December 30, 2007

Email Forwards?

Okay - we all have opinions and views, but how often do others' words reflect our own hearts intimately? Not often. This was emailed to me by a person who is very much "on the fence" about his faith. He doubts and challenges Christianity. Somehow, I believe, he gets it a little more than he's willing admit.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS SundayMorning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and Idon't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?'(regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get outof our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and wemight damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure itout. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace...

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us...

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My BestRegards.

Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

November 27, 2007

November CSFF Blog Tour



This month we're looking at Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead, the second installment of the King Raven Trilogy.

If you haven't already, check out book one of the series, Hood.

Here's the Amazon.com description of Scarlet:

After losing everything he owns, forester Will Scarlet embarks on a search for none other than King Raven, whose exploits have already become legendary. After fulfilling his quest--and proving himself a skilled and loyal companion--Will joins the heroic archer and his men.

Now, however, Will is in prison for a crime he did not commit. His sentence is death by hanging--unless he delivers King Raven and his band of cohorts.

That, of course, he will never do.

Wales is slowly falling under the control of the invading Normans, and King William the Red has given his ruthless barons control of the land. In desperation, the people turn to King Raven and his men for justice and survival in the face of the ever-growing onslaught.

From deep in the forest they form a daring plan for deliverance, knowing that failure means death for them all.

Scarlet continues Stephen R. Lawhead's riveting saga that began with the novel Hood, which relocated the legend of Robin Hood to the Welsh countryside and its dark forests. Steeped in Celtic mythology and the political intrigue of medival Britain, Lawhead's trilogy conjures up an ancient past and holds a mirror to contemporary realities. Prepare for an epic tale that dares to shatter everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood.

November 20, 2007

Holiday Havoc

Well - the madness is about to begin. It's all good madness though.

Tomorrow, five family members will be arriving in our midst and I couldn't be more excited. My brother and sister-in-law and their three girls (13, 11, & 7) will stay with my in-laws, and the girls will stay with us for part of the weekend. My nieces are so sweet and loving that I can't help but to feel encouraged even when my health isn't so great.

So - they arrive Wednesday, Thanksgiving is on Thursday, Friday we'll probably take the girls, Saturday & Sunday Jeff works, and by next Tuesday my parents will arrive from California to stay with us for about three weeks. Whew.

I can honestly admit that I'm so excited that it drives my problems to the back of my mind. Tomorrow, I'll also be making my very popular Pumpkin Cheesecake. I can't stand pumpkin pie. Yeah - okay, I'm a freak. However, I make a mean pumpkin cheesecake that so far has gotten rave reviews. I have discovered a very key shortcut this year. I've ditched the spring-form pan and cheated by buying premade graham cracker crusts. I get more pies and it eliminates my stumbling block. I'll be cranking out cheesecake like there's no tomorrow. :)

"Christmas shopping?" you ask. Nope - not a stitch. I'm in denial. I've been crocheting up a storm in preparation, but I haven't purchased so much as a roll of tape. I'm not the type to get up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) the day after Thanksgiving to race off to battle the soccer moms for a $2.99 pair of slippers. Not me. No way. I'm a self-proclaimed procrastinator and if I'm not scrambling at the last minute of Christmas Eve, then something has gone awry, alert the authorities.

Altogether, I've realized that with my family near me I feel better. Love and laughter have been my best medicine and that's just fine with me.

November 12, 2007

Musings...

This just sort of popped up one night and I had to get it out. There is no place for it in any story, but it began a whole new train of thought, an autobiographical one. So without further ado, here are my musings:

As a kid I dreamed of the future and knew many aspects of life would change. I truly had no clue that I was to be a part of one of the most amazing times in history. So many developments and inventions, ideas and awarenesses, and information and perspectives have flooded our collective conciousness.

Born in 1977, I was a child of the eighties, a teenager of the nineties, and an adult of the new millenium. This year, 2007, I turned thirty and feel yet again on the cusp of change. My environment changes, as do I, yet delliniating one from the other is nearly impossible. The age old debate of nature versus nuture really has no platform on which to stand. My world and myself shift in waves of awareness broken only upon the shores of the unchanged and the unchangable. These timeless beaches of truth exist for us all, yet few recognize the shore and insist that the sea must extend beyond the boundaries of absolute truth.

My goals and dreams from childhood hold no less mysticism than they did twenty years ago. I'm now old enough to see just how simply my ten-year-old mind had imagined the future, and young enough to see that simplicity is beautiful and fulfilling yet difficult to attain. Someday, I may aspire to lead a more complicated life, but that won't be for many years to come. Perhaps I'll retire, lose some of those whom I hold dearest, and pray for action and excitement to distract my deteriorating mind. Hopefully, regardless of those around me, I'll have a reliance on my faith and my ultimate destination that will carry me through my final years on the earth.

September 22, 2007

Fantastic Fantasy - Wayne Thomas Batson

As a fan of Fantasy, I've decided to start a series of posts about books I'm reading, have read, recommendations, and so forth. As you can see by the title, it's called Fantastic Fantasy. I'll feature different authors and their books and try to give very fair reviews and let you know if I'm having trouble being unbiased. My intention is to keep this a fairly regular feature, but we shall see. Also, check out my Shelfari link here or in the sidebar.

My first installment is, appropriately, one of my very favorite authors, Wayne Thomas Batson:


Wayne Thomas Batson:

The Door Within


As many of you already know, I'm a HUGE fan of Wayne Thomas Batson. His books speak so well of the Christian walk, while disguising themselves as amazing Fantasy Fiction. Today, I'm going to review the first book of his that I read, The Door Within.

Author Links


Blog: Enter the Door Within

Amazon Link: The Door Within

Recommended Age: 12+ (Although, my daughter began it when she was 8.)

The story begins with a very average kid, Aidan, who lives in the shadow of his best friend's great achievements. Aidan's grandfather's failing health tears him away from his friends and home, as he and his parents journey to Colorado.

Aidan cannot see the good in the move, but his own anger is left behind as he discovers three mysterious clay pots in his grandfather's basement. Glowing and containing "The Story," the pots open a whole new adventure that has little to do with his own will and everything to do with the will of King Eliam.

Aidan's journey through The Door Within teaches him to look beyond his circumstances and find the greater purpose he may serve.

Aidan discovers an unseen world, The Realm, populated with human-like creatures called Glimpses. His purpose becomes clear; he is to be the 12th knight of the Elder Guard. How an awkward teenage boy can become a knight and fight an evil force in two weeks, is beyond Aidan's comprehension. However, he steps forward and accepts his task with greater courage than even he realizes.

His journey of faith in himself and faith in King Eliam teaches him that to serve is to be loved and that we are "Never Alone."

Swords, knights, strange creatures, evil traitors, castles, dragons, and adventure await all who dare step through The Door Within. I recommend this book to my non-Christian friends more often than my Christian friends. Why? This book will capture their imaginations and take them for a ride, all the while, asking themselves, "Can I, like Aidan, be Never Alone!?" It's a quiet ministry that begs our hearts to find our own greater purpose.

As a Christian, I felt the book speak to me of the rocky and sometimes overwhelmingly difficult path of Christianity. We, like Aidan, have family and friends whom we want to see in Heaven, but who smile and pat our heads in the "that's cute" way. We've all faced trials that seemed impossible, yet find ourselves standing on the other side asking ourselves, "How in the world did I get through that?"

Aidan's journey is one that we can all relate to, whether Christian or not, but does an amazing job of leading us up to those big questions in life.

Until next time friends...

