Crucible: a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new (Merriam-Webster.com). What’s your crucible? Are you there?
My kids and I dove into a Bible story the other day, where God rescued his people from Pharaoh’s impending doom. He’d rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and Pharaoh allowed them to leave captivity. The people left, headed home, facing days and nights in the hot desert, following a pillar of fire toward the unknown. They ended up on the sands of the Red Sea, a body of water flowing for miles in both directions. And then Pharaoh and his 600 men and their raging chariots raced to recapture them. The Israelites freaked out then, as I think most of us would. They projected their fear, they cried, they whined. And God replied, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:15-16). Essentially, God told Moses to tell the Israelites they couldn’t go over it. They couldn’t go under it. They couldn’t go around it. They had to go through it. And to stop whining.
Just like the classic picture book of “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt,” the adventurers had to face a challenge bigger than they understood.
You, oh incredible wayfarer, will face challenges bigger than yourself and bigger than you understand. It’s the plight of mankind. It’s your job. Don’t ask, “Why isn’t this easier?” Ask instead, “How can this make me better?”
The good thing about these challenges is that they make us into our best selves. Challenges aren’t just part of the story; they’re the story.
1) Challenges show us God’s bigness.
On this tiny planet, as this one tiny soul, I often don’t see the big picture. I’m one puzzle piece, you’re one puzzle piece, and sometimes we lose sight of the whole puzzle and all it entails. But God’s there, with this big love for us. In the fire, beside the wide sea, and under the grinding weight of the mortar’s pestle, God stands right there in the middle of the crucible beside you, with the strength, grace, and power to go on. He’s an endless source of strength, and he offers it to his people. In these challenges, we get a mere glimpse of how he can fuel us.
2) Challenges teach us gratitude.
“My struggles are my own unique manifestations designed specifically to give me the opportunities to love and accept myself fully” (Jill Coleman). Seeing a challenge, obstacle, or hardship as an opportunity to raise a hand in gratitude teaches stability. Accepting challenge as a chance to love is part of why we’re here. The apostle Paul mentored his friend Timothy with these words, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Being grateful in adversity proves faith. How much faith do you have? How grateful are you for the rain? How grateful are you for the wall you just hit? Are you grateful for who you are so that you can be in this place and time to face this challenge? Are you ready?
Practicing intentional gratitude exhibits a willingness to level up.
3) Challenges make us stronger.
“In the days of the sailing vessels, this is the way they chose a tree to make a mast: They did not go to some sheltered place where the trees were protected from the elements. They went up into the mountains where the soil was thin and rocky. They found a tree that had been buffeted by the storms and beaten by the winter winds. That tree, that hardened tree, they cut down for the mast of their ship. So suffering hardens and strengthens us” (Robert Shannon).
In being a wife and mom, I’ve found strength to be a power. Maybe that sounds silly, but I feel like there’s still a big train of thought out there than women should be soft and weak. And I’ve never been able to be that. I love lifting heavy weights and pushing limits, because when I lift those heavy weights, life feels simple and free (and super sweaty hot). I love the feeling of picking up my twenty-pound weights and not struggling to do so. I love being able to do interval sprints and not pass out dead on the ground. I love that with a consistent daily grind over the years, I’ve built up my strength in a tangible way that I can see for myself and nobody can take it away from me or deny it. I love that now the effort has proved itself. In the beginning of trying heavier weights in my work outs, I couldn’t hardly finish a twenty-minute workout, the fifteen-pounders made me just about fall flat on my face (maybe they did one time), and the idea of ‘sprints’ was absolutely laughable.
But now. Now I know that trying harder challenges means I win. If one of my kids ever needs to be carried? I can carry her. If I need to help someone carry something? I can help. If someone else cries out, frustrated, saying “I can’t do it,” well then I CAN say, “Yes, you can.” Because strength manifests itself. People are drawn to it. People want to overcome. People want to be the mast of the ship, carrying their people home. Or, at least I do. I bet you do, too. And I’m excited about tomorrow’s opportunity to try again.
Are you grateful for the workout?
4) Challenges teach us courage.
Being that mast on that ship? Where will it take you? Oh my friend, it carries you into the vast unknown. With each challenge you face, with each fear you mow down, you build up a portfolio of proven records. It all builds up.
Never once did the authors of the Bible instruct or show the necessity of fear and letting it win. No, in fact, the Bible displays the opposite. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God made you powerful. God made you loving. God installed within you a sound mind. He dwells within you, and you are worthy to take on this challenge. Maybe you just needed to hear that. Very often, the things you fear are the paths you need to take in order to be your best self.
5) Challenges offer us a life greater.
“You’ve got to try this new show!” “You’ve got to get this soap!” “You’ve got to visit Venice; it’s beautiful!” In this context, a friend will probably be recommending something to you because that friend cares, with enthusiasm.
You’ve got to take on this challenge, because on the other side awaits a life greater. You’ve got to do these hard things, so that you see the beauty in the madness. Don’t miss this opportunity for greatness. Don’t miss these steps, small or scary as they seem. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
What’s your best life? Being in God’s will. What’s God’s will? For you to intentionally live a life grateful for the challenges he presents to you. No better path exists than the intentionally joyful path. You’ve got no reason to be sad or to complain or to give up. When you hit a wall, look up. Look around. Celebrate what IS, because it’s a glorious adventure.
There is only the journey toward God’s heart. And this journey is a life greater.
“There is a Brotherhood of Man,
A Benevolent Brotherhood of Man,
A noble tie that binds
All human hearts and minds
Into one Brotherhood of Man.
Your lifelong membership is free.
Keep a-givin' each brother all you can.
Oh aren't you proud to be
In that fraternity,
The great big Brotherhood of Man?”
