Monday, November 14, 2016

Meet Allison, the protagonist who tends to be her own antagonist.

Allison Clark is a girl who is accustomed to getting what she wants.  An only child to two parents who give her everything, she drives the car she wants, goes to the college she wants, and even gets the pure-bred puppy she wants after she graduates from nursing school.

What she doesn’t want is a jealous, controlling boyfriend – so when she finds herself in a relationship with one, she ends it.  She doesn’t need a relationship, she thinks.  She has a comfortable life without one.  Until she meets Jeremiah, the new guy in the apartment next to hers.  He’s perfect.  She can’t keep away from him.  The attraction between them is unlike anything Allison has experienced before, and in what feels like a whirlwind, the two of them are engaged to be married.

Allison’s relationship with Jeremiah had the potential to be a fairy-tale.  But Allison, with her self-regard a little too high, doesn't quite realize the damage she is capable of when putting her own selfish desires before the love of her life.  Find out just how much damage she causes, in the Consequence, available November 29th!
Until next time . . .

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Meet Jeremiah - the husband.

Jeremiah is married to Allison, the main character in The Consequence.

He is attractive in a subtle way – his sandy blond hair isn’t long, but is just long enough to peek out from underneath the ball cap he wears when he isn’t working.  He has a tiny dimple on one cheek – when he smiles, and the dimple is revealed, it’s impossible not to smile back at him.

Before meeting Allison, he leaves his parents and three brothers behind in Minnesota for an accounting firm and the promise of more sun in Dallas, Texas.  He’s an accountant because he likes numbers, but what he loves is working with his hands, building, so he volunteers for Habitat for Humanity to satisfy that passion.

He meets Allison after moving into the apartment next door to hers.  He sees her getting out of her car one day, wearing scrubs.  He can't help but take interest in this nurse who is literally the girl next door.  They marry, and have what he believes to be a good marriage.  Life is turning out to be everything he could have hoped for.

Then something happens . . . something that turns everything upside down.

A secret is told – one of betrayal – that was kept hidden for years.

At a time, Allison and Jeremiah’s marriage was one to be envied, but this secret permanently stains the relationship.

Just how damaging will this betrayal be?  Find out how it changes everything for Jeremiah, in The Consequence. 

Until next time . . .

Friday, September 30, 2016

Meet Courtney - the best friend

Courtney is the best friend to Allison, the main character in The Consequence.

She is a girl’s girl.  She has a bubbly personality, is a lot of fun and also (mostly) a responsible one.  She enjoys a good time, and enjoys a good party with her friends.  At the start of this story she dates casually, never being one to shy away from a cute guy but also never getting too serious with any of them, until of course she meets one guy that she just can’t seem to say good-bye to. 

Courtney has a good heart, and believes that every person has good in them too. 

She is sad and disappointed upon learning that there is infidelity in her best friend’s relationship.  She believes that the unfaithfulness needs to be brought into the light, rather than hidden.

Of course, it isn’t her place to shine light on this secret.  Or is it?  Can she let it go?  Can she keep quiet, let Allison’s relationship be Allison’s relationship and stay out of it?  Or is it her responsibility to tell this big secret that only she knows?

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Consequence character intro - Meet Billy, the ex.

Billy Stone tends to command the attention of any room he enters.  It isn’t intentional on his part, necessarily.  But he’s good-looking.  For one, the guy is fit.  He looks like a walking, talking cover of Men’s Health Magazine.  But that isn’t even the main thing.  The main thing is, he has these piercing, ice-blue eyes that contrast with his jet black hair in the best possible way.

He could have any girl he wanted, and he did, for a while.  He played the game, dated around, avoiding serious relationships. Until Allison.

Allison was different.  She wasn’t as insecure as the girls he normally dated.  She seemed sure of what she wanted, and though she wanted Billy, she surely didn’t need him.

He began to need her.  And after he had her, he wanted her to himself, unwilling even to accept her friendships with other males.

His jealousy got out of control, and ended their relationship.  But he couldn’t stay away for too long . . .

Until next time . . .

Friday, July 29, 2016

An open letter to my kids about their police Dad

Hi loves,

I know that this is a scary time for you all.  I saw your face this morning, my sweet firstborn, as the news anchor on the television told you that another police officer was killed and one is in the hospital today.  Forever I will remember the words you said the morning that you saw on the news that five Dallas police officers were killed.  You looked over at me and said, “Mommy, Daddy is a  police officer. I don’t want Daddy to die.”  I am sorry that I didn’t turn the news off sooner.  I am sorry you heard what they were saying.  The last thing I want is for you to be afraid.

