Monday, November 1, 2010


This weekend at Epikos, we were encouraged to be "joyful workers." As Pastor Sam challenged the congregation to be light in our workplaces – no matter how dark those workplaces may be – I decided, “I can do that!”

But I faced my first challenge before I got out of bed. It turns out that eating your body weight in banana laffy taffy can evoke some pretty bizarre dreams. The first one reminded me of something I'd forgotten to do at work. The second dream involved someone shooting at me while I hid behind a car door (Not attached to a car) making calls on my cell phone. I dialed 911, where an unconcerned operator put me on hold. With bullets whizzing by my head, I hung up and called back. A very polite police officer informed me that they’d be right over. After their coffee break.

Right. That was helpful. I spent the rest of the dream dodging some psychotic gunman while trying to find help.

Does anyone know if banana laffy taffy has been tested for hallucinogenic side effects?

Needless to say, I woke up feeling more tired than when I had went to sleep. When I poured myself out of the shower, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet my house was. Not a good quiet. A very bad quiet. An everyone's-asleep-and-gonna-be-late-for-school type quiet. I freaked (maybe a little too much), but the boys were all calm and collected. They got up slowly and moseyed around the kitchen like they had all the time in the world. 

The 15 year old missed the bus, so I drove him to school. Half way there, my gas light came on. Naturally. It was then that I remembered Sunday's brilliant plan to leave for work early so I could fill up my gas tank.

Brilliant, I tell ya!

After I dropped off child one, I got a call that the 13 year old had also missed the bus. (OF COURSE he did! He was roaming around the kitchen in his pajamas when I left) So, I rushed home to retrieve the truant child and there is a slight possibility that I lectured him the whole way to school. 

Be the light, right? I feel more like the woman in "The Exorcist". Let the head rotating and projectile vomiting commence! Lovely visual.

By the time I walked into work I'd beaten my head against my steering wheel so many times that I looked like I’d been on a three-day bender with AC/DC. I was ten minutes late and pulled in just in time to see someone take the parking spot I wanted.

The jerk! Why couldn't he see that I was clearly heading for that spot?

Oh, and first thing this morning we had a conference call. About budgets! Worse yet – budgets for a non-profit association in a down economy.


Tonight I'll go home and apologize to my children for showing them my "Tales from the Crypt" side. And then - what the heck - I’m a glutton for punishment so I’ll try to light this candle again tomorrow.

I hear there's a storm rollin' in so I may need some prayers ...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My momma always knew best, but as a parent . . . I'm afraid I’m just a poser.

Without fail, my momma had the perfect advice for any situation, be it boys, friends, school or life in general. She was amazingly tolerant and beyond patient, despite my insistence at blasting the song "Parents Just Don't Understand" from behind my bedroom door. I feel that she truly did try to understand and do her best to steer me in the right direction.

My only complaint is that she obviously didn’t pass these traits on to me.

The realization that I am not the wise lady that my momma is came to me as I was cooking pizza the other night. It was pepperoni, but acceptable as a meal since it was also covered in mushrooms (they are a vegetable, right?). My 13 year old son was “starving to death” and asked if he could eat a banana to hold him over. I, of course, told him he could wait for dinner.

He laughed at me.

“Seriously?” he asked. “You don’t want me to eat a piece of fruit because it might ruin my appetite for greasy pizza with almost no nutritional value?”

Somewhere in my mind it made sense, and I honestly didn’t understand his confusion over the matter. Nor did I appreciate his tone of voice. My momma, no doubt, would have enlightened him in a way that would have made both Yoda and Gandhi drop their jaws in awe, but the answer to his obviously trick question escaped me. But fear not, I managed to maintain my parental superiority by sticking my tongue out at him and walking away.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Remembering Why I Wrote Chronicles of the Broken

I recently read this agent blog that reminded me why I wrote Chronicles of the Broken, and why I think it’s so important to get it published. The blog is about the novel “Mockingjay” and violence in young adult books. It brings up a great point about teen readers, stating that, “They want to read about sex, drugs, and violence because that’s the world they live in right now.  Those are the topics that will move them and open up dialogue and allow them to think.  And I for one would rather give them Crank or Beautiful and allow them to realize they’re not alone or experience the contents behind the safety of the written word than send them into the world unprepared.”

I couldn’t agree more. Our children are exposed to so much these days. It’s almost impossible (and often dangerous) for them to keep their innocence for too long. It is popular to teach our children about protected sex, alternative lifestyles and, in some schools, erotic art. But if Christians try to share our point of view, we are immediately instructed to sit down and shut up.

