Over Regulation

I don’t often pay attention to news items, but this one caught my eye and stirred my passions. A Michigan woman received a notice that if she continued to watch her neighbors children in her home while they waited for the morning school bus, she would be in violation of state law.

Are you kidding me? It seems like everywhere we turn lately the government is trying to get into people’s business. This was a friend doing a favor for other friends. Apparently they often trade off watching each other’s kids. I know what that’s like. I did the same when my kids were small. But Michigan law says some crazy thing like “you cannot have non-family member children in your home more than four weeks in a calendar year unless you are a licensed day-care.” Seems a bit over-the-top, don’t you think? What about an older couple who take the role of “surrogate grandparents” for a younger couple and keep the kids in their home sometimes? Or what if a family takes in a friend of their child’s after school so that child doesn’t have to be home alone? Is Michigan going to threaten those people, too?

I think we’ve lost all perspective in government. In an attempt to ward off any potential abuse in a system, we begin to penalize those who are simply doing the right thing. Being an American and a Texan, I have an independent streak a mile wide, the same independent streak that characterized my forefathers. I know what is right and intend to do it. I expect the government to deal with those who don’t. So it rankles when a government—any government in my United States—makes laws that penalize good citizens in order to possibly deter one or two offenders. (Because of course we know that those who circumvent the law usually find a way to do it, no matter how the law is worded.)

Ok, I’ve vented now. You can return to your regularly scheduled program.


A Slow Burn

I’ll admit I’m a bit biased. Mary DeMuth is not only one of my critique partners, but she is also a very good friend. For years, I’ve been able to see her books go from idea to first draft to published novel. And while her language has always been beautiful and surprising, what strikes me most in reading A Slow Burn is her growth as a storyteller.

A Slow Burn is the second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy. It follows Daisy Chain, in which a young girl goes missing. While Daisy Chain recounts fourteen-year-old Jed Pepper’s struggle to come to grips with Daisy’s disappearance, A Slow Burn delves into Daisy’s mother’s battle with guilt and grief. But lest you think this book is a downer, it is also filled with grace and redemption, sometimes from very surprising places.

As I said, re-reading this book (or rather, reading it in its final, finished form) illuminated Mary’s growth as a storyteller. Not only do her characters live and breath, but each character, each word, each description has meaning that is often revisited throughout the book. The story not only holds together, it forces you as a reader to keep turning the pages. And its final destination does not disappoint. No string is left hanging, no question unanswered—except those that will be revealed in the third and final book!

I’m not the best “book reviewer” in the world, so if you want to see what others are saying about A Slow Burn, check out these blogs.


The State Fair of Texas

We went to the State Fair of Texas today. It’s a yearly pilgrimage to fried food and farm animals, with the new car building reminding us we are well into the 21st century. This year, as my feet walked familiar paths, I remembered that our annual journey to this place is not something new.

The State Fair of Texas has been around since 1887, with its initial draw being horseracing. Aerial shows and automobiles became featured in the early 20th century. The Great War and the Spanish flu caused its cancellation in 1918. So as we walked past Big Tex and visited the numerous buildings and shows, I imagined others around us, those who over a hundred years ago enjoyed a similar family outing, a day (or in the case of some people, days) of escape from the normal routine. It feels good to walk paths long trod. It gives one a feeling of continuity. A remembrance that though things change, so many, many things remain the same.


The Hard Work of a Writer

I think there is often a misconception about the real work of a writer. Yes, it seems amazing to some people that writers come up with unusual storylines or characters or that they can write pages upon pages, thousands upon thousands of words, to spin the tale. But that isn’t the real work of a writer. That, my friends, is the fun part. The real work of the writer is in the re-writing.

I finished an 86, 000-word manuscript. I’ve had majorly positive feedback on it. But now it is time to get down to the gritty work of implementing changes to make the story and characters stronger. To make them gripping—and unforgettable. To tell the story in such a way that the reader remembers it long after she turns the final page.

To achieve this lofty goal requires the ability to detatch, to tear apart and build up again, to discard something “good” for the sake of something “better.” That will be my task over the next couple of months. It is make or break time. I can create character and weave a story, but can I do the hard work of a writer? Only time will tell.


2009 ACFW Conference

I had a blast this year at the ACFW Conference. I connected and reconnected with some wonderful people, learned more about writing, worshiped with 500 other believers and witnessed the hand of the Lord in both my own life and in others’ lives. I came home with memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.

One fun thing was meeting some of my fellow "Inkies" from the new Inkwell Inspirations blog. Before this past weekend, I'd only met one of these ladies face to face, but after the weeks we've spent weeks planning our blog, I'd already come to think of them as friends.



Going and Growing

I love writing conferences. There is something so wonderful about being surrounded by so many other people who “get” you. And when those other people also love the Lord, the experience becomes even more amazing!

Over the past 6 years that I’ve been attending conferences, I stand in awe at how much the Lord has done in me as a person and as a writer. I’ve learned and grown in the craft of fiction, but I’ve also learned and grown in my faith. This year, I’m not frightened at the thought of meeting new people or speaking to editors and agents about my work. Not that I don’t have any nervous flutterings over those things, but I’m not afraid. I’m even rooming with someone I’ve only met via email. That’s a huge step for me! So even if writing conferences are never my path to publication, they have been worthwhile endeavors. They have provided great opportunities for learning to trust the Lord and yearly markers through which to see the progress of growth.

