NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Encouragement for Writers

When I look at the journey it took to write these two books, I don’t regret the long hours of editing, the staying up late thinking of new plot points, or working on formatting. The feedback and revisions, the reading and rereading all took time, but in the end there’s an actual book that I can say is mine. I wrote it. I edited it. I published it. And now I can call myself an author.

 

Writing is hard, it’s a long journey to go from an idea to a book in your hand. Sometimes it can take so long, that people give up. That’s why it’s nice to have someone encourage you along the way, to remind you why you even started the process and to give you some perspective.

I’ve written two books and I’ve started on the final book in my trilogy but I’ve been in a rut for awhile. It’s hard to make some of those big plot decisions, especially alone, but I want to get back into it.

One of my friends at church said he’s also trying to write a screenplay, and another of my friends is trying to finish her novel. This week I had an old acquaintance ask if I could read over his book and edit it a bit. And I also got an email from a book fair reminding me that they would love for me to submit a new book for this year. All of these people in my life have reminded me that I do love writing and I do want to finish this book. I just need to start working again. It may be overwhelming, but it’s worth it in the end, and I’m not alone. Lots of people do what’s hard everyday and refuse to give up on their dream.

So I thought I’d throw out some encouragement to any other writers out there. Even if you feel stuck in a rut with writer’s block, don’t give up. Keep going and finish that project you’ve worked so hard for.

So I guess I should listen to my own advice and get back to writing now, hopefully I can post some previews of the next book soon.

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Maturity

I’ve been thinking recently about what it means to be mature. There are many different expectations that people have for a ‘mature’ person. In our American culture, there seems to be an unwritten expectation that to be mature, or considered a real adult, you must be able to afford your own place to live, and support yourself financially. For many people, this just isn’t the case, either from poor job availability, or the expenses of an apartment or house, sometimes you just can’t make it on your own.

Now maybe living by yourself isn’t the real test when it comes to maturity, maybe it’s being smart, knowing the answers to lots of problems, or being confident in yourself, but either way I think our culture has a real obsession with independence. When you can do what you want, when you want, that means you’re grown up. It means you can make your own decisions and take care of yourself. Isn’t that what being an adult is all about?

I don’t want to say all of this is wrong, I think working and contributing to society is important. But something my pastor said last week has been stuck in my head. “Maturity is measured in dependence on Christ, not independence.” As humans we want control, we want our way, we’re selfish and self-centered and obsessed with getting what we want. But when we are in Christ, we put to death this old way of thinking. Instead we recognize that it isn’t about us and we have never been in control and never will be. God is the One who holds it all together and His plan is the one that will come to pass. And the more mature we become in Christ, the more we are okay with that. We are happy to let God have control and to rely on His help and guidance in all things. The more we depend on Him and not ourselves, the more mature we become.

I’ve seen this at work in my own life. When I try to be independent, and make my own plan for the day happen, every little hindrance gets me so frustrated and short-tempered and I can end up acting like a little kid who didn’t get their way. But when I give up my desire for control to God, and trust Him with how the day will go, I find that all the little unexpected bumps don’t matter. He already knew that traffic jam would happen, or that mess I need to clean up would occur. And He has a purpose for me in it. Then I can sit patiently, knowing He will get me where He wants me, when He wants me to be there. And some of those interruptions, are actually opportunities to do His work, show His love, be kind and display His glory to those around me.

So anyway, I hope my ramblings have encouraged you today and reminded you that you don’t have to have everything together or always know what to do or take care of yourself. Let go, and let God be in control and trust that He will work things out in the best way.

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Pondering Pets

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, it’s been a rough week. One of my cats got very sick and stopped eating. We took him to and from the vet multiple times and he ended up in an animal hospital over the weekend, but finally we had to just face it. He wasn’t going to pull through and it would be better to just put him down. I’ve never gone through this with a pet before. We used to have indoor/outdoor cats so they usually just disappeared or got hit by a car. We never had to be the ones to make the decision. And now I can see how hard it really is, and how drawn out the process is. We kept having hope that he would get better that different treatments would work, but they didn’t help. And even though I’ve cried more in this past week than I have in… a long time, I’ve also learned something.

I think sometimes how we love our pets can be a picture of how God loves us. It’s not a perfect picture, but there are several similarities. Like a pet owner, God owns us, we belong to Him and He wants what’s best for us. He loves us even when we make messes or need help and He delights in giving us good things that we enjoy. A book I’ve been reading called “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller goes into this further. In it I’ve seen how much God loves and cares for us, like a shepherd does for his sheep.

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And although we may get annoyed by that incessant meow, bark, or whimper, God never tires in caring for us and wants us to speak to Him in any circumstance through prayer. And though we may not know exactly what our pets are trying to tell us, God knows your very thoughts and exactly what you need.

