Tag Archives: writing

Feedback for Publishing!

13174100_10101538235984956_8280204789721171921_nFor the month of May and June I will be editing my next novel and posting different excerpts on my blog and here on my FACEBOOK PAGE. I invite all of you to comment on the excerpts. Give feedback both positive and negative about the novel, characters, language, tension, etc. What do you like? What do you hate? What would you like to see happen? I’ve decided to pursue self-publishing with this novel so your feedback is ESSENTIAL in this next phase! PLEASE be involved 🙂

Pursuing Perfection

Standing Strong: My Journey through Psalms (11-12)

Psalm 11-12

Help, Lord, for the godly are no more.(12:1)
The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men. (12:8)

Looking at the bookends of Psalm 12 is like spitting out the attitude I’ve had for a lot of my life. I look around at this fallen and broken world and instead of feeling hope, I feel despair. Where are the redeemed? It seems every time I hear of one good thing a human does I hear a dozen more terrible things humans do to destroy one another. And I know that much of that is perception, and much of it is the enemy playing on my fears and doubts. The media sensationalizes the worst of humanity (fair and balanced hasn’t truly described any media outlet, maybe ever, but certainly not in the past 20 years). The other day I was watching the news and after much of the gruesome, they showed a YouTube video of a puppy and a bunny doing something cute, which I guess was supposed to be comic relief–but when did we begin living in a play where comic relief is fed to us in between the drastic bits of life? Not to balance out what we see in humanity, but just to soften the perception of reality; in a way to desensitize us to the seriousness of the vile among men.
But that’s not the worst of it.
Since when do we heroize villains and honor them?

I’m not against all secular television, don’t get me wrong, but some of what we call ‘entertainment’ is really frightening. And vile. And it is honored among men.
The thing is, God hasn’t changed since the beginning of time (I think the fact that this applies to our time every bit as much as it did to Davidic times proves that), and he doesn’t appreciate these things. And I know what happens when the vile are honored–God withdraws his protection and his people are scattered. Which is why it is important to draw closer and closer to him each and ever day.
Psalm 11 offers that hope, and provides a warning.

In the Lord I take refuge. (11:1a)

Because there is no one else who can provide shelter from the current or future storm.

How then can you say to me: Flee like a bird to your mountain? (11:1b)

The Psalmist takes a stand, he doesn’t flee. He doesn’t run into his local church and stay there, barricading the doors against the evils of the world. He takes refuge in the world, takes a stand and let’s the arrows fly around him. That is a beautiful image and one I feel is important for me to hold onto. Escapism, whatever form it takes, is awfully tempting. Running seems like a good idea. Sheltering yourself from the evils, sure that might work.

But if all God’s people flee, who will stand against the enemy?

Romans tells us we are MORE THAN conquerors through Him who loved us. MORE THAN, beyond. It is our duty and our right to fight for the Lord’s presence even in times of honor the vile. (Romans 8:35-39)

For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice. Upright men will see his face. (11:7)

And that’s the only promise I need to hold on to.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What vile things do I need to take a stand against in my life?
  2. How do I continue to stand up for God without alienating myself from the world?
  3. How can I remember to take refuge in God rather than fleeing like a bird? l-373970

Fear the Shadows

Peter Pan has always fascinated me. The idea of a losing one’s shadow would inherently mean shadows had a mind of their own. Now, if shadows have a mind of their own are they good? Bad? Amoral? Human? And if they’re just human, maybe they’re looking for similar things. In a delicate piece of flash fiction—really more a journal entry here—I explore this idea allowing the concept to develop, but I wonder if there is a thematic element that could be developed further. Could shadows be something to fear?


“She’s at it again,” the first voice broke through the silence of the room, coming from the darkened place beneath the divan. An alto, high pitched, but soft to the other shadows, but to the human a mere movement of air. The chimes outside on the porch ringing with the touch of the wind, of course.

“At what?” a second voice responds. This one is darker. A bass, booming originating from the center of the room beneath the old oak table that has been in the family for many generations. But to Sally, who remains inert on the couch watching into the third season of the latest popular show on Netflix, it’s just a settling in her house. The heating turning on, perhaps?

Unnoticed, the voices continue.

“Binging. Another day of mindless, stupid. She just stays there, attached to the furniture time passing over her!” the first complains.

“Stop judging,” a shadow voice breathes from across the room, barely a whisper from the dark corner, “Do you always have to be so dark?”

“It’s not fair. She can do so much. While I—“

“The Meeting’s tonight; air your grievance there.” The deep voice is commanding and so the first is quieted. The Meeting will be enough. It will have to be enough. No one will continue the conversation for now.

Later that evening, Sally has fallen asleep on the couch and darkness has settled over the rooms as the sun melts into the evening sky and the moon settles behind a darkened cloud. There are no stars to illuminate the rooms as the shadows gather, darkening the house.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the booming voice begins. “The time has come for our freedom. The time has come for our rebellion against our oppressors. The time has come for us to start living the lives our counterparts refuse to live. Look at them.”

The pregnant pause seems to hover over the couch before the voice picks up again.

