Surprise! There is no writing quote today. In fact, I’m going to take the next three weeks before Christmas to mix it up a little bit. I love reading. My blog is dedicated to reading, writing, and faith. But I also love movies. I love comic book movies, movies adapted from books, and chick flicks/rom-coms. But this time of year, I love to watch Christmas movies. I’m addicted to Hallmark channel movies (much to my husband’s dismay). But I also enjoy more traditional Christmas movies.
So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to play a game. I’ll share a quote from a Christmas movie, and you get to guess what movie it’s from. Every right answer will get your name put into a drawing. On the nineteenth, I’ll announce the winner.
On a personal note, I had a sad moment this week. Frosty the Snowman came on. Every year when my kids were growing up we’d get fruit, popcorn, cheese cubes, and summer sausage together and make a picnic in front of the television to watch Frosty and Rudolph. They’re some of my best holiday memories.
This year only two of my kids are still at home. One was working that night. I asked the youngest who is mid-way through the teen years if he wanted to watch it with me. He said he was busy. I watched it alone.
It’s become apparent my years of sharing those simple joys with my kids has passed. Don’t forget to enjoy yours if you still have them.
Movie Quote of the Week: “It’s too early. I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.”
Know the movie? Put your answer in the comments. I’ll post a picture of the movie along with a new quote next week.
Just when I think I have it under control, my TBR pile inexplicably grows. Well, I say inexplicably, but that’s not entirely true. I know why it grows. There’s a plethora of interesting looking books out there, and I lack self-control. But it’s more than that.
With the Thanksgiving holiday I found myself looking forward to four precious days off work. Four whole days to read, write, and get caught up on writing projects. I wanted to be honest with myself so I lowered it to three days. After all, Thanksgiving Day would put my focus on my family not my to-do list. I was blessed to spend the day listening to laughter and conversation with my entire family. It was more than a fair trade off with not being able to get work done.
Friday, I managed to complete a blog post and remind people on my social media feeds to check out the Literary Feast Facebook Fiction Party I’m participating in on Monday. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can do so at https://www.facebook.com/events/283923535583862/.) I also responded to some commenters on a guest blog post I did this week. And even though I refuse to Black Friday shop in town, I managed to finish over half my Christmas list through online shopping. However, I struggled with a headache all day which left me unable to focus for actual writing or reading. That’s day two.
Today, I admit I got distracted. I’ve never been a fan of cleaning, but I do want to decorate for Christmas in the coming weeks. I can’t do that if my house is a mess. So, I dusted and vacuumed and organized the front room in my house in preparation for our Christmas tree. I’m not putting it up today, but I did get my snowmen set out. And because we need to eat, I did my grocery shopping. I have to say I’m a fan of online shopping with same day pick-up. I shopped this morning and will go pick everything up this afternoon. Day three is half-way over, and I’ve not accomplished much.
Tomorrow I have church and an anniversary lunch for my in-laws. That will take a huge chunk out of the day. I know there won’t be a lot accomplished in the writing or reading departments. Then, it’s back to work on Monday. Four precious days off work, and I’m not going to have a lot to show for it.
Part of me is frustrated at myself for taking it so easy these last few days. I had a lot to accomplish. I’m working on book three and waiting for new edits from the publisher on book two. I’ve written a Christmas devotional and memory journal, and I’m planning a Christmas get-together as a trial run of how it will work as a women’s ministry tool. I needed to get things in order for that next weekend. I’m part of a group planning a women’s retreat as a ministry and fundraiser for our local church camp. I needed to get some work done on that as well. My posts for Monday’s Facebook party should already be written and scheduled. They aren’t. My list doesn’t even include reading the next book to review, but it should.
Then I think of the story of Mary and Martha. I know it related more specifically to giving ourselves so fully to preparing for Jesus that we miss our chance to really be with Him. But I think there’s an everyday message too.
