FRIENDS, put on your lovely Aussie accents, and welcome my fabulous Clean Reads author friend Tamar Sloan! She's recently released a fantastic non-fiction book titled GRIT FOR WRITERS which encourages, well, grit for writers. She's incorporated solid advice, helpful tips, and insight from other authors on this twisty adventure. *Possibly you might recognize some of those other authors!*
I wanted to interview Ms. Sloan about her books and her latest release. So let's sit down for a great cuppa and chat for a few moments!
KADEE: What's your favorite quote from the book? (Or a favorite)?
TAMAR: My favourite quote in the book isn’t my own, but I love it because it sums up what grit is all about: Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it's a small price to pay for living a dream.
- Peter McWilliams
Although I do have quite a nice one from a fabulous fellow Clean Reads author who contributed to the book: Find your why, unleash your ardour for the art, and yank it along the journey with you.
(Yes peoples, a Kadee Carder gem of wisdom!)
KADEE: Aw! Love that, Tamar! <blushes> What made you decide to write Grit for Writers?
TAMAR: I would say the impetus for Grit for Writers was a two-step process. I have a close friend who I met early in my writing journey. She’d been writing (on and off) for almost 20 years. She had persevered through rejection after rejection, and continued to chase her dream of being traditionally published. I truly admired that level of dedication, because I’m not sure I would have been able to do the same. As time went on I discovered what a roller coaster the publishing ride is. Full of exhilarating highs, stomach-dropping lows, and twists and turns you never see coming. I realised writing is a grit demanding profession. It got me thinking—what are the qualities that a person needs to keep following their dream, despite all the hurdles? As I started reading, I could see how valuable this information would be to my fellow writers. After much research and even more writing, Grit for Writers was born! Oh, and Heidi Catherine--my amazing friend’s— book is set to be published early this year.
KADEE: How long have you been a psychologist/working with students? What made you want to be in that field?
TAMAR: I was born with a strong sense of social-justice and a powerful desire to make a difference. It’s culminated in a career dedicated to working with adolescents and their families. 20 years ago I started out as a youth-worker with at-risk youth, discovering that working with marginalised and disadvantaged young people was challenging, but deeply rewarding. Knowing I’d found my niche, I studied and became a secondary teacher and worked exclusively in educational setting for these young people. Often there were days where I learned more than I taught from these young but wise, broken but unbroken, keepers of our future. I soon discovered that connecting with these kids was where my talent lay as an educator. So I returned to university and became a psychologist. I’ve been a psychologist for five years now, and it’s truly a privilege to walk alongside young people and their families every day.
KADEE: What are your favorite and least favorite things about where you live? Would you want to live anywhere else?
TAMAR: I’m pretty lucky in that I live in a small slice of the Australian bush, which is 20 minutes away from a major city—meaning I get the best of both worlds. I love the flexibility that having acreage allows me (I’ve owned milking goats, cows, sheep, horses, bees and even had an aquaponics system with trout!) but all the advantages of city life just a short drive away. Our boys love the opportunities our lifestyle has afforded them. If I had to identify my least favourite aspect of where I live, it would have to be winter, and it’s not even cold enough to snow most years! But I think I may be partially cold-blooded—I have permanently cold feet and hands during those months. On those days, Hawaii sounds pretty good…
KADEE: What's your favorite book you've written OR character you've created AND why?
TAMAR: Saved the hardest question for last, huh? I suspect the answer to this question will continually change—probably to reflect the book I’m writing at the time! Purely because that’s the magical character I’m watching, discovering, and falling in love with currently. Right now I’m working on Make it Yours, book 2 in the Touched by Love series. The main character is Emellia, a tough, persistent, lover of science (yep, fancy term for nerd). She’s witty and smart and desperately trying to save her father. It’s such a privilege to bear witness to her her highs and her lows whilst she determinedly tries to avoid the unavoidable love coming her way. I’m looking forward to sharing this special story of love and acceptance with readers.
Late last year I would have said Casey, my protagonist from Make it Count, the girl who with a single touch, sees how many days a person has to live. Casey is fun and spontaneous and possesses an irrepressible spirit. I loved exploring the chemistry between her and PJ and writing her story of self-discovery.
