Saturday, December 31, 2011

Turning the Page

New Year's Eve feels like the turn of a new page in an open book. I know, from my faith, that the pages have already been written by the Author of life, but I haven't seen them yet. It's like they are in invisible ink and will only appear as life enfolds, as I turn the page.

New Year's Eve invites me to look back on the story so far, and look forward to the adventures to come, knowing with confidence that the end of the book is a happy one, even if there are trials on the way.

One way that I look forward is to create goals . . . you know, New Year resolutions.

For 2012, I have some goals to improve my blog.

1. Keep my posts shorter - hovering around 250 words. (splurging maybe to 500 once in a while)

2. Post pictures or video with every post.

3. Keep a steady schedule. Unless a blogfest beckons, I will post M, W, F.

4. Pre-write my posts. No more seat-of-pants rambling.

5. Get to each of these themes once a month:

Poetry/Humming like Pooh
Social Causes/Needs
Movie/Book/Storytelling Reviews
Interview/author highlight/guest post
Blog/website highlight day
Random Day (only once a month)

6. Visit more blogs, and encourage fellow bloggers.

Do you have any goals this year? Feel ready for 2012?
Have a metaphor for New Year's Eve?

Happy New Year!!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gingerbread 2011 Gummi Bear Treehouse

My kids had a dream of multiple Gingerbread treehouses with walkways of fruit leather, and a zipline of floss and gingerbread. As you can see, we didn't quite get to that level, but we did have a lot of fun.

We have one main treehouse, with two tree platforms - one for cooking gummi worms over a firepit, and one for eating gummi worms.

In the background, the gummi bears are on the forest floor hunting for wild gummi worms with toothpick spears.

My kids ideas . . . really.

Laughter greeted this gingerbread scene when family members viewed, and I hope it gives you that same kind of joy.

I know that fantasy action adventure isn't quite what you might expect out of gingerbread, but in my household, it isn't that surprising.

Now, if I could just get my kids to be Star Wars fans . . . we could try a Milleium Falcon gingerbread scene . . . but so far, they aren't taken with that idea.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Traditions - Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread Houses of Years Past:
2006 and 2007 Gingerbread House and the Big Bad Wolf - one side folded in on us in transport from our house to the "contest" site. I know we have pictures somewhere, but I'll let you imagine what it looked like.

2008 Gingerbread Castle (we won an award for this one)

The "part" that made this one a winner isn't visible from this picture - we made indented lines to make it look like the castle was made of bricks and stones. We also had fun with the candy moat, the well with blue frosting water, and the candy stone paving inside the castle. It took 12 hours to make this particular castle, and my husband was the master chef/engineer.

2009 Gingerbread Village

Faster, easier, and still satisfying. Only 6 hours of preparation, baking, setting up and decorating.

2010 The Dawn Treader . . .our most ambitious project ever. We did get the Dragon-head mast cookie piece attached for a few minutes - but I can't seem to find the picture. And I think by that time the mast had broken off. At one point we just filled the deck with decorated gingerbread people, and then started eating.

We spent at least 12 hours on this thing, and our hopes were dashed repeatedly as one part or another fell apart. We decided not to make a boat again . . . ever.

Gingerbread 2011 Plan - Gingerbread Treehouse Village - three Gingerbread tree-houses, a zipline, and a swaying bridge. Note: this is the plan. Measurements, diagrams, and template patterns have been made. Dough is being rolled, cut and baked. Ideas for a dental string zipline, and a swaying bridge of fruit leather are planned.

Will it work? Will it stand up?
Will we actually get it together before Christmas?

I'll keep you posted, and I'll even take pictures - even if it's a disaster that just gets eaten up.

Note: All our gingerbread houses are homemade, gluten-free, corn-free, and rice-free. Part of the challenge is making it all work with interesting ingredients.

Do you have any ambitious cooking plans for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Oooh. I just can't wait! Can I open my presents now?

Ever had that feeling . . . as if anticipation is just coursing through your veins and making you jump up out of your seat?

The Christmas decorations are up. Christmas carols are in the air. Presents surround the tree.

Every morning, mid-day, and evening, my kids inform me of how many days are left until Christmas, and they say - "oooh, I just can't wait! Can I open my presents now?"

I know how they feel. Except I feel that way about more than just Christmas.

I want to open presents, and see them opened.

I want to go skiing (soon, very soon - despite my foot issues).

I really want to go see a number of movies - and that will have to wait. Sherlock Holmes looks so good. So do a number of other movies that are already out.

Then my oldest daughter and I are eagerly anticipating The Hunger Games, and I've read that Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is being made into a movie with the possible release date in March 2013 - and I love that book.

Of course, there is a flip side to all of these highly anticipated events:

Sometimes they don't turn out the way we expect. Sometimes that's good, and sometimes it's challenging.

I love Christmas beyond presents, so there is no challenge there.

My foot and I are still having an argument over skiing - I want to go, but my foot doesn't like walking so skiing might be really hard. (or maybe the hard ski boot will make it easier?)

Movies, especially the ones made from books that I love, sometimes challenge my vision of the characters and their landscape.

However, that is part of the excitement of unwrapping any moment.
We don't know exactly what is inside the shiny paper.

It's kind of like a life of faith. We know the Lord is good. We know He loves us.
We don't know every plan He has for us.
Some may challenge our plans/vision/imagination.
Some may be joy complete.
Living a life of faith is like opening a shiny wrapped up gift of new life every day.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tis the Season for Life

Merry Christmas everyone!

I have been out of the loop in blogland for two reasons:

1. The Advent-Christmas season of life is full.

2. My laptop has been seriously ill.

I am so thankful for friends, family, awesome kids at church, the Christmas pageant last Sunday that I wrote, directed, and then fell over from afterwards . . .

The coming week promises three family gatherings, caroling, gingerbread house making (we have the schematics ready to go for three gingerbread tree house platforms fit for gummy bears), the last of the Christmas shopping (just a few more things).

Life is full and merry. Anticipation is in the air, and preparations not just for Christmas day but for 12 Days of Christmas are in the making in our household. The full 12 days won't be as amazing as the first one - Christmas Day -but we want to remember the birth of our Savior beyond the wrapping paper day.

In the midst of our preparations, and at the end of NaNo, my laptop gave me the whiteout screen of illness many times, and then it started shutting off on it's own . . .you know, it was tired and had to take a nap - NOW, and I was left hovering over it in frantic worry that it would not come back to life under my many ministrations.

My husband told me it was time . . . time to give up my laptop for 48 hours so he could save everything on it, then wipe out everything and start it up again. New programs are installing as I write this on my husband's computer, and I have full hope that my laptop will be revived fully in a matter of hours.

So, I am hoping to go caroling/visiting in blogland again soon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cleaning the Closets, Finding old Presents

Have you ever cleaned out your closets just before Christmas, searching for that missing box of ornaments and found, much to your chagrin . . . a forgotten present?

One that was meant to be given last year?

I have. Last year I thought I found them all, but somehow I created two new missing presents that just surfaced today . . .


Other than giving everyone too much information about the state of my closets, I would like to think that this is a providential analogy "aha" moment from the Lord.

Has He given us gifts we haven't opened yet? Or do we have a "gift" like encouragement that we've forgotten that needs to be shared with someone else?

