Write What You Know

18362492_1238027982976551_1361060936_o“Write what you know,” the weathered writing instructor with grey-streaked red hair and periwinkle glasses told us, holding up two lackluster books that had probably not sold more than 30 copies each. Still, her two-day class was cheap, and at 20-something with a gathering stack of rejection slips, I figured some knowledge was better than no knowledge.

Wrong! I was quick to realize that at 20-something, I basically knew nothing. I should have given up writing then. Because by the time I knew enough to write books—reaping that knowledge had imprinted bloodstains on my heart. Some people like pain. I don’t.

When I attended those writing classes, I didn’t know God. When I started to realize God might be real, I prayed for Him to remove every doubt. He did. Accomplishing that meant sending me into the desert at night with a young child to support, no money, no job, no place to stay, and no vehicle. When you’re crying your heart out in the desert at night matching coyote wails, and the next day you receive everything you prayed for—it kind of removes the doubt element. Except, it’s mighty scary and uncomfortable at the time. Oh…almost everything. The vehicle arrived a few weeks later after we had started attending church and my four-year-old son said, “Mom, why don’t you pray for a truck?” I didn’t have enough faith to pray for that, but he did—and the next day—we had our truck.

A failed first marriage, fleeing and hiding from an abusive husband, supporting a child by myself, and working two to three jobs—knowledge is costly.

I must confess that my newest book, “Bridge to Texas,” is a comical mystery-romance-suspense not based on personal knowledge…exactly. I’ve never done a nude calendar shoot and at my age and weight—no one would buy the calendars. However, I covered a story when I was working for a Bandera, Texas newspaper that gave me the idea. Older women raising money for charity took off their clothes and made history, so to speak, plus a lot of money!

I must thank my husband Alan T McKean, talented author in his own right, for “Bridge to Texas.” The entire story grew out of a comment he made: “You should write another Texas Miz Mike. You could have Evan get kidnapped.” Does he get kidnapped? Read the book. Oh, and here’s a link to Alan’s books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alan-T.-McKean/e/B00BR1PM5Y/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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The differences between Scotland and Texas spin comedy effortlessly in “Bridge to Texas,” and the characters are a bossy bunch who grab a’holt of a story plot and corral it for their own rodeo. So you can say the book wrote itself. I say God wrote and I typed it. But whatever your personal outlook, you will probably enjoy this romping mystery-romance-suspense that can make you laugh…yes…out loud!

Even the cover and cover blurb are the result of knowledge: photographer Don Davis’ genius with a camera; Paul Garrison III’s mule training advice, and friend Shawn Petersen’s riding skill.

So that jaded teacher was right. Write what you know. And if you’re too young yet to know a lot…be thankful and wait. Don’t rush the knowledge—unless you’re one of those peculiar folks who enjoy pain.

Why God Made Dandelions

Before we moved, one neighbor would look at our yard critically and glower if he spotted a dandelion. Me? I love the cheerful yellow flowers and would gladly have a yard full of them. But the Bible instructs to live peacefully, as much as possible, with all people—thus the countless hours digging up the poor dandies by the roots and discarding them.

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Why did God make dandelions? Critics claim that dandelion clumps on athletic fields and golf courses result in poor footing for humans. Critics say they reduce the aesthetic quality of turf grass. Fruit growers claim bees prefer dandelion blooms to fruit tree blossoms and that dandelions entice the bees away resulting in a loss of pollination. Defenders of dandelions make tea and entire meals out of dandelions and tout their health benefits.

Me? I have my own reflection on dandies and why God made them. They are hardy, prolific, cheerful, thrive in almost any climate condition, and are almost impossible to kill. They’re tough! They’re encouraging.

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When we first moved to Dunoon, we found an impossibly steep hill that had to be conquered in order to walk our dog. So impossible did the hill look that I turned back and wasn’t going to attempt it—until I spotted a dandelion growing out of a rock wall. If that flower could conquer that ages-old rock wall…we could conquer the hill. And we did.

Successful people are like dandelions. Tough.

