Wise Words from Michelle Griep

My BFF Michelle Griep tells me she’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Ever since, Michelle’s been seeking to glorify God in all that she writes…except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager.

Being her critique buddy, sister in Christ and at heart, and fellow author for Risen Books, and in celebration of her upcoming release, Undercurrent, I’m excited to introduce you to Michelle as a guest on my blog.

First, tell me what your new book is about.

People go missing every day. Many meet with foul play, some leave the social grid by choice, but others are never accounted for. Such is the fate of successful linguistics professor Cassie Larson. She leads a life her undergrad students hope to attain, until she tumbles into the North Sea and is sucked into a swirling vortex…and a different century.

Alarik, son of a Viking chieftain, is blamed for a murder he didn’t commit—or did he? He can’t remember. On the run, saving a half-drowned foreign woman wasn’t in his plans.

Ragnar is a converted pagan shunned by many but determined to prove his Cousin Alarik’s innocence. He didn’t count on falling in love with Cassie or the deadly presence of evil that threatens his village in Alarik’s absence.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, except for a short season when I kicked around the idea of becoming an astronaut. Two problems with that, though. First off, I hate science and math, both of which you should at least have a mild interest in to be successful in a space career. Secondly, when I found out that astronauts don’t actually wear cool Lt. Uhura uniforms, it was a deal breaker.

In addition to writing, you also homeschool your children! How do you balance it all?

Apparently you didn’t notice the frayed hem on my superhero cape. Family and schooling takes up the lion’s share of my time but I do have one dedicated night per week when I run away from home to write. You can find me at Panera with a cup of java and chocolate chunk cookie every Thursday evening.

How did this story come to you?

There’s an old family story my mom told me about her mom, Clara Brekke. Sometime back in the early 1900’s, Clara’s father took her two-year-old sister and walked out the front door. Just like that. No bags packed. Not a word about where they were going or when they’d return. Nothing. No one ever heard from them again. As a result, I’ve always been curious about missing people. Assuming they’ve not met with foul play, where exactly do they go?

What interests you about the Viking age?

Besides the roots of Christianity in the Nordic culture, there’s a ton of other fascinating facts. Case in point…Bubba the Viking. Did you know there’s actual graffiti carved into wood and stones left behind by these fellas? And who would’ve known that one of these big beefy warrior’s names was Bubba? Not kidding. Feel free to use that tidbit as an icebreaker at the next party you attend.

Please share your favorite scene from Undercurrent.

The setting is a dark forest late into the small hours of the night. Hero Ragnar is leading Cassie, who freaks out about a wolf howling. Ragnar takes her hand, meets her gaze and says,

“I am well armed, Cassie. Think you I would lead you into danger?

Even so, I pledge my protection.”

Once those words left my pen, it was like Jesus whispered the same to me. What a picture of his strong guidance and assurance. On days when I’m walking through scary darkness, how comforting it is to remember that he’s the one holding my hand.

What other new projects do you have in the future?

I could easily be persuaded to write a Viking sequel if readers swamp my publisher with requests. I’ve also recently finished a historical fiction set in the Regency period (think Jane Austen) which involves an opium addict and a man who’s slowly going insane.

I’ve already read that one, and it’s dynamite! I hope you’ll be able to find a publishing home for it as well. As far as the possibility of a Viking series – well, blog readers, make sure you buy Undercurrent and flood Risen Books with demands for more!

Thanks, Michelle, for visiting today and sharing your wise words on Y’s Words.

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Reflections on a Fortnight

How old do you have to be to know what a fortnight is?

Whatever the title of this post may mean, here are some of my thoughts as I come to the end of a two-week marathon of working with Risen Books’ editor, Reagen Reed, on revisions to The Story in the Stars.

I received Reagen’s thoughts on the first half of the book late one Sunday evening, and when I opened the document Monday morning — holy heart attack, Batman! Every page was full of living color. After I recovered from the shock and started going through it (well, actually, I’d gone through a lot of it before I figured this out), I realized why. I hadn’t had a clear idea from the beginning where I wanted to go with it. I’d changed POV’s twice (i.e., briefly took a stroll through omniscient before I got talked out of it), and hacked and twisted it in so many ways, it was a little jerky in places (and a lot jerky in others!)

During the course of all that confusion, I’d deleted a vital chapter (what was I thinking???), which I had to replace. I’d deleted it from my computer file. I had no hard copy. I checked on my critique groups’ websites to see if I could find where I subbed it. No luck. Panic! Then I remembered I hadn’t emptied my computer’s trash bin for a long time, so I checked there. WHEW! There it was, safe and sound. Didn’t even need any major revising.

I didn’t have to re-write that chapter, but I did have to create one whole new scene and make major revisions on at least one other, in order to fill in some gaps. But I’m pleased with the result — it’s much stronger all around.