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Clause

"The Santa Clause: In putting on this suit and entering the sleigh, the wearer waives any and all rights to any previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duties and responsibilities of Santa Claus, in perpetuity until such time that the wearer becomes unable to do so, by either accident or design."

The Christmas Clause: In putting on a santa hat or a nativity play costume, and entering into any public place, the wearer waives any and all rights to any previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duty and responsibility to be merry and know the joy of Christmas, in perpetuity until such time that the wearer becomes unable to do so, by either accident or design. The wearer gives up any semblance of normal life, and becomes whole-heartedly into the Advent and Christmas season.

Have you put on a santa hat yet? Or a suit? or a nativity play costume?

I have.

And the Christmas season is fully upon our household, from nativity ballets and nativity pageants, to homeschool co-op festivities, and decorations and wrapping paper scattered throughout our house. Christmas cookies have been baked and baked again. We hosted a rehearsal for our church's Christmas pageant rehearsal complete with costumes and cider.

And yet, in my heart it is still advent too. I am waiting with hope, peace, and joy for the day when we can fully celebrate the birth of our Savior, the day when Christmas really begins. I've entered into the Christmas Clause, with an Advent attitude.

What about you, have you signed the Christmas Clause this year?

By the way, if you haven't seen it, check out Santa Clause with Tim Allen. I highly recommend an unedited version that's not cut for commercial breaks - there are some humorous gems that you don't want to miss.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Late Insecure Writers post + Shakespeare Sonnet Winner! + Random Awesomeness

"I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!" - White Rabbit in the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland

As an insecure writer, I have often felt pressure (from myself) to hurry up and get things done. I love writing, but I have too many ideas and not enough time. Will I ever finish the second draft of The Crystal Sword? And when I do, will it really be finished?

Last year, after NaNoWriMo, I fell into a three month writing slump, where I only wrote poetry and journal entries. I like writing poetry. I like writing in my journal. But my novel was at a standstill. I didn't even want to look at it. When I did, it was so bad I laughed my way through reading it. It was either laugh or cry. Then my kids told me they expected me to make it better. They "knew" I could write a better draft. So I started, then I stopped, then I started again. Right before NaNoWriMo, I was only a little over halfway through with my second draft. It felt like it was taking forever, and my mind was in daydream land over new novel possibilities.

So, I took a month off from my revision work to write On One Wing, the sequel to The Crystal Sword.

Then I took a week off to write poetry. However, this had an unexpected benefit . . .

I won the Shakespearean Sonnet Contest I entered!!! This was totally unexpected, and really cool, and even better - the prize for winning is a free edit of 2,500 words of my current manuscript! To see my "Sonnet of Leaves" go to Winner of the Shakespearean Sonnet at Aimee Beatrice Jordan's blog A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. Thank you Aimee!

That (editing) is just what I needto dive back into revising The Crystal Sword.

So, this year, in an unexpected way, my poetry writing has given me a way to get back into revision, back into prose.

So this is my advice for myself and for all Insecure Writers:
Just keep writing. Write beyond NaNoWriMo. Write something every day. Enter your writing into challenges, contests. Submit your work. Write, and then write more. Surround yourself with encouraging people. And then keep writing.

In Random Awesomeness:

Cherie Reich is having an Editing Giveaway on her blog. Go enter and win a free edit of your writing here: Tis' the Season for Giving Critiques

Go Read Emily Ann Benedict's book, The Father Christmas Confessions

And Watch this Video. It made me laugh, and laugh, and laugh.
Cello Wars - Watch out for Darth Vader, and his . . . accordion?

Monday, December 5, 2011

An Interview With Emily Ann Benedict + a Free Christmas Story!

The Father Christmas Confessions warms the heart like a cup of sweet cocoa with extra marshmallows in a big Santa Mug. I meant to just open it up, and read part of it, and a few hours later I found myself finishing it and wanting to read it again.

One of my very first followers, Emily Ann Benedict (the author of The Father Christmas Confessions) made me feel at home here in the blogging world with her encouraging words and insightful thoughts on writing. Her generous spirit shines through everything she does, and this is especially true with her recent decsion to share her Christmas story, The Father Christmas Confessions for free with everyone.

Interview With Emily Benedict:
Tyrean: What makes you passionate about writing?

Emily: Writing is easy to become passionate about once you get the process started. It begins with a small idea for a book, then the creative process of writing the story out is too much fun to stop. When you realize how much joy you can bring to someone through a story there is no looking back.
Writing is also a wonderful way to share your ideas with people. Sometimes we have trouble discussing certain topics with each other, but when the same ideas are wrapped in a story it becomes easier to relate to one another.

Tyrean: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Emily: I really hope people enjoy my books and find in them a moment or two to escape from the stress of life. Hearing my work makes people laugh always makes my day.
The love of God and how involved He can be in our lives if we let Him is one theme I carry from book to book. It’s a lesson I’ve learned, and continue to learn, in my life and I enjoy sharing it others.

Tyrean: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Emily: My family has always been a major factor in helping me move forward as a writer. Their encouragement as well as editing and suggestions are invaluable.
In terms of which authors have inspired me the most, I have to say Agatha Christie is a huge inspiration and one of my favorite biographies. She began as an ordinary girl who just wanted to write books. Eventually, she became one of history’s greatest mystery writers and lived an extraordinary life. I also found the many different styles she wrote over the years helped me learn a lot about writing itself.

Tyrean: What words of advice do you have for other writers?

Emily: The best advice is simple to just keep writing and writing and writing. The more you do it the better you’ll get.
I also think it’s really important to find a group of people who will honestly edit your work and help you determine which areas you’re strong in and which techniques you need to work on. Sticking with people who just give you constant positive feedback feels good, but it won’t help you progress.

Tyrean: Beside writing, what other talents and hobbies do you have?

Emily: Besides writing I have lots of little things I love to do. Cooking is a huge favorite among my family, especially at this time of year. We will take any excuse to make more Christmas cookies.
My family is also devoted to taking care of rescue dogs. We have cared for many abused and handicap dogs over the years. Currently we have five in our little home and honestly it is one of the most rewarding things we have ever done. There’s nothing like taking a frightened little handicapped puppy and turning her into a spoiled rotten lap dog.

Emily is the author of two books, Only Angels are Bulletproof, and her most recent, The Father Christmas Confessions . . . which did I mention, is free?

So, go unwrap your first Christmas present of the year, and read The Father Christmas Confessions

What if Santa Claus wasn't one man?
What if he was a secret organization?

Jeremy Ogden has 25 days to accomplish his mission. Just like every man in his family, he has a list of people whose lives can be changed forever if he makes it to them in time. But he has one big problem…And her name is Virginia.

To read more, go to The Father Christmas Confessions

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Celebrate His Birth

My kids are tap dancers, and yet, this year they are into ballet.

We have been friends with a wonderful dance studio owner, director and teacher for years and for the first time this year my daughters are taking classes at her ballet studio, the Metropolitan Ballet of Tacoma.

One of our favorite ballets that Metropolitan Ballet of Tacoma puts on every year is Celebrate His Birth, a beautiful nativity ballet. Each year for 25 years, Celebrate His Birth has been a free gift. Donations are gladly received for the costs of putting on the performance, but not required for admittance.

So, today I am thankful for: the joy and beauty of dance, Damaris - our friend who is both passionate for the Lord and for dance, all the parents and kids who make Celebrate His Birth a ministry and not just a performance, my daughters - just for being who they are, and my husband - for helping out with moving the set and for all his tech skills.

