Monday, January 15, 2018

Update of Randomness

So life is busy, and my brain isn't really doing a good job of being profound at the moment, so I'm going to be fun instead and tell you however many random things pop into my mind.

My dog likes milk. A long time ago, I started giving her a little of my milk in her dog food, but stopped when it stopped interesting her. Lately, she's remembered about it, and barks at me when I've finished eating my breakfast until I give her milk. She also takes a joint supplement (which we squirt down her throat and then give her a treat afterwards) which she WILL NOT let us forget.

We're putting in a state park-like trail through the woods in our backyard. It's cool. I'm just not looking forward to the snakes in the summer.

Weather is crazy. Normally, GA winter temperatures are in the 50s, maybe 40s (at least, that's how it was growing up). This winter, it's been below freezing A LOT...except last week, where we had several days of 50s and 60s, only to drop drastically again.

I'm getting a sort of Wrinkle in Time/Wind in the Door vibe out of the beginning of my latest book, Acktorek. I'm still not very far yet, so I don't know how it'll turn out, but I really like my MC Emma Edsel.

I'm taking piano again, which is awesome. I just need to find a way to keep improving my violin skills.

I made groundhogs at the library. It was a lot of fun, especially on a slow Saturday. Except that I messed up the text on the speech bubbles and had to redo it on Monday before I put them up.

I finally started playing around with my digital recorder to figure out how to get the best audio quality, and I think I might have it figured out.

I'm doing ballet for exercise. I know, I'm weird. I found barre exercises on YouTube, and I'm doing them a few times a week to get back in shape. Being sore for days after a practice dance isn't okay, and neither is being in pain at Disney World because you're not used to so much walking.

Teaching is awesome. My students are fantastic, and I'm not stressed so much about keeping ahead of my most advanced piano students now that I have a teacher myself.

Adult life is too busy. Having several jobs and volunteer commitments is too crazy, but I make it work. Sort of, anyway. And this is why I'm not in college. Where would I fit it in? Besides the fact that saving money is more worthwhile to me long term than paying for a degree I'm not intending to use.

And life is an adventure. There are ups and downs, happiness and struggle, good and bad, but if you live life to bring glory to God, it's all worth it.

Monday, January 8, 2018

My Problem With Writing How-To

The How To How To Write a How To Book book by Howie Bookman.

If you know what I'm talking about, you're awesome. If you don't, you're seriously Studio C deprived.

Via Pinterest

Writing how-to is an interesting animal. It can be very useful, but, in my experience, it can also be very problematic. On one hand, it can be a great way to help you figure out what's wrong with your book. On the other hand, it can cause the idea that there's only one way to structure a story, only one way to create a character arc, only one writing style that's "acceptable," only one basic formula per genre or subgenre, and if you aren't following it, you're doing it wrong, your book is terrible, and no one will ever want to read it.

Maybe it's just my analytical monster that takes writing how-to to this extreme, but when you look at all the formulaic plots and characters that are just carbon copies of other characters, I'm not so sure. Granted, it often happens when a writer has written 50+ books and they just keep reusing their own old plots and characters, but it's not exclusive to those situations. How many times have books gotten the reputation of being a knock off of such and such popular book? Yes, that worked for the original author, but that doesn't mean it's the only way to write a book. That doesn't meant that it has to become the conventional wisdom all the writing how-to spouts off.

Writing how-to can be useful. It can absolutely identify your weaknesses as a writer and give you ideas on how to improve. And that is important. If you're not growing as a writer, learning more about the craft and implementing it well, you may end up with 100 books that are pretty much exactly like your last one, just with the names changed. Grow as a writer. Learn more. Read more books to absorb different techniques and styles. It's a good thing. 

However, often writing how-to trends go too far. They make it one-size-fits-all. Well, I've got news for you. One size doesn't fit all. Yes, stories need a beginning, a middle, and an end. There needs to be a climax towards the end. The plot threads need to weave together to make sense and not just be a bunch of red herrings. (The Quagmires were in the literal red herring, Baudelaires! I saw that one coming.) Sorry. Tangent. 

