Monday, October 29, 2012

I am writing a very excited blog post today. VERY EXCITED! Did you catch the emphasis there?

Today, I am EXCITED to announce that I finally have a website! It's been in the works for a while, and it's time for the unveiling. explores my confused, I mean many-faceted, personality as a speaker and a writer of adult nonfiction and YA fiction. We've had fun putting it together. A million thanks to Emily Lorraine Richardson for her patience and talented graphic design and to Tony Tiradani for his hours of work making this functional. Many, multiple hours. Like, I think I should be thanking his wife as well for patience. Especially for dealing with a web-design-tech ignorant person such as, possibly, myself.

Please let me know what you think. Yes, I know there are a few bugs. I already have my list of typos, picture fixes, and mixed up titles. Plus one grammar error--and you know I will not let that stand.

I will be putting my speaking engagements on it just as soon as I figure out how to use Google Calendar. Or how to sync it with iCalendar. Also, when I have time to do anything but direct The Hobbit (opening this weekend).

I am, by the way, Very Excited.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

getting boys to read

Today I want to introduce a writer with a passion to get boys reading. As a former teacher, I can only say--preach it brother! I am excited to tell you about Eddie Jones new release, Dead Man's Hand. And that name pretty much makes you want to read on, right?

Eddie is the author of eleven books and over 100 articles. He also serves as Acquisition Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is a three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers' Conference, and his YA novel, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, won the 2012 Moonbeam Children's Book Award and 2011 Selah Award in Young Adult Fiction. When he's not writing or teaching at writers' conferences, Eddie can be found surfing in Costa Rica or some other tropical locale.

Tell us about your upcoming release, Dead Man's Hand, with Zondervan.
First, it’s a fun, fast read aimed for middle school boys, but we’re also getting nice reviews on Goodreads from teachers and mothers. But my aim is to give boys a book they can enjoy, one that taps into today’s fascination with the occult. This is the first book in the Caden Chronicles series, and each story involves one element of the supernatural. Book one explores the concept of ghosts, spirits, and what happens to our souls when we die.

Zonderkids is a Christian publisher, so the paranormal aspect is surprising.
I added the paranormal aspect because I want parents and youth to struggle with eternal questions. We’ve created such a culture of blood-letting through books and movies involving vampires, zombies, and survival contests, that the reality of death doesn’t carry the sting it once did. In high school my youngest son lost several friends to driving accidents. When another friend recently died, we asked how he felt and he replied, “I’m numb to it.” I fear that’s what we’re doing with our youth: desensitizing them to the horrors of death. In Dead Man’s Hand, Nick and his family discuss spirits and ghosts and the afterlife because I think it’s important for teens to wrestle with these questions before they’re tossed from a car and found dead on a slab of wet pavement.

You're passionate about getting boys interested in books. Why do you feel it's so important to get boys reading fiction at an early age?
I fear we’re on the verge of losing the male reader. I don’t mean men and boys won’t learn to read: they will. But the percentage of males who read for leisure continues to shrink, and this could be devastating for our country. Reading forces the mind to create. With video the scene and characters are received passively by the brain. There is very little interaction; it’s all virtual stimulation, which is different from creation. When you read, you add your furniture to the scene, dress the characters, add elements not mentioned by the author. 

In general, boys would rather get their information and entertainment visually. This is one reason books have such a tough time competing for male readers. It can take weeks to read a book, even one as short as Dead Man’s Hand. Meantime, that same story can be shown as a movie in under two hours. So in one sense the allure of visual gratification is robbing future generations of our ability to solve problems. 

I believe Americans only posses one true gift, creativity, and it’s a gift from God. Other nations build things cheaper and with fewer flaws. They work longer hours for less pay. But the thing that has always set America apart is our Yankee ingenuity. We have always been able to solve our way out of problems. That comes directly from our ability to create solutions to problems we didn’t anticipate. If we lose male readers and fail to develop that creative connections necessary for the brain to conceive of alternatives, then we will lose our position as the world’s leader.

What's one thing you wish I wouldn't ask you and pretend I asked you that question.

