Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WIPpet Wednesday: "Have a Seat"

     Happy WIPpet Wednesday! I don't know about you, but it was a busy week for me. I had a table at my very first book fair then got the last-minute details ready for The Beloved Daughter's free Kindle promotion all set up. (You can download The Beloved Daughter free until May 2 if you haven't read it already. But hurry ... there's only one day left! And many thanks to fellow WIPpeter Emily for her kind Amazon review.)

     I'm still dabbling in my edits for Saving Natalie. It's pretty slow-going, so I'm thankful for  Wednesdays to give me the incentive to whip something up. Here are five paragraphs from chapter 5 of Saving Natalie in honor of May 1. The action in this chapter takes place about seven months before the events in chapter 1.


     Mark was grading papers in his office when Jessica came in. She stood in the doorway, hugging the pink fuzzy bathrobe she got for her sixteenth birthday. Mark put down his pen and studied his daughter.

      “Is everything all right?”

     Jessica bit the corner of her lip. Mark couldn’t remember if he had seen her out of bed all day. Mark leaned forward and stood up, but the impact of daughter’s words forced him back into his chair.

     “I got pregnant.” No warning. No attempt to soften the blow. Mark closed his eyes for one second. Two seconds. When he opened them, his daughter still appeared the same. Jessica stood in the doorway, looking as small as a third-grader.

     Swallowing down his hatred toward whatever beast ruined his only child, Mark forced his legs to stand and motioned to his swivel chair. “Have a seat.”


Don't forget to join the WIPpet fun at My Random Muse. Speaking of My Random Muse, if you didn't see my post and giveaway about WIPpet hostess K. L. Schwengel's fantasy novel, First of Her Kind, be sure to check it out!

Did you know? This week is North Korea Freedom Week, hence my free giveaway for The Beloved Daughter.

Share a Tweet: Award-winning Christian novel free today on Kindle. Set in North Korea. 

Random Fact #16: When I was in fourth grade I had to wear a patch over one lens of my glasses to correct what the doctor's thought was lazy eye. 


Literary Things: A Christian's Response to Fantasy Novels

     There were certain rules we had growing up. As children, we didn't watch questionable movies. We didn't discuss certain subjects. And we didn't read any fantasy.

     Fast forward about two decades, and I'm now the mother of an avid bookworm who recently discovered the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. This series, if you're not familiar with it, is Disneyland for mythology lovers. My son Nate has read about a modern-day, turban-sporting Medusa; a son who rescues his mother from Hades; and a god of revelry who now only drinks Diet Coke as part of his twelve-step program.

     I've asked myself several times how I feel as a Christian about fantasy novels, and I usually end up answering myself with, "I have no stinking idea," or something equally as helpful.

     I recently read a novel by one of my cyber writing buddies. First of Her Kind by K. L. Schewengel is exactly the kind of book my father would have banned when I was growing up: the heroine's aunt is a devoted servant of The Goddess, the heroine herself possesses magical powers beyond her control, and the hero possesses many "out-there" talents like miraculous healing and mystical telepathy.

     I read First of Her Kind and enjoyed both the writing style and the plot line. Nothing in the book threatened my faith or shook my relationship with the Lord. But it was still a stretch for me -- both as a reader and as a Christian -- to read something so drastically different from my typical weekend book list (which lately has included Les Miserables, a Christian historical fiction novel by the Theones, and a mystery set in turn-of-the-century New York City).

     Positive arguments could be made for Christians to read fantasy. The characteristic good versus evil motif was strong and kicking in First of Her Kind, and I'm sure if I wanted to I could find parallels between how Christ helps deliver us from evil and how the hero defends the heroine in Schwengel's novel. (For the record, I was much more into enjoying a fun weekend fling with a good book than I was expecting to delve deep into theological matters.)

     I think an even more convincing argument for fantasy is exemplified by my son Nate, the fantasy fanatic of our household. Nate has a colorful, vivid, beautiful imagination, which has been nurtured by years of reading. Nate can dream up masterpieces of imaginative creativity because his mind has been stretched by all the books he's devoured in his short lifetime.

     As I've grown in my gifting as an intercessor (one who prays passionately for certain people or causes), I've discovered that the most powerful prayers require an awful lot of faith. And faith, in my opinion, can be bolstered, encouraged, and nurtured by an active imagination. My times of deepest intercession have involved vivid mental pictures of how God might answer my prayers. What else could you call that besides imagination?

