Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Today, my husband and I were paying at a restaurant. The two cashiers were talking about the novel Stella Got Her Groove Back.

First one. "He be gay."

Second one. "Zat right?"

"Zat be right."

"Are you talking about the author's husband?" I asked.

She nodded as she rolled her eyes. "He turn out gay."

I smiled sweetly. "That's sad, isn't it?"

"Ummm, hmmm. He like men like she like men." She rolled her eyes again.

I said something about maybe Stella shouldn't've looked for men in bars, and how that women ought to look for men in places besides bars, maybe even in church.

"Ummm,hmmm. That for sure."

We chatted a few more moments, and then I left.

Later, I was checking out the Christian fiction section in Walmart (big, BTW) when I saw Marilyn Griffith's Pink. My mind immediately flew back to the cashiers. I decided to buy it and take it to them. I fought heavy traffic and went back inside the restaurant. Their faces lit up like Christmas trees when I told them about Pink. I talked with them briefly about Christian fiction and how the stories are interesting and that they have romance and the sparks between the hero and heroine but not the graphic sex scenes. I read from the back cover about the male protagonist "has got it going on." They smiled from ear to ear, gold teeth flashing. I chatted a few more moments about how important it is to find a good Christian man who'll treat you right, etc.

I felt like I had done some good.


I believe God called me to write Christian fiction. The calling is as strong as His calling on my life in ministry. (We pastor a church and spiritually care for people's souls.) I can pinpoint the time He called me to ministry, and I can pinpoint the time He called me to write. In my writing, I want to please Him while "touching hearts with love and laughter." The Three E's: entertain, encourage, and enlighten, is what I want to do for people as they read my fiction.

I desire so much. I desire to write long novels. I desire to see the many stories in my heart on the printed page. In a previous blog, I told about a providential meeting with best-selling novelist T. Davis Bunn at Florida Christian Writers Conference. What did he tell me to do in my writing?

Several things. First, he told me to identify the weaknesses in my writing. What are they? he asked. Then he told me to identify my strengths and then work on my weaknesses. When he spoke at the conference, he told how years ago, he was weak in dialogue. So he carried a tape recorder around and taped conversations and then studied them to make his dialogue stronger. I said, "You know, I help writers with their weaknesses and strengths." I told him how I'd done that very thing at this conference numerous times. But I said, "I have no one to do this for me." Then I remembered some comments from editors in rejections. I told him these areas. He gave me good advice for working on them. One, however, was a strength, he said. That was a confirming comment since it's part of me and my voice. He went on to say I'd learned the craft--was even teaching it--and it was now between me and God (to see my destiny fulfilled).

He also told me to study current bestselling novels in the genres I write in--for flow and cadence and structure, etc. I've done that for years, but will do so even more. In fact, that goes along with an illustration I love to give in my teaching: As a merchant marine, Thomas Wolfe laboriously copied every word of James Joyce's novel Ulysses, taking months and months. Then he threw it overboard. "Why?" his shipmates asked. "Now I know how to write a book," he replied.

Then he said, "I don't think you've found your voice yet." That's an exciting thought, because it opens up all sorts of new possibilities. So I have determined to continue to learn and grow in my fiction. Instead of being discouraged, I am very encouraged. I can't wait to see what God brings about in the future of my writing.

I hope these thoughts encourage you who are struggling to get published and stay published. Keep writing, keep learning, keep growing, and let God do the rest!

Amazingly, after I talked with T. Davis Bunn, "God woke me up at 4 a.m." and I wrote the opening of a new novel as if it had been dictated to me. The paragraphs exploded from my fingertips, as Tom Clancy said.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Last week, I taught at Florida Christian Writers Conference in Bradenton, Florida. People from all over the nation came to this wonderful conference on the Manatee River about 30 miles from the Gulf. With sunshine on our shoulders, birdsong in the air, and palm trees swaying in the breeze, we attended classes and interacted with editors, authors, and other industry professionals. It was exhilarating, to say the least. Next year, FCWC will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Your heart pounds when you realize the providence of God in the things that concern you. I taught two times on the craft of fiction and critted/edited many manuscripts. I met with writers and showed them not only what was wrong with things in their manuscripts but how to correct them. Four FREE critiques are perks at FCWC for attendees.

