Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Out of a Rut

Last week was a complete non-writing week for me. I'm not complaining, because in that week, I was able to focus some much-needed time on WAJN projects (Christmas CD coming soon, Lord willing!!). The primary reason I didn't spend the week writing, though, was because I wasn't exactly sure what to do next (you may remember the article I wrote about that).

Yesterday, I spent a little time walking and praying--specifically focusing on my writing projects. You see, my original plans were that, while Book One of Nat is in the hands of beta-readers, I would write as much of Book Two as I could. That way, hopefully it won't take as long as Nat's story took. 

The more I thought of it, though, the less comfortable I felt about that idea. There are still a few glitches in Nat's story that I know need to be worked out before I begin writing book two. Yet, I still wanted to get the plot down for book two. I did a little brainstorming on it last week, but the well was d.r.y.

Back to my walk. As I walked and prayed about it--praying for ideas, for direction, for anything, the Lord gave me that light bulb (i.e. "DUH") moment: work on something else.

After all, whose schedule was I following? Mine? My readers'? God's?

Write something else.

The instant the thought crossed my mind, I felt greatly relieved. That was my answer. And now that I knew, my writing life seemed pretty simple. After all, there's this other story I've been yearning to write, but so far, the timing of when to write it hadn't happened. I began mulling over this idea, praying about it (I had the general gist and location, but the plot just wasn't there yet). Within an hour, the Lord provided a rough synopsis of the entire story--climax and everything! This usually doesn't happen, so you can imagine how excited I've been! I'm ready to climb out of my little writing hole and race across the field of ideas, picking bouquets of words and tying them together with ribbon-like themes. My desire is to have this rough draft completed by the time I get Nat back from beta readers. But, God's plans aren't always mine, so we shall see.

What excitement has happened in your life lately?
What do you do when you're in a rut (whether in life or in writing)?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Scripture Graphics #63

In this world, it is easy to get caught up in “making ends meet” and “having a cushion”—but is that our own wisdom? If our wisdom keeps us from sharing our riches with those in need, maybe we are too focused on our money. If our focus shifts to money rather than ministry, it could be that our labor is to be rich, not to follow God. This does not give us permission to be careless, but it is a good reminder to check our motives.
A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. (Proverbs 28:20)

If I notice a lot of strife around me, I need to stop and check: am I the one being contentious?

Envy can be one of those silent sins that we nurture in our hearts. If no one sees it, it doesn’t seem as sinful. But here, it is portrayed as worth than anger and wrath (which are outrageous and cruel). Just like we have to be on guard to not give place to wrath, we must also guard against envy.

We must ever be on guard against a hardened heart—it can happen so quickly. Is our heart tender toward the Lord? Do we fear Him and truly believe His Word? If we catch ourselves in mischief, with a hardened heart, the previous verse gives us a choice: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

What is something you've learned from God's Word this week?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Colors of Christmas | Giveaway, Tour, FLF, and Blog Hop

Happy Friday! I'm once again jumping ahead of myself and doing a Christmas story--or two, as this case is. Be patient and scroll through the entire post... there's a lot of great stuff packed in here!

But first... first lines from both stories!

Just have to say, that first line of "Christmas in Blue" is SO true!!! I'm a piano/violin teacher and yes, I know when my students haven't practiced...there are just things you know. ;)

Don't forget: you can be a part of First Line Fridays and share your link on Hoarding Books.

Now, after you get through this wonderful, long post, stop and comment!
~ Share a first line
~ Have you read anything by Olivia Newport?
~ What is a new-for-you author this month?
~ Anything else you feel like commenting ;)

About the Book

Name of book: Colors of Christmas
Author: Olivia Newport  
Genre: Contemporary Christmas  
Release Date: October 1, 2017  

Christmas in Blue Angela just wants Christmas to be over. Instead, she finds herself in charge of the town’s celebration, and everything goes from bad to worse. Can she rescue Christmas for the town—and herself? 
Christmas in Gold When eighty-year-old Astrid moves into an assisted living community and meets a young woman on the brink of despair, she resolves to stir up Christmas hope one more time.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Review
I thoroughly enjoyed the two novellas in this book. I appreciated that they weren’t romances and that there was a strong, Christian theme in both of them.

