Tag Archives: The Field

Switching Gears

It’s July 1st.  Can you believe it? Yeah, neither can I.

The Field Giveaway Sweepstakes ended yesterday and we have a winner: Alyssa Helfrich.  Congratulations, Alyssa, and happy reading!

In the days and months since publishing The Field, I’ve been dealing with a lot of different life stuff.

I’ve shared on here about how over fifteen months ago I effectively walked away from what I had been preparing myself for in the four years leading up to that point.  I felt like God was calling me to something different, although I had no idea what that was.  So I walked away from my plans into His.

Well, last night, on my way home from work, I’m whining to God because I walked away from my plans over fifteen months ago, and I have nothing to show for it.  And I hear this whisper, Excuse Me? You’re an hour and a half away from a giveaway for a book you wrote! Nothing to show for it? And I was sorry at that point, because God is right. There is no way, had I continued in the path I had prepared for, that I would have finished my book.  I am the writer who has prioritized every other thing above her writing.  Instead of giving me what I’d been begging for, God gave me independence and a flexible schedule.

Why?  Because for this season, writing is my something better.  This is what God has given me to do.  And while I have my moments wishing I had a career or a romantic relationship,  I really, truly love what God has me doing right now.

Writing being what God has called me to, my writing is opposed.  I don’t mean the message of my writing is opposed (it may well be, but I haven’t had any haters yet, so…); I mean the act of prioritizing writing and sitting down to write is opposed.  For me, it is always tempting to put it off and do something else instead.  Most of all will probably not believe me, but the week I wrote the climax of The Field was one of the most stressful weeks of my life: I was anxious about money, anxious about getting another job, my carpal tunnel was flaring up and my neck was so stiff I couldn’t move my head. I don’t think it had anything to do with what I was writing (although, I do love the climax of The Field), I think it was just the fact that I was writing. The reality is that when I’m writing, I’m living fully, and I have an enemy who loves to see me scrape along.

Forget him! I’m only interested in finding joy in what God has given me to do.

That being said, I’m enjoying exploring the themes of The Field here on my blog, and sincerely hope what you read here compels you to buy a copy soon! While I’ll continue facilitating discussions on those themes, it’s time to switch gears.

This month I began work on what will be my next book (maybe novel)! The big title unveiling will be on August 1, 2014, but I’m dedicating the month of July to writing about the themes in this new project.  In fact, most of my social media postings (including Pinterest!) will be geared towards the new project.  On one hand, I’m excited about this project, on the other, it involves a lot of things I’m a little scared to talk about (even in a completely fiction setting).

So bring on July!

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Christian Fiction: To Romance or Not To Romance?

(As I wrote this post, I heard my dad’s voice in the back of my head, “Fiction/books can’t be Christian, Lydia. Only people can.” So, I just want to clarify that I am referring to fiction and books that promote Christian messages).

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the plot dilemmas I faced writing The Field.  At the end of last week, I talked about the redemption of evil dilemma, and today I want to talk about having romance in the plot.

To be honest, I have been feeling rather guilty about including a romantic subplot in The Field at all, because romance in a Christian book is something many people love to hate. (Sarcasm ahead).  After all, isn’t the Christian Romance genre practically emotional pornography for Christian women? Can’t it cause us to stumble? (Okay, I’m done now).  And of course, The Field doesn’t even remotely fall into the Christian Romance genre, so why include a romantic subplot in it at all? Is it really necessary?

Sometimes romance is necessary, and it can indeed be added tastefully to a plot that does not otherwise include romance.

The Field is a book about girls and young women, primarily for girls and young women.  I wanted to deal with some basic choices girls and young women face; relationships and romance being among these.  Honestly, leaving the romantic subplot out would not have hurt the story at all, but I also felt dishonest when it wasn’t there, like I wasn’t being true to the characters it involved. The romance is not pervasive; in fact, if you blink, you could miss it entirely.  And yet, it had to be there because of a real choice many real Christian women have to make at one time or another.

The choice between a relationship and romance (a good thing in the right context, by the way) and following God’s call on our lives.  For all of my realism (because I’m truly not a romantic person at all), it’s still the hardest choice I’ve ever made:  Saying no to one who seemed like the perfect guy (for me, not perfect by any standards) because he couldn’t come with me where God is calling me.  And a character in The Field faces the same choice: the guy or her savior? (As with my other writing dilemma, I’m not going to tell you what she chooses.  You really are going to have to read it yourself).

Still, I think my decision to include a romantic subplot makes The Field more relatable, and I think that can be true in other Christian books as well.  I don’t even think it’s wrong to have a romantic plot in a Christian book, as long as it’s not trivialized.  I think God has given us hearts for epic love stories, and we shouldn’t twist something He intends as good into something bad.

