watching, reading, and writing stories

Why you should go to the Library this Summer

It’s officially summer now and I have a bit more free time on my hands so I’ve been going to the library more regularly. I don’t know why, but for a good portion of my life I didn’t take advantage of our public library system here in Texas. But now that I’ve started, I can’t imagine not having it. So if you’re hitting those summer dog days and needing something to do, check out your local library.

Here are my three reasons why you should check it out.

1. Books! Whether it’s rereading one of your favorites or getting into a new series or even getting audio books for those long road trips, you can’t beat the library’s policy of three weeks rental for free. This summer I started reading the Guardians of Ga’hoole Series. I saw the movie years ago and always thought the series sounded interesting, but I finally got around to it with the help of my local library. And I’m currently starting John Flanagan’s Brotherband Series. I loved his Ranger’s Apprentice series and this one is starting off just as exciting.

2. Movies! Did you know you can rent movies at the library? They even have some Blu-ray movies! No download time, no fees, no quick return to the Redbox. You pick your movie for free and can keep it for 3 weeks! There’s no other place that can compete with that. I’ve been finding quite a few movies I’ve always meant to watch and never have. And since Blockbuster is out of business and Netflix has limited options, this seems like the best way to finally watch those old films. They even have newer releases. Although it might be a bit of a wait, so if you really want to see something, you might want to still use Redbox or another movie watching option. And you should always check the DVD’s before you check out, some have smudges and scratches and I’ve had trouble with a few. But for the most part, this is an excellent way to get some summer entertainment.

3.¬†Programs! Now I don’t really get involved with these, I’d rather just get my books and movies and be gone. But libraries always have cool things going on, like Summer Reading Challenges where you can earn a free book, or events for kids and parents. So if you need some free entertainment, check it out.

And lastly, since I’m talking about libraries, I want to give a quick announcement. As many of you know, I have published 2 youth adventure books in my Finding Home Series: The Orphan’s Journey and The Lost Brother. This week La Vernia Public Library will be getting a copy of each of these books for people to check out. I hope whoever lives near La Vernia enjoys the addition to the library and gets a chance to check out the books.

Well that’s it for now, enjoy the summer and take advantage of your local library.

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2016 and Reading

A lot happened this past year. And since it’s the last day I thought I should write a post about it. I know there have been a lot of political and world issues that occurred. Several of my friends on social media have commented on how bad this year was. Lots of people died, many things did not work out the way people thought they would. And yet, life continues and 2017 approaches. I’ve also been lucky enough to have some friends comment about the good things that happened in 2016. I think it’s good to remember there will always be positive things to focus on, even if there is a lot of negative stuff going on in the world.

That to say, my post isn’t going to be about all those political things. Instead I’m going to celebrate something that I got to do this year and also encourage others to do the same. So at the beginning of 2016 I noticed that a friend of mine had a goal to read 50 books in 2016. I thought that sounded like a cool idea. I already love reading, but having a goal would help me get through some of those books I had on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to read but just hadn’t gotten around to. So I joined in the challenge and also tried to read 50 books this year. It took some planning and I had to be intentional with my time, but I just finished my 50th book this afternoon! Yay! I didn’t read all of the books I thought I would and there are some I ended up reading that I didn’t even know existed at the beginning of the year. But overall, I’m glad I did it.

I saw an article the other day that said most adults once they are out of school, no longer read books. And it made me sad. I know that education forces people to read, but I had hoped that most people would still read just to enjoy and learn, not because a teacher requires them to. In fact that’s a big reason why I write. I want kids, when they are young to see reading as a fun thing, not just another school subject. Stories are powerful things and whether you’re reading or writing them, they stir your imagination and can help you look at the world in new ways.

So my little encouragement to you is to read something this next year. Maybe it’s not even a book, maybe there are newspapers, online articles, or magazines that you prefer. But take some time to read in 2017.

And as a Christian, I’ve found that reading other Christian’s books can really help me grow in my faith and maturity. A large portion of the books I read this year were written by Christians and helped me see God in new ways or get a better understanding of how I can live for Him now.

In case you want to read but you just need some recommendations (that’s usually how I end up reading a new book) here are a few books I read this past year that I would highly recommend.

