A STAIN OF RED

 

Last year for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) I wrote a book called GATEWAYS (title is subject to change), and even though I got a late start last year, I polished off 50,000+ words without a hitch. Coincidentally it was only a few months after I had written my first Christmas themed novel called PEPPERMINT: A BURST OF COLD.

This year for NaNoWriMo I set out to write the second book in the Christmas series, which at this point I am calling CRANBERRY: A STAIN OF RED. It follows the life of a quite ordinary girl who, in PEPPERMINT (Book1), got sucked into the wild world of Winterland, a place that seems strangely themed after our world’s version of Christmas. The heroin, Helen, has always lived one of the most boring, ordinary, and uneventful lives she has ever heard of. But when she crosses the intersect into Winterland, she finds herself dropped into the most bizarre and thrilling experiences imaginable.

There are two Kingdoms at odds with each other in Winterland; the Red Kingdom which is ruled by the Crimson King, and the Green Kingdom, governed fiercely by the Queen of the Pines. In PEPPERMINT Helen faces off with a terrible villain from the Red Kingdom named Mara Rouge who rides a dark-skinned reindeer with antlers as sharp as needles, and who is evidentially trying to hunt Helen down. Being a commoner, and a very clumsy and uncoordinated one at that, Helen realizes very quickly that she doesn’t stand a chance.

In CRANBERRY (Book 2), Helen is torn back out of her world the moment December hits, and finds herself running for her life once again, only this time she enters Winterland to find the Red and Green Kingdoms on the verge of war. People are being forced to choose a side; Red or Green, as the Ruby Legion and the Evergreen Host rage against each other in battle. All of Winterland seems to be coming under the influence of their chosen colours. The pressure is starting to close in and Helen isn’t sure who she can trust. Choosing wrong could cost her everything, but not choosing at all…that’s a death sentence.

As I have been writing CRANBERRY: A STAIN OF RED, I’ve been getting lost in the smells, tastes, and colours of Christmas, something I have experienced before in the middle of sweaty July when I wrote PEPPERMINT: A BURST OF COLD. It’s fun to paint an elaborate picture for an audience to get them hanging off the edge of their seats and ready for more. But the most important part of any of these books is the underlining message beneath the text, the one truth that I hope the world would recognize if I ever get published. On Helen’s journeys, she is introduced to the Truth, a seemingly living being that possesses all kinds of knowledge, wisdom, and secrets. It’s this Truth that comes from the breath of El-Olam (translated as the Eternal God), also known as the Star Breather to some. There are key points in both of these novels where Helen comes into contact with the words from the Volumes of Wisdom, which are old books that hold ancient truths that many don’t talk about or believe in anymore. It’s these truths that seem to change the atmosphere when spoken aloud, and can make the difference between victory and defeat.

There is a particular moment in PEPPERMINT where Helen is listening to Zane read (Zane, a young former Patrolman who in his shame had set aside his duties of guarding the Truth when the Truth was nearly wiped clean out of Winterland by Mara Rouge). As Zane is reading from one of the Volumes of Wisdom, Helen starts to understand for the first time why the Truth was unable to completely die out, as hard as Mara Rouge tried to silence it forever. The words Zane reads are as follows (keep in mind that anything posted from these novels is subject to change):

 

“All was still on the meadow hill,

Upon which sheep would graze,

The shepherds chattered, chuckled and battered,

Until the sky was of sudden blaze.

Struck with awe the shepherds saw,

The sky filled with Heavenly Hosts,

Proclaiming a wonder, in voices of thunder,

A hero of the highest, the Most.

An end to an age this hero did stage,

And a beginning of ages to come,

After the toils, troubles, and foils,

The battle would surely be won.

The prophets did say, there would come a day,

During which a hero would rise,

Seeking no tower, no authority, or power,

As a servant he would surely disguise.

A veil would tear and a load He would bear,

At dawn He would climb His tree,

The sun would rise, the sky, come alive,

Mankind would look up and see.

A chain does break and withers a snake,

The horizon fills with royal blue,

A Kingdom rises, an enemy despises.

Now none will conquer the Truth.”

I sincerely hope that this Christmas can be filled with as much joy and magic as possible, flowing straight from the heart of the Hero that came to save mankind. There is so much excitement at Christmas that is based off of things that won’t matter a week after the big day is over. But He will reign forevermore. Let your hearts come alive with life this season, because on this day He has come to the earth to save us. Our champion. The one who came to go to war on our behalf. Who raised men from the dead and sent armies of angels to change the world. He goes before us, He stands beside us, He follows after us and watches over us. He will never fail.

