Category Archives: Christian Fiction

Guilty – Things Only Christian Women Hear

There’s been a hashtag making the rounds about things only Christian women hear. Harsh words. Depressing advice. Downright nasty opinions. And they are all from other church goers. I’ve read posts about the tweets and over a hundred comments/tweets—from people who have never heard of such things in their church, to women who have left because of some of the very things mentioned.

 

I’ve heard some pretty cruel suggestions/questions/remarks myself. There are a couple of blog posts where I’ve blown off steam about them. In my cases, it’s never a good thing to put another Christian to shame for what they wear or choose to pierce.

 

But my dirty little secret?

 

I’ve thought some of those “things.” And sometimes, I still catch my holier-than-thou inner critic judging others.

 

Not quite in line with Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

 

Growing up, I was mostly a P.K. (that’s short for Pastor’s Kid). Dad became a preacher when I was in 5th grade, so my sisters and I wore skirts or dresses and my brother was in slacks and a button up shirt. Not sure if he wore a tie every Sunday, but he had an assorted collection. And really, it didn’t bother me to dress that way. It was only a few years after I was married, that I wore dress pants to church for the first time.

pants

 

 

Years later, denim made the cut. Not scruffy or ones with holes, but nice ones. Even though I lowered my personal standards, my brain was still high up on a pedestal, looking down my nose when someone arrived wrinkled, dirty, or altogether odd-matching. I cannot even remember the sermon Pastor Jim gave one week where I suddenly realized my hypocrisy: I can wear what I want, but you should bend to my standards. Of course, in Jesus’ name.

 

IMG_7763

 

Though I try, I’m a creature of habit. That nasty voice questions what someone is doing (“Why didn’t she go to the bathroom before church?”) or wearing (“Really should’ve tried the jeans without holes.”). It still fights for my attention. Sometimes, my lips move before my brain engages and I’m spewing unhelpful advice.

 

all-the-things-say-all-the-words-without-thinking-first

 

While that hashtag makes its round for a while longer, I dread reading comments. I hope it wasn’t ever something I said or did to turn someone away from the Lord. And I want to apologize to women who have heard offensive hints or remarks. God certainly wasn’t represented in my Judgey McJudgement attitude or the words of any nosey Nellie.

 

Until then, remember this:

jesus

Forgive me. I’m still trying to duct taped my internal judge’s mouth shut, but others aren’t quite there yet. Some days, neither am I.


My Almost Mount Hermon Trip

AKA: The trip that I ALMOST met Jami Amerine

Last week, I took a jaunt to meet up with my agent, Rachel. I figured since I couldn’t attend Mount Hermon Writers Conference this year, I could make the drive down and say hello to other Books & Such authors and agents at the B&S annual ice cream social. I don’t need much of a reason for ice cream!

It was a dark and stormy day. No really:

start

That’s the weather I drove into. But first, I stopped by Hannah‘s house. Since she and I usually go to Mount Hermon together, and she couldn’t accompany me, I offered to take her Zelf named Petal. Here is a link to Petal’s previous MH adventures.

Petal

Her hair is spazzy because the winds were tossing leaves and stray napkins everywhere. Another ritual Hannah and I have is the stop at Chik-Fil-A:

Chik

So, four hours later, I arrived at Mount Hermon. Yup. My quick journey is four hours, one way. I had to stop by the check-in desk early to see if I needed a badge or something for the social later. When I say early, I mean just after lunch. And the B&S meeting wasn’t until 9 p.m. Somehow, I thought the roads would be worse with the weather. Nope.

That’s when it happened. As I opened the door, I actually giggled and slapped my hand over my mouth. One of my favorite bloggers, Jami Amerine, was checking in with her sister. There’s a story here: in my exhausted stupor the previous day, I’d sent her a PM saying that I may fangirl if I met her. But…I didn’t want to be all up in her grill at check-in. I pretended to be busy on my phone when they left.

That said, I left MH to check into my hotel and wait. I thought I’d get in some beach time and maybe a local dive for yummy shrimp. I took a nap instead, since a storm moved into Santa Cruz, tilting trees and rain in a lovely diagonal direction.

Why I did this next thing, I’ll never know. I swear I’m not a stalker. I sent Jami another PM, saying that I chickened out and didn’t want to bother her. She’s so gracious! She asked if I was gone and I replied that I’d be back for the B&S meeting.

My nerves set in when I returned that night. So I pulled up a playlist and this was the absolutely perfect first song:

LaneBoy

YES. I was early.

Just before the social started, Jami-Amazing-Amerine walks in! And I totally chickened out AGAIN. We kinda made eye contact before she left. I’m sorry, Jami. Someday, I’ll bring myself to say hello to you.