Creme de la creme fiction author T. Davis Bunn was the keynoter. My husband Milton and I had met him several years ago, and every time we run into him at writers' events, he is kind with a capital K. We just can't get over how personable and warm he is. Fri. night during his address, he said he had to leave the next day. Saturday morning, I mentioned to my husband that I would've loved to have talked to him to get some advice about my writing. But now it was too late.

Milton left the conference grounds and when he was returning, decided to get gas. Which gas station? Ah, there's a cheaper one across the highway. So he went over there. Just as he finished getting gas, someone walked up to him. Davis Bunn. Greeted Milton so kindly, as he always does. They chatted a few moments. Then, as they were parting, Milton casually mentioned what I'd said that morning. Davis said, "Well, I'm going back to the conference grounds (miles away) so I can talk to her." He drove all the way back, found me, and he and I (and Milton) talked a good while as he gave me valuable advice on my writing. (It's like he can look into your soul; he senses things.) With tears in my eyes, I thanked him.

Coincidence, some might say. No, it was providence. God's hand. God's interest in all things that concern us. (Remember the scripture about God being concerned about the birds but even more so His children?) Someone said, "Coincidence is when God chooses to be anonymous." However, I feel that if we "give God the glory" for things, He's honored, AND He'll do even more for us. I always attribute good things happening in my life as coming directly from the Lord.

After Davis left, I taught my fiction class. One man who'd flown all the way from Chicago said in class, "I've been struggling with POV (Point of View) for years. You just explained it to where I can understand it. You showed me what I was doing wrong AND how to fix it." Others expressed "aha" moments and "Now I see" comments throughout class.

Afterwards, a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes. She thanked me profusely for what I'd done with her manuscript. She said, "I can't get over how much time you took. And you wrote a whole page of what I was doing RIGHT. That was so encouraging."

Later, I reflected. I thought of how T. Davis Bunn had encouraged me, and then how I'd encouraged someone else. A nice circle. Pleasing to God, I think. In my next entry, I'll tell you what Davis Bunn told me about my writing.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Below is the first chapter of my novella in Wedded Bliss? This is a 4-in-1 novella collection from Barbour and is available in stores now. Coauthors are: Susan K. Downs, Kristy Dykes, Sally Laity, and Carrie Turansky.

A blurb of Wedded Bliss? is: Four couples are about to celebrate their 25th anniversaries and hit snags instead. We enjoyed writing this collection with a unique theme. The novellas are love stories, but they're "married romance" because the couples are married. The scriptural theme of my novella is Hebrews 12:1,3: "Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us...Don't become weary and give up." (New Living Translation) I think married couples need to heed that scripture. Fortunately, my heroine Felicia did in the nick of time.

This story reminds me that God can help us in every situation we face, even in our marriages. I hope you enjoy reading it.


Tonight, I’m asking Jake to move out.
Felicia Higgins wheeled her SUV into the garage, thinking about what she intended to do this evening. She put the gear shift in park, pressed the garage door remote, and reached for two book bags full of term papers that needed grading.

"Jake, I'd like you to move out temporarily to give me time to think," she said, preparing her speech just like she prepared lesson plans for her English classes at Palmdale Middle School.
A pang hit her in the heart. Hurt? Despair? Guilt?

No matter.

She was stuck in a...a routine, unfulfilling marriage, and she had to do something about it.


That's what her teacher friend Stacy often told her. Before she met Stacy, she thought this was her lot in life—staying married to Jake Higgins--something she had to endure. But not anymore.

"You deserve better than you're getting, Felicia," Stacy had said repeatedly. "You’re too good for Jake. Why, I wouldn’t let a man treat me the way he treats you. It's ridiculous. Aloof and indifferent, to put names on his behavior. He's a moron. He’s got a good thing going—you--and he doesn’t even know it."

Stacy always ended her diatribe the same way. "My first husband was just like Jake, Felicia. But Darren--my second husband--he's so different. He's attentive, and he's interested in me, and…and he likes to do all the things I do, and well, he's everything I could ever want in a man. I'm so happy, and you deserve to be happy too."

