Tuesday, November 11, 2014

We Honor You - Your Sacrifice and Your Service

"All brave men love; for he only is brave who has affections to fight for,
whether in the daily battle of life, or in physical contests."

-Nathaniel Hawthorne
Veteran's Day, November 11th, is the day we come together as a nation and celebrate our heroes who've sacrificed their time and their lives so that we can live in freedom. Those brave men and women fought for our freedoms and rights as citizens of the United States. Among other things, they fought for our freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and our freedom to keep and bear arms. We've truly been blessed by their sacrifice and service.

Thank you to the many men and woman who have served and who still serve our great nation! I'm honored by your service, and exceedingly proud to be an American. I salute you.

U.S. Marines assigned to Georgian Liaison Team-9 and Georgian Army soldiers assigned to the 33rd Light Infantry Battalion make their way to the extraction point during Operation Northern Lion II in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Northern Lion II was a Georgian-led operation conducted to deter insurgents, establish a presence, and gather human intelligence in the area. (Photo: Cpl. Alejandro Pena/U.S. Marine Corps) SOURCE

November 10th was also the U.S. Marine Corps 239th birthday! So I want to take a moment to thank Benjamin Arnoldbik (my brother-in-law) and the many others who've served our nation through their service in the Corps. Happy 239th Birthday, Marines! Semper Fidelis.

All text © 2014 Footprints in the Sand | All Images © 2014 sourced above

Saturday, November 8, 2014

ANNOUNCEMENT, GUEST POST, & GIVEAWAY <<>> Anon, Sir, Anon by Rachel Heffington

I'm so honored to be announcing Rachel Heffington's Anon, Sir, Anon mystery novel, which became live on the 5th! I've also had the privilege to read it before it came out. It's a thrilling yet cozy novel set in rural Europe, complete with fog, plenty of rain, and long walks in the countryside. She's created a cast of dynamic characters with intriguing personalities and idiosyncrasies. And I guarantee you'll fall in love with Vivi and Farnham right off the bat. If you don't, you're probably reading it wrong. But I'm sure I'm not doing her novel justice, so here's a bit more information:
BACK COVER BLURB: The 12:55 out of Darlington brought more than Orville Farnham's niece; murder was passenger. In coming to Whistlecreig, Genevieve Langley expected to find an ailing uncle in need of gentle care. In reality, her charge is a cantankerous Shakespearean actor with a penchant for fencing and an affinity for placing impossible bets. When a body shows up in a field near Whistlecreig Manor and Vivi is the only one to recognize the victim, she is unceremoniously baptized into the art of crime-solving: a field in which first impressions are seldom lasting and personal interest knocks at the front door. Set against the russet backdrop of a Northamptonshire fog, Anon, Sir, Anon cuts a cozy path to a chilling crime. 
If you haven't heard of Rachel, goodness you're missing out on knowing one of the wittiest, most sincere, engaging, and all-around grandest kind of person you'll probably ever meet. She is a novelist, nanny, and people-lover living in rural Virginia with her really wonderful family (I've had the immense pleasure of meeting them all) and her sable cat, Cricket. Her first novel, Fly Away Home, (which I've also had the privilege of reading) was independently published last February. You can find out lots more about her through her blog, INKPENAUTHORESS.BLOGSPOT.COM

And without further ado, let me present you with this wittingly eloquent guest post by Rachel on the Alchemy of Words. Do enjoy!

      We’ve heard it said that writing is a form of magic.

It is.

Word-crafting is the alchemy for which many have searched. While scientists work to achieve teleportation, writers enchant mere paper and ink to convey millions of common-folk to the places of their dreams. While some men work to the ends of their minds to earn money, we spin wealth from twenty-six spider-legged characters. We are magicians, we writers. What are only words—slipshod, simple arrangements of letters—become beauty under our fingers. We’re people, like you, but we take what had been wordless, fathomless emotion and we give it a sound to be spoken. An ache becomes a noun, a verb, two adjectives, arranged into that wrenching feeling. Joy becomes a strand of syllables bright and luminescent as bubbles in a glass of champagne. We take your hearts and we name them names to be whispered again and again and again in the moments you least expect.

We’re writers.

It’s what we do.

Anais Nin once said, “We write to taste life twice.”

I say we write for three-fold effect: we taste life, we want to taste it again, we want you to taste it with us. Words give birth to communities. I can take your heart and make it mine with a clever rearrangement of a few meager words. You never know what I’ll say, but I’ll mean every syllable, for I’ll have arranged every syllable. It is craftsmanship that must be learned. Everyone uses words; everyday; everywhere. Words aren’t special in the way most people mean special. Words are…common. But their very normalcy makes them the perfect in-road to the element of surprise. If you know how.

I would go work, for it was raining.
Raining was work. I would go for it.

Same words, Curiously different meanings. Magic, like I said. But you wouldn’t have guessed what things could be made from eight simple, commonplace words anyone might overhear on a busy street.

Not that it is easy.

Heavens, it’s not easy.