A-M-Y is M-I-A...

One word: bronchitis. I've been taken out of the game of life for about a week now. I'm on antibiotics, but so far, to no avail. Fever, body aches, and the cough - oh, the cough. It's deep and thick and crackling - ugh! Because of my asthma, they put me on these horse pills of antibiotics. It could be dangerous for me to develop pnemonia.

In addition to the anitbiotics and cough syrup, my doc perscribed the only drug I will absolutely refuse: Prednisone. As many of my close friends know, I was destroyed by the drug two years ago; six months of 60mg per day. That spelled mood changes, body temperature irregularity, weight gain, moon face (it seriously looked like a dinner plate), and loss of bone density. I'm still recovering from the weight gain and bone density loss, and won't head down that road again.

The good news is that I actually don't need the steroids anyway; my asthma has been in check. I've been taking really good care of myself and doing my nebulizer treatments and all that jazz. I'll do whatever it takes to avoid Prednisone.

So - if anyone is wondering where I've disappeared to or why I haven't responded - now you know. As soon as I'm on the mend, I'll be catching up with everyone.

This sickness has seriously knocked the stuffing out of me. I've dealt with some severe chronic health problems, but this thing is a monster. It's the infection that wouldn't die! If I'm not noticing improvement by Monday, I'm supposed to go see my doc. We'll see...

All prayers are welcome! Until next time - remember that as God closes one door in our path, He always opens three others, we just need to keep our eyes and hearts open and take that step of faith.

September 17, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour - Austin Boyd's The Return

With nothing left for him on Earth, Rear Admiral John Wells didn't hesitate to lead a third NASA team to Mars, but he never dreamed that one day they'd look out their laboratory module into the lights of a slow-moving vehicle not their own. In the third installment of the Mars Hill Classified series, life on Mars becomes increasingly more unpredictable as the past collides with the future, and nothing, not even the dead, is as it seems...
(back cover of The Return)

Well - unfortunately, I only just received my copy of The Return. I'm afraid that one week has not been long enough for me to finish or even get into this book. I'm going to post anyway and hopefully bring some interesting information to you all.

Be sure to check out Austin Boyd's website as well, to find out a little more about the man behind the Mars Hill Classified series, published by NavPress.

Here's an updated list of CSFF Blog Tour participants:

Trish Anderson
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Amy Browning
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Lisa Cromwell
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Merrie Destefano or Alien Dream
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Christopher Hopper
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Kait
Karen
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Rachel Marks
Karen McSpadden
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Lyn Perry
Deena Peterson
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

I haven't updated my sidebar list yet, so this will do for now. Make sure to check out who's posting what and leave comments so they know you've come by.

Happy touring!

September 5, 2007

New Weekly Poll

Poll Question:

As a Speculative Fiction fan, what do you tend to read?

Make sure to vote and discuss this topic with us.

I, myself, tend to read a combination of both. When I discovered The Door Within Trilogy, I actually didn't know it was a Christian series. I had found it at my local library and instantly fell in love with it. After ordering all three from Amazon.com, I kept noticing parallels to the Christian life and struggles I've personally faced. The more I read, the more I was convinced that the author must be a Christian. I'd had little experience with Christian Fiction up to this point and assumed it would be blatent and preachy. The words God and Christ never appeared on the pages, but the story was all there.

Eventually, I got into contact with Wayne Thomas Batson and discovered that not only was he a Christian, he was a Christian author published by a Christian publisher. My initial suspicions were at last confirmed. This realization opened up a whole new genre for me. I had found my writing home.

I still love any good Fantasy. It may be secular, and if it's Christian - Bonus! Now though, I'm constantly exposed to excellent Christian Fantasy books and can't fit them all in to my reading schedule. It's a good problem to have.

My favorite kind of book to read, and what I hope to get published some day is a Fantasy that has an amazing story, told by a great story-teller, that has subtle suggestions of faith. The kind of book that a non-Christian would be just as likely to pick up and read as a Christian, and end up wondering where they personally fit into the grand scheme of things. It's like a ministry unto itself, without turning away the people that need to hear the message the most.

September 1, 2007

Suspense Technique #4: Frustration

Wayne Thomas Batson has posted the winner for the fourth of his Suspense Techniques Contest: Frustration. While I didn't win the prize, I'm honored to have received an Honorable Mention. Here's what he had to say about mine:

Amy: Brilliant stuff. He was trying so hard to get out of the kingdom and then to run into the boy with the mysterious past...awesome

Check it all out at Wayne's site: Enter the Door Within.

Here are my entries for Suspense Technique #4 - Frustration:

#1:


“Are you aware, Master Kalon, that you will need far more supplies than this house contains during such a long journey?”

“Yes, Bastion, I’m aware. I don’t have the option of waiting for the market to open. I must leave now. They are coming for me,” Kalon replied urgently.

Kalon quickly gathered the rest of the dried meat, a loaf of bread and filled his wineskin. Panic began to grip his insides; he knew he had very little time to spend on preparations, a fact that would make his difficult journey nearly impossible. There was no choice; he had to leave before the soldiers discovered what he’d done.

As he reached to grab his long bow, he realized that he’d used most of his arrows hunting the day before and hadn’t had time to make more. He’d have to rely on his broadsword for protection. As he strapped the sword to his waist, he simultaneously slung the bow and quiver across his back, and hastily snatched his full pack from Bastion. Rushing out the door, Kalon caught his arm on the iron hinge, a gash several inches long began to bleed freely. If he didn’t stem the flow, the soldiers’ predatory beasts would surely catch his scent far sooner than Kalon could afford. He tore a strip of cloth from his own shirt and carelessly bandaged his aching arm.

With a brief nod of his head, he bid Bastion farewell and rounded the house to the stable. His steed had been saddled and readied for the flight from danger. Finally, a bit of hope crept into Kalon’s heart. He knew once he passed the main watch tower at the end of town, he would gain distance between himself and the pursuing soldiers. He drove the horse hard and was passing the watch tower, just as a familiar form stepped into his path. Not that boy, not now! I cannot stay idle for long; his interference could cost me my lead, but I cannot leave him without a proper explanation. The boy deserves at least that much.


#2:

Selinium knew that the secrets to her parentage lay inside the sage sitting before her. The ancient man sat gazing into her pleading eyes, while his remained inscrutable. She searched his face for some sign of an impending response or greeting. It never came.

“Sir Ezreal, do you know who I am?” asked Selinium.

Ezreal silently nodded his head. She’d been searching for someone who could tell her who her parents were and the man who could tell her refused to speak. Maintaining her patient tone she spoke again.

“Sir Ezreal, do you know who my parents were?”

Yet again, her inquiry was met with nothing but a nod. The days of traveling began to weigh on Selinium; her body ached, her feet were blistered, and her head felt dizzy with hunger. Yet, she could not leave the company of the only one with the knowledge she sought. Her tactic changed in hopes of eliciting an explanatory response.

“Sir Ezreal, I beg you. I have traveled far and survived many dangers to come to you. Please, tell me of my parents, of the land they came from, or any way I can find the answers I seek. I beg you.”

The aged wise man tilted his head and looked puzzled, as though he were examining a rare species of insect. Selinium felt as though the man knew much more than she had even expected. She saw a glimmer of familiarity in his gaze. Yet the man continued to sit and stare.

Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes; her throat felt constricted. Why was he just sitting there? Why didn’t he answer? Was her entire quest for naught? Was her only hope of knowing the truth lost?

Ezreal straightened his back in a bird-like posture. “You are not ready,” he said in a tone of finality. He closed his eyes and began to meditate, clearly the conversation was over.