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Bill Gates, the richest person in the world, failed in his first business. Albert Einstein survived a miserable childhood and never spoke until age four. Jim Carey was a homeless high school dropout. Stephen King’s first novel was rejected 30 times—but he never quit writing. Vincent Van Gough only sold one painting in his lifetime—but he kept painting and left behind 900 works of art.

Bethany Hamilton had her arm bitten off by a shark when she was 13. She was back on her surfboard one month later, and two years later she won first in the Explorer Woman’s Division of the NSSA National Championships. Oprah Winfrey was repeatedly molested as a child and gave birth at age 14 to a son who died shortly after. Her net worth today—$ 2.9 billion.

Tough. As tough and successful as dandlelions.

I like that! I like dandelions!

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http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Moving Chair

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We first spotted it in the woods along a dog-walking path. A strange place to find a wooden chair from someone’s dining set, but the mystery deepened when the chair moved to the beach.

Being a writer, my head spun stories about the moving chair: a thief stole it and abandoned it when spotted. Said thief went back to retrieve the chair, but was caught again. Or perhaps one ex was getting back at the other by cleaning out the house, one chair at a time. Or an angry teen with a lazy parent moved the chair to make the parent question his or her sanity when things vanished. Being lazy, said parent would never go looking for the missing item. Or perhaps some kind person thought older dog walkers would appreciate a comfortable place to rest.

My favorite story is dedicated to the memory of Bandera County, Texas pioneer Edwina Boyle—because it mirrors her real life story.

An old woman lived in the woods near the beach. She couldn’t watch the sea from her house, but each day she walked through the woods to the beach. She threw stranded starfish back into the waves. She rescued baby seals. She carried injured sea birds home with her and nursed them back to health…until…until the day she suffered a stroke.

Usually a mild person, the old woman experienced anger when she heard negative, disparaging words about her condition. “It was a severe stroke,” the doctor said. “She’ll never recover. She’ll never walk again. She needs to go to a nursing home.”

Family members were just as pessimistic. “She can’t walk. She can’t even move her legs. There’s no choice. She will have to go into a home.”

The angry woman mounted a secret campaign against her bleak prognosis. She prayed, asking God over and over to heal her legs. Daring even to demand that God heal her! Every time she was alone, she concentrated all her thoughts and energy into making a toe move, then a foot, then a leg. One day before her scheduled hospital release, she slipped out of bed and teetered around the room.

Once home, the determined woman continued her self-imposed physical therapy. She propped her back door open and carried one of her kitchen chairs out to the porch. The next day, she carried the chair down the steps. Each day, the woman carried the chair further, sat in it to rest, then returned home. Before long, she was sitting in her chair at the beach reading moments of joy and fury from the voice of the waves. Neighbors stopped to ask her to forecast the weather because they knew the water talked to its faithful friend.

Writing is like that moving chair. At times, it’s hard not to listen to the negative, derogatory predictions for success. Rejections, lack of sales, bad reviews—it’s enough disappointment and broken dreams to send authors to retirement homes.

Don’t give up and surrender yourself to a retirement home. Keep moving the chair. Oh—and when it gets too heavy for you to carry, ask God to help.

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http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Humpty Dumpty

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Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Be kind. Even if the other person isn’t kind, be kind. We’ve all had falls. But not everyone mends. The world is full of shattered humans who are not kind to others because of their own level of suffering.

My recent experience with agony heightened my compassion for others who are suffering physical or mental hurts that no one sees. Even as a writer, I can’t find words to express how ghastly the pain in my hip was except to say that I wish readers could rate my books at my pain level—10.

When a person tries to sit on a toilet seat and accompanies that attempt with loud enough hollers to bring the cows in from the field…it’s bad. Walking and standing elicited the same response. As for bending over to pick something up—forget it. Since we have a dog that needs walking, not being able to bend over was especially awkward. My poor husband had dog picking up detail for weeks. Additionally, our dog thinks she’s the housekeeper. When anything is on the floor that doesn’t belong there, she puts her nose on it and stares at it until someone picks it up. (Except for her toys. They are exempt.)

