Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hello, Goodbye: A Year of Transformations

2016 is getting a lot of hate from the human race right now. For me, 2016 was the crowning year of God bringing little things into my life and making them really big, life-changing things! Which is awesome if you think about it.

Martin Hospitality. While it didn't fully begin or end this year, I mostly wrote, edited, and self-published this baby in 2016! I kept opening my computer and that transformed me from a writer into an author. It was a discipline and a journey and an adventure. One that is all the more awesome because it's from God through me to you.
I have had this blog for just over 10 months now. Before that all I did was ramble ideas in a notebook. I promise it feels like I've known all of you all my life and that it's perfectly normal to meet you all in the flesh for the first time in my head every day. I've never had a greater joy than being able to share common thoughts and talk with all of you weekly. I never thought I could enjoy blogging, but I underestimated all of you.
 This was thrilling. I graduated high school in May. I didn't want to have a party at my house because I don't like parties for me. I hesitated to join my co-op's because I don't like crowds. I joined the co-op's due to lack of creativity and it was amazing. I got to graduate with all my classmates of 4 years with my family and friends there. I received an actual diploma from my parents and a booklet with photos and biographies of all the faces that surrounded me once a week throughout high school. For liking school, I haven't missed it.
I also turned 18 back in August. And to answer what both my grandfathers ask me every year, yes I feel older. Graduation, attending a writing conference ... all of that was only the beginning. I have been given permission to call certain adults by their first names. I do things on my own, by myself like an adult more often. It's scary most of the time, but it's really freeing at the same time. Like this is what my entire life has been leading up to.
Don't mention this one to my mom. I only just got my driver's license a few days ago. So far she has let me drive to the Walgreens at the front of our neighborhood once completely by myself. But that's just because she ran out of eggs in the middle of holiday baking. I had to borrow my sister's phone and my brother's money, so what does that tell you? 
God bless Goodreads. It has saved my reading life this year. I set a goal for 50 books and I reached it!(Possibly today.) Being able to track, review, and recommend the books I love has been an awesome experience. I'm not quite sure how I got so many book read, but I look forward to conquering at least as many next year as well.
Yay! I decided last year that if I could pick a career to pursue it would be manuscript editing. Thanks to my blog and meeting many new friends through it, I have gained experience. Due to my own studies, reading, and edits received, I have grown in my understanding of the skill. Beginning tomorrow, I am going to begin charging for my services as an editor. There will be a complete blog page with details once I get back from vacation.


Goodbye 2016. You were truly
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
~ Romans 12:2, NKJV ~

~~~~~

No matter the quality of your 2016, I think 2017 is only going to continue to transform. Tranform our relationships with God, our talents, our dreams ... hello 2017.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Symbolism of Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve! I'm here with another Christmas post to encourage you to reflect on the symbolism of all the traditionally festive items that make up the Christmas spirit. There may be more to some of them than you thought! But this is not an exhaustive list ;)


What is one thing that is essential to Christmas and is not used throughout the rest of the year? (That last phrase was to keep you all from guessing "food.") A Christmas tree!! We have a real Christmas tree this year and it's glorious ^.^ There's a whole lot of the Biblical story wrapped up in Christmas trees, even though I'm pretty sure there were no evergreens in Bethlehem. At least not wintry ones.

First, there's the fact that we only use evergreen trees. Cedar, firs, pine ... you have options. The whole point of evergreens is that they don't turn brown with the season changes. They only do that when you cut them down and stick them in your living room, but even then it takes a few weeks. Undying life. What does that remind you of? Even death could not conquer Christ, and the promise of His coming goes back to Adam and Eve when they were removed from the tree of life. Through Christ, we're reconnected to God, because He lived after He died and God's love for us is undying. Life and death is a big theme in the Bible's overarching story :)

Christmas trees also are triangular. Not really, but in 2D form they are. I can't remember where I read this, but I believe that trees were first used in early Christian Christmas services because the leaders of the church believed the tree was a sign of the trinity: three points, all equally crucial to the tree. I'm pretty sure this tradition didn't begin until the 16th century, but only in certain regions of the world. Before then, other pagan cultures used evergreen branches as part of their winter festivals, so it took a while for all churches to accept that Christmas trees weren't, in fact, a pagan practice.

What I would consider the second most essential item to the Christmas spirit is lights. They're so warm and twinkly and fun. Some people go all out with strobes, projectors, inflatables, and all of that to elevate the Christmas spirit. Adults really get into it! I personally like the warm white Christmas icicle lights and the ones that line roofs. But lights are lights! Jesus was called the Light of the World. He brought light to overcome the darkness of man's spiritual condition. The metaphor that appears all throughout the prophecies and fulfillment is intentionally a part of our celebration today.

There's also presents! My littlest brother cannot wait to start opening the presents stacking up under our tree. (We've had to re-wrap a few.) While gifts seem to go along with some celebrations, like birthdays, they have a deeper meaning for Christmas. First, the wise men brought gifts to Jesus when they visited Him. He was probably around two at the time just like my littlest brother, so I'm sure He was excited! Gold, frankincense, and myrrh may not sound like much to get excited about as a two-year-old, but they were very valuable. Second, Jesus is the most precious gift we as a human race have ever received. Maybe try giving a little of Him this Christmas season.

Now we get to food. :D Specifically, candy canes. We own the most precious Christmas book ever called The Legend of the Candy Cane and it's amazing. Have you ever thought about a candy cane as anything more than a Christmas candy? I probably wouldn't have either, but I've read this book every year for as long as I can remember, so I'm not ever going to forget now! First, a candy cane is the shape of a crook. Like a shepherd's crook? Hm, yes :) And if you turn it upside down it looks like a certain letter of the alphabet that Jesus begins with. I have no idea if candy canes were created to represent the Biblical story, but it works out rather well.

The traditional red and white stripes also represent something: Jesus's sacrifice. You probably remember that the scourging He received before His crucifixion is often referred to as "stripes." The red candy stripe represents the blood sacrifice He made on our behalf and the white represents our perfectly clean condition once we apply that sacrifice to our lives.

Let's not forget the true meaning of Christmas as we have fun celebrating with family tomorrow. Merry Christmas, everyone!