How I became a writer. I started my sophomore year of high school when I told my English teacher I wanted to write for Cat Talk, Millbrook High School’s newspaper. Mrs. Hough said, “Eddie, you can't spell, and you’re a terrible grammarian.” But I wrote a couple of articles, and she seemed to like the way I could put words together, so I won a spot on staff. My senior year Mrs. Pollard begged me not to major in English. In fact, she was shocked I would even consider going to college because I’d never be accepted. She was right. NC State rejected my application. A few days later I made an appointment with the admissions office. The day of my interview, I wore a pair of red and white checkered polyester pants my mom made me, a white shirt, and a red tie. State admitted me into Industrial Arts, which I thought would be pretty cool since I though Industrial Arts meant I’d get to paint buildings.

Where can we find out more about you?
Please come find me on   

Monday, October 22, 2012


A lot of my blog posts seem to revolve around Starbucks. Which is odd, since I don't like coffee. But it isn't if you realize that I spend four working hours there per week with no distractions, other than the random but highly interesting conversations of people around me. Work often involves writing blog posts.

This one is a result of staring intently at my cup a while back and seeing the words, “Download our cup magic mobile app, then scan this cup to see it come to life.” Um, what? Sorry, but if I start seeing my paper cup come to life in the middle of a coffee shop, I'm going to suspect they've put something other than chai spice and nonfat milk in there.

Even now that I have a smart phone, I'm not sure why I would do that. Why do I need my cup to come to life? Why do I require it to start giving me information or entertainment, like some kind of disposable Charlie McCarthy, singing, dancing, and being annoying all at once? What kind of added value could it possibly give my two hours of distraction-free typing?

Maybe it's my introversion. I just prefer things that are supposed to be quiet and inanimate to remain that way. I don't read Stephen King or watch horror movies, so I have no expectations of my car, Barbie dolls, or cymbal-banging monkeys coming at me with ill intent. I'd like to keep it that way. Although I don't actually own any cymbal-banging monkeys. You never know where one is lurking.

I would rather interact with information on my own terms. I don't need it flying at me from every direction, even from the once-innocuous cup in my idle hand.

But I think, if research be accurate, it's not just me. If it were, things like the Information Overload Research Group would not exist, for instance. ( Ironic, a new group formed to generate information about . . . information overload. I wonder how many formats they publish their findings in.

But the answer, as in so many other things, lies with us. When do I say enough? When do I remain content for the things around me not to flash, beep, twirl, generate a coupon, or do anything? When do I erect the filters that say, “I don't need this information?” I don't have to let more “stuff” intrude on my peaceful cup of chai?

We didn't have to make that conscious choice before. Now, we do. It really is a choice not to engage. We forget we can 'just say no' to the intrusion. After all, if my cup promises me a world of excitement and knowledge I've never known, aren't I obligated to take it? Well, no.

That's why you'll no longer see me on Facebook or email most Sundays. I need time unplugged. It's why I never answer my home phone. Why there are technologies, TV programs, and gasp, even things to read, that are all well and good but to which I just say no. Enough is enough. My tenuous sanity is more important.

I'd love to hear your strategies for dealing with information overload. Thanks! And be careful of those coffee cups out there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

wind over marshdale

This week for New Thing Tuesday, I'm letting you know about a novel by Tracy Krauss, who just happens to have the same birthday I do. Which makes her special, right?

Actually, I probably read 95 percent nonfiction. So, if I think the premise of a novel looks interesting, it has to have caught my attention. Of course, it helps that I've done a lot of work and research on my own novel about a young woman living among Native Americans. So if you like contemporary fiction with a touch of suspense, check it out today as she celebrates her launch with several free gifts as well. 

Marshdale. Just a small farming community where nothing special happens.  A perfect place to start over… or get lost. There is definitely more to this prairie town than meets the eye. Once the meeting place of aboriginal tribes for miles around, some say the land itself was cursed because of the people’s sin. But its history goes farther back than even indigenous oral history can trace and there is still a direct descendant who has been handed the truth, like it or not. Exactly what ties does the land have to the medicine of the ancients? Is it cursed, or is it all superstition?

Wind Over Marshdale is the story of the struggles within a small prairie town when hidden evil and ancient medicine resurface. Caught in the crossfire, new teacher Rachel Bosworth finds herself in love with two men at once. First, there is Thomas Lone Wolf, a Cree man whose blood lines run back to the days of ancient medicine but who has chosen to live as a Christian and faces prejudice from every side as he tries to expose the truth.

