The Torch Keepers - Cover Reveal

Hey everyone!  Surprise!  (I'm not posting on a Wednesday...whoa...)

But I have good reason, I really do.

Hosanna Emily has a cover for her book The Torch Keepers.  And it's soooooo cool!!!

Wanna see it?

Wait no longer...

Okay, maybe just a little more...

Just a little more...               

This isn't the cover, now I'm just teasing you.

(Hehe I'm loving this...)

Okay, I'll stop...

Here goes...                

The King's blue flame quivers as a new fire arises, and Kadira must hold fast to the torch.  It's destiny; she's a torch keeper.

A fiery revolution sweeps across the kingdom of Érkeos, and each person must choose a side.  Kadira, a girl set apart to serve the King, finds her city engulfed in emerald flames.  Her blue eyes mark her as the enemy, and she flees from death.  It stalks her anyway.  When she meets Rekém, the Liberation warrior sent to kill her, she rebels against the King's ways.  Two armies collide; indecision isn't an option.  As hearts and lives hang in the balance, Kadira and Rekém could bring destruction or liberation to the entire kingdom.

Release date: September 1, 2019

The Pursuit of Happiness

Say your ultimate writing goal is to publish something.  That's what you dream about, work towards, pray for.  Someday, you want to see your book on the shelf, with your words, your name, inside the cover.

That's a good goal.  Perfectly fine.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Nothing at all.

But we need to remember that getting published will not make us truly happy.  We'll be excited, yes.  Thrilled.  Our parents will be proud, our friends will ask us to sign their copies, and we may even get some money out of it.

Then the critiques come in.  People don't like your book.  Some may hate it.  Others may think of a few things that could have been done differently.  Or maybe you just don't sell as many copies as you had hoped.  Doubt sinks in.  Maybe some regret.  You're still happy to have your book in your hands, but now you're a little unsure.
That's because publishing a book is not our highest aim.  Neither is winning Alpine Skiing at the Olympics.  Nor is getting married.  Nor is getting that dream job.  Or any other goals you might have, however good they be.
Our chief and highest end is to glorify God and to fully enjoy Him forever, as the Westminster Larger Catechism eloquently states.
We won't find true happiness, everlasting happiness, anywhere else.  Not in winning awards, not in finding a loving spouse, not in publishing a book, not in getting a good career.  Apart from God, our joy won't last - it comes to nothing.
As I said, there's nothing wrong with wanting to publish your book.  It's a good goal.  But we need to remember that once we reach that goal, we will still have our doubts, our insecurities.  Once we get what we want, we still won't be perfectly satisfied.
When we die, we can't take that book with us.  The money, the writing awards, the fame, it's all left behind.  Yes, others will read the book after we die, but what good will that do us?  All we'll have after death is Christ and His Righteousness.
Because that's what ultimately matters.
So keep pushing towards your goal, friends.  But don't make it an idol.  Make sure you're putting God in His rightful place - First.  Pursue Him above all things.  Don't let anything else - your writing, your pursuit of earthly happiness - get in your way.  Put God first, and find all your happiness in Him, first.
Only then will you find happiness in your goals - in reaching them, in not reaching them, in the journey itself.

The Bullet Journal Post

I've been pretty quiet about my bullet journaling, mostly because I am very much not artistic, and there's no way I could compare to everyone else and their beautiful journals.  (Also, since I was just starting out, I felt like I wasn't really qualified to give a post anyway.)

But now I've been doing it since the end of 2017, so now I feel a little more advanced in my BJ abilities and experience.


Why I Hesitated to Bullet Journal

I can't draw
I can't even doodle
I don't know what colors match with each other
I thought it would take way too much extra time out of my day
I have carpel tunnel in both wrists and writing just isn't easy any more
I would probably forget about it after a month and so why bother
I would forget to look in it when I need information so what's the point

But I finally did it.  I searched on Amazon for bullet journals...and decided the official, fancy ones were a bit too pricey, especially since I figured I would likely give it up after a while.

So I bought a cheap graph-paper journal.  When I gave it up, I could give it to my Dad, who is always looking for more graph paper for work purposes.

My First Bullet Journal

Ha, yes, I did print out my own penname to stick across the top.

I filled this journal out according to all the videos and posts out there on the internet.

I had the first few pages.  I made some charts.  I started monthly pages.  Pages for notes.  I bought a pack of colorful pens to use.  I even attempted to do some doodles to make the pages pretty.

It was nice, I won't deny that.

Since I didn't have the fancy washi tape stuff, I just colored in a square by the top to mark the page.

Why I Disliked It

As soon as I make a mistake (which is fairly often) I would have to rip out the page, find another blank one further back in the book.  And now my editing notes or book notes were all out of place.  This bothered me to no end.

