Alycia Christine

Vivid Fiction, Epic Photography

Category: Christian

When You’re Struggling Through The What, Remember Your Why

“Fallen Angel” photograph

I hear each tick of the clock—each second passing with the steady beat of my own heart. Time continues its inexorable slip through my fingers. The holidays are always hectic. There are always so many things to see and do. This morning, I feel the pinch of it all. My shoulders ache with the weight of all the hustle and bustle. The job needs doing. The clients need helping. The laundry needs washing. The papers need filing. My products need marketing. The family needs visiting. And on and on and on.

Every time I turn around, there is some new shiny distraction that keeps me away from the scrawling pen and paper and I long for simpler times.

“If only I were more organized, I can get all of the things done that I need to do,” I think.

The truth, however, is that better organization will only solve a fraction of my problem because, if I’m honest, busyness isn’t my core dilemma. The real issue is motivation. Motivation to work and to write has been scarce for me these days and it’s compounded by the constant whine of all of the distractions. Of course, the biggest, scariest distraction of all though lurks beneath all the petty stuff—the distraction of doubt.

Can I really do all that I need to do, and if I can, is it really worth all of the effort?

I think all people struggle with these two questions no matter what they are trying to do in life. One of the chief reasons that these questions can bog us down is because we ourselves haven’t quite answered the question of why the work we’re doing in this life actually matters. If you truly understand why your work matters, then that why will carry you through all of the muck of the what. If you don’t, all of the things you want to accomplish will quickly overwhelm and bury you in a stagnant mire of apathy.

Of course, why work matters is something of a subjective question that can change from person to person. For me though, work—whether it’s artistic, technical, or relational—only matters if it helps make someone else’s life better in some way. A kitchen appliance that makes it faster or easier for a person to prepare a meal matters. A spreadsheet software that helps its users better track company inventory and sales matters. A piece of art or music that entertains people and makes them think about life in a new way matters. Everything else is pointless.

Finding your why fuels your way.

In the end, it’s not a question of if I can write; it’s a question of why I should. Not everyone will understand why I do the things I do or say the things I say. Truthfully, I’m not even sure that half of my own family members understand why I am the way that I am. But that is okay because I don’t write for them. It’s for those men and women young and old who feel trapped in the corners and crevices of this flinty-edged world that I write. I write for the lonely, the aching, the weary, and the wanting. I write to remind readers that you are not alone—that we share this broken, grieving world together. My dearest hope is that my words will help to bind up your wounds.

In short, I write to remind you to hope again.

And though dark doubts and distractions may sing their shrill cacophony in the back of my mind, I’ll continue to pay heed to the bright Son of Hope rising before my eyes and ask that you do the same. Always remember that this perfect Son who was born of a virgin, crucified on a cross, and buried in a borrowed grave, did indeed rise again. Always remember that it is His what that laid the foundation for our true why, and it is His why that will always light the way through our what. Merry Christmas!

Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

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The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

What Happens When Thanksgiving Feels More like a Thanks-Getting?

thanksgivingtable1-ac4x6On the eve of Thanksgiving Day, I must admit an ugly truth—I am less interested in giving thanks for the things I have than I am counting the things I want. Never mind the Turkey Day, I want to skip straight to Black Friday. Being grateful isn’t nearly as much fun as being enticed. The admission sticks in my throat like a half-swallowed barb. How could I, of all people, be so unwilling to give thanks?

How bad could a little ingratitude really be?

Apparently, ingratitude breeds catastrophe. According the Bible, the ruin of our world actually occurred because humans were ungrateful. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, it introduced several curses including death to humans (Genesis 2-3). Such a calamity happened because Adam and Eve were ungrateful. Adam and Eve’s exalted position of fellowship with God was not enough. Being able to walk with the Creator of the Universe in the utopic Garden of Eden was not enough. Instead of being grateful and content with being made in the image of God and having direct fellowship with Him, Adam and Eve were tempted to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so that they could become like God. In demanding more, they actually chose for themselves much less. Whether you believe such a story to be fact or fiction is not the point. The point is that this story highlights the misery that occurs when we don’t give thanks.

This cautionary tale brings me back to this morning in which I sit in an attitude of ungratefulness for the things that I’ve been given. Never mind the fact that I sit with a full belly on a comfortable couch in a warm home with electricity to power the lights and keep the clothes tumbling in the dryer. Never mind the fact that I am surrounded by shelves filled with books, movies, and art. Never mind the fact that my husband and I actually have enough money to cover all of our bills this month. Never mind the fact that I have had a good amount of work lately to help cover those expenses. Never mind the fact that more people have been interested in my books and my photography than ever before. Never mind all of the good stuff.