I need for you to know, first of all, how brave your Daddy is.  You already know, of course, how much he loves you.  You know him as the man who takes you to the playground and to catch fish at the creek.   The man who will jump with you into the pool.  The man who will make a bowl of popcorn, watch a Disney movie with you and sing every word to all of the silly songs.  The man who will read you stories and pray with you before bed. You know already that you have a good Dad.

Do you know also that Daddy loves his job?  That even though it is a scary time to be a police officer, he is grateful to do it?  Your Daddy is a man who knows when there is a job to be done and is a man who is willing to do it.  He feels a sense of responsibility to the community he works for.  He feels a sense of responsibility to the police men and women that he works with.  You know how Daddy loves us and we are his family?  Daddy has a work family too.  One that he loves and one that loves him back.  Those people that Daddy works with, do you know that they care for you too?  How lucky are we that your Daddy works with people that care so much for all of us?  I hope you are proud of the police family that we belong to.

Your Daddy and his friends are good.  They care for people that they don’t even know.  They chose this job to protect and serve EVERYONE. How cool is that?

It is extraordinary, what they do.  Always know that.  It’s important, it’s noble, and the courage it requires is extraordinary.  Nothing less.

As I said to begin with, I know it is a scary time.  I want to be honest and tell you all that I am sometimes afraid too.  I love your Daddy with all that I am.  I want for him to come home to us every night.  I love your Daddy’s police friends too and I want for them to also return to their families every night.

We have seen in the news a lot lately that some officers do not go home at the end of their shift to their families.  It is very sad.  Sometimes it makes Mommy cry.  But then, we pray.  We pray for those who lost their lives and we pray for their families.  We ask for God to protect officers who are out there serving every day.  And we gain peace from our prayers. 

Kids – now and in every situation I need for you to remember to focus on Jesus.  It doesn’t matter what happens or how bad things get.  He has already overcome the whole world with His cross and resurrection.  We have this amazing truth and hope in Him.  Nothing, I mean NOTHING, can separate us from His love.  No matter what, even when things get scary, I need for you to remember that.  I want for you to all have peace in Him.

I love you all more than can be measured.  You bring so much joy to me, and to your awesome, brave police-Daddy.  You know that though, right?

Until next time….

Thursday, July 7, 2016

My writing life - a brief history

Twice in this past week I’ve been asked “How did you get into this?” in reference to my second book coming out.  Because of the question, I wanted to go back a bit and share my writing history.

It started early, actually. Shortly after I learned how to write, I began writing stories.  I do not have a lot of memories from the first grade, but I do remember writing a story about Halloween on orange construction paper cut into the shape of a pumpkin.  My teacher laminated the story and it was placed in a section of student stories in our school library.  I distinctly remember seeing it on the shelf there in the library, and feeling proud.  I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.

My first business card, made by me at around the age of 10. I had a short-lived desire to help animals, also.

I wrote short stories and journaled quite a bit.  I have a box full of old journals in my closet now (I cringe at some of the entries . . . I made some questionable choices in my youth).  I also have held on to a couple of stories from when I was a girl. 

"Goody Goody Gumdrops" - written by the 4th grade version of me.  I tell a variation of this story to my kids now.

In high school, I became interested in journalism.  I wrote for our school paper – the Haltom Image –  and my senior year was the editor-in-chief.  I loved it.  All of it. News writing, feature writing, editorial writing, column writing .  .  . it was fun to me.

I have a scrapbook with every article I wrote for the school paper.  These are the very first, from my freshman year.

Last column written for the school paper, just before graduation.

At one time I believed I would major in journalism in college, but my life didn’t go in that direction.  I joined the Navy at 19 and told my recruiter I wanted to be a JO while I served – but that rate was unavailable when I joined.  I ended up as a yeoman and never tried to write for the Navy again.  I was happy with what I was doing.  My five years in the Navy were amazing. Really.  I can’t say enough how transformative those years were for me.  I joined the church, met my husband, made the best friends, and grew up during that time. I wrote, a little.  At one point I did start what I thought would be my first book (it wasn’t).  I allowed one friend that I trusted to read the three chapters I had written.  She laughed, out loud, at a part that I had intended to be funny.  It gave me hope!  I remember thinking, wow, maybe I can really do this. Maybe I’m not a terrible writer! (Other writers know – struggling with self-doubt in a constant)  But, despite that little glimmer of confidence, I let that project go.  I didn’t make it a priority.  The Navy, and my friends, took precedence during that time. And that is okay with me.  I have the most wonderful memories of that time.  I’m so grateful.

