Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Updates from Beyond the Doorway

I’ve been working diligently beyond the doorway and had to pop back through to share some of my excitement!

Remember: Book Five in the A Doorway Back to Forever series is nearing its final stages of writing. I needed to give it a major overhaul, and in doing so, felt the tug from a pesky secondary character who had a voice that needed to be heard. Once I gave him life, the story took off in a direction I hadn’t planned. I now can say I’m really excited about this book and can’t wait to get it to my editor! My target date for launch is July 2020.

Audiobooks: No update as of yet, but I’m hoping to rectify that soon!

Author Academy Award nomination: I’m thrilled to say A DOORWAY BACK TO FOREVER: HONOR, has been nominated for a 2020 Author Academy Award in the Fantasy category, an honor bestowed for literary merit and publishing excellence in the writing and publishing industry.

If you would like to support me by participating in the popular vote portion of the award evaluation, please click the “Vote for 2020” button. Once there, click through the poll to view the Fantasy category, then find and click on A DOORWAY BACK TO FOREVER: HONOR.

About the Author Academy Awards

The Author Academy Awards is an award bestowed for literary merit and publishing excellence in the writing and publishing industry. It is presented annually by Author Academy Elite, a premium service provider for authors, at the Author Academy Awards Ceremony. For more information on the awards, visit AuthorAcademyAwards.com

Update on my course. I’ve been hard at work writing my course, titled, Your Doorway Back to Forever: A Story-lover’s Gateway to Becoming Fully Alive. It’s a companion series to the fantasy novels based on the power of story, and it is designed to help individuals and families recognize their God-given talents and strengths so they can push through personal barriers and live the life they were forever meant to live. My target launch is July 2020.

Saturday Stories and The Story Nook. I’m still going live on Facebook each Wednesday for The Story Nook, and it’s been a real thrill. It’s given me a reason to test my theory—can good stories pull you through hard times?

 No one can deny times these days are nothing like we’ve ever experienced, and I’m happy to say featuring a good story each week has strengthened me. I hope it has for you too! Saturday Stories is going strong too, so I hope you’re finding solace in a good tale to brighten your days.

How are you? Times of uncertainty can bring even the strongest soul to their knees. We’re all feeling it—bouts of loneliness, despair, and fear. It’s not fun, but it’s very normal—you are not alone with these feelings. Don’t hesitate to reach out to loved ones. When the “for-now normal” begins to wear on your heart, change up your routine, dip into your well of spiritual strength, and reach out to others in need. We will get through this, one story at a time.

Until next time, take care!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Hills Are Alive With Turning Points

It’s time for a mental break from the world. Let’s visit one of the most beloved musicals ever produced, The Sound of Music. You know the daring story of Maria and the von Trapp family, the breathtaking scenery, and the memorable music. But do you know how one song played an integral part in propelling the story to its complete and satisfying end? Edelweiss is more than a flower, a song, and a symbol of hope. It is a decision-maker, twice in one movie.

Turning points and why they matter
What makes a story timeless? On the surface, it’s easy to see how a great plot and endearing characters nestle their way into your heart, time and time again. But looking deeper, we find hidden treasures in storytelling that, when utilized well, make a story a classic because of the subtle ways in which they speak to the heart and soul of every living, breathing, caring person. One of those elements is the proper use of turning points. When used correctly, they bring life to characters and move them through the plot in a satisfying way. Two important turning points in The Sound of Music, the midpoint and the dark night of the soul, illustrate this fact.

Captain von Trapp’s heavy heart

Let’s look at the character of the captain. We see him clearly as a man who uses a stoic barrier of discipline and distance to protect his heart, and it has a damaging effect on him and his children. He has growing concerns about what might happen to his beloved homeland of Austria during the rise of Nazi Germany in 1938. We feel the weight of his concerns and sorrow, and we want to see him change, but we don’t know how he can—until Maria starts being Maria. She works around the barriers, breaks them when she can, and brings life, music, and love into the home again, despite the captain’s demeanor. She melts the hearts of his children, but can she affect him as well?