Well - there they are. I'll be putting up my entries for #5 soon. I welcome any feedback. Thanks.

Don't forget to check out the weekly polls.

August 30, 2007

Laptops, and Puppies, and Surgery, Oh My!

What a week! As the title implies, at least three major events have, will, or may happen within the next couple of days.

For our 10th wedding anniversary, Jeff surprised the socks off of me: a brand new laptop!!! Wow! This is the most unexpected surprise ever. Our anniversary isn't until September 13th, so it was early, and I also never would've guessed that I'd get my very own laptop. I've only ever had a family computer in my life, never my very own. I was so blown away that I could barely speak. I just kept looking at it in disbelief and smiling until me cheeks hurt.

I didn't even know we could afford it. Jeff's been doing tons of sidework lately and he's been skimming off of each job and hiding the money. I had no clue. Jeff's not really a planned surprise kind of guy. I'm the one always planning surprise parties and holiday stuff. He wins. I can't top that.

So - it's an Acer Aspire 5570Z. It has a dvd burner, a 5 in one memory stick port, and every kind of flash drive and USB thing a girl could need, it also has an Intel dual core processor, and tons of movie-making media stuff. I'll be able to do EVERYHING and more with this thing.

I feel so blessed! It's not the thing, it's all the stuff that the thing represents. As some of you know, I've had my share of health issues. With a laptop, I can write, blog, and chat from my recliner or bed if need be. Even when I'm healthy, I'll be able to take it to the park, coffee shop, or on road trips. To me, the laptop will provide freedom that I will use and enjoy greatly. Jeff knows this. He gets it. He knows exactly what this little piece of technology really means to me. That is the reason I feel blessed - I feel blessed to be married to a man that will do his best to provide for me in any way he can.

Big event #2: The Puppy!

It's not official yet. We will find out on Saturday whether or not the puppy still needs a home, but we may have a new addition to our family. We've been praying our hearts out about this. We only want to make this kind of committment if it's what God wants for our family. We're not rushing into anything - we're taking our time. I guess I shoud start at the beginning.

I called Jeff at work Monday morning, just to say hi. He absolutely gushed about a little dog that his buddy from work had with him. It turns out that this guy's puppy has a sister that looks just like him and needs a home, possibly. As far as this guy knows, the friend he got his puppy from has a little girl and will give it to us for free. He won't know until Saturday because he can't see his friend until then. He's going to call us Sat. morning.

The puppy is a dark golden color with a white patch on its chest. It has a short smooth coat and a straight tail. The breed sounds like it wouldn't be that cute, but then I saw a picture on the web and was shocked. It's a Chihuahua and Jack Russell Terrier mix. The fact that it's a mutt is great; they have better tempermants and are friendlier toward people. The puppy has folded over ears and a kind of rounded muzzle (very un-Chihuahua-ish). I'm really not usually into smaller dogs, but if this is what we're supposed to have, then I can handle it. Plus, our yard isn't super big and we already have three cats.

I've been trying all week to not get too excited. I don't want us to make any decisions based on emotion. I know that any puppy will be loved by me, I just want to make sure we don't just go crazy for it because it's cute. We've actually been talking about getting a dog for almost a year now. No doors have opened in that direction, so we've just been holding out. Now though, there's potentially a puppy that needs a home, we've got the room, we've got the desire, we're ready for the responsibility, and if it's still available, it will be ours.

Okay - surgery. Jeff is getting a certain procedure done tomorrow afternoon. It's, shall we say, personal and involves us not wanting any more children. :)

Well - my battery is running low now. I'm sure I'll be updating about the puppy on Saturday. Until then - have a safe and fun Labor Day weekend.

August 28, 2007

Weekly Poll

I've decided to post a weekly poll that will ask questions about life in general, movies, writing, reading, parenting, and anything else I may think of. Check it out in my sidebar. I'll also be adding a post to correspond to the poll question. That way we can share our anwers and have a place to discuss it further. Hopefully, this will end up being a fun little extra for all my blog friends.

Weekly Poll #1: What inspires your story ideas most?

August 27, 2007

Books on Writing

I'm so excited! I've just recieved and begun reading 3 new books on the craft of writing. I really want to learn the craft and turn whatever natural ability, or lack there of, into a deep and meaningful endeavor.

On the advice of those authors much wiser than myself, I've headed over to Where the Map Ends. This site is amazing! I highly recommend checking it out. Especially for an unpublished author, this site explains the ins and outs of the publishing world. The creator of the site, Jeff Gerke, has filled the site with everything Specualtive Fiction. He's a fan, an author, an editor, an acquisitioner, a Christian, and full of incredible information.

I digress. The Tools for Writers section is chalk full of resources and information. I particularly zeroed in on the first link on the list Books and Conferences for Improving Your Writing. Here I found several book recommendations, but the number one was a book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

My brother gave to me a gift card for an online book-seller and I purchased that title as well as Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Novakovich and Write Great Fiction - Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. All 3 books were recommended by Jeff Gerke and all three have now arrived at my doorstep.

I've begun to read Fiction Writer's Workshop and couldn't be more pleased. I was looking for a book that would challenge me like Wayne Thomas Batson's Suspense Techniques. I wrote well when challenged and was eager for more. This book has provided just such an outlet. It's set up like an actual workshop; each chapter explains and illustrates a concept and is then followed by writing exercises. I've only gotten through the first chapter, and I've already been stretched in my writing. There are twelve exercises at the end of chapter one, and I've finished about half.

I really believe that being a writer means that you write. Just like a brick-layer lays bricks. So if I want to grow as a writer, I need to pursue a better understanding of the craft and my own abilities. God keeps opening the doors toward writing and I keep stepping forward in faith. His plan is the only thing that matters. I hope to honor God and speak to those who need to hear His words through my writing, like so many gifted authors have done before me.

The New School Year

One week and one day left...

Preparations have been a slow and steady process, rather than a quick rushed gathering of books and such. It's actually been quite a smooth process. I haven't been writing as much as I'd like to, but a little prep now will afford me lots of free time later.

I thought I'd put up a few of the homeschooling resources I've found helpful. So without further ado:
  • HomeschoolReviews.com - Parents review curriculum and programs that they've actually tried. This is a great way to get info on which books would work best for your child.
  • ColoringBookFun.com - Free printable pages with every imaginable characters/subjects you can imagine; from Hello Kitty to Bible stories.
  • Used Curriculum Forum at About.com - A new forum and a great ebay substitute.
  • Multiplication.com - Games, flash cards, printables, and more.
  • Family Learning Organization (FLO) - This site will send standardized tests and supplies, score the results electronically, and get you the results in great time. You choose when to test and you are the "Proctor" while the FLO is the "Administrator." We used this last year - highly recommended!

Well -those are the only national sites I could really post, they're in my sidebar too. I've just joined a co-op in my area that does field trips, events, and something called Friday School. It's a parent taught program that meets every Friday. The kids can enroll in 3 classes, one hour each, for each session. The whole thing begins with chapel, which includes worship and a brief message. Then - off to class. The classes themselves range from horseback riding to horticulture. I think it'll be a really fun program for my daughter.

I also found a Yahoo group for homeschoolers in my area. I highly recommend trying to find an online group for your own area. It's great! Parents post events they hear of and provide helpful hints and tips, as well as giving you a safe place to ask those questions we all have rattling around in our brains.

This year will definitely be full of new adventures!