(~How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying)
I'm from the old-world school of thinking where I don't mind if humans refer to themselves as 'man' or 'mankind.' In fact, I'm a brother. Yes, I'm a girl. But I pledged a fraternity in college, Alpha Psi Omega, a fantastic theater fraternity where I had the pleasure of facing trials by fire with my fellow thespians. I have a bunch of brothers. I have a bunch of sisters. And I'm grateful for each one. I'm grateful for this great brotherhood of man, this great village of people who encourage, step up, and fill in.
This summer has been epic for my family and I, in many ways. I began this "Epic Summer" journey with intentional ideas. I did some of them and I still have several on my agenda before the days dwindle back to autumn.
I decided against posting the weekly updates on the project, due to my windy schedule and other promotions I had going on, but I wanted to offer Epic Summer in its entirety for anyone who might be interested!
Here you can download the PDF of the risks, realities, and encouraging thoughts I wanted to offer for each themed "week." By downloading that PDF you receive twelve weeks of fun and encouragement! For free! Just cause I like ya. There's still plenty of time for you to use this to make the rest of your days epic. I hope you will.
Enjoy the finale of Epic Summer. May your days be sunny, your nights breezy, and your hours crammed with hope. May you risk the doldrums and stormy seas, and face the glorious reality of life as it is. And may you find it all quite the epic adventure.
You like to flip through the crisp pages of a fabulous story, right? Well now you can dive deep into the oceans of Saylor's war with your very own signed copy of Incomplete!
You can get a copy from Amazon by clicking HERE, or you can order a signed copy directly from me by clicking HERE for $17.99.
Buy one for everyone you know! Big smiley faces!
I have an order of books coming to me, so as soon as they hit my doorstep I'll get your signed copy in the mail. When ordering from my site you will receive an email stating an order confirmation, and then a second email when I've shipped your book. If you'd like a special message in the book or to ship it as a gift, please note in the comments when you purchase.
Thank you SO MUCH for supporting this exciting endeavor and enjoying Saylor's story. You readers mean the world to me!
I received some pretty harsh reviews of my books the other day. And by harsh, I mean crushing. These people did NOT like my books. Being a perfectionist, and one who has spent years investing in these stories, my heart flung itself outside of my chest and into a hole in the backyard and I came thiiiiiis close to hanging up my apron. The typewriter was in the garbage.
But as they say, the truth will set you free.
I went seeking. My inner voice said all those nasty deviled egg phrases about how I lacked any talent and I should give up and everything is pointless and what the heck have I been doing if I can’t get people to like me or my books…..or… me.
Byron Katie came up with some questions to use in situations where The Things don’t seem to be going your way and your thoughts are running away. 1) Is this thought true? 2) How do I feel when I have this thought? 3) Who would I be without this thought?
Still after working through these questions, I felt doubtful. What if the critics were right? What if my books were unbelievable, boring, “dragging on and on,” and confusing? Ah! The answers came in various forms, and one big answer came from the show Arrow. Because a lot of great answers come from superhero shows (They do!): WHY are you doing what you’re doing?
A lot of problems can be solved with that question.
I’ve sorted through why I write for years and haven’t always known my answer. I write because I can’t stop. It makes me so much more than happy. And my books are not really, "me." They aren't all I have to give. A person does not have children in order to receive praise. So then the same applies to books.
Friends, I came to these conclusions about critics and books. I think they’ll apply to you, regardless of your goals or projects:
1) If you ask for criticism, you’ll receive it.
As I started out with my publishing process, I was told to get reviews, get reviews, get reviews. Send it out, pay for reviews, enter contests; the more people who read it, the more people will see it. If it doesn’t say ‘best-seller’ or ‘award-winning’ then no one will read it. This is in part true. However, any person who reads any string of words can criticize them and how they are put together. There is no perfect book.
As a writer, as a creator, you are not perfect. And try as you might, your best work will not be good enough. The truth hurts, but that is what it is. You’re not perfect, your work is not perfect, and someone better climbs the rope ahead of you.
This does not mean you don’t do your best. If you read my books, you’re reading my best shot. I give my readers my 2000% best. I spend hours plotting, replotting, editing, sharpening, revising, and revisiting. What you see is my 100. Maybe they're not perfect, but my books got heart.
Look at the challenge as a chance for gratitude. What can you learn? Who can you be now? Once the rafters have fallen, what can you build? Use the fear, the criticism, and the hate to see how you can be better.
The trick is to know that criticism will come. Expect it. Take the facts and use them to make you stronger. Expect people to ignore you and walk away. Expect the worst, and prepare for the storm. Be someone who can get hit and stand up straighter. Getting hit hurts. You’ve got to lift heavy and scrape away the blood. Be someone who can get rejected and still has self-respect, self-love, and fortitude. Be the hero who takes the hits others cannot.
2) There will always be someone out there who won’t like you.
a. If you want a template romance, you’ll hate my books.
b. If you want light-hearted, easy fiction, you’ll hate my books.
c. If you want predictable plotlines and characters, you’ll hate my books.
d. If you love adventures, you’ll enjoy my books.
e. If you like twisty plots, relish unpredictable storylines, and totally dig characters who have to go through hard decisions and rough landings, you’ll love my books.
f. If you are willing to grow with my writing and my characters, you’ll love my books.
g. If you want characters who inspire you to be better, if you want characters who make some poor choices, if you want characters who are not perfect, you’ll love my books.
h. If you like a good moment of BEING, a moment where you feel and taste and see and hear and experience the essence of LIFE, and can accept that in the middle of any scene or location, then you’ll love my books.
3) It’s my freaking story!
