Love Came Down

December 17, 2014

You've heard the analogy probably young in Sunday school as I did, or maybe in a youth group or women's ministry. Jesus is the only one to bridge the great divide of the chasm between us, sinners, and the eternal, perfect Lord of All. It's one of the simplest things and one of the first we're told about salvation.

The Psalmist tells us that, As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

These are horizontal measurements. If we tried to measure how far the east is from the west, we'd look like children stretching and straining our arms and muscles and fingertips as far as possible in a "T" shape. "This much! This far!"

I don't know about you, but I more think in terms of the vertical. Climbing and straining and striving up ladders of performance, perfectionism, and not good enough, then falling slowly, then all at once, back to the bottom where anxiety and guilt plague me for not living up to my expectations. But it goes deeper down than ridiculous expectations.

I think--am trying to get to the past tense of I thought at one time--I had to keep up appearances and fix my issues and be better at everything for Jesus to love me. For me to be worthy, I had to keep climbing and climbing, striving and striving. Get a daily dose of the Living Water in the morning, and leave my desk with a, Okay, I can take it from here. Thanks for the pick me up. I can't even tell you when this started, but suffice it enough to say I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit's conviction and revealing.

Anybody else have daily ladders they climb?
"The real amazing dream is that there are no ladders to climb up, because Christ came down one to get you."
Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.
John 1:51

You love me.
Even when I'm being stubborn and petty and childish. Human.
I don't have to strive, do, or fix myself or be better, for You to love me.
You are the ultimate pursuer of my heart.

"The wonder of all this--God looks at you at your lowest
and loves you all the way up to the sky.
Grace carries you all the way home."
Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

The Research Process of a Historical Novella by Emily Ann Putzke

December 15, 2014

My dear friend Emily Ann Putzke's debut novella, It Took a War debuts today!!! And I couldn't be more excited to host her on her book's blog tour and share my thoughts on her fabulous story on Friday. Without further ado, read on for some great research and organization tips, and don't forget to enter her fabulous Christmas Civil War themed giveaway that includes an autographed copy of her amazing debut novella.

Hello fellow writers, bloggers, and book lovers!  I’m Emily Ann Putzke, author of It Took a War, a Civil War novella. I’m so grateful to Meghan for allowing me to guest post on her blog! I’m here to talk a little bit about my book and my research process.

I started writing It Took a War in the fall of 2012, a few months after going on a family vacation to Gettysburg which sparked my interest in learning more about the Civil War. I wanted to write a book about a brother and sister during the war. The plot changed drastically when I re-wrote it the beginning of this year, but not the brother and sister I dreamed back in 2012. Joe and Coralie Roberts have been breathing on paper for over two years and I’m so excited to share them with the world now!

When writing historical fiction, it can be overwhelming with the never ending wealth of information to sort through and apply to your story. I don’t claim to be an expert on researching, but I’ll share what’s helped me and hopefully it will help any of you historical fiction authors out there!

Let’s start at the beginning.
After I pick a time period to write about, I start reading fiction and non-fiction books about it. I get books from the library, but I also love buying used books on Amazon so I can highlight in them. I organized my writing bookshelf so that all my Civil War books were together and easy to access while writing.

I also do a ton of research on the internet and bookmark pages like crazy. Since I was writing about the Civil War, I searched videos on how to load a musket and on Civil War drilling. I also used and they have an amazing animated map of Gettysburg which helped immensely. I printed out articles, highlighted the sections I needed in them, then stuck them in my research binder.

Research binders are wonderful. It makes the writing/editing process much less stressful. I divided the information with little tabs labeled with things like, Camp Curtin, Drills, 11th PA, Army Life, and Enlistment/Rally. I scanned and printed pages out of books, printed internet articles, made (somewhat) organized notes, and highlighted certain passages. It's made life a whole lot easier.

I found all the names of the guys who served in Company I, 11th PA. I used some of these names to create characters. For instance, Joe has three good friends in It Took War. One of them is Oliver Willyard. According to this list of names there was a David Willyard, but I liked the name Oliver better for this particular character. The others were Will and Johnny Story. Those were actual names of guys who were in Company I. I have no idea if they were related, but in my book I made them brothers.