August 22, 2007

August CSFF Blog Tour

This month we're actually looking at Book One of the Trophy Chase Trilogy, but I came across the newly released Book Two and just had to share my excitement. The Hand That Bears the Sword continues the adventures of high seas, pirates, and a desperate quest to save a homeland from evil.

Here's the Amazon.com description:

Christian fantasy at its best has finally arrived in The Hand that Bears the Sword, book two in Emmy award–winning author George Bryan Polivka’s The Trophy Chase Trilogy.
Readers will thrill as newlyweds Packer and Panna Throme are once again thrust into high adventure. Pirate Scat Wilkins returns with evil intentions for Packer as the Trophy Chase sets sail for the deep waters once again. A new and surprising Hezzan in the Kingdom of Drammun has diabolical designs on not just Packer but on the entire Kingdom of Nearing Vast. And, at home, Panna must await Packer’s hopeful return while imprisoned by the lecherous Prince Mather.
Will Packer and Panna escape their separate dangers and find happiness in the Kingdom of Nearing Vast....or will the invading Drammune army steal away their future and that of all the people of Packer and Panna’s homeland?


Let's not forget though, the entire trilogy begins with The Legend of the Firefish. Check out the Amazon.com description for this one:

The Legend of the Firefish is a timeless tale of the pursuit of faith and honor.

Packer Throme longs to bring prosperity back to his decaying fishing village by discovering the trade secrets of a notorious pirate who hunts the legendary Firefish and sells the rare meat. Armed with the love of the priest’s daughter and a noble purpose, Packer stows away on the ship Trophy Chase bound for sea. But many tests of his faith and his resolve follow.

Will belief and vision be enough for the young man to survive?
Captivating action, dialogue, and insights into the heroic struggle of faith make this an ideal read for fans of adventure, fantasy, and well–told tales of honor.

August 20, 2007

George Bryan Polivka's Legend of the Firefish


Hello Friends!


This month for the CSFF Blog Tour, we're looking at a Christian Fantasy book by George Bryan Polivka. The book is called Legend of the Firefish. It's the first of the Trophy Chase Trilogy, published by Harvest House.


Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to read this one. However, I am going to order it from Amazon when I make my next purchase (which will be very soon). It comes highly recommended from fellow Christian Fantasy authors whose opinions I respect greatly. So that's good enough for me.


Here's what Publisher's Weekly had to say about Legend of the Firefish:


Swashbuckling is the best way to describe Book One of the Trophy Chase Trilogy. Without wasting time, Polivka's first novel drops readers into a fantasy world filled with action, where chivalry is alive and well, and sword fights are frequent. Packer Throme—a failed seminarian turned master swordsman—sets out on a great quest, but not in search of fame. He hopes to honor God by stowing away on (former) pirate Scatter Wilkins's ship Trophy Chase, convincing its captain and crew to seek the legendary firefish—a feat that could raise Packer's fishing village from poverty and win the heart of his longtime love, the beautiful Panna Seline. Happily, Polivka gives this heroine a backbone, not to mention a mighty right hook and her own part to play in this adventure. "It was wrong to have let her, and thousands of young women just like her, believe they had no power, no strength, and therefore could have no place or position," Panna reflects angrily about the plight of women. Though the Packer-Panna romance finds considerable ink, this is a tale almost entirely of pirates, warriors, stormy seas and battles with monsters. The Christian message is palpable, and Polivka's characters relatively complex. With the nonstop action that cuts between multiple story lines, readers will be flipping pages eagerly.


Please check out the updated list of CSFF participants. Peruse their blogs often and even leave a comment or two to let them know you were there.
More tomorrow...

August 1, 2007

A Quick Update

Good news first:
  • I sold all my curriculum and have been able to finish purchasing this year's 4th grade books.
  • I've found a story that I'm running with and ideas have been smacking me in the face around every corner I turn. WOO HOO!
  • A very good friend of mine, Eve Nielsen, over at Quest Writer, is working with me to exchange and critique each other's writing. As a fellow writer, homeschool mom, and Christian she is a very valuable and useful asset, as well as an awesome person. It's been so fun and rewarding to help each other out.
  • I got to take my daughter to experience the madness of the last Harry Potter midnight book release at our local Borders. After returning home, I read it in approximately 16 hours - taking out all eating and sleeping. This translated into Sunday at 6am. I read until I HAD to eat, sleep, or visit the little girls' room. More to come on all this, I'm considering doing a full-scale review of the book and series as a whole. We'll see.
  • Editorials over at MuggleNet haven't dropped off too dramatically. There are enough editorials to keep us busy.
  • The weather here has been absolutely beautiful and perfect for swimming in our new pool.
  • BBQ season has hit the Browning household and I just can't resist. The grill calls to me in its husky voice, "Use me, I make all your food taste so good." I'm a sucker for a bbq in summer.
  • I got a super-cool 4th grade science program via UPS, and it looks every bit as cool as it did on the website.

Okay - that's the good news. Now for the not-so-good news:

  • The medication trial I'm on for my migraines doesn't seem to be working. It's a three month trial and I believe I'm at about 2+ months at this point.
  • My asthma is pretty horrible. It's an all the time thing. I've been needing to do my nebulizer treatments regularly just to keep from coughing my guts up. I've been really frustrated as my energy is zapped from me, along with the ability to do any housework for any decent length of time. My clean laundry refuses to fold itself, I'm working on it though.
  • I'm starting to feel spread a little thin in general. I know I really don't have that many obligations, it just feels like I do. Any obligations I do have though, are ones I embrace and cherish. Ugh! I'll keep praying about it.

So there's the short version of the last few days of my life. I'll have time to expand later...

July 26, 2007

Gently Used Curriculum

I now have FOR SALE gently used curriculum books from Bob Jones University (BJU) Press and Alpha Omega Publishers.

For details and pictures click HERE or email me (Amy) at more2live4@gmail.com

Books available:

Bob Jones:
*Handwriting 3
*Spelling 4


As items sell, they will be marked so on the details web page.

July 23, 2007

July CSFF Blog Tour - Day One


It's that time of the month again. This time the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour is highlighting the second book of the Dominion Trilogy - Fearless, by Robin Parrish. Check out Robin's website and Robin's blog.
More tomorrow...

July 3, 2007

The 4 Hit the Road


Get my banner code or create your own banner


If you are anywhere CLOSE to these locations - find one that works and BE THERE!

Click here for a printable version.

Monday, July 9th
ICRS Convention
Tsaba House Booth #1904 (1 of the 16 STL booths)
11:00am - noon
Meet and Greet with appetizers

Tuesday, July 10th
ICRS Convention
STL Booth #1904 (STL main booth)
1:30pm - 2:30pm
Fantasy Author Photo-Op

Wednesday, July 11th
1:00pm - 3:00pm

Heart & Hearth Home Education Support Group
Manchester, TN
Contact: Linda Reed
Email: tnhomeschooler@yahoo.com
(931)596-3171

Thursday, July 12th
12:00pm - 2:00pm

Cedar Springs Christian Store
504 North Peteris Rd.
Knoxville, TN
(865)690-5253

Thursday, July 12th
6:00pm

Barnes & Noble
Dreamland Shopping Center
83 South Tunnel Rd.
Asheville, NC 28805
(828)296-9330

Friday, July 13th
12:00pm - 2:00pm

Barnes & Noble
Sharon Corners Shopping Center
4720 Sharon Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28210
(704)554-7906

Friday July 13th
6:00pm

Borders
101 East Six Forks Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27609
(919)755-9424

Saturday, July 14th
12:00pm - 2:00pm

Barnes & Noble
5501 West Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23230
(804)282-0781