~~~~~

Hopefully you enjoyed that and some of the symbolism was new to you :) What is your favorite part of Christmas? Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas Reads

It's the most wonderful time of the year, don't you agree? No one sings that song about summer for a reason, people. I am on my author Christmas break, which means reading is what I am prioritizing. So I've wracked my brain to come up with some good Christmas reads for you :)


I just realized how few Christmasy novels I've read ... Oh well. Here goes.
Where Treetops Glisten by Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin, and Tricia Goyer. I read this one over spring break, I think. It has three Christmasy stories with characters that connect to one another and is well-written.
The Nutcracker by a gazillion different people. :P We own the one by Susan Jeffers. You just can't have Christmas without nutcrackers as my 6-year-old brother will remind you. It's on my bucket list to go to the ballet sometime :D 
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I don't know why this one in particular popped into my head. I think most of the Little House books have references to holidays and snow but this one has food and more food. I love it :)
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It has the word "Christmas" in the title. If you haven't read this one, this is the year! It's short, I promise.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. This one has an abundance of snow as well as some great redemptive themes. I like this one around Christmas :)
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney. I read this book when I was young and made my mom read it aloud to all of us last year. I love all their little celebrations in this family because they have close to nothing and, but are so loving and always doing little things for each other. It reminds me of a child's version of:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I adore this book, and yes, it's long. But it has a lot about convictions, family life, and selflessness which makes it 100x more beautiful than just the plot.
Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. Before Tom Hanks and Josh Hutcherson, this was a beautifully illustrated book which I happen to like.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. This was actually a book before it was a movie as well and is good *nod* It's Dr. Suess. Just go read it.
My conclusion from that list is that there needs to be more Christmas in books!! Make it your new writing goal: include immense holiday celebrations. I have the Martins celebrate Thanksgiving in Martin Hospitality, but Christmas is a little more sparse as you will see ;) Still, you don't ignore holidays in books! That's one thing I really appreciate about the Harry Potter and Little House books: holidays. We all adore them in real life, so why not include them?

~~~~~

What is one of your favorite Christmas reads? Have you ever written about a holiday?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Martin Hospitality Sign Ups

If you received my November newsletter, you know I have lots of sign-ups for Martin Hospitality's impending release! (More on that here.) Probably a little ahead of schedule by sharing these now, but the sooner I get replies, the more organized I will remain. Or that's the idea, anyway.


First, the cover reveal! I don't have a date for this yet, but am aiming for early January. After some deliberation and consulting of friends, I have decided that I'm not just going to post my lovely cover on my blog for you all to admire, you're going to post my lovely cover on your blog for your readers to admire! If you'd like to, that is. You will mainly be posting pictures of my cover and linking back to me and the Goodreads page! But you'll be free to do whatever else you want. If you don't have a blog, social media posts would also be great, so sign up anyway! This will be my method for pre-release hype so I would love it if you'd participate! Fill out the form below if you're interested so I can e-mail you when I have more information :)


Second, the interview questions! This goes along as part of the blog tour below, but I want to give you all a chance to ask me questions. Bookish/writing questions, things about Martin Hospitality and my writing journey ... something along those lines :) Normally, blog tour participants get to ask questions for the author interview (if they choose to feature one) or I answer a set number of questions that they all get to post answers to. I'm strange and really despise reading through long interviews that are the same for every participant's post :P SO! I have come up with a solution. You all get to ask me questions that pertain to my book's release. Depending on how many people sign up to do an interview, I will answer a certain amount of questions in vlog form for them to post on their blog. Each vlog will answer different questions and appear on a different blog :) Cool, right?! So the more questions (and people who sign up to do an interview) the better! Here's the form to submit questions:


Third, the blog tour! Okay, you do need a blog for this one. The tour will be taking place Saturday, February 4 (release date) through Saturday, February 11. I hadn't planned to do it after my release date, but upon reflection, it didn't make much sense to do it before when I can't guarantee pre-orders will be an option. This way, everyone who learns about my book through the tour will be able to go buy a copy! Per usual, you give me your information and select the day and type of post you would like to do. I cannot imagine having too many people fill 8 days of promotion, so please spread the word with anyone you think might be interested! 

I'll briefly explain the three types of post you can do so that there is no confusion!

  • Review ~ I send you a digital ARC two weeks before the release, and you give an honest review of my book on Amazon and Goodreads (if you have it). I will want all reviews posted by February 3, so they're up in time for the release :) This does me a huge favor! You can post your review on your blog or just link to it, making it easy to combine with another option :)
  • Spotlight ~ You post my cover, blurb, and about the author I provide you. Whatever else you choose to say in order to promote for me is purely up to you! The nice thing is you don't have to read the book before your post for this option. Just share your excitement, some links, and information :)
  • Interview ~ As I said, these are going to be vlogs in which I answer different sets of questions you all submit (above). Because this will merely be a Youtube video you can link to or embed in your post, don't be afraid to double this up with the previous options! Remember the video will be unique to your post. :)
Sorry, that was a lot of information :P But now that you understand what the blog tour entails, you can sign up for whatever sounds fun! Again, I'll e-mail you all the necessary information, attachments, and details closer to time, as well as a schedule to approve.


Thank you so much for signing up!! These sign ups will be open for the rest of the year: ... 3 more weeks ;) Sign up for as much as you want and tell your friends! This is going to be a lot of fun!

~~~~~

Sorry, I hope that all made sense! What did you sign up for? Do you have any questions? Are you excited?!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Pictoral Journey Through NaNoWriMo

NaNo has finally ended. I'm still trying to recover and jump back into life. So far, so good, except that this post is three days late. Here's a look at what I managed to accomplish for NaNo.


