I’m Going… On A Vacation!

Well, kind of.

I’ve had an interesting relationship with summer vacation for a ridiculously long time, but one thing has been true for the last several years: I never stick to my blogging schedule during the summer.

I mean, it’s not like I stick to my schedule anyway; my schedule says I post once a week on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday (but not usually Wednesday) and I still don’t manage to be super consistent with that. I’ve learned to loosen up a lot and just let it be what it is, and if I don’t post this week, so be it! I’m okay with that.

Anyway, as I sit here in my chair at 9pm trying to decide what to do this evening, I decided to go look at my blog set up, and hey look! I have no scheduled posts, no drafts, and no ideas.

And I’m okay with that.

As of right now, I’m offically giving myself the summer off. If I have something that really merits a blog post, I’ll make one up and schedule it for one of the days in my terribly ambiguous schedule. If not, I’m not going to worry about it.

In other words, see you in August!

But I’ll be on my social media accounts on my usual semi-daily basis and sending my newsletter every month, so I won’t be vanishing entirely. It’s just that I spend so much time outside during the summer and I’m trying to get out of the habit of 6am to 11pm work days, so I think removing this stresser for the summer months will be a huge benefit for my overall sanity. (People tell me it’s questionable at best.)

I plan to spend the summer reading, swimming, gardening, not dying while my family does a plethora of projects, star gazing and mosquito swatting, avoiding moose flies (ask me sometime about being used a moose fly bait when I was nine), writing, and hanging out with a popsicle. I had planned to hike a mountain in July until the weather got to a roasting 72 degrees Fahrenheit last week and I remembered why I like hiking in September: less bugs and less heat. So the hiking trip might be postponed. We’ll see.

See you in August if not before!

-Annie

Summer Reading {and why I need some lemonade}

As you may know, I read a lot of books. My Goodreads count so far for 2018 is thirty-two, which is lower than I’d expected, but it’s because I haven’t really read much in the last couple weeks even though I have three or four books I’m currently reading through.

In the last couple of days, I’ve identified the “reading block” I’ve been experiencing. It helped once I realized this is something that happens every year. You see, I read a lot of fantasy stories during the year. And every year for the last… six years or so, when the weather here turns hot, I stop being able to read fantasy.

Now, why this happens, I have no idea. But it happens. And to some extent it affects my ability to write fantasy.

So today I have a favor to ask:

Recommend your favorite contemporary, romance, chick lit, mystery, etc, and I’ll check it out. I might not read it–depending on how many I get and which ones I’m interested in–but I need some more contemporary lit!

Bonus points if it’s an Indie author. Because the Indie book club I’m in focuses on Indie Fantasy, I haven’t met many contemporary Indies.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need some lemonade to make up for forcing my head to read fantasy when it’s too hot to handle it.

~Annie

White-Washed Tombs {cleanliness in writing}

I have people who tell me I shouldn’t have any swearing in my books.
Well…

*whispers* I don’t always agree with that.

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty nervous to share this post with people. I hear it so often from so many different places:

  • Christian fiction shouldn’t have language. 
  • Christian fiction shouldn’t have violence or gore. 
  • Christian fiction shouldn’t have death.
  • Christian fiction shouldn’t have kissing or anything beyond that. 


And the ever baffling ultimatum:

  • Christian fiction should be clean. 

I’m never exactly sure what they mean by “clean” because life isn’t clean. I understand about keeping things appropriate for the age level and not being slimy and trashy even when you’re writing to young adults and adults. But some of these restrictions don’t make sense to me because it’s stuff I run into in the outside world, about once a week. Thank God for messy books like Katherine Paterson and The Bible, that helped prepare me for meeting messy human beings. (And helped me figure out myself, messy human being exhibit A.)

If you’re sitting saying that the Bible isn’t a messy book, I don’t know what parts you’ve been reading, because it sure isn’t pretty.
In Matthew when Jesus is chewing out the Pharisees? (Matthew Chapter 23, go look it up.)
He calls them “white washed tombs” and “brood of vipers”. Now look in the Old Testament at what the cleanliness laws are and consider what those terms actually mean to the elite of the Jewish people. If you actually think about it, he’s cussing them out pretty bad. We just don’t realize that because those words don’t really mean anything to us today. We don’t understand the severity of those terms.


The argument people throw at me most often is “Do it all for the glory of God.” You know, this section of 1st Corinthians 10:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.


Okay, that’s great! Thanks. Throw a Bible verse at the issue, because that always fixes it.

Here’s the thing:

I write stories. I don’t write for a Christian audience, and I have never claimed to. I don’t write for a secular audience. I write for readers. I write because I believe these are stories that need to be told. Occasionally I write because God says “oh ho ho, my dear, you’re not getting out of it that easily” and leaves Howler notes in my dreams until I get my rear end in my desk chair and write. (I wish I was kidding.)