Before that it was shy, wounded Eden, the heroine of the Prime Prophecy series. Hers is a story of an epic love and the power of believing in ourselves…I think you get the idea…
KADEE: Thank you so much for sharing these fabulous gems, Tamar! Now let's see what GRIT FOR WRITERS has in store for us!
Writing is challenging. It involves creating something deeply personal, then offering it up for public consumption. The rejection from agents and publishers, the slow sales, the negative reviews, and the most insidious under-miner, self-doubt, are all hurdles every writer will face. In a flooded, competitive market, how do you live your passion and keep reaching for your dream?
Grit is the ability to stick with things that are important to you, through thick and thin, through the thousands of words and hundreds of pages. The good news is this very key to your success can be cultivated and grown. With Grit for Writers you'll learn how to recalibrate your mindset and how to motivate your actions with proven psychological strategies. Before you realise it, you'll be the writer you're proud of, the one others look up to, the one that lives their passion.
Don't be the writer that never finishes their novel. Don't be the writer that defines themselves by the 'no thanks' replies to submissions. Be the writer that experiences criticism and rejection and overwhelming self-doubt...and succeeds! Packed with personal stories of inspiration and proven strategies, Grit for Writers will have you on your way to writing success.
Grab YOUR COPY of GRIT FOR WRITERS today!
“Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain;
If we perish in the seeking, why, how small a thing is death!”
It’s release day for HERE BE DRAGONS! My heart’s roaringly thunderous inside my chest. The pressure, the epitome, the culmination of months of work—no, years of work—leading up to THIS one moment…it’s finally here. Are you ready?
Breathing life into her awoke my own resolution to restore others. Saylor didn’t know I’d revived her. She didn’t know for months, and during that time I traveled across our blue sphere and back to her recovering form at Fort Story, Virginia. Little blonde firecracker. Changed my life.
Sergeant Merritt Steele sat beside me on the cargo plane carrying us to Camp Kissinger, located deep in the heart of Australia’s Outback. “Sorry to see them go,” my co-commander noted, a slight tremor in his blue eyes. I knew he meant more than he said. He’d connected with Saylor, her sister Micah, and the McConnell family during our three-week leave.
Neither of us knew when or if we’d see them again. But that was life as Echo Company of the Alliance Military Guard, and we held that knowledge closer than our body armor. Never quit. We defeat. Let the enemy fall, come what may. That’s what we did, that’s what we were, and not a single one of us doubted it.
Not even when we landed in a war zone.
(HERE BE DRAGONS, Chapter One Excerpt)
Are you living in a war zone?
Fiction shows us how to deal with our non-fiction. We can read these characters’ stories, see their pain, feel their journey, and tremble as their spirits quake. We get invited into their space and see the world with its crumbles, heartache, and power. Fiction’s miraculous. Fiction offers a gift of escape, of courage, of grit, of shuddering through temptation with the hero. Are you facing some serious shadows? Are you hearing the grinding of bones in the distance? Follow Tucker into the heart of the Outback.
Where are the heroes?
A friend of mine recently said she wondered where the heroes were. The current trend for stories is that they often feature a strong heroine—and while I am ALL about a strong heroine, and inspiring girls to believe in themselves—I also believe we need to encourage boys to protect, to serve, to lead humbly, to explore, to create, and to forget stereotypes. Be inspired. Be fearless. Be wise. Be the hero.
Temptation leads us down paths where we consider retreating or cheating, or complaining or blaming. Well let me ask you, can fiction teach us to face the shadows? Can fiction show us the glory in the fight for life?
The amazing thing about HERE BE DRAGONS is it’s only $4.99 on Kindle Unlimited AND if you’ve got Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for FREE! I’ve had several readers who’ve provided feedback, and what they’ve all said is how much they enjoyed the ending--do you need a great ending? HERE BE DRAGONS is currently only available as an ebook, until I sell 100 per my publisher’s contract. Help both of us hold that book in our hands. We need to grip this, to flip through these pages. Connect with a free trial of Kindle Unlimited and download your copy of HERE BE DRAGONS and soar through those Australian skies with Tucker and his rag-tag crew of Guardsmen.
What is HERE BE DRAGONS about?
