Hello, 2020!

Hello, 2020!

I’m a little late to be saying that, but better late than never, right? 🙂

As you all can probably see, Notebooks and Novels has gone through a few changes. For one, the platform is new! I switched from WordPress.org to WordPress.com (more on that in a later post). That means that the blog has a new look too.

I’m so excited for all that 2020 is going to bring!

I have some fun things planned for this blog and my Instagram account, @micaiahsaldana, this year. Here are a few things coming your way…

In February, I’ll be talking about all things romance in fiction on my blog! I’ll be talking about romance in YA and Christian fiction, recommending some good, clean romance novels, and giving some tips on crafting a good romance in your own stories.

I’m going to be creating some resources for young writers ages 8-12. I plan on making writing worksheets and posts that focus on the craft of storytelling geared towards young writers starting out in their writing journey. I’m very excited to be sharing this content with you all!

I’m going to host my first bookstagram challenge on Instagram this year! I don’t know when I’ll launch it, but I’m hoping sometime this spring.

Other fun things coming up include some recipes, mini book reviews, and more posts about faith!

2020 is going to be amazing.

I’m so blessed to have you all along for the journey!

Repost: Giving Thanks in Everything

Thanksgiving is here, and, to most of us Americans, that means turkey dinners, a couple I’m-thankful-for statements, the Macy’s Day parade, and football. It’s easy to be thankful when there’s a giant turkey on the table with all the trimmings, family and friends gathered around in a jolly mood, and your favorite team is winning on the big screen. But what about when there’s no pumpkin pie, fuzzy feelings, or smiling faces? What happens then?

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he gives his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ some final instructions before closing. He says this in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Did you see that? Give thanks in all circumstances.

But wait a second there, Paul, you may say. Are you sure about that? Giving thanks in ALL circumstances? What about when my grandma dies or I have to move to another state? What about when my grades are low and my best friend just starts hating on me for no reason? You want me to be thankful when everything is, well falling apart and going downhill?

Yes, actually. That is what Paul is saying.

More Than A Hiding Place by Emily S. Smith chronicles the story of a woman who lived during World War II in Haarlem, the Netherlands. This woman’s name was Corrie ten Boom. The daughter of a watchmaker, Corrie loved Jesus with all of her heart. When WWII came to her country, she and her family helped many Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis (I actually got to visit Corrie’s house and saw where they hid the Jews!). Sadly, the ten Boom family was caught by the Nazis. Corrie and her sister Betsie punished by being sent to a concentration camp, Ravensbrück.

The barracks where the women in the camp slept were filthy and crowded. Lice was a big problem amongst the prisoners. One day, Corrie complained to Betsie about their living conditions. And do you want to know what Betsie said?

“You must thank God for everything, even for the lice.”

And guess what? Those lice are the one thing that kept the German guards from searching the barracks. Therefore, Betsie and Corrie could hide a tiny Bible that they used to hold Bible studies twice a week in the barracks, even though the Bible was forbidden. The women of Ravensbrück found hope in the Word and studied it eagerly. It was then that Corrie learned to be thankful for even the lice.

Give thanks for everything. Isn’t it beautiful that a woman who’s been through so much can give thanks for a thing such as lice in the filthy barracks of a concentration camp?

Give thanks for everything. Give thanks in all circumstances. Two radical challenges in today’s world.

This Thanksgiving, I want to challenge all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to give thanks for everything no matter the circumstances. To adopt an attitude of thanksgiving for all we’ve been richly blessed with, though it may not seem like it at the time. Turkey or no turkey, great circumstances or not-so-great ones, let us all take Paul’s instruction and follow Corrie’s lead.

It’s God’s will for us in Christ Jesus, after all.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21

Be sure to check back next week for some more of my thoughts on thankfulness and for practical tips on cultivating a life full of gratitude, even after Thanksgiving! In the meantime, I want to know… What are you thankful for?

An Update on My Critique Services

I never saw myself writing this post.

When I started offering my critique services, I expected to be critiquing stories for a long time to come. However, this past year, I’ve learned a lot. One of those things is that I can do a lot of things, but I cannot do all the things.