The First Turning Point: He takes the guitar

When the captain hears his children singing for the first time in years, he dashes into the house to witness it. He’s visibly taken by the sound and sight, and we see him soften for the first time. We wonder if there is hope for him after all. The answer is yes, and it has a name—the midpoint of the story. The captain takes the guitar and sings to his children a charming folksong, Edelweiss. This is the moment everything begins to change for the captain. The lyrics honor his homeland, Austria. It awakens inside him the desire to take a stand for his country in contrast to those who would willingly give up their freedom to be part of the Third Reich. Something else happens during the song too. He gazes upon Maria and sees her in a romantic way.

Captain von Trapp’s All Is Lost Moment

From the midpoint on in every good story, there is no turning back for the characters, and they face harrowing trials on their quest. The captain almost loses Maria and he’s called upon by Hitler to head the navy for Nazi Germany. He’s able to win Maria back, but he sees no way to avoid the military assignment which would take him from his family and homeland. On the night of the big concert in which he and his family are scheduled to sing, he secretly plans to escape with them instead, but he is cornered by the secret police. The police plan to escort him directly to the concert hall and then take him away to join the Third Reich. This leaves the captain with no way out.
Captain von Trapp’s Dark Night of the Soul

When a character is left with nowhere else to go, he reaches what we call the dark night of the soul. It is the most critical moment in every story. The main character is at a breaking point which will decide his fate. Captain von Trapp sings with his family on stage but sees Nazi soldiers surrounding the concert hall, blocking every exit. His singing voice is strong but his face is marred with despair. After the family performs together, he announces to his fellow Austrians his new assignment with the Third Reich, and they gasp with concern. To him, it is his last goodbye, knowing he will never see them again. He takes the guitar from Max, marking the final turning point.

The Second Turning Point: He takes the guitar again

Captain von Trapp announces to the audience he will sing a love song and begins to strum the tune of Edelweiss. While Edelweiss was the vehicle turning him toward love and patriotism at the midpoint of the story, it now symbolizes what he is about to lose. During the dark night of the soul, something must die so something better can be reborn and live. And true to form, something does die on that stage—his voice. He chokes up and cannot sing. Maria rushes to his side and helps, and the children follow. It brings him strength and he is able to resume. He even calls on the audience to sing along in solidarity with him and Austria.

Trust the turning points

The von Trapp family successfully escape from the Nazis and flee their precious Austria. The theme of love of God, family, and country is honored throughout, and we are left with a classic tale to cherish forever. But there is more to learn from this story—the importance of trusting turning points in life. We face them too, as real as we see in our beloved movies. The midpoint strengthens our resolve and the dark night of the soul puts it to the test.

We face midpoints in our respective circumstances every day. Do they strengthen our determination or make us cower? We have dark- night-of-the-soul moments too. Do we give up or press on? Are we willing to let go of an old way of thinking so we can adopt the tenacity that will pull us to a wonderful finale? Will we let old habits die so we can live with a healthier mindset? How we face these turning points can make or break our character.

Trust the power of story to lead you through the turning points in life toward the resolution you deserve. You can do it—one story at a time.

Never underestimate the power of story.

Until next time,
Nanette O’Neal

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Lion King and the Coronavirus

The New Normal Isn’t New or Normal Anymore
It’s been over a month since the mandatory shut-downs put a stop to life as we know it due to the Coronavirus. Life in this new normal has been anything but normal with the quarantines, social distancing, and mandatory mask-wearing. The rise and fall of emotions and the inability to grieve and hug our loved ones over loss seem too much at times to cope. I go back and forth from being depressed and determined, anxious, and full of peace, and I wonder, like you do, how much longer this will last. My faith gives me hope at the end of the day, but sometimes I need something else, something that everyone can agree on. Sometimes I need the comfort of good stories.

Looking for meaning in stories that inspire
We are wired for story—we have been since the beginning of time. There is something comforting and safe about seeing a hero’s journey play out to its completion, and sometimes it’s enough to get us through a rough spot. Watching the Disney movie, The Lion King, might be what you need to help.

