NaNo 2020 – The Hallowmas Box

Ever feel like taking a risk with your writing but aren’t sure where to start? My first piece of advice is don’t force it. The opportunity may present itself to you. I know it certainly did to me a few weeks ago. I happened upon the inspiration for a project that I’ve been dying to write in terms of genre and style.

I am always hearing advice from other writers that we all need to keep learning and expanding our craft, making it better. All of my main WIP projects right now are in different genres (stretching from urban fantasy to sci-fi, and even fantasy), but they have a POV in common (mainly third person omniscient for the most part). Now, I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. It’s a POV I’m comfortable with and like.

However, this year I decided to do something … unusual as my project for National Novel Writing Month. I have chosen not only a genre but a POV that is completely different from my usual work.

Besides a few short stories or blurbs based off writing prompts I’ve written across the last few years, I’ve never spent much time in the horror/thriller genre. (Which is strange because I love movies in this genre and have read several short stories that I adored.). Unusual item number two is that I’ll be writing this project in first person POV. I haven’t done this since high school. My abilities as well as my confidence in myself as a writer have developed greatly since then.

Both of these factors make this project incredibly frightening.

Here’s the kicker. I came across a single word that started me down this road.

That word was Hallowmas. And it spawned not only the title but the project itself.

(Brief explanation: Halloween is All Hallows Eve and Hallowmas is the day after, known in the Catholic liturgical calendar as All Saints Day. Based on certain mythologies, Halloween is the day where the veil between worlds is lifted, allowing the fey world and ours to touch.)

Now back to the project! I’ll give a sneak peak to the general idea of the story and briefly introduce the main character.

The Hallowmas box can only be found between the hours of midnight and 3am between Halloween and Hallowmas. The box itself is full of several mysterious objects, related to the passage/ties between worlds.

Preston Everett is an unusual academic in search of the box. He has a fascination with the supernatural and often dabbles too deep in the ancient and arcane.

What he’ll find will be secrets beyond what he anticipated, as well as stories of those who have delved too deep into this Otherworld, like himself.

I know this story is going to be an immense challenge to by abilities as a writer. Neither this writing POV or genre are in my comfort zone. But I’ve decided it’s time to step outside of that in an attempt to understand myself and my writing abilities better.

After all, what is there to lose? All I may lose in trying out this sort of project is a little time. But really, there’s everything to gain. I can learn more about what I’m capable of and fulfill one of my dreams in terms of working on a genre I’d previously been too timid to explore.

Furthermore, in the vein of taking risks, sometimes all you have to do is adapt your ideas if it doesn’t work out like you’d hoped. Worse comes to worse, perhaps I simply change the point of the view of the book.

So don’t be afraid to take risks, broaden your horizons, and grow your abilities!

You’ll be hearing significantly more about The Hallowmas Box, so I hope I’ve intrigued you!

Happy writing!


Prepping for NaNoWriMo!

It’s October! And we all know what that means! Halloween! Which I love, but that’s not what we’re preparing for right now. The start of October means NaNoWriMo is one month away.

If you know me (and especially if you write as well), you know I’m a huge proponent of NaNoWriMo. I’ve participated in it every year since 2013. It’s taught me a lot of things about myself as a writer. What conditions I work best under, techniques to beat writer’s block, items I need for the journey.

Over the years I’ve also learned a few things about doing NaNoWriMo specifically. And that’s what I’m sharing today. I have a few recommendations for NaNo Supplies to have on hand for your 50k writing sprint this coming month.

#1: Get a Notebook

Sure, I know you’ll spend all of NaNoWriMo writing on a word processor for speed’s sake. But here’s my tip. You need a notebook at least for prepping.

My advice is to pick a notebook with nothing else in it. A fresh one can help you sort your ideas the easiest. I find clutter of any kind can be a hamper to my creative energy. And using a notebook already cluttered up with other ideas can impede starting the preparation for your NaNo novel.

#2: Pick a Pen

Find yourself your favorite kind of pen. I recently got a fountain pen and that’s what I’m using here. Not only did it seem like a fun pen to use, but it’s related to the overall vibe of my project, so it serves a twofold purpose for getting me in the mood.

But mainly what you want is a pen that you’ll like to use. If you have a favorite, use that. I like Pilot G-7 or G-5 pens the most myself.