I’ve been trying to do everything, but really, I can’t do everything. I can’t juggle working and schoolwork and writing my own stories and prepping for college and critiquing other stories at the same time. Working on critiquing other people’s stories has taken the place of working on my own stories.

So, I’m afraid that I’m officially closing down my critique services.

I’m okay with this. When I first had the idea, I wasn’t okay with it. I thought that this would be like giving up or admitting defeat. But really, this is me saying that I can’t do all of this. But I can focus on doing the things that

Of course, I don’t plan on quitting on the few stories that I am currently helping out with. But right now, I’m going to let myself not do everything.

It has been an honor and a pleasure reading and critiquing your stories.

I’ve been so honored by the people who have come to me for help with their stories, and I have loved having a small part to play in helping them make their stories shine even more.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll critique more stories.

But for now… Farewell, critiquing. What a wonderful journey it’s been!

5 Books to Cozy Up With This Autumn

Autumn is, in my opinion, the perfect season for reading.

The cold weather, the cozy sweaters, the warm drinks in whipped-cream topped mugs… What could be better weather for snuggling up with a book? To help you find a great book to read this autumn, here are five books to cozy up with this autumn.

Fallen Leaves by Tessa Emily Hall

Selena Taylor has a fresh start in Lake Lure, but can she reunite her broken family by finding her father and brother?

One look at the cover of this sequel to Purple Moon is all it takes for one to realize just how perfect of an autumn read Fallen Leaves is. And not only does the cover scream autumn, but the story itself has so much autumn in it. Needless to say, if you’ve read Purple Moon, read this. If you haven’t read Purple Moon, read Purple Moon and then read this. 😉

Buy Fallen Leaves on Amazon ~ View Fallen Leaves on Goodreads

Just One Thing by Anna Schaeffer

Sadie Grey made a new life for herself in Georgia, but can she start over in Seattle?

This sequel to All of This has a beautiful cover that just screams AUTUMN! I’ve just started reading Just One Thing, and I can already tell you that it is really good! I should have a review coming to Goodreads soon. In the meantime, click here to read an interview with the author, Anna Schaeffer.

Buy Just One Thing on Amazon ~ View Just One Thing on Goodreads

The Hidden Deep by Christa Kinde

Homework, apple pies, football, autumn leaves, and… Angels?

The Hidden Deep is perfect for readers who love a dash of fantasy. Actually, the whole Threshold series is amazing for anyone. My sister Maya and I LOVE these books (I spelled love in all caps because that’s how much we LOVE THEM). The Threshold series was one of my favorite series when I was younger, and after rereading the series this autumn, I love it even more. ❤

And yes, it’s a sequel. I need to stop recommending sequels….

Buy The Hidden Deep on Amazon ~ View The Hidden Deep on Goodreads

Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

Alice Grace Ripley came to eastern Kentucky to get away from small-town gossip, but a mystery, a kind old woman, and a rather odd library keep her there.

Really, Wonderland Creek is a great read for any time of the year, but I find that reading it at this time of year, autumn, makes it even better. I mean, mountains, librarians, mysteries… Doesn’t that scream autumn to you too? If you can’t read Wonderland Creek, or really any of these great books, this November, be sure to read them soon!

Buy Wonderland Creek on Amazon ~ View Wonderland Creek on Goodreads

This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof

Sarah Miller’s life turns upside down when she befriends Tucker O’Shay, a boy with a fatal illness.

This is another tale that is wonderful during any time of year, but even more so during the autumn season. Be sure to have a box of Kleenex and a plate of shortbread cookies nearby while reading this. Click here to read a review of This Quiet Sky.

Buy This Quiet Sky on Amazon ~ View This Quiet Sky on Goodreads

What is a book that you would like to read this autumn?

You Might Enjoy….