And I think that just like I enjoy when one of my cats shows me affection and wants to be near me, get petted and maybe sit on my lap, God enjoys when we just want to be near Him and spend time with Him and sit in His presence.

So anyway, hope you are reminded of God’s deep love for you by my random thoughts today.

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The Flu

This year has been super bad for getting the flu. More and more of my friends and relatives seem to have come down with it. Luckily I’ve avoided it so far, but because it seems to be everywhere I ended up reading an interesting article about it.

But before I get into what I learned from the article, you should know that I don’t get an annual flu shot. I know a lot of people who do get the shot and I know it’s recommended by doctors, but I still choose not to get one. I don’t really want to get in an argument with anyone about why you should or should not get a flu shot, but I have a few reasons why I choose not to get one and I thought I’d share them here. Plus the article I just read gave me one more reason to add to my list. So here are my reasons:

1. I don’t like shots. I know lots of them can be beneficial and I’m willing to get the necessary ones, but if I don’t have to get it, I’m okay with saying no.

2. The one year I tried to get some kind of flu prevention (it was a nose spray version instead of a shot) I actually got sick and it was miserable. Since then people have told me that the shot uses a dead virus not a live weakened one, so it wouldn’t be as bad. And that’s probably true, but still, my one experience wasn’t good and so it makes getting the shot sound worse to me.

3. I have a pretty good immune system already. I eat fruits and veggies, drink lots of water, try to exercise and use a lot of natural remedies. And I usually do not get the flu. So why get a shot for something I usually don’t get anyway?

4. After reading this article by Pamela A. Popper called “What to do if you get the Flu” where she talks about remedies to flu symptoms in addition to the flu shot, I learned that most people who do not get the flu shot also do not get the flu and the flu shot is not very effective in preventing the flu. The shot also contains several ingredients that could have harmful side effects.

So it just seems to me that getting the flu shot is not worth it. But whether you choose to get the flu shot or not, I hope you don’t get the flu this year. Stay healthy out there and keep washing your hands.

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A Poem

So I was struggling with what to write today and ended up looking through old assignments from college. I came across this old poem. I had started it, but never fully finished it. Or at least when I read it, some things just obviously needed to be changed. So I fixed it up a bit and now I’d like to share it with you.

Please enjoy!

Life’s River

It only flows one way; forward,
Always towards the sea of history
Sometimes it rushes
through rapids
You can barely
hang on
Other times it is stagnant,
Like the last day of school before summer begins
At times you can see the waterfall ahead
Even if you don’t see it, you feel the current
Pulling you towards the drop
You know it’s coming
But you cannot stop
The free fall
Where it all falls apart
But you have to keep going with the flow
Knowing you will lose control and come crashing down
It comes steadily closer no matter how much you fight the current
Sometimes you get trapped in the backflow
Keep reliving that moment,
Even though everything
Keeps moving toward the sea
But eventually
You will get there,
And join the lives of so many others
Rivers lost in the ocean of eternity

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The Discipline of Fasting

I’ve been a Christian for awhile now, and I’ve grown up learning how to read the Bible, memorize verses, pray, give offerings, serve, and use my gifts for God’s glory. But fasting has often seemed like an optional spiritual discipline. Occasionally I would fast because of some event or maybe for a big decision. And when I went to a Lutheran College, I learned more about long-term fasting for Lent and that it doesn’t always have to be food that we give up. It could be giving up certain forms of entertainment or things that distract you from God.

But more recently my church spent a whole year reviewing each of the spiritual disciplines, including fasting, and for some reason it just clicked that I should be practicing it more often. I mean it’s a discipline, so shouldn’t I be practicing it consistently? My older brother has been a great example of fasting to me. He’s chosen to fast from food one day a week for the past several years. And I thought I’d try it his way. It definitely seemed more intentional to plan to do it once a week and more like a real spiritual discipline. So I decided that every Wednesday or Thursday, depending on which day worked better for me that week, I would try to fast.

Some days were harder than others. Sometimes I was driving all over town, or doing more manual work, and other days I was mostly on my computer, working from home. Some days I almost forgot I was fasting, others I was very hungry. Some days I ended my fast early, because of an unexpected opportunity to eat with others. But I’ve managed to be consistent, even through the holidays, to fast each week. And I’ve noticed something pretty cool that I want to share.

Instead of dreading the day I can’t eat, I look forward to it. It’s something I enjoy now because I’ve found it’s easier to follow God and keep a good attitude when I’m fasting. All those little things that happen in a day, that inconvenience me or prevent me from doing what I want, don’t seem as important when I’m fasting and relying on God’s strength. It’s easier to switch my perspective when I’m fasting and see the problems I face as opportunities to bless others and glorify God, instead of merely hassles that I have to get through. And I’m more at peace on those days, more aware of God’s presence with me and His strength sustaining me.

