Archive for November 2015

Pardon my absence, I've been busy working...


And by working, I mean, writing. And by writing, I mean working on my actual book.

Back in high school I wrote a 321 page manuscript (roughly, 95k words). It's a young adult fantasy currently going by the title Runenaeth's Falling. That manuscript was banished from my thoughts a while back when I got mad at the publishing industry and called it quits as a writer. However, with my recently renewed sense of purpose and a desire to write I've decided to give that story an overhaul and again work toward seeing it published. So, if for extended periods of time I disappear from creating brilliant and witty blog posts that manuscript's my excuse for absensce.

Last week I stuck with my goal of 7 hours/week of writing time; I hit just over 7.5 hours. This week I've done less blogging and a lot more of just knitty gritty nitpicking at my drafted novel. I did previously have the manuscript read over by a professional editor (thanks to my supportive parents), but besides the actual grammatical and spelling errors which have already been brought to my attention, I want to give the whole thing a makeover.

Here's my current plan (someone see that I stick to it, please):

  1. Reread my entire manuscript through, like I would a book written by another author, trying to judge it objectively. (As I am reading through I am taking notes and jotting down potential ideas and edits, but for the most part I am trying to read it with the eyes of a young adult reader)
  2. Actually make change & polish it up to its very prettiest
  3. Publish (right now looking into self publication methods as a starting point)
Overall, I know I love writing fantasy and the bones of my story are good. (Some point soon I will get a synopsis posted for you, to hopefully peak your interest and get some feedback as well!). However, I know it could also be better. I want to write with excellence and craft my stories with the pride and precision of a skilled artisan.

Major concerns with my book currently include:
  1. Passive voice over active. I made the mistake of greatly overusing a passive voice, rather than one of action (Example:"She began to think" or "He was starting to" versus "She thought" and "He started"). Not only does passivity unnecessarily bulk up my word count, it also sort of drags the story along at a slow pace. I want to rewrite all those points in the story to accelerate the overall flow and drive the story with more force.
  2. Too much internal dialogue. The story is written in the third person omniscient form of narrative, meaning the reader has insight into the character's -mainly the protagonist's- thoughts and emotions that the other characters do not. You, the reader, are all knowing, while the characters, like us in real life, cannot see into anyone else's minds. Nothing's wrong with that form of narrative and I will still be using it, but I want to lessen my use of literal written out thought processes going on in my main characters head. I sloppily overused "she thought to herself" type moments to reveal the plot; I would rather the plot be shown as it unfolds in a natural way, not told. Reader's are smart. If it's well written, they will figure out what I want them to see without being told to pay attention.
  3. General laziness in description. I don't want to just tell a reader something about a place or character and then just move right along. I want to make a reader feel and see and known things, like they are there experiencing them. Again, showing, not telling.
  4. Arbitrary and unnecessary fantasy. I write fantasy, therefore it's fantastical. I don't have to play by the rules of the real world, and that is fun. However, it can also be a crutch. I have a couple instances where major problems are "magically" solved because, hey, it's a fantasy book and I make the rules (Not from my book, but a hyperbolic example would be something like "Oh darn, here is a locked door and we need to get in now! Wow just so happens I have a mystical key which can transform itself into the shape of any lock in my pocket, and I failed to mention it up until now"). Sure, it can be fantastical, but it needs to make some sense within the story line or I will lose all credibility. Can't just be pulling my "fantasy card" left and right if I want my story to be taken seriously.
  5. Any cliche. Fantasy is a genre that has been done and overdone, but fortunately it can always be made fresh. While I am adhering to a rather "typical" good versus evil type plot with a female heroine of the "chosen one" type persona, I want my story to be new and still unpredictable.
So there we are, please excuse my tardiness from blogging. Just didn't want anyone to think I was slacking off already due to my lack of posts, and I also wanted to get my goals written out nice and concisely for the benefit of us all, in hopes that I will better stick to achieving them. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I'm on to Part Two, Chapter Seven. Word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page, chapter by chapter, meticulously manicure my story from a draft into something I will feel proud to call my art. Slow and steady, folks. Now, back to work...

Christmas "Brew"haha: The Red Cup Controversy


If you've watched the news, logged onto any social media, or left your house at all this month, chances are you've heard all about the supposed "War on Christmas" which is being attributed to the new winter-time cup designs at Starbucks. In years prior the cheery red cardboard caffeine receptacles have been adorned with snowflakes, trees, ornaments and woodland critters in the spirit of Christmas. But this year they are just red, and apparently that is enough to start a war.