My stories are populated with people. Some of them have had really horrible things happen to them, and that shapes their character, and sometimes who they are when we meet them at the beginning of the book isn’t pleasant.

I cannot demand they are squeaky church-approved clean.

I can’t! There it is. I cannot demand that the characters in my story be different than they are.

If I demand that my teenage character Theo {The Importance of Blood} doesn’t swear in the first half of his story, I miss out on the way we learn he’s healing. He’s angry, he’s scared, he’s hurting. He acts out and yells, cusses, breaks dishes, throws things, and generally makes a mess of everything.

But then he starts to feel safe.

He starts to feel loved.

He starts to feel wanted.

And when he starts to understand he doesn’t have to fight for his life anymore, he starts to heal.

That is shown in the way his behavior changes. In the way his character develops. He starts actively trying to work on his anger issues. He stops cussing. He stops breaking dishes. And he learns to apologize when he hurts someone. And by the end of the book we’ve found he’s a sensitive kid who had to grow up too fast, who grew a thick skin to keep himself safe. He’s trying so hard to be better than who he was, because he doesn’t like who he was.




I don’t throw swear words around carelessly because that eliminates the purpose of having them in there. The reason to have them in my story is to communicate that something is wrong. Someone is hurting, something bad is happening, THERE IS A PROBLEM HERE. One well placed swear word can be exactly what is needed. I work hard to make sure it’s in the right place. Sometimes I can replace it with ‘Theo swore’ but sometimes that’s a cheap cheat and it shows.
And no, I’m not trying to tell people to put swearing in their books. If it doesn’t have a place, don’t put it in. It’s as simple as that. I’m not writing this to tell other people what to do; I’m writing this to explain why I do things the way I do.


{One of the things I love about blogging is that it’s an interactive medium of sharing my thoughts. One of my new followers sent me a lovely email in response to this post, and hearing her point of view allowed me to find the piece I knew I was missing somewhere, and wrap this up so I’m happier with it. And if any of this is confusing, I’m sorry. My head doesn’t always arrange itself in such a way that it can make sense.}


I’ve spent a lot of time praying about this, thinking about this, and talking it out with a few people. That verse that people throw around, about glorifying God in all I do? I glorify him by doing the job He’s given me, to the best of my ability. Sometimes that means reading a bible passage in church, and sometimes that means cleaning out the septic field. Sometimes that means writing a story that is glowing with His love, and sometimes that means writing a story that’s still trying to find His love. Sometimes that means praying and talking with other Christians, and sometimes that means trudging through a foot of snow to check on a family in need. Sometimes that means taking flowers to an elderly neighbor and sometimes that means putting on my war boots and gloves to jump in and get my hands dirty.

What is the intent? I try really hard to make sure the bad stuff I show in my writing is met and matched by hope and light. There is truth in the bad things. But there is also truth in the good. My intent is not to shock people with foul language. My intent is to use that as a tool to further, deepen, and strengthen the story I’m telling. My goal is that the words I lay before people have been considered, weighed, measured, and found to be needed in their place. I don’t throw these things around casually, my dears. But I know from personal experience that the right book at the right time, dealing with hard things and showing things that aren’t pretty… that can make all the difference in the world. 

Some of the time I read Christian fiction and it leaves me feeling sick to my stomach. It’s so sappy and melodramatic and overly moralistic and oh-so-clean. It completely abolishes the fact that we live in a world where bad stuff happens every day. And then I read books like The Fault in Our Stars, which has some language and some sexual content, and it’s a breath of fresh air because these, these are kids like the ones I knew at high school. These are people I know. I’m not saying that it’s okay or that I agree with everything that is said and done; I’m saying that it’s real. 

The best is when I find books that give me that “I know this character, they’re a person like I could meet on the street” that are written from a point of view that shares the good and the hope as well as the bad and the hurt. Stories that are written to strengthen, challenge, and reassure those who read it. They don’t shy away from the messy parts, but use them as necessary, as a tool to tell the story. 

One of my romance stories doesn’t have any language, any sexual content beyond the couple kissing when they get engaged. It doesn’t need it. It would be horribly inappropriate to include it, not to mention disrespectful to the characters, the story, myself, and my readers. I have a lot of stories like that, actually. But that doesn’t mean the other stories aren’t there too, and it doesn’t mean they don’t need to be written. How can we ever hope to reach the hurting if we act like they don’t exist?

See, life is messy. And I write about that. But life is also really cool, and sometimes we meet other humans and we just *click* and that’s it, we’re family now. And life has rainstorms and thunder and apple blossoms and waterfalls and autumn leaves and holding hands while you walk to the post office. And life has snow storms and crocuses and sunlight pushing through a cloudy day. And life has mud puddles and blood and death and dark, dark earth that sticks to your shoes because it’s so moist and rich. It’s a huge, tangled up, complicated mess of so many things, and I don’t know how to pick and choose which things I talk about.