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

cranberry-blog

NaNoWriMo

Yes, it’s been a little while since we’ve talked. But I have good reasons, well, at least I think they are pretty good.

After the Set Free Worship Conference I needed to take a big exhale and just let everything come back to me before I shared some of the amazing stuff that God did. I don’t like to jump ahead and blab before I know for sure.

But then next came NaNoWriMo, or in long version is better known as “National Novel Writing Month”, during which writers (or novelists I suppose) take on the challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Obviously I got sucked into the idea, because I’m a sucker. I was sick for the first week and a half of November so I didn’t think I would be able to catch up for the lost time, especially being at home with a kid that pretty much demands all of my attention during his waking hours. But somehow I buckled down and started to write a novel to add to my pile. Thus far I’m at just under 47,000 words. And it’s a bit of a miracle. I only have a few days left but I think I can polish off a solid 3000 words, God willing, of this only slightly gritty, Sci-Fi, Young Adult story.

So that’s where I’ve been. I can’t wait to share more about the Set Free Worship Conference and how God moved there.

Peace.

Hunt Your Dragons before You Come

It only makes sense. As children of a Holy King we are fully equipped to be dragon slayers.

One of the hard things I’ve had to learn in my twinkling twenties is that dragging around baggage into areas where the love of Jesus is supposed to shine is inappropriate, un-classy, and just plain bothersome. In order to walk in freedom we need to release those things into the hands of our all-powerful Commander of Angel Armies.

I am the first name on this “guilty” list. I have done this too many times, especially when I was just starting to fine tune my spiritual ears to hear the voice of God, because before my twenties I didn’t even really understanding what listening was. I was what I like to call, a “RUSHER”. Everything must be done instantly. The moment I got a vision, I believed it was only going to work if it happened overnight.

Well that doesn’t leave God any time to move, now does it?

I have learned a couple of times over that God prefers to drag things out, not to torture those of us who are impatient, but so He can teach us things along the way. There are hidden treasures in this, worthy of discovering. Things that will change our lives. Things that will turn out to be the solutions to other unrelated problems if we let God work. Things we will take with us for the rest of our days so we are stronger and can do more. These little gems are what I believe Heaven’s storehouses are bulging with. And if we are patiently looking for them we will find them. If we are not then we are no different than crazy children running around and grabbing candy at Halloween. After we consume it all we will probably feel sick.

I don’t think there’s a Christian on the planet who isn’t guilty of bag-dragging. It’s really hard not to bring our inner conflict with us everywhere, our negative mind-dialogue, and our limb-flailing fears. But God’s plan isn’t for us to walk while pulling seven or eight hefty bags behind us through the dirt, rather, it’s His plan that we walk freely. It’s His plan that we trust in Him for what we need, because if we need it He will provide it, and if He doesn’t provide it, it’s probably because we are delusional about what we need.

In every situation, whether you are on your way to church or on your way to work or on your way to a family gathering, its best to spend five minutes (it literally doesn’t take more than that) by yourself and say to God, “I give you all of these things.” If you know what your dragons are, speak them out, hand them over and take away their power. If you don’t know why you are feeling like garbage and want to pound on the walls, you are probably PMS-ing. Just kidding. You’re probably dealing with something deeper than surface level issues. But I promise you that even if you can’t exactly pin point what your problem is, God knows what it is. Ask Him to take it. Then invite the love of Jesus to come in and fill you. Trust me, if you head out of your house this way you will have a much better time and all the people who you want to karate chop off a cliff will suddenly be much less horrifying.

The love of Jesus conquers all. Every time.

No dragon is bigger than the Holy Army Commander. So take that mighty sword and chop off that ugly dragon’s head. Hiya!!!

This might seem obvious and simple, but I went a long time before coming to this conclusion. And now it’s my go-to. Even on good days I try to remember to do this, because it makes my heart so much bulgier. And everyone wants a bulgy heart.

That’s what I wanted to share today. Bless you all!

Christmas in July?

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Sure. Why the heck not?

I’ve had something brewing the last little while like a hot cup of slightly overcooked, grind infested java. Okay, minus the grind infested because apart from being mildly over analyzed, this idea doesn’t have major grinds.

Yes. Call me a weirdo. Everyone else probably does. But I’ve been dilly dallying here and there putting sparkly, vibrant, and vastly absurd ideas into a story.

