Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Those Pesky New Year's Resolutions!

New Year’s resolutions! Bah humbug! Why do I make them every year? Why don’t I keep them? Here are my 2013 resolutions:

·         Lose weight. (Naw, didn’t happen. In fact, I think I’ve put on 5 extra pounds during the year of 2013)

·         Exercise daily, or at least 3 times week. (Ugh! Yeah, so did NOT happen! My total days of exercise could fill up a month’s calendar and that’s it)

·         Passionately pursue my writing career via editors, publishers, and agents. (That whoosh sound you hear is the loudest sigh to ever pass my lips. I did NOT even approach anyone in the agent/publishing field, which is grand puzzlement to me. WHY? Why didn’t I?)

·         De-clutter my house and garage. (I border on being a hoarder – not visible inside my house, but I know it’s there in closets, drawers, cabinets and garage. I have made progress with this resolution in 2013)

·         Pay off/down credit cards. (This only works if you have sufficient income during the year, which we did not. Consequently, our credit card debt is higher going into 2014)

·         Eat healthier. (Yeah, this pesky resolution is right up there with the weight loss/exercise one)

·         Pray more. (I did okay with this one, but I could’ve done better)

·         Read the Bible more. (I am ashamed to say I failed with this one)

I am a faithful New Year’s Resolutions setter. I set them; I usually don’t follow through, though. Am I setting more this year? You betcha – and probably the same as the above!

I know, I know! What can I say? I love setting goals and having to-do lists, even if I don’t make it happen. Pray for me, will you? My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM MY HOME TO YOURS! May your season be filled with family, friends, love and laughter. God bless us, everyone!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Stress

Christmas parties and more Christmas parties! How many Christmas parties do you attend in an average December every year? The advantage – or disadvantage if you aren’t a social being – of belonging to groups, church, and a work place is that there are plenty of parties to attend.

I love Christmas. I love all the parties. I love Christmas music. I have a large family, a very large family. I buy gifts for everyone. I fix the Christmas Eve and Christmas day meals almost single-handedly. I bake a ton of cookies.

CHRISTMAS CAN BE VERY STRESSFUL FOR ME! I can’t seem to get enough hours in the day to do all I need to do. I develop insomnia (Well, I struggle with insomnia all year long). I break out in a rash.
One year the rash was so severe I decided to visit the dermatologist where my daughter, Stephanie, works. The rash started on my neck and worked its way up my throat. It itched and burned like crazy. The good doc gave me a shot and prescription for pills and ointment. It cleared up, thank the good Lord.
Months later the pesky rash returned. I go back to see Stephanie’s doctor. “Ah, you had the same rash last December,” she says.

December! A light bulb flashes before my eyes. “That’s it!” I say to the female doctor. “I’m allergic to Christmas!”
Jesus is still the reason for the Season. I don’t think Jesus wants us to be so stressed that we break out in a rash. Having said that, I still haven’t arrived at the place where I don’t do a million different things at Christmas. Help! I have decided that I'm taking a break from writing for the month of December.
Merry Christmas to all and God bless us, everyone!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Fire

New International Version Luke 2:11
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

 “A happy ho-ho-ho to you!” Tis the season to be jolly and all of that! Because this is December, I’ll dedicate my blogs to our family Christmas stories!

 It was Christmas Eve 1977. I was busy making pumpkin pies for the Christmas meal. My five children ranged in age from my oldest daughter, Tammy, was twelve, I think, and my youngest, Heather, was four. We had bought bicycles for the four oldest and a Big Wheels for Heather – the big plastic ones that sat low to the ground.

 My husband decided to put the bicycles together and sent our son, Junior, to the storage shed for the tool box. Our house had a carport, not a garage, and the storage shed was attached to the house. Up to my elbows in spices, flour and canned pumpkin, Junior walks by me with the tool box and said, “The can of gasoline spilled,” meaning the gas we kept for our lawnmower.

 “That can start a fire,” I replied, thinking if the gasoline got near the gas water heater. “Go clean it up,” I hollered.

I went back to my pie making, and before I knew it, my husband was yelling, “Give me the car keys.” I didn’t respond immediately because I was trying to process in my mind why he was yelling about the car keys.

 Well, the gasoline had started a fire. Our station wagon (remember those?) was in the carport next to the storage. The next minutes were chaotic confusion. My first thought was to get the kids out of the house. My husband’s thought was to move the car and turn the water hose on the fire.

 I gathered my kids, minus Tammy, who I thought was at Lisa’s house. We stood across the street with the neighbors who had gathered to watch the fire. “Can we help?” someone asked. “My kids’ Christmas gifts are under the tree,” was my response. Hey, it was Christmas, and in that moment, those gifts were my valuables.

 Firemen arrived before the fire spread. I watched as a couple of firemen stood on the roof with axes. Before I could wonder what that was about, a group of men started a chain passing gifts out the door and onto the front lawn. I suppressed a hysterical giggle at the sight. Giggling is better than hysterical wailing, right?

 I watched the pile of gifts grow as I mumbled, “Why are they chopping holes in the roof?” Someone, I don’t know who, replied, “To check if the fire has spread.” Huh? That’s how to check?  While I pondered that, I gasped at what appeared to be a ghost, actually two ghosts, walking out the front door. It took me a minute to realize it was Tammy and Lisa. Both looked confused. Yeah, welcome to my world. How did I go from making pies to watching my house burn?

 Tammy and Lisa moved to stand beside me. “I thought you were at Lisa’s.” She looked at me with saucer-shaped eyes. Her mouth opened and she wailed, “My violin!”

 Seriously? Your violin? But, I asked a fireman to take her inside to get her violin. The crowd began to disperse. I walked over to the firemen sweeping out the charred remains in our storage. “Did you save Heather’s Big Wheel?” They glanced at me with looks of compassion and went back to cleaning.

 The crew chief came over to talk to us. With a sigh, I asked, “Is the smoke smell going to be too strong for us to sleep?”

