Christian Fantasy Author Lorilyn Roberts' Blog

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I Always Wanted to be a Writer



The teacher tossed my report on her desk. "I'm not going to read that,” she announced. “It's just copied work."

Thirty sets of eyes stared at me. What had been an engaging history review, reading class reports, was replaced with utter disdain. Whispers filled the silence and I sensed my face turning a crimson red.

The instructor shook her head in disbelief and proceeded to the next one.

I was devastated. My paper was not copied. I had used one source, the textbook, to verify a date. All the information came from my brain; I wrote it in an hour effortlessly while seated at my desk.

I was too upset to say anything—and for someone like me, who is outspoken to a fault, that didn’t happen very often.

When the school bell rang, I grabbed my books and ran home, replaying the humiliating scene over and over. I wondered how she could accuse me of such an injustice.

Later that evening, I told my parents what happened.

"Honey," Mom said to Dad, "You need to talk to that teacher. That's not right, to accuse Lori of plagiarizing in front of the class."

"Are you sure you didn't copy anything?" Dad asked.

"No,” I said. “I have never copied anything. I don't need to."

Besides that, I was a straight A student. I wouldn’t want to receive a failing grade for cheating. My fragile self-worth was wrapped up in a perfect report card. To receive a “B” meant I had no value. My distorted self-image tainted my view of God, others, and myself.

 To be a high achiever was my way of dealing with the emotional baggage that I carried around for years until God freed me. My birthfather “left” my mother and me when I was little. I failed the first grade because I couldn't read. I was bullied for being a failure and ostracized for the first three years of school until we moved to a different district. I had no friends and felt out of place in a world that made no sense. I had all sorts of behavioral problems and was considered at-risk for juvenile delinquency. I was unhappy and lonely.

A psychologist tried to “straighten me out.”  He threw up his hands: “She's either a genius or retarded, I'm not sure which,” he told my mom, “though one thing I can say for sure, she has an undiscovered talent."

My mother told me that story when my love for writing became evident. I wrote short stories when I was eight, poems when I was ten, and nonfiction with gusto by the time I was in fifth grade. I wrote two fiction books by the end of middle school.

In high school my writing took a back seat to music when I studied classical guitar, wrote songs, and was frequently asked to perform at major events, like the Georgia Honor Society, Kiwanis Club, and beauty pageants, after I was First Runner-Up in the Cobb County Junior Miss Pageant. 

Though insecurity kept me from becoming the person God created me to be, my passion to write took me to worlds where I could find hope and meaning, something my parents could not understand. In fact, they just didn’t understand me at all. They tried sending me to finishing school, but I was bored. They would comment on my writing, "That's nice. Now go clean off the table."

Although my parents always stood up for me in important matters, when it came to choosing a career, they were practical.  They represented the American dream—entrepreneurial and hard-working. They started a map business that became the lifeblood of the family. Anyone raised in such a circumstance will understand how powerful the impact is on family dynamics.

But I took after my talented birthfather, a well-known photographer. My mother would point out his works in Life, Look, Southern Living, and National Geographic magazines. She always recognized his photographs before even checking the credits. But the compliments ended there. Her pain ran deep, and it prompted me to want to meet my birthfather many years later. I found Bruce Roberts to be much like me—creative, reflective, impulsive, unstructured, emotional, sensual, moody, and introverted. Most surprising was he understood me.

But because I valued my parents’ approval (I was adopted by my stepfather) I gave up what I wanted to do to become who they wanted me to be. Though part of me wilted on a vine, feeling cut off from the Great Gardener, it did mean I would be able to support myself later. Lest I sound ungrateful or angry, I am not.  Life is what it is, and as a parent, today I know they did the best they could. I didn’t turn into a drug addict, get pregnant out of wedlock, or make choices that society deems as “unacceptable.” I also now have a greater appreciation for how hard it is to parent, having raised my first one and still working on my second.

To this day, my mother's words still haunt me: "You never know what the future holds. You need to be able to put food on the table. Your father walked out on you and left me penniless."

While I was too young to remember much, I have one vivid memory that I shall never forget. I stood in front of the window and watched for hours for dad to come home (it was my second birthday). He never did.

