Quote of the Weekend

SoulDefenders and HearthKeepers

The voice of God’s Shepherds, the SoulDefenders rise in song,

Thick, deep, loud, powerful

Mixed in, peeking out, the voices of the women who walk at their side,

Oft’ unpraised, the HearthKeepers.

As the night settles in, as the stars come out, the SoulDefenders gather in smaller groups,

Smoke hangs in the air

Beer, both light and dark, is savored

Talk and laughing with deep-bellied laughs

As only men who have fought spiritual battles can laugh.

Stories are shared of their sheep, the souls they defend,

Sometimes laughing so they don’t cry

They carry the scars of words, sins, stress

In their dark eyes and gray hair,

These Soul Defenders, Shepherds, Pastors.

A warning: Don’t become one of these men lightly

Don’t pick up their weapons seeking glory

You won’t gain what you seek

Seek your SoulDefender, SoulDefenders

Seek your Shepherd, Shepherds, and not yourself.

-Abby Jones

(I wrote this while at the ARBCA-GA in April. You may have noticed that while this bit of prose is called SoulDefenders and HearthKeepers, the HearthKeepers were only mentioned once. This is because they are often unsung in the shadows, but they are okay with that. Their job is a hard one with little praise, but they know it’s not about them. Someday, maybe when my fairytale is done, I think I’ll write a story about SoulDefenders and HearthKeepers.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Hugs

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

For over four years, almost five, Aunt Abby has cuddled, snuggled, teased, tickled, and entertained a lively bundle of cousins. From Jules the oldest to Jude the youngest, she has treasured each and every nose, pair of eyes, wild hair, opinions, stories, little gifts of flowers, rocks, drawings, and especially hugs.

“Come look Aunt Abby!” Jules said grabbing Aunt Abby’s hand. Ellie ran up and grabbed her other hand and the two girls dragged her into the living room.

“What? What?” Aunt Abby said.

“Why are they pulling her?” Bruce said bounding up from his cars to follow the girls. Joshua, not to be out done or left behind, scrambled after him.

“Where are you going, Julie-bear?” Constance said hurrying after them.

“LOOK!” Jules said.

The five older cousins crowded around Aunt Abby’s knees and looked where Jules pointed.

Imogene, her red hair blazing, crawled. She crawled across the floor. And she didn’t just crawl, she crawled quickly.

“She’s crawling,” Jules said.

“Immy’s crawling,” Ellie echoed her.

Constance got down right in front of Imogene and smiled at her. Unsure what the big deal was, Joshua and Bruce decided now was a good time to show Jude their cars, trucks, planes, and trains. Jude grinned and grinned at his brother and cousin quiet impressed with their show and tell.

Imogene crawled past Constance and made her way to Aunt Abby. She grabbed her jeans and pulled up onto her tip-toes.

“She’s standing!” Jules yelled.

Imogene looked at her three girl cousins and smiled her big full smile. Her blue eyes shone.

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“I think she’s pretty happy to be with y’all,” Aunt Abby said.

“What about Jude?” Bruce said.

“Well, Mr. Bruce,” Aunt Abby said scooping Imogene up and spinning her in a circle while the girls cheered. “I think Jude’s gonna be walking real soon, and I think he might be taller than all of you.”

“Even me?” Jules said.

“Yep.”

“Not me,” Joshua said.

“I don’t know Joshua, Bruce is taller than you.”

“He’s older,” Constance said.

“I’m the oldest,” said Jules.

“Yes, but just cause you’re the oldest doesn’t mean you’re the tallest. Look at Great-Gran,” Aunt Abby said.

All the cousins turned to Great-Gran.

“I think we should give her a hug,” Aunt Abby whispered.

“I like hugs,” Bruce and Jules said at the same time.

The cousins all laughed and ran to the doors to ask if they wanted to build a snowman.

“There’s no snow,” Aunt Abby said, “but Great-Gran’s still waiting for her hug.”