I’m hoping to get my hands on a picture of me at the event to share with you. I had such a good time that I forgot to hand my phone to Janet, who took a picture of Rachel, Sarah, Sherry, Lindsay, Ashley, Karen, and me. Our pack finally left at 11:30, long after the other Bookies bailed. I felt like the new kid, awkward and wondering if I had lipstick on my teeth, but everyone was absolutely friendly.

One of the saddest pictures I took was this one, as I left the next morning:

Saddest

I’m already planning on selling a kidney to attend a couple of conferences next year. So in 2018, Lord willing, I won’t have to drive by this offramp.


I.Don’t.Do.Pictures

Jungle web

I already told you that I had to get professional pictures taken. Thankfully, my friend happens to be a photographer and I knew we’d have an adventure. This post is to document that I’m COMPLETELY unphotogenic and have a natural talent to ruin frames by blinking and/or goofing off.

Exhibit A:

Outtakes (3 of 4) Web

Amy just wanted a test shot, so I went full-on Napolean Dynamite.

Exhibit B:

Outtakes (4 of 4) Web

This is what happens when two friends start talking about a dog’s anatomy.

Exhibit C:

Outtakes (1 of 4) Web

I still would prefer a winking cat picture instead of my face.

No, I won’t confirm that she had to take an extraordinary amount of retakes the next day. No, I don’t know how many pictures I ruined with half blinks or crazy eyes. No, I will not tell you which part of her dog we were discussing. And you’ll never know if I was on my knees in some of these pictures or if Amy is a giraffe.

In the end, Amy did get a couple of good shots:

BiosPic-color web

BiosPic BW

Here’s to hoping that it’ll be a long, long, long, long time until I have to do that again. But I know of a great photographer!


You’re letting your daughter wear that?!

“You’re letting your daughter wear that?!” The tone of her voice inferred many, many more question marks and exclamation points.

 

I’d showed an acquaintance a picture of Thing 1 in her homecoming dress and received that particular comment. It is a beautiful creation, floor-length with bead and lace applique over the bodice and shoulders. There were no bits or body parts hanging out, no straps showing or peek-a-boo features. Thing 1 had picked the dress and paid for half of it, our requirement to make sure she picks something we all agree on and is appropriate. She was beautiful in the dress. You decide:

Thing1

(I swear, my children aren’t headless…)

So when this other mother made her comment, my inner MamaBear heckled. In true in-your-face fashion, I asked (as calmly as possible) what she thought was wrong with the dress. “It just seems a bit revealing and over the top.” (insert snide smile before she turned to leave)

 

At first, I was angry. The dress is nowhere near immodest OR revealing (in my opinion), unless you require all girls to wear turtlenecks. Then it made me think back to the comment the same lady made about my nose ring. It’s as if she likes picking at trivial, physical matters.

 

And it’s not as if I haven’t stuck my foot in my mouth. I do…often. But I hope anyone who reads this remembers that Jesus didn’t hang out exclusively with the perfectly dressed. If you’re passionate about something, I get it! But what I chose to wear or allow my kid to wear doesn’t affect our salvation. And shaming another Christian into a corner isn’t the answer either.

 

It’s a dress. Move on and let go.

rant

(giphy.com)

P.S. I’ve already had the “stumbling block” verse thrown at my head for said nose ring. But if it makes you feel better, have at it.


Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.

I filled out a stack of paperwork last week for my agent: forms for my bio, a W9, project sheets, proposals, and my blood type. No, just kidding on that one. Maybe. And there’s more to do, including a new photograph.

 

To be honest, headshots stress me out. Do I go with a natural, outdoorsy feel or an inside picture? Hands down and clasped together or under my cheek? Glasses on or off? Smile with teeth or without? Props?

glamour

Of course, I’m waiting until after my hair appointment this week to tackle this issue, but I’m still wrestling with doubt and anxiety. Never was one to take many pictures of myself. My “selfies” list on my phone are 99% pictures of my spawn. Dirty Hobbitses.

 

When I do have pictures taken, even with the fam, I over-analyze. I’m slouching. My teeth aren’t white enough. I have a double-chin from looking down.  There’s glare on my glasses. And why in the world was I wearing a blazer? I don’t wear blazers.

 

I’d say wish me luck, but I actually don’t believe in it. But I do believe in the powers of an amazing photographer and filters.

 

Given a choice, I’d have a avatar of a winking cat as my picture (like this guy from mrwallpaper.com).

wink

I mean…it looks just like me. Close enough…


I’m a Bookie

It really wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. My Mount Hermon mentor, Sarah Sundin, wanted to touch bases with me about my writing. Our original meeting had been bumped, so we opted to meet in the ice cream shop one night.