I won’t say every fasting day was great, or that I don’t look forward to when the fast ends at suppertime and I can finally eat with my family. But I’m starting to see some of the spiritual fruit that comes from obeying God in the discipline of fasting. So I thought I’d share my experience in case anyone out there is thinking about fasting more regularly. God really has our best interest in mind when He gives us instructions, and just like the other spiritual disciplines, fasting has helped me grow closer to God.

So if you would like to join me in fasting today, or this coming week, I hope this post encourages you to give it a try and see what God does. But whether you do or don’t, I hope you have a great week.

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Climbing Mountains and Looking Back

The past few weeks have been very busy for me, so inevitably, some things got pushed aside, like writing my weekly blog post. But I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I’ve gotten the chance to climb, or see, several great views from a mountain top in the past month. And it reminded me of something that happens throughout our lives.

When you start climbing a mountain, it’s hard to know how far it is to the top. You don’t know how long it will take, how steep it will get, or how many breaks you will need along the way. But as you get closer, you don’t want to turn back. You think of all the miles you’ve come so far, all the pristine views you’ve already seen, and you just want to see what it’s actually like on the top. And it helps when someone coming the other direction tells you it’s worth it, and encourages you to keep going.

Well I think life can be like that sometimes. We all go through seasons in life when everything is just hard, and sometimes you just feel like giving up. It may be illnesses, job loss, uncertainly, changes, inconveniences, or a number of other things. But it’s hard, no matter what it is and it can seem like there’s not a point to it all. But when you choose to trust Jesus, that He is working in all of the circumstances and He is taking you to a better place, you keep going. You persevere.

It may take weeks, or months or years. But one day you’ll get to look back on all that’s happened and see that God was doing something amazing. And even though it was hard and you felt like giving up, you can see that it was worth it. It’s like how it feels when you finally get to the top of a mountain. You can see some of the challenges you faced on the way up but you also get this amazing view that you couldn’t get from the bottom. And all those hours of climbing feel worth it.

The end of one year and the beginning of a new one is a good opportunity to stop and try to look back. You may not feel like everything’s great and you are on the mountaintop. But it’s good to stop and think about where you are, and where you were when the year started. What have you seen God do in the past year? What are you grateful for?

I got to do a lot of traveling this past year, which I’m grateful for. I got to see literal mountaintops and spend time with friends and family. But I also went through some hardships. Life isn’t easy, and there are days that just suck. But those hardships showed me how God will take care of me and how He’s placed people in my life to help and encourage me. I know God was using those hard times to grow me and He has a purpose for them and for me. And I’m looking forward to where He’ll take me in the new year.

So anyway, here are a few pictures from my mountaintops from the past year. I hope they remind you to persevere and keep going today, trusting that God is going to get you where He wants you, and it will be worth it. Happy New Year!

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Star Wars The Last Jedi

My sister’s Rey Outfit

I haven’t done a movie review in awhile and honestly, it won’t take me as long as another story I’d like to share from my recent trip to Big Bend. And since it’s the holidays and everyone is in a rush, including me, I’m going for short and sweet.

Now I’m not a huge Star Wars Fan. I enjoy it, and I know a lot of things about it, thanks to my sister. But I’m not… how should I say this, over invested? Anyway, I think this makes it easier for me to enjoy the Star Wars movies, I’m not nit picky when it comes to these movies and I really enjoyed all of them, more or less when I first saw them. Looking back, movies like Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were not that great. And actually I wasn’t too fond of Rogue One either, just because everyone died. But in general, I enjoy these movies, but I’m not so attached that I get mad if it isn’t as good as I was expecting.

So anyway, I really enjoyed The Force Awakens and I’ve been looking forward to The Last Jedi for a long time. So me and my sister went opening night to see the new movie. And I can honestly say I enjoyed it. It went well with the first movie in this newest trilogy and it was a good continuation of the story. I enjoyed seeing Rey and Finn and Poe develop more as characters and learn something more about themselves. Finn finally accepted being a Rebel, Poe learned to care more for people than just being a hero, and Rey learned that she didn’t have to find her family to have a place in the world. I also was happy with the direction Luke Skywalker’s character took. It seemed very realistic and he did bring his own sort of humor to the story.