About Christmas.

What?

….Yes, I said Christmas. And I didn’t stutter. That’s impossible on here.

I know its not typically where our minds go this time of year, but for whatever reason I was inspired; enough so that I got up off of my butt and just did it. Now my novel is complete, slapped together from the scraps my brain spewed, and I’m rather fond of the thing. Sometimes I write novels and I deem them equivalent to garbage, so I never try to make anything of them until years later when I rediscover their magic and redirect the course of the story to make them something exciting. Other ones I’ve written are a bizarre combination of my nerves prancing into existence because I took some odd risks, and my pride beaming out of my face because I think its probably the best thing I’ve ever created.

It’s probably not. But I always think it is at first.

This is somewhere around my thirty fifth novel that I’ve written just for kicks (this is not a brag, its more of an embarrassment actually because I have that many in existence and I’ve never truly set out to do anything with them), but I think it took me that many to get to a place where I feel I can write moderately better than rotten garbage.

Anyway, literary agents take half of eternity to get back to us hopeful beggars, so you aren’t going to get any juicy news about this for a long time. Sorry. Pray for me. I probably need it and stuff.

Thanks, people I know and random others I don’t. I hope the peace of God finds you today. Remember that loving God and knowing Him will get you further than anything else in this life.

Kropf out.

A Glimpse of Rome Through Geeky Glasses

Dreams. Dreamy dreams. Dreaming of dreamy dreams.

We all have that one dream, the one that never goes away, even if life provides a heaping pile of lofty distractions. Occasionally something reminds us of it and we pause to go back to dreamland for a moment. We let out a long dramatic sigh and for a split second that thing we want the most is so close we can almost taste it.

Nice, isn’t it? To experience it for just a moment? If only everything were possible and we had unlimited amounts of money and each of us possessed our favourite super power.

Really, there is only one conclusion. Dreams suck. Yep. It’s official. We always take it too far by adding on new branches to our dream tree and suddenly what started as a small dream turns into a completely ridiculous impossible venture.

Go us.

I happen to be incredibly guilty of being a ‘brain-wanderer’ (yes I made that term up which is why it’s lame) which leaves me staring off at nothing for long periods of time, getting lost in non-existent worlds or situations. I can sure dream up some funky dreams. Some of them are probably attainable. But I’ll be honest, most of them aren’t.

My biggest dream though is one that doesn’t seem to want to scamper off, even when I try to ignore it, forget about it, or even beat it down. Realistically there is no reason for me to want to get rid of it, except for personal insecurities, but there are always loads of excuses to. For example, I’m a mamma now. Most of my time is already spoken for by a little stump of a creature who doesn’t even know he’s needy. I love him to death quite frankly. Which presents a problem when the opportunity comes around for me to be selfish and take some time for myself. All I want to do with my time is help him, make sure he’s full, gotten his sleep, isn’t afraid, doesn’t feel alone, has clothes to wear, has food to eat and sing adorable songs to gently put him to sleep. It sure makes it hard for me to want to take off and live out my dreams when I care for him so stinking much. He rules my world. What a little punk. It’s like he’s already got me all figured out.

I’ve always wanted to get published and write novels full time as my career. I have many dreams, some you would laugh at because they are so far fetched, but this one trumps them all. I picture myself sitting in some little hole-in-the wall apartment in Rome, Italy, finishing off an epic sci-fi novel that will leave the world with their jaws hanging open in anticipation of what happens next.

This might sound strange. I don’t exactly come off as the well-spoken type. I’m one of those people that can write something that sounds pretty, but the moment I open my mouth I sound like I’ve stuffed my vocabulary into a blender and failed English seventeen times.

No, I don’t want to live in Rome. But some day I would love to travel there and sit with an unhealthy-sized cup of coffee and write an action packed book with just enough romance that all the saps out there buy into the story too. I would wear geeky glasses and everything, just to make it all feel legit.

Pffffft. Ridiculous. Who has the money for that? Or even the time? Seems like a lot of work to make this dream come true. I’m probably better off to stuff it into my “maybe later” box and never think of it again.

If I’m being honest though, I don’t think God gives us dreams for no reason. His reasons though, are likely not always what we think. Maybe He just wants to see if we are willing to give them up to follow Him. Now whether we are willing to give up our dreams for Him, that is the biggest test. It really doesn’t matter where they come from, God or us, we aren’t called to chase after fantasies, even if it would be incredible to wind up in history-splattered Rome with my nerd-glasses and an armful of notebooks with endless ideas.