It helps to make your project feel special if you have a pen specifically dedicated to it. So even if you don’t have a favorite pen, just set aside one specifically with your notebook for it. Keep them together for whenever they need to be used.

#3: Take Notes and Outline

Two tips on one this time, since they’re intimately connected!

ALWAYS make notes. A few pages full of notes are the best foundation of your new project. I recommend making notes before outlining your story. You’ll be glad you did. Just a few freehand thoughts will make outlining significantly easier.

And definitely outline as well. I am generally not the type of writer who does thorough plotting. However, I find that if I don’t do any plotting for NaNo, my novel inevitably resists the pace required. So even if you’re more of a “pantser”, still spend enough time to plot at least the order of the biggest events in your project as well as their most important connected points.

It will make sprinting through 50k words infinitely easier if you don’t have to constantly be thinking about what’s next.

#4: ZERO Editing

Just don’t. The pace of the event is just too fast. Towards that end, I’d advise against reading through what you’ve written until after midnight on November 30th.

#5: Find a Buddy

Pictured above: our cat Fish. He’s a buddy alright, but not the kind you need for this project.

If you can, find a friend who is also working on a project during NaNoWriMo. Otherwise, just find someone who will cheer you on and help motivate you to make it to the end of the 50k!

This will help an immeasurable amount, especially if both you and your buddy are working on a project. You’ll serve as motivators and accountability partners for each other. Plus, you’ll both be a support and a person to bounce ideas off of.

#6: Announce Your Project

Last, but most certainly not least, do this one.

Yes, I know this one sound nerve-racking. But the easiest way to do it is on your NaNoWriMo profile. It’s low pressure, but it makes it feel more official.

Otherwise, if you’re trying to make yourself feel accountable and know you need pressure in order to finish a project, maybe put the announcement on social media. I mean, this blog post is a kind of announcement in itself for me. I’ll likely be making a longer one about the story itself soon. You don’t have to tell anyone what it’s about yet if you don’t want to, but maybe just announce the fact that you’ll be participating in the event.


So that’s it! All my preliminary tips for getting ready for NaNo.

Now with all these tips at your back, go pick your project and get it ready!

(Don’t forget you’re allowed to work on novels already in progress; you just have to write 50k new words in order to win NaNo.)

Happy writing!


On Gratefulness

Are we really being grateful? I feel like that’s a question many of us ask ourselves.

There have been many times in my life where I certainly was doing my best to feel grateful, but couldn’t help taking note of the things I still felt I was lacking. This stretches from important to trivial, as many of our lists would.

“I should be grateful for what I have,” I tell myself. “My life is good. So what if I don’t have everything I want?”

“Don’t some people have it worse?” Isn’t that the most common way we make ourselves feel bad for our desires? Of course some people have it worse, but that’s not really the point.

Here’s the thing: you can be grateful for what you have and still feel lacking. That’s allowed. Not only that, it’s perfectly normal and acceptable. It’s how you handle this that matters.

I’ve been dealing with this problem a lot recently. See, my birthday was this week. And for a few of my previous birthdays, including during the last two years while I was at graduate school, I’ve been alone. I was without my family and sometimes even without close friends to spend my day with. My family has always put a great importance on birthdays (often having big celebrations with many family members celebrating several birthdays at once), so I keenly felt their absence on each birthday that I spent without them.

And this year was thankfully different. I wasn’t alone this year. I still didn’t get to see my family for my birthday, but this year I got to spend my birthday with my husband. I never would have expected one year ago that at this time the next year, I’d be married to my best friend. (Max and I knew each other, but didn’t expect we could get married so soon at the time).

But here’s the problem: I still felt a bit lacking. I have endless love for my husband and he made my birthday absolutely wonderful. The only regret I have of the day is the one thing he couldn’t give me: getting to see my parents and siblings. We currently live too far away for them to have come to visit us or for us to go see them.

Because of all this, I’ve been struggling with guilt for the past week. I don’t want to seem ungrateful for how much effort my husband made, but I still missed my family on my birthday. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying about this.

So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: It is possible to be grateful and still feel there is something missing.

When it comes to my case, this means a few things. My husband can’t be all things to me all the time and he shouldn’t be expected to. It is perfectly acceptable – and even healthy – that I miss my family around my birthday, when we’ve put so much emphasis on that time together as a family in the past.