Well, I’m tired of keeping my mouth shut (and my pen silent), so I’m writing a teen book series that will take average teens who are going through rough circumstances and show them God’s amazing grace. The goal is to do this in a way that keeps them interested, entertained and is not preachy or condemning. The novel is finally finished and I’ve recently started sending out queries.

The characters –

Amy Yong: Eccentric computer hacker, gamer and orphan, she’s done with real life and the niceties that accompany it. After inflicting a dose of well-earned revenge upon her creepy history teacher, she ends up with a failing grade and concerned grandparents.

Marcus Wilson: A one-time aspiring football jock turned angry hater-of-the-world when his eldest sister turns into a hypocrite, ends up pregnant and drops out of high school. Disappointed and furious, Marcus takes his anger to the field, and now his coach has ejected him until his attitude gets adjusted.

Andrew McAllen: A conceited rich kid with a diminishing respect for people and an uncanny ability to lie. Educated and self-confident, his very identity will be shattered when he witnesses what science and physics can’t explain.

Jessica Thomas: With a terminally ill mother, and a father who’s turned to alcohol in order to cope, this shy girl is wrapped in loneliness. So when senior heart-throb, RJ Winters busts through her cocoon with kind words and kisses she knows it’s too good to be true, but is too weak to resist RJ’s charm.

Trevor Buchanan: Dealing with a divorced mother on the prowl for fresh meat and an abusive older brother, Trevor finds his comfort in music. And when his well-meaning uncle ships him off to a church camp with a bunch of whack-jobs, Trevor is well outside his comfort zone, trying to find the truth in a world clouded by lies.

James Reynolds: The twenty-six-year-old pastor of an elderly congregation. Desperate for a change, he agrees to take on the challenge of his predecessor and hold the church’s first ever youth camp. Trusting in God (and his deacons) to bring him teenagers, James looks forward to fulfilling a prophesy.

Rachel Parkinson: After her husband announces that he needs a break, and with nowhere else to go, Rachel finds herself on the doorstep of her meddling mother and emotionally absent father. Seeking God’s help with her failing marriage, she ventures to the church of her childhood, where she finds her childhood tormentor behind the pulpit. Roped into helping James, Rachel is unsure how she can hold the pieces of her life together long enough to aid anyone.

If you would like to read more, the first several chapters can be found here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Rock, the Waves & the Fisherman

Try as I might to cling to the rock, sometimes I relax my grip and the waves of life jostle me loose and toss me around the sea. I don't even realize I’ve fallen until I’m gasping for air and purging salt water from my lungs. As the turbulent waters push me away from the rock, I struggle to remember why I've held on to it so tightly. I lean back, relaxing into a floating position. The waves rock me back and forth, becoming a watery cradle.

Just let go.

I close my eyes and allow myself to drift through a sea of oblivion, reassuring myself that it’s okay. I can feel bodies pressed in around me, and am relieved by the fact that I’m not alone. Everyone else is allowing the waves to carry them from the rock.

Why shouldn’t I? 

Why am I fighting what others so readily accept?
I open my eyes and confirm that they all appear serene and accepting. They do not worry about right and wrong, but are content to go with what feels good and makes them happy.

I could do that.

A strong undercurrent pulls at my feet, and more than anything I want to give in.

Give up. Become like everyone else.
I’ve always been an outsider, and cannot deny that the idea of belonging appeals to me.

A slight tug on my heart reminds me of the promise a Fisherman once told me - "Believe in me and I will set you free." The tug, acting as evidence that He has not given up on me, is enough to ignite a fire in my spirit. The lyrics to the song “Everything,” by Lifehouse replay in my mind.

“Find me here, and speak to me.
I want to feel you, I need to hear you.
You are the light, that’s leading me.
To the place, where I’ll find peace again.”

I repeat the words over and over; begging Him to find me, reminding myself that no matter how much easier it would be to give in to the waves, there is no peace in the water. The serenity the world offers to those who surrender to it is an illusion.

The Fisherman tugs again and my burden suddenly seems lighter.

Adrenaline floods my veins as I clench my teeth, angry that I was almost deceived.

I am an outcast, but never alone.

I began searching for the thin line that connects us, but the ocean is too murky. Treading water, I search for the rock but cannot find it. I belittle myself for my stupidity, disgusted that I would allow the waves to carry me out so far. I am clueless as to which direction to swim.