 He looked at me with a mixture of concern and amusement and said, “Ma’am, you can’t stay here. Your power is off and we chopped holes in the roof.” We spent the night with friends, Dede and Richard, had Christmas day at my parents' home, and per the insurance adjuster, found a motel to rent while we looked for a  temporary house until repairs could be made on ours. That took three months.

Although there are better ways to spend Christmas, I found the time to thank God no one was hurt and that other than items in the storage shed, none of our other belongings were damaged.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving Thanks This Thanksgiving

In observance of this being Thanksgiving week, and in light of our nation’s current chaotic state, this post will be about things I’m thankful for.

·         I am thankful for the United States of America and our founding forefathers who sought to honor God. God, help our nation to recognize your sovereignty and draw close to you again.

·         I am thankful to be alive, that abortion was never an option, even had I been considered unwanted or an inconvenience. God, how can we expect You to bless a nation that murders its innocent babies? Break our hearts for this travesty and open our eyes and hearts to the horror of this.

·         I am thankful to be a wife and mother. God, touch the hearts of the lonely who long for love, and for the parentless who yearn for children. Hear the cries of their hearts.

·         I am thankful for family. In a world where the traditional family is redefined and ridiculed, help us to value what your Word says. Let us not judge, or treat others with contempt. Help us to understand that showing kindness and compassion does not mean we approve or condone. Hatred never shows others the heart of the Father.

·         I am thankful that I am a Christian and have a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not a religion, it’s a relationship. If it had not been for God, I would be dead. Dead! But that’s another topic for another day.

·         I am thankful for needs met. Face it, most of us are spoiled to material things. God never promised our wants; He did promise our needs. God, help us to understand the difference, and to be content in all things like the Apostle Paul. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.” Philippians 4:11 ASV   

In conclusion, I wish you all a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving. May your day be filled with family and friends, love and laughter. May you recognize and count your blessings!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Yikes! It's NaNoWriMo Time!

NaNoWriMo, how I love thee – how I hate thee! For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November and thousands of writers, want-to-be writers, and up and coming writers join in the agony…er, I mean fun!  It’s 30 days to write a 50,000 word novel – no revising or editing, just frantic writing. Of course, your final novel can exceed 50,000 words, most do, but that’s the goal for 30 days.

At first I was feeling kind of blah about the whole thing. My heart wasn’t in it, although I did have a gist of what I wanted to write. When I reluctantly started on November 1st, I thought bah-humbug! But then, the creative juices started flowing and I fell in love with my novel and the characters.

It centers around two sisters, Abigail (Abby) and Lola. They were eight and ten when their mother left. It wasn’t just that she left – the night she disappeared, the girls found their father cleaning up a bloody bathroom. The girls, especially Lola, are plagued for years with, “Did their mom really leave or did their dad kill her?”

Their harsh, unaffectionate dad uses the Bible and religion to control them leaving the sisters to deal with their home life in different ways. Abby becomes promiscuous in high school, while Lola turns to food for comfort. Although she’s bullied and tormented by her classmates, she developed a crush on the popular, Jonathan, the only one who ever stands up for her.

The sisters’ journeys take them on a path to find the real God – not the cruel God of their father – and that special someone to love them. They also embark on a quest to find out the truth about their mother’s disappearance. There’s plenty of intrigue and conflict, especially when Jonathan, recently widowed, enters Lola’s life. Lola is now a poised, beautiful, successful business woman with twin daughters when Jonathan appears again.

Things get complicated because Lola is positive Jonathan fathered Abby’s son, Dylan. Oh, and a major part of Lola’s story is that after high school, Lola’s dad pays a friend of his – also old enough to be her father – to marry his awkward, homely daughter. “Who else will want you?” he tells her. The marriage only lasted weeks but resulted in the birth of Lola’s twin daughters. Oh, and what really did happen to their mother will surprise you!

Lola and Abby are survivors! A must read. I mean, I MUST finish their story. And as far as finding the time for NaNoWriMo, because it is time consuming -- we all know that we make time for the thing we love.

Monday, October 28, 2013

To Say No When Asked to Promote Others' Books

He’s a nice guy – one of my co-worker for several years. I really like him. In fact he’d tell people, “She’s my mama,” which caused some mouths to drop open because I’m a pale whitey, and his skin is definitely the opposite. He’s the first one who took me to eat at Lolo’s Chicken & Waffles – he and another co-worker.

As is often the case, we lose track of people over the years. He quit, I stayed, but we reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago. I noticed he’d married again – for the third or fourth time. He had children with his first two marriages. I’m not sure of any others. I do know, by his own admission, that his marriages failed because of his infidelity and drug abuse. It was ironic, since we worked together at a Christian drug and alcohol rehab.

He found me on Facebook. Then about a year ago, he asked me about my writing career, and how I went about getting a book published. “I’m writing a book. Well, my wife and I are writing the book.” Through his posts, I found out the book is about having a successful marriage – “ Do the opposite of what I did,” is part of the cover blurb.

I scratched my head. Well, okay, I think, but because of what I personally know, I wouldn’t buy his book. BUT….then he begins to ask me to help promote his book, which came out a week or so ago. I frequently share other writers/authors books and blogs on Facebook, people whose work I trust and admire. “I need you to Share Share Share on Facebook and help me get the word out,” he posted on my wall on Facebook.

Ugh! I resent this kind of presumptive pressure. In good conscience, I can’t promote his book. Okay, I vented. I feel better. To all my fellow writers and authors, it’s okay, and a necessary part of the process, to ask friends and acquaintances to help with your promotion, but don’t pressure anyone.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Novels That Stir Emotions

I love to watch movies, either on television, on DVD, or at the theater. I especially like anything based on actual events. But, more than watching a movie, I love to read. Some books and their characters linger on in m y heart and mind after I’ve read the last page.

I’ve read two books recently that had that emotional tug on me. One I’ve finished, “Beneath a Southern Sky,” by Deborah Raney. This book addressed an issue I haven’t seen before – a young woman and her husband are missionaries and she gets word that her husband has been killed in a remote village upriver. She returns to her family in America, after discovering she’s pregnant. She eventually meets a widower, falls in love and they marry, only to find out 3 years later her first husband is alive. Now what does a young woman do who’s married to two men, has a daughter by the first husband, and is pregnant by the second?