Alliance Military Guard sent the order. Sergeant Tucker Thompson acquiesced. Hopping on a plane to his long-lost Australian birthplace, he's been charged with his toughest mission yet. Thompson must rally his company of soldiers to prevent a new generation of weaponry from breaching the world's borders.
Readers love HERE BE DRAGONS! One reviewer stated:
“On the surface, this novel is a good dose of sci-fi and futuristic drama. Deep down, the realistic characters, with their daily struggle, not only for survival but also for understanding their sense of purpose in life, meets the need of young adult readers who, similarly, are seeking a meaning of life. The message is clear: work hard, stay the course, and look for the good in everyone and everything. Life can be good.” (Emily-Jane Hills Orford)
Are you wanting to add a great book to your reading list for 2018?
Grab HERE BE DRAGONS today. I’ve seen those dark days, those dark nights. I’ve felt the gripping fingers of desperation slipping around my neck in the trenches of writing, amid crying children, tight finances, broken down cars, endless mounds of papers to grade. I’ve scraped by on my knees and had to carry heavier weights than I thought possible. But you know what you find in the darkness? You find the light. You find the people who help, the people who stride through your front door with chocolate and coffee, and the people who truly believe all of which you’re capable.
You need to believe it, too.
The stories you tell yourself in the dark, those are the ones that stick with you.
You have the opportunity to build upon the bricks of shattered dreams and mortar of confusion, and turn it into an empire. What do you do, what do you tell yourself, when the lights go out?
Some may beg for light. Others may beg for relief, beg for some give in the take. Others may bury their faces further into the miry pool.
Something I’ve learned in the dark places: there’s always someone around to bring in the light. There’s always someone around to absorb the spilled tears, to carry the weight, and to offer a square of chocolate. Death brought confusion. But, ultimately, life wins.
You see, people are intrepid. People do seek life and life fully. There may be a lot of dark, but the warriors for light rage on. They cannot, they will not rest, until the light shines over the horizon. You see it among the darkness: a sparkle, a spark, a crack of hope against all odds.
The people who feed the darkness, they are confused. They are trapped. They are prisoners enchained by lies. They are enveloped by the monsters who devour them.
Another lesson? The hardest battle may be around the corner, trapped in the tunnels, snarling against the bright light you carry. Be prepared. Be prepared for anguish, be prepared for a cold chill to grasp for the warm light. Be prepared to fight with courage, with kindness, with tenacity, and grit. Expect among the war cry a song of hope to emerge. Be the singer. Be the strong arms carrying the weak into the night. Be the grammar joke, when death is on the line.
Bang the war drums.
Rattle the cages.
Here be Dragons.
How did your #DauntlessDecember go? Mine flew by, I’ll tell ya! You have twenty-four hours to grab your free copy of the ten free workouts in the Alliance Military Guard Training Guide with your pre-order of HERE BE DRAGONS (Do that right here!). While we wait for that to release, I wanted to offer you a story of hope for the new year.
Amy Purdy's caption on an Instagram photo posted last year displays a twenty-one year-old girl in a white hospital gown, with a resilient smile on her face. She'd just had both of her legs amputated below the knees. Her words rang true then and they ring true now.
"In fact when I was wheeled into surgery, I gave myself three goals. 1. To never feel sorry for myself. 2. To snowboard that year and 3. When I figured this mess out, I vowed to help others. And I'm proud to say, that I accomplished all of them and ended up going further than I ever could have imagined. I didn't just snowboard, I won a medal in the Olympic/Paralympic Games. I didn't just help others, I have become one of the top requested motivational speakers in the country and started my own organization @adaptiveactionsports. But most importantly... I never ever gave up on myself. No matter what your circumstances are, don't ever give up on yourself. You are important and your contribution to this world and humanity is needed. You can be whatever you want to be. But there isn't anyone who is going to figure it out for you, you have to figure it out for yourself."
Battling meningitis, losing both kidneys, her spleen, and the hearing in her left ear, weighing eighty-three pounds, and at a two percent chance of survival, Amy Purdy proved to be one resilient cupcake. That same year she strapped on her snowboard. Three years later she earned a bronze medal in the snowboardcross at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. She’s continued moving forward, joining the Dancing With The Stars cast in their eighteenth season, which is where I first saw her dance with partner Derek Hough. I rooted for her every step of the way, gasping when she’d whirl around on the floor, and as Derek would toss her around like a graceful puppet. She held her own, all the way to runner-up. I voted for her, I gotta say! She never earned a score less than an 8 during the entire run.