“Christmas in Gold” is definitely my favorite of the two. I loved, loved, loved Astrid and her whole story. I really liked reading a story of an elderly woman entering a retirement center—that is not something I’ve read much of. That initially intrigued me to Astrid. But then her back story! I’m not a huge fan of back story, but wow. Her back story was VERY well written and thought out and portrayed. The flashbacks were perfect because of who Astrid was. Not everyone can get away with dumping in back story, but because Astrid was toward the eve of her years and the move jarred her, her living in the past was so very well done. So Astrid gets a five star from me.
I wish I could have liked Carly’s story a little more. Maybe I just had a hard time sympathizing with her, or maybe it was that her story was a little vague. It’s not like I did not like it, I guess I was just trying to understand the magnitude of her problem (maybe it made my brain think that this was leaning toward suspense but it didn’t reach that point, so I was just left confused?).

“Christmas in Blue”…after Gold, I was eager to see what other story was in this book. I didn’t care for it quite as much as Gold. The best way I can describe it is a Hallmark movie minus the romance. Everything that could go wrong went wrong—but then everything that could be solved was magnificently pieced together. It was just a little too perfect to be real life. I connected with Angela instantly, because I am a piano teacher as well and I rarely find books that feature music teachers. But beyond that, I just didn’t quite feel her pain. I wanted to, especially after reading Gold, but it just didn’t appeal to me quite the same. It is, however, an amazing story if you just want a “feel good” story (I usually don’t go for those). It kind of ranked more of a 3.5 rating for me.

Like I said, spiritual content in both of these were solid. Blue was a little more confusing to me—but it could have just been that by the end/climax, I was ready to be finished with the story. It brought out the beauty of healing. Gold portrayed that it is only by God’s strength that we can get through trials. I really did appreciate the emphasis on trials, and how they have potential to turn one to God.

The romance was almost nonexistent. There was absolutely none in Blue, but in Gold, there was a situation that Carly faced with a former boyfriend, and you knew that someone else was falling for her, but it was not a main part of the story at all.

There are some bomb scenes, some scenes with boyfriend restraint orders, but nothing explicit; just to mention it for my younger readers.

*I received this book from CelebrateLit and happily provided my honest review*

Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and twentysomething children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.

Guest Post from Olivia Newport

We All Have a Story
I’m younger than most of the people I exercise with. It started when I had a lot of pain in my feet and needed low-impact classes with the option of sitting down and learned I didn’t have to be a senior citizen to take their classes at my gym. Then I discovered how tough most of them are. Years later, though my feet are better, these are still my people.
A couple of years ago, while we waited for the younger and allegedly-but-not-really-tougher crowd to clear out of the group exercise room so we could invade it, a woman I would not have guessed to be 80, because she could out-cardio and out-lift me any day of the week, mentioned she had been widowed since she was 39. And she’d been widowed the first time at 19. And she’d grown up in Germany while Hitler was intent on destroying Europe and life was not easy.
Then the changing of the guard happened and I was left with my mouth gaping. I knew I had to hear this story. The next week after class, we went across the parking lot to Culvers for lunch and I scribbled notes on the backs of a pile of brown napkins while Astrid talked. Later she let me read the account of her life that she had written herself.
Astrid faced so many tragic circumstances, but she would be the first to tell you that God was with her even before she knew how to call on him. Many people with her life story would have found plenty of reason to wallow and stagnate. But not Astrid. Truly she is one of the most hopeful people I know.
Her story was the beginning of Colors of Christmas, which includes two stories. Astrid’s is “Christmas in Gold,” and the other is “Christmas in Blue.” Astrid inspired me to write about hope for a time of year when the Christian message resounds with hope yet so many people struggle to grasp hope for themselves. I pray these stories will help many recover a sense of hope afresh.
Olivia Newport chases joy in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.