     So if prayer is bolstered by imagination, and if imagination is inspired by works of fantasy like my friend's novel, could devouring fantasy like my son Nate does end up boosting someone's prayer life?

     Who knows? I have no idea if Nate is going to develop the same heart for prayer as I have, or if his love for fantasy will enhance his prayer life or not. But it's at least given me something to think about and chew on over the next few years as I watch how he grows as a Christian ... and how I grow as a reader.

     And by the way, I think First of Her Kind is definitely a book worth reading, regardless of your spiritual background (or lack thereof!). So I'm setting up a giveaway over the next week. Just check out below to see how you can enter to win K. L. Schwengel's novel. (Sorry, US shipping only.) And if you'd rather just grab the ebook, I highly recommend it!

Random Fact #15: The Red Violin was the first R-rated movie I ever saw. I was 17 and watched it with my mom.

Did you know? My Christian novel about a young girl in North Korea is free for the next few days on kindle in honor of North Korea Freedom Week. Get The Beloved Daughter free!

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Christian Home Magazine: A Verse (Not) for Every Occassion

What's up with this photo?
  This post appears in the Christian Home Magazine. Check it out!

    Have you ever heard people say that there's a Bible verse for any and every situation? Although at face value I believe this to be true, I also believe that the converse is also accurate. After reading through the book of Ecclesiastes this week, I concluded that for every occasion, there is a verse not to pass along.

     Imagine this. You're a high school graduate, and your youth leader gives you an inspirational Daysprings card with Ecclesiastes 12:1 inscribed in beautiful calligraphy on the front: "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth." Encouraging, no? And great advice! But not quite so cheery when you open up the card and inside read the rest of the passage: "...before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark ... when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along ..." (In other words, enjoy God now because life sure is going to suck once you make your way into the real world.)

     Somehow I doubt Solomon was invited to speak at too many commencements in his day.

     Here's a great one to not pass along to newlyweds: "Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love..." Great so far, right? But keep reading: "...all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun - all your meaningless days" (9:9). Basically, Solomon is saying you better enjoy life with her now, because love, marriage, family ... it's all meaningless anyway. I'm glad no one included that one in our card basket eight years ago.

     Is someone you know celebrating a job promotion? If you point them to Eccleasiastes 9:10 for inspiration, make sure you only quote the first half of the verse ("Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...") because the second half isn't quite as encouraging: "...for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom."

     Not exactly the Zig Zigler motivational quote they might have expected.

     Now we all love hearing about new babies arriving into the world. In fact, my friend is about to deliver twins in the next 24 hours or so and I'm sitting expectantly by my Facebook feed waiting for pictures! But I doubt I'll be sending her husband a card with Ecclesiastes 6:2 inside once the babies are safely delivered: "A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity ... I say that a stillborn child is better off than he."

     I do believe that the Bible does have a verse for "every activity under heaven." I just don't suggest spending too much time in Ecclesiastes looking for them.

Random Fact #14: When I was a kid I had at least 100 Adventures in Odyssey tapes completely memorized.

Did you know? This week is North Korea Freedom Week. Please say a pray for North Korean children, leaders, soldiers, prisoners, and refugees today! And if you're interested, my Christian novel about a young girl in North Korea is free for the next few days on kindle. Get The Beloved Daughter free!

Share a Tweet: Award-winning Christian novel free today on Kindle. Set in North Korea.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Finish the Sentence: Common Threads

What's up with this photo?
      Most people who know me would agree that I am a passionate person. But passionate about what?

     When I think about the books I've published, the manuscripts I'm working on now, and the stories I've written, I see a few common threads that show my passions more than just about anything else.

     I am passionate about the cause of the oppressed. Whether its the political prisoners languishing away in North Korean labor camps or the Japanese-Americans shipped off to relocation centers during World War Two, the downtrodden and destitute are always popping up in my work.

     I also find it interesting that my three published short stories, my novel, my kids book, my memoir, and my current work in progress all touch on issues of disability. I never planned it that way. One of the characters in my new kids series has a feeding tube, which he hauls around in his super-cool backpack. In my debut Christian novel, a desperate North Korean father sends his disabled daughter across the border into China. And in my current work in progress, Saving Natalie, readers are introduced to a mentally-handicapped hospital janitor named Moe who is one of my favorite characters to show up thus far in my writing career.

     I can't imagine writing anything if I weren't passionate, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to use pen and ink (ok, actually laptop and internet) to share my passion with others.