Amy has spoken on TEDx talks and her speech has become the example from which others are advised to learn in order to present their speeches; she also has a New York Times bestselling book. “Borders are where the actual ends, but also where the imagination and the story begins,” Amy said in her TEDx talk. “Instead of looking at our challenges and limitations as something negative or bad, we can begin to look at them as blessings, magnificent gifts that can be used to ignite our imaginations and help us go further than we ever knew we could go.” Other accomplishments? She went on a speaking engagement tour with Oprah Winfrey, drove a pace car in the Daytona 500, and runs Adaptive Action Sports, a company which helps athletes compete in action sports. She had to create her own gear in order to continue snowboarding, and has used that knowledge to help others. She’s currently on track to compete in the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang in 2018.
Amy’s TEDx talk asks viewers, “If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?” She said after she left the hospital, she had to let go of the old Amy and embrace the new Amy.
You’ve got to admit, we humans like a good hero story. We like a guy who rises from the ashes. You’ve got some button—some button that engages your fears, your failures, your darkness—and you’ve also got the ability to quell them. The Not Good Enough seeks you to serve you. How will you greet it? How will you create your story? The building action drives those decisions you make. You get every opportunity to be the hero.
“There's no need to be perfect to inspire others,” Amy wrote on an Instagram post. “Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.” Perhaps you’re sitting on the living room floor, staring at your laptop, illuminated in the dark, just like I am. Perhaps your insides have been trembling in fear. We rise. We rise up fearless, borderless, and creative. Perhaps you’ve been training your whole life just for this incredible moment. This new moment where you embrace your new day. “It’s not about breaking down borders. It’s about pushing off of them and seeing what amazing places they might bring us.”
See Amy’s TEDx talk here: http://amypurdy.com/speaker/
During the 1988 Calgary Olympics the world saw the debut of the Jamaican Bobsled Team, and also where Eddie “The Eagle” soared into last place as a famously unsuccessful ski jumper. The media called him, “Mr. Magoo,” and “a heroic failure.” At the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Olympics, Frank King, organizer of the Olympic Committee stated, “You have captured our hearts. You have broken world records and you have established personal bests. And some of you have soared like eagles.”
Michael “Eddie” Edwards spent three years of his childhood wearing plaster casts on his legs after a noble yet unnecessarily dangerous risk blocking a soccer goal, damaging the cartilage in his knee. He wore thick glasses. At the age of thirteen he began downhill skiing, and by the age of seventeen he had advanced on the British national skiing team. He decided to pursue ski jumping due to lack of funding for the costly downhill skiing. He traveled the European ski circuit in his mother’s van, utilizing second-hand equipment. He earned money doing odd jobs, such as babysitting, mowing lawns, and working in hotels. The Italians gave him a helmet, and the Austrians handed over a pair of extra skis. His boots were too large, so he wore six pairs of socks to fill the gap. “When he broke his jaw, instead of paying to be treated at a hospital, he tied it up with a pillowcase and went about his business” (The Guardian). Edwards received news he qualified for the British Olympic Team while staying at a Finnish mental hospital—he’d booked their accommodations for the cheap cost of one pound a night.
Edwards was twenty pounds heavier than the other ski jumpers, and barely scraped by the minimum qualifications for ski jumping. But he was the fastest ski jumper from Britain.
At the 1988 Olympics, fellow Olympians watched as Eddie smashed into a glass door at the airport, crushing his skis and ruining some of his gear. But despite all these difficulties, Eddie persisted. The media ran with his story and ridiculed him. Fans adored him. They rooted for the underdog. He participated in all three jumps, and scores landed him absolutely last place. According to Wikipedia, “In the 70 [meter jump], he scored 69.2 points from two jumps.” Next to last place, “Bernat Sola Pujol of Spain scored 140.4 points. Winner Matti Nykänen of Finland had 229.1 points.” Underwhelming results didn’t stop him from showing up and jumping to the best of his ability. And the whole crowd rooted for him.
See, we love an underdog. We love seeing someone dedicate and overcome. We love to see the guy who doesn’t give up, no matter what.