Via Pinterest

But every story doesn't have to follow an exact structure. I've tried plotting by a strict 3 act structure with well defined plot points and everything. That works fabulously for some people. But not for me. It becomes too structured, and feels dry. It's not fluid and natural enough. It feels like I'm just hitting predetermined points and not letting the story take me there. Yet some people act like that's the only way to create a storyline. There are other methods of story structure. And it's okay if your major plot developments don't happen at precise percentages within the book. Did I learn a lot of value from studying that method of story development? Yes. Do I regret it? No. Am I going to be strictly following it in the future? Absolutely not. Because it didn't work for me. That doesn't make it wrong. It makes it a bad writing method for me. And it's just as wrong for me to tout it as a bad way to write a story as it is for someone to tout it as the only right way to structure a story.

Deep character point of view is another thing that's supposedly the only "right" way to write these days. And if your story is set up so that you're supposedly in your main character's head, but you're really not, then you've got some work to do. But just because deep character point of view is one good way to narrate a story, and a popular one, that doesn't mean it's the only way to do it. Look at A Series of Unfortunate Events for example. Lemony Snicket is narrating the events in the lives of the Baudelaire orphans as he found them when he researched it. (Lemony Snicket is actually the penname of Daniel Handler and somewhat of a character in the series, therefore a plot/narration device.) You never actually have, say, Violet's mental process running through your head as the narration of the story. There is no deep character point of view. Does that mean it's badly written? Absolutely not. It just means a different style of storytelling was suited to the series. It simply wouldn't be the same if you were viewing the whole story through Violet's eyes while in her head.

In a nutshell, my problem with writing how-to is this: It gives off the impression that there's only one way to write a book, when really there are infinite ways.

If we all structured our stories exactly the same way...

If we all caused our characters to follow the exact same progression in their character arcs...

If we all narrated our stories in the exact same way...

We'd all be writing the exact same book over and over and there would be no point.

Besides, all the writing tropes that are "right" right now are going to change down the road anyway. They always do.

Yes, learn all you can about the writing craft. Learn from the masters. Learn all the different ways you can structure a story, plan a story, develop a character, narrate a book... But if it doesn't work for you, don't try to force it. Don't try to follow a specific method just because it's "in" or because someone you admire swears by it. You are an individual writer, and you don't need to fit into a box. And who knows, your method may become the next big thing.

Via Pinterest

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 In Review

Welcome to 2018! I can't believe it's already here. 2017 was an interesting year to say the least, and I'm looking forward to seeing what 2018 holds.

To start off, about half my library branch retired at the end of last year, meaning a new boss and new coworkers. It's been different for sure, and interesting. This fall, we had one of my newer coworkers and the new youth coordinator who took some of her duties decide to move one after the other, which is sad, and now we're looking for a brand new youth coordinator. I've been told I should apply, but I'm barely keeping up with life as it is, and I'm not THAT crazy.

I found the earliest map of Calhortea while cleaning out my desk in January, which was a trip down memory lane. That world sure has changed.

Original Version of Calhortea

I added another student to my music studio at the beginning of the semester. She's a really fun kid, and I've really enjoyed working with her.

I also started a Bible study for elementary school-aged girls. Over the course of the year, we studied the Fruit of the Spirit and learned knitting, crocheting, and various sewing projects. It took me out of my comfort zone in a good way, and it's been really great. I've learned a lot, and really loved pouring into these little girls.

Materials for a Bible Study Sewing Project and Music Planning

Kendra E. Ardnek held the first annual Indie e-Con, which I participated in. That was fun.

My sister made a pie for Pi Day. Because of course we had to celebrate it.

I participated in another convention cycle. And actually, my work schedule worked out so that I could go to precinct, county, and district this year, which was great. I'd only been able to go to county last year.