- 4-
Pinterest. It’s awesome. I didn't use it much for It Took a War while writing, but I've been using it for my next book and it’s great for collecting old pictures and quotes. If you don’t have Pinterest, you can create a private blog to collect all your character pictures, inspirational writing quotes, plot ideas, website links, etc. That’s what I did with It Took a War.
If possible, go to the place you’re writing about. But this isn't a must. I’m blessed that my sister lives near Gettysburg, so I've been there many times to research for my book. If you can’t get to the place you’re writing about (my next book takes place in Germany...I really want to go there, but I’m not sure it’s a possibility in the next year or so) take a virtual tour. Look up pictures, watch videos, make authentic food, listen to music, and ask others who have been there what it’s like.

Listen to music from the time period you’re writing about. I bought about every single Civil War era song available on itunes (maybe I’m being a little dramatic). I listened to them while washing dishes, while cleaning the house, while working out, while in the car, while writing, etc. They brought the Civil War more alive for me when I was listening to songs soldiers would sing on the march, at rallies, or at camp.

Don’t stress. If you’re writing historical fiction, remember that it’s fiction. Of course you want your book to be historically accurate, but don’t let the research process stifle your creativity. Research, but then stop and just write. Have fun with it! You want your love of history to shine through and spark that interest in someone else.

Thanks again for hosting me, Meghan! You can buy It Took a War through:

Enter Giveaway:
Only Open to People in the U.S.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Waiting Fulfilled | December Chatterbox

December 9, 2014

Joining in with Rachel Heffington's December chatterbox today. I have to admit, I almost chickened out of sharing what I am today.
First, I really really really wanted to share something from A Rose Long Awaited. The very title fits with the month's theme of waiting fulfilled. But anything I thought of copying and pasting from the end of Amongst the Roses or the only 1K sequel would give away too much and I want to keep the element of surprise with more than one plot twist in both novels. I'm sharing a snippet from a flash-fic I wrote Friday night.
The working title of this piece is, How I Met Your Father.
A contemporary rom-com tale about one woman's journey of hanging on tight to the rollercoaster of life God has her on in her quest to find The One.
“Kids, I want to tell you a story.”
Ginnifer Casey's’ two pre-teens sat back into the well-loved leather couch with groans and eyes rolling. Noah folded his arms, bored already, while Ava tried to slip her cellphone out of her pocket. No doubt to text an “SOS” to a friend. Help, my mother is starting one of her totes boring stories again, Ginny could imagine the text reading...
At one time, she doubted she would ever be a mother. Or have a home. No guy had come in the picture till just before she met her children’s father who was hard at work at the office. Tears welled, but Ginny kept them at bay, laughing them away. She was a mother to two amazing, growing up all too fast kids, and was expecting a miracle in three months.
Ava laughed lightly. “Hormones gettin’ you again, Mum?”
“Yes I suppose they are. Where was I?”
Noah sat cross-legged on the couch and tapped his dimpled chin so like his father’s. “God’s perfect plan, aand…you met Dad over a caesar salad.”
Ah yes. That caesar salad. Such a random night that was. One of many. “I did indeed.”

Advent: Worship While Waiting

December 8, 2014

The definition of these four weeks before Christmas means,
a coming into place, view, or being; arrival. 

Now, I admit to not deluding myself into thinking Christ was born on December twenty-fifth. In reality He was most likely born around the Jewish festival of Succot in October. The origins of all holiday traditions--including advent--have cause to be called into question and are often debated. They are not Biblical, but man or church-made centuries-old traditions that have been passed down through the generations, morphing and becoming what they are today. Many of these well-loved traditions began with God-honoring intentions.

May I be frank with you? This time last year I struggled with whether or not to celebrate Christmas because it is not Biblical. I struggled big time. And it is only because of God's grace that I did end up enjoying it. I unwittingly dredged up a lot of legalism about the holidays because of surrounding circumstances I won't get into, and my joy was zapped. Feeling very torn, I took some time and prayer and trying to get my heart right with God about this, when it eventually sank in. It's not so much what or how I celebrate or don't celebrate. It's my heart through out the holiday season. Not anyone else's heart or stance on the subject--but my own. Just like during any other time of the year, if I'm focusing on the external worries rather than taking time for my Savior--that's not the "better thing," as Jesus admonished Martha.

It is only Him who is buoying my heart to hope this Christmas season for Christ's second coming. The family devotions, my time with the Lord, and real-life lived and enjoyed in between are gifts. This Advent season, me and my hopeless romantic heart still wonder, waiting--trying hard to worship my Forever-Love through it all. And I realize that it's what Advent is all about. Worshiping through the waiting before He arrives.

Christmas, Christmas time is here!

December 5, 2014

Currently | The Holiday Season

We're getting our tree tomorrow!

Church's beautiful Christmas Choir Cantata is tonight.