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1. “Heaven” or “Happiness” both by Randy Alcorn
These books really helped change my perspective on how God wants us to live and what we can expect for our future.

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2. “The Gideon Trilogy” by Linda Buckley-Archer
This is a fun book series for younger readers that involves time travel, great characters and an awesome story. I really enjoyed reading this series and I highly recommend it.

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3. “The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical” by Shane Claiborne
This book was very good to read and inspired me a lot, but it was also hard. I’m still wrestling through how God wants me to live differently in light of what this man has written. It was a very thought provoking book and I highly encourage any Christian to read it.

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4. “Keeper of the Lost Cities Series” by Shannon Messenger
I had not even heard of these books until this year and the series isn’t even finished. But boy are they fun to read. The action never stops in these high paced, interesting, and funny books. I’m sure they were written for middle school or even high school students, but I love these books. They are so engaging and I just can’t put them down.

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5. “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This is a classic for Christian reading, and I really enjoyed getting to finally read this book. I would recommend it to any Christian. Though it may challenge you, it will be good for you.

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One More Book



Thanks for following my blog this past year, I hope the new year brings many new exciting posts and interesting observations. But for now I want to share my thoughts on my latest read. With the holiday time off, I was hoping to get some reading done and yesterday I finally had a good few hours of quiet to just sit and read. My book of choice was “Two From Galilee” by Marjorie Holmes. My grandmother had given me 3 of Holmes’s books several years ago and I finally read “The Messiah” and loved it. So when I saw that “Two From Galilee” was about Joseph and Mary’s love story and probably involved the First Christmas, I thought, what better time of year to read it?

So I just finished this morning and it was great! I love Holmes’s writing style, she describes things so well and really captures all of the internal struggles and conflicting emotions that these real people probably went through. It brought a new life to the old stories I’ve read hundreds of times and got me excited about what would happen next. Even though I knew what should happen, her characters were so lifelike and easy to relate to that I found myself caught up in their predicament. And it was so cool to see what Mary and Joseph’s families might have been like and what they thought about this strange event. I’m not sure if the way Holmes portrays the biblical events is completely accurate, but it’s pretty close.

So if you’ve never read any of Marjorie Holmes’s books, I highly suggest this one for a first read. It would come first chronologically for the story of Christ and some of her other books hint back to what has happened previously. I may even start the next book “Three From Galilee” today.

Well that’s it for 2015. Happy New Year!!!

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The Ranger’s Apprentice

The Ruins of Gorlan

So now that it’s summer, I’ve gotten to spend some time reading a new young adult fiction series. Since these are the types of books I like writing, it’s always good to keep reading them too… plus it’s really fun. This summer I’ve started reading the Ranger’s Apprentice series. There are 12 books in all, and I’m about halfway through, still reading book 7 currently.

I’ve now fallen for all the characters and each new book has me engrossed in the adventures and bantering of characters throughout the story. The one thing that has confused, or bugged me about this series, is when the author ends a book. Several of the books end without a real climax, and the next book must be read in order to finish the founding plot. This has happened in several of the books, where it seems like it would have made more sense to make one longer book than two shorter books that straddle the same overarching story. I still love the books, but I think John Flanagan could have made some wiser choices about when to end his books.

Otherwise I love the books! I especially love the relationship between Halt and Will. Their bond grows steadily throughout the series and starts to look more and more like a father son relationship, than a teacher student one. Which is all the more heart throbbing when we know that Will is an orphan and has never had a real father, and Halt has never been married and so has never had children.

I might write another blog post about this series in the future, but for now, if you happen to be in the lazy days of summer and need something to read, this is a good series to get into. I highly recommend it. It has action, adventure, good characters, funny moments, intrigue and a little dash of romance too.

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Society, Morals, and Choice in Movies

10. Katniss Everdeen - Hunger Games


Recently I’ve gone to see both the new Hunger Games movie and Ender’s Game in theaters. In the process of doing this I’ve also seen previews of a new movie coming out next year called Divergent. All of these movies are based on book series and all of them are coming out around the same time. And that’s not all that these movies have in common. They also bring up deep themes about society, morals, and choice, and the various perceptions of what’s right and what’s wrong.