Fortunately, the second half was better organized and was much less of a struggle. Compared to last week, this one’s been a piece of chocolate cake.

A couple things I’ve been chewing on through this process:

1 – You know how you sometimes read in a book’s Acknowledgements where writers sing their editor’s praises to the skies? Well, now I know what they’re talking about! I love her — she “gets” my story, but has a fresh vantage point from where she can see it more clearly than I can — and she really knows her stuff.

2 — I’m not paying her for this! The publisher is footing the bill. What a blessing! It makes me want my Gannah series to do well on their behalf as much as my own — they’re gambling a lot on me, and I’d love to see it pay off for them.

3 — In the future, if someone tells me they want to self-publish something, I’ll recommend they have it edited first. Yes, it’s expensive (see #2 above), but it yields amazing results. Unless you’re a marketing wizard and/or already have a good platform, you’re going in the hole with self-publishing anyway, so why not dig a nice, deep hole you can get lost in? At least you’ll have a better quality book while you’re in bankruptcy court.

4 — Speaking of depressing, this next observation is: As we all know, there are a lot of wannabe writers out there who will never get published. I’ve always considered myself one of them and am still amazed that God had other ideas, but the fact remains, when you go to a writer’s conference and rub shoulders with all those hundreds of people, it’s a little disturbing to realize only a small percentage of them will ever see their name on a book cover — and many of those who do, will never recover the money they spent on the endeavor.

But–and here’s the depressing part–all of us, whether published or otherwise, work equally hard at it.

Have you ever stopped to figure out how much time (and money!) we spend on this, between writing, critiquing, conferences, classes/workshops, studying craft books, etc.? Knocking myself out last week, I realized we don’t get anywhere in this business because we work hard. We can work like field hands and still never “make it.” But we can’t let that discourage us, because we’ll never “make it” if we don’t work like field hands! So we just toil away, bent and broken, hoping and praying it won’t all be for nothing. (Sheesh. Ain’t I a little ray of sunshine, though?!)

5 — I knew Stars was a little rough around the edges, but I was surprised to see it was rough all the way through. I’m not quite sure why Risen Books accepted it, knowing how much editing it would need. But I’m thankful they did — and I’m learning a lot about how to make my next one better. It’s been a sweet lesson in humility!

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Motive and Opportunity

I ran across a good blog post the other day. Sorry to borrow from another’s work, but I’ve had similar thoughts myself, and Sally expressed them much the way I would have if she hadn’t beat me to it.

Reading this, I was reminded of when, years ago, someone said my writing was “anointed.” That made me uncomfortable, and it wasn’t false modesty that made me deny the charge. I do believe God has given me an ability to write. He’s given me the opportunity to write, and a story to tell. But an anointing? I wouldn’t put it that way.

But what constitutes “a calling?” I’m not sure!

Miriam Webster defines it as a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.

God has given me abilities that I love to exercise and the freedom to make use of them. Does that constitute a calling?

Psalm 45 begins: My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

(That’s in the NIV, which is easier to follow than the version I usually read [KJV]: My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.)

A breathtaking psalm, it  goes on to talk about the glories of Christ the King, concluding: I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.

Though the psalmist’s words will remain for all generations, mine will not. Nevertheless, my purpose is the same.

Perhaps it’s a calling after all.

 

 

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Spring Break

Thanks to the opportunity presented by grandson Bennett’s fourth birthday celebration, we decided to take a break from retirement (hubby) and writing (me), and take a road trip.

First, we visited the grandkids (and their parents, too, of course) in Virginia Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was a short visit, but a very enjoyable one.

On Monday we headed down to balmy Charleston, South Carolina to do the tourist thing.

Except it wasn’t exactly balmy.

The cold rain didn’t deter us. For one thing, we’re Ohioans, which means we’re used to that sort of climate. For another, the weather kept less-hardy souls in their rooms, enabling us to enjoy a private coach tour and share the mansion tours with only a few fellow gawkers.

We had coffee with a critique buddy of mine who lives in the area (hi, Sarah!). She kindly lent us an umbrella so we could each have our own and didn’t both have to huddle under my small one.

We toured Fort Sumter, Magnolia Plantation, and various other sites and museums. We browsed the market (which at least enabled us to get out of the rain). We took a drippy carriage ride, put many miles on wet feet, and ate lots of good barbeque and seafood.

One thing I didn’t do, though I intended to, was purchase a sweetgrass basket – I couldn’t decide among the abundant choices, so I ended up not getting one at all.

We enjoyed our visit and may return some day, so maybe by then I’ll have made up my mind which to buy.

Meanwhile, we’re home now, and it’s time to get back to work. But it was a nice vacation  while it lasted.

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