~ The Glorious NaNo Chat ~

26 people. One Google Hangouts chat. It was supposed to be for #5k1days and became the cabin and now the recovery group. In short: awesome insanity and many crashing browsers. Here's a peak at the deep topics we covered:

1 ~ Sanity


2 ~ Murder


3 ~ Fiji


4 ~ Distractions


5 ~ Motivation


6 ~ Determination


7 ~ Baking


  8 ~ Superiority


9 ~ Writing 


10 ~ Stealth



~ The Snippets ~

In no particular order and often quite long, sorry ... I now know that finding snippets is not a skill. Ignore any typos :P







~ The Stats ~

Phew. Burned out at 30k, but pushed through thanks to so amazing war buddies. MyWriteClub has the best sprints ever, so be sure to check them out! I intend to shelf the draft of my Christian Dystopian novel that I drafted about 60% of during NaNo and I'll revisit it when I feel like it's feasible. Details on My Writings page :)



~~~~~

I'm glad to see you all survived NaNo as well, even if you didn't win! Words got written and that's what matters :) 

In other news, my November newsletter went out yesterday! If you thought you subscribed and didn't receive it, check your spam folder and then e-mail me if you don't find it :) You get lots of first news and experimental ideas and personal updates, so be sure to subscribe if you want to be 100% in the loop.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Release Date Announcement

Hey all! Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. I have a date for Martin Hospitality's release to share with you! I took the time to find a different image than the announcement for the header because I want you to click the post to know what's going on, hehe.


With editing finished, cover design under the way, and formatting scheduled earlier than sooner, I have feel confidant announcing a release date for Martin Hospitality! Watch me freak myself on this later, but I need some solidarity in my life at the moment. 

So here you have my fancy image (*sarcasm*) which I created myself, so feel free to share it around everywhere. I give you permission as the author. I will not sue you for copyright. In fact, I would kiss your feet for promoting for me!!


February 4th!!!! That's 10 weeks from today. 70 days. I can't even wrap my mind around that. It's so close but so far away! Everything is going swimmingly, though, and I can't wait to share more announcements with all of you guys along the way. I couldn't do it without you. :)

~~~~~

I am SO excited for the release, you guys!! I have plans, but what would you like me to do?

Sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar to really keep up with all the announcements (which I am trying to get out this month) and also notice that I am scrambling to win NaNo.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sing We Now of Christmas

Did I forget to post on Saturday? Yes. Was I too exhausted and busy to do it Sunday? Yes. Thus, it is Monday and I am sick, but I finally arrive! What is the post about? The holidays (and music) of course!


If you're wondering what the holidays and music are doing on my blog, just wait. Since music can be written and is made up of words, it fits beautifully with the themes of my blog. None of you are going to complain about wintry pictures, anyway, right? Didn't think so.

A big question that has come up in my writing circles is Who is already listening to Christmas music? *cough* *raises hand* I'll admit I used to be a stickler about this and not listen until after Thanksgiving ... usually on my way home from our family trip. However, I never ever listen to music after December is over. So that gives me 4-5 weeks for Christmas music. Bear with the math here, but if there are 52 weeks in a year, 5 is simply not enough to dedicate to Christmas music. So now I listen to it beginning around November. It helps get me in the season. And I'm in lots of choirs, so I'm singing Christmas music in September, hehe.

Music really astounds me and I admire anyone who can write music, or even verse. Not a skill I have. Playing musical instruments is also really amazing. I can play some piano and am in my first year of guitar, but I don't consider myself naturally talented.

The nice thing is, there aren't only Christmas songs. There are Thanksgiving ones, too! *gasp* I'm going to link to some of my favorites for both holidays.

Thankful ~ Josh Groban



Mary, Did You Know? ~ Pentatonix



God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen ~ Keith and Kristyn Getty




Angels from the Realms of Glory ~ Piano Guys & Peter Hollens




God Bless Us Everyone ~ Andrea Bocelli


Pretty great songs, huh? I know some of them were rather obscure, but I love them all. What's really sad is when people don't know the traditional Christmas hymns. I'm doing carols with the girls' choir I'm in this year, and you would not believe the number of girls who've never heard Away in a Manger or We Three Kings! If you don't sing Christmas hymns at your church and listen to lots and lots of Christmas music, I feel very sorry for you. You're missing out!!

I know a ridiculous amount of Christmas songs, especially the sacred ones. I may have even gotten in a lyric war with Jonathan Trout in a Hangout ...

I was trying to find some new Christmas songs to play on the piano and was not having very good luck. Then my mom comes home with a massive piano book with over 50 songs ^.^ Oh yes. Between that and the new Pentatonix and Peter Hollens Christmas albums (and all the albums containing the songs I linked to), I am set! Now I just have to get well before Thanksgiving ;)

~~~~~

Please tell me you love festive music as much as I do! What's one of your favorite songs? Have you begun listening to Christmas music yet?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Vlog and Ramblings #2

I am probably holed away in my bed typing like crazy for NaNo at the moment, and yet I make a video appearance! If you enjoyed my vlog last time, I assure you the questions are even better this go round. Also, you get another peek into my brain's spontaneity if that's appealing at all . . .



Once again this is Ivy Rose's challenge and I love it! I've really come to look forward to this (so much so that I filmed this like 2 weeks ago). She explains how to do it all in this post, so check it out. Enjoy the vlog and let me know if you're going to participate. I really want to hear your answers to these questions! You have until December 15 and then there will be new questions ;)




Forgive the road noise and camera jolts. I was holding my mom's phone because it has the best video quality, and the outside light is better. I feel like I was a little more myself in this video, though, so hopefully that's a good thing, hehe. Also, here's my video from last round in case you missed it ;)

In the style of last time, I shall do nothing but ramble for the rest of this post. You have been warned.

First, MARTIN HOSPITALITY IS AT THE EDITOR'S! Yep, just let that sink in. It still hasn't for me. And it will be back in my hands soon. I can hardly wait to see what the lovely Kelsey Bryant had to say!! ^.^ Actually, the fact that I've made it this far is what blows my mind. Thank you, God!!! I tore up my handwritten editing to do list to celebrate. I was handwriting lists. That's how bad it was. The computer was no longer good enough.



I also got to meet the lovely Mandy Cave in person last week. We talked cover design (her first) and are moving forward with her amazing talent! I really want to tell you all about it, but I shall refrain. For now, you only get one hint: she's a watercolor artist. ISN'T THAT COOL?! I am so excited to finally be confidant about our vision and Mandy's skill. The day I get to share the cover with you all is going to be so incredible. Now go check out her Facebook page I linked you to. *shoo*

Also, due to some of my awesome friends already completing NaNo a group of us got together to create this celebratory post for Mary Horton. It may have involved bribery and hacking. Seriously, it was SO fun. I hear the unfathomable Katie Grace is to be congratulated today as well! *confetti and pizza* Me? You can track my word count in the sidebar, because no I'm not finished yet :)

~~~~~

If you're reading this and doing NaNo, I applaud you. I cannot do both, so sorry for abandoning all your blogs this month. Are you going to do the vlog? *puppy eyes*

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ever-changing

Blogs. They morph. It's what they do, and that's okay. Because we're presumably people and we change, too. I've got a couple changes coming to this blog that I want to make my lovely readers aware of. ((I also almost forgot to post today, so it's a little random.))