On the other hand, I can’t let my homesickness overshadow my husband’s efforts to make my birthday a lovely one and let those feelings stifle my appreciation of all he did. He gave me a lovely day and it was even more special when I remind myself that I didn’t expect a year ago that we’d be married so soon. Even more so in memory of the birthdays I have spent all alone.

Just because there’s still a few grains of sadness in your heart, doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for what you have. You just can’t let your sadness overshadow the good things in your life. I know from experience that that’s easier said than done, but I never said being grateful was easy. It takes work, but it’s worth it.

And we should be grateful. There’s always something good in your life, however small it is and even if you have to do a little looking for it.

You don’t need to feel guilty for recognizing things you know are missing from your life. You’re not a bad person for feeling that. What you do need to do is recognize the good things you have, be grateful for them, and thank whoever gave them to you (God, your husband, your mom, friends, whoever). And doing that will inevitably make you feel better, even if you still feel you’re missing a few things in your life.

May you have many things to be grateful for!


A Catholic Woman’s Search for a Holy Spouse

Fair warning for any non-Catholic reading my blog. This is a very Catholic post, as I’m a very Catholic woman. And keep in mind, this is my personal experience. I can’t speak to every woman’s experience. This is simply the way I know worked exceedingly well for me to find my wonderful husband.

This title is the goal of many Catholic women. For those of us who aren’t called the religious life with a vocation as a nun, many of us anxiously await to find our future husband. I’ve found mine, which means I am removed from this search, but I still vividly remember it, since I am only recently married and only met my husband just over a year ago.

I had been thinking about finding a husband since I was young. Most little girls want to be wives and mothers and I was no different in that aspect. I was a tomboy as a child, but I still had a strong desire to get married and have a dozen children. Since childhood, my Catholic upbringing has emphasized the necessity to discern God’s will for your life. So I decided to pray about it as much as I could.

With much prayer, I discerned that God did indeed want me to search for a spouse. I spared a few prayers across the years for my future spouse, but other than occasionally praying to reaffirm this conclusion, I didn’t think too much else about it until I was about 15 years old.

At fifteen, I had really begun to feel the desire for my future life as a wife and mother. I began to pray every day for my future spouse. I prayed for his safety, that God would give him whatever he needed, and that God would keep him close to Himself.

This continued for a few years. In high school, I began a devotion to Saint Edmund Campion, one of many English martyrs during the reign of Elizabeth I. I felt an immediate connection to this saint after reading a biography of him. Something about him clicked with what I needed and I latched myself onto St. Edmund Campion’s intercession. He’s been my great helper in the years since then in every sort of trial I’ve faced.

Nearly six years ago, just after Christmas that year, I was praying in the pews at church and felt a very strong call to do something I hadn’t expected. I knew I needed to entrust my future spouse and our future courtship to my favorite saint. Usually, people choose saints like Raphael, Philomena, Anne the mother of Mary. I’d never heard of anyone going to St. Edmund Campion for intercession for a future spouse.

But I still did it. I made a promise to St. Edmund Campion that night. I asked him to specifically protect my future spouse, bring him to me when the time was right, and intercede for our courtship to be a beautiful, holy, and chaste one. Not out of sense of need, but in my love for the saint, I promised to name my firstborn son after him as a public show of my devotion.

It would still be years before I would meet my future spouse, but it turned out that my husband was on a journey of conversion that started around the time I entrusted him to my favorite saint. I can’t make the certain declaration that Saint Edmund Campion’s intercession did this for my husband. But I am a woman of faith and I believe this timeline is too perfect to be a coincidence.

Here’s my advice to all you Catholic women still in search of a spouse (and even any Catholic men too). Ask your patron saint to watch over your future spouse. The timeline of when you’ll meet them isn’t guaranteed (it was five years for me), but I think you’ll find it more than worth it. I promised a name to my favorite saint in return for his care of my future spouse, but I don’t think that’s required. I did it as a show of love and thankfulness for a gift I hadn’t received yet.

If it is God’s will that you find a spouse and get married, He’ll send him to you at the most opportune time by His count. But your prayer in the meantime can help ready both you and your future spouse. Your patron saint wants to help you, especially with something as important as this. Ask them! They’ll be happy to help, I assure you. You’ll grow closer to your favorite saint and you’ll help yourself and your future spouse.

Take it from a woman newly married to the man of her dreams. God and St. Edmund Campion brought me my future spouse and he was even better than I could have asked for. The waiting is worth it and the praying works!


