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.