The main one is, I'm considering beginning a newsletter! Can't remember if I've mentioned this in a previous post yet or not, but there's a place where you can subscribe in my sidebar :) I have no idea when I will get this up and running, but it's a new goal of mine. This would hopefully affect my blog's content, because I would really like to avoid so many random novel updates, tags, and the like. I accidentally stopped doing monthly wrap ups because I despised them. Things like that (more personal details and updates) I would try and put more in my newsletter, I guess :)

This will allow me more time to focus on what I really feel this blog is about, while still giving cool insider details, life notes, and quirky facts all in the form of a newsletter to the true insiders. You want to be one, don't you? I thought so ;)

So go ahead and subscribe if you'd like! I'll try and figure it out before toooo long. November was going to be an open month until I decided to do NaNo and go on vacation. But that's all going really well! I'm at 7K and about to go help my aunt make bouquets for a wedding :D

As I leave, a random note that I hope to start eliminating from my blog due to newsletters: don't forget to vote this Tuesday!!! This is my first election ever and I voted on Halloween. How's that for memorable? ;)

~~~~~

Are you appalled at the changes coming soon? I hope not! But please leave honest thoughts. Because that's all this post was: my thoughts. But I can't do this without you guys. I may get newsletter content polls up soon on my social media accounts soon because if this doesn't help you it really doesn't help me. Hang in there! :)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

My Social Media Experience

Social media. It's pretty much taken over the world. Since getting my blog back in February, I have joined many sites in order to promote my book and enhance its formation. Here's some of what I've learned.


~ In General ~

I think we all know that social media can eat our time if we are not very careful. It sucks you in, and you have cool friends to virtually hang out with, so why wouldn't you stick around for a while? Well, I don't know about you, but I don't have time to kill on an average day. So here are my tips for general time management of whatever social media accounts you have:

1~ Keep a list! I know some of you are pantsers, but when it comes to life, sometimes you've got to make to-do lists. There are going to be things you need to do on your social media accounts. Change your picture, update your status, share an article, find a link, whatever. And that's fine. That's why you have the social media. So make a list of things you need to do. I would suggest dividing this list by the accounts you have, prioritize, and give yourself a liberal estimate on how much time it's going to take. If you have extra time, you can loiter, but only until your allotted time is up.

~2 Other than just making a list, schedule your media time. If you're like me, you'll get on your social media accounts heaven knows when all throughout the day. That can complete eat any "free time" you have, so I suggest planning out when you get on. After lunch for Facebook, after school for Pinterest. That bit doesn't really matter. But limit yourself. 10 minutes should easily suffice, especially if all you're going to do is read your endless feed. It is important to engage the people you've connected to, so don't just skim everything :)

~3 One last point: don't get accounts you don't need. You could probably find a purpose for every form of media out there, but don't get one of each. Just because it's a humongous buffet doesn't mean you actually have to try everything. That will kill you in the end. I currently have . . . ten accounts that I would consider media-like and I have a purpose for each. I don't have Instragram, Bloglovin', or LinkedIn yet because I honestly don't think I need them. And I don't have the time to figure them out right now either ;)

Now for all of my accounts individually. I'll list them in the order I got them, but feel free to jump to the ones that apply to you :)

~ Pinterest ~

My aunt set up an account for my mom at one point. My sister and I thought Pinterest looked fun, so we took over Mom's account because she literally never used it. About 3K pins in, we realized it wasn't going to work to share anymore. We had a gazillion boards and were both sick of seeing each other's interests on our feed. So once I had a blog, I created my own Pinterest and began switching important things over to that profile, sharing boards with my sister, and reaching a better level of organization.

Purpose: Storyboards. These cannot be important enough. All the collages on My Writings page came from my Pinterest boards.

Time: I probably spend about an hour a week on Pinterest. On my good weeks, of course. I could spend an hour a day if I get distracted ;)

Platform: I had around 30 followers on my new account a few weeks ago. I hadn't gained one in months. That's when I still had my storyboards secret. I didn't want people to know what I was writing! I pinned spoilers! But then I realized that my friends with two boards could have 40 followers if they were storyboards. So I made all of my storyboards public and boom! I now have 60 followers and they trickle in on a regular basis. ;)


~ Gmail ~

For a long time I shared an e-mail with my parents and just had my own folder. When it came to my first writing contact, Dad decided I could probably use my own account. (Thanks Jamie!!) This not only generated a Google+ account, it created a very time consuming bog, even if it's not really a social media account.

Purpose: E-mail (duh). Largely, the hub for sending and receiving editing projects.

Time: At least half an hour a day. Pretty bad, huh? I want to cut that down. But I now have a steady stream of stuff to weed through, filter, reply to and the like ;) Definitely one I need to schedule.

Platform: Unlike other media, the goal is to have less here. If you do like I did, you will subscribe to all the author websites, many blogs, and clothing stores to get the free downloads and booklets. I encourage you to do that as long as you trust the sight. Then you'll probably need to unsubscribe because it's gonna be a lot of useless mail all the time!

Tip: Have ultra organized label folder things, so you can clear out your inbox better. My goal is to have under 50 e-mails in my inbox (one page) and none in my other categories (social and promotions).


~ Google+ ~

I never intentionally got this account. I realized I automatically had an account one day because I had created a Gmail (Google) account. I added a picture, bio, all that good stuff and started adding Gmail contact to my circles, but I never actually got on the website again for a while. Until I got Blogger.

Purpose: Sharing blog posts.

Time: 10 minutes a week. You all know I rarely post. I have Blogger connected now, so it automatically posts and you all faithfully +1 like good friends :) I rarely get on to do the same.

Platform: Add everyone in the world to your circles. The only additional circle I have is one I called "bloggers." Connect your blog to it if you can (you can with Blogger) and share other articles/posts you enjoyed to it. People usually add back and then you have a really good reach with little effort.

~ Twitter ~