I cried at the end of that book and highly recommend it -- reading it, that is, and you'll probably cry also.

I’m currently reading “One Tuesday Morning” by Karen Kingsbury, a story of two men, Jake and Eric, and their families. Both men are inside one of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 when it collapses.

I’m not even halfway through this book and have already cried. In fact, I was so moved I had trouble falling asleep last night. It’s the scene where Jake, a NYC firefighter, is with his crew on the 61st floor, and they realize they’re not going to make it out. Over the chaotic noise and devastation, he leads everyone in the sinner’s prayer. Then he’s falling, falling, falling as the building collapses.

I know from the back cover blurb that only one of the two men, Jake or Eric, make it out alive. Of course, Jake is the more likable character so I’m hoping it’s him, although both have unfinished business with their families.

I want to write novels that stirs people and causes them to reflect on life and themselves. Mostly I want to show God’s love for a humanity who’s lost and hurting, that in our crazy, mixed up world, He still reigns!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Old West is Alive in Arizona

I am not a big fan of western/cowboy novels, although I am a fan of the Old West. I’ve lived in Arizona for my entire life – I better love it, or find another place to live. I enjoy visiting some of the old west towns in Arizona, and there are some unusual names for towns in Arizona: Tombstone (one of my favorites), Carefree (although I’m sure it has as much stress as any town), Skull Valley, Show Low, Littletown are just a few.

I love doing research in some of these places, although I’m positive I’ll never write the kind of novel where it’s needed. My friend, Jan Christiansen, and I visited the cowboy museum in Wickenburg, AZ, and I loved it. I took so many pictures.

But, by far, my favorite is Tombstone. It claims to be the most famous town in the old west. It’s where Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and others had the famous fight at the OK Corral.

Boot Hill, the cemetery where many of these legendary cowboys are buried, is an awesome place to tour in Tombstone. Some of the epitaphs on tombstones are so bizarre, you can’t make this stuff up. So if you’re ever in Arizona and love westerns or write about the old west, Tombstone, Wickenburg, and Jerome (a ghost town) are rich with cowboy history. Tombstone even reenacts an actual gunfight in the street.

From actual tombstones:

Chas. Helm. Shot 1882. Shot by Wm. McCauley. Two hot-tempered ranchers who disagreed over the best way to drive cattle, fast or slow.
James Hickey. 1881, shot by Wm Clayborne. He was shot in the left temple by Clayborne for his over-insistence that they drink together.
Margarita. Stabbed by Gold Dollar. Two dance hall girls quarreling over a man, and Gold Dollar won.
J.D. McDermott. Killed, 1882. His spinal column was fractured when his horse fell with him while crossing the San Pedro River.
John Martin. Killed, 1882. He was killed while working on the Huachuca water line. A tested pipe was unplugged and a blast of water hurled a jack against his chest. He was a native of England.
Freddie Fuss. 1882. A small boy who died from drinking stagnant or poison mine water.
John Gibson. 1881. Gibson, a driver for Nadeau’s ore teams, fell from a wagon and his skull was crushed when a wheel of the heavy wagon ran over his head.
M.E. Kellogg. 1882. Died a natural death.
Geo. Johnson. Hanged by mistake. Johnson innocently bought a stolen horse and suffered the consequences. “Here lies George Johnson, Hanged by mistake, 1882. He was right, we was wrong, but we strung him up and now he’s gone.”
Alfred Packrel. 1882. English. He was a young miner, aged 24, who died from inflammation of the bowels.

Kansas Kid. A cowboy killed in a stampede. 
Thos. Fitzhugh. 1882. He was found dead one morning in the water closet back of Mrs. King’s lodging house on Toughnut Street, where he roomed.
3-Fingered Jack Dunlap. Shot by Jeff Milton. Dunlap, one of a band of train robbers, attempted to rob an express car which Milton guarded. He was critically wounded and his friends left him to die. He was found and brought to Tombstone, where he lived long enough to inform on his friends. 
Killeen. Shot by Frank Leslie, 1880. Results of a disagreement over Killeen’s wife. Leslie married the widow.
John Wickstrum. 1882. A Swede who was killed when a well he was digging caved in.
Johnnie Blair. Died of smallpox and a cowboy threw a rope over his feet and dragged him to his grave.
Hancock. Shot, 1879. Shot by John Ringo when he made a disparaging remark about some women.
Johnnie Wilson. Shot by King. Two gunmen’s discussion of the fastest way to draw ended here.
Two Chinese. Died of leprosy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Favorite Authors

I recently read Ginny Yttrup’s book Words, her debut novel.  I’ve been anxious to read it since I heard literary agent, Steve Laube, share the first page at a mini writers’ conference in January of this year. His description of that first page was, “Brilliant.”

I love her writing style, but that wasn’t what I loved the most about her book. I had no idea until I finished it that it was the author’s story. Real life stories that happened to real live people are my favorites. If you're not squeamish about the harsh realities of life, at the cruel and unjust suffering of others, then I definitely recommend Ginny Yttrup's book.

When I think of favorite authors, I don’t have any one author that stands out above the rest. I read different genres, but I try to mostly read Christian or wholesome fiction. The world is polluted enough without choosing to pollute my mind more with my reading material.

Every Tuesday a group of four meet for a couple of hours at Crossroads Books & Coffee. It’s like a Christian coffee shop connected to a bookstore. The bookstore has a used book section, and I always search for books by Francine Rivers, Ted Dekker, Karen Kingsbury, and a few others.

Someday I hope and pray I am someone’s favorite author. Or at least on someone’s list of favorite authors.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

If Patience Is a Virtue

If patience is a virtue, call me a scarlet woman. We live in an instant society. We murmur if we get in the express lane at the store and see – because we count – that the person ahead of us has 16 items in their cart when the sign clearly states 15 items or less. We tap our foot impatiently when the sweet little grandma ahead of us has trouble counting out the exact change for a purchase. We complain if our waiter or waitress doesn’t have our food on the table fast enough. We drum our fingers on the counter waiting for the microwave to heat up our coffee or food.

