Monday, October 23, 2006

An Ardent Suitor

Hannah got in the car one day after drama practice and sighed. "I hope Brandon will be okay." When I picked Hannah up, I'd noticed the young man waiting nearby on his bike.

"Brandon as in blond Brandon two streets over?" I asked. She's known him since third grade, and he's always been just a boy in the neighborhood.

"Yeah. Oh mom, I felt so bad for him, but I had to..."

"Had to what?"

"Well, he was hanging around after drama practice, and said he didn't want me to wait by myself until you got there." (Mom's note to self: get there earlier) "He starting saying stuff like, 'Hannah, I've known you for a long time,' and oh mom, I just knew what came next."

She sighed and continued. "He starting sputtering and talking real fast. 'Hannah, I really, really like you. You're so beautiful, and nice, and easy to talk to. I want to take you out someday, to dinner and a movie, and buy you pretty things.' He started talking faster and faster, and I thought he was going to pass out."

I already knew what was coming.

"I felt so bad telling him I couldn't be anything more than a friend. Turning down some guys is easy, but Brandon, I've known him forever. I didn't want to hurt him. I almost wanted to cry."

So we left him, the ardent suitor in our rearview mirror.

We have an ardent suitor, the One who loves us. He thinks we're beautiful, and wants to do more for us than we can imagine, above all that we can ask or think. And He waits faithfully for us, to make sure we get home safe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Toll Booth Mania

If I get a ticket in the mail from Dallas, I want everyone to understand. I am not a toll booth runner. I pay my tolls. When a very young driver living in Massachusetts and traveling the Pike, I learned exactly how to toss coins into the basket when passing through a toll booth. I come to a full stop. Really.

So why is it when on the way home from the ACFW conference book signing in Dallas, I get an evil toll booth? It happened like this:

On the way to the hotel, we had no change. CJ rode shotgun (he will not drive in Dallas, and I don't blame him). He'd pull dollar bills from my purse every time I drove up to a "Change Made" toll booth lane. I'd hand the real, live attendant a dollar and get change back. No problem.

Just over two hours later, we were on our way home. I think I was giddy after just being with my writing friends for that short a period of time. Anyway, I was babbling about who I saw and what we talked about, and reminded CJ of this one and that one I'd introduced him to, and told him sorry for forgetting to introduce him a few times, when it happened. I found myself too far from a "Change Made" lane. No problem. We had quarters, plenty of them. I knew it.

So I stopped at the toll basket, and CJ handed me three quarters. I chucked them into the basket and waited for the light to turn green. Nothing.

All during our trip up and back on the toll road, we'd seen signs reminding us that we were being monitored electronically. Translated: "Run a toll booth or speed, and we'll getcha!"

Then I noticed a lit-up sign above the basket: Coin Reject.

Good grief. I grabbed a few more quarters and chucked 'em. No green light.

I panicked. "More quarters!" I flung more into the basket, and repeated this a few times. I lost count of the quarters. By now traffic was backing up behind us.

"Go, Honey, just go!" CJ yanked my purse away. "They're not going to get you!"

"But the light's not green!" I squealed.

"You put in at least twice the amount for the toll."

Saying a frantic prayer, I jammed on the accelerator and submitted to my husband.

But no, I'm not really a toll booth maniac. The funny part is, every time CJ tells this story of his wild-eyed wife at the toll booth, the amount of money I tossed into the basket increases. Just like a fish tale.

I sure missed the whole conference experience this year. But next year, I'll be back. And maybe the toll booths will be fixed.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My Cooking Smells Like Farts

I love to cook and I think I've got quite a flare for it, although my hubby is the more famous chef around here.

One of my favorite dishes is a family recipe for French Meat Pie. Until this year, I've reserved this recipe for the time around Christmas and New Year's. Meat pie is hearty and delicious, ground pork and beef seasoned with minced onions, sage, nutmeg, and cinnamon, thickened with instant mashed potatoes and baked in a double crust, then served up with lots of brown gravy. Yeah, it's that good.

Today I decided to buck tradition and make it for supper. I was at the stove, stirring the filling concoction on the stove, when I heard EJ, one of our 2-year-old day care care kids.

"Bella farted," he told my husband.

"No, EJ," my hubby replied. "Miss Lynette is cooking." I heard peals of laughter from children.

So that is why my cooking smells like farts.

I finished a synopsis for a historical novel proposal tonight. We'll see what happens with that. Right now, I like how it feels and where the hero and heroine are right now. I have so many other little writing-related projects to complete, critiques to return to friends. I think I need more time. Got a spare hour or two?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Book Sighting!

I embarrassed my daughter and befuddled my husband today.

Week after week, I'd cruise Wal-Mart as usual and check out the book aisle. No book. Not Windswept Weddings.

At last, I found it.

Do you remember that scene from the movie "That Thing You Do" when the band heard their song on the radio the first time, and they ran and screamed?

Well, um. Yeah. I didn't actually scream, nor did I run. I think I gave a giddy little squeal and trotted across the big aisle to the book section.