Yay! I picked up dog poop today! What a relief to be able to return to that simple chore. Part of the healing involved pushing through the pain to do back exercises and go running. For those who say, “I don’t run. If you see me running, you better run, too, because something is after me,” I will admit that fast walkers can pass me when I’m “running.” It’s not about speed, it’s about exercise to re-build the body. It’s also about a verse from Marjorie Ainsborough Decker’s “Christian Mother Goose” book:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Humpty Dumpty shouted, “Amen!

God can put me together again!

Prayer and praise. As I was “running,” I sang, “You are the God Who is healing me.” And I believed it.

So today I picked up dog poop. The possibilities for tomorrow are endless! God still heals, he still answers prayers…and, yes, He still instructs and expects us to be kind to one another.

Forgive shattered people and give them the gift of kindness. We never know when we will be next one to fall off the wall.

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Great Love

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Texas Miz Mike #7 mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge Home” was released—but, wait! It is not the best love story ever written.

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Great love stories light our inner fires and inspire us. Some of the most famous include William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” Leo Tolstory’s “Anna Karenina,” Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago,” and Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Other great love stories revolve around remarkable people like John Smith and the Indian Princess Pocahontas, Marie and Pierre Curie, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

This is just a fleeting mention of some of the world’s greatest love stories because nearly all life-changing, life-impacting stories contain an element of love. Not surprising since God’s Word proclaims, “Love never fails,” and “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians, Chapter 13).

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My favorite love stories tend to be embedded in musicals. The social commentary and unforgettable music in “Show Boat;” faith victorious in “The Sound of Music,” rollicking fun in “Calamity Jane” and “Annie Get Your Gun,” and the soul-plumbing “South Pacific.” And of course the musical everyone in Scotland hates—but I’ve always loved, “Brigadoon.”

Whether they end in tragedy, or joy and “happy ever after,” love and love stories make life worth living.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t forget to read the greatest love story ever written. It’s written in God’s blood. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Then He proved it by dying for us.

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

God’s love story about us and for us is greater than any love story ever written by humans—even William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” which is still ranked #1 in love stories 400 years after it was written.

As for “Bridge Home,” well, I hope you’ll read it, enjoy it, and leave a review—but trust me…it won’t the list.

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http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

The Biggest Losers

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Look up loser or biggest loser on the internet and you will find folks who have lost huge amounts of weight—or huge amounts of money. These are not the biggest losers.

The biggest losers are those—no matter how successful, professional, or well known—who find no joy in a child’s smile, a kitten’s soft fur, or the unconditional love looking back at them from the eyes of a dog. The biggest losers are those who have never stopped in awe to enjoy the riotous glory of spring wildflowers, a flaming sunrise, or a full moon playing tag with night-touched clouds.

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The biggest losers are those so seeped in their own self-importance that they have no time to notice the tears on a lonely face, the meager clothing and frail frame of the homeless, the expectant face of an elderly person hoping for a greeting.

The biggest losers are those who have no time to contemplate God and the perfection of creation, no time to sit in church and feed their souls, no time to give any of their time to help another person, a homeless animal, or a needy charitable organization.

Biggest losers of weight are applauded. Biggest losers of money are scorned. God is only interested in one kind of loss—sin.

“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14.

Biggest losers, biggest winners.

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http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Not Offended

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Still find it hard to believe that the British Medical Association told its staff not to use the term ‘expectant mother’ as it could offend transgender people.

We are heading toward a future population who will find cause to be offended at myriad incidents instead of using the opportunity of opposition to grow in strength and character.

Like any other “handicapped” child, Aimee Mullins was mocked. She was born without calf bones and both her legs were amputated when she was a year old. Instead of hiding away “offended” by cruel remarks – she learned to fly. She is a world class runner who broke world records in 100 meters, 200 meters and the long jump – while competing against “able-bodied” athletes.