Encyclopedias and resource books have been replaced because with a tap of our finger, the internet instantly provides all the information we may need. Reading a book or resource material, or going to the library takes time.

I’ve often heard preachers say that the quickest way to have your patience tested is to pray for patience. Being just a tad impatient (well, more than a tad, but that’s all I’m confessing), I heeded that advice. Yet, somehow my patience gets tested on a regular basis. It didn’t take me long to realize that pursuing a dream to become a writer requires lots of patience.

Writing doesn’t necessarily require patience. Getting published, waiting to hear back from agents, publishers, editors, writing contests, and the like, all require patience. If you’re not a patient person, be prepared.

Proverbs 15:18   A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. (NIV)

James 1:3-5 (NIV) because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Will the Real Talent Please Stand Up!

Microphone in hand, she smiled at the group of women as the soundtrack keyed up. I love music more than teaching or preaching of the Word. I relaxed in my chair expecting to enjoy and be blessed by this, but from the first note, caterwauling is the only way I can describe her performance.

Bless her heart, it was obvious she’d been watching too many country-western singers. She groaned, screeched, and gyrated, all the while beaming like she was the cat’s meow. She desecrated a beautiful gospel song made popular by the Gaithers. My ears cringed with the assault while my heart ached for this young lady who obviously felt she was more talented than Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, or, for the younger generation, Carrie Underwood.

And so it is with writers. With the advent of blogging, self-publishing, and other avenues that don’t require a professional’s acceptance or denial, more horrendous writing can be found – written by people like the young lady I mentioned. Their grammar, spelling, and flow is like fingernails on a chalkboard. I am not an expert by any means, but I can spot poorly written material.

The sad thing is that most people who truly believe they are gifted with God-given talent in a certain craft are offended and defensive when someone criticizes their performance. Sometimes it’s not even criticism that’s offered, it is advice or suggestions. Yet their response can even border on hostility, “How dare you not love what I do!”

True artists strive to continually perfect their talent. Sure, criticism hurts. Rejection of our talent makes us question our abilities. Whenever faced with this, always ask yourself what you can gain by paying heed. If we were all experts, there would never be a need for bosses, mentors, authority, or leadership of any kind.

So, to all writers and creative artists, persevere forward. Just because someone doesn’t like your writing, singing, artwork, or performance doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have talent. BUT, just maybe whatever desire you’re pursuing, it’s not your gifting. Examine yourself, and pray!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Is Suicide Cowardly?

Last night my husband told me that Rick Warren and his wife were going to be on the Piers Morgan program tonight talking about the death of his son through suicide. I don’t like Piers Morgan, but I do like Rick Warren and prayed for the heartache he and his wife suffered over the tragic loss of their son. Any parent can imagine the horror and anguish of such an ordeal.

Everyone has their opinion on suicide and most have been touched or known someone whose life ended that way, or who have contemplated ending their life through suicide.  I’ve heard some people say suicide is the coward’s way out – that it’s selfish because of the tremendous hurt it causes those left behind.

My question is: Have you ever been suicidal? Felt despair so deep you didn’t want to live? If you answer no, then you have no idea what drives a person to this. I’m not talking about a trendy gesture some have who think suicide is noble, grand or romantic. It’s not!

I was a twenty-three-year-old, young mother of four – yes, you read that right – when on
a summer, mid-afternoon day, a ten-year-old neighbor girl, surrounded by six of her younger siblings, was pounding on my door, screaming hysterically, “Please, help my mom!”

I took off sprinting behind this passel of kids, raising my hand to wave to my elderly neighbor, Sarah, whose house was between mine and the one I was running to. Fully expecting to see a woman who had fainted, or fallen, I stopped, numb with shock, at what I saw. I first took in the crying baby standing at the foot of the bed in a pool of blood, then my eyes traveled to the woman lying on the bed and the gun laying next to her head.

That was 1971. I seldom think about it, and I wonder why. Sometimes I do think of those eight young children, and wonder if they were able to in some extent, overcome – you never completely overcome – the sight of their mother that day. I have often wondered what led up to that horrible day for this sweet mother of many. To some degree, I understand the deep despair that leads to such an excruciating, hopeless decision. I have scars on my wrist to prove it.

Only Jesus can give hope to elevate us from that kind of consuming despair. My prayer for you is that you know that hope Jesus offers, AND that you are sensitive to someone you are close to who may be feeling that despair and hopelessness.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Your Writing Legacy

Everyone is a writer. We all write. Every day! We write emails, texts, posts and comments on social media, we jot notes, and if we work outside the home, we have writing of some kind involved in what we do.

However – writers don’t write for the fun of it, or to stay connected with friends, or because we have to produce a memo, invoice, or report for work. We write because we have a passion to do so, we’re driven by a compulsion. Our writing will be a big part of the legacy we leave.

We all leave a legacy, things that people will remember about us. If the only thing people had to go on regarding the life you’d live was contained in anything and everything you had written, what would it say about you?

Social media has been a blessing to me. I’ve reconnected with childhood friends. I keep up with family members, via facebook posts and pictures, who live elsewhere. If someone were to determine what kind of person you are from your personal facebook, what would they think? Or by your tweets or texts or blogs? One of my pet peeves is people that air their dirty laundry, or use social media to attack others when they wouldn’t confront a person to their face.

By the same token, people may judge our character and personality by our writing. I’ve read some books, and seen movies made from books, by successful writers and have remarked to my husband, “Is this person possessed? His/her books are always about the macabre, or twisted, evil things.”

I write about topics that affect people deeply: abortion, drug and alcohol addiction, abuse, loss of faith, divorce, adoption, and other things. I write not because I’ve experienced all of those things, but from being in ministry for years, and working with people who have experienced these things. I want to, hopefully, show God in the midst of human suffering.

God is still God, He rules and reigns even when we don’t understand or question His existence.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Green-Eyed-Monster Envy

Envy means: to bear a grudge toward someone due to coveting what that person has or enjoys." In a milder sense, it means the longing for something someone else has without any ill will intended toward that person.