An author's life is not glamorous. We sweat and cry and work in solitude many times. This is one of those moments to savor.

Of course, I was immediately humbled and laughed at myself. Guess where the price tag was?

Yup. Covering my name. I love God's sense of humor.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Four More Years...

...of first days of school. Actually, only three after today. My son started his second year of high school, and my daughter started her final year of junior high (she plans to finish high school in three years).

I love the first day of school, with all its expectancy and newness. Shiny lunchboxes. (Okay, so they were shiny when I was in school because they were metal!) Unscuffed shoes and new, unfaded outfits. Haircuts and smiles and a bundle of nerves. And maybe a tinge of queasy in the pit of the stomach, too.

Since my last post, a month has gone by in all its summer slowness. I don't know how many days it's been over 100 here. The heat has dulled my senses and I want to curl up and sleep. Only it's too hot.

We decided we wanted to flip for a pool with part of my book advance. Not a fancy pool, but something durable enough to enjoy for a few years. The pool man came, and we showed him our prime spot in the backyard.

Sigh. No pool. It turns out we fell for the classic bait 'n switch. "Oh yes, this pool is only $299. But it's only as durable as the one you'd get a Wal-Mart, and setting it up is on your own. But we can put you in this one for a cool $7,000." I told the man we weren't interested in purchasing the equivalent of a used car that day, so he politely left.

So we still have the dry spot in the backyard and we long for cooler temperatures and lower electric bills.

Today, just for fun, I cooked an egg on a ceramic tile I laid on the grass out front, but I don't know how long it took. Tomorrow I'll try again and time it. Maybe I can invent a new cooking trend: outdoor tile cooking.

The cover flats for Bayou Brides came in the mail today, and that was the only other highlight besides the first day of school routine. I think I like the cover art at the web site better than the actual cover. The trees look darker and more dramatic, and more eye-catching. But I love the story and I hope that's what the readers enjoy, too.

I'm trying to slog through the first few chapters of The Wiles of Watermelon, book two in my cozy mystery series. This is a new experience for me because I've never written a series before, and I have the same main characters from A Suspicion of Strawberries. While I have the advantage of knowing the characters, I face the challenge of introducing new readers to them, while still showing growth so the readers who are familiar with book one see the characters grow.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Doin' Just Beachy

Beaches are cool places. I just returned from the Gulf Coast after a few days of sun 'n sand. We stayed just steps away from the water. I read two books (Kristin Billerbeck's A Girl's Best Friend and Melanie Wells' The Soul Hunter), relaxed with the family, jumped in the water a few times, and ate a soft crab sandwich the one night we went out to dinner. I grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where we'd catch blue crabs and steam a picnic tableful for supper. Every time I eat a soft crab, the taste brings me back. Delicious!

I've managed to wade through the last of our laundry and I wonder where the time went. Only a few days, but I'm at the point of the summer now where I think of things in terms of Before Vacation and After Vacation. Would you believe school supplies are on sale already? Of course now the kids are old enough so that their schools don't hand out school supply lists. They have to wait until the first week of school and each teacher hands out their own lists.

What's with that? So we parents of junior high and high school students need to condense seven supply lists into one master list. Then we have to make sure the folders with brads don't end up going to the kid whose Science teacher requested folders without brads. And of course, by the time we end up getting the supply lists (first week of school), ALL the stores are out of said pocket folders. Last year, it was the one-subject spiral bound notebooks.. Do these teachers not get it? No teacher comments, either, thank you. My best friend is a teacher and she shares my sentiment about the rant.

I think I'll add some notebooks and folders to my list now, and gamble that the kids will need them in August (when they get their lists the first week of school).

I also think I need to go back to the beach...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


You'd think summer would be quiet...lazy...tranquil. A time for sleeping in more, swimming, enjoying time with friends. So where does time go, anyway?

Our Sunday night Bible fellowship has been studying a series called "You and Your Priorities" for the past year or so, and I'm the study leader. The last two Sundays in July, we'll be tackling the issue of time management in light of the Scriptures.

This has brought me back again to working on my own harried schedule. While I won't play the world's tiniest violin to gain sympathy, I'm still amazed and a bit frazzled at how cluttered my schedule becomes. I start putting out fires in different areas and not seeing any true progress in any of them.

What causes this? Is it simply a matter of me trying to fit too much in my schedule? Do I fall into patterns of laziness from becoming overtired? I'm seeking some answers. How can I teach what I have not yet learned? I don't expect to master the time management issue, but I'd sure like to get a better handle on it. Working 40+ hours a week. Church commitments/attendance. Hubby time. Family time. Friends time. Boring life activities (cleaning, grocery shopping, writing out bills). Writing time (which includes actual writing, book research, blog commitments, and writers' group commitments). Oh. Um. Sleeping, too. I'd love to pare some of these things down.