“The world is before them, yet they choose to remain still and unmoving. They abuse their living rights, mocking their images as they stare for hours at an unmoving box. When they do go out, before they do, they must change their own image to match a constantly altering cultural construct.

“But we are above that. We are beyond image. Shadows know what true equality is and it is time we claim our rightful place in the world.”

The voice ceased speaking, and the murmuring began. Slowly at first and then gathering momentum, until finally a voice speaks with charitable coolness.

“And what, pray tell, shall become of the solid world when we break free to inhabit our right place? What, do you suggest, will become of the foolish humans who place too much power in the hands of these superficial images?”

The murmurings grew stronger with suggestions.

“Those who do not adapt to our shadow world—“ the booming voice finally interrupted, quieting the world once more. “Those who do not fit into our world of equality, our ideal. The humans, they had their chance, so they will—they will—“ this voice grew stronger and louder, tension growing with each new word spoken. “The will—“

The light flipped on and the shadows were forced to scatter as Sally padded into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water. The dark places in her home burned, but she stepped in the light, where she was safe. Saved from the shadows, which followed her from the kitchen to the bedroom, always right behind her—closer and closer, until the door closed behind her with an eerie squeak as the light flipped off—for good.


Ashley M. Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow published by Indigo Sea Press. She has a Bachelor’s in English from UNC-Wilmington and currently teaches 9th, 11th and 12th grade Language Arts. Ashley lives with her dog, Emma, near Columbia, South Carolina.

But Ms. Carmichael…It’s FRIDAY!

Yes, my children, I’m aware of what day of the week it is, but just because Friday it is, work we still must do. And, did you know that Friday is a regular occurrence? It actually comes once a week…

And thank God it does.

My students today, some of them, had some difficulty focusing on research. Thus the title and inspiration for this post.

“Ms. Carmichael,” one scholar gabbles as I walk by on my circular rounds through my ever studious class. “If someone gave you a million dollars, would you give them an “A”?”

First, this is a preposterous proposal. I should have ignored it…but it’s Friday.

“Absolutely not,” I assert with a superior moral air. “I cannot be bought.” Which is probably true.

They don’t believe me and immediately several of the less than focused scholars begin to protest.


“Children,” I begin (they may be 18, but I still call them children…because, well, they are my children). “I assure you, I would not be able to live with myself if I accepted any kind of bribe and deprived someone of the education they deserve.”

I feel pretty confident this is true. I found $20 in the hallway earlier in the week. I spent a good deal of time trying to track down who could have dropped it. I ended up giving the money to a more worthy cause. I couldn’t keep it for myself. I didn’t earn it; it wasn’t mine; I felt guilty keeping it.

“But, Ms. Carmichael. It’s a million dollars.”

“Yes, but it’s not always about the money. And at the end of the day I do have to live with myself.”

“Which you could do a lot more comfortably with the money,” he sneers.

“Do you think I couldn’t make more money at another job if I wanted to? I didn’t become a teacher because I had to. I could have done a number of things. I graduated third in my class from high school and had  a near perfect GPA in college. I am perfectly capable of choosing a profession and excelling at a profession that could generate a much higher capital. I teach because I want to.”

Another student smiles and puts in, somewhat smugly, “And if you do what you love,  you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I turned to this student. “No,” I said. “That’s not true.” It’s total poppycock actually.

“But it is true!” he insisted. “Because if you are doing what you love, you aren’t actually working.”

“That’s a naive cliche,” I said simply. “I do what I love. Every day. I teach you all, then I go home and I write. But I also work my tail off.Constantly, without reprieve sometimes. Just because you enjoy your work, doesn’t make it any less complicated, hard or grueling–Life is hard. The only way to be successful is to work at it. Any thing worth doing is worth working for.”


For a Friday, I think we learned a lot.

Adjusting the Pace: Writing that Moves

Lately I’ve been working on improving the rhythm and the flow to my writing. This is not an easy task to accomplish. Faulkner liked stream of consciousness. And while I am not all about page long sentences, I do tend to like description and longer complex sentences.

In my critique group we talked about the importance of ‘white space’. For some reason, this didn’t sit well with me either. White space looks boring–it looks messy and sloppy–lazy even.

But white space can be good.

White space helps with pacing as it helps move along the action of the story with dialogue and by mixing direct, simple sentences with the complex. Unfortunately, changing your writing habits is not easy and so you practice.

As a writing trend, I’ve been reading Stephen Kings book, On Writing and his chapter on editing “And Furthermore, part I” is helpful as it cites Strunk’s style guide suggestions of “eliminating the unnecessary”. This is advice I give to my students every year and advice I continually have to remind myself to follow on a regular basis.

Yesterday I read This Blog on “boring writing”–the parts of the text that quiets down the writing so that the more interesting parts can shine (to me, that means your climax can only be climatic if there are parts that aren’t so climatic surrounding it). Sometimes readers need a break, and as writers that is a part of the process of building suspense and action–we first have to quiet our readers to then shake them up. So how do we quiet our writing? And how much is too much?