Bending, Breaking, Shaping 2020

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Many people don’t like change. I’m one of them.

I don’t like change because I’m mentally lazy. It’s not as easy for me to learn as it is for other folks, thus once I have learned something – I don’t want to have to discard it and learn something new. Take math. No, forget math. I’ve never learned math to start with, and thus any changes to it won’t distress me. I don’t do math.

Quit math when letters came

Today I woke up to find that Windows had commandeered my computer overnight and changed everything. I couldn’t even get to my email. I hate change.

Then I got to our grocery store and diligently followed the one-way arrows around the store—and thus—there was no way to avoid the soap aisle. Some scent on that aisle commandeered my sinuses and I desperately needed to cough. I held back the cough for fear folks in the store would think I had The Virus. I nearly passed out in the checkout line from holding back the cough that was demanding release.

I hate change.

However, as an author, I do embrace language changes that make for more powerful descriptions. I thought of a few today. “Alec, you’re making me angry. Quit going all 2020 on me.”

The box dropped off the shelf behind me and hit the concrete floor scaring the 2020 out of me.

“Let me tell you something, sugar. You know I ain’t one for gossip and talking bad about other folks—but I gotta tell you—that gal is as messed up as 2020.”

By the time she finished settling her mother at the nursing home, picking up the kids from school, and cleaning up after the sick dog—she felt as if she had lived through 2020 again.

The divorce hit her like 2020.

His life shattered around him like 2020, leaving him to trip over emotional obstacles like sleeping dogs in a dark room.

God never causes evil, but He commandeers evil and transforms it into something good. So since we can’t escape 2020, we can bend it, break it, and shape it into a new pattern. All it takes is…accepting change.

But I still hate the new Windows on my computer and I still don’t do math.

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HER

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When I first became a Christian I bubbled over with love, joy, peace, and goodwill toward everyone. I thought everyone else was the same. Then I met…HER.

HER lives in Scotland. She hated me for being an American. She was still fighting against July 4, 1776 and American Independence. I was on the wrong side.

HER left me with lasting memories that I’ve forgiven, but haven’t forgotten. It’s a good thing. Every book needs a really nasty baddie to haunt the protagonist. To hold the reader’s interest, the author must hurl rocks at the protagonist and knock him or her down every time they get up again. HER taught me to lob rocks.

Before I met HER, I lived in a bubble. Truthfully, I sort of still do. I float through life glowing and joyful inside my bubble of protection and few things penetrate it. HER found a way to puncture it. So did HIM. But that’s another story.

The point is that as a writer, two of the most valuable people I’ve ever met are people who are antagonist, critical—walking negativity and poison. I love them both. I love them as a Christian because Jesus commanded His followers to love others—especially enemies because it’s easy to love friends who accept us, but dadgum hard to love those who hate us. And I love HER and HIM as a writer. I needed some jostling and pricking into the oblivion of my happy little bubble.

The Bible tells us “in everything give thanks,” and “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.”

Give thanks for the HERS and HIMS in your life and for the rocks they lob at you. Each rock is an opportunity for growth. Pile them up and climb over a fence. Or just stick them into a book like I do.

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Works for Me

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My reaction to the Coronavirus is unpopular here in the UK: I’m angry over the mass hysteria and the media who created it, and at the same time, thanking God for sending a message to the entire world—“Hey! This is God. Remember Me?”

God is either in control, or He’s not in control. Prayer either works, or it’s a waste of time. Jesus is either the Healer, or He is not. Common sense like hand washing is common sense. But drastic measures like isolating millions of people is seeking a human solution rather than turning to God—and that’s lunacy.

Not that I have a problem with self-isolation. I’m a hermit. If it weren’t for my stomach and the lack of internet service, I would live in a cave in the desert. But I enjoy good food and writing is my life. I couldn’t exist without it.

My reaction to the Coronavirus is to quote two of my favorite scriptures: “In everything give thanks,” 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Oh. And I just released another book. Works for me.

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Never Judge – Never

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Why is it so hard for me to learn to never judge? Never.

When news exploded with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s split from the Royal Family, I faulted Meghan for the enchanted wedding that almost all little girls dream about and living in a castle with lavish riches at her disposal—then walking out of the fairytale. My thought was—I hope people in the UK won’t think that all Americans are that selfish, self-centered and vacillating.

Then I read that Meghan had accepted a movie role and realized that God had gifted her with extraordinary good looks and talent, and that she was walking out her gifting. And I thought about my writing. It will never bring in lavish amounts of money, fame, and success—but it’s my gifting and I will continue to walk in it…even if I must walk out of situations to continue.

So instead of getting sucked into negative news again, I’ll celebrate the calling God gave me by introducing my newest book. And I will try not to judge so readily—really.

*********

Cordy arrives in Quartzsite, Arizona, from London, England, to decide the future of her aunt’s museum, a shrunken head that “speaks,” and to solve a 30-year-old murder—but she must not—simply must not fall in love again with her childhood sweetheart—because he might be the killer.

