Thursday, May 30, 2013

Literary Things: On Faith and Literature

     I've been thinking a lot about author branding lately. Mainly, what kind of author do I want to be? Suspense author? International author? Author of international suspense? And where do my Hallmark drama-esque book ideas like Saving Natalie fit into the mix?

     Then there's the faith element. Do I want to be a Christian author, or an author who is a Christian? In case you've never thought about it, there's a huge difference. If I'm a Christian author, then I'll always have in the back of my mind that sensitive religious readers might be offended if I allude to something brutal, scandalous, or extra-Biblical. Do I really want those restraints? Or do I just want to write books that will probably reflect my faith in some way but aren't bound to preconceived notions about what Christian fiction is or isn't? And have I already worked myself into the Christian fiction box by publishing The Beloved Daughter?

     With these questions in mind, I decided to turn to Reba Ponder Weiss, one of my Twitter writing pals, whose apocalyptic suspense novel Sarah's Confession: This I Know does a great job shattering Christian fiction stereotypes. Enter the giveaway below!

Interview with Reba Ponder Weiss, Author of Sarah's Confession: This I Know

What is your religious background, and how did that influence your novel?
I was raised in an ultra-conservative Southern Christian household.  Biblical principals were a part of my everyday life.  This influence caused me to ask hidden questions within my books.  Why do we believe what we believe?  At what point, if ever, do we question or “go up against” what we believe?
In your opinion, what is the difference between an author who is a Christian and an author of Christian books? 
People always say, “Write about what you know.” I know about Christianity.  It has been a part of my life—my whole my life.  Sometimes I welcomed it.  Sometimes I ran.  I think my personal journey is similar to a lot of people who struggle with Faith and life in this broken world. 

I also become frustrated by people who want “Christian Literature” to fit inside some little, pretty box, with a safe, satin bow.  Christianity and our relationship with Jesus Christ, seldom if ever, fit inside a nice little package.  We struggle, fall, sin, doubt and deceive ourselves.  In other words, my Non-Fiction Christian Life doesn’t follow a formula and therefore my Christianity Fiction Thrillers reflect that messy life.  

Oh, and just a personal note to all my Christian brothers and sisters out there in the book world. The next time you hear yourself saying the words, “She is not a Christian writer,” “That man calls himself a Christian and then he writes about the paranormal,” or “They didn’t have a person falling to their knees and asking Jesus to be their personal Savior.” Please, please, please…do not judge others. There is enough secular stuff out there to go around the world, if a person cares about the Christian market, don’t discourage it. Only God knows a person’s heart and when you presume you can decide if a person is a Christian or not…well, let’s just say…God is God, and you are not Him.

How is your book different than the "typical" Christian novel?
I want my readers to go beyond the comfortable feeling of, “I have everything figured out.” I want them to test what they believe and ask some hard questions. 

We go through life saying things like, “I would NEVER do that,” or “I believe this or that,” but we rarely get an opportunity to test these statements under duress.  We never really know what we would do, until we find ourselves in a situation that separates the men from the boys.  I have one personal experience to share.  When I was a very young girl, one of our neighbors had a husband who beat her daily.  I made the arrogant statement, “I would NEVER live with a man that beat me!”  Guess what?  I lived in an abusive situation for almost 20 years! When people say grandiose things like, “Oh, I would never eat English Peas—I hate them.” Really? If you were without food for three days, and someone gave you English Peas, you would turn up your nose and go hungry? I think not.  Be careful what you say, one day you may be tested.  At the end of my book I want the reader to ask themselves, “What would I have done?”

What kind of audience were you writing for?
My target audience is women over the age of 35 who are tired of reading their grandma’s romance novels.  They are a little cutting edge, want to be challenged and like feeling a little disturbed.  Maybe they loved reading Thrillers or Horror Stories as teenagers and want the same books without all the vulgar language and sexual details. 