My circus, my monkeys. If I decided to kill a character, I had a good reason. I won’t write the same story as you, and that’s the magic of stories. My characters needed me to tell it this way. I did right by them.
a. If you don’t like it, are confused by it, or wanted it to go a different way, let’s talk about it. But you didn’t write this story. I did. Did I make you think? Fabulous. That's the win.
b. I want to hear your opinion. And hopefully you’ll hear mine. This is the fun part of stories.
c. If my stories inspire you to write it a different way or to add to it, then I did my job.
4) The critics may not be your audience.
Find your tribe. Find your village. Your village will love you regardless.
The people who stick with you, those are the hearts and minds who really count. Because they see the truth of what you have to offer, and they love it. So appreciate it, love it, thrive in it. Tell them thank you. Name (hero) characters after them.
5) Your Why Is Your Why.
a. I am not writing for the critics or the naysayers.
b. I do not write for applause or for people to talk about my abilities, good or bad.
c. I do not write books because I want to be a bestseller and make a million dollars. (Although I like eating and wearing clothing.)
d. I write because I love playing with words. I use a lot of them. It’s my passion.
e. I write because I love stories. I love characters and their abilities to be more and to inspire us.
f. I write to make you think.
g. I write because I feel most alive when I can put my creative thoughts on paper. Something about the process of creating a situation in my head, the challenge of putting it down on paper, the ordering of words makes me feel like I’m solving a riddle only I can unlock.
h. I write because I’ve learned some hard lessons and I think others can benefit from them. Jesus used stories to help teach. So he’s my example.
The “why” can change over time, and the why can be hard to pinpoint. But it’s vital to your survival in this task you’ve got to do. Find it and keep it ahead of you. The why keeps you on track when the critics wave their torches.
6) Readers’ opinions show where they are as people.
Sometimes they aren’t ready for a certain book. Sometimes it’s just not their style. Sometimes it wasn’t what they thought they would be reading, and perspective changes everything. Don’t rely on someone else’s opinion.
7) Good and bad are subjective in terms of writing and storytelling.
There are levels to it, but ultimately, one critic will disagree with another. If multiple readers have similar issues, then take that and use it as a lesson in how to write better or improve. But you can’t get better if you just give up.
8) Awards Are Stupid. Art Is Not.
Amy Poehler attended numerous award ceremonies for her roles in “Parks and Recreation,” one of my favorite TV shows that I have been watching and re-watching lately. Her character Leslie Knope is one of the most inspirational to me. TO ME. To tiny ol’ me. Do I matter? YES. Does an award matter? NO. It’s a symbol of someone’s opinion. Stupid! Leonardo DiCaprio had my heart and always will for his roles in various movies. He’s forevermore my Romeo. When did he finally win an award? Once he was in some really gray, dramatic survival-bear-eats-him-or-something movie. Ugh. Stephanie Meyer and her ridiculous Twilight story. “I wrote down this dream I had and then it was a blockbuster and then yay it’s a whole franchise of movies. I wasn’t even trying all that hard.” Just crazy. Good for you, Mrs. Meyer. But I LOVED reading those books the first time around. She captured the feeling of a first love. There’s something huge to that gift. Fast and Furious movies, superhero movies, the Step Up dancing movies, those are movies I can watch any time and they inspire me. They don’t win awards, the writing and acting isn’t always top-notch, but WHO CARES. I prefer the movie I like, and I usually don’t prefer an Oscar winner. Those Oscar winners are depressing and you know you don’t like watching that either when you’ve had a stupid day. Art is for entertainment. If it entertains, then it is doing its job.
9) Critics Can Be Bought.
Anyone can pay for a review. Anyone can pay to buy copies of their books and become a best-seller (well, the rich people can. Now accepting sponsors.). Anyone can pay for this or that or bribe or buy.
Who. Freaking. Cares. About. The. Numbers.
Numbers can be bought or bribed. Again, the numbers go back to who has the resources or the scandal or the ability to straight-up lie.
10) Who Really Counts?
Does each reader count? Yes. Does one review and one opinion count more than another? Not really. If a person likes a book, then yay! My biggest excitement about books is talking about them with people. If my books get your attention enough so that you want to tell someone about it or ask me a question, then that is the most validation I want. I really just want to share these stories with friends so we can sit over coffee and chat about them. Why did she do that? Why didn’t she do this other thing? What if that other guy was better for her? What if this other thing happened instead of that other thing? THAT is why I write. For the up-late-at-nighters. For the lonely. For those needing a win. For the seekers. For the desperate. For the lost. For the coffee dates. For the questions. For the readers’ investment. For the thrill of the story. For the happy endings. For the entertainment.
You are valid. Your opinion is valid. If we differ, okay, but let’s appreciate that about each other. I’ll always offer you an extra serving of grace if you need one. Even if you don’t return the favor, okay. This whole ‘life’ thing we’re doing requires a sword and a shield. I got those. Hopefully we can share them today. Don’t listen to the critics. Don’t listen to the whispers of despair. You do you, and you rockin’ it.
Risk: Catch a lightning bug in a jar! (or any bug if you can’t find a lightning bug) Use chalk and draw on the patio. Draw a lifesize Tic Tac Toe board and use toys as the pieces to play.
Reality: There’s some guy in your life who’s the daddy to your littles. What’s your favorite thing about him? What’s your least favorite thing about him? Say a prayer for that thing specifically. Ask God to help you have patience with those good and bad things. If you would like, write a note or text or even tell him in person that thing you appreciate most about him. If you’re struggling with that relationship, write down the heart of the trouble of that frustration, and find a Bible verse that will encourage you to face it with hope, grace, and peace.