So yes, sometimes my stories are messy.

-Annie

Copyright 2018 by Annie Louise Twitchell

The Hobbit {my favorite book}

You’d be surprised how many times I get asked what my favorite book is. It’s on blog tour signups, it’s quizzes in my online groups, it’s just random questions. I usually have a hard time picking a favorite, but not with books. There’s always one I can give as an answer: 
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 

The first time I walked into a hole in the ground, I was five. Maybe six. My dad read it aloud to me and my four brothers, and I was hooked for life. 
See, I was a fearful little girl. I wanted to be brave and important and save the world, but I got scared by the shadows in my closet and bright lights and by people talking too loudly around me. 
I learned about being wild from the boys I grew up with. They challenged me to jump off cliffs (literally), to climb trees (I am terrible at it), to run all out and not be scared of tripping and falling (I still have scars on my knees). They encouraged me to take a couple steps and throw myself out, trusting to the water to catch me and cradle me. 
But there were some things they couldn’t do. 
They couldn’t teach me not to be afraid of the darkness. 
They couldn’t teach me about the dragons I would have to face. 
We were only little kids, after all. They didn’t know about those things either.

Later – much later – I learned far too much more about fear. I learned about the monsters that lurked, not under my bed or in my closet, but inside my mind. I learned about grief. I learned about being ripped apart. I learned about being wrong. I learned about being hurt. I learned about death.

I learned all that and more, and I almost lost myself in the middle of it.

By that point, The Hobbit movies were being filmed and everyone in my family was buzzing with excitement. I got out my book from the bottom of the stack on my bedside table – even during the time when I didn’t read it every six months, it never quite made it to the shelves – and I read it again.

I found myself inside the pages. I was Thorin. brave and loyal and proud. Too proud. I was Smaug, my own monster. I was Smeagol, clutching to things I couldn’t keep. Most importantly, I was Bilbo, small and afraid and unimportant.

But I learned something, and the movies helped me see it clearer.

I learned that even the small, seemingly unimportant ones are needed. I learned that sometimes what the world needs is a little more home. Sometimes it needs another pocket handkerchief.

The beauty of The Hobbit is that Bilbo doesn’t try to be Thorin or Gandalf or Beorn. Bilbo is simply himself, and that is enough. He becomes, over the course of the story, a better version of himself… but he is still himself. He is a hobbit. He likes his books and his armchair and clean handkerchiefs. Tea is at four.

Image: Pinterest

I learned more about being from reading or listening to The Hobbit approximately 200 times in the last fifteen years than I ever learned in church or listening to sermons or preachers. I learned more about life, my own and life in general, from this little book than I have from almost anywhere else. I sometimes think this book saved my life. I don’t really know, but I do know that it has shaped me in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible.

I love C. S. Lewis’s quote on stories for children because it sums up my relationship with The Hobbit so well:

Image: Pinterest

So if you ask me what my favorite book is, I might tell you the title of one I just finished… I might protest at having to pick favorites and how difficult the entire concept is… I might rattle off a list that’s three miles long… or I might tell you The Hobbit.

-Annie

Hey friend! I’m so glad you stopped in. Leave a comment below, I’d love to know what book has influenced you the most! If you’d like, you can follow my blog by email, or sign up for my newsletter, or both! I’d love to have you. 



Copyright 2018 by Annie Louise Twitchell

It’s Okay {my afternoon}

I’m in several young writer’s groups now, and I end up on the older end of the age range in most of them. I tend to mildly ‘big sister’ them, especially during a writing event month. I post reminders and encouragements and offer virtual hugs as needed. It’s something I’m pretty good at, and it’s useful for some of the members.

This week has been challenging for me, personally. It’s been hard and I’ve felt so worn out and tired. I had a panic attack (full blown panic attack, it was pretty bad) this morning when I realized I hadn’t written at all yesterday, and only a couple sentences the day before. I’m not doing any yearly writing challenges this year and I’ve actually met my January goals about a week ago, so I couldn’t figure out why I was panicking about it, but once my buddy got me calmed down and I was okay, I was able to sit down and do some journaling. That satisfied whatever it was that had prompted the panic attack. 
This evening, I was just feeling really discouraged and down. So I squished my anxiety about saying anything and asked in one of my writing groups for some encouraging quotes, memes, whatever. 
The response was pretty overwhelming and I was actually finally able to cry, which I hadn’t managed yet. After I had a good cry I felt so much better. I felt refreshed and clear-headed, I could think properly, my body was relaxed and didn’t feel like it was falling apart on me. 
It just really reminded me that no one here is an island and that it’s totally okay to need help and to ask for help. I often have this whisper in the back of my mind that says you don’t need to bother anyone with that and sometimes, I let it decide things for me. But tonight I didn’t, and I’m so very thankful that I didn’t. 
I feel ready for my day tomorrow and I’m looking forward to the handful of projects I have lined up. 
-Annie 
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