My first real social media account where you interact with humans on a ginormous level. I'm still trying to get the hang of this one, but it's fun :) It seems to be more business-focused than most media anyway, so that's really nice. Everyone there has a purpose, not just a life. And a character limit, so you can only say so much at once, hehe :)

Purpose: Sharing everything writing-related and building a platform of potential readers.

Time: 10 minutes a day. Thats on average, because I disappear for a few days and then play catch up :P

Platform: Consistency. Post something at least daily if you can. I had this down and was posting, but only at 11 am. When I spread out retweets and posts throughout an entire day (20 in all) I immediately gained 30 followers over the next few days. I don't think that was an accident ;)

Tip: Engage people on topics, participate, show your face. Thank people for retweets. Follow lots of people and never be afraid to unfollow, too. Keep your subject matter limited; for me it's writing/reading/books/editing and the like. :)

~ Goodreads ~

I love Goodreads. This has proved to be one of the best accounts I have, hands down.

Purpose: Tracking what books I read, what they were about, and when I read them. Now people can add my book, so it gets spread around and added before it's even published :)

Time: 10 minutes a day, on average. I didn't have a hard time keeping this low once I got the account underway. I suggest you avoid all but book polls because they seem pointless and will eat your time!

Platform: Find as many friends as you can and follow your favorite authors. I've added a few people I don't really know that well just because they asked, and we have mutual friends. Probably not the best idea unless you're a Goodreads author. In which case, I figure potential reader. Rate everything and leave yourself review prompters. I encourage you to review as much as you can for your own retention and for friends' benefit, but this will take more time.

Tip: Always add a book to your list if it strikes you. You won't remember it if you don't. If you are going to be like me and add some people you only know vicariously, chances are you're still safe on Goodreads. But to be even safer, go to your friends and choose edit. Only leave "top friend" checked (it's automatic) on people you love and trust. This will prioritize them on your feed :)


~ NaNoWriMo ~

The good news that this can only be a real distraction a few months of the year. But boy did I use it a lot for my first Camp! It's so fun to chat with cabinmates and update word counts . . . every few hundred words ;)

Purpose: Quick drafting. The community is a bonus ;)

Time: When it's NaNo season, about 45 minutes a day. It probably won't be that much for regular NaNo but only time will tell :)

Platform: Plug into a cabin with people you know for Camps and buddy with everyone you care about for regular NaNo. It's not too hard to find people.

Tip: It's super easy to find friends and saves you a lot of searching if you'll just look at the buddies of one of your friends. I found Katie Grace and Nadine Brandes and really only had to look at their buddies from there :)

~ Hangouts ~

This is a Google chat for those of you who don't know. You can get an app, or you can view it through your Gmail in a browser. It connects by e-mail, I believe.

Purpose: keeping up with writing friends. This was our post-Camp NaNo rehab because we missed hanging out (thus the name).

Time: 3 hours a week. This really depends and can eat your time if you allow it, because it's conversations with your friends! The one that eats my time is our Camp group of 12 people and our NaNo group of 20+ :)

Platform: Again, less is kinda more here. But it actually has saved me time to chat with critique partners instead of e-mailing them all the time. You get a faster reply and I don't type out my entire day either ;)

~ MyWriteClub ~

I just heard about this and decided to make an account. It's to track your progress on any goals you create and to see progress that friends make. You can update it and comment on each other's. It's used loosely by most people and strikes me as a basic, year-round Camp NaNo. Because it's to keep scattered details of my life sane, it should help with time management overall :)

Purpose: to give myself deadlines and track my work.

Time: 5 minutes a day. Easy. Update your goal, scan your feed, turn it off.

Platform: This isn't a huge deal here because it's more for you than others. So just follow people that you care about! They'll probably follow you back :)

~ Facebook ~

Ah yes. I just conquered this beast last week. I've held out for soo long D: But I needed a professional page for my author stuff before my book is published, so I had to get a personal page, too. So far, I haven't lost too much time on it and have reached a new crowd of friends and family you will find only on Facebook. It's the everyman's media of choice. And you have no character limit ;)

Purpose: Reaching a new crowd for my book and having some place to post more general life stuff.

Time: about 15 minutes a day so far. But I am still in set-up mode, so maybe I can whittle that down to ten?

Platform: Do not be afraid to friend someone! Facebook is not the place to cherry-pick. Similar to Goodreads, I accept friend requests even from mere acquaintances that I could really care less about, or don't know if I can trust not to share gory details of their life. Even if you do cherry-pick, some people will surprise you. So...

Tip: Do friend a lot of people. Unfollow people that you can't stand. You won't see their stuff on your feed, they can still see yours, and you're still 'friends.' ;)

~ Spotify ~

This is like a social Pandora for those of you who don't know. You follow artists, albums, and friends. The wide variety of free music I have found extremely helpful! And the occasional ad doesn't bother me, because YouTube has more ads and little organization.

Purpose: Accessing more favorite artists and creating writing playlists.

Time: Hours and hours a day. But that's just listening to all the beautiful songs. Finding the songs takes like 5 minutes a day.

Platform: Again, the point of this isn't popularity for me since I don't have a music album on here :) But it is fun to follow a few friends so you can see their music tastes.

Tip: Don't feel like you have to follow complete albums. Follow the few songs you like. You'll be able to find the album again pretty easily. Pay attention to whether you are following playlists or albums, too, because playlists is someone else's personal taste on a subject and clog up your list of playlists. Maybe that doesn't bug most people :P

~~~~~

Phew! So there you have it. Hopefully this post was somewhat useful to you and didn't completely overwhelm you . . . or take too much of your time ;)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Fear as a Writer

Most of you know by now that I am an introvert and a writer. Since this is a favorite time of year to talk about scary things and fears, I am going to discuss one thing I fear as a writer.


In short, my fear is missing what matters. As I said, I am introverted. That's a life tendency. I also seclude myself a lot which is a writer tendency. I'm sure I'm not the only one here who does this. It's only natural with how I was created and what I have been called to do, so please don't take this as me bucking who I am. I love being an introverted writer! But even something so wonderful to me can be toxic to a certain degree.