We just need to praise Him, no matter what we are doing with our lives currently. I think the praises that come directly from the surrendered most abandoned hearts in those face-in-the-mud moments are the most touching to Him. Even if the songs aren’t that greatly written, sung or played. He just wants our true feelings, our true love, scribbled down on a cola stained napkin, and expressed to Him our very best.

I think the little drummer boy had it right.

Peace out.

Enter the Maze

How do I explain this? Okay, sometimes I look at other people and I imagine their heads are like eggs. If you crack them open (non-violently of course) inside you will find egg whites and a yolk. This is normal. This is healthy.

I feel like when God made me He jammed a tub of cotton candy, twisty patterns, endless tunnels to other worlds, a whole village of people with strong personalities, eight vastly different pairs of shoes and a box of crayons into my egg-head. I hope I never have to get brain surgery. Because I have this sinking feeling that I’ll freak out the surgeons.

I’m not saying that there is something wrong with me, but there are definitely times when I feel like I’m doing everything I can to hide the fact that I might be a ‘crazy person’. Sometimes it’s incredibly frustrating to try and keep ‘the brain beast’ under control. Someone can be having an entire conversation with me and I will be looking right into their eyes, even nodding, but I can be in a completely different place, having no idea what they’re saying. I want to listen. I want to be a part of what the person is talking about. But my mind takes off without consent. I’ll catch the first few words, and then notice something across the room, or something they say will trigger an idea or thought, and then I’m gone. For the next couple of minutes while they talk, I’m not aware of anything except what my mind is producing.

It’s borderline embarrassing. If I’m not quick on my feet at the time I won’t be able to come up with some sort of stuttering response to whatever I think they were talking about. Usually I have to take a wild guess. And thankfully I’m usually right. But sometimes I’m not, which makes me look really stupid.

It started in high school, I think. But maybe it was before that. I had systematically trained myself to sit in a chair and check out, the moment the teacher opened his/her mouth. I would stare at them so they thought I was listening. But I would be somewhere else entirely, creating a distant landscape or engaging in some ridiculous legendary battle that I’d fabricated in my mind. I was doing it on purpose at first. But after a few years of getting into the habit, I couldn’t stop. Daydreaming became my kryptonite.

It started getting really bad when I could sit by myself for hours with no concept of what time it was. In those moments the idea of having to move was aggravating, almost unthinkable. I would watch things; machines, people, animals, trees. I would study them obsessively until I understood how they worked, or discovered every detail. A tree is not just a tree. It is branches, leaves, a trunk, bark, moss, buds, bugs, and sometimes birds. And it feels cold, sometimes moist, depending on the tree. I don’t know why I ever realized this. Trees really aren’t of any concern to me. Why do I even care? I don’t. But for some stinking reason I notice it anyway. Bah.

85% of the time I’m battling between trying to pay attention to what’s important (like someone talking to me, remembering that I have to make supper, or that I should probably do the laundry) and the overwhelming pull that is taking me in another direction – somewhere that isn’t important but consumes me. Some fantasy land I create. Plotting out the traits of a character that isn’t real. Some crisis that would cool for the character to overcome.

It’s exhausting. Several times a day I’m telling my brain to shut up. Who talks to their own brain? I don’t typically sleep well on a normal night either – usually because I just think and think and think and think…

The weird part is that I actually can focus on something, if it’s something I like. If it’s making the preparations for something that I can see the big picture of that no one else seems to get, I can do it. I can do it because I want to prove the world wrong. I want to do it so that everyone can see the end result, the way I see it. People don’t always see what I see, the big dream that I know will be amazing once it’s finished. In those instances my focus is spear-like.

I’m not going to lie, I think if I didn’t believe in God, if I didn’t have the relationship with Him that I have, I would have probably lost my mind by now. I would be restless all the time. Peace was foreign to me, until I really started to pursue God to the point of choosing to give those things, those parts of me that I typically can’t control, to Him. He keeps the aimless wanderings going in the right direction at least. I must focus my energy on something. So I know I can accomplish masterpieces if I keep my focus on Him.

Not everyone gets my need to constantly spring into a new situation or venture out into new territory. It’s not that I’m reckless. And it’s not that I’m ignorant and don’t understand the risks. It’s that I’m trying to feed the howling ‘brain-beast’ that won’t shut up until I do.