 Then there is Con McKinley, local farmer who has to face some demons of his own. Add to the mix a wayward minister seeking anonymity in the obscurity of the town; eccentric twin sisters – one heavily involved in the occult and the other a fundamentalist zealot; and a host of other ‘characters’ whose lives weave together unexpectedly for the final climax. This suspenseful story is one of human frailty - prejudice, cowardice, jealousy, and greed – magnified by powerful spiritual forces that have remained hidden for centuries, only to be broken in triumph by grace.

Monday, October 15, 2012

being an expert

Like most of us these days, I find myself with too many choices. Right now, having just finished a couple writing projects, that means I have too many ideas in my head and too little motivation to choose one and go for it. Translated, I'm getting nothing done writing-wise.

The first adage they teach writers is to "write what you know." I think this is a good rule for most people. When you need to figure out what path to start down, work with what you know and go from there. It's what I try to tell my college age daughters when they look at the plethora of options out there, jobs which didn't even exist a couple years ago and will be obsolete by the time they graduate, and wonder what choices to make now.

Write what you know. So, in an effort to figure out what I should write, I decided to catalogue what I'm an expert at.

I'm an expert at:
  • Putting things off that I don't want to do. I succeeded in putting off ironing until we grew out of everything in the basket. I am the epitome of expert on this topic.
  • Asking, 'What's up with that, God?” I'm really good at objecting when I don't get my way. There's got to be a market for that.
  • Losing things. I can misplace glasses, keys, phone numbers, or pens that I had in my hand nanoseconds ago. I once lost an entire parking lot. Beat that.
  • Not getting the words out quite right. It's been a family joke since the day a year into our marriage when I enthusiastically told friends, “I love my husband. Next to him, I look good!” (It was supposed to be a compliment.) That was the first of many. Writers can edit. Talkers can't.
  • Hoarding craft items. If necessary, I could run the vacation Bible school craft room for an entire small country. This is what comes of twelve years in 4H. If anyone buries me with all my belongings like an Egyptian, future generations of archaeologists will scratch their heads over 55 empty pill bottles, six Chinese tale-out cartons (not used), and twenty rusty jingle bells. That's just the first layer.
  • Not having any idea what people are talking about when they discuss a TV show that aired in the last twenty years. Except Gilmore Girls and Monk. Oh, and The Magic School Bus. But really, what else has been worth my time?
  • Saying “Why not?” I'd rather say yes to an idea than no. Sometimes it backfires. Often it makes a huge mess in the driveway. But I think the misses (and messes) are worth the hits.

Not sure yet how this is going to shape into an article or a book. But at least I know my strengths.

What are you an expert at?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

new thing Tuesday--Make a Wish!

This week, I've been reading Marlayne Giron's book Make a Wish, a compilation of stories she has written for other people in which they are "the star." I like the idea for her book, as Marlayne works to make others feel blessed and important by featuring them in a fictional story that fulfills some wish they have. Not only does she use her creative abilities to write entertaining stories, but she seeks out friends and acquaintances who need something to lift their spirits and intentionally blesses them with a story. She also offers a story to readers who contact her.

Marlayne has two other books out, and her information follows. Do you have a wish? It can come to (fictional) life!

Marlayne Giron is a Messianic Jew who found Christ as her Messiah at the age of 17 while watching Franco Zefferelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” on television in 1977.  After coming to faith, she began to read the Old Testament for the first time and was amazed to discover that believing in Jesus was a very Jewish thing to do and not a betrayal of her Jewish religion as she had been taught by her parents and the rabbi’s in her synagogues.
In the course of her life she has had many small ”miracles” occur; the first major one being coming to faith in Christ when she hadn’t even been looking for it and with a built-in bias against Him.  The second was meeting and marrying her future husband Michael whom she had prayed for by name as well as writing and illustrating a story (with his image in it) five years before meeting him.  The third is the publication of The Victor after almost 30 years with no previous publication credits to her name.  All three of these significant milestones in her life occurred on the Easter holidays. The fourth was becoming a mother of an adopted daughter on Christmas Eve in 1997.
Marlayne Giron is a full-time career secretary, wife and mother who likes to read, cook, entertain, draw and scrapbook. She is the author of "The Victor, A Tale of Betrayal, Love & Sacrifice"; "Make a Wish (Stories Written for Real People Where They are the Star)"; and "In Plain Sight"; her first Amish fiction.

Monday, October 8, 2012

kicking the bucket list

My husband told me this morning his rationale for doing what I had expressly forbid. That is, throwing a surprise party for my 50th birthday. The fact that the whole shindig was his idea was surprise enough. But, as he explained this morning, he wanted to do this because it marks the fact that I have officially outlived my mother and most of her siblings.