Saturday, July 14th
6:00pm - 8:00pm

His Way Christian Book Store
Normandy Shopping Center
8450 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, Maryland 21043
(410)456-7546

Sunday, July 15th
9:30am

National Presbyterian Church
4104 Nebraska Ave. N.W.
Washington D.C. 20016
(202)537-0800

Sunday July 15th
3:00pm - 5:00pm

Barnes & Noble
Potomac Yard Store
3651 Jefferson Davis Highway
Alexandria, VA 22305
(703)229-9124

Sunday July 15th
6:30pm - 8:30pm

Barnes & Noble
Long Gate Shopping Center
4300 Montgomery Rd.
Ellicott City, MD 21043
(410)203-9001

Monday, July 16th
1:00pm

(Pending)

Monday, July 16th
6:00pm - 8:00pm

The Days of Knights Store
173 East Main Street
Newark, DE 19711
(302)366-0963

Tuesday, July 17th
5:00pm

Timeless Treasures Christian Gift & Book Store
163 Livingston St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718)852-2667

Wednesday, July 18th
12 noon

Timeless Treasures Christian Gift & Book Store
673 8th Ave.
Manhattan, NY 10036
(212)582-4311

July 2, 2007

Fantasy 4 Fiction Tour


Get my banner code or create your own banner

This week we're taking a look at an awesome book tour called the Fantasy 4 Fiction Tour. The authors:

*Wayne Thomas Batson: The Door Within Trilogy and Isle of Swords (coming 8/07)
*Christopher Hopper: The Rise of the Dibor and The White Lion Chronicles
*Sharon Hinck: The Becky Miller Books, and The Sword of Lyric Series
*Bryan Davis: Dragons in Our Midst and Oracles of Fire

Four amazing fantasy authors in one place - at the same time! If you're in the area - DON'T MISS THIS!

If you're stuck over on the West Coast, like me, at least check out their websites and pick up a book or two at your local book store (Christian or secular). Ask for them, and if they aren't carrying them, for some CRAZY reason - demand - okay request - that they get it in.

Tomorrow, I'll be posting all the dates and locations of the tour.

July 1, 2007

Birthday Blessings

Well - it's official. As of last Sunday, I am 30. The best part of it all - I survived! I'm not bothered by my age, I'm not in crisis, I'm not even a little grumpy about it all. What do I have to show for my age? Wisdom. God's blessed me with far more wisdom in the last few years, than ever before. I don't feel older, I just feel smarter.

I had an amazing birthday and was pampered by my husband and daughter the entire day. It was like being a princess. I got a HUGE breakfast complete with cinnamon rolls, eggs, sausage, bacon, orange juice, coffee, and flowers. I seriously think that my birthday flowers were the most beautiful, dense, colorful, big roses I've ever had. They looked like a sunset in every blossom. My little girl made an awesome card for me. It had ribbon and markers and LOTS of love in it. Neither of them let me lift a finger, even if I wanted to. It was so relaxing.

My best gift came through a realization rather than an object or service. God opened my eyes to the amazing support I have of my family. I've known that my parents, brother, and all the rest realize that I'm really embracing writing whole-heartedly. They know I always talk about writing and spend lots of time on the computer, but it's always seemed like maybe they just didn't get it. Maybe they didn't understand that I really feel God's guidance and encouragement toward writing, and that I'm sure this is exactly what He wants for me right now. Until last Saturday and Sunday.

My parents recently moved out of state, back to our hometown in California. That didn't stop or slow down my parents' excellent timing of birthday surprises. Saturday, I received a package and inside was - well - I won't spoil the "suspense" for you yet. Let's just say - they nearly brought me to tears, because their gift meant that they "got it." I know now just how much they believe in me an my abilities and my path - well God's path.

The small box carried so much more than an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder, it was my parents' belief that came out of that box and into my hands. I mentioned how hard it was to be driving, or out and about, and then struck by an awesome story idea. A pen and paper are pretty inconvenient when driving (which for some reason seems to be when inspiration strikes), not to mention that the other drivers get a little nervous when they see both hands off the steering wheel in the car next to them. All the ideas I try to repeat to myself twenty times until I get home tend to slip away by the time I get to my computer or paper and pen. There's nothing quite as frustrating as know you DID have a great idea until a few seconds ago, but not having a clue what it could be. After talking to my mom and dad about these little things that have to do with writing I knew they supported me in that parental way - but on my birthday I really know.

It's not just that they knew I wanted something, so they got it. My mom said, "I keep checking the shelves of the bookstore for your first book."

Cue - big smile!

Then Sunday afternoon, I got yet another dose of family belief: my brother's gift. He knows I've been on the hunt for some good books about the craft of writing and that I've found quite a few that I'd like to get. He gave me a $50 gift card to Barnes & Noble.

This is coming from a little brother who liked nothing more than to find the weakest point in my armor and do everything his intelligent brain could possibly think of to irritate me and get a really good reaction. He wasn't satisfied if I became a little annoyed, OH NO! I had to be REALLY mad before he'd relent. So at the age of 25, he's come a LONG way! Now he's the sweet, loving, supportive brother who loves me with God's love and supports and believes in me.

Cue - close to tears...

In the end, it wasn't the gifts themselves, it was the thought that those gifts wouldn't be wasted on me - that they really knew what was in my heart, and they were lifting me up with all their support and love. God's gift was given to me loud and clear, through the people in my life and in my heart.

June 21, 2007

Suspense Technique #3 - Peril

Many of you know I've entered Wayne Thomas Batson's - Suspense Techniques Contests over at his blog Enter the Door Within. Well - the winners for the first and second techniques have been announced, and we're all awaiting the winner for #3 - Peril.

Here are the two pieces I entered under the third contest:

#1

The envoy had succeeded in their mission to find the rare herbs which, blended skillfully by the village sage, would cure the child’s burning illness. Their only obstacle on the return home lay at the precipice of the very mountain they’d been climbing for two days.

The rocky terrain and sudden downpours caused delays in the form of mudslides and fallen trees. The seven men trekked the remaining distance with great trepidation. All of them remembered vividly what had happened on their journey to the great grasslands of Elliseth.

What had started as an envoy of eight had been reduced to seven because of what lay mere moments away: a chasm of molten rock and fire called the Ruin of Loss. The opening of the mountain had claimed many lives in its inferno. It was said among the villagers that the screams of its victims were heard at the full moon.

The mouth of the mountain belched lava into a pool nearly a mile across. The long journey back around the obsidian cliff was the route of the seven men. They had watched their companion slip from that same narrow path and fall far beneath the rim of the mountain into the churning blaze. He had slowly sunk to his death; skin melting off his frame; his hair ablaze from the intense heat. His cries for help and the image of his last agonizing moments had haunted the men during the quiet moments of their journey. As they approached the return trek around the beast, the men stopped in silent tribute to their friend and brother-in-arms. The bravest man and leader, Tabor, stepped one foot onto the rocky black path and looked back at his men; they all understood that he wished them well on their dangerous route.

------------------------------------------------------------------
#2

At the sight of the Captain’s lifeless body, all nine of the shipwrecked passengers stared suspiciously from face to face, trying to detect an inkling of guilt. One passenger, however, was trying not to portray his/her murderous motivations. But who would do such a thing?

Rations were running low and the island offered little food other than coconuts that grew atop sixty-foot palms. Sara knew that whoever the killer was, they were thinking the same thing that had crossed several minds since their shipwreck: if there were fewer passengers, there would be a better chance at survival for all those who remained. But murder was never an option that had entered Sara’s mind. She’d spent the last week scouring the island for animals, in hopes of some meat, while one of their number had been doing a different kind of hunting.