Here’s to romance!

What about you? How do you handle romance as a writer? How do you respond to it as a reader?

 

 

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On The Redemption of Bad Characters

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” ~Miss Prism, The Importance of Being Earnest

Okay, so confession: I first watched The Importance of Being Earnest around a month ago with my family.  Before that time, I had never read or seen the play.  (I know, I know.  I am going to sit myself in a corner just as soon as I finish this). Anyway, this particular quote provoked an unladylike snort (as my sister the Barefoot Hippie Girl likes to say) from me.

On one hand, the idea of a person getting what’s coming to them is incredibly appealing to me. Since that doesn’t happen often in my real world experiences, a big part of me likes this ideal to be upheld in fiction at least.  You know, what goes around, comes around.  Karma. You reap what you sow.  All of that.

On the other hand, where is the redemption, the grace in that?

I really like the TV Show Once Upon a Time.  I mean, I really like it.  The characters are all so human, even the bad ones.  None of them are purely good, and none of them are completely evil.  I think that is the show’s strength (it’s relatable), and it’s also its weakness. The show almost seems to be in denial about the existence of sheer evil – it is too concerned with its villains’ motivations.  I love Regina and how she’s trying, and even Rumpel has his moments,  I just happen to think there is a level of evil that is only motivated by evil itself: straight up evil.

At what point do creators of these characters look at them and determine that enough is enough? That they cannot be redeemed? That they have made an irrevocable, damnable choice that they cannot recover from? How is that decision made?

While writing The Field, I had a character I wanted to destroy at the end.  A character that absolutely, positively had it coming.  But when I came up on the time for this character to be destroyed, I found myself with a dilemma.  Rather than wanting to destroy this character, I wanted this character to find redemption instead,  but because I’m a big believer in grace and mercy.  But what about what this character deserved? What about all of the terrible things this character had done?

I wrestled for a long time before I made a decision about the fate of that character. (No, I’m not going to tell you what I decided. You’re just going to have to read The Field for yourself!) Honestly, I’m still wrestling – not with The Field, but with how I will handle this in my future writing.

So fellow character creators and consumers…

Are there things a character really cannot come back from? What point is that for you?

If there is nothing a character cannot come back from, is there such a thing as absolute evil?

And what are the real life implications of how we deal with redemption and evil in fiction?

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Dear Men, I Do Not Exist For You

[I really think I’m going to have to start issuing ruffle warnings.  As in, your feathers are about to be ruffled.  Consider yourself warned.  Ruffle, ruffle.]

Dear Men,

I do not exist for you.  I do not exist to satisfy your desires or to cater to your whims.  I am not obligated to respect you,  like you, befriend you, be attracted to you, date you, marry you or sleep with you.  There is nothing wrong with me if I am not drawn to you (and not necessarily anything wrong with you, either, I must add);  I am just not here – living this life at this point in time and space – for you.

As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That is, the divinely-appointed purpose of humanity, of any life, of my life “is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.”

My life is not now and never will be about your needs.

Yet I’m told it should be.  And I’m not just hearing it from secular culture, I hear it from the Church.

I will never forget a conversation I had with a godly, older married friend a number of years ago.  We were discussing whether or not it was right or okay to have something you would leave your husband over when entering marriage.  She maintained that it was not right or okay, that a woman who had such a contingency was not fully committed.  I admitted that I felt I would leave my husband if he was ever unfaithful to me, because I didn’t think I could recover from that.  She returned with, “If a man’s needs are being met in marriage, he won’t ever go outside of it to fulfill them.”

That scared me off of marriage for a long time after that, because what the mess kind of standard is that?  I’ve been asked many times about my singleness: did I struggle with my sexuality? Was I a commitment-phobe? Was it because I had a front row seat to a messy divorce? Nope.  It was because for many years I was deathly afraid of marrying the wrong man; I mean, the really wrong man.  I was afraid I’d end up loving and marrying a black hole of need that I would never be able to satisfy.  Maybe I’d be sick, or upset, or otherwise just not feel like “it” and he’d take his needs somewhere else.  And of course, because for whatever reason I wasn’t up to giving him what he needed (forget my needs), his infidelity would be my fault.

I reject that now.  I reject that my actions ever FORCE someone to sin.  I reject it because I am not now and never will be held accountable for someone else’s sin.  God is never, ever, EVER going to ask me if it ever happens, “Lydia, why was your husband unfaithful?” In my feelings of betrayal, should I ever encounter infidelity in my marriage, God’s not going to say, “Okay, but Lydia, what could YOU have done better?”  That is NOT how God operates: “A bruised reed He shall not break” (Isaiah 42:3a).