Jealous means: apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced by someone else." It can also mean watchful, anxiously suspicious, zealous, or expecting complete devotion. The last is normally applied to God.

As writers, do we compare ourselves to other writers? Of course we do. Do we envy others’ success? Are we jealous at others’ accomplishments in the writing field? The answer is probably yes, we all suffer from the green-eyed-monster to one degree or another.

First of all, I knew there’s a difference between envy and jealous, so I copied and pasted the above definition from a site titled Envy vs Jealousy. I like the envy definition better as it applies to this blog.

I belong to several writers’ groups and websites. I enter contests on a regular basis. I crave honest, constructive critique. I want to learn and improve. But I must admit there are times when I read winning entries and I think What?I write better than that! Or, my entry was better.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, winning entries are selected because of taste, or likes and dislikes of judges. And, I’ve learned that it isn’t always the content of a story, which could be more intriguing, entertaining, shocking, heart-wrenching, funnier, etc, but judges score on the crafting of a story.  

How skilled and knowledgeable is your writing craft? Constantly seek to improve. And cheer on your fellow-writers. There’s a principle of “sowing and reaping” that’s addressed in the Bible. To reap anything, we must first sow. I encourage you to sow seeds of delight in others’ success, and I assure you, you’ll reap a harvest eventually. But don’t pigeon-hole God on how and what you’ll reap. Leave that to Him!

Write on, my friends and fellow writers. Write on!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Know Your Calling

One of the advantages to living in Phoenix, if you’re a sports’ fan, is the variety of teams we have. For the NBA lover, we have the Phoenix Suns. NFL? The Arizona Cardinals. Hockey? The Phoenix Coyotes. Baseball? The Arizona Diamondbacks. WNBA. The Mercury. Then we have teams like the Rattlers.

A few nights ago I stayed awake to watch the Diamondbacks play 18 innings (7 hours, 6 minutes – the longest game in D’Backs history). Score was tied 7-7. The Philadelphia Phillies eventually let a fielder be the pitcher. He wasn’t trained to pitch, but he did okay. Except – our batters got five hits off him in the 18th inning to win the game.

A wise person knows their calling, their gifts and skills. Just because a person loves to sing, wants to be a singer, doesn’t necessarily mean they can sing. I’ve heard a few who set my teeth on edge, but their whole stage persona says they think they are the cat’s meow. The Phillies fielder wasn’t skilled at pitching, but he gave it his best effort.

Some people just can’t write. It’s not their gifting, yet I’ve read some things on websites, usually sponsored writing contests, that were quite horrid. The grammar and craft is awful, there really isn’t a flow of a story line whatsoever. Often a person can have a gift for storytelling, but just need to develop their skills or take classes to hone their craft. Those aren’t the people I’m talking about.

When I started writing, I hadn’t a clue regarding the proper crafting of a story. I’ve learned as time progressed. I’m still learning. It amazes me when people approach me with, “Can you read this and tell me what you think?”

I’m not an expert and I know it. I’m not even well-educated in the art of writing. Yet I’ve had a few people who send me thing to “read.” I’ve even had someone pester me to write their life story AFTER keeping me on the phone for an hour sharing events in her life. I’m thinking of two people in particular, and both are disconnectedly related to me.

Don’t misunderstand – I have friends who write and I love to read their work and tell them what I think. But to the other two – one keeps sending me “stuff” in a private message on facebook and wants me to critique it – please be considerate. I am not an authority on writing at all, I am very busy, and we are not close at all for you to expect such favors from me. And it is rude! My advice – join a writing group.

Like the Phillies pitcher, I can tell you what I think, but I may lose the game for you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mum's The Word

I just finished a book, the third in a series, by a successful author. She’s not well-known like James Patterson, Debbie Macomber, Stephen King and others, but she is successful – at least in Christian circles. I noticed an error in the book when it said though and it should have been thought. I’m always a little tickled to find errors in other books because there are errors in my book Like A Cedar In Lebanon. Misery loves company, I suppose.

The though/thought error reminded me of an old I Love Lucy episode where Ricky was complaining about how confusing the English language – which wasn’t his native language – is to learn. He used the example of bough, rough, though, and cough. They all end in ough, but sound entirely different. Add to that the words thought and drought which also sound differently. Then we have the words their, they’re, there, and your and you’re, and its and it’s, and other language nightmares. Accept vs except, principle vs principal, complement vs compliment, affect vs effect, capitol vs capital! There are too many to name.

To most writers and those with an adequate grasp on the English language and grammar, these nuances don’t give any problems, or at least not too many problems. But the average person struggles to use the correct word, and it’s especially difficult for those attempting to learn the English language.

I belong to several writers’ groups. One is an international group, so submissions of any kind can come from other countries. Although the English language is used, some words are different. In the USA, it’s mother, mama, mom, mommy and not Mum, and we spell things to end in er and not re, such as center, theater, etc. But those are easy things to learn and understand.

So, for the pure pleasure of reading, ignore those little mistakes in novels. Life is too short to concentrate on the negatives!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Poor Writer

I know a lot of people, A LOT, and have many friends. It’s from my years in church, and in ministry. When the word first got out that I was writing – had written a book – I began getting messages or being contacted by people that I hadn’t seen or talked to in awhile.

All are good people, dear people, and those I admire and love. But the underlying reason for them contacting me was they assumed I was riding a crest of wealth now – you know, being an author and all. It was a subtle way to remind me of the good work they’re involved with.

I am a giver by nature. I don’t need to be coaxed or strong-armed into giving. The truth is, though, I’ve never had a lot of available resources for giving. And, are you ready for this….writing usually costs more to do than I’ll ever see returned in royalties, etc.

That is true for most writers, at least those I hang out with. Unless you become a Debbie Macomber, Stephen King, James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, or any number of famous, prolific writers, there’s just not a lot of money to be made for the beginning or struggling writer.

This truth hit home with me almost immediately. My income/expense spreadsheet is always in the red. BUT, I keep writing. I write for the love of writing. I love words. Not just words, but the ability to string words together to tell a story.