Now these story lines are all unique and I haven’t read the Divergent series so I can’t say too much about how it fits into this trend, but it seems like there is a strong current towards these topics, at least in popular films. And I think it’s worth looking into.

Are these types of books and movies becoming more popular because the idea of being controlled by others and not being free to make your own decisions is a growing fear among the United State’s population?

Is it simply that stories that portray a darker future seem more realistic and connect with us more than the fantasies of years past?

Or is it just money hungry publishers and producers that saw one success and that led to others trying to mimic the successful book or movie and make some money?

In any case, I think it’s worthwhile to look more closely at what is similar in all of these story lines. In the Hunger Games we are given the perspective of Katniss, who is living in an unjust world that tries to punish the descendents of rebels in hopes of avoiding any future conflicts. Their punishment includes restrained freedoms, limited provisions, little privacy, and the horror of children being forced to kill each other in the Hunger Games. In essence it is a scary society, at least from Katniss’s perspective. And as the audience we can all agree with her that there is something sickly wrong with the way things are set up.

However, we are also given glimpses of another perspective, those of the people who are privileged and live in the Capitol. They seem completely unaware of the evils in this system. They have plenty to eat and happily go on eating after they are full, without thinking of the thousands of people who are starving. In addition, they focus on entertainment so much so that the Hunger Games becomes a grand event to be watched, celebrated, and invested in, instead of seeing it for the slaughter that it is.

To the audience, these opposite perspectives reveal how wrong the collective thought of a society can be. Just because everyone says “it’s okay,” or “it’s fun,” or “may the odds be ever in your favor” that doesn’t mean that what they’re talking about is morally right. Seeing this in the movie, could force us as the audience to start evaluating our own culture and what we view as right only because our society says it is, and not because it actually is. Similarities can be seen in our own culture as we hear about starving kids in Africa but still insist on eating our super-sized meal. The list could go on and on, with many subjects becoming touchy because it is real and affects us directly.

Ender’s Game, however, takes a different take on our world’s possible future. In this storyline, it is not people who are viewed as the enemy, but an alien species. In this world people fear the possibility of another attack from aliens so much that they decide to train children to become the best army possible. Kids are tested for brilliance and told that learning to kill is okay. I haven’t read the book series, so I could have some of this wrong, but I did at least see the movie. And it haunted me that young teenagers could be trained for a war, and told over and over that the tests they are going though are simply that; a test. Only to find out that the last test was no test at all, but a real war, that caused real deaths.
It was a horrifying realization to the main character, Ender, to find that he wasn’t winning a game, but he was killing real creatures and destroying their entire planet. He wished he had known the truth so that he could have acted differently.

I think this plays into our society as well. I’ve heard about countless debates over whether violent TV shows or video games are appropriate for children, or if they can be directly linked to real violence. This movie plays around with these thoughts and I think brings us some valuable questions.

When does something become more than a game?

Is it okay to trick kids, or use their intellect without their moral consent?

Who should be allowed to make the ethical decision: Is it generals, the government, or the individual who is doing the killing?

I think both of these movies have serious undertones that reflect our own culture’s perspective. There’s a reason that these movies and books are popular now, and not fifty years ago. Maybe the government taking control of health care is scary to people. Or maybe there’s a general fear of the future instead of a hope of better days to come. Who knows, there could be thousands of reasons, and each one could be different for each individual. But collectively as a society, something in these movies is striking a chord and resonating with people.

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How do you get sucked into a book?

Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile. It’s been a crazy week. But one reason I wasn’t writing, was because I was reading.

I’ve always thought that to be a good writer, I should learn from the other writers out there. Plus I’ve been trying to read this one book for months now. In case you were wondering it’s Jane Austen’s Emma. I’ve read some of her other books and enjoyed them. Then one day, some of my friends wanted to start a book club and read together. We decided on Emma and got several chapters in before life caught up with us. Now I’m not sure if I stopped reading because it felt more like an assignment than a pleasure… or maybe because I was trying to wait for the other book club members to catch up… but well I stopped. Normally, I’m not the kind of person to start a book and not finish it. I kept meaning to read and would get through a chapter or two every week, but that was it.