Almost There …

Remember that song from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog? Tiana’s song “Almost There”? I sure do.  I’ve sung it pretty much every day for the last two years.

This song has been my constant companion, lifting me up when I felt overwhelmed. I had a whole playlist specifically for that, but often ended up just repeating this one song.

Let me set the stage:

My parents met in college. I thought I’d have surely found my husband after finishing my bachelor’s degree.  I was in my senior year and I was sure I was “almost there”, almost to the rest of my life.  Turns out that isn’t how it happened. My last semester, I felt like I was scrambling to know what to do, more especially: what was God’s will for me now? I ended up discerning into a graduate program.  I decided since I hadn’t found my spouse yet, I was going to set myself up to enjoy whatever work I’d need to do in the meantime.  

And the one that accepted me, truthfully the only one I applied to because I was just that sure, was incredibly far from home.  

I’m a Louisiana girl, born and raised (with a little Texas sprinkled in too). Spread across those two states is my family, nearly all my friends.  And I was set to leave to graduate school in Illinois. This wasn’t an easy decision by any means. There were a lot of tears shed over it (that still sometimes recur). I left, sure I was nearly there this time.

I was determined to get through it. It didn’t matter how difficult the classwork was, how lonely I got (and boy howdy did it get lonely), or the fact that this decision caused me to not be at my great-grandmother’s bedside when she died. That’s another story that involves another song, one I’ll tell later. Can you see where this is going?

A Louisiana girl faced with what felt like the impossible and maybe an eternity to wait between her and her dreams. My dream of graduating, of going home with honor, of finding the love of my life, of having as much of the life I wanted as I could work for myself. All that still seemed far away when I left for graduate school.

So I played this song. Every time I felt low. Because if Tiana could do it, so could I. Dang, she did it all, even after being turned into a frog. I had my own version of that too: I was so far away from home and my culture that I sometimes felt like a different species than the people around me.  I sometimes felt worked to the bone, both from classes and my job.  Grad school wasn’t easy for me, for many reasons.

Long story short? I made it.  There were a lot of tears, a lot of prayers, and a lot of FaceTime calls to my mom on the way.  But I got there.

In my third semester of graduate school, I first spoke to my now-husband. I graduated this August, after taking an extra semester to finish up my thesis properly. And as for home … I was there for a while. I ended up there with my then-fiancé during Quarantine/Lockdown/Whatever-you’d-like-to-call-it (from March until the end of July).  And in July I got married.

“Almost There” became my destination.  I still play the song, since it reminds me how far I’ve come and how hard I worked to be here.  How much struggling and prayer led me to where I’m supposed to be.  But I learned a lesson from feeling like two years of my life were spent largely as a journey, not a destination in themselves.  I perhaps could have learned a lot more from these years if I’d taken them more day-to-day.  On the other hand, this attitude of looking to the future pushed me to make it when things got rough for me.  Because it turns out I was right.  I was almost there and I eventually made it.

It’s not a bad thing to look to the future to give yourself hope for the present.  It’s not a bad thing to live day-to-day to keep yourself happy, sane, and capable of performing your duties (school, work, whatever).  The best way is to balance between them.  

Appreciate every day.  Each one is a destination in itself.  There are things to enjoy, things to learn, beauty to appreciate, and yes, sometimes even pain to feel each day.  Each day is a gift and we should live each day with that awareness.  But looking to the future can give you perspective, hope, and the courage to push through the days more filled with pain.  Just don’t let the future consume your present.  

I leave you with this final note.  My life completely changed in a single year.  I was already set to graduate in 2020, but I had no idea what else was going to happen this year in my own life.  I met my husband in the spring of 2019 and we were married the summer of the next year, July 2020.  I met, fell in love with, and married the man of my dreams in that time.  I’m a married woman now and my life is exactly where I hoped it wold be. There was no way I could have predicted how much my life would change in just over twelve months.

God always has a plan for your life. Your dreams may be out there, just waiting for a little prayer and a little work. You’ll get there. Keep dreaming, working, and praying.

Don’t forget: you’re almost there, even if it doesn’t look like you are right now, even if where you are right now is difficult and even ugly.  Just don’t forget to live. Daily life can still be beautiful, even if your life in general is hard. So breathe, put in your headphones, and turn on “Almost There” for a little pick-me-up in the meantime.