Maybe someday I’ll get rich and famous. Maybe!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Writing While On Vacation

We’re on vacation this week – visiting our youngest son, Jason, his wife, Danielle, and baby Kate – in the great state of Texas. The first thing everyone asks is, “How’s the writing going?” I did bring some writing projects with me, and have squeezed in a little bit. But that was on the plane.

Well! Sometimes it’s going and sometimes it’s not. When I used to hear or read something about writer’s block, I’d think hmmmm, I would love to have time to just write and write and write. I don’t need motivation or drive to do it. I did bring some writing projects with me, and have squeezed in a little bit. But that was on the plane.

Oh, foolish me! Sometimes I just can’t muster up the oomph to write. I didn’t see that coming. My friend, Jan, wrote a book Wake Up Your Muse that has 1001 story starters. At the FaithWriters Conference in Portland in June there was even a closing skit about our Muse. Maybe I need to start searching for my Muse or resurrect the one I already have.

One thing I’ve noticed in travels is how I view different towns and city with an eye and mind that wonders how this could be used in a novel. Stephenville, TX where we’re at right now is a charming, smaller city. We are staying at a bed and breakfast that is delightful. I’d love to incorporate into a novel or short story sometime.

I read somewhere that writers should never have a setting in a real city or town and then put lots of information that doesn’t exist in said place. Readers who KNOW will be quick to point erroneous information. It’s much better to create fictional cities and towns and sites.

I kind of like using real places. And in doing so, I fictionalize places and events. Isn’t a work of fiction is suppose to be, well, fiction?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Searching For That Perfect Title

Some writers struggle with coming up with a good title for their novel. We all know that when a reader picks a book the first thing they see is the cover, and then the title. They’ll usually read the blurb on the back, BUT they read the title first. How do you come up with your title?

As Christian writers we know our book or books will have a message. If not a blatant Christian message, it will have a theme running through it of morality, integrity, or clean wholesomeness. When I first started to seriously pursue writing, I determined that my novels would incorporate a Bible verse in the title, and that verse would set the theme.

Do you know the Bible is full of catchy titles? The first novel I wrote was a fictionalize story of my first marriage – it was more for healing than publication. I titled it As Waters That Pass Away based on Job 11:16.

My next novel I worked on is In An Eveningtide based on 2 Samuel 11:1, 2. It’s a modern version of King David when he’s on the roof of his home and sees Bathsheba bathing and lusts for her. I originally titled it The Roof of The King’s House, but felt I needed to shorten it. In An Eveningtide is included in the same scripture reference.

Another one is Grasping For The Wind taken from Ecclesiastes 6:9. This phrase is actually repeated several times throughout Ecclesiastes. Another novel I’m working on is A Lily Among Thorns based on Song of Solomon 2:2.

I also include the full scripture as an introduction to the novel. Are you struggling for a catchy title? Look in your Bible. I found that Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Psalm, and Ecclesiastes are rich sources. And why not include the scripture as the theme for your novel. The Bible is very poetic and flowery. Give it try!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Life Experiences

Like many writers, I write from my own life experiences, or experiences of others I know. In my book Like a Cedar In Lebanon one of the main characters is Jack. Jack seems a dastardly, unlikeable person in the first part of the book when I’m telling Lebby’s story. The second half of the book is Jack’s story – the horrendous things he suffered that made him the way he was. The story is about redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Lebby’s life was based on many things I experienced. Jack’s life was based on things I learned and understood from working with men at Teen Challenge for nineteen years. There are also characteristics of Jack drawn from my experiences with my ex-husband and my son.

It took me many years to forgive my ex-husband. When he passed away recently, I realized there are still many wounded areas in me. Unfortunately there are many things about my son – I have four daughters – that remind me of my ex-husband. Dealing with my son, who has battled alcoholism from his teen years, is like reliving so many experiences from my first marriage.

Many years ago I heard a preacher say that the reason some of continue to go around the same mountain is because we didn’t learn the lesson God intended the first time. My son has been staying in my home for the past several days and will be here until the end of the week. He is helping my husband do some construction work on a church. We had to spring him from jail for this.

My son is just so much like his dad. I've cried enough tears over him to fill an ocean. God help me, I don’t want to keep going around this mountain! And I don’t need more material to write about, thank you very much! If I live to be a hundred, I won’t run out of things to writing ideas.

Life! To quote a line from a movie, “Life’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”   I’m so glad I serve a God who holds it all in his compassionate, capable hands.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Research for Writing: Blah!

I stand at the window and hope for rain that seems will never happen. It is the desert, after all, and that way for a reason. If we had an abundance of rain, it wouldn’t be desert, right?

The terrain in my home state finds its way into the things I write. Write what you know, someone told me recently. Perhaps they understood that I hate the research part of writing. Oh, I know some writers love to do research, but I don’t.  So I tend to write about things I know, or within easy grasp.

In Like A Cedar in Lebanon, I confess, I had to do some research – on medical conditions regarding a heart transplant, and about the Gulf War. But it was minuscule, not overly deep research, the way I like research to be.

I’ve also heard other writers say to make sure you get your facts straight in your writing. Readers will KNOW and point out your errors to you. Maybe I was an ignorant reader, still am, because I seldom care about factual errors. If it’s blatant, maybe, but otherwise I just want a good read, something to keep me turning pages to see what happens next.

I’m not talking about grammatical or spelling errors. Those I spot right away. Unfortunately! I say unfortunately because I hate to be distracted when I’m reading.

So I write, hoping, praying I don’t have to do research. I’m currently working on several projects. One: going through my manuscript about being a cougar from a Christian perspective. (yes, I AM married to a younger man, 16 years younger – we’ve been married 19 years). Two:

Two different short articles for a testimony contest with FaithWriters. Three: Two different novels. Four: Polishing a synopsis and first chapter of a novel for an entry to the Page Turner contest with FaithWriters.

So, I better get busy!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why Write?

Why do you write? Why do I write? This question wasn’t birthed by me. I see it in numerous blogs and postings. So why do I write?