Have you ever seen an artist at work, and heard them say, “Thank you, but it comes naturally?”

Babies come naturally. It isn’t easy, having a baby.
It isn’t easy rearranging words to make sense. I could feel things all day, and yearn to make you feel things as well, but unless I make some sort of sense in the meantime, nothing will come of my wooden-block towers. Gustave Flaubert had it that, “I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.”
Wordlessness is the worst fear of a writer.

It is crippling. We live by words. We move by them. Have you ever thought of how it would be if you could no longer speak? Or breathe? If oxygen disappeared and you were left in a hostile world that once loved you? Sometimes we get a clog somewhere and the words won’t come. It is suffocating. It can terrify you. But real writers, those of us who have grasped the point of our apprenticeship, cannot afford to remain wordless. We struggle through and we overcome. The artistic temperament, as G.K. Chesterton reminds one, “is a disease that afflicts amateurs.” The professional writer knows words will return if he has but a mind to knock over his wooden towers and begin again. The work is painful. Splinters will come. But the next sentence will snap with vividry.

“If you write one story,” Edgar Rice Burroughs said, “it might be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.”

Of course words aren’t all there is to our magic; they are simply materials. Story—the over-arching plot and characters, and happenings—must be given thought. Because all stories reflect one Story: the Story that is truer than true because it is stark Truth.

Story is that thing that spears your heart during a particularly magnificent sunset. It is the thing that sees a loved one die and knows it can’t be the end—not the end. Not The End for which we have all yearned in our fair-weather way since birth. True writers take this Story, throw a saddle upon it, and try to ride it onto the page. It likes to escape and few writers have managed to truly, honestly capture it. Most of us content ourselves with snips from its mane, thrust into our story in a subtle way like the red streaks in a crocus’ throat. But we do try. And some succeed. And that is why you cry, or laugh, or wish for it not to end.

Because we’re magic.

The Story is magic. The best kind. The only kind.

Story is the language anyone can understand, though they be mute, deaf, an infant, an idiot. Story is our blood and our souls and we writers are the prophets through which it speaks.

So the next time you pick up a book, remember it is magic. Read our words and let yourself feel the enchantment. Lend your books, drink tea with your books, leave crumbs in your books, for magic is strongest when used.

And when your lives have been touched by our spell, remember—always remember—that the Story itself is realer than real.

We’re magicians, but we scarcely understand the magic. It’s rather too strange to fully grasp.



I really hope you all enjoyed that fantastic piece by Rachel on words. Words are a very precious and cultivated commodity, a prized possession we should never take for granted. 


Also be sure to enter into Rachel's grand Cozy Quagmire Party Pack giveaway! She's giving away a bunch of fantastic items to help you have a very Vivi and Farnham evening, including:


All text © 2014 Footprints in the Sand | All Images © 2014 Charity Klicka Photography

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

of old documents, and maples - October Chatterbox

this is a very rough sketch of the maple sketch mentioned in the story below. please excuse the coarseness of the lines and shading.

Rachel, a friend of mine, has been doing a monthly “writing challenge” called Chatterbox over on her blog. Each month Rachel chooses a topic (this month, it is Maples), and we all (the various writers of the blogging-world) attempt to write up a small fiction piece (must include some dialogue and description) that has the respective topic in it. Rachel ever so kindly said we could switch up the form of Maples for this month's chatterbox, allowing us to use maple syrup, flavoring, leaves, etc.

Well only last month have I actually attempted to participate in said Chatterboxes. See, if you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you’ll find I’m not much of a writer. You’ve probably also noted that I’m even more lacking in the area of fiction writing. But I’ve loved writing since forever (specifically the historical fiction variety). And even though many of my other hobbies and passions take forefront in my day-to-day life, I've decided to try and regularly participate in Chatterbox.

So, here’s my go at a small fiction piece concerning Maples (in a small way). I’ve decided to use new characters of mine, not fully developed yet. Here's a very rough-draft snippet that I've come up with, all written in one sitting. Also, I inserted a little more description of the characters then I normally do just so you can imagine the scene a bit better.

