Taking pictures in hindsight

2995081266_d9f1ef4df2_oThe amazing thing about hindsight, besides being 20/20, is that it changes with time.

Case in point, my author picture.

Every author needs a picture so that readers know their books were written by a real person and not by a robot. Robot written books are not that far from happening. As I type on my phone I often wonder what would happen if I let the autocorrect write a whole book for me. I’ll type in the first letter of a word and pick from the suggestions. This might be my next blog post.

But while books are still written by real people, us authors need a picture of ourselves to share with the world.

When I launched the first two books of the Life in the Palace series into the world, I paid a professional photographer to take headshots for my author picture. He was someone I knew socially, or I know his wife socially and I figured why not give my money to someone I know. I check out his website and his work was good.

The big day came. He showed up at my front door with a car full of equipment. Suddenly my furniture was pushed back as my living room became a photo studio. I spent hours picking out an outfit. Or failing to choose an outfit and throwing things on my bed.

The biggest impediment to the whole endeavor was that I wanted a photo of myself that looked nothing like myself. I was quite worried that ‘coming out’ as the writer of young adult fantasy books would embarrass my husband and children. So I tried to look as unlike myself as possible. My photographer friend did an excellent job of taking the photos in the style that I had requested.

But in my rush to look unlike myself I just ended up looking like a bad version of myself.

I was very flustered by the whole experience, and stressed out by self-publishing my books, and it was November which is never my best time of year (days too short, too much darkness outside and in my head.)

I used the pictures because I’d paid good money for them. And since no one knew who I was, I figured it didn’t matter if I looked bad. At least I used them, until I met a fan in real life whose first reaction was “You look so much younger in real life.”

Then I looked at the pictures and admitted the truth. I hated them. They made me feel old, and boring and stupid. None of which are true.

shutterstock_211654111I stopped using the pictures. I found a stock photo of some lady with her back to the camera looking out the window and used that instead.

Every time I looked at the professional pictures I was annoyed at myself for making a bad choice, for not asking him to reshoot the pictures in a different style when I had the chance, for trying to make any important decision in November.

Finally yesterday I decided to get over it. I imagined the photographer in my head and I forgave him, because although it wasn’t his fault I was transferring my anger at myself to him. I forgave him and the imaginary him forgave me. I opened my eyes feeling at peace. I accepted that all money comes from heaven. I acknowledged that I hadn’t wasted mine, I had spent it on a growth moment.

With my 20/20 hindsight, I saw that all was as it should be in the world.

Then I woke up this morning, realizing that sometimes I’m an idiot.

I emailed the photographer and said that I knew it was over 2 years ago, but could I still take him up on the offer of a reshoot.

He responded immediately saying sure. Next week we’ll be going to a pretty park in our neighborhood to try again.

Today’s 20/20 hindsight tells me that all is still as it should be in the world. And letting go with grace will bring magic into your life.





Camera picture used with permission from http://www.FotografoDigitale.com

Lady at window from Shutterstock.com



When God blows you a kiss

5351226375_e26975c097_mI was talking to God. I’ve been telling Him recently about my books and how I really want to have time in my much busier schedule to finish the Life in the Palace series.

About halfway through, I said “God? Are you listening to all of this?”

God said, “YES.”  Then He proved it.

Two days ago I got this message from my website (the other one for the books www.lifeinthepalacesaga.com)

“Hello. I have enjoyed reading the first 3 (4) books in the series and felt they encouraged and inspired my own faith. I look forward to the next book and hope it will not be long until it’s released. Continue writing and don’t get discouraged.”

I read the message. Then I sat and stared at my computer for a few minutes.

The following points of awesomeness became apparent:

People that I’ve never met read my books

This is something I should think about on a more regular basis. Intellectually I do know it. Every day multiple people download my books, many of them pay for the privilege. When I stop to remember that strangers read the words I wrote, I get all tingly inside.

People that I’ve never met like my books enough to read all of them

I think my characters rock. But it’s kinda like sending your pre 1-A kid on the school bus in the morning, you just send them out into the world and pray like crazy it all works out okay. You’re just hoping that the teacher likes them as much as you do.

