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What Do You Do to Get into the Christmas Spirit?

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I love Christmas! I love the reason for the season, celebrating Jesus’ birth and all the excitement that goes along with it. I love the joy the season brings. There’s something special in the air! People are kinder, and it seems that Christmas somehow ushers in an expectation of hope — something new and wonderful for the year to come!

christmas-spiritI also love many of the fun things people do to get into the Christmas spirit, such as decorating Christmas trees, hanging bright colorful lights, baking special holiday treats, and playing those wonderful classic Christmas songs.

What will you do this year to get into the Christmas spirit?

The single most favorite thing I’ve done to get into the Christmas spirit happened a few years ago. It was so much fun, I don’t know why I haven’t done it again. Myself and a few of the ladies who serve in the children’s ministry with me at church decided to do a Christmas movie night. I hosted the event at my home. I can hear those of you who know me say in unison, “Naturally!” 🙂

The menu included popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, movie size candy, and sodas. Since it was a grownup gathering — and to make it festive, I served a sparkling champagne punch. Yum!

christmas-spirit The main event was our movie! We chose “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Although it’s been colorized, we watched it in black and white. I’ve seen this great classic several times, but it always delivers!

If anything can get you in the Christmas spirit, it’s watching this heart-warming story. I think I’ll watch it tonight. 🙂

Hey, drop me a line or two and tell me what you’re going to do to get into the Christmas spirit, or what you’ve already done. I look forward to hearing from you!

Have a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Catherine

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Changing Seasons – What Can They Tell Us About Life?

During my devotion this morning, I looked out of my bedroom window as I’ve done hundreds of times before, and observed something I’d never noticed before. I’ve lived in my home for more than twenty years, and about ten years ago we planted a Texas Ash tree in the middle of the backyard.

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My Texas Ash Tree

It’s a fast growing tree which has grown to about 45 or 50 feet, or taller. During the Spring and Summer it produces an abundance of beautiful deep green leaves.

With it being Fall, and fast approaching Winter, most of the leaves have turned a golden-yellow. What I noticed today that I hadn’t noticed previously were the “falling” leaves.

I watched for fifteen or twenty minutes transfixed at how the leaves were dropping intermittently — as though timed. One. Two. Three at a time they dropped. It was as though each would say, “My turn!” then let go and sail to the ground like a skilled cliff diver.

Within the next two to three weeks, the tree will be dormant and the branches completely bare of leaves. But, like clockwork, when March rolls around buds will start to sprout and by Spring the tree will be full of lush green leaves once again!

As I continued to watch, it occurred to me that a few life lessons could be gleaned from observing the effects of changing seasons. Here are a few of my musings:

As with this great tree, we too experience seasons of life.

The seasons are different. Some are painful and difficult. Others are pleasurable and fun. Each is temporary, and if we recognize them as seasons, we can approach and deal with them more effectively.

There comes a time when we have to shed some things in our lives to allow a fresh start.

This shedding could take the form of a person(s), things we’ve accumulated, bad habits we engage in, or baggage we’ve been holding on to for far too long. The shedding could take the form of emotions, anger or bitterness. If we forgive, we can free ourselves from negative emotions weighing us down.

As the leaves are falling, it appears the tree is dying. But, in the Spring, it will become beautiful once more!

When our lives are falling apart, it seems we can’t make it. But we can. And when we come through the storm we are stronger and better because of it. But just like the tree has a source of life in which its roots are deeply embedded, we must have a source of life in which our faith is deeply embedded. What is your source?

Sometimes we must be transformed before we can experience our best selves, and receive God’s best blessings in our lives.

What life lessons can you extract from changing seasons? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by!

Catherine

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Fierce Women Who Happen to be Authors – A Conversation with Deondriea Cantrice

I am so excited to introduce to you Deondriea Cantrice, one of the most dynamic women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Deondriea is a true success story! And I’m honored to include her in my Fierce Women series.