Everyone ran back into the living room to give Great-Gran a hug. Aunt Abby gathered up the extra-long Jude and the now crawling Imogene so they could get some sugar too. After hugging Great-Gran the children charged down the hall to Grandpa’s study and gave him lots of hugs. Aunt Abby made sure Jude and Imogene were included. After getting Grandpa hugs and some raisins, of course, the cousins whooped and ran back up the hall to Grammie working in the kitchen. They gathered around her with their little and not so little legs, and their little and not so little arms and wrapped her up in lots and lots of love, but never too much love.

“I love Abby,” Ellie said tugging her into the family hug.

“Let’s all be loved,” Grammie said.

“Let’s all be loved,” everyone said together.

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Writing Journal: Introducing Sisterhood

492599If you follow me around in real life, on FaceBook, and or read my Blog, you will quickly realize that one of my favorite concepts in stories—right after the idea of the Undeserved Rescue—is Brotherhood. I love action flicks with a core group that would kill for each other. I love stories about enemies becoming inseparable friends. I love stories about cops and their partners. I love war stories because of the brotherhood concept. Band of Brothers is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, but I feel like you see this same idea play out, to lesser degrees, in StarTrek: NG, Firefly, Sherlock, and Chuck. It’s all about the person next to you. It’s all about the guy willing to spill blood to defend you, even his own. It’s what I love about Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. It is what I love about Lord of the Rings.

With all that said, it’s not surprising that my Fairytale has at least two brotherhoods forming in Book 1. I’m diligently working on a brotherhood within the antagonist’s army and a brotherhood centered around my protagonists. Since brotherhoods tend to form in the middle of intense situations like combat, and since I’m a bit conservative and think combat should be left to men, and since it typically has been left to men so men are the ones forming these brotherhoods, my protagonist is a male. In fact, most of the books I’ve written have a male protagonist.

Why?

Most of the books I enjoy reading have male protagonist. It’s not that there aren’t books with lead females out there. It’s not that women don’t have adventures. It’s just that I never find books and stories with lead females as interesting or as fun as I do the ones with lead males. This started back when I had a choice between the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Can you guess which one I picked? (If you guess Nancy Drew you need to start this article over and try again. 🙂 )

Why is this?

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I’ll be honest, and a bit hard on my own sex, I find stories with lead females a bit annoying. Either the woman is doing something completely ridiculous in some vain attempt to prove that she’s just as big and bad as the guys are, or she’s standing in a corner screaming with a phaser not three inches from her hand while her man gets beat to death, or she’s eye candy. There are very few stories where the woman is a woman. And the ones where she is being a woman can be a bit harder to make interesting because they can end up catty, manipulative, and self focused. I just don’t think they’re as fun as male driven stories. (And yes, if you’re wondering, I was a Tomboy growing up.) What it really came down to was boys had adventures and girls had boyfriends. I would rather have an adventure.

Me and my Bestie!

Me and my Bestie!

Then, a dear friend laid down a challenge. She pointed out the many wonderful relationships I have with other women. I’ve been blessed with a wise mother and extra mother, grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-Christ, wise older women, and a very dear best friend, and many nieces. I have more dear women than I can possibly name in my life right now. I have women who are going before me into old age and widowhood, I have young women coming up behind me into marriage, life, and adulthood. I wouldn’t trade these women for the world. I love each and every one of them. My dear friend, who is a woman, asked me why I don’t have more of those types of female relationships in my books? They are some of the best friendships I’ve had, why don’t I mirror the brotherhood concept with a sisterhood concept? If I hated women being written just to have boyfriends, why was I doing the same thing. (Don’t read this the wrong way, I think loving a man and being loved by him, being married, is one of the most wonderful and rewarding relationships you can have.)

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I was floored. I couldn’t believe how long I’d missed the opportunity to share something that has always been a part of my life. Facepalm.

Again, I find myself beholden to a woman while I write about a man. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be: Women supporting women who are helping men? So now I’m weaving women together. I have a mother and now I have a GateKeeper and a few elements who are women, plus some other girls. I’m shooting for a story that has brotherhoods, sisterhoods, and also some marriages.

I hope to show the positive sides of women and sisterhoods without reducing them down to catty relationships. One of the things I hated most about the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan was his sisterhoods. Every woman in the book constantly manipulated the men around them for their own ends. It grew very frustrating. It was like watching all that is the worst part of you instead of being encouraged to be better. I want to have a story more like Lord of the Rings that makes you want to be a better person when you finish reading it.