Not everyone gets my need to escape either. I love people, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I realize that I need seclusion, and I don’t know where the freak-desperation comes from without warning, but sometimes I just need to be by myself so that I can ‘hear myself think’. Little distractions instantly become my enemy. I need to focus, or I will lose my train of thought. And if I lose my train of thought I might never get it back. And for whatever reason my mind deems it pivotal to keep these little thoughts safe, like they are priceless treasures that are worth a fortune.

It’s so weird. I’m not saying it’s normal. I was never really a normal kid – even in elementary school I had more than one teacher that had to pull me aside to get me in trouble for handing in papers with doodles and pictures coloured in around all the margins of the paper and only half the required school notes. I never broke that habit. In fact, halfway through my grade 10 math exam I gave up and just wrote, “I don’t need math. I will get through life with my art” across the page. And then I handed it in. Granted, at the time I might have been a little naïve. But I was never good at exams.

You know, finally confessing all of this actually makes me feel better about it. I think I just needed to let it all out for a change. Thank God, for God. I can’t even comprehend what my life would be like without Him.

And for the record I’m not crazy. Just a little distracted on a regular basis.

That’s my rant. Tootles.

When God Breathes. (Or Sneezes.)

ImageI did that thing again. The thing where I get the absurd idea that I can push forwards and figure out this dandy life all on my own. At what point am I going to realize that I’m not strong enough? I mean, I’m great. Sure. Maybe. Maybe not. But either way I’m stinking weak.

Me trying to run around and get things done for the Kingdom of God without actually taking a moment to consult God, is like me trying to build a Lego castle with my hands tied behind my back.

Now that would just be plain embarrassing. I’d have to use my feet.

When the Word of God speaks into my life I imagine God breathing right into me; inhale… exhale… redeemed. Forgiven. Shameless.

It takes time for God to breathe. Resting in his presence is pivotal when you’re trying to do something on His behalf. When I decide to take something He’s given me and run with it before He’s finished talking, or before I get the whole picture, I take God’s precious breaths and splatter them onto the world like a nasty sneeze. And that’s a bad representation of God. God doesn’t sneeze. He breathes.

God has so much to say. People misunderstand this because sometimes they shoot a prayer up to Heaven and don’t hear a reply. So they move on. But He’s talking. And He’s saying the most amazing things, things that could change your life, or your circumstance. Things that could call you into your destiny, or into an adventure.

What would God show you if you simply rested in his presence for twenty minutes? And don’t say you don’t have time. Twenty minutes is nothing. Twenty minutes is the amount of time it takes my husband to make a ham sandwich. Anyone can talk to God for twenty minutes.

Something that I’ve avoided telling the world thus far is that I’ve been writing nonfiction novels since I was fifteen years old. I probably have about thirty novels sitting on my laptop right now that are around 100 pages in Microsoft Word. I do it as a hobby. It was always my way to relax after a rough day at work or at school. Depending on where I was working in the past, sometimes I wrote 4 – 5 novels a month. I’d sit down with a great opening line or a mind boggling concept and in three days I would polish off a whole book, which resulted in a lot of series writing.

This, though fun, has also been a crutch for me. It’s so easy to dive into a place that’s not real and disappear for a while, instead of taking responsibility for the things that God is telling me to do by simply ‘holding off’ on them until I’m ‘ready’. So when I come up for air from my book-universes I take off running with the last thing I can remember that God told me, and get confused as to why it seems like I’m starting to veer off in the wrong direction.

I feel like this could be solved so easily if I just took twenty minutes to have a conversation with Him before I start plowing forwards. But I’m constantly forgetting. I love writing, a little too much, in a borderline-obsessive kind of way. I think that most writers have a story inside of them that’s relentlessly trying to get out at least 83% of the time. And I don’t consider that to be a curse, I consider it to be a gift. But I have to make time for God, I must. Or I’ll stop in the middle of the journey somewhere and realize that I don’t know even know where I am. And those moments are the worst. It makes me restless. I usually turn into a bear.

God breathes. And it’s so refreshing. It’s like sinking into a hot bath with pomegranate scented bubbles.

People spend years and thousands of dollars on things that they think can give them a moment of relief like that; therapy, vacations, spa days, whatever. And that stuff can be fab. But none of it will make a difference if your mind is restless – if you haven’t made things right with God.

Twenty minutes of letting Him breathe into you. Please just try it. It’s free.

Kropf out.