My congressman threw out the first pitch at one of the first baseball games in Atlanta's new stadium and we got to go. I don't really care about baseball, but it was fun to hang out with our friends. And yes, I brought a book. Yes, I know I'm a dork. I wanted to read In Over Their Heads by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

I tried to write the third draft of the Cassie story, but it kind of didn't work. The writing style was all over the place, from terrible head hopping to Dickens, and the story was sort of messy too. So I stopped. I wrote the sequel to Espionage instead, which was an adventure. I tried to write it as a middle grade, but it just wasn't working. It really needs to be a YA. Still, I managed to get most of a first draft written. I say most because there was a good bit of summary. It needs to be three or four times as long as it is now, more fleshed out, and include more points of view, but it'll be great when I rewrite it.

My middle sister graduated from high school, I helped out at a dance, and I had my first recital for my students. They all worked very hard and did a great job. I was very proud of them. Then my parents went out of town for a week, and we survived. There was even a tornado while they were gone, which was scary, but we made it. Also during that week, my sister and I catalogued and arranged by difficulty all of our piano books. We have a LOT of piano books. I have made slight adjustments to where a few books are placed, but on the whole, it's been very helpful. It also keeps the music room a bit neater.

Sorting and Cataloguing in Progress

Summer was overall pretty great. I had time off from teaching to regroup and plan for the next semester, including the aforementioned cataloguing, we had many fun game nights and movie nights with friends, and my mom and I went on a girls' trip up to Charlotte for one weekend to visit some very good friends who moved away. My friend Destiny and I stayed up way late both nights talking and playing music, we went to lunch and got stuck in a storm blocks away from our cars, and we went to a play Destiny was in. It was a WWII retelling of the story of Hosea and Gomer, and Destiny was the female lead. It was really good, and really powerful, and it made me cry, which is very rare for stories and just goes to show how good it was. It was a great trip, and definitely one of the highlights of my summer.

Me, Destiny, and Her Costar "Willie"

I recorded an audiobook of Creighton Hill over the course of the year, but decided the quality wasn't what I was looking for, so eventually I broke down and bought better equipment. Unfortunately, I just haven't had time to sit down and figure it all out.

In August, I released Twisted Dreams along with Kendra E. Ardnek's Poison Kiss and Rachel Roden's Rosette Thornbriar. We had a blog tour and it was great and if you follow my blog, you already know all about it. Here's a picture of the three books anyway.

Also in August, I started two new piano students. I hadn't started anyone from the beginning in years, so it was a learning experience for me as well. I decided to try the Bastiens method, since that seems to be most popular in my circles, and it was great until we hit note reading. Maybe I'm just teaching that method wrong, but it didn't work. In my opinion, Bastiens be like "Here's ten new notes. Memorize them. Oh, you don't have anyone at home to help you remember what they are? Too bad. Practice anyway."

So I switched them over to Step by Step by Edna Mae Burnam. Step by Step be like "Here's C. This is what C looks like on the staff and on the keyboard. Now lets practice C until you can see it on the staff and play it on the keyboard without thinking about it, and then we'll add D. You're not sure you'll remember where to find C when you go home? Here's a handy picture to help you out." Step by Step is somewhat theory-light, but that can be easily fixed by supplementing with a separate theory book. I'm glad to say they've been thriving on Step by Step, and enjoying the Christmas music and Star Wars songs I gave them as well. It's been great and I really enjoy teaching them.

I also made two pairs of jean shorts around the end of August. And yes, I was practically fangirling over the topstitching. They really look like real jeans!

In September, we had a hurricane, which didn't honestly do a whole lot of damage at my house, but I was glad the library closed for it anyway, since I was sick and didn't want to have to call in.

Then we went to Disney! I prefer the week after Thanksgiving to the end of September, but Disney is still Disney. I wrote two blog posts about our trip (Part One. Part Two.), so I won't rehash it all here, but Disney is great.

I also planned myself some school. Don't laugh. I got tired of not pushing myself academically, and I have a lot of things I want to learn, so I decided to do school. It was great for most of the semester. I learned a lot and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, my always trying to DO ALL THE THINGS is crazy and can't last. Towards my last few weeks of school, I just had too much to do what with making new formals for a Christmas dance, making the dance cards, and all my regular stuff, and when you only have so much time in the day, the commitments others are counting on are the priority and something has to go. I still intend to finish up that schoolwork, but at a slower pace. Something a little more reasonable. But it was great while it lasted.