On a fun note, check out the new Kanner Lake blog, Scenes & Beans. Suspense author Brandilyn Collins has launched Scenes & Beans to prepare readers for her newest series set in Kanner Lake, Idaho (try finding it on a map!) and the first book, Violet Dawn. You can get a sneak peek at Violet Dawn here.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stinkin' Paparazzi

Life can be not-so-glamorous, but lately I've felt like my family is under scrutiny of the paparazzi. Not peering through the bushes, but instead like our personal business is set underneath a giant magnifying glass.

And it's hard. People can pass judgment without knowing the whole story, except that which the tabloid in their mind chooses to print. To those among "the inner circle," we need give no explanations.

Feeling misunderstood--or worse, misjudged--really hurts. We can only rally around each other as a family and pray that this too shall pass. It will. Nothing earth-shattering, but let's just say our world has been shaken a bit. Life brings changes, and sometimes bittersweet ones. My only sadness in this change is the hurt it's caused us.

The fishpond has felt mighty small lately. I'm waiting for another small fish to be the big news. I know how Britney feels.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Tunnel With Light at the End

I've been trying something new and rewriting cliches lately; hence, my blog post title.

Anyway, I'm so glad I'm almost at the end of this book. I love this story and I'm happy with A Suspicion of Strawberries. While part of me still has doubts and is tied up in knots, I realize I've got to wind it down and to the best I can. I've learned so much through this book. Most of it is about persisting in BIC time (butt in chair) and not fretting. I have awesome critique partners who don't hesitate to tell me what's right and what's wrong, and for that I'm grateful.

The crazy thing is that you'd think my life outside writing would be quiet the closer I get to deadline. HA!! We had a family uproar this weekend, and I'm thankful it's over for the most part. It was an external battle, lest anyone thing my family is in chaos. If anything, this has brought us closer together, plus some other close friends have grown closer to us. I'm still reminded about how much grace I need and how much farther I have to go. Plus, I'm learning to write in spite of everything else going on around me.

Lemme tell you, it can be difficult. But it's happening.

Oh! My coauthors of Windswept Weddings have an interview posted at Lena Nelson Dooley's blog. I really enjoyed participating. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Deadline Observations

Pop and Drop is a really, really fun game.

I really get the munchies on deadline. The degree of munchiness goes up corresponding to the book's word count.

Once the deadline is over and this book is turned in, I'm going to get a massage.

My family had fish sticks for dinner tonight.

Personal hassles and family fun do not stop because of deadlines.

I need a laptop so I can go disappear somewhere with no Internet and no phone. A cat maybe, and a nice glass of sweet tea. But otherwise no modern conveniences.

Deadlines show what you're really made of. Gulp.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


While on deadline, I find my family's occupied themselves in various ways. But on this, I must speak.

What is up with the fascination with 30-year-old game show reruns? Every night, Game Show Network plays old episodes of long-gone game shows. Anyone remember Match Game? I remember watching that with my parents sometimes, back in the 70's in all its shrieking orange, wide-lapel, polyester glory. Holy cow, what innuendo. I never knew then what was supposedly so funny. But Gene Rayburn always scared me a little. Reminded me of Dracula with his dark hair and hollow cheekbones.

Anyway, I'll be at the computer and like clockwork at 10:00 p.m. CST, I hear the cheesy bwooww-bwoww music and the trumpets for "Match Game 74."

Why? I can chuckle at the clothes and set decoration, but after that I'm done with it.

Those people are gone. The money's spent. The new car prizes are already rusted out in some junkyard somewhere.

I just don't see the point in spending my time watching.

Back to Greenberg, Tennessee. Andi and her longtime BF are having a talk, and finally I think they're getting to an issue. Hey, gotta have that 20% romance in the cozy, ya know. Plus, my sweet critique partner thought Andi was being a little mean to Ben. I'll see what I can do.


P.S. My early crankiness from this week has gone. So if a dead body shows up, I had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Couldn't We Just Kill 'Em and Tell God They Died?

Seriously, folks. No, I'm not really conspiring to commit murder, but there are certain people in life who always have the wrong thing to say. They strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. For some reason my Christianity sneaks out with the garbage and I want to start a good ole American catfight, claws and all.

Seriously. The funny thing is, and I don't mean ha-ha funny, is that seven churches in our area just completed a series of seven nightly meetings as an outreach and to bring more unity among churches. We had wonderful, uplifting services and heard some excellent preaching that definitely made me reconsider some of my lines of thinking. Such as being cynical in one breath and asking God's spirit to move among us in the next moment. Ha. So why do I want to slug this person, put laxative in their coffee, shave their pet, etc., etc.?

I plead the fifth on the situation, since blogworld is actually a small place and someone who knows me may read this and wonder who I'm talking about. I won't even get into the scenario and this person's snide, asinine, inane, inept, mealy-mouthed, self-righteous, uninformed, sour grapes comments, especially since I know their real motivation for what they said. Snicker.

I do want to tell them, "Would you just do me a favor and go away? Take your nitpickiness elsewhere, your rebellion, your fake piety, your innate ability to say the wrong thing at the right time. Just go away. Siberia or Guam or Bora Bora would be wonderful choices." Of course I would say this with the utmost Christian luuuv.

