A to Z Blogging Challenge: Y is for Yes, You Can!

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“Y” is for Yes, You Can!

As we near the end of the blogging challenge, I want to offer a bit of encouragement.

I have never been much of a blogger because I don’t feel like I have that many ideas and I feel so busy with other things. But over the course of this challenge I have come to see that I can do it. I can find a few minutes every day to write something. I can also think about things and come up with worthy ideas while driving, washing dishes, or doing other routine things.

I never thought I could do it. But I did! (Almost. I still have the letter Z to contend with.) And you can do it too!

What are your dreams and goals? God made you unique, giving you specific interests, dreams, and talents.

Maybe He is calling you to step outside of your comfort zone or to go out on a limb. (Don’t you love my cliches?) Take a chance and give it a try! In order to reach for your dreams, you have to start somewhere and sometime.

Why not start here and now!

Make a list of your interests, dreams, and goals. Put them in order, with the one that speaks to you the loudest at the top. What would be the first step to reaching this goal?

Often the first step is prayer. Then maybe talking to your spouse or a close friend. Research will probably come next. Head for the library, bookstore, or get online. If you are like me, you might also want to get a list started. Lists are great for keeping our goals before us, especially if you look at your list every morning.

So take a chance and pursue your dreams! Yes, you can do it! And the time is now!

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A to Z blogging Challenge: P is for Perseverance

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P is for Perseverance

Perseverance – doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. (Oxford Dictionary)

Writers need it. Characters need it. We all need it. Nothing gets done without it.

Our stories would fall apart if the challenges we threw at our characters made them give up on their goal. And we would never complete our stories without perseverance.

“He conquers who endures.” ~Persius

Now, our protagonist might turn away from the “call to adventure” at first, but something must happen that forces him or her on the journey. And we as writers might face difficulties for a variety of reasons, and we might feel like giving up every now and then too. But we can’t or our story won’t be told!

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” ~St. Catherine of Siena

If you are a writer, you’ve probably experienced writer’s block. How do you get through it?


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A few tips for conquering writer’s block:

  • Stuck on a scene? Try switching gears. Work on research instead.
  • Do you have one part of the scene in mind but can’t see how it unfolds? Focus on the part that comes easily. For example, skip all other details and crank out dialog only.
  • Play games with words, keeping it somewhat related to your story. For example, make a list of the sensory details that characters might experience in a scene (use all five senses). Or create a list of similes and metaphors that might works somewhere in the story to describe a character’s mood or a situation.
  • Free-write without worrying about grammar, tense, person, or anything else. Simply get the words down!
  • If lack of character development might be holding you back, write a character interview or a scene from the character’s past (even if you’ll never use it).
  • Take a walk or stretch out on the couch, and let the scene play out in your mind. Make sure you have a notebook handy.
  • If none of these things help, take a break. Pray and evaluate whatever is on your mind. Maybe you have other responsibilities that require your attention at this time. Don’t feel guilty about it. God gave you the gift of writing, and He can give you the gift of perseverance too.

“We must pray incessantly for the gift of perseverance.” ~St. Philip Neri


Writers need it. Characters need it. We all need it. Nothing gets done without it.

This applies to every aspect of life, and especially the ones that matter most.

In the words of novelist, poet, essayist, and writer, Robert Louis Stephenson, “Saints are sinners who kept on going.”

And a final quote from a favorite saint, who was also a writer:
“Though the path is plain and smooth for men of good will, he who walks it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty, if he does not have good feet: that is, courage and a persevering spirit.” ~St. John of the Cross
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Keep on writing! And thanks for stopping by my blog.
If you are a writer, what is your secret for conquering writer’s block?

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Letter F ~ Founding Fathers

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F is for Founding Fathers

When God made me, He decided when I’d come into the world and where. He chose the year 1966 and He chose America. According to some statistics, a billion children live in poverty today, 400 million do not have safe access to water, and 1.4 million die from poor sanitation. And of the 194 countries in the world, forty-nine are under dictatorships. 36% of the world population does not have freedom. And another 24% has only partial freedom.

But I was born here. And I am proud to be an American. While our country isn’t perfect, I believe it was founded on solid principles that were designed to protect our freedoms and God-given rights, and give us every opportunity for success.

Our Founding Fathers had strong faith. I wish more in government office had similar faith, courage, and humility. The proud and arrogant push their own agenda, which inevitably leads to destruction. But the humble, those who readily admit they cannot do it alone and who turn to the Lord and Giver of all victory, bring blessings to the land.