Want to brag to us about Sarah's Confession? I know it's won some awards, so give us your best stats!
 My Southern Book Tour 2012 was featured in Elk Valley Times (Fayetteville, TN) and The Cullman Times (Cullman, AL), along with television interviews on Channel Two (Cullman, AL) and The Morning Show WCQT-TV Channel 27 (Cullman, AL). Several websites have featured “This I Know – Sarah’s Confession” on blogs and book reviews.  Recently, it was awarded “Suspense Thriller Author 2012” from Checkeditout.  The Video Book Trailer was awarded “#1 Best Book Video March 2013” by  My social networks have exploded in the last six months with over 10,000 followers on Twitter and over 2500 views of the Video Book Trailer, on YouTube. Not bad for a little country girl from the rural fields of Alabama.


Get In Touch: If you want more information about Reba, see

Get The Book: Reba's novel is available as an ebook or paperback.

Enter The Giveaway: Sign up below to win a free (gently read once by me!) copy of Sarah's Confession. (Shipping to USA only. Sorry!)

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Inspiration: Big Fat Guy in the Art Gallery

     I've been depressed for a little while now. I've self-diagnosed myself with post-publishing blues. The Beloved Daughter was published in early April, and I've been on a rollercoaster ever since. First there was the horrible insecurities that no one would buy my book. Then sales picked up, so I turned my fretting over to the awful reviews I was afraid I'd get. Then, when reviews came back mostly positive, I really freaked out. What if my next book isn't as well received?

     I'm sure in six months I'll look back and laugh at all my petty anxieties. But right now I'm living through them, and it's been difficult. I want to make June a big writing blitz month, but I've changed my mind 325 times when I try to decide what I'm going to write next.

     Tonight, I knew I just needed some quiet time to reflect and pray. But my mind has been racing so fast since April that I sort of forgot how to be still. So I pulled up my favorite online art gallery and looked up some of my favorite artists. When I am trying to quiet my mind, I sometimes use paintings to help me focus. Tonight I looked at an 1866 work by Russian artist Vasily Perov, Arrival of a New Governess in a Merchant House. 

Arrival of a New Governess in a Merchant House, Vasily Perov
     It took less than a second for me to project myself into the painting. The young woman is timid, afraid, shy. Rejection is her greatest fear. The shadowy figures in the doorway on the left are the ones she's afraid are going to ruin her life with their rascally antics. The wide-eyed girl in the pink skirt is already enthralled by her, but all that trust only makes the hapless governess fear letting the child down. The father of the house stands stoic, deciding if he'll accept the new governess or not. As he looms, barring the entrance, do you think he understands how much one kind glance might mean to this woman? And what about the odd-looking young man standing by the father? Do you detect something a little sinister in his eyes? Does the hopeful girl know that if she puts herself in the position of a governess that's she's not only inviting attack and ridicule, but she's loosing some of her privacy to individuals who might prove less than savory?

     Unfortunately, Vasily Perov only gives us this single snapshot. What happens to the girl in the painting? Is she turned away? Hired on the spot? Does she integrate perfectly into the family, or does some shameful harm befall her before her stint as governess comes to an end?

     I can't tell her story. But I can tell mine. Mine is the story of a young writer terrified of rejection, afraid of critics, longing for acceptance, and wondering if the path stands open before her or not. But in spite of her fears, in spite of her post-publication blues, she prays for guidance, weighs her literary options, and decides what she's going to write next. She resolves not to let previous successes or failures in her writing career dictate her next novel, she lets the blogosphere know that she's taking the month of June off to focus on her first draft, and then she sits before a blank screen with an anticipation she hasn't known in years.

Blog Love: The Thursday's Children blog hop is a chance for authors to write about what inspires them. Thanks again to Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez for hosting!

Random Fact: I had a professor in college who insinuated in front of our entire class that I was clearly not a gifted writer. And this after I poured my soul into a creative writing montage about the difficulties of being an artistic mind trapped in a pre-med student's body.

Blog Notice: Since I'll be first-drafting it during June, I probably won't keep up with the Thursday's Children blog hop, but I may be posting brief updates as I delve into novel number 2. Feel free to follow my blog if you'd like to give me some support, or if you'd just like to hear about what's been going on in my drafting. And if you haven't read The Beloved Daughter yet, I'd be honored if you did!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Boy Named Silas: Lots To Gain

     I've had to take the scale out of the bathroom because someone was using it too much.