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Expletives and Superlatives

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There’s a Texas expression that I’ve never uttered before in my life, nor have I ever used it in one of my books, nor did I ever expect to ever use it: He’s talking out of his butthole.

Because I write clean-reading Christian books, I disdain profanity. Nothing will make me abandon a book more quickly than excessive profanity. Writers should be creative. Instead of repeating the “F” word endlessly, what’s wrong with: profanity dropped from his lips like cigarette ash; he used words that would have shocked his mother; his foul language was so excessive that it fatigued his listeners; her anger made her abandon her last shred of Christian training as she launched into a tirade against her coworker, the air splintered from the impact of cursing…etc.

Few things anger me. This did. An “academic” professor attacked the root of the Christmas story. He said Mary had been raped because she never consented to her pregnancy. This highly esteemed professor has a platform for attempting to destroy the foundational faith of students entrusted to him and is too lazy to research and get it right.

God gives us freedom of choice. Not everyone is a Christian. There are many other religions in the world. Everyone, even an atheist, has the right to choose what he or she believes. But it’s shameful and unforgivable that an “academic professor” who supposedly is better educated and more brilliant than the average gets away with spewing unfounded derisive words as truth.

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” I don’t draw the salary that the university pays that lazy professor, but that sounds like consent to me. (Luke 1:38)

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…For He who is mighty has done great things for me.” Luke 1:49.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be called the Son of the Highest…and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” Luke 1:31

The truth, the simple truth behind Christmas, the greatest love story ever written.

I’m trying. I’m really trying. But that professor’s words grate against my spirit and I can’t word it any better than my Texas friends: “he’s speaking out of his butthole.”

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Importance of One

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I admire bestselling author and blog writer Valerie Poore for many reasons, one of which is her fascinating and enduring books, which can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Poore/e/B008LSV6CE?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1574431296&sr=1-1 Another reason I admire her is the frequency and dependency of her blogs. Fulltime teaching, writing, historic barge repairs and retrofits, terrible, depressing weather—nothing stops her from gifting her followers with a blog each week. She announced this week in her blog that she’s taking some well-deserved time off, but will be back.

Me? I sit back and wait for a blog to fall on top of me before I hit the keyboard. Sometimes it happens once a week. Often it happens once in a while. What fell on me this week was the importance of one person. One person can make a difference.

While I was researching facts about Quartzsite, Arizona, for a book that will be released in January, I was astonished to run into Hi Jolly again. I first met him at the Frontier Times Museum when I was doing research for an article in a local Bandera, Texas, newspaper. He was a camel driver brought to the U.S. from Syria in the 1860s to head up the government’s failed experimental Camel Corps during the Civil War. Camels’ hooves proved too tender to traverse the rocky ground of the west, especially the Texas Hill Country—and they spooked horses. It was considered excellent when they spooked Indian horses—but less excellent when they spooked Army horses. Hi Jolly died in Quartzsite in 1902. A rock pyramid topped with an etched metal camel marks Hi Jolly’s grave. One person.

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So, too, with J Marvin Hunter, a hero of mine. I met him again this week when I was researching Mason, Texas, for a future book. I fell in love with J Marvin Hunter when I researched the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera, Texas, and ran my hands over the rock walls he built himself using unique and unusual rocks that he found and those that admirers brought him. Hunter published Bandera’s newspaper for many years while also publishing the Frontier Times Magazine, and writing and publishing books about infamous western outlaws. He wanted to build a museum to safeguard and share the many unique items in his collection—including a shrunken head from Ecuador, a shrunken dog from Ecuador, a two-headed goat, 400 bells from around the world, some worn by elephants, a battle to the death between a rattlesnake and a roadrunner, and the head mounts of two deer with interlocking horns that died battling one another—but money was scare during the depression, so he wrote and published books to finance the building of the museum, which today boats of more than 40,000 exhibits. One person.

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Then there is Jesus. Jesus who gave up His home in heaven to live here on earth and touch us with His saving mercy and grace. Jesus. One Person.

We can’t all write books, drive camels, build museums—and none of us can be God—but we can all make a difference.

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Misconceptions

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Many people believe it—but nowhere in the Bible does it say that Adam and Eve ate an apple. They ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Many people believe it—but nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. It says the Lord prepared a big fish to swallow him. Scientists out to shoot holes in the Bible have conducted studies to prove that a person could not be swallowed by a whale and survive. And yet—surely the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth is well able to prepare “a big fish” to swallow Jonah.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere.

Christmas cards portray bright fields of snow and evergreen trees decked with white—yet in many parts of the world—it never snows.

I got a bad review on one of my books from a reviewer who said, “We don’t have street vendors in the UK.” I based the character on a street vendor in Inverness, Scotland. The reviewer lived in England.

I got a bad review on another book from a person who said if I wrote about Texas, I should learn about it first. I was born in Texas.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere.