Flash forward to 2010 – Now a married, stay-at-home mother to a toddler and newly pregnant with a second baby, I decide that it is time to get on my writing again (because, all the free time, right?? HA).  I just knew that I wanted to write a book. Badly.  My husband was working evenings at the time, my daughter was sleeping, and I remember clearly a night I sat in my living room with the laptop open and a blank word document staring me in the face.  I said a prayer.  I asked God to give me a story, something for His will.  And the story of “Absolved” came to me then.

Funny thing is, it wasn’t until 10 months after I started writing Absolved that I became involved with the pro-life movement (Absolved has a major pro-life theme), but more on that another day. 

“Absolved” was written mostly at night, after my kids were sleeping.  After I finished it I began submitting the manuscript for consideration.  I waited, and hoped, for someone to say yes to the book.  At times I wasn’t sure it would ever really happen. 

The day I found out I was going to be published, I was pregnant with my fifth child.  My husband was home.  The way I was crying, he thought I had just received news of someone’s death.  But they were happy tears.  Ecstatic tears.  Wow-my-dream-is-coming-true tears.  I just couldn’t believe that I was going to have a book that I had written in print.  I am so incredibly blessed by my publisher – eLectio Publishing.  I am filled with gratitude for them.

Having one book in print gave me the confidence to move forward and write book number two.  I began writing that one in late 2013, finally finished earlier this year, and was accepted by eLectio for publication yet again.  It will be released in late November of this year.

Now I am writing book 3.  I am on chapter two.  I am mostly still working on character development, and am conducting interviews to help with this process.  I have no doubt, this will be my best work yet.  I’m excited about it.  And I’m excited to see what will come even after that.

My writing life started when I was young . . . but if I’m being honest, this feels like just the beginning.  I want to have several books in print.  I plan to work hard to make that happen.

It isn’t easy, of course.  Most of you reading this know that I have six kids under the age of 8.  No nanny, no daycare.  No part-time maid.  Obviously that makes this difficult to do.  This blog post, even.  I started it yesterday morning.  I had two goals yesterday before I took my girls to their dentist appointments.  1. Finish writing blog post  2. Do dishes   -  NEITHER WERE COMPLETED.  And that is just my life.  So.  I scribbled a few paragraphs on my notebook yesterday.  Finished scribbling it down today.  It has taken about 8 different time periods to get this thing done.  Because I get interrupted.  Baby needs me, toddler needs me, big kid wants my attention, etc.  Quiet time doesn’t exist here.  As I type now my 7 year old is showing me some new clothes her Grandma bought her.  And that is just how it is.  It’s hard to write, and I can’t do it in peace.  But I do it anyway.  Because I want to.  That is my simple truth, I write because I want to.

I guess we’ll see where it continues to take me.

Until next time…

Saturday, April 16, 2016

It's been a lesson in love.

A fellow young petty officer in the navy who was assigned to my paperwork for my first sacraments told me that he rarely knew of anyone getting what he called “the triple whammy”, which was three sacraments in one day. Baptism, first Holy Communion, and confirmation.  Yet there he was, printing my certificates for the said sacraments that I was to receive on Easter Sunday in 2006.  I was watching him print them in the religious office at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, my home at that time in my life. 

I was a young sailor in those days with a Catholic boyfriend (who was in Guantanamo Bay that year I came into the church) and wanted to become a Catholic myself. Sometimes when I share that he is the one who first introduced me to the church, I receive questions such as “oh, so you had to convert so you could marry him?” or “oh, you converted for Michael?”   The answer to those questions is no, and I can explain by backing up a bit.

My husband Michael and I began dating in September of 2004. We met on base there in Corpus Christi.  He was assigned to base security, and I was assigned to a helicopter squadron.  He had mentioned that he was Catholic, but I knew very little of that faith and didn’t give too much thought to that difference of ours at our start.  We seemed to share similar values, despite the fact that I did not have a church home.  I called myself non-denominational at that time.  Growing up I had attended different churches, but none too regularly.  It was never a top priority and the 21-year-old version of me used to say all the time, “I am spiritual, not religious.” Yes, I believed in God. I prayed, nearly every night, before I would go to sleep. I even believed that I was as close to God as I needed to be (some of my behavior at that time conflicts with that, but more on that is to be told another day.)