In 1990, the International Olympic Committee even made an “Eddie The Eagle Rule,” raising the minimum qualifications. As People magazine stated, “stricter qualification rules were imposed, making it nearly impossible for Eddie the Eagles of the world to ever make the Olympics again.”
Edwards sold the movie rights to his life story in 2007, and production halted on the movie until the right people fell into place. In 2016, the movie “Eddie The Eagle,” starring Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman hit theatres, which is where I first saw this fantastic story of heart and grit. We all have our Eddie moments. Ever been wearing six pairs of socks to fill someone else’s boots? Are you out of your league? Are you underprepared and financially incapable? <Raises hand.> Eddie braved it all and didn’t look back.
Even considered a “heroic failure,” he still went to the Olympics, man. And he was mentioned in the closing ceremony address, to thunderous applause.
Maybe you’re dreaming of big things and great stories. Maybe you’re stuck facing overwhelming odds against you, and fears which leave you crippled in your spot.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to soar.
Pre-order your copy of the Young Adult Action Adventure HERE BE DRAGONS for only $4.99 and receive your own Alliance Military Guard Training Guide containing TWO WEEKS worth of exercises, guaranteed to get you in battle-ready shape to train as a Guardsman.
In addition, every purchase earns an entry into a drawing to win a MONTH-LONG online FAT LOSS PROGRAM, worth $150!
With over ten years of experience specializing in metabolic conditioning, and as the official trainer of the Alliance Military Guard, Fit By Faith© owner Krista Johnson has created ten workouts to get you in gear and ready to crush life. Utilizing a variety of whole-body strengthening techniques, your free gift with purchase will be just what you need to start your new year off the right way. Each of the ten workouts can be completed at home or in a gym, and takes approximately thirty minutes or less.
ALSO Krista has generously given me one spot in her online FAT LOSS FORMULA PROGRAM. I've participated in her online program several times and learned something new every single time, along with losing over 10 pounds and 8 inches in one month! Over the course of six months where I've been measuring my progress and working consistently on my eating habits, I've lost over 20 pounds and 17 inches. Krista's program is worth its weight in gold. She gives you the education and information to manage your own nutritional and fitness goals to live a fat loss lifestyle like a boss. For every HERE BE DRAGONS receipt received, you earn ONE ENTRY in a drawing to win this spot in her class! Krista's online course begins December 31st. (See more about Krista's program, workouts, and courses at http://www.fitbyfaith.net/index.html)
***To earn a spot in the drawing, entries must be received by Wednesday, December 20th at 11:59 PM***
Click this link to pre-order HERE BE DRAGONS and submit your receipt to get your FREE GIFT NOW:
What's HERE BE DRAGONS about?
Alliance Military Guard sent the order. Sergeant Tucker Thompson acquiesced. Hopping a plane to his long-lost Australian birthplace, he's been charged with his toughest mission yet. Thompson must rally his company of soldiers to prevent a new generation of weaponry from breaching the world's borders.
Pound the war drums. Rattle the cages. Here be Dragons.
Excerpt from HERE BE DRAGONS:
Creeping through the sultry space, footsteps steady and stealthy, we readied our weapons. Blood and fire pulsed through my veins like they’d done so many times in training. This was the game, after all. These Alliance builders loved their long hallways.
Our rustling stirred up dust underfoot, and cement beams overhead groaned in disuse.
“How many feet‘re we underground ya think?” Hawk asked from the back of the line.
Flashlights and head lamps illuminated the way before us, stark tile work on the ground cracked and chipped. With every few feet we advanced, the walls became more fractured and peeling, as if a wave of tremors had rippled outward from the explosions of the bombing. Like vines along the paint, crevices in the cement grew substantial and entangled. Cautious and wary, we proceeded.
After several minutes of quiet steps echoing along the corridor, someone’s beam of light caught a fleck of darkness upon the wall.
“What’s that?” Norita asked.
Burkman shined his light to the scrawled paint upon the wall. The black paint dripped the warning: Beware.
GET IT HERE: HERE BE DRAGONS
Master a mindset of excellence. You've been put on this blue sphere within this time and space for a specific number of reasons. Create success in the strength of the Lord. He's given you the opportunity to achieve great tasks, so rise to the occasion.