Post-Disney, we went on a camping trip with some friends, then had Thanksgiving with those same friends, watched a Christmas parade, my sister and I played Mannheim Steamroller's arrangement of "Stille Nacht" at the mall, we had a church Christmas party, and then there was the Christmas dance. The dance was an adventure for sure. When we arrived to set up in the afternoon, there were painters still at work. Thankfully—and definitely by God's grace—with a lot of hard work and a good bit of air freshener, by the time people began arriving, you never would have been able to tell that things hadn't exactly gone according to plan.

We had a snowstorm. In Georgia. In December. Seven inches. This doesn't happen. Global warming, right? 😜 But at least we got to stay in and watch White Christmas.

We went to visit family for Christmas, so we had our own Christmas a few days early and went to see The Last Jedi. For the most part, I really liked it, but there were a few things towards the end that I really didn't like, so I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about it. Then we drove up to Indiana, and fit all our family gatherings plus travel time into a total of four days, since that's all I had off from the library. It was good to see family, but I'm glad to be back home again.

Now I'm finishing up the year with a wonderful cold. Because it's so much fun to be up half the night blowing your nose. Yippee. It's not the worst cold I've ever had, though, so I'm grateful for that.

And now 2018! I'm looking forward to this next year. I'll be taking piano lessons again for the first time in about six years, and I'm very excited about that. I'm looking forward to this next semester with my students and another recital. They're all great kids, a pleasure to teach, and I'm truly blessed to have them in my life. I'll still be at the library until my music studio takes off, likely. I'm going to be continuing Bible study, and hopefully staying well ahead on writing the lessons.

On the author front, I hope to record and release a Creighton Hill audiobook. As far as actual writing goes, I want to spend the first few months of the year writing a newer story called Acktorek, and then tackle the rewrite of the Espionage sequel. I'm also seriously thinking about rewriting a picture book I wrote as a kid for release this year. It'll be a good bit of work, but I'm hoping to pull it off with my sister's help. Other than that, I don't know what my 2018 is going to look like, but I'm hoping for a good year.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Candlelight Processional

One of my absolute favorite things at Walt Disney World is the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT which runs throughout the Christmas season. A celebrity narrator reads the Christmas story from the Bible and the Walt Disney World orchestra plays Christmas carols as an enormous visiting choir sings. It's totally amazing. Since we went to Disney in September this year, we didn't get to see it, but we have videos from past trips, and there's an album on Spotify. I highly recommend going to the Candlelight Processional. It's well worth all the time waiting in line. Today, I'm going to give you a little taste of what this amazing show is like.*

2014 Narrator: Jonathan Groff

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus."

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For a unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to n worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas!

I'll be taking the rest of the year off from blogging. See you in January!

*Scripture taken from Luke 1 and 2, Matthew 2, and Isaiah 9 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Top Ten Books of 2017

This list was so hard to put together! Last year, I read a bunch of mediocre books and it was difficult to come up with enough books worthy of a top ten list. This year, I paid much closer attention to the quality of the books I read and ended up with the opposite problem. There are so many great books that I can't fit onto my top ten list! Only very few mediocre ones that were easy to rule out. You can see my full list on Goodreads. But I think I got it down to my ten favorites. Maybe. Here goes.

10. The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

I hadn't heard of Watchman Nee until my pastor bought copies of this book for all the families at church earlier this year. It took me awhile to get through it because there's so much to learn from it (and lack of reading time 😜), but it really isn't a book that you can speed read anyway. You won't get enough out of it if you do. And there's so much to learn about our old man being crucified, about Christ living in us. It was definitely worth the read.