     And it wasn't me.

getting weighed in at the dietician
     Ever since Silas started his three-week trial eating everything by mouth, I've worried about his weight gain. If Silas didn't finish his lunch, I'd say something like, "You need to eat more so you don't get too skinny." Maybe it's because he's a boy, or maybe it's because he's still only five, but I didn't worry too much about Silas' self image. (If anyone in our family has a healthy assessment of his own worth, it's Silas.)

     Then one morning, about halfway into our trial Silas asked me, "Why is it good to be fat?" Since I wasn't thinking about formula or tube feeds or dietician appointments, I couldn't figure out what Silas was talking about.

     "Why doesn't everybody want me to stop being skinny?" Silas eventually asked. Once I got over getting hit directly in the gut, I explained to him that if the dietician told us he gained enough weight, he wouldn't need his feeding tube any more. Silas seemed just fine with that answer, and I thought the matter was dropped.

     Then about a week later, Silas started weighing himself every day. He'd come out and proudly tell me what the scale said. I thought he was just getting excited about his upcoming dietician appointment and about the prospect of ditching the tube. But then he started weighing himself five or ten times a day - before and after meals, and every time he used the bathroom.

     It wasn't hard to hide the scale. Silas didn't seem to really miss it, either. But now I'm left wondering if I should have done more to protect Silas from fretting so much over a few ounces.

     The reality is that a few ounces gained or a few ounces lost are going to determine if Silas goes back to tube feedings or not. Silas' weight was down a full pound at the end of our three-week trial. The dietician thankfully gave him another month to try to regain, and I've been adding butter, oil, and powdered milk to just about everything Silas eats (at least it seems that way sometimes). But will it be enough?

     I wish my son didn't have to worry about his weight. I know I've struggled (who hasn't?) with obsessive weight issues at different stages of my life. It's not a fate I would wish on my happy-go-lucky five year-old.

     I'm hopeful going in to this new month of regular eating. At dinner just tonight, Silas ate a whole chicken thigh (grilled up by Dad), a serving of pasta (with extra oil added), and a dozen olives (high in fat). With all the supplemental calories he's getting, I can't imagine Silas not gaining back the weight he initially lost.

     I just hope he can quickly forgets his desire to run to the scale every hour.

Random Fact: Fifteen years ago, I was fifteen pounds heavier. Ain't puberty grand?

Be Back Soon: I'll be spending June away from my regular blogging as a work on my next novel. If you want to learn more about Silas in the meantime, check out the Boy Named Silas ebook!

WIPpet Wednesday: So Long, Moe

     Well, I've decided to shelf Saving Natalie again. Lord-willing, I'll be working all of June on a new novel project (more details to come), but I'll be posting updates on my blog if you want to stay in touch.

     Since Saving Natalie is about to go to manuscript purgatory, I'll leave you with one more excerpt with Moe. I love this guy so much I doubt my little heart could stand keeping him on the shelf forever. So, until he emerges again to face the light of day, here's Moe and the last 29 sentences of Saving Natalie that you'll see in a while.


                “E’cuse me,” he said loudly. “I’m wiping tables.”

                Jake wasn’t feeling particularly patient today. He was about to tell the man to move out of his way when a woman came bustling towards them.

                “Moe,” she called, “you can’t clean that table because there are people still sitting there.”

                “But I need to finish this row.” Moe held up his rag as evidence. Dirty water dripped on Jake’s head.

                “You can finish this row after these nice folks leave. For now start cleaning the table behind them.”

                Jake scowled and wiped his hair. Hospitals are no place for guys like this to be working.

                Moe banged into Jake’s chair as he went by. His Santa hat fell on the floor.

                “Oops…SORRY!” Moe shouted. He reached for his hat and bumped Jake on the knee. 