Then, one day, Michael invited me to mass. I had never been to a Catholic mass before.  I didn’t have a clue what it was all about.  So, I went along.  He picked me up from my barracks room and we went to church together for the first time of what would be very many. As much as I would like to say it went well that day, it didn’t.  I was confused.  It was very different from anything I had been to before.  I was used to attending a service where there was contemporary worship music for at least half an hour, followed by a motivational sermon.  This was structured so differently.  I told Michael afterward it seemed “robotic and impersonal.” Oh, I cringe now at my ignorance.  And Michael was offended by what I had said, of course. It was one of our first real arguments.  But that feeling of confusion…it led me to a curiosity and I wanted to dig deeper in order to gain some understanding of the mass.  So I did.  In the admin office where I worked on base I google searched “the Catholic church.” Amid my web browsing I stumbled upon, and started clicking links and soaking up information I was receiving from the web.  Weeks into this internet searching, something unexpected happened.  I started agreeing with what I was reading.  I remember sitting there, staring at my computer screen, thinking to myself I believe this.  I thought it was weird at the time, how much I agreed with the teachings I was reading about.  Now I know it was the start to being called home.

I started looking into the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – RCIA – which is the process for prospective converts to get introduced to Catholicism. I wanted to learn even more about what I had been so curious about, and so I jumped in.  When I first told Michael, I’m not sure he took me seriously.  Once he knew I was, he was happy for me.  He couldn’t be too involved, however. He was busy getting ready for one-year orders to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  So he wasn’t physically there during my conversion.  He was out of the country.

So, there I was, taking weekly classes to learn about a faith that not one of my friends or family members shared, because it felt right for some reason that I couldn’t articulate or even understand at the time.  It felt like I was where I was supposed to be.  In mass, I started really paying attention to the readings, and I believed.  I started really paying attention to the gospel each week, and I believed.  I started really paying attention to the homilies, and I believed.  I started really paying attention to the consecration, and I believed.  There was no doubt.  I had experienced doubt and fear with other big decisions leading up to my conversion.  The Navy, for example.  I almost didn’t go to boot camp.  It was a big deal, a big life decision.  Was it right for me?  Now I can say yes, it certainly was.  However my 19-year-old self that joined had her doubts.  And now that 22-year-old girl joining the Catholic Church?  Not a doubt in that mind.  I knew I was meant to become a Catholic.  The thing that no words will suffice in explaining here is that sitting in mass at that little base chapel in Corpus Christi, I felt truth and grace in a way I had never experienced.  I wanted to love Him more. I always felt as though I was loved by God, even when I wasn’t in church.  In fact, that was an excuse of mine I frequented -  “God loves me even if I’m not in church.” And of course God loves us regardless.  But, for the first time, I wanted to show Him how I loved Him in return.

On April 16th, 2006, inside Our Lady of Guadalupe Church onboard NAS Corpus Christi, I joined the Catholic Church. I was the only adult among about 8-10 kids who were receiving their first communion that day.  We shared the same pew during the service.  If you know me at all, you probably know that I am not well in front of crowds.  I get really nervous if I am the center of attention.  I’ve read at a wedding once – my legs shook violently the entire time.  That day, however, rather than feel nervous as the eyes of the parish members were on me as I walked up to the baptismal font, I felt peace.  It is surreal to remember it all.  At first communion I tasted Jesus for the first time and was consumed by His truth.  That was the beginning of a journey I am still on, hoping of course to lead into Heaven. 

Only pics I have of that day. Here I am with my sponsor Florence (assigned by the church to sponsor me) and Fr. Brian Kelly, the base Chaplain assigned to NAS Corpus at that time
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, NASCC



So here I am, a decade later. It’s been a busy ten years. Michael and I were both honorably discharged from the Navy. We married, in our home parish of St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Pflugerville, Texas.  We were blessed with SUPER fertility and have had six children.  I feel like I’ve grown in my faith and am incredibly grateful for my journey so far. 

That truth I have a hard time explaining? It’s a feeling of peace.  Of grace.  I feel I’m getting to know Jesus more and more each passing day and know He is good.  The Catholic Church has made me feel closer to Him.  I look at the crucifix and see His love.  It doesn’t matter what is going on in the world.  It doesn’t matter what is going on in my own little world.

Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)  Oh, yes, it does.  I am human.  I mess up. I sin.  I fall down, I get up, and I fall down again.  I get sad sometimes. I get angry. I get frustrated, overwhelmed, and fearful.    But all of those feelings are washed away when I fix my eyes on Him.  He has already overcome the world, what else is there to worry about?  His love drives out my fear.  It’s the truth.

Until next time...