Terrified, Sara gazed from one face to the next. She could not imagine any of these people sinking to such desperate measures so soon. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison were elderly and neither looked capable of such brutality. Dr. Wilder had been helping the injured and tending the sick. Angela Moffit, the overworked financial advisor, had been so kind and assisted Dr. Wilder when she, herself, could muster the energy. Todd Walker had been doing his best to climb the tall trees and harvest as much food for the group as possible. Simon Nelson was an ex-minister and founder of several charities for underprivileged children. Belinda Moss was the eleven-year-old child of the Captain. Finally, Dylan Crosby had been an Olympic swimmer who donated a large chunk of money to build a school for the blind in the urban community he called home. All these people seemed the most unlikely to commit such a crime. However, the small island was definitely devoid of human life except for these eight other people. One of them was hunting; one of them was planning their next target as the rest of the group stood there in shock.

------------------------------------------------------------------

I'll be posting Suspense Technique #4 - Frustration soon.

June 20, 2007

Used Curriculum Sale

For many home-schoolers, summer break began as soon as the weather got warmer. Around my house, we actually quit mid-May. Our trip to California was an educational experience in itself, but we couldn't really get back into our school schedule after the vacation. Our minds would've been on important summer musings. So - we took off early and our summer began in May.

Home schooling is one of the coolest lifestyles God could bestow upon a family - well, our family anyway. It's so flexible, enriching, and miraculous. I could go on and on about the joys of home school, for now though, I'll get on with my current topic.

Friday, June 22nd, I'll be joining many other parents in a frenzy of book shopping at the annual Used Curriculum Sale for CCHE (Clark County Home Educators) group to which I belong. I'm actually really excited about the whole experience, now that we've finished our first year and ironed out many of the wrinkles we ran into initially.

Last August was when we decided to pull our daughter out of her private Christian school, in order to attempt what we felt God was leading us to do - home school. We just dove right in and I attempted to research curriculum over the internet with moderate success.

I decided to try one publisher for all subjects, since this was our first exposure to the huge variety of curricula in existence. Bob Jones University Press seemed to fit our needs best. I had found an amazing website of reviews done by parents who'd actually used each type of curriculum: HomeSchoolReviews.com. This was and still is an amazing asset to our family. I highly recommend this site for even seasoned home-schoolers looking for a new curriculum.

BJU Press was a blessing. The lessons were laid out and the Teacher's Editions taught me how to teach my daughter. I had help - backup so to speak. Initially, all of these things saved my sanity and curbed my worries of, somehow, damaging my little girl's education.

After the first week or so though, I realized that even home school books didn't have to be followed to a tee. So - I improvised. In Math, my daughter was quite a ways ahead of the book, so I let her take the test and if she scored 90% or higher, she could go on to the next one. In English, the book was arranged so that every other chapter was about writing a different kind of essay (persuasive, compare and contrast, etc.) - well what third grade kid really likes to write an essay every other week? Not mine. So - we reviewed the material and moved on to more grammar and sentence structure type stuff. The point is that I altered nearly every book from it's original state, to something that fit my daughter's learning style. That's the beauty of being her teacher.

So after a year of tweaking the books to suit us, I'm able to recognize much better what our specific needs are. This is a tremendous advantage when picking out curriculum for our next school year. I've finally made some decisions and hope to find at least a few of these curricula at the sale on Friday. We'll be going with the following:

*Math - A Beka
*English - Rod & Staff
*History/Social Studies - Bob Jones Heritage Studies (an excellent program)
*Science - Neoe Science (Chemistry 2, Physics 2, or Biology 2)
*Spelling - A Reason For... (Level E)

As for Reading and Bible, we do our own thing. My daughter reads everyday, on her own, and I have her either write a short journal entry on what she's read, or tell me, in order to check her comprehension. This is unconventional, but I want her to develop a love for reading that is personal, and not just read because I said so. (I also developed a rewards program where she gets one penny per page she's read, only after she's finished the entire book.)

For Bible, I've taken a more practical approach. I've prayed about it, and for now, we're using an amazing teaching Bible my dad gave me a few years ago and trying to apply it to our everyday lives. If she's having a disagreement with her friends, we look up what the Bible says about that. If her attitude is a problem, we'll look it up. I've also found a really great devotional series for her called Devotions for Girls: God and Me, and one for me, as well, (God's Little Devotional Journal). Our goal, even in summer, is to start our day with a page in our devotional books, so we start out focused on the Lord, which gives us perspective throughtout our day.

So while all the children in the land are dreaming of swimming pools, ice cream trucks, and sleepovers, parents like me are preparing for the fall year of home school. The sale this week will be a fantastic opportunity to buy, as well as sell, my used curriculum. Every year, kids move up a grade and others leave behind the books we'll be needing and vice versa. It's a beautiful thing. All those discount books, all that knowledge, all waiting to be delivered and found.

Most people don't realize that home school does, in fact, cost money. It's not as much as private school, but it's definitely not free. So local sales like this one are a chance for us to sell the old books and hopefully get some money toward next year's learning.

It's funny because it's not even officially the end of her 3rd grade school year, and I feel like 4th grade will be fantastic!

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Update: The sale was fantastic! I found about 70% of what I needed for our upcoming 4th grade year. Yay!

June 19, 2007

June CSFF Blog Tour - Day Two

I'd like to invite you all to not only read Sharon Hinck's latest book, The Restorer, but get to know her a little and find out where she comes from and what makes her tick. A Christian author's motivation is nearly as important as their work. Sharon's genuine experiences as a Christian, mother, and author have prepared her to weave messages of faith throughout captivating stories of heroism and redemption.

Take a few minutes to explore Sharon Hinck's world, via her website: SharonHinck.com. Here's an excerpt from her welcome message:

Do you enjoy tales of inspiration? Are you a weary traveler seeking a place to rest your pack for a time? You’re welcome here! My novels share a common theme. Life is a grand adventure, and even the small choices we make each day can be heroic.

When the minutia of modern life wears me down, I write to remind myself of the bigger picture: We have an amazing God who made us, loves us, and invites us to be part of His story. And He is an expert at taking ordinary people and empowering them to make a difference by sharing His grace with others.

So get to know Sharon Hinck, and get to know her gift of story-telling.

June 18, 2007

June CSFF Blog Tour - Day One




This month we'll be looking at Sharon Hinck's first book of her Sword of Lyric series, The Restorer.


The basic premise of the book is a soccer-mom, Susan Mitchell, that dives into a parallel world that awaits the arrival of a Deliverer. Without in-your-face Christianity, The Restorer, is filled with messages that will not only appeal to Christian women, but fantasy fans as well.

Check out some of the other CSFF Blogtour participants' reviews. They're listed to the right by name. Explore, have fun, and learn a little something.

June 15, 2007

Suspense Techniques Contest

No way! I just found out today that, along with my buddy EverlastingScribe, I've won Suspense Technique #2. We tied! Yay! Now, I not only get to be honored by having my piece win, but I get to share the honor with a fellow member of "The Fellowship of the Pen."

The technique was Intense Emotion. Here is my entry:

The view from the upstairs balcony was of tangled and gnarled branches, parched grass, and the remnants of what was once the most envied rose garden in the entire county. Brach leaned over the rickety wrought iron railing, trying to catch a glimpse of the ancient oak that had once supported his boyhood tree house. It had all started there.