Sunday evenings find the entire family gathered 'round for Advent devotions, and this year they are especially blessed. I myself am going through Ann Voskamp's new Advent devotional and if you were a fan of her NYT's Best Selling book, One Thousand Gifts, you will not be disappointed with her Christmas devotional.

At the moment we're introducing my youngest sister Anna to the 1990's Little Women.
A longtime, childhood favorite and I am SO enjoying it.
The beautiful gowns, the story, the March sisters, the era...definitely will always be one of my top favorites!
The eldest March girl, Meg, remains my favorite and the one I share the most similarities to. Her dreams of marriage, a home and children, her love of beautiful things. But as I've gotten older I've realized I share similarities to three out of the four of these timeless literary sisters.
I love cats and play piano, like Beth.
But I am a writer. Like Jo. Who can sometimes be prone to dramatics, who pours her heart and soul into every word. My Jo March dreams of being a real author are my reality now--a fact I try valiantly not to take for granted.
But my Meg March dreams are still mere dreams. Prayers, day dreams and an overflowing hopechest.
And they are all good, God-given. 
Speaking of...
I started the sequel to Amongst the Roses yesterday! 
A Rose Long Awaited is 740 words long, and the first line is something I have to praise God for.
I was thoroughly stuck for a solid hour. Frozen, rather, as I quite forgot how to begin a novel. It has been over two years since I first began Amongst the Roses.
I knew I just needed to jump off and write. I pretty much have my timeline all straight in my head for it. It opens the summer of 1863. The Battle of Gettysburg has ended weeks earlier, scarring many in it's wake. And so, my latest novel's first line is below:
Summer was the time for roses.

I Keep It Real, and I'm Hilarious

November 28, 2014

After work, a windy day did this to my carefully coifed thick mane of hair. 
In the name of transparency.
Embracing my weirdness.
Or--care to laugh at me, with me?

I don't have a great voice by any stretch of the imagination, but I can carry a tune and I love to do so on the daily. Whether it's singing Shania Twain's part of her duet with Michael Buble to White Christmas, or whether it's trying to reach a high note in Defying Gravity. 
I love to sing. Glad my future children won't be able to voice their opinions about my singing for the first few years of their lives. 

I like Dove Chocolates. But only chocolates in small, bite-size doses. Chocolate based ice cream or chocolate based anything is just too rich. Even my mother's homemade texas sheet cake. But give me fruity, almond, vanilla or something as random as tapioca pudding and I'm happy as a lark.
Yep. I may be strange. Give me salty crunchy or vanilla-y something once a month and I'll love you forever. Anyone else have these moods like Kelly Kapoor/Mindy Kaling below?

I may have gotten my start writing historical fiction between the ages of ten and twelve when I penned this illustrated version of Amongst the Roses and then had it bound and printed and while I cringe a little and laugh a lot at this two hundred page girlhood attempt, I thank God for growing me in my writing and out of subtly plagiarizing the novels I frequented often in my youth. Oy. Vey. 
This pic actually applies to the paragraphs above and below. XD

I actually own an antique typewriter! 
I am still a hopeless hopeful romantic. Always have been. Give me a sappy Hallmark movie or a classic chick-flick and a bowl of popcorn and I am good. I can make jokes about, And how am I still single? and most of them actually have merit, but I kinda like being a hopeful romantic with only rare jaded moments of tossing popcorn at the screen. *ahem* And for the record--I love roses above all, and buy them often for myself. They're a calorie-less, much more beautiful indulgence than chocolate.
Source, Tumblr

Some of the songs on my "Guilty Pleasure/Fun Jam" playlist range from some fairly predictable like Some Hearts by Carrie Underwood. Other fun songs are vintage! Come See About Me and You Can't Hurry Love by The Supremes. I'm all about vintage, even in music. Sinatra's a favorite, but he hasn't made it onto any playlists yet...hmm...he will. One day. 
Did I mention I may have slight trouble with rambling and getting off topic while writing and talking?
On the same playlist is a crap-ton of One Direction, an inordinate amount of Glee covers, most of the Pitch Perfect soundtrack, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, More than a Feeling by Boston and Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas. And yes, I had to Google this just now to ensure they were indeed not by the same artist. Kansas and Boston are states apart. Why did I think they were the same thing? Did I mention Whitney Houston's How Will I Know? and I Wanna Dance with Somebody. 
What can I say? I have quite the random taste in music.

This is me. 
Owning my weirdness.
And actually having a ton of fun with it!