Here’s a quote from George Washington:

“Thursday the seventh Instant, being set apart by the Honourable the Legislature of this province, as a day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation, to implore the Lord, and Giver of all victory, to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness’s, and that it would please him to bless the Continental Arms, with his divine favour and protection’ – All Officers, and Soldiers, are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverence, and attention on that day, to the sacred duties due to the Lord of hosts, for his mercies already received, and for those blessings, which our Holiness and Uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through his mercy to obtain.”

                             ~General Orders, March 6, 1776

The Founding Fathers believed in freedom. One of my favorite quotes is by Patrick Henry, from his Speech to the Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia, March 25, 1775

“Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

I have a shirt with this quote on it. It makes me think how tragic it is when we try to compromise with evil to get things we want, including so-called peace and even life. Did you know that according to the Vatican some 100,000 Christians are murdered for their faith every year? This far surpasses the numbers during the Roman Empire persecutions.

Having never been tested, I do not know if I have the courage of the martyrs or of our service men and women to lay down my life for the faith, for our country, to save another, or for what is right. But I hope I do. I hope to always have the strength to be on the side of truth and goodness and to allow no compromise.

So what does it take to secure freedom? Here is a quote by Samuel Adams:

“If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security.”             

                      ~Letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779

Not just knowledge, but virtue and knowledge. I pray for an increase of faith and for “holiness and uprightness of life” in our country that we may receive those blessings that the “Lord and Giver of all victory” has prepared for us.

Remember, everyone who is reading this blog, you were made for this time and this place. God has a purpose for you.

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For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…

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…but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12)

 

Yipes! Spiritual warfare goes on all around us. Can you imagine what that looks like? Angels and demons are pure spirits with no bodies so we can’t see this. Would it help you in your spiritual journey to see these battles going on? Or would it terrify you? Would it do both?

Come on a journey with Roland, Keefe and Jarret West and the other teens from award-winning Roland West, Loner and from Life-Changing Love in this brand new YA release. This story has a twist: part of the story is told by Jarret’s guardian angel. So you’ll get to see firsthand the spiritual challenges, battles, failures, and victories in all of their glorious and terrifying grandeur! Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. But I loved researching for and writing this story, and I think you will love it too.

 

PRAISE FOR BATTLE FOR HIS SOUL

“This book will get you thinking about the spiritual battle waging all around us, and your guardian angel that fights for you. I have recognized my guardian angel more in my life since reading Battle for His Soul.”   ~Lisa Mayer, author of The Arrow Bringer

“Teens, maybe more than the rest of us, focus on the here and now. That’s why Battle for His Soul is a must read. It’ll widen your ideas about temptation, prayer, mercy, and God’s call in your life.”    ~Carolyn Astfalk, Christian romance writer and author of Ornamental Graces and Stay With Me

“After encountering this novel, you will never again think of angels as being far away! Another page-turner by an author at the top of her craft.”    ~Susan Peek, author of St. Magnus, The Last Viking and many other saint stories for teens and children

battle-for-his-soul-frontSynopsis:

Jarret West, a rich teenage boy, has been accustomed to having control over others and getting his way. When his life begins to fall apart, his guardian angel Ellechial hopes now is the time for his conversion. Jarret must be freed from the deep clutches of Deth-kye, the demon bent on seeing him in hell. The fate of several others depends upon Jarret’s conversion.

While Jarret gets ensnared in Deth-kye’s traps, Ellechial can provide little help since Jarret doesn’t pray, doesn’t believe, and hasn’t listened to him in years. Ellechial hopes Jarret’s twin brother, who has recently found God, will be able to influence him. But Jarret goes on vacation with his father and younger brother where temptations only increase. Meanwhile, Jarret’s twin and other teens form a prayer group and begin to pray before the Blessed Sacrament unaware of the power they provide the angels. Though Ellechial gains strength, Deth-kye wins victory after victory. His weapons: emotion, vice, and memories. Who will win the battle for Jarret’s soul?

Battle for His Soul is available as a paperback and eBook through Ingram Books, Amazon, and by request at your favorite bookstore, and in various eBook formats through Smashwords.

Viva Cristo Rey!

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For Greater Glory.jpgMy youngest child, a thirteen-year-old, is preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this spring. For his Confirmation saint he’s chosen the recently canonized Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio. If you haven’t heard about this saint, you can read about him here or you can watch the movie For Greater Glory.