This should be fairly self-explanatory. When you're an introvert (for those of you who don't know), everything happens inside of your head. The emotions, reactions, speculations, observations . . . very little of it ever shows on our faces or comes out of our mouths. At least, that is very much the way my personality works. Thus, we are often labeled as callous individuals. We internalize such remarks as well.

The drawback to being someone so hard to read is that it can be hard for people to connect to you if you don't give them anything to work with. And if you're an introvert, often times you think you're just as well off without people . . . most people at least.

As a writer, productivity often requires silence and seclusion. (If you're an introvert; extroverts can work in Grand Central Station.) So I am often in my room with my laptop or a notebook trying to eke some things out.

But every now and then, while standing by myself (quite happily) or writing a chapter in the quiet, I decide to join people. Why? Because there's some part of everyone's humanity that craves relationship and relationships are hinged on interaction to say the least. I am terribly afraid I am going to miss what matters most in life, and it's not having my alone time. It's relationships.

Think about your relationship with God: for it to really work, you have to put some effort into upkeep. Why? Because it's a relationship. While wrapping up Beth Moore's study Stepping Up on the Psalms of Ascent, she stressed how important it is to be there for our fellow pilgrims. Then she proceeded to read some data on the physical and spiritual health benefits of having true friends. In summary, individuals who had people that they regularly connected with live longer. They recover from health complications quicker. Meanwhile, a perfectly fit and healthy recluse has a better chance of dying first. I think it all comes down to: those with relationships have more reason for living.

Today we live in the world of pseudo-relationships. Your Facebook friends and blog followers are amazing people! But unless you are connecting to them in a real way, you're not going to be satisfied with them, even as an introvert.

All of this is to say, don't make all the mistakes I have. Put down the notebook and have that healthy conversation. Turn off Spotify and have a prayer time. We can afford to delay writing; it will wait. Relationships won't.

~~~~~

Please tell me I'm not the only one who struggles with this! My next post will be on how what I've learned about social media. Hopefully it will save you some time and give you more to put toward real relationships. In light of NaNo coming up, don't forget to live a little in November even amidst the writing ;)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

National Novel Writing Month

'Tis the season for all bloggers to either post on NaNoWriMo or comment everywhere trying to figure out what this thing is. I first heard of it in April 2015 when a woman overheard that I was writing and recommended it to me. Basically you make an account through nanowrimo.org and update your word count for a novel there. Your goal is to write 50K in just the month of November. Here's my plan so far, numbered, and in no particular order.


1~ WIN

My first goal is to win this thing. Have I ever written 50K before in a month? No. My record is 30,010 words, and that was reached during Camp NaNo in July. Nearly doubling my all-time monthly record? During the holidays? While publishing a novel? Nothing to worry about, right? (This is where you say "Of course right!")

2~ Conquer a new genre

In case you're wondering I have the tendency to get over-ambitious. I've only one completed Christian Contemporary novel and one Christian Fiction Retelling novella. In November, my goal is to draft at least 50K of a Christian Dystopian novel. This reveals a lot about my creative thought process: it's everywhere.

3~ Plot

I cannot go without some sort of planning (even if that's just talking out loud until it makes some sense) because I will go crazy on day 1. You guys don't want that. So I am currently giving a half-hearted attempt at plotting. The good news is that I'm reviving an idea from years ago and have managed to add a plot to it. As long as I complete some characters sheets before November, I think I'll feel comfortable. I don't see the point in ultra-planning this since I'll be writing faster than my brain can generate coherent thoughts anyway.

4~ My survival tips

Judging from Camp NaNo alone, some tips:

  • don't read what you write
  • do NOT edit what you write (the goal is quantity, not quality. I know :'( )
  • silence your inner voice of perfection. Call it conscience if you must
  • write and write a lot. The average number of words you have to write a day to succeed is 1,667
  • use The Most Dangerous Writing App (which permanently deletes what you've typed if you stop within the clock)
  • create a playlist for your novel(mine's on Spotify) and listen to nothing else as you write
  • chisel out chunks of time in which to conquer chunks of words
  • sacrifice some sleep. Actually, lots of sleep
  • do word wars with your friends. Competition for numbers is excellent motivation.
  • update your word count on NaNo daily (don't spend too much time on the website loafing)
  • do a #5k1day That's 10% of what you have to write conquered in a single day. If I have done this, I promise you can. If you do it on Tuesday, November 1, I'll do it with you via my Facebook event. I can also create a Google Hangouts group for non-Facebook people who are interested.



5~ Introduce my NaNo novel to all of you before November 1

Yay! This is where I get to share the blurb and pictures about this story which I am getting super psyched to write about. I think this is going to be really fun. Especially since I've found some really awesome buddies.

Imogen North struggles. But so does everyone else in the crumbling East Side. Yet Immy is convinced that no one, not even her twin, shares the struggles of her secrets: parents who were exiled for treason, a crippling fear of the dark, a desire to learn about the outlawed Followers, and now knowledge of the corrupted inner workings of her own government. When faced with the coming-of-age rite of accepting her designated role under Lord Luci, will she have the courage to stand up to the truth like her parents did and face the consequences? Or will the carefully cultivated darkness inside of her win? And is she prepared for what either decision could mean?

I have high hopes of this being an mid- and post-tribulation analogy, but we shall see . . .


Christian Dystopian, 3rd person, past tense, single POV. The book will follow Imogen North, her twin sister Ivy and friend Tristan Hodges also being focal characters. There's a full Pinterest board if you're really interested.

As with many of my other stories, this was inspired by a bizarre dream I had where "I" lived in a crumbling brick courtyard in freezing weather while being pursued by the government. No wonder it's taken me so long to find a plot, right? (Of course right!)

~~~~~

Are you doing NaNo? Leave me your username if you are and I will add you to my buddy list (apparently I'm hard to find). Are you going to participate in my #5k1day challenge? Will you use FB or Google Hangouts for updates, word wars, and motivation?

Also, if you enjoyed the Tolkien guest post of last week don't forget to check out the rest of the series on Evan's blog!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Tolkien the Storyteller ~ A Guest Post

Today I have Evan Oliver guest posting on Tolkien! At least, that's what I asked for. Instead, this turned into an awesome project of his, so what he brings us today will be merely the first installment of a series that takes a closer look at this influential author (the rest to come on his own blog). I, for one, am very excited to see where all Evan takes this. Enjoy the introduction to his series!