To celebrate her tour, Olivia is giving away a grand prize of a Christmas Bundle Bonanza which includes 7 Jumbo rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, 2 sets of stick-on gift tags, 2 packages of Christmas cards and envelopes, 2 collections of Christmas novellas—18 stories in all, and a signed copy of Colors of Christmas!!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c319

Blog Stops

Books N Baubles, October 17
Bukwurmzzz, October 17
Bigreadersite, October 19
Blogging With Carol, October 21
A Greater Yes, October 22
Mary Hake, October 22
Daysong Reflections, October 22
Baker Kella, October 23
Remembrancy, October 24
Carpe Diem, October 25
autism mom, October 25
Bibliophile Reviews, October 25
A Reader’s Brain, October 26
By The Book, October 26
The Power of Words, October 26
Pause for Tales, October 27
Splashes of Joy, October 27
Jeanette’s ThoughtsOctober 28
Karen Sue Hadley, October 28
Vicky Sluiter, October 29
Pursuing Stacie, October 29
Just Jo’Anne, October 30

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cover Reveal: 'Tis so Sweet by Faith Blum

Once again, I'm here with news of another release by Faith Blum!

I actually got the first look at her cover, as Faith honored me to be her cover designer! Follow Faith's blog for information as soon as it releases! I'm looking forward to this story, as it features characters from my favorite of her books, Lily of the Valley. Anyway, enough chatting. Behold, the cover!!!

Trusting God is hard

Eleanor Miller has never lacked for anything, but she wanted to become a schoolteacher anyway to instill the love of learning into other children. Unlike what happened with her brother, Grover.

Grover hated school and authority. He rebelled any change he could. When he almost killed a man, their family was torn apart and he was disowned.

Eleanor understands her father’s decision, but she worries she will never see Grover again. Will she find out how sweet it is to trust Jesus in everything no matter what happens or will she stop trusting Him completely?

About the Author

Faith Blum is a 20-something author of multiple books in various genres. She loves to write, read, play piano, knit, crochet, sew, watch movies, and spend time with her husband.  She lives in Wisconsin in a small town with her husband and cat where she can write to her heart’s content during the day. Faith’s goal in her writing is to encourage Christians in their walk with Christ.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Silent Night, Holy Night | Beginner Piano Solo

It's the time of year (and beyond) when I'm working on Christmas recital pieces with my students! I absolutely love this time of year! Here is a piece that I arranged for one of my girls.

Do you like songs played on the higher registers of the piano, or lower?

For info on sheet music, go here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

When Life Hands you Writing Days!

Last Monday, I woke up planning to be very flexible with my week. As you saw from last week's post, life kind of took a crazy turn. Things have settled back down for now--but I want to thank you all so very much for your prayers!

Now, back to writing... I seriously did keep my free hours of the week open, planning on being available if something came up and I was needed elsewhere. Would you know, though, that out of the last two months, last week gave me the most writing time I've had?! God is so good! I seriously feel a bit spoiled. ;) All of that to say...

Yep. You see an "Edited" stamp on every single chapter for Nat's story!!! As of Friday, Nat's story is now in the hand of the beta-readers. I'm still going to project a Spring 2018 release. I imagine once I get my readers' feedback in, I'll have some more editing to do! And you never know when someone may make that great suggestion that calls for a little rewriting.

So... I'm currently in between projects! It's such an odd feeling to have! I also realized... soon I'm going to have to transport all of my Civil War books back into my closet-bookshelf and out of my study-bookshelf, to make room for the next book's research! I have a lot of planning to do for book two in Nat's series (which, as a way of update, I have both a series' title AND titles for all three books in it!! Can't share quite yet... but I can't wait to tell y'all!).