Monday, March 14, 2016

True Empowerment

This past weekend I attended the first annual eLectio Publishing author’s conference.  Just in case you aren’t aware, eLectio is a small independent press who published my fiction novella, Absolved. (You can find my book by clicking the link here) 
 I doubted I would go upon first learning of the conference.  I’ve been so busy with kids, obviously. It is a good busy, please do not misunderstand my use of the word. It is a wanted busy.  However I allowed this busy to be my excuse to stay away from anything else, including any book marketing or promotion.  It’s a valid excuse, yes?  I mean, come on. Six kids under the age of seven.  It’s a battle to even shower daily. I’ll be straight forward about that.

The truth is, however, I could have put some time and effort into putting my book out there. The kids weren’t really holding me back.  I was just afraid.  Afraid of criticism (which really, I need to welcome as it can help me) and I was afraid of friends and family having negative opinions of my work. Terrified, honestly.

The conference has changed me a bit. Why? A combination of occurrences. ( God knew I needed this conference) The first was the motivation provided to me by speakers at the conference. One example of this was some words that resonated with me from internationally renowned speaker and author Mike Rodriguez.  He told us that we are each the CEO’s of our own lives, and that we ourselves are the ones that dictate whether or not negativity will live in our minds.  He told us to stop allowing the opinions of others to dictate our actions. Simple as that. Opinions are opinions. They hold no weight unless you allow them to. And of course this is true. It can be uncomfortable, putting yourself out there, exposing yourself to the opinions of others.  But uncomfortable is GOOD.  Comfort doesn’t usually move you. “In order to have, you have to do,” he said. And that can be uncomfortable. But success never comes comfortably, does it?

The second big takeaway from this weekend was how inspired I was by my fellow authors. We all come from different areas of the country, have different backgrounds, fit a different demographic….and yet we all share a common core in our love for writing. We really felt like our own little community despite our differences.  It was wonderful.  They each inspire me to commit to my work as they have and as they are.

Thirdly, and the biggest takeaway for me personally from the conference, is how empowered I felt by my publishers. It is important I share this so let me explain. Put yourself in my position for a moment.  I have six kids. The youngest is 7 months old, is still nursing, and does not take a bottle.  In order for me to attend this conference, I had to have her in tow. I was nervous to ask if she could come along with me – but I worked up the courage and asked eLectio CEO Jesse if I could bring my daughter with me to the conference. You all know this already, he said yes.  He said that he is a father of three daughters and he understood.  And off we went, baby and me.  Even though Jesse had said it was alright, I was still nervous to take her.  I was worried it wouldn’t be received well, a baby at a conference.  I imagined getting dirty looks and having whispers behind me of “what the heck is a baby doing at an author’s conference?” 

Not only was my Marian Grace allowed to be with me, she was welcomed. Embraced. She was treated so sweetly by my fellow authors.  eLectio CEO and COO even jokingly gave her the title of “future eLectio author.”

My experience was one that made me feel proud. Proud of being both mother, and author, at the same time.  I can and am doing both. This conference made me feel empowered.

If you’ve already read my book, you know the story involves a post-abortive woman. You know she regrets her decision to terminate her pregnancy, and for some of you reading now, you know this feeling personally. You know it is a very real and painful regret.  While we are on this, I need for you to know that exists for you.  You are never alone in this.

I mention this because I can’t help but think of the pro-choice side and what I have heard from them before: that abortion is empowering.  That abortion liberates women.  I want to tell you that it isn’t.  That is a lie. The abortion industry may say that a child will hinder your plans, a child may get in the way of your dreams. Slow you down in life.  Those are lies. All lies.  I want to tell you that having your children, not terminating them, is what is empowering.  Truly.  Bringing a baby to a conference? Empowering. Giving birth? Empowering.  Adopting a child? Empowering.  Spending every ounce of your energy raising human beings to be decent, good, honest adults? THAT is empowering.  It takes real strength to parent well.

Society may not always put a lot of emphasis on the value of parenting.  Our culture might tell you that it’s just too hard.  Meanwhile, other hard things are praised.  Training 6 days a week for a triathalon? Amazing! Good for you!  Working 60+ hours a week to get ahead at your job? Amazing! Good for you! Going to school full time while working full time? Amazing! Good for you!  Raising little kids? Changing dirty diapers, cleaning up after them all day, teaching them about the world?  UGH! Sorry for you. How about you use some birth control and give yourself a break??

See where I am going with this?  The great is found in the hard. This is true with all of those aforementioned things such as athletic events, degrees and more.  But what the world may not always mention is that the great is in the hard of raising children too.  It really is.  You know what?  It’s empowering.  Authentically empowering.  If you are a parent reading this, do not – under any circumstance – underestimate the value of what you do. What you’re doing is invaluable.  Not only to your children, but to the society which you are raising them to take a part in.  You deserve every accolade in the world. Be proud of your title as parent.

Until next time…