 

Let me just say that some of my finer author geek-out moments have been in that same shop: staring at Steve Laube and helping my friend stay calm when Robin Gunn Jones was seated near our table. I’m known for my ability to stalk. I present into evidence, Francine Rivers’ pretty umbrella on the right:

IMG_6694

But I digress…

 

So Sarah and I settled into a corner booth. I don’t even remember if we were very far into our conversation when Rachel Kent sauntered in for her own treat. Sarah invited her over to sit with us. I felt like the new kid sitting across the table, trying not to dribble ice cream on my shirt and give halfway intelligent answers. At the end of our cones/styrofoam bowls, Rachel asked me to send in my first three chapters.

fangirl

Today, I’m pleased to announce that Rachel is my agent with Books & Such Agency! (They call their authors Bookies.)

 

“But wait, Sarah, you said you were going indie!”

 

Yes. Yes, I did. However, God decided that I needed one of these:

dinozzo-head-slap-o

And if that’s all it takes to get my attention this time, I’ll take it!


2017 WCCW, Part Deux

So you already know that I volunteered at WCCW 2017 and had a blast. This post tells a lil’ bit about what I experienced.

Happiness – I was able to reconnect with several friends I had previously met at Mount Hermon. Two people especially important to me are John Vonhof and Sarah Sundin.

John runs the manuscript retrieval at Mount Hermon. He’s the guy with the MASSIVE line after the first lunch (or dinner), as writers jockey for position to finally get their hands on the submissions they turned in for critiques or editor consideration. Both he and Joanne Bischof were the two who kept me from leaving Mount Hermon that first year, after a particular encounter. But that is a skeleton in my closet (as Tosca says) that I learned from.

It was a delight to visit with John at WCCW. He is a genuine person who cares about other authors. He has a brilliant podcast, where he interviews other writers, Writers & Authors on Fire. You should hop on over—you won’t regret it!

Sarah Sundin was my mentor at Mount Hermon last year. There I was, the lowly contemporary YA author in a class of historical romance authors, and she took my sarcasm in stride. God placed her directly in my path as my teacher and friend. And while I’m not sure if historical romance will be on my plate in the future, her award-winning books still teach me when I reread them. Plus, she’s just fabulous! I TOTALLY spaced and didn’t get a picture with her.

And my happiness section would NOT be complete without Cathy Elliott. She is a leader at my local writers group and was the WCCW Coaching and Critique Director. She’s also been a dear friend, my consummate cheerleader for nearly three years. I was so happy/relieved/excited to see her after a meeting with a critique staff member. To know Cathy is to be blessed.

Exhaustion – Anyone who says they aren’t tired after a conference is a LLPOF (liar, liar, pants on fire). Beside the physical aspect of going from class to sessions and meals, there is an entire mental side. Yup—you go mental. Think of yourself standing on a pretty beach, with blue skies and white puffy clouds. You see the wave of information coming and it’s what you can’t wait to experience it all. Suddenly, you’re gasping for air, sand in places you never thought possible, because the wave was a tsunami. But it’s the best kind of exhaustion.

And I was a numbskull and drove 3 ½ hours home on Friday afternoon for Thing 1’s homecoming because I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Yeah…arriving back at 1:30 a.m. for 6:15 alarm isn’t the best decision. But I’m only young in my head once!

Humiliation – You go to a conference to learn. There are amazing teachers and fantastic speakers, people who are much farther in the author journey than where I am now.

Hey, readers, I’m not published yet. Yes, I’ve won a couple of contests and awards, but I’m still on this road to becoming “A Real Author.” So when another author shared that they were published the first go-round or that it (insert chipper voice) “only took a couple of tries,” I felt like the bottom of my favorite shoes.

Triumph – But in the same breath as humiliation, I know that I am a writer. Tosca Lee taught me that I can say “crappy” and “suck” because I am leveraging what I’m good at—sarcastic YA in the CBA market. She showed me to learn from the skeletons that I keep hidden from readers and to divorce my ego.

I hunted Michelle Ule down and we briefly met face to face for the first time in two years. Next time, Michelle, I’ll weasel in more time.

Kathi Lipp (who I stalked, and then we were interrupted like 9 million times…or three) struck a chord deep within me during her marketing class when she commented that writing realistic fiction is hard. Brought tears to my eyes. This is me—this is what I’m writing. And while I may not corner the market in clutter-free living (please never visit my house, Kathi), I’m going to try and position myself to be the best sarcastic YA writer in the CBA realm. Gonna chase that hashtag dream and maybe I’ll be on the first page of a Google search someday!