Here's a behind the scenes look at last year's Celebrate His Birth Performance:

Excerpts from Behind-the-Scenes Ballet from Paul Lovelady on Vimeo.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Looking Ahead

It's Friday, and I'm looking ahead to:

Tonight's Dress Rehearsal for the ballet, Celebrate His Birth

Tomorrow night's and Sunday afternoon's performance of Celebrate His Birth

And, next week, an interview with an author . . . more details to come . . .

What are you looking ahead to/for?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Words of Wisdom

"To soar or to rest, the daily adventure is soul to soul, not of flesh. And to dwell is to fully live in the adventure of the moment with those we love.
Imagine that!" - Grace Nichols

Today's quote comes from The Daily Adventure at A Grace Story

Grace Nichols is a real world friend of mine, and she has a beautiful blog called A Grace Story where she shares the wisdom that the Lord grants her and her family. She is a precious, and wonderful sister in Christ, and I highly recommend reading all her posts.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We Are the Champions, My Friends . . .

Ok, I had this post all planned out about dancing, but when I received my NaNoWriMo Winner certificate, and thought of Sommer Leigh's writing support group for NaNoWriMo . . . and I couldn't get this song out of my head.

For all those who participated in NaNoWriMo - We Are the Champions, My Friends!!!

LAST DAY OF NaNoWriMo - The End

Here I sit, at the brink of finishing NaNoWriMo 2011. As I write this post, my word count rests fitfully at 49,881 words.

Why did I stop there?

Because my husband asked me an everyday question, and I took that as a wonderful excuse to step back from the PC for 20 minutes.

Because the last 1,200 words I wrote totally sucked.

Because even though I've stuffed my inner editor away for 29 days, she's back and she's monstrously huge.


Because I always have this amazing, beautiful, glorous finale scene in my head when I begin my stories, and when I get to the end, it fizzles. The fireworks backfire, and the smoke rises around the flames on the ground that slowly die into smoking embers. And I'm left choking in the cloudy haze.

So, I have 119 words to cross the finish line, and I want those last steps to rise from the embers and fly like a phoenix into a golden horizon of storytelling.

So, now that I've taken a break, worked on a few old metaphors about writing, and given my husband a big squeezy hug as he goes out the door for work, I can get back to writing the finish, the finale, the end . . .

Thanks for stopping by and listening to me rant for a moment. It actually cheered me up . . . it's odd how that works.

I hope that all of you NaNoWriMo Champions out there have an awesome last day.

May your endings be golden!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanks for Thanksgiving Participants, and NaNoWriMo Last Days Reflections

Many, many thanks to my sweet and wonderful particpants in the A to Z Thanksgiving Challenge.

I admit, it was a last minute challenge, and one that I realized belatedly I would even have a tough time posting on in the midst of two Thanksgiving dinner extravaganzas and the inner drive to finish NaNoWriMo.

These two wonderful ladies made my Thanksgiving week by participating in the A To Z Challenge and writing beautiful posts:

Pam at 2Encourage wrote two amazing posts splitting the alphabet over two days: Thanksgiving Challenge Part 1 and Thanksgiving Challenge Part 2


Jasmine Walt at An Author's Ramblings wrote it all in one A-Z Thanksgiving Challenge

Their thankfulness, and full participation in this tiny little challenge warmed my heart completely, and I feel encouraged by their attitudes of gratitude. Thank you Pam and Jasmine!

In NaNoWriMo news . . . these are the last days, and I am thankful for the writing drive that compelled me to write hard and long hours over my word count, and to struggle with my plot, seeing the horizon line coming closer each day. To meet the minimum NaNoWriMo word count goal, I still have a little over 1,500 words to write. To meet "The End" of my story, I have about 5,000 words to write. I am very happy with my progress, both in word count and in story.

Last year, during my first NaNoWriMo, I was at least 8,000 words behind at this point, and sweated my way through the last day, giving my kids only a half day of homeschool lessons, and telling my family to eat "whatever they found in the fridge." I did a mad, crazed dash to the end of the word count goal and the end of my story. I finished, but celebrated with dazed contentment.

This year, I hope to celebrate with vigor, enthusiasm and dancing. Even if I have a sore foot, there will be dancing. I just might have to dance while leaning primarily on one foot. It will work.

And I plan on dancing to Superchick, Newsboys, Toby Mac, and a new family favorite: Icon For Hire.

Off With Her Head by Icon for Hire

Make a Move by Icon For Hire

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A to Z Thanksgiving with Randomness

A - Anna, Amanda, Annette, apple pie

B - bears, burgers, belugas

C - courage, C.S. Lewis, Christmas

D - Dads

E - Easter, eagles

F - Friends, Family and Fellowship, Faith

G - God, grandparents

H - Hope, Husband-of-mine

I - Inspiration and Imagination

J - Jesus, Joy, John, Jessica, Jacob

K - Kathleen, Katie, Kites

L - Lynn, Lambs, Lions, Lilies

M - Mary, Moms, marriage

N - Noel, Neverland

O - Owls

P - Piglet (from Winne-the-Pooh)

Q - Quilts, quiet (at the right moments)

R - Ronald, rainbows

S - Stephanie, snow, skiing, snowboarding

T - Trisha, Terry, Tigger

U - umbrellas, undines (I just like the word)

V - Violins and violas

W - Water, waterfalls

X - xylophones

Y - Yaks, Yellow

Z - Zoologists

Please join in the A to Z Thanksgiving Challenge!

Here's how it works:

1. Add your name to the linky list.

2. Write down all the letters of the alphabet and for each letter, name at least one person, place, thing, or idea that you are giving thanks for this year. You can name more than one if you have more than one you want to mention.

3. Post your list on your blog between 11/23 and 11/27.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A to Z Thanksgiving Challenge Pt 2

Thanksgiving Challenge Invite #2
We are all swamped with NaNo, family, feasting, and various real life activities, and yet I still think there is time to give thanks!

Maybe my Challenge sounds too tough, but I think it's very possible. You see, you can make your Thanksgiving list silly - A to Z animal thanks - aardvark, butterflies, cats, dogs; or serious - Alpha and Omega, Beautiful One, Christ the Lord. You can make it into any kind of Thanksgiving list you want . . . it doesn't have to take all day. It can take less than five minutes. Really. I gave it to all my students in my homeschool co-op classes on Monday and most of them finished it in under five minutes. Just try it, you might even find it addictive.

So, I invite you to join me in the A to Z Thanksgiving Challenge!

Here's how it works:

1. Add your name to the linky list.

2. Write down all the letters of the alphabet and for each letter, name at least one person, place, thing, or idea that you are giving thanks for this year. You can name more than one if you have more than one you want to mention.

3. Post your list on your blog between 11/23 and 11/27.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankfulness and A To Z Thanksgiving Challenge

Thankfulness is a gift, a good habit, and a way of life.

Whether or not you enjoy the American holiday of Thanksgiving, the act of Thanksgiving is worthwhile. It can give you joy, peace, comfort, and strength.

So, I invite you to join me in the A to Z Thanksgiving Challenge!

Here's how it works:

1. Add your name to the linky list.

2. Write down all the letters of the alphabet and for each letter, name at least one person, place, thing, or idea that you are giving thanks for this year. You can name more than one if you have more than one you want to mention.

