Prickles & Stickles

I relate to my tough Texan heroine in Bridge to Nowhere, released by Sunpenny Publishing. Miz Mike always minds her own business, but she can’t resist mystery – so she winds up in one pickle after another when she sets out to molest new adventures. Miz Mike is adamant, intransigent, and intractable – only about important things, of course!

Me? I’m just stubborn. Take the prickles and stickles incident. No, don’t. You don’t want to go there.

When we first got our rough collie Angel Joy, she would only catch and collect balls as long as they were easy to retrieve. If they went too far, went into the water, or into bushes – it was our job. Golfers along the golf course would holler, “Can you get your dog to find my ball?” To which we would reply, “She won’t even find her ball.”

Angel Joy now goes into the water – as long as it’s not too deep – and into tall bushes and grass to find her ball. Not prickles and stickles. She’s smart.

Yesterday the wind blew off Moray Firth at near gale force. Her ball whipped into a hedge of wild Scottish roses intertwined with blackberry vines and gorse – solid prickles and stickles and thorns.

Suddenly Bridge to Nowhere‘s Miz Mike hijacked me. I body slammed those prickles and stickles and thorns and stickers and plowed a path into the impenetrable growth. Angel Joy nipped in, grabbed her ball and backed out again. It took me a bit longer since I was speared with thorns, stickers and vegetation with pickles, stickles and hooks.

Sometimes success demands that we plow into prickles and stickles. Staying in our comfort zone won’t get the job done. This is especially true in writing. It’s not enough to get a book published. After that comes the marketing – even if by pushing yourself forward you feel like you’re plowing into a rose bed and coming out with thorns rather than the fragrance, color and softness of rose petals.

Some readers will love you and everything you write. Others will hate you – not because what you’ve written is bad – but because they disagree with you. When that happens, you feel like you attempted to pluck a rose for your sweetheart and grabbed thorns instead.

If you’re a writer, I won’t encourage you to become like Miz Mike. For one thing, she and I are Texas born. It takes a while to learn how to be a Texan. For another thing – she’s my character! But I will encourage you to be stubborn. Get over your fear of prickles and stickles. They only hurt a little bit. Plow ahead with confidence and don’t let criticisms and discomfort steal your dream.

My newest book, Love’s Beating Heart, is the most stickery and prickery since it deals with issues like abortion, pro-life, adoption, homeschooling and the sanctity of marriage. It is also the most satisfying on the deepest level. Don’t get me wrong! I love stubborn, mystery-solving Miz Mike. She’s fun, funny and fun to write. Bridge to Nowhere is a great Christian mystery-romance-suspense, the first in a series of at least six.

But plowing into the stickles and prickles gave me a lasting gift to leave behind when I go home to be with the LORD. Love’s Beating Heart is more than a book. It’s a life-saving manual.


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.


Broken Dreams

When it was completed sometime after 1893, Rosehaugh House in Avoch, Scotland, was a mansion built to glory. Hundreds of people were employed and provided with the best and highest quality materials to complete the three-story, 60-room mansion with 365 windows, marble floors, Persian rug carpeted walls, painted ceilings, carved wood, and a car-sized fireplace in the billiard room.

The fabulous mansion was demolished in 1959.

Broken dreams. It seems unbelievable that such a rich, historic, and glorious mansion could be razed. The foundation, steps, overgrown gardens and out buildings are all that remain of one man’s dream to build the most splendid mansion in the world. What went wrong?

Death went wrong. Rosehaugh was already a magnificent home when James Fletcher died in 1885. Son James Douglas Fletcher hired famed Scottish architect William Flockhart to take the mansion from splendor to unmatched glory. Then James Douglas Fletcher died. His widow sold the estate in 1953 – and by 1959 – James Douglas Fletcher’s dream mansion had been demolished.

People die. Dreams die. Sometimes we kill our own dreams by poisoning them with drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other risky and dangerous lifestyle choices. Sometimes they die of natural causes.

I am thankful that God has given me the blessing of leaving behind a shelf of dreams when I die: Christian mystery-romance-suspense books like Bridge to Nowhere, published by Sunpenny Publishing, and Love’s Beating Heart, Shadow Chase, Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee and the soon-to-be-released Fear of Shadows. But the fact is, I will die. I will follow James Douglas Fletcher off the stage of life and slip into a shadowy memory.

Unlike Fletcher’s dream, my dream won’t break or die. My dream is eternal. It is simply to follow Jesus and live for Him. The Bible promises that whatever I do for Christ here on earth will follow me to Heaven. It will be stored and waiting for me in a treasure chest where no one else can steal it and where it will never rot, tear, tarnish or age. When I get to Heaven, I’ll be able to lay it at the feet of Jesus and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Rosehaugh Estate is still a lovely place where dreams shimmer in the shade of ancient trees. The current owners are restoring the buildings that are left and many of them are rented out as holiday homes. It’s a lovely place to take dogs on a walk and capture something lovely and unique through the lens of a camera. But it is also a sorrowful, haunting place of broken dreams and trampled glory. I’m so thankful that my glory doesn’t rest in even the finest, most glorious mansion built by human hands – but rather in Heaven – created by the Eternal Hands of Jesus, the Creator of the universe.

broken dream blog

Orkney, Guns & Collies

Just got back from a lovely trip to the Scottish island of Orkney. Even though Orkney’s history was written in spilled blood from Viking longboat invasions along the coast, the island is quiet and peaceful now and you don’t need a gun.

My past was written in the western drama of Texas. My Christian mystery-romance-suspense book Bridge to Nowhere (Sunpenny Publishing) is set in the imaginary Texas town of Three Prongs, much like Bandera, “Cowboy Capital of the World” – a place where misfits fit. Guns are important to folks in Bandera. If you find a rattlesnake in your driveway, a wild pig killing livestock, or a rabid coyote chasing your dog – you’re gonna want a gun.

Fish Soup (Sunpenny Publishing) author Michelle Jayne Heatley, from Brixham here in the UK, inquired about becoming an honorary Texan. It was suggested that she get a gun, an answer she quickly negated. To folks in the UK, including picturesque Orkney, guns are not needed and are despised. They are not written into the fabric of the country.

I never owned a gun in Texas (but I can shoot one) for the same reason I don’t train collie dogs. You have to be smarter than the dog to train it. And if you’re using a gun for protection, you better be smarter than your attacker – or he will get the gun away from you and use it against you. Why make it easier for him? I know the sum of my intelligence. I failed high school math.

But not owning a gun doesn’t mean that I can’t protect myself. I have a mobile security company on the job. I own stock in the company. “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” Psalm 46:1. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

So I would encourage you wherever you are in the world to seek your protection from the Source of security Who will never let you down. You don’t have to be smart enough to train a collie or own a gun and you don’t have to live on an idyllic island like Orkney. Only one condition is demanded for 24/7 security…faith.Image