Saint Jose’s story in a nutshell: The President of Mexico was violently persecuting the Catholic Church (1926-1929). Priests were martyred, churches burned, and the people were forbidden to practice their faith. The Cristeros rose up to oppose this unjust religious persecution. Jose, a Catholic with deep devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady of Guadalupe, saw firsthand the effects of this persecution. Too young to join in the fight, he pleaded with one of the generals, who finally gave in and allowed him to deliver messages and supplies. Then one day, Jose was captured and imprisoned. The soldiers tortured him. And his only reply was, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Long live Christ the King!

Saint Jose was martyred at the age of fourteen because he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. This past October 16, he was declared a saint.

An example of faith and courage in the face of religious persecution, Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio is truly a saint for our times.

As I help my youngest to prepare for Confirmation, I think about my own journey of faith and the spiritual climate of our country then and now. I’m a cradle Catholic, raised in a two-parent family and who received religious education until Confirmation. I began to get excited about my faith in my teen years, largely due to one particular teacher who made the faith come alive. But I didn’t really take ownership of my faith until years later, after many falls and challenges and maybe because of those falls and challenges.

Today’s Christian faces more challenges than I did growing up. Violence, drugs, and immorality are on the rise. Our brothers and sisters in the faith are being tortured and martyred throughout the world. In our own country, we find a growing intolerance for Christians and Christian principles. And Christians are expected to embrace public policies that are contrary to their faith.

confirmation-imageWhile I pray for an end to religious persecution and intolerance, I also pray that my children will have the faith and courage needed in these troubled times. I pray especially for my youngest and all of his classmates as they prepare for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Come Holy Spirit.

Pray for us, Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio.

Viva Cristo Rey!

 

My Baby Won!

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Do you have a hobby? Do you have something that you really enjoy doing, something at which you work to improve your skill? Something that you feel almost compelled to do?

I like to write.

Doubting my skill, I told very few people that I wrote… until the day a publisher accepted my first book, Chasing Liberty. Only then did I consider myself a writer. Only then was I willing to share my secret.

Why did I keep it a secret? I don’t know. Maybe I was afraid of seeming silly, afraid I’d never be good enough. Or afraid someone would tell me I’m too old to write and that I was wasting my time. Maybe a part of me felt guilty about all the time that goes into writing and rewriting and rewriting a single story. If time were money, I put way more into a singe story than I’ll ever get back.

It is hard work. Just like any hobby or job, if you want to be good at it, you have to continue to learn and work on improving. But I love writing. I find it fulfilling. The stories and characters are a part of me.

I recently found out that the first complete novel I ever wrote (not the first book I published) just won an award from the Catholic Press Association! Click on the link and scroll down to “Books for Teens and Young Adults.”

My baby won!

Like most writers, I’ve been writing for personal enjoyment since grade school. My sister and I used to take turns writing chapters in a crazy story with no real plot. We used characters from our favorite TV shows and movies, and a few that we developed on our own. They were a wild bunch, always getting into trouble. She and I would always leave the characters in a cliffhanger at the end of the chapter. And the other one would have to write them out of danger and into a new ridiculous situation. It was so fun!

My first full-length novel.3D-Book-Roland

I didn’t set out to write a complete story until I was a young adult. Roland West, Loner was the first story I felt compelled to write. I began writing it before I knew much about the art of writing. Over the years, I read dozens of books on the subject, and I received advice and help from other writers. As a result, the story changed and grew. The characters developed. Mysteries and threads came together. Many things changed, including the point of view and the title, but the important things did not change. The message remained the same.

A few years ago, I joined the Catholic Writers Guild fiction critique group. Writers Don Mulcare, Carolyn Astfalk, and Susan Peek critiqued and beta read the story, adding their expert advice and helping this story to become what it is today. I am so incredibly happy with it. Little miracles happened along the way, too, but I can’t share them without spoiling some of the surprises you will find if you decide to read this story.

Behind the scenes:

Roland West, Loner was originally called Peter’s Inheritance. And Peter’s story line, with his autistic brother, was the main focus. Roland’s story line was secondary. A publisher who read the story encouraged me to reexamine this. While Peter is greatly impacted by an inheritance he receives, Roland is impacted even more. This was Roland’s story. After much contemplation, I agreed and I rewrote it!

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The West family crest described in chapter 7 of Roland West, Loner is real. At a certain point in writing the story, I decided it would be appropriate for the West family to have a crest. So I searched the internet for “West family crest.” I couldn’t believe what I found: two tiger heads over a single tiger head and a knight’s helmet above them all. This totally fit the West boys. The two tiger heads on top represent the twins, while the loner on the bottom represents Roland. And the knight helmet, well, once you see what type of house the Wests’ live in, it all makes sense!

blackhillsSetting.