3. Post your list on your blog between 11/23 and 11/27.

For Example, here's part of my list for this year:

A to Z Thanksgiving Challenge:
A - Anna, Amanda, Annette, apple pie

B - burgers

C - courage, C.S. Lewis, Christmas

So, now the A to Z Thanksgiving Challenge has been passed to you. Will you join me in giving thanks?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Longing For Poetry PT 2 and Random Thanksgiving!

NaNoWriMo is my priority this month, but as I shared in an earlier post, Longing For Poetry, I am longing for poetry, for other projects, for the haziness of random writing. At the same time, I really want to finish NaNo, and then go back and finishing revising my last NaNo novel, and then . . . and then . . .well, I have lots of plans.

So, today I NaNO, and I plan for next month.

Through Sommer Leigh's awesome NaNoWriMo Champions Support Group, I have met many awesome blogger-writers, like Aimee Jodoin of A Portrait of the Artist
Aimee is hosting a Shakespeare Sonnet Writing Contest, which is awesome! The deadline is December 4th, and I already have a few notes about subjects and word choices for mine, but I'll write it between December 1st and December 4th . . . after NaNo. So, my longing for poetry will be fulfilled soon.
Here are the rules for the Shakespeare Sonnet Writing Contest from the link:

"For this contest, write a Shakespearean sonnet. For those who need a refresher, here are the parameters:
1. Shakespearean sonnets are 14 lines long.

2. Shakespearean sonnets follow the a,b,a,b, c,d,c,d, e,f,e,f, g,g rhyme scheme.

3. Shakespearean sonnets are in iambic pentameter, meaning there are ten syllables per line.

Please send your sonnet to by Sunday 4 December 2011."

1. Red robins running covert operations among the fall leaves, blending into the red, browns and yellows in listening and watchful poses as my old dog sits with her ears alert.

2. The wiggly happiness of our beagle, as he rubs his back all over the carpet with is legs and ears flopping everywhere.

3. My daughters dance at church tomorrow! I'm excited for that for them, for our amazing friend who is an amazing dancer/director/teacher and for our church.

4. Christmas Rehearsal Take 3, tomorrow, and I am almost ready.

5. Four adult men from our church who will be acting as the Three Wise Guys and their Camel for the Christmas Pageant.

6. My cat stayed calm for the car ride to the vet because she could see her friend, the beagle, the whole time.

7. Thanksgiving plans . . . two dinners coming our way, but thankfully split over three days, not two dinners in one day.

8. Looking forward to sitting at the "mega" table at my Aunt's house with 20-30 family members. There is always laughter, always the mock arguments over the turkey skin and the last olives.

9. Looking forward to sitting at my in-laws beautiful expanded dining room table with 20 family members, and then joking our way through dinner. I love the humor of my husband's family, and the stories we all tell.

10. My husband is getting over the sniffling sneezing "bug" that he had this last week, and I know he will be back to his usual energetic self soon.

And, I have a few prayer requests:
1. My sister-in-law had carpal tunnel surgery yesterday, and her husband is completely immobile with MS, so they both need prayers for healing and strength for this post-op time.

2. Our sweet friends' daughter has been home and recovering from her big surgery since mid-October, but she still needs prayers for continued healing and pain management.

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." James 5:13

Friday, November 18, 2011

Treasures, Shoeboxes, and Operation Christmas Child

What would you keep in a treasure chest, if you had one?

What would your character keep in a treasure chest, if they had one?

Jewels? Lazer Blasters that will help them defeat the giant space monster? Gold? A Bible? Light that is brighter than the sun? Love? Truth? Justice? A billion dollars? A gold crown? A wedding dress? A bag of seashells? An old baseball and glove?

I invite you to write that into your story somehow.

And I invite you to think about the treasure of giving.

Every year at this time, my children, my mom and I go out and fill a shoebox with simple gifts for Operation Christmas Child. Some of the shoeboxes go to kids in the United States who don't have anything for Christmas. Most of the shoeboxes go to other countries all around the world.

The kids that receive them usually receive them for Christmas, but depending on shipping, political problems in war-torn countries, or simply bad weather, they may receive them on just for a regular day. I trust the organization, Samaritan's Purse, to get these gifts to children who need them most and in the timing that works best.

I highly recommend filling a shoebox for the sheer joy of filling it with treasures. It's like a mini-treasure box that we get to fill with love in the form of scarves, books, balls, dolls, fancy hair clips, toothbrushes, combs, drawing and writing paper, pencils and erasers. Plus, you can send letters and cards too.

There are only a few days left to fill a shoebox treasure chest this year for National Collection Week, go to Pack a Shoe Box to learn more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Longing for Poetry But Still NaNoing

Just over half of my way through NaNoWriMo, and my heart is longing for poetry, for the concise sweetness of sounds capturing a single, simple moment.

Last week, I longed for three other fiction writing projects, and even spent some time writing some notes for them, either notes for writing, or notes for revising. I dreamt of other stories and woke, longing to write them and not my NaNoWriMo novel.

This week, it’s poetry: rhythm, language, haunting soul-binding moments of perfect clarity. That's what I have been longing to write. Never mind that when I actually write poetry I fight for every nuance and word choice to come close to the image in my heart.

So, I write notes for five to ten minutes on my distractions, and then force myself to write the next sentence and the next sentence of my current WIP, and after four or five sentences the story begins to flow again . . . at least for a while.

Sometimes, however, allowing myself even a few moments with my distractions adds up to a major problem.

I fell behind over last weekend with NaNo and had two mega writing days to make up for it. Yesterday I wrote 4,000 words over the course of the day - and whenever I felt distracted, I closed my eyes for a few moments, thought about my novel and plugged myself back into the writing. I couldn't afford those few sentences here or there.

So, my advice for all my fellow writers: just keep writing.

1. 4,000 words in one day!!!

2. Getting my word count in this morning already!

3. Finally, a fight scene. (It took my 25,000 words to warm up to it this year)

4. I "get" my characters better in this year's NaNo novel.

5. Writing is on my mind, and I am fully immersed in my novel writing.

6. Many cups of caffeinated tea.

7. Writing through the "junk" moments and finding a good writing rythm again.

8. My cat, who often tries to grab my attention with all claws while I'm trying to write, let me play with my PC instead yesterday. Then after I finished she demanded a game of pounce, chase, claw, and scrabble. (This involves hands, string, and her favorite washcloth or sock)

9. My kids have their own NaNo goals to fulfill, and they are working at it every day. Their work, plus the work of the students at our co-op totally inspires me to keep writing.

10. This crazy little hamster toy that we purchased at Target a few years ago. He is just this silly little singing toy that waves a set of nunchuks and sings "Everbody was Kung Fu Fighting" in a high pitched voice. He moves from our house to my husband's office and back on a regular basis, and currently he is sitting by my PC. Don't ask me why this helps me keep writing, but it does. He is the mascot of anyone in our house who needs a laugh, or an extra push in the right direction.

11. An extra dance rehearsal last night for my daughters . . . for a dance for our church.

12. Having a wonderful friend who is passionate about faith and dance, and who is one of my daughters' teachers this year.

13. Toby Mac's new Christmas CD - yes, I said, Christmas.

14. Listening to Christmas music for the sole purpose of planning the Kids Christmas Pageant and some of the Music for our worship services for the next month. Really, I don't like the canned stuff they are already playing in retail stores - that kind of Christmas music before Thanksgiving is just wrong.