Wrong, I said. I won't have outlived my mom for another four months. Three siblings, yes. But not her. He was surprised I was being so exact. I was amazed he didn't know I would be.

So technically, this party should have been thrown in four months. When it would have been a whole lot colder outside than it already was. So it's just as well they did it now.

With two parents who are healthy and happy and who come with a fairly long-lived genetic heritage, my husband can be forgiven for not assuming I would be excruciatingly aware of exactly when I pass mine up. The bare hospital lights, the elevator ride back to the family waiting room, and the fact that, as my brother remembered yesterday, I was left to stumble through a valedictorian speech a few weeks later to a crowd I knew my mom wasn't in are memories whose clarity will never diminish. I will (and do, regularly) forget car keys, lunch appointments, and important meetings, but I won't forget that. I know exactly how old she was.

On my birthday last week, I posted a song I told my friends was my “Anthem for Turning 50.” The chorus says, “I want to live like there's no tomorrow, love like I'm on borrowed time. It's good to be alive.” More than most, I feel like I have a grasp on that borrowed time concept.

Does that sound fatalistic? Not at all. I fully plan to live another fifty if God gives it to me. As I told my sister yesterday, when she tried to remake me as a child, she learned to have a healthy regard for my stubbornness. It's not pessimistic; it's just a choice to be aware of what should and should not be taken for granted.

I also told my sister yesterday that I do not nor ever will have a bucket list. It's not that I don't have a lot of things I want to do. Way more than I can accomplish. But I want to have a bucket lifestyle, not a bucket list. Bucket lists are about conquering fears and meeting adventures. I don't want to relegate that to special events or planned excursions. I want it to be my daily default. I want every day to be one in which I ask myself what needs facing, do I have the courage to do it, and how will it help someone else?

Whether that means holding a tarantula (oh yeah, scratch that one off the nonexistent list), writing something that tells the truth, or taking a break for a friend or child, I want to do it like I may not get the chance again. I don't do that perfectly. It may take another fifty years. That's OK. I'll take it. It's been a pretty good run so far.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

if you can't say anything not nice . . .

I've decided something important this weekend. I want you all to tell the truth when I die. If you're going to stand around my non-existent casket (because I will be ashes scattered on the Great Lakes) and talk about what an amazing person I was and what a perfectly inspiring example of Christianity I was, please stay home.

OK, so there's not much chance of that anyway. But still, forewarned and all.

Not that I'm saying people were lying in the two memorials I attended this weekend. They were beautiful. Just that the temptation is always there to embellish the good and dismiss the bad when someone dies. And I want that temptation resisted.


Because other people learn from our struggles.

That's why I currently have a half dozen speaking engagements scheduled this year on the topic of anger and motherhood. Apparently, a lot of other women feel the need to learn something from the fact that I and all three of my kids survived my parenting skills. A lot. Like, it's rare as a penguin with a sunburn that a mom's group chooses any of the other twelve topics on the list.

Please don't tell people when I'm gone I was some kind of paragon of victory. My kids alone will disabuse anyone of that notion. But just in case you're tempted by the mood, please don't do it. Just tell the truth.

Because other people feel encouraged when we're not perfect.

Not that I want to live as the poster child for “Wow. At least I'm better than her.” More like, “Wow. It's OK to be a work in progress.” Always. As long as things really are progressing.

Because it's more honoring to say someone tried and failed than to say she never had to try.

I told a friend once that I admired her because, since it wasn't her nature to always be nice, I knew her kindness to others came out of a struggle to do right. It didn't exactly come out favorable, as you can imagine. I'm quite good at the backhanded compliment.

But it's true. I'd far rather have someone say I fought the battle, tried in the face of everything stacked against me, and yes, even failed in the effort. I don't want to be the person who never went beyond her comfort zone. I don't want it said that I was a nice, good person. I'd rather be a person with flaws who fought to let Jesus shine through the cracks. I'd prefer knowing people saw me face Goliath and be slain in the process than sit at home strumming my harp. (Um, I don't play harp. Can we substitute piano? Alto sax? Which I haven't actually touched in thirty years or so? Whatever.)

Tell the truth when I die. Don't hedge, mince words, or avoid the subject. To hold up my end of the bargain, I'll try to live a life that doesn't make you wish you could.

What do you want said of you?