As he stood in the warm evening air of July, at the back of the house his great-grandfather had built nearly a century ago, a slight breeze caressed his face. He could almost smell her on that breeze, a sweet flowery scent that drove a chill down his neck and back. He closed his eyes; he could see her face glowing in the sunshine as they wrestled on that very lawn so long ago.

His heart began to ache; his legs lost the will to stand. As he collapsed to his knees, Brach felt that he would bleed from the pain of her absence. It was his fault she was gone; his fault her time on earth had been so short; his fault that he would spend the rest of his days alone. His breath came in great gasps as he fought against mounting sobs. Deep in his soul, he knew he had no right to mourn her loss. It was for himself that he wept.

Brach swallowed his grief, and inside him, it transformed into anger and rage. Despising himself for his selfishness, he let out a roar of desperation that shook the loose panes of a nearby window. Shattering as they hit the ground, the panes of glass were yet one more casualty at the hands of a man who had caused more pain than joy for those he knew.
---------------------------------------------------

What is the prize? A signed copy of the "Lost Chapters" edition of The Door Within. As many of you know, Wayne Thomas Batson (best-selling author of The Door Within Trilogy)has been somewhat of a long distance, internet mentor to me. This means more to me than I can express in words right now. I'm inspired, joyful, honored, but most of all THANKFUL.

God has brought to my attention His will for me to write and with the help and fellowship of many faithful companions, I am writing and it feels amazing. Following the Lord's will usually does. His carefully arranged plan is unfolding bits at a time and the more it does, the more I see His hand in it all. He's brought into my life the people and environment in which I may learn and develop the craft of writing - what a blessing!

May 20, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour - Day Two

As I was perusing The Sword Review, I soon realized that here lay a great outlet for as-of-yet unpublished authors. They encourage students as well as amature writers to submit poems and short stories, but hold high standards of quality.

I haven't had time to explore a lot of the site due to the fact that my daughter and I are scheduled to leave for two weeks starting bright and early tomorrow morning.

Even so, I've been able to gather the sense that it's a place where young and not-so-young artists and writers can share and communicate with readers via the discussion forums. Feedback is such a valuable asset, especially to those of us who've yet to be published.

There is a fair collection of cover art as well. I would advise anyone to check it out and see if you can't find something that speaks to you as a Spec. Fiction fan.

Make sure to check out what others thought of the site too. I've added a link list of CSFF Blog Tour participants on the sidebar.

CSFF Blog Tour Begins...


Welcome Friends!
This is my first time participating in the CSFF Blog Tour. I'm a day early, and therefore, will only be posting the link with a promise that a review or two is soon to follow.

May 16, 2007

Piecing It All Together

Lately, I've been overwhelmed with story ideas. Sometimes they come in trickles; sometimes in great bursts. I've been making a point to at least get them out on paper or in a Word doc - so I have something to go back to when I'm ready to develop it further.

The good news, is that unknowingly, I've come up with several ideas that may fit into one story - a story I began developing quite a few months ago, but abandoned because I'd hit a wall. The other day I came up with a creature and a whole plot line that would surround these creatures.

Yay!

I love it when the character or subject comes ready-made with a few "musts" involved. As an example: my new guys are strictly nocturnal. This will require a fair bit of explanation, thus giving me more to write about. They also appear extremely attractive, so I will have to explain why and so forth. It just gets me on a role. The new creatures also fit into the vision I have for this previous story, so that's how I knew they'd fit.

I guess "vision" is vague. I'll try to explain. In my head, each character and it's situation has a sort of feel, like a movie. People will describe a movie as being "dark" or "whimsical" etc. As I develop a character or a setting, it fits into my mental categories automatically.

So let's say I invent a guy named Bob. Now maybe all I've come up with is that he is bald. I saw a picture in my head and that's sparked something that, to me, begs to be explored. So now we have Bald Bob. So next, maybe it turns out that Bald Bob is an accountant. So each time an attribute is attached to Bob, I get a feel for how this influences what will happen to Bob. Will he be boring? Maybe. So let's now say we have Boring Bald Bob and it's tax season. That means Bob is now busy. He becomes Busy Boring Bald Bob. This could go on for ages, or it could end there.

If all I can come up with is that we have Busy Boring Bald Bob, then he gets described and set aside. If however, he happens to find a magic stapler on his desk, well then I keep going. My goal becomes to just develop the initial idea to a stopping point. It only ends when I can't think of anything for Bob to do. So - now, this idea gets set aside.

The main point, is that I end up with several undeveloped ideas floating around, but at least out of my head and put into words or Word (as in Microsoft Word - hee hee. I know - I'm a dork.).

So say a few weeks later, I'm driving to the grocery store and see a lady in her car and she has four small dogs crawling all over her while she's trying to drive. Boom - she's Canine Cathy. From here, I realize that Canine Cathy and Bald Bob would definitely exist in the same universe as each other, and I'll somehow be able to piece them together.

Now we have something to work with. I can start to weave the characters and add in the setting and decide what exactly will happen to them. Sometimes though, it isn't that easy. Maybe I'm not sure where to lead them or what exciting adventure they'll have, but at least I have two pieces to my puzzle. At that point, they get set aside, but maybe I'll change the title of one to make sure I remember that Bob and Cathy are supposed to go in the same story.

Until now, I've really only gotten past this initial phase of development for a story, with two exceptions. The first, I've dismissed as too juvenile and not interesting enough; and I've hit a huge wall with the second one and am considering rethinking and rewriting most of it. I like the characters a lot and can see what will happen, but I think I rushed to get to the good stuff too soon. It happens.

I'm really working on the fact that it's okay for me to know everything about the story, but not tell the reader until the right time. I'm learning the craft of writing and am always looking for learning opportunities. (I've been so blessed to be in communication with fellow writers, many of whom are much more experienced than myself.)

The very first story idea I had was a little developed and then morphed into something different and then got shoved way off to the side and hasn't been looked at for months. Until now.

These new creatures I came up with have sparked some life back into a story idea I thought was dead for good. I'm so excited and have been mulling over the characteristics and impact of their role. It has definitely been concreted into my mind that I will use them and develop them. They will move the story in an awesome direction that will send a message to the reader that speaks of struggles of faith like none I've conceived thus far, but in a playful and whimsical way.

It keeps striking me that I get to write about the things that interest me. If I want to write about a lost key that opens the door to a magical world - I can. If I want to write about a fuzzy purple elephant that flies - I can. No matter how silly or far-fetched, I can do whatever I want. In many ways - it makes me feel a sense of freedom that I've never known.

God has opened this door and I've stepped through in faith, and boy, am I glad I have.

By the way: I do not use alliteration to assimilate my characters' attributes. Nor do I now, nor ever have any characters named Bob or Cathy.

May 10, 2007

My Shameful Admission

Okay - so the word is out now due to discussion on others' blogs - I haven't read Lord of the Rings.

I've now finished The Children of Hurin.

SPOILER WARNING - if you haven't finished it yet, don't read on.

I was impressed by the story-telling and language. However, I was pretty disappointed with the ending. Long story short, everyone lives horrible lives and then dies. It was an intricately woven bit of literature, just not too cheery.

A curse is placed upon all of Hurin's kin and the story follows how this curse plays out. I'm glad Morgoth isn't a real life threat, although it chillingly reminded me of the One who is pure evil.

And when I say that everyone dies, I mean EVERYONE. Any character we get to know or like is a goner through various means. Hurin's daughter flings herself to her death while pregnant, his son is slain by an evil sword of his own will, Hurin's wife dies at the kids' burial site, then Hurin himself dies there too.