Hashtags such as #waronchristmas and #merrychristmasstarbucks have been exploding over all forms of social media as passionately offended people are loudly proclaiming that Starbucks hates Christmas and all that it stands for. People are boycotting, protesting, and going on viral hastagging sprees. Starbucks is now worse than the Grinch who stole Christmas and those cups are basically what only Satan himself would drink coffee out of. Voices all over the internet and media are insisting that you too, as a good American-especially as a good Christian one- should be equally offended. Other people are retaliating on the matter with similar fervor: #areyouserious and #itsonlyacup are on the other side of the red cup spectrum. It's been on the news; it's gotten so out of hand that even Presidential candidates are weighing in on the matter (maybe it's just me, but I would much rather hear where candidates stand on important matters other than Christmas time coffee). Everyone has a stance.

OVER A CUP. Something that you pay $4 for. Paper filled with a cocktail of chemicals and caffeine, that once you're through with your java kick, you throw in a trash can and forget about until you repeat the process again tomorrow. Not something lasting. Not something that matters. Just a vehicle to get liquid energy into your system. Meanwhile, there are real problems in the world, real injustices going on, and people who are really suffering far more than anyone of us sipping out of a red cup.

Somehow we've let the media convince us that snowflakes missing from a cup means that we have to go to war. Christians, in particular, are supposedly the most offended. Angry videos preaching the evils of red cup establishment are claiming that Starbucks aims to take Christ out of your coffee and cancel Christmas based on what they put on their cups. However, was Jesus ever really a part their coffee- or any coffee- anyway? No. Starbucks is a business and their goal is to make money, plain and simple  (I lived in Washington. I drove by the Seattle hub frequently. I can assure you, HQ was a business, not a church). Never in their mission statement did they claim to be furthering the gospel. So nothing really changed there. Also, yes maybe they took Christmas trees of their cups (more than likely as a financial strategy than a religious statement), but they still play Christmas music, make Christmas blend, and sell items/gift cards clearly reading "Merry Christmas." So there goes that theory, Angry Youtube "Christian" Activists.

my snark husband's solution to the controversy
Fact is, there is no "War on Christmas" coming down from Starbucks HQ aiming to destroy all that Christmas stands for, one red cup at a time. Just a cup, with no inherent beliefs or disbeliefs, no amount of political correctness or incorrectness, no measure of good or evil. Just paper cups. The Red Cup Controversy is just another means of distracting us from that which really does matter; countless daily injustices and problems around the world are going unnoticed because we are all fighting over a cup design.

And Christians, let me challenge you with this: if Christmas is about peace on earth, good news to all people, and the radically world-changing love of God come to earth (which I believe it is), then how is making virtual picket signs by way of catchy hashtags helping spread that message? Or how is buying a t-shirt that says Keep Christ in Christmas and going into all your local Starbucks and raving like a lunatic, behaving like a jerk, preaching Christmas at all? Does a tree on your disposable cup really speak more powerfully about Christmas than your own behavior could? Are your beliefs so weak that you need a festive coffee in your cold hand to show the world you believe in Christmas as what the name implies- the festival of Christ? If they put the reindeer back on their cups tomorrow would that good news in anyway actually further the Good News? As this brilliant article puts it, Jesus probably doesn't so much care if we, or our cups, say "Merry Christmas." I'm pretty sure He is more concerned that as Christians- "Christ followers"- we behave like Him. And I'm no theologian but I don't remember Jesus saying "They will know you are Christians by your coffee cups..."- pretty sure He did mention something about LOVE, though...

 However, if you are really all that worried about the cups and their general lack of Christmasyness, then I have a problem-solving, situation-redeeming, Kingdom-furthering solution for you.

Just stop buying the coffee. Just stop paying for those little red cups.

Wait woooaah. Give up my 'Bucks? But what about my white peppermint mocha? My eggnog latte? My salted carmel hot chocolate?  

If you are truly that upset about lack of representation of Christmas on your cup, then stop buying that cup. Because actions speak louder than hashtags (feel free to quote me on that: #actionsspeaklouderthanhashtags...). Maybe go buy yourself a nice mug with a nativity scene on it, get yourself some fair trade coffee, and make yourself a nice Christmas brew in the comfort of your own home, if that makes you feel better. It's environmentally friendly, coffee farmers will get fair pay, and you will save some bucks by skipping your daily $5 'Bucks.

Or, better yet, take it a step further. Let your life speak louder than a message on a cup. Shut up and put your money where your mouth is, if you will. Take whatever money you would normally spend on mochas and lattes and put it towards something that matters. A few suggestions for you:
  • Give something, be it food, warm clothing, toys or just your time, to a local shelter. No matter how much you have or don't have, plenty of people have less than you. 

  • Sponsor a child. Change a life. Impact the world one kid at a time.

  • Purchase something that could feed a family- like a goat or heifer, or provide an income - like a sewing machine- for those who need it. (This year I would like my family to do this for me, rather than buying me presents)

  • Sponsor a family in need in your community. Or just be nice. Bring that new mom a casserole. Shovel your elderly neighbor's driveway. Invite the new family in town to your holiday festivities. Buy some gifts for the kids of the single mom next store.