Then I remembered that my books are actually good. Readers like them. Quite a lot of readers like them. Again, since a fair number of those readers email/comment on Facebook/message me, intellectually I do know this. But every time I’m reminded it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I love knowing that out there are people who love Seth and Chloe as much as I do.

My books inspire readers

This was a goal. I happen to think that God rocks. I don’t think that He needs me to give anyone the hard sell but I love it when I am reminded how awesome He is. It’s just as exciting to know that I reminded someone else.

There are people waiting for the next book

This is huge. Two months ago writing books was my fulltime 9-5ish activity. Now I write advertising copy and squeeze writing books into the other parts of my day. Sometimes it feels like getting remarried and continuing to have an affair with your ex. Knowing that someone’s waiting for the books makes it all seen purposeful again.

Then I remember that I started doing this because I LOVE writing. And there was nothing else I’d rather do with my time. All of a sudden nine o’clock isn’t too late to sit down at the computer.

Someone besides my mom reads this blog

I put a lot of thought into my books. I spend hours planning the story arch and many hours editing to make them perfect. I put very little thought into this blog. I write it because I like doing it. I honestly thought it was only read by my friends. Having other people read it makes me feel like a real writer.

As I sat there basking in the totally awesomeness of my life, I felt God giving me a knowing nod.

I took a deep breath and said “I know I asked whether I was real writer if I write advertising copy all day long. And I asked if it was worth it to keep writing books. And I wondered how I’d get the last book in the series finished if I was working fulltime.”

I could feel God waiting for me to get to the point. We’d both been there when I did all the previous moping and complaining.

I knew exactly what God was trying to tell me. To get over myself and stop feeling sorry for myself.

“Thank you for reminding me that I’m a writer because I write books people enjoy reading. That are worth writing because they bring glory into the world. And I should keep doing it because that’s what I was put here to do.”

In my fairly active imagination, God gave me a knowing nod.

“And all the money comes from You,” I acknowledged. “So if I didn’t sell the movie rights to my books and make enough money to put my kids through college yet, it’s because You’re waiting until after they’ve made all the Hunger Games movies so Life in the Palace is free to be the next big franchise.”

At that point, with me planning my red carpet speech, God and I both knew that I was back on track.

(If you’ve ever wondered whether it makes a difference to authors to hear from their readers- the answer is yes. And thank you Charlotte Boyle, wherever you are in the world, you made my week.)

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikki_ella_whitlock/5351226375

The long walk home


14180748291_22a1665ebe_mI was rushing down the broiling sidewalk, my feet slapping against the pavement. I checked my watch. Seven minutes to go until the school bus let them off outside my neighbor’s house. I prayed I would make it and wondered again why I hadn’t taken up the offer of a lift to my doorstep. The sweat was starting to pool on my scalp and I could feel the flush on my cheeks.

I should’ve asked my ride to talk me to the door, I thought again. They shouldn’t have to wait for me.

I got to my neighbor’s house and my girls were nowhere to be seen. I was just knocking on her door when their bus pulled up outside.

I hurried back to the sidewalk and stood with my arms open as they raced into them, squeeling and talking at once.

They were home. I made it. My heart was pounding with nervous energy but I made it.

This is the price of my exercise.

It took a week for me to realize that there was something wrong with that picture. Not my daughter joy at seeing me. They should always be so happy to greet their mother. But at my fear of being late.

My girls had a safe place to go with my neighbor, who was happy to have them. They basically like playing at her home. If they were happy and safe, what would it matter if I was five or even ten minutes late? I set up the arrangement with my neighbor to cover the times when the traffic is bad and my ride take longer.

The week before I’d been half an hour late and I’d been totally calm. The difference is that bad traffic is out of our control, but my getting out of the car early to walk down the hill is not. Fifteen minutes brisk walk is exercise I need after a day in an office. But it felt illegitimate. Like I wasn’t allowed to choose my needs of my children’s. They would prefer if I was always waiting for them at the bus. If I’m not, then they don’t mind to go to the neighbor.

Why can it be so hard for mothers to put themselves first?

Why was it so hard to for me to let my kids take the perfectly acceptable second choice option?