15. Thanksgiving is one week from today! Wow!

16. Looking forward to seeing friends and family over Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend!

17. Awesome homeschool friends.

18. Seashells on the windowsill.

19. A ceramic rabbit painted by my oldest daughter. It's sitting on the windowsill, looking out towards the green grass.

20. My youngest daughter's drawing of a young woman with an expression of determination. She thinks she's "not that good" at drawing, but I am impressed by how she captures the personality of her characters.

21. My husband is awesome. He brings home chocolate. (and he's just awesome anyway)

22. My daughters, my mom, and I all filled shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, and we love doing that each year - it is a source of joy for us. (and I'll write more about it tomorrow. There's a few more days left to take part in that project)

23. The convicting scriptures in the book of James.

Scripture Blessing:

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." James 4:10

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Humor and Thankfulness

I admit I'm not great with jokes. I have a tendency to tell the punchline too early, and I only remember the super short jokes like:

Why did the girl mushroom date the boy mushroom?
Because he was a fungi (fun guy).

It makes me smile every time . . . so you know the humor bar is pretty low with me.

Despite that, I love to laugh, and often find it a great way to warm up to writing and life.

Today I went meandering from Every Day Poets to Christie Isler's blog Letters Home (she was the featured poet today), and found this postPomegranate Season that had me laughing and thinking about writing. Trust me, her humourous diatribe about fruit carrying "how-to" labels when Halloween candy doesn't is way funnier than my favorite mushroom joke.

So, check out that post, and laugh today.

Today I'm full of thankfulness for:

1. Christie Isler's post, Pomegranate Season.

2. Laughter.

3. Jokes that make me smile.

4. My husband's smirk, and his full out smile.

5. My cat's determination to pull me away from the computer with a brush of fur, and a swipe of playful claw at the power cord.

6. The wonderful enthusiasm of my students at our homeschool co-operative.

7. One of my students has finished her NaNoWriMo already - she wrote a 45,000 word novel for the young writers' program. (young writers make their own goals)

8. All of my teen students have unique, in depth worlds that they are writing about, with some interesting characters.

9. My younger writing class likes to tell stories on the board together.

10. My C.S. Lewis class wrote their own "blurb" length stories, and were trying to press them on me at lunch-time because they were so excited about them . . . which was really cool, except I was really hungry.

And now, I have to return to NaNoWriMo, or P90X with my husband (before he goes to work) . . . lifting weights might help spur my NaNo, right?

"Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow." James 1:17 (NLT)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Campaigner Challenges 2011 Book! and Thankfulness

found at Amazon and Smashwords

Amazon Blurb:

All proceeds go to Harry Moseley's charity "Help Harry Help Others". Harry single handedly raised over 85,000BP (roughly 137,000USD) for cancer Research. He died October 8th aged 11.

This eBook contains 176 flash fiction stories, poems, and essays from 81 participants of Rachael Harrie's Blog Building Campaign 2011. Everyone donated their stories freely and willingly for this worthy course.

During the Blog Building Campaign, participants were challenged to write posts containing specific words or themes of no more than 200 (or 300) words. Despite the same premise, the stories contained in this anthology couldn't be more different.


Today I'm thankful for these blessings:

1. My story, "Butterfly Imago" making it into The Campaigner Challenges 2011 Book.

2. Katharina Gerlach of always try a little harder who edited The Campaigner Challenges 2011 book, and made this project awesome!

3. Rachael Harrie from Rache Writes for organizing an awesome campaign!

4. Amazing fall leaves of red, gold, yellow, and brown.

5. Evergreen trees that make a striking backdrop for the fall deciduous leaves.

6. Wading through piles of leaves with friends.

7. My daughter's comment yesterday, "I think the leaves are where people got the idea for confetti". I just think kids see the world in a wondrous and unique way.

8. Singing praises to the King of Creation, Savior of my life, and Spirit that guides my path with a fun group of people on my church praise team.

9. Preparing for the kids Christmas pageant at my church which will take place in early December.

10. Thanksgiving - the act, and the holiday.

11. Wood chopped for an elderly couple in our church, and a yard mowed, trimmed and fixed up for a family that's not of our church . . .I love our church family's determination to be the hands and feet of Christ in our world.

12. A new church name!!! Our new church has been a church with an awkward name, a name that served for getting our paperwork done with the state so we could receive and give offerings within taxation laws as a church and not a business. It was a name thought up in a moment of indecision, and we often called ourselves a church with no name. But now, we have a name: One Hope Church! Christ is our one hope, and our one foundation.

"There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you weree called - one Lord, one faith, on baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:4-6

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanks for Tiny Blessings

Today I'm giving thanks for some tiny blessings:

1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumbs

2. Grains of salt

3. A small match for lighting a candle

4. A votive flame in the dark

5. The tip of white on my beagle dog's tail

6. The brush of softness from my cat

7. The tiny sparkle in my older dog's eyes

8. A drop of dew on the grass

9. A sprinkle of cinnamon in a mug of apple cider

10. A tiny leaf fluttering in the wind

11. Each word that I write for NaNoWriMo.

Do you you have any tiny blessings to share today?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Call to Give Thanks

In the spring of 2010, I felt called to count my blessings, to give thanks in all circumstances, and to post it here. I considered it my own 365 Days of Blessings Challenge.

It opened my eyes to the amazing number of blessings I have in my life . . . things that I often take for granted too regularly.

It opened my eyes to my own sinful inclination to be crabby, doubtful, and full of worry . . . that was a bit uncomfortable. There were far too many days during my blessings challenge when I struggled to get beyond counting four blessings, and my challenge was to find ten new ones each day.

Lately, through prayer, study, and life circumstance (God's providence), I have realized that just because my personal challenge year ended I am still not done learning about the need for giving thanks.

So, I'll be giving thanks every day for the rest of this month for at least ten blessings each day, and every time I post on my blog, I'll add them on at the end of my posts.

On December 1st, I'll be revealing a new challenge for 12/1/11 through 12/1/12 - and welcoming any who would like to join with me on a year long challenge . . . anyone interested?

Today I'm giving thanks for:
1. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8

2. Laughter with friends and family in an interactive theatre experience. I love laughter, and laughter with friends is sweet. Laughter with friends we haven't seen in a few months is even sweeter. I can't quite describe it, but I hope you know what I mean.

3. Seeing three actors and one actress show off their amazing talent while they performed various roles for a re-telling/showing Robin Hood. 12 roles, 4 people, theatre in the square kind of performance but done at Seattle Childrens' Theatre by professionally trained actors.

4. Reading the playbill, and coming across this job: Fight Director. I knew they had fight directors for movies, but for a Childrens' theatre production? Wow. I had been extremely impressed by the smooth exchange of pretend blows by the cast, and wowed by some of the more extreme stunts, but I didn't know that they hired a fight director. It made sense. (oh, and on the "kid" side of things - they did a great job of having intense fight scenes and yet making sure the audience knew that no one was "really" hurt)

5. Eating at the Crab Pot on the Seattle waterfront and having a great time, even if no one in my family eats seafood. They make awesome burgers too, and we enjoyed watching our friends crack open their crab, mussels, and clams with wooden mallets and giant bibs.

6. After weeks of beautiful, flame colored leaves flickering against a blue sky, we had a Northwest rain and wind storm that didn't cause many power outages, and now is gone with the new dawn.