Becoming a business major, a physical therapist, or something that would meet my parents’ approval had no appeal to me. Following one year of college and a summer I would just as soon forget—I'll spare the emotional details for brevity's take—I started court reporting college, and twenty months later, embarked on a court reporting career that spanned 20 years.

Did I like court reporting? No. I hated it. There were days I lashed out in uncontrollable rage over depositions that kept me up all night for an impending trial. The lack of control over my personal life was overwhelming. There were too many broken engagements to finish transcripts that wreaked havoc on an already strained marriage, which later ended in divorce. Frayed nerves dealing with irate attorneys who didn’t care a hoot about me caused me sleepless nights. Attorneys blew smoke in my face from cigars and cigarettes that made me sick. I took allergy shots for years to combat the health effects. The whole world of court reporting left me an angry woman. Even a once-caring doctor/husband couldn’t put me back together.

But court reporting did one thing: It made me self-supporting. After my husband “left” me, although devastated and broken, I had the freedom to choose my future. I recommitted by life to Jesus Christ in hopes of becoming the person He wanted me to be. God used those court reporting skills to prepare me for another career that would take me down a path toward dreams I had long forgotten.

Fast forward a few years—through heartbreak, counseling, and forgiveness. God redeemed much. I can now appreciate even more the life He has given me, and how He answered my prayers with two precious daughters from Nepal and Vietnam.

A profession that didn’t even exist when I was in court reporting school has allowed me to work fulltime from home—in a job I wouldn’t have if my parents had not been so adamant about being able to support myself.

Court reporting paved the way for closed captioning, and the journalistic nature of broadcast captioning gave me the self‑confidence to pursue my dream of writing.



I look back on the years that have passed since that day in fifth grade when I was accused of plagiarizing. What if life’s circumstances had been different? What if my parents had let me major in English? What if my husband had not left me?

We all have moments when we question monumental choices and outcomes that send us down one road rather than another. If God had made everything easy for me, I don’t believe I could have become who He wanted me to be. Those sought‑after accolades, striving for perfection, fear of failure, and overwhelming insecurity, made me too dependent on man and not on God. I needed to be independent of the world and others to find my security in the Creator.

In Jesus Christ, we live, breathe, and have our being—love unshackled, poured out, and overflowing. His love supersedes the injustices and the wrongs others have done to us and what we have done to them. We can embrace our passions and pursuits in the name of our heavenly Father who is never short on affirmation or long on remembering mistakes. No longer am I bound up in pleasing others or enslaved in co-dependent, unhealthy relationships, seeking approval to make me feel like I am “okay.” 

I also remind myself that we were created for heaven to be our home. The gifts God gives us, the temperaments we are born with, our strengths, our eternal soul, were all intricately designed by the Creator for one purpose—to glorify Him.  That is the chief aim of man for our short time here, but more importantly, for all eternity. We are simply passing through on a journey, hopefully growing up in a way that will bring us closer to Him. 

 

Hebrews 11:13-14 states: All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.”

God never promised that we will “arrive” here on earth to fame or fortune. We might sell thousands of books; we might not. Most of us will be like those saints who went to heaven without ever accomplishing everything that God set before them. Many were martyred, but they died living out their passion and serving God in a world that was not worthy of them.

According to library.thinkquest.org, each year fifteen million children die from hunger. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, every year eight million children die from aids and malaria. In quieter moments, I wonder what those children could have become if they had been given a chance.

Joy's arrival from Vietnam with big sister Manisha


Or what about, since 1973, the almost fifty million children who have been aborted? Or the 150 million orphans in the world who long to be loved? We can rest assured that God is in control. He has counted the costs and given everything He has on the cross. He knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He is mindful of the suffering and has not forgotten even the sparrow that falls from a tree. It’s just that He’s more patient than us for justice to have its perfect way.

If we trust in Him, God will give us everything we need to become all that He intends for us to be—but it may not be here. It may be in the world to come, an eternity that awaits us, where love reigns supreme and no tears are shed. I take comfort that the perfection of the gifts He has given us will be completed when we arrive. I am reminded of Timothy 6:6:  “...godliness with contentment is great gain.”