Encouragement For The Day:
God entrusted Nehemiah with the task of rebuilding a crazy huge wall. Nehemiah was just this ordinary guy, with two eyes and a brain, and a passion for his heritage. The task presented itself to him, and Nehemiah said, well, uh, okay. Sometimes, that’s how heroes deal with things. Actually, that is precisely what heroes do to deal with things. Situations present themselves and that unsuspecting hero must decide how to react. Choose to react like the hero. Say a prayer for strength, and then do those hard but awesome things. Nehemiah prayed, “For now, my God, strengthen me” (Nehemiah 6:9B). He knew the power that God would equip him with, especially in those hard moments of starting this monumental project of building a wall around a city. By hand. In the sun. Without electricity. Or coffee.
For now, my God, strengthen me.
And they rocked that wall-building.
You will have many challenges today. For both our sakes I hope we don’t have to build walls, and by all means let’s try to build relationships that transcend walls, amiright? Capture the hearts of those around you and spread peace. Share joy. Share light. Share love. Instill hope in your life and those around you.
Peace, joy, light, hope, these can be some of the most challenging tasks to complete. If you’re a human like me, then every day brings up a new round in the boxing ring. But we’ve got instructions to overcome those. David wrote in Psalm 34, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and try to maintain it.” The Message version says, “Embrace peace—don’t let it get away!”
If you have a challenging person in your life, or actually if you have any people in your life, then you’ll find peace barging out the door more often that you’d like. Don’t let peace get away. The best way to get peace back into your house is to pray that God will help you see the good in each heart around. This is a hard task; but God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). You can create peace in your home. This doesn’t always mean there will be a home-cooked pie on the counter, crisp clean sheets on the bed, and nary a speck of dust on the shelves. (Does that ever happen? Can I come over if this is your house?) But peace dwells in the homes where people seek God’s heart and his hope first. Peace reigns where hearts produce hope and offer first a helping hand instead of a hardened fist.
Start building peace by cleaning out those dark spaces. Unload those boxes of regret and hurt, empty them out in prayer to your Creator, and he will help repaint the walls. First God. Then answers. Write down one of these verses we’ve discussed today and place it by a mirror. Make those first reactions ones of patience. Be the superhero your plotline needs. And you’ll have the strength to build the walls layered with hope and packed with heart.
Summer is a time for steamy sunsets, golden days, warm breezes, and straight-up crazy living spaces. We’re talking kids, water messes, dirt, chalk-hands, missing sandals, and haphazard schedules. I don’t know about you, but while the teachers are celebrating, I’m inwardly shuddering. And outwardly. I love my children. I love them. I LOVE them.
Also, summer is a time for parents to unwind and for children to hunker down in front of the television. Last summer we survived, but this summer, I want us to thrive. At our last MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting, our leader asked the question, “What inspires you?” Friends, what inspires you?
I’ve been between projects and classes, so I’ve been in the creative doldrums. But as I thought over the question, an idea began to blossom. Let’s have an inspired summer. Let’s have intentional days, thoughtful evenings, and breezy memories.
So I’ve planned out Epic Summer 2017. Friends, mamas, let us journey into these glistening days with smiles on our faces and a plan of attack. Once a week, every Tuesday, from June 6 until August 22nd, I’ll be posting a weekly challenge or activity on my blog and social media outlets. Some are simple, some will involve a bit of planning, and all will bring laughter, smiles, giggles, and picture-worthy moments. Share the posts, comment, supply your own pics, and make sure to use the hashtag #epicsummer17. Each week will give you a Risk to do or a Reality upon which to meditate. You can do the Risk/Reality that day or some time that week. Each week will have a theme and an encouraging note to go along with it. The more of us, the merrier, in my opinion. I hope you will join me in taking charge over your summer. Make amazing happen to your family. Make fabulous memories. Create magic with your treasures, however old they may be. Our children will have the memories that we provide for them. What do you want them to remember from 2017?
What do you want to remember?
Let’s make it an Epic Summer.
Subscribe at http://www.kadeecarder.com/subscribe.html to get #EpicSummer17 challenges directly to your inbox! I hope you'll connect with me on Facebook or Instagram too.
Beneath the façade of covert laboratories and military exploits, Saylor’s story twists further in this thrilling final installment of the Insurrection trilogy, available NOW! It's time for you to download this fantastic adventure, readers. Go Team Messy bun, and roll out. Click HERE to see all the purchase links. (Only $4.99 on Kindle, Nook, iTunes and more!)
Concealed identities. Puzzling truths. Cryptic alliances. Amid hasty exits and curious arrivals, Saylor pursues the answers haunting her conscience.
Dealing with the consequences of her decisions, will Saylor find herself invincible, or drawn even closer to Breame’s conniving promises? And with humanity’s existence at stake, will Saylor advance toward the brimming war, or succumb to the battle bubbling in her blood? Saylor must decide.
Humanity will always be worth fighting for.
Read an excerpt HERE!
Team Messy Bun is a group of booklovers, wordsmiths, and anybody who likes a good adventure. <tosses sparkly confetti in the air> Here we inspire, empower, and create bliss. And probably drink lots of coffee.
I've heard it said that the best way to reach people is to talk to them one-on-one. What a concept, yeah? So I have set up a fun and interactive group on Facebook called Team Messy Bun. No, you do not have to have a messy bun in order to participate. In fact, hey, I condone all hair types and shapes. Post a pic if you've got something awesome on your head, please.
Here's the group link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1863146427281089/
Please feel free to join and please share with/invite your friends!
The group serves a couple purposes.
1) To connect better with readers.
2) To empower my friends and readers to create bliss and communicate effectively in a hopeful and light-hearted manner.
3) To celebrate years of hard work coming to fruition as Indelible releases to the public!
There will be laughs, behind-the-scenes, sneak peeks, giveaways, and probably a lot of talk about coffee. Let's celebrate, yo. These days are gettin' salty, so let's release some balloons, toss some confetti in the air, and languish in a cozy reading nook. Go Team Messy Bun!