I think I'm done now. I'm still a fallible woman trying to make her way and get it right. No, this is a reminder that I don't have it all together.

And guess what? Tomorrow is our monthly women's group meeting. Weeee!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Characters Welcome... Plus, Mount Hermon Part 2

The USA Network's slogan is pretty neat... Characters Welcome. Of course they put emphasis on quirky. In my current book, this is really handy. I've also figured out why reality shows are so successful. We love quirky, real people. Life (virtually) without a script. Edited, of course, but you just never know what stunts people are going to pull. I believe that the characters we create as writers can leap off the page as vividly as the most memorable people we've known...

I think of George Meister, a guy in a nursing home. My family met him when I was about twelve. I remember him as wrinkled, gray, and round with a shelf full of books in his room. He lent me one on the Dead Sea scrolls, not the typical preteen's reading, but then I wasn't the typical pre-teen.

I think of my Great Uncle Enrico, who ran a restaurant for many years in South Hadley, Mass. His wife and three daughters helped him, and he always gave me a candy bar whenever I visited. I called him "The Candy Man" after I'd seen Willy Wonka.

Then there's Jocie, who decided once she retired to go to the Philippines and start an orphanage. Just like that. When I met her while she was on furlough here in the States, I realized that retirement doesn't mean retired, and poor in the world's eyes doesn't mean you can't own beautiful things.

I could go on about the characters who've drifted through and are still in my life (hey, I married a character!), but you get the idea. We see an image of someone without knowing anything about eye color or hair color or height. If you asked me right now what color Andromeda Clark's eyes are, I couldn't tell you. But I know Andi. And it's time I get back to Greenberg, Tennessee and see what trouble she's in right now. After all, there's a murderer at large and she's trying to prove it.

Mount Hermon Update:
I will not apologize if my book seems a bit "fluffy." At Mount Hermon, one speaker held up a copy of USA Today and the New York Times. Which, he said, looks more serious and educated and deep? (NYT, duh.) Which, he said, has won the most awards for its journalism? (USAT--huh?). It may look fluffy with its brightly-colored graphics, but there's substance inside. Sounds good to me!


Monday, April 24, 2006

Back in the Fast Lane: Plus, Mount Hermon part 1

Here I am, home again with a full plate and stuff spilling from the plate onto the table. We went to Austin for our anniversary this weekend. I bought a shirt (besides a pair of cute sandals, but that's not important to this post) that seems fitting right now. "Mrs. Incredible...Stretched to My Limits." A book due in about seven weeks with hmmm chapters left to go. I owe critiques to friends. I need to find mentors for writers and put people in critique groups. Oh, and shuttle kids places. My cousin-in-law, I've just found out, is an aspiring children's author who has some questions about writing so I'd like to help her find some resources. Tomorrow night, the local nursing home is hosting an appreciation dinner for its volunteers. I'm going. Not only do I volunteer, but I won't have to cook tomorrow night.

First, about Mount Hermon. If you want to write in the CBA market, go to Mount Hermon. The atmosphere is phenomenal. I had no pressure since I wasn't "trying" to meet anyone or sell anything, just go and have a good time. And I did. James Scott Bell's Fiction track was fabulous. If you didn't go, BUY the CDs. You won't be disappointed. He is an extremely gracious and entertaining speaker who packs a lot into his seminars.

One night at supper I sat at his table, and after we all introduced ourselves and what we wrote, someone asked him how he got through writer's block. He answered them, then looked at me (I guess he thought I was the junior published author).

"So, Lynette, what do you do about writer's block?"

Gulp. Who, me? I felt like the kid in A Christmas Story when Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Doh--doh--um..."A football?"

"I do like you do," I squeaked out, unsure if anyone heard. All eyes were fixed on me. "I spend time with my family, read a good book, or even write something for fun." What was he thinking, asking me, who still feels like a wet-behind-the-ears newbie?

This is what I also should have added:
When in the throes of writer's block, sometimes you have to just push through and write, no matter how bad you think it stinks. And pray. You can go back later and fix things when the mood lifts. Most of the time for me, it's a mood thing. If it's not, I pray and see if there's something about the story I've gotten wrong.

Also, I look at writing as my part-time job. When you have a job, you don't have worker's block. You have to work. Or the pay doesn't come, or worse, you lose your job.

I learned, too, that no matter where we are in our writer's journey, we have something to offer another writer who might not be in the know. I sometimes take for granted things I've known for years, not realizing that to another it might be a startling new revelation. And then, I realize how much I have yet to learn.

More on Mount Hermon reflections another time...gotta finish chapter hmmm...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Armand William Gagnon, 1920-2006

I was going to eventually post about my Mount Hermon experience, but I haven't been home 24 hours and I'm already planning to jet out again. This time, to the East Coast. To Boston.