Last week was an exciting week for me! But do you ever get that feeling of, "Wow. This is done, now what?" I mean, I've been working on Nat's story off-and-on for the last 1 1/2 years (praying, praying that book two doesn't take me that long!). I'm still praying for wisdom with the next thing to focus on! Your prayers are also appreciated! :)

What are you up to this week? Anything exciting happen for you last week?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Scripture Graphics #62

It is our own foolishness that maekes our way twisted and has “hard feelings” against the Lord. Too often, even believers blame God for the feelings of their heart, or they blame satan—but it is man himself.

Not all instruction out there lines up with God’s Word. There are many foolish men and women who have a voice in this world, which is why we must know the words of knowledge for ourselves.

The word “chosen” stood out to me. It is not that some people happen to have a good name or loving favor—we all have a choice how we behave. But many people choose something that fades away—like gold and silver—over godly character.

Which verse about wisdom vs. foolishness have you read recently?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

KJV Know the Word Study Bible | Review

I was interested in this as a three-way approach to studying the Bible. I would love to find a study Bible that I can hand to a young Christian that would teach them how to study God's Word for themselves. It was my hope that this may be one of those Bibles. Each book begins with a summary and how-to-study-this-book. As you read through the individual book, segments are highlighted and explained historically. This suits the book-by-book study advertised. 

When it comes to verse-by-verse, I guess I was expecting it to explain how to take a verse and study the definitions of the words. Instead, I think the highlighted segments are supposed to be the "verse-by-verse" study. It may just be me, but it didn't seem to fit very well. 

Topic-by-topic is a little wanting. I realize that one needs a completely separate concordance to thoroughly study topically, but I suppose I was expecting more than 21 chosen topics. The topics seem to do well for a young Christian who has no basic knowledge of the Bible and they cover solid, doctrinal issues (like the Bible, the Trinity, sanctification, purpose, etc.), but what about digging even deeper?

So, in conclusion, maybe my expectations of a study Bible were slightly too high. I was hoping that it would be something that would teach someone how to study. Rather, it just hands the reader the information. I do appreciate it; I will likely be using it for a little more background on the history of events and such. I just wished for something slightly deeper.

*I received this book from BookLook Bloggers and happily provided my honest review of the product*

Friday, October 20, 2017

God Gave us Family | FLF and Blog Hop

It's another Friday with sharing first lines!!

Remember, you can visit Hoarding Books to see all of the lovely first lines being shared today AND if you're a blogger, you can join in on the fun!

For me, I'm sharing from a children's book again. It's perfect timing, because my first nephew was born last Friday!! Talk about love at first sight! <3 It's a wonderful thing, being an aunt!

Cute illustrations are coupled with a dialogue-themed story to explain how God fits everyone into the family that He chooses. It goes from some families having only one child to other families having several to children raised by grandparents to extended being a part of extended family. The little wolf learns that the cousins he thought were annoying one year were great fun the next year. It’s a pretty thorough little book, explaining all aspects of family and love, and how our earthly family is like being a part of a spiritual family.

Part of the thoroughness was that some mamas and papas couldn’t be a part of raising their family (divorce). I doubt the author intended to make it sound this way, but it could almost come across that God makes some families divided, because of the quote, “God gives us family in lots of different ways…look at Graham the Goose. His mama is raising all of those goslings by herself.” I realize this is me being nit-picky, but considering the children I’d read it to, it would bring up questions about “So is God the one who pulls a family apart?” (which, I’ll admit, would lead to a great discussion about man’s choice)

All in all, though, this book was very cute and had a good message of being content in the family you’re in.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books and happily provided my honest review*

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

When Life Happens...

Last week was a pretty insane week. One of my sisters is going through a hard point in life, so she and I decided to trek down to Louisiana for a weekend off (she had some other things to do, I visited cousins, friends, and grandparents). One of my brother's girlfriend's mom discovered that she has pretty serious breast cancer (please pray for Mrs. Linda!), and my dad got some negative health news as well. Add teaching 2 days plus a houseful of colds/fever going around and yeah... that's how my week went. Writing was wayyyy on the bottom of things.

