Thursday, December 10, 2015

God is Good

If you're anything like me, your social media feed is filled with good news. Whenever I open my Facebook or Instagram I am met with the beaming faces of another happy couple, another snapshot of adventures in far-off lands, another success or happy memory. And smiles. Lots and lots of smiles.

Many times the happy announcements are accompanied with a comment about how God has blessed the individual or about how good God is.

To be honest, these posts are not always easy to see.

Please, don't think I'm asking for the joyous announcements to stop. On the contrary, I love to celebrate the victories and the happy times. And we should celebrate. Please go on sharing with friends far and near the joys and triumphs of your life. (I've done it myself.) Let us join together in praising the Lord for what He has written in your story. Because they are blessings from God!

But gifts don't always come with neat bows and shiny paper. Sometimes they come with stains. 

When we're unable to identify with the place of joy we need to know that these are not the only stories. 

I haven't had the best of semesters. In fact, the last two years have carried disappointment after disappointment. I've watched long-held dreams slip out of my reach. I've stood by as people I love have struggled with depression, with disease, with disappointments, with death. Right now, I'm stuck in a place of confusion. Paths that I thought ran straight and clear before me have suddenly disappeared in a tangle of plot twists.

As much as I genuinely enjoy joining the celebration, a slithering, slimy fear worms its way through my insecurities.

"If God is good to these people and He shows His favor and blessing by giving these gifts, why doesn't He give them to me?" It's a lie. A filthy, powerful lie.

We must destroy the lie with the truth.

When you're lonely and wondering if anyone will love you. God is good.

When your body betrays you, and the muscles don't work or the cells don't reproduce the way they should. God is good.

When the application to your dream job (or any job, for that matter) is rejected. God is good.

When the numbers don't match, and the bills keep coming. God is good.

When you meet with failure everywhere you turn. God is good.

When life is slipping through your fingers like sand no matter how you try to cup your hands. God is good.

When you lay in bed begging God for answers or don't feel like talking to Him at all. God is good.

Just as good as the day you marry the love of your life, discover the calling for your days, welcome a child into the world, buy a house, or get a promotion.

God's goodness is not based on circumstances. God is good. That's a verb of being. Goodness is a part of His divine nature. He cannot be anything but Himself.

He was good yesterday. He is good today. He will be good again tomorrow.

"'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless night are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise." 
- "Blessing" by Laura Story 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Midsummer's Anniversary

Nearly four years have come and gone since the idea for my everlasting novel-in-progress sprang into my imagination. It’s been a full four years – with good times and painful times all mixed together. Beautiful has traveled alongside me in the transition from high school to college. I have known periods of glittering inspiration and all-too-frequent periods of creative drought.

I wrote my first novel in a year and a half. Over and over again I wonder what is taking so long this time. Four long years and I have just over 55,000 words and 200 pages. According to my estimations, the manuscript might be halfway done. It’s easy to get weighed down with frustration and impatience. Fear is my enemy yet also my constant companion. Too often I find myself running away from the writing. Why doesn’t it come as easily this time? What if I’m not good enough? The voices of insecurity and doubt clamor in my heart every time I sit down to the as-yet empty page.

Still, I believe in this story. I believe that Estelle's tale needs to be told.  

Beautiful is deeper than any other story I have written. Discovering the words to tell this tale means wrestling with some of life’s deepest questions and facing my own dreams, fears, and insecurities spelled out in ink that hides nothing. It is a terrifying, wrenching experience that can also be exhilarating—a lot like growing up. The girl that began to write this story is not the same girl that writes today. Neither is the story. We’ve come a long way together, Beautiful and I, and this is only the beginning of the adventure.

On this approximate anniversary, however, I want to take a moment to celebrate how far this story has come.  