With this challenge accepted, I will be working on my female characters. I will be exploring what makes women and men different and how those things compliment each other. I have some good books to read, good movies to watch, and of course some interesting personal experiences to draw from. Plus, I have a whole host of Godly women ready to help me! I’m gearing up and ready to go!

 

Guest Posts

I have had the great honor of being featured on several different blogs of late. Please check out my article and the blogger who hosted my guest post!1098420_501757326565034_1650809252_n

Long standing FB, Twitter, and Blogger Friend, Darke Conteur set up an author interview with me. She asked great questions and I learned a lot about the interviewing process which I hope to apply down the road. This interview served as a good transition interview from where I used to be and where I am now. Thanks again for including me in this Darke.

Interview

 

20392_285577954896351_1129104847_nA new writer friend, soon to be published, asked me to tackle a darker subject on her blog. I was more than happy to help her. I found that while I don’t write about such dark subject matters any more, I can still hold to the lessons I learned at the time. Heather has become a value member of my writing group and one of my alpha readers. It’s nice having someone just a few steps ahead in the publishing process. Or, I should say several, cause she’s finished and submitted her book, something I have yet to tackle. Check out the Tethered Together blog by Heather FitzGerald.

Blog Post: Read No Evil, Write no Evil

10339770_10202856272620250_1135803542079547182_nOnce a month, I write an editorial for the Josh Magill and The Magill Review. Most of my articles center around writing and reading. They are posted the last Tuesday of every month. I met Josh through a unique short story writing opportunity. He gathered about 10 to 12 writers and limited us to 100 words each that had to be added to the previous 100 words. It was a fun challenge. After that Josh offered to share a blog post I wrote about pantsers and outliners. With a good bit of positive feedback on that article, Josh invited me to write once a month for him. I’m blessed and honored to be a part of his crew.

Latest Article: To Finish or not to Finish Reading

10246307_10152336478428190_944043745655855663_nAnd, lest we forget, earlier this year, I wrote a blog post for my dear friend Deanna Brown. This article was featured on Tim Challies’ blog and Deanna and I both enjoyed our time in the virtual limelight. 🙂 Deanna’s blog is filled with heart-felt thoughts that both encourage and challenge me. On her blog she walks you and herself through her husband’s stroke and life afterwards. Deanna has made her way through just about everything I’ve ever wrote, even the darkest parts, and has still loved me on the other side. I am so thankful to count her as a dear friend, sister in Christ, and go to person for all my writing angst.

Humility

Many thanks to all of you for helping me grow as a writer and blogger!

Quote of the Weekend

I have seen the face of terror, felt the chill of fear, warmed to the touch of love. I have hoped, pained, cried. But, foremost, lived in times others would say best forgotten. At the very least, in later days, I will be able to say with greatest pride, that I was indeed a Soldier”
—Author Unknown

(Thanks to my Dad-in-law for sharing this one with me!)

Special Agents: The Mysterious Case of the Monsters Under the Bed (Part 3)

 

SpecialAgents

 

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

“Well then, well then,” Jane coughed waving her hand in the air in a vain attempt to dissipate the eye-poking fog.

Rachel rushed over to a box on the wall, lifted the panel, and hammered her fist into a big, red button. An alarm sounded. Overhead, a exhaust fan ground to life and sucked the dangerous mist out of the hallway.

“ALL CLEAR,” a simulated, monotone voice said.

The alarm shut off.

Jane removed her goggles and leaned against the tunnel wall. “That wasn’t right,” she whispered to herself tapping her chin and staring off into nothing.

The three special agents slipped their goggles up onto their foreheads. If they had a dollar for every time one of Jane’s experiments went wrong, they’d be rich. Three pairs of eyes rolled. Rachel giggled.

“Lauren, you’re hair!”

“What?” she patted her head.

“That’s not right,” Jane said straightening up from the wall.

“It’s yellow! And even curlier!”

“Yellow? Wait, you’re hair’s turning blue!”

“Blue!”

“And it’s straighter.”

The girls both turned to Jane.

“Well, I guess this isn’t a dangerous, eye-poking smoke,” Jane smiled.