7. Days and days of no clouds on the horizon, one day with them, and another without . . . I am so thankful for that. I love rain. I just don't like the overhang of gray from horizon to horizon that made up our winter last year. Rain is a good relief, and even better when followed by clear skies.

8. Scented candles that smell like apple pie.

9. Three types of chocolate chip cookies: Otis Spunkmeyer (from pre-made dough) for my sweet husband, bean and sorghum flour with no egg and little dairy for my daughters and I - split into dark chocolate and white chocolate varieties. Seriously sweet and yummy.

10. Celebrating my youngest daughters' tenth baptismal birthday. Her faith, which faltered last year in the midst of too much dance competition pressure, has been renewed by rest, hope, and time to just be her beautiful self. We learned a lesson together about the hype of competition that neither of us is likely to forget. She loves to dance, but competition just isn't her style. (and I am thankful for that)

11. My oldest daughter is taller than me (finally, she says), and although I miss the warm bundle of sweetness that she was as a baby, I love the tall lengthy sweetness that she is now. She is growing into a thoughtful young woman, who still loves to be silly and laugh.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Slice of Life: Veteran's Day, Birthdays, Movie Reviews . . .

Veterans' Day is a day when we honor those who have served our country.

Some of the veterans I honor today: Grandpa Schneider, my uncle Buddy (my Dad's brother that I never met), John Martinson Sr, John Martinson Jr, my cousin Myron, my cousin Duane, my uncle Lloyd, my old neighbhorhood friends Bob and Mike Hougham, and men and women from my church (past and present).

Thank you Veterans!

I am also thankful for the lives of our friends, Kevin and Ron. Their birthdays are today, and my husband I have been blessed with years of their friendship. Kevin is a tough-talking guy with a heart of gold that we met in college, and Ron has been John's good friend and fellow tech guy since childhood. They both have a unique way of looking at the world, and dry humor that gets them through life's hard moments. (and they don't even hang out together, they just share the same birthday) Happy Birthday Dear Friends!

We also celebrate our youngest daughter's baptismal birthday today! Happy 10th Baptism Day to Trisha! We're going to light the her baptism candle at breakfast and sing Jesus Loves You (just Jesus Loves Me, with a few different lyrics)

And now for the movie reviews. My husband I were kidless for two Friday nights in a row, and we went all out for "grown up" movies that we wouldn't normally let our kids see, and these are our thoughts:

The Three Musketeers – Swashbuckling swordplay, moments of praiseworthy acting, but with some stale lines and a new element taken to overblown heights. Wait until it comes out on Netflix, or Redbox. I’ve seen several versions of Dumas’ books, and this one has good moments, but it isn’t worth $14 for a ticket and a pair of 3D glasses. (However, our kids could have seen this one, and probably would have enjoyed it)

Tower Heights – superb characterization, talented actors, hilarious unexpected plot twists, and a sweet but surprise ending. Warning: 10-15 minutes of screen time wasted on extremely crude humor scattered throughout the movie.

On Netflix: The Warrior’s Way – A surreal fantasy in full blown cinematography, The Warrior’s Way shows depths of love in the midst of gritty violence creating a haunting dichotomy between life-giving and life-taking ways of life. Warning: Full out bloody violence. Despite this, I really liked the message given. The protagonist is redeemed, but there are still consequences for his actions.
(I kept thinking about King David after I watched this movie, although there were no Christian themes presented and it is seriously violent - but then the Old Testament is seriously violent)

Today, we plan to see Robin Hood at a Children's Theatre, and visit with some sweet friends who moved away a few months ago. We will be flying our flag, and remembering those who gave us our freedom. Again, thank you Veterans!

Here's hoping you all have an awesome weekend, filled with the blessings of freedom!

"Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:28-29

p.s. for NaNoWriMos - I am just barely keeping up these days with my WC, making it over the top of the requirement each day by checking the word count. How's your word count going?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dancing on the Ceiling

Over 15,000 words into NaNoWriMo, and I'm feeling in the need for some whimsy:

What I love about this video is that it shows some of how the scene was created, and it reminds me that for every bit of magical storytelling, there are hours of hard work behind the scenes.

So, here's to those magical moments of film and writing that take hours of sweat and concentration to pull off . . . just like National Novel Writing Month.

Just keep writing, writers!

Hebrews 12:12-13 "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be diabled, but rather healed."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fly Away Synchronicity

Yesterday at my church, we ended worship with this song:

I came home, went to blogland and the first post I read was this one: Fly Away

And yesterday afternoon I wrote about my characters taking off in flight – two literally, and one figuratively. Tonight I’ll start with the flying scene and see where it goes from there.

This afternoon I came across this awesome post by Ali Cross: Reach about stretching ourselves as writers. (BTW Ali Cross’s book is out – go and read, or plan to read when NaNo is done)

So has anyone else been flying lately?

Or have you stretched yourself?

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40: 31

Sunday, November 6, 2011

When The Furnace Breaks, Let's Give Thanks?

Our furnace broke, just when we started feeling a need for it, and just when our lives reached a high peak of stress with work and volunteer commitments. My husband, with all of his mechanical and tech skills, confirmed that the furnace had indeed kicked the bucket completely.

When we are home, we want to feel snuggly warmth, and restful comfort.

Instead we felt cold.

For a few hours, we (my husband and I) were crabby about it.

Then some friends of ours called my husband (Mr. Fix It Engineer Tech Guy) and told him that their furnace was "acting up." They told him that they were all right for the moment because their gas fireplace still worked, but they just wanted his opinion on whether it was fixable.

For a moment after that, my husband and I were even crabbier - our gas fireplace stopped working about three years ago, and we never got around to fixing it or replacing it. But something about their thankfulness sank into our hearts, and we stopped crabbing and started thanking God for what we have.

We have warm blankets. We have electricity, and hot water. We have friends and family who offered us their homes for warmth. My parents gave us all of their space heaters (they actually own four).

We are also thankful for the things we did to stay warm while our house was cold.

We took hot showers, drank extra hot beverages, cuddled together in big piles of blankets, wore warm sweatshirts, and sat next to space heaters. The dogs sat on our feet, and we piled them with blankets too. The cat cuddled more than usual, and kept us warmer at night.

We are thankful that the time of cold is past us, and went past us easily.

My husband found two furnace companies who gave us two different bids, and he did research on the net, and after five days two wonderful furnace guys came to our house and replaced our furnace for a decent price. We are thankful that we can afford to replace our furnace in a time when our country's economy is troubled.

There are people in our country and people all over the world that experience far worse situations than the inconvenience of a broken furnace.

Our heat is back on, and we are so thankful for the steadiness of our furnace's warmth. But we are also thankful for the lessons learned and re-learned in the cold.

We need to give thanks even when the furnace breaks.

We need to look beyond our lives to the lives of others, and see what we can do to warm their lives with the blessings that we have been given to share.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." Philippians 4:4-8

Have you learned anything about thankfulness lately?

Have any unexpected blessings to share?

Friday, November 4, 2011

NaNoWriMo on Pointe and Random Awesomeness

While my daughters earned their first blisters from going on pointe at the ballet barre,
I wrote 1,431 words in the midst of distractions.

All three of us persevered in pursuit of our dreams.

I love writing.
They both love dance.
We are all willing to work hard for our dreams.

