When I’m Not Writing: Coloring

I wrote last month that one of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing is make jewelry. One of my other favorite hobbies is to color.

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I mostly choose to color Christian coloring books, because when I’m coloring something with scripture it becomes a much more fulfilling experience. Reflecting on God’s word while doing the relaxing activity of coloring helps me draw closer to God.

Since my last post on coloring, I’ve gone even more coloring crazy. I now have 12 books. I also now have a big set of markers and an electric pencil sharpener for my colored pencils sitting on my coffee table next to my coloring basket.

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Coloring is one of the most relaxing activities I’ve found. I love creating anything, and I love getting to work with my hands, so coloring is the perfect thing for me to do.

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Favorite Book Feature: Everlost by Neal Shusterman

June’s featured book is the first book I read by one of my favorite authors: Everlost by Neal Shusterman. I fell in love with Shusterman’s writing after reading this book, and the Skinjacker trilogy that Everlost is a part of and the Unwind Dystology are some of my favorite books ever. Reading Everlost again this month was an absolute pleasure, and I hope I have time soon to read the rest of the series as well.

In the book, Everlost is a place between life and death, an in-between world where children who don’t “get where they’re going” end up. It is a mysterious and dangerous world, full of lost souls and crossed-over objects, and if you stand in the same place to long you sink to the center of the earth. Everlost follows Nick and Allie, who don’t survive a car crash and end up in Everlost. They want to go home but forget more about their lives the longer they stay. They meet mother-like Mary Hightower, who guards hundreds of kids in the crossed-over Twin Towers in New York City, and Nick feels like he has found a comfortable home. But Allie isn’t satisfied and keeps looking for a way back home, eventually getting Nick caught up in her plans aboard the crossed-over ship captained by the McGill, a fearsome monster who crawled his way back to the earth’s surface after sinking to its center.

This book is probably the only paranormal story I like, and that’s because while the kids in Everlost are inbetween life and death, they’re not really ghosts. They’re Afterlights, so named because they have a glow about them. All of the details Shusterman includes—the sinking to the center of the earth, the fact that well-loved items cross over to Everlost when they’re destroyed, the mysterious and unidentifiable coins that everyone crosses over with, and the sometimes humorous fact that everyone crosses over in exactly what they died in (including a chocolate smear on Nick’s face, a wet Speedo, and several Halloween costumes)—make Everlost rich and exciting. And I’ve definitely never read anything quite like this before.

I think my favorite part of the book though is the omniscient point of view. This story could have been well done in Allie’s or Nick’s perspectives, or even both. But Shusterman made an excellent choice making this story omniscient. We get a peek into the heads of all the character’s this way, and this allows Shusterman to do my favorite quality of his writing: Shusterman uses the omniscient narrator to take you into the both the villains’ and side characters’ heads and beautifully characterize them in even as little as a paragraph. He puts the omniscient point of view to its best use by really getting deep into all of the characters (no matter how brief) to give the readers all of the different perspectives.

I’ve never tried writing in an omniscient point of view. It is a difficult POV to use because it usually puts a distance between the reader and the characters. However, Shusterman navigates around this and gives us an omniscient narrator who both makes you laugh and gives you great insight into each character.

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My Summer TBR List

I’m one of those people who feed off of sunshine, so spring and summer are my favorite seasons. I especially love to read in the summer. Back when I was in school summer was pretty much the only time I could read for fun, and now the longer days make me more productive so I have more time to read. So since yesterday was the first official day of summer I thought I’d share what’s on my Summer To Be Read (TBR) List.

  • The Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
    I read the first book of this series, Among the Hidden, in May for my Favorite Book Feature, so of course I now have to go read the whole series again. These books were some of my favorites back in middle school/early high school. Haddix was my favorite author at the time, and her books made me want to write too.