“The world needs you right now,” the Commander said. “It’s time to put all those experiments to work.”
“Seems like the world doesn’t want our help,” I bargained, recalling the glares and shouts.
“They may think that for the moment. But when Breame releases his army upon them, we’ll be waiting. That’s what we do. Humanity will always be worth fighting for. Individuals exist who choose good, who live simple lives amidst the turmoil and corruption and hate. Surely they merit defense. We fight for them.”
“And what about those who choose to be plain outright mean? Unappreciative? Who throw stones and yell at us?”
“We stay the course,” the Commander sighed. “That’s when we dig in and follow the directive. Place the mission first. Never accept defeat.”
I nodded and joined in. “Never quit. Never leave a fallen comrade.” I tacked on the additional condition. “Fight for the man standing next to you.”
The Commander blinked in approval, providing a simple nod of affirmation in his firm look. “Pain will come and go. The trials, the hardship, the sweat, it all cycles around. It’s short. It’s the dirt in the mountain. The fire. But you, sticking it out, you’re the diamond being etched. The gold smelted. Your efforts will last. Quitting will not. I’ve always known you to hang in — now is the time to use that grit and audacity to lead others into the unknown.”
~ Excerpt from Indelible ~
(Insurrection trilogy, Book 3)
Whenever I write, life ebbs into the themes. Hopefully my readers find multi-layered stories when they dive in with me, and with each reading, find a new little gift. With the books releasing and as I’ve tossed my gut into the wide world of social media marketing, I’ve found more struggle than victory. I’ve discovered a new horrible side of myself, one who is unabashedly jealous, who cries just way too much, and who can’t see the long side of the field. I don’t like her. She cray.
But in the muddy puddles as of late, I’ve also found a wealth of freedom, in finding some simple truth. "Tis a gift to be simple. Tis a gift to be free" (Joseph Brackett). So let’s share this simple truth I’ve found, in hopes that you may dwell richly as well:
Whatever you crave is what you need to create.
Whatever you need, give away to others.
Whatever you are not willing to give up is what will drive you mad. In giving away the Things you want most, you find they return in ways you'd never expect. Do you need peace? Offer peace. Do you need a hug? Give one. Do you need to learn how to do something better? Teach someone what you do know. Need encouragement? Give that away like water at a marathon.
But do not give in order to get. Don't give pridefully. Lavish. Release. Extend. Shower upon others the breezes of hope. Reflect grace.
I may not be able to make it into any hall of fame, but I would love to help someone else get there. Maybe I'm not strong enough, but maybe I can help someone else be. What a gift that would be, to be a part of the training of heroes.
I'm a background person. Always have been, always will be. Ain't no life of the party over here. Introverts unite, amiright?! So to force this dream I have upon others has been a dreadfully painful nightmare. But I'm waking up. Oh, wake up, sleepers! Don’t just believe in yourself, but believe in the work you can and need to do.
Fight in the name of the man standing beside you. In so doing you raise the arms of giants, and together extend life across the kingdom.
Young Adult book lovers have plenty of exciting, clean fiction to keep them company during these breezy spring days! From mythical tales in faraway lands, to contemporary romances, and epic science fiction adventures, this list of new releases from Clean Reads offers something excellent and fresh for every reader.
Book blurbs and buy links included! Comment with your favorites!
Dating The It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator's son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon's world and it doesn't help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren, seems determined to get back into his life, along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you're dating the it guy.
Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan
On the first day of her new school, wounded Eden wants to finish her senior year and escape to college. It can’t be too much to ask for, can it?
Noah has spent two years not knowing why he failed to come of age as every one of his ancestors has. Two years drifting aimlessly, searching for direction…
When the two meet the connection is instantaneous and undeniable. A connection that has Eden running and Noah burning to know more.
A connection destined to be the catalyst for a prophecy that neither knew existed. A prophecy others are willing to kill for.
As families rupture and struggle to realign, as their hearts connect and ignite, Eden learns to trust. But with their love and life on the line, Eden must find the power to believe.
Prophecy Awakened is the first book in Tamar Sloan’s Prime Prophecy Series. If you enjoyed Stephanie Meyer, Lauren Kate or Maggie Stiefvater, then you’ll love a series that captures their best traits in an epic, captivating story of a love that defies boundaries.
Just Claire by Jean Ann Williams
Thirteen-old ClaireLee’s life changes when she must take charge of her siblings after her mother becomes depressed from a difficult childbirth. Frightened by the way Mama sleeps too much and her crying spells during waking hours, ClaireLee just knows she’ll catch her illness like a cold or flu which hangs on through winter. ClaireLee finds comfort in the lies she tells herself and others in order to hide the truth about her erratic mother.
Deciding she needs to re-invent herself, she sets out to impress a group of popular girls. With her deception, ClaireLee weaves her way into the Lavender Girls Club, the most sophisticated girls in school. Though, her best friend Belinda will not be caught with the likes of such shallow puddles, ClaireLee ignores Belinda’s warnings the Lavenders cannot be trusted. ClaireLee drifts further from honesty, her friend, and a broken mother’s love, until one very public night at the yearly school awards ceremony. The spotlight is on her, and she finds her courage and faces the truth, and then ClaireLee saves her mother’s life.
Beautiful One by Mary Cope
Elizabeth Ryan is a beautiful, shy, naïve high school senior. Having never dated she meets the boy of her dreams, Aidan Mitchell. Despite his history of womanizing Liz is drawn to him. Soon Liz becomes the envy of all the girls on campus, when they become a couple and her dream boyfriend sweeps her off her feet and into the dating world that is all too new and strange for her. When other guys start to take notice of Liz, Aidan is troubled with fits of jealousy.