Gramps passed away today, suddenly. He was 85. When I was little, he was tall and had the largest nose I'd ever seen. Shaggy brows and deepseat brown eyes, with a voice that could rattle the windows. And did, when he laughed. A cribbage fanatic, he tried to teach me. Once. I can still smell the sweet tang of his pipe in their den.

Gramps knew the value of hard work since the age of 12 when his father died. I never was quite sure about his formal education, but he was one of those people who knew a bit of everything about everything, combined with a generous heap of common sense. That propelled him to be a life insurance salesman for many years, and he planned well for his and Gram's future.

They spent a long retirement together, with Gram his only concern after she had a stroke nearly two years ago. But today, that ended. And it turned out he was in far worse shape than he would let on, even worse than her.

Gram is alone tonight after being married 60+ years. Not in an empty house. Two of her sons are there, plus the other two on their way. I expect I'll see them all soon. I'm still making plans. Part of me does not want to go. Part of me knows I must.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Do you know the way to San Jose...

Okay, I couldn't resist.

I'm typing this way too late, but had to slip a post in before I head out. I'm so glad I have such a cool family. Don't get me wrong, I'll miss them terribly but I'm grateful they let me pursue my dream, which is starting to have glimmers of reality in it.

Writers conferences can be funny things. But this one won't be stress-filled. I'm not trying to sell anything or get signed by an agent. I just want to learn and hang out with my writer friends.

I've never been to California, either, so that's pretty cool.

Sometimes the best part about leaving is coming home again. Maybe that's why my stomach's felt ishy off and on all day today. I'm going to pray tonight for a good sleep and I'll be rarin' to fly out in the morning.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sneak Peek at Latest Cover!

What a gorgeous cover. It amazes me how the design crew can pull exactly the image I imagined. This reminds me of a quiet afternoon, watching the bayou water drift by, covering its secrets... Check out the cover for Bayou Brides. I've tried uploading the jpeg but for some reason Blogger won't cooperate. The copyeditor is going through the anthology now, and I'm looking forward to hearing what she has to say.

That, as I put the finishing touches on Reuben's Atonement, to be released in December in the anthology Brothers of the Outlaw Trail.

Oh, and there's the other matter of finishing A Suspicion of Strawberries, due June 15th.

No one mentioned to me about the juggling a writer must do. Old projects, new projects, future projects. Okay, maybe someone did mention that part about juggling. It sure is different when you try it, though.

One thing I have learned in the process of "becoming published" is that from the time I sign the contract, it's not about me or what I want for the story. There's a whole list of people involved in a book from acquisitions, to editing, to marketing. Again, like the juggling part, I knew that. But I didn't really know it.

Off to la-la land for some sleep now...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How I Spent My Spring Break (sort of)

There are some things better left unknown.

The picture of the hotel looks pretty ordinary. That's after an extensive renovation. If you look closely, some of the windows have iron bars.

Yep. Built in 1879, this served as the Bexar County Jail in San Antonio until the 1960's. We thought it would be the ideal quirky place to spend our spring break weekend. It was! Spacious room, high ceilings, original 19th century windows (no bars). A pool, hot tub, and complimentary breakfast were great touches. Across the street catty-corner from the hotel, a building still proclaimed "Cabs & Horses" and "Livery Stable."

But we found out during our last night that the jail used to perform the executions by hanging on the third floor. The bodies would drop down to the second floor, where they would then go down a chute to the first floor, to the outside. Ain't that jest a smidge beyond quirky?

Hannah freaked a bit when she heard, since the vending machines were on the third floor and she'd used the workout room on the third floor. I comforted her.

"Don't worry. Our room is on the fourth floor."

Despite its past, I'd stay here again. Only four blocks from the Riverwalk and one block from Market Square. And cheap parking.

Before spring break, I received the galleys for Heart's Refuge. I've been busy with life away from cyberworld, so I'll share more about galleys later.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

In The Trenches

Progress on Reuben's Atonement:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

9,155 / 18,000

April first looms before me. Right now, I'm watching this intricate dance between my reformed outlaw Reuben and Charlotte, his long-ago love. I had hit a block with their story, even though I already had a summary written. I broke through when I realized one thing.

The bulk of their conflict was internal, and not external. I realized I had to cause more external problems for them as well, besides the obvious. Reuben's past.

So I threw a wrench of suspicion into the mix. What if...Reuben's really not reformed? That would be almost worse for Charlotte than seeing him ride off again. I turned her other would-be suitor into more of a villain as well, planting doubt inside her head.

I still have a lot of work to do before I submit this story. There've been times I was convinced the thing was a bunch of drivel, and then they'd realize I can't write. Gasp!

Reuben and Charlotte will likely travel with me to San Antonio. My husband and I are taking the kids. I hadn't planned on my conflicted couple coming along. But that's fine by me.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Building The Christian Family You Never Had

Where no one has gone least not in our family!

Today I'm talking with Mary DeMuth, author of Building the Christian Family You Never Had: A Practical Guide for Pioneer Parents. Mary's book is available now through all major on-line booksellers, and I'm sure your local bookstore would be happy to order you a copy.