Let's explore our first facet of an excellence mindset: Owning your power.
In the strength of the Lord, you can do all things. God has set you in your beautiful time and space for a reason. You can do remarkably more than you know. You’re created to do good works. So as you find yourself working toward this larger, greater goal (sometimes you don't even know what it is, but you're on your way!), you will have to kick it in gear. You will be distracted, discouraged, and lonesome. But you are here, you are mighty. As a believer in our almighty God, you have the strength to move mountains. Mountains of paperwork, it may feel like at times, but you can and must do it. God’s got endless resources of patience, endurance, moxie, and hope, so lean on him to power you through late nights, empty voids of space where you need to be studying, creating, and doing your good work. He funnels these resources into our souls and fuels us toward success. The hardest part? You must keep stepping onward, in humility and intent.
This journey belongs to you. It’s not your mom’s, it’s not your brother’s, it’s not your kid’s, it’s not your teacher’s, it’s not your peer’s. It’s yours. Claim it. Own it. Rock it.
I'm meeting more and more lovely, brilliant authors because of my connection with Clean Reads publishing. One author who I've had the pleasure to meet online, Jordan Elizabeth, introduced me to her books and I've found that she has a book for almost any reader who likes a good thrill. I wanted to highlight three books I've read recently that I enjoyed so you can grab some books to add to your list! That's what a friendly recommendation is for! While Jordan Elizabeth's books fall a bit outside of my normal pick for a book (I'm more of a historical fiction or action/thriller reader), she gets five stars from me on her storytelling. Her stories roll and pitch, the imagery crackles, and her characters spring to life from the pages. I do hope you will consider trying a Jordan Elizabeth book. You'll find heroines to root for, powerful themes of identity and grit, and poignant conclusions that will leave you wanting more.
Escape From Witchwood Hollow
After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to the small town of Arnn. Honoria receives constant warnings of the dangerous forest outside Arnn, the forest named Witchwood Hollow. In the lure of Witchwood Hollow's perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.
Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.
To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness. How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?
From the first page to the last, I couldn't put down this thrilling story. While we meet a different kind of heroine, we also meet a different kind of 'witch.' One poignantly considers titles and the boxes into which we put people after reading the stories tumbling from the impenetrable borders of Witchwood Hollow.
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.
One Amazon reviewer stated, "I wasn't sure what to expect upon purchasing this book but then again with this author I never do." And folks, that's the truth. Jordan Elizabeth draws a story of friendship, courage, tenacity, and wonder. Our heroine must fight the label she's been given, and find her true identity in the process.
When fifteen-year-old Edna Mather tears an expensive and unfamiliar pocket watch off her little brother’s neck, he crumbles into a pile of cogs right before her eyes. Horrified, Edna flees for help, but encounters Ike, a thief who attempts to steal the watch before he realizes what it is: a device to power Coglings—clockwork changelings left in place of stolen children who have been forced to work in factories.
Desperate to rescue her brother, Edna sets off across the kingdom to the hags’ swamp, with Ike in tow. There, they learn Coglings are also replacing nobility so the hags can stage a rebellion and rule over humanity. Edna and Ike must stop the revolt, but the populace believes hags are helpful godmothers and healers. No one wants to believe a lowly servant and a thief, especially when Ike has secrets that label them both as traitors.
Together, Edna and Ike must make the kingdom trust them or stop the hags themselves, even if Ike is forced to embrace his dark heritage and Edna must surrender her family.
Heart-wrenching and harrowing, Edna's adventure makes you want to flip those pages and hang on to your steampunk silk hat. Jordan Elizabeth's unique manner of storytelling and world-building provide a rich story of one girl's journey to understanding her identity...and those of the others around her.
Happy reading, folks! What are some fabulous new books or authors you've discovered recently? I hope you'll comment and let me know!
“It is awfully hard to be brave, when you're only a Very Small Animal.”
- A. A. Milne (from Winnie-The-Pooh)
In these shifting sands, I often feel like a Very Small Animal, just one pinpoint among the many, many stars. The reality is that dreams shift and shatter, and yellow-brick roads sometimes lead to dead ends. Sometimes life is a quick drop, a sudden stop. And what do we do? We can look up into the blue sky and wonder who is watching. We can glance over our shoulders to see if anybody saw when we fell down and skinned our knees. We can wipe away that glimmer of a tear because there just isn’t time right now. We can yell at the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.