When I asked them if dance was really worth the blisters, they said yes. (Trust me, as a parent, I've asked them many times if they truly want to pursue something so painful, and they keep saying yes)

When I ask myself if the craziness of NaNoWriMo is worth it, I know my answer is yes.

Thankfully, my daughters have amazing dance instructors, and fellow dancers who know the strength and stamina it takes. They encourage one another.

Thankfully, writers like us have fellow writers who know the stamina and mental strength it takes to succeed at NaNoWriMo, and we can encourage one another.

Check out Sommer Leigh's awesome NaNoWriMo Support Group for a list of awesome NaNoWriMo supporters!

And since I'm mentioning awesomeness, I think it's time for more:

Catch Fire with Alex J. Cavanaugh’s release party for Cassafire on February 28th Catch Fire

Spread the Word, Arlee Bird has the A to Z Challenge Blogfest site up and running here A To Z 2012

Do you have any awesomeness to share?

Are you involved with NaNo this year?

Are you willing to get blisters for your dreams?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Liebster Award and NaNo update

Many thanks to Cassie Mae at Reading, Writing, and Loving It for giving me the Liebster Award!

So, in accepting the Liebster Blog Award, the recipient agrees to:
- Thank the person that gave the award and link back to their blog
- Copy and paste the award to your blog
- Reveal the 5 blogs you have chosen to award and let them know by commenting on their blog
- Hope they pay it forward by accepting and awarding it to bloggers they would like to honor

This award is for anyone with under 200 followers. :)

Picking 5 blogs is tough with so many awesome blogs to choose from, but here are the five I chose:

Kate Coursey of Weaving Colors is an aspiring author, who works as an editor with Teen Eyes, which she co-owns and operates with another young, aspiring author. Check out her blog for tips on writing YA, and writing tips in general.

Pocketful of Playdough by Brianna is a brilliantly written blog with posts that transport me to coffee shops and football games, and always in the midst of them, give some helpful writing advice. Brianna's post on NaNo filled my nose with the scent of hot cocoa. Check it out here

Charissa Weaks blogs about the journey to publication at A Day In The Life of An Aspiring Author with honest posts, humorous posts, and interviews.

Katie Mitchell's blog I Write, Therefore I am is a poetry place that I love, and when her posts aren't poetry, they remind me of Winnie-The-Pooh's Thoughtful Spot, where I can rest and have a place to think.

2 Encourage by Pam, is an awesome place to find encouragement and devotions based on real, every day life events and places.

So, check those blogs out, and follow them. They deserve your support and love, and big hugs!!!

As far as NaNo goes . . . I had one awesome day, one day that thickened the plot, and now, I have spent too much time in blogland and will have to write in the evening to up my word count . . . which is dangerous for me. My brain shuts off at 8p.m. . . . unless I drink enough caffeine to keep me up all night.
But wait, I just remembered, I can type while my daughters dance tonight . . . I'll just find a corner in the dance studio, post a sign on my chair that says "Beware: NaNoWriMo Mad Writer" and type furiously.
I'm at 4700 word so far, and have a long ways to go . . .

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Insecure Writers' Support Group: Just Keep Swimming

In the midst of NaNoWriMo, typing like I've never typed before (see the keys smoking?), I have just two pieces of advice for insecure writers everywhere (including myself):

Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing . . .


"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24

NaNoWriMo 1

Day 1 of NaNoWriMo . . . . 1,803 words so far, and may have a chance to write more later today!!! Would love to get ahead.

Anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Blessings Belated

Blessings that I am Thankful for today:

1. Musicians working together to sing to the Lord.

2. Fun co-op classes.

3. NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow!!! And I feel ready for it!

4. The Writers' Chair in my CW club class.

5. Mapping with my Writers' Workshop class.

6. Getting into some Biblical meat with my C.S. Lewis class - they are 10-12 year olds with strong faith, and great Biblical knowledge.

7. Fun paper clips.

8. The Velma costume coming together . . . maybe I'll post a pic, maybe I won't . . .

9. Carving pumpkins.

10. Toasting Pumpkins Seeds.

11. Chocolate.

12. Pizza.

13. The awesome life and witness of my father-in-law and his birthday party last night!

14. Fun with family and friends that feel like family.

15. The Casting Call Blog Hop and the Halloween Hop - fun, and helpful for getting ready for NaNoWriMo . . . the Casting Call Blog Hop helped me get visual with my storyline, and the Halloween Hop gave me something completely fun to do . . .that still helped with plotting even if there are no characters like Sully, Velma or Scooby Doo in my storyline.

16. A gorgeous fall day with sunshine, flame-colored leaves and a brisk coolness that wakes everyone up.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Hop

Today I'm posting for the Halloween Hop. My Casting Call Blog Hop post can be found here

Sully is my favorite monster of all time from Monsters, Inc. - big, furry and full of sweetness – who couldn’t love a “monster” like that?

Skillet’s Monster

Skillet rocks this Monster song! (one of my husband's earliest in-concert videos - he's the first one howling as the video ends)

And finally, this year I'll be dressing up as Velma, my favorite character from Scooby Doo. Last year I couldn't find the right skirt - this year I have something close enough after a 10 minute second hand store shopping trip.

And my favorite show with "monsters" that get unmasked:

As you can tell I'm not really a true "scary" movie fan . . . sorry, but this is how I thought I could best participate since I had a cool invite from Jeremy Bates

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Casting Call Character Blog Hop!

Casting Call Character Blog Hop!!!

I found out about this Blog Hop at Eagle’s Aerial Perspective and it fits perfectly with preparations with NaNoWriMo, so I decided to squeeze in one more Blog Hop before NaNo. So today is Casting Call, then I'll Halloween Blog Hop this weekend, and after that I’ll be slowing my posts to twice a week – blessings and writing posts only.

The Casting Call Character Blog Hop is hosted by Carrie Butler
Melodie Wright
and Lisa L. Regan

The Rules: Choose one of the following options and post:

1. Photo montage - Grab photos online, and post them with small descriptions of your characters. Let's be safe/smart about this. Don't take copyrighted photos without permission, provide attribution on photos with a Creative Commons license, etc. Basically, give credit, where credit is due. I'm sure most of you do that with your posts, anyway. :)

2. Book trailer - You've seen them online, right? This is the perfect excuse to try one of your own!

3. Paintings/Drawings/Doodles on Napkins - C'mon, we won't make fun of your art skills. It's all for fun. :)

When I saw this awesome blogfest, I was immersed in drawing a map for my story, and decided to check out some photos for scene setting and geography.

This is Aerland, home of the Aerland Griffins and their human counterparts, the Griffin Watch.


This is the Northern part of the Septilian coast, the last edge where the dark sorceress, Sihrqayya has not yet reached.


Leander, once cursed with his 12 brothers to live in swan form by day, still has one wing, and longs for the simplicity of his life as a swan. He hates court life, and wishes that he still looked like this:


It's really hard for me to choose an actor for him, I think I've looked at about 10 actors, and tried to figure out who would fit Leander both in age, and in looks. Jake T. Austin is the closest I've found for Leander, and yet, he needs longer hair . . . like maybe a much younger Orlando Bloom? But the reality is all the pics I can find of Orlando that are free are of him with a mustache and that so doesn't fit.
So here's Jake T. Austin:


Perren, is Leader's unwanted mentor, and he is the Rrissorrian Royal Falconer. He doesn't care much for court life and prefers the company of his hawks, which he hopes will help him gain Leander's trust. This picture helps me visualize the size of his favorite hawk to the size of Perren himself:


Maybe Viggo Mortensen would fit Perren's character


My character Clara from The Crystal Sword will be entering into On One Wing, so this is a pic for the crystal that she is searching for, in the hopes to "heal" her sword:

Clara is supposed to be making allies, but instead she has struck out on her own mission.