A malcontent multiplies misery.

Instead of the warm home, I focus on the creaking floors cloaked in ragged carpet under my feet. Instead of the paid rent, I focus on windows that weep every other time it rains. Instead of the ample electricity, I focus on the flickering overhead light and the groaning, pint-sized refrigerator in our tiny kitchen. Instead of being thankful for the work that I now have, I focus on the fact that we could well be homeless in a few months if sales and jobs don’t pick up soon. Those major worries and minor annoyances are that have occupied my mind for the last month.

A few weeks ago, I met a woman in the middle of the grocery store whose home sits less than a mile from mine. When the tornado came whirling and swirling through our corner of Dallas last December, she and her husband hid inside a closet. That closet was one of the few things left standing after the clawing winds did their worst. When I met her eleven months later, she was buying toilet paper for the RV where she and her husband live because the repairs on their house still aren’t finished. She lives in a twenty-foot trailer and I live in an 850-square-foot apartment. And yet I am ungrateful.

During yet another grocery run, I had a homeless man offer to help me load my groceries into the car. My newest acquisitions took up the entire trunk of my vehicle while all that he owned fit inside a child’s backpack. He has so little and yet was still generous to me who had so much. And yet I am ungrateful.

Three years ago, my husband and I were far more affluent than we are now. We owned an 1800-square-foot house and had more than enough money from our jobs to pay for all of our needs. I often had the option of taking only those freelance projects that I found interesting and was able to work from home. We had so much, yet I was miserable.

What is wrong with me?

We had some friends where we lived, but most of our closest friends were scattered far beyond the desert sands we called home. We might have had a glut of material possessions, but I couldn’t have been more starved in emotional health. I was still reeling from the deaths of three loved-ones and the incapacitation of a fourth when we decided to move to Dallas, and that blood-stained view has colored my perception ever since.

Dallas was an opportunity to start anew—to make new friends, seek more cultural variety, and trade our easy but mundane living for a chance to make a true difference in the lives of others. And yet I’ve often been less than grateful that we took this chance. We’ve endured a lot to come here and to remain here, but we have also been amazingly blessed. My husband and I have found real purpose in this city that we didn’t have in the desert. Life is still hard and often discouraging, but the work is some of the most fulfilling that we could do.

Even with all of my worries weighing me down, I wouldn’t trade my life here for my life in the desert—not even for a second. I still don’t know how all of this will play out, but I do know that the God who faithfully led us through the desert is the same God who wants to restore us back to Eden. Whether we get back to Eden or not, I think is up to me and whether I’m willing to accept His good gifts just as they are or if I’m still more interested in eating the fruit of ingratitude plucked from that poisoned tree.

Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

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The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

What Do You Do When The Monster Is Worth Saving?

Of_Kelpie_Lullabies_cover-1600x2400As many people, I am a huge lover of mythical creatures from lore and legend. The reason I love working with these strange and fantastic figures is because of the freedom they give me as an author. Using mythological creatures allows me the ability to explore different cultural archetypes and stereotypes without overtly offending anyone. Of the many stories I have written, “Of Kelpie Lullabies” is a perfect example of this technique. I created a deeply flawed heroine who longs for a normal life, but is cursed by corrupted magic to be a murdering monster. In the end, it is Keiranna’s choice to accept or reject love and forgiveness for her crimes that determines whether or not she can have that normal life that she so desperately craves.

The story itself may deal with sorcerers and magic, but I believe that most people can identify with its themes of grief, love, longing, despair, and forgiveness. How many of you reading this are cursed with the slavery known as drug addiction and alcohol addiction first hand? How many have become so angry that you have harmed someone with words, actions, or with your own fists? Who now hates yourself for the wrongness of you choices or the weakness of your habits?

Welcome to Keiranna’s hellish life.

How many of you know a drug addict or an alcoholic cursed with a need for a substance that is so powerful it controls every decision. Do you weep for them or are you beyond caring? What about those who hurt you? Do you write them off as a monster too loathsome to love or do you cry for them all the harder?

Welcome to Edwin’s predicament.

Edwin could have turned his back on the monster he saw destroying others from a distance, but he did not. He saw her, all of her. He saw Keiranna’s anger and her sadness. He saw her brutality and her fragility. In the end, he reached out to her because he understood that her pain matched his own.

Keiranna does not rely on her own strength to save herself nor does Edwin. Instead they make the choice to help each other and seek aid from a power far stronger than both of them to accomplish that goal.