Felicia took a deep breath. "Yes, I...I want to be happy--that's all I've ever wanted in my marriage." Forcing herself to put her somber thoughts behind her, she got out of her vehicle and made her way toward the door.

Inside the house, she put her heavy book bags down, then breezed out the front door and got the mail. In minutes, she had the mail sorted and boneless chicken breasts browning, seasoned just right. Tonight for supper, it would be chicken Parmesan and fettuccini with her special homemade sauce. Accompanying the chicken dish would be island salad with Romaine lettuce and Plant City strawberries, plus Italian bread slices buttered and broiled and dotted with parsley. For dessert, it would be Jake's favorite, later in the evening when he was watching sportswhatever, her homemade chocolate chip cookies, which she kept on hand at all times.

She glanced at the clock. If she hurried, she could spend an hour in her backyard garden before supper. Her impatiens were long and leggy, and they needed pruning so spring growth could make them full and pretty again and profuse with colorful blossoms.
Chicken breasts browned, she pulled the pan off the burner and covered it. She would make her sauce and boil the fettuccine right before serving time.

She started to set the kitchen table but then decided not to. Jake would insist on eating on trays in front of the TV when he found out their son Curtis wouldn't be home for supper.

She let out an angry sigh. "I guess that's what we'll do. Jake always gets his way." Suppertime was the only opportunity for conversation in their house it seemed, and with Curtis away so much, it had pretty much denigrated to a few grunts from Jake during the evening news.

She hurried out the French doors then stood on the flagstone patio in the pleasant Florida sun, scanning her garden, admiring it, feeling proud. Nature had given her a massive laurel oak tree. She had provided the rest through blood, sweat, toil, and tears, as Sir Winston Churchill had put it.

“Ahhh.” Beauty abounded in her beloved backyard. Impatiens in delicious hues circling the oak. A thick carpet of St. Augustine grass. Stepping stones leading to an exquisite English garden. A white gazebo. An orange tree dotted with oranges and thick with white blossoms that smelled like heavenly sachet.

"Pure eye candy, my garden. And soul candy too." She breathed in deeply of the heady scent, smiling. With Central Florida's year-round growing season, she experienced soul candy every day of the year--a refreshing tonic to her aching heart.

"Too bad my marriage can't provide the same thing." Woodenly, she made her way to the cottage-style potting shed.

Tonight she would talk to Jake about...about the weighty matters facing them. She simply needed a break from unconcerned, indifferent, and unromantic Jake Higgins. She thought he was her Prince Charming when they married over 24 years ago. She thought he was Mr. Perfect when they dated. She thought he was the answer to the prayer she'd prayed in her teenage years. Lord, send me a Christian mate.

Though he was a Christian, she really didn't know Jake back then. But she had loved him. It would be unreasonable to think any other way. From the get-go, there had been an attraction between them—a strong one—and then love. The trouble was, their love was now dead. Was their marriage dead too? She thought so.

She pulled on garden gloves, attached her kneepads, and knelt near the impatiens bed.

Hold stalk. Clip. Toss in pail.

Hold stalk. Clip. Toss in pail.

On she worked, but her mind was a million miles away.

She remembered Jake on their wedding day, both of them starry-eyed and in love, as the proverbial saying went. They were salt and pepper, her blond, him raven-haired, a striking couple, people said. Of course she didn't realize how badly a sports nut he was and how he would glue himself to the TV every evening of their lives.

For 24 long years.

She didn't know they would turn out to be salt and pepper in life—complete opposites with nothing in common. When she married him, she didn’t know he would quit going to the things that were important to her, like the symphony, or a flower show, or even a simple walk through the mall or along the seashore—all the things they did while dating.

She didn’t know there would be arguments—discussions, Jake called them--that usually turned into pouting sessions, her being the pouter, he liked to remind her. No, she didn't know back then that their marriage for the most part would be characterized by lots of time spent apart. They were simply two unconnected people.

As a teenager looking for the perfect mate, she thought marriage to a Christian man, your soulmate, meant pleasant togetherness in all things, a skip through daisy-dotted fields with your very best friend, hands entwined, hearts melded together in sweet wedded bliss.

"Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. Ouch!” She yanked off her left glove and squeezed her finger where the pruning clippers had grabbed it.

"Oww," she said in her characteristic quiet way. She released her hold on her finger and examined it.

"At least I didn't cut it." But an angry red mark was there, below her fingernail.

"What's the matter with me?" She hadn't done something like this in years. She was always careful when handling garden tools, always mindful. She paid attention and took proper care. She had studied gardening manuals by the armloads, knew just what to do for every chore, from pruning, to hoeing, to clipping branches, to properly lifting heavy bags of mulch, to achieving different colors with hydrangeas, to you-name-it.

Still rubbing her sore finger, she glanced at her watch then gathered her things and stood up. "Guess I'll go finish supper. Jake arrived home from the office 26 minutes ago, and he's been in his recliner exactly 22 minutes. He'll be starving to death by now, as usual. And bellowing about it too."

Jake Higgins pulled his car into the garage beside his wife's SUV. He smiled. Felicia would be in her backyard garden, working with her flowers. He could see her in his mind's eye, bent over the bed that circled the giant oak tree, clipping her...pansies?...geraniums?...whatever.

He was glad gardening was her hobby. Some women were gadabouts, going all over town running up huge charge bills. Not Felicia. For the most part, except for that one trip she'd made to England a few years ago with the church women, she was a homebody. She worked in the yard, cooked sumptuous meals, made scrapbooks full of family photos, graded English papers, and prepared for her Sunday school lesson.

"You lucky man, you." With a touch of a button on the garage remote, he let the garage door down, reached for his briefcase, and headed for the kitchen.
"Ummm." He breathed in the delicious scent as he stepped inside. He glanced at the stovetop, saw the saucepan, lifted the lid. Chicken. What recipe was Felicia cooking tonight? Whatever it was, he knew it would be good. Everything she cooked was fabulous.

He set his briefcase down and thumbed through the mail on the counter, appreciative that Felicia had already gone through it and culled the junk. In her organized way, she always sorted the mail for him, bills in one stack, letters in another, magazines in a third stack, catalogs in a fourth. He picked up the bills, headed down the hall, and put them in the study with the rest of the bills that he planned to tackle tonight.
He knew Felicia would take care of the remainder of the mail pronto in her usual, efficient way. She was neat and tidy, and he loved that about her. She kept the house as clean as a whistle, everything in its place. Course he was that way too. But when they first got married, he was a slob stemming from college dorm living. Gradually, he'd come to be more like her, and now he wanted things organized and in order just like she did. Her good points had rubbed off on him--in more ways than one--and he was thankful for her.

He thought of their many years together. Didn't she say the other day that their next anniversary was their 25th? Yes, that was right. In a few months. How would they celebrate the milestone event? Some couples had formal receptions. Some took trips. His secretary and her husband had celebrated their 25th last year by going on a cruise. She'd already taken her two-week vacation to be with her baby granddaughter during surgery, and when Jake found out about her looming anniversary, he'd insisted she take an extra week of vacation for the cruise.
A 25th anniversary only comes once in a lifetime, he'd told his secretary. Just consider it a reward--you keep me organized here at the office, and I appreciate that.
Would Felicia enjoy going on a cruise? The kids wouldn't have the time or expertise to put on a formal reception--Cara, a brand new schoolteacher living two hours away, and Curtis, a senior in college living at home but mostly gone, what with his classes and work schedule.
Jake made his way up the hall. He and Felicia would probably take a special trip to celebrate. Paris, perhaps? That sounded nice.
In the family room, he plopped in his leather recliner and clicked on his big screen TV.
The newscaster reminded him of Felicia. Blond. Blue eyes. Elegant clothing. Slim figure. He was proud of Felicia. She worked hard to stay in shape. He did, too, though it was a challenge, what with her cooking. He worked out regularly—either at the gym at lunchtime or on his treadmill in the evenings. Treadmills and TV went together like he and Felicia did—you couldn't have one without the other.
A commercial came on showing a family at dinnertime, a chicken dish in the center of the table.
He smiled. It wouldn't be long, and his family would be gathered at the table, devouring Felicia's fabulous food.
He sighed, relishing the thought, then slipped into his regular before-dinner nap.