I began to write Beautiful at the beginning of my junior year of high school for a class, Advanced Creative Writing. That class changed my life. I became a serious writer during that semester, learning the tools and mindset that goes into crafting a story. It sparked a hunger within me to become the best writer I possibly could. During my senior year, Beautiful blossomed under the mentorship of Anne Elisabeth Stengl (check out her awarding winning novels here). I say blossomed but I also mean ripped to shreds (in the best possible way). Anne Elisabeth pushed me to stretch my ability and my imagination, to test the limits of the story. I discovered both my strengths and weaknesses as a writer and storyteller, and I would not trade that experience for anything. Beautiful gained clarity and direction in plot and theme while I began to mature as a writer and to grasp just how much work awaited me.

On Beautiful’s fourth birthday I celebrate the teachers who have come alongside me. I celebrate the moments when sweet friends have sat for an hour or more listening as I tried to tell them the story that was welling up within my soul. I celebrate the times when the room fades away, and I walk alongside my characters down castle corridors; but I also celebrate what I’ve learned in the times of pain when just typing the next sentence presented the greatest of obstacles. Most of all I celebrate that God has given me the passion, desire, and ability to wield words. 

This story—and all stories—belong to Him, for He is the Great Storyteller.

 I look forward to the day when I can share this story with all of you. Until then, how about a sneak peek from the rough draft?

The sky was still dim when Estelle rose. It was early and the birds had not yet begun to sing. Although, Estelle doubted if even the songbirds would dare to lift their chirruping voices on that day of all days, Midsummer's Eve.
Tip-toeing across the floorboards she knew to creak, Estelle pulled open the window shutters. Immediately, the humid air flew in her face and filled her lungs until she felt as though they were filled with cotton. Her skin squirmed under the pressure of the saturated air. Or was it really the sense of breathless, whispered apprehension that cloaked the town?
There would be no ordinary day’s work today. No trace of smoke curled above the blacksmith’s forge. No farmers trekked through the morning mists to the tending of their fields or piled produce for market in the square. Rather, the villagers lingered beneath the concealment of the thatched roofs as if they could hide just a few moments longer from the mountain’s presence.
Ridiculous, surely. The mountain’s shadow crept to their very doorsteps, slipped beneath even the most tightly sealed doors, and settled in their hearts. Yet Estelle could not deny the temptation to slam the shutters closed and do likewise, but now that her name was sealed into the Summons she forced herself to face the towering Mountain of Lamir. That shadow was her new reality, she reminded herself.  She may be a fool but she would not also be a coward.
Estelle emerged from the cottage, shutting the door softly behind her and cringing at the relative loudness of the latch slipping into place. She placed a hand protectively over her apron pocket where the forged Summons was concealed inside her book. She did not dare to leave it behind. If her mother should find it…Estelle shuddered to consider the possibility.
An uncomfortable fluttering sensation filled her stomach and rose into her heart as she stepped into the desolate street. She cast glances over each shoulder, searching for peering faces in the windows. The hated feeling of exposure consumed her. There was nowhere to hide, should anyone care to look. The road ran east to west with the emptiness of the sky stretching in an arc overhead. If she had turned to the east she could have walked until the street cast off the crowding cottages and shops, trading them for the adolescent corn that flanked either side. She could have walked until the street turned from dirt to gold, running into the flaming disc of the sun that was just beginning to clear the edge of the horizon. But that was not her course. Turning her back to the sun, Estelle lifted her chin high and made for the westward edge of the village. As the sun consumed the eastern end of the road the western stretch of the same ran first into still shade and finally into the hard mountain slopes. Two opposing forces they seemed at this time of day. At one end the sun casting glittering rays across the fields and at the other the dark of the mountain blotting out all else. Although they might fight for dominance now, the mountain would surely win. The sun might shine bright and distracting in a clear sky, but as the hours progressed it would be drawn silently into the mountain’s shadow until the mountain devoured it entirely, swallowing its light.
The mountain always won.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Fairy Tale Writing Contest

Attention Fellow Writers! I'm excited to share with ya'll an incredible opportunity and an exciting challenge. Without further ado...

Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their third fairy tale novella contest—

Five Magic Spindles
a collection of “Sleeping Beauty” stories

The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Sleeping Beauty,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours!
Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Magic Spindles collection, which will be packaged up with the phenomenal cover you see here. Maybe your name will be one of the five listed?