Random Fact #13: I never had any cavities until I went off to college. You can guess what happened next!

Link-Up Love: Thanks to Finish the Sentence Friday Hosts: Kate of Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine…, Janine of Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic, Stephanie of Mommy, for Real and Dawn of Dawn's Disaster!

Finish the Sentence Friday

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Inspiration: "Real" School

     We are wrapping up our second year as official homeschoolers. Although I've been teaching my kids since the day they were born (aren't we all?), by state records Nate has been homeschooled since he was five.

     Nate loves it now, but he didn't always want to be homeschooled. The biggest reason was that he read at a very early age, and the vast majority of books he checked out from the library boasted about the glories and splendor of elementary school.

     I'm not into bashing the public school system. I'm not saying that every family should homeschool. But it was frustrating for me when Nate wanted to go to school just because all the books he read talked about the big yellow bus like it was a one-way ticket to little-kid heaven.

     I mean, where were all the chapter books about homeschooling?

     I searched for them. I really did. And eventually -- after hours of unsuccessful internet browsing -- I discovered Do Life Right, a company that publishes books about contemporary, every-day homeschoolers. Fast-forward about two years, and guess what? I'm now a Do Life Right author!

     I was inspired by Do Life Right's passion to normalize homeschooling, which is why I sent them my first manuscript about a week after I first found them online. My boys love reading about  homeschooling families and the adventures they have. And I love that my boys are learning that homeschool is real school.


Special Offer: What, No Sushi? is now available in discount bundles for families and teachers who want to order multiple copies for a book club. The book includes book club discussion questions, and the website has other ideas for hands-on learning.

Random Fact #12: It took 23 months from the time I wrote What, No Sushi? until it was published.

Thursday's Child Blog Hop: Share what inspires you as a writer! Link up at Rhiann Wynn-Nolet's blog.


WIPpet Wednesday: Cone Head

     I love WIPpet Wednesdays, especially now that some of our WIPs have become actual books in print. I think Emily said it best when she noted how fun it is to read a story and realize, "Hey! I remember that from her WIPpet post way back!" The same thing happened to me last week when I read K. L. Schwengel's fantasy novel, "First of Her Kind."

     I also love how writers from vastly different genres have come together every Wednesday to support and read each other's work. Some of the WIPpet scenes I've read are way more gruesome than anything I'd ever pick out of a library shelf, while others have more creative fantasy power than I could dream up in several decades.

    So now that I've sung the glories of WIPpet Wednesdays, here's 24 sentences from chapter 1 of Saving Natalie, brought to you on the 24th of April.


     Jake took a deep breath. If he waited any longer, it would be obvious that he was stalling. Not knowing how to prepare himself for the next few minutes, he squared his shoulders and walked down the hallway to meet his baby girl. Jake walked into the birthing room and stopped in the middle of the doorway. Jessica was reclining in the hospital bed, cradling Natalie in her arms. Jake leaned his hand against the delivery room doorframe and stared at his daughter.

     She wasn’t the picture-perfect, chubby-cheeked cherub Jake was expecting. Swaddled in a pink and turquoise hospital blanket, Natalie scrunched up her face. Her skin was dark and blotchy. She had black nappy hair and a pronounced point at the top of her skull, a real cone-head.

     Jake took one hesitant step into the room. “Hi there.” Jessica turned around. “Whoa,” Jake gasped. “What’s wrong with your eyes?”

     Jessica glared at him through angry red slits, each encircled by day-old eyeliner. “I broke the blood vessels pushing.” Jake cleared his throat and took one more shuffle closer to his daughter. “So they finally let you come back, huh?” The bite in Jessica’s voice was as out of place with this picture of motherhood as the skull tattoo that peeked out from the top of her hospital gown. Or maybe Jake was just being old-fashioned


Random Fact #11: Saving Natalie was about the fifth novel I started writing and the first manuscript I actually finished.

     And now it's time for you to join the WIPpet game! Show us a snippet form your current Work In Progress that has something to do with today's date (like 24 sentences on April 24). Then link up here or at My Random Muse. And speaking of My Random Muse, you really should buy and read K. L. Schwengel's First of Her Kind. I'm usually not into fantasy (shhhh... it's a secret), but I really enjoyed her book! Oh, and WIPpeters, I'll be tied up most of the day so I might not get to your blogs until tomorrow. Can't wait to read your WIPs!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Boy Named Silas: My First Prom

     On Saturday, I went my very first prom. My date was my husband of eight years. We had a delicious sushi dinner (in part to celebrate the publication this month of my first kids book, What, No Sushi?) and headed out to attend -- I mean chaperone -- prom 2013.