Mufasa’s promise to his son

Mufasa sits with young Simba looking at the horizon and tells him how everything the light touches will be his kingdom one day. Simba, only a cub at the time, can’t understand the depth of this truth. But despite his youth, nothing can change his royal linage.

Stolen promise
When his uncle Scar causes the stampede that kills Mufasa and blames it on Simba, Simba believes him. He lets fear and grief drive him away. This is the most heart-wrenching moment of the movie as we watch the death of the beloved father, the grief of the helpless son, and the vicious nature of the evil uncle as he uses cunning and betrayal to take over the kingdom at any cost. But there is more to this story when you look closer.

How the Lion King is like the Coronavirus
When Simba witnesses the death of his father, it marks a devastating turning point pushing him to act in the only way he knows how—he ran. Similarly, the Coronavirus came on like the stampede of wildebeests, trampling everything in its path. It’s taking the lives of friends and family, keeping us at a distance from people and places, destroying the economy, and causing desperation and uncertainty for the future. In its wake, we are left with a sense of loss, and we question if our lives will ever be ours again. We, too, are tempted to run--run from all we know that can help us get through this.

We first feel fear
When trauma hits hard, we first react with fear. Grief over loss, anger over the situation, and numbness of despair overtake us. We lose sight of everything else in the wake of this pandemic of negativity. But true to the power of story, reaching a devastating turning point is a necessary step in the telling of timeless stories. Not by coincidence, this moment opens a door in our eternal story—a doorway to rediscover what has been ours all along.

No worries—but not really
Simba runs because he gives in to fear and lies. He tries desperately to block out all memories of his father and the eternal truths he learned from him. He makes friends and tries to adopt a new life, free of responsibility. But eternal truths have a way of resurfacing—mostly because of their divine nature. They come back to haunt Simba through his best friend, Nala, and through the wise confidant, Rafiki.
Look closer

Simba doesn't want to listen at first. He is surrounded by the din of distractions. But when Rafiki lures him to the pond, the quietude of the night speaks softly to his heart. He comes to the edge of the pond and sees his reflection. It reminds him of his father. As he looks in the heavens, he sees the image of his father in the stars and hears the gentle whisper, remember who you are. Then, and only then, Simba accepts with humility and boldness his true nature and regains the courage to fight for what has always been his.

We are more than what we appear to be

We, too, must find a way to look closer and remember who we are. When something as crushing as a COVID-19 brings us to our knees, we might think we’re knocked down—defeated. Not so. Yes, we’ve reached a devastating turning point, but that’s never how the story ends. It’s a trigger to look closer and push through. When we remember our divine nature, individual worth, and our inherent ability to press forward through any situation, we regain courage and strength that has been ours all along. We remember who we are. We stand up. We resolve to take back what is ours—our peace of mind, our positivity, and our ability to fight. Our strength inspires others who need to see it can be done. Our actions help those who are too weak to help themselves. We come together, one by one, changing lives and making a difference for good in all we do.

The virus is here and can't be ignored, but what it does to our hearts and how we chose to let it affect us is totally in our control. Let this time of quarantine bring you to a remembrance of your eternal worth, a reconciliation to take it back, and a resolve to overcome whatever is stacked up against you. You can. It’s part of your make-up. No one can take that away from you.

Together, we will get through this, one story at a time.


Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Comfort of the Shire and the Need for a Burglar

No one asked for this.
No one wanted this pandemic, but it came knocking on our door without warning. And here we sit with it, several weeks into quarantine, trying politely to make it leave. We comply with the new laws, but the irritation grows, and we wonder when it will end. Then it hits us—there might not be a real end in sight. We panic, thinking we’re not equipped to handle this for one more day.

But we have everything we need to handle this, exactly like Bilbo Baggins had when Gandalf came knocking on his door.