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Statistics would have told you Deondriea would be a high school dropout living on welfare. That’s because Deondriea was a teen-mom. Despite having this life-changing event as a major obstacle to overcome, Deondriea persevered to become a celebrated author, motivational speaker, and youth coach.

Deondriea is also a marketing maven who has been able to not only build her brand, but she has been able to assist others in building a sustainable brand as well.

Deondriea was awarded the Distinction of Excellence Award by Stiletto Woman in Business Award (SWIBA) in 2014 and named a finalist for the SWIBA Author of the Year in 2014. She is intelligent, hardworking, and everything she does is done in excellence!

Please join me for an enthralling conversation with Deondriea!

Deondriea’s books can be found on Amazon.com:

Tip Toes, Steel Toes and Stilettos, Rhythm Can’t Keep Time, When Emotions Lie, After the Rain, Write and Grow Rich, You! Branding Yourself for Success!

The song featured in this post is called “Neo Soul Day” by Texas Radio Fish.

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My Top 20 Fictional Heroes – Who are Yours?

“Everyone needs a hero.” That’s what Aunt May said to Peter Parker in the movie Spider-Man (2002). What do you think?

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Well, let’s consider… as we go about our daily lives with the hustle and bustle, ups and downs, highs and lows – and let’s not talk about anything specific like – politics…YIKES!

Ergo, I believe, we sometime have the need to escape and live vicariously through the adventure and adversity of our favorite hero or heroine.

Thank goodness for books and movies! There are so many great ones out there which capture the heart and soul of our favorite heroes and bring them to life!

It seems the more complex and flawed they are, the more empathetic we are, and the more we love them. We also love them for their bravery, their loyalty, their intellect, their desire to conquer evil, often sacrificing their own personal welfare for a greater good.

Some of my fictional heroes and heroines are also regular men and women who, against all odds, survive through grit, determination, and integrity, in a world where the odds are stacked against them.

Below is my list of top 20 heroes and heroines. I had a difficult time putting them in order of most favorite and eventually gave up. But, here’s my list. Check it out:

Top 20 Favorite Heroes and Heroines:

1. Atticus FinchTo Kill a Mockingbird – by Harper Lee (1960)
2. Clarice StarlingThe Silence of the Lambs (1991)
3. James T. Kirk Star Trek (1966 – present) 3 seasons
4. SpockStar Trek (1966 – present) 3 seasons
5. James BondGold Finger, From Russia With Love, Die Another Day, Skyfall (and others) – by Ian Fleming ( Portrayed by Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig)
6. Annalise KeatonHow to Get Away With Murder (2014 – present) Protrayed by Viola Davis.
7. Jason Bourne – The Bourne Series – by Robert Ludlam
8. Alex Cross Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls (and others) – by James Patterson
9. Virgil TibbsIn the Heat of the Night (Movie – 1967 and Series 1988 – 1995) Protrayed by Howard E. Rollins, Jr.
10. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) – To Kill a Mockingbird – by Harper Lee (1960)
11. Jackie BrownJackie Brown (1997) Protrayed by Pam Grier.
12. James EvansGood Times (1974 – 1979) Protrayed by John Amos.
13. Harry BoschThe Drop, The Black Box (and others) – by Michael Connelly
14. Myron BolitarHome, Deal Breaker, Drop Shot (and others) – by Harlan Coben
15. NeoThe Matrix (1999) Keanu Reeves
16. John LutherLuther (2010 – 2016) Protrayed by Idris Elba.
17. Ethan HuntMission Impossible – (Movies 1996 -2015) Protrayed by Tom Cruise.
18. John Quincy Archibald John Q. (2002) Protrayed by Denzel Washington.
19. Vanessa Michael MunroeThe Informationist, The Catch, The Innocent (and others) – by Taylor Stevens
20. Jamie Fraser Outlander – by Diana Gabaldon

Honorable Mention: Jackson BrodyElysian Escape by Catherine Tucker (future publication)

That’s my list. So what do you think? Drop me a line and let me know who some of your favorite heroes or heroines are.