NaNoWriMo Approaches!

I fully understand November is still a whole two months away, but for those of us who annually participate in National Novel Writing Month, we sometimes start planning as early as August.  But today NaNoWriMo opened the site to be able to announce this year’s project, so I thought it was a good time to start talking about it!

I’m frankly a bit obsessed with this particular writing event.  It is one of the things that really taught me about what kind of writer I am, as well as how I can improve.  I’ve done NaNoWriMo every year since about 2013, and won some of those years, but admittedly not all of them.

Also, I’m generally somewhere between a “planner” and a “pantser”, which means I definitely do more planning than some people, but my outlines are generally pretty loose.

I’m still in the process of picking my project for this year. In the past, I generally begin writing an entirely new novel on November 1st, in the hopes I can write 50,000 words by the end of the month on it. I’m considering doing something different this year, which is why I’m hesitant to declare my project just yet.

When I first began participating in NaNo, I thought you were required to start a NEW book every time. But as long as you write 50,000 NEW WORDS on an older project, you’re perfectly within your rights to do that as well. If you put in the work, it doesn’t matter that you had previously worked on the novel. So when you’re picking what novel to work on, don’t shy away from adding to that old manuscript that’s been sitting dormant for a while, waiting for the right push to get it going. Or, feel free to spread your creative wings on a brand new story.

This is my first year doing NaNoWriMo while I wasn’t also in school. I just graduated from graduate school, I’m newly married, and though I’m still working a part-time job, I have more time than I have in years. This certainly doesn’t guarantee me success, since I still have to budget my time well and properly prepare my novel. Either way, hopefully my success (or failure) can offer a little edification. Just because I know a lot of tips and tricks to succeed even when under a serious time deficit doesn’t mean I hit that 50,000 words every year and that’s okay.

A crucial thing to remember is this: every word you write during NaNoWriMo is one word more than you had before, so none of it is ever a loss or a failure. If you’re writing, it’s always a success.

As it gets closer to NaNoWriMo, I’ll continue to post more about the process, advice for participating in this particular writing event, and hopefully encourage you to finally write that project you’ve been thinking about!  Whether you do NaNoWriMo every year or if its your first year attempting it, I strongly encourage doing NaNo!


Is 2020 the Worst Year Ever?

A cliche title this year, I know.

But we’ve had other “worst years” before. There were plenty of people who hated 2016, whether for the political climate or the fact that there were clowns running around frightening people. Or maybe they just had a bad year, everything seemed to go wrong for them.

2020 has been a similar – if not worse – year for most people. But let’s spend a few minutes to think about why.

A global virus hit and regardless of your political opinion about how it has been handled, it has drastically affected people’s lives in various ways. Some people have lost loved ones, many people have lost their livelihood in the form of their job or their business, and all of our lives have been made complicated by the way this situation has been handled.

On top of that, a hurricane has devastated a large portion of Louisiana, my home state (though I’m not currently living there and am not personally affected). I personally know many people who have endured damage to their home and had to see their hometown largely reduced to rubble in some areas. Hurricane Laura was devastating, y’all. Please pray for Louisiana and send help if you can.

But there have also been other issues this year.

The spring semester of everyone’s school year had to move online. This caused problems for many teachers, students, and parents, as we all struggled to cope with the change. I was affected by this myself, experiencing my last semester of formal classes as a graduate student this way. I was also a teacher’s assistant and had responsibility to my students as well, so I experienced the issue from both sides of the school dynamic.

Many people’s weddings have been postponed or effectively cancelled as a result of some of the other events of the year, mainly the COVID regulations. My own wedding (particularly the wedding reception) was nearly cancelled as a result of our governor’s mandates.

There has been more than our fair share of stress going around this year. The fact that we were isolated at home only increased our consumption of media, including news, which I believe largely hurt more than helped us. Some news is necessary, but we were cooped up in our houses for weeks, even months, with really only the internet and our immediate family members to distract us. Of course we’re going to end up reading the news more than usual. Many of us were scared and hoped it would bring consolation. When in actuality, I believe it simply increased the mental burden we were all already carrying.

There were protests, which turned to riots in some cases. I’m a supporter of the right to peacefully protest. It’s riots I have an issue with. Just because you have a grievance, even a legitimate grievance, doesn’t give you the right to take it out on others or their property. Regardless of the reasons they had for rioting, there was still fear and destruction that resulted from rioters’s actions. This didn’t help with the overall climate of stress and fear we were all already experiencing.