I am thankful for my parents’ human wisdom, for the stumbling blocks and untoward circumstances that made at times pursuing my dreams difficult. It's in the struggle that we learn faith, faith that will grow us up if we don’t grow weary. The fires of this world humble us if we are strong in Him and prompt us to ask: Who am I when no one is looking? Is the stuff I am made of, in this jar of clay, just stubble, or is it precious and chiseled by the Creator’s hands?

Love is God’s choice to allow us to be free. Have we used our freedom to die to our wants to receive a heavenly reward that earth can’t take away? Will we still have our gifts to lay before the throne (the gifts He’s given us), or will we have squandered them and lost the blessing? Do we fight the good fight, or do we give in to sin and temptation? Do we refuse to forgive that hurt? What are we holding onto that is more precious than God Himself? Are we even worthy to receive the gifts God gives us, or will we selfishly use them to buttress our own ego?

It's never too late to dream big and it's always too soon to give up. As I continue to work on my Masters in Creative Writing, scrambling for a few minutes here and there to finish this book or write that review or commentary, I remind myself that things that matter are never easy. The details are in the process.

If we keep our eyes focused beyond this world on our heavenly home, God will accomplish His perfect will in every nook and cranny of our lives. The years the locusts have eaten will be redeemed, if not here, in heaven. The what if’s and if only’s will be replaced with acceptance of the things we can’t change and wisdom to know the difference. Jesus holds the deed to earth in His scarred hands, and with thankfulness, I write, from a healed heart, remembering from whence I came, and hopefully touching the lives of others. The outcome is always in God’s loving hands.
                                                            ***
Lorilyn grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and currently lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her two daughters, her dogs Sirius and Molly, and four cats. Lorilyn is a media professional and provides broadcast captioning for television. She makes time to pursue her passion for writing and will earn her Masters in Creative Writing from Perelandra College next year.
Lorilyn has homeschooled her daughters for the past fifteen years. She has published three books, The Donkey and the King, Children of Dreams; and How to Launch a Christian Best Seller Book; is president of the Gainesville, Florida, Word Weavers Chapter; and the founder of the John 3:16 Marketing Network.


Visit Lorilyn's website at http://lorilynroberts.com. can check out her Facebook fan page where she shares writing tips at Youhttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Lorilyn-Roberts-Fan-Page/144049365650301 Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/llroberts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lorilyn Roberts' review of Midheaven by Author Ken Kuhlken

As a Christian, I found Midheaven a fascinating read. The protagonist is a 17-year-old girl, Jodi, in her senior year of high school on the threshold of adulthood.  The story begins with her hiding in a cabin of the Toiyabe National Forest, barely surviving on cans of food brought to her by her longtime friend, Charley.

Her life is miserable, like a beastly animal, rather than the beautiful young lady attending Mount Rose High School the year prior.

Little by little, the reader is introduced to the people in her life: Her dysfunctional parents; Mr. Oswald, her favorite teacher; Charley, her friend but not “boyfriend”; Maggie, her best friend, who marries Geoff, a Christian “freak”; and other, less important characters in plot but important  in development of the theme of the book.

The characters represent a type or archetype worldview that is flavored with a distorted understanding of Christianity. Each person in his own way has been either enriched or destroyed by the perversion of his beliefs that justifies his sinful actions.

We have all seen these “types” in our own life: The holier-than-thou Christian who judges and beats you over the head with the truth; the woman, as in the case of Mr. Oswald’s mother, who is the epitome of a Jezebel; Mr. Oswald, who will never accept Christianity because of his mother’s influence; and Charley, who doesn’t profess to be a Christian, but who is more a “Christian” than most; and Jodi, who longs to be loved and accepted. To gain that love, she compromises her virginity with a jock at school, who later taunts and bullies her.

Underlying the main plot are multiple subplots—each person struggling with his own sin, making poor choices, and hurting others in the process. The one thing that seems to be missing in everyone’s life is “love,” except for the forbidden love that arises between Jodi and Mr. Oswald.