Writing on the left hand side was bothersome and even on the right side could get annoying, since the book was so large.  Also, I had to write really tiny.

My hands are cramping just looking at this...

I hated filling out the charts and never used my color-coded key.

What I Liked

I did enjoy having something in my purse at all times to use for anything - scrap paper, story ideas, writing down dates.

I think my handwriting is better when in all uppercase, lol

End Result

Not bad, but could be better.  I mean, it's a start, it doesn't have to be pretty.

My Second Bullet Journal

Gotta admit, this is a pretty cover!

While struggling with my first one, I remembered a notebook my Dad had bought me years and years ago for taking sermon notes.  The notebook was made in such a way that you could take out and insert pages as neededWell, I thought, sounds like the perfect idea for a bullet journal.

Off I traipsed to Staples (early January of 2018) and found just what I was looking for.  I picked out a pretty journal, a variety of sheet paper, and a few rolls of colorful tape.  (Thankfully I had to make a trip to Staples just before this post went up, so I snapped a couple pictures to add!)

I hope Staples doesn't mind me taking photos from the inside of their store.

Different journal choices!

Lots of different kinds of pages to use!

Now I was set to experiment as much as I wished, because I could easily move pages around!

What I Disliked

At first I used the full calendar, but that just took too much room.

I then made my own calendars, which was better.

I switched to making a month a page, but that just got difficult too, since it seems like I'm always switching around dates for things.

I tried doodling, but that didn't work out well - again.

I liked the G2 pens a lot more, but I still stink at color coding.

Try not to freak out at the coloring choices...

I still don't always check the calendar.

What I Liked

The ability to move pages around - seriously, that is a life saver!!

The different types of paper.

The light weight of the notebook for easily carrying in my purse.

I could make it as thick or thin as I wanted, just by adding or taking out pages.

End Result

I tried a bunch of different things, now that I could just remove and add pages as needed.  After half a year, I became settled in what I used the BJ for: essentially, lists.  I listed what I wanted to do each week or month.  I listed books I read.  I listed books I wanted to read.

I also took notes while reading.

I stopped making calendars, and just used the one on my computer that is liked with my family's emails.  And then I make sure the one on my phone is UTD with the email calendar.  (I'm more likely to pull my phone to check a date than my BJ.)

I also stopped making smaller To-Do lists in it, and used the Reminders app on my phone.  Let's face it - I always have my phone with me, in my pocket.  My BJ stays in my purse.

My Third Bullet Journal

It's sooooo pretty!!!

I was happy with my second one.  I had finally gotten to where I knew what I liked and what I could to with it.  Only complaint was that it was getting a bit crushed in my purse when I carried a bunch of other books at the same time, and my loose items (receipts and notecards) kept falling out.

Then, early February, I took Sarah to my favorite used bookstore, and while there, we looked at the pretty notebooks.  And I found one I really liked.  So I told myself I could buy it, on the condition that I actually used it.

And I got home and wondered what to do now.  So I decided to move my BJ into the new notebook.

So far, it's gone well.

What I Dislike

Having to tear pages out when huge mistakes are made.  I miss being able to move things around.

I have, since these pictures were taken, finally added the washi tape to the pages to bookmark all my different lists.

What I Like

The pages are easy to write on, with nice spacing.

It's so pretty!!

It has a pocket in the back to keep my extra slips of paper in.

End Result

My favorite thing - lists!

For now, I think it's working.  I've made ample room for each section (TBR, Books Read, Monthly To-Do Lists, and so on) in case I need to start over.  I'm using the washi tape to make it easier to find sections.  And I use my phone for a calendar and short-term to-do lists.

Advice for Beginning Bullet Journalers

I really would advise buying something similar to the second BJ I purchased, especially since you're starting out.  Being able to organize easily reduces a bunch of headache and stress.  Once you're settled into your habits and what you like and don't like, you can move up to a more solid (or official) BJ.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter.  The point of a BJ is to help keep you organized, not to stress yourself out.  It doesn't need to be pretty.  It doesn't need to look like all those beautiful pictures scattered across the internet.  Write in your usual sloppy scrawl, don't worry about adding gorgeous doodles, and just make it work for you.  The BJ isn't for others - it's for you, and you alone.

Don't be afraid to try new things and toss what doesn't work.  Just because everyone else uses a habit tracker doesn't mean you have to.  Figure out what you want from your BJ and do what you that.  I don't want to spend 15 minutes every evening filling in squares and writing down what I did - I simply cross something off my to-do list or scribble down the title of the book I just read, and I'm done.