This seems like a perfect storm right? 2020 MUST be the worst year ever.

Some may not like what I’m about to say. I don’t say it to belittle your struggles or to remind you of the despair that has knocked on the door of many of our heart’s this year. Remember I say it out of a position of hopefulness.

As far as the human race goes, we’ve seen a lot of “worst years”. This wasn’t the first and won’t be the last. There are plenty of places to look for these other terrible years.

Every year is the worst year if you consider abortion, thousands of babies are killed every day, every month, every year.

World War II was devastating for everyone involved. There were countless deaths of soldiers and civilians on all sides of the war. There was also the Holocaust during WWII, when millions of people were killed in concentration camps.

There’s been genocides and wars across the past centuries, almost since humanity came into existence.

Christians were massacred by Romans in the early years of the Church, mirroring Christ’s own death.

Our lives have always been hard, in varying degrees, across the entirety of human history.

I don’t say this to scare you. I say this to inspire and encourage you. The human race has experienced so much trouble, hurt, fear, and death. This isn’t the first “worst year”, but it is OUR “worst year” and that’s okay. Because guess what the human race has also been doing all this time?

Surviving, improving, learning. If we let it, trials and terror can teach us. OR we can let it rule our lives. We can either let it cause us to despair or bring us closer to God and make us better people.

But also: beauty and good can still exist during times of great tribulation.

I got married to the love of my life, surrounded by friends and family. We have a beautiful new home and are making our life together. I’ve seen others of my friends getting married as well.

My cousin and several of my friends have had children during all of this. New little babies, bundles of joy, which brighten the worlds of all who get to see them, especially during these hard times.

Love, children, sunshine, flowers, and beauty all still exist.

We can let 2020 be the worst year ever if we want to. Or we can put our lives in God’s hands and choose to focus on good instead of evil. Just because there are bad things in the world, doesn’t mean they have to rule our lives and condemn our hearts to despair. We can do what is required of us to get through, pray, and help each other instead.

God gives true peace and joy if you turn to Him, no matter what hardships you may be mired in. And there is incessant beauty in His creation to remind you of His Providence.

Really this article should be titled “Finding Good in 2020”.

I leave you with a quote from St. Joan of Arc: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” We were born in our time for a reason. We are all meant to be here. I think that is a very encouraging thought. As another wise – though fictional – person has said, “All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.”

Stay joyful and I pray God blesses you with the consolations you need in this difficult year.


Love – During Coronavirus

For those of you who know me, you may be aware I got married one month ago. The road to marriage for us has been a wonderful one, though not without its obstacles, from outside our relationship rather than within.

Our wedding was an Extraordinary Form Tridentine High Mass, by which I mean: we’re Catholic, the mass was in Latin, and in the old rite.

Though when we got engaged in December of 2019 we didn’t know we’d be getting married during the time of Coronavirus and other turmoil, when such troubles arose, we didn’t delay our wedding. We decided it meant more to us to be married.

So as I’ve said, I’m married and my new last name is Dugan. It’s still taking some getting used to saying that, since I took great pride in my maiden name and I’ve only been married for a month yet. But I’m just as proud of my married name and I’m thrilled every time I get to write or say “Elizabeth Dugan” now.

On the way to becoming so, we encountered discouragement, as well as actual difficulties in getting married, thanks to all the restrictions that were in place (and still are to my knowledge).

One week before the wedding, our state’s governor declared that only 50 people were allowed in a building at a time. This essentially canceled our reception, since based on previous rules, we’d invited three times that many. We had only one week to find a solution. We also had a week to figure out who we could still invite to the reception (thankfully the ceremony itself was exempt from the regulation).

Thankfully, we have some of the most wonderful people on the planet as our friends, who came to our rescue, helping us decorate my parent’s house and set everything up. I’m unendingly grateful to all of them.

Though this was perhaps the biggest trial we had to face prior to the wedding, we came out of it on top. Our reception was possibly the most wonderful we could have had, outside of being able to have all of our loved ones there. This may have been one of the worst obstacles in our path, but there were others too.

My husband’s family and mine live across the country from each other. And the wedding was to take place closer to mine. This meant that there were many of my husband’s family members who would have had difficultly traveling so far, even without fear of the virus, restrictions, or other problems due to it. In fact, many of his family members, and even some of mine, were unable to attend at all because of it.