When Jodi is shown a video of herself secretly taped by someone making love to Mr. Oswald, her world begins to unravel. She becomes shamed by her actions and conflicted in her new-found faith, knowing what she is doing is wrong, but unable to conquer her guilt or feel God’s forgiveness.

Mr. Oswald is a coward, and it’s his cowardice that destroys him—without God’s love, we will do cowardly things that ultimately hurt ourselves and others, shattering lives and dooming us to death.

The long-planned escape to Paris to live “happily ever after” never happens, and Jodi becomes a victim of everyone’s expectations for her, living in her own self-imposed solitary confinement.

But there is hope: She kills the charlatan who attempts to destroy her; she sees God’s beauty in the animals of the forest, in the trees and the flowers and the lake that bring her comfort and peace. And Charley is there, the always faithful friend and not her lover.  She asks herself, “Every day I wonder – what kind of man will sacrifice to help me please a God he doesn’t yet believe in?”

Jodi sees the berries in the forest, “still tiny and green.”  A dog attacks her that she fights off, and she discovers beneath his snarly teeth a scared creature, “whimpering and cowering.” She loves the unlovable, and cleans the trash from the meadow.  The reader is left with hope for Jodi, and to ponder what it all means.

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Ken Kuhlken earned BA and MA degrees in English at San Diego State University and an MFA degree in Fiction Writing at the University of Iowa. He is the author of novels, short stories, feature stories and book reviews. His stories have been honored with Pushcart Prize nominations, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature fellowship, as a finalist for PENs Ernest Hemingway Award for the best first published novel, as a finalist for the Shamus best novel award, and as the recipient of the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin’s Press Best First PI Novel Award. He has taught in the MFA program at the University of Arizona and in graduate and undergraduate programs at San Diego State University; California State University, Chico; University of San Diego; Christian Heritage College; and Azusa Pacific University. Ken teaches writing and literature at Perelandra College. Visit Ken at: www.kenkuhlken.net

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Frankenstein, A Psychological Christian Thriller, Book Review





When my professor asked me to read this book, my first thought was, “Why would I want to read Frankenstein? He is a monster and I don’t like those kinds of books.” But I downloaded it on my Kindle and began reading, expecting to be bored and thinking I probably would struggle to finish it.


Quite to the contrary, Frankenstein is a suspenseful, psychological thriller. As an author wanting to study and emulate the best classics ever written, I have attempted to highlight some of the strengths of Frankenstein and the techniques Mary Shelley used to draw the reader into the story, creating a book whose name 150 years later is still synonymous with the word “monster.”


Writing in the first person, Shelley’s words are descriptive and pregnant with feeling. The reader is immediately propelled into the story, wanting to learn who this eccentric protagonist is that’s planning a trip to the North Pole.


Shelley uses the technique of letters written by the protagonist, Walton, to his dear sister to set the stage and background. Later on the voyage, Walton meets up with Victor Frankenstein. The creator of the villain, Victor, pours out his tearful tale to Walton concerning the monster he created, where the reader is taken on a journey of emotions that vacillates between compassion and abhorrence.


What makes a good book is what the reader continues to ponder and reflect on afterwards. I began to personalize Victor Frankenstein – what monsters have I created in my own life? What wreck have I made of others’ lives? What will follow me all the days of my life? What enticements have I pursued against the advice of others because I was foolish? What consumes me that is beguiling and evil? How much control does the devil have over my heart that sends me down lonely paths of destruction and despair?

The theme of this book is haunting. There is never a word spoken of Christianity or the Bible or Scripture; yet so much of the content is based on the nature of man and his need for redemption—the concept of man’s depraved nature, but also his unquenchable thirst for love.


Even the antagonist is a victim, and the reader has pity and compassion on the monster despite his demonic nature. It’s a shame that the name “Frankenstein” is so associated with the grotesqueness of the creature and not as an incredible classic that anyone aspiring to be a great writer should enjoy. Too few books today delve into the psychological nature of man and the condition of the human heart in such a profound way. My hope is to embrace the challenge of writing with a Christian worldview without the reader being told they are reading such a book. To show rather than tell, as is the case with this story, is the penultimate example of great writing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011