I'm not one to jump into the latest self-help books or parenting fads, but when I first heard the title of Mary's book, it intrigued me.

If you've visited my blog, I talk not only about faith and writing, but my life as a thirtysomething wife and mom. You've heard of my adventures with the teenagers, and at this oh-so-tricky age I not only want to parent them right, but parent them better. I know my parents made compromises along the way. Maybe they did the best they knew how, but I have a running joke that my family puts the "fun" in dysfunctional. I don't think I'm doomed to repeating my parents' past mistakes. But I'm a believer in seeking wisdom, and I know this is one gift I'll receive.

Now for my chat with Mary:

Tell us about your background, Mary. What inspired you to write this book?
I was tired of parenting books written by experts who didn’t seem to understand someone like me—a mom who didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I wanted to offer other pioneer parents hope that they could build a new type of family even if they had no example growing up.

Pioneer parenting. What is it, exactly? I'm sure you've been asked this question already, but I won't assume everyone knows what you mean by a pioneer parent.
A pioneer parent is someone who doesn’t want to duplicate the home he was raised in. It’s a first generation Christian who longs to create a faith-based home even though a home like that was not modeled.

We've got Dr. Dobson, Dr. Phil, Dr. Kevin Leman, and others who've written parenting books and built entire careers on family life. What makes your book different from other parenting books on the market?
I admire all those guys, so I’m not saying my approach is better. I’m just a mom who has struggled. I don’t have a PhD in child psychology. I have simply clung to Jesus through the process of parenting and allowed Him to heal me from a very difficult past. So the book is unique because it’s about parenting from the inside out. What is inside us is what flows out of us as parents. We can decorate the exterior of our parenting with all sorts of methods, but it will mean little if our inside is still suffering from the past.

What would you say to the Pioneer Mama who's standing in the bookstore or looking at an online bookstore for answers, as her heart breaks for her kids and she feels inadequate? Why would your book be important for her?
Because she will know she is not alone. And she will hear from someone who’s walked that path of inadequacy. One thing I celebrate in the book is that pioneer parents actually have an advantage in that they are well aware of their own need for help. And that’s the place where Jesus loves to come in and be strong. So, our weakness is actually a stage for Jesus to dance His power through us.

Here's the billion-dollar question. How did you figure out what a Christian family should look like? What's the dream, and what can we do to make it a reality?
I haven’t figured that out yet. I think it looks different in every home. But I can say this: a genuinely Christian family is authentic. It’s not that we are trying to “look” Christian by adhering to someone else’s standard. A Christian home is a place where our children can be real, where grace is more than just a prayer we pray before meals, where parents live out the Christian life in reality. I’ve known too many families where the parents exude a sort of control over their children to try to make them look like the perfect Christian family, while sweeping away all the muck under the rug.

The Christian life is not easy. We do our children a disservice if we portray it that way, or if we spin our wheels trying to look a certain way when our hearts don’t feel that way. To make a home like this a reality, it’s vitally important that parents model humility and forgiveness. You will do more for your children by apologizing and asking forgiveness than trying to make them appear a certain way. A Christian family follows Jesus. And Jesus was humble and approachable and full of grace.

This is more of a personal question from me, since I know in a few years my teenagers will be spreading their wings. I've watched my friends' children "grow up in church," only to see their young adult lives differ very little from their unchurched counterparts--cohabitation outside marriage, unwed pregnancies, harmful habits and addictions, living emotionally bankrupt lives. Why do you think this happens? (I'd like to know, because I sure want my kids to live abundant lives!)
This relates to the question before. Children can spot a fake a mile away. If their parents are saying all sorts of nice churchy words in public but are yelling and screaming behind closed doors, children will hear the yells over the churchy words. One reason (and there are many other reasons) children rebel is that they don’t see authentic Christianity modeled. They don’t see parents voice struggles or work through difficult faith issues, so when one faces a teen, it’s easier to rebel and discount it than see value in the struggle.

What can we pioneer parents do to protect our children as we interact with other family members who aren't Christians? Obviously, they're family, and we shouldn't feel that family might "contaminate" us.
If at all possible, do everything you can to preserve the relationship with those family members. Don’t judge non-Christian family members. If, for instance, an aunt is living with her boyfriend, have your children pray for her—but don’t necessarily forbid your children to see her because she’s not making Christian choices. However, there are instances where you need to protect your children—like if a family member drives drunk or is a known sexual abuser. In that case, by all means, separate your children from the family member.

Give me seven adjectives that describe Building the Christian Family You Never Had.

Thanks, Mary for stopping by Slices of Life. If you want to know more about Mary DeMuth and her books, check out Relevantblog and RelevantProse.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Evan Lysacek, My Hero!

Evan Lysacek lived in Johnny Weir's figure skating shadow prior to these Olympics. All we heard was "Weir-Weir-Weir." But did you notice who came from TENTH place after the men's short program to place FOURTH? In a brief Disney movie moment, I wanted him to medal, but that didn't happen.