Mix-and matching is fine, just do what it takes to get things done efficiently.  I email myself things I need to do during the work day, because my email is always up and I keep my inbox under strict control.  Things to do around the house are put in my phone app, because that is always in my pocket.  And then monthly and yearly goals are in my BJ, which I pull out and go through a couple times a week.

What'cha think?  Motivated?  Encouraged?  Horrified by the un-aesthetic penguins?

Balancing Your TBR

We need to balance out our TBR, and I'm not talking about stacking all the books into a jenga tower.  (Though I do currently have my TBR stacked on a shelf in my closet, as I ran out of room on my bookshelf.)

We need to balance the genres we read.  We need to read new things, different things, books that help us, books just for fun.  We need to read a variety of books, a variety of genres.

Why We Should Read Newly Published Books

Being a writer myself, I whole-heartedly agree with supporting new authors, especially the self-published ones.  We should read their books and recommend them to everyone.  With all the trash that is getting put out there, when we find some new clean literature, we should encourage the author to write /more/ clean books.  New books often easier to read, with the language of the current times, and the messages may often be very relateable and applicable.

But if the only books we read are the new ones, the ones with the shiny covers, the ones that everyone is reading, we have a problem.

Why We Should Read Older and "Classic" Books

Yes, classics are often dull and boring, with characters that talk weird and waaaaaay too much description.  Even Tolkien, as much as we love his works, can sometimes be a bit of a pain to read.  Having been forced to read some bland, boring books for school, thinking about older books, classic books, brings up unpleasant memories.

But we all have our favorite classics (Jane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel), so we know that not all classics or older books are dull and boring as we remember.
Just because the cover is plain (or even horrid), just because the author is long dead, just because the writing is difficult, doesn't mean we should give up reading them.  We should add some old books to our TBR.

Why We Should Read Hard Books

If you breeze through a 500-page fantasy novel, but put off and struggle through an instructive spiritual book, what does that say about you?

Reading books on the things of God, on theology, on our walk with God, is harder.  I understand this completely.  It takes a more brain power.  We need to focus on the meaning, on understanding it, while reading.

When I first tried to read Charity and Its Fruits (by Jonathan Edwards), I couldn't finish it.  I couldn't keep my mind focused on it and eventually I gave up.  But then I came back to it.  I read it while walking laps around the back yard.  I sat in the barn and read it aloud to the horses.  And by the end of the book, I was able to sit on the couch and just read it and focus on it for longer periods of time.  But I had to train myself.

We need to make sure we are reading books that are edifying, that encourage us in our daily walk with God, that teach us about Him.

Why We Should Read Unknown Books

Usually, when we are looking for something new to read, we pick something that everyone is going on about.  If so many people have read a book and liked it, it's got to be good, right?  (Think The Wingfeather Saga, The Lunar Chronicles, Fawkes.)  The author's blog is really nice, the cover looks amazing, and the plot sounds really interesting.

But when someone recommends a book that you've never heard of before, and you see the cover is kind of bland, the author lived about 80 years ago, and no one else has ever heard of it, you usually just pass it up, right?  And I understand.  100%  Why risk wasting your time and money?

But sometimes those little ol' books that seem fair to middlin' can surprise you.

Like The Great and Terrible Quest.  This tiny book sat on the shelf in our home-library for ages before I finally decided to flip it open and give it a try (after all, it was small, insignificant, and sounded like a kids book).  Long story short, I fell in love, read it every year, and would proudly recommend it to anyone.

Why We Should Read Different Genres

Let's be honest-we all have our comfort genre.  Mine is fantasy.  Growing up watching and reading The Lord of the Rings has given me a love for books with long journeys on horseback, epic swords, muddy cloaks, maybe an elf or two, and beautiful dresses.  I hear about a good fantasy novel/series and I'm instantly looking it up.
Someone tells me about a very good contemporary novel?  50% chance I'm not even going to look it up.  75% chance I'm not going to even remember the title.

Some of y'all might have read my post about We Need to Read.  And one of the reasons we read is to grow.  If we're reading nothing but the same genre over and over, we're eventually going to stop learning and growing as much.  Like playing video games-yeah, it helps your hand-eye coordination and your problem solving skills, but eventually you have to admit that you're slightly addicted to it, and why not play some Sudoku and learn some different problem solving skills.

 The Benefits of Balancing Your TBR

Balancing helps us enjoy our books more.  I read Disassociate right after finishing the Out of Time trilogy, and I'm going to be honest-Parvin and co. really made Celeste and Mick look dull and boring, and I struggled with getting through the first book.  It just wasn't as fascinating as reading about Parvin, and I kept comparing the two.  I read the second book sometime later and I enjoyed it much more and found that Celeste and everyone weren't as bad as I thought.