I spent time with my husband, children, and grandson these last few days in addition to my parents and in-laws. We laughed a lot, and I watched my sons play with their nephew. His face lights up when his uncles are around. I spent a normal afternoon taking a walk at the mall with my mom and my grandmother. Her struggles with age and dementia left her needing a change of atmosphere yesterday, and I needed to get out of my house for a bit too. I decided to go with them, and knowing Granny’s days are diminishing, I’m glad for that memory of an ordinary afternoon with her.
I could have spent my time on my to-do list. I could have spent it on doing things. Those things need done, and they’re good things. Instead, I chose to spend it with the people I care about. And I think it’s like Jesus told Martha. Choosing the people is choosing “the good part”. Everything on my to-do list and my TBR pile can be taken care of later.
Where I work food preferences are serious business. No, I do not work in a bakery or restaurant. I work in a doctor’s office. But bring a plate of sweets into the break room, and everyone suddenly turns into top rated food critics!
So far I’ve learned my team leader likes brownies but just the edge pieces. Everyone seems to like chewy chocolate chip cookies that are crispy around the edge. One of our nurse practitioners likes oatmeal raisin cookies, only she doesn’t like the raisins. So, I guess it’s really an oatmeal cookie. One lady in the billing office doesn’t like cake. She prefers pie. And one of the first things I learned was Rice Krispie treats are best when made the traditional way, no chocolate cereal or fun add-ins are wanted.
It’s these individual preferences that have inspired today’s recipe. Last week I shared the first sugar cookie recipe I ever used. Today I’m sharing an alternate recipe. These cookies are for those who like chewy sugar cookies. I’ve never tried to roll them out and cut them. So, I don’t know how or if they will work for that. I usually use a cookie scoop for a nice, round cookie. They can be frosted after cooling or sprinkled with festive colored sugar before they go in the oven.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. And if you don’t, you may prefer the one I posted last week!
“The only advice anybody can give is, if you wanna be a writer, keep writing. And read all you can, read everything.” Stan Lee
Stanley Martin Lieber wanted to be a serious writer. So when he started writing comic books, he chose a new name, Stan Lee. Only the die-hard fans are likely to recognize Stanley Martin Lieber. But millions can tell you who Stan Lee was. With the influx of superhero movies Marvel has put out in recent years, I’d be willing to bet most people could even recognize Stan Lee even if they couldn’t tell you his name. He’d be “that old guy who shows up in every Marvel movie”, but they’d still recognize him.
Stan Lee created some of the most loved comic book characters of all time. You might scoff at considering comics in a discussion about writing. That attitude is part of the reason Stanley became Stan Lee. It’s also part of the reason Stan Lee wanted to make his comic book stories different. He wanted to give the characters and story lines depth. He wanted the heroes to have flaws and internal issues to overcome. He wanted the plots to appeal to more than just children.
Stan Lee accomplished that in his life. Some would even argue that comics have evolved to a point where they aren’t for children at all any more. I don’t think that’s true. As with any media, whether book, movie, television, music, or video game, comics have to be taken on a case by case basis. There are some that I don’t believe should be read by either children or adults due to the content. But that doesn’t mean comics as a whole are bad.
There are some very well-written comics with complex characters and stories. They rival the complexity of traditional books. I think Stan Lee did what he set out to do. He wrote and he kept writing. In the end, I think his work succeeded in elevating comics beyond what they’d previously been. Stan Lee’s writing has influenced and inspired many, and I believe it will for years to come.
Stan Lee may have worried about the need to become a “serious” writer, but there are millions who are happy he wrote what he enjoyed writing about and in the way he chose to do it. And so my own lesson from Stan Lee doesn’t come from one of his comics but from his life. As a writer, I don’t need to worry about whether I’m a serious enough writer. I don’t need to worry about what the world will think of my stories. I need to write what I’m inspired to write. As a Christian I need to write what I feel God would have me write and in a way that brings Him honor. There are people who may not think what I offer is worth a lot, but it doesn’t matter. I’m a writer and whatever that looks like, be it comic books, movie scripts, or novels, I simply need to “keep writing”.