Brandt and
Cyril Arbuthnot;
brothers, respectively.
"Come now! Can't you see?" Brandt, exasperated, slid the document across the table.
Cyril, running his hand through his auburn curls, picked up the document and earnestly examined it. He knew the connection had to be fairly unmissable, for Brandt wouldn't have gotten quite so frustrated with him over something less than obvious. But he just couldn't see what Brandt was talking about.
Cyril readjusted his monocle, his brother and him had an intolerable habit of picking up rather old-fashioned habits,  and gazed back and forth between the paper he held in his hand and a piece of paper laying on the table. Soon the gears in Cyril's head began to turn. 
The first document Cyril held contained a set of graphs in the center, with both letters and numbers trailing around the perimeter of the page. Sketched on the second page resting on the table was a maple tree, and underneath the tree were scrolled the words: 
"Under the maple she Sang, and under the maple she danced. With the wind in her hair and the clouds in her eyes, she Wished the world a tearful goodbye."
It all seemed very mysterious to Cyril, and he didn't know quite what to make of it. The two papers were somehow connected, but he couldn't see it.
It seemed apparent that Brandt had it all figured out, as he always did. Brandt was by all accounts the older, wittier, and quite superlative Arbuthnot brother. All debonair and sophisticated, with his markedly good features, golden mane, and energetic blue eyes. Brandt seemed to be in a jocular mood at the moment, his arms good-naturedly crossed over his chest and a bit of a complacent smile dancing on his lips. 
Laughing, Cyril amiably exclaimed, "Good grief, man! Do just tell me." 
In his familiar older brother tone, Brandt began. "Well brother, here are my deductions thus far. This maple here," Brandt gestured to an old photograph of an ancient maple tree sitting on the table, "is the same as that sketch you're looking at."
"And how brother, pray tell, did you deduce that? Perhaps the very coincidence that they both happen to be the same kind of tree?"
And I've got to end there. I'm plumb out of ideas as to where to go from there, and I haven't really thought of how this particular piece will fit in with my novel.

So there's my simple fiction portion to add to the Chatterbox. Perhaps you enjoyed it, perhaps not. Either way, I had a blast concocting it. 

If you happen to take part in Rachel's Chatterbox, do let me know! I'd love to read whatever you write.

All text © 2014 Footprints in the Sand | All Images © 2014 Charity Klicka Photography
*All characters used in this post are completely fictional; likeness to an individual in real life is purely coincidental. 

worn, body and soul.

i’m tired I’m worn
my heart is heavy
from the work it takes
to keep on breathing
i’ve made mistakes
i’ve let my hope fail
my soul feels crushed
by the weight of this world

Ever have those days where if you were to take a moment to stop and think about your life, you'd cry? Or more like, ever been so overwhelmed that you feel like crying, or yelling, or sleeping every other second of the day?

Well, today is one of those days (well, years) for me. I'd like to disappear for a long while. It's not just because school is overwhelming; there are so many other factors that add up to this acute feeling of being overrun. School + work + health + worrying + friends + ad infinitum.

I'm not trying to sound all Debbie Downer over here, but this is the place I find myself.

I worry, too much. I can say I’ve certainly gotten better at not worrying quite so much. But when life gets overwhelming, my old foe takes center stage once more.
Right now I’m wrestling with a particular situation that is, quite idiotically, causing me much worry. I’ve got this friend who, like me, is going through sophomore year in college. We’re both practically on the same page in life; working nearly full-time, saving up and paying for college out of pocket, both in sophomore year, and both incredibly overwhelmed with our current situation in life. I can’t say I’m much of an optimist, but I can say I know where my Hope comes from. And with this knowledge, I continually choose to look on the brighter side of life, to take that next step forward, to say to life do your worst. I’m not any less overwhelmed than my friend, but somehow I’ve plucked up a little more courage to get through (one semester at a time). This particular friend seems to have fallen into a bit of despair over the whole college “adventure”. They’ve still got a good measure of audacity left, and are keeping their head up as best they can; but they’re losing hope rapidly. I’ve been trying my best to encourage them as best as I’m able, for I’m in their exact same predicament. Yet the more I try and encourage, the more distant and rather despondent they get (or so it seems to me). I’ve got nothing encouraging left to say.
And herein lies the source of my worry. I’ve been praying for my friend daily, and when I see them in person I try my best to lift their spirits. But their present state is worrying me. I’m at the place where the best thing to do is just give them over to God, yet that’s really hard to do. Worrying helps me handle or control things (or so I try and tell myself). Gah, I want to be there for my friend, but I don’t know how to. This friend is not particularly receptive to my encouragement (of course it doesn't help that I can’t speak words in an eloquent form), and the more I see and talk with them the more distant they become.

And then that makes me feel like I'm not "enough" to be their friend; as in I'm not the "perfect friend" who would know exactly how to encourage them, would have the most splendiferous words to say, and would be all chummy n' stuff. I'm just not that. 

And that makes me overwhelmed.

But here’s me, giving it over to God. He’s got this, and I utterly don’t. A few lines somehow came together in my muddled brain this week that have been surprisingly encouraging:

i’m not alone in this fight
it’ll be all right
got to get back up
He is on my side

I won't be the perfect friend, I won't always have the right words to say; and I may lose friends and feel overwhelmed at the prospect of the present state of another friend, but through it all I have the choice to keep my head up. Because of my great Hope, I can say "send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, persecution, whatever You will; You have forgiven me, and my soul is glad" (Charles Spurgeon).

There's a second part to the lyrics at the beginning of this post. The rest of the verse goes like this:

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

That's all there is to it. I'm utterly, incredibly, acutely worn and weary. But I know that He can give me rest. And so with all that is in me, I cry out to Him. With all that I have left, I fall on my knees before His throne.

I may still be worn and weary at times, but i know that He is greater still.

All text © 2014 Footprints in the Sand; song lyrics: Worn by Tenth Avenue North | All Images © 2014 Charity Klicka Photography