Are you the monster or do you know the monster?

I ask you today, who is your Edwin and who is your Keiranna? What power do you rely on that is greater than yourself to remake your life and to remake the lives of others? I personally rely on Jesus Christ to help me love myself and love others—even the monsters. I know that many of my friends and acquaintances prefer to pray to other deities such as Allah or Buddha, but I prefer to worship Jesus because he is the only person I have ever known to prove his true love for me by dying in my stead. He took the penalty for my imperfections on himself to show me that, though I often make mistakes and do wrong toward others, I am still worth dying for. It is Jesus’s love, his sacrifice, and his defeat of death that I cling to daily because Jesus is the only person I have ever found whose loving faithfulness never wavers.

If you’re struggling with something that you can’t overcome on your own, I encourage you to ask Jesus for help. You’ll be amazed just how far his love and strength can shine in your darkness and your doubt.

Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

P.S.-If you haven’t read the story, you can do so for free. It’s one of the stories in my Musings anthology which is given away on my Welcome Page.

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The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Writing as a Business: the Controversy of Creative Influences, Part 2

VarianceACS3x5As I continue the second half of this top ten book list, I can’t help but think how controversial yet personal so many of these books are for me. Some of these books made me uncomfortable. One in particular left me outright offended. All of them challenged my preconceptions in some way. I like the challenge, but, more than that, I like the honesty that so many of these books bring. These books and their authors aren’t afraid to be real and that truly inspires me as a reader and as a writer.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I love Jane Austen’s writing. Her prose style is simply breath-taking. Her use of language, however, pales in comparison to her understanding of character conflict and romantic tension. Before the “love” scene was ever deemed appropriate in fiction, Austen was weaving plotlines with more subtleties and complexities of boy meets girl than most modern day authors could hope to achieve in ten books, let alone one. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite from her treasure trove of work. When I want a good love story, I turn again and again to Ms. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

While I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books multiple times, this book remains my favorite. Rowling’s world-building is so imaginative and fun, her characters are flawed and interesting, her humor is captivating, and her sense of mystery is phenomenal. Rowling’s plot twists astound me. *Spoiler Alert* I love the fact that the person we think of as the third book’s main antagonist actually turns out to be one of Harry’s greatest allies.

The Autobiography of Malcom X by Malcom X as told to Alex Haley

This book was, in many ways, one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. Malcom X tried to paint himself in a noble light, but most of the time all I saw was a bitter man broken by his hatred toward his oppressors and himself. Malcom X was a self-admitted draft dodger, drug dealer, burglar, and felon until His conversion in the Muslim-based cult of the Nation of Islam in the early 1950s. The teachings of NOI leader Elijah Mohamed sowed a deep seed of hatred for Caucasians in Malcom and made him just as blind to the good in people of other ethnicities as many of them were toward people who shared his own ethnicity. Malcom railed against men such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for choosing to try to work with white and black men and women to solve the issue of racial prejudice in 1960s America, but I think Dr. King’s methods consistently proved the better method toward gaining racial equality. Eventually, Malcom himself recognized his own prejudices and left the NOI to seek a more moderate worldview. He was assassinated by three of the organization’s members about a year later.

What struck me most about this book was the fact that racial prejudice can be experienced by anyone from of any ethnic and economic background. The book also made me aware of some of the many inaccurate and accurate religious and political arguments on both sides of the racial equality issue.

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

The Shack is one of those rare books that made me stop and really search myself for the reasons I believe certain things about life, God, and other people. The book, while deeply spiritual, didn’t feel like it bashed me over the head with religion. Instead it coaxed answers out of me through its protagonist’s troubled questions.

The book, while fiction, is beautifully layered with truths about God, people, and what our relationships with Him and each other are supposed to look like. It doesn’t answer all of the questions that it posits. Instead it asks as many questions as it can and leaves you and God to come up with the answers together. It is a book with enough depth to hold up to multiple readings during many different points of life and several different stages of grief. This isn’t a soft book, but it is a good book.