                Moe smiled and showed Jake the oversized red felt. “It’s for Christmas. It’s what they gave baby Jesus.” Moe struggled to fix his festive headwear but couldn't get it on straight. “Baby Jesus didn’t have a home, you know, so they had to put him outside in the barn, and all he had was a red hat to stay warm. Just like this.”

                Jake was about to nudge Moe away when Jessica stood up and helped him put his Santa hat back on correctly.

                “Thank you.” Moe smiled at Jessica. “You're pretty,” he said and squinted his eyes in what Jake had to guess was an attempted wink. “Sorry about your baby.” Jake looked at Jessica, who looked as confused as he felt. “God took care of baby Jesus, too.”

                “All right, Moe,” the woman beside him cajoled. “Let’s finish one more row and then you can have a cinnamon bun.” At the mention of a sticky sweet treat, Moe went right back to work. As he wiped the next table, he hummed Silent Night to himself, a little bit too loudly and pathetically out of tune.

Random Fact: I volunteered as a candy-striper for about four years as a teenager.

Love My WIPpet Buds: If you didn't see it, fellow WIPpeter Kate Frost interviewed me on her blog. I'm going to return the favor soon because THE BUTTERFLY STORM IS ABOUT TO BE RELEASED!!!

Join the WIPpets! If you want to join the WIPpet fun, give us an excerpt from your current Work In Progress that has something to do with today's date (like 29 sentences for May 29), then link up at My Random Muse.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Boy Named Silas: The Blogging Life

Today's topic: I blog because...
     Silas was born five and a half years ago. It took two and a half years and a pregnancy later until I was able to write about my experiences.

     Today, we got great news from the dietician. Silas is clear to go another month without using his feeding tube. Our little guy has been eating yogurt, burgers, eggs, ice cream, sandwiches, and cookies like a starving child.

     I started to blog years ago because I was pregnant with my third son and was terrified of going through another NICU stay with another sick baby. I knew there were issues in my heart that needed to be healed up before I was ready to deliver another child.

     I continued to blog exclusively about Silas and my life as a special-needs mother for several years. Now I've expanded and blog about writing, faith, and life in general in addition to special needs, but I'll probably always have a tender place in my heart for the years when I blogged to keep our family and friends up to date on Silas and his medical condition. He's doing so well now that there's not all that much to report, but it's on days like today when I'm glad I have this blog - not only to connect with friends, get feedback on my current writing projects, and share what's on my mind - but to keep everyone up to date on the happenings in the life of a little boy named Silas.

Random Fact: Silas met a newborn baby the other day who has a feeding tube like his. He was pretty excited to see another double belly button!

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!

Don't forget! Help support disaster relief efforts when you buy The Beloved Daughter from (Shipping to US only. Sorry!) CLICK TO TWEET!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Inspiration: The Sappiest Blog Post I Will Ever Write

The Thursday's Children blog hop is a chance for authors to write about what inspires them. Thanks again to Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez for hosting, and everyone else ... consider yourselves invited to join the blog hop fun! 

     Remember that really sappy love song, I'm everything I am because you loved me? Well, if you're not into sap, I don't suggest you read any further. This is going to get pretty mushy.

     On Thursdays, I blog about the inspiration behind my writing. Today, I'm posting about a friend who hasn't just inspired my writing; she is responsible for the fact that I am published at all.

     Meet Regi.

     Yes, most of my writing pals already know Regi, author of the chocalate-enhanced WIPpet posts, creator of the Fairy Blood novel, lifetime proponent of NaNoWriMo, and friend of all tweeting authors. (See, I warned you this was going to get sappy.)

     Regi and I are both part of the same homeschool group, and we met at a park almost two years ago. I have three kids; Regi has four. For about a month of each year, our children line up in perfect chronological order.

     Regi and I became mom friends before we figured out that we were both writers. All we knew was that our kids got along great and that we were both in the market for new homeschool pals. Finally, about a month into our friendship, Regi told me the truth.

     "I do this crazy thing every November and write a full length novel."

     That's when I knew I had found a soulmate.