I know that it’s important for mother’s to take a break and take care of themselves. It said so in What to expect when you’re expecting. I take vitamins. I eat well. I try to get plenty of sleep. I buy myself clothes when I need them.

But none of that is the same as saying, ‘Sometimes what I need is more important than what my children need.’

I don’t need to give myself things because otherwise I’d be a tired grumpy mother. Taking care of myself, and acknowledging my own needs should not be a function of my mothering. The equation should not be: The kids need a happy me, so therefore I begrudgingly allow myself a break.

I am a person.

I am allowed it have things. It is my legitimate right. And sometimes my needs as a person take priority over the needs of the little people in my life.

Now I’m going to tell myself that every day until I believe it.





Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pabak/14180748291

What does it mean to be a writer?

5057567707_514cbb59a6_mMy life got turned upside down and all around. I was a writer. Now I’m paid to be a copywriter. Does that mean I stopped being a writer and became something else?

What does it mean to be a writer?

I thought I was a writer because I spent all day long writing books. But was that ever true? I wanted to spend all day long writing books. Occasionally I did. I once wrote a book in three and a half weeks. Then I wrote more consistently than I cared for my children.

But most of the time, I wrote most of the time. I probably wrote for three or four hours a day. The rest of the time I was getting to where I planned to write, settling myself down, checking Facebook, doing research, find music that fit my mood, looking over what I wrote the day before, checking Facebook again.

So maybe I wasn’t a writer, maybe I was a mother that sometimes wrote. I spent more hours of the day mothering, cleaning and tidying away. If our identity is decided by the thing that occupies the majority of our time, then I was a housewife. A stay at home mom. Or stay in general vicinity of home, rushing back in time for the school bus drop-off mom.

Except I wanted to be a writer.

When I was washing the dishes, I’d plan out my next scene. My characters would wander through my mind when I was on the treadmill, (who am I kidding? When I was collapsed on the couch.)

I decided that if I wanted to be a writer I’d have to take my work seriously. I left my house to write with less distractions. I stopped answering my phone, and Facebook not withstanding, I wrote like it was my job. Because I made it my job.

If I thought about writing as my job, did that make me a writer?

I thought maybe I’d officially be a writer when my books made enough money to cover the salary I wasn’t earning anywhere else. I’m still waiting for that to happen.

Now I took a ‘day-job,’ does that mean I’m not a writer?

I actually spend more hours per day writing than I ever did before.

Do advertorials count as writing?

I feel like Van Gough hired to paint a house. But then Michelangelo painted ceilings. Perhaps advertising copy is also art. It certainly is words. It can take quite some skill to squeeze a message into ninety characters for a Facebook ad.

I’m five weeks into my new job. I’ve written four newspaper articles (we try to avoid the term advertorial if we can because then we get the space for free,) two landing pages, three banner ads, two presentations, and an ad campaign. That’s a lot of writing.

For myself I’ve written one blog post (two if you count this one.) For my books, I’ve written nothing.

Am I still a writer?

I still have deadlines. And a wonderful editor waiting for my work. I want to have clear slots of time in my week when I can work on my books and newly created manageable deadlines (no more writing books in under a month.)

I write and I think about writing. And I realize that identity is not a coat that you take on or off. It is not the unchangeable color of your eyes.

Identity is the song we weave with the notes of our lives.

I am a writer as long as I believe I am a writer.

I am a writer the way that I am a mother. As long as I have breath in my body I will be a mother. And as long as my heart is beating I will always be a writer.

When something is part of who you are, it cannot be taken from you.

I am blessed to be a writer, the creator of worlds and spinner of dreams. Whatever I am writing, even when I am not writing, being a writer is who I am.




Photocredit: flickr (I lost the link, will post when I find it again.)

Windows and doors

7580307812_6d0991c4a0_mWe all know that when the Lord closes a window somewhere He opens a door. (Mordechai Schmutter says that this is because He’s ‘trying to air condition the whole street.’)

With all the opening and closing of windows, I haven’t had much time for blogging.

I haven’t had much time for anything. That’s one of the things about change, the learning curve can be steep.