Writing on the importance of Tolkien is a daunting task. As I worked on this post, trying to do Tolkien justice while remaining within a responsible length, I found myself constantly pruning interesting branches of thought that threatened to grow this article beyond the convenient length for a blog post. I wished to thoroughly layout the case for why Tolkien should be studied not only by every author, but by every reader. Instead of laying out a thorough case here, I will explore three instances which show to some degree how Tolkien’s mind and work ran deep with meaning skillfully presented.


To be truly great, a writer must first have something truly worth saying, and second, they must be able to say it well.

Tolkien possessed both and the argument could be made that he possessed them in combination better than any other author of his time. As philologist, Tolkien understood the usage of words on a very, very technical level, and he understood how to use this knowledge to create a world that feels authentic. In addition to this, Tolkien was intimately involved in the defining events of the 20th century, being a participant in the Battle of the Somme in World War I, and living through the blitz whilst his son Michael fought in the British armed forces in World War II.


Speech As An Indicator of Personality

One of the more underrated skills Tolkien possessed was his ability to tell a story by how characters talk. Bilbo is introduced as a very modern, middleclass bachelor, one who might be at home in something like “Downton Abbey”, and one of the primary ways we are shown this is in how he talks. Bilbo uses phrases like “Good morning” and “Beg your pardon” as figures of speech which mean something different that the words themselves, and Gandalf highlights this with comedic effect in their first meeting. Thorin and the dwarves on the other hand not only use their words much more straightforwardly, they use a different, more heroic and archaic style of speech.  

Throughout “The Hobbit”, Thorin’s heroic style clashes with Bilbo’s more modern “business manner”. Tolkien draws attention to it when Bilbo and Thorin first meet, and it continues to play out through the story. The two are contrasted and each has its weaker moments; Bilbo’s style falls hilariously flat as he attempts to negotiate terms with the dwarves, and Thorin is later cut off by Bilbo on the mountain as he launches into a great speech that Bilbo sums up by demanding “If you want me to go down and face the dragon, say so at once”.  The two are resolved at the end as the Dwarves bid Bilbo farewell, with Bilbo inviting them to tea while they invite him to their mountain hall. While the words used are different, the meanings are the same. 

The most chilling however, is the dragon. Smaug speaks differently than any other character in the book, moving easily between modern colloquialism (“I don’t remember smelling you before”) and the heroic (“My teeth are swords! My claws are spears! My wings are a hurricane!”). The effect is to set Smaug apart from any other character in Middle Earth, to give him a sense of cunning, guile, and it is indeed easy, as Tolkien says, to see how Bilbo is rather overwhelmed. 


How Words Create an Authentic World

On the technical side, take for example the word “dwarf”, a constant source of frustration in his dealings with editors of "The Hobbit". For starters, the use of “f” marks the word as a ‘native’ word, one not borrowed from Latin or Greek (which use ‘ph’ to create the same sound as in ‘philosophy’) but rather an original part of the language tree that populated England with the Saxons. Such a word, Tolkien reasoned, must have represented something. Words are invented to describe the world, thus, the earliest speakers of Germanic must have encountered something that fit the original meaning of the original word “dwarf”. 

Secondly, the plural of dwarf poses a problem. Commonly, it is formed by simply adding ‘s’ and following the pattern of words like tiffs or bluffs, both much more modern words not present in Old English. If its plural had remained in use over the years, it would follow the same pattern followed by its Old English brethren loaf to loaves, calf to calves and thus dwarf to dwarves.  It is a credit to Tolkien that almost singlehandedly he has brought the older form back into usage. But more importantly, it is a credit to his understanding and knowledge of how languages have developed and functioned that enable him to create so convincing a world. Dwarfs would not have ruined “The Hobbit”, but the change to Dwarves contributes to the world in the way that little details do, by working together to create depth and by pointing the way to what lies beyond.  


Hope & Luck

The concept of Wyrd, loosely translated as fate or destiny, is a prominent one both in Northern Literature and in the trenches, where one might say “His time was up” or “There’s a bullet with your name on it”, but in the Christian West, and later the Secular West, the concept of fate or luck has remained, but without any kind of logical explanation for how or why it works.  Tolkien tried to answer some of the questions about it and did so through Lord of the Rings, especially the character of Gollum. Gollum’s arrival at the chasms of Mount Doom just when Frodo refuses to throw in the ring is perhaps the most pointed to example of Luck in the story. However, it is a direct result of countless decisions reaching back to Bilbo refusing to kill a helpless creature some fifty years before in the goblin tunnels of the Misty Mountains.

In the Old English Poem Beowulf, the title character declares:


…Wyrd oft nereth  
Unfaegne Eorl, thonne his ellen deah. 

…Fate often spares 
The Undoomed warrior, When his courage holds. (My translation)

This concept of the undoomed man surviving, but only if his courage holds is a common one in northern literature, and one that Tolkien made particular note of. This concept is worth an entire (upcoming) post in itself, but suffice to say here that while fate spares the man, the undoomed man is not without responsibility, his luck is dependent to some degree on his decisions. His courage must hold, which here leads to the second half of what Tolkien was trying to say. 

Hope is important, vital to our resisting of evil as fallen, human creatures, and as such a choice that we can make. We can choose to hope. Despair by contrast is an act of arrogance. Denethor, for instance, believes himself to be so all knowing; so wise that he knows and understands everything and sees with absolute certainty the outcome when in fact, he has only seen the lies of Sauron and based on these he gives up all hope. Thus he kills himself, taking Gandalf away from the fight thus contributing directly to the death of Theoden.