Skinshifter by Alycia Christine

At risk of seeming self-serving, I have included Skinshifter in this list for a very specific reason: Skinshifter taught me how to write a book. Since I am a person who learns my skills by doing them over and over again until I get them right, I had to write a book before determining whether or not I actually could write a book. Skinshifter was the first book that I ever wrote. It was also the first book that I ever rewrote. I started this book once when I was a teenager and once again while I was in college. I managed to write two whole chapters before I got stuck the second time. After another two years, I was able to write the third chapter and then I never looked back. I wrote most of Skinshifter over the course of two-and-a-half years from 2006 to 2009. Then I left it alone, so that I could began writing its sequel in late 2010. Skinshifter has been through seven revisions at this point and, by the time it’s published, the novel will be on revision eight. While the task of making this book something special has been long and arduous, it’s worth the effort. The other books in this list proved to me that I was a reader, but Skinshifter proved to me that I was a writer.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Writing as a Business: the Controversy of Creative Influences, Part 1

Red-Tipped_Clover-4x6_ACEvery creative tinkerer has artistic influences, both positive and negative, which help shape and define her work. I am no exception. In fiction, I look to several different authors for guidance when I write. Consequently, I chose a list of the top ten books which have changed my life and/or my writing in some specific way. Some of my influences are quite mainstream while others are more controversial. Strangely enough, some books on my list were once cause for controversy but now seem quite bland, while others that were once deemed standard fare are now widely criticized. I’m not sure what that says about the books or about me. Maybe it simply means that great literature is bound to irritate someone.

In any event, I have listed each book in the order I read it as well as the reasons why each holds such high impact for me. Because this discussion is so long, I’ve split it in half. Five books will appear this week and five will come next week. I hope you enjoy my selections, or, at the very least, that they provide you with an interesting new perspective on literature.

The Bible by God through various authors

The Bible is one of those rare books that I read constantly. I find that its stories of love, loss, sorrow, perseverance, faith, and joy constantly encourage and inspire me. Since I grew up in a Christian home, this was one of the first books ever introduced to me. I was taught basic stories from this book as a child to help me understand the value of living a wise and honorable life. As a teenager and adult, I began reading the full versions of those childhood stories and many others for myself. I cannot adequately describe how much my life changed once I recognized that Jesus Christ was the missing person that filled the void in my life. That first glimpse of true love and my deepening friendship with Jesus ever since then have been the two most amazing, fulfilling experiences I’ve ever known.

The Dragon and the George by Gordon R. Dickson

I was a terrible reader as a child, and so I hated books. To help alleviate my frustration, my parents enrolled me in special education classes to boost my reading skills and my confidence. During my homework hours, Dad would read my textbooks aloud as I followed along while Mom corrected my English papers side by side with me. The combination of those three things vastly improved my reading and writing abilities, however, it was my dad’s decision to read novels aloud to the family during our vacations that finally changed my attitude toward books. The Dragon and the George was the first fantasy fiction novel Dad had ever read to me and it made quite an impression. For the first time in my memory, I wanted to read a story. With this book and those in the series after it, reading ceased to be a chore and became an adventure.

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

I had read many books in McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series before I picked up Dragonsong, but something about this book’s main character Menolly grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It was the first time I had ever encountered a character that I could really relate to despite the fact that we came from completely different worlds and family backgrounds. This story made me want to write a book of my own. In fact, my very first character, Lauraisha, was somewhat inspired by Menolly.

This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

Peretti’s work influenced me in a couple of different ways. First, This Present Darkness, was the first fiction book that I’d ever read dealing directly with the sensitive subject of spiritual warfare. Namely, the book posed the ideas that God and Satan do indeed both exist, and that their respective allies, angels and demons, battle daily for control of humans’ lives. It certainly wasn’t a new concept when Peretti penned it, but the gritty way in which he depicted this hidden war seemed the most accurate of any portrayal I’d yet discovered on the subject. Much of the Christian literature I’d read up to that point was fluffy and sentimental, which in no way depicted my own walk with Christ. It quite was refreshing to read something that felt real for a change.

Secondly, Peretti was the first author I had ever known who didn’t always kill off his bad guys. His antagonists did indeed get punished for their heinous crimes, but they didn’t always die. Interestingly enough, there were times as I read one of his later books that I actually felt bitter sorrow when a specific antagonist did die. It’s a rare writer who can provoke that level of empathy in me toward a character I’m rooting against.

The Tragedy of Puddin’ Head Wilson by Mark Twain

While Puddin’ Head Wilson is one of Mark Twain’s lesser-known works, it’s impact on me was even more significant than other books like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain was an astute student of the foibles of human nature and I loved the way he used his dry wit and thinly veiled cynicism to lay it bare. While Twain’s writing style proved weaker in Puddin’ Head Wilson compared to Tom Sawyer, his use of a fiction story to call attention to the social injustice and absurdity of slavery in America was absolutely brilliant. While it wasn’t the first time I had seen an author make an overt political statement through fiction, Twain’s lambasting of slavery remains one of the most entertaining.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

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