Gandalf needed a burglar.
Gandalf invited Bilbo to leave the comfort of the shire to join him and the dwarves on an exciting adventure, one Bilbo felt ill-equipped to handle. But when Gandalf told him they needed a burglar, he was sending a symbolic message to the little hobbit. They needed him exactly as he was, faults and all. In fact, his unique skills as a burglar were exactly what helped them reach their victory at the end of the story.

You have what it takes—precisely as you are.
When we face a pandemic knocking at our door, and when it robs us of our comfortable life, we feel fear and uncertainty. We think we are incapable of handling the disaster. We wish we had more time to prepare, more skills to adapt, and more emotional stability to hold it together. When this happens, and it will happen again, take a deep breath. Remember the eternal power of story.

The bigger picture, the eternal power of story, sends us the message we need to remember.
When trials come our way, the person we are is the person who is able to handle the problem, every single time. Think of an unexpected challenge you faced in the past—you got through it despite the limited skills you had. You might have stumbled or even reacted poorly at first, but you did it. You’ve been the hero of your story all along because your story can only be successful with the main character known as you.

So during this crazy time, remember this: the pandemic might seem gigantic, and you might feel small and insignificant to handle it, but that’s not reality. Your special and unique skills, talents, and demeanor will rally together to help you be the hero you need to be. You can face and defeat this demon and every other demon that comes your way.

Never underestimate the power of story.
All my best,

Monday, April 20, 2020

How Stories Bring Meaning When Life Seems Meaningless.

Tired of Being Out of Control?

The Coronavirus has put me on a rollercoaster of emotion. I’ve been determined not to let it get me down only to find myself depressed and full of despair at how it has robbed me of my normal life. It’s taken the life of friends, family, and the family members of dear friends. Each day I go between feeling numb with sorrow over the losses and overwhelmed with gratitude for my faith as it gives me comfort in ways I cannot explain yet cannot deny.

But what about those people who don’t share my faith? They don’t receive comfort from my faith-talk. In fact, it can be downright insulting to them. I have friends of all faiths and many friends who practice conflicting views of Christianity. If we were to meet in one room together, (after the social distancing has been lifted of course), to discuss our faith, I wouldn’t be surprised to see many plastic smiles between some of them at best and all-out brawls with others at the worst. What could possibly bring us together in unity with comfort and hope? One thing alone: the power of story.

Stories Delight, Unite, and Ignite Us
Good stories do three things that nothing else can do. First, they delight us. They provide entertainment when we need a break from the chaos of the world. They let our imagination visit foreign lands, fly to distant galaxies, or travel through time. We engage in wild adventures in a matter of hours and come back unscathed yet wiser and braver than before. And we need this distraction to give ourselves a break from reality. Second, they unite us. No matter what our religion, politics, culture, or age, a good story transcends all these divisive factors. We could sit in a movie theatre (once social distancing is lifted of course!) with people we vehemently disagree with in everyday life, but the movie brought us together like nothing else could. Finally, good stories ignite us. After reading an uplifting book, we are forever changed for good from the message learned, the values taught, and the principles honored between the pages. Whether we realize it or not, good stories can connect us to each other and lift us through times of great trial if we let them.
My Coronavirus Playlist

I’ve been revisiting my favorites this month and thought I’d share insight with you in the next several blog posts. My desire is to give you a reason to feel hopeful during this unprecedented time. I’m not going to recap stories. You can watch the movies in your time. I only want to highlight certain scenes that are meaningful and life-changing. Maybe by reading my thoughts, you can take whatever wisdom is downloaded to your heart to help you get through today or tomorrow.

Here are the first three I’ll feature: The Lion King, The Hobbit, and The Sound of Music. Let me know if you have a favorite, and we can enjoy the meaning together.

We will get through this, one story at a time.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

What's Going On Beyond the Doorway?