Elizabeth then meets the ruggedly handsome, Spencer Hayes and they quickly bond over their passion for music. Liz begins to struggle with the feelings that spark between them.
In the end Elizabeth finds herself torn between helping Aidan overcome his jealousy and anger and giving into what her heart truly wants.
The 12th Girl In Heaven by R.J. Conte
Macy Bandele's goals are simple: get good grades, don't make waves at the university, and find some place to belong. The mysterious princess sorority, Rho Lambda Tau, seems like the answer to her problems. If only the handsome Dillan Noughton didn't keep challenging her way of thinking. What sinister plans do the sorority hide? And can Dillan help save her from herself?
Day Moon by Brett Armstrong
In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global soft-ware initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.
The Marked by Emerald Barnes
Myka Williams has never fit in with her peers, and although her adoptive parents are loving and supportive, she feels most at home alone in the woods.
When she's offered a full scholarship to Knight's Academy in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, she takes the opportunity for a fresh start. She soon learns that Knight’s Academy is more than just a school. Within the stone walls of the institution, humans and vampires are mixing, and their offspring are going unnoticed.
As Myka falls prey to the evil plan of the school, she makes a chilling discovery about her own heritage and realizes that she’s at the Academy for more than just an education. Myka must yield to her birthright at the risk of losing everyone she loves or succumb to the fate that Knight’s Academy has in store for her—a fate worse than death.
Celeste by Ann Evans
Megan Miller doesn't believe in ghosts or in reincarnation. But that soon changes after moving to a new city and a new school. It starts with feelings of déjà vu. Vague feelings at first that remain annoyingly just out of reach. Then the flashbacks start – memories of ancient times and frag-mented dreams of when she had been called Celeste. Then comes the haunting. After visiting the old bombed out cathedral, Megan believes some dark ominous presence is haunting her, following her, whispering in her ear. And always the same question, where did you hide it? Megan becomes entwined in a frightening and heartbreaking world as she slips uncontrollable between her present life and her medieval past. But the links are fiercely strong and she fears that a new friend is actually a past enemy – and evil has followed her through the centuries.
High Summons by Eli Celata
Jon Blythe is sick of waiting for his Yoda. After years of hiding his magic, he's ready to retire from his mortal life, drop out of college, and jump into the world of demon hunters. He just didn't really expect a bleach blond bookstore clerk with light up toys for weapons. Unfortunately, Jordan is Jon's only hope. When rogue magic users come to Rochester with a malicious plan, the odd couple strikes out to save the day. Jordan might not be what Jon expected, but between demons and Econ homework, the demons win every time. Wild nights drag Jon further from normal into the world where his father vanished. Maybe he's becoming an addict. Maybe magic just comes with a price. Either way, he’s hooked.
Healing Rain by Katy Newton Naas
Some people just naturally seem to have it all. Until five months ago, sixteen-year-old Rain Sawyer was one of those people. She had the perfect life, with a loving, wealthy family and a strong Christian faith, complete with popularity, sports, clubs, and good grades.
When one tragic incident shatters everything Rain thought she knew, she finds herself five hours away, starting over in a small town very different from her glamorous big-city life.
Armed with a different outlook on life – one that no longer includes her faith – she struggles to create a new identity for herself. Determined to keep her dark past as secret, she navigates through a new school year, a new town, and new relationships while trying to figure out who she wants to be.
Accepted by Coleen Lahr
Ashley Smith spent her life being shipped from one family member to the next. When Ashley’s estranged father dies, she finally has the money to go to college and the chance to find a place where she belongs.
Within days, Ashley has found the one thing she’s always longed for – a family. She may have even found love. There’s only one problem. Ashley likes Colin…a lot, but so does Randi, and everyone likes Randi. Randi’s approval is the single easiest way to belong. Falling in love with Randi’s crush is the single easiest way to find one’s self on the outside for the next three years.
When Ashley arrived at college, she never dreamed she’d find this kind of happiness. Will she allow herself to hold on to this happiness, and Colin, or will her fear of losing her friends, the only friends she’s ever known, dictate her actions?
The Devil and Danna Webster by Jacqueline Seewald
Danna Webster, a shy fifteen-year-old high school student with a talent for art, is studying in the school library with her friend Joyce when a dark, handsome boy starts flirting with her. Rich bad boy, Kevin Moore, continues to pursue her. But Danna is pulled in another direction by Gar Hansen, football quarterback and honor student who has been assigned as Danna’s math tutor. What is Kevin’s connection to the eerie stranger who offers Danna everything she could ever want in life—in return for her soul?
The Dragon's Ring by Debra Daugherty
Sir James Trueblood is determined to capture a unicorn so he can marry Princess Isadora. The knight begins his quest, not realizing the Princess is following him in disguise. On his journey Sir James encounters a witch and a dragon. With the dragon’s ring his mission is a success, but then he learns the unicorn will die if not set free. Now he has a dilemma; marry the Princess or free the unicorn.
Shadow Fire by Kimber Leigh Wheaton
Ashlyn – a free-spirited teenager whose peaceful life is shattered when the village elders honor her with a perilous quest to recover a stolen relic.
Zane – a jaded mercenary, torn by his undeniable desire for Ashlyn and the dark secret that could make her hate him forever.
Delistaire – a malevolent sorcerer driven by an insatiable lust for power.
All three are bound together by an ancient relic supposedly infused with the power of a Goddess.
As Ashlyn and Zane race to stay one step ahead of the evil lurking in the shadows, their passions are ignited and their bond strengthens. But will they find the relic before Delistaire? Or has their entire quest been orchestrated from the very beginning by a madman in pursuit of ultimate power?