We all look at the world through the eyes of our experiences. If one has never read the Bible and relies on things other people have said—fruit becomes an apple and prepared fish becomes a whale. If one lives in northern climates, one will expect the whole world to have snow on Christmas. If one lives in England instead of Scotland, one may believe the UK has no street vendors. If one lives in tornado alley in north Texas, that person would not know about the plethora of wildlife in the Texas Hill Country.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere. We can do our part by focusing on bigger issues than fruit, fish, or real or imagined mistakes in books.

Kindness is a good starting place. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Kindness is love in action and leaves no room for misconceptions.

bandera horse statue

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Stubbornness

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God has blessed us with a lovely, intelligent rough collie puppy. She has only one flaw—stubbornness. When she doesn’t want to go the way we are going it evolves into a tugging match and ends up with me dragging her.

It seems cruel to drag a puppy across the street or down the sidewalk—but when the light changes and cars are coming from both directions, or when there are workers ahead with dangerous equipment—dragging is a kindness that saves her life.

Stubbornness is an admirable trait in a writer. With 150 rejection slips from publishing companies in the U.S. and U.K.—I kept writing. With 40 years of disappointments and agony, I kept hitting the keys. My new Christian Cozy Mystery “Croft Murders,” featuring Mike the Headless rooster, Fiona the pouting rooster, and croft owner Nora whom someone wants to kill would not have been published without stubbornness.

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Nor would I be working on another book after the first review on “Croft Murders” was a three-star from a reader who said I didn’t know enough about Texas. I was born there and moved from Texas to Scotland eight years ago. Texas is indeed “a whole ‘nother country” with every climate and eco system imaginable. The tornado stricken, flat, snowy panhandle; the lovely Texas Hill Country with its plethora of wildlife; the nearly desert environs along the Mexico border; the east Texas piney woods and oil wells, and the west Texas mountains and Big Bend State Park. The reviewer apparently didn’t know much about home of my heart, the Texas Hill Country, because everything I mentioned about Texas in “Croft Murders” reflected a true experience.

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Savannah and I have worked out a compromise. As long as she’s in no physical danger, and as long as it’s not extremely important to go to any one particular place—I put the leash on her and follow her. Now before anyone reaches the conclusion that I’m a coward, or have never trained a dog before, I would just like to justify that compromise by pointing to…writing. Yup, all of y’all, writing.

The characters in my books come alive and take over the plot and action. Without dropping a spoiler about “Croft Murders,” before the characters took over, I planned a completely different outcome for Nora. Therefore, I can justify my decision to “go with the flow” where Savannah is concerned. I’m used to being dragged around.

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Epiphanies

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Epiphanies can happen anywhere, which is why the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines them as “sudden” striking understandings of something. My newest epiphany hit when I noted a towering tree with scared bark as I walked our dog. Irregularities made the tree unique, beautiful and strong.

God did not send storms to shake the roots of that tree and to twist and mar the bark, but He allowed the storms to mold the tree into perfection and beauty. So, too, with our lives. God doesn’t make bad things happen to us. But because this is a sin-sick world, bad things happen.

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Fleeing sexual and physical abuse at home, I ran away and lived under a bridge in the Texas Hill Country, painting signs for meals. I never went hungry. When flash floods came, I had to drive my pickup truck out from under the bridge and live in it on a back street. Those early hardships molded my life as a writer. I will be releasing book number 23, a Christian Cozy Mystery-Romance this week. God’s word never fails, is never wrong. God uses the worst part of our lives to build the best. “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” Romans 8:28

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No shakes, twists, mars, or scars are wasted in God’s perfect purpose for our lives.

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Worth the Fight

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My newest book, “Pirate Hole Murders,” should have been out two weeks ago. Wait. Wait. I hate waiting. Most people do.

Finally the imminent release day…more waiting. Because I had shared five Facebook posts with strong language about New York’s evil abortion law allowing abortion up until birth, I got locked out of Facebook. Facebook supports liberal agenda and is hostile toward conservative and Christian values. Google too, which is why I use Yahoo as much as possible. Google worked the lockout with Facebook, and all but the most recent emails disappeared.

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The impasse lasted nearly two days, and because of the difficulty of retrieving cover art from the missing emails publication of “Pirate Hole Murders” was further delayed. But when it was released, it made it to #15 on Amazon’s UK site immediately.

Some things are worth fighting regardless of the consequences. Abortion is one of them. I am honored to have been singled out for my stand against abortion. And had my Facebook and email accounts remained locked, “Pirate Hole Murders” would still have been released in spite of additional waiting because it had prayer support. Ultimately, God is in control. He is from everlasting to everlasting and is immune to time.

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God creates us. God hates murder. Psalm 139:13 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” No one—no sex, no religion, no culture, no one—has the right to murder the humans God creates in the womb where they are the most defenseless and deserve the most protection.

When the lockout of Facebook was lifted, the first thing I shared was another post against the evil of the new NY law. Some things are worth the fight.

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