“It most certainly isn’t,” Lauren said.

“More like a strange hair dye,” Rachel said.

“This better come out before we go home,” Lauren said.

Sam shook his head. “Jane, we’re supposed to see you about some new toys.”

“Oh right, the monsters under the bed!” Jane said. “Let’s go.”

Jane led them into her department. Blinking lights, small moving objects that walked around on their own, test tubes, wires, glass beakers filled with oddly colored liquids, things hissing smoke, and odd things just hissing covered the developmental stations. The testing areas waited on the other side of the large room. Several children in white lab coats and goggles aimed Lego guns, swung sticks the length of their forearms, played with oddly colored string, shot marbles down long tunnels creating controlled explosions, and wrote all of it down on tablets stuck in their pockets. Each of them had oddly colored hair. They ignored the smoke and kept working.

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“Paisley. Roger,” Jane called her two top assistants. “Can you show Agents Rachel and Lauren the new Monster Guns? I need to figure out why everyone’s hair changed color.”

“Andhowtogetitback,” Lauren said in a rush.

“What?” Jane said.

“How to get it back,” Rachel said more slowly.

“Yes. That too.”

Jane hurried off and Rachel, Lauren, and Sam followed Paisley and Roger, with bright green and red hair, over to a test room with a shooting range. Paisley and Roger where older kids, no longer young enough to go on missions, but they came back every summer to help with the cases and both planned on majoring in Chemistry and Engineering in college so they could continue working with Jane and design better toys. Roger held the door to the shooting range open. Rachel and Lauren hurried over to a table with two large water guns.

“Okay, you two, test out these babies,” Roger said. He plucked a gun up off the table and handed it to Lauren. Paisley handed the other to Rachel. Sam pulled his goggles on, stayed by the door, and took notes on his tablet. Paisley and Roger joined him.

“As you can see,” Paisley said. “We’ve modified the Super Soakers. You no longer have to pump them to build up enough force to fire. Just press that red button on the side and the gun’s ready to go. If you don’t press it, the gun will never fire.”

“Kinda like the Nurf guns?” Lauren asked hefting the bright orange and green gun up near her waist.

“Exactly,” said Roger.

“Okay,” Rachel said.

Both girls assumed the proper stance: feet apart, weight back, dominate foot just a little forward. They let the guns hang at their waist, their arms supporting the weight. A door chimed open and three cardboard monsters flipped up at the end of the shooting range. The special agents thumbed the red button simultaneously and fired.

Bright yellow and blue goo spewed from the front of the guns. It flew at the cardboard monsters encasing them and stiffening in an instant. The monsters were immobilized.

“Sweet!” said Lauren.

“This is much better than the Nurf guns,” Rachel said.

Paisley and Roger both gave them a little bow.

“Let’s take them down to the obstacle course and really test them out,” Sam said. “I need to see them in action if I’m going to approve them for the mission.”

“You worry too much,” Lauren said. “Look at this! We don’t have to worry about hitting them dead center with a capsule. This is way better.”

“Exactly,” Rachel said. “We both hit them the first time.”

“Yes, but we all know shooting in a room like this is totally different from shooting in a bedroom. I want to see them there. I need to know what kind of clean up we’re going to need. I need to know if the Pause is going to work. You both remember George, don’t you?”

Roger and Paisley shifted uncomfortably. Rachel and Lauren nodded, sober.

“Okay then.”

“If you want to see them in action before we go on the mission,” Rachel said, “we better hurry. We’re running out of night-time.”

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Comment Issue

Hey Fellow Bloggers!  I just found out, with the help of a friend and fellow blogger, that all my comments are going directly to your spam folder. If it seems odd that I haven’t commented on your post, please go check the spam folder. If you find several comments from me, you now know I was trying. I’m working with WordPress on this issue!

Cheers!

Guest Post: Read No Evil, Write No Evil?

A dear, and soon to be published friend, asked me to do a guest blog post for her. She allowed me to talk about my most favorite subject: saving monsters! Thanks Heather! If you haven’t checked out the Tethered World, do so, post haste! I hope to be able to write a blurb about her book soon and direct you to go buy it! 🙂

Tethered Together

This week I’m stoked to have a guest post from a good friend and talented writer, Abby Jones, from the blog gentleandquiet.com.