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  • The Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman
    I also read the first book of this series, Everlost, for a Favorite Book Feature, and I now want to read the other two books as well. Shusterman is one of my current favorite authors because of his incredible writing style. His voice is so distinct, and he is one of the best storytellers I’ve ever read. Look for my post on Everlost next Friday for June’s Favorite Book Feature.
  • Legend by Marie Lu
    I was hooked on this series as soon as I read the book jacket and saw that it is a dystopia inspired by Les Misérables. I’ll be writing about this amazing book for July’s Favorite Book Feature.
  • Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
    August’s Favorite Book Feature is going to be this eerie dystopia about a water shortage.

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  • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
    I’ve been meaning to get to this on for a while. Set in future Manhattan in a skyscraper that’s a thousand stories tall, this book sounds so glamorous and thrilling.
  • The Reader by Traci Chee
    This book is about a world without reading, which I find really interesting. It’s a fantasy, which I don’t tend to enjoy very often, so I’m not sure I’ll like it. But I think it will help inspire me and my current project.
  • Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
    I won the audiobook version of Metaltown a while back from a giveaway by the author, and I’m finally getting around to listening to it. This one is another dystopia inspired by Les Misérables, so I was hooked as soon as I heard Simmons describe it at a signing I went to.

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  • The Selection Series by Kiera Cass
    I think this will be the forth time I’ve read the original trilogy, but I like these books more each time I read them. I want to go through them again to help me as I work on a similar book.

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  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
    While these are some of my favorite movies, I haven’t actually read the books except for the first one when it was a new book nine years ago. I also think this series will help me with my current project, so I finally want to read them.

Of course, all but two of these books I already own, so my library stack that’s already as tall as me isn’t getting any shorter any time soon. But I still can’t wait to get to read all of these stories this summer.

When I’m Not Writing: Jewelry-Making

Though I do have stories running through the back of my head most of the time, I’m not actually writing all of the time. I thought I’d start sharing some of my other hobbies and things I like to do when I’m not writing. One of my favorite things to do is to make jewelry, which I’ve been doing for over half of my life now.

When I was eleven a friend taught me how to make simple bracelets out of embroidery floss. These bracelets were really easy and relaxing to make, and they started off a long list of things I like to do that involves working with my hands. I made so many of these little bracelets, and I loved going to craft stores and picking out new colors of floss.

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We moved back to Ohio just after I learned how to make these bracelets, and one of my new neighbors saw my interest in jewelry and taught me how to make beaded pieces. I have spent the last twelve years of my life making jewelry whenever I have time and selling it when I can.

I currently have almost 300 different kinds of beads. I have made almost every piece of jewelry that I wear. I just love all of the colorful beads and I feel at peace when I’m making patterns and stringing beads. These are some of my favorite pieces I’ve made. I wore the blue bracelet on my wedding day.

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I recently found a way to link my jewelry-making and my writing in an exciting project called Hope Bracelets, which you can read about here. I hope to find more ways to combine my two passions in the future.

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So if I have free time in the evenings after a day of writing, you can find me spread out on the floor of our living room with my 18 cases of beads, making patterns and creating beautiful jewelry.

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VOLZ with Engage City Church

As I’ve said before, I love my church. I feel so blessed that God has brought this amazing church to my community and that I get to be a part of it. Engage City Church is a family. I feel home when I am with all of these amazing people. And this weekend we got to come together and celebrate all of the church’s volunteers at their semi-annual VOLZ event.

We gathered at a park and had a big cookout with burgers, hot dogs, and The Little Pink Bakery’s amazing cake balls! The party was a throwback to the 90s, and we had 90s music, trivia, and costumes. It was so much fun to get together with my church family and celebrate.

Engage’s lead team honored the volunteers and Pastor Doug reminded us all why we do what we do. We get to serve at this church. We get this wonderful opportunity to love on and serve people in our community. And each and every one of the volunteers is such an important part of the church as a whole.