     When I met Regi, I had two and a half  manuscripts to my name, but I still maintained that the only "real" way to become an author was to proposition agents and publishers until someone finally took pity and picked me up. And if you didn't know it by now, Regi is one of the indie author movement's greatest proponents.

     But in order to make the big jump into the world of self-publishing, I needed more than just an indie cheerleader. I needed to get over my aversion to spending "superfluous" money.

     It would take way to long to describe all the ins and outs of how it worked, but a while back Regi was instrumental in helping me start my own home business leading homeschool clubs for kids (including Regi's). It has nothing to do with writing, but it brought in a cash flow nevertheless, a cash flow that helped me take the financial plunge into self-publishdom.

     If that weren't enough, Regi was the one who convinced me to get a twitter account, who encouraged me to start this blog (at the time I was blogging exclusively about special needs), and who introduced me to the WIPpeters and the wonderful world of online author camaraderie.

     I know Regi's not all that into sentimentality, and it's possible she's needed to gag once or twice while reading through this post. But I do hope she knows how much I value her friendship, and now I'm glad that the entire blogosphere knows it too.

Meet Regi: Check out Regi's blog or follow her on Twitter. You'll be glad you did!

Random Fact: Between my three boys and Regi's three girls, there's a decent chance Regi and I might one day share grandchildren.

Don't forget! Help support disaster relief efforts when you buy The Beloved Daughter from (Shipping to US only. Sorry!) CLICK TO TWEET!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WIPpet Wednesday: "Sit Down"

      Happy Wednesday! I don't know how much has been made of it in international news, but here in the States, we're all feeling for the folks who have been impacted by the tornadoes in Oklahoma. If you're interested in seeing how book sales are going to help relief work, check out

     Now for the WIPpet! I've been working on my Saving Natalie manuscript quite a lot lately. Sometimes it's really slow going, but that's no news to anybody's who's every gone into edits. What makes things even more tricky is that this manuscript is five years old. Anyway...we're back in the delivery room at this point. Since it's May 22, here are 22 sentences from page 5 of Saving Natalie.


Jessica adjusted the baby in her arms. “Do you want to hold her?” Baby Natalie squinted her eyes, and Jake worried she was about to cry. What was he supposed to do with a wailing infant? Natalie yawned, and then went to sleep. “You can sit down if you want.”

Jake hoped Jessica didn’t notice his hands shake when she passed the bundle over. Jake's stomach didn’t lower with him when he sank into the chair. Baby Natalie was lighter than he expected.

Jake felt Jessica stare but couldn't meet her gaze. “How do you feel?” Jake flinched inwardly. How many times had he thrown out that same mindless question over the past seven months?


Jake figured Jessica was right. He wished she could wash that make-up off. Good thing there weren’t any mirrors around. No reason for Jessica to see how hideous she looked. Jake was about to ask how labor was, but when he eyed the blood-stained sheets lying on the floor he realized he really didn’t want to know all the grisly details.

“You can get some sleep.” Jake tried to ignore the unexpected wave of dizziness. “I’ll hold Natalie for a little bit.”


Random Fact: I'm pretty sure I've only had two sunburns in my entire life.

WIPpet Love: If you want to join the WIPpet fun, give us an excerpt from your current Work In Progress that has something to do with today's date (like 22 sentences from page 5 of 5/22), then link up at My Random Muse.

Don't forget! Help support disaster relief efforts when you buy The Beloved Daughter from (Shipping to US only. Sorry!)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Gently Humorous: If God Had Facebook

     After successfully publishing my first novel last month, I've decided I'm addicted to this whole writing thing. I love starting with a blank document and ending with a book. This summer I'm planning to start a new suspense title, and I'm dusting off a (very) old manuscript and trying to get it ready for publication as well.

What's up with this photo?
     This manuscript, currently titled Saving Natalie, is five years old. That may not sound like a whole lot, but it is. Read the following two sentences, and you'll see what I mean:

     Mark flipped open his cell phone. "Hello?"

