Jump out of the Box!

Alan and I are on vacation for a week. We’re not going anywhere, but we don’t have to – because we write. Alan is the author of two enthralling time travel adventures, The Scent of Time and The Scent of Home.

I write Christian mystery-romance-suspense books like Bridge to Nowhere, by Sunpenny Publishing, and Heart Shadows, Shadow Chase and Until the Shadows Flee. My most recent book is a pro-life, pro-homeschool, teen and any age adventure-romance, Love’s Beating Heart.

When we stay home, we can write. I can write my way out of a cardboard box. I did it once.

While attending UTSA, I had a socialism…I mean a sociology professor who was nuts. He couldn’t help it. He wasn’t from Texas and he was an atheist. He was always late to class. On three separate occasions, the entire class walked out because we had waited for more than 15 minutes. On the coldest day of winter, he arrived one minute short of the class leaving,  wearing swim trunks, an inside-out T-shirt, and a red and black tie with white skeletons dancing across it. Without apologizing for being late, he said, “Jeans are all dirty and I lost my coat.”

Another time when he was late,  he scurried into the room checking the number on a piece of paper against the door number to make sure he was in the right class. He had been teaching our class for six weeks. He smelled so strongly of gasoline that we gagged and moved to the back of the room. “Had a bit of trouble at the gas station,” he said. “Was pumping away when I realized I had the nozzle stuck in the back window of the car instead of the gas tank.” And he was teaching us?

A week before finals, I learned to jump out of the box. He arrived only a few minutes late and began yelling at us. “You’re all liars! You’re all pretenders! You’re all playing games!” As an adult with a full-time job, who was also a full-time student, the mother of a teen and the caregiver of a terminally ill husband, I resented that. I didn’t have time for games.

“Here’s what I want you to do,” he shouted. “Every one of you has a big cardboard box by your desk. That’s right – you, too!” We all looked perplexed, but I felt sorry for the student he had singled out.

“Now. Get into your boxes. Climb in and close the flaps. Sit in your box and go inside yourselves. Get to really know who you are. Find yourselves. When you have the truth, write it down.”

I tried. I really did. I visualized myself in the box and obediently closed the flaps. I looked around inside and thought how pretty it would be with the right combinations of colors splashed about. Then…the story came. I could see the twelve-year-old boy. Lanky and loose jointed, he walked along the desert path kicking tumbleweed, sending puffs of alkali dust over the top of his shoes. His parents were divorcing. His dad had left. His mother’s job had transferred her from cool, green Georgia to the barren  Nevada desert. He had left all his friends behind. Instead of spending the summer fishing and playing ball, Garrett was stuck in a strange, empty land with no friends and nothing to do. I felt his pain. Saw him squeeze back tears of loneliness and frustration. Then Garrett kicked a box and it yelped. Looking inside, he found an abandoned puppy. Tansy later repaid her rescuer’s love and kindness by rushing between him and a rattlesnake in the backyard. I jumped out of my box and finished the story.

After reading my story, the socialism…sorry…sociology professor flailed the air as if beating off insects. “No, no no! This is all wrong! You were supposed to go inside and find yourself.”

“I did,” I told him. “I’m a writer.”

He gave me a “D” on the paper. It didn’t matter. I’m a writer. I sold the story to a Christian magazine. The check made up for the close encounter with misplaced gasoline.

So jump out of the box. Find out what God has planned for your life and go after it with all your heart.


Try a Bit Harder, Work a Bit Longer…

With a bit of weeding, digging and replanting, the garden looked nice…except for the dead branches and trunks of a tree along the fence. Our chainsaw will cut butter, but not much else and there are no repair or sharpening services in our area. The handsaw cuts a bit better, but the dead tree trunks were huge in circumference and grown too close together to allow the handsaw to get in between them. With our limited tools, cutting that dead, tangled mess looked impossible.

Enter determination. The same, “try a bit harder, work a bit longer,” that carried me past the agony and despair of receiving 150 rejection slips on different books over the years to eventual success. I now have five published Christian, mystery-romance-suspense books, Bridge to Nowhere (Rose & Crown/Sunpenny Publishing), Love’s Beating Heart, Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee and Shadow Chase. I knew I was a writer. God had put that burning fire in my bones and I could not contain it. But every rejection slip made me quit and give up…briefly – before I remembered to try a bit harder, work a bit longer.

So, too, with the dead wood in the front yard. First the clippers to remove the smaller branches. With scratched and bleeding arms and facing those huge trunks, I started to give up. Then I looked again at the bright green garden tossed with blooming flowers and mocked by one clump of ugly dead tree. The butter-cutting chainsaw came out. The butter-cutting-plus handsaw came out. Then help arrived in the form of my gifted, talented husband (also an author, The Scent of Time & The Scent of Home). He had been out visiting folks in the parish. Still dressed in his clerical shirt and collar (he’s a Church of Scotland minister) Alan began helping. Between the two of us and the two butter and better than butter-cutting saws, the dead wood came out. Try a bit harder, work a bit longer.