Then yesterday it happened… I was sucked in. Not every book does this to me, and I’m not sure if I can blame the author, sometimes it just depends on how much time I’m willing to give a book. But yesterday I was trying to take it easy after a busy week and screens weren’t very restful so I picked up Emma and started reading. Throughout the day I kept going back to the book, reading one more chapter, then one more until I realized I was sucked into the story. I had to know what would happen next. I meant to go to bed early but I found that the book was addicting and it was almost midnight before I could finally put it away for the night. Even now, as I’m writing this blog post, I’m itching to get back to the book and see how it all ends.

After thinking about this, I’m wondering if the way books are used in school could be improved. I guess I’m saying that books aren’t meant to be read one chapter at a time with deep meaningful discussion between each piece of the plot. I know people read at different paces, but ultimately, the books you love, are the ones you can’t put down, even if you’ve read them before. I would like to think every book has this capability, at least to someone out there who enjoys that type of book. I just wish there was some way to let books be enjoyable and also let kids learn from other people’s perspectives. Classroom settings just don’t seem to work…

I remember all the classics I had to read in high school, and… well I didn’t enjoy them. Maybe I just didn’t understand, maybe I was too young, maybe because it was an assignment, the book lost it’s appeal. But I don’t think I was the only one to feel this way. If there’s anyone out there that has an idea of how to change this, please let me know. I’d love to hear your opinion.

But for now, it’s back to reading…

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Books, movies, and tv

Have you ever read an awesome book and wished there was another? How about seen a good movie and hoped for a sequel? Sometimes our dreams come true, but oftentimes authors, or movie producers leave us hanging. Have you ever wondered why that is?

I think is has something to do with the reasons we engage with a story, whether it’s from a book, movie or even TV show. There are a few different ways to attract an audience and surprisingly, they all work rather well.

The first way to attract an audience is find something that works, and then repeat it. I know as I was growing up, I always loved series books: Boxcar Children, Hardy Boys, etc. Even though the stories were generally the same, I kept reading them. And this happens in TV shows too; every episode or book is set up in a similar way, some are better written than others, but odds are if you like one, you’ll like the next one too. There are plenty of successful sitcoms, like the Office, or shows that don’t have an overarching drama but still suck the audience in, like Elementary. Just like all the Hardy Boys books and Goosebumps stories we will continue to be read and enjoy them. Once a show, or book series has an audience, it can continue.

But then there are the stories that keep you on the edge of your seat. I read the Hunger Games not too long ago, and even though I think my favorite book was the first one, I had to keep reading all three books so I could find out how the story ended. These type of stories always leave an audience wanting more. TV shows like Once Upon A Time and 24 use the same idea, where you have to tune in next week to find out what happens.  I recently watched Kyle XY on Netflix and I was so drawn in to the back story and drama that I found myself watching 3 or 4 episodes in a row. These drama-based TV shows are similar to book series like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Percy Jackson. Not only is each episode, or book engaging and thrilling, but the story is continuous and always ends leaving you wanting more. Authors or writers in this category use the appeal of a continuing story to keep an audience interested.

And this is where our desire for more comes in. Because we are used to some stories continuing and engaging us time and again, we sometimes expect movies to do the same thing. Unfortunately movie sequels tend to leave us disappointed. It’s not very often that a movie sequel is considered to be even on the same playing field as it’s predecessor.

The reason, I think, that most movie sequels fail is because movies are made using the last category of audience engagement; basically giving the audience a compelling story. Movies stand alone, they aren’t made to have sequels or an ending suspense. They draw you into a story and leave you satisfied. Now I’m not saying this is always the case, but in general movies follow this mold. It doesn’t require repeating a generalized story, or leaving an audience longing for more, it simply tells an engaging story. I would say most movies, are similar to a novel. It has no connection to anything beyond itself. If you like it, you like it. And if you hate it, you hate it. There’s not suspense at the end, encouraging you to buy the next book, or watch the next episode. It’s just a story, but hopefully a compelling one. Yet this is where the Classics reside, those beautiful stories that engage us to the core. Movies like The Notebook, Rudy, Lincoln, or Les Miserables. Books like Pride and Prejudice, Treasure Island, and To Kill A Mockingbird. You can’t make a sequel to them, but you don’t need to, they are complete all on their own.

In the end, we all enjoy a good story, perhaps that’s because each of us is living our own story and hope that it is exciting and other people will want to hear about it too.

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