Shakespeare’s poems and plays are still popular around the world some 400 years after his death. He used more words from the English language than any other writer ever has – and was taunted by some of his contemporaries, including Robert Greene who called him among other things an “upstart crow.”

Vincent Van Gogh painted his inner feelings of depression and was labeled a failure and “mentally ill.” He rose from poverty and mocking to praise and riches. His “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” was one of the world’s most expensive paintings and is now valued at $155 million.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, couldn’t get into law school, borrowed money for a business and went bankrupt, and lost five elections before he became President. Personal tragedies included losing his mother when he was nine; the deaths of a sister, a sweetheart, and three of four sons. He also suffered a broken engagement and was diagnosed with clinical depression, spending six months in bed after a nervous breakdown.

The world was perfect when God created it. But when sin came into the world, that perfection was marred. We now live in a world of “hard knocks.” Being given permission to be offended at every real and imagined slight will never build us into individuals who can grow in grace, character, and strength.

I am so thankful that I never “fit in” as a child. Because I learned at an early age not to seek peer approval, I escaped the rampant drug culture when I went to college. Because I care more what God thinks about me than what other people do, I can write hard books that get flak: pro-life “Heart Shadows;” abused child turned serial killer “Killer Conversations,” and soon-to-be-released Texas Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense #7, “Bridge Home.” The easy to love, bonkers Miz Mike is the same in “Bridge Home,” but there is an added dimension. Should Christians be in favor of, or opposed to same sex marriage? Miz Mike faces that dilemma when her fiancé is falsely arrested for killing one of two women who requested a same-sex marriage ceremony in his church.

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The release of “Bridge Home” should prove interesting. My hope and prayer is that readers will love it and welcome it as another of Miz Mike’s “pickle-making” mysteries. But I’m prepared for flak and one-star reviews because, thankfully, when I was growing up I didn’t have the British Medical Association looking out for me.

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“Experts”

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The earliest “expert” I remember was my first grade teacher who chided me for coloring trees and sky such bright “unrealistic” colors. Over and over she intoned, “Trees are green, tree trunks are brown, sky is blue.”

I guess she had never seen a sunset, or autumn foliage, and she was ignorantly unaware that tree trunks are different colors, mostly grey in the Texas Hill Country.

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Education is awesome—but I eschew “experts.”

My son Luke used to get upset when a high school teacher, an expert in science, repeatedly informed the class that dogs could be trained—but they couldn’t think. Luke knew better. We had a half-collie named Esther. Our other dog, Shad, would stretch out in the middle of the couch so that Esther had no room at either end and would have to take the floor. One day Esther trotted over to the front door and barked. Shad launched himself off the couch in a frenzied attack mode. Esther calmly walked back to the couch and took Shad’s place. After that, whenever she wanted the couch, Esther repeated the performance. (Shad never learned.) Trained? I think not.

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One dog training expert claimed dogs only have a seven-second memory. “Never say sit down,” this expert advised. “Just say sit, because by the time you get to down, the dog has forgotten the first word.” Really?

Our dog Angel Joy hasn’t seen Andy the coal man for three years. He’s a nice guy, but scares her to death because he’s so big. If we say Andy, or coal—or heaven forbid, Andy the coal man—our usually quiet, calm Angel Joy goes ballistic.

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There are health experts who are overweight. There are education experts who have never taught a class. There are parenting experts who don’t have children. There are writing experts who give advice on how to write and market books—and their own books aren’t selling.

Wise people, and those knowledgeable in their fields are blessings, but I’ve learned to question “experts.”

Experts in Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ day, the late 1400s and early 1500s, thought the world was flat and ships would fall off if they sailed too far. Columbus read in the Bible in Isaiah 40:22 that God “sits above the circle of the earth.” He reasoned that if God sits above the circle of the earth, the earth must be round. And the rest, as they say, is history.

When I need an expert, I’ll stick with that same God, the One who “made a law for the rain and a path for the thunderbolt.” (Job 28:36)

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http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Death, the Lasting Adventure

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When I was 12, my spooky horse Allie jumped over a ditch to the road. His shadow hit the red clay dirt and he spooked. He leaped sideways bucking, threw me off, and ran home.