Taking out the dead growth was the right thing to do. Besides looking better, the open space allows room to finish edging in front of the beds and trimming the shrubs.But it wasn’t easy. It took trying a bit harder, working a bit longer.

Having five published books was the right thing to do. Without preaching, the characters and action in the books point to God. It is my prayer that they will help readers find their way to the Cross of Jesus. Love’s Beating Heart sends two teens on a wild river adventure to save Baby. The fast-moving adventure upholds marriage, homeschooling and pro-life over abortion. If it saves the life of even one unborn child, I have fulfilled my purpose as a writer. But success wasn’t easy. It took years to achieve and a lot of trying a bit harder, working a bit longer.

When you have a dream or a task that seems impossible, don’t give up! Try a bit harder, work a bit longer.


What to do with Fifty Million…

Wow! Fifty million! If I had that in dollars, I could buy everyone in my family a nice new home and car. Then I could find a poor village somewhere and buy all of them houses and cars. And think of all the clean water systems that could be put in to give people in poor countries a fair start for a healthy life. And if there were any money left over after those worthy projects (I’m not good at math, so I’d have to just keep track of it as I spent it rather than writing out a budget), I would build another Bible Land. One bigger and better than the one I had started in Texas.

But what if the 50 million turned out to be chocolate or blue cheese? Even as much as Bridge to Nowhere‘s Miz Mike and I love chocolate, I doubt the two of us together (if she were real, of course) could eat through 50 million anythings of chocolate, even individual candies! Speaking for myself, I have to go running already in an attempt to maintain my weight. Ditto for the blue cheese dressing, no matter how much I love salad with heaps of blue cheese crumbles and dressing.

What about people? If you were to put fifty million folks together, what an amazing amount of talent and abilities you would compile! Think of all the doctors, attorneys (forget all the lawyer jokes for a moment), scientists, writers, engineers, plumbers, electricians, builders, architects, and just plain hard working people. You could build a good world with that amount of possibilities. You would have someone who would unlock the key to curing cancer and AIDS. You would have someone who could write the next great book, like To Kill a Mockingbird, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee…or children’s classics like Black Beauty.

Fifty million could change the world. But that chance is lost. Fifty million is how many babies have died since 1973 – including two of mine – when abortion was legalized in the U.S. Fifty million means that some 3,000 babies are murdered every day. We’ve already killed the next Shakespeare; the next Jonas Sulk; the next Rogers & Hammerstein; the next Dr. David Livingston; the next Amelia Earhart; the next Annie Oakley.

My babies were stolen by non-medically supervised backwoods abortions that nearly killed me, preformed by the monster who was raping me and wanted to hide the evidence. A monster that threatened to kill me if I didn’t cooperate and let him abort the babies. I was a frightened, young teenager who didn’t even have a boyfriend and had never been on a date. At the time, I was a helpless victim. But now I wonder, what would my babies have become? I’m a fourth generation writer. Would one of my children have written the next world’s greatest novel? Would he or she have engineered bridges to connect islands to the mainland and make life easier for residents? Gone into space? Built a vehicle that could recycle fuel? Or would they have just been happy, healthy folks who worked hard and wanted to take care of their mother when she grew old so that she would never have to be put into a nursing home?

Love’s Beating Heart sends two teenage girls on a wild river Huckleberry Finn type adventure as pregnant, unwed Natasha wrestles with the hardest decision of her life: keep her baby or let it be aborted as her parents have demanded.

Love’s Beating Heart also showcases homeschooling, marriage and family life. While Dena and Tash are facing hostile wildlife and people on their river adventure, Dena’s older sister Cat has escaped an abusive boyfriend. Cat doesn’t believe in God. When she is rescued by a Christian family who homeschool their family, Cat’s non-belief collides with their Christian faith Cat suspects they’re crazy. Still, she can’t help envisioning herself as a replacement wife for the attractive family man, Skylar. If only musician Jesse Montgomery, who wrote a pro-life song called Love’s Beating Heart, would quit condemning her, Cat would happily facilitate Sky’s divorce so she could marry him.

Dena and Natasha get swept away by a flooded river. Cat gets trapped in a burning barn. Who lives and who dies in Love’s Beating Heart and are there any happy endings for those trapped in parallel stories?

Love’s Beating Heart is a teen, young adult, and adult adventure-romance, a clean, engaging Christian reading experience suitable for the entire family.