  • Maybe you don't feel led to adopted or foster a child (that's another rant), but perhaps donate to a foster family or family trying to adopt in your community.

  • Animal lover? Call a shelter and see what they need for donations! Buy some kitty food, dog toys, or maybe volunteer to snuggle lonely critters.

  • Send a care package to a military service member who is, for your benefit, spending Christmas away from their loved ones. Show some gratitude for the sacrifices they are making for your freedom buy sending some Christmas cards

  • Volunteer at elderly housing facilities in your area; do crafts, bake, sing carols, play games. Make those precious people feel valued, loved and remembered this season.

  • Bake cookies. This is a really simple and practical thing I personally did last year. Every week from Thanksgiving up through New Years I made a few batches of cookies, bagged them up in cute packaging, attached an encouraging card, and handed them out to people. I left cookies in our mailbox for the mail carrier. I brought cookies to my gym. I sent cookies to people who had family in the hospital over the holiday. I brought cookies to work. I left cookies for our new neighbor. By January 1st I had given out nearly 300 Christmas cookies. Simple and delicious love.

Instead of protesting, ranting, making fools of ourselves and shaming Christ this Christmas, let's do stuff that matters. Let's stop letting the media distract us from the Truth with trivial nonsense, and let's take action on real problems, real pains and real injustices. Let's love big and spread peace on earth by showing goodwill to all men. Let's not just say "Christmas" but live it- in December and year round.

The Artist in all of us

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This past weekend I received a profound, yet simple, revelation.

I have the ability to join words in a way that they have never been strung together in all of history. I have the power to couple and link phrases that they have never before been paired, ever since the very first words were written. I have to opportunity to not only invent sentences, but paragraphs, stories and entire books, that have never before been created.  And not only that, but if I do not piece together these words, then no one else will. If I don't write my stories then they will go unwritten.

The weightiness of being a wordsmith hit me hard with this realization. I have words in me that no one else does. I've been given imaginings that no one else has. I've been entrusted with stories that if I don't tell them, then they will forever go untold. 

Prior to now, it seemed inconsequential if I just wrote for myself and stashed my stories away. But now I see that all stories- MY STORIES- have value and they must be told. I am not just a writer in the sense that I put words on paper; I am a creator, an inventor, a shaper of words and crafter of tales.

Writing is more than just a way that humanity communicates and documents for longevity. Writing is art. I am not only a typist or pen-wielder, but an artist who paints with words. Paper is my canvas and words are the colors I choose to paint my scenes. No one else can paint the same painting I can with my pen.

The same high value can be placed on any artist gifting. What do you do? What art do you make? As I ponder this topic, I can't help but recollect the childhood masterpiece by Dr. Suess, Oh the Things You Can Think. What wild imaginings can only you make reality? What is in your heart and mind that is distinctly yours, but begs to be shared? You can paint something that has never been put to canvas ever before. You can cook something with an aroma that has never before wafted from a pan, with a sensation that has never before danced on taste buds. You can photograph something or someone that has never been documented by camera in just that way prior to the click of your shutter. You can design something that no designer before has ever thought up. You can join notes together in a melody that has never before been heard by anyone's ears. You can imagine beyond all other prior imaginings.

Everyone is creative. It is part of being human. What is it that you and only you can create? I believe each of us was created- hand-crafted- by a limitlessly creative Creator and that we each, in some way, bear a piece of His creativity personality. We were creatively created to create; designed to wonder and imagine unique and beautiful things. Maybe you don't do "art" or "crafts," and perhaps think you aren't creative because you failed elementary school art class. Maybe it would pain you to identify yourself as "artsy," but that doesn't mean you are without ability to be creative. But what if you have a thought in your mind that no one else does?  Something to be build that hasn't yet been thought to be erected? A way to fix that which was previously thought unfixable? What if you see a solution that no one else has seen? A cure that no one else can find.

I am a word-wielding, phrase-shaping, story-telling artist and what I write is valuable because only I have and ever will write it. I'm still trying to let that sink in. What are you an "artist" of and what has stopped you from creating that which you were created to create? Whatever it may be, know that your creative potential is boundless and we, the world, are waiting for you to get started. 

About Isabella Kiss

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Isabella Kiss: a creatively created 20-something with an ardent passion for life and a surplus of imagination.

Follower of Christ. Wife to her Lover. Diner waitress. Creator of crocheted cuteness. Ever-improving chef & baker. Nutrition pursuer & fitness finder. Crafter & creator. Singer & ivory-tickler. Sister to adopted multitudes. Crazy cat lady. All-around pursuer of that which would be labeled "domesticated," though she is no tame lion,. Haver of many hobbies and wearer of many (handmade) hats.