All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page.

Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers is available for purchase, and our second collection, Five Enchanted Roses is scheduled to launch on July 27, and is currently available for pre-order. Be certain to get a copy of each and see what previous winners did with their wonderful retellings.

This cover illustration was rendered by Julia Popova, “ForestGirl.” You can find out more about this gifted artist on her website: 


Well, I'm in. I have to say, this may be the most beautiful cover design for these contests yet. Anyone want to join me? Help us spread the word. If you're a blogger, feel free to grab the blog button and include the link to the contest details. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Story Starter Saturday - February

Ready to give your imagination a workout? Whether you consider yourself a writer or not give today’s story starter a try and see where it takes you.

How does it work? Write a poem, a story, a list, a dialogue, a description, or a song. Draw a picture. Play the word association game. Set the timer for 10 minutes and do a free write. Create a new character or put yourself in a new situation.  See where the words and images take you. You never know what may happen. Even if an idea isn’t going anywhere to begin with, you may be able to use it some other time. Create a notebook and keep your story starters and scraps of inspiration for later reference. See last month's Story Starter here

Places have stories just like people do. 
What story do you see hiding in this picture?

Via Pinterest

What stands out to you? Does it remind you of a place you have been or imagined? What does the picture not show? Notice the contrast. Focus on a single detail. Explore. There are innumerable stories to discover.

Have fun! Share your first line or what approach you took in the comments below!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Introducing: Story Starter Saturdays

Today I am excited to announce a new feature here at A Curious Thrill! 

Story Starter Saturdays will take place one Saturday a month. They may be in the form of a picture or an opening sentence, a setting or a sound. Anything! These story starters are intended for everyone, writers and non-writers alike. We can all benefit from stretching our imaginations and our writerly muscles.

Write a poem, a story, a list, a dialogue, a description, or a song. Play the word association game. Set the timer for 10 minutes and do a free write. Create a new character or put yourself in a new situation.  See where the words and images take you. You never know what may happen. Even if an idea isn’t going anywhere to begin with, you may be able to use it some other time. Create a notebook and keep your story starters and scraps of inspiration for later reference.

Now, without further ado, here’s your first prompt:


Need some help?

Take some time to really study the picture. Search out those tiny details that you missed the first time. What do they tell you? What don’t they tell you?

Where did this bottle come from? Where is it now? Who sent it? Who received it?

What does the paper inside say? What do you notice about the water, the sand, the bottle?

Have fun! Share your first line or what approach you took in the comments below!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Draven's Light Cover Reveal

Today is a very special day as I have the delightful honor of participating in the cover reveal for Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s forthcoming novella and Tale of Goldstone Wood, Draven’s Light. The treats in store include a beautiful and haunting cover, an intriguing storyline, and a thrilling excerpt from the novella. And don’t forget to enter for your chance to win!

In the Darkness of the Pit
The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain's powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, "Coward." When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother's honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

Coming May 25, 2015

ANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Tales of Goldstone Wood. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award.
To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Excerpt from
By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
(coming May 25, 2015)

He heard the drums in his dreams, distant but drawing ever nearer. He had heard them before and wondered if the time of his manhood had come. But with the approach of dawn, the drums always faded away and he woke to the world still a child. Still a boy.

But this night, the distant drums were louder, stronger. Somehow he knew they were not concocted of his sleeping fancy. No, even as he slept he knew these were real drums, and he recognized the beat: The beat of death. The beat of blood.

The beat of a man’s heart.

He woke with a start, his leg throbbing where it had just been kicked. It was not the sort of awakening he had longed for these last two years and more. He glared from his bed up into the face of his sister, who stood above him, balancing her weight on a stout forked branch tucked under her left shoulder.

“Ita,” the boy growled, “what are you doing here? Go back to the women’s hut!”

His sister made a face at him, but he saw, even by the moonlight streaming through cracks in the thatch above, that her eyes were very round and solemn. Only then did he notice that the drumbeats of his dream were indeed still booming deep in the woods beyond the village fires. He sat up then, his heart thudding its own thunderous pace.