And still we chose to get married.

I tell you all of this for a few reasons. Simply because there is turmoil in the world is no reason to stuff yourself in a hole and avoid doing the things that are the most important, even if they “won’t be what you wanted” or “how you imagined”. I don’t say this to belittle anyone’s struggles. Quite the opposite, as I empathize in the extreme. However, I do say this to remind you that there are far more important things in life than having everyone you know see you make vows to the person you love most in this world. I am more pleased that I married my husband when I did, rather than wait in uncertainty for things to “return to normal.”

Don’t put these things off, simply because they’re hard or they’re not going to be what you expected.

I also say this because I received many reactions, even and especially from strangers in regards to our wedding continuing, regardless of the hardships. There were so many people who seemed amazed and even uplifted by the fact that our wedding went on even during all of this madness in the world right now.

My husband and I are desperately in love and I’d like to think it’s easy to see. There were a few people, particularly some we encountered on our honeymoon who were uplifted by a win for love, during coronavirus.

When you do your best to follow the Will of God, He’ll give you the peace you need to accomplish what he’s asked of you. Since my husband and I met, we’ve made a point to pray together daily. We constantly seek after God’s Will in our lives.

And now here we are, married and couldn’t be happier. So here’s my advice to you.

Pray, don’t wait, and don’t worry. I know it’s cliche, but give your troubles to God. Put your hand in His and He’ll guide you where you need to go, through hardships and turmoil perhaps, but the destination? It’s worth every struggle.

Of Courting … Online? – Pt. 1

This subject warrants a few posts about it, since the story is a long one.  I wanted to talk about how I met my husband, Max.  We met online on Catholic Match, in April of 2019. 

Dating apps like Tinder have been very popular within the last several years.  But traditional Catholics like myself aren’t likely to find the spouse they’re looking for on apps that depend more on superficiality and the pleasure of trivial encounters with the opposite sex.  However, sometimes the internet is where young Catholics have to turn, in order to find a spouse.

Personally, I was very skeptical of online dating in general, at first.  I knew of one friend who had found love over the internet, but others I knew had been unsuccessful and I’d heard enough horror stories on the internet to be concerned about who might be on such a website.

But in early 2018, I was graduating with my Bachelor’s degree and our local community had no prospects for me, in terms of a spouse.  When I say nearly all our young men were either married already or entering seminary on the path to the priesthood, I’m not really exaggerating.  

By April of 2018, I was also set to be leaving my home for two years in order to attend graduate school. Truthfully, I didn’t want to take the chance of marrying someone from so far away from my own home. (Little did I know, since my husband’s home is literally halfway across the country).

Despite my doubts – and admittedly somewhat at my mother’s prompting – I joined Catholic Match. I was on it for a few months with no real luck. I had a few short conversations with guys who always turned out to be not quite the right fit for some reason. Many of them were genuinely good men, but who I simply didn’t have a connection with, though sometimes the conversations would end because of differences of opinion.

It wasn’t until early 2019, sometime in March, when I decided I would no longer look through the website and initiate contact with any of the men. I decided I would wait for God to send my spouse to me. I began a novena in hope of this, that my spouse would find me and make contact first and that I wouldn’t have to search any longer.

There were several reasons for this decision, none of which being that I believe a woman can never make the first move to begin a relationship with a man. Firstly, I decided I needed to trust in God’s Providence to send my spouse to me. Secondly, I was becoming a little too superficial when it came to searching the site, paying a bit more attention to physical beauty than I should. Thirdly, I was tired and becoming discouraged. I decided to give my troubles and my search to God (and my favorite and adopted patron saint, Edmund Campion to whom I entrusted my future spouse and courtship many years previously).

It wasn’t even two weeks later that my now-husband sent me a message. We hit it off almost immediately, even though all we knew were those few pictures of each other and all the texts we’d sent. We talked for a little over a month before finally doing a Face-Time call to see each other’s faces. I admit I knew even before I’d heard his voice that if he felt the same, I wanted to marry him. It only took us about three Face-Time calls to officially decide we were beginning our courtship, our road to marriage.

We had no concept at the time of how long that would take, since we were both still in school and lived so far away from each other. I laugh a little as I remember this, since at first we thought we might have to wait until 2021 to get married, but here we are now, just over a month into our marriage.