The desire to write has always dwelt within me. But life happened, and I suppose I assumed writing was not meant for me. The first serious writing I did was for NaNoWriMo in 2009, a fictional account of my life. It was catharsis for me, opening old wounds and dealing with them anew. Perhaps I had never truly dealt with some at all. Whatever the case, I was hooked on writing.

My next NaNoWriMo was a novel Like A Cedar In Lebanon. It dealt with things I had written about in my fiction life story. I poured my heart and soul into my novel, but the path to publication seemed daunting, overwhelming, a mountain I feared to climb. So I did subsidy, or vanity press, publishing.

By the time my book was out there, I realized I had broken all the rules of good writing. Although I love my novel, I’m a little embarrassed by the obvious flaws in the craft of writing it contains.

My book released in November 2012. Immediately family and friends bought it, way over-priced, I might add, but out of my control. These people who love me gave great reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Then a dear friend of mine said she bought my book. I hyperventilated and had heart palpitations.

My friend and I go way back to our early teen years. Then we had much in common, but not so today. I remained a conservative Christian, she has not. Our political and religious views are worlds apart. I love her dearly, and I love staying connected with her. But....she was going to read my book – my very, very Christian novel. Should I warn her?

She read it, and gave me a glowing review on Amazon. And that, my friends, is why I write. I want to show God in the midst of a harsh, cruel world. To show Jesus concerned, and at work in the lives of a fallen and flawed humanity.

And if I make some money in the process it would be icing on the cake. A plumber called by God still expects to get paid for his services. A policeman, fireman, and doctor all want to help people but expect to get recompensed. Nothing wrong with a writer expecting the same thing.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Attending Writers' Conferences

Ah, writers’ conferences! There seems to be a prolific amount of such things, and as aspiring authors, we are encouraged to attend as many as possible. For the record, I have attended two main conferences and one mini-conference, which was actually more of a workshop, conducted by a major literary agent.

The truth of the matter, at least for me, is that I can’t afford to attend most conferences. The conference fees alone, although reasonable when you consider what’s offered, is hard for people on a budget, but then when you consider the cost of travel (air fare or otherwise), hotel accommodations, meals, etc, it can add up to a hefty chunk of money.

Another truth is – are you ready – writing, or being an author, does not a wealthy person make. Unless, of course, you’re famous – Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Patterson – or…well, you get my drift. These famous writers actually have their books turned into movies. I mostly read Christian fiction, of which authors I didn’t even mention – my favorites like Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Ted Dekker, and others – they have done well also.

What about us fledgling wannabe writers who feel we have a story burning in our hearts, a story that God inspired us to write? It is a lonely road to embark on that seems to require more time and money than we may ever get a return on. It’s hard not to struggle with discouragement and doubts.

I attended the FaithWriters Conference this past weekend in Portland, OR. I loved meeting new people, sharing stories, encouraging one another, learning new things. I won an award for an annual contest FaithWriters has, the Page Turner Contest, so perhaps you may be thinking I had a leg-up on some other the other conference attendees. Not so! I sat amongst these lovely people with my usual self-doubts and anxiety regarding if I will ever be recognized as having a gift the world wants to read.

It can, and probably will be, a very lonely road – this journey of writing. You have to ask yourself how badly you want this. If you want it, then don’t give up! Keep walking the path set before you. In the beginning, and throughout, your greatest cheerleader will be God Himself. If He believes in you, then it behooves you to believe in yourself.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lies, Truth, and Half-truths

Definition of FICTION. 1. a: something invented by the imagination or feigned; specifically: an invented story . b: fictitious literature (as novels or short stories)

Fiction writers lie. The things they write aren’t true, although it could represent true things and events. Even as a child, I understood the fiction books I read weren't true. However, in my youthful innocence, I always thought that what you read in newspapers and heard on the news is true. Isn’t it the responsibility for news reporters and journalist to report truth?

Now, I’m older, wiser, and I don’t trust the media much! Half-truths, twisted truth, things taken out of context, manipulated truth – all of these are basically a form of lying. It leads people to believe something that isn’t truth, or at least, only a partial truth..

Several years ago, I read an article, an interview with David Aikman. It was featured in the magazine, the Pentecostal Evangel. David Aikman is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist, a best-selling author, and a foreign affairs commentator. You can google his name for a complete bio.

One thing he said in his interview struck me as so profound. “The advantage a Christian has in being a reporter is threefold: to believe there is such a thing as truth, to understand human nature is made in the image of God but is still flawed, and to know that God always wants the truth to be told.”

I write fiction, specifically Christian romantic fiction. My characters are fictional. I do, however, strive to portray a basic truth in my fiction writing. It is this: God is real, He cares about humanity with a depth of love we can’t comprehend, He takes flawed and broken people and transforms their lives, He is faithful in the midst of chaos and crises.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Power

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Now have come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”  Revelation 12: 10-11 NIV

I want you to zero in on, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” The him the scripture refers to is Satan. So what automatically comes to your mind when reading this?  If someone were to ask me, I would answer power – power in the blood of Christ AND the word of my testimony, or what I confess with my mouth.

Sometimes we fail to understand, and remember, the power we possess because of Christ’s blood, and what we confess and profess with our words.

Twice in my life, I’ve hemorrhaged and each time, needed a transfusion of two pints of blood. Before blood flowed into me to replace what I’d lost, two characteristics assaulted me. I was very cold and very weak. Nurses warmed blankets to cover me, and I barely had strength to talk on the phone. As the blood flowed in, I warmed and regained my strength.

Later God used this experience to show me that without the continual flowing of Christ’s blood over us, we become cold and weak. How does that translate to writing, you may ask? I believe that if God has called you to be a writer, that same blood that was shed for the remission of sins empowers you to do what He has called you to do.

Some days I don’t feel like writing, let alone like a writer. On those days, I should allow my testimony to boldly be, “I am a writer!” and draw my strength from Christ. I don’t always do that, so this blog is more for me than anyone else.
When I am weak, He is always strong. He’s more than willing to empower me. I just fully trust in what He accomplished on the cross, boldly declare my testimony of what I can do, not what I can’t do. It’s powerful

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


As a young girl, my goals and ambitions about what I wanted to be when I grow up took on many forms. Do people even ask young children that question anymore? I know I don’t.