We are (some of us) adults and yes, we can still read our favorite little heart-warming books.  Just because we're no longer in school and now spend our days working or in college doesn't mean we can't read that horse book that we always loved.  But we need to read more than that, and because we're older, we need to read adult books.  I mean serious books, like a devotional book or a how-to book.

Two of my favorite reads from 2018

We need to read, not just for recreation, but to learn and grow.
Don't be afraid to look into the insignificant reads.  Some of my favorite reads of 2018 were books that I was only reading to "balance out" the genres-a biography (which I have recommended to tons of people), a dystopian (the Out of Time trilogy), and a spiritual (I just wanted a short read for a Sunday afternoon).

Old and uncommon books are cheaper.  I love shopping at used book stores.  In fact, I probably only go into a Barnes and Noble once or twice a year.  But I'll come out of a used book store with a stack of new books to read.  And usually without doing serious harm to a twenty dollar bill.  Antique stores, thrift stores, yard sales, library sales...all good places to find good books for a few dollars.

I hope I've convinced you to try a few different books this year.  Let me know how it goes!

Quality Content

Have you ever read or watched something that you knew was poor quality....and still found yourself enjoying it and wanting to re-read/re-watch it again?  Despite the bad writing or the bad CGI or the flat characters, something about it still sparked your interest; even though the plot is predictable and riddled with holes, it still was entertaining; even though many people hated it, you would shrug and say you liked it.

Bad books get published.  Boring movies are still released.  And despite negative reviews, there are always that small crowd of fans, ready to defend it.  This is a fact.
"And it's hope for us," some writers and movie producers say.  "Even if our content isn't as brilliant and exciting, it can still get published!"
Have you ever told that to yourself?  If XYZ got published, so can my book.  If 123 people liked this movie, then perhaps a few people will like my work as well.
That's fine.  Great.  Encourage yourself.  But don't be afraid to dream bigger.  Do you want to be known for an "adequate" movie?  Do you want to be that author who, despite hundreds of typos and a bland MC still got published?
Don't settle for an adequate story.
Let's pour our heart and soul into our WIPs, y'all.  Even if it takes extra time to read-through it one...more...time, even if it means putting deadlines off, even if it means we trash many stories before we finish the right one, let's put some quality content out into the world.  Don't let "crap gets published" be an excuse for lazy writing.  I've heard about so many WIPs in my over-a-year of blogging.  There's some great books in the making.  Don't get tired of doing quality work.

February Wrap-Up

February was a mess.  Not emotionally or anything. rained.  And rained.  And continued to rain.  Occasionally we would get a day off, but otherwise, it's been raining, rainy, or cloudy.  And when it's sunny...well, it's still winter, so it's cold.

Perfect reading and writing weather.

Not perfect farming weather.  I have permanent mud stains on just about every pair of blue jeans I own.  (Trying not to complain too much, since I know others in the US have been having lots and lots of snow.)


Favorite Read of February

I would say Drive, by Joyce Moyer Hostetter.  It's not really my genre, but I won it in a giveaway, and apparently it's the last (or most recently published, anyway) in a series.  Which I didn't know before I read it.  (And this isn't my first time doing so.)

It's a really cute story about two twin sisters, living in Hickory, NC.  Their Dad has come home from the war with PTSD, and the sisters are constantly trying to beat the other in everything (grades, etc).  At first it seems like a cute read...but then it pulls you in and you're feeling for both twins and seeing where they're right and where they're wrong.  Oh, and NASCAR.  Which isn't my thing, but still cool.

And the ending.

It's good.

Favorite Movie of February

Um...Flubber.  Please don't ask.  It's an old family favorite.  The basketball scene has us in tears (the looks on everyones faces...and the same shot that gets used 4 or so times...)

Daily Bible Reading Plan

Still on track.  :)

Inevitable Photo Dump

So, basically, I've been doing a bunch of stuff indoors.  Lots of ice skating with friends.

Sarah and Joe made the drive to come and hang out.

When you've got friends from up north visiting?  Take 'em ice skating!

We did get one really nice and sunny day, and I got to take the day off and go trail riding on Bree, which was really nice.

Seriously, though, this little guy is sloooooooww!

The local mountains.

Look how warm it is!!!

Played some airsoft with some friends in the pouring rain.  It was about 40 degrees outside.  We were cold.  We were soaked.  We were having fun nonetheless.

Started editing Words of Gold.  Adding some new scenes, taking out a character...yeah, fun times.

Sister 2 went on her first trail ride where she wasn't led by someone on the ground.  She was so excited.
Look at her, all grown up and riding that big horse on her own.  :)
And can't forget the winter games, held earlier in February.  Those were lots of fun.  Check out the blog post!
Hope y'all had a great February...I know the weather is nasty, but just hang in there - Spring is coming!!!!  (maybe)