     I know that I still have to flip open my cell phone, but really? I'm expecting my readers to believe that a middle-class, professional private-school teacher flips his cell phone open instead of swiping on his smartphone?

     A huge part of what I've been doing the last week is getting Saving Natalie a lot more up to date.
  • He needed to find out more about her. He pulled up her name on the campus network all her public Facebook pictures.
  • She pushed buttons furiously on her cell phone. She tapped furiously on her iPhone screen.
  • Jake wondered whom he should call text.
  • Jake still remembered how he felt when he got that first email Facebook message.
     All these changes (thankfully) are relatively minor, and not too difficult to make. Most of them have to do with the way we communicate with each other. But if five year-old technology is already almost obsolete, have you wondered how the Bible would be changed if it were re-written to be more "technologically correct"?

     Can you imagine God sending text messages instead of angels to tell Mary and Joseph about the coming of baby Jesus? And what if Pontius Pilate relied on SurveyMonkey, not angry crowds, to determine whether or not Jesus should die?

     Think about the people that followed Jesus, hoping for the miraculous. Can you imagine how fast the YouTube videos would turn viral that showed Jesus healing Bartimaes or raising Jairus' daughter? The Myth Busters would probably have to get involved and weigh in with their opinions whether the miracles were confirmed, plausible, or busted.

     What if God had a twitter account? John 3:16, the most beloved Bible verse in the New Testament, would barely make the 140 character requirement for tweets. (The NKJ version has exactly 138 characters, leaving just enough room for two quotation marks.) I have no idea how God would fit in the entire sermon on the mount.

     If God kept a blog, what kind of trolls would come along and leave him nasty comments? Would he use Google ads? And how would he face a blogger's darkest ethical dilemma - to use copyrighted photos from the internet or not?

     Thankfully, the Bible is quite clear that God's word is unchangeable. Whatever God spoke two thousand years ago still holds true today.

     In a world that is so swiftly changing, I'm glad that some things don't ever need to be rewritten.

Random Fact: My husband was on Facebook two years before I finally gave in and jumped on the bandwagon. He got tired of my friends asking him to pass on messages to me.

Blog Love: This post is part of the Christian Home Magazine, courtesy of Laura O at Day by Day.

Stand By Oklahoma: Help support disaster relief efforts when you buy The Beloved Daughter from $5 per book donated to Samaritan's Purse. (Shipping to US only.)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Finish The Sentence: Overcoming

senior picture
     When I was a kid, I was plagued with horrific shyness. Some of my earliest memories involve hiding behind the leg of one of my parents. By junior high and high school, I could hold a conversation without having to run away, but I was riddled with such poor self-esteem it's a small miracle I survived my teen years with relatively few scars.

     As a teenager, I was respected, but I never felt like I belonged. I had the perpetual feeling of being everybody's kid sister. When my high school reunion came and went a few years ago, I actually found myself wishing I could afford the trip across the country to make it.

     Why? Why would I have wanted to throw myself back in the mix with the crowd that always left me feeling out-shined, under-estimated, and over-looked? Because I've changed.

     I'm not the shy little girl I was in elementary school. I'm not the emotionally-needy, wishy-washy, love addict I was as a teenager. I still want to feel like I belong. I still want people to like me. As a writer, I still have to psych myself up for days to make a cold-call about a book signing. My head does a little dizzy spin when I run across a reviewer who didn't think my novel was exceptional, thrilling, heart-wrenching, and inspirational (all at the same time). But I can stand on my own two feet and look others in the eye and say, "This is who I am. I'm not flexible enough anymore to bend over backwards in hopes that you'll accept me."

     In twenty more years, I hope to have even fewer fears and even more confidence. But for now, I look back at where I've come from, see how far I've come, and say an inner prayer of thanks.

Random Fact: I graduated number 11 in my class, but probably would have rather been on homecoming court...

Do you love me? So I can wax poetic about how much I've overcome my need to feel accepted, but if you REALLY wanted to make me feel good about myself, you could buy my new novel on amazon!

Blog Love: Today's Finish the Sentence Friday prompt was, "When I was young, I..." 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!