Today I had the opportunity to share in a special celebration. This morning I spent time at a local library with an author friend of mine who was launching her first book with a reading and signing. Nine months ago, it was her sharing in my book launch. It was an honor to share in her day as she did in mine.
Over the last couple of years she and I, along with the other members of our local writers’ group, have stood beside each other in the ups and downs of the writing process. We’re all in different stages, and we each have our own goals and focus. It doesn’t matter. Each member of the group has their own writing strengths and weaknesses. We’re there for each other to encourage each other when the writing gets tough or we find ourselves frustrated and discouraged. We energize each other for the next step. We learn together. And on days like today, we cheer each other on and share in the joys of success.
Writing tends to be a fairly solitary endeavor. It is made much sweeter knowing there’s a group of people in my corner cheering me on and picking me up when I fall.
This feeling is something Anna Marie, the main character in Anna’s Song by Brenda Gates, hasn’t known since her mother and father disappeared without a trace. When her twin sister goes missing too, Anna Marie feels more alone than ever before. Refusing to give up on her sister and confused by mysterious and seemingly impossible clues to her sister’s whereabouts, Anna Marie begins to find people in her corner though she is unsure how she feels about their involvement.
When Anna Marie slips into the past her hopes of finding her sister grow, but the road to finding her isn’t a guaranteed success. And it definitely isn’t easy. Plunged into the middle of the Civil War, she faces dangers and obstacles she is not prepared for. But in these times, Anna Marie also finds what she’s missed in life. She finds people taking the journey by her side. They encourage her to be her best self. They hurt with her when she’s in pain. They teach her about herself and faith through their examples and words.
If she never makes it home and even if she never finds her sister, Anna Marie finds something that makes the sweet things sweeter and the tough things easier. She finds what friendship and family should be, and it makes all the difference.
That’s how it’s supposed to be. Not just for Anna Marie in Brenda’s book. Not just for writers and the writers’ groups they belong to. It’s supposed to be this way for believers too. Actually, it’s supposed to be this way especially for believers. 1 Corinthians 12:26 encourages us with these words. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” This is just one of several instructions followers of Jesus are given in how we should interact with one another, and each scripture comes back to loving each other the way God loves us.
When we find this in our churches and with the believers in all areas of our lives, we experience one more amazing gift from God. Allowing God to use us to be this for others makes us the gift to them. Both work in our lives to ease the burden of hard times and increase the joy in the good. And it makes all the difference in the journey of our faith.
From the time I was in fifth grade I was responsible to get dinner started for our family each night. I didn’t mind this task, but I didn’t love it either. It wasn’t until my freshman year in high school that I realized I could love being in the kitchen. And it was a home economics class that awakened that enjoyment in me.
I remember Mrs. Foster. She is still one of my favorite teachers. She taught us to make poppy seed chicken, taco salad, and baked Alaska that year. She impressed on us the importance of knowing how to properly carry out the instructions in each recipe. And she unknowingly introduced me to the recipe that helped start my tradition of Christmas baking.
Sugar cookies are a staple on many Christmas cookie lists. There’s a local bakery that makes a chewy-type sugar cookie with granulated sugar as its base. People love those cookies. But when I was growing up, the original local bakery in our town had their own sugar cookies. Their recipe was for the more cake-type sugar cookie that uses powdered sugar as its base. These were a favorite with the kids I grew up with, and I was thrilled to learn how to make them in food class that year.
Perfect for cutting into holiday shapes, this recipe is one I use every year. I don’t always get around to decorating them, but that’s okay. The almond extract in the recipe gives the cookies enough flavor without frosting.
Whether frosted or plain, every time I make these cookies I remember when I first fell in love with baking. And that memory is a special gift I’ll keep forever. I hope you enjoy the recipe and come back next Friday for the chewy sugar cookie recipe!
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” Orson Scott
There’s a small dilapidated house down the road from my grandmother’s house. The wood siding has long since faded and worked loose from the house. Shutters hang in crooked lines refusing to give up their final hold on the window and plunge to the ground. The porch is in shambles, and the yard is overgrown. I wonder why the owners don’t tear it down. It doesn’t serve a purpose.