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When we came home after the party I was thinking about how much volunteering means to me. I love being a part of this church. I love taking care of the babies in the nursery and holding open doors and greeting people when they arrive for the worship experiences. I love getting to love on people and spread the love of Christ to my community. Engage City Church is doing big things, and I’m so happy that my husband and I are a part of it.

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My Blog Turns 1!

Today is my blog’s first anniversary!

On May 31st of last year, I published my first post about reading the Selection series and how meeting Kiera Cass helped me to finally write and publish my first novel.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like blogging. Writers learn to write in other’s voices. We write as our characters and we tell their stories. It was an interesting experience to start writing as myself and to tell my own story. I’m really happy with how my blog and website have evolved over the last year, and I really enjoy posting about my writing, books I’m reading, and anything else that affects my life as a writer.

To celebrate my blog’s anniversary, I wanted to look back on some of my favorite posts from the past year. Help me celebrate and check out some of my old posts!

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: Writing a New Story: This post explains what I want readers to take away from my novel, which is of course the most important part of writing the book in the first place.

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World Changers: In this one I explain my calling to be a writer and how I want to use writing to do what I can to make a difference.

Top 10 Reasons I Love My Husband: In honor of Valentine’s Day, I created this list of all the reasons I love my husband.

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Being a “Real” Writer: In this post I reflect on making writing my job and give my view on what makes someone a real writer.

Why I Love Engage City Church: In this one I brag about how awesome my church is.

Why Write?: Here I talk about an important lesson I learned back in college-that everyone has something important to say.

Reading Your Own Writing: When I read through my novel for the first time after it’s publication, I had both a negative and positive feeling about it. Here I write about trying to focus on the positive.

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Molly and me reading together

Finding Motivation: In this post I talk about having the right mindset to write and how I created a reward system to keep myself motivated.

Somewhere Only We Know Launch Party: Here I have pictures from and talk about my book launch party.

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Getting Re-inspired by Les Misérables: Lastly, in this post I talk about finding inspiration from my favorite story ever.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog over the last year, and I hope you continue to join me on my writing journey by reading my blog for the years to come!

Favorite Book Feature: Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Last weekend I got to return to the town where I lived when I was in middle and high school for a family friend’s graduation party, and I was feeling nostalgic as my husband and I drove around the town where I grew up. So when I was looking through my favorite book shelf for May’s featured book, I picked Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I first read this novel when I was in eighth grade after Haddix came to speak at my school, and Haddix was my favorite author at the time.

Among the Hidden is about Luke, a twelve year old boy who has never left his family’s property, never gone to school, never met another person outside his family, and spends his days reading in his attic bedroom because he is an illegal third child in hiding from the Population Police. When the government buys the land behind his family’s farm and builds a new housing development, he’s no longer even allowed to go outside.

Then Luke sees a child’s face in the window of one of the new houses where he knows two other children already live, and he finally meets a fellow shadow child. But Jen has a dangerous plan to be able to come out of hiding, and wants Luke to join her. Among the Hidden is the first of the seven-book Shadow Children series.

Among the Hidden was the first dystopian book I’ve ever read, though I didn’t have the name for it at the time. It was still a while before young adult dystopian novels gained their popularity that they still have today. But even ten years ago I knew that I was holding something special when I read the Shadow Children books.

Haddix is so skilled at making her books suspenseful, quick reads that are appealing to all ages. I like her books now just as much as I did when I was in middle school. As I’ve talked about here, Haddix made me want to be a writer.

I love Among the Hidden because the book immediately grabs you with its premise. You’re instantly invested in Luke’s story when you learn he can no longer go outside because he’s an illegal third child. Haddix does an amazing job of showing his parents’ worry and, sometimes, overprotection. And then when Luke meets Jen, his world is shaken at its foundation, and you get to watch Luke’s journey as he goes from wondering what he should fill his day with to wondering whether he should risk his life to help shadow children like himself. This book is compelling and thrilling, and is an impressive start to the series.