Sometimes tragedy paralyzes you to the core, and other times it lights a fire so hot there’s no stopping you. I’ve had enough paralysis in my life—it’s time to burn the house down. Here’s my current arsenal:

The audiobook for BELIEVE. Voice actor Joe Christensen has been doing an amazing job getting the many voices right for my book series. I’d always had it in mind to have a male voice read the story, like a father reading to his children. Joe has the tender, caring timbre I’d imagined. He gives the perfect balance of humor, wisdom, terror, and triumph to each character, bringing life to the story in a new and exciting way. I can’t wait to announce the release, hopefully in a month or so.

The Story Nook. My newest segment is a Facebook Live series airing every Wednesday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time Zone on my Facebook author page, Nanette O’Neal Author.  We need a place to put aside the troubles of the world and renew our mind, heart, and soul. The Story Nook provides that place for story-lovers of all faiths and backgrounds. Each week I focus on an aspect of a good story and talk about what makes it special. My goal is to help people realize the answers they look for are hidden in the messages of all good stories if we know how to find them.

Saturday Stories: Going strong into its second year, this weekly video series is designed to uplift families and individuals as I tell my favorite stories and help people imagine being the heroes of their life’s story. It’s gotten easier to produce, and I’m delighted with the feedback. You can find a new episode every Saturday morning on my author page on Facebook, Nanette O’Neal Author.

Launching My Course in June. I’m thrilled to announce after several years of being on hold, my course based on my book series will finally be up and available by June. My new title, Your Doorway Back to Forever: A Story-Lover’s Gateway to Becoming Fully Alive, is designed to help people find meaning and direction through the comfort and safety of story. Stories do three things nothing else can: They delight us as they entertain, they unite us by bringing people together, and they ignite us to be better than we have ever imagined. They can also bring a sense of worth back into our hearts if we know how to let them. More details to come.

A Doorway Back to Forever: REMEMBER: Book five in the series is progressing, but not as quickly as the rest of my work. It needed a major overhaul after the first draft, and that was tough. I'm now working on completing the storyline, and I will then revamp it with editing to sharpen the story and character arcs and give it all the pizzazz it deserves. This book asks readers to ponder this thought: What if you lived before you were born and your worst enemy here was once your best friend? My target date for publication is July 2020.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, Skyborn Warriors, as you strive to stay healthy during this pandemic and safe at home as much as you can. We will get through this and we will be stronger because of it.

Forever yours,

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Who Do I Want to Be During COVID-19?

The Meme Hits Hard
If I had seen this meme during the first week of COVID-19, I would have been upset and defensive. No, I wasn’t one of the toilet paper hoarders, but I felt a bit of fear from this new unknown enemy that had attacked the world and spread like a tsunami with no warning, leaving devastation in its wake. Fear is a natural first reaction, but it doesn’t have to be our last.

 Stages to Pass Through
One of the most boring phrases in scripture is now my most favorite because of its wisdom: and it came to pass. True, my eyes have glossed over it more times than I’d like to admit, but now I cherish it. God has been telling us all along no matter what hell we’re experiencing, it is only a phase and we will pass through it. It came to pass back in Old Testament times, and it will come to pass again for us.

In the Fear Zone, a sense of urgency and panic well up inside us. We might even react to that initially because we get swept up in what the mob might be doing. We become paralyzed in fear, and if we’re not careful we can live there for a while. But it came to pass, and we can move on.

In the Learning Zone, we become introspective and realistic, and we’re not afraid anymore to face what is. It might still be scary, but we are moving, passing through it, and becoming teachable. We’re learning to balance our emotions with logic and faith so we can continue to press forward.

In the Growing Zone, we’ve mastered fear and put our needs aside, looking for ways to reach out and help others. We’ve taken the step toward selflessness and begin to touch others around us, helping them deal with their fears so it can pass for them, and they too can learn and grow.

Let’s Grow Together
I don’t know how long this virus will last or how much of a toll it will take on the world. But I do know it will come to pass that we will overcome this. And when we look back, we might see the devastating aftermath, one that cannot be helped, but we can prevent a similar effect it could have on us if we choose to pass through fear, move on to learning, and make it a habit to be positive, helpful, patient, and willing to grow from this and every experience we are given.

Stay safe at home when you can,