Six Pack: Emergence by B.W. Morris
Just weeks before Tyler Ward is to graduate from secondary school, he learns the truth about Novusordo and how a drink controls the population. After sharing this information with his five friends, they visit a professor’s house, take another drink and gain strange powers. It leads to them learning more about how the government controls people and the discovery of a movement against the government. Calling themselves the Six Pack, Tyler and his friends must learn how their powers can change society. But they first must learn to trust this movement… and even each other.
Different by E.A. West
Jezebel Smith is different. She can’t talk, she doesn’t look like anyone in her family, and no matter what she does it’s always the wrong thing. God accepts her for who she is, but He’s the only one who does. Then she finds an unconscious man in her favorite cave, and her life is turned upside down. New people and new rules collide with the old, leaving Jezebel unsure of which set of rules apply to her life. When the strangers in town attempt to help her out of the nightmare she’s grown up in, it promises to change her life forever.
Unexpected Rewards by Jane McGarry
Olivia Davenport is looking forward to her future. After all, Prince Liam has professed his love and King William has promised her a reward for her role on a recent mission. She fully expects to continue her knightly training while enjoying a blossoming romance with her Prince. The King, however, has other ideas, appointing her as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Helen.
Thrust into unfamiliar territory and left to fend against the malicious women of court, Olivia feels awkward and confused. With the help of her new friend, Kat, and her sister, Anne, she tries to find her footing among the courtiers, their protocol, and the added complication of Jocelyn Crawford, a lady who has her eyes set on becoming Liam’s bride.
When, a disturbing prophecy puts the safety of the King in question, fear spreads through kingdom. Intrigue abounds at the palace with an enigmatic witch and a strict Friar at the center of the controversy. Olivia must use her training and instincts to unravel what is truly going on in order to protect the King. Through it all, she questions if she will ever be able to fit into Liam’s life and if, in the end, their love can prevail.
Kitishi Island by Jordan Elizabeth
Serena Cole can kick serious butt thanks to young women only she can see. School bullies aren’t a problem, but Serena’s mental health might be. To shield Serena from a dark secret, her family tries to convince her that her friends are imaginary.
Fleeing her distrustful aunt, Serena joins her mother on an archeological dig at Kistishi Island. There, Serena discovers an ancient scroll and realizes her invisible friends are goddesses native to the island, and they are in danger of enslavement for their abilities. Only Serena can save her friends if she can discover the past her family has hidden her entire life – the reason why only she can see the goddesses.
Incomplete by Kadee Carder
Power within her. War without. Between the lines of flirtation and justice, Saylor must clench the missing pieces of her fate. While harnessing her ability to communicate with deadly weapons of mass destruction, attending the annual gala, and fighting her growing feelings for the hunky Australian soldier, Saylor’s instincts become increasingly distressed. Tempted by greed and independence, she must determine what she stands for and on whose side she belongs.
Today is release day for Bob Morris, a fellow Clean Reads author! Check out his original young adult sci fi, "Six Pack: Emergence," book one of an exciting new trilogy!
What if society was controlled by a drink, but there was another drink that might allow one to change the way things were?
Tyler Ward is set to graduate from secondary school when he learns the truth about the nation of Novusordo and how the government controls the population. He and his five friends visit a professor’s house, consume another drink and gain strange powers. Now they find themselves part of a movement against the government and must learn to control their powers and how they might change society. But can they trust the movement… or even each other?
Six Pack: Emergence, a young adult, science fiction, dystopian novel is written by B.W. Morris, a longtime writer for small-town newspapers, though it took him a while to embrace his inner comic book geek and put his overactive imagination to work through novel writing.
Morris was born in Texas but grew up in Colorado. He has also lived in New Mexico and Oklahoma and currently resides in Kingman, Kansas, a small community 40 miles west of Wichita. Morris is a member of the Kansas Writers Association and loves pizza, barbecue and a good breakfast burrito. He cites the likes of Greg Weisman, George Orwell, Suzanne Collins, Stan Lee and Conor Friedersdorf as inspirations for his writing.
Six Pack: Emergence is now available in ebook format through Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and iTunes.
Buy for ONLY $3.99 on:
Barnes and Noble
Learn more about the book by visiting Morris’ blog at relaxingwithsixpack.blogspot.com or email him at email@example.com.
Support art! Support exciting dreams! Grab your copy today!
Power within her. War without.
Between the lines of flirtation and justice, Saylor must seize the missing pieces of her fate. While harnessing her ability to communicate with deadly weapons of mass destruction, attending the annual gala, and fighting her growing feelings for the hunky Australian soldier, Saylor’s instincts become increasingly distressed. Tempted by greed and independence, she must determine what she stands for and on whose side she belongs.
Volume Two of the Insurrection trilogy is NOW AVAILABLE! Get your copy now for only $4.99, and continue Saylor's adventure on Isla Barina!
Join me for a fun celebration on Facebook, the Incomplete Release Party. We'll have confetti, games, and an hour of clinking virtual sparkling drinks, and freebies. RSVP HERE and hang where all the party people roll. :D
Call for submissions! Members of the military and law enforcement, we need your amazing stories. You get to learn, see, and do remarkable things, and us civilians would love to read your wisdom and experiences. Submit a 250-300 word paragraph illustrating an important moment, piece of wisdom you learned during training, or a memorable experience you've had in training or on the field. What kept you going when times got tough? What made you keep those boots on the ground? We'd love to hear it!
Please send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 1, 2017. I'll make them available in a blog mid-march and have my readers vote for their favorite. The top five will receive a free copy of Insurrection, and the grand prize winner will also receive a free copy of Incomplete.
Please try to keep the language clean! And let me know if you have any questions. I cannot wait to hear your stories. Keep 'em coming! And thank you so much for all you do.