This is hopeless.

I weep. My soul cries out for aid. I am answered by the lyrics to “Crawl” by Superchick, as they begin softly, and then crescendo until they block out the sounds of everything around me.

“When everything I was is lost
I have forgot but you have not.
When I am lost you have not lost me.”

The last line echos through my entire body, comforting me like hot chocolate on a winter night. I feel another pull, stronger this time. Acting on faith, I plunge forward, determined to press on until I reach the rock. Fighting wave after wave, I persevere. My muscles are sore and despite the chill of the water, my entire body radiates heat from exertion, but I continue, knowing that I cannot afford to rest.

Each wave feels like an ice pick, chipping away at my resolve.

I cannot do this. 

Just as I begin to doubt, wondering if hope has cruelly made me imagine the steadfast Fisherman, the rock comes into view. I stretch out my arms, praying that I will be able to cross the distance before the waves finish me off. Fatigued, I kick one last time.

I feel the pull on my soul and close my eyes, relaxing as He reels me in like a fish on a hook.

I reach for Him with the faith of a child, knowing that He is different. Believing that He is life. He pulls me to him, shakes off the weight of the water, and sets me free.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Hunger Games - Book Review

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (REVIEW)
September, 2008. 384 pages, Scholastic Press, hardcover, $9.75
(978-0439023481) Young Adult

Seventeen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives on the border of starvation in District 12 of what used to be North America. Ever since her father’s death, Katniss has been barely keeping herself, her twelve-year-old sister Prim, and their mother fed by her forbidden hunting practices. But on one terrible reaping day that all changes.

There used to be 13 Districts, but when they rebelled against the extremely controlling Capitol, District 13 was completely wiped out. To prevent the Districts from stepping out of line again, the Capitol runs Hunger Games. Once a year, two children, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are selected from each District and thrown into a televised arena in a battle to the death.   

When Prim's name is selected for the battle, Katniss, being the protective older sister, volunteers to go in her place. To win over the hearts of the crowd, the clever trainers for District 12 devise a plan where Katniss will pretend to fall in love with Peeta, the boy selected from her District. There can be only one survivor in this game, though, and Katniss spends the pages avoiding danger after danger while trying to keep her head and her heart focused on a plan she can vaguely remember.

In essence, The Hunger Games is a nail-biting, hard-to-put-down story about teenagers killing each other, while the Districts are forced to watch, to ensure District loyalty. I hated the residents of the Capitol almost immediately—watching them primp in their futuristic world where food, medicine and glamour are all at the touch of a button while the Districts are starving with limited electricity and harsh laws.

Definitely not for younger children, The Hunger Games balances precariously between love and violence.

Once you get past the annoyingly-weird names, the story holds its own. Well written, fast paced and full of action, I held my breath, stayed up late reading, and the instant I closed the book I was online looking for the sequel. Good stuff!

Monday, August 2, 2010

If I Stay - Book Review

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (REVIEW)
April, 2010. 272 pages, Speak, paperback reprint, $8.99
(978-0142415436) Young Adult

Seventeen-year-old Mia has a perfect family, a supportive boyfriend, and a promising future. Then a devastating car crash flings Mia into an out-of-body experience where she must decide whether to give up and die with her family, or fight for her life and an unknown future without them.

I greatly disliked the first chapter of the book, as I suspect most Oregonians will. Writer Gayle Forman is a New Yorker who begins If I Stay by describing an Oregon snow storm in the condescending tone of someone who believes Oregonians make a bit too much ruckus over our insignificant snowfall.

I don't really feel like Forman "gets" teens. Her teen characters guffaw and chortle, their conversations "volley" and they have very unusual relationships. Mia's mother is a feminist and her father is an ex-band member who recently decided to grow up. No one ever seems to argue or disagree, and it's perfectly okay that Mia takes eighteen-year-old rocker boyfriend Adam up to her room, because her parents would never stand in the way of love. Yeah. Sure. Forman also speaks of Adam wearing "pegged" pants, which I can only guess are supposed to be skinny jeans. Pegged pants were an 80's and early 90's thing, and I now have a vision of a punk/grunge rocker running around with his pants pegged. Hey, they say all styles come back sooner or later ...

All that being said, this is a touching story. Forman does a great job at making the reader feel for the characters. The family relationship, though odd, is enduring. Mia's view of the world and her responsibilities is incredibly mature for a girl her age, but it seems to work. You'd think the book would be terribly depressing, but it's not. It's more of a celebration of the lives of Mia's parents and little brother. A celebration of the life she doesn't know if she can continue without them. As she's deciding, her boyfriend, best friend, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, etc. surround Mia with love, hoping that she'll realize what a great family she still has.