There are different types of fear. We fear letting people down, failing, falling, and basically appearing foolish or incompetent. Basically, we fear the unknown. It’s a survival instinct. Here’s one important lesson to realize: humans, inherently, are not psychic. Humans are limited in that way.
The good news is that the unknown is not a monster. The unknown simply doesn’t exist. The unknown is your projection of a possibility. It’s not fact, it’s not verifiable, and it’s probably not even what may occur.
Projection avoids the present. Appreciating the present eliminates fear. Let’s walk through it step by step.
I have always liked the movie Elizabethtown. It is the story of a man, Drew Baylor, whose great invention at a shoe company craters and he is fired; while he rigs a contraption to commit suicide, his sister calls to inform him that his father had a heart attack and died. Yeah, yeah, it sounds sad, whatever. This is the platform from which he falls, however, and the audience takes the journey with him, through facing failure and its wretched aftermath, new love, and fresh beginnings.
“You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery,” Claire Colburn says in a note to Drew. “Enjoy it, embrace it, discard ... and proceed. Sadness is easier because it's surrender. I say, make time to dance alone with one hand waving free.”
We see Drew dancing under some shade trees after scattering some of his dad’s ashes along the road. He cries.
You can dance and cry at the same time.
It’s about glorying in the moment rather than expecting a projected triumph.
At one point, Claire says to Drew, “We are intrepid. We carry on.”
Regardless of what we hope for, project, or dare, what IS exists. And it’s stunning.
Call it a web, a journey, a path, or a plotline, humans navigate this earth and their time on it. The more difficult the landscape, the more you see of your true self. Amid the bouquet of options, I can see yesterday’s selfish flippancy, the materialistic cravings, the immature belief. I can see yesterday’s shaking flesh, the whimpering muscles. But I can also see how these challenges, these opportunities, they work like a sieve. Through the emptying out, an instigation of firmness builds within; as the complaining sifts out like powdery flour, a more solid hand steadies a tangible faith.
Not so long ago, God breathed out life upon the universe. He pieced together billions of people with billions of opportunities to thrive in a life greater.
The God who made us has us here to learn more about his security. He is secure, he is able. He is intrepid. As a believer in him, he resides within me, therefore I am secure, I am able, I am intrepid. There’s no better place for me than where I am right now. There’s no better place for you, either. You’re in this time and space with me, and we can reflect on the delightful present of our reality.
You breathe air.
You blink with bright eyes.
Your senses ignite, your hope flares, and you are now more awake to the possibilities of freedom — the possibilities of life, beautiful, perfect, as it is, right here, right now. How do you feel without expectations for what should be, and is not? How do you feel knowing that the story you’ve been beating yourself up for does not exist, nor should it? ‘Should’ does not exist. How does it feel to accept that the slow car in front of you is supposed to be slow? How does it feel to accept that you have the opportunity to wipe gum off your shoe in front of your child? How does it feel to receive the incorrect order at the drive-thru, and know that this is the moment for which you’ve been preparing? You get right now to be your best self. You get this one moment to drop your pride, speak with humility, and act in kindness.
You get right now to choose how to act.
Three kinds of business exist: Your business, My business, and God’s business. Your gift is this one reality to mind your business. You don’t have to mind mine or God’s. You can’t mind God’s business. (Seriously, would you want to? No thanks.) That’s why it’s his. He gets to deal with the stars, the natural disasters, and the mass of humanity as a whole.
“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you’” (1 Chronicles 28:20).
See, God IS minding his business, which includes us. He won’t stop. He will never leave or fail us — he’s with us, he’s within us, he’s around us. So we’re secure on that end. Be strong, be courageous, do the work. I manage my business. You manage your business. And we rockin’ it. We magnificent.
Intrepid means ‘fearless and bold.’ Plucky. Dauntless. Resolute. We are intrepid. We carry on. It’s our business. And remember, you got yours, I got mine! We manage the events as they piece together before us. We have nothing to fear. We have nothing to complain about. Don’t assume some other scenario than what you currently have could be better. This one moment is the best option. (Spiders and all!)