My family and I went roller skating last weekend. I hadn’t used real roller skates since middle school. So after more than fifteen years of standing on my feet, the wheels beneath me shuddered. And then they flew.
As I rolled around the rink, oh soooo wobbly at first (or, well, the entire two hours) by the end I was able to take a hearty look around me at the crowd and muster an exhilarated sigh. I’ve missed skating. Skating is not entirely cardiovascular, as my iWatch didn’t notice I’d spent two hours wheeling around a flat floor and instead noted eight whole minutes of activity. Womp womp. But skating is a task of wonder and thrill. It made me pause and observe, and note just how much life is like a skating rink.
Skating is a challenging activity.
Balance. Wobbling. Fear. Chaos! Total fun. Cramping shins. Let’s accent that last one. Within five minutes on the floor I had to take a break because my shins burned like a thousand fires of Armageddon. And I do sprints regularly! All around me on that floor, kids, teens, and adults alike ate dirt, toppling and tumbling to the ground.
My daughter is learning to skate and she’s frustrated. It’s a mix of balance, freedom, carefreeness, and knowing how to hold your center in just the right way. And then swinging those arms crazy as the balance shifts around the corner. Ah!
There’s no one single “this is how you skate” tutorial. Skating feels different for everyone. Some people catch on quick, some need this magical contraption the rink owners rent out, of something like a walker on wheels, to give the littles something to hold while rolling. To skate is to know the feel of your foot along the sole of the shoe; to skate is to fly free and yet hold just so. Each skater will learn in a different manner, in a different timing, in a different location, after a different amount of falling.
Get back up. Find your poise. Compose your grace.
People fall down.
Simply observing when I had to sit and rest, and even amid the crowd on the floor, there was one constant in the rink: People fell down. There was never a single person not on the ground. At any given time, more than one person lay sprawled on the wax. Skating is a game of falling down. And learning how to navigate around those who do.
Several times, children sprinted before me, wrapped around the pillars, and splattered along the floor. I had to navigate the open waters, like a minnow in a shark pool. The fallers couldn’t always help it. They are learning. They are discovering. They are stumbling over things on the floor.
The falling is embarrassing. The falling hurts. The falling causes a domino effect.
Their actions affect everyone around them. The skater who wishes to remain vertical must look ahead, look around, and be prepared to stumble. When another skater falls down, everyone has two options: either help the other one up or skate around them. It’s easy to be angered by the faller downer. It’s easy to gripe and cast angry glances, but often these lead to the falling down of one’s own self.
Instead of wasting time and energy being frustrated at those who fall, know they are part of the game. Know that the person stumbling is dealing with the floor. The floor isn’t so friendly. But you can be. So since you’re still on your feet, be kind and move along your merry way.
You have to observe the big picture.
The more people fill the floor, the harder it is to navigate the perils of the rink. Little kids bob around, wobbling, tossing their fists every which way, while teens dart and dash and topple like marbles on a slip-n-slide. You have to keep your eyes up, watch for the open path, and navigate even those last-minute adaptations and pivots to the plan. Be ready for change. Because you’re rounding the corner, friend, so expect someone to shoot in front of you.
The more I kept my vision above the horizon, beyond my own feet, the more I could easily maneuver the scene. Getting caught up in wheels and feet and legs is easy. Seeing that it’s only four other bodies in a large room puts it in perspective. There’s more to the story than the skates in your way.
People sit on the sidelines.
You either skate or you sit on the sidelines. You can laugh all you want at the people skating -- their balance, their wobbling, their stumbling, their sporadic waving of the arms -- but at least they’re on the floor. At least they are attempting to do the Y-M-C-A while rolling around the rink. Who cares if they look like a monkey on a frozen pond? Applaud the skaters, cheer them on, for they’re operating vividly and fully engaged. What’s life on the sidelines but a hard bench and a noisy crowd? The floor is much more open and inviting, my friends.
Don’t be hatin’, just keep skatin’.
I noticed as the time wore on that the floor grew emptier. Exhaustion, sweat, sore muscles, and celebrating birthdays drew out the engaged from the spent. It’s crucial to know when you’ve met your limits. It's also crucial to enjoy cake. But also, know that limits are invisible. And cake makes you tired. If you want to skate, then skate on my friend. The best ending to a day in the rink is time on the rink. Shake until the last song. Don’t snicker at the weary, don’t slight the onlooker, but roll on, roll on. Dance with the music and slide along the floor. Time and again I had to remind my daughter -- just have fun with it. The more fun you have, the better you do. And that’s life, friends. It’s all just skating anyway. Might as well spend the time rolling. Don’t be hatin’, just keep skatin’.
To my friend who is struggling with the slick floor, skate on. To my wobbly wheeler, steady. I won’t hold your hand because we’ll both fall down, but I’m here in the rink with you. Getting on the floor is the hard part, but stopping is even harder. It’s more fun on the floor. Come on in. I hear it’s almost time for limbo.
Power within her. War without.
Between the lines of flirtation and justice, Saylor must clench the missing pieces of her fate. While harnessing her ability to communicate with deadly weapons of mass destruction, attending the annual gala, and fighting her growing feelings for the hunky Australian soldier, Saylor’s instincts become increasingly distressed. Tempted by greed and independence, she must determine what she stands for and on whose side she belongs.
The second book of the Insurrection trilogy will be available on February 28, 2017! You can reserve your copy NOW on Amazon or Barnes & Noble! Stay tuned for updates. Plus, save the date for Feb 28 and be sure to rsvp on Facebook in the Release Party. There will be freebies, fun, and a celebration of the fabulous. Please join me for an hour of excitement as Saylor's story unfolds.
See more HERE on the Incomplete page on my website. Feel free to share with your friends and anyone who needs a good adventure. And thanks for reading, friends!
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