When I first began participating in Nanowrimo, I was what they call a pantser. I went in to the month with an idea of a story and an idea of how it should end. And I wrote by the seat of my pants. After doing this for several years, I now am more of a combination pantser and planner, or what they refer to as a plantser. I have a rough outline with various scenes I've pictured in my head and I refer back to it as needed, but much of my writing is still whatever comes out when I set down at the computer.
This year, I honestly wasn't sure how things were going to go. Sure, I've done this enough to know it's doable, but this year adding in a job two days a week and having kids who have decided they don't always need as much nap as in the past (some days my five-year-old decides she needs NONE), it definitely cuts into my writing time. After over a week of doing this, though, it's going well. The words are flowing easily. The story seems to be coming together in a way that makes sense, always a plus. And I'm growing to love these characters. So far, this year, I am averaging around 2600 words/day.
For those curious about what I'm writing, here's a sneak peek of the ROUGH draft of the beginning of my story. (Also, for the record, I'm usually the kind of girl who doesn't do anything Christmas until after Thanksgiving, so writing a story set in the Christmas season, titled My Mama Dated Santa, is new territory for me, and messing me up in all sorts of ways. I've been singing Christmas songs already!)
It was hard to make a Christmas tree look gaudy, what with all the folderol that normally adorned the branches of the holiday emblem. And yet, the one in the middle of Russos’ Toy Emporium stopped Trudy McNamara in her tracks. The artificial pine was the type where each branch went on a different slot and from the odd angles of several, it was obvious not all were in the correct spot. Three different kinds of lights wound in and out of the greenery—two-thirds of which flashed on and off, but at conflicting rhythms.
Tinsel, right up there with glitter, Easter grass, and confetti in her opinion—in other words, the lowest of the low—dripped in clumps from various branches. Old Styrofoam balls whose silk thread had frayed and left gaps in the color covering the orbs, dangled from all the limbs that didn’t already hold a plastic snowflake, and quite a few of those were missing points.
At the top, slightly leaning to the right, an old star, four of its five edges still covered in silvery-blue garland, stood with as much state as possible. Several of the lights in the center of the topper had been replaced with bulbs not quite the same as the originals. One didn’t shine at all. And from somewhere in the monstrosity, a tinny tune played, adding to the general cacophony of the toy store and conflicting with the “Jingle Bells” blaring from the speakers overhead.
None of this bothered Santa. He sat in a green winged back chair to the left of the tree, chuckling as he handed a squalling baby back to her mother. This was what everyone in town had told her sister was a must-do? This was the best Waco, Texas could offer?
“Aunt Tootie, aren’t we going to go see Santa?” Mark tugged Trudy’s hand, pulling her from her shocked stupor.
“Of course, Mark. Sorry.” Before Trudy could take a step, the door bumped her from behind as other customers tried to come through. She hadn’t realized she’d stopped so suddenly upon entering.
Any other day, she would have been able to keep her equilibrium and a nudge at her back wouldn’t have been a problem. Today, she was holding the hand of her four-year-old nephew and wearing new boots. On this slick linoleum floor, it turned out a rotten combination. Her widened step to keep from falling on Mark aimed her shoulder directly for the arm of a man coming from the other direction, his focus completely on the clipboard in his hands.
“I’m so sorry.” Trudy quickly straightened once more and stepped back, untangling her scarf from the pen that had been in the man’s hand. “I seem to have caused a bit of a traffic hold-up.”
“More like traffic accident.” Her jerked the pen from her fingers, pushed his glasses straight on his nose, and marched off without another word.
You all know I love bringing you authors new to you in various genres. Today, I'm excited to introduce you to a woman with a sweet heart for God who I met way back when she was in Pied Pipers (a children's improv group our college used to have) with my now-husband. Since we parted ways, she's married, been teaching in Oklahoma, and has three boys. Her first book was just published, a book called Abide, all about helping you find more ways to abide in Jesus. It's excellent. I've read it twice. Without further ado, let me let her tell you more about herself and the book.
Tara, have you always wanted to be an author or is this something that developed over the years through other pursuits?
I have wanted to be an author since I was very little. My first "book" was about Micky Mouse at age three. I drew the pictures and told my Mom what words to write. I think she still has that book! My second book was called "Little Koala Learns a Lesson" for an 8th-grade project, and there have been others since then, but none that made it to publication. When I was 19, I read a short story in Lori Wick's book Over the Picket Fence. In that story, a children's author hangs the covers of her books on the walls of her office. Ever since then that has been an unspoken dream of mine, and this year, 20 years later, it became a reality with the publication of Abide: 40 Ways to Focus on Jesus Daily!
That's so great! Can you tell us a little bit about how this new book of yours came to be? Where did the idea come from? Was it hard to come up with forty different ideas?
This book was unexpected. I actually began another book called Choose Freedom based on Galatians and began to teach it in our Wednesday night Ladies Bible class at church. The class went well and during one of the classes, we talked about John 15 and what it means to abide in Jesus. I asked the women in the class that night what they did to abide in Jesus and wrote their answers in the margins of my notes. Many of their ideas are in this book! I tried them over the last 3 years and added to those original ideas.