I met Abby through another writing friend from the blog strokemanswoman. Before I met her face-to-face, I read the prologue to her (as yet) unpublished book. A book about Vampires. Can’t say I’ve ever had an interest in such stories but I knew that—though the story would be dark—there would be redeeming qualities because my new friend loved Christ.

To be honest, what I read disturbed me. A prologue isn’t the place for the redemptive elements to glister. The purpose is to set up for the conflict that is to come in the main body of work. Between a vampire with a stash of blood in the fridge, and a serial killer on the loose, I was swallowed into a very dark world from the get go…

View original post 1,593 more words

Movie Thoughts: Godzilla

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I’m not the kind of person, y’all know this, that thinks stories have to be ‘pure’ to be good. Some of my favorite movies are dark, heavy, and rough. I think much can be gained by seeing the effects of sin on humanity and people. I don’t think this needs to be done in an extreme to be effective, but that’s another article all together. All I’m trying to say is sin is in this world. Not every story needs to pretend it isn’t. Okay, now, what I enjoyed about Godzilla was its wholesomeness: no heroes with massive flaws, no villains with heroic character traits, just good good-guys vs. big monsters.

Godzilla was wholesome.

Now… SPOILERS!

This movie begins with a nuclear plant meltdown and a government cover-up. It reminded me of Star Trek, the newer movie from 2009, when Kirk’s father dies as he’s being born. Be prepared for tears. (In fact, I got teary-eyed several times in this film.) After the meltdown, move 15 years in the future. The little boy left behind, Ford, has grown up and is an EOD soldier in the US Navy. His father is still trying to uncover the truth behind the plant’s meltdown that cost him his wife. Things begin moving when Ford is forced to leave his own wife and child behind in the US to get his father out of jail in Japan.

After that comes big monsters, massive destruction of US cities, scientist and military arguments, more massive destruction, nuclear bombs, and big monsters.

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Points to enjoy:

  • Many of the traditional Godzilla storytelling techniques were honored and put to good use. This is not Pacific Rim. Do not expect the whole thing to be about monsters. It’s much more about Ford’s conflicts, past, and the choices he faces due to Godzilla’s attack.
  • The military didn’t look like complete idiots. While the scientists were ultimately correct, the military didn’t look like a bunch of high school dropouts or mindless killing robots bent on destroying everything. They based their decisions on the need to protect US citizens, not on mass destruction of massive monsters. The military played a key role in the ultimate winning of the battle.
  • Godzilla is not the bad guy. I always favored the Godzilla movies where he comes in to protect Japan from a bigger monster. This movie went with that idea. Godzilla wakes up and rises from the ocean depths to take out the ‘Mothra’ monster. There is a great moment at the end of the movie where they mirror Ford’s actions and Godzilla’s showing them both to be the warrior saviors of the city.
  • Ford faces the choice to do the job he was trained to do, or return to his family. He chooses to do his job. I felt like this was a very accurate choice for a military man. He has been trained to fight. By doing this, he ultimately protects his family far better than he could have standing beside them. His wife never berates him for this. She’s afraid, but she knows he’s coming, so she waits for him.
  • Ford is a good man. This movie focuses on the father/son story between Ford and his dad. It shows you Ford’s love for his son, but it also shows you Ford willingly standing up for people he doesn’t even know. Ford is a true hero. It wasn’t necessary to make him flawed so we could relate to him. We relate to him just fine as someone with a tragic past. This tragic past doesn’t make him weak, or whiny. It’s part of who he is, but doesn’t inhibit him. (Kinda like Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.)

I enjoyed this movie because it makes you glad for everyday heroes. It creates an extreme situation, and then gives you someone you can cheer for as the world falls apart. (My favorite type of fantasy story.) I can’t wait to share this movie with my nieces and nephews. It’s the kind of story you want boys and girls inspired by.

Godzilla is more than just a monster movie. It’s a story about courage, doing what needs to be done, family, and then monsters.

Rated: PG-13 (I don’t remember any real language, defiantly no inappropriate scenes, so this is probably due to massive monster violence.)

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