“A prisoner,” Ita said, shifting her branch so that she might turn toward the door. “The drums speak of a prisoner. They’re bringing him even now.” She flashed a smile down at him, though it was so tense with anxiety it could hardly be counted a smile at all. “Gaho, your name!”

The boy was up and out of his bed in a moment, reaching for a tunic and belt. His sister hobbled back along the wall but did not leave, though he wished she would. He wished she would allow him these few moments before the drums arrived in the village. The drums that beat of one man’s death . . . and one man’s birth.

His name was Gaho. But by the coming of dawn, if the drums’ promise was true, he would be born again in blood and bear a new name.

Hands shaking with what he desperately hoped wasn’t fear, he tightened his belt and searched the room for his sickle blade. He saw the bone handle, white in the moonlight, protruding from beneath his bed pile, and swiftly took it up. The bronze gleamed dully, like the carnivorous tooth of an ancient beast.

A shudder ran through his sister’s body. Gaho, sensing her distress, turned to her. She grasped her supporting branch hard, and the smile was gone from her face. “Gaho,” she said, “will you do it?”

“I will,” said Gaho, his voice strong with mounting excitement.

But Ita reached out to him suddenly, catching his weapon hand just above the wrist. “I will lose you,” she said. “My brother . . . I will lose you!”

“You will not. You will lose only Gaho,” said the boy, shaking her off, gently, for she was not strong. Without another word, he ducked through the door of his small hut—one he had built for himself but a year before in anticipation of his coming manhood—and stood in the darkness of Rannul Village, eyes instinctively turning to the few campfires burning. The drums were very near now, and he could see the shadows of waking villagers moving about the fires, building up the flames in preparation for what must surely follow. He felt eyes he could not see turning to his hut, turning to him. He felt the question each pair of eyes asked in silent curiosity: Will it be tonight?

Tonight or no night.

Grasping the hilt of his weapon with both hands, Gaho strode to the dusty village center, which was beaten down into hard, packed earth from years of meetings and matches of strength held in this same spot. Tall pillars of aged wood ringed this circle, and women hastened to these, bearing torches which they fit into hollowed-out slots in each pillar. Soon the village center was bright as noonday, but with harsh red light appropriate for coming events.

Gaho stood in the center of that light, his heart ramming in his throat though his face was a stoic mask. All the waking village was gathered now, men, women, and children, standing just beyond the circle, watching him.

The drums came up from the river, pounding in time to the tramp of warriors’ feet. Then the warriors themselves were illuminated by the ringing torches, their faces anointed in blood, their heads helmed with bone and bronze, their shoulders covered in hides of bear, wolf, and boar. Ten men carried tight skin drums, beating them with their fists. They entered the center first, standing each beneath one of the ringing pillars. Other warriors followed them, filling in the gaps between.

Then the chieftain, mighty Gaher, appeared. He carried his heavy crescent ax in one hand, and Gaho saw that blood stained its edge—indeed, blood spattered the blade from tip to hilt and covered the whole of the chieftain’s fist. Gaher strode into the circle, and the boy saw more blood in his beard. But he also saw the bright, wolfish smile and knew for certain that his sister had been correct. The night of naming had come.

“My son,” said the chief, saluting Gaho with upraised weapon.

“My father,” said Gaho, raising his sickle blade in return.

 “Are you ready this night to die and live again?” asked the chief. His voice carried through the shadows, and every one of the tribe heard it, and any and all listening beasts of forests and fields surrounding. “Are you ready this night for the spilling of blood that must flow before life may begin?”

Gaho drew a deep breath, putting all the strength of his spirit into his answer. “I am ready, Father.”

Gaher’s smile grew, the torchlight flashing red upon his sharpened canines. He turned then and motioned to the darkness beyond the torchlight.

The sacrifice was brought forward.

Thank you for sharing this preview with us, Anne Elisabeth! May cannot come soon enough.