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Realm Makers Scrapbook! (2023)

I can't believe the Realm Makers Conference ended a month ago! My very first Realmie adventure was seven years earlier, and it felt so good to be back. I was a speculative fiction newb then--and a writing newb in general. I didn't know what to expect. Neither did I have any idea how gratifying it was to gallavant with Christians who passionately loved fantasy, sci-fi, and all things epic....people like me. I never forgot the fellowship. I never forgot the comraderie, and I never forgot the lessons I learned--especially, how to simultaniously disarm and break arms. (Thanks, Carla Hoch!)

Now, seven years later, things most definitely changed, yet all those changes catapulted Realm Makers 2023 far beyond my best anticipations....

For one thing, I wasn't the unconnected newbie anymore! Julia White (left) and I became fast friends at last year's ACFW Conference, and she was the funnest travel buddy and roommate I could've asked for. (We certainly had a hoot pondering the ethics of sneaking swords into hotels.) I also finally got to meet, Crystal Grant! (center) She's been my best writing partner for over six years--about time we met face to face! I even got the surprise of my life when I litererally bumped into one of my supporters, Heather Halverstadt (right), at the Awards Banquet!

Realm Maker's, of course, isn't strictly reunions. It's a mass of introductions! I met a lady who not only reivewed my book but actually lives near my home (top left). (We're scheming our own little Realmie home group now!) I got to rub shoulders with, Pat, who's probably the most charming bookstore attendant ever (top center). I ate with agents, award-winning authors, and too many amazing published and ucpoming writers to count. I even had the immense pleasure of befriending my biggest competitor in the Realm Awards (and the very deserving winner of our category), Bryan Mitchell! (bottom right) He's such a sweet fellow!

The teaching courses, of course, did not dissapoint. Our keynote speaker, Steve Laube, (top left and top center) started our week with profound words of deep spiritual insight worth long remembering. The dynamic King and Queen of Realm Makers, Becky and Scott Minor (top right, middle left), happily joined in my livestreams! Daniel Schwabauer (middle center and middle left), not only taught some of the best writing classes I ever had. We got to enjoy lunch together! And Carla everyone's great pleasure...never changed (bottom left and center).

Wandering the bookstore never ceased to delight the realmie senses. Books gallore filled its treasure trove! Novels lined every table, ready to sweep new readers off to new grand adventures, and more than a few crafty accessories and adorable critters waited to sit on any writer's desk. Few could resist the urge to spend, spend, spend! (Both Julia and I ended up buying more books than we intended.)

There were, of course, plenty of surprises along the our Realmie adventure... tricksy 'goggly eye' pranksters...

...a one-eyed jackallope (or steam-punk pirate, as she so insistently claimed)...

...coming across a devotional I took part in...

...meeting (and petting) four-legged Realmies...

...and becoming a true believer of birthday magic! (Though, I am still questioning whether using such sacred power to corner the raffle market is exploitive or clever...Better double check my friend for 'Dragon Sickness' later.)

Of course, every lunch and dinner was delicious and (generally) nutritious,...

...but Costume Awards Banquet was the talk of the week! My Ranger friend from Middle-earth and my Jedi-self dressed in our best, as you'd expect. One must when hobnobbing with countless fictional celebrities, after all!

Even the tiniest of us came, saw, and conquered the costume competition!

Of course, the time to see where my first novel 'Celestial' would land came. (And yes, my nerves were totally shot.)

Yet even finishing as a mere Finalist in the Supernatural/Paranormal/Horror category did nothing to dampen my spirits. Each and every one of us, Winner and Finalist alike, were not only blessed by the whole experience. We collectively testified on that podium that our Glorious Savior was good; worthy of all honor and praise; and can use anyone no matter their background--young or old; disabled or healthy; married or single; new or experienced--to bring lifechanging fiction to life! Never ever sell short what God can do through you and the creative potential He's given you!

My first Realm Makers was the start of many 'firsts'. It marked my first conference period; my first hands-on training; the first time I realized I wasn't alone;....Most importantly it was the first time anyone showed me that my abnormal passion for fiction wasn't a waste or useless. It held a real, special place in God's plans. That conference deeply inspired me. Then 2023's conference arrived and produced another round of wonderful 'firsts' for me. It was the first time I came with friends; the first time I wrote in an autograph book; the first time I Finaled in a nationally recognized ceremony; the first time I recieved a book cover patch;...

Most touching of all, it was the first time others sought me out just to tell me how my love for Jesus as a novelist, blogger, and podcaster inspired them in their creative journeys too....

It's overwhelming to fathom to say the least... Just like in the greatest stories, everything came full circle....and it's a circuit I'll gladly ride again.

Thank you to all the staffers of Realm Makers. Your work means more than you know. Thank you to all who attended. You're the special ones God chose for this walk, and you all comprise the heart of these gatherings. Thank you to my friends, who journeyed with me, and thank you, Almighty Father, who wrote moments like these into the story of my life.

And I for one can't wait for the next chapter....

Would you like to watch all my LIVE vids of the Realm Makers Conference? Then follow me on Instagram! Would you like to hear what's going on for me behind the scenes or maybe even the future books and content I'm working on? Then subscribe for my free newsletter down below! (You may even win an exclusive prize in my draws!) Thank you all, and God bless!

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