Mele Kalikimaka By Taylor Bennett Book Review

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

Well, not really, but Christmas is coming SO SOON, guys! I can hardly wait to start decorating, baking cookies, shopping for gifts, singing along to Christmas music (Lauren Daigle’s Christmas album is my favorite!), and reading Christmas books. This year, I’m happy to have another book to read during the Christmas season: Mele Kalikimaka by Taylor Bennett, the author of Porch Swing Girl and Sand Castle Dreams.

My Rating: Four and a Half Christmas Ornaments out of Five

About the Book…

Mele Kalikimaka might be the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day, but Olive Galloway is feeling less than festive. After all, this is the first year she’s celebrated the holiday without her mom. Even the ringing of silver bells sounds a little blue. When an attempt to make the season bright ends in hurt feelings and a shattered heirloom, Olive’s hopes for a happy holiday are dashed. A surprise visit from a less-than-jolly fellow in red only adds to the turmoil. Olive is convinced that nothing can possibly bring peace to her corner of the earth. As presents pile up beneath the tree and Christmas Day draws near, Olive realizes it will take a Christmas miracle to help her family rediscover the true magic of the holiday season. 

Buy Mele Kalikimaka on Amazon ~ View Mele Kalikimaka on Goodreads

My Thoughts…

Mele Kalikimaka is a Tradewinds series novella that begins around the time that Sand Castle Dreams ends. After the Thanksgiving festivities of Sand Castle Dreams, the Christmas season comes in full swing in Lahaina, Hawaii. Olive Galloway, the protagonist of the Tradewinds series, is feeling anything but merry this Christmas season. But when she tries to make the Christmas season merry and bright, things don’t exactly go as she planned. Will Olive learn the true meaning of Christmas this year?

“Must be Christmas magic.” I shrug and take another sip of cocoa.
Magic.
And maybe it really is.
Not the Santa-and-sleigh-bells kind of magic, but the kind Jazz is always

talking about. The magic of a Savior come to earth as a baby to redeem
the world.
-Mele Kalikimaka by Taylor Bennett

This novella is packed with Christmas, and I absolutely love that! Christmas is everywhere, from traditions to decorations to treats to music to the plot itself. And of course, all of the amazingness from the Tradewinds novels has found itself in this novella. From Grandma Bonnie’s treats to Jazz’s upbeat and sunny self to the sweet message of the true reason for the Christmas season, Mele Kalikimaka is sure to become a Christmas favorite!

If you’re a fan of the Tradewinds series, a lover of YA Christian fiction, or someone who loves Christmas books, be sure to grab a copy of this sweet little novella!

Note: I received a free copy of this novella in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

About the Author…

Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of contemporary YA fiction. Homeschooled since kindergarten, she is a proud homebody who suffers from the rare–yet always severe–case of wanderlust. 

Although she dreams of traveling to many different places, her favorite destination thus far (aside from her charming hometown in Oregon) is Lahaina, Hawaii. Taylor was so enamored with this tropical town that she became determined to write about it, hence her debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, the first in a series of books set in Hawaii.

A lover of literature since birth, Taylor found her love of writing fueled under the instruction of Andrew Pudewa and the other teachers at the Institute for Excellence in Writing, where she now works as an editor for their magazine.

When she isn’t writing, Taylor enjoys cooking, drawing, and taking long walks in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest

Visit Taylor’s Website ~ Find Taylor on Instagram

What is one of your favorite Christmas traditions?

You May Enjoy…

10 Literary Landmarks I’d Love to Visit

The list of places I’d love to visit is longer than any novel.

Especially the places that have to do with literary history. Many of the places that I would like to visit are in Europe, but some American literary landmarks have made their way onto my list as well.

Here are a few literary landmarks that I’d love to visit. Would you like to visit them too?

Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare was born in the cute English town of Stratford-upon-Avon, and I have schemed and dreamed of visiting. If I ever do get to visit, I plan on bringing a copy of Romeo and Juliet and reading some of my favorite parts in the home of the great bard.

221b Baker Street / The Sherlock Holmes Museum

221b Baker Street is the real life address of the famous fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sherlock Holmes Museum would be so fun to visit–why, I’m sure that one could hear Sherlock shouting at Watson as he rushed out the door to solve another case. “Come, Watson, come, the game is afoot!”