9. The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

My sisters had been after me to read this one for a long time. It was on my list of books I intended to read, but just hadn't gotten around to yet, until I planned myself some school. I decided to read it for literature, and boy am I glad I did! It's amazing! The Robe tells the story of the Roman soldier (Marcellus) who crucified Jesus and won His Robe. Marcellus's life is changed forever when he puts on Jesus' Robe, and he cannot rest until he learns more of Jesus. It's a very well written book, and it was neat to see the events of the Gospel and Acts through new eyes. Click on the cover photo to see my full review.
8. The Jefferson Lies by David Barton

This is another one of those books that I'd intended to read for a long time. It fit a category in a summer reading challenge I did, so I finally got around to reading it. It was pretty amazing. It was sad to me when my family visited Monticello years ago how many lies about him the tour guides spread at his own house. Well, now I have the arguments to rebut them. Most of what people believe these days about Jefferson is based on lies and misinformation. Barton uses well footnoted original sources to debunk seven popular Jefferson lies and does a fabulous job at it. I love history—particularly this era of American history—so naturally it was right up my alley, but I think every American needs to read it regardless of how much they like or dislike history. Click on the cover photo to see my full review.

7. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket 

And another "I'd been interested in this for awhile, but hadn't gotten to it yet." I remember as a kid seeing excerpts and such things from these stories on Lunchables (probably around the time the movie came out), and I was intrigued by it, but I never did actually ask my mom if I could read them. Fast forward to adulthood, library work, audio books, and sewing projects, and I am now a fan. What's not to love in a story about three orphans in miserable circumstances with an evil relative trying to steal their inheritance? I would have loved these stories as a kid—they're seriously the perfect story for orphan-obsessed me (blame the musical Annie)—but I'm glad I can enjoy them now when there are at least some episodes of the Netflix series available. I'm on book seven, and still loving it. And the Netflix series is pretty good so far too. Never going to be able to watch the Soarin' pre-flight safety video the same way again.
6. October by J. Grace Pennington

I can't fangirl about this one. I can't get all excited and bounce around telling you how good it is. It's not that kind of book. But I will tell you that you need to read it. October is a story about a girl named October who moves to a small town and becomes a good friend of the protagonist, Emily. October seems vibrant and full of life, but yet some things just don't add up. October is hiding struggles that few people know about, struggles that may have tragic results. It's a very deep, raw, emotional book. Hard to read because of the subject matter, but very necessary. And naturally well-written because Grace wrote it. Click on the cover photo to see my full review. 5. The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall

I'd seen the Penderwicks books around Goodreads, and had it in the back of my mind to try them someday, but didn't actually request them from the library. Then one day, my sister and I went on a little outing to Chick-fil-A, the main library, and Goodwill for books (because that's just how we operate), and as we were walking around the children's section (yes, I'm an adult and she's a teen, and we still love the children's section), I picked up The Penderwicks and decided to go ahead and check it out. And consequently fell in love. These stories are everything I ever loved about Eleanor Estes and Elizabeth Enright and so many other books of the early to mid 19th century. Only problem is, they're new, so the last book isn't out yet. It's a very good, sweet, innocent family story, and I can't wait to see how it ends. Click on the cover photo to see my full review.
4. Out of Time series by Nadine Brandes

This is another series I saw all over Goodreads, and just had to read. I got A Time to Die last Christmas, and the rest is history. Everyone in the world is matched with a Clock that tells them how long—down to the second—they have left to live, and Parvin Blackwater's Clock is down to the last year. Only she's been illegally sharing a Clock with her twin brother, and no one actually knows whose it is. As a Last Year wish, Parvin crosses the Wall out of the USE, the Wall through which they send the unregistered Radicals, who are never seen again. Parvin has to go through a lot and she has a lot that she finds she is called to do. The plot thickens book after book, the cast of amazing characters grows, and you'll find that you won't think of life the same way again. Such an amazing series, and Nadine is pretty awesome too. Click on the cover photo to see my full review. Firmament: Gestern by J. Grace Pennington

Firmament! A new book from my favorite sci-fi series came out this year. Of course it's going to be on my top ten list. The radialloy in Andi's knee was damaged in the last book, so now technically she's dying. The Surveyor is back on Earth, the Doctor is trying to find a way to save Andi, and Andi and August learn they have an absolutely adorable little sister who has been kidnapped by a scientist who is reportedly experimenting on her. It's an amazing new installment with a lot of focus on Andi and August's sibling relationship, which is something that I very much love. It was SO GOOD. And now Grace is working on the book where they get to see Elasson again! Eep! I can hardly wait! Click on the cover photo to see my full review.