I’m not a surfer but I imagine this is what it feels like when they’re paddling frantically, trying to catch up with the wave before they jump on their boards and surf it back to shore.

My little arms and legs are furiously pumping, chasing the smooth slide back to shore.

In less poetic language, I got a job. A real, sit behind a desk in an office, job. There’s a watercooler and a little machine to beep in at the beginning of the day, and back out again. It’s working for a PR company, writing advertising copy. I have to leave my house, take my lunch, find babysitters for my many children, take a bus (because we still don’t have a car,) then come home and do more stuff. I have to juggle things, not float around artistically allowing the muse to take me.

Part of me wants to protest that I’m a writer. I write novels, not advertorials about cheese. But the hand of God was so clear in my finding the job that I’m forced to begrudgingly admit that this might be what He wants me to do.

My BFF claims that she’s been saying for years that I should get a regular out of my house job as well as writing books. Apparently, this sudden financial crisis followed by immediate job finding is proof that she was right.

It was fairly miraculous. I spent one week realizing that my family was in financial crisis, four days looking for a job, three days waiting to hear back from my interview, and was offered the job in question less than two weeks after the whole ordeal started.

I realize that I have hundreds of things to be thankful for; not least of all, my family has a roof over their heads and food on the table. I like the PR job. I still write books, just more slowly than before. I am not suffering from any of the many physical ailments that could afflict a person. My big crisis is that my life did not turn out the way I wanted it to. In this area, I am not unique.

Right now I’m focusing on all the good. Change is always an adjustment but I’m feeling the breeze coming in through that open door, so maybe I’ll forgive Him for closing the window.






Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sackton/7580307812/

Walking into the water

11097042923_443e1735f2_mI’m praying for redemption.

You could say it’s seasonal, but then the redemption should have already come. Instead I’m praying and hoping, and wishing and waiting with all my might.

Four years ago, I knew that I was a writer. The job I’d had ceased to exist at the same time as I was about to have a bab,y so it wasn’t the time to be looking for a new job. I had this crazy idea that I could write the fantasy series that had been living in my head. I did research and found that there were real people making their living self-publishing books on Amazon. I decided I was going to be one of those people.

I gathered up all my courage and all our savings. Then I wrote six books. Four of them are already on sale. The final two are in the editing stages. I paid for professional editing and wonderful covers. I made a book trailer. I did a blog tour. I opened a Twitter account. I posted regularly on Facebook. I paid for targeted promotion of my posts on Facebook.

I prayed and prayed and prayed.

Now our savings are gone.

Thousands of people have downloaded the free first book in the series. Hundreds have paid for the other books. But not enough people. I receive messages from fans begging me for the next book in the series, but maybe they forgot to tell their friends.

The bottom line is that the books don’t cover the money I spent to make them.

When the nation of Israel left Egypt, they walked in the desert for a week following a pillar of holy fire. At the banks of the sea, with the entire Egyptian army baring down on them, one lone man, Nachshon walked into the sea. The nation watched as he walked slowly into the waters with his head held high, waiting for the miracle the Lord would send.

His foot touched the water and nothing happened. The water lapped against his knees and nothing happened. The sea flowed as it always had as he walked up to to his neck.

He shut his mouth to keep the waters out as he strode in further. Nothing happened until the water tickeled the edge of his nostrils.

Only when the water reached his nose, seconds before he was about to drown, did the miracle come. When he walked into the water until he could go no further, then the sea split and the nation of Israel walked through on dry land.

I am waiting for the sea to split.

I have faith that God did not let me spend four years and all my savings on something that was never meant to be. I believe that redemption will come. My books will make enough money to put food on my table.

But the water is up to my nose.

I feel it tickling the edge of my nostrils. And I hardly dare more lest I drown.

Photo credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/bevgoodwin/11097042923

A Book from a Brick Wall

5307712938_1d0fdb3562_mI am still not writing the book I want to be writing. The one I have a deadline for. The rapidly approaching deadline. The deadline I gave myself plenty of time so I could meet it.

Right now I want to be doing anything else that is not writing this book. But I also don’t want to be doing anything except writing this book. Somewhere under my skin the story is itching to get out but the words jumble up and become a meaningless mass on the way.