The Brontë Parsonage Museum

The Emily and Charlotte Brontë have written some of my favorite novels, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and I am looking forward to reading Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I’m sure that to visit their old home in Haworth would be like stepping into a part of their world.

Jane Austen’s House Museum

Jane Austen’s novels Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility are two of my favorite novels not only for their characters but also for the immersive Victorian setting. Jane Austen’s House Museum in Hampshire is the only place where Jane Austen lived and wrote that is open to the public. I would love to see a place where Jane Austen wrote and lived! It looks like such a charming house.

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore

This beautiful bookstore in Paris looks like something that was plucked out of a bookworm’s daydreams. It has a fascinating history and shelves upon shelves of books. Something just as cool? You can stay in this bookstore as a Tumbleweed. All one has to do is read a book a day, write a one page autobiography, and help out around the bookstore for a few hours. If that doesn’t sound like something from a novel, I don’t know what does.

The American Writers Museum

There’s a whole exhibit with beautiful typewriters. And then another exhibit where you can type away on them. Who wouldn’t want to come here?

The Emily Dickinson Museum

Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite poets (“Not in Vain” is one of my favorite poems of hers). Her reclusive life is fascinating and her poetry is beautiful and poignant. Just as with the other authors’ former homes, I would love to visit Emily Dickinson’s home to see where she wrote some of the most beautiful words I’ve ever read.

The New York Public Library

If the famed lions outside this library’s doors don’t fascinate you enough, the Rare Book Division housing rare copies of works such as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and the exhibit housing the original Winnie the Pooh and his friends certainly will. And of course, it’s a LIBRARY. Who wouldn’t want to visit a library?

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is probably my favorite book. Orchard House is one of the top places I’d want to visit, as Orchard House is where Louisa wrote Little Women and where Little Women is set.

Literary Walk in Central Park

The Literary Walk in Central Park is home to statues of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Fitz-Greene Halleck, and William Shakespeare. It seems like it would be a good place to meander about and write, to contemplate and dream. And of course, Central Park itself has made several appearances in good books throughout time.

What is a literary landmark that you would like to visit?

Interview With Author Anna Schaeffer

I’m so excited to be sharing an interview with author Anna Schaeffer with you all today!

Anna Schaeffer is the author of All of This and Just One Thing. I read and LOVED All of This and am so excited to read its newly-released sequel Just One ThingI am so lucky to have been able to interview Anna, and I am confident that she will inspire and encourage you through this interview as she has inspired and encouraged me through this interview and her books. Keep on reading for my interview with Anna!

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

1. When I was seven, I wrote a country love song. My family still laughs about it, but I was convinced I would end up with a Grammy one day. That was the start of my writing career.

2. Road trips are my favorite kind of vacation.

3. I make playlists for everything. I have playlists for writing different kinds of scenes, getting ready for work in the morning, and even for driving in the car on a rainy afternoon. 

Where did you get the inspiration for All of This and Just One Thing?

One summer in college, I took a walking/jogging class for a wellness credit (I’m not exactly ambitious when it comes to athletics…). One day I got to class early, so I decided to sit in my car and just listen to the radio for a minute. The song “Down” by Matt Kearney came on, and I heard these four lines in the second verse:

“It was Monday night under the street lights
She’s turning seventeen in seven nights
Out on the fairgrounds walking in monotone
She kicks a bottle as empty as her soul.”

 The song goes on from there, but for some reason, that one image stuck with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A disillusioned, sixteen-year-old narrator started to grow in my imagination. The final book has nothing at all to do with the song, but that one image sparked what became All of This. 

I’d written a novel earlier, but the narrator hadn’t been all that different from me. So I decided to challenge myself. I was born and raised in the South, so I wrote Sadie as a girl from the Pacific Northwest who visits the South for the first time and experiences the culture shock of Southern culture. 

And, obviously, I’m not a runner…so guess what Sadie does when she’s stressed? She runs. I used that walking/jogging class for inspiration and drafted the novel that summer. 