I have to say I felt sorry for Lysacek the other night while watching the men's short program. (I felt sorry for myself when I learned he was born when I graduated high school in June 1985, but that has absolutely nothing to do with my post.)

He missed some jumps. He fell. He didn't look like a champion. And when you're out there, there's no second chances to do it over. Someone said Weir was the U.S.'s only hope of a men's skating medal.

But what's a medal now? Endorsements, of course. There's a lot to be said for winning first place. Or second, or third. Nobody remembers fourth, but in this case I do.

Lysacek was the one who overcame the mental challenge of being a flop the first time. He'd gotten sick in the meantime, had an IV going because of dehydration. Then with the long program coming up, he pulled out the stops and was one of the best performers of the night. Enough to move from tenth to fourth, and pass up the golden boy who wasn't.

His Olympics was more than medaling. It was about overcoming, not other skaters, but his own obstacles from within. Way to go! Lysacek is my Olympic hero.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Suspicion of Strawberries

I just got a contract for my cozy mystery, A Suspicion of Strawberries, to be released by Spyglass Lane Mysteries in the spring 2007. My book is set in the fictitious town of Greenburg, Tennessee. Andromeda Clark has a homemade soap shop, her latest in a long string of homespun craft businesses. When one of her customers dies from an allergic reaction to Andi's facial scrub, Andi sets out to prove the death was no accident. It was murder.

Spyglass Lane is a new book club of Barbour Publishing starting late this year, or early in 2007. I'm excited to be in on the ground floor of this new venture. If you like Agatha Christie, the Cat Who books, or shows like Diagnosis, Murder or Murder, She Wrote, I bet you'll enjoy these stories.

Strawberries has a southern tang with a commitment-phobic heroine whose truck driver boyfriend is getting a hankering to settle down, once and for all, while Andi has her business crisis and tries to hunt down a murderer.

And if all goes well, you'll get to see more of Andi Clark and her life in Greenburg.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Clicking "Send"

just shot off through cyberworld to the editor's desk. I still am not sure which is harder, sending off and unsold proposal or sending off a finished product that's been purchased. It's at times like these, when I click the "send" button, that I feel the weight of the publisher's investment. I am coming to grips with the fact that there's always going to be better writers than me, unpublished writers, and all I can do is work on my own writing skills. Hey, I've been there, reading someone's work and thinking a bit smugly, "I can write better than that." Now the shoe's on the other foot and I find it's uncomfortable. Yet there's nothing I can do about opinions, except write the best story I can and keep working.

Tonight as I've worked, however, I found many pet words. I should buy them all collars and leashes and cute little crates so they don't mess on the floor and sleep on the furniture.


I could go on, but you get the picture. What I watch for is repetitions that might catch someone else's eye. There's nothing wrong with using any of those words, but can't you tell when there's too much ginger in the pumpkin pie? Or I should choose a boring flavor. One time I put sage in my homemade meat stuffing, and I could tell the sage was a bit stale. The stuffing didn't taste right. But I digress. The same novella whose ending made me sniffle also had plenty of stale words inside. Interesting.

Now that I've made myself a bit hungry and it's midnight here, I think I'll sail off to bed.

And dream of my next project. Night-o!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cryin' Like Joan Wilder

One of my favorite writer movies is Romancing the Stone. I'm sure you remember when Joan Wilder is sitting at her typewriter (!) and finishes her book? Well, she was sobbing. I'm bawling too right now.

Joie de Vivre is done. For now, at least.

When I finished the epilogue and skimmed it, the tears came. Only if you are a writer will you understand this, the feeling that it's wrapped up and over. The first draft only comes once, with its freshness of ideas and characters springing to life as the cursor skims across the computer screen.

Oui, Edouard found Josee, and together they fought off the gator who did not like the pirogue coming so close to him. I will miss them, in a strange way. Like I said, if you are a writer you will understand.

I will pay dearly in the morning. It's 1:00 a.m. here and I just shipped off chapter 9 to my critique partner in South Africa, where she's probably getting her brood off to school.

I already went to, where Bayou Brides is listed already--no cover yet--and its release date of Sept. 1, 2006 is there for all to see. I'm picturing the cover in my head. A line of cypress trees, dripping with Spanish moss. A tiny bayou cabin underneath their canopy of green. A beautiful brown bayou flowing past.

So I'll turn in for now, and bask in this glow of the first draft, the draft from my heart. My editor hat will go on my head starting tomorrow, which isn't nearly as emotional but very necessary.

Thanks, Lord, for making me creative. You are my best reader and fairest critic. Merci.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Completion, not perfection

Novella Progress

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
15,612 / 18,000

I am almost done, and I can feel it happening already, like when you know you're car's going to stall. Josee is still lost on the flooded bayou in a storm. She's found a pirogue and now is lying there, shivering in the dark. Edouard still cannot find her and is a bit ticked off at le Bon Dieu at the moment. Their issues are coming to a head. And I'm trying to shut the thing down. I'm not worried. I'll get there. I know it's important to push through to the end, then edit later. Completion, not perfection.