As alway thanks for stopping by!

Catherine

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Mission Possible: One Writer’s Philosophy and Hopes

mission-possible-hopesI’ve been writing fiction now for six years; full-time for the last year and a half. And like most writers, I have certain philosophies and hopes.

My philosophy about writing is that you should write what you like, not just what you know. American Poet, Howard Nemerov said,” Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.” Seems we’re on the same page.

I believe you should also write what brings you joy because writing is HARD. I found it comforting to read the comments from Joyce Carol Oates, one of the most prolific writers of our time. In the article, “Joyce Carol Oates on Writing: ‘Don’t Give Up,'” she compared starting her writing day to pushing an enormous rock up a hill.

My gosh! I thought it was just me — and certainly not someone who’s been writing for over 50 years and published more than 100 books of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.

Since writing is hard, as attested to by Ms. Oates, I think it’s better to write about something that makes you happy rather than something that will drag you down into the doldrums.

When I began writing my first novel I knew I was doing it for the pure joy of telling a story. And I was doing it for the joy I hoped it would bring to others. I had so much fun writing that first story.

The second novel in the series has been more of a challenge to write. I haven’t yet been able to hit the kind of stride or get into the writing “zone” with this story as I did with the first. But still I persevere!

I love writing fiction because it’s so liberating. You have total control. If you don’t like what you’ve written, just hit the backspace key or the delete key and replace it with something you like better.

And with fiction you can create your story be whatever you want it to be as long as it’s believable enough for readers to come along for the ride and not roll their eyes and say, “This couldn’t possibly happen.”

I never had as a primary goal writing to get rich or to make money for that matter. I recall when I was researching how to create a business plan for my writing business, I was momentarily stunned at the mention of fees being paid for writing projects.

My hope is that my writing inspires and uplifts those who read it. I heard Marlon Wayans say in an interview that he doesn’t expect his comedy to change the world, he just hopes it changes a mood.

That’s my hope! When someone reads one of my novels, I hope it changes whatever mood they are in, especially if they are tired, or discouraged, or lonely, and carries them away to a place of adventure and intrigue. I want them to be totally captivated by the world they’ve entered.

Just as great movies entertain, I hope my novels entertain. I want readers to fall in love with my characters. When they put the book aside, I want them to wonder what the characters are going to do next and be anxious to get back to the story.

And when they finish reading the novel, I want them to hate that it’s over like a cherished love affair and pine for my main character’s return. (Smile)

Well, what about you? What is your philosophy about writing? Or what is your hope for the future? Drop me a line or two and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

Catherine

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Fighting the Beast of Inadequacy

Have you ever faced the beast of inadequacy? I know I have! Whenever I’ve started a new job or was given a new assignment, I’ve often felt uncertain, even unsure of myself. This past year, however, the beast of uncertainty grabbed me with a vise grip.

beast As a new writer in the fiction genre, I’m now challenged to navigate the daunting path to become a published author.

February 2016 was my target month to start sending out query letters. The first Friday of the first week, I sent out seven query letters to prospective Literary Agents.

That same evening I received one rejection — the next day another. Ouch! That first one stung a bit. I don’t know if it was because the rejection was so swift, or because I wasn’t expecting a rejection at all. Ha-ha! Secretly, I guess I thought everyone would love my story as much as I did.

Suddenly the beast of uncertainty seized me, and I found myself asking, “Who do you think you are thinking you can write a novel worthy of being published by a New York publishing house? Why would you even think you’re talented enough to produce a work that people would be remotely interested in reading?”

So my question to you is, how do you fight this great beast of inadequacy that makes you want to stop dead in your tracks and run as fast as you can in the other direction? The answer…you DON’T fight it ALONE!

Sunday morning following my great disappointment, I watched a televised broadcast of Dr. Charles Stanley and was so inspired by his timely message “Understanding Inadequacy.”