But you know what? As each new piece of news struck us, all I could do was give a little grin.  And it wasn't a sardonic grin. It was just... "Really? Wow... just how much news could a family handle in one week? What will we hear next?" 

It was also amazing. It could have easily been a very depressing week, but instead, all I could see was God's hand and His miraculous blessings on our lives. I really think that God had prepared my heart with listening to Choosing Gratitude. The hardships of life look different when you're looking at them through eyes grateful to God of all the blessings He has bestowed upon our lives! Yeah, it's been a tough week--more-so for certain family members than for myself--but God's grace is still sufficient, and He is good. All the time.

Oh, and guess what the week of bad news ended with? A nephew!! Yep. God saw fit to make the week end with happiness (my sister-in-law took the all-natural route so no induction). Sorry, I can't share pictures publicly, but trust me: Adam is the cutest, most adorable little infant there is! (And I'm not wholly prejudiced; many of our family and friends say the same thing) After waiting for what seems years and year for "our life to move on" (i.e. siblings getting married and having babies), here we are! And it truly seems like it all happened quickly--not after a decade of waiting. God's timing is perfect, and seriously, it is wholly worth the wait. My siblings are all striving to follow God in their relationships, and so far, God has spared our family from much of the heartache that happens when people get impatient and try to take matters in their own hands.

So, writing week? No. But is it a week I'd live without? No, not really. Because in weeks like the one I just lived, it reminds me more and more of the great God that I serve and His hand over anything that happens in our lives. There is really nothing better I can ask for in life.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Scripture Graphics #61

"The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat." Proverbs 13:4
"Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase." Proverbs 13:11
"In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury." Proverbs 14:23

What is our diet—what do we crave? When we have free time to use, do we fill our minds with empty entertainment or do we seek that which encourages godliness?

We can justify pretty much anything we do and convince ourselves that there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing “this or that.” But we aren’t the judge of what is clean—God is. And if we truly want to know if He approves, we will seek His definition of what is clean and good. “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.” (vs 6)

Wisdom never comes by accident. We must desire it, separate ourselves, and seek it. Many people stop at just desiring it.

Share a verse you read today!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Books I Read - September 2017

Due to last week's Five Fall Favorites fun, I'm a week behind getting my "books I read" up. But here they are! Thanks to a trip to Louisiana plus a full week of revival services an hour away, I got in quite a bit of reading time!

My Favorites
Ooh, I had two favorites this month!!

This book. Y'all. I really, really needed the reminder of how blessed I am and to make a conscious effort to BE grateful! I actually listened to this as an audiobook, but it was so, so good! I highly recommend it! (A more cohesive review here)

And this book!!! When I realized this was a legal thriller, I went, "Ugh..." cause I'm not so into legal things. But it was amazing. Hands-down my favorite mystery book that I've read this year. Full review with more details here.

No, make that three favorites, because I really liked...

Can you even imagine what it would be like to be blind in the twin towers? Yeah. This was an amazing read. More of my thoughts here.

Non-Fiction Books
I tried to make it an effort to read a little more non-fiction this month. That being said, I pulled out one photography book that I had begun in January and finished it, and then got another photography book to review and read it.

Review here.

Review here (note: this is excellent for most photographers, no matter what equipment you have)

Other Fiction
And... we reach the part where I dump all of the info about other books I've read. ;) I was really excited to finish this series:

I really, really liked book one so was looking forward to books two and three. Unfortunately, they didn't appeal to me quite as much as the first book. I think it's because the first book had a somewhat balance viewpoint of North/South and the conclusion to the series made the South seem more stereotypical. So yeah... each of these kind of got a three-star from me. If you've read them, I'd love to hear your thoughts! As it stands, you may see my reviews for book two and book three on Goodreads.