Allie was afraid of shadows. He thought shadows were real. He thought shadows would hurt him.

A lot of people are like Allie. They fear shadows. They think shadows are real. They think shadows will hurt them. We have either forgotten or chosen not to believe Psalm 23 in the Bible, “Yea, though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

Because people know I’m a Christian, I often get prayer requests. I’m thrilled to pray for others and I rejoice when God answers their prayers. But some requests are impossible for God to fulfill because they are not within His plan.

We plant “dead” seeds and marvel when bright, new, healthy plants spring up from the dead-looking kernels. God never wanted death to be a part of the world He created. He designed human bodies to heal and live forever. But when Adam and Eve sinned, death entered the world. Because of that, God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in our place so we could live forever. Jesus didn’t just die—He rose from the dead to prove to us that we also can live again.

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After we “die” to this world, we live forever in Heaven with Jesus in bright, new, healthy spiritual bodies that will never suffer death, illness, pain, suffering, or sorrow. But first—we must pass through the shadow.

It’s alarming to get prayer requests from people who are afraid of the shadow and don’t trust God’s promise about what is on the other side. I don’t know what to say or how to pray when someone grabs my arm and pleads, “Please pray for Momma. She’s 92 and her kidneys have stopped working, and she has heart and lung disease, and now she has cancer.”

 

What I want to say, and should be honest enough to say is, “Sweetie, let go of your poor Momma. Let her go home to God. He will give her a new healthy body.” But I’ve discovered that folks who are afraid of shadows hate truth.

Death is an adventure. An everlasting adventure. Between us and that lasting adventure is a shadow. All of us must pass through that shadow to get to our new life and claim our new body.

Perhaps we should repeat often, “Death is a shadow. Shadows aren’t real. Shadows can’t hurt us.”

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http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Cotton Candy Wolves

A viewer condemned the producer of a wildlife documentary for showing a wolf catching a rabbit and tossing the squealing victim into the air before tearing it into pieces and eating it. The viewer would have been pleased if the production team had taught the wolf to eat cotton candy instead.img_2026

While I might sound like I’m condemning the clueless viewer, I understand. I refuse to watch Old Yeller ever again and I know when to close my eyes during movies and wildlife documentaries.

Just think of a cotton candy world where everything is soft, fluffy, and sweet! Unfortunately, this isn’t it.

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It’s strange even to me that I write mystery-romance-suspense books with unhealthy doses of murder included. Perhaps it’s because my experience in the world so far—starting when I was a child rape victim—has included evil. Writing or reading cotton candy stories doesn’t appeal to me. Evil is real, alive, and lives in this world. Thankfully, so does good – and God gives everyone a choice. The battle between good and evil and the triumph of good is infinitely more fascinating to me than a diet of feathery sugar. And as Evan says in Texas Miz Mike’s Bridge to Brigadoon, “Aye, murder is nicer in books. We are safely distanced from it.”

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Dixie lived next door. She eschewed God and mocked Christians for reciting “do nots” while she “had fun” hanging out in local bars. She was seldom home and her young daughters often called out-of-town grandparents to rescue them when their mother vanished with a new conquest – often a just-released felon from prison. Dixie left this world at 34 in a motorcycle crash just down the road from her favorite bar.

Author Alan McKean’s mom recently turned 100 and received a birthday card signed by Queen Elizabeth II. God holds life and death in His hands. Only He knows the secret of longevity. However, I find it noteworthy that Alan’s mom reads from the Bible, sings hymns, and prays every day.

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Cotton candy wolves will exist in the future. Isaiah, Chapter 11 promises that after Jesus returns, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb. The leopard shall lie down with the young goat. The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD.”

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A cotton candy world! Meanwhile…I’ll keep writing mystery-romance-suspense books with an unhealthy dose of murder thrown in because evil is real and present in this world and wolves don’t eat cotton candy…yet.

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0