we face the trials in our life, there is One who can help us—our Stone of Help.

We have a choice: lean on God, or do it our way.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER is such a tale. As the characters face the struggles in their lives, they also have a choice. But will they choose well?

There is but one way to find out—

THE STONE OF EBENZER, Book 1: Trilogy of Kings Saga

May the Light of God shine upon your path.

~ Susan

Things are getting exciting here as the release date for my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, draws near. Here is something to whet your appetite–a teaser for the official book trailer.

teaser

Self-Publish: Doing It My Way

I don’t know when it began. It just started—the need to have control over every aspect of my life. Call me a control freak, but I desire to be the master of my own fate.

I first became aware of this side of my personality when I started homeschooling my daughter. I bought the popular kindergarten curriculum, you know, the one all the experienced homeschool mom’s recommended. It was subtle at first, that growing resentment of someone telling me what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

“Who are they to tell me what is right for my child?”

“Do these experts know her unique learning needs?”

“Does every child need the same skills at the same time?”

“For what purpose are these exercises prescribed? Is there a specific skill being developed or is this just busy work?”

The questions kept coming.

I have never had trouble with authority figures before. So what was happening? Why was I questioning the status quo?

I was becoming a rebel, but a rebel with a cause. The welfare of my right-brained daughter was at stake. I would sacrifice anything, learn everything in order to provide the best for my child.

But what does that have to do with self-publishing?

Everything.

It was through the experience of creating my own curriculum designed specifically to meet the needs of my children that grew in me the confidence needed to plunge head deep into publishing my first book.

book cover 1My story was my creation, born through the events of my life. I discovered a deep-seated desire to present the book in an unadulterated format—one truly of my own making. Yet the process was new to me, so some guidance was necessary. That is why I chose a publisher like WestBow Press. They offered me the freedom to control the process without abandoning me to the process.

I saw it as the best of both worlds.

Yet, that was my non-fiction. I finished work on a fiction novel. I wanted to do right by my creation, my child, so I began investigating the traditional publishing route. I even sent out some writing proposals to prospective agents.

What I learned is that there is a code to writing a query letter, yet the proper way to approach the query is very specific and mysterious. There are many willing to give instruction concerning the qualities of a good proposal. Unfortunately, each has different advice. It is all very confusing. As an analytical thinker, this left me baffled. But I kept at it, and my skill grew. Yet, the joy of writing began to fade. I spent so much time learning the query process, it left little time to actually do what I love—write.

One needs an agent before you can approach a traditional publisher (the agent will require about 15% of you royalties). Then the process begins again; this time it is the agent that takes your query before the publisher (the publisher will require up to 80% of your royalties). All this takes a long time. And just because you have an agent, it does not mean a publisher will pick you up. Let’s face it, there are many people trying to get books published.

Wait—15% + 80% = 95%

That leaves only 5% for the author…

WestBow Press has a 50-50 relationship with their authors and no agent required.

With traditional publishing, you are counting on numbers—more exposure means more money. It is true, a traditional publisher does have more contacts in the industry than you. Their name speaks volumes. If a traditional publisher choses your book to publish, that means you must have written a good book, right? So the populace will buy your book in droves!

Well, not really—I know I have read some not-so-well-written books published by some well-known traditional publishers. There are no guarantees.

The traditional publisher is taking a risk on your book, so they are picky on which works they gamble. It is their money upfront. They have everything to lose. And you, the author, will not see another dime until you have sold enough books to pay back the publisher’s initial investment.

ID-100305240

by pannawat @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some publishers only allow you three months to prove your worth. That is not enough time for most unknown authors to establish a following. If you do not reach expectations in a timely manner, the traditional publisher, who, by-the-way, has the rights to your manuscript, can shelve your book. What this means is they pull your title from the shelves and recycle all printed copies of your work. You cannot do anything with your story until the contract runs out with the publisher and the rights to your work revert back to you.

It is true that most bookstores will not place self-published books on their shelves, but this is not as important as it once was. Shelf-space on the internet is unlimited, so online bookstores, such as Amazon, will gladly carry your title, and for as long as your title is active. This allows the new and upcoming author time to build a solid author platform.

It does take much effort to draw a following for your work, but marketing is not just for self-published works. Yes, the weight of it does fall on the author’s shoulders. But traditional publishers are looking for authors who are willing to self-market their own books as well. Do not think that with traditional publishing, you do not have to worry about marketing. Whichever way you decide to go, marketing your book is your responsibility.

Do not fear, there is help out there for the self-publishing author. There are many agencies you can hire to market your work. These can be costly. If you do not have a budget for this type of marketing, there are other avenues to follow: blogging, social media, Google-ads. It is all doable.

Do not get me wrong. I am not against traditional publishing. As an author, one must weigh the cost-vs-benefits of all forms of publishing.

You, as the creator of your work, must decide what best fits your needs.

A traditional publisher is all about selling, after all, they have invested large sums of money on your product. With sales in mind, editing your book will be about what the publisher believes will be popular with the public. The names of your characters, what they wear, how the story plays out: all aspects of your work will be edited and rewritten to meet the goal of a profit margin. And you, the author may have some say, but the editor has the final word. I heard from one author who said that only 20% of her original manuscript made it through the editing process. It is possible she needed the editing, yet this prospect frightens me.

If making a living at writing is your goal, the traditional publisher may be right for you. After all, they do have experience in the field and have been successful with other books.

For me, I decided to self-publish. After careful consideration, I believe that my goals are contrary to that of a traditional publisher (at least at this point in my life). I write for the pure art of writing. My literary style, the cadence I use, the words and phrases I choose, are done so for the lyrical value of my work. While I appreciate the advice of a good editor (I do strongly suggest using an editor), I want the final say. With self-publishing, I am the chief contractor for my enterprise. Everything passes before me and gets my approval.

With that said, my future rests in my own hands. My decisions will be the success or failure of this crazy, wonderful expedition on which I have ventured.

Will I ever publish traditionally? I cannot say. Circumstances and goals change. But for now, I enjoy the prospect of being the master of my own fate.

Happy writing.

~ Susan

SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GO WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story) is available through WestBow Press and online bookstores: Amazon, Barnes and Nobles.

Look for Susan Van Volkenburgh’s award winning novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, Book 1: Trilogy of Kings Saga, coming the summer of 2015.