But most of all, she is a WRITER, Gifted and commissioned by her King to write. Currently pursuing a career as an author of fantastical tales, and changing the world one stroke of her pen at a time.

First Day on the Job:


Over the weekend I attended a Writer's Conference and I must say the results have been life-altering. Not only was I inspired and educated (I took 60+ pages of hand written notes!), provoked and commissioned, stretched and uplifted, challenged and changed, but I received a new job while I was there.

I am pleased to announce that I, Isabella Kiss, am a Writer. Allow me to explain...

No, I haven't quit my waitressing job. No, a major publisher didn't knock on my front door and offer me big bucks to write a best seller. Really, nothing has changed. Except for everything, that is.

Prior to the conference I was still hemming and hawing about writing. In truth, it was little more than a hobby, of which I have many. About a month prior (unknowing that this upcoming conference would be 10 minutes from my house very soon), I decided to take writing more seriously. I determined that, yes, I did still desire to pursue writing; I did still want to be a writer. I wasn't sure where that would take me- what I would write, to whom I would write, or how- but I at least had regained some motivation. When I learned of the upcoming conference, I registered with a hope and a prayer that maybe something big would be sparked in me.

But writing was still one of those "if I have time" activities, though I knew as well as any of us that "if it fits in my schedule" is a laughable concept, because without serious effort what ever really does just fit? Did you know that when surveyed, something like 81% of Americans say that there is a desire in them to write at least one book? But out of that percentage, only about 1% actually do.

Oh good, I thought, I'm one step ahead of the game. I wrote a book. Not published, but at least written. I have a manuscript of around 350 pages which I wrote, rewrote, had edited, rewrote again, then got mad at and locked in a filing cabinet. I wanted to be published. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to send out queries and immediately have every publishing house in NYC calling my house desperately wanting to make my work the next best thing. When that didn't quickly become a reality, the all-or-nothing part of my personality decided if I couldn't, with ease, make it big overnight then I would never write at all. Fact is, I let discouragement beat me. I gave up that manuscript's ghost and quit altogether.

Now, another  rough statistic for you: around 8 million unfinished manuscripts are hiding on hard drives and in filing cabinets, unpublished, unread, and mine is one of them.

I cannot begin to sum up all that I learned in the last few days regarding my craft, but something that really stuck with me was this: I have to stop treating writing like it my hobby that may someday be my job, and start treating it like my actual job. Yes, I am still a waitress, with several creative side-businesses. Those are my income. But writing? Writing is my career and it must be prioritized accordingly.

Maybe I won't make big money. Maybe, for the time being, I won't make any. Maybe a massive publishing house won't publishing my first novel and selling millions. Maybe Isabella Kiss will be a name known in my local library and not all over the world (yet). Maybe I must start small. Maybe I will have to self-publish, self-market, and self-make. But one way or another, I have to do whatever I must in order to get that manuscript, and any to follow, into print and into the hands and minds of my audience. I am not giving up on hopes of greatness and broad scope (because I do strongly believe that I have favor by the power of prayer), but for now I am working on learning to embrace the smallness that I must start with and work with what I have in this moment. Maybe someday I will be a household name with a book on every family's shelves and two on their kindles, but for now I have one manuscript and I have to do something about getting it out there. The next step to accomplish that goal is to schedule nonnegotiable time, such as that with a job, and all I may do in that block of time is write (or do something productive to my writing).

So here is my new job: 5 days a week I have to write. (If I write more, excellent. But I cannot write less). On my days off  from my "other" job (Monday & Thursday) I intend to write for at least two hours. Remaining days, 1 hour. That gives me at least 7 hours a week. It doesn't matter where I do it, be it my desk, upright in my bed with cat companions on my lap (which would be my current & preferred whereabouts) or elsewhere, and the medium- be it pen and ink, or with my fingers upon my laptop keys- doesn't matter, as long as words are coming out.

Acceptable writing activities include blogging, enhancing my blog/platform/readership, drafting and note-taking, furthering my writing skills, researching publication methods and taking steps towards that goal, working on new pieces (be they big or small), and most importantly, pulling my manuscript out of hiding, polishing it up and readying it to make its debut to whomever may read it. Unacceptable activities include usage of my phone in any way, talking to anyone other than myself, petting cats, watching netflix, or distracting myself with other forms of productive, but non-writing related busy-ness (for me this is most often my other two favor hobbies: crocheting or cooking). Also, all other offers that may come must be responded to with "I'm sorry I can't that day/time; I'm working."

As of today, I am a writer and I intend to take that job seriously. No longer am I treating it as optional or negotiable. I was created by my Creator to create with words. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a manuscript I must see to.