Small animals? Maybe our bodies are small creatures compared to the stars. On any ordinary day, are our souls woven into the Spirit of the King of Kings, the Creator, the manager of the stars? Yes. Able to do the work? Yes. Dancing with one hand flying free? Oh, my dear, yes.
More on this coming soon. <3
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.
Risk: Buy kites from the dollar store and take the kids to the park for a lunch and a kite flying session. Take water.
Reality: What’s a character trait where you soar? What’s a talent of yours that you’d like to see improve? Spend thirty minutes doing that thing which makes your soul soar. What is a talent or passion your child(ren) have? Let them spend thirty minutes doing that thing.
2 Timothy 1:12 – “But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground — the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.”
God has entrusted your dreams and talents to you. Only you can fill them and use them fully. Enjoy what is yours and give it away freely.
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.
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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!
What if we didn't measure life in years or days or months or pounds or inches or dollars? Imagine if we measured in deep breaths and hope and smiles and hugs and satisfaction and realized potential?
What if mankind's existence and success was based on something other than making money or having the newest tech? What if it was about knowing the song of the seas, seeing the colors of the sunsets or the trees in the autumn, or tracing the path of the stars, or merging with the heart and mind of the great Creator? Perhaps, and indeed, it is.
Symbols do not accurately display sense and touch and the way your heart lifts to music. Numbers, strokes of a pen, do not convey the beauty in a glint of sunlight tumbling across the pages of a worn novel. Numbers are boundaries. Numbers are limits. Numbers are the accounted for, known evidence. Numbers are not possibility. Possibility cannot be accurately predicted or stored or weighed.
Sometimes those reports come in, filed away, showing numbers and lists and detailed accounts of What Has Been or What Is or What Lacks.
Find a way to laugh in the face of lacking. That’s how you fight dread. That’s how you wrangle unsatisfied expectation. During my third year of college, I spent a lot of time running. I worked out almost every day and I ran every day. I didn’t know what I wanted or where I was going. I ran to flee the doubt, I ran to escape what I called The Hope Monster. Terrible name, I know, because I’ve never said the name out loud before, because how ridiculous and lame does it sound? Who is afraid of hope? Who is afraid of possibility? Oh my friend, it’s a masked fear. It's not the hope we dread, it's the darkness behind it. At that point in time I was realizing I didn’t know what I wanted To Do with my life, who I wanted to be with, and in fact, didn’t know who I wanted to be. (I’m still figuring that out.) As I ran, I fled the unknown. But you cannot outrun the unknown. It’s always there. Fortunately, the unknown does not have to be scary. The unknown does not have to be a dizzying whirl of delightful, uncategorized options.
We rage against chaos, against fear, against lacking. We fight with shields of faith, with a bright smile founded in love, and supported by hope. We pierce the darkness with love, with knowledge of One who loves, and who makes a way for light.
Train hard today to fight the battles you need to win tomorrow. You don’t know when they will come, but they are coming, so hustle. In fact, you don’t know if tomorrow even exists. So: hustle. Now. With whatever tools you possess.
Grit cannot be weighed or measured. Kindness flutters freely, weightless and yet encompassing each soul brought to this realm. Our finite minds cannot contain it but we can control the portion we give to others. And it too cannot be priced, or proportioned, or marginalized.
The numbers don't matter. The numbers don't make a soul free. There's one number to keep track of, and that number is spelled Y-O-U. You do your freakin’ best. You keep trying. You work for good. You believe in the good you can do. You trust the omnipotent Creator, so vast we cannot comprehend his size or merit or reasoning, and walk as his treasure. He gave you life, which is the most valuable thing we have. We cannot originate it. Only the great Creator can. You, living creature, are a rare commodity in this enormous universe. With every breath, every blink, every swallow, every rippling beat of that tenacious, miraculous heart, you are an asset. You are a priceless addition to the cosmos. A delight. The whole cheesecake. With the sprinkles on top.
So the fight is against the doubt. The darkness ebbs in, marauding as numbers and limitation and broken gadgetry. In the same way you cannot contain sunlight, so too hope saturates. It floods the earth, in every bright smile. All it takes is one. One.
And one by one by one into infinity we unleash the torrent.
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