And although I have a tough time choosing pics of actresses that I think fit my characters, I think that AnnaSophia Robb comes close (but she needs more sword fighting muscle):


Klyan, the griffin, makes me wish that I had artistic skills, but I really like this drawing by Joshua Stephen Mersereau, even if I picture Klyan's coloring a little differently. BTW, Klyan is mourning his last Griffin Watch partner, and is seeking out Clara for the Triune Council of Allies.


Thank you Carrie, Melodie and Lisa for hosting this awesome blog hop, and getting me to find some pics that help me with characterization for this year's NaNoWriMo!!!

And next . . .I'll be taking all the photos I found at Wikipedia Commons to make a collage that will stand by my writing space for NaNo!

NaNoWriMo Pre-Writing

NaNoWriMo Pre-Writing, Plotting, Brainstorming, Daydreaming
(Casting Call Blog Hop Tomorrow)

As a writing teacher at my local homeschool co-operative, and as a writer, I have found myself scrambling to prepare for NaNoWriMo both for my students and for myself. What is the best, most useful and awesome advice I can give them, and use myself?

The reality is, I don’t know. I have ideas. I know what has worked for me before, and what hasn’t, but each writer is an individual with different methods of pre-writing that work best for them. How do I give the best, most useful and awesome advice to a group of people, even a small one?

I know what it’s like to be in a writing class and get all excited about the teacher’s method that “works for most writers” only to find out that maybe I’m not in the category “most writers.” Are any of us, really?

Here’s what has worked for me: daydreaming, drawing maps, writing character profiles, jotting down notes about world building, and the five scene method.

For the five scene method, I jot down notes about the top five most important scenes or scene images for each character that matters . . . not just main characters, but their top buddies, and the antagonist. I have to know each character’s beginning scene, climax scene, end scene, and two scenes that show character development or tension between characters. That doesn’t mean I write out those scenes, but I take notes on what I think they might be, including some description of the setting where they take place. Last year, I used most of my scene ideas during NaNoWriMo, but some were just left in a folder, and ignored as useful but unnecessary background. (This method was one great writing class gem that I learned from Pamela Goodfellow in a University of Washington Commercial Fiction class.)

This year, with the impetus of teaching a group of hungry (for writing), enthusiastic, intelligent, and highly motivated and committed teens, I feel in some ways like that’s not enough. I feel like I need to find more for them . . .more methods, more specific pre-writing plot ultimate “truth” for writing and finishing a novel.

Yet, despite having read more than a dozen books on writing, and some specifically about novel writing and plotting, I don’t feel like I have “the answer”. I just have ideas.

Do you think there is one answer for pre-writing plot that will drive you to the finish of your novel by the end of NaNoWriMo?

Casting Call Blog Hop Tomorrow

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Left Foot and Other Blessings

My Left Foot

Whenever I feel like complaining about my foot, all I have to do is say that phrase, “my left foot” and I take pause. Many years ago I watched a drama entitled

My Left Foot

Description of My Left Foot: “In this true story told through flashbacks, Christy Brown is born with crippling cerebral palsy into a poor, working-class Irish family. Able only to control movement in his left foot and to speak in guttural sounds, he is mistakenly believed to be retarded for the first ten years of his life. Later, through the help of his strong-willed mother, a dedicated teacher, and his own courage and determination, Christy not only learns to grapple with life's simple physical tasks and complex psychological pains, but he also develops into a brilliant painter, poet and author.” Written by David Mullich

So when I start to complain about my left foot, I remember that movie and I stop complaining, or at least I pause long enough to realize how silly it is that I complain about one small part of my body that doesn’t work well.

True, I’ve had 13 surgeries on other parts of me. I’ve got scoliosis, hypothyroidism, and too much weight. However, my doctor often takes notice of how remarkably healthy I am. My blood work always turns out well. I have great blood counts, and perfect blood pressure. So what is the point of worry over my left foot?

Well, I can’t exercise just the way I want to – dance, running, and even walking are out for the next four weeks. However, I am smart enough to be creative – lots of ab exercises and leg lifts might be just the thing to trim me down. Who knows? Maybe four weeks from now I’ll be in better shape than I am now.

My left foot has been sprained, strained, pulled, twisted, fractured, impacted by a softball, and now is suffering from my “heel-striking” walking stride and planter fasciitis. But it isn’t the only part of my body that I can use.

So, for a Sunday Blessing count today, I have:
1. My left foot - which reminds me to be thankful for what I have that works.
2. My friends who encourage me and pray for me when I most need it.
3. My family, who hold me up, love me, and laugh with me.
4. My Savior – He can move the mountains!
5. An awesome Christian musician I know, who knows how to lead worship with a humble and reverent heart. He’s only 17, and is more mature than some of his older contemporaries.
6. Our friends’ daughter return home. She still needs prayers for recovery and strength, but she is home!
7. Sugar cubes stacked like Egyptian pyramids . . . until they are eaten lovingly, cube by cube.
8. Corn Maze fun!
9. Sweet youth leaders who opened their home to us last Friday night and warmed our hearts with their loving fellowship.
10. Ice, ibuprofen, and being able to put my feet up.

Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, Rejoice!”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Maps and World Building

Lately, when I'm not busy with regular life, or revising The Crystal Sword, I've been world-building, and map-making for my next novel, On One Wing.

My amazing, enthusiastic, and highly knowledgeable teen Creative Writers' Club class at the homeschool co-op we attend, has pushed me to re-think my map-making and world building. I really didn't do a very good job of either before I started The Crystal Sword, and I now regret it.

There is a benefit of map-making if you are writing a fantasy novel that is set in a pre-industrial world with old world transportaion abilities. To get anywhere, my characters have to take a boat, a horse, a sea serpent, or a griffin, and the sea serpents aren't friendly. The roads are rough, and the forests can be dense. Weather patterns matter when my characters are slogging along outside trying to get from point A to point B in the story.

I thought I had a pretty good map of my character's country in The Crystal Sword, but it didn't really have enough information on it - like topography, or waterways, or blown up maps of Skycliff (the main city featured in the story). I had a pretty good handle on the underground section of the city where the characters' escape from the onslaught of war, but when they try to return over sea and land, I don't have those maps figured out well enough. It's taken me some time to fix.

So yesterday I mapped out my the area my main characters in One One Wing will be traversing three times, and I'm still not satisfied. I need more of an understanding of the topography, and the weather patterns and how it will affect their journey.

The interesting thing is that even though I don't draw all that well, I enjoy map making in the writing process, or pouring over real world maps to understand key locations for a story.

Have you ever considered making maps in the world building process for your writing?

Even for non-fiction, or fiction set in the "real" world, I think that maps can come in handy. In a book I recently read where the characters stopped in Portland . . . the author didn't know the downtown area that well, and mistakenly thought the biggest and best place for books was the library. He obviously didn't know about Powells. Oops. (BTW more info about Powells can be found at my post Biggest Bookstore in the World, or at the Powells' website )

So, Maps Anyone?