That was supposed to be it. I wasn’t planning to write a sequel. But a year before All of This was even published, a friend and I took a weeklong trip to Seattle (where Sadie’s from). On the plane ride home, I knew Sadie’s story wasn’t over, and I wrote the synopsis of Just One Thing.

How does your faith impact your writing? 

My faith is my reason for writing. I want to entertain readers with a good story, but I also want to gently invite them to think about the bigger picture and how they fit into it. Readers get to walk beside characters who experience life in all of its weird, messy, and sometimes painful moments. And as my characters begin to discover their purpose, it’s my hope that readers begin to think about theirs too. 

There’s a line in All of This that says, “As long as your heart’s still beating, you’re not done. You still have a purpose. God still has big plans for you.” That’s why I write—to share with readers that there is more to their story than what they’re going through. No matter who we are or what we’ve done, we’re loved like crazy by the Author of our stories. And He still has big plans for us.

What has God taught you through writing and publishing your books?

So many things. But I’d say one of the biggest has definitely been this: True success as a writer isn’t defined by my sales, reviews, or followers. What matters is that I’m loving God with everything I’ve got. That includes my writing. My job is to do my best with what He’s given me and to trust Him to take care of the rest. I write in response to who God is and what He’s done for me. If He is glorified in it, I’m successful. 

Through writing, I’m also reminded that we are made in the image of a creative God. That means we all have some kind of creativity inside of us. How awesome is it that we get to participate in creating things that contribute to the beauty of the world and point back to the ultimate Creator? 

If you had to describe Sadie Franklin in three words, what would those three words be?

Independent, sincere, and scrappy.

If you could spend an afternoon at a coffee shop with one of your characters, who would it be and why? What drink would you order?

As much as I love her, I won’t say Sadie, since we’ve spent so much time together already over the years 😉 I’d love to have vanilla lattes with Melina Elliot, Sadie’s aunt. Mel is wise and compassionate, but she’s also super witty and has a stubborn streak like Sadie. Our conversation would range from talking about deep heart stuff to joking about random topics.

If I got to pick a second character, I’d say Fynnigan Larcy from Just One Thing. Honestly, Fyn could make a piece of wheat toast sound fascinating. I’d just want to sit and listen to her commentary on life.

What are three of your favorite books?

There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, and A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman.

What is your favorite quote? 

I have several! But here’s a quote from one of my favorite books. I’ve had it written on my bedroom mirror for years:

“I don’t believe there is one great thing I was made to do in this world. I believe there is one great God I was made to glorify. And there will be many ways, even a million little ways, I will glorify him with my life.” – Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways

I love that quote for many reasons. But as a writer, it reminds me that my identity and worth are not found in my author title. Writing is a big part of my life, but ultimately, my identity is in my relationship with Jesus. My goal is to honor Him in my writing, but there are also so many other ways He wants my life to point to Him. 

Lastly, what is your number one piece of advice for writers everywhere?

Know why you write. If you write for popularity or money or to impress others, you’ll ultimately end up disappointed. Those things never fill us up. But remembering your reason puts everything else into perspective. There will be days when you can’t seem to shake the writers block, or you’re overwhelmed by the publishing process, or you wonder if anyone will ever even like the project you poured your heart into. When that happens, remind yourself of why you’re doing this whole writing gig in the first place. Hold onto that, and you’ll experience more joy in the process. Why? Because you’ll know you’re doing what you’re made to do. 

About Anna

Anna Schaeffer writes about girls navigating their teen years and discovering their purpose along the way. Born and raised in the South, she lives near Raleigh, North Carolina, where she works as an administrative assistant and frequents all the best breakfast places in town. When she’s not lost in a story, she loves hosting movie nights, making playlists, and taking road trips with her family. Hang out with Anna at annaschaefferwrites.com and on social media @aschaewrites.

Buy All of This on Amazon ~ Buy Just One Thing on Amazon

View All of This on Goodreads ~ View Just One Thing on Goodreads

Have you read All of This? How has your faith impacted your writing?