I’m so thankful for yet another opportunity to go and to grow!


Just What I Needed

We walked into church and looked at our programs. The sermon topic: Do not worry.

“I guess that’s a good one for you before you go to your conference,” my husband said.

I shook my head. “I’m not worried. I’m good.”

And I believed that. Until the sermon. As the preacher spoke word upon word, the Holy Spirit sliced through my heart. I was worried. Maybe not about the things I’ve been worried about in past years, but worried all the same.

And a life lived in worry is a life not lived by faith. And whatever isn’t from faith is sin. So I discovered I had some repenting to do. I know whom I have believed. And I need to trust Him for all things.

So the sermon I thought I didn’t need was the one I needed after all. Isn’t God good?


That Time of Day

Just a few months after I turned 40 I decided I had to start exercising and eating right. It was a “now or never” moment. So I plunged in.

Two years later, I’m still at it, more faithful than ever (although the eating thing takes a big hit whenever my daughter is around to cook). But here’s the thing: I still hate it. I hate not eating chocolate cake whenever I want it. I hate making myself exercise, whether at home or in the gym. I thought that, after awhile, I’d begin to enjoy exercise. Or at least that I wouldn’t hate it. (I never really thought I’d come to love the eating right thing. I’d live on desserts if I could!)

I’ll admit I that I’m probably in the best shape of my life (or at least getting there now that the girl is away at school!) and that I feel good. So why is it I still dread that exercise time of day?


Julie & Julia

We finally went to see Julie & Julia. I loved the Julia Child parts. I hated the Julie Powell parts. But let me explain.

At first, I had some sympathy for Julie. After all, I remember that feeling of life slipping away, of wanting to “do” something, to “be” somebody. But as her story progressed, all I could see was a woman becoming more and more enamored of herself, of her accomplishment. The most telling line came when her husband asked, “What are you going to do when you aren’t the center of the universe anymore?”

Contrast this with Julia Child, who enjoyed cooking for herself and her husband, her friends and her family. She wanted to be good at what she did. She wanted to fill her time with something worthwhile. She didn’t cook to become somebody. She knew who she was and was comfortable in that. She pursued her passion, and after years and years of work, her cookbook got published. But her cookbook and television success didn’t define her. It was simply an outgrowth of who she was. The cooking blog seemed the other way around for Julie—a desperate attempt for definition. At least in how it was portrayed in the movie. (I confess I have not read the book, so I don’t know if the movie was accurate.)

The most astounding thing? My 18-year-old daughter told me the same thing the day she saw it. I was amazed. At 18, I was definitely in the “trying to define myself” mode. In fact, I wandered that road for a very long time. After years of inner turmoil, I found my peace by pressing into Jesus. He gave me a deeper understanding of how much He loves me and of what He desires for my life. In Julie & Julia, the contrast between the settled and the seeking becomes so painfully apparent.


The Blue Enchantress

I have been so excited to read M.L.Tyndall’s newest book The Blue Enchantress, the second book in the Charles Towne Belles series. For those who enjoy an action-packed romance set in the 18th century on the high seas, you won’t be disappointed!

Poor Hope Westcott. We learned a bit about her in the first book. It was obvious she was a disaster waiting to happen. And because of her numerous shortcomings and insecurities, her redemption is so sweet. The truth of God’s power to redeem both our past and our present come shining through. But least you think that makes for a ho-hum read, the drama in this story is non-stop, complete with a hurricane, a deserted island, and pirates thrown in for good measure.

I will admit that Hope did not capture my heart as completely as her sister Faith in The Red Siren, but I think that is just my personal preference not any fault of the author. And in great “leave them hanging” fashion, Tyndall set the stage for sister Grace’s story. I can’t wait to see what happens to her!



One of my favorite features on my Mac is a thing called Spaces. For those of you who have never seen this nifty option, it basically divides the screen into four “spaces.” You can then place open documents, applications, whatever, into these spaces and switch between the spaces at will, the chosen “space” occupying your entire screen and eliminating the need to constantly switch what is on top.

I think the reason I love this option so much is that it mirrors the way I work in the physical realm. I have different “spaces” in my house in which I tend to do different things. For instance, my small leather recliner by the front window, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves tends to be where I read when I don’t want to be disturbed. It is away from the family room, but not beyond its sight. Sometimes it is for quiet weekend mornings of reading the paper with my husband in his matching chair beside me.

My chair in the family room is for the details. My computer lives on the ottoman most of the time. I can sit and work while my family watches TV or does homework. I keep a file basket beside me to hold all the paperwork mom’s have to keep up with—school, music lessons, sports, etc.

In the study, I can write. And edit. And revise. Seriously. A lot of material in a short amount of time. When my computer and I land in the chair-and-a-half, we know it is time to work with words and story.

And in my bedroom is the spot on a small sofa where relationship happens—relationship with Jesus, movies or private conversations with my husband, even an occasional heart-to-heart with one of my children. That space is sacred, rarely jumbled up with the business of life or writing.
So just like my “spaces” in my home keep my world from becoming too cluttered, so Spaces on my computer does the same thing. I guess that’s part of what is meant when people say a Mac is more “intuitive.” It reflects the way we do things in the real world.