Even then, Abide still wasn't going to be a book. I did a few email challenges with it and received good feedback from those readers. Later, I read a few books like 31 Prayers for my Husband and Hope for the Weary Mom Devotional, and then I realized that Abide could be a stand alone book.
I actually have over 40 ideas! There is still a short 5 Day Email Challenge available on my website to give readers a taste of the book, and there are other ideas that didn't fit with the book's final format. They will be used in other projects later. The number 40 came about because it has special meaning in the Bible: raining for 40 days and 40 nights, 40 years in the wilderness, Jesus fasting for 40 days. It just seemed a good fit.
The funny thing is Choose Freedom never made it past the teaching stage. God clearly told me I needed to do a project I could involve my kids in, thus the kid ideas in the back of Abide, so Choose Freedom was tabled. Also, it still feels like I'm living out and learning a few more chapters that need to be in that book. I'm not sure how long God will continue to teach me those lessons, so we'll see when and if it ever comes out.
I love all of that. I know you're a teacher and a mom, as well. Do you find it hard to balance everything and follow the advice you give others in your book?
Yes! Balance is always a struggle for me. Abide was actually written during the 15 minutes before I walk into school after dropping my kids off at their schools. The final book prep and launch took a lot of extra time, so I'm in a rest period now as I wait to see what's next. I feel compelled to write, but God is constantly reminding me that the most important activities I ever do will be right in my home with my boys. It's okay to take years to put out a book. My readers have other authors, but my sons only have one mama.
Following the advice I give in Abide is honestly what keeps me moving. Yes, sometimes I do forget, but I came to the ideas and tried them because I was desperate to connect to Jesus, even during my crazy busy life. I know I can't do life without Jesus and spending time with him in the ways I share in Abide helps me to grow in my relationship with God no matter what. That is why this message is so important to me. So often we think time with Jesus is just at church three times a week or quiet time in the morning when really Jesus desires to be an intricate part of our lives. Abide isn't meant to give you a list of more to-dos, but to help you connect with Jesus and breath his life in and through your days. I'm a busy mama with three sons, a day job, and a hubby who works crazy hours. If it can work for me, it can work for anyone.
That is also why the chapters are super short. I know women don't have time to read long chapters, so they all take 5-10 minutes and even doing most of the activities takes little more time than that. Many can be done while you're doing something else. Win-win!
I can definitely relate to that. I'm also trying to find a balance between being an author and being a mommy. And I definitely concur that your chapters are perfect for busy people to find inspiration. Can you tell us one of your favorite ways to abide in Jesus?
If you could only pick one of the 40. My go-to is music. When I'm stressed, instrumental music. When the kids are arguing in the car, loud music. When I'm by myself in the car, inspirational music. When I go to church, A Cappella music. I love how Christian music plays a soundtrack throughout my days even when I'm not actively listening. Songs have the power to speak anytime and anywhere. They speak into circumstances when words fail. Maybe that is why the book of Psalms is the longest one in the Bible.
Great point. I love music, too. Moving to something else, who have been some of the biggest influences in your life to bring you to this point?
In my Christian walk, it has been my Mom. She is the one who originally lived out the truths in Abide. She took Deut. 6:6-9 literally when I was growing up, and that is the heart of Abide, to surround ourselves with Jesus. Also, other Christian author's like Sally Clarkson and Stacey Thacker. I have loved Stacey's writing since I read Hope For the Weary Mom 7 years ago. She even started coaching writers about a year ago and was my writing coach who saw Abide through to the end. I am so thankful for her direction and help to know what next steps to take.
You've mentioned that book several times now. I'm thinking it may go on my to-read pile. And now, one silly question to end with: can you tell us one thing about yourself that very few people know?
That's a hard one! Few people know how much I really love actual letters in the mail. I send a lot of them, but I also cherish them myself. So much that I have almost every letter or note I've been sent since I was a teenager, and I still go the mailbox every day hoping for mail. I know email is the thing right now, but nothing can beat a old fashioned letter or card!
Mail is the best! Thanks so much for stopping by today, Tara!
If you're intrigued by Tara and her new book, keep reading to find out more about both.
Do you feel overwhelmed by the chaos of life?We all know spending time with Jesus is important if we want to grow in our relationship with Him. We hear about quiet time, but how do we actually find the time to focus on Jesus in the middle of our never ending to-do list? There is hope!
In Abide: 40 Ways to Focus on Jesus Daily, Tara Cole helps you:
•Discover 40 quick, practical ideas to begin now
•Develop strategies to spend time with Jesus throughout your busy day
•Find peace in pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus
Join Tara as you abide in Jesus through his word, prayer, worship, community, and service. Begin to weave these ways into the fabric of your life instead of fearing you’re not doing enough. Begin to focus your eyes on Jesus and look up.
Find out more here.
Tara Cole is a wife and mother to three active boys. Her passion is helping moms and their kids deepen their relationships with God. Her works include Abide: 40 Ways to Focus on Jesus Daily and Sacred Pathways for Kids with Christie Thomas.
Follow Tara on facebook, instagram, or check out her website here.
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)