And in case you’re wondering, I now also desire a healthy, Christ-focused (not husband- or wife-focused) marriage.

Where I am now in my attitude is unfortunately not the point, however; the fact that I was ever terrified of marriage because of being blamed for someone else’s sin is a problem.  And it’s not a problem because my attitude toward marriage was wrong; it’s a problem because someone placed (or at any rate, tried to place) a burden on me that God never intended.

This burden is not rare in the church; in fact, it’s all over the place, anytime a husband is unfaithful to his wife.  And it all boils down to this: the wife is spending too much time on things other than her husband.

Every time I encounter this attitude, the old fear in me rises up, and I spend days and weeks vanquishing it again.  I have to re-remember that I am not living this life for the pleasure of any man; I’m living to glorify and enjoy God.  I have to re-remember that any man who stands in the way of that is not worthy of my respect, good feelings, friendship, attraction, time, commitment, or body.  And since I am having to re-remember it, I am re-reminding you, dear men: I do not exist for you.

It’s ironic.  The Field contains this sort of romantic subplot, and I was really conflicted about whether to leave it in or take it out.  I left it in because it’s so personal, but until today I hadn’t been able to formulate why it was so personal.  It’s only sort of romantic because the heroine doesn’t choose her love interest; she chooses her purpose.  And that’s what I’ve had to do a time or two.

Because I don’t exist for men.

 

 

 

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I Struggle Promoting Myself

I struggle promoting myself.  A little over a month ago, I self-published my very first book: The Field.  Initially I talked about it quite a bit (for me, at least), but I’ve sort of stopped promoting it.  Like it’s not worth promoting or something.

Here’s the thing: we all know it’s not the best thing I’m ever going to write.  I have overstated that.

What I have not stated enough is that I believe in what I’ve written.  I believe in the themes of restoration, grace and spiritual warfare my book promotes.  I believe I have tackled these themes from a distinctly feminine point of view and have created strong female characters.  I believe that there is a need for this book that I have written, both for its themes and characters.  I believe that this book will speak to many people who read it.

Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy of The Field here through June 30th, 2014 or purchase your copy today.

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The Best Writing Advice

The best writing advice I’ve ever received is from a dead man.  Mainly, it comes from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.  I thought I’d share some of my favorite inspirational quotes from him today, as they were the most influential in my finishing and publishing The Field.  Enjoy!

“Avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious traditions exist in abundance.”

“Irony: Don’t let yourself be controlled by it, especially during uncreative moments.”

“Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come.  It does come.  But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast.”

“Have patience with everything unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

“Don’t observe yourself too closely.  Don’t be too quick to draw conclusions from what happens to you; simply let it happen.”

Welp.  Time to do it again, folks.  The new project is called Update and the first draft deadline is August.

As for The Field, it is now available online at Lulu.com.  Check it out: http://www.lulu.com/shop/lydia-thomas/the-field/paperback/product-21528565.html.

 

 

 

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In The Arena

This is the story of how I entered the arena.

I came across this quote nearly two years ago when I was editing and writing the FortyOne20 blog:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat” (Theodore Roosevelt).

The FortyOne20 blog was always a place of analysis and critical thinking, but when I saw this quote, I felt a conviction about how critical I was being about gender portrayal in film:

“Most of the film theory classes  I took in college dealt with gender on some level, but it was always from a humanist perspective. At the same time, God was dealing with me personally on His ideas about gender, and I became extremely dissatisfied with how men and women are portrayed in movies. I genuinely believe there is reason to be concerned with these portrayals.

“However, if you watch the movies I’ve made, none of them address gender issues” (Lydia Thomas).

One month after I published this post, I began work, not on a film, but on a written story. The Field tackles a theme I’m dying to see Hollywood tackle: redeemed womanhood.  As in, what changes in a fallen woman’s life when she is loved unconditionally? Of course, The Field also deals with spiritual warfare, and legalism, and crises of the faith, and a number of other things, but womanhood…that’s what I went into the arena to talk about.

And I did.

But I’ve been dealing with a level of discouragement about my book.  Normal stuff, I think.  I get to thinking about how it’s not that great, and it could be better because it can always be better, and I don’t want to release it and not have anybody who “gets” it.

And I forget.  This one is not really about readership.  It’s about having written it.  It’s about having gotten out of my critic’s seat and entered the arena to put up a fight for what I strongly believe in.