After featuring this for a First Line Fridays post, I realized how very much I wanted to re-read it! So... I did! (the one luxury of making myself not agree to review-read everything that comes in my email: I have more time to read just whatever I want ;) ) It's truly a sweet book. I can see how some people may not like Janette Oke's style. She definitely has an "older" voice but you've gotta love it for that era. I decided to give it five stars.

Last but not least, I read two WWII books!!

By one of my author-friends, I enjoyed this cute story. It wasn't quite realistic to me (I just visited the WWII museum so maybe my critical eye is a bit harsher?), but it was a very good story! My full review is here.

My first book to read by Melody Carlson. It was a cute story, not my favorite ever, but not bad either. I really did love pulling out a Christmas story to read! I haven't read many of them, and already this year, I think I've agreed to review three (three more Christmas books than I read last year!). Back to this book, though, I did give it four stars, and you can see my thoughts here.

Do you re-read books?
What are some non-fiction books that you enjoy?
What about Christmas books? Read them or not?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Paige Alder series | First Line Fridays

So, a few months back, I shared the first line from Paige Torn. 

Within the last few weeks, I've read books two and three, so was going to feature just one of them. But then... why not all three? So here you go: the other two.

I initially didn't think I'd like reading first person, present tense, but it worked for the series. If you'd like, my full review are up on Goodreads for books one, two, and three.

What's the latest series that you've read in full?
- or - 
Open a book and share the first line!

If you'd like to join us on your blog today, then post a first line and share the link on Hoarding Book's blog!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Little About Me

A few days ago, I shared my personal testimony on Instagram and Facebook. For those who aren't there, I'd love to share it here... and hear your own testimonies of how you came to Christ!

I was born and raised in a Baptist preacher's home. I knew all of the rules, and overall, I was the "good kid." I rarely sneaked behind my parents' back--and if I did, ​trust me, my conscience would beat me up! When I was about five or six, I was part of a church sign language class with a very zealous teacher. In one session, she asked who wanted to accept Christ as their Savior. I remember raising my hand. Since my parents were Christians, she told me to talk with my parents that night. I was all bubbly as I bounded up to my parents with, "I want to be saved!" 

I remember talking to them that night, but that's all (in my parents' words: my siblings were wondering why in the world they didn't lead me in "the sinner's prayer" -- thank God for wise parents; they knew that I had childish curiosity, but not Christ-given conviction). However, when I was about seven, I vividly remember December 3. During Bible time for school, I had to read a few verses then jot down my thoughts. For at least two days, my answer was, "They need to be saved." That day, however, God hit my heart on a personal level: *I* needed to be saved. 

That night, when my parents talked to me about Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for my sins, and that He is the only way to salvation, I understood and prayed, repenting of my sins. This, for me, was just the start. I was a good kid, and at seven, there is only so much "wicked" that a kid could do in action. Salvation goes much further than that, for me. 

God has continued to mold me and shape me to become more like Him, and as I have gotten older, I am struck with the grim reality of everything my life has been spared because I came to Christ as a young child. No, my life isn't perfect, but my God is. What's more, there is nothing like the certainty that He will never leave nor forsake me!!

I would love to hear your salvation testimony!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Reflections of the Cross" album update

After a few months at a stand-still with "Reflections of the Cross" piano solo album (you may remember the announcement trailer here), I kind of had a "duh" moment. The stand-still was that my brother couldn't find a certain key to his program (yeah, fancy equipment stuff and all)... but why not me try and use a free program to enhance (aka, "master") the music myself? So far, with the help of YouTube and my brother’s fancy speakers, things have commenced.

I'm not sure why I didn't attempt mastering audio before (actually, I think it always intimidated me.).. but so far, it's gone much more smoothly than I would have imagined! Still continue to pray for this project though! God's timing is perfect, I fully realize that. I have a lot on my plate, and I don't want to try to force something to happen if it's not God's timing.

What's something new you learned this week?
What is your favorite hymn about the cross?

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