Why South Dakota? I’ve never lived in or even visited the state. But I needed this story to take place somewhere that had interesting rock formations and waterfalls. All my research pointed to South Dakota, so I set out to learn as much as I could about it. The setting plays a very important part in this story. So I hope it comes to life for my readers.

The Communion of Saints.

Conrad of Parzham Capuchin Brother

A saint comes into this story at some point. And while I never knew of him before writing this book, this saint has truly come into my life. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I chose him for the following reasons:

  • I wanted a little-known saint.
  • I am a secular Franciscan so I wanted him to be a Franciscan saint.
  • My sister was in love with the German language, so I wanted him to be from Germany.

After choosing him, I learned everything I could about him. Several things made him the perfect choice: the details of his life, the similarities to characters in my story, and the miracles that resulted from his intercession. During the final revisions of this story, I discovered that Susan Peek also knew this saint. She hadn’t realized it at first. At some point during our work together, she emailed me: “Hey, I think I know this saint. My daughter visited his shrine and brought back his candle.” This blew me away! Of all the saints from all the countries in the world, she had a candle from the shrine of this particular little-known saint. So we decided to begin a novena to this saint as we completed our work. It was an amazing experience.

I hope I haven’t given away too much. And I hope that I have peaked your interest in this story. Through the intercession of—can’t say—I pray that this story touches many lives and gives a greater appreciation of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints.

Whatever your hobbies or interests, I hope that you will pursue them and find great fulfillment, too!

Congratulations to the other CPA Book Award winners and especially those in the “Books for Teens & Young Adults” category:

1st place: The Perfect Blindside by Leslea Wahl

3rd place: Liberation by Corinna Turner

Picking up where you left off.

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Friendships are important. Friends keep us from feeling alone in the big, wide world. So I’ve decided to dedicate several posts to the theme of friendship. Because I’m a writer who loves to read, my thoughts about friendship are also wrapped up in books!

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I’m talking about those special friendships you’ve made over the years, that person or people that you once saw daily or relied on heavily, that you grew with or that shared all the ups and downs of life with you. Maybe now, because of distance and/or the busy-ness of life, you no longer have the opportunity to see each other as often. These are the people, the person, that when you get together, you seem to pick up right where you left off, as if you’ve never been apart.

webbThese friendships remind me of books, old favorites like Charlotte’s Web, To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Lord of the Rings. You’ve read the whole book from beginning to end, several times over, but you can still pick it up and find something new. Or you read it for a while and remember why you love it so much. It’s comfortable. It’s special. It has meaning. It’s a part of you.

A person doesn’t “get” every person nor does one “connect” with every person.

I’ve read books that are very deep, or laden with clues and details that seem relevant, or that have so many characters it’s hard to keep them straight. I sometimes find myself rereading sections or flipping back to earlier chapters. And when I pick the book up a day or two later, guaranteed, I need to reread a bit to get back into it.

Then you stumble upon those books that are easy to follow, that have unique or relatable characters, and that pull you right into the story no matter how many days have passed since you last read from it.

blindsideI’m reading a book like that now: The Perfect Blindside, a Christian teen fiction by Leslea Wahl. While I can’t relate to Jake, “an Olympic snowboarder whose fame has gone to his head,” I can relate to Sophie, the only girl in town who doesn’t throw herself at his feet. The voices of both point-of-view characters are so well done that I got into the characters and their story lines at once. Each chapter ends leaving me dying to know what happens next. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to read these past few days. However, whenever I pick up the book, it’s like I never left the story.

And isn’t it like that with some friendships you have? In my young adult years, when I still had a weak grasp on who I was and what I wanted out of life, I met my soon-to-be best friend. We worked at the same food packaging plant, doing monotonous jobs in a less-than-pleasant environment. A few years older than me, a Southern Baptist to my Catholic, married and with two children to my single and carefree, we didn’t seem to have a lot in common.

I can still remember one day when we stood across from each other at the assembly line conveyor belt. Bored out of my mind, I tried to put some variety into my routine, and I ended up shutting the line down. Rather than grumble like everyone else on the line, my soon-to-be friend laughed with me and tried to help me recover from my “mistake.” At that moment I recognized a kindred spirit, and a friendship was born.

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Over the years, we’ve seen each other at our best and at our worst. She’s challenged my beliefs and eventually challenged me to look at how I lived my faith. We’ve argued and fought and we’ve grown. We’ve shared many awesome experiences, and we’ve been there for each other in the hard times. She now lives in Arizona so we don’t see each other often. But whenever we connect, it’s like picking up a favorite book. I know her. I love her. And I know she knows and loves me. A bond has formed between us that will last forever. Better than a favorite book!

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