Guess what?! WCCW will be back in 2019. It’s two days of your writerly life. I’m planning on going again, with Rosemary. We like driving around Pleasanton, debating fictional worlds, and she doesn’t judge my caffeine intake. Maybe Susy Flory will let me fling around again, delivering name tags. Perhaps I’ll point the staff meeting location to Karen Ball with confidence this time.

Or maybe I’ll see some of you! And good luck to the noobs trying to keep all of the Cathy/Kathi/Kathy’s straight!


2017 WCCW Conference, Act 1

A few days ago, I was happily ensconced (yes, I use that word) at Crosswinds Church in Pleasanton, California with my friend Rosemary. It was dreary and cold outside, spitting raindrops, but the covered patio was toasty from the overhead heaters. Actually, I was inside and the attendees were outside, looking at me through the glass garage doors. So began both of my two days at the 2017 West Coast Christian Writers Conference (WCCW).

 

When I signed up back in December, I’d also volunteered to help at the registration table. That kind of stuff is my jam: alphabetizing name tags, sorting alphabetized stations, and handing out alphabetized stuff. Noticing a pattern here? You’d never guess it from my home, but I like organization. I pack in full outfits only after I’ve set the entire outfit out on the bed. Everything jumbled in my purse is there in a certain order or pocket. Please … for the love of my sanity, don’t move stuff from the pockets to be helpful.

abc

Imagine my surprise when, instead of blissfully trotting through the alphabet, I was making signs with Sharpies, running name tags to staff members (and trying to get those ready while they were praying), and then greeting people the second day.

 

Note: I don’t greet. Let me rephrase that: I’m not a natural greeter. Walmart would fire me. I’m naturally suspicious and only give sidearm hugs to people I don’t know… if I’m forced to.

 

Here’s the thing: I loved running around like a chicken with its head cut off (sidebar: this does happen due to nerves, folks). I pointed out the bathroom locations. Told Karen Ball the wrong place for the staff meeting (still embarrassed about that!). Tracked down lost lunch stickers. Even in stack-heeled boots, I believe I burned more calories in those two days than in the entire month of February. And getting asked TWICE if I was Rosemary’s sister was stinking fabulous!

wccw1

Stayed tuned for Part Deux of my WCCW report, where I’ll dive in a bit deeper. My thigh muscles are still recovering.


My Smallish Journey

Let me take you on a smallish journey.

 

“Write a book,” they said.

 

“It’ll be easy,” they said.

 

Crazy thing is, that “they” are right. It is simple to pull up a word processor and tippity-tap out sentences and ideas. I alone am the master of my domain, from sarcastic teenage responses to editing out cliché descriptions.

 

The part that “they” don’t know about is everything else. Writing articles, blog posts, and a book while working a full-time job, a weekend job, being a mom-taxi, Sunday School teacher, and fill-in-the-blank is draining. My writing suffers. And when my characters won’t behave in my mind and keep me up until midnight, tinkering with ideas, the other parts of my life demand coffee.

coffee

But…

 

That woe-is-me paragraph above is nothing compared to the feeling of finishing a chapter of the book I’m working on. Or the sentence that makes me cry while I’m writing it. Reading a critique from a partner that forces me to look at a section harder, to edit and be honest. I love writing bits that make me laugh, imagining Thing 1’s face because I borrowed directly from our conversations.

 

The thing is that writing is hard. There’s grammar, syntax, plot, blah, blah, blah. Edits and critiques that give me whiplash.

adore

I look at drivers in cars and wonder why he is staring into the distance. Or why the sad, deflated balloon landed against my fence. Did it blow down from a birthday party? A baby shower for a couple who finally is expecting after years of infertility? Was it released to remember someone’s dad, grandpa or sister?

 

This is why I love writing the stories in my head. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I stay up way past my bedtime. But, if you happen to be up way past your bedtime, shoot me a message on FB. I may be up too.


In Other News…

Remember my big deal post?

more

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I talked myself out of pursuing the path God put in front of me for my writing. I caved into suggestions. But guess what? I’m better for it! It was a road I needed to explore to become a better writer.

 

Now, this path is leading right back to where I started. God let me run around this swerving back road only to point out the obvious to me. Just like the sign my mom thought was so funny:

 

mother

 (isn’t my mom so cute?)

Now for the announcement: after spinning my wheels in the traditional publishing arena, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m headed to indie publishing! (That means I’m doing it myself)

fangirl

Ironically, this was my plan two years ago. But I wasn’t ready. Along the way, I went to Mount Hermon and met friends, agents and editors. I joined ACFW and have a fantastic critique group.

 

And I found my voice. I let go of fighting sarcasm and wrapped it into a book that I love!

breakfast

So stay tuned! I’ve applied for a EIN and a business name. Then…you’ll meet Victoria Grace, The Jerkface.


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