As an introduction to Tolkien, I may have chosen the wrong book. I was, however, advised to try reading The Hobbit, so I went to my local Christian book store and picked it up. I'm a sucker for hardback books and was so excited to find my choice there.

So my new reading adventure begins today. I'm sure it'll be fantastic and I already know that the main character makes it through the end alive because LOTR has Bilbo in it and it's a later date chronologically.

My daughter is knee deep into Harry Potter. She's now reading Chamber of Secrets and doing very well. I've come up with a new incentive. She's getting paid a penny per page, but will only recieve her money if she finishes the book. My theory is that she'll be encouraged to read bigger, more challenging books and therefore, be enriched further and develop a deeper love for reading.

It just wasn't working to have her read for a set period of time each day anymore. It worked for a couple of years, but now she ends up thinking of it like a chore instead of a privelage. It's the whole positive reinforcement thing.

So far, so good. I'll keep it up as long as it works. If it becomes ineffective, then I'll rethink and formulate a new attack strategy. Mwah ah ah...

May 8, 2007

Tagged

Eight Random Facts About Me

Here are the rules to anyone who gets tagged:

1. Post the rules of the game.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

My 8 Facts:

1. I love to scrapbook, though rarely do it as often as I'd like.

2. I tend to spout off relatively meaningless facts about random subjects at any point. If someone mentions water, I'll go into the fact that "80% of Americans walk around dehydrated and don't know it..." blah - blah - blah... You get the picture.

3. The biggest reason for not liking certain foods seems to be that I don't like the texture rather than the actual taste. Prime example - avocado. Eeewww...

4. I write everything on Post-Its. I am a list-maker from way back and my new canvas of choice has been Post-Its. I write To Do lists and grocery lists, as well as lists of items to pack for a trip, etc.

5. I've never ventured outside the continental United States. How bad is this: I lived in San Diego, yet never made it to TJ right across the border and have lived for 12 years now in Washington state and have yet to make it across the Canadian border not 4 hours from here.

6. I was a dancer for 13 years and my professional career was about to begin at age 16 with a touring company called the Young Americans when I injured my knee and God clearly showed me that my life was going to turn out vastly different than I had imagined. Even though my dancing days ended and thus many of my lifelong dreams, I learned about God's will and thank him everyday for NOT letting my dreams come true.

7. Umm - I can't stand movies that are drama or romantic in nature. I love action/adventure and comedy. I live plenty of drama and romance in my real life, so what's the point in finding escapism in a movie that mirrors real life?

8. Okay - last one, think random... When I was little I used to swim a lot and could hold my breath for a really long time. I would sit on the bottom of the public pool (about 13 feet deep) and suck water in and out of my mouth hoping to somehow develop the ability to extract oxygen from the water, thus teaching myself how to breath under water.

*Okay folks, that's it.*

I don't have many blog-buddies and I know that two of them have already been tagged, so as soon as I find more, I'll tag them.

EDIT: I've tagged EverlastingScribe over at Scribe Scrawlings.

Our Upcoming Trip

Fast approaching is our trip down to California. I'll be driving one of my parents' cars down for them as they move all their worldly belongings back to the town whence we all came.

My grandmother is battling a rare lung disease and needs the care of my parents. She isn't yet saved, so the mission is that much more urgent. It's amazing to see the obedience to God that my mom and dad are showing. They're leaving all of their family to go on a long and difficult journey toward a woman whose resistance to all things Christian boggles the mind.

During such a difficult time, our entire family up here in Washington is pulling together in support of each other. We're throwing a going away/birthday BBQ this Saturday. My brother, myself and my daughter will all be driving down to ease the transition. I get to stay for two weeks and hopefully ease my own transition. I've only ever lived a few hours away from my parents and this is all pretty sudden.

The bonus is that I know I'll at least get to see my grandmother once before the end. I only pray that she'll see the love and sacrifice of my parents and recognize God's love in them. Though I may never know.

Another plus is that me and my daughter will get to spend time in the town I grew up in. The last time we were there she was only about three years old, so she didn't retain a lot from the trip. I'll now get to share the wonders of my childhood with her on a level that will make an impact on her for sure.

The biggest downside of the entire trip will be that Jeff will be here and I there. We've only ever spent two days apart in our nearly ten years of wedded bliss. I know I'll need his comfort and support and receive it no matter how distant we be. However, I feel led to go.

I'm sure I'll be struck with inspiration galore and get some writing done while I'm away from home. The beaches, sunsets and familiarity will definitely infiltrate my imagination - hopefully.

As it all comes to pass, I'll be keeping my blog updated and any who read it shall be thus kept in the proverbial loop.

May 1, 2007

The New Look

Well everyone, thanks to Eve Nielsen, I have a brand new and customized look here. Check out some of her other designs or she can create a whole new look based on your preferences.

Thank you Eve! I appreciate all your hard work.

April 25, 2007

Fantasy Fiction Tour


Okay - so this may not exactly be headed our way, but check out these authors. They're all fantastic and have a few best-selling dents in their shields.

By the odd chance anyone will be headed that way - make sure to check it out. Don't forget to get lots of pictures and signed copies of all the books for me. Hee hee...

April 24, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour


CSSF Blog Tour


So, I've just joined the CSFF Blog Tour. What in the world is that you ask? It's the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. At the end of each month, I'll be highlighting and reviewing a different book from our beloved genre. You can check out the website above or I'll be keeping a button on the side bar. As soon as I get the list, I'll be adding the names and links to all the participants below the button.

So keep checking back to see which book will be highlighted next.

April 23, 2007

New Book by Tolkien

Yep - you read it right. There has just been released a new book by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is a book that apparently was unfinished when he died, so his son Christopher Tolkien took many years to compile all of the notes and prepare it for publishing. Christopher says that all the language is really J.R.R.'s, so apparently, the notes and unfinished manuscript were enough to equal a whole new book.



I'm super excited! I just got my copy today. I'll be participating in a blog type book-club thing over at WTB's blog. We'll be reading at a prearranged pace and regularly discussing each section. Come check it out.

April 22, 2007

Suspense Technique #2 - Intense Emotion

Okay - here is my winning entry for Wayne Thomas Batson's Suspense Technique #2 - Intense Emotion. Check out other people's entries too and the instructions for the technique at Enter the Door Within.

***

The view from the upstairs balcony was of tangled and gnarled branches, parched grass, and the remnants of what was once the most envied rose garden in the entire county. Brach leaned over the rickety wrought iron railing, trying to catch a glimpse of the ancient oak that had once supported his boyhood tree house. It had all started there.

As he stood in the warm evening air of July, at the back of the house his great-grandfather had built nearly a century ago, a slight breeze caressed his face. He could almost smell her on that breeze, a sweet flowery scent that drove a chill down his neck and back. He closed his eyes; he could see her face glowing in the sunshine as they wrestled on that very lawn so long ago. His heart began to ache; his legs lost the will to stand. As he collapsed to his knees, Brach felt that he would bleed from the pain of her absence. It was his fault she was gone; his fault her time on earth had been so short; his fault that he would spend the rest of his days alone.

His breath came in great gasps as he fought against mounting sobs. Deep in his soul, he knew he had no right to mourn her loss. It was for himself that he wept. Brach swallowed his grief, and inside him, it transformed into anger and rage. Despising himself for his selfishness, he let out a roar of desperation that shook the loose panes of a nearby window. Shattering as they hit the ground, the panes of glass were yet one more casualty at the hands of a man who had caused more pain than joy for those he knew.

***