My favorite line in the book: "This is Portland. You're lucky if a drug overdose gets you into the ER." 

Since this is a young adult book, I feel compelled to warn of language and sexual content.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen - Book Review

Sizzling Sixteen, by Janet Evanovich (REVIEW)
June. 2010. 320 pages, St. Martin's Press, hardcover, $27.99
(978-0312383305). Mystery Thriller

I love Janet Evanovich. She's a creative, intelligent, humorous writer, and I have really enjoyed the Stephanie Plum series. Like Stephanie Plum, I just can't choose between the mysterious bad-boy Ranger and Joe Morelli, the Italian stallion police officer.

In Sizzling Sixteen, the gambling debts of Stephanie's sleazy cousin Vinnie catch up with him and so does the mob. It doesn't help Vinnie's case that they find him in the act of marital relations with a woman who isn't his wife. Now Stephanie, Lula and Connie have to come up with $786,000, rescue Vinnie from one mobster and keep him safe from the other (his father-in-law).

It seems like a lot of work for a man who really doesn't deserve to be rescued.

The storyline is good and moves along quickly, but there's nothing sizzling about this book. Hardly any time at all is spent on Stephanie's relationship with either Ranger or Morelli. Grandma Mazur (one of my all-time favorite characters) disappoints with her lack of personality, and Stephanie does very little aside eating unhealthy food and driving around looking for bad guys.

I usually read Janet Evanovich books when I need a good laugh. Sadly, un-Sizzling Sixteen left me dry.

I can only hope that the "Plumness" I know and love returns to Janet Evanovich's next book.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Reliable Wife - Book Review

A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick (REVIEW)
Jan. 2010. 320p. Algonquin Books, paperback, $7.56
(978-1565129771). Historical Fiction

The back of the book describes it as such: "He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for a 'reliable wife.' She responded, saying that she was 'a simple, honest woman.' She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only thing simple about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving herself a wealthy widow. What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own."

It sounded harmless enough. Maybe romantic suspense? Guy puts an ad in the paper, girl shows up with an agenda, but falls in love.

That's what I thought, but boy was I wrong!

If I could rewrite the back of the book, it would be a much more accurate description: "Trifling harlot and her illegitimate lover find a personal ad placed by a wealthy business owner who happens to be the husband of the lover's late mother. The harlot marries the wealthy business man, plotting to kill him slowly and share his money with her lover."

Ridiculously unbelievable.

Imagine self-centered Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights, add to each a repulsively over-the-top sex obsession and  you have A Reliable Wife characters, Ralph, Cathrine and Antonio. This bodice ripper is bogged down with boring and repetitive narration that made it painful to trudge through. About 3/4 of the way through I stopped reading and started scanning, desperate to find something positive. The mediocre ending made me wish I would have put the book down hours before I actually did.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Willow - Book Review

Willow, by Julia Hoban (REVIEW)
Feb. 2010. 336p. Speak, paperback, $8.99
(978-0142416662) Young adult

On a rainy March night, 17-year-old Willow drove her intoxicated parents home from a party. When she loses control of the car both her parents are killed. Racked with guilt and grief, Willow becomes a cutter.

The only way she can deal with the mental anguish is to carve up her body. But when she's caught by an unusual and sensitive guy - named Guy in fact - her life gets complicated. In the days that follow, Willow spends her free time trying to convince him not to tell her older brother. Romantic feelings for Guy begin to blossom and Willow has to decide whether to risk emotion or keep cutting.

Raw and emotional, Willow and Guy are compelling, realistic characters who are brought to life in Hoban's story. I found myself tearing up in areas and completely involved in their bizarre relationship. Willow is the type o book you pick up and don't put down until it's finished.

An unusual love story. I only wish that Hoban would not have allowed the young lovers to go as far - sexually - as they did, cheapening this otherwise terrific teen novel.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wintergirls - Book Review

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson (REVIEW)
Feb. 2010. 288p. Speak, paperback, $9.99
(978-0142415573). Young adult

Best friends Lia and Cassie have committed their bodies to a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. A broken friendship and thirty-three attempted phone calls later, Cassie is dead and Lia is haunted.