It’s different in the arena.  I find myself less critical of others, and am able to be less critical of myself.  I find myself satisfied with where I am, at this moment, knowing I am in this to grow and develop as a writer – not just to grow and develop one piece of work.

I will continue exploring gender and spiritual themes in my writer.  Next time, I will do it better.  The time after that will be the even better.  And I will grow and grow and grow.

At least, I must keep telling myself, I am finally in the arena.

Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy of The Field here through June 30th, 2014 or purchase your copy today.

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Author Influences

A few weeks ago, a writing friend asked who my author influences are, and more specifically which authors most influenced writing The Field.  It made me realize I have been influenced by a lot of authors in my lifetime, not just as a reader, but as a writer as well.

My dad introduced me to authors like J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, George McDonald, Brian Jacques, and David and Karen Mains.  My mom introduced me to authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Charles Dickens.  My oldest sister introduced me to John Bunyan, Michael Bond (Paddington Bear), and Beverly Cleary (Ramona).  Somewhere in there J. K. Rowling and Phillip Pullman were also introduced, and I independently discovered Margaret and H. A. Rey, Peggy Parish, Sarah Dessen, Stephen King, (and I’m going to make a BIG jump here) Ayn Rand, Mary Shelley, Rainer Maria Rilke, Joyce Carol Oates and Doris Lessing.

Not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty well-read and broadly-influenced.  Whether I like it or not, who I read influences what and how I write.

I have always aspired to be like the authors my mom introduced me to.  In the tradition of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, and Jane Austen, I’ve been writing stories about sisters from the get-go.  I love exploring the dynamic of sisterhood, and it’s something the aforementioned authors do really well.  I also love (love, love, love) Charles Dickens’ take on humanity and his stellar character development, and I’ve always desired to emulate that in my own work.

Much as I enjoy the authors my dad brought into my life, it has never been my goal to create new worlds in my writing.  And I certainly never intended to be a writer who used another world for the purpose of allegory or parallels to our own world.  And yet, The Field is an allegory that takes place in a different world.  Being honest, my writing going forward will be taking a similar vein.

Now, I still don’t have the subtlety of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or the comprehensive nature of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, and I wouldn’t want you to think that I do.  That’s the beauty of where I am as a writer, though, right?  I’m just starting out; I have a lifetime (however long that may be) to develop my craft through many different stories and books.

If I had to choose an author that most closely and clearly influenced The Field, it would be David and Karen Mains in their Tales of the Kingdom and Tales of the Resistance.  I hadn’t read these books in years until this week, hadn’t even thought of them until this question came up, but I correctly remembered them being deeply allegorical.  They are more marketed to children, where The Field is intended for a more mature audience, and the two have different characters and storylines, but I think the overall purpose and message are very similar.

Thing is, allegory is not everyone’s cup of tea, just as not everyone likes Dickens or poetry or science fiction.  I think that’s okay, but that’s also why I don’t intend to market The Field too terribly specifically, but rather to minds that can see parallels in the characters and conversations to real-life philosophies and occurrences.  For that reason, The Field will never be wildly popular, like Harry Potter, Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings.  Even if only a handful of people like it, it will have been well worth my while to write it.

I look at Tales of the Kingdom and Tales of the Resistance.  I’m betting most people who regularly read my blog have never even heard of them or if they have, they might only vaguely remember them.  Me, I remember them vividly from having read them many years ago.  They got under my skin and impacted me.  Along with a colorful edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress, these stories are what got me interested in allegory.  Ultimately, that interest is what prompted me to write The Field.  And this is about what I expect for The Field – niche interest.

Now don’t get me wrong, someday I hope to be an author who writes an allegory so compelling even people who hate allegory won’t be able to put it down, but as Aragorn says (in the movie), “This is not that day.”  I’m just starting to flex my fiction writing muscle: I expect it to strengthen, book by book.  I know that a few years down the road I’m going to have written bigger and better things than The Field, but I will always be glad I wrote it and had the courage to put it “out there” at all.

That’s how the authors I’ve read have influenced me! 🙂

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Finishing

Let me begin this by saying that my finishing any of my fiction works is a long-standing joke among my younger siblings and I.  Nobody who is familiar with my work in this area expects me to finish.  And I have stopped expecting myself to finish.  In fact, the last time I finished a fiction work (outside of play and movie scripts) was a short story I finished around ten years ago called The Little Glass Slippers.  In the meantime, I have started half a dozen novels, all of which are awaiting completion, except for one, which I finished early this morning.

The Field.

I think I am actually more proud of myself for finishing than I am of what I wrote, because finishing has always been such a colossal issue for me, even when I was very young.