I keep falling on technical details. What is she wearing? I thought I had an outfit for her, then it didn’t make sense that she’d be wearing that skirt in the scene so I took it out. In the end I just left out what she was wearing altogether so she might be naked for all I know. It would be a different sort of book if she was naked in the fight scene.

My mind wanders off to other things. I plan the specialist’s appointment I’m trying to make for my son. Without picking up the phone. I think about the present I should buy for my daughter’s first grade teacher. I wonder if anyone has clean underpants for tomorrow.

It feels pointless. Why am I still here doing this? What does God want from me? I’m doing my best but He’s making it hard. What am I supposed to be doing?

I wonder if I should find a different job. But what could I do other than write? Am I capable of holding down a regular job? I haven’t done it in such a long time. But how could I just give up when this was my dream.

I wish I could have some feedback. If God could give me a sign that I’m heading in the right direction. I feel like there should be some more reward for this level of difficulty. Where are the high levels of spiritual connection that come with suffering? Where’s that high of knowing everything comes from God?

I know that this test comes from Him. But it still doesn’t feel good. It feels frustrating, and lonely and hard. And like I’m waiting for a miracle while beating my head against a brick wall.

Then I remember that in the desert God gave the Nation of Israel water from a rock.

He can give me a book from a brick wall.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sharman/5307712938

Waiting for the words

7008333501_f599f8f4aa_mI’m waiting for the words to come.

They haven’t shown up.

It’s been a week. A week when I should be writing a book. I should be a quarter of the way through. I have a deadline. I had a plan. Write fast and intensely. Bang out a first draft as quickly as possible. Use the pressure of the deadline to kick start the creativity. It worked before. I’m sure it will work again. It just hasn’t yet.

I’m just sitting here with my hands near the key board. These are the characters that I love. I know everything about them. They have their own Facebook pages. I know what they eat for breakfast.

But right now, I don’t know what they do next.

Except I do know. I have a nicely planned out chart, with columns for each character and another for the major action in each chapter. Chapter by chapter I have the story planned out with the appropriate buildup in tension.

It’s a great plot. I lie awake at night thinking about how awesome it’s going to be. The last book in the series. The big finale. In my head, it’s amazing with epic fight scenes, passionate love and the neat resolution of all outstanding themes.

But it’s still in my head.

Every time I go to start writing, there’s a wall between me and the page. Giant concrete slabs separating my story from the page. I feel the words spinning inside me but they whirl nervously around my legs instead of flowing neatly through my fingers.

I’ve tried switching music, working out of my house, working at home, changing rooms, changing chairs, sitting on cushions, throwing the cushions on the floor. I’ve drunk coffee, then water to flush out the toxins. I’ve been to the bathroom, promised myself chocolate as soon as I finish a chapter, then eaten the chocolate anyway because ‘the sugar will help.’

Every day I pray that the words will flow. That they will be good words, the right words, His words.

I know that the words are there, trying as hard to get to me as I am to get to them.

Right now I’m just hoping that if I sit here long enough eventually they will come.

Photo credit:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/bestrated1/7008333501/

Writing a book in three weeks, and other miracles.

6919745953_a06d9b46fb_mI thought it would kill me.

It seemed like a great idea when I started…. No scratch that. It seemed like a great idea before I started.

Back in July, I looked at a calendar and wondered by when I’d be finished the first draft of Written in the Sky, the fourth book in my YA fantasy series. Then it was a fantastic idea. I looked at the weeks, counted out from when school started after the summer vacation, added a few extra weeks for emergencies, and picked a date.

I told my editor the date. She wrote it in her calendar and planned her work schedule around my date. Refused other clients because my book was arriving on that day.

January 5th. A Monday. It was a great date. And in July it gave me a long time in which to write a book.

Then life happened.

My father in law came to visit so I was busy until he left. Then I was working on this other project I thought I’d finish first. Then I didn’t finish it so I stopped in the middle, again. Then I planned out the book I was supposed to be writing.