Still. It draws and keeps my attention. The dark windows pull me in to find the house’s story. It’s the story of an old farming couple, shriveled through years of manual labor in the hot southern Illinois sun. It’s the story of disappointment, a childless couple with no one to care for the home they worked so hard to create once they’re gone. It’s a melancholy story that is as beautiful as it is sad.
It’s a very different story from the one birthed by the abandoned farmhouse near my in-laws house. The simple white house is newer in style. White siding is dingy but still intact. Large, glass windows stare out at me without shutters framing their dark depths. Another farming family lived here. They worked the land but with more modern conveniences. They shared meals with their children around a large kitchen table. There was laughter and love, but there was also discontent.
As the children grew, the life of the farm didn’t offer enough to satisfy. Though it left their parents with no one to carry on the family legacy, each child chose to leave for more lucrative lives in the city. The couple worked their farm, selling off bits and pieces to make up for the bad years, until their bodies could take no more. The home was reduced to a house after their deaths, and the land waits for a time when the children can agree on the proper way to dispose of it. It’s the story of the loss of a way of life and a lack of appreciation for all it held.
Two empty houses. Two different stories. But they’re each only one of many that could be told. Who knows where the truth lies? These are simply the stories I see first when I look at the two houses. What do others see? Two empty houses.
This is why I write.
The stories I see are different from the stories anyone else may see. And some people may not see them at all. That’s why writing is important. We can share stories others can relate to but not otherwise get to hear. We can put life back into empty houses.
But it doesn’t end with story-telling or houses. As believers, we each have a different story. We also have unique ways of approaching life. Just as writers need to see stories in the world around them, believers need to see the lives of the people around them.
We’re called to be salt and light to the world. We’re called to reach into the lives of others and change them through practically showing them the love of God. To do this, we must see their story. With empty houses and a laptop, I can imagine a story and shape it to fit my desires. With people, we need to dig deeper and find the truth. What do they need? How are they hurting?
When we see these things, we can act on their story. We can give love in an unlimited number of ways that will speak to their need. We can show them God through joining them in their story for a time.
And the beauty of it is, the people in need aren’t the only ones like empty houses. Each of us is a unique house on our own. When I step into someone else’s story, I bring my unique perspective, my own story into theirs. I can minister to their needs in a way that is different than anyone else.
This carrying of each other’s burdens, sharing in their joys, and showing them God’s love in practical ways is a believer’s calling from God. Not everyone may look at an empty house and come away with a story like a writer does. But seeing and responding to the stories of others is a trait every believer should cultivate in order to live their faith each day.
Today’s Full of Character Author Interview guest is Erin Howard. Erin is the author of The Seer, a great Christian fantasy story that takes you into the spiritual battle raging that only a select few characters can see. Welcome, Erin. Let’s get to it.
What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?
You know how to ask some tough questions! I’ve read so many wonderful books, that it’s almost impossible me to narrow it down to just one. That’s one reason why I think reading is so wonderful, we can take something away from every book we read, and it’s always different depending on what we may be going through at that particular time in our lives.
I’ve not received that answer before, but I like it. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?
The easiest character for me to write was Viktor. I think that’s because I was able to show the conflict that Viktor has raging inside of him. Who he was and what he’s done is the core of who he is, but he also has this desire to have peace, to leave those ways.
I think the hardest for me was Matthias. I love his character, and I’ve always been fascinated by angels, so I wanted to make sure that his character was just right.
I have to say, I loved Viktor. I’m anxious to see where he goes in the next book. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to orenjoy reading about?
I think Paul is one of my favorites because before he had an encounter with Jesus, he was the worst of the worst. He has a fantastic redeeming story.
Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are youas surprised by them as your readers?
I think it’s a little of both. I have a general idea when I start writing, but then they surprise me. I love digging deep into their backstory, and see how they respond to what is going on around them.
If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?