In other words, sometimes online dating can be a frightening disaster. Other times, it can lead you to find the love of your life. Much like dating in real life. In all cases, I advice discernment of God’s will and your own heart. Don’t depend too heavily on looks (yours or theirs) and don’t make too many assumptions about what sort of person you want to marry. Max’s personality was a surprise to me in many ways, as I’m sure mine was to him. It’s with God’s help and guidance that we found each other and made it to marriage.

If you’re about to embark on a similar search (online or otherwise) I wish you as much happiness as I’ve achieved in my marriage.

Dark is the Night by Mirriam Neal – Book Spotlight

Graphic Credit – Morgan G Farris

Skata only has one goal in life—to seek out the vampire who turned his wife and kill it. When he finally tracks the vampire to the small nowhere town of Salvation, South Carolina, he realizes he has stepped foot into something bigger than himself. He’s going to need help—and that help may come in many forms. Between the vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, and an unusual preacher, Skata may be in over his head.

It is my privilege to be part of introducing Dark is the Night to the world! The above is the summary of a novel written by a very dear friend of mine, Mirriam Neal. It is being published this week and will be available on Amazon by Friday (the 25th)! (Links coming soon!)

To give you a little insight into the author …

MIRRIAM NEAL is an author frequently masquerading as an artist. When she’s not scrubbing paint off her hands, she’s thinking about writing (actually, if she’s being honest, she’s always thinking about writing). A discovery writer, she tends to start novels and figure them out as she goes along and likes to work on several books at the same time—while drinking black coffee.
She’s a sucker for monsters, unlikely friendships, redemption arcs, and underdog protagonists.
When not painting fantasy art or writing genre-bending novels, she likes to argue the existence of Bigfoot, rave about Guillermo del Toro, and write passionate defenses of misunderstood characters.
To learn more about her fiction and art, visit her website: https://mirriamneal.com/, where you can find a full list of all her social medias, or join the Citadel Fiction newsletter: https://www.subscribepage.com/b1h5v9

And now that you can check out the rest of Mirriam’s work and her blog, back to the novel!

I’ve had the great advantage of having read this novel already, multiple times in fact because I really did enjoy it that much! So I’m hoping I can use a little of my knowledge to impart how wonderful this book really is.

Mirriam Neal’s Dark is the Night is easily one of my favorite novels. The stunning cleverness of the plot, the life breathed into the characters with each word, the whole town of Salvation is alive on the page. I am definitely a sucker for character driven stories and this story is the home of so many characters that have become close to my heart. They’re supremely well written, each unique and alive in their own way.

Nearly every character in this novel has absolutely stolen my heart. Upon reading Dark is the Night for the first time, it felt as though I was meeting tangible people, not just characters on a page. And now, having reread it multiple times, they feel like old friends. Finding strong, well-written characters isn’t always easy, but Mirriam seems to create them with no trouble at all.

Furthermore, on the subject of characters, Mirriam is a master at writing dialogue. The dynamic of the characters alone would make this novel worth reading, to not even mention the cleverness of the plot! Each one has a distinct voice which comes through with astonishing strength through their speech. I can practically hear each character’s voice in my ears as I read, which is one of the things that makes this novel so wonderful.

In particular, keep an eye out for Angel, who you’ll meet fairly quickly into the novel. He’s complex, snarky, and my absolute favorite character in this story. Truthfully, he’s one of my favorite characters ever. I’m sure you’ll come to love him as much as I do.

But the characters aren’t the only attraction of this book.

Mirriam has done something else I’ve seldom seen accomplished at all, much less done well.

She’s managed to bring together both the Christian and Supernatural fiction genres into one and has done so with impressive dexterity. Moreover, as someone who previously kept my distance from the Supernatural fiction genre because of its frequent conflict with Christian doctrine or values, I’m especially impressed with Dark is the Night

It manages to give you a Christian outlook and message at many points throughout the novel without becoming a sermon. I think this is a crucial need in the genre of Christian fiction and Mirriam has done this perfectly.

Her style allows Christian readers to enjoy a novel containing supernatural creatures without sacrificing or transgressing any of their values, rather, quite the opposite. As I said before, she has a strong grasp of how to put Christian principles into her work without being heavy-handed in the slightest.

Overall, this book is a classic and I hope it you come to love it as much as I do!