I hope I have given some of you reason enough to take another look at how Tolkien wrote. The works that he left behind were phenomenal pieces of art that interacted on a deep level with the world around him, and it is in part because of how powerfully he did so that they have become so widely read. From his unique perspective about what the history of words such as Wraith could tell us about the world, to his deep and complex ideas about evil wrapped up in the ring Tolkien crafted his work with skill and reach rarely seen. As I continue my series on Tolkien, I will be looking at some of these things in greater detail, as well as exploring other works by Tolkien such as his essays and short stories, and how he brought Norse ideas about good, evil, fate, and death to bear on the struggles of the 20th Century.

~~~~~

Excellent post, yes?! Believe it or not, I actually met Evan in person about 10 years ago. Since then, we've both gotten into writing. He has just published The Dragon of Kveldmir (which I highly recommend). Be sure to keep up with Evan's blog so you can read the rest of his series on Tolkien!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Do You Write What You Read?

Happy October! Due to the fact that this trending question popped up in my face three times this week, I'm posting on it!



The first place it showed up was Go Teen Writers in a post by Stephanie Morrill. It got me thinking, I commented, and moved on.

When it appeared in an article Writer's Digest e-mailed me, I was forced to think about it again. Coincidence?

Then it came up while reading Just Write by James Scott Bell yesterday afternoon. He said: "I love reading [criminal suspense], so that's mostly what I write."

You're probably wondering what the big deal is. The big deal is I had to wrestle with whether I write what I read or not. I would have said no at the beginning of the week because so far all I write is Christian Contemporary and it's been a solid year since I've read anything in that genre. I was shocked when my brain had inspiration within this genre.

But the more I thought about it, I used to read a ton of stuff like this! Not always contemporary, but always the clean romance by the end of it. Janette Oke, Grace Livingston Hill, Laura Ingalls Wilder . . . yeah. Those consumed my tween years, you guys. Then I moved on to Beverly Lewis and became obsessed with the Amish. (I'm actually struggling to think of any books like this I've read that are contemporary?)

The reason I read very little of this anymore is not because I don't like to have a fresh story in a cute setting with a clean romance when all is said and done. I do. Hallmark can speak my language. But you know how there's just that thing that goes with Hallmark? Things that you cover your eyes and laugh at and try to erase from your mind? While I can still love a Hallmark movie even with that, I have a much harder time enjoying books like that anymore! I have labored through Janette Oke's Return to the Canadian West series because it all feels so flat and fake to me. Which is sad because the original Canadian West is one of my favorite series ever.

Back to the point: do I really write what I read? I suppose so. Because even though there is depth, conflict, and flare lacking to some of the stories I would have devoured without a second thought five years ago, I still got the passion to write a story very similar.

Why?

Well, obviously because I read enough of them, they are a part of me. I will forever love Laura and Almanzo, Elizabeth and Wynn. They're really sweet and inspiring! But it comes down to the fact that I absorbed enough of the Christian Romance genre, well done and not, that I know what I would do differently.

This is how the Writer's Digest article put it: "You know what fans of this genre want, because you are a fan. You know what is a cliche and what would have you clicking that Buy button. Write the book you want to read."

So my story, Martin Hospitality, is contemporary. That's my first change just because it's me and I'm not giving myself extra research! The main character also has some real issues and isn't actually deep into the faith yet, which is unusual. I tried to add a lot of reality because I want everyone who picks it up and reads even a tiny portion to feel connected. Sometimes a Christian romance novel can transport me, but not engage me. I think there's a difference there. And I am also going different with my cover if I can. Because I heartily dislike most Christian Fiction covers. Not because they're bad, but because they don't do anything for my imagination except give me a face and the cute little house in the background that I can't get out of my head while reading.

I never thought I'd write Christian Contemporary because it's what I have felt done reading for a while. But now I believe it's for that exact same reason that God gave me that really bizarre dream  about a pregnant blonde and a really awesome farmer (after reading a Beverly Lewis novel). Thank goodness Someone knows what they're doing.

Perhaps you're like me: You don't write what you read, you write what you've read. Tweet this!

~~~~~

What are the main two genres you read or have read? Think about it. Do you write in them, too? If not, I encourage you to consider giving it a shot sometime! And happy fall! My favorite time of the year is finally here! :)





Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Art of Book Journaling

Journaling is a big deal in today's world. There's longhand for the ambitious and the all-new bullet journaling for the creative. Today I'm going to talk about the new sort I've explored, and why I think you should give it a shot.


I am not a journaler. I've tried for so many years to journal my life and it just . . . never happens.

I was first compelled to journal a book when I participated in a book club this summer. It was part of the assignment: to find something new and creative to do as you read.

So I tabbed pages and quotes as I read the first book, Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan. I found it amazing how much more themes and quotes stood out to me, when subconsciously looking for them! Since the book is middle-grade and set in Africa it was an easy read, but had lots of wildlife. Thus the extra thing I added was pictures of the birds Rachel mentioned and characteristics of them.


The second book I journaled (also for book club) was An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. I could not wait to do this one since it is one of my favorite books! As you can tell, I used plenty of tabs.


This time I even color coded them: green for a quote or observation, purple for something I could formulate a question off of for book club. (I am going to lead this session and will post a PDF with the questions for you guys to answer!) With some fine point pens my friend gave me for graduation, I was able to make the journaling I did match the tabs. I love it when colors have a purpose :)


The purpose of tabbing is so that I don't have to stop reading; I can just flag something I like and journal it later. So that was awesome.

Another book I journaled was If I Run by Terri Blackstock. This one I picked up from the library after becoming curious. I had no intention of journaling it until I realized what a good subject it would be a few pages in! Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of this one before I had to rip out all of my beautiful blue tabs and return the book to the library :(


I was so thrilled that this book included discussion questions, that not only did I journal this book, I typed up all of my journal notes on it and decided to share them with you! I figure it is the best way to show you exactly how I do it. (Probably best not to read it if you haven't read the book, or intend to. Some mild spoilers are contained.) You can click here or check it out on my Reviews page.

I haven't decided what book I'm going to journal next, but it shall be glorious! It really does help me get more out of a book. Since writing things down helps me remember them anyway, I've found this a very good way to retain more of what I read.


I highly recommend that all of you try journaling a book at some point. If you're going to do it, some tips:

  • you cannot journal too much your first time!
  • pick a low-key book to begin with
  •  use a journal that can lay flat
  • make it your own (pictures, doodles, quotes, song lyrics, research)
  • share pictures with me! :)
~~~~~
I'm so excited about everything I've discovered while journaling! Have you read any of the books I mentioned? I highly recommend all three of them, especially for journaling. How do you book journal? What kind of journaling do you most enjoy?