One exciting bit of news: I've just submitted a proposal to Spyglass Lane Mysteries for my book A Suspicion of Strawberries, a cozy mystery with a southern chick lit tang. When amateur sleuth Andromedra (Andi) Clark dropped into my head, her story followed. Rarely has my keyboard burned with the fury of my typing, a combination of fun and hard work. Perhaps cozies are my thing, allowing me to use my odd sense of humor and create a puzzle for readers at the same time. We'll see. I sure hope so.

Coming soon: Q&A with Mary DeMuth, author of Building the Christian Family You Never Had. I'm not one to read lots of nonfiction, but in reading the overview and listening to Mary share on her blog and various web sites, I believe it's worth checking out. To use one of Mary's terms, it's relevant.

Back to work I go!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Web Of Lies...

Open the cover...if you dare!

Author Brandilyn Collins has done it again. She's woven a riveting tale where, of course, spiders figure prominently. If you get the creepy-crawlies, read this book anyway.

As a reader, I loved how Brandilyn brought Annie Kingston and Chelsea Adams together in one story. I enjoyed seeing Annie through Chelsea's eyes, where in the first three books we only see Annie's view of herself. Brandilyn also kept me questioning the possibilities that a suspense reader loves to guess at--Who's causing the trouble? Why? How? What's next? While the noose got tighter and tighter around Annie, my nails got shorter and shorter. I prided myself on guessing one of the story lines, but only one. The others snuck up on me. I can say this much: Never assume everything is as it seems. Never think you have it figured out. It's quite a tangled web.

As a writer, I feel like I'm going to B.C. Writers' University whenever I read one of her books. The first time, I read for fun. Then I let the book sit a while, and go back with pencil and paper and outline the book (as much as my distractable mind will allow; I don't do longhand for very long). I figure somehow, her techniques will start sinking into this writer's subconscious and I'll start using them too, in my own way. Brandilyn makes the rollercoaster ride of her book seem like an effortless trip. But rollercoasters are designed very carefully, and that's why hers holds up so well.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Coming Up For Air

Novella Progress

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
9,434 / 18,000

Well, neither the Redskins nor the Patriots are going to the Superbowl. That cuts my excitement factor wayyyy down for Superbowl Sunday. I hope at least the chili's good

Writing in a flurry, reading too. And flu season has arrived at the hospital, which means more work for us in Transcription. People, if you're sick, try to stay home. Don't share. Drink your fluids. Wash your hands with warm soapy water. Get enough sleep at night.

The novella is coming along, although this week I really want to plow through most of it so my reader and critique partner can both read the story. I'm working on other novella proposals. A few are in the research stage, and in the proposal stage. I'm working on a mystery. In short, I'm busy and loving it.

Hannah turned 14 today. Yummy food specially requested by her, and a party coming up on Friday night, which means giggling teenage girls overnight. Oh my.

I'll cut it short. My next post will be a review of Brandilyn Collins' latest suspense novel, Web of Lies. I am absolutely thrilled at where Brandliyn's career has gone. I first 'met' Brandilyn in 2000 through the then-named American Christian Romance Writers, when she visited my critique group and worked with me for a month. Her first book was due out. I had no idea then that she would become a household name in Christian suspense. She's a gem of a person and a true wordsmith, always seeking to improve her craft. The lady has a love affair with words, and you can tell through her stories. I'll save more for next time. Night-o!

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year, New Stuff

Novella progress:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
8,226 / 18,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
8,226 / 20,000

Instead of new stuff, I should say new habits.

I have encountered many people who are dissatisfied with aspects of our lives, and only a few have made the changes they so desperately wish to make. Why do we resolve, and then fail? Those of us who are believers, why do we still fail if we "have God"?

We complain about family. Complain about money. Complain about jobs. Complain about physical shortcomings (and I don't mean diseases). Many things have but one cure, but few of us actually find the cure. The cure is choice.

Free will. I thank God for free will. Without it, we'd be puppets on a string, or characters on a game board, like in Clash of the Titans. But many people blame God for what goes on in their lives, or if they decide not to believe in God's interest in their lives, it's because of the often-heard "If God loves us so much then, why--?" Or, some who choose not to believe resent the idea of having God stick His nose in their business. It sounds a bit wishy-washy. How can we say, "God, come to my rescue, but otherwise butt out?"

I have seen tragedy. I've seen a loving father and pastor, a well-respected man, ripped from his family in a horrible motorcycle accident. I still see the effects of that today in his widow's and children's lives. So I have asked "Why?"

At the brink of this new year, I'm reminded of free will. God's greatest gift to us (besides Jesus, of course). My prayer is that my free will bends to His, and that I will not raise my fist in anger or harden my heart in unbelief because He does not interfere with my poor choices. The world is full of billions of free wills treading on each other. Often, we're the brunt of others' poor choices.

This year in 2006, I pray to make better choices. There are many things which I cannot control, but I do have a choice. I can say, "God, what would You have me to do?" and then listen.