Some writers are intimidated by beginnings, but I would say exposition (the bringing forth of characters and narrative) is my greatest strength as a writer.  I even work out resolution (the ending) reasonably well. I wrestle with development (the middle).  I struggle determining the events through which my characters will grow and have changed by the end.  When I was very young, I would set up my characters and the story, and I’d be so completely pooped by the end of that (it took lots of time/chapters), I would jump straight to the finish, by saying something like, “Ten years later so-and-so and so-and-so came together and all of their problems were solved,” without telling how the conflict was resolved.  If you think about it when you’re reading, that’s the part of the story we all love, not the beginning, not the end, but the middle, yet it’s my least favorite to write.  (Also, as an aside, my least favorite to live sometimes too).

To make matters worse, I revise while I write.  I’ll be fifty or sixty pages in and think, “This should really be a different way,” and then I start over.  From the beginning.  (By the way, this is why my beginnings are so strong: by the time anyone else reads them, I’ve probably revised them a dozen times).  Sometimes, I’ll hit a creative block, and instead of pushing through, I will, you guessed it, go back to the beginning and start over.  I push a little bit further ahead every time I re-write, but my perfectionism has been counter-productive to actually finishing anything.

And I’m terrified.  I put my heart and soul into my fiction writing.  And once a project is finished, the time comes to show it to people.  And people can be brutal.  I’m not talking about constructive criticism about narrative flow or grammatical issues, I’m talking about people who are willing to tell a thirteen-year-old girl there is no point to what she has written.  (Yes, that really happened).  What if people don’t get it, and because they don’t get it, throw me as a writer to the curb?  What if I make the mistake of believing them, and give up on myself as a writer? You may think that’s ridiculous, but I promise you, it has happened before.

I cried a little bit when I discovered my exposition for The Field was forty-five pages, because that meant I still had to write at least ninety pages, all things being equal. (And they were not).  For the most part, when I was writing a particular chapter, it was like a movie in my head: I could see all of the different things that were happening.  (I swear I’m not crazy).  So when I sat down and focused myself on writing, it kind of just poured out of me.  I was worried that I was never going to get to the end, because things just kept happening (in the story).  Eventually, the middle built to the point where I knew I was coming up on the climax, and Sunday evening, I was able to sit down and lay out what I wanted to happen and when.  I was pretty discouraged again when information I had hoped to convey in two chapters was stretched to eight chapters.  Then, like I wasn’t expecting it, the climactic scene was there last night, and I was able to write the dénouement to not just end the story (I had known how I wanted it to end since the beginning) but to fully complete it.

There were times during the writing process that I became creatively blocked, and at the beginning of this particular version, I started over, again and again.  In mid-August, I decided this wasn’t acceptable anymore, and promised myself I would push through any creative awkwardness to the end.  My resolve in this has been tested over and over, but I pushed through, even when I had to stare at a blinking cursor for thirty minutes to do it.  It helped to journal a little bit before hand, to get any other mind-hoggers out before writing.  And the MOST helpful thing, were the dear people with whom I could share the bumps and struggles, and they prayed me through. (I strongly suspect there were also dear people that I didn’t share with and they also prayed me through).

Being honest, I’m still scared.  I have a final edit, which could take me upwards of two weeks to complete, but then it’s time to hand my baby over to real-life editors.  After that, I’m considering publishing, which would bring it to an even larger audience. I am certain there are people who will hate the message of The Field, and will develop a strong dislike for me by extension.  I expect that.  I also know I have people in my life who will make it all about them, when really, it’s just a story, and if they’re bothered by it, they maybe need to pray about why.  These are the people I am most afraid of.

But I’m going to do it, even though I’m scared, even though I know it will never be perfect, even though it’s longer and more in depth than I ever intended for it to be.  Why? Because The Field, although not my favorite work, is by far more important than anything I have ever written.

Because I finished it.

Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy of The Field here through June 30th, 2014 or purchase your copy today.

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You Are a Warrior Princess

An excerpt from The Field.

You are strong and capable of great victories.  You are not ruled by fear or lies; no, you conquer fear with courage, and lies with lies with truth.  You overcome darkness because you radiate light.  You are a fighter, not a quitter.  You persevere through struggle and grow more valorous because of it.

You have been adopted by the King and you are a royal daughter.  All the rights and responsibilities of that position are yours.  You are respected, loved, adored.  You have the resources of the Kingdom at your disposal.  You lead the people in what you do and how you behave.  Your beauty inspires greatness because you emanate the majesty of your position.

My Warrior Princess, a great war is coming, and you will be called upon to fight.  Your training begins now.

The things I need to be reminded of.

Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy of The Field here through June 30th, 2014 or purchase your copy today.

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