2. Replication by Jill Williamson

This book is simply fabulous, beyond amazing, you HAVE to read it. When I came up with an idea for a world-hopping/dystopian story with a society populated by clones, Kendra told me I needed to read Replication. I tried to get it as an ILL, but no library would send it, so I kinda gave up. But then I saw a super fabulous deal on Amazon and I had enough gift card left that I actually got it for free. Then I read it at Disney World (when I say at Disney World, I literally mean in the park—it makes the lines bearable, and yes, I'm aware I'm a dork) and on the way home, and got a MASSIVE book hangover. Martyr, a clone, has been told the air outside is toxic, and his purpose is to save humanity by expiring. Abby Goyer has moved to Alaska and knows there's something fishy about her dad's new job, especially considering his past questionable work as a scientist. There's all sorts of interesting scientific experimentation with highly questionable ethics, something that is well explored from the proper perspective, and just exactly what I love. The characters are fabulous, the writing is amazing, the plot is terrific, and I'm so glad no one sent that ILL.

1. Exiles by Jaye L. Knight

Plenty of Jayrin, three amazing storylines, shocking plot twists, death, weddings, a crete city, near death experiences, new revelations, best Ilyon book yet. If you haven't read the Ilyon Chronicles, I seriously don't know what you're doing with your life. And you certainly haven't been listening to me. πŸ˜‰ Exiles is SO GOOD. It's not what you'd expect. There were definitely plot twists that shocked me. Davira shows her inner Morgana, Daniel has his own storyline which I can't share because of spoilers, Jace and Kyrin go through so much, Trask and Anne have a...well, I can't call it awesome because many bad things happen, but it's a very, very interesting storyline. It's such an emotional roller coaster. You must read Ilyon Chronicles. Then you'll understand why it keeps making #1. Click on the cover photo to see my full review.

Here's to another year of awesome books!

What are your favorite books of 2017? What books are you planning to read in 2018?

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson


Rating: PG (smoking)

Recommended for: All Ages 

"Hey! Unto you a child is born!"

Meet the Herdmans--they lie, cheat, and love to give clonks on the head. They are, without a doubt, the worst kids in the history of the world. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus--it's all news to them. So they're convinced that the Wise Men should bring pizza and that the Angel of the Lord is straight out of a comic book. Everyone worries that this year's pageant will be horrible (just like the Herdmans!), but they are sure to make it the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.

This is kind of a classic, one of those books we read for school when we were little. I remember reading it, reading about how horrible the Herdmans are...and being bothered that it doesn't actually mention the main character's name (it's told in first person).

The Herdmans are simply horrible. They're basically the worst kids that ever lived, at least, from the perspective of proper churchgoing folk with functional families. They are brats, they're always causing problems, and despite the fact that they don't really learn much in school, they're never held back because no teacher wants to have two Herdmans in her class. They never went to church until they were told there were refreshments (which there weren't). But when they heard about the annual Christmas pageant, they wanted to take part.

Instead of the typical, everyday, ordinary Christmas pageant, they had Herdmans in all the main roles. The other kids were afraid of the Herdmans, everyone thought it would be terrible, and it looked like they would be right.

But the Herdmans were actually interested in the Christmas story. They had never heard it before. It was entirely new. And because of them, people started to see the Christmas story in a different light. They started to get it.

When something is incredibly familiar to you, it sort of loses its meaning. It becomes routine. You don't really think about it much anymore. And then sometimes something happens to make it fresh and new. And you get it in a way you never have before. It finally means something.

That's what The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is about. 

Originally posted on Shire Reviews 


The Indie Christian Books Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale is still going on! Get my books in paperback for 25% off regular prices through Thursday!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Holiday Season is Here!