There were also a lot of epic fight scenes and hilarious dialogue in the film that kept me engaged and enjoying the story. Poe’s opening quips with General Hux were particularly memorable as was Rey getting smacked by a plant when she was trying to feel the force. So if you enjoy a good action movie, with some spot on humor I think you’d enjoy this film. And if you liked The Force Awakens, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this movie too. But if you were really set on finding out who Rey’s parents were and didn’t like the direction the new films were taking, you might be disappointed. But I enjoyed it and I hope you do too.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the holidays and take some time to be with family and friends and remember that relationships are more important than presents. Merry Christmas everyone!

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Snow Day

Growing up in central Texas means you rarely have a snow day. And even when we get a snow day, it’s usually because of ice, not snow. In face what passes for snow is usually sleet, tiny round balls of ice that don’t stick together to make anything. It can be pretty to look at, but, well it’s not snow.

But last night we got a huge surprise. It wasn’t even freezing and snow started to fall from the sky. And this wasn’t sleet, this was flaky soft snow, some of it clumping together into extra big flakes. And it didn’t stop, it just kept falling and then started to accumulate on the ground and the cars. Anything hitting pavement just melted, but it was amazing to be in the middle of an actual snow storm and see it gathering on the trees and cars and grass. I can’t remember this ever happening before in my life.

I know some people live where it snows all the time, but for this Texas girl, last night and today were something special and something I want to praise God for. It was such a blessing for me to see His handiwork in the snow and laugh with joy as I tossed snowballs at family members and opened my mouth to catch a flake on my tongue. It is a special time that I don’t want to forget. So here are a few pictures from my snow adventure. I hope you enjoy them and take time to praise God for the little blessings He gives you today.

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Coco versus The Book of Life

I got to see Coco over the weekend and I really enjoyed it but it couldn’t help but remind me of the Book of Life. Since these two movies have so much in common, I thought it would be fun to compare them. So in case you haven’t seen these films and want some context, here are two previews:

So let’s start off with their similarities. In both films, the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead and remembering your ancestors is a big part of the story. And both films show dead relatives coming back to visit on the Day of the Dead and involve the protagonist getting to see the dead’s world and then coming back to the real one. There is also a large emphasis on music and our protagonist in both films wants to be a musician even though his family is against it. These movies are also both geared towards younger audiences because they are family films and are animated.

Now let’s look at some of their differences. First off, the animation style is very different. Most of the Book of Life is told as if the characters are puppets and so their proportions reflect this and they can look a little goofy. It works in the story, but I tend to enjoy the more realistic style of Pixar’s animation in Coco. Pixar has a way of just making beautiful scenes in their movies and this happens again in Coco.

Speaking of breathtaking scenery, the scene where Coco first sees the Land of the Dead is quite breathtaking. But these two films, though based on the same mythology, take a bit of a different twist on what this afterlife is like. In Book of Life, the Land of the Remembered is where people go when they are remembered and it is a colorful place ruled by the benevolent La Muerte. Whereas the Land of the Forgotten is ruled by the less lovable Xibalba. However these rulers are not mentioned at all in Coco, and it’s world seems more based on reality with many similarities to our own world. Also, when someone is forgotten, they simply disappear from the land of the dead. It is even suggested that everyone will eventually be forgotten which is heartbreaking.

There is also a big difference in how these two stories play out. Book of Life revolves around a romance and a love triangle which makes sense with our older main character Manolo. In the end he proves to his family and Xibulba that he doesn’t have to kill the bull to win but instead he can use his music to win and show love. In essence he is proving his family wrong. I love the story, but I really like how Coco takes this a step further.

Miguel in Coco is much younger than Manolo and is not interested in romantic love. Instead he wants to pursue his passion for music and become a musician. But his family has a deep hate of music and he ends up running away to pursue his dream. Miguel does get to prove his family wrong in the plot, and show that music is not bad and as his family, they should support him. But he also learns a lesson; that family is more important than music, and chasing after a dream at the cost of family is not worth it. I really like that everyone learns a lesson in this film and I think it brings more depth to the movie.

The music in both of these movies is very good. Book of Life uses a lot more popular music with a Mexican twist in addition to a couple of original songs while Coco has exclusively new music written for it’s story. I don’t know if I could choose one soundtrack over the other, but it is fun to hear new songs from Coco.

And the last thing I’ll say, is that while both movies have their twists and turns, and both have well written stories, I think Coco is more surprising than Book of Life. It’s pretty easy to guess where the love triangle is headed in Book of Life’s story and even though there are obstacles along the way, it’s easy to guess the ultimate outcome. Coco, however, has several unexpected twists that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. So I’ll just say I think Coco did a better job at doing the unexpected. But since Book of Life came out first, they might win on originality.

In any case, both of these movies are very enjoyable and I hope you get to see them sometime soon. Though I don’t believe in this version of the afterlife and I’m glad that my happiness is not dependent on someone else remembering me, I did enjoy the stories these two films tell.

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