Wintergirls is a first-person experience that made this reader feel like I was piggy-backing on Lia’s shoulders as she existed in a life completely controlled by her diet. It’s a realistic portrayal of a girl struggling with her desire to be beyond thin.

Maybe even a little too realistic.

I’d be cautious about encouraging teens to read Wintergirls, because it read a bit too much like a how-to manual. We learn how Lia cheats the scales, fools her parents and carves into her body, effectively hiding the evidence. The messed up teen I used to be, would seriously be taking notes …

Lia’s recovery seems almost like an afterthought, shoved into the last pages of the book. Her hallucinogenic bouts of anorexia are exciting, but her recovery is not.

Wintergirls is intense and well written. It absorbs readers and is easy for self-conscious teen girls to relate to. I just wish the author would have spent a little more time on the recovery and a little less time perfecting the techniques of anorexia.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Impossible - Book Review

Impossible, by Nancy Werlin (REVIEW)
Sept. 2008. 384p. Dial, hardcover, $17.99
(9780803730021). Grades 7-11.

While searching for young adult books without vampires, demons or werewolves, I picked up this National Book Award Finalist. Impossible begins with a version of the ballad, “Scarborough Fair,” which interested me immediately, since the lyrics are so … disturbing.

Impossible is full of telling, instead of showing, and in a few chapters, the narrative jumped heads so many times it made me dizzy. But once I got past the writing nit-picks and focused on the storyline, it held my attention. Lucinda (Lucy) Scarborough—a unique young girl who is comfortable enough in her own skin to wear sneakers with her prom dress—becomes impregnated when her prom date rapes her. Not just any ole’ prom date either, Gray Spencer has apparently been possessed by an evil elfin knight who has cursed the Scarborough women.

Through clues left by her completely insane mother, Lucy discovers that she must complete the three impossible tasks of the ballad before her baby is born. If not, she’ll lose her mind, just like all the other women in her line. Her foster parents and childhood friend, Zack, work against the clock to decipher the riddles and keep Lucy from going insane.

The book is rated grades 7-11. I might be old-fashioned, but I wouldn’t encourage a pre-high school teen to read stories of date rape, pregnancies and young marriages. I also found the dialogue to be a bit unbelievable for teenagers—having two of my own. The book did have many redeeming qualities though, like the blossoming relationship between Zack and Lucy, the belief and aid of her foster parents, and little diamonds of humor that broke up the intense moments.

Not great, but not bad either.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Displaced Daddy's Girl

My whole life I've wanted to be a daddy's girl.

I used to pray and ask Santa for one of those big, protective daddy's that you see in the movies. You know the kind; always cleaning their shotguns, waiting for scoundrel boys to come along and request a date with their little girls. Being a tomboy, I longed for a daddy to play baseball and basketball with. A man to drink soda and burp my ABC's with.

But sometimes we just don't get the thing we want the most. My parents divorce was final just months after I was born, and I’ve often wondered if Dad would have stayed had I been a boy, instead of his seventh daughter. Regardless, he left and married for a fourth, and then fifth, and then finally a sixth time.

He rarely called, occasionally sending a present or a card. Anger and disappointment in my absent father were emotions I felt entitled to. With each unreturned phone call or broken promise, my animosity became easier to justify. So I clung to my pain and stuffed it in the father-shaped hole in my heart.

But it never healed the wound.

Over the years the pain dulled. I convinced myself that I was no longer angry, but still avoided my dad at all costs. And then God gave me a dream. As we turned my dream into a novel—Rescuing Liberty—God used my characters to show me how prevalent my inner hostility still was. It affected me, weighing me down and keeping me from receiving the blessings He had in store for me. So after I finished the book, I sent my father a copy along with an apology.

We are called to love each other as God loves us. While my novel’s main character highlighted my imperfections—imperfections that God loved me through, I came to understand the dangers of judging my father. I called it justice, but God reminded me that love isn’t about justice—it’s about grace.

My dad accepted my apology and my book, calling me within a few days to say, “Your letter was an answer to my prayers.”
He explained that a few years back he gave his heart to the Lord and had been praying that I’d forgive him. While I harbored my animosity toward him, my dad actually prayed for me! And now, we’re speaking, emailing, and slowly working our way toward an actual father/daughter relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, my father’s not my new BFF or anything, but we’re working on it. And with him, has come a whole slew of sisters and their families that I’ve never met! That never would have happened had I kept a hard and unforgiving heart. But now that it’s softened, God is blessing me with an abundance of love from and for my new-found family.

It’s amazing what God can do if you just forgive.