Then it was November. November sucked for me. I blogged about it. Talked about it in therapy. Made it through by the skin of my teeth and the Grace of God. But I did not write a book.

Then came December, the holidays, my kids off school and very little time to write a book.

I was faced with two main options.

  1. Tell the editor I’d be late. Mess up her whole schedule and risk her not working with me again. Good editors are worth their weight in gold. This was not an option.
  2. Tell God that I needed a miracle.

The conversation went something like this:

“Hi God? You know how You can do anything because You run the world? Could you please make me write a book in three weeks?”

When I wasn’t struck down by a lightning bolt for my audacity, I kept going.

“I know that we are helped in this world according to our level of faith. I have a poor track record in writing this book. But You rock, so I’m going to believe in You. And I have total faith that You’re going to make it happen.”

So I put my faith in the Lord….and wrote like a crazy person. I stopped answering my phone. Almost disappeared from Facebook. Switched off Twitter. I wrote in every spare minute. I wrote in the evenings until my eyes blurred.

When it got to Friday January 2nd, there were three days to go. I emailed the editor if she’d mind if I took a couple of extra days. She’s a nice lady, so she said sure. I didn’t tell her that I still had a quarter of the book to write.

I wondered if I’d lost my mind. I probably had. But I knew that God was bigger than me, and bigger than my book. Every time I started to get stressed, I passed it straight on to Him.

On the last day, my kids had a snow day. I told them if they played nicely I’d be available to talk to them tomorrow. They actually listened. Proof of Divine intervention.

I finished the book at 3.40pm on Friday January 9th. Taking out time for the holidays, I wrote a full length novel in just over 3 weeks.

I sent it to the editor. Then I sat down, opened up to Psalm 100 and thanked the Lord for sending me a miracle.

(You might wonder why I’m blogging now about something that happened two weeks ago. It’s taken me this long to recover.)

Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oliverquinlan/6919745953

It takes Grace

15075036832_e74fa36ceb_mI wrote earlier this year about the darkness that skips behind me and what happens when it reaches me. When I was underwater, surrounded by darkness last month, it was not the time to be blogging about the experience. But I needed to share this one with you.

This was the worst day. My brain felt like it was filled with burning cotton wool. Moving felt like dragging my body through molasses. I stayed in bed. Normally I will do anything I can to avoid giving up and getting under the covers. If I can just stay moving, fake normal for long enough then maybe it will pass. Maybe I’ll fool everyone into thinking that I’m just like them. Fool my kids into thinking that they have a regular mother.

But sometimes all you can do is stage a tactical surrender. On this very worst, blackest day, I surrendered to bed. If I had been tired, it might have helped. Had I been laid up with the flu, then rest and drinking liquids would have set me back on the path to health. When you get into bed because the darkness has swallowed you alive, no amount of rest will put you back together again. Grace is what it takes. So I sat around waiting for the Grace to kick in.

The trouble was that I promised to help make a sit down dinner for our community. I had to make roast vegetables for forty people. My fridge was overflowing with vegetables waiting to be sliced.

People were counting on me, even if I couldn’t count on myself. The whole day I’m lying in bed, hoping that any minute I’ll feel better. And the minutes are ticking by, until I have no choice but to get out of that bed and chop those vegetables.

I would have done anything to find another way but there was no one else to ask. I dragged myself downstairs and looked those vegetables face on. I started chopping and tears are rolling down my face. I want to be anywhere, doing anything else. And mostly feeling any other way than the way I feel right then.

I finish the onions and I keep on crying even though I’ve run out of any viable excuse if someone come to the door. The tears are streaming down my face and I’m wiping them away so that they don’t get into the vegetables.

There is nowhere else to turn. I say:

“God? Are You listening to me? Glennon Doyle says that you have to show up before you’re ready. Do you see me here? I am totally not ready.”

I look at myself, a puffy eyed, drippy, exhausted, manically chopping mess.

“I am so very, very not ready. But here I am. I am showing up.

“But, listen God, if I’m showing up, then You have to show up too.”

I made it through the vegetables. They were served to forty people who ate them happily, never knowing that they were prepared with buckets a tears, and a giant serving of Grace.



Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/personalcreations/15075036832