     Spending the evening with my sexy husband reminded me of how lucky I am. I mean, this man actually dances with me. Phillip is considerate, thoughtful, and the biggest inspiration in my life. He has encouraged me to do so many things I never would have dared do without his support.

     But do you want to know something? It's only God's grace that has allowed our marriage to thrive.

     Our tube-fed son Silas was about six months old when he developed a horrible case of colic. Until then, he had been pretty easy going (on account, in part, to his anti-seizure medicine that kept him literally drugged up in every sense of the word). Whether if was getting weaned of phenobarbitol or reacting to something disagreeable with the milk I pumped for him round the clock, Silas started squirming and protesting like mad after every feeding.

     Today, I now quite a bit of tricks for relieving extra gas through the G-tube. Back then, all I knew was my son was hurting.

     Phillip and I argued every day about feeding schedules, feeding techniques, feeding equipment, and just about everything else. Since I was such a militant breast-feeder with my first son, I insisted on continuing to pump for Silas, but the stress kept drying up my supply, and my milk was obviously not sitting well with him anyway. We eventually switched to formula, but even so it took us three months or so to find a formula he could handle.

     When Silas was in the NICU, folks told us that having a special-needs kid would either make or break our marriage. Our first year with Silas brought Phillip and I to that breaking point on more than one occasion. Still, looking back, I have to disagree with our well-meaning friends. Raising a medically-fragile child didn't break our marriage, but that's not what made our marriage what it is today either.

     It was God's grace, and God's grace alone, that carried us through that volcanic first year of Silas' life. I don't have any special formula to offer other special-needs parents struggling through what we did. God blessed our marriage ... not because we prayed a certain way. Not because we went through a certain premarital obstacle course. Not because we read a certain book or went to a certain conference.

     God has blessed our marriage because it was his will to do so. And Saturday night as my Prince Charming swept me off my feet, I thanked Him for that time and time again.

Want to know more about Silas' story? Read the Boy Named Silas ebook!

 Random Fact #10: In college, I had a six-foot-tall poster of Elton John in my dorm room.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Christian Home Magazine: The Boy Next Door

What's up with this photo?
     I've worked some pretty strange jobs in my life, as you may have noticed from a previous random fact I posted about performing my first autopsy at the age of 16. One of the funniest jobs I've ever had was working as a caregiver at an assisted living home.

     Although many people might pity them for their situation, the residents were (for the most part) happy and content. One day I served up a sloppy joe to one of the ladies, and she spent the next half hour thanking me profusely for the delicious crab. Another women didn't remember her children, her grandchildren, or even her own name, but when her husband came to visit her she showed an incredibly three-second display of lucidity and told us all, "That's my baby."

     Every once in a while, I tried to tell the people I cared for about the Lord, which also led to some hilarious conversations.

     "Do you know Jesus?" I asked one lady as I was helping her take a shower. I didn't consider myself an exceptionally bold believer, but my husband and I were preparing for the mission field and I figured I needed the practice.

     "Who?" Estelle croaked.

     I had to repeat the name four times until she heard me. "Oh, Jesus," Estelle replied, "yes, of course I know him."

     "So how long have you been a Christian?" I questioned.


     "How long have you known Jesus?"

     "Oh!" Estelle laughed and seemed delighted at the memory. "I played with him when I was a little girl. He was the little boy who lived next door."

     My husband and I shared some pretty good laughs at my feeble evangelism attempts, which were made all the more humorous since I had to shout at most of the residents so they could hear me, and even then -- as my conversation with Estelle exemplifies -- I'm not sure how much they understood. As funny as the stories are though, I admit that sometimes I got frustrated.  I was telling the residents about Jesus, or at least trying to. But what was the point if they thought I was just talking about the boy next door?

     And then I realized something. Without God's help nobody can understand the good news of salvation, no matter how lucid they are at other times. Maybe I just needed to keep on sharing and leave the results of to God.

     I didn't end up working at the assisted living home for all that long, since I got pregnant with our first son only a few months after I started the job. I sometimes wonder about the residents there, if anything I said really made a difference in their spiritual lives.

     I guess I'll asked Estelle when I get to heaven if the boy next door is still there.

Random Fact #9: I earned $5.15 an hour at my first job.