Since I loved school, my first choice was to be a teacher. Being an avid reader, I often adopted a profession that was in one of the books I was reading. I’d be an astronaut, an archeologist, a nurse. When I became a Christian at fourteen, I decided I wanted to be a missionary. The only one of those desires that I achieved was to work for nineteen years in a home mission work in Phoenix.

I always wanted to write, but for whatever reason, I didn’t consider that a profession. And it goes without fail that I wanted to be a wife and mommy, probably more than I wanted to be anything else. I didn’t consider that a goal or ambition because I grew up in an era when that was just an automatic assumption for little girls.

I dabbled at writing much like some dabble at religion. By the way, religion is dull and lifeless. A relationship with our God, our creator, and His son, Jesus Christ, is something else entirely. Now that’s life-giving!

When I retired, I decided, with encouragement from others, to write – be a writer. Once I opened my mind and heart to this, I found I had stories churning and frothing inside me looking for an outlet. I became that outlet.

In fulfilling my dreams to be a mother, I found I loved creating people, pouring over names to give them, helping form personalities and traits, and watch as these whom I created blossomed into their own being. To me, that’s the fun of developing characters as I write. I can give them any name, personality and occupation I want. Later, if I decide I don’t like the name, or if I want to change some nuance of a personality, I have the power to do that.

It makes it so much fun!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lessons From A Funeral

We had the memorial service Saturday, May 25, 2013 for my ex-husband who passed away unexpectedly of a stomach aneurysm. Ah, the things we discover about ourselves and others at a time like this. In the following lessons, please keep in mind I am referring to the death of an ex-spouse, someone you've had children with, which has a whole different set of dynamics.

·         Death is inevitable. Well, duh, you say! An old truth hit home to me: we almost never know when death will happen. Live your life as if each day may be your last. Throughout your life, be kind and treat others as you want to be treated. It’s better to err on the side of mercy and grace than anger and spitefulness.
·         We all leave a legacy. What do you want people to remember about you?  What will others say about you when you’re gone? A eulogy will be read -- make it the best it can be.

·         Carefully choose your mate and stay married for life. I am very, very happily remarried, but the truth remains – divorce adds a whole set of dynamics in family situations, and so much of it is not pleasant. Uncomfortable and awkward doesn’t come close to describing how everyone feels in a room where both ex-spouses are present, even if one spouse is deceased. Your choice of a marriage partner impacts family, friends and the children your union produces. When you say “I do,” trust me, doing includes many things.

·         Never assume you know how you will feel or act, or even what your attitude will be. Emotions erupted in me that I thought I'd dealt with. At times like this, it’s better to keep some feelings to yourself. Let God be the healer. It's what He does best.

·         Death and funerals bring out the best and worst in people. Of course most of us already know this, but it bears repeating. Don’t be surprised when tempers flare, feelings are hurt, and someone’s behavior embarrasses others. It happens. Hope for the best, prepare for the worse, and cover everything with prayer.

·         Don’t judge others. Don’t assume you know and understand how someone feels. You have no idea -- the unbiased, to-the-core truth -- about someone’s relationship with the deceased. Unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, which you haven’t, be careful about judging or criticizing their emotions or actions during a time like this.

·         The simplest expressions of sympathy are the best. A hug, and “I’m sorry” or “I’m praying for you” or “I love you” is so much better than saying the wrong thing. This wasn’t my loss, it was my children’s and grandchildren’s. My loss happened years ago with the death of the marriage. Most people mean well with their words, so keep that in mind. Expressions come from people who genuinely love and care, so appreciate the sentiment behind it.

·         Be gracious! To everyone, be gracious! Within divorce and remarriage, you’ll be confronted with current spouses, mutual friends, and former in-laws. Be gracious at all times. Some issues may need to be talked about and addressed, but do it with it with kindness. If someone is venting or vomiting their poison on you, walk away.

·         Be considerate of current spouses. The majority of people at the memorial were people that knew me and my kids, and most didn’t really know Jerry – they were there in support of my children. I’m grateful Gladys, Jerry’s wife, was treated with kindness and respect. She’s a genuinely nice woman. However, my husband, Jeff, found it extremely difficult to sit through the service, especially the slide show that had many pictures of me with Jerry when our children were younger. If Jeff had his preferences, he wouldn’t have gone. He went out of love and support for me. Jeff and I know there was no way around a slide show with me in it, and would never have requested anything to the contrary. If you are faced with similar circumstances, be understanding. The memorial service isn’t about you.

·         I’ll repeat: It isn’t about you! It’s to remember and honor the deceased, and show love and support for the family. Everyone expresses their grief and emotions differently. We understand that. But it takes away from the purpose of a memorial service when a person dramatizes their grief to make themselves the star of the show. It’s childish and rude. Sob as loudly as you want or need to, no one will fault you for that. But it’s usually obvious when you are behaving in a way that discredits your grief. Behavior like that only adds to the grief of family and friends.

·         Lastly, I’m just stating a fact and not a lesson I learned. The week between Jerry’s passing and the memorial service was extremely stressful for me. Although Jeff and I had discussed several times what we would do when our ex’s passed, with the agreement that we would be there for our children, I discovered I really didn’t want to be there. I just did not want to. I did not want my family to be distracted by my presence – again, one of the difficulties of divorce. Since mutual friends and my brother planned to attend and expected to see me,  I felt I needed to be there.

I was given the opportunity to say something to Jerry, via phone held to his ear, as he was dying. Caught off guard, my mind reeled for a split second, then I managed to choke out, “Thank you for giving me five beautiful children, and I’ll see you in heaven.” We're convinced Jerry made his peace with God.

In the previous statements, I am not saying these things happened in this particular circumstance. It's my observation from now, and times of loss for others. To my husband, Jeff, you are my hero in how you handled the whole situation. I thank God every day for you.