He told me that inadequacy can be a good thing if we have the right response. The right response to inadequacy according to Dr. Stanley should drive us to God; which in turn will make us:

• Depend on Him

• Build our relationship with Him

• Create intimacy with Him, and

• Strengthen our faith in Him

Since hearing Dr. Stanley’s message, I’ve felt so empowered to continue my quest in finding a Literary Agent as I pursue my goal of publication. I now have a new weapon to fight the beast of inadequacy. I will use the feeling of inadequacy to draw me closer to the Lord. I will no longer think of it as a weakness but a means to help strengthen my resolve.

I know my path will be littered with distractions, disappointments, and setbacks of numerous kinds, but if I keep my eyes on the LORD and run to Him when I feel weak and inadequate, He will give me the STRENGTH and COURAGE I need to continue!

Psalm 46:1 The Lord is my refuge and my strength an ever-present help in trouble.

PS – Drop a line and tell me about a time you’ve felt inadequate and what you did to overcome it.

Thanks!

Catherine

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Pay Attention to the Burning Bush!

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Is there a story inside of you that’s been screaming to come out? Or have you always had a desire to write but just weren’t sure writing was the right path for you? Well, take a moment and read this guest post from Christian author, speaker and educator, Jeaninne Stokes. You just might find God’s been trying to get your attention!

Suddenly, the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses as a blazing fire in a bush. When the Lord saw that He had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the bush. Exodus 3:1-4, NLT

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Jeaninne Stokes
One day, while Moses was taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep in the land of Midian, he noticed a bush engulfed in flames that was not burning up. As he drew closer to the bush, God called to him from the bush and told him he would lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.

As with Moses, God has a way of getting our attention when He wants us to answer the call to write for publication. What are some ways God can use to get our attention:

1. He uses our circumstances – Has an event recently happened in your life that may be a sign it’s time for you to write for publication? Is your passion for your current job or career lessening and your desire to write for publication increasing more and more? Have you recently retired from your job or been unexpectedly laid off, and now find yourself with a lot of time on your hand? Are doors closing regarding job opportunities in your existing career that once opened easily for you? Then pay attention to how God may be calling you to write for publication through your circumstances.

2. He uses people – What are others telling you about your writings? Are they saying it’s time for you to move from writing as a hobby to writing for publication? Do people enjoy reading what you’ve written and want to read more? Is your critique group giving you more positive feedback lately about your writings than negative? Are you meeting people through workshops and writing conferences who are willing to help you get published, if you’ll get over your fears and submit your work? Then pay attention to how God may be calling you to write for publication through people.

3. He uses divine intervention – In what ways has God spoken to you directly to let you know he is calling you to write for publication? Have you received a special note from someone about your writings, or has a special message scrolled across your laptop, phone or desktop that you knew was sent directly from God? Has God spoken directly to you through a sermon, a song, a Bible verse, or through prayer? Then pay attention to how God may be communicating his call to write for publication through divine intervention.

Like the great leader Moses, answering the call to write for publication will be the first step on your journey to the promised land God has for you. So be sure to pay attention to your burning bush!

Aspiring writer, in what way is God calling you to write for publication? Post your comments on my blog. I enjoy hearing from you

http://jstokeswritingministries.org/blog/

Sharing the journey,

Jeaninne

Jeaninne Stokes writes to inspire, equip and instruct people as they seek to live a life of faith in every aspect of their lives. She is the author of Living by Faith: A collection of inspirational poetry and Lessons from the Wilderness: A devotional for aspiring writers beginning the journey to write for publication. She also writes a blog called Inspiration for the Aspiring writer, and she writes two email devotionals: Sharing the Word and Weekly Inspiration for Mothers.

She is the founder and CEO of JStokes Writing Ministries, which provides training, coaching and consulting services for aspiring writers wanting to write for publication from the Christian point of view. To learn more about her ministry, visit Jeaninne at: http://www.jstokeswritingministries.com/

PS – Leave a comment for me if you think you’ve been ignoring your burning bush. Thanks!

Catherine