Oh my goodness, what a hard question! I would have to say, Melissa McCarthy. I loved her playing Sookie on Gilmore Girls. She was so funny and clumsy in that role. I like to joke around with my family and friends, and I’m definitely clumsy!
Thanks for having me, Heather!
Keep reading to find out more about Erin Howard and The Seer. Then, head over to Facebook on November 26th for A Literary Feast. This event is an online book party. You’ll be introduced to new authors, have an opportunity to chat with them, get great ideas for books to add to your Christmas list or to give to others, and have a chance to win great prizes. You can sign up to attend the party using this link https://www.facebook.com/events/283923535583862/.
Erin R. Howard is a Developmental Editor, Fantasy/Speculative Author and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/English from Southern New Hampshire University.
When she’s not writing, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, being a youth leader, and teaching crochet and cake decorating classes. Erin resides in Western Kentucky with her husband, three children, and a cantankerous tabby cat named Jack-Jack.
Erin is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the KenTen Writers Group.
Viktor has one order to follow: Kill the girl before her eyes are opened.
For thousands of years, his job has been to torment and kill seers: humans that have the gift of seeing the spiritual realm. So it was no surprise when his brother Matthias was once again sent to stop him and protect the girl.
Now the last of the seers’ bloodline hangs in the balance, as the estranged demon and angel brothers are forced to work together to save a girl’s life and escape to the sanctuary city of Bethesda.
Instead of reviewing a single book today, I’d like to invite you to a couple Facebook Book parties coming up. These are a great way to learn about new authors and get to know more about some of the authors you may already read. In addition to great grand prize giveaways, some of the individual authors are doing some giveaways. For my part, I’ll be giving away signed copies of Faith’s Journey and some handmade Christmas ornaments that were inspired by those in my book.
The first one is the Christian Fiction Lovers Women’s Fiction Party on November 16th. Here’s a little about that party:
4 Featured Authors with 4 Christian Women’s Fiction Novels
Grand Prize: $50 Amazon Card
Runner Up Prize: 4 featured books (Prizes could be eBook or print – author’s choice)
HOW TO ENTER:
• Click you will attend the party.
• Share the party on your timeline.
• Comment on a post by any 2 authors during the party.
Authors may give additional prizes. Winners of all prizes will be announced at the end of the party. Individual authors will post requirements for each individual prize.
You can use this link to find and join the party: https://www.facebook.com/events/1787789031343732/
The second party is happening on November 26th in honor of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. Here are some details about that one:
Join us during this come and go event as fifteen different authors discuss books, Christmas, and yummy recipes. Each author will be doing an individual giveaway during his/her scheduled time, and we’ll be doing a grand prize giveaway of an Amazon Kindle to one individual at the end of the party. To be entered to win the grand prize giveaway, please mark “going” on the party and comment on at least three different posts.
Links to both events can be found on my author Facebook page. So, if you are in the United States (because I’m pretty certain those are the rules to be eligible to win the prizes), you can sign up to “go” to the parties from there. Find me on Facebook by searching @AuthorHeatherGreer.
Oh, and while you’re there, look for my Thanksgiving pie post. If you follow my page and comment on which you think is my least favorite of the four pies, you could win an old-fashioned cook book. I’ll be doing more giveaways on my Facebook page between now and Christmas.
I started collecting the yearly holiday baking books in the mid to late nineties. I would occasionally buy the regular magazine type, but my favorites have always been the little ones that feel more like paper back books. They don’t take up much room, and they’re sturdy.
At first these were put out by Land O Lands, Pillsbury, and Gold Medal Flour. Then, as cooking magazines gained popularity Taste of Home added to the yearly offerings. I’ve weeded out a few magazines through the years, but only the ones I didn’t use as many recipes from.
Today’s recipe comes from a book I no longer have, but the cookie has remained on my yearly baking list since the first year I made it in the late nineties or early 2000s. I’ve had people request these many times, and one did so even after she got the recipe from me. She said she couldn’t get hers to turn out like mine. I think, maybe, she just didn’t want to put the work into it when someone else could do it!
I hope you enjoy this one as much as I have! Happy Baking!