It's time for Thanksgiving, The Last Jedi release day, Christmas, New Year's...I'm just so excited for the holidays! I've been feeling ready for Christmas (minus the fact I haven't bought any Christmas presents yet) for months. I'm totally with Thanksgiving on the Black Friday restraining order thing (watch this if you're not sure what I'm talking about), but I'm going to go ahead and tell you about Black Friday sales because it's the perfect time to get great discounts on Christmas presents for the book lovers in your life.

The annual Indie Christian Books Black Friday sale is enormous this year. (Site will go live on Nov. 24.) It will be running from Friday, Nov. 24 through Thursday, Nov. 30. We've got nearly 50 authors signed up, and some really fabulous deals going on. For my paperback prices, Twisted Dreams will be $5.99 and all the rest will be $7.50. For ebooks, Twisted Dreams will be free for the first 5 days of the sale and all the rest will be $0.99 the whole time. You'll also be able to get great deals from Jaye L. Knight, J. Grace Pennington, Kendra E. Ardnek, Leah E. Good, and many, many more. Plus, we have a really awesome giveaway going on. You won't want to miss it!

Now, because this season isn't about shopping, and I really hate the worst of the bad isms, I want to share with you an article about the history of Thanksgiving I found on Wallbuilders when looking for Thanksgiving information to share with my little girls' Bible study. Enjoy!

Celebrating Thanksgiving in America
The tradition introduced by European Americans of Thanksgiving as a time to focus on God and His blessings dates back well over four centuries in America. For example, such thanksgivings occurred in 1541 at Palo Duro Canyon, Texas with Coronado and 1,500 of his men; in 1564 at St. Augustine, Florida with French Huguenot (Protestant) colonists; in 1598 at El Paso, Texas with Juan de OΓ±ate and his expedition; in 1607 at Cape Henry, Virginia with the landing of the Jamestown settlers; in 1619 at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia; (and many other such celebrations). But it is primarily from the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving celebration of 1621 that we derive the current tradition of Thanksgiving Day.

The Pilgrims set sail for America on September 6, 1620, and for two months braved the harsh elements of a storm-tossed sea. Upon disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they held a prayer service and then hastily began building shelters; however, unprepared for such a harsh New England winter, nearly half of them died before spring. Emerging from that grueling winter, the Pilgrims were surprised when an Indian named Samoset approached them and greeted them in their own language, explaining to them that he had learned English from fishermen and traders. A week later, Samoset returned with a friend named Squanto, who lived with the Pilgrims and accepted their Christian faith. Squanto taught the Pilgrims much about how to live in the New World, and he and Samoset helped forge a long-lasting peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. Pilgrim Governor William Bradford described Squanto as “a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . and never left [us] till he died.”

That summer, the Pilgrims, still persevering in prayer and assisted by helpful Indians, reaped a bountiful harvest. As Pilgrim Edward Winslow (later to become the Governor) affirmed, “God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn”; “by the goodness of God, we are…far from want.” The grateful Pilgrims therefore declared a three-day feast in December 1621 to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends – America’s first Thanksgiving Festival. Ninety Wampanoag Indians joined the fifty Pilgrims for three days of feasting (which included shellfish, lobsters, turkey, corn bread, berries, deer, and other foods), of play (the young Pilgrim and Wampanoag men engaged in races, wrestling matches, and athletic events), and of prayer. This celebration and its accompanying activities were the origin of the holiday that Americans now celebrate each November.

However, while the Pilgrims enjoyed times of prosperity for which they thanked God, they also suffered extreme hardships. In fact, in 1623 they experienced an extended and prolonged drought. Knowing that without a change in the weather there would be no harvest and the winter would be filled with death and starvation, Governor Bradford called the Pilgrims to a time of prayer and fasting to seek God’s direct intervention. Significantly, shortly after that time of prayer – and to the great amazement of the Indian who witnessed the scene – clouds appeared in the sky and a gentle and steady rain began to fall. As Governor Bradford explained:
It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in abundance, as that ye earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith, which did so apparently revive and quicken ye decayed corn and other fruits as was wonderful to see, and made ye Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing.(1,300 more words)